Travel Reports x
There must be something special about this little group of rocks in the North Atlantic known as the British Isles, Great Britain, United Kingdom, or simply England. The narrow ditch of Atlantic Ocean separating it from the continent has seen many failed attempts of conquest. There was a time when rather a large chunk of the known world was under British rule one way or another.
France is a country with many different aspects and plenty of afro arab blends. The countryside is absolutely terrific. However, you'd be well advised to supply your trip across France with plenty of extra funds, and some French would come in handy too. Germany once had a handful of colonies but never really played an important role in global imperialism other than the common assumption of having started two worlds wars. Spain has been home to all sorts of foreign rule of which the most dominant were the Arabs for some 900 years. They once sent an enormous fleet, the Armada, to invade Britain; and failed miserably.
Coming down from the northern parts of India I went down south along the Western coast. Many people have a very wrong idea about places like Bombay or Calcutta. They sure have a special flair but are miles away from being dream locations! No matter what, never touch any water without giving it a jolly good boiling first, and unless you have a cow's stomach you'd'be well advised to pay close attention to what and where you eat just as well.
In Calcutta I hired on as a deckhand and somehow this rusty wreckage finally arrived in Singapore. When asked to stay on I politely declined. I was about to visit some friends in Malaysia when another offer came about to go cruising as a deck steward aboard one of these things full of pseudo VIPs on a regular turn between Singapore and Hawaii.
Singapore is a city state like Monaco or the Vatican. As a smoker or friend of chewing gum you better make sure to carry something to stuff the remains. Snipping a butt during my time there came at a bargain of 500 yankee doodles, read U.S. Dollar, while spitting a chewing gum clocked about double. Unless you want to take an indefinite tour of the Governor's special Holiday Inn have your pockets prepared.
Malaysia is truly fascinating, but also has lots of problems, in particular religious. You girlies, keep them boobs well locked up. This is muslim territory, not some dumb Spanish playa. They absolutely don't have much humour. Stay away from dubious places and keep a low profile. Always double check your luggage and never ever leave it sitting around unattended. There is an active death penalty for anything smelling even the faintest of drugs. You'll find it extremely difficult to convince them it's not yours. While you are in the neighbourhood, make sure sure to stop over in Hong Kong, preferably the first week of June for the Dragon Boat Festival. I love Hong Kong.
Japan has been a very special experience. The cities are typically so overcrowded, it's a miracle they function and not just fall into complete chaos. On the contrary, there are rural areas completely lost in time. Unfortunately, newer generations increasingly abandon the old traditions. Japan is paradise for technology junkies. Most gimmicks are available three to five years before the rest of the planet even knows they existed.
Canada is the perfect place to disappear. The moment you leave city it's wilderness as far as you can see, and far that is. It has always been high on my list of favourite places. A job assignment once took me into Vancouver. I can but recommend this lovely country to everybody tired of whatever day-to-day routines he or she might be living. Later on I went to British Columbia. Simply gorgeous. On another occasion I decided going up to Nome in Alaska before heading down the Pan Americana all the way down to Fireland at the very end of the world, Patagonia, Chile.
There was a time when I had a somewhat pro US attitude, but that was well before I went to see for myself what the land of milk and honey was really like. You might have guessed, life is not a fairy tale. The more south you go the sicker the cowboys get. I think I hardly ever met so many dummies in so little time. If not for Russia, France, and Mexico trading off territories under dubious circumstances, the all so proud and megalomaniac U S of A would be little more than a bird's sh*t in the wind. In Europe we call this having a problem with reality. Maybe that's why CIA and Friends walk free to bomb and masskill live and in colour. Sorry, if you are a so-called American. I'm sure you have plenty to throw at good ol' England yourself, now don't you? Liar.
Somewhere along the way to Nome I got picked up by patrol. Times weren't nearly half as relaxed back then, especially within viewing distance of the arch enemy, communist Russia. Then again, it was well worth the trouble, and being special guest with the Inuit is very special indeed; food and beverages even more. If ever you happen to make this experience, at least try a little; if only to respect their traditions and to be polite. They understand perfectly well it's not your average type of nutrition, and the harder you vomit, the greater the fun. One of the reasons I always carry cookies and tea. I was told of a similar tradition in Mongolia but unfortunately haven't had a chance to try it out myself; not yet.
The first leg of The Pan Americana takes you across the US before entering Mexico half way down. You really ought to leave the beaten track every now and then to explore a little further inland. There are many great sites along the way. Of course, if you must hurry before your office seat gets cold, the Pan Americana is not for you. It took me about eight months. The South American leg will eat your time. Whatever type of transport you are using, plan double or triple the time. It'll take you across tracks with a good potential for heart attacks. Definitively one of the last great adventures out there. Go for it!
One of the few locations I would always recommend visiting is Costa Rica. A small country on the map but an entire universe in terms of nature, sights and sounds. You will love a steaming cup of one of the world's most excellent coffee's and if you have no idea where to spend the night, just relax and wait. While your coffee expands its flavour the problem is already solving itself. I remember hanging around a plaza in San Jose almost all day, brooding over whether to take a break or continue down south. The first offer came, naturally at an astronomically high price for one night. The second was asking the same, but for a week. Just before heading off, I accepted a small place with the family who owned it and stayed nearly 3 months, volunteering to pay them double the agreed just to ease my conciousness.
Mexico, while geographically part of North America, is a typical Latin American country. Poor education and low level lifestyle opposed to a small gang keeping money and control in tight boundaries. Prepare to be ripped off wherever, whenever, whatever. It seems to be the core economy. There are hardly any other places with more trash flying around. They have a habit to be even more racists among themselves than with foreigners, for which they share a common dislike regardless where you are from.
Well, the Spanish were certainly not what you'd call the perfect role model. Europe was already well into steel when the natives still very much enjoyed throwing stones at each other. You can easily train a monkey to do a trick, but it will never have the brain to actually understand how it works or become anything else. If it was your idea to start a business you'd better bring some extra patience. Corruption is the common way of getting things done. Just make sure you have a proper escape route. While it's usually no big deal for nationals, it can easily turn into a major headache for foreigners.
You don't need to wait for sunset to run into a robbery or stuff alike. Police and private security prefer hanging around the taco booths, not doing anything unless you contribute a little donation. If you think yourself smart enough to walk alone, go ahead. However, you really ought to leave that gun at home. For one reason, you are unlikely trained to use it, and for another, you are most certainly not the immortal Dirty Harry.
Neighbourhood security primarily depends on where you are. If you don't much care about money because you've got tons of it, Polanco or Las Lomas may be high on your list. Else, the typical urban jungle style vicinity is fairly decent. There are however places like Ecatepec, Chalco, or Garibaldi you don't really want to go. Regardless how fancy official statistics may seem, they are not worth the paper. Over the course of my almost 12 years staying there prices escalated straight through the roof.
It seems a bit odd to first sell off national petrol and water resources to big daddy in the north and then importing them back at double the price or more. Water is of particular concern. Mexico has one of the highest per capita of wasting water. Traffic? Chaos doesn't even begin to cover it. The only rule is, there are no rules. Vehicles are falling apart in transit and having kids in the driver's seat of public transport is nothing exotic.
Except for one or two tourist attractions there are no trains. You'd probably want to take a flight from Mexico to Cancun rather than spending two days aboard a smelling coach, risking to be ambushed at least once along the way. However, if you fancy a year with 500 days, Mexico is the place to go. Of these 499 are for party and the remaining one to take a nap before starting over. In general, they are quite social and seem to take the greatest joy in talking forever. Networking is no problem. Be advised to carry your laptop well out of sight and make sure it has a fully charged battery. Power cuts and spikes are way too frequent to be good for any hardware.