Friday, May 27, 2011

Plans Going Forward (Part 1): Highs, Lows and Slideshows

Now begins the process of recollection and reflection. Recollection, done through photos and superlatives; reflection, materialized through the writing of a book. Reflection and the book writing will be addressed at a later time. Recollection is the focus of this post.

Over the next 2-3 weeks I will be carefully looking through the thousands of pictures I took over the past year. I will be comparing and adding to my journal notes at the same time. One goal of this process is to compile a list of "trip superlatives." Funniest or scariest moment, for example.

The other goal of this process is to create a collection of slideshow videos, one highlighting the trip overall and the others highlighting either a region or a specific country.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Home Sweet Home

I am now back home, safe and sound, in Ashburn, Virginia. Though I arrived back in the U.S. over a week ago, a few domestic stops and short trips were made before permanently reaching home. It feels great to be back! 

More to come soon on feelings of being back and plans going forward.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Lost in the Jungle

After the fall of the Khmer empire in the 15th century, the temples of Angkor were abandoned and neglected for centuries. As time past, the surrounding forest moved in. When efforts to conserve and restore the temples finally began in the early 20th century, many of the temples were in a full jungle stranglehold. For most of these temples, the overgrowth has now been removed.  One temple, however, was left largely as it had been found, with trees growing out of the temple's roofs and their roots and vines wrapped around doorways and columns. Check out the pictures of Ta Prohm to see a temple that is truly, lost in the jungle!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Temples Top it Off

The last week of my trip will be spent visiting Angkor Archaeological Park. Stretching over 400 square kilometers, including forested areas, the Park contains the remains of several capitals of the Khmer Empire of the 9th to 13th centuries, including the legendary Temple of Angkor Wat. Get ready for a lot of pictures and, hopefully, some interesting blog posts too!

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Watch Your Step

My usual trekking, exploring and camping routine had to be slightly altered in Cambodia. Three decades of war and civil conflict have left Cambodia one of the most heavily mined areas in the world. Estimates range from 4 to 6 million, with the location of the majority completely unknown.

Two days of carefully camping around and independently exploring some of the pre-Angkorian temples in central Cambodia is as far as I pushed my luck, and I am now strictly back on the tourist circuit, going on guided tours and staying in guesthouses.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cambodian Procession

Today after bicycling to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek 15km outside of Phnom Penh, I decided to continue on biking and explore some of the neighboring villages. The choice lead to one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of the whole trip. As I rode through the villages, not only did people give me a friendly wave and smile, but the children began to join me in my journey. Little girls and boys ran beside my bike as older teenagers jumped on their own cycles and formed a train. We laughed our way around homes and chanted our way through rice fields. It was an afternoon that I, and surely those kids too, will cherish for a long time.

Pictures from today and the final pictures from Vietnam (Saigon, Cu Chi Tunnels) are now up.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

You ate WHAT?!

Below is a list of all the exotic foods I have tried throughout this trip. Has anyone else tried any of these? Or maybe something different?

-Spiders: Village in Amazon Jungle
-Cayman: Self-prepared in Amazon Jungle
-Piranha: Self-prepared in Amazon Jungle
-Guinea Pig: Street stall in Banos, Ecuador
-Warthog: Village in Zimbabwe, Africa
-Crocodile: Border town of Zimbabwe/Zambia
-Pig Brain, Snout, Cheek, Eye and Tongue: Village in Malawi, Africa
-Cow Bone Marrow: Restaurant in Paris, France
-Snake: Street stall in Beijing, China
-Roaches: Street stall in Beijing, China
-Scorpion: Street stall in Bangkok, Thailand
-Crickets and Grasshoppers: Street stall in Bangkok, Thailand
-Hornets and Bees: Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand
-Maggots: Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand
-Chicken Feet: Village near Udomxai, Laos
-Rat: Market in Muang Khua, Laos
-Locust Larvae: Market in Hoi An, Vietnam

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guest Blogger: Brian Snyder

It has been my privilege and sincere pleasure to be traveling with my nephew, J Bradley Snyder, over the past 10 days as together we have toured the country of Vietnam. This is a trip I've wanted to take for several years now, but one I probably have "needed" to take for several decades. 

I was at least 10 years old, in 1968, before I realized there might not always be a war going on in Vietnam, and that I might not have to serve in that war. But the war didn't finally end until I was just two years shy of the age when I would otherwise have signed up. It felt literally like "dodging a bullet" at that time, but then I knew I would need to come here sometime to see where so many people had died for a reason that gets even less clear as time goes by. As we learned just a couple days ago, people (mostly children) are still dying here at the rate of 5 or 6 per MONTH as a result of previously unexploded land mines or other types of bombs. And then there's the long-term effects of exposure to Agent Orange wreaking havoc as well. 

Beyond thoughts about the war, however, we witnessed this week other troubling trends that can be traced to the influence of Western culture, namely a rapidly growing tourist economy and the sometimes associated negligence with respect to the natural environment. One wonders if the war isn't still going on, in far more subtle ways...

Vietnam is a stunningly beautiful country, with a remarkably diverse cultural heritage firmly rooted in a wide array of native communities (known here as "minorities"). I think all Americans should come here at least once, if for no other reason to understand what's really at stake for the Vietnamese people, and ultimately for ourselves. A country like this, facing very stark challenges related to its ongoing development, should serve as a reminder of our own responsibility in the world to show leadership in making the sacrifices that will be necessary for all peoples to live happy, healthy and sustainable lives for the long-term future.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Phenomenal Pho

If you are ever in Hanoi, Vietnam and looking for some good pho (rice noodle soup), head to the northwest corner of Bat Su and Bat Dan.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sapa Story

The past 3 days have been spent in and around a town called Sapa in northwest Vietnam. The area is best known for its terraced rice fields and colorful hilltribe people. If you can ignore the hoards of other tourists there with you and frequent selling bombardments by village women, a trip to this area is well worthwhile.

New pictures.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Head-scratcher at the Hanoi Hilton

Today we visited the Hoa Lo Prison, or the "Hanoi Hilton" as the captured American pilots of the Vietnam War called it. You may have heard of the prison before, it is where Senator John McCain was detained after his plane was shot down in 1967.

The visit was an interesting one and left me really scratching my head. This place had pictures of the captured American soldiers living it up while in the prison! They were playing sports, attending church, drawing and coloring pictures together and even cheerfully decorating a christmas tree.

Now whether or not these pictures accurately portray the prisoners' daily life I do not know. I am not familiar enough with the subject. Nevertheless, it certainly made me rethink the stereotypical war-movie conditions that I imagine for a POW. It turns out, the situation is not always that simple; it sometimes, as in the case of the Vietnam War, involves a complex mix of strategic, public persuasion and world perception.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Vietnam with a Vision

I am now in Hanoi, Vietnam, where tomorrow I will be meeting up with my uncle, Brian Snyder.  Back home in the States, Brian works with the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, or PASA for short.  Through a variety of different programs and projects, he and PASA work to promote profitable farms that produce healthy food while respecting the natural environment.

Brian and I will explore Vietnam together over the next couple of weeks.  Agriculture has historically been the backbone of Vietnam's development strategy and remains so today.  For Brian, the country could not be a more rich environment for learning, and for me, Brian could not be a better travel companion for this country.

Also, if you have time, give PASA's site a browse:

Laos Hitchhiking

I spent the past week hitchhiking and camping my way through northern Laos (hence the sudden barrage of posts).  It was an attempt to spice things up after following the typical tourist trail in Thailand.  The experience was a good one and proved to be a great way to meet locals and learn about their country.

Many stories to tell on this subject when I get home, but for now you can check out a few of the pictures I managed to take of the action.

Now a Thai Chef

I was talked into taking a Thai cooking class...  but ended up really enjoying it and now highly recommend it to anyone who travels to Thailand!  I recommend the organic farm cooking school in Chiang Mai in particular.  Anyone at home brave enough to let me show you my new Thai cooking skills?

Thailand: Tourists, Tourists, Tourists

If you are looking for fellow travelers head to Thailand.  In no other country have I seen so many other tourists, backpackers more specifically.  But this is for good reason, Thailand has almost everything a traveler would want: unique culture and history,  low jungles and high hills, adventure activities,  crystal clear water and white beaches, 24/7 partying,  finger-licking good food, and cheap prices.  The scene is not for everyone, but nevertheless it is there and can be comforting and fun after a long time on the road alone.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

China Times

Pictures and videos are now uploaded.  (Terracotta Army, Forbidden City, Great Wall, etc.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Communication While in China

I apologize for the slow down in communication since I have been in China.  Many websites and web services are blocked by the government here.  For example, I had no access to Facebook, Twitter, Blogs, YouTube, etc.  (When you type in the address of these sites the browser simply returns with an error message).  Yes, there are ways of getting around the government blocks but I did not put any effort towards it considering the brevity of my visit.

I arrive in Bangkok, Thailand this afternoon and look forward to resuming posting and sharing my pictures.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Narrow Escapes

It looks as if I have just barely escaped another major world event and again have lady luck alone to thank.  The 8.9 magnitude earthquake in Japan struck exactly 6 days after my departure from the country.  This beats out last month's 2 1/2-week miss of the civil unrest in Egypt and the Middle East.  Let us pray for all those negatively affected by these events and for my continued good fortune in staying ahead of them.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Give a Hand for Japan

List of things originating in Japan or distinctly Japanese:

sushi, fortune cookies, sashimi, ramen noodles, wasabi, edamame, ninjas, samurai, kimono robes, crystal meth, airsoft guns, Pokemon, leaf blowers, rock-paper-scissors, geisha, katana swords, competitive car-drifting, origami, haiku poetry, karaoke, sake, judo, karate, sumo wrestling, Nikkei stock index

Well-known Japanese Brands:

Toyota, Honda, Nissan, Mazda, Subaru, Isuzu, Mitsubishi, Suzuki, Yamaha, Kawasaki, Bridgestone, Sony, Nintendo, Bandai, Sega, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic, Epson, Kenwood, Pioneer

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Interesting Facts about Japan

Thought I would share some interesting facts I have learned about Japan:

It is considered inappropriate behavior to blow your nose in public and to eat when walking.
- Women often cut their hair after breaking up with their boyfriend.
- Japan`s literacy rate is almost 100%.
- Each year about 15,000 earthquakes are recorded in Japan.
- People often 'slurp' their food when eating.  It is a sign that the person is enjoying their meal, and if it is not done, the host may be very offended.
- Many businesses offer alcohol to their employees after 6 PM.
- Toilets with bidets and heated seats are very common.
- Japan is about the size of California but has almost half the population of the entire United States.
Fruits are forbiddingly expensive in Japan. You could pay up to $2 for a single apple or peach.
- On Japanese stock tickers, the meaning of the colors red and green is the opposite of that on our tickers: red means an increase and green means a decrease. (Check out the pictures)
- Newspaper editors make their headlines so as not to attract attention.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Foreign Fast Food

This is kind of random but I found it interesting and maybe some of you will too.  American fast food companies sometimes change their menus and use different ingredients in order to better cater to local tastes and cooking practices in foreign countries:

KFC in India:  special crispy chicken-look-a-like veggie sandwich, rizo rice meal
McDonalds in Egypt and Dubai:  McArabia sandwich
McDonalds in India:  no beef products, Maharaja Mac, Paneer Salsa Wrap, McCurry Pan
Burger King in Netherlands:  Nacho Sandwich
McDonalds in Germany:  Beer, NuernBurger in the city of Nuremberg
McDonalds in Peru:  special "aji" hot pepper sauce, Inca Kola beverages
McDonalds in Japan:  McPork instead of McChicken, special "Big American" series of burgers like the Manhattan and Miami Burgers, Apple Pies are crispy and fried-like instead of flaky and baked, Nintendo Gaming Zone seats

Thursday, February 10, 2011


Konnichiha (pronounced konnichiwa and means hello) from Japan! I arrived in Tokyo safe and sound.  The adventure begins in the world's most populated city.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Everest, Nepal, India

All pictures and videos have been uploaded.

Friday, February 4, 2011

EBC Trek: Lessons Learned

Funny Lessons Learned

1. A Nalgene bottle filled with boiling water is equivalent to having a spa inside your sleeping bag.
2. Though they can be nibble, yaks will run into you if you don't move out of their way.
3. Just because the airplane has an open cockpit does not mean you can stick your video camera in between the pilots as the plane lands.
4. When a guide or guidebook gives you a fast and slow approximate journey time, plan on the latter.
5. Thoroughly enjoy your last hot shower in Kathmandu.
6. Brand names mean nothing in Nepal. There is so much knock-off merchandise that a farmer's toddler-aged child in the mountains will own more North Face and Mountain Hard Wear than you.
8. Not only water has a freezing point.

Serious Lessons Learned

1. Camping in the winter can not be done alone. The tempetures are too low and the winds are too strong. An entire group of trekkers, porters and sherpas are required to help carry and set up the equipment.
2. If camping in the winter, your schedule should allow for the trekking-day to start after the sun is out and end well before the sun goes down.
3. The lighter your backpack the more you will enjoy the trek and the views along the way.
4. A personal guide is a luxury, a good guidebook is sufficient.
5. The slightest bit of rushing can ruin a trip. Giving yourself extra time allows your body to adapt better to the high attitudes and gives you more opportunities to interact with the local people and fellow trekkers.
6. Spare no cost on good-quality, warm clothing.

Top of the World Video

Just finished uploading the best video I have ever made in my life. Let it load all the way first and make sure your speakers are turned on and up.

Here is a direct link to the video:

Close Call in Cairo

I have just read up on all the recent happenings in Cairo.  It is hard to believe I was just there. As a matter of fact, I spent 90% of my time in the exact locations where the chaos is now ensuing.  If you want before and after pictures of Tahrir and Liberation Square, just compare my pictures to the ones in the news.

EBC Trek: Summary

I stopped to look back and admire a mountain that I had just passed. I had never seen anything so breathtaking in my life. Its terrain seemed unbeatable, its size seemed incalculable... I then turned back forward, and saw three mountains towering twice as high above me as that which I had first admired.

This was the Himalaya and the Everest Base Camp Trek.

The flight into Lukla to start the trek is an unforgettable experience on its own: a 15-person plane landing on a tiny runway somehow built into the side of a mountain. You know you're not on your average flight when everyone applauds after a successful landing.

Mountain life starts immediately once in Lukla. Proper showers, toilets and sinks are now rare luxuries. The majority of food and drinks are either flown in or carried in on the backs of porters or yaks over several days. The sun is strong and warming during the day but once it goes away anything that can freeze will.

The scenery changes dramatically over the weeks that you spend trekking to Base Camp and back. At first you're surrounded by a lush evergreen forest. But as you rise in altitude day by day this slowly changes into sparse patches of vegetation, and then finally disappears altogether. During your final days before Base Camp and at Base Camp, you are walking on rocks, sand and ice. The scene is a glorious mixture of glaciers and snow-covered mountains.

The people and culture of the region are uniquely interesting as well. The Sherpa people are always eager to tell you about their history, traditions and general way of life, whether it's during a long conversation by the fire at night or a short chat while passing on the trail.

The climax and piece de resistance of the journey is of course reaching Mt. Everest. This is an experience that lives up to every bit of its hype. The tallest point on Earth's surface, the absolute top of the world. The ultimate, natural battleground of adventure-seekers and the unfortunate resting place of many of them. As you look around you it sinks in that you are in the middle of the Himalaya, snow-covered mountains and glaciers of ice and rock as far as the eye can see.

Everest Base Camp (EBC) Trek: Camping Failure

I tried my very best. I tried harder than I have ever physically tried at anything in my life. But I failed.

I reached Everest, but not in the way I originally planned. My plan was to camp the entire way by myself, including spending one night in my tent actually at Everest Base Camp. I had everything I needed for the whole trip, including food and cooking equipment. All was well until day 6, when my back became sore because of the weight of my backpacks and the altitude began to slow down my pace and put me off schedule. At the next village I tried to hire a porter but no one would agree to the job because I was not staying in lodges or tea houses and therefore they would not get free accommodation along the way. So I tried my best to shed some weight and continued by myself, adjusting for my slower pace.

Failure came on the morning of day 8. The previous day I had set up my tent at just over 5,000 meters (16,400 ft), about a hour and a half before the last village before Base Camp. I stopped at this spot because the temperature was dropping quickly and it was beginning to snow. These factors matter greatly when you have to set up a tent and then still put together a stove to cook dinner. Like I said though, the next morning was the real tragedy here. I woke up covered in snow and ice. The wind had blown the snow up under the outer layer of my tent, where it melted, fell through the inside mesh-layer and then refreezed. Fortunately, my sleeping bag, which was made to withstand extremely low temperatures, kept me warm through the night. After removing as much snow as I could from my stuff, I began to pack up my bag in 10 second spurts, in between which I tried to warm my hands back up. Now came time to go outside the tent and begin taking it down...
But as soon as I removed myself and my bag, the tent was gone. The wind immediately took my tent down the valley, stakes and rocks in all. I caught up to the tent but could do nothing, the wind was too strong. I stood there for maybe two whole minutes trying to accept the fact that my tent was now destroyed and I had no other choice but to let go and let the wind carry it away. Just before I was about to let the tent go, four Sherpa men came into view from around the side of closest mountain. I signaled to them, and long story short, they put down the loads they were carrying and helped me take apart the tent and stuff it in my bag. I could not thank these men enough for their help. All was finally settled, and my bags lied there in the snow waiting for me to put them on, but now I could not feel my hands!

I eventually made it to the next closest village, where I checked in to a lodge and my hands were brought back to life through the magic of fire. For the rest of the trek to Base Camp, like 99% of the other people doing the trek at the time, I carried only a small backpack and stayed in tea houses and lodges.

The trek overall was still outstanding, and the negative experience I just shared with you does not compare to the many positive ones I will share with you soon.

Pictures and videos also soon to come. Back from the mountains,

J Bradley

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Everest Begins

As the last post alluded to, I am currently in Kathmandu, Nepal. Kathmandu is the main hub for hiking, rafting, camping and climbing for the entire Himalaya Mountain region, and has therefore become a world-renown mecca of outdoors adventuring. There are outdoors stores every ten feet, adventure booking agencies on each corner, hotels, cafes and restaurants stacked above the stores below and the streets are filled with backpackers.

Tomorrow, however, I am flying to Lukla, Nepal. Lukla is the starting point for all Mount Everest climbing expeditions and is not accessible by road. The only way to reach Lukla is to trek (4-6 days) in from a town outside of Kathmandu or fly in by a small plane or helicopter. Time constraints have forced me to fly. From Lukla, I will trek for aproximately 19 days. During this time I plan to reach Everest Base Camp I, climb a neighboring mountain peak and then return to Lukla. The peak climbing and trekking season has just ended and it is now the middle of winter. While this means at times I may have whole panoramic views of Everest and the Himalayas completely to myself, it also means that current weather conditions are severe. Temperatures will reach far below zero and snowfall will be moderate to heavy. I am very well prepared and have all the required food, clothing, shelter and safety/rescue equipment needed.

I will not have internet access until I return so there will be no new posts or emails until then. It should be a true adventure, and I look forward to telling everyone all about it when I return!

Overland: India to Nepal

Just spent the past 43 hours on one train and two buses traveling overland from Agra, India to Kathmandu, Nepal. In the future, if anyone is considering doing this, I strongly suggest against it. It was miserable. Fly instead.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Street Food

I have only been to Delhi and Agra so far, but India has the best street food out of all the countries I have visited. Not only is the street food delicious, but you can find it on every corner, there is a wide variety from sweet desserts to hearty meals, and best of all a single serving will only cost you on average 20 American cents! I am still trying to figure out the names of my favorite dishes but you can't go wrong because they are all good. Maybe someone will recognize them when I put up pictures later. Like anywhere, you have to give your stomach a few days to adjust to the country's cuisine through restaurants at first, but after that...India is definitely the place to feast on the streets.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Cash to Pass

A security guard at Cairo Airport tried to get me to bribe him after the alarm went off when I went through the metal detector. I told him that I had simply forgotten to take off my belt but he said don't worry, it's ok, if you have a tip for me. He said it softly as he was patting me down. I said I don't have any money to give, he starred at me and said are you sure, I said yes, he said ok go ahead and then he let me pass...

Tipping/bribing situations like this were common in Egypt. Whether you want to quickly climb up one of the Pyramids or take pictures of or from a roped-off area, any rule can be bent if you are willing to pay for it and the guards encourage it.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Toilets of Today and a City from Tomorrow

Toilets with variable strength flushing in Germany and Denmark. Excellent idea.

Dubai is a city from the future.

New pictures and videos up

Monday, January 3, 2011


In Germany and Denmark, the stoplights, before switching to Green from Red, switch back to Yellow for 2 seconds! (Both Red and Yellow are on for these 2 seconds) The rest of the light sequence is just like in the US: Green, then 5 or 6 seconds at Yellow and then Red. I was told that this quick switch back to Yellow again after Red was so that people with manual transmission cars can be ready to go as soon as the light turns Green. This sounds brilliant to me! Even if your country did not have a lot of manual transmission cars why wouldn't you make your lights like this?

Europe and Changes to Blog

Exhausted at the thought of running all around Europe through the holidays, I decided to narrow down my list to just 4 countries: France, Germany, Denmark and the Netherlands (originally there were 9). The past three weeks became less about tourist sightseeing and more about enjoying the comforts of the developed world and the love of friends and family during the holidays. For example, I spent Christmas with my childhood, best friend and his family in Copenhagen.

I have also recently decided to try something new with the blog. From now on I will be posting shorter entries but much more frequently. Another change will be a new commenting feature. Going forward, you will be able to comment on the posts I put up.

I will be uploading new pictures and putting up a post in the new style I described soon.

Happy New Year!