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June 27, 2012

PV021: Salar de Uyuni (part 2)

This video, of course, continues where our first Salar de Uyuni video left off.

With everything I’ve got on my to-do list while we’re living in Australia, I haven’t had as much time as I’d like for editing more travel videos. The biggest hurdle has been recording new voice-overs.  Oksana is usually off working for 40+ hours a week, so there’s not much time for us to collaborate on the next big show-and-tell.  I realized, however, that I had a set of voice-overs still on my hard drive — the ones we recorded last year during our Bolivian salt flat tour.  ‘Bout time I followed up with the second part of that fantastic tour…!

It wasn’t until I started editing that I realized how little footage I shot during day two and day three of that tour.  Lots of great photos, very little video.  I suspect it was because we didn’t have a reliable power source until the tour was over and I was worried about draining my batteries.  Made the edit a little harder to pull off, but thankfully, I was able to supplement it with extra photos (as well as some of Wendy and Dusty’s videos.)  I trust the beauty of the landscape still comes through.

Show Notes:


March 16, 2012

PVX: McDonald’s in Malaysia

It had been awhile since we’d eaten at McDonald’s.  Neither Laos, Vietnam, nor Cambodia had the franchise, so we had to wait until our Southeast Asian loop was done before we could eat there again in Malaysia.  Wasn’t hard to find a restaurant in Kuala Lumpur; there was one right outside our hotel.  Oksana went for the Malaysian variation on fried chicken and I tried out the seasonal Prosperity Menu (I guess it only occasionally comes around, like the McRib back home.)  Mmmm…  I can still taste that black pepper!

Not much else to say, except that we saw something new and McDonald’s related around town.  Lots of cars had what looked like Golden Arches parking stickers on their windshields.  Turns out that signifies the driver is a member of the McDonald’s VIP Drive-Thru club, which, I guess, entities them to a small freebie once a month.  Don’t know what McDonald’s gets out of that, but judging by the number of stickers we saw, it seems like it’s a very popular club.


March 12, 2012

PV020: The World’s Most Dangerous Road

In February 2011, we found ourselves charging back and forth across Bolivia.  We rushed from the Lake Titicaca region, all the way down to Uyuni, so that we could meet some friends for a tour of the salt flats.  If you saw that video, you’ll know we bailed out on them after we picked up a nasty intestinal parasite.  We eventually returned to Uyuni to do the tour again, but not before going all the way back to La Paz for a week or so.

We self medicated there and, once we were feeling up to it, decided to mountain bike down the World’s Most Dangerous Road – its real name, the North Yungas Road – which connects La Paz, high in the Andes, to the Amazon Basin, thousands of meters below.

We recorded our voice-overs a day or two after the ride, while the memories were fresh.  That painted background was actually the wall of our hotel room in La Paz.  Both Oksana and I had a lot to say; each of us spoke into the camera for more than 20 minutes.  (We really need to be more concise.)  This project was a nightmare to edit down.

The final video runs almost 12 minutes and has a lot of information about the road and why it’s considered the most dangerous in the world.  If you’re interested, here are a few more tidbits that were left on the cutting room floor: (more…)

February 16, 2012

PV019: The Newbold-White House

This one is long overdue.

To kick off our round-the-world trip, Oksana and I started by driving across the U.S. in our Jeep.  Her brother and sister-in-law joined us from Russia for a good part of that road trip.  While we were in North Carolina, visiting my family, we thought it would be a great idea to show them the Newbold-White House, an historically significant home that just happened to be a part of our family history, as well.

The Newbold-White House is the oldest brick house in North Carolina. It was built in 1730 by a Quaker family.  It passed through many hands over the years until my great grandmother’s family bought it in 1903.  My grandmother, Jean Newbold Griffin – the star of the video above – was born in that house in 1924.  Almost fifty years later, in 1973, she sold the house and property to a preservation society.  Now it’s open to the public.

I got to talking with my grandfather about taking a trip out to the farm.  He set up an appointment with Glenda Maynard, the site manager at the Newbold-White House.

My plan was to sit down with my grandmother and interview her about the house.  What she remembers about it, how she felt about it being restored and put on display, what it means to her now, those sorts of things.  Unfortunately, at 85 years old, she had just been hit by a medical double-whammy. While in the hospital with a case of life-threatening pneumonia, she had also had a heart attack.  She hadn’t yet fully recovered by the time we visited and it was obvious that she had slowed down both physically and mentally.

Oksana and I took Andrey and Natasha out to the house on July 31st (2010.) There, Glenda gave us a tour of the house and land.  She was imparted a ton of historical information about the Newbold-White House, as well as details of its restoration, but unfortunately wouldn’t give me permission to record her.  I was left with a lot of audio from her lecture, but half the time Oksana was translating Russian over the top of it (and the other half of it was about things that happened a couple centuries before my grandmother’s time.)

Later, once Oksana’s relatives had returned to Russia, we bided our time and waited for “a good day” to interview my grandmother.  We didn’t get the opportunity until September 22nd.   (We set up on the back porch of our cottage in Nags Head, on the Outer Banks. Believe it or not, even with the traffic and wind noise, that was the quietest place available to us.)  We had a good talk and I heard a lot of great stories about what it was like to grow up in rural North Carolina in the 20s, 30s, and 40s.  (more…)

February 13, 2012

PV018: The Good Time Resort

When we were planning our trip to Thailand last September, we knew we were going to stay awhile.  After traveling across four continents, we were ready for a break and our plan was to rent an apartment for the month of October. We had new two goals in mind: Resting and relaxing.

We asked our Facebook friends and Twitter followers for recommendations.  “If you had a month to spend in Thailand, where would you stay?”  We got all the answers you might expect: Party in Phuket, stay cheap in Bangkok, visit the temples in Chiang Mai.  After our downtime, we would go on to tour all of Thailand, so our ideal location for October would be a quiet, out-of-the-way place with a solid internet connection.  Perhaps one of those picturesque islands with the white sand beaches, plentiful coconuts, and some snorkeling hot spots…

We read up on the suggestions we’d received: Koh Phi Phi, Koh Lanta, Phang-nga, Koh Samui.  Advice from my ex-girlfriend had me worried.  She told me that, years before, she’d passed up Phang-nga (too touristy) for Koh Tao.  There, she had found a quiet spot on the back of the island where she could relax and interact with the locals, but still take in a little SCUBA diving if she felt like it.

But Koh Tao isn’t like that anymore.  She told us that since she visited, the island has developed into yet another tourist hotspot with ATMs and 7-Elevens on every other corner.

The Thailand of yesterday sounded just like what we were looking for, but I wondered if we’d even be able to find it.  We did, but not until much later…

We took the easy way out and spent our month in Karon Beach, on Phuket.  It wasn’t the island getaway we’d imagined, but it was cheap and we had our internet access.  Come November, though, we were ready to hit the road again.

We traveled with friends up into Laos, then parted ways and traveled through Vietnam and Cambodia on our own.  We were in Siem Reap, visiting the temples around Angkor Wat, when we sat down to plan out the last few weeks of our round-the-world journey.  I wanted to see Kuala Lumpur and Singapore before flying to Australia.  Oksana petitioned for one last week of beach time.  Once again, we found ourselves pouring over a map of Thailand, looking for the perfect island getaway.

And then, a funny thing happened.  I was skimming updates in a travel blogger’s Facebook group when I came across something another blogger had posted.  She wanted to know if anyone was interested in managing a Thai island resort for a year.  She went on to explain that the owners wanted to embark on a round-the-world trip of their own and needed to find someone to run their business while they were away.

I didn’t think much of it at first.  In fact, I didn’t even mention it to Oksana until the following day because managing a resort just wasn’t something I thought we’d be interested in.  But then I started thinking.  We were planning to spend a year working in Australia… why not Thailand instead?  And since we had to pass through Thailand again on our way to Malaysia…

When Opportunity is knocking, one should at least open the door to see who’s there. (more…)

February 3, 2012

PVX: McDonald’s in Thailand

We waited over a month to do our McDonald’s video for Thailand, knowing that if we did, we’d be able to wrangle our friends into trying it with us after they arrived.  That was a long time to wait to try a Samuari Pork Burger, let me tell you!  Was it worth the wait?  You’ll have to watch the video to find out…

Not much to say about Thai McDonald’s that we don’t already say in the video.  I will say that it’s darn difficult to find cover footage for editing when you’re shooting five people with one camera.  See if you can may spot any editing tricks I might have used to avoid a jump cut!

Thanks again to Wendy, Dusty, and Sarah for helping out (we certainly wouldn’t have tried so many things without them!)  We’ll eventually see them one more time when I put together a video about our shared experience at a Thai cooking school.  In the meantime, be sure to read about their take on Thailand on their blog, Roam the Planet!

January 30, 2012

PVX: Thai Drinking Game

View the same video in high-definition (720p) on Youtube.

The first time I walked into a 7/11 in Thailand, the sheer number of drinks in the coolers blew my mind.  There were dozens of brands and flavors and I because couldn’t make heads or tails of their swirly writing, I had no idea what most of them were.  I wanted to try them all…! but with my luck, I knew I’d end up with something like “Shrimp-Mussel Juice.”  Sampling a random drink in Thailand would be like Russian Roulette, only my taste buds would be at stake.

Knowing that our friends were on the way, Oksana and I decided to wait for them before playing “Thai Roulette.”  I mentioned the idea to Wendy and Dusty (from Roam the Planet) and their friend Sarah.  They were game!

We decided to film the whole thing, because it seemed like it might be entertaining for you to watch us taste all these mystery drinks and because  Wendy and Dusty had just brought us a new point-and-shoot camera (to replace our ailing Panasonic Lumix.)  It was a Sony TX10, which boasts 1080p video.  Since they had the exact same model, we shot with both cameras to see if the footage would match well in editing.  It was also a good test for me, to find out if our new camera could double as a camcorder in a pinch.  (Answer: No. You can read my thoughts on that after the jump.)

During one of our first meals together, I laid out the ground rules for the little drinking game I’d created in my head.   Then we hit the stores, buying our drinks in secret, and then revealed them to each other later that evening.  Unfortunately, when we did, it was raining outside our hotel and the cameras picked up a lot of street noise while we were recording.

This video turned out much longer than I expected — close to half an hour!  Now, I could spend many more hours whittling it down to just the funniest parts, but that goes against my self-imposed guidelines for these “Postcard Valet Extra” videos.  (Also, it sounds like a lot of work!)  So I left pretty much everything in, including some awkward jump cuts and blurry video.  On the plus side, if you stick it out, you’ll get to see every little grimace as we sample 10 crazy Thai drinks.  If half an hour is too much of a commitment, feel free to use the time markers above to jump to the section that sounds most interesting.