Tag Archives: rain
March 25, 2012

Thoughts on Singapore

While on the bus from Malaysia to Singapore, I reflected on all the Southeast Asian countries we’d traveled through.  Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore, in that order.  I realized that (excepting a small backwards step to Cambodia) we had been easing ourselves back into the first world with every new country we visited.

Once I started to look for them, I found arguments to support this theory everywhere.  Bathrooms steadily improved, from bucket-flushing in Laos to modern toilets in Thailand and beyond.  Hotel keys changed from big, metal skeleton keys to RFID-enabled plastic cards.  Safe drinking water was more readily available; we could once again drink from the taps in our Singapore hotel.  Internet access speed increased and wifi hotspots, while more prevalent, were also more often locked down and monetized.  English in Laos was only found in hostels and travel agencies, but by the time we arrived in Kuala Lumpur it was the de facto standard.  In Singapore, we could watch the local news (a novelty for us!) because the major newspapers and television news broadcasts were all in English.

Perhaps the most obvious indication that we were climbing back up to U.S. standards was the lessening number of scooters on the road.  It was literally impossible to view any stretch of road in Vietnam, no matter how short, and not see a motorcycle somewhere.  There were fewer in Cambodia, fewer still in Thailand.  By the time we arrived in Singapore, it was almost all cars again.

Anyone who has traveled extensively knows that reverse culture shock is a very real thing.  Setting aside the psychological problems that some travelers cope with after being in a third-world country long enough (being unable to share experiences with friends and family because they’re don’t care about or, conversely, are jealous of them; difficulty readjusting to “the daily grind,” etc.), there are many surprises – some good, some bad – waiting for you when you return home.  Toilet paper in public restrooms.  Drivers sticking to their lanes.  People showing up to appointments on time.  Having to make hundreds of choices in a grocery store.  High prices.  The constant barrage of advertising.

Personally, I’ve noticed it always takes me at least a week to stop mentally preparing my approach to each and every person in public.  How do I translate my question into Spanish?  What gestures can I make if they don’t understand me?  Shut up, brain!  I’m back in the States!  I can just ask in English!


March 14, 2012

Thoughts on Malaysia

We were down to the last couple weeks of our trip when we decided to go to Malaysia.  Sitting in Thailand, we had tickets in hand to fly from Singapore to Brisbane the day after Christmas.  The question on the table was, “What do we want to see between now and then?”

The easiest options would have been to stay in Bangkok a little longer or fly directly to Singapore.  Always wanting to see a new place, my preference would have been to bus down through Malaysia, but I knew Oksana wasn’t up for that.  At any rate, there wouldn’t be time enough to do the country justice.  Kuala Lumpur was only a few hours from Singapore by bus, though.  Perhaps we could spend a few days there – and see the Petronas Towers, at least – before moving on?  (And yes, I’ll admit that chalking up a visit to another country’s McDonald’s may have influenced my decision…)

Oksana agreed, so we paid for a one-way flight from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur.

I started taking notes about Malaysia two months before we officially entered the country.  After our first month in Thailand, we had to do a visa run to extend our stay.  Since we were in Phuket, we had only two options. One, we could take an all day bus-boat-bus ride across the border into Burma, but that would have only granted us 15 more days.  To get a 30-day stamp, we chose option number two, which was to buy round-trip airline tickets to Kuala Lumpur.

We left practically all our belongings in our hotel room and just brought along a laptop and iPad to keep us entertained during the 5-hour layover.  We never even left the airport, but even so, that’s when I jotted down my first thoughts on Malaysia. (more…)

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…)

December 11, 2010

PV012: The Ecuadorian Jungle

When we finished our boat excursion in the Galapagos, we had to plan out the rest of our time there.  Our friend, Jeff, only had a week or so left with us, so we deferred to him.  What would he like to do?  See more of the Galapagos or, perhaps, something else in Ecuador?  He wanted to see the Amazon jungle.

This was an interesting video to put together.  Because of the rain, for most of the day trip we only ever hauled out Oksana’s tiny little point-and-shoot camera (a Panasonic Lumix TZ5.)  It doesn’t even compare to the other cameras we had tucked away under our raincoats, but I was surprised to discover its 720p HD video mode and marginal microphone were more than capable of telling that day’s story.

The day before Jeff left (Dec 6), we sorted through our footage, pounded out a rough outline, and shot our voice-overs on the roof of Plantas y Blanco, our hostel — which accounts for much of the background noise in the final edit — all in about 3 hours.  While not perfect, I do like how most of the video turned out.

What do you think?  Does the image quality stack up to some of the previous episodes we’ve done?


September 20, 2010

PV Extra: My Name is Hurricane Earl

This is a video about our experiences during Hurricane Earl when it passed by the Outer Banks in early September.  If you watched the sensationalist media in the days leading up, you’d think we were about to be hit by the storm of the century, but it really wasn’t that bad.  The eye stayed safely offshore while we were only buffeted by the outer edge of the spiral as the whole thing moved north.  My grandfather kept an eye on the news and sort of scoffed at the mandatory evacuations for all tourists.  So we stayed put and tried to get some video footage before, during, and after the storm for the sake of comparison.  I hope this’ll give you the impression of what being in a Category 2 hurricane is like.

With this video, I’m trying something new.  I didn’t spend nearly the same amount of time or effort on it that I typically spend on other Postcard Valet episodes.  Take a look at it; let me know what you think.  Tomorrow, I’d like to ask our subscribers some specific questions about it (and similar videos) with respect to our website.

July 5, 2004

July 4th, 2004

Juneau gets nuked on the 4th of July (25k image)My 4-day 4th of July weekend has come and gone, and I spent most of it planted squarely in front of my computer monitor. Part of it was futzing with my cable modem and GCI’s tech support (only to have them tell me after a house call that “it must be network problems”), but most of it was playing computer games. Every once in awhile I rediscover the catharsis in casting aside my responsibilities and losing myself in frag-filled entertainment.

The weekend wasn’t a total creative loss, though. I pried myself away from the keyboard long enough to show up at a friend’s fireworks-watching party on the night of the 3rd. Years ago I admitted to myself that I didn’t find the festivities on the 4th very exciting. The parade, fireworks, street events and parties, I can take ‘em or leave ‘em, but I do enjoy hanging out with my friends. The house we were visiting was high up on a hill downtown, too, and it offered the perfect vantage point to try to capture the fireworks show.

I’ve been looking for years for a good place to rig up a time-lapse of the Juneau traffic after the fireworks display. Thousands upon thousands of people drive downtown for the show at midnight and before the last explosion finishes echoing off the mountainsides, the mass exodus along the only road out to the valley has already begun. For the next hour (at least!) you can see mile after mile of red taillights filling the north-bound lane contrasted with only the occasional pair of headlights going south. Seeing wave after wave of red running lights turning to redder brake lights at each stoplight’s intersection has always entranced me, and although I’ve recorded it to videotape twice, I’ve yet to do it from a really good spot.

Location, in photography as well as in real estate, is everything. I know that I should be scouting the best vantage point weeks in advance for pre-planned events like this. Photos and video could soar from good to great just by having the right foreground or background element. Why then do I rarely make the effort?


May 26, 2004

Welcome Back

Five Day Forecast (11k image)Bleh.