21. If using buses, protect your stuff if its raining

The first time it happened, I wasn’t angry. I was just sad. After a sleeper bus ride from Hoi An to Nha Trang, arriving at 6 a.m., I got my bag out of the bottom of the bus and found it was soaked. Not just soaked. Sopping wet. Still, I shouldered the bag, moved my smaller day pack to my chest, and trudged toward my hostel, soaking my shirt all the way through.

After getting a few more hours of sleep in one of the hostel’s empty dorm rooms, meant for travelers who don’t get to check in yet, I opened my backpack.

It was the worst possible scenario. All of my clothes in the bag were completely soaked. Not just a little. I could literally wring the water out of each piece of soaked clothing. Worse yet, two of my prime camera lenses had been wrapped in the same clothes. They appeared to be undamaged by the water, but I knew I was going to be staying in my dirty clothes until the following day, when I could pick up my cleaned and dried laundry.

Before I go any further, what should you do?

  1. Wrap your clothes up in plastic bags if you’re worried about the rains
  2. Buy rain covers for your bags.

(Read the rest of the story after the jump.)

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20. Take other travelers’awesome evaluations of tours with salt

Maybe this doesn’t apply if you’re not talking to backpackers, I don’t know. Staying in dorms, that’s who I always ran in to.

Here’s the thing: it seems like most travelers want to be positive, nay, they want to be having the time of their lives and they can’t be having that once-in-a-lifetime experience if they admit that anything they did was less than amazing.

That means when it comes to the tours, either set up through your hotel, hostel or done through a travel agent, people often want the tour to have been fantastic, even if it wasn’t, to keep up the idea that they had a great time. That means often, you can’t trust their evaluation.

My example is Halong Bay, during my 2016 Vietnam trip, which I will write up in a later post. It’s supposed to be amazing! One of the best things in Vietnam, with the limestone islands and whatnot, dotting the sea.

Two guys I met in Hanoi had just been there, and done their tour through the hostel. Later on, I talked to a French couple who have been traveling for a long time. They told me, instead, go to Cat Ba Island (slightly different name, basically the same place), rent a scooter, hang out for a day, scope out day tours, and do that the next day.

I decided the risk of the pair being right was outweighed by the ease of the tour through the hostel, as well as my limited time in country.

A German (right) cheers on an Argentine woman about to jump off of the top of the boat, Dec. 9, 2016, in Halong Bay, Vietnam. The limestone cliffs and palisades and the like can be seen in the background. The tour was described by others as being the best thing during their entire vacations. Taken on Dec. 9, 2016.

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19. Your feet are going to swell

Maybe it doesn’t happen to you. Maybe it doesn’t happen to everybody and maybe it depends on where you go and the time of year but, me? My feet swell. Pretty bad, usually.

The problem is we sweat. A lot. If I’m wearing my small backpack (which I cart around my camera and lenses in; I may reevaluate my camera options for a future trip), in Ho Chi Minh City in south Vietnam, pretty much as soon as I walk outside, I start sweating profusely. Within 20 minutes, the back of my shirt (COTTON IS EVIL) is soaked through. Completely. Wring it out and there will be lots of water on the ground wet. Hard to get dry again wet.

That’s a lot of water. Moreover, that’s a lot of salt water.

To the north in Hanoi, in December, it’s not nearly as bad (a balmy 80 degrees) but it’s still a problem.

What to do about it? Drink lots of water or sports drinks (buy the 1.5 litter bottles) and eat lots of salty foods/snack foods. You need to replenish the salt your body is losing through sweat. When your body loses that salt, and it doesn’t get replaced, your feet swell.

Sounds easy, right? Well, it doesn’t always work at that way, so be prepared if they do swell, and don’t be too horrified.

Thanksgiving is tomorrow, which means you need recipes! I am here to provide a few. Click the links for the recipes.

Alternately, all the recipes are listed here.

The sides

Sage sausage stuffing with sourdough bread.

Tastes fantastic.

Stuffing before being placed in the oven. Although cast iron is great for baking, it tends to burn the bottom of the stuffing. Glass is preferred.

Stuffing before being placed in the oven. Although cast iron is great for baking, it tends to burn the bottom of the stuffing. Glass is preferred.

Bacon Brussels sprouts

If the skillet isn't large enough do it in batches.

If the skillet isn’t large, cook the sprouts in batches.

Ugly beans

The gravy

Make-ahead turkey giblet gravy

Make-ahead turkey giblet gravy infused with port

Dessert

Pumpkin dump cake

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Dump cake with non-dairy whipped topping, which looks like ice cream.

Cobbled pumpkin pie

For this dish, consider using the pumpkin mixture recipe in the dump cake.

Pumpkin pie after being baked.

Pumpkin pie after being baked.

Key lime pie (needs to be frozen)

It's the pie! Pre-freezer, though.

It’s the pie! Pre-freezer, though.

Really, just choose any dessert.

Drinks

The Holiday Mule

Sparkling Wine and Cranberry Cocktail

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Cranberry juice and sparkling wine make a great combination for those who do not like the bubbly by itself.

The Ginger Beer Shandy

The ginger beer shandy casts a pretty shadow.

The ginger beer shandy casts a pretty shadow.

Glühwein

Way too hot. My bad! No boiling allowed!

Way too hot. My bad! No boiling allowed!

18. Wear a watch

Phones are great, except when you’re traveling and they’re confused as to where you are, or which time zone, etc.

What’s better is to bring a watch that you can easily set for whatever the local time is, both while dealing with layovers on the way there and back as well as moving between countries. This also means you don’t have to deal with either bringing your phone everywhere or making sure it’s always fully charged.

So, just bring a watch.

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This little guy broke the bench! Go gasoline!

17. Have open travel plans

This was advice that I read on another website that dealt with tips on travelling to Southeast Asia and I found that it was so right.

Either as a solo traveler, or if you’re going with someone else, keep your plans open. Read the guide books. Be prepared to make new (temporary) friends and to travel with them.

Maybe you want to go to Chang Mai in the north, or Phuket in the south or maybe you want to join some people on a trip to Cambodia. Maybe in Cambodia, you want to travel with someone. Whatever it is, keep your options open.

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Christmas decorations in Downtown Bangkok. Lovely. Make sure your travel plans are open enough.

16. Pay for laundry service

Do not bring enough clothes to last you the whole trip. Just go get your clothes laundered at any nearby vendor who does the wash.

It’s cheap, it’s easy. In the meantime, go buy a cool beer shirt, or a soccer polo for the local team.

As much as I love this photo, it shows the limits of shooting in JPEG. (See the sky?) Often, down this kind of alley, you will find laundry shops. Taken in Bangkok on Dec. 4, 2015.

As much as I love this photo, it shows the limits of shooting in JPEG. (See the sky?) Often, down this kind of alley, you will find laundry shops. Taken in Bangkok on Dec. 4, 2015.

15. When you find good clothes, buy them

It’s going to happen. There’s going to be a vendor on the street and he’s going to have the perfect piece of clothing. (T-shirt, button up, dress, scarf, shorts, etc.) You’re going to buy one, just one, and think, at the end of my trip, I’ll come back here, and I’ll pick up a bunch more.

Except you’ll never be able to find him again. It will be like he disappeared into a side alley, down the gutter or was picked up by the trashmen. He will no longer exist and your chance to get more of those shirts will be gone, forever.

I should point out that my favorite button up shirts were all bought (cheaply) from a street vendor when I was traveling through Paris, France.

There are a couple other things that should be noted when buying things from vendors, at least in Thailand. The first is, haggle them down (assuming no price tags). If you’re buying in bulk, use that as a bargaining chip and if they’re asking too much, and won’t budge, just walk away.

The next is, don’t be afraid to just buy shirts, pants, shorts, whatever it is, there. I realized far too far into my trip that a synthetic Bangkok soccer team polo was probably one piece of clothing I should have been wearing much of the time, rather than a cotton T-shirt.

You got to have some fun, right? Taken in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, on Dec. 17, 2016

You got to have some fun, right? This is the synthetic soccer polo I should have first bought when I got in country. Taken in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, on Dec. 17, 2016

This is a French girl (some kind of physical education teacher) whom I was supposed to send pictures to. I forgot her name and have no idea where I put her email address. Woops! Taken in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, on Dec. 17, 2016.

This is a French girl (some kind of physical education teacher) whom I was supposed to send pictures to. I forgot her name and have no idea where I put her email address. Woops! Taken in Angkor Wat, Cambodia, on Dec. 17, 2016.

14. Consider bringing a duffel bag for the return trip

I don’t know how much shopping you plan on doing, or want to, but you should really consider bringing a duffel bag (that is very small and lightweight when empty) on your trip or buying one in country. Simple reasoning for bringing it: it saves you from having to find one on those last days before you leave, when you’re trying to get all your shopping done.

I write a duffel bag because they’re just so much smaller and easier to deal with than a suitcase.

When it comes to the main travel bag, I’m a big fan of a big backpack. Mine has a sub-backpack that attaches to the front or, for shorter trips, detaches, making it perfect for backpacking.

I ended up using one of the bags I bought (shopping bag sized) as my second piece of checked luggage to store many of the scarves and shirts I bought over there. Fortunately for international travel, depending on the airline, you get two bags free, which is why I suggest the duffel bag.

Two Recipes for Some Thanksgiving help

Thanksgiving is right around the corner which means, if you have to cook any part of the meal, you’re scrambling for ideas, for  ingredients, for menu planning, for drinks, for the whole shebang.

I’ve been there before and I’m going to be there again this year which means I’m scrambling as well.

I know a few parts of the meal ‘m going to be making already. Obviously, there’s the turkey. That’s a given. Then there’s the gravy. (Here’s the full recipe.) That’s something where the majority can be made ahead of time.

Then there’s the stuffing which I rarely stuff inside of the turkey. (I like to put a few lemons, maybe a lime, some apples, maybe an orange, in the bird’s cavity.)

I personally make a sage sausage stuffing with sourdough bread and bake it in the oven. This makes it toasty and more delicious.

There’re two options for the sage sausage. Either, make it yourself or just buy it. When it’s on sale, I buy it. When it’s not, I make it myself with fresh sage which I then dry in the oven.

There you go. Two great options.

I highly suggest you take my advice on the gravy.

Either use the links above or see the recipes after the jump.

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