Category: Travel

SPAIN

I’m going to Spain soon for a two week backpacking journey that includes a stop for La Tomatina. My main travel route:

The plan:

  • Start in Barcelona. Chill there for a few days.
  • Go to Valencia via train. Stay there for a day, enjoy throwing tomatoes at people.
  • Catch a ferry to Ibiza. Two days max.
  • Southern coast beaches? Gibraltar?
  • Rent a car in the south and drive up to Madrid, hitting scenic towns such as Toledo on the way. Explore Madrid for a couple days.
  • Take a train back to Barcelona

Is this a realistic plan for a two week trip? Recommendations/advice welcome.

SABANA GRANDE

The Times had an article yesterday about how being a travel guide writer is not all that it’s cracked up to be. The introduction caught my interest:

In March, Thomas Kohnstamm, a 30-year-old Seattle native on assignment in Caracas, Venezuela, for Lonely Planet travel guides, walked out of a bar in a neighborhood called Sabana Grande and quickly found himself in trouble. A group of young men emerged from darkened doorways and set upon him. He was pistol-whipped and knocked to the ground, and the bandits began rifling through his pockets. Angered to learn that Mr. Kohnstamm had the equivalent of just $8, the thieves demanded his belt, his shoes, and eventually his pants.

…the police arrived. Armed with submachine guns, they ordered the bandits against a wall and retrieved Mr. Kohnstamm’s possessions ? including his ATM card. They then explained that for purposes of their investigation, they would need to know Mr. Kohnstamm’s PIN. In the end, Mr. Kohnstamm said, the police shook him down for just $25, but in the process, he gained a priceless bit of wisdom about the Sabana Grande neighborhood of Caracas, which he dutifully reported in the “Dangers & Annoyances” section of his Lonely Planet guide: “Caracas has some well-known issues with petty crime, robbery and armed assaults. These problems are not just hype and should be taken very seriously.”

I went to Sabana Grande on my second night in Venezuela. My guidebook must have been dated because it recommended I stay there because of the low prices. By the time I got off the Sabana Grande metro station, I already learned not to look at my map at night. I walked up the metro stairs and directly into the center of a huge flea market. It went on for many blocks.

The vendors were selling clothing, food, crafts, and useless junk from China. I guessed that a permit wasn’t needed to set up shop, and even though everything seemed to be chaotic, there was enough order for these people to run their business. I finally broke out of the vendor area and started walking down the sidewalk, taking note of specific landmarks so I could find my way back. I walked past shady food stands, trash, broken street lights. There was no sights, no bars, or decent restaurants. I don’t have any pictures of Sabana Grande for two reasons: 1) there was nothing to take pictures of, and 2) I would have gotten jacked. I was back on the metro in 30 minutes. Sabana Grande is not necessary for your Caracas experience. While I could argue that Caracas is not necessary for your Venezuela experience, there is humor to be found in its traffic, pollution, and crime.

Things looked up a couple days later on island. Less thugs, more women. Friendly women.


30 years old, bartender, excellent dancer

Venezuela Table of Contents

1. Venezuela: Urban Hell
2. Venezuela: Escape From Caracas
3. Venezuela: Water Beach
4. Venezuela: A Reggaeton Christmas
5. Venezuela: Russo Does Not Respect Me
6. Venezuela: Question and Answer
7. Venezeula: Sabana Grande

VENEZUELA: QUESTION AND ANSWER SESSION

…now that you’re back here, and you wanted to come back here some points of your trip? maybe you won’t knock America and fantasize of other parts around the world as paradise full of obedient women who are willing to be your maid when you marry them.

This is an obvious troll comment. I do respect many things about this country, such as the comfortable lifestyle and relative ease of making money, but my recent travel has only validated my bashings that most women native this country are cold and distant. It’s not entirely their fault, but the fault of a culture that puts ahead objects and celebrities.

Do you ever get really horny when you travel?

No, maybe a little less because my mind is preoccupied with other things, like survival.

Damn, are those pics from your digital camera? What kind are you using? They are really sharp and the color is amazing.

All the pictures were taken with the Canon SD200, a 3.2 megapixel camera. I bought this camera intially to take photos in clubs, but I hardly use it for that anymore as I think close-up photos taken with a flash make people appear harsh and unnatural. Last time I checked, you can get the SD200 for under $200. I don’t believe in spending much for your point-and-shoot camera because chances are you will just share them on the internet or print regular sized prints. In the Venezuela and Italy photos, there was some post-production editing with lighting levels.

Later this year I plan on getting more into photography with the purchase of a digital SLR that I intend to take with me when I travel, solidifying my tourist status in the eyes of the locals.

Other than the horror stories, do you regret this experience (going there alone)?

No regrets. There are pros and cons to traveling alone or with a group, and as long as you don’t mind yourself as your main source of company, traveling alone can be challenging and exciting. This is assuming you are not shy and don’t mind talking with the locals. Shy people or introverts would not do well with independent travel.

You should write the first interesting guide book for single men.

I have been giving this some serious thought since my return. It would involve at least one year of nonstop travel and a large amount of money, something I can’t do right now. But who knows, maybe this is the beginning of such a book. I would focus in Eastern Europe and South America, since I believe the poorer the country is, the more likely an American like myself would get love. Thank God for the American passport.

However, men are snobby too. I might be ‘bangable,’ but unless I’m drop dead gorgeous is he ever really going to call me?

No.

Are you one of those dudes that tells people, ‘I’m trying to find myself’ or are you just one of those dudes that says, ‘fuck it.’ ?

Neither.

What is about the vn. girl’s ass that makes it so special? Size, roundness, no cellulite. We need details.

It’s hard to explain perfection. They are just big and round. And they know how to move it on the dance floor, preferring and up-and-down motion as opposed to the American side-to-side grind technique.

Venezuela Table of Contents

1. Venezuela: Urban Hell
2. Venezuela: Escape From Caracas
3. Venezuela: Water Beach
4. Venezuela: A Reggaeton Christmas
5. Venezuela: Russo Does Not Respect Me
6. Venezuela: Question and Answer
7. Venezeula: Sabana Grande

VENEZUELA: RUSSO DOES NOT RESPECT ME

I take a one hour hike up some mountain road to a Frenchmans farm for some horseback riding. After fending off the advances of a spunky young horse that kept biting me, we rode through some Andes trails. It was a bit scary to look down the edge of cliffs and realize your life is in entrusted with a horse. In my case, it was Russo, a bastard of a horse that didn’t respect me. He would randomly stop and start eating. The Frenchman would yell at me, shouting “Control your horse!” and “Give it character.. energy!” I had to grab on Russo’s hair and whip the hell out of until it knew who was boss, very similar to how one would command respect from a woman.

The Frenchman was actually a very interesting character. He was tall and had long hippy hair that he kept in a ponytail. Fifteen years ago, he was living on some boat in the Caribbean when a hurricane forced him to make land fall in Venezuela. Without knowing any Spanish, he lived in the barrios of Caracas for six months. “For what they lack in money, they make up in heart.” He then found his way to Merida, where he met his wife. I asked him if he ever thought about going back to France, and he said no.

In Europe and the United States, there’s a lot of regulations and rules to have a secure life and comfortable lifestyle. Everyone gets in their cars, with their seat belt, air bag, and insurance, yet everyone is scared to get into an accident because they know it will still cost them. You pay for all these things to be comfortable yet at the end of the year you have no money.

All these Western countries say how there are free, but with all those rules it’s a dictatorship in disguise.

I agree with him. But this freedom that he has comes at a cost of giving up the comfort and security that we take for granted here. Apparently him and many other Europeans living in Venezuela don’t mind.

It was time to say goodbye to Merida and Venezuela, with a final flight to Caracas before I head back home. There was still one challenge remaining: I had to walk 1.5 miles to the airport at 5am with my backpack. While Merida isn’t a dangerous city, this walk would be like walking through Northeast DC in the middle of the night. If you get robbed you’re friends would first say, “What were you thinking?”

There was quite a few people milling around that early in the morning. Vendors setting up shop for the day. People stumbling home from another crazy Wednesday night. I was almost at the airport when a scooter with two guys passed me. They immediately made a u-turn and I mentally accepted that I was going to get robbed. In that moment you think of what to do: run, use the backpack as a weapon, or fight back with yellow belt Taekwondo skills. Thankfully, they left me alone.

On the plane ride back to the U.S. I was fortunate enough to sit next to a friendly Venezuelan woman, who reminded me of how great the women there are. Since my return here I have very little motivation to go out… no desire to chat up the materialistic zombie women who are mediocre in bed. But horniness and an endless alcohol budget are powerful when combined, so I predict that in two weeks you’ll see me out trying to grind on the easiest girl in the club. Venezuela, shantytowns and all, will be missed.

Supplement:

Here is my updated, international women rating guide. The values from the previous rating have been rescaled. Venezuela is heaven for ass-men. Even the girls who don’t have ass, have ass. God bless ’em.

American Girls Venezuelan Girls Italian Girls
Hair
0
1
1
Eyes
0
0
1
Face
0
1
2
Breasts
1
1
0
Ass
1
2
0
Body Size
-1
0
1
Style
0
0
0
Bangability
1
2
1
Snobbiness
-1
1
-1
Makeup Abuse
0
1
0
Bride Worthiness
-1
1
1
Hairiness
1
0
0
Total
1
10
6
Venezuela Table of Contents

1. Venezuela: Urban Hell
2. Venezuela: Escape From Caracas
3. Venezuela: Water Beach
4. Venezuela: A Reggaeton Christmas
5. Venezuela: Russo Does Not Respect Me
6. Venezuela: Question and Answer
7. Venezeula: Sabana Grande

VENEZUELA: A REGGAETON CHRISTMAS

It’s very hard to relax and be comfortable in Venezuela. Wherever I go there is a constant presence of shady characters who look like they are sizing you up for a mugging. When you are paranoid of theft, either from a street thug, a pirate taxi, or some extra-friendly girl in the club, it’s hard to completely let go and enjoy the experience. The best nights I had there was when I went with someone I met beforehand. Unfortunately, this is the major downside of traveling alone, with many instances where I knew having a friend with me would make things more fun.

During my time in Playa el Agua I made the decision to take the Polar Ice challenge: How many Polar Ice beers does it take to get wasted? After half a dozen attempts throughout the trip, I have concluded that one will never know how many Polar Ices it takes to get wasted. It’s simply because you reach a wall where you stare down at your stomach, which has now expanded to five times it’s normal size, and realize you simply can not put down any more liquid. You start gagging and burping beer in your mouth. Throughout the course of my vacation, I put down about 60 bottles of Polar Ice, leading to more time spent in bathrooms than I would have liked.

The highlight of Margarita Island is a hike I took past Playa el Homo (no, it was not a gay beach). Walking on deserted beach and hills, I felt like I was on my own personal island. With no one to take a picture of me, I had to use my camera’s timer. It took a few tries to get it.

I was excited to leave the island on Christmas. It became overrun by Germans and I played out Woody’s so bad that I was considered a regular. I arrived in Merida after my first ever ride on a propeller plane. Merida would be the highlight of my trip to Venezuela.

I go straight to Plaza las Heroinas in Merida, the bustling square near the city’s telerferico. To my surprise, the square was packed with people, drinking beer, setting off fireworks, and listening to reggaeton blasted from Jeeps. The vibe was more relaxed and lively than Caracas. It was a refreshing change to see people out on Christmas because in the U.S. cities resemble ghost towns. I found a hotel named The 20 Trouts of Heroinas and buckled down for four nights.

The city sights can be visited in a couple hours. With not much to see, I had much more time to drink and ass-stare (which seems to be a national pastime). I could not get a ticket to the cable car ride, which is unfortunate considering it is advertised as one of the world’s highest. It’s like going to New York City for the first time and finding out that the Empire State Building is closed.

I did a canyoning tour with some Belgians, who I regaled with anecdotes about how fat Americans are. “There is actually a complete new business sector that deals with transporting huge people using special cranes. Sometimes they have to take the roof off a house to extract them.” They enjoyed the bashing, but I reminded them that as the rest of the world catches up to our values of excess, their people are next. It’s already happening in Britain.

I thought we were going to find a little waterfall and go up and down it a few times like a climbing wall, but instead we did a five hour hike down a mountain river, repelling off cliffs and jumping into watery canyons. We all had helmets on but I wouldn’t consider it American safe. There was one fall where we had to jump eight feet down in between two stone walls, into a space no wider than three feet. Our tour guide leader, a very amazing woman, cheerfully pointed to the tiny box we had to nail in order to not die… “Aqui, aqui!”. I remember telling myself that a lot of things could go wrong in such a jump, so of course I hit my head on the rock when trying to resurface. Also, I was the only one in the group to take a semi-serious tumble because, as a person who never hikes, I was not aware how slippery bark is when wet.

For nightlife, recommendations sent me to a bar called El Hoyo del Queque. The first day I went was a Monday, and the place was absolutely packed, unlike anything I’ve seen in the U.S. for such an off night. Everyone is drinking, having a great time. There is a lot less flash with clothes and cars in Venezuela. I think I saw one Coach bag and two Mercedes cars during my entire trip (no BMWs). No one asks you “What do you do?” right off the bat. It’s more of an equal atmosphere where you are rated based on personality instead of perceived monetary worth.

In the U.S. you go into a medium sized bar and maybe two or three girls are hot. There, at least a third of the girls are hot, and they don’t have that attitude because they are not rare. There are no back-turners. You are treated with respect, even when a girl you’re talking to is not interested. I feel that in the U.S. some girls go out of their way to be bitchy for no reason other than to look cool for their friends.

Of course there are exceptions.

One night my new Belgian friend and I got hammered. I’d go to the bar and buy several drinks at a time, and if I couldn’t unload them I would pour it down my throat in a desperate attempt to get drunk. We were hopping in cabs chasing this group of six Venezuelan girls that kept singing the chorus to ‘Rakata’. I noticed that the same issues such as cockblocking and large group dynamics occur there as well as here. One of the girls decided to make fun of me for about an hour about how much I smell. I did smell, but she didn’t have to point it out.

By day two or three into my trip that I was emitting a body odor that was foreign to me. It probably was the food there, but I couldn’t get rid of it, even after scrubbing my underarms with a Brillo pad. I was infected. Plus, I got my shoes soaked at the beach, so my feet emitted a stench that I wasn’t aware could exist, a cross between bad milk and cow manure. I became a walking dumpster that someone poured Axe deodorant in. Needless to say it, but the night with the six Venezuelan girls wasn’t my most successful in terms of romance.

Venezuela Table of Contents

1. Venezuela: Urban Hell
2. Venezuela: Escape From Caracas
3. Venezuela: Water Beach
4. Venezuela: A Reggaeton Christmas
5. Venezuela: Russo Does Not Respect Me
6. Venezuela: Question and Answer
7. Venezeula: Sabana Grande

VENEZUELA: WATER BEACH

My expectations on the cab ride to Playa El Agua (literal translation: water beach) was extremely low. It would have been really hard for things to get any worse. At this point of the trip I was thinking of finding ways to kill time, because 16 waking hours a day alone to myself in a place where there is not a thing to do is uncomfortably close to solitary confinement. How many hours can you lay out on a beach? That’s something I appreciate here in the U.S.: our beaches have boardwalks, kite stores, fun casinos, gigantic buckets of fries, and mini-golf with erupting volcanoes. Of course it’s not very purposeful but at least it’s something to pass the time with. I’m in paradise but I’m bored to death.

Playa El Agua turns out to be a beautiful beach untouched by commercial development. Only 2 kilometers in length, the beach is filled with vacationing families, little huts that double as bars and restaurants (kioskos), and dozens of vendors selling handmade jewelry, hats, sunglasses, cookies on cardboard box platters, and mens khaki shorts. Fat men in speedos played paddle ball (no Frisbees in sight). Beautiful women sported those little bikini lace covering things. I enjoyed relaxing on the beach with my Coca-Cola beverage in the classic bottle.

When you see this many people on the beach, it’s hard not to get a little excited because of the potential crowds at night, but this is Venezuela we’re talking about. At 9PM there is no one out. Unbelievable. I go to an empty bar and start drinking Polar Ice, the reject version of Miller Ice. Because it’s such a light beer, you have to drink a lot of it and drink it fast if you want a shot of being inebriated. Price of a bottle: 75 cents. Throughout the trip I found that it was much easier to just order two or three at a time.

The friendly waitress and I ‘talk’ for over an hour in Spanish. I have been studying Spanish at home for about four months now and can communicate pretty well with the locals. It’s amazing how much you can say with a knowledge of only a few hundred words. Tip for male travelers: the best conversation opener is “Hablas ingles?” (“Do you speak English?”). It quickly screens for girls who like gringos.

There were other bartenders there and before I knew it, there was a circle of Venezuelan women around me, getting a kick out my crappy Spanish. This kind of scenario turned out to be the rule through the trip: patient natives (i.e. women) willing to sit with you and talk about anything. The girls invite me to a club. Over here if I go to a club I’ll maybe get into a long conversation with one out of every five girls that I bump into. But down there, it’s more like four out of every five. It was such a certainty that a conversation would develop that I was able to be more careful and talk to the hottest girls instead of having to pass time or ‘warm up’ with the mediocre ones like I do here. And something a friend told me a while ago turned out to be very true: “Even if you can’t speak her language, as long as she likes you she will just smile and nod even if she has no idea what you are saying.”

On the beach clubs I had to be a little careful because of the female gringo handlers, whose only goal seems to be extracting as many free drinks from you as possible. You think at 75 cents a pop, you can buy drinks for any girl and it shouldn’t have any real significance, but regardless, I strongly advise against buying drinks for random girls. Drink prices or international boundaries are no excuse for beta male behavior.

Because the beach has a limited supply of water, we are only able to use it during three separate 90 minute periods throughout the day. (That waiter serving you food for dinner probably has not washed his hands for several hours.) A consequence of this rule is that it produces people with sticky hands and bodies. Grinding with the girls at Woody’s Beach Club was more erotic than usual because of that. And anytime you get hot, you walk 20 feet to the beach to cool off in the strong night breeze, surrounded by feral dogs and couples making out. By Venezuelan standards, this was heaven. Though I could have done without the incident involving the Brazilian prostitute working incognito. I wish I packed more Listerine.

Venezuela Table of Contents

1. Venezuela: Urban Hell
2. Venezuela: Escape From Caracas
3. Venezuela: Water Beach
4. Venezuela: A Reggaeton Christmas
5. Venezuela: Russo Does Not Respect Me
6. Venezuela: Question and Answer
7. Venezeula: Sabana Grande

VENEZUELA: ESCAPE FROM CARACAS

One of the must-sees is the teleferico, a cable car that goes to Mount Avila. As a person who is scared of heights, going up in a cable car in a relatively poor country isn’t very easy. I rode with a family who decided to walk around the car and take pictures from all four sides of the car, while the little boy kept saying “Please don’t let us fall.” I concealed my panic attack pretty well, giving the appearance of strength through weak smiles every five minutes to the little girl staring at me. The views were absolutely spectacular, and it pumped me up that this city may not be so bad. But 30 minutes after the ride I was back in hell choking on the air, wondering exactly when my fingers swelled up into thick sausages.

I made friends with the hotel receptionist who took me and her friend to the best that Caracas has to offer: malls. The luxury malls are frequented only by the middle and upper class. One must not miss the irony of me going to malls in the traffic nightmare that is Caracas, especially since one of the reasons I went there during Christmas was to avoid the commercialism and traffic associated with the holidays here. They have very fine malls, with American stores, food courts, and decorations. In Caracas a lot of bars and clubs are attached to the outsides of the malls, so it seems to serve a social as well as consumer function.

During a couple of Polar Ice beers, a drink I would see a lot more during the trip, my new friends informed me that I shouldn’t take public bus transportation to other cities. “It’s not safe, we’re Venezuelan and WE don’t even take it.” After much internal debate, I booked flights for the remainder of my trip, to Margarita Island and Merida in the Andes, increasing travel costs to unacceptable levels. I thought I remembered reading on the internet that the FAA does not endorse Venezuelan air safety, so instead of getting mugged at a bus station I was aiming for death in a fiery plane crash.

There was excitement in the air when it was time to leave Caracas, a city that I think is the more evil twin brother of Naples. The cab ride back to the airport was probably the highlight of my visit there. We hit the usual traffic while I sit with my shirt over my nose to filter out the exhaust. In gridlock we had to go through a tunnel, which unfortunately for me is doubling as a very effective suicide contraption for carbon monoxide poisoning. It was chaos: constant horn blowing, broken cars in every lane, drivers pushing jalopies through the tunnel, people on foot selling water and cookies – cookies! – in between lanes. As I slowly lost consciousness and fell “asleep”, I couldn’t help but think of the movie Escape from New York. Still in the tunnel of death (we were in there for an hour), I wake up to the jolt of an SUV smashing into us. With the SUV attached to the taxi for a good two minutes, I wondered if the taxi driver was going to get out of the car. He doesn’t, and neither does the SUV driver. He doesn’t speak a word either, and we drive on like nothing happened. We finally get to the airport a hour later after passing some construction that reduced eight lanes into one.

Margarita had such promise when flying over it. The beautiful turquoise water surrounded an island landscape filled with endless hills and mountains. It definitely felt like a make-believe place you can escape to and not have to worry about anything except maybe getting mugged and fending off elderly women offering you massages on the beach.

The drive from the airport to Porlamar, the largest city on the island, was a nervous ride through shantytowns that reminded me of Caracas. In my South American travel guide, I read about Hotel Imperial: safe, a/c/, hot water, parking, English spoken. So why was in the ghetto? Turns out that they didn’t mean safe as in “You’re in a safe area,” but safe as in the hotel HAS a safe. I drop off my stuff and go to the beach, expecting an awesome crowd of beautiful people. Instead there is only two families there, including a guy who started chatting me up and asking me what I thought of his Columbian wife. I’m all for threesomes, but the way things were going I’d probably be tied up with one of those red ball things that go in my mouth.

I was determined to make this vacation work.

“Is there a place with a lot of people?” I asked the hotel clerk.
“Hmmm, there is people in Sambil. You should go there.”

I get in a cab to head to Sambil, which turns out to be a huge mega-mall. This is my third mall in three days. Is God punishing me for rejecting Chrismas? Another cab ride later I go to Senor Frogs, a place my guidebook recommended as ‘popular’. I walk in and there are kids and adults dancing on chairs in a Venezuelan version of Chuck E’ Cheese. I burn my guidebook. I think Senor Frogs beats out the shantytown I walked through earlier as the absolute worst place in Venezuela. I walk around the area and fail to find a bar that had more than two people. I take a cab ride back to my place and complain to the hotel clerk that there are no people, no girls. “Oh you want a girl for the night? I can arrange that.” The way the trip was going, I should have let her make the call.

In my room I decide to grab some reading material to use the facilities, an activity that brings me some joy back at home. But my toilet is broke. Plus, the seat was cracked, so when I sat on it, I partially fell in the toilet. Then I noticed that my sheets were completely soiled, and the only channel I got was showing Wild on E! with hot women dancing in clubs at exotic locations. If I was a girl I would have started crying.

I wanted to go home.

Venezuela Table of Contents

1. Venezuela: Urban Hell
2. Venezuela: Escape From Caracas
3. Venezuela: Water Beach
4. Venezuela: A Reggaeton Christmas
5. Venezuela: Russo Does Not Respect Me
6. Venezuela: Question and Answer
7. Venezuela: Sabana Grande