Denver… then snapped

I stated before how everyone has a place in the world that is just perfect for them… well, the corollary to that is that everyone probably also has a place where everything is terrible for them. And, mine is, and has been confirmed again to be, Camerica.

Most people in Camerica don’t realize what a horrible place it has really turned into. In contrast to a lot of places in Asia now, in particular, Camerica seems like a poor, socialist, run-down backwater. Case in point, I was travelling on United Airlines, an airline whose service and quality would never be seen in most of Asia… in fact, I can only think of one airline I have taken in the past that is worse, and that is Cubana Airlines.

The flight from Santo Domingo to Miami got in late due to some computer malfunction. It took about an hour to get through all the customs people in Miami, with all their fingerprinting and pictures etc. By that time I barely had any time to spare to catch my connection to Denver. I ran through the decrepit, falling-apart airport in Miami, and all the various line-ups along the way. At least 5-10 people must’ve stopped me to check my passport and boarding card and stare at me with a look of, “I know you have done something wrong, I just don’t know what, yet�.

I had to check back in through security to get to my flight. The line-up was about 45 minutes long. So I missed my connection by a wide margin.

After being in 2 or 3 more line-ups I finally was put on a connection to Dallas, after which I would catch a connection to Denver. I had an hour before I had to be at the gate for the Dallas flight, but still almost missed that connection too as the security line-up was still about 45 minutes long.

But, I finally got through and got to Dallas. But then the flight from Dallas to Denver was delayed because the archaic Boeing that United had was leaking oil and they had to repair that. We sat on the tarmac for another hour for that.

Then I finally got to Denver and the taxi driver ripped me off.

Denver was actually not too terrible. It was kinda nice… a lot of the people were very nice and the nightlife was not too bad.

HOWEVER, it still pales in comparison with anywhere in Asia or Latin America. After being in Denver for two days for a conference I looked at a bunch of options… LA… Las Vegas… meh. Then I snapped…

I booked a 30 hour, 3 connection flight to Bangkok! But my trials and tribulations in the “land of the free� were far from over.

I headed to the Denver airport and was promptly put through a special security screening. All sorts of things I hadn’t even seen before, including something that blew air all over you. Then they swabbed my stuff and put it into one of their machines and, yet again, same as in Israel, sirens went off… although they didn’t over-react as much as the idiot Israelis… apparently I always have some sort of explosive residue on my stuff, somehow. It took a good 20 minutes of answering questions like, “have you blown anything up recently?� before I finally got through.

Then I got on the plane, arrived in Vancouver and, OF COURSE, was sent to the back room. I practically recognize most of the people back there now I have been there so many times. Luckily this time I was being searched by a pretty cute, young Indian girl, who didn’t give me too much trouble… so, after 20 minutes more of searching I finally made it through Canadian customs.

I had a 6 hour stop-over in Vancouver so I went downtown and ate some sushi at my favorite sushi place in the world, Bistro Sakana in Yaletown, then headed to the casino where I won enough in just a few hours to pay for my entire flight…

Then I hopped aboard a 13 hour flight, in the middle seat of one of those 5 seat rows! And then from HK to Bangkok… Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh… as grueling as that trip was I already feel better than I’ve felt in a while…

My plan now is to hang around Asia for the next few months and then return to the Caribbean and Latin America in early January and complete a lot of my previously posted itinerary, prior to probably returning back to Asia again around March.

Del Boca Chica

I spent 4 days in Boca Chica, Dominican Republic, a short 30 minute, $45 taxi ride from Santo Domingo. Boca Chica is actually closer to the international airport than Santo Domingo is. Santo Domingo is about 20-30 minutes from the airport, whereas Boca Chica is 5-10 minutes.

Boca Chica is a unique place, compared to anywhere else I have been, I’ll give it that much. It is basically a fairly impoverished little town along the beach. There is really only one main thoroughfare, Duarte Street, one block off the beach, which they close down every evening and all the restaurants and bars move their seating out into the street, which is kinda nice.

It was very, very quiet. Although, to be fair, it is currently the low season in the DR… plus I was in BC from Monday-Thursday… it’s nightlife is more known for being active on the weekends.

Being in BC was quite a bit like being in a ghetto. It was very ghetto-esque. Aside from the small and sparse small little restaurants (well, a guy with a bbq or a girl who made chicken and rice on a portable propane stove, for the most part), and aside from schoolchildren running amok during the day, the majority of people in BC just seemed to be hanging out. Whether just standing on the street corner, or sitting on their old motorcycles or scooters, or on random, old patio furniture astrewn about the town, people were just chillin’. Many had ghetto blasters or were pumping latin music from their vehicles.

I stuck out like Dick Cheney at a Greenpeace conference. Most of the residents were quite darker skinned, as opposed to the rainbow of shades and colors in Santo Domingo. And aside from that, the only other local denizens all seemed to be 60 year old+, white, fat, single men from Italy, and various other Europeans from Germany and Switzerland. Most of the men appear to have found a nice niche where they can hang out with beautiful young dark-skinned Dominicanas while drinking a few large $1-$2 Presidente beers on a local patio.

BC is actually known as an Italian vacation spot. That is something a bit odd about the Dominican… it seems to have various people from around the world who consider it a tourist destination, but each country seems to have its area. BC is Italian, Puerto Plata is mostly Canadians etc etc…

Besides the local BBQ and cafeteria like restaurants, virtually every restaurant in BC is Italian. The Italian food was actually pretty good too.

There appears to be two kinds of visitors to BC, the all-inclusives and the non-all-inclusives. There are a few all-inclusive hotels in BC… the most famous is Hamaca… and it appears that the people who stay in those spots rarely leave the hotel grounds… and if they are a family, I wouldn’t really blame them (more on that below).

The other kind of visitor appears to be the budget, older-single male traveler. For them, there are numerous fairly cheap hotels and they seem to spend their days drinking beer and their nights carousing with the plethora of girls-of-the-evening, in BC.

It appears to be a single-adult-male focused resort once you are outside the all-inclusive hotels. The moment you leave your hotel, you are spotted by one of the, literally, hundreds of guys on motorcycles who will immediately start to whistle, hiss, yell “amigo.. what you need? Girls? Chicas? Drugs? You want to party mang?�. They are, imo, far too aggressive and I’ll wager that the great majority of visitors won’t return based solely on their aggressiveness.

At night, down on Duarte, once you get past all the guys on bikes, and walk into the walking street, you are immediately (or I was anyway) cat-called, whistled-at, grabbed and kissed by the dozens of girls who all seem to be just hanging about. To be fair, many of the guys on motorbikes seem like nice guys – but they just have a lot of competition… same for the girls… many seem very nice and a lot of them are really beautiful – but they have a lot of competition also.

But, being a lover of anonymity, this place definitely wasn’t my style. I tried to give it a shot for a few nights, but mostly just hung out at the Casino Hamaca each night where, again, I made a killing. This may be quite a generalization, but from what I have seen in SD and BC, Dominicans are absolutely atrocious poker players. Again, they had the ante style (no blind) game there and, as always, no one would raise pre-flop (except, again, me), letting you get in to see the flop with any random hand, often ending up with you getting some great flop, like A,8,2 with your 8-2 hand… after which, if you went all in, ANYONE with an A… even A-5, would call! It was simply ridiculous. I even purposely lost a number of hands just because a) I didn’t want to make anyone too mad (although that never seemed to be an issue) and b) I kinda just felt sorry for them!

I don’t know how many times everyone at my table re-bought in for ($100-$200), while I just kept taking all their chips, over and over and over. Considering the low stakes (I always just bought in for $100 or so), I would easily quadruple-10x my money, EVERY night?!?! I wish those same guys would play high-stakes with me! I’d love to make 10x my money on a $1,000-$5,000 buy in every night!!

As for hotel recommendations, I stayed at the Il Candil hotel in BC. It cost $50/night and I got a full suite with one bedroom and kitchen (where I made macaroni and cheese, for old times sake, for the first time in 20 years!) and has a nice, safe setting with nice staff. I would recommend that hotel for anyone who doesn’t want to stay at all-inclusives (like me). If you want all-inclusive, stay at Hamaca, but don’t expect it to be really luxurious… the place seemed pretty run down.

In general, I really wouldn’t recommend BC to anyone. I hear the other resorts (Puerto Cana and Puerto Plata in particular) are very nice… if I were to go to a resort town again in the Dominican, I’d definitely go there. But it was interesting to live in a local town in the Dominican for a few days.

As for now, I am on a plane headed to Miami and then onward to Denver for a few days on some business. After Denver I really am not sure… probably Vegas and LA to see some people, then after that I have no idea. I could head back down to Mexico for a while, then on to the Caribbean… or I may feel tempted to go back to Bangkok again for a few months… I have to go back to the Dominican to pick up some documents in January so I either have to hang around in the area for a few months or leave now and come back later.

Wherever I go, to the land of perfection in Thailand, or to beautiful Mexico and the Caribbean, I am sure it’ll be not-too-bad!

Santo Domingo

To begin, I want to express my displeasure with the internet. Oh internet, I had such great hopes for you. I thought you would forever stop human suffering… I thought you would bring the world together. I thought that you would at least tell me the truth, and in a timely matter.

Instead, for the most part, all you have done is brought all the world’s stupidest people together and cataloged it.

Case in point. As I usually do, I read about the Dominican Republic prior to arrival. There were all sorts of opinions posted, but generally, it said that this is a poor country but has an incredibly vibrant nightlife.

Well, I haven’t seen the whole country, but I have spent a few days in the capital. But I wouldn’t describe it as being poor, at all… and the nightlife is very, verrrrrry tranquilo.

It is very nice here. I especially like the people…. In Camerica, there is a full melting pot… here in the Dominican, you have every shade of people… BUT, unlike in Camerica, they are all locals (ie. not immigrants). I found that really neat. From the whitest of white, to the blackest of black, they are all, for the most part, Dominicans… And, unlike in Camerica, not a thought, or bias, based on skin color seems evident.

I heard, on the internet, all sorts of stories about poverty and crime here in Santo Domingo. Santo Domingo, from what I have seen, is very nice. I have seen nothing but nice people, nice tree-lined streets and nice establishments. It is very, very nice here. If all you are looking for is nice weather, nice people and a nice city, Santo Domingo may be for you. In fact, if that is what you are looking for, I highly recommend it here.

I also heard that the nightlife here is “spicy and the best in the caribbean”. Well, if that is the case, I am going straight back to Mexico or Thailand. Ahhhh how I miss them both.

There are numerous… countless even, merengue and salsa bars, where a plethora of latino couples dance the night away. If that is your thing, this is your place.

But if you want to go to a club, see some hot single girls and listen to some normal music, there isn’t that much here. Most of the places described on the outdated internet were either closed or empty, including a bar I had high hopes for, called La Guacara, a club that is built into a natural, large cave, in the center of Santo Domingo… how cool is that? But it was empty on the Friday night I went… After a few evenings criss-crossing the city I have found most of the better places.. places that aren’t even mentioned on the internet. There is a few okay places in the Zona Colonial… and a few places on Venezuela Street.. one called Eclipse is okay. But if you don’t enjoy doing some sort of robotized (that’s how I see it, although most latinos think it is the most sensual, free dance of all time) shuffle, don’t expect to be blown away by the nightlife here. It may very well be the best in the caribbean, but as I previously stated, if so, I won’t be here too long.

Don’t get me wrong. Other than the nightlife, I have no complaints here. I can’t stop from using the word ‘nice’… everything is very nice. But, as you have probably learned by now, I am not looking for nice… I am looking for places that will give me stories I could never tell my illegitimate grandchildren.

I will go to Boca Chica in a few days… I hear it is beautiful but greasy… perhaps that place will give me more of what I need.

However, for you poker players out there, this is the easiest place to make money I have seen yet. There are numerous casinos here and most have one or two poker tables. The easiest/best one is at the hotel next door to the Renaissance Jaragua… I forget the name, Melia maybe… but it has the easiest game I have ever seen. There are no blinds, but everyone antes in $3 (100 pesos) each hand, for a total of $15-30 in antes depending on the amount of people. I NEVER saw anyone raise pre-flop the entire time I was there (except for myself)… and when I did raise, most times everyone would fold… meaning you could steal hundreds of dollars of antes per hour… and if someone did call, it almost always meant they had a big hand, so you knew to just fold if you didn’t hit the flop. Also, because no one ever raised pre-flop, you would ALWAYS see the flop with any drawing hand… and if you hit your hand, someone would always call with only a pair, guaranteeing you a good return for your best hand.

But the buy in was only a max of 3000 pesos ($90), so no big money is there to be made… but if you want to make a few hundred bucks a day playing poker, like I did, I highly recommend it. The funniest part was that, almost every hand, the people involved would ask the dealer to lay out all the cards after they folded, because they wanted to see if they hit their hand… in other words, everyone there was playing for the hope of hitting their hand, not playing to play well… for those of you who know poker, you will understand, from what I have said, what a bonanza this place is for the player who wants to grind out a living on the tables.

I still have 5 more days here, before I have to briefly go to the US… I don’t have high hopes for any exciting stories, as explained above… but I have some hope for Boca Chica. But, in general, if you are a nightlife seeker, don’t expect too much here. In fact, during the week, every club closes at midnight! And even on the weekends, every club closes at 2am, and there are no after-hours clubs that I know of… if you want to party, go to Mexico or Thailand. But if you want to live cheaply, safely and be amongst a lot of very nice people, check out Santo Domingo.

However, if you are more of a day-time person, I have had and seen countless opportunities to just engage into conversation with beautiful girls, which seem to populate this place. If I weren’t such a nightlife lover, I would definitely, without question, consider this to be a top destination. It’s a bit like Havana, but without the poverty.

Like I said… it’s very nice here. If I was looking for “nice”, I’d stay here for a long time.

Un noche en Habana

I arrived in Cuba via Cubana Airlines, the national airline of Cuba, from Cancun.

It, along with everything else in Cuba, seems to have been frozen in time around 1959…. The Cubana Airlines flight was a jet, but I had to crouch down to around 4 feet to get onto it…. The seat cushions were decades old abused…. And the actual width between seats was so small that my 5’11 and a half bared squeezed into it. Go communism go! Seriously… go away!

As most places do, Cuba has a very interesting past. Initially occupied by the Guanajatabeys who had migrated from South America as early as 7,000 years ago, the island underwent major changes after Christopher Columbus sighted the island on a sailing trip in 1492. It was fought over a few times by the English and the Spanish and was traded for Florida in 1762 to the Spanish again. It became one of the world’s major suppliers of sugar. Its ethnic melting pot was enhanced by the addition of the original low-cost laborers, African slaves.

In 1902 Guantanamo Bay was leased to the USA and still remains so to this day, although few at the time of the agreement could have envisioned that the base would end up hosting concentration camps for an evil neo-conservative empire.

Things were going along swimmingly for the country when two freedom fighters of note, Fidel Castro and a foreign guerrilla fighter from Argentina, Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara managed to overthrow the government against incredible odds and manpower domination, but were in fact helped, although unwittingly, by the Americans at the time whose embargo limited the ability of the standing Cuban government to make war.

I am almost ALWAYS a supporter of freedom-fighters/rebels/guerillas as their goal is always to overthrow the government, which is always a good idea. However, once the government is overthrown, they almost always go ahead and just replace it with another idiotic regime with their own views of the world, always destined to fail because no centralized system of governing people can ever function as well as the natural development of individuals all deciding for themselves what to do to better their own lot (ie. a completely free market).

Fidel and Che thought Marxism was the right way to go. They, of course, were dead wrong, but Fidel has spent the last 50 years stubbornly trying to show he is/was right even in the face of incalculable evidence that he is/was not and instead of leading a revolution in order to help the common man he has become a tyrannical dictator who has oppressed and basically ruined the lives of nearly every common man in the country. Upon my arrival in Havana, the evidence is everywhere.

Havana felt a lot like Yangon, Burma. Felt very country…. Very little (none) street lights at night… Upon arrival it it felt like time had stopped 50 years ago. The great majority of vehicles were from the 50s and 60s… although there were a few 90s and 2000s Peugots, Volvos and some German, Japanese and Korean vehicles, most of which were high(er) priced airport taxis. The city is quite beautiful and nice in the daytime but at night, with no street lights and a lot of shady characters milling about, it takes on a more ominous vibe… I don’t know many women who would feel all that safe wandering around Havana at night… in the daytime, however, it has a neat feel to it… not a single new building has been built in decades and most of the architecture is very Spanish… combined with the old cars everywhere it really feels like a time machine transported you back decades. If it weren’t for the knowledge that this complete lack of development was creating terrible struggle for the people there, it would be a really neat place. Hopefully the current regime will soon fail, likely once Castro finally bites it, and if it then opens up to the world this will be an exciting, interesting place to be.

Upon driving into Havana, I passed countless Che Guevara and Castro billboards, including one that had a picture of George Bush and an “=� sign pointing to an image of Adolf Hitler, which I would never even question (to date the American neo-con empire has followed the nazi playbook almost without fault). But it is quite striking to see here, in the land of Castro, one of the sickest bastards ever unleashed on this planet. Only Kim Jong Il, the Myanmar junta and a few African pricks surpass this kind of disgustingness. George Bush would be like a savior compared to Castro.

The town was ghost-town-like… I went to two locations of Casa Del Musica discoteca (the one in the Miramar district is apparently the better/nicer one), supposedly one of the best discos in town, but they were both practically empty, with only a few girls in it, who told me of their struggles but were hesitant to say more. They were beautiful, solid, sensual beings, but who had been so beat down by the sadistic culture of the region that they were shells of their potential. It is so sad, especially when put into perspective that tens of millions of fat, pasty, ignorant, style-less, class-less Camerican girls have everything they want and yet are on Prozac and are depressed while these beautiful chicas struggle for everything and yet can retain a smile while doing so.

When I asked/prompted some of the beautiful girls here that perhaps their horrible life came as a result of one egomaniac, sick bastard, named Castro… I was immediately told to be very quiet. I told them I would fight with them to remove him. But they have been so beaten down for generations here they have no fight in them… it is so sad to see people so beaten into submission. At one point, while driving in a taxi with one girl, she actually slumped down in the back seat and basically hid, as we drove past a police checkstop… apparently to even be seen with a foreigner could have repercussions for them.

So, I retreated back to my nicest hotel in Havana (Hotel Parque Central, got a good deal through and tried to push the memory of this 50 year soul-genocide out of my mind.

For a country with Che Guevara on half its billboards I ask, where are the freedom fighters? I’d be so happy to stand next to them and fight to rid this beautiful land of its Diablo. He is 80 years old, the time is now. Pero, I digress… it is up to them. If they are not willing to fight for themselves then who am I to get involved. As for me, I leave today. What a country this could/would be without the the oppression of one delusional egomaniac. He will die soon, thankfully, but apparently some of his brethren seem all too eager to step in and oppress the millions for the sake of themselves. If the people here are ever ready to stand up and fight, I, like Che Guevara, would be happy to join them. Until then, I will move on to happier places… life is too short to waste in an apparently hopeless situation.

However, that said, America’s current embargo on the country is ridiculous as well. Firstly, communism is and never was any threat to America… in fact, America now is becoming more communist than many other countries, including China. Secondly, the best way for Cuba to enter the 21st century is to open it up as much as possible to outside influence so the people can gain information and capital in order to become more free.

It is always interesting to see how falsely constructed economies work, however, and Cuba was interesting. There are two currencies in Cuba. The regular (national) peso, for the Cubans, and all foreigners are given ‘convertible pesos’. The convertible peso is worth about 30 times more than a regular peso, but when you go to pay for things, a local will pay the exact same price as you, but with ‘national’ pesos… in effect, they are paying 30 times less than you, for everything!

As a final note, I was told by numerous people that internet access is almost impossible and even if I got it, it would not be high speed. But, at the Hotel Parque Central they had wifi in the lobby that was reasonably fast… it cost $8/hour though. They have internet in some of their higher priced room apparently also. Plus I contacted Hotel Nacional and they said they have internet in their executive floor rooms for $20/day… but since I didn’t have internet in my room at the Parque Central, it was just another reason to want to get out of town and head to a free state.

Also, in regards to ATMs, I read on the internet that it was quite easy to get cash from ATMS here, as long as your ATM card wasn’t from America… well, I have 4 or 5 cards, from various places, and none of them worked in any of the machines I tried… I had to go to my hotel and get a physical cash advance from a cashier who was available mostly daylight hours… so keep that in mind.

I am writing this on another Cubana Airlines soviet-era plane on my way to Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. I expect to be in the Dominican (in the capital and also in Boca Chica) for about a week, if this rusted out old beast makes it.

Hasta Luego.

Oh Gawd What Have I Done?

Well, I left paridiso and went to Cancun. I got here and I immediately noticed that everything was priced in USD… taxi rides, drinks, food, everything. This was my first hint that I had done something terribly wrong.

Then I noticed that there were barely any Mexican people anywhere… and not even any Mexican food. It was all American franchises and cheesy bars obviously targeted to Camericans. One ‘famous’ bar, called the Coco Bongo, even had bus tours that dropped off all the pasty, style-less, class-less, vermin from the northern climes.

Sweat poured from my brow, and not just from the humidity. Why, oh why, did I leave Acapulco and all its treasures for this southern replica of Sarasota, Florida.

To add insult to injury, my phone continued to ring from beautiful, seductive, vibrant mexicanas in Acapulco, all asking why I left them so soon. I asked myself the same thing.

IF you just want to go to a place that has nice beaches and very westernized facilities (Hooters, etc), it is very modern and nice here.

But if you have a soul, and look for for something slightly uncommercialized and something a bit undeplorable, don’t go to Cancun. Worst place in Mexico, bar none.

I came straight home after 8 hours of being here and immediately looked for the next flight out.

*note: if you do like totally commercialized, pasty Camerican partying and nice hotels, I stayed at the Hyatt Regency which is a VERY beautiful hotel.. and I think it is off-season, but I got a great rate of $110/night.. and the main nightlife area is all within a few minutes of walking distance (Coco Bongo, The City, Senior Frogs etc) so I can’t complain about the facilities, location and the price… just mostly about the crowd.

I better get outta town

In a bit less than a week in Acapulco my hotel room is riddled with napkins and other odd scraps of paper emblazoned with phone numbers and names like Karla, Angelica, Alexia… my Mexican cell phone is ringing off the hook so much I have decided to turn it off… and one cute little 18 year old whose name I can’t even remember told me she loves me and asked me to give her a baby!!!??

Yup, I better split outta town before this gets too outta control!

So, in the morning I am going to Cancun for 2 days.

After that I should be in Cuba and then the Dominican Republic.

As you may have noticed, from reading my blog, I have become a bit schizophrenic. One week I talk about retiring from the traveling life, the next week I draw up huge world travel plans, and then the week after that I change all the plans completely.

Well, this week I am back on my giant world travel plan kick. It happens when I just decide to go to one or two places and then I look at a map and think, well, if I am going to be there, I’m only a short flight or boat away from XXXX country… then I look at the map again and think the same about the country neighboring it. Before I know it, I have a crazy itinerary.

I am shy to post this, because I have posted similar travel plans in the past and, while I do usually end up getting there eventually, I haven’t even come close to sticking to the plan in the past.

Ahh well, for your enjoyment, here is a really rough, general plan that I am going to try to do over the coming months. The first few entries (Cancun, Havana, Santo Domingo and Denver) are pretty much guaranteed, but after that, I will likely just follow the vibe, as always.

In closing, on Acapulco, if you come here… the top 3 sorta ‘lounges’ to go for a drink prior to heading out for the evening are Mango’s, Level (with a stunning bartendress named Karla) and Puntos (with numerous beautiful waitresses, including mi favorito, Alexia). Also, if you want to go to a strip club, avoid Tabares Uno… that is a tourist trap… go to Tabares Dos, it is 99.9% locals and is a million times better, and cheaper, than Tabares Uno.

And with that, I bid adios once again to wonderful Acapulco.

Here is the highly tentative rough travel plan ahead:

Oct 14-16 Cancun
Oct 16-21 Havana
Oct 21-25 Dominican Republic
Oct 25-26 Denver, Colorado
Oct 26-Oct 28 Houston
Oct 28-Nov3 Belize City
Nov 3-6 Tegucigalpa, Honduras
Nov 6-10 Managua, Nicaragua
Nov 10-13 Panama
Nov 13-18 Cartagena, Colombia
Nov 18-20 Aruba
Nov 20-24 Caracas, Venezuela
Nov 24-27 Trinidad & Tobago
Nov 27-30 Barbados
Nov 29-Dec 1 St. Maarten
Dec 1-Dec 5 San Juan, Puerto Rico
Dec 5-7 Port-au-Prince, Haiti
Dec 7-12 Jamaica
Dec 13-15 Monterrey, Mexico
Dec 15-17 Los Angeles
Dec 18-22 Vancouver
Dec 22-25 Osaka
Dec 25-Jan 2 Boracay
Jan 3-13 Melbourne – Aussie Millions Poker Tournament
Jan 13-16 Port Moresby, Papau New Guinea
Jan 16-21 Guam
Jan 21-Feb5 Various Micronesia islands (Truk, Yap, Palau etc)
Feb 5-Mar 4 Thailand (Bangkok and Phuket)
Mar 4-9 Laos
Mar 10-Apr 9 Thailand
Apr 9-Apr 11 Brunei
Apr 11-May 10 Thailand
May 10-May 16 Kgryzstan
May 16-21 Tajikistan
May 21-26 Turkmenistan
May 26-June 1 Uzbekistan
June 1-June 8 Kazakhstan
June 8-14 Azerbaijan
June 14-19 Georgia
June 19-26 Ukraine
June 26-30 Belarus
June 30-July 7 Lithuania
July 7-14 Latvia
July 14-21 Estonia
July 21-24 Helsinki, Finland
July 24-30 Poland
July 30-Aug 3 Denmark
Aug 3-7 Oslo, Norway
Aug 7-12 Belgium
Aug 12-??? ??? Africa?

Ahhhh Acapulco

Why do I even bother going ANYWHERE other than Mexico or Thailand??!!

From the moment I arrive in either of the two countries, everything is perfect. It is like I shed my pale, scaly, dry skin like a snake and instantly am alive with the glow of health and happiness.

Perfect weather, scenery, amazing food, cheap living, vibrant people, exceptional nightlife and beautiful, approachable girls. If there is anything more to life I’d be very interested in hearing about it!

Thailand and Mexico are now officially my dual-perma-destinations. And they are a perfect complement to each other with Thailand and it’s spicy food and Mexico and it’s spicy chicas. 5 months per year in Thailand and 5 months per year in Mexico, with a month in between in transit is the actual fountain of youth. It exists, you just have to do it.

I don’t think I could ever get bored of a beautiful 18 year old girl calling me ‘papi’ in Mexico, or the submissive, soft skinned exotic beauties of Thailand bowing to me with their beautiful wai greeting and a soft-spoken, sawasdee-ka.

People of Islamic faith, and most other religious followers, figure that heaven is in the afterlife and they bide their time here on Earth waiting for their 50 virgins and all-you-can-eat buffets in heaven… I can’t speak on the afterlife, but I know that the heaven they are talking about is right here, in Mexico and Thailand. And that is a guarantee, not just a hope!

Within a few days of being here I have already ran into a few of the girls I loved from my last trip, plus, I even ran into the first girl in Acapulco who I was so enamored with I immediately took Spanish lessons in order to communicate with her 2.5 years ago…named Alexia… how beautiful a name is that? However, it wasn’t to be as she had a husband/novio at the time (as most girls in Mexico do, after they are 18 years old!), but I saw her two nights ago and she told me she is now single… Ahh, how can I convey a mental image of how I felt the second she told me that. Vultures circling…. Eyes squinting… sun rising, heart pounding… dams breaking… all that, combined with an atomic blast. Comprende?

It’s just so different than how I feel about almost any girl (other than the very rare few), or situation, in Camerica… there it is more like, placing gun-in-mouth, eyes glazing, mind numbing, sewage spilling, death. But, why even talk about negative places like that… better to focus on the positive.

I had originally planned to stay in Acapulco for only 3-5 days, but I am natching that immediately. I will now stay here at least a week… and I would love to stay here much longer, but I am quite curious about Cuba and do need to get to the Dominican Republic on some business prior to going to Denver for a conference on Oct 26. However, as soon as that conference is over, I have zero obligations and will likely head straight back to the vida bonita in Mexico prior to setting off to complete a tour of the Caribbean (I’d like to hit every country in the Caribbean… possibly via a rented catamaran) and surroundings, including Nicaragua, Honduras, Belize, Cartagena in Colombia and Panama.

All destinations are within a 3 hour flight of mother Mexico so, if none of those spots are giving me what I need, I am only a stones throw from Mexico and all its beauty.

Acapulco yet again

Ah I love Mexico.

The difference between being in Edmonton and Acapulco is stark. As I awoke at 5am and left my hotel in Edmonton two days ago, I scurried across the cold, windy parking lot in Edmonton, hands in pockets, trying to keep warm. The silence of the prairies taunting me, further reinforcing how desolate and uninhabitable a place it is. Getting to the airport people look unhealthy, most of them are hacking and coughing and no one appears all that friendly or nice.

A few hours later, I arrive in soul-healing 34c weather and arrive at my hotel overlooking beautiful Acapulco bay… the blues of the sky are deep and calming and the pulse of the aqua-blue tide is hypnotic in its tranquility. Beautiful young school girls go skipping by in their school skirts and knee high socks, giggling and flirting, alive with energy. The streets are bussling and engaged.

I order up my favorite, Al Pastor tacos, grilled to perfection on an open flame and the waiter brings over an ice-cold coca cola (is it too much to ask to get a really cold drink? It seems Mexico is one of the only places where the drinks are almost always served near freezing which, of course, is perfection on a hot, humid day). A taxi driver who remembers me, and my name, from last time I was here sees me and stops his car and comes over to visit.

Viva la Mexico.

To add to my heightened mood is the exchange rate. Most of those snarky Canadians will all tell you how awesome the Canadian dollar is, but most don’t realize that the Canadian dollar hasn’t gone up all that much versus many other currencies, or against anything else in fact, except the US dollar. It isn’t that the CDN has gone up, it is that the USD has been in a state of collapse for years now.

However, one other currency that the CDN dollar has also routed is the Mexican Peso. When I was here on my boat in 2004, the CDN/MXN exchange rate was around 8, meaning 100 CDN dollars would convert to 800 Pesos. The Peso has been on a one way train south since then however. When I was here in January of this year, the exchange rate was about 9.5. But now, only a few months later, the exchange rate is over 11. That is a 38% increase in purchasing power in the last few years… even more so when you consider that in 2002 the conversion rate was around 6, which equates to an over 80% increase!

In other words, Mexico used to be cheap, but for people who have the majority of their finances in Canadian dollar and CDN assets, right now, it is even cheaper! By a lot!

Not many people understand why the Mexican Peso has been so abysmal, but a big reason is that literally, Mexico is running out of oil. Oil from the Gulf of Mexico has been a HUGE boon for Mexico over the last few decades as they have been a major exporter to the US. However, Mexico’s big offshore oil field, called the Cantarell Field, has been in steep decline since 2004. By next year it will only be producing about half of what it did in 2004 (1 million barrels per day versus 2 million previously) and the decline will only continue.

The Mexican government, and much of the country, has lived off of the profits of oil production for years but with production declining very quickly now some people believe the impact on the country will be so great that it is quite possible the country could collapse and the government may dissolve. After that, anything can happen… so it will be very interesting in the next few years here in Mexico.

Mexican real estate is looking quite attractive because of the exchange rate but I think I’ll just keep going with the flow for a while. I am staying at the Crowne Plaza on the beach for $75/night right now… I’m sure I could get an even better rate if I wanted to stay longer term, so hotel rates are quite reasonable right now too. Although, it is important to point out that it is low season here right now (rainy season.. it doesn’t rain much but every night for about 30 minutes there is usually a pretty huge tropical thunderstorm)… also, the Crowne Plaza in Acapulco is pretty old and not up to the standard of many of their other hotels… so that also explains the price a bit. But considering that I was paying $120/night in Deadmonton just a few days ago to stay at a hotel near a highway in the desolate, cold prairies and am now paying $75/night to stay at a resort on the beach in Acapulco, I’m not complaining!

I’m off to go get some more tacos. Ciao!

Oh Coddled Canada

You know it’s coming. Berwick was in Canada again… here comes the rant. And you are correct, sir!

But, before I begin, allow me to mention that I barely lasted a week in Canada before I snapped and grabbed a 6:55am, 3 connection, 10 hour total flight to Acapulco where I am now VERY VERY happily basking in the sun, eating tacos and visiting with some beautiful Mexicanas I had met prior. I’ll likely hit Cuba and Dominican Republic in the next few weeks though, so stay tuned…

Ok, and now back to my Canada bashing:

I spent the last week or so in Vancouver and Edmonton where I was treated to freezing rain on the Coast and arrived to balmy -5c, blustery early October weather in Edmonton.

The more time I spend away from Canada allows me to see more clearly what a screwed up place it is. It is really like going to the Soviet Union in the 80s or something, it is so oppressingly socialist… but the worst part is, no one there seems to notice it… they actually think they live in a bastion of free markets and liberty. The only difference between the old Soviet era and today’s Canada is the exchanging of the old furry Russian Ushanka hat and overcoat for an Edmonton Oilers baseball hat and a pickup truck.

As example, quite a few people asked me what I do… I mentioned to them that I don’t live in Canada anymore and basically travel around. EVERY single person then asked me, and they were serious, “did you win the lottery??�.

If you are from Canada you may not even be able to see the humor in that. But, basically, all people in Canada are “educated� in the STATE run “education� system to think that the only way to live and survive is as an employee (more often that not in Canada, as a civil “servant� too). Thoughts of entrepreneurialism still barely scratch the surface of the national brain pool… in fact, if you pay attention, you’ll notice that most small businesses are run by immigrants who are quite a bit further along the curve in terms of being able to think freely, mainly because they were not, thankfully, coddled into an organized system of welfare where people look to the state for nurturing. Nor is their main source of news and information supplied to them from the STATE information agency, named Pravda in the formerly communist USSR, and named CBC in Canada.

But, that is not even the whole reason why I think the lottery question is so insightful. The reason is that the great majority of Canadians appear to think that the ONLY way to have any sort of personal freedom is if the STATE controlled lottery corporation so miraculously picks them from the frozen, slaving masses.

As another example of the thought process in Canada, as I happily exited the country, the lead story of the newspaper I was reading was about a situation where a woman was killed by some kids who were street racing. I hate to use this as an example as the story is truly tragic, but the comments from the husband of the deceased woman are just so indicative of the Canadian mindset. The quote, emblazoned across the front of the national newspaper stated, “I want to ask our Premier and John Tory and Howard Hampton: What are they going to do about this?�.

As though the politicians are the overseers of all life in the country and anything that happens to anyone must be dealt with by the overseeing officials!? What is it exactly he wants them to do, anyway? Certainly he doesn’t think they have the power to revive his wife… so, then what? Some politicians were quoted as saying that they will stop at nothing to find all potential street racers and stop them before they start?!? So, in essence, the government is saying that adolescent teens who are full of hormones and stupidity must be stopped before they do things they want to do. Good luck with that! But I’m sure hundreds of millions will be spent on the crackdown.

It is sad and unfortunate that there are tragedies in life, sometimes caused by reckless individuals. That’s it, the end. Anyone trying to use the STATE to try to stop young boys from being young boys is mentally deluded. Ergo, most Canadians.

I used to rag on Americans a lot more than Canadians, but that gap is decidedly narrowing now. Sure, America is controlled by big business and bankers who make money off of war (again, not to the discredit of business and bankers, but the scourge of government is again the culprit) while most boobus americanus’ sit at their tv’s swilling Budweiser and are completely preoccupied with American football. But Canada ain’t all that different… Canada is like America’s super-socialist, snarky little brother.

The more I see Canadians, at home and abroad, the less I like them. As example, numerous times in the last few months I have been on a plane somewhere around the world and heard totally ignorant things said by really fat, pasty people and quickly wrote it off that they must obviously be Americans. However, in almost every case, I later found out that they were all Canadians.

But even worse, I have overheard numerous Canadians abroad all natter about how bad the US is, which I’d happily agree with, until they start talking about Canada like it is some perfect nation. What??!! And they drone on about it like they are the only smart people who have figured things out and everyone else is so stupid. I used to hear that a lot from Americans how they dislike Canadians because they always like to think and act that they are so smart… now I understand. You really want to just punch them in the head.

Meanwhile, while driving along in Edmonton, tuned in to the local radio station, a caller chimed in, “I’d like to request XXX song… and I’d also like to say I’m a proud Canadian, and give the best to the troops fightin’ over in Eye-Raq… sorry, Afghanistan�.

There are so many things that are despicable with what that caller said it is hard to know where to begin. But, it just goes to show that Canadians have been coddled into becoming ignorant patriots… not much different than Americans, except for the snooty, ‘better than you’ attitude… which probably comes from the French side!

Again, don’t get me wrong… almost every country in the world today sucks. They all are dumbing down their populations and are inspiring disgusting ‘patriotism’ through propaganda to try separate people of the world, spawning xenophobia and hatred and all have varying levels of socialism and welfare-states that are all sucking the life blood out of productive assets and the people themselves while lying to them and telling them they are all better off for it.

But if I have the choice (and don’t tell me I am lucky to have been given the choice… I am perfectly happy to fight for my own freedom, thank you. I don’t need anyone else to do it for me, in practice or in reality) between putting up with socialist, ignorant police-states in a frozen, barren wasteland like Canada, or on the beaches of Acapulco or Koh Samui… well, you know which choice I have already made there!

**Fight government. Fight democracy. There are very few things less repugnant and despicable than the act of ‘voting’ for something to enforce your own personal views and preferences on others at the point of a hired gun while extorting money from them in order to do so… which, by the way, is the definition of democracy. Never vote. Imprison or kill all politicians (except Ron Paul… please watch this video on Ron Paul to see possibly one of the only hopes for a happy, healthy planet in the coming years ).