Phuket; (poo-khet)

You like to party, spend money, be a little flashy….Phuket is just the place for you. Everything under the sun is at your fingertips, and it is the perfect place to dig a little deeper and see what its like behind the scenes in a tropical getaway.

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thai baht!

Phuket was a last minute addition to my little Thailand excursion, and it was well worth it. I’ll skip the long backstory of how Phuket was a major trading route, linking France, the Dutch, and other soverign nations in the UK to natural resources found in southern Asia. Instead, i’ll get to the nitty gritty, and talk about how a country boy like me found Phuket to be so much fun.

Imagine Times Square; the hustle and bustle of commerce, food, people, cars, nightlife and parties, mixed with a beautiful warm beach, in a raucous college town. That’s Phuket. Not much wildlife to explore, but I found a few nooks and crannies to investigate.

We stayed in an airbnb again, this time down an alley and in a renovated but empty apartment building. Our room faced the beach, and the patio offered unparalleled views of the sun. I initially noticed the ABUNDANCE of counterfeit goods. Everything and anything was available on the streets, from yeezy’s to computers to whale bones, and there were tons of tourists to drop Baht (Thai cash) for everything. Honestly, I don’t know if i’ve ever been anywhere where there have been so many foreign tourists. While I emjoyed the mixing and mingling with people of different nations, it can be overwhelming if you want a little isolation. There also is an abundance of luxury, we passed resort after resort while walking around the small town, and exploring the scenery.

Patong beach is the main beach in Phuket, and it is a well worn path. There were no real designated sections, just tons of beach for everyone to sunbathe and roam. There were also lots of outdoor activities available; water skiing, snorkeling, scuba diving, and parasailing!

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I had quite a bit of time to get myself a little lost in Phuket, and it was well worth it. What I discovered was similar to my travels in Mexico, a completely different world behind the normal tourist experience. My first mission was to find the LGBT friendly area, and it wasn’t hard to locate lol. There is a strip of clubs on the other side of Phuket’s busiest street that is home to about 6 or 7 gay clubs and bars, all with slightly different vibes. I made sure to steer clear of the ones that seemed a little….seedy…., but spent all night at the few that had great vibes and open energy. The nightlife in Phuket in general, was INTENSE. There are hordes of people, and plenty of places to spend your time and money after hours.

Next on my list was checking out where the actual Thai residents of Phuket live, and what I found was startling. Just behind some of the biggest resorts there are small encampments where people live together seemingly in support of each other, and commute back and forth to the beach for work. There were a few homeless people, and lots of trash washed down from the beaches, but there was still an undeniable beauty to it all. I snuck past a few barriers and got some up close shots of boats, a small gathering of people, and a shrine under a bridge.

Phuket, simply put, is disneyland for adults. It is a must see destination for anyone of drinking age, and highly recommended by an average traveler such as myself.

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Puerto Vallarta ii

Puerto Vallarta is for the traveler who wants a predictable resort experience, but not the same place all your friends have been to. Its a beginner course in a foreign language, baby steps on steep terrain, the first bite of a familiar dish at a brand new restaurant. It is very gay friendly, family friendly, elderly friendly, people of color friendly….just damn friendly. However, if you want to see what the real Puerto Vallarta looks like, it can be a bit jarring and shallow. I couldn’t ignore the halo affect my US passport afforded me, and the appearance of the outlying areas forever changed my perspective on resort travel. My first international vacation solidified my desire to see the world outside of my NYC bubble, and understand the ways other people enjoy their lives.

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SO, how much to sneak away to Mexico for a quick and easy weekend on the pacific beach, surprisingly little.

This was my first international trip, so I had to get my passport…and because i’m the worst planner ever, I had to rush it at the last minute. I also purchased my flight relatively late, and likely missed out on travel deals had I looked months in advance. My friend Brian set up the resort lodging, split everything accordingly, and just gave me a deadline to turn in money…thank God for good friends lol. The US dollar, predictably, spends well in Mexico, and we took ample advantage of the economic advantage. The jeep rental, nights out, and expenses while scooting around were all very manageable.

rushed passport: 135 +80

flight : 397

resort: 260

jeep rental: approx 80 per person

travel expenses: approx 100

total cost:… 1,052 

Eh, not the cheapest trip, but, I’m very confident you could make Puerto Vallarta happen for around 700 dollars if you have your passport already. The major expense here will be in the resort stay, so make sure you do your research and choose one you really like…or find a nice airbnb!

Puerto Vallarta

My very first trip outside of the country was to a relatively small tourist town in Mexico called Puerto Vallarta. The city is just outside of Jalisco, near Guadalajara, and is a post-popular escape for travelers who are looking for a slightly affordable, left of center Mexico excursion. Travelling with a few friends, I went for a 4 day absconder.

Puerto Vallarta, the part readily accesible to tourists, has little to offer to the naturalist and outdoorsman. Everything is centered around the many resorts, and the few local ventures that careful tourists would dare sneak off the resort to visit. My friends and I, however, could not help but be enchanted by the golden Mexican sun, and my audacity to explore the city.

We lounged on the beach, drank at the resort, lounged some more, and drank a LOT more. The fun really started when we decided to go on a 4-wheel ATV tour of a local mountain. We scaled up the sheer cliffs with a guide, and rode around for what seemed like hours until we stopped at a tequila distillery for snacks and refreshment. I was covered in golden mud and gasoline fumes by the end of it, pure heaven. The ride through the mountains showed me the lush vegetation that exists in this part of mexico. The plant life grows unabridged and large, similar to something you’d see in a Jurassic Park movie. Its in direct contrast to the town outside of the main resort area of Puerto Vallarta. This was my first exposure to areas that aren’t as developed as the USA, and my inspiration for seeing the unseen whenever I travel to a different place. It forced me to accept that I am priviledged, was uninformed, and had a lot to learn about the way people coexist with or trample over nature in and around the world.

The next day, we rented a Jeep, and drove around Jalisco and Puerto Vallarta at our own leisure. With no set destination in mind, we found ourselves again in the jungle, this time looking for a waterfall that street signs were slowly leading us to. My friend Joshua handled the driving, Brian navigated, and I was awestruck at the local culture ravaged by tourism. So many small shops and smiling faces that grew less frequent as we ventured further out of the bounds of resort-world. I was fascinated by what started to look more and more like normal life in this area; families living together to support each other, lots of consumption of american products, relaxed lifestyles, and an unshakable sense of community.

We soon found the waterfall, snapped a few photos, and made our way back to the resort.

What i’ve left out so far is how unbelievably gay friendly Puerto Vallarta is…and this is coming from someone who’s paranoid and was deeply anxiety ridden at the time of this trip. I almost couldn’t board my flight due to a breakdown, exacerbated by some special brownies, but that’s another story. I felt completely at ease in PVR, but also aware that we were being catered to for our dollar. We found the “gay area” on the beach, which was of course restricted by how much money you could afford to spend there to access it and its treasures. Different bars, resorts, and restaurants own certain parts of the beach, and in the gay friendly area, you had to rent chairs or purchase drinks to sit comfortably in that location. It goes without saying that there seemed to be no local gay people here, just more tourists trying to see and be seen and the hired community facilitating that. The nightlife was above average, but heavily catered towards sex-tourism and raucous college debauchery unfortunately. We found an amazing drag show at a club, and a great dance party at another, but nothing trumps the strip club…of which name I cannot recall. It was a divisive moment for my party, as I wanted to stay and dance around with the guys, but my friends weren’t really having it.

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the blue chairs section

 

 

 

Warrensburg II

Sometimes, the spirit needs a break from the monotony of New York City life, and recourse from the havoc and noise of the urban element. What better escape than to the actual backyard of the city, Warrensburg NY. It’s only 3 hours away, and nestled in the rural woods that are home to bears, beavers, and the mighty Hudson river.

The home we rented had access to several trails through the woods, a mushroom farm, a treehouse, and scenic views of the Hudson river.Other amenities included several patios, and a sun room where I could lay out and sober up before my treks through the wilderness. It was well worth the split cost.

I have broken down the cost of the schoolhouse rental I stayed in, the zipcar I took, and the cost of food and entertainment over this 4 day trip.

zipcar – 225

outfit – 160

food -60

airbnb – 120

Total cost for a quick weekend getaway = 565.

Totally worth it if you ask me, and although you can just as easily spend 500 on a flight to a warm tropical destination, you could pour that money into the local economy and help in sustaining the great American wilderness just outside the door. Plus, in visiting Warrensburg for a wedding celebration, I got an invitation to a free party and nights of fun with friends. Morning hikes through the woods, observing local chipmunks, and relaxing on the grounds of the schoolhouse were priceless.

 

Warrensburg

I was invited to a wedding celebration party in may of 2016, and I couldn’t help but to also seize the opportunity to go hiking in the backwoods of upstate New York. The event location was in Warrensburg; a scenic small town of about 4 thousand people, in the northeastern part of the state. I coordinated with friends who wanted to share an airbnb, rented a car with another, and drove 3 hours to escape the city life for a weekend.

What resulted was a few days of scenic bliss. I got to test out my new gopro hero 4 camera, enjoy some quality hiking and outdoors exploration, and indulge in some glamping fun with really cool people.

 

Hawaii, part iii

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The biggest component to travel for me has always been cost, my journeys have to be budgeted and affordable. I am terrible at managing money, but I am great at winging it and saving a few bucks. I will suffer through long layovers, cheap cabs, inconvenient living arrangements (to an extent), as long as I can get to where i’m going and spend my energy and money at the destination. I want to share how much I spent on my Hawaii trip, in hopes that it will inspire someone who perhaps has never traveled to treat themselves to a life changing experience, without worrying about the anticipated cost.

Flight -590 (kayak)

Lodging -0 (you could estimate approx 200 a night if you rent a room)

Uber -100 (several trips)

Luau -100 (cheaper options)

Sandbar trip contribution -60

Food -300

my total= ~1200 for 1 person for 5 days.

The cost of the trip was heavily augmented by cutting expenses staying with a friend, and being driven primarily by her. I will definitely say, Hawaii isn’t a cheap trip….and this is coming from a New Yorker. It is nearly impossible to avoid inflated costs, as common items found in the mainland USA are shipped to Hawaii, and you have to pay for the convenience of having it available. This total also includes transport to and from airports, and expenses while travelling.

Overall, on a scale of 1-10, i’d rate Hawaii as an 8 for value as a single person travelling. 

The beauty of the natural scenery, the available nightlife and mainstream culture, the ability to saturate yourself in the native culture, and the abundant wildlife and outdoors expeditions make it extremely worthwhile!

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**A quick piece of advice, research is the key to success when travelling. Research the cost incurred, research where you are going, ask people who have been before, …you can never have too much information.