VIDEO: Hanoi to Cat Ba Island!

BRAND NEW VIDEO: Hanoi to Cat Ba Island! We travel by bus, boat and motorcycle through the wild karst mountains of this beautiful island on the southern shore of the famous Ha Long Bay, Vietnam. Here’s the result.

PHOTO ESSAY: Son Tra Peninsula, Vietnam

SON TRA PENINSUALA lies just 8 kilometers by motorbike east of Da Nang on Vietnam’s central coast but feels like a different world than the buzzing small city nearby. It’s truly a refreshing break from the city’s noise.

A bike trip into the interior of Son Tra is an adventure into a green wonderland with distinct flora and fauna that has earned the whole peninsula the designation of a nature reserve.

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South end, Son Tra Peninsula. Image by Benjamin J Spencer

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Near the Great Ficus, Son Tra. Image by Benjamin J Spencer

The small peninsula also boasts pristine beaches, twisty motorbike paths clinging to sheer cliffs, forest hikes, and sprawling temples.

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Son Tra Peninsula rises to the east of Da Nang. Image by Stacy Libokmeto

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We recommend a motorbike with at least 125 cc . Here’s Beej on his Yamaha Nuovo. Image by Stacy Libokmeto

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Coastal road to Son Tra. Image by Stacy Libokmeto

The highest point on the peninsula is Son Tra Mountain (also known as Monkey Mountain to American soldiers stationed nearby during the American War),  a rocky 850 foot rise with panoramic views.  It’s a relatively short walk to the top on a concrete path – or if you’re in for a driving challenge, a transmission-busting slog up a crazily steep and narrow motorbike route.

Another highlight of the trip is Linh Ung Pagoda, with its colorful Buddhist statuary and its unique 67-meter-tall Lady Buddha statue.

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Linh Unh Pagoda, only completed in 2010. Image by Benjamin J Spencer

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The 67-meter Lady Buddha is one of the largest of its kind in existence. Photo by Stacy Libokmeto

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A glimpse of the pagoda with the Lady Buddha in the foreground and the Arhat statuary surrounding. Photo by Benjamin J Spencer

Our favorite feature of Linh Unh Pagoda has to be the Arhat statues that surround the main plaza. Arhat are figures in Buddhism who have attained enlightenment through meditation and deed. The sculptor, Nguyen Viet Minh, carved whimsical expressions on the enlightened figures along with their mythical animal companions.

 

Son Tra Peninsula is definitely worth a day trip. If you’re comfortable riding a motorbike and can handle lots of curves and hills, we would recommend renting your own transportation. If not, there are tons of tours leaving from Da Nang that capture all the major sights.

We will definitely head back someday to catch all the things we invariably missed. Until then, onward up the coast.

Up next: Hoi An and Hanoi!

PHOTO/VIDEO ESSAY: Sunset at Cam Ranh, Vietnam

One of the highlights of any trip to Vietnam is the trip up the Central Coast from Mui Ne to Nha Trang.

While there are several tourist attractions along this route, the biggest draw is simply the chance to be out in the natural beauty of this coastline. A storm had just passed through when we began this motorbike trip south of Nha Trang, hence the crazy cloud action.

All photos and videos below were taken on Cam Ranh beach at magic hour and near sunset. Shot by us with Canon EOS 60D and Panasonic Lumix GH3.

 

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Image by Benjamin Spencer
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Image by Benjamin Spencer
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Image by Stacy Libokmeto
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Image by Stacy Libokmeto
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Image by Stacy Libokmeto
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Image by Benjamin Spencer
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New friends. Image by Stacy Libokmeto
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Beej meets some camera hogs. Image by Stacy Libokmeto
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Deserted beach restaurants. Image by Benjamin Spencer
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Dunes at sunset. Image by Benjamin Spencer

 

 

VIDEO: Sunrise Over Angkor Wat (Three Temples, Part I)

Three Temples: Sunrise over Angkor Wat is set just after the previous intro we posted, on the grounds of the main temple at Angkor as the sun rises and the day heats up. Enjoy!

Produced, Filmed and Edited by Stacy Libokmeto.

All music used by Attribution/Non-Commercial licenses from FreeMusicArchive.org.

MUSIC:

Salted Caramel by Black Twig Pickers and Steve Gunn is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial 3.0 International License. (c)2012 NATCH Label (natchmusic.tumblr.com)

sing! by The Fucked Up Beat is licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike License. Based on a work at https://thefuckedupbeat.bandcamp.com/… (c) 2015 The Fucked Up Beat

collapse! by The Fucked Up Beat is licensed under a Attribution-ShareAlike License. Based on a work at https://thefuckedupbeat.bandcamp.com/… (c) 2015 The Fucked Up Beat

Please find more of our featured artist music at:
natchmusic.tumblr.com
blacktwigpickers.com/
thefuckedupbeat.bandcamp.com

Before Dawn (3 Temples Intro)

A lot of the experiences we’ve had traveling the world are easy to classify and relate to people who haven’t been to those places. But ask us about Angkor Wat, the largest religious monument on Earth – visible from space with the naked eye – created by the visionary leaders of the Hindu Khmer empire out of sheer excess of imagination – and we don’t even know how to begin. So many sensations, so much heat and history, and so much footage.

How does one even narrow down the Angkor Wat experience? That’s what we asked ourselves. Our answer? Three Temples, a serialized short film unlike anything we’ve produced before.

In the film – which we’ll release in four installments over the next week or so – we roam three giant structures at Cambodia’s fabled Angkor Wat in 100 degree heat, all while having had practically no sleep.

Stax’ idea was to try and capture, using film and music, just what this challenging and ultimately rewarding experience was like. And Before Dawn is Stax’ rather spooky one-minute intro to the film. Enjoy – and oh yeah, watch out for Sunrise over Angkor Wat in a couple of days!

Camera by Stax and Beej. Edited and narrated by Stax.

Music: “Mariner 4/ Project Blue Beam” is by The Fucked up Beat from their album Europa II and is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives (aka Music Sharing) 3.0 International License.
No changes were made to this music.

License: Mariner 4/ Project Blue Beam (The Fucked Up Beat) / CC BY-NC-ND 3.0

VIDEO: Happy Dancing in Central Europe

Dearest Misadventurists,
This week, for your amusement (hopefully) we present a short video of the Misadventurists merrily dancing through Germany and the Czech Republic

It’s impossible (and quite pointless) to judge on something this inherently absurd, and even if someone does…well, as one (Taylor) Swiftian witticism points out, “haters gon’ hate, hate, hate, hate, hate..” So here it is!

The music is from WFMU’s Free Music Archive. It’s a stompin’ live track by a band called Big Mean Sound Machine, “Contraband”. Enjoy the stupidity (and the sweet moves!)

Oh yeah…and if you don’t mind, if you have a Google account, hit the big red Subscribe button on our YouTube channel to get updated on new videos right away…

Taking on the Transfagarasan Highway: Transylvania, Romania

Story by BEEJ.
Photos by STAX.

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Dictator Nicolae Ceausescu pushed through construction of the Transfagarasan Highway in 1970.  By all accounts the construction was hellishly difficult and brutal. Legend said he was spooked by the Soviet invasion of the former Czechoslovakia and wanted to build a military route to head off any similar invasion by his “comrades” in Russia.

But more likely, Ceausescu wanted to add the conquering of an incredibly rugged mountain range in the independent region of Transylvania – an area often resistant to his 20-year autocracy – to his list of “achievements”.

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The country can point to the road as a success in at least one way: it brings thousands of motorheads from all around the world every year to Transilvania to race along the its wacky curves and hair-raising cliffside tunnels.

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The road calls adventure freaks like the Sirens called Odysseus (Stax and Beej would jointly be Odysseus in this scenario. And Carla and Megs, two adventurous Australian girls from the hostel in Sibiu, would be our trusty crewmates. Don’t worry, no one drowned. But at one point Beej did have be lashed to the hood.)

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This wasn ‘t the first time Megs and Carla tried to get away.

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They got pretty far, but we caught them every time.

We took a driving break for Megs and Carla to say hello to a wandering Romanian sheepdog on the side of the road, probably on a break from guarding his flock. These sheepdogs are massive and resemble small bears (I thought it was a Romanian brown bear from a distance).

 

Our ascent of the Fagaras pass ended at the summit of the road, Lake Balea (2046 meters or 6712 feet).

 

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Chilly Lake Balea

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At the lakeside we froze in high winds tinged with ice and just to warm our hands up,  scarfed down hot -off-the-fire balmos or mamaliga (not really sure which – there are tons of iterations of these traditional corn cakes in Romania).

The balmos were crazy filling – thick flame-roasted corn cakes, much like gooey polenta, with mountains of sour pasty sheep cheese pooled inside. The cheese was so strong, I could barely finish the thing.

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Roadside stands selling all things sheep-y across from Lake Balea

Along the way down we spied the towers of Poenari Citadel clinging to a rocky cliff high above the road. In this citadel in the 16th century, the real-life inspiration for Dracula (Prince Vlad Tepes, who ruled the South) actually lived for a time.

Now it’s a spectacularly crumbling ruin you can climb up to. Unfortunately due to time and being cold and one of our car-mates being sick with a migraine, we couldn’t hike to the top.  Next time, Vlad Dracul. Next time!

After a windy descent through autumn forests and across glacial streams, we reluctantly parted ways with the Transfagarasan Highway at the massive dam on Lake Vidraru – an appropriately scenic send-off to one of the most transcendent stretches of road I’ve ever driven.

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Beej investigates a waterfall by the side of the road.

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Lake Vidraru, where we parted ways with the Transfagarasan Highway.

 

 

 

 

This Week’s Bluff the Reader/Pop Quiz Answer Revealed

It’s the moment of truth for another Bluff the Reader Pop Quiz.

And so, Without further ado (or interruption, or digression, as it were, et cetera), the correct answer was #3!

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Seems too ridiculous to believe, huh? But you must all have fish on your minds, because a lot of you beat us at our game and got this one right.

So many, in fact, we actually had to get out the Sorting Hat (a.k.a, Beej’s greasy old ball cap he’s worn all around the world and never washed ONCE), which we only break out of its glass case on special occasions like this (because the smell). From this hat, we drew three winners:

1. Lady Miriam Barber of Santa Cruz
2. The Right Honorable Matthew Ten Eyck of San Diego
3. Duchess Debbie Libokmeto of Kansas City

Sadly, after an exhaustive YouTube search we couldn’t find a video of the practice (idea for a future episode?), but as a consolation, here’s an awesome remake of “Gangnam Style” done at a Korean-American wedding in Oakland, CA:

Pop Quiz: Answer and Winners!

Okay, it’s time to reveal the winners of our 24 Hour PopQuiz! (Drum roll please, drummer that we keep on hand just to provide dramatic build-ups…)

And the correct answer was: NUMBER 2.

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Even the very famous in India (like actress Aishwarya Rai, who rumor says had to marry a peepal tree before her Bollywood wedding) cannot escape the funky aura of being a Manglik, according to an extremely credible Bollywood tabloid we just Googled.

If the rumors are true, the poor peepal tree (a kind of ficus important in Ayurvedic tradition) would have only been allowed a brief moment to contemplate its new life as a Bollywood beau before being burned to death.

Because only three of you guessed correctly – Rob Woodruff, Samantha Hammerschmidt, and Linda Marus – and normally we pick three winners from a hat, all of you will receive the grand prize of a postcard from our travels! We’ll message you all to collect your addresses and you should be receiving the postcards within a week.

POP QUIZ!

POP QUIZ:
Here’s a new quiz for you all!
One of these weird wedding traditions is a real practice. The other two are fake. Respond in the comments or with a FB message with what you think is the REAL wedding tradition (no Googling, people! Just your best guess) by the end of tomorrow, and the correct answers will be entered into a drawing for a special prize: a cool postcard from somewhere in the world.
READY?

1. A Ghanaian tribe’s tradition states that before a man can marry, the potential groom and his future father-in-law must race through sometimes thick forest – on only one leg – from the groom’s village to the bride’s village. If the groom loses the race, the wedding is off!

2. In some Hindu belief, a bride (or groom) that is born under certain a certain unfavorable astrological sign will be doomed to an unhappy marriage. The situation can be remedied, according to some traditions, by the afflicted partner first marrying a tree. If the tree is then burned, the effects of the bad luck will be nullified.

3. In far northern Norway, some villages still practice an old tradition: The entire village gathers to throw fish innards at a newly married couple as soon as they emerge from the wedding tent. It’s believed to bestow good fortune on the couple.

Okay, pick which one you think it is and either respond in comments or by email!