Posts Tagged ‘China’

Couchsurfing his way around the world

July 3, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published June 8, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: I wish everybody in his and her 20s would take this kind of trip before “settling down.”  Hudson is more adventurous than most. He got an early start by to college in Australia, just for the fun of it. 

WHO: Hudson Doyle, 26, of Brookline, Mass.

WHERE: Around the world

WHEN: September 2007 to February 2008

WHY: “I had just finished a graduate degree in acupuncture and I wanted to see how they practiced Chinese medicine in China. I also wanted to go to Australia and visit friends,” said Doyle, who went to undergraduate school in Sydney. “I got my ticket through STA Travel when I was still a student.”

Hudson Doyle (far right) eating lunch with couchsurfing hosts in Torino, ItalyGOING AND GOING: Doyle’s flights took him to Spain, Italy, Cyprus, China, Thailand, Australia, and New Zealand. He was on a tight budget and stayed mostly in youth hostels but he also stayed for free with eight CouchSurfing members for a total of 30 days. “It’s a great service, but it’s quite a bit of work online to find places that fit your schedule.”

NOW WHAT?: Doyle’s only reason for going to Cyprus was to visit a friend there. “Just before I was going I got an e-mail from him that he was being deported because of a visa issue. So I wasn’t really prepared to go there alone.” He stayed at a sketchy hostel in Nicosia before finding a CouchSurfing spot with a Dutch citizen living in Limassol.

Hudson Doyle in Zhejiang Hospital of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Hangzhou, ChinaDOCTOR’S NOTE: The internship that Doyle, a graduate of New England School of Acupuncture, had set up was an hour south of Shanghai at Zhejiang Provincial Hospital in Hangzhou. “It’s a picturesque city popular with Chinese travelers. It’s small in China – with 4 million people.” I took a bus from Shanghai with a piece of paper they’d sent me with all their information in Chinese. Otherwise I did a lot of sign language and pantomime. I observed rounds in acupuncture and Chinese herbals. The acupuncture was pretty much the same, but I learned a lot on the herbal side. The doctor was really good at diagnosing and making formulas.”

EASTERN FAME?: While staying in a dorm with young Chinese travelers he was asked to help with a China Central Television cultural documentary to precede the Olympics. “They took us out to this sanctuary and we acted out like a skit; I was a foreign traveler and a Chinese guy was the interpreter.”

Hudson Doyle holding a banana flower, hiking in the jungle in Chiang Rai, northern ThailandISLAND TIME: In Thailand Doyle hit the beach, landing on Koh Phangan in time for its infamous rave-like Full Moon Party. “It’s a pretty cool little island and not very developed, although tourism is expanding. From Bangkok he went to Ching Rai, where a guided jungle trek took him through hill tribe villages. He stayed with friends in Australia before heading to North Island, New Zealand, where he mostly hitchhiked around. “It was just fantastic, and the people were so generous.”

Have ticket, will travel the world

March 3, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published March 2, 2008, in the Boston Globe) 

From Di’s eyes: A round-the-world trip is just the thing to kick off a law career and is much more interesting and educational than the typical week in the Caribbean. Here’s to great jobs and a wonderful life for these two young adventurers!

WHO: Andrew Hass, 26, of Acton, Mass. and Lauren Hager, 25, of Sacramento, Calif.

WHERE: Around the world.

WHEN: Nine weeks from August to October.

Andrew Hass and Lauren Hager; CLICK TO ENLARGEWHY: The friends, fellow law students at the University of Miami, decided to reward themselves for finishing school and the bar exam by taking a trip. “Most students do, but not like this,” said Hass, who attended Boston University for undergraduate studies.

WITH A MAP AND A WISH LIST: “We basically sat down with a map and alternated places we wanted to go,” Hass said of their planning. They booked what’s called a Blue Ticket through the Student Travel Agency. “If you keep going in the same direction you can get great fares,” said Hass, who paid about $4,500 for all his flights. They visited 11 countries, starting in Peru and then going to Argentina, South Africa, United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Israel, Russia, Mauritius, India, China, and Japan, spending four days to a week in each. Their luggage was lost – and found – twice.

PLOTTING IT OUT: “We got our tickets first, and once we knew where we’d be, we scheduled budget hotels and hostels,” Hass said. In harder-to-navigate countries, such as India and China, they set up personal tours and drivers. By the end of the trip, they’d seen many of the world’s great sites, including the pyramids at Giza, the Taj Mahal, and the Great Wall of China, as well as glaciers, deserts, oceans, and mountains. “Our top three places as far as activities and overall fun were Peru, South Africa, and Japan.”

Andrew Hass at Machu Picchu, Peru; CLICK TO ENLARGEANDES FANS: “Machu Picchu is an experience in and of itself,” Hass said. “It’s in the middle of nowhere, up this winding road. It’s so magnificent and breathtaking.” Their favorite view of the ancient ruins was from Putukusi Mountain. “It was a three-hour hike to the top and you had to go up hundreds of feet of wooden ladders, straight up, without a rope or a net. It was quite a rush.”

GREAT FRIGHT: From their favorite hostel, the Ashanti Lodge in Cape Town, the adventure seekers booked a cage dive among great white sharks. “It was quite an experience,” Hass said of being surrounded by sharks. “They throw chum in the water and the sharks dive at it with their jaws open. It was scary and awe-inspiring.”

Andrew Hass at the Great Wall of China; CLICK TO ENLARGESECOND WIND: By the time they reached Japan, after fleeing a typhoon in China, they were ready to get home, but the country invigorated them. “We spent a night in Tokyo, then took the trail to Kyoto. Our hostel was typical Asian budget. You sleep on the floor, and low on amenities, but not in a bad way. It really catches the local flavor.” They spent a somber day touring Hiroshima. “Even 60 years after it happened, it really hits you.” On a lighter note, they were thrilled to attend a major league baseball game. And Hass traveled all the way to Japan to discover he actually liked sushi.

SUSPENSEFUL JOURNEY: Because they left the country a few days after taking the bar exam, they didn’t know their outcomes. “Lauren found out she passed when we were in China,” said Hass, who was in suspense until he returned home – to good news.

In N. Korea, politics and pride on parade

February 26, 2008

“Where they Went” by Diane Daniel
(Published Feb. 24, 2008, in the Boston Globe)

From Di’s eyes: This trip fascinated me, what with all the propaganda, especially at the Mass Games.  I had no idea tours were offered there until Jim and Jon contacted me. Coincidentally, the New York Times ran a short piece on a couple tours behind North Korea’s iron curtain the same day this came out, and on Monday, this piece about the New York Philharmonic orchestra playing in Pyongyang. I guess the Communist country is all the rage now. 

WHO: Jim Augusto, 41, and Jon Cramer, 38, of Melrose, Mass.

WHERE: North Korea.

WHEN: Three days in October.

WHY: “We’ve been intrigued by the whole mystery around it for years,” Augusto said. “Several years ago I’d tried to find a tour company, but Americans weren’t allowed in.” The couple traveled with British-owned Koryo Tours.

WHY NOT: “Most people thought we were really crazy to go,” Cramer said. “People would jokingly say, ‘They’re never going to let you back out.’ Some people said, ‘How can you go support a country that treats people horribly?’ But I think it’s still important to go. By maintaining no contact, there’s no incentive for them to change.”

BEIJING BRIEFING: Augusto and Cramer visited North Korea in the middle of two weeks in China. “People said North Korea is like China was 30 or 40 years ago,” Cramer said. They met their 28 fellow US tourists in Beijing, where they were told the basic rules: no laptops or cellphones allowed, no taking photos without permission, and no going anywhere without a North Korean attendant.

Jim Augusto and Jon Cramer in front of statue of Kim Il Sung in PyongyangSPIN CITY: They flew to Pyongyang on a late ’60s Russian jet, and “the propaganda started in the airspace,” Cramer said. “They said something like, ‘You’re now entering the Great Democratic People’s Republic of Korea,’ and all this stuff about ‘our dear leader Kim Jong Il, our great leader, Kim Il Sung.’ ” They were greeted by a huge portrait of deceased leader Kim Il Sung on the runway, and later saw images of both men (father and son) in homes, public buildings, and on citizens’ lapel pins.

STAYING PUT: The US contingent was divided into two groups of 15 and each had two North Korean guides. “We’d all come together for meals and at the hotel,” Augusto said. They stayed at Yanggakdo Hotel. “It’s a huge hotel with a revolving restaurant on top, on a little island,” Augusto said. “It’s only for Western visitors. You’re not allowed to go onto grounds without a guide.”

GAME FACE: North Korea’s annual “Mass Games” fascinated the Americans, both for its dazzling display of acrobatics and its propaganda. The stadium performance, which runs three to four Jon Cramer after the finale of the Mass Games in May Day Stadiummonths a year, involves about 100,000 performers, including thousands of children in the stands flipping color-coordinated cards with political messages. “It was like an Olympic opening ceremony on steroids,” Cramer said. “It was 80 minutes long and I think my jaw was down for a good portion of it.” “It was all about national pride and reunification,” Augusto said. “There’s a whole section where tens of thousands of little kids, 8 to 10, are doing all these synchronized acrobatics. It’s amazing to see, but terrifying to think that they are forced to practice half the year.”

RED-COLORED GLASSES: The groups were taken to several Jim Augusto and Jon Cramer with North Korean tour guide at DMZcommunist monuments, including a huge statue of Kim Il Sung as well as his mausoleum. “We also got a tour of the USS Pueblo, on display as an example of US imperialism,” Augusto said. “We visited the DMZ, but you couldn’t see a single soldier on the South Korean side.”

ICE-BREAKING BABY: They were allowed one ride on the metro, which doubles as a nuclear fallout shelter. “Inside are lavish propaganda art mosaics,” Cramer said. “The metro is where we got closest to citizens. One couple in our group, who live in Shanghai, brought their 6-month-old baby. The North Korean women’s faces would light up. They were going crazy over the American baby.”