Aaron’s Blog

Found in Singapore: Mashed Potato Fountain

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IMG_2423If you’re like me, you love mashed potatoes to the point where you can’t fall asleep without dreaming of pillowy mounds of starches marching below your eyelids.  Well for you, the technical wizards at 7-11 Singapore have been working on what I can only imagine was an enterpize similar in size to the Manhattan Project.  The fruit of their labor is the technomancy that is the Mashed Potato Fountain.  I’m not sure what sort of dark magic makes this machine operate, but it spits out piping hot mashed potatoes at the touch of a button, fur a few coins.  I assume that the staff sacrifice the chicken in the back room in order to make it work.

Thank You, Singapore Tourist Information Center

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When traveling around to many places, you rarely have time to do all of the reading and investigation that you would really like to do, so it often results in a feeling of “Ok, I’m here….now what?” when you arrive at a new location.  This is why Information Centers have become our very good friends.  However, while most tourist destinations will have some sort of information, not all information centers are created equal.

It was our pleasure, then, to go to the Singapore Tourist Information Center.  The center itself is decent, with the standard displays of brochures, free tourist maps, etc.  They are also able to set you up with an account for free wifi from one of the main providers in town, which is an added bonus and one of the reasons we decided to stop in.  However, what really made our experience stand out was the staff member who helped us.

Sultans mosque Aside from the wifi, our other questions were about some of the attractions in Singapore: Universal Studios, Sentosa World, Night Safari, etc.  She politely and informedly answered all of our questions, but when we were done with our questions, she stopped us for a second and said, “The attractions are great, but if you’re in Singapore, there are some other things you really shouldn’t miss…”  She went on to explain about the different ethnic areas around town (Little India, the Arab Quarter, and Chinatown), as well as some of the more historic buildings and the museums.  She suggested food to try in the Arab Quarter (mutabak – it was awesome), as well as the place to get an original Singapore Sling.

It was clear that she really cared about her city, and did not want tourists to leave without experiencing the cultural soul of the country.  She could easily have answered our questions and let us go, but she took the personal time to show us her picture of Singapore, and it really made our trip.  Most of the staff at information centers will be polite, some of them knowledgeable, but very few take the time to really make the trip personal.  That’s why we’d like to say a big public thank you to the staff at the Singapore Tourist Information Center for making our day and our trip.

Review of Osprey Porter 46

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One Bag to Rule Them All

When you are on a long term trip, your bag is your life.  It’s your house, your closet, your emergency kit, and your refrigerator.  Hey, they don’t call it backpacking for nothing.  So when we were planning the trip, I did a lot of reading and research on what bag to get, finally decided on the Osprey Porter 46 in the delightful red color.  One of the main reasons is that I wanted a bag that I could carry on an airplane and the Porter is the maximum allowable carryon size.  It also comes well recommended as a travel pack.  Now that we have been on the road for 6 months, dragging the bag through 13 countries, I wanted to write a review of the Osprey Porter 46 so that people considering this as their bag have an idea of what to expect.

 

Looks

Hey, you want a bag that’s not going to cry out dirty backpacker, right?  Well, the Porter looks good!  Even after 6 months of carrying it through all sorts of different conditions, it’s still shiny and sexy.  That’s not to say it looks perfectly new, but most marks come off easily, and the red means that scuff marks somewhat blend away into the color.  The lines of the side walls as well as the handles make the bag look like the hybrid between hiking backpack and carry-on that it is.

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Another aspect of looks is how big the bag looks.  Of course, this will be a function of how much you put in the bag, but the straght jacket compression on the bag is fantastic.  It really lets you cinch the bag down once you’ve packed it so that the bag looks (and is) as small as possible given what you have in it.  This is especially important if you plan to carry it on an airplane as having an overly large looking bag is a sure way to get stopped by one of the airline staff.  Having been on 22 planes in the past 6 months, I have only been stopped once because of the size of the bag, and in that case, I had packed and cinched it poorly.  Luckily I was saved by an immigration officer who said I should just keep going as he’d already processed my passport so I couldn’t wait around and talk to the airline rep.  This is not to say the bag is small, it still takes up a fair amount of room on my back, but the lines and ability to cinch it down makes a big difference with appearances. Read more

Aniceto’s Pension – Good, Cheap place in Puerto Princesa

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After returning to Puerto Princesa from El Nido, we needed to find a place to stay and while the hotel we had stayed at before was pleasant, it was on the expensive side.  We followed one of our fellow El Nido travelers to their guest house, but that happened to be full.  However, the owner’s cousin happened to have another guest house just down the road.  Now this sort of thing often happens and you can end up at an expensive place or a death trap.  Still, we liked the cut of this guy’s jib so we went to check it out and were delightfully surprised.

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Aniceto’s Pension, located just a little off the main road, provided clean, spacious rooms complete with a private bathroom.  Our room did not have A/C, but they do have rooms with that.  We paid around 600 pesos, which was significantly less than the 1200 we had paid previously.  Plus Aniceto’s has a great rooftop balcony which looks out over the water.  It’s a fantastic place to enjoy some morning grub or an evening beer, whatever your pleasure may be.  It also has wifi, which worked decently in the rooms, but perfectly in the common areas.

We would highly recommend the place if you need somewhere to crash in Puerto Princesa.  It’s not a luxury hotel, but it gets the job done well for the right price.  Thanks Aniceto’s!

Top 7 Experiences in the Philippines

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Have you been to the Philippines?  If not, just go.  Seriously, stop reading, buy a plane ticket, and head out.  Still not convinced?  You’re a picky one aren’t ya?  Ok, well have a look below at some of the amazing experiences that we had in the Phillippines to whet your appetite.

The Philippines is an extremely diverse place.  With many different islands to explore, they each have their own flavor and attractions, while still being unmistakably the Philippines.  From the glittering malls of Manila, to the Chocolate Hills of Bohol, to the crystal blue waters of El Nido, it’s just more fun in the Philippines (damn marketing slogans).  Here is what we enjoyed.

 

1. Pizza on Alona Beach

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Cheeseburger in Paradise?  Jimmy Buffet don’t know sh&t.  The only way I can forgive him is to assume that he has never been to Alona Beach, let alone to the Powder Keg restaurant for some of the best pizza you can find with sand in your toes.  After a long day of touring the island, a slice of the good stuff will cure all that ails you.  Plus, being able to look out across the blue water with white sand beneath you make for an ambiance that’s hard to match. Read more