Why you should always pack gifts

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Here they come! Bulgarians running in state-made Speedos in the communist age. Out of the Danube, and out of an early ’80s techni-color print, at you! They’re happy to see you. And they want you to be happy too. Preferably in the Danube. I love this photo. For its simultaneous sense of summer joy and aching nostalgia.  A family in Vidin, Bulgaria gave it … Read on

Vietnam Secret: DIY Halong Bay

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A few years ago, when I was researching my free online guide to Vietnam (which fell to hacker a couple Decembers ago), I took two trips to the popular Halong Bay. One on a mid-range boat tour, which tended to huddle up with other motor-chugging boats in the same bay. You hear LOTS of complaints about these trips. Our guides were a bit … Read on

London Secret: Nebraska St

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Nothing in the world of travel planning pays more than to study maps. While living in London a decade ago, I noticed an enlarged street plan posted in a Tube stop highlighting an area south of the river. A wee lane caught my eye: “Nebraska St.” Whoa. Considering so much of the US has borrowed English nomenclature for its people and places, seeing … Read on

Mexico Secret: Personal Pyramid

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Chiapas is my favorite part of Mexico. Most of it is mountainous and cool, and a place where you can witness Mayan life, past and present — often in places that see few to no visitors. One such site is Chinkultic, about 25 miles southeast of Comitán (and reached by bus). There’s a winding battered road that makes the final couple miles to … Read on

Bulgaria Secret: UFO Building

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Bulgaria is one of Europe’s great roadtrip secrets. In places like Veliko Tarnovo, you can rent cars for as little as $25/day. Roads cross mountain ranges, and buffalo yogurt stands and woodcutter towns and weird monuments like the one below. Years ago I bought a great old Soviet 35mm camera for about $20 at a flea market in Sofia, Bulgaria. Sometimes I remember … Read on

My dad’s ‘bucket list’: Black Hills, South Dakota

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Last year, on the 10th anniversary of my dad’s death, I wrote about taking my dad to one his ‘bucket list’ destinations — before that term was in use: the Black Hills of South Dakota. As I wrote last April: Lonely Planet sent me on a research trip around the Great Plains, and I cajoled him away from work for a few days … Read on