Tuesday, October 24, 2006

China, The Land of Eternal Mystery

China… China… China…

Even though the media often publishes stories about this remote place, China continues to be a complete mystery.

We imagine what it would be like to walk on The Great Wall, the only human construction that can be seen from outer space; we ask ourselves if Chinese people actually eat scorpions, and we frequently refer to it when we are confused, especially during exams…

I thought things were going to change once I got to China. But after being there, that country continues to be a mystery.

Beijing is one of China’s most important cities. However, it has a town feel to it.

While walking down the street, you come across people playing cards on the sidewalks, people taking naps in the parks or any other place where they can sit and rest their heads… (I am serious! Chinese people are able to sleep in any position practically anywhere!) We could learn a lot from them!

You can also buy fruits and vegetables in any corner of the city: from one of the vendors who has built the store in the front of his house, or the one who carries the fruit in the back of his bike. You choose. It’s your call.

If you have some spare time, you can even get a hair cut on the street-side. Just walk in front of one of the men sitting on the sidewalk with a comb and a shaver, greet them, sit on their chair, and let them do their job while pedestrians walk around you. :)

There is not doubt. There is no place alike.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Pamplona Does not only Dress Up for San Fermines

Outside of Spain, Pamplona only makes news in July, when Panplonenses wear their festive white clothes adorned with red scarves and hankerchiefs to give a toss during el chupinazo and run in the encierro of San Fermines.

Nevertheless, to my surprise, when I arrived at Pamplona in September, The city welcomed me with a party!

Bored, newly arrived to the city, and with nothing to do, I decided to go for a walk to get to know my new “home”, and found tons of people out in the streets. At the beginning, I was surprised. But then I rationalized that locals probably used Sundays afternoons to walk around town as a family.

However, it did not take long for me to discover I was mistaken.

Kids, grandparents and entire families ran along the streets trying to avoid the blows of rubber cachirorras given by men dressed in horse suits.

In the piazzas, dancers jumped and turned with handkerchiefs and baskets showcasing the traditional dances as they were cheered on by the spectator’s enthusiastic claps.

Along the streets, people’s voices were sporadically replaced by the tunes of the charanga’s(photo 3) clarinets and drums that announced the parade of “Gigantes y Cabezones” (photo 4), people dressed with giant paper mache heads that represented different public figures.

It was definitely not a normal weekend.

Pamplonenses’ were celebrating the “Small Parties”, a reduced version of San Fermines that allows locals to maintain the tradition and enjoy the celebration without the tourists, even though at this event the emblematic bulls are absent.
Even though Pamplona only makes news in July, its locals know how to have fun all year round.

For more information about Pamplona, Spain, and San Fermines, visit Pamplona’s official website.

Traveling Without a Guide is the Way to Travel

Traveling Without a Guide is the Way to Travel.


Yes. You have read correctly. I think traveling without a guide is the way to go.

Let’s see Laura. How does that work? If I travel without a guide, I don’t know where to go and I’ll be lost the whole time.

Exactly. You get lost… And getting lost while you travel is the best thing that can happen to you.

That way you discover places you had never heard about…

You are forced to talk to locals who are usually willing to tell you stories about their town or their city…

You are freed from structured city tours lead by city guides who only take you to shops where they can get commissions for what you buy…

If you get lost, you’ll probably come back home with amazing stories (although not necessarily always good), they’ll still make your adventures more interesting than if you simply tell your friends and family you visited the Roman Colloseum, the Roman Forum or the Spanish Steps.

Life is unpredictable…and people even more so. That is why it is so fun to travel without a guide. So you learn about locals and their culture…

“No place is the same without its people,” so the saying goes. And when we travel with guides, many times we visit museums, buildings and nothing else, forgetting about the city’s essence: its inhabitants.

I know it is not always easy (especially when you don’t speak the local language), but it is a lot more fun, more enriching, and when you finish your trip, you have a lot more stories to tell.

This blog will be filled with stories from guideless traveling: some normal, some curious, surreal and other simple crazy and unbelievable…Those types of stories that surprise you when you travel and then remember when a smile on your face, even if they weren't cheerful when htey actually happened to you.

Hope you like them.

Best of luck.



Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Where have you been?

Searching the web, I ran into "Namaste" , a blog where I discovered a webpage that allows you to create a map that highlights the places that you´ve visited: World66Beta

This is my map:

Hope you check out this site so you can make your own map. As for me, I hope I can continue to travel so I continue color my map red.



Sunday, October 01, 2006

The English Version

Almost a year ago, I started “La Vida Surrealista de Un Viajante Sin Guía” as a Project for one of my classes. At the beginning, I was reluctant to write because I was obliged to maintain a blog. Yet, little by little, I started to like the idea of publishing stories about my trips, and the class project transformed into one of my favorite hobbies.

Until now, I had written my blog in Spanish. However, I have decided to make an English version of it, so my English-speaking friends can also read about my adventures.