Category Archives: Random Travels

Back from Afghanistan

Apologies for the lack of postings this year, but have spent most of 2014 in Afghanistan, away from reliable Internet access. Am finally back in the States though, and ready to resume posting here on the blog.

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A Few Months in Central Asia

Sorry for the absence of postings these past few months, but am currently most of the way through a few months in Central Asia. Hopefully back online and blogging come July.

Thanks for stopping by,

Scott
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Miami to New York on Amtrak’s Silver Meteor

(UPDATE JAN 2015): We made it the whole way this year! Unlike last year, when the train north broke down in Wilmington and forced everyone into a mad scramble across the platform to another train, this year the ‘Meteor’ didn’t break down and we made it home on time. Nice to see the improvement! As yet unimproved are the weird in-room toilets in the roomettes, but maybe someday.

After twice closing out a Florida vacation on the Auto Train, this year it was Amtrak’s Silver Meteor, running between Miami and New York City (Penn Station). It won’t carry your car, but the slow moving ‘Meteor’ (aptly named only in comparison to a horse and buggy) goes beyond D.C. in the north and Orlando in the south, making for a more convenient trip for anyone not local to those two stations.

Amtrak Silver Service Route Map

Like most long distance Amtrak trains, a variety of tickets are available, from seats at one end of the train, to roomettes (max two people) and rooms (max six) at the other end. At the center of the train are a lounge car, with drinks, snacks, and light meals, and a dining car with full meal service.
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Ever thought of working overseas? Read on

Bored? Need a job? A better job? A more interesting job? Tired of your cubicle, your daily rut, your relaxed and easy life? How about working overseas? The Washington Post had a great article on working abroad a couple of weeks ago and I wanted to highlight it here. First, according to the article, the number of Americans (and plenty of folks from other countries) working overseas has hit an all-time high, now standing at 6.3 million. A whole bunch more people are soon to be included in those figures – the percentage of Americans ages 25 to 34 who are planning to move overseas has quintupled in two years, from less than 1 percent to 5.1 percent. Among 18- to 24-year-olds, 40 percent are interested in moving abroad, up from 12 percent in 2007.
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Photos from mid-90s, post-Khmer Rouge Cambodia, late 90s Borneo

Added some more travel photos to the Facebook page. The first set is from a 1995 trip through Cambodia, mainly Angkor Wat, as the country was finally, fully emerging from the Khmer Rouge era.

Danger! Mines

The second set of photos is from Malaysian Borneo during the late 1990s Asian financial crisis. The photos here focus mainly on Mt. Kinabalu and a trip upriver to an Iban longhouse. Enjoy, and, as always, feel free to leave a comment.

Tuckered out little orangutan

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Travel meets “history”: photos from my 1993 Trans-Siberian trip

Recently dug up some old photos from my 1993 Trans-Siberian trip through post-Soviet Russia and posted them to the Facebook page. The changes over the past 20 years to Moscow and Ulaanbaatar, let alone Beijing, are stunning – check out the line, traffic, and dated cars outside Moscow’s first McDonalds.

Lone rider near Gobi Desert oasis, Mongolia

Arranged, in the pre-Internet era of letters and faxes, by Hong Kong’s old school specialists in Trans-Siberian travel, Moonsky Star Ltd., the Trans-Siberian took me from Beijing to Moscow with stops in Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia and the Siberian city of Irkutsk. It was my first-ever ‘real’ train trip and spawned a love of travel by train that still burns brightly enough to make even Amtrak’s DC-NYC Northeast Regional feel compelling.

Enjoy the pics: the emptiness of the Gobi Desert, Ulaanbaatar’s first steps in throwing off a long, cold Soviet winter, and the first signs of the commerce soon to envelope Moscow.

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Amtrak’s DC-Orlando Auto Train

UPDATE (29 JAN 2014): Skipped the Auto Train this year and tried the Miami to NYC ‘Silver Meteor’. While slower than the Auto Train, thanks to many more stops, Amtrak’s Silver Service trains go beyond the Orlando and DC only destinations of the Auto Train, making things more convenient for traveling outside those two areas – though without the benefits of carrying your car.

UPDATE (2 JAN 2013): I tried the Auto Train once again this holiday season and found it much the same – the convenience, relaxation, pleasure at avoiding both I95 and the airports, all were just as enjoyable as last year. The restrooms can get a little gamey after a few hours, but still a solid way to get to/from Florida.

While not as classy as the City of New Orleans between Chicago and the Big Easy, Amtrak’s DC-Orlando Auto Train is convenient as hell for getting you and your car to/from Florida. You drive up to the station, hand your keys to an attendant, grab the stuff (change of clothes, toiletries, booze) you want to take on the train, then walk inside the station and prepare to board.

Amtrak Auto Train Auto Racks - Image courtesy Wikipedia

Amtrak Auto Train Auto Racks – Image courtesy Wikipedia



Once you drop off your vehicle (anything from a motorcycle to an SUV), an attendant will drive it onto an enclosed car carrier. This will be the last you see of your vehicle until arrival, so be sure and get everything out of it you want on the train.

Once inside the station, you wait in line to pick up your boarding pass and schedule dinner in the dining car – with nearly 500 people on the train, the evening meal is served on a rotation. And the dining car attendants do not take kindly to anyone arriving late or dallying through a meal.

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SK President Lee Visiting US; Obama Takes Him to … Detroit?

Got a chuckle at the first sentence in this article from today’s Times on SK President Lee’s visit to the U.S. – especially the part right after the word “treated”: “During the state visit of South Korea’s president, Lee Myung-bak, which began on Wednesday, he will be feted at a White House state dinner, invited to speak to a joint session of Congress, and treated to a road trip to Detroit with President Obama, where the two leaders plan to tour a General Motors factory together.” Having lived in South Korea, DC, and Detroit, I can think of a lot of places in the U.S. I’d take a visitor from the South. Of all of those places, “a road trip to Detroit” wouldn’t really make the list. Who knows though, maybe the President just really liked the Eminem ad for Chrysler. Guess we’ll see what a visit to the D does for U.S.-SK relations.
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The Train They Call the City of New Orleans

Amtrak’s Chicago to New Orleans train is unique. For those used to thinking of trains coldly, as just another form of dilapidated mass transit, The City of New Orleans is a throwback to a different era: a time when travel could still embody glamour and style. The outfittings and appointments are newer, the dining car cleaner, and the level of service higher. None of the airline envy you see on so many trains [yes, I’m talking about you, Northeast Corridor], with their jammed seating, lousy vending machine ‘food’ and decrepit facilities; The City of New Orleans rescues travel from the airlines’ nine circles of hell and returns it to something … dare I say … enjoyable.

Route of 'City of New Orleans' (Image courtesy Amtrak)

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Double Whammy for Detroit

A week after the Census announced Detroit’s population had shrunk by 25% (!!) in 10 years, to the lowest level since 1910, the latest S&P/Case-Shiller Home Prices Indices show housing prices in the D have fallen to the levels of 1994. Ouch … unless you’re looking to buy, in which case you’re all set … unless you need to find a job in the area, then back to ouch. For someone who spends most of their time overseas however, and just wants a place somewhere in the States to call home, Detroit may make it worth your while. A previous posting looked at deals in the beautiful historic Boston-Edison district, while a recent Detroit Free Press article highlighted deals in the similarly historic Palmer Woods district. Something to consider if you don’t need a job, or public schools for your kids (only about 60% of Detroit public high schoolers ever graduate).  
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