The Island of Hawai’i, popularly known as the Big Island, is the biggest island in Hawai’i. Unlike other islands, this one is too big for driving around with mopeds. The island has two cities at the two corners, Kona and Hilo. If you are a coffee lover then you would note that Kona indeed is the source of Kona coffee.
Detroit used to symbolize the prowess of American manufacturing. Foreign delegates would drive or fly to Detroit to see this iconic city. San Francisco Bay area (Silicon Valley) was once called the Detroit of the west, and at that time, it meant admiration. The city has a tumultuous racial history. It’s the only city in the US to be taken over by the Federal army thrice to control riots. Before my visit, I had read the book “Detroit: An American Autopsy“, it’s a bit long but gives a thorough understanding of this once iconic city.
The city neighborhood looks in the state of somewhat despair, even though the suburbs like Dearborn, where Henry Ford was born, are in much better shape. The motor city is spread out, so don’t leave the airport without renting a car. Another thing that stands out is the sheer number of Arabs and the Arabic language as the second or the third language on the signboards.
We made this trip over three days in December; even then, Death Valley National Park was warm during the day and cold at night. Therefore, I would warn against going there in summer, where it could be unbearably hot.
The island of Oahu, which contains the capital city of Honolulu, is a fantastic combination of urban amenities, nature hikes, and beautiful beaches. If you are doing only one island out of the four major islands Of Hawai’i, then this is the one I would recommend. I did it during Thanksgiving, which is the last week of November. While this island is not as big as the “big island”, public infrastructure outside of the city of Honolulu is not good. Therefore, I would recommend taking a moped rental(30-40$ a day) for a solo trip. Roads are narrow, and the moped turns out to be a better choice than a car, both for driving and parking. The only time a moped gave me trouble was when it rained. Outside of the city of Honolulu, there is nothing much to do after the sunset. So, plan your trip accordingly. Do check out local food items, like Shave Ice cream and Banana bread from local markets. But don’t carry any of it for the return journey.
Point Roberts is a weird place. 5 sq. Miles (12 sq. km) U.S. exclave connected to British Columbia, Canada. As a part of the Treaty of Oregon, 1846, the territory jointly controlled by the British and the U.S. was handed over to the U.S. It later became the Washington state. The area should have been part of British Columbia, but the dividing line was chosen incorrectly due to a geographical mistake.
We decided to check out Millenium Park which has the Crown Fountain and Cloud Gate (“The Bean”).
Cloud Gate (The Bean)
The last item of our day was Chicago Shakespeare Theater. It is on a Navy Pier, worth taking a stroll. We watched a Shakespearean show. If you are planning to attend, I would highly recommend reading the full story in advance. The language, the actions, and the speed are too difficult to follow if you don’t know the story. Mudit realized that I didn’t.
We started the day with the Museum of Science & Industry. It’s huge and impressive. Do check out the live demos if you are there. We dissected a cow’s eye as a part of a medical experiment. We ended up spending about four hours there and had to cancel the next visit to Oriental Institute Musem.
Afterward, we headed to Magnificent Mile and took another stroll around Millennium park, and it was time for our respective flights by then.
The city is public transport friendly. Don’t worry about getting a rental car.
We traveled there in the month of October and the weather was really nice and cool at that time.
At 10AM, we started with a 30-minute guided tour called Decisive day, it’s a nice introduction to the struggle of American colonies against the British rulers. More so for the foreigners like us. From there we continued onto another hour long tour called Freedom Trail: Meetings, Mobs & Martyrs which talks about how individuals took sides in the revolution. We were running out of time, so, we had to skip the other Freedom Trail tour but I would highly recommend doing both. All these tours are limited in capacity, therefore, show up well in advance to collect the free entry tickets.
Paul Revere statue – Freedom Trail
Bunker Hill monument – do run upstairs here
Post-lunch, our tour continued with Boston Symphony Orchestra. It was a two-hour long show, we attended it primarily because it is highly rated on TripAdvisor but I would refrain from attending a similar show again.
At 4PM, it was raining when we headed to take a tour of MIT. A friend of ours who is doing a Ph.D. there provided a guided tour. Without an insider, I don’t think touring the campus would be as enjoyable.
A bizarre MIT building
We had some time to kill before the Improv show at 10PM and we spent that by walking around North End and New England Holocaust Memorial. Nothing special but if you are around the area, you might as well walk in this historic district.
Mudit at Holocaust Memorial
At 10PM, The last thing for the day was an Improv show at Improv Asylum. Overall, it was a good show and I would recommend attending it.
At 10AM, we started our second day with USS Constitution. Highly recommended for history enthusiasts. Including a guided tour, we spent the next three hours there.
Post-lunch, we headed to Harvard and took a tour of the campus with a friend from HBS. Nothing spectacular, except John’s Harvard’s statue on which students urinate on and the visitors, gladly touch ಠ_ಠ
See that shiny shoe on the right, don’t touch it
We were running short on time and had to skip the Black Heritage Trail. At 7PM, the last thing in our trip was a two-hour Shear Madness show. It was amazingly hilarious and I would strongly recommend it. It was the highlight of the trip.
I landed in Quito and started the journey with Mitad Del Mundo which apart from being a monument near the equator line has some nice short scientific demonstrations. Expect to spend about 2-3 hours there.
View from the top of Mitad Del Mundo monument
Then I headed to Telefrico (“aerial lift”). The ride is nice and gives a beautiful view of Quito city. Highly recommended.
A view of Quito from Teleferico
Lastly, I headed to Quito Old Town. Overhyped. There is nothing special about it. In fact, I would recommend the readers to start early in the morning and go to Mindo Cloud Forest first. I had an overnight bus journey from Quito to Lago Agrio afterward.
I wanted to make a single-day visit to Amazon. Therefore, Yasuni, being too deep inside the forest, was out of the question. Cuyabeno was a good choice. Since it is deep enough and at the same time accessible enough for a one-day trip. I reached Lago Agrio early morning where the manager of Cuyabeno River Lodge (not Cuyabeno Lodge) picked me up. This lodge is deep inside Amazon but not close to Laguna Grande. Therefore, the lodge management can adjust for your pickup-dropoff time, most other lodges which are close to Laguna Grande would charge a lot extra for that. I would highly recommend this if you want a custom itinerary.
I reached the lodge at about 6 AM and after having a nice vegetarian breakfast, I joined a few other travelers and went for a boat tour of the Laguna Grande (“grand lagoon”) starting at 8 AM.
We saw a lot of native animals like Serpiente (“snake”), Tortuga (turtles), and pajaros(birds) during the journey. After Laguna Grande, we headed to a native Amazon community, where we learned the process of making Yuca bread by extracting Yuca roots, followed by peeling, grating, drying, and baking them.
Drying of Yuca
While returning, we encountered a baby caiman (“alligator”).
Customary selfie with a baby caiman
At night, we headed out for a night hike. If you are planning to do this, then I would recommend carrying an insect repellent. Amazon rainforest is full of small crawling creatures.
The third day started with a Pirana fishing session. The goal was to just catch, take pics and return them to the water. They are really fast at eating the food before the hook is pulled in. While I failed to fully get hold of any, another guy on the boat succeeded.
From there, I headed for another long bus journey from Lago Agrio to Baños De Agua Santa with a transfer via Coca. I later came to know that there is a direct overnight bus from Lago Agrio to Baños. In the hindsight, I would say that leaving at night would have been a better option than wasting the third day traveling.
The day started with a visit to Thermal hot springs Therma de La Virgen (“The virgin hot springs”). They are good but don’t spend too much time here since there is a lot to do later.
Thermal hot springs
Then I headed for a Bungee jumping session. 20$ for the jump and 5$ for the photos. Wow. Compare this to the 150$ jump offered in the San Francisco bay area.
Sugarcane candies are a must try. Canna in Spanish. Ganna in Hindi, who copied whom?
Post-lunch, I headed for a paragliding session. At 55$, it’s a no-brainer.
I had to skip Le Casa Del Arbol due to the lack of time. Baños is amazing backpacker heaven. While I only spent a day there, I would strongly recommend, at least two days to fully enjoy it.
Here is the overall map.
Public transport is pretty good for both short and long-distance travel. So one can skip taxis.
US Dollar is the accepted currency. Carry cash, credit/debit cards might not be accepted everywhere.
Cuenca is a nice French town but I could not check that out due to the shortage of time.
Always carry “papel de higienico” (toilet paper). A lot of places simply don’t have it. And they don’t have water either ¯ \_(ツ)_/¯
We headed to Chittenden Locks next. While I have read about how locks are used for moving ships from one water body with lower water level to another with higher water level, this was the real life demo of the same. Recommended but don’t spend too much time here.
We headed to Fremont Troll afterward. I think it’s overhyped and if you don’t have time, skip it.
Underground tour was the highlight of the day. We went for the late night 21+ only show. The guide was hilarious and we got a chance to learn about Seattle’s history in the context of cultural norms of the Victorian era, relations with native Americans and US-Canada border demarcation.
We started the day with Bruce Lee’s grave. Overhyped, don’t spend more than 15 minutes there.
Bruce Lee’s grave
From there we headed to the Museum of History & Industry which gave us a nice overview of Seattle’s role in the World Wars. Recommended if you are into history. Expect to spend a few hours if you are planning to do it in the full. At 14$ per person, it’s inexpensive.