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Tanzania – Freddy Mercury House (Stonetown)

A Few Days in Koh Samet

So with a friend visited me recently and wanting to visit an island with 'least hassle of travel' from Bangkok. We decided on the weekend short stay island retreat favored by Bangkokians : Koh Samet. I am aware there are other cheaper ways to get there but to observe in my friends request we took a taxi from basically close to Sofitel on Sukhumvit road. This after some negotiation with the diver came to 2000 baht. The taxi agreed so long we paid the road toll fees (less than 150 baht). Others wanted 2500 but he had a SUV so was more comfortable.  We left about 2pm thinking it would only take 1-2 hours not 2.5-3 which it did, but this is the main road to Pattaya, so did have quite heavy traffic. As we drove we figured we needed to get to Bai Phe port by 5pm for the last ferry. So the long drive was uneventful until we did a rest stop somewhere enroute the road to Pattaya that had the biggest amount of shops & restaurants, I've ever seen at any rest stop. Thailand - Drive Rest Stop (Pattaya) It basically had housing and a market with all kinds of foods including fast food options. It was after this that the ever so quiet taxi driver perked up. We joked maybe he took something or just drank x2 super strong Thai redbulls, but the very mention of Ladyboys he launched into this crazed state of laughter doing ladyboy impressions and noise examples - it was incredibly entertaining and the very word 'ladyboy' would spark him off again, he was quite funny. We finally arrived at Ban Phe port & he picked up this large lady, 'look my fat friend' hs says laughing. As predicted this lady was a planned interaction to take us to her speedboat desk in which she offers direct speed boat to the hotel on Hat Sai Kaew beach. It cost 600 each both ways, you share with others and the journey is half the time of the ferry. However the ferry only costs 50 baht but at the same time it doesn't drop you off outside your hotel. At the same token, the island we later found out is so small that one end from port to other probably takes 15 minutes. Ferry Vs The Speedboat Thailand - Ferrry Crossing (Koh Samet) Thailand - Speedboat Crossing (Koh Samet) It was quite funny speeding past in the ferry where the speed boats really does go up/down quite hard against the waves yet no life jackets are given. The ferry plods along slow and smooth & you see everyone wearing life vests. However there was an impressive sunset as we travelled across the 25 minute journey to the island. Thailand - Sunset Crossing to Koh Samet (Koh Samet) We finally arrive at the Hat Sai Kaew Beach and the speed boat drops you about 5 metres from the beach edge - so expect to walk in sea a little bit. Though staff at the hotel will meet & greet you taking your bags to reception. There were some issues with hotel but basically if your wanting twin beds don't book the Thai traditional cottages. The bellboys made us laugh as we got to our room he took us to the balcony and pointed to some building and said 'girls in this bar' we kinda of laughed but same time I felt embarrassed that obviously we looked the characters that would be interested in the seediness to make him say this. Anyway the hotel had banging house music playing in this late afternoon and we watched some really impressive fire shows even from a 10 year old doing the hoop hoop with a ring of fire. It was impressive. Thailand - Friendly Bar Fire Show (Koh Samet) After having a beer at the hotel we continued to explore the night life. Hat Sai Kaew is the main beach for night life, though in comparison to other islands its more of watered down (just like the cook tails) chill beach as less than a handful of bars existed. It has some good and bad points- the sand is lovely & powdery, it's fairly clean. The sea on the other hand is full of boats though there is a dedicated swimming area. The sea was hot cloudy & the odd piece of plastic floats up to you. There is no real swimming just jumping the waves. Jet Ski’s, Para Gliding and boats are all in this beach - which is probably why the sea itself didn’t feel that clean. The general Island vibe felt much more for Thai's & Chinese groups, we white farangs were at such a minority with the occasional Russian couple that it was quite interesting. Not judging but it was obvious it's not a farang island. Some of the general interaction and lack of effort with service reflected this. It had an air of Thai snobbery and in my opinion out of 6 islands I have visited in Thailand- it was the coldest or at least Thai’s working there were not that warm and hospitable. Our hotel bar was probably appeared to be the best night spot as it had lots of seating, plenty of bean bags, seating on layered levels that face the sea. It’s a whole neon experience at night. The only issue the live DJ music, likely directed to the young Thai crowd. Terrible EDM David Guetta dribble or hip hop so badly mixed that the DJ just flips the fader without any skill. It was ok for a few drinks but the music gets annoying very quickly. We ventured down the beach to explore further, we found basically Chinese/Thai restaurants that didn't look too appetizing or inviting to the none part of these groups. Though seats were taken there wasn’t the usual vibe of staff outside pushing you to try their food.  We did though found a cool bar called 'friendly bar' it had those floor Thai pillow triangles & was very chilled out with a tiki hut bar. They also had a fire show. Thailand - Friendly Bar Fire Show Instruction (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte This was the only bar where we actually chatted to people, we met a group of Lithuanians, an Irish man & really cool Thai bar tenders. Though when we saw lights further down the coast asking what kind of bars are there, the bar tender response 'you don't go there it's only gay bars'. By no means are we homophobic but we took it that he didn't want to leave his bars. Thailand - Friendly Bar Tender (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte Thailand - Friendly Bar (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte The next day I woke up early and observed the very chilled out Sunrise where monks were walking down the beach. Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Sunrise (Koh Samet) This was the nicest point the beach got, very relaxing and no boats in sight. Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Sunrise by Sea (Koh Samet) That day we sunbathed, the sun and sea are so hot that back to the room for AC refreshment is much needed every hour or so. There were lots of traditional beach chairs. Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Beach Day (Koh Samet) Thailand - Hat Sai Kaew Beach Chairs (Koh Samet) This evening we actually noticed a street as my friend had to go to pharmacy it's quite a small street with two 7/11 directly facing each other, massage places and restaurants. Occasional shops but not much else. This is where we noticed that people can hire mopeds (350 baht full day) or golf carts (1000 baht full day- with some strong negotiation). We decided there and then to explore and get a golf cart. We also realized after a bit of a bar crawl that we had arrived at the so called girl bar, the bellboy had pointed out- since this was 50 metres from hotel not on beach side. Thailand - Girl Bar (Koh Samet) What a weird place, the pool table is what attracted us to it. The place has a moody bar tender that looked exactly like Mr. Miyagi (from the movie Karate Kid)) but the beers are cheap. There was a closed room that we were both initially afraid to go in. So we remained outside, Thai girls just linger about but speak no English. Its cheap but its got a weird vibe. Eventually I ventured into the room and it was just tables of guys and girls with only thing seedy were the whole room was lit up in UV lights but no seedy undressed or anything like that. My friend returned to this bar the next night while I had an early evening kip and he said, he eventually was brave enough to venture into this room, he said karaoke was being played but in the most weirdest description. He said the people weren't actually singing but miming to the only song karaoke songs that were being song. Very strange. Our next day was golf cart today we had no real idea about this island, it didn't look big but we were determined to do one end to the other. Though we were worried these battery charged carts would last. Thailand - Golf Cart Driving (Koh Samet) Well the drive was interesting up and down hill with signage % declines showing up or down so at least we knew what to expect.  The golf cart almost near stops with our weight on the uphill yet uncontrollable on the downhills, with the steering being  hardest thing I've ever experienced. Coming down hills with foot on brake was pretty scary as the cart just swerves about- clearly the bearings if they have them couldn't handle the speeds down with two full size blokes in it. So we ended up at the end of the island at a place called Ao Karang it had some pathway through foliage saying 'view sight' .We came across some people leaving, we asked what's down there and the British guy's response was basically 'it's just a few rocks mate'. Thailand - Ao Karang (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte Thailand - Ao Karang Above (Koh Samet) So then we decided we needed a beach so we looked on Google Maps to the nearest beach  and came across a resort called Paradee Resort. It looked rather fancy and we could feel it had a vibe not open to non guests, so as a blagger goes we said we were meeting a guest here for lunch. Security escorted us to reception whom then got escorted to restaurant, told if I want to walk anyway else to let the staff know. I decided to go and check out the beach Ao Pakarang & Ao Kiew Nanok walking past a nice pool with a huge sign saying guests only (we were told we couldn't eat at beach despite tables set up & pool bar). I checked out the beach and the waiter had clearly come to tell the lifeguards that I wasn't a guest so I quickly returned to the bar. It looked like a nice place but very Thai snobbery. We decided against lunch, had a beer and continued our drive to the next beach place. It was probably the nicest beach on the island and if you’re a Paradee resort guest it’s all yours. Thailand - Paradee Resort Beach (Koh Samet) Thailand - Ao Pakarang Beach (Koh Samet) We continued down to find Samed Villa Resort and decided to check out that beach: Ao Wai. It had one or two resort with a chargeable pool option (300 baht) but it was nicest beach we saw on the island that you could access. It had like nice trees (not palm) leading over at the edge of the beach so you could get some shelter. Lunch was pretty good and staff were really polite - this seemed like the chilled secluded beach for couples and people wanting to mediate etc. as only one boats and cleaner sea - though still cloudy. Thailand - Ao Wai Beach (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte Thailand - Ao Wai Beach 2 (Koh Samet) Photo by Ieva Jokuzyte We decided to continue on after some time lazing about and swimming in the sea. The next place was called Ao Wong Duean , it attracted us to it due to a big foam party sign on the main road so we followed it down a lane to see if anything exciting was happening. I have to say the golf cart despite its simple looks can handle off road deep sandy condition driving quite well. Thailand - Ao Wong Duean (Koh Samet) This beach was bigger with multiple resorts, curved but again many boats. There are a few bars and resorts and we stayed for a drink. This seems like the beach was more chilled than ours, but probably more boring as well. The resorts certainly looked better. Again we left and we drove past the so called 'gay bars' which weren't so and one bar in particular between the two beach’s (ours next along)  had a neon paint wannabe full moon party vibe to it. We later went here and it was the only place with energy watching all the young backpackers drench themselves in neon paint so they could dance to crap EDM music under a blue neon light. As my friend said it was lively but the music was painful, Steve Aoki type stuff (sorry for those that like it but I prefer more underground stuff like Sasha). Thailand - Neon EDM Bar (Koh Samet) Back to the golf cart, we had to return but there was two more places to visit- my friend was adamant there was enough battery power but I wanted to risk so we drove to the only beach on the sunset side, a beach called Ao Phrao. Here there is security as it seems this is the place the top rate premium resorts. You can't enter with any vehicle unless it's the resorts one. There was some parking for motorbike but the security guard had discrimination against the golf cart, we didn't really understand why but he wanted us to park it right up the hill close to the dangerous road edge. There is a cliff with a view point above that showed a nice sunset shot. Anyway this beach was nice , it was an opening between two large hills one of which we took a photo from & was very nice. The resorts looked nice and we sat and brought the beers we had from our minibar. Unfortunately due to the evasive golf cart hirer we had to bring it back by 6, so our time there was short. [gallery type="slideshow" link="none" size="full" ids="5843,5844,5845,5846"] Our last stop was the wharf, which is only 500 meters from our beach Hat Sai Kaew. I was told magnets would be there as I needed a Koh Smaet one, alas no luck. But I did find an awesome shop on the walkway from the town to Hat Sai Kaew Beach. Thailand - Wharf Pier (Koh Samet) Upon returning that was it we had seen the whole of Koh Samet. I decided to chill at the beach & had a watered down Mojito and watched the sun set on my beach which was ok. It had a nice vibe. [gallery link="none" size="full" type="slideshow" ids="5848,5849,5850"] In my opinion, it's ok but resorts are more expensive than Koh chang. The island is definitely aimed at the Thai market and overall we found a slight attitude from Thais to us, perhaps they thought we were perverts from Pattaya having a break (well I thought anyway). The place though is pretty dull there is not much to do and though the beaches are nice I don't think I would take say future guests staying in Bangkok with me there. To put it simple it's boring the sea is not that clean the night life is annoying EDM music, why can't they have reggae or chill out. There are simple no excursions to do either unless you return to the mainland (or hire a gold cart). We also thought it was expensive place to visit, drinks are a rip off and I would advise if your visiting to not order cocktails as they are most definitely watered down. However, for a few days of sun out of the big bad city of Bangkok it was relaxing. Our taxi driver back wasn't as exciting but he did have a dvd pull down TV, just shame we didn't have any DVD's to watch.

Mixed Feelings On Texas But A Positive Lasting Impression

5 hours in San Antonio, 15 hours in Austin and 2 evenings out in Houston There has been a delay with this blog about Texas and it has been amended slightly because it was initially quite negative and lacked a lot of information about Houston. However, since my first visit I was fortunate enough to return to Houston a second time. We’ll come to that towards the end of the blog. On my first visit I had 48 hours in Texas, arriving and departing in Houston with late arrival and departure times. I planned to check out Houston and it just seemed like there was nothing much there, other than some Museums, which I get bored of easily and off course there’s NASA. Everyone I spoke with, friends that had been and cabin crew, plus what I had read online prior to arriving described it as an ‘extremely underwhelming’ place to visit. It doesn’t even rate that highly on Trip Advisor. I wasn’t sold on staying here and mostly thought about finding other places nearby. From my old job and in general from my interest in Music, I had heard so much about Austin. I knew the famous South by South West festival takes place in Houston and for that reason I really wanted to visit this city. Unfortunately I was 10 days to early (for the festival) but I still wanted to check out what many have described as the coolest city in the southern states. Plus it gave me an excuse to drive, which I have missed immensely since moving to Bangkok. The first night I arrived so late that I just slept in Houston at the Hyatt in the Galleria area. This is the main shopping area of the city, where there is a large mall and not much else but shops and offices. It didn’t really seem to offer much else of any interest so I went straight to bed for the planned early start. I looked at maps and thought I’d check out the city of San Antonio first and then continue to Austin for the night to see a bit during the following day before returning to Houston for my late departure. The Drive The drive to San Antonio is four hours but it can be done quicker. However I avoided the tolls and planned to take some side routes in order to see the countryside of Eastern Texas. I was pretty excited to be back in a car for a nice long drive so John Digweed’s latest 2 hour set in London banged out of my hired Chrysler car speakers. Whenever I drive I need the music to fit the environment but this didn’t fit the location, I mean I wasn’t in California, so the music went from Digweed to The Chemical brothers and then to Burial followed by some Thom Yorke. Eventually I ended up listening to Sigor Ros. If you’re not familiar with any of this music I started listening to some decent techno and gradually ended up listening to well, kind of depressing atmospheric progressive rock. None of the music really fitted the journey, simply because it was just about the dullest drive I have ever had. One hundred and fifty miles of almost straight roads and barely anything to see - just dull eerie bleak plains of flat land into the horizon. The highway had huge tall signs adverting gun shops, ranges, adult stores and mortgage companies – it was depressing. Coming off the main highways was even worse - True Detective Season 1 is the best way to describe it. Run down houses, battered trailers and old rusty cars on the lawn every ten miles showed the poverty but also gave rise to my inner imagination that this really was the rural southern America in need of hope. Cults, guns, Jesus Christ and depravation. Judgemental and ignorant of me I know, but I was so bored on this straight endless road. I even thought some of these trailers on the side of the road would be an interesting photo but I wasn’t going to risk being shot as I was still very aware I was in Texas. The Travelman | Drive To San Antonio The Travelman | Drive To San Antonio | Eastern Texas Even this bull gave me the look as if to say ‘come on my land I’ll shoot ya’. The Travelman | Texas Angry Bull   Stop 1 – San Antonio So, I finally arrived in San Antonio. A historical city dated back to 1691 established by Spanish colonials. The sat-nav said I was one street away from ‘The Alamo’ – A UNESCO world heritage site. I looked around for somewhere to park and the only available place I could find was outside a bar that had a meter in front. A man stood outside on his phone looking at me in disgust like I had taken his space, so I asked if it was okay to park here. ‘So long as you got quarters’ which I didn’t so he said I’d better use the ATM in the bar while he watched the car. I ventured in, got the cash from the ATM and asked the bar lady for change. She seemed fed up and the change didn’t include many quarters so I figured I had better buy a beer so I can get some more. I started to notice the bar was kind of weird. It had a few pool tables, grubby looking characterless decor, the odd poster here; very run down and had no real character. It’s a local’s bar with a grainy screen showing a baseball game. A slightly rough atmosphere to the place. I overheard two men arguing about Donald trump, one thought he can get things done the other thought not. Many of the locals were pretty heavily tattooed and wearing bandanas, not the kind of place you’d take your Grandma. I sat and drank up and thought I’d take advantage of the toilet while I can. Wow. The graffiti in the toilet summed up where I was. This was by no means art, just the crazed mumbling writings of messy locals. My first experience in San Antonio appeared to be a visit to an angry cocaine/crack bar. The Travelman | San Antonio Cocaine Bar No sooner had I made this assumption than I heard a couple of guys shouting at each another. Definitely an angry bar, so for me it was time to leave and check out the sights of this city. This first experience was interesting. So the Alamo Mission. A very old looking brick building faces me, with a flag. I have no idea what this place is about. A cop outside with a cowboy hat says its free entry and then I see another guy shout “video about to start”. Perfect timing as I had no idea what this place was about. To cut a long a long story short, Texas was colonised by the Spanish and this former Roman Catholic mission was where the famous battle of Alamo occurred in 1836. Though the building dates back a 100 years earlier. It was actually built to educate Native Americans of Christianity. The Mexican army occupied it but then surrendered it to the Texan army following the Texan Revolution. However, this pissed off the General of the Mexican army & he wanted to fight the revolution that resulted in creating a siege around this building and the eventual deaths of all the Texan army in it including Davy Crockett. The building has some further history following on from this. It was saved by from demolition by two women in 1905, Adina Emilia De Zavala and Clara Driscoll. They successfully convinced the state to purchase and preserve the building. Various other things happened there but I’m not going to go on much more about it, if you’re interested there is plenty of information available online. It is great that it still remains standing and is probably one of the oldest buildings in the states and quite a popular tourist attraction for this reason. It is so important in American history that it has world heritage status. There is nothing much to see inside though other than the odd sword or metal cup used by soldiers. These are protected within glass cabinets that you not allowed to photograph. But it is free and quite a nice place to take a look at from the outside. The Travelman | Alamo Mission After leaving I noticed a tower, now as this is early days in my venture to the world of blogging many readers are probably not aware that I am obsessed with towers. Going up them and taking photos from above makes the Travelman a very happy man indeed. Most are dull but I feel I haven’t seen a city until I’ve seen it from the highest building I can. So far I have 26 city towers under my belt. This tower had to be done, it’s called ‘The Tower of the Americas”. Not that big but it’s a tower none the less. The ticket prices included a 4D video that I was told was a must see. This is where my impression of Texas went downhill. The video could have been interesting; it could have focused on the fascinating history of Texas, but no. It was like watching a propaganda film about ‘how Texas is a state of mind’, how it’s the greatest state and the best place on earth but there was no substance. I believe the narrator even said those words, ‘a state of mind’, no, it’s actually a state physically located in America along with a lot of other states. The video follows a helicopter hovering over each city and bumps you about with your seat moving in a tacky way while you wear 3d glasses. It’s not worth it, in fact, I would pay good money never to have to experience that again. The Travelman | Tower Of The Americas Anyway, I came out of it thinking yeah right, the state that has magnets showing guns saying ‘we don’t call 911’, the state that kills more people on death row, and lets not forget the war mongering Bush family and more recently Ted Cruz. Apologies for being political but Texas really can’t claim to have bred the best. Anyway the view from the top was equally unimpressive, a bit like Dubai but it didn’t matter, it was another tower ticked off the list. The Travelman | San Antonio Skyline Before leaving it was time to visit what Trip Advisor rates as the number one thing to do in San Antonio: The River Walk. So I thought I might as well check it out, grab a beer and some food. The river lived up to its expectations and I enjoyed the walk, it was very well constructed and had a sort of Disney (due to it being man made) Venice Canal feel to it. People go up and down on boats but I had a 25 minute gap on the new meter as I had moved my car from the angry cocaine bar. The Travelman | San Antonio River Walk The Travelman | San Antonio River Off course I had to go for the Tex-Mex food, which Texas is famous for. My goodness I must say the Chicken Quesadilla was very good and so good a duck joined me and we ate together. He was keener on the nachos and the guacamole; I guess cheese doesn’t digest too well on a duck. I wondered if he was on holiday from across the border, he was so at home with his nachos with a bit of guacamole on them. After making a mess with the cheese and having had the waiter look rather unimpressed with me, I decided it was time to drive to Austin. The Travelman | San Antonio Quesadilla The Travelman | San Antonio Duck   Stop 3 – Austin So I finally arrive in Austin after another tedious drive, but I did drive past what looked like the biggest petrol/gas station I have ever seen - maybe 100 pumps but read online it has 250 employees, it’s called Buc-ee's. Petrol or gas is so damn cheap in Texas, $20 will fill a tank. The Travelman | Buc-ee's Gas Station Upon arrival in Austin, which seemed like a big looking yet small city, I checked into my hotel, which had really very nice staff. A huge Texan guy comped my parking and gave me a free drinks voucher. Now that’s the kind of thing I like, just how it should be, so knocked back a gin as my throat was feeling a bit dry and I looked up and enjoyed the hotels décor watching the lifts go up and down. I was now in the so-called music capital of the world, though the clientele around me looked as if there were at a car insurance conference. I suppose I was in the Hyatt though. After trying to arrange to meet an old school friend I was told use Uber. The kind bar staff explained to me to how to use Uber, I had never used it before but had the app on my phone. They assisted me well and I thought ‘wow’ Texas people are really nice and natural. The view from the bar after knocking back some neat gin… San Antonio Hyatt | Bar View The Uber car arrives. I’m picked up by a fella that I think had just finished his shift at Walmart. “I do this on the side” he says and he briefly explained the concept of Uber to me. I asked if he had any run-ins with regular cab drivers and he ignored the question, like it was a touchy subject. So anyway, the planned bar to meet my friend turned out it to be in another part of the city but he made the effort to get me there. To cut along story short, a mishap meant that my planned meet up with the old school friend didn’t happen but I ended up on the very famous 6th Street anyway and so I decided to walk through the city back to the hotel. It was around an hour to walk back and I enjoyed observing everything on the way. Austin is a strange place. People mentioned to me prior to my visit that if I liked Boulder, which I did, then I’d love Austin. My view on that is that Boulder, Colorado is a hippyville, holistic, with no major corporations on the streets, yeah everyone is stoned but Austin doesn’t actually have that same vibe. Maybe it did years ago but just from my observations it feels more like a mix of hipsters, hippies and yuppies - this is a drinking city full of corporations. There is a decent artistic independent bar scene and many great food trucks, mostly trailers & streamers. I decided it was a bad comparison and nothing like Colorado. My walk started off great, I walked past a few very cool artistic looking bars but at the same time I asked one of the guys inside about directions, had a beer in another and I can’t deny while these bar looked cool the hipster vibe was try hard, not like London but that kind of “oh dear, did I wear the wrong t-shirt kind, is it not ironic enough kind of vibe”. Meaning I felt it was not that welcoming but I can be quite an introvert and at times and socially anxious so perhaps It was just in my mind. Anyway after half a beer I decided to continue my walk. I walked past these guys with a high tech projector on a wall, which they were using as a stencil to paint – I guessed this was because it was night and perhaps that is normal but I did also wonder if a real graffiti artist might consider this to be cheating. Were these guys just pretenders? The Travelman | Austin Texas Graffiti Artists As I continued to walk past more cool looking bars and trailer food stalls. I eventually entered the main city, it now felt a bit more like the live music capital it was claiming to be. You could hear bands playing loudly from the bars, all kind of indie stuff. The problem I found was looking at the patrons, they appeared to be an interesting mix of wannabe hipsters and yuppie businessmen acting like idiots on the sidewalks. Pissed and not dissimilar to what you might see in New York in midtown. It was here that I also walked past huge Ernst and Young offices, GE and other major healthcare/insurance type buildings. All major hotel chains are there too. Plus, now seeing the mayor’s office – it became very clear that this city to me felt like a southern Washington DC at the same time lacking the conveniences you would find in a place like that. For instance I needed something from a pharmacy like CVS – no sir this closes at 10pm. What this? It’s a major city, the capital of Texas the bars ram on until 2am but everything else closes. I also noticed for some odd reason that in the centre of the downtown area, tons of cyclists like doing their evening exercise, it looked fun but it was 10pm, so many streams of cyclists going along the streets. I thought maybe this is an Austin exercise ritual. However I kind of wished I had a bicycle and could join then. I continued my walk as my hotel was across the river, then I came across a huge highway with really cool purple neon lights on the underpass below it, it looked cool but as I got closer, it became obvious that this was the major homeless place. It was almost as if this city had them all placed there out of the way like rubbish shoved under a carpet. There were possibly a hundred homeless people, just lying like piles of unwanted rubbish. It was sad seeing so many poor people living like this and sad that the city of Austin clearly isn’t doing much to help them. Again it’s no different to DC where I saw many homeless people confined to the lawns. The Travelman | Austin Texas Homeless Area After getting back to my hotel I decided to get up early and take pictures of some of the things I saw at night when it was too dark for my iPhone to capture decently in the dark. This is Austin; the big corporate America capital of Texas. The Travelman | Corporate Texas The Travelman | Corporate Austin Texas At the same time full of cool art work and bars. Strange juxterposition. [gallery size="full" type="slideshow" ids="4974,4975,4976,4977,4995,4996"] I had this great smoothie at one of the food trailers, but must say it seemed a bit overpriced. I was due to go to a Rodeo that evening in Houston and I asked the guy what he thought about this. His response was interesting, “Well it’s like country music festivals, rodeo and nascar; I go to these places just to simply watch people to figure out why they like it”. I thought it a rather pretentious response. Why waste the money? The Travelman | Austin Texas Food Trailer In the end I never made the Rodeo, whilst the drive back to Houston was better than to San Antonio, I started to feel ill and went to a hotel to sleep it off before my flight that evening. Overall I took more photos and have to say I felt these two pictures sum up Austin perfectly. It’s a city of conflicting lifestyles and the original hippies know it. Texas is one of the most conservative states, whilst Gun laws are lax, it’s one of the strictest states for abortion, medical marijuana is still not fully legal from my understanding has the highest number of death row executions. It’s a harsh state ruled by some seriously conservative anal cowboys. When compared to states like California or Colorado it is at the opposite end of the spectrum. Whilst the Mexican food is good there are no Mexicans serving it. Perhaps the Texans like their food but not the people? I dunno, I’m just blogging my observations but this is my first impression of Texas. I guess if I spent some more time there it’s possible that I could view the place differently.
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Houston As few weeks later I was fortunate enough to fly back to Houston there on a business consultancy trip and met a variety of interesting characters, from the cow girl to the gun crazy duck shooter and everyone in between including various Uber drivers. My perspective sort of changed a bit about Texas or at least Houston. I think despite some differences of attitude to thing like Guns, and politics, which I never avoided debating. The strength of Houston is the people, everyone is so warm and friendly. There was no attitude felt at all like you might find in the major coastal cities of the US. I spent an evening in the Heights area of Houston where I went for some drinks with a colleague and we were both dumbstruck on how nice the bar tenders were. Maybe because we were English but really friendly bar tenders, millennial twenty year old girls that were not all about trump but did love a good Gun. It was interesting hearing their perspective and American society but there was no pretentiousness all like I sort of felt in Austin. Just down to earth people in a very arty neighbourhood that had some cool restaurants and bars, north of downtown in the suburbs. One such bar war was Little Woodbrow which had a great selection of beer and that kind of old nice US vibe to it. Despite looking older than 35, bald I was asked for ID which was first in a long time but took it as a compliment. The Travelman | Austin Texas | Little Woodbrow Another great place we visited was Christian’s Tail Gate Bar & Grill where we ended up chatting again to the bar tender and her colleague for ages, they have superb burgers. Apparently award winning but oddly they put bacon inside the meat as opposed to on top still delicious. Though the best burgers I had overall was at Ruby’s Diner in the international area at The George Bush Intercontinental Houston Airport. Amazing! Another evening we decided to visit Mid town, where we told is most active place in the city for bars and restaurants, so we went and did the Uber driver thing again. Again the driver was so chatty and it was very interesting learning about Uber, how he makes $25 an hour, no issue with cab drivers like in Paris as he explained current cab drivers are changing to Uber anyway. All it requires is a $200 investment a car over 2010, with more money to be made the newer the car, drug test from the city and an inspection. He liked the fact he had freedom to do it as you choose when you decide to work simply by turning on the app. Anyway he dropped us off in mid town near the Breakfast Klub, a Zagat rated place for the best breakfast in Houston, unfortunately we were there for dinner and the area Breakfast Klub is in has a odd vibe. A side corner of bars and antique shop then a kind of shady vibe in surrounding area. However I liked it, it had amazing street art but my colleagues wanted to go to where the main part of mid town was which was about 10-15 blocks walk away. The art as I say was really cool. [gallery type="slideshow" size="full" ids="4983,4984,4985"] As we walked, I felt this city is one of the downtown cities that has nothing, like no shops, just offices and the odd fast food or coffee shop. Sort of reminded me of downtown Orlando. We did finally find the main mid town area, but it is quite small and certainly is not of any comparison to Austin’s 6 street. We decided to eat in a restaurant called Cyclone Anaya’s Mexican Kitchen and try the famous Mexican food. It was astoundingly good. Everyone was very impressed. Generally, it is a famous place for huge Margarita’s but seemed quite upmarket. Again very arty inside and loved the fabric interior of the washrooms. The Travelman | Cyclone Anayas Mexican Kitchen Austin Texas | Somewhere Between Here And There As a conclusion to Houston it is not the most exciting city but there is a very creative vibrant art scene here and the people, well the people are probably some of the warmest people I’ve met in the US. There isn’t really much to do in this city for a tourist but its great place to chat to people, so if your on business and staying in Houston for a short time. Check out the bars in the heights or go and eat in Mid town, you will meet some friendly characters and see some interesting art along the way. Overall this 2nd visit left me with more of a positive impression of Texas.

Austria – Bell (Vienna)

USA – Live Music Capital (Austin)

Germany – It’s Time To Dance (Berlin)

Sri Lanka – Traditional Drummer (Colombo Airport)

Mexico – Musician of Death (Mexico City)

UK – Guitar (London)

Philippines – Banjo (Cebu)

Azerbaijan – Musician

Austria – Violin (Vienna)

Argentina – Tango (Buenos Aires)