48 hours in San Salvador

Back then, I was heading back to Mexico City from San Jose (Costa Rica) by land. It was a bit of a rush as I merely had 1 month during which I spent 1 week in Costa Rica, 1 week in Nicaragua, 1 week in Mexico City and the rest in transportation and San Salvador. Ok, I was a bit afraid. But I realised that:

-If I didn’t go now; I would never go.

-It’s a country I barely know, except for all the bad media coverage. Time to discover the truth.

So heading to San Salvador I was, without any clue of what you could do there! And I did really enjoy the city; it was a nice preview and I wish to come back one day. 

 

San Salvador, in 7 words: urban jungle, chaotic market, disco church, crater hike, all-you-can-eat pupusas, freedom & nights-at-home.

First of all, I love big cities; it felt great to finally stay in a huge urban area (as I didn’t go to Managua) and to blend into the daily life flow. A very good start was to stroll around the chaotic Mercado Central and feel the local vibes; good luck to find your way!

Not far is located the most surprising church I’ve seen so far… and I’ve seen churches! It’s the Iglesia El Rosario, designed by an architect-cum-artist that didn’t want it to look like a church. Job done… as it looks like an abandoned warehouse from the outside and a disco place from the inside!

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It was also a nice surprise to leave the Costa Rican & Nicaraguan Gallo Pinto behind and try new things, like the very Salvadorian Quesadilla (nope, doesn’t look like the Mexican one) or Pupusa. 

If there is one thing you should remember from this post, it’s pupusa, the national corn or rice paste big crepes that you can fill with basically anything and order everywhere, at any time. They eat it by itself or accompanied with a meal. See it as the equivalent of the French baguette or Mexican tortilla. Below, the only picture of pupusa I have where it’s filled with cheese, as a side dish. 

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San Salvador is located right in a valley; thus, the city is surrounded by mountains and it’s easy to have a break if you are tired of the urban craziness. So hold on to the back of a local minibus and go for a hike!

I particularly liked Parque El Boquerón: you have a nice view of San Salvador and a hike that takes place inside a volcano’s crater. And it was one of the most difficult hikes I did; no marked path, you are free to wander wherever you want (even if it’s your own responsibility), I needed to implement a “Petit Poucet” strategy not to get lost and sometimes had to climb down trees to continue!

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San Salvador is not a hot spot for tourism and you do feel quite special to be there (just met a couple of travellers in my hostel). I was even the first foreigner of the day entering Iglesia El Rosario and it wasn’t that early! So enjoy this special feeling – which is usually not for big cities – and don’t be afraid if people approach because they are curious about you!

Finally, if it can help; I was staying at Hostal Cumbres del Volcan in a very safe area, with a nice staff and amazing dorm buddies. One thing I disliked a bit – and that I couldn’t really check deeply if it was necessary – is feeling forced to stay at home after sunset. It was a recommendation of the hostel staff and other travellers. 

What’s your feedback on that?

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10 reasons why I loved Copenhagen

Cool vibes. Seriously. I really felt at home in Copenhagen.

Ordering 2 pints of IPA at 11 am after visiting the first Carlsberg Brewery.

People make you feel at ease. And I felt super safe.

Eating at Copenhagen Street Food; a former paper warehouse transformed by artists into a giant food & design paradise.

Nailing your diet as all the food you’ll find is super healthy.

Having a walk at Freetown Christiana, a self-proclaimed autonomous neighbourhood, aka Green Light District.

Architecture around the canals is splendid!

Grabbing cheap Danish-designed stuff in the 14 Flying Tiger shops around the city.

Emerging from the crowd of tourist to see The Little Mermaid.

Navigating through the city by bike: they have priority over cars and cycling paths are huge!

 

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Love the atmosphere around the canals

 

 

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Little Mermaid and her fans

 

 

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Welcome to the Green Light District

 

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Street art everywhere
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Congrats, you are back in the European Union!

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26 life lessons I learned travelling

As I am preparing for my next trip back to Asia, I wondered what I had actually learned while travelling all this time. Most people will tell you that “travelling broadens your mind”, that it “makes you leave your comfort zone” and “discover other cultures”. Sure… but I wanted to know what exactly. So here is my attempt to formalise a bit of what I’ve learned.

Each letter has its piece of advice – don’t ask me why, I did that on a whim -,  so here are 26 philosophical insights I learned while travelling and travel tips I wish I knew before. They all helped me at some point somewhere in the world and I always try to keep them in mind, travelling or at home!

Always have toilet paper with you. It will be useful. You can thank me later.

Bargain at least half of the price.

Check if you bought a ticket from San Jose, Costa Rica or San Jose, California. I didn’t.

Download maps.me. Now.

Eat these tacos al pastor, you’ll follow your diet back home.

Flexible… be flexible. To the food you eat. To new experiences and itineraries. To the people you meet.

GPS can be used offline. You just need the pre-load the map.

Hitchhiking is great to meet locals, to travel on a budget and to get out of your comfort zone.

I am thankful for having toilets at home. And toilet paper.

Juggling is a nice ice-breaker. And you can carry your juggling balls everywhere.

Keep in mind that people are fundamentally nice and helpful.

Look at the CouchSurfing Event Page if you want to meet people, it’s a great community.

Music and soccer are universal languages. Even if you suck at it.

No worries, everything will be alright.

Observe: when in Rome, do as the Romans do.

Please, be respectful with the locals and the local culture.

Quote: “The word “adventure” contains 1001 forms: it is by itself a dictionary of the whole universe”.

Riding a motorbike is definitely the shit.

Speak to your neighbour, even if you are lazy. They might follow you on a hitchhiking trip 😉

The right person at the right moment is a thing.

Up to you to make your trip an unforgettable experience.

Vietnamese hats will save your life, one day.

When you travel with Air France, you can always ask for champagne.

XXIth century travelling is definitely easier than ever: try your luck and don’t be afraid!

You can’t predict the unpredictable. Don’t waste your time trying.

Zombies might exist: what you take for granted here may not be true elsewhere.

 


 

My favourite one is and will always be Letter W 😉

Which one is yours, or, what did you learn travelling?

Bonus – A tip from the book “On a roulé sur la Terre” (Sylvain Tesson & Alexandre Poussin, who cycled the entire world): when they were lost, they would open a map and really show in public that they were obviously lost (or even pretend to be) until a local would approach them. It worked perfectly and they often spent days together!

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Cuba = Reggaeton every day!

Hasta Que Se Seque el Malecón

At the time of Cuba’s opening, there will be an increasing amount of people flocking to La Habana – or Varadero, Cuba’s hot tourist spot – and an increasing fear that Cuba’s uniqueness would definitely belong to the past. Most tourists enjoy their time on the fine sandy beach, smoking fine cigars, riding open-top cars from the fifties, along with mastering the art of Cuban-style mojitos (understand a well-loaded mojito). But, as we – I and my then roommate – travelled through the 1250-kilometer-long island, we discovered that Cuba was much more than that.

Cuba Azul

Here are some insights on what made us really feel the Cuban lifestyle:

We fell in love with the Cuban vibes. Most tourists stay in the “Habana Vieja” district, which is as incredibly beautiful as crowded with tourists. I don’t have any problem with that, but keep in mind that a country has so much more to offer as well! By Cuban vibes, I meant the one you feel walking through the Malecón and the historic center – away from most attractions -, where you successively run into kids in uniforms going to school or playing soccer and adults chilling peacefully outside or watching telenovelas (Cuban-style soap operas). There is one constant: the reggaeton beats that follow you through your walk everywhere you go. And all of this takes place in a mix of freshly renovated houses and dilapidated old ones and I must say that the latter really makes the scenery unique.

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Feeling the Cuban vibes also meant eating like a Cuban.

It might seem obvious, but since the society is divided between Cubans and non-Cubans, foreigners tend to eat at the places for foreigners or rich Cubans. Eating like a Cuban means converting your CUCs (convertible peso) into CUPs (national currency) and heading to a cafeteria, where you can eat, almost for nothing, tortillas, arroz congri (rice mixed with beans), Cuban-style pizza, and drink a home-made juice. After we talked to some Cubans and discovered that the average monthly salary was between 10 and 15 CUCs (10-15 euros), we understood that most Cubans eat at the cafeteria when they don’t eat at home. Cafeterias are usually in someone’s house and the transactions go through the window. Here’s a 4-ball ice cream that I bought for the equivalent of 0,25 euro!

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For us, a simple way to live the Cuban lifestyle was to do the opposite of the crowd.

When we took the now touristic soviet-style steam train at Trinidad and stopped in another city for the break, we saw everyone heading to the touristic attractions that were waiting for them all day. We decided to go the other way alone and we discovered, out of nowhere, a food stand that made delicious fried fish sandwiches. After we ate four of them, they thanked us for having made their day!

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Street art that we found after walking randomly, somewhere in La Habana

Finally, the best thing we did was to hitchhike: it really allowed us to understand the Cuban way of life and the separation between foreigners and locals. It all started when one day, we tried to book bus tickets to go to Las Terrazas but somehow, we ended up in a bus terminal that was forbidden to foreigners. We were told to go to the Via Azul terminal, for foreigners and rich Cubans. All right. We finally arrived at Las Terrazas with the Via Azul bus but decided to come back to La Habana hitchhiking. We first realised that many Cubans have to hitchhike to go to work, to school, or anywhere. Since the competition is rude, many of them prefer showing some money bills instead of their thumb! Our time finally arrived, and we successively got into a taxi (for free), a truck cart, and, best of all, a bus that was supposed to be reserved for Cubans!

Of course, there is plenty more to discover in Cuba. Talk to people, follow the unknown, don’t limit yourself to the main attractions, and you will understand how a Cuban live and think! (And of course try some mojitos, they are the best!)

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Tokyo, Nagoya & in-between (Jan 17)

JAPAN = DARK HOLE FOR YOUR WALLET

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I’ve been raping Facebook and Instagram with pictures from Japan this week – but OUI OUI, in case you missed it; I was there for a couple of days. So all my money is gone🖕.

Let’s be honest, Japan is a FOOD PARADISE. You just want to try everything all the time, from the 7/11 unlimited fried stuff to the 5-euro-a-piece sushi (OK LAH BEST SUSHI IN MY LIFE). There are also so many weird but unmissable things worth throwing your yens at such as buying a sexy racoon dog keychain, going to the [input anything you want] café, feeling like Barbie in the photo booth or seeing live JPop (mostly the chaos that comes along).

Obviously, I implemented several strategies to spend less; but at some point, I tried to win a giant Pokeball teddy bear at the arcade centre. Anyways, as I’m a weird guy who drinks 3 ice coffees a day, it’s a bit difficult. BUUUUT…. I did find some smart solutions!

First tip: do NOT eat that 60-euro melon. Second tip: shut down your Hello Kitty fetish for a few days. Last tip: hitchhiking is pretty smooth in Japan! It also allows you to meet some (not a lot) Japanese peeps who treat you like deep shit (very interesting to experience here actually). But don’t get me wrong, Japanese people are AWESOME.

Last words: I will never look at cup noodles the same way again (I already miss you ramen)

DL-san OUT 🙃

Hong Kong (August 16 – January 17)

🍟🍟  HONG KONG = WHERE EVERYONE THINKS I’M FROM BUT THEN THEY CAN HEAR MY FRENCH ACCENT

 

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Kowloon side from the Sky100

 

🌃   HK’s skyline is truly outstanding; even more at night on a 0,277140€ ferry trip (approved by XE Currency) or on a 32,4km/h elevator trip that brings you on top of the ICC – the tallest building.

👣  But… Hong Kong is much more than this picture. It’s the cheapest MacDonald’s and most expensive coffee in the world, it’s the best social-tech start-up accelerator So In So Good, it’s not-house-but-rooftop parties, it’s random police checks because you are eating a donut, it’s foot massages with happy ending, it’s eating mountains of dim sums on Sunday morning, it’s Club 7/11 & M. Wong’s toxic beers, but most of all, it’s hiking a different trail every weekend.

🐍  Please, please & please, come to Hong Kong and realise that 75% of the country is nature & biodiversity; crazy monkeys, giant cockroaches, wild bamboo snakes, everything you can dream of! Of course, everything is reachable within 1-2h and it’s CHEAP (but it’s still more expensive than a BigMac menu). And then you can board a local Ferrari-bus or Ferrari-ferry (say it 8 times) to go back home.
🍔  But on the way home, your friend Alexandre calls you out for dinner and as it’s pick-randomly-from-the-Chinese-menu Sunday, you end up with fried fish bones. But (fortunately?) there is a MacDonald’s nearby (there is always), so you order a Hokkaido Salmon burger not to starve – and then realise it’s already the 5th time this week!
😘😘  Bye bye Hong Kong & see you next year   (because I forgot to spend my HKD)
#參加彈想頭啦
#法國仔講廣東話
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1 country = 1 playground

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