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Friday, July 29, 2016

ALL HAIL THE GREY MARKET

BRASOV

After winning a game of hide and seek with the bus, I arrived in Brasov.  My buddy had made me a reservation at a very cheap hostel - $5 per night.  They wanted a phone call about an hour before I arrived to 'make sure someone was there'.

I convinced the taxi driver to contact them and let them know I was coming.  They'd never heard of me and the price was 18 Euros per night.  WTF.  "How many nights will you be staying?"  None, thanks, bye!

The taxi driver told me he'd never heard of a place that was that cheap.

He then spent about an hour surfing the internet (my phone was dead) and calling various places.  Eventually, we got it down to two different pensions.

Pensions are like normal hotels with two major differences.  They are cheaper and you have to pay for a much longer period of time.  The more  time, the less the price.

A normal hotel is about 120 lei or more.  If you are paying for an entire month (all at once, all up front) you can get a pension room for about half that.

The first pension had a little table and uncomfortable looking stools.  Their wifi would get mocked by Cambodians.

The second pension was much nicer and the lady who runs it speaks English.  Their wifi is fantastic.  And the desk is large and a chair with a back.  And she offered to do my laundry for free.

I decided to pull the ole 'do you believe in your product' thing and offered to pay her one night at the monthly rate to test out the room.  Some people say no.  That is a warning flag for sure.  She immediately agreed.  The room is just fine.

Oddly, she didn't want me to pay all at once.  Though she didn't come straight out and say it, she was hatching a new deal.  If I pay each day, for one day at a time and she doesn't make a receipt - would that be OK?

Romanians really hate paying the government any fucking money.

At all.

So basically, I now am getting a daily room at the monthly rate.  Grey market enterprise at its finest.  Go team go.

And if I need to leave, I can.

Great - I'm staying here.

The room was a bit more expensive than I wanted but I'm just not ready to leave Romania yet.

Note that the price I'm paying is about $3-4 above what it would cost to sleep in a room with a dozen other people.

I may be flying out from their airport located in Sibiu.  Couple hours from me.  Not sure where I will go from there.  Maybe back to Morocco, maybe say 'fuck it' and go to Mexico.  "DO YOU BOYS LIKE MEX-EEE-CO?"  Love that movie scene ("Super Troopers").  Want some Mexican food in my fat belly.

The problem isn't that they are killing people in some of the towns - I've been to lots of places like that.  The problem is that it looks a touch expensive.  More research (see below for the first toe dip) is required.



TRAVELER'S TIPS - ROMANIA

What follows are my accumulated tips for Romania.  Not sure if this is my second or third trip to this country but these tips should make any visit here easier.

Taxis:  On the door of every cab is written the initial KM price as well as the price for each KM thereafter.  At the time of this writing (2016), it's around 2-3 lei.  Be sure to use the meter.  Any excuses mean you need a different cab.

Lunch:  Monday through Friday noon till four is the time to go out seeking lunch.  In Romania, lunch specials are available.  They call them 'menu' but pronounce it with a harder 'u' than standard English.  These cost about 15-20 lei (under $5) and include soup, main course and desert.  Although Romanian food taste is somewhere in the middle of the planet ("meh") it is a good deal financially.  Drinks sold separately.

Bus stations:  Although they often have signs stating which bus goes to which 'gate' (or position) these signs are often more imaginative than informative.  Asking four different people gets four different answers including you need to take a taxi to a whole different bus station.  Walk around and keep walking around twenty minutes beforehand up till the time the bus actually goes looking for your bus.  Unlike other countries where the bus drivers apparently get paid for more people (hence having people trying to find more business) here they don't really care.



MEXICO RESEARCH (Warning - this is dull.  Put it in for purely educational purposes.  Most travel writers don't show this side of travel.  I do.  It may be of help to see my thought processes - even if they often turn out to be wrong.)

As time is relentlessly ticking by and buying air tickets betwixt the continents is best done at least a month before hand, now seemed a good time to start researching.

Needing answers -

Where is a good place to leave and arrive?  Since I'm flexible, I can move about a bit.

Which airline?  And on this I didn't want to deal with crappy airlines - generally a ticket like this we're looking at a fairly significant amount of money.  For me, anyway.  So I didn't want the airline to fuck it up.

Can I actually afford Mexico?  It should be pretty easy there to find a place to stay.  Spanish is a simple language to ruthlessly butcher!  But while most 'Mericans think of Mexico as an excessively poor place with dirt roads and dogs holding gnawed off appendages of people, it is actually more expensive than places I normally stay.  Which I suppose tells you something.

First step - what are the cheapest airports to arrive into Mexico?  Usually, these are the busiest.  Yes, someone may have found some wonderful deal where they ended up on a one prop (of two) plane that took them somewhere super for only a peso - but I'm going with the averages here.

According to one website, the cheapest airports were Mexico City, Cancun and the one that is a pain in the ass to spell, Guadalajara.  I like the name "Mexico City".  Kind of tells you where it is.  I don't like the kidnap rate there though so giving it a miss - not a problem.

My research started showing that Condor Airways has pretty impressive rates so I started checking around their route map and such.

Surprisingly, they have a place right here in Romania they use - Sibiu.  While it looks to be about $140 more than Berlin (or Frankfurt where the airline is actually based), I'm thinking even on a discount airline (extra pain with the bags) it would cost more to get there than to just head down to a different town in the country I'm already in.  Cool.

The only problem is that Cancun is the cheap place.  Much cheaper than the others.  And it is about as far from the USA as you can get.

Awkward.

While a nifty bus tour of Mexico may be neat, I vaguely remember reading somewhere that the buses there were not cheap.  Closer to prices in the USA.  Plus, I need to figure out if I am going to be cutting up through the USA overland or flying into it.  For that, I will have to reference the LHI2 stats.  That will tell me what states I'm going to be in.

For those who haven't been reading the blog long enough to know what LHI stands for, it is "Logan's Home Invasion".  Named by a clever friend.  It is where I go stay with someone anywhere from a couple days to a week then they pass me off to the next person.

It doesn't work if I - for example - only know one person in the state or something.  Traveling fast in the USA is not a good thing - just expensive.



SO WHO DO WE HAVE FOR LHI2 THUS FAR?

(LHI2 is "Logan's Home Invasion 2 - the Second Coming".  It is when I visit the states and stay with various people in different states.)

Noble, AZ

David, CA

Mira, CO
Seth, CO

Mahmood, DC

Mike, IL
DeAnna, IL
Joel, IL
Kevin, IL
Jason, IL
Carolyn, IL

Robert, OH

Conner, OR
Bert, OR
Erich, OR

John, MI
Jack, MI
Jennifer, MI
Brian, MI

Bill, MO

Travis, VA
Razvan, VA
Gilbert, VA

Three or more people on a team, pretty good.  Less means we need more people on the team.  Teams are by state.

I'm thinking to be able to visit the state (and keep down the freakishly high cost of travel within the USA) I need to be able to stay with three different people (ie a week each is three weeks to absorb travel costs) in the state.  Often the people I am staying with or will stay with meet up on the road to pass me like a football from car to car.

If you don't see your name listed, be sure to contact me if you want Logan to come stay with you for a few days or a week.



HOPPING VAMPIRES

Those familiar with Chinese mythology will know of these.  My buddy Derek found a good article as to why.



PRICES

Minivan - Targu Mures to Brasov, 35 lei.

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PICTURES

{{2011}} London, GB | Rail N Sail | Amsterdam, Netherlands | Prague, Czech Republic | Budapest, Hungary | Sarajevo, Bosnia | Romania | Chisinau, Moldova | Ukraine: Odessa - Sevastopol | Crossed Black Sea by ship | Georgia: Batumi - Tbilisi - Telavi - Sighnaghi - Chabukiani | Turkey: Kars - Lost City of Ani - Goreme - Istanbul | Jordan: Amman - Wadi Rum | Israel | Egypt: Neweiba - Luxor - Karnak - Cairo | Thailand: Bangkok - Pattaya - Chaing Mai - Chaing Rei | Laos: Luang Prabang - Pakse | Cambodia: Phnom Penh | Vietnam: Vung Tau - Saigon aka Ho Chi Minh City

{{2012}} Cambodia: Kampot - Sihanoukville - Siem Reap - Angkor Wat | Thailand: Bangkok | India: Rishikesh - Ajmer - Pushkar - Bundi - Udaipur - Jodhpur - Jasalmer - Bikaner - Jaipur - Agra - Varanasi | Nepal: Kathmandu - Chitwan - Pokhara - Bhaktapur - (Rafting) - Dharan | India: Darjeeling - Calcutta Panaji | Thailand: Bangkok - again - Krabi Town | Malaysia, Malaka | Indonesia: Dumas - Bukittinggi - Kuta - Ubud - 'Full Throttle' - Gili Islands - Senggigi | Cambodia: Siem Reap | Thailand: Trat | Turkey: Istanbul | Georgia: Tbilisi

{{2013}} Latvia: Riga | Germany: Berlin | Spain: Malaga - Grenada | Morocco: Marrakech - Essauira - Casablanca - Chefchawen - Fes | Germany: Frankfurt | Logan's Home Invasion USA: Virginia - Michigan - Indiana - Illinois - Illinois - Colorado | Guatemala: Antigua - San Pedro | Honduras: Copan Ruinas - Utila | Nicaragua: Granada | Colombia: Cartagena | Ecuador: Otavalo - Quito - Banos - Samari (a spa outside of Banos) - Puyo - Mera

{{2014}} Peru: Lima - Nasca - Cusco | Dominican Republic | Ukraine: Odessa | Bulgaria: Varna - Plovdiv | Macedonia: Skopje - Bitola - Ohrid - Struga | Albania: Berat - Sarande | Greece: Athens | Italy: Naples - Pompeii - Salerno | Tunisia: Hammamet 1

{{2015}} Hammamet 2 | South Africa: Johnnesburg | Thailand: Hua Hin - Hat Yai | Malaysia: Georgetown | Thailand: Krabi Town | Indonesia:
Sabang Island | Bulgaria: Plovdiv | Romania: Ploiesti - Targu Mures | Poland: Warsaw | Czech Republic: Prague | Germany: Munich | Netherlands: Groningen | England: Slough | Thailand: Ayutthaya - Khon Kaen - Vang Vieng | Cambodia: Siem Reap

{{2016}} Thailand: Kanchanaburi - Chumphon | Malaysia: Ipoh - Kuala Lumpur - Kuching - Miri | Ukraine: Kiev | Romania: Targu Mures - Barsov | Morocco: Tetouan

{{2017}} Portugal: Faro | USA: Virginia | Michigan | Illinois | Colorado |

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