Finally I got on the road and out of Canada to start this trip! My first stop is to visit my friend Brendon from university who works in San Diego as an investment banker. To start off the trip there are always two things I need to do: 1- drink a Mojito (they taste so good at the beginning of something big), 2- Get the flight delayed. Both things happened. We got put up in a free hotel in Phoenix (missed are connecting flight) which was pretty sweet because it was Saturday night and I'm always down to go party in a new city in another country. It was actually a pretty fun night, checked out too many bars that I don't remember them all. The highlights though were the dueling pianos, the preacher on the street telling me I have committed every sin in the bible and that he can save me, and ending up in some thugged out club with girls krumping and doing the bump n grind. Phoenix doesn't have a downtown and is super spread out. The next day we didn't have to fly out until 6pm, so we hiked some small mountain, Brendon watched me do parkour everywhere, we ate lots of good food, and then headed for our flight to San Diego.
|Dinner on Tempie Street in Phoenix|
|A view of Phoenix, although its so spread out you can't see it all|
|Man made lake in the center of Phoenix|
|University of Arizona|
San Diego is actually a really, really nice city, with one catch: you need money. Luckily Brendon has a nice condo in Del Mar, home to Tony Hawk, and 5 of the NFL's quarterbacks in the off season. Life is nice here: its very warm, a 10 minute walk to the seriously amazing beaches with an open view of the Pacific Ocean and lots of hiking trails, tons of surfers. The crappy part about San Diego is there transportation system isn't very good, and it takes like two hours to get to downtown San Diego even though its only like a 20 minute drive. People seemed friendly enough in San Diego, although I feel like there isn't a super close knit community as most people have moved to San Diego area from somewhere else for the weather and brought money with them, and when you have money you don't need to rely on other people.......
|Del Mar's beach|
San Diego Zoo was $50 American, and honestly it was not as good as I thought. The animals have huge areas to roam and spent the whole time sleeping. It could also be that after seeing a lot of animals in their natural habitats, it just get depressing seeing them locked up. Take the polar bear for example. I have seen one out in the wild on the sea ice walking around looking for seals. The one at the zoo must have been over heating, and just sits around and gets fat, sorta like people with an Xbox 1 and Call of Duty Ghosts now I guess.
|Ducks at the zoo, my favorite food and sports team!|
Gas Lamp quarters is a district in downtown San Diego where all the night life happens, and you get cool bars and restaurants to eat at etc. It was a pretty good place, but not cheap, which means you should bring money if you plan to party here, something which doesn't make it the perfect place for me.
San Diego has the self claimed best Indian Pale Ale in the world from a variety of Micro breweries. I'm not a huge fan of Pale Ale's, but I will say that they were pretty good, so check it out if you come down here, and order it with some awesome food of your choice from stuffed quail legs, duck tacos, American grilled burgers, or what ever else you want, and order it out on a patio in the hot afternoon sun somewhere!
By far though the coolest thing about San Diego was the beaches north of town. You can surf, walk, hike, swim, explore caves, play frisbee with hot cali babes, whatever you want to do, but its an amazing place with epic scenery. I spent a day just walking down the beach and exploring, ending it with chicken and waffles in Solona Beach.
I am a huge hockey fan, and the Anahiem ducks are my favorite team. It was my first chance to get to watch them play live at their home arena. I took the train to Anahiem from San Diego. The game was awesome with the battle of California happening between the Ducks and the San Jose Sharks. Ducks of course won 6-3, with some epic break away goals, a fight, and just an awesome crowd. It was cool watching the game at the Honda Centre because its a really nice building (with 128 palm trees), and the fans were really relaxed, as I guess hockey isn't as popular down in Cali as it is in Canada.The fans seemed to share a bit of a brother hood due to the fact there isn't a ton of hockey fans in Southern California, it makes them unique, and also makes the ticket prices way cheaper averaging 25% of the cost of a Vancouver Canucks game in Vancouver. The train from Sandiego to Anaheim was amazing. It went along the coast line the whole time, and you can drink beers and eat on the train which is sweet, just bring music and chill.
Side trip to Mexico!
As I am traveling in search of adventure and new things to push myself, I decided to cross the border into Mexico. My friend didn't want to come, so I stayed at a downtown hostel the night before so I could get an early start. Before I crossed one guy told me not to go as back in 2010 they found 50 severed heads at the border. Another guy I played pool against, was telling me how his friends are down there right now, and last night they went to a club and had words with the bouncer, and someone emptied two banna clips from a machine gun on them, and the “cops didn't do shit”. I'm not sure on how legit this second story is though as the guy was a bit weird to begin with and while playing pool against him he went from a hispanic accent, to a new yorker accent, to a Los Angels accent.
Anyways after getting a bit scared, I crossed over the border in the morning. Akmed, a guy I met at the hostel offered to drive me to the border which was pretty cool. Near the border it already seemed like you were in Mexico as everyone was speaking Spanish and everyone there looked Hispanic. They didn't even check my ID when I crossed, and just let me in. Immediately someone from the ABC bus station was standing there (about a 20 year old kid with a name tag), and he walked me over to the bus station through what seemed like abandoned buidlings (He didn't speak English so we communicated in my few Spanish words and sign language). I am assuming these abandoned buildings are there due to a lack of tourists since the gang vioelence back in 2010 that discouraged most Amercians from cross the border into Mexcio. I got a bus ticket just past Ensenada to a town called Enerdira (7okm south of it Ensanda, and then another 20km down a dirt road). The reason I chose this town because I was told by someone in San Diego that there was a cool hostel there, which according to thier website www.coyotecals.com there was. The bus dropped me off at the highway 20km away from the town of Erindira just at dusk, which was a little bit scary as I don't speak Spanish (and almost no one down there speaks english), I was in a new country where rumors of crime are high, and soon I wouldn't be able to see with pitch darkness. Just as I was getting off the bus a truck pulled up to me and a guy in Spanish offered me a ride. I greatfully accepted. He drove me and another guy from the bus all the way into Erindira (at very high speeds) in his truck with me in the middle between the drive and this old guy, who had a conversation in Spanish the whole way. He even drove past town and up this hill to drop me off at the hostel which was in the middle of nowhere. I get into the hostel with 50 beds, and find out I am the only F$#^ing traveler there!?!??! Great way to spend the first Friday night of my trip, alone in a hostel in some dessereted area in Mexico. There was one staff at the hostel, a lady who was 28 years old, and had been working at the hostel for 8 years owned by a guy in San Diego, who spends the week days there with his Thai wife.
|The San Diego side of the border|
|The line up to cross into the USA from Mexico|
|My first meal in Mexico|
|Akmed, my new friend who drove me to the border crossing|
The Hostel didn't offer almost any of the things offered that it said it did on it website such as dirt biking in the baja, surf lessons, massages, snorkoling, fishing, must I go on..... It did offer going for walks alone on the coast line and swimming in the ocean, and having to cook my own limited food which included rice, beef strips, and brocoli. It also cost almost double what is said on the website to stay there ($30 cdn). That being said it did give me a day to just think about where I wanted to go next, and the coast line was very nice, and I saw lots of seals and birds, and it was not very busy. What I thought was a dog barking all night, were actually seals croaking from this rock out on the beach all night and day.
|There were a ton of seals barking all day and night, which was actually really cool|
|The Baja is a big desert|
On Sunday I got up early and started walking to town in hopes of hitching a ride. I got picked up after about 2 kms of walking through town getting barked at and followed by stray dogs, by an American lady probably in her 50's, and two Mexican girls she was looking after. They were going for a shopping trip into a near by town. They suggested I drive the whole way with them to this town and I could catch a bus back to Tijuana from there, as it is safe. I didn't have many bargining chips at this point, so I followed, sitting in the back of the truck with her dog. She told me of how a brand new sales tax increase from 11% to 16% is really hurting the economy keeping toursts away, and strectching the already streched Pesos of Mexico's poor. I walked around with the lady and the girls in the town as I had to wait two hours for the bus. The girls loved to shop, although at the flea market we were at, they basically just sold 2nd hand American junk such as old electronics, second hand clothes, childrens toys, etc. She made me try this pinapple/ papya/ other weird fruits that get salted, hot sauce put on, and then lime juice on top. She said it was amazing, it was..... okay. I can see why this trend fruit with hot sauce delicacy hasn't caughten on in America like Taco's or Sushi. We also went for special Mexican Beef soup that she also insisted I must try, and ill admit it was better then the hot and salty fruit, I would call it Mexico's version of Pho. She was stoked that I liked it, and started talking with the girls about opening a Mexican soup resteraunt in Canada to make “Mucho Danairo”, I think it might be hard to find investors though..... I went and sat at the bus stop 10 minutes before the bus was to arrive, which it did, 45 minutes later. I got talking with this Mexican guy, who had previously worked as a garderner in America, before getting banned from the USA for drinking and driving. He said in America he made five times as much money as he does in Mexico, and now has to work five times harder in Mexico and only make about $20 a day doing concrete forming, working 12 hour days. He said he loved it in LA, but he got hooked on hard drugs, which wasn't good. I could see why so many Mexican's would want to go work in the states and get paid a lot more, if I were Mexican I would do the same.
Finally getting on the bus, it was like a greyhound but all the seats were taken, I was the only foriegner on the bus. I had to stand in the isle with about 10 others, and watch 8 below (the dog sled movie) in Spanish, which I am sure has and will continue to inspire a generation of Mexicans to own there own dog sled teams.
Finally getting a seat, it was nice to sit back and stare out the window at the coast line. (the bus had to go the coastal route as the major highway was not working as a huge portion of the road got washed out a few days ago). I sat down beside a Mexican man, 20 years old. He was just coming back from holidays with his family to his job where be builds doorways in Portland Orgen. He works 7 days a week, 12 hours a day, and makes $3000 a month he said. But he can't save his money as he spends it all on eating out and having his own place.... Living the American dream I guess :p He was a really nice guy, and helped me communicate to the driver about transfers and why I didn't have a bus ticket, long story.... He said he went to school in America for six months, didn't like it so dropped out and started working.
Finally arriving in Tijuanna around 6pm at night, almost home free!!! Honestly Tijanua isn't easy on the eye's, I don't think city council put in much of an effort to make the city astetically pleaseing. Most buisness were surrounded by metal mesh fences and all you can eat barbed wire. There was lots of Graffiti, which I like, because it shows young people's ability to be creative and play outside :) The roads are hectic, and there is a lot of garbage. There is a large and very long wall that seperates Mexico from America, which I have been told many people get shot and killed trying to cross each year. The one thing Tijunna has going for it, that I am fond of is that it is exciting and different from the USA, and it is sort of cool to be so close to somthing that almost seems like another planet. The line up to cross back into the USA took about an hour which is apperently short. 95% of the people crossing were Hispanic. I got talking with these two American guys (21 years old). They were there for the weekend from Orange County, where they study and work. They said they like to come to TJ atleast once a month, they have a friend here who owns a hotel. I asked them what life in the OC is like, they described it as quite fake, but awesome. Patrick, one of the guys said it perfectly: “If you go out and do things like surf, make money, meet people, do what ever you like to do then life is awesome, but if you expect things to fall on your lap, and you just sit at home in front of a screen then life sucks”. I think the same is true anywhere. Patrick gave me his number and told me to call him if I am ever in Orange County. I would agree that people there can be fake, as when I sent him a text a few days later asking if I could crash after the Ducks hockey game near by, as I was catching a flight to China the next day I never heard back......
I was impressed by how helpful and friendly the Mexican people I met were. They were very willing to go out of there way to make sure I got to where I was going safely. They seem very family oriented, and honest. It wasn't my favoritre place to visit for this trip because I couldn't communicate with most people due to a language barrier, there were not a ton of options for backpackers. I would have been much better off finding a couchsurfing host to show me around, somthing I would do if I go back.
Back in San Diego
Back in San Diego I went back to the hostel I had spent a night at because there was an art show going on, somthing I have always wanted to check out, but haven't. It was up to this point the coolest thing I have done on this trip. There were some awesome paintings, and a bunch of different graphic designers there. One guy made me a zombie backpacker sticker upon my request, which I now rep on my laptop which is super awesome! There was also free food which is always good including a chocolate fountain. Local rappers were also doing a show, which was sweet because it was quite politcal and said a lot about what young people in San Diego think and feel, and it was a super postive energy. I then got a ride back to my buddy Brendon's place at about 10pm and crashed.
|The free hip hop show|
|The art show at HI Hostel San Diego, stay here!|
|Relaxing along the beach on the way to the train station|
I spent the next day going for a bare foot walk along the extensive coast line. It was awesome, with the highlight being crossing the river in the ocean with my bag above my head and the water getting up to my shoulders. There were also tons of small caves along the beach to explore, ohhh how I wish I could live there, spend my days surfing and watching the ducks play hockey!!!!
I went to another Anahiem ducks game the next day which was again awesome. I sent an last minute message to a bunch of couchsurfers in Anahiem to try and find a place to stay, as couchsurfing is free, and gives you the ability to meet awesome people! A guy about 30 years old named David who lived in Anaheim with his wife, took me in happily which was awesome. He had a great town house with a cool pit bull type dog. He owns his own motor cycle parts company, and is constantly over in China on business, so he told me a lot about China, and about running your own business, which I am very interested in and inspired me! He fed me and we talked for a couple hours (he was very interested in my time spent living at the north pole), and then I had a good sleep. He dropped me off in the morning at the airport shuttle stop which was really cheap because it was at disney land, so it was subsidized to encourage tourism. Now I am sitting here typing this aboard a plane bound for Beijing!!!!!!!