Blogger Kyle Ellison

Introducing another new blogger at Gadling, Kyle Ellison…

Where was your photo taken: Koh Phi Phi, Thailand. My wife and I kayaked around the backside of the island to Monkey Beach and found a wild monkey drinking an orange soda it had stolen from a Japanese tourist. As he chased the monkey around the sand in a questionable effort to retrieve his soda, another woman began screaming because a baby monkey had climbed into her kayak and was crawling all over her torso. The entire scene was pretty hectic.

Where do you live now: Lake Tahoe, California, an outdoor playground with far too many distractions.

Scariest airline flown: Definitely an Amaszonas flight in Bolivia. The plane only sat 8 people and it was so small my head hit the ceiling while I was in my seat. The pilot was sitting directly in front of me, and we had to navigate through the Andes in a dense fog. It was my first time looking out the window of an airplane and looking up at the mountains. When we finally landed, the runway was a narrow grass strip that was covered with grazing livestock.

Favorite city/country/place: If I could find a country that was an exact blend of New Zealand, Turkey, Laos, Uruguay, South Korea, Hawaii, and Ireland, then I would move there and never leave again.

Most remote corner of the globe visited: Probably inside of a cave 60 feet underwater while scuba diving in southern Vietnam. The Vietnamese are infamous for eating anything and everything, and upon spotting some clams inside of the cave the dive instructor crushed them open with a rock and we shared an impromptu meal. Eating underwater is more difficult than you might think.

Favorite guidebook series: I’ve historically been a Lonely Planet guy, but for the last couple of years I’ve opted to travel sans guide book. Local newspapers and postcards clue me in on what I should see, and the rest is impromptu.

Worst hotel experience: Being stuck inside of a hostel in Quito, Ecuador in the middle of a political coup. Military helicopters were landing on the hillside next to us as gunfire sounded in the streets. An expat American war veteran who was staying in the hostel estimated we’d last 4 days before we ran out of food.

How did you get interested in travel writing? After I graduated from college I had grand illusions of paying my way around the world by writing for surfing magazines. Logically the next step was I moved to New Zealand, bought a surfboard, lived in a van, and never got anything published. But at least it got me writing.

Other jobs: I’m currently a boat captain in Lake Tahoe, but I’ve also been a sea kayak guide in Alaska, a bartender in Greece, a scuba guide in Hawaii, an oyster chef in Florida, the head of a non-profit in Cambodia, and a DJ in a Spanish nightclub. I also teach tennis.

You are a contestant on the Price is Right. What vacation do you
hope is in the showcase showdown? What’s included? What’s the price?
A two week stay at a water bungalow in Bora Bora where my two biggest decisions are when to go diving and when to get a massage. The price? Making your wife happy with a trip you’ve promised her but have no idea how to pay for: Priceless.

Ten great markets around the world

All too often, the first stop on our tourist itineraries is at the local museum, mosque or castle. But an arguably better place to start your visit is at the market. A visit to a local market is the perfect place to pick up some souvenirs, try out the local cuisine and get a taste of authentic culture on your next trip. Here’s ten of our favorite markets from around the world. Take a look.

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market, Bangkok, Thailand
Swap the shopping cart for a dugout canoe, and the store aisle for a muddy canal, and suddenly you’ve found yourself bartering for fresh cut pineapple from a floating vendor at Bangkok’s Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. A longtime tourist draw, the market has skyrocketed in popularity, and on busy days the canals can get packed to the point of “canoe gridlock”. Well-prepared shoppers will bring small bills to avoid having to make change, and an adequate form of sun protection to survive the open-air journey.

Istanbul Grand Bazaar, Istanbul, Turkey

The granddaddy of its genre, Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is the world’s oldest–and one of the world’s largest–covered markets. Slinging everything from traditional pottery to precious gemstones, the market has roughly 4000 different shops, and the restaurants feature some of the most palate-whetting, finger-licking good food on the planet. Savvy travelers to the market bring a pocketful of cash (as few stalls accept credit cards), hardy bargaining skills, and a voracious appetite.

Monastiraki Flea Market, Athens, Greece
On Sunday mornings in Athens, the Monastiraki Flea Market is simply the place to be. Rural merchants and urban store owners alike all crowd the streets with their wares, as street performers and local musicians provide background ambiance to the entire scene. While many of the goods found in the market can be classified as typical tourist junk, the intuitive shopper can easily be rewarded by hunting out the quirky local characters and some of the tucked away stores. One such store features a sign out front that simply states, “No tourists allowed. Travelers welcome”, attesting to the shopper it hopes to attract.
Night Market, Luang Prabang, Laos
Seeing as the entire city of Luang Prabang is listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, it comes as no surprise that it also features one of the most colorful, exquisite markets in all of Asia. Each evening, ethnic Hmong villagers descend from nearby hill communities to ply their handicrafts at the Night Market, with the most popular being the handsewn silk scarves. If all the shopping works up an appetite, an incredibly narrow alleyway features a cornucopia of fresh meat, vegetables, and fish, where you can tackle an “all-you can fit” style plate to the tune of a whopping $3.

Jalan Gaya Street Fair, Kota Kinabalu, Borneo, Malaysia

There aren’t all that many markets in the world where you can purchase a fresh handful of Rambutan fruit, handpainted blowdarts, and top it all off with a live snake for lunch. This is exactly the case, however, at the Jalan Gaya Street Fair held each Sunday in this bustling Borneo metropolis. For a curious array of fresh seafood, check down the street at the seafood market along the waterfront. Highly eclectic and culturally diverse, the entire scene takes place under the watchful eye of 13,435 ft. Mt. Kinabalu, looming stoically in the distance.

Chiconcuac Tianguis, Mexico City, Mexico
With the third-largest metropolitan area on the planet and a culturally diverse native population, Mexico City is bound to offer up some colorful street shopping experiences, for those who know where to look. Traditional tianguis (Aztec for market) are located all over the city, the largest being the Chiconcuac Market on the outskirts of the city, where up to 3,000 merchants swap handwoven clothing, pottery, and various forms of produce.

The Medina, Tangiers, Morocco

With its shoulder width alleyways and constant cloud of wafting spices, navigating the Tangiers Medina is a shopping experience entirely unto itself. While many of the Medina (old towns, usually featuring tightly knit houses and narrow alleys) in other Moroccan cities have become somewhat of tourist-traps, the Tangiers Medina is an authentic cultural experience. Spend enough time in the Medina, and there’s a good chance you’ll wind up drinking tea on a rooftop with a local carpet merchant, haggling over color schemes and which neighbor cooks the best lunch.

Chinatown Night Market, Singapore
Under a string of red lanterns in the moist equatorial air, the experience of the Chinatown Market comes alive once the sun goes down. A juxtaposition of tradition and modernity, you can haggle for knockoff watches and purses while eating a plate of fried manta ray wings, or examine the markings on a handpainted mask while enjoying a cold Tiger beer. While the market is always a hotbed of energy, the streets explode with activity during the Chinese New Year.

Portobello Market, London, England
Set in West London’s Notting HIll district (yes, the same one as the film), the Portobello Market held each Saturday turns two miles of Portobello Rd. into a teeming street scene of market stalls and browsing pedestrians. In proper British fashion, the market is subdivided into categories so that merchandise of the same genre can all be found clustered together in the same vicinity.

El Rastro, Madrid, Spain
An essential stop on any Madrid itinerary, El Rastro is a Sunday morning flurry of street commerce that takes up multiple streets in the Spanish capital. While the usual market items are available for purchase, the top-prize at El Rastro is to come away with a good price on a handcrafted sword from the nearby town of Toledo, home of all the weaponry found in the movie series Lord of the Rings.

* 20 best destinations for shopping
* 16 great farmers’ markets

Five of Hawaii’s hidden gems

While millions of visitors flock to Hawaii’s fabled golden shores, there are a number of sights around the state that are well-off the typical tourist map – and well worth a visit when in town.

Papohaku Beach, Moloka’i
Stoically occupying the west end of the island of Moloka’i, Papohaku Beach is one of the largest white sand beaches in the state of Hawaii, minus all of the crowds. Nearly three miles long and 100 yards wide, a day with more than 6 people is a crowded day at Papohaku. Visitors can gaze across the Kaiwi channel towards neighboring Oahu, its one million residents and crowded beaches merely an afterthought in this isolated corner of paradise. While campers must obtain a state permit for the campground, casual visits to this expanse of sand are free of charge.

Mo’okini Heiau, birthplace of King Kamehameha, Hawai’i
The first person to unite the Hawaiian Islands under a single system of rule, the journey of the revered King Kamehameha the Great began on this windswept pastureland out on Upolu Point. Set just outside of the sprawling Mo’okini heiau, an ancient Hawaiian temple erected in 480 A.D. to Ku., the Hawaiian God of War, a small sign marks where Kamehameha was born in 1858. The sight is reachable via the Upolu airport road, though the final two miles to the heiau are on an uneven dirt road, and four-wheel drive is highly recommended if the road is wet or muddy. Hiking is a good backup option. Free admission.

The “Blue Room”, Kaua’i
Tucked away in the verdant jungles of northern Kaua’i, the “Blue Room” is a fresh-water pool that perfectly catches the sunlight, illuminating an exquisite shade of blue to the cold waters within. Located a short walk up a narrow, muddy trail, the combination of the lush green rainforest, vibrantly colored tropical flowers, and ice-blue water inside of the cave create a hidden treasure on Kaua’i that is literally minutes off of the normally beaten path. Free Admission.

Paliku Cabin, Maui
While thousands of visitors annually make the pre-dawn pilgrimage to witness the sunrise from the summit of Maui’s Haleakala Volcano, few venture down into the intricate network of hiking trails that line the crater floor of Haleakala National Park. Aside from the alien landscape and multi-hued cinder cones exploding from the nearby trails, there are three well maintained cabins inside of the crater that are available for public use, the most stunning of which is Paliku. This quaint cabin at 6,300 ft features an exquisitely lush landscape, and wild nene geese patrol the mist-shrouded hillside. Cabins in the park can be reserved at for a fee of $75/night.

Kaunolu Fishing VIllage, Lana’i
Little more than a rocky outcropping at the base of towering sea cliffs, this National Historic Landmark was once the site of a thriving village that was the recreation center of royalty. A favorite fishing spot of Kamehameha, Kaunolu also features “Kahekili’s Leap”, a spot from which warriors would throw themselves off of a 60 ft. cliff into the bay below to prove their valor. Exceptionally remote, Trilogy Excursions offers snorkeling trips to Kaunolu and the southwestern coastline of Lana’i. ($150/day)

15 more great cities for drinking beer

Last month, the writers at Gadling spent a lot of time at the pub, creating this list of The 24 greatest cities in the world for drinking beer. We had so much fun and got so many great comments, we decided we couldn’t stop: we headed back to the bar and asked for another round. Here’s 15 more of our favorite cities in the world for drinking great beer. Did we include your favorite? Take a look.

Edinburgh, Scotland, United Kingdom
Edinburgh locals proudly boast to have the highest concentration of pubs of any city in Europe. Nightly pub crawls of all varieties and themes weave an intoxicated web through both the New and Old towns, dutifully infiltrating once-sleepy pubs and leaving empty pint glasses littered in their wake. If you want to get closer to the source, head over to the Caledonian Brewery, a place where beer is proudly “brewed by men, not machines.”

Wellington, New Zealand
This funky little capital city at the base of New Zealand’s North Island is teeming with Kiwis who are keen for their beer. While nationally popular Monteith’s is brewed on the South Island in the sleepy town of Greymouth, Wellington Brewery still has beers ending up in the hopping bars and nightclubs lining the infamous Cuba Street. No stranger to hosting events, Wellington will open its doors in 2010 to the New Zealand Beer Festival, only serving to further the raucous bar scene this city churns out nightly.Prague, Czech Republic
Beer drinking visitors agree: there’s nothing quite like a tall stein of pivo in Praha, the traditional home of Pilsner and arguably the world’s best beer. Allegedly consuming 156 liters of beer per capita each year–the most of any nation–beer is a simple life necessity for the Czechs. Long a staple city on the European beer circuit, the glory of Czech beer is highlighted nowhere more than at the annual Czech Beer Festival, held in Prague each May.

Homer, Alaska
While not exactly what many would consider a city, Homer is one of those “drinking villages with a fishing problem” that exudes nothing but good-natured charm. All of the action in town is centered around the Homer Spit, a flat outcropping of land that holds all of the town’s bars, most notably the world-famous Salty Dawg Saloon. After hauling in a 300-pound halibut, most fishermen head out to the Spit to celebrate with one of the many flavors of the Homer Brewing Company, or perhaps even an “import” from the Alaskan Brewing Company in the far away capital of Juneau.

Austin, Texas
If good beer has partners in crime, it would be good music and eager twenty-somethings ready to let it all hang out. Fortunately for anyone visiting Austin, there is absolutely no shortage of either. Host to two of the largest music festivals in the nation, Austin City Limits and South by Southwest, Austin frequently swells from the University of Texas all the way down to 6th Street with beer-battered locals and music lovers alike. A number of microbreweries are scattered around town, and with top acts and loads of talent moving through the city, the opportunity to imbibe is never far away.

Phnomh Penh, Cambodia

Phnomh Penh comes in on this list for one reason alone: $.25 beers on tap. Not only is a draft beer only a quarter, but the Cambodian national brew, Angkor Beer, is one of the finest lagers in all of Asia. Aside from the cheap price and the smooth taste, modern-day Phnomh Penh is lined with French cafes overlooking the mighty Mekong River, all serving obscenely cheap Angkor on draft. For those wanting to take the Angkor deep into the night, the city boasts an impressive nightclub scene, and for anyone really wanting to get creative with their drinking, every evening there are mass public aerobic sessions in the many parks across the city.

Whitehorse, Yukon Territory, Canada

You know any beer served this close to the Arctic is going to be cold. A rugged outpost town that is known for its rough mining history and plentiful outdoor adventure opportunities, hardy souls have been putting back the beers in Whitehorse since the gold miners and prospectors first came to town. These days, the Yukon Brewing Company keeps everyone in town from going thirsty, and their Yukon Red was just recently awarded the Canadian Brewing Awards 2009 Canadian Beer of the Year.

Sydney, Australia
Few cultures are as receptive to a good time as are the Aussies, and the wide beaches and deep discos of Sydney provide the perfect venue for such carefree merriment. Frowning upon their Melbourne neighbors who would rather swill Victoria Bitter, Sydney locals will proudly partake in the locally-brewed Toohey’s, most likely beach-side at Bondi between the bikinis and the BBQ.

— The above was written by Kyle Ellison, Seed contributor

Lewes, Delaware
Don’t tell anyone, but this sleepy former whaling village may or may not be the oldest town in America – the Lewes town sign proclaims it “the first town in the first state”. Lewes is home to the stellar Dogfish Head brewery, which makes a particularly good early summer beer called Aprihop. For those who typically ignore fruit-tinged beer, this brew carries enough dried-hop bite and pleasant fragrance to remind us of that time of year when the air is warm but the ground is still cold. Look west and the bay bends in a way that the sun actually sets into a watery horizon. That alone is worth the trip.

Ensenada, Mexico
Ensenada’s colonial past creeps just below the city’s surface: Spanish architecture and design are evident everywhere, and the town is sprinkled with old missions glowing under shiny terracotta tile roofs. There’s a bar in town called Hussong’s which seems to creak and moan like an ancient sailing vessel, and whose bar is packed with taps for German beers. The place was founded by a German prospector who followed rumors of gold to Mexico in the late 1800’s and never left. This is also the place to savor a Schloss Eggenberg Urbock 23 – if you don’t know what that is, maybe it’s time to strap that old waxy shortboard to the roof and drive south for a couple hours.

Toronto, Canada
Toronto is a city best viewed from on high, the ideal spot being the CN Tower, which attracts 2 million visitors annually. It’s the kind of view that can make the bottom of your feet tingle, and by the time you return to solid ground, you’ll be ready for a cold one. If you’ve only had Canadian beers in green bottles, you’ve missed the rich variety our northern neighbors have to offer: Unibroue Brewing makes beer called Maudite which has a deep copper color and a pert aroma of wild spices and floral hop notes. It’s a complex brew, deep and intoxicating in taste and smell. They also make a white ale, Blanche de Chambly, which sounds like something Austin Powers would say, but satiates thirsty travelers in a way that no beer with a “moose on the label” ever could.

Santa Fe, New Mexico
This desert town that has become synonymous with Pale Ale is a beer drinker’s delight. Hot, dry, and handsome, the town teems with artistry, old hippie money and raw desert beauty. Few experiences stimulate the senses like watching the sun rise across the desert floor while the light paints a mural of reds blues and oranges. Best to see it after staying up all night drinking Santa Fe State Pen Porter, a smoky and mysterious experience that compliments the desert night air.

Boulder, Colorado
Boulder, Colorado has a reputation as the “church of the outdoors” – when people aren’t hiking, they’re skiiing. And they’re young: the median age is 29, a time when your body is best suited to burning off those extra beer carbs. Boulder is home to the state’s first microbrewery, Boulder Beer Company, whose products include a dry-hopped ale called Hazed and infused for it’s multiple hop aromas that result from introducing the hops late in the brewing process. The bar also sports a “Magical Mystery Tap” which seems to exist solely to tempt the thrill-seeker within each of us.

Portsmouth New Hampshire
If you like seafood, but have never eaten at a northeastern lobster shack, you haven’t had the full experience. Along the coasts of Maine and new Hampshire, there are smallish, greying buildings that serve pots of steamed seafood right from on the dock. Portsmouth in particular has a number which carry the local brewer Smuttynose. Known for their Big Beer Series, few epicurean experiences compare with the steamy smell of lobster and clams alongside a big mug of Farmhouse Ale.

North Hollywood, California
A place where weird is normal and the absurd is commonplace, you’re as likely to see Flea bouncing a basketball down Otsega toward the park as you are to see a homeless guy wearing a red dress. It’s happy hour all day long here, and the neighborhood moniker “NoHo Arts district” seems to have multiple levels of meanings. As in Europe, a cold beer isn’t usually frowned on at lunch, and it’s easy to slip into that hazy way of thinking, maybe after three of Mendocino Brewing Company’s Red Seal Ales, continuing the charade that is North Hollywood is still a good idea.

— The above was written by Eric Hunsaker, Seed contributor

* The 24 greatest cities in the world for drinking beer
* The 25 greatest cities in the world for drinking wine
* The 20 greatest cities in the world for foodies

Before you go, be sure to check out Travel Talk, in which the guys visit the spiciest restaurant in NYC — try to slake their thirst with beer.