My Anthony Bourdain Day

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My Anthony Bourdain Day

“There comes a time when you look into the mirror and you realize that what you see is all that you will ever be. And then you accept it. Or you kill yourself. Or you stop looking in mirrors. Tennessee Williams

There has been a lot written about the death of Anthony Bourdain.  He inspired those of us who travel, cook or are foodies. i wrote one of my earliest blogs about him. https://travelwellflysafe.com/2013/09/04/anthony-bourdain-i-love-you/ .  Anthony Bourdain’s vulnerability and openness about his past struggles with drugs and depression were part of the fascination that I had with his show. He visibly carried so much darkness and yet, seemed to have the life that everyone wanted. He inspired a lot of people to cook and travel. He taught us to eat differently when we traveled. Everyone is a travel foodie now. I carry Immodium on every trip like he did, just in case a chief from a tribe offers me food and I am too polite to say no. Anthony Bourdain saw the amazing in the small everyday things that people did around the world and he shared them with us. 

Bourdain worked hard, took risks, and craved authenticity.  All of those traits are to be admired but it doesn’t make him a perfect person (none of us are perfect).  Admiration can be a dangerous thing. Make sure you’re admiring the values while maintaining a healthy and realistic understanding that everyone has flaws, even your heroes. 

We decided to have an Anthony Bourdain day in NYC. We started at the 9/11 Memorial downtown. Bourdain always included recent historical events.

We had lunch at Le Bernadin the three-star Michelin restaurant. The chef Eric Ripert, was his best friend.  

Chef Ripert is talented, crafting an elegant and tasteful lunch menu. It is a seafood restaurant and the fish courses are delicious and filleted to perfection.

  We laugh through lunch certain Bourdain would want us to enjoy it.

 Our dinner was hot dogs at Gray’s Papaya. It was a New York hot dog chain that is down to one store on Eighth Avenue and Fortieth St. The hot dog was the original NYC street food.

It is the classic New York Sabrett hot dog with mustard and sauerkraut. We lean up on a ledge and wash it down with a Papaya drink.

Afterward, we go to the Blue Note in the village and listen to some Jazz. He often ended his shows with local music. 

 It turns out that travel can’t fix you. Having your dream job does not make it better. I think he fought hard to stay alive and battle his demons. In the end, he needed to stop the darkness and pain that made him so compelling to watch. If this sounds like you, get help. 

Fly Safe Anthony Bourdain,

JAZ

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Ten Of The Hottest Countries In The World

Ten Of The Hottest Countries In The World

“The heat made people crazy. They woke from their damp bedsheets and went in search of a glass of water, surprised to find that when their vision cleared, they were holding instead the gun they kept hidden in the bookcase.”  Kristin Hannah

Summer in an already hot country might give you the feeling of what hell would be like – where summer never ends.

Libya is considered to be the world’s hottest country. The hottest place in the world is El Azzizia, Libya. The Libyan desert covers much of the country making it quite hot. It’s very easy to get blisters and diseases on your skin from the heat. If for some reason you are going –  like to fight in a war or if you are Anthony Bourdain, cover up.

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Saudi Arabia is one of the hottest and one of the richest countries in the world. The country consists mostly of Arabian desert and luckily has air conditioning. The religious make the pilgrimage to Mecca. If you are unaccustomed to scorching hot temperatures and no rainfall then you should probably avoid the summer months.

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Oman is also one of the richest and hottest countries in the world. Public transportation is air-conditioned. Some of the women say they get used to wearing the burkah and it protects them from the sun. If you are not a fan of being covered up in desert heat and humidity, avoid the summer.

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Sudan gets almost no precipitation year round. It is one of the driest countries on the planet making it one of the hottest as well. Severe food shortage last summer was one of the worst due to wars and poor harvests. It is not usually a tourist destination due to violence, disease and poor infrastructure.

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In addition to ISIS and terrorist bombings,  Iraq is very hot in the summer. Bagdad is one of the hottest cities in the world with a lot of power outages due to everyone trying to use air conditioning. On some days you cannot stand in the sun for even a few minutes.They have had a few mandatory “heat holidays.’ It doesn’t sound like a holiday I will be taking.

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Somalia may not be one of the safest countries in the world but it is one of the hottest. There is little to no rainfall and no food grows due to lack of irrigation.  It is not your every day vacation spot,though there are always people who want to go somewhere new. Being near the equator it is always hot but June through September are brutal months.

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Hot countries and Africa go hand in hand. Most of Algeria is desert.The summers are dry, moist and hot and it can stay hot most of the year. It is best to not go to North Africa in summer especially if you are planning to visit the Sahara.The US State Department reinstated its travel advisory so you might want to go somewhere else hot.

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Iran is not a tourist destination at the moment and especially not in summer when it is scorching hot. It is especially hot if you have to follow Islāmic dress codes. Iran’s anti West policies have not made it a popular holiday spot with Americans but the always adventurous Europeans are traveling there in the cooler months. In July and August the heat is exhausting.

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India is a large country but the hot winds off the Indian Ocean in the summer bring sweltering temperatures. Rajasthan has the highest summer temperatures in India. Severe heat waves cause many deaths. Summer is not the time to visit.

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Parts of Mexico are very hot in the summer. It’s not the hottest country but it’s in the top ten.  There is a lot of dry brush around. Mexico is not all beaches. It has year round high temperatures. Plan your visits to Mexico during the cooler seasons or maybe not in the next four years.

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Fly safe,

JAZ

Things To Look For In A Traveling Companion

Things To Look For In A Traveling Companion

“ I am looking for someone to share in an adventure that I am arranging, and it’s very difficult to find anyone.’
“ I should think so — in these parts! We are plain quiet folk and have no use for adventures. Nasty disturbing uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!”
J.R.R. Tolkien, The Hobbit

Traveling with family and friends either brings people together or tears them apart. All the friend happiness you have had when planning the trip can change when things go wrong or your blood sugar drops. People seem to change a lot on a trip. To quote a bumper sticker, conflict happens.  The most important thing  is communication. Communicate your priorities and travel styles during the planning stages not when you get there.  Here are a few things to consider.

Similar travel rhythms. I like to do as much as possible – especially in a city. But if I am by a beach, I suddenly have nothing to do but be on the beach. Different places require different rhythms. It’s important to pick a travel partner who can adjust.

Have something in common. I like art, shopping, prefer walking and hiking to bike trips, start my day early, hate long lunches, or sitting in a bar all night.

Schedules are important. If you like to stay out all night and get up late, I will be gone in the morning. I like to get an early start before the crowds.

It’s hard for me to be with someone who doesn’t say what they want. The phrase “whatever you want to do, I don’t care I’m easy” always  turns out to be that they do care. Have an opinion and find things out on your own. I always have a plan of things to do but rarely stick to it because I like it when other people know about different things. On the other hand, two leaders could be a problem.

Do what you are best at. I’m good at planning but bad at directions and photography. Don’t expect because I plan well, that you can hand me a map and we will go out and explore the city. If I am not with someone who knows a city, I am lost, always asking directions (usually to a photo on my phone) or I am in a taxi. I know my limitations.

Be sensitive to each others differences. Compromise is important. If they have traits at home, that annoy you, it will probably be worse on the road. Not all of your friends will be good travel partners. I’ve found that taking someone out of their comfort zone changes everything. Traveling with and not wanting to travel with people have broken relationships for me.

Have a plan about money. If you are a person who likes to split a bill or take turns paying, you are going to get annoyed if your travel partner adds up everything you ate to the penny or constantly leaves his wallet in the safe. Check the hotels beforehand so they look like places you both want to stay at.

Meals are important. Food is a big part of traveling for me. Being with a picky eater, or vegetarian is going to be hard for me. I eat three meals a day and snacks. I prefer two of them to be light and quick. I’m not brave when it comes to street food. I like to be with someone who has eaten it before and knows it is clean. I’m sure Anthony Bourdain has gotten parasites.

Be flexible. The best part of traveling is the unexpected surprises. Spontaneity is as important as planning.

I like someone who can be by themselves at times. Even your mother needs a break now and then. If there is something I want to do and you don’t, do not come and be miserable. Find something else to do and meet up later.

The most important thing is to know yourself. You are not perfect either. I don’t think that I am easy to travel with. I find my quirks endearing but I’m not sure that everyone else does. Don’t be so quick to judge other people and if it doesn’t work out, you live and learn, at any rate, you live.

Fly safe,
JAZ

Ten Reasons To Go To Southeast Asia

Ten Reasons To Go To Southeast Asia

“What we think, we become.”- Buddha

  1. Angkor Wat –the largest temple in the world is a big bucket list item for me.
  2. Best quality fakes.
  3. I like seeing monks walking around and not just at temples – at the airport, on their cell phones, shopping, in the mall, on public transportation etc.
  4. Street Food. I wish that I was as adventurous as my food hero Anthony Bourdain, but if it’s cooked, or has a thick skin like mangos and someone else eats it first, I will try it.
  5. I like condensed milk in my coffee.
  6. Some of the most beautiful beaches in the world are in Southeast Asia, and since the beach season never ends, you can live in a state of perpetual summer (like Los Angeles where I’m from)
  7. Chaos – crowded cities with motorbikes and skyscrapers.  Contrasts – people working in triangle hats in green rice paddies.
  8. Amazing Asian photo opportunities for my new Asian camera.
  9. Culture and History – different Eastern traditions, lifestyles, fashion, beliefs , languages, ancient temples, the Vietnam War and the terror of the Khmer Rouge.
  10. Buddhism was recently voted the best religion in the world International Coalition for the Advancement of Religious and Spirituality (ICARUS) Joanna Hult, Director of Research for ICARUS said “It wasn’t a surprise to me that Buddhism won Best Religion in the World, because we could find literally not one single instance of a war fought in the name of Buddhism, in contrast to every other religion that seems to keep a gun in the closet just in case God makes a mistake’” I love Buddhist countries. The best part of the story is they can’t find a Buddhist to accept the award because “The Buddhist nature is in everyone.”

 

Fly Safe,

JAZ

 

Ten Most Dangerous Countries Not To Visit Right Now

Ten Most Dangerous Countries Not To Visit Right Now

“Hitler didn’t travel. Stalin didn’t travel. Saddam Hussein never traveled. They didn’t want to have their orthodoxy challenged.” — Howard Gardner

I was thinking about the countries I would be most afraid to travel to. I decided to look on the internet at other people’s lists. Many  countries were the same – the usual suspects, unstable governments, high crime rates, drug cartels, terrorists, kidnappings – all things that could ruin a vacation. There were a couple of surprises. Russia and the United States were on a few top ten lists. The reason is that we have enemies. We invaded countries and had a major terrorist attack. We have gangs, crime, drug problems and random, crazy shootings. There are people from peaceful countries that are afraid to come here.

The list of dangerous countries changes with economic and political stability.  I’m not sure of what the time limit is but when a certain amount of time passes and nothing terrible happens, people start traveling to a country on the danger list again. They are not in order because the order changes  based on acts of violence.  Some of these countries have been on this list for a very long time.

1. Syria If you are in Syria, you should leave immediately. Kidnapping  of foreign nationals, terrorism, polio and ongoing military clashes make it an extremely dangerous place to be at the moment. Thousands of people have already been injured or killed. If you insist on going, travel with an armed guard. If you are stopped, they will assume you have picked a side and you could be executed.

2. Afghanistan  It is probably not a good idea to travel to Afghanistan especially if you are from a country in the NATO Alliance. The Taliban  has issued a threat against every citizen of these countries. The American government has pretty much issued the same travel advisory about Afghanistan.  There are a few tourists but keeping them safe is difficult.  Some of them have not come back. Afghanistan has spectacular scenery. There are snow-capped mountains in the Hindu Kush and Pamir ranges, Buddhist monuments and Islāmic temples,. No one knows  if it will ever be safe for tourism because it is ten years after the international community has come in and it is still unsafe.

3. Iraq  As the cradle of civilization, Iraq  has always been a pilgrimage site. The lack of security, daily bombings, shootings, and unstable infrastructure make it very difficult to even get a tourist visa. The few western tourists that come to Iraq,  travel with an armed guard in an unmarked vehicle. They try to blend in and not call attention to themselves, and are stopped at many checkpoints. The violence seems to be getting worse so the small tourism that they do have will soon decrease.

4.Venezuela   There is no travel advisory for Venezuela other than avoiding the Colombian border. There are violent street demonstrations, kidnappings and armed robbery. It doesn’t help that Venezuela has one of the top five murder rates in the world.  (Jamaica’s is higher and they have plenty of tourists)  A  friend of mine who travels with the World Athletic Organization  said that he never felt fearful except after landing in Venezuela. It felt like anything could happen in that country. Chavez shut off the internet the weekend he was there.  Whatever improvements the Chavez government brought to Venezuela, tourism wasn’t one of them. The situation has improved since his death, but due to crazy monetary policies, it is hard to attract foreign investments and even tourists. Venezuela has the Andes, the Amazon rainforest, the world’s tallest waterfalls and an amazing Caribbean coastline but they have a lot of damage to undo before there is even pre Chavez tourism.

5. Somalia The situation in Somalia is getting better after a twenty year conflict. A traveler still has to travel with armed guards. The first tourist came to Somalia a couple of years ago. He was retired and visiting all the countries in the world and wanted to check Somalia off his list.  At first, no one believed that he was a tourist. The story made all the newspapers. It is a beautiful country with fantastic beaches and the hope is that there will be peace, tourism and economic stability with this new election.

6. Pakistan Tourism in Pakistan has definitely been declining over the last twelve years. But the mountain climbing community was undeterred. Five of the world’s fourteen highest mountain peaks are in the Gilgit-Baltistan range, which includes K2, the second highest mountain in the world. Last year the Taliban killed ten climbers at the base camp of Nanga Parbat. The mountain climbers who bring so much revenue to the region, stopped coming and that loss has been staggering. The US government feels that we are at risk for random attacks from Al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militant groups  throughout Pakistan. The British government advises against travel to Pakistan due to random terrorist attacks and violence.

7. Sudan is the third largest country in Africa and has been affected by civil war for the last forty years. Seeing the Blue and White Nile River and camel market at Khartoum sound appealing, but the recent indictment of Sudan’s president for war crimes and the killing and starvation in Darfur might make it a less than perfect travel destination.  Southern Sudan is considered extremely dangerous due to bandits and terrorist attacks. There is a general threat of terrorism throughout the Sudan and tourists should avoid protests, demonstrations and anywhere there are large gatherings of people. The Australian government asks that people reconsider their need to go there due to violent civil unrest and kidnappings.

8. Democratic Republic of Congo is one of Africa’s most interesting countries. Travelers want to see the Congo River, volcanoes and gorillas. The area is plagued with  extreme violence, instability, kidnappings, robberies and warlords. The travel advisory is don’t go unless you have to or unless you are Anthony Bourdain.

9. Libya is in a state of political instability due to a weak provisional government replacing the Gaddafi regime. There is still fighting between armed militia groups. If you are already in Libya, stay away from large public gatherings, demonstrations, and sites of civil or militia conflict. As of January 2014 the assassination campaign that was mainly targeting Libyans has now begun to affect foreign visitors. It would not be a bad idea to postpone your travel plans to Libya unless of course you are Anthony Bourdain.

10. North Korea I had trouble picking my tenth country. I couldn’t decide between Iran, Egypt, Burundi and North Korea. They are all good choices for dangerous. I went with North Korea because they have nuclear weapons and they make it very difficult to visit. Going in and out of the country is hard and you could be “detained” as an American for the slightest negative remark. This makes it difficult for someone like me without a good filter. Arbitrary arrest of Americans is common.  Walking around without your guide can get you both in trouble. Talking to North Koreans without permission can get you all in trouble. It’s never a good idea to travel to a country that America has recently severed diplomatic relations with if you happen to be American.

Writing this I felt real gratitude to my grandparents that I never met for getting on that boat and coming to America. I appreciate the freedom, comfort and privileges of living here that I usually take for granted. Things aren’t so great with our country right now but maybe the message in the mess is that we are lucky enough to have the opportunity to do better.

Fly safe,

JAZ

Anthony Bourdain, I Love You

Anthony Bourdain, I Love You

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.”   Gilbert K. Chesterton 

I am obsessed with Parts Unknown starring Anthony Bourdain. He goes to places that I have been and loved like Peru , Myanmar  and Canada or are on my wish list like Colombia. He goes to places I am afraid to go to like Libya, but wish I was brave enough because it looks fascinating.

I never cared for him until this show. He seemed like a pompous, obnoxious, watch me eat a two-headed tarantula on  a stick for fame and attention kind of guy.  Being a complete germaphobe /food and water police traveler, I  admire his food fearlessness.

I hope it doesn’t end up being a Paula Deen thing where he has hidden the fact that he has contracted a  fatal parasite and only has a few months to live….. but  watch him eat this fried dough with the flies around it  in  Tangiers before he goes.

I love the show itself – the way it tells the stories, history and current  events of these interesting countries, and of course the food.   Sometimes the food is the focus. Sometimes it is the events.

My obsession with the show started in the first episode. I had been to Myanmar. I opted to fly around the country. Bourdain was far more obnoxious, impatient and mean as a Top Chef judge then he was on a nineteen hour train ride in Myanmar. (Though I would like to see the uncut footage).  He  went with the flow and ate something weird when he could.  (Not hard to do in Burma) He wasn’t afraid to talk about the politics and “black zones.” He showed it the way it is.

I know that this is an obsession because after the first show (which I have seen a few times) I liked their facebook page. I might have even written comments a few times – ok, every time. I think I watched some of the videos they post as well. “My friend” may have read all the comments.

I have learned how to make drugs in Tangiers while wearing a  mask.  I’m rereading William Burroughs. I have cried when looking at the photos taped on a wall of the war victims in Libya.  I found out  that the planes I flew on in Myanmar are called “flying coffins.” (I knew they weren’t federally regulated but I’m glad I didn’t hear that until I returned).  I worried about the overweight, nice Canadians who were eating all that meat and fois gras. I planned my trip to Colombia when watching this episode.

I have learned some things about Anthony Bourdain. He was a drug addict. He has a bracelet from the Congo given to him by an African King.  He likes shamans. He doesn’t like people with guns around him.   He does have  a heart.  He acts like he needs a cigarette at all times – not sure if he still smokes.  He tried some weird driving thing in East LA that I have never seen before, and I live here.  He probably doesn’t  like vegetarians unless they live in third world countries. The man can eat anything under any circumstances.( I can’t wait for them to do Afghanistan.)  He is a chef with a  food career traveling around the world doing cool, interesting things and not cooking.

“Who smokes hashish at this table?”  And if so,  fly safe,

JAZ