You Hipmunks are adventurous sleepers!


This is a Hipmunk guest post from Jodi Ettenberg of Legal Nomads

On Tuesday, I asked you “where’s the craziest place you’ve slept while traveling?” The responses have been terrific.

From Mary:

During a vaccination and health promotion campaign in the mountains of Honduras, I slept on two tables pushed together in a one-room school… the mattress came the second night, which was a definitely improvement. We were 5 hours by donkey from the nearest town, and I had an unnerving encounter with a fer-de-lance in a latrine that ended with a village full of men running after the snake with machetes.

You can see her makeshift sleeping arrangements here.

From Mike: When I slept overnight in a rain-sodden field in Orkney.” You can read more about his (soaked) experience. You can read about his long, rainy night here.

From Roxanne: ”I’d have to go with a hammock in the Amazon jungle or a tent in the middle of the White Desert in the Western Sahara.”

From Tuarn:

On the border between mongolia an China, Erlian/Zamyn Ude. At 4am, the border wasn’t open but a guard house was – which was lucky cause we where the only ones there and it was raining… this is not the way most westerners cross:) Thankfully they had hot water there and there guards brought us a heater when they turned up for work, lovely thoughtful Chinese guards :)

From Marie: “An ATM vestibule in Pamplona during the Running of the Bulls. Not fun.”

From Naomi: “Sleeping on a rooftop in Ladakh, and then another in the Tsangpo Valley in Tibet, under the stars, wrapped in blankets against the chill. Magic.”

From David:

A Chinese truck stop on the Nepal border. There was a torrential downpour and all the bugs in the area came inside to share the dorm room with dozens of backpackers and Chinese truckdrivers.

On my end, another great memory was sleeping on the deck of a slow boat in Northern Myanmar. It was during a solar eclipse, and I took the boat because the widest part of the eclipse cut a line directly over the boat’s path. For 3 nights, I shared snacks with the Burmese people on the boat, sang karaoke with the captain (hooked up to the PA system, no less!) and wafted down the river on the way to Mandalay. 

The slow boat at dusk:

Thanks to everyone who submitted answers!

For the rest of the roundup, check out the reader comments here and here for all the awesome places you’ve stayed on the road. Keep up the crazy travels, Hipmunks!

6 Great Travel Reads That Inspire Wanderlust


This is a Hipmunk guest post from Jodi Ettenberg

Reading is one of the pleasures of travel, be it during the journey to get somewhere or as a lazy afternoon treat on a beach or in a new city’s cafe. Here are 6 travel reads that inspired me to keep wandering, sorted by country. 

1. The Dominican Republic


What to readThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz. Set partially in the Dominican Republic and partially in New Jersey (where Diaz was raised), the book tells the story of Oscar de Léon and his extended family. Told in turn by Oscar’s troubled sister Lola and family friend Yunior, the book blends science fiction, nerdy fandom and history in one sad but unforgettable narrative. Lots of history from the Dominican Republic interspersed within the family story.

2. China

What to read: The River at the Center of the World: A Journey Up the Yangtze, and Back in Chinese Time by Simon Winchester. Drawn to the beauty of Ten thousand li, a stunning 53 foot scroll by Wang Hui, Winchester works his way along the length of the river in reverse, from its mouth at the South China Sea to the looming plateaus of Tibet where the river begins. The book covers the history and geography of the Yangtze beautifully, with personal anecdotes about what Winchester calls “the delicious strangeness of China.” While the book was written in 1996, it is a well-researched, fascinating way to discover the tangled mass of culture, people and geography along the Yangtze’s edge.

3. Myanmar (Burma)

Img_1736 What to read: The River of Lost Footsteps: A Personal History of Burma by Thant Myint U. Burma is a complicated place, and travel to the country requires some context and history. This is easily the most beautifully written and thorough history of the country, making sense of the horror and wonder from centuries of tumult. Lost Footsteps manages to explain so much about the Burma of today. The country has some incredible sights on offer (Inle Lake below is just one of them) but it reading up ahead of time is highly recommended.

4. France

Img_5927 What to read: The Seven Ages of Paris by Alastair Horne. Horne’s long love letter to Paris, starting with Caesar and Abélard and moving through the ages, is a dense but excellent read. The book blends the passionate politics of the city with its art and  music and scandalous royal class, resulting in a great, enlightening book spanning Paris’ lifetime. 

5. Vietnam:

What to readCatfish and Mandala: A Two-Wheeled Voyage Through the Landscape and Memory of Vietnam by Andrew X. Pham. Caught in the cross-roads of many decisions, Pham abandons a burgeoning career in engineering (despite his parents’ pleas to the contrary), and embarks on a new path of freelance writing. “I am a mover of betweens” he writes, “I slip among classifications, like water in cupped palms.” After his sister’s suicide, Pham decides discover his roots by travelling Vietnam by bicycle, beginning in Ho Chi Minh City. Alternating between Pham’s desperate desire to find himself and the painful, often harrowing flashbacks of his father’s imprisonment in a Viet Cong death camp, the book comes together beautifully. Disgusted by modern-day Saigon and alienated from the Vietnamese he meets on his trip, Pham tries to find a balance between his family’s haunting saga, the country he thought he loved and the person he has become.

6. Morocco

What to read: In Arabian Nights: A Caravan of Moroccan Dreams by Tahir Shah. With one foot in the East and the other in the West, Shah’s memoir about his new home in Morocco, Dar Khalifa, and search for the teaching stories that provide a foundation of learning in the East is a captivating read. A great combination of terrific storytelling, cultural quirks and travel adventures.

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What are your favorite travel reads? Leave them in the comments!

Awesome Animals of the World and Where to See Them

This is a Hipmunk guest post from Jodi Ettenberg. Her views and opinions are hers alone and do not represent Hipmunk. 

1. Land Iguana.  Endemic to the Galapagos Islands, Charles Darwin described these yellow and orange reptiles as “ugly animals . .  from their low facial angle they have a singularly stupid appearance.” Stupid or not, they’re incredible to see in person and at a length of up to 5 ft (and 25 pounds), a sea of land iguanas is a wondrous thing to behold. 


Land iguana on Fernandina Island, the Galapagos

Where? The Galapagos Islands, off the coast of Ecuador. Fly into Quito, and onward to San Cristobal on the Galapagos. Boat trips must be booked to see most of the islands; many are off limits because of the fragile ecosystem and can only be visited with accredited tour guides. Boat trips can be booked with a wide variety of agencies, but I’ve used Sangay Touring with great success.


View from Bartholome Island, the Galapagos

2. Blue Poison Arrow Frog. The dendrobates azureus is a type of poison dart frog, iridescent and shimmering blue and found in the forests of Suriname and Brazil. Also known as the blue poison dart frog, it’s one of the more beautiful – and dangerous – frog species out there.


Where? Probably best to view these extremely poisonous frogs at New York’s Museum of Natural History, where their “A chorus of colors” exhibit of the world’s most bright, poisonous and enormous frogs has been lauded as a big success.


New York sunset from the Brooklyn Promenade.

3. Goats. I’m a big believer that goats are underrated animals, falling to the wayside while shiner ones take center stage. In my travels, I’ve had many great sunsets and quiet moments made even better by the presence of an adorable goat like this one, taken at Burma’s Bagan.


Where? Bagan, the site of thousands of ancient Theravada temples strewn on plains the size of Manhattan. Located in Myanmar, Bagan is a lesser known but beautiful place to see temple ruins if the crowds of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat are too claustrophobic. To get there, you’ll need a visa ahead of time and a flight to Yangon (most easily accomplished via Bangkok). No tour agency is needed – independent travel is the best way to see Myanmar.


Buledi temple at dawn, Bagan.

4. Elephants. Certainly tough to see these beautiful animals in the wild, regardless of where you are in the world. The unfortunate prevalence of trekking trips that include elephant rides or elephant shows don’t afford a responsible way to appreciate these big grey beasts.


Elephant at Chiang Mai’s Elephant Nature Park. [Photo credit]

Where? The Elephant Nature Park in Chiang Mai is a perfect solution for those who love elephants but don’t want to take tours that might be damaging to them. The Nature Park serves as a sanctuary for abused and mistreated Asian elephants, rescued from a wide variety of situations. Some were worked to the bone while logging or trekking, others were street elephants, begging with their mahouts for change. See Justin’s one-week volunteer wrap up for a personal account of a week at the park.

5. Camels. Like goats, there are many places to get up close and personal with camels on a your travels, from Jordan desert trips to Wadi Rum to the Sinai in Isreal to Morocco. But my favourite was a trip to Mongolia, staying with nomads in the Gobi Desert. Nothing like hugging a camel before you go to bed in a yurt



Where? You’ll have to fly into Ulaanbaatar and drive 8 hours into the Gobi desert, but it will be worth it. Alternatively fly into Beijing and take the Trans-Mongolian train into Ulaanbaatar, a slow but fascinating way to see beautiful scenery and experience local culture. Trips into the Gobi can be booked with Shuren Travel.


Erdene Zuu monastery in the Gobi Desert.

(Note: any tour companies I recommended in this post are ones that I’ve used and are recommended on that basis. Unless otherwise noted, photos were ones I took from each of the destinations mentioned here.)


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