How to Get the Most out of Hamburg, Germany (300 Words)

Hamburg will always be a special place for me since I lived/studied here in 2008. I visited a friend here again recently and some things have changed over the past 8 years but mostly it's the same old city I remember. 

Hamburg is a big, busy port city in Northern Germany. 

S-bahn/U-bahn local trains included in Eurail or buy daily pass €6. 

CITY

FREE Walking Tour | Robin & the Tour Guides (yellow umbrellas) 7 days/week.
I enjoyed Rhonda's Historic City Center tour (11:00 - 2:30) so much that I joined the Harbor/Reeperbahn tour (14:00-16:00) as well! 

ALLSTER LAKE


Big body of water between the city and the suburbs. Lots of parks/greenspace on the suburb side; shopping and architecture on the city side. 

HARBOR

Take a walk through the underwater Elb tunnel under the harbor. 

HVV Ferry (Fähre) cheap ride around the harbor, €2.

Discounted touristic rides on Sundays. 

Small St. Pauli park overlooking the Harbor is a great place to watch the sunset.

ST. PAULI / REEPERBAHN 

Abundance of street art concentrated in St. Pauli/Reeperbahn area.

FREE Alternative Hamburg Tour Wednesday - Saturday; see lots of street art! 

See the Beatles tribute: sculptures + round record-shaped discography on the ground. 

Eat at least one Franzbröchen, Hamburg's famous cinnamon pastry. 

The famous Franzbröchen 

The famous Franzbröchen 

Have a drink (€4-€14) at Clouds/Heaven's Nest downtown for a beautiful panoramic view of the city.

Reeperbahn at night: Red light district
Lots of clubs/bars around Hans Albers Platz offer live music with no cover. 

ART/PHOTOGRAPHY

Deichterhallen
Closed Mondays
Contemporary, Avant Garde Art & Photography
€14 both halls
Tuesdays after 16:00 = €5
Just make sure you check out the current exhibitions online first so you don't get stuck paying to see a bunch of port-a-toilets like I did. -_-

Art???

Art???

My First Solo Mural (600 Words)

I'm back to my regularly scheduled blogging now that I have completed both my European wanderlust and painting this 130 x 10 foot (40 x 3 meter) mural in my hometown of Spartanburg, South Carolina. 

 

It's incredible that less than two years ago I was planning and organizing this massive mural project for Whole Foods Market in downtown Miami, secretly fantasizing about doing street art myself, and now it's reality. 

 

I was home for Christmas during a break from my year-long travels. My dad excitedly told me about a call for mural design submissions in the local newspaper placed by a local Co-op opening soon. I immediately started brainstorming and sketching since the deadline was about a week away. 

I first researched the top fruits and vegetables grown in South Carolina to speak to the fresh, local produce and the important community-owned and supported aspects of Hub City Co-op. These foods include: corn, wheat, peanuts, oats, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, watermelon, squash, beans and sweet potatoes. 

 

I nixed two of my original three ideas since the designs didn't really answer the brief nor work well on the wall, which was rife with obstacles like windows, doors, fences and other equipment. My final submission included designs inspired by Mandalas - or “Mirandalas” when I design them in my own style.

 

In traditional Indian art and culture, mandalas represent microcosms of the universe working together in harmony, but have become positive symbols of happiness and relaxation in the west due to the recent popularity of adult coloring books.

 

The collages of produce also represent a diverse yet cohesive community. I felt it was important to incorporate the business name to maximize the potential of the space and attract new residents and visitors that might not otherwise be aware of Hub City Co-op.

Work in Progress

Work in Progress

I submitted my design in March, a few days before boarding a plane to India and didn't receive any further correspondence from the Co-op until I was in Nepal in April. I was ecstatic that my idea had been selected despite the fact that I wasn't able to start the project until June when I returned to the States. 

 

I arrived home on Saturday, June 4th, slept most of Sunday and then had a meeting with the client bright and early Monday morning. It turned out to be great timing, since the buzz around the store had died down since their April 1st opening and this would be some fresh, local (pun intended) publicity. 

Everyone I worked with at the Co-op was helpful and friendly including Russell, kind of their mural consultant, who ended up doing me a solid by helping me project, trace and therefore tame the intimidating wall beast that night. I'm also thankful that he introduced me to Jamarcus Gaston, who invited me onto his local show to talk about the mural

So 109 hours over 15 hot and (thankfully) dry summer days later, I can say I successfully completed my first official solo mural project. I've been a longtime admirer of the street art community and now I can say I'm a member of it and have a deeper/more sincere appreciation of it. 

 

I have to give a quick shout out to all the artists I've met and worked with that inspired and/or helped me to pursue and achieve this dream: Jessy NiteAtomikJenny Perez, Jorge-Miguel Rodriguez, Kazilla, Luis Berros, MONz, Nate Dee, Noah Levy, Rei Ramirez, Trek6, Yuhmi Collective, Paul Walsh, Russell Bannan and Eli Blasko

Keep dreaming, y'all! 

A Guide to Art, Parks, Surfing & More in Munich (300 Words)

There's fabulous art & entertainment everywhere in Munich as long as you know where to look!

Englischer Garten / English Garden

Huge greenspace (3.7 km) on the Isar River. FREE!

Walk, jog, run, bike, surf. Yes, surf!

Mini Hofbrauhaus: English Garden, No costume necessary. Less crowded and less tourists but many dogs.

I dislike it but I attempted to drink a whole glass of beer but could only finish Half-a-weissen. 😂 LOL

Personally, I do not understand the appeal of beer gardens since I don't smoke cigarettes or drink beer or feast on dead flesh but apparently a lot of other people find it enjoyable.

I walked for several hours during my street art scavenger hunt today. Couldn't have done it without this helpful post/map. Like hunting for buried/hidden treasure as most of the murals are below street level and/or under bridges.

Three street art hot spots on the east side of the river.

Street Art Mecca is located at Burogebaude Viehhof / Outdoor cinema near Ludwigvorstadt-Isarvorstadt. www.viehhof-kino.de

The place was kinda closed and partially under construction but I found a way in anyways. Met a group of local guys about to start a fresh design.

Bikers, sunbathers, picnic blankets and book readers are scattered around the Rosengarten & Frülingsanlagen when the weather is nice.

Schwabing = University & Arts district & my favorite area. 

Pinakotheken / Pinakothek der Moderne = Traditional & Modern Art in four buildings; one of the world's largest art museums.

Monet

Monet

Marienplatz: Full of tourists but you have to fight the crowds to see the old architecture.

Haus der Kunst | Contemporary Art Museum

Next to Haus der Kunst is the famous city surf spot, Eisbachwelle.

Dean&David: A chain with relatively cheap vegan/vegetarian food.

 

Munich is such a creative city! I hope to come back to paint my own mural here someday!

Much Love,

Saigon/HCMC, Vietnam

I arrived via the airport in the biggest city in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City, traditionally known - and still widely referred to today - as Saigon. I took a cab to my hostel in the heart of the backpacker district on Bui Vien street located in District 1. 

Saigon has about twice as many districts as Panem in the Hunger Games. The city has 24 total: 7 named urban districts, 7 numbered districts and 5 outer, suburban districts. And each had its own kind of identity. Districts 1 and 3 are in the heart of the city where most of the action is. I later stayed at a friend's place in District 2 which is a short ride from the city and packed with ex-pats who want to live in a quieter area. 

And once I visited the 250 km Cu Chi tunnel network in a village about and hour and a half outside the city, I was like "OMG there's even an underground "district" strategically used to win a war - just like District 13 in the book!" FUN FACT: Hunger Games author Suzanne Collins' father actually did serve in Vietnam so my theory is totally plausible! 

Cu Chi tunnels

Cu Chi tunnels

Despite the infamous war ending exactly 40 years ago, there are reminders of it everywhere and the tourism industry thrives off of it. Much of the art in the Museum was obviously influenced by it. The War Remnants Museum is a must-visit and it was incredible to see the war from the Vietnamese perspective. There were some pretty graphic pictures and stories and also some pretty staggering statistics pertaining to the death and destruction that took place here. My favorite display was the collection of anti-war protest and vietnamese propaganda posters from around the world - some great graphic design pieces there. It seems humanity just can't learn from it's mistakes because there is still so much unnecessary war and violence today. Oh, and despite being American, never did I feel like I was resented for my nationality. I encountered so many people that were just genuinely nice and hospitable. 

http://www.vnpropaganda.com/

http://www.vnpropaganda.com/

The most prominent of these awesome people was Tat. So here's how that connection happened: A girl from America (me) meets another girl from London at a meditation retreat in Thailand who's brother was best friends with this guy from Vietnam who also lived and studied in the UK. And Kevin Bacon probably fits in there somewhere too. She introduced us on Facebook and I ended up staying in his otherwise vacant apartment for a few days which I totally appreciated beyond words. Even though I would do the same if the situation were reversed, and I did host several friends and family at my homes in Florida over the years, I have trouble accepting others' sincere generosity like I don't deserve it or something. 

Anyways, every Tuesday, Tat buys pizza for the local orphanage and organizes fun, engaging projects for them. I helped distribute the culinary treat, topped with cheese, shredded shrimp and quail egg, to about 40 orphans ranging in age from toddlers to teenagers. Then he led a project instructing the kids how to make multi-colored origami stars which only about half the kids that started had the attention span to actually finish. I made two and gave mine away to the littler ones. I practiced a bit of English with some of the older ones and the smaller ones just wanted attention and often tried to climb me like a tree. Kids just want to be cared for and about no matter what country they're from so I'm glad I could make even the most minuscule impact on their lives. 

I serendipitously met another really cool dude from Nepal at a Vegan restaurant near my hostel. His name is Sramdip and he's a tattoo/street artist as well as fellow vegetarian so we were fast friends. He showed me around the two main street art areas in Saigon. 

The second was a food and music venue called Saigon Outcast which ended up being only about 5 km away from Tat's place in D2. I ended up changing my flight so that I could attend at least the first day of a two day Melting Pot music + arts festival taking place here over the weekend. My favorite of the musical performers was Suboi, a pretty cool and widely-known female Vietnamese rapper. I definitely had to do something artsy/cultural that week because I was missing my own beloved Art Basel back  home in Miami for the first time in several years. 

Anyways, Sramdip (@sramdip on instagram) and another artist Kris alias Frenemy (@frenemylife) from Austin, Texas did some impressive live painting during the event and the air was perfumed with the familiar smell of spray paint fumes. I also met Jimmy, an ambassador for Lovebot (@lovebottherobot), a street art group based out of Toronto that wants to spread love and kindness across the globe. 

I also saw Dennis - alias My German Stalker (lol) - again as this is city number three in which our paths have crossed. We had a drink and caught up at a rooftop bar which overlooked the park, which was packed with people and pop-up venues so we decided to check it out. We took the lift down to street level then explored what turned out to be the Taste of the World Festival, where they had neon-lit kiddie rides, food and drinks from a few other countries and a main stage with a variety of performances from trick bar tending to fire twirling to salsa dancing. 

I spent one day touring the Mekong Delta well outside of the city. I was pretty disappointed not to see a "lively" floating market as promised but the boat and bike rides around the river were ok. I'm glad I got to experience it, but it's mostly just muddy water that seems to flow forever in all directions. 

Altogether I spent a full week in Saigon and miraculously managed not to be trampled by any of the herds of wild scooters roaming the city streets. It's really not a pedestrian-friendly city so I ended up using cabs and Uber (no tuk-tuks here) for the majority of my transportation needs. 

I Heart Street Art | Chiangmai, Thailand

Found quite the collection of Street Art in Chiangmai, Thailand so far. There are also some galleries and lots of tattoo shops so I'd consider this a pretty creative city.

I guess I like street art so much because it challenges the traditional idea of art being hidden away in a gallery or museum and/or only accessible to a privileged few. It's often a healthy dose of civil disobedience and it's up to the artists themselves and the public to deem what is art, not just a few critics or curators. As long as it's not outright offensive, and especially if it has a good message behind it that can provoke thought and conversation, I like that street art is free and always available to the masses.

Many times, I prefer it to the 'modern art' (ex. a straight up piece of rope nailed to the wall) or rather homogenous antique paintings that I've seen in legit museums. Don't get me wrong, museums and galleries are cool too but you expect to see art when you go there. I like turning a corner and unexpectedly seeing a mural like "Oh hai! Here's a little eye candy for you. You're welcome." If I find a few murals here and there, it becomes like a little urban treasure hunt and I always try to find more! 

Mirambling Muses: Singapore

Well that week pretty much flew by. It was so nice to catch up with my sister and just let my guard down and relax for a bit. We didn't have anything really specific planned beforehand, so I just kind of made things up as I went along. 

The typical Singapore tourist comes here for perpetual shopping trips, fancy hotels and/or cosmetic surgery. Therefore, I didn't notice a ton of backpackers and probably wouldn't have stopped here had my amazing sister not been here with a free place to stay. However, there is a ton of budget-friendly culture, fun and excitement to be had if you know where to look.

Here are my highlights:

Red Dot Design Center

If you're a design geek like me, you have to visit the Red Dot Design Museum. It's a bright red building on the outskirts of Chinatown and it's full of all kinds of innovative and modern design including industrial, product, packaging and concept. There are lots of interactive iPad displays and you can touch and play with everything! There's some neat stuff in the shop as well. I picked up a couple letterpress postcards and seriously considered a recycled vinyl laptop sleeve. Learn more about Red Dot and their international Design Awards here

Chinatown

Of the designated traditional ethnic areas, Chinatown was the most fun. The streets are lined with lanterns small shops selling everything from silk robes to custom cut paper portraits and any & all kinds of Singapore and traditional Chinese souvenirs. And there is also no shortage of meal options. You'll find fresh produce (including the spiky, stinky-foot-smelling fruit, Durian) street food vendors and more traditional restaurants. I'm quite sure I need to start employing a food chaperone that is more familiar with these exotic foods, because I've made some regrettable decisions. The most memorable being a delicious-looking mountain of rainbow snow cone bliss, which turned out to be more like miscellaneous, dessert nachos. The base was beans, mystery jelly and pieces of mangosteen supporting an odd-tasting assortment of flavored ice and then topped with creamed corn. Taste, texture, everything, was just weird. 

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple is a must-see with its colorful, ornate decor and literally hundreds of statues and I was quite surprised to see people square dancing (to modern, English pop music, no less) near the Chinatown Complex. 

Gardens by the Bay 

These giant greenhouse gardens are located in the shadow of the huge and hideous (IMO) Marina Bay Sands Hotel. There are actually two Gardens by the Bay, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest. Jamie and I opted to only do one as we were short on time and didn't want to pay double the cost. The cloud forest was a nice respite from the city summer heat and we walked past the waterfalls, up the ramps, around the top and back down to the educational area. The flora was immaculately maintained and they even used misters to simulate foggy clouds. At the end, there is a dark room full of colorful, projected info graphics that educate you about the environment and it's biggest threats and you end by watching a short doomsday video about climate change where they describe a dying earth over the next hundred years. Then they rewind and give you hope again saying all that can be avoided if we take action today. They're preaching to the choir with regards to me and my sister but I hope it had an impact on everyone else passing through. This time, I didn't mind exiting through the gift shop because they had a bunch of awesome & eco-friendly stuff. I found some beautiful post cards designed by Peranakan Inspirations as well as this awesome little travel backpack that folds up into a small pouch. 

And I can't forget the super trees! They are these hybrid plant/solar structures that stand about 16 stories tall and collect solar energy so they can light up at night so they're self-sustaining. And the look pretty cool too. 

Street Art

I found the biggest concentration of street art in the Malay/Muslim district on Haji Lane. While admiring the incredible colors & designs, I turned the corner and found a group of  girls with American accents doing inversions in front of one of the murals. Turns out, one of them is kind of a big deal and teaches all over Asia but is based in Sinapore. Marysia invited me to one of her classes at Pure Yoga and I enthusiastically accepted her offer. I actually ended up doing two classes in a row the following morning; first a moderate Hatha class followed by a class called Upside Down, which is the hardest class I’ve ever attempted. The main focus was handstands and arm balances. I got a ton of tips from both Marysia and a pretty petite yet bad ass yogi next to me named Sen. The poses seemed almost effortless for her and she had short black hair with blonde streaks and an asian/egyptian pair of eyes tattooed at the base of her neck that stared at me everytime we posed facing the left wall. I was so satisfied with and grateful for the classes and really feel like I made significant progress in my practice. 

 

Public transportation is plentiful and my sister and I took trains, busses, Uber and cabs. My biggest gripe is that stamps and letter boxes are nearly impossible to find here. 

Mirambling Muses: Cairns, Australia

I had so much fun in Cairns that I wanted to share my favorite cheap, free, local, sustainable, inspirational and/or must-not-miss things to do there. It's incredibly tourist and backpacker friendly, boasting tons of hostels, rentals & hotels and there is free community wifi in several spots throughout the city. The main part of town is relatively compact and easy to walk to all of the locations listed below. Oh and one last tip: the locals drop the i and the r pronounce it like cans

7. Snoogie's Vegan/Vegetarian Restaurant 

This gem is a bit hard to find, tucked away in the Main Street Arcade (82 Lake Street) a bit north of Gilligan's. I found out about it myself after chatting up a local shop owner after lusting after her lunch. It's pretty much the most affordable and delicious healthy food and juice bar you'll find in Cairns. I really wish I'd discovered it sooner because this was my favorite food place. And I'm not alone; it's ranked #1 out of 381 restaurants in Cairns based on its 42 glowing reviews on Trip Advisor

6. Cairns Regional Gallery

An eclectic Art Gallery with a variety of exhibitions where you can escape the sun or the rain and see lots of work from Aussie artists. Admission is only $5 per adult and they're open 7 days a week. Or just visit the shop which offers a unique collection of design, crafts and jewelry by local and national artisans. You'll find much better souvenirs and gifts than the generic, tacky tourist shops you'll find everywhere else. 

Image Source: Trip Advisor

Image Source: Trip Advisor

5. The Night Market

Located 71-75 on the Esplanade, the quirky Night Market is not to be missed! There is a self-serve food court serving up a variety of Asian favorites, hair and nail services, lots of souvenir shops and the famous $15 massages. You can find everything from locally crafted clothing & jewelry to custom airbrushed hats to postcards to kangaroo scrotum keychains. Shops are open 5-11 PM, Food Court from 10 AM - 11 PM and Massages from 12 noon - 11 PM. 

Note: I do not endorse the sale nor purchase of these. I just needed pictorial proof of their absurd existence. 

Note: I do not endorse the sale nor purchase of these. I just needed pictorial proof of their absurd existence. 

4. The Esplanade

A super fun and free place to hang out, situated along 2.5 km of the Cairns coast. The lagoon is a free, public swimming pool, there's a boardwalk for exercise and/or people watching, plenty of open grassy areas and playgrounds and free community wifi. I often saw street performers and lots of people relaxing with a book or enjoying a picnic. If there are any events or festivals going on, they'll most likely be here. There are some free Active LIving classes you can take advantage of as well. I participated in yoga on Fridays at 6:30 AM. 

The Lagoon

The Lagoon

3. Graff Alley

The largest concentration of Street Art I could find in Cairns. Located off of Grafton Street almost across from Gilligan's (the biggest and most infamous hostel in the city). Amongst all the murals, there's also a rather popular coffee shop called Caffeind and the Alleyway Paint & Skate shop. 

2. Rusty's Markets

Great place to buy local groceries or grab a bit to eat. I found all kinds of foreign fruits I can't get back home and I found the stall owners are really friendly. There's also a fresh juice bar and reflexology & thai massage as well as jewelry and clothing for sale. However, it's only open on the weekends; Friday & Saturday 5 AM - 6 PM and Sunday 5 AM - 3 PM. (Also located just past Gilligan's on Grafton Street.) 

1. The Great Barrier Reef

The harbor is packed with boats that will take you to see and snorkel the Great Barrier Reef. I can recommend Passions of Paradise ($159/adult + $10 reef tax) since that's the eco-certified boat that took me out to discover their natural treasures. But there are other sustainable options like the Reef Daytripper ($124/adult + $15 reef tax) and Ocean Free Green Island & Reef Pinnacle Tour ($190/adult includes reef tax). There's a full list of options on the Cairns Visitor Centre website