Droning Over Phi Phi Islands, Thailand 2018 (DJI Mavic Air)

Thailand is a beautiful place and offers breathtaking views from land, boat and plane. This time, we got to experience it’s beauty from a unique angle – birds-eye view via our DJI Mavic Air drone. Thailand remains one of the few countries where droning in public areas is still legal and not regulated. Check out the shots and make sure to turn sound on for the full experience! 

Thailand is a beautiful place and offers breathtaking views from land, boat and plane. This time, we got to experience it’s beauty from a unique angle – birds-eye view via our DJI Mavic Air drone. Thailand remains one of the few countries where droning in public areas is still legal and not regulated. Check out the shots and make sure to turn sound on for the full experience!

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5-Day New York City Guide 2018 (Guest Post)

If this is your first time in NYC, you know why you’re here: you want to see Times Square. Sure, go see it. Everyone should see it once in their lifetime (and only once). Do some touristy stuff on Day 1. Day 2: West Side, Day 3: Central Park, Day 4: East Side and Day 5: Downtown.

Ok, here’s a suggestion of how I would do it, given 5 days. There is a lot of walking because New York is all about walking, by Jesse Richardsoriginally posted on Quora.

Day 1: Ugh, Midtown

If this is your first time in NYC, you know why you’re here: you want to see Times Square. Sure, go see it. Everyone should see it once in their lifetime (and only once). Do some touristy stuff. Go ahead, get it out of your system. We’ll wait. And I hear there’s a nice Applebee’s for lunch around there.

1. Times Square
2. Rockefeller Center
3. Bryant Park
4. NY Public Library 
5. Grand Central Station
6. Empire State Building
7. See a show (Broadway or Off)

Day 2: West Side

Now the good part starts. Let’s walk around some of my favorite neighborhoods. Start at the Flatiron building and walk south on Broadway to Union Square, and south some more to Washington Square Park. Then take Bleecker all the way through the West Village. Don’t be too prescriptive; you’ve got plenty of time to wander around. To finish off the day, walk the whole length of the High Line north. It will be crowded, but it’s worth it.

1. Flatiron bldg
2. Madison Sq Park
3. Eataly
4. Union Square
5. Greenmarket (certain days)
6. Forbidden Planet & Strand
7. NYU
8. Washington Sq Park
9. Bleecker Street
10. Get lost in the West Village
11. Meatpacking district
12. The High Line

Day 3: Central Park

And now, the most beautiful work of art ever created: Central Park. Afterward, there are a few million more pieces of art in The Met. Here’s a recommended path:

1. Columbus Circle
2. Chess & Checkers house
3. The Dairy
4. The Mall
5. Bethesda Fountain
6. Pass by the Bow Bridge
7. Strawberry Fields & Imagine mosaic
8. The Ramble
9. Belvedere Castle
10. Shakespeare Garden
11. Great Lawn
12. The Met

(If you are ever able to go to Central Park for a second day, check out the north half, including the Ravine and Conservatory Garden.)

Day 4: East Side

Back to another tour of incredible neighborhoods.

1. Chinatown
2. Canal St.
3. SoHo
4. Lower East Side
5. Katz’s Deli
6. Alphabet City
7. Thompkins Sq Park
8. St. Mark’s Place
9. East Village
10. Take the L one stop to Williamsburg
11. Wander around Williamsburg
12. Check out the Pier

Day 5: Downtown

Follow the beautiful series of interconnected parks around the tip of Manhattan, giving you spectacular views of the harbor and Statue of Liberty. Then, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge and see even better views from the Brooklyn Promenade.

1. Rockefeller Park
2. Tom Otterness sculpture garden
3. South Cove harbor and Esplanade
4. Robert F. Wagner park
5. Battery Park
6. Vietnam Veterans Memorial
7. Elevated Acre
8. South Street Seaport (the museum is nice, too)
9. Brooklyn Bridge
10. Brooklyn Heights
11. Brooklyn Promenade
12. Skybridge down to:
13. Brooklyn Bridge Park
14. and DUMBO

Day 6: Soak feet.

Don’t do too many touristy things. Just wander in the world’s best neighborhoods.

(All photos by Jesse Richards.)

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Being an (Ex) Prague Freedom Foundation Scholar

Four years ago I had the honor of participating in a Journalism Program that Prague Freedom Foundation sponsored. The program brought students from Kent State University and Anglo American University together to study journalism. After winning the Excellence Award for my piece on Abortion Laws in Ohio I went on to receive a grant from PFF to report on the war in Ukraine…

Four years ago I had the honor of participating in a Journalism Program that Prague Freedom Foundation sponsored. The program brought students from Kent State University and Anglo American University together to study journalism. After winning the Excellence Award for my piece on Abortion Laws in Ohio I went on to receive a grant from PFF to report on the war in Ukraine.

After returning from a week of interviewing protestors and veterans participating in Maidan – Ukraine’s revolution against corruption and Russias’s interference in local politics – members of PFF supported my photo exhibition to raise money for the Organization for Aid of Refugees.

My photos of from the heart of Maidan in Kiev, Ukraine helped raise a humble $650 to help Ukrainian refugees living in Prague. Several members from PFF attended, donated to and participated by giving a speech at the event.

Although my career path has shifted from investigative journalism and I am no longer active in any political causes, I am eternally grateful to the Prague Freedom Foundation for giving me the training and tools to make a difference in the world and in my home country.

Here’s a video about Prague Freedom Foundation’s Cause – spoiler alert, I make a brief appearance in between US Ambassadors and Radio Free Europe Journalists.

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Bali Holiday: A 10(ish) Day Itinerary

So you’re thinking about a trip to Bali, or at least a way to vicariously live through a fantasy trip, but you aren’t sure what you’ll have the time or money to do there. Well, we’ve just returned from an unforgettable trip in Bali, and we managed to do everything we dreamed of and more, without breaking the bank!

If you have ten days in Bali, this is the place for you! If you have less time, you can use the information here to pick and choose what you want to see. If you have more time, well, take it a bit more slowly!

One more note: This is just the order we happened to do things based on internet research, suggestions from locals, and weather. Your itinerary could be in a completely different order! I have to say though, that this trip worked out perfectly for us and there isn’t much we would change, given another chance.

Day 1:

Overview: This day was primarily arrival, resting up, and planning the next 10 days.

Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y85v9y3u

More info: https://www.baliairport.com

Personal tips: Pretty easy airport to get out of. Grab a $5 SIM card, fire up Uber, and get where you’re going for cheap. Don’t take rides from random taxis unless you want to pay more than double the price. Alternatively, arrange to be picked up with your hotel or even AirBnB. We got this service for less than $15 for three people. It’s more expensive but gives you peace of mind.

Planning: We spent most of this day planning the rest of our busy trip. Read on to see the results!

Day 2:

Overview: The night before, we’d hired a private taxi driver who had picked us up the previous night. He charged us 500,000 Rupaih ($35 USD) for an entire 8-hour day of driving us wherever we wanted to go. He was very nice, trustworthy, had many suggestions, and the best thing about it was being able to leave our things in the car while we were out sightseeing. Don’t pay your driver until the end of the day, just to be sure! And if you use a private driver, be sure to get their phone number so you can find them after each activity.

Recommended: Bosono +62 822-8205-1311

Barong Dance:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/yc4vtuol

More info: https://tinyurl.com/yb9keexj

Personal tips: Must see while in Bali. A very interesting cultural experience, complete with slapstick comic relief. Entry fee RM 100,000 ($7 USD).

Sea Walker Experience:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/yahstck3

More info: https://www.water-sports-bali.com

Personal tips: They asked us initially for $90 per person, but we showed them a website that was much cheaper on our phones. We managed to get them down to RM 500,000 per person, about $35 each. The experience was amazing and can’t be described in words, so check out the above YouTube link!

Tohpati Batik Village:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/yb6txvzo

More info: https://tinyurl.com/y8y3s9u8

Personal tips: They will offer to batik a quick design on your clothes, so be sure to decline if you’re wearing anything expensive. Inside, you can buy lots of batik good for very reasonable prices.

Celuk Gold and Silver Village:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/ybxewlw9 (Celuk Village)

More info: https://tinyurl.com/y88qkecv

Personal tips: A bit depressing to see the conditions these people work in, but still interesting to see how jewelry is made. If you plan on buying anything, start by offering 50% of the asking price and go from there.

Coffee Plantation:

Google Maps: All over the place, including right next to the Gold and Silver Village

More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kopi_Luwak

Personal tips: To be honest we didn’t note the name of this plantation, but they are everywhere. Just tell your driver you want to try Luwak Coffee and they’ll take you to the nearest one. Generally they offer free tasting of all the different kinds of coffee! We bought some to take home; it was delicious! We gave the actual Luwak coffee a miss though, because of the inhumane exploitation of the animals.

Painting “Village”:

Google Maps: All over the place

More info: http://www.whatsnewbali.com/must-visit-traditional-villages-in-bali/

Personal tips: These art markets are also everywhere. Just tell your driver to take you to a painting market. If you want to buy something, be prepared to haggle!

Uluwatu Temple:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/ycb2mxsc

More info: https://tinyurl.com/ya356eop

Personal tips: Best view of the sunset in Bali, possibly in the world. Don’t miss out on this amazing chance. BE CAREFUL OF THE MONKEYS! One of them stole my glasses and threatened to break them. Fortunately there are local ladies nearby who accept 20,000 RM to bribe the monkeys with fruit to get your stuff back. Keep your hat and glasses in your bag, and your bags closed.

Day 3:

Overview: We hired Bosono again for the day, and it was well worth the price!

Kemuneh Butterfly Garden:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/yah2hgpx

More info: http://www.kemenuhbutterflypark.com

Personal Tips: Probably the best butterfly garden we’ve ever been to. Very humane conditions, helpful and informative staff, and overall good vibe. You can even hold giant moths and stick insects!

Tegenungan Waterfall:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/yabqmbhm

More info: https://tinyurl.com/ybgt3hjo

Personal Tips: Be prepared for lots of stairs and an amazing view. If it’s the middle of the day, use sun screen and a hat, and bring some water.

Batuan Temple:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y8lcj3ss

More info: https://tinyurl.com/y9rnzm9b

Personal Tips: Beautiful 10th century temple complex, small donation suggestion for renting a sarong.

Two Guns Tattoo Studio:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y7ecyhy3

More info: https://www.facebook.com/TwoGunsTattooStudioBali/

Personal Tips: Best tattoo shop in Bali! We paid 1.2 million ($80 USD) for a small tattoo (Australian cleanliness standards). This is the minimum price and it goes up from there.

Tanah Lot Temple:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/yd94z5qc

More info: https://tinyurl.com/h6jh2ff

Personal Tips: We honestly enjoyed Uluwatu more for the sunset but it could have been because of the weather. It was quite crowded, cloudy, and very windy. I’m sure it would be nicer in better weather, so definitely don’t pass this up. For the sunset, head up the stairs to one of the many restaurants and grab a cheap beer.

Ubud: Our next stop was the town of Ubud, which is a great central location for all activities in Bali.

Day 4

Overview: Money forest and massage!

Monkey Forest:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y9kmmn2l

More info: https://www.monkeyforestubud.com

Personal Tips: Walkable from almost anywhere in Ubud. Remember that you’re a guest in the monkeys’ house, and be nice to them! The walk through the forest is beautiful, and the monkeys are much friendlier than at Uluwatu Temple.

Massage: Google Maps: Anywhere

Personal Tips: Get yourself a massage at any of the various spas in Ubud. We paid RM 100,000 ($7) for a one-hour deep-tissue massage. Perfect midway through a busy trip!

We went to bed early, because the next day started at 2 AM!

Day 5

Overview: Mount Batur Sunrise Trekking!

Mount Batur Sunrise Trekking:

Google Maps (Mountain itself): https://tinyurl.com/y73pcu82

More info: https://tinyurl.com/yaobh3ca

Personal Tips: Don’t bother booking in advance because the weather is unpredictable and the price is higher online. Just ask the staff at your accommodation for the best and cheapest tour. Whether AirBnB, a hostel or hotel, they will point you in the right direction.

The rest of the day you may want to just relax, because you’ll be tired from the trek. We grabbed a bottle of wine from Coco supermarket and relaxed on our porch =)

Day 6:

Overview: We hired the host of our AirBnB to drive us around. RM 400,000 ($28 USD) for the whole day.

Tegallalang Rice Terrace:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/yd4o8cj7

More info: https://tinyurl.com/gpgv7sw

Personal Tips: Try the nearby swing for a thrilling view of the terraces! Grab lunch at one of the many cheap eateries while enjoying the view.

Tirta Empul Temple:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y7f7tuxv

More info: https://tinyurl.com/jajdo7f

Personal Tips: Pack a bathing suit and purify yourself in the holy spring. Remember to be respectful of the religious customs. Definitely a spiritually rewarding experience, even if you are not religious. Don’t get the outdoor sarong wet! Rent the special green one for the water.

Gunung Kawi Temple:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y8ebjvbp

More info: https://tinyurl.com/hmvnjay

Personal Tips: Be prepared to climb a lot of stairs, but it’s worth it. When you finish, get a coffee from one of the shops at the top overlooking the rice terraces. We had a rainy day, but it was still magical.

Day 7:

Overview: We spent this day touring the Tamblingan Twin Lakes region! We used Bali Dynasty Tours, and their price and service can’t be beat: https://tinyurl.com/y9qzzfgh. 650,000 for a driver for the day plus 600,000 for the tour of the lakes. Overall, around $27 USD per person for the day! They do offer an all-inclusive tour that includes Lunch and entrance fees, but we went with just the driver.

Tamblingan Twin Lakes Tour:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/ybu4q637

Personal Tips: Go with the agency listed above. Our guide was amazing, took us to the best spots, and the price was very good. They took us to Ulundanu Temple, Banyumala Twin Waterfall, Ulun Danu Temple, and the Bali Botanical Gardens. Oh, and on that note:

Botanical Gardens:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y9lpq59o

More info: https://tinyurl.com/y92n89v5

Personal Tips: Don’t go here at the end of the day. It was beautiful and seemed to have a lot to offer, but it was closing when we arrived at 4:30. If you want to go here, set aside at least half a day. Allegedly, this garden is home to the famously aromatic “Corpse Flower!”

Day 8:

Overview: We left our awesome accommodation in Ubud for an equally awesome one in Sanur: Pondok Nuri Homestay. We spent most of the day at the beach!

Beach, Pantai Matahari Terbit:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/yayzknhu

Personal Tips: Much less busy than Sanur beach and lots of cheap shopping in the area. You can also catch a ferry from here to the nearby island of Nusa Penida, but we decided it wasn’t worth the 300,000 RM each for just a day-trip. If you have an extra night, we hear it’s a great stopover!

Day 9:

Overview: Hidden Canyon, Uluwatu Part 2!

Hidden Canyon Beji Guwang:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y78p45pd

More info: https://tinyurl.com/yb7bljf3

Personal Tips: Not for the faint of heart! Be ready to climb, balance, and swim against strong currents. If you’re physically fit and adventurous, don’t miss out on this amazing place. Be sure to call ahead to make sure they are open though! They often close it off after heavy rain. +62 857-3727-0288

Uluwatu Temple Kecak Dance:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/ycb2mxsc

More info: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kecak

Personal Tips: We only went to Uluwatu a second time because the tickets for the Kecak dance had been sold out the first time. Be sure to arrive by 4 to get tickets and a good seat for this amazing show!

Day 10:

Overview: Just the beach today!

Sanur Beach:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y9plfggh

More info: http://www.bali-indonesia.com/sanur/

Personal Tips: It was our last day, so we stayed here all day. Good shopping in the area, lots of food and cheap drinks, white sands, and a nice view. We paid a small fee to use beach chairs and umbrellas. We even rented a jet ski in the area! We paid 380,000 for 15 minutes.

Day 11:

Pack your bags and head to the airport. Uber will get you there for very cheap!

Accommodation:

Family Room Denpasar – Moslem village – AirBnB:

More info: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/19789795

Google Maps: https://goo.gl/maps/y7H5efYR9Un

Personal Tips: $4 a night per person. Incredible price. But, bring earplugs if you stay here because the nearby mosque has a loud call to prayer every day at 5 AM. Aside from that, it was amazing. Good location and friendly house-sitter.

Tutde’s Place – AirBnB:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/ya2nxzv3

More info: https://www.airbnb.com/rooms/15332469

Personal Tips: if you come to Ubud, stay here. It’s awesome. That is all.

Pondok Nuri Homestay, Sanur:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/ya8szp8m

More info: https://tinyurl.com/y8cm33zl

Personal Tips: Clean rooms, good price, nice host, perfect location, can’t complain!

Food:

Loving Hut, Denpasar:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/ycobpqot

Website: http://www.lovinghut.co.id

Personal Tips: Great place to go for vegan food! Even if you’re not vegan, the food is amazing and cheap.

Happy Buddha, Denpasar:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/y73mt3nx

More info: https://tinyurl.com/y78kztzj

Personal Tips: More awesome vegan food in Denpasar, with a very kind lady running the place.

Veggie Karma, Ubud:

Google Maps: https://tinyurl.com/yakftjbf

More info: https://tinyurl.com/yba34vry

Personal Tips: ALL YOU CAN EAT for under $4! All vegan food! Even if you’re not vegan, don’t even THINK about not eating here at least once. We ate here three times and could barely walk afterwards. Also, there’s a similar place next door that offers the same price, and they even have coconut milk ice cream! In short, Ubud is a haven for vegans.

Street food and cafes:

Personal Tips: There are cafes and street food everywhere! Enjoy the cheap food in Bali!

And that’s it! We hope you found this itinerary useful for your planning! Don’t over-plan though, because life in Bali can be unpredictable! If you have your own experiences, please comment!

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20 Best Photos of Harbin’s Snow & Ice Festival 2018

The Ice and Snow Festival have been popular tourists attractions since Harbin began hosting them in 1989. The Snow Festival is held on Sun Island, close to the city center and the Ice and Snow World is only a few kilometers away. Tickets to each event cost 330 RMB for adults.

If you’re limited on time and have to only choose one, definitely go to the Ice and Snow World. Make sure to arrive around 3pm to get the best experience. That way you get to make the rounds during daylight, enjoy a spectacular sunset and warm up inside before exploring the LED winter wonderland after dark!

Of course if you have the time, like we did, do both. You only need one day. Visit the Snow Festival in the morning from 11am. It should take you 2-3 hours to explore including a quick coffee or brunch break to warm up. I also recommend the tubing slide if you enjoy a one-minute adrenaline rush – it’s free, just leave a deposit!

Here are the best shots of Harbin’s 2018 Snow and Ice Festival. Thank you Amanda for letting me use your amazing photos.

1. A very voluptuous lady. – Sun Island Snow Festival

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2. Gigantic Snow beer glass sculpture looms over the festival. – Ice and Snow World

Fun fact: Snow is the most popular beer in the world based on number sold annually – this 2% beer is mainly bought in China by Chinese people.

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3. The perfectly timed sunset framed by an ice statue from an international competition. – Ice and Snow World

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4. Asia’s most iconic landmarked frozen in ice and light! – Ice and Snow World

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5. A close-up of a 46+ meter tall bottle of “frozen” snow beer. – Ice and Snow World

Fun fact: lots of beverages had ice advertisements at the festival and throughout the city center… Even two competing brands of water!

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6. The sun starting to set over a life-size replica of Beijing’s Temple of Heaven. – Ice and Snow World

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7. A Native American scene frozen in time. See the cacti and eagle? – Ice and Snow World

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8. Lucky Chinese “Fu” – Sun Island Snow Festival

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9. What Beijing’s Temple of Heaven would look like as a nightclub – Ice and Snow World

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10. Heckin’ good puppers and doggos. – Sun Island Snow Festival

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11. LED train. Next stop: Overwhelmingly beautiful thing #99. – Ice and Snow World

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12. This is a snow replica of a real statue in the park. This one is bigger than the original! – Sun Island Snow Festival

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13. The coolest travel-themed sculpture! – Sun Island Snow Festival

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14. Malaysia ice sculpture with a sunset as the backdrop! – Ice and Snow World

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15. Cambodian Temple lit up in a rainbow. – Ice and Snow World

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16. A snow goddess with a puny human for scale. – Ice and Snow World

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17. Santa and his reindeer. – Ice and Snow World

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18. Big booty that my husband motorboated. – Sun Island Snow Festival

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19. Rainbow slide. No, she’s not a unicorn. – Ice and Snow World

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Sorry for the long post. There were no snow potatoes, so here’s a zebra herd instead. These giants are over two meters tall!

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Entoveganism: Veganism with a Six-legged Twist

“Curiosity, disgust and confusion,” is how some vegans respond to Josh’s creepy-crawly twist on the strict no animal product diet. While both veganism and entomophagy are growing trends around the world, Josh may be the first to combine them. ‘Entoveganism’ may sound like an oxymoron but it is the most accurate description for this unique diet.

Veganism, sometimes referred to as a plant-based-diet, has gained popularity for several reasons. Some studies have linked obesity, diabetes and high blood pressure to consuming processed animal products. Large-scale farming is also incredibly cruel to animals and causes irreparable damage to the environment. Health, love for animals and environmental impact are the top three reasons that people go vegan.

“A friend convinced me to give a plant-based diet a chance for a few months, and I was willing to do it,” Josh explained, “When I noticed really positive changes in my body after about six weeks of mostly just eating vegan, I decided to do it for the rest of the year, but incorporate insects into my diet as a larger percentage of what I was eating.”

Recently, a lot of athletes have given their vegan diets credit for theirmproved performances: 300-pound offensive tackle Trent Williams in the NFL, Kyrie Irving in the NBA, and the Willaims Sisters in tennis, to name a few. But if a vegan diet is already so effective, why eat insects? Health, according to Josh.

“I feel better than I have in years! My muscles recover quickly, I’m getting gains in the gym, my overall athletic ability has improved, my energy levels are great and I sleep well,” Josh lists the benefits of his entovegan diet. “I also had a big cyst on my back that I’d had for a couple of years that went away on its own just a few weeks into going vegan.”

Many vegans describe these positive effects without incorporating insects into their diets, but edible insects are not just great for health. Replacing meat with insects can have a great impact on our environment too and even on our economy. Developing countries can transform insect-farming as well as wild insect catching into a family. In Kenya, for example, women and the elderly sometimes support their families by selling edible insects.

When it comes to health, edible insects are more than just nutritious. Some studies show that mealworms contain an enzyme that can cure Alzheimer’s disease and we are still in the extremely early stages of research in this area.

“Are there cures for diseases, are there bugs high in antioxidants, are there superfood insects, is there some bug with a really fast life-cycle that is the perfect nutritional profile for humans?” Josh ponders. “Those questions are on the back burner for most people, but if the world were entovegan, that’d be a much higher priority. Because trust me, eating crickets every single day gets old after a while.”

As Josh points out, there are now a recorded 2,1 types of edible insects in the world. However, outside of black soldier fly larvae, crickets and mealworms, few make headlines or investments. There are many unknowns in the entomophagy industry, including the allergens, which can be a turn off for many people. So far, only a few types of insects have been studied thoroughly enough to determine that they are allergenic to people who are also allergic to shellfish.

“One of my biggest interests in the industry is finding out what other nutritional powerhouses are hidden among those other 2,000 insects that we don’t know about yet. From what we do know, it’s an extremely promising food source. If toasted cricket chips start to replace MSG-covered GMO corn chips, for example, it’s going to be a good thing for people’s diet in general.”

Although eating insects can seem extreme and unnatural to many people, it wasn’t that long ago that sushi was considered disgusting, and lobster was thought of as food for poor people and prisoners. Lobster is a great example because it’s essentially the cockroach of the ocean that eats trash, not to mention plastic that ends up in the ocean.

“Jay-Z and Beyonce now eat lobsters combined with $1,000 bottles of bubbly,” Josh points out. Hopefully in a few years or decades people will be serving gourmet insects at high-end events that pair wine and insects.

“Insects are far more sustainable than lobster, and arguably even more nutritious, so the shift will happen, but it’s going to take time,” Josh concludes. Learn more about entoveganism, Josh and his journey to a healthier lifestyle at www.entovegan.com.

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Red Sand Dunes in Mui Ne, Vietnam

Our last stop on the $5 tour of Mui Ne were the red sand dunes. Unlike the white sand dunes that were half an hour drive away, these red sand dunes are right in the center. Like all the other stops on the tour, entrance is actually free so you can go here on your own for as long as you want.

The first thing that happened when we parked by the dunes was swarms of Vietnamese children ascended upon us. They were holding boards for sliding down the sandy hills. If we hadn’t recently done the same thing in Inner Mongolia (which we’re still finding sand from months later) we would have been happy to try.

We got their just in time for the beginning of the sunset, so we just sat on the peak and took photos. It was the perfect way to end the tour that showed us so many different places in this fascinating city. The entire tour only took four hours, so if you’re just stopping in Mui Ne briefly, make sure to check out some of these places or taking this amazing value-for-money tour!

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Anything Sold Anywhere is Cheaper on Taobao – How to Find the Best Price!

Did you know that anything sold anywhere, even if it claims to be one-of-a-kind, is available for much cheaper in China? You know those cute $1 world map necklaces that pop up in Facebook advertisements? I bought one for $0.36 with free delivery on Taobao…

I didn’t fully realize Taobao’s potentual until I decided to buy two beautiful dresses on a random US website. They were being sold for $17 each and were so unique. One of them was peacock feather themed and the other was covered in strawberries. Cute, right?

Although $17 was a completely reasonable price to pay for them, I knew that they must have been made in China so they had to be cheaper here. First, I decided to search for them on Aliexpress and there they were. My dream dresses being sold by dozens of different sellers for just $8 each with even more cute choices!

Aliexpress might not officially deliver to China, but as I mention in a different blog post, it’s possible. You just message the vendor and ask if they’d let you order to an address abroad but send them to China anyway.

Before I ordered some of these dresses on Aliexpress, I spent several hours desperately trying to find them on Taobao (I’m unemployed until August so I have a lot of free time to find great deals online). Once I finally found one of them, I just added it to my cart which let me search for similar products. The very same $17 dresses were now available to me for $3-$5. Needless to say, I shamelessly ordered 20 *blush*.

I still ended up ordering a few dresses on Aliexpress because I simply couldn’t find them on Taobao… but this was before I discovered the photo search function. This is only available in the Chinese Taobao, not Tmall or World Taobao which it automatically switches to sometimes.

To get to it, you need to be logged in and change location in the top left corner, which will take you to the Chinese Taobao home screen with the URL www.taobao.com.

Once you’re on there, you just need to click inside the search bar and hover over the right side it until a little camera symbol shows up. When you click on it, you’ll be able to upload a photo and Taobao will show you all of the results for “similar” products.

When we were drone shopping, for example, we used this function to find specific models. You can also use it to find a style of clothing, a food product or literally anything!

This part is probably obvious, but before you buy something it’s always a good idea to check out several sellers to compare delivery prices and discounts. Keep in mind that some of the cheapest products might have hidden notes explaining that you need to order at least 3, a minimum of 2 kilos, etc. If you don’t notice this, they’ll end up messaging you and you’ll have to refund your order or change it which is a pain.

Other than fresh fruits and vegetables, anything you could possible think of is sold on Taobao and it’s likely cheaper than anywhere else. So far, the only product that I discovered wasn’t cheaper on Taobao was large amounts of diet Sprite cans. The actual cost per can is great but they all have high delivery fees that only make the purchase worth it if you’re stocking up for a zombie apocalypse.

Basically, if you have the time and motivation, you can save lots of money on Taobao. Just remember to check reviews and be careful when buying medication. Enjoy your shopping!

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Online Shopping in China: JD vs Taobao

The cheapest way to get anything in China is to buy it online, but Amazon.cn is not the best way to go. The two most popular alternative websites to Amazon are JD and Taobao. While the two websites offer similar, each has it’s pros and cons.

Most foreigners who live in Huaqiao prefer to use JD over Taobao. JD happens to have a warehouse right in our town so the delivery speeds for certain products are unbeatable and shipping costs are low. The fastest we’ve ever seen anything delivered was a microwave that arrived just two hours after clicking “buy”.

A lot of teachers at Kang Chiao get things delivered to the school because they don’t have someone at home to receive deliveries. It is possible to leave notes when you purchase something on JD, but you need the help of a Chinese-speaking friend – we’ve never tried this but I’m guessing you can try to ask for a specific time frame.

Although most JD deliveries come around noon, I’ve had items delivered as early as 8:30 AM and as late as 9 PM. If you’re not at home when the courier arrives they will usually call you angrily in Chinese or just leave the package in a closet near the fire extinguisher if your complex has one.

We actually have a text message saying “leave in closet” saved on our phones in case this happens. If there is no Chinese speaker around, we just hang up the phone and text them. Although there is no guarantee that someone else won’t take it, I’ve had things left in our public closet for almost a week without anyone touching it.

For the first 6 months, Isaac and I only used JD. We avoided Taobao because it was a bit more complicated to use, it was harder to find reviews and different sellers sold the same products for very different prices. Recently we’ve used it more because we discovered that it can be a lot cheaper!

Being a lot cheaper is not always a good thing. Anything ordered through JD is distributed by JD and has a guarantee. You can take a photo of any problem, get easily re-reimbursed and return anything for no reason within a certain number of days. We made a mistake ordering a drone on Taobao because it had no warranty, so we lost $300 when it fell out of the sky.

The best way to explain the difference between the two e-shops is to compare JD to Amazon and Taobao to eBay. Before you buy anything on Taobao you need to read up on the seller and see if someone else sells that item for a cheaper price. This can take hours but due to competition among sellers, prices on Taobao can be a lot lower than on JD.

You can order almost anything you can think of on JD from fresh sushi grade salmon to speed boats and live stingrays (as pets, not food). On the other hand certain Western goods such as fruit roll ups can only be found on Taobao. These goods are imported directly from abroad which makes delivery costs higher.

It’s impossible to say which eshop is better. If you want fresh food or items with a guarantee of quality and warranty, go with JD.com. If you want the lowest price and a wider variety of choice you should go with Taobao. Personally, I look up whatever I need on both websites and then decide.

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China Problems: Air Pollution & Thirst

No bottled water + bad air pollution = health dilemma.

Sometimes it feels like China is taunting me. Today I woke up coughing which usually means that pollution levels are high. Normally this is when I shut all the windows and hide in my badly insolated apartment. I don’t know why we haven’t bought any air purifiers yet… Anyway, today we happen to be out of bottled water.

No bottled water means a trek to a convenient and cheap water dispenser. It is absolutely not possible to drink tap water. It’s bad enough to shower in it, so we have special filters that make water pressure horrible but keep our skin from getting dry and my hair from falling out.eww

Going to get water is a pain in February even when it’s just cold outside. But today, getting clean water is outright dangerous. Right now the AQI is 177 which is pretty bad. An AQI between 151 and 200 is dangerous for sensitive groups and unhealthy for just about everyone.

I grew up in Prague which is said to be the most polluted city in Europe. I never had asthma or any other problems and I never even noticed when the air got bad. Since moving to China, everything changed. I got very sick with bronchitis on a trip to Beijing and although all my other symptoms got better, my cough never went away. Any time the air quality is over 150, I’m coughing and wheezing unless I drink ridiculous amounts of water.

chinaThe AQI levels in Shanghai are usually worse than in Huaqiao, and right now their pollution levels are at 190. This doesn’t seem too much higher than here, but if it goes up by just 10 more then everyone, even non-sensitive people, may experience serious health effects. At 200 you can taste that something is wrong with the air!

The highest AQI that I’ve ever experienced was 350 on a random November day in Shanghai. When we arrived in the city it was already 200 but it only took 2 hours for it to skyrocket. It was hard to breathe and almost everyone around us pulled out their masks. We went to see the famous view of the financial center from the Bund but it was barely even visible. Anything over 300 is considered “hazardous” and a health warning is issued.

This year, one city in the north of China near Beijing experienced an AQI of over 1,000. They weren’t able to see two meters in front of them: schools and flights were canceled. You can read more about it here. It must be strange growing up in China where instead of snow days, school is canceled because of pollution. Can you imagine getting excited about the air being unbreathable?

Speaking of school being canceled… one middle school principle didn’t seem to care that the pollution was so bad and he forced 400 students to take a test outside! Fortunately he was quickly fired, but some of those children may be effected by his mistake for the rest of their lives. You can read about that here.

A great pollution detecting app is http://aqicn.org/. There are plenty of mobile apps too that you can have right next to your weather app… and yes, these apps have air quality forecasts up to a week in advance. It’s pretty bizarre! But so is life in China.

This year pollution levels in the Czech Republic and several US cities reached an AQI of 200. If you’re in a city where this can happen, I strongly recommend buying a mask and wearing it. It looks dumb, but it’ll prevent a lifetime of coughing. Speaking of which, I need to stop making excuses, put on my mask and go get some water before I cough up a lung. Wish me luck!

ewwwwww

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