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Vagabond Tales: Full Moon Parties And Surfing A Monsoon

Heather Ellison

There are few larger rights of passage on the Southeast Asian backpacker circuit than the full moon party on the island of Koh Phangnan.

A tropical version of Ibiza on psychedelics, the pull of this legendary debauch is so strong that nary a backpacker within a 1000-mile radius has the chance of escaping its hedonistic spell.

From the highlands of Chiang Mai to the the back alleys of Bangkok, the week leading up to the night of the full moon becomes a spiral of buses, ferries, trains and tuk-tuks all headed for the sands of Haad Rin.

During the party, in the same way that the full moon acts upon the tides, so too will it elevate the young, the promiscuous, the inebriated and the curious to levels exceeding their monthly average.

Imagine 30,000 revelers with their toes in the sand, gyrating en masse to visiting DJ's, executing brain cells with whiskey and Red Bull, and losing themselves in the glow of the moon. While liquor is guzzled and consumed by the bucket, most in attendance are drunk on freedom, and the intoxicating possibilities that accompany the unknown.

It's a big, hot, beautiful mess, and it's one which every traveler needs to experience at least once.

Is Horse Surfing The World's Next Watersport?

Here at Gadling we always love researching new watersports. In April we looked at the high-powered sport of jet surfing, and last November we explored a wing that lets you fly underwater. Before that, it was SNUBA.

Now, an article on the surf website The Inertia has turned us on to a wacky new watersport being born out of England.

The sport?

Horse surfing.

In what is cheekily billed as a "completely green sport," tandem duos of one horseback rider and one wakesurfer attach a tow rope to the back of a horse, which then takes off galloping down the length of a beach. Skimming their way through shallow water and launching over ankle-high waves, the riders and their one horsepower engine have been known to reach speeds of 25 mph.

What do you think? Olympic sport by 2024, or nothing more than a one-trick pony?

Did A Multi-Billion Dollar Company Steal This Travel Blogger's Brand?

Turner Barr
In August of 2012 I had an email exchange with a blogger named Turner who was the founder of the travel blog Around the World in 80 Jobs.

Turner had written a post on working at the Pink Palace party hostel on the Greek Island of Corfu, where I myself had worked for a summer in 2005. I got in touch with him, he said he'd been working on the blog for a while, and was looking to grow. I told him he had a great idea and wished him the best of luck.

Almost a year later, it now appears that after working tirelessly to grow his blog into a successful travel brand, a large, multinational corporation with assets estimated in the billions of dollars has launched a marketing campaign that is shockingly similar to Turner's brand, and has even trademarked the name of his site.

For the sake of comparison, here is a link to Turner's website, and here is a link to the marketing campaign.

Looks pretty similar eh?

More importantly, here is a post where Turner addresses the issue and raises the concerning fact that, amongst other things, the actor in the promotional video looks just like him.

Some are claiming it's Turner's own fault for not trademarking his brand. Many in the blogging community are claiming this is a blatant intellectual property violation that obliterates the role of ethics in business.

Take a look for yourself, and let us know what you think. Does Turner have a right to be angry about this, or has a large company seized on a successful idea and taken off running with it?

Give us your thoughts in the comments below.

**Update: The company has since removed their promotional video from their website and has restricted access to their marketing video**

Vagabond Tales: Kayaking With Thieving, Soda Drinking, Bloodthirsty Monkeys

monkey beach, koh phi phi, monkey beach thailand
Heather Ellison

Most people who think monkeys are cute have more than likely never met a real monkey.

Although they might be cute on television, as anyone who has actually met a monkey will tell you, their cuteness is simply a disguise for their evil.

Yes, I'll say it again: monkeys are evil.

They have stolen my lunch while hiking in Costa Rica, and broken into my backpack in the streets of Kathmandu. They have danced on my roof all night in Bolivia, and an orangutan managed to steal this man's shirt off his back. In Peru, one even crawled into my sleeping bag, even though I was already sleeping in it.

Nevertheless, even once you realize they're mischievous little thieves, it's hard to not be drawn to them. There's just something about their pudgy face and long, dexterous tail that makes them too hard to pass by.

Which is why I found myself – despite all past encounters with the cheeky little devils – kayaking the waters of a Thai island with the specific intent of sharing a beach with monkeys.

Vagabond Tales: The Thin Line Between Backpacker And Homeless

Kyle Ellison, Gadling
Long-term backpackers can be a competitive bunch.

In case you've never spent time in the common room of a youth hostel, either nursing a hangover, mingling with strangers, or ogling at the opposite sex, the conversation always starts with a simple and genuine phrase:

"Where are you from?"

Once initial pleasantries have been exchanged and conversation materials run thin, the discussion naturally turns to where you're going, where they're going, and where you both have been.

Get ready, because the competition is set to begin.

Although it starts gradually, what was once an interest in your fellow traveler slowly turns into a comparison. "Oh, you hiked that trail. Cool. I hiked this trail." "You spent two weeks in Bolivia, cool, I spent five." "You're 16 months into a two-year trip? Damn."

And so on.

Then, of course, there are the country counters, where the entire purpose of setting out on the road is to increase your own personal number (as evidenced by this recent article on insanely competitive travel).

The "how many countries have you been to?" bomb inevitably gets dropped as conversation progresses, and it's much like that moment with your new love interest when you raise the sensitive topic of their number. It's in the back of both of your minds, and it's finally just laid on the table.

As is to be expected, exaggeration is common.

At the end of the day, however, the largest competition on the budget backpacker circuit revolves around one thing: money. Namely, how much, or how little, are you managing to spend?

How far are you stretching your budget?

Maui Fails To Make List Of Top 100 Beaches

Maui Beaches, Hamoa Beach, Hana Maui
Heather Ellison, Gadling
Ever since 1991 when the legendary "Dr. Beach" started ranking the best beaches in America, the island of Maui has had four different beaches take home the coveted title.

What's more, noted early travel scribes such as Mark Twain and James Michener referred to Hamoa Bay on the island's east shore (which is pictured here) as the one the nicest beaches of anywhere in the world.

In a new article by CNN which boldly ranks the top 100 beaches in the world, however, there isn't a single beach from the island of Maui to be found anywhere on the list. The state of Hawaii makes an appearance on the list twice (with the black sand beach at Punalu'u on the Big Island of Hawaii and Hanalei Bay on the island of Kauai taking home numbers 70 and 27, respectively), but perennial favorites such as Hamoa, Ka'anapali, Wailea, Napili, Fleming, and Kapalua have been scrapped from the list.

In their place, selections of beaches from Lampedua (Rabbit Beach, #2) to Little Corn (#53) populate the international list, but there is no mention of the island which has been voted by Conde Naste readers as the "best island in the world" an astonishing 19 years in a row. Places with beaches making the list also include everywhere from Malawi to Oregon and Northern Ireland to Denmark, but yet again, no Maui.

I've personally visited 22 out of the 100, and while are definitely some worthy selections, I question the decision to omit a stalwart in lieu of an international novelty.

What do you think? Should Maui have a selection among the world's top 100 beaches?

#OnTheRoad On Instagram: Paris And Italy

This week on the Gadling Instagram feed, we were so inspired by Anna Brones' week of photos from Paris, France, that we decided to go back.

Actually, pulling a page from the itinerary of a backpacking college student, we'll only be stopping in Paris for a day while en route to the cities and hamlets of Italy. Expect a week full of photos that range from ruins and relics to hidden restaurants where there will be more than a few shots of pizza and wine. From the hilltop villages of Tuscany to the fabled coastline of Cinque Terre, follow the #OntheRoad Instagram feed for a peek into where our travels have managed to take us.

[Photo Credit: Kyle Ellison]

Vagabond Tales: Where Is The Roof Of North America?

For some reason, every continent seems to have a roof.

Bolivia is known as "the roof of South America" for its high, empty and multi-colored altiplano that has an average elevation of 12,300 feet.

Mt. Kilimanjaro has been called "the roof of Africa" for its glacial, 19,340-foot summit that presides over the equatorial plains.

The Tibetan plateau, meanwhile, is such an expanse of high altitude emptiness it's not only regarded as the roof of Asia, but it's gained the lofty title as "the roof of the World."

So if South America, Africa and Asia all get a roof, can North America have one too? Moreover, if North America were to have a roof, where exactly would it be?

Basic statistics point to Mt. McKinley, the 20,320-foot pinnacle that stoically dominates the center of Alaska. Since McKinley is the highest point in the North American continent, it seems it would only make sense. As with California's Mt. Whitney, however, (which at 14,505 feet is the highest point in the continental United States), the promontory is too much of a lone pinnacle to ever be considered a proper roof (thereby throwing the Kilimanjaro title out the window as well, I suppose).

Would it be the Great Basin of Nevada, a seemingly lifeless expanse of rock and sand that hovers silently around 7,000 feet? Would it be the spine of the Colorado Rockies that somehow manage to cram 53 different mountains of 14,000 feet into an area the size of Maine? Or would it be the Yukon Territory and the St. Elias Mountain Range – places, which contain the 18 highest peaks in Canada, 12 of which are higher than anywhere found in the Lower 48?

While all could be considered as viable options (I suppose the Great Basin is a stretch), I'm going to propose an alternative, which has not yet been mentioned, but could make a strong case for keeping the title in a trophy case on its windswept, high-altitude plateau.

Vagabond Tales: Fear And Loathing In San Felipe

The strip clubs in San Felipe, Mexico, aren't open on Tuesdays.

For most travelers to Baja, this isn't overly concerning. After all, with all of the surfing, fishing, diving and fish taco eating that can easily consumer your entire day, the fact that strip clubs are closed for one day of the week shouldn't be a point of concern.

If, however, you've descended upon San Felipe after three days of camping in the desert with a reclusive, one-legged hermit (a story for a different time), and it happens to be a bachelor party, the fact that it's a Tuesday suddenly becomes an issue.

This, however, is not a tale about strip clubs or hermits. It's a tale about safety, and how the road to bad decisions can be a very gradual slope.

As I've mentioned before in the "2013 International Adventure Guide to Baja" and articles such as "I Traveled to Mexico and Came Back Alive", the only way you're going to get in trouble as a visitor to Baja is if you do something stupid like engage in drug deals in a back alley of a border town with unsavory characters in the middle of the night.

This isn't a Mexico thing, mind you; this is an everywhere thing. Whether you're in Mexico or Chicago, back alleys at 2 a.m. are potential staging areas for the next morning's headlines. When you hear a report that two tourists were stabbed or robbed, and then find out that it was in a back alley of a border town at 2 a.m., a small part of you thinks they had it coming.

Just like no one plans on an accident, however, you don't always plan on ending up in a back alley of a border town-sometimes it just happens. While you would never jump from Point A (land of good decisions) directly to Point D (land of horrendous decisions), sometimes the smaller jumps from A to B and B to C put you in striking range of Point D, the slippery slope of how you got there blurred by the casual descent.

Throw in a Mexican army general and a moonlighting prostitute, and you've created a mezcal-flavored cocktail for disaster.

Jet Surfing: The World's Next Watersport?

If history is any indicator, the North Shore of Maui is the tinkering ground for the world's next generation of watersports. Both stand up paddling and kitesurfing can trace their roots to this fabled stretch of coastline, and new footage coming out of the Valley Isle shows some of Hawaii's best watermen testing out what could potentially be the world's next watersport.

In a weird, hybrid cross between jet skiing, race car driving and surfing, jet surfing employs a mechanically operated board that is equipped with a two-stroke engine, which can propel the board to speeds up to 35 mph. There isn't any paddling involved in the process whatsoever, and with the use of a handheld accelerator the rider can adjust their speed to cater to the speed of the wave.

While the boards, which are the design of Jet Surf, have been around for a couple of years, this is the first footage we've seen of them being tested in what has historically been the proving ground for the "next big thing" of watersports.

Granted, the $12,000 price point is out of range for most of the world's surfers, but if the trend catches on there is a good chance the prices will fall as the popularity increases.

What do you think? The future of watersports, or just another gimmick?

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