The Real Tenerife

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View of El Teide Pico from the open road

Right now, on a volcanic island off the west coast of Africa, swarms of mostly English and German tourists are getting ready to move several feet from a restaurant to their hotel pool. Then, if they’re motivated enough, they’ll move to the beach to sit and stare at the water. Not only does this sound intoxicatingly boring, it also sounds like a terrible way to spend a holiday. I decided to investigate Tenerife for myself. For one because it was going to be a great escape from bitter English weather, but also because I was able to get a return ticket for €50. My plan was simple: rent a scooter, circumnavigate Tenerife in the 4 days I allotted myself, and spend less than £200 in total, including flights.

Day 1

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Chips and a beer in Los Cristianos: €2

After arriving late and sleeping at the airport, I hopped on a TITSA bus to Los Cristianos in order to rent a scooter. I did a bit of exploring around Los Cristianos, but eventually made my way on foot a few kilometers to Playa De Las Americas, where the Cooltra scooter rental was located.
Although it seems like scooter rentals are everywhere in Tenerife, Cooltra is both the cheapest and most reputable. This particular branch is operated by Europcar, and if booked online a 125cc scooter is only €19/day. That price includes the bike, basic insurance, and a helmet. Unfortunately I didn’t book online, so when I showed up they were sold out and gave me a quote of €45/day for a 3 day rental. I declined, grabbed some beer, chips, and wifi; and booked the bike online for the next day at the online rate of €19/day. I found a hostel for €10 in El Medano, and after a beer on the beach I hopped on a bus to make the 45 minute journey.

Day 2

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El Medano

Waking up a bit late, I quickly made my way back to Playa De Las Americas so I could grab my scooter by noon. The process was painless, and after some paperwork I was on my way. The plan was to follow the coast as best I could. At 125cc, this scooter was technically allowed to use the major highway on the island, the TF-1 (which I did several times and almost died). To increase my chances of survival, I decided to limit my usage of that highway and stick to secondary roads. Luckily, the TF-82 followed a similar route, was more scenic, and most importantly: slower. After a lunch break in Tejina de Isora, I really put in some miles on the scooter. Up through beautiful mountain passes and down through valleys, I eventually found myself in Puerto de la Cruz. I did some grocery shopping at the local market, and sorted myself a room at La Terrera Hostel in Pino Alto for €11.

Day 3:

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Morning at the Treefort Hostel

By now feeling very confident on the scooter, and continued my journey. For lunch I stopped in the very beautiful La Laguna. Although it’s littered with high-end retail shops, it’s also the site of the first spanish settlements, so there is a lot of history. As I made my way back to the highway, the weather began to close in. I decided to seek shelter at the Climbing House in Villa de Artico, about 25km from La Laguna, which cost me €9. Villa de Artico was beautiful and probably my favorite village on the island. Quiet and somewhat isolated, yet beautiful and historic.

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La Laguna

Day 4:


I had to get the scooter back to the Europcar by noon, so I hustled up and out of Villa de Artico pretty early. I made it back to Playa de las Americas around 11, had some lunch and slowly made my way to the airport. Unfortunately I gauged my time poorly and my check-in was already closed.  However, thanks to some incredible folks at the Vueling service desk, I received my boarding pass, got through security, and on to the plane with literally 1 minute to spare.


Final thoughts


The amount of fun I had for the price is unmatched. While Tenerife wasn’t my favourite destination in the world, it definitely has its charms and was worth a visit.

Totals

Flights: €50.00

Coffee: €1.50

Bus to Los Cristianos: €14.40

Hostels: €30.00

Scooter: €38.50

Petrol: €12.00

Food: €16.50

Drinks: €15.00

Total cost: €177.90 / £148.50

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Myanmar: The Realities of Traveling in a Developing Nation

The Land of Golden Pagodas

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Bagan

Myanmar conjures up dreams of an old and forgotten Asia, one studded with golden pagodas, hill tribe villages and much left undeveloped. Fortunately for the intrigued traveler not much has changed, and with a new democratically elected government in place, the once closed borders are now open. Myanmar is ready to offer an unforgettable experience without the moral dilemma of unknowingly contributing to the morally corrupt government that once had the Burmese people in a stranglehold.

Understanding the political climate

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Labourers continue to earn less than £1/day

It wasn’t always easy for foreigners to gain entry into Myanmar. From 1961 until 2011 a military junta was holding power, and the borders were effectively sealed to visitors. During this time, the Burmese people and surrounding hill tribe populations were suppressed, heavily exploited and even put into forced labor camps. Money was misappropriated, and a lot of wealth was pocketed by the junta. This created a massive wealth gap and Myanmar is now one of the poorest countries in Asia.

Change

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Living conditions for many Burmese

In 2010, political icon Aung Sun Suu
Kyi was released from a 15 year house arrest. By 2011, the junta finally lost its hold on the nation, and Myanmar elected its first democatic leader. Although there is still a small presence of the previous regime, change is happening quickly. Since the 2015 elections, the National League for Democracy is now holding the majority of power. Dont be fooled, though, as religious conflict and forced labor is still occurring throughout the country.

How to get in and transportation

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Trains in Myanmar

Flying into Yangon is easy, and the airport offers visa-on-arrival, which eliminates a lot of hassle. However, if you plan on making a land border crossing, make sure you obtain your visa ahead of time!  As of today, the only land border crossing available to westerners is between Myawaddy and Maesot, Thailand. Once you are in, you must make the 5 hour trip via bus, or a rideshare, to Mawlamyine. From here you can take the train to Yangon, and then connect onward to the rest of the country. There are many buses available as well, but the rail travel in Myanmar is unforgettable and should not be missed.

Moving Forward

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Crafting some betel nut

The borders may be open, but there is still a lot to think about while navigating the fledgling tourism industry in Myanmar. Make sure to do some research before you visit, as policies change here everyday. That being said, GO TO MYANMAR. Try Betel nut. Wear some Thanaka. Buy a Longyi. See Bagan before its too late.

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