Puppies and Rainbows on Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

As it was the theme of our trip, I knew it would be necessary to hit up some basic beaches while we were in Southeast Asia.  The region is known for its pristine (or what were once pristine, I should say) beach paradises – made most famous by Alex Garland’s book and proceeding Danny Boyle film, “The Beach.”  DSC_0839 DSC_0866 DSC_0887

I’d spent my fair share of time sunning my buns on beaches in the Gulf of Thailand, but never in Cambodia.  My times past had been limited to the islands of Koh Pha Ngan, Koh  Tao, and Koh Samet – each of which by now are long since discovered and, much to my chagrin, the predominating backpacker mentalities there are now more about sex and drugs rather than sloth and gluttony (my preferred travel sins). Read more

Finding Vann Molyvann in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

As I’ve stated before, our trip to Southeast Asia was a rather serendipitous one.  I’ve been rather singularly focused in the past 18 months on making my way through the former Eastern Bloc and Soviet nations, and had been hoping to spend this Memorial Day in the Ukraine, but luck brought us to Southeast Asia instead.  While planning our time in Southeast Asia, I struggled to find the happy medium between a total relaxing hedonistic vacation and finding meaningful cultural activities relevant to my interests.

What primarily interested me about Southeast Asia.
What primarily interested me about Southeast Asia.
Enter Phnom Penh.  Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, was where we started our trip, and to say it impressed us would be an understatement. It’s safe to say that if I were to create a pie chart of subject matter on this blog, modernist architecture would make up the lion’s share of it.  And despite knowing that Phnom Penh had been a jewel of French Indochina, I was not expecting it to be replete with amazing, funky, and downright jaw-dropping modern architecture.

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Between World War 2 and the Cambodian Civil War,  a man named Vann Molyvann founded the New Khmer style of architecture, and created the preeminent architecture style of the new Kingdom of Cambodia (1953-1970).  His buildings blended Modernist style and materials with traditional Khmer architectural elements to create startlingly beautiful structures all over the nation.  For more info on the style and his work, visit the Vann Molyvann Project site. Read more

Anatomy of a Perfect Travel Day: New Years in Mostar, Herzegovina

I have let my feelings known regarding off season travel (I love it), and nowhere has reinforced my opinion of this more than Mostar, Herzegovina.  Walking through Mostar’s Stari Grad, it’s clear why the place is known to become such a hot tourist mess in the Summer.  The combination of the medieval atmosphere with cheap prices and great food has doomed many places once off the beaten path (looking at you, all of Croatia), and Herzegovina’s largest city is no different.  Day tour buses come in droves from Dubrovnik or Split from Spring to Fall – allowing tourists to spend a couple of hours in Mostar before returning to greater relative comfort  and development on the Adriatic.december-balkans-944jpg_24215588351_o december-balkans-954jpg_24002522610_o december-balkans-973jpg_24215619781_o Read more

The Best Time I Broke My Foot in Sarajevo, Bosnia

David and I are avid runners. Not at the moment, but I’ll get to that soon enough.  Before our trip to Serbia and Bosnia over New Years, we were running around 40 miles a week in preparation for a 50k in one of Washington State’s most beautiful parks.  After successfully completing the race (despite high wind advisories), it was a very quick two weeks recovery before we were on our way back to the Balkans – this time spending most of our time in Belgrade, Serbia and Sarajevo, Bosnia.

Not bad views at the start of the Deception Pass 50k. My first ultramarathon!

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Obsessed with Buzludzha, the Remains of Bulgaria’s Communist Past

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while, but have put it off because I’m not quite sure how to unpack my feelings about Buzludzha.  Have you ever seen pictures of a place, and become so captivated by it that you are compelled to see it in person?  Even if, when you are first exposed to that single image, you have no idea where that place is?  And, when you follow clues and finally discover where it is, its remoteness doesn’t deter you, or even compels you further into obsession?  The first time I can remember this happening to me was with Erdene Zuu Khiid in Kharkhorin, Mongolia when I was maybe 13 years old – when I visited at 28 it was somewhat of a watershed travel moment.  It’s happened a limited number of times since – Fushimi Inari Taisha in Kyoto, Japan, the Rossiya Cinema Complex in Yerevan, Armenia, and Three Brothers in Riga, Latvia come to mind.

Rossiya Cinema Complex, Yerevan, Armenia
Rossiya Cinema Complex, Yerevan, Armenia
The Three Brothers, Riga, Latvia
The Three Brothers, Riga, Latvia
Erdene Zuu Khiid, Kharkhorin, Mongolia
Erdene Zuu Khiid, Kharkhorin, Mongolia

And then I became so obsessively captivated by Buzludzha – several years ago, while I was taking a relative travel hiatus. And it was more severe than I had ever experienced before. Read more

Exploring with Locals in Subotica, Serbia

I think it’s common knowledge that the quickest and easiest way to get to know a place is with someone who lives there and knows its ins and outs.  It cuts down on the learning curve, which can be especially difficult in places off the beaten path – like some parts of Serbia that aren’t as frequented by tourists, especially in the winter months.  So when I was doing my manic googling (as I do before any trip), I was very excited to come across the Subotica Greeters Program – a program that enables tourists in the Vojvodina city to explore with someone who knows the city well and has access to all of the gems it has to offer.december-balkans-85jpg_24271343136_o december-balkans-86jpg_24271346426_o Read more

Soviet Architecture in Vilnius, Lithuania

While Vilnius, Lithuania is a destination known for its sprawling old town, abundance of churches, and quirky Užupis Republic, its well preserved examples of Soviet architecture is what enticed me most prior to our trip (and the shopping, but I’ve already written about that).  I make no attempt at hiding my affinity for the style (if one can even call it a style…), and whenever I travel in the Eastern Bloc (which is almost every time I travel these days), I do some heavy scouting on what Soviet or Communist-era relics remain in my chosen destinations.

So, as a preface, let me say Vilnius is mostly known for things like this:Gediminas Hill, pretty. Read more

Getting out of Old Town in Tallinn, Estonia

There is no question that Old Town has a lot to offer any tourist – from backpacker to cruiser just in port for the day.  We arrived in Tallinn at the end of Summer, still in the height of the tourist season.   And while all of Tallinn travel can be rewarding, we found the true gems to be outside the UNESCO-listed Old Town.

View of St. Nicholas Church from Toompea Hill.
View of St. Nicholas Church from Toompea Hill.

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