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The First Time Traveler's Guide to East Asia

Making your first trip to East or Southeast Asia? Wondering where to go?

Okay, I've spent significant time in Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, China, Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia, and Singapore. I can weigh in on those places for you. I haven't been to Macau, Laos, Burma, the Philippines, North Korea, or Indonesia yet - of them, I've heard great things about the Philippines and Indonesia in particular, but I can't comment.

So, some thoughts about every country -

Japan - Still the crown jewel of Asia, Japan has something for everyone. There's ancient and hyper-modern culture mixed all together. There's amazing technology, high levels of development, basically nonexistent crime, ridiculously high standards of quality and hygiene, and the people are friendly and polite. English isn't widely spoken, but the Japanese take being good hosts seriously and you'll be fine in any major city. You can find quite literally anything here - amazing camping and mountains and forests and oceans, or hyper-developed space-age districts in cities.

The downside of Japan - It's fucking expensive. Like, really really expensive. I hate spending money on eating and sleeping - every dollar I put into basic "staying alive" stuff is less money to be invested in commerce or philanthropy, or learning, or having unique experiences that are more interesting than... well, eating and sleeping. Yet, eating and sleeping is brutally expensive here. If you're not a veteran traveler and don't have friends here, you'll be hard pressed to spend less than $100/day in Japan. If you slum it hard, you can maybe get down to $50/day. Everything's ridiculously expensive, ranging from 400% to 2,000% higher than still-developing countries in Asia.

Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper

On Tynan

The problem we face is that most methods of making popcorn aren't great. Movie theater popcorn tastes great, but is expensive and makes you feel sick after a while. Microwave popcorn is usually pretty gross (plus, I refuse to use a microwave.) Air poppers make the popcorn taste like air. My previous favorite method was to cook the popcorn over the stove in a big pot. This results in absolutely delicious popcorn, but it's difficult to pop all the kernels without burning some, and it's not too fun cleaning up the big pot afterwards.

Two weeks ago I was idly browsing a deal site when I came across the subject of this review : the Stir Crazy Popcorn Popper. It was on sale for $25 through Amazon (and still is). People seemed to love it, so I ordered it without hesitation.

When the package arrived, I couldn't wait to try it. We had an ice storm here in Austin, TX, but I braved it and made it to the supermarket to buy some popcorn. All they had was crappy store brand popcorn, so I still haven't tried it with anything better than that.

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