Peru, I love You

It’s Brandon and Tyler from South America again! Sorry for the delay (and the horrible title) but we have been busy exploring the land of the Incas: Peru. While our amazing buses around the country surprisingly offered wifi along with first-class accommodation, it was a little difficult to blog from the bus.

Shortly after our redeye flight from New York JFK to Lima, Brandon and I were already headed to the ancient Inca capital at Cusco in the heart of the Andes mountain range after a fascinating three-hour tour of the new capital. While Lima supposedly has some great cuisine and nightlife, the top tourist destinations in Peru exist far from the coastal city. Luckily, the amazing Peruvian bus line Cruz del Sur offered incredibly comfortable travel throughout the country so on our way we decided to stop at the incredible UNESCO site, the Nazca Lines.

The Nazca Lines are located along the beautiful and wildlife-filled Peruvian coast on the long trip from Lima to Cusco and offer a perfect stop for a layover on the way to the Inca heartland. Although the bus times to and from Nazca are a bit inconvenient for speedy travel, the Nazca Lines are a must see in Peru. The lines are ancient geoglyphs created by the society that lived in the area around the time of Christ. In the sandy desert, which also houses the tallest sand dune in the world, the ancient culture designed breathtaking gravel formations of different shapes only visible from the sky.

To see the world heritage site, Brandon and I needed to pony up around $60 to board a small seven-seat plane that would fly right over the mysterious shapes. After we called our mothers to say our last goodbyes, we boarded the rickety aircraft that would literally turn us on our sides to get the best views of the massive lines depicted in the shape of hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, and even something that resembled a waving alien or astronaut. The sheer scale and complexity of the lines for an ancient civilization seem to raise as many historical questions as they astonish.

While scholars debate their purpose to this day, the lines have fascinated people since their discovery in the early 20th century, even the lady sitting in front of us who upon taking off promptly started vomiting for the 30 minute flight.

On your travels through Peru, surf the dunes, see the lines, and try some of their unique and tasty Peruvian ceviche at the must-see stop of Nazca!

Krakow is GORGEOUS.

Hey there, it’s Alexa again! Sorry we went M.I.A for a while, we really didn’t come upon another computer during the rest of our trip. So I’m writing to you from Margaux’s room in good ol’ Jersey.

We last left off searching for the John Lennon wall. Interestingly enough, Prague residents don’t know where the wall sits, some say it’s a myth, some say there never was such a wall, some simply don’t understand what we were asking. The wall is a great tribute to the Beatles, with quotes and song lyrics scribbled all over the wall. It also carries some political statements, love notes and personal drawings all dedicated to either John Lennon himself, the Beatles or another famous artist.

Our search proved to take the better half of our evening so instead of anything crazy, Margaux and I went straight to a movie theatre to see Harry Potter! We just couldn’t resist seeing our favorite wizards, especially in such a foreign place… it made it a little more magical knowing we’d walk outside into the “City of A Thousand Spires.”

We left Prague the next morning for another long train ride to Krakow, Poland. The train ride was…. a train ride. Luckily there weren’t any crazy drunk Germans or singing Czech men in our cabin this time. We arrived to a beautiful old city, which easily became our FAVORITE of the small cities we visited. Our hostel was unbelievably clean, modern and cozy, with dark wood floors and rich colored bedding. Even the owners were gracious and enjoyable, two young girls… maybe in their late 20s. They actually suggested two restaurants, one of which we ate at, the other of which was too crowded to get in to (obviously an indicator of their quality).

Our main purpose of visiting Krakow was to visit Auschwitz, about an hour outside of the central train station in Krakow. The experience was something not to be missed. It was a great learning experience and an emotionally draining day.

Though Krakow is mostly known for its convenient location to the concentration camp, the city is a gem of its own. The old city square is full of restaurants, hotels and street performers. Krakow seems to be a very young town, with couples and small groups of people who are all looking to have a good time. There are club promoters walking around the city, with free drink specials and guaranteed entry. The whole city is spotless, the cobble stones are all straightened out and easy to walk on, and the Zloty makes everything SUPER cheap! No really, Margaux and I had a three course meal for $20 each, including tax and tip. Seriously, GO TO KRAKOW!

gtrot update: coming soon

So you’re a college student, and you need to get out of town.  Maybe you’d like to get home for Thanksgiving, or perhaps you want to do Spring Break with some friends.  What information and tools do you need to make your arrangements quickly and cheaply?

We asked our friends and classmates this question.  Based on their responses, we compiled a list of everything a student needs in order to make optimal plans.  It’s actually pretty simple:

  • Academic information:   Know when you’re off from school, and when you need to be back on campus.
  • Social information:  Know where your friends are going, which friends have been to your destination, and who else will be there too.
  • Booking tool: Access to the largest inventory of flights and hotels at the lowest prices.  And how about cab- and ride-sharing features to lower the personal and environmental costs of holiday travel?
  • Management tool: A central place to store bookings, and to track and share personal travels.

There are a lot of travel sites out there (ok…too many), and several of them are good for booking or managing travel. is an obvious example of the former; of the latter.  And if you want to plan out your travels hour-by-hour, picking restaurants and hotels and museums and parks to visit weeks in advance of your trip, leaving nothing to chance and eliminating all spontaneity…if you have that kind of time and taste, there are sites for that too (see

But for students especially, these tools need to be driven by social and academic information.  No website gathers that information and presents it in a useful way.  And as for the booking and management tools already in use, most of them are overly-developed and needlessly complex.

All that’s about to change.   It’s coming soon:

In awe of Hong Kong

Hong Kong is the final stop in our tour of China. And it isn’t exactly part of China – the city has a long and tumultuous history, now operating as a semi-autonomous territory within the People’s Republic. It rose to prominence as a major deep-water shipping port during the 99 year period it was under British rule (1898 to 1997). Britain first took control of Hong Kong province during the Opium Wars, which remain a dark spot in Western history. In short, Britain and other colonial powers needed a product with which to trade the Chinese for their spices and other exotic exports. Lacking a viable alternative, they introduced opium (heroin) into China, leading to widespread addiction and ever-higher demand for the product. When the Chinese emperor tried to crack down on opium use, colonial military forces stepped in to ensure the continued trade of this lucrative good.

Despite this dark beginning, Hong Kong blossomed into a huge financial and shipping hub for Asia. China took control of Hong Kong in 1997 when the British lease expired, but it’s still run as a separate province under the motto “Two Systems, One Country.” Hong Kong has its own set of laws, currency, and government, making it drastically freer than mainland China. However, there is continual fear among many residents that China may try to tighten its grip on the province.

Compared with the cities we’ve seen previously, Hong Kong feels very first-world. I can actually use the sink to brush my teeth (instead of using bottled water). And yet, with all the amenities and luxuries of the Western world, it remains unique from anything I’ve seen before and by far the most exotic of any metropolis I can imagine. Read the rest of this entry »

The thing about Beijing

Beijing is the second stop in our tour of China, and it’s remarkably different from our first.  Compared with the bustling markets of Shanghai, China’s commerce center, Beijing feels like the wolf’s lair – like the central nervous system of a country with an overbearing government.  The city’s layout is one of concentric rings, with Tiananmen Square and the Forbidden City at its center.  The city blocks are purposefully large, leaving room for massive, imposing buildings.  Because gray is supposed to be the “color of the people,” most buildings in Beijing are colored with varying shades of gray.

Two of Andy’s closest friends from LA now live in Beijing.  One works for Ticketmaster, the other at a private equity firm.  Foreign talent is relatively scarce in China, and it’s amazing how much responsibility one can get here at a very young age.  Adam, who is 25 and speaks fluent Mandarin thanks to his studies at Yale and in China, is essentially the Chief Operating Officer of Ticketmaster China.  In booking bands, he always has to be careful to research their earlier gigs.  If the band sang at a “Pro-Tibet” rally at any point in the past, then the Chinese government won’t allow the concert to happen.

We saw all the major sites during our 4 days in Beijing.  We spent one day climbing the Great Wall of China, which was about an hour outside the city.  Mao Zedong, the founding father of Communist China, famously said, “He who does not climb the Great Wall is not a true man.”  That was enough motivation for us. Read the rest of this entry »

Welcome to Shanghai

Our trip to China has begun, and to no surprise, it’s been interesting since the moment our plane landed.  Before we pulled up to the gate, the flight attendants told everyone to stay in their seats with cell phones turned off.  Then an army of people in white infectious disease suits and masks swarmed our plane to take everyone’s temperature.  It felt like a scene out of E.T. as these government workers beamed a red laser on each passenger’s forehead to test his or her body temperature.  One person in the back of the plane must have failed because they kept him and the entire section of people around him on the plane as the rest of us left.  If you’re flying to China and a person near you is coughing and sneezing, move!  For good reason, the government is aggressively clamping down on the Swine Flu to stop its spread.  Unfortunately, this means that they’re not only quarantining the sick, but also those sitting nearby who may have been exposed.  I’ve read stories about the extensive reach of the Chinese government in its citizen’s lives (for example, Facebook and YouTube are blocked in China), and already we’ve seen an example first-hand.  We have several friends who live in China, and when we told one about the incident, he said simply: “No problem, that kind of stuff happens all the time.  It’s China.”