Author Archives: Dan Perry

About Dan Perry

Dan created this blog to document his South America trip, which covered every country on the continent and lasted over two years. He currently lives in Madison, WI.

Tulou Country

Picture of Katie and Mom at Tianluokeng.

Katie and my mom at the Tianluokeng tulou cluster.

For our last stop on our trip to China, Katie, my mom, and I visited the Hakka tulou region of Fujian province. Tulou (土楼, literally “earthen building”) are the “castles” of the region, fortified to prevent invasion. They were built as either circles or rectangles, and they contain large central courtyards, with housing for up to 800 people.

This was our favorite destination of our trip. The region has beautiful landscapes, friendly people, and an interesting history. Here are a few of my photos. What do you think?

Picture of mom in front of tulou home.

My mom at our bed and breakfast, the Fuyulou Changdi Inn. We were staying on the top floor.

Picture of papaya tree.

A papaya tree in the village.

Picture of mom and Dan getting dressed up in traditional clothes.

Getting all dressed up.

Picture of man fishing in front of tulou building.

Goin’ fishin’.

Picture of temple gateway.

The gateway to a temple.

Picture of pond in front of temple.

A pond in front of the local temple.

Picture of river, village, and fields.

Main street in the village.

Picture of round house.

One of the round buildings.

Picture of rice wine jars.

Jars of local rice wine.

Picture of Mom and Katie in the tulou village.

Mom and Katie.

Picture of people outside of tulou.

Heading home.

Picture of drying bamboo shoots.

We thought this was fish, but it turned out to be bamboo shoots, laid out to dry.

Picture of sunset on the river, with tulou building.

Sunset on the river.

Picture of Square houses in a round village.

Square houses in a round village.

Picture of hoe.

Hoeing the fields at sunset.

Picture of fireworks girl.

This girl nearly burned down the house with some fireworks she found.

Picture of red lanterns in a Chinese guesthouse.

Our guesthouse was decorated with many, many lanterns.

Picture of Tianluokeng tulou cluster.

This is the Tianluokeng tulou cluster. The buildings represent the five elements of ancient Chinese philosophy (metal, wood, water, fire, earth).

Picture of bamboo forest.

A walk through a bamboo forest.

Picture of man laying out bamboo shoots.

This guy is laying out bamboo shoots and vegetables to dry.

Picture of Katie, low-angle.

‘Sup?

Picture of tulou from the inside.

Inside a tulou.

Picture of inside a tulou.

Dozens of families can live inside one of these buildings.

Picture of tulou from the outside.

Outside of the tulou.

Picture of dried loose tea with Chinese sign.

Local wild tea for sale.

Picture of rice fields.

Rice fields.

Picture of piano in a tulou.

The Yuchang tulou is upwards of 1700 years old. They were rolling out a piano for a show that night.

Picture of Deyuan Ancestral Temple.

Outside of the Deyuan Ancestral Temple.

Picture of inside of the Deyuan Ancestral Temple.

Inside the temple.

Picture of Deyuan Ancestral Temple from above.

Above the temple.

Picture of King of tulou.

Inside the King of Tulou, the largest of all earthen buildings.

Picture of King of tulou.

Walking the outer ring of the King of Tulou.

Picture of King of Tulou.

Click here for more of my photos from the area.

Gulang Yu

Gulang Yu: Picture of island with Xiamen in the background.

Gulang Yu view: looking back at Xiamen really gives you an idea for the old and new.

After spending a day and a half exploring Kinmen Island, we took a ferry back to Xiamen. From there, our goal was to head to the island of Gulang Yu (鼓浪嶼 “Drum Wave Islet”) for a few days. This turned out to be far more difficult than we had anticipated.

While not a famous destination internationally, Gulang Yu is quite popular among Chinese tourists, attracting 10 million annually. Because of this, only the locals are allowed to take the short ferry directly to the island’s main port. It wasn’t clear how we tourists could get there, though. We ended up joining a mini tour, which included a round trip ferry ticket. Three hours, two ferries, and four passport checks later, we – along with two hundred of our best Chinese friends – spilled onto Gulang Yu.

At the turn of the twentieth century, Gulang Yu was one of two foreign concessions in China (the other being Shanghai). Because of this, the island is full of European-style mansions and churches. It also has a piano museum and a calligraphic wood carving museum (my personal favorite attraction). Cars and bicycles are banned on the island, so the tourists get to walk around and take it all in.

Though Gulangyu was difficult to reach, especially given its proximity to Xiamen Island, it was still worth the journey. Here are a few of my photos from the island:

Gulang Yu: Picture of the old American consulate.

The old American consulate.

Picture of girl with street sign.

A popular activity here is to pose in front of street signs.

Picture of blooming flowers.

Blooming flowers.

Gulang Yu: Picture of Katie with street sign.

Katie in front of a street sign.

Picture of noodle shop sign.

A sign for a noodle shop.

Gulang Yu: Picture of temple.

The island’s main temple.

Gulang Yu: Picture of graveyard.

An old graveyard.

Gulang Yu: Picture of wood carving at the calligraphic museum.

My favorite place on the island was the calligraphic carving museum.

Picture of Shuzhuang Garden.

The walkway through Shuzhuang Garden.

Picture of Shuzhuang Garden.

Shuzhuang Garden.

Gulang Yu: Picture of arch bridge.

The arch bridge.

Gulang Yu: Picture of Katie in a cave.

Katie is in one of the eight caves.

Picture of temple.

One of the temples.

Gulang Yu: Picture of sunset..

Sunset is over an industrial area.

Picture of beach.

The beach.

More photos from Gulang Yu

A Trip to Kinmen Island

Kinmen: Picture of a row of red lanterns.

A row of Lanterns on Kinmen Island.

A few weeks ago, my mom made the long flight to Hong Kong to visit Katie and me. After spending a couple days around our home, the three of us went on a trip. Our first stop was Kinmen Island, which sits close to the Chinese mainland and is controlled by Taiwan. We had quite a whirlwind day to get there: local bus, subway 1, subway 2, Hong Kong customs and immigration, Chinese customs and immigration, high-speed train to Xiamen, bus across Xiamen Island, Chinese customs and immigration, ferry to Kinmen, Taiwanese customs and immigration, van to our hotel. And we still arrived before dinner!

We were exhausted, but excited to explore. That night we checked out the main town on foot. The following day the three of us rented electric scooters and drove them all over the island. It was a fascinating place, rich with history. The vibe was very laid back and the people were quite friendly.

Here are a few photos from Kinmen Island:

Kinmen: Picture of village.

Shuitou village.

Kinmen: Picture of bed and breakfast.

Our Bed and Breakfast.

Kinmen: Picture of lantern and motorcycle in Shuitou.

Lantern and motorcycle.

Kinmen: Picture of Katie in Shuitou.

Yummy baked goods.

Picture of Jincheng temple.

A temple in Jincheng.

Picture of the main temple in Jincheng.

The main temple of Jincheng.

Picture of gateway.

The gateway to shopping.

Picture of a painting of the battle of Kinmen Island.

The battle of Kinmen.

Picture of beach from the battle of Kinmen.

The actual battle site.

Kinmen: Picture of Jinmen phone booth.

The phone booths have the Chinese characters for Jinmen.

Picture of pond and walkway.

While riding our electric scooters, we found this pond and zigzagging walkway.

Kinmen: Picture of Katie in front of dragon boats.

Katie, wearing her electric scooter helmet, in front of some dragon boats we found.

Picture of Dan and Mom in front of temple.

Me with my mom in front of a temple.

Kinmen: Picture of Zhaishan Tunnel.

The Taiwanese military dynamited the Zhaishan Tunnel as a hideout for the navy.

Kinmen: Silhouette of walking through the Zhaishan tunnel toward the sea.

Walking through the Zhaishan tunnel toward the sea.

Picture of Dan walking over the Zhaishan tunnel.

Walking over the Zhaishan tunnel.

Picture of Zhaishan tunnel entrance.

The entrance to the Zhaishan tunnel.

Picture of Katie at Zhaishan tunnel.

Katie is having fun at the tunnel.

Picture of Katie holding a drink in a temple.

Drinks on!

Picture of lake.

The only natural lake on Kinmen Island.

More Kinmen photos

AtW #81: Alec Hill

Picture of Alec and Dan.
Alec Hill is a world traveler who is just getting started on an open-ended trip. In fact, Hong Kong was his first international stop, and I was his second Couchsurfing host. We chatted about how he got here and what lies on the road ahead for him.

Download this Episode (right-click and choose “save as”)

* * *

Show Notes:

  • Alec and I talked a bit about Paul Theroux. He has written several travel books, including The Great Railway Bazaar and Dark Star Safari. You can find the interview I mentioned here.
  • Alec also brought up David Grann, author of the excellent book The Lost City of Z. He also wrote a book called The White Darkness, which I have not read. This book is about 21st century explorer Henry Worsley. For the record, Frank Worsley was a member of Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition a century ago.
  • After summiting Mount Everest, Sir Edmund Hillary rode a tractor to the south pole (I guess he needed something to do). You can read more about that expedition here.
  • The first people to walk across Antarctica unaided and unsupported were Colin O’Brady and Louis Rudd, which just happened in January 2019.

AtW #80: Alison Price

Picture of Katie, Alison Price and Dan.

Katie and me with Alison Price.

Katie and I met Alison Price many years ago at the Twin Ports invasion, dubbed “The World's Coldest Couchsurfing Invasion”, a claim that I do no dispute. Alison is an amazing artist based in Minneapolis.

And now, here's our podcast:

Download this Episode (right-click and choose “save as”)


  • I talk about Couchsurfing often on this podcast, and this episode is no different. Couchsurfing is one of my favorite ways to connect with locals while I'm traveling, and it's also fun to host people in my home.
  • Katie and I talked about cycle touring in Japan on two separate podcasts, #64 and #66.
  • Emmy Lou the shar pei has her own Instagram account, EmmyLouPei.
  • There were mammoths in North America at the time the pyramids were built in Egypt. This article verifies this claim, and much more. Though #3 is no longer true.
  • Along the same lines, the blog Wait But Why did a great take on “horizontal history.”
  • Humans have spent several decades thinking about how to label nuclear waste so future civilizations will know to avoid it. The labels will have to stand the test of time: plutonium-239 will remain dangerous for around 240,000 years. For comparison, homo sapiens began to evolve around 200,000 years ago (according to the article).
  • NASA has a handy guide on how to read the Golden Record, aboard Voyager.
  • Here's how to find NEMAA.

During the podcast, I mentioned that I had checked out an abandoned school in New Orleans. It was frozen in time after hurricane Katrina struck. Here are some photos from that memorable experience:

Picture of abandoned school in New Orleans. Picture of peace sign in abandoned school. Picture of lockers. Picture of newspaper in abandoned school in New Orleans.

We found this newspaper in the principal's office, predicting that Katrina would hit the Florida panhandle instead of New Orleans.

Cycle Touring and Digital Nomadism with Ryan Sinn

Cycle touring: Picture of Ryan Sinn and his bicycle.

Ryan is ready to go cycle touring.

My guest today is Ryan Sinn. He's a digital nomad who's into travel and cycle touring, and he has a unique and interesting worldview. I had a great time chatting with him, and I hope you'll enjoy our conversation.

Information about Ryan's cycle touring can be found at ShareThisRoad.com.

Ryan also maintains RyanSinn.com, which contains a blog with technical information.

And now for today's podcast:

Download this Episode (right-click and choose “save as”)


Show Notes:

  • Ryan and I discussed the hospitality websites Warm Showers and Couch Surfing. I've never used the former, but the latter is a big part of my life.
  • Another website Ryan mentioned was Physical Address, which allows you to manage your mail from anywhere in the world.
  • You can bring your bicycle onto an Amtrak train. The company has an article with more details. The cost depends on the train and the type of bike you'd like to take aboard.
  • Due to the requirement for extensive human labor, grass lawns were originally the playgrounds of the wealthy, as you can read about here.
  • Ryan mentioned the book The Death and Life of Great American Cities, by Jane Jacobs.
  • A few years back, our mutual friend Joe Waltz built an intentional community called Dreamland in south Minneapolis, but he was forced to disband the community by the local government because more than three unrelated adults were living together. This is an older article, but it still begs the question: Is it really the government's job to tell you who you're allowed to live with? How can you possibly claim to live in the “Land of the Free” when laws like this still exist in municipalities throughout the country?
  • The Laurentian Divide is where the direction of water flow from eastern and southern Canada is divided with that of the northern Midwestern United States.
  • We talked briefly about the bizarre technical glitch that resulted in the unleashing of angry mobs upon a poor farmer's house in Nebraska. Here's the full story.
  • Speaking of special geographical markers, one of the planet's four exact center points of latitude and longitude lies in Poniatowski, Wisconsin. There is a marker in the ground, and in nearby Wausau you can even get a coin to commemorate your visit.

Kashmir On My Mind

Kashmir: Picture of Pradeepika and Dan.

Talking Kashmir over a wonderful dinner.

A few months ago, Katie and I met Pradeepika Saraswat while traveling in Hampi, southern India. We hit it off and she later invited us to visit her in Delhi, where we recorded this podcast. Pradeepika is a journalist who has spent much time living in Kashmir, a region over which India and Pakistan have fought multiple wars. I also visited Kashmir a few years back and became very interested in the region, so naturally, this was the main focus of our discussion.

You can listen to the audio here:

Download this Episode (right-click and choose “save as”)


Show Notes:

  • Pradeepika referenced Article 377, but she meant to reference Article 370.
  • Though Pradeepika currently writes for a Hindi publication, you can still find her older English-language stories on The Quint.
  • The dowry is a transfer of wealth from the bride's family to the groom's. It has a long history in India, as well as many other countries, and it was a topic of much fascination for us during our time in South Asia.
  • Violence broke out two years ago in Kashmir, after the death of activist Burhan Wani. Like most stories from this part of the world, it's hard to find unbiased information about Mr. Wani and his violent demise.
  • Cashmere wool comes from the cashmere goat, native to the Kashmir region of modern-day Pakistan and India. Here are a bunch more interesting facts about cashmere wool.
  • Pradeepika mentioned the book Dragon On Our Doorstep by Pravin Sawhney and Ghazala Wahab.
  • Pradeepika also mentioned the book Curfewed Night by Basharat Peer.
  • A few months after my first trip to India, the government suddenly (and without warning) decided to demonetize all 500- and 1000- rupee notes, causing widespread panic and shortages of cash throughout the country. Except, that is, for Kashmir.
  • China is currently trying to curb the building of strange buildings.

And here are a few of my photos from Kashmir:

Picture of Kashmir fruit vendors.

Fruit vendors in Srinagar.

Picture of Muslim men shopping.

Muslim men going shopping.

Picture of auto rickshaw.

Auto rickshaws are everywhere in India, including Srinagar.

Picture of man hanging out of a bus in Kashmir.

It's fun to hang out of moving buses.

Picture of road tar in India.

Tarring the road.

Picture of an old building in Srinagar.

An old building.

Picture of woodworker in Kashmir.

The woodworker.

Picture of Dal Lake.

Dal Lake in Srinagar.

You can find more of my photos from India here.

AtW #77: India Roundup

Picture of Katie hiking in India.

India has some excellent hiking.

With only a few days left in our ten-month trip, Katie and I recapped our time in India and discussed how travel has changed us. Lots of good philosophical advice in this one.

Download this Episode (right-click and choose “save as”)


Show Notes:

Here's a video I shot while walking around Varanasi. This doesn't begin to capture the true chaos of the moment. So much is missing: the sweltering heat, the festering cow dung, the pestering touts, and more. The only way to truly experience a place like this (absent lifelike VR) is to go there.

And here are a few photos from some of the places we discussed:

Picture of border crossing between India and Nepal.

Land border crossings can be quite interesting. You might need all day to get across, but I still highly recommend going over land when possible. You'll get a much better feel for the place from the moment you set foot into the new country. This is the border between India and Nepal, taken from the Indian side.

Picture of men with guns.

Your gun must be at least this long to take a photo with me.

Picture of Katie sweating in India.

The torrid heat was almost too much for us at times. On this day the mercury touched 46 Celsius (115 Fahrenheit). I know this is hard to believe, but some of the locals still looked comfortable wearing jeans and long sleeve shirts in the midday heat.

Picture of door frames in Lucknow, India.

A major siege occurred in Lucknow, India 150 years ago. You can still see the bullet holes today. Or maybe the cement is simply crumbling.

Picture of man pushing heavy load on his bike in India.

These guys work unbelievably hard, pushing heavy loads around the city.

Picture of market in Lucknow, India.

Lucknow was the most chaotic city we visited in India. Or maybe that was just our perception because we were staying in the heart of the main bazaar. This photo was taken from our hotel balcony.

Picture of bicycle rickshaw driver.

Bicycle rickshaws are very common in most Indian cities. This guy is relaxing while waiting for a fare.

Picture of Katie sneaking around a cow.

Skills you'll pick up if you travel long enough in India: how to sneak around a cow in a narrow alley.

Picture of bathing people in the Ganges River.

The locals come down to the holy Ganges at dawn to bathe.

Trekking the Annapurna Circuit

Annapurna: Picture of Martijn and Manon.

Annapurna romance: Martijn and Manon, the Dutchies.

Katie and I had an amazing month of trekking the Annapurna Circuit in Nepal. Along with the gorgeous scenery and the extreme physical challenge of hiking to the 5416-meter Thorung Pass, the people were the highlight of our trek. Those who lived along the trail were extremely friendly, as were the other trekkers we met. And among them were today's guests, Martijn and Manon. We made some time a few days after finishing our trek to record a podcast and reminisce our month in the mountains.

Download this Episode (right-click and choose “save as”)


Show Notes:

  • We talked about Jitterbug Perfume at the beginning of the show. Still no word about where the Bandaloop caves are, but I have a feeling they're somewhere in central Nepal.
  • Upon coming to Nepal in the middle of April, I was surprised to learn that it was New Year's Eve, and we were entering the year 2075. This is because Nepal uses the Bikram Sambat calendar, which starts counting from when Indian emperor Vikramaditya won a decisive military victory over the Sakas.
  • Although theories abound about the origin of the Easter Bunny, Time Magazine makes a case that the rabbit is an ancient pagan symbol for fertility.

And here are some photos from our trek:

Picture of subtropical landscape on the Annapurna circuit.

For the first few days the landscape was dry and subtropical.

Picture of waterfall.

There were many waterfalls along the way.

Picture of suspension bridge across the Marsyangdi River.

As we walked along the bottom of the canyon, we had to cross the mighty Marsyangdi River many times. Luckily, there were plenty of suspension bridges to aid us.

Picture of guesthouse kitchen on the Annapurna Circuit.

The guesthouses we stayed in were able to produce a huge variety of dishes, considering their humble kitchens.

Picture of Chame and mountains.

Soon we reached Chame, where we got our first look at the snowy mountains of the Annapurna range.

Picture of Ghyaru.

Ghyaru is a tiny village located just below the snowline. The locals were busy plowing their potato fields using oxen.

Picture of Ice Lake.

The journey to Ice Lake (4600 meters) was our first true test. Annapurna III is in the background.

Picture of group walking from Tilicho Lake.

A side trip to Tilicho lake, one of the world's highest at 4910 meters, was also quite the challenge.

Group photo from Thorung La.

Made it to the Thorung Pass (5416 meters, 17,769 feet)! Pictured here are Manon, Katie, Kasper, Martin, me, and Martijn.

Picture of Muktinath Temple.

We still had to walk all the way back down. One of the first places we visited was the famous Muktinath Temple.

Picture of Katie and Dan.

After three weeks of walking, Katie and I made it to Poon Hill, where the mountains gave us their final curtain call.

For more of my photos from the Annapurna Circuit, click here.