This is the blog for Matt Hollingsworth. I'm from Ojai, California. I've worked in comics for 22 years as a color artist.

This blog will largely be used to show my daily life as I live in Samobor, Croatia and as I travel around the region. Lots and lots of photos! Leave me a comment, will you?

All content on this blog is copyright 2013 Matthew Dale Hollingsworth and cannot be copied or used for any purpose without my consent.

Sunday, January 31, 2010

More about our Thailand trip:

The hotel we stayed at in Bangkok, the Viengtai, was also the meeting point for the Intrepid tour that we had booked to start off our vacation. I also booked us time in the south, on Koh Mook and Koh Lanta. So, we'd have some nice, warm beach time with sun and swimming and such. For the tour, we decided to head to the Northern part of Thailand so we'd see a bit more of the country rather than just the islands.

We decided to take the tour called Treasures of the North. This took us around the north a bit, starting with a train taking us up towards Sukhothai. After the train, we switched to a songthaew for transportation to Sukhothai. The songthaew is basically a small pickup truck that's been converted to carry tourists in the back. They range from moderately comfortable to totally uncomfortable depending on the seat structure and how low the ceiling is. Anyway, this carried us to Sukhothai where we checked into our guest cottages.

The guest cottages were pretty decent. If memory serves, we then headed off for a Thai massage at a local place (which was great! Maybe the best massage I had on this trip.) and returned to the cottages where we had some tasty dinner and drank beer for a while to get acquainted with the group we were touring with. As it turned out, we had very good luck with our group. It was a mixed group from Australia, Denmark, New Zealand, Canada and Luxembourg (and Croatia and America counting us). For the most part we all got along great on the whole trip and had a lot of fun together. And our tour leader, Toon, was really great. I'd recommend these guys to anyone after this experience.

The next morning, we headed off to see Sukhothai National Park, which was quite a sight to behold. We took a songthaew to get there, once again, then rented bikes for touring around. Our tour guide was fantastic, explaining a lot of the history of the place and really showing us around. And she made us some amazing lunch too that she brought with us for a picnic. Our tour leader was not really our *guide* per se. She did a great job of getting us around and helping us, but in each location we had local guides who really knew the area. That was the case here as well.

Our tour group.

Further reading about the Sukhothai Kingdom:

Sukhothai Kingdom.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Last year at this time, Nara and I went to Thailand for a four week vacation. Originally, we had planned to be married in December of 2008 and this would have been our honeymoon. But when we were renewing my visa in 2008, the process took ten full months, which took us up to November. And when they told us that I would have to renew my visa AGAIN within 8 days of getting married, we decided to delay the wedding until August of 2009 instead. The Thailand trip was already planned and paid for, though, so we went anyway and had the honeymoon before the wedding!

It was the best vacation we've ever had. Truly fantastic. Not just because it was 4 weeks long, but because we really got to relax and we did a lot of exploring of Thailand, which is a beautiful country filled with great people.

Me, outside of the hotel in Bangkok.

Nara, outside the hotel in Bangkok. Intrepid sign in the background.

When planning our trip, I had talked to a few friends who had either been to Thailand a lot or who travel a lot. We were basically told that Thailand is an easy country to get around and that you can just book everything yourself. But I wanted us to do a guided tour for part of the trip. Having never done a guided trip before, I took the advice of my friend Marie Javins who recommended Intrepid. The basic plan was to arrive in Bangkok, then head north on a tour for 8 days, then return to Bangkok and head south on our own and head first to Koh Mook then Koh Lanta, then return to Bangkok and return home from there.

Local Heinz!

Khao San Road.

The view from the hotel room.

There were a few reasons a guided tour sounded good to us. Neither of us had ever been to Asia, for one. And we'd be pretty jet lagged. I didn't really want to arrive into Bangkok then have to deal with all the travel and planning stuff to get around up in the North. And from reading Intrepid's site, it looked like they'd also take us to some places to do some things I just wouldn't have gotten around to.

Driving around Bangkok in a Tuk Tuk.

Anyway, we arrived into Bangkok. We had booked a room at Viengtai Hotel, just a block away from Khao San Road, which is a street bustling with activity and backpackers. It was fun to be in that area for a short time because there was a lot going on. It's loud at night, though, which would be a drawback for me if we stayed there for longer. As it was, though, I wore earplugs and all was well. We settled into Bangkok and spent a couple of days wandering around the city before heading north on our tour. More posts to follow with tons of pics of Thailand. Wish we were there this year too!

Khao San Road.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Well, today I went and traded in my California license for a local Croatian driver's license.

The process was fairly easy, but it still took some time. We first went to the local MUP station, which is the police station where I am registered. That's where the embassy site says to go, but as it turns out, all licenses here are issued through the MUP on Heinzelova Ulica. We'd taken the bus to the local MUP because it was so close, but this other MUP station is much further away. As it turns out, we should have driven. But we just took the tram there instead. Of course, they required one more piece of paper from me. We had a translation of my license that was basic from the American consulate, but they needed a full translation also. So we took a taxi back to the center and got the full translation, then went back and got my license. It took more time and effort than that all sounds like. But the people at that MUP station were great, very efficient, and the process was easy.

The bummer is, they kept my California license. I couldn't keep it. Well, anyway, this is one more piece of the puzzle that I've gotten. Mission accomplished today.

We also had the best Chinese food we've had yet in Croatia today at Asia Chinese food, right by Glavni Kolodvor. Not amazing, but very good.

So good day overall.

The license here looks very strange to my American eyes. I guess they don't use it as ID here, because this would be easy as hell to counterfeit. They have a separate card for ID and I don't have one of those yet. The license is like a little book. Looks like this:

More information about the process of getting a license here if you're an American is at the link below. But, be aware that the cost is 70 kuna for the stamps you have to get, called "biljezi", not 35, and then another 35 paid as a bill. And you must have a full translation of your license AND the translation from the American embassy that explains the class of license that you have.

Wednesday, January 06, 2010

So, it's 2010 now. Snow covers the ground outside as the new decade starts.

2009 was one of the best years in my life so far, as detailed in a previous post. I'll miss 2009! An amazing year for me.

Last year, my resolution for the new year was to stay on top of my finances and to keep up with saving money for both retirement and for buying a house. I did a good job with that in 2009 and aim to keep that behavior up.

For this year, my resolution is to finally look into getting a higher level of medical insurance here and to do a thorough medical checkup. I'm 41 now, so it's time for me to start looking into certain sorts of tests to make sure I'm taking good care of myself. I gotta go get a local doctor to hold my balls while I cough.


I'll likely take a look at Sunce Osiguranje and Basler Osiguranje Zagreb here locally and see about getting in for a checkup. I'd like to do all of that before tax time, which for me is April 15th. So, that's the goal. Do all of that, go to the dentist for a cleanup here in Zagreb and stay on top of saving money.

Not exciting goals, but good for me to do.