All posts by jthomasmartin1

THAILAND – Phuket work retreat 2017! Above is my business manager Isara and her Thai friends w/ all of us out drinking and dancing. Later, my Indian assistant and her husband joined us. This is our first work retreat for my furnished rental business, the SF Bay Area enterprise that funds my travel around the world 😉 

The four of us taking a break for lunch in beautiful Rawaii Beach 😉 My business manager, Isara, lives in Phuket. So I flew out to meet her in person, after working together on Skype for months. Shipra lives in Southern India, and had never left the country before! She always wanted to go to Thailand, so I flew her and her husband out for a couple weeks of work retreat, and some paid vacation to visit Pataya and Bangkok 🙂

Phuket “town,” the actual city of Phuket on Phuket island, has all kinds of interesting colonial style architecture, along with a mix of old buildings and crumbling,  industrial-style warehouses. There’s also some cool street art. Nice juxtaposition of both in this shot.. That’s a little restaurant on the corner of the lot between the two buildings..
A delicious traditional Thai meal in Phuket town with my business manager. This meal was sooooo good!! Delicious noodles, curry, some marinated pork coming later, and of course, some scotch 🙂A beautifully concocted old fashioned. They twisted the lemon peel into the ice cube. Nice zest 😉
Party night out with Isara and her friends in Phuket. We went to this funky bar in Rawaii Beach called the Sunshine Bar 🙂  It has a stripper pole and all the “waitresses” are lady-boys. (The girls in the picture above are not).  They include tiaras, crowns, and bunny ears for all guests 🙂 Don’t I like cute with a tiara? (OK, not as good as the rest of them lol)

Here’s a shot of the bar and pole, which most of Isara’s friends were able to climb, and ring the bell at the top 😉

This guy was hitting on me a good chunk of the night, so I pretended to give him a kiss at the end of the night.

Isara and I having a drink before getting the party started.

One of our work locations during Furnished Home Retreat 2017! We worked at a bunch of different cafes, bars, and resorts around the island during the week. F*ck working in an office! The internet is all over! 😉Isara’s friend Abby came out to Phuket for her birthday. So we went out to party in Patong, a dirty little town about a half hour from Rawaii Beach. Lots of wild bars, women, and shows you don’t even want to hear about!
This was a cool little bar I ran across when riding a scooter around town. I just loved the mish mash of “found item” art, knick knacks, metal, and that old school shack feel that is so prominent in Rawaii Beach 🙂

There is quite a bit of open space in Rawaii Beach on the outskirts of town, beautiful palm trees, and in this case, some livestock grazing the fields..

I got a pool villa for our work retreat. This was a 3 bedroom, 3 bath detached single family home with a pool, for about $100USD/night. Lots of value out in Thailand! And yes, the Furnished Home team gets to drink while working! 😉

Havasupai – The Beautiful Falls

imageHavasu Falls was just a short walk from our campsite. Like walking from your hotel room to the pool  but the hotel is the entire Grand Canyon, and the pool is the most amazing turquoise-blue waterfall with amazing vegetation and dramatic cliffs! 🙂imageMicah, the man smart and nice enough to make the reservation for everyone, getting ready to jump off a set of falls.


I wanted to stay another couple weeks at this beautiful falls, but no pass and running out of food. Will go for a week or three next time 🙂

Havasupai – Trek to the Falls

Havasupai – Trek to the Falls
image Starting the 10-mile trek from the top of the Grand Canyon, across the canyon floor, and into the Supai village  image A native driving horses out of the Canyon. There are no cars in the Canyon. It’s interesting to see people using horses for transportation and hauling, the same way they have for hundreds and thousands of years. image Enormous rock formation on the way to the falls. The history of the Grand Canyon is that Chuck Norris jumped out of a helicopter and dropped a mean round-house kick on the Canyon – shearing the walls. Then he spit and formed the waterfalls – forever creating one of the most beautiful places on Earth! 😉image Rachel and Sarah on the way through the Canyon..image After about 4 or 5 hours of hiking, we came across beautiful Havasu falls – the first large waterfall of the trek. The beautiful turquoise water is due to the lime/travertine-heavy rocks, and make a beautiful pool to swim in 🙂
imageThanks for bringing me along Sarah!! 🙂

Havasupai: Nonsense at Hotel on the Way

image Zoomie the Dinosaur was relocated from another location where the town didn’t think it fit in with the western vibe. How would a big sea foam green brontosaurus not fit in anywhere?!?
image Raaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrr!!!image We played a fun game called tickle the tassels. Someone sits in the golf cart while contestants try to skim the hanging tassels with a frisbee – and extra points for hitting the scorekeeper inside 🙂
image Rachel preparing another classic game – hit the beer off the PVC pole with a frisbee. Nick was king! Rachel has some work to do 😉image Sister Sarah chillaxin on the Tassle Cart.
image Preparing for Tickle the TassleimageBeautiful sunset over the motel on the evening before we headed out to Havasupai. We were drinking quite a bit this evening, which made an awesome 4:30AM start the next morning! 😉

Havasupai – Grand Canyon – On the Way

Havasupai: On the Way – Dinosaurs, Supplies, Smile, Moose, & Middle of Nowhere
image Ever read “The Things They Carried?” This trip was less metaphorical, but just as many things in the pack! My sister Sarah was nice enough to get food and other supplies so we were organized 🙂 image We stopped at a roadside cafe on Route 66 for our last hot meal before heading to the hotel nearest the Supai land. The Moose was calling to us! Photographer Bryan, Sister Sarah, Sarah’s super hiker friend Rachel, and Frisbee extraordinnaire Nick.
image Things got a little squirrelly at times heheheimage Lifes not that bad, even when it’s shitty! Let alone when you’re on your way to one of the most beautiful places on Earth! There was another sign about smiling above the Checkin counter. Ironically, the woman at the front desk didn’t smile at all :-/
image “Thank you for staying with us in the Middle of Nowhere. We appreciate it?” This may have been a communication issue, but still pretty funny hehe. The Grand Canyon Caverns Motel really is in the middle of nowhere. No cell service. No internet. This was my first time away form the Internet for several days since I quit my job for my furnished rental business, so got a little nervous! :-/

TriSarahTops! Much love! Our hotel came not only with a mini putt-putt golf course, but dinosaurs!! Raaaaaarrrrrrrrrr!!!!!

More Hanoi

HANOI – Strangers, Food, Club, Balloons

imageDelicious Bun Cha and fried rolls. Chase it down with some Hanoi beer. You put all the basil, mint, garlic, leafy greens in the fish sauce and pork – then throw in some vermicelli noodles 🙂 yummmmy!
imageJen and I ended up eating/drinking/working from his restaurant (mostly drinking hehe) for about 6 hours or so, and chatting to this lovely young Vietnamese woman, Amy.
image Amy was so friendly and fantastic 🙂 She told us about life in Vietnam, dating, marriage, paying for government jobs… Shockingly, she has never traveled further than Halong Bay (a few hours by scooter from Hanoi). So I invited her out for a free stay in San Francisco  hopefully she’ll make it! 🙂

imageThis was after many beers and rice wine, just outside the restaurant. Delicious Bun Cha, flowing booze, awesome company! 🙂

imageSome street vendors I was chatting with for a while. The two young guys run a street stall in a busy alley packed with locals and tourists. They were helping me hunt down supplies on the street, so I hung out at the restaurant for a while, had some food and beers. These 2 were pretty funny. They love American stuff and western culture. Bleached blonde hair. English writing on clothes. The woman stopped for a drink after selling me an awesome Hanoi tshirt.
imageThey were selling balloons in the back of the club for 30k dong, or about $1.25 USD. They were pumping these things out!!
imageView on the way up the stairs to the mezzanine.
imageDoesn’t look too different from a club in the US.. All American music too. Mostly rap/hip hop music.
imageOn the way out to the airport, another car hit the back of my taxi at a slow speed. My driver got out, and after yelling at each other for a few minutes, the other driver gave him a small wad of cash, and we were on our way! No insurance. No authorities. Just cash.

Hanoi – What can fit on a scooter?

What can fit on a scooter? You’d be surprised! Scooters are a way of life in Hanoi. The workhorses of transportation. And I was shocked what can fit on them! image There are only 3 here, but have seen up to a family of 5 on a scooter! Young beautiful people also like to just cruise around at night. Vespa’s are the most prized possessions (as are IPhones and other more expensive imports)  image what else? About 40 dozen eggs!! There are racks on the back of many scooters, which fold down, to pile supplies on. Shot this from my own scooter, which was carrying… Only me!
imageAbout 300 pounds of concrete mix! Not even piled on the back. This guy is filling his partners lap wh bags of concrete. Fortunately, the ballast will keep him safe, rather than wearing a helmet 😉

image This was one of the larger loads I saw strapped in.. Ropes, bungees, and a lot of luck! This was mostly filled with toys for the Mid-Autumn festival, which is a bright, loud, festive holiday – like a harvest festival.
imageBia Ha Noi!!! 3 kegs is nothing! This is the most popular beer in Ha Noi. Something like their PBR or Budweiser.  I like Bia Saigon, which is a little skunkier, like Heinekenn.

Hanoi, Vietnam- More Adventures on the Street

More Hanoi!img_0253This is the second story engineering for one building on a major road. The end of each stick has a notch in it to rest on the wood below, thus providing unsurpassed structural support. They just don’t build ’em like they used to! This is one of many examples of the tradeoff between cost, independence, and probably contributor to an overall lower life span in Hanoi. Among building issues, there are all kinds of “health and safety” issues in real estate and food that would make the nicest inspector in the US retire on the spot.

What’s a good tradeoff between safety and cost? How realistic is it to have locals maintain what standards of building to protect people from occasional catastrophes,  while still allowing small, stall-type businesses where many Vietnamese make their money, survive?  I don’t know. img_0261Everything is done on the sidewalks here. EVERYTHING! You’ll see more examples later. But businesses/people clean/cook/skin/raise/park/live on the sidewalk just outside each business. It is the restaurant, the café, the “water cooler,” the street corner, or wherever people in the world meet to get together, and more.  Just outside our hotel/hostel in the old quarters, tomorrow’s dinner!img_0271The police/security smoking cigarettes on the right shut down the entrance of the street for packed nights leading up to the mid-Autumn festival. It’s busy down here right now! Lots of families getting noisy/blinky toys for their kids. Small flowers people pin to the top of their heads like Dr Seuss characters. Someone I met locally said it a Chinese “thing” that is supposed to be stylish, where people clip a flower to the middle of their head. Interesting! img_0263Burned my leg on the exhaust pipe of a scooter next to me when pulling up to park my scooter to get some Vietnamese coffee. Ouch!!! Yes, that’s a blister in the middle. Part of life! Everyone riding around on a scooter has burn marks on their legs, so guess I’ve been initiated!img_0265The Cong coffee shop has delicious coconut cold Vietnamese coffee, guerrilla-green uniforms with Che fighter hats, and Socialist dictator pics plastered around the shop. Delicious coffee!!img_0270Here is PART of a loaded scooter, ready to bring goods across town for the big festival. It’s amazing what people load up on bicycles or scooters – more than we could fit in most cars..


HANOI, VIETNAM – Last-minute Trip.


So after getting done with my big Real Estate Summit in Oakland on 8/27 & 8/28, it was time to take a break. Either head to Burning Man – or visit Jen in Hanoi. This is a combo business trip (writing my business plan, having logo created, turning my real estate stuff into a true business) – and having some fun! Thanks to everyone who came out to the Summit! It kicked ass! I love real estate because I get to meet awesome people, and travel to beautiful places like this while growing my business 🙂

The restaurant above had about 20 different stalls of delicious Vietnamese street food to choose from. Since many tiny stalls on the street typically focus on and only make 1 dish, it’s a fantastic way to try everything 🙂  Beautiful view with lanterns and the street from the balcony of the second floor where we were eating.


There are a bunch of motorbike “taxis” and even Uberbikes to get around. This guy was driving like a madman while on his cell phone. But made it through! I figured, if this guy could get through without dying, so could I! (maybe 😉

img_0121OLD SCHOOL
Many women roam the street hawking fresh fruits & vegetables, dried meats, toys, etc. Bicycles and scooters are the workhorse of choice.


After hopping on the back of a stranger’s scooter when I first arrived in Hanoi, I knew I’d have to go rent one. There are petrol stations on the major loop around the city, and an attendant pumps for you and resets for each person. Probably a lot like many decades ago in the US. While most items are relatively inexpensive in Vietnam, I believe the gas was about $20K dong (VND) per liter.

With the exchange rate of $1USD = ~$22k VND, and almost 4 liters per gallon, it’s almost $4/gallon for gas. More than the US! (And probably one of the few things more expensive than the US).  When I was in Amsterdam, I rented a bike to get around. In Vietnam, “land of 5 billion scooters,” it’s the only way to get down the clogged streets and alleys without sweating your ass off walking all day..  Traffic and 4-way intersections are a madhouse/free for all!!img_0249*WE ALL SCREAM FOR ICE KEM!*
Guess what is just as delicious on a warm, muggy evening in Hanoi? Kem! aka Ice Cream 🙂  We rode the newly rented scooter around the lake, and took a quick ice cream break at these decorative dragon boats on the lake. Bats were flying everywhere!img_0176YUMMY
Rice noodles, basil (my fav!), egg, pork dumplings, tomato, lime, & fish sauce. More food to come! This is from the restaurant above..

Nothing goes unused or to waste in Vietnam. Street peddlers go around fixing and patching up old sandals. And when they get too worn or broken to wear on your feet, they may just become the brakes on your next bicycle!

Jen and I spinning around at the night market. An autumn festival is coming up, and they’re selling brightly colored noisy toys all over. Hard to tell, but there are tons of bubbles in the background also! 🙂

This is the walkway up to the Temple of the Jade Mountain, which has a bridge going out to a small island in the middle of Hoan Kiem lake, in central Hanoi. We stayed not far from here, and is a beautiful spot – reminds me of beautiful Lake Merritt in Oakland! 🙂


Some foods are different in Vietnam. Some foods are VERY different in Vietnam. Don’t tell Old Yeller what they’re up to out here!! :-/ *I have not had any dog.. not sure if I can bring myself to it :-/

Of course had to get a massage! Before I get a billion emails, no – this was just a REGULAR massage lol I plan on coming back to get a 2-4 person massage at once! Treat yo self! 😉

90% of business in Hanoi seems to be done on the streets or sidewalks. Your food is chopped/cleaned/slaughtered/purchased/eaten right on the sidewalk or street you walk down every day. Whether it be some local fruits, and entire pig, or a dog. Scooters are fixed on the street. Many women still wear the traditional Vietnamese hats you have seen in movies for years in the rice paddies. Some things here are a blast from the past. Old bicycles. Carrying heavy loads with a home-fashioned wooden yolk & baskets. I wonder if you would know the difference if you were dropped in this same market 50 years ago…?


Welding, grinding – no matter what work you’re doing, it all goes down on the street and sidewalks..





NV > CENTRAL COAST, CA – Ghost Town, Desert Aliens, & BB&B!

As I was driving through the middle of the desert, I saw a phenomenal beam of light rising from the desert floor. And there were a series of hundreds of beaming lights powering that super-beam. I thought that certainly this must be aliens.. And maybe it was! But it also looks like power! IMG_4640I believe these arrays of mirrors super-heat the big contraption in the middle, heating some kind of liquid that turns a turbine of some kind to generate electricity. For all the heat out there, I’m glad they’re doing something with itIMG_4649Ghost Town! Calico is an abandoned mining town out in the desert. I was hoping it would just be desolate, abandoned  buildings – but of course, it has been turned into a tourist attraction. They refurbished some of the buildings and have little lessons of the old days taught for the kids.. Not exactly what I was expecting. But interesting to seeIMG_4686My trip came mostly to a wrap-up when I arrived in Nipomo, CA for an annual family/friend gathering called the BB&B (Beer, BBQ,  & Baseball) each summer. IMG_4734We visited a neighbors’ party, and this is my Mom and Dad walking my little 1yo nephew down the driveway..IMG_4663Destruction derby! Every year before the BB&B, my family goes to the fairgrounds to watch destruction derby. If you’ve never seen it, cars driving around in circles slamming into each other, trying not to disable their car. The last car running wins! Ironically, this was probably the most seemingly-southern-inspired thing I did on my trip to the South, and not until I got back to my parents’ house in CA! lol