Tag Archives: Desert

How to Survive Coachella Music Festival

5 May

Desert. Endless miles of walking. Tents. Oven-baked porta-potties. Hydration stations swarming with sweaty humans. And of course, 200 live acts of eargasmic musical performances that will change your zen forever, man.

It’s a battle in the desert, so here are some tips on how to survive Coachella Music Festival and still enjoy your 3-day musical journey.

Camp out with your pants out

  • SKIP THE HOTEL. Not only are you spending boatloads of money on top of the $350 RFID wristband, you’re totally losing out on the Coachella experience. Grunge it up, mingle with your kind, and don’t be a pansy. 
  • DON’T PROCRASTINATE. Sensible Simon should tell you to purchase your camp site / car camping passes at the same time you purchase your Coachella ticket. However, most of us music-festers don’t know who Sensible Simon is and got ultimately  SCREWED when all these passes were bought up by evil scalpers. Instead of being sold for $75 at face value, you’d see them being sold on Craigslist for $150-$300! Hale-to-the-No.
  • CAR CAMPING > TENT CAMPING. The way the lots were arranged this year, the tent lot was furthest away from the music stages – although it was definitely quieter, making it easier to get some sleep – it was SOOO FAR! In the desert, every step you take feels like an eternity. With car camping the lots are closer to the music venues and you can obviously pack a lot more supplies to help you survive Coachella – ie. coolers, beer, grills, blow-up dolls etc.  You can also easily fit 2-3 tents in one car camping spot. If you and a couple of friends get car camping passes – you could totally combine forces and build a giant mega-fort! Awesome! Only downside, if even – it’s a lot livelier and noisier, so you may not get all that much sleep (which is why you pack red bull).
  • DANCE. NAP. DANCE.  Another reason to camp. You’re going to be so exhausted from all the concerts that you’re going to be so thankful that you can just walk to your tent and crash for a bit. If you stay at a hotel, you won’t be able to do this and you probably won’t enjoy Coachella as much because of the exhaustion.


  • SUNBLOCK. You’re in the desert! Do you want skin cancer? WHY ARE YOU WEARING PAINT ON YOUR FACE?  Don’t forget to bring chapstick with sun protection as well.
  • SUNGLASSES. For obvious reasons. The laser show at night!
  • WATER CONTAINER. Water is $2.00. Gatorade is $4.00. Coachella has hydrating stations with filtered water that’s FREE. I didn’t bring one and as a result I spent $100 on water in order to keep myself hydrated.
  • WET ONES TOWELETTE WIPES. You may need this to take a “hippy shower.” Or after a trip to the porta-potty. This seriously was something I was glad to have with me.
  • TAMPONS. They are like $7.00 for a pack of 5. Ridiculously expensive. Bring them for bloody noses, because of the dry climate weather. Yea…that’s it…
  • COMFY, LIGHT, BREEZY CLOTHES. It’s hot. No need to dress to impress. 
  • PANTS & HOODIE. The reason why the desert gets so hot is due to the thin atmosphere and lack of water. The heat penetrates through this thin layer making it very hot in the day. And guess what, at night the heat disappears and  it can drop to around 40-50 degrees.
  • FLIP-FLOPS & SNEAKERS. Sneakers for long-distance walking and extreme bio-dome dancing. Flip-flops for the showers.
  • UMBRELLA FOR YOUR TENT. This sounds weird, but if you can put some type of umbrella or another tent on top of your tent – you will be able to get some more shade. You couldn’t sleep past 7AM because the sun would penetrate the tent and singe your forehead.
  • COLGATE WISPS. For those times you lose your toothbrush and yo breath seriously stanks. (Thx Sam!)


  • Indian feather headdress
  • Body/face paint (sweating + body paint = smelly hipster creature)
  • Flannel shirt
  • Gladiator sandals
  • Babies (seriously, I saw babies there, wtf?)
  • Frugalness – just face it, you’re going to spend lots of money
  • DSLR cameras – unless you want it to explode


You probably won’t read tips like this before departing rainy Boston for sunny California. The night before you fly you’ll probably order a tent and sleeping bag and ship it overnight to your parent’s house in Chino Hills. You’ll also only get 1 hr of sleep. Then you will drive to the desert, stopping by In-n-Out for an animal-style burger along the way. Then you’ll pick up a Coachella wristband from some rando you found on FB and meet him at a grocery store in the middle of nowhere. Then you’ll arrive to Coachella at around midnight – only to drive around the Polo Field anchovied in amazing traffic in the middle of the night. Then you’ll nap in an abandoned church parking lot, because you won’t know what else to do. Then you’ll wake up –  discover a tiny residential neighborhood 3 miles outside of the venue – and park your car with the risk of getting towed. At 1AM you’ll be running through the desert with coyotes howling at you. After security gropes your belongings and you get checked in, you’ll wander aimlessly with your luggage weighing you down – redialing your couchsurfing friend Nolan who was supposed to hook you up with a tent spot. Unfortunately, Nolan is probably drunk and wasted and won’t pick up his phone. Finally, you’ll give up and plop down out of exhaustion – where you’ll set up your tent illegally and probably on somebody else’s spot. BUT! YOU’LL GET AWAY WITH IT – for the entire weekend – without having to pay a single dime for parking or camping! And Sensible Sam will cry in his corner. And you will have an awesome, mind-blowing, fantastical, magical time enjoying all of your favorite bands – questioning why Lauryn Hill is wearing a beanie – laughing at Cee Lo Green as he rants on stage – and then eat lots of food that costs $8. 
For more information check out Coachella’s website.

INNER MONGOLIA & My 1ST Couchsurfing Experience

6 Oct


BEIJING, May 2009. So I was sitting at the public computer at Leo Hostel, after having just said 在见(good-bye) to traveling buddies Dawei & Stuart. I had about 2 extra days to kill before heading back to Shanghai. I decided, yo – Imma gonna head to INNER MONGOLIA! I tried to check train times, but of course China’s unreliable websites said nothing to me. I hopped onto couchsurfing.org and created a profile so I could crash somewhere for free.

When I ran the query for couchsurfing hosts in Inner Mongolia, only 8 results appeared. I clicked on the profile at the top of the list – ‘Nuppu from Finland.’ Nice reviews, cool desert pictures – couldn’t see her face, but whatever – safer to stay with a girl, right? Cool, doing it. So I messaged her:

Hi Nuppu!~ I am Allison from Los Angeles, CA. I’m taking a SPONTANEOUS trip to Inner Mongolia and was wondering if I could crash with you? This will be my first time. You seem like a really cool girl, I’ve never met anyone from Finland! I’m sorry this is so last minute, but hey that’s the nature of these things right? Please let me know as soon as you can! Thanks, Allison

RE: Hi Allison, yea sure you can crash here, when are you coming? Give me a call. Nuppu.

I gave her a call and she had a really cool English-sounding accent and I pictured her to have dark skin like an Indian-Eskimo (At that time I had no clue what Finnish people looked like).

I went to the train station via $2 cab, begged for the last standing seat (got bumped up to a hard sleeper) to depart Beijing at 11:31 PM and arrive to Hohhot, Inner Mongolia at around noon. I. was. so. excitedly freaked out. Here I was traveling solo being all cool with my knock-off Northface backpack I got for like $10 bucks and nobody knew that I was going to Inner Mongolia except for Nuppu. I’m such a badass.

The train ride was a bit boring…I was surrounded by a bunch of old Chinese people that I didn’t feel like talking to. One took a liking to me and I had to swat him away. I slept on the top hard-sleeper bunk and cuddled with my backpack out of fear that I would get mugged in my sleep (a common paranoia us travelers have). After having spent the last 6 months jailed in my Chinese dormitory with 20 horny Americans, it was so nice to travel on my own. I finally felt like I could be the traveler I wanted to be. Granted, I was still in China – but I felt great to be independent, alone, and unsure of the future.

I woke up to a Chinese lady yelling out some crazy ass words that had to do with breakfast. I decided to buy a pork-filled bun, mmmmm. I dazed off into the landscape passing by, arrid grasslands, rickity houses, muggy blue sky..then after a couple of hours I realized…when the hell am I supposed to get off? It’s noon! And right at that moment, I heard on the P A: ‘huhhohaute’ and I was like (? ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?? ? ??? should I stay, should I jump off the train ? ? ? ? ????crapcrapcrap ??) over and over in my head. I decided to make a run. I leapt off the train and looked at the signs all around me. No signs. Crap. I hope I’m in the right place. I called the Fin.

Thank God, my instinct is always correct, I had gotten off at the right stop – I took a cab to the address Nuppu gave me. Ended up at Inner Mongolia Da Xue. I waited at the guard’s gate for about 30 minutes – shootin’ the shit in my broken Chinese, hiding under the umbrella as a storm just came in. Finally in the distance I see a dark figure – Nuppu. As she walked closer and closer, I saw that she had really long hair sweeping in the wind………….on just one side of her head. The other side was completely shaved.  OKAY. I don’t wanna be a hater, but this was my first time couchsurfing so I was being all sorts of judgey in my mind – I kept thinking: is she a psycho? Is she going to kill me? Rape me? Her skin was as pale as Michael Jackson’s (RIP) and had strikingly blue eyes. I decided to brush off my thoughts and try to feel her personality out. We did some small talk on the way to her DORMITORY (didn’t see that in the fine print of her profile).

“So uh…Nuppu. That’s a cool name. Where are you from?” (I knew full well where she was from)
“I’m from Finland with an interest in studying Mongolian.”
“..Ohhhhh cool!! …!!! So……………I’m finally here! Inner Mongolia!”
“Why’d you decide to come here?”
“Oh, you know just being spontaneous. I wanna check out the desert. Someone told me about it and I thought it was cool. Why are you here?”
“I’m supposed to be studying Mongolian…but I find that I’m just learning a lot of Chinese instead.”

As we entered the dark corridor leading up to her room (imagine dungeon-like features) we entered her musky room. It was filthy & disgusting. Strange black dirt marks on the walls, floors, toilet seat. There were cobwebs in every corner. LIVE MOTHS FLITTING ABOUT AND STUCK TO THE WALLS. It was a studio-sized dorm and as I went to plop down my backpack and take a seat in the only chair in the room – I realized there was a pile of books on it with cobwebs all over it too. (SHIT. WTF, WTF). I look around and I realize that there is only ONE.TWIN.BED. Where the hell is the couch? Isn’t that whole reason for couchsurfing?

“So Nuppu…..ehm…. have you ever hosted before? ”
“Nope, you’re my first.”
(OH SHIT. I’m definitely going to die here. I have no way out)……………………….. ……. … after minutes of silence and noticing Japanese anime posters pasted over the cobwebs on her walls. I finally said, “So what’s there to do here?”
“Oh I dunno, I don’t get out much, I might go to a classical music concert later tonight.”
“Oh, okay cool. Hey, can I borrow your laptop!??” *nervous laugh*

I never typed so hard and fast in my entire life. I logged right back into Couchsurfing.org and saw a profile of a guy that looked like Chuck Norris who was from CA. Thank god. I messaged him frantically saying that I was in Inner Mongolia and that I needed to be saved, without leaving any details but my #. I got a phone call from him within 5 minutes and was off and left Nuppu behind.

This couchsurfing experience ended VERY VERY VERY happily and I met 2 of the most interesting and funniest people I’ve met on my world travels. We actually traveled to the Gobi Desert together and I went ATV riding and sandboarding. Below are the pictures from my awesome adventure.

Looking back now though…I’m sure Nuppu was a very nice girl. But I was very naive and narrow-minded and wanted my first couchsurfing experience to be a bit more normal. Oh well, life doesn’t roll that way.

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