Mini-Post: Hi! You are very tall!

Here’s a fun short post for you all, from the library of “Things that will never happen to Danielle.” Today, we visited Hue, a lovely Vietnamese city that was the imperial capital of Vietnam, the capital for the Nguyen emperors. In 1945, the Communists came to power and declared Hanoi to be the capital, so now Hue is just a nice place to visit and get a glimpse of what imperial life was like. On the way back, over one of Hue’s narrow bridges, we were stopped by a young Vietnamese man walking with his girlfriend. This happened:

Vietnamese guy, enthusiastically: “Hi!” (not hello for a change)
Rebecca, almost as enthusiastically: “Hi!”
Vietnamese guy: “You are very tall!”
Rebecca, surprised and amused: “Thank you…? Hahaha.”

Did I mention that Rebecca sticks out a lot in Asia? Exhibit A.

Pho, Vietnam’s Perfect Sick Food

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Photo courtesy of Clevelend Scene (via Google Search)

When planning for a long trip, you do lots of preparation. You pack medicines you think you might need, you get vaccines, you sketch out your itineraries, and you try to learn what you can about the places you want to go. What you never plan for is actually getting sick. Luckily for us, we got sick in the land of noodle soup: Vietnam.
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You Get What You Pay For: My $26 Fleece

When we planned this trip to Southeast Asia, we knew that we would be encountering some wacky weather. For most of the trip, it was going to be hot. But for about a month, we anticipated some stormy and cool weather. That month happened to fall while we were in Vietnam, specifically in Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital. We arrived on February 15, and for the duration of our 8-day stay (while we recovered from illness), it was cold and rainy, for which I was completely unprepared. So, I decided to buy a fleece jacket. And in my successful outing, I realized that the way I shop at home is really stupid.
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Life Lessons from a Sandwich

I was so excited to come to Vietnam and have bahn my, what I thought was an authentic Vietnamese sandwich. At home, it is essentially a baguette with meat, cilantro, a spicy and sweet sauce, and other sandwich ingredients like lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, carrots, and more. Every one that I’ve had in the US, at Vietnamese-American restaurants, was delicious. So it must be better in Vietnam, right? Wrong. In buying it, and setting my expectations so high, I had made a very rookie tourist mistake: seeking authenticity from a tourist experience.
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Vietnamese Coffee with Milk

I never used to be a coffee drinker. I didn’t ever need the caffeine to wake up in the morning, and I never had to stay up late enough in college to be compelled to drink it at 11pm. I have a sensitivity to caffeine, so much so that after two successive days of coffee intake, I am hooked and need to drink it to avoid caffeine withdrawl. You would think this would be enough to keep me away from coffee forever, but I cannot pull myself away; I just like the taste. So as a coffee lover, coming to Vietnam was a little like being an opium addict and traveling to the poppy fields of Afghanistan. And I have been indulging, big time. Continue reading

An Open Letter to the Vietnamese Tourism Board

Dear Vietnamese Tourism Board,

Let me first say thank you very much for giving me the opportunity to visit your country. I have found the experience deeply rewarding. Vietnam has a great deal in the way of quality food, entertainment, and natural beauty. Most recently, I visited Datanla Falls outside of Dalat. Though I loved the natural scenery, there were a few things that would like to offer for your consideration as you open more natural spaces to visitors in the future. I am speaking specifically of admission prices, activities, and accessibility within the park. Continue reading

Simple Pleasures

Now, for something completely different, a poem.

Ode to the Western Bed
Oh Western Bed, you are so soft.
You cradle me and my sweet dreams aloft.
With gentle springs and a pillow top,
So quickly to sleep, my worries you stop.

In the Far, Far East, I miss you quite a lot,
As I lay half the night wishing that I were not
With my back to a board, under me just a sheet,
Praying this experience I’ll ne’er repeat.

So the next time we meet as I travel around,
I’ll be sure to delight in the treasure I’ve found,
Because nothing’s more precious, nothing can best
The pleasure derived from a comfy night’s rest.

An Ongoing Tally of Strange Things I’ve Eaten

A great deal of the fun of travel is eating different foods. Maybe foods you never dreamt you’d try or it would never occur to you to eat. Animal, vegetable or fruit, trying new things is, in my opinion, critical to staying happy in life. And what better way to experience another culture than to eat what they do? So here, in this entry, which I will update regularly, I will keep an ongoing list of interesting things I’ve eaten and how I liked them. Continue reading

Goodbye to the Ugly American

Americans used to have a really bad rap. For years, we were the country with the most tourists worldwide, so whether we deserved it or not, we became targets for global resentment. We became the obnoxious Americans: loud, entitled, inebriated, and ignorant, a stereotype that fit well with a foreign policy that was brazen, haughty and destructive. Today, nearly 20 years after I began traveling abroad, things are different. So what’s changed? Continue reading

Our Asian Bus Travel Honeymoon is Over

For the past month, I’ve been writing mostly about how easy it is to get around in Asia. Our experiences with bus travel have been remarkably pleasant. We had heard so many horror stories about buses that we kept wondering what all the fuss was about. Well, after our experience on the tiny bus from Mui Ne to Dalat, Vietnam, we get it. Bus travel is totally a mixed bag; you never know what you are going to get.
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