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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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

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