Oct 312009
Around Vientiane, led by Orange-Clad Monks!

What did I do today?

In a quest for exercise plus tourism, I covertly tagged along behind various packs of Buddhist monks!

We meandered all day through Vientiane, Laos, drinking in the colors, faces, structures, and warm air.

It was a delightful way to see this delightful city!

Let’s see where the monks led. 1. Monk Pack One:

The first involuntary monk guide pack led me down a highway, past fragrant [...Read More!]

Oct 312009
Eating Like a Beast Through Vientiane, Laos

(Disclaimer: To demonstrate the heavenly Vientiane food scene in this article, I am forced to reveal my gluttonous, anti-social, cheapskate side. I promise, I do at times actually interact with the non-edible facets of life, but yesterday was not such a day.)

“Where else but Vientiane could you enjoy steak au poivre for less than US$5?” asks my Lonely Planet guide, barely holding back its drool.

Laos is an epicure’s dream. [...Read More!]

Oct 312009
Another Reason Travel in Southeast Asia is Easy!

A major goal of this blog is to demonstrate how international travel is far easier and cheaper that most folks think.

It is all too easy to get worked into a froth, worrying about all the scary snags possible in future travel dreams. These worries can make you put off your voyage for months, even years.

Here’s the secret: When you finally set off on your journey and are in the thick [...Read More!]

Oct 302009
Laos is Awesome!

I am confused. What is this strange upward twist of the lips I am seeing here in Laos? I’ve just been in Vietnam for the past month and this expression is unfamiliar. Wait a minute… it’s coming back to me… this expression is known as a “SMILE”! Glory be, Laos is full of them!

That’s right: Laos lives up to the hype. For the past three months [...Read More!]

Oct 302009
30 Hours on a Bus With No Bathroom

Riddle me this: Let’s say you are a budget traveler. Which is the best option to get from Hanoi, Vietnam, to Vientiane, Laos… while still maintaining your sanity?

a) $150 for a one hour flightb) $40 for a 24 hour sleeper busc) $14 for a “20 hour” sitting bus ride which is widely reported to actually take 36 hours.

Ponder… weigh those options…

..And then shake your head in dismay when you hear [...Read More!]

Oct 302009
YUM: Eat Vietnamese Bun Bo Nam Bo!

In Thailand, you can wake up in your hotel room at one pm (two hours after checkout), stagger to the reception clerk and say, “I think I’ll stay another night, cool?” The clerk will usually smile and nod, graciously murmuring something like, “I guessed you would.”

Being a George Bush style genius, I decided to try this tactic in Hanoi, Vietnam. The result? As I swaggered out the hotel [...Read More!]

Oct 292009
Hanoi's Super-Cute Ex-Pat Cafes

“I’m analyzing your deepest fears and desires right now,” said the short-haired, middle-aged Canadian woman, staring at the drawings her French co-worker had scrawled on their paper placemats. The warm lighting in the Hanoi cafe made the colors glow.

The French woman smiled. “I just drew lots and lots of elephants. Not really any reason for it. I just did.”

[...Read More!]

Oct 292009
Little Stools and Other Situations Close to the Earth

Here are three differences between American culture and Vietnamese culture that have to do with being closer, physically, to the Earth.

1. Feet. I went to college with a fellow who never wore shoes, even in winter. He also walked around frequently with a giant live boa constrictor around his neck, and was generally considered to be an eccentric (though likable) hippie freak.

It is seen as rather odd in our [...Read More!]

Oct 262009
Mannequin Bodies, By Country

One of the most hilarious aspects of teaching is having the opportunity to absorb the latest teen slang. It’s endlessly entertaining!

In the Boston Public School in which I worked for five years, one of many slang words for a nice, plump rear end was: a fatty.

“Oooh, she got a fatty!” girls would squeal as one modeled her tight jeans.

And what about the stereotypical White Woman Butt? Ah yes…

“Psht–“ scoffed [...Read More!]

Oct 262009
John McCain’s Hanoi Prison, Today!

Across from the glass case holding the uniform John McCain was wearing when he was shot down (pictured, right), Hoa Lo Prison in Hanoi has a sign that reads as follows:

“United States government carried out a sabotage warfare by air force and naval force against the North of Vietnam from 05 August 1964 to 15 January 1973. Thousands of planes were shot down, and hundreds of U.S. pilots were [...Read More!]