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!]

Oct 262009
Travelers: Visas are Important!

The accompanying (rather unrelated) photos for this article are street scenes from Hanoi, Vietnam (particularly motorcycle sights, which never cease to amaze me) and views of Hanoi’s Temple of Literature.

Shaun’s head was hung low over his coconut juice when I met up with him at the restaurant. “What’s wrong?” I asked. “Did your lady friend fly in yet?”

Shaun shook his head in woe. “She woke up this morning [...Read More!]

Oct 252009
Vietnam’s Spunk!

Yes, that IS a giant octopus piled on top of a moving motorcycle in the photo to the left.

“Remember,” said Ahmar, speaking from his ten months living in Hanoi, “Vietnam has spent most of its history fighting invaders– from the Chinese, to the French, to us Americans. It’s not surprising that the people have… spunk.”

I nodded enthusiastically, so happy that this friend of a friend of a friend [...Read More!]

Oct 252009
Loving Hanoi’s Hoan Kiem Lake

Here’s a deeply foolish idea: Check yourself into a hip, uber-popular Backpacker’s hostel when you are exhausted beyond belief and really just need to sleep.

Screw being social with nubile young Australians, and screw paying just $7 a night, because you will not sleep a wink in a dorm room with twelve Germans who don’t shut up and two Brits with a nasty cough.

Splurge those extra few bucks and get your [...Read More!]

Oct 252009
Salvaging My Motorcycle-Maimed Computer!

The famous author from whom I bought my dear little Asus eee PC threw me a sharp Facebook message in response to one of my status updates. “What happened to the computer?” he typed. “I leave for Kabul in 30 hours. Give me the lowdown.”

So I did. “At exactly the same moment I was being groped on a moving motorcycle atop a mountain in rural Vietnam,” I replied, “a [...Read More!]