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!]

Oct 242009
Halong Bay's Monkeys Attack Beach!

Do you like wildlife? Do you like the sea? Do you like primates hurtling at you as you try to swim in the tranquil ocean? Then head to “Monkey Beach” in Halong Bay, otherwise known as “Monkey Attack Beach”!

The last stop in our day-long boat tour of magical Halong Bay, Vietnam, was this famous beach, cradled on one of the thousand limestone islands.

I threw off my wrap and dove into the [...Read More!]

Oct 242009
Kayaking and Dancing in Caves of Halong Bay

Halong Bay’s two thousand tower islands are twisted with deep and drippy caves!

Some of these caves have watery bottoms that you must paddle through. Others burrow deep into the centers of the ocean-hugged limestone towers, meaning you can twirl right through on foot.

In the morning, our tourboat puttered up to a walk-through cave, and we all clambered out and took goofy photos with the goopy looking rock.. and were promptly [...Read More!]

Oct 242009
The Waterworld People of Halong Bay

“LOOK!” cried our new German buddy, Sebastian, pointing to the horizon, “It’s a boat supermarket!” Sure enough, a few yards away from our small Halong Bay tourboat rowed a woman waist-deep in bottled water, fruit, candy, and soap! Her face was completely wrapped except for the eyes, as so many women in Asian countries do to combat the sun’s darkening effects. She waved furiously at us, rowing closer and [...Read More!]