The End of an Era

Too dramatic of a title? Perhaps. But considering I’ve been sitting down to write this blog post for over a month (opening lines to my drafts have included, “In less than a month, I’ll be leaving Malaysia” and “In less than a week, I’ll be leaving Malaysia), I suppose it feels appropriate.

In less than 10 hours, I’ll be leaving Malaysia. I’ve been attempting to organize my thoughts on this for quite awhile, in a way that is both coherent and comprehensive. We’ll see how I do.

When I came to Malaysia 9 months ago, all I had was a plane ticket. Alright, Alex was already here, so I wasn’t completely on my own. But it was still overwhelming. My initial plan was to get a job teaching English near Alex’s placement, a plan which quickly fizzled after realizing the low salary that most schools offered. Instead, I decided to try my hand at freelance writing.

The thing with freelance writing (or any job working from home) is that it can get kind of lonely. You don’t have as much interaction with people as you would working elsewhere, and this was especially true living in a Malaysian village. I had to work extra hard to put myself out there, which is difficult enough for me usually but is especially hard in a foreign country.

When I did first start putting myself out there, I wasn’t quite prepared for how I was received. Many people in Alex’s program, for example, looked down upon me for coming here. There was a belief that because I wasn’t part of a program and didn’t have a structured arrangement, I didn’t belong here. But, as they say, this wasn’t my first rodeo. I eventually did find people, both among Alex’s friends and otherwise, who felt differently and welcomed me with open arms.

As far as our community went, most people didn’t quite know what to make of us. Their reactions ranged from curiously looking to disapprovingly staring to ignoring us altogether. There were a couple restaurants that we frequented, and once we became regulars we were treated like anyone else. I personally enjoyed the produce lady at the market, who would talk at me in Bahasa and laugh the whole time, knowing full well I didn’t understand a word she said. Our neighbors, a Chinese family, were friendly and gifted us enough durian to last a lifetime.

One huge problem I did have with Malaysia (not that it’s limited to here) is street harassment. I had quite a few instances of aggressive behavior from men who acted more like animals than humans. It disgusted me and there was nothing I could do except ignore them, stare back or yell, which disgusted me even more. Moving on…

The best part about living in Malaysia was that it was a fabulous jumping off point for traveling throughout Southeast Asia. I vaguely knew that it was cheap and easy to get around here, but I had no idea I would visit as many places as I did. This worked out especially well because I stayed in Malaysia for 9 months using only tourist visas. This means I had to leave the country every 90 days, and always have a one-way ticket to my next destination to show the immigration officer (to “prove” I wasn’t living here). I didn’t discuss this on the blog at all, mostly because every time I left for a trip I was a tiny bit terrified that they wouldn’t let me back in. Luckily, I encountered minimal issues and according to my latest stamp, could stay in Malaysia through the new year if I wanted. Visit Malaysia 2014, indeed.

But as generous of an offer as that is (thanks, Malaysia), I will be back in New York by dinnertime tomorrow evening. I am so excited to see my family and friends, eat mountains of cheese and launder my clothes in an American washing machine. I’m not sure what the fate of the Rambler will be, now that I will have to go home and get a job and not travel to cool places all the time. But! We shall see. I do love blogging and would love to continue it in some fashion.

And with that, I’m signing off. Thanks for reading, guys, and I will see you soon, America!IMG_4834Miss you already, Garlic Naan Pizza.

Big Buddha on Lantau Island

One of my favorite days of our trip was our last day in Hong Kong. After meeting up with our old coworker the previous night, we were feeling a little worse for the wear and wanted something low-key to do.

Tian Tan Buddha, or Big Buddha, rests in the mountains of Lantau Island, which can be reached through a strenuous hike or a leisurely cable car ride. Feeling a little tired from the night before, we chose the latter option. We took the metro to the very edge of Hong Kong Island, and departed from there.IMG_5738

Although our main goal was to see the Buddha, the cable car was worth the price of admission (about 20 USD round trip, in case you’re planning to visit). You’re afforded stunning views of Tung Chung Bay, Ngong Ping Plateau and the South China Sea. You can also watch all the poor suckers who chose to hike the 5.7 km to the top of the mountain.IMG_5777 IMG_5772 IMG_5821 IMG_5755 IMG_5762

As you reach the top, Big Buddha comes into view. To be honest, I didn’t care too much about the statue itself before going. For having chosen not to hike there, there were a suspiciously high number of stairs required to reach it. Aside from feeling lazy, I’ve seen enough Buddhas in my travels throughout Asia to wonder why this one was so special.IMG_5782 IMG_5786I can’t quite put my finger on why, but Big Buddha really impressed me. Perhaps it was due to its immense size (112 ft tall and 250 metric tons), but I think it was just the whole scene that made it so wonderful: a lovely day on this gorgeous mountaintop, with the sun illuminating Buddha from all angles. It easily cracked my top-five favorite Buddhas.IMG_5790 IMG_5824 IMG_5801 IMG_5802 IMG_5826After visiting Buddha, we descended the stairs and continued our walk to the Wisdom Path. This pretty little nature walk wound through the woods to the base of Lantau Mountain. There, dozens of enormous wooden pillars rose out of the ground, bearing words in Chinese of “wisdom, enlightenment and some other stuff” (according to Alex). According to Wikipedia, they are verses from the Heart Sutra that are arranged in a figure 8 to symbolize infinity. It was another gorgeous site that Hong Kong seemed to be hiding. IMG_5804 IMG_5808 IMG_5809 IMG_5811We made our way back to the cable car, stopping for some surprisingly delicious gelato along the way. On the ride back down, I set down my camera and simply enjoyed the views.

Dragon’s Back and a Big ‘Ol Burger

Having fully recovered from our trek in Vietnam, we were more than ready to tackle one of Hong Kong’s surprisingly vast hiking options. We settled on Dragon’s Back, a ridge located in Shek O Country Park, because it didn’t look too difficult and had some nice views.

The hike began in a cemetery with a lot of stairs. Like, a lot a lot of stairs. I bow down to the fit Hong Kong people three times my age who were leisurely doing this hike.IMG_5684 We had a nice view of the cemetery from the top of the stairs, before we even got to the actual trail.IMG_5686We ambled along pretty easily for awhile, but the stairs came back. By the time we reached the summit of the ridge, we were huffing and puffing.IMG_5692 IMG_5695 IMG_5696 IMG_5707Our views were a little smoggy, but impressive nevertheless.IMG_5710 IMG_5713Instead of doubling back the way we came, we decided to head down the other side of the trail and catch the bus to Shek O Beach. Unfortunately for us, we caught the bus in the wrong direction and headed right back to where we began.

Sweaty, tired and ravenous, we grabbed a quick shower at the hotel before heading back out to grab a bite to eat at Stone’s.

Stone’s is a sports bar tucked away in the back streets of Causeway Bay, and they know how to make a burger. This burger (Burger #3, if memory serves) was unbelievable. Huge, juicy and exactly what I wanted to eat after a sweaty hike.IMG_5728They also have a great selection of imported beer. You’ll pay for it, of course, as you will anywhere in Hong Kong, but it was quite worth it in my opinion.IMG_5724Nothing much else to report on for this day, as we returned to our hotel and promptly fell into a bacon-induced coma.

An Introduction to Hong Kong

The first thing that I noticed about Hong Kong people is that they don’t do morning well.

Alex and I woke up our first day in Hong Kong, hungry and looking for breakfast. We wandered the streets of Kowloon for quite some time, searching for someplace to eat. We found one upscale café that would have blown our budget immediately, a stand selling foul-smelling meat jerky, and McDonald’s. McDonald’s it was.

I found it strange that a city of this size and modernity would not have more breakfast options at 9 am on a weekday, but McDonald’s turned out to be an interesting option nevertheless. We sat next to a Japanese man (whose name is on a piece of paper that I’ve since misplaced) who had been living in Hong Kong for awhile, and he struck up a conversation with us.

Alex steered the topic of conversation to Occupy Central, the movement toward democracy that has been erupting across Hong Kong. Here is the condensed version: When the United Kingdom handed Hong Kong over to China in 1997, they were promised free elections in 20 years. This means that Hong Kong is meant to hold elections in 2017, and is petitioning for the freedom to (gasp!) choose their own candidates. China has said that they will allow Hong Kong to hold elections but will unsurprisingly restrict them to a selection of Beijing-approved candidates. Although the movement was just gaining momentum when we were there, it has since erupted into a full-scale occupation of Hong Kong’s business district.

I haven’t met too many people who don’t support Hong Kong’s movement toward democracy, but my sample size is admittedly quite small. The guy we met presented a different point of view, discussing how Hong Kong people already have far greater freedom than those from the mainland (which is true) and that Beijing is simply trying to maintain the unity of China as a whole by not offering Hong Kong total autonomy. In many ways, it is a clash between the old and the young: those who want to maintain the status quo and those who want to change it.

Though I enjoyed hearing his opinion, I strongly disagreed with most of what he was saying. I fully believe that Hong Kong should continue to petition for democratic rights, though I don’t think Hong Kong has a chance of achieving full autonomy in their 2017 elections. China would sooner send in the riot police than let that happen (though with the world’s eyes upon them, they have been resisting such a Tiananmen Square-esque action). However, I think that this movement is symbolic of a greater tide of change that is sweeping across China and its territories. Tibet, for example, has been watching the Hong Kong protests closely. Even those on the mainland, whose information is heavily censored, are not ignorant to what is happening. While the issue of suffrage is certainly significant, Hong Kong supporters of this issue are also illustrating, through the very act of protest, that they realize just how oppressive the CCP is.

China likes to claim that these protests are driven by Western provocation, yet as the Hong Kong’s former Chief Secretary Anson Chan said, “Nobody from the outside could possibly stir up this sort of depth of anger and frustration.” This is very much a Hong Kong, and a Chinese issue.

In any event, it’s always nice to meet people with different points of view than your own. After all, that’s kind of the point of traveling. After we enjoyed a little political banter, he made some recommendations for how we might want to spend the rest of our day. Since I’ve already rambled on far too much for this post, I’ll just show you some pictures from our day.IMG_5632 IMG_5637 IMG_5647 IMG_5651 IMG_5655 IMG_5658 IMG_5661 IMG_5663I know this post was a little disjointed, but having visited Hong Kong right at the start of all of this, I felt compelled to offer my opinion (lucky you).

I have a couple more Hong Kong posts planned, and then it will time for my closing remarks on Malaysia and this whole experience! Hard to believe, but just one week from now I’ll be in Kuala Lumpur and shortly thereafter (okay, a week in Thailand and a wedding in Indonesia later), I’ll be back in the good ol’ US of A.

An Evening of Insects at the Bugs Cafe

As soon as I read about the Bugs Cafe in Siem Reap, I knew that I had to try it. Touted as an “Insect Tapas and Cocktail Bar,” Bugs Cafe specializes in- you guessed it- insect dishes and delectable mixed drinks. Never ones to pass on a culinary adventure, we made it a priority to have dinner there one night.

We started out with one of their signature cocktails, Cambodian Fever, made with rum, sombai ginger chili, papaya juice, mango, lime and cilantro. I love jalapeno margaritas, so I thought I knew what I was in for- but this cocktail was really spicy. It was a nice contrast to the sweetness of the mango and papaya, though I made the mistake of not using the straw and burning my lips on the chili. After going back to the straw, I was much happier.IMG_5600Now, onto the real reason we were there: the bugs. The menu was extensive, and had interesting preparations for grasshoppers, silkworms, bees, ants, crickets, tarantulas and scorpions. I don’t think I’ve ever had so much trouble deciding what to order, mostly because I had never tried anything like this before. We finally decided to share one of the Discovery Platters, which came with 2 Wild Spring Rolls, 1 Insect Skewer, 1 Mediterranean Feuillete with Ants, 1 Tarantula Donut and 1 Cricket & Silkworm Wok.IMG_5603First up was the Tarantula Donut. I liked this one because it looked exactly like a deep-fried tarantula. Taste wise, it was also one of my favorites. If you closed your eyes and didn’t think too much, it tasted like soft shell crab. Rating: 4/5IMG_5604 IMG_5619 IMG_5620Next was the Wild Spring Roll, filled with the usual suspects: cabbage, carrot and ants. Since it was fried to a crisp, the crunch of the ants blended right in. It tasted pretty much like a regular spring roll. Rating: 4/5IMG_5606Third, we dined on Insect Skewers. Here, we had our choice between spiders, giant waterbugs or grasshoppers. Playing it safe, we chose the grasshoppers. I didn’t care for the grasshoppers; I found them to be too crunchy and membraneous. Pieces of exoskeleton kept getting stuck between my teeth. The grilled peppers, onions and tomatoes were tasty, though. Rating: 2/5IMG_5610 IMG_5611 IMG_5612We took a breather from the hardcore stuff to enjoy the Mediterranean Feuillete. This was a puff pastry filled with a surprisingly good pesto and ants (local ants, to be exact, according to the menu). This dish was pretty benign, though I think it could have used a little more pesto. And possibly more ants? I couldn’t really taste them. Rating: 3/5IMG_5616Finally, we shared the Cricket & Silkworm Wok. They had four different flavors to choose from for the wok: Hot, Coconut Curry, Green and Mediterranean. They all sounded pretty good, and we went with Mediterranean (olive oil, pesto, parmesan cheese and cashews). This was about when I decided I was finished eating bugs for the night. The crickets, like the grasshoppers, didn’t have a pleasant texture and kept getting stuck in my teeth. The silkworms, by contrast, were soft and juicy. I kind of liked them, until Alex pointed out how they “popped” in your mouth. Again, thinking too much was my downfall and I had to put my fork to rest. The overall flavor was good; maybe I would have liked it better with different bugs. Rating: 2/5IMG_5617I’m happy that we tried out the Bugs Cafe. The menu was fascinating and everything was well-prepared. I discovered, though, that I just don’t like bugs that much. I recommend giving it a try if you’re in Siem Reap- even if the bugs freak you out, they make a killer cocktail.IMG_5599

Siem Reap

We have finally arrived at my favorite part of the trip, Siem Reap. Siem Reap is located in northwestern Cambodia, and is home to Angkor Wat. Although most people have heard of Angkor Wat, this is just one temple that is part of an enormous complex of ancient temples. You could spend weeks exploring all of them, although we found two days to be sufficient to see the main ones.

Before going, I assumed Angkor was going to be similar to Bagan, just a little more touristy. What I wasn’t prepared for was how beautiful the grounds themselves were. There are forests, streams, farmland and everything in between within the complex, which made for beautiful travel between the temples. IMG_5350

IMG_5393We hired a tuktuk to take us around the first day, to some of the outer temples. We decides to save Angkor Wat itself, along with Bayon and its surrounding temples, for the next day.

I apologize in advance for being a bad blogger and not writing down the names of all the specific temples. I was too happy just soaking up the atmosphere of each to take notes.IMG_5356 IMG_5371 IMG_5373 IMG_5383 IMG_5403 IMG_5413 IMG_5420IMG_5423IMG_5425IMG_5438Okay, so I almost didn’t make it up this one. These stairs were SO steep. Apparently the steepness of the stairs is representative of how difficult it is to achieve enlightenment. If that’s true, I’m likely to be huffing and puffing and nearly falling to my death several times as I try to get on Buddha’s level.

This was the last temple we visited on the first day. Early the next morning, we were up at 4 am to see the sunrise behind Angkor Wat.

It didn’t turn out to be a sunrise so much as a gradual sky lightening, but the masses gathered nevertheless. IMG_5486What was interesting was that although everyone lined up to watch the sunrise (kind of a bucket list thing), hardly anyone actually went inside Angkor Wat itself. We basically had the place to ourselves.

IMG_5512 IMG_5506 IMG_5514 We did manage to find someone to take our picture, though.

The best part of Angkor Wat was leaving it, actually. The early morning sun illuminated it in an absolutely gorgeous way.IMG_5526 IMG_5532After leaving Angkor, we headed to Bayon, another of the more famous temples in the complex. Bayon is famous for its enormous stone-carved faces, and quickly became my favorite temple of the trip.IMG_5541 IMG_5542 IMG_5551 IMG_5544I could have wandered around here for hours, but alas, we had more templin’ to do.IMG_5559      IMG_5538 IMG_5561 IMG_5565 IMG_5568 IMG_5571 IMG_5578 IMG_5574 I know this post has been somewhat an inundation of photos, but I couldn’t stop taking them and I want to share them all! Siem Reap is one of the most magical (ugh, I know) places I’ve ever been. I was happy as a clam walking in, through and around every single one of the temples, because there was something cool around every corner.

Our day of sightseeing made us quite hungry. Hungry enough to eat bugs, in fact. But that, my friends, is a post for another day!


Eating My Way Through Vietnam

As you know quite well by now, food is my favorite part of traveling. I find that eating my way through a culture is the best way to experience it, and I found Vietnam’s to be absolutely delicious.

Before beginning our trek through Sapa, we were given breakfast at the hotel from which we departed. I decided to try the chicken pho, a dish that has been recommended to me on countless occasions. I’ve never tried it because it always sounded rather boring to me: a noodle soup with some veggies and meat. Well, I learned that pho is deceptively simple. It was just a noodle soup, but the broth, flavored with green onions and cilantro, was phenomenal. There’s a reason Vietnamese people slurp this stuff down on a daily basis.IMG_5082I knew from the trek in Myanmar that we would be in for some fabulous food on our trek. This was the meal from our homestay the first night:IMG_5115Clockwise from the bottom: spring rolls, chicken with lemongrass, spaghetti squash, pho, crispy fried pork and an omelet.

We were actually not all that hungry, as we had had quite a late lunch. Well, you wouldn’t know it from how we chowed down on this meal. I was on the fast track to becoming a spring roll aficionado at this point in the trip, and these were some of the best I had in Vietnam. It’s a good sign when a dish is filled with a food you loathe (mushrooms) and you gobble it down anyway.

I also really enjoyed the chicken with lemongrass and fried pork. All of it was simply seasoned and prepared, and absolutely wonderful.

One thing I loved about Vietnam was the heavy French influence on its cuisine. It has been one of the few places in Asia that I’ve found with bread and pastries that satisfy my inner Parisian snob. Breakfast the next morning consisted of airy crepes topped with sliced banana and a drizzle of honey.IMG_5129We had the same breakfast the next day, but the bananas were a little different. They were shorter and fatter than regular bananas, and had a different flavor. More banana-y than regular bananas? I don’t know, I’m bad at this. But they were good.IMG_5178I was, once again, shocked by how simple yet delicious lunch was on Day 2 of our trek.IMG_5164When my lunch arrived, I was not too enthused. Some fried noodles topped with sliced omelet? It looked pretty bland. But with a couple dashes of chili sauce, it was perfect. It’s hard to describe, other than to say that all of the flavors went well together.

When we arrived back in Sapa the next day, I made a beeline for my favorite bite of the trip: spring rolls. These were the best ones I had the whole time, and probably will ever have for the rest of my life.IMG_5208I enjoyed them alongside a local beer.

IMG_5206Hanoi had some excellent street food, perhaps none better than the bahn mi donor. This wonderful cultural fusion takes the fluffy bahn mi bread for which Vietnam is so famous, and stuffs it with Turkish donor kebab meat, cabbage, carrots, lettuce and tomato. My pictures of them are terrible, but trust me when I say they were amazing.IMG_5078The final food highlight of Vietnam was in Hanoi, at the Hoa Vien Brauhaus. I had no idea before doing a bit of research, but Hanoi is home to a number of microbreweries. This one is their most popular, and looks exactly like a Czech beer hall.

Alex and I tried both of their beers, one wheat and one stout. We both found the wheat to be a little watery, but the stout was excellent. I love stouts with notes of coffee, so this one was right up my alley.IMG_5242The menu has a mix of Vietnamese and Eastern European items, so it was an interesting mash-up (although I suppose both cuisines use quite a bit of cabbage). We sampled the sausage, fried cheese and shrimp spring rolls.IMG_5244 IMG_5245 IMG_5246The spring rolls were okay, but it was the sausage and fried cheese that stole the show. I don’t know if it’s just because I’ve been living in Asia too long (I’m usually not a huge fan of sausage), but it tasted really good. The fried cheese is a must-try if you go.

I would go back to Vietnam in a heartbeat, just to keep eating its wonderful food. I’m already scouting out the best Vietnamese restaurants in New York so I can continue to enjoy this wonderful cuisine from home.

Trekking in Sapa

If you had told me a few months ago that I would be completing not one, but two 3-day treks this year, I would have thought you were nuts. Hiking, as I’ve mentioned, is not my favorite activity yet has turned out to be the highlight of some of the trips I’ve taken this year.

After a whirlwind day in chaotic Hanoi, the prospect of spending three days in nature sounded blissful. We took an overnight train from Hanoi to Lao Cai, where we were taken via bus to the bustling market town of Sapa. In addition to being quite charming in and of itself, Sapa serves as a jumping off point for trekking in this region of northern Vietnam.

After rearranging our stuff and enjoying some breakfast, we were off. Our guide was Mu, a 24-year-old who has lived in this region her whole life. She has been leading treks for the past four years. It is worth noting that most of the trekking guides in this area are women, and often serve as the breadwinners for their families.

Unfortunately, our party was not just the three of us and Mu. We were joined by three women, who spent the first part of the day talking to us and helping us over the more treacherous parts and the latter part trying to sell us their wares. We had read about these women on TripAdvisor, and so tried to ignore them as best we could. While I understand that they are trying to earn their living, I found their presence to be a distraction from the quietude of the hike. I was also probably a little annoyed that one of their “helping” hands nearly landed me in a creek.

Nevertheless, nothing could detract from the natural beauty of the Sapa region. We visited just as the harvest season was beginning, which meant the rice terraces were in the process of turning a gorgeous golden hue.IMG_5090IMG_5091IMG_5094IMG_5100IMG_5104We spent our first night in the village of Ta Van, home to the Giay people. Our housing was somewhat of a cross between staying at an inn and in someone’s home. Much like Myanmar, a series of mattresses were set up on the floor and dinner was served to us in the evening (I have a whole post on Vietnamese food, lest you think I’m glossing over what we ate).

This homestay, however, was quite a bit more modern than ours in Myanmar. We had access to a Western toilet and shower, as well as electricity and even wifi! I didn’t even bring a charger for my phone, since I assumed there would be no use for it. The trekking business in Vietnam is certainly more developed than that of Myanmar (as is the country as a whole). I wouldn’t be surprised if Myanmar has similar accommodations in 10 or so years.

Here was the view when we woke up the next day:IMG_5125IMG_5128We were back on the trail the next morning, ready for another day of hiking. Day 2’s terrain was much like Day 1’s, with the exception of an awesome bamboo forest through which we trekked (no pictures of the bamboo, I’m afraid, as I was too busy trying not to fall).IMG_5131IMG_5136IMG_5150If you’re thinking to yourself, “Wow, Tara looks an awful lot like a Boy Scout in that picture,” you’d be wrong. I look like a farmer in that picture. The old bandana-on-the-back-of-the-neck trick is one learned I learned from grandfather’s field attire, and has prevented many a sunburnt neck whilst hiking.

The pathway down to the Ban Ho, where we stayed the second night, was a tricky one. We lucked out in that it didn’t rain a drop during our whole trek, which was fortunate because I couldn’t imagine how slippery it would have been if the trails had been wet. The picture below is of the main path; once again, I didn’t get a picture of the tricky part because I was having trouble just walking. IMG_5165IMG_5169We made it to our homestay quite early, around 3 or 4 in the afternoon. This one wasn’t quite as modern as the first, so we didn’t have anything except ourselves and each other to entertain us (and a single English guidebook to Vietnam, which was about 20 years old). A couple from England arrived shortly after we did, and we made friends with them over a couple of local beers and dinner that night.IMG_5170The last day of our trek was short and sweet. Wanting to spend some time in Sapa town upon returning, we had asked Mu if we could leave for our hike early the next day. Proving that time is ever fluid in Southeast Asia, we walked out around 9 or 10 the next day. (You would think, by the way, that this is something I would be used to by now but I find that my mind still races constantly to New York time.)

This last bit of the trek turned out to be more of a nature walk to a waterfall about 30 minutes away. We hung out there for a bit before traveling back to our homestay to retrieve our bags and catch the taxi back to Sapa.IMG_5180IMG_5190I highly recommend trekking through the Sapa region if you get the chance. Although we trekked only about half the distance of what we did in Myanmar, I found the terrain of Sapa to be much more difficult to hike. Since you begin in Sapa town, at the top of the mountain, and hike down into the valley, there are more than a few treacherous downhill stretches (I’m also terrible at hiking downhill, so there’s that). The scenery, however, is not to be missed. Aim to go late September- early October, when the rainy season is mostly finished and the rice paddies have changed color.


The Internet is back and I’m ready to tell you all about my latest Southeast Asian adventure!

Our trip began in Hanoi, where we met Alex’s mom. We had one day of sightseeing in Hanoi before getting on the overnight train to Sapa, which is where we would begin our three-day trek through northern Vietnam.

Hanoi is, in a word, crazy. It is hands-down the busiest, loudest, most chaotic city I’ve ever visited. We actually received instructions from our hotel on how to safely cross the street, though this was merely a formality because the truth is that there is no safe way to cross the street. Crosswalks, when they do exist, are largely ignored and traffic lights are a mere suggestion. This is to say nothing of traffic circles, which are simply wide open spaces with no lanes, rules or regulations.

IMG_5058Alex brazenly strolled out into traffic with no trouble, while Ronni and I had a few more reservations. Slowly, though, you become accustomed to the chaos and realize that you will get nowhere unless you do walk out into traffic. Oddly enough, it was safer to step out in front of larger vehicles, like trucks, because they were more likely to stop for you. Motorbikes were scarily unpredictable.

IMG_5072After leaving the heart of the Old Quarter, we made our way to Hoan Kiem Lake, where we sauntered along the water and enjoyed the lack of motor vehicles.



IMG_5056From there, we headed to the Vietnamese Women’s Museum, which we all thoroughly enjoyed. It was interesting to learn how Vietnamese women have traditionally held the power in choosing a husband (or at least, their families did) and that the groom moves into the bride’s household after marriage.

IMG_5063The rest of the day was spent walking, walking and walking some more. It was a great way to see the city, but we were utterly exhausted by the end of the day. The combination of getting up early for our flight, wandering all day and being surrounded by people and noise did us in. Before we knew it, though, it was time to get on the overnight train and begin our trek the following day.

I would recommend Hanoi for a quick visit, maybe one or two days. Any more than that would personally be too much for me, but I also tend to get overwhelmed in busy places like that. I much preferred Sapa, but that is a post for another day!

(Almost) Back in Action

So it’s been a little while since I’ve posted, huh? After some problems at security issues, a two-week trip and coming home to no Internet, I’m (almost) ready to get back to blogging! I still don’t have Internet, but have been working on some posts about my recent trip to Vietnam, Cambodia and Hong Kong. I’m also preparing to leave Malaysia in about three weeks, and will have some thoughts on that as well.

Anyway, if I still have any readers left (hi, Mom!), please bear with me for a few more days and I promise to have some good stuff up soon. Talk to you soon!