Thursday, August 28, 2014

Mui Ne: Resort Life at The Cliff

In early July I went with a group of Vietnamese to a bona fide RESORT. I've never been to such a classy, blatantly rich-people destination before. Goodness!

We stayed at The Cliff Resort near Mui Ne. It really had it all. Great food, great service, clean rooms, amazing acrylic artwork in the rooms, and a private beach. This was the off season, so there weren't a million billion people here on their holidays, which was so pleasant.

I don't have much to say about this place, except that it was absurdly relaxing. This was the same trip as our stop at the waterfalls in Dong Nai. Click through for some pictures of my stay, and see why it's basically always the best time to visit Mui Ne... but that early July is exceptional.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Resolution Check-in: Maintaining This Blog


I've saved this post for my 150th - Thanks for being my readers, everyone!! I LOVE YOU.

Let's hop back 8 months to the start of this year and the resolutions I made going into 2014...


Saturday, August 23, 2014

App Review: Touchnote (iOS & Android)

In a nutshell, Touchnote allows you to mail a physical postcard of any photo/s you choose and personalized notes/captions to anyone in the world... in seconds, without going to the post office.

This app isn't strictly a travel app, but it has such a powerful real-world impact on people you love that I think I'd be remiss not to let more people know about it. It is certainly one of my favorites - of dozens of apps on my phone, this is one I consider indispensable, and would no matter where I lived.

It's so fantastic. Worth every penny, and one of the most fun apps I have on my iPhone. (There's also an Android version, but I haven't used it. Got notes? drop 'em in the comments, please!)

Friday, August 22, 2014

Vietnam's 'English 2020' Program in Perspective

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Park Life: Thac Giang Điền

I wish I'd found this place myself.

However, it's so far off the beaten path of my everyday travels that only looking for it specifically would find it - it's not in Ho Chi Minh City at all, but rather, about about 60 minutes (~45km) outside it in the countryside of Dong Nai Province, northeast of Bien Hoa City.

Join me in the Dong Nai countryside for a relaxing surprise!

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Pho Binh: Occupation Out Front, Tet Offensive Upstairs

Terkel has his eyes closed in every picture, I swear.
The pho bo was satisfactory, but not mind-expanding
 (...maybe I ask too much from my soup).
A pho restaurant named 'Peace Soup' that held the command of a massive military operation? How much more Vietnamese can you get?! Probably not much. If it were a perfume it would be called Essence d'Viet.

I may be in the minority in this, but I didn't get a whole lot of education concerning America's actions in Vietnam in my public school education. I feel shortchanged, and a bit stupid about it.

Soup's on - It's Learnin' Time!

The entire back half of the 20th century was a blur in history classes (as it was also, now that I think of it, in my Theatre History/Literature class), and although names and events stir a vague recollection in our collective unconscious for me, I'm embarrassed to reveal exactly how much I don't know about the Vietnam conflict... AKA The American War.

Embarrassed because I live here now, and doubly embarrassed because the trauma of this prolonged, ridiculous war game has had long-lasting effects and left obvious scars (albeit, scars fading into the past) on many of America's politicians and demagogues in the years since.

Visitors from all over the world have left notes expressing
peace and well-wishes for the family operators of Pho Binh.
Every time the hawkish white men push to go to war, there are fewer and fewer people to remind us of our mistakes in Vietnam (more recently Iraq, which is sadly now becoming a new problem), which is a pity.

The world needs more friends, and fewer enemies. This is the current attitude of the Vietnamese government (except maybe about China) and certainly of Pho Binh (Peace Soup), and has been since the Tet Offensive was planned above the kitchen of this restaurant beginning in October of 1967.

The family is always ready to offer soup and history lessons - they embrace the significance that their establishment holds - and they have been drawing in curious members of the public for over 44 years since the Fall of Saigon in 1975.

My mission to understand more about this prolonged and divisive conflict continued in the most delicious and interesting way possible... with food and some first-hand history.

Friday, August 15, 2014

Saigon Survival: Regulating Your Body Temperature in the Tropics

Our family cabin in Northern Wisconsin, Winter 2013-14 - A DOOZY.
 You know it's hot here.

I pretty much can't shut up about how hot (or, alternately, how rainy/humid/flooded) it is, every single day - if there are two things Westerners like to talk about, it's politics and the weather... and you can't talk about either here.

I'm still not entirely sure how I got here, weather-wise.

I'm a generally warm person descended from people that originated in northern Europe (Norway, Sweden, Germany, etc), and I've lived all my formative years in places that usually received a pretty decent load of snow and freezing cold crap for several months a year - Wisconsin and Chicago can be very cold places.

So, naturally... Vietnam! ...Huh?? But it was new, different, the development pace was right, and the challenges they were facing as a people/city/country were fascinating... so here I am in the tropics, sweating my butt off and playing fast and loose with body odor.

I've had to find ways to survive the heat.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Hội An: Ancient Town, Lovely Beach, Magic Atmosphere

Beaches, textiles, cacti, seafood, and old, old, old buildings are just a few of the pieces of the puzzle called Hội An - one of the oldest, and most immaculately preserved, trading port towns existing in SE Asia today... and definitely one of the most unique.

In July 2014 I visited with my good friend Lisa, after spending several (extremely mild) days in beautiful Da Lat and a bit in Saigon. It was only 700 km from the south-central highlands to this central port town, but the weather couldn't have been more different! We got a lot of variation on our trip together - a key characteristic of Vietnam.

Da Lat required me to buy a sweatshirt and scarf (a scarf, people), but there was zero need for them here. Although it was the beginning of the rainy season, we were blessed with three days of beautiful, hot, sunny days, and we took advantage of each one to the fullest, eating, drinking, biking, and walking our way around this sleepy and beautiful town.