Money spoils everything.
It’s at once an evil that changes everyone it touches and yet we all need it in order to travel to these far flung magical places, so beautifully illustrated in glossy magazines.
I’m always a little sad to visit “minority villages”. They’re inevitably a shell of the real thing, presenting tourists with a hollow cookie cutter image of what we expect to see, rushed through a few mumbled words on the history of the people who live / lived there, making sure to leave the bulk of the time for the all-important souvenir shopping at the end. I’ve seen this scenario played out a million times, from the hill peoples of Dalat, Vietnam to the Karen long neck tribes of northern Thailand. The one exception was probably the captivating Himba village in Namibia, most likely due to its remoteness.
In … Read More »
Declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, Luang Prabang is the Brangelina of scenic towns. A gorgeous marriage between traditional Lao architecture, on display in its many wats, unchanged wooden houses and a smattering of royal residences, and the gentility of French colonial buildings and their faded yellow walls and white trim, you get the feeling that in Luang Prabang, authenticity isn’t a slogan, it’s a way of life. In order to keep its UNESCO designation, the town is devoted to restoring its storied heritage. It is a town where time has stopped.
The beauty of Luang Prabang is that the town is practically located along one main road, traversing the length of the peninsula, providing something novel to experience from dawn till night. To discover the best this town had to offer, I set out to create a perfect … Read More »
It started with a persistent thought, a tiny ember of an idea, really. An ember so fragile that the softest breeze would be more than enough to snuff out its light. A desire so improbable that to say it aloud in anything more than a whisper would be laughable.
One year ago, I moved to Vietnam with no real plan. A completed stint in Bangkok would allow me to not have to work for about a year, provided I was frugal with my pennies.
A year off seems like a long time, an unimaginable lifetime, to someone used to working the 9-to-5. A year off without a career plan seems like a scary void for someone used to a steady paycheck. “And in this economy?” I kept getting asked.
When friends questioned me about my “plan”, I inevitably mumbled something about exploring the … Read More »
With no glitzy malls or sparkling beaches to call its own like neighboring Thailand, and without the cache of traveling to Vietnam, Laos just might be one of the most underappreciated countries on what is known as the Banana Pancake Trail.
After my recent trip, though, I’m beginning to realize that Laos’ greatest resources are its land and its people. It felt strange to drive by long stretches of undeveloped land. How long that will last is a disheartening guessing game, most likely accelerated by its accession to the World Trade Organization in early February 2013. In the meantime, I’d like to share with you just a few photos of the beautifully gentle people of Laos.
Children of the Hmong minority villages
Ridiculously Photogenic Monk
The Women of … Read More »
Part of the allure of travel is losing yourself, both literally and figuratively.
Who of us hasn’t relished the challenge of driving on the wrong side of the street or getting hopelessly lost in a market with mental directions like, “Turn left at the spice shop with an old lady wearing a blue shawl”, or getting sent on a wild goose chase by Google Maps where it actually took four times as long to walk somewhere?
Equally charming is losing some inhibitions when you travel. After all, you’re in a strange place, around strange people, put in strange situations. I’m assuming whatever it is that happens in Vegas (and staying in Vegas) isn’t referring to scrapbooking or competitive yodeling. Some people might lean towards more self-destructive behavior when they’re liberated from the confines of their cubicle. Others simply stop shaving or showering … Read More »
I’ve been actively avoiding Laos for the past 10 years.
Even though I have friends who used to live there and others who live there now, I never got the “wow” vibe from Laos. (Much like the way I feel about India. I know. Blasphemy.) Instead I found myself turning my precious vacation days (and budget) elsewhere. Was it ignorance of what there was to see? Or simply biased misinformation? Hearing numerous people say “Laos is just like Cambodia. But less developed,” was a death sentence. Having lived in Cambodia for 10 years and loving it, I still wouldn’t impose a visit to Phnom Penh on anyone – there just wasn’t that much to do and see.
So it was with some hesitation that I finally booked a trip to Laos. And I’m thrilled to admit that I loved it.
Having spent most … Read More »
Thanks to the world financial crisis, the skyrocketing cost of fuel and fluctuating currencies of the late 2000’s, the idea of staycations – a holiday close to home – exploded onto the scene. It was suddenly trendy to stay at a quaint little B&B and visit area attractions instead of blowing the budget on far-flung destinations.
Admittedly, I’m a late adopter to staycations, preferring in my youth to travel to the farthest points I could afford. But now that I’m approaching my first anniversary of living in Vietnam, I can look back on delicious highs and frustrating lows right here in sunny Saigon. I mastered the Figure Eight of Death to get my motorbike license. I’ve cooked next to Michelin-star chefs. I experienced my first Tet. But best of all, I’ve simplified my life to the point where I have stretches of time … Read More »
I’m turning 20 this week. For the 20th time.
Seriously. I would never want to be 20 again. Socially awkward, unsure of where I wanted my life to head, quickly moving on to other things once I got bored, getting into trouble. Wait. That description of me at 20 pretty much sounds like my life now. Sigh.
While my outer self will soon be 40 (with all the attendant weird aches for no reason, like tennis elbow. Really?), I perpetually feel 25. When a good Mary J. song comes on, I can’t help but dance (do not let the fatness fool you. I cut a mean rug). I spend irresponsibly on travel. I read angsty teen novels (Hunger Games FTW!). I’m a walking hot mess because I use phrases like “cut a mean rug” together with trendy acronyms in the same breath.
In … Read More »
As a kid in the early 80s, I remember rushing home from school in time to get my Star Trek fix, eager to see what trouble the valiant crew of the Enterprise would encounter that week. Would it be hyper reproductive furballs, gladiator-style death battles or some near fatal malfunction of the dilithium crystals? And more importantly, what color alien would Captain Kirk inevitably have to seduce in the name of intergalactic diplomacy?
I even once met a real life crew member at LAX. Sadly, he could not use his special powers to transport us from the secondary security line.
While I wasn’t what you’d consider a hardcore Trekkie, unfamiliar with all the acronyms like TNG and DS9, I was nevertheless smitten by the travel bug from a young age when our family took its first international vacation, all the way to … Read More »
Awards season is upon us. We just saw the hilarious duo of Tina Fey and Amy Poehler host the Golden Globes. The Oscars (and BAFTA for our British friends) are coming up next month along with the Grammys. And American Idol 12 has just started.
So, I was thinking: What if Travel Photo Roulette results were an award show? What would that be like?
[Disclaimer: (1) I'm based in Asia which means I'm never around for awards shows (that whole pesky 12 hour time difference) so I only see bits and pieces of shows and usually long after they've aired live. (2) I can't concentrate on anything for longer than 17 seconds (I blame Twitter, Facebook and the abundance of shiny things on my desk). (3) My exposure to pop culture ended somewhere in the early 2000s when ... Read More »