Chiang Mai, Thailand

September 20, 2013

I extended my stay here in Chang Mai but the hostel was full today. The woman who owns it didn’t want me to leave nor leave all the friends I have made staying here so she put up a tent for me! The owner Aoi, at Aoi Garden Home Hostel, is one of the kindest hostel owners I’ve encountered. Thai people are so kind. Love it here.

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The Past 3 1/2 Months

September 9, 2013

I am happy to show you something I have been working for some time now. I don’t consider myself a prideful person at all but I am rather proud of this compilation lol. Photography and Editing has become something very important to me over the past two years. I take a lot of time with it and really hope you enjoy what I have put together.

Goodbye Vietnam!

September 4, 2013

Leaving Vietnam. I arrived on June 14th and now it’s time to go. Honestly it sucks leaving. I’ve grown so fond of this culture. Motorbikes are swerving left an right carrying pounds of cargo, cab drivers burning cigs inside the cars, people eating pho on the streets for breakfast, the smell of mint in the air, a family of five on one motorbike, oxen crossing a busy intersection, police pulling over a car for no good reason other to collect money, a dog happier than anything in a fresh bag of trash, children playing a tennis type game in the streets, witnessing numerous close collisions that never occur, the scorching heat, trying to tell taxi driver “airport” over and over before it clicks, wondering half way through the cab ride if indeed you are going to the airport, waking up to the electricity having gone off, smiling at a Vietnamese whose face looks startled then continuing to smile hello until they break their state and return the smile, shaking people’s hands after telling them you are from America, beer for breakfast (had to be done), not knowing exactly what’s in your pho but eating it anyways, wondering when and if you’ll have wifi access to book a last minute hostel, eating passion fruit and dragon fruit, reaching for your seatbelt and the driver grabs your arm signaling “no, no need for that”, the noise pollution, the grey skies, the newly built skyscrapers (all blown up during the war), a society that has been through numerous wars but somehow recovered so quickly it’s astonishing, a culture that mainly still idolizes their communistic leader Ho Cho Minh, the police of Hanoi walking through the streets before 12:00 curfew and everyone dropping everything an immediately going indoors, paying with a currency called “Dong” that is counted in the thousands, saying “no thanks” to prostitutes/ladyboys who approach you left and right, the street kids selling gum, the street vendors with cigarette carts that when open is full of “disguised” marijuana, the bumpy streets, checking into hostels and them holding your passport and you hope no one steals it, getting a menu and having no clue what you are ordering, not knowing if you are getting scammed or not, passing up a car taxi for a motorbike taxi because its just that much more fun, meeting people who become your family away from home, meeting people for one day and having them impact you in ways you never imagined, making last minute decisions to change your itinerary, the nights it’s so hot you can’t sleep, the uncomfortable mattresses making finding a comfortable one that much better, people coming in and of your dorm hostel at all hours of the night, the horns and roosters starting at 5:30am, locals asking for your Facebook before they know your name, those few horrible days being extremely hungover in the heat saying “I’ll never drink
again”, the temples that give you a sense of source and peace, the incense burning at dusk, the synchronized music playing through the streets, the communistic characteristics that’s till linger, traveling alone yet not having 5 min to yourself for days, staying in Ho Chi Minh City for 14 days when at first you wanted to leave immediately, meeting locals who take you out and around town letting you experience Vietnam in a completely different way, having a caring hostel staff that cares and makes you feel like your at home with your family (DiepThu NguyenKathy PapyzHo Duy Ngoc).. It’s impossible to explain what you see in the daily rhythm of life in this country. These are just a very things that I take with me from Vietnam. So many things are feelings that can’t be put into words. I know when I arrive in Thailand there will be many similarities yet many differences, however I will miss this country. Anyways, enough of my rambling brainstorming session, my flights boarding! Bangkok, Thailand.. Here I Come.

Hai Van Pass, Vietnam

August 7, 2013

Arrived in Hue after one of the best days of my trip. We rode a motorcycle 150km safely from Hoi An to Hue. After multiple mountain passes, coastal stretches and remote villages, we have a depictive montage video of our days journey. I have been traveling over a week with two amazing individuals, Robyn and Phil, from England.

Hai Van Pass

Nha Trang to Hoi An, Vietnam

August 3, 2013

After a 12 hour overnight sleeper bus ride, I made it to Hoi An. That was quite the experience. Horns constantly honking, abundance of sudden sharp turns to avoid motorcyclists, extremely tiny seats and no bathroom.. After a restless night, I arrived dehydrated and tired… Except extremely grateful and excited. I’ve been waiting for Hoi An. Maybe going to get a custom suit made here. There are over 200 custom tailor shops here.

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Singapore

July 11, 2013

Leaving Singapore to head back to Vietnam tomorrow. Singapore has been great. Singapore is a tiny island roughly the size of Manhattan and it’s a country of its own. It was founded in 1965 so it’s a very new county. Besides from being a young country, it is extremely clean and the safest place I think I have ever visited. People go out of their way to be nice to you. For instance, a cab picked us up and explained he spent the last hour driving around returning a camera to a passenger who forgot it in his cab. If you leave your wallet somewhere you can count on it being returned safely. The crime rate is almost non existent and the laws are very strict and penalties very severe (they still cane and do lashings here). The society is scared straight if you will. Also the citizens seem to feel its their duty to police the country and will be quick to let you know if you are doing something wrong. (It’s illegal to chew gum and it is illegal to spit on the sidewalk). Besides the safety, cleanliness and strict laws, Singapore is a very futuristic place if you will. It kind of reminds me of NYC on steroids. The young city skyline is filled with skyscrapers and has a very efficient subway system. The billboards are stories tall and LED screens light up the sky. The stores here are something like 5th avenue, except all over the city. Designer stores fill the streets giving a facade that it’s normal to wear everything Armani/Gucci/etc. The prices are also reflected in everything around you as a beer is roughly $9.00, a meal $20.00 and who knows how much for an accommodation. I am very thankful to have been able to stay with one of my best friends, Catherine Juliano, while here in Singapore. Catherine and I met the first month of college and have been inseparable since. I have been staying with her and her welcoming family since I arrived 10 days ago. It was nice to be with a local to show me around all the best places of Singapore. We spent a lot of time at Marina Bay Sands (the photo I posted earlier) which is the coolest building I have evvverrr seen. It is three towers which are connected at the top by a structure that appears to be a ship. On the top of the ship is an infinity edge pool which is where I am in the photo posted here. It overlooks Marina Bay and the hundreds (thousands?) of skyscrapers in the distance. There is a club called Ku Dè Ta on the top of Marina Bay Sands (MBS) where we went to one night all dressed up. I had to borrow clothes as nice clothes don’t necessarily find their way into a backpackers pack. It was so much fun! It was followed by going to Pangea, a night club that doesn’t shut down until 6:00am… I am getting old and that one night was enough for me as the rest of the nights were low key as we went to sleep before midnight. During the days we went to the aquarium (claimed to be the largest in the world), a long hike to a suspension bridge high in the trees, the pool at MBS, doing Yoga w an Indian family, Chinatown, Little India and other general sightseeing. Last night we went to Gardens by the Bay which is this lush green park with plants and flowers from all over the world. The main attraction are these trippy tree installations which stand roughly 8 stories tall with neon lights with a suspension bridge from tree to tree. It’s hard to explain I will post a photo later but it was quite the sight. The food here has been excellent too. As a melting pot of cultures, there is a ton of styles of food here but I definitely enjoyed the Laksa. It saddens me to leave my friends but I am excited to get back to Vietnam. I stayed in the southern part of Vietnam before so I could make it over to Singapore. Therefore, when I get back to Vietnam I am going to make my way slowly to the northern part stopping at cities and towns along the way. I am excited to continue my journey through Vietnam. I hope everyone is doing well back in the States. Love y’all. 

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Local Interactions in Saigon, Vietnam

July 2, 2013

This is my friend Vy Thảo, my friend who lives here in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I met her a couple weeks ago through my friend Erik. Yesterday, Vy came to my hostel and picked me up on her motorbike and we headed 45 minutes to her district. Sitting on the back of her bike, we entered the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh. We traveled with hundreds of motorbikes down the road as busses and cars were in arms reach amongst the sea of bikes. Suddenly we felt the rain start so we decided to pull over on the side of the road until it passed. Vy’s district is wonderful. As we entered, it had a distinct feeling when compared to the others. The roads were a bit narrower and there were lines of locals selling their product along the streets. You can get everything you need from the street vendors and a store is not necessary, it’s a unique way of obtaining your household essentials. If you need fish you go to one person, vegetables another. Vy took me to one of her favorite spots and we enjoyed some street food. As we approached, we hopped the curb and parked the motorbike right inside the room. We sat on the foot high plastic stools and over came the food. It was delicious. Vy introduced me to a couple of her friends who were extremely kind and we practiced English together tackling those difficult words and phrases. Afterwards, Vy took me to have some coffee before she openly welcomed me into her home for dinner. Vy lives with her mother, father, brother, sister in law, and soon to be nephew/niece. Arriving at their house I was greeted with open arms by her wonderful family. Her father, a very kind man, full of smiles, took me around showing me his different birds they had as pets. We watched a little of the Karate Kid which was nice as its been a while since I watched TV. Sitting there with him, there was so much said with few little words. The language barrier was in effect but it didn’t change a thing. We were communicating on higher levels without words. Soon Vy’s mom came into the living room and greeted me with a hug. She took out photos of her and her husbands recent trip to Da Lat, where I just left. There was a group shot and I had to pick them out of the group and it took me a while! We enjoyed numerous laughs as I chose the wrong person over an over. Next came the feast. Streamed rice, soup, pork, chicken, and cabbage. I was getting full and I knew I wasn’t getting off the hook easily as her mother insisted I have one more bowl. Upon reaching the point of explosion, I surrendered and sat back to let the meal digest. Vy and I practiced some English words and shared different photo albums we had online. She got to see some of the life in America and in exchange I saw pictures of life in Vietnam. Her brother came home in the midst of dinner. A kind, soft spoken man who had excellent English. We spoke for a while about life in America. He extended to me the fact that Vietnamese are very interested in American news. His family member is moving to Austin, TX and we spoke about Texas as well as the safety due to the explosion in West, TX. I explained it was a horrible accident and assured him his family would be safe in Austin, TX. He is expecting a child with his wife very soon and I wish them the very best. Before I knew it, it was 9:00pm and Vy had to drive me the long distance back to my hostel. So unfortunately we hopped back on the motorbike and headed back to the hostel. Before I left I had Vy translate my gratitude to her parents. Her father gave me multiple hugs and told me that whenever I come back to
Ho Chi Minh I am always welcome in their home. I really hope I get to take him up on his offer. Vy gave me great insight to daily Vietnamese culture. I was in a district where I was the only foreigner and no one spoke English. Individuals stared at me in awe and often became bashful when I returned their interested glare with a smile and nod of the head. Vy reiterated to me the importance of family. Being 25 she is happy living with her family. When I asked her if they all lived together she replied without thought, “Of Course”. She went on to describe her family as “Very Happy”. Sitting in their living room it was clear, this is one happy family. Before I left, Vy and I took a photo. Just like most things here, we found laughter in simplicity. We made funny faces at the camera and had a good laugh for a long, long time. Asia has taught me to appreciate the little things in life. I spend so much time here laughing at simple things that happen everyday. Laughter is a universal language and you can have a good laugh with anyone without any words exchanged. One of my favorite things to do with the street kids who approach you is to give them a high five. When our hands connect I say, “Boop!” and motion for another high five. Upon connecting again I say, “Boop!” The second time usually triggers a laugh. Then comes the third.. the forth.. tenth high five. The child caches on to saying “Boop!” and before you know it I’m laughing right along with them. It’s the simple things. Vy, I want to thank you for opening up your home to me. I appreciate it immensely. I am very thankful for this unique experience. Keep practicing your English, your so good and almost there.. And remember to always keep your dream alive.

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