There are cities where you go to spend a few days eating like the locals, visiting the sites, people watching, and soaking in the culture and then leave feeling satisfied that you’ve checked it off your list and don’t need to return.
Beijing is not one of those cities. It’s big, bustling, beautiful and utterly bizarre. Even after two trips there, I still don’t feel like I’ve had my fill of the capital city. I’ve maybe had a drink and an appetizer, but I’m in no way ready to lay down my napkin, push my chair back and pat my stomach contentedly. Continue reading Photo book: The Beauty of Beijing
Taking a long-distance bus, particularly an overnight one, in Asia can be a harrowing experience. During the two months that I spent backpacking in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand I took many night buses – not one of them went according to plan.
One particularly memorable bus ride in Vietnam involved an altercation between our driver and a drunk driver on the road. Both men leaned out their respective windows, shaking their fists and hurling Vietnamese curses at each other as they careened down the dark unpaved road at breakneck speeds. After a half hour of jockeying for the leader spot in their live action version of Pole Position, each pulled over and engaged in a short round of fisticuffs that ended with the bus driver getting beaned with a rock to the temple. At this point villagers emerged, the drunk took off and our driver hopped on the back of someone’s motorcycle, leaving his busload of travelers to sit for three hours on a Vietnamese back road at 1 a.m. Continue reading Tales of Night Bus Horror and How to Deal
After nine months in China, I’ve grown to understand it. I know the words of importance, the customs to follow, and what bits of history shaped the psyche of the nation.
However, while traveling in some of the Southeast Asian countries, I felt illiterate. Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia; all libraries I could barely read. All great tomes of which I was only able to read a few chapters from.
While I treated food and conversations with locals as pathways into those places, a lot of information I gleaned about the various cities we traveled in was obtained while running in them. Yes, getting lost and finding my way back aided in my education of how the city was laid out, but more importantly, how it operated. Continue reading Running while traveling
I’d be lying if I said I didn’t feel at least a little superior to the other foreigners in Hanoi.
You see, one of my coworkers and I were there visiting our Vietnamese friend, Sally, in her hometown. In the few days that we were there, Sally played host to an uninterrupted eating, drinking and exploring escapade. She would pull us down little alleys or side-streets, far from the restaurants bearing signs reading “Seen in Lonely Planet 2006” (and the many foreigners that dwelled within) and plunked us down on plastic stools at some of her favorite hidden haunts.
Sally, like Martha Stewart, seemingly had all the insider tips (albeit on authentic Vietnamese hangouts, rather than upcoming fluctuations in the stock market). Continue reading Experiencing Hanoi like a local
I’d originally planned on writing monthly blog posts dedicated to whatever I had been musing about as of late and the (many) questions about my adopted city that I have been trying to figure out. I did it the first month, but between grading papers and projects, traveling, and generally making a home for myself here, the second and third months slipped on by. Granted, this country wasn’t hit by the tide of pumpkin flavored everything that washes across America this time of year, so I guess I didn’t realize so much time had slipped away. Anyway, here we go.
Walking around in China opens up a whole new world of catcalling, particularly if you are a woman, and even more so if you’re a fair-faced foreigner with golden-colored hair. Wherever I go people will yell – either from a distance or literally inches from my face – “waiguoren,” “laowai” and “Ha-looooo!” It’s always a little jarring – especially when I’m running or reading outside. I’ve taken to pointing back and responding with “zhongguoren” (Chinese person), which either results in a laugh, a look that says, “well, duh,” or a dumbstruck look that says, “Holy shit, it speaks Chinese.” I’ve yet to figure what possesses people to call out. Sometimes it’s obviously mocking – while people are outwardly really sweet, racism is rampant. Sometimes I think people want to show they have some English education. Sometimes I think the shock of seeing a laowai genuinely causes the words to slip from them. Continue reading Mid-semester musings