Saigon

My Aunt Joan, a high school teacher in New Jersey, has a student from Vietnam, and when Aunt Joan told this student I was visiting her home, she very kindly hooked me up with her family. I called them my first night in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City, technically, although District 1, where I stayed the first night is still officially called Saigon, and locals tend to call the whole city by its former name) and they arrived at my hotel early next morning. Continue reading “Saigon”

Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and On

Our first night in Phnom Penh, April and I took a walk out of the backpacker’s ghetto (where the guesthouses all charge three bucks a night and make up the difference with the 24-hour bar out back), past the mosque (how I love chanting Muslims in the morning), into the alleys and industrial districts in the Northwest of the city, so April could get photos of picturesque squaller for her portfolio. Continue reading “Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville and On”

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is the main temple in a complex of hundreds, built from the 9th to 15th centuries. There’s a formula for viewing these temples: most people purchase a three-day pass for $40 and hire a tuk-tuk driver to cart them around. Continue reading “Angkor Wat”

Savanakhet to Siem Reap

Perhaps it’s only because ‘Savanakhet’ sounds like ‘Savannah,’ but it reminded me of a slow, Southern town in the States. On the day I visited, the streets were nearly empty, the pavement hummed in the constant heat, and people lurked around in what shady nooks they could find. I tried to locate the local museum (Savanakhet also has a dinosaur museum, which is hilarious to me, though I didn’t attempt to visit it). Continue reading “Savanakhet to Siem Reap”

Vientiane and On

My mood, you will be happy to hear, improved upon arrival in Vientiane. Not that Vientiane’s so wonderful – it’s just a city. But it’s a city that would exist whether or not tourists came and that’s all I really required. Continue reading “Vientiane and On”

Vang Vieng

I have rarely witnessed anything as truly ludicrous as Vang Vieng. Droves of backpackers originally flocked to this town because of its position on the Nam Song surrounded by limestone karst formations and tons of caves, and in response to the influx, Vang Vieng has completely whored itself out. Continue reading “Vang Vieng”

Luang Prabang

Between the Mekong and its Nam Khan tributary, Luang Prabang is palm-tree-lined street after street of French colonial architecture, travel agencies and Westernized restaurants and cafes. The city has been placed on Unesco’s World Heritage list, so it’s quite seen after. The first thing I noticed on arrival is that there seem to be more American tourists here than Lao. I thought perhaps I’d unknowingly flown to Charleston. It’s an enjoyable city, however, with the typical, ultra-relaxed Laos atmosphere, and a huge night market with lots of cool linen clothes. Continue reading “Luang Prabang”

Luang Nam Tha, and Along the Nam Ou

Laos is not China, as the three Americans and I immediately realized upon arrival in sleepy Luang Nam Tha. We’d had a long day of taking a minivan over the most dreadful roads I’d experienced in China, crossing the border (totally hassle free – I got a month-long visa and all my RNB exchanged into kip without so much as having to wait in line), and finally riding in the back of a pick-up with a German girl who’d come (as Chris said) from Lhasa with BO.  Continue reading “Luang Nam Tha, and Along the Nam Ou”