Asia


25 THINGS TO KNOW BEFORE TRAVELING IN VIETNAM

Posted on January 19th, by Steven in Vietnam. 83 comments

Thailand enjoys a 50% return rate for foreign tourists. In contrast, Vietnam only pulls back 5% of visitors.

Personally, I feel that Vietnam walks all over Thailand in almost every travel category except beaches. So, why do so many people have such bad experiences and never return to Vietnam?

I hope the list I have made below helps out first-time visitors. It may seem cynical and anti-Vietnamese. It’s not. I love this country; I want you to love it, too. I’d just like to alert travelers to beware of the common first-time mistakes that may sour their experience of the local people and the country overall.

Do your homework, know what to expect, and this is the most rewarding country in Southeast Asia to explore.

Here goes:

-1-
TAKE YOUR VISA SERIOUSLY, VERY SERIOUSLY INDEED

Yes, it seems like common sense, but I have seen tourists turned … Read More »



MY 10 FAVORITE CITIES

I love cities. As a traveler, I never feel alone in a city I enjoy, as cities themselves are a bit like people- slowly revealing their personalities, all imperfect and forever changing. Some are beautiful, some are ugly, but none can get by simply on their fine appearance or lack thereof. A great city needs a great personality; something that makes it truly unique and irreplaceable.

Beach destinations often disappoint, with promises of crystal clear waters, blue skies and smiling faces. The truth is often overcast skies, brown murky water, first-time tourists on pre-paid packages, and little adventure. A city, however, cannot lie. It is what it is and it will always be there, ready for you to engage and explore 24 hours a day, in whatever weather or budget.

These are my favorites:

-10-
BEIJING, China

I like how Beijing remains unglamorous amidst China’s … Read More »



10 CITIES TRAVELERS LOVE TO HATE

Every good traveler should have, and is entitled too, his or her own unique opinion about what makes a certain place good or bad, likable or repulsive, worthwhile or overrated. Opinions are fun. I like hearing them as much as I like giving my own.

Some of my own opinions are atypical:

I have never enjoyed the Thai islands
I have not left my heart in San Francisco, even after visiting hundreds of times
I am not moved by high, jagged mountain ranges
Nebraska has the best landscapes of any American state
Chongqing, China- a polluted, hazy mess of a city- is spectacularly gorgeous and worth returning to again and again (I miss it as I type…)
I have a hard time finding a good meal in Italy

Throughout the globe, when groups of travelers meet up to discuss travel, opinions and superlatives often come out (I hate…..I … Read More »



SO, YOU WANT TO VISIT BURMA (MYANMAR)?

Posted on December 12th, by Steven in Asia, Burma, Uncategorized. 1 Comment

Hi. What’s your name?

“Before 1989, I was known as Burma. To separate me from my colonial past, my military government now calls me Myanmar. Both names come from the local Bamar ethnic group. The local intelligentsia and socially conscious travelers will still refer to me as ‘Burma’ to make a point. You can call me either.”

Do you speak English?

“Quite well. The British were here from 1824 to 1948. Today, English is widely spoken along the tourist routes and most locals are happy to communicate with you in basic English.”

When should I visit you?

“I hope you like the sun. Southern Burma, including the largest city of Yangon, is hotter and generally wetter, while northern Myanmar gets cool in the wet season and is generally drier. The hottest months throughout Burma are March and April. May to October comprises the ‘wet season’ … Read More »



THE 10 MOST BEAUTIFUL COLONIAL CITIES IN CHINA

Posted on November 10th, by Steven in China. No Comments

European colonialism has at one point affected most of the world geographically. Entering the 21st Century, developing countries are still dealing with the affects of colonization. While stunting the development and involving centuries of exploitation, it is undeniable that many of the world’s most beautiful cities are European colonial, today blending traditional European urbanity with local culture and food. Today’s colonial cities are some of the most fascinating to visit.

In the early 1800s, China continued to dismiss trade with Britain, assuming that the China, or The Middle Kingdom, was more advanced and needed nothing else from outside. Growing frustrated, the British introduced opium and instigated the Opium Wars, defeating China militarily and opening up the coast and waterways for foreign trade. Foreign powers moved in and kept China fragmented until the Communist Party took power in the late 1940s. However, … Read More »



THE BEST BAR IN ASIA

Posted on October 6th, by Steven in Asia, Booze, South Korea, Travel, Travel Tips, Uncategorized. 3 comments

Last week, I arrived back in Taichung- a very livable and pleasant Taiwanese city. Also, a city with no great bars. I’ve searched. Amazing food, cozy cafes, some nice parks, even some decent places to have an outdoor beer from 7-11- but not one great room to have a friendly quaff and good conversation. For a city of 3 million, this is criminal. And so, I begin feeling nostalgic.

Before my first trip to Asia, I imagined there would be a huge lack of bars on this continent. Shopping malls, food stands, pollution- yes. But cozy, smart bars built with carefully with love? Not what pops into mind when an Ohioan thinks of Asia. I was wrong:

Bangkok – Parking Toys
Beijing – Mao Mao Chong
Yangon – The Strand
Siem Reap – Laundry
Tokyo – Ace’s
Manila – Mogwai
Saigon – Era Cafe

Handmade, friendly, stylish and … Read More »



MAKING THE JOURNEY BETWEEN XIAMEN, CHINA AND TAIWAN VIA KINMEN ISLAND

Posted on October 1st, by Steven in China, Taiwan, Uncategorized. 11 comments

From 1949 to 2008, travel between China and Taiwan was not allowed, with the majority of trips between these two using Hong Kong as a stepping stone into mainland China, or vice versa. Since relations between Taiwan and China have improved, numerous flights between Taiwan and the mainland have been introduced, but most of them at a high cost to budget travelers ($300-400 usd) considering the proximity between the two.

One worthwhile option of travel is to make the trip of the beautiful colonial port city of Xiamen, on the east coast in Fujian province and one of the great unknown cities of China, to the Taiwanese island of Jinmen (about 13km off Xiamen island) and then onto the main island of Taiwan by plane. This trip can be made in either direction, though a Chinese visa is not easily obtained … Read More »



FINDING INDONESIA’S TOILET-SIZED RUFFLESIA FLOWER

Posted on September 30th, by Steven in Asia, Indonesia, Travel, Uncategorized. 1 Comment

“On the twenty-third day of the month of September,
in an early year of a decade not too long before our own,
the human race suddenly encountered a deadly threat to its very existence.
And this terrifying enemy surfaced, as such enemies often do, in the seemingly most innocent and unlikely of places…”

-prologue to Little Shop of Horrors (1986)

September always has a hint of change and danger. On September 30, 2009, my first full year of travel in Asia had just finished. I was tired. I was also in northern Sumatra- the largest, and most wild island that makes up the dramatic archipelago of Indonesia.

Specifically, I was on a bumpy bus from the amazing Lake Toba to Bukittinggi exactly one year after I had first flown into Tokyo and found my apartment there. I was reflecting on the year, when … Read More »



IS ASIA EXPENSIVE?

Depends on what you’re here for.

 

Different countries = different prices for different things.

Do you want to explore cities, see the big attractions, or experience the food and drink? For example, if you’re here to party, the Philippines generally has the cheapest drinks at restaurants and bars. In contrast, Chinese bars and clubs are expensive- comparable to North American prices, but the daily Chinese necessities (subway, street food, bottled water) are damn cheap, so if you’re here to take photos and explore the city life, China will be cheaper than the Philippines. Accommodation also varies in quality, type and price. Your sleeping standards could make or break your budget. In Vietnam, $10 may get you a comfy room with A/C, wifi and free breakfast. In the Philippines, a $10 room is nearly impossible to find.

Asia is a place that people … Read More »



RETHINKING NEW DESIGN FOR URBAN SAIGON

Posted on September 5th, by Steven in Asia, Design, Vietnam. No Comments

This is an exciting time to walk through Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). The feeling on the street is upbeat, fast and fun. The city’s economic transition is apparent both physically and in essence. However, much of Saigon’s once-engaging urban character is being overshadowed by cold, out-of-scale development which fails to build on the established urbanity of the city. Such transformation calls for a cautious reconsideration of how new projects are designed and approved.

Hurried growth amidst economic transition has left an unpleasant footprint on many Asian cities. An example of fast, irresponsible development can be seen in Shanghai. There, the development of the Pudong District began during the economic boom of the 1990s and continues today, with the design having little regard for Shanghai’s physical urban history. When viewed from across the Huangpu River, the Pudong district rises like a … Read More »





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