Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) is a place of surprises, much of them elusive to first-time visitors with just a few days on the ground. Though a bit challenging at first, Ho Chi Minh City eventually became our favorite city in the world and a base for many of our adventures in the Southeast Asian region. It’s also a pretty great place to go out and grab a drink, whether it’s a Monday or Saturday, Saigon’s music venues, breathtaking rooftop bars, and tiny neighborhood spots are buzzing.
Unlike the more world famous, easy-to-find spots of Bangkok and Shanghai, Saigon is a city of tight neighborhoods which unveil themselves only to those intrepid enough to explore the tiniest, faintest lines on the map. Saigon doesn’t have a Times Square or Pudong. It’s a megacity comprised of small, distinct districts and alleys. Perch … Read More »
Beer festivals generally conjure up images of clangy, repetitive oompah bands, sausages, vaulted beer halls, and busty beer maids. In America we have our share of beer festivals, but they tend to be small caricatures of European festivals. I was surprised to find out that China actually does the beer festival pretty well, albeit with skewered, mysterious meats instead of sausages; and shirtless, busty men instead of busty waitresses.
The largest beer festival in the world is Octoberfest in Munich, Germany. The largest beer festival in Asia is The Qingdao International Beer Festival.
Qingdao is the home of the plentiful and cheap Tsingdao beer, which was founded by Germans when the city was under German control in the late 1800s. It’s an amazing seaside city, a great place to visit any time of year and an even better place to visit in … Read More »
There is an old saying that:
“the Chinese eat everything that flies, except airplanes; everything with four legs, except tables; and everything that swims, except submarines”
Food is central to Asian culture, not just the Chinese, but throughout all of Asia. Asian food is generally delicious, and often very strange, to an American traveler. Asians tend to use the whole animal. Sometimes the results are great, sometimes not so.
Here are 15 of the strangest foods I’ve had:
15. CHICKEN NECK
It’s the neck of a chicken, skewered on a stick and served with cheap drafts of local Tsingtao Beer. It’s mostly skin and bone. I actually like spicy duck neck, as there is some meat to enjoy on there, but the chicken neck is just not much of anything.
IS IT GOOD? 2/10
14. GOAT BRAIN
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Goat brain came served in a hot … Read More »
Q: What do Rush Limbaugh, Big Boi of Outkast and Oakland Raider Louis Murphy have in common?
A: They have all been arrested for traveling with Viagra without a prescription.
Viagra is an ‘erectile dysfunction’ drug that could help make it easier for 50.24% of us to do something harmless. While Viagra’s effects are not quite as bad as crack cocaine, crystal meth or a Big Mac, many countries around the world, including the USA, have strict rules regarding its possession without the pills in their proper container with a proper prescription. Even if you legally purchase Viagra over-the-counter in Taiwan or Mexico, if you bring it back to the US, or Singapore, or the UK, you may find yourself in jail for an evening, with criminal charges leveled against you. It’s not just drugs like Viagra, but also sleep medications, painkillers, sedatives, … Read More »
The Philippines is a cool name. It’s one of the few countries (the Gambia, the Netherlands) that have that approachable “the” in front, as if the country is standing right in the same room as you.
So, how did these islands come to be called ‘the Philippines’?
It happened gradually and it began with the arrival of Ferdinand Magellan, a Portuguese explorer, in 1521. He was killed while attempting to convert a local ruler to Christianity. Magellan’s crew, mostly Spaniards, spread interest in the islands back in Spain. In 1543, before a permanent Spanish colony had been settled on the islands, explorer Ruy López de Villalobos presumptuously named the two islands of Leyte and Samar as Las Islas Filipinas (The Philipine Islands). Over the next 300 years, the Spanish would colonize the additional islands we now know as the Philippines. The entire archipelago would come … Read More »
Although Shanghai now has the largest population of any single urban jurisdiction, Tokyo is still by all means the largest urban area in the world, and has been for some time. The sum of Tokyo’s greater metropolitan population is over 36 million, which still dwarfs its competitors for now. Tokyo overtook New York as the world’s biggest city in the mid-1960s and since then, Tokyo has remained at the top.
In addition to size, Tokyo is rich. Tokyo has the largest total economic output (GDP) of any city in the world, even adjusting for income vs. the cost of living (PPP).
Despite Tokyo’s huge population and economic development, the city cuts a rather unknown visual image in most people’s minds. Images of blinking lights, crowded crosswalks and bustling noodle shops define Tokyo. The skyline is rather nondescript. Shanghai has its iconic, twisting futuristic … Read More »
The human animal easily distinguishable from other species, largely based on our use of cell phones and the clothes we wear. I have no problem distinguishing humans when I’m at a zoo, or on a hike.
Once you’ve identified a human, there are many ways to learn about human behavior. You can study it at a university; you can go to a nightclub or a playground; you can even make (with some teamwork) little humans of your own.
The way I most enjoy learning about humans, or “people”, is by traveling. People are different everywhere, in each country and continent. Discussing cultural and behavioral differences in people is fun. But, no matter where I go in the world, some human characteristics remain the same.
Here are ten things I have learned about people in my travels:
WE GET OUR PICTURE TAKEN IN FRONT OF … Read More »
WHOLE WIDE WORLD, Wreckless Eric
Pasty, imperial and reckless- Eric is ready to go the whole wide world to find his tropical goddess with “warm brown skin”. His mother suggested he take this journey and, though his heart may be in the right place, his plans seem rather reckless to me.
SISTERS OF MERCY, Leonard Cohen
Cohen’s delicate Sisters of Mercy was written about an encounter in Edmonton with two traveling sisters. Apparently it was written on the chair which he slept as the sisters shared the hotel bed. Cohen claims the song is strictly platonic, though it contains a underlying yearning.
I’M GONNA BE (500 Miles), The Proclaimers
Sincere, dedicated and desperate, the Reid brothers frighten away the woman of their dreams in this fun, anthemic hit song from 1993.
HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE, The Beatles
One of the most mature and perfectly-crafted songs The Beatles … Read More »
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:
I like how Beijing remains unglamorous amidst China’s … Read More »
(photo by Miheal Grmek)
Located in the Tuscan region of Italy, San Gimignano is a small, medieval (largely built in the 14th and 15th centuries), walled town. It is perched timelessly on a perfect little Tuscan hill and features a perfect little skyline of medieval stone towers, built due to a perfect little pissing contest between the local merchant families. In an attempt to outdo each other, the towers rose higher and higher, up to a height of nearly 70 meters (200 feet). At its peak, 72 towers graced the skyline. Today, fourteen remain. Tuscany was the world’s Manhattan 700 years ago and San Gimignano is the best place to experience its past heights.
I’d seen a picture of San Gimignano is one of my urban planning textbooks when I was a freshman in college. It was the “Skylines” chapter of The … Read More »