We're in Cambodia and safe and sound. This country is so incredibly destitute that it feels morally wrong to enjoy yourself here. I doubt we will stay more than a week due to time constraints, but the constant barrage of child beggars makes you completely ill. That being said, we did enjoy the sumptuous palace grounds yesterday with its giant photographs of the old queen of Cambodia, who looks like Queen Elizabeth, and saw some incredibly beautiful wall paintings. We're heading to the city of Siem Reap to see the temple of Angkor Wat, possibly tomorrow. More later.


From the long delayed bus leaving Dalat

Mui Ne, a sleepy beach town

Sand dune jumping in Mui Ne

Jumbled architecture of Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Temple in Cholon, HCM City

C'om means rice, Bo' means beef


~Vietnam notables~

*Vietnam is the largest producer of coffee in the world, after Brazil. Coffee is served everywhere, usually with a dollop of condensed milk settled on the bottom and brewed very strong. It's very chocolaty and rich.

*Food is incredible with piles of fresh mint, lime wedges, fermented fish sauce, chili pastes and soy sauce on the tables of all the real Vietnamese places.

*A delicious beef noodle soup called "pho bo" is eaten for breakfast and is usually around 50 cents a bowl.

*Because of the French influence, women sell pate or cheese sandwiches on the street in crusty baguette bread, there is a cafe selling fresh juices and coffee on every corner and some of the locals speak French.

*English is spoken by far more locals than in China, although the accent is much harder to understand.

*What the tourists eat and what the locals eat is, predictably, quite different in both price and quality.

*Vietnam is still mostly agrarian. Most cities are semi-rural, with rice paddies and cows wandering the streets and a million motorbikes zipping by.

*Because the Chinese owned Vietnam for nearly a thousand years, there is a huge southern Chinese influence to Vietnamese culture. Old Vietnamese used to be written with Chinese characters, although most Vietnamese cannot read this anymore. In fact, many Chinese traditions still exist in Vietnam that have died in China and colorful Buddhist temples and graveyards litter the countryside.

*It's really cheap and beautiful, so there are a lot of tourists.

*There is no pollution.

*The coastline is tremendous, meaning lots of unbelievably beautiful beaches. I'm a bit sunburned as a result.


Wedding at the lovely French colonial town, Hoi An.

Halong Bay

The An Dins Palace at Hue.

Leaving Hanoi.

The Cham ruins at My Son.

A jeep ride.

We've been in Vietnam for nearly two weeks now. The country is excessively beautiful and untouched, the food incredibly delicious and getting around really easy. Right now we're in the beach town of Na Trang and will be headed to a few more of these kinds of places before bidding farewell of Vietnam and heading to Cambodia.

More stories and updates to come.


Rice paddies, Lao Cai (Vietnam)

The view from our hotel, Sapa.

A H'mong girl with her water buffalo, Lao Cai

Hiking in the misty mountains in Lao Cai (Ariel's pic)

A plant seller in a colonial French house, Sapa (Ariel's pic)

Our first Vietnamese coffee.

The last picture I took in China. Leaving Kunming.

A tremendous, soda can sized moth in Sapa, Vietnam.


Viet Nam

We've spent the last few days is a breathtaking town called Sapa in Vietnam. The city was built in 1922 by the French and served as a hill station and small town complete with monastery and restaurants before being lost to the Vietnamese during the war for Independence after WWII. The entire area was sleepy and unknown until it was rather recently rediscovered by backpackers and has been conditioned into a full-on tourist town.

Traditionally, the town has been more montagnard ("mountain people") than ethnically Vietnamese, and you can still see dozens of h'mong and dzao wandering the streets selling trinkets, dyed cloth and opium as well as living in completely traditional and ancient ways in the rice paddies surrounding the town. They wear colorful turbans and silvery jewelry and their hands are stained blue by their traditional dying and their teeth are stained a black red by chewing betel nut. They're very much photographed by tourists, like living scenery, and their way of life has been altered by the constant stream of foreign visitors. It's a strange sight, to be sure.


We arrived in Hanoi very early this morning. The city is chaotic but so far extremely beautiful. It's far more traditional and Asian than Beijing, with bamboo ladder sellers, cafes on every corner, messy pho noodle stalls, bahn mi sandwich shops and colorful south Chinese temples. More on Hanoi later!