Hanoi, Vietnam, without Plans

I’ll be honest with you, I was a bit afraid of Hanoi before we went there.  Most of what I’d heard about the city was contrary to our travel style: it’s busy, disorganized, full of scammers, loud, etc.  I’ve had friends travel there that have absolutely hated it, but also friends that absolutely loved it.  I was worried that, after three days relaxing in Luang Prabang, Laos, Hanoi’s energy would be too much for us.dsc_0849-2 dsc_0886

As luck would have it, when you have a bar set pretty low for a place, the conditions are set for it to really knock it out of the park.  And while I’m not sure my opinion of Hanoi would be the same if we’d been there a full week instead of a mere 48 hours, I’m glad we spent the time we did in Hanoi rather than skip it altogether. Read more

A Hanoi Shopping Guide: Coffee and Propaganda!

Prior to starting our 2016 Southeast Asia trip, I had thought to myself, “Surely we won’t be bringing a lot of kitsch home from this trip – what will there be to entice us?”  I had spent time Southeast Asia in the past (though, fairly, primarily in Thailand), and thought I wouldn’t be bringing home Beer Chang tank tops and flowy backpacker pants…so what else was there?  Dried Durian certainly didn’t make the list.DSC_0848 DSC_0834 (2)

But as travel often does, it takes your assumptions and proceeds to whip you in the ass with them.  Not only did we fill a bag with gifts before even entering Vietnam, the third nation of our trip, but we ended up having to buy another bag to porter our things from the mere 48 hours we spent in the nation’s capital of Hanoi. #consumerism Read more

Happy Pizza and Khmer Karaoke in Kampot, Cambodia

We ended up in Kampot after I had a hipster traveler existential crisis.  Feeling like we weren’t going anywhere truly “off the beaten path,” I opted to cut our time short in Koh Rong Samloem by a day to spend a night in the relative backwater (at least, compared to Siem Reap and Bangkok) of Kampot, in southern Cambodia.

We wanted to have a laid back 24 hours in a laid back town before heading to less-laid back Siem Reap, and Kampot turned out to do just the trick. DSC_0051 (3) DSC_0083 (2) DSC_0095 (2) Read more

Getting a Tattoo in Siem Reap, Cambodia: Where You Need to Go

David and I are big tattoo fans, and we each have quite a few that adorn our bods.  Mine are all related to travel and experiences I’ve had in different places around the world, and after spending a week in Cambodia, I knew I wanted a piece of local ink to express my feelings about the complex nation. DSC_0412 (2)

As it turns out, David was on board, too, and we set off developing our different designs.  As or more important as the design, however, was finding the right artist to do the work.  We have an artist we use here in Seattle, and we wanted to find the right artist in Cambodia, with whom we could develop a similar, easy-going rapport. Read more

A Tale of Two Cambodian Train Stations: Kampot and Sihanoukville

Coming into our trip to Southeast Asia, architecture peeping wasn’t in my plans.  Despite evidence to the contrary from our tour of New Khmer architecture in Phnom Penh, I didn’t actually plan any of our adventures in modernist architecture – they just happened to occur.  Sure, I may have screamed and waved my hands for tuk tuk drivers to pull over at random places on the streetside for me to take pictures, but that was about the extent of my planning.DSC_0963 (2) DSC_0978 DSC_0993 (2)

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Puppies and Rainbows on Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

As it was the theme of our trip, I knew it would be necessary to hit up some basic beaches while we were in Southeast Asia.  The region is known for its pristine (or what were once pristine, I should say) beach paradises – made most famous by Alex Garland’s book and proceeding Danny Boyle film, “The Beach.”  DSC_0839 DSC_0866 DSC_0887

I’d spent my fair share of time sunning my buns on beaches in the Gulf of Thailand, but never in Cambodia.  My times past had been limited to the islands of Koh Pha Ngan, Koh  Tao, and Koh Samet – each of which by now are long since discovered and, much to my chagrin, the predominating backpacker mentalities there are now more about sex and drugs rather than sloth and gluttony (my preferred travel sins). Read more

Things We Didn’t See in Luang Prabang, Laos

If you’ve followed this blog for a while, you’ll know that I have a problem with editing.  I’m notoriously unsuccessful at editing experiences, places, and things to do out of an itinerary.  A large part of my travel ethos has been that, because I have such precious little time off from my other life as a corporate employee, I need to see as much as possible in my time away.  Many would even consider our recent Southeast Asia itinerary to be too ambitious – but for us it was actually quite slow.DSC_0580 DSC_0627 DSC_0531 (2)

Then we arrived in Luang Prabang, Laos.  We’d spent a harried couple of days in Siem Reap, and despite only seeing five or so temples there, were fatigued.

Nature and atmosphere had a way of forcing us to slow down in Luang Prabang.  We had planned on renting motorbikes while we were there to explore around, but put it off until we didn’t have any days left. Read more

Finding Vann Molyvann in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

As I’ve stated before, our trip to Southeast Asia was a rather serendipitous one.  I’ve been rather singularly focused in the past 18 months on making my way through the former Eastern Bloc and Soviet nations, and had been hoping to spend this Memorial Day in the Ukraine, but luck brought us to Southeast Asia instead.  While planning our time in Southeast Asia, I struggled to find the happy medium between a total relaxing hedonistic vacation and finding meaningful cultural activities relevant to my interests.

What primarily interested me about Southeast Asia.
What primarily interested me about Southeast Asia.
Enter Phnom Penh.  Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia, was where we started our trip, and to say it impressed us would be an understatement. It’s safe to say that if I were to create a pie chart of subject matter on this blog, modernist architecture would make up the lion’s share of it.  And despite knowing that Phnom Penh had been a jewel of French Indochina, I was not expecting it to be replete with amazing, funky, and downright jaw-dropping modern architecture.

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Between World War 2 and the Cambodian Civil War,  a man named Vann Molyvann founded the New Khmer style of architecture, and created the preeminent architecture style of the new Kingdom of Cambodia (1953-1970).  His buildings blended Modernist style and materials with traditional Khmer architectural elements to create startlingly beautiful structures all over the nation.  For more info on the style and his work, visit the Vann Molyvann Project site. Read more