Posts Tagged “culture”

The Best of Asia In Pictures

The Best of Asia In Pictures

Pairs Well With…Asia adventures + 4-month time span + the most amazing memories + even better people

My time in Asia came and went with a quickness.  Four months of my life passed by in the blink of an eye, and it seems like just yesterday that I left home on my one year journey abroad.  I guess it’s true what they say: time flies when you’re having fun.  And I’m having a blast.  In fact, make that the time of my life.

In a few short days, I’ll be moving to Europe.  Gone will be the land of noodles everywhere, temples on every corner, two or three-wheeled transportation devices and, sadly, a handful of beautiful souls with whom I’ve shared many memories.  I forgot how quickly people can form bonds in such a short amount of time, especially when you see them pretty much 24/7.  They become ingrained in your life and each leaves a special footprint on your heart.

The fun part about traveling with 60+ other people is experiencing the same things together, which is also precisely what makes it interesting: seeing the same things through different perspectives. After debating what I wanted to write about this week, I landed on a collection of pictures from the last four months in Asia.  But not just mine, everyone else’s favorite memories through pictures, in addition to mine.  Pictures speak a million words, so I wanted to let them do just that.

Asia Ha Long Bay Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam – Kate Bagoy – Favorite memory because: It’s a UNESCO world heritage site and some of the most spectacular scenery I’ve seen. Taking a row boat through a mountain was pretty cool.

Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia – Jay Harrison

Koh Phangan, Thailand Travel

Koh Phangan, Thailand – Full Moon Party at Sunrise by Zoe Weiner

(more…)

Toto, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore (Phnom Penh Is Where Sh*t Gets Real)

Toto, We’re Not In Kansas Anymore (Phnom Penh Is Where Sh*t Gets Real)

Pairs Well With…Poverty + Change + Rebuilding 

Let’s talk month three: Phnom Penh, Cambodia.  The first 24 hours were a shit show, and I had my first mini meltdown.  Lack of sleep coming back from Australia certainly played a part, but there’s something about reacclimating to a new country month after month that is both invigorating and exhausting.  As much as it can lift you up, it can also break you down.

People underestimate the emotional collide of energizing meets exhausting with these country to country moves.  And we do it every month, twelve times in total.  Of course, with each move comes the excitement of new surroundings, culture and food.  But there’s also the starting over of navigating new roommates, establishing new living patterns and understanding our proximity to everything we want and need.  There are also those weird, unexpected city quirks, such things as 6:30 am music shows outside my window (which I am convinced are daily flash mobs.)  Here’s the deal with Remote Year that is becoming more and more apparent by the day: if you can’t handle change, navigate shit by yourself and communicate effectively, you’re never going to cut it here, my friend.

Now, I’ll say that I’ve come a long way from (a few days ago?!) wanting to hide out in my room and not leave for fear of having my phone stolen out of my hand or being pickpocketed.  In the first 24 hours since our arrival in Phnom Penh (PP), we had three attempted and one successful motorbike drive-by robbery.  It was an early on, eye-opening wake-up call for many of us.  Most of us aren’t used to being in a heavily guarded (we’re talking block and tackle while using Google Maps) situation.  On top of it, I’m rolling with some 2G action, so you might as well blindfold me and ask me for directions.

As odd as it may sound, the deeper I go into the nooks and crannies of Cambodia, the more I love it.  What I’ve become most intrigued with is the people and their unbroken spirit, despite tragic and economic hardships.  Although having nothing, and from an American perspective, I mean nothing (we’re talking about 20x below our poverty line), this culture actually has all they need to live a happy life.  Cambodians are one of the most friendly cultures I’ve ever met. The people walk about with smiles on their faces for no reason and are at the ready to say hello and greet you.  The Cambodian culture doesn’t rely heavily on material possessions.

It’s funny.  If you take a minute to think about what the core things are that you want out of life, you would probably come up with a shortlist consisting of happiness, love and enough to get you by comfortably.  I believe these three core things are what makes the Cambodian culture so happy.  Too often, we believe we need more than we do.  Try living out of a suitcase for a year with a few fistfuls of clothes and a handful of other materials possessions and you’ll adapt more quickly than you realize.  You need less than you think you do – and you can be truly happy.  It’s your surrounding and the people in your life that really make it whole and complete. Not things.

Anyway, I anticipate the rest of my Cambodia content will be pretty rich this month, especially as I make my way into personal passion projects.  But, until then, here’s the work, live and play snapshot:

WHERE I KICK IT:
Once again, I find myself living in a mansion.  I’ll take it!  The walls are thin and (per earlier), there are morning flash mobs, but it’s nice enough.  In comparison to some of the “housing” I’ve seen, this ends up being very 5-star in comparison.

Phnom Penh Apartment Living

Living Room

Phnom Penh Cambodia Apartment Living

Bedroom Sitch

Phnom Penh Cambodia Apartment Bathroom

Yes, this IS, in fact, a 3 in 1 room with your toilet, shower and laundry conveniently located…one foot away from one another.

Phnom Penh Cambodia Apartment Pool

With 98% humidity DAILY, the pool is pretty much necessity.

 

WHERE I’M WORKIN’ IT:
Our office accommodations are great!  Very bright, very clean and very connected for our collaborations.  Plus, the office space is close to a lot of good dining and street shops.  I dig it.

Phnom Penh Cambodia Office Space

Makin’ magic happen

Phnom Penh Cambodia Office Space

Office space three rooms deep

 

THE PHNOM PENH, CAMBODIA SCOOP:
Population: Total Cambodia = 15.9M; Phnom Penh = 1.5M (In comparison, the population of Ho Chi Minh City was 8.4M.) More than 50% of the Cambodian population is under 25 years old.
Currency: Riel ($1 US Dollar = 4,000 Riel.  The dollar is also widely accepted here.)
Language: Khmer
Religion: The country is 95% Buddist.

FIRST WEEK OBSERVATIONS:

  • Brace yourself: you can’t live alone before you are married.  Cambodian culture dictates you live with some sort of family member, etc. until you are married off.  I’m not sure if this is motivation to get married at an earlier age or a ploy to be able to live in your parent’s basement for life.  You decide.
  • You cannot free boob it.  (What!?!?) You must wear a bra at all times. (There goes my day job.)
  • Uber isn’t even on the radar.  Your main forms of transportation?  Your feet or Tuk Tuk, a three-wheeled motor vehicle used as a taxi.  (They’re pretty sweet.)
  • It’s much quieter here than I would have expected.  Not that I expected a booming mecca, but…I expected more than ten people roaming around on a Saturday night.  When we arrived last week, I would have assumed a city shut down or some sort of public holiday.  I quickly learned that the population is much smaller than our past two cities, and many of the people live outside of Phnom Penh and head home to their villages after business close.
  • It’s (surprisingly) more expensive here than both Kuala Lumpur and Ho Chi Minh City. What I haven’t quite figured out yet is if all goods and services are more expensive, why approximately 2.66 million Cambodians are still living on less than $1.20 USD – PER DAY.  (I just spent more at the grocery store ($40) than one person makes in a month.)
  • They eat fried crickets here, and they are sold at street carts and on the side of the road.  In fact, they eat lots of bugs here.  I tried.  I know.  (Fact: America is in the 20% of the global population that does not eat bugs.) . For whatever reason, I keep trying weird stuff every month.
  • Phnom Penh Cambodia Eating Bugs

    Grasshoppers were fine. These beetles though, no sir.

  • Surprise!!! Not everyone knows where Phnom Penh is.  A potential Tinder date from Austrailia asked if PP was in the United States.  We did not go out and, in fact, this deserved and “unmatch.”
  • Cambodia thrives on efficiency, which doesn’t always equate to hygiene friendly.  This can mean re-using old oil to cook things, old water to wash dishes in the back room and sharing your seat at the table with a few cockroaches.  I’ve seen it all, and you get used to it. (And sometimes, you really wish you can unsee what you just saw.) It’s a way of living, and you really come to appreciate your privilege.
  • People greet you with different gestures depending on your age and status, and sometimes status means skin color as well.  Not sure that I love this.
  • The head is considered a sacred part of the body, as it is the point closest to the heavens. You do not touch someone’s head, nor pass anything over it. It’s a no, no.  On the flip side, you do not point your feet, especially the soles of your shoes if you are sitting, at someone. The feet are considered the most unclean (and lowest) part of the body.
  • I love this one.  When you want to get someone’s attention to beckon them, you should extend your arm with the palm of your hand down and flutter your fingers up and down.  I’m pretty sure they stole my move.  I’ve got this one down pat. #twinklefingers

 

More to come from Cambodia soon!  Stay tuned and be sure to subscribe via email for some email content exclusives!

Vietnam’s 15 Best Things To See & Do

Vietnam’s 15 Best Things To See & Do

Pairs Well With…Exploring + City Jumping + New Adventures

My month in Vietnam flew by.  Gone.  Poof.  Done.  While I continue to travel the globe, my days pass by quickly and effortlessly as I’m consumed by the wonders and sites of the world.  Next thing you know, another month down.  See ya Vietnam.  (The eagle has since landed in Cambodia.)

Over the course of these four weeks, I had the pleasure of engaging in sensational activities and adventures both in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), my hub for the month, as well as other Vietnam cities. Below is a list of my fifteen favorite finds to check out as you move about the Vietnam.

HA LONG BAY

  1. Book a seaplane excursion with Hai Au Aviation.  Planning a trip to Ha Long Bay? Make your trip quick and seamless with a 45-minute scenic flight.  Take in the astonishing views and jade green waters of the bay while enjoying the comfort of a quiet flight with a top notch flight crew.  It doesn’t get much better than this!

2. Cruise Ha Long Bay with Ha Binh Cruises.  Get a closer look at local living and exceptional sites including the Ba Hang fishing villages, Thien Cung Cave, Fighting Cock Islet and Titov Island to name a few.  Ha Binh Cruises offers many options to fit the duration of your visit, everything from a half day adventure to three-night stay cruises.  Their staff is exceptionally delightful and accommodating.

Fighting Cock Islet

HANOI

3. Haul it to Hanoi.  Okay, just kidding.  Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is a speedy two-hour flight from HCMC.  Once you’ve arrived, you’ll find a plethora of sites you’ll want to visit including the Temple of Literature, Hỏa Lò Prison, St. Joseph’s Cathedral, and the Quán Thánh Temple.  Or, fuel up your morning with a Vietnamese coffee (they are the best) and take a stroll around beautiful Hoàn Kiếm Lake to people watch. There is a lot of activity surrounding the lake.  Don’t expect a dull atmosphere here.  Make sure to book your stay in the Old Quarter of Hanoi, which boasts unique French colonial architecture, foodie gems and the best night markets city.

Hoàn Kiếm Lake

The streets of Hanoi

4. Peek at the Trấn Quốc Pagoda.  This pagoda, in particular, was one of my favorite sites in Hanoi. So much so that it deserved a standalone call out.  Trấn Quốc was built between 544-548 and is the oldest Buddist temple in all of Vietnam.  The Pagoda sits next to West Lake and serves as a tranquil backdrop, especially during sunrise and sunset.

HOI AN

5. Customize your clothes.  Looking for something that’s totally you and fits just right?  Hoi An is well known for its skillful tailors and seamstresses who can replicate clothing from a picture and have your garment ready within 24-48 hours.  The average cost per garment generally ranges from $50-$100 but is oh so worth it.  Clothes couture anyone?  (Better yet…ladies, these hot studs are up for grabs!)

Fruit suit anyone?!

The man, the legend.

Mr. Fly Guy himself

HO CHI MINH CITY

6. Love local music.  Experience the sounds of the city in local theaters and music venues.  This one, in particular, Phuong Bao Music, is an enchanting experience for all to enjoy.

7. See Ho Chi Minh City Hall.  Built from 1902-1908 and most picturesque at night, this historic landmark is one of the best pieces of architecture the city offers.  In front of the hall, you’ll see a statue of Ho Chi Minh himself, founder of the Indochinese Communist Party in 1930 and the League for the Independence of Vietnam.

8. Walk the War Remnants Museum.  This museum is not for the faint of heart and does contain lots of graphic images and content, but is an important part of the past.  It contains exhibits relating to the Vietnam War and the first Indochina War involving the French colonialists. Expect to reflect, feel and ride the waves of emotion as you move through the destruction of modern warfare.  

9. Bargain in the Ben Thanh Market.  Located in District 1, this market is one of the earliest surviving structures in HCMC.  Bob and weave the endless aisles of colorful products including jewelry, food, fabric, crafts and souvenirs.  Don’t be fooled by any fixed price signs.  They are a key indicator of a good negotiation waiting to take place.

10. Sign, seal and deliver at Saigon Central Post Office.  Still fully operating today, this 19th century Gothic, Renaissance and French influence constructed post office is a destination for both tourists and locals alike.  Buy, write and send postcards right on site.  Want to write a letter in Vietnamese? Visit Mr. Duong Van Ngo, the 85-year-old gentleman sitting near a sign reading “Information and Writing Assistance.”  Mr. Ngo, the last letter writer in HCMC, has worked at the post office since the age of 17 as a public letter-writer, translating across a handful of different languages and closing a communication gap.  (If you do visit Vietnam, take the time to have a brief conversation with Mr. Ngo. I did and found him, and our conversation, to be quite entertaining. Well worth your time.)

11. Eat at Pizza 4P’s.  Generally, I wouldn’t have included something as common as “eat pizza” in my list of best things about Vietnam.  But…this pizza place unexpectedly rocked my world.  With homemade cheese, fresh ingredients and handmade woodfire grills, you can’t go wrong.  And did I mention cheese plates?! You know that one love that you can’t get out of your mind?  Yep.  This is was mine for Vietnam.  Visit.  Love. Repeat.

They even do half/half pizzas!

12. Revisit the skyline on a rooftop. Everything looks different when you’re looking at it from a different angle. That also includes skylines.  Grab a cocktail and enjoy the evening sunset as you take in the colorful city lights from up above.

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

 

VIETNAM COUNTRYSIDE

13. Day Trip to Mekong Delta.  West of HCMC you’ll find the Mekong Delta, also known as the “rice bowl of Vietnam.”  Mekong Delta is the heart of the rice producing region of the country and is booming with floating markets and other excursions to partake in such as boat cruising through canals, catching catfish and listening to local music.

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

Photo Credit: Jay Harrison

We’ve got a keeper!

One man jam band

EVERYWHERE FAVORITES

14. Eat Pho.  Actually, eat everything.  Vietnamese food is amazing, especially pho.  Other traditional Vietnamese favorites of mine included: Banh Mi (baguette sandwich), Gỏi cuốn (fresh spring rolls), Cà Phê Dá (iced coffee), Bánh Xèo (hearty stuffed pancake) and Bun Cha (grilled and marinated meat in a rich broth with noodles).  And then, of course, there’s the out of the comfort zone stuff.  When in doubt, don’t ask, just eat.  Looking for authentic Vietnamese recipes to make at home?  Check out this month’s A Girl’s Gotta Eat Guide to Vietnam!

Needs no introduction

My favorite!

Bun Cha

THIS is why you don’t ask what you’re eating before hand. More to come in the Vietnam edition of “A Girl’s Gotta Eat.”

15. Uncover the city Uber Moto style.  I will admit, it took me almost two weeks to brave the bikes. Once I did, it was fantastic.  Talk about a $0.50 thrill ride, not to mention being able to zip from one end of town to the other in half the time of a car ride.

Tonight we ride

Well, that’s a month two wrap!  Almost.  Keep your eyes peeled for the upcoming second edition of “A Girl’s Gotta Eat” with all the best food finds from Vietnam.

Will The Real Wayan Please Stand Up? (Adventures in Bali)

Will The Real Wayan Please Stand Up? (Adventures in Bali)

Pairs Well With…”The Real Slim Shady” by Eminem

Last month, I made a visit to Bali, one of the places on my travel bucket list.  I spent many years dreaming of teal pools and sandy beaches in quiet, serene surroundings, the kind that offers solitude and inspires my writing.  For a while, I romanticized my Remote Year trip to be a bit like Eat, Pray, Love.  Going to Bali for a few days gave me a chance to dig deeper and do some soul searching.  I was a few weeks into my trip when I went to Bali and was feeling overwhelmed from the rhythm of my new lifestyle.  I wanted to check in with myself and get crystal clear on my intentions and personal goals for the year, especially my business goals.  

Days before we arrived in Bali, the owner of the Airbnb I rented messaged to let me know he’d be in Milan (rough life) and his house manager, Wayan, would be on point for any questions or needs throughout the duration of our trip. The place I rented was beautiful, but in a very remote, very secluded area which would cause us to need a driver.  

A solid five hours after we were supposed to land, we finally made it to Bali.  I was given the instruction to look for a man holding a sign that had my name on it.  It was the first time I had a driver, and it made me feel fancy.  Quickly locating the sign with my last name on it, mainly because it goes on forever, I walked over to my driver and introduced myself as Carin.  “Hi, Carin.  My name is Wayan.”  Huh.  I thought that was the house manager’s name.  Did the house manager come pick us up after all?  No, as it turned out, both the house manager and driver’s name are Wayan, a name I hadn’t heard before, except for maybe in Eat, Pray, Love.

The next day, after a morning filled with pool time and sunshine, we headed to the beach for lunch and a beer.  It had been so long since I’d been to the ocean that I forgot how much I loved that distinct smell of warm air, breeze and salt water.  A while later, the sun had worn us down, and it was time to recharge at the house.  After many failed attempts at getting an Uber, and the Bali Beach Patrol (BBP) trying to price gouge the hell out of us, out of principle, we began walking to a spot where we would more easily be able to get a ride since we refused to pay the tourist markup.

Well, that didn’t exactly work out the way we had imagined.  Not by a long shot.  The BBP had the transportation game on lock, and Ubers weren’t allowed in the park systems for pickups, a way to keep local cab drivers in business.  We were pretty much at the mercy of negotiating a reasonable rate to get us back to the house or living on the beach indefinitely.  (Hey, I voted for beachin’ it indefinitely, but someone else in my group had a flight to catch, soooo….)

You could tell frustrations were running high, especially since only one cab driver was passing by every twenty minutes, and the first two said no deal to our offers.  It was now or never, and time for us to get in, shut up and just get out of there.  A few minutes into the conversation with our driver, one of the gals I was traveling with asked his name. Wayan.  

What in the hell was happening here and why is everyone’s name Wayan?  For crying out loud.  We now had House Manager Wayan, Driver Wayan and now Cabbie Wayan. I got to the point where someone would go to introduce themselves, and I would think to myself, “Wait.  Let me guess.  Your name is probably Wayan.”  After all, I had about a 40% chance of being right.

In Bali, an island populated with 4.2 million people, about one in five are named Wayan. We learned this because we had asked Driver Wayan the next time he was taking us around town.  He explained that in Indonesian culture, the firstborn male is always named Wayan.  Okay, but why?  I mean, can you imagine being in a classroom on the first day of school during roll call when the teacher calls the name Wayan and about fifteen hands go up?  It’s bad enough when you have a second Sarah or Katie in a classroom, let alone a room full of Wayans.

The Balinese name their children based on the order of which they were born, the first being Wayan. The second through fourth children is named in the same fashion with a name given to those second through fourth birth rankings. What happens if the family has more than four kids?  Then the cycle repeats itself, and the fifth child becomes another Wayan.  Interesting cultural learning, that’s for sure, but the first thing that popped into my mind was this:

“YOU’RE a Wayan….and YOU’RE a Wayan…and YOU…are a Wayan!!!!

via GIPHY

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not mocking other cultures.  There are just certain cultural concepts that make my head spin, this being one of them.  These learnings fascinate me all the same and are one of the main reasons I love to travel as much as I do.

And Wayan?  Well, he was one of the kindest and most interesting men I’ve met on this trip.  He took great care of us and showed us the best parts of Bali.  If you’re ever in town, give him a shout.

This episode of Keeping Up with the Wayan’s has been brought to you from Bali.  

Want more? Check out Project Made’s video to see footage of the beautiful beaches and temples, as well as our other Bali adventures. 

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