The Other Side of Luang Prabang

One American traveler we spoke to quipped that Luang Prabang actually felt like Sante Fe, New Mexico. A fair comparison, we suppose, given its café-equipped, mid-mountain artsy demeanor and copious artsy shopping opportunities. These features ensure that tourists will keep ‘a coming to this quaint yet polished French colonial outpost on the Mekong. But if you are looking for a deeper cut of authenticity, catch yourself a water taxi to Ban Xieng Maen, a peaceful village just across the river, but half a planet away. Its simplicity and low-key temples belie the fact that we were only minutes from well-traveled Luang Prabang.

Continue ReadingThe Other Side of Luang Prabang

A Day at the Market – Bac Ha, Vietnam

Bac Ha Market, Vietnam

Visually, we were blown away by Bac Ha market in northern Vietnam. During our winter visit, the women and their brightly-colored clothing provided the perfect contrast to the muted winter landscape. Most of the women who make the trek to Bac Ha market from their hill villages are from the Flower Hmong ethnic group. As you can see from our photos, they dress in colorful head scarves and beautifully embroidered skirts and tops.

Continue ReadingA Day at the Market – Bac Ha, Vietnam

Hanoi Under the Skin

Hanoi is a place where filthy abundance and noise follow you everywhere and the action takes place low to the ground. The fluid movement of traffic resembles a drift, like dunes. Time slows, suspended in particulate-filled air. While locals make business and take draws from traditional pipes, the sound waves of motorbike horns and tonal conversations compete for space through which to move

Woman Selling - Hanoi
Hanoi Street Vendor, Vietnam

Some people call this relaxed and insist that Hanoi is laid back. In comparison to what, we’re not sure.

Continue ReadingHanoi Under the Skin

Hanoi’s Social Enterprises, Part I

As I was told by the General Manager of Craft Link, Ms. Tran Tuyet Lan, not-for-profit organizations have to sell quality products in order to survive. Charity isn’t sustainable.

But Hanoi’s Hoa Sua School and Craft Link try. The customer gets quality food and handicrafts, respectively, in addition to the warm fuzzy feeling from contributing to a good social cause. It's an ideal – and apparently sustainable – combination.

Continue ReadingHanoi’s Social Enterprises, Part I

A Taste of Hanoi

Everyone raves about the food in Hanoi. However, we found our street-eating selves a bit stymied the first few days of our visit. Not sure if it was the fickle weather, our outlook, or the fear of being served a surprise chicken foot or pig ear, but our initial impression of the cuisine was not quite impenetrable, but less than accessible.

Continue ReadingA Taste of Hanoi

An Honest Look at Vietnam’s Subsidy Period

Our visit to Hanoi's Vietnamese Museum of Ethnology included all the requisite colorfully embroidered and woven clothing, agriculture tools, religious artifacts and sample living quarters in an ample demonstration of Vietnam's surprisingly wide and diverse variety of ethnic minorities. The extraordinarily honest and introspective exhibition on the difficulties of life under Vietnam’s Subsidy Economy between 1975 and 1986 – now that was exceptional!

Continue ReadingAn Honest Look at Vietnam’s Subsidy Period

Hanging in Halong Bay, Vietnam

Junk Boat, Vietnam
Halong Bay, Vietnam

Sometimes a moment of peace in a beautiful setting is what you need when traveling, especially when you are in northern Vietnam. A nod to Halong Bay for filling this need and for offering some of the most visually spectacular landscape in the region. Meaning “Bay of the Descending Dragon, ” Halong Bay has almost 2000 limestone islands that rise above the water like dragons moving through the sea.

Continue ReadingHanging in Halong Bay, Vietnam