Thomas’ Bug Collection

Insect in Kutai National Park

During our time in Asia, I spent countless hours crawling around through questionable underbrush, turning over rocks, climbing up trees and sifting through leaves just to get a few usable snapshots of interesting bugs. And it was absolutely worth the effort. That’s what I love!

Finally, after almost 6 years, I put together an insect pictorial of my favorite beauties. In case you’re wondering, all of our pictures were taken with a Canon Powershot. Wear and tear in addition to a couple of diving accidents made us go through a whole bunch of new cameras, but we always stuck with the G-series for its excellent macro feature!

Northern Vietnam

Our amazing time in Vietnam is slowly coming to an end. From the traditional hill tribes of Bac Ha and Can Cau to hip Hanoi to magnificent Halong Bay, the North is just as impressive as South and Central Vietnam. Although we are sad to leave, we are more than happy to have explored this diverse region. Follow along in our 4-minute video and see for yourself, why you should definitely be planning a trip to Vietnam in the near future.

Click play to watch video

Quan An Ngon – The Mother Lode

Like miners prospecting for that legendary vein of gold, Thomas and I have been scouring Vietnam for culinary treasures. When we finally set foot into Quan An Ngon, I screamed, “Eureka!” – well, at least mentally.

Fodor’s states that Quan An Ngon “just might be the best restaurant in Vietnam.” But don’t expect super-chic poseur portions with vertical stacks, flash-dried mousse, or chemo-cuisine. Nope, this restaurant is all about Continue…

Vietnam: What a Dollar Can Buy You

Vietnam would be a dirt-cheap country – if visitors could only pay the local prices. But more often than not, tourists are charged inflated rates for pretty much everything. With this in mind, we had to really kick it up a notch and work the Vietnamese with our superb bargaining skills.

And even with that, we stayed just within budget. I have to admit, we put out a lot more money on upgrades: a deluxe Halong Bay cruise, more polished hotels, and fancy sleeper trains. And our fabulous Food-Venture set us back a bit which, I’m ecstatic to say, was worth every dong. (Oh, dong jokes – we’ve heard them all.)

Overall, Vietnam is still very affordable and there are plenty of things you can get for 20,000 dong or about a buck:

  • 1 day of bicycle rental
  • 2 Vietnamese coffees with sweet condensed milk
  • 15 minutes of air time on a Mobifone sim card
  • 1 bowl of pho bo
  • 1 small load of laundry
  • 250 grams of candied ginger
  • 1 Chinese lantern made of bamboo and fabric
  • 40 quail eggs
  • 1 Vietnamese conical hat (non la)
  • 7 liters of drinking water
  • 2 tickets to the Temple of Literature in Hanoi
  • 2 chilled Halida beers
  • 1.25 liters of gasoline

Bar Hopping

Hanoi is full of cool, cutting edge, trendy little bars and cafes that can stand up to those in any world capital. Less pretentious and better value than similar establishments in other major cities, it’s no wonder Hanoi attracts travelers in droves. And believe me, they are here in droves!

After making some fantastic new friends on our Halong Bay trip, we were motivated to get out there and explore Hanoi’s bar scene a little. Clearly, Hanoi has what it takes to be a trend-setter. And the world is figuring that out very quickly. Over the sound of clinking glasses, toasts can be heard in every language from French to Japanese to Russian to Turkish. Hanoi is the hottest place in Southeast Asia right now (and I’m not just talking temperature.)

Unfortunately for those who love to stay up all night, the government restricts how late things can stay open, so start early and pretend you’re Cinderella.

Hip, Hip, Hanoi!

Hanoi is one of Southeast Asia’s most stylish cities. It’s hip, dynamic, walkable, historic, trendy, picturesque and very, very enjoyable. Ten minutes after arriving, we were dedicated fans of Vietnam’s sensationally chaotic capital. Whether strolling through the atmospheric Temple of Literature or squatting on a plastic chair at a corner coffee stall, this place represents Asia at its best.

On day one, I was already in serious panic mode that we had so little time here. (I just might need a year.) Seriously, we would need weeks to explore the city’s back streets, markets, temples, museums, and restaurants. And there are endless possibilities for excursions into the surrounding rural areas. But despite my obsessive need to see everything, each time we step out of the hotel, the city’s cool cafes and coffee houses lure us in and lull us into do-nothing mode as we sit for hours people watching.

Banh Cuon

Sometimes, while traveling, you discover foods which are so delicious that you will never again be happy without them. Banh cuon is one of those foods for me. The paper-thin rice flour pancake is prepared on a cloth covering a steaming pot of boiling water. Filled with ground pork and diced wood-ear mushroom, banh cuon is then chopped and topped with fried onions and chili.

If you want to eat your banh cuon like a pro, order up a side dish of cha lua, a delicious Vietnamese sausage. And don’t forget to rip up some mint leaves and throw them in with your nuoc cham, the tangy dipping sauce. Yum, my mouth is watering as I write this. I think I’m going to go have another one right now!!!