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Vlog Entry #22: Get Wet, Go Wild

Drift with me through the streets, hillsides and waters of northern Vietnam on the “Get Wet, Go Wild” tour, offered by Vietnam Backpacker Hostels! Catch a glimpse of Hanoi’s top attractions: Quan Thanh Temple, St. Joseph’s Cathedral and the West Lake. Then hop on board a junk boat to cruise past the cliffs of Ha Long Bay. Throw in a bit of swimming, kayaking, rock climbing and beach volleyball for good measure. Lastly, journey inland to the rural Mai Chau Valley, home to breath-taking, emerald rice paddies and towering, dramatic peaks.

The Rest is Rust

The other day, I was out for a jog. Three men spotted me, and I made the mistake of making eye contact.  So they started chasing me. I glanced at their flip-flops and in that moment chose flight over fight, and sprinted as fast I could away from them. I ended up out of breath behind a hotel. There, a young white man spotted me and waved me over.  He was a bright eyed and bushy-tailed American, fresh off the plane, ready and eager to start a life in Quinhon.  He asked me how I liked the city, and I said, well it’s okay. He looked taken aback.  Just okay? Everyone he’d talked to loved it and never wanted to leave. I told him the reason I’m so out of breath is because I had just run away from a few men chasing me.  He shrugged and said, “Well, you’re a cute girl.”

48 Glorious Hours of Hanoi Street Food • Vietnam


What’s Worked for Me in the Classroom

I teach for three more days and then have three days off before leaving Quinhon forever.  The three months I’ve spent here have been surreal, sort of like a learn-about-yourself-bootcamp. I have to say, I’m pretty goddamn proud of myself for making it through, since it hasn’t been easy.  The hardest part about the expat life here is the communication and culture barrier. However, the time I’ve spent trying to understand these barriers, while difficult, has also been the best part about living here, hands down.  Should be interesting to integrate these new perspectives into life back in the USA in only 22 days!

Another bright part of my time here in Quinhon has been teaching. My happiest moments here have been in front of the classroom. I’m no expert teacher, but I figured I’d write a post about some teaching tips and tricks that have helped me, because more often than not you won’t get any training in Vietnam before your first class, haha.

10 Reasons I’m Over Vietnam

  1. Noise
    1. Like clockwork at 7AM the city wakes up with a roar. This past week, some people have been drilling loudly in the room above me for some reason. Also a neighbor got a new puppy and it shrieks non-stop from dawn till dusk.
  2. Vicious Traffic
    1. I suppose part of the growing pains for being a developing country is an increased amount of motorbikes and trucks on the road. But Vietnam really needs to make some traffic laws to keep up with this growth. Drivers feel entitled to pass too close to you at breakneck speed, and every truck or car is equipped with a horn so loud it will make your ears bleed.
  3. Bugs
    1. Ants will appear moments after a single crumb drops to the floor.

Learning Korean in Vietnam

So it turns out Hanoi has a reasonably-sized Korean community. This was great news as I was keen to keep up my Korean, so I went trawling for lessons. Given that most Koreans are here with corporate jobs however, rather than the English-speaking community who almost all do some kind of teaching, the only place offering such a thing was the Han-Viet Family Centre. This is an institution set up and funded by the Korean government in response to rising numbers of Korean-Vietnamese marriages. We went along to see if they wouldn’t mind me signing up, despite being distinctly non-Viet, but after seeing that I fulfilled the ‘married-to-a-Korean side of the bargain they said it would be fine.

Fast-forward to a week later, and it seemed like it might not be quite so fine after all. Given that I’d turned up for a pre-intermediate class, which I’d asked the way for in Korean, one would have thought I might be able to understand an exchange along the lines of:

Sexual Harassment is Sexual Harassment.

Last night my Macbook’s charger broke. It was old; it’s time was done. So, this morning I had to get a new one. Seems like a simple enough task, right?


I left my hotel room wearing a long sun dress (one hundred degrees, 80% humidity).  And, as I walked the streets in search of an electronics store, the invasive shouts and stares of men left me with not a moment’s peace.

Cat Tien, Vietnam and Misadventures on the Motorbike

Yesterday was Independence Day for Vietnam! I thought things would be a little crazier, given the Vietnameses’ penchant for techno and flashy lights, but all in all the scene was pretty chill. The only thing that made it different from any other day was the fact that the school wasn’t open. Woot woot!

After spending the morning working on my law apps, I decided to take my motorbike on an adventure. I ended up in a little town 25km outside Quinhon, called Cat Tien (not to be confused with Cat Tien National Park).  The drive there was beautiful and flat. Full of sand dunes and breezes.

Bai Xep

Yesterday I rented a motorbike again. Driving here is scary. But outside the city it’s soooo fun because there aren’t many people on the road. I drove around aimlessly away from town and saw so many breathtaking things. I stumbled upon a beautiful fishing village with an island.  The water was so clear blue it hurt. I walked around on the beach for a while, to many HELLOs from the local children. It looked like the locals were thoroughly engaged in snorkeling and sea urchin hunting. Everyone was friendly, except the young boy who angrily threw sand in my face. Haha.

Then, I went to this place called Haven.  The road there was kind of horrifying because it wound up and down steep hills and trucks and huge buses passed me a bit too close for comfort.

Exploring and Making Friends

After a lot of thought, I decided to go back to USA in October. I told my boss and coworkers that I’ll be leaving then, so it’s official!

It wasn’t an easy decision to make for a number of reasons, and I’m still a little conflicted about it to be honest. But life is full of tough decisions and there’s no right or wrong way to do things. I’m just trying to do what’s best for me! I’ve been isolated, unhappy, and terribly hot, so why not have a change of scenery?  Hopefully I’ll be able to look back on my time traveling in Korea and Vietnam as a bright and meaningful experience.

Since I know I’ll be leaving soon, I’ve been trying to make the most of my time here (in between intense study sessions for the LSAT that is!).

What are you doing here?

“What are you doing here?”

It’s a question a lot of Vietnamese people probably want to ask me (or actually are asking me and I just can’t understand it) as they see me, a twenty-two year old white American female, browsing casually through the grocery store or studying for my LSAT in a cafe.  Listening to music, sweating profusely in the heat. And alone. Always, always alone.

Tonight, my new coworker “Pierre,” a French guy masquerading as an American so he can teach English as a native speaker, invited “Curly,” my other coworker, to come with him to check out some local real estate and then grab dinner. I overheard this conversation and decided to invite myself. Figured it’d be nice to get to know my coworkers, and they are certainly a strange pair.

I’m sick :(

I went into work this afternoon and had to leave in the middle of my last class because I felt like I literally couldn’t stand up. It was pretty embarrassing. If there’s one thing I hate, it’s missing work because of illness. I always feel like no one will believe me that I’m actually sick.

Especially since the day before I told my boss I’d like less work hours. My contract is for 25-35 hours per week, and for the past month I’ve had just about 35.  I know that doesn’t sound like much, but in Vietnam, 35 hours of teaching is considered a lot a lot, especially given the fact that I’m only getting $1000 USD per month. Yesterday I had five classes for a total of eight and a half hours, spanning from 7:30AM to 8:30PM.  So it’s possible that my long work hours have caused me to fall ill, and not infected food or mosquito bites!

The Lonely Foreigner

I do not like living in Qui Nhon.

The English is at a really low level. Vietnamese is a tonal language, so even when I do memorize a few words and phrases, no one understands what I’m trying to say because I can’t get the tones right. Ordering food is virtually impossible. Literally everything I’ve eaten so far has made me sick. I may never not have diarrhea again.  Locals overcharge me. I work splits six days a week. The school is infested with rats. I experience strange spells of lightheadedness. I am living out of a suitcase. The beach is right next to my hotel room, but the weather is so scorching and humid that I can’t enjoy it. Indoors, airconditioning is sparse. People stare at me wherever I go. Teenagers come up to me for pictures. Parents push their children towards me and I am compelled to have uncomfortable, phony conversations with them, consisting mainly of “How are you today?” “I’m five.”

Sneaky Selfies, Karma, and Loneliness

Right now I’m sitting in a place called Cafe Sunrise. As I type this, there is an elderly gentleman with a gold watch on sits in front of me. He’s in sunglasses smoking a cigarette. I caught him taking selfies, and thought oh how cute.  Then I looked closer, and noticed that his selfies were carefully composed to feature me typing on my computer in the background of every shot. 


why obsessed


I eventually decided to just go up to him and strike a pose.


I have allergies. Symptoms include: horrendously itchy nose, runny-stuffy nose, watery puppydog eyes, wet cough, headache, misery. Does anyong have any advice about allergies? No idea how to find out what’s causing them exactly, or how to stop this torture.


My 1st Day Teaching in Vietnam

It’s so hot here. So hot. So jungly. Me and my heat rashes are definitely going through an adjustment period!


My morning walk...gorgeous but fucking hot as fuck
My morning walk…gorgeous but fucking hot as fuck


My first day of teaching was yesterday…..


My First 24 Hours in Vietnam: Oversized Baggage, Cheap Meatballs, and One Very Sticky Used Condom

I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City yesterday morning and spent the day wandering aimlessly around District 1, which is a maze of street food, mopeds, and foreigners.

So. Many. Foreigners. Women in flowy skirts wandering in droves with backpacks. Men with dreads and rose tattoos. Couples giving each other the silent treatment over coconut milk and pho. European families in SAIGON shirts ushering their disgruntled offspring to the next trinket shop.  Ugly middle aged men flanked by gorgeous local girls.  Everyone’s hot. Everyone’s on vacation, everyone’s pawing at somebody.

It seemed like the city itself was sweating gloriously along with us, and for the first time since I’ve left the United States, I felt truly happy.

If You Don’t Have Anything Good to Say about My Country, Just…

A couple of weeks ago, I was hurt, guilty, furious. I was hurt because of the offensive things said about my country over dinner with other 외국인 (foreigners); guilty because I just sat there speechless, pretending that I wasn’t listening, and I didn’t even try to refute their crude remarks. I was furious because of their insensitivity and my silence. I don’t know why I didn’t say anything to defend my country and my fellow Filipinos, when in fact, I always speak my mind. Maybe I kept mum because, I didn’t want to cause a hullabaloo. Once I start talking, there’s no stopping me until everybody listens and understands my point. In college, I was a debate queen, and until now, on several occasions, I don’t mind debating with someone who thinks he knows EVERYTHING about where I come from… well, except that day. Maybe another reason for my silence is that some of what they were saying is true.

“The Philippines is incredible! People here are so wonderful. They don’t realize that. There’s this kind of warmth I see everywhere! I notice it in the street vendor who can’t give you anything but a warm smile and a lot of love.” ~~~ Vin Diesel


“The Philippines is incredible! People here are so wonderful. They don’t realize that. There’s this kind of warmth I see everywhere! I notice it in the street vendor who can’t give you anything but a warm smile and a lot of love.” ~~~ Vin Diesel





Yes, the Philippines is not a rich country, but to say that the country is “so poor that people beg for money everywhere” is a mere exaggeration. One of the tactless foreigners said that even taxi drivers beg for money. It’s called asking for a tip, not begging. In the Philippines, it is common courtesy to give a tip to show appreciation for good service. We Filipinos usually tip taxi drivers. Foreigners do that, too. The kind ones even tip tricycle drivers. An American friend who visited the Philippines for the first time gave a tricycle driver 400 php for a tip. That’s almost 10 USD! The fare cost only 100 php (2.37 USD). The driver was giving her back 400 php for the 500 bill that she gave, but my friend told him to keep the change. I told her it was too much. She smiled and said that she doesn’t mind giving big tips to those who deserve it. That day, no tricycle driver wanted to drive us to where we were headed, because it was raining cats and dogs and the road going to our destination was flooded, but one tricycle driver took pity on us, cold and dripping wet from the rain.

You don’t have to give a big tip to a taxi or tricycle driver (20 to 50 php is enough), but at least have the courtesy and the heart to give a tip to someone who was of service to you, someone whose job is (probably) more taxing than yours.

Most foreigners who visit my country don’t need to be told that giving a tip is not the same as giving alms, because they take time to learn some Filipino customs before going to the Philippines, and isn’t tipping also a custom in the US?

In South Korea, tipping is not customary and is considered demeaning at times; however, my husband, who is Korean, and most of the Koreans I know don’t mind giving a tip when they go to the Philippines, and I’ve never heard them complain about it.

The foreigners went on and on about how poverty-stricken the Philippines is. They also talked aboutVietnam, being worse. I started wondering why the heck they go to other countries if they only criticize. When people travel, what is their main purpose? Isn’t it to discover, learn about other countries’ culture? to enjoy, to relax, to have wonderful memories to share with friends back home? I’m pretty sure that what these foreigners experienced in my country (or in Vietnam) wasn’t all that bad, but they made it sound as if they have been to the most abominable place in this world. Anywhere you go, even in the richest countries, there will always be poor people, people who beg for food or for a penny, people with no homes, people who need help. Should you criticize them? One of the foreigners was telling the others about “dirty street kids” following and annoying her because she is “a foreigner”. She is not being followed, because the kids think she is a celebrity; she is being followed, because the kids are hoping that she would give them coins that can buy them lunch or dinner, maybe their first meal of the day.

For almost 10 minutes of disparaging conversation about the Philippines (and Vietnam), they didn’t even consider how I and my fellow Filipina companion would feel… or maybe, they forgot that there were Filipinos present during that time. Even if there weren’t Filipinos (or Vietnamese) present, should they have talked like that about other countries in front of other foreigners?

When I started writing this post, I thought of naming all the good things about the Philippines that I can think of and have observed living there for 29 years… but I’m not going to do that. Instead, I invite you to visit the Philippines, travel around the country, get to know its people, discover its culture and if you want, you can even learn the national language. I’m sure that if you do all these things and free your mind from prejudice, you will have wonderful things to say about the Philippines. Who knows, you may even fall in love with my country, like the other foreigners who have stayed there or who keep coming back?


Queer Links from the Week

Keith from Seoulistic. I assume he's straight, but that doesn't stop me from thinking he certainly is eye candy
PinkNews: South Korea: Court grants Ugandan lesbian refugee status after family killed due to her sexuality

Queer Links from the Week

PRC’s South China Sea Grab Goes from Sensational to Subtle

Hey, if we put this flag here, there's going to be no room for my house!
Hey, if we put this flag here, there’s going to be no room for my villa!

Whatever your position on what belongs to who in the South China Sea dispute (“East Sea” in Vietnam), you gotta give credit to China for creatively pushing their claim to the whole thing. Well, in their defense, not the whole thing, just around 80%.

Queer Links from the Week

Queer Links from the Week

Queer Links from the Week

Cemetery Vultures: Losing Your Head (and your money) Over Ancestor Worship

If you cherish your deceased loved ones, you might want to encase your loved ones in cement in Vietnam.

If you cherish your deceased loved ones, you might want to encase them in cement in Vietnam.

I am not one to kick the religious beliefs of others —hell, I once did a drunken rain dance in hopes of quitting smoking— but if your thing is ancestor worship, as it is in much of Asia, then you might want to be careful how you bury your loved ones in Vietnam.

1/31 Queer Links From The Week

Vietnamese Inspired Spicy Vegetables

Vietnamese Inspired Spicy Vegetables

There was no time to waste. Having learnt to cook fragrant vegan Vietnamese cuisine in Hoi An, I was eager to recreate the flavors in my Korean apartment. Studying the scrappy piece of paper with notes scrawled back and front, I was able to decipher my favourite recipe and blow my friends away with this dish designed to tempt the most committed carnivore.

Spicy Vegetables {Vegan}

VU in Vietnam Part 2

VU in Vietnam Part 2

Traveling around Vietnam is all very well, but what’s a vegan to eat? Restaurants catering to tourists usually offer a separate section in their menu of exclusively vegetarian options, and even at local eateries there will be several choices for the most selective veg*n.

Bok Choi and Ginger Mushrooms

Mushroom and Tofu Patties

Mushroom and Tofu Patties

Premonitions about Vietnamese food had led me to believe that anything and everything that had a heartbeat would be listed on the menu. I didn’t believe the cuisine of Vietnam could be as succulent as its history.  But after a week spent in the city of Hoi An I was proved quite wrong.

Vietnamese food, I discovered relies heavily on vegetables and flavours more than any other country I can think of.  Coriander and cumin, lemongrass and lime, soy sauce and Saigon cinnamon, the range of flavours is quite stifling, but completely intoxicating.

Below is a simple and easy to make recipe of some Vietnamese Vegan patties.

VU in Vietnam Part 1

VU and David HoltVU in Vietnam Part 1

Vietnam has everything! Warm weather, captivating scenery, enchanting people and exquisite food.  It had been over a year since my last vacation, so when my girl-friend Esther Dalseno McCaustlin told me of her wedding in Vietnam I was overjoyed to visit a country whose borders I’d kissed but never crossed.

Vietnam Pagoda

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