Tales From A Broad

My year of teaching English in Japan is up. Next mission: backpack Asia before going home to the U.S.A. Currently HOME!

California, here I come

Saturday, December 23

Bye Bye Asia. Hello USA.

From Hong Kong, I flew into my original hometown, Los Angeles, to spend a few days with all the family we left behind. Words do no justice, and my time with them flew by a lot faster than I would've liked it to. Here's a brief recap:

Day 1: Met up with my aunt, uncle and cousin. Ate extra cheesy lasagna. At that point, my jellyfish sting was leaking ooze through my bandages. I saw another pharmacist.

My repulsive jellyfish foot a few days after the scene of the crime.

Day 2: Met up with my other aunt, uncle, and cousin. Aunt and uncle take me to the East L.A.--the most Mexican part of the city to feast on the best chimichangas money can buy. Mama likey. Also, met up with 2 buddies of mine from college (Hey Leia and Kris!!).

My uncle and some mariachi players at the BEST Mexican joint ever

Day 3: Meet up with cousin who takes me to his job where he works with the MTV show "Pimp My Ride." Cousin shows me the fixed up Aston Martins and Cadillacs. I take many cheesey pics with the staff.

One of the top dogs from Mtv's Pimp My Ride and the cheezin as always, me

Day 4: Cousin takes me to a Halloween party. Him and his friends dress up as Mexicans and I dress up as an Asian with a Chinese dress and a Vietnamese conical hat. I held my breath all night, hoping to not get shot.

My cousin Jeff and me

My cousin Adrian and me

Day 5: Say farewell to my family who pampered me like crazy. They're incredible. I took a flight to Jacksonville, Florida to go home to my immediate family.

My parents, sisters and me :)

Another Napolean-Dynamite-Glamour-Shots family photo

Hong Kong can do no wrong

Wednesday, December 20

Hong Kong photos -------> HERE

The skyline on top of Victoria's Peak.

My Hong Kong-German buddy, Jörg, and me

Hi Zania!

Such a lively city

Artsy-futuristic architecture

Hong Kong is a utopia of sorts. It's the best Asian example where Western and Eastern people, idealogies and customs can truly work and live side-by-side. I'm sure there's loads of prejudices and social barriers, but it might be the place in Asia that holds the least amount of both.

Thanks to England and its colonizing, virtually everyone, not just the people who deal with tourists, speak English. The streets are cleaner than mainland China and it's one of the most diverse places in Asia. The city is relatively rich so I didn't see any homeless people (although I'm sure they exist). When I showed my pictures to my sisters, they both remarked how much it resembled New York. In short, Hong Kong is the shit.

I was only their for a couple of days, just enough time to get a haircut, get on top of Victoria Peak to look at the skyline by night, take the star ferry, shop at the markets, party in Lan Kwai Fong, and sleep in Chungking Mansions (EEK! actually not as bad as people say). My trip was officially unwinding, and in a matter of hours, I'd be heading back to "the land of expanding waistlines*," the US of A.

*Nice one Adam! Ha!


stung by a jellyfish, really!

Wednesday, December 6

Extra! Extra! My photos from Vietnam are here.

I'm not going to write much about my stay in Ho Cho Minh City (Saigon) even though that's where some of the largest underground tunnels were bult to protect the Vietnamese aginst the Americans. I don't have any pictures to put up since I lost my cheap-o camara, and as a result, I've lost the motivation to recreate everything.

F.Y.I. Did you know that the Vietnamese, while hiding underground, washed themselves with the same soap American soldiers used, to throw off the sniffing dogs?? They also stole Playboy magazines and scattered them around random locations in the jungles to trick the U.S. soldiers into believing that other American soldiers already checked that area? Smart Vietnamese.

My last stop in Vietnam was on peaceful Phu Quoc Island. One week of lying on the beach, writing, reading, eating delish seafood, swimming, drinking Vietnamese wine, and living in a bamboo bungaloo was just what I needed to take a "vacation" from this vacation. Early wake-up calls to go sightseeing weren't needed here, but mainly, I escaped to this remote island to get away from the irritating locals who would love nothing more than to sell tourists something--all the time. Thankfully, there was none of that here.

One morning, I was swimming, just minding my business, until I felt a sting on my foot that turned into a buuuurning sting in a matter of seconds. I looked down and holy shit---I got stung by a MASSIVE red jellyfish (maybe the size of 2 phone books). I went to a pharmacy where--Vietnam being the developing nation it is--they prescribed Vasoline and cotton. Consequently, my foot swelled up to the size of a rotten mango that had bursted yellow goo outside of its' skin. Disgusting? Yup. Unfortunately, I didn't take any photos of the beautiful scenery or of my "gangrine" foot (appropriately coined by my cousin).

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a new wardrobe, a crazy house, and water puppets

At the entrance of a Buddhist temple.

The rest of Vietnam looked a lot like other parts of Asia. The Chinese temples, the dragon statues, the markets, and the pagodas. Maybe it was b/c I was visiting it at the end of my trip, but I didn't find much else about Vietnam exceptional.

I made my way from the north to the south by train and bus, stopping in Hue, Hanoi, Da Lat, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon).

Hanoi was quite charming because it has retained much of the colonial buildings that the French have left behind from their imperialist days. It's one of those few cities that is large, but has still kept much of its personality. One of the alleged "must-see-things" is their special water puppet theater where miniature dragons and warriors dance in a black puddle of water to the orchestra of traditional Vietnamese musicians. The magic behind the water puppets is that they are controlled by attached underwater wooden poles that are controlled by a human cast behind a curtain. That was pretty entertaining for awhile and definitely made for a unique thing to do.

Adorable Vietnamese children playing in the streets during the Moon Festival in Hanoi.

Hanoi is also known for Beer Hoi, a roughly 10¢ beer that is homemade with no preservatives or additives. The ridiculously cheap price assures that everyone--tourists and foreigners alike--get happy while the brewer sells it before it goes bad by the end of the day. No preservatives also means no hangover, a nice plus. So, all we did was sit down on those tiny plastic chairs, ordered ourselves a few rounds, and watched all the people walking down the charming Old Quarter.

Pouring Beer Hoi.

Hoi An is world famous for all the tailors around town. I swear you can buy a whole new wardrobe for less than $200. I'm talking tailor-made boots, suits, ties, dresses, skirts, pants, everything!! I went crazy in this town and got myself a new wardrobe compliments of the local village ladies and their sewing skills. I had to mail home all of my new, perfectly made clothes.

Hoi An was right on the river.

Hue is the town where a lot of the country's crafts and cultural items are made. Think conical hats, sandalwood incense and sandals.

Rows of hand-made incense in Hue.

A woman making the notorious conical hat in Hue.

Da Lat was a bit of a let down since it was recommended to me by so many people. It's the Vietnamese highlands, which means there's cooler weather and nice scenery. That turned out to be true, but I also heard that Easy Riders--a group of middle-aged Vietnamese on old motorcycles who gave special tours--were amazing too, but I found them to be average at best.

Maybe the most enjoyable thing about Da Lat was "The Crazy House." It was built by an eccentric, artsy-fartsy woman that dreamt of a topsy-turvy house with stairways that lead to nowhere. God knows how many drugs she did when she dreamt it up, but it's pretty spectacular to see it.

The psychedelic "crazy house" popular with locals and tourists in Da Lat.

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Halong Bay, Vietnam

Not many sunsets rival this one.

A cruise in Vietnam? Halong Bay is where you can do it, where almost 2,000 limestone islands dot the coast of northern Vietnam. A Vietnamese legend tells of a family of dragons that came to Vietnam to protect them against the Chinese invaders by spitting jewels in the ocean, which eventually turned into these jungle islands.

Cruising through all the tiny islands.

One of the caves we went to (thanks for letting me steal this one Dave).

Caves and beaches can be found on many of these islands, and a picturesque sunset/sunrise is a given. We took a 2-day cruise boat along this UNESCO heritage site that turned into a party boat by night.

We explored caves, jumped off our boat into the ocean, slept on the rooftop,played the guitar, and just vegged out. It was the perfect relaxation from the hiking we did in Sapa.

The cops who tried to negotiate my hand in marriage.

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at the market

Tuesday, December 5

The Sunday market where this Vietnamese tribe sells EVERYTHING like vegetables...

...sugar cane...


...and pigs.

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