First Impressions of Sapa

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Asia, Somewhere | 7 Comments

Sapa Vietnam Rice Terraces

The overnight train to Sapa winds through the darkness of Hanoi and when morning greets the land, outside are endless stretches of flooded, green rice fields. Farmers are hunching over planting seedlings in the pools of water or trudging behind hulking water buffaloes that drag plows through the paddies.

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37 Hours in Hanoi

Posted on by Noah Lederman in 37 Hours, Asia, Somewhere | 4 Comments

Street Kitchen Hanoi Vietnam

When the New York Times gives you 36 hours in a city, we at Somewhere Or Bust say, stay a bit longer. Here’s 37 Hours in Hanoi.

In my previous post, I was a bit hard on the city, so I’ll try to give Hanoi some credit. Having said that, Hanoi is chaos and you won’t really want to spend much more time than 37 hours, but the insanity alone is an attraction worth braving. The trick to surviving Hanoi is to not allow the swarmers, solicitors, scammers, touts, taxis, or tourist companies to ruin your stay. Here’s a guide so you can get the most out of your visit. Just try not to let the time slip away hiding out in your hotel room.

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Halong Until I Get Scammed in Vietnam

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Asia, Somewhere | 7 Comments

Halong Bay Scams

Marissa and I had spent the two days after booking our trip to Halong Bay wondering if we had fallen for the all-too-common tour company scam in Vietnam. There are many variations of this scam, but basically tour companies will show you glossy pages of four star boats cruising past Halong Bay’s limestone karsts, which tower above cerulean waters. You’ll fall in love with the image, book the trip, and wind up on a ship that looks like it had just returned from sardine fishing. After spending hours shopping around, we decided to book two spots on Glory Cruise for a two night, three day trip, using Kim Tours travel agency.

When we were having dinner, Marissa said, “You know, the lady at Kim Tours never actually called the boat company.”
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Hanoied in Hanoi

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Asia, Somewhere | 18 Comments

Best Things to do in Hanoi, Vietnam might include the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum

“Eat here,” this teenage punk said as he shoved the menu against my face. I’m not being hyperbolic. He pressed the sticky plastic pages against my nose and cheeks and forehead. I ripped the menu out of his hand and thought three things: Tear the book in half, throw the menu among the chicken bones and napkins swimming in the gutter, or shove the menu back in his face. But as a guest in someone else’s country, I decided on the taking the high road. I fucking hate the high road.

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Bus Travel: Views from and on a Bus in Thailand

Posted on by Noah Lederman in Asia, Somewhere | 1 Comment

Bus Travel Thailand

As promised, here are all of the highlights from our short bus trip from Phuket to Sulat Thani.

Car accidents:

An SUV had jumped the median.

Driver’s Ed:

Middle-school-aged kids, running around in their yellow shirts and blue Adidas knock-off pants, dodging their classmates who brought their motorbikes to school.

Thai Baby Strollers: Dozens of mothers driving on motorbikes at 40 mph with their toddlers crammed between their legs. No helmets on anyone. Giant buses threatening to knock them off the road.

Thai Uno:

The boy in front of me was playing the card game Uno with his mother. The Thai version. Instead of the Draw Two card, the deck had a +2 card. Reverse was replaced by two arrows chasing one another in a circle. Skip a Turn is a zero with a slash through it. The wild card says +4 with a pie graph of the four colors. Uno is very smart or getting ripped off.

Phang Nga:

A quick glimpse of an authentic Thai town, which the guidebook described as “unappealing,” where not a lick of English appears on any of the signs. Quite refreshing if you’re looking for real Thai culture, which no longer exists in the tourist towns.

Architecture:

Pastel homes with rusty corrugated steel roofs.

Markets:

All the vendors carting in their goods on trailers tied to their motorbikes. Devout Muslims shopping in their town. Devout Buddhists shopping in theirs.

Monks:

Robed in burnt-orange cloth, walking around with briefcases and cellphones.

Patios:

A nursery-school-aged kid sweeping his mother’s front porch with a homemade broom. Elderly men and women swaying in hammocks or lounging on couches, watching the traffic pass by.

Wildlife:

Nomadic dogs, nomadic roosters, nomadic cows, squashed lizards all curious of the highway

Billboards:

Giant posters of the Royal Family beside every town and along every highway.

Transport:

Men riding atop flatbed trucks, sitting on piles of timber, fifteen feet off the ground, moving at fifty miles per hour.

Fellow Riders:

The kid in front of me, the Uno player, probably about ten, kneeled toward his mother. She inserted his penis into a small juice bottle. He urinated. The bus shook and the mom had trouble putting the top on the bottle. Then he took a five-minute break to chug a second bottle of green juice. (He would go on to fill that bottle too.) The boy gave me a big smile afterward and then the mother and son left the bus… leaving behind the pair of pee-filled bottles.

Note: It was hard to get photos since the bus was moving rather fast and any pictures from the bus would have been illegal to post online. So to make up for the lack of visuals, here is a photo of where the bus took us to: Sulat Thank where the night boat to Koh Tao was docked. This is how close we slept next to strangers. Stay tuned for that story…

Night Boat Thailand