Surreal first 48 hours in Hanoi. Couchsurfing with a guy who works in the high-fashion industry and he basically gave us the keys to his 4,000+ sq ft loft that he converted from an old pharmacy factory. Then took us to an international music fest, led us to amazing street food, welcomed us to his sister’s birthday party with a huge home-cooked Vietnamese hot-pot meal, which we then left early because he was late for the grand opening of a Lebanese restaurant complete with belly dancers.
Up next: the “motherland”. Supposedly. This will be my first time visiting Vietnam. It has been at the top of my destination list for a long time, but now that I’m almost there, I don’t know what to expect or what I want to get out of visiting it.
I have always had a tenuous relationship with my racial identity. In the literal sense, I am fully Vietnamese; both of my parents are refugees from the Vietnam War. But I was born and raised in Longmont, a decidedly homogeneous population where there were only a handful of other Asian-Americans while I was growing up (my brother and Raymond). I do not speak Vietnamese; my parents didn’t teach it to us for fear that it would impede our English. They did their best at integrating us into American culture to the detriment of any link I had to my racial heritage.
Overall Score : B
Dates visited: Nov 12-28, 2013
Places visited: Manila, El Nido, Puerto Princesa, Banaue (Batad, Banga-an, Hapao)
Notable places we did NOT visit: Sagada, Boracay, Coron
I know what you’re thinking: “Whoop-de-friggin-doo, Lisa. Is this now a blog for all the mundane things that normal people do every day?”
For most people, snorkeling is not a big deal. For me, it’s a huge deal because I can’t swim. It’s an embarrassing character flaw that I occasionally bring up when I’m concerned that new acquaintances are too enamored of me.
Acquaintance: Wow, Lisa! You are really awesome! Can we be friends?
Me: Yes, but… I should tell you… I can’t swim.
Acquaintance: Oh. Nevermind on that friendship thing.
For a long time now, my dream has been to have my own private island. I love beaches and it is hard to beat the feeling of relaxing on a pristine beach with a few friends. So when I was browsing for things to do in the Philippines and came across a TripAdvisor comment from a traveler who had found a camping trip tour to a small island near El Nido, I decided I needed to figure out how to make that happen.
And it still doesn’t really feel strange. It actually feels perfectly normal. Is that weird? Most of my travels in my previous life were for 2 weeks, so we haven’t even crossed that threshold yet. Time is definitely moving slower, though, because we’re constantly having new experiences. It also helps that I’ve mostly lost all sense of time. Wednesday? What the hell is a Wednesday?
Extra special thanks to Mitzie, JC, and Lester for all of their help this weekend, and everyone on Sid Vicious for making us feel at home and welcome in this huge city. We were so happy to play with you all. Visit us in Colorado sometime so we can return the hospitality!
Less than 24 hours after landing in Manila, we were already playing ultimate at the local Wednesday night league. We had planned to sight-see around Manila for a few days before the weekend ultimate tournament that had triggered the Philippines as the starting point for our trip, but in the end ultimate was played four of the first five days of our trip.
Through a series of fortunate circumstances, we had been introduced to Lester, who appears to be somewhat of a celebrity in the southeast asian ultimate community. Our mutual friend, Laura Noges from Denver, had played with him a couple years ago at a Hong Kong tournament and was very excited for us when she heard we would be playing with his team “Sid Vicious” (thanks to the good word she put in for us)!
There’s not a whole lot to do in Manila. It’s just another huge metropolitan city with not much in the way of tourism. I would not recommend spending more than a day here unless you have something planned, but we were in the city for almost a whole week since we were playing in the Manila Spirits tournament. Even the one “touristy” thing that is recommended, visiting Intramuros (the remnants of the Spanish settlement in Manila), was not particularly exciting or interesting. I think the one thing that stood out most to me about this city is how bad traffic is. While the driving isn’t nearly as bad as in India, it’s the congestion that really wore me out. It takes hours just to go from one part of the city to another.
While Manila itself isn’t fascinating, we managed to get ourselves into adventures meeting tons of great people and finding hidden gems.
I have a thing for alternate modes of travel. One of my very favorite memories of traveling to India was our group hopping into four tuk tuks at midnight to get dinner. We raced through the finally empty mega-highways of Mumbai, our little vehicles jostling and speeding along amongst the semi-trucks. It was real-life Mario Kart!
In the Philippines, the most popular form of transportation is the Jeepney. This is a Jeepney:
The list below details the gear that I began my around-the-world adventure with. I thought I was packing light, so I wasn’t happy when I weighed in at almost 35 pounds of gear. I hope to revisit it as the trip progresses to update what has been added and removed. I’m also apologizing that my first post to the blog is of such a sterile nature, but hopefully more interesting posts are soon to follow!
I read a lot of blogs about how to pack for a year-long around-the-world adventure. Probably the most useful was this comprehensive packing list.
After a month of going-away parties (yes, we realize how obnoxious that was), we are finally out of the States! We have arrived safely in Manila, Philippines.
And now for some delirious, jet-lagged thoughts about the plane that we flew on direct from Denver to Tokyo: