Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Cambodian Procession

Today after bicycling to the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek 15km outside of Phnom Penh, I decided to continue on biking and explore some of the neighboring villages. The choice lead to one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of the whole trip. As I rode through the villages, not only did people give me a friendly wave and smile, but the children began to join me in my journey. Little girls and boys ran beside my bike as older teenagers jumped on their own cycles and formed a train. We laughed our way around homes and chanted our way through rice fields. It was an afternoon that I, and surely those kids too, will cherish for a long time.

Pictures from today and the final pictures from Vietnam (Saigon, Cu Chi Tunnels) are now up.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

You ate WHAT?!

Below is a list of all the exotic foods I have tried throughout this trip. Has anyone else tried any of these? Or maybe something different?

-Spiders: Village in Amazon Jungle
-Cayman: Self-prepared in Amazon Jungle
-Piranha: Self-prepared in Amazon Jungle
-Guinea Pig: Street stall in Banos, Ecuador
-Warthog: Village in Zimbabwe, Africa
-Crocodile: Border town of Zimbabwe/Zambia
-Pig Brain, Snout, Cheek, Eye and Tongue: Village in Malawi, Africa
-Cow Bone Marrow: Restaurant in Paris, France
-Snake: Street stall in Beijing, China
-Roaches: Street stall in Beijing, China
-Scorpion: Street stall in Bangkok, Thailand
-Crickets and Grasshoppers: Street stall in Bangkok, Thailand
-Hornets and Bees: Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand
-Maggots: Market in Chiang Mai, Thailand
-Chicken Feet: Village near Udomxai, Laos
-Rat: Market in Muang Khua, Laos
-Locust Larvae: Market in Hoi An, Vietnam

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Guest Blogger: Brian Snyder

It has been my privilege and sincere pleasure to be traveling with my nephew, J Bradley Snyder, over the past 10 days as together we have toured the country of Vietnam. This is a trip I've wanted to take for several years now, but one I probably have "needed" to take for several decades. 

I was at least 10 years old, in 1968, before I realized there might not always be a war going on in Vietnam, and that I might not have to serve in that war. But the war didn't finally end until I was just two years shy of the age when I would otherwise have signed up. It felt literally like "dodging a bullet" at that time, but then I knew I would need to come here sometime to see where so many people had died for a reason that gets even less clear as time goes by. As we learned just a couple days ago, people (mostly children) are still dying here at the rate of 5 or 6 per MONTH as a result of previously unexploded land mines or other types of bombs. And then there's the long-term effects of exposure to Agent Orange wreaking havoc as well. 

Beyond thoughts about the war, however, we witnessed this week other troubling trends that can be traced to the influence of Western culture, namely a rapidly growing tourist economy and the sometimes associated negligence with respect to the natural environment. One wonders if the war isn't still going on, in far more subtle ways...

Vietnam is a stunningly beautiful country, with a remarkably diverse cultural heritage firmly rooted in a wide array of native communities (known here as "minorities"). I think all Americans should come here at least once, if for no other reason to understand what's really at stake for the Vietnamese people, and ultimately for ourselves. A country like this, facing very stark challenges related to its ongoing development, should serve as a reminder of our own responsibility in the world to show leadership in making the sacrifices that will be necessary for all peoples to live happy, healthy and sustainable lives for the long-term future.


Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Phenomenal Pho

If you are ever in Hanoi, Vietnam and looking for some good pho (rice noodle soup), head to the northwest corner of Bat Su and Bat Dan.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Sapa Story

The past 3 days have been spent in and around a town called Sapa in northwest Vietnam. The area is best known for its terraced rice fields and colorful hilltribe people. If you can ignore the hoards of other tourists there with you and frequent selling bombardments by village women, a trip to this area is well worthwhile.

New pictures.

Friday, April 15, 2011

A Head-scratcher at the Hanoi Hilton

Today we visited the Hoa Lo Prison, or the "Hanoi Hilton" as the captured American pilots of the Vietnam War called it. You may have heard of the prison before, it is where Senator John McCain was detained after his plane was shot down in 1967.

The visit was an interesting one and left me really scratching my head. This place had pictures of the captured American soldiers living it up while in the prison! They were playing sports, attending church, drawing and coloring pictures together and even cheerfully decorating a christmas tree.

Now whether or not these pictures accurately portray the prisoners' daily life I do not know. I am not familiar enough with the subject. Nevertheless, it certainly made me rethink the stereotypical war-movie conditions that I imagine for a POW. It turns out, the situation is not always that simple; it sometimes, as in the case of the Vietnam War, involves a complex mix of strategic, public persuasion and world perception.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Vietnam with a Vision

I am now in Hanoi, Vietnam, where tomorrow I will be meeting up with my uncle, Brian Snyder.  Back home in the States, Brian works with the Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture, or PASA for short.  Through a variety of different programs and projects, he and PASA work to promote profitable farms that produce healthy food while respecting the natural environment.

Brian and I will explore Vietnam together over the next couple of weeks.  Agriculture has historically been the backbone of Vietnam's development strategy and remains so today.  For Brian, the country could not be a more rich environment for learning, and for me, Brian could not be a better travel companion for this country.

Also, if you have time, give PASA's site a browse:

Laos Hitchhiking

I spent the past week hitchhiking and camping my way through northern Laos (hence the sudden barrage of posts).  It was an attempt to spice things up after following the typical tourist trail in Thailand.  The experience was a good one and proved to be a great way to meet locals and learn about their country.

Many stories to tell on this subject when I get home, but for now you can check out a few of the pictures I managed to take of the action.

Now a Thai Chef

I was talked into taking a Thai cooking class...  but ended up really enjoying it and now highly recommend it to anyone who travels to Thailand!  I recommend the organic farm cooking school in Chiang Mai in particular.  Anyone at home brave enough to let me show you my new Thai cooking skills?

Thailand: Tourists, Tourists, Tourists

If you are looking for fellow travelers head to Thailand.  In no other country have I seen so many other tourists, backpackers more specifically.  But this is for good reason, Thailand has almost everything a traveler would want: unique culture and history,  low jungles and high hills, adventure activities,  crystal clear water and white beaches, 24/7 partying,  finger-licking good food, and cheap prices.  The scene is not for everyone, but nevertheless it is there and can be comforting and fun after a long time on the road alone.