Bangkok is not for beginners. Scams. Crime. Drugs. Sex. Noise. Traffic. People. We were lucky to have quiet a bit of Asian travel experience under our belts before we got to this city, and it would take everything we learned over the past 14 months to make it out of here with our bodies and wallets intact. Thankfully, it was our last stop before heading home, because when we were through with Bangkok (or maybe, when Bangkok was through with us) we had had enough.
Our brief visit to Hanoi gave us a snapshot of an enigmatic city with a lot of potential. Although it seemed as busy and bustling as Saigon, we thought it lacked a certain spark. It’s a quality that was hard for us to define, and part of that might have been due to the crappy weather we endured during our time there. However, we still tried to make the best of it and see what Hanoi had to offer, although not always with a smile on our faces.
For our second day trip out of Saigon, we went about 4 hours north to a beach town called Mui Ne. The town is famous for the windswept beaches that make it a haven for kite surfers from around the world. However, the main draw are the giant red and white sand dunes that push right up to the edge of the ocean .
After a few days of heat, stress and manic tuk-tuk drivers in Phnom Penh we jumped on a bus and headed to Saigon for some much needed R&R with our friends Shauna and Randy. Shauna and Randy were the ones who convinced us to teach in Korea in the first place. They had been in Saigon for about 7 months after finishing their contracts in Ulsan. We were excited to see some familiar faces and have a few lazy days with no sightseeing, maps or guidebooks.
The main reason we chose the Kansai region was because of the multiple cities in close proximity to each other. So after a day and a half in Osaka, we decided to take a day trip out to the ancient city of Nara. With our trusty Kansai Thru Pass, the trip only took about 45 minutes using the express lines on the regular subway system. As with the rest of our Japan visit, we went in with a minimal amount of planning and expectations, but were pleasantly surprised by everything Nara had to offer.
It feels like we barely had a chance to settle in to the new semester after our trip to China before we packed our bags again and headed for Japan. Last week, Korea celebrated a national holiday called Chuseok, which is its version of Thanksgiving. Tuesday through Thursday were days off, and our schools were nice enough to give us Friday, so we had about six days to do some exploring. We kept our focus on the Kansai region, which includes Osaka, Kyoto and Nara.
July 19th is considered the first day of summer in Korea, which came as a surprise because I’ve been sweating my butt off since May. Ever since the temperature started climbing in the spring Koreans have been telling me that Daegu gets unbearably hot. Oftentimes, I would brush it off and say that we’re used to hot and humid weather in South Florida. But as we progressed into the middle of summer, and I began walking into school in the mornings drenched in sweat, I realized I had really underestimated the heat.
In an effort to think cool thoughts, I’ve posted pictures of the overnight snowstorm we got in March along with the rest of my post.