Travel: Hauling a 2- and 4-year old through 6 countries in 8 weeks

As we were leaving the region to move back home, I did a consultancy that took me to several capital cities to review national health programs. It was a great opportunity for all of us to say goodbye to friends, colleagues and places we've frequented over the past decade. So we packed up the house and shipped, sold or gave away our belongings, and took the kids on a two month journey through Southeast Asia. … [Read more...]

Go to Hanoi for the food and Halong Bay

I swear everyone is an entrepreneur in Vietnam. There's a palpable sizzle of business-orientation in the air. If you want to get a vibe of the Asian economy in real-time and see what the emerging markets buzz is all about, come spend some weeks in Vietnam! That said on the individuals level, overall Hanoi wasn't as interesting as I expected (granted, I was there for a workshop, and spent just a few days exploring the city). It's most definitely progressing at a rapid clip, but it remains unapologetically provincial. Old temples and historic sites seem either non-existent or not yet identified, restored and put on the map. It gave the impression of an architecturally simple, culturally uncomplicated and unpretentious city-- despite the high … [Read more...]

Vietnam: Halong Bay and Cat Ba Island in three days

Halong Bay on the Gulf of Tonkin, as with other popular destinations, isn't without the attendant scams and traps awaiting travelers. Getting the most out of any trip is a matter of arriving with an open mind. Expect to haggle and stay flexible; you'd be surprised how far patience and good humour goes. I normally avoid package tours but it's unavoidable here, unless you have the luxury of time and nettle to dicker your way onto a private boat with the locals (it's legally not allowed). As of May 2007: 2day-1night boat trips ranged the gamut of $30 for a small junk to $180+ for an Emeraude cruise. Know your traveling style and philosophy, as there are benefits to all options. For example, the bare-bones trips offer a glimpse into local life … [Read more...]