Blogging from my backpack

Originally posted on October 10, 2010 on Girl Meets World, which chronicled my travels in Vietnam and South East Asia.

This shot of Hoi An's sleepy river life hides the numerous vendors hawking goods to crowds of international tourists.

This shot of Hoi An's sleepy river life hides the numerous vendors hawking goods to crowds of international tourists.

Simply put, South East Asia is the new Europe when it comes to backpacking popularity. Tourism is booming; it’s a leading industry in the rapidly developing country. And it’s not just the wild American co-ed who’s exploring the rich beauty of Vietnam–the country attracts a large cross-section of Asian tourists, European backpackers, and families from Australia on holiday.

Everyone from European tourists to Chinese businessmen use English in Vietnam as the lingua franca, requiring anybody who wants to make a dong to know the new international business language.

It’s funny—just by traveling to Vietnam, now a key vacation destination, I am experiencing a large diversity of Asian peoples, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, South Koreans, albeit very superficially.

Everywhere I go, I see tourists and backpackers alike clutching the traveler’s  tome, Lonely Planet. Be careful where you purchase your guide; I picked up my copy of the wayfarer’s bible and realized it was just that: a copy.

Eager to earn an extra couple thousand dong or two (one USD about 20,00 VND), many street vendors hawking books sell photocopies bound in what may seem like legitimate covers. What you may find inside may disappoint when the text runs grainy and the pages detach from the binding.

Jumping onto the backpacking bandwagon, I am spending two weeks before my CELTA, traveling up the coast of Vietnam to get acquainted with this no-longer-sleeping beauty.

The plan?

Three days in HCMC. Settle, and explore the town I’ll be living in for the next four weeks.

Two days in Nha Trang. Made famous when it hosted the Miss Universe Pageant in 2008, Nha Trang is known for it’s world-class beach—where you can find me.

Three days in Hoi An. Once the “it” port for international commerce, attracting trade from Japan, China, and Europe during the 16th century, Hoi An was slowly forgotten as the French set up in nearby Da Nang. Today, it’s historic streets flood with tourists looking for its traditional charms.

Four days in Hanoi. Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam, is celebrating its 1,000th anniversary this October. For the first 10 days of the month the northern metropolis will be packed with tourists, domestic and international, to participate in designated festivities.

Back to HCMC. Settle from my backpacking venture, and prepare for the CELTA.

More to come. I’m trying not to be attached to my laptop—who needs the internet where there’s exploring to do?

Read more about each of the places I visited, including the best day ever in HCMC—meeting and greeting with travelers and locals in Saigon, Nha Trang’s comical “#1 Lady”—a beachside fruit hawker, my cooking class in sleepy Hoi An during monsoon season, and tips on traveling through Vietnam.