Wednesday, 21 September 2011

Now Hiring: Professional Full Time Co-Traveler

Thursday September 22, 2011; 9:35
Location: Dong Nai, Vietnam
Why: Now accepting applications worldwide!

Wanderin' The Globe is seeking an outstanding individual to join our team of one as a Professional Full Time Co-Traveler currently based somewhere in Vietnam. However, in the near future, this will be location independent. Read: somewhere on Planet Earth.

Reporting directly to one's self, the Co-Traveler is responsible for managing their day to day operation waking up and living in the moment. That moment can be a wake up call of throwing a pillow at his/her co-worker's head (Davie Pocstar) and suggesting a cool place for breakfast. Or a quick run around the block, wherever that may be.

Breakfast (or lunch) can look like this:

Lunch or dinner can definitely look like this:

Wanderin' The Globe is a dynamic and rapidly growing manifestation of indefinite nomadic world travel. This position offers a great opportunity for the successful candidate to showcase their sense of adventure and open mindedness to globe trotting.

***Please note below job description also pertains to the Traveler currently residing in this role***

  • Reports to one's self and Co-Traveler on daily basis to determine the goals or adventures for the day
  • Is conscientious and courteous to the Co-Traveler and any travelers that may join them at any given moment.
  • Understands that each day may bring different energy and can effectively communicate this. Read: If candidate needs "alone time", Co-Traveler needs to know. And vice versa.
  • Oversees all aspects of one's own happiness as it pertains to planet wandering, new experiences and discoveries.
  • Provides leadership, relationship building and direction for the daily functions of traveling.
  • Encourages and fosters a spirit of personal development and entrepreneurship - ideas on co-income earning is greatly encouraged
  • Conducts informal meetings (preferably over a pint or beverage of choice) to provide feedback, set goals and expectations, and follow up on past, present and future objectives.
Beverage and meeting book can look like this:

Beverage can also involve other travelers, friends or family members. Saying Cheers is a requirement:

Skills and Qualifications
  • Some, but not a lot of money required. However, the candidate must be able to provide for one's self in the daily life of budget travel. This can range anywhere from $25-35/day USD. May be less if candidate is open to sharing double rooms with twin beds. And maybe a double bed if hanky panky is mutually agreed upon.
  • Previous travel experience is preferred but not essential.
  • Strong communication skills at all levels, including eye contact in compromised situations.
  • Must be physically active but not necessarily an Ironman athlete.
  • Must DEFINITELY have a sense of adventure, humour, wonderment and like fart jokes.
  • Entrepreneurial spirit and egoless nature.
  • Outgoing, energetic, upbeat and most of all F.U.N.!
Must like the Co-Traveler in helmets of various kinds:

Work Hours
This position is a 24hr a day job. Productivity is not required during sleeping hours. This may include siestas, Chang-overs, and dozing off to a crisp on a beach somewhere hot and sunny.
There will be occasional minutes (or hours) of cleaning up guesthouse/hostel rooms; if only because Co-Traveler does not want to be co-responsible for any items damaged or left behind in said living/sleeping quarters.
Position will require jaunts to border crossings, airports, bus and/or train stations as needed and at all possible hours of the day or night.
Border crossing may look like this:

Being on over night buses may look like this:

So, do you have what it takes? Are you Ting Tong enough for this job? Read: Are you crazy enough for this job?

If the answer is yes, please direct all inquiries to Davie Pocstar via Facebook, commenting on this post, or email. She is looking forward to your application.

One last thing, candidate MUST like bicycles with baskets in the front! MUST:

Sunday, 18 September 2011

Seriously Saigon

Sunday September 18, 2011; 19:45
Location: Saigon Vietnam,
Why: My tunnel is smaller than your tunnel.

I am currently sitting inside the most ballin' house ever in Dong Nai, a province just 70km east of Saigon. The epicness of meeting relatives for the first time in the motherland is, well, pretty epic.

But that's another post.

Saigon. Wow, where do I start in this amazing part of Vietnam? After a week of paradise in the land of Jungle Beach, it was a total culture shock to re-enter the "outside" world that is Saigon. Re-learning how to cross the mean streets without losing my one lifeline pumped some quick beats on the left side of my chest.

Try crossing this bad boy on a weekday at 4:30pm, I dare you:

Cecco and I climbed into the sub air conditioned temperature berth for a 7+ hr train ride that was already behind schedule. T.I.V. ***sigh***

That's "This Is Vietnam" in case anyone was wondering.

I awoke to an alarming amount of bed bug bites scattered throughout my tired self. Effing bed bugs. **waves fists in air***

The madness outside the train station made me think, Seriously, Saigon? After being passed over again and again to the locals, Cecco and I finally got into a taxi which brought us to Madame Cuc Hotel.

No, it is not a brothel.

The rooms were HUGE, clean, had A/C, breakfast, dinner and wifi.

But alas, at $18/night, it is not professional for this Professional Full Time Traveler to be dishing out this kind of dough to lay one's head at night. Sorry but thanks for the recommendation Nico from Germany.

So the next day, it was off to the Saigon Backpackers Hostel instead. Cecco stayed. He's a Part Time Freelance Traveler so it's in his budget. Anyway, at $8/night, brekkie, A/C, wifi, TV, 4 dorm rooms and the COOLEST wall paper you ever saw, I scooted over there and met up with my cute Latino friend whom I met in Hoi An.
Coolest wallpaper EVER:

Cecco did his obligatory touristy thang that is the Mekong Delta. This of course was done after his usual ungodly early morning 10km run that makes me look at my trainers and hang my head in shame. We collected with Arnau later and met up with his Viet Kieu friend Lee (see chick in dress below) for some live music shenanigans at Yoko.

Jumpasana - Shirley, you would be proud. Cecco is so tall (6'4") that he lost his head in this pic. Arnau lost his eyes. I'm just short:

Cecco is going to help me find a young Italian lover half my age for when I retire in Tuscany. Thanks Cecco! Please make sure, he also loves his nonna a lot! And can play the guitar. And is a clean, hippie artist who has a day job. And can cook amazing pasta. And. And. And.

Geez, I got brown at Jungle Beach:

Did I mention in my last post the FANTASTIC peeps I met at JB? Well, a few days later, two of those superstars, Tracy and Marian joined us. As the JB Musketeers, we rented a taxi out to the Cu Chi tunnels to experience what it was like to be a Viet Cong tunnel rat. Us four lucky bastards got pretty much a private tour with our guide Son. Going with an official tour is not always the best choice and karma works in wonderful ways.

So for a couple of hours, Son guided us on the amazing story of the town of Cu Chi and it's famous tunnels. These tunnels were originally built by the Viet Minh in the first Indochina war against the French in the 40s. Afterwards, the Viet Cong used them in the war against America. These tunnels stretched to 250km at it's height and was an elaborate three level underground system for fighting. And we all know who won that war.

Now, I'm a pretty small person, but....this was ridiculous:

And just to give perspective how small this opening was. I think Tracy stopped breathing for a moment down there:

After oohhing, aahhing and holy shitting (not literally), we actually ventured into these tunnels for a creepy, claustrophobic crawl. We entered as a unit of four and came out a unit of two.

The other two fell down a trap.

Just kidding. Cecco really was just too tall to crawl into that damn tunnel. It's usually the fat people who bail. But Cecco is not fat (at all), he's just 6'4" And Marian, well, her knees just weren't built for that kind of darkness.

Tracy and I braved on stopping to take photos along the way. Thanks T!

Tracy and Cecco were also superstars assaulting pictures of animals in the distance at the shooting range; with all the fierceness only these two know.

In this stance, that tiger in the picture over there didn't stand a chance:

And if there was a female Ramboo, this Irish/Kiwi/Soon-to-be-Canadian chick would be it, hands down:

Cu Chi, while touristy especially if you go with a tour, is still an amazing thing to do in Saigon. Get there as a party of four via taxi and make sure you get Son as your guide. Oh and make sure you give him a lil VND for making your tour so damned cool. He has a son and wife and has to put up with us foreigners every single day.

In the 36 years since Saigon fell and became Ho Chi Minh City, it is a place that is fast becoming a major player in every aspect. From business to fashion to tourism to culinary epicness.

If you get the opportunity, come to Saigon. Seriously.

Saturday, 10 September 2011

Jonesing For The Jungle

Saturday Sept 10th, 2011; 21:42
Location: Jungle Beach, Nha Trang Vietnam
Why: Shout outs to my peeps at Jungle Beach!!!

After stuffing my face with all the deliciousness that was Hoi An, these lil Asian flip flops climbed into a delayed overnight sleeper bus bound for Nha Trang. Along the way, I snuggled up to a cute Spanish guy named Arnau whom I had met in our dorm at Hop Yen Hostel. We chatted about all things nice and sunny under the sun before falling asleep to the rhythm of the bus, my legs draped over his - a comforting effort.

As my unplanned planning would have it, I hopped off the bus at Doc Let Petrol station some 60km-ish outside Nha Trang city. Upon the recommendation by several random travelers in Vietnam, I was let in on the secret that is Jungle Beach. Getting off the bus, I met my backpack sopping wet of fish sauce. It seemed, a local's stash of the liquid gold had spilled over and now I was drenched in it as I lifted her onto my back.

Sigh. Followed by an "ew".

At 4am and in complete darkness, I entrusted my life to a somewhat shifty xe om (motorbike taxi). After changing a couple of bikes (hence the shiftyness) and trying to rip me off (300,000VND, I don't think so), I was glad he took the pack and put it at the front of the bike and accepted my 100,000VND offer.

Then we headed into the late night (or very early morning) sky into the jungle somewhere. Well, it wasn't really a jungle...yet. The 27km from that petrol station was 30 minutes of excitement of the unknown, fear of the unknown and downright holy-shit-these-mountains-are-black-and-scary-what-have-I-got-myself-into unknown. The driver just kept going. I thought we were gonna drive right into the South China Sea. Or worse, he was taking me into the depth of the unknown and I'd never be seen or heard from again.

Okay, my imagination can manifest pretty quickly. Especially when I feel big, black mountains looming behind me whilst the bike helmet is clumsily bouncing into my face. Riding in black morning, past a Hyundai shipyard, through a village and on a bumpy road added to the wild imagination. He stopped at a barbed wired gate and circled back and forth a few times. My heart was racing. Barbed wire! Where the Murphy am I?! My heart was pounding and sweat was burning behind my ears under the oversized helmet.

Then I heard two voices behind the gate. My stomach dropped and my bum squeezed itself shut. Well, I thought, if anything happens, at least I wore clean undies.

I'm so dramatic.

The driver flashed his light and there was the sign: Jungle Beach. Phew!

I was greeted by the French Canadian owner Sylvio Lamare who fixed me up in a sweet hut. The rest of the week was pure jungle bliss amidst a private sandy beach, yummy meals, hammocks, palm trees, loving dogs, ridiculously friendly staff, bonfires, clear starry night skies, and impromptu guitar songs from the cute Vietnamese guy.

But the BEST part of this week long utopian hideway? The peeps who wandered in; from the Canadians to the Germans to the Spanish, Kiwi, Italian and British. It was a United Colors of Benetton scene of frolicking in the sun, throwing frisbies, hacky sacks, snorkeling adventures and beaching out under the bamboo shades. Oh and night swims in the plankton filled waters!

Shout outs to Dan+Elise, Tracy+Marian, Francesco (Cecco), Elli+Tatyana, Nico+Sebastian, Luke+Steph, Leroy+Laura. Antony. Laura+Eva. Did I miss anyone here? Sorry if I did.

Beach blissout under the bamboo shades:

As much as I loved sunbathing here, these tan lines would not happen at Wreck Beach. Not that I'm complaining...

Lazy hours spent reading outside my hut in my pod-like green hammock:

One day, we went on a field trip to the local waterfall, led by the resident dog. After breakfast the 10 of us lathered on the sunscreen, topped our heads with ball caps, bandanas (so cute Elli!), sun hats and shades.

Stopping ever so often, we snapped shots of our wonderful beach paradise:

Oh, hello Dan, thanks for looking this way (:

Can Elie look any cuter in her bandana?

To our disappointment, our guide dog led us up the rocky trail, only to find a dried up little quarry and a foul stench. We quickly realized stench came from Dog. He washed himself in the ocean later that day though like the great dog that we is. Good dog!

Some locals tried to tell us to keep going further up and there would be a waterfall. We weren't convinced:

Oh well, back to the beach!

I awoke just in time to witness a beautiful sunrise one morning:

One of the best times of the day was meal time! We all ate lunch and dinner together served communal style. After feasting on local scrumptiousness, we topped her up with rounds of cafe sua da (white iced coffee, oh my!) and rounds of bia (beer). Jim Bean even snuck onto the dinner table one night - thanks Tracy!

Dinner feast. Sebastian (far left) looks like a young, slim Jack Black but way cuter:

Four days after leaving, I am jonesing for the Jungle. But Saigon will suffice. The last of my now lifelong friends got on a plane earlier this evening here in Saigon. I know the many little heartbreaks I have saying goodbye to new friends on this journey will remind me to stay open minded, generous, caring and most of all travel to their countries! Italy (again), Germany, Ireland (again), Spain (again) - I can't wait to see my friends again in the future.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Hoi An Happiness

Sept 2nd, 2011; 17:05
Location: Hoi An, Vietnam
Why: No suits made here but a scrumptious experience instead.

My first two weeks in Vietnam tasted somewhat bitter. But sweetness came upon my arrival in Hoi An in the last week of August. Firstly, the bus arrived at Hop Yen Hostel where I discovered 5 bucks a night for a dorm with lockers and A/C would do my pocketbook quite nicely.

Nicely...finely. The Vietnamese in this part of the country were....nice! After Hanoi and Hue's less than friendly disposition, I was ecstatic to find Hoi An's people easy going, smiling and all around genuinely happy. This, I found evidence in the amount of pregnant women around town and playful children hanging out in their parent's shops.

My week in Hoi An found me hiring a bicycle daily and pedaling under the sun's dry hotness. Taking shade wherever a tree afforded me the break, I enjoyed bottles of 7Up and glasses of sugar cane juice, a local delight it seems. And when I needed a real cool off, I buggered to the town's two main beaches - An Bang Beach and Cua Dai Beach. An Bang was by far my favourite since there were no touts trying to sell me overpriced souvenirs.

A sketchy snapshot of An Bang Beach:

And when I wasn't busy frolicking in the warm waters, I was immersed in this amazing novel:

After lazy days burning it up in the sands, I enjoyed copious amounts of delicious food from street stalls and restaurants alike. One dish I am particularly fond of is Banh Xeo. You can imagine to my delight when one night along the riverfront amongst the food stalls, I came across one stall that sold it for 20, 000VND - less than $1!!

Banh Xeo - street food style. A must try for anyone passing through Vietnam:

One of the great things I love about Vietnamese cuisine is how interactive it is. Many dishes require hand assembly such as banh xeo and fresh spring rolls. For banh xeo, which is essentially a Vietnamese crispy pancake, is placed on a thin rice paper (white sheet in the above pic). This is followed by placing several different types of herbs such as coriander, mint, basil and bean sprout leaves. It is finally topped with star fruit or cucumber. Once all ingredients are together, just wrap her up or fold her like a taco and dip it in some fish sauce. Deee-licious!! I am salivating just writing this.

So tasty the cuisine is here in Hoi An that I signed up for a cooking course at the Morning Glory Cooking School. Ran by Ms. Vy, this was by far the BEST thing I've done in Vietnam thus far. For $25, this half day course sees you on a trip to the very local market where most restaurants get their produce, meat and wares for the day. Here, we learned about the different areas of the market: the spices section, herbs, meat and fruits and veggies section. All with distinct aromas and colours.

Ever seen a custard apple? Check it out:

After our field trip to the market, we all headed back to the restaurant and up the stairs to the cooking school classroom overlooking the river. Here we were greeted by the warm and passionate Ms. Vy, the first chef in Hoi An to cater to foreigners back in 1992 when Vietnam began opening it's doors to foreign tourism.

Ms. Vy demonstrating some of the incredible ingredients we will be using to make our five dishes:

This very hands on and social course saw us foreigners giddy with happiness as we wrapped, marinated, and fried our way to dishes enjoyed immediately afterwards - instant gratification.

Cabbage soup with cabbage tofu parcel and veggies. The best part was wrapping the parcel with green onions. Gawd, it was good:

Next up was fresh spring roll. It was a combination of vermicelli noodles, shrimp (tofu for me), a crispy rice paper roll and herbs, topped with lemongrass (for presentation as well as flavour).

She was a beauty to dip and devour:

And then came my favourite dish - Banh Xeo!!! Ms. Vy's version is, dare I say it, better than my mom's (sorry mumma!).

I could have eaten a dozen of these:

For the bbq meat, my substitute was tofu. The marinade though was the same for both.

It was so fun getting our hands dirty as we rub all the spices on them:

And here is my bbq'd tofu in all her fragrant glory:

Lastly, the final dish was a fresh mango salad, complete with all the different flavourings including sweet, sour, salty and bitter. We learned how to score the mango to produce lovely thin slices that melted in my mouth.

This was accompanied with my tofu:

Asmin, if you're reading this post, look for these dishes in the cook book coming your way. Give it a try as it will be a while before I can make it for you!

As I finish up this post, my dinner will be served to me at the secret paradise that is Jungle Beach, 60km north of Nha Trang. The timing is great because I've just started drooling on my netbook.