Go, Keem, Go

to philly and beyond

Tag: South Korea

Home Sweet Home!

Entries “From the Road” are written while traveling — often quickly on my phone or with spotty wifi connection. Please excuse any typos or nonsensical thoughts! We’re back! Three weeks…

Entries “From the Road” are written while traveling — often quickly on my phone or with spotty wifi connection. Please excuse any typos or nonsensical thoughts!


We’re back! Three weeks survived together, feeling our best, looking like hell, as backpackers do (and we didn’t even go all-in!) I had so much time to write when we were traveling solo, but once we arrived in Saigon and Seoul, family and friends were to be seen. Before I realized it, late nights were filled with exhausted rest, instead of recaps.

So, here’s a quickie to end my journaling for this trip — solid guides to follow.

Saigon was AMAZING! I grew up with stories about Saigon (or, Ho Chi Minh City) painted strictly in the war era. Being able to see it myself now, and applying what I know (youth population is dominating Vietnam, old ways are changing — as is the government, it seems), an optimistic, modern outlook is in store for the motherland. Over three weeks, Michael and I enjoyed endless social commentary and speculation in this world we were exploring. Despite sadness that some ancient culture is dissolving, young people are clearly working hard to express their dreams, which can be seen through non-foreign-owned business ventures, and even every day style. This is a short way of saying that Saigon, compared to much of the north we explored, is very modern, nearly apathetic to tourists, and do-able for most travelers. I’ll write a more specific post on what to do and see (and drink!).

We met with some family in Saigon — two instances were pleasant, as we were all able to enjoy conversation and share mutual interests like traveling and asking questions about each other’s cultures. My third visit with family was a stretched effort to visit a more closed, religious community, and to no one’s surprise, I got to experience once again being ridiculed for my lack of language fluency and my evil American boyfriend. Note: Maybe not waste time/energy there next time. Though the experience is common, it’s left a bad taste in my mouth for days.

Fly to Seoul! My first time in Korea. I hate to be that person, but eating in Vietnam was not really new to me. My dad had a restaurant, and my parents fearlessly exposed me to the wildest dishes one can hope to see as a child. The only difference in Vietnam was the freshness of the food. Seafood and beautiful greens impressed me to no end.

But in Seoul!!!! I got to experience an entire culture shock, which I am relieved to have had before the trip ended. I enthusiastically ate and drank everything that friends recommended, from student street food, to more traditional dishes (like the Korean version of moonshine). We stayed at an Airbnb for the first two nights, that a fellow blogger and old friend, Nadia, managed to snag us a whole house in the Bukchon Hanok Village. Nadia is my absolute favorite person, with the dependable traveling advice and endless enthusiasm to go with it. I’m so delighted to have had her as a tour guide (along with Michael) and enjoyed her recommendations for food, fun, and even dance (hello, Korean 90’s dance club!). I met her in Philly last year as Michael’s guest, and can’t wait to have her back.

I feel like just a summary won’t do either place justice, so I’ll tie up the journaling now and get to work on the real thing.

This has been one of the best trips of my life. As I told Michael, new brain wrinkles were massaged every day we faced a new challenge, whether looking for food, trying to communicate with the locals, or communicating with each other. My mind and my body felt every moment, and now being home, I’m steadily recovering from being both trashed and adored from the experiences.

And now. Back in Philly. Something that not many are able to say, or maybe even realize: I’m so fortunate to be able to leave one amazing experience, only to return to another lovely life. Thank you for reading!

No Comments on Home Sweet Home!

From the Road: Asia Recap

i everyone! If you’ve been following for the past three weeks, I just tied up an amazing trip to Vietnam and Seoul. I really wanted to capture my thoughts, so I…

i everyone! If you’ve been following for the past three weeks, I just tied up an amazing trip to Vietnam and Seoul. I really wanted to capture my thoughts, so I added a more personal category to the site, From the Road. This section is less of a guide, but more of my personal experiences and takes on the world that I am exploring. I’m so pleased that Vietnam and Seoul were my first places to present to you in this format.

Catch up on the first-hand accounts of an American-born-and-raised Vietnamese woman. Looking forward to your feedback, and please share your own thoughts!

Entries From the Road

Countdown to Vietnam: 24 Hours til Take-off!

Searching for the Perfume Pagoda (Ending up at the Temple of Doom)

Yo Mama’s So Fascist

A Take on 3 Cities: Hanoi, Hue & Hoi An

The Conductor’s Throne: 12 Hours on the Sleeper Train

Mystery Meats: Notes on Being a Visiting Vegetarian in Vietnam

Say No to Sleeper Buses!

Home Sweet Home! Update on Saigon and Seoul

No Comments on From the Road: Asia Recap

Mystery Meats: Notes On Being A Visiting Vegetarian In Vietnam

Entries “From the Road” are written while traveling — often quickly on my phone or with spotty wifi connection. Please excuse any typos or nonsensical thoughts! I’m not a big…

Entries “From the Road” are written while traveling — often quickly on my phone or with spotty wifi connection. Please excuse any typos or nonsensical thoughts!


I’m not a big meat eater but my track record for an average (Asian-) American has been extreme enough to question my and Michael’s meal compatibility. Vit lon (boiled duck egg where you scoop out a formed baby bird on your spoon for the last bite), blood pudding (savory cubes in Vietnam, sweet and smooth in France), and shallow plates filled with bright red duck blood and homemade broth (not my favorite but my mom loved to pair it with Doritos) sprinkled my childhood frequently enough for me to develop a loyal reverence for flesh and bone.

Michael, on the other hand, is a long-time vegetarian, upholding his ideals for nearly 20 unchanging years. It’s clear he’s not sporting a trend, he’s the real deal, and his preference has been easily and equally respectable to me.

Rarely our palates cause friction, unless I’m hangry and demand animal protein on the spot. But upon arriving in Vietnam, it didn’t occur to me that unlike the US, there would be more options for meat eaters over nguoi an chay, vegetarians. We speculated that the huge Buddhist population would be on board, but in Hanoi, we had a hard time trying to find something quickly substantial and exciting that didn’t include meat broth or meat as an accompaniment, or wasn’t fried to oblivion. Thus, for Michael, vegetable-only street banh mi proved to be the tastiest and easiest option among veggie clay pots and the like, in Hanoi. It’s also fair to say that we jam-packed our time with crazy adventures, so by the end of the night we were too beat and famished to comb through too many street restaurants, and merely eyeballed their menus which advertised the same beef, chicken, and duck options.

Our Ha Long Bay cruise boasted constant seafood, so the baffled tour guide asked me thrice in person, then called a fourth time to clarify what Michael could actually eat. His first meal began with boiled veggies, plates of French fries and roasted peanuts, while I filled up on freshly caught squid, fried fish, and prawns dipped in lime juice, salt and pepper. Later meals of more flavorful dishes dishes like steamed tomatoes and tofu came his way.

Traveling further central, however, it was easy for us to find places to enjoy meals together. Hue and Hoi An were very touristy, so we took care in dodging the Western palate and prices (although to give our taste buds a break, we found a tasty Italian spot in Hoi An.) In an extremely hot scooter trip to explore ruins surrounding Hue, we made the efforts to stop at several restaurants in a block that tour buses seemed to populate. All meat, including goat and crocodile, and advertised in flashy ways — it was tourist central and it’s obvious the business owners wanted to capitalize on the search for an exotic experience. Further down the road, we lucked out at an empty but beautiful vegetarian restaurant where we filled up on three meatless and traditional Vietnamese courses for $2 each.

Hoi An, whose tag line is “the ancient city” is actually the most modern city in Vietnam so far! While not as many Buddhist temples as Hue, Hoi An still accommodated vegetarians more, from fancy restaurants to push carts.

We found two great places. One for breakfast — complete with the makeshift alley way design with tiny small and step stools for seats — where, I’m so proud to say, Michael had his first pho ever (vegetarian). The meats were substituted with tofu, radishes, carrots, onions and bean sprouts. While the broth tasted fresh, it was missing the signature pho broth flavors — anise, cinnamon, heavy onion, etc. But we’ll let that pass and make note for recreation at home.

IMG_6486

IMG_6474

For lunch that day, the second awesome vegetarian place was one that we stumbled upon in exploring a random alleyway. The shack-like structure had a few empty plastic tables, and a caged bird singing merrily. Past the accumulating pile of peeled veggie skins a man was working on by the entrance, we immediately saw a pushcart dimly lit with a lukewarm buffet of styled fake meats and vegetables. Face blocked by the sneeze guard, an old woman’s arms wordlessly scooped us each a plate of rice, then handed us tongs. Her appendages pointed to each item, still wordless, but we got the point to fill up.

IMG_6475

Finally, she came around the push cart, crankily eyeballed our options, and declared 60,000 VND total, or $2.81. We sat down and bit into our collection of mystery fake meats (clay pot “fish”, simmered “pork”) and marveled. The old woman sauntered over, looking pleased at our reactions, and asked, “Soup?” before returning with two bowls of room temperature cabbage soup.

IMG_6488

(A note, most fake meats back at home make me gag and have headaches but something about this trip’s mystery meat makes me excited to crack the recipes when I return to Philly.)

So obviously, if you allow some wiggle room like accepting animal broth or sauces in your dish, it’s extremely easy to explain your diet, in Vietnamese or English. But in some regions, you might find options to be more challenging, especially if you prefer to enjoy a fully meat-free dish.

But for our trip, we’ve learned that if we want to find the right adventurous food for us both, we have to take time to do the footwork, and not wait until we’re starving from adventuring, and have to settle.

On my own, I’ve eaten some delicious actual meat items which I’ll write about, but that is a much different journey for me.

No Comments on Mystery Meats: Notes On Being A Visiting Vegetarian In Vietnam

Countdown to Vietnam: 24 Hours Til Take-Off!

For the next 3 weeks, I’ll be writing while traveling throughout north and south Vietnam for two weeks, with a fun four-day stop in Seoul! I’ve been to Vietnam before, a…

For the next 3 weeks, I’ll be writing while traveling throughout north and south Vietnam for two weeks, with a fun four-day stop in Seoul! I’ve been to Vietnam before, a short one-week visit for my dad’s wedding (if you know me well, then you are aware of the kind-of-sort-of infamous “kidnapping incident”, which will be avoided this time around.) We stayed mostly in Saigon, and nearby towns in the south. One week is short enough as is, but I did not get to see much of the country at all, as most of my time was spent with family. I could have been in any part of the world!

For this trip, even though two weeks isn’t too much more time for exploration, we (Michael and I) will be making a point to experience the must-see parts of the country, as well as the lesser-known areas — I’m especially excited to explore the great outdoors. While it will certainly be free and adventurous, this is not to say that we’ll be traveling foolishly at all. As someone who has lived in a cold basement crawling with rodents and cockroaches in Philly in college, it is not often that I find valor in physical discomfort. Additionally, oblivious misconduct in another country isn’t my idea of a good time (or my dad’s, who warned me repeatedly to have fun but be careful!).

Anyway, so there’s my rough intro. I’m excited for the challenge of practicing my Vietnamese, which only gets better with practice; discovering the land I’ve only really admired from stories and pictures; and a whole lot of good street food! Off I go, excited, anxious, but assured that this will be another amazing adventure of many in my lifetime.

Photo is from my trip in 2011, Saigon.

No Comments on Countdown to Vietnam: 24 Hours Til Take-Off!

Type on the field below and hit Enter/Return to search