HCMC Dining Guide

Friday, August 26, 2011

365

One year ago today, I began my journey to Southeast Asia. The fact that I had no idea whether or not I would last over there, and that I knew next to nothing about the first country I was visiting - Cambodia - didn't really hit me until I was walking down the jetway at Hong Kong's airport for the flight to Phnom Penh. I was anxious - What if I hated it? What if the group that was supposed to pick me up didn't show? What if a million other things went wrong?

Fortunately, none of the worst-case scenarios have occurred, and my year has been, in a word, incredible. I've visited six countries, met people from every corner of the globe, and acquired a lifetime of cultural knowledge and experience. I've fallen in love with Vietnam, a country that most people still think is backwards and dirt-poor. In fact, many of the adults I've talked to during my trip to the U.S. seem surprised by the fact that I am fit and healthy after a year there.

There have been wonderful memories: seeing the faces of twenty kids light up with joy when you walk into class; cruising on a moto under azure blue skies, and next to achingly clear water, in Nha Trang; gorging on Indian cuisine in Kovalam; playing at the Smile Group with children infected with HIV/AIDS; making fun of dirty backpackers in Chiang Mai.

And there have been terrible ones: searing off a piece of my left calf on a moto exhaust pipe; being packed like a sardine into the back of a hot, sweaty, horribly overcrowded Indian bus; enduring a Sisyphean journey through Vietnam's massive bureaucracy in order to get a work permit; not being able to find toilet paper in Kuala Lumpur.

It has also been a year since I started to take this blog seriously. At the time, I could not have imagined that this page would have over 15,000 views by this point; and I did not expect to receive even half of the compliments on my writing that I have. So, readers, thank you for buoying my confidence. When I created this, I thought it would be 'just another blog' in a cyberspace full of the damn things. However, I now fancy myself as a younger Anthony Bourdain, gallivanting around, stuffing myself with regional and local specialties - even the strange ones - and commenting on culture and people. (Just with fewer dick jokes, and without the heavy drug use of Bourdain's earlier years.) I'm now pursuing a writing career thanks to this experience.

In about two weeks I'll be returning to the other side of the world, and I hope you continue to follow my journey. My next few posts will cover some pretty serious material, so bear with it, and before I leave I'll also discuss what I'm hoping to achieve during Year Two.

In closing, a people-centric set of pictures from each Asian country I've traveled to.
Siem Reap, Cambodia

Marina Bay Sands, Singapore

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Alleppey, India

Bangkok, Thailand

Saigon, Vietnam

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