Several Phnom Penh travel companies offer tours to the bucolic Silk Island started at about $25 per person. A couple of my friends highly recommend it, but my brother and I have a bit of an aversion to guided tours and spending money on things we could do on our own. With that in mind, Mark and I ventured on our own for a loop that included three ferry rides, 50 kilometers of riding and less than $15 spent total after we stuffed ourselves with all sorts of snacks.
Ha Tien in southern Vietnam mostly serves as a either a quick stop en route to Phu Quoc Island or the Cambodian coast, with only a handful of travelers opting to stick around for more than a day or two. To reflect this, there’s only one western bar in the town of 40,000 people. The amenities aren’t as a foreigner friendly as they are in Kep, Cambodia just 20 km away. In a way it’s for the best, because Ha Tien is something of an unknown gem once you get your hands on a motorbike. Read more
The Vietnamese border town of Ha Tien is overlooked by most travelers, but it serves as a great base camp for a day trip to the caves in the Mekong Delta. Renting a motorbike is a must, which can be done at most guesthouses or Mr. Trinh Ngoc The, who’s known at the Oasis Bar. It’s the only western bar in town and not too hard to find. Just follow the foreigners. Read more
In the end, it was…not bad.
Sukhothai in northern Thailand doesn’t overwhelm with the same majesty as the Angkor Archeological Park in neighboring Cambodia, but this sleepy ancient city makes for a much better visitor experience if you’re looking for tranquility. Crowds during last year’s high season were almost nonexistent, with a few tour groups hitting up the well-preserved central area and nobody venturing elsewhere in the 70 square kilometers of the park. Some of these ruins are little more than foundations in the ground, but they’re all yours as long as you don’t mind sharing with a few wandering cows.
Up a narrow, winded road is this vantage spot in Jiufen, about 90 minutes from Taipei by bus. It’s a picture perfect area despite the hordes of tourists who try to make their way through the lengthy market street. That area is a bit claustrophobic, so it’s outside where the real beauty lies.
“I don’t know what I expected.”- Michael Bluth, Arrested Development
I had heard the complaints of Sihanoukville’s Serendipity Beach before I arrived for the first time: loud, dirty, loads of hawkers and full of race-to-the-bottom bars catering exclusively to the cheapest of backpackers. After spending a couple days there between Christmas and New Year’s, my brother and I are inclined to agree with some of those complaints. Next time he visits, this area will not be on our itinerary.
When my friend Vinti suggested going indoor urban shrimp fishing when we met in Taipei, it sounded like something hipsters in Brooklyn would do (assuming the draconian laws in New York City allows would actually allow such fun). Still, it sounded like a great off-the-beaten-path activity and I looked forward to it. We didn’t know of any shrimp fishing places near the central Daan district, so we took a 20-minute cab ride to a neighborhood chock full of Japanese eateries (I have no idea where it actually was, sorry) and walked inside what appeared to be a low-key restaurant with garish lighting. In the back was a large murky pool. The fun soon began.
We spoke no Chinese, but pantomimed that we wanted to go fishing for an hour. We were given tiny rods and were the only ones sitting there on a weekday night. The employee put a tiny dried shrimp (cannibals!) on the hook and plopped the lure and bobber into the water. Within moments he had a hard bite.
I have an unusual hobby where I have to visit every single local gym I see in Southeast Asia. The equipment often leaves a lot to be desired, but the unique layouts and bizarre jury-rigged equipment appeal to my curiosity. These types of gyms seem to be where the most serious fitness buffs hang out, and the price is usually never more than 50 cents. Some high-end gyms in the region cost as much as rent, and while their amenities are impressive, they all seem almost too nice a place to do some serious exercise. They look more like cafes or hotel lobbies.