Mao, Lenin and Uncle Ho: A Trifecta of Communist Corpses

The bodies of work for Ho Chi Minh, Mao Zedong and Vladimir Lenin can be compared to each other endlessly with no clear winner. What can be compared, however, are there actual bodies. Or at least what’s left of them. Morbid, right?

I went to all three of their mausoleums within the span of two months, so here’s how they rank from worst to best in terms of the overall visiting experience.

The ‘Crazy House’ Lives Up to its Name

The Crazy House in Dalat, Vietnam looks like Disneyland on acid. There’s winding staircases, a giant fake tree housing several rooms and some mock molten lava on top of the gift shop. Full or narrow passageways and vertigo-inducing walkways, the Crazy House has all the kitsch of an ambitious tourist trap. Despite a steady stream of visitors and its over-the-top looks, this attraction was made for reasons other than making money from tourists.It’s actually the pet project of an ambitious local architect.

Weasel Shit Coffee: A Delicacy in Vietnam

I don’t know how this was discovered, but apparently coffee beans shit out by a civet (a weasel-like animal) makes for a damn good cup of coffee. Civet coffee, or weasel coffee, is an expensive delicacy that started in Indonesia where it’s known as kopi luwak. In the past few years this delicacy has been rising in popularity in Vietnam. I tried the coffee for myself in the city of Dalat, where the Weasel Coffee farm produces and brews the coffee on site. Here’s how it went.

Must Do: Canyoning Down Waterfalls in Dalat

As I leaned back over the edge of a 60-foot waterfall, the last thing I wanted to do was let go of the rope that prevented me from falling down. “Let go,” is exactly what Dragon, the tour guide, told me to do. I shook my head no and held on in total fear. He eventually coaxed me into it and I held up my hands awkwardly for Dragon to take a photo. Of course, the backup rope held up and I didn’t fall.

Asia’s Declining Floating Markets Still Strong in Can Tho, Vietnam

There’s something quintessentially Asian about the image of a floating market. The rustic boats, fresh fruit and old ladies in conical hats appeal to outsiders who have never seen anything like it. As many tourists find out, that romanticized vision of tranquil river life doesn’t usually live up to reality. Some of the floating markets – particularly around Bangkok, Thailand – cater strictly to tourists by selling tacky souvenirs and overpriced snacks. With the advent of highways and mass transportation, floating markets aren’t the economic necessity they once were and are on the decline.

What To Do In Ha Tien, Vietnam

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

Vietnam’s Most Interesting Gym is in Can Tho

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.

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