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Travel

No arguments from me here.

At a coffee shop in Dong Thap Province:

Sometimes, a name is just too hoopin long!

I get it, I totally get it.  There wasn’t enough room on your hoopin’ plate.

Adding personal travel to business travel: win

Taking some of my own advice about business travel, I decided to tack on an extra day to a recent trip.  Totally worth it.

I spent a day in the city of Nha Trang, which is on a beautiful stretch of beach.  It’s a popular vacation spot.  People go swimming and watch the sunrise.

Sunrise on the beach. This is what I’m talking about.

I spent the day catching up on reading, took a long walk, ate some local food, and relaxed.

Yes, there is whiskey in that glass.  I think.  The bar was stingy with the portions of liquor, but the presentation was pretty great. 

…then you must be a caveman.

From the hotel’s safety instructions.

Business travel is not a vacation

Even though I really like visiting other places, and I enjoy meeting up with colleagues from different posts, and it’s fun to be in a new environment, business travel is a different experience from leisure travel.

I my previous career in academia, I traveled a lot for work. Academic conferences are held in different places around the country, so I went to a lot of big and small cities around America (and a couple of times in Canada). But when I was there, I usually saw the inside of hotel conference rooms more than the local sites. I’ve been to most US states, but have probably missed out on what each state has to offer. Business travel is for business, not pleasure.

My recent trip to Thailand was an eye-opener. I spent four days in Bangkok, and this was about all of the city that I saw:

Hi, Bangkok. You look interesting. Wish I could have gotten to know you better.

Don’t misunderstand: the trip was valuable. I learned a lot. The government got very good value for the cost of sending me in the trip. The trip was great for me, professionally. In addition to exchanges with colleagues about our respective experiences and activities at posts, we got some valuable guidance from higher up the hierarchy.

Extra credit if you know what “IO” stands for.

Personally, though, it was disappointing. We spent a lot of time in a dark conference room looking at a screen:

Not only did I not have time to enjoy the city, but I had to leave a little early in order to get back to Vietnam and prepare for my next trip.

This is not the right way to live. If I’m going to have to put up with the nonsense and inconvenience of travel, I should take some time on one side or the other of the trip, and do some touristy stuff.

In case you were wondering, the answer is yes, Vietnamese feet can be just as stinky as American feet can be. Thanks for demonstrating that for me, inconsiderate fellow traveler.

So here’s my resolution: from now on, I’m going to carve out some time for myself every time I travel for business. I’ll pay for my own hotel room, pay the additional air fare as needed. Since I’ve endured the journey, I might as well get some enjoyment out of it. Life’s too short. It’s time to mix in some pleasure to the business. I did that a few times in the past. My wife and I enjoyed a great afternoon scootering around British Columbia while there for a conference several years ago. I’m going to try to do something like that on every trip from now on.

Stay tuned.

Two of my favorite things:

In a bar in Bangkok.

Whiskey and books.

Hungry Trip

On a recent trip to the countryside, we ran into an unexpected problem.  Come dinnertime, we couldn’t find anything to eat! There were no restaurants in the area, just farm houses and small towns.  Even the stores closed up early.

We finally found one “restaurant” that I wouldn’t want to eat at, if I had a choice.  Picture a concrete barn.  But we didn’t have any other options, so we went in and ordered their “specialty” (the only thing the restaurant sells): glutinous rice and duck meat.  The owner of the restaurant looked at us like we were stupid and said: “we’re all out of food.” I guess by 6:00pm or so, restaurants in the area have sold all of the food that they prepared for the day, and that’s it.  And we were stupid for not knowing that.  The owner said she still had a glob of glutinous rice, but no more duck meat.

Better than nothing, we figured.  We asked her to split up the glob into three portions, one for each of us.  I’m not a fan of glutinous rice in the first place, and wasn’t looking forward to eating that for dinner, but I was hungry, and so mentally prepared myself for the worst dinner of the year.

As we walked back to our car, by chance, we saw someone across the street making little “banh xeo” (Vietnamese savory pancakes).  They’re usually much bigger, the side of  large dinner plate.  I’d never seen them made this way before.  We got some of those to add to our feast of lukewarm leftover glutinous rice.

 

Banh Xeo: shrimp, batter, bean sprouts, “served” with a handful of fresh herbs (mint, basil, lettuce) and fish sauce.

This was a dinner that I won’t forget, at least not for a long time.  At least it was cheap.

Is it just me?

Or is this butter NSFW?

The definition of “not worth it.”

If I’m going to pay to use a restroom, it’s reasonable to ask that I don’t get cholera from using it.

Magic Hand Wipes in a Japanese Restaurant

After this experience, I may have to move to Japan.