Travel

Crossing the street in Vietnam

Crossing the street is very easy in most countries. You simply wait for the traffic light with the walking man to turn green. The cars stop and let you walk safely to the other side.

However, in Hanoi, Vietnam, crossing the road is an adventure. There are few traffic lights and the cars and motorbikes will never stop for you. You need to walk into the street and the vehicles will go around you. It can be very scary but that is the only way to cross the street in Vietnam. You have to trust the drivers not to hit you.

You get used to it very quickly and then laugh when you see tourists panic while crossing the street.

Son Doong—the world's largest cave

Son Doong ("Mountain river") cave in Vietnam is the largest cave in the world. It was discovered first in 1991 by a local farmer, then in 2009 British explorers relocated it with the farmer's help. About 9km (5.5mi) long, with a rushing river and caverns that could hold an entire New York City block with 40-floor skyscrapers, it's more than twice the size of the largest previously known cave, Deer Cave in Malaysia. Just imagine—a Boeing 747 jet plane could fly through some areas without the wingtips touching either side!

Even more incredible is the rainforest that has grown beneath a place where the limestone ceiling collapsed. Vegetation, insects, birds, and other animals (including tigers!) all live in this miniature forest. Elsewhere, there are "cave pearls" the size of baseballs, stalagmites 70m (230ft) high, and even a sandy beach.

My trip to Taiwan

Travelling can be a lot of fun. I have lived abroad for over two years in Asia and Europe. I take trips for different reasons. One of them is food.

When I lived in Vietnam, I decided to go visit Taiwan for a week. I knew the food would be great from watching food shows about Taiwanese food. However, I did not realize just how amazing it would be. I tried stinky tofu, different Taiwanese soups and Dan-Dan, a spicy dry ramen dish. I sometimes ate two breakfasts or two lunches because I wanted to try everything at the markets. I was definitely never hungry. At the end of my week in Taiwan, I had gained five kilos.

I decided to move to Taiwan six months later but I became a lot more careful about weight gain.

World's longest bus route

According to the India Times, in May 1968, a British traveler named Andy Stewart was looking to make his way home to London from Sydney, Australia. So he bought a double-decker bus and converted it into a mobile home, nicknamed "Albert". That October, he set off with 13 others on Albert the Bus for a 16,000-kilometre journey from Sydney to London via India. The journey took 132 days to complete.

Things turned out pretty well for Albert, considering it went on to complete 14 more Sydney-to-London trips over the next 8 years. A "year-round timetable" was drawn up for a regular service between London, Kolkata and Sydney in what was called Albert Tours.

The Himalayas—taller every year

The Himalayan mountain range is nearly 25 million years old, yet it is one of the youngest mountain ranges in the world. It was formed as a result of the collision of two tectonic plates over millions of years. The Indo-Australian plate is presently colliding against the Eurasian plate at a speed of 67 millimetres per year, which means that the Himalayan mountains, the tallest in the world, are getting even taller.

The Himalayas were named by joining two Sanskrit words that mean “Abode of Snow.” People in Nepal call Mount Everest Sagarmatha, which means “Goddess of the Universe.” Mount Everest derived its English name in honour of Sir George Everest, a 19th-century Surveyor General of India.

The benefits of living abroad

According to studies commissioned by the Harvard Business Review (HBR), international experiences can enhance creativity, reduce racial bias, and promote career success.

HBR set out to examine how international experiences can transform a person’s sense of self, specifically “self-concept clarity,” or the extent to which someone’s understanding of themself is clearly defined, and consistent.

Self-concept clarity has been linked to multiple benefits, such as psychological well-being, the ability to cope with stress, and job performance.

The Songkran Water Festival

If you go to Bangkok during the Thai New Year in mid-April, you might get splashed with water or get soaked with a water gun. That is because the Thai celebrate New Year with a water festival called Songkran. It is a holy festival where people bless each other with water. So, in Bangkok, people with water guns take part in huge water fights.

People of all ages take part in Songkran. You should be careful when refilling your water gun since older folks might pour ice-cold water down your back while you’re not looking. Thankfully, it’s extremely hot in Thailand year-round, so the cold water feels refreshing. Some tourists join in the fun. Others don't. For example, you can find Japanese students studying English with pen and paper in the middle of the street. They act like nothing is happening even when people spray them and their notes with water.

What a fun way to spend New Year!

A long ride on Train 61

If there is one train ride that will rid you of your comfort zone, then that is the journey on Train 61, from Yangon to Bagan in Myanmar. Myanmar is an impoverished country that has been reeling from civil conflict for nearly 70 years. It has only opened itself up to the rest of the world in the past 5 years.

The environmental costs of flying

The Japan Times reported that most world leaders chose to fly to New York for the United Nations General Assembly, but Swedish teenage activist Greta Thunberg made headlines for deciding to sail instead.

This has prompted a gathering of tourism executives to ponder how to address the fact that flying adds to the greenhouse gas emissions responsible for global warming. According to data cited by the Air Transport Action Group, in 2019, commercial flying accounted for about 2 percent of global carbon emissions and about 12 percent of transport emissions. By 2020, emissions from global international aviation are projected to be about 70 percent higher than in 2005 due to rising travel demand.

The perfect-sized coffee cup

Most Americans love to buy a lot of coffee—I learned this when I traveled through the country with an 8oz* reusable cup. That's the amount of coffee takes about 10 to 15 minutes to drink, by the time you reach the last drop, it's almost cold but not quite. I think that's a perfect size. But, the cafe staff I met did not. 

In the San Diego airport, I asked for "this cup, full of coffee." The staff examined my cup like a foreign artifact. He wondered aloud how big it was. When I told him 8oz, he looked confused, and then charged me for the smallest size they have—12oz. I paid and didn't say anything.

Then in the Los Angeles airport, I asked for the same thing. The young woman working there was equally surprised by it. She looked at the till, frowned, and then looked over her shoulder, and said, "They're just gonna overcharge you." So she took the cup and filled it with coffee for free. I guess, to her, that's fair. I said thanks.