Can’t Stop Freedom

Whilst in Vietnam I found flights on Airasia for about 60$ RT to Yangon, Burma and decided to embark on my first solo trip for a few days.

There is something intensely liberating about waking up in a completely foreign country, alone.

Trying new food.
(traditional burmese meal)
(Nangyi Thohk, myanmar tea & samosas)
(main road in yangon)
(Yangon Taxi)

(Bagan Sunrise)

(graceful myanmar woman)

(Shwedagon Paya. Stunning.)

(temples of old Bagan)

(Bagan Sunset

(Bustling market)

New Friends.

(Burmese Children)

Reflections of this trip:

  • Solo travel has been the ultimate self-indulgence. Hanging out with a monk for half a day. People watch for 2 hours at a cafe. Eat. Eat. Eat. Bike ride around Bagan aimlessly only to discover beautiful fields of crops and flowers. Taught Burmese kids how to use my DSLR, sat back and watched them snap silly photos of each other. Smiled from ear to ear the entire time resulting in loads of small talk and great conversations. Bargained my little heart out for some beautiful textiles and succeeded for less than half the price accompanied by an invite to try some Burmese treats. Read. Write. Relax. Observe.
  • Traveling in a country with an oppressive, dictatorial government where the common people are denied basic rights is disheartening. Really makes me re-think how I would like to contribute to society after I graduate and enter the workforce. How can I make a difference as a global citizen….hmmm, I think I’m a wee bit closer to discovering what I want to be “when I grow up” šŸ˜‰
  • I Love Samosas.
  • Burmese people are kind, welcoming and curious about you!
  • Visiting Burma is important. but stay at locally run guesthouses, eat at local restaurants and avoid, whenever possible, government run businesses. The people need your help.
  • Aung San Suu Kyi is truly inspirational.
  • Blast to the past in Burma: cell phones hardly exist, intermittent internet throughout the country, cassettes still in use, traditional Burmese Longyi’s worn by everyone, no ATM’s or real banks.
  • Burma is unbelievable.

Love tank overflow

2011 has been quiet eventful so far. I’ve begun my second semester at Chulalongkorn which is also my last semester of college. I had a visit from Mary for about 5 days, then my mom for another 20 days of which 10 was spent in Vietnam. In between all the school and traveling I’ve been thinking a lot about what I’d like to do after graduation O_O dun dun dun…..This has been stressing me out quiet a bit BUT…I guess this means I should start planning soon :p

In the meantime I am feeling very blissful after a few wonderful few weeks spent with some of my dearest friends and a memorable trip down memory lane with my mom in Vietnam (her first time back in 30 years).

A few highlights:

Marys’ presence was very enjoyable for me and my buddies as well. I got to show her around BKK a bit. Bike ride around old town, temples and markets. River taxi down the Chao Phraya River, introduced her to various shopping areas, jogging at Chatuchak park, indulged in street food, caught up over lattes at a sky bar and of course introduced her to budget booze: Hong tong thai whiskey and beer chang!

Always a good time w/ Mary

The Very same day Mary left, I welcomed my mom to my home for the past 6 months. So good to see her again. Spent a few days showing her around in between classes then we were off to spend the Lunar New Year in Vietnam for 10 days.

In the 10 days we spent there, we visited my mom’s hometown in the Mekong Delta; Long An, then to Cai Lay to meet some extended family, a couple days in Dalat (central highlands) and majority of the time in Ho Chi Minh City where IĀ  got to meet more extended family and my moms’ childhood friends.

The older I get the more I realize what a true inspiration my mom is to me. It’s so easy (especially when you’re a first generation American like myself) to understand and appreciate what our parents overcame to give us “a better life.” As with many immigrants, each arrival has a different story but they were all seeking the same “dream.” My mom left Vietnam during the peak of emigration about 30 years ago without saying goodbye to her own mother, endured a 6 night journey by boat with 3 young children, settled at a refugee camp in Malaysia for 11 months under very poor conditions before finally having the opportunity to come to America. And that seemed to be just the beginning of her struggle….Then came the hardships of acculturation and assimilation in America as a single mother.

and just look at her….61 and as silly as can be. My mom; the epitome of perseverance, humble and always smiling! this woman never fails to amaze me.

10 days in Vietnam reminded me how much I LOVE Vietnamese food! I particularly enjoyed the freshness of ingredients used and the diverse range of herbs (lemongrass, mint, coriander, basil)…mmmmm.Ā  It was so nice to be in a country where I can speak the language and know exactly what I wanted to eat and how to order it! woooo!

the real thing! Vietnamese sandwiches…..I had AT LEAST one each day šŸ™‚

Also enjoyed various noodle soups, some of my favorites are below:

Pho Bo Kho (Pho in beef stew)

Banh Canh Cua (Thick noodle soup w/ crab)

Mom reunited with her cousins and aunty after 30 years….

View of Dalat from a hilltop temple.

My cousin Ngoc who hopes to come to America one day and her American cousin who envies her humble life in Vietnam.

Needless to say I really enjoyed Vietnam with my mom but the few days spent there opened my eyes to a whole new understanding and appreciation of “family.” Family where there is a distinct level of respect among children and their elders, where everyone eats together everyday and looks forward to it, a family of 3 generations living together AND working together selling chicks and eggs everyday!

There was just something so nice about waking up at 5am, walking downstairs and watching my family run their business together and having a blast. They were convinced that our lives in America must be a million times better but I reassured them I would much rather be selling eggs with all my children around me and enjoying life at a slower pace.

20 days of great memories and laughter with the woman that knows me better than I know myself…lucky me.

Vietnamese Chicken noodle soup (Hu Tieu Ga) for breakfast puts a huge greasy smile on my face.

This Valentine’s day I dropped my mom off at the airport and temporarily bid farewell to her for a few more months.

Spent the rest of the day with the girls. Received beautiful yellow roses from our dear Kathrin…and enjoyed a nice dinner together<3

Our favorite dish of the night: Pomelo Salad w/ shrimp, fried onions and various thai herbs….drool.

More Vietnam Photos Here.

Next on the travel itinerary is my first solo trip to Burma!