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[ 29 Jan 2013 | Comments Off on Lost and found: rekindling my wanderlust ]

Why do we travel?
To escape? To discover? To relax?
Most of my recent travels centered around work, hopscotching the country from Maine to Colorado – 13 states in all during a grueling year on the campaign trail. In the first three months of last year, I slept in my own bed fewer than a dozen nights.
Airports were once gateways for getaways, perhaps to some faraway paradise. Instead, traveling had become my dread.
Sure, the beds at the Marriotts in which I slept were plusher than the stiff slab of foam at home …

Asia, Featured »

[ 30 Apr 2011 | Comments Off on Commotion in perpetual motion ]
Commotion in perpetual motion

Hanoi is an overwhelming grid of narrow streets choked with motorbikes, tourists and makeshift sidewalk eateries. Taxis blare their horns, motorbikes rev their engines and a cacophony of voices echo through the alleys.
Cheap hotels, bars and travel agencies line the streets. Women in cone hats wander around Vietnam’s capital to hawk fruit and local delicacies. The merchandise fill baskets hung from wooden poles slung atop stooped shoulders.
The streets are teeming. The scene is bewildering for the uninitiated. [Watch video: Motion Sickness.]
I had been to Ho Chi Minh City, but never to …

Asia, ICFJ Reporting Fellowship »

[ 15 Apr 2011 | No Comment ]
In search of a shaman

The trip into the highlands north of Luang Prabang consumed more than a day by motorbike. The sticky heat was stifling at times, made worse by the rain jacket I wore to protect against the dust and scorching sun. It had rained ferociously during the night, but the puddles had quickly evaporated.
My motorbike strained uphill beyond countless peaks until we reached a small village inhabited by Hmong.  Here, my guide told me, we would surely find a shaman.
What we found was a handful of New Zealanders who had planned to spend …

Asia, Featured, ICFJ Reporting Fellowship »

[ 15 Apr 2011 | Comments Off on When in Laos, do as … ]
When in Laos, do as …

It began with a sprinkle of powder, lightly tossed into my hair. Then a handful of fine tapioca starch smeared from cheek to jaw. Then a blast of powder into my ear and sunglasses.
Water came next.  Then black grease.
I was being tarred and feathered, Lao style, in celebration of Bun Pi Mai, the start of the New Year in this mostly Buddhist country.
It was New Year’s Eve and Luang Prabang erupted into pandemonium. On a sandy island in the Mekhong River roamed a hoard of zombies – faces whitened with …

Asia, Featured, ICFJ Reporting Fellowship »

[ 13 Apr 2011 | One Comment ]
Giving alms

A flow of saffron-colored robes fills the streets every morning in this town of gilded temples. The roads line with tourists as the procession of Buddhist monks open their baskets to receive alms from the townspeople of Luang Prabang, most of them women who sit on plastic chairs or who kneel on gravel to offer pinches of sticky rice. The procession happens just outside the door of my hotel room.
The monks march barefooted, in silence, gliding through the streets to fill their baskets.
Tourists snap photos. Some walk alongside the brightly colored …

Asia, ICFJ Reporting Fellowship »

[ 11 Apr 2011 | No Comment ]
Running for cover

It’s that time of year to run for cover if you’re anywhere near Laos, Cambodia, Thailand or Myanmar. The water guns are out. Pails are filled to the rim with liquid ammunition. And children line the streets to soak the unsuspecting
The annual water festival ushers in the New Year for a handful of Southeast Asian countries. In Laos, the New Year begins April 15. Some people observe the holiday with solemnity and piety. Others, not so much.
In Luang Prabang, tourists duck into alleys to avoid a drenching. Or they raise …

Asia »

[ 4 May 2010 | No Comment ]
In Vietnam, you can’t be chicken to cross the road

HO CHI MINH CITY, Vietnam — A look of panic overcame the hotel concierge when I confessed I had never driven a motorbike. Yet, here he was scurrying to arrange a rental.
He offered a driver. I declined.
I preferred to ride solo. I don’t like being tethered to guides, I explained.
He glowered, turned to a bellhop and barked out in Vietnamese before his eyes again darted in my direction.
The deal was off, said Dao Cong Lap, the concierge at the Giant Dragon Hotel, which provided us comfy and inexpensive accommodations in …