19 October

I woke up around 7. Knowing that all five of my dormmates had planned to take the Four Island tour on this day, and three of them (the Californian and the two men who had tried to woo her the previous night) planned to take the 8:30 am Funky Monkey tour, I decided to keep the shower available to them. Instead, I stayed in my bed and surfed the internet. I should have taken the shower.

It was after 8:30 and still nobody had gotten up. EThe receptionist came into the room and forced the three hungover backpackers to get up and go on the tour. The fair-skinned Brit asked if they could skip it. The receptionist, in a typical Vietnamese response, said ‘no, you have to go’.

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Three. Point. One. Four.

12 October

Most people know that Life of Pi is about a boy stranded at sea with a Bengal tiger. However, the first 125 pages are not about the eponymous character’s physical journey, but rather, his spiritual journey as he tries to make sense of religion in modern India. Pi becomes a practicing Hindu, Catholic, and Muslum simultaneously, despite the protests of everyone around him on the theological incompatibilities. The adults around him end their complaints when he points out that he just wants to love God. To Ang Lee’s credit, he did not skip over this section in the film even though it is slow for an adventure novel.

Without seeing Kalaya, I work up early Sunday morning and made my way to the same church at which I observed mass the previous Sunday. Continue Reading

The Zoo

1 October

When I first told my mother I hosted couchsurfers, she wanted to know where they slept. I told her we had a box-spring and sheets in the basement and she thought that was some kind of barbarism. #firstworldproblems

At Quan’s place I slept on a typical Vietnamese “mattress”, which feels like sleeping on cardboard. In Ca Mau, Binh offered me his room. I told him I did not want to displace him, but I did not win that battle. Binh’s room is large but simple. There is no furniture, just a few personal belongings lined up along a wall on the floor. The bed is mat on the floor with a pillow. It is hardly comfortable. While I fell asleep quickly the first night, I would have preferred the box-spring. Continue Reading


28 September

The rooster wakes you up at Quan’s makeshift hostel. As I recalled from my last journey to Vietnam, it is easy to wake up when traveling west, but you tend to wake up too early. The crowing that begins at 5am does not help matters.

I majored in religion in college. Quan likewise studied religion and was finishing up his degree. As I was the only native English-speaker among his current batch of surfers and the paper had to be written in English, he asked me if I could edit his major final paper — the paper on which he had to earn a good grade in order to obtain his degree. I was all too happy to agree and told him I would get around to it in the evening. I considered adding “paper editing” to the ‘things I can share” section of my couchsurfing profile.

But, first, it being Sunday, I wanted to get to District 1 to take in the English-language mass at Saigon’s main cathedral. Continue Reading