Friday, March 30, 2012

Lady and the Beast


Having said numerous good-byes, to friends and island paradise, the Harrington's welcomed the new semester enjoying friends who have yet to leave and forcing the Lady to spend time with a beast of dog, Hogan.

Adopted from the animal shelter in Asan, Hogan is a beast of a dog in comparison to Korea's usual run-of-the-mill-purse-pups...

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

JUMP comes to Daejeon

Those of you readers who happen to reside in Daejeon, South Korea and enjoy the pleasure of viewing a show here and there may be interested to know that May 4th and 5th at Chungnam National University there will be a total of three performances of the Comic Martial Arts performance known as JUMP. Most commonly viewed in Seoul, Daejeon will play host to this non-verbal, action packed, martial-arts meets-comedy performance for one weekend and one weekend only.

If you're interested in attending, you need to either have Korean fluency yourself or Korean friends who are willing to translate and help you secure some tickets. The Harrington's have some super awesome, totally amazing friends who just so happen to be entirely fluent in Korean and helped them and another couple secure tickets, therefore THT cannot provide a detailed account on how one can secure tickets on their own, but we can offer a few tips and websites.

Fine Dining in Daejeon: Little Tomo

Some time has passed since the Harrington's found themselves dining at Little Tomo, however, as spring is in the air, it is time for some blog draft 'spring cleaning' and today dear readers, you can read about yet another fine dining option in Daejeon, South Korea.

If you've been in Daejeon for even just a few months you are likely familiar with 성심당 (sung sim dang) the famous bakery of Eunhaeng-dong. What you may not know is that their talent with food doesn't stop at Sung Sim Dang bakery, but expands within the Eunhaeng-dong neighborhood to include the Flying Pan (Italian Restaurant), Oven Story (Cafe, Nick-Knack Shop and Baking School), another restaurant which cannot be recalled at this time and Little Tomo (simple, Japanese style food).

If you've been in Daejeon long enough to discover Sung Sim Dang, then you've likely explored the Underground Shopping area of Jungang-ro Station. Thus doing, you've likely passed by the sweet little eatery with white walls and a quaint ambiance that is in fact called, Little Tomo.

If you've only passed this little eatery rather than stopping in for a bite to eat, we at The Harrington Times ask you to reconsider walking by and encourage you to stop in for a variety of fantastic donkatsu (fried pork cutlet) variations including Curry Cutlet and Cordon Bleu cutlet, the latter being particularly tasty.
And, while you're underground, you might as well continue exploring the various 'wings' until you stumble upon the short row of vendors fighting for your attention while offering

Friday, March 23, 2012

Home in Time to Say Good-bye

While posting about vacations in Vietnam is full of joy and fond memories, the end of such a series brings The Harrington Times to one of the 'tougher' issues facing expats in Korea and other locations around the world, saying good-bye to dear friends as they close their Korea chapters out of sync with our own.

While in route from Incheon International Airport, the Harrington's dear friends J and W were having a final celebratory night of good food, a few too many drinks and singing at the no-rae bang with a large number of their Daejeon friends. Fortunately, the Harrington's had had enough foresight to realize J and W would likely be scheduled to leave at about the same time the Harrington's would return from winter vacation number 2, that being understood, the Harrington's eagerly invited J and W to crash on their couch a few days after being 'homeless' in Korea to ensure a few more memory-making opportunities.

So it was, during the days the Harrington's went into their respective schools and warmed up the lonely chairs, keyboards and English classrooms that so desperately yearned for company while J and W took care of sending home packages, preparing for their European adventures and other end-of-stay tasks.

The nights however were spent living it up together and embracing the final days of vacation and close proximity to friends who had become family while living the life of an expat.

During their three days and four nights with the Harrington's there was a large focus on eating Korean favorites starting with a Saturday lunch of kimbap, bibimbap, kimchi tuna fried rice and more followed with a stop in Dunsan-dong's new yogurt shop Snow Spoon where guests pay for yogurt and toppings by weight and where the lunch crew enjoyed a fantastic variety of yogurts and Grand Opening gifts including cookies and Americanos and Cakes - all free of charge. Dining joy continued as the couples enjoyed Gojuchang bulgogi (spicy pork in lettuce wraps with cheesy rice to follow), home-made donkatsu (fried pork cutlet) and shabu-shabu followed by delicious noodle soup over the course of the next few days.
Aside from hours on end of chatting and enjoying the moment, the Harrington's as well as J and W and good friend and sofa-sleeper Aaron all gathered one night for a hilarious game of

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Travel Tips: Vietnam Edition

Similar to our previous article Travel Tips: Taiwan Edition, these tips are a mix of tips truly specific to Vietnam whereas others are more general and all-travel encompassing tips - Enjoy!

Specific to getting a Vietnam Visa: For American citizens at least, there are basically two options 1) Go/Send passport and required paperwork to a Vietnam Embassy or 2) Use an online service provider to do paperwork before hand and receive your visa upon arrival. The Harrington's used and had no problems. Simply fill out an online form, pay a fee (US25$) then receive some confirmation work and forms in your email, print and fill out anything, present it to the fine folks at the "Landing Visa" window upon arrival in Vietnam (cross your fingers your one of only a couple people needing the visa), pay an additional US25$ and your finished. Note of caution/warning: When you fill out the paperwork, you will receive an email confirming you will receive a visa upon arrival, your passport number will be in this email. So will about 20 other individuals. Suppose it's just expected that there will be a mutual level of trust and respect amongst all recipients on the list, plus it's only the number, not any expiration dates or other info, but still, good to know. Another good site for answering questions about the visa process is:

Specific to Sunscreen: Purchase brands you know, even if it feels too steep a price to pay. Or just take plenty with you.

Specific to Avoiding the Foreigner Tax: No matter what, you're going to be ripped off. Usually it's about the equivalent of a dollar, so relax. However, when chatting up with a friendly coconut salesmen on the popular tourist streets of Ho Chi Minh City, fake like you've been there a while - maybe as a teacher or long-staying tourist. Answering the question "How long have you been here?/How long will you stay?" with the answer "Oh, just a day/couple days/etc," is sure to result in your paying a ridiculous foreigner tax.

Specific to Staying at Hotels in Vietnam: They will want your Passport at the front desk. And they want to keep it while you are there. It's regulation. Have no fear.

Specific to Packing - Accessories: If you have an old, airplane eye mask lying around or another small, easily folded piece of thickish fabric, it'll make for a great way to keep your earrings from becoming a mess while also packing quite compactly.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: Airports, Planes and Layovers

A final night of rest at Arcadia followed by a final breakfast buffet and the Harrington's soon found themselves in transition to 'real life'. Fortunately, the transition was slow and steady.

After paying their final bill and tab at Arcadia and re-acquiring their passports, the couple headed up the road to check in on Facebook, although it's forbidden in the land of Pho, grab a couple of sandwiches for lunch on the plane and finally jump into a taxi and head for Phu Quoc Airport where they had an early afternoon flight scheduled.

Over estimating the time required to check in at the regional airport, the couple spent ample amounts of time sitting, sipping on Coke and reading their Kindles before boarding the small plane and saying a final good-bye to Phu Quoc Island Paradise.

Upon arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, the couple continued forth with an afternoon of reading and snacking while waiting for the 8:00pm flight to Kuala Lumpur. After paying too much for a Whopper and doing a last bit of souvenir shopping at the airport, the couple boarded the plane and soon found themselves in KL, Malaysia.
Wanting to make the most of their 12 hour+ layover in Malaysia, the couple found a place to store their small packs and made their way into KL Sentral by shuttle bus where they then snagged a taxi to the ever popular Jalan Aloor, famous for their all night hawker stalls - which translates into friggin' fantastic food, specifically the most tender, delicious roasted chicken wings $4US has ever purchased.

Prior to arrival, the couple talked big and intended on making an all-nighter of their layover, hitting up food stalls and bars. However, finishing up chicken wings at 4am, Melissa was beyond tuckered and pulled out the pouty lip and big ole puppy dog eyes to request checking into a guesthouse for a few hours worth of napping prior to checking out KL Tower and the infamous Patronas Towers.

So it was, the Harrington's found themselves in an attic of a room with two 'single' beds, a small fan, two shared bathrooms for the entire guesthouse and some sketchy looking sheets laying down for a few hours of rest. Melissa awoke feeling refreshed and grateful for some shut-eye. Mike on the other hand, awoke to the feeling of his knee finding a mysterious and previously unnoticed puddle on his bed...from previous nights? Not sure. Nonetheless, the couple took it as a sure sign it was time to make their way out on the streets and hit up some sights prior to heading to the airport.
First order of business was making way toward KL Tower where the Harrington's were greeted by hoards of young adult Malaysians racing around the city on a city-wide cultural scavenger hunt. Fascinated by the race, the couple took a few pictures before exploring the shops and grounds of the KLTower while choosing not to enter the observatory but rather to head on over toward the Patronas Towers, the world's tallest twin towers and prior to Taipei 101 (2004) and the Burj Khalifa (2010) the world's tallest towers. Once on the grounds of the Patronas towers the couple set out to take a few photos, received the halting blow of a whistle for standing on a cement block, made their way into the shopping center and through the park on the other side to get some non-drama causing photos of the towers.

Having seen all that could be seen in the allotted time the couple made their way back to the airport where they retrieved their belongings and made their way to the waiting zone before walking out to their final flight of the vacation.

Upon arrival in Incheon, the couple slowly made their way from the back of the airplane out through the gates just in time to wait 1hour+ for Korean Immigration to get everybody through the line, an unpleasant surprise at 10 pm when you're desperate to be home. A few minutes after 11, the couple exited immigration, hurried over to the airport shuttle booth to discover they had mere minutes to catch the final bus heading to Daejeon for the night. With a kind Korean employee of the airport shuttle buses leading the way, the Harrington's ran through the airport and out to the bus stop just in time to pay and board the bus home-bound.

And that, dear readers, concludes all of the vacation adventures from Winter 2012 for Mike and Melissa Harrington.

Monday, March 19, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: Breathing in Paradise

The final full day on Phu Quoc Island was, by far the most relaxing and rejuvenating day, which was, in fact spurred on by the misfortune of the previous nights battle with chili peppers. Regardless, the day was a perfect routine of eating, laying out, soaking up the warmth of the sea breeze underneath the palm trees, swimming, napping, eating again, short walks on the beach, reading, and napping some more.

Only two things were unwelcome on this final day of vacation: 1) a horrendous sunburn EVEN though the Harrington's took proper precautions with sunscreen and staying in the shade. Note to others: do not trust Vietnamese brand sunscreen and 2) a power outage in the evening prevented the couple from eating any where other than their hotel since they were unfortunately low on cash and staying at the hotel would allow them to pay by card the following day at check-out. 

So it was, in true Island fashion - napping on the beach and turning a bright pink by the end of the day, the Harrington's concluded their Island stay and went to bed knowing the next day would bring the next round of travels before seeing them back at home in Daejeon.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: Following Red Dirt Roads

Waking up in a bit of paradise involves slowly making one's way to the resorts open air restaurant for a complimentary breakfast buffet complete with baguettes, jams, fresh fruits, pancakes, omelets, various vegetable salads and dressings as well as watermelon juice and strong coffee. Enjoying said complimentary breakfast while watching small waves lap the shore and listening to the rustle of palm fronds. Continue the morning by showering and renting a motorbike from the front desk ($10US for the entire day, although cheaper can be found on the island) and commencing on an exciting day of touring and soaking in the revitalizing vacation vibe.
Decked out in helmets and matching sunglasses, the Harrington's took to the red dirt roads and occasional paved roads that define Phu Quoc infrastructure to enjoy a butt-numbing day of wind in the hair, slightly secluded beaches and the passing of densely forested jungle-scapes. After a few wrong turns, otherwise known as intentional detours to get a better feel of the island, the couple arrived at the phenomenally beautiful Sao Beach. White Sand. Blue Water. Palm Trees. Seaside Table serving up beers, fresh lemon sodas and an assortment of snacks. By far one of the most gorgeous places the Harrington's had ever been.
Following a bit of swimming, floating, and lounging on the beach it was back to the motorbike to continue island exploration. The next destination was a pearl farm where the Harrington's saw a pearl harvested from an oyster and proceeded into a large shop filled with thousands of gorgeous, pearly jewelry (a couple of which just so happened to make up the pair of earrings Melissa would eventually purchase to add to her travel-souvenir-accessory-collection).

Bedazzled with pearls and in desperate need of a quick shower and short rest back in their hotel room the couple made a short stop over before climbing back onto the bike and heading out toward Mango Bay for Happy Hour and the sunset. Enjoying the extreme privacy and seclusion of Mango Bay Resorts beach, the Harrington's breathed in the fresh and rejuvenating air, grateful for these moments to explore and be together.


However, the main purpose of coming this way, a bit north of their own resort, was to sample the delicious fares of Sakura, the number one rated restaurant on Phu Quoc Island according to As promised, the restaurant provided heaping portions of some of the most amazing Vietnamese dishes the couple had yet encountered including foot long fresh spring rolls, chicken in coconut sauce and beef fried with chilies. Unfortunately, a day of bouncing on the back of a motorbike with sunglasses that were too tight and a lack of water intake left the Mrs. feeling a bit nauseated and unable to help with the task of eating the mountains of food. Generally up to the challenge, the man easily packed away an ambitious amount of dinner, including the chilies which would soon prove disastrous.

However, unaware of the troubles to come and desperate to return to the hotel and drift off into a deep, restorative slumber, the Harrington's made their way back to Arcadia Resort, where they did not enjoy a deep slumber but rather, one of the two had an unfortunate battle which waged throughout the night and into the next day...

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: Welcome to Luxury

After two hours of sitting on the ferry, listening and watching Vietnamese pop music videos, the Harrington's were able to see the first signs of land, an island to be an exact. Phu Quoc Island for greater accuracy.

Having been in charge of booking a few accommodations prior to arriving in Vietnam, Mike had amazingly managed to keep the couples hotel location, name and perks a secret from the Mrs. Unfortunately, the taxi driver wasn't as keen on keeping things secret as he desired to get the couple to their final destination on Phu Quoc Island. With another traveling couple, the Harrington's then loaded a taxi and made their way to Long Beach where the Harrington's would find themselves spending the nights at Arcadia Resort, recently built and boasting beautiful grounds and beach access, it was a nice step up for the ever frugal M and M.

With a few hours separating the couple from dinner time, they quickly unloaded their single packs and made way for the beach. Their arrival on the beach perfectly coincided with Happy Hour and the sunset, so it was, with a Grasshopper cocktail in hand, the Harrington's began their relaxing, rejuvenating and slightly luxurious stay on Phu Quoc Island.
With the sun dipped below the horizon the couple set out to find a romantic dinner spot to celebrate the joy of simply being together, on vacation and in a place of beauty. Within minutes of walking, Melissa noted a sign for Le Bistro, a French Cafe recommended by Lonely Planet as providing delicious French and Vietnamese cuisine. An added bonus for the evening was that the couple arrived right on the tail end of Le Bistro's happy hour and so enjoyed 2 Lemon Rum's for the price of 1 (less than $1US). Aside from Happy Hour however, the couple enjoyed a most fantastic meal which began with a raw tuna salad, seared tuna steak and rice for the man and a pork chop with a creamy bacon and mushroom gravy with french fries for the lady. Overly stuffed, the couple had to turn down tempting desert items such as ice cream wrapped in puff pastry with chocolate sauce, and contentedly made their way back to Arcadia for a restful evening in paradise.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: Final Day on the Mainland

Pulling into Rach Gia the Harrington's were initially dropped off at the bus station which is essentially in no man's land. Fortunately, the couples fantastic CouchSurfing friends had prepared the couple and the bus driver to ensure the couple made it into the city. After arriving at the bus station then, the Harrington's were instructed to sit and wait for the free shuttle into town. The shuttle was free and was essentially just one of the guys manning the desk who happened to have a connection with a guesthouse in the city where the couple found themselves handing over their passports and agreeing to spend the night (all for around $10US, so no big deal really).

First order of business for the couple was tracking down the SuperDong Hydrofoil Terminal which was conveniently across the street from their guesthouse. Here, Nguyen had earlier called in reservations for the couple to make their way to Phu Quoc Island. With tickets in hand and a place to sleep the Harrington's began to meander the city and enjoy their last night on the mainland of Vietnam.

The final day on the mainland proceeded in the following, simple fashion: walking, chatting, sitting, chatting. walking, stopping for fresh papaya and carrot smoothies at an outdoor cafe, walking, crossing bridges, chatting, sitting in a plaza, watching motorbikes zoom by, watching women in pajamas walk circles around the plaza, taking photos, looking for dinner, eating noodles with mystery ingredients and a glass of sugar cane juice all for less than $2US, returning to the hotel, sleeping, using the internet and sleeping.

The next morning began in a large and lovely cafe where the couple enjoyed eggs with fresh cilantro and a small baguette, fruit juice and Vietnamese coffee before wandering through the school grounds and the city in search of a 'Hot Toc' - Barber. Having seen numerous barbers throughout their days in the delta, the couple quickly stepped off the main road and were happy to find a barber ready and willing to tackle the man's mop. While Mike was trimmed up and prepared for the sun and waves of Phu Quoc, Melissa made friends with a relative of the barber eating green papaya dipped in chili salt and answering questions from a phrasebook.


Wanting to ensure an enjoyable ocean voyage, the couple stopped in a little restaurant near the ferry terminal for some foreigner taxed Pho before boarding the ferry and making their way to their final Vietnam destination.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: Stories from the Couch

Having enjoyed lunch in Can Tho and managed to snag a bus heading for Long Xuyen, the Harrington duo crammed into the little gray bus which proceeded to fly down the narrow streets connecting one delta town to the next. Along the way, anyone who looked like they may need a ride to the next town was hollered at from one of the men riding the bus, being offered a ride to their destination. This created a bit of a rotation in the seating arrangements but did little to disturb the Harrington's crammed in the back with their day packs in their laps.
A bit exhausted from their early morning walk and full tourist days, the Harrington's walked from the bus stop to a small cafe to refuel before checking into a hotel. Using hotel wi-fi the couple checked their CouchSurfing messages in time to see that a couple of Long Xuyen hosts were ready and willing to meet up for dinner so long as the Harrington's made a call to let the CSers know the couple was in town. So, after a short nap and some time catching up on soccer, the couple found themselves at the front door of the hotel being handed motorbike helmets and being directed as to which bike they should climb aboard for a night tour of the city.

The rest of the evening was enjoyed taking in the sights of a city at night from the back of a motorbike with a couple of stops to enjoy the generous, interesting and friendly company of these CS superstar hosts. The night began with a delicious bowl of lemongrass fish with noodles and sugar cane juice followed by a run around town and topped off with strong coffee and tamarind juice. All the while the Harrington's were blown away by the incredible generosity of these four friends who were not only showing them the town and offering their friendship and knowledge of the land, but were extending Vietnamese style hospitality in offering to purchase meals and drinks. Every act was more than the couple would have dared to dream, little did they know the following day would be simply a continuation of this supreme hospitality.


Waking up, the Harrington's made an executive decision to enjoy a double breakfast morning, hitting up their complimentary breakfast of bread and coffee before hopping on the back of motorbikes for a second breakfast of Vietnamese beef pho. Fully loaded with food and energy the Harrington's enjoyed the day with 2 of the 4 CS/friends they had met the previous night. With flexible jobs in the city, Nam and Nguyen were able to treat the Harrington couple to a trip across the river to Tiger Island where the couple learned about Vietnam's political history, particularly of the 2nd President who lived many years on Tiger Island. The grounds of the president's childhood home and nearby museum were well tended yet extremely quiet and peaceful on a Monday afternoon and definitely left the Harrington's feeling as though they'd had a particularly unique experience.
With hotel reservations on an island awaiting the couple, they reluctantly said good-bye to their fabulous new friends after a fantastic lunch of various tofu dishes and another generous outpouring of hospitality as the two morning tour guides took the Harrington's to the bus stop in the next city and made sure the couple had the proper bus tickets to get to Rach Gia and then to the Island the following day.

With nothing but fondness for Long Xuyen and the ability of CouchSurfing to bring people together, the Harrington's enjoyed a more comfortable, yet lengthy bus ride to Rach Gia, their jumping off point for Phu Quoc, Island.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: Floating Markets and Local Buses

After an early morning stroll, strong coffee, some bread and fruit, the Harrington's ond other guests at the 'homestay' began part 2 of their 2-day tour option. The day's schedule highlighted an hour or so at the region's largest floating market followed by a visit to a rice noodle factory and rice packaging factory.

Boats were quickly loaded and after a bit of waiting to be reunited with the portion of the group that opted for hotel accommodation, the Harrington's made it into the floating market which specialized in produce. For those looking for a particular fruit or vegetable, all that was required was turning your eye to the sky to see what produce each boat had rigged to a bamboo pole therefore declaring what they had available. The tour guide explained this concept as well as the commitment each of these families makes to spend a majority of their days living on the water, afloat.

Quickly tempted to purchase an entire pineapple for less than a dollar, the Harrington duo savored the fresh pineapple which oddly enough had been imported from China (ode to globalization). Having taken in the sights of produce boats as well as the noodle soup selling boats and coffee shop boats, the group was transferred down the river a bit to check out a couple of factories producing some of the areas staple dishes: rice noodles and rice itself.
Watching the production of both rice products was fascinating and enlightening as the Harrington's took note of the inherent sustainability. For example, in the process of making rice paper, husks from the rice are used to stoke the fire while the grain itself is boiled down into a milky, soupy mixture, spread out on a steaming board and moved onto a bamboo rack to dry. Meanwhile, as the husks burn, ash is the natural outcome which in turn becomes part of the fertilization process to grow the rice and produce the noodles for the next year's crops. Perhaps the farming at a localized level has always been sustainable, and the desire for such now only comes out of a recognition that non-localized farming is inherently unsustainable...but alas, this is not aimed at farming and food production practices.

Having finished the promised tours of the day, the Harrington's were taken into the city of Can Tho where they said a few good-byes and separated from the tour group which would soon be returning to Ho Chi Minh City. After grabbing a bowl of Beef Pho and a beer the couple hailed a taxi and made their way to the city bus stop. Upon setting foot down at the bus stop, the couple was quickly deemed worthy to pay the foreigner tax, and paid an extra 1US$ each to board a crowded gray bus to Long Xuyen where they would enjoy a restful afternoon and extraordinary CouchSurfing Hospitality.

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Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: Mekong Delta Tourist Attractions

Prior to arriving in Vietnam, the Harrington's had a general plan to spend a day or so in HCMC before heading into the Mekong Delta with plans to finish out the vacation trip island-getaway style. The Delta is the nation's farmland, rich with water sources for rice and fruits of numerous varieties. Typical to farmland regions, the people of the Delta were rumored to be peaceful, hospitable and taking life at a slower, more enjoyable pace. Fearing that getting a taxi to the bus station and a bus into the delta might prove more troublesome than enjoyable, the Harrington's opted to duck into one of many tour operators outside their hotel on their last night in Ho Chi Minh City.

Roughly $25US each and the couple had tickets for a tour package which would extend two days and include transportation to the river, on the river, a small lunch, accommodation and dinner (since the couple chose the homestay) and a number of tourist attractions throughout. Similar packages had been seen online and while they would have provided more beautiful and potentially private experiences, the Harrington's were thrilled to pay a meager $25 per person rather than the $350-400 they had seen quoted through online tour operators.

So it was, on the morning of Saturday the 18th, at 7:30 am, the Harrington's made their way to their tour provider and were led to their bus to begin their journey into the Mekong Delta. With Sozo treats and a rest stop in between to make a quick purchase of 'Adidas' sunglasses and snacks the Harrington's and other tour-goers eventually arrived in My Tho, Vietnam where they quickly and eagerly transferred onto their first of many boats for the day.

First along the tour route was a stop at a beekeeper's farm where tourists were welcome to try the sweet and rich honey tea and a few sweet snacks as part of the tour fee. It was here also that the group had the opportunity to hold up a honeycomb slot of sleepy bees and for a few brave souls to hold a ridiculously large snake.
From honey to small canoes, the Harrington's and others donned the quintessential conical hat and made their way through the winding river under the shade of coconut palms and to the occasional chatter of canoe guides requesting that the foreigners 'givemoney, givemoney, givemoney' although this too was covered in tour costs. Unique, perhaps, to the Harrington's experience was watching the semi-drama of a woman (Vietnamese) go overboard on her small crew causing a small bit of moans and giggles as she was able to re-board and continue on her way.

Reunited with the larger river and the larger boat the tour was forced to make a quick change of plans as enough boats were not present to take guests from the large river, down the small river to a coconut candy factory, therefore the candy was postponed and lunch took place earlier than planned, which was perfectly timed as the Mrs. was beginning to feel the pangs of hunger.

A small lunch of rice, overly steamed and flavorless vegetables with a couple pieces of fish sauce chicken were included with the meal price. For those feeling a bit more famished, the tourist restaurant also provided a variety of dishes including Fried Elephant Ear (a local fish) Spring Rolls, a Mekong Delta delicacy. The Harrington's, who are always down for a bit more food and a few adventurous eating experiences leaped at the chance to enjoy such a dish and were not disappointed.
Filled with rice and fish and with the promise of properly sized boats the group of foreign tourists made their way to a coconut candy factory which was a showcase of fine skill as local women prepared a sweet and unique to Vietnam coconut candy.
From the tourist attractions of My Tho it was time to board the bus and hit the road until reaching the city of all cities in the Delta, Can Tho. Here, each tour guest would go to their pre-requested accommodation which for the Harrington's meant a Homestay which can more accurately be described as Guesthouse or Bed and Breakfast.

Upon arrival, the Harrington's were quickly directed to take a small cottage on the river while the rest of the group dispersed into a garden area. After settling in a bit and getting a feel for property and surrounding area guests began chatting and preparing for a dinner spread which would include another taste of Elephant Ear spring rolls, fried pork spring rolls (partially made by the tourists/guests themselves), fried tofu in a fabulously seasoned tomato sauce and green beans. As if that weren't enough, the evening ended with fresh pineapple and what felt like endless rounds of local rice wine.


With a mosquito net draped over the bed and the sound of the river and occasional motorboats passing by the Harrington's were soon dozing off into a peaceful slumber before another day on the delta.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Thawing in Vietnam: History Lessons and Sightseeing

After a fine breakfast of baguettes, jam, eggs, cheese, juice and coffee at a little coffee shop next to Hotel TiTi, the Harrington duo made their way out into the city in search of the sights and vibe of Ho Chi Minh's 6 million residents. Pleased to find a quaint and quiet park just a few minutes into beginning their walk, the Harrington's took a moment to truly appreciate and breath in the truth that they were indeed on vacation, outside of the U.S. and outside of South Korea. And the weather was perfect.

Appreciating the sensation of freedom and warmth, the Harrington's were a little too eager to purchase coconut from a boisterous and outgoing salesman and would later realize they most definitely payed the foreigner price (which was still only about $3US, so not really a huge loss). Regardless, the couple indulged and meandered around the city with intentions of hitting up a few important attractions including Notre Dame Cathedral, the Grand Central Post Office, the Reunification Palace or Independence Hall and the War Remnants Museum with a lunch time stop at Huong Lai Restaurant.

The course of the day had them slowly gaining a more developed understanding of not only Vietnamese culture but the influence of the French as well as Americans on their culture, development, land and spirit. Throughout the course of the day, the story of destruction, war, rebuilding, unity and cultural pride unfolded and left the Harrington's reflective of not only the history of one nation, but the current events of many nations and the greater call of humanity to step forth in compassion and justice.
Notre Dame Cathedral

Reunification Palace/Independence Hall
Of all locations the Harrington's visited, the War Remnants Museum was the most harrowing and challenging. Stories accompanied by pictures and pictures accompanied by stories told of the great many atrocities suffered in what Americans know as the Vietnam war. But they also tell the larger story of the atrocities that happen during war times. Irreparable damage. Brokenness. Destruction. Pain.
War Remnants Museum

The Harrington's were also alarmed to see the devastating and long lasting effects of Napalm/Agent Orange on not only the Vietnamese landscape, but the people of Vietnam and even the American soldiers and their families. Photos of children from as recent as the year 2000 showed several deformities attributed to the use of these lethal herbicides manufactured by none other than Monsanto. Monsanto being a corporation which first gained the attention of the Harrington duo during their dumpster diving days and through documentaries such as Food Inc. and Fresh is the equivalent to a four letter swear in the Harrington household (stand against Monsanto by clicking here). All this, the photos, the history, the effects, the unjust power of corporations were ultimately quite draining. Fortunately, a lovely dinner of spring rolls, noodle soup and bananas in coconut milk awaited the couple at Nha Hoang Nong before they headed off to Sozo cafe to grab their breakfast for the following morning.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Purposeful Dining in Vietnam: Sozo Cafe

Having earlier enjoyed the Lonely Planet recommendation of Houng Lai Restaurant for the days lunch, Mike and Melissa were eager to check out another Ho Chi Minh City dining option.  Sozo Cafe was described as a place to get doughy cinnamon rolls while once again serving disadvantaged families from the area.  Knowing that they'd be setting out early the next morning for a Mekong River Tour, the Harrington duo decided that a late night iced choco and bubble tea were just the thing to end a good day, not to mention a doughy, homemade cinnamon roll would make the morning bus trip that much sweeter and easier to handle.

Quite near their hotel and in the heart of the backpacker's quarter, Pham Ngu Lao on the main street Bui Vien, Sozo Cafe can be found with an inviting case of muffins, brownies, cinnamon rolls, cookies and much more.

Interestingly, when reading through the menu at Sozo cafe, one quickly learns that the cafe started as nothing more than a street-cart offering home-made cookies to foreigners and has now blossomed into a multi-story cafe with more than just cookies!
In addition to the sweet treats and coffee drinks, Sozo offers a few handmade braclets, necklaces and earrings made by another set of Vietnamese people, most of whom are blind or disabled. A great way to pick up some gifts or souvenirs and make sure you're giving back to the community.

Purposeful Dining in Vietnam: Huong Lai Restaurant

Perhaps it goes without saying that one of Melissa's greatest joys comes in the form of either food preparation or food consumption. While visiting foreign lands, it is always the goal of the Mrs. to find something great and incredibly tasty to feast upon.

Additionally important to the Harrington duo is spending their money in as wise, compassionate and sustainable ways as possible. Therefore, when the Lonely Planet Southeast Asia on a Shoestring Guide Book highlights a restaurant as not only serving "beautifully presented traditional Vietnamese food" but also as a restaurant where all staff "are from disadvantaged families or former street children", you can bet your money that the Harrington's will set out in search of said restaurant.

Having toured Notre Dame Cathedral and the near by Central Post Office, the couple made their way Ly Tu Trong St. and began searching for a sign that would notify them of their arrival at Huong Lai Restaurant. Before long, the sign was spotted and the couple was ascending the wooden staircase into an incredibly quaint and cozy second floor restaurant of dark wooden tables, brick accents and white walls.

Wait staff spoke adequate English and were happy to recommend the Chili Lemongrass Pork and Fish Sauce Chicken both of which were bursting with flavor and absolutely delightful on this February afternoon in Ho Chi Minh City. Always ready to try something sweet, the couple then finished the meal with Che (a traditional sweet bean soup) and Homemade Longan Ice Cream
If you find yourself in Ho Chi Minh City, wanting to eat a delicious and purposeful meal for around $5US, Huong Lai Restuarant is an exceedingly fine choice.

Thawing in Vietnam: Day of Arrival

Having partied all night long with the Mullen's, still humming the tune of No Doubt's "I'm just a Girl", the Harrington's grabbed a cab from Dunsan Girls High School and headed to the bus terminal at 3:30 am to catch a bus to Incheon International Airport. Prepared to feel the pangs of hunger after such a late night, the Harrington's (specifically, Melissa) carried a bag of Paris Baguette Treats along with her one small daypack. Groggy and ready to nap on the bus the cinnamon rolls and pastries from Paris Baguette were forgotten by Melissa, resulting in a Subway sandwich breakfast after checking in at the airport.
Airport Eats
From Incheon the duo flew to the budget airline airport in Kuala Lumpur (LCCT?) Which is all that a budget airport should be, cheap and busy with budget travellers. After grabbing a quick bite and shedding some winter layers in the tropical warmth of Malaysia the couple was soon in flight heading for their final destination of Ho Chi Minh City.

Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City the Harrington's took a moment to orient themselves to any potential scams by glancing through the Lonely Planet while sipping some fresh watermelon and passion fruit juice. Always leary of taxi drivers that approach them while in Southeast Asia, the couple opted to hop in with a metered taxi which seemed to be 'recommended' by the airport staff. Entering Ho Chi Minh City was a concierto of honks, beeps, and whizzing motorbikes. The taxi driver 'kindly' took the couple on a small tour of the city before looping back to the street where the couple would find their hotel for the next two nights, Hotel TiTi.

Checked into the hotel and eager to see a bit more of the city and more importantly get some food in their bellies, the Harrington's took a short walk through a bit of downpour until they found a nice looking rooftop restaurant and bar. Looking over the menu, the couple quickly decided that a serving of goat meat fried in coconut oil as well as grilled beef and cheese sounded like the perfect compliment to a cold Tiger beer. And the dishes were perfect.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Five Years Ago: Of First Dates

A couple months ago we shared the story of falling, in the love that is. But that was just the feeling part of things, the part that encourages a couple to pursue further hanging out, generally under the umbrella of just friends so that days and nights can be spent wondering at the possibilities and fearing that these butterflies will soon be buried by a broken heart. Fortunately for Mike and Melissa the butterflies were left to flutter as the man Harrington took to seeking out a creative and expressive way to assure the lady that he was indeed interested in pursuing a relationship.

Taking the advice of a good, wise and mutual friend (David Atwood), the man Harrington opted to send letters suggestive of upcoming joys and dates that Melissa would soon enjoy but each signed 'Future Melissa' AND written in distinctly different writing than any of the previous days notes or any writing Melissa had from the man himself.

Convinced it was Mike, but swayed to suspect a creeper by some sorority sisters, the week of mysterious letters continued, leaving Melissa feeling eager, anxious, excited and a touch nervous. On the final day, just a few day's after Valentine's Day, Melissa received a note from her 'future self' which included a line much in this fashion:

Tonight, I enjoyed an evening of stargazing after meeting a ridiculously good-looking man under the sun of the science building.
Future Melissa

Just in case future Melissa wasn't as trustworthy as present Melissa's sisters and gut instincts, Melissa headed out with a couple sorority sisters to the science building where she saw none other than the man Harrington waiting to accompany her to the University of Wyoming Planetarium which would highlight not only various constellations, but also provide a rollicking good laser show.

So it was, under a starry night that the man and woman we now know as Mr. and Mrs. Harrington admitted to themselves and the 'world' that they were ready to proclaim a relationship status and move beyond awkward friend to, awkward couple (some things never change).

Friday, March 2, 2012

Stories from the Couch and No-rae Bang Nights

Living in Korea, working as an English as a Foreign Language Teacher means a consistent routine of saying good-bye to the friends who have become family yet have now opted to take on new jobs in new countries, return home, return to school, travel the world or any other number of activities. It is often draining and disheartening. However, knowing that friendships have been created that leave you feeling downhearted at their departure is rewarding in itself. Knowing that these friendships wouldn't have been possible if you hadn't made the leap yourself keeps the expat foreign teacher on the look out for the next irreplaceable friendship to bring value and wealth to their own life experience.

Six months ago, the Harrington's said good-bye to some incredibly dear friends, a set of which can confidently claim that they are the primary reason M'n'M ended up in Daejeon, South Korea in the first place, Matt and Jen Mullen. Mid-February, the same couple began a new stage in their travel and professional careers. The destination was China, the layover, South Korea, and the Harrington's couldn't have been more excited to reunite with these dear friends.

Arriving late on a Monday evening, the Mullen's and Harrington's stayed up later than necessary after hours on planes and in airports catching up and enjoying the ease of a friendship built to last and withstand miles. Unfortunately, the Harrington's would spend the days 'deskwarming' while the Mullen's relived a small piece of their South Korean lives. However, when the work day ended, the couples and other friends who continue to feed on kimchi were eager and ready to eat South Korea's finest delicacies (dalk-galbi and shabu-shabu), play a round of screen golf, sip cocktails and snack on walnut cookies, and spend a long wild night singing their hearts out at the no-rae bang. So while the days were spent adhering to their specific tasks, the nights left plentiful opportunities to reconnect, enjoy and celebrate all that is good and beautiful.
Dalk-galbi at 5.5 with the Mullens, Jacqui, Sunny and Aaron

No-rae bang nights.

As soon as the reunion began however, things came to an end. The Harrington's were set to catch a flight to Kuala Lumpur before landing in Vietnam and the Mullen's for China. So after a night of singing and dancing and with a number of powerful female voices stuck in their heads, each couple set off for their next adventures, again giving thanks for this friendship that is more beautiful for having taken place in the ROK, if only for a season. (To read more about the Mullen's, check them out here.)

And what powerful female voices were stuck in their heads:

Kelly Clarkson - My Life Would Suck without You

No Doubt - I'm Just a Girl

Adele - Someone Like You

Whitney Houston - I wanna Dance with Somebody

Craving Biscuits and Gravy: Online Grocers in Korea

Here in South Korea there is a small yet growing population of foreign food markets. Daejeon is actually home to two rather fine and fabulous small markets; one in Gung-dong and one near Daejeon station. Each provides goods such as cilantro, Thai basil, cheap whole cinnamon, dried chickpeas and other beans, etc. However, a bit of browsing and checking a popular site for expats teaching in South Korea, Melissa stumbled upon a motherload of information regarding foreign foods. The initial tip off covers the numerous foreign food stores to be found in Seoul as well as providing some links to delivery options in Korea for those expat souls who are living and teaching in small, less populated corners of the peninsula. Delivery options also offer a fabulous opportunity for those in larger cities who don't enjoy making their way to Costco because it's too far, too busy, too noisy etc.

Regardless of the reasons you desire some comfort foods from home, we at The Harrington Times have it under good authority that Melissa Harrington has been craving some biscuits and gravy, this comes mostly due to her grandmother's fine skills at whipping up a batch of this filling, comforting breakfast. This craving has Mrs. Harrington feeling particularly excited about The Underground Grocer who claims to sell two types of ground sausage. Other items foreigners may be excited about are: corn tortillas, refried beans, chickpeas, lentils, cardamon pods, salami, pesto, cous cous, and so much more. (Update March 2012: The Underground Grocer no longer exists at that link and we have yet to find a replacement. If you have any information on this shop, pleas leave a comment)

Another online grocer who delivers is Nice Deli a few highlights from their storefront: corn meal, various (yet not extensive) Bob's Red Mill grains and flours, oatmeal, fresh cilantro, pinto beans and pita bread just to name a few available items. Finally for online food stuffs there is EZ Shop Korea which is essentially shopping Costco online. Here you can find everything from English books and DVDs to deodarant, mate tea, canned pumpkin and cranberries, Athenos hummus dips, Spanish Jamon, ranch and onion dips and so much more.

Update March 2012: Things just keep getting better! Now for your foreign grocery needs as well as Ikea items and the like check out FatBag! A great mix of numerous items many expats crave and desire once they've settled in the land of fermented and spicy foods (which are oh-so-delicious-but-no-substitute-for-meals-reminescent-of-home). FatBag is completely in English and looks ready to provide a great, one-stop shopping experience for those of us more fluent in English and fine cheese than Korean and aged kimchi.

Turns out, being a foreigner isn't nearly as demanding of comfort food sacrifices as some have previously believed. Happy grocery shopping!


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