Friday, March 30, 2012
Wednesday, March 28, 2012
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.
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.
Friday, March 23, 2012
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.
Wednesday, March 21, 2012
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 myvietnamvisa.com 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: vietnam-visa.com
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
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.
Monday, March 19, 2012
Friday, March 16, 2012
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.
Wednesday, March 14, 2012
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.
Tuesday, March 13, 2012
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.
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
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 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
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.
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
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.
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
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|
|War Remnants Museum|
Monday, March 5, 2012
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!
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
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
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:
Friday, March 2, 2012
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.|
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
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!