My Latest article for CNNGo is now online. It discusses my road trip in the central highlands last year. Click here to view it. Update: As of today (21/01) the story is featured on the top of the front page of cnn.com.
My new book, DK Eyewitness Vietnam, is now available. I must admit I was a little disappointed to be credited as a London staff assistant after fact-checking/updating the entire edition myself here in Vietnam, but hopefully they can correct the credit in the next printing. The book looks good though the photos could stand to be freshened-up a bit.
Soon to be available is Insight Guides Laos and Cambodia. I haven't seen the copy yet myself but my mom says its nice. I evaluated the book, proposed changes for the whole volume, and then updated the Cambodia section myself (minus Angkor)
Mui Ne has been booming for a decade now, with one of the best local economies outside Saigon and Hanoi. The overall quality of living for the community has dramatically risen. That's why it came as a surprise to me lately when I have begun to be approached by children rubbing their stomachs, pointing in their mouths and showing me the scabs on their knees. Please, Please, Please do not give beggars--especially children--free money. This is all a scam. There are plenty of opportunities available for locals to make a living in Mui ne. We must discourage this kind of laziness, irresponsibleness and dishonesty. There is a similar situation outside the supermarket (COOP Mart) in Phan Thiet. It was amazing how many new beggars Phan Thiet suddenly had when tourists began frequenting it and handing out cash to children. If you wish to help the local community, we suggest liberally patronizing the local businesses and entrepreneurs in Mui Ne and Phan Thiet--especially the smaller businesses and street sellers (of course do haggle for a good price while you are at it--don't throw free money in that direction either). This injects money directly into the local economy and encourages a healthy dose of responsibility and work ethic. Be nice to the kids--smile, joke, be friendly--but please don't hand out cash to beggars.
"I know this might sound crazy and is going to be a very long shot. I lost my 8GB USB Flash Disk (All pictures from my 7-day Vietnam trip in there) in Mui Ne on January 3, 2010 night. I might have dropped it in a taxi, or in front of Anh Hien Hotel, or in Lan Tong Quan restaurant. It's a Kingmax SuperStick Flash Disk which looks like this (but white yellow color). IMAGE HERE If anyone finds it or hears anything, any information would be greatly appreciated."
If you find the flash drive please post here or send me an email and I will put you in touch with this person.
My second post featured on CNN.com is now available at: CNNGO.com. The story is composed of my suggestions for Indochina's top 10 spots for 2010. Agree? Disagree? Feel free to post comments here or at CNNGO.com.
I am increasingly concerned by a trend I am seeing in Mui Ne: Russian tourists looking for restaurants serving wild animals. If you see anyone keeping wild animals or serving them at their restaurant, or witness a motorbike driver or tour agent offering to take tourists to such a place locally, please send me an email or post a description here. It will be followed up. Particularly of interest are any places keeping or serving wild dear (like muntjac or mouse deer), pangolin, monkeys or gibbon, wildcats (tiger or leopard), bear or bear bile.
Thankfully a new law means very serious consequences for anyone keeping these animals in captivity (or serving them at a restaurant): up to a 500 million VND fine, and 7 years in prison.
I had a fantastic Meal last night at Jibes. It was their annual New Years Eve BBQ. They really outdid themselves this year. My mouth is watering just remembering it. The grilled, marinated beef and chicken fillets, grilled shrimp and squid, ground pork meatballs on sugarcane skewers, mini pizzas--it was all wonderful. My favorite though was the stewed beef (or Bo Kho?). Wow I'd order it any time if its on the menu--it could be my entire meal. ...Tender, juicy, sweet, perfection!