Girl Meets World
By Ginny Tonkin GoErie.com staff blogger
Girl Meets World is a multimedia look at the sights, sounds, and insights of experiencing a different culture through teaching English as a foreign language.   Read more about this blog.
Posted: October 1st, 2010
Blogging from my backpack

Simply put, South East Asia is the new Europe when it comes to backpacking popularity. Tourism is booming; it’s a leading industry in the rapidly developing country. And it’s not just the wild American co-ed who’s exploring the rich beauty of Vietnam–the country attracts a large cross-section of Asian tourists, European backpackers, and families from Australia on holiday.

Everyone from European tourists to Chinese businessmen use English in Vietnam as the lingua franca, requiring anybody who wants to make a dong to know the new international business language.

It’s funny—just by traveling to Vietnam, now a key vacation destination, I am experiencing a large diversity of Asian peoples, Chinese, Japanese, Indonesian, South Koreans, albeit very superficially.

This shot of Hoi An's sleepy river life hides the numerous vendors hawking goods to crowds of international tourists.

This shot of Hoi An's sleepy river life hides the numerous vendors hawking goods to crowds of international tourists.

Everywhere I go, I see tourists and backpackers alike clutching the traveler’s tome, Lonely Planet. Be careful where you purchase your guide; I picked up my copy of the wayfarer’s bible and realized it was just that–a copy.

Eager to earn an extra couple thousand dong or two (one USD about 20,00 VND), many street vendors hawking books sell photocopies bound in what may seem like legitimate covers. What you may find inside may disappoint when the text runs grainy and the pages detach from the binding.

Jumping onto the backpacking bandwagon, I am spending my two weeks before my CELTA to travel up the coast of Vietnam and to get better acquainted with this no-longer-sleeping beauty.

The plan?

Three days in HCMC. Settle, and explore the town I’ll be living in for the next four weeks.

Two days in Nha Trang. Made famous when it hosted the Miss Universe Pageant in 2008, Nha Trang is known for it’s world-class beach—where you can find me.

The hard life of a beach bum in Nha Trang

The hard life of a beach bum in Nha Trang

Three days in Hoi An. Once the “it” port for international commerce, attracting trade from Japan, China, and Europe during the 16th century, Hoi An was slowly forgotten as the French set up in nearby Da Nang. Today, it’s historic streets flood with tourists looking for its traditional charms.

Four days in Hanoi. Hanoi, the capitol of Vietnam, is celebrating its 1,000th anniversary this October. For the first 10 days of the month the northern metropolis will be packed with tourists, domestic and international, to participate in designated festivities.

Back to HCMC. Settle from my backpacking venture, and prepare for the CELTA.

More to come. I’m trying not to be attached to my laptop—who needs the internet where there’s exploring to do?

Read more about each of the places I visited, including the best day ever in HCMC—meeting and greeting with travelers and locals in Saigon, Nha Trang’s comical “#1 Lady”—a beachside fruit hawker, my cooking class in sleepy Hoi An during monsoon season, and tips on traveling through Vietnam.

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Adventures through TEFL is a multimedia look at the sights, sounds, and insights of experiencing a different culture through teaching English as a foreign language.

A Fairview High School graduate of the class of 2006, Ginny Tonkin recently graduated from Principia College in Elsah, Illinois.

Feel free to share your thoughts with Ginny at ginnytonkin@gmail.com.

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