The Longjing Tea Village in Hangzhou

The Longjing Tea Village in Hangzhou is a sort of holy land for tea drinkers. Longjing tea is smooth, mellow, and can be ridiculously expensive. If you’d asked me two years ago whether I thought I would become a tea drinker or even care about the subtle differences in types of tea, I would’ve spit black coffee right in your face. Now, after living for a year and a half in the land of tea, I can say I’ve been converted. I’m a tea drinker. And my heartburn’s much better now.

Hangzhou, and the Longjing Tea Village, is only an hour or so away from Shanghai by fast train. It was an energizing, non-jitter inducing day trip.

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Chasing Elephants in Khao Yai National Park

Khao Yai National Park is full of animals. Despite being only three hours or so from Bangkok (or almost a full day if you go the way we did), the park is still a relatively pristine wilderness. It’s home to an astounding variety of wildlife; monkeys, lizards, snakes, hornbills, gibbons, and one of the last remaining populations of wild Asian elephants.

Do I like cool wild animals and jungles? Yes. Yes, I do very much. Sure, I could go to the zoo, (or an elephant sanctuary, which I did) but the zoo’s got nothing on seeing an animal in its natural habitat.

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Shipyards and Strawberries on Chang Xing Island

Our Chang Xing Island adventure started with a message from the boss. “We’re going to Chang Xing Island next week. We booked a hotel room for you.” That was it.

Was it a business trip? Was it a vacation? How long were we going to be gone? What were we going to be doing? What the hell was a “­Chang Xing Island” anyway?

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An “Authentic” Hill Tribe Trek in Chiang Rai, Thailand

“Authentic.” What does that word even mean? Part of the reason we travel is to have an “authentic” experience. We want to see what the “real” locals look like. What is “authentic” daily life for the people in the countries we’re visiting?

All too often, this quest for the “authentic” is framed through centuries of backward (and often racist) stereotypes. We Westerners travel to exotic lands, expected to be greeted and delighted by foreign tribal savages, living as if they were a live-action issue of National Geographic.

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Hue, Vietnam is tragically underrated.

Hue, Vietnam Citadel gate

We met a tour guide in Hoi An, Vietnam who was born and raised in the nearby city of Hue. We told him we were staying there for two nights. He frowned at us.

“Most people spend four hours in Hue,” he said. “Even a full day is too long.”

This seemed to be the sentiment of most of the fellow travelers we met in our hostel. The consensus was that Hue was fine, but really just a pit stop on the road to the bigger and better attractions of Da Nang and Hoi An. It might be the most underrated place I’ve ever been to.

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