When traveling in much of the developing world, having money in small denominations is important. Even when traveling in the so-called “First World,” having small denominations is helpful for tips and such. But in Vietnam, as Triporati expert Richard Sterling reports, having small money is essential. Without it, getting the simplest things done becomes a chore.

Richard moved to Vietnam last year and sent this dispatch about life in his Saigon neighborhood.

The View From 608

Life as I see it from apartment 608 on Ngo Tat To (”No Tattoo”) Street, Saigon

By Richard Sterling

A DOLLAR AND A DIME

You’ve always got to have “small money” in your pocket. In Vietnam or any other “Third World” country, any poor country, you need small money. There are too many persons who simply can’t or won’t break a five. Or a six, as the case may be. Here in Vietnam, for example, we have the 50,000 Dong note. A laughably big number for a sum that amounts to a three dollar bill. Years ago I asked a beggar here, when he pressed me for alms, for change of a 50,000 Dong note. More the fool I. The poor old sod had maybe one one hundredth of that in his krinkly, wrinkled hands. Then there was the time in Mexico when I was pulled over by a traffic cop. I earnestly tried to convince him that the stop sign was hidden by the tree (so providently placed), and so I couldn’t see it. He politely responded, “It’s not much money, Señor.” The smallest I had was a tenner. I asked him if he had change. He might have had a pocket full of ones and fives, but the answer was, of course, a smiling “Sorry, Señor.” I ponied up the ten-spot. Lesson learned. Carry small money. Always, carry small money. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Adventure Travel, Feature, Saigon, Travel, United States, Vietnam

I’m sure I am not alone in “not getting” why gas prices are so high when oil is selling so much lower than last year. The San Francisco Bay Area is particularly bad; this photo is from last summer. I remember visiting Hawaii and realizing we paid more for gas in San Francisco than an island in the South Pacific, but go figure…

I also don’t get why it’s more to pick your own fruit at an orchard than to buy it at Farmer’s Market. Anyway, I do get that as summer is around the corner we are going to get hit with even higher prices to fill up. I thought this Rand McNally list was very helpful. I particularly like the bit about open sunroofs causing a significant decrease in gas mileage. So buckle up, gas up, close your sunroof and get ready for a lot of summer driving OR DON’T. Let’s hope we don’t see these prices again. Even though I think it’s a good thing to decrease driving, I can’t stomach these prices.

Leave a Comment | Filed Under Budget Travel, Driving Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Farmer's Markets, Hawaii, Northern California, San Francisco, Travel, Travel Tips

I like city driving; not freeways, but I can handle the Marin route out of San Francisco. So, I have made the trip to the Healdsburg area in Sonoma County three times in the last few months. Recently, for a birthday party at a lovely B & B called the Gipson Bed & Breakfast, owned by an old friend and his wife.

I had been to the same spot last summer for an epic 50th Russian Dacha birthday party, where many guests camped and a Russian BBQ ensued with a zip line, trampoline, bubbles, pool, jacuzzi and pogo-sticks for the big and little kids and of course shots of vodka and blinis for the hearty adults. This time it was for a five-year-old’s party, the daughter of my friends, the innkeepers.

Healdsburg lies at the crossroads of three of California’s most famous wine growing appellations: Dry Creek Valley, Alexander Valley and the Russian River Valley. It is surrounded by more than 60 wineries and is a favorite Sonoma Wine Country destination. Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Camping, Canoe/Kayak, Day Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Farmer's Markets, Feature, Food, Hike/Backpack, Northern California, Student Travel, Wine Tours, Yoga

R2I

Posted by Darya Mead

I was driving to work yesterday and heard a compelling report on NPR about the R2I phenomenon. R2I is short for “Return to India,” the story of so many who have perhaps studied and lived in the U.S. for many years and have now decided to return home. For many, it is the pull of the aging parents or maybe the desire to bring their knowledge and expertise to their homeland. There is no better time as the U.S. economy declines and the Indian economy continues to be robust.

With recent elections and the distractions arch-enemy Pakistan is facing, many Indian ex-pats are packing up their Silicon Valley, New Jersey or Dallas digs and heading home. According to Sandip Roy’s NPR report, web sites offer advice on everything from who’s hiring in Bangalore to how much gold you can bring home. Dubbed “a brain drain in reverse,” many of these folks jumping on the R2I train are in their mid–thirties, with families and higher degrees.  When they return, despite their heritage, many experience a culture shock. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Culture, Family Travel, Feature, Food, India, Returning Home, Travel Tips, United States

We were invited to a friend’s cabin in Bear Valley, California a few weeks ago. It was the last weekend for skiing, with ideal spring skiing weather. It was so warm as we drove up I couldn’t quite imagine that I would be on the slopes the next day. We stopped for an early dinner on the way, in the town of Murphys, a cute gold town hotspot. We had yummy tacos on a balmy spring evening at Firewood café and soaked in the warmth of the early evening sun

The next day we did wind up downhill skiing at the family friendly Bear Valley Resort. It was the first time in 12 years for me, even though I cross country ski a lot, and the first time, ever, for my two boys.  On the Sunday our hosts suggested a walk in the Redwoods. I had no idea they were so close! This spot is nestled between Gold Country and Mountain ski resorts; what an amazing destination! Then I found out that where we were staying was just a stone’s throw from one of the premier Redwood Forests in Northern California. I’ve lived in San Francisco for more than 15 years and I have only visited the Redwoods a handful of times, and not in a long while. It was awesome. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under California, Family Travel, Food, Gold Country, Hike/Backpack, Restaurants, Skiing, Winter Fun

Triporati Producer Gwynn Gacosta just returned from a remarkable trip to the Philippines to fulfill her mother’s final wishes. She wanted to scatter her mom’s ashes in the river where she used to swim as a child. The funny, challenging and poignant journey is captured in her own words—a blog post we wanted to share with you:

Final Resting Place

I planned my funeral, once, when I was ten years old.  I decided that I would be cremated, and my ashes sprinkled in all five oceans.  (Not only was I morbid, but I was also grandiose.) My future husband would travel around the world, leaving bits of me wherever he went.

My mother died 5 years ago of heart failure, and she told me that she, too, wished to be cremated. She also wanted her ashes taken to her hometown in Bulusan, Philippines, then scattered in the river where she used to swim as a child.  Immediately after she died, I started the process of making that wish a reality.  The funeral home placed her remains in a plastic box wrapped in a silk sheath so that it would go through airport security without hassle.  I wrote to my relatives in Bulusan and told them the plan.  To my surprise I was met with protests from my family, led by the parish priest, who insisted that she would never be at rest unless she was buried somewhere where people could actually visit and reflect.  Since no one in the family had the money to go anyway, we put her final wish on hold and her urn on the mantle.  But I always knew that one day I would take her.  She had counted on me. Continue reading »

2 Comments | Filed Under Asia, Culture, Feature, final wishes

There is always a dilemma, do you spread the word about a great place or keep quiet so others don’t intrude. Well it’s too late for Marin County’s Tennessee Valley. Any given weekend will find hordes of joggers, hikers, seniors, horseback riders and families hiking the trails of this Bay Area gem.

Nestled in Tam Valley, a part of Mill Valley, this spot is easily accessible by San Franciscans and Marinites alike. Over the years we have taken hard core hikes with friends, leisurely walks with visitors from out of town and quickie visits to get fresh air and bask in the beautiful scenery. If I were a visitor from abroad or out of town, this would be a great day trip to get a flavor of the tremendous wealth of the Bay Area hiking scene.  Continue reading »

Leave a Comment | Filed Under California, Day Trips, Eco Friendly Travel, Family Travel, Food, Hike/Backpack, Marin County, Northern California, Pubs

As swine flu spreads, and fear along with it, more and more travelers are canceling their trips to Mexico. But they still want to get away. So we at Triporati created MexicoAlternatives.com to help travelers discover the locations around the world that are most similar to the popular Mexican destinations they had previously booked. Now travelers can salvage their plans, and find the travel experiences most comparable to the ones they had hoped to find in Mexico, without being in harm’s way.

Instead of Cancun, how about Rimini, Italy or Aruba or Boracay, Philippines?

Instead of Cabo San Lucas how about Isla Margarita, Venezuela or the Bay Islands of Honduras or Gran Canaria, Spain?

See all of the best options at MexicoAlternatives.com.

1 Comment | Filed Under Feature, Mexico, North America