Folded Money In Unstable Countries

Folded Money In Unstable Countries

“No, not rich. I am a poor man with money, which is not the same thing.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I knew that when I went to Myanmar a few years ago that their bank only accepts foreign currency that is new, crisp, not torn and not folded and preferably in hundred-dollar bill denominations. I knew it and I forgot it. I went to the bank and got the sparkling new hundred-dollar bills. When I was packing, I promptly folded my crisp new hundred-dollar bills in half and put them in my passport case. This resulted in a black market money exchange, up a four flight betel nut stained stairway (which looks like dried blood),  to an apartment of someone who my non-English speaking driver knew.

I was not prepared in that way for Cambodia or new military controlled Thailand.

You can pay everything in dollars in Cambodia. But not if they are a bit torn or folded. Everyone examines your money the way an art dealer looks for a forgery. A barely visible ink dot, a half-millimeter tear, even a crease that has weakened the fibers, is enough to get your bill rejected. Many are rejected. Smaller bills like ones and fives could not be marked but did not have to be wrinkle free. Euros don’t seem to show the wear and tear that dollars do so you might consider using them.

In Thailand, they turned down a one dollar bill that I had just gotten as change in Cambodia. “It is too old, “ they said. Some countries wont accept any money minted before 2006.

The best thing when traveling to third world countries with unstable governments is to go to the bank and get crisp new bills before you go and don’t fold them.

Apparently, the more unstable and corrupt the government, the newer and cleaner, your dollars need to be. You wont have any problem with changing your rumpled money in Europe.

Fly safe,


Ha Long Bay, The Bay Of Descending Dragons, Viet Nam

Ha Long Bay, The Bay Of Descending Dragons, Viet Nam

“Heroes take journeys, confront dragons, and discover the treasure of their true selves.” Carol Pearson

Ha Long Bay is considered to be the most beautiful vista in Vietnam. It consists of 1,969 islands and islets situated in the Gulf of Tonkin.


This area is known for its spectacular seascape of limestone pillars. Ha Long Bay has been recognized as a World Natural Heritage Site by UNESCO.

The literal meaning of “Ha Long” is “Bay of Descending Dragons”. A local legend says that a family of dragons was sent to defend the land long ago when the Vietnamese were fighting the Chinese invaders. The dragons thought it was so beautiful that they decided to stay upon what is now Ha Long Bay.


It houses a great diversity of ecosystems including coral reefs, freshwater swamp forests, mangrove forest, small freshwater lakes, and sandy beaches.


The islands feature beautiful grottos and caves with interesting stone formations and hidden ponds.

The way to see Ha Long Bay is on a Vietnamese boat or junk. There are many options to choose from in all price ranges. I think one night is good but you can do more as well and explore many caves and beaches.


I was on the Paradise boat. ( It had good food, a relaxed atmosphere, a helpful friendly staff, tai chi, cooking lesson and luckily good weather for the boat to go out. ( captain, manager – very helpful)





Our first stop was exploring Amazing or Surprising Cave. I can’t remember the name. It was amazingly surprising.




The next day we took small boats or kayaks to explore some of the smaller areas.



There were monkeys.



I was the only American on the boat and I got to experience this amazing place with people from Taiwan, England, Korea, Brazil and Australia. Not everyone spoke English but we were all having the same connected interaction at the same time in this beautiful place. Travel, experiences, education and knowledge always make the world seem smaller.

Di du lịch một cách an toàn






Things I’ve Learned In Viet Nam

Things I’ve Learned In Viet Nam

“If in our daily life we can smile, if we can be peaceful and happy, not only we, but everyone will profit from it. This is the most basic kind of peace work.”

Thích Nhất Hạhn

It is spelled Viet Nam in Viet Nam in English and it seems to be spelled Vietnam in the US.

Vietnamese New Year is everybody’s birthday. Vietnamese  measure age by the number of lunar years you have lived.

Vietnamese weddings have seven to eight hundred guests. The groom’s family pays for the wedding.  (The men  like our tradition better) It  can be as cheap as ten dollars a head. The custom is to do the wedding above their social standing. (that sounds familiar)

Instead of bells, traditional gongs are used to call the Vietnamese children to school.


Although Vietnam is a developing country, it has a literacy rate of 94%.


Viets make up the largest ethnic group.  Nam means south country. Vietnam means country of southern Viets.


Fifteen per cent of Vietnamese  language is French ,fifteen per cent is minority groups and seventy per cent is Chinese.

They get along well with the other ethnic groups because Vietnamese believe that they are all people who” came from the same box”.


Among all developing countries, Vietnam has one of the lowest unemployment rates.


Korea is the biggest foreign investor in Viet Nam followed by Singapore, Hong Kong and Japan.

They are the number one exporter for black pepper and  number two exporter for cashews, coffee and rice.

Three big things in a Vietnamese life is getting a wife, building a house and buying a buffalo. ( I guess for non villagers that means a job now)


Vietnam is crawling with Australians. it is a four-hour flight. They know everything  – who the best tailors are, where to get glasses made, good guest houses. Even if it is their first time, they have that information from their friends.

Beauty Treatments are everywhere.


No you have not had the best Banh Mi sandwich of your life unless it is on the side of the road in Saigon or Hanoi.


Same goes for Vietnamese  coffee.


Ruou ran (snake wine), a Vietnamese specialty of rice wine with a pickled snake inside, allegedly can cure any sickness.


If an older person wants you to drink with them, you have to show respect and obedience and comply. Older people appreciate respect and obedience much more than ability and success.

Gambling in casinos in Vietnam is illegal for local people but legal for tourists and expats.

One million Vietnamese dong is close to about fifty dollars. You feel rich all the time in Vietnam because all your bills are in denominations of several thousands.

When a guest comes to your house, the more meat you prepare, the more important the guest.

Buddhism here involves a communal house to worship the ancestors They practice a Theravedic Buddhism which includes Taoist and Confucian teachings. (altar a house in the Mekong Delta)


Vietnamese believe in the Lady Buddha.


The communist attitude toward Buddhism and all religions greatly influenced the less strict practice of any religion in the country.

Vietnamese believe that Happy Buddha is a sign of good luck and good deeds. Starving is not the only way to become Buddha.


They believe in burial. When they are able to, they bury near their  houses so they can watch  the house.


The Vietnamese language has six different tones. A change in tone changes the meaning of the word. This makes their language somewhat difficult to learn.

Dog meat is relatively popular in Vietnam Probably not where you are eating.

Vietnamese don’t take a shower in the morning. They prefer to take a shower in the evening.

Teenagers in Vietnam  love anything Korean –  food, music, hairstyle, clothes, etc. Yes, K-POP is a big thing here.

So is karaoke.


When Vietnamese drink tea or water (or anything), they always leave 5 to 10% in the cup after drinking. They don’t empty their cups. There are many lovely teas – jasmine,ginger, peppermint, licorice and Palm leaf to name  a few.

According to the Vietnamese News, taxis are a stain on Vietnamese hospitality. Ho Chi Minh City distributed leaflets warning tourists and are wondering if that would help. Mai Linh and Vinasun are the most reliable taxis.

An estimated ten million motor bikes travel on the roads of Vietnam every day. You will be painfully aware of the mass use of motorbikes here. They crowd every alley, curb, and sometimes sidewalk. This is because in Vietnam, not only are bikes relatively cheap, but they’re easy to fix, and they run for many hours on just a few litres of gas,


Vietnamese take a nap after lunch. This means driving from twelve to one pm is really quiet and smooth. Yes, no traffic jam!


They wear helmets not to be safe on the roads but in order not to be fined by the police/traffic officers.


Nobody respects pedestrian lanes crossing here. The trick is be assertive and don’t stop crossing no matter how scary and also pray.


Every family has 2 or more motorbikes and they are parked on the ground floor. Sometimes  the living room is a garage at the same time.


The Vietnamese peasant cared nothing for politics in war-time. They leaned toward those who harassed them  the least. (American bunker near Danang)


The truth about this very special country is that you can’t really understand it without visiting it. Seeing the different Vietnam landscapes at sunset, sailing down Halong Bay and the Mekong River, watching the fishermen throw their nets in Hoi An, seeing the families on motorcycles after school, the water buffaloes in the rice paddies and the women in the triangle hats , drinking Vietnamese coffee, tasting the food and feeling the resilience, sense of humor and heart of the people are all things I will remember. It’s a mixture of images, sounds, and even smells and textures that can’t be compared to anything else in the world. (Phu Quoc sunset)


Di du lịch một cách an toàn


How To Talk About Places That You Haven’t Been To

How To Talk About Places That You Haven’t Been To

Every man can transform the world from one of monotony and drabness to one of excitement and adventure.” – Irving Wallace

It happens to everyone. . Suddenly all the dinner guests are discussing a place that you have never been to. It could be Paris, Australia or Coachella.   It could be places you’ve read about, places you’ve heard about, places you’ve wanted to visit, places you’ve forgotten existed or places you have never wanted to visit. To appear to be a well traveled and cultivated person in the twenty first century, you want to join the conversation.

How do you talk about a place that you have not been to?

First, nod and smile knowingly while the other person is talking like you know exactly what they are saying. If they say something like All the food in Japan is amazing. Agree. People love to be validated.

You have to remember that it is not necessarily a place but a connection the person had to the place that he is talking about. He is talking about how he felt when he saw the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem or how delicious the food was at El Bulli in Spain or what a fabulous purse she bought in Florence. You have connections to places also. You know what that feels like. This is where you get to use your imagination – to make up a story that happened to you in Paris, to say you were so drunk at Coachella at that you passed out and so and so happened,

The more creative you are, the more interesting your story will be. The average person will not pick up on the inaccuracies and truthfully travelers are much more interested in telling their own stories and are probably just waiting for you to finish.

Children are very good at pretending. When children pretend, anything is possible. Pretending to have gone somewhere is generally harmless. It might actually encourage you to plan the trip. It might be just the thing you need to get you to travel more. The next time the conversation comes up, you will have been there.

Fly safe,



How To Tell If Your Friend Is A Travel Addict

How To Tell If Your Friend Is A Travel Addict

“I wandered everywhere, through cities and countries wide. And everywhere I went, the world was on my side.” Roman Payne

Every story starts with when I was in……….

They love to look like at your travel photos.

They love to show you their travel photos.

They love to look up info and plan their friend’s trips.

They love to plan their own trips.

They go to travel meet-ups.

Their time at home is time between trips.

They always have foreign currency in their wallet.

They have more friends around the world then at home.

They are always dating someone that lives far away.

They read guidebooks or novels set in foreign countries over the latest best seller.

They think clean bathrooms that come with toilet paper are a luxury. They always carry toilet paper as a habit. They don’t even try to lock the door of a toilet and assume the lock is broken and hold the door closed at all times.

They always go to the travel section of a store or travel stores to see what is new.

They love looking at luggage. They are always looking for the perfect suitcase.

Their favorite clothing shopping phrase is “This would be great for traveling. “

They always know how much overweight their suitcase is just by picking it up.

Their bucket list is anywhere they have not been.

They love to write about their adventures.

They have their next trip planned before they come home from this one.

If you or someone you know has any of these symptoms, I will probably meet you somewhere in the world.

Fly Safe,


“Not My Circus. Not My Monkeys.” And Other Proverbs From Around The World

“Not My Circus. Not My Monkeys.” And Other Proverbs From Around The World

“A bird in the hand was worth two in the bush, he told her, to which she retorted that a proverb was the last refuge of the mentally destitute.” W. Somerset Maugham

Proverbs are short statements of wisdom or advice that are transmitted from generation to generation. Miguel de Cervantes would call it “a short sentence based on long experience”. I just learned that the study of proverbs is called paremiology. They make up words for anything. It is interesting how easily we relate to them no matter what country they are from. Here are some of my favorites.

Give even an onion graciously. Afghan

The one who asks
 questions doesn’t lose his way.

Don’t put gold buttons on a torn coat. Albanian

The good-looking boy may be just good in the face. American Apache

The fruit of silence is tranquility. Arabian

When elephants fight, ants get killed. Cambodian

Do not remove a fly from your friend’s forehead with a hatchet. Chinese

Don’t teach your mother how to make children. Colombian

You do not  teach the paths of the forest to an old gorilla. Congolese

Listen to what they say of others and you will know what they say of you. Cuban

One sprinkles the most sugar where the tart is burnt. Dutch

Use soft words and hard arguments, English 

The best brewer sometimes makes bad beer. German

The liar and the thief rejoice in their first year only.  Greek

A leaky house can fool the sun, but it can’t fool the rain. Haitian

There are hundreds of paths up the mountain, all leading to the same place, so it doesn’t matter which path you take. The only person wasting time is the one who runs around the mountain, telling everyone that his or her path is wrong.” Indian Hindu 

Mothers hold their children’s hands for just a little while… 
And their hearts forever. Irish

Since the house is on fire, let us warm ourselves. Italian 

The reverse side also has a reverse side. Japanese

I ask not for a lighter burden, but for broader shoulders. Jewish 

If you kick a stone in anger, you will hurt your own foot. Korean

To bend a bamboo, start when it is a shoot. Malaysian 

He who thinks he is leading and has no one following him, is only taking a walk. Malawian

it is not enough to know how to ride, you must also know how to fall. Mexican

Instruction in youth is like engraving in stone. Moroccan

Never marry a woman who has bigger feet than you. Mozambique

Not my circus. Not my monkeys. Polish 

He need not search his pockets for words. Russian

You can out distance that which is running after you but not what is running inside you.   Rwandan 

A greedy father has thieves for children. Serbian

Never trust your friend with a secret unless he is mute or a dog. Sicilian 

More grows in the garden than the gardener has sown. Spanish

Those who wish to sing, always find a song. Swedish 

The highest art is the art of living an ordinary life in an extraordinary manner. Tibetan

Kind words take the snake out of his hole. Turkish

Heaven creates the elephant, heaven will make grass.  Viet Nam

Who throws a stone in the market will hit a relative. Yoruban 

Any more?

Fly safe,




Top Ten Reasons To Visit Tokyo

Top Ten Reasons To Visit Tokyo

“The overriding sense of Tokyo…is that it is a city devoted to the new, sped up in a subtle but profound way: a postmodern science-fiction story set ten minutes in the future.” David Rakoff

If you haven’t been to Japan you are missing out. I can’t wait to return.

1. It is so exciting. Whatever cool electronic experience or sleek new building we have in NY, they have ten of them.

2. Their subway system is crazy good, clean, efficient, on time, safe restrooms, vending machine heaven, huge shopping malls and delicious food.


3. The food in Japan is outstanding and served beautifully. Everything is amazing but the sushi and sashimi will change your life.


4. It is one of the safest cities. The Japanese aren’t big on scamming tourists. It doesn’t go with their mindset of politeness and duty.


5. You can take a quick train and end up in an hour at a ryokan ( typical Japanese Inn and bath house) in Nikko and see the temples which is what we are doing. . Or go to Kamakura and see the giant outdoor Buddha if you haven’t already. (I have)


6. Their museums have weird exteriors but interesting exhibits. There are a few exhibits I want to see this time.


7. Tokyo street fashion is amazing and so entertaining to see. Even in this global society, it hits LA a few years later. Fashion changes so quickly in Japan that it is easy to find trendy inexpensive pieces. Fashion chain stores offer high-quality Japanese-made clothing in the latest styles — at reasonable prices. Halloween in Shibuya!!!!!

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8. Tokyo has the world’s best customer service and multi stage gift wrapping for anything you buy. It sometimes feels a little stalky as they follow you to the door carrying your beautifully wrapped purchase.

9.Tokyo has the most expansive sake list. Remember if you are drinking, Tokyo has very strict drunk driving rules for drivers and passengers so take one of the hundreds of cabs around at night.

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10. The most interesting thing about Tokyo is the juxtaposition of the old and the new. The unparalleled mass transit system and skyscrapers are next to shrines and paper lanterns. The fancy shopping malls are near small noodle shops and Japanese pastry stores. It is unbelievably crowded during the day, Nobody seems to sleep except on the train,  but it can also get very quiet late at night.


For more Tokyo blogs

yo I sorano tabi o,