fast car / southeast asia

Since I first started journaling seriously at the end of middle school, I've attempted to do trip reflections on the flight back home from any major travel experience. I spent the last month in Southeast Asia, so it only feels right to try to do the same, even though various mindless movies are tempting me from the in-flight entertainment system.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

My family really enjoys travelling. Part of that probably has to do with the dispersion of family members across the globe, but I'd been to Europe and multiple cities in China before I could even really process and understand the places I was going to. Many of my international trips have been to places where I have some grasp of the local language - China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Ireland, even Peru. This summer, I got to spend time fully immersed in unfamiliar places with near zero language understanding. We spent about ten days in Vietnam, visiting Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, and Halong Bay. Another ten days were spent in Thailand for Bangkok, Ayuthaya, and Chiang Mai. In addition to the language factor, this was the first foreign trip I've taken since gaining an interest in anthropology and cultural understanding. More than any other trip I've taken, I found myself striving to understand the local cultures, and constantly checking my thoughts and impact as an Asian-American tourist. Full immersion was quite difficult, given the fact that we did stand out as obvious tourists, but we strived for an authentic experience whenever possible (mostly with food). Being vegan in Vietnam actually led the way to a more local experience. Many vegan/vegetarian restaurants in the cities in Vietnam that we went to are run by Buddhists, and did not attempt to cater to tourists. They were often small, very low cost, family run, and off the beaten path. Ordering and paying involved a lot of pointing and writing, but many sincere moments were found here, where bright smiles and little head nods spoke more than the languages we didn't know how to speak. These tiny moments were the highlights of my trip. In my experience, being vegan in a foreign country often does provide more opportunities for exploration and local interaction than I think I would've had if food was more widely available to me.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hue, Vietnam

Hue, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

The food scene in Thailand proved very different, but incredibly satisfying nonetheless. Veganism in Thailand also has religious roots, but I noticed that many restaurants in Chiang Mai have taken a health and animal cruelty stance. The food we had was flavorful and fine-tuned, with spectrums of tastes I sometimes didn't even know how to process. There was a restaurant there called "Vegan Heaven", and I think that's a fair title for Chiang Mai. Our interactions with restaurants there were a bit different - we provided amusement in Vietnam for our inability to handle the unfamiliar currency, but entertained in Thailand through the sheer amount of food we ordered (and finished).

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, Thailand

Ayutthaya, Thailand

Ayutthaya, Thailand

Tom Yum Fried Rice

Tom Yum Fried Rice

Other than our food adventures, we spent a lot of our time visiting historical and religious sites. Hanoi's Museum of Ethnology, Ayutthaya's ruins, Hue's Imperial Palace, and the various ornate Buddhist temples of Bangkok and Chiang Mai were fascinating glimpses into the past. Unfortunately, I still don't think I had enough context to draw mental connections between history and the present, which I would want to better understand in future travels.

May Kaidee Vegetarian Cooking Class - Chiang Mai, Thailand

May Kaidee Vegetarian Cooking Class - Chiang Mai, Thailand

In addition to Vietnam and Thailand, we spent a bit of time in Hong Kong and half a day in Seoul. In Hong Kong, I was fascinated in the role of language, and how the use of Mandarin, Cantonese, and English can change how locals treat you. My family speaks Cantonese, but my parents chose to teach me Mandarin as it's a more "universal" language. Mandarin is not well-received in Hong Kong due to the political resentment of mainland China, so I often attempted Cantonese or spoke in English in an effort to distance myself from tourists from China, who I felt very little connection to despite my ethnic background. The tension between languages was interesting, and I wonder how the relationship will continue to develop in the coming years.

Mongkok, Hong Kong

Mongkok, Hong Kong

In Seoul, I was fascinated by the society wide obsession with cosmetics and fashion. I think it's fair to say I've never felt as physically insecure as I did walking through the subway stations of Seoul, where the first thing after the ticket turnstiles is a full-length mirror. I didn't spend enough time to really understand the obsession with appearance, but it was definitely the place I felt most out of place in during the trip.

Vegan ramen from Huggers in Itaewon, Seoul.

Vegan ramen from Huggers in Itaewon, Seoul.

I found the past month to be a wonderful learning experience. Packing as lightly as I did was exciting – being able to move from one hostel to the next with a small backpack made travelling a lot less stressful. As with most fun experiences, it ended too quickly. Next pre-work adventure: Alaska!
 

Lantern festival - Hoi An, Vietnam

Lantern festival - Hoi An, Vietnam

you were never alone

I'll start off with a feel good song for a feel good post. 

Summer minutes are dwindling fast. This summer has probably been the most rewarding summer I've ever had. I'm consistently happy for the first time for as long as I can remember. This doesn't mean that everything is perfect, but I am extremely satisfied with the progress I'm making in all aspects of my life, and incredibly grateful for the people around me. 

Reflections on the Red Line T.

Reflections on the Red Line T.

I have time to work on most of the things I want to do outside of work. I've been making time to read, write, play guitar, and spend valuable time with the people I love. 

I'm flexing my photographic eye constantly now. For the first time since last summer, I'm interested enough in the world around me to seize moments I used to pass on. I stop. I breathe. I shoot. 

Aggressively confused squirrel in Boston Common. 

Aggressively confused squirrel in Boston Common. 

Golden hour never looked so fake.

Golden hour never looked so fake.

I've found my 50/50 introverted/extroverted self a good balance of personal and social time. Although sometimes it would be good to have friends...like when I wanted to take a photo of someone in this beautiful lighting...

Yours truly. 

Yours truly. 

This is a summer I'll never forget, and a summer I know I'll be nostalgic for for years to come. There should be a word for that...knowing that you'll be nostalgic for something before it's even passed. I have 3 weeks left, and I hope to make the most of it. 

 

rediscovering, repurposing

I’ve been pretty AWOL from my blog (and photography in general) for a while now. Part of it was the chaos of schoolwork, part of it was the loss of vision. I haven’t been happy with my photos for a while now, mostly due to the neglect. I’ve been trapped in a bit of a haze, and I’m hoping summer will fix this. 

The discontinuation of FP-100C was unexpectedly disheartening. I had begun to view the world around me with a Land camera filter, almost. Despite the size and weight of those cameras, they were the cameras that I carried with me and ached to shoot with. I sold both my EE100s and Land 450 after the film was discontinued. I didn’t want to be attached to something that didn’t exist anymore. 

I felt like I retreated into a shell after that. I took photos now and then, but I stopped bringing cameras with me everywhere, stopped looking, and most importantly, stopped taking photos even when I noticed something worthwhile. I ignored my eye and my instincts. As a result, I ignored a big aspect of myself. 

I find joy in the little things, the very things that make me pause in the incessant flutter of time to inhale the present and exhale my worries. Photography is my form of expression, but it’s also my form of introspection. 

I have a lot of goals this summer—gain some more guitar skills, read a variety of books, become more confident in my sketching, and find myself again. Undoubtedly, that process will be closely tied to photography. I’ll be posting a lot more from now on—I’m excited, and I can only hope that you are too. :) 

A photo of a plant outside of my office for the summer. It's heavily underexposed, but I was trying to invoke the sense of eeriness and emptiness that I was feeling. 

A photo of a plant outside of my office for the summer. It's heavily underexposed, but I was trying to invoke the sense of eeriness and emptiness that I was feeling. 

A common scene on my 30 minute walk to/from work through Somerville. The sky was particularly beautiful today. 

A common scene on my 30 minute walk to/from work through Somerville. The sky was particularly beautiful today.