Tokyo ~ Sights in the City

The crushing population, weird fashion, delicious fish, tasty beer, flashing lights, bowing politely, expensive taxis: it’s Tokyo. Although the culture shock wasn’t too much for me after living in Seoul for seven years, it’s still quite a place to see. There are lots of different neighborhoods, tiny alleys, broad boulevards, a plethora of small noodle shops, cute shopping districts and crazy nightlife. Continue reading “Tokyo ~ Sights in the City”

Nha Trang ~ The Russian and Backpacker Beach

Its natural beauty is easy on the eyes, but as with most resort towns, tourists find a way to crowd out the beauty to be replaced by high rise hotels and trendy beach bars. The city is overwhelmed with Russian tourists due to the one way flights serviced from Moscow. Signs and menus are posted in Vietnamese, French, Russian and English. The Russians seem to be a hard bunch to impress and walk around with faces that seem to ask, “Is this all ya got?”

The party area is loaded with backpacker bars and restaurants/pectopahs. There is an amazing place called Louisiane Brewhouse (29 Tran Phu) with six house brewed beers. I ordered the sampler and wasn’t disappointed. The cheeseburger; however, was a total letdown. It was under-cooked and had the amateur hour problem of meat patty being smaller than the bun. But, wifi was fast, there is a pool, and perhaps the overpriced seafood was better.

I also went to I-resort. A short ride away over the bridge into the locals-only part of town (some of the roads aren’t even paved yet). They offer a range of services, but for 300,000 dong (15$) you can get 20 minutes in a mud bath, floating in delicate minerals that alleviate a variety of health issues, all-day access to warm mineral pools and comfortable lounge chairs. I spent the day pruning my hands in the soothing water, tanning and reading.



The food was not impressive. I stayed four days, ate two big fish (which were pretty good), a decent pizza, decent tikka masala, a terrible eel dish, and two very poor, under-cooked cheeseburgers (I-resort and Louisiane Brewhouse). I did eat a very delicious bacon cheeseburger at Booze Cruise Bar (110 Nguyen Thien Thuat). I know I shouldn’t be eating so many burgers, but there’s just something about being at the beach that makes me crave a “cheeseburger in paradise!” Below is a nice Indian food breakfast beside the beach, and a terribly bony eel dish.



This place, NT Fitness, owned by a few expat bros from England, was a huge highlight and allowed me a chance to get in a few curls, watch a Russian guy bench 200kgs and get in a nice banana protein shake. It was top notch for any city in the world, four floors of various equipment and hardwood exercise rooms.


I stayed at Mojzo Inn (120 Nguyen Thien Thuat), a cute place with irrepressibly cute staff. They were helpful, cheery and greeted me with the same, “Hey Wirl,” at all times of the day. The rooms are clean and well equipped.

I kept hearing how lots of backpackers have begun skipping this city completely due to negative word-of-mouth. Yes, it’s crowded, loud, pushy, and has mediocre food, but…I’m not sure how to finish that sentence. I didn’t hate it; I didn’t love it. You can party here, get a tan, shop for expensive goods, eat fresh seafood, ride the longest cable car over water in the world, drink beer that isn’t yellow, float in clean mud, or get a bike and ride to the distant beaches 20km north or south of the main city.






Massage in Asia

No, I don’t mean that all too frequent use of the word, as in “happy time massage.” I mean a true, therapeutic relaxation for the achy muscles of the body. Asia is a mecca of cheap, excellent massages. I’m a big believer in massage to relieve tension and toxins, especially after long transit, carrying heavy backpacks or party nights. I tried a few places around the world, and here’s what I’ve learned:

1) Don’t let a pretty girl standing outside her shop be your masseuse.

They can be distracting (to men) and usually have no idea what they are doing. It will end up being an hour of gentle rub-down leaving you feeling tingly like gerbils just ran around on your skin, but not deep muscle relaxation. You can let her coerce you inside, but make sure the girl trained or knowledgeable about the body does the massaging.

2) Don’t go to a shop where you can’t see inside.

If there are blinds or curtains or no chairs visible, it’s not a good sign. They are probably hiding something.

3) Don’t go if it’s dirty.

The shop should be immaculate. Everything should smell new and fresh and pleasing to the senses. Dirty could mean dirty towels, tables, water, oil, hands etc.

4) Don’t get pressured into more than what you want.

This is hard, because they make it sound amazing. Think what you want before (30, 60, 90 min) (face, feet, back) and make a good deal with them. But sometimes you should listen if they say they are experts in a certain style.

5) Don’t be afraid to show them your problem areas / communicate.

If they speak English, great, if not, use body language. Make sure you get the correct muscles taken care of during your time. They will usually ask a few minutes in, “Okay?” That’s your chance to say, “Stronger, softer, faster, slower etc.”

6) Make sure they are wearing a uniform.

If they are in their casual attire, they’re not taking their job seriously. This rule isn’t necessary if you are just doing a foot massage. Anytime anyone touches your feet it’s a good thing.

**Bonus Tip: Don’t even bother going if you’re sunburned. Just get the baby oil, aloe; put on some soft cotton clothes and pump the A/C.

So essentially, common sense, yet I have made all these mistakes. Find a professional, clean looking place; a happy, helpful staff; tell them exactly what you need and relax. Different countries specialize in different styles. Taiwan and China are great with foot acupressure. Korea does extremely strong sports massages. SE Asia usually does a version of Thai/Swedish.

I’ve found in SE Asia, you can pay between 7-15$ for an hour massage at small shops, and 30-70$ at higher quality resorts. Quality always ranges, so start with a 30 minute test run, then you will know if you want more. They are always happy to oblige. Some places use oil and may require you to be naked or in underwear. Others will use a towel over your shirt. Also remember to rehydrate immediately after to flush all the toxins that have been released through the muscles into the bloodstream. Coconut water, with the added potassium, is great if available. And don’t drink alcohol for a few hours as your kidney is overworked with the released waste.