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From May 22nd to June 6th, I was in Vietnam. I went with a coworker named Huy who is on my current project. He was born in Vietnam, and came over to the U.S. when he was a kid, some time after the war. He had not been back since, and he asked if I wanted to join him. I wasn't about to pass up the opportunity! He also brought his parents along, and another coworker sent his sister Mina with us. Additionally, we met up with Huy's cousin in Saigon, and also the cousin's daughter.

We spent the first few days in Saigon, and afterword we toured the entire length of the country, all the way up north to Hanoi and Halong Bay. The sights were wonderful, and I always enjoy experiencing new cultures. As this was my first trip to Southeast Asia, it was truly an eye-opening experience. As one of very few caucasians, the locals certainly paid a lot of attention to me. We also met Huy's family in the town of Hue, where his aunt and uncle put us up in their hotel. They pampered us incredibly, and we had a grand time there. The town itself was also quite nice, with plenty to see. It was easily my favorite city that we visited.

All the attention I received, of course, had its up sides and down sides. Everyone there was very friendly to me. I even had one couple ask to take a picture with me. On the other hand, though, it was painfully obvious that the locals were always trying to overcharge me for things. Negotiation is a must, but a white guy in Vietnam can only get the prices down so much. Of course, even with the white guy tax, everything there is still incredibly cheap for someone travelling from the United States, so I didn't mind terribly. Even the government gets in on the action. Most government-owned sights and parks have a "foreigner" rate, which is usually double or triple the normal charge. With Huy's cousin Khan buying most of our tickets for us, we did avoid it some of the time, but sometimes the guards at the gate sent us back to the ticket booth. This annoyed me much more than getting overcharged by some local.

Overall, though, the trip was absolutely fantastic, and definitely a once in a lifetime experience. Huy certainly showed me a great time! Also, I of course took many photos. I have them all posted now, along with some from a recent stint in San Diego, and a short excursion to Red Rocks and Mount Elbert.

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 3:11 PM

I'm now going to San Diego for work instead of San Jose. Normally, that would be a blessing, but it seems that the month of May in San Diego is notoriously cloudy. Everybody here calls it "May Gray.&qout; So much for the "70 and sunny" I was promised!

Just prior to coming out to San Diego, I spent a weekend in Napa with some people from work. We had quite the group; we ended up with 16 people on the first day. We started the day at Chateau Montelena to taste their award-winning Chardonnay. I ended up buying one of their Zinfandels. We then moved on to Sterling, where we had a tram ride and a self-guided tour, and I purchased a Sangiovese. We then went to V. Sattui for lunch, followed by a final tasting at Gustavo Thrace in downtown Napa. Finally, we went to Rutherford Grill for dinner. The following day, four of us continued on to Sonoma. The first tasting room, Tin Barn, was actually in a warehouse. All of their wines were amazing, and I had a difficult time deciding what to purchase, but I eventually bought a Zinfandel and a Pinot Noir. We then went to the Mayo Reserve Room, where I found two more I liked: another Zinfandel and a Port. We then had some local pizza for lunch, and headed for the airport.

This last weekend, I went to Portland. I had never been there before, and I decided I wanted to go. Apparently, it's usually grey and drizzly this time of year, but I lucked out, as it was sunny the whole weekend. I spent Saturday hitting up the sights in the city, from the rose garden to the Japanese garden, to going up Mt. Tabor. I finished the evening by taking sunset photos of the city from across the river. The following day, I drove to Mt. Hood, and then made my way back to Portland along the Columbia River, stopping to see some of the area's beautiful waterfalls. I then made my way to the airport.

I'm now getting ready for my next trip, two weeks in Vietnam!

Posted by nick.steinbaugh at 9:10 PM