i love it when you call me big papa

I love this old graduation photo of my dad. IMG_6852 (1).PNG

Oh, scholarly Daddio, please bless me with your study mojo and your wisdom for how to eat 3 meals in one sitting. (also, I’m happy I inherited my mama’s face but daaamn my daddy had a nice nose.) Happy Father’s Day to all the big papas out there.

I hope they serve champagne in the afterlife.

xo your friend alice

Location: Taiwan

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west and the rest

“The Western scientific heritage is founded upon an epistemological system that prizes the objective over the subjective, the logical over the intuitive, and the empirically verifiable over the mystical. The methods of social-scientific examinations of cultures are thus already value laden; the choice to examine and understand other cultures by these methods involves a commitment to certain values such as objectivity. Scientific discourse has a privileged place in Western cultures, but the discourses of myth, tradition, religion, and mystical insight are often the dominant forms of thought and language of non-Western cultures. To insist on trying to understand nonscientific cultures by the methods of Western science is not only distorting, but is also an expression of an attempt to maintain a Eurocentric cultural chauvinism: the chauvinism of science. According to this objection, it is only by adopting the (often nonscientific) perspectives and methods of the cultures studied that real understanding can be achieved.”

– Against the Multicultural Agenda: A Critical Thinking Alternative, Yehudi Webster (1997)

Location: Tokyo, Japan

(ii) just wanna be with you, hanoi

My favorite part about Hanoi was perching on balconies overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake or the ever present roar of motorbikes on the street below; drinking iced coffee with treacly condensed milk, creamy fresh milk, or decadent egg cream whilst listening to compilations of romantic French chansons or bopping along to the self-appointed DJ’s mix of S Club 7 and Eurythmics. Every single day we visited at least 2-3 cafes. Partly to grab wifi to plan our next stop or meet with our Hanoian compadres, but also just to feel the wind in our hair and sit cross-legged on plush cushions. After kicking up dust all day in Birkenstocks, working on that calf curvature, my favorite thing to do was unstrap my shoes and put my feet up whenever we stopped to drink coffee. That probably sounds really gross, but no one cared and it was so comforting and freeing to be outside of my rules-based existence in Tokyo.

In the course of 3-4 days in Hanoi we visited no less than 7 cafes: Note Cafe, Pho Co (2x because this was my favorite rooftop lookout spot), Cong Caphe (2x as this is a chain), Giang, Loading T (2x because the owner Sun was such a homie), Tranquil Books & Coffee, and Dinh Coffee. I have no regrets.

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the sky really was this pink as the sun set overlooking the lake…IMG_8317IMG_7772on Sunday when the street is open to pedestrians only and a festival atmosphere invades the Hoàn Kiếm District…IMG_7788life is tops at Cafe Pho Co, my personal favorite cafe…IMG_7844IMG_7840feat. my super fly manicure from Orchids SpaIMG_7873IMG_7863little girl practicing her roller blading in Lenin Park (Thong Nhat)IMG_7883.jpgVietnamese Women’s Museum [looking down]IMG_7990.jpgIMG_7969.jpgIMG_7818.jpgCaitlin was my travel partner for our 9 day trip in Vietnam. We met on move-in day for college dorms and we’ve remained good friends to this day, never letting more than a year pass before we see each other, and always in different places (so far Richmond, VA, Washington D.C., San Luis Obispo, Oakland/SF, and she visited me in Tokyo). We both have ambitious dreams and every time we reunite we treat our time together as check-ins about where we want to go next. Most importantly, I cherish the honesty in our relationship. We are both very growth-oriented and want to continuously improve and learn from our human errors and vulnerabilities. As much as friends should be cheerleaders in our lives, they should also be able to point you towards real obstacles and inspire you to overcome challenges. I love that we’ve maintained this beautiful support system and our first international trip (where we were both traveling) was definitely a friendship level up! This trip was just 5 days before her graduation from medical school. Congratulations Caitlin! I love you so much ❤

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Saint Joseph’s CathedralIMG_7754IMG_8350.jpgIMG_7942IMG_7939Dan Q. makes a Hanoi cameo…IMG_6561IMG_7875IMG_7994IMG_8392a night at the Hanoi Opera…IMG_7929IMG_7914IMG_7918.jpgIMG_8485IMG_7758IMG_8365.jpgwhen lovely strangers want to take a photo with you…

IMG_8343IMG_8341hello from the Long Biên BridgeIMG_8440One
You’re like a dream come true
Two
Just want to be with you
Three
Girl, it’s plain to see
That you’re the only one for me
And four
Repeat steps one through three
Five
Make you fall in love with me
If ever I believe my work is done
Then I’ll start back at one

‘Back at One’ by Brian McKnight is the inspiration for this blog title. It also happened to be the first dance song my brother Will and sister-in-law Priya chose for their wedding ❤

xo your friend alice

Location: Hanoi, Vietnam

ha long(ing iv you) bay

I’m not sure if it’s because I grew up in Utah going on hikes, swimming, and camping or if living by trails and beaches in California ingrained it in me, but as much as I love the big city, nature is where I am able to rest and recharge most. We took a 2 day 1 night jaunty cruise in Ha Long Bay, an approximately 3 hour bus ride from central Hanoi, and it was as majestic as all the photos I’ve seen.

feat. Nicole, CFranswag, Lara, Thien, and hella limestone karstsIMG_6537.jpgIMG_8082IMG_8105

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IMG_8315xo your friend alice

Location: Hạ Long Bay, Quảng Ninh Province, Vietnam

(i) miss saigon

“Like oil on water, my memories resurfaced all the time. Today in Vietnam, one can feel a secretive, inward life that is not visible on the surface and yet is there, all around us.” – Pierre Schoendoerffer, French film director and Vietnam war photographer


I have to be honest. I did not expect to love Vietnam as much as I did. I imagined it the way many travel bloggers depict it — a tropical place with abundant and extremely cheap street food, and nearly as prolific and parsimonious backpackers. This was probably colored by my most recent experience in South East Asia last summer when I visited Siem Reap, an otherwise sleepy town that is dominated by the tourism trade due to its proximity to the Angkor temples.

I admit I am wary of comparatively affluent, Western backpackers using South East Asia as a marching ground for their wanderlust and self-appointed mission to ‘find themselves’ in a mode that can feel exploitative. But everyone, and especially young people, should feel free to make mistakes and explore without the burden of judgment; their experiences shape what kinds of people they will become. Who am I to judge? I belong to this category too. I hope that contact with Asian cultures grants a broader perspective and shapes cultural sensitivity, rather than encouraging hit and run tourism due to its relative affordability. But really, I do judge you if you visit a place for the first time and your only memories are from the inner organs of bars. There is more to a place than its booze (even if that is sometimes a significant part of a place).

Vietnam seems deeply affected by the memory of war and the scars of foreign intervention. Agent Orange seemed horrible in history books, but the reality of it was even more gruesome when faced with pictorial evidence at the War Remnants Museum. After seeing this, I declared in my own mind my intent pacifism. And yet, I question myself even on this platform. Is it enough to disavow war? Can a passive pacifist change the course of future armed conflicts? How do you honor pacifism while respecting those who sacrificed themselves for a conflict imposed by higher powers?

I’m grateful to have visited at an age too where I have learned some measure of critical thinking, because I think as a younger person, maybe at 12 or 13, I might’ve missed the strong propagandist tone of some of these same museum exhibits. The two narratives of national defeat and reunification in Vietnam post 1975 seem equally present depending on who you ask and it wasn’t always clear whether people preferred the pre or post war regime.

But, aside from the heavy historical introspection, I am happy to have discovered Saigon is a metropolitan city full of young people chasing dreams. I am grateful I came into contact with Vietnamese peers of my own age group who helped me to see it from the perspective of the ‘New Vietnam’; an emerging economy with a creative and entrepreneurial class. Thanks to my friend Dan, I met such kind people with an appreciation for mixed media, literature, and music. Having a connection with young people from far flung places makes your experience seem not that dissimilar.

Since a couple friends have asked, we enjoyed Piu Piu for dancing, The Lunch Lady for the bomb-est streetside noodles (featured on Bourdain’s No Reservations), Bánh Mì Huỳnh Hoa (beware the light green chilis though!), and this Phuong spot for phở (conveniently around the corner from the Lunch Lady).

feat. Caitlin Franswag, Dan QT, and Molly

optimal hangover food phở real! now I knowIMG_7570.jpgIMG_7576.jpgit was phở-nomenalIMG_7584.jpgIMG_7605.jpgbeautiful cotton candy pink Tân Định Catholic ChurchIMG_7628

IMG_7639IMG_7620.jpgIMG_7669.jpgIMG_7632IMG_7606IMG_7629banh xeo, one of the greatest food revelations I had in Vietnam. it’s a sizzling rice pancake whose golden skin is christened with turmeric powder, then stuffed with slivers of fatty pork, shrimp, diced green onion, and bean sprouts, wrapped in a big leafy green blanket and bathed in chili sauce // we made half day trip out to the Cu Chi tunnel system, about 45 km north built by Viet Cong guerrillas during the Vietnam WarIMG_7693IMG_7682we were there on April 30, the 42nd anniversary of the Fall of Saigon April 30, or the Liberation of Saigon, depending on who you ask; in modern Vietnam it’s celebrated as ‘Reunification Day’, a national holiday poised just the day before ‘Workers Day’.IMG_6219.jpgIMG_7714IMG_7621We crashed at Bunker Bed, Breakfast & Bar, with the dopest host Mike Pham, an entrepreneurial renaissance man who worked with Dan to film a series of videos featuring cultural aspects of Hanoi. Check it out here on CNN! In addition to being a really chill dude, I was inspired by his lifestyle and all the nooks of his place stuffed with all sorts of literature and art. I’ll follow up with posts from Hanoi and Ha Long Bay as well, the respectively quaint historical and natural wonder legs of the trip. (Actually I took the least photos in Saigon. There were much fewer tourists in the city so I felt goofy brandishing my DSLR even if it is small hanging fruit compared to the cameras I’ve seen out and about.)

xo your friend alice

Location: Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), Vietnam

spotted in: narita airport

khmer we can 047.JPGwhat if fish could fly?

On my way to Vietnam for the Golden Week holiday (a cluster of national holidays during the first week of May that allows many Japanese employees to take a week off from work)! Squeee! I can’t wait to explore this country and also meet up with my high school friend Dan, whose grandparents and several family members live in Saigon, and also Caitlin and Molly, friends from college. I got smart and booked a non-stop flight that earns mileage this time around, which cost about $100 more than the budget option, but I think is worth saving the extra 10 hours of travel time and not dealing with rude flight agents and random delays (cough china eastern cough cough).

I know I’ll be in good hands with Dan, but any recommendations out there for must-sees/dos/eats in Vietnam? Cảm ơn! (thank you!)

xo your friend alice

Location: Narita Airport, Chiba Prefecture, Japan

dont stop chasin’ sakura

This is a photo diary of my various hanami hunting exploits this season…feel free to skip if you get queasy seeing the reproductive organs of angiosperms.

Hanami means flower viewing, and it’s no exaggeration to say that it becomes a national pastime in Japan during the month of April when the cherry blossom buds come to fruition and yield a magical canopy of flowers. There is no way to capture in words or images the beauty of Japan during this time of the year; an effervescent week of full bloom that ends before you blink your eyes and notice the heavy rains that have fluttered the blossoms to the streets beneath your feet.

“The cherries’ only fault: the crowds that gather when they bloom”
– Saigyo Hoshi, 12th-century poet

feat. Agnes, Kelly, Daniel, and many beautiful strangersIMG_6604IMG_6607IMG_6687.jpgIMG_6644lady’s harmonica club, Yasukuni-jinjaIMG_6668IMG_6639IMG_6761IMG_6698weeping sakura, Imperial Palace

someone was here at 6 am to reserve this spot it’s THAT serious, Yoyogi ParkIMG_6704.JPGIMG_6605IMG_6746IMG_6875IMG_6878

paper lanterns, Meguro RiverIMG_6877IMG_6918.jpgsalaryman hanami, Ueno Park

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my boo ❤

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IMG_7040IMG_7051till death do us part, Shinjuku GyoenIMG_7066

IMG_7129.jpgIMG_7135IMG_7077IMG_7159which way? Inokashira KoenIMG_7008IMG_7064IMG_7119.JPGIMG_5689

IMG_7061this girl was speaking Chinese and oh so sassyIMG_7101IMG_7113blue steel, Daniel editionIMG_7334
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no photographs, Mt TakaoIMG_7335IMG_7139.jpg

The sakura season this year has been uncommonly, luxuriously long but is mostly over here in Tokyo. But the beautiful thing about spring in Japan is that different varieties of flowering trees bloom at their own pace. Every week I look up from the handlebars of my bicycle on my commute and see a newly evolved fresh face ready to greet the day.

xo your friend alice

Locations: on the street in Taito-ku // Kitanomaru Park // Yasukuni-jinja // Meiji Jingu Gaien // Yoyogi Park // Imperial Palace East Gardens (Higashi-koen) // Meguro River // Ueno Park // Shinjuku Gyoen // Inokashira Park // Mount Takao
Tokyo, Japan