Scenes from the Banana Pancake Trail

We’ve never claimed to be the world’s most adventurous travelers, and our travel in southeast Asia definitely adhered to the classic Banana Pancake Trail. Nevertheless, we had a phenomenal time here and loved seeing countries that were new to both of us. We visited Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand in just under a month; below, some of our favorite images from this portion of the trip. We’re off to India!

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Illuminated lanterns in Hoi An’s Old Quarter.

Hoi An, near Da Nang on Vietnam’s central coast, was most certainly our favorite place in the country. We loved its antiquated feel and the charming Old Quarter, which is decorated with tens of thousands of brightly colored lanterns hung all over the shops and streets. Strolling here after sunset was such a pleasure.

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A fruit vendor in Hoi An.

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Early morning gardening in Vietnam.

In Hoi An, we participated in a sunrise bicycle tour that took us to the daily market, an organic farm and out to the rice paddies. Truthfully, most small village farms in developing countries are organic because labor there is cheap and chemicals are expensive. In the U.S., unfortunately, the opposite is true.

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The stunning interior of a village temple outside of Siem Reap.

This gorgeous temple was on a dusty road leading out of Siem Reap; from the outside, you’d never know that the interior was this incredible. Each fresco had a number painted in the corner; this indicated the amount of money raised by the village to pay for that particular painting.

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Vietnam’s favorite son is absolutely revered in this country.

Vietnam’s national hero, Ho Chi Minh, is celebrated all over the country but nowhere more so than in his namesake museum in Hanoi. The museum is one of the strangest and darkest – both in terms of actual light and the overall mood – places we’ve ever visited. It’s an unsettling combination of blatant propaganda and modern art installation, and worth seeing just for the weirdness.

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See how dark this museum is?

The placard on this exhibit in the Ho Chi Minh Museum read, in part, “The models in this hall give visitors information about how scientific and technical achievements have been made use of for peaceful and beneficial purposes. The models at the same time condemn those who have utilized these achievements for aggressive and destructive purposes.” What?

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A ferocious temple guardian in Chiang Mai.

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Look closely: the labeling on these boats in Hoi An lets everyone know you’re a tourist.

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Trainspotting might be a bit risky in Vietnam.

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Adding decoration to our handmade paper.

In Thailand, we took a papermaking class and created gorgeous papers with leaves and blossoms. It’s simple and rewarding and beautiful; we’re hoping to make our own to wrap our handmade cheeses in at Quiet Farm.

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Fishing boats on the river in Nha Trang.

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One of Chiang Mai’s many elaborately decorated temples.

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Da Nang’s famous (and very expensive) Dragon Bridge changes colors – and on weekend nights, it also sprays water and breathes fire!

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We found this lion dancer at an international food festival in Vietnam.

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The building boom in Nha Trang, a beach resort popular with Russian tourists.

Vietnam is in a mad rush to modernize, so hotels are constructed at a breakneck pace. This means that not only are there hammers and saws competing with motorbike horns at all hours, but that a lot of construction is left partially finished when workers move on to the next project.

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A “skinny house” in Hanoi.

Even more common than all the new construction is making do with what’s already there. The skinny house above has been tucked in; notice that the bamboo poles are actually structural and are keeping the two buildings from leaning in. Presumably something will be quickly built in that empty space. But there’s a fancy coffee shop! With gelato!

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The exterior of the traditional lanna house we stayed at outside Chiang Mai.

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A monk studying at a temple in Phnom Penh.

Monks in orange robes with shaved heads are a common sight throughout southeast Asia; it’s amusing to see them with earbuds and mobile phones, too. Even monks have to modernize.

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Is this for here or to go?

And we leave you with this photo, and dare you not to smile. While dogs are still eaten in southeast Asia, as the region grows in economic prosperity, its people want what they perceive as middle-class luxuries – and that includes house pets. So now it’s more common here to see dogs on a leash rather than on a grill.

13 thoughts on “Scenes from the Banana Pancake Trail

  1. THANKS for sharing, beautiful pictures N!! Really like the last one. BTY, I spoke with your next door neighbour briefly yesterday, He said your guys are doing it right on this adventure, wished he had done the same thing when younger. I think he’s a little jealous. Enjoy India!!

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    • Thank you, Heike! I can’t tell you how much I’m looking forward to cooking again. I plan to start sharing recipes on here as soon as I have more reliable Internet access.

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  2. The paper making class sounds awesome! Was it difficult? Oh, how I wish chemicals were expensive is the US and most of the farms were organic.

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    • The papermaking class wasn’t difficult at all. Basically you need a thrift-store blender to make the pulp and a screen to spread and dry the paper. It’s a very cool old-fashioned technique; we loved it. And we too wish that chemicals were less accessible in the U.S.

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  3. Nice and informative post. Liked. Yes, dogs are still eaten in Vietnam and China. And, traffic in Vietnam is not just “a bit” but very dangerous, especially railways through crowded towns. off them all, it is still an interesting destination. Worth to visit 🙂

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  4. Pingback: 32,831 miles later | Finding Quiet Farm

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