The purpose of travel may be on thing, but gaining friends and understanding culture must be a goal. A friendly smile transcends language barriers, and stopping to share a few minutes with a stranger does wonders for your soul. It also makes it easier for those traveling in your wake.

Making Friends

Making Friends In Tay Ninh

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Phnom Penh

A beautiful country with beautiful people. But not much freedom of the press. The people are learning the hard way that with freedom comes sacrifice. How far they are willing to go is being tested in 2014.

Mekong River, Phnom Penh

Mekong River, Phnom Penh

Wired Room With A View

Starbucks just recently opened in Vietnam, with the first one in the heart of District 1 – the tourism area. I was lucky enough to have a hotel just around the corner from the new import, mainly because hot coffee is a new thing for Vietnamese and the Starbucks Wi-Fi was fast. The two-story Starbucks is very popular, mostly with local students, Western tourists, and local professionals. Because so many young people use Starbucks for fast Wi-Fi – basically being Wi-Fi squatters – paying customers are provided access codes with any purchase. The little slips of paper provide one-hour access, but finding an unused code is as easy as looking on the floor. And if you ask for more codes, the kids (and they do look very young) behind the counter will provide several – just ask. The view from the second floor is awesome! A very comfortable Starbucks that will – unfortunately – make you feel at home.

Starbucks Saigon

Starbucks Saigon

Journalism In Vietnam

Vietnam, specifically Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), is a thriving hub for English-language websites and a few print publications. With a plethora of Western ex-pats living in an increasingly modern Saigon – Starbucks and McDonald’s are recent arrivals – it’s easy to forget that Vietnam is a Communist country. Saigon has a very youthful population, and with it comes smart phones, Wi-Fi, and a voracious appetite for everything digital. Unlike China, Vietnam allows access to most of the Web. But similar to its northern neighbor, Vietnam restricts commenting on websites and blogs. A recent move by Hanoi is the requirement to post online comments under real names, not fuzzykitty55 or other anonymous names. The government realizes the importance of Wi-Fi to the throngs of Western tourists and businesses – but the real beneficiary will be the citizens. I love Vietnam and appreciate the effort to wire the country. It’s a great country to visit, with openness of the Web and safety of travel just two of many reasons to make it a must-see destination. I always feel safe in Vietnam.
Journalism Vietnam

Journalism In China

Journalism in China is interesting and dynamic. Chinese-language newspapers are very popular and often shared among citizens. It isn’t unusual to see young and old people reading newspapers in cafes, along the street, in homes, on trains – just about anywhere and everywhere. Online blogs are very popular, and often the source of irritation for the government. Facebook, YouTube, and many popular American-based websites are blocked – but a few minutes in an Internet cafe can change that problem. Ditto that for locked phones, etc. – the Chinese youth are very skilled at digital and phone technology. Government crackdowns on journalists are sporadic and seemingly arbitrary. This nature of information control and enforcement leads to more confusion than successful prohibition. Chinese citizens are accessing the World Wide Web, but few dare to speak beyond their glowing screens. Those that do, the ones that push into and beyond the gray area, often pay the price.
Dandong, China

Journalism Around The Globe

Many journalists don’t fully understand Freedom of the Press. Until I traveled to China, Vietnam, and Cambodia, I didn’t either. After numerous trips into China and Southeast Asia, I have a greater understanding of how citizens are disseminating information in the Digital Age. I have a greater understanding of my role as a journalist, and what I can do to open the pipelines of communication across cultures.
China Newspapers

Crossing The Border

It’s easy to travel across most Southeast Asian nations, even from Vietnam into a relatively free Cambodia. However, finding an English-language newspaper can be difficult. Interestingly, many hyper-local websites are springing up in even the remotest of villages.

Cambodia

Cambodia