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This website chronicles our trip around the world in 2006. It has lots of photos, videos and stories. We invite you to come in, relax and enjoy the scenery.

~Lee and Sachi LeFever

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A Dispatch is a report from our trip. Browse via keywords or global map.

Things That No Longer Seem Weird (SE Asia)

By: leelefever on August 7, 2006 - 5:59pm

 Since we've finally moved on from a few months in SE Asia, we're looking back at some of the almost daily things that became somewhat commonplace. 


  • Seeing 4+ people on one motorcycle
  • Seeing people ride on the roof of busses and trains
  • Geckos, geckos everywhere
  • Water hoses and buckets next to toilets
  • Having to flush a toilet with a dipper and bucket
  • Showering without a shower curtain or tub - a “wet room”
  • Seeing long pants and sleeves on the hot beach for sun protection
  • Riding in a vehicle going the wrong direction (into oncoming traffic)
  • Hearing “Hotel California” by The Eagles at least once per night
  • Hearing the band "The Scorpions" everywhere 
  • Seeing TVs in every place of business
  • Waking up shopkeepers to do business
  • Finding random people sleeping on the floors of shops, markets and even bathrooms (in India)
  • Being mobbed by tuk-tuk and moto drivers asking “where you like to go?”
  • Eating dinner with sick looking dogs and cats as an audience
  • Finding Dessert listed somewhere besides the back of the menu, perhaps with breakfast
  • Seeing bamboo poles being the dominant construction material, replacing metal scaffolding
  • People squatting everywhere, even on park benches
  • Ordering a drink as take away and having it served in a plastic bag
  • People staring at us constantly
  • People wearing face masks for protection from the sun and air quality
  • Umbrellas being used for protection from the sun
  • Animals of all sorts walking, sleeping or resting in the middle of the road 
  • Everyday being “bring your child to work day”
  • Hearing critters scurry across a ceiling at night
  • Witnessing outdoor urination

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Beijing to Helsinki Over 20 Days

By: leelefever on August 5, 2006 - 3:46am

It’s been a big and long awaited day for us.  Since the trip was just a twinkle in our eye, we have been looking forward to the Trans-Siberian Railway, which will take us from Beijing, China to Moscow, Russia and then to Helsinki, Finland over 20 days.  It is the longest train journey on earth.

We’ve found that it is one thing to want to do it and another to actually get everything lined up to make it happen.  The problem is trying to plan the travel and get Chinese and Russian visas while on the road.  For a 30 day Russian tourist visa, Americans have to outline an exact itinerary and have letters of invitation from hotels along the way.  Further, because we chose not to plan ahead too far, we have to get the Chinese visa and Russian visa while we are in (expensive) Hong Kong.  This is not to mention trying to plan the Trans-Siberian journey in the midst of the visa applications.

Luckily we found help and today we’re rejoicing in our luck at settling the whole issue in one fell swoop.  We saw an ad for an agency called Monkey Business that specialized in Trans-Siberian journeys that has an office in Hong Kong.  Today we walked into the office and within about 1.5 hours, we had an itinerary including lodging and all trains from Beijing all the way to Helsinki and applications for both Chinese and Russian visas. All we have to do is drop by the office on Thursday afternoon and we’ll be set until late September – certainly the longest range plans we’ve had thus far.  We feel like we’ve avoided a HUGE pain in the butt and have a lot of trust in our new friend Kelvin at Monkey Business. This is him:

Here’s our itinerary:

  • August 11th:  Hong Kong to Guangzhou, China
  • September 9th: Depart Beijing, China
  • September 10th:  Ulanbaatar, Mongolia (2 nights plus travel)
  • September 14th:  Irkutsk, Russia (Lake Baikal-Siberia) (2 nights plus travel)
  • September 18th: Ekaterinburg, Russia (Urals) (2 nights plus travel)
  • September 21st:  Moscow, Russia (2 nights plus travel)
  • September 24th:  St. Petersburg (3 nights)
  • September 27th:  Helsinki, Finland

It feels a little unreal to have plans like this and we’re both really, really excited.  We spend our time in a “Ger camp” (a Ger is a tent like structure, similar to a yurt) in Mongolia and do “homestays” in the homes of Russian families in Siberia.  We’ll spend 8 nights on the train with lots of instant noodles and coffee and perhaps a little vodka. In the end, we’ll hopefully gain some good friends in other travelers and local Mongolians and Russians.  After spending longer in Asia than we expected, it’s nice to finally see the “around” part of this around the world trip come to fruition.

Old Town Hanoi Video

By: leelefever on August 5, 2006 - 3:39am

Here's another bit of video that we shot in the Old Town Hanoi. As with the others, we're just experimenting - be kind. :).

Hanoi was my favorite place in Vietnam and I hope the video captures some of the richness- and our exemplary pool playing.

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Video of Typhoon Prapiroon in Macau

By: leelefever on August 3, 2006 - 9:52am
The typhoon has thrown a monkey wrench into a couple of days of our plans, but it also gave us a chance to experience some foreign weather. Even as I write this, the wind is pushing on the windows of our hotel room so much that we decided to close the curtains in case they break. Other than making this video, we've been inside the hotel for the WHOLE day. Maybe tomorrow we'll get to Hong Kong.

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Denied for Hong Kong

By: sachilefever on August 2, 2006 - 6:27pm

Typhoon Prapiroon is coming through these parts this afternoon which means ferries to Hong Kong have denied us passage. All boats were tied up to dock this morning after the typhoon signal was hoisted to "8". We are stuck in Macau for one more day and have time to find out what exactly a signal "8" means. Oh - we just lost the TV we go!

Off to Macau

By: leelefever on July 31, 2006 - 9:31pm

Macau, originally uploaded by LeeLeFever_TwinF.

My wife is a ninja when it comes to finding cheap airline tickets. For some reason it would have cost about US$650 for us both to fly from Hanoi to Hong Kong or Macau. What Sachi found was that if we flew the opposite direction from Hanoi (to Bangkok) and then flew from Bangkok to Macau, we could save over 1/2, including departure tax and one night in Bangkok.  A ninja indeed.

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Hanoi and Uncle Ho with Wanna and Vuth

By: leelefever on July 31, 2006 - 3:04am
Our friend Beth Kanter introduced to another Cambodian blogger who lives in Hanoi. His name is Wanna or Mr. X. Yesterday we met Wanna and his friend Vuth (also Cambodian) for a day of sightseeing, including Uncle Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum.
We're planning to do more video soon and this is practice...

Thanks a bunch for great time folks!

Birthday and Christmas for Us!

By: sachilefever on July 30, 2006 - 6:53am

Thank you so much for the birthday wishes! We spent the July Jubilee mostly in Hoi An, Vietnam. We planned to stay for 3 nights, but ended up enjoying 6 nights in this little town. The housekeepers would ask us every day, “What time leaving tomorrow?” Our answer always seemed to be “Two more days.” then they would giggle and practice a few more English sentences on us.


We had heard weeks earlier that Hoi An was wonderfully colonial, a pleasant place to shake travel weariness and that we should buy some tailored clothes while we were in town. Tailored clothes? I’m not much of a shopper, and all Lee has been buying are T-shirts to send home, so we thought tailored clothes were a faint possibility. Once we arrived and talked to some tailors, we decided to give it a try with a couple of dress shirts for work – just for fun.


That evening, the monetorium came up in discussion – in saving for the trip for two years, we did not buy new clothes and we would surely need clothes for restarting our careers upon our return home, when our bank account would look especially sad.  So, having tailored work clothes made in Hoi An made sense – we could get better quality and fit for a fraction of the price.  Picking up our first order was too encouraging – good quality fabric, nice stitchwork, and only US$18 for two dress shirts.  By the end of the week we spent US$500.


I know, I know – that’s a lot of money. However, think about a decent dress shirt for work – maybe $25 (at the cheaper end of the spectrum in the US) multiplied by 20 shirts gives you a $500 expense.  That’s 20 shirts for $500, bought in the US.

Now, consider what we got for that same amount of money in Hoi An:  Along with 22 dress shirts, add 5 pairs of dress pants…add 3 blazers for Lee…add 2 jackets for me…. And finally, add 6 pairs of shoes, all tailored to fit us perfectly, and with fabrics that we chose.  For the price of 20 $25 dress shirts in the US, we got all the items listed above.


With $68 in shipping expense we sent home 50lbs of new wear and were a little embarrassed heading to the post office the morning we left town. We realized we weren’t nearly the only ones when we saw stacks of clothing boxes headed out that day.

There are certainly few guarantees – Maybe the fabric won’t stand up to weather and washing like our other jackets and maybe our shoes won’t last more than a season. However, I’d like to think we’re just trying it out, and if it works well, we may be back to Hoi An in a few years with clothing designs and ideas in tow.  

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Vietnamese and the Real English

By: leelefever on July 28, 2006 - 7:44pm

Like nearly traveler, we struggle with language – and sometimes even English.  Case in point:  Before coming to Vietnam we picked up a Vietnamese phrasebook in a book exchange and began learning some of the basics.  The first thing I noticed was a stark difference in the one Vietnamese word I knew: “Pho”.  Pho is a food- a noodle and meat soup that is served all over Seattle, where you learn quickly that it is pronounced “fuh”, as in fun. 

Upon consulting the phrasebook, we found a very different version of the word about which we felt so confident.  The book said it should be pronounced “fur”, which to us sounded like the hair on an animal. “Fur” did not sound Vietnamese at all.  The same was true with the word for thank you – the book said it is pronounced "ga’am ern".  Again, that “r” sound did not sound right.

Then the light went on in our head.  The phrasebook’s pronunciation was based on British English – the real English and not our American version.  “Fur” was not fur at all, but a much more sophisticated sounding “fuh”, where the “r” is dropped.  I could suddenly imagine a British person holding a cup of tea with their pinky finger held out and saying “I would nevah weah a fuh coat- that’s simply cruel!”  …and it all became very clear.

And in the end, we must recognize that we hold our version of English very dear and we Americans have to realize that our English is not the only, or even the real version of the language.  There is a reason it is called “English”.

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Anatomy of a Scam in Vietnam

By: leelefever on July 27, 2006 - 8:22am

It’s been said many times- be clear with a Vietnamese cab driver about your hotel, or they will take you to their friend’s hotel, where they will earn a commission. We’ve seen many attempts at such diversions, but none so blatant as we experienced today, just after arriving in Hanoi.

We took a cab from the airport into town (37km for US$10). On the way, we told the driver to go to the “Camellia 3” Hotel and showed him where it was on the map. He agreed and the agreement was settled. Along the way he had a number of phone calls, which rang in a ring tone with the volume on 11. We understood nothing he said.

Upon arriving in the Old City of Hanoi, a young Vietnamese guy walked over to the car, opened my door, stuck his head into the car about 3 inches from my face and said “Welcome to the Camellia 3 Hotel!” I struggled to look around him at the building and the awning and did not see anything about the Camellia, or any hotel for that matter. No matter what we asked, he continued to insist, quite rudely “Yes, this is the place, the Camellia 3 Hotel, let me get your bags.” All I could say was, “First, please back up and let me get out of the car.” I left Sachi in the car and stepped into what was supposed to be the Camellia 3 Hotel. I walked to the reception desk and said “I’d like a business card please, where is your business card?” Their answer: “We ran out”. This, of course was a lie and there was no longer any doubt what was happening. This was not the Camellia 3 Hotel.

The cab driver must have thought we were complete idiots. He actually thought that he could drop us off at some random hotel and we would believe, thanks to the not-so-skillful scamming of his not-so-sly cronies, that we had arrived at our requested destination and would blindly get a room, earning him a commission.

We’ve met a lot of nice people in Vietnam, but it is the prevalence of this kind of bullshit that will forever leave a bad taste in my mouth. We said to him what we say to all people who try to pull such stunts. “You are bad for tourists – you keep doing this, tourists will stop coming.” He only smiled with a “you can’t win’em all” attitude and went off to give another tourist a good reason not to come back to Vietnam.