Happy New Year!

(4-day bike trip through Mekong Delta)

I must admit 2010 was a pretty spectacular year! I moved to Hanoi in early January, one month after finishing my PhD and one week after ringing in the 2010 New Year in Treasure Beach, Jamaica – a place that I truly consider ‘home’ in every sense of the word. Yet Hanoi is where I currently reside!

(Alisha, Mina and Amy)

As with any move to the other side of the world, it forces one to get out of their comfort zone, to navigate in a new city, to experience different cultures, and to start over in terms of a social life. As a result, I’ve grown significantly this past year, both personally and professionally.

(Streets of Vinh Long)

(Lotus Blossom)

In terms of my job, I basically had to disregard everything I knew about the HIV epidemic from my experiences in Africa, and immerse myself into the world of MARPS (Most At-Risk Populations), primarily injecting drug users, commercial sex workers, and men who have sex with men.

(Crossing bridges)

(Boat ride to the island)

(Amy enjoying the scenery)

Therefore, this first year represented a steep learning curve. Fortunately, I’m now feeling more comfortable and confident with my job and have high hopes and expectations of what can be accomplished in the months and years ahead, especially in the field of Health Information Systems.

(Meat Market)


I’ve had the good fortune to travel at great lengths, both within Vietnam and within the region, including Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Nepal and India. And I’ve even had the opportunity to present my work in Cape Town, South Africa, coupled with a reunion in Malawi!

(Cycling through villages)

I reconnected with old friends in 2010, including my high school mate, Kyle, who is currently working in Phnom Penh; Victoria, who is working in Singapore; along with a steady stream of friends who have either chosen Vietnam as a tourist destination or colleagues who have come to Hanoi for work.

(Chilling out along the ride)


Most recently, Mina and Alisha (my friends from Malawi) traveled to Vietnam for Christmas and New Years! We have spent the last two weeks biking through the Mekong Delta, hiking in the mountains of Dalat, and diving off the coast of Nha Trang. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to end the year.

(Children biking)

(Heavy loads)

But first, let me share some of our amazing travels.

(Lovely scenery while riding)

Mina and Alisha, both incredibly active and physically fit, requested a cycling trip through Vietnam. As it turns out, my boyfriend’s best mate runs an adventure travel agency (Inner Journey Expeditions) specializing in these kinds of tours. When she came through Hanoi, I sat down and met with her to plot out our entire itinerary. And I must say, it was perfect!

(Floating Markets)

(Floating Market Vendor)

Unlike Africa, in which travel plans often go awry, Asia seems to run like clockwork. Everything went off without a hitch.

(Saying hello)

(Stopping on the side of the road)

We started our journey in Saigon. Despite the paucity of Christians/Catholics in this nation, Christmas has become quite a trendy holiday. Christmas trees with ornate decorations, Santa Claus memorabilia, nativity scenes, and Christmas lights don most buildings; streets were alive with festivities, including adults and children wearing red Santa hats; and stores were advertising Christmas sales in their display windows! Somewhat surreal to say the least…but a welcome change from the dismal Christmas cheer in Malawi. Not that people didn’t celebrate Christmas in Lilongwe, but externally there was no trace of a holiday commemorating the birth of Jesus.



We started our 4-day bike trip on Christmas Eve approximately one hour outside of Saigon in Long An. We hopped on our bikes and rode through picturesque rice fields, fruit orchards and along small canals situated on the banks of the Mekong River. I particularly enjoyed seeing daily life along the banks of the river, teeming with families, small shops, ducks, dogs, chickens, markets, bikes and scooters.

(Alisha at Sam Mountain)

As we rode by, children continuously screamed, “Hello”! Each time I heard their little voices, it made me smile!


That evening, we loaded our bikes aboard a boat and traveled to a small village on an island. We stayed the night at a floating hotel and celebrated Christmas Eve with other travelers.

(Typical scene along the Mekong)


On Christmas day, we cycled around the island, took a ferry across to Cai Be, and then rode to the Cambodian border town of Chau Doc. We hiked to the top of Sam Mountain for a panoramic view over the vast plains of the Mekong Delta between Vietnam and Cambodia. Stunning!

(Mina on top of Sam Mountain)

The third day turned out to be a brutal 90km ride (both Alisha and Mina are incredibly fit…I, on the other hand, struggled to keep up). Regardless, this was one of my favorite days of cycling. The scenery was spectacular! Lots of villages, rice fields, water buffalo, children, ducks, dogs, pigs, fishermen, forests, flowers, etc.

We stayed the night in Can Tho, the economic, cultural and transportation center of the Mekong Delta.

(Migrant children)

On our last day of riding, we started off the day with a morning boat trip to Cai Rang floating market – one of the busiest floating markets in SE Asia. Fruits and vegetables were tied to large masts in order to let passerby’s know what items were for sale. We wound our way through a bustling sea of boats – quite fascinating to say the least.

(Migrant workers in Dalat)

(Picking coffee beans)

After our bike trip, we flew to the Central Highlands to the city of Dalat, historically a French resort town. This mountainous region is gorgeous, with twisting roads, endless pine trees, and a Swiss charm.

(Alisha hiking in Dalat)

We signed ourselves up for a 20km hike. Mina and Alisha certainly kept me physically active during this trip! However, the hike was beautiful…winding through fields of coffee, crossing rickety bridges, and cascading waterfalls.

(Hiking across rickety bridges)


We took the bus from Dalat to the beaches of Nha Trang, witnessing some of the most spectacular scenery that I’ve seen in Vietnam.

(Snorkeling and Diving off the coast of Nha Trang)

(Mina preparing for her dive)

Nha Trang, known for its pristine beaches and for scuba diving, is quickly becoming a popular destination for both Vietnamese and foreigners alike. We took advantage of our last full day and did a bit of snorkeling/diving.

(Beach in Nha Trang)

For New Year’s Eve, we ended up at the Sailing Club dancing the night away under the stars to the rhythms of a London DJ. Thousands of people from all over the world rang in the New Year on the beach…definitely one of the more memorable New Year’s!



Alisha and Mina are now in Cambodia exploring the legendary ruins of Angkor Wat, and I am back in Hanoi gearing up for work. I’m grateful that 2010 turned out to be fabulous! Here’s hoping that 2011 is equally as divine!

(Alisha and Amy on NYE)

I hope everyone enjoyed the holidays! Wishing all of you a wonderful, happy, and healthy New Year!

(Our dinner plans)

My doors are always open if anyone would like to plan an Asian holiday ☺

Much love,

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