Quarter-Life Crisis Time

So I’m 25 today, and I finished the New York Bar Exam on Wednesday (yay!). I’ve been working on destroying my liver since 4:30 on Wednesday, but today is extra-special, so I’m celebrating by going to my favorite steakhouse for a porterhouse and some red wine (when your boyfriend asks you what you want for your birthday and you respond, “A steak and a blowjob,” you know he’s a keeper when he books lunch at Peter Luger).

And then on Tuesday I’m leaving for Southeast Asia for five weeks. I’ll be popping in to put up some posts and say hi, and I’m hoping I’ll have time to post a bit before I leave. But for the most part, the regular Feministers and the guest-bloggers will be holding the place down. So enjoy!

I would also love any SE Asia travel tips that you all have. I’m starting in Bangkok, then going up to Chiang Mai, then down the Mekong into Laos and staying in Luang Prabang for a few days, then Hanoi and the surrounding area, then to Cambodia (Angkor and Phnom Penh), then back to Thailand and down to the islands. Any suggestions of what to see, where to eat (and what to eat), where to stay, where to go (especially which islands to hit up), etc would be very welcome.

I’ll put up a few posts tomorrow before I depart. And I’m also heading out to get myself a new camera this afternoon, so I’ll be sure to post travel photos. Be good to the guest-bloggers while I’m gone.

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41 comments for “Quarter-Life Crisis Time

  1. August 3, 2008 at 12:37 pm

    Happy birthday, Jill! Safe travels.

  2. August 3, 2008 at 12:39 pm

    Happy birthday, Jill!

    Mine was yesterday! *high-fives* My boyfriend asked what I wanted and I said “Sushi.” And that is what I got.

  3. Meredith
    August 3, 2008 at 12:50 pm

    Happy birthday and have a great time travelling!

  4. August 3, 2008 at 12:53 pm

    Happy birthday, you old fart!

  5. Manju
    August 3, 2008 at 1:19 pm

    Luger has an off the menu (though someone told me they may have added it recently) appetizer of bacon. Yeah bacon. I’m talking about one inch thick bacon.

    Yeah, its eviler than Republicans.

  6. Leah
    August 3, 2008 at 1:35 pm

    Happy Birthday!

    As for travel advice, my thesis advisor is from Szechuan, and her favorite piece of Asian travel advice is: “Don’t eat from street vendors! Ever!” I have not had the chance to personally test this bit of advice, but there it is.

  7. August 3, 2008 at 1:56 pm

    Happy, happy birthday!

  8. August 3, 2008 at 2:40 pm

    Happy birthday! Your b-day is only three days after mine! :)

  9. August 3, 2008 at 3:12 pm

    Happy birthday and enjoy the well deserved break!!!

  10. SarahMC
    August 3, 2008 at 3:33 pm

    Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday to you! Happy birthday deeeaar Jiiiiiiiill. Happy birthday to you!

  11. randomliberal
    August 3, 2008 at 3:50 pm

    Happy birthday, and happy and safe tripping. Watch out for those coups in Thailand.

  12. August 3, 2008 at 4:00 pm

    Happy birthday, you dusty old coot!

  13. djw
    August 3, 2008 at 4:20 pm

    Be careful flying into Hanoi. Getting from the airport to your preferred hotel is tricky, and cab drivers (and even the Vietnam Air shuttle drivers!) will take you to questionable places whose owners have bribed them. Hanoi is where I found you had to be extra-careful regarding penny-ante scams (esp. after two weeks in Laos, where noone really tried to rip me off at all). Halong bay is really, really stunning, be sure get up there from Hanoi, for an overnight boat trip if possible.

    I did a very similar itinerary last summer, with an extra couple of weeks and adding Singapore/Peninsular Malaysia into the mix at the end. Laos was my favorite country by far, for reasons I have a hard time articulating. It’s got a much more relaxed pace, it’s greener. Getting around the country is pretty hard, the buses can be really crowded and cramped, but the scenery, esp. in the North, is unbeleivable. If you plan on doing some sort of guided jungle trek, Laos is a better place to do it (lots of outfits arrange them out of Luang Prebang) than Thailand; it’s much less touristy.

    Angkor is simply amazing, give yourself a solid three days to explore. If you’re feeling up for it, renting a bicycle and exploring on your own is fun, but make damn sure you get a bike that won’t fall apart on you. You’ll also want to spend at least one day exploring the temples with a tuk-tuk driver; you can hire one for the whole day for 10-15 dollars. In the heat and humidity, the physical punishment of bicycling can be brutal, expecially for multiple days. I thought Phnom Penh is a really great city, probably my favorite city to hang out and explore.

  14. Laureen
    August 3, 2008 at 4:24 pm

    Have fun in Phnom Penh and Angkor, Cambodia! It’s a cultural jewel that you should definitely see. I had a blast there a few months ago. Have fun!

  15. Dian
    August 3, 2008 at 4:31 pm

    You sound as if you’re doing the exact same trip I did a few years ago. You will have a great time – Laos, Vietnam, and Cambodia are fascinating and were my favs. Try to travel by motorcycle (hire a guide to drive you) through s. vietname, from Dalat to Cambodia – it’s the best way to see the country and if you take a bus you WILL get ripped off, harassed, and somewhat forced to stay at the guesthouses THEY want you to. If you stay at the Peace Hostel in Dalat, you will drivers willing to take you…BUT definitely agree on price and everything beforehand. In Hanoi, I felt like they kind of hated westerners…don’t take it personally if you encounter this…just go with the flow. Which sort of applies to the entire region. It’s just one of those things.

    If you do travel by motorcycle, try to buy or bring with you one of those dust mask to put over your nose and mouth – sometimes travelling on highways can be a little irritating for breathing, or even on dusty roads…it helps a bit. If you wear contacts, definitely bring glasses…sometimes the dust is pretty hard on the eyes…wear glasses while riding the moto for sure.

    In Siem Riep in Cambodia, see if you can stay at Happy Guesthouse. If you are travelling by bus, chances are the bus will stop at a bus depot a little outside the town, and all these motorcycle drivers will surround the bus, clamouring for your attention and money (don’t freak out, for many it’s their only source of income, most hate doing that, and they only get a cut of the guesthouse income, so you know…go with the flow). Anyway, it’s a guest house a little out of town but they were really friendly and nice and helped me out a lot, so I always recommend them.

    Don’t show if you’re upset by something like having a temper tantrum – you will lose respect in an instant. Be cool, smile, polite, learn some of the local language, and be firm when haggling about everything. Definitely figure out he currency and try to get a sense of the value of things…everyone will pretty figure you’re a rich foreigner and comparatively speaking, you are.

    Something I didn’t do but heard good things about was going to northern Laos where someone is doing a study of baboons – you can stay with them and you get to stay at the tree tops. I think it’s called Green something. Laos, since it’s so poor and undeveloped, has a fabulously rich ecology – you will see lots of beautifully-coloured butterflies – you may not be into this, but when you actually SEE clouds of these colourful butterflies, you will be amazed unless you are made of stone, I’m telling you. If you go to Vang Vien, go down to this bar by the river…you can spend all day in these covered huts, drinking beer, listening to music….it’s awesome for a day.

    Wear light clothing that covers your skin. Asian countries are conservative and you will be treated much better if you do this. I saw a lot of women travelling with bared shoulders with skimpy tanktops…it’s tempting b/c it’s so freaking hot (drink lots of water – I drank 3 liters a day without even realizing it), and they were generally treated with a little less courtesy and you don’t want to hear what the locals say about western women – stereotypes, but still, showing a little respect will go a long way, I found. You can pick up these light shirts in Bangkok very cheap.
    I travelled on my own as a female and there were only a couple of times I felt harrassed, but other than that it was all good.
    Anyway, sorry for taking up so much space, but I’m excited for you though I don’t know you, b/c it’s a great trip and will have an amzing time. Try to get to know locals and watch out for some backpackers – they are sometimes the ones you have to watch out for. Some are long time backpackers ad will have no problems stealing your stuff. And some people are really opinionated and will try to tell you things…use your own instincts and judgement.

    Oh, in Thailand, Ko Tao is a great little island if you want to get away from it all. It was developing fast though, so maybe it’s changed. The Lonely Planet Guidebook is good. In Siem Riep, try to visit the Green Gecko home for street kids and volunteer ifyou can…they do fantastic fantastic work – http://www.greengeckoproject.org/flex/the_green_gecko_project_sponsorship/109/1 – it’s run by an Australian woman who is utterly … I mean, this woman has done amazing things.
    thanks for letting me share.

  16. Dian
    August 3, 2008 at 4:40 pm

    I concur with the commenter above about drivers at the airport in Hanoi and scams, etc. Totally true and I totally got ripped off by one f***** through the airport shuttle no less, but in hindsight it was my own fault…you have to be careful. Some people will say yes they’ll give you change but you’re pretty much asking for it at that point – you won’t get it. Oy. Arrive in the morning at the airport. Have exact change at all times and spread your money around yourself and DON’T show a big wad of bills. Have bits and pieces here and there. Halong Bay is gorgeous, oh yeah. the best best best food I ate was all through Vietnam. Oh my god, good food.
    concur also on the Angkor thing – hiring adriver is a good idea. although I met backpackers who rented these electrical bikes and they said they did really well. the best times to see Angor are EARLY AM. it’s just too hot otherwise. this is totally bringing back memories. sigh…

  17. August 3, 2008 at 7:05 pm


    I lived in Ha Noi a couple of years ago, and yes you’ve got to be careful (as w/ anywhere), but it is also one of my favorite places in SE Asia. The one place in HN you’ve got to visit is the bia hoi corner, basically it’s an an intersection in the old quarter (only a couple of blocks in, but I can’t remember the street names) that sells “bia hoi” or fresh beer. It is cheap, 4 years ago it was 2000 dong for a glass. Grab a seat/squat and a cup of beer and then watch life go by. Best of luck.

  18. djw
    August 3, 2008 at 7:18 pm

    Best food I ate in Vietnam was in central vietnam, esp. Hoi An, which is a charming and peaceful town with a lot of really delicious regional specialities. In fact, I preferred central vietnam (Hue, Hoi An, tooling around the DMZ on a motorcycle) to Hanoi or HCMC.

  19. KaeLyn
    August 3, 2008 at 7:22 pm

    Happy birthday, Jill! Can’t wait to see lots of pictures of your trip.

  20. Susan
    August 3, 2008 at 7:51 pm

    As far as Thailand is concerned, I like Ko Chang, off the coast near Cambodia. I also have enjoyed staying at the Dead Fish is Siem Riep.
    I never had any problem with street food, but I guess it depends on your stomach.

    In Chang Mai, try to do one of those hikes if you can. I also took a day long cooking class there that was totally worth the time and money. Lots of fun!

  21. August 3, 2008 at 8:28 pm

    Happy Birthday, Jill!


  22. funder
    August 3, 2008 at 9:16 pm

    Happy Finished With The F-ing Bar, Jill! (oh, and happy b-day too!)

    I just finished the (3-day) Mississippi bar exam Wednesday as well. I didn’t start destroying my liver til Thursday, because I had to drive home from the capitol, but whatever, I am making up for lost time.

    Here’s to both of us passing!

  23. Manju
    August 3, 2008 at 10:10 pm

    so how was the luger portehouse, jill? i’m curious b/c i’ve been having bad luck with steak lately. i think there’s shortage of good beef b/c of increased demand from china and russia.

    was it charred and dead ass rare in the middle? A tad gamey, as usual? How much is the porter for 2 going for these days: 80? 90? 100!?

    Did ytou try the bacon? Do they still only have male waiters?

  24. August 3, 2008 at 10:44 pm

    I’m a fan of The Palm myself, but still, I approve. And congratulations!

  25. laura
    August 3, 2008 at 10:50 pm

    I spent 3 months in Cambodia in the spring of 2007 and had a great time. I would recommend checking out a restaurant called “Elsewhere” in Phnom Penh. There is a pool, good drinks and a nice place to relax in the city. Also, check out the restaurant “Nature & Sea,” it’s by the Independence Monument. It is up a couple floors, but open air and has fantastic fresh food, smoothies & crepes. As far as Cambodian restaurants go, I’m not the best to say, since we had host families and I got a lot there. If you have any interest in visiting sweet women’s orgs- Hagar International was where I did 6 weeks of service (http://www.hagarinternational.org), they do amazing work and I could get you in touch with a woman there if you are interested. Also, Womyn’s Agenda for Change (http://www.womynsagenda.org) is a fabulous organization that works with sex workers in Cambodia to help them gain rights for their work. As far as Siem Riep goes, “The Dead Fish” restaurant is sweet and kind of what I imagine the Swiss Family Robinson’s house to be like, plus they have crocodiles in a pool. Also, “The Blue Pumpkin” is a great restaurant too. If you are interested in more things, email me. I spent my whole 3 months of the study abroad in Phnom Penh.


  26. Manju
    August 3, 2008 at 10:54 pm

    “I’m a fan of The Palm myself, but still, I approve.”

    I have no objection the palm david, but there’s nothing like a real live woman.

  27. Manju
    August 3, 2008 at 11:07 pm

    i should’ve said “the palm is no substitute for the real thing.” double meaning=cleverer and plausible denial. damn, backstair wit.

  28. August 4, 2008 at 12:14 am

    Happy birthday Jill and congrats on finishing the exam!

    Well I’ve been living in Phnom Penh for 2.5 years now so I can pretty much tell you anything you need to know about Cambodia. Feel free to email me or even if you feel like having a drink when you get to PP…

    Couple of things:

    – People wear skimpy clothes are it’s a non issue. There is no automatic loss of respect or anything like that.
    – Cambodia use US dollars as the de facto currency will riel – official currency – used for purchases of less than $1

    That’s about all I can think of now

  29. Harrison
    August 4, 2008 at 12:16 am

    Have the best birthday ever, congratulations on finishing the bar, and have a wonderful and safe trip! As someone else said, take lots of photos!

  30. djw
    August 4, 2008 at 12:43 am

    Andrea, last summer Bia Hoi cost 1500 dong a glass. I marvelous deal; not great beer, but light and refreshing and literally less than 10 cents a glass.

  31. Cass
    August 4, 2008 at 3:06 am

    Take a boat trip in Halong Bay – one night is probably enough, but you can usually find one that will also take you kayaking. It’s worth it. Venture out of the tourist zone in Hanoi for great jazz and upmarket art. Go diving in Na Trang. Stop in Hoi An for a few days and buy handmade clothes, especially winter coats and suits. The tailoring there is better than in Thailand. Ask for double stitching on everything, and plan to go back two to three times for fitting (the first cut will be very generous; don’t get discouraged). 50-100 dollars for a 3 piece suit. Buy an ao dai, the vietnamese traditional dress, in a brocade silk. It is more wearable and flattering than you can believe. Visit the Gibbon Center in Cuc Phong. Go to Phu Quoc for the best Vietnamese beaches.

    Enjoy the coffee in Vietnam and Cambodia. It is the best you will ever have, and it comes with sweetened condensed milk, which sounds too sweet but somehow cuts the heat of the drink and the day.

    For the gulf, Ko Toh is the diving island, Ko PhaNgan is the party island, and Ko Samui is the upmarket/whoring island. (Lots and lots of ‘special bars’. Depressing.) Go diving. Go to a full moon party if you can. The day after, go to natural herbal sauna operated by the monks at Wat Pho.

    Learn how to say hello, please, and thank you in all the languages. Bargain hard. Enjoy your well-deserved vacation.

  32. August 4, 2008 at 3:20 am

    Have a wonderful trip, take lots of pictures as you usually do, and enjoy “decompressing” from it all. Happy birthday!

  33. August 4, 2008 at 9:51 am

    Happy Birthday Jill, you’re one day older than me! I received a pearl and crystal necklace – no steak and blowjob for me, at least not right now. Have fun on your trip. Unlike you, I won’t be trotting the globe. The next few weeks for me will be preparation to pop out my son :)

  34. August 4, 2008 at 11:16 am

    so how was the luger portehouse, jill? i’m curious b/c i’ve been having bad luck with steak lately. i think there’s shortage of good beef b/c of increased demand from china and russia.

    was it charred and dead ass rare in the middle? A tad gamey, as usual? How much is the porter for 2 going for these days: 80? 90? 100!?

    Did ytou try the bacon? Do they still only have male waiters?

    And here I was so sure I didn’t leave any openings for people to come in and act like jackasses. Manju, it is truly amazing how you can troll even the most benign and celebratory threads. Congratulations.

  35. August 4, 2008 at 11:25 am

    Happy birthday!

  36. Manju
    August 4, 2008 at 12:38 pm

    “And here I was so sure I didn’t leave any openings for people to come in and act like jackasses. Manju, it is truly amazing how you can troll even the most benign and celebratory threads. Congratulations.”

    You’ve honestly lost me jill. i’vr been commenting here a long time, never been rude, thought i’ve taken some insults, never been deleted, and i like food and politics, if you haven’t noticed.

    my guess is that you took me asking for the price as me scolding you for spending money? but spending ridiculous amounts of money on food is a virtue in my world.

    my other guess is the “male waiter” question. maybe you thought i was scolding you for going to an establishment with this practice? i just saw an opening to bring up a feminist issue. no personal rebuke intended.

  37. August 4, 2008 at 2:07 pm

    Sorry if I misunderstood, Manju. I took the comment as criticizing me for eating meat, and criticizing me for spending a lot of money on that meat, and criticizing me for going to a restaurant where the waitstaff is primarily male. I apologize if I misread you.

  38. Manju
    August 4, 2008 at 2:48 pm

    No prob, Jill…But if you keep mistaking me for a Vegan Radfem they may kick me out of the NeoCon movement.

    Happy Birthday.

  39. Marksman2000
    August 4, 2008 at 9:22 pm

    Congrats on the bar.

  40. Marksman2000
    August 5, 2008 at 6:28 pm

    “(when your boyfriend asks you what you want for your birthday and you respond, ‘A steak and a blowjob,’ you know he’s a keeper when he books lunch at Peter Luger).”

    “I took the comment as criticizing me for eating meat, and criticizing me for spending a lot of money on that meat, and criticizing me for going to a restaurant where the waitstaff is primarily male.”

    Oops. I think I misunderstood your original post, Jill.

  41. Kaija
    August 5, 2008 at 6:44 pm

    I can recommend the Freedom Hotel in Hanoi, in the old quarter near Hoan Kiem lake. Very nice but cheap rooms w/ AC and breakfast included, very friendly and helpful staff (mostly family). Email me if you need/want the address or phone number. Hanoi is beautiful, a mix of old and new, and quite safe even for women travelling alone (I was just there in June) but as a Westerner, people will assume you are rich and will try to overcharge you for transpo, trinkets, etc. The bia hois are great outdoor refreshment and cultural immersion, but Legends, on the 2nd floor of a big building that looks like a cruise ship near the lake, has good German-type beer, as most of the Asian beers are sorta Coors Light-ish…cold and wet, but a little light. Go see Ho Chi Minh’s body lying state (but cover up and don’t bring cameras or visible camera phones) and the Women’s Museum. I loved just wandering around and looking at things, eating good food, and talking to people wherever I went :)

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