Travel Newsletter - Year of the ox edition

New at Nomadic Notes: Phan Rang-Thap Cham trip report. Other travel links including virtual travel sites, travel photos of the year, and more.

Happy lunar new year from Ho Chi Minh City! We are now in the year of the ox. I’m not feeling bullish about travel this year, but can I be oxish? According to the numerous Chinese zodiac websites, the ox is prudent and take things slowly. A metaphor for travel in 2021?

Tet is the biggest holiday period of the year in Vietnam. Many businesses close down for a week, while workers go back to their home towns for what might be their only trip home for the year.

We’ve been living in a covid-free buble for much of the year, but unfortunately some new cases emerged in the weeks before Tet. Cases were reported with workers at Tan Son Nhat Airport, which is the worst place to find cases if you are trying to contain it. Flights have been cancelled, and there were no fireworks this year. Usually Tet eve is like NYE, with crazy traffic everywhere. Instead, bars were ordered to close and Tet eve was disturbingly quiet this year.

In other Tet news, my friends at Vietcetera produced a video featuring the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam doing a Tet holiday rap. It then went viral, getting featured on news sites such as CNN, Yahoo, and Washington Post. Here is the background to how the video was made, and the video is below.

In newsletter housekeeping news, this newsletter is now on the URL at The email delivery remains the same, and you can comment via replying to the email or leaving a comment on the online version.

New at Nomadic Notes

Notes on Phan Rang–Thap Cham

A trip report from my visit to Phan Rang-Thap Cham in December 2020.

COVID-19 and travel (or lack thereof)

I crossed the world to see my dying dad – then the pandemic took me on a wild Europe odyssey

“When I tried to return from Jersey to Australia, I had no idea the journey would lead me through 16 cities in nine countries, and take nearly five months.”

The new utopia

“For a certain jet-setting sect, wide-open spaces with views, few Covid-19 cases, and the freedom to go maskless are all the rage. But who pays the price?”

Uber founder launches luxury airline so rich people can go on COVID vacations

Brace yourself: long-haul travel may not get going until 2023

Working in the travel industry, my news stream is full of optimistic outlooks from travel operators who want to get travelling again this northern summer. I think this article more realistic. And in the UK, the transport secretary is saying that travel won’t be possible until everybody vaccinated. Sorry to be a downer on that one.

Stop going to Mexico

Reinventing Sri Lanka: As the country reopens to international travelers, the tourism industry ponders its future

Drone footage: A graveyard of boats, buses, and taxis in Thailand

“The Lunar New Year is normally peak tourism season in Bangkok. But for a bus driver, Tossaporn Rakratchakarn, and a commuter boat skipper, Mani Hogkhontod, this year's festival has seen entire fleets of tourism vehicles just gathering dust.”

Mona Lisa is alone, but still smiling

“With the Louvre closed because of the pandemic, museum officials are pushing ahead on a grand restoration and cleanup.”

Virtual travel

This travel newsletter has taken on the role of keeping the travel dream alive during these pandemic times. This week I’ve had some virtual travel sites cross my news feed. I used to scoff at such sites, but now I find them interesting. City Guesser is where a video is shown of someone walking around the streets of a random city. I clicked the Asia section, because of course I did. I guessed Shanghai immediately, but a city in India had me stumped.

Another virtual travel site is Drive & Listen, which pairs YouTube videos of dashboard cams with local radio stations of the selected city.

Assorted travel reads

Future Ninh Thuan Province – Vietnam

In addition to my Phan Rang trip report, this post about future construction projects in Ninh Thuan Province was sourced from the same trip. If you want news links about construction and transport projects in Southeast Asia, then sign up for my other free weekly newsletter here =>

Hong Kong’s guardian of the gods

“Locals believe you should never toss out a statue of an old deity. So, for more than 30 years, one man has been collecting thousands of unwanted, abandoned gods on a hillside.”

Tragedy or celebration – a year in Hong Kong

I’ve been following the story of Thor from Denmark, who was at the cusp of having visited every country in the world without flying before being stranded in Hong Kong. He has now been in HK for a year.

How this guy traveled from Singapore to Canada without flying

“He's currently busy with uni life but in 2018, Ganesha Balakrishnan was hitchhiking and couch-surfing his way across the world.”

Travel Photographer of the Year 2020 - in pictures

Underwater Photographer of the Year 2021 results gallery

World’s most remote holiday? Arctic ‘doomsday vault’ gets visitor centre

A snowy day in Amsterdam

The world's longest non-stop flights

Archaeologists unearth 600-year-old golden eagle sculpture at Aztec temple

“The artwork is the largest bas-relief engraving found at the Templo Mayor to date.”

Google review of Mount Everest: One-star review is the peak stupidity

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5% of humans live in the blue, 5% live in the red 🤯.

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The Travel Newsletter by Nomadic Notes is a weekly newsletter of the best travel reads and interesting travel news, and random ramblings by the editor.

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- James Clark