Elaine Cheung

Joined January 2013

Elaine is a travel blogger and a freelance content writer who loves to see and experience the world. Originally from California, she has worked in five countries on four continents. Elaine holds a MA in International Relations and Media Studies.

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The hunt for the best bún chả in Hanoi

Vietnamese food writer Vu Bang once wrote that Hanoi is a town “transfixed by bún chả.” Nobody knows who first decided to combine grilled fatty pork cooked on top of charcoal, a plate of fresh rice noodles, a basket full of bright green vegetables and a sweet soup composed of nước mắm (fish sauce) with bits of pickled green papaya, carrot and apple. This dish is called bún chả, and it is quintessentially Hanoi. When I first moved to Hanoi a few months ago, walking down the streets of the neighborhood during lunch time, it is very hard not to notice the smell of grilled meat and smoke wafting in the air. From the left and right of the streets, ladies scream at motorcyclists and pedestrians to stop at their makeshift eateries that at any other time of the day would be their living rooms. I walked by one lady’s stall. On one side of her is a massive pot of the sweetened fish sauce broth. On...
By on Jan 26, 2015

How to host a travel TV show

Traveling is an addiction for me.  Unfortunately, I do not always have a chance to do so since a little thing called reality hits me and reminds me to go back to work. However, to fill the travel void, I indulge on anything on the Travel Channel for hours on end. As I watched, I dreamt of being the next Anthony Bourdain or Andrew Zimmern, traveling the world, trying a lot of different food and meeting local people, all with a camera in front of me. In my head, it was perfect: a job that paid me to travel. Easy enough, right? I saw an advertisement asking for people who were interested in taking part in a travel show and responded immediately. Within a day, my boyfriend and I were interviewed, got a phone call and then was quickly whisked away into a Vietnam TV van, packed with a camera crew and ample amounts of junk food and energy drinks. The travel show is called Vietnam Discovery, a s...
By on Dec 30, 2014

Air rage on the rise in China

Incidents of air rage and impatience have been steadily increasing involving Chinese passengers. On Dec. 8, while waiting to deplane China Eastern Flight MU2331 from Sanya to Xi'an, a passenger decided to open the emergency door and deploy the emergency slide because he wanted to get off the plane faster. When questioned, the passenger said that he did not pay attention to the safety briefing at the beginning of the flight, so he did not know the doors could only be used in emergencies. The incident cost the airline a three-hour delay and more than $16,000 (RMB 100,000) to repair the door. On Dec. 11, four Chinese passengers were involved in an onboard episode which the Internet has called “hot watergate.” Prior to takeoff of Air Asia Flight FD9101 from Bangkok to the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing, a young man requested hot water for his girlfriend’s instant noodle cup. Flight attendan...
By on Dec 21, 2014

The perplexing Franzbrötchen: A French-inspired Danish pastry of northern Germany

If you are not from northern Germany, then you probably have never heard of a franzbrötchen. Legend has it that during Napoleon’s occupation in the German city of Hamburg in the early 1800’s, the French troops first introduced the city to croissants. The German bakers tried to replicate the lightness of the croissant dough, but they were only familiar with the heavier dough recipes which are more characteristic of northern Europe and Scandinavia. To try to make the French soldiers happy, they added more sugar and introduced cinnamon into the dough. And that was how the franzbrötchen was born. The dough is comprised of a mixture of flour, yeast, butter, milk, sugar and salt. After mixing, the dough is turned out and rolled into a sheet. A slab of butter is added on top of the sheet and folded into a dough envelope. It is then folded onto itself and rolled again several more times, creatin...
By on Nov 30, 2014

A day in the life of the Black Lolos

Deep within the mountains of Cao Bằng province in northern Vietnam is where the Black Lolo people call home. This ethnic minority group, whose origins are from northern Indochina, lead a very simple life. Electricity, if it works, comes from a small pump powered by a mountain stream. Water flows down from the hilltops into homes by an intricate network of bamboo. Untouched by modern technology, the Black Lolos maintain ancient traditions while sustaining a quiet existence within a tight-knit community. Inside the Khuoi Khon village, life starts every day at 3:00am for the Black Lolos. The stomps of children and adult feet pound the floors of the wooden stilt houses as they make their way around with headlamps. Down below, the pigs, cows and chickens slowly wake up, eager for their morning meal. Ms. Do Thi Phe, an extremely agile 60 something woman, quickly starts a fire inside the house ...
By on Nov 18, 2014

Celebrating King's Day in the Netherlands

The Dutch know how to party. In the Sochi Olympics, the Heineken Holland House was the place to go that even Russian President Vladimir Putin had to make an appearance. In the Netherlands, the national day to party is called King’s Day (Koningsdag), although from its inauguration in 1885 until 2013, the holiday was known as Queen’s Day (Koninginnedag). Initially, this national day was to honor Queen Wilhelmina’s birthday Aug. 31. However, when Queen Juliana took over the throne in 1949, the holiday moved to her birthday April 30. Queen Beatrix kept Queen Day on April 30 instead of her birthday in January to honor her mother and the winter date would not be conducive to outdoor celebrations. When Beatrix abdicated the throne in 2013 to her son, Willem-Alexander, the new date for the holiday became April 27. But, since this date falls on a Sunday, this year, the first King’s Day will be ce...
By on Nov 01, 2014

The meaning of Eurovision - Europe's song contest

Eurovision is an annual song contest in which each member country submits a song for battle to see whose song reigns supreme in Europe. This contest, held since 1956, is seen by 600 million people internationally and is one of the longest running TV programs in history. Former winners include Sweden’s ABBA [Unlink] for “Waterloo,” Julio Iglesias [Unlink] for Spain and Celine Dion [Unlink], a Canadian who competed for Switzerland singing a French song. This year’s contest featured Polish milkmaids making very provocative gestures, Russian twins who sang with their hair intertwined to each other and a Ukrainian singer who had a human hamster wheel in the background. However, it was Austria’s Conchita Wurst who took home the prize for the song “Rise Like a Phoenix.” Wurst stood out among her competitors, mainly because she sports a full-on beard. Wurst is a drag queen who also goes by the n...
By on Nov 01, 2014

Global World Cup fever

Out of coincidence, I happened to be in three different countries during this year’s 2014 World Cup in Brazil. Each country has been sucked into World Cup fever in different ways. As a whole, Germany is fairly conservative. However, when it comes to soccer, Germans are obsessed and love to show it. From rear-view mirror covers in German colors to chocolate marshmallows (Super Dickmann’s) sprinkled in black, red and gold – soccer reigns supreme. My German friend commented recently about all the German flags fns have been hanging outside their windows and on their cars during the World Cup. She said this public display of national pride, especially in Germany, is all fairly recent and admittedly, “very weird.” During the 2012 European Championships, I was at a public viewing when the Germans lost in the semifinals. I have never witnessed so many grown men on the verge of tears. The Netherl...
By on Oct 30, 2014

Life in a Buddhist monastery

Up on the hills that line Kathmandu Valley lies a plethora of monasteries where people near and far have devoted their lives to Buddhism. At the Karma Leksheyling Monastery and School, roughly 200 young boys of various ages from all over Nepal and Tibet live at the school in order to receive an education that they probably would not have gotten otherwise. Once they arrive, they have their heads shaved and given a yellow and red robe to wear every day. These boys live a very regimented schedule. From Sunday to Friday, they wake up at the crack of dawn at 5 a.m.. From 5:30-6:30 a.m., they go practice kung-fu. From 7:00-7:30 a.m., it is a breakfast of dal bhat (lentil stew) and Tibetan fried bread. Classes begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 4:30 p.m. Subjects include Buddhism, English, science, social studies, health and Nepali and Tibetan languages. At 5:30-6:30 p.m. the students have self-stud...
By on Oct 30, 2014

Halloween celebrations around the world

Halloween in the US is a time when people can let their imaginations go wild and be something that they are not for one day. What started off as a day to ward off evil spirits from their crops in Europe, has become a day to have fun, overindulge in candy and have a good scare. On average, Americans spend roughly $250 on this superstition-filled holiday. Across the globe, countries have their own frightening twist on Halloween that pays tribute to spirits from beyond the grave. Ireland Halloween celebrations may have originated in Ireland, dating back to 1000 AD. Once a pagan holiday called “Samhim” meaning “end of summer” in Celtic, people lit bonfires in order to keep evil spirits away and hid from them with disguises. Colcannon is a traditional meal made of boiled potatoes, curly kale and raw onions. This simple dish is eaten by the Irish on Halloween before the evening’s spooky festiv...
By on Oct 30, 2014