“Esterhammer has written my favorite L.A. Times Travel article of all time. I read the Travel section first, as travel is my passion, but it usually takes me only five minutes to finish. Please publish more slice-of-lifestyle stories rather than articles one can find in a boring travel guide.”

                                                                       – S. B., West Los Angeles

This was the best article I've ever read in the Travel section, and I've subscribed to the L.A. Times for more than 30 years. Thanks to Karin Esterhammer for sharing her family's life in Vietnam [“One Family's Plan B: Sweet Home Vietnam,” Sept. 13]. I admire her and her spouse for their adventuresome spirit and for raising a child who, at 8 years old, is willing to try their adventure. I savored every tidbit about their daily life in Ho Chi Minh City. The best part was their interactions with their neighbors and vendors. I hope you will publish a follow-up story.

                                                                            – K. S., Los Angeles

"A charming cautionary tale for anyone who's ever dreamed of packing it in and starting over somewhere new; the perfect read for the armchair expat."

                                                                            – Mark Haskell Smith, author of Naked at Lunch and Baked

“When faced with the loss of her job during the U.S. recession, author Esterhammer and her husband decide on a get-rich-quick scheme to rent out their L.A. house and live in Vietnam for a year at a fraction of the price. Excited at the prospect of living luxuriously while saving money, they find upon arrival that the rent in Ho Chi Minh City has jumped and they can only afford property in one of the poorest districts. In their year—which stretches into almost three years—abroad, Esterhammer, her husband, and son are threatened with a lawsuit from their renters, battle massive cockroaches, confront heat and flooding, and fall in love with their quirky and uninhibited neighbors. From the little children that run into their house as soon as the door opens to the neighbor who sells heavenly iced coffee to the sounds of karaoke going till midnight, the people they meet prove to be unexpected and unforgettable. Esterhammer creates laugh-out-loud moments of at times daunting or utterly embarrassing experiences.

VERDICT An energetic mix of wry humor and heartwarming moments, this engaging account will appeal to armchair travelers and memoir lovers alike in its representation of the people and culture of Vietnam and Esterhammer’s experience of a lifetime.”

                                                                   – Library Journal Review

Esterhammer's article is beautiful, full of hope and happiness and the wonderful values we're missing, foolishly rejected by too many people in the U.S. in their stupid intellectual sophistication. Very unusual and uplifting piece, coming from the lib media.

                                                                         – A.E., Lake Los Angeles

Terrific article; I loved it. I've been fascinated by Vietnam since I was there during the war in 1968-69 in the First Marine Division. I was in motor transport in I Corps, mostly Phu Bai, Danang and An Hoa. Our enemy notwithstanding, I always liked the Vietnamese people and wonder what happened to the ones I got to know. Fortunately, I was a camera nut and had a quality 35mm camera, so I took lots of pictures. They are treasures to me now and will go to my kids and grandkids. It is a beautiful country, and the people are fantastic.

                                                                                  – T.E., Burbank

I want to thank you for printing the amazing article by Karin Esterhammer. If for no other reason it is a grand lesson in tolerance, appreciating life with little of the accouterments that we've all been accustomed to and loving and appreciating our families good and bad. It is an article for our current economic times that we can all learn to live on less, enjoy and appreciate our lives and be happy regardless of our meager circumstances. Bless her and her family.

                                                                          – Sarah, Palm Desert

"When life hands you financial ruin—as the Great Recession did to former L.A. Times journalist Karin Esterhammer—the answer might seem simple: Why not move to Vietnam? Along with her husband and child, Esterhammer did just that, facing her new life in Ho Chi Minh City with courage, wit, and an open heart, all the while examining one of life's biggest questions: What is it that truly makes us wealthy? It's an unforgettable—and important—adventure of the body, soul, and pocketbook."

– Alison Singh Gee, author of Where the Peacocks Sing A Prince,
a Palace, and the Search for Home

“Karin Esterhammer’s sharpshooter’s eye for detail captures the Vietnamese people, their culture, and the pretzels an American family has to twist themselves into in order to adapt.”

– Phil Doran, author of The Reluctant Tuscan

Reviews for “So Happiness to Meet You”


“They are an American couple with a young child, who have apparently decided to escape the current economic difficulties at home, by going to live for a year in Ho Chi Minh City – how's that for a decision! She (Karin Esterhammer), the author of a Los Angeles Times story describes her interaction with incredibly generous low-income Vietnamese neighbors. The story is touching in its warmth and enthusiasm. The experience, writes the author, is like being on vacation. I think you'll enjoy the story as much as I did.”

Best-selling travel author Arthur Frommer

The memoir is based on a Los Angeles Times Travel cover story on Karin’s years in Vietnam that received the most hits of any travel piece in years.