Michael He: 7 Things He Misses About Armenia

Having fallen in love with the country Michael has since visited a few more times, living in Yerevan for some time and traveling across the country while making captivating videos about the culture, food, unique destinations, and the hidden gems he had discovered.

Chances are that you have seen Michael He! Most probably on social media, or have watched one of his viral music videos about Armenia, or enjoyed a vlog on his youtube channel or even spotted him strolling the streets of Yerevan a few years ago!

The Chinese American first spent a few months in Dilijan in 2015 for a summer internship at the Central Bank while studying at Harvard University. Having fallen in love with the country he has since visited a few more times, living in Yerevan for some time and travelling across the country while making captivating videos about culture, food, unique destinations and the hidden gems he had discovered.

On a rainy April afternoon, we had an online chat with Michael who is spending his quarantine in the United States. Until his plan to visit Armenia becomes possible again, we had a fun conversation reminiscing about his top memories in Armenia.

These were his top picks:

Khorovadz on lake Sevan

If I have to choose my favorite Armenian dish, and trust me, this isn't an easy choice, but I would rather say Khorovadz (barbecue). Having Khorovadz is a feast for all the senses. There is something so satisfying about watching the tender and juicy meat cook slowly as the aroma fills the air.
Khorovadz is not like any other ordinary barbeque. That tender pork meat is not like anything else I had. Of course, cooking it with friends on the shore of lake Sevan is just what you need after a swim. And observing the breath-taking view of the calm water as the sun disappears into the lake must have made the experience all the more unique.

A walk up the Cascade

Located in the heart of the center, Cascade is a lot more than just a landmark of the city. This one of a kind architectural edifice is an art exhibition space, a place to chill with a good drink or a hearty meal, a pretty challenging climb for the best outdoor exercise, the perfect spot for a night time card game session with friends, and one of the most marvellous views that you will ever get to see.
Personally, I used to climb those 572 steps and look forward to seeing a much well earned view of the whole city from the very top. Afterwards, rewarding myself with a glass of fine wine on one of the many cafe terraces was a moment I would never skip.

Gyumri and the food market

Gyumri is the second largest city in Armenia, and a must-see! The city is well known for being the cultural capital of the country with its many museums, art galleries and historical Armenian urban architecture. But most of all, locals of Gyumri are one of the warmest, most kind-hearted and hospitable people I've met! Although I've noticed that hospitality is a characteristic trait to all Armenians, Gyumri has all-the-more proven this reputation to be true! Many were the times when people would invite me over for coffee, help me with a guided tour around their city or even for some dinner.
One of my favorite memories in Gyumri was to walk around the food market, look at all the different colorful produce and specialties and hear the busy market burst with life. You end up walking out of there full just because of all the free food samples that you've been offered by the kind vendors.

Khash, oghi and Mount Aragats

With its 4 peaks, Mount Aragats is the highest mountain located on the Armenian land. Along with a friend from the Children of Armenia Fund (COAF), we rented a car and drove up the mountains while listening to some Armenian folk music, we passed by amazing views and were surprised by the sight of snow at the peak during the month of June! But before starting your exploration through Aragats, I would advise you to have a stop by the local restaurant and feast on some Khash and drink some oghi (vodka)! I guarantee you, this traditional dish of boiled cow or sheep parts is not like anything you had before! And combining it with shots of good homemade oghi makes the experience all the more unique.

Tip: don't forget to crumble some dried lavash roll on top of your Khash, this is the only right way to enjoy it!

Strolling around the center at night

A ritual that I used to look forward to at the end of a day well spent in the capital, was my daily walk in the evening.
My walk would usually start from the Opera, this is the favorite place for kids to hang out, and you can sense their playful energy right away, the smell of the cotton candy in the air and their uplifting laughter and hear cheerful voices while they are riding their bicycles, scooters or their electric colorful cars. Then I would go to Swan lake and walk around while looking at the surrounding reflected through the peaceful still water.

I continue my routine by passing across the Northern Avenue, which is always dynamic, filled with people and full of life and uplifting energy. My walk would end by the fountains on the Republic Square, where I would get carried away looking at the water streams dancing to the rhythm of popular music, synchronised with colorful lighting. I wouldn't think of a more magical way to end an exciting summer day!

Hiking in Dilijan

Located only 2 and a half hours away from Yerevan, Dilijan would always hold a special place in my heart. When I first came to Armenia in 2015, I headed straight from the airport to green Dilijan, so this was my first impression of Armenia, and I couldn't have thought about a better way to kick off my journey. The nature there is simply mind-blowing. I have spent my first weekend exploring the Dilijan National Park, passing by the waterfall and walking through the railroad track. The perfect combination of exercise and fun! The luscious green Nature makes the perfect background for all the photography amateurs or anyone who is looking for instagram worthy spots.

Vardavar: the water battle

Well, if you haven't celebrated a Vardavar in your life, then you're missing on a lot!
This Armenian festival takes place on one of the scorching hot July days and it isn't like anything you've experienced before. Each corner, street and spot in Armenia turns into a potential place to be completely and utterly drenched in water by a total stranger. I definitely wasn't anticipating what would happen to me that day! I had water thrown over my head from balconies above me, from people hiding in bushes or just straight to my face. People take Vardavar very seriously, and it is a great opportunity to unwind, laugh your heart out and live some unprecedented moments with your friends and strangers. Just get all your waterproof gear on and make sure to fill your water gun, you will definitely need it!

"I still miss Armenia, and often think about my time there. I am planning on visiting this summer and this time I am bringing family with me! In the meantime, you can follow my youtube channel for videos about Armenia. Oh, and also to learn some basic, key Armenian words which I am teaching through my videos."


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