July 7, 2015

Video: South East Asia

I have always wanted to make a video of a trip but I never remember to film. After a failed attempt in Africa I finally pulled it together for Vietnam (and two nights in Bangkok). There is definitely a learning curve to filming but here goes my first travel video! Watch below or click here

June 28, 2015

Thailand: Biking Bangkok with Grasshopper Adventures

Bangkok, we are back! We flew into Bangkok for two nights before flying back home so we could eat some thai food. Unfortunately, on our last night in Ho Chi Minh City Laura got food poisoning or a stomach bug and spent a good part of our time in Bangkok recovering at Lamphu House (one of my favorite hostels). 

To add a little verity to Bangkok, since I have already seen the Buddha's and gold palaces by tuk tuk, I booked a bike tour with Grasshopper Adventures. The morning was spent weaving through small back streets, stopping for local snacks and at neighborhood temples. It was one of the best activities I have done, highly recommend. 

{ A neighborhood temple & as close to the King and Queen  as I will ever get }
{ Last night in Bankok (photo: Paul) }

June 26, 2015

Vietnam: Nha Trang, Mud Baths

Sometimes you just need an excuse to rent a motorbike. The mud baths outside of Nha Trang were just that. 

Before we knew it the Sheraton organized motorbikes for Laura and I to rent. After gassing up (no motorbike in Vietnam comes with gasoline) we followed the waterfront using our Google map screenshots. With only one u-turn we found ourselves driving up to exactly were we wanted to be. 

{ when in doubt, throw up a peace sign }

With our selfie stick in tow we slipped into a mud bath. Turns out mud baths are weird... and hilarious. For about twenty minutes Laura and I slipped around in mud taking self stick photos with all the other mud bathers doing the same thing in the next tubs over. I know what you are thinking - what was the point of the mud? Does it give us ageless skin? Will we be cured of chocolate cravings? We don't know. And after trying to figure out the impossible without wifi we were given the hand signal to leave and the tub was drained. Although sitting upright in the mud bath without sliding into your friend was a challenge enough the real challenge started in the showers. Let me just say... endless mud, endless. 

June 25, 2015

Vietnam: Nha Trang

I found the Sailing Club through a little bit of research on Nha Trang and instantly wanted to go... kid in a candy shop style. It was pretty, it had great food, and the view was top notch. The only way life could have been better is if I had timed my arrival for one of their beach parties.

I have actually been to Nha Trang in 2008 but it was a quick trip and I honestly don't remember much. But I do remember the snorkel tour through the islands off the coast so that was the first (well, second after Sailing Club) activity on our list. After strolling the main drag and price shopping Laura and I found a dive shop that offers a snorkel tour to Hon Mun Island. The following morning we were picked up from the Sheraton and after a little sitting around for no apparent reason (except that when we got bored we bought hats that turned out to be a lot of fun) we were off cruising through the islands. It was excellent being on the water, I had missed it.

The most entertaining part of the day was lunch. After snorkeling all morning we made our way to a floating dock which had a house and a handful of nets in the water full of fish. We were the only tourists around so you could say we were in our element. After a few beers, rice and a whole fish we had just gotten started. On a little adventure to the bathroom I found a bamboo circle boat and just like that dreams do come true...

June 24, 2015

Vietnam: Sheraton Nha Trang

It was time to leave the rain behind and head up north to sunny weather. Nha Trang! 

When we were in Seattle and dreaming of our beach vacation it was with a five star hotel so we made it happen. Hello Sheraton! Can you still be considered a backpacker if you don't settle for anything less then a five star hotel rating? Times are changing folks and my trips are about to get way more expensive. There is something to be said for hotel bathrobes, balcony views, infinity pools, and staff that treats you like royalty even if you are wearing your travel pants and a local beer shirt. I am afraid to say it but... we are fancy now. 

June 23, 2015

Vietnam: Mui Ne

After eating and shopping our way through HCMC we took a train to Mui Ne, a coastal town four hours north. However, the train does not go directly to Mui Ne. The train station is in Phan Thiet which is about a thirty minute taxi drive from Mui Ne. It worked well for our group of four but if I was traveling solo that would have been a pricey ride. There is a bus which is a less expensive travel option from HCMC to Mui Ne but the journey is much longer and for this two week trip we have more money then time.  

We stayed at Ocean Vista through Airbnb which ended up being a little outside of town. However, our apartment was beautiful and the view from the balcony was stunning, even on rainy afternoons. 

The reason we went to Mui Ne was not for the beach but for the sand dunes. I lived in Vietnam for a year and never made it to the sand dunes so I was determined to not miss it this time around. 

We booked a jeep tour through Ocean Vista and at 9am they picked us up. While sweating and sticking to the pleather seats we cruised along the ocean road with the wind in our hair. Our first sand dune stop was the white sand dunes where we rented ATV's and pulled out the selfie stick for a bumpy and windy twenty minute drive. From there we hiked through the red sand dune canyon and then cooled off walking through Fairy Stream. The whole day was scenic and to top it off we finished the day right before a down poor. They were right, Mui Ne does have crazy weather. 

June 22, 2015

Vietnam: HCMC, Au Parc

I know, I know, it's not Vietnamese food but does that mean I can't love it and recommend it to everyone who is visiting HCMC? Sometimes you just need a place that is amazing from top to bottom while you sip a lime soda and enjoy eggs cooked the way you like them. I don't think I love a restaurant anywhere else in the world like I love Au Parc. Maybe it is the memories I have there or maybe it is their brunch menu but at the end of the day it is simply the best. When you are living in a crazy city and going a little crazy there needs to be a place where you can find a bagel and cream cheese. Am I right, am I right?!

June 21, 2015

Vietnam: Motorbikes in HCMC

On the morning of day two in Ho Chi Minh City it was time for us to go to Chi's in Pham Ngu Lao and rent motorbikes. I think I can speak for the group and say this was something we were all really looking forward too.

Ever since we left Vietnam we have continued to talk about the days we scooted around the city on our Honda Waves. We learned how to drive like the Vietnamese - run red lights, drive up one ways, honk excessively and drive on sidewalks when there was a lot of traffic. You know, everything that our US drivers education course taught us was illegal. It had been five years since I shifted gears and scooted but it was just like riding a bike (pun indented) and before I knew it we were in the thick of the traffic on Hai Ba Trung Street.

I think I can confidently say that driving motorbikes in HCMC will be my favorite part of our two week trip in South East Asia. I mean, I bought a selfie stick for this exact moment. 

June 20, 2015

Vietnam: Ben Thanh Night Market

Steak and eggs at the Ben Thanh night market brings back a lot of good memories. We celebrated birthdays, farewells and any day of the week with a plate of steak and eggs. We always went to the same restaurant where the waiter knew us and greeted us with "Hi teacha'. The regular?" 

Since it was our first night back in Vietnam we had to celebrate, which called for one meal and one meal only, steak and eggs. We went back to the same restaurant at the night market but it had changed and they no longer served the steak and eggs as we knew it. Whaaaat? Noooooo! The steak and eggs we knew came cooking on a hot iron cow shaped plate. It was crucial to quickly mix the steak and eggs so your egg would cook - a skill that was learned. 

The new steak and eggs of the Ben Thanh night market doesn't compare but the Saigon Green and atmosphere was still the same. After our steak and eggs fail we did a little research and found that there are a few places in HCMC that still serve steak and eggs the right way. 

June 19, 2015

Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh City

Six years ago when my plane took off and flew far far away from Vietnam I knew I would never forgot that crazy country and would love it dearly forever. I have continued to cherish the time I had in Ho Chi Minh City and the chance to call it home. I learned so much about myself and traveling while I lived there and I am forever thankful. Truth: I now compare everything to Vietnam. 

I have spent the last six years dreaming of a trip back to Vietnam. So when the opportunity presented itself with three friends in tow (who lived in Ho Chi Minh City as well) it was a dream come true. I didn't want any trouble at the airport so I arranged my visa before my arrival through the Vietnam Embassy in the United States. It was a more expensive option then getting a visa-on-arrival but it was done and I could relax. 

{ View from our Airbnb at Horizon Towers }
As my Eva Air flight touched down in HCMC I needed to be pinched, I couldn't believe it was real. All these emotions came rushing back, I was smiling ear to ear. I couldn't wait to get back into the traffic and craziness of the city.

After waiting a hour for my backpack at baggage claim, while having a Vietnam reality check, I walked past the airport grounds to find a taxi (a local tip for you - taxis are much cheaper outside the airport). Instead of staying at a hotel downtown we booked an Airbnb at Horizon Tower near our old neighborhood. The drive from the airport to Horizon Tower through the busy streets dodging pedestrians, motorbikes and bicycles made me want to rent a motorbike stat. Having a motorbike when I lived in HCMC made my experience. I was able to truly learn the city streets and say I conquered HCMC traffic. 

{ Drinking cha da! There is no other drink, besides Saigon Green }

Our goal for our three days in HCMC was to eat at all our favorite restaurants and street food. We didn't need to sight-see since we had already lived in the city so we weren't real tourist this time around ;). We didn't need to crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels again or take a boat ride down the Mekong River, we had done that. However, Au Parc, pho, iced coffee and Go2Bar were waiting for us. I just knew it.

After everyone had arrived we needed pho and a good visit with our old neighborhood. I was on cloud nine walking around the busy streets, sweating and drinking coffee. However, we struck out trying to find a pho food stall where we could sit street side on small stools but we found a restaurant near VUS on Vo Thi Sau Street that was just perfect. We ordered cha da and sweated and sipped our way through our first bowl of pho. 

March 17, 2015

Mexico: Cabo San Lucas

SPRING BREAK CABO! Just kidding, but not really. We happen to be in Cabo San Lucas during Spring Break week which means I think we saw Cabo at its best... or worst. Definitely a place I don't need to visit too many times again but at least I came, I saw, I (sort of) conquered. 

{ Villa Del Palmar Beach Resort }

Since we had no idea it was Spring Break week, Laura and I had only one resort option when we booked the week prior, Villa Del Palmar Beach Resort. So us 29 year olds pilled in with the college kids for an all inclusive week of laying by the pool and getting the tannest I have ever been. You could say we were a little bit out of our element since we had just come from 9pm bedtimes in Loreto.

{ The Office }
{ The Office }
We did manage to make our way down to Mango Deck and The Office for some margs and Cabo entertainment... so this stuff really happens? It's not just in the reality shows? 

Peace out Cabo! We are rolling home...

March 15, 2015

Mexico: Todos Santos

After three months of living in Loreto and checking off the bucket list it was time to pack the rental car and say goodbye. I most definitely didn't want to leave the life of weekly spanish classes, beach walks, pool floating and hanging out with my main squeeze, Bailey, but my three months were up. 

Laura and I rented a car through Avis to drive down to Cabo San Lucas with a two night stop in Todos Santos. After plowing through La Paz during a down pour with a quick stop to stock up on car snacks we pulled into Pescadero Surf Camp just outside of Todos Santos. With dark clouds insight we set up our tent and cracked open a beer under the palapa roof pool bar. I love when places surprise you and turn out to be the coolest. Pescadero Surf Camp had great camp sites, a clean pool and an outdoor kitchen. It is a place you visit and never leave. 

{ Havienda Cerritos }
The next day we drove out to the beach next to Havienda Cerritos and played in the waves and watched kids learn to surf. The Pacific Ocean... we had made it! The beach was crawling with tourists catching some sun and vacationing. With Havienda Cerritos over looking the beach we decided we had to see this boutique hotel for ourselves so we drove up and explored (put our two person tent to shame ;)). 

Welcome to the Hotel California, such a love place, such a lovely place. 

To my surprise the Hotel California is in Todos Santos! It is safe to say this song was stuck in our heads all day. 

Todos Santos was full of artist shops, seafood stalls and friendly locals. With only a few small streets we were able to take our time and explore every shop and side alley. I know there is more to Todos Santos then these few blocks and I wish I had the chance to live there and be a local. I already miss it.  

We wrapped up a great day by heading to the beach north of Todos Santos down Mango Road and watching the waves crash against the shore. These were the biggest waves I have ever seen. Laura and I could have sat there all night photographing the light through the waves which gave them this turquoise glow.