A layover in Taipei

I spent less than 10 hours in Taipei so I KNOW it doesn’t really count….. Anyways, my boyfriend Taylor and I had a long layover there in late 2016 so we decided to take a bus into the city and explore for a few hours. We went to the top of Taipei 101 which is the 8th tallest skyscraper (509 meters/1670 feet) in the world. We went to the lookout, got mango-beer floats, and learned about that big gold ball that keeps it from falling over. 

We then walked around, got lost, ate DELICIOUS street food by looking at other people’s dishes and pointing. There was no way we would have any idea what we were ordering, but it worked out. 

I love being able to be in a city I have never been to and just walk around with no goal in mind. It would be great to go back and I could definitely see myself living there one day. It really reminded me of where I lived in Korea. 

Thank you Taiwan for your layover! 

Two months in Vietnam

I wanted to eat A LOT of pho, banh mi sandwiches, and Vietnamese BBQ so knew I would need to stay in Vietnam for a while – and that’s what I did. 

Due to the fact that the Vietnamese really know how to cater to travelers (yes WIFI & bathrooms on the sleeper buses) I bought an open bus ticket and made the trek from the south to the north for two months in late 2014. As long as the bus company had a days notice of when you would be hopping on, you could travel at the pace that you wished. No need to stress about planning too much in advance. 

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Sleeper bus

My trip looked like this: Phu Quoc – Saigon – Mui Ne – Dalat – Nah Trang – Hoi An – Danang – Hue – Hanoi – Sapa – Cat Ba. 

Traveling with no time restrictions and in a place that is very affordable is the absolute best. Check the rest of my Vietnam stories to figure out details of the places I went. 

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Vietnam is 100% MY FAVORITE country I have ever visited.

Trekking in SaPa

Have you ever had to rely on a less than 100 pound elderly woman to guide you through the mountains and make sure that you wouldn’t fall flat on your face? Well, I have. 

Should I or should I not go to Sapa? That’s not even a question if you enjoy hiking, cooler weather, and a whole different experience from anything else that Vietnam has to offer. I spent a couple of days trekking through the hills in northern Vietnam toward the end of my two month trip. Although it was cloudy and rainy for the most part, it was still absolutely beautiful. It’s easy enough to do an overnight bus from Hanoi and be at the Sapa town center by morning. Be prepared for cooler temperatures. If you need any winter gear there are discounted North Face stores on every corner in the main parts of Sapa and Hanoi. I bought a jacket that I later forgot on the boat ride to Halong Bay – womp wommmmp.

A group of about 8 of us were going on the two day trek – I wish I had gone a little longer but that’s just more reason to go back. Each day we walked about 8-10 miles through little villages. After our first day of sightseeing we stayed in a village home-stay where they prepped us a fantastic meal. We were able to explore the village, get mulled wine, treat ourselves to massages, and enjoy these little lavender infused baths up in the mountains.

After the first night we continued our journey through the slippery terrain. The photos tell more than I can. But this was such a unique experience and I’m glad that I took advantage of seeing this part of the country. Don’t believe me or still a bit skeptical? Well good thing for Tripadvisor

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Saigon won’t rip me off

SAIGON. It’s the COOLEST city ever. Ok, I’m lying I say that any time I go to a new city. I met up with my friends Kyle and Meghan who were living there at the time. They had a FIVE story house and paid $450 a month. WHAT!? Take me back PLEASE. They were both working and living there at the time and were great hosts for just over a week. We went to the pools, rode motorbikes, and ate great food.

Be careful if you are in a taxi. At one point I was in one and I could see that the driver was clicking the meter and making the price go up way too fast. A few blocks down the road it was becoming ridiculous so I asked him to pull over and let us out. I paid him his fee and he gave me back a very small amount of change. I looked over and saw he had hidden my $$ under his leg and acted as if I hadn’t just give it to him. I took his wallet, took my proper change, and got out of there. I had already been in SE Asia for over two months and didn’t have the patience to get ripped off. I was on a BUDGET. 

The Vietnam War museum was a really hard place to see in person. It was sad to see how it had affected so many people, both American and Vietnamese, horribly. I was impressed by all of the Americans who were drafted and refused to go because of their morals. They would burn their papers. People today are still affected by agent orange which can easily be passed down generation to generation.

During my last few days I got horribly sick and went to the doctor – so happy for my travel insurance! I was diagnosed with tonsillitis and laid in bed for a few days – NOT FUN. Luckily I had such wonderful hosts and wasn’t stuck in a hostel somewhere.

Overall, I really DID love the city, despite the circumstances. It was busy, loud, crazy, and there were tons of expats. I need to go live there someday.

For more history on Ho Chi Minh city click here

**Unfortunately I have no idea where my pics of this city went, but I have a great memory of them in my mind….

I shaved my legs

I don’t do drugs which is unfortunate considering they are so easy to get in Cambodia. 

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In the fall of 2014 I spent about 10 days beach bummin’ near Sihanoukville and Koh Rong which is in the southwestern part of Cambodia. There are a lot of foreigners who work at the bars in these areas for free accommodation which is great way to extend your travel and save $$$$. Take a ferry to Koh Rong for a couple of days and make sure to get the Thai food off to the left of the ferry dock. It’s AMAZING. I also went zip-lining in the pouring rain and almost broke a finger.  If you like nice and quiet then DON’T GO.

Of the beaches, I really preferred staying on Otres. It was a quiet beach just about a four mile bike ride from Sihanoukville. I was happy to just read, kayak, relax, toss a frisbee, and watch the sunset. 

Fun Fact: Women walk around the beaches needing work and offer services such as pedicures, massages, and threading your legs and anything else that needs to be shaved. It was both painful and very ticklish. It was about time that someone pulled off all of that hair on my legs. 

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The Killing Fields

When I got to Cambodia I immediately read the book “First They Killed My Father”. I bought it from a man on the streets who had no arms or legs. That was the norm over there. A lot of people had run into landmines in the recent past that had destroyed their bodies. The book was about a girl who came from a well-to-do family and was forced out of her home in Phnom Penh. It goes on to explain the history of the Khmer Rouge (1975-79) and how their leader Pol Pot led a genocide that destroyed most of Cambodia and the lives of those who lived there at the time. During these years about a quarter (2 million) of the population was killed. 

Going to the killing fields was the saddest place I  had ever seen. Walking through a place where you have the chills the entire time and don’t want to say a word because anything you say will be wrong. I listened to an audio background while learning about what happened and how the people were killed. The part that hit me the hardest was that there was an alter of skulls, you could still see people’s teeth in the dirt, and they would kill babies by bashing them into trees. I had no idea that this had happened not even forty years earlier. I took no photos because I didn’t feel comfortable taking out a camera. 

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The hour ride from Phnom Penh to the killing fields

“I think how the world is still somehow beautiful even when I feel no joy at being alive within it.” 

-Loung Ung, author of First They Killed My Father

To read more about the history of the Khmer Rouge and how it effected Cambodia click here.

Monkeying around the temples of Angkor

Have you seen “The Jungle Book?” Well, if so, you are basically going to be on the set of the monkey temple scene. But for real – Monkeys and temples – EVERYWHERE. Those monkeys are cute little thieves.  

I was fortunate to spend three days exploring the famous Angkor in the fall of 2014. I was given the option to either buy a one-day pass or a three-day pass and I highly recommend the three-day pass if you have the time. There are way too many temples to explore and one day will be a bit hectic. The Angkor National Museum is a great place to visit beforehand to get a little background on what you will be seeing. 

Here is how it was done:

Day 1: Bicycle ride around the small circuit.

Day 2: Hire a tuk-tuk to take you to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat. Yes, it is very touristy, but that happens, right? Just do it. Continue onto the grand circuit for the remainder of the day.

Day 3: Rent mini motorbikes and explore what you have not yet seen.  

 

This was one of THE BEST sites I have ever explored because the temples were each so UNIQUE and GINORMOUS. Some of my favorite pics of that trip posted below.