North America, Asia · 16 Days · 22 Moments · June 2017

Kate's journi to Southeast Asia

20 June 2017

Now I'm sitting in the airport waiting to board my flight home, and I can't help but think about how incredible this trip was! I'm celebrating the adventure with one last Chang and one last pad Thai. If I ever see this beer later in life, I'll have to order it. Wheels up to Istanbul then JFK! See you soon mom and dad! 😊

19 June 2017

In the evening we celebrated our last night with cocktails and good food. We first went to Gilmore's (Chris's friend) favorite bar. It was a secret jazz bar reached through five flights up a graffiti covered staircase near the sky train. It overlooked the grittiness of the city, and we had drinks there while the sun set. Then we ventured to a spot called soul food for dinner which is the home of an American cook who uses local Thai ingredients and Thai recipes but spices them up with a southern flare. I had a traditional Thai curry soup dish but with beef brisket. It was amazing! We had some drinks there while it was raining, and once it stopped we ventured to another Gilmore recommendation. This time it was a dark dungeon called the Iron Fairies that was nearly pitch black and very funky. When Katie's drink came it was on fire... she did order the "Burning Bush" though which I guess they took quite literally. It was a fun final bar to see in Bangkok!
Our last full day was jam packed with site seeing. We went to the grand palace first which was a bit too much to handle. It was so big and was the most crowded site we had been to the whole time. Also, thousands of people were visiting the palace to mourn the recently deceased king, so there was double the amount of people than the regular tourist group. We then went to Wat Pho and Wat Arun which were both beautiful temples near the grand palace. The details of the wats were incredible and it was interesting to see this difference between Thai wats and Vietnamese pagodas

18 June 2017

The next day Katie and I navigated (quite successfully) through Bangkok. We went to the Jim Thompson house and toured around that area before then heading to the Sunday market in Bangkok called the JJ market. It, like the markets in Vietnam, was massive, but still exciting and thrilling to walk around in. I felt like quite the city slicker after this day from our success with the BTS sky train in Bangkok. It's really easy to use but it still felt great to get from place to place so smoothly in such a gigantic city. We did have some help though from the guide Chris gave me from his friend who lived in the city for two years. He gave us great advice on restaurants and site seeing places, all with the exact BTS stop to get off at. Needless to say, it was a great resource. The last picture is the view of the city from our hotel room!

16 June 2017

In the afternoon, we wandered around the Chiang Mai markets a bit. They were massive and overwhelming, but we managed to buy a few souvenirs. The following day we visited 4 wats (Thai temples) in the morning and then I was able to meet up with Vid and catch up with him for the entire afternoon! We were good friends in high school and now he is doing the Fulbright in Thailand. He only has three months left, so it was interesting to hear all of his incredible experiences from this past year. He also gave some insider advice on Bangkok which was much appreciated! In the evening I had some delicious coconut ice cream before Katie and I headed to the train station for our overnight train to Bangkok. The ride was really cool and quiet-but we definitely didn't have the best night sleep on the bumpy train. Still, it was a great way to get to Bangkok quickly.
For our first full day in Chiang Mai, Katie and I went to the elephant nature park. Apparently it is one of a few reputable elephant sanctuaries in Thailand that tries to rescue elephants from harm in the circus or logging industries. It was so cool to be able to get so close to these big animals! They are so smart and beautiful. We got to feed them, pet them and watch them bathe in the river. The park picked us up and dropped us off, so the day went smoothly and was very relaxing and fun.

14 June 2017

After breakfast, Katie and I tried to find a place to rent a motorbike or a bike because the island is too long to walk. The workers at the shop laughed at us when we told them we had never driven before, so they took us out on a test drive to see if we could do it. We were pretty bad at it even though they were very encouraging and kind, so we decided on just renting normal bikes. We then searched for a nice beach to hang out at, but unfortunately this was harder than we imagined. We eventually found one off of a resort and restaurant that we just pretended to be staying at. It was very relaxing, and we even got Thai massages on the beach for super cheap. We stayed until happy hour was over and then biked to a cool restaurant with apparently the best Thai in town. It was delicious, of course, and I'm already looking forward to my next Thai meal.

13 June 2017

We made it to Thailand last night but got in pretty late from the long day of travel. The flight was quick but our bus was a little over an hour late and took a while to get to Koh Lanta (a separate island in Thailand.) The bus was funny though bc we thought it was a tourist bus but was definitely a local transit. The people were very nice though and we smiled back and forth quite a bit. After we made it to Koh Lanta, we checked into our hostel (which zero people are staying at but is still great) and had some dinner. I got curry which was delicious and Katie got pad Thai. The following morning was down pouring, so we waited for it to stop raining before walking to a cute cafe in a garden. The bfast was delicious, but there were cats everywhere so I was a bit freaked out. The restaurant had at least 8 kittens roaming all around the kitchen and entire place. Definitely wouldn't fly with the health code in the US!

12 June 2017

Our last night in Hanoi! This was a great night. We ventured to a different part of town we hadn't seen before and first treated ourselves to some fancy cocktails that had Vietnamese fruit in them. Mine was the green one and had Coc in it. It was pretty tasty. We then walked to a bun cha restaurant for dinner-the same one Obama and Anthony bordain went to! The waiter spoke no English, but I heard her say Obama so I just held up two fingers and she brought out two Obama specials. It was so delicious! One of my favorite meals so far. I wasn't eating it correctly at first because apparently you have to wait to eat the seafood roll until you get the broth, but a very sweet Vietnamese woman gestured to me and helped me figure it out. We then walked around a bit more and got coconut chocolate milkshakes which were incredible. After, we went back to our beautiful hotel (which was actually super cheap for what it was) and went to bed before our flight in the morning to Krabi.
For our last morning on the boat, we first woke up early for a relaxing tai chi class. (Mom would've been all over this.) A man actually proposed to his girlfriend on the boat while we were doing tai chi, so that was also fun to watch. An hour or so later, we briefly docked on an island and hiked up to a cave where fishermen used to stay. It was so beautiful and also pretty cold in there which felt great compared to the humid heat. We then returned to the boat and had our last lunch, which included some really interesting fruit, like the rambutans pictured. After we ate, some really nice luxury vans took us to a local village half way between Hanoi and Halong Bay. There we had some snacks and watched a water puppet show! The show was pretty bizarre, but it was cool watching the local villagers do their thing

11 June 2017

After kayaking we lounged around for a bit and then washed all of our clothes in the bathtub of our room. It was like a giant caldron of disgusting sweat but at least we have clean clothes now! The staff must have had a good laugh when they came into our room to see every article of clothing hung from every possible place in the room. While they dried, we had a wonderful dinner on the boat and listened to the captain play a Vietnamese guitar. It was a great night!
This afternoon we kayaked along Bai Tu Long bay. It was so beautiful! We kayaked for about 40 minutes to a private beach on one of the islands. After swimming for about 30 minutes, we got back on the boat to get ready for dinner.
We made it to the boat! It is beautiful and better than we expected. We lounged around on board and had a delicious lunch with so many courses of fresh Vietnamese food. We also met some women on our boat who are travel agents from the US that come on these trips through their company. They specialize in south east Asia so they gave us great recommendations for Thailand!

10 June 2017

Last night was a bit rough... we found two cockroaches in our hotel room and I was paranoid about bed bugs because of my experience in Ireland, so we walked around for a bit to see if any other hotels had rooms. Everything was booked, of course, so we went back to our room and slept with the lights on so that I could keep one eye peeled for bites. We woke up around 5:30 to get out quickly. Today we are going on an overnight boat cruise, but finding the office was the biggest pain. Little did we know the address has changed and is different than the one online. We only found this out after walking 5 miles around Halong Bay being pointed in random directions from random Vietnamese people who could tell we were lost. Eventually we went to the international hospital to ask for help, and luckily the woman at the front desk used to work for the cruise line and told us the new address. We finally made it, but who knows if this is right and if we will actually make it on the boat.
Made it to Halong Bay, but there is absolutely nothing to do here. The town shuts down during the day because everyone is on a boat, so we went to a park and road a cart up to a look out point, arcade, and giant sky wheel. It was deserted for the most part but we were just trying to kill time. This place gives me the creeps because it is so built up and touristy but there is no one around and everything is closed. Asian tourists also asked to take pictures with me and Katie today because we are the only western people in this place.

9 June 2017

After we rested a bit, Katie and I wandered around Ninh Binh and found some cool residential neighborhoods. We eventually made our way to a local park. All of the children in the park would immediately say "hello!" to us when they saw we were foreigners, which was pretty funny and entertaining. The Vietnamese people really seem to be very friendly. Overall, park was one of my favorite spots in Ninh Binh because it really showed the local life of all ages of people. It was right next to a community recreation center, so we got to watch the kids take martial arts class and the older people do tai chi in the park.
Today was a strenuous but exciting one! After a much needed good night sleep, we went to the Bai Dinh pagoda, the largest complex of Buddhist temples in Vietnam. It was huge! There are three gates you pass by before getting to the large Buddha and tower. Along the way are giant gods leading you to the top of the mountain. While we were there hundreds of people were praying in the temples for some kind of prayer convention I think, which was pretty cool and so interesting to listen to them pray in unison. The complex also includes the new and old temple, the new being the giant structure and the old being a small hidden shrine in a cave of the mountain. We couldn't take pictures of that one, but needless to say it was beautiful. We walked so far and the heat was unbearable, so we were beyond sweaty and pretty tired after our visit.

8 June 2017

Today we took a train to Ninh Bihn, a smaller town close to the rice villages of Vietnam! The train was so crowded with locals but definitely an exciting experience to see the country side. Once we arrived at our hostel, we walked to a local restaurant and had some lunch. She gave us free bananas and great advice so it's no wonder the restaurant had great reviews. After, we took a cab to Tam Coc, a rice village and UNESCO heritage site, to take a boat tour around the water. It was absolutely beautiful! It started down pouring on our way back to the dock, which made me nervous considering it was thundering and lightning and we were on a metal boat... But, regardless, no one was struck by lightning so all in all it was a successful day.

7 June 2017

Wandered up to old Hanoi to see the Ngoc Son Temple and visit the markets in the city. After we got our 10,000 steps, we stopped for a drink by the water.
Katie and I explored the museums of Hanoi today on our first adventure. We went to the Temple of Literature first, which is the first university in Hanoi. The area was beautiful and it was nice to wander around the temple and learn about the history of Vietnamese education. After, we took a taxi to the Prison Museum, where senator John McCain was held after his plane was shut down.

5 June 2017

The 9 hour layover has begun! The first couple of hours surprisingly flew by even though I was just sitting around, exhausted, wishing time to pass quickly. The gate I was sitting near was headed to Sarajevo, and it made me want to sneak on board and go see my big bro! My flight unfortunately isn't until 1 am, and I haven't even bothered changing my clock or checking the time because I'm waiting for the sun to go down. So I bought a sandwich, found the coolest spot in the international terminal, and watched the sunset from Istanbul.

4 June 2017

Step 1. About to board my flight to Istanbul, where I'll have a 9 hour layover before my flight to Bangkok! Spirits are high as I keep getting "you go girl" from airport attendants when they ask me if I'm traveling alone. Not sure what that means but I'll take it!