Tuesday, April 25, 2017


Well I’m currently on a 6+ hour bus ride between Da Lat and Saigon and while I would really, really like to go to sleep, I’m making myself write an update for my blog that I will hopefully be able to post at some point if the wifi in my next hostel cooperates. 

I know it’s been entirely too long since I’ve written and it’s virtually impossible to try and pick up where I last left off so I will just do my best.

My last few months in Phuket were amazing. I finished my Dive Master and our last big event, Pop Up 3, went really well.

Caught this beautiful sunset in Phuket Town when Erin, Diego, Evi, and I went to the Sunday market.

My last week in Phuket was definitely a whirlwind. Hamant and I were both leaving on the same day so the nights leading up to our departure were long. Very long. And very fun. I don’t think I could have actually handled another day there to be honest. By the time I left, my body felt like it was actually shutting down. Haha. It was good though. I’m glad I was able to have a few more good nights with great friends at Nana’s and all around Kamala.

Leaving was definitely one of the hardest things I’ve had to do. Every time I leave, whether it was Texas, Prague, Madagascar, Portland, and now Phuket, I say the same thing: “I’m not doing this again.” I can’t stand the goodbyes. I hate leaving. I’m tired of making friends and falling in love with places just to say an absolutely heart wrenching goodbye. I don’t want to put down roots anymore just to tear them up after a number of months.

But undoubtedly, I know I will do it again. And again and again and again probably. It’s inevitable. I’ll manage.

I already miss Phuket and my friends and my job and my life there. Sitting on the plane, I wasn’t even happy to be honest. Or excited for my travels, etc. I was just sad.

I’m sure everyone thinks my life is pretty cool, getting to travel so much and see so many incredible places. But no one ever tells you about the heart ache. Or the sharp pang of homesickness that hits at the most random moment. Sometimes I miss a certain food or person or – holy crap, my bed – so bad that it actually hurts. I have a long, long mental list of things I miss.

Luckily though, those feelings pass. Quite quickly to be honest. I’m extremely happy traveling and living wherever and I wouldn’t change a thing. I know that deep down so the heart aches quickly subside.

I don’t really know where to start about my current travels. After Phuket, I went to Bangkok, as it was pretty much the only place in Thailand I hadn’t been that was on my list.

I was there for quite awhile actually since I needed to recover from my last week in Phuket. Unfortunately, I didn’t do that much recovering thanks to new friends and Khao San Road, and all the great things Bangkok has to offer.

I did a number of things there including a few temples – Wat Arun and Wat Pho – and took some water taxis, went to a flower market, an insane shopping mall, the Chatuchuk (JJ) Market, and that’s about all I can remember. It’s been awhile and I’ve been to a lot of cities since then!

Shopping malls in Bangkok are insane. At this one, each floor was modeled after a different city around the world and the stores on that floor were from that region. Really cool. There was like Rome, Tokyo, Paris, etc. The whole floor was decorated in the city's style and you would go through different 'gates' to get to them that looked like you were in an airport. 

Flower market!

Wat Arun. Check out all the kitties eating rice. 

The Chatachuck market was amazing. I could literally wander around for days. 

The walls and ceilings in Wat Pho were all painted really ornately like this. It was beautiful.

Traveling is definitely all about the people you meet and the crazy experiences you have. One minute I was at a bar on Khao San Road listening to everyone agree that we all need to go to Antarctica soon before it disappears. The next second I was on the street eating a scorpion and sucking laughing gas out of a balloon (sorry mom and dad).

It’s moments like those that make me know I’m in the right place doing the right thing and taking full advantage of everything the world has to offer. I seriously can’t imagine what my life would be like if I hadn’t left Texas two and a half years ago for my first big adventure.

So far Vietnam has been really fun as well. It’s not my favorite country I’ve been to, but I’ve definitely enjoyed it.

Hanoi was a really neat city. It was full of tiny, tree lined streets bustling with hundreds of motorbikes, cars, bicycles, and people. There were thousands of shops full of the most random things. There was a shop full of wicker baskets. Next to it was a shop full of picture frames. Next to that was a shop full of metal cooking pans. It was literally so random and it was strange to me that each shop specialized in one particular type of item. The plethora’s of Walmart in Texas seems like a distant memory at this point. All-in-one shops are few and far between in Asia.

The streets of Hanoi were insane! I loved it though.

I finally got a good picture of 'car seats' in South East Asia. They'll put tiny babies on chairs like this and then have like three other people on the bike. It's always crazy to me considering how big of a deal child safety is back in the US and in Europe.

The food in Vietnam is a good change. Of course I already miss Thai food like crazy, but it’s nice to have something different. Banh Mi’s especially. They are probably my favorite Vietnamese food so far. They’re a Vietnamese sandwich that usually has a bunch of vegetables on a baguette. Sandwiches are some of my favorite food and they were noticeably less prominent in Thailand.

Bahn Mi’s usually have a protein (pork, chicken, egg, or tofu, etc) and then tomato, cucumber, and maybe some rocket or some type of pickled slaw and sauce. The bread is very white, but is pretty good. They’re usually about a dollar as well so you can imagine I’ve eaten a ton.

Hanoi also has a particular type of coffee called Egg Coffee that is really, really good. They take an egg yolk and whip it with honey and sugar and then combine it with coffee. The result is a thick, creamy drink that is served in a bowl of hot water. It actually not too sweet as well unlike most coffee in SEA. I really like it and found some in Hoi An as well.

Mmmmm. Egg Coffee.

One thing I’ve eaten a ton of here in Vietnam is tofu. They seem to use a lot of here. I’ve probably eaten more tofu in the last few weeks than I have in my entire life. They put it in curries, on bahn mi’s, they fry it, and cook it a thousand different ways. It’s actually pretty good and nice change.

I took a boat cruise in Halong Bay as well that was really fun. Most of the people who had already been said that it was extremely touristy with tons of trash. I knew it was going to be touristy but I had to go there and see it anyways.

Somehow I guess I booked a really good tour, because we didn’t see another tourist boat the entire day. I was really lucky as well because I did basically no research before booking so it turned out quite well.

We went kayaking there too which was really fun. The water was a beautiful teal color and pretty clear. We kayaked through caves and into a really nice small cove. There was literally no one else around and it was amazing.

The weather while we were in Halong wasn’t the best, but it could have been worse. In the morning it was about 22 degrees (I have no idea what that is in Fahrenheit sorry) which was a little chilly. Luckily though it didn’t rain.

When the boat stopped and they said we could go swimming, most people weren’t too keen. I made the first move though and was the first to get in. It was fun because the boat had a nice platform about five meters high that you could jump off of. I also got a free beer because I was the first to jump in. Everyone else quickly followed after me as well and we had a good time. Luckily the water wasn’t too cold either.

That night our group of about fifteen people stayed on a private island called Cat Ong, which was directly across from Cat Ba. We had some good food that night and played a lot of drinking games that were really fun.

The island actually reminded me a lot of Madagascar actually because the ‘rooms’ were built into the side of the cliffs. There was also a great view out over the water and looking at a bigger island. The similarities gave me another random pang of homesickness for Nosy Komba. Funny how I can be homesick for places all over the world.

The next morning we did a short hike up to the top of the island as well before heading back to Hanoi.

On the boat we were able to try a few different cocktails made with rice wine. It was surprisingly really good.

Halong Bay was definitely everything I had hoped it would be. Also, I don't quite remember what I look like without a tan anymore and I don't really want to find out.

From Hanoi, I took an overnight sleeper bus to Hue that took about 12 hours. The sleeper busses are actually quite nice. You get your own little bed. If you’re lucky you get a bottom bunk.

My first bus, I was with two other people and we snagged three seats at the back that was like our own little cave so that was nice. I also luckily have a bunch of movies on my hard drive so I’m pretty content on long journeys.

The first of many long night bus journeys.

We didn’t stay in Hue very long actually. We just stopped there so that we could take motorbikes from there to Hoi An along the Hai Van Pass.

The pass has actually been featured on Top Gear and is curvy road through the mountains with really good views along the way.

We also stopped at a waterfall for some swimming along the way as well as a few fishing villages and the beach in Da Nang. The whole drive took about six hours.

It was a really, really fun day and once again I’m super thankful for my experience on four-wheelers, dirt bikes, and motorcycles.

Elephant Springs, where we stopped before hitting the Hai Van Pass. After sweating on a bike all morning, jumping into the cool water felt amazing. It was also a lot deeper than it looks.

The views along the Pass were beautiful!

My chopstick skills have drastically improved.

Hoi An was a really beautiful city that I quite liked. It’s apparently one of the most well- preserved cities in Vietnam that wasn’t destroyed in the war. There are tons of tiny streets filled with lanterns and flowers and beautiful old building. I could literally wander around for hours just looking at how pretty it was, especially at night when all the lanterns were lit up.

We also had a beach day in Hoi An and a day at the pool. It was pretty hot so the water was very welcoming. My tan appreciated it as well.

Cycled through some rice fields on my last day in Hoi An.

From Hoi An, I took another over night bus to Da Lat. This one was a rough journey. I left my hostel at about 5pm and didn’t get to my hostel in Da Lat until about noon the next day… and we actually made it two hours earlier than expected.

Luckily, that was my last long haul bus ride in Vietnam and my busses in Cambodia shouldn’t be too bad.

The road from Nha Trang up to Da Lat was insane. It was super windy and through the mountains. It had some amazing view though. As tired as I was, I stayed up to enjoy the scenery.

It’s funny because if you had asked me six months ago, I would have told you that my biggest fear was riding on a bus through scary mountain roads, but for some reason it didn’t bother me this time. I actually quite enjoyed it. Maybe I was deliriously tired. Or maybe I’ve overcome a fear, who knows?

I’d love to say that when I got to Da Lat, I had a nice hot shower, but unfortunately it was cold. I’ve literally had two hot showers in the last like ten days. It’s insane. Traveling isn’t all rainbows and butterflies. It’s a lot of people in a dorm room on uncomfortable beds being noisy and inhibiting your sleep. It’s a lot of dirty, wrinkled clothes. It’s a lot of being hungry and having to make yourself go find some food. It’s lots of waiting and hanging around. It’s a lot of things….

I had a really good time in Da Lat, mainly because the group of people I was with. It was cold and rainy a lot and there isn’t that much to do there so we played a lot of card games, pool, and drinking games.

The hostel I was at also had ‘family dinner’, so every night at 5:30 we would all sit down and have a big meal together.

The one cool thing I did in Da Lat was canyoneering, which consisted of abseiling down three waterfalls, hiking through the woods, going down rock slides, and jumping off of cliffs. It was a lot of fun and I really enjoyed it. Our group was tons of fun.

We were also really lucky and had beautiful weather that day. It rained the whole day before and the day after. It actually even started raining ten minutes after we got back home too so we literally had the most perfect window of sunny weather.

There was also a really cool bar in Da Lat called the Maze Bar which was made up of like six floors of crazy architecture. It kind of felt like a jungle inside. It’s really difficult to describe and I unfortunately don’t have any pictures because I was busy drinking and having fun while I was there.

We had a really, really fun group in Da Lat and then met up in Ho Chi Minh as well. I had a blast with these guys.

Just your standard parking garage. Except there were rows and rows like this. Probably had thousands of bikes in here.

We went on a little adventure with our taxi driver who didn't speak any English.

I keep finding puppies everywhere! There were two in Hoi An, and then this little guy was at my hostel in Da Lat. There was also a really cute one at a tattoo shop in Saigon.

That basically catches me up to today. I’m planning on spending a couple of days in Ho Chi Minh, also known as Saigon and then heading to Cambodia.

My travels so far have already been a lot of fun. I’ve met a lot of cool people and I already really, really don’t want to come home, wherever home is now. I’m not really sure.

One funny thing is how many people have told me in the last month that I don’t have a Texas accent. It’s literally an astounding number of people and seriously every single person makes note of it. At first I thought it was weird. And now I’ve seriously been told it so many times that now I just laugh and shrug. My accent is something I thought I would always have. But I guess living abroad so much in the last few years I’ve managed to lose it. I can definitely tell that my language has changed. I use lots of different words and phrase things much differently than I probably used to. Being around people who either don’t speak English as their native language, or speak it with a different accent has really changed the way I speak. I’m going to have a strange time when I get back eventually.

It’s also crazy because I realized that out of the last two and a half years, I’ve only spent about 8 months of it in Texas… When people ask me where I’m from I say the US, and when they ask where from, I always pause because I don’t really know what to say anymore. Yes, I’m originally from Texas, but I don’t call that home anymore and haven’t called it home that often in the last few years. But I also don’t know where else to call home so it’s a very strange feeling.

Anyways, another quick fun fact, there is a bridge in Hanoi that was designed by the same man who designed the Eifel Tower and it’s actually made with leftover pieces that were brought over from France. I found that quite interesting.

That’s about all I’ve got to say at the moment. I’m currently gazing out the window of the bus at tons of mountains and valleys filled with rice terraces and small houses with people out in the fields working and wearing the typicaly Vietnamese pointed straw hats.

Life never ceases to amaze me.

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