I didn’t want to say goodbye to Vietnam. In my two weeks there, the country had exceeded already very high expectations. I don’t know if it was the country itself, the people I met there, or the fact that I seemed to be hitting my travel stride two and a half months into my round-the-world trip, but I had found total comfort and happiness in Vietnam and wasn’t ready to leave it behind, no matter how exciting my subsequent plans.
The PARKROYAL Saigon making a grand impression
I had started in the north of the country and made my way south, with my last stop being Vietnam’s largest city, Ho Chi Minh City, formerly known as Saigon. While hostels had treated me phenomenally during my Vietnamese adventure (especially Vietnam Backpacker Hostels), my last two days included the special treat of staying at the beautiful PARKROYAL Saigon.
Castaways, Castaways, where to begin? I write this several days after returning, still trying to digest it all…and still trying to get the sand out of my hair. For backpackers in Vietnam, Vietnam Backpacker Hostels’ Castaways Island trip to Halong Bay is legendary. You’ll be hard-pressed to meet a young traveler who hasn’t been on the trip or at least hasn’t considered it. And, as I found out this week, there’s good reason for that.
Sunset in paradise
We departed from the Vietnam Backpacker Hostel in Hanoi bright and early and boarded a bus followed by a boat followed by another bus followed by another boat, but all of that was worth it the instant we set eyes on our final destination. Our home for the next two nights? A private beach with straw huts and blissfully soft sand surrounded by steep limestone cliffs. It was ours, all ours to make whatever we wanted of it.
“Oh you’ll love the food,” was the instant reaction whenever I told anyone I was planning a trip to Malaysia. “It’s the best thing about the place.” Having an aversion to all things hailing from the sea, I was skeptical. Was Malaysian food really for me? I knew I’d have to give it a try to find out, and how better to taste the local food than through locals’ eyes (or tastebuds)? So I set out on an evening with Food Tour Malaysia to discover for myself if Malaysian food would live up to its hype.
Trying some Malaysian Indian specialties on the tour
While I’ll be the first to defend hostels, there’s nothing quite like treating yourself to a little luxury every once in a while when traveling. Where better to pamper yourself than Bali, so I spent my last two nights on the Indonesian island in the lovely Watermark Hotel & Spa in Jimbaran. Read on for my thoughts!
Sunset from Watermark’s rooftop infinity pool
Here’s a fact I bet you didn’t know about me: I’m a published Los Angeles Times writer. Big deal, right? Uhhh, perhaps let me explain first. In fourth grade, my teacher asked the class to write a blurb about our most memorable vacations. She submitted our assignments to the L.A. Times, and I got my first brush with fame when mine was published in the children’s section. So, okay, perhaps I can’t exactly include this feat on my resume, but, hey, it’s technically true!
Journalist and Hawaiian boogie boarding prodigy from an early age…maybe?
The topic of my paragraph? A series of trips that even today hold a very special place in my heart. For several summers in a row, when I was aged roughly nine through twelve, my extended family cruised the Hawaiian islands with American Hawaii Cruises on the S.S. Independence.
Loud, crowded, hot, and humid. That’s how I expected many parts of Southeast Asia to be, and, on my first day in Indonesia, it was already living up to expectations as sweat dripped down my face while I weaved through people hunting desperately for my hostel on a street with no numbers. To be fair, I had kicked off this leg of the trip in Kuta, Bali, which is known mostly for being a drunken backpacker party spot, not exactly the atmosphere I was looking for.
Ahh, but just the solution I needed.
Those preconceptions were quickly whisked away when I arrived in and settled into the small island of Gili Trawangan the next day, the topic for a future post. Returning to Bali after, I gradually began to embrace the road traffic and crowded tourist spots as part of the culture. Nonetheless, a quiet sanctuary was just what I was looking for to prepare myself for the next few months in Asia, and I certainly found it at Ubud Dedari Villas.
Three weeks into New Zealand, I’ve seen some truly remarkable sights. Mountains, lakes, beaches, islands, you name it. But reflecting back on my time here so far, the highlight would have to be the unbelievable sights of South Island fjord Milford Sound.
After flying from Queenstown to Milford Sound with Air Milford, I thought the sights of the day couldn’t possibly get any more awe-inspiring. But there was more! With Air Milford‘s fly-cruise-fly tour, after seeing Milford Sound from above, it was time to see it up close and personal with a Southern Discoveries cruise.
Slovenia? Wait, you mean Slovakia? Where the heck is that? For a place as unbelievably breathtaking as Slovenia, the country seems to have little recognition in the eyes of the world. With just over two million inhabitants, Slovenia is only country #144 in terms of population, and it is often overshadowed by its tourist hotspot neighbors including Italy and Austria. But it’s also one of my favorite countries in the world, and if it hasn’t been on your travel radar, get it on there now!