Vietnam Beyond the Bustle: Mai Chau Valley

Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Saigon… Most travelers to Vietnam know these city’s names well and are sure to include them in their itinerary. But Vietnam is a massive country (far bigger than I imagined!) with a wealth of remarkable places to visit. One of the best? Mai Chau Valley, several hours from Vietnam’s capital, Hanoi.

Mai Chau Valley, Vietnam

Vietnam’s Mai Chau Valley

Knowing very little about the region, Mai Chau hadn’t been on my Southeast Asia bucket list prior to my travels, but a friend had strongly recommended Vietnam Backpacker Hostels’ Mai Chau Valley trip, and I couldn’t pass up a chance to see Vietnam beyond its hectic cities by paying a visit to the valley’s peaceful villages and rice paddies. Continue reading  

8 Things I Will & 6 Things I Won’t Miss About Southeast Asia

Eighty days and eight countries later, my Southeast Asia trip has come to an end. I fly to Japan tomorrow and then onward to Paris, with a day in Abu Dhabi in between. For a part of the world I had never given much thought to until the last few years, Southeast Asia has stolen my heart. My next destinations will certainly be a massive change of scenery, so I thought I’d reflect on some of the things I will and won’t miss about Southeast Asia.

Bagan, Myanmar

Sitting atop a pagoda, watching a storm roll in over Bagan, Myanmar earlier this week

Continue reading  

Where to Stay in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: The PARKROYAL Saigon

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.

PARKROYAL Hotel Saigon, Vietnam

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. Continue reading  

Castaways Island: Living the Dream in Vietnam’s Halong Bay

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.

Castaways Island sunset, Halong Bay, Vietnam

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. Continue reading  

8 Unique Easter Traditions from around the World

With Easter (and therefore a weekend in Melbourne!) coming up fast, I started thinking about the years I’ve spent the holiday abroad, in Spain, Italy, and Australia, and the traditions I’ve been introduced to in each. Curious about how other countries celebrate, I asked a few fellow travel bloggers about the customs they’ve experienced abroad. Who knew Easter could be so multifarious?

Easter traditions around the world

American-style Easter in Sevilla back in 2012

Continue reading