I quit my job, I moved to the other side of the world, and I went on my dream honeymoon. Pinch me, this can't be real.
When Tommy and I were planning for this new adventure (marriage), we knew we had to have a summer wedding in Vancouver. The timing worked out though, because T's off-season is September and October, which meant we had two months to travel and settle into our new home.
As I write this, we are relatively freshly back from our travels, and lot of you wanted to grab our itinerary. For those of you who want to see the specific geo-tags. please look at my instagram highlights for places that we ate at, and for IG photos --the locations are tagged as well. I'll do a more thorough breakdown for you in individualized posts, but I wanted to give a general overview with some quick facts (basically note form) for those of you who are considering travelling around Asia. And from the comments and DMs that I am getting, it sounds like a lot of you are going to have some Asia Miles in your bank!
Duration: 4 nights, 5 days
Hotel: Intercontinental (for 2 nights) and Altara Suites (for 2 nights)
Highlights: We went for the wedding of our friends, and the hotel was amazing. It was the perfect start to our honeymoon because we were able to spend it with our friends. We lucked out with the weather because it POURED on the first day, but cleared up for the rest of the time we were there! I loved seeing the monkeys every morning on our deck, but the ultimate highlight was the breakfast buffet.
Recommendations: Motorbikes are the best way to get around in the city. If you are brave enough to drive one, do not test it out DURING RUSH HOUR. I will not lie at all. I cried a lot because of those motor bikes -- getting used to Vietnam traffic is no joke. Navigating a round about when you are taking the 3rd exit on a motor bike is NO JOKE. The only thing to do is just go for it. Don't hesitate -- people will avoid you, don't avoid them. They're the pros. Explore outside of the city for all the good sites. We did so many day trips out to the nearby sites (1-3 hour drive from Danang). We saw the Golden Hands Bridge, rode the Hai Van Pass, and saw the Abandoned Waterpark (Dragon). These were the most amazing sites to visit, but they are all a couple hours from the city.
Ho Chi Minh City / Saigon, Vietnam
Duration: 5 nights, 6 days
Hotel: Caravelle Hotel Saigon
Highlights: The people in the hotel are incredibly friendly and knowledgeable about their city. We had a wonderful time getting to know so many of them: from the ladies at the front desk, to the managers, and even our housekeeper. The food in Vietnam is amazing, and it was incredibly interesting to notice the difference between northern and southern Vietnamese cooking styles.
Recommendations: Take the tours. Take as many tours as you can. We visited the War Remnants Museum, Cu Chi Tunnels, Independence Palace, Temple of Literature, there is so much amazing history and culture. Our time in HCMC was educational because we learned so much about the War in Vietnam --but prepare yourself, it's heavy and emotional.
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam
Duration: 1 night, 2 days
Hotel: Ha Long Bay DC
Highlights: It's location to the hike that oversees Ha Long Bay. We stayed there for one night because we wanted to see Ha Long Bay. The hotel is nothing grand, but its location was pivotal.
Recommendations: We googled "POEM MOUNTAIN" to find the directions to the hike. We decided the night before that we were going to do it, so we didn't choose the hotel because of that purpose, but it worked out because it was only 3 minutes away by scooter. A lot of people asked me about this hike: it is SO worth it.
Duration: 4 nights, 5 days
Hotel: Hotel L'Opera
Highlights: The location of the hotel was phenomenal. We were within walking distance to major sites in the city, and we had access to amazing and delicious food. I also had the chance to meet up with my friends Tina and Isaac in both Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi! It was so fun to hang out with genuine locals who spoke the language, knew the culture, knew the good food. It was food heaven.
Recommendations: Start your day early to avoid the heat. We did a full day tour to Ninh Binh and paddled Trang An. That was one of my most favourite experiences because we were completely in the tranquility of the wilderness. The water was pristine, we explored the grottoes, and explored ancient ruins. It was truly worth it. To witness all that history of the Ancient capital and see the natural beauty of rural Vietnam.
Duration: 8 nights, 9 days
Hotel: Airport (first night), Amandari (3 nights), Penida Bay Village (2nights), Akmani Legian (2 nights)
Highlights: The Amandari was amazing, it was the perfect place to relax. Bali is truly a magical place: the perpetual good weather (coming from a Vancouverite who's used to rain...), the delicious food, the warm and kind Balinese people -- we will be back for sure!
Recommendations: We went on a lot of walking tours to see and experience the beauty of the place. Always bring a reusable water bottle with you, and pack on the sunscreen, the sun is a different kind of sun! When we were in Nusa Penida, we really explored the island and all of the famous beaches. Beware: the roads are not smooth. We drove around from early in the morning until sunset to make sure that we saw as much of the Island as we could. This island has only recently (within 2 years!) become a popular tourist site. Every location is stunning and captivating, but the drive is equivalent to being inside a blender. If you do decide to visit the island, be prepared that when you get on the boat, you will have to wade in the water: don't wear long pants--the water comes up to your upper thigh (and I am 5"8!). FYI: I got sea sick a lot on the boats here, I am not sure if it was our luck, but we had extremely high waves to the point where water would rush into our boat, and we would drop a couple meters when riding the waves. I hate that feeling, so that was a rough one for me (but quite honestly, the only rough part!).
Duration: 4 nights, 3.5 days
Hotel: Grand Park Kodhipparu
Highlights: ALL THE WILDLIFE WE SWAM WITH. It was truly a remarkable experience. We would wake up every morning, put on our bathers, walk down the back steps and out into the ocean! The snorkel gear is free for hotel guests, so we used our equipment till check out! There were corals which housed all kind of marine life, and we were close to the ocean ridge so we could see all the other wildlife that explored the deeper waters. Aside from the sea turtles, we saw an octopus, sharks, sea cucumbers, many types of fish, sting rays, eels... it was insane because I had only ever seen these creatures in books or in the aquarium! To swim with them in real life was unforgettable.
Recommendations: Book a couple of trips out to see the dolphins and the mantas. There are so many opportunities provided by the hotel. Maximize! Bring biodegradable hair products to protect your hair from the salt water, or wear a swim cap. My hair turned into a single giant dreadlock every time I went out into the ocean --and I braided it! Find out where your villa faces, and either wake up early in the morning to see the sunrise, or watch the sunset from the privacy of your own space. It's truly a magical experience -- stunning, calm, and awesome.
Duration: 6 nights, 6 days
Hotel: Marina Bay Sands & The Outpost Hotel
Highlights: FOOD. We explore the Zoo and went on the Night Safari, and it was fantastic! Tommy loves animals and he was so happy. We spent one night at the Marina Bay Sands and we watched the light show twice. Once at the Gardens, and once from our hotel room! The lady at the front desk was amazing, she gave us a room with a view even though our initial room was on a lower floor with no view. We were so thankful -- we didn't even drop the fact that it was our honeymoon!
Recommendations: We stayed on Sentosa Island, and it is a great place to go if you have kids. Universal Studios is there, as is the Aquarium, a Din Tai Fung, and so much more! The MRT is free there and goes to all the stops on the island, you only have to pay for the entrance fee to get in which is around $4. My favourite part was the hotel. Everything was curated to perfection: you could choose your own "mini bar" which were snacks and goodies to keep our munchies satisfied. Upon entry, you were greeted with a (non-alcoholic) cocktail, and the service of the staff was beyond kind -- everyone went out of their way to make sure that we were happy. So nice.
Prior to this series of trips, I had only been to Hong Kong and Taiwan. I really had never gone anywhere in Asia, and I was determined to explore. During our honeymoon, though we did have the chance to relax and be little roasting potatoes on the beach, I wanted to make sure that we really got to know the culture of the place that we were going to. Part of the beauty of travelling is understanding and getting to know the place you are visiting. I think that more often that not, thought people travel, we impose our own ideas and customs without trying to get to know the place we are visiting. We don't want to repeat the mistakes of explorers in the past, and I am so thankful for the chances we had to explore more of the global community we are all a part of.
In 2020, Tommy and I are looking forward to continuing to explore this side of the world, and we are also excited to visit our friends in Europe!