Fifteen Photos to Inspire You to Visit Vietnam

Vietnam is a pretty great place. However, it had never really been at the top of my must-see locations until we moved to Asia. Then, I discovered low cost airlines that could transport me to relatively unknown places for limited finances. I’ve now been to Vietnam twice in the past 12 months, because I simply fell in love with the place. I hope these photos can inspire you to make the trip to Vietnam so you can fall in love with it too!

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Kayaking HaLong Bay

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Hanoi traffic

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West Lake of Hanoi

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Statue of Ho Chi Minh in Ho Chi Minh City

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Sunset on HaLong Bay

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Old Quarter Hanoi

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View from Bitexco Tower in Ho Chi Minh City

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Hanoi’s Old Quarter

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View from Sung Sot Cave in HaLong Bay

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Waiting out the Saigon rain

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Hanoi’s train tracks through Old Quarter

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Central Post Office in Ho Chi Minh City

Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City

Traffic in Ho Chi Minh City

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A fisherman in HaLong Bay

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Hanoi’s Hoàn Kiếm Lake

As you can see, Vietnam is a kaleidoscope of experiences. From the north to the south, it’s a unique place. I particularly enjoyed the food of Vietnam, which is full of fresh vegetables and has a whisper of former French influence. I highly recommend eating your way through whichever part of Vietnam you find yourself.

Here’s three locations I recommend visiting if you are going to Vietnam:

  • Hanoi: This city is the capital and the heartbeat of Vietnam. It’s bustling and beautiful. From historic Old Quarter to the quiet West Lake, there’s something to see for everyone in Hanoi. For more great recommendations on what to see & do in Hanoi, check out my in-depth city guide!
  • Ho Chi Minh City: Formerly known as Saigon, this gem is the star of southern Vietnam. Surprisingly large, this vibrant city is a different flavor than northern Hanoi. And it’s a good flavor. Also, this the place for iced coffee lovers. Check out this handy city guide for more Saigon tips!
  • HaLong Bay: I know, it’s touristy. It’s overrated. But it’s just not. It’s magnificent. It’s epic. It’s simply unmissable if traveling through Vietnam. Whether it’s day trip, a party boat, a luxury cruise, or an overnight island experience, just do it! Here’s my blog post on why HaLong Bay should be at the top of your Vietnam list.

And if you are traveling through Vietnam, here’s some experiences you cannot miss!

  • Street Food Tours: Like I said previously, Vietnam has amazing food. And some of the best are experienced on the side of the road cooked in a food stall. Both Saigon & Hanoi have great street food tours offered, and each time I’m so glad we did them! Don’t spend your time worrying which stalls are clean enough to eat from and which dishes won’t leave you sick, sign up for a tour and JUST EAT.
  • HaLong Bay Luxury Cruise: When it came to HaLong Bay, we decided to treat ourselves with a luxury cruise experience. We did 3 days and 2 nights, which gave us just the right amount of time to completely immerse in the beauty of the place. We went with Paradise Cruises and was very happy with their boat, the staff, and overall experience. Check out my review of our cruise through HaLong Bay here.
  • Take in the Architecture. I quickly loved the style of Vietnam’s architecture. A blend of European & Asian, traditional & colonial, colorful and distinctive. Hanoi is home to the French Quarter, which is simply beautiful to walk through. The Saigon Post Office & Notre Dame Cathedral are stunning landmarks. As you walk through Vietnam, be sure to look all around so not to miss a thing.

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I’ll Be There For You:: Inside Singapore’s Central Perk Cafe

I’m an 80’s baby and a 90’s teenager. Therefore, some of my most favorite pop culture experiences include boy bands and sitcoms. One TV sitcom in particular loomed large in my teen years and early twenties, and that was FRIENDS. I was too young to see the famed premiere in 1994, but I began to anticipate Thursday night TV well before it’s 2004 finale. I loved the characters and laughed at the silliness of their lives. My real life friends loved my TV FRIENDS also, and their antics became part of our conversation. Were Ross & Rachel on a break?! What was Chandler’s job?! I bought the 10 seasons on DVD, and would watch them loop in the background of my real life. I could probably still quote 80% of the episodes. While it’s been years since I’ve sold those DVDs to embrace a simplistic overseas lifestyle, I would still consider myself a fan. So when I found out that Singapore is home to a cafe modeled after the FRIENDS set called Central Perk Cafe, it soon became a MUST SEE moment.

Central Perk Singapore
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Vietnam in Vespa Style

Hanoi is a vibrant city, full of bustling life, bright colors, loud noises and distinct smells. It’s an easy city to get around, by either taxis or just walking. But if you truly want to experience the Hanoi of the Vietnamese, you have to see it on two wheels.

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Motorbikes rule the road of Hanoi, often creating chaos out of crosswalks. But it’s how the locals move, and it’s how we wanted to experience Hanoi too. Although we are experienced motorbike drivers from our years navigating around Indonesia, we opted to try a motorbike tour when visiting Hanoi, and it was a great decision.

We chose Vietnam Vintage Vespa Tours, simply because I’ve long dreamed of owning a Vespa and navigating crowded city streets. These Vespas are not the sleek and shiny, but the vintage silver and loud. It brought a certain authenticity to the experience. It was 8am and we were paired up with drivers, setting out to see Hanoi from the back of a Vespa.

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Great Adventures Ahead

Things have been a bit quiet here on my blog over the past month, but for a good reason. We’re in the process of preparing for a pretty great adventure!

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Yes, we recently found out & announced that we are expecting our first child later this year. It’s very exciting, and already impacting how we travel!

While we have a few more months to enjoy Bali & Southeast Asia, we are heading back to the States for the birth and first few months of baby’s life. But, we’ll be back to Asia in 2018 as a family of three. We’ve loved making a life here, and will continue to do so with our little one!

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If you don’t already follow along on Instagram or Snapchat, be sure to find me @joyfilledwander and watch as the story unfolds.

 

Fifteen Photos To Inspire You To Visit Lombok

Indonesia is home to over 16,000 unique islands, and to only experience Bali in your Indonesian travels would be a shame. Lombok, Bali’s eastern neighbor island, is earning quite the reputation as a must-see tourist destination. Beautiful beaches, rolling hills, and impressive volcanic mountain peaks are sure to be enjoyed during your Lombok holiday. Lombok’s Mount Rinjani is a premier mountain climbing experience, complete with a crater lake at the top. In case you needed more reason to add Lombok to your Indonesian travel plans, check out these fifteen photos to help inspire your wanderlust!

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Somewhere along the northeastern coastal road

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7 Reasons Why I Love Indonesia [After Living Here for Two Years]

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We just celebrated a huge milestone. We’ve been living in Indonesia for TWO YEARS. This is the longest I’ve ever lived outside of the US. Many people here on the island and even back home ask us how long we plan to stay. Indonesia has burrowed itself deep in my heart, and I don’t see making a return move any time soon. In honor of our two years abroad, I thought I’d capture seven reasons why I’ve fallen in love with this beautiful country.

1. People
I have never met friendlier people while traveling. As soon I first arrived in Indonesia, I was struck by the kindness of Indonesians. As I’ve gotten to know them, and communicate with them, I see their depth and richness of character. I love how Indonesians value family and their community, over an individual need or desire. I also love how completely diverse the people groups within Indonesia are. The motto of Indonesia is “Unity in Diversity”, and it’s completely accurate. From diverse religions, local languages, and hundreds of ethnically different people groups, it doesn’t seem like this country should work together. But the people are resilient, proud to be Indonesian, and strong. I absolutely love befriending Indonesian people.

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A Freediver’s Journey – Learning to Love the Aliens on Our Planet [Pt. 3 of 3]

Guest blog post by Creagon Patrick in collaboration with Fusion Freediving. Click here to read Part 1 and Part 2.

As a child, I wanted to be an astronaut when I “grew up” exploring the unknown of outer space or finding new lifeforms on an alien planet. But now I have found a reality that is so much better. Instead of the cold void of a black vacuum, I have learned to immerse myself in the most fundamental of elements: water. I don’t remember learning to swim, as I was only an infant my first time in a pool. But trading the boring tile of a sterile pool for the open ocean has provided the key to the hidden world created on our planet, and inspiration to live my life to the fullest.

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Green sea turtles are a pleasant surprise when they surface next to me. In only a few seconds, the old air is exchanged for a new lung full and I follow my friend into the subsurface world. The the rush and noise of land disappear. My heartbeat slows. I rediscover peace by fully focusing on my most immediate surroundings. Seconds feel like days. I can only imagine the sweet dreams sea turtles have while submerged asleep for several hours before surfacing for more oxygen.

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6 Street Foods To Try In Indonesia

P1060746Street food in Indonesia is not merely a novelty, but a way of life. Once the sun begins to set, the food carts roll out, grills are fired up and the oil begins to sizzle. Motorbikes appear from all directions, and makeshift plastic tables fill the parking lots. As the final rays of sunlight disappear, Indonesia’s street food night life is in full swing. Missing out on this cultural tradition is to miss Indonesian culture altogether. Not sure which street food to try? Here’s my list of six must try street food items, and one to skip!

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