Laying Over in Seoul & Narita Pt. 2

On our 2017 trip back from Indonesia to the US, we had quite the layover experience. Although being 30 weeks pregnant was not how I originally made these travel plans. For Part 1 of our layover adventures in Seoul, South Korea, click here!

From Seoul, we traveled onto Tokyo via the Narita Airport. Tokyo had long been in my heart to visit. I was most excited about touring this mega modern stylish capital city. However, my pregnant weariness and swollen feet got the best of me. We never did explore the city of Tokyo, but instead spent the day in Narita, Japan and still had a grand time.

My main goals for experiencing Japan were food related. I wanted to eat ramen and sushi and edamame and dumplings. I love love love Japanese food. And other than the sushi [yay pregnancy], I got to eat all my Japanese favorites. Our first stop was at Ramen Bayashi, right on the main street through Narita. The food was exactly as good as I hoped it would be. My husband and I shared the most savory dumplings and the most delicious ramen that I’ve ever tried. After our huge meal, we continued to walk through Narita and take in the sights. We visited a 7/11 because convenience stores in Japan are no joke. Quirky soda flavors, prepared meals, household goods, and unique snacks were all on display at this one stop shop. We continued walking through the carefully curated streets of Narita and found ourselves at Naritasan Park & Pagoda. This large temple complex was a beautiful ancient Buddhist temple with so much to explore. We arrived a little late in the day at almost 5pm, so the temple itself was closing but we could still walk around and enjoy the architecture. Our final stop on our walking tour of Narita was AEON Mall. Usually a shopping mall isn’t my idea of great sightseeing, but I really wanted to find Daiso, a 99 Yen store [$1 store], and spend the rest of our yen on souvenirs for ourselves and family & friends! I stocked up on washi tape and cool stationary supplies, bought authentic fans, designer pens and sushi shaped erasers. All for 99 yen. What a deal. As we took the free shuttle bus back to our hotel for the evening, and prepared to catch our flight back to Chicago the next day, I felt completely satisfied by my Japanese experience. And of course, completely wanting to return.

Laying Over in Seoul & Narita Pt. 1

On our last trip from Indonesia to America, we had booked a crazy flight combination. We pieced together a few routes and ended up with a super cheap flight with two long layover in countries we hadn’t yet visited. I was so excited to explore Seoul and Tokyo on these layovers. I love planning trips to new cities and countries. Sometimes, I make travel plans for fun. So I was ready with a long to do list of must-see, must-do, and must-eats in both South Korea and Japan. And then I found out I was pregnant. And then we realized I would be flying at 30 weeks of my pregnancy. I was just hoping to leave the hotel honestly.

Our first long layover was in Seoul, South Korea. We arrived earlier in the day, after an overnight flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. It was too early to checkin to our nearby hotel, so I summoned the energy to explore a new city. Thankfully, downtown Seoul is accessible from Incheon Airport by a pretty fast train. We got off the train in Seoul Station, but transferred to the local metro to check out my number one must-see in Seoul: the Cheonggyecheon River. The Cheonggyecheon River is a is a 10.9-kilometer-long (6.8 mi) creek and nature space running through the middle of urban modern Seoul. It’s beautiful to walk along and take in the design and creativity along the waterway. From bridges to waterfalls and artistic murals and landscapes, it was a beautifully peaceful and a great spot to see in downtown Seoul. It reminded me a little of Central Park in New York City, a green space in the middle of a concrete jungle. From the Cheonggyecheon River, we wandered through the shops of Myeong-dong shopping district and found a Korean bbq place tucked away down a side alley. We’ve eaten Korean bbq in the past, but never in Korea. So we were happy the waiter had some limited English, a limited English menu and the grace to prepare all the food for us because we had no idea what we were doing! But it was delicious. And that was our trip to Seoul. We took the metro back to Seoul Station, and from there back to the airport to get over to our hotel for the night. It wasn’t the whirlwind 10 stop walking tour of a major Asian city that I was hoping for, but it was a tiny taste of Seoul that left me hungry to go back for more one day.

Portrait of a Mother-To-Be

I confess, blogging has taken a backseat to this pregnancy of mine. Not because it’s been a hard pregnancy, but because my brain and my heart have been focused elsewhere. But I did want to share these stunning maternity photos my husband & I had taken once arriving back in the US. Our good friend, Tommy Oldham took these gorgeous shots on Lake Michigan. We are so excited to welcome our baby girl later this year!

Fifteen Photos to Inspire You to Visit Singapore

Singapore is a one of kind city/country. Nestled at the tail of of the Malay peninsula, Singapore has an identity all it’s own. It’s a culture collision, in the best way possible. Chinese, Indian, Middle Eastern foods & places of worship blend seamlessly with European architecture and modern transportation and efficiency. It’s one of the rare places in Southeast Asia that I expect to catch a bus on time. Or travel by underground metro. Singapore is not just rich in culture, but also rich in wealth. One should adjust their budget to travel through Singapore after visiting nearby Malaysia, Indonesia or Thailand…the price tag is steep. But so worth it. Hopefully these photos inspire you to plan a Singapore holiday of your own!

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Beautiful architecture near Chinatown

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Hello Marina Bay Sands Hotel!

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Yummy dumpings at a Hawker Center

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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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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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