Archive | travel RSS feed for this section

Ojai

10 Nov

20141109_A9A6504

To celebrate our first wedding anniversary yesterday, Brian and I drove up to Ojai for the day- a sleepy little town 80 miles from Los Angeles. Ojai holds a special place in my heart. One of the last times I was there was for a weekend Manifestation Retreat with my dear friend Jen Pastiloff. That was the same weekend I drove home to a house filled with candles and roses and one very adorable and nervous boyfriend standing in the center of it all with a diamond ring in a box. Talk about manifestation! Now every time I think about getting engaged to Bri, I invariably think about Ojai.

So it seemed like a perfect place to get away for the day to celebrate year one of marriage.

The plan was to wake up early and be out the door by 8am but like most plans go we weren’t on the road until 10am. Mapquest advised us to take a different route then either of us had ever taken before. One that had us coming in the back way instead of the coastal route. Brian and I like driving new routes so we went with it. The weather was absolutely perfect for a drive through the mountains. The light was simply perfection. I kept excitedly pointing out the window and saying….Seriously?!?! How gorgeous is that?!??

20141109_A9A6535

On the itinerary for the day…

A stop at Meditation Mount, a 32 acre garden perched above Ojai with a gorgeous view of the valley. We wandered the grounds taking in the natural beauty- it was so serene.

After Meditation Mount we strolled through the main drag of town exploring all the little shops. I fell in love with a new store called Fig Curated Living. If I could have, I would have purchased every single thing in that store. But since that wasn’t an option, we settled on a new Christmas tree ornament in the shape of the state of California. We thought it would be a sweet reminder every holiday season of our first wedding anniversary spent in Ojai.

Next up was lunch at Osteria Monte Grappa, an Italian place in town. We sipped on wine and beer and dined on bruschetta, avocado salad and spicy sausage pasta.

After filling our bellies we made the short drive to Old Creek Ranch Winery to go wine tasting. The last time we went to this winery it was for Brian’s 30th birthday and it was pouring rain. So this was the first time we got a good view of the property and it is lovely, it’s surrounded by rolling yellow hills. After wine tasting indoors (which is an incredible deal…ten different wines for ten dollars) we both picked our favorite (a glass of rose for me and a glass of grenache for Brian) and found a spot on the patio over looking out over the hills and took in the warm afternoon sunlight.

After finishing our glasses of wine we decided to make the drive back home, this time taking the coastal route in hopes we would catch a beautiful sunset over the water. Boy did we time it right…it was the perfect way to end the most perfect 1st anniversary.

Love you, Mr. Glodney! Here’s to many many many more.

20141109_A9A6568

20141109_A9A6544

20141109_A9A6553

20141109_A9A6564

20141109_A9A6562

20141109_A9A6578

20141109_A9A6589

20141109_A9A6585

20141109_A9A6596

20141109_A9A6600

20141109_A9A6602

20141109_A9A6644

20141109_A9A6639

20141109_A9A6636

20141109_A9A6632

201411097A9A6611

20141109_A9A6610

20141109_A9A6625

20141109_A9A6661

20141109_A9A6648

20141109_A9A6676

20141109_A9A6671

20141109_A9A6677

20141109_A9A6680

*

all photos by Brian Glodney 

Advertisement

Ketut

25 Aug

201408177A9A5762 2

Have you seen the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”? If you have then I assume you are aware of who Ketut is, but for those of you who missed the movie (is that even possible?) he is the medicine man in Bali that reads Julia Roberts fortune, helping her transform her life after a painful divorce. I loved his character- he had such an infectious laugh and smile. I had always assumed that Ketut was an actor but discovered shortly before we left on our honeymoon that he was indeed a real medicine man in Bali. Thrilling news for a gal like me. I’m a sucker for fortune tellers & psychics….I also take people’s astrological signs pretty seriously. I know, I know, I’m such a product of growing up in LA. But I really do believe in the magic of it all. With that said I knew I would find a way to visit with Ketut while we were in Ubud. IT WAS A MUST.

Cut to our last morning in Ubud…next stop the tiny island of Nusa Lembongan off the coast of coast of Bali. The ferry that was taking us from Bali to Nusa wasn’t until 2pm so had many hours to squeeze in a few things we still wanted to see before leaving Ubud…first up a visit to Ketut and then lunch at the famous sucking-pig restaurant (Clearly, the latter was Brian’s choice).

After saying goodbye to the lovely staff (that I had somehow grown very attached to in three short days) and the gorgeous Rivermoon Villa (mark my words…I am going back to that place again) we packed Nyomen’s car up and headed to Ketut’s home. My excitement level was at an all time high. I was going to meet Ketut!

securedownload

Through my lengthy Ketut research I learned that he worked on a first come first serve basis so I made sure that we got there a 1/2 an hour after his doors opened. Sadly, this still left me in 8th place. The only highlight to being in 8th place is the fact that eight is my lucky number…obviously I took this as a very special omen.

IMG_ 139

Brian on the other hand was not impressed with the number 8 considering that Ketut spent 1/2 an hour with every person. Yes, let’s do the math….we were going to have to wait 4 hours. HA. The loving wife part of me offered to forgo my reading with Ketut but the crazy fortune-teller obsessed part of me was pretty sure it was a pretty weak offer. Thankfully my sweet husband agreed to wait. I mean, I can’t go all the way to Bali and NOT meet Ketut. Plus Ketut is very very very old (I think over 100?) and I was rather certain that this was my one shot at hanging with him.

So we waited…..

doesn't Brian look thrilled?

doesn’t Brian look thrilled?

After four glorious hours baking in the sun, number 8 was called!

I’ve been going back and forth on what to report about my time with Ketut. Truthfully, I was expecting a tad more from the whole experience. Although, I suppose nothing lives up to ones expectations when they were as high as mine were. I was expecting some groundbreaking, life changing, epic shit to occur during our 30 minutes together. Instead he told me I was going to have three kids, warned me not to screw up my marriage with Brian (thanks for the vote of confidence, Ketut. Ha) and that I was a highly creative soul. Yes, there was a bit more than those three bullet points but you get the point. I will say that being in his presence might have been worth the four-hour wait. His energy is infectious! His whole face lights up when he laughs….and he laughs a lot! I pretty much spent 1/2 hour giggling with him. He really is a light.

201408177A9A5760 2

201408177A9A5779 2

After my visit with Ketut it was time to repay Brian for the five hours of his life that he wasted for me and stop for some suckling pig! Nyomen dropped us off at the famous Ibu Oka restaurant in Ubud for lunch.

IMG_ 142

Bali is notorious for its Babi Guling, a Balinese style whole roasted suckling pig! The entire pig is stuffed with a combination of typical spices used in Indonesian cooking including turmeric, coriander seeds, lemon grass and more. Babi Guling is unique to the island and very rare in other parts of Indonesia as the country is a predominately Muslim (consumption of pork is prohibited), whereas the majority of the population in Bali is Hindu.The dish is another of Anthony Bourdain’s favorites when in Ubud and I can see why. While I am not a huge fan of pig in general the mix of flavors was delicious.

plateofbabi1

Next up…our crazy journey to the tiny island of Nusa Lembongan…

*

find me elsewhere : facebook / instagram / twitter / pinterest 

Ubud : day one

11 Aug

 

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

We arrived in Bali late at night- via Malaysia Airlines no less! We booked the tickets long before any of the accidents occurred. This leg of the journey was causing me some serious anxiety but it ended up being a very enjoyable flight. Sure, I had to take a xanax and have two glasses of chardonnay to calm my nerves but we landed safely! The first stop on our Bali tour was three nights in Ubud. We arranged for a pick up at the airport through our villa. Our driver, Nyomen (who happened to be the sweetest man on the planet) greeted us with a big smile and a sign that read “Glodney” – I was still having a hard time remembering that I was now officially a Glodney!

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

After an hour’s drive we arrived at Rivermoon Villa, our home for the next three nights. The villa is part of a seven home compound called, Desa Bulan located in the village of Lodtunduh- just outside the center of Ubud. I found the it on a fellow blogger’s site, Hither & Thither, when researching places to stay in Bali. Brian and I both wanted to stay somewhere intimate rather than a large hotel. We certainly chose right because this place knocked our socks off the minute we walked in- even in the dark of the night. The villa is owned by an Australian couple (she has a cool interior design blog) who split their time between Bali & Australia. Not a bad life, eh? You can tell how much they love the villa because every detail is perfection, from the jaw dropping outdoor bathrooms to the romantic canopy beds. After oohing and ahhing over the place for a bit, we ordered a pizza to be delivered (I was shocked that this was an option!) and crawled into bed.

When I awoke in the morning, I popped out of bed like a kid on Christmas to see the villa in the light of day.  Hands down…one of the most gorgeous homes I have ever stayed in. In the morning light I could now see what surrounded us-vibrant green rice paddies as far as the eye could see. It was the most peaceful place I have ever been. Bali had stolen my heart and I had been there for less than 24 hours.

2014081020140810_A9A5554_5_6_tonemapped

201408107A9A5740

201408107A9A5754

20140810_A9A5575

201408107A9A5676

201408107A9A5673

One of the many perks of the villa (other than the view!) was a staff of three that came into our place each morning and prepared us breakfast. They were such a lovely group. I couldn’t get over how warm the Balinese people were. After a delicious breakfast (eggs & fruit for me and banana pancakes for Brian) we decided to take a bike ride into town and explore. The staff generously offered us motorbikes but we kindly declined and instead opted for the bicycles- they seemed much more our speed.

And off we went to explore central Ubud! We peddled through the narrow and windy roads as cars and motorbikes zipped by us…it was a tad terrifying especially when we had to go down steep hills and I discovered my brakes were useless. What was supposed to be quick 10 minute trip somehow turned into an hour. Clearly, we were lost. We even found ourselves stuck in a rice paddy. Oh the looks we got from the local farmers as we made our way through! They were rather confused. By the time we made it to the heart of town we were both covered in dirt and sweat. But that didn’t stop us from exploring. Ubud is known as the cultural center of Bali because it is home to many artisans. The stores are filled with beautiful wood & stone carvings, paintings and crafts. In addition to art the town is filled with cafes, temples, clothing stores and yoga studios. I fell hard and fast for Ubud- it offered all my favorite things! I could honestly see myself living there.

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

We stopped for lunch at a little Balinese cafe and ordered two spicy fish dishes with rice and vegetables.  We decided to go as light possible because we had big plans for dinner at Naughty Nuri’s that evening, a favorite of Anthony Bourdain when in town and famous for its ribs and martini’s, something Brian had been looking forward to for weeks.

photo

photo

After a lazy lunch we braved the roads once again and peddled back to our villa for an afternoon swim in the gorgeous salt water pool. It was during this swim I made Brian promise we would come back to Bali and stay at this villa again. If only I could figure out how to split my time between Los Angeles and Bali.

photo-2

photo-3

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 preset

After a few hours by the pool we cleaned up and headed out to dinner at Naughty Nuri’s. Anthony Bourdain was right…this place kicks ass. The dirty martini was the best I have ever had, which surprised me considering I don’t equate Bali with a killer dirty martini. Oh, and the ribs…to die for!

Processed with VSCOcam with a6 preset

Bali driving tour / water temple / Balinese cuisine up next!

 

Ho Chi Minh – day 3

4 Aug

After eating breakfast at the hotel we headed back into the sweltering heat to explore. First up, a very sobering morning at the War Remnants Museum. So sobering in fact, I didn’t even make it through parts of it due to the graphic nature of some of the photographs. You forget how truly devastating the Vietnam War was. The morning left me in tears. Don’t worry this post gets less depressing.

image

 After the museum we decided it was time to try the southern Vietnamese pho. As I mentioned in a previous post there is a bit of a debate as to whether the northern or southern pho is tastier. After polishing off a big bowl of southern pho, I came to the conclusion that it was the winner. I found it lighter and more fragrant. There were also more options with the vegetables you could put in, including basil (although basil is a herb isn’t it? but you get the point), which added such a nice kick. For Brian the pho debate was more of a tie…noting that he liked the meat better in the northern pho. So there you have it folks!

photo-1

photo-2

image

After filling our bellies (thank God we were walking as much as we were otherwise I am convinced I would have gained 20 pounds on this trip) we headed to “antique street” to look for…you guessed it, antiques! Brian and I love to come home with treasures from our travels- my favorites include…a bright blue woven hammock from Nicaragua, a plush orange blanket handmade in the mountains of Nepal and the colorful bells from Nepal that hang around water buffalos necks on the trekking trails to warn you that they are coming. I make Brian wear them around the house sometimes. HA.

That day I was on the hunt for a small elephant statue with his trunk in the air, which supposedly brings good luck. Brian was much more open to what his treasure would be. We strolled from tiny hot store to tiny hot store.

photo-4

After hitting the whole block we circled back to our favorite one to do some bargaining- something Brian excels at and I fail miserably at. You can pretty much sell me anything. On the table…one elephant with his trunk in the air, one buddha head and two opium pipes (to be used as table art and not for smoking said opium). I let Brian do the talking while I continued to explore the shop. I can’t even watch people bargain with out getting uncomfortable. Finally I heard Brian say, “Do you take American Express?” and I knew we had a deal. We were now the proud owners of an elephant, a buddha head and two opium pipes. Winning! Clearly our antique street success called for Bintang beers so we decided to head back to Tiny’s in the backpacker district.

image-2

After a few Bingtangs we headed back to our hotel for the routine three-hour afternoon break in our air-conditioned room, but not without a stop at the famous pastry shop, Tous Les Jours. Yes, this trip to Vietnam was becoming quite indulgent. Because of the French invasion in Vietnam many French influences can still be felt and I quickly learned I had a favorite…the baked goods!

photo-5

After picking out a few (I blame Brian) we walked back to the hotel where we then proceeded to eat pastries in bed while sipping on iced Vietnamese coffees.

After our siesta, we went out for Greek food followed by after dinner drinks at Casbah. Casbah had a completely different energy than the previous evening. The place really livened up as the evening wore on. It was packed with people and there were even belly dancers! The place was jumping. Luckily we found a quiet spot outside and away from the chaos. After imbibing in a few too many beverages, Brian and I decided it was the perfect time to face-time with Frank (yes, you read that correctly), via my sweet mama who was staying at our house to watch him. We both did the math and concluded it was 10am in LA, so we dialed and eagerly watched the phone as it rang. Suddenly my moms sleepy face appeared on my screen and she confusedly said  “Kate??? Hi honey. I can see you? I can see Brian? Why are you guys calling me at six in the morning?” Two thoughts crossed my mind at this point…shit we woke her up!….and….I can’t believe she’s never face timed before? It was then she shrieked “Does that mean you can see me?!! OMG I’M NAKED!!!”. At that point the screen went black and all I could hear was yelling. Poor thing! Not only was she rudely awakened at six am but now she was convinced her son-in-law just saw her naked. I was laughing so hard I was literally crying. Moments later she reappeared in a robe and just as I was about to reassure her that we couldn’t see anything the volume of the music went from 0-100 and a belly dancer appeared in front of our table. Clearly, it was our turn for the show. I tried to yell over the music but she couldn’t hear me and there was only one thing to do…wave and hang up. She must have thought we were insane.

After the required belly dancing show we strolled back to our hotel laughing about the evening. My heart and my belly feeling very full that night…day three in Ho Chi Minh was a good to us.

Ho Chi Minh- day two

28 Jul

With our wretched first day in Ho Chi Minh behind us and a good nights sleep under our belts, we awoke in much better moods and excited to explore the city. First up on our itinerary was a stop at the Ho Chi Minh Museum. It was relatively close to our hotel so we decided to walk. The minute we stepped out of the hotel doors the thick hot and humid air enveloped us. It felt even hotter than the day before. How was that even possible? While I am not a huge fan of humidity, I quickly learned that my husband reallllllly doesn’t enjoy it. I won’t go as far as calling him a baby but I will say that there was some serious complaining going on.

photo

can you see the pain in his eyes?

After a twenty-minute walk, we arrived at the museum looking as if we had just showered. This weather was definitely going to take some getting used to! The museum was interesting (despite not being air-conditioned)- we both learned so much about Ho Chi Minh’s life before he became the president of Vietnam- I never knew he lived in France for a period of time working in kitchens or that he traveled many other countries in Europe working on a boat from 1911 to 1917. I’d say the museum is a must stop when in Ho Chi Minh…I mean the city is named after him and all.

Processed with VSCOcam with a4 preset

photo

After the museum we headed over to Pham Ngu Lao, which is the backpacker district. It is made up of two parallel streets- Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao and a handful of tiny connecting alleys. I am a fan of exploring the backpacker district whenever I’m in a new city- they always feel more alive than the ritzy tourist areas. We wandered through the maze-like alleys taking in the sights (I could easily see into the locals homes from the narrow alleys, which was very exciting for a nosy person like me!) and smells (considering, nobody has air-conditioning and it was lunch time, the fragrant smell of food wafted out of the open doors…making me very hungry).

20140727_A9A5427

photo

With intense hunger pains now occupying both of our brains we decided it was time to break for lunch and picked a restaurant named Tiny’s at random. Well, maybe it wasn’t so random- it was the cleanest. We grabbed a table in the corner, luckily by a fan and quickly ordered two large Bintang beers to combat the heat. While I am not much of a beer drinker in my everyday life, it is pretty much all I ever order when I’m in Asia. Mostly because, my normal glass of chardonnay costs more than a meal for six and well, it just seems more authentic. You can safely say I wouldn’t be ordering a Bintang beer if I was in the south of France.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

photo-2

photo-1

After a decent lunch (nothing fancy at Tiny’s) of chicken hotpots (chicken, veggies & rice) we decided it was time for us to take break from the heat and headed back to the hotel. This became our daily routine – explore the city until around 3pm and then scurry back to the hotel for a few hours to read, write, shower (I showered three times a day in Ho Chi Minh) and nap in the cool air before heading back out for the evening. After our break we went to a Moroccan themed rooftop bar named Casbah that overlooked Notre Dame Cathedral for sunset cocktails (more bingtangs please!) and then had a truly amazing dinner at Thai restaurant named Golden Elephant.

Day three up next!

*

find me elsewhere: instagram @kate365 / facebook / twitter 

24 hour trip

21 Jul

Our mini vacation to Coronado this weekend with Rachel and PJ was a total success…well minus the 4 1/2 car ride down to San Diego (in bumper to bumper traffic no less) that should have taken 2 1/2 hours. I’m not going to lie…that part kinda sucked with three crazy dogs in the car. But we all survived with our sense of humors in tact.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

the start of the trip

photo-1

nala spent most of the road trip cozy in her bed being cute…

photo-3

Frank spent most of the road trip digging his tiny claws into Brian’s legs while watching the world go by…

photo

Cherokee spent most of the road trip letting us all know his displeasure with being seated in the back …

 Once we finally arrived at PJ’s parents lovely home in Coronado, we recharged with a yummy lunch and  white wine before hitting the dog beach. The afternoon at the beach was something Brian and I were pretty excited about considering it was Frank’s first time making contact with the sand and the ocean. I know…I know…such annoying first time parents. All in all the beach was a total success. At first Frank was frightened of the ocean. Each time the water came up to him he would run as fast as his little tush would carry him in the other direction. After watching this hysterical back and forth for a few minutes he finally warmed up to the water when he saw a tennis ball go in. Frank’s love of tennis ball knows no boundaries. When he saw it go in he jumped right in to retrieve it, stealing it away from an eager golden retriever. He’s such a ball thief. After wrestling it away from him and returning it to its rightful owner we found him his very own tennis ball and played a long game of fetch. It was so sweet to see him at the beach – pure joy. It dawned on me that if I am this excited to see Frank experience something new for the first time, I can’t imagine how magical it will be to see our children experience things for the first time. It must make the world come alive in a whole new way.

photo

happy

photo-1

cute pup and husband

photo-2

just taking in the view of the ocean

After the beach we showered up and hit the town. Coronado is such a picturesque little all American town- it’s pretty darling. We walked through the famous Hotel Del Coronado, had drinks at The Tavern, a delicious Mexican feast at Miguel’s followed by a rowdy card game back at the house (sadly, I lost). It was a pretty perfect Saturday night.

photo-6

photo-7

photo-8

photo-5

The next morning we packed up and hit the road in fear that we would once again be stuck in horrible traffic. Fortunately, the ride home was much more mellow. The traffic was mild, Cherokee’s whining was at an all time low, Brian wised up and put Frank’s bed on his lap to keep his tiny claws from mutilating his leg, Frank discovered the joy of air conditioning and we listened to a really interesting Ted Talk.

do you think he could get any closer?

do you think he could get any closer?

photo-4

all the kids fast asleep…

*

find me elsewhere: instagram @kate365, twitter, facebook

Ho Chi Minh – day one

16 Jul

Day one in Ho Chi Minh was hellish. Hands down the worst day of our whole  trip. It was the perfect storm… Brian was terribly miserable because he was covered in a thousand mosquito bites (I swear that boy must be super sweet because those mosquitos LOVE him). I was terribly miserable with cramps and a rough bout of pms. We had a truly miserable flight from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh with a snotty and sneezing old man seated next to Brian and two very loud and annoying kids seated next to me. I honesty didn’t know two hours could feel so long. When we finally arrived in Ho Chi Minh it was 100 degrees and humid as F*%k, which made us both even more miserable. In addition we happened to arrive in Ho Chi Minh on a national holiday (May Day) and everything was pretty much closed (great planning on our part). Do you see where I am going with all of this? It was just one of those days.

We took a cab from the airport to our hotel, The Hotel Continental, which is a beautiful historic hotel located in the heart of district one (upside of the day). After settling into our room, we attempted to shake off our nasty moods by planning a fun afternoon. First up, we headed to Cholon, Vietnam’s “Chinatown”, home to over half a million people, making it the largest Chinese community in Vietnam. The area was something I was dying to see during our stay because I was keen on going to all the Chinese medicine shops.  Sadly, most of the shops were closed due to the holiday. So instead we aimlessly walked the  sticky, hot and humid streets of Cholon in silence (total grumps). Finally we stumbled upon one Chinese medicine store that was open- WINNING! I excitedly walked up to the two women behind the counter, equipped with my fancy English to Chinese translation app on my iphone and eagerly asked them for the magical herb I was on the hunt for. They both stared at me with a look of disgust and then rudely waved me off. I’ve never been so offended! Clearly, they were not fans. I left the store defeated.

We spent the next twenty minutes continuing to wander the sticky, hot and humid streets of Cholon, while I recounted the Chinese medicine shop experience over and over to Brian (clearly, unable to let it go). Then suddenly (as if things weren’t bad enough) the sky turned dark and it began to rain. This day was officially a wash. At that point we decided to call it quits and hailed a cab back to our hotel (which took forever due to the national holiday), where we holed up in our air-conditioned room reading our books for a few hours. It was exactly what the doctor ordered. I’ve learned that sometimes it’s ok to hole up in your hotel room while traveling. It’s impossible to be on the go non-stop for thirty days.

photo

After recharging our batteries we went to a fabulous dinner at a romantic little restaurant Brian found, May restaurant which served French/Vietnamese cuisine that was delectable. After stuffing our bellies we went straight back to our hotel room and climbed back in bed.

END SCENE.

 

Halong Bay : day two

20 Jun

On our second day in Halong Bay, Brian set his alarm for the crack of dawn to take pictures of the bay in the early morning light. I’m not usually one to wake up that early, but I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see the bay at that hour. So I followed him up to the top deck and I am happy I did because it was worth it. It was so peaceful, all the other tour boats were still quiet and the emerald colored water was so still.

photo-10

When we came down, the crew was awake (and I think very surprised to see us) and hot coffee was ready. We both poured ourselves a cup of coffee and retreated to our room to hang out until breakfast was served. Not a bad view for morning coffee right?

10258088_10101318447412675_6149400631530953349_n

After breakfast James informed us that normally the whole group would board a smaller boat for the day to cruise to Lan Ha, a remote corner of the bay, but since we were the only guests staying on board for another night we would be getting a private tour for two. Clearly, some very good honeymoon luck, right? So we said our goodbyes to the group and boarded our boat for a day of fun.

photo-7

20140608_A9A5047

20140608_A9A5082

20140608_A9A5148

20140608_A9A5200

20140608_A9A5261

20140608_A9A5365

After an hour (it wasn’t the fastest boat I’ve ever been on) we arrived at Lan Ha and dropped anchor. Brian immediately jumped in the water for a swim, choosing to make that jump from the top deck.

photo-6

photo-5

can you spot Brian?

can you spot Brian?

After our swim, our guide informed us it was time to get suited up in our orange life jackets again because she would be taking us on a tour of the surrounding caves. I had been on the fence about the whole cave thing when I had read about it on the itinerary. I am terribly claustrophobic but she assured me that the ones we would be going to would be large. So into the kayak I went. We were joined by two Serbian men from another boat. They were a riot and perfect companions for the adventure. They were even kind enough to snap photos of us since we didn’t have our camera with us.

photo-13

photo-14

photo-15

It’s true, the photos are rather blurry but at least we have them! After a few hours exploring the caves and attempting to spot monkeys on the islands, we were back on our little boat and headed for Three Peaches, where we would be spending the afternoon. When we arrived at Three Peaches, we dropped anchor again and  were served the most insane lunch. Seriously, it was a meal that could have easily fed a family of six but it was delicious.

After lunch we sunned ourselves for a bit before deciding to get back into the kayaks to make the short trip to shore to play on the beach and take a swim.

photo-2

The day was perfection from start to finish, made even better when we arrived back on the main boat and were informed that the new group that was supposed to be joining us on the boat cancelled.  This meant we had the whole thirty person boat and a crew of twelve to ourselves that night. WINNING. I mean, best honeymoon luck ever, right! Below is a picture that Brian snapped of me doing my happy dance once I heard the news.

10169394_10101319857746355_8162165237659197207_n

That evening they served us an elaborate four course seafood meal. It was hysterical having the whole dining room to ourselves and a waiter standing there for us. So this is how the other half lives, I thought. I could make this work.

After dinner we were both asleep again by eight. Ahhhhh, the joys of being on a honeymoon.

*

ps….the photos that are beautiful and not iphone photos were shot by my super lovely and talented husband

Halong Bay : day one

9 Jun

10294348_10101318446120265_1430368083631034366_n

After a few exciting nights in Hanoi we made the four-hour trip to Halong Bay, located in northeastern Vietnam. We decided to book a group tour during our stay because we wanted to see as much as possible while staying on a boat for a few nights and the easiest way to ensure that, is to book a group tour. So we chose a two night/ three-day option aboard the L’ Azalee through Buffalo Tours.

So on our fourth morning in Vietnam, Buffalo Tours picked us up from our hotel in Hanoi. The second the crowded van pulled up thirty minutes late, I was reminded why I hate group tours. We climbed into the van and introduced ourselves to the other couples and filed into the back of the van into the only seat available: a middle seat. It was a tight squeeze, making the four-hour trip seem rather long; especially with the loud and obnoxious woman sitting in front of me. Why did we decide to do a group tour again? When we finally arrived at our destination, I was exhausted and my legs were drenched in sweat from being pressed against the hot leather seats.

We all piled out of the car and into the crowded boat dock. It was packed with tourists. PACKED. Clearly, many other people got the memo that Halong Bay was a “must see” when in Vietnam. Not surprising considering it has been declared a Unesco World Heritage site, twice.

We were greeted by a handsome young Vietnamese man, who went by the name of James (clearly, not his real name), our guide for the trip. He explained that we would be boarding a small boat that would take us to the L’ Azalee. Minutes later we were strapped in orange life jackets and heading out of the dock.

IMG_  92

IMG_  93

My first impression of Halong Bay…beyond gorgeous but dear lord I hope there are fewer boats once we get out on the open water…because there were tour boats as far as the eye could see, making Halong Bay feel less magical than I had expected.
After a quick three-minute ride we were at our boat and all settling into our rooms. Our room was on the top floor and had huge windows that opened up onto the green waters. Now Halong Bay was starting to feel magical.

IMG_  97

After putting our bags down we were invited to the dining cabin for lunch, which consisted of four courses of various fresh seafood (winning). As we ate, we listened to James give a welcome speech. As he went through the itinerary, I was immediately struck by one sentence…”On this one night / two-day trip you will see a lot of Halong Bay”. Shit, we’re on the wrong boat. We are supposed to be on the two night / three-day boat. Now what.

Brian and I nervously glanced at each other and just as I was about to stand up and say, “Thanks for the free seafood!” James informed us that we did indeed have a three-day tour, but the that the others had only booked one night and would be leaving tomorrow but more would be joining. PHEW, I thought, as I took another bite of shrimp.

On the itinerary after lunch..kayaking through the limestone islands. Despite not being a fan of kayaking (it all comes back to my fear of the ocean), I put a big smile on my face…because one, Brian had a huge one plastered on his and two, I wanted to get closer to those limestone islands and I knew that that beat up red kayak was my ticket.

Halong Bay literally translates to “dragon descending”, a name steeped in local legend. The story goes that a heavenly celestial dragon and her offspring were ordered by the Jade Emperor to halt an invasion from the sea. So to stop the invasion, the dragons spewed out bits of jade and jewels that turned into the islands that are there today.

So off we went in our red kayak and bright orange life jackets.

photo

The limestone formations were like nothing I had ever seen before. They looked so majestic protruding from the clear water. It was so eerily quiet as we kayaked through that it felt like we were the only  people on earth. Actually, I kept telling Brian that I was sure a huge dinosaur was about to appear on one of the islands…the scene was straight out of Jurassic Park.

The other thought that kept crossing my mind as we floated through the islands…what is there ever to be sad about when things like this exist in the world?

Once back on the boat we had a few hours to swim, nap or sun bathe before dinner. For Brian and I this consisted of having a cold Tiger beer on the upper deck while sitting in the fleeting sun.

IMG_  96

10325314_10101318519867475_354367427261541768_n

At dinner that evening Brian and I were given our very own romantic table for two, while the others sat at a big table together. The perks of being on a honeymoon. The evening was rather mellow. We had big plans of going squid fishing at 10pm but instead were both asleep by 9pm….

*

find me elsewhere: instagram @kate365, twitter, facebook

 

Hanoi, Vietnam : day two

30 May

On day two I woke up at the glorious hour of 6am, guess that makes sense considering I went to bed at 8pm. The minute I woke up I heard the sound of rain- not just a light drizzle but heavy, pounding, sideways flowing rain. I was amazed Brian wasn’t awoken by it. Considering, it was our last full day in Hanoi before departing for Halong Bay I was a tad sad by the rain and immediately went to the weather app on my phone to see the forecast…

1

The lightening bolt was a nice touch, don’t you think? At this point I became worried about our two nights and three days, on a boat in Halong Bay. I wasn’t keen on the idea of floating around on a boat, in Vietnam, in a torrential downpour with the chance of lightning. I’m not much of a boat person in general; I much prefer land. So I spent the next hour going through all the options in my head – do we just go with the flow? Do we move the Halong Bay trip back a few days? Do we skip Halong Bay all together? Luckily, by the time Brian awoke the rain had become a soft drizzle (and was lucky enough to avoid all my neurotic thoughts) and we decided to go with the flow and make the best of it. The hotel equipped us with umbrellas and off we went. The city was actually beautiful in the rain- it. gave it a romantic feel. Being used to such downpours , the locals just put on their ponchos and go about their business.
2

We decided to make day two more culturally driven as opposed to yesterday’s heavy food focus, so we set off in search of a temple and museum we wanted to visit. First up was the Temple Of Literature, built-in 1070 under the reign of King Ly Thanh Tong and dedicated to Confucius. It was also home to Vietnam’s first university, which was established within the temple to educate Vietnam’s bureaucrats, nobles, royalty and other members of the elite. The university remained open from 1076 to 1779.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

4

Processed with VSCOcam with hb1 preset

6

The grounds were absolutely gorgeous and very lush and green after the morning rain. It was a nice break from the chaotic bustling streets. There was a big gorgeous pond surrounded by a stone wall that we peered into and saw a bunch of large toads hopping around. How magical, I thought. That was until I heard a horrified Australian women shriek that we were stepping on teeny tiny baby frogs. I looked down and saw the teeniest tiniest black specs jumping all around us. Oh, yes you would be correct…we are stepping on teeny tiny baby frogs. Sadly, I fear we may have killed a few prior to our knowledge. That doesn’t count, right?

7

 Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with m5 preset

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

After The Temple of Literature we strolled across the street to what appeared to be a little lake and were greeted by this women, fishing. Don’t you just love her? She clearly means business.

IMG_  79

Then we strolled a few more blocks down to the Vietnam Fine Arts Museum, home to an extensive collection of Buddhas. After the museum we were starved and decided it was time to delve into the world of Vietnamese Pho- something taken very seriously in Vietnam. I had read that the North and South disagree over who has better Pho which was confirmed yesterday by our food guide, Chinhg, who made a point to say the southern version wasn’t as “tasty and balanced” as the northern version. This of course made me want to compare the two. So we headed to a restaurant called, Pho 10 for our first bowl of Vietnamese Pho. We were the only tourists in the joint which I took as a very good sign. We ordered two bowls of Pho with steak and not even one minute later were enjoying said bowls. The noodles and broth were really good- very flavorful, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the meat- it was a bit too fatty for my taste.

11

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

13

If you can’t tell from the above photos Brian likes to add hot sauce to his Pho. That boy was literally drenched with sweat and after finishing. He makes me smile.

After lunch we decided we were in need of beers and stumbled upon Cong Caphe, the cutest little cafe located by the St Joseph’s Cathedral. It really showcased how much Hanoi was influenced by the French. I felt like we had stepped into Paris. Worked for me. It was filled with twenty-something locals sipping coffees and drinks. We holed up at a cozy table upstairs in the corner by a big window. The rain had completely stopped at this point, so all we felt was a warm breeze waft through the window. Sam Cooke’s “Chain Gang” played in the cafe- which is a favorite of Brian’s and mine, while the cathedral’s bells chimed in the distance. To say I loved this place would be an understatement.

IMG_  84

IMG_  85

At night we tried Cha Ca La Vong, a restaurant that serves only one dish – Cha Ca, which is grilled fish served alongside various kinds of herbs, rice vermicelli, nuoc cham dipping sauce, sliced chillies and roasted peanuts. It was incredible, definitely my favorite meal in Hanoi. You also had to cook it at your table yourself, which made it rather fun. One of my favorite things about Vietnamese food is their use of herbs, it makes every dish so flavorful.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

After dinner we decided to take a walk to go and see the Opera House, which was built at the turn of the 20th century to keep the French entertained. After years of renovation it reopened in 1997 and hosts regular performances. Sadly, we did not think ahead and get tickets for a performance so we had to settle on the view from the street. It’s situated right in front of a large roundabout, and I loved the image of all the cars and motorbikes zipping by it- keeps with the frenetic energy of Hanoi.

Processed with VSCOcam with hb2 preset

As Brian snapped photos (I love being married to a photographer) it began to drizzle. In that moment I was reminded how grateful I was to be in Vietnam with the man I loved. I am always the happiest and most alive version of myself when I am traveling.

*

“I travel not to go anywhere, but to go. I travel for travel’s sake. The great affair is to move.”
Robert Louis Stevenson