Tag Archives: honeymoon

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

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Halong Bay : day one

9 Jun

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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….

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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…

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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.
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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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

 

 

 

 

Hanoi, Vietnam : day one

28 May

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The first stop on our honeymoon was Hanoi, Vietnam. We decided to start the trip in Vietnam and end it in Bali knowing that Vietnam would be filled with frenetic energy and Bali would be calm…and we wanted to end the trip on a calm note. After twenty-four hours of traveling, Brian and I arrived in Hanoi at 11pm. I always find it off-putting to arrive in a foreign country at night. It only adds to feeling totally out of sorts. After battling the longest customs line ever created, we walked out of the airport doors and were immediately swarmed by a sea of cab drivers trying to get business from us. For some reason everything we had read about negotiating the fare first went out the door- I blame the twenty-four hours of traveling and the long customs line.

So after getting ripped off by our cab driver (lesson learned- always negotiate the price BEFORE getting in the cab) we got dropped off at our hotel located in the Old Quarter, also known as the “36 Streets”, one of the oldest parts of Hanoi. Formerly a center for resistance against the French, this part of town evolved in the 13th century when artisan guilds were concentrated along each of the original 36 lanes. Tinsmiths were found on Hang Theic (Tin Street), bamboo basket makers on Hang Bo (Bamboo Basket Street), Hang Bac (Silver Street), and so on. While much of the Old Quarter has become modernized with cafes, restaurants, hostels, hotels and shops, you can still see the remnants of the original 36 streets- a very interesting juxtaposition.

After a solid night of sleep we woke up ready to explore the city by foot. I quickly learned that getting around bustling Hanoi by foot is a harrowing adventure. The narrow streets are packed with motorbikes, bicycles and cars; crossing the street feels like you’re playing a terrifying game of chicken. Considering there is rarely a break in the traffic flow, you just have to brave it and cross, in hopes the sea of motorbikes move around you. My plan of action- close my eyes and let Brian lead the way across each street.

We spent the morning wandering around the Old Quarter & Hoan Kiem lake, taking in the city.

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My favorite thing we stumbled upon during our morning walk was this scene by the lake- a bunch of very happy Vietnamese women dancing together to loud music. The more I watched, the more it became clear that it was some form of a (public) group exercise class. You couldn’t help but smile watching them- so lively! I was about to join in, when the music abruptly stopped, clearly, saving Brian from definite embarrassment.

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After a few hours it was time for our food tour – something both of us were very excited about. Prior to our trip, I learned through my research that hiring a guide to take you on a food tour was very helpful. One, because the street food scene is better understood by a local and having a guide who spoke both Vietnamese and English was very helpful when trying to order at non-tourist spots. We were not disappointed by this experience. The food was like nothing I have ever experienced before, each dish was an intoxicating mix of new flavors. Our guide, Chingh, a twenty-five year old girl born and raised in Hanoi was incredibly knowledgable and had quite a spunky personality. She didn’t just tell us about the food at each stop but also shared stories about her family life and her drive to work in tourism despite her parents disapproval of a career that it considered better suited for a male in Hanoi. She had such a great spirit. I always love talking openly with locals- it makes the city come alive and opens up your eyes to the world around you.

We made seven stops on our food tour. SEVEN!

1st dish – Mien Luon (eel noodle)

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2nd dish – Nuoc Mia (Sugarcane juice)

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3rd – Bun Bo Nam Bo (southern beef noodles)

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4th – Cha Ca (grilled fish)

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5th – Banh Cuon (mushroom + pork roll)

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6th – Banh Trang Tron (mixed noodle dish)

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7th – Cafe Trung (egg coffee)

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With our sweet guide Chingh

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After eating our weight in Vietnamese food we decided to head over to the backpackers district, more specifically a street named “beer street”…for as I’m sure you guessed…a beer. We had been reading about “Bai Hoi”- the local beer made fresh daily and sold for the insanely cheap price of 3,000 dong per glass which translates to 16 US cents. Hard to believe, right? So we found a patio spot and sipped beers while taking in the scene (this area is filled with young travelers from around the world, although Australians seem to make up the majority). IMG_  62

After a few beers (not the best beer I have ever had but certainly refreshing on the hot afternoon), we went back to our hotel to take a nap before heading out for the evening. We had a quick dinner at a neighborhood Vietnamese spot – before setting out on foot through the Hanoi night market, also known as Dong Xuan night market, which is a weekly market held on weekends in the Old Quarter.  I originally thought it was going to be just a food market but instead the stalls were packed with clothing, shoes, jewelry, decorations, toys, etc, as well as a few food stalls. The market was crazy and a tad overwhelming with jetlag, but equally fascinating. The market was filled with locals who seemed to come to the market not just to shop but as a social activity. Young couples strolled arm in arm as little kids excitedly ran around at our legs. The market was a complete sensory overload.

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After the market we crashed at 8pm. It was the perfect way to end our first day in Vietnam.

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find me elsewhere: instagram @kate365, twitter, facebook 

 

home sweet home

21 May

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We’re back from our honeymoon adventure! How did it fly by so fast? Seriously, it blows my mind that we are already back. The trip was everything I hoped it would be. Every stop on the itinerary brought with it something wildly different. I loved our time in Vietnam but Bali really stole my heart. There is something magical about the island and it’s not just the white sandy beaches and turquoise waters. I told Brian that we are going back to Bali as soon as possible and as many more times as possible.

Not only was the actual trip fabulous but being away with my husband reinvigorated me. I was in a crappy place before the trip. I was feeling bogged down by negative thoughts and fears- feeling a bit directionless, a tad depressed and I was having a hard time connecting to myself. You could say that I was even indulging these emotions. I was feeling drained and I am sure I was also draining to be around. The two usually go hand in hand, don’t they? I just didn’t feel like myself.

But the trip awakened me. There is nothing better than traveling to far off lands to remind you how teeny tiny you are in the universe. It’s humbling to climb out of your little world and get a new perspective. The world is gorgeous place filled with beautiful people.

Can’t wait to share all about our trip!

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find me elsewhere: instagram @kate365, twitter, facebook

let the adventure begin!

24 Apr

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Sorry I have been MIA this last week. I’ve felt like a chicken with my head cut off (is that how the saying even goes?) trying to wrap everything up before we leave for a month. A MONTH- I still can’t wrap my head around that. I’ve never traveled for that long. So excited. I spent yesterday running a million errands and beautifying (it is my honeymoon and all). It seems like everything is in order. Bills are paid for the month, Frank’s schedule with his various watchers is in place (he’s staying one week with his lovely dog walker, two weeks with my mom and one week with Brian’s parents), bags are packed (well, mostly) & our travel itinerary is locked.

I plan on blogging every few days from each destination unless it becomes impossible. Hopefully I will check-in in a few days from Hanoi, Vietnam!

Follow along on instagram (@kate365) in the meantime!

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UBUD

3 Apr

T minus 21 days until our honeymoon!! Since I’ve been doing a lot of lying around since my surgery I’ve been spending a lot of time daydreaming about our honeymoon. I cannot wait to travel with Bri for a few weeks. We really need it. The last few months have been a crazy whirlwind…with some difficult moments/lessons sprinkled in. I need a break. I think I’ve already mentally checked out. I can almost feel the sand between my toes.

We just got confirmation that the villa in Ubud, Bali that I have been salivating over is available the dates we want. Yay! Isn’t it gorgeous?!

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I die over this bedroom. DIE.

bali…bali…BALI!

19 Mar

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(photo via Hither & Thither)

I have wanted to go to Bali forever. Well, maybe ever since I watched the movie “Eat, Pray, Love”…kidding…kinda. In all seriousness though…Julia Roberts made Bali look magical and I am hellbent on getting a reading from Ketut, the medicine man in the movie. I’m sure Brian just read that and rolled his eyes. Don’t worry babe…I won’t force you to get a reading from Ketut…I promise.

We have the first half of our honeymoon in Vietnam planned out- on April 24th we fly from LA to Ho Chi Minh (with a layover in Tokyo). We stay in Ho Chi Minh for five days before we head to Halong Bay for a three-day boat trip. When we return from the bay we will then fly to Hanoi which is located in southern Vietnam for another five days before we fly to Bali (with a layover in Kuala Lumpur…don’t even get me started about my current anxiety over flying on Malaysia Airlines through Kuala Lumpur after recent developments. You could say that I am slightly obsessed with the missing plane. Brian probably just read that and thought…slightly?????) Anyways, then we have twelve days in Bali! We still haven’t figured out how to break up our time there yet. I’m thinking half in Ubud (inland Bali) and half sitting on a beach doing absolutely nothing.

I was researching Bali this morning and stumbled upon a Bali Travelogue on the blog Hither & Thither (which I am now obsessed with) and her pictures of Ubud left me speechless. I’m already in love with Bali and have decided we must stay at this villa while there.

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inspiration photos: halong bay

12 Mar

This past weekend Brian and I put the finishing touches on our Vietnam itinerary and I am getting SO damn excited for our honeymoon. We leave next month! One of the things I am most excited for is our three-day boat trip with Buffalo Tours through Vietnam’s Halong Bay- Halong translates to ‘where the dragon descends into the sea’, According to local legend, the Vietnamese had to ward off invaders when they began to develop their country. To assist them in defending their land, the gods sent a family of dragons as protectors. This family of dragons began spitting out jewels and jade. The jewels turned into the islands and islets dotting the bay and linked together to form a wall against the invaders. Magically, the numerous rock mountains appeared in the sea ahead of the invaders’ ships, and the boats struck the rocks and each other. After winning the battle, the dragons chose to live a peaceful life on Earth and made their home in this bay. The place where the mother dragon descended was named Ha Long.

Don’t you just love that story?

For three days Brian and I will sleep on a small 12 cabin wooden junk (boat) and float around the jade bay exploring caves, swimming at different beaches, kayaking & eating fresh seafood from the floating markets.

And from the looks of pictures…it seems like it is going to be a magical few days.

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inspiration, gratitude & surprises

24 Jan

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what inspired me this week?

this quote another blogger shared…

Whenever you start guiding yourself by caring about how you feel, you
start guiding yourself back into your Stream of Source Energy, and that’s
where your clarity is; that’s where your joy is; that’s where your flexibility
is; that’s where your balance is; that’s where your good ideas come from.
That’s where all the good stuff is accessed from.
— Abraham-Hicks

29 ways to stay creative

a session with a possible new life coach

putting together a book club with some of my favorite ladies. first up- the goldfinch 

spending time with my new little sister

compiling a list of inspiring ladies to approach to do the project 30 q & a

what am I grateful for this week?

we booked our honeymoon to Vietnam and Bali! April 24th-May 17th!

my momma for being the best grandma a pup could have…she takes frankie on dates when I have to work long days.

I finally finished our wedding thank you cards.

frank…that little guy can brighten the shittiest of days

white roses

candles…seriously, I can’t imagine a world without candles

my girlfriend Jen for always saying the right thing

my little brother returned safely from his three-week adventure in Australia…meaning his overbearing sister can now breathe a little lighter

my husband…always my husband

what surprised me this week?

I’m going to go with when Brian dropped coral paint all over our concrete patio

meeting new neighbors that I like

Find me elsewhere: instagram @kate365, twitter, facebook