Sri Lanka

Photo credit

February 2-9, 2019


(I just need to let you know that as I was typing up this blog WordPress was being very fickle and my formatting is all messed up because of it. At this point I’m letting it go and posting the blog anyway. The spell check function was also not working, I’m sorry in advance).

You know a trip was good when you continue to think about it after you get home. It’s been a month and half since my trip to Sri Lanka and I still find myself day dreaming of rolling green hills, elephants, and endless cups of tea. If Sri Lanka is not on your list of countries to visits I recommend you add it.

We arrived very late at night into Colombo do to a delayed flight. (Three out of our four flights during this trip were delayed). I recommend not spending more than a day in Colombo. It’s a big city with not a whole lot to do. We were there during Sri Lanka’s independence day and because of this some areas of town were closed off to get ready for a parade. There was also a heavy, and I mean heavy military presences. It made me a bit uncomfortable when I first started noticing it. We learned from one of the tuk-tuk drivers that it was all for the parade the next day. Don’t worry, Sri Lanka is a very safe country. Aside from consistently being stared at and asked if we needed a tuk-tuk ride we didn’t have any issues.

View from our hotel balcony. Not super nice, but you can see the ocean!

 

Off on our first Tuk-Tuk ride of the trip
We stumbled upon a street fair which we went back and visited later that night

 

This tree reminded me of the trees in Cambodia

 

The Buddha in Viharamahadevi Park

 

Town Hall

 

That tower looked like a lotus flower and would light up at night

 

Gangaramaya (Vihara) Buddhist temple which is famous for having so many artifacts.

 

Not a real elephant

 

So many buddhas! (Sorry the lighting in this picture is so poor)

Again, not a real elephant

 

Offerings

 

The outside of the temple

 

The outside of the temple

 

Seema Malaka lake temple on Lake Beira

 

Street art

This was an old Dutch hospital converted in to stores. The internet made it sound really neat. It was a total let down!

 

Inside the Dutch hospital

 

Colombo had a lot of really neat architecture

Old Parliament

 

Old Pettah. Again, another place the internet made sound cool and it wasn’t. It was loud and really busy.

 

Market in Old Pettah. We noticed all the stall owners were men. In Vietnam they are mostly women

 

The National Museum. This came highly recommend. Sadly, we were so tired, hungry, and hot by the time we got here we didn’t want to go in. It’s a beautiful building though!

 

If I remember correctly this is a statue of Queen Victoria

 

Independence Memorial Hall. This was built when Sri Lanka gained it’s independence from Britain in 1948.

I was trying to take sneaky photos of all the military stuff set up for the parade. I probably didn’t need to be sneaky about it.

At time laps video of a tuk-tuk ride in Colombo

Day Two: We left Colombo and headed to Kandy.
We hired a driver/guide for the week (which I highly recommend doing) and this was supposed to be the day he picked us up. This day started with a huge hiccup! Our driver’s car got hit by a motorbike on his way to pick us up and he ended up at the police station. We ended up taking a “pick me” (their equivalent of Uber) to Kandy, which was about 3.5 hours away. I know that sounds expensive but it was only around $40. When we got to the hotel we had another hiccup. They didn’t have our reservation and tried to say we booked it that day (it had been book in November). Then they magically had a room for us. It was not a room we were willing to stay in. Thankfully, our driver knew of a nice hotel, which ended up being amazing! Before going to our hotel we spent some time in Kandy visiting the Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic. They have a tooth from when Buddha was cremated, however it is in a case and you can not see it. Because it was a holiday is was very busy and we chose to walk around the grounds instead of paying to go in the temple.

Man-made lake in Kandy
Happy Sri Lanka Day!

The next few pictures are from around the grounds of Temple of the Sacred Tooth Relic

Our guide said, on more then one occasion, how much he hated monkeys. I have to agree with him. Wild monkeys are awful little things.

He’s hard to see, because he blends in so well, but there’s a giant lizard in this photo

This used to be the Ambassador to Britian’s house. Now it’s a fancy hotel.

Store fronts

 

Our hotel was amazing!

Day Three: The worlds most beautiful train ride.
We did not do the whole train ride which is Kandy to Ella. We only went half way to Nuwara Ellya (which took 3 hours).
Oh man, did it live up to the hype! We initially didn’t have seats and were willing to ride third class and stand. Thankfully, another driver approached our driver and offered to sell us seats that he had bought as long as we were willing to be on a ticket with another couple. It was cheap so we agreed. It was worth every penny! I spent the better half of the last two hours sitting on the floor of the door way with my feet hanging out watching the country side zoom by. Breath taking! Pictures do not do it justice. If we would have been in third class this would not have been possible do to the amount of people in those cabins.

 

Waiting for our train, which was delayed

 After the train ride we went to a tea plantation for lunch and well, tea! It was during this tea break I mentioned I wanted to some day buy a nice tea-pot. Our driver heard this and recommend we visit the Noritake outlet (the only one outside of Japan) just outside Kandy the next morning. I had no idea what Noritake china was. Turns out is fancy!

Tea plantation

Before having dinner our driver took us to a “jewel museum.” Sri Lanka is know for its Sapphires. We watched a video on how precious stones are found and then they took us upstairs and laid jewelry our for us to see. I felt very wealthy but also very uncomfortable as I wasn’t planning on buying anything. 

Below is a sunset from the restaurant we had dinner.

Day Four: We started the day at the Noritaki outlet. I could have spent all day and all my money there! I wish I would have taken a picture inside. But I forgot. Here’s a picture of the tea cups I bought. Sadly, I’m still on the hunt for the perfect teapot!

The lighting is awful in the pictures. Yes, I meant for them all to be different. And yes, that is a hammock in my living room!

We then drove north to Dambulla and checked into our tree house hotel before went on an elephant safari at Wasgamuwa National Park. Pictures do not do justice to how amazing the safari was. All the elephants are wild and move between three national parks. Thankfully the full herd was in the park we were visiting.

Yes, there was a bathroom in the tree house!

 

Inside the tree house

After the safari we went to get traditonal Sri Lankan massages. This was interesting. The massage was arggessive and they made us sit on chairs and face each other to begin. After the massage we were told to sit in a steam room for 20 minutes completely naked. (Make sure you go with friends your comfortable with 😉 ). At the end we were not allowed to shower. As we left they told us we had to keep the oil on for another half hour. So, we went to dinner oily. ha ha

Day Five: When your guide tells you to get up early to do a hike, be sure you listen.
There is a giant rock called Sigiriya outside Dambulla that has a bit of a scandalous history to it. Short verson: In the 3rd century BC Buddhist monks used it. In 477 BC King Dhatusena had two sons. The non-heir son killed his father and took the crown. The older son, who was rightfully the heir to the crown, feared for his life and ran away to southern India to build an Army. The new King built a fortress on top of Sigiriya. The rock was painted with frescos of naked women (from the stories, it sounds like he was a bit of a playboy), which were later removed when the Buddhist monks returned. The King reigned for 18 years until his brother returned to take back his rightful throne! Realizing he was losing to his brother the King fell on his sword to end his life. If you want a more detailed hisorical version click here.
We arrived right as the UNESCO site opened. It’s not a hard hike but there are a lot of stairs and it gets hot very quick! Who ever created the path was a genius. You went up one way and down another so you did not have to worry about dodging people the whole time. The view from the top was gorgeous!

The deep grooves in the rock were cut there to make the rain fall away from the rock, like gutters.

An older lady came up a whispered to me in a creepy tone that I was talking to loud for the bees. I was so confused!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The rock is referred to as “lions rock” because all the entrances were once lions heads. You can see the paw of this one.
View from the top

The throne

One side up and one side down. So simple and efficient!

Our guide said it was lucky to take a picture under this rock

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rock shaped like a cobra

 

 

Remnants of old alfresco paintings

After our hike we drove to Negombo beach. On the way our driver suggested we stop to do a river tour and see some more temples. We did both.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Not the most comfortable way to get around

Our boat guide was very proud of the hats he made us

We visited a traditional village home were we treated to coconut roti. They had us scrape coconut from the shell

Old fashion iron
At the end of the tour they had a traditional meal for us

Next we visited Dambulla rock temple. It’s a series of 5 temples carved into the side of a hill.

Day Six: We walked in and out of the little tourist stores in Negombo for most of the morning. When it got to hot, we spent the better half of the afternoon laying by the pool.

Our hotel

 

The view from our balcony

 

When I leave Asia I’m going to miss being able to afford to stay at places like this

 

Negombo

 

My store!

 

The beach

 

The best cut-up coconut I’ve seen!

 As we tried to book a cab to the airport we learned about a nasty little scam the hotels and tuk-tuk drivers are in on. If you book a driver through “pick-me” or Uber the tuk-tuk drivers will threaten them, therefore no one will pick you up in front of the hotel. The hotel then offers to drive you at an outrages prices. We ended up walking down the road from our hotel and being picked up in front of a restaurant. The Colombo airport is a zoo! Once you get through security it is fine with a few shops and places to eat. We unfortunatley were delayed. Our plans of spending a long lay over in Kuala Lumpur slowly slipped away from us. When we finally made it to KL we had enough time to leave the airport and hit up a nice grocery store (located in the airport after customs). Laugh all you want, I’ll happily wait in a customs line to by blue berries and sharp chedder cheese (things that are exteremly expensive in Vietnam).

Fun facts about Sri Lanka:
-When I asked about how Britain finally took control over the country I was told the last King was a drunk and his family sold him out to the British. The Royal family was then banished to a island.
-There are no road side rest stops or places to use the bathroom. You either hold it or go in the forest.
-They originally tried to farm coffee.
-They are early morning people so trying to find somewhere to eat dinner was tough as most places (outside of hotels) were closed. Be prepared for buffets. 
-You’ll eat a lot of curry and rice and drink a lot of tea

BLOGGING IS NOT SOMETHING I’M NECESSARILY GOOD AT AND AUTOCORRECT AND I HAVE A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP, SO PLEASE IGNORE ANY TYPOS, MISSPELLED WORDS, OR ALL TOGETHER WRONG WORDS. 😉

 

Where in the world in Kuala Lumpur?

Where in the world is Kuala Lumpur? I  was asked this question a lot after I started posting pictures of my trip to KL. It’s a fair question. Where is Kuala Lumpur…..

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My friend Libby and I spent four days in KL over New Years. The city is a nice mix of the Western world and Asia and almost everyone spoke English. There is a huge muslim population to the point where they have “female only” train cars. There were less motor bikes then in HCMC so it was quieter.

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First stop- Petronas Towers

We found a nice park to sit in to watch the fireworks. We thought they would be going off over the towers but much to our surprise they came from right next to where we were sitting. It was a really cool experience!

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So many people!

Day 2- Theme of the day… getting lost

When planning this trip, we were excited that KL had a metro system. Little did we know how confusing that system would turn out to be. From what we understood the different lines are owned by different companies. Some use a token and some use a card. They all go out of the main hub (which is in a mall) but after that you have to get off one, walk, and find the next one (if your switching lines/companies). Confused? Yah….. we were. And because of that, our first try ended here. In a village on the outside of town. Opps!

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Token for the train

But we made it back into the city and kinda found were we wanted to go. Sometimes half the fun is in getting lost!

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The walk way outside Bukit Bintang Market

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Bukit Bintang Market (Central Market) You could spend hours walking around in here

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Bukit Bintang Market

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Bukit Bintang Market

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Old French Buildings

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A temple

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The Sri Mahamariamman Temple is the oldest Hindu temple in Kuala Lumpur

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The Sri Mahamariamman Temple

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The Sri Mahamariamman Temple

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Petaling street/Chinese market

 

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Petaling street/Chinese market

There was the main walk way (pictured above) and then stores on either side of it. Lots of purses and luggage being sold.

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This, at some point, is going to be the taller building in Asia. It unfortunately blocked off a street we needed to get to.

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This picture looks photo shopped!

Day 2- Seeing the sights

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The National Mosque of Malaysia

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The National Mosque of Malaysia

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The National Mosque of Malaysia

The butterfly park was one of my favorite things in KL. It was a beautiful green oasis with so many butterflies!

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The Sultan Abdul Samad Building- Such a cool looking building

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Outside the City Art Museum

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The Sultan Abdul Samad Building

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I loved the flowers on the light posts

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Masjid Jamek- Oldest standing mosque in KL

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Along the walls of one of the subways was cats pictures.

The next three pictures are from the night market that we walked to from our hotel.FE71CA53-6D9E-4ABA-A738-0199324864C7C43F3ADE-E201-4557-9621-B693114669B119E984BF-B324-4613-A7D0-3FA46A1C8BB5

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I want this in my apartment

Day 3- Batu Caves and fancy dinners

The Batu Caves are an easy 30 minute train ride from the KL’s main train station. They are a series of cave temples and the main cave was free to enter. If you want to read more about them click here 

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There were so many monkeys!

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Ready to climb all the steps

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Lord Murugan Statue is the second tallest Hindu statue in the world

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Monkeys  monkeys everywhere

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Inside the cave. Off to the left they were building a restaurant

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How many monkeys do you see in this pictures? (Hint: there are more than 5)

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How I felt about all the mean little monkeys

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Hanuman the green monkey god

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Hanuman’s cave cost to get into and was a bit different then the Batu Cave

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KL Tower at night

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The view from KL Tower of the Petronas Towers

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What a fun dinning experience

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Dessert. Yum!

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Last Day – The Aquarium and one last trip to a mall

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Streets of KL

The aquarium had the longest shark encounter I have ever seen. It was so cool!

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Jelly fish are my favorite

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The park behind the Petronas Towers

I need to take a moment to address the mall situation. There were malls everywhere. When we walked out of the airport we walked into a mall, when we switched metro trains we had to walk through a mall, there was a mall for just electronics, an air-conditioned walk way through town that connected two malls, malls, malls, and more malls! I have never seen so many malls in such a small area. It was insane!

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Air conditioned walk way.

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It was nice to see English books

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Dining at the mall…. so many choices

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Getting my fix of two of my favorite western treats!

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The main train station is in a mall.

This trip was a really nice way to end my winter holidays!

 

BLOGGING IS NOT SOMETHING I’M NECESSARILY GOOD AT AND AUTOCORRECT AND I HAVE A LOVE/HATE RELATIONSHIP, SO PLEASE IGNORE ANY TYPOS, MISSPELLED WORDS, OR ALL TOGETHER WRONG WORDS. 😉

Once upon a time, I lived in a postcard. Visiting Garmisch

Garmisch- Partenkirchen, Germany. “Huh?” is the reaction get from most people when I talk about the cute little town at the foot of the German Alps that I called home for 13 months. It’s the reaction I got from most people when they asked where I was going for Christmas. I like that most people don’t know about Garmisch. It’s like a hidden secret. Garmisch will always have a sweet spot in my heart. This summer will mark 10 years…. 10 years… holy cow a decade, since I moved their. It’s a move that I can honestly say changed the course my life was on. I made life long friends, got to experience new countries, and ultimately decided not to live in California when I returned. (A decision that surprisingly made it so I ended up in Vietnam. But, that’s a whole different post that I’ll write someday.)  I know there were moments where I struggled living there (walking 2 miles to work at 6 am in the dark and snow), but I look back on that time in my life with so much fondness. When I visit and we drive in from Munich and finally see the mountains, it feels like coming home.

My dear friend Jason still lives in Garmisch and when I visit I stay with him. He’s like an annoy big brother who gives great bear hugs! 😉 There is a comfort that comes from being around old friends and it’s so nice.

He picked me up and we went to Tollwood. It’s a big holiday festival held in Munich. It’s fun just walking around looking at all the different venders. I only remembered to take a picture at the last-minute while we were eating.

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Inisde one of the food tents

He had the first day I was there off so we hopped on the train and headed to Innsbruck, Austria to explore their Christmas markets. I feel like Innsbruck does not get the recognition it deserves for how beautiful it is. It’s gorgeous!

 

(Side note, Shelley, if you’re reading this…. I did not get locked in a cafe bathroom this time! ha ha!) 

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A snowy morning view from Jason’s apartment. I swear there are mountains back there somewhere 😉

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First view of the Zugsptize

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View from the train 

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Innsbruck

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Innsbruck

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And the Christmas Market begins!

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Breath taking views

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Giant deep-fried swirly potato on a stick and some gluehwein

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I look tiny next to Jason

And speaking of gorgeous, Garmisch isn’t too bad to look at either!  It snowed the first day I was there, rained the second, and was sunny the third and fourth.

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I love this church

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I’m pretty sure I drank my weight in chai teas.

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Friday farmer’s market. Something I never got to go to when I lived there because of work.

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On day three I decided to take the train to Munich to go to the Christmas markets. (If you haven’t guessed, I love Christmas markets!) I had this bright idea to wear my sneakers. I could give my feet a break from the snow boots and there was no snow in Munich. Seemed like a great idea! Until I stepped outside! The rain had left a nice layer of ice on all the side walks. Needles to say I walked very slowly to the trains station! (And yes, I know I should have gone back in and changed my shoes. I was being stubborn. ha ha!)

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This view never gets old.

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The view when you exit the S-baun station!

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Stairs in one of the sub ways stations. Clever advertising Ritter Sport chocolate!

When I got back to Garmisch Jason and I went to eat in Old Partenkichen.

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On my last full day I decided to just walk around Garmisch because it was so nice out. Not too cold and very sunny. I ended up walking all the way to Old Partenkichen and back  (roughly 6-7 miles round trip from Jason’s) weaving my way through cute little streets.

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The sky was so blue!

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Paintings on the Chirstmas market stalls

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Old Partenkirchen is so cute!

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Seriously, it’s like being in a postcard!

Leaving was hard! It was not easy getting on the plane that day and it was Christmas on top of it. I made sure we had time for a pancake breakfast because that is my families Christmas tradition so at least it felt a little like Christmas It was such a nice visit! And a great way to end my time in Europe! Thanks again for having me, Jason!

(My next blog will be about my awesome layover, which helped make flying on Christmas Day a little easier).

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉

 

 

 

Day trip Malmö, Sweden

On day 3 of my time in Copenhagen I decided to take a day trip into Sweden. Why not when it’s so close! Getting from Copenhagen to Sweden is easy.  There are three cities that are easily accessible. Malmö, Lund, and Helsingborg. I picked Malmö because it was the closet and it had a castle. The train ride took about 30 minutes and unfortunately was not covered under my Copenhagen card. I found it interesting that the first train stop in Sweden had a heavy amount of security. The train stopped and customs agents walked through checking everyone’s passports. If you wanted to get off you had to go through a gated area. On the way back there was no security on the Danish side.

Again, I did no research before going to Malmö so I hopped off the train, found the nearest tourist both, grabbed a map, and started walking. Copenhagen must have more buildings blocking it from the wind because Malmö had more of an icy chill to it. The city  doesn’t have a whole lot to see and I saw everything on the tourist map in a few short hours, but man, the buildings were impressive! The city was also very quiet, which I loved! Below are pictures of Malmö.

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Inside the Malmö train station

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Before you walk out of the train station. Not sure what it was for.

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Town Hall is located in the Great Square. There is a very interesting water fountain out front. It looked like a boy holding a monkey on his shoulder and a rattle in his hand. It marks the spot of an old water reservoir.

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Statue of King Karl X Gustav

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Stortoget “The Great Square” 

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More of The Great Square

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I loved the lights!

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Musician statues in the pedestrian area

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This was a pop-up cafe

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Tree decorations

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Yes, people were kayaking in the freezing weather.

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Point of View sculpture. One of the first things I saw from the tourist map (I saw everything in the above pictures as I was trying to find a tourist booth). My reaction was “ummmmm,” (head tilt).

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Malmö opera house

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St. John’s church

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St. Peter’s secondary school

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Sons of the Work statue

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A cute little farmers market

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I’m not sure what this was but it was in what looked to be an amusement park for kids. Everything was shut down because it was winter

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Street art

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I got a little lost walking through a park trying to find the castle. In my defence, the park was huge!

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I got a little lost walking through a park trying to find the castle. In my defence, the park was huge!

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I got a little lost walking through a park trying to find the castle. In my defence, the park was huge!

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Remember I said I went to Malmö because of a castle…. This is it; Malmöhus Slott. After Denmark’s castles I expected more. Ha ha

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Malmöhus Slott

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I stumbled upon the cutest fish market

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HSB Turning Torso. I bit of an eye sore compared to all the old buildings.

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Øresund Bridge – The bridge that connects Denmark to Sweden. I had to walk so far to get this picture.

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You can barely see it, but in the distance is Denmark. You can’t tell but the wind was icy and my hands about froze off when I was trying to take this picture! Ha ha!

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Malmö Christmas markets

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I love Christmas markets!

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Lamp Statue # 1

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Lamp Statue # 2. They were nowhere near each other

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Little square

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Old water fountain in the little square

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Malmö central train station

Although Malmö didn’t have very much to see, it gets a gold star for cuteness!

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉

Copenhagen, Denmark

I loved Copenhagen. Loved, loved, loved it! It was so cute and had an amazing Christmas feel to it! I loved being cold and cozy in my gazillion layers. I know this is weird for my but it was so refreshing after HCMC 90-100 degree days. I want to go back in the spring or summer because I have a feeling it’s even more beautiful. I didn’t do a whole lot of research before I went because the end of the school term had me burnt out. I read few blogs and looked up a few tours but that was about it.

Day 1- 12.5 miles walked

I arrived in Copenhagen around 9:30 am after spending a night in Paris.

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Flying over Europe

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I loved this!

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First thing I did was buy a Copenhagen card. I read about this card and everyone raved about. It gets you into all the major tourist attractions and on the trains/busses. It’s worth every penny! If for nothing else it just made life easier. I didn’t have to worry about buying train tickets and sometimes I didn’t even have to wait in line. The man at the ticket counter explained to me how and where to use it and it was during this time I realized I could use it to go see Hamlet’s Castle (the castle was the setting in Hamlet). I wasn’t planning on seeing any of the castles outside of the city because I didn’t want to spend money to do a tour. Turns out they are very easy to get to via the train system. So I went to my hotel, dropped my luggage in their luggage storage room and off I went. It takes about 45 minutes to get to the town of Elsinore where Kronborg castle (which is a UNESCO site) is located. I got off the train and realized I didn’t actually know how to get to the castle from the train station and I had no internet. Opps! Luckily for me, when you walk out of the train station you can see the castle!

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You can’t tell by any of my pictures but there was a huge moat around the castle.

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This was set up in the court yard

Here are some photos from inside the castle

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Hamlet being preformed at the castle

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Kings bed room

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View from the top of the castle

Elsinore is also home to the Little Mermaid’s brother statue and some interesting street art.

 

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After walking around Elsinore a bit I decided to take another 30 minute train ride to Frederiksborg Castle which is also known as the Museum as National History. This one I couldn’t see from the trains station so I ended up walking around a bit. The main road from the train station basically goes in a circle around town and either way takes you to the castle. This castle didn’t look like much from the outside but the moment you walk through the gate it takes your breath away!  It is stunning. Sadly I arrived about 15 minutes from closing so I didn’t get to see much of the inside. The outside made up for it though!

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This is what it looks like from outside the gate

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And when you walk through the gate

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This beautiful chapel is inside of the castle.

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A choir singing Christmas music

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View from the back

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This is what fairy tales are made of!

I ended by first day with a walk through Tivoli park. It was a winter wonderland!

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Day 2: Seeing the sites -14.5 miles walked

I had meant to take a free walking tour but when I realized how close everything was together I decided to head out early instead of waiting around for the tour to begin. I left my hotel around 8:30 am to head toward the Little Mermaid statue (about a 45 minute walk) and it was still pretty dark out.

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City Hall

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I loved how festive Copenhagen was

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The famous Nyhavn canal

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Amalienborg is the home of the Danish royal family and I had it all to myself!

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I waited around until someone walked through so I could get a picture with me in it.  I was surprised at how close you can get to the buildings. Flags up = Queen is home

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He agreed to a picture as long as I kept my distance

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The famous Little Mermaid Statue

 

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Went passed Amalienborg again on my way back.

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My phone died so I ended up in this cute little cafe forced to drink hot chocolate while I waited for my phone to charge.

The next series of pictures are from Freetown Christiania. It’s a self-governed town inside of Copenhagen of about 100 hippie squatters. They moved in 1971 and haven’t left. From what I read there has been a lot of controversy over the area. The whole place made me a bit uneasy. It didn’t have the cheerful feel the rest of Copenhagen had and I felt like I was invading a private area. It wasn’t clean and things were pretty run down. There were signs up around town asking you not to take pictures of the market area because they were selling marijuana. Seemed to me that was the only reason people visited Christiania. The street art was pretty amazing.

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The towns flag painted on a door. Three dots for the three “i” in Christiania

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This looked to be a give/take area

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Trying to get a sneaky photo of the market area

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Church of our Saviour which is down the block from Freetown Christiania

After visiting Freetown Christiania I went on a canal boat tour. Just one more thing I was able to do with my Copenhagen card!

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Nyhavn from the water

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The opera house

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The round tower

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View from the top of the tower. It was incredibly windy!

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View from the top of the tower

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View from the top of the tower

Back to Tivoli I went for some daytime winter wonderland!DD014B6B-F0A9-4FE4-B6CD-95BB12C4AC8C93DEAC4D-FF4C-4682-BAC7-514BAADCE4BC3737862E-353D-43C5-A4ED-D3CE5AC6E49D5537FA2D-AAB8-4E3F-B448-1A96C5A13E2E

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All the snow was fake

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After Tivoli I went back to my hotel to give my feet a rest before heading out to the Christmas markets.

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This hotel was neat. It had giant tv screens mounted to the building counting down the days until Christmas. It was also playing Christmas music.

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I love Christmas Markets!

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Goulash and glogg = perfect way to stay warm. Glogg has raisins and almond flakes at the bottom so when you’re down drinking there is a treat at the end.

Day 3: Sweden and more sightseeing -14.5 miles walked again!

I will be writing about my day trip to Sweden in my next blog post because I don’t want this blog to get to long. (Update: Click here to read about my day trip to Malmö, Sweden)

After I arrived back from Sweden I had some day light left so I went to the Christiansborg Palace, which is currently under construction. Half of it used by the Royal family and the other half is parliament. I had walked past it the day before but because of the construction didn’t realize what it was.

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It’s hard to tell from this picture but the whole front of the palace was torn up

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When walking in the palace one must wear booties.

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The royal library

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Royal thrones

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The embroidered tapestries were really neat

I then walked to a pop up food market. This was a bit of a walk and on the other side of the river, but it was really neat. It was an old warhorse on the pier that had food stalls in it. From the count down clock inside I’m guessing it was only around for a short period of time. Unfortunately, there wasn’t much for me to eat but that atmosphere was amazing.

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Street food market

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Countdown clock to when it closes.

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My pictures of the inside didn’t turn out very well

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View from above

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See through bathrooms

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I did find something I could eat!

I ended the day with a walk through the Hans Christian Anderson museum. Honestly, only go here if you have the Copenhagen card. It was weird.

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H. C. Anderson

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The Little Mermaid

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Thumbelina

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One of his original stories.

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The hotel gave free glogg and apple strutdel (which I couldn’t eat) to all the guest. Best way to warm up after a cold day!

Day 4: Last Day – 10 miles walked

I had two things left I wanted to see before my flight to Germany.

Hans Christian Andersen’s grave

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This statue of Hans Christian Andersen was by City Hall, not by his grave.

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How nice of them to have things so clearly marked

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Rosenborg Castle

It houses the royal collection of artifacts, the Crown Jewels, and the Danish Crown Regalia.  The other castles/palaces I visited had a lack of visible security. This castle had secret service looking people walking around all over it.

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This is the back side of the castle. Don’t try to walk in the back side.  It’s a military area. Opps! Thankfully, the guards was very kind about the whole thing.

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The garden

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The changing of the guards involved a lot of music.

 

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Royal toilet. Weirdly enough there was a ladder in it.

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Throne room

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There was so much ivory!

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This crown was massive!

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Danish Crown Regalia

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Royal crowns

Copenhagen has a huge bicycle scene. It was a little crazy but very cool that even though it was freezing people were still riding their bikes!

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They have lanes and lights just for the bikes

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Typical scene on most streets in Copenhagen. I noticed most of the bikes just had locks around the back tire but weren’t actually locked to anything.

My hotel was pretty amazing. It had a gluten-free breakfast and a bathtub! And you better believe I used that tub every night!

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Cow outside my hotel

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My room

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The bath tub was a major selling point for this hotel

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Gluten free BREAD!!!

Copenhagen is now one of my favorite cities and I hope to go back again! I was a great start to my winter break.

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉

 

 

 

 

Phu Quoc

Phu Quoc is a little island off west coast of Vietnam in the gulf of Thailand. It’s a quick 45 min flight from Vietnam that will cost you less then $80 USD round trip. A few weeks back my friends and I were discussing going to the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham) Christmas Gala. We looked up the price and jokingly said that we could have a whole weekend in Phu Quoc for the same price. So, we book a weekend trip to Phu Quoc and it was such a nice and much needed weekend away.

Phu Quoc is a quiet little island right now, but there was a lot of development going on. Give it a few more years all there will be a lot me resorts which is good or bad depending about how you feel about development.

We stayed a place called Richis Resort.  The people were so kind. Airport pick up and drop off was included in our stay. The staff was very helpful. They let us store our luggage on Sunday and use the showers at the spa once we’d checked out of our rooms. And I asked them at one point what the name of an essential oil was that they were using and the gave me a small bottle of it to take home! (Still don’t know the name though. Ha ha!) 9329AA39-AC14-40EB-84CA-EFED84EF8D29

The buildings looked like they came from a southern plantation. The whole property was gorgeous! Check out the pictures below:

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Our room

 

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The view from our balcony! I’d love to wake up to this every morning!

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Their free breakfast was delicious!

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Saturday  was spent lounging around the by beach and the pool. You could see the beach from the pool so that was pretty awesome!

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Christmas at the beach

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Sunday we went snorkeling.

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Driving through Phu Quoc

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Umm……  Thankfully we did not see any jelly fish

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View leaving the harbor

 

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Floating  houses for the fishermen

First stop of the day was to do some snorkeling (I’m the one with my hand up). Unfortunately, there wasn’t much life in the reef.

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I look like I’m getting ready to punch something. Ha ha!

After lunch we had out second stop of the day.  Here we had the choice to either snorkel or take a small boat to an island called Fingernail Island. We opted for the boat to the island.

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We ended our weekend with a beautiful sunset.

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I needed this weekend! I needed to get away from the hustle, bustle, noise, and pollution of a big city and just relax by the ocean with friends. It was so nice! Phu Quoc is a place I definitely plan on visiting again!

Blogging is not something I’m necessarily good at and autocorrect and I have a love/hate relationship, so please ignore any typos, misspelled words, or all together wrong words. 😉

Fall Break: Hanoi, Sapa, Ha Long Bay

I’m super lame and started this blog three weeks ago. Then, I got food poisoning and was sick for five days. I even tried to go back to work and they sent me to the doctors. It’s was miserable and I’m not sure where I got it from. I did realize that I had stopped taking my probiotic because during my trip. I had just forgot about them and then forgot about them when I got back as well. So I partially blame being sick on that. Anyways, I started, I got sick, and then I forgot to finish this blog. So here I am, almost a month after my Fall Break trip I am finally writing about it.

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Fall break happened the first week of October and I, with two of my friends, spent 7 days in Northern Vietnam. I need to emphasized that pictures do not do justice to the places we went. They were stunning!

We decided to book with a tour company (Halong Bay Tours) because in all honesty we were too tired to try to figure everything out on our own. It wasn’t like we were on a tour, it was more that they booked everything for us so we didn’t have to worry about anything. Best money spent! Especially when things went a little sideways while we were in Sapa.

Day One

We flew into Hanoi on Saturday and were picked up at the airport and dropped off at our hotel which greeted us with welcome drinks (aka Tang). We spent the evening walking around Old Hanoi and the night markets. Hanoi had so many more tree then Ho Chi Minh!

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Night Market

Day Two: Hanoi City TOur

Sunday morning we were picked up for a day tour of Hanoi. We started out tour by seeing  Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum. Ho Chi Minh was the first president of what is now unified Vietnam. His mausoleum holds his embolden body. We weren’t allowed in because his body is currently not there. For two months out of the year is shipped off to have “maintenance” done. We toured the ground and then went to see how lacquer painting was done.

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Presidential Palace

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Ho Chi Minh’s House on stilts

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A pagoda

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Lacquer painting

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After the lacquer painting we head to the Old Quarter for some yummy lunch.

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Old Quarter

Next we went to the Museum of Ethology.

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House on stilts at the museum of Ethnology

After the museum we went to the Temple of Literature which was Vietnam’s first  National University.

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Temple of Literature

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These stones had names on them of the people who passed the University Exams

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There was some sort of graduation going on.

And last, but not least we went to Chua Tran Quoc; the older Buddhist temple in Hanoi.

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After our tour we explored Hanoi a bit more and had dinner before catching our night train to Sapa.

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Fake North Face anyone?

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View from the restaurant we ate at

Day Three: Sapa

Sapa is a mountain town in Northern Vietnam along the Chinese border. It is surrounded by tiny villages and mountains and mountains of rice fields.

Sunday night we took a night train to Sapa and arrive around 5:30 AM.

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Our cabin on the night train

I didn’t think the night train was that bad once it started going. I was also on the bottom bunk so that may have helped.

We were picked up at the train station and driven to our hotel. Although we were unable to check-in the hotel had showers and bag storage we could use. Our guide picked us up from the hotel and we went on our first hike to the Cat Cat Village. This village is more of a tourist village then a local one.

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Sapa is gorgeous! So green!

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There were a lot of little shops on this hike.

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View from where we ate lunch

After our hike we decided to walk around Sapa and have smoothies at one of the brand new hotels

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This view

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Day Four: Sapa and Hanoi

It’s rained! And not just a little rain. It rained enough to cause landslides which then caused the train to stop running (this is where things went sideways.)

When our guide picked us up she recommended we rent rain boots. They were every penny (we only paid USD $1.50). Life savers! It poured on and off the entire hike. We hiked through the rice fields and down to a small village for lunch. About an hour into the Spanish couple  with us got a call from their travel agent explaining the situation with the trains and informing them they would have to take a bus back to Hanoi. This meant we would not be able to hike after lunch and would instead need to a bus back up to our hotel. At first I was bummed but as the rain continued and the paths got more and more slippery, I was thankful to be done at lunch.

 

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Rice fields cut into the side of the mountains

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Walking through the flooded rice fields

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Water buffalo

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This is one of the ladies who followed us down the hike. They are not hiking guides. They are local women who live in the hill villages. They help you down and in return you buy their hand-made goods.

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Our lovely guide, Sue.

Our tour company ended up booking us a sleeper bus and sending us the details.  I am so glad we didn’t have to figure this out on our own! Sleepers busses are not as grand as they may sound. I’ll take the sleeper train any day over the bus. Thankfully though we got back to Hanoi at 10pm, were picked up by a driver, and brought back to our hotel.

Day Five: Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is in the Northeat of Vietnam and is know for it’s 1969 limestone islands.

We were meant to leave Hanoi at 8am on a bus to Ha Long Bay. We waited.. and waited… and waited…
After contacting our tour company it turned out the bus forgot to pick us up! The tour company sent out one of their employees to pick us him in his SUV. We thought that he would be driving us all the way to Ha Long Bay. That didn’t exactly happen. He sped through traffic in the rain, spent more time on the left hand side of the road then they right side, and eventually  caught up to one of the local busses. It was a bit confusing as the what was going on. We had ask to use the restroom and he pulled over and then ushered us to the bus. This bus was not the bus the tour company had booked and everyone on the bus seemed a bit confused as well. But, we made it to Halong Bay where we caught our boat.

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Our boat “Lavender”

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View of the top deck

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My room

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We were told you don’t often see blue sky in Ha Long Bay.

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We had lunch and then went kayaking and hiked to the top of Ti Top island.

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Safety first

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Through the cave…

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……and into a beautiful little cove where we saw monkeys! 

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Getting instructions from our guide

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Hiked up a bunch of stairs in the rain to get to the gorgeous view.

When we got back we were given a lesson on how to make spring rolls. Which then turned in to a race of who could make spring rolls the quickest.