KOH SAMET, THAILAND

Getting to Koh Samet was a bit of an adventure!!  As soon as we landed in Bangkok, we rushed to grab our bags from baggage claim and call a “Grab” (what they use there instead of Uber) that would take us to the Ekamai Bus Terminal. This terminal is filled with different counters selling tickets to various destinations in Thailand and extremely busy, so make sure you know where you’re going and ask if you need help (!!) because it can be overwhelming. Thankfully, our driver had told us what to look for and Ben found the stand quickly and we made it just in time! We bought our tickets to head down to the Ban Phe Pier in a mini van, where we caught a boat that took us to Koh Samet. It definitely took half the day, if not more, to get to Koh Samet, but it was worth it! 😀

We stayed in a hotel about fifteen minutes from the Pier (walking), so we were closer to the main downtown part of the island in the north. There are massage parlors, nail salons, restaurants, souvenir shops, and many restaurants and food stands all around. On one of the evenings before dinner, we both got a 60-minute-full body massage for less than $8 each!! It felt amazing after weeks of backpacking and my shoulders definitely better when they were done. To continue our relaxing evening, we had dinner at a restaurant along the beach called Ploy Talay. We passed by this restaurant the night before and it was extremely packed, so we decided to give it a try! If you see an opening, quickly sit down and try to get the attention of a server, who will bring you the menu and take your order. This process (finding a seat, giving your order and receiving food) does take awhile since there’s no set structure or person designated to a section of tables on the beach, but it was a good experience. Also, in the evenings, there’s a fire show on a stage at the front of the restaurant and on the sand toward the beach as well, which everyone loved! Make sure you have your phones and cameras ready 🙂

Since the island is fairly small, renting a moped to explore on your own is a good idea. We did that for most of the days we were there and it was our best decision 🙂 Waking up in the morning, eating breakfast, and venturing out on the moped to beaches was our daily routine. It was so relaxing!! Most, if not all, of the resorts are located on the south end of the island, so try to make your way down there! They’re all gorgeous and right on the beachfront, so it’s a win-win. On our last day there, we spent our entire day swimming in the clearest and warmest waters in the south!

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If you are looking to disconnect from the world and enjoy a relaxing vacation, this is the spot for you!! ❤ The resorts are beautiful and directly across from the beaches. If you’ve been to Thailand, which island was your favorite? And if not, which island(s) are on your list to go to in Thailand?? 🙂

 

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VIETNAM

We spontaneously decided to fly to Southeast Asia for a few weeks and our first stop was Vietnam 🙂 When flying into Vietnam, we decided to land in Southern Vietnam first and slowly make our way up north by the end of the trip. Our itinerary began in Ho Chi Minh City, then we flew to Da Nang, took an Uber down to Hoi An, went back to Da Nang to catch a flight to Hanoi quickly before heading out to Ha Long Bay, and back to Hanoi! Unfortunately, we were unable to stop by Sapa on this trip, which is located northwest of Hanoi, but we’d definitely try to find time on our next trip back to Vietnam.

HO CHI MINH:

IMG_3956When we first arrived in HCM, the biggest shock was the amount of scooters-motorbikes-mopeds on the streets! They were all around us, weaving between the cars, and honking consistently to make themselves known on the road. While in VN, we didn’t witness a single accident, which I thought was impressive and surprising since there were so many bikes everywhere!!

Once at our hotel, we quickly set our things down and went out to walk around and find something to eat. For dinner, we ate at a restaurant called Com Tam Cali – our first meal in VN!! We spent the rest of the evening exploring the different areas and streets – Backpacker Street, designated “walking” streets, etc. We grabbed a few beers from the many bars we saw all around and got a mani pedi together too! All the spa and nail salon prices were reasonable and cheap!

The following morning we made our way to the “Ben Thanh Market,” which is basically a large warehouse filled with endless stands that sell clothing, jewelry, food, etc. The aisles were never-ending!! Don’t forget to bring your best bargaining/haggling skills so you can get the best deals on the what you want. If the price doesn’t seem reasonable, don’t hesitate to walk away!! You’ll find a better deal, or they’ll agree with your price as soon as you walk away. We also stopped by the Central Post Office (photo to the left), Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral (unfortunately under construction), and the War Remnants Museum as well – all must sees if here!

We really wanted to do a dining in the dark experience – at Noir Dining in the Dark – but we were terribly jet-lagged and slept the night away instead. If you’ve been or plan on stopping by during your time in VN, I’d love to hear about it! 🙂 Pros of jet-lag = we’re up bright and early, and ready to start our day! Cons = we’re extremely tired by post dinner.

DA NANG:

Beautiful beach city!! Definitely a huge difference in terms of vibes and drivers when compared to HCM – it’s more relaxed, there aren’t as many bikes on the roads, and people here don’t honk!! It was a nice break from all the honking we heard in HCM 😀

We only spent a little over a day here, but I think that was enough! We rented a moped here and I’m glad we did. Ben has driven one before so I felt totally safe in the swarm of other bikes! The highlight was probably driving across the Dragon Bridge at night. The photo above shows the end of the bridge during the day time, but at night, the whole thing is lit up and gorgeous!! Also, if you love the beach, this is the perfect destination for you! The weather is blazing hot but the water is nice cool, and the the beaches run down the coast for miles! While we were there, we saw many hotels being built along the water, so I’m positive in the next couple of years, this will be a hot spot for a relaxing vacation!

HOI AN:

This is definitely our favorite spot from our entire trip. Hoi An, also known as the Lantern City of Vietnam, was m a g i c a l (especially at night)!! We absolutely loved it 🙂 There are lanterns all over the city, beautifully lit up along all the streets and bridge. There are food stands, night markets, and clothing stores all over Hoi An so you’ll definitely find something you like! One thing to not miss out on is going on a boat on the Hoai River, where you’re given a small paper lantern with a candle inside so you can make a wish before putting it on the water! The ride lasted about 15 minutes round trip and was a memorable, sweet experience for the nighttime. I’m happy we did it ❤

Many people come to Hoi An to have suits, dresses, coats, etc. tailored and I would highly recommend BeBe Tailor. Our hotel recommended this spot to us and it did not disappoint. Ben got a suit tailored here and the service was professional and friendly. They gave us a variety of options for colors, fabrics, styles, and then took extremely accurate measurements. We were only in Hoi An for a couple of days, so the turn around was quite fast, but they went above and beyond by having us return a few times for fittings before finalizing the wonderfully made suit.

The dishes we made from the cooking class // Market // Bánh Mi 🙂

Central Vietnam is also supposed to have some of the best throughout the country, so we decided to take a morning cooking class through Hoi An Eco Cooking Class Tours. This was amazing and I would definitely recommend it! They picked us up bright and early at our hotel and brought us to a market where we gathered the ingredients needed for the class. The host explained the different herbs, fruits, and meats that were available at the market and how it would be used in the next 5 hours of the class. We learned how to make sweet and sour fish sauce, steamed rice paper (my favorite part!), spring rolls, mango/papaya salad, bánh xèo (crispy pancake), pho and grilled eggplant. There were at least 20 others in the class, but we were separated into smaller groups to have a more intimate session with the few instructors.

Also, on this part of our trip, we loved the resort we stayed at – Coco Resort and Spa – the employees were friendly, breakfast was included and the atmosphere was just extremely relaxing!! If you’re looking for a place to stay in Hoi An, you should definitely check this resort out 🙂

HANOI:

IMG_4184In my opinion, Hanoi is similar to HCM minus the weather. It’s probably the second most-touristy city in Vietnam and almost has just as many bikes as HCM. The photo to the right is of a railroad and the train runs through that residential street two times during the day! It’s crazy how close it is to the houses, as you can see in the photo.  We spent most of our time walking around and seeing historical landmarks and eating good food. MUST EAT: Bun Cha Hanoi!! If you’re here, you must try the Bun Cha. It’s what north Vietnam is known for and it’s delicious!! We went back twice because it was so good 🙂  The pho here is also amazing and tastes a bit different compared to the pho in the South. Before leaving Hanoi, we walked around and stumbled upon a hole in the wall where we had the best Pho! Also, coffee all throughout Vietnam is tasty, but in Hanoi, they are known for “egg coffee,” but make sure you order it hot! It’s way better when served hot than iced 🙂

HA LONG BAY:

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Panoramic View of Ha Long Bay

For Ha Long Bay, we decided to do the “2 days, 1 night” cruise through Paloma Cruise! They also picked us up from our hotel in a nice air conditioned van, which then took us to the cruise ships – about a 3 hour drive or so from Hanoi. As soon as we got on the boat, they gave us refreshments and the key to our room! The rooms all had a view out into the water and were the perfect size. The activities on board include kayaking around the mountains and islets, a sunset party, short class on how to make eggrolls, squid fishing in the evenings on the lower deck (!!) – but all are optional to take part in. Ben and I participated in all of the events and I’m glad we did – it allowed us to fully take advantage of the cruise amenities and mingle with others too!!

Ben catching squid // On the Deck of the Cruise // Kayaking through the Islets // Squid caught!


After an eventful time in Vietnam, we country-hopped to Thailand! I will write about my time in Thailand – more specifically Koh Samet – in my next post 🙂 xx

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PUERTO VALLARTA, MEXICO

Knowing we wanted to go to Mexico, we were deciding between Cancun, Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. As you can tell by the title, we decided on Puerto Vallarta for a number of reasons – flight costs, tourist attraction, activities  – basically weighed the pros and cons and picked what fit our type of vacation. We went back in September, but I’m finally getting around to posting this, so here goes!

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WHERE WE STAYED: Hotel V Azul Vallarta

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We decided to stay in the more Southern area of PV, across the street from Playa Los Muertos. This hotel was amazing! There are 12 units at the hotel, each room equipped with a full kitchen and laundry machines – a mini suite. The pool is on the tinier side on the roof, but the views of PV are absolutely amazing! I would definitely recommend to stay away from the Hotel Zone and Marina Vallarta, and find a hotel south of the Rio Cuale.

TRANSPORTATION: Uber & Bus

Everything was within walking distance – from a few blocks to a mile or two! We usually enjoy walking and soaking in the culture and atmosphere, so we don’t mind it at all. We would take Uber if the weather wasn’t great, to get to Marina or Hotel Zone, etc. but found the bus quiet convenient and cheap. There are bus stops everywhere, literally on every single block, and is a cheap option to get to day trip destinations!

DAY TRIPS: Bucerias, Sayulita, Boca de Tomatlan and Yelapa

ATV Riding in Bucerias // In the heart of Sayulita // At a beach we found in Sayulita

Both Bucerias and Sayulita are north of PV, so on two separate days, we made trips up north! For Bucerias, since it was a guided tour through Puerto Vallarta Tours, we met at the shop and from there took an open van to our final destination. We opted for a shared ATV and I’m glad we did! I’m not sure if I would’ve felt comfortable riding it on my own just yet (there were major potholes and maneuvering going on). It took us through a few towns and neighborhoods, lush green areas and through rivers and streams, which was most exciting! The weather wasn’t great that day so we were actually the only ones on the tour with the person leading, like a one-on-one tour! It was a great experience and I would do it again.

For Sayulita, we took an Uber to the Marina Vallarta where we caught a bus that took us there. It took about an hour and went by fast. I would recommend catching an early bus if you only plan on spending the day there and want to maximize your time! Sayulita is known as a mini-beach town, where people tend to surf, and has the yummiest fish tacos! There are also numerous streets where stands are setup, selling souvenirs, braclets, etc. We rented a golf cart, and although not necessary, it was nice to get away from the central area where everyone was and go out on our own, where we found nice views and beaches.

Boca de Tomatlan (Left) // Yelapa (Upper right) // View of Yelapa (Bottom right)

Heading south of PV, you have the two fishing villages – Boca de Tomatlan and Yelapa! We walked to a bus stop about a mile away that would take us down to Boca de Tomatlan. The ride was a little over an hour and there wasn’t much there once we arrived, and we had to wait an extra half an hour or so for the water taxi to take us to Yelapa, but the views were gorgeous! The surrounding area was all green and filled with boats. Heading down to Yelapa was a breeze – there were a few others with us on the boat and we stopped a few times along the way to pick up others at different ports. Once at Yelapa, we were dropped off away from the main beach so that we could walk through the neighborhood a bit.  We definitely got lost walking from where we were got off back to the beach – we must’ve taken a roundabout way! I was so hungry and thirsty by the time we got to the beach, but thankfully there were many delicious restaurants. The food wasn’t amazing, but it was good and you have the option to sit in the lounge like chairs along the beach while eating!

WHAT WE ATE: Pancho’s Takos & La Madalena

Guacamole and chips from La Madalena (Top Left) // Fish tacos from Sayulita (Bottom Right) // Tacos from Pancho’s Takos (Right)

FOOD. One of the top favorite things about every trip!! The photos above definitely do not show everything we ordered at each meal!! We probably had tacos every day we were there – if not for lunch, definitely for dinner or a snack. We rarely spent more than $20 on dinner, even with drinks. We found Pancho’s Takos to be a favorite among the locals and tourists – the drinks (cervezas, mixed drinks, horchata) were refreshing, hot sauces were spicy and hit the spot, and the price was perfect. One of our regrets is not buying a t-shirt as a souvenir since we went there so many times! We came here probably 4 out of the 7 days we were in PV and would’ve been more, but it was closed the last day we stopped by! If you go, expect to wait a little since it’s so popular but it’s worth it to stop by.

On the last night in PV, we decided to have a nicer dinner and we stopped at La Madalena. I think the restaurant had recently opened up – the interior was gorgeous with high ceilings and an intimate dim lighting. The service was great, the drinks were prepared in front of us and the guacamole we ordered was also done as a presentation so she could flavor and add ingredients to our liking.

But honestly, there’s good food everywhere. If you walk a bit away from the Malécon into the smaller streets, you’ll see taco carts and smaller family owned restaurants that are absolutely delicious. If you are able to, I’d definitely stop by those two spots mentioned above!!!


Overall, it was an amazing week spent in Puerto Vallarta and we both have wonderful memories from here! What was your favorite thing about PV?

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