2017 Europe & Asia Adventure

September - November 2017
September - November 2017
  • Day61

    Final Thoughts on the Trip

    November 9, 2017 in the United States ⋅ ⛅ 52 °F

    Final Thoughts on Vietnam -
    The Vietnamese people are the friendliest people I have ever encountered (besides, maybe, the Thai people). Every interaction we had was pleasant and everyone we met was helpful. While we occasionally had some fears in Europe (pickpockets, terrorists, riots, etc...), that fear was pretty nonexistent in Asia. The food, which is probably half the reason we went to Vietnam, was incredible. We ate so much pho, vermicelli, spring rolls, soup, and other beef, chicken, noodle, and rice dishes and it was pretty much all amazing. We ate everything from 25 cent pork on a stick from street vendors to 25 dollar oyster and whole fish meals at fancy restaurants. I drank fresh fruit and smoothies with just about every meal and we drank cheap beer everywhere we went. The hotels we stayed in in Hanoi were some of the nicest hotels I've ever stayed in. We could've stayed in hostels for a couple bucks, but we "splurged" and stayed in 5 star hotels for $20-30. We probably spent less per week in Vietnam than we did in a couple days in Italy. As for the different places we went in Vietnam - Hanoi (the capital) was awesome. It was crazy busy and loud and full of traffic. But it had so much to do - eat, drink, shop, visit museums, hang with locals, hang with tourists - anything you would expect in any major city. Hanoi was probably my favorite big city of the entire 60 day trip. Sapa, right on the Chinese border, was beautiful. The hike that we went on was one of the best hikes I've ever done. Unfortunately, this was the only city we had bad weather, so we didn't get to experience too much. It was also the most expensive place we went in Vietnam (though still incredibly cheap). Finally, Halong Bay - one of the seven natural wonders of the world was absolutely amazing. Cat Ba Island, where we went first, was definitely in the top 3 or 5 places of the trip. The boat trip we did was incredible and the motorbike ride around the island was one of the highlights of the trip. The next place we stayed, in a neighborhood outside of Halong City, was definitely the least touristy place we went on the entire trip. We didn't see a single other tourist (or English speaker) for 2 days. It was a little difficult but also really cool to just sit down at a restaurant and do our best to communicate but really to just take whatever we could get. The Vietnamese children would look through the glass at us like we were in a zoo. It was a pretty crazy experience. But again, everyone was so friendly. We only got to experience Northern Vietnam on this trip but we definitely want to go back at some point and see the whole country.

    Final Thoughts on Thailand -
    I love Thailand. So much. We are already trying to figure out the next time we can go. We basically only went to Thailand for the beach. We wanted to end the busy trip lounging in the sun for 2 weeks and that's exactly what we did. While Bangkok was cool, the cremation ceremony of the Late King really prevented us from doing anything. I was able to see and do much more on my previous trip to Bangkok. This Thailand trip was all about the islands. I can't say enough how amazing Shantaa Resort on Koh Kood was. That resort was perfect. We will absolutely make it back there at some point. The food, the beach, the villas, the water sports, the people, the gardens, everything. It was absolute paradise. We loved our little sea bungalow on Koh Chang, as well, but nothing could quite compare to Shantaa. If we go back to Koh Chang, we would probably stay on the busier White Sand Beach, just because the quieter beach couldn't quite live up to what you grow to expect in Thailand. But we really did have an amazing time there, as well. Anyone who is hesitant to travel to Asia, don't be. The Thai beaches are the best in the world. The people are so friendly that you wonder why everyone can't be that way all the time. The food is amazing. And you can see and do so much for a fraction of what you would spend in the Caribbean. Just go. You won't regret it. We'll be back as soon as possible.

    Final Thoughts on the Trip -
    There's not much to say that I haven't already said. Tim and I went on the trip of a lifetime. He is the most amazing travel (and life) partner I could ask for. We managed to spend 60 days traveling the world with nothing but 2 backpacks and each other and that's all we needed (and we're still getting married!!). I think we can both agree that our favorite places on the trip were 1) Koh Kood, Thailand, 2) Capri/Positano, Italy, 3) Cat Ba, Vietnam, 4) Southern Spain (Cadiz, Seville, Granada), and 5) a tie between basically everywhere else - Venice, Tuscany, Rome, Hanoi, Koh Chang. The food, the beaches, and the boat trips were the highlights. Scuba diving was probably the greatest I've ever come to facing my fears. We'll get certified at some point, but we're not in a major rush to get back down there. The #1 moment of the whole trip was probably swimming in the Blue Grotto. And one of the other best moments of the trip was getting home. I'm not sure we found anywhere that can top Richmond. But I'm excited to keep looking!!
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  • Day59

    Day 59 - Koh Chang Scuba

    November 7, 2017 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 55 °F

    Wow! Scuba diving is incredible. I was finally able to get past my anxieties and enjoy the dives. We did two boat dives today with our awesome instructor, David. The first stop was at a giant rock sticking out of the water with a coral reef and incredible marine life surrounding it from about 4 meters down to the sea floor at 19 meters. David held my hand and helped me with the descent but once we got down past 4 or 5 meters, my fears were lifted and I had a blast. Non-certified divers are only supposed to go down to 12 meters but I checked his computer once we got to the floor and we were at 18.6 meters (61 feet!!). We saw so many fish. It is the coolest feeling in the world looking up and seeing literally thousands of fish surrounding you. The coral was incredible - mountains of it surrounding us on every side. We were under for about 40 minutes on the first dive before we had to come up. The ascent was a little scary. Apparently I hadn't been breathing deep enough (I only used half of the air that Tim had used) so I got dizzy on the way up and had a bloody nose once we reached the surface. That was a little unnerving and the dizzy feeling lasted about 20-30 minutes so I was of course nervous again for our second dive. But by the time we got to the next dive site, after some food and water and resting, I was ready to go. The second dive was a shallow reef, which only went about 12 meters deep. The visibility wasn't quite as good but it was still incredible. This dive had the coolest coral I've ever seen and we were able to swim in and out and around it and see lots of awesome fish. We also controlled our breathing a lot better this time and were able to stay under for an hour - Tim breathed slower and used less air and I breathed deeper and used more, which is what David had advised. David also gave us a little more independence on the second dive to swim around and explore. I did much better on the ascent this time and didn't get too dizzy, but I did have another nosebleed at the surface! Overall, it was a huge success. I faced my fears, Tim continued to be comfortable and awesome, and we had so much fun. After the scuba trip, we got lunch and then basically relaxed all afternoon until dinner.

    ...oh and I also got pooped on by a gecko today.

    Heading back to Bangkok tomorrow, then the journey on on Thursday. What an amazing trip!
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  • Day58

    Day 58 - Koh Chang - White Sand Beach

    November 6, 2017 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 79 °F

    Best day ever. Koh Chang is huge - the third largest island in Thailand. There are several beaches surrounding the island. We are staying on Bangboa Beach on the southern part of the island, which is beautiful and desolate and popular with long-stayers and hippies. It is great here - the sand is soft and white, the food is amazing, the people are so friendly, and our bungalow is perfect. But there's not too much to do so we decided to venture away for the day. The most popular and most beautiful beach on the island is White Sand Beach, on the northwest coast of the island. We didn't stay here because it is supposed to be incredibly touristy and crowded. But after visiting and seeing how beautiful the beach is, it would have actually been a nice place to stay. It's kind of like the 7-mile beach in Negril, Jamaica, without the annoying hustlers and hip hop music blaring from the spring break beach resorts. And there's really not all that many people. We could've stayed forever.

    We were going to rent a scooter to get to the other side of the island but after seeing how crazy steep the jungle roads were after the ride to our scuba pool session, we decided to take a taxi. We got there right after breakfast and spent the entire day and evening at the beach. We swam and drank coconuts with rum and beers and ate so much seafood - scallops and garlic shrimp and a spicy white snapper. We had so much fun. After dinner, we took the long taxi ride home. Now it's time for a good night's sleep before our final day and scuba trip.
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  • Day57

    Day 57 - Koh Chang "Tropical Storm"

    November 5, 2017 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 77 °F

    Well...there was no storm. Not one drop of rain. Very little wind. It was a bit cloudy but there was still enough sun that we needed sunscreen and lots of water! It was another great beach day!! Tim did a lot of swimming, I did a lot of reading, we went for a couple of walks, and went on a long kayaking trip. We finished the night off eating BBQ at our favorite beach restaurant.Read more

  • Day56

    Day 56 - Koh Chang Wind Storm!

    November 4, 2017 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 81 °F

    Well, today's scuba trip was postponed because of bad weather. There was no rain but there was a pretty crazy wind storm that started last night and continued on and off all day. The sea was way too rough for a dive. We woke up this morning and the power was out on the whole island (it actually still is but the hotel has a generator running from 6:00pm - 11:00pm). We were still able to enjoy a nice day on the beach. Tim swam and walked on the beach most of the day while I was lazy and laid out in the sun and read all day. Despite the occasional wind gusts (and falling coconuts), it was actually a very pleasant day. We played some chess on the beach, watched one of the most beautiful sunsets of the trip, and then got ready for dinner - red curry with shrimp for me and panang curry with seafood for Tim!! Now we are having a relaxing night.

    The storm is supposed to continue into tomorrow (with some rain added in), but there really isn't a better place to watch a storm than from our covered deck in the sand, or even from our bed that is 15 feet from the water. Hopefully this clears up so we can dive on Monday or, more likely, Tuesday!

    No pictures today because I was trying to save my battery since the power was out and I wasn't sure when I could charge it again.
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  • Day55

    Day 55 - Koh Chang

    November 3, 2017 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 55 °F

    Another beautiful day in Koh Chang. We woke up early and went to the nearest restaurant on the beach for breakfast - yummy Thai chicken soup for Tim and eggs and bacon for me. Then we got picked up by David, a scuba diving instructor that we've been chatting with (and had a beer with last night). He took us to the dive shop to try on the gear and then we drove across the island (passing monkeys, elephants, a lots of little towns) to an outdoor pool for a practice dive and basic training in a pool. Tomorrow's the real deal (and now we actually have some training rather than just getting thrown from a boat)! We returned to the beach around noon, had a delicious lunch, then relaxed on the beach all day. We laid in the sun, swam, read our books, had a few beers, and napped in hammocks. After watching the sunset, we showered and went to dinner. A local restaurant had a barbecue to celebrate Loy Krathong, a celebration in which people light incense and candles on floating baskets made of banana leaves and flowers. After having a delicious dinner of grilled red snapper (Tim ate the eye once again!), we lit a basket, made a wish, and floated it into the sea. Now time for bed. Diving early in the morning!Read more

  • Day54

    Day 54 - Koh Chang Arrival

    November 2, 2017 in Thailand ⋅ 🌙 73 °F

    After a crazy speedboat ride from Koh Kood to Koh Chang, we checked into our seaside bungalow by about 11:00 am. The bungalow is amazing, right on the sand and about 15 feet from the water. We spent the whole day on the beach. This beach is beautiful with white sand and clear water, stretching about a mile down the southern side of the island. We had a delicious candlelit dinner on the beach - spicy chili basil shrimp for me and a whole snapper for Tim. Excited for the next 5 days here!Read more

  • Day53

    Day 53 - Last Day in Koh Kood

    November 1, 2017 in Thailand ⋅ ☁️ 37 °F

    Another amazing day in paradise. After breakfast, we decided to kayak to a waterfall. The roundtrip, including a little hiking and swimming, was only supposed to take 2 hours. But the lady at our hotel who was giving us directions told us it would take double because the sea was a little rough. We decided to give it a try anyways (it didn't look very rough at all). We didn't know it at the time, but we had gotten almost to the turn off from the sea to the river when it started to get pretty scary. The waves were big, the sea was shallow, and the waves were crashing hard into the rocks. After two large waves almost took us out, we decided to turn around. On the way back, we had a lot of fun riding waves into the sandy beach on the kayak. We finally made it back and it was time for some relaxing on the beach and reading.

    Tim decided to go SUP boarding while I continued to read. He returned awhile later and said that was pretty tough too, with the choppy sea. We had another amazing lunch (this food really is the best) and placed an advance order to get a crispy whole fish for our last dinner at Shantaa Resort.

    After lunch, we decided we needed to get to the waterfalls one way or another. We rented a motorbike and set off on another adventure! Tim has become an awesome scooter driver (once he finally figured out how to make a right turn from the left side of the road!!) and cruising around Asia on these things is a blast. After hiking through the jungle, we made it to the falls. We swam around for awhile and Tim jumped off of a swinging rope and then we hiked back to the bike. Next, we set off for a beach that's supposed to be one of the most beautiful on the island. And it was - a long stretch of white sand, crystal clear water that's still up to your waist after walking out about 200 feet, palm trees lining the coast, and barely a single person on the beach. We swam for awhile, and then headed back to our resort.

    We had about an hour left before sunset so we went down to the beach to watch our 6th and final Koh Kood sunset. It was beautiful, once again (though we haven't yet seen it drop straight into the sea!!). After sunset, I finished my book, then we got in our hot tub to relax until dinner.

    This restaurant is amazing - some of the best food I've had in my life. We have had so many amazing dishes - curries (the best we've ever had), pad Thai, and fish, shrimp, squid, king fish, crab in a dozen different sauces and stir fries. But our last meal topped it all. We started with vegetarian fresh rolls with mint and sweet and spicy sauce. Then we shared a crispy whole fish (not quite sure what kind) covered in a garlic chili basil sauce and crispy kale. It was incredible. We cleaned every ounce of meat off of the 1.2 kilo fish. We finished it off with a mango and sticky rice for dessert. Yum YUM!!!

    We will be sad to leave this place, but we will definitely be back. This is the most beautiful resort I have ever seen. Everything is pristine and the service couldn't be better. The free kayaks, SUP boards, and amazing snorkeling right off of the shore is awesome. The food is delicious. The rooms and the view are incredible. We will miss it here!

    Now off to Koh Chang - the final stop on our journey!
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  • Day52

    Day 52 - Koh Kood - Scariest Day Ever

    October 31, 2017 in Thailand ⋅ ☁️ 81 °F

    We did it! We finally went scuba diving. It was absolutely the most terrifying thing either of us has ever done. But it was also amazing.

    We set off this morning for a snorkel trip that we arranged with a local dive company. We got on the boat with the other 15 or so tourists, 3 dive/snorkel instructors, and 2 boat staff. The majority of the group was diving. Within about 5 minutes, I asked if we could switch from snorkeling to diving.

    The boat trip to the first dive location was about 30 minutes. Long enough for the beginners dive group (just me, Tim, and a Bulgarian girl, Maria, who can't swim) to get some basic (frightening) instructions and get all of our gear ready. We anchored in, the advanced divers and snorkelers took off, and the 3 of us and our instructor jumped in. Non-certified divers can go down 12 meters max. This didn't sound deep at first for some reason. We started with some surface breathing exercises and, after just a couple of minutes, were "ready to go". We held on to the anchored rope and the goal was to pull our way down slowly. I made it about a half of a meter before I freaked out. All of the instruction and safety precautions about lungs exploding and ear drums exploding was all I could think about. I made us all come back up (even though the instructor basically refused when I pointed up) and told them I couldn't do it. She insisted I try again. We did some more breathing exercises, and set back down the rope. Again, I immediately freaked out again, this time hyperventilating, and came back to the surface. I told the instructor I was absolutely not going and that I wanted to go back to the boat and snorkel. She pretty much refused but once she saw there was no chance I was going, she let me go back to the boat, as long as I promised to try again, one-on-one, after lunch. I said "okay" - anything to get out of the scuba gear.

    Tim, Maria, and the instructor set off without me. Tim said it was really scary at first but after about 5-10 minutes he got comfortable. They all stuck together but the instructor really had to focus on Maria, since she can't swim, so Tim had to learn quickly! They all said this first dive was pretty murky and the visibility wasn't great, but they saw some cool coral and fish. By the time I caught up with the snorkelers, I had missed the giant sea turtle they saw. But I was able to see a lot of colorful fish.

    We all got back to the boat and ate a pretty good chicken curry lunch. Then, while everyone else went to snorkel or to walk on the nearby beautiful beach, I set off for my private dive lesson. This time, where we jumped in the boat was only about 2 meters deep. I could see the bottom and was a little more comfortable. After finally getting comfortable with the breathing techniques, we set off slowly underwater. Getting to the bottom here wasn't hard (except for the ear pressure - I really had trouble with the "equalizing" techniques we briefly learned). But as she started to pull me away from the boat, I knew we were getting deeper and deeper and two or three times panicked and made her take me to the surface. We eventually got down about 6 meters, which doesn't too sound deep, but it really feels deep when the furthest down I've ever been is a 12 foot swimming pool for a second or two. Especially when the visibility isn't great, there was no way I could see the surface, which was a little unnerving. But eventually I got comfortable. The next 30 minutes or so was amazing. She finally let me swim on my own. We saw a ton of cool coral and schools of fish. It's crazy how different it feels down there. One breath in and you float up 3 feet, one breath out and you go back down. I never quite got used to the ear pressure and how to equalize it. But it was an amazing experience. I had a crazy adrenaline rush for awhile afterwards.

    Once we got back to the boat, everyone else had already returned and so we set off for the third stop. I wasn't ready to try another group dive, so I set off with the snorkelers, and Tim set off for his second dive. He said the visibility was much better this time. They got down to about 9 meters. He had an amazing time and was so glad he did it. My snorkeling this time was a little intense. The waves were rough. But I saw lots of huge colorful fish, Angel Fish, some crazy crawling fish with wings, and beautiful coral. The swim back to the boat through the waves was tough though and I was ready to be on land for the day.

    We got back to our resort around 3:00. We relaxed on the beach for awhile, Tim went SUP boarding, then we watched the sunset before getting ready for another delicious dinner. What an exhausting, scary, amazing day.
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  • Day51

    Day 51 - Koh Kood - Another Beach Day

    October 30, 2017 in Thailand ⋅ ⛅ 84 °F

    Another day in paradise. More of the same - swimming, snorkeling, SUP boarding, jumping off of the pier, reading, eating, drinking, and relaxing. This place is incredible.

    I met a lady today at our hotel who said she's been to Thailand 45 times (as well as several other islands, in Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia). This is her first time at this resort. She says it beats anywhere that else she's ever been. I absolutely believe it. This is the most beautiful place I've ever seen.Read more