Our Travelationship in Review: January 2016

By: Heather

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam - Review January 2016.

A New Year Begins

In the past few weeks, we have found ourselves more settled and letting go. We didn’t think it would take either of us this long to adjust our day to day biomechanics. Still need to work out the kinks, but we seem to be progressing. We may have visited the most places in January, thus far. Looking back, we feel like we saw and did quite a bit and ran through every cycle of weather except snow.

We started the year in Cat Ba, Vietnam and the weather had been cloudy and drizzly most of the time we were there. The sun finally broke through our last two days, and we were able to get out on the water. Although we visited six different cities/towns in Vietnam, our favorite was Bac Ha. Known for its tourist-friendly, incredibly colorful market this little town was beautiful. Most travelers stay for Sunday market and then flee to Sapa or other parts of Vietnam. We stayed an extra two days and were treated to one of our most favorite foot treks through the mountains.

From Vietnam, we flew to Hong Kong to visit one of Matt’s college friends, Tianyu. (Un)Lucky for us we happened to be in Hong Kong during its coldest spell in 60 years. It didn’t snow, but it did lightly rain almost every day along with really bone chilling winds. The weather didn’t stop us from hiking a couple of trails, bicycling, walking the city and taking a day excursion to Macao. Most of all, we ate and ate and ate. Tianyu took us to some tasty restaurants albeit one or two were so local the hygiene may have been questionable at best.

Cold and rainy Hong Kong.

Cold and rainy Hong Kong.

Currently, we are in Malaysia and have shared our time between Kuala Lumpur and the island of Penang. We have learned not to complain about cold anymore because the weather and humidity in Malaysia is scorching sweat drenching hot. Our days have been adjusted a bit to spend the morning and evenings out and the mid-days inside. We’ve had a few favorite highlights while in Malaysia. We loved our tour with Steven Sekhar to Kuala Selangor for the fireflies, the charm & street art of George Town, Penang was a big goal checked off and meeting fellow Instagrammers John and Nazrul left us visually inspired.

The Stops

Vietnam: Cat Ba, Bac Ha, Sapa, Huế, Hoi An, My Son

Hong Kong: Hong Kong

Macau: Macau City

Malaysia: Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Selangor, George Town

The Great

Food, Instagrammers, Art and Reunions were the highlights this past month. We ate good to incredible food all month long. Our best meal to date was at MiMi2Go, a Korean restaurant, located in Central area Hong Kong. This place has to be Hong Kong’s best-kept secret because the owner/chef, Kimmi, creates the most delish, mouthwatering, homemade teas and Korean favorites. Not only is the food that good, but Kimmi, her husband, and her staff are so welcoming. We felt at home and can not wait to return to Hong Kong just, so we can revisit MiMi2Go.

The Gochujang Chicken is ridiculous tasty with just the right amount of spice.

The Gochujang Chicken is ridiculous tasty with just the right amount of spice.

A few other noteworthy treats were the fried spring rolls at the morning buffet at the Friendly Hotel in Hue. Between Matt and I, I think we ate them all every morning. At the Kiman Hoi An Hotel & Spa in Hoi An, we had the sweetest mini sugar donuts. In George Town, Penang, Malaysia we both fell in love with our burgers from Junk. I had the Full Junk Burger loaded with mushrooms and caramelized onions, and Matt had the Blood Cream Burger made up of sun dried cherry tomatoes and a homemade parmesan cheese sauce.

Bánh mỳ Phượng in Hoi An was hands down the best Bahn Me sandwich we devoured. We tried the BBQ and the chicken sandwiches. And as advertised the BBQ is the one to eat. This is the place Anthony Bourdain made famous on one of his episodes, and we have to tell you – Go! Eat! Be Happy!

Some of you may already know; we love Instagram and Instameets. Before departing Washington, DC, we took part in several @IGDC (DC Instagram community) instameets. They are an excellent way to meet fun people who will light your creativity juices on fire. Another benefit, it’s a great way to see and get information about the local area. Our timing finally lined up, and we were able to meet some of the @InstameetHK (Hong Kong Instagram community), and while in Malaysia meet some of the @IgersMalaysia (Malaysia Instagram community). Had a great time at both meetings. John and Nazrul from Malaysia left our heads spinning with ideas, recommendations, and places to see. Extra thanks to both of you!

From our hike with @InstameetHK.

From our hike with @InstameetHK.

The month provided us with some pretty amazing tours in Cat Ba/Ha Long Bay, Bac Ha, and Kuala Selangor. Early in the month, the weather finally broke, and we were able to take a boat tour in Unesco World Heritage Site, Ha Long Bay. We did some kayaking through a couple of caves, cycled our way to a fishing village and gawked at the beauty of limestone karsts.

Kayaking through some caves in Ha Long Bay.

Kayaking through some caves in Ha Long Bay.

Probably our favorite activity while in Vietnam was our 18km trek through the mountains and villages around Bac Ha with Za. She took us through a few tribe villages and all over the back ways around the mountains. The views were stunning, and Za was absolutely lovely.

Heather and Za on the trail.

Heather and Za on the trail.

A taste of the views from the trails Za took us on.

A taste of the views from the trails Za took us on.

The Bac Ha Sunday market (very much geared toward tourists) kicked Matt’s photo mojo in the butt. He has rediscovered his love for photography. The place is a photographic haven of colors, interactions and faces full of life.

Bac Ha Sunday Market.

Bac Ha Sunday Market.

Renting a scooter to visit the Imperial City and tombs in and around Huế led to a great couple of days. Some of the buildings are in dire need of repair, but overall the relics are absolutely stunning.

Inside the Tomb of Khai Dinh.

Inside the Tomb of Khai Dinh.

Visiting the Khe Sahn Combat Base, the Vinh Moc Tunnels, and the demilitarized zone in Vietnam left us with mixed feelings. We are glad we went but unsure how we felt about it and what to say.

The remains of Khe Sahn Combat Base.

The remains of Khe Sahn Combat Base.

One of the entrances to the Vinh Moc Tunnels.

One of the entrances to the Vinh Moc Tunnels.

In Hong Kong, we reunited with Matt’s college buddy, Tianyu. Talk about good people! Tianyu is one of the kindest, smartest, most interesting people we have ever met. Last time we saw him was in DC in 2011 – far too long. We now owe him our life because he and his girlfriend introduced us to MiMi2Go.

Matt and Tianyu ready for some Dim sum.

Matt and Tianyu ready for some Dim sum.

In Kuala Selangor, Malaysia we took the firefly tour where we saw thousands of fireflies up close. It felt wonderfully Disneylike.

Between the art spaces and street art in Hong Kong and the street art in Malaysia we were feeling pretty excited. We are finding we need art in our life to keep us going. Finding great galleries, museums and/or murals has turned into a must do in every location.

Young Kim: Beyond the Shutter @ agnès b.’s Librairie Galerie.

Young Kim: Beyond the Shutter @ agnès b.’s Librairie Galerie.

Terry Richardson: PORTRAITS @ Galerie Perrotin Hong Kong.

Terry Richardson: PORTRAITS @ Galerie Perrotin Hong Kong.

The Not So Great

We both come from animal-loving families, so we grew up with lots of different pets. It is very tough for us to see animals being treated poorly. The last few months have seemed to be relentless to us witnessing animal cruelty and suffering. We have butted our nose in when we could, but looking back, we wish we had more often.

The monkeys in Malaysia were eating plastic and treating people like their pets. These primates have been conditioned to live with large numbers of humans and have lost a lot of their wild traits. The worst part was watching the monkeys eat plastic bags and chew on plastic bottles. As travelers, we as a whole need to step up and find better ways for humans and wild animals to live together. Feeding animals plastic, garbage, and nonfood items for our enjoyment is not ok.

Monkeys and plastic don't mix.

Monkeys and plastic don’t mix.

As we travel, we try very hard to keep an open mind and understand the uniqueness of every culture. Usually, we do pretty well but at times, we have difficulty grasping onto to different beliefs, traits, preferences. Dogs and horses on food menus have been hard for us to swallow. We know it happens. We understand in some areas why it happens, but it is still troublesome for us to see it happen.

We were completely off base about Hoi An. We knew it would be touristy, but my gosh it was only foreigners. Neither of us is sure what we originally had in mind, but we felt like we had left Vietnam. We didn’t not like Hoi An, but we left feeling not sure what to think about it.

Old Town Hoi An.

Old Town Hoi An.

The Oops!, WTF?, LOLs – Lessons learned, head scratchers & hilarities

Oops! Let’s not do that again lessons

While we were at the Bac Ha Sunday market, we got caught up in it all. The energy was contagious, and we started buying up fruits and food. We got too brave and bought some locally made hot sauce. Matt’s first bite was pretty hot but good. My first bite set my entire body on fire. Matt’s second bite did the same. We ended up gifting the sauce to the hotel manager because it was too much for us.

Complain about being cold. We thought we were so miserably cold in Hong Kong, so we chose Malaysia because the weather looked perfect. Wow! The heat and humidity have zapped our energy within an hour every day we have been here. We didn’t think we were so sensitive to the weather, but I think as we travel our acclimation time has changed.

WTF? Did that really just happen?

We took the overnight train from Hai Phong to Hanoi to Lao Chai. We had a four-bed sleeper with one bed empty and the other taken up by a 20 some year old female. She proceeded to watch a movie on her phone without her headphones for the entire night. At no time is it ok to listen to music or a movie or whatever without headphones while in a shared space.

I will preface this with Matt is fine. One of the days in Bac Ha we rented a scooter and had a fun day touring the mountains and a waterfall. Matt was turning the bike around, and his hand got stuck between the gas and the brake. He could not stop the bike in time and landed in the cement drainage ditch on the side of the road. The bike flipped over and landed on top of him. He was extremely lucky because the drainage ditch was wide enough for him to fall into but not wide enough for the bike to land fully on top of him. We had to wait for some locals to pass by to help me lift the bike up, so he could get out from under it. The bike had zero damage, and Matt walked away with a scrape and bruises on his elbow and his knee. It doesn’t sound funny, but we were both giggling about it in no time.

Somehow Matt went from here,

Somehow Matt went from here,

to here.

to here.

I will preface this with we are both fine. Matt hitting a parked bike with my leg while we were on a scooter headed down the wrong way on a one-way street. Vietnam traffic is horrendous, but the cars coming at us were actually quite friendly. I don’t even think anyone honked at us which is inconceivable in Vietnam. Not his finest moment.

I will preface this with I am ok. Matt hitting a moving bicycle with my leg while we were on the scooter (this time headed the right way in traffic). Grant it, the lady stopped right in front of us as we were moving toward her, and Matt had to swerve, but he didn’t quite swerve wide enough.

Wrapup 09

LOLs! Our laugh out loud hilarious moments

Matt slipped on some stairs and fell into the water, and I missed the whole thing. He was gone and then he appeared out of nowhere wet and full of mud. I now it doesn’t sound funny, but the same thing happened to me when we were in the Philippines.

Trying to take a selfie as we looked at the waterfall behind us. We thought we were clever, but this shot took way too many times, and it is not good, not good at all.

While on top of The Peak in Hong Kong I was waiting for Matt inside the mall. I saw a sparkly wall and thought it might make a neat photo. I walked right up to it and BAM! Hit the window so hard I gave myself a bloody nose. I didn’t see the glass in front of the wall, apparently used to prevent people like me from touching or getting too close to the shiny wall.

Look closely for Heather's nose print.

Look closely for Heather’s nose print.

The Posts

The Features, Collaborations, and Interviews

10 Ecotourism Destinations to Turn Your Travel Green at Amanda’s Wanderlust

The Best Sunsets in the World – Part II at Floating My Boat

Ultimate US Road Trip Guide at The Daily Adventures of Me

Instagram

Wherever Mag

A New Breed of Traveller

Our Ears and Eyes

Heather

Twilight over Burma: My Life as a Shan Princess” by Inge Sargent

Matt

Carry On” by Rainbow Rowell
The Guilty” by David Baldacci
Bosch Season 1
Skrillex

Up Next

We will be heading for Sri Lanka early February where we will be reunited with our friend, Elle, whom we met in Rwanda and…both our new cameras!

Have any suggestions on where we should go next? Let us know in the comments.
Love Shadow - Scooter Style

Love Shadow – Scooter Style

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