Here’s to 2017

I woke up this morning with many thoughts about the new year  upon us. After my post yesterday I didn’t feel that I had anything left to say for the year 2016. I was wrong!

If I asked people what they thought of 2016 you know what I think they’d all say? “2016 was a hard year. With huge ups and downs, loss and struggles.” Or… “I’ve never been more ready for a new year. This last year was unreal.” 

For me, 2016 broke me down, shook me up, gave me the highest highs, and the lowest lows. I’m going to say something a little unpopular here though….. I’m thankful for it. 

It was a hell of a year, full of loss but I gained my most authentic self. I know myself better then I ever have. And I found so much love and passion for life and this world. Romantic love?  Sure. I had it, it was beautiful and a challenge but not one that stayed with me. I’m talking about the love for life. For friends. For family. For music. For adventure. For travel. For expanding views. For the people, connections and relationships I found this year. They have shaped me, touched me and helped me become what I am now. 

2016 you cracked me wide open. You let me break and build back up stronger. You took away some of the most loved in my life, and showed me pain and emotions I hadn’t felt before. You let my heart break and shatter. You taught me even when I didn’t want to learn. At times I really hated you and never understood what the fuck it was all for. But here I am saying thank you, something that surprised even myself when I woke up today. Things happen for a reason? Maybe 2016 you happened so that I can be grateful for new beginnings in 2017. 

This is the first year I’m celebrating New Years single since I was 16 or 17. I’m not upset by that. I woke up thankful for that. I think it’s just opening me up for a chance to really do it right this new year. I haven’t enjoyed my last few New Years Eve’s. They’ve included hurt feelings, fights and disappointment. That’s no way to start a new year! So I’m doing it different this year. Because I want a different year. I’m turning a new leaf. I’m leaving behind what wasn’t meant for me. I’m leaving behind what no longer serves me. I’m leaving behind a last name that isn’t mine, and changing it to who I am and who I identify with. I am leaving behind what isn’t needed anymore because I trust and know what’s meant for me will never pass me by.

I’m going into 2017 feeling unstoppable. I’m going in vulnerable, open, with gratitude and full of love and anticipation for what is coming next. I don’t have it all together, but I’m thankful for that too. 

  I needed you 2016 to show me that I am fully supported by the universe, and when I trust I am connected with all that I need. I’ve realized I’m the one holding myself back and I won’t do it anymore. My goals, my dreams. They’re going to happen for me in 2017, I’m going to make sure of it. Thank you 2016 for not allowing me to be comfortable. Thanks for not allowing me to stay put or content with what I have. Nothing grows in a comfort zone, so thank you for the expansion and the need for more. 

Here’s to travel, love, writing, photography and doing it all in 2017. Here’s to being the most authentic and open I’ve ever been.  Here’s to chasing my dreams, finding happiness and knowing what I want. Here’s to knowing I can have it, and that I deserve it.

I bet if you took the time to decipher this hard year that is coming to a close you’d find some brilliance in how it challenged you.  Learn and grow from it and be open to new and better tomorrows. Say farewell to 2016, and welcome 2017 with open arms, gratitude and knowing it’s going to be a year for you. Find yourself, follow your goals and manifest your desires. Get out of your own way. I think when they said that you can’t have it all… they didn’t see 2017 coming. Cheers. 

Travelling throughout Vietnam

While I was in Vietnam I got from destination to destination by bus, airplane, taxi, boats and scooters. On the map below highlighted were the destinations I went. The red is where I took bus/night bus and the purple is where I flew. The routes aren’t accurate as to exactly how I got there I just joined the departure and arriving cities. (Ie. Not the correct flight path or correct bus route). 

There are many  ways to travel about Vietnam. Personally I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way. Many people are weiry of the night bus, but I had good experiences when I took them. (Mui  Ne to Hoi An, and Da Lat to HCMC). Make sure to do your research and do what’s most comfortable for you. I ended up taking a bus from Hanoi to Sapa versus the train because it was on that date cheaper and quicker. I’ve heard a lot of good and bad about the night trains, just as I had about the night buses so I just did what felt right, sent a few prayers to the universe and was just fine. I had no problems with transportation in Vietnam and would happily do it all again. Even going on a scooter in HCMC!

Here’s a bit of information for travelling within Vietnam:

  • Often on buses your required to take your shoes off. Wear shoes that can easily slip off, and for night bus you might be more comfortable if you pack some socks to stay warm. They provide a blanket but it can get cold on bus. You’ll also want some good ear plugs. There’s two levels on the bus, I liked being on top personally. Because I’m short I found the night buses to be comfortable. I could see it being crammed  if your on the taller side as your in a “pod” see picture below. 
  • The first time I took bus was a bit daunting. I  found someone that spoke English to make sure I got on right bus, and that I got off in the right place. Make sure the driver or employee on bus knows your travel plans so you get dropped off at correct hotel, or correct station. I didn’t know that I was assigned a seat, so I just sat anywhere, and was quickly corrected. If your not sure, just ask someone. I was lucky to always find helpful travellers, employees or locals.
  • The bus from Mui Ne to Hoi An was about 16-17 hrs with a one hour stop in NHA Trang. I’m sorry I can’t remember the exact amount of time, however most of the trip is overnight and with some good ear plugs I was able to get some sleep. 
  • The bus from Hanoi to Sapa was about 5-6 hrs (if no traffic stalls) and it has lots of winding roads. If you get motion sickness I recommend some gravol before travel. The scenery is well worth it.
  • The night bus from Da Lat to HCMC saves you about 2 hrs versus going in the day, but the road had a lot of twists and turns and I didn’t sleep at all. It took about 5 hrs, during the day it can take up to 8. You can also fly in between those destinations.
  • My flights were easy and straight forward. I checked one bag (my backpack) and had my carry on as well. They were not delayed and both flights were good experiences with good customer service. I’ve heard a lot of other opinions, but I had very positive experiences both with Jetstar and Vietjet.
  • Most buses have wifi but there is no plug to charge your phone. Charge your devices before you go, pack ear buds or bring a good book!
  • Most of the night buses have a toilet but check when you buy ticket. Normally there is 1-3 stops at bus stations that has a toilet. 
  • If you get picked up from your hotel usually they give you a 1/2 hr window of time. I usually was ready 15 minutes before that. If bus is behind quite a bit, it seems to be normal. Don’t panic, your hotel or hostel can call to double check for you. I waited about an hour in Mui Ne for my bus, and called them. They were late but they didn’t forget me!
  • When going to Sapa and Ha Long Bay I would recommend packing a smaller backpack instead of taking all of your gear. It’s common practice to leave luggage at your hotel in Hanoi and pick it up when you return. In Sapa you’ll likely be trekking with what you take with you if your going to a homestay. In Ha Long Bay it just leaves you more room especially when on tender boat to get you around the harbour. Pack light, most likely your doing a two or three day trip. 
  • Hand sanitizer and tissues will be your best friend while in Vietnam. I was impressed how many western style toilets there were, and most I didn’t have to pay to use. But occasionally there is no tissue offered, and you have to adapt to other cultural ways. It’s just nice to have some familiar options when needed. 
  • There are many great travel tour companies such as VK tours that can help book different excursions, tours etc.  There are also many destinations and things you can do on your own! I did a tour in Sapa and Ha Long Bay. Do some research and have a blast!
  • In travel things are bound to go wrong… You might miss a flight, get sick and stay in one place longer then you intended, or wind up like I did often hopelessly lost. So be lost. Enjoy the moment knowing that your exactly where your meant to be. Get so lost that you find yourself. And then maybe find where your trying to go. Ask for help, but be willing to go with the flow. Because when it comes to travel, plans change, or things go wrong. Don’t take it as a negative. Find the good in every situation. When things go a different way, they often lead you to a great adventure, or a unforgettable night, or to somewhere even better then you could imagine. There is no right way, or perfect plan when it comes to travel. Only your way, whatever that may be.

I went to Vietnam on my own, as a first time solo traveller and I would recommend it to everyone. Solo travel is an adventure that I wish everyone experienced at least once in their life. You learn a lot about yourself, how strong you are and how much you can accomplish. I felt safe and comfortable and had great freedom.  I didn’t plan too much in advance, and even skipped some of the places I had intended to go, as I found others I didn’t want to miss. So many people along the way were there to help me, and  I couldn’t have enjoyed myself anymore. Take chances, enjoy new experiences and most of all be kind. All the best on your travels!!!

    Hello Hanoi

    Hanoi is the capital of Vietnam and I believe the population is close to 9 million people. It’s a very busy city but there’s a lot of history and beauty throughout it.

       
     I arrived to Hanoi from Sapa in the evening and was quiet sick. Luckily by the morning I was doing better and was able to view the city. I had previously stopped in Hanoi overnight before going to Ha Long Bay but was such a short visit I didn’t  get to see much. I stayed at the Hanoisy Hostel which was surprisingly quiet for being in the backpacking district. Being sick is never fun but there were two lovely girls staying there that got me some medication and checked on me a few times. Was a huge help.

    I went to the Hoa Lo prison, also known as the “Hanoi Hilton” that imprisoned Vietnamese political prisoners before the war and US pilots during the war. It was a sobering view of history. I’ll get into the Vietnam/American war talk in a future post.
     

    Hoa Lo prison
      

     I also visited the temple of literature which is a tranquil getaway from the noise in the city as well as an important part of Hanoi’s history, as it was the first national university in Vietnam. I got to witness a bunch of graduates taking there class pictures there.

       

    Temple of Literature
       

     

    I was pleasantly surprised by how clean this city was considering how densley populated it is. There’s lots to see and do in Hanoi especially when it comes to the history of Vietnam.   

    In the evening I met up with Nguyen of VK Tour Co, Ltd. We connected through Instagram as he has stunning photos of Vietnam posted. He used to be a tour guide, and branched out to start his own company. If you need help booking a trip to Vietnam, or booking tours I would highly recommend you contact him. http://www.vktour.com/

    He was able to help book my flight the following morning to Da Lat. It was a pleasure to meet him. 

    We ate some of the best pho I had on my trip at Pho Cuong. Hanoi is famous for their pho. I wasn’t disappointed !

     

    Nguyen and I
     
     
    my ride to Da Lat
     
    Hanoi wasn’t big on my list of places to spend much time in, but I’m glad I spent the two nights and one day. There was lots to see and I’ll have to make it back one day to explore some more.

    Dreams are made to come true

    Years ago I wanted to travel to Vietnam. Due to responsibilities and finances getting in the way I didn’t go. Time past by and the opportunity came back and I wasn’t saying no. On March 17th that dream of seeing Ha long Bay came true.

    There are days that I’m out here in Vietnam that I’m so grateful I’m brought to tears. This was one of those days. The bus picked me up from the Hanoisy Hostel I was staying at in the early morning. As we drove away from Hanoi and towards Ha Long bay silent tears rolled down my cheeks because I was going to see this incredible world heritage site. My desire for travel has always been strong, and I’ve often dreamt of places I’ve never seen before. And here I am. On my way. In VIETNAM! It’s been over two weeks of travelling through this gorgeous country and I still wake up every morning in a disbelief that I’m finally here. And I’m loving travelling on my own. There’s something powerful and inspiring about solo travelling.

    As the bus arrived at the harbour and we boarded the tender boat to get to my ship (Viet Beauty) I was nearly dancing with excitement.   

        
     
    After a welcome drink on board we headed out into Ha Long Bay. It was a misty foggy morning, something out of a Stephen King novel. But that only made the bay more mystical and mysterious. What a sight to see, junk boats on the water and mysterious limestone islands standing tall. I felt like I had arrived in Neverland!    

      
     After an incredible lunch with the others aboard our boat we soon were off to go kayaking.

    What can I say, I’ve crossed that off my bucket list. Myself and my new friend I called “Germany” jumped into our Kayak and off we went!  

    After exploring for a few minutes on our own we followed the rest of the tour to an underwater cave we could paddle through. 

       
      

    “Germany & Canada”
      
      

      
    Unbelievable! That’s how this day was. Between green beautiful water, and the occasional jellyfish was this incredible scenery leaving me completely in awe.

    After kayaking we had some free time on the beach. “Germany” and I were the perfect mix of just crazy enough to go swimming in the cold water. Here I am in Ha Long bay! There is no way I wasn’t getting in the water!!! It was Cold. There’s no denying it. But with a beachful of people we were the only ones to get in. We changed that and convinced a young couple to join us so we all went in. For me it was just as cold the second time in. But I can say that I’ve swam in Ha Long bay. And that’s pretty amazing.

     

    just before convincing these two to go for a swim!
     
    After a nice hot shower in my room and a snack we sat down for a great dinner. The food onboard was incredible. BBQ chicken, oysters, fish, and pork as well as vegetables, noodles, steamed rice etc.  

    learning to make spring rolls before dinner
       

    Our evening concluded with some drinks and Karaoke. What can I say. We all had a blast. Everyone was up signing and dancing and enjoying the moment.

      
    The next morning we explored the biggest cave in Ha Long bay. It was a sight to see! Three different chambers. Felt like you could walk for hours in there. Then it was off to an oyster farm to see how they farm pearls. 

    Since I was doing a two night tour I switched to a boat that was going to cat ba island. Had another amazing lunch, went digging for clams on monkey island  and then arrived at the island. It was another misty day but that wasn’t going to stop from a 5 km bike ride. The group biked uphill and downhill to where I was staying for the night. You can either stay in a hotel in cat ba harbour or do what I did and enjoy a private quaint bungalow for the night. I’m so glad I did that. I needed a night away to relax and it was a beautiful spot to stay in a national park. I highly recommend doing the 3 day 2 night cruise if you decide to go to Ha Long bay. It makes the stay even more worthwhile as its not rushed, and you get to see and do more things. I heard the hotel was gorgeous and people quite enjoyed that option, but I had such a great time at the bungalow. It gave me time to write in my journal as well as wander around the national park.  I had a wonderful dinner of rice, steamed fish, chicken, vegetables etc.

      
     

    my perfect bungalow at Whisper Nature
      


      

    The next morning I rode my bike back to the harbour where I was picked up by my boat. We enjoyed the view and scenery as well headed back to Ha Long Bay’s harbour. 

    my view while biking to harbor
       
    I would highly recommend doing a tour of Ha Long Bay
    I went through APT travel and they were well organized, had a beautiful boat and incredibly friendly. There are so many options to book a cruise. You can book in advance or right in Hanoi.  I booked while I was still in Hoi An. The tour picked me up from the airport on arrival, took me to hotel for the night and were there in the morning to start our bus ride to Ha Long Bay! They were very helpful. http://apttravel.com/ With so many varied price points it’s affordable for every budget so do your research and find what works for you. I do believe from things I’ve heard you might not want to do the very cheapest option, but most boats offer similar options and a great tour. It’s worth looking into and I hope you all enjoy Ha long Bay as much as I did!

    Don’t be afraid to dance, sing and have fun with people you haven’t met before. They might just become a great friend ☺️. And even more life lessons: Follow your dreams and your passions. Don’t let fear stand in your way. We were meant for incredible things.

    Xo- Vanessa   

    Marble Mountains by motorbike 

    My friend Oanh knew that I had to get to Danang airport and could arrange a taxi or bus to get me there. Or she said I can hire a motorbike and he’ll take me and my luggage and drop me off at Marble Mountains for a few hours, and from there go to airport. The night before I wrote in my journal to be fearless and try new things. Yes I’ve been on the back of a bike before, even here in Vietnam but this was about a 40-50 minute trip on the highway. I was ready and excited for the adventure. 

    It was another gorgeous hot day in Hoi An when we left on the bike and I enjoyed the ride so much. The fresh air felt amazing.

    I arrived at Marble Mountains and started climbing step by step. (You can take an elevator up if you have mobility issues but I wanted to take in the full experience).  The steps are uneven and at times challenging but the sights were well worth it.

       
        
      Marble Mountains is a collection of 5 mountains just outside of Danang.  It is also called the element mountains. The five mountains are named after the five elements; Kim (metal), Thuy (water), Moc (wood), Hoa (fire) and Tho (earth). There are many statues, temples, caves and purgulas along the way. There are different steps and different paths you can take but I chose to go all the way to the top. It felt like a great accomplishment!

     Me at the top of the mountain.  
             
     
       It was sweltering hot and I underestimated just how high up I was going. I was prepared with good footwear but I hadn’t eaten lunch before I left and it didn’t take long for me to feel depleted. If you go to Marble Mountains my advice is to have lots of water, good supportive shoes and make sure you’ve eaten a proper meal. I had a snack halfway through walking about and felt much better. I was very thankful for my keens while on this mountain. They are the perfect supportive sandals for travelling with. Mine are the rose sandals and the toe protector has been  a lifesaver on the uneven sidewalks and stairs in Vietnam! Plus they’re pretty cute ☺️ http://m.keenfootwear.com/en-ca/product/shoes/women/rose-sandal   

       

     
      

    Was a great way to spend the day before taking my flight to Hanoi. Another wonderful day in a beautiful and kind country. I’m thankful to be travelling like this!

    For more pictures of my travels be sure to check out my Instagram learningtofly.live is my username 💜 
             

    Unforgettable nights 

    I spent a total of 3 nights in Hoi An. I could have stayed for weeks biking around, exploring, laying on the beach, and of course eating.  Hoi An is known for its culinary excellence and there’s no end to the cooking classes offered.

    Hoi An is a world heritage site recognized by UNESCO. It’s a city full of flavour and romance. I posted about it once but I have to continue as so many wonderful things happened. 

    I stayed my last two nights in Hoi An at the Lilac Villa. It is a wonderful place with a big hearts. I became good friends with Oanh who works there. She was so helpful, kind and always had a bright smile on her face. If you want to feel right at home, and a part of the family you should stay here. Plus they also have a pool and a nice big shower! 

     Oanh and I  

        
        

    The Lilac Villa    

      
      

    My second night I wandered again around the night market and somehow got hopelessly lost on way back to my villa. One thing that’s given me some insight these last few days is you can walk or bike  up and down the same streets everyday but once you cross the street you see a completely different view. A new perspective. I like that. Sometimes taking a step back and seeing a different perspective is exactly what we need. However, it seems to be a contributing factor in me losing my way to my villa. The thing is I’ve enjoyed so much losing my way that I don’t try to change it! However this time was late at night, and the back alleys cast giant shadows and my mind started playing tricks on me. Using the app maps.me helped me find my way back. It’s a free app that’s awesome for traveling. You can find information about it at this link maps.me I was very happy to find my bed that evening. ☺️

     My friend Steph that I met through trip advisor arrived in Hoi An on my 3rd day.  Her and I met at the very beginning of my trip in HCMC so I was thrilled to see her again. The world brings people together that are like minded at the right time. As wonderful as solo travelling is, it was the perfect night to have a friend. She is a kindred spirit and beautiful soul.

    After I enjoyed some time at the beach I met up with her. We wandered through ancient town, bought some artwork, took in the sights and enjoyed each others company as well as a few refreshing drinks. I got to be her culinary guide enjoying the street food. Chicken fried rice, soup, Cao Lau, Banh Mi (Vietnamese sub) just to name a few things! We had a blast together and some very memorable conversations. Steph I’d be happy to travel again soon with you !

     Local artist. He let us try our hand at painting. Lol lets just say he’s the expert.  Quote in one of our restaurants we stopped at. 
    Choosing some art to bring home. 

      

    Steph and I.
        
      Night market 
    Enjoying the night market and a visit with Mr Thanh at booth 34. He insisted we try his dinner. It was delicious 😝  
       

    I spent the rest of evening dancing with friends and wandering the streets and meeting some of the people living in Hoi An! Vietnam stays up late and it was nice to visit and take in the nightlife. The bar was packed but I met some fellow Canadians and some lovely girls from France. We danced til late in the night and then walked back to hotels. Along the way we even enjoyed some “happy water” shots with some locals.

    The next morning I booked my trip to Halong bay and Sapa. It has been a longtime dream of mine to go to Halong bay. No words can explain how grateful I am that this trip is actually happening !!! 

     I then went to the beach knowing that Northern Vietnam is a bit chilly and I’ll miss the ocean and sun. After I enjoyed the beach for awhile, it was back to villa to pack up, say goodbye for now to my wonderful host Oanh, and start my next adventure!!!

       
     
      Did I mention it includes a motorbike and climbing countless steps up a mountain before a plane ride to Hanoi? Life is good! And it’s a grand adventure 😎
    Hoi An you have a piece of my Heart. I’ll make sure to visit again soon ❤️

    Thank you for NOT loving me 

    To the men in my past, I today am filled with gratitude, nostalgia and sentimental thoughts. I’m thankful that you all didn’t love me enough. Or didn’t want me, or couldn’t stay, whatever the reason.. Thanks.
    However these relationships came to end… It gave me courage, taught me kindness, broke me down and built me back up, and most of all showed me just how resilient I really am. I’m not suggesting I’m glad you all hurt me, or that we hurt each other. I’m thankful for how I made it through it gracefully and full of love for my life. So don’t take this as a compliment or that you men should all hurt others. We are all responsible for our actions, and need to be accountable for who we are.  I’m acknowledging the fact that I came through it okay because of who I am, and I’m thankful to be where I am today.

    I had a conversation last night with a Man that spent many years together with me. After such an amazing day in Hoi An I agreed to it. I had previously told him due to how heartbreaking our ending had been, and some unfortunate damage done that I didn’t want to communicate or be friends anymore. However I reached out when I was travelling near his hometown. Just to say I’m alive and well and loving Vietnam. He contacted me back and we talked about the hurt we both suffered from such a traumatic ending to a relationship. It was an intense love we shared, but sometimes with that kind of love, the ups and downs are so extreme that it’s a wonder we both made it out… Regardless, we were able to show some kindness and compassion to one another and put some perspective as to why it went wrong. We talked about where we are now in our lives and how we got here, as well as offering some much needed closure and understanding of previous misconceptions. It was a healing conversation. It didn’t take away the things that cut so deep… But it’s helped put a bandage on those wounds left on me. 

    “I am a part of all that I have met” 

    That quote has been echoing though my head today. Every human interaction has changed me, filled me with joy, made me fall apart,taught me a lesson, or been a beacon of light in my life. Interactions that have made me laugh, cry, afraid, happy or angry. I am thankful for them all.

    Because of these moments in my life I am filled with an overwhelming understanding that brings me to tears.

    I AM EXACTLY WHERE I AM MEANT TO BE.  

    How profound is that? I just want to sit with this thought for a few minutes. We as humans get so accustomed to being busy, distracted, lazy, stressed or simply waiting for the next best thing that we forget to focus on the now. On the moment we currently are in. We take these moments for granted. 

     Because of past interactions, and past relationships, ones that were good, ones that were bad, ones with friends, family, and romantic, they have all shaped me. They have allowed me to be just adventurous and fearless enough to be here in Vietnam experiencing a whole new world. I am exactly where I am meant to be. I’m following my path, and thankful for every moment I’m experiencing.

    The days of being lost, of wandering aimlessly, of being afraid or excited. I appreciate them all. These are the moments on this trip that have pushed me, and made me damn proud of myself. They are all blessings. 

    There are many ups and downs to travelling solo. But this is an experience I wish more people would allow themselves.  

    We are all capable of amazing things. The challenge is to be willing to take the risk. 

    So thanks guys, and even thanks for failed friendships and past jobs and “missed” opportunities, for the times I felt regret for not taking the chance on things.  It puts things into perspective. I needed to go through these things, so that today I could stand where I am and think “holy shit! I am meant for this.”

    Thank you for these moments, experiences and challenges. It’s brought me here to where I stand today.

    I am feeling overwhelmed, blessed, fearless and surrounded with love and protection from the universe and my friends that support me. Today I feel it. 

    Love life. Because it’s a beautiful thing.

    – Vanessa 

    My ❤️ belongs to Hoi An

    I recently updated my status on Facebook to this “Sometimes your heart isn’t longing for a person, but it’s homesick for places it’s never been… Hello Hoi An. My ❤️ is 🏡.”

    Let’s start from the beginning. I took a bus from Mui Ne to NHA Trang, and transferred to another bus that would drive through the night to Hoi An. I’m not entirely sure the whole journeys timeline but it was about 16 hrs. Sleeper buses in Vietnam are pretty comfortable your in like a chair/pod that you lay down in and is separate from everyone, unless your put in the back where it’s like a big bed. I had requested my own and luckily it all worked out. It’s a bit unnerving travelling at night on the highways as I’m mentioned there’s very little rules on the road, or so it seems from my standpoint. Lots of honking seems to be the way vehicles and scooters communicate. But my stomach illness held up without causing problems and I slept surprisingly well through the night. I recommend some good ear plugs when travelling. It can make the difference of a night with no sleep or a restful sleep. I arrived in beautiful Hoi An around 630 am on the 13th. It was my favourite day so far!!!

    I checked into the most beautiful homestay called golden bell homestay, that I’m sorry I only booked for one night. The hosts were incredibly gracious and brought me to have breakfast even though my check in wasn’t for hours. After breakfast I relaxed for a bit and updated my journal a bit. Then I took a walk around to explore my surroundings.

    You can view then here: http://hoiangoldenbellhomestay.com 

    I headed back to check into my room. Take a look: 

       
     
    It was gorgeous and included a balcony overlooking homestay with open roof. And their dog Happy is pretty cute!

      
    The homestay gives free bikes out to get around as there’s so much to see and do here.

    I took a bike and headed to the beach! The day was hot, and the beach was loaded with people but sadly no cows 😉

       
      
    I wasn’t in the mood to just lay down so I continued biking along as I wanted to get to the Tra Que Water wheel . I’m so glad I did.

    Tra Que Water wheel  is located just outside of Hoi An on the way to the beach. They farm their own herbs and vegetables, offer cooking classes, let you garden with farmers and offer many other hands on activities as well as have a great restaurant. I had one of the best meals I’ve had so far. Do yourself a favor and check out their website and go visit them if you are in Hoi An. http://traquewaterwheel.com/

       
        
    Bunh Xeo and Papaya salad with a lemon ginger drink. First meal now that stomachs better and I indulged big time!

       

      
    The food and staff were spectacular and I’ll be going again before I leave to partake in some of their activities. 

    From there I just enjoyed a bike ride and took in some sights like this 

     

    After returning back to homestay I showered and took a nap! It was well deserved. The homestay recommended another place for my next few nights in Hoi An so I biked over there and it looks perfect. The Iris Villa. And it even has a pool!!

    Hoi An is famous for their good food, and a special dish called Cao Lau. It’s a pork and noodle dish that you can only get here! I was looking forward to enjoying it. 

    They are also famous for tailored clothing, French influenced architecture, and their night market. And my goodness it is spectacular. I had the best evening wandering the market, talking to locals, eating Cao Lau (so good!), and indulging in a coconut donut!

    The market here has many desirable things compared to other markets, jewellery,  artwork, clothing, and many trinkets etc. If you go here which I hope you all do, go visit Mr. Thanh at booth 34. He has a “no pressure/no bullshit policy” that was refreshing. Fair prices and fair negotiating. Plus he’s wickedly funny, and happy to speak for a long time. He also told me where the best Cao Lau is at the market! We took a selfie together and he gave me a bracelet when we parted ways telling me to visit him again tomorrow to let him know how I enjoyed my dinner.

    The lanterns were spectacular at the market and the lights, and energy surrounding the place made it the most magical evening here.  
     My friend at stall 34!  
      Thao Nguyen you made some delicious Cao Lau

        
        
      Me living the dream. Can’t express what a lovely night I had. 

       
       
       
        
      
      
    Get to Hoi An. You’ll be glad you did.

    Sending love and light to family and friends back home 💜💙

    Xo – Vanessa 

    Life in the Mekong Delta

    I decided after HCMC that I needed a break from the hustle bustle so I headed out to Can Tho in the Mekong Delta. I hadn’t decided if the Mekong was a “must see” in Vietnam but I’m so glad I went because it absolutely was and I’ll tell you why.

    The Mekong delta from HCMC is about an easy 3-4 hr bus ride. There are countless tours available but looking on trip advisor many seem to be tourist traps. So do what I did. Book a tour with a local tour guide. Not one of the massive companies. Here’s why: 

    1. Many of the big tours just go for the day.. That’s 6 hours driving for a quick floating market tour at the busiest time of day. Then you go to a candy factory and maybe one other stop, then back to HCMC. You barely see life on the Mekong and your with a big group.
    2. Book a tour that includes an overnight homestay. This will include lunch on arrival date, dinner and breakfast the next day at the market. The food will be some of the best you’ll enjoy in Vietnam.
    3. I went on a tour with Susan of  Can Tho touring with Susan. Find her on Facebook or trip advisor. Or reach out to me and I’ll give you her information. Everyone loves the experience they have. She lives in Can Tho, speaks fluent English and knows all the best places that you don’t get to see on other tours.  You go to the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta called Cai Rang and experience more by doing the private tour. For example we went on a boat cruise through the canals, went to local market to buy ingredients so we could make dinner at our homestay, went to a Cambodian Buddhist temple that was beautiful and away from tourists, got to get a coconut out of tree to drink at our homestay , went to a rice noodle factory, and visited a fruit orchard. There were many more things we saw and did that Susan throws in so its not just your typical tour.
    4. We got an inside look at life in the Mekong. Saw kids playing, and swimming in the river canals, men fishing, and a good background on life there. As Susan said. Most people there make just enough money to survive and look after their families and they work hard. But they’re happier then the average person. They live by the water and have endless supplies of the best fruit, vegetables and fish. It’s a simple life but it’s fulfilling. There’s something to be said about being happy with what you have and being grateful!
    5. The homestay! I stayed at Lang Viet homestay in Dong Binh village. The food was incredible. The hosts gracious and friendly, and the place was beautiful. Coconut trees, comfortable beds and hammocks to relax in. 
    6. Susan and Hanah the guides that showed us around were wonderful, friendly and knowledgable. My tour included me and two other girls. It was more personal and was a relaxing beautiful time in the Mekong Delta and an absolute must do in the south of Vietnam. 
    7. Your supporting locals. 

    The Mekong turned out to be such a great experience.  So many different types of fruit are grown there, and the food is heavenly. The homestay was gorgeous and just what I needed after a busy time in HCMC. 

    Thank you to Susan for the awesome tour. I’m so glad I went! Enjoy the pictures below of tour.

       Susan had us picked up at bus stop to take us to homestay.

      
     My homestay  
      

       

      

     My favourite place to relax.
       

    Shopping at market for dinner! We made eggplant, hot and sour soup with catfish, and a pork “pancake” one of the best meals of trip so far and we were all so hungry we forgot to take photos !
      

     
      Rice noodle factory :  
       
    Cai rang floating market:  Hanah gave us this part of tour and is a wonderful guide who working with Susan.   
        
      (Bread for breakfast AKA floating subway. LOL!)

    Susan, Sarah and I    

     Buddhist temple:  
        
        
    Floating down the canal.


    Susan is also awesome at taking selfies 😊

       

     I loved every moment of the Mekong delta. 

    A little something about HCMC

    Car horns are honking. All hours of day and night. This is a busy city that I don’t think ever takes a moment to sleep. I arrived after 3 long flights and my fair share of movies, food and books. I am in Vietnam and overwhelmed knowing that I’ve finally arrived. The heat at 1130 in the evening is only matched by the amount of traffic. It’s Saturday night and everyone plus there dog is out. The amount of scooters sharing the roads with taxis and other vehicles is even more then I imagined. And I just saw a man driving his scooter with his dog holding onto the the handlebars. Anything goes around here.

    I’ve high fived my taxi driver as we didn’t understand one another but he got me here safely and was happy to escort me across the bustling road, checked in to my hotel and now it’s after midnight and I’m wide awake. Because it’s somewhere near 11 am back home and I feel slightly turned around. After very little sleep and being very thankful for earplugs I decide it’s time to take on the day. The carhorns haven’t stopped and I’m ready to see what this city has to offer in the daylight. 

    After a nice breakfast at the hotel  I’m ready to go. Have I mentioned the coffee here is extraordinary ? So good I had two cups. For anyone that knows me I’ve only started enjoying coffee in the last 6 months or so, and I usually stick to one or two cups a week.. But then I’ve never had coffee like this. Smooth and chocolate-y and beyond description.

    I head out the door ready to explore with my only plan to exchange some USD for the Vietnamese dong and get a Vietnamese SIM for my phone. Shouldn’t be too hard, and after wandering I find a few places to grab a SIM. For a few dollars I now have a Vietnamese phone number for the next month. How technology has allowed us to stay in touch with back home is amazing. Wander some more and I realize it’s Sunday. Banks aren’t open. I left on a Friday morning and arrived here on a Saturday just before midnight. Where did those days go? Oh well.. There’s a few other choices for exchanging money and after accomplishing that I continue to wander.

    Has anyone ever attempted to cross the streets in Ho Chi Minh city? Well it’s an art form and a science. Hesitate and you might not make it, hurry to fast or slow down and you won’t make it. Instead you just walk. The traffic moves around you. Nothing like countless scooters flowing on every side of you. My advice. Follow the locals the first few times until you understand the art too it. It’s not for the weak at heart. 

    So I’ve been wandering taking in the culture, the noise and the views. I’ve been offered several rides on the scooters to take me where I’m heading (aimlessly wandering) plenty of fruit and flowers, and food. I’ve declined politely as I have no agenda. I’m just walking. 

    After going through a market, stopping for another coffee and finding some peace in a gorgeous park in the middle of the hustle I know I’m lost. Not sure what district I’m in, and not worried in the least. I’ve been walking for hours. And the heat is near unbareable. But I love it. I’ve never felt so happy to be lost. Wander some more and I see a few similar faces and storefronts. It’s now early Sunday afternoon and the locals have been sitting on the sidewalks for hours enjoying their beer and playing games with friends. Some sidewalks you squeeze through dozens of scooters parked, and street food carts, and people sitting anywhere that fits for them. “Here miss” and “hello lady” and ” you want” are repeated too me as merchants try to sell me their art, food or a ride to where I’m going… I’ve never quite seen anything like this, there’s an energy to this city and at the same time a calm watching so many locals just relaxing, eating and drinking with no plans of leaving the sidewalks anytime soon.

    I enjoy the water out of a coconut and some food at the market that I passed through earlier. Pointing at a picture on the menu of something I want to eat. Banh xeo. A Vietnamese pancake filled with shrimp and bean sprouts, eaten with greens and dipped in chilli flakes and fish sauce. I’ve enjoyed this before back in Calgary and enjoyed here as well. The food here is unreal and I’m looking forward to taking it all in. Arriving back at my hotel I decide to freshen up and nap. The shower feels amazing but the nap doesn’t happen. Back home it’s the middle of the night, but three coffees in and having been in the sun all day, I’m tired but wide awake. I relax and read for a bit and then wander about some more. I’ve been lucky staying at a great hotel the Asian ruby central hotel. The rooms are clean and the air conditioning wonderful. I’m sure it’s a luxury I won’t have everywhere this trip. 

    The evening comes and I meet up with a girl named Stephanie.  I’ve been talking with her online for the last few months. Another traveller set to explore Vietnam without an agenda. We wandered the night markets and enjoy some food. Tonight it’s pho for me, with a few beer. My new friend doesn’t usually enjoy beer, but it’s readily available at every corner, and market, and costing roughly 49 cents American.. She gives it another try. It might take her a few days to see what others enjoy about beer. But I’m enjoying them. Not all the beer is ice cold as we enjoy back home. It’s served with ice here, or 1/2 warm… I don’t mind. It’s part of this busy hubs charm. 

    Vietnam I’m here, and thankful for my first full day. I was lost but enjoyed the feeling that I had nowhere else to be, so why not take in the moment  of being exactly where I am meant to be.

    Pictures are from my first and second day in  HCMC.   
        
        
       
    The beer is good, the foods great and kindness is the only language understood.
    Be kind- Vanessa ❤️❤️