Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Southeast Asia Photos

We only got back from our trip to Southeast Asia, oh, a month ago, so I thought I'd share a little of what we did and a whole lot of photos! 

Our first stop was Hong Kong, which we really only added to the trip because you could fly direct there from Chicago - a major win when you consider it saved us 12 hours of travel time!! We were only in the city for 36 hours and were super jet lagged (I'm talking waking up at 3 in the morning!) but still tried to squeeze a lot in. 

One of our friends had just been to Hong Kong, so she shared a two day itinerary with us that we basically copied - thanks Alyson!! We started first thing in the morning by heading to the top the city, Victoria Peak. Hong Kong is built into mountains surrounding a bay, and Victoria Peak is at the tippy top of the highest mountain. There's a observatory at the top that you can pay to get into, or a free three mile hike that goes around the mountain you can check out instead - that's what we went for! Supposedly the walk has an amazing view of the city, but when we were up there it looked like this: 

I wish it had been a clear day as opposed to crazy foggy, but it was still really cool to see these incredibly high buildings just barely poking out of the fog. Plus, you get to ride a tram up to the top of the mountain which is an incredibly steep ride. If you want to hit Victoria Peak, definitely go early! We didn't have to wait in line at all, but by the time we got back down to the bottom (around 10am) the line was two hours long. Yikes.

After our morning hike, we wandered around Hong Kong Park, which is huge and contains a really cool aviary filled with hundreds of birds, a conservatory, pretty little ponds, and this fountain that I decided to go into because it's what all of the teenage tourists were doing.

Other highlights? Dim Sum (basically Asian small plates) at Maxim's where they still bring around all of the food in little carts so you can pick whatever looks good, a ferry ride across the harbor, and a visit to the Mong Kok neighborhood to see the crazy crowds and weird streets (we literally found one that was all karaoke stands - what?!) and visit the Ladies Market (which is, of course, an outdoor market that ladies would like - all the knockoff handbags and clothes and jewelry you could ever want). You also have to find a restaurant or bar with a view of the harbor for when the sun goes down, and we chose the lounge at our hotel - it was so beautiful!! 

And that was literally it for Hong Kong! The next morning we left super early to head to Koh Samui, Thailand, to meet up with my brother and his wife who were there for spring break. They live in South Korea, so it isn't quite as crazy a spot to go on a quick trip as it is for us. We stayed at Bandara Resort & Spa, which was freaking gorgeous and had a bunch of different pools, a sandy beach, a spa, and a daily four-hour happy hour, so we barely left the resort. The one cool activity we did was scuba diving - Jeff and I were beginners so they literally paired us with an instructor who showed us what to do and then pushed us around a coral reef. Besides that, we literally laid at the pool, got massages, went back to the pool, ordered some cocktails, and repeat. Not a bad way to spend a week ;) 

Our suite had a little private pool, which is basically the best thing ever. 

Hanging with my brother - at the bar, of course ;) 

From Thailand, we went to Siem Reap, Cambodia. We, like just about everyone else who visits Siem Reap, were there for the monuments. We hired a guide and a car through our hotel (normally you hire a tuk-tuk, but we got confused when booking - whoops!) and went out to see some temples! Guides typically give you the choice of the "small circle" which takes you to more famous temples like Angkor Wat and Ta Prom, which is where they filmed Tomb Raider, or the "big circle" which has a lot of smaller and less crowded temples. We opted for the small circle our first day, and then part of the big circle on our second. The temples are absolutely nuts - they were all built between the ninth and twelfth centuries, and while some of them are literally being pulled apart by the giant jungle trees growing out of them, others are so well preserved that you can still read the original sanskrit carvings - you know, if you can read Sanskrit. It looks like we were wandering through deserted monuments from these photos, but really our guide was just good at taking us to secret back entrances and Jeff and I are both tall so we can shoot above people's heads. In reality almost all of these places were crawling with tourists, the majority of whom wanted to take pictures where they were either pretending to fly or sitting in one of the four thousand doorways. I tried to copy, the results weren't great ;) 

Oh my gosh you guys, isn't my outfit for all day sweating and hiking so freaking cute?! To be fair, I did have to cover my shoulders and knees. 

Besides checking out temples, which you can really only do in the morning before it gets super hot, we did a lot of hanging out and drinking 50 cent beers on Pub Street, getting "fried" rolled ice cream which I had previously only seen in Snapchats from people in NYC, hanging out at our hotel pool, and eating all of the Cambodian food - we loved Khmer Touch for the beef loc lac and Grill Wine Cafe for the fun cocktails. We also loved Siem Reap Brewpub that specialized in craft beers, which after a week of Asian lagers was a welcome change! 

Our last stop was Vietnam. We flew into Hanoi really late and spent about six hours at our hotel before being picked up for a three day cruise through Halong Bay. This was by far my favorite part of the trip - we spent three days cruising through the bay looking at the beautiful scenery, eating incredible seven course meals, lounging on the deck, checking out a floating fishing village, a private beach, and a cave, and hanging out with the twenty other people on the boat. 

After our cruise, we just had two more nights left in Hanoi. We made the most of it by eating and eating and eating of course. We had a huge dinner at New Day where we learned that bun cha is our favorite of the Vietnamese foods, and did a street food tour to try everything our guide could think of (but don't worry, no bugs!) including egg coffee, which is, in fact, whipped egg in your coffee. Strangely good. We also visited Beer Corner, where you drink fifty cent beers on tiny plastic stools in the middle of the street, and every now and then have to stand up quickly and pretend you weren't in fact sitting in the street when the cops come by. 

We also wandered into the French Quarter, which literally feels like a little section of Europe was dropped in the middle of all of the standard-sized no frills communist buildings of Vietnam - freaky! We had drinks at the stunning poolside bar at the Metropole Hotel, which rivaled the prices of fancy cocktails in downtown Chicago but came inside of frozen hollowed-out pineapples so we could forgive them the price.

And whew, that's it! If you managed to stick around this long, I applaud you. 

If you're looking for details on traveling to Southeast Asia like hotels, currencies, and other logistics, check out How to Plan a Trip to Southeast Asia. If you want outfit details, check out what I packed

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