Krabi, Koh Phi Phi + Koh Phangan (aka Full Moon Party)

Nov 26, 2017

It’s really sad to say that this is probably my second to last blog post. It’s also sad because most of this leg of the journey I’ve been sick & injured. But…the good news is I met up with my friends in Koh Phangan for the Full Moon Party, which was absolutely a blast.

Let’s see, Nov 26th was mostly a travel day. Mom woke me up at 3:30am to get ready while Tita Pett made me breakfast. The Uber came at 4:20ish for my flight at 6:45am and I said my last goodbyes to my family. I gave them all huge hugs, sad but happy that I was able to spend a good amount of time with them. The Uber driver dropped me off at terminal 1, but after frantically looking for my check in counter, I realized I was in the wrong building. I asked a worker which terminal AirAsia was in. He said 3 and that I would need to take a taxi to get there. Great. I was a little frantic at this point because it was almost 5am and I still hadn’t check my bags in yet.

The taxi driver said that it would take 500 pesos to get to terminal 3, which is kind of outrageous. I told him I only had 200 pesos and he said that would be fine. I also had to pay 45 pesos for the sky road fee, so I’m glad I had some pesos left. Once at terminal 3, I saw that lines to just get in were really long, so at this point I was panicking. A worker saw the discontent on my face and told me I could skip the line by giving him $10, so that’s what I did. Then he wanted a little tip for letting me pass the line so I gave him a $5 because at this point I was stressing out. I get a little anxiety when I don’t know what’s going on. But, I got through immigration and security really fast so I essentially didn’t need to pay the guy money, I just let him talk me into it because I was all stressed out.

Once at the gate, it didn’t say the proper name on the screen nor did it have any flight attendants sitting at the desk. So, I was also a little panicked because I wasn’t sure if I was in the right area. I asked like 3 workers where to go and they all told me to sit at my assigned area and if my gate was changed it’d say over the speaker. Well, I was all paranoid that I didn’t hear it on the announcement so I was lost for a good 1.5 hrs until they finally announced the boarding of my flight with still no workers or flight number by the waiting area. Then I just realized that Manila airport is one of the most unorganized airports ever.

So, after that morning craziness the rest of the day went pretty smoothly. I landed in Kuala Lumpur for an hr layover then boarded my flight for Krabi at 1:25pm. Thailand is an hr behind so I ended up landing in Krabi at 2pm, got a shuttle bus to Krabi Town, then finally got to my hostel around 3:30. I was really hungry so I walked around to find food and settled at this hole in the wall. I love Thai hole-in-the-walls because they’re usually cheap and delicious. I’ve also missed Thai food SOOOOOO much and was happy to finally eat it. I asked the lady for Rad Nah even though they didn’t have it on the menu. The dish is my absolute favorite, it comprises of wide noddles in a gravy-like broth with Chinese broccoli and meat.

After that I went on a search for a massage. I found this place that would do a Thai massage for 250 baht, it was a little cheaper and at this point I don’t care about spending, it’s the last 2 weeks of my trip and I’ve been pretty good so far not spending a whole hell of a lot. I almost forgot how much Thai massages hurt, especially because I don’t workout anymore so I don’t really have that much to workout. After an hour of torture (just kidding) I walked around the night market. There were a lot of vendors, food, souvenirs to check out. I ended up getting this cool tiger shirt (that was way too big, dumb purchase by me lol) and my nails done for super cheap at this stall. So I guess today was a “pamper thy self” day.

I was a little exhausted from waking up so early so I went back to the hostel, took a shower, then went to sleep.

Nov 27, 2017

I woke up today with a purpose (aka alarm). My shuttle to Koh Phi Phi would pick me up at 10:30, so I went to the cute little coffee shop 2 doors down for an iced green tea latte & banana’s n milk. The ferry to Koh Phi Phi was very uneventful (that’s kind of a lie, I just can’t remember anything of significance that happened). Once on the pier I walked to Blanco’s Beach, my next hostel, which was literally on the beach. When I tried to check in they couldn’t find my name, so I showed them my email confirmation. Well, turns out that I booked for the night before so my deposit was lost & room given away…great. It was bound to happen once. Instead of a nice social 10 dorm I ended up in a more expensive 6 dorm.

When I got to the room I realized that everyone but me (all 5 of the other beds) were in a group and it was just me, by myself. It wasn’t that bad though, they were all really nice people, but I was hoping for a dorm where I could meet others to hang out with. Since this wasn’t possible, I asked the reception where I could find some cheap Thai food. She told me where to find the this restaurant called Hey Mama, where they serve food for 60 baht. There I got some gra pow, or spicy basil with meat, usually Gai (chicken). This is my boyfriend’s favorite and one of my basic favorites I’ve come to love in Thailand.

After filling my belly I decided to lay on the beach and read. It was finally sunny and I could get some nice R & R on the beach for once. I was here for probably 2 hours before I got bored lol. I brought all my stuff back in then just sat at the beach in front of my hostel trying to watch the sunset (there was none though because it was super cloudy). As I was sitting there, this girl turned around and told me to join them (I think she was really amused by me fanning my legs–there were a lot of flies bothering me on my legs lol). She introduced herself as Taryn, she was also pretty drunk haha. She was with a South African guy named, Herman (he spoke Africon, I’m not sure the actual spelling, but this language derived from Dutch when the Dutch colonized South Africa), and a girl from Canada (or America) named Lindsey. I was actually really happy that she included me in their little group, I wanted to meet people to hang out with that night but wasn’t sure if I had the enough courage to go up to anyone that night.

I hung out with them a little and chatted. They wanted to do shroom shakes that night while Herman had to go get his bandages changed at the hospital from a crazy night before (this shall be a foreshadow of my 2nd night in Phi Phi). I ate a chicken sandwich from the hostel then went with them for their quest to find shrooms. They drank their shroom shake (Taryn was a little drunk still) and went back on the beach where we watched fire dancers and I got a bucket (of alcohol). The rest of the night I just hung out with Taryn & Lindsey. We drank, danced, smoked, and enjoyed the night. It was really fun but the only sucky part is that the music doesn’t turn off until 2am & you can hear it so loudly in every dorm. So I guess they kinda force people to be out of their dorms till 2am. I finally went in around 1:30 since I knew they were turning off the music soon and fell asleep once there was some peace and quiet.

Nov 28, 2017

Or shall I say, the day I don’t remember? Just kidding, I remember most of the day. My dorm mates were leaving that day so they all sorta quietly left. I was really exhausted from the day before so I didn’t really wake up. I got some breakfast/lunch somewhere, where I got Rad Nah (obvi). And went back to get ready for the booze cruise. I didn’t know anyone going on, but I was pretty sure I was going to meet friends.

Once on the cruise I immediately met these girls who were also from SF. They were really nice and sweet. The whole rest of the day I just sorta made friends with a group of girls and we enjoyed the day together. It was a little weird because I was the only solo person but there were a lot of duos, so I would bounce from duo to duo. The booze cruise was supposed to show us all these cool places, I really thought we’d be doing more. The first stop was monkey island and I already know how monkeys are so I just chilled in the water while everyone else was taking pictures of these things (I even saw a girl get bit but I said I wasn’t doing shit for them this time). The next stop was the beach where they filmed the movie that Leonardo DiCaprio stars in called “The Beach”. Our last stop was this little cove where you could jump off the boat, snorkel, or kayak in, but at this point the alcohol was flowing in us.

After we got back in the boat we had some food, drank more alcohol, and I’m gonna say now that I don’t remember anything after that. I sorta blacked out from the end of the booze cruise to the pool party. Because after the booze cruise, most of us were talking about going to the Ibiza pool party, which was right next to my hostel. So the next thing I remember was finding Lindsey and going into the pool with her, then losing my stuff (misplacing), then finding my stuff and putting it back in my room, then losing my flip flops, then going on what seemed like an hour mission to find them, then finally finding them. I also danced a lot and didn’t drink anymore alcohol. Since I’d been drinking since like 2pm I started to sober up around 12am. I then took a shower and assessed the damage: I had a huge scrape on my shin and 3 deep cuts on my side. I kinda assumed that I got the scrape trying to get out of the pool swimmer style (where you get out on the ledge) instead of getting out on the stairs like a normal drunk person. The other cuts I assumed I did myself when I was trying to take off my bathing suit and just cut myself (cuz I have extremely long nails right now, longer than I’m used to).

So other than that I had a great freaking time. I just wished I gotten people’s social media that I met on the boat…but I didn’t cuz I was too drunk LOL.

Nov 29, 2017

So I woke up a little hungover today, but since I went to sleep pretty early I woke up a bit early. I went to brunch at this place I read about on the internet. It was a cute cafe good for brunch, but I ended up getting rice porridge again. It was just mediocre for an overpriced meal. It was also raining when I woke up, so fun. My throat was hurting so I got some tea and the warm soup in the morning helped a little bit.

My ferry for Koh Lanta left at 11:30, so I grabbed my stuff and headed to the ferry. I should have left earlier because there were barely anymore seats. They also let us put our luggage in the front of the boat since it was raining outside. I saw some girls that were on the booze cruise the day before and we chatted a little about what happened. They filled me in on some brief things but nothing to the extent of what I needed (I mean why would they, they’re not my keeper lmao).

Luckily I was sitting inside the entire time on the boat because it was raining. I also booked a taxi to my hostel from the boat since it would just be easier that way. The ferry was pretty quick, and I’d gotten to my hostel around 3ish. The first thing I did was went to find food, but like I said it was raining so I opted for the little restaurant across the street where I had some fish that I didn’t like that much. I thought they were going to prepare it Thai style but I got it and it was Western style with hella heavy cream and stuff…so I was a little disappointed. I went back to the hostel, La Non Mer Hostel, where I just relaxed for the rest of the day since it was raining.

At around 7/8pm I tried eating, but I realized I didn’t feel good. I started to get the chills and my throat hurt. I didn’t want to get sick so I got the rest of my food to-go and went to the hostel where I went to sleep really early (like 9pm).

Nov 30, 2017

I woke up super sick this morning. I barely got sleep that night because I was going from really cold to really hot. At one point I was so cold I got a blanket from the bed above me and had a double layer blanket. Since I woke up sick I wanted to go to the clinic, I was afraid that I might have gotten an infection from my cut that I got 2 nights before. I got some toast and a cup of tea at the hostel and asked the lady at the front desk where I could go since I felt sick. She advised me to go to the clinic, just a 5 minute walk.

At the clinic they took my blood pressure, temperature and pulse. They saw that I had a slight fever and brought me into their room. I showed them my cut and they said I didn’t get an infection in my cut but they wanted to do some blood work to make sure I didn’t have dengue (which I was also nervous about). After some blood tests they told me that I luckily didn’t have dengue but that I had a bacterial infection. They were going to give me a drip bag, 2 shots and lots of meds. The shots they gave me actually hurt a lot, I think they were trying to find a vain on my arm for a long time. I also got a shot on my butt for the first time and it was such a weird sensation that my whole butt check and thigh spazzed when the needle went in (sorry for that visual).

So after about 2 hrs at the clinic I was finally finished. I felt immediately better. I’m proud to say this was my first time at the clinic because I’ve been so skeptical to go before. This time, I was really nervous that I had some type of infection or worse dengue and I wanted to be healthy for the Full Moon Party in 4 days. So, I went back to the hostel where they were showing movies (it was pouring out again…). We watched Hangover and Wolf of Wall Street so I killed a good 4 hours. During this time I also heated up my leftovers from the night before (this is the first hostel I encountered that had a fridge and microwave).

After the little movie marathon I went upstairs to my room where I met Sophie. After talking we realized we were taking the same shuttle and going to the same hostel the next day so we sort of banded together. The rain had stopped and I told her I needed to see some of the island, to say that I actually did something in Koh Lanta other than just sit in the hostel all day & night (and be sick). So we both decided to walk to the beach to actually say we’ve seen the beach lol. It was chill, we just strolled and chatted. After our little stroll we went to the downstairs bar where we ate burgers. I told her I was going upstairs to get some sleep since I was still sick and chilled on Netflix for the rest of the night before bed.

Dec 1, 2017

I had to wake up a little earlier today to go to the clinic. They told me to go back where they replaced my bandages and gave me another drip bag. I felt 100% better today but I wanted to go back to make sure that I would feel even better by the time I got to Koh Phangan. It would be a full day of traveling since Koh Phangan was on the other side of Thailand. There were a good 5 of us from the same hostel going to Koh Phangan that day, so we were all in the long ride together. We first boarded a van, that then boarded a ferry, then drove 2 hours to Krabi, then got into a shuttle truck, then boarded a bigger bus, then boarded a boat, then boarded a taxi to finally arrive at our hostel in Koh Phangan.

The van picked us up at 8:30am and we arrived in Koh Phangan around 7:30pm, so it was a long long day of traveling. I texted Liv that I was at the hostel, and she came running out and we gave each other the biggest hug ever. After checking in, I went to the room where they were staying and saw Josh, Charlie and Hannah. I gave them all super long hugs, I felt like I was with my family again. It’d been around 5 weeks where I wasn’t with them and I missed them so much. Just being comfortable with friends again and not worrying about trying to meet more people or trying to accommodate others. After traveling solo for so long you start to appreciate the deep friendships that you make. It’s not always easy to meet new people every day, especially meet people that you have such chemistry with.

So, the gang was all back together again. I wasn’t very hungry and went to grab a pizza toastie from Family Mart as a suggestion from Hannah. Later, we all decided to go out and celebrate our reunion! We went next door to Phangan Arena, where they were having a pool party. While we didn’t get in, we all had 2 buckets each and were just so happy to be together again (mostly me haha). We ended our night at this cute little bar where we had a few joints by the ocean.

Dec 2, 2017

It was a slow morning. I got food with Liv and picked up my bathing suit that I’d left at my other hostel from my friend Lindsey (thank gosh she was still at the hostel and we’d exchanged information before I left or else I would be shit outta luck). She ended up joining us for lunch at this place that serves pretty cheap food. Back at the hostel, we knew we wanted to be productive today, so we decided to go to the waterfall.

We took a taxi there, luckily it wasn’t raining like a few days before. Someone was telling us about the waterfall, how there was a cool pool at the top that’s like a private waterfall. So we decided to hike up there. It was a really nerve-racking, this long hike that we didn’t realize we were getting into until it was too late. After around 30-45 minutes we finally got there and I was sweating buckets at this point. I couldn’t even go in all the way because the doctor at the clinic told me that I should keep my cut out of water. Nevertheless the waterfall was awesome and we were actually productive today! I bought a bracelet there to add to my collection (I’ll take a pic later to show you guys, I’ve been basically getting a bracelet in every country I go, each is symbolic of something!).

Once back we just chilled, got some dinner, and waited for the Jungle Party. I think I took another nap because I knew we were going to be out late that night. We some drinks at Phangan Arena again before heading out to the Jungle Party around 11pm. Once there we made a pact that if we get lost, we’d meet at the Waterfall. After some more alcohol the group had to use the bathroom. I didn’t need to use it and plus I didn’t wanna spend $$ (there’s a fee to use the bathroom even though you pay 600 baht to even get into the venue so I have no idea). I told them I would be standing HERE and made sure they all knew. Well, I ended up seeing a lot of people I’d met in Koh Phi Phi during that time (like 3 different groups of people) and thought maybe I’d miss them coming out of the bathroom. Well turns out they were all just really fucked and all forgot where I told them to meet me.

I went to the waterfall to find them and saw Liv there with a group of people trying to help her out (she was pretty drunk). So we just spent the rest of the night trying to find the others, sort of dancing (it was really hard it was trance, electronic music), and doing balloons (I got like 3 or 4 free from a Thai dude). We didn’t end up finding the rest of the group and by 3am we thought it was time to go back. We got some delicious chicken nuggets as drunchie food and got into a taxi. We found Josh, Charlie and Hannah almost passed out in bean bag chairs at the Phangan Arena. We were all tired and drunk so we went back to our 26 bed dorm (I forgot to tell you that we were in the biggest dorm at the hostel and the bunks were 3 beds high, I luckily got a bottom bunk) and went to sleep.

Dec 3, 2017

I told Liv last night that I wasn’t waking up until after 12 and that’s exactly what I did. Finally around 1pm, Josh, Hannah, Charlie and I decided to get food. Liv was dead asleep in her bed so we left her lol. We got some yummy cheap Thai food–I got Tom Yum Soup with noodles, the first time I was actually craving the spicy soup. After food we basically went back to the hostel and chilled for the rest of the day. I took a 2 hour nap that was well-needed.

Once we all woke up we went to the shop across the street to buy some clothes for the Full Moon Party, got ready, and went back to Phangan Arena to pregame. We bummed some paint off of others who were very kind to share and put some war paint on. Then it was time to go to the Full Moon Party. So we loaded up on a taxi, got there, got some more alcohol, and finally walked onto the beach. I wasn’t as drunk as I’d like to be, but it was a pretty surreal experience. It was basically a huge beach party filled with different bars and people outside partying. Josh and I got a bucket but it was absolutely disgusting I stopped drinking it. We kept using the bathroom because of all the liquids I was taking in.

The night was pretty fun. We found a bar that was playing good music and stuck to that one for the rest of the night. There was nothing too awesome about it other than being with my friends (I wish I was more drunk and had more energy). One notable thing that happened was I saw a guy wearing a Native American headdress. The conversation went a little like this:

  • Me: Why are you wearing this?
  • Him: Why not?
  • Me: Because it’s culture appropriation, it’s a sacred symbol in Native American culture. Are you Native American?
  • Him: Yeah, it’s the *insert tribe I’ve never heard of* tribe, have you ever heard of it?
  • Me: No bu–
  • Him: YEAH YEAH THAT’S RIGHT *in an extremely douchey, trying-to-be-macho tone* IT’S A TRIBE IN MAINE (Once I heard Maine I already knew what kinda dude this was)
  • Me: No you’re not, if you were Native American you wouldn’t be wearing that. It’s disrespectful.
  • Him: yeah, yeah I hear you but can you just leave me alone
  • Me: Whatever dude

So other than that fiasco we had a good time. I got a piece of pizza and it was delicious. Liv and I got a taxi home and that in itself was drama. We were one of the last ones to fill this taxi and we immediately paid the dude, but there were people already on the taxi who he told to pay. They said that they already paid the taxi driver and they’ve been sitting there for 20 minutes. The taxi driver insisted that they didn’t pay and that us girls were the only ones who paid. The taxi driver wasn’t letting up so we went to another taxi who was also almost full. Once in that one, the same thing happened to the people who were already sitting in there. When that happened, Liv and I finally discovered what was going on: they were scamming the tourists, making them wait for a long time then insisting they didn’t pay. I can see it working on people who were really drunk but we were fine. So Liv and I got into a taxi and told him that we weren’t paying until we got to our destination, so another taxi guy had to sit on the back of ours and collect our money once we’d gotten to our destination, I think the taxi driver heard our plight and felt bad for us (he was a good one) so he made the other worker sit on the back and collect for him LOL.

So we got back and I went to sleep (at 5am).

Dec 4, 2017

The day after the Full Moon was a lot of relaxing. I didn’t wake up until like 2pm, the latest I’d slept in this whole time. We all went to get food at new place where I got some garlic chicken with rice. We chilled at the hostel until 5pm. Liv and I watched a movie in the communal area of the hostel before we left to go smoke some joints and watch the sunset at Amsterdam Bar.

Well turns out there was no sunset just a shit ton of clouds. In the distance you could see a dark cloud approaching and we were all paranoid that it was going to rain on us. From the first touch of raindrops we’d immediately went in the overhang and sat inside. Here we just chatted and chilled till we were ready to leave. Back at the hostel I wasn’t hungry but the rest of the group decided to eat at the buffet the hostel was putting on. I decided to get some spring rolls and call it a night. They had to wake up really early to get to Krabi while I was heading to Koh Tao.

So, the prognosis after this trip is that I’m so freaking happy I was able to see my friends again. Like I said earlier, it’s been really tough having to meet people over and over again. Sometimes I just wanna relax and put minimal effort in, especially traveling solo. This leg of the trip was mostly relaxing and recovering…and a lot of partying. So I guess I partied really hard then relaxed really hard the rest of the time. I’ve already done some much in terms of sightseeing and activities and now it’s all about partying and taking it easy, especially after all the injuries I’ve sustained this far. I’ve already been lucky so many times this trip that I’d rather count my blessings then try something stupid and compromise my life. Seriously, I’ve heard way to many horror stories that I’d just like to stay alive and healthy for the rest of my trip. I basically have about a week left then my time is up! So crazy how time moves so quickly, but I think I’m ready to go home. So stay tuned for the last and final episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!!

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MY FIRST TIME IN DA PHILIPPINES (AKA THE HOMELAND): Manila + Palawan

Nov 16, 2017

Being in the Philippines has been a very emotional, amazing, humbling, weird sensational journey that’s finally given me some sense of wholeness after what seems like a lifetime of wondering exactly who & what I am (I’ll get to that in a little bit). I sat at the window seat, overlooking the Manila as we began to descend. I’m not exaggerating when I say I had tears in my eyes as I had my first look at the city. Overwhelmed with excitement and the fact that I finally made it, after years of begging my mom, encouraging my Titas, hoping that one day I could visit my homeland.

I landed in Manila at around 10am, right on time. The day before I basically spent the entire day in the Bali airport–my dad and I took the taxi at the same time to the airport except his flight was at 4pm & mine was at 11pm. So I spent a good 9 hours in the same spot, blogging, watching YouTube, trying to kill time. Once I was finally on the plane, I ended up landing in Singapore at 1am in the morning, my flight to Manila wouldn’t leave until 6am. So I spent majority of my time trying to get comfortable on airport chairs and sleep, I probably got only an hour of sleep.

After I landed, immigration and baggage claim were really fast. I was out of the airport in like 30 mins and walked over to the pick up section. I walked towards “W” for my family name Wong. There I saw my Tita Pett & cousin August waiting for me. They left at 8am to pick me up at 11am, the traffic in Manila is freaking ridiculous. My Tito Teddy was getting us hotdogs from Jolliebee when I saw him, it’s been a while since I saw him last. I gave them all a bigggggg hug, it was the first time I was meeting them, afterall (I met my Tito only one other time when he came to stay with us after my Lola, his mom died, this was probably 15+ years ago).

Driving through Manila was crazy: the traffic, the busy-ness, how cramped everything seems. We stopped to get some chicharrones from Lapids, the best place according to my Tito. We finally arrived at the house: 22 Manhattan St. This was super special to me because this is where my mom & her siblings grew up. As I walked into the house, all these feelings rushed to me. I immediately saw my Tita’s portrait hanging on the wall, it looks like it’s been there for at least 30 years, untouched from when it was hung. Pictures of all of us sat on the mantle: a baby pic of my mom (who I look just like, chubbiness and all), a picture of my Lolo (grandpa, who died when I was 2) walking my mom down the isle during my parents’ wedding, pictures of my cousins and I. Even though I’d never met my family here, it seems as though they’ve always known us. I can’t stress enough how special this was to me. Being here, in person after speaking to my cousins only via Facebook, finally seeing their faces, finally stepping into the house I heard so much about.

This trip to the homeland was way overdue, I’d been wanting to come here ever since I was the age to understand that I had a significant culture I was ignoring. My mom came to the States when she was 9, and being different back then in an unforgiving city like Yuba City, California was especially difficult for a young, innocent girl. I mean they couldn’t even say her name right, Carolina (pronounced care • oh • lean • ah like the Spanish pronunciation), so she assimilated. She got rid of her accent, learned how to be “American”, married my Dad–the whitest Chinese guy you’ll ever meet (he’s 2nd generation, born in another farming town. Watsonville, who’s parents basically raised him during the civil rights era). She didn’t speak Tagalog in the house because my dad couldn’t speak it and cooked Filipino food every once in a while. Growing up in such a multi-cultural area like the Bay Area, I learned my culture through my peers. Even though it wasn’t really a thing at home, I wanted to know what & who I was, so I sought out all things Filipino: I had Filipino friends, joined the Filipino Club in high school, and even date a Filipino boy (becaues Filipinos are extremely attractive lol). I was so fascinated and attracted to my culture, but I just didn’t feel like I was truly a Filipino. Maybe because I felt like I was forcing it, or maybe because I was figuring this stuff out myself and not really taught it like how cultures should be (passed down from generation to generation). Something didn’t feel right, like my journey to understanding my true identity wasn’t complete…until now.

My family welcomed me with open arms and gave me the best hospitality you can get, from people I’d never even met! My little cousin, Therese, was waiting for me at the house. They were cooking all day for me, the Filipino dishes I told them previously that were my favorite. Tita had gotten me Sisig, cooked me Sinigang as we snacked on Chicharrones. I was so tired from traveling (and getting a total of 2 hours of sleep) so after I ate I was immediately sleepy. They gave me the only air conditioned room in the house (this is how amazingly sweet they are!!), and I passed out. I must’ve slept for 3 good hours when finally woke up. The rest of the day I just chilled in the living room with my family until my Uncle told me we were going to his friend’s house.

At Tito Lito’s house, my uncle’s childhood friend and literally just down the street, we ate and drank. It was his birthday celebration and it was mostly their group of friends and family, a really small intimate dinner (with tequila). His friends were really fun and accommodating to me (because I can’t really understand Tagalog, Tito Lito helped translate for me during times where they wouldn’t speak in English). We spent a while there because his friend’s really like his company and we were having a good time. By the time we got back to the house it was 10:30pm. Tita had been up cooking for me, and I felt bad I was out so late. She had prepared Mongo & fried fish…man was it delish. All I’d been doing the whole day was eating, so I fell asleep with a full belly.

Nov 17, 2017

I woke up this morning around 9:30am, I was really tired from the day before & needed to catch up on my sleep (plus, by now you have to know that I like to sleep in). Tita Pett had an array of food for me in the morning, she was already cooking for my mom, who’d be arriving later that day. My Tito & cousin August already left early in the morning to make sure they made it on time to the airport because traffic is insane.

My mom arrived at the house around 1ish and man was I happy to see her. It was the first time I’d seen her in basically 2 1/2 months and I missed my mommy. This was her 2nd time in the Philippines since she left when she was 9, the other time was about 8 years ago when her Lola, my great grandma died. She brought with her a huge bag full of pasalubongs (souvenirs) and a balikbayan box, a custom in the Philippines to bring back goods if you’re from a fortunate place like the States (the Philippines is a very hard place to make money, it’s the haves and the have nots here). KC, my other cousin, also went with Tito and August to pick up my mom, so I finally met her since she wasn’t at the house when I was yesterday. Once my mom ate her Kare Kare, her fav Filipino dish that Tita Pett cooked, it was time to open their presents. Christmas for them came early, my mom and Titas had bought them a whole bunch of goodies! Seeing their faces when they opened up their gifts were of pure joy and gratefulness. It was so exciting to see them so happy.

Later on in the day, mom and I went with KC to the mall to get her a pair of sandals for the upcoming vacay. She showed us how to take a tricycle, a motorbike with a car attached to the side, and showed us their local mall. We got some San Miguel’s (beers) and got KC her shoes. Once back at the house we ate some more, hung out, and packed. We were leaving in the morning to Palawan and we had to wake up extra early (4am) to beat traffic.

Nov 18, 2017

We were up and ready by 4am when Tito Teddy’s friend came to pick us up. Mom had been awake since 1am, still jet-lagged and in California time. We got to the airport fairly quickly, aka no traffic. Once there we realized that our flight would get delayed because the first 2 flights to Puerto Princesa were delayed. So after we checked in and got our boarding passes, we sat by the gates and waited, and waited…and waited. We got to the airport really early in the first place (6am) and were supposed to board at 9:55am. But our flight was delayed a whole 2 hours later…so we waited for more than 5+ hrs.

We got to Puerto Pricessa around 3pm, where our hotel picked us up. We were staying at the Docle Vita Hotel, a really cute hotel with a restaurant and swimming pool. We were pretty hungry, so we all had a late lunch at the hotel restaurant. I got some delish pasta I was craving (I dunno what it is with me and pasta out here but I don’t eat this much pasta in the States…it’s probably how they prepare it, a lot of garlic and spicy, is the reason why I like it so much). We then went back to our hotel room and took a nap, we’d all been up since 3:30am.

Mom woke me up, we had a Firefly dinner that night. We all got ready and were picked up for Firefly watching. We opted to see the fireflies first, then eat because we were still a little full. The firefly watching was a boat tour in the mangroves of Palawan. They protected that area, since fireflies are very sensitive to pollution and noise and usually are the indicators of a healthy ecosystem. The fireflies were really cool to see, they looked like the capis (shell like things) that we’d seen earlier in the trees. It was the first time I’d ever seen fireflies and it was a really cool thing to witness. Our tour guide, Paul, was really informative as well, giving us a very comprehensive speech about the mangroves, the stars & constellations, and of course the fireflies.

After our boat tour we had a buffet dinner. Tito Teddy said he didn’t really like the boat tour because he was afraid of the dark (lol) and spent a lot of time wailing and being afraid haha (our guides paddled us through the dark, artificial light was only used briefly to have the fireflies show their light). It was a cool activity to have in the evening (especially because I’d never seen fireflies before). We went back to the hotel and passed out.

Nov 19, 2017

This morning I heard my uncle get in the pool at 6am. My mom and I shared a room right by the pool called the Bahay Kubo or a Filipino hut, usually made from bamboo. Since we were right by the pool (and my uncle is a little loud), I heard his excited screams in the pool at 6 in the freaking morning! Then mom woke me up at 8:30 because I guess everyone wanted to eat already. I ate delicious corn beef with garlic rice and egg.

We were picked up at 11am for our city tour of Puerto Princesa. Our first stop was a church and a place called Plaza Cuartel, a base used by the Japanese during WWII. Here, the Japanese took over the island and captured around 150 American prisoners of war. They burned the American POWs alive in the trenches only 12 survived after guerilla Filipinos took back control of the base and drove the Japanese out. It was really interesting to learn about that, I now want to read the book that one of the survivors wrote in hopes of remembering the tragedy that took place.

The next stop was lunch at a popular restaurant. This place has deaf staff working there, which is a pretty unique concept. They show you how to do basic commands in sign language and have the sign language alphabet on the menu. I had sinagang (of course), my favorite. After lunch it was pasalubong shopping (you know Filipinos love to get their pasalubongs) and finally, the Crocodile Farm. It was a really short tour but they basically rescue eggs and crocodiles from being poached and sold. They had huge crocodiles there, probably 50 years old or something.

The rest of the day consisted of pretty lame sites, nothing worth mentioning because it wasn’t that interesting of a tour. Nevertheless I had fun with my family, which is all that matters. Back at the hotel, my cousins and I went swimming and we had sushi for dinner.

Nov 20, 2017

Today we had to be ready and checked out by 8am. We were going to the Underground River, a UNSECO heritage site and making a 5 hr drive to the northern tip of Palawan, the beach town of El Nido. It took about 1.5 hrs to get to the harbor. Once there we had to take a boat taxi to the actual area where we’d catch the boat through the underground river. The underground river itself was really cool looking. It wasn’t THAT special, but it was definitely interesting hearing the backstory behind it. Apparently the natives believed this cave was spiritual and housed spirits, which is why they didn’t go inside or rarely touched it. During the tour they discourage you from touching the cave because the oils and chemicals on human skin can alter the ecosystem and preservation of the cave. Since it is a UNSECO heritage site, they’ve made it a pretty interesting and top notch tour, even if it is just a cave.

After the cave, we had another buffet lunch that was super delicious. I forgot to mention that on our way back in the boat I got soaked because the water was super rough. So on our way to El Nido I basically had no pants on (since they were wet) and just used my sarong to cover me. The drive was absolutely beautiful. Our driver said that 70% of Palawan is virgin forests. We passed water buffalo in rice paddies, kids on their way home from school in their little uniforms, more bahay kubos (the rural Filipino house), tons of greenery, coconut trees, and our driver tried his best to not hit any dogs or chickens that might have ran into the middle of the street. I thought I was going to hate the drive since it would take 4 hours, but it was such a rewarding drive. It’s not like the drive from SF to LA in California, yenno the one on I-5 that’s absolutely boring as hell. This drive actually has character, things to see, people to watch, nature to admire.

Our driver tried to race so we could see the sunset and although we didn’t really see it go down, we were able to catch the sky turn colors. We finally arrived at our Airbnb where Tita Pett made eggs and corn beef for dinner. We were all really tired, so we went to sleep,

Nov 21, 2017

Today we had to wake up a little earlier to catch our boat. We were doing tour “A”, I guess here in El Nido they have 4 different tours: A, B, C, D. Not really sure you can do any other tours, but we heard that tour A & C were the best. Our boat was called the “Northern Star” and our first stop was Commando Beach. It was a really beautiful beach equipped with white sand, blue water, and a cute little beach bar. I even got Buko Halo, Halo-Halo (a Filipino dessert) in a coconut which was so delicious and refreshing.

The next stop was a snorkeling area where we snorkeled in between two islands as the boat crew cooked our lunch on their boat (on a coal stove). We had lunch on the beach, which was just so picturesque and amazing. Our next stop was the little lagoon which was my favorite. They call it small lagoon because the entrance to the lagoon is really small, but inside there’s nothing really small about it. Therese and I shared a kayak, which is the better way to see the lagoon (the other way is swimming in, but there are jellyfish so it’s better if you’re not in the water). Here we really just enjoyed being in this beautiful lagoon. The boat crew also kayaked in to make sure we were all ok. They convinced us and another kayak to swim in a small cave which was absolutely amazing. The small cave had holes at the top which let light in and so inside the cave was actually really bright. It felt like we were in the Little Mermaid movie, that’s how unbelievable it was, it felt like we were in a Disney movie.

The next 2 stops were the Secret Lagoon and the Big Lagoon. The Secret Lagoon wasn’t really secret, but in order to get inside you had to step through a little hole and inside was this enclosed lagoon. This reminded me of Peter Pam (I’m telling you, it’s so beautiful I’ve only seen things like this in fairytales and fiction movies, yet I’m seeing this site in real life it’s unreal). Uncle Teddy had to get taxied by one of the boat crew members to the lagoon from the boat (meaning he was pulled by them in his life jacket). It was such a funny site, I should have gotten a picture of it.

Our last stop was the Big Lagoon and they call it this because the mouth to the lagoon is well big enough to fit boats through it. Here you could just swim and enjoy your surroundings. Therese and I snorkeled with the little snorkeling that was there. We saw some huge sea urchins (I’m pretty surprised I didn’t step on any) and this one really territorial fish that freaked me the fuck out. I was just watching this little fish stare at me and all of a sudden he starts to swim really fast towards my face which scared me LOL. As we were walking back to the boat I was looking with my snorkel in the water to see if I could see anything cool then I saw it. It was a freaking sea snake. I freaked the fuck out when I saw that too because I’ve never seen an actual sea snake in the wild. Therese asked one of the locals if it was poisonous and he said yes so we made a huge circle around it to make sure it wasn’t gonna come at our heels.

Then it was back to shore. We were all really tired and hungry because the boat tour was basically from 9-5, an all day event. Once we got back to the town we were ready to eat, so we went to this place called Art’s Cafe. Apparently they have really good pizza made in a stove oven so that’s what we got along with some pesto pasta. Once we got back to the AirBnB, I immediately took a shower and got ready. KC and I were going out that night (Therese can’t come because she’s not old enough yet). We ended up at this fancy bar called Sava. There were a lot of foreigners here, something that I’m pretty used to being a backpacker, but KC wasn’t used to seeing so many Westerners. We met people from Czech Slovakia, Australia and Sweden. The bar was also right by the beach which was cool. Over all it was a nice night out with my cousin.

Nov 22, 2017

I got to finally sleep in today and ended up waking up at 9ish. Tita was making lunch for us with fresh ingredients her and mom got from the market. She made a delicious array of dishes like fried fresh fish, adobo, pinakbet, and garlic rice. The fried fish was so delicious because it was freshly caught that morning along with the good sauce my uncle made. After lunch we all just relaxed because it was pretty hot.

KC, Therese and I went out around 3:30 to find a place that would do henna. We walked around the town, went into different shops, enjoyed fruit shakes on the beach (and petted the cutest beach dog), and finally found a place that does henna on the beach. I wasn’t picky I just told the guy I want a henna on my hand/arm for 500 pesos, he said he would just freestyle, which is nice that’s how I like it. Therese got some flowers on her thigh because she’s still in school, Catholic school to be exact, and they’re pretty strict on body ink, even though henna is temporary, so she picked an area that would be covered.

We then walked back home where Tita Pett made dinner. It was all our leftovers since it was our last night in Palawan. Mom and I got some pasalubongs then watched a movie in our bed before bedtime. We had to wake up really early the next morning since we had to make another long drive from El Nido back to Puerto Princesa.

Nov 23, 2017

I was woken up 2 minutes before 3am. Our driver came at 3am and we loaded the car and were off. I mostly slept in the car this time because I was tired af. We stopped a few times for potty breaks and pasalubongs. There was this really cool place we stopped for pasalubongs where we saw people using natural materials to weave and make products called Binuatan. It was neat to see a native product being produced right before your eyes. We stopped at Jolliebee before getting to the airport, this is my first time going to Jolliebee since I’ve been in the Philippines and I was craving a good chickenjoy.

The Puerto Princesa airport was really nice compared to the Manila airport. When we were boarding our flight we were given umbrellas to use to protect us from the sun, which I found really strange. The walk itself was less than a minute (maybe 15 feet at most from the doors to the plane) and I just found it hilarious and excessive haha. The flight itself was really fast. It was so funny my Tito Teddy is sometimes a little helpless without his wife. When we were boarding she was helping her daughters and Tito Teddy was floating by himself. He ended up sitting in the wrong seat, not even looking at his boarding pass. The flight attendant then had to kick him out of the seat he was sitting at and escort him to the assigned seat on his actual boarding pass LOL. He’s a character I tell you.

Once at the airport Tita Pett’s brother-in-law picked us up. We sat like 2 hours in traffic because traffic in Manila is ridiculous. Mom wanted a draft beer and Tito Ted said that Shakey’s Pizza has San Miguel on draft, so that’s where we went. However, once we got there we realized they didn’t sell draft beer because their restaurant was right next to and under a church, so they had a contract with the mall that they wouldn’t sell alcohol there (so stupid). We ate there anyways and mom told me that it was apparently an American chain that’s been phased out of American (I’d never heard of Shakey’s ever but they’re everywhere around here). Then we finally made our way back home where we chilled and fell asleep.

Nov 24, 2017

I woke up to my Uncle’s yelling, which is usually what I’ve been waking up to since I’ve been in the Philippines. Most of the day I just hung out. I need days like this, especially after a lot of activities, sometimes I need to recharge. Since it was Thanksgiving in the States, we FaceTimed my brother and dad along with my mom’s side of the family. I didn’t end up doing anything all day except blogging and admiring clothes online (not buying though, that’s pretty impressive for me). At around 6pm I left in an Uber to meet up with my friend, Marco, who lives in here in Manila. It took me 2 hours to get to Makati, where I was meeting up with him because traffic is ridiculous here.

I finally got to the mall where I met Marco. We were friends at USF when he came to study abroad in one of my last semesters in college. We’ve kept in touch ever since and when he heard I’d be coming to Manila he immediately hit me and we agreed to meet at Rockwell in the up-and-coming part of Manila. The Powerplant mall in Rockwell was really stunning compared to the other mall, Gateway, that I’d been in earlier that week. Everything was decorated beautifully in Christmas decorations. We ended up eating at this Korean place at the food court because I was craving Korean food that day.

Later, we went to this stretch of street that had a lot of hip, cool bars. There were more Western people here then I’d seen in any other part of Manila. We first went to this bar called Alamat, a Filipino-fusion bar where they had craft beers from all over the Philippines as well as Filipino cocktails. After we went to a small bar called The Workshop that was basically a leather goods shop during the day then a really hip bar at night. We got rum and mango cocktails and I met a whole bunch of cool people who were expats and locals living in Manila. Marco was such a lovely host. He brought me around and made me feel at home. It’s so cool to reconnect with people you’ve met around the world. That’s what I’m so excited about for my future travels. I can’t wait to visit everyone I’ve met during my travels in their native country. Social media and the internet make it really easy to reconnect with people and it’s not like you need to talk to them all the time to maintain friendship. Marco and I basically picked up where we left off, and it’s a really good feeling to have these abroad friendships. Everyone has the same mentality, and they’re all open-minded who just want to enjoy life.

The Philippines has been such a special leg of my journey. I’ve had a great time making memories with my family and friends and just absorbing my culture and how it feels to be apart of a community. This trip was long-overdue but I’m so glad I was able to experience it with my mom. I didn’t know how she was going to feel here, but she seems to love it as much as I do if not more. I can see the joy in her eyes when she sees nostalgic things like a tabo bath (bucket bath), or going to the market and picking fresh fruit, or even getting home-cooked meals everyday. We loved our time with our family and they did everything they could to make us comfortable here. That’s another thing I admire about Filipinos is that their hospitality goes unmeasured. They sacrifice and work so hard, it’s just an amazing vibe to be around.

I definitely cherish this short but sweet holiday I’ve had in the Philippines. I just can’t wait to come back and make more memories with my family and friends here. Now I’m headed to the South of Thailand, where I’ll be finishing the last leg of my trip. It’s so crazy that this backpacking journey is coming to an end. While I’m excited to go back and see friends and family, I really don’t want this adventure to end. I get to look forward to seeing my Liv, Josh, Hannah, and Charlie in Koh Phangan for the full moon party! So stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!

Bali with Dad!

Nov 8, 2017

Dad came to visit me in Bali! I almost had tears in my eyes when I saw him. It’s been 2 month since I’ve seen him, and while that may not seem like a long time to people, it was really comforting to be in his presence, especially after what happened a few days prior. He wanted to treat me at the W, the hotel chain with a location in Seminyak.

Before he got to the hotel, he informed me that he would be landing at 10am, so I booked a car from my hostel to the hotel that morning at 10am. Well, dad’s not very good at this stuff, and he meant that he was landing in Hong Kong at 10am & not Bali, where he’d arrive at 3pm. So, once I got there I got to explore a little by myself. I had one of the most expensive meals I’ve ever eaten on this whole trip, just for lunch (around $23 USD or 300,000 rupiah–mind you, I’ve been eating 50-90K per meal), hung out in my hotel room (and used the really nice toilet, yes I’m excited I get my own toilet), and ate a pastela (Mexican ice cream bar) at the pool after taking a dip. Dad finally arrived at the hotel around 4-5pm since the traffic was terrible.

He was really exhausted from traveling (and still jet lagged), so we took it easy that night. We watched the sunset and ate dinner afterwards. Dad was so tired, he almost fell asleep at the dinner table (props to him for even staying up that late). We ended up just hanging at the hotel in the evening. Dad fell asleep right away as I watched Netflix.

Nov 9, 2017

I woke up around 10am, dad said that he wanted to let me sleep in but that he got me breakfast. He’d been up since 4am and already took a nice walk on the beach, went to get breakfast, and was feeling antsy by the time I woke up. We didn’t plan anything for today, but we wanted to talk to the concierge about the best things to do. I saw that swimming with Manta Rays were a big thing here and found a place that does it (a little expensive). When we went to the concierge to inquire about it, he told us that he recommends this other place to swim with Manta Rays. It was half the price of the other one, so we opted for this one. I’m not a certified diver yet, and the one that I picked out was actually a free diving lesson/site seeing place. You would swim with Manta Rays and get lessons on to how to free dive. Looking back I wish I did that one. We’d also booked a night trip to Uluwatu for the next night. That includes a trip to Uluwatu Temple to see the views and the Kecak dance as well as a trip to Jimbaran for seafood.

We didn’t really do much for the rest of the day. We went shopping in Seminyak Square and watched the Warrior game at a random bar. It was the first time I’d seen the Warriors play this season, since I left for my trip before the season started (I’m really excited to see a game when I get back since we have season tickets!!). I also got my nails and brows done (I’m a little sad about my brows, the lady not only took skin off my eyelid, she also did it too thin, I’m very picky about my brows). That took a while, and after that Dad and I went to this Japanese-ish restaurant. It was such a weird concept because they served japanese food but the decor and everything was Safari/African themed…STRANGE.

After that we went back to the hotel where we just chilled for the rest of the night. Like I said in my previous blog post, most of what I did with dad was relax in a nice hotel room, in my own privacy, with AirCon, and watched TV for the first time in forever. We ordered pizza for a mid-night snack since we had dinner at weird time. It was a bad idea because it gave me the bubble guts (that noise that your stomach makes when it doesn’t agree with what you ate, usually accompanied by a few sessions on the toilet). I didn’t sleep well because my stomach hurt so much and I was really worried I might’ve gotten Bali Belly.

Nov 10, 2017

I woke up with a bad tummy ache. We ordered room service for breakfast and I got their version of Congee (like I do everywhere in Southeast Asia, the rice porridge) and they call it Bubur Ayam. I didn’t really like this version because you pour like a curry broth inside it and I just didn’t like the taste of curry in my jook (what I call Congee, the Cantonese version of rice porridge). We hung out at the pool before the car would pick us up to Uluwatu.

We got picked up around 3:30 to Uluwatu. We wanted to watch the Kecak dance and see the sunset at separate times. Our driver said that they have 2 performances of the Kecak, at 5 and 6pm. We wanted to do the earlier one (or so we thought) so that we could see the dance before the sun went down. Once we got there, it was almost 5pm, so we raced to the area where they were selling tickets in hopes they didn’t start yet. Well, it was really empty by the time we got into the stage area. We didn’t even explore the temple at this point because we thought we would have the opportunity after the show. Well it turns out that there’s only one show at 6pm and we sat down at 5pm. So we were waiting for almost an hour before the actual show started, time that we could have used to walk around the temple. Oh well…

The Kecak dance itself was a cool show to witness. The performance takes place right next to the temple, which overlooks the ocean (it’s on the top of the cliff). There’s no actual music to the dance, the beat and rhythm are done by vocals of a choir-like group of men who make it with their voice. It’s pretty impressive since they have to shout for a whole hour, it must get tiring after a while. And on top of that, during the last scene of the dance, the monkey general kicks fire balls at them and they have to put it out with a walis ting ting (that’s Tagalog for a type of broom made out of sticks). It was a cool cultural dance to see.

After the dance, we went to Jimbaran, a stretch of beach known for their seafood. We went to one of these restaurants on the beach where we had delicious snapper that was super tasty. We were serenaded by a band, watched a few more cultural dances, and even saw some fireworks on the beach! It was a pretty cool experience accompanied by delicious food.

Nov 11, 2017

We had to wake up earlier today to make it downstairs for our pick up for snorkeling (with the Manta Rays). We were picked up, driven to the dive center and then brought to the beach. The 2 other couples were diving, one was a really old couple from Spain and another was a relatively younger couple from Bulgaria. We didn’t know beforehand that this was the woman from Bulgaria’s first time diving, I could have dove for the first time without even being certified. 

All dad and I did was snorkel. We thought we were going to be brought to the place where the Manta Rays were, but we were told that we weren’t going there. Dad and I were confused and a little mad. He paid a good amount of money for us, just to go snorkeling. The snorkeling was cool but nothing super special (especially for the price). We should have gone to that one I found online instead of listening to the concierge at the hotel. So, no Manta Rays…I was a little bummed about that. The day consisted of 2 snorkel trips. I love snorkeling but I’ve done it a few times already and it was much better (and 3x cheaper) in Gili T where I did it last. Nonetheless, it was fun snorkeling with mi padre and spending time with him.

Once back at the hotel, we took showers and hung out. We went to the hotel’s happy hour and got some cocktails before dinner. It was our last night at the W before switching hotels, so we splurged on some really tasty steak. The hotel bar also had shisha (or hookah) so we did that after dinner, which was a nice way to end our night.

Nov 12, 2017

I woke up earlier today to make it to yoga at 9am. I find that I do yoga more out here then actually going to the gym. It fits the scene better and Balinese people are Hindus, so I’m sure they do yoga in their daily life (maybe some, I’m actually not really familiar with the practice of yoga in Hinduism, but I know they belong together). Yoga was a really nice way to start my morning. Dad and I got breakfast and said goodbye to our favorite waitress, Sari. She was so sweet and kept giving us discounts, she even gave me a mug the night before!

Unfortunately, we had to say goodbye to the W and checked into our new hotel in Legian called Padma Resort. This one was way more low key. It was more family friendly and had more places to eat and swim. Dad ended up upgrading to the Garden Club, where we got a room that opened up to the pool. It also included free booze happy hour (which was the selling point for dad). 

For the rest of the day we just relaxed, got some food, drank some free alcohol, watched the sunset on the beach and had sushi for dinner.

Nov 13, 2017

Dad woke me up to make sure we made it to breakfast. The breakfast was a buffet, something that I’m not used to (for breakfast) but definitely all for. We decided we wanted to do something that day, so we opted for a trip to Ubud to see waterfalls, the Water Palace (temple), and rice paddies. The first place we went to was a waterfall, however I wasn’t really feeling well. I think I must have been dehydrated or something, but I just didn’t feel up to it.

The waterfall was cool, but I’ve been to so many waterfalls at this point that I was kinda over them (this one wasn’t that cool anyways). Plus, the last one that I visited I fell so hard that I almost passed out, so maybe I’m just over waterfalls in general unless they’re the really cool kind, like the Kuang Si waterfall in Luang Prabang. The next place we were going to go were the rice paddies, but the weather didn’t want us to have fun. While we were driving to our next activity, it started to pour down rain, The sky was really dark and gray, and it didn’t seem like the type of storm where it would rain for an hour or so then stop. The whole sky was dark and it spanned for miles. It was hard rain too, and we were going to be outside the whole time. So we opted to do something different. Our driver recommended we do the “cat poo coffee” since we didn’t really need to be outside for that.

Once we got there, a tour guide was waiting with umbrellas, His name was Wayan, a name that I later learned is a Balinese name every family names their first born–they have 4 series of names for the 1st, 2nd, 3rd, and 4th, after their 4th it goes back to Wayan. He was really knowledgeable about the place and spoke very good English. He told us how the Lumaks (Weasel, cat, land seal-looking creatures) are let out during the night to roam the coffee plantation. They then eat the coffee beans and poop them out, then he and the other workers go to locate their excrement. 

While I learned all of this back in Dalat when I did the poop coffee tour there, it was nice to do it with my dad and meet Wayan. He let us try the coffee as well as other coffees and teas that they sold on their plantation. He engaged in really good conversation. I asked if he liked his job, his response was “I have to like my job, jobs in Bali are really hard to get, so I have to love what I do.” We asked him if he wanted to go to college, but he said it’s too expensive and that his family needs his support through his income. We were sad to see that he was such a young, eager guy with a lot of potential and very intelligent, but we understood his situation. It’s very humbling to come to these countries and  speak with the locals. Most of them don’t have a lot, but they seem so happy and are genuinely optimistic, polite, and friendly. I really like the Balinese/Indonesians the most out of the countries I’ve been to so far. Maybe their traditions of Hinduism make them very contentious of the way they treat people (karma) and in turn treat every person with love and respect.

So, we ended up buying a “shit” ton of coffee because dad liked it so much. After the poop coffee plantation,there wasn’t much for us to do (it still was raining), so we went back to our hotel to hang out and relax. Dad ended up having a date that night, so I went to the buffet to eat by myself. It wasn’t that bad though because the buffet was Italian themed, and I was craving pasta earlier that day. Satisfied with a full belly, I went back to the hotel and fell asleep.

Nov 14, 2017

Today was more of a relax day for dad and I. We ordered room service for breakfast and had a late start to the day. We finally used our pool (with the private entrance) and went to the beach to go for a swim and hang out on the sand. We also walked around Legian to find him some sandals and got a late lunch. I had sunset yoga at 6, which turned out to be really cool. The place where they usually hold sunset yoga was being used for a private party, so we were relocated in the Presidential Suite backyard. It also turned out that I was the only person doing yoga, which ended up being a private lesson for me (basically). It was really soothing, although the downside was getting eaten alive by mosquitoes (they love me). Even after drenching myself with cancerous deet bug spray, they still seem to find the places where I’m not thoroughly applying spray. They even bit through my leggings and onto my ass, real nice mosquitoes, real nice…

After yoga I took a nice shower and waited for dad to be done with his date. We had our last dinner of Bali at the hotel’s sushi-themed buffet. Dinner was really nice and it was a perfect cherry on the top on such a relaxing and enjoyable vacation. He’d leave back to the states the next day while I leave to the Philippines! This time with dad was exactly what I needed. I think all of the traveling, partying, activities, being hot and sweaty all the time, really wore me down. This mini vacation inside my bigger vacation gave me the opportunity to relax and refuel, especially after the tragedy that took place a week earlier.

It gave me a chance to gain my energy back for my next leg of my journey. I’m now with my family in the Philippines (my first time here!!) and it’s been such a great experience so far. So stay tuned for my next post about my wonderful vacation with my wonderful family here in the Philippines on the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!!!


Canggu & possibly the scariest moment of my life

Nov 5, 2017

Today was probably the scariest & saddest moments of my life. I was there when it happened, in the water, taking surf lessons, too. I was in the same water, doing the same thing as he was, it could have been me. After about an hr into our surf lesson, a huge bolt of lightning came down from the dark, ominous sky & struck another surfer. He died there, on the beach, the same beach where I was surfing. I saw him, I saw his girlfriend collapse in shock, I heard her screams.

Let me back up a bit, and give you context as to what I’m speaking about…

Nov 4, 2017

Today was mostly a day of travel. I was leaving Gili T and going to Canggu, a beach town in Bali. I said goodbye to the girls I met, hopefully I would meet up with Hannah & Anna in Canggu, they’re going to be there for a day before heading back to the UK. As I was filling my water bottle before heading out, I met Kirsty, she was also filling up her water bottle. We established that we were taking the same ferry at the same time to Bali and so we decided to go together.

The ferry to Bali took a little longer. We stopped at Gili Air, Gili Meno & Lombok, which took probably 2.5-3 hours all together. I ended up taking a nice nap on the boat, I don’t know what it is with me and naps but I seem to take them often now. It might be because of the weather, the alcohol, or the fact that I like sleep, either way I’m getting a good rest in. When we arrived in Bali, we were bombarded with people asking us if we wanted to take a car to our destination. Our ferry ticket included a shuttle to the town of our final destination, however, I learned that Canggu would be the last stop (after Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak) and would take 3-4 hrs. Kirsty and I decided to take the private car, it was a little extra but it would drop us off at our hostel and we wouldn’t be on a crowded bus with a lot of people.

The private car ended up being a good idea. We got AC and just got to sprawl out. Kirsty was dropped off in Seminyak, and even though it was only 2-3 miles away, it took me a good hour to get to Canggu. The traffic in South Bali is terrible. You won’t move for 20-30 minutes, it’s just an insane concept of traffic. But I was finally dropped off at my hostel, Lay Day, in the evening. The atmosphere was kind of intimidating, so I just ordered food, booked a surf lesson at 1pm for tomorrow, tried to walk around, ate more food, and ended the night with some Netflix.

Nov 5, 2017

It was a slow morning getting up. I walked around and got some money from the ATM, got a falafel plate for lunch, and got ready for surf lessons. The surf instructor said that I would be joining 3 other girls for lessons that day. We all caught a cab to the beach and met our instructor there. He gave us rash guards, introduced us to 3 more instructors, one for each of us and gave us our boards. They were very kind and carried our really heavy foam boards to the beach while we carried their’s. They taught us how to get up on the board and paddle, what to do when a big wave came, and showed us the proper stance.

We got in the water, excited and ready to “surf” (aka wipe out, we were all newbies). Alexa, Lexie, and Shaleen were the girls I was taking lessons with, and we were all so happy to be there. The sky was dark, it was raining, but it didn’t seem like a storm was coming. The waves were good that day, pretty big for beginners like us, but really fun to ride if you got up. I maybe got up once or twice, but it was really hard for some reason. The waves were rough, the water was crowded and when I did get up I was nervous I was going to run into someone. There was lightning off in the distance, but we only saw one flash. I asked my instructor if we should get out of the water and that I was a swimmer. During swim practice, if there was any indication of lightning or thunder, we had to get out no matter what. The instructor told me it was okay and that we’d be fine.

Maybe 15-20 minutes later, it happened. A huge lightning bolt came down and struck about 100-200 meters in front of me. It was the closest I’ve been to a lightning strike, and the sound that accompanied it was the loudest boom I’ve ever heard in my life. The lightning strike was almost blinding and it happened in a split of a second. The noise shook my entire body and almost knocked me off my board. From my perspective, I thought the strike hit land (mind you, I was blind because I didn’t have my contacts on and actually trying to locate this strike was difficult since it happened in milliseconds). I was facing towards land, on my board, while my instructor was facing me. His facial expression once it hit was of pure shock and scaredness. Out of innocence (and probably shock) I started laughing at him, saying that his face was really funny.

After talking it over with the other instructors, he told it was time to go (even though we’d be ending 45 minutes early). He said we would take a break at the beach and to catch one last wave in. Me and Alexa took the same wave in, just laying on our boards laughing, enjoying our last wave in, oblivious to what had just happened. Once we hit shore, we saw it: a huge group of people surrounding a body and a lady being consoled by others as she screamed out of complete horror. Lexie came running up to us, in tears as she cried, “someone’s just been struck by lightning!” We dragged our boards on shore, and walked slowly towards the hoard of people. The lady who was being consoled kept screaming & collapsing in pain. “PLEASE, PLEASE, NO!! PLEAAAASEEEE!” she sobbed and yelled. Tourists were trying desperately trying to resuscitate the lifeless body. It was white, almost blue, and I couldn’t come to terms with what was happening. I started to sob, overwhelmed with the fact that he might not make it, overwhelmed with the magnitude of the situation, overwhelmed with what exactly I was witnessing & experiencing.

Once on land, the instructors also were trying to grasp what happened. We walked to where we put our stuff, somberly and still in shock. People who were out in the water surfing as well said that they also felt the shock of the lightning, they were probably closer to the guy. At that point I didn’t know whether he was walking towards shore in the water or sitting on his board, but it was clear that he was in fact in the ocean. Lexie was in complete shock, she was closer to the shore when it happened and one of the first people to see what was happening. She said that she couldn’t stay here, and that we needed to leave. So we took a taxi back to the hostel, shaken and sad.

The rest of the day I was just trying to come to terms with what happened: realizing that it could have been any one of us in the water that day, realizing how lucky I was to be alive, realizing how close I actually was to that lightning bolt. After a long shower, the instructor came back to the hostel. He said that the guy didn’t make it, the ambulance took a long time to get to the beach and they didn’t even have the right equipment. Even at the beach there were people (mostly Westerners) running around asking for a defibrillator, but the locals didn’t know what that was. The news of the guy dying from his wounds completely broke me. The instructor said that the lightning had hit him in the back, either his back or the back of his head. Alexa said that she saw his chest, blue and like jelly, almost like all of his insides were fried. The girls were leaving that day to Ubud, so I didn’t really have anyone to relate to or heal with.

Patrick and Stephen, who I’d met in Pai, were also at the hostel. I tried to talk to them, hoping that maybe a familiar face could consol me. But I just found it extremely difficult to socialize. I drank, hoping it would take my mind off of it, but nothing felt right. I felt like I was forcing myself to have a good time, to try and forget, but I realized that I didn’t want to forget. I didn’t want to drink and have a good time knowing that his girlfriend, the same girl I’d seen riding the same waves as me, was grieving & mourning. I didn’t want to enjoy myself knowing his girlfriend’s holiday was over, knowing that they’d probably have to ship his body back to his respective country, knowing the pain and agony his family would be in. He went to Bali to have the time of his life, to relax and enjoy, and instead it was his time to go.

After 3 Long Island ice tea’s and 2 beers, I still couldn’t muster the energy to go out. It didn’t seem right. So instead I watched Netflix on my iPad and went to sleep.

Nov 6, 2017

The next morning I switched hostels. It was probably best, I needed a new environment anyways. I took a taxi to my new hostel, Tipsy Gypsy. This hostel was closer to the main strip, something I wanted (because I’m still afraid to rent a motorbike after all the stories I’ve heard and bandages I’ve seen). I dropped my bags off and walked to the Main Street. I settled on this cafe called “Garden Gangastas” it looked very hipster-like and healthy, something I’m all for. Once I sat down I heard “Melissa!” It was Hannah and Anna, and I was so excited to see them. It was fate, probably the universe telling me “here, heal” because man did I need them. We’d plan to meet up the night before but they missed their earlier boat and I “couldn’t be arsed” (British slang for couldn’t be bothered) going out that night. But here they were, at the same exact brunch spot at the same exact time.

I’d texted Anna the night before telling her about my traumatic experience, so she already knew what I was going through. It was just nice to see a familiar face and open up as to how I was feeling. They’re also 2 really great girls who I wish I had more time with (remember I met them on Gili T), but they were leaving that day back to the UK. Nevertheless I was very happy that I saw them at a time I really needed them.

The rest of the day consisted of a lot of retail therapy. At this point I didn’t care about the price or space in my bag–my dad would be coming in a few days so I wouldn’t have to spend $ and I could unload a lot of my souvenirs on to him. I also wanted to look for a place to do yoga, I needed to meditate and get my mind right. After a lot of shopping I got ready for yoga at 6. This yoga was more of a meditative sesssion, which was exactly what I needed. During the class I realized it was hard for me to focus, I kept fidgeting, I couldn’t be still or be completely relaxed.

Back at the hostel, I saw that there was barely anyone, not that I met anyone there earlier, but I did wanted to go out because I needed to be distracted. I saw that there were about 4 or so people at the table, I asked if they were going out and they let me know they were in a few minutes. I was a little sweaty from yoga but I said fuck it and got ready really quickly. There were about 6 of us, only 2 motorbikes, but we all squeezed onto them, riding 3 per motorbike. We went to Old Man’s, the bar right in front of the beach where it all happened. I knew I needed to enjoy myself, so I gave myself a tab and ordered the cheapest alcohol (other than beer), which was their local wine. It was pretty gross but I had 3 glasses, along with 4 shots. At this point I was feeling pretty good and enjoying the people I was with. We walked down to the beach once Old Man’s closed to this bar called Sand Bar, a bar literally on the beach. This was so fun, I mean partying on the beach with blaring music, your feet in the water and toes in the sand. While this was the same beach where it happened, it was dark, I couldn’t really see where it actually happened. Plus, I wanted to enjoy myself and finally enjoy Bali. I ended up going home earlier than most of the people in my hostel, and passing out.

Nov 7, 2017

It’s a little hard to sleep in at this hostel–you can hear everything in the common area, and people are constantly coming out and in. I ended up getting brunch/lunch with one of the guys from the hostel and met up with some of the girls I met at the other hostel. After brunch, I went back to the beach where it all happened. I tried to enjoy myself there, but I found that I couldn’t really enjoy the rest of my time there. I literally walked on the beach, realized I couldn’t sit here all day, and walked back. As I was walking back I stared at the surfers for a long time. I just stopped and stared, watching them try to catch the nonexsistent waves (it was a really calm day), trying to forget but at the same time remember.

The rest of the day I just shopped, went back to the hostel, napped for about 3 hours trying to remember/forget everything that happened in that split second that day. Once I finally woke up, I realized the rest of the hostel was going out that night to Taco Tuesday but not until late. I was hungry so I got a snack at an empty restaurant. I guess I like empty restaurants while I’m solo, I don’t know why. Once back at the hostel, Deo, one of the local guys that worked there told me I needed to go out, so we went to Old Man’s to meet up with the rest of the guys from the hostel. From there we went to Taco Tuesday, where literally everyone from our hostel was. I met Katie, a girl who was in my hostel room in Dalat. She was there with her boyfriend, but I saw her at Taco Tuesday solo. She said her boyfriend went back to California, and that she missed him so much but she wanted to have fun tonight.

After a lot of tacos (luckily no tattoos) we went back to Old Man’s where Katie and I had a fun night. She’s so crazy and full of energy, only 19, so she helped me have a good time. She made me shotgun my first beer, we chugged Smirnoff Ice’s, took shots, and petted dogs!!!  She was so fun and crazy, it made me forget what I was dealing with and just be in the moment. I really enjoyed her company and I wish I wasn’t leaving the next day (but also kinda excited to be out of dorms and into hotels). I was meeting my dad the net morning at the W. He was meeting me to spend time with me and have his own, nice, well-deserved vacation.

Sorry I haven’t blogged in forever. I took the vacation with dad as a time to refuel, relax, and get my mind right. I didn’t mind finally being lazy and lounging around, in fact, that’s what I wanted to do. Being on the go all the time and not being comfortable was wearing on me, and I’m glad I had this time to reevaluate and just mindlessly enjoy myself. After that traumatizing experience, I realized a lot of things (near death experiences will do that to do you). To have time for yourself, to do whatever you want whenever you want because life is short, to live life with no regrets, to hug your friends and family all the time and to tell them that you love them constantly, to seriously count your blessings every day. I still can’t come to terms that it could have been me that day, but I take that as a sign to live every day like it’s your last, because you never know when your life will be cut short.

My next blog post will probably just be a brief description of what we did with more pictures, since I didn’t do much except relax. Thank you everyone for following my journey, I hope you took something from this post just like I took something out of that experience. My next journey will be with my family in the Philippines and I’m so, so excited for that! So stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!

P.S. If you’d like to read more about what happened that day, a lot of new sites have reported about it (mostly surfing sites). Below are some articles:

Coconuts Bali
Surfline

Bali Discovery (the first article I read that reported it)

Fox News

The Sun

The Daily Mail UK

Bleacher Report 

Note, after reading these articles after some time, it was informed that 2 people died, the Westerner and the local giving him surf lessons. May they Rest In Peace.

Bali + Gili

Oct 29, 2017

So, I woke up drunk this morning, at 5:45am. I don’t really remember getting ready, nor packing my stuff. But, I remember that I didn’t forget anything and that I woke up in time to get the tuk tuk to the airport. At the airport, I successfully navigated through the Siem Reap airport, immigration, and got to my gate…still drunk. I got some Burger King nuggets as my drunchie snack (drunk munchies).

On the plane, I was given 2 meals by AirAsia (I must’ve gotten a meal pack or something). But I’d just eaten 6 nuggets and had 2 meals to eat. So I had one, which was curry and saved the second one (pasta) for later, in case I got hungry again. I slept the whole way on the plane because I’m drunk/hungover. Once I got to the Kuala Lumpur airport (where I’d have a 7 hour layover), I had to go through security again. This time, the lady working security asked me if I was carrying scissors. Mind you, I’ve been through at least 4 different airports and no one has said anything about my scissors, plus they’re TSA approved. I said yes and argued with her because obviously I’m pissed I hafta get rid of a perfectly fine pair of scissors. The fact that they make you go through security again is stupid.

So for my 7 hour layover, I basically FaceTimed my whole family for 3 hours, effed around on my phone while it was charging, then finally when it was done charging was when I took a nap. I napped for a good 2 hours on a couch until it was about an hour and a half till I’d depart to Bali. Once at my gate, I had a lovely conversation with a Filipino lady. She’d just lost her dad and she was on her way home for the funeral. She was a maid for a Chinese family living in Malaysia, something very common for Filipinos. 

Finally, once on the plane I watched some of my downloaded episodes of Stranger Things & Orange is the New Black. I didn’t want to sleep since I already napped at the airport and I wanted to be able to sleep once I got to Bali. I’d arranged a car to pick me up from the airport and take me to my hostel in Ubud beforehand, so luckily he was waiting for me after I landed. I didn’t want to get scammed by a taxi driver or other drivers in the area and it was really late by the time I’d landed (12am). The driver took me to my hostel and I immediately went to sleep.

Oct 30, 2017

I woke up a little late today since I came in the hostel late. Plus, I haven’t really slept in since the last few days have been getting up early for temples and flights and stuff. I didn’t have a plan for the day, and I kinda just wanted to walk around to gain my bearings and to check out the town. I left the hostel around 12:30pm in search for some food. I came across this cute little restaurant that was empty (and cheap). It had a little temple inside of the restaurant, and I felt so at peace in there. I tried a Balinese dish, it was okay but I couldn’t finish it and I got tired of the taste after a while.

After lunch, I walked around Ubud looking to buy. I had dollar signs in my eyes, ready to spend, spend spend haha. I picked up some souvenirs for friends and family, got a new necklace since the one I bought in Laos turned brown & started to irritate my skin. I also splurged on some clothes for myself because, that’s what I do. Ubud also has really cute boutiques so I couldn’t resist (plus I don’t have anyone here telling me not to buy things and I have no self control). 

I got back to the hostel around 4:30, hungout, then went out again around 7 to get some dinner. I found a spot off TripAdvisor that looked good (and cheap). It was another Balinese restaurant and I ordered some tofu & Tempe (a sort of soybean cake similar to tofu) curry. It definitely didn’t disappoint me and I was greatly satisfied with my meal. I went back to the hostel where I watched Stranger Things and OITNB before falling asleep.

Oct 31, 2017

Another slow morning, I decided to order fruit and yogurt from the restaurant at the hostel. I chilled a little more until around 12:30pm. I wanted to do yoga at 2, but I had to get there a half an hour early and it would take me 30-45 mins to walk there from the hostel. I took a really quiet road to get there–there were rice paddies, kids playing in the street, dogs wrestling with each other. It’s also the day before the Balinese Hindu holiday, Galungan. Everyone was busy preparing for this holiday, making extravagant poles sculptures made from palm fronds and covering their statues with gingham print robes.

I got to Yoga Barn around 1, so I drank a smoothie to past the time. I was also finally getting over being sick and I really wanted to try yoga again. This time, I tried an “Intro to Yoga” class, which ended up being really easy but very informative. I’m not sure if it was worth $10 for the class, but hey, you gotta start somewhere, especially if you’re learning. When yoga got out it was 3:30 and I was starving. I opted for this place in the Monkey Jungle area of Ubud and got another delicious Balinese dish. 

Around 4:30pm I got to the Sacred Monkey Jungle, a park full of 3 sacred Hindu temples full of monkeys. I’m sure this whole area used to look like this at one point, big beautiful trees, monkeys swinging around everywhere, green and lush scenery. The monkeys are pretty chill, unless you have food, then they sneakily try and steal it from you (or not sneakily). You’re not supposed to look at them in the eye because they think it’s a sign of aggression. If you just kinda watch them and leave them be, then they’re cool to look at. If you do/have any of the things I mentioned then they’re little shits. For example, I put down my huge water bottle in between my legs to video cute little baby monkeys. Another clever monkey saw that my guard was down and tried to grab my water bottle. But since I was holding onto it with my legs I grabbed it away and stared at it in the eyes and it ran away back to what it was doing. I think it got really brave at one point and just grabbed my water bottle while I was paying attention, this time I stood up, stared it in the eye and lunged toward it to scare it off, luckily it did just that and was scared off. For the next hour, I just roamed around the park, watching the monkeys doing their monkey business all while being surrounded by a beautiful forest. I visited all 3 temples, which were closed, but it was still beautiful to look at. 

I went back to the hostel, where I just chilled and chatted with some of the people there. One of the girls I talked to convinced me to go to Gili Trawangan, so I booked transportation that night for the next morning. Since I would have to be ready by 7am for the shuttle, I opted not to do anything that night, even though it was Halloween. Ubud doesn’t really have a party scene, but I didn’t mind. I was still getting over being sick and I couldn’t justify going out in such a peaceful, zen place. So, my night consisted of French fries and Stranger Things. Not a bad night if I say so myself.

Nov 1, 2017

I woke up really early for my shuttle that would pick me up at 7am. After 15 minutes of waiting, I went back to the hostel to ask if they’d forgotten about me. He said they would pick me up between 7-7:30 and guess what, I got picked up at 7:30 (could’ve slept an extra half hour damnit). I slept on the car ride to the boat place. Drank a mango juice while waiting for the boat to Gili T, then slept on the boat again. I guess my sickness/fatigue is still getting to me, I really need a lot of sleep out here.

Once on Gili T, I realized they didn’t have any tuk tuks, motorbikes or even cars. It’s such a small island that everyone bikes around or uses a horse and buggy if they really want to get somewhere fast. These poor horses do not look like they live happy lives. They’re over worked, tired, and I don’t even see them getting something to drink or even being brought to the shade. I didn’t want to take one during my time there, I didn’t want to support that kind of animal exploitation. So instead of getting a horse and buggy to my hostel (which was only 0.4 miles away but a long walk in the sun with all my shit) I opted to walk.

Once at my hostel, My Mate’s Place, I got some fruit and yogurt for breakfast and chilled before my room was ready. Adam, a local who works at the hostel and puts on all the activities, asked if I wanted to sign up for snorkeling the following day, so I did. After getting settled in and relaxing for a bit, I walked around to find food and check out the beach. For some reason I was craving Thai food, so I got some Thai fried rice on the beach and chilled with this cat that kept meowing at me. It even jumped on the chair next to me and made me think that I had a friend lol.

After food I was really tired at this point. I went down to the beach, laid out my sarong in the shade and sprawled out. Gili T is such a beautiful island. The beaches are white, the water is clear and the views are amazing. I was so relaxed at this point I fell asleep for about an hour. I could have slept for longer, but I wanted to get ready for yoga at 5:30. So I went back to the hostel, changed, then went back to the beach for yoga. This time I tried a regular class, it was Vinyasa Flow. The teacher wasn’t as good as the others I’ve had, maybe because it wasn’t a beginners teacher, but I was able to keep up with the pace. I’m really starting to enjoy yoga, the breathing, the meditation aspect, focusing on your movements and being aware of your body as a whole. I want to start doing it as much as possible, that’s how much I enjoy it out here!

Yoga was nice and relaxing and I was hungry after we got out. So I found another cute local spot on the beach. I tend to grativate towards restaurants that don’t have a lot of people in them (aka empty). I find it that a lot of tourists are scared to eat at Bali/Indonesian focused restaurants, they’re more into that fusion/Western food places. The local restaurants usually serve really good food and it’s pretty affordable, especially in Gili T where all the restaurants are pretty pricey.

I went back to the hostel, where I took a shower and got ready for the nighttime. This was the intimidating part, trying to meet people. There were so many dudes when I walked out the hostel, I didn’t know who to approach or what to do. So I went back in my room, regrouped, gained more confidence, and walked up to the first table I saw with actual girls LOL. I asked them if I could join them and they said of course. It was a group of 5 Brits (again) who’d met each other while trekking in Ubud, a French Canadian, an Austrian and Irish lad. We all enjoyed drinking games and stuck with each other that night. We all mentioned that we were going snorkeling tomorrow as well, which was great, I found people to chill with!

We went out that night to a few bars, I was pretty over it by the 3rd bar but I tried to put on a good face. I guess the heat and the sucky music (mixed with the fact that it’s impossible for me to get drunk from this watered down alcohol they have here) just gets me really tired and I become bored. We all walked back around 1-2ish because we wanted to be able to wake up for snorkeling the next day.

Nov 2, 2017

My roomies, two Irish girls, were also going snorkeling today. We got ready, scarfed our food down, got our gear, and walked with Tom and Adam to the boat. We’d be snorkeling in 3 spots today: 2 by Gili Meno and 1 by Gili Air (there are 3 Gili Islands in total, Gili Trawangan is the biggest one). The first one we stopped at was a small reef by Gili Meno. The best thing here was an underwater statue. It was really cool and there were so many fish surrounding it. The water is so warm and clear, an ideal spot to snorkel. I was the last one on the boat, me being a freaking fish and all (I’m a Pisces and I’m a swimmer, I’m just naturally a water lover…that’s why I’d be a water bender!!).

The next spot was the best area in finding turtles! Our guides were looking through the glass bottom to see if they could spot one. Once they did, we all go in the water to try and snorkel with it. If you don’t already know, I’m obsessed with turtles, they’re my favorite animal and been my favorite animal ever since I was a kid. I was really excited to actually spot one, get a selfie with it, swim with it and just be in it’s presence. Turtles are amazing, and I’m glad I had the opportunity to swim with one. Again, I was the last on the boat. I kinda got caught in another group and went the wrong way, luckily I’m a good swimmer and swam back to the boat where they were all waiting for me.

Next was lunch, we stopped on Gili Air to eat at this pretty nice place. I got a margarita pizza because I’ve eaten local food for the past few days now and I wanted some pizza. In the middle of lunch it started to down pour so we all brought our food inside to their deck. After waiting a little while for the rain to pass, we had the option of either going to our next snorkel place or going back to the hostel, because it was still a little rainy. We chose to ride it out and go to our next snorkel spot. This place, we were able to feed the fishies bread. I was really sad that my little cube video thing’s battery died because this was super cool. The fish were all swarming around, and when I dove down to swim with them it just looked like a cool ass picture. I guess I don’t need footage, I can just remember in my mind. I loved every second of snorkeling and the vibe was seriously perfect.

After snorkeling, I went back to take a shower. I tried to nap because I was so exhausted but ended up just relaxing and closing my eyes. For dinner, I opted for a Poutine at the hostel restaurant. I know, it’s not that healthy, but I couldn’t resist fries and gravy. That night all of us drank again. I went with them to the first bar but after 10-20 minutes I couldn’t take it anymore, I was way too tired, so I walked back to the hostel and went to sleep.

Nov 3, 2017

I took a while getting up today. I didn’t really have any responsibilities. Some of the group got home this morning after they watched the sunrise. I was a bit jealous that I didn’t make it, but it would have been way too late for me. I had to switch rooms and my roommates, the 2 Irish girls, had to leave because they didn’t extend the night before. After breakfast (eggs, I know I’m getting adventurous), I wanted to bike around the island. A guy named Freddy from Germany asked if he could join me, I said sure the more the merrier LOL.

Biking on the shoreline was really pretty (but freaking hot). I stopped at some shops, we stopped at Ombok Point to take a picture on the iconic swings. After biking for a while, we got really hot and decided to stop and get drinks. I always get some type of juice out here, they take fruit and ice and blend it and it’s usually really cheap. We saw ominous dark cloud coming our way and we immediately paid for our drinks and left. Well, we got stuck in the rain and it was really sucky because we also got lost. But, somehow we actually found our way to the hostel (yay my sense of direction even when I’m lost haha).

I got another gravy chicken sandwich from the hostel, anything with gravy has my name written all over it. I let it digest a bit before heading over to the gym. It was only a 2 minute walk and our hostel gave us 50% off a day pass. I worked out for about an hour and a half, had a protein shake at their bar, came back and took a shower, then went out with Adam, the activities director to watch the sunset. I was going to go by myself, but he told me it was his job to take us and it was only me because no one else wanted to go.

It’s nice being with a local though, he knows everyone on the island and was able to get me the best spot to watch the sunset. Even though there were a lot of clouds, the sunset was definitely breathtaking. All those colors reflecting on the water, it’s just a beautiful combination. We rode back to the hostel and I had drinks again with everyone. We went out again and I got sweet corn as a little snack on the beach. Well it must’ve given me really bad gas because my stomach really hurt afterwards. I was not enjoying myself and Hannah was tired because she watched the sunrise that morning, so we walked back together. I went into my room seeing that nobody even checked into my room, so I was a little confused as to why they didn’t allow those Irish girls to extend their stay.

Anyways, I’m in Canggu right now. One of the scariest things has happened while I was out here, and I want to save it for my next blog post. But, just remember to live every day like it’s your last. Hug your friends and family and remind them how much you love them. Life is short and can get cut short in a matter of seconds. Thank you everyone for being patient with my posts, I’ve been trying to find time to write but it’s still a little difficult. I’m also finally trying to work out every other day (that or yoga) because wellness and health are very important. So stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!!

Hello Cambo(dia)

Oct 24, 2017

I’m finally on my way to a new country, all by my lonesome. The past 7 weeks I’ve been traveling with people I’ve met along the way. I’ve met Liv & Josh literally my first day in Bangkok, it was all our first days and after speaking we realized we were doing the same route. We met Ida in Pai and Sam & Mike and Hannah & Charolette, the 2 UK duos on the slowboat to Lao which was basically 4 weeks ago. Now, after splitting, it’s a bittersweet moment for me. I’ve grown so attached to these people who’ve basically been my family. I basically don’t know how to travel “solo” without them. But, alas, this moment had to come and I was thrown to the wolves.

Just kidding. Sean was there the morning I left Saigon to say bye to me. At least I was able to transition slowly. We took the bus together and went to the new hostel together. The only real time I was alone was on the bus from Vietnam to Cambodia, and it really wasn’t bad. First off, this really cute little Vietnamese girl was very playful. She was playing with me for a good hour, and I gave her one of my animal erasers. She thought it would be a game to give it back to me and I would give it back to her. The game evolved to her taking the pieces apart and throwing them, then once she started to put the small little pieces in her mouth I told her no and her parents took back. I think they knew she was acting up but didn’t want to be rude to me and tell me to stop.

Anyways, the bus went smoothly. I’ve heard a lot of horror stories across the border. Apparently, the visa is only supposed to cost $30, but the bus facilitators usually say it’s $35. This is for their “service fee” because they basically do everything for you. We just fill out the papers, they give it to the peoples at the Vietnam border, get it stamped and shit, tell us to go to the Cambodian border, give all the paperwork, and all we have to do is follow orders. So, I guess it’s worth it since I wouldn’t be able to understand the Vietnamese/Cambodians since they don’t speak good English anyways. I’ve heard stories of people refusing to pay the extra $5, the bus people telling them to do it by themselves, then after it takes so long, they eventually get left at the border and the people left have to take a motortaxi to catch up to their bus. Moral of the story, it’s more efficient and easier if you just pay the extra $5 to get that shit taken care of than being left at the border to fend for yourself.

On the bus, I met the only other Westerner, another guy from the UK (wow, big surprise) named James. He asked me what hostel I was staying at, and said that he would share a tuk tuk with me to see if they had any space. Once we got to Phnom Penh we found a tuk tuk that took us to our hostel, Mad Monkey. I wasn’t feeling well at this point, I definitely had the common cold. So after finishing my blog in my room (which happened to be right next to the really loud bar), I went downstairs to get some food at their restaurant. I got BoBo (rice porridge, I know…big shock) because I needed something soothing for my throat, which was getting worse. James and I sat downstairs, just talking about life until I told him I needed to go upstairs and get some sleep. I was NOT feeling well and we needed to wake up semi early for the Killing Fields/S21 Prison we booked in the morning and I need to be mentally and physically prepared for that.

Oct 25, 2017

So, I didn’t eat eggs today (WOW). But that’s because breakfast isn’t really included in Cambodian hostels. Another weird thing is that they take USD here, and whatever is less than a dollar you get back in Cambodia Riel. This is a good and bad thing, it’s good because I brought a lot of USD here so I don’t need to withdraw anything and spend more $$ on fees, plus I know how what’s a good deal and what’s not (sorta). The bad thing is that they can charge way more than other countries because things are on the dollar. They can charge $1 and we can’t really go lower than that since no one really carries riel. So, poop on that. But I got a nice big fruit bowl for breakfast with yogurt. I woke up still sick, but I was determined to be productive today.

The tuk tuk driver that took us to our hostel from the bus yesterday picked us up around 10:30. Our first stop was the Killing Fields, the place during the Khmer Rouge where they took thousands of Cambodians to their death. Now, I’ve only recently heard about the Cambodian Genocide, I mean I remember briefly hearing about it in bits and pieces, but never really delving deep into what happened, why it happened, and the whole reasoning behind it. When preparing for trip, was when I actually realized that this genocide impacted the country HUGELY (out of 8 million Cambodians, ~2.5 million died in the genocide) that’s basically 1/3 or 1 out of 4 people that you know, gone.

So, the Khmer Rouge brought people here to die. From 1974-1979, Pol Pot wanted Cambodians to get back to an agrarian society, back to basics and farming, a classsless society. Anyone with light skin, a college degree, glasses, spoke a foreign language, had soft hands, or protested, he killed. Anyone he thought was going to overthrow his government, he brought to this and other killing fields to die. But, he didn’t kill them in any humane way. The Khmer Rouge used objects like axes, bamboo poles, machetes, sticks, farming tools, and tools alike to cause blunt trauma to the head (because bullets were too expensive) and slit their throats, then put them in a pile. They then sprinkled chemicals on them, if they were still alive, to finish the job. Here, at the killing fields, is where they explained what happened here and why (via audio guide). There were so many bodies in mass graves here, that from time to time, especially during the rainy season, bones, teeth, and clothes wash to the surface. There’s even a tree, where the Rouge would smash babies/infants/kids skulls on and throw them into a pit, named the “Killing Tree”.

We spent about an hour, hour and a half, just listening and taking everything in. We even bought flowers and incense to put at the memorial. At the stupah is where they showcased some of these skulls found in the pits, and how they died. You can see that a lot are cracked skulls, some have holes in them, and they put a marker indicating how they died. After there, we went to the Tuol Sleng Prison or S21, where they tortured thousands of people.

This prison, before the Khmer Rouge, was a high school. They turned the classrooms into makeshift jail cells and torture chambers. They basically made everyone write confessions about them being spies for the US and FBI. I’m not sure why they would make them do that even when a lot of Cambodians didn’t even know who the FBI were. The Rouge was really good at documenting their work, much like the Nazis. There are pictures of everyone who went through the prison, being displayed throughout each of the buildings. They killed everyone who went through these prisons, sparing only 12 people. One of the survivors, was an artist who painted the horrors that went on in the prison. He actually spends his days there, selling people his book and trying to educate people of the inhumane crimes went on at this prison.

Whew, it was a really heavy day. I was getting lightheaded while walking around. It was getting to me, the stories, I was also fatigued because of my sickness. So all of that combined plus we didn’t eat lunch made me a bit weak. Once we got back I scarfed down eggplant & minced pork which is one of their main dishes here (and absolutely fucking delish). I booked my bus for Siem Reap and went upstairs to take a nap. I guess I was really sick because I napped for 2 hours. I woke up, went to get dinner, then came back to my bunk to watch some Netflix before I slept again.

Oct 26, 2017

I had to wake up a little early today because my bus departs at 9:45, but I had to be ready by 8:45. I checked out pretty early, got a yummy breakfast wrap but couldn’t finish it because the shuttle picked me up to go to the bus. I took the luxury bus company, Giant Ibis, to go to Siem Reap because, treat yo self. I slept basically the whole time, it’s 6 hours from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap too. I only woke up when we stopped for lunch. I didn’t eat any of the over priced food and instead ate the other half of my breakfast wrap (hehe, I’m getting smart). I stayed up for about an hour after lunch then slept again until we got to Siem Reap. My sickness makes me really fatigued and I guess my body really just needs to nap and refuel.

Once in Siem Reap, I took a tuk tuk to my hostel, the Mekong Hostel. I was recommended this hostel by my friend Nicole, who stayed here. She said it would be really easy to meet people and it wasn’t a crazy party hostel. Since I was sick, I thought I wouldn’t be doing a lot of partying anyways, but I wanted to meet people to hang out with. I checked into my room (an all girls dorm) and immediately met Emily, a girl from Georgia (yay American), who was staying in my room. We talked, went downstairs and I got some fries to snack on. We also met another girl in our room, Kirsten (from SJ yay! Someone from the Bay). We decided to hang out that night and go to the night market. 

On the way to the market we stopped at this Cambodian Restaurant where I got Amok chicken, another one of their dishes. It’s chicken and probably some curry baked in a banana leaf, so tasty. At the market I did some souvenir shopping for my friends and family (and bought stuff for myself). Yenno how I said everything is in dollars, well it makes everything seem way more expensive, and it probably is. Kirsten wanted to look for pants for the temple while Emily bought this traditional skirt to also wear to the temples. Back at the hostel, we all just chilled. I was still sick so I didn’t want to go out. So we had an early night.

Oct 27, 2017

I wanted to sleep in because I thought my body needed it, but I guess sleeping in means before 10 (because my body is just used to waking up at that time now, even though there’s no free breakfast). Emily had to check out and was moving hostels, but we told her we’d tell her our plans for Angkor Wat at sunrise. Kirsten and I just chilled in the morning. She still hadn’t gotten her pants so we went to the Old Market by Pub Street to see if we could find some.

We first got food at a small Cambodian restaurant and I got curry chicken. We roamed around the market to see if we could find pants. The Cambodian sales people are really aggressive and if you even look at their product they’re swarming you. At one of the stalls, this really young girl was speaking to us like people (not like money bags) and her English was really good. We decided to give her our business and we both bought pants. She told us she was 15 and on her lunch break. She said she would go back to school at 1:30 and that this shop was her mom’s. So cute. After walking around a bit more I started to get sleepy, so we went back to the hostel. I took a solid 2 hour nap again. Which is weird for me because I don’t usually nap and for such a long time.

After laying around for a while, we decided to go to the Night Market again. We stopped to get food, this time I got chicken basil yum. My goal at the night market was to exchange a shirt I got for a friend (they made me pay an extra dollar to exchange, eye roll) and get some crystals from this British lady we saw the day before. I got this amazing looking Emerald Jadeite that called to me. At first, I didn’t want to get it because it was $45, but I could tell that it was calling for me so I bought it anyways.

We went back to the hostel pretty early. We had to wake up and check out before 4:30am, when our tuk tuk would pick us up. We also bought Valiums (40 tablets for $5?!?!?!) so we popped those once we got back to ensure we would get a good nights sleep and slept around 9pm.

Oct 28, 2017

Well, I guess the Valiums wore off around 2am because both of us woke up to the loud noise of the lady checking in at 2am! She wasn’t quiet at all. You’d think, if you got in that late, you would just put your stuff down and sleep. Well she didn’t and instead decided to be really loud putting things in different places, rustling about, being really noisy. We were knocked out from the drug but still happened to wake up. After she finally went to sleep her fucking phone kept going off with messages, and it wasn’t like it was on vibrate either, that thing was on full volume dinging and shit. To make matters worse, once I fell asleep again, our dorm mate decided to come in at 3:30am with her boyfriend or whatever and was talking really loud in the bathroom (because the walls are paper thin), mind you this is an all girls dorm as well. I was irate at this point and just as I was about to go tell them to shut the fuck up they left. 

So, I was already awake by the time our alarms went off at 4am. We had to check out as well so we lugged all of our stuff downstairs, where Emily was waiting. Our tuk tuk driver first brought us to the ticket booth and we could immediately tell that it was gonna be crowded (I guess it’s this way every day). When we arrived to the main temple, the actual Angkor Wat, there were so many people there already. It was hard to get a good place to see the actual sunrise, and I wanted to do a time lapse on my little cube but that didn’t happen. It was still very beautiful, a little cloudy but enough to see colors and the sun actually rise. The temple itself is so serene and magnificent. In these historical buildings I really like like to imagine it back in it’s prime. I was even blessed by a monk!

The rest of the day consisted of going to 5 different temples. The main Angkor Wat, Bayon Temple, and the one in the jungle were my favorite. The one in the jungle is the famous one with the trees growing in, on top of, and around it (that’s why a lot of it is in ruins because of the tree roots). These temples were really amazing, and I’m glad to have had the opportunity to see them. It’s a bit pricey ($37 for one day) but we were tired and over it by the time noon came around. But, I can say that I saw the amazing Angkor Wat! (Quick fact: they didn’t destroy Angkor Wat during the Khmer Rouge because they thought it stood for Khmer prestige and a symbol of their power, or something like that).

Since Kirsten and I checked out, we went to our new hostel called the White Rabbit. It’s a cool, new hostel that has themed rooms and cool decor like in Alice in Wonderland. We got some food from their restaurant, I got BoBo (rice porridge) because I still didn’t feel a 100%, but definitely better than the days before. We walked around the area of our hostel, got a chocolate and lemon tart, then went back to the room to kind of relax. I did a lot of “admin”, some work for back home and took a shower and braided my hair (which takes forever but I’m finally getting so good). 

For dinner we ate at this delicious vegetarian restaurant and I finally got falafel, something I’ve been craving for forever. And we got ready to go out. Since everything is in dollars $1-2 shots didn’t seem like a lot (well I guess it’s because it’s not). We went out to Pub Street for the first time since we’ve been here. At one of the bars we put some cool glitter and face paint on. We danced and had a really good night out and it was just the 2 of us. I’m really glad I met Kirsten, she reminds me of my friends back home and it was a blast partying with her! We got back home, I somehow washed all the facepaint and glitter off (I don’t remember doing that) and smartly set my alarm before I drank (since I have to wake up at 5:45am for my 8:30am flight).

Traveling solo for the first time has been a really good experience for me. I’ve met cool people, even just for a day or two, and really got to know them and talk to them about life. I guess that’s the good thing about meeting different people (and being solo), you hear different opinions and stories. I think it helps you broaden your mind to different ways of thinking and doing things. You listen to their life story, their goals and aspirations, their reasons for traveling and wanderlusting, and it’s so cool to actually open up to complete strangers. I’m really glad that I’m traveling solo, being vulnerable in a sea of people in the same position as you can actually be a good thing. When you let your guard down and really be your raw, real self, you can really learn a lot. And, if you take something from everyone you meet, I guarantee that you’ll be a better, well-rounded person.

I’m now on a plane to Bali, I’ve spent a good amount of the morning still drunk from the night before (that’s why I’m really proud of myself that I got all my shit together and woke up to make my flight). I’ve spent 7 hours in the Kuala Lumpur airport and now I’m just really ready to get to Bali and sleep. So stayed tuned for my time in Bali and the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!

Da Nang, Nha Trang, Ninhvana, Dalat, Saigon

Oct 18, 2017

So, my nice little blog post about Da Nang and the hostel gave me a night at Barney’s for free! I know my blog isn’t like a real travel blog, more like a journal blog for myself & others who are interested, but I guess it worked in my favor this time. For breakfast, some of us got the delish Mi Quang from next door (because EFF EGGS AT THIS POINT). I’m not sure of what the concept of breakfast is in Vietnam (or Asia in general). Local little restaurants seem to open by 8am and close by 10pm sometimes 12am. I don’t think there’s a lot of things that are quintessential breakfast, you kind of just eat whatever you want at all times of the day (I could be totally wrong here, but that’s what it seems from my observation).

Sam & Liv left early to take the train, the rest of us were taking a night bus to Nha Trang that wouldn’t leave until 4-5pm, so we had a little more time to explore Da Nang. We made our own walking tour and went over a cool bridge type thing, then to a market. The market was pretty cool, there was a shit ton jammed-pack into one building. The vendors are very aggressive but you just have to either ignore them or politely decline. If you show any inkling of interest, they’re on you like vultures. I got some pasalubongs (Tagalog word for souvenirs) and a really cute sushi shirt.

We walked back to the mall to get some essentials (and Jolliebee hehehehe). I got my usual spicy chickenjoy. The menu was a bit different since they didn’t have gravy (what am I supposed to dip my fried chicken in???) but it was still good, nonetheless. After the mall, we headed back to the hostel to wait for our bus. I worked on my blog for the majority of the time until the shuttle picked us up to take us to the bus.

The bus picked us up at a random side of the road. The schedule said that it would pick us up at 6pm and drop us off at 5am. It was just like any other night bus we’ve taken, except this time the TVs that usually aren’t on were playing some Vietnamese version of X Factor or something where performers sing and dance in front of an audience. I couldn’t really figure out what was going on. It was cool for like 20 minutes, but then it started to get annoying. Not because it was a Vietnamese show, but because they were BLASTING the music/videos so loud I couldn’t even drown it out on my headphones. I did more work on my blog until we got to our halfway point, which usually means food. I got some chao or rice porridge, but it was pretty watery and not that flavorful. I also thought it was a little more pricey than normal food, but hey you gotta pick and choose your battles.

We got back on the bus, where I played some of my DS again. I then popped 1 of my last 2 Valiums and fell fast asleep.

Oct 19, 2017

I was woken up by Mike around 3am, telling me that we were in Nha Trang and that we had to get off the bus. Exhausted and still trying to wake up, I hurried and got my stuff and got out of the bus. All of our stuff were waiting for us on the ground and we were all really confused. The time table on the schedule said that we were supposed to get to Nha Trang at 5am, which then we were going to head to Ice Coffee, where our shuttle for Ninhvana would pick us up at 8:30am. But now we were stranded at 3am in the morning in a town we haven’t been in before with no where to go.

We put our stuff in a cab and told him to take us to the Ice Coffee place, where we would hopefully find a place that’s open, like a hotel lobby or late night restaurant that would allow us to hang out there until the Ice Coffee place opened. The cab driver took us to the place where we told him, he saw that it was closed and kept driving. We came to this corner where there was an outdoor bar and food, where he decided to pullover. We walked over there, hoping they’d have wifi or could help us in any way. I asked the guy what time they closed and he responded “uhh like 6 o’clock in the morning.” Perfect, we thought. There was music playing, a lot of people outside. I ordered a pineapple and vodka, because…why not we’re stuck in this fucked up situation already, might as well enjoy it.

I was with Charlie, Josh, and Hannah. Mike, Ida, and Sean had taken another taxi and we tried to get wifi to contact them to tell them where we were at. After our drinks arrived we heard a scuffle and all of a sudden, these two boys were fighting in front of us, knocking over tables and creating a lot of noise. All I was worried about was the newly opened beer bottles sitting on the table in front of where they were fighting because, you know, priorities. So I grabbed those while Charlie screamed for me to get out of the way. It took like 8 dudes to finally break them up. All I know was that there were like 20 Russians and one non Russian, and one of the Russians were fighting the non Russian and it was messy. I think the non Russian had a switch because there were a few dudes bleeding with cut wounds. One of the Russian girls asked for vodka (because I guess if they poor vodka on it is all good). The Vietnamese bar owners were obviously fed up with it at this point. They apologized to us and turned off the music and everything. They stopped selling the Russians alcohol and looked like they were closing. I think they just wanted them to leave so that things didn’t escalate. 

Anyways, Mike, Ida and Sean (our new friend from the UK) finally found us like 15 minutes later. We all enjoyed some beers & cocktails. We played music off of our speaker, we were the only people at the bar basically since they kicked out all the Russians (side note: Nha Trang is full of Russians. All the signs are in Vietnamese and Russian. I guess Nha Trang is the only destination where there’s a direct flight from Russia to Vietnam).  So we basically chilled at this little outdoor bar for 3 hours, watched the sun go up, until they closed around 6am. We then walked to the Ice Coffee place where there were others who were waiting for the bus to Ninhvana, but their bus dropped them off at 5:30am. I ordered a matcha latte and spring rolls for breakfast whilst finally finishing my blog!!!

Liv and Sam met us right before the shuttle to Ninhvana came around 8:30am. I slept the whole way there because I was exhausted. Ninhvana is basically this all inclusive resort ran by Vietnam Backpackers Hostel, the chain of hostels we’ve stayed at in Hanoi, Hue, and Hoi An so far. It’s $100 for 2 nights that includes all you can drink booze (but they don’t give shots or doubles, it’s only one mixed drink), activities like stand up paddle boarding, kayaking, bicycle tours, yoga, and trekking, meals at specific times, free laundry service, and 1 spa treatment per day. They’re located in a small rural town of Ninh Van (that has no other tourist establishment other than Ninhvana).

Once there, we were all finally energized to start this amazing 2 days in paradise. For backpackers, this was an amazing place to be. We signed up for all of our activities: 1 manicure & bike tour for today, 7am stand up paddle boarding & 10am massages for the next day. I was also excited to workout because I’ve been reallly bad and haven’t worked out at all since Luang Prabang. It’s been really hard being with a group and always wanting to socialize or go out and do stuff. Anyways, we got some drinks, hung out by the beach. For lunch, they had a variety of really good food, some of the best we’ve had so far.

Our bicycle tour was a 3pm and it was me, Hannah, Charlie, Mike and Josh. We visited some local sites, one of was a shrine for 14 of the locals who died during the Vietnam war. Apparently this area was apart of the Ho Chi Minh trail, where a lot of weapons and ammunition was brought through the area. News got to the Americans that this ship was carrying weapons, and the American side was that it was shot and sunk, the Vietnamese version was that they all committed suicide. Anyways, since this town is so small, there’s a pretty big shrine on the side of the cliff to remember the soldiers. At night it’s lit up because they believe if you die at sea your soul is lost, so the light helps them return to their final resting place. It was really interesting to see all the care that they put into this shrine for only 14 people, but this community is very small so it makes sense that they would put so much effort into maintaining this shrine.

We cycled past schools and docks. We spoke to school kids and got local drip Vietnamese coffee at a makeshift “cafe”. Once we got coffee it started to pour down rain, none of us wanted to get back on those bikes haha. We were stalling for a long time, hoping that the rain would lighten up or stop, but it didn’t. So we just said fuck it and rode in the pouring rain. Our tour guide wanted to bring us to one more place, but it wasn’t even that interesting because we were all wet and couldn’t see/wanted to be there. So we got back to the resort, soaked and cold.

Since my only clothes I didn’t put in the wash were soaked, it was difficult to find clothes for yoga, my next activity. Since it was raining, we did it in the dining hall (that they don’t seem to use). There were a shit ton of people doing yoga today, and embarrassingly it was my first time ever doing it. Since there were so many people (guys included) we did a yen yoga. More of a relaxing, less strenuous yoga. It was so relaxing that I fell asleep for a good 10 minutes LOL (we had a long day ok?) and I really actually enjoyed it. 

After yoga it was dinner time, and it was yet another delicious meal (all I remember is there being a HUGE tub of gravy…that’s all I really cared about was the gravy). I kept going back and getting more things I could eat the gravy with, like bread and mash potatoes (carbs yay). But the food was SO GOOD. My drink of that night was gin with ginger beer and lime. We did another pub quiz (yay another one *eye roll*) and you’d think we’d be good at this by this point but we’re not. Our two teams got the lowest scores, but our team name “Smells like Vietnamese Spirit” (play off of Nirvana’s song, yenno bc the place is called Ninhvana) won best team name and we got free shots. The rest of the night comprised of trying to get drunk, dancing, and having a grand ol time. You’d think we would crash early since we barely had a night of sleep, but we didn’t and partied until 1am haha.

Oct 20, 2017

We were so smart and signed up for a 7am stand up paddle board time slot. There are only 4 slots and only 3x a day you can do it. So, I thought, “hey paddle boarding at 7am isn’t so bad, then I can even catch the 8am yoga sesh”. My alarm went off at 6am, sitting in a bag of rice. My drunkass last night not only dropped my phone in the toliet, but also set my alarm for 6am when paddle boarding was at 7am. I immediately caught my phone so it didn’t sustain any damage other than some screen blobs (very minor and this is my shit phone).

Hannah, Charlie, and I actually got up and made it in time for stand up paddle boarding, hung over and tired as fuck (remind you, we barely got sleep the night before after getting kicked off the bus at 3am). Our guide saw that we were hungover and struggling, so we actually only stood up for a cool 2 minutes before sitting down and paddling. It was a good thing we went really early, the water was calm, it wasn’t hot, and it was sort of relaxing (?). Once we got back, Charlie and Hannah went back to bed, I would have too but I thought, hey I’m already awake might as well do something productive. I ate some delish mango and dragonfruit to replenish myself before yoga. I chatted with Mia, the yoga teacher. We’d already spoken last night when she did the pub quiz with us, so it seemed like we were already friends.

No one else showed up for the 8am yoga sesh. She told me I get to pick what I want to do, but I told her yesterday was my first time doing yoga, so I’m not really sure of what the options are, but I would like to do some strength training. We did yoga outside, and I basically got a private yoga lesson for free. Mia is way over qualified to be teaching yoga to a bunch of party backpackers, but she saw this more as a paid vacation more than anything. She said she would be charging people a lot of money for a one-on-one yoga class, but I got mine for free (yay!). It made me feel good about myself because I was actually awake doing something productive. Mia also mentioned that she was surprised that I hadn’t done yoga before because I was very flexible, I guess it looks like I’ve been doing it for a while. Maybe I’m just that graceful (jk).

After my nice little productive morning, I went to get breakfast. They had little stations like an actual hotel buffet where you could get pho, pancakes, fruit, and eggs made for you however you’d like. Pho is my go to hangover dish back at home, so that was an obvious choice. I think I’d worked out so hard that morning that I was still hungry after one bowl, so I went back and got a second (lol). I hung out and chilled by the bar for a bit and got a smoothie. My massage was at 10am and I really couldn’t wait. I got a Bali massage (similar to a Thai massage I guess) but they never seem to be hard enough for my liking. I was so relaxed and tired that I ended up falling asleep the last 10 minutes (or longer, who knows). The lady had taken my braid out but she was so sweet she braided it back. 

So after my jam-packed morning I was so relaxed and exhausted. I immediately went back to my bunk and fell asleep. Josh woke me up at 1pm, and told me it was time for lunch. My massage ended at 11am, so I must have been sleeping for 2 hours. Lunch was so freaking good. The cook, Ganesh, cooked us a proper Indian meal, filled with different types of curry (including buffalo curry waaat) some veggies, nan and mint chutney yesssss. Everyone was so excited I think they all ate it too fast. Some had tummy aches after, but it really was that good. We went to the beach afterwards, I tried to go for a swim in the ocean, but once in I scrapped my leg on a lobster trap. The local people put sticks in the water to mark where their trap would sit. Well one of the markers didn’t sit above the water and I scrapped my leg on one. It didn’t bleed at first but then after I brought it out of the water, it started to oxidize and blood started pouring out of my cut. If you know me you know I’m hella scared of the water and what’s beneath it (mostly sharks, damn Sharks Week). So I waited in the shallows for like 5-10 minutes so my wound could get a proper cleaning.

I told one of the staff about my leg. She said I should shower first then she’d patch it up. It was bleeding a lot, a pretty deep cut, but it didn’t look like it was infected. Well that kind of ruined the rest of the time I could be in the water. I waited around until the 5pm yoga. We did some of the same stuff I did in the morning, but more core related and a bit more of strenuous poses, which was nice. Mia mentioned we should do hard stuff in the morning and more relaxing things in the evening.

For dinner we had almost like a taco bar, but it was more of a burrito bar. Ganesh told me that he and the staff handmade the whole wheat tortillas because you can’t buy them out there. It was another delicious meal, and I was really sad it was our last. After dinner, they put on I Love You, Man, the movie. They’d projected it onto the wall and it was a pretty chill night. At this point we’d learned to drink vodka and water for our drinks. Less calories, easy to drink, etc. It was an early night though, everyone was pretty exhausted. (Early means 12am haha).

Oct 21, 2017

I woke up early enough to get some good pho. We had to check out at 10am, the shuttle bus would then pick us up at 10:30am. I tried to sleep again on the bus, which was somewhat successful. We booked a bus to Dalat that would depart by 1pm. So we were dropped off at the bus station where they had a little restaurant next door. I had some bomb winter melon iced tea and spicy beef with rice.

The bus to Dalat was pretty smooth, because I mean, I slept basically the whole time. By the time we checked into our hostel it was around 5pm. The really nice reception lady said that they do a family dinner every night at 6:30 for 75K, buffet style. So we signed up for that, the people in our room said it was pretty good. We also saw that on HostelWorld (the website we always use to book our hostels) said that there’s free wine from 6-7pm. All the girls were really excited about it, and when I asked one of the nice ladies who worked there, they said yeah free wine would be from 6:30pm to 9pm. This was really good news.

Family dinner was scrumptious as fuck. They had Jerk pork, really tasty tofu, fried chicken with some garlic sauce (THE BOMB), veggies, spring rolls, and pumpkin soup that was also so so good. When they announced the free wine, we realized it was the rice wine (not that strong, not very tasty). All the girls were very disappointed, we knew it was too good to be true. But, I took shots of it anyways because I never pass down free alcohol (unless it’s beer because I don’t need that unnecessary calories or full bladder in my life ahah). 

We stayed downstairs, pregaming until they kicked us out at 11pm. We then were told to go to this place called the Maze Bar. So we walked there and realized it was a really cool looking bar (from the outside). I ordered a shot of rum (cheapest on the menu) and Liv, Sean and I went to explore. It was so dark in there and really freaking cool looking. There were so many corridors, stairs and it was really dark so we couldn’t navigate properly. We definitely got lost but it was so cool. It almost looked like a treehouse inside with fake vines, stumps and bushes, but then downstairs it looked like we were underwater with crab and squid figures along the walls. It was pretty freaking cool and even better being a little tipsy (still not a 100% drunk though, even though I drank so much of that rice wine).

The bar closed around 12, so we were forced to either go to another bar or go back to the hostel. I wanted to get food, so I went with Charlie, Hannah and Josh to find food. I told them I wanted Chao or rice porridge because I saw people eating it on the streets as we walked towards to the bar. When we stopped at the food stall where I saw people eating it, the lady screamed at us and told us no and took off the sign (not sure if it was it was closed or because we were “drunk” Westerners, but there were people eating sooo you make the call). We ended up taking a cab back because the cabs were so cheap there. When they dropped us off at the alleyway before our hostel, we realized there was a little restaurant that was service Chao (YES!!). So we ordered a bowl each. It was the girls first time eating it and they absolutely loved it. This one was the best I’d had in SE Asia overall (I’ve ordered it in every country to see if they’d compared to my Grammy’s jook, my favorite food as a child that my Grandma used to make me). While this one wasn’t as good as Grammy’s, it definitely was the best I’d had so far and I was elated. Not to mention it was only 15,000 (like less than a dollar). I went to bed extremely satisfied and happy.

Oct 22, 2017

We had to wake up really early today for our tour that was at 8:30am. I got fried eggs today (wooot eggs *eyeroll*). All of us successfully woke up and got ready by the time our tour guide picked us up. We picked the Countryside Tour, where we’d go to different sites in Dalat. Our tour guide, An or Annie, spoke really good English and it was the first time we actually had a proper tour guide that spoke good enough English who we could actually understand.

Our first stop was the cable car, that would take us across to see the whole Dalat countryside. Next we stopped at Datanla Waterfall, in order to get there we had to take a roller coaster down. Let me tell you, that shit was one of the funnest things we’ve done so far. Liv and I went in one car together, but basically it’s a little car where you can control the speed or brake when you feel like it. Well, we went first (after a big group of Asians, we thought were Malaysian, who were older and went slow), so we went really fast down curves then stop to wait for the old people go down at their leisure. I think the guy who worked there saw that we wanted to go fast, so he gave us the thumbs up or down when it was clear to go. For the last stretch we went so fast (I was in charge of the brake) and Liv got so nervous she kept telling me to brake hahah. It was definitely one of the best decsions we made. At the bottom of this roller coaster was a huge waterfall. We took some pics and left.

The next stop was the Chicken Village, a village of the indigenous tribes of that area. Annie told us the story of why it’s called the chicken village. There’s a huge chicken statue in the front of the village, with one thing special about it: one foot has 4 toes/nails, instead of 3. The tribespeople here had two villages that didn’t get along, but a girl and guy from the fueding tribes fell in love. In this culture, the girl asks the guys family to marry (instead of the other way around), they then give the guy a gift and he ends up living with her family. Well, they told her in order to marry him she needed to find a chicken with 7 toes. She went everywhere looking for a chicken with 7 toes, and ended up dying in the hills because she was exhausted and starved after endlessly searching for this chicken. The guy found her body, where he ended up dying as well, heartbroken. The villages then put their differences aside to make sure something like this would never happen again. The chicken statue is a symbol of the peace between the villages.

To many, this story reminded them of Romeo and Juliet. Me on the other hand, immediately thought of Avatar: The Last Airbender the series and the episode of the Forbidden Lovers. Oh good ol Avatar. The village itself was really small, we only stopped at a store where they showed their techniques of weaving and where you could buy a handmade gift. We didn’t spend too much time here since we were on a condensed timeline.

The next stop was the Pangou (not sure if this is the proper name) waterfall. A massive, beautiful waterfall that was absolutely breathtaking. Then it was time for lunch. We stopped at this local restaurant where Annie told us there was only one option to get served famil style for 80K. That was the wrong choice because the food was really below average for me. I wasn’t full and it was a bit pricey. After lunch it started to rain a little, and we walked to the next waterfall. In order to get there it was really slippery and I was wearing flip flops. When we finally reached the waterfall it was so wet and slippery. The water from the waterfall misted us plus the rain falling down led for a dangerous situation. We finally reached a safe (at least what I thought was safe) platform that gave a good view of the raging waterfall. I went to get a picture but before I could even walk anywhere, my flip flop suctioned onto the wood platform while I was walking and I immediately fell to the ground. Like bapped (slang for falling really hard) onto the wood platform without even catching myself or lessening the impact. I was sort of in shock but ok. I hit the ground so hard I was surprised I didn’t get a concussion or any other injury. All I got was a small cut on my elbow and my big toenail was hanging off (which hurt the most) but that was it. We decided to go back because it was a dangerous situation waiting (and kind of already) to happen. 

After getting patched up by one of the ladies at the waterfall, we went to our next stop the silk worm factory. Annie said I should stay in the van because it’s slippery out there, and I hurt my toe pretty badly. I wasn’t too upset about though because I was still trying to recover from my little fiasco. After the silk worm farm was the cricket farm where we tried crickets. It wasn’t that bad, they fried it with onion powder and lemongrass, but it wasn’t the best tasting thing I’ve had in my life.

Next and last stop was the Weasel Coffee farm. Annie gave us a little background about it, how it used to be really expensive because people would have to go find the weasel’s poop, which took a lot of labor and timing. Now that they have farms, they can harvest and feed the weasels without as much labor. The reason why it’s good coffee is because the weseal has the best nose, so they pick the best coffee bean to eat. There are 3 layers to the bean, so only the first layer is processed in the weasel’s stomach, then they clean and peel the bean. These weasels look like they’re well taken care of. Annie said that they need to be comfortable in order to eat and poo so they take them out for walks and give them space to run around. I tried one glass and it was ok, it was tasty but I’m not a big coffee fan anyways so it was hard for me to judge the taste. The best thing about this weasel farm was that they had like 15 dogs running around. They were all fucking fat!! They had this dog called Puggo (a Pug obvi) but it was so fat it looked like a big loaf of bread. They also had really big fluffers that were fat and probably well over 100 lbs.

That was our last stop, and some of the others wanted to stop at Crazy House. My lil injury was bothering me too much, so I went back to the hostel. The nice lady at the hostel told me to take a shower and she’d patch clean it up for me. She went to the pharmacy and everything and put some alcohol on it to make sure it wasn’t infected and cleaned it up. Everyone came back and got ready for dinner. The freaking lads wanted to watch their damn footie game, so we went to a random place to watch it while the girls and I tried to find cheaper food. Liv, Ida and I settled at this restaurant where I got deep fried fish yuuum. 

Back at the bar where the lads were watching their damn soccer match, I went to go order a cocktail before happy hour ended (we had like 7 minutes left). Ida and I order a Long Island Ice Tea during BOGO free. It took this dude like 10 minutes to make the drink, then the people at the bar had the audacity to tell us that happy hour was over and we’d have to pay full price for the drink. We tried to explain to them that it wasn’t our fault the guy took forever to make our drinks and that we ordered it before happy hour was over. They still weren’t allowing us to get it for happy hour price so I said fuck that, I don’t want it and left. It made me angry and so I refused to buy drinks from them for the rest of the night, I didn’t want to support them. Liv bought me a drink as my going away present haha (it was the last night I would be spending with everyone before going off on my own).

When the game was finally over we went back to the hostel where we bought bottles from the bar. We took them upstairs to the rooftop where we pregammed and spent time together. Josh, Liv and I had a moment, after all we’d been traveling together since the beginning, literally the first day we all arrived in Bangkok. Now 7 weeks later we were splitting up and I basically don’t know traveling life without them. So sad, I know, but at the end of the day we have to remember that we’re solo travelers with our own time table. I was only planning on staying in Vietnam for 3 weeks, then head to Cambodia for a week until I get to Bali to meet up with my dad. 

After all getting pretty drunk, we headed off to this pretty cool club called Rain Club, or something. They played house music, which is really not my dancing music but hey, it was my last night. Josh and Charlie left early, Josh had left his phone in the cab and he went to try to find it. Liv, Hannah and Sean left early because Liv didn’t feel well. So I was there with the lads and Ida, enjoying myself and trying to enjoy my last night (which I did). By the time we left the club it was pouring down rain. We stopped for banh mi but I didn’t want anything, I was hoping to get Chao at the food place by our hostel. When I went to go ask him for a bowl, he said no. I wasn’t sure if it was he couldn’t understand me or because they didn’t have any but I was really disappointed I couldn’t eat it.

Oct 23, 2017

Today, was the day I had to leave everyone. I woke up with 5 minutes left of breakfast, my alarm went off but it was too quiet for me to hear. I had an omelet for breakfast, woo switchin it up. Sean and I’s bus picked us up at 11:30. We were headed to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) while the others wanted to stop at Mui Ne, a beach town. After a really sad good bye, I headed onto the bus.

The ride was actually really nice. The bus company was so friendly, they gave us water bottles, had a really clean facility, told us what to do, and had wifi that actually worked! I beat my Pokemon game, and after we stopped for lunch (where I got Chao Ga) I tried to sleep. I got a nice hour of sleep before waking up to honking of horns.

Sean booked us a hostel at the Hangout, which was a pretty cool hostel. We were really hungry and I was on the prowl to find some Bo Kho or beef stew. I asked the hostel if they knew where I could find it and they recommended a place that was right down the street. A little pricey, we ordered Bo Kho and Pho. I was in heaven. It was one of the best dishes I had out here and I was elated (probably because I was so freaking hungry). After exchanging Vietnam Dong for USD, I went back to the hostel where I just chilled. I didn’t feel good, a little sickly from probably a lot of partying and not enough sleep. I wrote a little bit of my blog and hung out, but I still couldn’t sleep. My damn insomnia gets bad sometimes, but luckily I was able to fall asleep around 4am (not good for someone who’s sick).

Now, I’m on a bus to Cambodia, traveling solo. This is the first time I’ve felt like I was actually traveling solo. It’s a good thing for me though, time to spread my wings and try something different. I can’t wait for the upcoming adventures–my dad is meeting me in Bali in Nov and immediately after that I’m meeting my mom in the Philippines where she’ll spend Thanksgiving with me in her native country! It’s so special that we get to experience this together. This will be only her second time in the Philippines since she left when she was younger and I’ve told her so many times I’ve wanted to go with her. I wasn’t expecting her to actually come meet me but she spontaneously bought a ticket and now I’m so excited! So stay tuned for my time in Cambodia, Bali, and the homeland, the Philippines and the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!


2 Days in Hue, 4 Days in Hanoi

Oct 10, 2017

I think I’ve just accepted the fact that I’m going to eat scrambled eggs every morning from now on. I mean, it’s the best option between that, pancakes & fruit. Despite that, I’m very excited for my morning tea–black with sugar/honey & milk. We woke up in Hanoi with the intent of finally going south, to Hue. I think we’ve stayed a little too long in the north (10 days), so I was very excited to take a sleeper bus that night, I’ve slept quite well in them so far.

After we checked out, Mike, Hannah, Charlie, Liv, Josh and I wanted to do a little “admin” (British word for chores) like get Charlie’s phone screen fixed, withdraw money, get some coffee and shop a bit. We ended up at this cool coffee shop where I got sencha milk tea (milk tea is my fav & I’m so glad they have it everywhere here in Asia, I mean I guess they should since it’s an Asian thing). After coffee/tea, Liv & I split up with the rest so we could withdraw money and shop a little. It was overcast and a smidge misty, but hadn’t started raining at this point. We walked to this clothes shop where Liv and I had went a few days before Cat Ba. She really wanted to buy these pants and I just enjoy shopping so I tagged along.

I didn’t end up buying anything at that shop, Liv was able to get her pants, but I did find these capris with this unique print I hadn’t seen before at another shop. At this point the rain started to come down a little harder, so we went to go find food to hopefully let the storm pass. We settled at this little restaurant where I ordered fried tofu (yessss, seriously one of my favorite dishes and the first time I’ve seen it on the menu) and rice. We were hoping during that time that the storm would either die down or stop…well it didn’t. We didn’t just wanna sit there and do nothing, we also didn’t want to bother buying a plastic poncho (because I’m trying to reduce my consumption of plastic here, even though it’s really hard since we can’t drink the tap water and they give everything in plastic bags). 

At this point it was pouring, like raining buckets, but Liv and I just decided to run through it all. It was actually quite fun and like a game. Most of the streets were flooded with puddles, and most shops had awnings to protect them from the rain. We got pelted from these awnings with even heavier water because the shops were obviously protecting the things that were outside, and the only place that we could walk was where the water would drip down because the streets were so narrow. So we had a really fun time getting extremely wet. We picked up some sleeping pills from the pharmacy for the night bus ride and headed back to the hostel.

Once back, we were absolutely soaked. I sat in front of the fan so I could dry off while I blogged and chilled. The bus would pick us up at 6pm, so I had a few hours to work on my blog (but like I said this shit takes a really long time to write, so I need to dedicate a good amount of time to it). Sam & Ida were already at the hostel, and later on the others slowly trickled in. They were smart enough to wait until the storm died down more before they made their way back. I got some snacks and a banh mi for the bus ride ahead. There wasn’t enough time for me to eat it before we got picked up so I put it in my backpack for later.

The shuttle for the bus picked us up and dropped us off at this little office where the big bus would come in like 45 minutes. It was pissing down rain at this point and all of us had ALL of our shit. We couldn’t just sit outside the small little booking office, so some of us sat in there, some in the cafe next door, and others under the awning on the other side of the office. We were waiting for such a long time in the rain with all of our stuff, it was pretty miserable. Nevertheless, the bus finally came and we were able to get on the bus quickly.

The bus was just like the one we took to Sapa, with reclining seat/beds on the top and bottom. I got a top one just because I think it’s cool. The first thing I did was eat my banh mi while it was still semi-hot. I then tried to finish my blog, which was a really bad idea. I normally don’t get car sick, but after an hour of working on my blog I started to get a headache and feel sick. I think my concentration of the blog, mixed with the awful driving of the bus driver (which made me sway from side-to-side almost constantly), and the fact that I was on the top made my stomach turn. I mean, I guess it didn’t help that had just eaten as well.

Everyone was going to pop their Valiums (sleeping pills) and I wanted to make sure I used the restroom before I did mine so I wouldn’t have to go later. Once I got down from my bunk, the swaying of the bus made me feel even worse. Once I got into the bathroom I immediately puked into the toilet, which is weird from me because I almost always puke from alcohol, never for actually feeling sick. But, after that I felt A LOT better. I popped 2 valiums, blew up my neck pillow, put on some music and started to relax. Just as the valiums started kicking in, we stopped for like 20 minutes at a place we could eat or use the restroom. I was so vallied out at that point and did some nonsensical roaming/blabbering. I think I got some siopao (Filipino term) or bao (Chinese term for steam bun) and picked out the egg. We boarded the bus and I immediately went to sleep. 

Oct 11, 2017

I definitely had a very pleasant sleep. I woke up so refreshed and full of energy. We arrived in Hue around 8-9ish. We didn’t book anywhere and were kind of nervous that we hadn’t found a place. It’s also very intimidating to find transportation when all of the taxi drivers wait outside telling you to come with them and not letting you breath. But, there was a girl holding a red buffalo sign up, the symbol of the Vietnam Backpacker’s hostel, the chain of hostel that we just came from in Hanoi. I immediately asked her if they had room for 8 people because we didn’t book anywhere else. I think she made a call and came back and said yes, they definitely had room. This made everything a lot easier since 1) we could go with them without having to hassle/haggle with aggressive taxi drivers 2) not having to find a cafe that had internet so we could find a place to book 3) we could go to a hostel we were already familiar with and knew was good.

I FaceTimed my dad while others took showers because it’s HIS BIRTHDAY! HAPPY 28TH BIRTHDAY DAD! After killing some time, we were finally able to check in and move all our bags in. We were all able to get in a room together, which is always nice because it’s just easier to do things. Then Charlie, Hannah and I went shopping because we like clothes. They really cute matching rompers while I got this off the shoulder dress (finally a dress I get to add to my wardrobe). It was a little too long but the lady was very nice and immediately told me she could hem it in 3 minutes. So after that we were all hungry. There were a lot of expensive Western food places on our street, but we were all craving Vietnamese food. Luckily, we found this Vietnamese restaurant that served affordable food. I forget what I ordered but I remember that it was delishhhh.

The rest of the day consisted of roaming around and shopping. We wanted to go on a motorbike tour but not enough of us were confident in driving motorbikes–I’m definitely not confident, I’ve heard of too many horror stories of people crashing, seem too many people with crutches and bandages, cuts, bruises and scars, to be bothered to learn to drive a motorbike. But, Liv, Josh and Sam were the only ones that could possibly drive with others on the back. So they rented motorbikes to practice and see the rest of town.

Hannah, Charlie, Ida, Mike and I tried to find a good shopping area for clothes, so I asked the front desk where there the best place for a clothes market would be. They circled some place on the map that said “market” so that’s where we decided to go. On the way to this market, we found a cool hang out spot where teenagers probably go on their time off. It had a blowing alley, movie theater (cinema in British terms), arcade and boba! When we finally got to the market, we noticed that we were the only Westerners there. While, that’s not always a bad thing, we did get a LOT of stares. I think they judge me even more because I’m Asian with a whole bunch of white people and don’t speak a lick of any Asian language and have an American accent. It must be weird for them to see someone who looks like them but speaks like white people they’re used to seeing in movies and shows.

Side note: It is very interesting being Asian American in Asia. First off, if I’m by myself, I obviously look Western so I immediately say hi so they know that I speak English. Sometimes I get spoken to in either Vietnamese, Chinese, or Korean (mostly here in Vietnam since it’s more East Asian than Laos and Thailand). Also, every local that can speak English asks me where I’m from. I’ve learned that they means they’re asking basically my ethnicity. At first I used to say San Francisco or California but many gave me weird faces or inquired more of like “..but what are you” haha. So, I guess I would say I’m a weird hybrid for the people living here. I don’t get the stares like “oh you’re a white person” but more like “oh, you look like me but don’t sound like me” type of action. I also get complimented on my skin color a lot. Even though I’m no where as light skinned as I am back home (I’m pretty tan right now), I’ve gotten a few acknowledgements on how nice my skin color is. Light skin is considered very beautiful out here. They have whitening in almost all of their beauty products and when they do wear makeup it’s usually white powder and red lips. Just an interesting observation I’ve made out here.

Anyways, the market was way too local for our comfort, so we walked back. But on our way we stopped at a few shops so that Charlie, Hannah, Ida and I could go shopping. I got this REALLY REALLY cute romper, it had sharks all over it and I have a thing for rompers so all of that combined made me extremely happy. We met up with Sam, Josh, and Liv then headed over to one of the expensive Western restaurants for a snack. We knew we’d be eating street food later on in the night so we just wanted something to tie us over.

We’d booked this dragon boat tour for the night. The ladies at the front desk made it sound like you go up and down the Perfume River where you could sight see and they’d have traditional music on the boat for entertainment, then they’d drop you off at the street food area. Well, it ended up being this dragon boat that took you out to the middle of the river where you were stationary. Then they sang to you in Vietnamese with traditional music and dance, but everything, even the story telling was in Vietnamese so we didn’t even know what was going on/what the story was about the whole time. Everyone on this boat as well were Vietnamese so, it obviously wasn’t a tourist thing. It was cool to see, but also something we could have skipped and not spent money on. But we got to put some lanterns in the water, and even though they dropped us off at the place that we got on we were able to walk to the night market.

The first stall we saw served Bun Bo Hue, a dish that I’m really familiar with from home and I know the area is known for (duh, Hue). Me, Liv and Sam got it because the other had eaten at the Western place before we left for the boat thing. It was freaking delicious and I’m really glad I was able to eat it authentically. I also had this good dessert drink that reminded me of Halo Halo, it had crushed ice along with beans, jelly, pudding and crunchy granola on the top. After that we walked back to the hostel. We had another night of drinking where I spent way too much money on alcohol, again. But, I got drunk which was nice because it does take a lot of alcohol for that to happen.

Oct 12, 2017

Most of us woke up hungover, I just had a bad tummy ache, but I ate scrambled eggs anyways. It was raining in the morning, so we said no to the motorbike tour and instead decided to do the village tour, where locals take you on the back of their bikes to 5 different sites. It was a more sensible choice since most of us weren’t comfortable riding bikes and it was raining which made it worse.. Well, it ended up only raining in the morning and for like 5 minutes at a site but other than that, that was it. I was actually glad we rode on the back of motorbikes since I didn’t have to worry at all, the locals were perfect drivers. Two lads, Max and Toby also from the UK, joined us for the tour as well.

The first place we stopped at was the Imperial City. No one wanted to pay the fee to get in the actual city, it was a little pricey and we couldn’t even take pictures inside so we just walked around the fortress/moat. The second place we stopped was a pagoda, some cool temple looking thing, where it ended up flash raining for like 5 minutes. The next stop was a place where they make incense. The different colors symbolized different smells. Green was sandalwood, red/purple was cinnamon (when burned it helps deter mosquitos), and yellow is lemongrass. It’s made from bamboo and some type of paste (I forget what the paste was called), then rolled to make it cylindrical and straight.

After that we had lunch at a local restaurant. I had crispy noodles with veggies and it was absolutely delish!! Our next stop was an old American bunker from the Vietnam war. Hue was basically in the middle between the North and the South. Our guide let us know that thousands of people died in that area, it was actually really sad and the first time I heard something about the war from a local. 

The next stop was my absolute favorite place: abandoned water park. I have a thing with abandoned places, urban decay really intrigues me and I just couldn’t get enough of this place. I guess was abandoned in 2002 after a typhoon totally recked it and it wasn’t making enough money anyways. Basically, it wasn’t worth putting in the money to redo it since there wasn’t a lot of money coming in. All the buildings were cleared out of whatever used to be there, but in its place was broken glass, graffiti, and rubble. It was freaking awesome. The main building was a dragon where I guess it used to house an aquarium and probably a restaurant. There was an abandoned water auditorium that we weren’t able to see. There was an abandoned water slide area with a wave pool and kiddie arena. It was by far the coolest thing so far.

The last thing we went to see the imperial tomb of one of the last emperors of Vietnam. This emperor was the same one who popularized tiger vs elephant fighting (there was an arena we would have been able to see if we took the other tour where they actually fought). The interesting fact about these fights was that the elephant was a sacred animal in the Buddhist religion, so they often rigged these fights by declawing & drugging the tigers with opium before the fights so the elephants would win. The fighting was finally banned in 1904, in the 20th century, which is really hard to wrap my head around, but it’s definitely cool to learn. The tomb was pretty cool and intricate. Only Sam and I went into the actual tomb because the others didn’t want to spend money going in. I thought I might as well since I missed out on the Imperal City and I’m there to sight see so why not.

We got dropped off back at the hostel where I gave my driver a nice tip. I’m such a softie when it comes to giving good tips and helping people out. Especially because I know they don’t make a lot and it would really help their family if I gave a little more. I’M SUCH AN EMPATHETIC PERSON AND SOMETIMES I HATE IT. I gave the biggest tip out of everyone in our group, which everyone told me they made them look bad lol. 

I was so lazy to go out to eat so I got a pizza at the hostel where we played another pub quiz, we split into 2 groups so it would be more fun. This time we got our results back and we actually both tied so no one really won (in our group). Liv and I went to get Baskin Robbins because we were craving some good ice cream. I tried to go out that night but I couldn’t justify spending anymore money on alcohol so I went in for an early night.

Oct 13, 2017

Friday the 13th, DUN DUN DUN. We booked to go over the Hi Van pass today–Mike, Sam, Ida, Charlie, Hannah, and I spent more to hire a jeep to take us Hoi An from Hue. Liv and Josh decided to motorbike to Hoi An instead, so we would meet them at the Vietnam Backpackers Hostel there. Our driver picked us up at 10am, and he told us we would make it to Hoi An around 5pm. There were 3 jeeps that could take 3 people each, so Charlie, Hannah and I shared one while Sam, Mike and Ida were in the other (and some others from the hostel also did the tour that day). The tour guide introduced him as Music Man (I really thought his name was music but apparently he was making a reference to some UK nursery rhyme).

The jeep was a nice open jeep, almost vintage looking like the ones you use in safaris or what they used during the war. Our first stop was a coffee shop where I had a nice chat with “music” and had amazing drip Vietnamese coffee. Apparently, after the war his parents were very poor and had to drop out of primary school to work. But they saved enough money to send him to university where he learned English and Chinese. He was then able to get a good job in tourism that helped him pay for the rest of his education. He’s the now the breadwinner in the family, taking care of his parents, He’s also in charge of putting his younger sister through university when she gets older since his parents used all of their money to send him to college. It’s just really refreshing to have conversations with locals to remind yourself how great you really do have it in Western countries.

The ride in the jeep was so relaxing and enjoyable. Instead of having to worry about driving, directions, other drivers, and the weather, we could just enjoy ourselves and the beautiful surroundings. I mean it is rainy season here, so it’s not always sunny, but I quite like the overcast. It’s not as hot and I don’t have to worry about putting sunscreen on. Charlie, Hannah and I could also chat and have really good conversation. We drove through villages, by the coast, and finally stopping at a stretch of beach. This beach was amazing because we were basically the only people there. It was a beach hut, with tire swings, cute lights, little platforms we could sit on, and my favorite, beach dogs.

We swam and looked for crabs while they cooked us lunch. I got a tofu dish that was pretty interesting. After about an hour there we headed off again. This time we stopped at a bridge to get more pictures, then went over the Hi Van Pass. This curvy road gave amazing views of the Vietnam coast. At the very top we stopped at an old structure, used by the emperor for something that I forgot haha. But we took some more nice pictures (our tour guide was very adamant about taking our pictures everywhere we went & instructing our poses and shit LOL). After a nice photoshoot we were off again. Charlie and Hannah got pretty tired once we got to Da Nang and started nodding off.

The drivers dropped us off at our hostel, another Vietnam Backpackers Hostel. This one was SUPER nice though, like an actual hotel (it was just built earlier this year). The only downside was that it was far from the center of town. After checking in I got a margarita pizza from downstairs, I guess I just can’t help myself. We also got into the pool and played some pool volleyball. Since this was our 3rd Vietnam Backpacker’s Hostel, we knew that their drinks were expensive and they wouldn’t allow us to bring alcohol in our rooms. So, we snuck it into the room that Josh, Charlie, Hannah, Mike, Sam, and I shared (a room all to ourselves). Ida and I split a bottle of vodka that tasted like legit rubbing alcohol (or nail polish remover or moonshine, whatever you wanna call it). I realized after this night that I just can’t drink vodka, it doesn’t work on me as much as tequilla or darker alcohol does. We did a lot of pregaming (predrinking in British terms) and waited until 11-11:30 when everyone would be going out to the actual town.

A lot of us were drunk as fuck at this point, unfortunately I puked everything out before I left. Not because I was drunk as fuck but because the alcohol was that disgusting it wasn’t agreeing with my stomach. So, I was pretty damn sober by the time we left for the night out.  We had to take a taxi in town, that’s how far it was from the center. A lot of drama went down that night, the most our group has ever really dealt with, but I honestly think it was because everyone was drunk and not really thinking rationally. But whatever, I didn’t really have a good night but I fell asleep fine so it was all good.

Oct 14, 2017

The cool thing about this hostel is that it has a buffet for breakfast. All the scrambled/fried eggs, pancakes, pineapple/watermelon, baguettes your heart desires. Woo (*says sarcastically). I had extremely runny eggs because it was the last of the scrambled eggs, yum. Most everyone woke up hung over, Liv didn’t even make it to breakfast haha. So we had a really slow day. We basically chilled in our little lounge on the bean bags for majority of the day. I FaceTimed mommy, I miss her to pieces!!! Liv and Sam went for a walk and we told that we’d meet them later.

Around 2-3ish we finally decided to find Sam & Liv and get some food. We settled on this small restaurant that only served Cau Lao & Mi Quang, both noodle dishes. I’m not sure what the difference between them are, I just know they have noodles, meat, and veggies. After we made our way to the beach. It was super windy that day and by the time we got there it was way too windy to swim (not like we were going to anyways). But, it was so windy that the loose sand would hit our skin and feel like little needles. We didn’t spend that much time there, just enough to say “we went to the beach”.

After making our way back to the hostel, I got in the pool with the homies. We made plans later to have a girls night and a boys night. The boys or “lads” (LMAO) wanted to go to the Irish bar to watch a soccer match, “footie game” and the girls wanted to have a lil dinner night. We walked to the river where there was a cute restaurant right on the bank. There was no one else there except us, and it was such a good idea. I got some chicken with lemongrass and chili and it was delish. 

Once back at the hostel we decided to have a movie night on our floor. The rep downstairs was nice enough to turn on a movie for us even though it was late (I guess they don’t turn on movies at night because of noise and there’s no one to turn it off?). We picked Lion and it was actually a really good film. I’m surprised I hadn’t seen it before and cried at the end haha. It was a really low key day since most people were hungover and it’s nice to have a relaxing day every once in a while, especially after a travel day.

Oct 15, 2017

After some really runny scrambled eggs, we’d planned to go on the Bicycle Tour of Ancient town. But we learned that it didn’t actually give us admission into all of the attractions in Old Town, so we decided to do it ourselves. We rented bicycles (not motorbikes because we’re not comfortable with alla that), I was pretty nervous since I haven’t rode a bike in so long. But after some practice (even on no so good bikes) I got the hang of it. It’s actually not easy biking around town even if it is not as busy as Hanoi or Hue. The motorbike culture here is crazy. People drive on the wrong side of the street, you have to dodge motorbikes in intersections, you basically just have to dodge motorbikes constantly because people here literally give no fucks. But that’s just the culture of their driving, and they’re all used to it so you have no choice but to deal with it.

We went on a mission to find ATMs that would give us more than 2-3 mil ($90-$140), but I was just forced to withdraw since I had basically no money left. At Old Town we bought a ticket that would let us visit 5 different historical sites. So we went to a few old houses and assembly halls. We only went to 3 since the other 2 we wanted to go to were closed. Old Town was a cool place to visit. Lanterns hung everywhere: across the streets, in front and inside stores, and in temples and homes. We also learned that during the rainy season, Old Town almost always floods because it’s right by the river. Some of the houses are made from really quality wood, that’s why it’s been able to survive floods and keep the house cool/dry during hot and humid days.

For lunch we ate at a food stall in the central market in Old Town. Josh and I split white rose (dumplings) and stir fried Mi Quang, two dishes famous in the area. It was SOOO good and we were really satisfied with our purchases. By this point we were over seeing historical sties (plus like I said the good ones were closed) so Liv and Hannah left to get an outfit tailored (something recommended to do in Hoi An) while the rest of us roamed around Old Town. We got some iced tea, shopped a little, and just tried to enjoy our surroundings. 

Finally we were ready to go back but the boys had brought their bikes to the area we were in and the girls left them over by the Japanese bridge. I really wanted a lift back so I stood on the pegs of Sam’s bikes as we rid through the streets. It was really funny because he didn’t have a bell on his bike and the streets were packed with people. It was a little hard for him to balance on the bike with me on the back so he couldn’t make sudden stops/turns. So my job was to let people know we were coming by yelling really loudly “MEEP MEEP” (like the cars and motorbikes out here) and it was actually so funny. The reactions of some people were either frightened, they laughed, or quickly got out of the way. Basically, my meeping worked and we got to my bike in one piece.

On our way back I decided to go off on my own to find the bank I passed on our way there. When I went to withdraw money from the ATM it said the maximum limit had been reached (the ATMs here run out of money usually around 4-5pm). So, I just said fuck it and went back to the hostel. On the way there, I was just on the side of the road, cycling minding my own business, when all of a sudden a motorbike almost ran into me from the left side. I had to do some impressive maneuvering in order for me not to get smashed by this incoming motorbike. Luckily the sidewalks here are curved so I was ran onto the sidewalk and ran into a planter that had a tree in it (probably the best scenario when I come to think about it, the bike was fine and I kinda hopped off before I could hurt myself). I turned around and said “what the fuck” because at first I thought these guys were just fucking around on bikes trying to mess with each other while they drove. But I realized that the guy that almost ran into me was in as much shock as I was. I realized that the guys that almost ran into him (or so I thought) were two guys on a motorbike with one guy on the back holding a bamboo stick. They were either trying to fish the guy who almost ran into me’s bag since he had a lot of luggage on him or get my bag from the basket in front of me and the other guy just got in the way by accident. I also realized it was a serious situation (not 2 guys just fucking around on bikes) when a few others motorbikes who were behind me stopped with concerned faces. A guy came out of the gate where I’d crashed my bike (after probably hearing me scream and yell at dude haha, typical me) and spoke to the people who stopped on their motorbikes. They weren’t concerned about me, they were more concerned about the people who got away, gesturing and pointing in the direction he went. Shaken but unscathed, I got back on my bike and peddled away, holding the strap of my purse in my hand. That situation could have been really bad, but I was very lucky and walked away not hurt and not robbed.

I got back to the hostel in one piece. We all chilled until we were ready to go out again for dinner. A rep (Western employee who works at hostels to help other Westerners) suggested this apparently really good restaurant that we had to go to. I love suggestions so I said sure, it was in the vicinity of the night market anyways so we thought we’d try it out. Everyone wanted to drink that night so we all bought alcohol next door. Liv and I split a bottle of rum, because like I said I can’t do that nasty moonshine anymore. I brought it up to her room and put it on the floor to go grab another small water bottle we could pour it in. When I came back I forgot to tell her it was on the floor and she accidentally knocked it over and it smashed everywhere. Sad but I reluctantly went downstairs to get more alcohol. It was cheap so I didn’t feel that bad buying another bottle. The lady was really nice as well and gave me 10,000 when I explained to her it smashed.

We put our alcohol in a little water bottle and in my purse so we could drink it by the river back in Old Town. Once we got to the restaurant we realized it was really expensive and definitely not in our budget (these reps must be delusional, we’re not at a resort, we’re on a freaking backpacking budget) so some of us went to the restaurant next door that was way more in our budget. I got delish eggplant (obergine in British terms) that was pretty fucking good. The rest of night we just drank by the river (‘we’ includes all 8 of us and Toby & Max), talking enjoying each other’s company and eventually making our way to a bar. Hannah and I got free balloons from some random dudes sitting on the side of the river, which was really nice of them but we dipped immediately after we finished haha. Everyone else went back except me, Liv, Sam, Ida, Toby and Max, but I mostly hung out with Liv and Sam and we actually ended up having a fun, successful evening.

Oct 16, 2017

I didn’t want to get up this morning. I was pretty hungover, and we’d gotten back really late. I also had a great convo with someone in the bathroom for a long while and didn’t end up sleeping until 3am. But, I dragged my ass outta bed to eat soggy scrambled eggs, yay. Everyone was pretty hungover and we asked them if we could watch a movie in our little lounge. They put on the Jungle Book (live version) and I tried to pay attention. For the most part I watched the whole movie, but then I immediately went back into the room and took a good hour nap. I needed that nap badly, but felt refreshed after it.

Liv, Sam and I decided to rent bikes to find an ATM. I did my research and found where the best ATM was (one where I could withdraw a good amount of money) and we found one where you could withdraw out 8 mill with no ATM fee (UNHEARD OF). After withdrawing a good amount of cash, Liv and I spotted a “silk” shop. One of my goals out here was to get a nice silk robe and she wanted a nice nightgown. We both found what we were looking for and very happy with our purchases. We realized that the tailor shop where Hannah was getting her suit fitted was right down the street and that she’d probably be there with Charlie and low and behold, they were there with Ida as well!

The girls wanted to shop (minus Liv because she went shopping the day before) so we stopped at some cute stores on the way back to the hostel. I ended up getting a cute romper and two halter tops. It was a really successful shopping day (but the question now is how to close my backpack…). For dinner, Liv’s friend who lives in Vietnam suggested this restaurant that served the best Com Ga or chicken with rice. We all took a cab to Old Town to hopefully try this place. When we got there, it was closed :(. I realized that it was Monday, a day I’ve noticed most businesses shut. It’s also like that at home, most Vietnamese/Thai places are closed on Monday’s, but it’s just so hard to pay attention to the days of the week when we’re out here.

We opted for the restaurant literally right next door that served the same thing. Josh and I split another white rose while most of us got Com Ga as our main meal. It was really good and I’m glad we got it. Some of us wanted to go out for a drink while others wanted to go back and hopefully watch a movie. When we got back to the hostel and asked the front desk if we could watch a movie, a different manager was there to tell us no. I was not happy because literally 2 nights before that we were able to have a great movie night. His excuse was no one would be there to turn it off, but the manager the night before said the TV would turn off by itself so it didn’t make much sense…ugh jerk. So most of us just chilled on the bean bags and chatted a little. Me and Liv were the last ones there and we had a nice, deep convo about life.

Now, the next day in my sequence of days (the 17th of Oct) was actually published before this post. I was told that if I wrote a blog post about the hostel and included a link I would get one night free. Since I’ve been procrastinating and delaying writing my blog post I tried to bang out 7 days in 4 hours, that didn’t happen since one day seems to take me an hour to write, so I wrote as much as I could until 12am when I realized I wouldn’t finish everything before the next day. So instead I just wrote/published that one day so I could show them the next morning and get my money back when I checked out.

I’m going to really try to start getting my blog posts out in a more timely manner because this delaying then dedicating like 5+ hours to writing isn’t cutting it. I’ll get better, I promise, this is my obligation (like homework) and I’ll just have to manage my time better. People ask me why I write such extensive blogs, but I really like getting all of my thoughts and all the details out in one place. If anything, this is more for me than anyone else. Sorta like a little outlet where I can really reflect on the things I’ve done, memories I’ve made, and experiences I’ve been blessed to have had. Most importantly, it keeps me humble, and reminds me how blessed I am to be on this journey because not everyone can do this, but it’s nice to know that I’ve done it completely and utterly on my own. This is a once in a life time experience and I want to remember every second of it.

Ok, that’s enough ranting. If you’ve read this far I really applaud you because I’ve just written damn near a whole week of shit that I’ve done and thoughts I’ve had. Please stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSa’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!


1 Day in Da Nang

Oct 17, 2017

For our last day in Hoi An, I ate scrambled eggs once again. I’ve found a trick to get the best eggs from our buffet at Vietnam Backpackers Hostel: ask for when they’re going to be refilled and wait until they refill them to get the freshest batch. Of course it took me 4 days to realize this, but hey, better late than never. We had to check out today, I mean we better because we’ve been here for too long already.

After packing and organizing our all inclusive trip to Ninhvana (what kind of backpackers are we damnit), we called a car to take us to our next destination: Barney’s Hostel in Da Nang. When I was looking through business cards at the hostel, this one was there, staring at me. Liv had also mentioned that it was the best rated/best looking hostel on HostelWorld, so we all booked it the night before to ensure we all could get a room.

We said goodbye to Toby & Max and headed to Da Nang. We were told it would be like a 45 minute drive from Hoi An to Da Nang, but it was really, really quick. Like basically a half hour if that. We arrived around 1:15pm, and even though check in was at 2pm, they were able to accommodate all 8 of us with no problem. The ladies at the front desk were so friendly and helpful (and spoke really good English, probably the best English I’ve encountered so far in Vietnam), they were able to book us a sleeper bus to Nha Trang so seamlessly. The first thing I noticed about this hostel was that it was very cozy, yet modern and inviting. The best part is that the rooms are How I Met Your Mother themed. The staff was nice enough to put me, Liv, Ida and Sam in a room, we’d all booked separately, and we got the Marshall room (yessss). It’s so funny because they have pictures of the show/quotes all around room. The room’s also the niceset room I think I’ve been in so far. The beds are wide and comfy, bathrooms clean and modern looking, and they even have a mini fridge!! It felt more like a bedroom/dorm from a college back home than a hostel. They even have a rooftop that has a great view of the river and beautiful bridges (it looks so cool at night since everything is lit up and the lights reflect off the water).

We were all really hungry, and the sweet ladies downstairs gave us a whole list of cheap, delicious local food that we could go to. Unfortunately, we were too hungry and these places were a little far away so we just opted for the Mi Quang place right next door. Mi Quang is a dish popular to the region, it’s basically wide rice noodles and meat/veggies with some good sauce. I’m not a 100% sure what the sauce is made from, but it tastes like garlic, fish sauce, a little chili and some soy sauce (this one even had peanuts in it, which gave it the perfect crunch). It was cheap, fast, and delicious and we were all really satisfied (did I mention it was right next door, so I could still use the wifi from the hostel in the restaurant).

Josh and Charlie went off on their own to site see while the rest of us wanted to have a beach day. We had to stop at the mall before heading to the beach because some of us had to withdraw money from the ATM there (the ladies at the hostel gave us a really good recommendation to go there, there were no ATM fees and we were able to get a lot of money out, something rare in Vietnam). But, while at the mall we got a little sidetrack and we shopped/ate spending a good 1-2 hours there, oops.

We then made our way to the beach, which was a 30 minute walk. By this time it was about 430pm, and we only had an hour or so left of daylight (even though it was already overcast). The beach was amazing. The sand was the perfect yellow, the water was warm and great for swimming (if you stay in the designated swimming areas). Anything outside the designated swimming area the rip curl gets a little too strong for most people. Sam and I were trying to find the best waves to body surf on but they were far and few between. It was still a pretty successful beach day I would have to say, even though we were only there for an hour before the sun went down.

We walked back to the mall where we ran into Charlie and Josh. We wanted to eat there because they had a pretty good food court. I got some amazing pepper steak and corn, it reminded me of Pepper Lunch, a restaurant we have back at home where the beef comes out raw but the hot stone cooks it for you while you stir everything together. I was very impressed with my dinner and really glad I got that. Jolliebee is also in the same complex but I decided I would save that for the next day for lunch (Jolliebee is MY FAV, but I checked their menu and they don’t have gravy or halo halo like back at home, but hey you can’t have everything).

After dinner we came back to our hostel, the mall is only like a 15 minute walk. Everyone was pretty dead and didn’t want to go out. I wanted to work on my blog since it takes a really long time for me to write. I enjoyed the lovely rooftop where I was able to admire the lights and river. The others caught up on their shows and reading, FaceTiming, etc. 

This is probably one of the best hostels we’ve stayed at so far. Not just because the facilities are so nice, or the views are great, but the staff is also incredible. If you’re ever in Da Nang and you’re not sure where to stay, I would definitely recommend  Barney Hostel. It’s affordable but upscale at the same time. And I can’t stress enough how amazing the staff is!!

I need to go to bed now, since I’ve been trying to blog for almost 4 hours now (the rest of Hoi An/Hue will be up probably tomorrow if not the next day, I’m getting so behind and procrastinating it’s actually so bad). But please feel free to ask me any questions if you’ve been following thus far. I’d be happy to recommend places and tell you more about my experience (not like I haven’t gone into so much detail already). So stay tuned for that next really long blog post and stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA BACKPACKING ADVENTURE!

3 Days in Hanoi + 3 Days in Cat Ba

Oct 4, 2017

It’s been a while since I last blogged, so please forgive me for my lack of memory (hint: a lot of alcohol has also been consumed, so my memory’s a bit hazy). I always wake up just before 10am, so I can eat breakfast and savor every ounce of sleep I can get. I got eggs for breakfast (big shock) and made my morning tea (black with sugar and milk). Today was the day that the girls, Charlie and Hannah, would finally meet up with us! Their visas didn’t start until Oct 4th and they were taking the 24 hr bus from Vientiane to Hanoi.

After a slow morning, me, Liv, Josh, Jess, Mike, & Sam decided to explore. We went to Hien Kiem Lake, the famous lake around closest to downtown where apparently Hanoi was named after? The temple in the middle of the lake, which I forget the name of, is apparently a really sacred temple. We also had to cover up, no knees/shoulders shown. I had my sarong while Jess & Liv had to put on some very hilarious dress cover ups. There wasn’t really much to read/see, Vietnam doesn’t have very descriptive signs so we kinda just roamed around and enjoyed the sites.

I know this is really bad, don’t judge us, but we wanted to get some Popeyes for lunch. The Brits & Kiwi don’t have them in their country, and I had to show them why/how Popeyes was better than KFC. So, we got it right, and it’s so much different than the one in the States (go figure). It also didn’t make my stomach feel very good, probably karma for eating Popeyes in Vietnam. Liv needed to check out a different pharmacy that hopefully had bug spray with deet more than 10-15%. It was near the museum that we wanted to go to (The Vietnamese Museum of History), so we all walked with her that way. 

The pharmacy ended up being closed but there was a huge mall that had nice AC (very key after long walks) so we went inside and checked it out. There were really fancy stores like Dior, Louis Vuitton, etc in there so we really didn’t look around, we just went up and down the escalators LOL. It was also pouring outside, so we wanted to kill some time before walking in the rain again, or hopefully it would surpass by the time we got out.

Luckily it did, so we took that time to walk to the museum. I thought this national history museum would be a good one, something very informational (which I really really like). I LOVE learning about different cultures, it’s something I enjoy doing when I go to a different country. However, this museum was nothing like I expected. Instead of exhibits with descriptive signs, appealing artwork, and culturally significant dates, it just displayed a lot of rocks, artifacts of different time periods with maybe a small description of why it was important. I was kinda disappointed, but I can’t expect everything to be like the British Museum or Smithsonian’s in DC.

We were all really exhausted by the end of the museum. We’d already done a lot of walking and been on our feet the whole day. Some of us wanted to take a taxi back to the hostel, that’s how tired we were. But it was only .8 miles away, so we opted to walk again. I got some boba to kinda give me that little oomph of energy.  Please don’t mind me, I really forgot what we did the rest of the night.

I think we met up with the girls around 6, who said their bus ride wasn’t bad at all (stark contrast to Ida who had a bus ride from hell). They said they would do the bus if they could again, because their experience was that good. I don’t remember what I had for dinner, it might have been another Banh Mi. Liv and I went to go find alcohol. Our hostel gives out free beer from 6pm-7pm, so I think we had some free beers before going to find cheaper alcohol.

We couldn’t bring alcohol into the hostel, a stupid rule they give to so that we buy overpriced alcohol from their bar. Liv and I said FUCK DAT, she bought a bottle of wine while I bought a small bottle of vodka and drinking yogurt (for chase). We brought the alcohol in her room where we pregamed (or in British terms predrink). It was really funny because Liv didn’t have a cork screw for the wine bottle, so she took a pen and pushed the cork all the way through. I almost finished the whole bottle before we went outside where the rest of the gang was at. Across the street from our hostel, there are 2 Vietnamese older ladies who sit outside with a keg, selling beer for 5,000 dong. Josh, Charlie, Hannah, Mike, Sam, and Jess were all sitting there. Hannah gave me 2 more shots (after I nearly finished my bottle in the room), and I got pretty dang drunk.

I don’t remember the rest of the night, just snippets, but I know we went back to the hostel and danced. At around 11:30pm they have a “pub crawl” but really it’s just a fancy name for them to gather everyone and kick them out so other’s can sleep. So, at 11:30 we went to this “pub crawl” and they brought us to this random club. They basically just dump everyone at one place and leave because this club was the only place we went to that night. We were there for nearly 2 hours before it got so hot we couldn’t stand it anymore. It was so close to our hostel so we just walked back and I went to sleep.

Oct 5, 2017

I was a little hung over this morning, so instead of eggs, I finally mixed it up and got some fruit with yogurt (you had to buy the yogurt for an extra 10,000 dong but it was worth it). It was a slow morning but we all gathered together to go back to the Note Cafe, where we got egg coffee the first time.  The girls wanted to try it, so instead of getting an egg coffee I wanted to try their coconut latte. We all sat upstairs where we filled out more notes and fucked around till our coffee came. I was the first to order and the last to get my drink. It was like 20-30 minutes later, after I’ve repeatedly told the lady I got a coconut latte, where she came to me and told me she gave my latte to someone else by mistake and if it was ok that I’d take the egg coffee instead. I really wanted the coconut latte, so I was like, no thanks I really want the coconut latte. After waiting for another 10 minutes I finally got my coconut latte. It was pretty delish. 

So, don’t judge me again, but we were still really craving some Western food. We went into the same complex as the Popeyes and decided on Dominos. I had a yummy personal pizza to myself. We were all pretty hung over and tired, so after pizza all of us except for Hannah and Charlie went back to the hostel to chill on the 5th floor. The 5th floor basically a lounge with couches, bean bags, computers, a balcony, a TV and a bar. Most of us tried to nap/relax. I think I got like a 10 minute nap in, but I mostly just chilled for like 3 hours. Ida had also joined us, she was staying at another hostel before this and didn’t come to Sapa with us because she’d already seen it.

Around 6pm, we went back downstairs for the free beer. There was also a Pub Quiz at 7pm, so we just chilled in the lobby, drank some beers, ate fries (again with the Western food I know). The Pub Quiz was kinda fun. There were 4 rounds of 10 questions with different categories. But between each round, they would have like a 15-30 min break that lasted way longer than it needed to. They really just wanted people to buy more drinks during this time so I think that’s why it lasted so long. By the time the 4th round came, people were so uninterested because the breaks were so long and people just kept leaving. I don’t even think we got the results in because they tallied it up while we were outside drinking again. This time I split a big bottle of vodka with Sam. I have no idea what was in that vodka (or maybe it was the 4 mix drinks we had previously) but I got REALLY drunk. I think we went to the Prague Bar to smoke again (where I lost my precious fan) but I don’t really remember the rest of the night (I think we might have been the only people DRUNK).

Oct 6, 2017

I woke up around 9am since we had to check out today and the bus to Cat Ba would pick us up around 11am. I still had to pack, eat, and get ready. While this seems like an easy task, it was incredibly difficult because I woke up drunk. I have no idea why I woke up drunk or how, this has never really happened to me before (because when I usually wake up drunk it’s at like 5-6am and I can just go back to sleep and sleep it off). But, this time it was at 9am in the morning and it lasted all the way until I got in the bus. 

The bus to Cat Ba was so incredibly difficult. By the time I was on the bus, I started to sober up and felt really really sick. It didn’t help that I was on a moving, uncomfortable bus. So once we stopped I made myself puke (it was all liquid even tho I had breakfast) and immediately felt better. In order to get to Cat Ba, we would have to take an 1 1/2 hr bus to a harbor, take a 15 minute ferry to Cat Ba, then sit for another 45 mins to our hostel. The journey was interesting, but I was just happy to finally get to our hostel. We booked Central Backpackers Hostel, it was pretty far from town, something we didn’t put into consideration when we booked. It was also raining when we arrived, so we couldn’t do anything without transportation. 

Since it was far away from town, we just ordered food at the hostel’s restaurant. We heard that this dish “Bun Cha” was really good, so 4 of us ordered that. It was a super rich dish, that would’ve probably been better on the streets of Hanoi but I still enjoyed it. The rest of the night we just chilled and drank. I was feeling pretty ill from the night before (or morning???) and I tried to drink. But the first drink I had, I just couldn’t stomach it and thought it would be better if I just stayed in for the night and take a night off. The rest of the group’s plan was to take a taxi to town since the bars are open to pretty late. When they finally decided to book it, the front desk said that taxis usually don’t run after 12am. It wouldn’t make sense for them to go out at this point since it was like 10:45pm. I went up at this point to try and sleep while they all went into the pool, drunk.

Oct 7, 2017

So, I didn’t sleep like at all. I forgot that I had drank a whole pot of green tea at 9pm to help with my sore throat the night before. I sat awake all night trying to sleep, which I did finally at 6:30am. This always happens to me and I always forget to not drink caffeine after a certain time. My dorm was also the first one up the stairs from the lounge area, and the music and people echoed so loud up to my room. The music didn’t stop until 12am (the latest I’ve heard any hostel turning off their music) but people were well loud up until 1am (again, something not very common in most places because they usually kick people out around 12 at the latest). So I woke up in time for breakfast and ordered fruit and yogurt. I was super exhausted at this point since I’d barely gotten any sleep. It was pouring down rain at this point, so I told them I was going up to try and nap for a little bit longer.

Liv came in my room around 12pm to tell me the plan. We’d go to town around 2pm and just stay there for the rest of the night so we wouldn’t have to pay for another taxi. I got ready and gathered with everyone. I’d only maybe got an hour of sleep but I felt a little better (and less exhausted). Our plan was to go to this beach bar, but before we left most of us got food from the hostel. I had some spring rolls while we played Bullshit, a fun card game that I learned back in Chiang Mai.

We got a huge taxi for all 9 of us to take us to this beach bar. It was probably a bad idea because it was pouring down rain. When we got there we realized it wasn’t a good bar, and all the people there (maybe Chinese tourist) were all huddling in the bar for cover from the rain. We were there for a good 5 minutes before we reevaluated and decided to leave to Oasis Bar. So we paid for another taxi to take us from the beach bar to Oasis.

By this time it was already 4pm, and we were like well fuck we might as well stay here for the rest of the night (we heard it was the best bar in Cat Ba). The stupid thing was that we started drinking so early, ate, then tried to drink again but didn’t get drunk because we were all full from the food. I spent a lot of money because I split a bottle of wine with Liv, had a few cocktails with Sam, ordered fish which was expensive, and got a few balloons. Not very economical this time around…and I didn’t even get drunk (lame). We were all exhausted by the time 9:30-10 rolled around, so we just got a cab back.

I was SOOOO tired because I didn’t get a good nights rest the night before. The hostel wasn’t as crazy this night but the music still blasted into our room. Everyone who was in our room actually was in for the night, and we all were talking around 10pm. I didn’t even realize that I fell asleep I was that tired. All I remember was talking with my roomies one second, and then the next waking up in the middle of the night for a drink of water.

Oct 8, 2017

So, I was really happy I got a good nights sleep because we had to wake up early for our tour that would pick us up at 8am. I was also really happy that I packed the night before so I wouldn’t wake the others in our hostel. I got semi ready (everything except brush my teeth) and went downstairs for breakfast. I got scrambled eggs again (so shocking, I know). We were all ready to go at 8am when the bus picked us up. We were really nervous about booking this tour since it’d been raining nonstop the first 2 days we were in Cat Ba. We didn’t want to stay on the island any longer, so we booked this tour hoping for the best.

When we woke up in the morning, it wasn’t raining and there were some blue skies behind the thick cloud coverage. Our bus took us to a harbor where we were to board a boat. This would be a tour of Halong Bay where we could kayak, snorkel, and hike. On the boat they took us through the fishing village of Halong Bay where the community literally lives on boats. It’s so cool to see: there are kids playing in the water, dogs on each house boat, tons of nets out (which also might be a bad thing since I heard something about overfishing), and people living and thriving on the water.

Our first stop was kayaking and I shared a PINK double kayak with Sam (it was the only pink kayak and I felt really special lol). When we got out onto the water it was also sunny! So sunny Liv even got sunburned (poor thing, luv ya Liv). It was so beautiful, kayaking through different tunnels and areas. It was peaceful and amazing at the same time. All I could do was take in the beauty (and paddle my ass/arms off). There was a really cool cave that we paddled through that even had bats flying around. The only negative to this beautiful place was all the trash (and quite a lot of it) that we paddle through. It just reminds me why I’m so eco-friendly and why to try my hardest to consume less. We’re polluting our planet at such a rapid pace and places like this won’t be beautiful anymore the more we consume/waste.

After kayaking we got on the boat to eat lunch. Lunch was included and they prepared a really nice meal for us. There was tofu, chicken and veggies, fish cakes (that were so gross and fishy), veggies, salty peanuts, and fried spring rolls. It was very yummy even though I couldn’t eat a lot of it (cuz I have a small tummy). We then made our way to the next stop which was swimming/snorkeling. Once there, we could jump from the top of the boat to the water. Most of jumped from the top. It was pretty scary but thrilling jumping from the very top to the ocean below. At first I grabbed goggles, but after I realized they sucked I gave them to Mike. So, I didn’t really snorkel but I swam and enjoyed the little beach with the others. The water was so warm but refreshing at the same time. 

Whilst this was happening, we still had great weather! We lucked out for sure, if it was pouring rain while we were kayaking I wouldn’t have enjoyed it as much as I did (I would’ve probably been a miserable, cold mess). We made our way to the next stop, Monkey Island. We were able to chill on the top of the boat as well, taking in the sights and sunshine. When we got to Monkey Island, we were told by our guide that we could feed the monkeys that live there, and also hike to the very top of the island where we could get a beautiful 360 view. There was also a beach if we wanted to swim.

Most of us opted to hike, except Liv (who was very sunburned at this point) and Jess, who was sleepy from the night before. We saw the monkeys immediately. Our tour guide was giving them nuts, literally handing it to them. We watched them for a little then made our way up the mountain. We thought it was going to be an easy hike…SIKE. It was basically rock climbing, you had to use all 4 limbs to stabilize yourself because it was steep and rocky. There was also only one way up and one way down. So if people were coming down you had to get out of their way so they can safely make their way down. There was also a wait at the top. It was that narrow that only a few people could sit at the very top at a time. But, alas, we all made it to the top. The worst part was getting down. The jagged rocks seemed steeper than they did on the way up. It took us way longer to get down than up, but we all made it.

Once we joined Liv and Jess, they discreetly told us that someone had been bitten by a monkey and another stung by a jellyfish. I didn’t feel bad for the girl that got bit by the monkey, it was the same girls that took 983747232347 pictures on the boat, on the beach, with the snorkel, in different poses, basically the whole time instead of actually taking part in the activities (who takes bum pics on the beach?!? I mean really come on). She was probably taunting them with the food to get a selfie or something (her poor boyfriend was taking all the pics too).

After they told us this, we heard a scream. I immediately turned around and saw a monkey running back to a tree and a girl grabbing her leg in pain. It looked like she got bit. I asked her if she got bit, and she showed me her leg. Our table was right by the first aid, so I felt compelled to help her. She had some band aids but I told her she needed to clean it. At this point she was either in shock or a lot of pain because she was in tears. I gave her the antiseptic ointment and she just shook her head as she sobbed. I was like (in my head), well fuck you need to clean it a damn monkey just bit you. So I took the initiative and put that stuff on a cotton ball, she still shook her head and said “no, no” like I was going to kill her or something. FInally after some encouragement from my friends she let me clean her wound. I then put two band aids on it. She was thankful (kinda), and then for some reason asked me if I worked there. LOLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLLL I know I’m Asian but there’s no way I sound remotely Vietnamese, I have a damn American accent. So that was a little racist but whatever. I just thought I’d be nice to her cuz she didn’t know what to fucking do. One of the Vietnamese guys that worked there told my friends that people get bit everyday because the monkeys get agitated and the tourist get a little too comfortable. I guess if you try and approach them with no food then they’re like “fuck you” and bite you.

So after that crazy fiasco, we were finally on our way back to Cat Ba.  We went through the fishing village again, a sight so amazing to witness. Once back at the hostel, we all took showers and changed. We wanted to go back into town for dinner and had to call another cab. We found this local Vietnamese restaurant (they lured us in with free beer). I got this delish fried rice dish with chicken and tomato paste (?). The restaurant was run by this super cute Vietnamese family who were eating dinner as well. They had 3 cute little boys and a black lab puppy chained out in front (soooo cuuuute).

After dinner we went bar hopping. We had one drink at Oasis again and ended up at Rose Bar, where we spent most of our time. I guess we were having too much fun there because we under estimated the time. At around 11:40pm we asked the bar to call us a cab, but they said the cab companies weren’t responding. Well fuck. So we walked back to Oasis bar hoping they could call us a cab. They said no one was answering. So, we were running around with our heads cut off trying to figure out how we’re going to get back to the hostel. It would be a 45 minute to an hr walk. Finally, some of the people in our group asked some dudes on motorbikes if they would take us back to our hostel. With a bit of convincing ($$), they agreed to take us. There were 4 people on our bike…a little sketchy but we made it. After, I packed a little, chatted with our roomies, and went to sleep.

Oct 9, 2017

I woke up in time for breakfast again (don’t ask me what I got because you already know). We chilled out before our van picked us up at 12:30 to Hanoi. It was the same company that took us to Cat Ba. So it was a van, to the ferry, to a bus. I was super tired so I slept majority of the time on the bus. It wasn’t full so I was able to sprawl out on one seat and get comfy.

So, that basically took most of our day because we arrived at Vietnam Backpacker’s Hostel Downtown (the same hostel we were at before we left) around 5pm. We were really hungry so we went on a hunt for food. The group was craving Banh Mi, while Sam and I wanted something different. Right as we were approaching the Banh Mi shop, there was a Pho Bo food stall that looked so delish.We decided to eat that while the others had Banh Mi. It was probably the best pho I’ve had in Vietnam so far. 

The rest of the night consisted of drinking across the street at the 5,000 kip beer stall, sneaking drinks in our room and drinking/having a great fucking time, and ending up at Prague Bar. Ida and I drunkenly got pizza downstairs hahaha. The rest got like 2 banh mi’s after Prague bar because they had the munchies. It was a great night that doesn’t need to go into much detail other than we got drunk and had a merry good time. We also we all in the same room which made it even better.

Thanks everyone for paying attention to my mundane blog. It’s a little hard to remember so far back but I’m trying really hard to remember all the best details. If anyone has any advice/comments/concerns please don’t be afraid to voice them. I would love to know what you feel/how you feel about my thoughts and if you have anything that you would change or do differently when it comes to what I put out. Thanks for reading up to this point, I love and miss you all! Stay tuned for the next episode of MELISSA’S SOUTHEAST ASIA ADVENTURE!

*P.S. My pics aren’t loading and I have hella more I can upload so I might do it later, just not now 😢