Hanoi: Capital City

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Lovely Hanoi

Hanoi, Vietnam’s capital city, became my jumping off point for different areas of northern Vietnam.  I stayed there a total of four nights in three different hostels.  It was my hub for Halong Bay, Sapa, and back through to fly to Da Nang.

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Incredible Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park

After Hoi An, and en route up to Hanoi, we decided to stop at Phong Nha Ke-Bang  National Park (frequently shortened to just Phong Nha).  We heard about Phong Nha’s caves from other travelers and thought it sounded worth checking out.  We are so glad we went.

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Hoi An Stole My Heart

Where do I begin with Hoi An?  It is a city that makes your soul feel good.  Historically a port town, the city’s architecture is a beautiful mix of French colonial buildings, Chinese temples, and an ancient Japanese covered bridge and pagodas.  Then there are the Chinese lanterns that are illuminated each night and cast a romantic spell over the old town.  I can’t imagine anyone strolling through the city at night, with the myriad of riverfront restaurants and cafes, street artists, floating candles, and bicycle rickshaws carting tourists up and down the street, and not falling at least a little bit in love with the place.  Even when it is jam-packed with tourists, as I’m sure it always is.  Vietnamese and foreign tourists alike seem to flock to Hoi An.  It is like a precious gem set in the center of the country.

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Ho Chi Minh & the War Remnants Museum

I never had plans to travel to Vietnam, but after meeting so many travelers who reported that it was their favorite country I have to admit I was more than curious.  So when my travel partners, Natalie and Lauren, invited me to join them for their two-week trip, I just had to say yes.  So, on May 1 I flew from Bali to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and met up with the girls.

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Indonesia: My Review

I really loved Indonesia.  I was able to visit three islands in two weeks: Java, Bali, and Nusa Lembongan.  Even though I didn’t love the vibe in Kuta or the tedium of Padangbai, there is something special about Bali. Although it has its pros and cons, it is undeniably beautiful and there are good reasons why it’s so popular. I want to go back and visit Ubud, Amed, and other towns along the coast.  I had a wonderful time in Java; there was so much to see and do.  Nusa Lembongan was a perfect island paradise.

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Nusa Lembongan and Kuta

Nusa Lembongan
On April 26th, I took a ferry over to Nusa Lembongan (Lembongan Island), just east of Bali.  Nusa Lembongan is beautiful, small, and relaxed.  It would be a fantastic place for a honeymoon.  It is also great for surfing, diving, snorkeling, and other water sports.  The water is clean and crystal clear.  Wikitravel lists its “attractions” as: Paradise Beach, Mushroom Beach, Dream Beach, Sandy Bay, Tamarind Beach, Scoobydoo Beach (no joke), Mangrove Forest, Seaweed Farms, and SUNSETS.  I mean, seriously… does it get any better than that?!  All of the attractions are just nature being nature.  It is truly an island paradise.

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Change of plan: Off to Indonesia

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On April 16th I flew from Siem Reap to Jakarta, Indonesia to meet up with Lauren and Natalie, my travel buddies from Elephant Nature Park.  My original plan was to head up to Laos, but the idea of going to Indonesia was appealing because I would get to travel with the girls again, and because it was surprisingly $100 cheaper to fly to Jakarta than to Luang Prabang. Actually, I never had any plans to visit Indonesia on this trip. I made the decision three days in advance and booked the flight two days in advance.  Such is life on the road sometimes.  Spontenaity and flexibility can pay off.

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