How we travel light

When I travel to a new place I am instantly on “go” mode. I don’t want to spend a lot of time lugging around heavy suitcases, unpacking and repacking. I mean vacation time is so limited with our work schedules and we simply want to make the best of it and enjoy every minute possible. So we decided that we would invest in “tech gear” in order to travel in a more convenient way. This mini blog will basically cover all the gear we use to travel thus far.

  1. Backpack: we each only carry a backpack during our travels, including our 3 week trip around 4 countries in Southeast Asia. We used the Minaal Carry on  Minaal 2.0 backpack. Yes we know it is quite expensive but believe us it is worth it! We also purchased the hip straps, and Ryan bought the packing cubes. As a fresh grad with no income I decided to purchase cheaper packing cubes from amazon eBags Small Packing Cubes – 3pc Set. These fit perfectly and even allowed extra room in my bag.
  2. Clothes: For hotter climates we each invested in breathable items. Ryan bought a few airism t-shirts, a nice Outlier short sleeve dress shirt (Mojave pivot shirt) to wear for more casual outings, 2 pairs of new way shorts, and 1 pair of climbers long pants (also from outlier but have been discontinued).  I brought 2 pair of shorts from American eagle, 1 pair of Anatomie Skylar skinny pants, 2 Uniqlo Airism shirts, 1 dress, 1 bathing suit, 1 sarong, 2 Uniqlo tanks. We each brought 5 pairs of underwear, his were from the Uniqlo Airism line. We had our laundry done about every 2-3 days, which was fairly inexpensive.
  3. Shoes: we bought matching  Nike Pegasus 32, which we customized to our liking. For sandals I used the Teva capri sandal because they are super comfortable but also dressy enough. Ryan used the Teva Katavi sandals. We were both very happy with our choices and spent most of the trip in our sandals. Recently we purchased Water shoes for our trip to Costa Rica. They are available for both men and women. The Salomon tech amphibian shoes worked really well for our canyoning trip, the only downside was that it caused a bit of friction on the right side of my ankle. So next time I use them I will place a Band-aid in that area.
  4. Toiletries: We try to minimize the amount of liquid we carried, remember that you can always purchase additional items at local stores. Anyhow, we brought 3 travel size shampoo and conditioner bottles. We use 1 bar of soap each and also bring along a travel size loofah. For sunscreen we purchase Neutrogena sunscreen stick, and1 travel size  Repel 100 Insect Repellent is enough for both of us.
  5. Other: This Daypack is super useful to carry the things we need during our daily adventures( towel, sunglasses, sunscreen, repellent). And this pocket size blanket has been useful to lay on at the beach. We have been using a belt with this Hidden travel wallet to keep our passports and money safe. Our emergency kit is fairly small, we keep some bandaids, an Ace wrap, and some meds ( Aleve, Tylenol, Peptobismal tabs). If going somewhere with hight risk of traveler’s diarrhea we get a prescription for Azithromycin 500 mg tabs to treat td, which we got in Vietnam.

And that is it! you can get creative with packing depending on the trip. So far this has worked very well for us. No need to wait for luggage at the airport, we just grab our backpacks and go!

Costa Rica

We arrived around 12:50 pm and very excited for our adventure. After about 30 minutes of going through customs, we went to pick up our rental car. Unfortunately, the car we had reserved was not available nor any automatic car for that matter. After giving the agent a piece of my mind in Spanish he was able to arrange for a sedan. We began our trip from San Jose to La Fortuna at approximately 3:15 pm.

Our GPS took us through some back roads towards a highway which we quickly learned was still unfinished. Fortunately we had a map, and were able to figure out the proper route. It got dark fairly early, and we unexpectedly hit a pothole which resulted in a flat tire. Ryan pulled over and switched it while I held the flashlight.

We finally arrived to our hotel at 7 pm, only to find out that the toilet in our room had exploded and they had arranged for us to stay at a different hotel about 10 minutes away. At first we were upset because the hotel was quite far from downtown. As you can see we had a rocky start.

We drove to Arenal Manoa hotel and after dropping off our bags went for a quick dinner, then to sleep.

At 7:10 am we were picked up by Desafio tours for our canyoneering experience. There we met Leticia and Julien from Switzerland, which made our adventure even more fun. Check out the pictures!


After our adventure we were treated to a typical Costa Rican lunch, then we headed back to our hotel. We took the car downtown for the tire to be repaired, and had lunch at Soda Vizquez. After we drove to Arenal national park to hike around the volcano, and later went to Eco termales to relax in the hot springs and and enjoy dinner. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Car tire being repaired at servicentro La Fortuna. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAView of Arenal on our drive to the national park. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAPretty and friendly bird. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAVery hot springs, but also relaxing. We stayed at the cooler one a bit further down.

On Tuesday morning we went to check out the hanging bridges, we spotted a few animals along the way, but still no sloths!

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA beautiful marmote.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI was jumping on the bridges until we came across this sign ruining my fun.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALush rainforest.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAfound this lizard on our way to a waterfall.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERATwo peccaries crossed right in front of us! OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“Blue Jeans” poison dart frog, very tiny.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERALeaf cutter ants.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe had a quick lunch then headed back to the hotel to be picked up for Don Olivo’s chocolate tour. We tried many fruits, sugar cane juice, learned about how coffee became such a popular beverage. Then we walked through the cacao plantation learning about it’s history and earlier preparation styles. We then got to harvest our own cacao and ate it, so yummy. After we met Yesenia, she taught us the process of cacao fermentation, drying, and grinding to make chocolate powder. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

P1170241.JPGP1170244.JPGThen we sat down to drink some delicious and natural hot chocolate, and tried some natural brownies made with 90% cacao and 10% sugar cane juice. P1170245.JPGP1170246.JPGP1170248.JPGYesenia and her daughter (Alicia?), both kept us great company. P1170249.JPGWe ended our day by walking to the free natural hot springs which are very popular amongst the locals as well as tourists. P1170253.JPGP1170257.JPGP1170258.JPGP1170264.JPGThis little guy came to say helloP1170269.JPG

Headed downtown to eat at Chifa, a Chinese/Peruvian restaurant. P1170282.JPGCeviche.P1170283.JPGCausa.P1170284.JPGChaufa.P1170285.JPGMartin the chef came by and personally took our orders, gave us recommendations, and came back to ensure that everything was to our liking. Absolutely lovely. We recommend making a reservation.

Our 3rd day we spent by going on a hike to Rio Celeste which was about 1.5-2 hours away.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe made it to the waterfall!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA very muddy and slippery hike!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAmonkey ladderOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAa blue lagoon, so beautiful!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAhanging bridge, max capacity: 1.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe point where two fresh water sources meet creating a chemical reaction which gives the river its color. The river to left meets with a creek ( you can sort of see it behind this tree). When combined, the mixture of aluminum, silicon, and oxygen create larger particles which act as a prism, resulting in the beautiful turquoise color of the water. The whitish color in between is a result of sediment from the reaction. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter our hike we had a typical Costa Rican lunch (casado), and a number of toucans joined us.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERADuring our ride back, our guide spotted this 3 toed sloth for us!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAfter being dropped off we decided to go down to La Fortuna waterfall. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur day ended with a 2 hour couples’ massage and room service.

Our fourth day we spent by driving 5 hours to Manuel Antonio. We stopped for some fresh fruits and snacks, BUT first we made a quick stop to identify the culprit pothole that gave us a flat tire. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe went on a night tour where we saw 2 scorpions, many species of frogs, monkeys, a kinkajou a and HUGE spider known as a horse-killing spider. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt was a very fun tour beacuse our guide Brian is truly passionate about his career. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOn our way back we spotted a sloth crossing the street by using electricity wires, this caused many cars to stop to enjoy the view. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOur last day we spent by relaxing at Manuel Antonio beachOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAnd then headed to El Lagarto for some fresh seafood and a killer view of the sunset. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe then headed for our 2 hour drive to San Jose airport.


Vietnam has been amazing! As good as the other countries have been, it will be tough to top the “foodie” tour we did in Ho Chi Minh City. This time, we have about 70 pictures to post (and that’s after removing some and not including the water camera.)

So we arrived late in Hanoi and took a taxi straight to the hotel. It was located in the old quarter, right in the midst of all the action. Anticipating an early morning, we showered and went to sleep.

Day 1: At 7 am our guide, Ti, punctually arrived to take us on our day tour to Halong Bay. The trip was 4 hours long, but we stopped halfway for a 20 minute break. Along the way Ti taught us many things about Vietnam. He told us about Vun la, which is a holiday to celebrate the ancestors. Vun la is held in July 15th (according to the lunar calendar) and it would be on the next day during our stay in Hanoi. He also told us about the different cities that we drove through, and what they were known for.

We noticed many tombstones in the rice fields, Ti told us that after a war with Japan many Vietnamese people starved to death due to lack of food. And so when planting rice, many bodies were found in the fields. The tombstones were placed there in order to pay respect and a proper burial to the dead.

We arrived in Ha Long Bay at noon. We were quickly directed to board our boat, which ended up being a private ride for us since it was low season.
The waiters presented us with a  Vietnamese wine selection to accompany our meal. Here are the pictures.

The famous chicken rocks. I find the “male chicken” to be a lot prettier. After eating and cruising for a bit, we went to this floating village. The James bond film Tomorrow Never Dies was filmed here. We took one of the bamboo boats to see a secret lagoon. 

Then we climbed up to explore the Thien Cung Cave. We had lots of fun guessing the shapes of the stalagmites and stalactites. On our return trip, Mr Ti’s boss really wanted to meet us and gave us a small souvenir, as well as treated us to dinner at a very local Pho place, this felt like an Anthony B0urdain moment for sure. There is Mr Ti!We decided to walk back to the hotel…not really knowing what we were getting ourselves into. Crossing the streets in Hanoi has to be one of the scariest things I have done! but we survived!

The next day we had schedule a tour with Hanoi kids, which are college students who offer free tours in Hanoi, in exchange they get to meet foreigners and practice their English.

We had some free time prior to our tour so we grabbed breakfast and went to the museum. 

Famous egg coffee, very strong!

I’m not quite sure what’s going on here…

We saw many different types of  homes which varied by ethnic groups in Vietnam. We also learned about the many different languages and ethnic groups that exist in this amazing country. Some friskier than others judging by the picture below…

We rushed back to the hotel to meet with K. for our tour of Hanoi. First we stopped for some ice cream to cool us off.


Then he took us around town and gave us the history, my personal favorite being the one about Hoan Kiem Lake. img_2273

img_2246The opera house.

img_2262Typical 19th century home in Hanoi.

We saw a group of young girls taking photos in wedding dresses and asked K. about it, and he said that somer girls take photos in wedding dresses and post it on social media to show what a beautiful bride they make in hope to attract a husband. Ryan responded by saying that in America that would chase the men away. img_2247


I joined a massage chain by the lake on the way back.


And then we headed to the water puppet show, which was  amazing. I wish we had a few more days here!


Next on our agenda was Ho Chi Minh City. We booked a foodie tour with XO tours, a group of ladies drive around the city in their mopeds! I was very skeptical, but I’m glad I trusted Ryan’s judgement. This was fantastic! img_2317Nga and Ngan kept us very safe and entertained. Here are some of the food we ate.


scallopsjumping-chicken-frog Ryan tried “jumping chicken” (frog), I skipped it. img_6664img_6656img_6646img_6636crabsimg_6606img_6611img_6613img_6630img_6633clamsbanh-khot

The next day we went to an Indian restaurant, which was surprisingly one of the best Indian food we have had. img_2319

Okay friends, next is Cambodia!

Rain rain go away

As we arrived in Luang Prabang, the rain season has finally caught up to us :-(. We have tried to make the best of it; unfortunately, due  to the weather, we were unable to visit the town’s biggest attraction: Kuang Si Waterfall.  The Mekong River was brown due to all the rain, but we were fortunate enough to still enjoy the beautiful panorama. 

Our first evening here, we arrived at a beautiful guesthouse wih a great riverview. Unfortunately we soon learned that we were too far away from town; there were no nearby restaurants and the only forms of transportations were bikes or mopeds…. now can you imagine Ryan or I driving a moped? 

We decided the best course of action was to book a different place in town, and so we did. A tuk tuk driver took us there, approximately  a 20 minute ride.The place was full, and the host apologized for the computer glitch which allowed us to go through with the booking. He called his cousin, Eric, who also managed a guesthouse and promptly arranged accommodations and transportation for us.  Eric was also able to give us helpful information. 

 We soon discovered there was no running water! Apparently it gets shut off when there is excessive rain. As you can see, this was a very challenging day. We walked to town for dinner and shared a beer. 

Water was back on, yay!!!

The next am we woke up very early, but too late to watch the monks during giving of alms. We went to the morning market. The locals sold all sorts of things, from crabs, to live frogs, water snakes, fruits, vegetables. This experience was a bit much for me to handle :-(. Afterwards, Ryan had breakfast and we returned to the hotel for our workout, followed by a very long shower. There was finally some sunshine, and so we went to walk around town. 

Exit at morning market. 

The bamboo bridge was covered by the river, also due to the rain. However, we did get to try some very delicious Laotian food at Bamboo tree restaurant. The owner, Noy, was very friendly and welcoming. She explained the menu items and helped us select our meals, then she went into the kitchen to make it all. When the food was ready she came and explained every item and how Laotian’s eat the food. We tried the catfish, Laos vegetarian sampler, and lime soda. All were amazing. 

We continued walking around town; it was very sunny and humid.  We then went back to our room for a 2 hour study session…

And came back out around 4 pm to go pick up our laundry (it cost $2.50 !). Then we walked to Mount Phousi to try to watch the sunset, but the rain had returned. Nonetheless, we still had a beautiful view of the mountains. 

2 boys playing by Mount Phousi temple. 

Dinner followed at a swanky place called 525. However, there was no Laotian food there. But they had the most amazing cheesecake! Topped with mango and pineapple, the latter was our favorite.

Ryan likes his old fashion. 

The most amazing cheesecake! the lighter is pineapple  (our favorite). 

 Dinner was followed by a walk in the rain back to the hotel, in hopes the rain would dissipate overnight so that we could visit Kuang Si. 

Unfortunately, it was raining cats and dogs the next day. So we got dressed,  and tried some mangosteen  (soo yummy, it had almost the texture of butter).

 We brought our bags downstairs with plans to return to the hotel about 2 hours prior to our departure. And off into the rain we went. Tai, one of the hosts, gave us an umbrella, but despite it we still were soaked during our walk to get breakfast .

 Afterwards we  decided to study for a few hours at this great little cafe, and then walked back to pick up our bags and ride to the airport.

 Our flight to Vientiane was supposed to be 45 mins, we arrived in less than 30! Went to the hotel, S Park Design which was quite interesting. And then headed down to the restaurant/ bar for dinner. There was a boy band and they sang Ed Sheeran’s thinking out loud and Love yourself. 

Went to bed after, and woke up fairly early to arrange the day and squeeze as much of Vientiane sightseeing as possible. We began our workout regimen and got ready for a day of sightseeing!  Many many temples! 

We began at Wat Si Saket 

Then a quick selfie at Presidential Palace

And walked to Haw Pha Kew

Our driver Mr Ngo brought us to Siam riem temple. 

Then to the very curious Buddha Park, we had lots of fun exploring the sculptures here. We started by sharing an ice cream, and then climbing this apple shaped structure.

Ryan told me I should ask this guy for directions in hopes he would point us to the right way. 

The ice cream we shared. 

As you can imagine all of the sightseeing made us hungry, so Mr. Ngo took us to a Laotian restaurant,  the waitresses hardly spoke English,  as I tried to find phrases in our book, Ryan struggled to communicate with the girls and said “all right this isn’t working out”. 

We somehow managed to get our orders in, but received a larger portion of rice than we thought, it was still a great meal. 

Here is a selfie we took with the waitresses. All in all it was fun trying to communicate despite the language barrier.  

Alright, 2 more temples.

That Luang Stupa 


Of course we climbed to the top. 

Goodbye Mr Ngo!

And now we are off to Vietnam!

Chiang Mai

Hey everyone. This time we have a lot of pictures and not so much time, so we’ll try to post the best ones and a short caption for each. The first full day in Chiang Mai, we had a guide named Max, who was great.

First stop was Doi Suthep, a Buddhist temple on the mountain, representing the story of Buddha reaching Nirvana. Here is the staircase to heaven, 306 steps (which we climbed twice.)

Here’s Mother Earth at the bottom of the staircase.

And Naga.


Bodi tree. Max told us that families would write their names on leaves from the tree, and they would find each other in the next life.


Buddha everywhere.

Prolonging our lives.

Obligatory selfie.

Story of Buddha in wood (not concrete, as Max said.)

Overlooking the city.

Garuda on top.

Chang (elephant.)

Singha, the third of the mythical beasts.

At the top.

And then we went all the way down and all the way back up to put our leaf by the pagoda.

We went home to change and eat lunch before biking around the city for the afternoon. Here are before pics of our shoes.

Ana doesn’t eat meat… Leaving all of this to me.

We biked out of the city, through some smaller neighborhoods and into a more secluded wooded area until making it to a hospital.
Then we biked to different temples. The last building is Burma style.
A video of us trying durian.
Coconut juice to rinse out the durian.
Our awesome guide.
In the evening, we went to the night market.

The next day, we went white water rafting, hiking to a waterfall, and mountain biking.

13925578_289314181439663_1420164040010884919_oMr Coco tricked us into flipping our raft. 13938129_289313464773068_3144833222076863592_o13987653_289313848106363_1231096175897503540_o14053685_289314241439657_8924155637214200415_o14054387_289314201439661_4830303194284303607_o14066339_289314161439665_8020493028923934438_o14067769_289313454773069_2119422583560273459_o14067904_289313434773071_6374614640799257247_o14067930_289313851439696_4769610896515267754_o

Still have a ways to go, but Chiang Mai has been a favorite so far. 


Finally here

What a week! We finally arrived to Koh Phi Phi after many hours of traveling. We flew from Bangkok to Krabi. We noticed many women were wearing a rainbow sarong, 

here is a picture with 3 women wearing it. Ryan is trying to convince me to buy one.

After de-planing in Krabi, we took a bus to a travel agency where we waited for a smaller bus to drop us off at Krabi pier. Ryan told me that the bathroom was the nicest he had ever seen. I thought he was being sarcastic so I went to check it out and oh wow. Look at the pics! 

Anyhow, we arrived to Krabi pier where we boarded the ferry towards Koh Phi Phi. This was a 1.5 hour ride, it was a nice ride. As we arrived to beautiful island a thunderstorm greeted us. We quickly raced to exit the ferry and were approached by many Long boat drivers to take us to our final destination. Ryan negotiated with one and got him to reduce the cost of the ride. 

Those are the long boats.

We boarded the boat, the sea was a bit tormentous so the waves were rocking us some. Ryan being great at preparing for the worst case scenario grabbed a life jacket which he held closely by. After about a 30 minute ride we arrived at the resort. The staff greeted us. Took our bags and presented us with a delicious beverage and an ice cold hand towel (we assumed it was to wash our hands). After checking  in we were driven to our cottage.

We took the longest shower ever. Put on some robes, ordered room service and fell right asleep. 

The next am we woke up around 6 am, went for breakfast and a leisure walk around the resort. 

Then headed up to our room for a work out, followed by snorkeling in the afternoon.  It was Ryan’s first time, and he did great! Unfortunately there weren’t too many fishes.. so I have made it a goal to take him somewhere with a great reef some time in the future. We took pictures with the water camera which we will upload when we return.

We went to dinner and watched a fireshow. 

Yum, banana fritters.

Today is departure day for Chiang Mai, so we stopped for some mango sticky rice in koh phi phi pier prior to boarding the ferry. 

Shaken Lychee iced tea.

Let’s see what adventures await us in Chiang Mai.

FYI, the feature pic is of our resort in koh phi phi.

Almost there

Hey, Ryan here. This blog thing… Anyone remember xanga? All the cool kids had one. Ana doesn’t know what it is, but I remember it being a big thing back in the day. That must have been 15 years ago.

Anyway, after a hectic week moving everything to Chicago, flying to Shanghai and transferring planes, we are finally in Bangkok. We’re waiting for a shuttle to take us to another airport, another flight, and a couple boat trips before we are finally at our first location. 

Ana planned out the entire trip, no tour group or anything (ok maybe she jacked an itinerary or two). That’s the benefit of having an experienced traveler at my side. (She’s not looking over my shoulder or anything.)

The picture above is us sharing Ana’s bag while we wait for the first shuttle to arrive. Check out that neck, that’s why I call her my giraffe. 

The airport here is pretty clean, has decent food, and is full of a bunch of other travelers like us who are sleeping, presumably also waiting for the shuttle. Hopefully we’ll have pictures of interesting food and places soon.