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!

Vietnam

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.

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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

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

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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!

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.

Giant.

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.

Pagoda.

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. 

 

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.