A Story with Pictures

I have a story for you. Think of it as a children’s book. Short and sweet. With pictures. 

We’re in Bali, Indonesia. 

It’s very beautiful here. Beaches. Sunsets. Lots of pink. Lots of humidity and frizzy hair, too. 

You can have dinner on the beach in Bali. 

Like this. During sunset. 

A Romantic Dinner. Or so it said. 

The seven bug bites and two bloody mosquitoes she killed during the 20 foot walk to the table was…not so romantic. 

There was fancy food. 

It’s a creamcheese snowman with a caviar hat. Festive. In a New England Christmas sort of way. 

Six courses requires lots of silverware. And bread. Because it’s delicious and free. 

The food was the most decadent they’ve eaten in a month. 

The steak was the most delicious they’ve eaten in a month. 

After dinner but before dessert something happens. It starts with a box. 

A box acquired in Hoi An, Vietnam. Its contents specifically chosen and held on to for three weeks, for this night.

The man stands up and starts talking. The woman interrupts him to ask if she should stand too. She does. 

Then the man kneels. 

He asks the woman if she would marry him. She says “of course yes!” 

They celebrate with sparkling wine. Her favorite. 

They both relish that they had the fanciest dinner and got engaged in bare feet. 

Then dessert. Tiramisu for her.

Mango tart for him. 

They dip their feet in the Indian ocean, a first for both of them.  

Then they take an uber back to their hotel. Glorious technology. 

The next morning the call all the family and spread the news. 

Hot Shit her dad said. 

#hotshit indeed. 

Am I a Dirty Backpacker?

Edited: #FBF (that means Flashback Friday) I wrote this post back in 2014. I believe this specific post was written when I was in Croatia, nearing the end of my trip. I intended to add photos of the clothing but I never got around to it. Enjoy.

One of the glorious things about being a backpacker (I consider it glorious) is the lack of stuff. Since I have to schlep all my belongings from place to place, plus unpack and repack every few days, the fewer items I have the easier my life is. Currently, I carry a 50L Osprey backpack acquired in December 2008 along with a 20L North Face Day pack acquired in December 2013 (ETA: I now carry a 40L pack and the same 20L day pack). Though neither pack is at capacity, I sometimes feel bogged down with stuff. When this happens by far the easiest items to shed are clothing. Most other categories of ‘stuff’ I can’t cut down more than I already have; I need my shampoo, razor, chargers, cables etc. Clothing however, is usually an easy place to cutback.

Unfortunately, I am currently carrying around a bit more clothing than I actually wear, mostly because I feel bad leaving clothing behind that I paid for, even if it is falling apart or I don’t wear it. I am getting to the point though, where I cannot shed much more clothing, otherwise I will not having anything to wear. As such, my clothes are wearing out. Quickly. For the last month or so, I’ve been wearing the same 2 dresses virtually everyday.

Dress 1- Acquired in April 2012. It has holes it. Multiple holes. And stains.

Dress 2- Acquired in April 2014 from Salvation Army for $5. It also has a small hole. And a stain.

Regardless, I continue to wear these dresses, usually 4-5 times each before I wash them.

As for the rest of my clothing, it too is wearing out or stained. Take this sleeveless top. Acquired in July 2011. Stained and holes. Or this shirt. Acquired in June 2009 for a trip to southeast Asia. Or this top, acquired in December 2011. Luckily it doesn’t have holes, but it does have a stain.

Point is, I may be turning into/am a dirty backpacker. I wear stained clothing, that may also have holes in it, which I do not wash often enough. Don’t judge me.

Also, my hair. You know dreadlocks? Well I venture to guess most of those with dreads are backpackers. No joke. I’ve met countless travelers with dreads (and beards. Lots and lots of unruly beards). In real life I’ve met very, very few people with dreads. Though I am not nearly that bad, I used to be a frequent hair washer. Now, not so much. It started in Waiheke when I wanted to conserve shampoo (it’s expensive). I decreased my hair washing to every 2-3 days. That habit never went away though, even when I had ample amounts of shampoo. Depending on where I am and my schedule, I’ll go 3-5 days without washing my hair. I have had the same bottle of shampoo for 4 months. Depending on the length of your hair you may think this is a really long time, or a short time. My hair is quite long now, so one bottle lasting 4 months is, in fact, a very long time. (ETA: I now wash my hair in the 5-7 day range. This habit only got worse).

Additionally, I brush my hair far less often. I used to brush it everyday. Now, it’s maybe every 2-3 days. Actually, my curls look better if I don’t brush it at all. But in the back of my mind is my mother’s voice saying “Aren’t you going to brush that?” She scarred me. Sorry, Mom. (ETA: This habit also got worse. I only brush my hair when I wash it).

Does this make me a dirty backpacker? Maybe? Probably? Crap. It does.

Budget Budget Budget!

One of my favorite things to talk about. The Budget! See this post for our projected budget.

John and I budgeted $4000 per person all inclusive for this trip. As we are approaching the halfway mark (Sunday 27 November is the official halfway point) I think an update is in order.

Capital Costs: We have a number of Capital costs for this trip, things that had to be acquired before we could even leave the US, mainly flights, insurance and visas.

  • Flight to Hong Kong: $533
  • Insurance: $243
  • Vietnam Visa: $110

The visa to Vietnam was… a project. In late August of this year, the Vietnamese government changed their entry rules to only allow Americans a 1 year multiple entry visa that cost ~$175. Then in October they changed the rules again and reverted back to their old model where Americans could purchase 1 month, 3 month or 1 year single or multiple entry visas. These could only be acquired from the embassy or consulate prior to departure. Luckily there is a Vietnamese consulate in NYC and John and I planned on going to NYC to have dinner with three of my good friends from high school + their husbands. So in about 45 minutes we both had 1 month single entry visas for $80 plus $30 to get them back on the same day. As we had already planned on heading in to NYC I did not include transportation costs.

Capital Cost Total: $886

Flights: We’ve taken/ will take far more flights than I anticipated. Domestic flights are quite cheap, $20-$35, and are much more comfortable than an overnight bus or train. Flights are actually less expensive than overnight trains. International flights though, even 1.5 hr flights, can be pricey.

  • Hong Kong to Hanoi: $88
  • Hanoi to Da Nang: $31
  • Da Nang to Ho Chi Minh City: $31
  • Ho Chi Mini City to Da Lat: $27
  • Da Lat to HCMC to Bangkok to Chaing Mai, Thailand: $150
  • Bangkok to Bali: $112
  • Bali to Hong Kong: $200 (not yet booked)

The three flights at the bottom have not occurred yet and are therefore not included in our Flight Total.

Flight Total: $177 (I estimate this will be ~$650 by the end of the trip once the final three flights are included)

Everything Else: We use cash to pay for everything else so it’s hard to keep track of the exact dollar amount we’ve spent on food vs. hostels vs. activities.  Since we started with $6,600 in a checking account and we pull all our cash from there, it’s easy to keep track of the total amount we’ve spent.

Cash Total: $758 per person

If we sum the capital costs, flights and cash total, we get the halfway total.

Halfway Total: $1821 per person

Keep in mind that this includes our capital costs that we only have to shell out once. The amount that we’ve spent since we arrived here is $935 per person over a period of 24 days. That is just under $40 per day. If we include the capital costs, it’s comes to $76 per day.

The biggest savings have come from hostel and food costs. I’d guess we’re averaging $15-$17 per night for a hostel (budget is $30 per night). Hanoi and HCMC cost ~$22 for a double, while everywhere else has been $9-$14 per night. Food we budgeted $20 per person per day. I estimate we spend $12 per person per day ($4.50 for lunch, $4.50 per dinner, $3 for water, coffee and snacks). Breakfast is included at most of the hostels we’ve stayed at.

Moral of the Story

We’re doing really well with the budget. At this rate, including the remaining $450 in flights, we are projected to come in at $3200 total, 20% under budget. However, Thailand and Bali are more expensive than Vietnam. Plus, Bali has loads of (pricey but fun) things to do. I project that we’ll come in either right on budget, or just a few hundred dollars under.

Cat Ba, Cat Ba… alone in the world with a little Cat Ba

Whenever I hear the name, the theme song to the old Nickelodeon cartoon Cat Dog, comes to mind.

Cat Ba is an island off the eastern coast of Vietnam, directly east of Hanoi.

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From Hanoi we took a minibus to Hai Phong, a ferry to Cat Ba Island, then another bus to Cat Ba town. We opted to take a private company for convenience and time savings. From Hanoi to Cat Ba took about 3.5 hours and cost $18 per person (definitely pricey, but it was door to door service and cut 90 minutes of travel time). We used Good Morning Cat Ba. They have a website and you can email them to make your booking.

The biggest draw to Cat Ba is Lan Ha bay, which is geologically the same as the much more famous Ha Long bay, but less popular. Back in 2009 Jess and I did an overnight on a Chinese junkboat in Ha Long bay. We both enjoyed that and I wanted to do something similar with John. Reading reviews though, Ha Long bay seems to have risen tremendously in popularity and as such is much more crowded and polluted than it was 7 years ago. Or so the reviews and guidebooks said. I remembered Ha Long being pretty crowded so I thought Cat Ba and Lan Ha bay would be a better option.

It is definitely a tourist destination. There are white people and western food everywhere (and by everywhere I mean the entire 4 blocks of town). But! We had a great time. After the frantic nature of Hanoi, Cat Ba delivered on being quiet, beautiful and relaxing. Plus it had lots of outdoor activities which both John and I enjoy.

Cat Ba Guesthouse

We stayed at Cat Ba guesthouse, which I chose based on cross referencing Hostel World and Trip Advisor reviews. It costs $8.75 total per night. It’s up a hill about a 5 minute walk from ‘town’ but for under $9 per night, it is perfect. Free WiFi and A/C, they’ll do laundry for a fee, plus it’s clean. Highly recommend for a solid budget option. Breakfast was not included.

Things we did

Walk around town. After we arrived on Friday, I took a quick nap, then we ventured out for lunch and a long walk around town. The view from the main road is beautiful.

Saturday we rented motorbikes! It was awesome.

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I would not recommend renting a motorbike in a city or a populated area in Vietnam. Traffic is absolutely insane. Basically there are no rules. But Cat Ba is an amazing place to rent motorbikes as there’s barely any traffic and the scenery is beautiful. It was $4/ motorbike for the day, plus gas. To rent the motorbike we went to Mr. Kahn, got the keys, a helmet, a 90 second brief on how to work the bike and that was it. No waiver, no license checks, no collateral, no time we had to be back… nothing. Oh and he filled up the gas tanks using fuel from a 5L Aquafina bottle. Pretty sure an empty plastic water bottle is not graded to store gasoline.

I was pretty nervous on the motorbike, not about driving it but the lack of rules on the road.

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There’s no stop signs or stop lights at intersections. You just kind of go and make sure you don’t hit anyone/ make sure no one hits you.  It all went fine, though it was slightly nerve wracking while we were in town.

First we went to hospital cave. Back during the war, the Vietnamese put a hospital in a cave on the side of a mountain. I’m a sucker for museums like that.

There were no English signs and no Vietnamese signs either so we just kind of walked through the whole thing not sure what we were looking at.  I still enjoyed it.

From there we rode up the North Bay. There’s nothing there but the ride and the views were beautiful.

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We stopped on the pier for a drink and snack, then made our way back to Cat Ba town and Cannon Fort.

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Cannon Fort used to be a military outpost. There’s leftover cannons and look out points, tunnels and a helipad there.

It’s not surprisingly, on the top of a large hill/ mountain, so the views are amazing.

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The motorbike rental might be my favorite thing we did on Cat Ba! It took almost the entire day and only cost $17 total for the motorbike and gas and another $8 in entrance fees. For $25, it was a great way to spend the day. Bonus- John navigated the whole trip, which was a nice break for me!

Sunday was a big day. We booked a full day outdoor excursion. The first half of the day we went kayaking, the second rock climbing. This excursion is most expensive thing we’ve done other than fly on planes. It was $85 for the entire day (rock climbing really upped the price. A full day of kayaking is only $26).

We booked the trip through Asia Outdoors, which had excellent reviews on Trip Advisor and came up in multiple blogs I read. Since we wanted to climb, reputable was at the top of the list.

In the morning, we met at the shop and all hopped in vans that took us to Ben Bao, a ferry port where we took a junkboat out to Lan Ha bay.

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Then about 12-14 of us jumped in kayaks and spent the next 2ish hours kayaking around the bay.

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We stopped in a big cove and went swimming as well.

We paddled back to the boat for lunch, which was provided and was excellent. There were spring rolls, fish with vegetables, potatoes, tofu, rice and watermelon.

After that we had a bit of downtime which people spent swimming or jumping off the boat.

From there we got on a small boat that took us to an island to climb. There were only three of us total that were climbing, plus 2 guides. I’ll let the pictures tell this story.

On Monday we went to the beach. This beach was only a 5 minute walk from town.

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General Notes about Cat Ba

The food in Cat Ba is… solidly meh. There were solid options but besides the Phuong Nhung it was nothing to write home about.

We ate all but 2 of our meals at 1 of 2 places, Oasis Cafe and Phuong Nhung. The two times we tried other options they were pretty terrible. We usually went to Oasis for breakfast (150,000 VND or $6.80 for the two of us) which included eggs for both of us, a banana crepe and a cappuccino.

Dinner was usually at Phuong Nhung. It was typical Vietnamese food and it was excellent. Dinner there was around the same cost as lunch, sometimes a bit more but definitely under $10 USD for the two of us (beers were 15,000 VND, or $0.68 USD).

Much of Cat Ba is  a National Park, so besides the ferry ports and some small towns, it’s all protected and not developed (there’s maybe 4 roads on the island). This made it easily navigable, especially on a motorbike.

The town of Cat Ba is pretty ugly. There’s loads of neon lights, gaudy neon signs, loud music  and a giant screen in the main square that I never figured out what it was used for (seemed to be photos of Cat Ba and some advertisements? I’m talking like a 15ft x 15ft screen).

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There were also town speakers. I think they were just announcing when ferries were coming and going but it sounded like the scratchy Soviet era propaganda speakers blasting in a town square. You could hear the speakers up and down the main road.

There’s also a lot of ‘water life’ in the bay. There’s the obvious barges and boats, but there’s also floating restaurants and floating villages.

After 4 days, we left Cat Ba the same way we came, bus, boat bus to the center of Hanoi. We had lunch then caught the new airport express bus to catch a $25 flight to Da Nang, which is in central Vietnam.

Hong Kong

Edit: Many Vietnamese ISPs have blocked WordPress. Getting this post up took some serious extra effort.

Hong Kong is officially “Hong Kong Special Administrative Region of the People’s Republic of China”. I guess it’s kind of like Puerto Rico to the United States. The politics are kind of complicated but basically Hong Kong and China have a “Two Systems, One Country” rule. You can google China – Hong Kong relationship for more info.

Within Hong Kong, there’s Hong Kong Island, the Kowloon Peninsula and the New Territories, which seems to be everything else that is not Hong Kong Island or Kowloon.

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This includes many smaller islands, but also larger important ones like Lantau, where the airport and Disneyland are located.

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From Lantau to Kowloon to Hong Kong Island, it is all connected by the MTR and highways. Between the MTR, buses and trolleys you can get many, many places in Hong Kong via public transport for wicked cheap (minus the airport. It’s not cheap to get back and forth on the MTR to the airport). We took public transport the entire time we were there.

Hong Kong is known for its shopping. There’s tons of malls, many of them very upscale. We are not really in to that. Plus we were jet lagged and getting used to a 12 hour time change. We tried to do 1 excursion per day, and then napped or hung out in the executive lounge of The Conrad (said with a British accent to make it extra haughty).

Things we did

Visited Kowloon. You can take the MTR or the ferry from Hong Kong Island to Kowloon. On our first day, we walked to a famous temple on Hong Kong Island, then walked down to the piers to take the Star ferry to Kowloon. The ferry takes about 8 minutes and costs 2.50 Hong Kong Dollars (7.7 HKD to 1 USD, so really freaking cheap). The port area and a bit north in Kowloon are major shopping areas. You can find anything there. We stopped to have lunch (some sort of noodle soup, 10 USD total) then walked to Kowloon park, which had a comic book figure exhibit.

We meandered through a street market, then took the MTR back to the hotel.

The next day we went to the Museum of Coastal Defense. It is located in an old fort that the British built before WWII. The museum gave a nice history of Hong Kong during British occupation as well as Japanese occupation during WWII.

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It strangely had an exhibit dedicated to Puyi, who was the last emperor of China, that had nothing to do with Coastal Defense and was only tangentially related to the history of Hong Kong (in that Hong Kong is now part of China, but that’s all).

From the website (http://hk.coastaldefence.museum/en_US/web/mcd/exhibition/special/puyi.html) “2016 marks the 110th anniversary of Puyi’s birth and the 105th anniversary of the 1911 Revolution. Featuring 73 sets of exhibits, including an imported gramophone and camera from his sojourn in Tianjin, commemorative medals, memorials to the throne and the Manchukuo order of appointment as well as his personal diary and smoking utensils from his time as a commoner in contemporary China, this exhibition showcases the life of Puyi, which reflected not only the vagaries of the 20th century, but also the social changes and upheaval that China underwent in this period.  We hope that visitors to the exhibition will leave with a greater understanding of the life of Puyi and the history of modern China.”

Right… So how is this related to Coastal Defense? Oh It’s not. Okay. Moving On.

The history was interesting and the museum itself was free and had excellent English signage. Can’t really argue with that. Plus I’m a sucker for museums in forts, caves, old mansions, prisons etc.

That night we took a tram up to Victoria Park, which is a park on the top of a hill. Except, this being Hong Kong, of course there’s a mall there. And a line for everything. The views were beautiful though.

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Unfortunately, the wait for the tram down was about 1 hr and it was already 8pm, approaching our bed time, so we walked down. That took less than an hour so we did save time.

Our last full day on Hong Kong we went to Big Buddha, once again via MTR. We took it to the end of the Tung Chung line, on Lantau Island, which is about a 45 minute ride. From there we took a cable car up the mountain.

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At the top, it was like Disney World.

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Luckily, as you walk towards the Buddha the shops disappear. We climbed, I believe 268 steps, to the top.

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From there, we took the 11 bus to Tai O, an old fishing village on the western coast of Lantau Island. Houses are on stilts and the smell of fish is everywhere. There’s tons of stalls selling all sort of seafood products; I saw dried shrimp, dried squid, shrimp paste and tons of stuff that I had no idea what it was.

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So Many Selfies!

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We had lunch there before hopping on a bus back to the MTR (about 45 minutes on the bus). From there it was another 45 minutes on the MTR back to the hotel.

Those three excursions were the extent of our activities in Hong Kong. According to John’s phone, we averaged about 6 miles of walking per day.

The MTR

I’ve seen this numerous times in Asia, a huge mall is on top of a subway stop and is also connected to multiple hotels. The Conrad is one of the hotels connected to the Admiralty MTR stop and the Pacific Place Mall. It made taking the MTR incredibly convenient.

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Per Wikipedia: The MTR has 10 heavy rail lines and 12 light rail lines, for a total of 157 stations and 136 miles of track. On an average weekday 5 million trips are made (NYC averages 5.7 million rides), with 99.9% on time performance. Delays over 8 minutes the MTR must report to the government (there were 143 incidents in 2013) and is fined $130,000 for delays over 31 minutes.

The MTR is the most modern public transportation I’ve ever taken. It is beautiful. It’s quiet, clean and cheap; everything public transportation should be. Buying tickets is a breeze. You simply touch the station you are traveling to and the ticket machine gives you the fair. You pay and then get a single ride card. You swipe the card to enter the MTR and at your destination you insert the card to exit. The machine keeps your card so that it can be reused.

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The shortest trips on the MTR are ~ 3 HKD (< 50 US cents), while the longest are around 52 HKD ($6.50ish). When we took the Tung Chung from the start of the line to the end it was 25 HKD.

The largest subway interchange is between Central Station and Hong Kong Station, 4 separate lines converge and the two stations are linked underground. It’s about an 8 minute walk from one station to the other, entirely underground. We made this connection twice, the first during morning rush hour and it was busy, very busy, but it was eerily quiet. There’s also lines painted on the ground that separate the two ‘flows’ of people, along with workers directing you to the correct side of the tunnels. There’s no bumping or jostling or dodging people.  And did I mention quiet? So, so quiet. It was amazing.

The trains themselves are also quiet. You could easily have a conversation on your cell phone while the train is moving (though no one does because again, everyone is quiet). There’s maps that light up with the stop you are at and tell you which side the doors open. Also, Chinese and English are both used everywhere. All stops are announced I believe in Chinese and English and possibly Mandarin?

The airport line is very expensive. From Hong Kong Station to the Airport is 100 HKD/ person (~$13 each way). It takes you directly to the terminals and takes about 35 minutes. It’s also the cheapest and most convenient option for getting to/ away from the airport.

The Conrad

Thanks to John’s parents we spent 4 nights in a 5 star hotel, The Conrad. I’ve stayed in maybe…3 or 4? 5 star hotels in my life and The Conrad does not disappoint. Since John’s parents have like platinum status in Hilton, we stayed on the top floor (61st) and had access to the executive lounge.

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We also had free breakfast from 6:30am-11am, afternoon tea and snacks from 3-5pm and evening drinks and canapes from 5-7pm. There was an outdoor heated pool, a hot tub and a pillow menu (at first I thought that was a late-night snacks menu. No, it’s an actual menu of pillows).

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Forgive the face- it was ~6:30am.

Breakfast was amazing. There was everything you could imagine, a mix of western food and Asian food. Cereal, pastries, eggs, bacon, fruit, yogurt, noodles, dumplings, soup… anything you could ever want. Obviously, we ate a big breakfast every day.

The afternoon tea usually had a few sandwiches (not that great), some mini desserts (decent) and cheese and crackers and almonds, my personal favorite. Plus you could get coffee at afternoon tea, my go to.

Drinks were anything you want. Not just beer and wine, but any cocktail along with snacks! Warm snacks! Again, not that great, but FREE! We don’t turn down free. Plus, the executive lounge was up on the 59th floor so it was an amazing view. Sometimes we went to afternoon tea followed by drinks and didn’t eat a real dinner. Actually, I think we did that every night. Don’t judge us.

All told, we spent 4 nights, 3 full days and spent 126 USD (of course that excludes The Conrad, which was paid for with hotel points. My parents generously gave us 400 RMB, Chinese currency, that we changed to HKD while there, ~57 USD. That totals $183 USD. The Conrad is 350+ USD per night so I’m just gonna leave that there). We averaged $61 per day for the two of us, ~$31 per person per day. Of course, this means next to nothing since we didn’t pay for accommodation and barely paid for food. Definitely stayed on budget!

After our 4 nights we had a lazy breakfast on the 4th day, then took the MTR to the airport to make our way to Hanoi, Vietnam!

16 hrs and 8000 miles

The flight to Hong Kong is the longest single flight I’ve ever taken. Hong Kong is just over 8,000 miles from NJ. Averaging ~500 mph on a 777, it takes about 16 hours to travel that distance. Of course, we’re flying coach (though United did offer first class for an extra $3000 per person per flight), so 16 hrs needs a solid game plan if you want to come out on the other side not hating life. My #1 suggestion is drugs. Personally, I like Tylenol PM or Benadryl but take whatever is going to knock you out. May as well add some booze in there too. Pro Tip: Booze is usually free on long haul international flights. Pro Tip 2: If you plan on sleeping during the flight, opt for a window seat. You can lean against the side of the plane which makes sleeping much more comfortable.

Our flight left at 3:45pm. Well it was scheduled to leave at 3:45. We pushed back from the gate at 4:50 after getting on the plane at 3:15. Awesome. I stayed awake for about 4 hours finishing a novel. Around 9pm, close to my normal bed time, I took 2 Benadryl (which per the package, expired in March of 2013. Meh). Pretty sure I slept for the next 10 hours. John said he was considering waking me up to make sure I was still alive. THIS WHAT YOU WANT! Pass out for 10 of the 16 hours. When I woke up, they were serving breakfast. I watched an episode and a half of Chopped and then we landed. Major, major win.


Immigration and customs were a breeze. Barely a line at immigration and no lines or bag checking at customs. FYI- No visa is required for Hong Kong though a visa is required for mainland China. From customs, it’s a short walk to the MTR (mass transit railway) that takes you straight to the city center. The MTR ride was about 35 minutes but it was the nicest subway/ railway I’ve ever taken. Luggage racks, USB plug-ins, free WiFi and it was so quiet (I might have to do a separate post to gush about the MTR).

Once in the city center, there’s a free hotel shuttle (I think 6 or 8 different lines) that will bring you on a short loop right to your hotel front entrance. We were staying at The Conrad, which is a 5 star hotel on Hong Kong Island and only a 7 min drive from the Hong Kong MTR station.

We left John’s parents at 1:30pm on Thursday 03 November and arrived at our hotel at 10pm on Friday 04 November (Hong Kong is 12 hours ahead of East Coast time). All told, we traveled over 8000 miles in a span of about 20 hours.

The Plan

When I tell people we are quitting our jobs and traveling to Asia for 7 weeks, most ask, “Where are you going? What’s your plan?”

My answer: “ummm… well… we don’t really have a plan.”

I’m not a planner when it comes to travel, especially long term travel. You never know which places you’ll love and which places are just meh.

After 11 months on the road, I developed my own ‘planning template’. It went like so:

  • Book 2-4 nights in one spot
  • If I like it the first day, add some extra nights to my reservation
  • If I don’t like it, book my transport out and my hostel at the next place

That worked pretty well in NZ and Eastern Europe so I expect we’ll follow a similar strategy in SE Asia (considering I’m the one who books our hostels and flights and generally I’m… uhh… a bit of an inflexible know it all, we’ll definitely be following this strategy). Right now, we have a barebones outline of ‘The Plan’.

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  • 04 November: Arrive in Hong Kong. 4 nights at the Hilton (courtesy of John’s parents). Recover from 16 hr flight. Sleep for days.
  • 08 November: Flight to Hanoi (Booked- $88)
  • 08 November through 05 December: Travel the Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand region. I expect we’ll move south through Vietnam, cross in to Cambodia and then make our way to Bangkok, perhaps with a stop in northern Thailand in the Chiang Mai region.
  • 05 December: Flight from Bangkok to Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia. Spend 5 nights at the Anantara Vacation Club, Seminyak, Bali (courtesy of my parents).
  • 10-19 December: Work our way north to either Jakarta or Kuala Lumpur.
  • 20 December: Flight to Hong Kong
  • 21 December: Flight from Hong Kong to Newark, NJ. Hopefully have enough funds to upgrade to first class. Like the baller I am.
  • January-ish: Move to CA. Be poor, homeless, jobless and friendless. Sad face.
  • January-ish: At least I’m not poor, homeless, jobless and friendless with snow on the ground. So really I’m winning

I do not have a job yet though there have been interviews (including one yesterday that went… kind of terribly. Do you remember the types of bonds in DNA? No? Me neither. Luckily I had a more promising interview earlier in the week). I’m hoping to get an offer before we move and negotiate relocation assistance as part of the offer. That’s best case. That would probably decrease the stress level significantly.

So there you have it. ‘The Plan’ (really just a series of guesses, of which only 10% is actually booked). Cheers!