Be curious! Be adventurous! BE BRAVE! Learning about & experiencing another culture can be both exciting & scary all at the same time. I took the phrase, "Be Brave," on the road with me & it proved to be exceptionally helpful!
Be Brave! As we set out the first morning of our trip to explore the city of Hanoi, Vietnam, a great piece of advice was given to us. As you cross the streets in this town walk slowly, don't run! Say what? We quickly understood the advice. There are thousands of vespas that bomb down the streets in packs. In order to cross the street, one must just "Be Brave" and go for it. The trick is to walk slowly so that they can see you & slow down as to NOT hit you. We live to tell the tale, barely!
Be Brave! Using foreign currency can be humbling. Trying to process the currency exchange in Vietnam was thought provoking. 22,700VMD to one US dollar. That's not an easy conversion. The good thing is that tipping is not customary, so at least you aren't trying to calculate a tip too!
Vietnam is the 2nd largest exporter of coffee. They sure do know how to make an amazing, and beautiful cup of coffee! The cappuccinos were amazing, but honestly the straight up black coffee was even better. Tony got a cup of coffee in the coffee shop pictured above & we had to think about how to drink it! It came out with a little tea light under a coffee cup under a metal cup! Say what? It was a type of coffee press. You had to strain the coffee grounds at the table. It was interesting & made for a hot, strong & fresh cup of coffee.
HaLong Bay, Vietnam is one of the 7 Natural Wonders of the World. Mystifying mountains and captivating caves created by mother nature! We spent a night on a luxury cruise ship! Each room had amazing views! The dining/bar areas felt Titanic-esque!
An amazing cup of Vietnamese coffee after doing yoga on the deck, pretty perfect start to the day. As always, I took yoga on the road with me & it certainly helped to set the tone for each day! My yoga practice is all about being intentional & setting a "purpose" for the practice as well as for the day ahead. Not only did this help with the way I navigated my day, it also seemed to pull me into a few challenging poses that I normally steer clear of.
Be Brave! Adventures in HaLong Bay included a hike to the top of one of the many mountains to get a panoramic view of the the bay. The hike was not for the faint of heart or for those with a fear of heights. We took a little boat from the cruise ship over to TiTop Island. We got off the boat and headed to the trail head leading to the top of the mountain. As I looked up at what seemed like a never ending trail & noticed that there were sections of the path without a railing & a steep drop off along the side, I began an inner panic. "Be Brave!" I started out. About halfway up we came to a platform, I wanted to be done. "Be Brave!" With some coaching, I kept going. I made it to the top, but the bigger fear was actually the thought of going back down. With an undertone of anxiety, I enjoyed the panoramic view. Even the breath taking sight couldn't stop me from thinking about the process of heading down. "Be Brave" I slowly started my way down making Tony stay close in from so I could lean on him every now & again when a railing was not available. I focused on the steps below my feet, one at a time, and I survived. Such a sigh of relief as the bottom became visible! I made it! It was beautiful! I was Brave! Don't miss out, Be Brave!
Be Brave. The next adventure in HaLong Bay was exploring the natural caves! We went to the top of one mountain & inside another. It was an interesting contrast! The caves didn't require as much of the "Be Brave" talk, but I it still was an adventure filled with unknowns.
Siem Reap, Cambodia. Pub Street at night! Catch a Tuk Tuk(taxi), take off for Pub Street. After a bit of deliberation we decided to venture out to check out the Cambodian night life. It was light & lively! Streets trimmed with lights, music filling the air & no shortage of bars & restaurants to choose from. Although there is certainly some seedy behavior that takes place on those streets, we were able to innocently enjoy some fun!
Be Brave, eat bugs, say what? Yep, there is actually a restaurant called The Bug Cafe. Where they get their inventory from, I do not know! All varieties of big bugs ready to indulge the adventurous eater. I left that challenge up to the guys. Tarantula, scorpion, & a cockroach were chosen! It was almost unbearable to even watch these bugs be eaten. Yuck! Be Brave, my friends, I'll sit this one out!
Siem Reap, Cambodia. Pub Street by day! Crowded streets. Tuk Tuk "Taxi" cabs everywhere. The market is filled with lots of Cambodian silk and other local trinkets perfect for an interesting souvenir. If you are feeling brave you can sample some street food too.
Right next door to this cute little coffee shop is a unique little jewelry shop, Grains de Cambodge. The jewelry is handmade using local materials. I bought a bracelet & earrings that are made out of local seeds. The workshop is upstairs so you can see how the jewelry is made. I was excited that they have a FB page & a website so I can order more. I was feeling so overwhelmed in the shop b/c I really loved everything!
Be Brave! After hiking TiTop in HaLong Bay, Vietnam, I thought my fear of heights had already been tested enough on this trip! Nope! Another challenge presented itself. As we entered an ancient Temple we were given the opportunity to take in yet another panoramic view from the top of this Temple. I joked about going to the top & then it was a real thing...going to the top. I got to the bottom of the staircase looked up, looked back at the line awaiting the journey up, I almost chickened out. One baby step at a time I made my way up. While I took in the view, I had that all to familiar undertone of anxiety about having to get back down. Deep breath in, Be Brave. I clung to the railing & one step at a time made my way down. A huge sigh of relief at the bottom & a proud feeling of I conquered yet another fear of heights situation!
Before I was allowed to head up the steep staircase I was informed that I needed more clothing on. The Temples are very strict about covering the shoulders & knees. At the last minute, before heading to the Temple, I added leggings underneath my sundress. I wrapped a thin scarf around my shoulders as it was blazing hot outside & stuffed a light weight sweater into my bag. That sweater came in handy as I had to put it on before entering the sacred Temple. Sometimes you not only have to Be Brave, but you also have to Be Creative(this time with clothing options).
Be generous! As we exited the Temple we were crowded by a flood of locals selling anything from fans to magnets to elephant print pants. The desperation to sell was real. It would start out 2 items for 5 dollars(in Cambodia although the local currency is the Riel, they actually prefer the US dollar), then it would go on and on until it was 5 for 1 dollar. It would then just simply become a plead for one dollar, one dollar, one dollar. As I sat in the "taxi" waiting to leave the Temple grounds a young boy about my sons age was so persistent. I wasn't giving in as I had already bought fans from another individual. Another boy about the same age approached & began the same process. As we were about to pull away, I saw my son in their eyes, I sensed the desperation in their pleads, and I then handed each boy one dollar and let them keep their items to sell to someone else. I have gone through my phases in life of being extremely selfish and have little by little changed throughout the years. But, this experience in particular really made me want to Be Generous! Their needs really outweighed my wants! Be Generous!
Here I go with another shout out to the amazing Stitch Fix service. I let my stylist know that I'd be taking a trip to Vietnam & Cambodia & needed a few stylish items for the trip. Boom, my stylist was 5 for 5. I kept all of the items & wore each of them on the trip.
I also ordered a few items from Athleta. I knew that the weather was going to be very hot so I made sure to have some cute outfits that are dry wick material.
My packing turned out to be impeccable. Aside for a few minor items, I wore everything that I packed. I'm simple when it comes to attire, so packing usually is not an issue for me. I do like to challenge myself to wear everything I bring...challenge accepted, challenge conquered.
Clothing(6 nights...lots of travel time on both sides of the trip):
-Comfortable pants(2) + tank(2) + light weight sweater + sleep on shoes/socks (for travel days)
Athleta shirt(2) + skorts(2)
Jean shorts + tank + wrap
Yoga clothes(4) + mat
Running clothes(2) + running shoes
Sundress + wrap/sweater(to cover shoulders) + leggings(to cover knees)
Pool flip flops
Shorts(4) + cute top(4) +
Floral dress +
Formal navy dress + wrap + nude shoes
Shorts(4) + tank(4) + long sleeve shirt(2)
-Bug spray(some how, me, the mosquito magnet, managed to make it out of this trip without a single bug bite). - Tummy meds.(took on Pepto tablet the entire trip, pretty impressive considering the food that we ate!)
-Shampoo, conditioner, hairbrush, elastic bands
-Body wash, razor, deodorant
-Bonine(I don't typically get motion sickness, but wanted to be prepared just in case)
-Travel diffuser w/ essential oils (lavender, citrus, thieves).
Carry on bag(15 hour flight):
-iPhone with podcasts downloaded(Mindful Mama, Happier, Truth & Dare, Note to Self, From the Heart).
-iPhone with music downloaded
-iPhone with ebook(Raising Grateful Kids in an Entitled World)
-iPhone portable battery(I forgot this & regretted it big time)
-Essential Oil Rollers(Stress Away by day & Tranquil by night)
-Passport with Visas(Vietnam, Cambodia, 24hour China)(carry copies)
-Ticket(either printed or access to ticket)...this almost had me stranded in China b/c they will only give you a 24 hour Visa(which I had to have in order to get to my connecting flight) if you can prove that you have a flight out within 24 hours. This was a scary & helpless feeling as on the way home Tony had already made his way to the other side of the customs counter & I couldn't find proof of my flight. Luckily I had some friends who were on the same trip with us who kept me calm as I tried to figure out how to get myself through customs! Only when you are calm can you reason through difficult situations. Finally, I presented my ticket stub from the first leg of the flight to verify my connecting flight and it worked! So here's a note of advice...hold onto all of your ticket stubs until you are home safe & sound!
-Money(credit cards are often accepted, but be thoughtful of local currency once you arrive).
-Hard copy of book(The Magnolia Story)
-Snacks( simple, but necessary, especially when traveling internationally)
-Change of clothes(I skipped this, but would have been sorry if my luggage had gotten lost or delayed)
-Reusable shopping bag
Prepreparations for the trip...
A visit to the doctor:.
-Typhoid pills(abandoned those after two doses b/c couldn't keep up with them being refrigerated. wish I could have gotten the shot instead).
-Hep A shot
-Tetnus shot(already updated with that one)
There was so much preparation that went into getting ready for the trip & nothing that could fully prepare a person for the jet lag that one is plagued with after the trip. It is something unlike I have ever experienced before. I suppose now that I know what to expect, I might be able to handle it better next time.
Travel is a gift not to be taken for granted. Whether you win a trip or save your pennies to check a location off your bucket list, it is to be treasured! There are life lessons learned along the way that cannot be learned by reading a book.
Be curious! Be Adventurous! BE BRAVE!