You can’t visit Vietnam and not learn about the Vietnam War – it’s a key part of history and the region’s current identity and conflicts. Vietnam had been a French colony since the 1880s. The Vietnamese had been fighting the French for independence for a long time before the Japanese came in during WWII. After Japan left, the Vietnamese took over what was left and kicked out the French. The country was split into communist North Vietnam and non-communist South Vietnam. The Vietnam War was fought between North Vietnam (supported by China and the Soviet Union) and South Vietnam (supported by the US and allies to defeat communism), and it was nearly 20 years from 1955 – 1975. North Vietnam ended up winning, but the country still seems very divided. For example, people in the southern city of Ho Chi Minh City still call the city Saigon (the name of the city before the south lost).
In lighter news, my favorite part about Vietnam was the food. Yummmmm, the food! What you need to make sure you eat:
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Halong Bay means descending dragon bay. It is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. There are about 2,000 islands in about 1,500 square kilometers. We took a 2 day cruise around the bay through Rosa Cruise for $235 (total for both of us). We spent another $55 on drinks, and another $10 for tip. Total was $300 for the 2 days for 2 people.
Overall, I don’t think it was worth it. I mean, it may have been if it had been sunny, but the weather didn’t totally cooperate. It wasn’t horrible, but it wasn’t bright and perfect either. See our video of the bay here to see what I’m talking about.
Colin and I really liked Myanmar. It’s a lot less touristy than other areas we’ve been to. The people are really nice and still seem happy to see tourists; whereas in other more touristy areas, I think that you get a lot of locals who hate the tourists (and I’m one of those crotchety locals when I’m at home too, so I don’t blame them). Colin and I actually got stopped a lot to take photos with locals and other Asian tourists (because of my purple hair and Colin’s red beard). In the photo above, I took individual pictures with almost everyone in the group – men and women. All the girls I passed stared at me, and a lot of them complimented me with something like, “pretty hair!” At one point, Colin was approached in a temple by about 15 men with military uniforms on. He was thinking he was in big trouble for something, but each of them wanted a picture with him so they could show their friends back in the smaller town in Myanmar that they were all from. It was fun!
Inle Lake, Myanmar
We spent 2 full days in Inle Lake. I could have been fine with 1, but Colin wanted to explore more on the second day, so it depends on how interesting you find the area. Lake Inle is the second largest lake in Myanmar. There are a lot of people that live on the shores and also on the lake itself. A lot of the houses you see are on stilts on the lake. They even grow gardens that float on the surface of the lake! Take a look at this video to get a better idea of what you’ll see in Inle Lake: Boating Inle Lake, Myanmar.
New Zealand: 42 Day Road Trip!
New Zealand. Wow. We road tripped around South Island and North Island for 6 weeks. I think the photo above really says it all. That's me at the top of the Roys Peak Track celebrating the climb. New Zealand hikes are amazing, and the scenery is stunning. Colin and I combined forces to write a detailed blog here. I hope it helps your trip! Also, you'll definitely want to take a look at the photos we have from South Island here and North Island here.
Iguazu Falls is amazing, and if you're visiting another area close-ish to it, then I say go. To me though, it wasn't enough of a destination to be its own trip. It's not cheap, and it's not as cool as going to Victoria Falls.
Southern Patagonia, while majestic and beautiful, was a letdown for me. Maybe I built it up too much in my head; maybe it was from hearing so many wonderful [possibly exaggerated] stories from other travelers; maybe it was how hard we tried to do it on a budget. Whatever the reason, I was disappointed.
Colin and I rented a campervan and road tripped around the Southern Patagonia, from El Chaltén to Ushuaia, for 16 days, September 1 – 16, 2017. We had trouble finding information about how exactly to road trip around Patagonia, so we wrote about the details of our trip in our how-to blog, McPatton Manual. See that post here.
At the bottom of this post, there are photos of each of the major parts of our trip. To see even more photos from the trip (which I highly recommend), check them out here, and for an EVEN BETTER visualization of the trip, see our YouTube videos on the playlist here.
Chile: San Pedro de Atacama
This city is small, but cute. There are cute restaurants and cafes, but mostly the streets are full of tour companies. There are several tours that you can do from this town, but we only did one – Valle de la Luna.
Bolivian Salt Flats: 3 Day Tour
If you travel through South America and skip this area, you are missing out! I’m in love with Bolivia – see my previous blog post here about how interesting La Paz is, but in addition to all of that, the country is gorgeous. You seriously need to look at our photos here to see for yourself because I can’t describe it in words.
Everyone tells you that you need to book WAY in advance to do Machu Picchu (MP). You also never really hear about doing anything except the typical 4 day trek. We didn’t make the time for that, so we did it in 1 day using trains and buses. There’s also an option to do it in 2 days using a car (the road the car uses is longer than the train tracks). We also didn’t book until a few days in advance.
Hi, I'm Sara Monica Patton. I love animals, traveling, and eating. Read more about me in my first blog post here.