LIKE I SAID… It really happens when you least expect it. I found myself being dropped off at the airport, by a guy who two weeks prior was a complete stranger. YES, TWO WEEKS. I never thought I would find myself in a situation where staying in Seattle sounded just as exhilarating as Vietnam. The thought of endless talks and death by chocolate desserts filled my heart with joy. For once I had a reason to stay but like any sane woman I boarded my flight to Hanoi, Vietnam. Ohh man, here I go catching flights AND feelings – so much for #catchflightsnotfeelings.
But let’s be real. You’re here to read about Vietnam NOT my love life…
So here’s my guide to Vietnam
First, as a US citizen you will need to get a visa beforehand. Here are two websites:
Now for the fun part -> Halong Bay
I’ve been dreaming about this place ever since I saw a post about it on Facebook. It was at the top of my list for my Southeast Asia backpacking trip. Unfortunately, I had a moped accident in Koh Tao, Thailand on Christmas (of all days) and decided to skip Vietnam for the moment and go to Japan. My plan was to come back to it after the Philippines, but I didn’t plan on my emotions being amplified and going home early. I guess you can never really plan for those things.
Saying Halong Bay is super touristy is an understatement. I’m talking about huge chunks of people lining up to visit the attractions, an iPad in every other person’s hands trying to take the same damn picture over and over, oh and my ultimate favorite – holding up the line to take the billionth picture we ALL know you won’t even look at later… Even then, Halong bay was STUNNING. I will never forget the feeling of “I finally made it” as we entered the Bay, the feeling of jumping into the warm water in the middle of darkness just to say I’ve swam in it, or scrambling around trying to hop on anyone’s wifi to talk to a certain someone (cough, cough).
Tour: 2 day 1 night booked with Rose Travel Agency Price: $129
Included: Transportation, food, activities, room with restroom, and tour guide
Activities: Hiking, swimming, kayaking, squid fishing, cooking class, cave exploring, and Tai chi
Day in Hanoi
Well, the fact that you are reading this means I survived the crossing the streets in Vietnam. Seriously, no joke this was the most intense part of my day. I eventually figured out a system: look for a local and follow their every step.
- Do yourself a favor and have some Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk (white).
- EAT AT Banh mi 25. Best $1 sandwich EVER!
- Drink some egg coffee at Giang Cafe -> AMAZING!
- Get a massage at Omamori Spa -> $15 for 90 min massage
- Go to the Always Cafe -> Yes, its Harry Potter related!
ALWAYS Cafe was a dream come true!
Trip to Sapa
Summary: Shit happens
Transportation: Moped ($4) + sleeper bus ($20)
Accommodation: Ta Van Hostel ($8 per night) -> great host!
OHH man, Sapa was NOT what I had in mind. It all started with my bus forgetting to pick me up so I had to get on a Moped. I WAS TERRIFIED since literally less than a year ago I had an accident. My driver dropped me off in the middle of the road and said in broken English, “wait for Queenstown Bus here”.. (my brain is like RIGHT HERE BRAH? REALLY, you could not have picked any other location?!?). Anyway, my bus picked me up and of course with MY luck I got the back middle seat -> I am laying in between two couples, basically on their honeymoon, FML -> talk about being a 5th wheel.
I eventually get to Sapa and decide to take a moped to my hostel instead of a taxi. I figured I already did it once so I might as well get over my fear. Low key – I almost puked, but I did it. I wasn’t able to hike like I had originally planned due to the weather, but I ate tons of delicious home made Vietnamese food, enjoyed some fresh coffee, & made some new friends. I made the best I could of the situation.
Honest moment- Last year I had planned on backpacking around the world for six months. I was not sure where I would go exactly, but I started my journey in Southeast Asia. About a month in, I returned home because grief and loneliness took over. Six months prior to my trip, my best friend passed away and it was one of the most difficult moments in life. Little did I know that all those emotions would take over me in the Philippines. My anxiety was through the roof. When I left the Philippines last year I felt defeated. My friend was right, I barely made it over a month. I had lasted a month and five days abroad. A MONTH AND FIVE DAYS. I beat myself up pretty badly about it. Ashley, how could you be in paradise and feel like this? You’ve wanted this for so long and now you’ve wasted it. Why are you so weak? I wasn’t kind to myself. Boarding my flight home that evening, last year, I wasn’t sure if I would ever have the strength to come back to Southeast Asia and yet less than a year later I found myself in Vietnam
feeling stronger than ever.
Or least that was the plan. You know, like in the movies, I was suppose to come back, have an amazing time, and finally prove to myself that I’m mentally in a much better place. Truth is – I went home early. What was originally a seven day trip turned into five. Things just kept going wrong and even though I tried my best to keep it together and make the best of it – I simply was not happy. Every time I crossed the street I felt death around the corner, when I paid for my food with a smile on my face I felt unwelcomed, instead of peace I found isolation, and lastly instead of being filled with joy I was overwhelmed with anxiety. So here I am 100% being honest with you… I don’t have it all together. You see all my victory moments on my social media but you don’t get those late night calls/texts where I am struggling. There are days where I feel invincible and others where I need to take it 10 seconds at a time. I am not fearless, but I am doing my best to not JUST survive but live fully and to the best of my ability.
So that’s life. It’s going to throw things at you and all you can do is adjust (a very wise person once told me haha). I could take this moment as a failure or as a stepping stone. I can dwell on the fact that I went home early or instead that I EVEN went to Asia in the first place.
P.S. So flights or feelings? To be determined.