A Family Affair in Hoi An

As I said in my last post, my mom came to visit us here in Vietnam last month. It was such a great visit and we packed a lot in to the 2 weeks. Our first trip that we took was down to Hoi An for 4 days. Luckily my niece Sarah, who lives in Singapore, had a long weekend so her and her fiance joined us for a couple of days.

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How do I describe our time in Hoi An? Wow… Let’s just say it was full of shopping, tailoring, eating, boat rides, bike rides, beaches, rice paddies, swimming, temples and more!

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In this post I’ll just talk about Hoi An town itself. Hoi An is a traditional town with beautiful old buildings and lanterns absolutely everywhere. It is very peaceful since no motorised vehicles are allowed in to the town center.

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I must admit that it is very touristy with every building being either a shop, tailor or restaurant, but I absolutely loved it there! It was such a nice getaway from noisy Hanoi.

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So I have mentioned tailors a couple of times so far in this post and that is because Hoi An is THE place to go to get clothing tailored.

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While we were there I got some beautiful leather ankle boots, a dress, a pants and shorts tailored. Jason got a pants and 4 shirts tailored and my mom got 3 pairs of shoes made.

Overall we were happy with the items that we got made. For my dress and one of Jason’s shirts we went to one of the bigger well known tailors that had a lot of reviews. Then while walking we happened upon a very small tailors with a lovely woman inside, she was offering to make shirts at a much cheaper price so Jason said he’d order one and see how it went.

The next day we went back and found that it was perfect, no adjustments needed, unlike the bigger store so we ordered more from her and were happy with everything we got made.

Now, a month later, the pants and dress have become staples in my wardrobe, I’ve only worn the boots once because it’s summer but they looked beautiful. I still haven’t worn my shorts but I’m sure that I will soon. Jason found all of his shirts very comfortable and perfect for work. The name of the tailors was Thu Linh 2 and the address is 40 Tran Phu Street. There are thousands of tailors in Hoi An but this is my recommendation.

As for my boots. I love them! I got them made at Friendly shop (18 Tran Phu). They are quite well known for making quality leather products and they offer a 6 month guarantee.

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I can’t wait to write more about our time in Hoi An, especially the different day trips that we took!

Have you ever gotten anything tailored? I’d love to hear about your experience!

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Currently…May 2017

What a whirlwind couple of weeks we’ve had! I was so fortunate to have my mom come visit us here in Hanoi. It was her first time in Asia and we absolutely loved showing her Vietnam. We took some time off work and managed to visit Hoi An and Halong Bay with her. I’ll be writing about our time in both of those places hopefully sooner rather than later.

Other than that, we’ve also started looking for a new apartment. We love our current apartment but we’ve found that we aren’t saving as much as we were hoping to. We’ve been looking at places that are about $400 cheaper than our current place and are still really beautiful! Just the other day we looked at a one bedroom apartment in an old French building with a balcony looking right over the lake. We are going to look at some more tomorrow and are definitely excited to find our new place!

I’ve also been researching Masters programs and I think I’ve found the program that I want, the best part is that it offers a chance to get a teaching license after the completing the Masters program.

We found a swimming pool with a view near our apartment so I have a feeling that we’ll be spending a lot of time there as the weather gets hotter.

Willy had to have a minor surgery recently. He’s had a cyst for over a year that we had gotten checked before but while my mom was visiting it grew huge in a few days so we had to get it removed. But he did great and is back to his normal self again.

Work has been going good…busy but good. I’ve been learning so much in my role as a senior teacher. In the five months that I’ve been senior teacher I’ve had a chance to train new teachers, observe current teachers, write blog posts for the company website and create and deliver an academic workshop. I’m hopeful that I’ll continue learning even more as time goes on.

That’s about it for now, but I’m really hoping to get better at writing more frequently in the future!

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The Magic Of Ninh Binh

A couple of years ago I wrote about one of my favourite places in South East Asia here. I was of course talking about Ninh Binh. It is absolutely beautiful, peaceful and not yet full of tourists (although I’m sure that with the success of the new King Kong movie, that will all change, since it was filmed here).

When I wrote about my first time visiting Ninh Binh 7 years ago, never in my wildest dreams did I ever think that I’d have a chance to go back there, let alone twice!

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Luckily it’s only a 2 hour drive from Hanoi so it’s the perfect place to go to escape the stress of the city.

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Sometimes returning to a place can be a terrible idea and all of the beautiful memories can be destroyed, luckily Ninh Binh really hasn’t changed all that much since the first time that I was there.

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I highly recommend stopping here while on your trip to Vietnam, especially at this time of the year when the rice paddies are so beautiful. They harvest at the end of May, so if you want to see golden rice paddies, go in May!

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Here are a few of my favourite things to do in Ninh Binh:

Take a Bike Ride

This is one of my highlights when I go to Ninh Binh. It’s the perfect way to take in the slow pace of life and the beautiful scenery. Be warned that your arm might get sore from waving to the many people that greet you along the way. Most guesthouses and homestays offer free bike rental.

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Stay Among The Rice Paddies

I cannot recommend this option enough. If there is one thing that you must do while in Ninh Binh it’s this! We have stayed at the Ninh Binh Panorama twice now and both times have been truly magical. There is no road leading to it, just a dirt path and it is in a magical valley. It is perfectly secluded and you have the best view of the rice paddies and the limestone karsts. In fact, the second time that we stayed here we didn’t even bother with any of the tourist attractions because the views are probably better than anything else you’ll see in Ninh Binh.

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Our sweet little hut

 

Rent a Boat on Tam Coc

This one is a bit of a hit and miss. Yes the scenery that you get to take in on the boat ride is absolutely beautiful but the river is full of tourists and the boat ride goes on for a bit too long for my liking. I’ve done it twice and both times I’ve been dying for the boat ride to finish by the end. I have heard that Thung Nham is more beautiful, especially at sunset because there are many birds in that area. I have yet to go but hopefully the next time we go to Ninh Binh we’ll go there.

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Photo credit: Alotravel Asia

Climb the Mua Caves

This is a mountain with caves at the bottom and steps all the way to the top which has an epic view of the surrounding area. Surprisingly, it never felt very busy there at all!

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This is at the bottom of the mountain

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How to get there:

It’s so easy to get to Ninh Binh, there are many options. If you walk in to any travel agent in the Old Quarter they can book a tourist bus for you and it picks you up from your hotel. If you are on a budget then you can make your way to Giap Bat bus station and jump on one of the many local buses that go that way. There is also a train that goes from Hanoi to Ninh Binh or if you have the cash to spend, you can hire a private car. If you are feeling adventurous, you can always drive there by motorbike. This is what we did on our most recent trip to Ninh Binh and it is an easy route, you just stay on the same road for the entire time.

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How about you? Have you ever been to Ninh Binh? Are there any things that you would add to this list?

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I’m Back!

After taking nearly a year off from blogging for various reasons, I’m finally back and so excited to continue writing about my adventures. A lot has changed since I last wrote and it would probably take more than one blog post to explain everything.

But basically, I now live in Vietnam!
I absolutely loved Colorado, seriously, it was the best place ever! Unfortunately, the job market there, not so much. I struggled so much with trying to find a decent job, which I never actually did find. This led to me feeling depressed and worthless. I was stuck in a job that I didn’t like and earning terrible money. It was the first time in my life that I started regretting all of the amazing experiences that I’ve had. But, myself and Jason also volunteered at a local college in Denver to help refugees and immigrants learn English. This was an incredible experience and it made me realize that I enjoy teaching and since I have so much experience in teaching ESL, maybe I should focus on getting the qualifications related to this.

We also realized that it would be near impossible to get Masters in Colorado with the jobs that we were in and not rack up a huge amount of debt, so this led to us looking for work abroad again.

It was so hard leaving Colorado, the sunshine, mountains, beer, Denver, mountain towns, friends etc. but we have been in Vietnam for about 6 months now and are enjoying our time here. We are also researching Masters programs which is exciting and if all goes well, I will be starting mine next year.img_20160815_211359

 

I will still write about all of the fun things that we did in Colorado and of course write about our time in Vietnam. I’m so happy to be back!!!

Getting off the beaten track in Ninh Binh

1924034_1121810856950_5811353_n When I traveled through Vietnam, I was really excited about seeing the beautiful Halong Bay and rightly so. It is incredible there, but alas, with a place that famous it is bound to get a bit crowded. We loved our time there but the destination that surprised us the most was Ninh Binh.1924034_1121810896951_222926_n

Ninh Binh is known as Halong Bay on the rice paddies. It also sees far less crowds than its more famous counterpart. In fact, most people that we mentioned it to had never even heard of it!1924034_1121811216959_3269343_n

Ninh Binh is only a two hour drive south from Hanoi. When we arrived we booked in to our guesthouse and they recommended that the best way to see Ninh Binh and the surrounding area is by motorbike. I’m not very confident about my driving skills and neither was Louise so we hired two men from the guesthouse to drive us.1924034_1121808936902_3355100_n

The next day we began our adventure around Ninh Binh. Our first stop was to the Mua caves which were located up a steep climb of many steps on a mountain.1924034_1121810936952_4179082_n1924034_1121811816974_5844863_n

It was a misty morning but the views from the top were still incredible!1924034_1121811936977_6770180_n

1924034_1121811896976_1133286_nAfterwards we drove through small villages with people coming out and waving and shouting “hello” at us. (It’s so funny how that has now become my everyday life here in Korea). This area is predominantly rice paddies which makes the landscape look even more beautiful. 1924034_1121808856900_1121_n

1924034_1121809056905_6862044_nWe then arrived at Tam Coc. Tam Coc is the most famous attraction in Ninh Binh. It is a beautiful river surrounded by rice paddies and incredible karst towers.1924034_1121808536892_29097_n

We hired a woman to row a small boat down the river for us and we were both in awe at the sheer beauty of the area. We also got to go in to one of the many caves in the area.1924034_1121808736897_3666994_n

1924034_1121812136982_3201018_nI highly recommend a trip to Ninh Binh, it is just south of Hanoi and most of the bus tickets that bring you North/South, South/North will stop in Ninh Binh to drop you off and collect you. Beware though! When it came time to leave, we had prebooked our bus and for some reason it never turned up! We were left standing in a dark street by ourselves for about 3 hours when we finally realized that the man that kept on telling us the bus was on the way was lying. We ventured back to our guesthouse to find that they were fully booked. Luckily, they were amazing people so they let us sleep in their own bedroom. The next night, we were lucky to get the last two beds on the bus.1924034_1121809016904_6893938_n

So if you have the time…make sure to stop in Ninh Binh for a couple of days.1924034_1121810816949_6275992_n1924034_1121811256960_3922959_n