Dear Diary #7: Vietnam, Bali Resorts, and Uluwatu
Shockingly I am getting a new update to you guys without too much time passing since my last one… Crazy, I know! ;) But there is so much to update in this post so bare with me! First and foremost, Zach's parents are coming to Bali to visit us which is SO EXCITING because neither of them have ever left the US... well besides Mexico + the Caribbean... so we are just so exited that they are coming so far and we cannot wait to see them!! We haven’t all been together since September and for us that is just so long! However, their trip falls right in the time frame that we needed to leave the country again for another visa run, so we had to leave before they came. Which brings me to.... drum roll please.... VIETNAM!!!!! Oh my gosh. I don't even know where to start. We were originally planning to head to the Philippines for our next visa run, and still reallly want to go there asap, but flights to Vietnam were crazy cheap so we changed our plans at the last minute. We both really had no idea what to expect in Vietnam, so it was a complete adventure that ended up being so far beyond what I could have ever imagined! We are going to do a full guide on League Travels asap, so make sure to check it out! And on here, as usual, I will be giving you guys my highlights from the past couple weeks! :)
HO CHI MINH CITY
We started our trip in Ho Chi Minh City, which is located in the south of Vietnam, and felt such a burst of energy even at the airport! So much hustle + bustle was happening in this city, and there were crowds of people everywhere we looked! I thought the motorbikes and drivers in Bali were crazy… but I’ve never seen anything like Vietnam drivers, haha. The city was electric!! We only had one short night here, but made sure to wake up early to enjoy all that we could. We know now for next time to have more than just one night in this fun city! We stayed in an airbnb near Binh Than market and ate some late night street food ((which is all the rage in Vietnam)), and in the morning explored the market. From veggies to raw meat, flowers to clothing, electronics to spices, this market literally had it all! We loved the vibes of this city and next time we come back, we really want to be able to visit some of the famous museums in the area from what they call, the American War.
Hoi An.... aka the cutest town ever! I wanted to stay here forever, haha! If you follow me on Instagram, this is the place with all of the adorable lanterns that really bring the town to life at night time. It was so cute and quaint, and you could really feel the french influence throughout the town. We stayed at a gorgeous resort, Anantara Hoi An, and it really made our time in Hoi An that much better. The resort itself was this perfect peach color, with white columns everywhere. Anantara is located right along the river, and it has the best sunset views! Our time here was so special, we were even able to take a sunset boat ride with our resort and see Hoi An from a completely different perspective. The resort also allows you to rent bikes for free, which is the ideal way to get around and see this little town! We spent our days riding to the beach, to the markets, and all over town exploring as much as well could. Hoi An is also known for having hundreds of tailors all around, and we each got something made as well! You probably saw me posting about this on Instagram, but it was for sure one of my highlights from our trip because we got to meet My, which is the owner of the tailoring shop that we chose to work with. She ended up telling us her whole story, and I was so touched by her and her cute little son who she nicknamed, Chuckie! I’ve been sharing her contact with so many of you guys, and if you still want it feel free to message me and I will send it right over! She can make anything + everything!
-Link to Anantara Hoi An here!
HA LONG BAY
The little bit that I did research before our trip, I knew that I really wanted to take an overnight cruise in Ha Long Bay! I didn't know a place like this actually existed in real life, but it seriously looks like something out of Jurassic Park! There are these massive limestone cliffs coming out of the water for as far as you can see!! It was the most surreal sight I've ever seen. We booked a night super last minute with Signature Cruises and I am so happy we did! There are so many different options to choose from for a cruise so it was a bit overwhelming, but Signature Cruises really felt like a luxury experience with the sweetest staff members of all time. Our main guide's name was Vinh, and he made the trip even better because of his fun personality! Our room was bright white with the cutest balcony overlooking the sea, and our room even had a nice jacuzzi tub in our bathroom! I was so impressed. The food was really delicious, and we did so many fun adventures along the way- like visiting a fishing village and a pearl market, kayaking, and hiking up to a massive cave! I’ll never forget this experience and highly recommend it to anyone traveling to Ha Long Bay! If you do book with Signature Cruises, make sure to request Vinh as your guide. He was such a sweetheart!
-Link to Signature Halong Cruise here!
So this is the destination that almost didn't make the cut, and we literally added it in our itinerary the day that we went… haha! We absolutely loved everything about Ninh Binh, and I can’t even imagine visiting Vietnam without having this place on the list! It was unreal! They say it is like Ha Long Bay on land… aka there are tons of limestone cliffs everywhere and it’s a super small town with very little tourism whatsoever. You can tell that tourism is picking up a bit, but it’s mostly just backpackers here and there and not much else. The quaintness of this place is what really made it for us, and we stayed at a little guesthouse right in the middle of Tam Coc. We read that it’s best to stay in this town because it’s near all the beautiful landscapes and the city center of Ninh Binh is just another Asian city, which was 100% true. Tam Coc is full of so much culture and character, and we felt so blessed to be able to experience a place that felt so raw and authentic! The owner of our guesthouse really took us under his wing and for our 3 nights in Ninh Binh, he really made us feel like family. We had family dinner with him and his friends + family each night, and he gave us so many tips of what to see and do around town. Hanging with the locals is always the best way to truly experience a place, and we felt like we got such a true feel of Tam Coc because of it.
-Link to our airbnb with the best host, Lei, here!
Everyone always raves about Hanoi, and we had one night here before Ha Long Bay and didn’t really love it to be honest. However, we then had one more night before flying out after Ninh Binh and our experience was completely different— it ended up being our favorite night of our entire time in Vietnam!! Make sure to stay in the French Quarter, at first we stayed in Old Quarter and to be honest, our airbnb was pretty gross lol. Did you follow along my stories at all during Hanoi?! If so, you know how we got to witness first hand Vietnam winning the AFC U23 semi-finals game to advance to the championship game in soccer!! We posted so much about this, but it was honestly the most exciting night!! The whole entire city went wild and were celebrating from 6pm after their win, up until we woke up at 6am to head to the airport the next day! It was next level, and there’s no way we could have planned such an experience on our own. Sometimes you find yourself in the right place at the right time, and this was for sure one of those magical moments. This night will forever be engrained on my heart!
-Link to the airbnb we stayed at in the French Quarter here!
As soon as we got back to Bali, we went straight into Summerfest at our church, Hillsong Bali! It was basically a 3-day event/conference for young adults ages 25-35. It was such a great way to come back to Bali-- straight into community and really feeling refreshed and empowered for this next season that is ahead of us! There were so many great pastors who spoke incredible messages that I will be thinking about for a long time. I feel so blessed that we are able to attend such an incredible church that cares about investing into the lives of young adults like Zach and me.
DESA VISESA UBUD
Literally right after the last session of Summerfest, Zach and I were on our way up to Ubud for a collaboration with Desa Visesa! If your’e coming to Bali and looking to have a true Balinese experience, this resort is the place to stay! From the moment we got on the property, we felt like Visesa did such a great job of really showcasing Balinese traditions and Balinese culture. The whole resort is so picture perfect, and is even surrounded by rice fields that makes the experience even richer! The grounds were so stunning, and we took countless photos. We had our own private pool at our villa with an incredible view of the jungle- it doesn't get more ‘Bali’ than this!!
-Link to Desa Visesa Ubud here!
ALAYA DEDAUN KUTA
We went strait from Ubud to Alaya Dedaun Kuta, and were completely blown away. We have never stayed in Kuta before because it is such a touristy area and it feels so hectic, but Alaya Dedaun Kuta is a hidden gem in the midst of the chaos! Even though Kuta is super touristy, it has so many great restaurants, fun nightlife, and the beach is so close by. The area became so famous for a reason! Staying at Alaya Dedaun Kuta felt like we had the best of both worlds to be in such a central location, but completely away from any noise whatsoever. It was so quite and relaxing, we had our own villa and it felt so private and secluded. No detail is missed at any Alaya property, and the staff are among the most friendly people we've met in Bali ((which is saying a lot because overall, most people in Bali are so friendly!)). We were able to have a spa day at Dala Spa which has won countless awards in Bali and Indonesia, and there is no question as to why after having a treatment here. It is the best massage I’ve ever had!! The staff of Alaya Dedaun even arranged a romantic dinner for Zach and I at our villa, and it was so beautiful that it literally brought me to tears. I couldn't believe that we were getting to experience something so magical and it was so sweet to see how the staff loved watching our faces light up as they prepared the night for us! 17kgs (37lbs!!) of flowers in our pool, a 4 course meal, wine, you name it… it was one of those once in a lifetime experiences that you feel like only happen in the movies. I’m still in awe!
-Link to Alaya Dedaun Kuta here!
We had a couple nights in between collaborations and Zach's parents arriving in Bali, so we decided to head down to Uluwatu for a change of pace and to be able to work and relax at the beach! Unfortunately the weather wasn't so great so it was mostly a work trip, but we were able to get so much done ((which is where I am currently as I am typing to you guys!)) It's 10:42pm on a Wednesday night, I am sipping on a strawberry mojito and working from a cafe, haha. This is Bali life guys. Uluwatu is known for it’s gorgeous coastline of cliffs overlooking gorgeous blue water and white sand beaches, and is a huge hub for surfers because the waves are so great. One of these days we will get our Uluwatu beach experience, but for now we will enjoy the cute cafes in the area as we hop around with our laptops to get as much work done as possible!
Alright, I warned you guys that this one was a lot of info… haha sorry about that!! I can’t wait to breakdown our Vietnam trip even more with you guys soon to give you a proper guide, because we are both so passionate about the experiences we shared there! I hope this is a good start, and I can’t wait to update you guys for what’s to come!
Okay, time to go pick up my in-laws from the airport now… whoohoo!!