What can I say about Taipei? Perhaps if the Airbnb we rented offered some heat in the coldest week in January I’d have a few more fond memories of Taiwan, but alas… Mornings were frigid and we were not prepared for such cold weather. Nevertheless, temperatures rose in the afternoons and we were able to concentrate on this unique city that featured both urban landscapes and gorgeous natural wonders. Since the city was preparing for Chinese New Year, many of the restaurants and shops were operating at odd hours. We did manage to find a few tour companies that were willing to show us around Vietnam.
Hanoi & Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The capital of Vietnam, Hanoi, is absolutely teeming with motorbikes. It’s cheaper for a family to purchase a bike as opposed to a car, and believe me, you’ll see families on these tiny bikes. The most I’ve seen on 1 bike was 5: 2 adults and 3 children. 5 people! I’m still upset I didn’t have my camera ready to capture that. Seeing 3-4 people on a bike was a regular thing for us. Kids would sit in front of the bike, standing, looking downright bored. It’s understandable, though, if I grew up on a bike, I wouldn’t be fazed by it either.
Formerly known as Saigon, Ho Chi Minh City, was the complete opposite of Hanoi. While Hanoi was a sprawling, bustling, tradition city full of colorful people, Ho Chi Minh City was downright trendy. It reminded us of New York! The buildings were shiny, modern and tall, many of them with roof top decks, bars and clubs. To our surprise, the Airbnb we booked turned out to be in a landmark building, Ben Thanh Tower, across the street from the famous Ben Thanh Market. Ben Thanh Tower sported 2 clubs and a pool on the roof and from our modern, newly renovated apartment, we enjoyed a view of a helipad on a neighboring building.
Unfortunately, we only got to spend a few days in Ho Chi Minh City, but will definitely return to explore more city hotspots!
Fun fact: there are 7.43 million motorbikes in Ho Chi Minh City alone! To put that into perspective, there are only 8.43 million people living there.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Our final destination during our 6-month trip was Chiang Mai. After a half year of constant exploration, tours, bus rides, plane tortures and illnesses, we were exhausted – mentally and physically. It turns out, ending our journey in Chiang Mai could not have been a better idea. Unlike Bangkok and Phuket, Chiang Mai was a haven for tourists, providing the right amount of excitement and relaxation. It was a slower paced city with an ideal climate and an abundance of cafes, shops and restaurants. The food was amazing, a guarantee anywhere in Thailand, and you couldn’t walk down the street without seeing dozens of young tourists. The low cost of living and high quality of life makes this city a must-visit for many American, European and Australian citizens. We met lots of people along the way as well as some incredible elephants we won’t soon forget!
My biggest recommendation (besides meeting the elephants) is to dine at David’s Kitchen. Voted Asia’s #1 Restaurant by TripAdvisor.com in 2016. Across the entire continent of Asia, this restaurant came out on top. We had the best dining experience of our lives there, twice! Yes, we couldn’t leave Asia without a second taste of their food. There’s a slight Asian twist to some menu items. You’ll find wagyu beef cheek and tuna tartar, lots of steaks and seafood options to fit anyone’s tastes. Some of the recipes were actually adapted from David’s aunt, who insisted those dishes be named in her honor. The desserts were extra phenomenal.
And so concludes this 3-part “From the Archives” series I decided to post. Photos in this series were all taken before photography became a more serious hobby of mine. Make sure to read parts 1 and 2 of the series, Rome, Florence, Malta, Barcelona and Bangkok, Bali, Phuket.