Welcome to our monthly series of the Journey Update where we keep you clued up on where we are, what we are up to and the highs and lows of the month. You can find all our other updates here.

Ninh Binh

Where are we now?

In Hanoi, Vietnam.

Where have we been?

We’ve been all over Northern Vietnam this month with trips to Ninh Binh, Halong Bay and Mai Chau, as well as a day trip to Chua Tram.

What have we been doing?

We started off the month with our first weekend trip out to Ninh Binh, the ‘Halong Bay of the land’. We absolutely loved it and lucked out with perfect accommodation.

We didn’t do too much for the first part of the month, as we waited excitedly for the arrival of Oli’s parents, although I did take a trip just an hour out of Hanoi with friends while Oli cracked down on work.

Chua Tram

Ruth and Francois stayed for two weeks and spent a lot of time in Hanoi with us, getting to know our new home. We showed them coffee corner and the Bun Cha ladies. We took them for many lakeside drinks and we spent a lot of time in the Old Quarter, which we haven’t done in a long time. I think they ended up really liking the city which made us happy.

With my days off we were able to take two multiple day trips, one new to them and one new to all of us.

We’re now ending April with an incredibly chilled weekend in Hanoi, catching up with work and friends before our next set of visitors.

Ninh Binh

Journey highs

Ninh Binh was incredibly pretty, incredibly relaxing and incredibly easy. It’s such a perfect weekend trip from Hanoi and we feel so lucky that a place like that is so convenient for us. We did little more than soak in the atmosphere from the well placed hammocks in our guesthouse, so we are excited to go back for more.

I finally got to the fabric market with my friend Hannah, whose entire wardrobe is ‘made in Vietnam’ and while we didn’t manage to find the perfect fabric for my bridesmaid dress this summer at my mum’s wedding, we did have a lot of fun. It’s a fun place to check out even if you aren’t in the market for tailor made clothes.

The day trip to Chua Tram completely took us all by surprise and Oli later went back with his dad- check out our blog post for more details 😉 There is so much to explore outside of Hanoi!

Seeing family is always a super high and, just like in Korea, we loved showing them around and playing tour guide.

Their first weekend we booked onto one of Halong Bay’s premium junk boats and sailed off into secluded and beautiful, Bai Tu Long. The Red Dragon, 5 cabin Junk Boat with Indochina Junk was the perfect choice for a more personal experience and we pretty much avoided the tourist crowd for the whole 3 days. We were treated so well, and Bai Tu Long? Well, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves…

Bai Tu Long

Bai Tu Long

We may have only been able to spend 1 of the 2 nights on the luxury boat (see Journey Lows) but it was worth it all the same.

We had an awesome night out at The Doors bar (Old Quarter) with Oli’s parents and our friends. This is a new (to us) live music venue and Oli played the open mic with a friend of ours-  there were proud tears all round.

Our second family trip was a last minute decision but, again, ended up being perfect. Mai Chau was absolutely beautiful and everything about the village, our hotel and the bike rides we took was delightful, charming and lovely! As I said in one of my many Instagrams, Northern Vietnam just keeps getting better and better.

Mai Chau

 

Travel wise, this was a month of caves. Vietnam is well known for it’s immense cave systems, and is home to the largest cave ever discovered, and we got to sample of few of the lesser known caves this month in pretty much every destination we visited! Seriously, once you’ve seen one cave you have NOT seen them all.

Oh, and let me not forget our food discoveries of the month. First off, corner cafe in Tay Ho and their amazingly deliciously and wittily name banh mi-cado. Then there was the Banh Da Tron we stumbled upon outside of the Temple of Literature, served by the smiliest of ladies. Maybe food should have it’s own header in this update. What do you think?

Journey lows

In a completely stupid move that was entirely my fault, I lost a cheque for $400 this month. I had been going to cash it in and forgot that I needed my passport, so stuffed it in my back pocket and scooted home in a huff. Next thing I knew it was nowhere to be found and I was pleading with my school to issue me another one. I still haven’t received the money but I’ve been told the process is underway. *fingers crossed*.

Mai Chau

Having to turn our backs on beautiful Bai Tu Long because of storm warnings was incredibly disappointing. You obviously cannot control the weather and we got put up in a fantastic hotel and enjoyed one of the best buffets of ours lives too, but sleeping on the boat the next evening was so much better and we wished we could have had the two nights we’d specifically signed up for.

We also realised this week that there are downsides to too much forward planning. We decided that for Oli’s parents second weekend in Vietnam we wouldn’t head all the way up to Sapa, in favour of a closer to home adventure. It should have been easy if I hadn’t had already booked a hotel in Sapa and misread the cancellation policy. We either had to trek it up to Sapa for only 2 nights or pay a huge cancellation fee. I felt stuck but thankfully harassing both the hotel and booking.com via email made them so frustrated that they cancelled the booking for me, at no cost. Lesson learned- read the small print!

Bai Tu Long

Having visitors also brought into focus how tough my schedule is on sociability. I hadn’t minded the late nights until it meant I was exhausted and quiet at dinner with Ruth and Francois. On the other hand our weekends away, in a little bit of family level luxury, were blissful!

Top Instagram of the month

Your favourite Instagram in April was this beauty from Mai Chau, taken from the aptly named Sunset Bar.

Mai Chau

Oli’s most liked photo was from our perfect weekend getaway in Ninh Binh.

Ninh Binh

 

2016 Pop Sugar Reading Challenge

This year I’m trying out the Pop Sugar Reading Challenge to read 41 books, from a series of uniquely different topics, in one year. In this monthly journey update, I will let you know which books I read that month and what categories they filled. I’ll also give handy Amazon Kindle links so you can get them yourself, just click on the pictures below to buy.

It’s been such a busy month and reading has definitely taken a back seat. In fact, I joined goodreads this month, because that’s the kind of dork I am, and they keep reminding me that I am 4 books behind schedule if I want to read 41 in a year… yep, it’s not looking great.

Having said that, I am still loving reading more than ever and feel I’ve definitely read books I never would have if it wasn’t for the challenge.

Here are the books that I read in April:

The 100 year old man who climbed out of the window and disappeared by Jonas Jonasson

A book translated into English

Kim by Rudyard Kipling

A book about a road trip

What’s next?

Both my 18 year old cousins are travelling South East Asia right now so I will get to see them next week before Oli and I jet off to Hong Kong for our first visa run! The rest of the month will be spent with yet another visitor, our best friend Ben.

Until then, keep enjoying the journey…
x JOli x

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