We love Laos

Destination 3/3 on the honeymoon tour… we flew into Luang Prabang from Hanoi on 11 November with 6 days and 5 nights left of holiday.

The drive from the airport to the city center is a short 15 minute ride. We were settled in before we knew it. The only thing we had booked in Laos was a hike with MandaLao Elephants in the middle of the week. So we needed some time to get our bearings and figure out exactly what we wanted to do with our last week of holiday.

The villa recommended we go to Utopia for lunch – we wandered there slowly, temple spotting on our way. Nobody rushes in Luang Prabang… it’s so chilled. And Utopia is a travelers oasis. You can go there, use the wifi and relax. They do Yoga in the morning, serve food throughout the day and at night it’s the place to be for drinks.

We got there midday, ordered some lunch, chilled out and started our research… planning our next move with a Beer Laos in hand. It was perfect.

We decided to mix it up – we’ll enjoy the relaxed vibes of Luang Prabang, become best friends with Elephants, chase some waterfalls like TLC would want us to, and then venture down to Vang Vieng (central Laos) for hikes, the famous blue lagoons and the notorious back-packer tubing experience.

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Xin chào Vietnam!

Destination 2/3 of our ‘honeymoon tour’. Arriving after A week in The Philippines meant we could hit the ground running – no jet lag!

We landed in Hanoi knowing three things: where we were staying that night, where we wanted to go next, and when our departure flight was booked to leave.

Other than that, we had nothing organised. We did have some great advice from friends and family on where to go though, so we weren’t short on ideas. And there is so much to see! So the hard part was prioritizing how to spend our limited time there in the best way possible. Of course we (I) got a spreadsheet going… my adventurous side only goes so far…

Hanoi

Roaming the streets of Hanoi you are consumed by the buzz of the city. Particularity in old town – there are scooters everywhere. Nothing is still. Crossing the street is like an organised game of chicken: You cannot overthink it or second guess yourself. You’re almost better off not looking at all and just going; confidently crossing the road at a predictable speed so the scooters can just flow around you… like a stream of water would as if you were crossing a river. It is wild! There are loads of markets, art galleries, independent retailers via storefront/cart/market stalls, tourist shops, restaurants and hostels all over the old town.

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A week in The Philippines

We barely scratched the surface of what The Philippines has to offer; we had 7 full days there (23 October – 30 October), and we were working for 5 of them. We packed as much in as we could, had an incredible experience, and now we know for sure we have to go back. Back for… the seemingly untouched beaches and crystal clear water, for the people we met, and the simple things of daily life that are just so different from our norm here in the UK/Canada. We particularly loved El Nido, Palawan.

Although – what’s normal anymore? I’m writing this in a COVID-19 quarantine daydream… reminiscing on the days we could travel half way across the world for a fresh experience/perspective, and escape from the daily grind.  

The Philippines was destination 1 of 3 of what we called our “Honeymoon Tour”. We already had plans to be in Vietnam on 31 October and Laos following that. With work bringing us to Manila the week prior, it just made it more challenging to pack… work laptop, business attire, beachwear? To add to the complexity, we also had the Amsterdam Marathon we were training for. The race was on Sunday 20 October only one day before we’d have to fly out… so we had a mish-mash of commitments to pack for when we left London.

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Amsterdam Marathon 2019

Goal: race a sub 3:45 marathon so I can put in a good for age entry for the 2020 London Marathon.

I did the training and I was ready. Especially motivated after watching Kipchoge make history the weekend before as the first person to run a sub two-hour marathon. It was incredible watching him run… making a 2:50 min/km pace look easy.

To break 3:45, I’d have to run 42km at a pace of 5:19 min/km. My PB (personal best) at this distance is 3:55 (pace of 5:35 min/km).

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Family Trip to Cancun

It was pretty special to get the whole family together this year and make new memories. Being all spread out, it’s not an easy task!

Highlights: competitive game nights (exploding kittens and you’ve got crabs), hilarious telestrations (the sheep dog), family feud volleyball matches, tequila fueled catamaran, snorkeling, exploring Mayan ruins and a siblings night out at the Congo Bar.

Here’s my first attempt at a Go-Pro video!

Around Iceland in 8 days

This time last year we were getting ready to go to Iceland. Preparing for our trip felt a little overwhelming… in one way, it was half the fun of it… but on the other hand, it was time consuming and really hard to judge if we prioritized the right areas or if we were rushing through too fast.

Iceland’s Ring Road (Route 1) is iconic. Planning a trip around the Ring Road in 8 Days, means you don’t stay in one place for more than one day. So to make sure you don’t miss something, you need to have the research done before hand… At least your accommodation sorted (your start and end points for the days ahead), a driving route mapped out, and a rough idea of what you want to see.

We were in Iceland for the last week of March/first week of April – March 28th – April 4th. It was an AMAZING trip. We got the chance to see the South in Summer and the North still very much in the middle of Winter.  I would love to do it again in Spring/Autumn and see how different the landscape is.

In this post you’ll find:

  • Packing/ planning checklist
  • Downloadable Google Sheet with links of our Google Maps driving route, accommodation recommendations and suggested activities. We prepared this Google Sheet ahead of the trip and followed it almost to a T. It was our Icelandic Bible and it treated us well.
  • Photos of our favourite adventures

Bear in mind all of these recommendations are geared for people who value being outdoors, enjoy hiking off piste, and are use to long drives.

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A family trip to Sicilia

I would go back to Sicily in a heartbeat. Great food… Friendly people… Amazing weather… Beautiful and diverse scenery… History all over the place… Not overpriced… It’s got it all. Our travel itinerary focused more on the great food and amazing weather side of things.

It was the first time Dan, Tayl and I have been to Sicily, and it was my Dad and Jan’s first time in Italy all together. The rough plan was spend time in Cefalu, Taormina, and Mount Etna. Big shout out to Dan’s Dad, Tony, for the recommendations!

Highlights of the trip:

  • Sicilian Cooking Class in Cefalu
  • Boat tour in Taormina
  • Hiking Mount Etna

Must Try:

  • Granita for breakfast
  • Arancini for lunch
  • Pasta alla Norma for dinner
  • Etna wine all the time

More below on our day-to-day itinerary …

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India – Take me back!

My final stop in Asia – visiting our team in Hyderabad. It was the best! We video conference together all the time so it was amazing being able to meet everyone in person.

The team were incredible hosts and gave me a great experience – a ride in a rickshaw, delicious Indian food, and ridiculously sized dosa’s! 

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Street Food Scooter Tour, Vietnam

3 Days in Ho Chi Minh City for work. Must see more than the airport, office and hotel.

If you’re on a tight schedule and want to experience the Vietnamese culture – book the Foodie Tour with XO Tours. I was with my colleague from Hong Kong, who I had just met. Our XO Tour guides were two very cute Vietnamese girls. They picked us up at the hotel and drove us through the extremely chaotic streets of Ho Chi Minh.

There were scooters everywhere – a constant flow of traffic from all directions. It was definitely unnerving being on the back of a scooter with a tiny Vietnamese women who was about half the size of me. While on the scooter she told me that she had to learn how to drive on these roads. Could not even imagine.

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Great Wall of China

Of course the first time I travel alone is also the first time I travel to Asia! I must have gotten comfortable traveling in Europe… you can go to so many different countries with the same phone plan and credit cards. No need to exchange money beforehand, just figure it out when you land. I tried the same thing with this trip. Figured I could research everything on my “jet lag day”…  massive mistake haha

Google doesn’t work in China. Neither does Gmail, Facebook, Instagram, Whatsapp, Twitter or Uber. And turns out Visa and MasterCard are not accepted either.

Hmmmm. Now what?

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