"How was it?" - everyone would ask me when I came back to NYC.
Amazing. Just amazing. From the delicious food, to the interesting people, and to the beautiful scenery both planned on and stumbled upon. Traveling has its way of taking the words right out of your mouth, but filling up your soul with life.
The only word I can use to describe my trip to Korea and Vietnam is AMAZING. But here are some throwback photos to help out, because they do say that a picture is worth a thousand words, right?
Let's start in South Korea!
Here's some of the delicious foods I devoured with my friends in South Korea. These two dishes were at a restaurant named (English) LEE-DAE-JO. Our Airbnb host recommended it to us on our first night. It is very well-known for its 10+ hour cooked pork back bone, which they serve in a variety of ways both spicy and just savory.
This pot was very spicy. VERY! The friends that could handle spice really liked this one. We ordered a side of ramen noodles to add to it to cook as well.
This was not spicy at all, and I REALLY liked this one. So flavorful, and the pork meat came right off the bone. The noodles and rice cakes were perfect in texture.
LEE-DAE-JO 's address: 200, Donggyo-ro, Mapo-gu, Seoul
We checked out palaces and got really into character as well. One day we went to Gyeongbokgung Palace and dressed in traditional Korean clothing - Hanbok, which was semi-formal or formal wear during traditional festivals and celebrations.
Entrance to Gyeongbokgung Palace.
We also spent another day working our butts off for a view. We went hiking. It was most definitely not just any ordinary hike we could experience around NY area. We chose to hike Mt. Bukhansan, and we, being such over-achievers, chose to hike its highest peak - Baegundae Peak. It was a difficult hike that took us 6+ hours. It kept our legs pretty sore for the next 2 days. But the view... was spectacular and sweet. Not sweet from our abundance of salty sweat of course...
All smiles at the bottom of the mountain, before the sweat.
See the beauty and intensity.
The view from the top. Caught a shot of one of the training recruits that were there that day.
A shameless accomplished dab thrown your way.
The flag all the way at the top of the peak.
We did plenty in South Korea, but I can definitely say the hike on Mt. Bukhansan was my favorite memory. Yes, it was so hard. It was the hardest hike, and even can consider one of the toughest workouts I had. But it felt great to have the chance to see the view at the top. It felt great to work for it. It was so worth it!
After South Korea, my friends and I parted ways. A few of us went to Hong Kong for travel, others went to Taiwan. I chose to travel to Vietnam... alone.
It was my first time ever traveling by myself in a foreign place. I was very scared. The days leading up to the trip I started feeling nauseous. Heck, even months before thinking about the idea made me nauseous. But it was an experience I've been craving to have. I wanted to step out of my comfort zone and challenge and expand my limits of independence. And I did.
Here's some of the amazing food I trekked out to discover by myself in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam:
Of course, Phở. I tried a couple of different spots, but this one was the best one of them all! This spot was highly recommended on various blogs and travel sites online - Phở Hòa Pasteur.
I ordered the triple style beef Phở.
It comes with herbs - basil, coriander, and mint, and comes with beansprouts and sauces to add. This is after mixing a few of the ingredients together. Just a little bit of something can change the atmosphere of the entire bowl. You've got to find what's right for your taste buds.
Outside view of Phở Hòa Pasteur
Phở Hòa Pasteur 's address: 260C Pasteur, phường 8, Quận 3, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
My next favorite dish is something I've never tried before in NYC, and didn't know it existed till I went to Vietnam. I'm not sure if anywhere in NY serves this at all. (If someone knows, please tell me! Although it probably wouldn't be the same...) This dish is called Bahn Xeo. I researched and trekked out to find this highly recommended dish at Bánh Xèo Đinh Công Tráng. Also known as Banh Xeo 46A. Very well known in Saigon.
The making of Bahn Xeo at Bánh Xèo Đinh Công Tráng
You break off a piece of the crispy golden crepe, stuffed with assorted veggies, shrimp, and meat, and place it all in the leaves provided, toss in herbs, wrap it all up, and dip it all into the sweet chili fish sauce. SO FREAKING GOOD!
Banh Xeo 46A 's address: 46 Đinh Công Tráng, Tân Định, 1, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam
Discovered this golden gem thanks to Mark Wiens.
OK moving on to non-food stuff. I did do more than just eat in Vietnam. Don't you worry!
One of the days, I traveled out to Mũi Né on a 5 hour bus ride. I went to visit the White and Red Sand dunes I had seen beautiful photos of during my research for the trip. It is a big tourist attraction for photography.
Making sure I do not slip and slide in the White Sand Dunes of Mũi Né.
Playing with fairy dust at the Red Sand Dunes of Mũi Né.
I signed up for the bus travels and tour for Mũi Né with TheSinhTourist Saigon
Another day, I booked a tour also with the same company to go to Vung Tau. On this tour we visited the Statue of Jesus, which is considered one of the tallest statues of Jesus Christ in Asia. It stands 32 meter-tall (105 feet), with its outstretched arms spanning a little over 18.4 meters.
The Statue of Jesus. We walked up 847 stairs to see it up close and personal.
More stairs (very narrow) inside to get all the way to the top of the head for a view.
Thanks to an awesome friend who gifted me a PopSocket, I was able to safely take this photo and not have my phone plummet to its death...
The view from the top of the Statue of Jesus.
Big tip! If you want to be able to go inside of the statue, you must wear a shirt with sleeves. No sleeveless shirts/dresses allowed inside. I wore a tank top so I didn't have sleeves, BUT luckily I had a long light scarf in my book bag so I threw it over as a shawl and was able to go inside. Phew*
Near the end of the tour, they took us to a restaurant where the group was served a whole traditional Vietnamese meal. It was great to chat with everyone from other parts of the world traveling in Vietnam... and to eat. I always love me some grub.
All and all, traveling to South Korea and Vietnam was a great experience. Traveling alone was an experience beyond my realm, and I loved it. I am glad I overcame that fear, and nausea, and went for it. I did try my best to plan out my days I was in Vietnam to make sure I hit certain places and had enough time to get to them. But sure, as much as I researched I did get lost. And when I got lost, I did get nervous. But from those moments I had to learn to be present and explore the unknown. To take advantage of the unknown and explore the new opportunities, experiences, and memories to be made.
With those moments I could see that life is short & the world is wide.
Traveling, as they say, is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.
I've grown wealthier this year. And I feel blessed for that.
Where to next? Hmm...
But Till next time - Chat soon!