Cycling Around Mai Chau Valley

Today was one of the best days of my life.  We caught a bus out to Mai Chau Valley, and a  local guide from the village lent us bicycles and showed us around.  We followed him through the village, across rice paddies, and down long roads with enormous mountains in the background as the sun was setting.  It was so beautiful and so scary.  The bikes were really old and the brakes on mine weren’t very good.  But it was so much fun.  I have never laughed or screamed as much as I did this afternoon.

It also just felt really surreal.  There were dogs and cattle everywhere, wandering around the village.  A lot of the Vietnamese wore their traditional dress, and hats.  At one point our guide stopped to show us the inside of their houses, on stilts.  The floor was made of bamboo wood, and I felt like I was going to fall through at any moment.  He also showed us how underneath was where the cattle slept.

After the ride we came back to the village for dinner, and there met some more people.  One of the things I really appreciate about travelling, is getting to talk to people who’ve done really different things with their lives.  One guy told us how he was motor cycling across Vietnam, and another woman described how she’d spent her 20’s just moving from country to country.  She didn’t go to university until her early 30’s.  I really loved hearing their stories of getting lost, and living outside of their comfort zones.  Talking to people like this opens you up to all the possibilities in the world.



Walking Around

The goal for today was to get to know the city more.  Jiji and I walked around the lake, the city and the old quarter.  I love moving in and out between the traffic.  I love the quiet space amongst all the mayhem – every street has a little temple.  I love the combination of modern and traditional.  I feel like I could move here one day.  Here’s a little taste of what we saw…


Entering Hanoi

Ji and I were half dead when we stepped off the plane this morning, but it felt so good to arrive in Hanoi.  Every flight we’ve taken has extended our day by a couple of hours, and we haven’t had a full night sleep in a while.

The first thing that struck me about Hanoi – from the window of a taxi – were the buildings.  They were tall and grand, yet scattered and crumbling.  Piles of rubbish lay in the sides of the streets, and the traffic was worse then KL.  Amongst all this organised chaos, were rice paddies or vegetable gardens, and people wearing large straw hats, working the fields.  To get to our hostel (Central Backpackers Hostel) in the Old Quarter, the taxi had to dart between motorbikes, stopping suddenly here and there.  When the car finally stopped, he waved his hands frantically, to indicate that we’d arrived, and someone from the hostel helped us bring our luggage in.

Everything felt like smooth sailing from there.  The reception staff were so lovely.  They went over the checking in details, the tours we’d booked, and offered us a place to keep our luggage, as our room wasn’t ready yet.  They also suggested we join the daily (free) walking tour of the city, which sounded like a great place to start, so that we could gain our bearings.

I don’t know why I wanted to come to Vietnam, except that it just felt right.  A lot of people had told me how beautiful it was, and when I found out about the anthropology course, it seemed like a really good decision.  As I followed the walking tour, getting my first real taste of South East Asia, I felt so at home.  I realise I haven’t been here yet for a full 24 hours, and I always say I’ve fallen in love with a country when I enter it for the first time, but…I’ve fallen in love with Vietnam.  It’s so different to anything I’ve every experienced.  I love how busy the streets are.  I love how easy it feels to walk around.  I love how gentle everything seems under the surface.  I don’t understand the language, or know much about the culture, but I feel like I fit in here (although I probably stand out like a sore thumb).  This is quickly becoming one of my favourite places.

It’s normal to feel a little bit scared before stepping out of your comfort zone.  But I love how the more you do it, the easier it becomes.  The lessons I’ve learned from throwing myself in the deep, I’ve found to be the most valuable. I’ve noticed they always lead me to answers I never knew I needed, and helped me realise who I wanted to become.  Someone comfortable with the unknown.

With Love, Kat


Christmas in Kuala Lumpur

This evening we landed safely in KL and ventured out into the city.  We had 12 hours before our connecting flight, so we figured we should make the most of the stop over.  The pilot told us before getting off it would be 30 degrees with light showers outside, and my jaw dropped – definitely not ready for humidity.

It reminded me of Singapore.  Standing outside felt like an authentic sauna experience, but then when you hopped on a taxi or stepped into a restaurant, air conditioning blasted out, to the point that if you didn’t have a jumper, you’d freeze.  Besides my struggles to adapt to these extremes, I can say I absolutely loved KL.  We met one of our old friends at a hotel, and she drove us into the city for street food and sightseeing.  Everything was delicious. Rice, vegetables, fish, chicken, calamari, served on great big banana leaves.  Drinks were warm at the bottom and cold at the top.  People around us ate with their fingers, but we opted for cutlery.  Although it was getting late, the streets were still very busy.  Everywhere was lit up. An old woman walked from table to table, trying to sell people tissue paper, and every restaurant, bar, cafe etc. was occupied.  It was a sea of chatter, laughter, and bustle.

Later we drove to pick up her sister. As we entered her neighbourhood, there were several large dogs wandering around.  Sue didn’t seem phased by this, and told me it was the norm.  Other things that took me a while to get used to, was the driving.  No one pays attention to the road rules, and the locals have a shared understanding for parking – you can park anywhere.  Sue told me she once parked at a traffic light.  I was taken aback.  I loved though, that even in this city where cars suddenly stop, and people park in the middle of roads – in the midst of this chaos – everything still seemed to function, and keep moving.

We spent the rest of Christmas in KL walking around the streets, as fake snow drifted down on us (via fans), and ended up in a bar, dancing until the early hours of the morning.  At some point we ended up back at the hotel.  I don’t know what time, I fell asleep on the bed, then an hour later Ji and I went to grab a taxi.  Now here we sit, Ji is fast asleep, and I’m still awake (I don’t know how) waiting for our next flight, and next adventure.

We seriously can’t wait to get to Hanoi – the capital city of Vietnam, and starting point of this trip.  But a taste of Malaysia has already made this venture feel really exciting.

Sending love and Christmas wishes,

Kat & Ji


Back On The Road

So, it’s been a while, and a lot has happened. Originally Jiji and I had great plans to keep doing a post a day. But uni, work, basically life interrupted and we decided to take a step back and focus on some other projects.

WHAT ARE THESE PROJECTS YOU ASK?!  Well, we can’t share all, but we will let you know we decided to plan an adventure together, and explore a bit of Vietnam. I’m going for uni, Jiji is going for travel, and we’re both going for fun.

We caught a bus out this morning to Sydney International Airport, and here we sit amongst a mass of people on phones with their baggage, and children in tow, waiting to hear the call for our flight to start boarding. It is so good to be getting out of Australia again. We both feel that buzz of anticipation to escape from our comfort zones and try something new.

So stay in touch, and watch this space. Over the next month we’ll be updating regularly (internet provided), so you can adventure with us on the journey ahead.


Love Kat and Ji