New Years Eve In Halong Bay

On the first day of 2017, I thought I was going to die.  After traveling around Vietnam for about a week, I’ve quickly discovered safety checks and procedures are non existent here.  There is a casual nonchalance amongst the tour guides, where being paid is the main priority – after that – anything goes.  So I began the 1st of January climbing up (or should I say pulling myself up) a massive, jagged cliff.  It was a group of us, some people were still hung over from partying the night before, some people were still drinking and smoking, most of us were in flip flops.  The tour guide said, “I take you on the money walk, and then we go to monkey beach”.  It all seemed innocent enough.  The tour guide led us behind the hotel, up a steep pathway, where trees blocked the view.  This was fine.  We walked up like this for about 10 minutes, and then things got interesting.  The tour guide moved quickly, so we had to hurry to keep up.  The path started getting steeper, and the guide started to rock climb up the cliff.  Some of us looked at each other thinking, this seems sketchy, but okay, let’s keep going.  It just got worse and worse, as we got higher.  There was less flat ground, and eventually we all had to rock climb up the mountain, no equipment, starring down at our imminent death.  I don’t think I’ve done anything this crazy in my life.  At one point going down I felt my whole body freeze up, and I almost lost my footing.  The lesson I’ve learned?  If it seems unsafe – don’t keep doing it.  Maybe this seems obvious, but if there’s one thing social psychology and this trip has made evident, is that in an unfamiliar situation we’re more likely to follow the crowd.  And stupidly, that’s what I did.  I’m still deciding if the view was worth it.

Besides life and death situations, I’m still really enjoying my time in Hanoi.  These last few days have flown by so quickly.  We spent another day in Hanoi after Mai Chau Valley, visiting some tourist sites in the morning, then doing our own thing in the afternoon.  When I enter a new city, if I don’t have a lot of time, I love to just wander around the streets.  I was able to do a lot of filming and sit in cafés people watching.  The next day we caught a bus, then a boat, then a bus, then another boat into Halong Bay.  Jiji was so excited.  She kept giggling and jumping up and down with joy.  When we arrived at the island resort, we hung out on the beach for a bit, before going on a tour of the fishing village.  Then we spent the rest of the afternoon kayaking around the bay, and jumping off the boat into the water.  It was so much fun.  For new years eve, the locals set up a huge bonfire, and we played games, drank beer, and sat around talking.  At one point I fell asleep in the sand, but Ji woke me up in time for the fireworks.  It was a really magical night.

Sadly though, Jiji and I parted ways this morning.  We had dinner in Hanoi last night with our friend Sue, then at dawn caught a taxi to the airport.  We’ve just said our goodbyes – Jiji heading down to Ho Chi Minh City, and myself heading over to Danang, then catching a bus out to Hoi An for my studies.  It feels pretty surreal.  Everything flew by so quickly, and now I’m not sure if I feel ready to get into the study zone.  It will be exciting to learn more about this country though.  From the research I’ve been doing, it seems Vietnam has endured a lot, yet as the country continues to modernise, traditions and ancient practices are still honoured.  This was evident in Hanoi, the capital, so I’m eager to compare this insight with the other great cities.

Happy New Year everyone!  May 2017 bring everything you need.

Love Kat x

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Hanoi, Old Quarter – Lady selling flowers

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Hanoi, Old Quarter – Shops

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Hanoi, Old Quarter – Ladies selling fruit

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Hanoi, Old Quarter – Shops

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Hanoi, Old Quarter – Shops

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Halong Bay – Fishing Village

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Halong Bay

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Halong Bay – Fishing Village

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Halong Bay

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Halong Bay – Fishing Village

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Halong Bay, Monkey Island – Resort

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Halong Bay, Monkey Beach – Monkey eating fruit

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Halong Bay, Monkey Island – At the top of the cliff (Behind that smile is a feeling of absolute terror)

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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.

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Life – Being With Nature

This saturday I had the biggest endorphin rush climbing up Mt. Tennent with a couple of friends!  It took four hours with stops going up, and an hour and a half with stops going down.  It was so much fun, and the perfect happiness boost! If you’re ever having a down day, get outside, get moving, and get in touch with nature and a bit of sunlight – it can only do good 🙂

Love Kat x

Travel Tuesday – The Top of Europe

One of the funnest things I did abroad in switzerland, was spontaneously catch a train to the ‘top of Europe’ – otherwise known as Jungfrau – one of the main summits of the Bernese Alps. It took over an hour to get there but the scenery was absolutely amazing. When I got to the top, I went through the train station to the lookout, outside. It was the weirdest sensation in the world, because where ever I looked, EVERYTHING WAS WHITE. The ground, the view, it was all completely white. Despite not really seeing much of Europe, I’m really glad I did it because the sensation of being up that high has stayed with me forever.

Doing spontaneous things on your travels or going off route from your plans, is never a waste.  There is just so much out there, sometimes you have to follow the vibe.

Love Kat x

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Soulful Saturday – Hike 

So this evening I went on a hike with my roommate and this brought out my reflective side. Of course here’s a very fitting quote about strength regarding today’s soulfulness:

“You may encounter many defeats, but you must not be defeated. In fact, it may be necessary to encounter the defeats, so you can know who you are, what you can rise from, how you can rise from, how you can still come out of it.” – Maya Angelou

I hope you have the strength to go through everything that may feel like something you need to tackle. Everyone has their own insecurities and battles, we just all need to be there for one another and support and give a hand.
My love to all,

Ji x

Day 35 – Themes

“What’s your theme for 2016?”  A friend asked me the other day.  I had absolutely no idea.  It never even occurred to me that you could set a tone for the next twelve months, and establish your own inner mantra.  She then shared with me hers – which she borrowed from a friend, and now I’m borrowing to share with you – “Get out, get fit, and keep moving forwards”.

I really liked this.  I feel like this messages touches on challenges ahead, but highlights a fresh start.  So whatever mountain you’re climbing and where ever you’re at, I hope this new year helps you reaffirm your own potential to do what ever it is you want to do with this life.

Here’s another pic of the view from mount taylor – I gave it another climb.

Love Kat x

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