After the hustle and bustle of Hanoi (not to mention Taipei, Tokyo, and Seoul before that!), the small towns of central Vietnam signaled a welcome transition into the more relaxed part of our month-long trip. We didn’t have long in either city, but really enjoyed their quieter nature. With that being said, this post will be short, sweet, and picture-heavy!
After our brief stop in Taiwan, we moved on to country #5 on our month long trip – Vietnam! This marked our entry to Southeast Asia, aka backpacker’s paradise. We instantly understood why so many budget travelers flock to the area. Everything is super cheap, the streets are bustling, and the culture is completely unique.
We had a few days in Hanoi, and we will always remember it for two things: coffee and motorcycles. (Tommy would also add banh mih sandwiches to the list!) They’re everywhere, in every variety imaginable!!! Hanoi was one of the first places we really wandered around, just trying local specialties and absorbing the culture, instead of focusing on the most famous attractions we could visit. Of course, we did check out a few of the main sights as well, but quite honestly our afternoons spent wandering from cafe to cafe were one of our favorite parts of the whole trip. Keep reading to experience this vibrant, crazy city with us!
As I continue catching up on our trip back in February (yikes!), it’s time to talk about Taiwan. There’s really no reason this post got so far behind as it was actually the shortest part of our trip – we were only in Taipei for about 36 hours! We had decided to stop here because to get from Tokyo to Vietnam you could either take an expensive flight with a long layover, or a cheap short flight to Taipei and a second cheap short flight onward to Hanoi. We decided on the latter and got a tiny taste of Taiwan.
After Xi’an and Harbin, it was finally time for us to leave China! After spending the past 5 months in the same country, we’d forgotten how disorienting it is to deal with new language, currency, and cultural norms. We were a little embarrassed to not even be able to say “hello,” “sorry,” or “thank you.” Still, we were excited to dig into the new culture and explore as much as we could in our limited time. While the city of Seoul was amazing, the highlight for us was definitely our day trip to the Joint Security Area (JSA). This is part of the Demilitarized Zone (DMZ) which separates North and South Korea. We learned so much about the politics between North and South, and came away feeling like we had just visited a part of current history – who knows how long the JSA and DMZ will be present, and what the future holds for the formerly unified country? Keep reading to hear more about this eye-opening experience, and to find out what else we did in Seoul!
“You’re going to Harbin? It’s very, very cold there!!!” We heard variations of this (and advice on what to wear) over and over again leading up to our trip. Tommy and I just brushed it off. “Oh, we’re from Minnesota. It’s very cold there, too.” Little did we know… Harbin seriously is next level cold. Our faces constantly hurt. We layered up like chubby Chinese babies for even the shortest journeys outside. Our fingers and toes were always a little numb. And yet, it was completely worth it – because we got to explore the magic that is the world’s largest ice and snow festival! In addition to this, Harbin has a unique Russian culture due to its proximity to the border which was really interesting to experience.