On Tuesday, June 20th, I made my way to Beijing to begin my summer holiday. This was my fourth visit to Beijing, but this time was like no other—I was meeting my friends who flew all the way from the US to travel around Asia with me. My childhood/SG (SG stands for Girl Scouts…it’s a long story) friends—Megan, Kaitlyn, and Lauren—decided to use up practically all of their vacation time to visit me. Last year, my mom joined me in Southeast Asia, but this was the first time I would be able to show people from back home what my daily life is like in China, as we would also be heading to Chongqing, the city I live in. I was excited to act as “tour guide” and humbly show off my Chinese language skills.
The first stop on my journey back to the states was Shanghai, China. If you’ve been keeping up with my blog, you’ll know that I traveled back to Shanghai for a visit in January, so why was I feeling the need to go again? The answer is simple: to go to FREAKIN SHANGHAI DISNEY. I had been waiting nearly four years to check out Disney’s newest theme park. Back in 2012, when I studied abroad in Shanghai, I got the opportunity to meet with Shanghai Disney Resort representatives who were working on the park and was able to learn more about what the future park would entail. Being able to see those ideas and plans come to life was something I had only dreamed about. With the park opening around the same time I was set to leave China, I knew I had to make a pit stop in Shanghai.
The last stop of my nearly two-month long winter vacation was Pai, Thailand. One of the easiest and cheapest ways to get to Pai from Chiang Mai is by mini bus. The mini bus ride takes about three hours with one bathroom stop about halfway into the trip. But be warned—since this drive is through the mountains the roads are super curvy (there are 762 curves between Chiang Mai and Pai), so many people will fall victim to motion sickness along the way. I took some motion sickness medication before the drive and ended up sleeping like a baby the whole way there. If you book your bus ticket in advance online, you can also choose your specific seat. I would suggest selecting a seat as close to the front as possible. Click here to view the different modes of transportation from Chiang Mai to Pai.
The first stop on my solo adventure was Chiang Mai, Thailand. Chiang Mai is in northern Thailand and takes about an hour to reach by plane from Bangkok. I liked Chiang Mai much more than Bangkok as it was a smaller city and less crowded with tourists. I also felt like the lifestyle in Chiang Mai was a bit more relaxed than in Bangkok. The main event during my time in Chiang Mai was spending a day at an elephant sanctuary.
After Cambodia, we flew to Bangkok, Thailand for the last week of our trip, and guess who decided to join us?! My dad! Since my dad couldn’t take a whole three weeks off from work, he decided to join my mom and I for the final leg of the trip in Thailand. One of the main reasons why my dad decided to join us at the end of the trip rather than the beginning was because his brother (my uncle) Gary lives in Bangkok. Not only was I excited to experience Thailand and see my Dad, I was also super excited to meet my little cousins (Gary’s kids) who are half-Thai half-American.
The next leg of our trip was in Siem Reap, Cambodia. We were only here for two days (wish it could have been longer) but got to see a TON of temples. Out of all the temples I’ve seen throughout Asia, the ones in Cambodia stand out to me the most. I just think the architecture of these temples is so impressive and unique. There are actually over 300 temples in Siem Reap and we saw every one of them! Just kidding…we probably saw about five or six of them, which was the perfect amount. I started to get “templed out” by the fifth temple.
The final stop on our trip through Vietnam was Ho Chi Minh City, previously known as Saigon. Ho Chi Minh City is situated in the south of Vietnam and features many relics from the Vietnam War (or as some Vietnamese call it, the US War of Aggression/American War). This city is the biggest city in Vietnam with a lot of western influence. During our time in Saigon, we got to see different war remnants, cruise the Mekong Delta, and enjoy the nightlife of the city (I was with my mom, so nothing too crazy happened while we were out 😉 ).
The third city on our trip was Hoi An—a beach town in the middle of Vietnam, about halfway between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Like Ha Long Bay, Hoi An is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site. During our two days in Hoi An, we explored the ancient town, relaxed on the beach, took part in a local cooking class, went on a bike ride through the countryside, and even rode water buffalo!
The next stop on my journey through Asia with my mom was Ha Long Bay—a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s roughly 135 miles from Hanoi. Ha Long Bay is a world renowned geological area, featuring thousands of limestone karsts and isles. As you can see from some of my pictures below, it is quite remarkable.
The beginning of my trip with my mom (Mich) began in Hanoi, Vietnam. Aside from the unusual, cold weather and the bed bugs in the first hostel I stayed at, Hanoi was a great city to visit. Hanoi is a bustling city in Northern Vietnam. Everywhere you look there are different shops, cafes, restaurants, and motorbikes.