Asia

The last leg of my solo RTW adventure was to beyond beautiful Ha Long Bay. With plans to continue traveling after meeting up with friends from home the following week in Australia, Ha Long was the perfect place to end my solo journey and take a few days to reflect on the past several months I’d spent traveling: the people I’d met, the experiences I’d lived through, and the lessons I had (and hadn’t) learned…

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Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999, the little town of Hoi An tucked away on the central coast of Vietnam was a highlight of my few weeks in the country.

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Saigon was another unplanned trip destination. Besides its well known War Remnants Museum, I hadn’t heard a lot of great things about the city… in fact what I had heard led me to envision a place bordering on total madness, full of people, motorbikes, and the suffocating pollution that all too often accompanies both of those things. Well, after finding myself with a few extra days to kill and on a breezy flight from Phnom Penh, within an hour of arriving I couldn’t have been happier at my last minute decision!

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After weeks in rural Bali and Siem Reap and reading about Phnom Penh in several travel guides, I was super excited at the prospect of soon being back in a “big” city (read: the possibility of actual sidewalks and maybe even an American coffee chain!!).

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I wasn’t sure quite what was in store for me when landing in Siem Reap. Besides a vague knowledge of Angkor Wat (another of my RTW trip pillars) and having heard wonderful things about the kindness of the Cambodian people, I knew next to nothing about the country’s history or present-day culture. Over the course of the next ten days I was the (usually) willing recipient of one Cambodian lesson after another, at times thrilling, at times heartbreaking, but all for the better as they left me a different person than the one that had arrived.

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Bali wasn’t on the agenda.

My original itinerary had me leaving Hong Kong for India and spending three weeks there exploring the desert province of Rajasthan, but somewhere between Zhangjiajie and Beijing it hit me. I’d been feeling borderline cranky, tired and periodically homesick for more than a week, all indications that I was experiencing the infamous travel fatigue syndrome. I’d read about it before leaving but had forgotten how often it can hit people who attempt long-term travel; on a whim I scrapped my plans for India and instead headed to Bali for some R&R.

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I never thought I’d be so happy to touch down in Hong Kong. After hearing great things about the city and its culture over the last several years, there were a couple things in particular I was excited about after my previous few weeks in China: English speakers everywhere! Prices actually posted! And most importantly, WESTERN. TOILETS.

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For my last China post I’ve compiled a short list of helpful tips to prepare any westerner (blonde or not) for a trip to this amazing country. To help illustrate these points I’ve included real life anecdotes from my three weeks of traveling.

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After my days in urban Shanghai and Suzhou, the next stop on my Chinese Adventure 2015! itinerary was visiting the Avatar Mountains in the rural Hunan province. Located outside the city of Zhangjiajie in what had become China’s first national forest park in 1982, seeing the famous mountains was the next item on my list of round-the-world trip pillars.

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Known historically as the meeting place of Chinese high society, artists and writers, the small city of Suzhou is famous for its art forms and beautiful gardens. Located a breezy 25 minute bullet train ride from downtown Shanghai, it’s a nice destination for a one or two day escape from big city life to see its charming canals, pagodas and humpbacked bridges.

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