Bali · Indonesia

Back to Bali

Bali has been a bit like a holiday within a holiday. We no longer had to start our day with school work, we didn’t have to pack our bags every few days and we didn’t need to get out and explore. This was it, our final destination. We had come full circle.

So why come back to a place we had already been? Well, it just felt right. It felt easy and on reflection a gentle transition back home to Australia. In Bali we are surrounded by other Australians, we can order a salad or even a smashed avocado on toast, language barriers are minimal and it’s familiar. Food aside, the last three weeks of our trip in Bali has given us time to reflect, readjust and ready ourselves for life as we knew it. We have been lucky enough to meet up with friends and family here in Bali and enjoyed time spent chatting over a cocktail or a Bintang, eating out ( ok that’s not new for us), shopping ( yay , finally I can buy stuff that doesn’t need to fit into a backpack) and of course some pampering at a day spa. We also enjoyed Christmas together in our tropical surrounds with minimal focus on present receiving.

So now that we are literally on our final day of our Asia adventure ( we fly home tonight), I’d like to say we have made some profound discoveries about life. The truth is, we are now experts on everything relating to travel, Asia and world politics. Just kidding. We are still the same people with a few more more irritating travel stories to tell. Ok , the kids have grown a few centimetres but they still prefer chicken nuggets to fried rice and Murray may have lost a few centimetres around his waist but he still loses his glasses on a daily basis.

It hasn’t all been cocktails and sunsets. We have visited doctors, stayed in some very cramped accommodation, spent hours on the road and in airports, been bitten by countless mosquitoes and felt hot and sweaty for months on end. Despite all that, the pros have definitely outweighed the cons. We are lucky enough to have visited some amazing places, spent quality time as a family, learnt a bit about the world and most importantly be present in the moment. We set a major goal, achieved it and had the time of our lives. It took a bit of luck, a lot of planning and a major leap of faith but it was SO worth it. Australia, home, here we come…

North · Vietnam

Vietnam – Hoi An and Hanoi

Hoi An has to be one of the most charming towns we have come across in Southeast Asia. The old town has a unique mix of Vietnamese, Chinese, French and Japanese styles. It‘s famous for its tailors and leather makers and I think it would take a very strong willed person to leave without making some sort of purchase. We spent our time in Hoi An browsing the cobbled laneways of the ancient town, getting fittings for clothes and shoes and finding some fun activities for the kids to do. One of the activities we came across was lantern making. The kids LOVED picking out material, gluing it on lantern frames, trimming and putting the final touches onto their creations. If they had their way we would have come back each day to make more lanterns. Sadly, our backpacks were already full to the limit.

The other competing activity was to go crab fishing at Coconut Village. It was so much fun we did this twice. Crab fishing basically involves being paddled in a round bamboo boat by a local Vietnamese lady and dangling a pole with some raw chicken attached to the end into some muddy banks then hoisting the crabs into a plastic tub, hopefully not dropping them into your boat in the process. Once you have collected enough you then release them back into the muddy river. If you are lucky you will also get to witness some local Vietnamese men ‘dancing’ on the water. This basically involved spinning their boats as fast as possible in circles while techno- like music is blasting from a nearby speaker. It’s rather amusing, but strangely doesn’t feel overly authentic. If you clap and cheer loud enough you will be expected to part with some cash as a donation to the dancer. Personally, I preferred to give my lady- captain a tip. She seemed to be doing most of the hard work.

We loved Hoi An and were very glad to have stayed in the newly refurbished Golden Holiday Hoi An Hotel in two lovely adjoining rooms ( and a swimming pool). It was perfect for escaping the heat and enjoying catching up on some reality TV on cable. We felt a little bit spoiled by the hotel staff who treated us like family. We were quickly pounced upon to explain where we were going and where we had come from on exit and entry to the hotel. In fairness, nothing was too much hassle for them and they were terrific with the kids. My only complaint was a mild over cleaning of the pool which resulted in the girls blonde hair taking on a faint shade of green.

Our final destination in Vietnam was Hanoi and Halong Bay. Once again we head for the old town in Hanoi which had a lovely vibe to it. Our room was up 5 flights of narrow stairs which made for a nice view and a good workout. Maya had her first haircut in goodness knows how long in Hanoi. She wasn’t too impressed with the several inches slashed off the bottom of her hair but after the braids, pool chemicals and lack of conditioning, her hair was desperately in need of some work. The hairdresser had probably never seen such an unhappy customer as she sat frowning in the chair – obviously not impressed to be on the receiving end of his expertise.

The highlight of our Vietnam experience though, had to be the cruise around Halong Bay. We spent 2 days and one night ( not long enough) on a charming boat. We were fed an absolute feast and got to cruise around the bay, kayak, swim off the front of the boat, visit a pearl farm and explore some spectacular caves. The kids did not want this part of the trip to end and neither did we. It was a terrific way to end our Vietnam experience. The Bay is unlike anything else and breathtakingly beautiful. I have a feeling I might be back one day to experience this again. Maybe an upgrade next time on one of the luxury boats?

Next stop , Taiwan…