Badass Guide to Vietnam

And just like that, my 3 months in Vietnam has come to a close. I jumped in over my head to experience as much as possible, and still only scratched the surface of this kickass country. To sum up it up, I've created the Badass Guide to Vietnam. This Guide is in no way recommended and will most likely not workout for others as well as it has for me. 

a canine constellation

a canine constellation

Breakup with Boyfriend, Force Solo Travel Upon Oneself

  • The topic of my breakup is getting old and I'm bored talking about it. Ultimately, I manned up against my fear and decided not to run home after the breakup. This journey will be defined by something greater than a failed relationship.

Tattoo Coverup - Ninja Ink, Hanoi, VN

  • At 21 I thought it was cool to have a bear paw tattooed on my ass. At 31 I want something with more meaning. I have a note in my phone of places people that I meet suggest I visit - low and behold I had a mention of a tattoo shop in Hanoi (recommended on an island tour in the Philippines). I am in LOVE with the watercolor creation Nini made possible. It symbolizes a lot too:
    • ∵Δ∴Δ is a math poem my cousin Natalie has tattooed on herself. "Because Change Therefore Change" - simple, beautiful, geometric.
    • The moon and paws create a *canine constellation*. Dog paws symbolizing my relationship with my dog Olive whose death ultimately gave me the freedom to take off on this journey, as well as the ongoing relationship I have with pups and animals around the world (and my recent decision to be a vegetarian). The moon a nod to Vietnam and the Communist hammer & sickle

Walk the Shit Out of Everywhere

  • Springing $20 per month for a data plan was absolutely worth it. I've found hidden gems up crumbling staircases, seen some weird shit (dog meat alley in Hanoi...), and avoided a sedentary lifestyle without fear of getting too far lost.

Going Vegetarian

  • It will be hard they say. The food is boring they say... LIES.

  • Not going to turn this into a soapbox, but really it's my own blog so yeah I am. I had such an extreme problem with the Vietnamese eating dogs, "How Barbaric!!!" I thought. But then, I've been eating slaughtered animals (preferably bloody, rare steaks) my entire life. Why should it bother me with dogs? And I've loved many a cow, pig, goat that I've met. Then there are concerns like the quality of meat from slaughterhouses and the truth that eating meat creates more carbon emissions aka ruins our fucking planet. Personally, it's been an easy choice, with occasional slip-ups due to language barriers.

Redefine My Career

  • A work in progress for sure, but I have found a part-time role with a yoga brand that pays the bills. The remainder of my time is my own, and I am using it to create the life I've dreamed of. This life will not include a traditional 9-5, it will include animal welfare, and it will include a shitload of autonomy (go ahead, try and manage an INTJ...).

Book Now, Research Later

  • I really like knowing things, but I've noticed that there is a very low level of pre-planning necessary to yield a better experience. Musts include: Visa details, low-cost transport to-from airport, accommodations for first 2 nights in a new place (skim reviews for cleanliness and mattress quality). Also, don't book pricey tours ahead of time - once you're on the ground there is always a better option.
  • For people traveling through places more quickly than me this probably isn't an option, but when applying the principles of slow travel, I find the most joy meandering along and making conversations with strangers.

Also, in no particular order:

  • Pet all the dogs. All.
  • Use the block feature when you know you're about to take a turn down a toxic path.
  • Feel the feels. Bad, good, happy, ecstatic, depressed, confused, lost. 
  • Invest in yourself - I bought a Fujifilm XA-1 before I had a steady income because I believe in myself and what I can do with it.
  • Take risks - like a 54km bicycle ride through the mountains of Da Lat on a shitty mountain bike. Worst case scenario? At the 40km mark it rains, the gears break, you hail a bus. Simple ;)
  • Make friends - say yes when they ask you to hang out and accept their kindness. Realizing I'm not alone but a part of an ever-changing community melts my ice-like heart. 

Baby Steps

I keep booking travel. And making decisions.

danang-vietnam-blog-girl-beach-american-digital-nomad

But my body and brain are resistant (LIZARD BRAIN DOESN'T WANT CHANGE). In Saigon I would hit snooze 2-4 times each morning. And although my work doesn't require me to stay in any one location, I stayed there for 2 months (aside from a short vaca in Phu Quoc with Maggie). During my time in Saigon, I lived in 2 apartments and chose to work in the same coworking spot almost every day. Building some consistency helped me normalize after the combustion I created when I broke up with my ex. 

But as visas tend to do, my Vietnam one expires in under a month. For some reason I kept avoiding making a decision about where to go next, as though the decision solidifies the fact that I now lead a solo life...

saving the planet. one coffee at a time.

saving the planet. one coffee at a time.

Enter a new Twitter-friend, Flystein. A crew of travel hackers who (for a small fee) work with your miles and travel checklist to build out a shockingly affordable package. These guys came and visited me one day at Dreamplex and we had a chat about where I would wander off to after Vietnam. They recommended I try Da Nang before I leave, so I promptly booked a flight for $46. Easy.

But still, no plans to leave this country. With no real intention in mind, I logged into Flystein and casually entered details for Europe. In under an hour, I had custom itinerary to get to London for $22. 

"I'll book it this weekend." Me (& my lizard brain)
"Book it now." Flystein

So I booked. And a flight to Faro, Portugal ($42). And a flight to Dalat ($51). And from Cape Town to Buffalo for Christmas ($220). It would seem I am now addicted to booking travel. I went to Hoi An and Da Nang last week. I'm typing from Hanoi ($35).... WHAT?!

All this from the girl dubbed as "A dumb American traveler" from an ex not-to-be-named.

P.S. Still tracking the expenses down to the penny, if you'd like to follow along! Also, I chopped 80% of my hair off. I feel really awesomely spunky sometimes and then like a troll that will die alone at other times. Amazing how closely we link our identity to our hair...

Paradise Found: Phu Quoc

I <3 Maggie!

I <3 Maggie!

I'd suggest that anyone go to Phu Quoc to recover from a breakup. Or to recover from... The common cold, general malaise, seasonal affective disorder, boredom... Make up any excuse you can and go! Plus, once you're in Vietnam the hopper flights can drop as low as $50 round trip from Saigon! 

My Buffalo-Boston-Creative-Soulmate Maggie (and ultra-talented jewelry designer) visited me for 10 days and we treated ourselves to an island getaway to Phu Quoc. This little island has its high season from November through March, but felt relatively quiet while we were there (March), which was perfect. The weather was also consistently perfect.

For accommodation, we went from luxe to luxury, choosing to treat ourselves to 2 different non-hostel resorts. We recommend them both for their own reasons:

puppy at MyPlace Siena

puppy at MyPlace Siena

MyPlace Siena is a quiet little boutique resort in between the city center and the airport (10 minutes to each). The rooms smell of cedar and the grounds feature gardens and fountains; it feels like a tiny slice of paradise. The rooms are priced reasonably (approx. $40 usd) and a simple (delicious) breakfast is included. I was in heaven here thanks to the menagerie of sweet pets that freely roam the property: 3 cats, 1 puppy, 1 dog, frogs and lizards. We rented a motorbike through the resort for under $7 per day and kicked off the vacation exactly as we had planned - stress free! We checked out after 3 nights to be closer to the beach, but it's important to note that MyPlace is building a swimming pool which will be a perfect addition!

phu-quoc-cassia-cottage-digital-nomad-blog

Next up was Cassia Cottage - this resort has created the ultimate island wonderland. Their infinity pool overlooks a pristine beachfront with lush seating options. At check-in we were greeted with a hibiscus juice and given a tour from Mariz. There are 3 pools in total and the resort was renovated last year, offering guests the option to stay in traditional garden cottages or luxury premium suites, we chose the former. Rooms are around $150 / night and are worth every penny. Included is wifi, unlimited breakfast (omelettes, croissants, VN foods...), aircon, pool, beach...

Other musts while on the island:

Rory's: The island was quiet during our stay, but Rory's always had a crowd! This beachside bar is where people flock to watch the sunset and get white-girl-wasted. If HJ is there you're sure to laugh your ass off. He's the Asian bartender with the Australian accent, and no, HJ doesn't stand for Hand Job (I asked...).

Winston's: I've decided to become a vegetarian (yes it's true); however I went out with a savory bang. The burgers here are stateside quality and the buns have a lovely sweet, pastry-esque appeal to them. We also met Winston, an expat from the States (duh), who had great recommendations for the rest of our trip.

Gecko Bar: A solid option for a cheap (delicious) Vietnamese bite. We had pho and veggie + noodles here, and a few bottles of their finest Dalat red (of note, Dalat red wine is wine from Dalat, VN, it is not fine, it is not even nearly fine...).

Sau Beach: Day 1 we motorbiked here - DO IT! Beautiful white sands and plenty of cheap VN places for a bite to eat on the main drag. However, resorts like Paradiso charge if you use their lounge chairs (150,000 dong each), so make sure to bring your own towel. We did park the motorbike for free there though, which may or may not be allowed.

Peach Coffee: Yummy and affordable, vegan and vegetarian options (See what I am doing now? Subliminally weaving my new agenda in!), fresh juices, smoothies, and on the main drag.

Photo cred shared between Maggie + me for this post. See more from her here!

Where in the World

Last night it dawned on me that there is a 1 in 7.4 billion chance that I will ever see my ex again. That's some deep shit.

flowers for the woman at UPS who SAVED MY LIFE!

flowers for the woman at UPS who SAVED MY LIFE!

I'm ok with it and I am also crying less. And talking to boys. No comments on that topic though. Seriously. I am not putting a dude on this blog again unless there is a fucking ring (but not a blood diamond ring). It's pretty apparent that my "picker" is broken, so perhaps I stop that stuff altogether for a bit. But there is that whole sex part. Dang...

More importantly, what is next? WHERE? Making travel decisions with your partner takes both of your interests into account. Like motorbiking north from Ho Chi Minh to Hanoi. But as we all know, I am a terrible driver (Exhibit A, Exhibit B), so in the absence of boyfriend the simplest way to keep myself alive is sans motorbike. 

The luxury of being able to work as a digital nomad does not escape me. I have paying clients, a low cost of life, and until the end of April until my visa expires. But I feel frozen in making a decision. Typically decisive and rash, all of a sudden I cannot even identify what climate I want to be in. Part of me wants to hop on the next flight to Buffalo and hole up in the spare room at my mom or dad's. But a bigger part of me has decided that this "trip" will not be about a failed relationship.

Peace, respect, love? I'll add them to the list...

Peace, respect, love? I'll add them to the list...

As luck would have it, opportunities keep coming up. A roommate (Gary ♥) told me to watch for signs from the universe; more specifically, 3 signs to guide any one decision. Since then, I landed a part time gig with an awesome yoga brand, I have an offer in Portugal, and my awareness for coworking spaces and the digital nomad community has expanded. I was also kicked off one Facebook Group for nomads after cracking a Chaturbate joke. It's all a learning experience, and my brand of humor isn't for everyone, apparently. 

Next week one of my favorite people in the world, Maggie, is visiting me. We are taking to the islands, blogging, working remotely, hiking, and I get some soul-achingly-necessary girl time. 

I am drenched in the opulent luxury of choices. And I feel really fucking lucky.

Day Trippin' from El Nido

The Province of Palawan, Philippines is majestically beautiful. However, when looking for cheap backpacking options in Southeast Asia, Palawan and specifically El Nido should not be on top of your list. Despite this, it is a beautiful small town and not overly touristy (yet).

the views north of El Nido

the views north of El Nido

As two budget-conscious travelers, my ex and I were averaging about $41/day for 7 weeks (see the breakdown here) - we grocery shopped and stayed in the housing provided through our dive shop (774 pesos/night).  High season begins in December which is right around when we arrived and we found that the hostels were typically more expensive than the homestays (pensions). A non-aircon, single room in a homestay ranged from 500-900 pesos per night, whereas 1 dorm bed ranged from 400-700 pesos per night. Also, most of the places to stay are not listed online - just get to town and walk around, you'll find something!

Once in "downtown" El Nido you'll see the bay and many small boats. Warning: this is not where you want to swim. It is murky with boat fuel spillage and a couple sewage drains that seem to drain directly into this area. Sexy. Options for getting to El Nido are:

  • Flying directly into the tiny airport (pricier option)
  • Taking a van or bus from Puerto Princesa (the road is 95% paved as of Jan2016, apparently funded by American oil companies)
  • Boats + ferries from Manila or Coron (watch out for seasickness on the smaller boats)

Some of the best times in Palawan were the day trips that we went on. Many require a motorbike or renting a tricycle, but are definitely worth it!

sunset at Republica

sunset at Republica

  1. Marimegmeg Beach: Known to locals as Las Cabanas Beach. Just south of El Nido and only a 15 minute tricycle ride that should cost 100 pesos for 2 people. This beach is clean and has perfect views of the limestone islands. There are two reasonably priced bars that serve right on the beach. The only annoyance are the local kids selling fake pearls at an insane markup - you'll be asked no less than 10 times to buy them...

  2. Republica Sunset Bar: On the way back from Las Cabanas - this is the best place to watch the sunset just outside of El Nido. The San Miguel pilsner is 60 pesos and the view is perfect. The owner is Spanish, so you'll find their menu is European fusion + the sangria is amazing and the chill music they played was great. Follow them on Spotify (@republicasunsetbar)!

  3. Nacpan Beach: This beach is a 45 minute tricycle or 30 minute motorbike ride north of El Nido.  If you're looking for something more remote than the beaches in El Nido proper then this is a good option (although many tourists do head here). There is a 100 peso/person conservation fee once you arrive. The beach is pristine and is lined with small bars, restaurants and places to stay.

  4. Deep Blue Dive Seafari: A great PADI dive shop in El Nido. The staff is knowledgeable and professional, which is why we dove with them for 1.5 months. They offer day diving, night diving and occasional Seafaris to Coron for wreck diving + other remote sites. 

  5. Boat Tours: Boat tours to island hop are a popular option for everyone visiting El Nido. Almost every corner has a travel agency where these tours can be booked - most including a freshly prepared lunch. Additionally, there is an option to charter the entire boat and pick the specific islands you'd like to visit. When booking, make sure to find out how many people are on your boat - some are overcrowded (up to 16ppl). Although most of the tours leave at 9am, I'd recommend pushing for earlier and get to the best spots first. I went out with a wonderful Dutch family on Christmas day and they had chartered the boat just for us, it was one of the highlights during my time there.

  6. Duli Beach Resort: We never went to this spot, however I heard good things! It's a 60 minute motorbike ride north of El Nido (tricycle drivers will not take you there). It's quite remote with a small resort at the end of the beach that sells beer and food. Expect to pay 50 pesos per person to cut across a local family's land to get here. Another option is to charter a boat from El Nido, but this would definitely be pricier (unless you have a larger group).

  7. Verde Safari Beach: A 90 minute motorbike ride north of El Nido - and the trail is not for beginners (dirt roads, steep hills, etc.). This pristine beach is a reminder of what Palawan was 10-20 years ago, undeveloped, remote, tourist-free, gimmick free - just clean sands and the clear water. Make sure to bring snacks because there is nothing for purchase on the beach. 

  8. San Fernando: A small village just north of Verde Safari Beach. This tiny village is remote Palawan with local flavor. The friendly locals looked surprised seeing foreigners but were friendly wherever we stopped. There is almost no wifi and the cell phone data coverage is quite slow (but will work). Great place to get off the grid and disappear for awhile - especially Casa Felicidad, we stopped here for a beer and to check out their cocks (ahem, roosters...).

P.S. Don't miss Nagtabon Beach, about 45 north from Puerto Princesa. Pics + details here.

verde-safari-beach-palawan-panoramic

Offal or Awful?

We have been in Ho Chi Minh City for 14 days. This is long in backpacker time, yet short for the standards of what qualifies for most as a home. When choosing the nomadic life 3 months ago, I was fairly ill-informed. But now, as we continue this journey I'm starting to determine parameters that need to be in place for the perfect blend of transience and consistency - the most important being great wifi, with a close second of having interesting, fresh and varied food options (shockingly sparse in the Philippines). Coming in third, (surprising even my introverted self) I miss my girlfriends and girly-giggle-time. The lack of this leads to an acute sense of loneliness at times. To combat this, I've started to make plans with other digital nomads I've found online, try to stay in touch with other travelers we've met + now (thanks to good wifi) can call the States pretty regularly. But still, ouch.

pho-gasm

pho-gasm

HCMC is an amazing destination for both wifi and delightful dining options, sometimes under the same roof. Fresh herbs and vegetables are bountiful as you motorbike through the city - from the inexpensive food stands to the many small markets with fairly priced options. The culinary journey gets confusing though. I've downloaded an app to assist (Vietnamese to English food item translations), but it has about 100 items, whereas the Vietnamese food options seem to range somewhere in the thousands with variations in name based on which part of the country the specific recipe originated. Based on the food nomenclature we're always one Pha Lau away from a savory coconut stew - of offal (which by the way, is delicious, and weird). Offal = Internal organs + entrails of a butchered animal, FYI.

Trying out new food every day is one of my favorite parts of HCMC. These endless options create an adventure that is at times frightening but with a potential reward of total yum! This list includes Vietnamese foods I've tried and what they most simply mean in English IMO. Most definitely not comprehensive and probably not always 100% accurate based on my specific vendor experiences, so let me know if you see any errors!

  • Banh bao: fluffy bun stuffed with meat, potatoes, etc. inside
  • Banh beo: custard-like rice in little dishes, topped w dried fish or crumbled peanuts, use a chili oil on top
  • Banh mi: delicious sandwiches on french bread with sliced meat (cured or fried) + fresh herbs
  • Bun ba hue: rice vermicelli (thin) noodle soup with beef
  • Ca phe sua da: iced coffee with sweetened condensed milk (yum)
  • Com tam: rice dish, usually served with grilled pork
  • De vu nuong: this is the breast of the goat, we went to a goat bbq place with friends, so YUM
  • Luc lac: delicious cubed beef, always a safe bet
  • Pho: obviously the most well-known Vietnamese dish - linguine-type noodle soup, delicious meat + tasty herbs

Eat, Pray, Play in Ubud

Just in time for the Year of the Monkey + VALENTINE'S DAY, here's a MUST list for Ubud (Bali, Indonesia)! Ubud was the setting for the Love portion of the book Eat, Pray, Love and was also the site of days 4-7 of my first date with my ex... You know, the "date" that kicked off my traveling, nomadic life!

temple wandering

temple wandering

EAT at Naughty Nuri's. You do not want to miss this spot while in Ubud. Seriously "The best martinis in the world" - just ask Anthony Bourdain - and a rack of ribs that are so delicious that I polished off the entire rack and then half of a second! When you arrive just seat yourself anywhere there is room at one of the communal tables. 

Another must EAT is the Baba Guling (suckling pig) at Ibu Oka. This is one of Indonesia’s most famous dishes, prepared very early in the morning. Make sure to seek it out at lunch time to ensure the freshest and bestest roasted pork and availability. Definitely a must have in Ubud or anywhere in Bali.

PRAY (or meditate or do whatever the fuck... just no physical contact between males and females!) at Pura Gunung Kawi: This is my favorite temple in Ubud, take a motorbike as the tour companies charge too much money and then you'll have time constraints. There are 2 options to get there:

  •  The front entrance where you will find 200+ stairs and hawkers trying to sell all of their wares OR...
  • The back entrance via Google Maps. We obviously took the back entrance (hehe...) and Google brought us to a local neighborhood which seemed to be a dead end. The locals there welcomed us (and were used to people getting mixed up) from a tiny pagoda where they were carving wood figurines for tourists (the ones for sale on the street in the town). One offered to take us to the temple via the rice terraces! Although we avoided the entrance fee, our guide asked us to buy something from the gift shop on the back side of the temple (a hair pick for $2 USD). Then afterward we chilled in their pagoda for a while and they even gave me a little wooden elephant to take home (we tipped our guide even though he didn't bring up payment).  Thank you to Google for being wrong (this time…).

Bring a sarong or other covering (knees must be covered for men and women) - otherwise you can borrow one from the front entrance at the temple.

PLAY in the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary: No trip to Ubud is not complete without playing with the monkeys. Some of these monkeys are quite wild, however the tame ones are a delight and will play with you. Note: Do not antagonize them, especially not screaming at an alpha, while staring him in the eye, while he climbs up your body for the banana treat you are holding out for him (oops). There is a small conservation fee to enter that allows you to explore the temple and see monkeys everywhere!

Special reminders:

  • DO NOT BRING FOOD WITH YOU!! Buy bananas from the banana lady and offer them to a monkey that seems interested 1 at a time. To do so, hold it up as high as you can then hang on tight. One or two monkeys will likely jump onto you, climb up, grab the banana and possibly sit on your shoulder to eat it - so make sure a friend is ready with a camera.
  • Take all your valuable possessions (jewelry/phone/etc.) off for this visit, or else Curious George may walk off with your cell phone 

On Top of Pai, 8 Musts

pai-circus-infiniti-pool-blog

Pretty much everyone who visits Pai, Thailand extends their stay. This chill little town has been making it onto every backpacker's itinerary if time allows (the only downside being the aggressively windy 3 hour bus ride from Chiang Mai - there are 762 hairpin bends). I logged over a month here and would have extended except the wifi was pretty lackluster and my Visa expired!

  1. Cozy Pai: Only 150-200 thb per night, this spot is a 5 minute walk into downtown Pai and 1 minute up the hill to the famous Circus Hostel. You'll find great little bungalows, shared bathrooms and HOT water. There is a nice social atmosphere here but it's very chill and relaxed - a nice alternative to...
  2. Pai Circus School and Hostel:  Private bungalows are around 300 thb per night, slightly more pricey and the beds are hard as a rock (unless you upgrade to the newly built Presidential dorms) - or 100 thb for a day pass to the pool. What you're paying for here is the EPIC social atmosphere. This hostel has a capacity for 170 guests and has endless activities. This is the only hostel in Pai with an infiniti pool (known to staff as the Beverly Hills of Pai based on the hot topless chicks + shameless flirtation), circus act trainers from 4-6pm every day, a full bar and a small restaurant. And don't forget the Pagoda, this "smoke" friendly portion of the hostel is 4-20, 24-7. Read also: 
  3. Chedi Phra That Mae Yen: White Buddha overlooking Pai. Amazing place of worship and stunning craftsmanship. Recommendation: do not pay for a group tour, rent a motorbike, bicycle or get some exercise and walk. It's only 3.2 km outside of the city.
  4. Om Garden Cafe:  This tiny cafe has a robust healthy menu and is vegan friendly. The vibe is very chill and relaxed along with the prices. Note: They were closed for over 7 months in 2015 for "renovations" and have now reopened, let me know what you think!
  5. Pai Canyon: A preferred spot for sunsets just outside the city. Do not get a tour or van, they're too expensive and limit the fun with time constraints. Make sure to bring your shoes as this place is not very sandal friendly if you want to explore past the first hilltop (or do as I did and go barefoot!).
  6. Doi Mieng Lookout: This is an entire day adventure which requires good motorbike riding ability. Note, your passenger on the back will be walking from time to time as the hill gets steep and typical bikes won't be able to handle 2 people. Do not attempt in rainy season or just after a rain. Also of note, it isn't on most maps and most motorbike companies forbid riding to the Lookout (LOL OOPS). To get here, locate The Land Split and Pom Bak Waterfall, then keep driving straight and up. Some of the road is paved but most is not. There are big ruts and rocks in the road and in some parts expect to get muddy, BUT the view is quite worth it. At the top you can purchase petrol, snacks and beer, but they close up early and the prices are not cheap. Give yourself plenty of time and start early, as it would be a nightmare going down in the dark. P.S. SOMEONE was trying a yoga pose and kicked off the top of the #1 at the top... See photo evidence below! #guilty
  7. Saeng Thong Aram Markets: Local food market with local prices. Walking Street in Pai is great but caters to western tourists with higher prices. This market is local and there are rarely westerners, in the morning you can find fresh fruits and vegetables along with meat + fish. At night many local street food vendors show up. There isn't anywhere to sit and eat (aside from on the curb, which we did), but it's worth it! Of special note: Bags of curry and basil dishes, the pork (beef?) jerky, and the chicken vendor across the street.
  8. Piranha Fishing Park: A very chill + relaxed place to fish and drink cheap gin & tonics.  If you like to fish or just hangout in the shade during the day this is a great place. They have over 25 different fish stocked in the pond and a board listing the biggest of each species caught. Cost: 100 thb for 3hrs to rent 1 pole.

Of special note, The Promised Land is an up and coming party venture in Pai that a Circus friend is launching, looks PROMISING and epic!

VIP Machete Service

hyatt-manila-philippines-backpacker-ocd

Luxury. I don't need much of it to be happy. That being said, there is a time and place where it can be quite appreciated. Like after an overnight ferry on wooden bunkbeds in Southeast Asia.

I was lucky enough to redeem a reward night at the all gold errythang Hyatt in Manila for our last night in the Philippines. And indeed, this luxe last night tradition is one I would like to continue. Between the hostels, overnight buses, ferries, non-AC shared housing, and general backpacker nature of our lives, there was just something so magical about the following, not necessarily in order of import:

  • Sitting on a marble floor to shave with a waterfall shower sprinkling HOT water over you 
  • The robes, oh those robes. I love thee
  • Being upgraded, allowed to check in early + treated like a queen - even though we were in our dirty backpacker uniforms 
  • Laying out all of my possessions in order of what they are - just 'cuz

And the best part? The very best?

Going through the medical detectors and having T's machete "checked" at the lobby. They didn't make a scene, take it away or call the authorities - just simply gave us a valet receipt ❤ 

check yo machete @ the door

check yo machete @ the door

Fishy Thingz

bye El Nido!

bye El Nido!

The day before leaving El Nido we were getting the last minute things pulled together - basics for the boat like Skyflake crackers (an addiction that will be sorely missed), mini bananas, ramen + oats - so we swung by Atienza to confirm our ferry and bike transport details.

"Hello - just checking on our cargo ride."

"Oh that's not happening. not for 2 more days, the boats somewhere in Manila."

"?"

Somewhere in Manila. and we were going to find out when we rolled up at 7am the next morning to get on our boat. The nice woman then offered to take all of the motorbike paperwork and ship the boat for us...

"NO FUCKING WAY YOU'RE GOING TO STEAL MY BIKE!"

He's so delicate and careful with the words he chooses...

trippy thingz

trippy thingz

At this point we figure out we can get on one of the smaller, shittier boats (the Bunso) for 700 extra pesos to ship us and the bike, fine. All-in shipping a bike from El Nido to Coron = 1086 pesos + 4.5 hours of my life never to be seen again.

The next morning the boat ride is going as well as it could be given that T had his final divemaster test - the snorkel test (drinking alcohol through the snorkel in a round robin trivia game). after a lunch of fishy shrimp, rice and indiscriminate vegetables T surprises me by puking overboard.

This sickness culminates in a glorious, triumphant entrance to our hostel where T rides up on the motorbike and pukes fiercely + immediately (while on the bike), his projectile only narrowly missing a tiny local girl frozen mid-step with a look of true horror on her face. I pat his back in solidarity which unfortunately releases his other end. Yes. Joke's on me however, because within an hour I've already vomited 4 times, which repeats through the rest of the night.