South East Asia: The Top Ten!

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang, Laos

Hey everybody!

So, as many of you know by now I’ve just returned from a trip across South East Asia that included Thailand, Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia. While it was all pretty amazing, I certainly had my favourite places that I’d consider to be must sees if you ever get the opportunity to travel to any of these beautiful countries! Between the ten of them, I really couldn’t pick favourites, plus everything is completely depended on what people are interested in pursuing while they travel, and which country or areas they choose to visit.

So, without further ado, here’s my top ten! They’re put in order of when we visited them, with absolutely no ranking in terms of favouritism between them. I hope if you’re reading this, it gives you ideas for where to visit on your travels or even inspires you to plan a trip! If anyone else has been/is going to any of the following places, drop a comment! I’d love to hear all about it.

Thailand
Doi Inthanon, Chiang Mai
Doi Inthanon, Thailand

During our time in South East Asia, Nylah and I saw more temples than I could even keep track of. Doi Inthanon, however, was something special. It was by far one of the most peaceful and magical places I have ever laid eyes on. Between the beautiful architecture of these temples and the stunning mountain top view, if you’re ever in Thailand Doi Inthanon is a temple stop you definitely can’t miss. Read my original post here!

Elephant Sanctuary, Chiang Mai
Chiang Mai, Thailand

When people think of Thailand, I’m sure for many elephant riding comes to mind. However, while elephant riding tours certainly still exist all over Thailand, many people have started to realize how inhumane they are to the animals. If you want to see elephants during your stay in Thailand, instead, you should check out a sanctuary like Elephant Jungle Sanctuary! Not only were many of the elephants rescued from elephant riding camps, but you could see how happy and well-cared for these animals were — something you’d definitely miss out on if you choose to ride the animals instead. Read my original post here!

Viewpoint Hike, Koh Phi Phi
Koh Phi Phi, Thailand

Koh Phi Phi straight up has to be the most beautiful place I’ve ever visited in my life. If you ever get the opportunity to visit, the best way to take it all in is to hike up to the viewpoint! The hike is a little challenging, but incredibly rewarding as you get a view of the whole island from the top. If you do go, be sure to check out the second viewpoint, the scenery was absolutely insane. If you’re really looking for something special, be sure to hike up for sunset/sunrise for a truly spectacular view. Read my original post here!

BONUS: Get A Thai Massage

Okay, okay, I know I said top ten, but I figured I’d add this one in as a quick bonus. While I went to get a massage in Bangkok, you really could get one anywhere in Thailand, hence why I added it as a bonus — it really isn’t location-specific. Not only can you get an amazing massage for exceptional prices, if you’ve never experienced a Thai massage it’ll be unlike any you’ve had before. Be sure to ask at your hotel/hostel for recommendations for best places in the area!

Laos
Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang
Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang, Laos

Oh man was this place ever magical. Kuang Si Falls is made up of a series of waterfalls, that cascade down into a set of pools you can swim in. The water is literally bright baby blue, and you can sit in the falls as well. They’re even full of those little fish they have at those pedicure places, so you can get a quick and all-natural pedi while you’re at it! Overall, this was one of the most beautiful places I have ever been, 10/10 would recommend. Read my original post here!

Phousi Mountain Hike, Luang Prabang
Phousi Mountain, Luang Prabang, Laos

Out of all the hikes we did, this one was certainly one of my favourites. For the relatively small level of difficulty, the views were spectacular. The viewpoint at the top gave you a lookout over all of Luang Prabang and the surrounding mountains. For an extra special view, be sure to go at sunrise or sundown. Read my original post here!

Vietnam
Ha Long Bay, Hanoi
Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay straight up looks like a scene out of a movie — it seriously doesn’t even look real. The bay is filled with tiny mountain-like islands, in fact, there’s nearly 2000 in the area. There’s all sorts of things to do in the area, such as hikes, caves, and beaches, so if you go be sure to check out the local boat cruises — I’d recommend an overnight one at least. This place is absolutely magical, and its certainly worthwhile to spend an extra night there, see the sunset, and take in the almost-ethereal locale. Read my original post here!

Hang Múa Hike, Ninh Binh
Hang Múa, Ninh Binh, Vietnam

Out of all the hikes we completed across all of South East Asia, this one was certainly the hardest–but also the most spectacular. If you’re going to give it a try, be sure to go well prepared; it’s certainly not the easiest of hikes, especially it the Vietnam heat. But the view from the top was beyond amazing, words can’t even describe how beautiful and rewarding it was. Read my original post here!

Night Food Market, Ho Chi Minh City
Night Food Market, Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

South East Asia, across the board, had many of the absolute best meals I’ve had in my life — but this place was by far my favourite. Not only did it have a great atmosphere, but there was endless options to choose from. There was all kinds of food stands from a large array of Asian cuisines, without a doubt there was something there for anything you happened to be craving. If I lived in Ho Chi Minh City, I guarantee you could find me here every night. Read my original post here!

Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap
Angkor Wat, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Along with Doi Inthanon, Angkor Wat was my favourite temple we saw along our trip (and as I said, we saw a whole lot of temples). Not only was it crazy to see how Cambodian Temples differed from those in Thailand and Laos, but the sheer size and grandeur of Angkor Wat makes it a must-see. You could easily spend hours here and feel like there’s still more to see — and the views from the top are unreal. As the largest religious monument in the world, Angkor Wat is something you absolutely can’t miss if you’re travelling to Cambodia. Read my original post here!

Phnom Kulen Falls, Siem Reap
Phnom Kulen Falls, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Like Kuang Si Falls, Phnom Kulen Falls are a great place to stop in for a swim–but also distinctly different from the falls in Laos. This waterfall had two swimming areas; one a smaller fall that was more like a shower, and a giant pool at the bottom of the second, massive waterfall. It was so beautiful and relaxing, and I’d highly recommend checking it out if you’re ever in the area. Read my original post here!

So there you have it! I really hope that some of y’all can find somewhere on this list that inspires you for your next trip. If any of you have been to any of these places and would like to share your thoughts, let me know! As well, I’d love to hear it if you have any suggestions of your own. It’ll probably be a little while before I’m going to be able to travel again, but for next time I’m thinking Japan, Singapore, or Europe!

But that’s all for now! Until next time.

Lots of Love,

Meredith

Things To Do: Ninh Binh Edition!

View From The Top Of Hang Múa, Ninh Binh

Hey guys!

Welcome back to what will be one of the shortest instalment of my travel diary: Ninh Binh! I want to stress that just because I don’t have as many things to discuss about Ninh Binh that somehow it shouldn’t be on the list of people considering travelling to Vietnam. Ninh Binh is in the countryside, and on top of that Nylah and I stayed at a homestay even further outside of the town’s borders. It certainly was the most isolated location we’ve visited thus far — therefore did not have as much to offer in terms of restaurants and bars — but had MORE than enough to offer in terms of exploring. Plus, the lack of places to eat was pretty irrelevant as we could eat every meal at our homestay if we so pleased. On top of everything else, the homestay we stayed at — the Ninh Binh Family Homestay — was hands down our best accommodations yet. In South East Asia, cheap but wonderful hostels seem to be everywhere. For their surprisingly low prices, you can really find some amazing places. But this place really stepped it up; the staff were SO kind and helpful, and the rooms were huge, beautiful and had queen-sized beds!!! We really felt we were a part of the family when we were staying there. Just, overall, 11/10 would HIGHLY recommend.

Go On A Cave Tour!

Động Thiên Hà

Okay, I love a good excursion that feels isolated and untouched as much as the next backpacker — but I will say this tour is not for the faint of heart. We took a boat up to the Động Thiên Hà caves, where we hiked up to another river where our guide then paddled is up its length. The only lighting is sparse colourful bulbs meant to light the way as much as necessary — but not any more. Plus, unlike the other caves we visited, this place was relatively untouched and unaltered for tourists. Which was why it was, quite literally, FULL of bats. I really mean like thousands of bats, so be aware of what you’re getting into when you sign up for this because once you’re in there’s really no going back. I certainly pushed many of my limits in this cave, as the ceilings were short, the tunnels were dark and the bats were everywhere. To be fair, none of them ever touched us. As well, you’re probably thinking “oh, she’s just being dramatic. It was probably just 10 bats,” well, no. It was quite literally hundreds, possibly thousands of bats. It was VERY cool and fulfilling to do something that had absolutely no other tourists, but I will say: if you’re claustrophobic or just straight up hate bats, I’d avoid this one.

Go On A Boat Ride!

To do a complete 180 degree from the former activity, this was easily the most relaxed I’ve been this whole trip. All this excursion constituted of was being leisurely paddled down a beautiful — and relatively empty — river in the countryside. You do get to have a much more brief and less hands-on peak of a cave, so if you’re unsure about the cave tour, check this out for sure.

Go On A Hike!

Hang Múa

Okay, we’ve done a whole bunch of little hikes this trip, but so far Hang Múa takes the cake. This hike, while being one of the most challenging I’ve ever done, was certainly one of the most rewarding. It went pretty far up, around 700 steps — all while being over 40 degrees out. This was at like 8:30 in the morning too, so if you’re going to do this hike plan ahead and go early because I certainly would have gotten heat stroke if I did it in the midday heat. This hike is certainly more challenging — and may not be for everyone — but the two peaks at the top offered some of the most stunning views. If you think you’re ready to take the trek then I’d highly recommend it.

So that’s Ninh Binh! While our stay there was short it was jam-packed with a lot of the most amazing adventure-type activities I’ve ever gotten the chance to do. If you’re looking for a trip that kind of gets away from the touristy side of things, Ninh Binh is perfect for you.

Stay tuned! Next up we’re off to Hoi An!

Love y’all,

Meredith

Things To Do: Luang Prabang Edition!

Me, At The Kuang Si Falls near Luang Prabang

Hey everyone!

I’m back with my second instalment of my Laos travel diary: things to do in Luang Prabang! Our stay here was super short but absolutely packed with some of the most amazing parts of our trip so far. (Yes, I know I say that a lot, but I swear this trip just keeps getting better and better!) Anyways, since our stay was so short I’m going to cover places to eat and things to do all in one post. If you’re thinking of traveling to South East Asia, be sure to add Laos to your itinerary. I honestly didn’t know much about it before arriving as it is a bit of an uncommon place to visit, but it’s honestly so beautiful here, even Thailand can’t compare. Keep reading to hear all my best finds in the beautiful city of Luang Prabang!

Take A Boat Tour!

The Mekong River

Luang Prabang has the massive Mekong river running through the whole country, making a boat tour one of the best ways to get around! Your options are pretty endless with these boat tours, as they offer both half and full day tours, with options to see the falls, elephants, and more.

Textile Display At The Textile Village

On our particular boat tour, our first stop was at a textile village that also brewed its own sticky rice whiskey and wine. They offered (many, many) samples of their whiskey, as you got to explore the village and it’s beautiful textile stalls. My personal favourite in terms of the drinks was the dark rice wine, which was sweet and delicious. However, they also had some INCREDIBLY strong whiskey, for those who were looking for something with a little extra kick.

Whiskey Display At The Textile Village

After that, we hopped on the boat and headed over to the local Pak Ou caves, which hold buddhist temples inside. The stop featured two caves, one which was deep and dark and the other which was quite light and open, for those who aren’t a fan of caves. Both of them were incredibly beautiful and super cool, and I would highly recommend checking them out if you have the chance.

Pak Ou Caves

Check Out Our Favourite Restaurant: Tangor!

Our Meal At Tangor

Oh my god was this place ever amazing. It offers both patios and indoors, but with an open front so that me and Nylah got to sit just off the patio and still see outside. The food here was INCREDIBLE, the pumpkin soup and fried spring rolls I ordered had to be some of the best I’ve ever had in my life. To top it all off, they offered cocktails categorized as “strong”, “refreshing”, “classic” etc. I got one of the “refreshing” cocktails and it certainly lived up to the name, as well as being one of the most delicious and well-crafted drinks I have ever had. If you’re ever in Luang Prabang, this restaurant is a must-try.

Hike Up Phousi Mountain!

Sunrise View From Phousi Moutain

This hike gives you a beautiful view over the city. Its easy enough that it wouldn’t be too tough for beginners, even in the heat. For an added bonus, you can take the trip up at sunrise or sunset for an even more spectacular view. We chose to do the hike at sunrise, but there’s certainly pros and cons to both. The benefits of doing a sunrise hike are the nice, cooler temperatures before the sun rises and a much less crowded viewpoint at the top. However, the sunset views are probably more spectacular and the viewpoint is set up much better for a sunset view. The only downside is how hot it would be that late in the night, as well as the fact that apparently the viewpoint is packed in the sunset hours. I’m sure either way it would be amazing, but the sunrise hike was a wonderful way to start out our last day in Luang Prabang!

Explore the Kuang Si Falls!

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

I’ll keep this one short as I know I already covered it in my previous post, but this place is both spectacularly beautiful as well as easy to access and explore. The water is the perfect temperature to cool off in the Laos heat, and getting to swim through a waterfall is always a plus! For the more adventurous types, you can also hike up and see the sights from the top of the waterfall. Be sure to be prepared though, as the hike is pretty steep (as well as the heat being an added challenge!). As well, if you have water shoes, they might be a good idea as the algae on the rocks gets pretty slippery. However, still a 10/10 stop overall and I’d highly recommend it to other travelers!

Explore The City!

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang is honestly one of the most beautiful towns I have ever visited. Seriously, from the moment we arrived I’ve been joking to Nylah that I’m ready to leave everything behind and just move here. There’s plenty to see in the town, from local shops and restaurants, to the beautiful river and more. As well, there are beautiful temples all over the city to visit, and lack the crowds that many of the temples in Thailand attract!

Haw Pha Bang, Luang Prabang
Visit The Night Market!

Coconut Pancakes At The Night Market

Okay, I know I’ve discussed my love for night markets before so I’ll keep this one short. Taking time to stroll through the night markets in any town is a great way to relax and take in the culture. Besides, you never know what gems you’re going to find — like these mini coconut pancakes!

So that’s Luang Prabang! I hope you’ve all been enjoying reading my travel blogs as much as I’ve enjoyed writing them. If you have any recommendations or felt inspired by any of my posts, feel free to let me know! If you ever have the chance to visit Laos, it is 110% beautiful and amazing and I would highly recommend it. Next stop: Hanoi, Vietnam!

Much Love,

Meredith

Spend A Day With Me In Luang Prabang!

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang, Laos

Hey guys!

I’m back with my first travel blog post from Luang Prabang, Laos! From the moment I first arrived here I fell so in love that I honestly feel like I could move here. The scenery is sooooo beautiful and the food is to die for. Keep reading to hear all about my first day adventure in Laos!

Exploring Kuang Si Falls!

Kuang Si Falls, Luang Prabang

After a quick breakfast at our hostel me and Nylah headed off to Kuang Si Falls. The National Park has all kinds of attractions, including the falls, which you can swim in, as well as a hike and a bear sanctuary. Not only were the falls one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever seen in my life, they were the perfect swimming temperature to beat the Laos heat. You can splash around in the pools, or sit in the falls, both of which were super beautiful and relaxing. The hike is pretty challenging, so if you’re planning on it it’s probably a good idea to wear waterproof shoes and bring lots of water. I completed about half the hike before I felt it was getting too challenging for what I had prepared for, but Nylah completed it and said the view from the top was amazing, as well there are more swimming pools and a swing to enjoy when you reach the top! Even without completing the hike, these falls were so stunning and laying around in them was one of the most relaxing things I’ve done this whole trip.

Lunch at Chang Kham!

Sizzling Cashew Chicken Plate, Chang Kham

After our excursion to the falls, we stopped in at Chang Kham for a quick lunch! We’d stopped in here the first night after we arrived, but were more than happy to go again as the food was SO GOOD. The first time the chicken satay I had was to die for, and the sizzling fried chicken plate I had after visiting Kuang Si really hit the spot and got us ready to gear up for the rest of our day.

Drinks At A Local Bar!

Mojitos at a Local Bar

After a quick trip back to our hostel and a break, we headed out to grab drinks at a local bar. They had a buy two get one special on mojitos, which we very much took advantage of. They had all kinds of unique flavours, like raspberry, watermelon, and passion fruit (which you can see me drinking above). It was a great refresher after a long day.

Dinner At Coconut Garden!

Coconut Garden Outdoor Restaurant

After drinks we headed off to a little outdoor restaurant called Coconut Gardens. The food was simple but amazing, and it was a nice small meal after the crazy day we had. The soups in South East Asia are so delicious — and worth it even with the crazy heat, so we’ve been taking full advantage lately.

Visiting the Night Market!

Art Sale at the Local Night Market

After dinner, we walked back to our hostel through the night market. It super cool to be able to see and compare night markets between different cities and countries. While the Chiang Mai night market was only on weekends and was more food based, Luang Prabang has night markets daily that focus a lot more on clothing and art. These little markets really are a great way to take in the culture on each stop of our journey.

And that’s it for today! Stay tuned for an upcoming post on things to do in Luang Prabang! Hopefully you’re all enjoying my travel blogs so far, I’d love to hear if any of you get inspired or find places to visit on your next trip from these. If you have anything specific you want to hear about in the next segment, drop a comment below! I’d love to hear any suggestions you have.

Love y’all,

Meredith

Easy Ways To Be Eco-Friendly!

Pacific Spirit Park, BC

Hey friends!!

So today I figured I’d talk about something near and dear to my heart: little ways to be eco-friendly. There’s so many articles out there that discuss the standard ways to help reduce waste, such as reusable bags and coffee mugs; but as someone who really tries to cut down on their daily waste I figured I’d share some other tips I use that go above and beyond! I really hope I don’t have to explain to y’all why you should care about the environment, but if you really don’t, think of it this way: the less waste you produce, the less often you have to take your trash out! No matter what, it’s a win-win, really.

Step One: Invest in Reusable Bathroom Products
Reusable Makeup Wipes and Cotton Pads

This one is a big one for me, as so many products we use daily in our life are disposable. Yes, it may save you a few minutes of time, but at what cost? These things pile up in our garbage, and produce loads of trash over time. One of my all-time-favourite products to use to avoid this is reusable makeup wipes! These towels are fantastic for a number of reasons. First of all, they remove your makeup with just water — no chemicals required! Just wet the towel, wipe off your makeup, wash the towel quickly after and your set. Another bonus is one of these towels can last for months — which leads to a whole lot of savings in the long run. Another similar product I’ve just recently started to try is reusable cotton pads. I haven’t used them for this purpose yet, but I’m pretty sure you could use these to remove your makeup too. I, however, love them for applying toner and other serums to my face. I go through cotton pads like crazy, so I’ve definitely noticed a drop in the amount of waste I produce since I’ve started using these!

Another one that I love, although not really a bathroom product, is reusable wool dryer balls! These relatively cheap wool balls help replace the need for disposable dryer sheets, which I used to go through like crazy. These things seriously last forever as well; I haven’t had to replace them since I bought them. There’s a little bonus too: you can simply leave them in your dryer and not even have to worry about throwing anything in before you dry your clothes, which makes life a bit simpler.

Something else to consider is compostable bathroom products. Plastics, such as toothbrushes, can make their way into the ocean and environment, and take years to break down (and may not ever completely disappear — as a lot of plastic products just break up into micro plastics). One way I love to reduce my plastic waste is with bamboo toothbrushes! This is by far one of the simplest ways to cut down on plastic, as it has no effect at all on your day-to-day life. Think about how many toothbrushes you go through in a lifetime — and how many you can stop from damaging the environment by choosing a more eco-friendly option.

Step Two: Reusable Kitchen Products
Bee Kind Food Wrap

The next couple of tips I have are for reusable products in the kitchen! I’ll start with one you’ve probably heard of before: metal straws. There’s so many options out there, but the one I chose to link is the one I use. It’s compact and portable, making it easy to carry around with you daily. Not only that, but the package comes with a little cleaning device so you can clean it immediately after use! Many metal straws out there aren’t collapsable, making them a pain to carry around, but this one makes it easy to never use a plastic straw again!

Another great product I’ve come to love recently is reusable produce bags. These mesh bags completely eliminate the need for disposable plastic produce bags. They’re light, making it easy to carry them around when you’re planning to go grocery shopping. Disposable plastic produce bags have always been a huge pet peeve of mine, since you really can’t repurpose them for much else. Ever since I started using these, I’ve cut down so much on plastic waste! They really are so smart to carry around.

One last one I just purchased but haven’t had time to try out yet is Bee Kind Food Wrap! I just came across this in the grocery store and am super excited to try it! Not only is it supposed to be better than plastic wrap for so many reasons other than simply cutting down on plastic waste, but the company was founded by an alumna of my sorority. Currently, you can only buy them in store in British Columbia and Ontario, but they have an online store in case you don’t live in the area and were hoping to try them for yourself!

Step Three: Food and Eating Habits
Chia Seeds

Next up is a couple of tips I have in terms of your eating habits that can help out the environment daily. I’ll start with an easy one: buying non-perishable products in bulk! Not only is this often a much cheaper option, but it can be a waste-free one, too. Anything from pasta, to rice, to quinoa, to seeds, nuts and beans can easily be purchased in bulk at your grocery store! To help eliminate waste entirely, I often use the produce bags I mentioned above when I get the products, and then transfer them into glass jars like the one pictured above when I get home. There’s really no downside here: you get to help eliminate waste and save money while you do it!

Another thing you can try, while it is a lot more challenging, is going vegetarian or vegan. I’ve been a vegetarian since last August, and it’s improved my life in so many ways. There’s countless meal prep options out there to check out, so it honestly has made me eat a lot healthier since I started. On top of that, cutting out meat saves gallons of water and more every day. I’m not really an expert on all this, but I’ve found some info on just how much of an impact it can make here.

Now, I know this can be tricky for a lot of people, both for dietary reasons or just because you love meat. So I have a couple of suggestions if you’re not ready to take the full leap:

  1. Try a flexitarian diet. When I cook for myself, I make 100% vegetarian food and have not purchased or used meat in cooking since last August. However, it can be super hard to cut out entirely and I know personally I’d miss a lot of my favourite foods if I did that. So, what I do is when I eat out, if I want something with meat in it, I’ll get it. Yeah, people kind of tease me about being a “bad” vegetarian, but overall my meat consumption is down probably 95% from where it was last year, which is still better than nothing.
  2. Try being vegetarian just one day a week! It can help you transition into a more heavily plant-based diet, but even cutting out meat products for one day can still have a huge impact on the environment and the meat industry.
  3. If you still want to eat meat every day of the week, try to buy your products locally or from small farms. Huge mass-meat factories are nasty for so many reasons outside of the damage they do to the environment, so you’ll be doing yourself a favour anyways.
Step Four: Repurpose Old Items
David’s Tea Tins and Candle Holder

Okay, one last tip for you guys. Something I love doing is reusing old items and making them new. If I ever get a product in packaging I love, I find a way to make use of it and eliminate the need to purchase a product that would have done the same job! My favourite two examples, pictured above, are my David’s Tea tins and old candles. The tiny golden tins David’s Tea packages individual tea samples in I found to be perfect for containing items such as earrings, necklaces, paper clips and elastics in a tidy and safe way. As for candles, I really love candles and have gone through enough of them in my life to repurpose them for just about anything — here you can see them holding my cotton swabs for when I mess up my makeup, but they also make great makeup brush/product holders, pen holders, containers for cotton balls/pads and more! It’s really up to you how you repurpose old products and make them new. But ultimately it’s a small but great way to help reduce a little waste, save a little money and dare I say have a little fun with decorating!

So, that’s it from me for now! I hope you all can find at least one tip in here to help you cut down on your daily waste, even if just a little bit. Cutting down on waste isn’t easy and is certainly not something you can change entirely overnight, but trying out a few of these hacks will hopefully help change your lifestyle a bit to help save our planet!

Love y’all,

Meredith