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What Does One Year In Southeast Asia Cost?

What Does It Cost To Travel In Southeast Asia? Robyn Around the World

One question that always gets asked is how much does it cost to travel the world? In this post, I’m going to break down my second year of travel expenses.

I separated out flights, and scuba costs then broke the rest down into three categories: Meals, Accommodation, and Miscellaneous.

Miscellaneous includes shopping, entertainment, postcards, gifts, SIM cards, etc. I didn’t want to get too detailed for here and besides the most important is food and accommodation anyway, right? 😉 I also rented motorbikes in almost all countries which averaged ~$3/day.

Year 2 Total Travel Cost

I visited nine countries during my second year: Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Cambodia, Myanmar, Philippines, with the last 6 being new countries for me. I spent a total of $22,165 of which $5,671 was dedicated to getting Scuba Gear and my Divemaster and Instructor Certifications. Not bad for adding over 100 dives to my belt and now I can teach others my passion.


VIETNAM


I spent most of my year here and was by far the cheapest place to live and play. I also had three months of free accommodation while working at the dive shop, so that accounts for a good chunk of it, but the food is very cheap too, with my morning Bahn Mi costing only $0.50!  I also took a 3-day cruise and did a 7-day motorcycle tour through the mountains, which was another expense, which I added on separately.


MALAYSIA 


The second place I spent my most time in. A lot of my ‘other’ expenses went towards swimming suits and electronics. My iPhone died on me for a second time. It was cheaper to buy a new Samsung rather than fix it again, so I’m now part of the Android family (and I miss my iPhone desperately!) I also bought a new external drive as the 1TB I brought with me is full!


THAILAND


Thailand is generally pretty cheap.  My main ‘other’ expenses went to renewing my passport, gifts for family and private swim lessons to prepare for the Divemaster swim tests. I know how to do a front crawl properly! ☺  I also went a little crazy on eating western here. I found a salad place and ate there almost every day. I really craved green salads, which are not easy to come by in Southeast Asia.


INDONESIA 


I love Indonesia; it’s cheap to eat and get around. Having the villa in Ubud, I made good use of the kitchen and cooked every day. More expensive than eating out, but I love cooking and made use of all my cooking classes I’ve taken.


PHILIPPINES


Surprisingly, Phillippines was not as cheap as I was expecting. The accommodation was cheap, I averaged $7/night for a place, but I did splurge on a beautiful Airbnb condo over the water for my birthday, which accounted for more than ½ of my total accommodation cost. Transportation was really expensive. I took the bus for half the time and the other I used taxis where I was able to negotiate 3-5 hour rides for $30-40.


SRI LANKA


My daily rate was high here at ~$62/day, but I spent three nights in a 4-star hotel after my incident at the guesthouse I was staying. I also couldn’t get enough of their famous pepper crab in Colombo and ate there twice!


MALDIVES 


My cheapest country only because my mom met me there and footed the bill (Thanks, Mom!) But my flight from Kuala Lumpur direct to Male was only $75! Super cheap to get there, expensive while you’re there. We averaged ~$200/day each for room and food.


CAMBODIA 


The most expensive country I visited! I traveled with a friend and ate at mainly restaurants for this trip, which brought my meal average up. If you stick to street food, you can eat for less than $10 a day. The temples are also not cheap to enter, but worth every penny.


MYANMAR 


I spent the shortest amount of time here and really wish I could have spent a month here. I absolutely fell in love with this country. Accommodation and food are cheap. The biggest expenses I had were the entrance fees to see the temples and the visa.


SCUBA DIVING


A quarter of my expenses from the year was on Scuba Diving this year getting gear and my PRO certifications. This is an investment I was happy to make. I also got in over 100 dives in 6 countries! A small price to pay, I think!


FLIGHTS


I got my first free flight! I accumulated enough airline points through AirAsia to get a flight from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok. I love AirAsia and their cheap flights! All my flights were under $100, with most being under $50. I should buy stock in AirAisa 😉

 




Scuba Diving In Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Ah diving in Phu Quoc… When I came to work at a dive shop here, the manager warned me that it wasn’t world class diving. Coming from diving in Komodo National Park for six weeks, I was spoiled with large fish and healthy, colorful reefs. I did some research and found out it would be all shallow diving, and the visibility would be next to nothing, 6 meters on a good day.

To me, any day underwater is a good day, so I decided to take a chance and come to Phu Quoc to dive for four months.

First impressions: The diving wasn’t as bad as I thought it would be. The reef is nice, but there is bleaching happening here as there is all over the world. The water temperature is 29-30C (84-86F). The reef is shallow, most of the dive will be at 5 meters, but the reef fish are beautiful. You will see everything from small schools of fusilier and sergeant majors, nudibranch, giant hermit crabs, and even cuttlefish.

Unfortunately, there is nothing big in the water. No sharks or turtles to be seen. Phu Quoc is not marine protected, so it is way overfished. The locals only care about their next meal and not the environment. I often see locals spearfishing while I’m diving here and am constantly cutting out marine life from fishing lines and nets.

If you’re looking to get out and get wet for a day, it’s a beautiful day out. But if you’re expecting world class diving you’re going to be sorely disappointed.


PHU QUOC DIVING IN THE NORTH


Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Turtle Island

Turtle Island is by far my favorite place to dive. We usually dive on the north side for our first dive then move the boat to the south side for our second dive. Both are very different dives. The north side has nice baummies that you can swim around. The south side looks like a Smurf village where you can find anemone gardens and whip coral.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Nail Island

Unfortunately, as of November 2016, this dive site is destroyed. Construction commenced to build a private hut on the island and with that builders destroyed the coral in the process. The visibility here has been 1-2 meters at best since with broken coral everywhere.

Nudibranch Garden

This shallow reef goes on for days. Sheltered from the wind, Nudibranch Garden is a great option to dive when Turtle Island has rough surface current.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

 


PHU QUOC DIVING IN THE SOUTH


MPA (Marine Protected Area)

Despite the name of the dive site, the area is not marine protected. It does have some fun boulders to follow along and the topography is different than Turtle Island, but it’s still shallow diving. You may hit 12 meters while you’re here, but the bulk of your diving will be between 6-8 meters.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

Pineapple

Another popular site in the south, this L-shaped dive site is easy to navigate and is full of hard and soft coral. Again maximum depth you will get to here is about 12 meters.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World

U-Turn

This popular dive site is a sheltered area from the wind where you can have fun navigating through all the hard and soft coral and if you’re lucky to see the occasional cuttlefish.

Scuba Diving in Phu Quoc: The North Versus The South - Robyn Around the World


PHU QUOC DIVING: NORTH VERSUS SOUTH


Many people that come here thinking the South diving is the best diving because I believe Lonely Planet did a blurb on diving in Phu Quoc and made the South out to be great diving in Phu Quoc. It’s not; it’s the same as the North.

Personally, having spent three months diving here almost every day, I much prefer the North to the South and here’s why. The visibility has always been much better in the North than the South. I’m talking 2-4 meters in the South versus 6-8 meters in the North.

Yes, it’s true you can get deeper in the South. You can get to 30 meters of seeing all the sand you want. In reality, you will be at 8-12 meters for most of your dive in the South. Unless you’re doing an advanced deep dive course where you have to get to a place deeper than 18.1 meters, but you won’t see anything that deep except for a sandy bottom.

So is 12 meters better than 6 meters? Not in my opinion. The topography is a little different than the North, but neither is better than the other. It just takes longer to get South, 3 hours versus 1.5 hours to get to the North.

Still determined to dive in the South? The best time of year to dive the South is June through October. Want to dive the North? November through May is the best time to dive.




Exploring Phu Quoc, Vietnam

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island off the southwest end and lies right on the border of Cambodia. This island is soon to become a cruise port destination, so life on Phu Quoc is changing at this moment.

I’ve been on the island for two months, and there’s already the cruise harbor is in the process of being built, roads are in the process of being redone, and large hotel chains and condos are going up quickly. Right now is a great time to go to see what Phu Quoc island life is like before it turns into a major tourist hub.

You see many tourist vacationers here rather than backpackers. Many people come to relax on the beautiful resort beaches and take in the slow life of the Vietnamese islanders. Despite it being a small island there are quite a few activities to enjoy. Here are five things to see and do in Phu Quoc.


PHU QUOC BEE FARM


Did you know that bee’s pollinate 85% of all plants in the world? One-third of all the food we eat come from a bee-pollinated plant. If the bee’s die, then there will be no pollination. Without bees, there will be no fruits or vegetables. Take that all in. This place is doing a great job educating the locals and tourists alike about the importance of bees.

They have a small café that serves drinks, sweetened with honey, of course. There’s also a banana fritter to munch on served with cinnamon honey which is a tasty combination.

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World


PHU QUOC NIGHT MARKET


No Southeast Asia city would be complete without a market, let alone a night market. Here you have your choice of many restaurants serving seafood, hot pot style. Hot pot is a big bowl of broth where you will cook your fish and vegetables then serve it in small bowls over rice noodles.

The small two-road market sells everything from souvenirs to ice cream. The only thing you won’t find here is a massage, which is very not Southeast Asia. Still, it’s a fun night out on the town and should be experienced while you’re here.

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World


FLOATING RESTAURANTS


This fishing village at the top of the island can be reached best by motorbike. Out at the end of the piers are many floating restaurants where you can have your pick of seafood or chicken barbecued for lunch or dinner.

Next to each restaurant are nets containing all the fish they offer. Watch your fish being ‘caught’ and cooked right in front of you.

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World


VINPEARL LAND & SAFARI


Vinpearl is Vietnam’s version of Disneyland. This park includes a wild safari & zoo, full waterpark, aquarium with mermaid show, and amusement park all wrapped up in one.

Make sure you block out a whole day as you’re going to need it to do everything. I suggest starting with the safari when it opens at 9 am. You’ll be greeted with African dancers welcoming you into the park, then head over to the waterpark after you’re done to keep cool in Vietnam’s heat.

End your day enjoying the rest of the park, which includes fun rides and a magic fountain water show.

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World


PHU QUOC HARBOR


Head down to the harbor to see all the fishing boats and snorkel boats head out for the day. Walk over the bridge to see them parked up in rows. At night watch as the squid, boats go out. They are the ones with the big light bulbs on the top deck that are used to attract the squid at night.

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World

Top 5 Things To Do In Phu Quoc - Robyn Around the World




Vietnam: A Photo Essay



Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell


VIETNAM: A PHOTO ESSAY


Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

I started my trip in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) and motorcycled up the Ho Chi Minh Trail. In order to get to the trail, you need to cross a river on a small boat made for a few motorbikes and foot passengers.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Did you know rubber grew on trees???? They do and there’s a neat process with how they extract the sap from the trees. They make cuts into them then collect the sap in tins and let harden before sending to manufacturing to make your rubber bands.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Riding along the Ho Chi Minh Trail I stopped at a bridge that was bombed in 1972. This bridge was an important route to transport goods during the Vietnam War. It was never reconstructed.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Motorbiking through Central Highlands, I was able to interact with many of the farmers, including stopping at a cashew plantation.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

The women peel cashews one by one, then transfer them to another room where they’re sorted and get prepped for packaging.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Vietnam has beautiful waterfalls and lakes. One of the days, I stopped at fairy pool which is a natural spring pool. The one in blue, was so refreshing to swim in after a steep climb down.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Dray Nu Falls is called the Niagara Falls of Vietnam. Attracted by locals and tourists alike, is a popular spot for selfies and weddings.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Peppercorns are one of the many crops grown in Vietnam. They harvest the plants once a year.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Vinh Son Orphanage in Kum Tum is an organization that helps children find homes. There are 200 children there ranging from one to eighteen years old. They are funded by donations and a few organizations, including HALO (Helping And Loving Orphans) from my hometown of Seattle.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Getting across rivers in the mountain region one has to cross these wobbly bridges made for motorbikes and foot traffic. Yes, I crossed this, slowly with my feet out!

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Riding through Central Highlands is just gorgeous! The green rolling hills are beautiful and go for days. It’s also much cooler in the mountains than it is in the city. Was so nice to get away from the traffic and experience the mountains for a week.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

The people in the hills are very friendly. They don’t see too many foreigners in these parts so are very welcoming and love to talk and share their home with you.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

I had a chance to see some kids in a small village. These children are refugees from Laos. Their families are supported by the Vietnam government and goto school for free.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

There are pineapple farms everywhere! These small, palm sized pineapples are sweet and taste great dipped in chili salt to bring out the sweet flavor. Try it!

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Rice paper is a staple at most meals and if it’s not rice paper, it’s rice noodles. I had the chance to see how they are made. There’s 40 different kinds!

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

After riding through Central Highlands, I stopped in Hoi An for a week to relax and enjoy this quaint town.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Women wait for customers to take a ride on the small river through Hoi An.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Central Market is where it’s at! Fruits, vegetables, souvenirs, street food, you’ll find it all here open early morning to late evening.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

A lady selling her goods at Central Market.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

After Hoi An, I flew up to Hanoi where the traffic is just as ridiculous as Saigon. Pedal bikes and motorbikes share the same road.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Long Bien bridge is the only bridge in Vietnam where cars aren’t allowed and motorbikes drive on the right side of the road.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

There is also a running train that uses the bridge to cross daily.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

You will find street vendors on nearly every corner selling goods or food. They even provide stools for you to sit on while you eat.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

And if they’re not selling goods, they’re sitting on the street catching up with friends and taking in the view around them.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Some vendors are mobile and will walk around with their goods on their shoulder, stopping for customers along their path.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Some vendors sell goods from their bicycle and park on the side of a road so that motorbikes can pull up and grab items to go.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Another happy vendor in Vietnam, selling fresh coconut water.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

I took a day to go visit Ninh Binh where my tour stopped at a temple and this guy was dressed up in traditional clothing for the tourists to take pictures. Not one for organized tours, but I do love this picture!
Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell
I took a ride down Ngo Dac River and all the boat women row the boats with their feet!

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

The view riding down Ngo Dac River. They call this river Halong Bay on land.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Riding through trees and greenery.
Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell
Halfway through the ride we stopped at a floating market, where vendors sell good from their boat.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Riding through the limestone caves on Ngo Duc River.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Many locals live on the river and do boat rides as their job.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

This looks like an abandoned train track, but it’s not. A train runs through here twice a day. The locals are used to the train coming through and sometimes position their bikes only inches from the train when it passes through.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Passing through Halong Bay on my way to Bai Tu Long Bay by junk (boat) I saw many fish boats, which I learned and soon saw there is a community of fishing villages in these bays.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

One of the fisherman out for the day.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

I took a 3-day cruise through Bai Tu Long Bay and had the chance to kayak to a private beach and have a BBQ lunch.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

This was my junk. The sails are distinctive of all Vietnam’s junks. Bai Tu Long Bay is only visted by 5% of tourists because they only allow a limited amount of boats to have permits.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Sunset in Bai Tu Long Bay.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

These boat men and women live in the fishing village and give rides to anyone who wants to see their village up close.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

A happy boatman.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

The garbage man. He rides around all day and picks up trash from the bay to keep it clean.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

A woman from the fishing village rides on man-made raft to get her around.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

Locals from the fishing village live on their boat or in floating homes.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

The sails on a junk are raised when there’s a wedding. The family gives the new couple a boat as their wedding gift.

Vietnam - A Photo Essay by Robyn Hartzell

A great way to end 23 days in Vietnam was to cruise Bai Tu Long Bay. If you’re thinking of doing a cruise, I highly recommend it, but get there soon. Vietnam is closing all overnight cruises in both Halong Bay and Bai Tu Long Bay in 2020.

 


3 Day Cruise in Bai Tu Long Bay



Bai Tu Long Bay - 3-Day Cruise

Halong Bay is famous for its majestic pillars and the beautiful bay filled with junks (boats) with gorgeous sails. The littler known is Bai Tu Long Bay – meaning little dragon – only allows a certain amount of cruises to enter this magical area. When choosing between the two, it was a no-brainer to visit the Bay less traveled. Only 5% of tourists get to go here, and you can tell. While I was out there, I only saw another boat or two during the whole cruise. I did a 3-day cruise, and it was a nice way to end my trip in Vietnam.

There are many cruise boats to choose from, 50 cabins, 25 cabins, four cabins, and private boat. I joined the quiet four cabin with Indochina Junk, and it was every bit of luxury that you would expect from a small boat tour.

CRUISING BAI TU LONG BAY


DAY 1


We boarded our junk and had a brief on the main deck and met the other five passengers. After our briefing, we were escorted to our cabins, which had a huge bed and two big windows looking out into the bay. If there weren’t so many tours and stopped planned, I could have stayed in the room the whole trip! After having lunch which was 6-courses, we went for a kayak around the bay for an hour or so then came back in for a swim. I was jumping off the boat doing cannonballs into the water, hoping not to land on a Portuguese Man-of-war! No joke. They are everywhere in the bay, and they’re huge. No worry, though, we had the captain and our guide looking out for them to warn us and they are so big and swim right at the surface you can’t miss them! After a shower and quick rest, it was onto dinner which was 8 or 9 courses; I lost count!. We retired to our cabin letting the water rock us to sleep.

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World


DAY 2


After breakfast, we headed out in our kayaks again to paddle around through caves and coves for a couple of hours. We parked the kayaks on a private beach to relax for the day and had a seafood BBQ cooked for us right on the beach. After the beach, we cruised around for a bit then stopped at a cave where some of the fishermen used to live until the cruise company bought them out to use on their tour. It’s also where the bigger boats make their private dinner. They said in turn for taking over the land from the fishermen they built them houses on stilts and supply them with rice and water weekly. Still not sure how I feel about them kicking multiple families out for tourism, but I guess the fishermen got an upgrade in the end. Our captain also put the sails up while we were in the cave so we could get some pictures of the junk with the sails up. After relaxing for a bit, we had our last dinner and the captain and crew all got involved. The chef cooked a shrimp dish in front of us, only using hot stones, and after each course, the team would bring out a fruit carving with each one getting better and bigger! At the end, the captain and crew came out to serenade us. A great ending to a fantastic day.

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World


DAY 3


On our last day, we took a boat out to the fishing village and learned about how they live. Many live on their boat their whole life and some live in small homes on the water, but none is better than the other. They are an established community which looks after one another. If one had a good fishing day, they would share their wealth with the rest of the village. We also learned the children get married pretty young 15-16 years old and when they get married the parents give them a boat (without engine) to start their life together and live on that boat the rest of their life and build their family on the ship. One form of income from the fishing village comes from the pearl farm, where they harvest and export most of their pearls to China. They, of course, have a store for the tourists to buy if they find something they like. After the tour, it was back to the boat for lunch and to head back to the bay. Although it was a short 3-days, it was fun, relaxing, along with being educating about how some of the Vietnamese live. I’m glad I got to experience it.

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

Cruise Bai Tu Long Bay and Halong Bay - Robyn Around the World

If you are thinking about doing a cruise in either Halong Bay or Bai Tu Long Bay, do it sooner than later. Our guide let us know the government will be shutting down all overnight cruises to both bays by 2020 and will only allow boats to go out for day tours.


Gioan Cooking School – Cooking Vietnamese!



Cooking Vietnamese - Gioan Cooking Class

If you haven’t guessed yet, I love cooking and am obsessed with taking classes in each country I visit. Out of all the classes I’ve taken, I was super excited to get to Vietnam and learn how to make Pho and one of my favorite dishes Banh Xeo. There’s something about Vietnamese food that has that comfort food quality to it, along with being so flavorful. I loved all the dishes I ate in Vietnam, they were light, not heavy and filling. I won’t have a place with a kitchen for a while, but I’m excited to cook these dishes when I get to a place that does!


MARKET TOUR


Like most cooking classes in Southeast Asia, our morning started with a market tour to learn about the produce and pick up ingredients for the class. Most of the vegetables that I’ve seen in Southeast Asia were the same, but Vietnam has this whole section of herbs that they use as a topping for their soups and dishes. Herbs they use in most recipes are lemon basil, hung mint, rice patty, wild betel, bitter herb, and coriander. These are usually served on the side for you to add as much or as little as you like to your dish.

Cooking Vietnamese - Gioan Cooking Class

Cooking Vietnamese - Gioan Cooking Class


COOKING VIETNAMESE


There are many places offering cooking classes. We decided to do a class in Hoi An and picked Gioan Cooking school because of the private classes. It was just the two of us, and we were able to pick the time and which four dishes we wanted to learn. Our teacher, Vina, has been with the school for eight years and was very entertaining singing American pop songs throughout the class. The four dishes we picked to learn how to make were:

Pho – Noodle Soup with beef
Banh Xeo – Pancake with shrimp and pork
Fresh Spring Rolls – Vegetables, shrimp, and pork wrapped in rice paper
Clay-Pot – Pork marinated and cooked in a thick savory sauce

Cooking Vietnamese - Gioan Cooking Class

The kitchen had a typical gas stove for cooking and utensils you would find in your western home. We used a large frying pan to make the pancake and sauce pot to make the Pho. I liked how simple everything was to make. The spices they use is what give Vietnamese food their tasty flavor. All of their flavors come from using fresh herbs.

Cooking Vietnamese - Gioan Cooking Class

Cooking Vietnamese - Gioan Cooking Class

After taking this class, Banh Xeo is still my favorite dish! I love that the pancake is light and crispy. Not to mention its fun to take rice paper and herbs to wrap the pancake up. Dip it in chili sauce and this dish is a tasty treat as an appetizer or main meal. I can’t wait to make this recipe on my own!

Cooking Vietnamese - Gioan Cooking Class

Cooking Vietnamese - Gioan Cooking Class


15 Must Eat Street Eats In Vietnam



Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!

Vietnam quickly topped my charts of best eats in Southeast Asia with their amazing noodle dishes! Every dish they make has a variety of rice noodle/paper in it. Even served on the side with many of the dishes. Here are 15 must-try street eats in Vietnam!


PHO


You can’t go to Vietnam without getting Pho! I took a cooking class and learned how to make this simple yet yummy dish! It’s a basic rice noodle soup with your choice of protein in a beef broth, served with a side of herbs and chili to create your own flavor.

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


BAHN MI


Another staple of Vietnam, they eat these for breakfast or lunch. Breakfast the roll is served with eggs and vegetables on the side to create your own breakfast hoagie. Lunch is where it’s at, though! These warm rolls were stuffed with pate, vegetables and meat then chili and mayonnaise are drizzled on top. The best place I had one was at Queen Bahn Mi in Hoi An!

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


BAHN XEO


I loved this dish! It’s a super thin rice flour pancake stuffed with pork, shrimp and bean sprouts. It’s cooked to crispy then served with rice paper, herbs, and chili sauce. To eat you take a piece of rice paper and add a bit of the pancake with herbs, roll and dip in chili sauce. Delicious!

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


BAHN BO – WHITE ROSE


This simple snack is made of rice paper stuffed with minced pork and made into the shape of a rose and boiled then topped with fried shallots. It reminds me of a wonton, but with more flavor.

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


BUN CHA


Bun Cha is what Obama ate with Anthony Bourdain when they were in Vietnam together. This dish is famous in Hanoi, but you can also find it in Saigon. A bowl of both grilled pork patties and sliced pork is served alongside a plate of rice noodles, herbs, garlic, and chili. The pork is very tender and slightly sweet, but adding it to the noodles with all the other condiments you can create your own flavor and make it more savory. Bun Cha my second favorite dish in Vietnam and I ate at the same place that Obama and Bourdain ate Bun Cha.

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


BUN BO


This party in a bowl starts with rice vermicelli then is topped with lettuce, carrots, bean sprouts, beef slices, peanuts, grilled onions and green onions. Oh, wait there’s more! Who wants a fried pork spring roll to go on top? Yes, please!

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


BUN KHOT


Mini, bite-sized pancakes are made in a pan that looks like a mini cupcake tin. The batter is placed into each then stuffed with scallions and a single shrimp. The top is covered to both steam and cook the pancake which is then served with leafy greens on the side to wrap them up and pop in your mouth.

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!

 


BUN MAM


Found in Hanoi this fermented fish soup, yes you read correctly, is pretty darn tasty! It reminds me a bit of gumbo with its mixture of eggplant, pork belly, shrimp, and chunks of fish. This thick, hearty, spicy broth is served over rice vermicelli with a side of herbs, not that it needs anything else!

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


BO LA LOT


Pork fatty goodness! This little roll of fun starts with a minced pork mixture then is wrapped up in wild leaves before deep fried and served either plain or topped with tomato sauce. Both ways melt in your mouth.

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


CAO LAU


Only served in Hoi An, this traditional dish is known for it’s Cao Lau noodles and is made by one family in Hoi An. They are warmed in a bowl then topped with herbs, pork slices and fried pork skin with a little bit of pork juice poured over top. The best Cao Lau I tasted is at Central Market.

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


CHA CA


This fun dish is fish sautéed with a healthy portion of scallions and dill cooked in a pan on your table by your server. Once cooked you create a small bowl with rice noodles, cilantro, peanuts, fish sauce and the fish mix. This would be a really fun night out with friends! I made friends with the family at the table next to me and winded up doing whiskey shots with them!

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


CLAYPOT


As the name suggests, is vegetables or meat simmered on the stovetop in a clay pot. The broth is simmered with the main ingredient until it dissolves into a thick broth then served over rice.

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


MI QUANG


Another noodle dish that starts with lettuce at the bottom of the bowl then topped with thick rice noodles, marinated pork slices, peanuts, grilled onions and a quail egg. Mi Quang another staple in Hoi An.

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


CAFÉ TRUNG – EGG COFFEE


This sugary treat is thick and tastes like a sugar stick. It’s Vietnamese drip coffee topped with eggs whipped with a healthy portion of sugar. It’s so thick you drink eat your coffee with a spoon.

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


FRESH SPRING ROLL


Another staple of Vietnam is the fresh spring roll. Rice paper wrapped with vegetables, rice noodles, and pork then decorated with shrimp slices in the final fold. So fresh and served with a side of chili sauce for dipping.

Vietnam Street Food - 15 Must Eat Street Eats!


Motorcycling Through Vietnam – Saigon To Hoi An



Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

One of my bucket list items is to motorbike through Vietnam. I made it a reality when I was there and booked a tour through Original Easy Riders for seven days, starting in Saigon and ending in Hoi An. My guide, Bin, asked if I wanted a scooter or a motorcycle, but stressed the motorcycle would be more comfortable for the long journey. So there I was day one on a Saigon sidewalk, getting a 5-minute lesson on how to work a fully manual motorcycle before getting thrown into Saigon traffic. Now if any of you have been to Vietnam and their two major cities know the traffic is ridiculous. I wasn’t worried because I’ve been riding bikes for the past 17 months throughout SEA, but still, this traffic is no joke. I learned just to go with the flow and ignore the horns honking Every. Single. Second. Bin helped me pack up my backpack on the back of my bike and off we went!


DAY 1 – SAIGON TO DONG XOAI (210 KM)


Starting from my hotel in Saigon, it takes us about 30 minutes to get out of town, which is pretty congested, but I did fine, and no stalls! Our 1st stop was Chu Chi tunnels where the military and families hid out during the Vietnam war. We walked through one of the tunnels, which is not for the claustrophobic! After, we took a small boat to cross a lake to the Ho Chi Minh trail. After we had exited the ferry, we stopped to see Thanh Hoa Bridge on the Song Ma River which was used to carry supplies across the river during the war.  It was bombed in 1972 and the remnants are still there today. After we jumped back on the trail and headed to Dong Xoai for the night. The ride through the countryside is beautiful! It was nice to get away from the city and ride through the gorgeous green!

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World
Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 2 – DONG XOAI TO DAKMIL (200 KM)


Our second day was all about seeing how the locals in the countryside live. Our first stop was at a cashew plantation. I love cashews, but I did not know how labor intensive they are! The ladies (yes all women) were peeling them one by one. Once peeled, they get transferred to another room where women and children sort them into three categories: good, broken parts, and bad. Now I know why they’re so expensive! So crazy! Next stop was to see rubber trees. Yes, trees that produce your rubber bands. Did you know? I certainly didn’t! I thought rubber was manufactured by chemicals. It actually comes from trees and is Vietnams #3 export, coffee being #1 and cashews being #2. It was fun to see the process of how they cut into the tree, then watch the sap drip and harden into elastic. Our final stop of the day was at a local farmers house where they grow peanuts. The family gave us fruit to eat and were happy to talk with us about their farm and how they grow the peanuts. The locals are all so friendly and welcoming out in the country. They don’t get many foreigners out in these areas.

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 3 – DAKMIL TO DAK LAK (150 KM)


We visited two waterfalls this day. The first was fairy pool, after a small hike down to the bottom we had a pool of blue water and small falls to swim in all to ourselves. We stayed for maybe an hour then went off to visit Dray Nu Falls. They call this the Niagara Falls of Vietnam. This big beautiful waterfall is where many locals come to take pictures. There was even a wedding photo shoot going on when we were there.

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 4 – DAK LAK TO PLEIKU (170 KM)


Visiting Vietnam during monsoon season brings rain on and off all day. This day, it decided to rain all day long. I was comfortable wrapped up in my poncho and had a full-face guard on my helmet. We stopped at three places this day. First stop was a coffee village, where they have a museum of all the coffee presses and bean holders. We also stopped to see and eat tapioca plants and another stop to see how peppercorn is grown. We ended at a resort in Pleiku and stayed in cute little bungalows overlooking a lake.

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 5 – PLEIKU TO KON TUM (110 KM)


Today we visited was a park where there was a temple, a crocodile farm, pigs and deer. We fed the pigs and deer then went off in search of some coloring books to bring with us to Vinh Son Orphanage in Kon Tum. We sat in on a class of girls aged 11-12 who were learning English. They all looked happy and well dressed. They have a few sponsors including HALO from my hometown of Seattle!

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

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Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 6 – KON TUM TO KHAM DUC (120 KM)


Easy ride day! We drove through the mountains stopping at random waterfalls off the highway and to walk on ‘monkey bridge’ which is just a super wobbly bridge. These bridges, I could come to find out, are all over the countryside for motorbikes to ride on.

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


DAY 7 – KHAM DUC TO HOI AN (110 KM)


Our last day was jammed pack stopping at a pineapple farm where we ate eat small pineapples dipped in chili salt. We crossed one of the wobbly bridges on the bikes to visit a small village of Laos refugees and played with the kids. Our last stop before we finished in Hoi An was at a rice paper manufacture where we learned how they make rice paper. The vietnamese use either rice paper or rice noodles at every meal.

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World


SEE MY 7 DAYS THROUGH SNAPCHAT


I’ve been snapping almost daily! Come see my adventures over on snapchat!

Motorbiking through Vietnam with Easy Riders - Robyn Around the World

Snapchat video of my 7-day motorbike ride through Vietnam

 


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