Category Archives: Solo travel

An invitation to Vietnam

 

During my contract in Asia on my ship it was exciting to be given the chance to take tours in new countries and see things that were brand new to me. We docked in Da Nang, Vietnam which was about thirty minutes from the popular tourist areas along the beach. All I knew was that I was finally going to eat something out of my own comforts of pho.

Getting out of Da Nang

En route to Hoi An for some free time in the town and lunch at one of the best Vietnamese restaurants I really didn’t know what to expect. Before reaching Hoi An we stopped in the outskirts for a small town walk visiting a temple and a local neighborhood. Following my group from the back of the line I just soaked up everything. How people live. What their houses look like. What people wore. Listening to their language. We reached a huge space of what seemed to be rice paddies. Well this view was not so foreign to me because I once lived in the countryside of Korea and this was all that I saw!

Hoi An
Finally reaching Hoi An my mind was playing tricks on me. Wait, was I back in Bali again? Am I in Ubud? As both Hoi An and Ubud appeared to have many similarities I knew that I was in Vietnam. Hoi An reminded me so much of the heart of Bali; Ubud. With small art shops, beautiful pottery shops, locally made arts and crafts, colorful and exotic fruits on the side streets, small local venders cooking up noodles and dumplings I felt like a spell was put on me. I was truly in love all over again. With exquisite colors of fabrics, paintings, lanterns flowing down the street I felt helplessly in love. There was no turning back at this point. I was completely, magically, and helplessly in love with Hoi An. Walking past me was an older woman carrying large fruit baskets hooked onto a long rod that she held over her shoulder. Colorful dragon fruits, snake fruits, and star fruits jiggled in the basket as she walked past me. Lunch time was around the corner.

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As I thought that Pho and spring rolls filled with shrimps and basil were all that Vietnamese cuisine was all about, I was completely wrong.

Reaching our restaurant the chefs were preparing the dumplings, soups, and fresh salads in the entrance. As I made a special request for a vegetarian meal I was hesitant what I was going to be fed. As the other guests in my tour had the same meal I was the special case and I was hoping that I would get just as delicious food as them. Soon, warm dumplings filled with veggies and shrimp with a dipping sauce was placed in front of me. It looked too beautiful to eat at first then I slowly took my first bite. Then a big bowl of soup that looked like a combo of curry and pho was delicately placed on my table. Have you ever eaten a meal so delicious, ingredients so fresh, that you almost feel sad to finish your food? Each bite I took was small as I soaked in all of the flavors from this soup. I was sad to see it go.

 

Love at first sight

When I fall in love with a place sometimes I fall in love with every bit. The cafes, the people, the smells, the sights, the pace, and the nature. This happened to me once when I visited Bali and now I was experiencing falling in love immediately with Hoi An. Why? Because there is no place quite like it that I have ever been to. Korea doesn’t look like Hoi An. Singapore doesn’t have a small town like this that offers you everything to fall in love with.

I found Hoi An an enchanting town with the river that flows through the city with small fishing boats locals sail on and the yellow and red lanterns that line the town. The little touches the locals put into your experience. With my last thirty minutes of free time I sat and enjoyed what was the largest and most delicious coconut I ever drank out of. With that came a full bladder where I had to find a bathroom immediately for the bus ride back.

Hoi An is a place that made me fall for it all. It’s a place that I always recommend. It’s a place that when I think of it, it brings me peace and a smile on my face. There was so much solitude and joy I experienced by walking around just on my own, just as I like to. There is something to be said about places that immediately make you feel like you’re invited even though you never received an invitation. I think that is called grace.

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Have you ever traveled to a place that you fell in love with at first sight? I’d love to know. Share your comments below to get this conversation started!

The Island of Gods

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Bali was always place that I wanted to visit after reading Eat, Pray, Love (like three times). I can remember laying on my hammock and dreaming about getting lost in Bali. Eating lots of exotic fruits, making local friends, and thinking that my life would fall into place after discovering myself. I wasn’t drawn to Bali because I was recently divorced or experiencing a critical heartbreak in my life but my own curiosity was leading me to a place where I could disconnect and set my own pace for what I wanted to do. A calling in my life was leading me to The Island of Gods.

It was December of 2010 and I was sitting in front of my heating fan in Korea freezing like I was in the tundra. I had just purchased my flight to Denpasar and could not have felt more thrilled. I got down on my yoga mat in child’s pose with Balinese gamelan tunes softly playing in the background and was over the moon for my adventure to come.

Escaping the frigid conditions in Seoul I was on my flight to Denpasar, confident and in control of my second solo trip. My first impressions of Bali started in Sanur is a quiet homestay near the sea. A typical breakfast of fresh fruits, banana pancakes, and coffee next to the sea were waiting for me. I was in Bali.

A typical Balinese breakfast

Peace, solitude, and acceptance wrap up my understanding of how I felt about Bali based on my immersion in the little gem of Ubud. Morning yoga at run rise at the yoga barn,fresh fruits at the Ubud Market, and setting the trip at my own pace are what resonate with me when I reflect on my Balinese adventure. It was this trip that set my spark on fire to begin traveling alone and continuing on that journey around Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, and Hong Kong.

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A five course Balinese cooking class in Ubud

Going solo

Did you know that Bali is one of the top solo destinations in the world? For the curious solo travelers, Bali is a unique destination that I always recommend. Why? Because it is so easy to navigate your way around this small enough island with more than enough to do in a one week getaway. With plenty of homestays on the island you can have your own room with breakfast included (banana pancakes, fresh fruit, and coffee). Your homestay host can help you plan day tours and outings with the help of a local guide. In my case the homestay hosts were very helpful when helping me plan.

img_9190Don’t miss Ubud

The heart of Bali, Ubud, is a peaceful playground that attracts the kind of people who practice yoga, create and practice artist, and those who are curious enough to leave the popular sites like surfing spot Kuta Beach behind to discover a layer of Bali that you cannot experience in an expat playground such as Kuta.

Of course if you read Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love then you must be familiar with Ubud. Located in the center of the island surrounded by rice field terraces, lovely nature paths, monkey forest, and pleasurable dining venues and cafes this place has plenty of offer. You can’t miss Monkey Forest Road, a long strip with local shops, artists, bistros, and cafes. For those in wanderlust mode you won’t fall short of pleasurable things to enjoy, even if that means enjoying smoothie overlooking the rice fields.

Ubud is where I spent most of my time on the island. After settling in my first night there I realized that I wanted to slow down and explore as much as I could on foot and through some eco-tours. I didn’t want to run my self down touring the whole island with a short amount of time. Ubud will always hold a place in my heart.

 

Ubud, Bali
At a very beautiful temple near Ubud

The sunrise is one of the coolest sights that you can’t miss to get your day started in Ubud. I took an early morning yoga class at the Yoga Barn where our class overlooked the rice paddies at the sun rose over the treetops. Stretching and holding positions in silence at the Yoga Barn taught me to slow down and stay in the moment. It was truly mesmerizing. The beauty of this experience is one that I will always treasure.

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Why I would go back to Bali

Bali is so dear to me because it’s the first place that I traveled to alone where I felt at home. I felt at peace navigating my way around while I was in  search of beautiful spots to soak in. Away from the main drag of where expats like to hang out in and around Monkey Forest Road I always found myself on a long stretch of paths that led me to beautiful sunsets where I completely took in my surroundings of exotic flora, locals selling colorful fruit and it was here where I felt so lucky to witness what I had thought of the landscapes, a painting. For the curious traveler I hope that you day you too take home a piece of Bali for yourself.

Getting there

Getting to Bali means flying into Denpensar (DPS) and then navigating yourself around the island through a taxi, motorbike, or through the Perama Bus. I used the Perama bus as it was reliable and cheap transportation. For US citizens it is $35 visa on arrival. Make sure you have US dollars on you.

Getting Around

Points of interest such as Sanur, Ubud, Canidasa, Senggigi, Lovina, and Amed can all be reached by taking the Perama Bus. You can also hire a driver if there are places you want to see around the island.

Why it’s better to travel alone

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Dragon Tiger Tower, Taiwan

Traveling alone makes me feel like I am in control of what I want to see, explore, eat, and do all at my own pace. Wanderlust is something that has taken control over me ever since I took my first trip abroad to Mexico at the ripe age of seventeen with my  best friend. Since then I have explored more than forty countries on every continent except for Antarctica.

I can say that I have traveled a lot by myself in the past six years. Bali, Thailand, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Australia, Hong Kong, and  South Africa. Many of the other countries I visited were on my cruise ship with shore excursions and friends. The travel I did on my own taught me so much about self reliance, how to read a map, figuring out the public transportation system (trains, buses, high speed rail), trusting my instincts, and being guided by my own natural intuition.

Top reasons for why you should travel solo NOW !

  • Build your problem solving skills
  • Learn to navigate the public transportation routes
  • Eat and dine whenever you want
  • No negotiation because you aren’t in a group
  • Mingle with more people at your own pace
  • More flexibility for last minute changes
  • See more, Do more!
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Taking a rest of cycling in Kyoto, Japan

Look. Traveling solo isn’t for everyone but it is something you should try at least once in your life when planning to see new places. Some people feel funny sightseeing alone and looking at magnificent places without someone special along side them but you don’t have to look at it that way. For me there is nothing more celebrating than making plans of places I want to visit without negotiating with others along the way. “What time do you want to eat? What do you want to do next? What do you want to do tomorrow? Do we have enough time there? Well if you don’t want to go there, I will go and meet you later” I seriously cannot imagine having these conversations when I travel because it will just complicate my plans and ideas. Trust me that you will meet really cool people during your travels. Once you take those baby steps and prepare your trip you will look back and realize that traveling alone was the wisest decision you have made. And in the case that it’s not for you at least it’s something you can add to your list of things you did in your life that you learned from that you can share with others!

 

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Monkey Forest, Ubud, Bali