Auckland, New Zealand

The Green Dragon

It was so, so refreshing to step off the plane and out into the cool, New Zealand evening air after a month straight of roasting hot weather. I was greeted at the airport by Terry, a friend of my aunt. He and I had coordinated him picking me up, but he graciously offered me dinner and a night’s stay at his home in the Auckland suburbs, which I accepted. Sure, I’d arrive at my hostel one night late, no big deal. We had a wonderful Indian meal and then I more or less went right to bed for the night.

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New Zealand - 100% Pure New Zealand

View of Lake Tekapo and nearby mountains

New Zealand was actually the second country I selected for this trip, despite it being the last one I ended up visiting. For a while, I even considered skipping it because I’d be there during the winter, and I wouldn’t be able to do anything like swimming or surfing! It also meant packing extra warm clothing that I’d be carrying around with me for a month in Japan and Vietnam. But I decided to do it, even just to check out some of the skiing on the South Island. And damn, was it worth it.

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Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Gate leading into an alley

By the time I arrived in Ho Chi Minh City from Da Nang, I only had a couple of days time to explore. And being a city with a population of 10 million, I definitely didn’t get the chance to see everything I wanted! But I had to make due with the time I had.

I checked into my hostel, The Like Hostel, after a quick bus ride from the airport. It was pretty nice - tucked into an alley in District 1, it offered relatively quick access to many of the places I wanted to visit. It also featured a fun rooftop bar that provided free breakfast in the mornings.

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Da Nang and Hoi An, Vietnam

Golden Hands Bridge

I took a short haul flight from Hanoi to Da Nang, arriving fairly late in the evening at my hostel (Christina’s Da Nang - Seahorse Hostel). At this point it was really starting to sink in that I had not given myself enough time for Vietnam - I only gave myself two days in the Da Nang / Hoi An region, which was definitely not sufficient. I’ll have to come back some day!

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Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Monkey Island beach from above

We arrived on Cat Ba Island after a 9 hour overnight bus trip from Sapa. With no charging ports on board the bus, I only had about 15% battery on my phone, so I kept it off for most of the day, and had to source my pictures from other people.

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