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.


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.


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.


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!


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.