“I will need to apologize to your future husband on getting you hooked on travelling” is something my mom would say to me each year after our adventures over seas.
I have always travelled and always loved it! We have been to everything from an all inclusive in Mexico, to building houses in Mexico with bunkbeds and cockroaches. We went to tourist favourites like Disney World and Hawaii, and to our own secret favourite islands in the middle of the ocean where you wouldn’t see another white person during your entire trip. We pride ourselves on this beautiful hidden gem so I am not going to tell you where it is, but the sand and water is like nothing I have ever seen and that is where Braylan and I went on our first trip together.
We got married about a year and a half later and I prepared myself for a long break from my first love, travelling. That didn’t happen! Braylan quickly became hooked on travelling and what it brings with it. It is so so much more than relaxing! It is experiencing new cultures, stepping out of your comfort zone, learning more about yourself, and seeing so much of the beauty God has designed here on earth. Since being married, we have travelled to several countries, road tripped any chance we get and never seem to stop checking flights for another adventure. I believe that is a large part of why we have fallen in love with film and photography, as it allows us to travel while working, and tell stories to people who haven’t had the chance to be there.
Now we have been blessed with good jobs, but Braylan has been in and out of school, and I have invested full time into my new career. It has been a lot of big changes and has involved making choices. However it has allowed us to pinch our pennies when needed, and to really plan out how we can make the most of a trip without going into debt, which is something we are very intentional on.
This last trip we went on has been the largest trip either of us have gone on. Braylan has traveled to Russia for hockey but Vietnam will be the longest trip to date. We have been talking and focusing our business towards Weddings and Elopements, which means we are getting more and more inquires for destination weddings, whether that be a road trip or a plane ride. We agreed we needed to focus on our business at this time and any future trips should involve Film and Photography gigs. So we wanted to do one last trip that was somewhere we may never otherwise go. Southern Asia! We chatted with my parents about maybe going to Thailand, and them, being against any touristy trip, suggested Vietnam and making a family vacation of it. So the next thing we knew, we were all booking our flights to spend about three weeks in Vietnam.
Travelling Vietnam was so much more then I expected! If you have ever wanted to travel the area, I suggest you take a quick read to hear some of the amazing beauties and surprises we encountered.
South East Asia is full of beautiful countries and I honestly recommend splitting your time between a few countries if you have the chance. We decided to spend our time travelling all of Vietnam. We arrived in Hoian, which is on the southern centre side of Vietnam. Before arriving there we flew and traveled for 28 hours. I have never been able to sleep on a plane and have since learned I probably never will. The plane rides were smooth and reasonable but the length of time made me very uneasy. I tossed and turned and eventually took a sleeping pill to try to get a few hours of rest. Please test sleeping pills at home before popping one into you on a plane… It was the weirdest experience! I became very light headed and could not hold myself up, or open my eyes with out them burning. But, still being wide awake, I sat in my small seat for about 3 hours, swaying back and forth, eyes shut, blindly asking the flight attendant for water or tea any time it sounded like she was walking by as suddenly my throat was as dry as the desert! It was very embarrassing and my sweet grown adult brothers just laughed their heads off every time I flailed my hands in the air to try to grab the cup the stewardess would try to hand me. So moral of that story is, do not take sleeping pills for the first time during one of your 12 hour flights.
Once we finally arrived in Vietnam it was quite the culture shock. There was no such thing as laws for the highway and we zig zagged through people on scooters and semi trucks and water buffalo! Keep in mind this was also at about 1 in the morning! Once we arrived to our little home stay we saw a big beautiful cockroach crawling past us. Honestly by this time I was so happy to be on the ground none of it really bothered me. Our rooms were small but cozy and perfect for sleeping. We spent the next week exploring the country. We rode bikes through farmers pastures and rice fields. We explored Old Town where hundreds of thousands of locals and tourists come to see the beautiful lanterns and night life, as well as all the local hand made items. I was able to get custom made leather booties there as well as a beautiful custom shirt and skirt. It was probably a highlight of the trip!
Walking around the town alone was very safe and comfortable. I would happily go for a stroll in the morning and go to a local coffee shop or walk along the sandbags at the beach and just enjoy time with God. We often would wander around at night as well if we had the energy, and it felt very safe. It is a poor country and you will see people sleeping outside and people burning their religious papers at night which could look quite scary but is nothing to fear at all. Everyone there is very nice.
One beautiful sight was the Ba Na Hills where you ride in a cable cart to the top of the mountain to find a beautiful old French village that we called Disney land because up to 250,000 people visit it a day. It was beautiful but the crowds were overwhelming. One thing I learned while there was that their main tourism comes from China, and they love to see tall blonde women… I was asked many times to take selfies with people and would sometimes have whole groups of ladies come up to me to get photos taken!
We spent one day at the beach while we were there as we had so many places to still explore. The beaches there are very dirty. the water is quite foggy and you will most likely swim into a few pieces of garbage as well as walk across a lot of it on your way to the ocean. This was my biggest disappointment from the trip. There was trash everywhere you looked and everyone threw out their garbage onto the road as they walked without a second thought. I actually ended up getting sick by the end of the trip and lost my voice completely (on top of having one of my worst head colds to date). I believe it was because of the overwhelming smog and pollution we lived in daily. One of the tour guides, Tuan, informed us that tourism is starting to grow in Vietnam, and large companies are starting to build resorts and places for Americans to enjoy. They predict in the next 5-10 years Vietnam will become the new hot place to tour. If that is the case they will have to start taking better care of their stunning country which excites me, because the country is unlike anything you have ever seen, with all the vast beauty!
One day we took a wooden motor boat out to a near by island to snorkel. It was so incredibly beautiful and the water was so warm! Again, I will admit I am very spoiled from experiencing some of the most beautiful snorkelling and water in other countries, but this water was heart breaking as we would see more garbage than sea life in the coral reefs. It was encouraging to hear they had a no littering rule on the boat and it would not be tolerated. They are working to make it a cleaner place.
I was able to meet a few other tourists on this day trip and even took their photos which was such an incredible experience yet a challenge for me. During this time I learned so much about communication and prompts to capture real moments with these couples who 5 minutes earlier were strangers to me.
Flying north was like going to a whole other country. The weather was quite cold in the mornings and evenings, and the smog was so heavy every single day. I don’t regret going North at all though because we explored so many new cultures.
We stayed in a small hotel, downtown Hoian. It was so funny to look at, as it was like a toothpick;, skinny as can be to fit about one room across and then 11 stories up! They pay tax on the amount of frontage land they use so most buildings would often be very skinny and have several small stores scattered through out the different floors. We were able to experience the night market and street food which was a very cool new experience. We also found the most beautiful little coffee shop full of posits notes covering everything!
For two days we stayed up in the mountains of Sapa. This was one of the highlights of the whole trip. We drove 6 hours, 3 of which were through skinny, windy, mud roads along the side of the mountains. It was very scary if you let it be, but we trusted that the locals knew an unspoken rule we didn’t understand for passing on blind corners and driving on either side you felt like. We just sat back and enjoyed the roller coaster ride to the top! Once we arrived at our Homestay we got to meet the locals. The locals are all born and raised in their community where they work everyday just to make food for themselves to last through the winter. It was an incredible and humbling trip. I truly can’t put into words all the emotions and experiences that happened while we were there. It was amazing to hike with the local women through bamboo forests and up rice fields or through small villages. They knew a small amount of English that they learned while walking with tourists. Other than that they only speak their village’s languages and some don’t even speak Vietnamese.
Halong Bay was probably top of my list when we decided to travel Vietnam. I had seen the photos and fell so madly in love with the beautiful sea there. It was actually the deciding factor in buying a drone, however shortly after we learned drones are banned in Vietnam so we couldn’t bring one.
While we were there we got to do a 2 day “cruise” in the Bay. Braylan and I go house boating in Salmon Arm, BC each summer and it actually reminded us a lot of that. While we were on this boat, we had a schedule jam packed with activities. For the first day we went snorkelling, hiking and kayaking before dinner, and then went squid fishing (which was so weird! We caught two!). We finished the night with karaoke. We sang Stonier Beer by Tim Hicks which was the highlight of the night amongst the other tourists from America, Australia and Germany.
The next morning we got up at 6 am to go hike into what was once the worlds largest known cave, before going back to the boat to learn how to make food art with fruit and vegetables, and then make our own Vietnamese Spring Rolls before Lunch. The entire trip was incredibly beautiful, peaceful and worth every penny!
We finished off our trip back in down town Hanoi where I spent many hours napping off my worsening head cold, and we explored some of their History. It was very interesting to go into their war museum to see their take on the Vietnam War, as well as so many other devastating wars they went through. Braylan also got to go explore the Prisoners of War Prison which the Americans called the Hanoi Hilton.
On our last night, we went to a more touristy area where most of the backpackers hang out, and got to drink beer on the side of a train track as we waited for the train to come by.
Our stools were on the track when all the owners suddenly kicked you off, stacked up all the stools and rushed you to stand with your back against the wall to watch the train fly past your nose! It was actually so much fun!