Unbelievably, it’s been three years since we touched down in our first Asian country: Indonesia. Although we went on to spend over two years travelling and living in South-East Asia, I’ll never forget the strangeness and excitement of that first week in Java. I remember the intensity of the sounds and smells; the beeping throngs of traffic, the humid wall of heat, the spicy food, ornate temples, smoking sticks of incense and huge spiders.
2015 has been a year of two very different halves for us; the first spent in Asia, the second in America and the UK. We lived in Vietnam’s crazy capital city, Hanoi, where we saved over £14,000 (and nearly lost our minds!) by teaching English. We relaxed on beaches in Thailand, house sat in London, toured South Wales and took the best road trip ever through New England in the USA. As we prepare to celebrate Christmas in Blighty for the first time in nearly three years, here’s our 2015 travel round-up.
It feels strange to have finally left Asia after spending almost two years there. For us, travel has been inextricably linked with this part of the world. When I think of backpacking my mind conjures up images of long, cramped bus journeys and never-ending terraces of rice, gold-carpeted beaches and heaving cities full of motorbikes and street markets. I think of wading through soupy, humid air, the smell of citronella insect repellent, incense from temples, and spices from road-side food stalls; I hear beeping horns, crowing roosters, prayer calls and the lapping of the sea.
One of the things we love most about Chiang Mai is all the delicious food that’s on offer. There are literally thousands of restaurants in Chiang Mai as well as cafes, pubs and bakeries. That's not to mention the night markets and street food. What’s more, the city caters to all kinds of diets with restaurants specialising in vegetarian, vegan, raw or gluten-free food. Here are our top picks of Chiang Mai restaurants in the Old City area.
It’s been almost 10 months since we arrived in Vietnam and during that time Hanoi has become a home of sorts; a crazy, chaotic, often frustrating one, but a home all the same. This week we dismantled our lives here and closed the door on this chapter of our adventure.
Now that the summer weather is kicking in the temperature regularly exceeds 40 degrees in Hanoi. Within seconds of venturing outside the sun scolds your bare skin and wading through the thick, soupy air exhausts you in a matter of minutes. We were keen to escape the city heat and spend some of our final days in Vietnam up in the cool of the mountains in Sapa.
Our time in Vietnam is drawing to a close; we have just two and a half weeks left in the country and  it feels like time is speeding up. This is our last week of teaching and we're struggling to fit in all the last-minute tasks we need to complete; packing up our apartment, sorting out finances, planning for the weeks ahead and saying our goodbyes. We’re also trying to squeeze in trips to places we haven’t had time to visit over the hectic school year; this past weekend we finally made it to the stunning country getaway, Mai Chau.