Yucatan Highlights of Mexico Day 1

This morning I rose before the sun and met up with my Contiki Tour group. After meeting our tour manager and tour mates we headed out to see Mexico City!

We hopped aboard our coach and began with a historical tour of the National Palace and historic city center. Then we journeyed through the Coyoacan barrio. Coyoacan is a relaxed, colorful and historic neighborhood. It’s lined with old mansions, fountains and beautiful squares. There we also saw Frida Kahlo’s famous blue studio.

We ventured briefly through the markets and sampled authentic Churros. I had a nuttella filled and pear filled churros. They were warm, gooey and crunchy. Muy Delisiouso!

Next stop was a river boat tour of Mexico’s famous floating markets. We rode through the markets on a vibrant and colorful pontoon boat. We saw merchandisers selling ponchos, flowers, food and beer. It was interesting to watch people bid and barter over products. We were there on a national holiday, so the market was pretty empty. I would love to go back to the market on a busy day to see it in full action!

Afterwards we boarded the coach again and rode about one hour towards our final destination, Teotihuacan. Before reaching the pyramids we feasted at an included buffet and were entertained by a crazy and very bouncy dance show. After the show we were invited to a tequila tasting. We were offered multiple shots of various types of pure Mexican tequilas. It’s always a good idea to get tipsy before climbing ancient ruins. Right?

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She’d win a twerking competition

Finally we made it to the famous Sun and Moon Temples of Teotihuacan. We were free to roam the grounds and hike up the humongous pyramids. Teotihuacan is one of the last remaining ancient pyramids that you can still climb up. I highly recommend you make the hike. The view from the top is absolutely breath taking and completely worth the effort.

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Starting my trip to Mexico by visiting Teotihuacan really set the tone for my Mexican adventure. Mexico is full of so much history, culture and color. 

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On the ride back to Mexico city the coach was absolutely silent. Everyone was exhausted from climbing up the pyramids. Once we got back to the hotel I met my new roommate Gina, got dressed up and ready to see Mexico city at night!

We attended another fully including dinner. Every thing was delicious. We had tacos, stuffed chilis, rice, grilled chicken and agave water. Later the group dispersed. My friends Chelsea, Sarah and I decided to wander around for a bit longer. We stumbled upon a bar that specialized in Alcoholic Ice Cream! It was set up like a typical ice cream parlor, but all of the flavors are infused with liqueurs! I had Mint Chocolate Chip and it was spectacular. We all even felt a little buzzed afterwards. I think a ice cream bar would do fantastic in the states. I know I’d be there number one customer!

My first day in Mexico was jammed packed. We saw beautiful architecture, artisan sculptures, sampled tostadas and tequila and were mesmerized by extreme vistas.

Mexico is so much more then I imagined.

Contiki perk: The only thing I paid for all day were the Churro’s and bottled water. All of the meals (Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner) and entry to Pyramids, floating markets and tequila tasting were included in the total cost of my trip with Contiki!

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Mexico City isn’t scary, it’s amazing

When planning for my trip to Mexico I was met with much concern from friends and family. Mainly because I was not going straight to the touristy beaches of Puerto Vallarta and Cancun. I started my trip in Mexico city. As a woman traveling alone (I met up with a group later) I was warned to stay vigilant, cary pepper spray, don’t stray from the beaten path, ect. Honestly I was nervous about Mexico City. Recently the news has been flooded with horror stories about kidnappings and murders in Mexico. So entering the city I was certainly on guard.

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Mexico city view from my hotel

But from the moment I touched down in MEX I felt nothing but compassion and kindness from the citizens I encountered. I quickly found that residents of Mexico city want to erase the stigma surrounding their historical, cultural and vibrant home. I felt safe walking around. I easily navigated the well kept streets and was helped by several friendly people. I also noticed there was a large police presence. Knowing around every block I could find a blue light or standing police officer eased my nerves.

Before traveling to Mexico I made friends with two others from my tour. We made plans to meet up for dinner. The three of us wandered through the city center and found an amazing Mexican Seafood restaurant called Chuchito Perez Roma. After struggling a bit with the language barriers we managed to order Mojitos, beers and lots of tacos! I sampled duck, chorizo and steak tacos. The food was so fresh and colorful. The waiters were hilarious and very patient with our terrible Spanish.

After dinner we explored the city a little more before heading to the rooftop of our hotel for a night cap.

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Where did I stay?

Best Western Royal Zona

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Where did I eat?

Chuchito Perez Roma

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Contiki Day Songs; Travel and feel good music mega mix

Every morning on a Contiki tour when you bored the coach your tour manager will play a “Day Song”. A day song is meant as a welcome the group. It is intended to lift spirits, put you in a great mood and create a bond amongst tourmates. After my Contiki trips when ever I shuffle onto one of my “Day Songs” I immiedatly return to that time and place. Day songs really inspire life long memories.

Every tour has a different “Day Song”. They are choose by the tour managers and vary depending on country, activites, style and taste. But they all have a singular theme “live life”. Contiki’s moto is “No Regrets”. So it’s fitting that their “Day Songs” are about living, travel, love, life and friends.

I’ve reached out across the internet and polled fellow Contiki travelers about the “Day Song” from their tours in order to compile an epic playlist!

Here’s what I have so far:

  • Home for a Rest by Spirit of the West (Great Britain & Ireland May 2010)
  • Runaway by Galantis (Mexico Grande December 2015)
  • What’s Up  by 4 Non Blondes (European Adventurer June 1995)
  • Over & Over by Smallpools (European Escapade June 2015)
  • It’s Nice to Be Alive by Ball Park City (Big Indochina Oct 2014)
  • Best Day of My Life by American Authors (Eastern Road Jul 2014)
  • The Only Place by Best Coast (California Highlights Aug 2013)
  • On Top of the World by Imagine Dragons (European Panorama 2013)
  • Gente Che Spera by Articlo 15 (Simply Italy Dec 2015)
  • Uptown Funk by Bruno Mars (Asian Adventure March 2015)
  • Fly Away by Lenny Kravist (London, Paris, Rome 2010)
  • In Colour by Shapeshifter (NZ Sweet as South 2014)
  • I gotta a Feelin by Black Eyed Peas (European Spirit 2009)
  • Thunderstuck by ACDC (North by Northeast 2010)
  • Hangover by Taoi Cruz (NZ Grand Explorer 2011)
  • Save Tonight by Eagle Eye Cherry (Ultimate European 2013)
  • Rather Be by Clean Bandit (Big Tiki NZ 2014)
  • Life is Beautiful by Time McMorris (Eastern Road 2015)
  • Happy by Pharrell (European Discovery April 2014)
  • Waves by Mr. Probz (European Highlights June 2014)
  • Waka Waka by Shakira (Argentina & Brazil 2012)
  • En Italia by Fabri (Simply Italy Mar 2013)
  • Let’s Live For Today by The Grass Roots (European Escapade 2013)
  • I lived by One Republic (European Experience 2014)
  • Glad You Came by The Wanted (NIGHT SONG) (European Experience 2014)
  • Gypsy by Lady Gaga (Greek Islands 2014)
  • Pompeii by Bastille (Simply Italy June 2013)
  • American by Lana Del Rey (Grand Southern USA 2015)
  • Good Time by Carly Rae Jepsen (California Highlights 2014)
  • Good Life by One Republic (London to Rome April 2013)
  • It’s Time by Imagine Dragons (Berlin, Vienna & Prague 2012)
  • Pursuit of Happiness (NIGHT SONG) (Berlin, Vienna & Prague 2012)
  • We are Young by Fun (Best of Europe 2014)
  • Time of our Lives (NIGHT SONG) (Best of Europe 2014)
  • This is How We Do by Katy Perry (California Highlights 2014)
  • In a World Like This by Backstreet Boys (Wild Western 2015)
  • The Night is Still Young by Niki Manaj (NIGHT SONG) (Wild Western 2015)
  • Mykonos by Fleet Foxes (Greek Island Hopper 2010)
  • Great Day by Lonley Island (Walkabout Aug 2013)
  • Pause by Plain White T’s (Eastern Escapade June 2015)
  • 1901 by Phoenix (Grand Southern July 2011)
  • Running Down a Dream by Tom Petty (NZ 1994)
  • One Life by Hedley (European Inspiration)
  • Mad Caddies by Leavin
  • If Today was your Last Day by Nickle Back
  • Island in the Sun by Weezer (Thai Island Hopper 2010)
  • Pass Out by Tiny Tempah (European Escapade 2011)
  • You Get What you Give by New Radicals (Ult.European 2001)
  • Give me Everything Tongith by Pitbull (Road to Athens 2011)
  • 5 Years Time by Noah and the Whale (2013)
  • You Only Live Once by Strokes (Eastern Escape Dec 2010)
  • Holiday by Dizzee Rascall (European Escapade April 2011)
  • Sandstorm by Darude (Berlin, Vienna, Prague July 2007)
  • Nothing Really Matters by David Guetta (Winter Discovery 2012)
  • Live While We’re Young by One Direction (Eastern Road 2014)
  • I Was Here by Beyonce (Grand Southern June 2013)
  • Victoria by The Kooks (England & Scottland Dec 2010)
  • Show Me Everything You’ve Got by The Rocket Summer (NZ Sweet as South 2009)
  • Brand New Day by Ryan Star (Rome to London Dec 2012)
  • Jump Right In by Zac Brown Band (Grand Southern 2010)
  • Living in The Moment (Thai Island Hopper East 2013)
  • Our Time is Now by Plain White T’s (Eastern Discovery 2010)
  • Slow Down by Selena Gomez (NIGHT SONG) (Road to Rome March 2015)
  • This Moment by Katy Perry (Asian Adventure 2015)
  • YOLO by Lonley Island (USA 2015)
  • Home by Edward Sharpe and The Magnetic Zeros (Grand Souther April 2013)
  • Paperplanes by MIA (London, Scottland, Ireland 2009)
  • Born to be Wild by Stepphenwolf (Walkabout AU 1995)
  • Around the World by Red Hot Chili Peppers (West Coast USA 2008)
  • Traveling by Paper Lions (Best of Europe June 2008)
  • Ticket To Ride by The Beatles (London, Paris, Amsterdam 2010)
  • Califonia by Phantom Planet (California Highlights May 2007)
  • One Day Baby We’ll be Old by Asaf Avidan (Spanish Spree April 2015)
  • Trip The Light by Alicia Lemke (Croatian Island Hopper 2012)
  • Machu Pichu by The Strokes (Peru Uncovered  2010)
  • Applejack by The Triangles (Spanish Spree Aug 2012)
  • Viva La Vida by Cold Play (European Encounter November 2009)
  • Stay by James Blunt (Western Adventure June 2012)

Have one to add? Please comment and I will add it to the epic playlist!

Drinking around the World

No matter how different every city in the world may be, in each city you can find yourself at home with the comfort of a cool drink and the company of an old friend or some new.

Most cultures have their own traditional alcoholic beverages. When traveling I think sampling local spirits can connect you to the new city.

I enjoy sipping wine in a cafe, tubing with a beer in hand, body shots and posh cock tails. Drinking can be both relaxing or energizing. I become more open to meeting new people, trying new things and communicating. Through my travels a single glass of wine has led to philosophical revelations, beers at a pub led to a new flame and mixers at a club led to leading a street dance party. Drinking has certainly influenced and shaped many of my most cherished memories.

Drinking responsibly has led to a majority of positive experiences. So I have decided to compile a list of my favorite beverages from cities around the world.

Richmond, Virginia USA: Angry Balls

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Angry Balls is my choice drink for camping, tail gates and country line dancing. This is my #MERICA drink. I don’t like beer so my go to pub drink is Hard Apple Cider. The Angry Balls cocktail is a combination of Angry Orchid Cider and Fireball Whiskey. It is spicy, full of flavor and is sure to heat your night up.

Orlando, Florida USA: John Daly

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The best way to cool off in the shade of a Florida palm tree is sipping a traditional Arnold Palmer. An Arnold Palmer is a nonalcoholic mix of Sweet Tea and Lemonade. When you add a splash of vodka the drink becomes a John Daly! This cool and refreshing drink is a deep South staple. Best served in a mason jar.

Waikiki, Hawaii USA: Sex on the Beach

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It was hard to choose just one drink when thinking about Hawaii. Runners up included Bahama Mama, Pina Colada and Blue Hawaiian. All go to staples for tropical vacations. But the ultimate partner for surf and sand is the Sex on the Beach. A mix of vodka, peach schnapps, orange juice, and cranberry juice. The bright colors are reminiscent of sunsets over Mauna Kea.

Bangkok, Thailand: Singapore Sling

I was first introduced to the Singapore Sling on the flight from Singapore to Thailand. After traveling for nearly 36 hours I desperately needed some liquid energy so I ordered this pretty pink concoction. I was hooked. I tried Singapore Slings at each bar I went to throughout Thailand. The best one? From a place called Hippie Bar in downtown Bangkok.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia: Fish Bowl

Big Fish Bowl

Big Fish Bowl

Nothing says fun like a large literal fish bowl full of unknown spirits, blue syrup and cherries! The Fish Bowl style drink is meant to be shared with friends. In my experience you don’t need to purchase your own. Just wander around the bar with your own straw and people will offer you a sample of theirs! Several fish bowls, insane heat and loud music led to me starting a massive dance party on the main bar street in Phnom Penh!

Fish Bowl Induced Street Dance Party

Fish Bowl Induced Street Dance Party

Capri, Italy: Limoncello

Limoncello is a lemon liqueur from Southern Italy. It is bitter, sour and an acquired taste. I absolutely loved it. It reminded me of sucking on Lemonhead sour candies as a kid. The liqueur is severed typically as a shot between and after meals. I had a blast on my tour of Southern Italy because most people in my group didn’t like the flavor, so after each meal they gave me theirs! Shots, Shots, Shots!

Venice, Italy: Bellini

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Probably one of my favorite drinks from my travels is the Peach Bellini. First of all it combines two of my favorite things Prosecco sparkling wine and peach (purée or nectar). Try sipping a Bellini as you float through Venice on a romantic gondola.

Dublin, Ireland: Pear Cider

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When in Ireland I tried Guinness, of course. But I don’t like beer so for most of my trip I stuck to Hard Cider. I tried Pear Cider for the first time in Dublin and got hooked. There’s nothing like a few pints of cider in a dark Irish pub.

London, England: Apple Cider

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Drinking Cider at a graveyard pub

Throughout England I sampled local Hard Ciders whenever possible. It’s interesting to see the variations in color, crispness, and overall taste.

Paris, France: Rosé wine

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Wine tasting

Complex to produce and steeped in tradition Rosé wine is a must have in Paris. Not to sweet and not to dry Rosé wine is perfect to sip in a sunny cafe or take on a garden picnic. I’ve never been able to replicate the Rosé I found in Paris.

Denver, Colorado USA: Moscow Mule

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I first heard about the Moscow Mule from Cosmopolitan Magazine. They suggested that every refined lady should have “Go-To” drink. Something that you can order at a bar and show how refined and classy you are. So I decided my drink of choice would be the Moscow Mule. It’s made from Vodka, Ginger Beer and Lime Juice. Cold, spicy and strong this drink sure stands out in a crowd. The best I’ve had? Came from a restaurant in Denver called The Yard House.

A History of My Libations:

Conclusion: 

You can travel the world and you’ll never sample all, but at least you’ve tasted life. 

What I ate in South East Asia; The Good, the Bad and The Ugly

THE GOOD

I never felt healthier than while traveling through Indochina. Every meal was colorful, fresh, and delicious. I sampled every local deliciously and tried many dishes I would have never picked in the states. My favorite temptation throughout South East Asia were freshly juiced drinks. I had one at every meal. I tried watermelon juice in every country and for most breakfasts. The best was at a tiny cafe in Luang Prabang, Laos.

JUICES

THE BAD

Personally some of the worst foods I ate were fish dishes. However many of my tour mates loved these meals. I do not like fish. I did try everything. But I did not enjoy any of them. Plus the way fish was presented (with its eyes and scales) was not appetizing.

THE UGLY

In Indochina you have to try the weird stuff. Sometimes you just need to close your eyes and eat. I sampled a couple of weird delicacies that turned out not bad! I tried several different fried bugs in Thailand. They were crunchy and had weird textures, but for the most part tasted like popcorn. I also sampled rat in Laos. Honestly if I didn’t know it was rat I would have just that it was BBQ beef skewers. Snake whiskey was the weirdest thing I tried that I actually enjoyed! I did a shot once in Laos and again in Vietnam. It tastes like tequila.

FOOD PORN PHOTOS

RECOMMENDATIONS

You have to take a cooking class in Thailand. I learned tricks that I implement today at home. The class took me through the Asia markets. It taught me how to shop for ripe vegetables, eggs and the perfect meats. I learned how to make Pad Thai, Pumpkin Curry and Sticky Rice. I absolutely loved learning to cook in Chiang Mai.

WANT TO KNOW MORE ABOUT MY TRIP THROUGH SOUTH EAST ASIA? CHECK OUT:

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Travel Bucket List

I’ve got a lot of work to do…

  • Sunrise at Angkor Wat
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    Magical Sunrise at Angkor Wat

  • Cooking Class in Tuscany
  • Sing “Don’t Cry for me”  in Argentina
  • Hike Machu Picchu
  • Sail Croatia
  • Cooking Class in Tuscany
  • Snorkel in Belize
  • Zip Line in Costa Rica
  • Carnival in Brazil
  • Rent a villa on the French Rivera
  • Go to the Cannes Film Festival
  • Rent a villa in Capri for the summer
  • Vodka Tasting in Russia
  • Rent a camper and travel across New Zealand
  • Karaoke in Japan
  • Thermal Bath in Budapest
  • Ski Austria
  • One wild night Las Vegas

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    Exploring the gardens of Versailles

  • Visit Versailles
  • New Years Eve in Eastern Europe
  • Visit Lochness
  • Sunbathe on the Gold Coast of Australia
  • VIP Coachella
  • Christmas in Helsinki
  • Full Moon Party in Thailand
  • Visit Auschwitz
  • See tigers in India
  • Hot Chocolate in Switzerland

Wine Tasting in Tuscany

Screen Shot 2015-01-12 at 3.05.13 PMOn the way to Rome we stopped for a wine tasting in the Chianti region of Tuscany. Our wine tasting was at a charming 16th century Tuscan winery called Castello Il Palagio. We came during their off season so I think the winery was understaffed. Instead of having a tour and getting to learn about the wine we were just sat down and basically told to “Chow down”. So it wasn’t really a wine tasting…more like a wine devouring. We got to taste several aged red wines and feast on amazing bread and fresh olive oil. While people were still drinking I explored the vineyard on my own. I found rows of aged cyprus trees, aromatic orchids and a adorable cat family!

Charming Cinque Terre

This morning we headed south toward La Spezia and the Cinque Terre region of Italy. The Cinque Terre is a UNESCO World Heritage sites famous for its coastal villages, scenic vistas, rugged cliffs and colorful villages.

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Today we had the whole day free to ourselves so it quickly became my favorite days of the trip. I hung out with two super fun guys. We had a great time drinking tons of wine, eating delicious food and exploring the quiet streets of the different Cinque Terre towns.

We started our food tour of the Cinque Terre with pesto focaccia pizza. We chowed down before exploring a breathtaking castle in La Spezia. At the top of the castle there was a harp player! 10906113_10152893621355813_7806844916176866695_n

Afterwards we checked into our tiny hotel.

Where did I stay? Hotel Firenze Continentale

Then we took the train to Monterosso al Mare where the boys and I decided to sit back, relax and treat ourselves to wine and aperitifs. 10407261_10152893619320813_8236156655788437128_n

Afterwards we traveled to Manarola. There we saw the Befana! The Befana is a witch who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5). It was so neat to see the old woman parading down the street with hoards of children following and singing. What a special time to be in Italy! After the celebration I grabbed gelato and strolled down to the coast where I watched the sunset. 10922616_10152893619450813_6628597561072186127_n

Then we traveled to Riomaggiore for dinner. Our group filled a tiny restaurant. I tried pesto pasta and we had two bottles of local wine! Feeling happy we caught the train back to La Spezia where we hung out at the hotel bar and chatted the night away.

I truly had an amazing, cinematic, life-affirming day today. I will cherish the Cinque Terre for the rest of my life.

Caio, Florence

Our group decided to start late because of the New Years Eve celebrations so we set out at 11AM today.

I found out that some people did stay out and party last night. So I am kind of bummed that I didn’t find them. It would have been fun to party with other people.

After a long coach ride we arrived in Florence. Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 12.59.27 PM

Where did I stay? Hotel Raffaello Florence 

We went to dinner and then to a karaoke bar where I sang Grease with this guy named Russel. Everyone said we did really good! DSC00833

The next day we started bright and early.

Our first stop was Leonardo’s Leather for a leather demonstration. Honestly there wasn’t much demonstrating. It wasn’t very informative. I think it was a waste of time. A lot of people spent a ton of money there and I don’t really see the appeal. I found things there to be over priced. But what ever floats your boat…DSC00837

Afterwards we met by the David replica and began a walking tour of Florence. We saw Ponte Vecchio, the Medici Palace and more. It was more talking then walking and I couldn’t really hear our guide. Some how I ended up loosing everyone. Then as I was standing on a bridge trying to figure out what to do I spotted Mollie!

The rest of the day Mollie and I wandered aimlessly around Florence. We had a great time laughing, chatting, gossiping and making fun of ourselves and everyone around us. We had lunch right outside of the Duomo. We hung out, I sipped wine and we devoured our amazing lunches.

Screen Shot 2015-01-11 at 12.59.37 PMI think that Mollie and I walked around the whole city. We saw tons of beautiful buildings, fascinating people, and lovely churches.

We even had delicious Gelato in a piazza where a lady was singing opera. It was very cinematic. 10915323_10152891603040813_6201928678578607055_n

Afterwards we went back to the hotel for naps before our big night out. I no longer have a roommate. Alex has decided to move in with a guy from our tour. So now I’ve been upgraded from a triple share to a single room. It’s nice to have more space and not worry about other people’s needs, but it is also kind of lonely.

Tonight we went to Space Electronic Disco. I had a great time dancing and had a few to many drinks. All was going well until I somehow wound up in charge of a very drunk guy on our tour. I had to wrestle him into a cab and get him back to the hotel. Before that I ended up having to pay for his lost drink and coat check cards and then apologize to everyone at the club on his behalf. Once in the cab he began acting strange and then he vomited everywhere! Our taxi driver was furious! He didn’t speak english but he just started reaming me in Italian. He was very intimidating. I finally convinced us to take us all the way to the hotel. Once there he continued to yell at me while my new friend was drunkenly slumped over in the hotel lobby. I ended up having to pay 200 Euro for trip and vomit. He yelled at me so much I started crying. The situation was awful but also kind of hilarious. I went to bed in tears but giggling. What a weird night.

Halong Bay

After a three hour drive from Hanoi we arrived to Halong Bay. To board our junk boat we had to catch a ferry. Our group was split up when a bunch of Chinese tourists invaded our ferry. So half of us had to figure out which boat was ours without our local guide! After searching we eventually found it.

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Our ship!

Then we boarded our beautiful Chinese-style junk boat for an overnight cruise. Our ship was absolutely stunning. It was a five-star cruise ship. defiantly more than what I expected. The company is called Halong Sails. It would recommend them to anyone! Our room was the fanciest of the trip so far and the best was like sleeping on a cloud!

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After a bit of sun bathing on the top deck we jumped into Kayaks to explore the lagoons and secretive mountains of Halong Bay. For a while we were alone in a beautiful lagoon surrounded by towering mountains. It was so peaceful and quiet. We paddled through the stunning blue waters and past playful monkeys. It was simply breath-taking. As we were leaving several tourist boats zoomed by us and into the lagoon. I’m very glad we had the place to ourselves while we could. 1501730_10152765343290813_6595236365577869226_n

After kayaking the sun started to come out so we headed to the beach. While some people trekked to the top of a mountain I decided to take a nap on the beach. It was glorious and refreshing. I felt well rested which was important because that night we had a “Pirate Party”!

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The party was wild! I drank my weight in vodka and even got to DJ. I got a bunch of people to dance by playing mega hits like “Grease” and Spice Girls. We even convinced the cabin crew to dress up. At one point the bar stopped keeping track and we were pouring our own shots!

I woke up early in the morning with only a mild hangover. But my hangover was amplified when we went to the VERY loud Sung Sot Caves. We had to wait in a long line and push through tons of tourists before getting into the caves. Our guide neglected to mention the winding staircases and long hike. So those of us who drank a bit too much the night before had a pretty rough time at the caves. But we had a great time laughing at each other’s misery!