Month 23: Travel Summary and Statistics


Lanterns in Hoi An

This month has been all about changes, and I’ve certainly been going through a few.

After giving up on my travel plans for the next six months and deciding to fly to Thailand, I knew that I needed to stop moving so fast. The subsequent month in Chiang Mai was therefore perfect. I ate great food, was inspired by fellow digital nomads and got tons of work done — all while recovering from the past few months of fast-paced travel.

A month feels like the perfect amount of time for me to spend in a place — it’s enough time to start to get to know a city, to discover new favourite restaurants. It gives me enough time to work without feeling rushed and I get to leave looking forward to returning in the future.

I was therefore extremely excited when we decided to spend this month living in Saigon — one of my favourite cities in the world.

Sunset at Saigon airport

A gorgeous sunset after arriving in Saigon.

This was a huge mistake.

Dave and I messed up and it’s left us both wishing we’d decided to go somewhere else instead. 

Our first mistake was choosing to stay on Pham Ngu Lao, the backpacker ghetto of Saigon. I had loved staying in this area previously, but I’d never really stayed there long enough for it to start irritating me.

A month of being constantly surrounded by drunk backpackers, noisy bars, annoying touts and crap food?

Yeah. That got very annoying, very quickly. 

Our next mistake was booking a guesthouse for a month and ending up in a room without windows. Waking up to an alarm at 9am every day when it was still pitch-black inside the room was horrible. I felt permanently jet lagged and I’ve had a constant headache for the past month.

Living without sunlight left me drained and unwell — I had no desire to move or go outside (stepping into the bright sunlight every morning would make me feel like vomiting), which meant that I never had the energy to venture outside of the backpacker area, even though it was driving me crazy. This month hasn’t been great for either of us.

We should have found a different guesthouse and we shouldn’t have stayed in the backpacker area. Because we ended up getting our crypt of a room for a great price because we were staying for a month, we thought that we’d be able to handle it, that it wouldn’t make much difference at all.

We decided to stick it out and I wish we hadn’t.

My opinion of Saigon has changed, and unfairly too. I know that I can’t judge a city after choosing to stay in the worst part of it but… I can’t help but feel relieved to leave — and with no desire to return any time soon.

My month in Vietnam wasn’t all bad though — my birthday trip to Hoi An was incredible!

Hoi An hotel panorama

Panorama of the amazing Vinh Hung Emerald Resort, taken on my birthday.

Dave surprised me for my birthday by generously buying us flights to Hoi An, booking four nights in a wonderful hotel and treating me to some gorgeous tailor-made dresses.

It was one of the best birthdays of my life and I felt so ridiculously lucky, spoilt and loved.

Our time in Hoi An was perfect. After almost bursting into tears when I saw the floor-to-ceiling windows of our room, I stashed my laptop away and for four glorious days we sunbathed, swam in the pool, relaxed on the beach, ate good food and fell in love with Hoi An.

Tailor shops at night in Hoi An

beach in Hoi An

Lanterns in Hoi An

Those four days were the highlight of this month and inspired my birthday post listing all the changes I’ll be making over the next few months. I need to start forcing myself to stop working and to go outside and explore, and I need to stop moving so much. Hoi An showed me why I began travelling in the first place — and it wasn’t so I could spend 80 hours a week in a guesthouse with no windows.

I’m excited for all the changes I’m going to be making and I’m certain it will give me a much better quality of life.

The biggest change of all, however, will be my location!

Little Lauren eating a big meal

A photo from one of my first visits to the US: Hawaii in 2008. I look so young! The plateful of food is probably what I couldn’t manage to eat. 

As you read this, I’ll be on a plane over the Pacific Ocean on my way to the United States!

After spending the majority of the last two years in Southeast Asia, I’m finally leaving — and for the first time, I have no idea when I’ll be back. It could be 3 months, it could be 3 years.

I’m nervous.

I find it hilarious that I’m now much more intimidated by travelling through the US than I was when I travelled solo through Morocco, Eastern Europe or anywhere in Asia.

I can’t finish a meal in Southeast Asia so I’m terrified by the portion sizes I’m going to be greeted with. I’m not looking forward to having to walk on the sidewalk, to only being able to cross the road when a sign or a light tells me I can. There’s going to be rules, unnaturally sweet bread, talkative locals, enormous shopping malls, supermarkets and pharmacies.

Despite this, there are hundreds of things I’m looking forward to. No more humidity! I’ll be able to step outside without having my hair bounce up into an instant afro. I’ll be able to wear make-up without looking like a clown whose face is melting. I’ll be able to understand the language and not attract stares wherever I go. I’m looking forward to cheese and greasy food and being able to order anything from the (children’s) menu. I’m looking forward to water pressure and having hot showers. It’ll blow my mind to be able to drink tap water again and being able to flush toilet paper down the toilet instead of putting it in a pee-soaked bin? Amazing.

Most of all, I’m looking forward to sleeping in a room with windows. 

Onto the statistics for the month!

Map of my travels in May/June 2013

Countries visited: 3

Thailand, Vietnam, United States.

Cities visited: 4

Chiang Mai, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An, Los Angeles.

Distance travelled: 15,576km

Number of flights: 6

Bowls of soup eaten: 17

Money spent:

Thailand: £30.15 over 2 days = £15.08 per day

Vietnam: £403 over 29 days = £13.90 per day

Miscellaneous:

Flights in the United States: £120.70

Total amount spent:  £543.15 = $850

The next month

I’m fully expecting to be violently slapped in the face by culture shock as I spend the next month exploring the United States, starting with 10 days of solo travel through California. I’ll be relaxing on the beaches of Santa Monica and Venice in Los Angeles and then heading up to San Francisco, thanks to the recommendation of pretty much everyone over on Facebook!

After California, I’ll be heading up to Seattle to meet back up with Dave and we’ll be spending a week hanging out with friends and getting our tourist on. I’m incredibly excited to announce that after Seattle I’ll be moving to Portland! Dave and I have found a gorgeous little house in a fantastic area and we’re going to be living there for a month. I can’t wait!

Though I’ll be sad to leave Southeast Asia, I’m also surprisingly excited about my month in the US. I’ve never been to San Francisco, Seattle or Portland before, so there’ll be lots of exciting new cities for me to explore!

Looking to follow along with my travels through my monthly summaries? You can read the previous month’s summary here, the next month’s summary here, or head on over to the monthly summary page to read from the very beginning!

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53 Comments

  1. Chris
    June 18, 2013
    Reply

    Good luck Lauren – enjoy the new adventure and lifestyle choices, hopefully the USA might change your unlucky streak :P

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Chris! I’m hoping to still be a little bit unlucky so that I’ll have more material for my book! :-)

      • Chris
        July 9, 2013
        Reply

        …i have no doubt about that Lauren :P

  2. Yvette
    June 18, 2013
    Reply

    Makes me wonder when you have time to write about travel if you’re always writing summaries. ;)

    I lived a summer in San Francisco once and it was a pretty awesome summer (I was working at the SETI Institute, but didn’t find aliens else this wouldn’t be the first time you heard of it). Amazing music scene; see if the Fillmore has anything going on for me!

    I’m flying over to the US myself in a week btw, but to New England so we’ll be about as far apart as possible…

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      Seriously. I’ve never been able to keep for a posting schedule but those monthly summaries are always on time every month!

      So excited for San Francisco! :-)

  3. I am so sorry to hear that your time in Vietnam was kind of a bust; Tony & I recently finished up 2 months traveling through the country and like you did on your first trip, we fell massively in love with the place. By the time we hit Saigon we were pretty exhausted so barely explored, but we loved the city all the same and it is one of the few places in 10 months that we’ve visited and could actually see ourselves living there for a while. As in, we actually started looking into apartments! We stayed off of the same street you did and I was kind of expecting it to be terrible, but surprisingly we found some really tasty food (and not unfairly priced either) and the area we stayed in still felt like it was mostly made up of locals. Maybe the fact that we opted for a room with a giant window made all the difference?

    Hope that this next month goes more your way and will be interested to see if the culture shock is as bad as you think!

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      I genuinely think the lack of windows played a huge part. It just completely drained my energy and I felt ill constantly. I had no enthusiasm for doing or seeing anything.

      The first time I visited Saigon, I immediately felt like this was somewhere I could live for months and months… I can’t believe I screwed it up so badly! :-)

  4. Monica
    June 18, 2013
    Reply

    This is exciting, I hope you have an amazing time in the states!

    It’s a shame you had an unlucky month but it sounds like there’s lots of good things to come. And I can’t believe you managed to live on so little in SE Asia. Seriously making me wonder why I pay so much to live in London!

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Monica! Southeast Asia is wonderful for living well while spending hardly any money — the only problem is that it makes Western countries seem almost unbearably expensive! :-)

  5. June 18, 2013
    Reply

    Eww that sounds like a terrible month. Sorry to hear you were in a bunker in PNL. I had the same thing happen to me in Bangkok earlier this year. I booked a cheap private room in a guesthouse for a week and it had no window. No wonder it was so cheap. I felt terrible sleeping in and then walking outside into the blazing light of day.

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      It was pretty rough! At first I was excited at the thought of getting as much uninterrupted sleep as I needed. And then I spent the rest of the month feeling like death.

  6. Kristen
    June 18, 2013
    Reply

    Dude, I feel you on the portion sizes in the US (and I’m an American!). I’m a huge grazer, so when I go out to eat I usually order an appetizer or two, and that hits the spot. A lot of places will also let you get lunch portions or half sizes (especially of sandwiches) so I would check that out.

    And I hate to tell you, but once you head to the East Coast the humidity is going to be terrrriiiibbble. :-) Especially in DC, which was built on a swamp (seriously). Something to look forward to! But at least there’s more AC in the US than in SEA, amirite?

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      Yep, I think I’m pretty much going to be living on appetisers while I’m here! :-)

      The A/C is wonderful in the US! I almost never pay for it in Asia and the fans suck.

    • Gina Ramirez
      June 19, 2013
      Reply

      Yep, agreed! No humidity in California … unless you get a super hot day! SF will be very cool … it is always the same all year long, so plan on layers of clothes. I have sweat shirts and sweaters if needed! See you soon!!!

  7. June 18, 2013
    Reply

    Eek-sorry to hear your second time to Saigon didn’t work out so well :( Don’t be ascared of America! People are friendly and yes the food portions are massive, but you can give away your leftovers to the homeless-there are loads of them out there. Happy travels.

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Bobbi! I’m not scared, just a little bit nervous of guns and all the shootings that seem to happen everyday in America :-)

  8. June 18, 2013
    Reply

    Welcome to the United States! I hate to tell you this, but you are going to be submitted to humidity. Expect big hair in San Francisco and Seattle. The good (?) part is that it will also be rainy so you can hide it under a hood.

    I’m looking so forward to reading about your west coast travels!

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Jennifer! I don’t actually own any clothes with a hood so that’ll be interesting! I’m holding out hope that the weather will be fantastic… :-)

  9. June 18, 2013
    Reply

    Please do let me know if I can help (from a distance, still in Indonesia) at all with Los Angeles. It’s my home :)

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you, Kristin! I’ll let you know :-)

  10. June 18, 2013
    Reply

    How did you find a flight to LA for so cheap?

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      Hi Robyn, those flights were for travel *in* the US, not to :-). My flight from Saigon to Los Angeles was £400.

  11. June 18, 2013
    Reply

    So many exciting new adventures on your plate! I’m from Oregon, so I know you’re going to love it here. I just returned from Thailand a few weeks ago, and culture shock will definitely have a whirl with you, but the fact you’re continuing to travel will surely help that.

    Good luck!

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      Thanks, Jessica! I’m *really* excited to get to Oregon for the first time! :-) So far the culture shock has been minimal but I’ve also spent the last 24 hours sleeping due to jet lag and a 26 hour flight!

  12. June 18, 2013
    Reply

    Wow… so Saigon went from being one of your favorite cities in the World to having no plans to return any time soon?

    Crazy stuff. Sounds like a rough month there.

    Enjoy your time in the US – Even though I’m from the US, I’ve never been to any of those places either. That’s a trip I still need to do one of these days.

    • June 18, 2013
      Reply

      It was a tough month and I’m sad that it completely changed my opinion of the city. I’m sure I’ll be back at some point in the future though, and I won’t make the same mistakes again :-). For now, I’m just glad I have a window again!

  13. June 19, 2013
    Reply

    I live in Seattle and my sister lives in Portland, so while I may be biased, I must say both places are awesome :) That’s funny that the bread here in the US tastes sweet to you, because I thought the same thing about the bread in Asia :)

    • June 19, 2013
      Reply

      Oh the bread in Asia is horrible too, I refuse to eat it, but I find it even sweeter in the US!

  14. June 19, 2013
    Reply

    Yay, you’re in my timezone!!!!! I can’t wait to see you!!

    As for your travels, plan on Portland and Seattle get some rain, it’s kinda year round, and SF is cooler than LA, … so we can go to Yosemite for a day trip and hike to experience some heat and beauty, if you’d like. Also the wine country or you can come to my house for a home cooked meal with me and Ray … invite is open for anything you want, or we can just hang and rest!

    I’m off only a couple of days while you’re here. If you’d like to go Tribute Band Stalking with me on Friday night, I’ll be at Slim’s in SF and can meet you at Union Square! :-) I can’t wait to see you, sweetie!!!!

    Share a :-)

    Gina

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      I’ve been in Portland and Seattle for 2 weeks now and it’s been super hot with no rain every day! The weather gods are treating me well :-)

      Thank you for showing me around San Francisco. I had the best time with you! :-)

  15. June 19, 2013
    Reply

    Welcome to the USA, Lauren! However, believe it or not, it’s hot, humid, and as rainy as Vietnam in August. I am talking about Atlanta :) Hopefully, it is not like that in LA. Enjoy and keep us all posted ;)

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you! The lack of humidity has been amazing but it’s still been pretty hot over the past few weeks! :-)

  16. June 19, 2013
    Reply

    Sorry to hear about you yucky month in Vietnam. I hope the US treats you a bit better! (Though, don’t completely rule out that humidity… we DO have plenty of it here, too, especially in the South and the Midwest!!)

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      The US has been fantastic so far. What amazing weather! :-)

  17. June 21, 2013
    Reply

    I wasn’t too keen on Saigon when I went, which had mostly to do with the rude people though. Hoi An looks lovely though-would love to visit it one day. Have fun in the US!

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      Hoi An is one of my favourite places in Vietnam, I think I’d stay there if I decided to return for a month or two :-)

  18. Roisin
    June 21, 2013
    Reply

    Pity that your trip to Saigon was so bad – sounds awful having no windows.

    Hopefully your time in the US will be better :)

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      So far, my time in the US has featured many windows and lots of natural light, which has been amazing! :-)

  19. Lauren
    June 22, 2013
    Reply

    I just moved to Seattle in January! It’s a really great city! Definitely browse the different neighborhoods because they are all so unique and fun! If you are around for Sunday the Ballard and Fremont farmers markets are great! Pike Street Fish Fry in Capitol hill is a fun place for food and the neighborhood is a treat in itself! Hope you love it!
    P.S. You’re my travel inspiration. Saving up to begin traveling and trying to find ways to fund it on the road so that I can travel indefinitely if I want. Your posts have been inspirational and loaded with good info. Thanks!!

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      I *loved* Seattle, and so much more than expected to — it’s a fantastic city, and I don’t usually like big cities :-)

      Thank you for the kind words, Lauren! Good luck with all your future travels :-)

  20. June 23, 2013
    Reply

    You are going to love the US, we spent 3 months there CouchSurfing only and our hosts were super nice. LA is gorgeous too, we spent around a month there.

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      I know a lot of people hate LA but I really like it, especially the area around Venice. I’m pretty excited to be exploring the US, it’s very different to Asia!

  21. June 24, 2013
    Reply

    I just found your site from Adventurous Kate’s blog. I’m glad I stumbled upon it! Welcome to the US! I hope it’s not too much culture shock here after Southeast Asia. I’m sorry you had such a rough last month there. I just read your blog post about the writing of your book and I think that sounds amazing! Can’t wait to read more!

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      Thank you so much, Julie! There hasn’t been too much culture shock but I’m definitely getting fat from all the amazing food I’ve missed and can’t say no to :-)

  22. July 1, 2013
    Reply

    Almost 2 years, keep it up! San Fran is awesome and Los Angeles is overrated, if you decide to go there.

    • July 2, 2013
      Reply

      I love Los Angeles, it’s one of my favourite cities in the world, which is why I decided to go back :-)

  23. Stephanie @pearls and passports
    July 9, 2013
    Reply

    Wow I can’t belive that you are going to the US for so long! I can’t wait to hear all about it!
    I’m currently in Vietnam and I can’t wait to explore it, despite a ‘lauren style’ incident in Hanoi…

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      A Lauren-style incident?! Ah, is it your latest post? Scammed and groped in a taxi? That sounds like a Laurenism :-) I’ll go read it now!

  24. Cara
    July 10, 2013
    Reply

    Hey Lauren! Your blog has become a daily staple in my routine! I’m a backpacker at heart trapped at a 9-5 desk job and living vicariously through you until I muster up the courage to take off again myself. I hope you have a fabulous time in the States and if you find yourself needing a local tour guide in Seattle, I’d love to meet up for coffee and talk travel :) Take care, safe travels and keep the adventures coming!

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      Hi Cara,

      Wow, that’s so lovely to hear, thank you so much! I’m loving the States so far and having so much fun. Sadly I’ve already left Seattle but I’ll let you know if I pop back up there after Portland :-)

  25. Best of luck Lauren. Sorry to hear about Saigon- we’re headed there soon, will keep what you said in mind. For starters, we’ll try and look for a good homestay/B&B WITH windows :-)

    • July 11, 2013
      Reply

      Saigon is a great city but just try and stay away from Pham Ngu Lao and, of course, find somewhere with windows! ;-)

  26. Journey Halong
    July 12, 2018
    Reply

    Although you had some not really good experience in Hoi An, I still think that it’s worth a try as it looks amazing, and I wanna have my own experience. Your post are great, very detailed and informative with your real experience and personal tips which are really useful for backpackers like us. Thanks for sharing.

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