7 Things You Must Do In Hanoi, Vietnam

(writing this post Covid-19 quarantine) As people get excited to travel again… slowly but surely… I’ve been imagining, dreaming, planning, my next travels for awhile now…

If you’re ready to travel again soon too but you’re not sure where to… Vietnam was one of my favorite countries while I was traveling around Southeast Asia. It’s also one of the cheapest countries… so, if you’re on a budget, this is the perfect place!


Note: This post contains some affiliate links. Just so you know, if you use the links to make a purchase, I may receive a small commission or compensation from the links on this page… but at no extra cost to you! Thank you for your support!


Vietnam is crazy, hectic, nothing like I’ve ever experienced or seen… but it’s amazing. The food is crazy cheap but oh so delicious… and the coffee, oh the coffee. Yum.

Go to Hoan Kiem Lake – A lake right in the middle of the busy city. There’s a beautiful red bridge and the Ngoc Son Temple. Take a relaxing stroll around the lake and take in all of the beautiful sights. There’s also a pagoda right in the center of the lake.


Hanoi’s French Quarter – The history of Vietnam is pretty interesting… and if you didn’t really know about it, you’d be surprised to see things that you would imagine seeing in Europe. That is, because the French ruled Vietnam up until 1954. There are many buildings and foods that Vietnam still has that was influenced by the French. This area is quite beautiful to see, but you won’t feel like you’re in Asia.


St. Joseph’s Cathedral – The Notre Dame of Hanoi… that’s exactly what it looks like. Located in the Hoan Kiem District or the Old Quarter… it’s easy to find and you’ll be glad to say that you saw the Notre Dame of Asia. Ha.


Hanoi Old Quarter – Another great area of the city… here, you can find cheap beers, hectic markets, and delicious street food.


Try Egg Coffee – if you love coffee… you must try this at least once! I LOVE coffee. I had read about this and I just knew I had to try it… I also was on a mission to find the BEST egg coffee in the city and I definitely did. They have egg coffees all around the city, but I read that this was the best place in town.. Cafe Giang.


Go to Huong Lien – There’s a place in Hanoi that our former president, Barack Obama and Anthony Bourdain dined at together. I have always loved and admired Bourdain… when I watched that episode, I put it on my list of places I HAD to go to. I had read that there could be really long lines and you’d have to wait forever to get a table… But the day that I went, I got lucky. There wasn’t a line and I sat down right away. They have the table and chairs that Obama and Bourdain sat at encased in a display case. There are many photos of them all around the restaurant. Not only was it cool to go to a place where they had gone… but the food was delicious as well! Order the “Obama Combo”. Trust me.


Eat a Banh Mi – I love Vietnamese food… banh mi is one of my favorites. I did a lot of research to the find the best banh mi in Hanoi… definitely try this place if you get a chance!

Happy traveling!

Angkor Wat. A Must?

Angkor Wat. A place that has been on my bucket list for the longest time. But, as with many destinations these days… tourists have overrun and ruined many beautiful places.

It wasn’t an exclusion for Angkor Wat… I thought waking up at 3:30am and heading out before the crack of dawn, would let me see and explore Angkor Wat before everyone else. But I was very wrong.

Angkor Wat is the largest religious monument in the world. It is located in Siem Reap, Cambodia and is on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. The temple dates back to the 12th century and was part of the Khmer Empire. (Okay enough of this history lesson…😛google the rest!)

My tuk tuk picked me up at 4:30am sharp. It was still pitch black dark outside. It was actually quite chilly as well. I’m glad I had brought my sweater… the ride on the tuk tuk to Angkor was freezing. I arrived at the ticket place at around 5am. I was actually first in line for the 1-day admission tickets. (You can purchase 1, 2 and 3 day passes) The line for the 3-day pass was the longest. I would recommend getting the 2-day pass. One day at Angkor is too short but three days may be too much. Well, depending on how much time you have in Siem Reap… you decide how much time you want to spend exploring Angkor.

I didn’t know that Angkor was that big! Angkor is literally a whole village. On the map, it looks as if Angkor is half of the city of Siem Reap. No wonder they sell 3-day passes.

I got to Angkor Wat, the most famous of the temples, at around 5:15am. My tuk tuk driver dropped me off and told me to meet back where he had dropped me in 3 hours. (You can discuss times with your driver) It was still too dark to see anything. People were using their flashlights on their phones to see where they were walking. I followed a small crowd for about a 15 minute walk. We reached some water, which looked to be a small pond. I could finally see a little orange from the sun sneaking up. I could see the outline of the beautiful architecture that was Angkor Wat. After about 10 minutes, the sun filled the dark sky with a little more light. After I snapped out of the initial awe of the sunrise… I looked around and saw hundreds of people all gathered in front of the pond. I’m not joking, there were hundreds and hundreds of people there! I read somewhere before that this was to be expected… but I didn’t believe that there would be THAT many people at 5am!All of these people gathered around at 5am!

Beautiful sunrise at Angkor Wat.

Now, I’ll keep my actual review short and sweet.

Are there a lot of tourists at Angkor? – YES.

Will it be difficult to get some photos? – Yes, at the really popular places. (i.e. Tomb Raider temple – Ta Prohm) it was impossible to get a photo of the famous tree in the movie without anyone in it.☹️ BUT, you can also get some really amazing photos if you venture away from the “Instagram” famous spots.

Tomb Raider temple. Sooooooo many people!

Is it worth it to go? YES! Even though, it IS extremely packed with tourists… it was one of the most beautiful and mesmerizing places I’ve ever been to. I had an amazing time exploring all of the temples.

Tip: Walk around the sides or back of places… get away from huge crowds and you can find some beautiful places to snap some photos with NO ONE in it!

A few more add ons to help you if you plan on visiting Angkor…

I got the one day pass and started my day at Angkor Wat at around 5:15am. I left Angkor Wat at around 8am. Then made my way to the next temple. I can’t remember the names of all of the temples I visited… (sorry!) but the ones I do remember are Ta Prohm, Bayon, Ta Som and Banteay. After a few hours, I was really tired and hot… that’s why you cannot see all of Angkor in one or even two days. You have to walk A LOT. I got back to my hotel at around noon. Thank goodness for late check out… I needed some time to recuperate before my flight that night.

All in all…. Angkor is extremely touristy. But, it is definitely worth a visit.

I’d actually love to go back one day.☺️

Ultimate Guide to Thailand

Thailand. Oh, Thailand. I love, love, love Thailand. You can say I may be a little bias, because I lived there for a year… but it really is one of the most beautiful countries I have ever been to. With some of the nicest and friendliest people and some of the most amazing food! From beautiful lush, green mountains, to amazing skyscrapers to gorgeous clear blue waters… you can see everything in Thailand.

Thailand isn’t meant to be seen in a few days… there’s just way too much to see and do. If you have the time… I would suggest at least 2 weeks in Thailand alone. Here, I have come up with the ultimate guide to spend the most incredible 2 weeks in ‘The Land of Smiles’.😊

First stop: CHIANG MAI

Fly into Chiang Mai. Chiang Mai is in Northern Thailand. It is situated right next to many beautiful green mountains. Here, you can find many hiking trails and amazing waterfalls. Chiang Mai is the second largest city in Thailand but it doesn’t feel that way. The people here are the nicest and extremely laid back. The street food is amazing. On Saturday and Sunday, they have the largest open markets that line all of the streets with some of the most delicious foods and cutest souvenirs. Everything is extremely cheap! And, of course you can haggle and get great bargains. Must try dish in Chiang Mai… Khao Soi. Usually only found in Northern Thailand, khao soi is a delicious yellow curry noodle soup with chicken. It’s so good! YUMMM. Go on a river boat cruise at night along the Ping River. Dinner and a cruise was about $20-30! Super cheap if you ask me.

(check out my blog post on what other things to do in Chiang Mai here:)

https://jjennietravels.com/2018/02/20/7-free-or-fairly-cheap-things-to-do-in-chiang-mai/

Doi Inthanon National Park located in Northern Thailand

Next stop: BANGKOK

Bangkok is a must. It’s the largest city in Thailand. A completely different vibe from Chiang Mai. The skies are filled with beautiful tall skyscrapers and no laid back vibe here… It’s a busy city with people always on the go. Definitely check out the Lebua Skybar (seen in The Hangover 2). Completely overpriced drinks but the views are to die for. Just get one cocktail! The Grand Palace is also on the list BUT be warned… it gets CROWDED. I have to admit that I actually left early because the overcrowding got to me. But if you can tough it out… it’s worth seeing. Chatuchak is the biggest outdoor market I have ever seen in all of my travels! Supposedly it has over 15,000 stalls. I can’t even imagine how that can be possible… but I guess it is! They sell everthing here… you name it, they’ve got it. WARNING though, there is a section, where they sell animals… ALL different kinds of animals as well. They’re locked in small little cages, living in not so good conditions. Seeing all of these animals broke my heart… I suggest not going to this area of the market.

The Grand Palace, temple in Bangkok
Lebua Skybar in Bangkok

LAST STOP: PHUKET and THE ISLANDS

Of course you have to see the beautiful blue waters of the Thailand islands. The water IS really that clear and blue from the pictures that you see on the internet! Maya Bay is where they shot the movie The Beach with Leonardo DiCaprio. It’s only an hour or so boat ride from Phuket. The water is clear, warm and absolutely beautiful. Along the way to Maya Bay and Phi Phi Islands… you can also see Monkey Island, where a bunch of monkeys live. They’re really cute but they also really scare me.

Maya Bay, Phi Phi Islands

Thailand is for sure a must. It should be on everyone’s bucket list. This country holds a very special place in my heart and I want to share it with others. I hope this sparks a little interest in the country for anyone reading this. You will fall in love with it too. I guarantee it.☺️✌🏽♥️

Happy travels!

Exploring Myanmar

I decided to travel to Myanmar while I was living in Thailand. It’s only a few hour flight from Chiang Mai, so I made it a weekend trip. Surprisingly, many people haven’t heard of Myanmar and many people who have, wouldn’t think of even going there. Formally known as Burma, Myanmar is a beautiful country but one of the most underdeveloped countries
I have been to so far.

I want to be honest in my experience… but I also don’t want to scare you away from visiting Myanmar. I believe that we should travel to all different kinds of countries… so that we can understand and appreciate how others live… their culture, their livelihood, etc.

First, the plane from Chiang Mai to Bagan was the smallest plane I have ever been on. When we landed, the airport was tiny and wasn’t busy at all, like most airports are. No hustle and bustle.

The people were all very friendly. The roads are all dirt roads… I didn’t see any proper street lights on the roads in Bagan. Bagan is less developed than the city Mandalay. But Bagan is a must… if you want to see all of the beautiful temples and pagodas!

My hotel in Bagan was in the middle of some dirt roads, which made it a little hard to find at night! The power went out one day for about 8 hours… NO hot water, no electricity, NO AC! (Myanmar is very hot and humid) But I survived… I welcome these experiences because it makes for a great story! HA. But also… (as cheesy as this sounds…) made me appreciate my life and everything that we take for granted, especially in the US.

Be prepared to say “no” A LOT. There are vendors everywhere and many times… women, children and even men run up to you to try to sell you everything from umbrellas, snacks to jewelry. If you buy one thing from one person… you’ll have 10 more people running up to you. I wanted to buy everything because I felt so bad but that would be impossible.

There is absolutely no shortage of beautiful temples in Myanmar. Tip: climb on top of one of the many temples in Bagan and wait for sunset. One of the most beautiful sunsets I have ever experienced in my life.

You can easily rent a motor bike to get around or you can also hire a driver, if you feel less confident riding a motor bike or just want to get around more comfortably.

Myanmar is very cheap. You can get a decent hotel for less than $20 a night and meals cost around $1-2!… and they are so DELICIOUS!

Some places you must visit:

  1. Atumashi Monastery – located in Mandalay.
  2. U Bein Bridge – (Mandalay) you can catch an amazing sunset here as well.
  3. Hsinbyume Pagoda – (Mandalay)
  4. Sagaing – (Mandalay) – the views here were AMAZING. You can see all of the beautiful greenery and temples that Myanmar has to offer.
  5. Mandalay Royal Palace – (Mandalay) A MUST!
  6. Kuthodaw Pagoda – (Mandalay) – beautiful white structures make for a beautiful place to capture some photos.
Atumashi Monastery
U Bein Bridge
Hsinbyume Pagoda
Sagaing, Mandalay
Mandalay Royal Palace
Kuthodaw Pagoda

I hope this opens up your mind to experience or at least give it a thought to visit other countries… some that are less developed and put yourself out of your comfort zone.

Happy traveling!

Learn to Cook Thai Food!

Right before I moved to Thailand… taking a Thai cooking class was on the top of my list. 7 months later… I finally took one. HA. And I’d have to say that I would definitely do it again!

There are tons of cooking schools and classes that are offered all around Chiang Mai… so, this post is just my review for my experience. Thanks to my friend for finding this awesome school! I really did love this one that we went to and I highly recommend it to everyone who visits Chiang Mai!

The name of the cooking school is Zabb E Lee, it’s located right in the heart of the Old City, BUT they have recently expanded to a really nice outdoor kitchen and organic garden and farm! Link: http://www.zabbeleecooking.com   (my friend emailed them and got a response a few minutes later!)

The beautiful outdoor kitchen.

They offer a morning class and an evening class. First, everyone gathers in a van and they take you to a local market. There, the chef (her name is Kiss Kiss and she is hilarious and amazing!) shows and explains to everyone the different ingredients that you will be using in the dishes. Then we all hop back into the van and about a 20-25 minute ride later, we found ourselves at one of the cutest places. The outdoor kitchen is amazing! They grow a lot of their ingredients there in the garden. They have limes, chili peppers, thai basil, lemon grass, butterfly peas and many other things.

Part of the garden in the back.

You get to choose 4 dishes to make and a curry paste AND mango sticky rice. It was so much food, I had to take some of it home for dinner.😋

Pad Thai and Tom Yum Koong.

Tom Yum Koong soup. (my favorite!)

Fried Spring Rolls.

Preparing ingredients.

Making Pad Thai.

Ingredients for Pad Thai and Tom Yum Koong.

Ingredients for green curry.

Mmm making green curry!

And TADA! Green Curry! (It was sooo good. Quite possibly, one of the best green curries I’ve ever had.)

I chose to make pad thai, tom yum koong, fried spring rolls, green curry paste, green curry and everyone gets to take home the mango sticky rice. (yummm)

All of the staff were so helpful and friendly as well… everything was hands on. We got to prepare and cook everything. The food was AMAZING too. I really had a great time at Zabb E Lee cooking school. DEFINITELY recommend checking it out!

10 Instagram Worthy Places To See In Bali

Bali has always been on my list of places to go to… but lately, it seems that pictures of Bali are flooding my Instagram feed almost everyday! I had to go for myself and see these places I kept seeing on IG. Some were absolutely worth it and some not so much.😐So, here are my top 10 Instagram-worthy places to see in Bali! (In no particular order!)

  1. Tegalalang Rice Terrace (Ubud) – Although, it rained heavily when I went… it was still a beautiful sight. I didn’t make it down to the actual rice fields because it was pouring and it was all muddy (I actually do regret not going down) but from up above I still got some pretty good shots.
  2. Monkey Forest Sanctuary (Ubud) – A definite must when in Bali, not just for the photographs but it’s a beautiful place to relax and take a stroll through. And you might just see a monkey or two… or 50…🐒🐒🐒
  3. Tegenungan Waterfall (Ubud) – Only a 20 minute drive from the center of Ubud, you’ll find this waterfall. It’s not the biggest nor the most spectacular waterfall I’ve seen… but it’s pretty nice and there’s a swing you can ride on. Makes for a pretty cool photo with the waterfall in the background.
  4. Tanah Lot Temple – One of the most popular temples in Bali… hundreds of tourists come here everyday. To avoid the crowds, come early… but I’ve heard the sunsets here are amazing too.
  5. Pura Tirta Empul (Ubud) – Is a beautiful temple not too far from the center of Bali. It’s a water temple where people can go to cleanse themselves in the holy water. It’s quite beautiful.
  6. Gili T (Gili Trawangan) – You have to take a fast boat from Bali to get here… which takes about 90 minutes or so… but it’s worth it. There are tons of bars and restaurants along the beach. You can eat dinner, sip cocktails and watch the sunset. Perfect evening. (Also, this is where all of those ocean swings you see on Instagram are at!)
  7. Uluwatu Temple (Uluwatu) – You can see some amazing views of the clear blue waters of Bali here. The temple itself is beautiful. You can most likely catch locals performing a ceremony dressed up in traditional clothing as well.
  8. Single Fin (Uluwatu) – Single Fin is a surf shop, bar and cafe. Right on the top of the cliffs, you can get some amazing views of the ocean. The sunsets are killer here too! The food was actually pretty good as well! They also have big parties on the weekends that sort of turns into a nightclub feel.                                                                —http://www.singlefinbali.com
  9. 707 Bali (Seminyak) – This super chill beach bar is the perfect place to have some beers and enjoy the sunset.
  10. Kelingking Beach (Nusa Penida) – About a 30 minute fast boat ride from Bali is a small, beautiful little island called Nusa Penida. This is also the place where you can see the Instagram famous “T-Rex”! This was probably my favorite thing to see in Bali. Pictures don’t do it any justice. You must see it in person!

A Day Trip to Sticky Waterfalls!

I’ve been in Chiang Mai for about 3 weeks now and I finally had my first real outdoor adventure. There are a lot of outdoor activities here in Chiang Mai. There are so many places to hike, waterfalls to visit and temples to see.

The trip to the Sticky Waterfalls is about an hour and a half ride from the center of Chiang Mai. We arranged a songthaew to pick us up at the MAYA mall which is in the Nimman area. A songthaew is also known as the “red bus”. It’s a small red colored pick up truck that has an open back where people hop on and off. It’s cheaper than taxis but sometimes they’ll have multiple stops for everyone on board. If you have a large group, songthaews would definitely be the way to go. You can split the total cost between everyone.

The songthaew we reserved for the day included transportation to and from the Sticky Waterfalls and about 3 hours to spend our time there. It was 1,300 baht which is about $40 USD. We had 7 people so we split it evenly, we also added a tip, which came out to about $6 a person. NOT BAD AT ALL! Although, I do have to mention the ride there isn’t that comfortable. The songthaews seats are hard and after about 30 minutes, your butt starts to cramp. But, hey $6, you can’t ask for much. If you want to have a more comfortable ride, you can absolutely find air conditioned vans or shuttles that will take you there… not sure how much those are. But I am on a budget, so the songthaews will do for now!

Our songthaew driver was so nice, once we got there, he walked us all the way down to where the waterfalls were. Once you reach the waterfalls, (there’s a few), make sure you have your swimsuit, because you will get wet! Wait, let’s back up… why are they called the Sticky Waterfalls? Apparently, it comes from a mineral deposit that makes it grippy, sort of like sand paper. BUT! Be careful, I must warn you, there are some rocks that have moss or algae on them that makes it slippery. You can usually tell because they are green… but sometimes it’s hard to tell so be cautious! (I fell twice…☹️)


Make sure you snap a bunch of photos! The waterfalls and the surrounding areas are so beautiful! There are a lot of insects there, so make sure you also slather on that bug repellent or you will be eaten alive.

When you climb back up from the waterfalls to the picnic area, there’s another wooden walkway that leads you to this “seven colored spring”. It’s very small but the color is absolutely amazing!


Our driver was so kind and let us stop by another must see on our drive down. These beautiful stairs lead up to this giant Buddha inside of a cave! The walk up the stairs is a bit brutal, but once you reach the top, it’s all worth it.


Our last stop was Sri Lanna National Park. A beautiful area with a lake, where people can ride boats and have picnics. There’s a restaurant there as well to grab a quick lunch.


Our entire trip lasted about 5-6 hours. So, I’d say that was a good, adventure filled day. Sticky Waterfalls is a definite must if you are in Chiang Mai!

Happy exploring!