Where did we go in 2016? Mostly Southeast Asia. And then Switzerland and France, with a little Spain and England thrown in. And we had plenty of adventures along the way, from kayaking on the UNESCO World Heritage site of Halong Bay to visiting an orphanage in Vung Tau to taking surf lessons in Bali!!
Please watch our HAPPY HOLIDAYS 2016 TRAVEL VIDEO to see a short review of our year of nomadic travels. A summary of our adventures in each country follows.
We started by flying into Bangkok in late October, 2015, staying in a fun neighborhood of working Thais and expats, enjoying the best street food ever, plenty of boat rides and sight-seeing, and connecting with new friends at our condo. We then took the night train and ferry to Koh Samui and enjoyed island life from a house on the beach in Lipa Noi. Our time included snorkeling, scuba diving, paddle boarding, water parks, friends, and plenty of awesome food.
After two months in Thailand, we spent THREE months exploring Vietnam (see our guide). This country made a HUGE impression on us. It is chock full of culture, history, and endless stories. The people are open, friendly, and assertive, and the food is phenomenal. We visited the major sights in HCMC (Saigon), Hanoi, Hue, Hoi An, Halong Bay, and the island of Phu Quoc. We went scuba diving, snorkeling, kayaking, and hiking. We took the night train from Hanoi to Hue and road motorcycles from Hue to Hoi An. We visited My Huong Le’s orphanage and learning center; met an amazing family in Hanoi who is changing the face of autism there; and made many friends for life. Vietnam will always remain a very special place to us.
We spent a week in Phnom Penh, the capital and memorial site of the Killing Fields, and a week in Siem Reap, home to the famous Angkor Wat. We saw some of the most stunning ruins and temples in our entire trip, visited a silk farm, watched a traditional Khmer dance show, and ate some of the best food in our lives (seriously). We also met CNN Hero, Ponheary Ly, and chatted about the amazing work she does bringing education to rural kids, and took art classes at Colors of Cambodia. Loved downtown Siem Reap; what a fun, casual, artistic, dusty town.
We first stopped in Jakarta but quickly moved on to see the amazing 9th century Buddhist temple grounds of Borobudur (a must see). From there we went to the fun, dense, yet laid-back town of Yogyakarta, where Pierre ate Cobra and we checked out the many cute restaurants and cafes and huge open air market selling Batik textiles, sarongs, and more. We then set up base in non-touristy Lovina Beach in north Bali for a month in a gorgeous house while we snorkeled, scuba dived, explored, and homeschooled! Loved yoga-influenced, new agey, touristy, artistic Ubud, where we visited the Monkey Forest. Snorkeling in Ahmed was nice and taking surf lessons in south Bali, also a highlight.
After a quick trip to Singapore to see friends and renew our visa, we returned to Indonesia, this time heading out to the small, gorgeous Gili Islands (where it took me only 40 minutes to jog around Gili Air island), and afterwards, we hung out a bit longer in touristy south Bali, near Legian Beach.
Our new friends hosted us for a long weekend and showed us how to do Singapore affordably! We ate great street food, a combination of Chinese, Malay, and Indian food, and rode our bikes through East Coast Park for great views of this architecturally gorgeous city.
Staying near the capital of Georgetown, we LOVED that town’s culturally rich street art and fun 3D museums. I also loved my jogs in the botanical gardens and the kids enjoyed all those monkeys harassing us at the skate park. We did spend a lot of time at the air-conditioned malls at Gurney Plaza, too, as they had a great food court! (See our guide to Penang.)
Growing weary of the heat and traffic challenges of S.E. Asia, in August, we decided to head to Pierre’s home country to visit family and friends. For almost a month, we stayed in the family’s chalet in the mountains and enjoyed plenty of hikes and fondue!
To help get the rest of us speaking better French, we decided to move to this country for a few months. We moved around a lot, though, staying in the quaint, tiny village of Quillan, among the numerous Cathar castles in the midi-Pyrenees; right on the beach in Argeles-Sur-Mer near the city of Perpignan; and again by the beach outside of Montpellier. We also visited Avignon, Toulouse, Carcassonne, Aix-en-Provence, Montpellier, Perpignan, and many of the small villages and markets around Quillan. Highlights include meeting our friends in Quillan, who had eight children; our kids had so much fun taking art classes, doing soccer practice, rock-climbing, and just hanging out with them. I loved walking the lively streets of French cities, all the cute French markets, and sipping French wine!
Julien and I took a side-trip to London that was mostly about seeing friends and family. But we also went to the fun, interactive Science Museum, and of course, the awesome Harry Potter Tour!
We were only there for a couple of days in order to fly out of their airport, but man, do we love this lively, active, happening city! (See our Top 10 Things To Do here!) One of our favorites in the world. We walked down La Rambla, visited the Boqueria Market, ate dinner at a restaurant in La Plaça Reial, and had a good time.
For our final stop before returning to the U.S. to “refuel” we chose a French Caribbean Island that also happens to be the spot of our honeymoon, 13 years ago. Gorgeous beaches and landscapes, and a very laid-back Creole style best defines this place.
We head to the U.S. in a week, but our travels will continue, with some adjustments. The travel lifestyle is in our blood now.