Vietnam and back

Vietnam was a great way to cap off our amazing experiences oversees. Partially because we have Ly’s family here and were excited to see them after so long, but also because we’ve been able to see some new cities in the central region that we’ve never visited before. The trip started off in Hanoi, then Hạ Long Bay, Đà Lạt, Nha Trang, Da Nang, Hội An, and back to Hạ Long Bay before heading home to the USA.

In years past we only had a chance to stay in Hanoi for a day or two, so this time around we wanted to stay longer to see the city. We got an Airbnb near the old quarter to make sure were in the center of it all. We were right next to Hoàn Kiếm Lake which had frequent passers by and where they shut off the streets to cars on weekends for people to walk around. There weren’t as many food vendors as we would have liked but it was still nice at night with the brightly lit decorations, and vendors selling toys for kids.

Chiang Mai, Thailand

In our heads Thailand was going to be a hotter, maybe not as clean third world country where we had to watch carefully what we ate and keep our kids no further than arms length. It’s safe to say it has exceeded our expectations in every way.

Transportation is very easy and cheap. While a Taxi charges about ฿250 baht ($7.00) for a 15 minute ride, ubers are a remarkable ฿60 baht ($1.80!) for the same trip. Once we figured this out we relied strictly on ubers as they are plentiful in the city. By contrast the Songthaews (red truck below) were ฿20 Baht per person but its basically like hopping in the back of a pickup truck with a bunch of other people heading to different locations. You will eventually end up where you want to go but it will probably take a while. Tuk Tuk/Rikshaws (blue car below) were common too but those don’t have doors on them and thus aren’t the best options with a 16 month old toddler wanting to escape her parents grip!

Cebu, Philippines

Before leaving Taiwan we made a quick stop in the Philippines for 4 days with Aunti Huong and Giselle! Here are a handful of pictures showing our short trip. Although we only had time to go to one city (Cebu) we were able to relax and enjoy boating to a few nearby sandbar/islands with the kids. Overall we had a great time and would like to come back and check out different islands and beaches!

North & South (Taipei & Kenting) and Visitors!

Visitors! – After nearly 5 months in Kaohsiung, we were pleasantly surprised to have some visitors from Indianapolis! Doris and Brandon arrived first last year, followed by Ken and Linda during the holidays, then Huong and Giselle for the last 2 weeks in a sneaky surprise visit, and finally Nina and Dad are visiting today! We love seeing familiar faces after being here for so long and it definitely made the time spent here recently much more fun. Thank you also for bringing emergency supplies (sour cream and cheddar chips) and also taking some stuff home for us. Shedding as much of our belongings now will make the final few months of travel much easier.

Taipei – We hopped on the north bound high speed rail and within 2 hours we were in Taipei. Upon arriving, not much seemed different other than slightly cooler temperatures. The MRT system was a lot bigger than Kaohsiung, but it was very well laid out in a grid pattern across the city so it was very easy to get to any part of the city.

We got a small and cozy AirBnB with a nice view of Taipei 101 in Da’an district. Outside was a really cool breakfast place with the biggest steam bun cookers we’d ever seen!

The first place we went to was the Taipei zoo. It was really scenic – we were impressed. Only problem is the walking route goes straight up hill, so we were exhausted after we made it to the top…leaving very little energy to come back down! 

Kyoto and Osaka, Japan

Wow, what a trip to Japan! Strap in your seat because this is a long one (we are too lazy to split it up into multiple posts). The trip functioned as a visa run, which basically was a way to extend our time in Taiwan without having to mess with getting a real visa. We took the opportunity to make it into a mini vacation!

We flew into Kyoto on Vera’s birthday and eventually reached our Airbnb apartment after weaving through the elaborate train system and a 20 minute walk in 55 degree weather. This does not seem cold but remember we were used to 95 degree weather for the past 3 months so it was a bit of a shock to the system. It was also a little scary with 2 little ones in the dark meandering through side streets, but we always felt safe. 

Shopping for Oreos, trends, fake brands

Despite all the pics of restaurant food, we actually try to eat healthy and cook at home the majority of the time. This means a lot of grocery shopping. We try to do it when Ellie is at school 20160919_104113so she doesn’t get bored and also so we can use the extra stroller space to carry groceries home (we don’t have a scooter or car). Here is a pic of us walking home, stroller full of our weekly groceries.

In general, the differences in grocery shopping here from back home all point to one thing: Asia seems geared towards fresher food and less overall consumption.

Naturally, my conclusion is mainly based on Oreos. When I buy a pack of Oreos in the states, they don’t make you wait to consume the entire box. Just peal back the opening and go to town. oreos-usa 20160926_105848

Here, they are packaged individually with 3 in each bundle. This is such a pain when all I want to do is eat an entire box of Oreos after a long day. I mean, opening 9 packages is just too much work to eat 27 cookies. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still something I will do, but I’ll be angry about it as I do it. 20160926_094216

Seriously though, no one here does bulk shopping (outside of a few big grocery stores such as Costco, Carrefour, or Dollars). There is little need as there are dozens of small grocery stores at each city corner.

In fact, we’ve never seen anyone stuff as much in these tiny carts as we have personally. We often wonder why no one is buying more than a few items….do they eat out every day? The best we can tell is that they just shop more often. This would make sense since they’re everywhere, and you’d get the freshest fruits and veggies (and fewer processed and frozen foods). Most foods come in smaller packaging/quantities such as milk, eggs, and chips. 

Ellie goes to school, Mid-Autumn festival, and Super typhoon Meranti

First things first – It’s been 65 days since my last meal at Taco Bell. I’m still in the grieving process, but my gut seems to be thanking me. It is yet to be seen whether I stop aging and my hair grows back, but I’ll keep everyone in the loop. In the mean time we found a taco joint inside the night market that has sauce that tastes EXACTLY like taco bell….score!

On to other equally important things…Ellie has just completed her first month of Montessori school!


On good days she can’t stop talking about what she did, but on not so good days we feel bad that she may not understand what is going on. But everyone has been very friendly and it’s definitely getting better with time.

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Taiwan peculiarities

We’re closing in on a month here and as such we are finally settled and starting to venture beyond our Zuoying neighborhood! Below is a distant view of the Tuntex sky tower as we searched for a new camera lense on “computer street”.


We’ve gone to the Lotus pond, Shoushan Zoo, the National Science Museum, and lots of time at the malls to stay cool from the heat (Taiwanese malls are pretty cool with at least 10 floors and kids areas). On the other hand, the zoo and museum really made us appreciate how nice we have it in Indy, as these were very outdated. We still had fun though! Wild monkey’s were everywhere as we descended the mountain out of the zoo, with one even snatching a water bottle from a toddler right in front of us!

Hello Kaohsiung!


Well, after yeeaarrrs of claiming we were really moving to another country, here we are finally in Taiwan! Why Taiwan? Well, its safe for the kids, 20160727_071020its clean, the food is supposed to be amazing, and it has the same/lower cost of living as Indianapolis, Indiana (which was key in this whole experiment). We chose Kaohsiung over Taipei because it’s a little warmer in the winter and less rainy. We just wrapped up our first week and it’s been quite the adventure already.

 The girls didn’t seem to mind the long flight and we eventually landed in Kaohsiung after over 24 hours in the sky or in airports. Ellie watched Frozen and Toy Story on the plane which kept her plenty happy.

We landeArrive in Kaohsiungd at midnight and the first thing we noticed was that we were exactly 12 hours later than Indianapolis. That’s about as screwed as you can be when it comes to jet lag. The second thing we noticed when we walked out of the airport was how hot and humid it was…a very moist 87 degrees. Although it was 87 degrees it felt like 107 degrees. After waiting in a long taxi line, Ly asked what had splattered on my shirt. It was sweat, from just standing there. We negotiated with the driver and settled on $240NT (32TWD = 1USD, therefore it was approximately $7.50 USD), only to see that our luggage didn’t fit in his cab. 20160729_003538Eventually another one came and we were able to decide on $300NT for the larger Toyota “Wish” model. Since he didn’t speak English, we had to show him our destination in Chinese with my phone. We were barely able to stuff all our luggage in the back:  4 heavy suitcases, 3 heavy backpacks, a stroller, 2 adults, 1 toddler, and a partridge in a pear tree (Vera)….but amazingly enough we got it all to fit! It was like playing Tetris except much sweatier. Unless you played Tetris so vigorously that you started to sweat a lot. Then it would be equivalent.

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Goodbye Indianapolis (for now)!

Family Pic

The Phở Curry! name is a Vietnamese and Indian combo, and an homage to one of my favorite blogs, which is all about retiring early and enjoying life abroad in a smart way. It was their blog that inspired us to try it out for ourselves.

We want to give a big thanks to all our friends and family who have helped us get ready and wished us well for our extended trip abroad. Timing for our return is not certain but we are estimating March or April of 2017. We will miss everyone, but definitely will be in contact as often as possible! Don’t forget to come and visit…we will always have a bed (or at least a couch) ready!!