Vietnam is a tall, narrow, s-shaped country, and the climate varies quite a bit throughout. In the north, there are four separate seasons, while in the tropical south, the temperature by varies just three degrees year-round. Hanoi, being in northern Vietnam, was actually pretty chilly while we were visiting. The temperatures would reach a high in the low 60s or high 50s, but high humidity made this feel colder than it was.


Our hosts, Jeff and Kate Caster, were incredibly generous and fun to be with. We had a wonderful and entertaining two weeks spending time with them, making friends, indulging in red wine, and enjoying the best room of our trip in their beautiful French Colonial-style house.



The neighborhood where they live is known as Tay Ho, or West Lake, and we spent one of the days wandering around the rather large lake, stopping at numerous Bia Hois along the way to cut the cold with a crisp Saigon beer.



Walking around the streets and exploring on foot provided a nice glimpse of life in Vietnam’s capital city. We spent a few days taxying to different neighborhoods and then walking along narrow streets as the afternoon light turned golden.



Hanoi-29Traffic, even by the southeast Asian standards we’ve grown accustomed to, was rather insane. The philosophy here is to cross as quickly yet authoritatively as possible, and avoid the motorbikes!

Hanoi-17Bun Cha, a signature northern Vietnamese dish, was a Hanoi specialty that we enjoyed tremendously. It’s made up of chargrilled pork patties with a sweet-savory broth, white rice noodles, and fried spring rolls that are eaten wrapped in an enormous amount of crunchy mixed greens.

Hanoi-6The time we spent exploring Hanoi was delicious and relaxing, and the cloudy, cool, misty days provided a cozy change of pace from steamy Indonesia.


Gili Air

No cars or motorcycles, just humans and ponies. And cats, lots of cats, many born with stubby half-tails. Gili Air (which means “water island” in Indonesian) is the smallest of the Gili Islands, a group of idyllic little lumps of sand between Bali and Lombok, Indonesia.

Gili Air-20We were lucky enough to spend 16 days wandering around this miniature paradise. Being the rainy season, there were even fewer tourists on the island than usual. It also didn’t rain all day every day, and the rolling clouds provided frequent and much needed sun breaks for Jane’s skin.

Gili Air-32The days were spent relaxing, reading, snorkeling, and swimming. The water was the most improbable-looking shade of aquamarine, and a beautiful backdrop for the many schools of tropical fish darting around in their coral homes. We were also lucky enough to see a friendly sea turtle while snorkeling in shallow water, and we swam with it for a while as small fish nibbled bits of algae from its neck (unfortunately, photo unavailable). Also, aquatic ponies:

Gili Air-17Most nights were fairly cloudy, but the ones that weren’t provided some incredible views of a gorgeous full moon and more constallations than we’ve ever seen before.

Gili Air-3Gili Air was a gem of a place, and we had a great time getting to know our vacation-neighbors while eating a beachfront breakfast every morning. The day of Jane’s 26th birthday, we went to H2O Yoga for a luxurious hour and a half of open-air yoga and stretching, and had mango-dark chocolate ice cream cones for the walk back.Gili Air-39We finished up the day with a flower-covered cake from our friends at Star Bar, a strawberry daiquiri, and some hermit crab races courtesy of our 13-year-old neighbor Celeste. The next morning we headed out early for a few days on the island of Lombok before starting our journey to the city of Ha Noi, Vietnam.