A Sprinkling of the Best: The Unexpected, Part II

Welcome back! This is a continuation of a previous post (The Unexpected, Part I) covering the second half of the trip.

Tet Ho Chi Minh City Saigon Vietnam Lora Kathleen
Tet in Vietnam

Vietnam is one of those places that is absolutely incredible. It is one of those places that just seemed to call to me and is a place I so desperately want to go back to and see more of. Since we were here during a major holiday, we only were able to stay in one place and not explore the rest of the country. The north is definitely on the list for next time.

We were here during Tet, also known as Spring Festival, Lunar New Year or Chinese New Year. It was a thrilling combination of chaos and quiet, often wedged back to back and together. Ryan and I stayed in an AMAZING Airbnb (if you are not already signed up, use this link for $25 off your first stay!) with a family during the holiday. The family was SO kind and invited us to celebrate the New Year with their extended family on the night they hosted. We were able to visit Flower Street on New Years Eve and then watch the fireworks from our room. (If you are heading through Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) for more than a couple days, check out Chau’s Airbnb listing. It’s a wonderful base to explore from!)

On New Years Day, when the entire city shuts down, we visited the War Remnants Museum, a museum that remembers the other side of the US War with Vietnam. Growing up an American, I’ve always known what America collectively thought of the war, but it was very grounding to see what it was like for the victors and survivors. The museum also includes perspectives on the French colonial period and Chinese wars.

Lake Houhai Hutong Beijing Lora Kathleen

Ryan studied abroad here and my sister taught English here, so I expected a lot out of Beijing. It fulfilled all my expectations and more.

We stayed in a lovely little hutong near Lake Houhai. And since Beijing is such an ancient city, we were never short on things to see and places to explore. Not to mention, the food was amazing! We had so many incredible dumplings, Beijing duck, hot pot and basically whatever we could find.

Bedouin Tea Wadi Rum Lora Kathleen
Jordanian Hospitality

In Jordan, you hear so much about “Bedouin” hospitality that I shouldn’t have been surprised when we were welcomed with wide open arms by everyone we encountered. From the hotel owner and his brothers (who showed us the best places to eat in Petra and took us to an illicit beer bar) to the random guy we met in a hookah cafe while trying to use the internet, everyone was so kind. It surprised me a little, since I’d heard some negative stories from other travelers, but for us it was great.

Ethiopian Orthodox Monastery Jerusalem Lora Kathleen

Jerusalem actually falls under both expected and unexpected. The unexpected is that I didn’t expect to find such open dialogue and, for the most part, acceptance. When you have a city that is the holiest city in three major world religions, it’s hard not to find amazing things around every corner. The city emits a vibe of holiness, even outside the old city walls. It was a fascinating experience and I hope to get to return there some day.


That wraps up some of the best things that were unexpected, but next week I’ll talk more about the best of the expected.