Countries

Country #109 - Indonesia

The Rice Paddies

My time in Indonesia was absolutely wonderful! I landed in Bali well after midnight and had a car waiting to take me to my hotel, Sanur House. It was very late when I arrived but I received a very warm welcome and was really appreciated my lovely room to get a great night of sleep in. Thank you so much to Sanur House for sponsoring my time in Bali! I also can’t thank Sanur House enough for how much they went above and beyond during my stay.

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The next day I woke up to meet Agata, the general manager of Sanur House, and go on a tour of Bali for the day. I was so excited and appreciative! We had a tasty breakfast to-go in the car and started our trip off by heading towards Tegenungan Waterfall. On the drive there I was introduced to Pak and Ibu, two locals who were helping to drive and guide us for the day. They were both so cool and I was very glad to get to know them and Agata as well. It was an enjoyable drive through the island and I was able to learn a lot even just starting our trip.

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When we got to Tegenungan Waterfall Agata, Ibu, and I made our way to the bottom. It was a lot of stairs but was well worth it to get up close - the waterfall was amazing and the entire surrounding area was beautiful! I opted against swimming so I wouldn’t be wet for the rest of the day, but there were plenty of other people doing so. The walk back up was definitely exhausting and we were all excited to get back in the car and rest.

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Our next stop was the Tirta Empul Temple. Before we entered we all had to tie a wrap around our waists and pull our hair up. It was definitely interesting to learn all of the regulations to entering! I’m glad we were able to go inside, though, because it was amazing. People were bathing in the pools and the actual structure itself was very intricate. The whole complex was quite impressive. I loved the giant koi pond and we were sure to look for the fabled blue fish, though we failed to see it. After learning about the Tirta Empul Temple and taking pictures we then headed back to the car to head to eat lunch. 

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We ate at a place nearby where you literally sat above giant ponds while eating. It was so cool and my satay was very tasty! After a refreshing and unique lunch we headed back on our way, this time towards Tegalalang Rice Terrace. I have to say it was the most impressive rice terrace that I have ever seen! It was absolutely giant and we climbed all the way to the bottom. Not only was it deep but very wide as well. It was so interesting to see, especially up close, and to learn about the process as well.

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Tegalalang Rice Terrace was, unfortunately, our last stop for the day. It was an amazing day driving around with Agata, Ibu, and Pak and I cannot thank them all enough for spending their day with me and truly showing me Bali. It was great to get to know them all and to learn more about Bali and Indonesia.

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After arriving back at Sanur House and wishing them all goodbye I then walked around the fantastic property to take pictures before heading to Segara Ayu Beach. It was just a short walk down the road to get there and it is absolutely magnificent. You can see Mount Rinjani, an active volcano, off in the distance. I walked down the beach for a while before heading back into town and eating dinner at a nice pizza place. It was a perfect ending to a perfect day and I am so glad that I got to spend it exploring Bali. After dinner I made my way back to Sanur House to get a good night of sleep before my 8am departure tomorrow. I only wish that I didn’t have to leave so soon, but I can’t wait to visit Indonesia again soon!

109 countries down, 87 to go.

To learn more about Sanur House click here.

Country #108 - Malaysia

The Petronas Twin Towers

It was very early the next morning by the time that I finally arrived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I took an Uber into the city to my hotel for the night, PARKROYAL Serviced Suites Kuala Lumpur. My experience at check in was very welcome and I was blown away by my room - it was huge! It was a studio suite with a giant kitchen and had everything I could possibly need. It was so nice and I only wish that I had had more time to enjoy it. Thank you so much to PARKROYAL Serviced Suites Kuala Lumpur for sponsoring my stay in Malaysia!

I was not able to sleep for long as I had a meeting at 10am with Christy, who helped to arrange my stay. She was so nice and it was very enjoyable to talk with her about Kuala Lumpur (she had some great recommendations) and to learn more about the hotel. She gave me a tour of the different room types and all of the facilities. It was really cool to see the whole hotel! After our meeting I called an Uber to head to my first stop: the Petronas Twin Towers. The Petronas Twin Towers are the tallest twin towers in the world and for a time were the tallest buildings. A mall, Suria KLCC, sits under the most iconic buildings in Malaysia and I took a quick walk through before heading outside to explore the KLCC Park outside. It has amazing views of the Petronas Twin Towers and the park itself was so cool! It had so many different ares, including a water activity area for kids and some unique trees.

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It was so hot outside but I really enjoyed walking around and seeing it all. Afterwards I made my way to Merdeka Square, the old colonial square of the city. Malaysia had been British from the 18th to 20th century and there are still many reminders of that part of the country’s history. The buildings around Merdeka Square definitely feel colonial and it was very interesting to walk around and learn the history. Around back of the buildings it was like a mix of the old and the new - the buildings ran up against a modern walkway along the Gombak River that made for a very enjoyable walk.

From there I walked to the Central Market. It actually wasn’t too exciting and was a very quick walk to get to my final destination of the day, the Sri Mahamariamman Temple. It is a Hindu temple and, as a result, is the first of its kind that I have seen. It was very unique and I’m glad I was able to see it before grabbing my bags and heading back to the airport. I had a very chatty Uber driver on the way back to the PARKROYAL Serviced Suites Kuala Lumpur who talked about all different things about Malaysia with me. It’s a long ride out to the airport, but the train to and from the city is actually just as much as an Uber so it wasn’t worth figuring out the rail system. I made it to the airport with plenty of time to spare for my next flight and found a nice Priority Pass lounge to grab some food from. My next stop is Indonesia and I’m very excited to explore Bali!

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108 countries down, 88 to go.

To learn more about PARKROYAL Serviced Suites Kuala Lumpur click here.

Country #107 - Palau

Day 1 – The Island Relaxation

I landed in Palau a little after 4am and very ready to go to sleep. I had transportation waiting for me at the airport to head to my hotel, Palau Carolines Resort. Once at the reception area I was driven by golf cart to my bungalow style room. It was pitch black outside so I couldn’t see much, but I could tell that I was up in the center of the island and should have a good view of the water in the morning. And boy, did I!

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The view from my room looked out over the luscious island from up in the trees. It was amazing! A huge thank you to Palau Carolines Resort for sponsoring my stay in Palau - it was truly amazing. When I woke up I called to make my breakfast order and just a short while later I had breakfast on my patio with an amazing view. It was definitely a breakfast to remember. After getting very little sleep yet again I had, unfortunately, started to catch a cold. I have two days in Palau so I decided to spend my first one resting up and trying to fight the sickness so it hopefully doesn’t get worse.

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I had great internet so I was able to get work done with a view, watch Netflix on the TV, and also take a few naps as well. For dinner I ordered a tasty pizza and, all around, it was a perfect restful day. I was able to go to sleep early before exploring more of Palau tomorrow.

Day 2 – The Island Museum

My second day in Palau was definitely a little more adventurous. I was feeling better, though not completely, and after another beautiful and delicious breakfast I headed down to the lobby to get a ride into town. At first I had planned to visit a local beach but on the drive learned from the driver that there were not many good local public options. We drove up to a few restaurants that had beach access but those options were all either closed or having a private event.

After no luck finding a beach I decided on plan B - a visit to a museum, the Belau National Museum! The museum itself was quite small but very comprehensive at the same time. It covered all of Palau’s history (and all of its colonial past, including Spanish, German, Japanese, and US occupation), its local traditions and lifestyle, art and early literature from the island, and much more. One of my favorite things that I learned is that Palau is a matriarchal society as women have been in charge on the island throughout its history. I spent a few hours reading as much as I could before visiting the gift shop and then enjoying the outdoor aspect of the museum. Outside there were many artifacts and even a local traditional building. It was very cool!

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After the museum I headed to eat dinner at a restaurant near the hotel. Elilai Grill and Bar has another great view out over the island and I had some more tasty ribs. I was a bit annoyed that they wouldn’t let me sit by the edge since they had reservations even though they weren’t going to start until way after I left, but whatever. My food was still good and so was the view. After dinner I walked back the rest of the way to Palau Carolines Resort where I explored the property for a bit. The views are all over and they are building so many new villas. I cant wait to visit again someday!

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That goes for Palau as a whole, actually. The main draw for tourists to Palau is diving and taking a boat out to see the Rock Islands. Unfortunately, I don’t have the funds to do either of those things right now, but I would love to come back and spend more time here someday! I had a great time and after my enjoyable second day I went to sleep around 6pm to get a few hours before having to head to the airport for my 2am flight to Guam.

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107 countries down, 89 to go.

To learn more about Palau Carolines Resort click here.

Country #106 - Philippines

The Manila Madness

From the very start my time in Manila was hectic, but I had a very enjoyable stay as well. When I landed at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport it was one of the absolute worst immigration lines that I have seen. Actually, I take that back. It was much less a line than a giant bunch of people making their way towards the immigration booths in no discernible order. So, chaos, basically. After about an hour I finally made it through where my driver to my hotel, Amelie Hotel Manila, was waiting out front. The traffic was crazy because I think it is always crazy but eventually we made it to my hotel.

It was so late by the time that I finally arrived but I had a quick and welcoming check in and loved my large and comfortable room high up in the hotel. I loved the design of the room and felt very at home even after a crazy start to my time in Manila. I cannot thank Amelie Hotel Manila for sponsoring my stay in the Philippines! 

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I ended up sleeping in much later than I had anticipated but still had time to get out and see Manila today. I took an Uber from Amelie Hotel Manila to the Intramuros area of the city, which is the historic Spanish area that was built during Spanish colonization starting all the way back in the 16th century. The ride over was quite interesting in itself. Manila is a crazy place and just driving through the streets was eye opening. Once I was in Intramuros I spent a bit just walking around and appreciating the architecture. My favorite site was the beautiful San Agustin Church, which actually had a wedding going on inside that you could see from the street since they left the doors wide open. It was so cool!

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I had very spotty cell service in the city for some reason so it took a while to finally call an Uber to take me back to Amelie Hotel Manila. When I arrived back at the hotel I met with Pia, the resident manager of the hotel, along with other members of the hotel staff. We sat down for an absolutely lovely local meal at the hotel restaurant, Braska. I got to try so many new things and they were all quite tasty! I also really enjoyed spending time with Pia and asking her all about Manila and the Philippines. I learned so much and she was the absolute sweetest. She has promised to send me a video of her dancing with pom-poms when I finish breaking the record - I can’t wait!

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While I had a very short stay in Manila I really enjoyed it. I would absolutely love to come back to the Philippines in the future and spend more time visiting the beautiful islands. I really enjoyed being able to at least see Intramuros and learning all about the Philippines with Pia. After our late lunch I took the long, traffic-filled ride back to the airport to catch my next plane. Immigration was not nearly as bad leaving the country, thank goodness. I was a bit early but finally boarded my plane around 9pm. I’m really looking forward to my next stop as it is my first Pacific Island and the only one that I will make it to for quite some time. I can’t wait to get to Palau soon!

106 countries down, 90 to go.

To learn more about Amelie Hotel Manila click here.

Country #105 - Taiwan

Day 1 – The 777

It was a quick flight from Mongolia to Beijing where I had a two hour layover before heading on to Taiwan. It was a pretty routine flight other than the fact that it was my first time ever flying on a Boeing 777 - aka a double decker airplane. While they are no longer flown by any the US airlines many other carriers around the world continue to use them. It was cool to be able to finally fly on one! The experience was pretty similar to a normal flight but I could definitely tell that the aircraft was much bigger and my seat was also right near the staircase.

The flight was not too long and when I landed in Taipei I took the public transit system into the main train station. Once again it was quite easy to use! It was unique, though, in that the transit card was actually shaped like a coin. You tap the coin on a sensor to go through - pretty cool! I ran into a bit of difficulty finding the uber pickup area in the main station. It was poorly marked but I eventually found it and took the quick ride to my hotel, Inhouse Hotel Heritage. Inhouse Hotel Heritage is a uniquely modern little spot in the very heart of the city. Thank you so much to Inhouse Hotel Heritage for sponsoring my stay in Taiwan!

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After a crazy few days of travel I was really looking forward to a great night of rest and Inhouse Hotel Heritage definitely delivered. I went to sleep around 7pm and was definitely well rested for day two!

Day 2 – The 101

After a great night of sleep I had a full day today in Taiwan! My first stop was Lungshan Temple. While I had seen many different temples so far in Asia this was definitely the most colorful one so far. It was filled with people and quite amazing to walk through. It was also all decorated for the Chinese New Year (year of the dog) which was cool too! 

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My next stop was the Chiang Kai-Shek Memorial Hall area. It is hard to describe but there is basically a giant square with massive buildings on two sides, a memorial on one side, and a monument on the other. All of which, I cannot emphasize enough, are massive. The monument was very impressive and I then walked across the entire giant square to the memorial hall. You can go inside of the memorial hall which is open to the public at the top. It was very interesting and overall very unique and impressive. I then walked back through the square and through some of the gardens along the side of it. 

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I had taken Uber for my first two stops for times sake, but the next few stops would be via public transit. It is a super efficient and easy system and went straight to my next destination, Taipei 101 Tower. It is one of the tallest buildings in the world and is amazing to see in person! There are no other tall buildings around so it really stands out. The bottom of Taipei 101 is home to a shopping mall while the rest of the building holds offices (and a super secret Starbucks that you have to make a reservation for - crazy!!).

I was very excited for lunch today and it more than met my expectations. Din Tai Fung is a restaurant that was founded in Taipei but now has many more locations, including in the western US. I’ve never been before and was definitely looking forward to trying it in its home city. Din Tai Fung is famous for their xiaolongbao pork dumplings. And let me tell you, I can see why! I loved them so much that if I had had time I would have ordered a second helping. They are so juicy and the soy sauce and vinegar combination that they tell you how to make at the table is so good. Definitely give them a try if you ever get the chance!

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After my meal and a quick walk around the mall I headed back to the metro to head toward my next stop, the Taipei Confucius Temple. It was a beautiful Temple complex that offered a lot to learn about Confucius. It was very interesting and well worth the stop. From there I headed right nearby to the Dalongdong Baoan Temple. It was yet another impressive temple and featured a very unique park across the street that is definitely worth a visit. It has lots of unique figures and animals and was definitely fun to stroll through!

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After visiting both temples I then made my way back to Inhouse Heritage Hotel to grab my bags and take the train back to the airport. At the airport there was a Hello Kitty check in area which was pretty funny, and I enjoyed checking out a few different lounges during my wait for my flight to Manila, Philippines. It was a short visit to Taiwan but I absolutely loved it! Also, just to verify, Taiwan is technically not one of the 193 UN countries but is recognized by most countries (and myself) as an independent nation. It might be small but it definitely deserves a visit!

105 countries down, 91 to go.

To learn more about Inhouse Hotel Heritage click here.