If I was forced to choose one food item, and this one thing would be all I was able to eat for the rest of my days, I feel pretty comfortable saying that pizza would be the way to go. You can go NY style, thin crust, deep dish, marinara, pesto, meat lovers, veggie; the options go on and on. Just as your choices of toppings are never ending, in Chicago your choices of where to order your pizza from can seem endless as well. There are the old staples we all know and love, be it the deep dish spot you take your family when they are in town, or the spot in your neighborhood that is perfect on a cold winter evening. But where to go, when you are in rush before a meeting, hungry because you forgot to eat breakfast, or want to grab something tasty for home as you depart work for the weekend? Persona Pizza, located right in the loop on Washington and LaSalle is your go to for quick, delicious pizza.
When mapping out the grand itinerary before we left home, we had Korea in mind but didn’t necessarily know what it offered as a tourist destination. We knew it would make geographical sense to go after China and before Japan, the final leg of our journey. Luckily we didn’t make any changes because we ended up having a great time in Seoul. It offered history due to the Korean War and current conflicts with North Korea, an interesting shopping and fashion culture and an amazing food scene.
Xi’an was a late add on to our journey and really only made the cut due to a couple of factors. We initially planned on visiting the country of Laos when mapping out our trip, but due to the time it was going to take to travel to and from there we decided to forgo it. You can’t do it all! These extra seven to ten days gave us some more flexibility and allowed us to add on a day in cities we already knew we wanted to visit along with finding new places we hadn’t spent much time researching before we left home. The city of Xi’an is home to the Terracotta Warriors, a truly impressive piece of Chinese history due to their age and how recently they were discovered. With our newfound time, we bought a train ticket to Xi’an, a flight from Xi’an to Seoul instead of from Beijing as first planned, and off we went.
Just as we were finally getting the hang of getting around Shanghai, it was time to depart for Beijing. We took the bullet train and it was fantastic. The train got up over 300 km/hr, the seats were comfortable and just a lot less hassle than going to an airport. Before we knew it we had arrived and dropped off our stuff at our hotel. We really came to love this hotel that was well priced, had a hostel feel, and a great coffee bar for breakfasts. Around Beijing there are different streets and neighborhoods that are referred to as hutongs. It was kind of a mystery to us what comprised a hutong and what didn’t. Sometimes it seemed to be if it was an old neighborhood that still had the same architecture from hundreds of years ago, other times it was because it was a busy shopping and restaurant district.
Going all the way back to hiking Mount Batur in Bali, fellow travelers had told us about their wonderful experiences in Pai, a little town in the north of Thailand. As we continued to travel Southeast Asia and told others we would be going to Chiang Mai, continually we heard, “don’t miss Pai.”
After a surprisingly painless overnight bus from Nha Trang, we arrived early in Hoi An and luckily our guest house was nearby and they had a room ready for us. This was probably a good thing as the Xanax hadn’t fully worn off and I needed your typical 7 am nap. After a quick doze we easily walked to town and began quickly knocking off items on our Hoi An to do list. Hoi An was frequently listed among the travelers we met as their favorite spot in Vietnam due to its walk-ability, beautiful scenery, food and history. Plus, it’s been ranked by travel magazines as one of the most romantic cities in the world.
If you’ve read our last few posts about Cambodia I’m sure what is evident is that with all the history, sadness, poverty, motorbikes and heat, overall the best word to describe this country is exhausting. Exhausting isn’t an overall bad thing as we found it extremely important and enlightening to see the beautiful temples of Angkor Wat and learn more about this country’s tortured history no matter the temperatures and the amount of honking horns. The point of our travels wasn’t ever about going on one big vacation, and while we have certainly found happiness in nearly every stop, we knew at some point we’d likely get overwhelmed. We had heard and read about this feeling of traveler’s exhaustion from our fellow travel friends and bloggers, but since we were traveling just six months compared to a year, maybe that feeling wouldn’t hit us hard. Perhaps it was the fact that we often have a new bed every 48 hours, the cramped mini buses to get from city to city, or a bit of FOMO for Summertime CHI, but we needed a mental break. Luckily Cambodia has the neighboring towns of Kep and Kampot that provided the laid back atmosphere we were in need of.
After spending a fun couple of days exploring Ao Nang and Rali we were off to Koh Phi Phi. We knew Koh Phi Phi was a small island and known for its party scene along with the fact that this is where you could catch a long tail boat to go see Maya Bay, made famous by the movie, “The Beach” starring Leo DiCaprio. Upon reading other blogs in preparation, I was personally excited for what seemed a smaller scale Full Moon Party vibe. Shortly after departing the ferry we quickly realized this had great potential to be Full Moon Party-esque minus the staying up all night thing. Koh Phi Phi is much smaller than Koh Phangan but the place was filled with backpackers and the beach and island exists to entertain. The whole island is small enough that people just walk everywhere, no cars, and barely any motor bikes. It was another typical April scorcher so by the time we eventually found our guest house, we were dripping sweat. This is basically a new tradition of ours, where upon checking in at our new hotel, a mop is needed for the front desk after we finish with checking in. Read more
Before we departed for our 6 month journey we were commonly asked what we were most excited for. Steph’s answer was always New Zealand and for me it was Thailand. Between hearing people’s stories of the different islands, the amazing food culture and the beautiful beaches, I was thrilled that we’d be spending over a month in Thailand when all was said and done. We departed Bali and had a short layover in Singapore. We had read that the Singapore airport is consistently ranked as one the best airports in the world so we wanted to take some time to explore during our couple of hours there. There were multiple gardens, hotel pools accessible from the terminal, a movie theater and more throughout the airport. Definitely not the worst place to be stuck if you miss your connection. Luckily though we did not miss our flight and we arrived to Bangkok later that evening. We were lucky that Steph’s mom had stayed in touch with a friend from college who has lived in Bangkok for over 15 years. Karen is a journalist and was gracious enough to let us stay with her for almost a week. It was an awesome apartment with a pool, near a food market and great A/C for those 100+ degree days.
Backpackers galore sitting in the park, street musicians playing guitar, old and young wearing flip flops and swimsuits. That was the scene we took in as we got off our quick shuttle from Brisbane to begin our three nights in Byron Bay. Needless to say, Steph and I were very excited to enjoy this popular beach town among tourists and locals alike. While Airlie Beach was clearly more dominated by the backpacker scene, Byron Bay is a wide mix of people. It’s a quick weekend getaway for locals from Brisbane and seemed like a town where Australians from up and down the east coast like to escape to at least once or twice a year. It was also big enough where you could make it a year round home; our Air B&B host was a lifer, it had a thriving live music scene, and even is the host of what looked like an awesome music festival over Easter weekend headlined by Kendrick Lamar.