It has always been a dream of ours to explore our roots and adventure through Asia. With the pandemic putting most travel on hold the last few years, it gave us more time to think, plan, and initiate the perfect Asia trip.
Hours upon hours were needed to dial in the most efficient itinerary. Both of us being in the medical field, time-off is precious, limited, and rare to come by. KÜHL provided us with the best moisture-wicking gear to survive the HOTTEST months in Asia!
We had 3 weeks and 5 countries to explore!
Philippines: April 4-14
Singapore: April 14-17
Taiwan: April 17-21
Hong Kong, China: April 21-25
Japan: April 25-26
Join us in the motherland! Ryan was born in the Philippines and moved to the States when he was two. Having only been back once when he was thirteen, Ryan was stoked to return and actually be able to explore the city where his parents grew up and all the surrounding beautiful islands. Our first adventure upon arrival was a 12-hour van drive north to one of the oldest Spanish preserved cities in the Philippines, Vigan City. As it is considered a UNESCO World Heritage Site, this city was absolutely beautiful and teeming with culture and history. Most of the buildings remain preserved with the styles and structures from the Spanish Era (Spain conquered the PI in 1521), which made it feel like you were in a completely different country. The streets were lined with cobblestone, and you can see horse-drawn carriages roaming the alleys as a form of transportation around the city. A huge staple here and a must try are their Spanish empanadas – our personal favorite being the crab filled!
The second half of our Philippines trip was spent on one of the most famous islands in the area, Palawan. Being only a $35 one hour flight, this is a MUST on the itinerary if you ever plan on visiting. One shocking thing about Southeast Asia, especially coming from Seattle, are the prices. Just to put into perspective, an 8-hour boat tour with lunch included was $30/person and beer is typically $1. You essentially visit Palawan for one thing, the boat tours and island hopping. These are all inclusive tours which bring you to around 5-7 destinations in an 8-hour span. We enjoyed them so much we actually ended up doing two days back-to-back. There were hidden lagoons to explore, untouched beaches to lay on, and some of the bluest snorkeling water in the world. You can really never run out of things to do on this island, and we wish we had more time here to explore. Philippines sits high on our list of destinations and highly suggest this experience to everyone.
There was a huge cultural difference when we arrived in Singapore directly from the Philippines. Singapore has become one of the top modern Asian cities today. It is known for their spotlessly clean streets, strict laws (yes, chewing gum is prohibited!), harsh sanctions, and non-existent crime rate including theft. In the food stall markets, people were often seen using their belongings to reserve their tables while they venture off to get food. Make time to seek out one of Singapore’s most famous dishes, Hainanese Chicken Rice. Of course we had to try the Michelin-starred Tian Tian Chicken stall, which was absolutely delicious. We also came to love a popular Singaporean noodle dish called Laksa – the broth is super creamy and flavorful that we even went for seconds!
There are many sightseeing opportunities in Singapore that are easily accessible by train or Grab (similar to Uber). One of our favorites was Gardens by the Bay, located in Singapore’s downtown. Being new plant parents, we were completely stunned at the diverse collection of plants they had from all over the world. It was truly incredible and unlike anything we have ever seen. Make sure to get the package deal and check out all their conservatories and Supertree Grove for the night light show!
Being midway through our vacation, we were very excited for some much-needed R&R from the constant traveling. We booked a one night stay at Singapore’s luxurious Marina Bay Sands Hotel. If you don’t recognize it from the name, the incredible rooftop infinity pool should jog your memory. We took this as an opportunity to sit back, relax, swim, and have a little retail therapy at their in-house luxury shopping mall. After a much-needed reset, we were ready to jet off to our next country!
Arriving into Taiwan, we initially weren’t too sure what to expect from visiting this country except for their iconic night markets and being the birthplace of boba tea! Being foodies ourselves, that was the one thing we were looking forward to the most. By the end of our Trip, we realized how much Taiwan has to offer and will definitely be a place we are planning on traveling back to in the near future! We stayed in the heart of Taipei and quickly fell in love with the chill city vibes.
The first two days, we met up with our Seattle friends and spent the days exploring Taipei City (capital of Taiwan), shopping for souvenirs, checking out their indoor bouldering gym, and of course trying all the different types of food! You can easily get a sense of direction by looking up and recognizing the tallest building in the city called Taipei 101. Formerly known as the tallest building in the world back in 2009, this massive structure now sits and overlooks the city sitting at 1,667 feet high and housing 101 total floors. Inside you can find a multilevel luxury shopping mall, variety of restaurants, and indoor/outdoor observatories.
Take an Uber 45 minutes northeast towards the coast and visit an iconic neighboring city known as Jiufen. You may recognize this place from the popular Japanese animation film Spirited Away. It is a huge tourist attraction and known for its narrow lantern-decorated alleys full of street-food stalls, teahouses, and souvenir shops. Be sure to go around dusk when all the red lanterns light up for the whole experience. There are also many picturesque cliffside viewpoints you can stop at for a quick memorable photograph.
We left Taiwan really happy and really full! This place will definitely be on our list of places to revisit. Next time, we plan to explore more of Taiwans surrounding countryside located in the West for mountainous views and popular hiking trails!
Changing pace a bit to a more bustling city that is Hong Kong! We spent a total of 3 days here and had the chance to experience its incredible liveliness and all the amazing authentic Chinese cuisine. Starting off with breakfast, make sure to get a taste of Hong Kong’s popular cha chaan teng which is a Hong Kong-style cafe with the influence of western culture. We had their signature hot milk tea every morning just to get us ready for the day!
During our short stay in HK, we paid homage to Tian Tian Buddha (Big Buddha). This iconic statue is located on Lantau Island and it took us about 1 hour to get there. You can take a train directly from MTR Hong Kong station to Tung Chung Station and from there you can take a 35 minute taxi ride (HK$200) or a cable car ride up the mountain for a more scenic view (HK$250). The Big Buddha was absolutely stunning and worth the trek up!
With its bustling street markets and high-rise malls, Hong Kong is known to be one of the best shopping sites in the world. The next day, we started off with a Ferry ride across the Victoria Harbour to catch a beautiful view of Hong Kongs impressive skyline (definitely a must see at night as well)! We spent the day exploring and shopping in the more urban areas known as Tsim Sha Tsui and Mong Kok. Here you can find yourself fully immersed in the bustling vibe that the city is known for – make sure you are wearing comfortable sneakers!
Fortunately and unfortunately, our connecting flight in Japan while returning to the States was re-scheduled so we took this opportunity to explore one night in Tokyo. We had two priorities on our mind during this 22-hour layover: Ramen and Sushi. We ended up staying in Shinjuku City, about 20 minutes Northeast of downtown Tokyo and 13 minutes north of Shibuya. If you’ve researched Japan, you’d recognize one of the most famous and busiest street intersections known as Shibuya Crossing. The best way to describe it is, organized chaos. We were able to find late night sushi and ramen nearby which absolutely did not disappoint. The streets were clean, the people were trendy, and the overall vibe was energizing. More time in Japan is definitely in the books for our next trip.
Overall, a very memorable experience! From island hopping through the Philippines to staying sky high in luxury hotels in Singapore, we feel like we were able to get the most out of our three-week itinerary. We hope you enjoyed reading about our adventures and we will continue to document the world as we see it!