2016 travels // trip three: Vietnam


Here we go again!!


So far in 2016, we’ve had…
trip one: Tasmania in March
– trip two: a quick few days on the Gold Coast with family in May
– trip three: we’re off to Vietnam tonight!



I had such an amazing time with my sister when we went there two years ago, and I haven’t stopped talking or thinking about it since. Husband decided he wanted in, too, so last year on my birthday, we booked some flights. What better birthday present to give yourself than another adventure?!

Much like my sister, I felt a pretty strong connection with Vietnam from the moment we touched down, which I can’t really explain. The crowds of people didn’t make me as anxious as I’d usually get; I actually felt completely at easy melting in with the masses. I had time to stop and notice the little things – things like families sitting on low plastic stools in an alleyway slurping their noodles and baskets full of fresh green herbs on tables by the side of the road. It was a busy place, but it was so easy to slow down in.


I’m so excited to get back to this incredible country; the blog will be a bit quiet over the next few weeks, but if you’d like to come along with us, you can follow the adventure on Instagram at @the.life.of.j – see you over there!

Travel Tuesday: my top 15 insta-spirations

The countdowns are on in our household, for not one, but two upcoming adventures; we leave in a few days for Vietnam, and have an epic journey planned for this time next year. The excitement that’s been building for Vietnam has led to more excitement about next year’s trip, too, and as a result, I’ve been spending a lot of time trawling through Instagram for inspiration, motivation, and stuff for my to-see-&-do list.

I’m not on Facebook, and I don’t get Twitter – Instagram is my social media drug of choice. It’s the perfect platform for someone like me who loves to look through beautiful images, with the space for a little story to go with them, and connect with like-minded souls. I find it the perfect place for inspiration when I’m feeling a bit mehh – you know those days where you just can’t even? On those days, I like to see how other people are living their dreams, which gives me that bit of a push to get through the crappy day at work or the crappy gym workout or the crappy flu.

Anyway, with our great escape plans underway, these are some of the Instagram accounts that have been filling my mind with ideas…



image1. @iheartnola

This online journal showcases the best of New Orleans. It’s beautiful city porn, and I cannot get enough. This feed makes me realise that I was so caught up in the excitement of actually being there on my first visit that I missed so many beautiful little details; won’t make that mistake again!


image2. @where_summer_is.efremova_elena

This insanely talented woman paints the most magnificent watercolour “photographs” – as someone very new to watercolouring, this is incredible travel art inspiration, and motivation to practice.


image3. @paulzizkaphoto

Paul is a landscape photographer who does his best work in Canada’s picture perfect parks – I had a few recommendations to follow him if I was planning a trip to Banff & Jasper, and I’m glad I listened!


image4. @bookstoresoftheworld

Book porn. I will always find bookstores to trawl through when I visit a new city, regardless of whether any of the books are in English or not. Scrolling through this feed, and list grows exponentially…


image5. @afarmedia

From the AFAR Media team, this is a gorgeously curated feed – think stunning colour, focus on details, and beautiful places you’ll want to investigate a little more.


image6. @misterweekender

“A travel blog in the pursuit of adventure and nature.” Yes, please! This Aussie girl has seen and captured some absolutely breathtaking scenes that really make me want to take a road trip and just explore.


image7. @the.wanderlust.club

A ladies-who-travel collection where adventurous gals around the world can contribute their tales. I love seeing the beautiful places some of these women discover, and the gorgeous photos they take there – also, love a bit of travel fashion inspiration!


image8. @symmetrybreakfast

The most perfectly symmetrical foodporn I ever did see… They’re inspired by breakfasts all around the world, which only encourages me to base good portions of my travels around my favourite meal of the day – I’ve discovered so many amazing breakfasts I didn’t know existed!


image9. @globelletravels

A lady-travel community that doesn’t feature perfect, tall, tanned, skinny, made up models in picture perfect poses. The pictures on here are beautiful because they’re REAL; real women with real dreams, who are really going out and doing something amazing with their lives. And the stories behind the pictures are even more beautiful :)


image10. @1st

I love this guy’s work. It’s raw and real and really gets to me, especially his portraits. The way he captures emotion on people walking down the street is something incredible.


image11. @sendingstache

Makes nature look sexy, and has the best random captions that have nothing to do with his subjects. His shots made me want to actually just hike up a mountain to get a money shot half as good.


image12. @eminchilli

Elizabeth Minchilli’s feed is all the beautiful parts of life in Rome, with a solid smattering of pasta. Her recommendations on where to get a good bowl of cacio e pepe have been duly noted, and her #carciofogram pictures make my heart so happy! Her shots make me really proud to be Italian, and really excited to go back.


image13. @sephlawless

He’s been one of my favourite photographers for a long time now, because he’s just brilliant. He documents abandoned sites around the world, showing the destruction and devastation left behind by a full gamut of events from natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina to poverty and economical downturns. As someone fascinated by abandoned and decrepit places, this guy’s work speaks to me like no one else’s, and continues to open my eyes in so many different ways.


image14. @dannymota

I started following this one a few months before our USA trip –  we were going to Chicago and I really didn’t know that much about the city, so I Googled Chicago instagram accounts, and this kept popping up on everyone’s lists. Absolutely stunning photos of a truly beautiful city, using image manipulation and colour on black like magic.


image15. @e_mcevoy

I was lucky enough to have met this talented lady a few years ago, being a friend of my sister’s. Her work is other worldly, surreal.. she does incredible things with light and shadows, and makes the natural environment look like a playground of the gods. She’s also photographed some spectacular places from Iceland to Namibia, and inspires severe wanderlust every time I look at her feed!






From my travel journal: Saigon, 2014 (2)

A little travel journal Flashback Friday this morning, because this time next week, I’ll be getting ready to head back to Saigon again…!! :)


“We were awake early, 5am for me – we went for a quick walk down the street, bought some bottled water, tried to get our bearings. We stumbled across a lady selling banh mi filled with pork and crackling – couldn’t pass that up! Unfortunately, I didn’t quite pluck out all of the chili…”

My favourite Chicago eats

I had fun mentally re-eating all the good stuff I had in New York… let’s do it again!

This week, I’m going back to Chicago. Initially, I only agreed to add it to the itinerary because husband wanted to go; I really didn’t know much anything about the city, other than it’s home to the Chicago Bulls, and as children of the 90s/the Jordan era who both grew up playing basketball, that’s obviously our NBA team of choice. Other than that, it was a bit of a blank city for me.

After spending almost a week there over Christmas, though, my opinion changed completely; I loved that city. I can’t tell you why, either – it was just one of those places that felt good to be in. Beautiful buildings, the gorgeous river than runs through it, friendly people, and amazing food. The food scene reminded me a lot of Melbourne, actually, which may be one of the big reasons I loved it so much! We ate a lot in that week, and it was hard to narrow it down to the favourites, but here they are….


1. Do-Rite Donuts (donuts)
The food: A traditional buttermilk glaze
The memory: Ohh I loved this place! Our first day in Chicago, it was cold like I couldn’t believe, and it was Christmas Eve! We were on our way to the Christkindl Christmas Market, and noticed a giant donut pointing the way to a cute little store. We grabbed a donut and some hot tea, pulled up our hoods and sat out the front in the cold to take it all in… a kindly old man sitting on the table next to us struck up a friendly conversation, and it was the most wonderful welcome to any city we’ve ever had!

2. Au Cheval (diner, burgers)
The food: The Au Cheval cheeseburger with a fried egg; same thing everyone else was ordering!
The memory: The wind was like little frosty daggers this day, and after a morning of sight-seeing, we couldn’t have been happier to get into Au Cheval and escape the cold! After much pre-trip Googling, Au Cheval’s fried egg cheeseburger seemed to be the must-try burger for Chicago, and it didn’t disappoint. We were lucky enough to get a seat at the counter where we watched the most well-oiled machine out together the most spectacular looking (and smelling) food for the Saturday lunch crowd; it was mesmerising, and really made us think of Chicago as a proper food city.

3. Portillo’s (hot dogs)
The food: A Chicago dog. Obviously.
The memory: Another day of walking and walking and more walking, we finally found ourselves in the neighourhood of a Portillo’s, and it was finally Chicago Dog time. I remember sitting on the second level of the restaurant watching over all of the happy people and families with their tables of dogs and fries, and thinking how lucky we were to have made it all the way across the world to enjoy something as simple as a hot dog, which so many people would completely take for granted!

4. Billy Goat Tavern (burgers)
The food: Double cheezborger. No fries, CHEEPS! No Pepsi, COKE!
The memory: This was another exciting one – we love watching travel shows, especially the ones that are food heavy. And on all of the travel shows about Chicago and food, the Billy Goat Tavern shows itself. We sat there in the crowded sub-street level diner with our burgers re-hashing the Bulls game we’d been to the night before, and talking about how long ago it felt that we were sitting on the couch watching this place on TV wondering if we’d ever actually get there…

5. Lou Malnati’s (deep dish pizza)
The food: The Malnati Chicago Classic – sausage, cheese and vine-ripened tomato sauce. Simple.
The memory: I know that “real” Chicagoans don’t do deep dish pizza, but to enjoy it, you just need to not think of it as pizza. It’s a quiche pizza hybrid. A quizza, if you will. This was one of the deep thoughts that was discussed over dinner, sitting at a high bench table, finally out of the -15°C cold. Sometimes we just act like kids…

6. Rubi’s Tacos (street food – tacos)
The food: Pork tacos – amazing!!!
The memory: Market and street food are two of my favourite things, and when we came across Rubi’s with a massive line, we figured we should probably join it – I remembered reading somewhere they did the best tacos. When we realised no one in the line was speaking English and there was no real menu, we figured a) we were definitely in the right place for breakfast and b) it was lucky I knew how to order pork tacos in Spanish. Sitting among the crowd, we stood out like green elephants, and really enjoyed feeling so out of place – that’s what travel is all about!

7. Doughnut Vault (donuts)
The food: A vanilla glazed raised and a buttermilk old fashioned
The memory: A tiny little place with the delicious smell of fried dough in the air and nowhere to sit – it felt just like being back in Melbourne! Another freezing day, we got there nice and early, grabbed our donuts and enjoyed them outside – I remember my butt being freezing against the cold concrete sidewalk we were sitting on, my fingers being sticky as all hell, and the two of us giggling like we were two kids who’d stolen a piece of birthday cake. Good times in Chicago! :)

5 ways to make the most of that layover in Kuala Lumpur

2.1** Disclaimer: This post was sponsored by Traveloka, however all opinions contained herein are based on my own experience.


If you live in Australia and love to travel, chances are you’ve had at least one decent layover in Kuala Lumpur. It’s one of the bigger gateway cities for us Aussies on our way out to the rest of the world, and when you’re travelling on a tight budget, you can often find yourself with a few hours to kill before your connecting flight on to the rest of Asia or Europe.

As we’re starting to prepare for our next big adventure, I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how we planned for the first one; when we travelled to Europe a few years ago, we had the option of saving a few hundred dollars on our flights, with the compromise being a 14 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur. We were already going to be ticking 5 countries over 2 continents off our list, so we figured it would be a great opportunity to see a bit of the city and add another continent to the itinerary! When we told people we planned to do this, they all told us we were crazy; the standard response is to complain about the long mandatory waits, and here we were ready to take advantage of it instead (any exuse!). And with a little bit of pre-trip organisation, it’s actually not that hard to do – here are a few tips that helped us enjoy the layover…


1. Book a hotel for the day
If you’ve saved money on your flights, the small amount of money you’ll spend by booking a hotel for the day will be more than worth it! If, like us, you’re arriving into the city around 7am and leaving after dark, having a hotel room is an absolute godsend; you’ll have somewhere secure to store your luggage for the day, and be able to have a shower and get changed into fresh clothes after a day out before you jump onto your next flight. You can book a room in Kuala Lumpur online with Traveloka with hotels a stone’s throw from the airport from as little as AUD$20.00 for a day – that’ll save the stress of finding something when you land!


2. Check the booking options
Some hotels cater specifically for layover guests, like the Plaza Premium Lounge KLIA 2; they have options for stays as short as 4 hours from AUD$65.00, as well as 6 hours, 10 hour and overnight bookings. If you’re only stopping over for a few hours, you may find that you can get a better rate on a 6 hour booking rather than an overnight booking. And money saved on accommodation is money to spend on shopping and food (roti bread… ohhhh roti bread…)!


3. Check out the hotel facilities
Because the more that’s included, the easier the layover will be! A lot of hotels will offer things like airport transfers, wifi, luggage storage and 24 hour reception, and they make the world of difference when you only have a short amount of time to work with. Most hotels also have multi-lingual staff who are happy to help out, so it’s worth speaking to team on the check in desk to see if there’s anything going on in the city that may cause extra delays in getting back in time for your next flight.


4. Public transport is your friend
It’s quick, clean, efficient, and definitely the easiest way to get around. The Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA) website offers some good information on how to get around using the Express Rail Link, which connects the airport to the main city centre in under half an hour. Much easier than car hire or taxis!

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

5. Be realistic
You’re only there few a few hours, so be realistic about what you’ll be able to see and do! The best bet is to pick out a couple of things close to each other, so you can enjoy a bit of time in the one area without having to rush too much. We decided to head to the Petronas Twin Towers which were every bit as spectacular (blog link) as we’d imagined them to be. We also spent a bit of time wondering around the shops below the towers at the Suria KLCC complex, and relaxed by Symphony Lake for a while.