Month: April 2018

Old Quarter, Hanoi, Vietnam 

The Old Quarter is the place to be as a tourist in Hanoi. It’s a huge area around the lake (Hoan Kiem Lake) and has a great vibe, especially on weekends when they block the streets off for public access. It becomes a street festival.  

In the Old Quarter you’ll find local flavours, nightclubs, cafés in the day, bar scenes at night, currency exchange and tour agents. Many of the shopkeepers around here have vague English so it’s easy to navigate if you don’t speak Vietnamese. The food scene can be hit and miss so if you’re on a culinary odyssey I’d suggest asking locals for their recommendations and doing your research online. There are some real gems, and also some trash. 

Here you’ll be able to shop for souvenirs,  see the Water Puppet Theatre and just soak in the local vibes. Don’t be fooled though, at night it can feel a bit like Khao San Road, so don’t kid yourself that this is ‘real Vietnam’. Take a wander, you can access the Hoa Lo Prison,  St Joseph’s Cathedral and book street among other things from the Old Quarter. 

.Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

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Doubtful Sound, New Zealand

We took a Real Journeys tour from Queenstown to Doubtful Sound and found it worthwhile. The coach took us to Lake Manapouri, then we took a boat across the lake to Wilmot Pass, then a bus across the pass to Doubtful Sound, then a cruise out to the Tasman Sea. I think the cruise was outstanding. We had perfect weather (!!!) and saw some dolphins. The crew were informative and interested in the wilderness, and they provided bilingual commentary. The cruise enouraged silence and cut the engines to help us absorb the fiordland, hear the waterfalls and the power of nature. Doubtful Sound is in a huge national park, so don’t expect bells and whistles: remember that you’re there to immerse in nature. Bring your own food. While it feels more secluded than Milford Sound, it’s worth the trip (and the same amount of travel time from Queenstown).

Queen Victoria Market, Melbourne, Australia 

The Queen Victoria Markets are a favourite haunt of mine. It’s my always place for gourmet treats. The market stall section boasts a lot of souvenirs and tourist knick-knacks, dresses, leather work,  woodwork and technology. It’s open most days and is absolutely huge. 

That’s not why I go here, though. The gourmet food section, the delicatessen, is phenomenal. Piles of anti-pasto spill over each other boasting morsels from the Mediterranean and spices from the Middle East. The cured meats are perfect for your charcuterie and the cheeses are heavenly. Visiting the coffee grinders is a spiritual experience for me and I’m working my way through their different beans.

There are cafes and eateries about, (I thoroughly recommend the bratwurst stall as a classic market food), however I’d suggest choosing a selection of gourmet treats and taking them to a park. You’ll thank me later.

.Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

The Great Wall of China, Mutianyu, Beijing 

The Great Wall of China is a must. How and where are your variables but the matter stands; you must see the Great Wall. We took a tour to Mutianyu, which is a section of the wall that is less touristy and has been renovated in recent years. We attended in winter and made an early start, so we were able to see the morning mist creep across the mountains and clear for the day. Going early and choosing to travel in low season means the crowds are far less than usual (but there are still people around). 

The wall is very steep. Definitely reconsider your need to visit if you have knee issues or physical concerns because it can be quite arduous. We walked between watchtowers along the wall and spent a solid two hours there before we decided to head down. The views are spectacular, even if it’s not a clear day. I think the mist adds to the ancient mystique of the landscape. 

I recommend finding a tour group that suits you, but there are ways to self navigate if you wish. Keep some cash on you as tourist options abound at the foot of the wall. We took the chairlift up to the wall itself and tobogganed back down- both activities were marvelous fun, even for the less adventurous of our party. 

Expect modernity. At the bottom of the wall, there’s chain restaurants like Subway and opportunities for Wifi and bathrooms. We were incredulous at first, but were hardly shocked.

Nothing, however, detracts from the majesty of the Great Wall when you’re up there.

.Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Saigon Kingdom, Queenstown, New Zealand

We stumbled across this place in the hopes of finding an affordable and tasty lunch. A lot of the restaurants down by the water are quite pricey so we were stoked to find this Vietnamese restaurant. It was filled with people, so we knew it would be worth trying. And the food! My lemongrass vermicelli noodles were fresh and flavoursome, with herbs and heat. Mum had lemongrass chicken stir fry on rice and said the meal was to die for. My drip coffee was authentic over condensed milk. I’ll be back for sure.

The Terracotta Warriors, Xi’an, China

The Terracotta Warriors are fantastic to visit. This ancient army continues to stand after 2000 years in protection of Emperor Qin.

We took a tour from Xi’an. I highly recommend a tour (we had Kevin from Buffalo tours, find them online) because you’ll skip the queue, skirt around the crowds and get a personalised commentary of the place. The English signs that you can find there are helpful, but I much preferred the commentary of a guide. 

The museum is interesting. It outlines some of the processes of production when making the terracotta warriors. It focused more, however, on the efforts of the government and contractors in excavation and preserving the archeological site. This was interesting, but wasn’t as informative about the history of the army itself or the context of the era. There is a glass case of horses and bronze chariots which is worth seeing.

The archeological digs were pretty phenomenal. It draws major crowds, so take whatever photos you can before your view is swallowed by the masses. We went in low season and it was still quite busy. 

The Warriors themselves have been very well preserved. There are three pits, with the main one housing most of the standing army. The other pits have fragments in situ. Around pit two you’ll see fully intact original soldiers and their ranking within the army. 

I definitely recommend visiting the Terracotta Warriors. Travel in low season so avoid the sheer multitudes and get yourself a guide.

.Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Little India, Singapore 

I passed through Little India while on a tour. The area seems vibrant with local fruits and vegetables, some I’ve never seen before. The handicraft markets are lively and full of unique goods. The restaurants and eateries smelled delicious and enticing and I regret not trying anything. Little India is worth a visit to see the diversity in Singapore’s demographics. I’d recommend going on a tour so someone can explain the history and architecture, which I found most interesting. 
.Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.