During one of Vietnam’s bank holidays a few months ago, we decided to hire a scooter and head to Hoa Binh for a night. We chose the place purely because of it’s easy accessibility from Hanoi, at just a couple of hours of easy riding. It was our first time hiring a bike since moving to Hanoi just over 3 months ago, and despite Graham having a motorbike licence in the UK, the trip didn’t go as smoothly as I’d hoped.
Mui Ne is the adrenalin capital of southern Vietnam. There’s no scuba diving or snorkelling to speak of, but when Nha Trang and Hoi An get the rains, Mui Ne gets the waves: Says Lonely Planet, before going on to describe a beautiful beach that has maintained much of its charm. When we were there, however, only the closed kitesurfing shops hinted at Mui Ne’s adventure hungry nature. Out of the surf season, Mui Ne is still firmly on the backpacker trail, and I’m here to ask one question: why?
As the new year begins, my time in beautiful Luang Prabang is drawing to an end. I am going to miss this special place very much. From the monks that can be seen everywhere and the sound of their drums at four in the afternoon, to cycling around the French colonial buildings that do shabby chic so well, I can hardly think of a thing in this royal city that I won’t miss. Most people that visit here for a few days will remember the monks, their trip to Kuangsi Waterfall, climbing to the top of Mount Phoisi, Utopia and the night market. For me, though, I will remember some of the things most tourists are unaware of, or lack the time to visit. Here are my favourite parts of Luang Prabang, and the city’s best kept secrets.
Our journey to Sapa started with an overnight train from Hanoi, and would end back at the same station a week later. Hanoi station is, to say the least, confusing. Corridors seem to end for no reason and some of the platforms seem to lack any access at all. It was one of these platforms that we needed to find a way to. Leaving our bags in a pile with Helen, Graham and I went in opposite directions to try and suss out the way. I could see the train, with crowds of people loading their bags and finding their carriage: the normal bustle that surrounds a train as it readies for departure, with the addition of chaos that seems to come free with anything in Vietnam. Looking at my watch in desperation, I followed a Vietnamese man rushing to the end the platform I was on, though there was nothing at the end. Which I knew as I’d looked twice already. I watched him as he checked for trains, hopped onto the tracks and across to the other side, arriving at the platform we needed. Hello, Vietnamese shining health and safety considerations, I thought as I rounded the others and we followed the man’s unconventional route.
Travellers are a hard bunch to buy for, whether you are trying to send them something from home or if you’re with them on the road. In Part 1 and Part 2 of my complete guide to Christmas presents for travellers I shared some ideas about presents to send to you friends and family on the road. Here, I’m going to share 6 easy and inexpensive DIY projects any traveller can make and give as presents this Christmas.
I arrived at the airport, which is tiny, in the early morning and hopped on the shuttle bus to town. The shuttle bus is great, it’s 30USD return and will drop off/pick up from most the hotels and hostels in town. I was dropped at The Pickled Frog, ditched my bag and set off to Bathurst Street’s farmer market.
The east side of the Nam Khan river is often overlooked by tourists, particularly when the bamboo bridge that connects the two sides has not been completed. For those tourists seeking to explore this side of the river there is one little treasure trove filled with hand crafted jewellery that is a perfect place to spend a morning learning a new craft: Garden of Eden.
The local aboriginal tribes believe that Litchfield National Park was formed by their ancestors thousands of years ago, and their spirits are believed to be present in the area still. The landscape here is stunning, and the area is filled with history. Whilst staying in Darwin we hired a car and took the two hour journey south to visit Litchfield. All the attractions at the park share information about the site, the aboriginal importance and the wildlife you can look out for.