Category Archives: Destinations

Ho Chi Minh or Saigon?


It doesn’t matter what name you choose  to call it, Ho Chi Minh is a BIG city!

Ho Chi Minh
Ho Chi Minh City

It covers an area of over 2,000sq. kms, and is made up of about 24 districts, with District 1 and District 3 being the most popular for tourists. These two areas have the most sights, museums, eateries, bars, etc.

I loved Saigon (I choose to call it by its former name, don’t ask why, I just do)!  It somehow felt like an “Asian London”  if that makes any sense!  The size, the new with the old, the way it welcomes visitors and makes you feel at home.  Although it is an extremely busy metropolis I felt totally comfortable wandering the streets from one tourist site to another. Of course, crossing the road was a feat in itself!  Luckily there are no drunken westerners on motorbikes to contend with like in Bali, just locals who have the dodging and weaving down to a fine art!

Saigon has many beautiful buildings, one being the Reunification Palace which is open to the public and well worth a couple of hours of your time.  For those of us old enough to remember, it is where the tank broke through the gates and thus signalled the end of the war in 1976.  The Palace has been kept really well and down in the basement you can see the  “war rooms” as it was back during the war. It’s a must for anyone interested in the history of the Vietnam War.

Reunification Palace
Reunification Palace

Book Accommodation in Saigon

We found Saigon very easy to navigate and really enjoyed wandering around each day. The people are far less “reserved” than those in the northern city of Hanoi.  Our favourite place of course had to be where the street food was in District 1,  Ben Thanh Market.

food5_hrii
BBQ Grill stall

food marketWe ate there every day, no matter what the time, it was a place to sit and chill with great food and cold beer. Can’t wait to go back in November and take my friend!

There are so many stalls serving different types of food, not all Vietnamese but Indian, Korean, French and I wish I could stay there long enough to try them all!

Food Saigon
Typical dish cost about $2 !

The markets are all undercover and next to the food is the retail market.  If you can’t find what you’re looking to buy here,  it doesn’t exist! market There are clothes, shoes, bags, luggage, kitchen ware, watches, jewellery, gadgets just about anything you can think of. Haggling with the sellers is huge fun, they expect it and if you do it well there are bargains to be had! Just have a figure in mind and stick to it.  Be prepared to walk away if they won’t agree – they’ll eventually give in!

Book Accommodation in Saigon

 

 

Book Accommodation in Saigon

Advertisements

Marble Mountain, Lady Buddha and more….


Oh, beautiful Da Nang!  On the back of a motorbike from Hoi An to Da Nang beach, nice wide roads and cooling breeze – can’t wait to get to the beach!

Da Nang Beach.jpg
Da Nang Beach

Oops, forgot I can’t swim!  Never mind, just lazing around keeping out of the heat of the sun watching Rick swim was good enough for me!  Dan Nang beach is beautiful, white sand,  lots of sun lounges and beachside restaurants a great way to spend a morning.

Bike hire in Vietnam is really cheap, about 5AUD per day and petrol easily available and equally as cheap.  Once out of the busy cities, the roads are wide and for the most part empty.

We spent a few days on the bike leaving Hoi An and basically just getting lost!

Dan Nang beach
Dan Nang beach with basket boats

After the beach we cruised up to Marble Mountain,  where we decided to take the elevator to the top instead of climbing the 150-odd steps!

Marble Mountain
Marble Mountain

Marble Mountain is a group of five marble and limestone mountains, named after the five elements of the ancient oriental philosophy: metal, wood, water, fire and earth.

Once at the top there it is quite a surprise, much bigger than we thought and there are temples and pagodas everywhere!

Temple Entrance Marble Mountain
Temple Entrance Marble Mountain

The main attraction though are the temples inside the cave, it is definitely worth the trip for that alone.  We easily spent a few hours here,  wandering around and stopping every now and then to take in the view and grab another cold drink.

We decided not to be totally lazy, and took the steps on the way down!

Book Accommodation in Da Nang

After a nice seafood lunch at one of the beachside restaurants, we continued along the beach road and up the mountain to see the Lady Buddha.

lady-buddha-01

She is amazing, so pure white and standing 72 metres high, the largest statue in South-east Asia. There are 17 floors in the statue, each floor has an altar with 21 Buddha statues which have different shapes, facial expression and posture.

Lady Buddha can be seen from anywhere in the city, standing on the side of the mountain she dominates, and the views from there are spectacular.IMGP0284 (1)

There are many statues at this site, all are pristine white and made of solid marble.

Dragon at Lady Buddha
Dragon at Lady Buddha

Again, like everywhere you visit in Vietnam,  the sense of respect for everything is something you can’t help but feel.



 

 

 

Hoi An – City of Lanterns


You’re staying HOW LONG?

IMGP0175

That’s the response we got when telling people we were staying 10 days in Hoi An!  Apparently no-one stays that long!  A few days, maybe 5, but usually no more.  I guess that’s because there isn’t really a great deal to do in Hoi An, but unlike most visitors, we rented a motorbike and went off exploring nearby villages, beaches and other places like  Da Nang and My Son.

My Son
Old Temple at My Son

 

My Son
Bridge leading to ruins of My Son sacred site

Hoi An itself is a beautiful city and rightly named the City of Lanterns.  Sitting on the riverside, the old town is closed to vehicles at night making walking the streets very comfortable and safe.  Numerous restaurants, bars and little shops everywhere all plying for your attention.  We met so many wonderful people there,  the Vietnamese are so welcoming and friendly.  We shared a lot of laughs and jokes with them all and the girls in the markets loved to rub Rick’s tummy exclaiming  “Happy Buddha!”

Bridge Hoi An
Bridge over river that separates the Ancient City from the newer city

Find Accommodation in Hoi An

The markets are a sight to see, the fruit and vegetables, meat and seafood is all so fresh, and unlike a lot of markets, it doesn’t smell!

If we had been staying in self-catering accommodation we would definitely been shopping there every day!  The fish were still flapping about in the bowls, they were straight off the fishing boats!

At night the city transforms into this wonderland of lights and for a few cents you can buy a candle and set it afloat along the river with hundreds of others. Hoi An is one of the cheapest places we stayed as far as food and drink went. A bottle of beer could be had for less than a dollar and cocktails for about $3. A meal for the two of us cost about $20 including drinks!  And during happy hour all cocktails are 2 for 1 “until you are drunk!” (quote)

IMG_2984IMG_3043

Click here to Find Accommodation in Hoi An

However, our favourite food was the street food, and the night markets provided that in abundance!  For a dollar or two a meal and a laugh could be had from any of the carts and we sampled just about all of them!

And again, like everywhere in Vietnam, it is the people that make it so good, the feeling that you belong there and are so very welcome.

Street Seller in Hoi An
Street Seller in Hoi An

Traditional Village Wedding…. And more..


For those of you that are wondering if that’s me in the header picture, well guess what – it is!  Back in the days when I was an actress on the big stage………. Wait stop!  I’m dreaming again!  But seriously, it is me, but no, I’ve never been an actress on any stage! (Although my husband may beg to differ!

Weddings are always great occasions,  but when it’s a marriage of two cultures, it becomes so much more…

IMGP0033

A while ago we were privileged to be able to attend a traditional wedding in a small village in West Java, Indonesia.  The trip to the village was an experience in itself, let alone the actual wedding!

It started with a flight from Perth to Jakarta, IMG_7826then a 3 hour train ride to Cirebon, and then about 30 minutes drive to the village of Sindagjawa.

I think we were probably the only western people in the village, and certainly the only ones that could speak English! But what a day!  Absolutely wonderful, the Javanese villagers made us so welcome, we were family!

And what a wedding!  The costumes, the ceremony, the music,  it was like being  in a movie!  I can honestly say I have never experienced anything like it.  And I must say,  I’ve never seen so many Aussie males have such a great time without any alcohol being served!  That in itself was quite unique!

But it wasn’t only a lot of fun,  it was a wonderful cultural experience,  the wedding traditions, from the bride and groom feeding each other,  IMG_0688to the coin and sweets throwing for the children, IMG_0750the blessings given by the families,  and then of course all the usual speeches  (which we didn’t understand a word of, but everyone was smiling so I guess it was all good stuff)!IMG_0710

After a whole day of celebrations, we returned to the hotel in Cirebon for a welcome cold beer or cocktail and nice dip in the pool.

I believe all of us that were there will treasure that day in our memories forever, and for the bride and groom we all wish them a long and happy marriage.

IMG_0831

They called it Paradise!


And paradise it is,  even today!

Norfolk Island 127

Norfolk island map

Norfolk Island is about a 2hr flight from either Brisbane or Sydney  and no matter where you are coming from, it is well worth the journey.

Find Flights to Norfolk Island

Famous for it’s Norfolk Pine trees, this tiny sub-tropical island is the idyllic place for a holiday.  A peaceful haven to get away to, leaving the hustle and bustle behind.  We spent 2 weeks there and both agreed it wasn’t long enough.  One day we will return to do all the things we didn’t have time for the first time.                   Find accommodation on Norfolk Island

norfolk-island-110.jpg
Original Ford truck still running tours for Pioneer Village

So why is it called paradise?  Well that came from the first settlers and when you go there you can see why.  I think it’s paradise for everything it DOESN’T have!

It’s an island, but doesn’t have any pesky seagulls to steal your food on the beach!  It doesn’t have any poisonous plants or insects.  It doesn’t have any (or at least so little it’s not mentioned) crime – after all where would a criminal run to? And most of all it doesn’t have any flies to annoy you when you’re dining alfresco.

Norfolk Island 033
Country lane where cows have right of way!

What it does offer is picturesque scenery,  fantastic fishing (my husband calls it ‘catching’ not fishing!)  great local produce, safe swimming beaches and the most friendly locals ever!  Getting used to doing the “Norfolk Wave” was quite fun, it’s a subtle one finger raise from the steering wheel as you pass another car!

And talking of cars,  a hire car usually comes included with your accommodation!  That’s because even though it is a small island, only 8kms x 5kms,  it is full of hills and winding roads, a car is really essential.  Just drive slowly to avoid the many roosters and cows that roam free everywhere. (oh yeah, and the pot-holes in the roads!)

Norfolk Island 087
Emily Bay safe swimming inside the reef

Norfolk Island is an external territory of Australia, and was self-governed up until 2016.  It has one pub, mainly for the younger crowd, but has a golf club, a Leagues Club and an RSL club. You’ll find you won’t be allowed to drink alone, the locals like to make everyone feel at home and are really welcoming.  The capital – yes an 8x5km island has a capital,  Kingston,  is quite cosmopolitan with some great restaurants, cafes and bistros with alfresco dining.  Off the beaten track you can also find some nice homely rustic restaurants, little hidden gems.

Book accommodation on Norfolk Island

The history of Norfolk Island goes right back to the Mutiny on the Bounty which is what brought us there in the first place – read more about that on my other post here.

There is plenty to do on Norfolk Island, like I said,  we left there after two weeks wishing we had more time. Between museums, art gallery, pioneer village, historic buildings, national park walk trails, beautiful swimming beaches, wineries, and oh so much more!

Search Flights to Norfolk Island

Book accommodation on Norfolk Island

I could really go on forever raving about Norfolk,  but I’m not going to, you really need to go see and enjoy it for yourself.

Why Norfolk Island?


When we said we were going to Norfolk Island people either asked “where’s that?”  or “why there?”

Well apart from the fact we like going to places little known and especially small islands (Norfolk is about 8x5kms) I had found out I actually had a connection there.  I’m not sure if it still holds true, but when we went there the rule was that to be able to live on Norfolk you had to have ancestry there.mutiny on the bounty

Fletcher Christian led the mutiny on the “Bounty” and ejected  Captain Bligh and those loyal to him from the ship. Christian and eight mutineers, one being John Adams, along with 18 Tahitians lived on Pitcairn Island and made it their home for almost 20 years.

Search Flights to Norfolk Island

I have ancestry there.  A distant (very distant) maternal uncle was John Adams.

John_Adams_(mutineer)
John Adams

A Cockney orphan, had been brought up in the poorhouse, and joined the Bounty under the name of Alexander Smith.   In Pitcairn, Adams filled his days with Bible reading and drinking spirits distilled from the juices of the ti-tree root.   He turned religious and took upon himself the task of educating children.

By the 1850’s Pitcairn had out grown their tiny island and Queen Victoria agreed to relocate the islanders to Norfolk Island. 193 men, woman and children arrived to Norfolk on 8 June 1856. The settling of the Pitcairners on Norfolk Island marked a complete break from the island’s convict past, establishing new patterns of life.

So there you have it – my reason for wanting to visit Norfolk Island!

Find Accommodation in Norfolk Island

adamsgrave
John Adams Grave on Pitcairn Island

Book Accommodation on Norfolk Island

Search Flights to Norfolk Island

My Top 2 Places to Eat in Mandurah


Mandurah has a bevy of great cafes, restaurants and the like, in fact so many that sometimes we sit and debate for hours where to go to eat!  Luckily for us, all are within walking distance so a few wines or beers with dinner is never a problem.  There are western A’ La Carte places,  Chinese,  Malaysian,  Thai,  Indonesian,  Vietnamese,  Mexican,  Rib & Steak houses,  Italian,  and probably more that I can’t think of right this moment!

So to pick my 2 favourite places was really, really hard! But, here they are:

Murphy’s Irish Pub

Oh where do I start, the food, the service, the entertainment?  Because all of that is good, I mean REALLY good!  Owned and operated by Edward Janiec,  AKA “The Man Who Can’t Say NO”  the staff are  friendly and extremely helpful, with wait-time at the bar and tables pretty much non-existent.

murphysfront
Murphy’s Irish Pub, Mandurah Terrace

We have been dining here fairly regularly  since it opened in 2007 and it has become our “go-to” place if we decide to eat out at the last minute because we know we will NEVER be turned away.  Which is why I nicknamed Edward “The Man Who Can’t Say NO”.Edward

“Sorry we are full”  is a phrase that just isn’t in Edwards’ vocabulary, and if you were to ask any of his staff if they are fully booked, they just look at you like you’re mad!  There is always another table and some chairs to be found somewhere!

Murphy’s has some kind of entertainment on every night of the week, be it a quiz, karaoke or music, there is never a dull evening, and on weekends, the afternoons are also filled with music and sport on the many tv screens.

Murphys
Entertainment on a Sunday night

Murphy’s isn’t a place I’d recommend for a romantic dinner, but I say save the romance for when you get home and enjoy a meal at Murphy’s first!

Oh, and the food, of course I haven’t said anything about the food yet!  Well guess what,  I’m not going to, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves, and honestly, would I be raving about a place if the food was no good? You just have to go and try it for yourself.

Find Accommodation in Mandurah

Thai on the Terrace

If you like authentic Thai food in equally authentic setting, then Thai on the Terrace is the place to go.  menu

You can choose to have your dishes any stage of spiciness from none at all (woosy) or,  like my husband,  over the top Thai hot (masochist).  The menu is extensive and the staff are lovely Thai girls,  as is the owner/chef.  Thai on the Terrace is a no-fuss kind of place, where the importance is put into the food.

Thai on terrace
Small and intimate dining room

We have never been disappointed here, whether we have dined in or had take-away.  I like small owner/operator type places, and Thai on the Terrace is the sort of restaurant you’d expect to find in a back street in Thailand, run by a family. I you find yourself visiting Mandurah  and like Thai food, do yourself a favour and give this place a try.

Find Accommodation in Mandurah 

Search Flights to Western Australia

Nice is Nice…


The recent happenings in Manchester and London reminded me of the horrible night in Nice,  when so many people were killed or injured on the Promenade Des Anglais.  Such a sad night for the whole world, something we will never forget,  and it would be remiss of me to do this post without a mention or a thought to all those that suffered that night.

Hearts

Exactly one week before that night, we had been in Nice, and on our last night had been celebrating with thousands of people on the soccer win over Germany.  The streets were alive with locals, tourists, soccer fans, adults and children everywhere.  There were car horns blaring,  fire-crackers,  singing and dancing in the streets.  It was amazing!   We had such a wonderful time because NICE is NICE!

The Promenade Des Anglais is awesome,  running along the beach it’s the perfect place to wander along or sit and people watch,  and as it is covered, there is plenty of shade from the hot south of France sunshine.   We spent every evening doing just that and of course, chatting with the street vendors and performers.

castle hill view nice

Nice has much, much more to offer than just the Promenade, and in our few days there we managed to explore a some of these places.

We were lucky enough to stay at the Mercure Hotel, which is on a corner off the Promenade and so we were able to walk everywhere.  And walk we did!  Right after a wonderful breakfast in the hotel, we would set off each morning in a different direction to see what we could find.            Search Flights to Nice

Our first day was spent wandering around the old town of Nice, with narrow streets, loads of shops,  cafes,  bars and restaurants.  There isn’t much you can’t get in the old town!  It is a really pretty part of Nice and most of the  shops are decorated with hanging baskets outside.  There are numerous artisan bakers, and little places selling all sorts of delicacies like olives, cheeses, pickles, cured meats and local sauces and wines.  It made us a little sorry we weren’t in a self-catering apartment!  Nice Old Town covers quite a large area,  and it’s easy to spend a whole day wandering around, stopping now and then for “une verre de vin” (or two) and of course some lunch!

Flowers Old Town Nice
Flowers for sale, Old Town Nice

My favourite part of the old town was Cours Saleya , known as Marche aux Fleurs  which is a flower and fruit and vegetable market, held every morning.  I have never seen so many flower displays in one place before.

cours saleya
Vegetable stalls Cours Saleya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Find Hotels in Nice     

Day 2 sent us past the Old Town and around to the port where the ferries come in from Corsica,  this walk along the waterfront offers some great views back into Nice.  From there we found ourselves looking up to the cliffs and seeing people walking around, we wondered how to get up there without a car.  (It was a long way up and I certainly wasn’t keen on climbing the hill!).  While standing at the bottom looking at the steps debating shall we/shan’t we? I noticed a little sign and barely visible arrow pointing to “Elevator” Yes! There is a God!  I was going to get to the top and still be able to breath!  And so glad I was,  it would have been such a shame to miss what awaited us at the top.

View over Port in Nice
View over Port in Nice
waterfall castle hill nice
Waterfall at Castle Hill, Nice France

The Castle Park (Parc du Chateau) is apparently one of Nice’s top tourist attractions and I can see why, it is beautiful and gives amazing  360 views of Nice. I’m a bit ashamed to say I had never heard of it before we went there!  It isn’t just the views though, it is the gardens, statues, remains of the original chateau and the history that is really interesting. Having been there it is a place I would advise all visitors to Nice to make sure they don’t miss.

Day 3 – Just wandering.  As our second day was so full-on we decided to just wander the nearby streets and so glad we did!  Only a block away in the opposite direction to the Old Town we found a shopping mecca!  All the brand names you could think of,  but with a price tag to match I might add!  There were clothes, shoes, electronics, everything and anything,  and all the genuine article!              Find Hotels in Nice

Of course, once again we managed to find some great little drinking and eating venues, and a place to go back to that evening for dinner.

Seafood Chowder Nice
Seafood Chowder Nice, France

On a narrow side street, a bit away from the crowds, we found a small family run Italian restaurant where Rick had a seafood chowder served in a crusty cob!

Search Flights to Nice

I’ll leave you with this delightful video of the water park….

 

Buy travel insurance with 1Cover.

 

Book review: Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hahnemann


The new Hygge Scandinavian trend just hitting Australia!

Hello Hygge

If you’re a regular on this blog, I’m sure you’ll be familiar with Trine Hahnemann, the author of Scandinavian Christmas, which is the book that first introduced me to the concept of hygge (I talk about it a bit more in this post). But inexplicably, I’ve seen hardly anyone talking about Scandinavian Comfort Food. Is it because the H-word is relegated to the subtitle (‘Embracing the art of hygge’) and nobody realised it was bang on trend? Who knows. But I’ve had my copy since the end of last year (when Britain reached peak hygge), so I think it’s high time I shared my thoughts!

Scandinavian Comfort Food by Trine Hahnemann

Much like Nigella, Trine gives a lot of context and anecdotes to punctuate her recipes, and I love that. As you may know, I really enjoy reading recipe books as a form of escapism in bed before I go to sleep, so reading…

View original post 839 more words

Getting out of Perth


A great piece on Western Australia by Mel & Suan

Traveling Matters to us

No, we are suggesting that you don’t go to Perth. It is a nice city. Perhaps it has grown a lot bigger, busier, more crowded since we last set foot there. We like to think about it as – taking a break that includes being outside of Perth.

Why?

Because there are simply so many things to see and do outside of the city. You know that already. But a word of warning. Being situated on the western coast of West Australia state, the distances will be long and the journeys could be a little stifling especially in the summer heat. So choose the time of your visit carefully…

This post is a link to a reminisce of our journey taken many years back. And in some ways we think it is still relevant to share. Because it was made in the early innings of our travel “career” together. Hmm…travel…

View original post 92 more words