A journey through Vietnam – One Building at a time

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I’m no architect, in fact I generally struggle putting together flat pack furniture… stupid instructions that do more harm than good. But for some reason I’m infatuated with buildings when I go travelling. I think it’s because they explain more about the history of a country than perhaps anything else.

So join me now as I take you on a journey through Vietnam one building at a time…


Hanoi

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Ho Chi Minh’s Mausoleum in Hoi An…

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Ho Chi Minh’s Residence 

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Run down building
These sort of sites aren’t uncommon in Nam

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Room with a view
These homes overlook an American bomber jet shot down and left in this lake

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Electricity, Nam Styles
Waiting for a power company to sort power to your house can take forever… why not just DIY power like they do in Nam?

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Shopping Centre
French Quarter Hanoi… Rather different from some of those earlier pics and pic below!

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Markets and multi-coloured building
I truly don’t know if it’s my photography or the building that is on the piss

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The signs of development
Hi-rise buildings are becoming a normal site in the north


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Japanese Bridge 

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The beautiful riverside

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Vibrant colours of Hoi An

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Traditional temple

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Incredible mix of cultures can be seen in the architecture of Hoi An

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Curb side supermarket – too easy!


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Like any resort town Nha Trang has a main strip littered with hotels

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Modern meets old world, check out the differences in buildings in this pic!

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My favourite building in Ho Chi Minh – the People’s Committee Building

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Followed closely by the Municipal Theatre

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Third world?? 

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The Independence Palace, the site where the war ended in 1975

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Notre-Dame Basilica

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The most boss post office around!

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And Ho Chi Minh from above


I hope you got something out of our little journey, if not, well I had a good time taking you on it, so at least I’m a winner!

Till next time pilgrims 🙂

Hoi An – A Pleasant Surprise

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Surprises – they can be good and bad.

You come home to find your house burgled… bad surprise. You come home to find a present from your loved one… good surprise.

Hoi An Street

Our arrival to Hoi An was more like the latter… a surprise gift given to us on our journey through Vietnam.

This UNESCO World Heritage site has managed to capture and embody the charming elements of Vietnam’s diverse history. It has been a trade port and home to Japanese, French, Chinese and many other cultures – as such it really is a mixed bag of beauty, from cobbled streets to wooden bridges and vibrant colours of lanterns.

Lanterns

Oh and yes Hoi An is the place where you can get custom made clothing quickly and cheaply. There are stalls upon stalls of tailors who will literally take your measurements one day and have a suit/dress/jacket (WHATEVER YOU WANT) ready for you by the next day.

Charming town and great shopping? You can see why it’s a great surprise…. Get there. Now.

Planning your pilgrimage:


Walk the River

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  • Running through the centre of town is the river. During the day it’s a hive of activity with fisherman, travellers and locals alike. At night it really comes alive. Local kids sell candles in little containers that you float down the river for luck. Lanterns light up the streets. It’s bustling and a great vibe.
  • Please remember too (a local reminded us of this on our trip) the tourist dollar is their way to live, so yes they may seem intense when trying to sell you something but they have lived in poverty for too long. Buy their candle and float it down the river. It’s their livelihood.

Jack Trans Eco Tour – BMW Buffalo Cart

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  • This was by far the most interesting and fantastic thing we did in Vietnam
  • Jack Tran hires local guides, and uses local families to make his tours a true Vietnam experience.
  • As we rode along in a cart drawn by a buffalo, our tour host openly told us of how her family had gone from complete despair to a happy life with the help of the tourist dollar.
  • Bufalo tour 3The Buffalo took us to a farmers house – he had also struggled for years, not making enough money (or rice for that matter) to feed his family. To make matters worse while tending to his rice fields one day he stood on a live grenade which blew off his foot.
  • His daughter ran a day care out of his home, and the little Vietnamese kids were adorable. Our host told us that as a child she called white people ‘hello people’ as that’s what we say when we see them.
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  • What stood out for me on this tour was not the ride on the buffalo (yep you get to ride that bad boy) or the delicious rice the farmer cooked for us, or the beautiful scenery of Hoi An’s farm land… it was witnessing first hand how resilient the Vietnamese are and how despite their trials and tribulations they are still welcoming, smiling and happy. I love them.

Eat at Bale Well

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  • Have you ever had the food sweats? Or been so full that you thought you might explode? Well you will experience this at Bale Well and all for under $10.
  • Bale Well is the Vietnamese answer to a smorgasbord. You sit down and the friendly staff feed you, and feed you, and when you thought you couldn’t fit in anymore they feed you again.
  • Salad, spring rolls, rice pancakes, 1000 types of meat (slight exaggeration) oh yes and ice cream for desert.
  • It’s beyond insane and you must do it if you go to Hoi An.

Thuan Tinh Island Food Tour

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  • This is the number one rated activity on Trip Advisor for Hoi An and deservedly so.
  • The tour takes you through the entire meal creation process from purchasing your food at the market, to cooking, to eating. The recipes are simple enough, for those like me who have no idea what they’re doing, but the class teaches you about authentic Vietnamese ingredients, keeping those real foodies happy.
  • Above all that you get to take a little trip in a woven basket boat (see pic) and you get a small insight into local life on your walk from the river to the venue, stopping at local homes to learn about grinding rice.
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Shopping 

  • Ok shopaholics, sorry it took me so long to get here… Shopping in Hoi An.
  • Tip one: Before you go take pictures of what clothes you want the tailor to make.
  • Tip two: Make this your FIRST activity in Hoi An so to give the tailors as much time as possible to make your clothes.
  • Tip three: Cheaper options are in the market, there are stalls upon stalls of tailors in here and it’s quite intense. You can shop around, and there are some who don’t know what they’re doing. We used ‘Cloth Shop Number Forty One’… they really were on point.
  • Tip four: Be prepared for it not to be perfect – they do pretty well, but there might be a few bits that aren’t 100%.

  • SO there you have it. Hoi An in all it’s glory. There are also beaches, incredible beaches nearby that we never made it to, so the entertainment possibilities are endless. Happy travels 🙂

Vietnam – Where your traveller dollar counts

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“We love tourists. Tourism in Vietnam stopped my dad from hitting my mum.”

This is a direct quote from a tour guide in the beautiful city of Hoi An, Vietnam. In two sentences this young girl depicts not only the suffering endured, but the perpetual spirit of the Vietnamese. They’ve borne hundreds of years of hardship, yet they have this welcoming openness that really does make Vietnam a fantastic place for travellers and “tourists” alike.

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I read somewhere that Vietnam is a place “whose greatest charms lie in its everyday, unexpected curiosities just as much as in the more renowned tourist attractions,” and it couldn’t be closer to the truth. From the moment you touch down you can’t help but be caught up in all that is great in Vietnam.

Sure you should visit the “must-sees” – the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum in Hanoi, the War Remnants Museum and Cu Chi Tunnels in Ho Chi Minh. But your memories of Vietnam will be made, as cliché as it sounds, getting yourself lost on the manic streets.

What makes the entire experience better is that every time you sit to eat, enjoy a beer or take part in a tour you are helping the Vietnamese (like our guide in Hoi An) provide for their families, taking away the stresses that once plagued and devastated families.

So there you have it people – what better reason to travel, spend and drink!

Over the course of the next few weeks I’ll be writing about the main centres of Nam – Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh etc. so tune in for my tips. For now though, here’s some important intel for someone going anywhere in Vietnam.

Planning your pilgrimage:


What to pack:

eating√  Always carry tissues – there will be more than one reason you need these

√  Hand sanitiser.

√  Diastop:If you don’t eat on a curbside from a local vendor while you’re in Vietnam you’ve done it all wrong. This can wreak havoc with your guts but it’s worth it, so just go prepared.

√  US Dollars – this is good for most things in Vietnam, and you will pay your hotel in USD, there are plenty of HSBC or ANZ bank machines around Vietnam to get money out. Get the maximum out (around two million dong), it sounds like loads, but you’ll get through it.


BYO nerves of steal:

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√  Everything you’ve heard about the traffic in Nam is true.

√  Best tip when walking, take it slowly across the road. It goes against your better logic, but trust me, slow and steady wins the race as motorists will go around you, they can’t plan for you if you’re running.

√  If you’re on the roads for a tour or whatever be warned, they pass each other three abreast, they pass on blind corners, they pass when a truck is coming towards you. It’s horrifying – but somehow they make it through. Tip: Close your eyes if you’re a nervous passenger.


Practice your hand signals:

The Vietnamese are great at communicating even if you have no common language, get ready to sign your way to buying food or reaching a destination.


The people are excellent

People

Tourism is fairly new to Vietnam, so in my opinion the place and the people still find the whole thing a novelty. As such while people are always selling you something, they’re not as annoying as vendors in say Thailand for example.

I actually enjoyed every encounter with the Vietnamese, I found them incredibly accommodating, willing to help and willing to have a laugh.


Don’t be afraid to barter

Selling stuff

Like any markets around the world the first price they offer is not the last. So do barter – you’ll know if you’ve pushed them too low.

Interestingly we learned from a friend who travels there regularly that the people running the stores don’t necessarily own them, so they get a cut of the profit made off you. SO if you ask them what their lowest price is then offer to give them personally a little something on top of it (do it with a bit of a wink, but not too creepy) you’ll usually get a better deal.


What “motorbike” really means

MotorbikeThere are loads of men (particularly in Nha Trang, and some in Ho Chi Minh) that will yell out “motorbike, motorbike” to you. They are NOT trying to rent you a motorbike, they are trying to sell you drugs. Be careful.


There are some starting tips, there’s plenty more where that came from so keep checking back to Pilgrim With a Plan for great stories and intel! 🙂

 

 

Buildings of Italy

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Buildings aren’t always the number one choice for holiday photos. Maybe it’s because it’s hard to get a really good selfie with a building… who knows.

Fortunately for all of us I’m not one to take a selfie, I am however one for a good building photo, especially in Italy.

The array of buildings in Italy most certainly contribute to the countries charm, and they vary greatly depending on which part of the country you are in.

So as a gift for your eyes I’ve collated some of my fave building shots. You’re welcome…

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