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

Bale Well

  • 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.
    Food tour 1

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 🙂

South East Asia: Fun facts to know before you go

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Knowledge is power right? So to make you more powerfule below are some interesting, remarkable and down right wacky facts about South East Asia. You’re welcome…

Sou1. The name “Southeast Asia” came into popular use after World War II and the region has 10 independent countries: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. (map from imagekp.com)

2. In Thailand barbers are usually closed on Wednesday because Thais think it will bring bad luck to cut their hair that day of the week.

3. Some people in Malaysia wash their babies in beer to protect them from diseases.

4. Indonesia is the world’s biggest archipelago with over 17,000 islands.

Angkor Wat

5. Angkor Wat, in Cambodia, is the largest religious temple in the world. It is estimated it took 30 years to build!

6. Vietnam is the second largest exporter of coffee in the world. Only Brazil exports more coffee, by volume, than Vietnam. Most of Vietnam’s coffee is exported to the U.S.

7. Football (soccer) is the most popular sport in Vietnam, other sports of interest include table tennis, volleyball, badminton, tennis, and martial arts.

8. The national anthem of Singapore is written in microtext on the back of the $1000 note.

9.Laos has been tagged as the “World’s Most Bombed Country.” Over two billion tons of bombs were dropped in Laos during the Vietnam War.

10. It is illegal to drink alcohol in public in Brunei.

11. The Philippines is the world’s leading producer of coconuts, having produced 19.5 million tons of the fruit in 2010 (Photocred: Internationalcoconut.com).

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Learn something? Me too!

If you have any other fun facts do get in touch. Happy travels.

 

Humans of the world

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Part of the attraction of travel for me is meeting new people and experiencing new cultures.

You could call me nosy (many have) or you could call me curious, curious to see how others live, what puts a smile on their face and what their struggles are.

Over the years I’ve captured some pretty ace photos of people I’ve met around the world from street performers to children in remote villages of Cambodia, and as the saying goes, a picture is worth a thousand words.

Here’s a collection for your enjoyment:

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Jolly Germans playing a tune in a beer hall.

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A street performer makes sweet beats on makeshift drums in London.

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How the guards at Buckingham Palace can stay still for so long is beyond me.

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A train station in Tokyo, so many people but in orderly lines, organised chaos…

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A friendly lass pours me a Suntory Premium Malt at the museum in Kyoto.

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A belly dancer for the crowds enjoyment in Dubai.

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An amazing group of souls I met on my sail Croatia trip when travelling alone.

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There’s some trick to these involving a fake arm and a plank – regardless it’s amazing.

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The jolly gents who entertained the crowd waiting for buses after the ANZAC services at Gallipoli.

 

 

 

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A street performer and I in London.

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An army of dumpling makers at a Michelin Star restaurant in Hong Kong.

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This beautiful being poured us beer in Hanoi (at 20c a glass) for hours.

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This lovely lady has been affected by agent orange (check out her right hand). She and others affected now make and sell art to help them get by.

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Not a playstation in sight yet the kids are still having fun in Vietnam… Intriguing.

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Eamon with a hat seller in Hanoi – look at her face, she was bemused by us.

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Street vendors in Hanoi trying to keep cool.

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The cutest kids ever in a daycare in Hoi An. Love their different expressions.

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A Hoi An farmer showing us how they cook (note his foot – blown off by a land mine in his rice fields).

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Vietnam road safety 101: Don’t worry about a helmet for the child, just pop her in between mum and dad!

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A puppet DJ on the banks of the Thames in London.

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Children with gangster as moves performing in London.

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Amazing performers at a circus in Cambodia.

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Mr Fisher who taught us about Absinthe in Austria.




 

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And finally these adorably hilarious kids from a remote village in Cambodia – excited by seeing us white folk roaming their streets. Too cute!