Scooters, Skyscrapers & Shooting. Welcome to Ho Chi Minh

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As a wise man once said Vietnam is like a box of chocolates, you never know what you’re going to get.

Ok I’m paraphrasing, but it’s true.

One of the true charms of Vietnam is the constant surprise factor. After weeks in Vietnam visiting the beautiful Hoi An, the bustling Hanoi and the serene Halong Bay I thought Vietnam couldn’t have any more surprises in store. Then we landed in Ho Chi Minh.

It is undoubtedly the most developed city in Vietnam, boasting a financial district fully equipped with skyscrapers and (wait for it)… TOP SHOP! Then you head out of the city and get to experience first hand a history lesson like no other at the Cu Chi Tunnels.

It truly is amazing and there’s plenty to see and do. We didn’t have nearly enough time but still managed to jam a lot in. Here are a couple of must-do’s, can’t wait to go back some day and add to the list.

Planning your pilgrimage:


Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels

Yes it’s touristy but it’s a must do when in Ho Chi Minh. Book a day trip through your hotel and head out to see just a small fraction of the kilometres of narrow tunnels that so many Vietnamese functioned and fought out of for years. This trip will teach you more about the war than any history class. And the first hand experience crawling through the tunnels is one that will stick with you.

OH yeah and you can shoot an AK47… I’ve read from some reviews that this is offensive to those who fought and died in the war, but you know what, shut up. If the Vietnamese want to capitalize off a really shit situation by letting me shoot a gun, then good on them.

(Side note: Yep I have no gun skills as seen in the pic)


 

War Remnants Museum

War Remnants

I can’t warn you enough about how disturbing this museum is, but it’s a must do. The museum has hundreds of photographs and exhibitions telling the story of the true affect of the war.

Now I have to tell you this includes fetuses’ in jars that were affected by agent orange. This is 100% as awful as it sounds, but you know what? Look at it. They’ve put it on display to show you how bad things were (and for some still are) so take it in. Please don’t take photos, I mean you can, there’s no rule against it but come on, have some respect. Rant over.

(As you can see by my snap the only photo I took was outside…)


 

Bitexco Financial Tower

TowerIt’s really easy in a place like Ho Chi Minh to not really grasp the sheer size of the place. Well head up the tallest building in Ho Chi Minh and see just how wide spread the city is, it also gives you an idea of how much development is going on.

It’s a little more expensive than other activities in Ho Chi Minh, but in reality it’s costing you $15 instead of $2 that everything else is, so the bank isn’t broken.


 

Shop

At the Cho Ben Thanh Market. It’s full of watches, clothes, shoes, souveneirs etc. all genuine fakes of course. But it’s lots of fun and just remember to haggle, haggle and haggle some more. Or as a friend taught me, offer to pay one very low price for the item and a tip for the seller as that means they actually get some money to take home rather than giving money to the stall owner.


 

Wander

Ho Chi Minh buildingsAs per usual I recommend taking a good walk around the city. Make sure you stroll past the Saigon Opera House, the Post office and Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral. All amazing buildings and a reminder of the various influences the city has had over the years.


Eat

Beer Ho Chi MinhFor the first time in my Vietnam rambles I will tell you to go to an actual restaurant. That restaurant is 4p’s pizza – it is (wait for it) an Asian, Italian fusion restaurant (think Teryaki chicken pizza) and wholly hell it’s delicious. It sounds so wrong when you are in Vietnam to not eat Vietnamese but it’s worth detracting from the spring rolls for just one night. Trust me.

(Sorry no photos of 4P’s so instead you get a pic of another meal we had in Ho Chi Minh… yep there wasn’t just beer, although there was a lot of beer)


 

Alright that’s my reminiscing of Vietnam done for now… But i’ll be back. Mark my words. Love you Nam.

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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London – The divider of opinions

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London – You either love it or you hate it

For the record I love London. The tube, the history, the endless choice of fun activities – it’s all a bit of me. But some people don’t love London, those people are idiots, but they have a right to their opinion (even if it’s wrong).

london1For a bit of fun I’ve written two poems – one from the perspective of those who hate London, one from those who love it.

I want these contrasting poems to remind you that no matter where you travel, people will give you their opinion about it. Take it with a grain of salt, it’s just their opinion, go forth, travel and form your own opinions.


Poem one from the haters:
Oh god London… it’s just so old. And goodness me isn’t it cold!

Using public transport to get everywhere,

It’s a bit common don’t you think my dear?

It’s ever so busy – people everywhere,

For my own safety I sometimes fear.

The coffee is rubbish, the food is bland,

And wow I’ve spent more money than I planned.

London I must say you’re not my cup of tea,

Just not somewhere I want to be.


Poem two the lovers:

Oh god London, the history,

And donning a winter jacket is a bit of me.

Jump on the tube, or a double decker bus,

Getting you where you want with little fuss.

It’s always bustling with so much to do,

A show, a meal, a bit of shopping too.

A curry on brick lane, or a market stall dish,

With so many cultures you can eat what you wish.

London I must say, I really do love you,

You’re everything I want – that is true.


 

Planning your pilgrimage:


There is SO much to do in London, but here are just a few of my favourite spots:

Big Bus tour

Red Bus Tour

 

√  I always take the Big Bus tours in every city I go to, it’s such an easy way to get your bearings

√  The London one is particularly great and hits all major stops! Worth doing.

 

 

 

 

 


Portobello Markets

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   √  Saturday morning, get yourself to the Portobello markets, full of vintage goods, knick knacks and food – but most importantly brimming with good vibes as travellers and Londoners alike go about their shopping. One of my favourite places in London.

     √  Also right up from the Portobello tube station is a Banksy painting, the council respect it so much they’ve covered it with a perspex box. So ace.

 

 

 


Camden

camden     √  Want to see an edgy side of London, buy cheap goods and eat street food? Camden is for you.

√  Camden is the epitome of London for me… a melting pot of activities, culture, food, and people – and it’s buzzing all the time!

     √  Make sure you walk the canals – heaps of great Banksy paintings 🙂

 


Hampton Court Palace

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   √  Hampton Court Palace was a favoured residence of King Henry the 8th.

     √  Now I’m not one to tell you to go to historical homes, however this one is boss. The guy had a fountain that flowed with wine (as seen in the pic). I think him and I would have got along.

√  I’m sure the word extravagance was invented to explain this palace – go check it out.

 

 

 


See a show

See a show     √  What am I saying – go see 10 shows. You are spoilt for choice and they are all just incredible.

     √  Obviously hit the big ones that tickle your fancy (Jersey Boys was a personal fave of mine) but I’d also recommend getting along to one in a smaller theatre like ‘The Woman in Black’ – a quaint show like this really puts you in the action.

 

 


Oxford Street

Shopping√  Top Shop. H&M. Need I say more?

√  Oxford street is always insanely busy but for good reason, it is a shopping mecca.

√  My guilty pleasure will forever be Primark – floors and floors of cheap yet moderately fashionable goods.

 

 


Drink pims at Southbank or Covent Garden

Drink

 

     √  If it’s a sunny day get yourself to South Bank or Covent Garden for a drink, Londoners swarm to these spots and the vibe is brilliant, as let’s be honest it’s not sunny there often so when it is people get amongst it.

 

 

 


Tate Modern or National Art Gallery

     √  Get your culture on and hit at least one of these Galleries, have a google and see what’s on – last time I visited the Tate they had a fantastic Lichtenstein exhibition.


Get out of London

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√  Finally my best tip for London, get out of  central London. I love the place but there’s nothing better than a drive in the English countryside.

√  If you have time invest it in a trip to Harrogate, a quintessential English country town.

 

 


As I say there is plenty more to do in London than I’ve mentioned – so as with any travel, go, try it out for yourself and see what you can fall in love with in London 🙂

Rome – Where fun once prevailed

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Health and Safety policies are ruining fun. There, I said it.

Kids games like bull rush are being cut from the school yard as little Billy hurt himself that one time. Hand rails create barriers between travellers and sites because some fool with a camera leaned to far over and fell in…

Rome ItalyMaybe this is why I like Rome, you find yourself imagining a time when fun prevailed over Health and Safety concerns. When the Colosseum was flooded with water to allow battleships to fight. Agh the good old days.

But seriously I love Rome, it’s history, it’s cobbled streets, it’s bustling Piazza’s… all helping you look past the fact you have to weave around every man and his SLR and dodge street performers vying for your tourist dollars.

ANYWHO ‘When In Rome’ there’s plenty to do, here are my top tips.

Planning your pilgrimage:


The Colosseum
Colosseum

√  Numero uno stop for me – love this place.

√  Go super super early or really late in the day – queues for this place can get out of control.

√  Grab the audio guide at the front desk, it’s so interesting listening to all the things that went on here (including dwarf fights and of course battleships).

 


Monumento Nazionale a Vittorio 

Monumento     √  Located on the Piazza Venezia – a short walk from The Colosseum.

√  Made entirely out of marble the outside of the building is certainly worth a look.

√  More importantly though pay to get the lift to the top of the building – the panoramic views of the city are unforgettable .

 


Trevi Fountain

Trevi Fountain     √  Want to ensure you return to Rome someday? Or want to find love? You have to go to Trevi Fountain.

√  Legend has it that you should throw three coins into the fountain. The first coin guarantees your return to Rome, the second will ensure a new romance, and the third will ensure marriage.

√  Hmmm two parts have worked for me, maybe I need to go back and throw that third coin.

√  Despite all that it’s magnificent in size and design – a must see.

 

 


The Spanish Steps

Spanish Steps

√  A little further on from the Trevi Fountain are the Spanish Steps.

√  I enjoy getting something to eat and just sitting on the steps, people watching. There’s always so much going on.

 

 

 


The Vatican

The Vatican     √  Want to add another country to your list? The Vatican is for you. That’s right, technically the Vatican is a country in it’s own right.

√  Of course there are plenty more reasons to visit. The Vatican is eerily holy, with mummies of popes in the basement. There’s the awe inspiring St Peter’s Basilica and then there is the Sistine Chapel and it’s famous Michelangelo painted roof. The guy spent four years on scaffolding painting that bad boy – and I’m glad he did, it’s just… wow, go check it out.

√  Go EARLY –Don’t even brush your hair, just go. You can wait for up to 2 hours to get in here! The earlier the shorter the queue.


Villa Borghese Gardens

View from Gardens

 

     √  While charming and historic, Rome is also chaotic, I recommend heading up the Spanish steps into the Villa Borghese Gardens and just taking a walk, it’s serene and calming, two adjectives I would not apply to the rest of Rome.

 

 


Other helpful bits:

Busy Rome     √  Stay: by the Rome Termini Train station, it’s an easy walk from there to the major attractions and trains to other major Italian cities and the airport go from here.

√  Eat: If the restaurant displays photos of the food, don’t eat there. It’s a tourist trap – the food will be inauthentic.

√  Prepare: For the millions of people. Rome is a bustling place and it can be overwhelming, so plan your time and be prepared for queues.