28 January 2017

Da Nang, Vietnam

The city of Da Nang is much more spacious and spread out compared to Hanoi, and it is where I stayed for Têt or Vietnamese new years.  Locals decorate their homes and streets with plenty of fairy lights and also decorate blossom trees or small orange trees (perhaps similar to decorating christmas trees).  The most impressive were the lights along the river and of the dragon bridge, which on a saturday night even breathes fire!
On new years day I visited the Linh Ung temple and giant lady buddha. Hundreds of Vietnamese were busy visiting the temple, as they go to pray, get luck and make wishes at the temple at the start of the new year.
The area of My Khe beach, on the eastern side of the city, was where I stayed. It was pretty quiet due to many shops and restaurants closing for Têt, but the beach had clean sand and good views.

25 January 2017

Tam Côc & Tràng An, Ninh Bìn, Vietnam

Whilst I stopped in the city of Ninh Bin, the sights to see are outside of the city in the surrounding countryside.
It was still a little cool but that made for easy cycling on the way to Tam Côc.  Tam Côc forms an impressive landscape due to its flooded karst system of limestone hills and caves, around the hills are numerous old temples and pagodas to visit too.  The caves at Hang Múa give the most impressive view by climbing the 500 or so stairs to the top of the hill.
Nearby is Tràng An which is part of the same landscape, and many more scenic areas to cycle around. I also visited the ancient capital of Hoa Lu to see the old temples.  The next part of my Vietnam trip is in the central area of the country, with an overnight train ride taking me down the coast.

22 January 2017

Cat Ba Island, Vietnam

Heading east from Hanoi is the major tourist attraction of Halong Bay, but just south of Halong Bay is the island of Cat Ba Island with similar karst landscape formed from the erosion of limestone over millions of years, which gives the breathtaking scenery.
I chose to have a relaxing weekend stopping on the island, with brilliant views of the surrounding bays from the top of the island. Then also a number of small beaches and coves can be found walking around the island. The final photo of the sunset was taken right from my hotel room balcony!

18 January 2017

Sapa, Vietnam

After a comfortable overnight sleeper train journey up from Hanoi to nearby Lao Cai, I was in Sapa this week to see the northern Vietnam countryside.
Was great to get out walking, seeing nearby local villages that are home to some of the many different ethnic people that make up Vietnam.
The first photo is the town of Sapa itself, with a small lake in the middle of town, giving a clear view of the hills when the sun finally came out and the clouds lifted. The other shots are from the surrounding countryside, the weather was cool with alot of mist, but still able to see the rice fields and views along the valleys.

15 January 2017

Hanoi, Vietnam

Always an exciting part of travel is trying lots of different foods and local cuisine, so here is a round up of what I have tried so far.
Have already tried a variety of noodle dishes, with bun bo nam bo (dry rice noodles with beef, herbs and peanuts) being very tasty. Here is a mi ga (egg noodles with chicken in broth) with a side of goi cuon (fresh spring rolls).
There are lots of pork dishes, here I had crispy pork with rice noodles, not sure of the exact vietnamese name for the dish though. Many local places selling barbecue pork sticks in the streets too, which can be a bargain and great snack.
A local friend took me to try some excellent street food the other night, with us having nem lui. Nem lui is pork cooked on sticks with lettuce, fresh herbs, pineapple, carrots, rice noodles, rice paper. You then assemble yourself into rolls in the rice paper before dipping into a sauce and eating! The final photo then shows the hundreds of sweets and chocolates I found onsale down a side street, which are popular for the upcoming vietnamese new years holiday of Tet.

Hanoi, Vietnam

It has been a busy week since my arrival to Vietnam. The weather at first was consistent drizzle, but since it cleared up I have been able to see alot in and around Hanoi.
I have been staying in the Old Quarter part of the the city with many sights within walking distance. One of the first places I visited was the Temple of Literature; dating back to 1070; it is the site of the first university in Vietnam. Emperor Ly Thanh Thon founded the temple, here is the main entrance gate, then inside a shrine to Confucious (Khong Tu).
Near the Old Quarter was Hao Lo prison, built by the French in 1890, it was used to contain many political prisoners who were fighting for Vietnamese independence. It was also later used to house American prisoners of war in the 1960s. I then learnt a great deal more about Vietnam's recent history in the Ho Chi Minh museum. Ho Chi Minh (bringer of light) was the Vietnamese communist revolutionary leader who became president.
In amongst the busy lanes of the Old Quarter was this quiet temple, with mini manderin trees in front. A short walk from this is the Hoan Kiem lake, with the Ngoc Son (temple of the jade mountain) set in the middle of the lake.
A bus ride further across Hanoi was the Museum of Ethnology, with information on all of Vietnam's ethnic minorities, outside are examples of traditional houses. Shown here is a typical village long house with its high sloping roof.

8 January 2017

Mahabalipuram (Mamallapuram), Tamil Nadu, India

After relaxing in Goa for 6 weeks, it was finally time to move on. So on thursday I caught the weekly Goa to Chennai express train across the country.  I then took a local bus a couple hours south down the coast to Mahabalipuram for the weekend.
As I had visited the town before it was a relaxing weekend, roaming around the hillside to see the lighthouse and lots of locals climbing steps to see this old monument.
Definitely one of my favourite foods in India has to be the paratha, a type of bread flaky on top yet stretchy inside, here it is with a tasty local chicken curry, from a local dhaba (restaurant).
The rest of the weekend I had time to see the beach and fishing boats, as well as visiting the crocodile bank conservation centre/zoo.  At the centre they look after an impressive range of crocodiles, alligators and gharial, with them breeding some species.
That brought to an end my time in India for this trip, catching the bus back towards Chennai to fly to Vietnam (via Bangkok) on monday night, where I will be for the next 2 months starting in Hanoi.