Barcelona: Sagrada Família

Many tourists from all over the world flock to see this landmark. The buzz around it is incredible, and of course the money perks of charging 16-17 euros to every person who wants to get inside can’t be bad for tourism profits.

This very large Roman Catholic church, designed by Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí is a UNESCO World Heritage site, even though it isn’t even finished yet!

Construction of Sagrada Familia began in 1882. In 1926, by the time that Gaudi died at age 73, less than a quarter of the project was complete.

Gaudí devoted his last years to the project. It is absolutely beautiful and the detail is breathtaking.

Every single piece is carefully crafted. So much detail that you could gaze and notice different shapes for days. Gaudi took inspiration from the Vatican in Rome, which I’ve  also been lucky enough to visit and you can definitely tell because of the style and detail of even just the outside of the church.
Being my impatient self I couldn’t be bothered with the queues, but seeing the beauty of just the outside was more than enough.

The towers and most of the church’s structure are to be completed by 2026, the centennial of Gaudí’s death, and the decorative elements should be complete by 2030 or 2032. Making it an architectural masterpiece that will take 150 years!

Can’t wait for that grand opening!

 

 

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Happy International Womens day!

The day that celebrates the social, economic, cultural and political achievement of women.
 

We must continue to empower and support one another, embrace our strength and stay true to ourselves.


Without the likes of the Suffragettes or Germaine Greer, we wouldn’t be where we are today. We have come so far in fighting for our equality but we still have such a long way to go! 

 

Be the positive change we want to see in the world. Contribute at http://www.internationalwomensday.com

   
 
P.s. If you haven’t watched the Suffragettes film that came out last year, please do, it’s not one to be missed! 

A valentines at the Killing Fields

So most couples start Valentine’s Day with a romantic breakfast in bed. They spend the day watching lovey movies or go out for a posh lunch, we however, decided to go to the Killing Fields and S21 prison. What a valentines to remember. 

Another educational and deeply shocking experience. (There seems to be a lot of these in S.E Asia) 

We educated ourselves on the Khmer Regime. On the 4 tragic years of the 1970’s where psychopath Pol Potts ordered the killings of millions of innocent Cambodians.

The communist party led by Potts attempted ‘agriculture reform’. If you were educated, if you could be influential, if you disagreed or even just if you looked in the wrong direction, off with your head. 

Killing Fields

Never have I been to a place that conveys such reality of one mans inhumanity more than Choeng Ek Killing Fields.

The sight of the “Magic tree” that Khmer soldiers used as a tool to smash the heads of babies will be forever lodged in my mind.

 

This place was just 1 amongst 20,000 mass grave sites in Cambodia where victims were murdered and buried in secret between 1975-1979.

Somehow today it’s a very peaceful place. Thousands of tourists and locals come here to educate themselves and to mourn the dead.

Choeng Ek has multiple mass grave sites where hundred of victims were executed; including one specifically for women and small children. 

  
When you dig up the grass, you must remove even the roots” 

The Khmer Rouge slogan used to justify the murder of the whole family of each victim, including their children and babies.

Remains of bones and clothes of victims that have been found over the years are showcased around the site. 

Remains of the victims found in the field

Bones are still being discovered to this day, over 35 years on!  

I will never forget the way this place made me feel. Scared, sickened and deeply saddened at the thought of what a human can be capable of. 

S21 prison
A school shut down and converted into a secret prison; to torture victims until they confessed to crimes that they never committed. 

 It was here that thousands were whipped and beaten until they signed confessions that validified the Khmer Regimes ‘reason to kill’. The victim would then be taken to the Killing Fields to be massacred.

  

The prison has lots of information on this dark period in history. 

There are some very interesting exhibitions on 4 of the survivors of s21. Great men who today use their tragic experienc to promote the importance of education to young people. 

See, all 4 men were spared their life at the prison because they were useful to the communist party. They had previously obtained skills like art and mechanics and Pol Potts needed them for their abilities.

These survivors are sit at the grounds of s21 each day for tourists to ask them questions. Real first hand information.

Survivor Mr Mong was an artist ordered to draw a portrait of Pol Potts.

  He was warned that if it wasn’t good enough, he would be killed. Luckily for him, he was a very good artist. 

It’s estimated that the total number of deaths resulting from Khmer Rouge policies, including disease and starvation, range from 1.7-2.5 million of a population of 8 million in 1975. A quarter of the population. As a result of this, 70% of the Cambodian population today are under 35 years old! Crazy eh? 

So not the most standard of valentines for us but definitely a memorable one. Thankfully in 1979, upon realisation of what was happening, other countries got involved and put a stop to Pol Potts and his sadistic ideology. 

I dread to think what would’ve happened to the history and people of Cambodia if this regime continued. 

LwL x 

Cycling through Siem Reap

On our last full day in Siem Reap we cycled over 20km around the city. Yes really, my bum was hurting for days!

Well technically we cycled to and back from the Bayon Temple, not really ‘around’, but we see some lovely scenery along the way. 

The good news is you pass Angkor Wat to get there. There’s also around 10 other temples and ruins to see just past Bayon so we really made a day of it.
I’d definitely recommend the cycling option. It’s too far to walk and there’s always the tuk tuk option but it’s nicer to be on your own time schedule. It’s also good exercise!

  
  Bikes are also only $1.5 to rent, or $3 if you prefer mountain bikes like us. 

 Paying to see the attractions

What no one seems to tell you in other posts, and what I haven’t seen on websites, (though it may be advertised and I’ve missed it?) is that a ‘1 day pass’ costs $20! This is an entrance fee you pay to get in the grounds. This does cover all the temples and area but Liam and I was still both surprised and slightly annoyed by this.

We have a £20 each per day budget (though we’ve exceeded this most days in Cambodia) and this entrance would cost almost 3/4 of our daily allowance. 

Reluctantly we paid. After all, Angkor Wat is the biggest religious grounds in the world so I felt that I needed to see it. 

We had some amazing views and took a fair few selfies along the way.

So here are a few pictures…

Angkor Wat 

  
  
  

Bayon Temple

  

  
Various

  

LwL X

Life after a Cambodian Landmine

One day in Siem Reap, we came across a book in a supermarket called ‘Welcome to Hell’

After reading a few paragraphs online, Liam later decided he wanted to get it. On the way back to the supermarket we came across a Cambodian local, with no hands, running a book stall.

He just happened to have the book we were after. Winning.

It was with our $4 purchase that he gave us this piece of paper, his compelling story that I feel the need to share with my fellow bloggers.

What a guy! I’m so glad that we bought this book from his stall. Definitely $4 well spent.

LwL x

Goodbye Vietnam

 So that’s it Vietnam. Romeo done. Another country down and a further 16 days into my itinerary.

I’m now some days into Cambodia.

What a wonderful and educational experience Vietnam has been.

I’ve learnt so much about the history of this country and how far Vietnam has come in recent years. Visiting all of the museums and attractions gives you a great insight into the physical and mental scars that the people have endured over the decades of war with the US. 

I can truly say that the Vietnamese people are an inspiring and determined bunch. They are a generous and caring culture and still promote peace despite everything. Us westerners could learn a great deal from them. 

Here’s my highlights and low points of travelling Vietnam

Highlights

Favourite place

Hoi An   

 This place felt most like Vietnam. There isn’t a vast amount of touristy things to do but I think that’s what make it great. So pretty and so much culture. This place is super relaxed and truly reflects Vietnamese living. 

Favourite activities

Quadbiking on the white sand dunes, Mui Ne.  

The dark cave and the mud bath, Phong Nha. 

Favourite new experiences 

Tasting Vietnamese coffee: did you know it’s the third best coffee in the world?   
Brazil is the first and Columbia is the runner up

A few Vietnamese eats were amazing too. There is a post on this to come! 

Low lights 
Headaches from the sound of bibbing horns. God don’t you guys like to honk? Honking for indicating, honking for warning, honking for fun. It’s highly unnecessary and it really hurts my ears! 

We’re in Cambodia now and I’m glad they don’t enjoy this as much. 

Crappy weather: 10 of those days were a mixture of clouds and rain so we didn’t really get to enjoy the beauty of Ha Long bay or Nha Trang beach. We did however, get some great Anorak photos..
Vietnam, it’s been emotional.tạm biệt người bạn của tôi.(Goodbye my friend)
LwL x 

The 5 must see’s of Saigon

AKA Ho Chi Minh city, whatever you prefer to call it.

These are what I believe to be the tourist necessities when visiting the city of Saigon. 

1. Cu Chi Tunnels
To come to Ho Chi Minh and not travel to see the Cu Chi tunnels is almost criminal. 

A system of underground access tunnels and living space at 3, 6 and 10 metres deep, that spans over 250km. The area inhabited 48,000 people over its decades. 

  Equipped with live booby traps, deliberate misdirected pathways to confuse and capture the enemy and hidden termite holes on all levels to allow oxygen to pass through the caves. The place is a well thought out architectural phenomenon.

I cannot, for the life of me, understand why this hasn’t been voted as a man made wonder of the world? 
  
There was so much creativity and genius involved in the building and upkeep of the Cu Chi tunnels. It really reflects the intelligence, strong will and pride of the Cu Chi people and the lengths in which they went to to survive and fight for their country. 

A Tour guide takes you around the area to show the different entrances, weapons made and gives you a great history lesson of the war and its affect on Vietnam and Cu Chi. My favourite part was when we had a chance to crouch through the caves. The holes have been expanded by 30% to allow for tourists to pass through and they are still tiny! 
  
The tour only cost around 120,000 VND per person which includes an English speaking tour guide and your transport. Entry fee at the tunnels is 110,000 VND. Well worth the day out for 7 or so pound. 

2. War Remnants Museum

This is not a place for the weak stomached. 

The War Remnants museum documents the decades of war between the Vietnamese and the U.S. from a Vietnamese view point. This is achieved through a series of 8 themed exhibits including ‘aggressive war crimes’ and ‘Historical Truths’.

  
The outside area is filled with various war tanks and fighter planes that were used over the decades. 

Inside, you can expect some facts, figures and showcases of weapons but its mostly filled with graphic war photography. Including my personal favourite ‘Requiem’; a collection of photographs taken by photojournalists who died in Vietnam and Indochina.

  The outside display of the prison conditions are gruesome and barbaric. This was a tough one, even for me. I had so many mixed emotions when visiting here and left in a state of shock. I witnessed a few tears shed by fellow tourists too.

  
It remains open to promote World Peace and saying no to war. Such a lovely message to promote.

To think that the Vietnamese and Americans now have a good relationship is quite remarkable; considering that millions of Vietnamese (10% of the population in fact) are still affected by Agent Orange. It really reflects the loving, forgiving and peaceful nature of the Vietnam people. 

There isn’t really any way you can prepare for this beautiful yet terrifying tourist attraction, but it’s a definite must see. 

3. Notre Dame Cathedral

This 60m high attraction officially known as the ‘Basilica of our Lady of Immaculate Conception’ was built by the French colonists following their conquest of the city.

The attraction was purposefully designed to show the influence that the French civilisation and Christianity had over Saigon and was the most beautiful of its kind when it was built in the 1860s.  

 In front of the Cathedral stands a statue of the Virgin Mary, surrounded be a very well kept and picturesque garden setting (perfect selfie background inserted here).

4. Saigon Post Office

..parked right next to the Cathedral so you can kill two birds with one stone (Not literally. I love birds).

 
5. The Independent Palace

Aww what a beautiful site. The palace is symbolic of the end of the Vietnam War. 

On April 30, 1975, the famous 843 North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through the gates of the palace, which at the time was the residence of the President of the Republic of Vietnam.

There is a lovely fountain out front and lots of perfectly mowed grass which makes it a great picnic spot. Unfortunately I hit the town early doors and the park didn’t open until 1.20pm, so I only see the view from behind the high security bars. Fear not, just go at the right time and you can take a tour around the palace and it’s grounds. 

What we missed/passed on that may be of interest

We missed another puppet show! I completely forgot that they had them in Saigon as well as Hanoi. 

There is also a lovely big theatre if you have time to catch a performance.

A tour across the Mekong Delta – I’ve heard this is great from fellow travellers but we just didn’t have the time. An alternative to a day trip would be 2 days border crossing to Phnom Penh which includes getting a boat across the river if you’re heading this way. 
Feel free to add your own must sees or opinions on these below! 
LwL x

Sightseeing in Nha Trang

It appears that there are 3 main tourist spots that get circled around Nha Trang. A lot of places operate half day tours that cost around 1.3 million dong (£40). What with us being ‘travellers’ and all, 40 quid for half a day out just couldn’t be justified. We therefore popped on our walking shoes, GPS in hand and headed straight for the hotspots
Here’s a map to give you an idea of our day. 

  
We headed to the Long Son Pagoda first, this was approx. a 3.5km walk from our hotel.

Long Son Pagoda

One of the oldest and biggest pagodas in Nha Trang. It was built in 1886 but has more recently been dedicated to the monks and nuns who died protesting against the US supported Diem regime. 

  
I’d be lying if I said I was unbelievably impressed by this site but that’s just my opinion. Let me know when you visit? 
  We then climbed the 152 stone steps leading to the giant white Buddha sitting on a lotus blossom. It really was giant! We also had great view of the whole city from here and we passed some other cool stuff on the way up too.

We stopped for lunch after this in a random restaurant that we found. It was really hard to find somewhere to eat around this area, we were looking for ages! 

The benefits of walking everywhere is that you truly get to explore the place you’re visitong. We see some great sites along the way

  The Cham Towers were a further 3 or so km. We weren’t sure if this was walkable. As you can see from the map, there is a motorway and an island to get past beforehand, but we decided to take the risk. This was actually super easy so don’t be put off by this. The bridges had pavements and so did the busy roads. 

Cham Towers

The Po Nagar Cham Towers is a sacred Hindu site. The towers were built between the 7th and 12th century in honour of the Cham Princess. Today it’s still used as a pilgrimage for the local people. 

  
I loved this place, so much detail on the buildings and lots of scenery to enjoy. 

  
Entry fee: 22,000 dong

Dam Market 

On our way back we popped into the Dam Market, the famous trade centre of Nha Trang.
The market is a circle shape with stalls both in and around the circle. Expect all the obvious merchandise being sold here. 

  
I’d say it was approx. a 12km walk all in all. We did the whole day in the space of 4 1/2 hours; including a stroll along the beach and a cake stop on the way home. 
Our total day cost 275, 000 dong (£8.60). This included our lunch, fluids for the walk, 2 big cakes and entry into the Pogar Towers. 

I also lost about 200 calories. Well, before I ate the cake. That was my reward for the exercise ha.  

That means we saved over £30 each by avoiding a tour!

You may have seen some memes taking Facebook by storm recently. So I’m going to join in, as I feel I deserve one. 

 
LwL x 

100th post: Happy Australia Day!

Welcome to my 100th blog post, and a celebratory one at that!

Happy Australia Day to all my Ozzie pals and fellow bloggers.

I hope you have a wonderful day celebrating. I’ll be heading to the ‘Booze Cruise’ bar in Nha Trang tonight for their big celebratory event. Let’s hope they’ve baked some Anzac biscuits! 

  Australia Day is the official National Day of Australia. Celebrated annually on 26 January, it marks the anniversary of the 1788 arrival of the First Fleet of British Ships at Port Jackson, New South Wales, and the raising of the Flag of Great Britain at Sydney Cove by Governor Arthur Phillip.

LwL X 

Vietnam: A Hoi An Experience 

Hoi An, the home of bespoke tailoring and streets of yellow painted buildings. We spent 3 nights in the town voted ‘most favourite destination for tourists’ by Wanderlust UK. 

  

 With Tailors on every corner, this town is becoming increasingly popular for paying only $120 dollars for a tailored suit, made and ready in just 1-2 days.

We had a very chilled time there, no big tours or premeditated plans; just us and our feet walking a fair few kilometres, running laps around the Ancient Town and making a dart for the beach on the one hot day we had. 

Hoi An is a charming and romantic area with a beautiful riverside setting. The ancient world UNESCO site is impressively well-preserved and infuses a mix of Vietnamese, Japanese and Chinese culture all into one. 

    
  

The days

The ‘city centre’ is around 4 streets in length, making it easily accessible for walking, as long as you avoid being run down by all the motorbikes of course. It is here that you can head over to view the Japanese Bridge, and go through it to the preserved part of Ancient Town for a small fee. We gave this a miss.   

 Hoi An reminded me a lot of Chiang Mai; a wonderful place that doesn’t necessarily have the ‘oh my god there is something unbelievable to see here’ landmarks, but it’s just one of the very few places that has preserved it’s area to how it used to be. A great place to experience the real unindustrialised Vietnam.

On the one day the skies blessed us with 28-29c and no rain, we headed for the beach on a long straight 4km road.  

We stopped every so often, taking in the sites, enjoying a beverage or two by the riverside and had a bite to eat. Granted, you can rent bikes from your hotel for a mere $1 which would be a quicker option, but with Liam’s still iffy ribs we decided that walking was the safest bet.  

  

The south part of Cua Dao beach was lined with sandbags and wooden posts. Not the most scenic but the waves were violent, so I assume this was for people’s safety?   

Opening a cocunut

The northern part of the beach was much nicer, clear sands and a rock backdrop. Well worth a walk along on a nice day. 

   
    
 

The Nights

Hoi An really comes alive at night. The history in the ancient town vs. the new drinking culture means that there is something for everyone. 

The hustle and bustle of the street vendors down Le Loi street, paired up with the English speaking bar promoters, selling all you can drink and BOGOF deals over An Hoi bridge gives the area a contrasting mix.  

    

Tasting mango cake

There are authentic Vietnamese restaurants side by side with crazy bars that offer you unlimited drink for 100,000 dong. Thankfully, there isn’t enough of these to create a Magaluf bar strip atmosphere. The area still holds on to its culture and beauty, but I’ll be interested to see what this place looks like in another few decades, and whether tourism funded greed will get the better of this vibrant city. 

       There is a long night market straight down the middle of the small strip for you to immerse in.

 
 The lantern shops make the road very picturesque but unfortunately the constant pestering: ‘you buy something here’ every time you glance over at a stall, started to get on my nerves a bit.

Is it just an English thing? You know where we get instantly wound up and on the defensive in a retail shop if a worker asks if we need help with something. Like no woman, stop being salesy and leave me to lurk and doddle in peace ha. 

    
If you’re a true night owl and you want to continue the party after most of the town has lights out at midnight, head down to ‘why not bar’ where you can carry on the drinking and fun until 3am. 

   
   
Hoi an is listed in top 25 destinations in Asia 2013 by trip advisor and after my enjoyable visit here I can see why. 

LwL X