GPSMyCity – Taking travel guides offline!

Hi All,

I am VERY excited to announce that my ‘Hectic Hanoi’ blog post, that I wrote last year while travelling, has now been PUBLISHED into the largest travel port app of its kind!!!

GPSmyCity.com features self-guided city walks and travel articles for 700+ cities worldwide. Theres over 5,500 city walks and travel articles available – spanning over 700 cities across the globe. Now wait for it…

The articles and maps can be saved and used OFFLINE!! Basically its your very own way of making you mobile your personal tour guide!

Each city walk or travel article comes with a travel route plotted on an offline map guiding you to the famous attractions, monuments and interesting sights, as well as hidden gems, as if you had brought along a local guide. How amazing is that?

No more panick attacks from venturing off the beaten path, or carrying multiple maps in your already heavy rucksacks.

You will always have the confidence of knowing where you are, where to go and how to get there!

 

Please download the FREE app and give my first post a save by clicking HERE on your Android or iOS

LwL x

 

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Favourite Ho Chi Minh drinking hubs

We went to a fair few bars in Ho Chi Minh but here are my 3 favourites! 

The view hotel bar A very cool 8th floor bar on the main strip with surprisingly inexpensive beer.

  333 beer at 20,000 dong? That’s traveller prices in a roof top bar which was highly unexpected. Or why not have a giant Tiger for a mere 50p extra. 

  
This place has a super relaxed atmosphere, pretty lights, lovely scenery and an OK view of the city. I’m sure you can find better views in sky bar or other rooftops but this is well worth a drink. 

   
 
Guess what, it even had a swing!

  
Donkey bar

  Although the prices here aren’t very traveller friendly (unless you buy 3 drinks for the price of 2 or again.. drink beer), it’s well worth a stop. The bar is situated over 3 floors and include foozeball, darts and pool tables making it a super fun place to hang out.   

Both of these bars are located on the very long ‘Bui Vien Street’ which is a strip of bars, hotels and restaurants 

Universal

 One for those with sports obsessed boyfriends.

This is a sports bar with the added luxury of a really good singer who performs there every other night, keeping us girls occupied while the boys shout at the tv. 

This ones around the other side.

What’s your favourite bar in Saigon – or which one of these looks like one you’d most enjoy?

LwL X 

Vietnam: Where to stay

The ultimate list from North to South Locations.

Hey guys, I know it’s always confusing trying to find hotels/hostels to stay when you’re travelling around. Especially when you don’t know the areas! So I’m here to give you my honest opinions and recommendations on what we’ve come across along the way.

Liam and I have stayed in mostly guest houses as were a couple, but I’ve added info for solo backpackers too, hopes this helps!

Hanoi

Solo traveller : Vietnam Backpackers Hostel

A bunk in a dorm is around £6-8 per night.
This place is huge and you will definitely make some friends here. They have a bar downstairs with entertainment and it is right in the heart of old quarter where all the nightlife is.

Doubling up (2 people)

Holiday silver hotel – £12 per night for a double room

This is on a small street called Ngo Huyen, next to Ly Quoc Su temple.
Continue reading “Vietnam: Where to stay”

Border crossing: Vietnam to Cambodia

..on the Danh Danh Express. 

I heard a lot of horror stories about border crossing. More specifically of the one from Laos to Vietnam but luckily due to flying we skipped that one. 
I am happy to say we had an easy and pleasant experience on the Danh Danh Express Luxury bus, crossing from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh. 

  These buses are specifically laid out to be more spacious and comfortable for their passengers.  

This means that the bus has less seats to accommodate less people, but only charge $2 more for the luxury! Normal buses are $11, this was $13.

 It was a 6.5 hour trip all in all.

The seats were comfortable and wide. (Liam could fit his knees in front of him without squashing them against the front seat!)

Each seat came equipped with a front pocket and a reclining back rest and footrest.

   

   

For the first time in my whole Asia experience, the wifi was good enough to use the Internet properly. I spent this time very productively applying for lots of jobs for my return! 
The driver was so lovely, helpful and friendly. Yes they do exist in Vietnam contrary to our ‘Camel Tour’ experience.

The visa process was so easy! $30 for your visa but you pay $35 and the driver fills everything out for you. The only thing you have to do is get off the bus twice; once to exit Vietnam and once to enter Cambodia. Both easy, quick and stress free.

I couldn’t recommend this bus highly enough! I’ve heard that other buses make you cart all your luggage on and off through checkpoints etc. which doesn’t sound at all appealing to me. We did none of this so that alone is well worth the extra 2 dollars!

Overall our experience of this was easy and hassle free. A great way to end our Vietnam experience!

Have you done this border crossing? How was your experience?

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

Vietnam by foot

Ok let’s not take this literally. I don’t mean that we’ve actually walked from city to city, I’m not that fit. 

What I mean is that we haven’t got one taxi in the whole of Vietnam, we have walked everywhere, yes I’m very proud of myself. 
Every site, every museum, every park and every market. Our legs have done a lot of walking and every glide was worth it. 
  
We only had four exceptions, but all were very necessary. 

 Sleeper buses

Here’s the whole city to city part. Vietnam is 1000 miles in length from North to South, it would probably take a while to walk. 

Easy Riders

  Remember my post about Thangs easy riders in Phong Nha; the ex-hunters who take you around on bikes for the day? We used transport then, as the National Park is too long to walk and too dangerous for bicycles, so we had no choice but to drive to see the sites. 
Ha Long Bay & Cu Chi tunnels 

  
  The tunnels are built a 2.5 hour drive out of Saigon, and Ha Long Bay is a 4 hour drive west of Hanoi. So both are only really walkable if you have a spare few days and want to camp along the way. 


Bigs pro’s

We’re helping the environment – We’ve had no real contribution to pollution here (I think they have enough of that, what with all he motorbikes). 

We’ve saved money – with no pennies spent on cabs each day, we’re have lots spare in the kitty to either indulge or save for a future activity.

You get to know people better – When you have company along the way, you have endless amounts of time to really gets to know the person/people you’re with. Que the ‘what did you want to be when you were younger?’ type questions. 

Your keeping fit – Did you know that most people burn 120-160 calories per kilometre. That means in 10 kilometres you’ve burned a women’s full day of calorie intake, crazy hey.
Best of all.. 

You don’t realise your exercising – there thought of exercising pains me. I want to be thin but refuse to work hard to get a good body, so subconcious exercise is the way forward. 

It’s been lots of fun, and surprisingly you don’t realise how far you go, I haven’t even moaned about the walking; can you believe that??

The not so pro’s 

Safety on the roads – Some areas do not have a pavement so you have to walk beside the road. Just stay alert at all times and walk against the traffic so that you can see everything coming in front of you.

The noise – Vietnamese people just love to beep their horns, a 4 hour walk on main roads can start to give you a headache.
It takes up time – On foot is not advised if you’re on a tight schedule, but hey I’m a traveller, all we have is time. 

Pat on a back, well deserved I think. I challenge you to try it yourself! 

Pop on your walking shoes, grab a water from the VMart and go and explore. You never know what you might find! 

LwL x 

Mui Ne: Heading straight for the sun

Ok I know travelling is all about immersing yourself in the culture, finding unusual places, embarking on great discoveries, trekking and all that jazz but it’s been a month since we’ve seen some proper sun.
Heading for Vietnam in January? clearly the worse decision Ive made so far. It’s their winter you know? We have had constant clouds and miserableness for so long that I forgot what the sun looks like.

So we decided to skip the French Alps looking town that is Dalat, and head straight for the beach of Mui Ne. Don’t judge me. 

On our first day sunbathing I got a bit over excited and unfortunately this resulted in some serious sunburn..

 Ouch. God damn you Irish skin.

I worked so hard to get a base tan in Thailand and after 3 weeks here it’s ruined me and I’m back to square one. Emotional times. 

Anyway, this is the lovely Mui Ne Beach..   
 Mui ne is popular for kite surfing – I gather that’s because the beach is ridiculously windy; so much so that it’s hard to lay and sunbathe because the sand attacks you. 

As a result of this, the waves are also quite violent, nonetheless it’s really fun to run into the sea and jump into them. Just make sure your bikini is done up tight or it will fall off! 

  
  

We stayed at the Backpackers village for a night and made use of their pool for most of our time in Mui Ne.

 
There’s nothing like a dip in the pool when it gets too hot!

   
 
We had a lovely few days chillaxing here and I don’t regret our decision to come here instead. 

Just wait for my sand dunes post, one of my travelling highlights so far! 
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 

Basic Vietnamese Lingo

Hi Guys Just thought I’d share a few Vietnamese words/phrases to help you get around. Most of Vietnam can speak basic English but it’s nice and respectful to learn some of the lingo.

   
If you’re heading to Phong Nha you’ll definitely need to know some of this. It’s a new tourist area so no one speaks English there. Well, apart from Western ran hostels (I think there is 2) and some tour guides. 

We learnt this when heading to a pharmacy to try and explain that we needed painkillers for Liam’s ribs. An entertaining challenge in itself, especially when trying to ask how and when his tablets should be taken. This for me involved multiple trips to and from the pharmacy and a cafe to use their wifi and get on Google Translate.

I’ve added a dummie pronunciation guide next to each translation in case, like myself, you have a Michael Caine, incapable of putting on any sort of accent sort of voice; or if you are just incapable of interpreting dialect correctly. 

Hope it helps! 

Hello – chào bạn (chow ban)

Please – làm ơn (la moon) 

Thank you -cảm ơn bạn (Camoon ban)

How much? – bao nhiêu (bal nyo)

Do you have? làm bạn có (lam ban cor) 

where is? Say the place, then o dau? (O dow) – thank you for this Thuy Luna! 

Tomato sauce – nước sốt cà chua (nyok sot cah dua) 

Pharmacy -tiệm thuốc tây (tyook Tay) 

Sore stomach -đau dạ dày (Jowl ja jay) 

Painkillers – thuốc giảm đau (tyook jam dal) 

I figured there’s no point adding numbers and yes or no as we all have fingers and a head to shake or nod.

I’ve left this just the right size so that you can print screen to use offline. 

Please let me know if you think I should add any other useful words and phrases. 

LwL x