After starting a new job in October 2015, I had a few days holiday to use before January…so what better way to spend 5 days holiday than in BUDAPEST with your favourite travel companion.
It was a super spontaneous trip. We met at Luton airport early in the morning. We started the holiday with the compulsory glass of wine & whiskey that is required at all airport bars… and even more so for two friends that hadn’t seen each other in a whole year ! We deserved it !
We stayed at Pals Hostel which was absolutely perfect ! It was right in the centre of town, only steps away from the christmas markets and the most beautiful church, which I think was called a Basilica. The above picture was taken from the balcony of the hostel ! The room in the hostel was amazing and became our little sanctuary for the week. I stole this picture from their website as I didn’t take any of the room myself, but I loved the room so much and don’t ever want to forget it! The room felt so safe, and most days we wouldn’t even bother locking the door and would just push that chest for draws in front of the door as a make shift lock(…probably because we were drunk for the majority of the trip and couldn’t figure out how to lock a door between us !) The stairs were also so cool. We had to walk up like three flights of spiral stairs to get to our room. Singing Adele in these big echoey stair wells made me sound like Adele !! I am sure Arv would disagree, but I think I sounded impeccable. haha !
We did too much to write everything down here, so I’m just going to go through my highlights.
One of my favourite parts about the trip was that it was just before christmas, so the place had a lovely warm but cold feel about it. If that makes any sense at all. The place was filled with log cabins, warm glowing christmas lights, fake snow, constant cups of mulled wine and friendly people. We spent a lot of time wrapped up warm , wandering around the markets of Budapest trying out food and just roaming around without the pull of anywhere to be except for just there.
On our second day in Budapest we woke up early and walked across the old stone chain bridge to the other side of town, where we had breakfast at this lovely french cafe on the river.
We started the days with eggs bacon and alcohol ! – We really were dreadful drunks on this trip. The person that served us in the cafe was soo lovely and pretty much made an itinerary for us that we could do for the day. After breakfast we walked up this hill to a huge castle/art gallery combo called Buda Castle.
We spent the whole morning walking around this amazing galley full of Hungarian Art. The whole place was so still and quite. I think we went round every single piece in the galley and asked each other what our own impression of it was and gave each other really pompous arty interpretations of what we thought the art was trying to show. Most of the paintings were huge, sometimes covering whole walls and mostly depicted historical images of wars or religious events.
It was so amazing to be able to get so close to such intricate paintings and look at all of the smaller details which made up the whole thing. We found ourselves obsessing over the smallest of things, like the detail on a persons cape, or the patterns in the carpets, the blood on someones hands. It was filled with such AMAZING work.
My favourite painting had to be this woman, who clearly has her shit together. I imagine his last words were ‘go make me a sandwich…’, ‘OK Honey !’.
Arv’s favourite ones were probably this man kissing a mermaid, and the cheeky couple in the cow shed having a little flirt. – Typical man !
By the time we got to the top floor we were soooo exhausted from spending so long in there and probably became a bit delirious from all of the rationialisattion that we tried to give the art.I think we turned a bit loopy and just found everything funny.
When we were done, we got some random passersby to take a picture of us together, because Arv was not a fan of the selfies…he wouldn’t even let me get my selfie stick out without running away ! This was taken by this adorable Asian lady. Arv assumed she spoke mandarin, and started speaking to her, and she had NO idea what he was saying. It was SO funny.
Once she took the picture she sort of fell in LOVE with Arv and started clapping, and nodding and looking at me like all goo eyed. I think she thought we were a couple and she was congratulating me on my ‘catch’. I am also pretty sure I took a picture of Arv and her afterwards. She is probably somewhere in the world telling her friends about how this weird tall man tried to speak to her in Mandarin !
After the art gallary we went to another little cafe next to the Buda Castle and sat in the most perfect spot. We were right in front of a big bright open window looking right out over the amazing views of the castle and people watching. We planned on staying there for lunch, but we ended up staying for too many large glasses of wine and whiskeys. By the time we left we were well and truly tipsy.
We somehow ended up in Hooters…Now, I am not sure how we got there, but we did. We had more drinks there and we were having such good craic with the girls that worked there, I ended up deciding that I was a hooters girl and got a Tshirt !
Later we went to a really cool ruin bar. Again, not sure how we got there, than god Arv is like a walking Garmin. He was the SatNav for the whole trip, as always. The bar was soo cool and unlike anything I had ever been in before. It was called Instant ! The only reason i remember this is because we kept saying it to ourselves so we didn’t forget the name of it. The rooms were so incredibly cool. Just look at that decor! It was like falling down the rabbit hole into wonderland.
The next day we were insanely hungover, we managed to crawl out of bed for some half assed breakfast somewhere or other.This is Arv holding his hang over well… the opposite side of the camera was not such a pretty sight. The Red Bull did NOT work.
We thought it would be a perfect day to go to the amazing outdoor baths that they have in Budapest. We went to the Szechenyi Baths, which were quite far out, but we got told by lots of people that it was the best, and they really weren’t lying. – It was amazing. I wish I could have a hang over cure like that after every night out.
The outside area was un like anything I have ever experienced before. It was winter while we were there and the hot water mixed with the cold air made the steam from the pool a thick mist around you. It was almost impossible to see further than a few meters in front of you clearly. The atmosphere was so relaxing. This was by far my FAVOURITE part of the whole trip.
That night we ate the most BEAUTIFUL ITALIAN. I have no idea what it was called, but my god was it gorgeous. I think I introduced Arv to Justin Beiber for the first time that night without him knowing who it was. Needless to say he was a Beliber without even knowing it.
We tried to get into the Opera to see The Nutcracker, but could only get rubbish seats. We were so disappointed, so I suppose we will have to go to Prague on our next trip and watch it !!
We spend one day walking round religious monuments for the day. We spent a good hour in the Basilica just sitting there silently. The inside was so beautiful and so ornately decorated.
We also went to a Synagogue where Arv had to wear a little hat and we saw a silver tree in the garden… We are convinced that we pissed off one of the gods that day because we got super bad luck for the rest of the day. I blame it on him not wearing his paper hat properly.
That is all I can remember for now. ( It is 2am on Friday, so I have done well to get this much down.) This was me being grumpy at the airport because I had to get back to reality and fly home to work the next day !
It was an amazing trip. I have got some amazing memories !
I fell in love with Budapest 100%. It was magical, although I am not sure if the magic would be the same the second time around. Nothing ever beats that first experience.
Wow ! A LOT has changed in this last year since my last post.
I have moved from Hong Kong and am happily settled into life in the English countryside.
I have graduated from University with a 2:1 in Law !
I fulfilled my goal to explore Sweden during the Midsummer festival this Summer. I visited Gothenburg and Stockholm !
I also now have a real life job ! I am saving to move to Sydney with my University house mate Emily !
But in the mean time…my next european trip of the year – Paris !!! I need to get my planning hat on and GET EXCITED !
I havent posted in AGES ! but there has been alot that has been going on lately that i never want to forget about.
Here is a quick update 🙂
In the first few weeks back in the second semester, i signed myself up to lots and lots of things. I have vulenteered to teach english to under privileged children through a company called ‘Speech Express’, I have volunteered to be a ‘Green Ambasador’ for my university, which is a role that helps keep the university environmentally friendly. I have also signed up to a fashion company here in Hong Kong, for an internship.
Out of all of the things that i have gotten myself into this semester is my internship ! I am so over the moon at ho fantastic the company and brand that i work for is. The company is called Pineda Covalin and is a Mexican fashion lable that is just opening up in the Asia Pacific area. Its such great fun and the people i work with are fantastic. Since starting my internship i have been updating their blogs,Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts. I have also attended some really interesting business meetings with my bosses, where i have felt TOTALLY out of my depth, but i think i am learning fast ! The company have their products in really luxury high end places here in Hong Kong like the Four Seasons Hotel. At my first meeting, i was watching my boss talk to the lady to ran the boutique about the products and what they could be used for or worn with. This was really interesting because it really made me buy into the product. By spending a little time talking to someone about a product and its advantages it seems that you can paint a really beautiful picture of how special a product is. One of the other meetings i have attended with my bosses was an afternoon tea meeting at the Mandarin Oriental hotel. It was a fantastic restaurant and the two ladies that we have lunch with were from a charity organisation who were purchasing some of the fashion brands products for an auction. I really like the way that my bosses do business, as they approach it in a very relaxed way, and it seems that they themselves are almost the brand and that people buy into their friendly and charming characters. I really feel like i have already learnt so much from just observing them. It really is nice to see something pay off which revolves around strength of character and friendliness.
Not only in the office have i been spoilt by my internship, but they have also treated me to some fantastic meals and my boss has enriched my experience of hong kong by taking me to some really cool local places here. A few nights ago, he took me to the oldest bar in Hong Kong which apparently started the famous street LKF. The bar was called Stormies, and everyone in their knew my boss.The whole night i was being introduced to lots of interesting new people who all really loved my boss. Which made me feel EVEN MORE lucky to be working with such a great company ! We had such an amazing night that the time flew by and before we knew it, it was 7:30am and time for breakfast ! so we went for breakfast in Wan Chai at a place called the Flying Pan, which is known for its incredible all night breakfast. On the way home we saw the Hong Kong marathon racers.
I really am spoilt with this internship and i LOVE when people ask me about it, because i just love talking about the company and what i have learnt and the people i work with ! I imagine my friends are getting sick of hearing about it 😀
This post was supposed to be very short, however i started rambling about how great my internship is !! AGAIN !
For just over a year now i have gone on a bleach detox and have totally grown the bleach out of my hair. In an effort to grow it and get it into a healthier condition. Alas, my hair has not grown. but it is MUCH healthier than before ! It was worth not dying it for a year !
I am 21 now, i feel ready and last night i had the overwhelming urge to dye my hair back blonde. – BUT Uh Oh !! I’m in Hong Kong, the land where the polar opposite of my hair is the norm. I have fine blonde hair, and…well, they dont. I was terrified that after spending a whole year of my life getting my hair into a newly virgin state could potentially be wasted and i could be walking home with my hair in a plastic bag after letting locals touch it with whatever lethal products i assume they use to get their jet black hair bleach blonde.
I did my research and found out that if i wanted to go to a hairdressers with a good reputation with european hair, i would be paying big bucks for it. So, i bit the bullet and went ahead, i trolled through lots of websites and it seemed that the average price to pay for a full head of highlights (blonde) around here is about $2000 HKD ! (which is about £160…which is crazy i know, when i am used to paying about £70 back home.) But it had to be done.
I went to a place called ‘Paul Gerrard’ Salon, which was in Central on Pottinger Street. If you have fine european hair, and want to keep up your blonde highlights, i would 100% recommend this place. It is amazing.
The place is decorated in a really chilled almost bachelor pad style, the coffee they serve you are delicious and THE HIGHLIGHTS…The highlights i received WERE SO FRICKING GOOD !! I am in love with the color, it looks so natural. It is to die for. I had a lovely Greek man do my hair called Gabriel, he was so professional and had moved to Hong Kong from London, He was super friendly, and gave me the best color for my complexion.
The salon was great, the staff were great, the price was …’ugh’, but worth it for the fantastic color. The only thing i was slightly disappointed with, which i didn’t really want to mention, but feel like i should. – I loved every minute of my experience at the Paul Gerrard Salon, UNTILL… it got to the blow dry time. I was ecstatic to see my hair with its new color, but the hair dresser i got assigned to blow dry my hair was a serious let down, and left me feeling on a real low. Normally, when i get a blow dry, i expect them to use a brush…and not just blow dry it straight down to my face, with no kind of… effort. She made my hair look , limp and lack luster, and just flat. I actually told her at the end that i wasn’t happy with what she had done,and considering i paid for it, (it was only $160 HKD, which is not much, but when i have given my dog a better blow dry you know it is not good.) And then when i had to practically re-blow dry it all myself after the flat mess she left. I was left feeling really deflated. And i am usually always smiling. (Heres an after shot of my looking rather deflated 😦 …you can see the color is AMAZING…but the blow dry i can give her no credit for because i did it myself, and tried to make the best of a bad situation.
From my personal experience – WOULD I GO BACK AGAIN ? For
BLONDE HAIR COLOR – YES !!! .
for a …BLOW DRY ? ABSOLUTELY NO !!!
Now i know my lovely hairdresser Greg if reading this will be very sad that i have dyed it because i PROMISED him i would wait untill i got back….I cant wait to be reunited with you – but i just couldn’t wait any longer !!
❤ – PS. Your still the best hairdresser ❤
On the longest train journey to Ho Chi Mhin the old Capital of Vietnam, We shared a room with a Vietnamese Lawyer, who spoke English, (which we didn’t find out until the next morning, and we found very embarrassing.) Me and Arv decided it would be a great idea to drink on the train, so i stuck to my wine and Arv decided it would be fun to down a bottle of vodka…straight ! So the night part of the journey passed quite quickly, we had awesome chats, drew more pictures, made a den, and did anything to help us make the time go quicker. The night trains are actually really great way to travel around Vietnam, they are quite slow, and you generally share your bed with at least three other uninvited bugs, but if you have good company the time will fly by.
In the morning we went and bought some fruit from a local farmer through the windows, they just handed us the grapes and we handed them the money back. We had grapes and these little green fruits that we had never seen before, they were kind of like a mini pear/apple….so we called them Papples…but they tasted like Aear’s.
When we FINALLY arrived in Saigon, we walked from the train station to the road we planned to find a hostel on called Bui Vien street. On the way we were both really hungry and stopped at this restaurant called Viet Nam Quan, it was run by this awesome couple, an American guy and his lovely Vietnamese wife, who had the most amazing smile i have ever seen ! I wanted to steal her smile. – Any way back to the food, i’m not even sure that i can talk about the food right now, because i am so hungry,and the food was so delicious. It was hands down the best food we had eaten in Vietnam since being there, also probably the cheapest. It was local cuisine, but really unusual local cuisine that we had not tried before.
After our delicious dinner,we went to our hostel which was right in the thick of the night life – our hostel was pretty basic,but it did the job, except our shower was like a dribble,and there was an angry vietnamese lady who lived down stairs who kept staring at us angrily for no reason.
The outside of our hostel was covered in little baby chairs…i haev no idea why in Vietnam they don’t use normal size chairs like they do in the western world, instead they bizarrely use toddler chairs. It suited me fine because i am a midget but Arv always looked really funny in them because of his long legs.
We stumbled out into the road and decided to buy a beer at every bar we stopped in…i’m a light weight, so i had to be taken home at like bar 5. In the mean time before it got to that point, we went to some pretty cool places and saw lots of funny sights, we got asked if wanted to buy marajuana at least twice, if you said no to marajuana, they asked you if you wanted coke… if you said no to that, they just laughed at you and moved on to ask the next westerner that walked past. They didnt seem to mind that they were about 20 steps away from a police station. Also prostitution seemed rife in Bui Vien road, we played a game called spot the prostitute. It wasn’t a difficult game.
One of the bars we went too, which was pretty expensive, didnt have nay more tables left in their restaurant, so they ran upstairs and found us a random table and plonked it on the road for us, and brought over two chairs. So we were having drinks in the road and looking out for potential prostitutes and pimps and drug dealers….this road certainly is not a place to take children. Although, there were PLENTY of children out on the street ,selling chewing gum,and post cards, even though it was the early hours of the morning. They were all so cute, i really wanted to take them home and save them, or just bath them and send them to bed. I was so tempted to buy the things of them, but i remember reading that if you buy things from them it promotes them staying on the streets. It crushed me to turn them away.
After getting taken back to the hostel feeling “beer drunk” and “confused, like awake but asleep kind of feeling” ( i don’t usually drink much) – we downed LOTS of water and woke up the next morning feeling really fresh.
Saigon Day 2
We woke up quite early as usual and went for breakfast at a little place across the road from our hostel, i orderd egg on toast accompanied by my favorite Vietnamese coffee, by this point of the vacation i was a coffee addict. Arv stuck traditional and had Pho and fresh spring rolls. The breakfast was really nice,and we had really some really great chats…as per usual. The city wakes up so early, Vietnamese are really early risers so the streets were already really busy full of people trying to sell their stocks and make us buy the usual combination of sunglasses and lighters.
We found that most of the vietnamese people we met were really keen to learn more English, which i think is so inspirational, considering that they don’t really have much formal education,but they are still really willing and eager to learn. Which is more than i can say for myself who only speaks English. At this restaurant we met a really lovely waiter who spoke brilliant English, and at the end of the meal tried to say ‘have a good day’, but neither Arv or myself could work out what he was trying to say, so he got a tiny little note book out of his pocket and tried to find a specific page, and they said ‘have a good day’. WHICH WAS SO FRICKING CUTE…you cant even understand. My heart melted when he brought his little book out. It kind of reminded me of what my room mate does with her little English note book. This is him.
For the rest of the day we just sped the say in the sun and explored Saigon. We firstly walked round a little market we found, which Arv bought some gifts for his family from, and we both bought coffee !! Later we wandered into the place more influenced by the french architecture. It was very strange being in such a european looking place, which was just plonked in the middle of Saigon. But it was very beautiful. Saigon is far more built up than the northern part of the country. It feels much more commercialized and westernized for tourists.It was strange to think that it was no longer the capital.
One of the places we came across was this awesome French cafe/ clothes shop called L’cuisine. I wanted to buy these napkins from them, but they were super expensive for napkins. The restaurant was on a balcony and had such a great veiw of the street. We wished we had eaten breakfast there so we could have people watched all morning.
Later we went too sight see more…it was nice to just wander round all day in the sunshine together, with no people to meet and no places to be and nothing we needed to do. It was a very relaxing day. I cant remember specifically what the places we went to were called, but here are some photos.
The photo above is when me and Arv got chatting to a man on the streets selling coconuts ! I tried to teach Arv to pout…. these are his impressions in the picture above and below.
Here we go again with my none boring poses. I still think they were a good idea. The kid in the photo below is so funny, he was posing like a real gangster and his poor dad was being made to take pictures of him looking chilled.
The statue above allegedly one time started to cry tears…and hundreds of people came round to see this statue cry. We had a really awkward moment at this cathedral because, i wanted a photo…but there weren’t any people who looked like they spoke english around, so i asked Arv if i should ask this “scruffy looking Viet woman for a photo?” He said “yeah sure it will be fine”, and i said “Are you sure she doesn’t look like she will run off with it ?”, and he reassured me. Anyway, i asked her…and she spoke English. THE biggest cringe of my life. Thats why we look kind of awkward on the photo below.
Crossing the roads in Vietnam is not something one should take lightly. With lots of Cars and even more Mopeds zooming around the place, the normal rules of the roads don’t apply. We thought that Hanoi was bad, but crossing the roads in Saigon was 10 times worse. We tried to find zebra crossings at certain points, but they were useless…it made more sense just to cross whenever the hell you could, because traffic lights and road signs were ignored. Our tactic was ‘DONT MAKE EYE CONTACT’ and just keep going. Im not sure how sensible this was,as we did see a few accidents while we were there. This photo below was a QUITE road crossing. This video here more aptly shows what crossing the road in Vietnam feels like.
Saigon – Day 3
So on our last day in Saigon,we decided to wake up early and take a trip to the Mekong Delta. We were both really really keen to go there,because we had heard such great things about it. We took a three hour bus to the Meekong, And it was so so so worth it !
We had a lovely tour guide called Tiger, and he took us to see went to see the floating markets on a boat in the morning. We saw this as the perfect opportunity to sit at the back of the boat and get a sun tan.
The fruits in the boat above, were called Rambutans (i think) and they were apparently Arvs favorite fruit growing up. I had never tried them until this trip. They were kind of like a big grape in a spiked orangey/red casing. The floating markets were amazing, we saw so many exchanges being made from boat to boat, it was really really bizarre. It also was really striking how the houses were on stilts. I had seen things like this before in Cambodia and in Catba, but there were just sooooo many. It was like a huge community built on stilts. We also got told that if we wanted, we could go to Cambodia on that boat…
We shared the boat with all tourists, and one of the families on the boat was Australian and were soooo cute / annoyingly keen about everything. They were walking a fine line. It was funny though. A pair of fellow travelers that we met on the boat called Gracie and Sean from New Zealand were also laughing at how funny and cringe their family was. Next we stopped off at a little place which taught us how the locals use their rice to make lots of different things like rice wine, some sort of rice candy, rice cakes and finally the best bit was the popping rice. We watched them make popcorn, out of rice, and the cute / annoying Australian family LOVED IT ! Sean took a video of how keen the Austrlian dad was getting over the popping rice. At dinner the next night we couldn’t stop laughing at it. he was kind of shouting like “OHHHHHH POPPINNNGG RICEEEEE” in a really loud keen voice. (It was kind of a had to be there moment) Then Later his wife, the mum of the family took a shot of rice wine and started to talk about how strong and manly her husband was,and said something along the lines of getting drunk and horny or something. It was all very awkward and strange,and silent from everyone else…. but funny.
Here are a few photos from the popping rice factory.
After our lovely little popping rice visit, we got bicycles and biked to a local restaurant on the island. I have the worst ordination ever, and usually fall over quite frequently. so i was so worried about getting onto these bikes, but i was surprisingly good on the bike….ish ! – i think it was because it was so small 😀
After lunch, me and Arv went off on our own to do a little bike riding by ourselves, it was really sweet we found a cute little river and a pretty bridge, and some big tall trees which Arv climbed. After that we went with the group to go and ride in an even smaller boat, which was pushed by a man with only one tooth who shouted at us when we took our hats off. They were compulsory.
This boat ride is where we officially met Gracie and Sean the two fellow travelers i mentioned earlier. We found common ground really easily with them, i heard Sean say “Gracie, stop reinforcing the couple sterotype” as they were about to get onto the boat. It turned out that they also were both two friends traveling alone together, and they constantly kept getting called boyfreind and girlfriend, and husband and wife. So we had lots to relate too as me and Arv got this the WHOLE trip.
After the boat ride we got the bus back home and met up with Gracie and Sean for dinner as they were staying in the same street as us. We had cocktails and i got far far far too drunk for my last night in Saigon. We had a really lovely meal though, and had such good fun talking to Gracie and Sean about what we had been up to on our travels and exchanging stories. It turned out that their dynamics of their relationship was weirdly similar but different to ours. Sean was saying that Gracie who was a tall blonde girl, was very organized and on time and punctual and always wanted to know what the plan was and keep too a schedule. LIKE ARV, but the guy Sean, was really relaxed, got her to do all of the researching and just went with the flow of things, LIKE ME ! but he looked like a smaller version of Arv,and she was like the taller version of me, but with swapped heads. Its all very confusing. But if you have traveled south east asia at all you will under stand ‘same same but different’. That explained us perfectly.
After our lovely meal and drinks we went too the bar street to go and meet some of Arvs freinds from Hong Kong Uni that i hadn’t met before. Then we had an early night as we had an early flight the next morning.
Saigon Day 4
This was our last day ! we got our taxi to the airport and shared with our friends, as we were all on the same flight, and then off we went back to Hong Kong to start our second semester.
On the plane back to Hong Kong, we were talking about how weird it will be not to have someone ALWAYS around you ! it was such a strange experience spending 10 days with a total stranger, but not only 10 days…10 whole days. It was alot but still really enjoyable.
When we got back from Vietnam, the amount of times i turned around to tell Arv something was quite embarrassing. Apparently he did the same thing so its not too embarrassing !
Vietnam was such an amazing trip i wish that i could have had longer to spend there ! I learnt alot and made a really great new friend out of the experience. Over all Vietnam gets a big Thumbs up !
After our lovely but long day in Hanoi, we caught the night train to Hue, which was only supposed to take around 13hours, but ended up taking closer to 14/15 as we kept stopping and starting for no reason. This was my first experience on a sleeper train, and it actually wasn’t as bad as i had expected. We were paired with some really nice guys, one Irish guy called Rory – who was opposite me on the top bunk and a German called Enrik, they were both studying at University in Perth. We were so lucky to be paired with such nice people, because as we walked down the train we saw rooms with people stuffing their faces with boiled eggs and other smelly foods ! – Thank God the guys we shared with only had Oreo’s.
We tried to waste our 14 hour journey by playing card games, getting to know one another, drinking beer until about 1am, and then finally sleeping until we needed to get off. I love sleeping, its like taking a time machine to the next morning !
After we arrived at the hostel that Rory & Enrik were staying in we went for lunch at little indian/western restaurant, and then went on too go and get lost and explore the ancient capital city of Vietnam. – We weren’t blessed with good weather that day, so we were all wrapped up in waterproofs and big hoodies. – Except Enrik who looked like he was effortlessly dressed for summer.
We first walked to the Imperial City,which was an ancient city built in the middle of Hue, which was totally surrounded all the way around, by a huge moat and high brick walls. The gates we first saw were so beautiful and were made out of broken pieces of finely painted china cups and plates, which created really grand 3-d designs at the entrance. – This small feature was defiantly one of my favorite parts of the Imperial City.
Once we got into the Emperors part of the Imperial City, we were greeted by loads of really fat hungry fish that you could feed. Arv bought some food for them for like 50pence, and we had such good fun feeling them, we found out that we could make them dance, so if we threw the food in one spot they would all create a sort of mosh pit where they would hit each other with their fins and climb on top of each other to get some food. I have never seen such fat hungry fish !! – If you go there, please feed them….they are just the funniest. (i have simple humor.) – Heres a photo of me and my hungry fish in their mosh pit.
The rest of the Imperial City was really great, but i think it would have been more enjoyable if the weather was a bit nicer. It was quite interesting, but for me the architecture was just so perfect. I am a big fan of things that look like they used to be grand but are starting to deteriorate and look weathered. My camera was running out of battery so i didn’t get as many shots as i would have liked.
We stumbled across a stage in one of the buildings, it had beautiful high ceilings and the most gorgeous displays made by using the old china plates and bowls again. The chairs were made out of this really traditional vietnamese dark polished wood, with really artistic decorative carvings in the back rest area.
The whole day we felt like we were waking through the film set of Kung Fu Panda or Mulan. So we took up a Kung Fu Panda pose at the top of the stage…which Arv reluctantly did…he wasn’t a fan of my weird posing ideas,but he played along 😀 – He is a good egg.
Enrik on the other hand had a great time pretending to be the Emperor !
I went exploring in the theater and found a drum,and a Vietnamese outfit…The whole holiday i kept getting asked if i was half Vietnamese, or half chinese, so i just accepted my apparent Viet roots and obviously i put on the outfit 😀 – Then tourists stated to take photos of me 😀 STARDOM !
Here are the boys looking all pretty in their hats.
After our cultural morning at the Imperial City, we went to a traditional Vietnamese Market called DongBa Market. The market was AMAZING, it was so similar to the market that we went to on our first day in Vietnam, but it was much bigger, and much more concentrated. The Vietnamese certainly know how to make use of their space, they had coffee, offerings, nuts, sweets, massage oils,material, trinkets, jewelry, plates ,dishes, leather wallets, note books, dried fruit, sunglasses…anything you could possibly want was in this market…if you wanted a hammer, you could buy it from here, if you wanted a pigs hoof, you could find it here, literally anything. It was a really great experience. You could barely walk around the market without banging into people, but it was only Vietnamese people, no Westerners… It was great ! We felt really cultural.
The smells of the market changed so much as you walked around, one minute you would be overwhelmed by the smell of raw meat/ carcus and then you would be met with the amazing smell of their coffee, then onto being smacked in the face with the pungent smell of dried fish, then massage oils, then the smell of leather and then flowers. It was an experience which certainly got all of your senses working in over drive. In Vietnam, they like to keep similar stalls all next to each other, so if you want flowers, you go to the flower section, if you want massage oils, there is a massage oil section, which i found very strange, i didn’t really understand how they could get a better profit from their competitors if they are all so close. – but then again i know nothing about how these market businesses work, so i have no idea anyway ! But usually in the western world it would be rare to see shops selling the same items so close to one another. – My camera ran out of battery here, so i have no photos, so here are some i stole from Trip Advisor.
After the market we were starving, and didn’t fancy eating in there as it looked like a breeding ground for food poisoning. – No offense DongBa Market. So we tried to find food. OH MY WORD, was this the hardest task ever. So as i was saying above, in Vietnam, they like to keep similar stores together in the markets, well this is very true of the streets too. We were walking down streets for about 1 hour before we found a ‘food street’, but on our way we walked past electronic street, which only sold electorinics, Funeral street, which only sold funeral related items, fabric street, which only sold fabrics, and the list goes on of streets we walked down which only sold one type of thing. When we finally found food we were so relived,and had much deserved celebratory beers !
After Dinner, we went our separate ways from the guys we had spent the day with and made our way to the train station to get our longest night train yet to Ho Chi Mhin, we missed the first train, well…we didn’t, but we had the option of spending 22hours on a hard sleeper, or waiting three hours for a soft sleeper, so i made the executive decision to wait for three hours. To kill a few hours we went for a walk around the local shops, we browsed around and tried on outfits, i bought a note pad to start writing down notes of the trip, and we went into furniture shops and asked for the prices of a three price wooden sofa set, (which came to about £800…it was hand carved and polished wood…we were gobsmacked at how cheap it was). We bought alcohol supplies for the train, and then stopped off at a little coffee shop to relax and wait for the final hour and a half. We passed the time by catching up with our emails, and once that was all done we drew each other…my rendition of Arv, was actually not that bad…however his rendition of me had an uncanny resemblance to Mrs.Trunchball form Matilda. ❤
Once we had finished our works of art we made our way to the train station, on the way back Arv thought on top of having a bottle of wine for the train, that a bottle of vodka would also be a great idea… Im not sure if you can see his top in the picture above…but the caption on it is very very apt for what happened next on the train.
So me and Arv got a bus and about three boats to Hanoi, and then another bus.The journey was pretty long, but the bus that we went on thought that we were at a night club, they were playing a mix of ibiza house anthems and then some cheesy K-Pop tunes. Arv managed to sleep through it for some mad reason…i think i know why, his new Vietnamese girlfriend Nguyen (such a common name in Vietnam) was letting him spoon her ! – If you cant tell…Nguyen is his backpack. CUTE COUPLE.
When we arrived we had such an awful first impression of Hanoi. It was late when we arrived and we were both really tired and hungry, so we got a taxi from the bus station to our hostel. We got in the taxi and got told a price ‘very cheap’ by the meter. Well the taxi drivers meter was clearly broken as he triple charged us what we were supposed to pay,and he didn’t even drop us of at our hostel. So we got out of the taxi and i only payed him half,which is more than he deserved…anyway he got out the taxi and wouldn’t accept the money so followed us down the street and threatened to get the Vietnamese police onto us. He eventually took the money before spitting at us and telling us to ‘fuck off’ in broken Vietnamese/ English. Arv thought it was hilarious, because the man was really small,but i was really scared because I have never been spoken to like that before. It wasn’t nice !
Anyway, our impression of the place significantly improved when we got some food and found a lovely hostel called ‘The Little Hanoi Diamond’ we perked up and went into central Hanoi to explore !!!
We decided to walk to the lake and have a look around it. It was such a gorgeous lake at night. There was a really long red bridge going to a central island in the lake and there was also a temple there. We bought some incense sticks and walked about with them, and did the whole ritual of placing them down in the pots around the temple, but i liked the smell of mine so i kept them to walk around with…i clearly looked like a weirdo.
This man asked for a photo with me, e had flirty eyes…so i said yes !
We stopped for our new favorite food Pho on the way back to the hostel and shared a table with a local Hanoi foot ball team and their WAGS. One of the men really took a liking to Arv and kept patting his back and putting his hand really near to his crotch…we still cant work out wether he was coming onto him, just being friendly…or trying to steal his wallet. – hahaha guess we will never know !
While at the lake we decided that it would be a great idea to wake up super early and to run around the lake to explore it in the morning and do our sight seeing by jogging round Hanoi.
Day 2 – Hanoi
We actually did wake up early for a run and it was such a rewarding experience, we were up at 6:30 and saw the sunrise over the lake, we also went for a really long jog around most of Hanoi. I didn’t take my camera AGAIN. so i missed some incredible shots. We got back to the hostel at about 10 ish and actually managed to bump into the Kent Girls, who were staying at at hostel two doors down from us, we caught them as they were about to go on the bus.
Then we went to see the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum,and unfortunately it was closed so we didn’t get to see his dead body which had been preserved, (i was kind of looking forward to seeing a mummy) so we sat outside in the sun on the grass for an hour just talking about life and putting the worlds to right !
After seeing the mausoleum we walked around for a while in the beautiful weather and enjoyed the sun. we walked past a buddhist temple and went in, and had a wonder round. Then we went to see the on podium Pagoda…i was quite underwhelmed. Its not really THAT impressive. – But still and land mark so had to be done.
We also went to see the Hanoi prisons
After walking round the very moving but depressing prisons, we went for dinner at a random restaurant which had hands down the funniest menu’s we had ever seen, to quote Arv…’ you can read this menu and still be none the wiser about what they offer’. Here are some examples. – Also during the meal i did an epic fall onto the pavement – apparently thats Arvs highlight of the trip.
Then we posed on a lake and met two adorable Viet nurses who talked to us and wanted photos with us / Celebrities !
Then we went to the ‘must see’ water puppet show. Honestly – one of the funniest/worst things i have ever seen. we got told it was really lovely and very cultural…but we genuinely left after 5 minuets from cringing so badly,and wanting to fall asleep. BAD tourists. Although it was really great to see all of the orchestra in their lovely traditional costumes…puppets at 21 in this day and age just aren’t on our priority lists of things to see.
Once we snuck out of the puppet show we went back to our hostel to pack up our stuff and get the long night train to Hue.
So on January 11th I started my travels around vietnam for 10 days with an almost total stranger named Arv. The first time i saw him was when i was flying to Hong Kong and he was on the same flight. It turns out that he was also at HKU. We had spoke probably once face to face before going to Vietnam together. Before this the only conversation (if you can call it a conversation) was that he though i was a stalker because i noticed him on the aeroplane, and i thought that he was a stalker because he took a photo of us on the plane ! – such a great basis to go on when your traveling with someone CLEARLY.
We talked the whole flight which was great – a benefit of traveling with someone that you don’t know at all is that you have LOTS to talk about. As we didnt know each other very well, this meant that we literally had NO idea about what we were going to do together during the trip. We arrived in Vietnam with no clue where to go or what to do. We had friends who were planning to go to a small island called Catba in the morning so we decided to take a train and go and meet up with them at their hotel. Our first encounter with vietnam transport was at the airport when a taxi man told us to get into his car, but he didn’t want to stop, so we had to jump into his taxi while it was moving. We thought that this weird experience of transport would set the precedence for the rest of the trip…and we were right. We got dropped off at the train station and bought our tickets for a 2 hour train to a place called Hai Phong where we met the others.
We stayed at a hotel called the Sao Mai which was sooo nice, for some ridiculously cheap price. The next morning, me and Arv both worke up super early and went for a walk around the town to see the local market. We were literally the only two white people there. It was a really strange expereince, to be in such a busy market – however, we werent hassled once, unlike in Thailand and Cambodia, in Vietnam it seemed that we would just be left to our own devices which was great ! Arv is really tall so when walking around the markets he looked really funny as he was just towering above a sea of vietnamese peoples black heads and my blonde one.
I didn’t take my camera out this morning but i wish i did. We saw some bizarre sights. Live birds being carried around in plastic bags, fish in plastic bags, baby puppies being sold from cardboard boxes, a man with a blanket on the floor full of just scissors, the most amazing collection of carved wood statues and my favorite some incredibly small but beautiful bonsai trees. We then stopped off to get breakfast at a quite road side stall. We had no idea what the food was called so we just pointed at what some other people were eating and got handed two bowls of the stuff. Thankfully it was really tasty. Later we found out it was called Pho.
Day 1 in Catba
Later we met up with the others (Simon, Eleanor, Josh, Owen, Rory and Nathan) and then got the boat to Catba. On the boat that was supposed to take 2 hours actually took about 3 hours, so we were sat on the from for a little while admiring the view, but when it got to cold we went and sat inside and watched their TV, it was this crazy show about a nagging wife and an old man with one tooth. We had no idea what was going on so we just narrated the story as we saw fit. It was pretty funny.
Catba is a small island just off Halong Bay. It was so so quite that the roads were just like big open roads that you would see in America.We checked into our hostel called the Catba Backpackers Hostel, and as there were 8 of us we all shared a dorm. It was kind of grotty – but i felt like a real backpacker.
Then we went for dinner and as it was getting late we though we should just all get drunk….so we did. We had a few drinks at the place we had dinner called “My Way” and then went and found this cool bar full of travelers called “Rose Bar”. We stayed there until closing, drinking beers, playing pool chatting to strangers and choosing the music. Owen got hit on by a small lady from the Czech Republic who said she wanted to ‘destroy him’. haha.
Earlier in the night Josh had set his eye on two things – a club we called the ‘tardis’ due to its weird exterior and the Kebab lady who was wondering round with her trolly of food. He was adamant that we would go to the Tardis for a night out and that he would have a kebab while we were there. By the end of the night when the bar closed he had had more than one kebab so all of the kebab ladies loved him. He was even on first name terms with them, one was called Mama, and we named the other Doner…because she was selling Doner kebabs.
Day 2 in Catba
The next day we woke up early to go and rent motor bikes. I had never rode a motorbike before so i was absolutely terrified. Also as i have heard so many stories about accidents on these motorbikes i was even more worried. However, i quickly realized that i was worrying for no reason. The roads in Catba were almost deserted so if any accidents were to happen it would be due to me going head first off a cliff. We went for breakfast at a place that was recommended called Mr. Zooms – we thought it was appropriate as we all had motorbikes.
After breakfast we rode to a beautiful beach which was totally secluded except for us. We played foot ball and chilled there for a bit taking in the beautiful scenery. But we were all itching to get back onto the motorbikes ! I had become a petrol head, they gave me such a rush ! – I want a motorbike now ❤
After biking around for the whole day we stopped to visit some random caves where the Vietnamese people hid in the war. It was pretty ridiculous, they had swimming pools in there and a cinema screen….
After that we went for dinner at a little restaurant by the Caves and then stopped on the way back for cups of tea at a cute little road side cafe…it was really cold in the North, so the tea was essential to warm us up !
Later that night, yet again we went to the Rose Bar in Catba for drinks, It was without a doubt the busiest place in Catba…and it was pretty empty. We changed the vibe of the club because it wasn’t busy by kind of turning it into our own little karaoke bar that night, singing lots of oldies and a few newbies. We all sounded awful and were just shouting as loud as possible ! During our time in the Rose bar over the past two nights the boys had become obsessed with this adorable little Viet girl who worked behind the bar called Mena. However she wasnt working for very long that night so the guys were all pretty gutted. We went home quite late that night,even though we were due to be up early in the morning to go Kayaking.
Day 3 in Catba
This morning we went Kayaking to go and find a small island we had heard about through a trip leaflet called monkey island. However we didn’t take a trip, we just did it ourselves. We chose the best day to do it. the weather was beautiful and i even got a suntan.
In the Kayaks i was convinced that me and Arv teaming up together would be a recipe for disaster as i am so small and he is so tall,but actually it worked out really well. We were leading the trail in front of the others. Rory and Simon, who i thought would be the best, were actually so bad at rowing together, so they were behind- it was quite funny to see them struggling.
On our way to Monkey Island/ while trying to find it. Myself and Arv were feeling adventurous and decided to go through a gap we could see in the caves ahead. It turned out to be a great mistake as the beach we stumbled across was so secluded and beautiful. We stayed there for a while sunbathing, whilst we were waiting for the boys to sort their ore technique out.
After a while we decided to go and really find this Monkey Island place. As we had totally lost our bearings , we just paddled towards the island which looked the most commercial. So we went towards one with a bit wooden structure on it. When we arrived at the island we got a warm welcome from lots of little monkeys…but no humans. We had landed on a real monkey island, even though it wasn’t THE Monkey Island.
They were actually really terrifying little things. I kept running away from them. One of them came and rummaged through the bags we had brought and stole a big 2 litre bottle of water from our bag, bit into it and guzzled down the whole bottle. Another kept gurning its teeth at the guys and one of them actually stole a banana from some people who also had come to the wrong island. Owen, was guarding our stuff when a few of them ran over to him so he grabbed the ore and started banging it to try and scare them away. They were fearless. After enough time being scared by little monkies, Arv and I had to leave early to go and get a boat back to the shore to go to our next destination Hanoi. So we said our farewells to the amazing group of 8 people we had spent the past few days with then headed out back to Catba. – On the way back we got stuck !
About a week before we were supposed to break up for Christmas i got really ill with Vertigo which made me feel really dizzy and sick. So i called my amazing mum in the UK and had a chat with her and we came up with an amazing plan to get me a flight home for christmas and surprise my little sister ( Who i miss everyday when i am in Hong Kong).
So i got a ridiculously long flight home but i flew with the Emirates which really lived up to its expectations of being an amazing airline. The sights i saw on the way home were so so beautiful as i was sat by the window, i passed both days and nights in different countries across the world. It was pretty special.
On the plane’s home i watched Love Actually, and the big airport scene at the end made me cry because i was so excited to see my mum at the airport after four months.So when i got to Manchester airport i was all emotional and totally broke down with happy tears 😀
On the journey home me and my mum were thinking of ways to surprise my sister . Originally we bought a box and had it all wrapped up – however that wouldn’t work because it was dark and i would have had to sit outside in a box in the rain. Instead we decided that i would run upstairs into my mums rooms and pretend my mum would pretend that i was on Skype and my sister had to go upstairs to speak to me.
When my sister came upstairs in her cute little chicken onesie she was so shocked and we were both so happy to see each other that we started crying and couldn’t talk. it was so lovely, we cried and cuddled and hugged sushi our dog and i didn’t leave her side for the whole month ❤
I was so happy to be home for christmas ! Back with my loving family and doggy ❤