Tag: asia (Page 1 of 4)

A Jeep Tour Of Mui Ne

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Mui Ne is a small beach town in Vietnam, around 5 hours drive north of Ho Chi Minh City. Many backpackers miss this place out when travelling through Vietnam, opting to stop in the larger resort area of Nha Trang, a few hours north. I personally preferred Mui Ne to Nha Trang – it’s quieter.

There’s a lovely beach in Mui Ne, which has pretty good surf, so there’s usually a few surfers out on the water. There are businesses offering kite surfing and regular surfing lessons along the beach. Like I said before, it’s quiet in Mui Ne so if you’re interested in learning either of these, it’s a good place to learn.

I stayed at La Casa Del Latino Hotel because it had been recommended by some backpackers I met in Ho Chi Minh. It was such a nice, chilled out hotel/hostel with a pool. The staff were so friendly and the food in the restaurant was delicious.

mui ne la casa del latino

The Tour

There’s a jeep tour which can be booked through hostels in Mui Ne. The tour includes stops to the white sand dunes, red sand dunes, fishing village and fairy stream. The tour runs at either 4.30am or 1.30pm. I chose the 4.30am tour because I’m slightly mad. Just kidding, the 4.30am tour includes seeing the sunset over the white sand dunes. Also, I wanted to go Da Lat the same day so doing the 4.30am tour meant I could get the afternoon bus to Da Lat.

The jeep picked me up at 4am, along with a couple of other people from my hostel. Whilst my day was starting very early, there were plenty of people in the bars along the Main Street.

sunrise mui ne

We headed towards the sand dunes, in the pitch black, but by the time we arrived at the white dunes, sunrise was imminent. I paid an extra 200,000 to get a quad bike to the top of the dunes, where there I saw the most amazing views of the sunrise. See for yourself:

sunrisemuine2 whitesanddunesmuine

Once the sun was up, it was slightly surprising how quickly the temperature rose. We got back in the jeep and went to the red sand dunes. The red sand dunes felt really touristy and honestly were not as impressive as the white sand dunes.

redsanddunesmuine

The next stop was the fishing village. Fishermen and fishmongers were going about their daily business, paying no mind to the tourists around them.

fishingvillagemuine

Fairy Stream

The final stop was the fairy stream. It’s a nice walk up the stream to see some beautiful rock formations. There was also an adorable puppy at the beginning of the walk which made it all the more worthwhile.

puppymuine

fairystreammuine

Mui Ne was such a relaxed part of Vietnam. I enjoyed the tour and I’m surprised so many people miss out Mui Ne, when it’s almost halfway between Da Lat and Ho Chi Minh City. If you have a 30 day visa for Vietnam it’s definitely worth stopping by.

 

 

 

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Don Det – Four Thousand Islands

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Don Det is an island in the Si Phan Don (Four Thousand Islands) archipelago in the southern part of Laos. Here’s where it’s situated in Laos:

Getting There

I decided to take a huge gamble and travel from Vang Vieng to Don Det in one journey. Looking back, this may not have been the best idea. Nevertheless, I did arrive there in one piece. I started on a mini bus from Vang Vieng-Vientiane which was probably the most comfortable aspect of the journey despite the windy roads and need-for-speed driver. Vientiane-Pakse was to be a night bus. This was basically a bus with no seats and mattresses on the floor. I had very little space even though I’m 5’5″. I feel sorry for anyone over 6ft!

The final part of the journey felt like the longest. I arrived in Pakse around 6.30am. The bus to Si Phan Don arrived within 30 minutes and we loaded our luggage on. Unfortuantely, for us, someone had left a bag of garbage on the bus and it smelled terrible. Once the bus finally got moving, it was apparent that the air con was not working. The bus wasn’t even half full, so our driver kept calling his friends and waiting at the side of the road for them for up to half an hour to catch the bus. By this point, I’d been travelling for over 20 hours, I was hungry and tired and was less than impressed with the driver waiting for so long in the heat for his friends. Eventually, the bus arrived in Nakasong – 23 hours after I’d left Vang Vieng!

The last leg of the journey was to catch a boat from Nakasong to Don Det.

don det pier four thousand islands laos Alex Explores the World

Don Det Pier

Activities in Don Det

There’s a tour which every tour company in Don Det sells and it’s the one every tourist ends up doing. The tour is similarly priced regardless of where it’s booked (I paid 170,000kip). The tour is a day of kayaking around different parts of Four Thousand Islands, including visiting two waterfalls and seeing Irrawaddy dolphins in the Mekong. The tour includes breakfast and lunch.

I booked the tour with a friend and we arrived at the meeting point for breakfast at 8.30am. I had scrambled eggs for breakfast but there were other options to choose from, such as pancakes and fruit. The group left at 9.30am in kayaks. The first section of river was relatively straightforward, although towards the end there was a lot of ‘island’ dodging (by islands, I mean tangles of reeds/bushes – this is why this area is called Four Thousand Islands). Some people in the group were unable to dodge these ‘islands’ and ended up capsizing. Funny for us, probably less funny for them. The guides should probably have checked that everyone was competent enough to kayak.

We walked to the first waterfall of the day – a torrent of rushing water. The guides spent a while attempting, and succeeding, to catch fish with their hands. We had lunch by the side of the river which was a mix of mashed potatoes, bread, skewers, and vegetables. There was very little shade by the river so we were exposed to the intensity of the midday sun.

Waterfalls & Dolphins

After lunch, it was time to get back into the kayaks, this time in search of Irrawaddy dolphins. We kayaked down the Mekong, close to the border with Cambodia. We were lucky enough to spot a few dolphins from a distance. A rainstorm rolled in so we paddled as fast as we could to get out of the torrential rain, to no avail.

The next stop was to see the largest waterfall in South East Asia (by volume), Khonephapheng Falls.

don det waterfall khonephapheng falls laos four thousand islands Alex Explores the World

It certainly wasn’t the most spectacular waterfall to look at, but the sheer volume of water makes it impressive.

The last activity of the day was to kayak from Nakasong back to Don Det. By this point I was sunburnt, tired and eager for a shower. We paddled back as quickly as our arms would allow, racing the other kayakers.

don det sunset four thousand islands laos Alex Explores the World

Where to Stay

I stayed in Don Det for 3 nights which was more than enough for me. The first night I stayed in one of the typical riverside bungalows which are all over the island. These wooden bungalows are very basic and very cheap – only 40,000 kip per night. There was a fan in the room and an ensuite. For the next couple of nights I stayed in a guesthouse called Mama Leurth’s which was 60,000 kip per night and was a lot nicer than the riverside bungalow. This room had the option of air con for an additional cost and had wifi in the rooms.

Final Thoughts

Don Det was a lovely final stop in Laos. I enjoyed the laid back atmosphere of this small island. I went in low season so there were plenty of accommodation options. There are many restaurants on the island which all offer reasonably priced food. I felt like Don Det was more relaxed than the other places I’d visited in Laos and is a must visit for anyone in the area!

To read more about Laos, see my posts about Luang Prabang and Vang Vieng.

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Luang Prabang – Home to SE Asia’s Most Beautiful Waterfall

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

After three days of travelling, to say I was relieved to be in Luang Prabang would be an understatement. After a crazy few weeks in Thailand, I was very much ready to have a break from the party scene. Perhaps Luang Prabang could offer me some much-needed respite. The first order of business was to find somewhere to sleep so I hopped into a tuk-tuk with my slow boat friends to a guesthouse. The guesthouse was nice enough and cheap enough so we all booked rooms.

A Different Sort of Going Out

We went out in search of some good, cooked food and bumped into an American family who we met on the slow boat. They were going to a restaurant for some traditional Laos food and invited us to join them. We accepted and enjoyed some Laos dishes – most of which were fish based. After dinner, we went for a few drinks at Utopia, a bar that doubles as a yoga studio during the day. Utopia had a relaxed atmosphere – a world away from the loud bars in Thailand. All bars in Luang Prabang close at 11.30pm, which seems a little early. Not quite. When leaving Utopia, we found there were many tuk-tuks waiting to take us bowling. Everyone hopped into a tuk-tuk and we went to the local bowling alley, which stays open until 2am.bowling alley luang prabang laos Alex Explores the World

Kuang Si Waterfalls

The following day, we went to Kuang Si Waterfall, one of the most beautiful waterfalls I’ve ever seen. We paid 25,000 kip for a return journey in a tuk-tuk and it’s around an hour drive on windy roads. Entrance to the waterfall is 20,000 kip and includes a visit to the moon bear conservation project. Moon bears are captured for their bile, which is used in traditional Asian medicine. They are also used in circus acts because of their natural ability to stand on their hind legs. (For more information about moon bears, check out Animals Asia)

kuang si falls luang prabang laos Alex Explores the WorldThe Kuang Si waterfalls are truly something special. I’ve never seen such a beautiful waterfall. The falls are a beautiful turquoise colour – caused by the water flowing through limestone. Some pools are good for swimming in, others are just for photos.  There are so many tiers to this waterfall, it’s incredible! We spent a couple of hours swimming and taking pictures before heading back to our tuk-tuk.kuang si falls luang prabang laos Alex Explores the World

 

Night Market

That evening, I went to the night market with a few people from the guesthouse. The vendors were selling a wide variety of foods – skewers, baguettes, an all you can eat veggie buffet, shakes, pancakes… it was never ending.IMG_6732

On the final day, I went for a walk around the Old Quarter of Luang Prabang. I discovered that the palace and museum are closed on Tuesdays, unfortunately only after I’d reached the palace. I visited Wat Xieng Thong (also known as Golden City Temple) simply because I’d heard it was the most beautiful in town. I went to the top of Mount Phousi (20,000 kip) where it’s possible to view almost all of Luang Prabang. The red roofs reminded me of European cities.IMG_6746

IMG_6767At 2.30pm, I got a minivan to Vang Vieng along with many of the people I’d met on the slow boat, thus concluding my stay in Luang Prabang. The trip to Vang Vieng had it’s own (literal) ups and downs, which I’ll be talking about in my next post.

To conclude…

I’ve long since left Laos, but I can honestly say that Luang Prabang was my favourite place in Laos. The mountains surrounding the city are stunning and the Old Quarter left from the French colonial days is beautifully quaint.  If there’s one place in Laos I’d recommend heading to, it’s Luang Prabang.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Chiang Mai – Cooking Class with Asia Scenic

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

One of my favourite things about travelling is all of the delicious food available. Thailand is famous for its cuisine and I was keen to learn how to cook Thai food. I’d seen cooking classes all through Thailand but the Asia Scenic one in Chiang Mai had been recommended so I booked that one.

The transport collected me from my accommodation at 8.30am so I was one of the first to arrive at the workshop. I’d opted for the full day cooking class which cost 1000 baht – I think the half day cost 800 baht so there wasn’t a huge difference in price.

Once everyone had arrived, our teacher for the day, Juno, introduced himself and went through all of the menu options for the day. We would be making 7 dishes, of which 6 we had multiple options. I partly chose mine based on lack of spicy because I’m a real wuss with spicy foods.

We broke bread at the table, which is supposed to be lucky – it basically involved putting food into a huge leaf then wrapping it up and eating it.

Juno showed the group how to make sticky rice in a woven basket as we’d be using it for mango with sticky rice later in the day.

The group headed into the garden where Juno showed us a selection of herbs and vegetables that the cooking school grows themselves. I found this really interesting as many of the herbs and vegetables are not generally used in UK cooking, or looked completely different.

The group headed to the market to buy some of the ingredients we’d be using during the course of the day. There were some unusual things there, some of which we wouldn’t be using.

The first dish of the day was a stir fry dish. I’d chosen to make Pad Thai because (1) it’s not spicy, and (2) it’s what I’d been living off in Thailand and I kind of wanted to know how to cook it. Pad Thai was not-so-surprisingly easy to make, and basically amounted to throwing all the ingredients into a pan and stir-frying. Once cooked, we ate immediately.

pad thai ingredients chiang mai Alex Explores the World

 

Next up, we made 2 dishes simultaneously. We all made spring rolls and salad. The spring rolls were all the same – there was no option to change the filling. I found it was trickier than it looked to roll it. We had a few different options for our salad option. I chose the papaya salad because I’d seen it on a lot of menus around Thailand and wanted to try it. The dressing for the papaya salad was made with a pestle and mortar which took me back a few years to my lab days. I put my salad together and added the dressing, then went to deep fry my spring roll.

spring roll chiang mai Alex Explores the World

After eating pad Thai, papaya salad and a spring roll all within an hour, the group slipped into a food coma until the afternoon cooking session.

spring roll papaya salad chiang mai Alex Explores the World

In the afternoon session, the first thing we did was prepare ingredients for our soup dishes. I was making coconut milk soup. Once prepared, we left them on our cooking station and started to prepare our curry paste. We were making the paste from scratch so we had to crush all the ingredients together with a large stone pestle and mortar. We made a batch of red curry paste and a batch of green curry paste, taking it in turns to crush the ingredients.

pestle and mortar chiang mai Alex Explores the World

Once the curry paste was ready, it was time to make our desserts. I had chosen mango with sticky rice. Juno showed us how to mix the sticky rice with coconut milk to make it sweet. The dessert was left to cool while we made our curries and soup.

mango sticky rice chiang mai Alex Explores the World

The curries and soups were made by basically putting everything into a pan and letting it simmer.

thai red curry coconut milk soup chiang mai Alex Explores the World

The best part was eating the three dishes once they’d all been cooked. My personal favourites of the day were the red curry (honestly the best curry I’ve ever eaten) and the mango sticky rice (because I have a sweet tooth).

Overall, the day was fantastic. I learned a lot about Thai food and was pleasantly surprised at how easy most of the dishes were to cook. Our teacher, Juno, was lovely and very helpful. All of the dishes were delicious and I’m glad that Asia Scenic gave each of us a cookbook at the end of the day so I can cook these dishes again when I’m next in a kitchen.

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Penang – Street Art in Georgetown

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

I’d wanted to visit Penang for a long time because of Georgetown’s reputation for having great food. I was looking forward to seeing the old colonial buildings and seeing the street art.

Getting to Penang

I was travelling from KL so  decided to get the train to Butterworth, then a ferry across to Penang. The train was quite slow moving but comfortable. The aircon was set to freezing, which seems to be the case on most public transport in South East Asia. My train was supposed to leave at 4pm so I was expecting to arrive in Butterworth around 9pm. The train was delayed so I arrived in Butterworth at 10.30pm, then waited for the ferry for around 30 minutes. It was midnight by the time I got to my hostel.

Getting the train is straightforward from KL because the train leaves from KL Sentral and it’s possible to book online. The train station is Butterworth is situated next to the ferry terminal which makes it very easy to get to Penang. I paid 35RM for the train and something like 1.50RM for the ferry (I can’t remember the exact price, I was pretty tired at this point).

Georgetown

Most people who visit Penang stay in Georgetown, an old British colonial town. Georgetown is easy to get around on foot. On my first day, I visited the Pinang Peranakan Mansion, a typical home of a rich Baba from a century ago. The mansion is painted light green so is easy to spot.

Pinang Peranakan Mansion Penang Malaysia Alex Explores the World

The mansion is laid out in the same way a traditional Baba house would have looked. The decor and furnishings were beautiful. There are tour guides who will give you a tour of the mansion, however, the tour I was put on had a lot of people so I walked around alone. (I should probably mention that I was in Penang over Labor Day weekend so everything was busy.)

Pinang Peranakan Mansion Penang georgetown malaysia Alex Explores the World

Next to the main living quarters was a temple:

Pinang Peranakan Mansion Penang Georgetown Malaysia Alex Explores the World

Street Art

One of the main attractions of Penang is the street art which is dotted around Georgetown. The hostel I stayed in had maps of where to find different pieces.

 

IMG_2831

IMG_2833

IMG_2827

There are wrought-iron caricatures on many streets in Penang, which provide a sort of description of the street they’re placed on. Here’s a couple of examples:

IMG_2825

IMG_2823

IMG_2822

Each of the caricatures is different and will often give an insight into the history of the area.

Food in Penang

Penang is famous for it’s currys – and rightly so! I was staying just outside Little India which is the perfect location to get a curry. 2 minutes away were a couple of street food vendors selling the most delicious curry. For less than 10RM, it was possible to get curry, rice and roti. Bargain!  One night I went to a place called Kapitan, which was slightly more expensive but had a variety of options and was delicious.

Another local food I tried was ice balls. It’s literally a large ball of ice with flavouring on it. They can be found on Armenian Street for 2.50RM – ideal for the hot weather.

Where to Stay

I stayed in Couzi Couji, a hostel just outside of Little India. It was clean and comfortable and the aircon in the rooms was good. There’s limited toilets and showers which I didn’t really find to be a problem.

There are a lot of hostels around Love Lane to stay in and guesthouses are dotted around the city.

Leaving Penang

My next stop was Langkawi which can be easily reached by boat from Penang. A ticket costs 70RM. It’s possible to get the night train from Butterworth to Bangkok although you have to go to a ticket office as it’s not possible to book online.

Have you been to a town/city with great street art? I’d love to hear about it, let me know in the comments!

Reasons tolive in themountains

 

Facebooktwittergoogle_pluspinterest

Page 1 of 4

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén