Tag: travel (Page 1 of 5)

Don’t Forget to Visit Crazy House

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Dalat is such a great city. It’s a welcome break from the humidity of the rest South East Asia. I spent a lovely few days in the mountains of Vietnam, but the highlight was definitely Crazy House.

Crazy House

Crazy House is an amazing guesthouse in Dalat. If I wasn’t on a backpacker budget I would’ve 100% stayed there. It’s like something out of a fairytale. The architect who created the building, Đặng Việt Nga, was inspired by Gaudi, but I personally thought it felt like a Disney creation.

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The day I visited was quiet, so I almost had the place to myself. The whole house felt like a woodland and in some parts looked like odd-shaped trees.

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I loved how many staircases there were and how easy it was to get lost climbing up and down the stairs with all the twists and turns.

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From the top of Crazy House it was possible to see stunning views of Da Lat.

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The guestrooms were open for viewing (although you couldn’t actually go into the rooms). This room had a carving of a bear. crazyhouseguestroom

And this one had windows that looked like spiderwebs. The woodland feel of the place felt so unusual for South East Asia, yet fit in nicely with the cooler climate of Da Lat.

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And of course, here’s a selfie I took. It was nice to take a selfie where I’m not looking sweaty from the humidity.

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How to get to Da Lat

Fly – It’s possible to fly directly to Dalat from Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi.

Bus – Get the bus from Mui Ne, Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang or Hoi An.

Other Activities in Da Lat

Crazy House was my highlight, but there’s plenty of other things to do in Da Lat. Most backpackers do canyoning as part of a day tour. There’s also a tour which involves driving around the local countryside on motorbikes. Like most places in South East Asia, these are available to book in every hostel on arrival. I stayed at Mr Peace Backpacker’s House which I enjoyed. The staff were really friendly and there was a family dinner each evening.

What’s the most interesting building you’ve seen whilst travelling? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!

For more on Vietnam, check out my posts about Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne and the Mekong Delta.

 

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A Jeep Tour Of Mui Ne

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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:

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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.

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

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

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Koh Lanta

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Koh Lanta – an island many backpackers miss out on their travels around Thailand. It’s an island more renowned for its quiet beaches and gorgeous beaches than a wild party scene.

Koh Lanta

I arrived there in low season – August. I caught a bus from Krabi for 300 baht, which includes the short ferry ride to Koh Lanta.

koh lanta long beach

The hostel I’d booked was almost empty. A far cry from the full dorm rooms of Krabi – backpackers who were going to or had just been to Koh Phi Phi. My hostel was a 10-minute walk from Long Beach so on my first full day, I headed straight there. The beach was wonderfully quiet. Disappointingly, I found there was quite a lot of litter on the beach. Mostly plastic water bottles. Perhaps they’d been brought to the beach by the rough seas?

koh lanta long beach

Lanta Animal Rescue

In the afternoon, I visited Lanta Animal Rescue, an organisation dedicated to helping the animals on Koh Lanta. There were kittens and puppies available to pet as soon as I arrived, including 3 very cute kittens called Ice, Gin and Tonic.

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Every couple of hours, a member of staff gives a guided tour to any tourists who are interested. I went on the tour and learned a  lot about why there are (or were) so many stray dogs in Koh Lanta (and by extension, other touristy areas). This is a great organisation and I absolutely loved spending the afternoon here. There’s also the option of dog walking, either before 11am or after 3pm, when the weather is slightly cooler.

lanta animal rescue

The following day, the weather was stormy almost all day. Not wanting to spend a week on an island where there’s very little to do when the weather is bad, I decided to go to Langkawi. This took all day and involved getting a bus to Trang, then a bus to Satun, then a boat from Satun to Langkawi. It was much easier than I expected, considering I could only book the bus from Koh Lanta to Trang, and I had to book the rest of the transport on arrival at each destination.

I liked Koh Lanta, but unfortunately didn’t experience everything the island has to offer because of the bad weather. Perhaps I was unlucky. Perhaps I wasn’t expecting it to rain quite so much.

 

 

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5 Things to do in Downtown Yangon

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At the end of July, I spent a couple of days in Yangon, also known as Rangoon, the former capital of Myanmar. I stayed at Little Yangon Hostel, in downtown Yangon, so most of the sights I saw were in this area. Here are my recommendations:

1. Visit the Sule Pagoda

The Sule Pagoda is in downtown Yangon and is actually older than the Shwedagon Pagoda. The Sule Pagoda is important in recent years as it has served as a rallying point for political uprisings.

2. Go Shopping at Bogyoke Market

fabric bogyoke market yangon AlexExplorestheWorld

This market is centrally located and has a large array of fabrics and other items to buy. There’s a floor filled with ladies working their sewing machines who could fix you up with some handmade clothing. There’s jewellery, puppets, handmade bags, quite simply there’s plenty of lovely items to buy.

3. Eat in Chinatown

Every evening, the Chinatown streets fill with food vendors. There’s plenty of food to choose from – Burmese, Chinese, Indian – and it’s probably the cheapest food you’ll find in Myanmar.

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4. Visit a Yangon Teahouse

rangoon tea house yangon AlexExplorestheWorld

Teahouses are a relic from British colonial times, but many can be found around Yangon. I visited the Rangoon Tea House because it’s #1 on TripAdvisor, and it was 2 streets from my hostel. There’s a huge selection of tea and dessert (I highly recommend the chocolate samosas).

5. Watch the Sunset by the Botataung Pagoda

sunset botataung pagoda yangon AlexExplorestheWorld

Sunsets in Myanmar are amongst the most beautiful in the world and the Botataung Pagoda is situated next to the river, a perfect way to end a day of sightseeing. Many local people come to this spot to watch the sunset so you’ll find a few street food vendors nearby.

Have you been to Yangon? Is there anything you’d add to this list? Let me know in the comments!

 

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Penang – Street Art in Georgetown

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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.

 

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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:

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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!

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