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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.

crazyhousetree

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.

crazyhousestairs

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.

crazyhouseguestroom

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.

crazyhouseselfie

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:

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.

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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.

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.

 

 

 

 

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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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Mt Pinatubo

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I had to get up at 4am to hike to the top of Mt Pinatubo. 4am. A time normally reserved for waking up for early flights or returning from a night out. The reason for this is that Mt Pinatubo is kind of difficult to get to on public transport, even from nearby cities. This involved:

  • A tricycle from the hostel in Angeles to the Dau bus terminal
  • A bus to Capas
  • A tricycle from Capas to the tourism office for Mt Pinatubo
  • A 4×4 from the tourism office to the bottom of the hiking path
Mt Pinatubo

Interesting rock formations on the way to the start of the hiking trail

By the time we started walking it was after 7am. Fortunately, the walk wasn’t particularly challenging. There were a few river crossings and the path was uneven with rocks, stones and boulders. I managed not to fall or step in the river despite being one of the clumsiest people ever to live.

Mt Pinatubo Crater Lake

Mt Pinatubo Crater Lake

We made it to the crater lake at 9am. We’d seen reviews on TripAdvisor from people saying they’d eaten their lunch at the crater lake. Either they set off much later than us, are very slow walkers, or they eat lunch at a weird time. Anyway… the crater lake was nice. Unfortunately, no swimming is allowed in the crater lake but it still looked amazing.

I wore trainers to hike in which were more than adequate for this trail. As I mentioned earlier, it wasn’t particularly demanding. We saw a few people wearing dust masks but I honestly don’t think they’re required because it wasn’t too dusty. I also took water, some snacks to eat at the crater lake and of course, my camera.

This hike was great and I was surprised at how easy it was. Definitely worth seeing if you’re in the area. Although, if you’ve only got chance/time to see one volcano from Manila, I would say that the Taal Volcano is much easier and cheaper to access.

It’s possible to take a day trip to Mt Pinatubo from Manila, more details can be found here..

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Taal Volcano – An Easy Day Trip From Manila

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The Taal Volcano is the smallest volcano in the Philippines and is actually a volcano within a volcano (sounds a little Inception-esque). It’s easily accessible from Manila, but we decided to stay in Tagaytay.

Getting to the Taal Volcano

Staying in Tagaytay made it easy to get to the Taal Volcano. We could see the Taal Volcano from the hostel we stayed in. We got a trike downhill to the edge of Taal Lake and got a boat over to the volcano. We were offered the chance to go up the volcano on horseback but declined because the horses didn’t look like they were in the best condition. We were also offered a guide but refused because the volcano is only 311m high. How hard could it be?!

The Ascent

The ascent to the crater lake was not difficult and took around 40 minutes at a leisurely pace. We set off around 2pm so the sun was blazing. Add that to the fact we were walking on an active volcano and I was probably 50% sweat by the time I reached the top.

 

Taal Volcano crater lake

Me at the crater lake

Once at the top, the crater lake looked amazing. Definitely worth the sweaty, dusty 40 minute walk to the top. On the way down we stopped for a coconut water/beer. This was probably around halfway down and the views of the lake from this point were fantastic.

How much did I pay? 

  • 200PHP – Return bus trip Manila -Tagaytay
  •  100PHP – Return trip on a tricycle from Tagaytay to Taal Lake
  • 500PHP – Return boat ride to Taal Volcano
  • 100PHP – Tourist fee on the island

I was in a group of 4 so the tricycle & boat prices are what we paid individually.

All in all, visiting the Taal Volcano is a great way to experience the countryside of the Philippines without straying too far from Manila.

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