Posts Tagged 'tourist'

Ho Chi Minh City

After our contract with Chatteris ended on Friday 31st May, we were free!! Adrian and I had tickets booked to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) in Vietnam from 1 June – 4 June, but on different flights.

Vietnam Airlines wasn’t the worst in the world, despite a tonne of negative reviews, got me there in 1 piece and I got a cab from a company recommended on WikiTravel, which were cheap enough at 170,000 Dong (about US$8). The hostel we stayed at was the Ngoc Thou Hostel in District 1 (the main place for tourists and backpackers) and was a decent hostel, which didn’t over-charge and were dead friendly.

The first proper day we had we were up early for a tour out of the city to the Cu Chi area near the Cambodian border where the Vietcong Tunnels were. Our tour guide called himself ‘John Wayne’ and his Dad used to be in the VC himself. That day, we…

– Went to a ‘Victims of Agent Orange’ shop where they allowed victims/people born with deformities to do art, sculptures and crafts which they sell. That was pretty poignant and our first taste of the other perspective of the ‘American War’ as they call it.
– Watched some VC Propaganda videos of them training
– Saw VC booby traps (proper chilling stuff…)
– Firing AK-47s (expensive, but SO COOL)
– Went down the VC tunnels themselves (really hot, little oxygen and you had to stoop, proper kills your calves!)
– Went in an US Tank which was destroyed by a missile and was now just a shell.

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That evening, we headed to the famous make-shift bars where Siagon or Hanoi beers are 50c each. We had about a dozen I think, with people from the tour that day. Great to meet so many new people, but I felt rough the morning after.

Day 2 was the Mekong Delta tour. Early get up, feeling rough and on a coach for 2 hours. But worth it. The tour itself was padded out with things like ‘Hold a Snake’, ‘listen to these musicians play, and look they have a CD out…’ and ‘fruit tasting’ but the highlights were definitely the small canoe boat rides with Vietnam hats on, and visiting a huge Buddha and Temple.

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That evening was more chilled due to me still feeling rough. So Cartoon Network in Vietnamese on TV was perfect.

My last day there, we spent checking out the markets, saw the Reunification Palace, Notre Dame Cathedral and went to the former US Embassy to South Vietnam, which was now the War Remnants Museum. Basically any war stuff that the Americans didn’t have time to evacuate or use as the north’s forces were approaching. It was full of propaganda and bias, but really showed a lot of truths about the war you can’t really get the feel for from books. A well good experience.

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After that, we chilled a bit before I had to go to the airport and Adrian had one more night before Kathmandu in Nepal, the lucky sod.

All in all, Vietnam is bloody amazing, Saigon even more so, a definite recommendation!

Hong Kong: My City (2013)

My video project I’ve been working on…

Inspired by the photos my Grandad showed me from when he was here, through the James Bonds set here in the 1970s and retro YouTube videos of old Hong Kong.

Let me know what you think!

Sik Sik Yuen Temple

There’s a saying that “Once you’ve seen one temple, you’ve seen them all”.

An obvious generalization and unfair summary, but there is some truth in it. If you’re going to Hong Kong for 2 days or 2 months, the Sik Sik Yuen Temple at Wong Tai Sin is the one to go to. Why? It is everything you would picture a Buddhist temple having, and more!

It is right next to the Wong Tai Sin MTR station and dominates the area. In the same way why palaces like Buckingham Palace and Windsor Castle are the most popular in Europe, Sik Sik Yuen Temple is one of the most popular because it is a living, working temple. Some temples you see here can be old, disused, boring-looking, or not tourist-friendly (i.e., they stare you out of the place). Then there’s a few which are catered to tourists – the Man Mo Temple in the Mid-Levels, or Tin Hau Temple at Causeway Bay/ Yau Ma Tei and Sik Sik Yuen is one of these.

Highly popular with locals, it promises to deliver and surpass your expectations of a working Buddhist Temple in Hong Kong. In a place where space is a commodity and so precious, they even have room for a large inner-city garden which you can visit (for a small donation of $2). The temple has statues galore, good wishes in Chinese writing, hawkers selling incense to burn and fruit to offer and masses of worshippers. It’s difficult to do the ambience of the place much justice, so make sure you check the temple out!

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Chinese New Year Lanterns

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Incense Sticks at the Temple

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The Inner-City Temple

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The Memorial Garden

How to get there:

Wong Tai Sin MTR Station, then it’s right there out of most exits. Would be hard to miss…

The Changing Hong Kong Skyline

I found this really interesting blog on the changing Hong Kong skyline through the ages – complete with pictures and videos.

Really worth a look!

http://hongwrong.com/hong-kong-skyline-through-the-years/

Taiwanese Adventure!

For Chinese New Year, we went to Taipei, the capital city of Taiwan. Beautiful place there, and even though it may not be the main priority on everyone’s “Where to see in Asia” list, it is definitely worth a visit.

We visited a lot of tourist places in Taipei, and a few places we just stumbled upon or into. In the 5 days we were there, here are some of the highlights:

  • Chiang Kai-shek Memorial – a big open space in the middle of the city, the resting place for the former leader of the Republic of China, and head of the National Revolutionary Army (NRA) – the military arm of the Kuomintang (Chinese Republican, anti-Communist, nationalist party). For a brief history of the NRA, KMT and PRC (abbreviations are a big thing in this period of history…), check out this video below Adrian and I did…

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  • Taipei 101 – what can I say apart from amazing views, the Fastest Elevator in the world, one of the highest post boxes in the world, an outdoor observation landing and a really surreal experience. A must-visit place even if you’re in Taipei for only 1 hour.

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  • Longsham Temple – there’s a few temples with this name, but the main one is at its namesake MRT station 2 stops away from the Main Station.  We went on one of the big days of Chinese New Year and it was rammed… Great experience.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Taipei Zoo – I know this is something you can do anywhere in the world, but the zoo here is pretty mint. Tigers, Asian elephants, bears and orangutans were the highlights, with the 2 resident Pandas also being the stars of the show. Cheap enter at NTD 60 (about 1.50 pounds in the UK). There is also the Maokong Gondola at the zoo which runs for 4 stops – the queue was too big for us to go on it, and it was similar to the one we’ve been on to get to Lantau island’s Big Buddha, so we gave it a miss, but it is definitely a highlight of Taipei!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Shilin Night Market – one of the most famous night markets in Asia – great street food, quirky restaurants (we went to Modern Toilet – a toilet-themed restaurant where your food comes in little toilet-shaped bowls, you sit on toilet seats and drink from toilet cups. The toilet there wasn’t ‘restaurant-themed’ though…) and fun fair booths. For more of a feeling of this place, check out my videos below…OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA
  • Tamshui – beautiful sunsets, Fisherman’s Wharf, Fort Domingo (old colonial fort) and lots of people. What I’d call the ‘Blackpool of Taiwan’. Worth a visit!
  • Xinbeitou Hot Springs – exactly what it says – the public bathes there is $40 entry and $20 for the locker. There are 3 levels of hot springs – the highest being 45 degrees Celsius, lowest about 35 degrees. Tastes like sulphur so don’t dunk your head (my first mistake), but very good for your bones. An old guy chatted to me there, asking where I was from etc, and told me this particular hot springs gets a lot of old people with arthritis and bone aches as it’s soothing for them. The old lad came 4 times a week and was insanely happy he got a 15% discount too, good on him, great chap. There are other springs which are better for skin. Saying that, our skin felt so soft after we dried too. A definite destination if you go to Taipei!!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

While we were there we did a lot of photography and filming (clearly…). So here are 2 of my final products.

1) A general ‘family video’ of what we got up to there:

2) A more ‘artsy’ video of the scenes of general Taipei. Named after the Taipei 101, I have created this video to be a preview of Taipei life in 101 seconds (so 1 minute, 41 seconds). Enjoy and let me know what you think.