by Jane | Dec 6, 2016 | Asia |
Let me take you on a photo tour of Hanoi, Vietnam.
I spent nearly 3 weeks in the city. It is chaotic and polluted, noisy and huge but at the same time there are pockets of quiet and green, temples and lakes.
I used a compact Panasonic Lumix camera and my mobile phone when I was in S E Asia. I wanted something that didn’t attract too much attention and that could be slipped into my pocket – you can find the same via this link to Amazon
street scene in Hanoi
People charge around like crazy demented ants and then they stop! They take a coffee on a dilapidated terrace or they squat down on tiny low stools for a lunch of the tastiest noodles ….before diving off headlong into the craziness again and continuing with their day.
Water features heavily and life revolves around the park and the lake. Turtles swim in the murky green waters and a temple floats etheral like in the mist. Groups of students gather here and will accost you at every opportunity begging to practice their languages and will proudly tell you about their culture and heritage.
The Temple of Literature
The Temple of Literature is both packed with tourists yet it also has a serenity about it. Incense burns in huge cauldrons and the vivid red paint has a dusty feel.
The Temple of Literature
Water, flags and lanterns are everywhere, jostling for space in the sky with electric cables, buildings and trees. This is the view of the awesome cable system outside my balcony. i stayed here at See You at Lily’s when I got sick. You can read my article on how to deal with sickness while travelling here and about the entrepreneurial Rezma, one of the owners of See you at Lily’s here.
Everywhere in Vietnam people are selling things on the streets. You can truly buy ANYTHING. But the fruit and veg markets are the best and are always filled with wonderful looking produce.
a typical street market in Hanoi
As well as buying anything on the street you can eat anything on the street. Street food stalls have their devoted followers and set up and are successful in the most improbable places. Any small space. verge or pavement will do.
one of THE best ways to eat in Hanoi
A visit to the mausoleum that contains the (open) coffin of Ho Chi Minh is an interesting experience. Sombre groups of visitors file past, watched by armed guards as they walk through the tomb. The whole complex is huge and is run with military precision to ensure that nobody misses their allocated time slot to view the body.
the memorial to Ho Chi Minh
Even in the chilly foggy spring days, people are out on the streets in Hanoi.
coffee culture Hanoi style
A few hours drive from Hanoi are the spectacular limestone karsts at Tam Coc which is near Nimh Binh. We had a fantastic day out here, arranged through Lily’s Travel Agency. The choice of tours and agencies is overwhelming but we couldn’t fault one bit of our trips that we booked here.
On our day out that we booked with Lily we went on a boat ride down the river. Huge karsts towered above us as our guide rowed us with his feet through low caves and along a magical waterway. Our day included a cycle tour among the paddy fields, lunch and a temple visit in the mountains.
The Vietnam Museum of Ethnology is well worth the taxi ride out. It is a very interesting museum about the people of Vietnam with the highlight being the reconstructions of some of the traditional houses.
And you certainly should not miss the fascinating Women’s Museum with costumes and insights into the lives of women – from the traditional to the role of women during the war
women are celebrated in the Women’s Museum
St Joseph cathedral was just around the corner from my hostel in the old town. It stood out among the temples and pagodas – and on Sunday evening while the church was packed, the square out front was also packed with an overflow congregation – but they were all sat on their motorbikes.
You would not know half of the little cafes exist unless you happen to glance up. I spent many hours up on this balcony overlooking the lake.
And drinking the spectacular egg-nog coffee.
Hanoi has a strange ambience – like no other city that I have been in. Sadly the traffic pollution is high – and can only get worse if the government relax their rules on the new car taxes.
An oasis of peace in the craziness of Hanoi.
One of the little streets in the old town by my hostel. It was a buzzing, exciting and friendly area.
A group of travellers meeting up for a coffee. I wonder where everybody is now?
If you want to travel with me next year – then drop me a message. I am currently considering returning to Malaysia, exploring Myanmar and maybe getting over to see what Bali is all about.
Scarlet Jones Travels is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com
by Jane | Aug 9, 2016 | Travel Gear |
I LOVE my Osprey Farpoint 55 rucksack
After more than a year of travelling with my Osprey Farpoint 55 rucksack I can confirm that I am still head over heels in love with my bag.
Travel companions have come into my life and moved on, cameras and phones have broken but like a fine wine my rucksack just keeps getting better and better with age.
I was introduced to my rucksack by Paul Goodyer who is the CEO of Nomad Travel following a meeting at the Adventure Travel Show in London. At first I was hesitant, but I knew that I could trust the judgement and advice from Paul who had set up Nomad Travel in 1990.
‘Nomad has been pioneering the art of travel preparation since 1990, combining a kitting out and clinic service that is unique in the UK’.
- Nomad Travel stores are a fabulous Aladdin’s cave full of everything that you might ever need when you travel. The staff are experienced travellers too so you can be confident that they know what they are talking about and they won’t sell you anything that you won’t need.
- Nomad Travel clinics offer travel health information and inoculations from expert nurses.
- Nomad Travel pharmacy can provide a bespoke medical kit for you as well as anti-malarial tablets and other potions and pills for your trip.
Whatever bag I chose had a tough role to play as I was planning some serious travel over the next couple of years, but it was virtually love at first sight with my beautiful petrol blue Osprey Farpoint 55.
The proof of the pudding
The first test was in Vilnius in Lithuania. I exited the bus station and I turned right. After walking for 20 minutes I realised that I was lost and I was heading in the wrong direction. There were the remnants of the previous night’s snow underfoot but there was no way I was going to admit defeat and pay for a cab to the hostel where I had reserved a bed.
I tightened the hip strap pulling the bag snugly against my body and I purposefully marched back the way that I had just come. As I passed through the Gate of Dawn and entered the narrow streets of the old town I realised how easy it was to walk any distance with this bag. It was actually a pleasure.
Fast forward a few months from the winter cold of the Baltic States to the steamy heat of South East Asia. Now it was back to riding buses and trucks where my bag was stowed on the roof, where I fiercely guarded my zip-off day pack that contained my laptop and where the humidity made everything permanently one sweaty mess.
Osprey Farpoint 55 Hoi An
We had been evicted unceremoniously from a bus on our way to Danang and forced to walk a long way in the drizzle. I have put the bag in a deep freeze to kill any bedbugs that may have attempted to hitch a ride in Cambodia, I have sat on my bag in the aisle of buses, in airports and on street corners and I have toured the Central Highlands of Vietnam with my rucksack tied securely on the back of our motorbike.
It may have been love at first sight but it is a love that has endured; surviving all obstacles which have been thrown at it. It is a love which has not yet got jaded from boredom or complacency. It is a relationship where I still feel a thrill when I close the strong metal zip, pull the compression straps tight and lift the bag up onto my back.
Adjusting the hip and breast straps, clipping the day sack onto my front and striding out onto my next destination I always send a silent ‘thank you’ to Paul and Nomad Travel for a partnership made in heaven.
Nomad Travel & Osprey Farpoint 55
Now I just need to find a man with the same capacity to keep a relationship as fresh and exciting as my Osprey rucksack from Nomad Travel!!
Click here if you would like to buy the Osprey rucksack for yourself
(Any purchases made via this Amazon link may earn me a small commission but at no extra cost to you
by Jane | Apr 24, 2015 | Europe, Lithuania |
I left Riga on my own, taking the four hour bus ride across the border and into Lithuania. I arrived at the bus station and after tramping around for half an hour I finally found my hostel. I was hot, bothered and thirsty but with every step I was thanking my lucky stars for my new Osprey backpack which is so well balanced that it was (almost) a dream to carry.
The hostel was just one side street off the main town triangle so I dumped my bag and I went straight out for food and a bit of a wander.
pretty pastel church in the late afternoon sun
Following the recommendations of the hostel owner I found a lovely little place, with floorboards, long wooden bench tables and over 20 artisan beers. They did VERY cheap Lithuanian food too and after opting for an extremely pink soup and a dumpling stuffed with meat I began to feel a bit more human again.
And then as the afternoon sun turned the buildings a soft warm gold I walked around the old town on a whistle stop tour to get my bearings before heading back to the hostel for an early-ish night. It was lucky that I did get to sleep early because at four in the morning a group of young American students arrived back from a bar crawl and proceeded to have a loud conversation in the middle of the dorm. If you follow me on Facebook you will be more than aware of my displeasure at this, but after nearly two years of sleeping in large dorms, it thankfully happens very rarely.
The Ministry of Defence Building
After a lovely free breakfast of waffles and jam I decided to join a free walking tour of Vilnius. A very large group was led stoically by Raminta who somehow managed not to lose any of us in the drizzle and she pointed out tons of things of interest on our tour. She led us into lots of the little courtyards that Vilnius is famous for and at the end she recommended a place for lunch and joined us so that she could continue to chat to us.
I always hunt down a free walking tour
Recommending traditional Lithuanian food she arranged to send those of us who were interested additional information via email about some films that we had discussed on the tour and she also included a clip of the mayor of the town who, to demonstrate the the negatives of obstructing the highway, drove a tank over a car (I believe it was his own car) which was illegally parked! As I have mentioned before in my previous articles about the Baltic countries, you have to admire the way that people simply go out and get things done.
Cathedral Square and the bell tower
After lunch, I tagged along with a group of Dutch students to visit the bell tower and later we all had a coffee together. As well as intelligent, fun company I got a student priced admission ticket by just being with them – a discount is always a bonus. The stairs inside the bell tower were quite hairy – open and wooden but they were nothing to the fright we all got when the bells suddenly rang out alongside us on the quarter hour. Once the bells had stopped it was incredibly peaceful looking down on the town and over at the castle and the three crosses on the hill.
view from the bell tower
Vilnius is stuffed full of churches, many painted in pretty pastel colours, whole others are derelict and falling down. The Palace is grand as are the University buildings and outside the Parliament Building anti-tank barricades have been left as a memorial and a reminder of the time when the country were fighting for their independence yet again.
There is a very interesting district in Vilnius old town which has declared itself to be an independent republic. Home originally to artisans and free thinkers it now attracts many who want to live by different rules. Street signs on the bridges into Uzupis proclaim that it is necessary to smile at all times and a wall has the constitution written up on glass mirrors in many languages; which includes such gems as ‘Everyone has the right to die, but it is not a duty‘ or ‘Everyone is responsible for his freedom’. You can find the constitution written in full at the end of this article. It is worth read.
The constitution wall at Uzupi
The following day happened to be April 1st – the National Day of Uzupis when the water from the fountain in the square would dispense free beer instead of water (it did) and you could get your passport stamped on entry (I was too early for this). They have their own flag (actually four, one for each season) and some hilarious street art and decorations including a statue of Jesus as a backpacker.
Thou shalt always be smiling
After two nights at my hostel with the noisy American girls and the free waffle breakfast I had to change rooms as they had advance bookings and no room for me. I never mind the actual changing but getting the timing right is always a pain as check in and check out never match up so I am sort of in limbo for a while with my bags stashed somewhere hopefully safe. In the meantime S had arrived in town, having caught up with me in his van. It was lovely to hear from him so we met up for a drink and agreed to drive on together into Poland two days later after he had visited the dentist for some work.
a popular bar snack – garlic fried bread and sour cream dip
On my final day in Vilnius I caught a bus and went to the castle on an island at Trakai. S had planned to come with me, but he was still being dogged by bad luck – he was kept awake for most of the night by a Romanian gang who were operating out of his hotel and the police who were called to deal with them. The weather threw everything at me while I was at the castle. The sun would shine and then the sky would darken and flurries of snow would whirl down, there was a biting wind and then rain. The castle was good though, and it contained many interesting displays inside its renovated rooms.
The island castle at Trakai
Arriving back at the hostel I discovered that I didn’t have a room at all for the night so I had to go and find somewhere else to stay. I found a gem of a place – the Hostelgate -with a cute little winding staircase which led up to the kitchen, a massive common room with some very fun, interesting people (a bottle of red vodka always helps to oil the wheels of friendship), a TV with loads of films and a massive dorm. I wish that I had found out about it earlier but better late than never and I know where I will stay again when I return to Vilnius.
I spent my final night in Lithuania drinking vodka with some Spaniards, a Swiss guy, a Norwegian and a Dane and a drop-dead gorgeous Brazilian lady who was living in Russia with her boyfriend and was on her three monthly visa run. And while talking about travellers, it was also at this hostel where I met an Australian couple who were travelling long term with their three daughters who were I guess all under the age of ten and were perfectly adapted to hostel living. It was a happy hostel.
The following day I checked out and walked over to meet S. After his dental appointment we climbed into his van and I drove us across Lithuania and over the border into Poland.
Continue down to continue reading the Uzupis constitution and tell me if you don’t smile
One of the seasonal Uzupi flags
Everyone has the right to live by the River Vilnelė, while the River Vilnelė has the right to flow by everyone.
Everyone has the right to hot water, heating in winter and a tiled roof.
Everyone has the right to die, but it is not a duty.
Everyone has the right to make mistakes.
Everyone has the right to individuality.
Everyone has the right to love.
Everyone has the right to be not loved, but not necessarily.
Everyone has the right not to be distinguished and famous.
Everyone has the right to be idle.
Everyone has the right to love and take care of a cat.
Everyone has the right to look after a dog till one or the other dies.
A dog has the right to be a dog.
A cat is not obliged to love its master, but it must help him in difficult times.
Everyone has the right to sometimes be unaware of his duties.
Everyone has the right to be in doubt, but this is not a duty.
Everyone has the right to be happy.
Everyone has the right to be unhappy.
Everyone has the right to be silent.
Everyone has the right to have faith.
No one has the right to violence.
Everyone has the right to realize his negligibility and magnificence.
Everyone has the right to encroach upon eternity.
Everyone has the right to understand.
Everyone has the right to understand nothing.
Everyone has the right to be of various nationalities.
Everyone has the right to celebrate or not to celebrate his birthday.
Everyone shall remember his name.
Everyone may share what he possesses.
No-one can share what he does not possess.
Everyone has the right to have brothers, sisters and parents.
Everyone is capable of independence.
Everyone is responsible for his freedom.
Everyone has the right to cry.
Everyone has the right to be misunderstood.
No-one has the right to make another person guilty.
Everyone has the right to be personal.
Everyone has the right to have no rights.
Everyone has the right to not be afraid.
Do not defeat.
Do not fight back.
Do not surrender.
Jesus: traveller and backpacker extraordinaire