Dakeng Hiking Trails, a Taichung Story.

The Dakeng hiking trails were one of the first things I found online to do in Taichung, and I was so excited to finally hike!

I was up early-ish, got breakfast and snacks from the 7/11 and found the bus stop that would take me to the start of the trails.

There are 10 trails that you can follow, ranging from easy, through to medium and hard. 1 to 5 are the furthest from the City and are definitely on the harder side. I decided I would mix it up a bit and start at 1, continue to 5 and finish off at 4. There’s a map below so you can check the routes.

I took bus number 66 to the start of trail 1, it was a pretty long journey but mainly because I didn’t check the times and just had Google maps to help me out!

Armed with snacks, water, and grape soda, I was ready to go. Trails 6-10 are the easier routes which are laid out as paths with only gentle inclines. However 1-5 trails are mostly made up of log steps and stairs which you have to concentrate on a little more as some people have slipped a leg through the gaps and broken bones.

There weren’t many people around when I began my hike, and I soon found myself alone. This was only unnerving when I passed a few warning signs for snakes and hornets! I started thinking…is this going to end in disaster? However I love being surrounded by nature and I wasn’t about to give up.

The beginning of the hike was through beautiful woodland, I spotted some big spiders and I had a variety of butterflies fluttering around me. Then I reached the beginning of the log trail.

It’s a stunningly designed walkway which looks amazing, and as I slowly started my ascent I could glimpse some amazing views through the foliage.

You basically follow the spine of the mountains along, so eventually the thick foliage gave way to an extraordinary green landscape as far as the eye could see. With some pretty huge spiders hanging about.

I won’t lie, I did find it hard going at times, as you climb pretty high. Along the routes are little cabins or picnic areas. These were great to stop in and get some shade, have some food and hydrate.

There were groups in some of these areas cooking loads of different dishes and it looked like everyone was having a great time. The weather was also amazing! It ws so hot I had to take my top off to stay a bit cooler.

By this point I was almost at the end of trail 5, and ready to tackle the hardest route, 4. Luckily for me I did it this way around, as going down was pretty steep and I read that going up is super difficult.

I saw a few big hornets and had read that there were monkeys around too but I didn’t see any. I reached the end of the hike and made it to the main road. I wasn’t sure about buses but after about 20 minutes one turned up!

I jumped on, and then off again in a small village, I noticed a bubble tea shop and an icy cold drink was much needed in the heat.

My next bus appeared and I had a big decision. I wanted to try and get back to the Gaomei mudflats but as I passed through the City I realised it would be another stressful attempt to get there before sunset.

So I hopped off the bus and checked trusty old Google maps for something interesting. I was near Providence University and I spotted a little blue camera nearby on the map. When I got there it was a cool little street with loads of awesome street art!

So after taking some fun pics I realised I was pretty far from my hotel, so I took the bus straight down towards my part of the City. I was starving after all the hiking and couldn’t wait to eat.

Unfortunately I couldn’t really find anywhere near my hotel, until I stumbled upon a little rice place. I ordered kimchi rice and devoured it. Then headed back to my hotel, I was on to my next destination tomorrow. The capital of Taiwan, Taipei.

There are so many amazing and fun things to do in Taichung that I didn’t get to see. So I’m looking forward to visiting again!

Taichung and the Rainbow Village.

After a great first day in Taiwan I was ready for more! Taichung has so much to do and see I was a little overawed, but I made a vague plan in my head and off I went, stopping at a 7/11 I bought a card for the bus which you can top up at machinea and 7/11s, I also bought some snacks for the day.

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I always try and use google maps to check what points of interest there are nearby, I love the fact that you can tap the icons and see pictures of each place. This gives you a better idea of whether it’s worthwhile to visit. With that in mind I saw that there was a homage to the bus stop in Totoro, a popular anime in Japan. As a big studio ghibli fan I was really excited to see it and obviously get a picture. It was also only a short walk from my hotel!

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Once I had taken (several) pics with Totoro, I was off to the magical sounding Rainbow Village. It was originally built to house soldiers fleeing from the Chinese civil war in 1949, however it soon fell into disrepair and the government began to demolish it.

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Huang Yong-Fu was one of these soldiers, and with just 11 houses left, he began to paint the remainder of his village. This was in 2010, and after being discovered by some students, the village is now an instagrammers dream. At 90 years old he’s the last resident there and still goes around touching up his paintings. You could take a taxi there but I decided to risk public transport. So I walked back to the main train station in Taichung and took the train out to Xinwuri and took the number 56 bus from outside.

I loved the village and the positive message of the paintings, don’t be surprised about how small it is and as it’s free, grab a souvenir from the little gift shop.

It had been so easy to get to the rainbow village that I was super confident about reaching my next destination, the Gaomei wetlands. Located in the North West of Taichung along the coast, it’s a biologically diverse area where you can spot loads of rare birds, crabs and mud skippers. It’s also one of Taichung’s and maybe Taiwan’s most beautiful areas.

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However, I had made a couple of big mistakes, not only had I underestimated how big Taichung is and how long it would take to get from the rainbow village to Gaomei , but I also forgot that the sun sets a lot earlier in SE Asia than in Europe. So after waiting for the bus, then the train towards Qingshui station – this is the closest station to Gaomei, I realised I would never make it before dark. So after having a bit of a stress out I realised there was a thing called a taxi! I didn’t even ask how much it would cost, I just jumped in and hoped that I would at least make it there before the sun started setting.

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So after an expensive 30 minute taxi journey I made it! I was immediately wowed by the view, with the amazing boardwalks winding out to the sea, wind turbines framing one side of the landscape and a huge sun slowly meeting the horizon.

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I followed the lead of others there and walked along the boardwalk, spotting the crabs and mud skippers I had read about, there were hundreds! I reached the end of the boardwalk, popped my shoes off and stepped out onto the mud. The reflections of the sun and sky on the thin layer of water was breathtaking. I was so glad I had made the effort to get here when I was almost going to give up.

It was super windy but everyone was having so much fun. The sun had set by this point which meant it was time to go! This time the only reason I was in a rush was because I was hungry. I took the 178 bus towards Qingshui station, then jumped on a 306, getting off at Zhishan Rd. It was around a 1Km walk from here to the market.

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Once I got there I was like a kid in a sweet shop. There was so much to choose from even trying to be vegetarian, there was definitely enough to try! I had one dish in mind and I was so excited when I found it! Stinky tofu is made from fermenting the tofu in a mix of fermented milk and vegetable brine, it’s then deep fried and served with chilli and soy sauce and pickled vegetables. It was absolutely delicious, but it really did stink too!

I also tried scallion pancakes which were amazing, and a huge deep fried mozzarella stick. Obviously I washed this all down with a brown sugar milk bubble tea. It was amazing and I was really enjoying wandering and checking out all the crazy food and it was defnitely a sense sensation. I was so full now so I decided to walk it off a little and look at the clothes, electrical goods and souvenirs. I also had a play in one of the arcades that I found. There were definitely some interesting sights…..

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It was getting late and I was quite far from my hotel, so I picked up some drinks and a waffle ice cream from a 7/11 and, using google maps I worked out the best bus route to get me home. So far Taiwan has been everything I wanted and more, tomorrow I was excited to get out into the countryside, and after a busy day I soon fell asleep back at the hotel.

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Tearing it up in Taichung.

I was so excited to visit Taiwan, it was a complete left field choice. At first the decision was based on the fact it was only £25 to fly from Hong Kong. Once I had done a little research my mind was made up.

The flight was only cheap to fly into Taichung, a City on the West coast of the island. I landed mid-morning and took a bus from the airport to the City Centre. This is when I started to realise just how big the City was, it took around 1 hour and 45 minutes to get across the City to the MINI hotel, my bed for the next few nights.

I chose this hotel because it seemed to encapsulate the quirkiness of Taiwan, and it was close to the train station. I checked in and got to my room which I loved. It reminded me of my room back when I was about 14.

I literally chucked my stuff in and headed out to explore! The first thing I noticed were all the grab machine places. It seemed like there was one on every corner!

My destination was anime street, a really cool little path with classic anime and computer game characters plastered along it. On my way I stumbled upon a cool art moment, lots of little silos with various pieces painted on them. I was already getting more excited about exploring Taiwan!

I reached the comic book lane and it was everything I was hoping for, anime, mario, and Totoro! I was in geek heaven and I used a variety of surfaces to balance my phone so I could take loads of pics.

Do you like milk bubble tea? Is that a silly question? Because Taichung is where the original tea came from! I checked my maps and it was only a short walk to Chun Shui Tang. I ordered the classic and it was so delicious! It was also fun to visit the birthplace of bubble tea.

From here I walked along the river, this area was so peaceful to walk through and the space that has been created is beautiful. I wasn’t sure what to do next so I checked the maps and decide to keep walking till I got to Taichung park.

This park had so many interesting elements, from the lake and bridges to temples and interesting sculptures. I sat and watched the sunset on a great first day in Taiwan.

On my walk back I stopped off at a famous chicken shop that I had been highly recommended. Foregoing my vegetarianism for a night I indulged in some amazing fried chicken.

Then I meandered slowly back to my hotel, enjoying the warm evening and the beautiful architecture.

Hong Kong and the 10000 Buddha.

So today I decided to go up to the 10,000 Buddha temple in Northern Hong Kong, located in Sha Tin, it’s relatively new. I was up quite late in the day and decided to try a vegetarian buffet restaurant I had researched.

Ahimsa buffet is about a 5-10 minute walk from Fortress Hill subway.  For around £6.50 you can eat all you like from an amazing variety of vegetarian dishes. They were all so tasty especially the deep fried things!

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Once I had gorged on all this amazing food I took the subway from Fortress Hill all the way up to Sha Tin, and after getting a little lost in a huge mall I was heading in the right direction. Past a weird Snoopy theme park, it’s around 10 minutes to get to the base of the hill that the temple is located on, and started the walk up.

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Unfortunately my navigation skills failed me again and instead of climbing up to the temple, I realised I was wandering aimlessly around a cemetery. The views were amazing from up there and it was an interesting place to see, but I suddenly felt very exposed as a tourist in what is quite a sacred place. I descended back down as quickly as possible before eventually finding the correct path up to the temple.

Although it is called the 10,000 Buddha temple, there are apparently over 12,000 Buddha statues in total! It’s around 430 steps to get up to the temple, but the walk is amazing as you go past all these different gold Buddhas.

At the top of the hill, the temple complex spreads out before you, it’s okay but I definitely enjoyed the walk up/down more than the actual top. There was nothing there that made me go wow, or anything different from a myriad of other temples I’ve seen on my travels. I did however get a nice cold drink and sit looking out over Hong Kong for a while before leaving.

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I’m not sure the temple is worth the trek out unless you’re in HK for a good amount of time and looking for something different to do. I’m happy I tried it out and it probable would’ve been a better experience if I hadn’t got lost and spent so much time there. It was getting on in the afternoon and I had to get back down to causeway bay. I had heard about a dragon festival that was happening that night with a parade. So I took the subway all the way back, picked up some bubble tea and amazing cake on the way and after getting off at Tin Hau, I walked up to watch the Tai Hang fire dragon dance.

Originally the people of Tai Hang performed the dragon dance to ward off a spell of bad luck that they were experiencing, but as the village got swallowed up by the City, the dragon has kept on dancing. The streets were so crowded and it was hard to get a good viewing spot, but after about 30 minutes the dragon finally arrived! Covered in incense so the streets filled with a sweet smelling smoke and accompanied by a full musical extravaganza.

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As you can see it’s crowded but also it was a lot of fun, everyone around me were enjoying themselves and it was a great spectacle to witness. I love it when you just happen to be somewhere when a festival or event is happening. I really liked the festival that continued over in Victoria Park too, with lots of interesting light spectacles and food trucks.

This was a great way to end my trip to Hong Kong, it was somewhere I was really looking forward to but I left unsure as to whether I enjoyed it as much as I thought I would. I walked along to Causeway bay and after a very indecisive 20 minutes of aimless wandering/looking for food I ended up eating whatever veggie options I could find in Mcdonalds. I finished my night watching Arsenal in the pub next door to my hotel and then packed up my stuff ready to hit up my next destination…..Taiwan!!

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24 Hours in L.A.

How do you spend a short amount of time in a City as vast as Los Angeles? Part of it depends on where you’re staying, and what you’re interested in.

Flying through from London on my way through to Melbourne, it almost felt like the pressure was off to see and do things in L.A. However, I was meeting Craig there and we had 2 nights and one full day to try and capture at least a small essence of California life.

Our hotel was a little far out (Woodland hills) and we knew traffic could be horrendous and time consuming, but after a chilled first night we were ready to go. The LACMA was high on our list, mostly for the amazing Urban Lights installation. A collection of lamp posts might not sound interesting, but check out the pics! Definitely an instagrammable spot.

The LACMA itself was actually closed on a Wednesday! So we had a little wander around the grounds, checking out some of the weird arty installations and the Brea tar pits, where I met a lovely giant sloth! I thought this was a cool little side quest to the main adventure of the day.

We then walked over to The Grove, an outdoor shopping area which is pure USA. We stopped at Sprinkles cupcake and picked the tastiest looking one.

Next up on our list was Monty’s burger, a purely vegan burger place that was recommended to me by a friend. Located in Koreatown it was so easy to take the bus along West 3rd Street. The best thing is that even the ‘plastics’ and containers are compostable.

Monty’s was amazing! A little pricey but the burgers and tater tots were soooo good, made from impossible fake meat patty’s we took 2 doubles and shared the tots. The vibe inside was very cool too. Another perfect Instagram moment.

Our next stop was downtown and the Arts District, so we hopped back on the bus, only costing us $1 each for the ride into the City. We got off near Pershing Square and walked over to 4th Street to start the Arts trail. This end of downtown is a little run down with some interesting characters, but there was some very cool street art to be found.

I had noticed a couple of brewery’s on Google maps and the Arts District brewery was out first stop. It’s located in an old warehouse and there’s plenty more street art to be seen around this area including a few pretty famous ones.

The beer was good, the weather was amazing and we sat outside watching the world go by. Angel City Brewery was next up and even better, their outside space is amazing, free water and some cool pieces of art to look at as you drink. I also had a great pineapple beer here and there was such a great vibe. If you are in L.A. for a while I’d definitely recommend it.

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Our plan was sunset at Santa Monica, and after getting a bus that didn’t really go anywhere, we checked and realised we could take a train the whole way. So we jumped on the blue line, and realised we were on the wrong blue line 😆. So we quickly got off and made our way onto the correct train.

It took about 45 minutes to get over to Santa Monica and there were some nice views over the City. We arrived just in time to get to Santa Monica pier for the sun to set. It was absolutely stunning and we loved wandering up the pier and being on the beach.

At this point we were starving, so we went to 800 degrees for pizza and salad, once you get over the weird ordering system the food was so good, it was pretty cheap, around £30 for mains and drinks total. After both of us flying across the Atlantic and Pacific respectively we were pretty tired so it was a cab ride home and bed.

The next day we only had a few hours to spare before flying on to Australia. So we decided to do the Getty museum, located on the 405 near Beverly Hills, it was built by the Getty family, a huge oil tycoon who loved art. The best thing? It’s free!

Our Uber took so long because of traffic, so always bear that in mind when planning L.A.

The architecture of the place is actually incredible, and there are some interesting pieces from Turner, Monet and Van Gogh. I liked the contrast of each building housing different examples of art such as photography or historical pieces.

The highlight for us was the central gardens, with beautiful landscaping and views over the City, we loved just wandering through looking at the different plants and flowers.

We had our lunch in the cafe, this was a nice food court type place with plenty of choice, even for vegetarians. Knowing the traffic could be bad we headed back to Woodland Hills and got some snacks and booze to take back to Australia from Westfield mall.

L.A. is so big it can feel a little daunting to get around and see things, but it’s definitely worth making that extra effort. If the weather has been a little less windy on our first day we would’ve hiked up to the Hollywood sign which is still on our list! I hope this gives you a little inspiration of things to do with limited time and budget.

Hong Kong and Tian Tan Buddha

Today I was off to check out one of the biggest tourist sights of Hong Kong, Tian Tan Buddha! To get there you take the subway out to Tung Chung, from here you can either hike or take the cable car. I chose to take the cable car and treat myself to the glass bottomed booth. On reflection I wish I had prepared and hiked to the Buddha and taken the cable car back. The walking route looked really cool, I’m not sure how long it would take but the scenery was amazing from the car as we flew over the bay and up into the mountains.

On arrival you wander through a touristy village area with shops and restaurants, before you pass under a lovely archway and past statues of the Chinese Animal signs for each year. This leads to a huge square with steps heading straight up to the huge bronze statue of Buddha. It was completed in 1993 and symbolises the close relationship between man and nature.

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It’s pretty impressive, there are quite a few steps to get up to the base of the Buddha, but there’s a small art gallery underneath with air con which I used to cool down. The Buddha is surrounded by six smaller bronze statues that represent the six perfections that are necessary for enlightenment.Not only is the Buddha amazing, but the 360 views you get of Lantau Island and out towards the airport.I had such a good time here and would definitely recommend it! I took the cable car back down after looking for souvenirs in the village, and took the subway back into the City.

My next stop took me to East Tsim Tsa Tsui stop, where Bruce Lee was only a short walk away! Usually found on the Avenue of stars, it was being renovated when I visited and all the famous statues and hand prints are now found at the nearby Garden of stars. There are also other famous statues and handprints from Chinese stars such as Jackie Chan and MIchelle Yeoh. This is a fun thing to do in the City and something I was really excited to see and get a selfie with Bruce!

From here I headed to Nathan Rd, this is one of the main shopping streets with smaller roads interconnecting more shops, restaurants and malls. So I wandered around here for a while, picking up some ubiquitous bubble waffles and bubble tea. I ordered chocolate waffles and matcha tea and both were super tasty. I wasn’t sure where to go next so I checked Google maps and noticed a cartoon avenue! Similar to the avenue of stars, this avenue is filled with famous Hong Kong comic stars with the iconic pig Mcdull being the most recognisable. This was definitely a fun little side adventure and it took me out of the heat of the City and into Kowloon park, it’s a green oasis amid the bustling, chaotic streets surrounding it. There are a couple of nice little ponds and fountains and the shade was beautiful and cool. It would definitely be great to grab some street food from one of the many vendors on Nathan Rd and retire to the park for a little picnic.

Next on my little tour was Chungking mansions, known as one of the cheapest places to live in Hong Kong it’s filled with a multiculturalism rarely seen. Although it’s mostly residential, you can find various restaurants from around the world here, lots of electronic and clothing stores and foreign exchange offices. I actually thought it was the more famous and instagrammable Montane Mansion and I wandered around for a while trying to find the iconic view of the apartments. I soon realised I was mistaken but I bought a couple of T shirts and the diversity of the shops was really interesting.

My next location is a must for anyone visiting Hong Kong, it’s cheap, easy to do and you get amazing views and a fun little boat ride, it is of course the star ferry! The area around Tsim Sha Tsui pier is nice to have a little wander, with the old railway clock tower and nice views of Hong Kong Island. The actual ferry costs HK$2.70 for a top deck seat which is definitely worth the little ride. I did think I would be on one of the red sailed junk boats at first so don’t be disappointed! It also helped that the ferry would take me back over to the Central ferry pier and HK island.

I enjoyed sailing across Kowloon bay and it was great to get shots of both sides of Hong Kong, it’s such a huge City, I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many skyscrapers clustered together. I arrived back on the island and relaxed back on the pier for a little while thinking about what to do next and enjoying the cool sea breeze.

After a pretty full day I decided to take a nap and then get ready to go out in the evening, I wasn’t sure where to head and then remembered the Temple Street night market up on the mainland was meant to be a cool place. So I got ready and took the subway to Jordan, which is just a short walk from the markets. It feels like a different place on the mainland, busier, more neon lights and signs everywhere and maybe a bit more of how I imagine the rest of China would be in the Cities.

The markets were good, with loads and loads and loooaaddss of souvenirs, clothes, and electronics etc, there are also plenty of restaurants surrounding it to have dinner. I struggled finding anywhere that did anything vegetarian however, so I decided to go back to the island and try some of the gay bars out. I started off at T:ME bar which was a nice little place and had a cool vibe. I asked someone there where else they’d recommend and found myself in FLM, this place reminded me a bit more of somewhere I’d find back home in Manchester. So I googled and found a place over by Lan Kwai Fong, Petticoat Lane is a pretty cool venue and space, I liked the outside terrace area and after enjoying a couple of (pricey) beers I went back over to Causeway Bay and got some yummy veg dim sum and hit the sack.

Hong Kong and Victoria Peak.

After leaving Hanoi it was a short flight to Hong Kong, it’s so easy to get into the centre using the airport Xpress. I wasn’t feeling too great but I had booked a night at the Metropark at causeway bay earlier in the year so I was excited to have some more luxury.

I checked in and immediately took in the stunning views over Hong Kong Island at Victoria bay. I loved it and the rooftop pool was incredible! I decided I would go up Victoria peak for the sunset and off I went, stuffed full of anti-flu meds, I took the Subway.

It’s so easy to take the underground, you can get a 24hr pass or pay stop to stop. I went to central and then started the ascent to the tram that would hopefully take me up to the peak. Unfortunately I got a bit lost, my map apps wouldn’t work in between the big buildings, I felt like crap and it was so humid I couldn’t stop sweating.

So by the time I eventually found the tram, and realising I had walked halfway up the peak before walking back down, the queue was huge and I knew I wouldn’t make it for sunset. I was annoyed because it was a clear day and I had read they can be few and far between in Hong Kong.

I decided to make the most of it so walked along the harbour side and watched the old junks with their red sails ferry around the water. I got some Durian ice cream, I thought I would try it and it was not a good idea, definitely an acquired taste!

Night started to fall and I took the Ferris wheel near the ferry port to get an amazing view of the City. It was so cheap too, the HSBC building was the best but all the lights were insane!

I walked back along the harbour watching the lights on the mainland. I took the Subway back to causeway bay and found a dumpling shop, got a load of veggie dumplings, a few soft drinks, then found moon cake at another store.

I took it all back to my hotel, and devoured it while looking out over the City. I wasn’t sure what to think of Hong Kong after my first day, but I was looking forward to exploring more over the next few days.

I woke up the next day feeling worse than ever, with a definite case of tonsillitis. So I went to the shop and got salt, proceeded to drink gallons of water and did a load of salt rinses. I tried to enjoy the pool again but it wasn’t the same, I also had to check out of the hotel and into a tiny cheap one in the centre of causeway bay.

It was the smallest hotel room I’ve ever stayed in, but it was only £20 and the location was amazing. I stopped and had lunch nearby waiting for check in time, I was frustrated because I had lost almost a full day, but I forced myself out, and managed to get to the Victoria peak tram in time for sunset.

It’s a fun journey, very touristy but the views you get at the top are spectacular. I took a couple of the City by day, then enjoyed a gorgeous sunset over the mountains and sea before the main event. Hong Kong lights up at night in an incredible way, and Victoria peak is one of the best places to enjoy it.

Once I had taken it all in, I headed back down on the tram and wandered towards the central-mid-level escalators, the longest ones in the world! It spans 800 metres and it’s a great way to see the City without having to do the leg work, and I found a random art installation at the top of the escalators.

I found some cool street art around this area too, which I definitely want expecting. I finished the night with a beer and some more veggie dumplings. Tomorrow I was up early to head over to the big Buddha and explore mainland HK.

36 hours in Berlin.

So an impromptu visit to Berlin was on the cards, I’ve visited before and loved it as a City. This time we were going over for a concert and a quick sightseeing adventure.

Arriving late we headed straight for our Air BnB before hitting a couple of pubs, wandered across check point charlie and grabbed some beers from one of the ‘spatis’, the famous late night shops you can buy booze and snacks from.

The next day we were up pretty early and headed in the direction of the closest piece of the Berlin wall, one of the most famous monuments in history. Walking along the wall gave a real perspective of this barrier separating a nation. We stopped for a quick breakfast where I had a matcha latte to die for.

Continuing our walk we found another piece of wall before wandering through Berlin, checking out some souvenirs and then sombrely navigating our way through the Holocaust memorial site.

The maze like structure takes up a good amount of space and it’s an interesting and haunting place as you walk between the various shapes blocks.

From here we found ourselves at the Brandenburg Gate, the famous Berlin landmark built over 200 years ago.

Moving on we spotted the memorial to Gypsies murdered in the Holocaust, a peaceful circular pool almost hidden away in the city park. It was a short walk from here to the Reichstag building, it was mostly burnt down in 1933 under suspicious circumstances which the Nazis used to their advantage against the communists.

We hung out here for a bit before checking the map and heading over to the Soviet war memorial in Tiergarten. It’s a pretty impressive monument and one of 3 you can find in Berlin. We stopped for lunch and had some yummy Asian food to fill us up, then wandered back through the City towards a bunker museum about Hitler and WWII.

This was actually super interesting, detailing Hitler’s life and how he changed into this maniacal dictator, and how the country and the political climate allowed him to gain such a control over Germany. We spent so long here we had to rush to get ready and go out to see The National.

The rest of the night was spent chaotically trying to find karaoke and then a bar to drink in! It was fun to spend a little break in Berlin and catch up on some sights.

Hanging in Hanoi for 48 hours.

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam and gateway for a lot of people into the amazing country. Not only is it the entry point for Halong Bay but it’s also a great place to explore for a few days. After my last visit I couldn’t wait to explore again, see some new places and check out some new sights.

Arriving at Hanoi airport, it’s easy to get a taxi into the City and I had planned ahead by downloading Grab. It’s the Asian version of Uber and you can either pay in cash or through an account. Last time I visited Hanoi with friends the hotel was erm… cockroach friendly, so I had booked a nice one called the Light Hotel in the old quarter.

I had 48 hours before flying on to Hong Kong, so what can you do in that time??

Vietnamese Food

Is there anything better? It definitely ranks up there with my fave foods, so what better way to start the day than with some Phó the clear noodle broth that everyone in Vietnam eats.

Fancy an on the go lunch? Banh Mi is sold everywhere, French influence is found in the baguette and pate but the rest is solid Vietnamese…filled with fresh herbs, vegetables and pork.

Wash it down with Vietnamese coffee and finish it off with a French pastry, the influence from being a former colony is still strong in the food. Dinner could be fresh whole fish, BBQ or one of the egg pancake dishes like Banh Xeo where you wrap meat skewers up.with peanut sauce and crunchy salad leaves.

Stuck for dessert? Some Vietnamese cakes could go down a treat, with their blend of European and Asian flavours, or try some fresh and tasty Asian fruits!

Ho Chi Minh

The former leader’s presence here is impossible to miss, with his mausoleum dominating one area of the City along with the huge museum dedicated to his life and legacy.

The area around the Mausoleum is nice to walk around, with some gardens and the famous downed B52 plane hidden in a small lake nearby.

The museum is interesting if you enjoy learning a little about a country while you’re there, and really interesting if you’re a history buff. Especially with the information on Vietnam’s communist era.

There is also the big lake nearby which is nice to stroll around, or cross the central road running through it and check out a temple, war memorial and grab a drink or an ice cream.

Old quarter

The famous old quarter is full to the brim with coffee shops, hole in the wall restaurants and street eateries.

Unfortunately it’s also full of the same souvenir and tour shops. Its definitely a worthwhile visit to wander around and now and again you’ll find a little slice of the real old quarter.

On this visit I only spent time there in the day, but the nightlife is cheap and fun. It really starts when the curfew hits and you’re snuck from bar to bar.

The other cool thing can be found on street walking the length of Phung Hung St you pass life-like paintings of Vietnamese and Hanoi life. It’s super instagrammable and you can have a lot of fun posing at each place.

Hoan Kiem Lake

Found within the old quarter, the area around the lake is great to take a stroll first thing in the morning and, as the sun goes down you’ll catch all the locals exercising and enjoying romantic walks. It’s the small temple in the middle of the lake that most people come to see, crossing a lovely red bridge it’s a peaceful sanctuary in a very busy City.

At night everything is lit up beautifully and it’s a great place to come before heading into the winding alleyways of the old quarter.

Hanoi Train Street

I didn’t know this existed last time I came, but I wish I had! Found just on the outskirts of the old quarter, it’s cool to walk along the tracks in the daytime.

The fun part of this street is when the train comes through, usually in the evenings or more frequently on the weekend. You arrive early, pick one of the tiny bars and sit on the typical plastic stools drinking a nice cold beer or cocktail, chat to the locals and wait.

Then when it’s nearly time, you edge right up to the walls of the street and watch as the train comes down…filling the street as it zooms past. It was really fun to do and our bar got us to put coins with our names on the tracks. If we found then flattened it’s supposed to be good luck, and I found mine!

The Rest

There are a few other things you can do whilst in Hanoi, Hoa Lo prison is interesting to find out a bit about how the French treated the Vietnamese. Thang Long, the Imperial City doesn’t quite live up to its name but was pleasant to walk around, I liked the bunkers the most. There are even a couple more lakes to wander around that aren’t far away. Of course the aforementioned Halong Bay is an amazing place to visit. Hanoi is also a great start off point to explore the North such as Sapa.

The real essence of Hanoi though is immersing yourself in the culture, food and people, and enjoying the neverending sea of motorbikes that somehow part around you as you cross the road.

Yangon and the Giant Pagoda

So I woke up late today after bumping into a fellow backpacker that I had met in Inle lake, who was staying at my hostel. I decided to go out and look around China town after breakfast.

The streets around my area were all numbered so I started at 30th Street and just meandered up and down each street towards number 1. The food stalls were really cool and I visited the Chinese temple on 18th Street.

On my way back I walked through a huge market along the side of the river and sat eating some random fruit watching these colourful boats transport people from one side to the other. I walked back to the hotel and chilled out on the rooftop reading my book for a couple of hours and eating some random veggie food I had gathered earlier.

I was basically killing time before I walked up to Yangon’s number one sight, the Shwedagon Pagoda. This golden temple is 326 feet tall and surrounded by more pagodas and statues to make a whole complex of temples.

There are varying reports of when the Pagoda was built, but the earliest date is the 6th century!

It’s certainly a spectacular sight and it was definitely great going late afternoon, the sun going down cast an amazing light over the big golden temple, and the locals arrived lighting candles and incense which added to the atmosphere.

I was wandered around for a couple of hours before walking back down into the City, I stopped off at a cute little bar called O’thentic brasserie for a drink, and then had a couple of ice cold black tiger and vegetable tempura at a sports bar. I headed back to the hotel and packed up ready to sleep before heading off to Vietnam via Bangkok the next day.

I had a great lie in before getting some more pancakes for breakfast with some fruit from the nearby market stalls. I checked out from my hotel and walked up to the train station. I had Google mapped and decided that it would be fun to take the local train to the closest station to the airport possible.

I’m so glad I did it, we slowly chugged along through the City and surrounding suburbs. I enjoyed chatting to the locals and watching the buying and selling going on, it was almost like a real market!

We arrived at my stop and I jumped off, backpack on and started to walk. It was a little longer than I thought but you could get a taxi, I just felt like I was committed to walking at that point.

After about a 40 minute walk I got to the airport, grabbed a cold drink and waited for my flight. I got some nice vegetable pad thai while I was waiting and I next thing I was flying towards Bangkok.

I arrived late into Thailand, around 8pm and my flight was at 8am, to save money I had decided I would sleep in the airport. So I settled down in a comfy-ish spot of 3 chairs together and managed a few hours sleep. I was so excited to be heading to one of my favourite Cities from my last trip to Vietnam, Hanoi!