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.

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!

Exploring Alfama, Lisbon in a day. 

After last night’s exploits there were some sore heads this morning so we didn’t really have much planned. The best thing about being abroad is that you don’t want to feel like you’ve missed out on anything….so using the lonely planet Lisbon guide I worked out a little walking tour we could do from the hotel. It was our last day so everyone was game as we left the apartment and emerged into beautiful sunshine. 

All the small cobbled streets are so beautiful as we made our way towards Sé, Lisbon cathedral. The girls stopped for a bit of souvenir shopping when I spotted a tiny place selling different types of sangria! It looked so good we just had to try it, I got white while the others tried different red flavours, it was so good! 

We walked up alongside the Cathedral and marvelled at the beautiful architecture. I spotted some cool street art too, we emerged onto a square where the impressive main entrance is situated. It’s such an amazing building and it was nice to properly see it rather than just from the tram. 

From here I cheated a little as we wandered down out of Alfama and towards Comercio square. A palace used to stand here but the 1755 earthquake completely destroyed it, allowing the square to be built as part of a remodelling of the city. The square has a good bit of history, being the site of an assassination on the penultimate king of Portugal. We entered through the Arco da Rua Augusta, a stunning triumphal arch built in 1873. 

The square opens out onto the river and in the sunshine it was gorgeous, with restaurants and bars encircling it. There is a statue of King Jose I in the centre of the square, notable because he developed severe claustrophobia the earthquake and never comfortably lived within 4 walls. In fact he moved his royal court into tents in the nearby hills. 

We also found the self proclaimed sexiest toilet in the world here, which the girls used and said was very nice with coloured toilet paper but maybe not the sexiest. 

It was very hot now as we walked back up the hill into Alfama district once again, stopping to grab ice cold drinks on the way. I checked Google maps and noticed another viewpoint so we headed towards the Miradouro de Santa luiza and after admiring some typical Lisbon tiles we took in the red rooftops and views out to the river that lay before us. 

The blues and reds were incredible as we walked around to second viewpoint, but not before taking some fun pictures. 

The next terrace was the Visigothic wall and the Portas do sol with more great views. We were getting hungry now and hasn’t had any Nata today! So we walked towards our end game, the Castelo de S.Jorge. 

As we walked up we spotted a cute restaurant called Miss Can which was incredible. Sardines, olives, breads and salads it was delicious and cheap too! Plus a beer refreshment to wash it down and Hannah tried lisbon’s famous green wine. 

With our hunger sorted it was time for more Nata from the same place we had got them from on our first day at the entrance to Castelo St Jorge. Once we’d had our Nata fill we queued up for the Castelo and wandered in to beautiful gardens within the castle. Perched up at the top of the hill Alfama is located around, the castle dates from the 10th century and has a heavy Moorish influence. 

The views from here were great over the City and there was a wine cart called wine with a view! So Lee and I got a Portuguese red and sat looking out from the walls of the castle. 

The Castelo itself is pretty big and the walls are fun to climb up and stand on the ramparts looking at a 360° Lisbon. Plus some fun towers to climb up to. It was getting towards evening and we had plans for a bbq fish dinner so we wandered back down towards the apartment to get ready. 


Our dinner destination was a place called Patio 13 which we had discovered accidentally by walking past and noticing a big queue and the amazing smell of bbq. It’s located in Alfama and it was only a 5 minute walk from our place. Arriving we queued up with a beer before being given a table on the patio. The restaurant is basically a load of tables and a huge now all outside. 

We ordered sangria and a selection of different bbq fish including swordfish and sardines. All the plates arrived with sides and we had bread and butter at the start. The food was out of this world and we all devoured it. We also got dessert and finally tried Ginja, a Portuguese cherry liqueur which was tasty too. 

It was really good value too, I think we paid less than £15 each easily for it. Once done we had a nightcap at a bar nearby and went back to the apartment…sad to think it was our last day tomorrow. 

Top food and dishes in south east asia.

After arriving back in the UK, I’ve been missing the SE Asian food. Even though towards the end of the 6 weeks Leia was getting tired of rice and noodles, she text me craving pad thai.

So I thought I’d put some musings about the food on here, and some things that we loved, including types of eateries and how they hold up against each other in terms of taste/price.

As we started off in Thailand we’ll look at the dishes we had there, starting with spicy basil and chilli with your choice of (mostly) chicken or pork mince and rice. I ended up having this quite a few times as it tasted so good and really hit my spicy spot. I knew it wasn’t overbearing spice do could have it without fear of feeling it the next day. The best I had was on a beach bar in Koh Samet for 80baht, the worst I had was in a restaurant in Bangkok for 125baht.

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This will be a common theme and something people who have travelled will already know. Don’t get me wrong, some street food or cheaper stuff wasn’t great, but generally the best food we had was from places I wouldn’t dream of eating in back in the UK. My Mum calls them ‘plastic cafes’ due to the plastic chairs that often dominate the space.

The second dish is pad thai, a common and consistently different dish depending where you have it. I think the worst we had was on khao san road in a bar, but one of the best was from a small cart on the same road. It’s a dish that shouldn’t go too wrong, consisting of noodles, bean sprouts, egg, sometimes tofu, sometimes meat, spring onion and peanuts. It’s so nice and the best we had was on koh samet from a little cart where we had it for brunch several days.

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There was a beautiful yellow curry with crab that we all tried on the same night, plenty of that great claw meat and just the right balance of coconut, chilli and lemongrass. This again was from the same cart in koh samet. It was a nice part of being somewhere for more than 2/3 days, we could find our favourite little place and revisit. Also watch out for expat westerners advertising each other’s businesses, we were told certain places were ‘the best’ but you soon realise they’re mates helping each other out. Fair enough if you’re happy with sub par western food but explore and take risks if you want to experience amazing flavours.

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Another dish we enjoyed was so simple, just chicken or pork fried with lots of garlic, it was great when you got crunchy and soft bits of garlic in amongst the meat. You always got rice with it too. These dishes were all regular members on menus everywhere we went.

Once we made it to Laos it was baguette time, because of it’s past as a French colony bread and cakes are everywhere. In Vang Vieng there were stalls lining the streets at night offering about 30 different filling combinations. I had hotdog, egg and cheese, diet starts tomorrow!

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There were also crepe carts next to all the baguette carts to satisfy your sweet tooth needs. Other than that we were poor at finding any typical Laos foods. Although Luang Prabang night market is filled with buffet style vendors offering a plate for a pound, you walk along and fill your plate as much or as little as you like. Bear in mind it’s only a one off and you can’t go back like a pizza hut or breakfast buffet!

They also had beautiful cake stalls selling all manner of sponges,brownies, cinnamon twists and flapjacks. It was amazing and a nice taste of home in a far off world.

Sorry Laos, we were only there for a few days so maybe we didn’t experience the traditional food.

Next up was Vietnam, in my opinion far and away the best of the bunch, they just have so much variety and it was always very fresh and full of flavour.

A few days into the trip we found a video extolling the virtues of different Vietnamese dishes, we wrote down the ones that sounded good on a piece of paper. Then when we were out and about we could point to the paper and someone would always help us in the right direction. It was fun because you almost let the person you’re asking decide what you’ll be having. It worked great and I wish we had done it more often.

One of the highlights was Tamarind crab from a little place at An Bang beach. The sweet and sour flavours were incredible and it was fun (and time consuming) tearing the crab open to find all the meat. It was a very messy dish but the sticky sauce was good enough to lick off your fingers.

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In Hanoi we had some amazing Banh Mi, a baguette filled with pork and asian salad with a spicy or not so spicy sauce. It was the best lunch ever and we got an even better one from a random cart on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh. I think the one in Ho Chi cost about 40p! People say they lose weight in Asia, but I’m not so sure with all that bread.

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Leia wasn’t a fan of noodle soup, difficult in a nation that eats Pho (noodle soup) from am to pm. However on our list was bun mam, something we found in a market in Danang. We were laughed at for asking after Banh xeo (more on that soon) but were led to the usual plastic stools and served amazing noodles and meat with just a spoonful of broth and sauce. We were served by the smallest old lady ever, and she couldn’t stop smiling at us as we wolfed it down.

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As for Banh xeo, this is the most random dish, it’s based around an eggy type pancake with maybe shrimp or pork cooked into it. You then get a plate of greens, some kind of spicy sauce, maybe with peanuts. Finally you get rice paper which you proceed to wrap everything else up in. It was super tasty and I love anything that you can eat without cutlery. Probably some leftover Neanderthal blood, that or I’m just gross.

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I imagine everyone has tried spring rolls, but possibly not Vietnamese spring rolls, they have similar fillings but are wrapped in gooey rice paper and taste about ten times fresher than deep fried versions (which you still get in Vietnam).

There are too many dishes in Vietnam to get through, one of many reasons I’ll be back there. The final dish we loved was similar to banh xeo only instead of pancakes it was pork skewers that you wrapped up. In fact we struck lucky with a restaurant called Ba Le Well in Hoi An, where we got pancakes and pork! Along with a form of kimchi, you got platefuls of the stuff but we were too reserved to ask for more when offered.

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The pork skewer version is called Nem Nuong and came with a delicious satay type sauce.

One of the best dishes we had was from a tiny little place in Ho Chi Minh. It was just a few plastic kids chairs and a cart, we didn’t know Vietnamese so just pointed to the cart and shrugged. We soon had egg, rice, sauce, salad, tofu and some kind of processed meat square. It was literally amazing and a good example of how just sitting down somewhere and asking for the staple dish works.

It’s not all plain sailing however, and again in Ho Chi Minh we stopped at a place because we couldn’t be bothered walking anymore and it was gross, a big fat guy served us and walked away before we had even finished ordering. The first and last time anyone is Asia was rude to us in a shop or restaurant.

Cambodia was last on the trip, and everywhere had BBQ. We tried it in Phnom Penh and it was so good, you get a portable camping stove topped with a dish that has a hill in the middle of it. We were disappointed we didn’t get to take charge but the young waiter was very good. Firstly a chunk of pork fat and some butter goes on the hill and broth goes around it. This is a good thing, as the fats slide down into the broth adding flavour. You then add the various meats to the hill, we got pork, chicken, beef, fish, squid and frog. The vegetables and noodles go in the broth and you spoon bowlfuls of it out. Eating the meat as it cooks through, it’s fun, social and very tasty! Everything you want in food.

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The other thing we had in Cambodia was bugs! We did it the posh way and went to a place called Bugs Cafe in Siem Reap. Owned by a Frenchman they do posh bug dishes such as burgers, skewers, spring rolls and Mediterranean styles. We went for a platter and it was great, once you get past the fact you’re eating bugs the flavours are really good. We had tarantula donut, fire ant spring rolls, silkworm larvae and crickets in Mediterranean veg and a skewer with spider, waterbug and crickets on it. All washed down with a jug of beer, it was a fun and worthwhile experience. A very controlled way of trying bugs for the first time, and it makes a good story!

The food in Asia is so tasty, fresh, and satisfying that I couldn’t get enough of it. I think I had western food 3 times or so in the 6 weeks we were there. Even simple fried rice or noodle dishes were great and there was so much more to try. Unfortunately when on a budget it’s hard to go for the more expensive £3-4 dishes when you can get a main for 50p, but I wish we had tried some more things! Three is always next time though ;).