Vietnam

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February 1, 2015

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What a great city Hanoi is to explore! This is the first of many Hanoi posts, because we unexpectedly spent a full week in the city after a stuff up with our train tickets to Sapa and a bout of the flu. and we left pleased that we’d managed to cover so much ground, and only a little disappointed that the trip up to Sapa didn’t eventuate.

This was my second visit to Hanoi, and it was even more charming than I remembered. Eating bowls of hot spicy noodles sitting shoulder to shoulder with locals on tiny blue stools on street corners, visiting a nearby pottery village, taking a cooking class and paying our respects to Ho Chi Minh at his mausoleum were just some of the ways we filled our week.

And of course no visit to Hanoi would be complete without becoming completely and utterly lost in the tangle of old quarter streets and alleyways.

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Asia, Singapore

singapore stopover

January 25, 2015

flying over northern australia

flying over northern australia

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Singapore is often described negatively in the Southeast Asian city stakes. Sure, sometimes it doesn’t feel all too different to Sydney and the focus is often on smashing your credit card in the Orchard Road mega-malls rather than any amazing sights, natural wonders or cultural activities but that’s all part of its character and I always enjoy it while I’m there. And hey, it’s clean! Really clean!

We only had a very brief overnight stay in Singapore on the way to Vietnam, but we made the most of it.

Tips on what to see, eat and where to stay below.

pints & curries, clarke quay

 

ya kun kaya toast
breakfast at ya kun kaya toast

view from the novotel

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buddha tooth relic museum
buddha tooth relic museum

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See

Chinatown - with only the morning in Singapore before our flight to Hanoi, we spent a few hours in and around Chinatown. It’s very touristy, but there are some key sights that are worth your time, and the market on Pagoda and Temple Streets are the place to pick up souvenirs to prove you’ve been!

Buddha Tooth Relic Museum – a six story Buddhist temple, it has to be one of the most peaceful buildings in Chinatown. Both a working temple with quiet spaces for meditation and contemplation, and museum, there are several floors of the stupa to visit and on the roof is a garden and prayer wheel.

Sri Mariamman Temple – You don’t even need to go inside Singapore’s oldest Hindu temple to check out its kitsch and colourful statues – just look up!

Eat

Ya Kun Kaya Toast – I’ve only ever eaten kaya toast (coconut jam on toast) in Malaysia – of course it’s as popular in Singapore as it is in KL. Set up like a traditional kopitiam, the breakfast sets and the condensed-milk sweetened coffee are great value and we could have eaten plate after plate. The staff are fantastic with tourists, telling you exactly what you should order and how to eat it to get the most out of the experience. There are several now in Singapore – we ate at the flagship in Chinatown.

Pints & Curries – Opposite a sports bar on one of Clarke Quay’s eat streets, Pints & Curries is essentially a bar with a few high tables serving curries with a strong Indian, Malaysian and Thai influence. Delicious, and right in the action.

Tong Heng –  a small pastry store opposite the Buddha Tooth Relic museum in Chinatown. The BBQ pork buns were amazing and we wish we’d bought an entire bag instead of just one to share. (Clearly we were crazy).

Sleep

Novotel Clarke Quay – we stayed on Clarke Quay because we knew the night would only be getting started when we arrived late in the evening from Sydney. Winding along the river front are several streets of noisy bars, restaurants and cafes that are open until the early hours of the morning. The Novotel had lovely although dated rooms, and ours overlooked the quay towards Marina Bay Sands.

Next stop: Hanoi!

Asia, Nepal

Returning to Nepal

September 7, 2013

Namaste to Nepal

It was night when I landed in Kathmandu, in mid-May this year.

It had been a long eighteen hours from Sydney via Guangzhou with the cheap, cheerful and overheated China Southern airlines. The weeks before the flight had been even longer. I’d wanted to be somewhere far, far away, and the Himalayas fit the bill. The trip to Nepal was about as last minute as you can get, planned and booked ten days before my departure.

You miss the views, of course, during a night time descent into the Kathmandu valley. But emerging onto the tarmac, into the sticky almost-wet season heat, breathing in that heady mix of smog and spice and incense and moisture, I knew that the mountains were there.

Although it was approaching midnight and the rest of the city was closed down behind heavy roller shutters, the usual airport arrivals crush was there. Taxi touts chased me across the street. I knew this place. I’d done this before.

In the car on the way to Thamel, we dodged potholes, stray dogs and sleeping rickshaw drivers. The power was out, the room in my guesthouse lit by one lonely, weak bulb. In a few days, I’d be walking in the Annapurna region, high above sea-level, high above home, approaching the Thorung-La, which lay under deep, unseasonable snow.

I didn’t know that yet. I just knew that it had taken me too long to return to Nepal.

 

Australia

The writing on the rock in Kakadu NP

August 19, 2012

One of the things that people (usually Australians, and usually in an argument as to why it’s so much more interesting to travel in Europe than in their own country) often note about Australia is that it’s so new. A young country. And with only just over 200 years of inhabitation (or occupation, depending how you look at it) by Europeans, compared to say, Britain’s zillion, it’s sort of true.

What many people don’t consider is the tens of thousands of years of history not recorded in books or newspapers or in the foundations of sandstone buildings but written on the land by the continent’s Indigenous population, long before the arrival of the First Fleet. Sadly, it was considered they weren’t quite using the land ‘properly’ and that, coupled with the fact that Aboriginal history is passed down orally, means that it is often forgotten.

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Australia, Create, Northern Territory

Testing the Canon 650D in Australia’s top end

August 9, 2012

Bird drying out, Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP

Drying out in the early morning on Yellow Water Billabong, Kakadu NP. Canon 650D.

For a year I travelled with my Canon 50D, several lenses that weighed almost as much as the body and a 13″ iBook. Packed separately to my main backpack, the bag was heavy and it was my priority. On buses and trains it sat on my lap. I rarely let it out of my sight, and certainly never let anyone else carry it.

One afternoon partway through my trip I arrived in the Indian city of Pushkar. The maze of whitewashed alleyways were confusing and I was completely disoriented. I had no idea how to find the guesthouse I was looking for. I sat on my big pack outside a bakery and, using my trusty and cheap Indian SIM, called the owner of the hostel.

He was there in ten minutes to pick me up on his motorbike. He gestured for me to give him my smaller pack, so I could hop on the back, my hands on my knees as I tried to balance under the weight of the bigger pack. I reluctantly handed over my bag of tricks and just as I went to get on the bike, he began to drive away.

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Australia, Northern Territory

Discovering the remote in Australia’s top end

July 22, 2012

Nawurlandja Sunset Kakadu NT Top End

I love big cities.

Hong Kong. London. New York. Bangkok. Losing myself on a crowded metro, people watching in cafes and bars. And on my travels, I’ve made it a point to spend a lot of time in them.

But eventually, if you’re really honest with yourself, they do start to get a bit same same. A big statement bridge. A central square. A high street. A dilapidated (or futuristic) metro system that locals love to hate and confounds tourists despite the fact they’re the same the world over. Galleries, museums. A red light district. They’re not entirely unpredictable and in a shopping mall, you could be in Bangkok, Dubai or middle America.  

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Australia, Northern Territory

The top end on Instagram

July 15, 2012

Pretty much as soon as I arrived home from my recent photo safari across Australia’s top end I was struck down with the killer flu that’s been making its way around the country. Barely able to get out of bed, I haven’t yet been able to organise my thoughts or images from the trip.

Rest assured that’s coming – in the meantime, here’s a snapshot of my six days in the top end.

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