#ProjectMVietnam | Hoi An

Hoi An is my favourite place in Vietnam.

A vibrant little town with picturesque historical homes, pagodas, rows of trinket stalls and street-side cafes, all by a beautiful river filled with small fishing boats.

The perfect place to explore on a bicycle.

In 1858 – 1945 France colonised Vietnam, a country still filled with sprinkles of French hints today.

The two influences that that caught my eye happen to be two of my favourite things, food and style. The French brought over their love of snails, baguettes and patisserie. The traditional Vietnamese dress, ‘Ao Dai’ is partly inspired by Victorian-French fashion.

In Hoi An Old Town, you can buy a ticket which gives you access to six vestiges of interest and you choose which sites you want to explore.

These beauties caught our eyes (and our cameras).


 Every monument has so much history to drink in!

 Michaela brought some delicious fruits from a very excitable lady. She kindly gave me some to try, I’ve never had those fruits before, I basically ate the lovechild of an apple and grape.

 Hoi An is a well-known destination to buy hand-made, custom-designed clothes. You can get anything made, from suits to shoes.

I’ve never had a dress tailored-made for me. It’s about £20 – £100 here.

HELLO MONICA’S NEW DRESS.

It’s time to get creative.

For the consultation process, heaps of catalogues are placed into your lap. It’s actually a homemade book filled with images from the ASOS website, which made me chuckle. You sift through them for inspiration and if a dress picks your fancy, you can select that design to be custom made.

Well, at the fraction of the price and tailor made to your shape who can complain?

Then, you select your material from a full range of dreamy silks, cotton and chiffons.

 Then they do their thing and measure you up.

Guess how long it takes for them to make you a brand spanking new outfit?

Go on, have a guess.

One. Day.

And, half a day if you’re in a rush.

No excuses for wearing your Birthday suit because you, ‘don’t have anything to wear’.

When you do pick up your clothes, you go for a fitting. If it needs tweaking, they’ll do their alterations for you to collect on the same day. I couldn’t resist having a lace dress designed as I was need of a nice LBD, sadly, I forgot to take a snap.

Couldn’t stop staring at this lady in red, though.

 Michaela and I found this amazing little cafe owned by a French lady.

The French know how to do a good coffee shop and the Vietnamese love coffee. Put them together and this is what you get.

 Before setting off on this trip, I told myself that I will only eat the national dish of the country that I’m currently residing.

Time passed and I started to crave sandwiches, kebabs and shockingly, Nando’s. There’s only so many noodles & rice that you can scoff before you have a relapse.

I also really missed pesto.

When I saw chicken & pesto sandwich on the menu…

I was filled with joy, pure joy. And I didn’t even feel guilty about it.

Michaela ordered the ‘Ca Phe Sua Da’, a chilled black coffee that drips into a bed of condensed milk. I got the thumbs up.

I had a naughty peanut butter smoothie; I don’t regret it at all. Look how happy I am.

Michaela skipped the sandwiches and opted for the kale smoothie. Green goodness in a jar.

After a long day of exploring, it was time to go for a dip and to fall asleep by the hotel pool.

If you like food, clothes and learning about history, Hoi An is calling for you.

Location: Vietnam – Hoi An
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Wanderlust

Floating high above the waves, my body drives through the air like a white cloud over the ocean. Surrounded by layers, upon layers, of endless shades of blue in the sea and into the sky. My yellow bikini mimics the sun, pushing the island farther and farther behind.

Through rose tinted sunglasses, I’m living in a realm of vivid colour. The horizon bisects sheets of fire, the beautiful kind.

It’s the only time in my life where my current experience is quite literally a magical romantic novel, with me in love with the earth.

I know, I’ve handed you a plate of the finest cheese there, but it’s how I felt at the time, in paradise.

Eight months ago, I decided to quit my job to travel the world. Welcome to my blog post on real Wanderlust.

It’s a personal post, but I’m happy to share my experiences and to remind myself of why I did it. I’ll re-read this post when I’m a little old lady.

Why did I just pack up my bags and leave home? Here are eight reasons:

Dreams

I was a miserable, and grumpy cat. I needed to make a drastic change. Quitting and leaving is a significant risk. Things just kept happening, and they pushed me to the point where I had to do something about it. I have always believed in signs. If you aren’t living life as you should, the universe will make it clear somehow. If there’s an opportunity, you’ll find out.

I hadn’t done the one thing I wanted to do before my next Birthday. Every day, I woke up and I asked myself (whilst poking my island desktop computer screen): if the world ended tomorrow, would I of been happy? Had I done all the things I wanted to do? Have I ticked enough of my bucket list? The answers were no. Always, always, chase your dreams.

Adventure

I crave adrenaline. As a kid, theme parks were my second home. I was a naughty and weird kid. I always had a “bright” idea. Travelling allows you to express yourself and channel your creative outlet. It enables you to do amazing things all the time and every day. Our world is filled with ventures that if you take the plunge to do, you’ll remember forever. My bucket list was extensive but to a name a few, I wanted to go temple hopping, visit an orphanage, cuddle a koala bear, skydive, jump into the ocean and visit at least one world heritage site. I’ve now done all of those things and loved every second.

Culture

Travelling allows you to see that there is the world out there and that there is just so much more than your everyday routine. Learning about other cultures changes the way you think. Your mind will open. You’ll learn that diversity is a strength and the spice of life. Travelling at least once for a good amount of time will change your perspective forever.

#ProjectMfood

Not just because I’m a food obsessed individual, but food is an essential ingredient of human life – survival, culture, tradition, lifestyle and relationships. Go and explore a hodgepodge of ingredients and intoxicating aromas. I’m still salivating over fresh, and fragrant broths in Asia. I shamelessly ‘Foodstagram’ because my images remind me of how I felt at that time. And yes, that hashtag above will link you to my foodporn Foodgasms.

Poverty

I wanted to see poverty. We’re very lucky but sheltered in the Western world. We see media behind tinted glass. I saw struggles that you wouldn’t think were possible. Being present physically in a third world country is a real eye opener.

Heritage

I wanted to explore my heritage. If you’re an ethnic minority living in a multi-cultural society, go and visit where your parents are from — you will learn so much about yourself.

Appreciation

You’ll appreciate your friends and family a lot more; you’ll appreciate the comfort you never knew you had.

Future

Lastly, it (hopefully) helps you figure what you want out of life. Once you’ve seen what’s available in the world, it makes decision-making so much easier. You can decide whether you want to relocate abroad, continue travelling, volunteer or go home.

While backpacking, I started to blog and this was my first post. I said I would let you know if it was the right decision. I can confirm wholeheartedly; it was the best decision of my life.

Am I suggesting that everyone should travel? Well no, it’s not for everyone. If all-inclusive package holidays to Shagaluf is your thing, then go for it, but it won’t be life-changing. Travelling is physically demanding and will throw you out of your comfort zone. If you’re not willing to engage in another culture, then travelling will not work for you.

Yes. Of course, I asked myself “what if I get kidnapped, like in that film, Taken?”, But when you get there, everyone else is in the same boat as you. It’s safe if you’re smart. Always be vigilant.

Everyone has different dreams and aspirations: you may love your job, have the itch to start a business, buy a house, start a family — all of these things are life-changing experiences that people do in their own time. Do what you want to do. It’s never too late to follow your dreams.

If you are going travelling, have a wonderful time and take lots of pictures. You may be homesick at first, but it wears off, I swear.

Every day is different, exciting and you’ll want to live it with intensity. You’ll meet so many people from all over the world from diverse backgrounds and cultures who will have many stories to tell you. It all happens so fast. I get so excited when I hear that someone has decided to go backpacking.

Have so much fun and don’t forget to Skype your parents from time to time.

There’s a lovely quote by author J.R.R. Tolkien that pops up a lot, “Not all those who wander are lost”.

In Asia, I travelled with G Adventures on the Indochina Discovery and LOVED it. Dare to book your dream adventure? If you’re heading to OZ, pop into your local PeterPans branch, while hopping onto their free internet, I booked several tours with them as they always had the best deals. I booked all of my hostels through Hostel Bookers and Hostel World.

Ps. If you’ve already headed off and think you have a little nugget of wisdom to share, please leave it in the comment section below. I would also love to hear your adventures whether in you’re in the planning stage or you’ve just landed home.

Location: Zi World

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#ProjectMVietnam | Halong Bay

I don’t know anyone who isn’t happier on a sailing boat.

We raced down to the marina to begin our journey towards Halong Bay.

Halong Bay is on the UNESCO heritage list.

I don’t think I need to explain why. (Brace yourself for views that will make you head over to SkyScanner.com. My bad!).

It’s not every day that a local family cooks a fresh seafood banquet for you on a private boat.

Crunchy crabs, spicy squid and flavoursome fish.

The Vietnamese eat seafood with a blend of salt, pepper, chilli and lime. A bit like wasabi mixed with soy sauce for sushi. It adds that extra kick to your dish.

Let the lime see the fish!

They kept stocking us up with noodles, chicken and spring rolls. They knew I was coming.

After dinner, I couldn’t resist a snap with those kinds of views behind me.

This is Halong Bay. The land of thousands of giant limestones.

Through the mist, it captures a scene from a painting and it’s hard to separate art from reality.

The pictures don’t even do it justice.

We hopped into the Fisherman’s village where we hopped onto a smaller boat so we could waive our way in between rocks and admire its beauty up close and personal.

How beautiful are these crystal caves?

We climbed on board, and our tour guide (who spoke very basic English) gave us a brief overview of the bay. He starts waving his arms to tell us something.

“Meow, meow, look”. He points towards the rock.

(We were so confused as to what he was trying to say.) “Cat, meow, meow”. Then Emily said, “Oh, he’s trying to tell us that the sculpted rock is in the shape of a cat!”.

It totally does, don’t you think?

Welcome to the ‘Colourful Cave’. In Vietnamese, it’s called ‘Dong Thien Cung’. (I can’t help snigger at the name Dong).

I swear there is something in the air of this cave because we were in a state of giggles throughout the whole tour. I’ll tell you why. The tour went something like this:

The tour guide whips his laser torch thing out.

Him: “Look at this rock, what do you think it looks like?”.

Us: “Erm”.

Him: “It’s an elephant”.

Him: “Look at this rock, what do you think it looks like?”.

Us: “Erm”.

Him: “It’s a fish”.

Him: “Look at this rock, what do you think it looks like?”.

Us: “Erm”.

Him: “It’s a dragon”.

Us (amongst ourselves): “Is he just saying these rocks look like any animal he can think of?”.

Him: “Look at this rock, what do you think it looks like?”

At the same time, we all burst out laughing, you know when you laugh so hard you can’t breathe? Some of us couldn’t get up or look at him in the eye.

Him: “What’s so funny?”.

Us: “We’re sorry, but that ‘snake’ looks like a willy”.

Him: “Hahaha!” (He definitely thought we were weirdos).

Then after that, all we saw were boobs and willy shaped rocks and we couldn’t stop laughing every time he said, “Look at this rock, what do you think it looks like?”.

Then when he said, “It looks bigger than mine!”.

That’s it, we had enough, we needed to get out of there because we couldn’t handle our own giggling.

I was enLIGHTened. Hehehe.

Top tip: don’t forget to bring a cardigan / jacket inside, I oversaw my outfit. It’s cold, damp and very cavelike in there, obviously.

We were then taken to the Pearl Oyster factory.

Legend has it that the hundreds of islands in Halong Bay were formed by a dragon which spat jewels across the water.

Fun fact: did you know that it takes at least five years before an oyster becomes mature enough to produce a pearl, and the success rate is about 40%? Ooooh.

We were taken to a very interesting demonstration of how they grow and extract the pearls from fishing to production.

Conveniently they have a pearl jewellery shop next door which looked like a department store.

I brought my mum some Pearl Oyster cream. They say pearl extracts are good for the skin.

Have a browse of some of the pearl creams sold on our doorstep below.

Location: Vietnam – Halong Bay

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#ProjectMVietnam | Nha Trang

It’s an incredible feeling to soak your feet into the sand on a serene beach, especially after escaping the hustle & bustle of chaos in the city.

You just think to yourself, “Ahhh, what is life?”.

Let’s step into luxury.

Welcome to Nha Trang.

Nha Trang is a oopular holiday destination for honeymooners (disclaimer: do not attempt to flash your bum and drink honey on this beach, I am talking about the newlywed kind) and tourists.

Sandy beaches against a dramatic backdrop of mountains, surrounded by nineteen islands. Hello, Paradise.

We found a little spot called the Sailing Club, which transforms into a nightclub for the ravers, if that’s your thang.

 My friends will know that one of my favourite activities is napping. I’m like a little cat; I just love naps.

Four poster beds with pretty bright white lace drapes. I wanted to pounce and crawl under the duvet.

So, am I in heaven or?

Presented with the most fancy-pants Pho Ga (chicken noodles), the waitress came out with my bowl; she started laying down a rolling mat, condiments box with a selection of chilli, oyster, hoisin or fish sauce & vinegar.

And a bamboo case with chopsticks & spoon — and a plate of veg. Oh, the suspense!

They charge you approx’ 10,000 Dung (30p) to sleep on the beds on the beach. I had the best nap, I quickly forgotten about those four poster beds I saw earlier.

Welcome to the Po Nagar.

The temple played a significant part in the history of Vietnam. We were giving out lots of “ooohs” and “ahhhs” at all of the shiny pagodas in the different areas of the temple.

With being up a mountain, you get a good view of the beautiful landscapes of Nha Trang.

Street food in Vietnam deserves a mention. We were taken to eat Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) on a street corner.

PC, our tour guide told us that the soup is boiled for 24 hours so that the meat and veg’ creates a full-flavour fragrant broth, which is exactly how my mum makes her homemade Pho. Just the way I like it.

I mean look at it.

Thap Ba Spa is famous for mud baths.

I am a spa enthusiast. If I ever need cheering up (I have to admit I didn’t need any on my travels) a body massage, a slump in the Jacuzzi and a hit in the sauna will always brighten up my day.


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

When you think of mud, you think of the gritty stuff. When we got into the tub, we were surprised to it’s thin, slippery liquid texture. It’s warm and looks like hot chocolate.

It’s apparently real mud mixed with essential oils.

It’s good for your skin and hair so I made sure I got a proper dosage into my scalp.

Has anyone got any spas for me to try? The Geothermal spa in Iceland is definitely on the list.

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Location: Vietnam – Nha Trang
Beach rating: ****
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#ProjectMVietnam | Homestay

I highly recommend a Homestay experience.

Why?

It’s an opportunity to meet a family who will guide you through what it’s truly like to live in the heart of the destination you’re visiting. Oh, and the locals are waiting to share their inspiring stories with you.


To embrace a real travel experience, you have to stay somewhere that’s completely different to home. I never been to Vietnam before my travels and I learnt how much we take for granted in the UK.

I got used to sleeping next to a mouse that I caught scoffing my Oreos (to be fair, it was my fault for leaving them in my bag). When an animal discovers snacks, they invite their mates in for a rave. After a few days, medium-sized creatures just didn’t bother me anymore.

I forgave the mouse in the end; we named him Bob.

Let’s go and meet our hosts.

I can’t tell you how wonderful it felt to walk across a breezy walkway surrounded by fresh green taro.

And I wish you saw my face when they served this taro to us later in spring rolls!

This was my bed; the pink net was to keep those jammy mosquitos from biting my bum (they loved going to that area of my body for some reason).

Our host ran through our dishes for the evening.
I can still remember the charcoal smell as I write this post.

Banh Xeo is a Vietnamese pancake wrapped filled with minced pork, onions, carrots & spices served with a fish sauce dip.

I said goodbye to the chief mouse, Bob, as it was time to head to Saigon / Ho Chi Minh.

Before saying goodbye, look at this view.

I could just watch the sun melt into the sea all day — but it was time to float across the Mekong Delta.

The Mekong Delta is a river where the locals ride their boats to buy and sell fresh fruit, vegetables or, wait for it, iced coffee?!

This man rocks up on a boat selling his coffee, I was like, what the…?

I had a sip out of a fellow travellers cup. Best. Coffee. Ever.

Nice work coffee man and wife.

Then our Mekong Delta tour guide whipped out his microphone and started singing Lionel Richie’s ‘Hello’.

We had too much fun jumping up and down on the boat edge.

We were careful not to fall in, though; the tour guide told us that in some parts of Vietnam, they have poor water sanitisation. You can read about that here.

 

Pineapples anyone? Yes, I did pretend to be a boat shopkeeper.

Keen to visit a homestay and see the Mekong River? Hop on a boat here.

Location: Vietnam – Phường Thượng Thanh

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