Good Morning Vietnam!!!

We have started our ASIA adventure in Thailand but the final and most desiered destination was in fact Vietnam. I am passionated with vietnam since I first saw “Good Morning Vietnam” with Robin Williams interpretation. I have no idea what made me want to go there but I always wanted to. And finally I got  the chance to go.

What you need to know before you go:

  • You need a valid passport and a VISA. In Portugal a VISA is not easy to get because we do not have embassy of Vietnam. However, is possible to get an on arrival VISA online, you provide few information as your name, passport number, arrival and departure date and for a fee you can get your VISA in the airport at your arrival. We used the following website vietnamvisapro.com. Easy, cheap and fast! And well it works aswell.

Da Nang

The first stop of the adventure was Da Nang, in central Vietnam.  Da Nang is the fourth largest city in Vietnam and its location on the path of National Route and the North-South Railway makes it perfect if you want to quickly travel for other destinations.

The city itself do not have a lot see, is a contemporane city with an interesting life. You can enjoy the My Khe Beach one of the most picturesque beaches in Vietnam and the lightning view of the Dragon Bridge at night.

A view from the beach

The city offer many many cofee shops and the Vietnamese coffee is just amazing!  YOU MUST TRY to find a Cộng Caphe , this coffee shop chain has a pure Vietnamese theme and you can have a cup of coffee (they have a lot of options) while listen Vietnamese songs. The coffee shops of the chain are decorated with propaganda posters and hava a clear reference to communism and vietnam war.

Da Nang Cong Caphe

Near Da Nang you can find UNESCO World Heritage sights as the UNESCO as My Sonruins (we did not get the chance to go) and Hoi An ancient town (above you can see the detailled info about the tour) at the edge of the city you can visit the Marble Mountain. Our Hotel provided free transportation to many sights in the city including Marble Mountain, and we took a ride there the view of the mountain is astoniching.

The ancient folklore tells that many years ago dragon emerged from the water of Non Nuoc Beach and laid an egg. Many days and many nights followed before the egg hatched. The fragments of the shell were left on the beach and eventually grew into the five mystical Marble Mountains.

Today can climb the Marble Mountains and enjoy the view across the My Khe Beach, see the beautifull pagodas and hike the stone steps to Tam Quan Gate and enjoy the view to Metal Mountain.

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Marble Mountain

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Stay in: The Blossom City Hotel  (50 night for two persons, includes free transportation for many sights and a Japonese bath experience)

Hoi An ancient town

Handmade Lantern

The Ancient town is amazing you cannot miss it. We got there from Da Nang and spend the all day there. To enter the town you pay a small fee and these fee allow you to visit in the inside 3 temples or Ancient houses, to help you choose you have a map with the description of all visitable places. The most interesting part is that many of the houses are still being used as permanent residence of the ancient families therefore is very common see the old people taking a nap during your visit or having someone of the family presented to you. The locals are very nice we visit Hoi An in rainy day and we had an warm welcome in all the houses we visit were we was served a tea.

Temple in Hoin An

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Besides the cultural part Hoi An is known by its great and cheap tailors. Therefore if you have any special ocassion coming or just want an handmade souvenir from Vietnam do not miss the opportunity of going to a Tailor and get that dress you are dreaming on. The process is easy you enter in one off the many tailor shops in Hoin An choose the model you want and come back in the next day to try the dress they ensure the deliver in the day.  You have also many markets in the ancient town where you can buy a little bit of everything, I have bought a handmade lantern and is my favourite souvenir.

Fruit baskets

Hué the imperial city

Our second big destination in Vietnam was Hué, the imperial city.  We planed to go from Da Nang to Hué by motorcycle throught Hải Vân Pass THE VIETNAM HIGHEST PASS and well known due to the programme Top Gear where was called “a deserted ribbon of perfection – one of the best coast roads in the world.” Infortunatly when the day come, it was raining a lot and having in consideration the historic of accidents and my lack of experience riding a motorcycle we just give up and we bought a train ticket. That’s truth! I am such a girl!
The train trip did not disapointed, the train was super confortable with airconditionate and really cheap (4,5 euros per person), even in the train you can enjoy the fantastic view of Hải Vân Pass.

To easily buy train tickets in Vietnam use: baolau

Hải Vân Pass by train in a rainy day

In the 1st day in Hué we went to visit the imperial city.

This sprawling complex in Hue was where the Emperors of old would have lived and conducted all their business. There was even a part of the citadel known as “The Forbidden Purple City,” which, much like China’s Forbidden City, was reserved for only the most important people in Vietnam.

I strongly recommend buy a guided tour so you do not miss any interesting detail.

Imperial City

After the visit to the Imperial City we went  for a cruise in the perfume river towards the Thien Mu Pagoda. Funny fact somehow our boat was being filled with water and the drivers wife was literally taking the water off the boat with a bucket and trying to convince us that everything was fine as if the situation was really normal. We did actually manage to go to the Pagoda and come back without any insident.

Thien Mu Pagoda

Boats in perfume river

In the 2sc day we went on a tour to Tam giang lagoon (the tour cost 21 euros per person in HUESTOURIST) the tour guide pick us in the hotel and so began our fishing day.

Tam Giang Lagoon have 22,000 hectares there flow three big rivers. During our day we had the chance of visit the village nearby and and join a local fishermen in his day to day job learning to fish how locals do.

By the end off the day we went to a floating restaurant where the fish we catch was cooked and we could see the sunset while eating a tasty meal.

 

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Stay in: Alba Spa Hotel (40 night for two persons)

Hanói the caotic capital

After an amazing experience in a night train from the old capital city Hué  (a 13 hours trip in a good bed cost 35 euros per person, to easily buy train tickets in Vietnam use: baolau)  we arrive at the current capital Hanoi.

Hanói is a good mix between the old and the new, first thing I noticed was the traffic – the sound of horns everywhere while the locals walk quietly between endlee lines of the scooters and the tourists arrive in number ready to enjoy the sights and sounds of this vibrant city.

There’s certainly plenty to enjoy in Hanói between the restaurants, coffee shops, night markets to traditional entertainment, additionaly Hanoi has that fascinating culture of a city that has survived to a colonial occupation and to a war and manage to keep its spirit intact.

In Hanói we have wander in the old town and old town nigh markets, visited the Lake Hoan Kiem, Jade Mountain Temple and even get the time to watch a water puppet show. Water Puppets origins come from a time when the rice paddy fields were submerged and villagers would gathered and entertain by standing in the waist-deep water telling stories with puppets. Knowadays this is a unique storie telling act in vietnam.

 

 

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Hanoi streets

While in Hanoi we also took the opportunitie to go in a One Day tour to Ninh Binh province. Ninh Binh province is located in northern Vietnam with its hundreds of limestone cliffs emerging from the ground scattered across the rice fields, due to these caracteristics it is usually named “Halong Bay in land”.

We departed Hanoi in the early morning and head to Ninh Binh province where we habe visited the ancient capital of Hoa Lu. Later, on arrival at the Tam Coc we went for a ride in the sampan boats throught the Ngo Dong River. Ngo Dong River flows between the rice fields and karstic rocks, the ride was an amazing experience, the boats are mostly drove by vietnamese women and drove it with the feet. During the route we crossed several tunnels where we needed to bow our head while passing through. In the lunch pause we were served a buffet lunch featuring all the musts from the Vietnamese cuisine. Before returning to Hanói we had the chance of cycling around countryside villages . We bought our tour in Getyourguide and it cost 30 euros more or less.

 

Stay in: The Ann Hanoi (68 night for two persons)

HaLong Bay

By the end of the trip with many kms traveled we end up in a cruise in Halong Bay! This area, dotted with many limestone islands and islets, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. We booked a 3 day all included cruise in Halong bay.

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A shuttle bus picked us from our hotel in Hanoi and drove us to Tuan Chau marina where we were welcomed aboard the cruise. In the first day we explored the Surprising Cave (Hang Sửng Sốt) and found out how the cave was named a Surprising. At the afternoon we enjoyed a dive in the Titop island area and went in a short trek to the top of island to have the overview of Halong bay from here. At night we went back to the boat were a typical Vietname dinner was served and after we head up to the sundeck to enjoy a cocktail party. The guys also had the opportunitie to fish squids! They loved it!

In day two we could rise early and participate in a Tai Chi session on the sun deck, but we did not. Lazies!!!  When we wake up we manage to visit the Maze Cave, kayak in the calm emerald waters of the Cửa Vạn floating Village, visit a Peal Farm were we witness the whole process to make a valuable pearl from first step of growing to harvesting pearl in Halong Bay.

In our last day after a cooking lesson and morning dive we were drove back to Hanoi where we took the flight home. Richer with this amazing trip.

Places to eat that I recommend:

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First Asian Destination – Thailand

For a long time i wanted to visit asia and finally i had the opportunity. The choice for first destination was Thailand, mostly because is the cheapest and easy way to travel to (from Portugal).

What you need to know before you go:

  • You need valid passport, VISA is not required for most of the countries, but make sure your is on the list.
  • Vacination for yellow fever is not mandatory but it is advisable. I strongly recomend you to visit a doctor before your trip in order to get medicines or vacines if needed. Your route and the kind of trip has great influence on the vacines and medicines you might need, so provide this details to the doctor.
    For Portuguese citizens you can schedule and be consulted online by using the following link: http://www.consultadoviajante.com. If you prefer to have a presential consultation be aware that only in few cities you have this kind of assistance as well as the only in few medical services the vacinations can be admisnistrated.
  • Might be a good idea to subscribe a travel insurance, you can use the following link to get quotation and know how much an insurance will cost you www2.worldnomads.com.
  • Be aware of the caotic traffic.
  • Uber is ilegal so just take the regular taxis instead.
  • Last but not least: BARGAIN, BARGAIN, BARGAIN!!!!!

Bangkok – 2 days itinerary

infinity pool

Bangkok is a huge cosmopolitan city where in every corner you can meet the intersection of the modern and the ancient. During our stay we had the opportunity of enjoy our hotel roftop pool and bar as well as visit the magnificient grand palace and buddha emerald complex, the price to visit both complexes is more or less 13 euros and totally worth it!!!!
We also tried out different transports as tuktuk and taxi boat. In what concern to tuktuk ride, BARGAIN THE PRICE BEFORE you take it otherwise you will pay more than you should. Regarding boat ride on the Chao Praya River, I must be honest was a bit desapointing we paid almost 30 euros for a guided tour and we actually do not get any explanation, morevor the river is really poluted. The interesting part is that you actually can see the least visited parts of the city and the way people live. You can catch the boat in several station, we did it in Sathorn Pier.

Khaosan Road
Finally you cannot miss ‘the centre of backpacking universe’, Khaosan Road this short street in central Bangkok will present you to numerous shops, souvenir street stalls, restaurants serving Thai or Western food, clubs and travel agents. We went there by daytime so the experience was innocent but we heard that is way more funny by night.

Where to stay: Amara Hotel (average price of 100 euros night for two persons)

Phi Phi Call – 3 days itinerary

Boats, Phi PhiThailand is quite a big country, so to go from Bangkok to PhiPhi we took a internal flight (average price of 50 euros per person). When in Phuket airport we bought the ferry tickets from Phuket to PhiPhi (average price of 13 euros per person including return ticket) and after half day travelling we get to the paradise !!!
Phi Phi island is amazing, the efforts made to keep the water clean is making its efects and once you get there you can enjoy the beach, the restaurants in the “village” and who knows ?! A massage with sea view.

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We have also bought a day trip to see other islands as the Bamboo island (MY FAVOURITE ONE), Monkey island and Maya Bay. The tour include snorkeling material and boat rides between the different spots and it cost around 15 euros per person.

Where to stay: Mama Beach Residence (average price of 75 euros night for two persons)

Tracking Portuguese influence in Phuket – 2 days itinerary

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The last spot we visited in Thailand was Phuket when comparing with Bangkok, Phuket is just a narrow city but it has its own charms. First of all you can track the Portuguese influence, yeap we have been there and left our mark :), the builds have the trace of the colonial portuguese architecture and they are really pretty and colorfull.
The city is also know from the street art, and its a authentic gallery. When walking around you will see several of this paintings one of them painted along a wall of Dibuk Road in memory of King Bhumibol death.

King Bhumibol Graffiti
Near our hotel there was a giant night market, the Chalong Night Market, is worth to go if you want to shop or even if you want to try street food. Around the market there are several restaurants too.
To finish one recomendation about Phuket:
If you plan beach holidays stay in Phuket town is not a good idea because it takes you at least one hour to get to the nearest beach.

Where to stay: Little Nyonya Hotel (average price of 45 euros night for two persons)

São Miguel Azores

São Miguel is the largest and most populous island in the Azores archipelago. Because of its natural beauties make the island is know as  “The Green Island”.

How to get around:

There are not that many options to get around in the Island you can either rent a motorcycle or a car. If you are an adventurous and you have more time in São Miguel you can try hitchhiker through the island. We have meet few people doing that and they say is an awesome expirience. Due the lack of time and my lack of expertise riding a motorcycle we rented a car.

Renting a car for 5 nights will cost you an average price of 200 euros with fuel included. We have rented throught a local company Ilha Verde.

Where to stay:

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We rented a flat through airbnb the Hands House, the flat is located in the heart of Ponta Delgada and at foot distance of the main sights. The owners where really passionated about their hometown and gave us few tips about things to see and even told us the best apps to install in other to better enjoy the island. As a welcome gift they left us a basket with typical goods from Azores like the bolo lêvedo that became our favourite breath and was our breakfast choice during the all stay.

Where to eat:

 

Prepare yourself to win some weight! By suggestion of friends from São Miguel we went to the best spots. You cannot miss:

  • The tuna steak at Caloura Bar, Agua de Pau. Average cost of 40 euros for two people.
  • The cow steak accompanied with a fresh craft beer at Associação Agrícola, Ribeira grande. Average cost of 40 euros for two people.
  • The seafood at Cais 20, Ponta Delgada. Average cost of 100 euros for two people.
  • The Furnas Stew made “under the ground” taking advantage of the hot vapors of the Furnas volcanic activity. Try the O Miroma restaurant, Furnas. Call to reserve and ask at which time the restaurant staf go get the stew at Caldeira das Furnas, this way you can see the way the stew is made. Average cost of 30 euros for two people.

Our 4 day itinerary

There are many things to do and see in São Miguel, below I share with you our relaxed 4 day itinerary:

Day 1 – Get to know Sete Cidades and sorrounding areas

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Our first day started with a ride to the esthe of the island to see the most know lagoon, Lagoa das Sete Cidades, he haved stopped in almost all the viewpoints, is impossible not too! My favourite one was the Miradouro do rei near the abandoned hotel Monte Palace, we climbed to the phantom hotel roof and could see all the lagoon.
After see the lagoon we went to Sete Cidades vilage where we ate fresh fish at the local restaurant, the vilage is really small but it worth to see the church of São Nicolau built partially with vulcanic stone.
In the afternoon we went to Termas da Ferraria, infortunatlly we couldn’t swim in the natural pools with hot water because it was full tide.

Day 2- Ribeira Grande

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Caldeira Velha
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Lagoa do Fogo
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Plantation Chá Gorreana
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Plantation Chá Gorreana

In the second day we went to visit Ribeira Grande. We started with the tea platation, Chá Gorreana. For free, you could see the factory where the tea is produced and walk by the plantation, there are several trilles to follow and get deep in the plantation if you want to. Azores is the only place in europe where is produce tea, Chá Gorreana is the oldest plantantion and keep the artesanal method of production, visit the factory is a sweet visit to the past. At the end you can tast the tea and also buy some in the store inside the factory.
In the afternoon and after a great lunch at Casa Agricola we went to the Mulher do Capote
liquor factory where we tasted few liquors and bought few bottles! After this tastefull digestive, we went to see the Lagoon of Fire / Lagoa do Fogo another natural beauty of Azores. To end the day fully nothing better then a relax dip in a warm waterfall of iron water, that’s right I am talking about the Caldeira do Velha. The entry cost only 2 euros and can spend a good time relaxing in the park or diping in the waterfall warm water. Make sure you don’t use your favourite swimming suite because the water will make some damages.

Day 3 – Furnas

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Furnas is a full package comprising a lagoon, a valley and a village.
We have visited the lagoon and walked by the fumeroles, the kitchen of the tradicional dish Cozido das Furnas.
In the village is possible to see even more impresive fumeroles don’t miss the visit!
Beside the cozido Furnas has another traditional “dish” in this case a bread the Bolo Lêvedo so buy some there 😉
During the afternoon started to rain a lot but nothing stopped us of going to the Terra Nostra Natural Park, the park features magnificent trees and vegetation from all over the world. It also has a giant hot water pool and two jacuzzis perfect to spend an unplesent raining afternoon.

Day 4 – Ponta Delgada

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Pineapple Plantation
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Church

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I have told before that our stay was in Ponta Delgada, we let the visit of the city for the last day so we could wake late walk into the Market/ Mercado da Graça buy some typical gods from Azores like cheese and sweets.
After lunch we went to see the pineapple plantation (free entry) and get to know how this delicious fruit grows.
By the end of the day we went to down town in order to see the Saint Sebastian Church, Santo Cristo and off course the city doors.

Resuming we had a awesome and relaxing stay in Azores and we defenitly need to come back to see the nordest of the island (we didn’t get the time to go) and also to get to know other islands.

Morocco Roadtrip

The Morocco Roadtrip started, not too far, away in Lisbon. Me and three friends of mine catch a plain towards Tangier the starting point of our trip. We have rented a SUV in Tangier airport and we started the road trip right away.

Chefchaouen – The Blue  City

After a morning on the road, we arrived to our first destination: Chefchaouen the blues city. The Chefchaouen medina is small and cosy, you literally can lost yourself into the blue. The city has the marroquine spirit, everyone is kind and try to sell you a little bit of everything.

We stay at: Hotel Parador 

Try marroquin cuisine at: Casa Aladin

Fez

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Madrasa al attarin

Blessing our Duster that kept us moving even in the more helpless roads we arrived at Fez. Fez has a huge medina, is impossible for a foreigner to not get lost inside therefore we contracted a local guide to come with us in the discover of this world heritage medina.

We have crossed the maze that is the medina, tried out argan comestics, visited the madrassa, the royal palace, the pottery factory and the smelly leather tanneries. Our guide was a good story teller entertaining us with fun and facts about the city. In our

Stay at: Riad Ibn Battouta & Spa

on the way to Merzouga

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Riad view to sahara

It was a long road to Merzouga crossing the Middle Atlas Mountain passing through Infrane (considered the switzerland from Africa), we stopped in the Cèdre Gouraud Forest to see the cèdre gouraud and the friendly monkeys in the park.

As we got close the desert, the mountains turned into extenze plains and after few stops to admire the oasis we arrived to our Riad with view to the sahara desert.

In Merzouga we have spent our time relaxing in the pool and watching the stunning sahara. We also went in an organized dromedary ride into the desert to see the sunrise, guided by two berbers nomads.

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Sunrise in Sahara

Stay at: Kanz Erremal

Ouarzazate

Atlas Film Studios

Ouarzazate is known by the cinematic history. We just spent one day in the city but was enough to see the Atlas film Studio the largest film studio in the world. That was the shooting location for Alexander the Great, The Mummy (1999), Star Wars (1977), The Living Daylights (1987), Martin Scorsese’s Kundun (1997), and many others.

Keeping the interest in cinematic history we visited Aït Benhaddou the UNESCO World Heritage Centre, scenario of Game of the Thrones.

Ait benhaddou

On the road to the final destination we passed by the palm groves through the Dades Valley between the Atlas Mountains and Anti-Atlas mountain range.

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Gorges du Dandes

Stay at: Hotel La Perle du Sud in Ouarzazate

Try marroquin cuisine at: Restaurant Douyria in Ouarzazate

Marrakesh

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Souks

The final destination of the morocco roadtrip was Marrakesh, this city is the most ocidental city we have visited. In it we got lost in the souks (marroquine bazaars) and we learned how to trade as a local. We have bought all sort of items as pottery, spices and cosmetics with the enthusiasm of a kid.

Stay at: Riad Terra Bahia

Drinks at: Kechmara

Tips and tricks

Things to have in consideration when renting a Car in Morocco:
– If you are going to the desert rent a SUV, the roads are not bad specially the nationals (N3, N12..) but if you want to venture on other roads it might get more complex also for long distances is way more confortable
– It is possible to rent a car in an airport and leave it in another
– Fuel is cheap

The locals:
– The locals are from different ethnic groups, however all of this groups have in common a strong trading history. Therefore when a local come to you in any moment he will try to sell you something, is in their blood. We had a lot of funny stories with this trading relations and is a awesome part of the trip so don’t feel obligated to buy something you don’t want to buy and first of all don’t feel afraid of this type of interaction.

Girls:
– Dress what you want no one will give strange looks.

Budapest

My first post is about Budapest. So far, this city is in my favourite  places top 3. You can find several ways of enjoying your stay according to the things you like the most.

If you like culture try to visit the Parliament, Terror House, Heroes Square, Buda Castle, Citadel, Fisherman’s Bastion, Budapest Synagogue and St.Stephen’s Basilica. You can also see the last fashion trends crossing Adrassy Avenue or  find the best souvenirs in the Central Market Hall. If you feel like you need to chill just go take a bath in Szechenyi Baths.

The day can’t end without going for a drink in a ruin pub! Try Szimpla. The most resistants may finish the night dancing in Otkert or Instant club.

At last if you like adventure try caving under Budapest. You will definitely like this city. Try to book a trip in spring or near the christmas period to enjoy the fantastic ornaments.

trips and tips