Vera and Tom

Joined October 2015
  • Day71

    Ha Long Bay

    November 10, 2019 in Vietnam ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    We booked ourselves onto a tour to visit probably Vietnam's most famous destination.
    We had an early start to walk into town and meet the tour guide and board the little bus for the 3/4 hour journey to Ha Long.
    Arriving at the coast around lunchtime, we boarded our boat for the day and were served a seafood feast (veggie option for Vera), it was really quite good with loads of variety, and even better was that the others sharing our table didn't eat much which left more for us :)
    While we'd been busy eating, the boat had left the harbour and was well on the way. We went outside on the deck and watched the famous limestone islands pass by. We were surprised to see how big the area of Ha Long Bay is, we had already been through a few miles of it and there was plenty left.
    Our first stop was at Titop Island. Here we had the choice of spending half an hour on the beach or climbing the hill for a panoramic view. We decided to try the climb but, after queueing behind several thousand Chinese tourists for 10 minutes to move about 10 metres, we abandoned that idea and hung out on the beach instead.
    Next up we were dropped off at a jetty to go kayaking. We paddled off through a tunnel and spent a while in a kind of closed lake within one of the bigger limestone island
    Lastly we visited Surprising Cave. A big name to live up to but it actually was surprisingly surprising. The cave is huge and full of cool rock formations and would be worth a trip to see in its own right, even without being squeezed on the end of a tour of the bay.
    The trip back to the harbour was maybe the most beautiful part of the tour. We watched the sun setting over the sea and the islands on one side of the boat and the moon rising on the other side. While the area can feel like a production line of tourism at some times, the place really is amazing and we felt very lucky to see it for ourselves.
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  • Day70

    Hanoi

    November 9, 2019 in Vietnam ⋅ ⛅ 25 °C

    We landed in Hanoi, north Vietnam to discover the capital before starting heading down in this long country. What catches your attention first is the traffic, people really can't or don't want to drive anywhere near safe. Red lamps or zebras mean nothing and we were quicker as32 pedestrians than an ambulance with their lights and sirens on. Thousands and thousands of motorbikes on the road and it can take double amount of time to get somewhere than google says just beacuse road crossing can take long minutes.
    We had an amazing kick start with long awaited local food such as quang (beef noodle) soup, banhmi sandwiches, pho soup, cheese and coffee bun, cheese icecream, and of course fried rice! As Vietnam used to be a french colony there are bread, baguette, bakeries and patisseries with full
    of amazing cakes. It was interesting to think that we havent had any bread for months (apart from roti in Malayasia).
    The old town is full of bars, restaurants and most importantly cheap beer, we arrived to the heaven of backpackers. So many of them are around, such as Flora's ex! A couple of french girls gave us some good tips for Cambodia too.
    We visited an old prison built and used by the French and then later by the Vietnamese in the war with the Americans. The exhibition was rather biased, which maybe isn't suprising, being in one of the only remaining one party socialist countries in the world. At the end many countries opinion was presented of the Vietnamese war in the 60s - 70s, marches, protests and speeches all over the world against the war. However they were all shown as supporting the North Vietnamese communists rather than the hippie peace and love movement.
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  • Day68

    Singapore

    November 7, 2019 in Singapore ⋅ ⛅ 32 °C

    In Singapore we were very lucky to be hosted by Oli (an old friend of Tom's) and his family. They have been living in Singapore for a couple of years and have a lovely house where we could experience some home comforts and luxuries and a break from our usual hostel routine.
    During the days we explored the marina bay area, downtown and Chinatown. We tried a couple of 'hawker centres', like food courts where lots of tiny kitchens share a big area of tables and chairs.
    It was interesting to see how few other people we saw on the streets during the day. Despite the weather being no hotter or more humid than we experienced in Kuala Lumpur or Tokyo, everybody here sticks to the air-conditioned places whenever possible and seemed surprised that we would walk a few hundred metres rather than wait for a bus.
    In the evenings Oli and Coysi took us to some amazing roof-top bars including the top of the Marina Bay Sands Hotel (the one with the boat shape) to have Singapore slings and other cocktails with amazing views of the bay and the other skyscrapers. We also went to see the super trees in the evening for a light show set to music.
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  • Day65

    Malacca

    November 4, 2019 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 28 °C

    Our last stop in Malaysia before heading south for Singapore is Malacca. A beautiful relaxed small colonial town by a river, perfect for evening beers and strolling. We much liked our breakfasts, egg roti in a small Indian street restaurant closeby and lunch in a vintage antique shop which sells healthy food and amazing juices. Some fairly familiar meals were necessary as we had many crazy, unusual, (also fantastic) food recently which caused some tummy problems.Read more

  • Day63

    Batu Caves

    November 2, 2019 in Malaysia ⋅ ☀️ 26 °C

    Half an hour from Kuala Lumpur is the Batu Caves - a Hindu Temple which attracts many believers and tourists. Next to an impressive huge gold Murugan statue are the 272 steps up to the caves with the the temples inside. Some sort of celebration, music, chanting and food distribution was happening which made our visit even more special.
    In the afternoon we returned to the Petrona Towers and checked out the gallery inside full of Malay, Indian, Chinese and Indonesian objects, hats, materials, pottery, pictures etc.
    For our last dinner with Julie we had Biriyani Indian food, we ordered many weird but amazing things to share.
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  • Day62

    Georgetown

    November 1, 2019 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Over a couple of days we explored all around Georgetown and made a short trip to Batu Ferringhi beach.
    We had heard that this was the busiest beach on Penang so it was a nice surprise to arrive and find that we had it mostly to ourselves. We enjoyed a drink and some lunch in a bar right on the the beach and a bit of swimming in the warm Indian Ocean water. We also had a look around an art shop and ended up getting a tour of a batik art studio from the very talkative artist himself.
    Back in Georgetown we found a lively area where the old fashioned shop houses are mostly converted into bars, cafes and restaurants and there are street food sellers lining the pavement in front.
    The next day we found a lot of the street art which Georgetown is known for. We also went to the Clan Jetties where settlers from China set up their family homes and businesses along the coast and competed with each other for the shipping trade. Nowadays the jetties are full of souvenir shops but some of the old homes are still occupied and there were some small shrines still in use.
    Having seen durian fruit and all its many products all over Malaysia, we decided to try out durian ice cream. One spoonful later we rushed to get a coconut milkshake to help recover from the awful armpit/foot taste, durian is not sonething we're likely to try again!
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  • Day60

    Penang Hill

    October 30, 2019 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 27 °C

    Penang Island is in the north west of Malaysia, it took two buses and a ferry to reach our next quirky hostel in Georgetown. Dropped our bags off and ordered a Grab (Asian Uber) for the funicular which takes you up to the Penang Hill with extra speed. On the top there were beautiful views, a mosque, a Hindu Temple and some coconut ice cream was waiting for us. After a brave decision we started to walk down from the hill. Later we found out we were the only ones choosing the jeep road to descend which was probably due to the steep, long, asphalt road which caused us massive pain in our legs and bums the next day. As we walked in the jungle we saw giant ants and many monkeys playing on the trees, some came real close to us. When we arrived at the bottom on the other side of the hill we were ready to get on a bus. But it never came so after a coconut milkshake we ended up walking another 6 km to home. Although at the time the flat surfice almost felt like a relief we still decided not to walk much the next day.Read more

  • Day59

    Cameron Highlands

    October 29, 2019 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 22 °C

    As a birthday month present for Vera, Julie treated us all to a tour of the Cameron Highlands, an area in the mountainous centre of Malaysia, famous for its cool climate and tea plantations.
    Our driver, Prakash, picked us up from our hotel in the morning and we had a quick stop for coffee and breakfast before we started the drive out of Ipoh and up into the hills. The first stop was at a small tea plantation where we could walk around in between the bushes and we tried some iced tea with honey and ginger.
    Next we went to a Lavender farm. This was quite a strange place, a cross between a garden centre and a novelty tourist attraction. Although there were some unusual flowers the main focus seemed to be selfie opportunities, those were very popular but not really our thing so we moved on quite quickly.
    We also saw a bee farm with lots of hives and different types of honey to try and a much bigger tea plantation where we could walk through the processing factory and look out over the tea plants from a high up balcony. The views of the plantations are really interesting because of the way the tea is grown, with space to walk around each plant and to reach over to pick the top leaves.
    The plantations date back to the British colonial times and there are clues to the history dotted around, like scones with jam on sale in the cafes. At the last plantation we did stop for dessert but went for chocolate cake instead of the scones.
    Some other, more unusual foods which we tried were deep fried pumpkin leaves, some orange and purple roasted potatoes, and wax apples which tasted like melon.
    In the afternoon we started heading back down the mountains on the other side and we thought the tour was pretty much finished. However, we still had time to visit an aboriginal Malaysian (whose brother was called Michael Jackson apparently) who demonstrated his poison dart blow pipe for us and let Tom have a go (not very successfully).
    One last stop off at a waterfall which was way more impressive than we had expected and then Prakash drove us back to Ipoh to a pub for some well earned drinks and dinner after a long, eventful and brilliant day.
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  • Day58

    Ipoh

    October 28, 2019 in Malaysia ⋅ ⛅ 29 °C

    Ipoh is one of the closest big cities to the Cameron highlands and we based ourselves there for two nights. The old town is full of restaurants, cafes and street art. As we were wandering a Korean chef invited us to try some kimchi pancake which he was practicing to make for his restaurant opening. Followed by some more food and drinks at a Chinese restaurant we had an early evening as we had a big day ahead of us.Read more

  • Day56

    Kuala Lumpur

    October 26, 2019 in Malaysia ⋅ ☀️ 30 °C

    We arrived in Kuala Lumpur in the afternoon which gave us a little time to explore Chinatown, where we were staying, and also walk to the Petronas Towers. They are a vey impressive pair of skyscrapers in an area of giant buildings. The weather forecast wasn't promising but before a massive storm with lots of rain arrived we had a lovely, sunny morning. Then we headed to the airport to meet our new backpacking partner for our Malaysia travels, Julie.
    The next day we got out and about early to make the most of the morning sunshine. Within a few minutes walk of our hotel we found a Buddhist temple, a mosque and a Hindhu temple which was in the middle of Deepawali celebrations (although we didn't realise at the time). Then we walked over to Independence Square where we saw the Sultan's Palace and an old cricket pitch from British colonial times. We had a long walk past the botanical gardens which took us by lots of Islamic architecture including a huge museum and the old train station.
    In the evening we found a restaurant where we could try some Malaysian food including blue rice and beef rendang while surrounded by a teenage halloween party.
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