Tuesday, 31 January 2012

Saigon - eeewwww roaches ….

Oh my … a new guide picked me up from the airport … unfortunately I did not get his card …  I am dropped at Kimdo Hotel and checked in … it is still Tet and the hotel is in an amazing location, the street is closed and there is the most wonderful flower display, processions filling the streets … I check in and my guide leaves .. I am shown to my room which looks nice and tip the gent handsomely as I have no small change… I throw my bag down and open the little book that shows what is available at the hotel and local area, (I knew nothing about hotel location so was mainly looking for a map) … out ran roaches ….  OMG … I freak out … grab phone ring reception … plonk on bed .. and from under the cover …. out run roaches ….  (click here for pics related to this blog)

Friday, 27 January 2012

Halong Bay …. Phuket possibly better ...

Now my trip on Halong Bay was organised through the lovely Vietnamese lady that does my mani / pedi’s in London .. she said junk boat ..  I got a little cruise ship and a brilliant personal tour … drive through countryside, farmlands and red river, arrive at the boat where lunch was prepared and then I was shown to my room, amazing …  sailed to a floating fishing to meet the locals, travelled on the sampans to visit the pearl farms.  Afternoon swimming in clear blue waters and kayaking through coves and caves.
Early morning, with Tai Chi on the deck, and a sail past Trong cave and Trinh Nu cave, and then an amazing visit to Surprise Cave which was much, bigger, higher, deeper and spectular than I could imagine.... (click here for the Halong pics) ..  and (here for a video of Halong bay)

Monday, 23 January 2012

How long to Halong ….

Transfer to Halong … stopped along the way at Bach Ninh and saw traditional Vietnamese folk dancing on the middle of a lake which was amazing, it was a local village and the tour had it arranged just for me due to Tet ..  I could not fault it, the folk were so warm and friendly and passionate I was genuinely touched…  (little youtube vid here)

No cars allowed so a traditional travel by horse drawn cart through country lanes and visit the Dinh Bang communal house and do temple … (vid here)
Continued on the way to Halong stopped to see the pearl farmers, marble statue carvings shop and pearl jewellery store…. Pair of silver drop pearls £20 .. outstanding value …
Checked into the Novotel  Halong, gotta say, much much better than a normal Novotel and probably the best hotel in Halong … with an infinity pool and outlooks over the bay, also next to a great strip of markets and restaurants, I spent the night just wandering the town of Halong … sampling the local delicacies of the street vendors … and a bit like Hanoi … I don’t want to know what they were !!

Thursday, 19 January 2012

Singapore sling ... (and other things) .... a quick intro ...

Beaches, tropical rainforests, amazing cuisine, beautiful buildings, wonderful cocktails (too many slings yum yum), super friendly folk, cosmopolitan shops, café lifestyle. Who knew eh!

Having passed through Singapore many many many times, I have always just used this great place as a transport hub, and even though I have spent hours and hours in transit, in the terminal that is not that great,, as a result, I never thought to get out and have a look.  Maybe I was also a little jaded by KL (Kuala Lumpur), where I did venture out and besides the Petronas Towers saw very little.... 
Singapore is completely different, to what I expected, I have now also met people along the way that have spent time there and they agree with how the were pleasantly surprised. There are a tonne of expats living there and the economy is fab, but Singapore should and easily could, do more to promote itself as a truly brilliant tourist destination.  This place is absolutely beautiful....  reminds me of Rio ....
I was met at the airport quite late, by the driver from the hotel I stayed in (Quincy by the way) highly recommend it, everything included, great price, great location just off Orchard Road.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Hanoi - freakin’ Tet

I booked my Nam trip through a company rather than independent ..  to be honest my worldwide trip was done in two chunks .. the Americas and then the Asia leg …  after the number of hours I spent doing the first leg … and me being allergic to admin, I thought I would arrange the Vietnam leg of the trip through a company .. so I gave the destinations and a few key criteria … and received the itinerary back .. now I knew that Tet was on … so I had researched about what that would mean and how that would impact … but clearly my Vietnamese travel company had not …  one of the things I had stipulated was staying in the old quarter (which is central to everything especially on foot) …

My guide met me at the airport, mid afternoon and my first day was supposed to be transfer to hotel , only.. which is fab as I always just like to spend the first afternoon wandering the streets and checking out the locals … day two was supposed to be a full day sightseeing in Hanoi … however when my lovely guide picked me up at the airport, he told me everything that was on my list for tomorrow was closed (except Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum), due to Tet and as a result, we would have to do everything on the list (that would normally take a full day), today …  which meant 2 hours ….
all pics for this blog can be found (by clicking here) 

Sunday, 15 January 2012

London calling, yes, I was there, too, An' you know what they said? Well, some of it was true!

London calling at the top of the dial. After all this, won't you give me a smile? London calling ...

again I bid farewell, it's official (and it's taken nearly 8 years) .. but London is now in my bones ...  mainly because for the last few months I have had time to enjoy it .. and the last few weeks of being London were truly phenomenal, I am now just as sad about leaving as I am excited about seeing Australia again.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

Breathtaking ... the Grandest of Canyons ....

Now, I've travelled a bit.. there are, still however, only a few moments that I have felt so overwhelmed, that I have been given goosebumps and been moved tears... A felucca on the Nile, balloon ride over the pyramids in Cairo, Petra, Israel, Eiffel tower, Prague are a few, now... I add the Canyon ...   last day in these parts of town ..  I am now sitting at Vegas airport waiting to board for London, up at 5am (people were still gambling and literally falling asleep at the machines) ...and I headed off for a tour to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon ...  (I cannot link  pics at the minnie, because Picasa and I are currently arguing ..) but there is a couple of vids I took (Grand Canyon Eagle Rock & Grand Canyon 2 ). 

5th Jan - oooh, picasa and I have now made up, check here for pics ( Grand Canyon, Trailer Park, Hoover dam ..

Bright lights gonna set my soul, gonna set my soul on fire ...

Viva Las Vegas ... now I know I moaned about Niagara being a bit tacky ... and I am sure you are probably thinking ..  why are you going to Vegas then ?! Fair point ...  but it is about expectations ...  I expect Vegas to be tacky ... oh ... and how it is ..  tacky and grand and fabulous ...(Strip pictures) (strip video)

Came to Vegas for New Year and met up with friends, stayed at the MGM, (love their twitter wall at reception) in a completely ridiculous suite with two bedrooms, both of which had 2 king size beds (not quite sure how I ended up there), but it had great views ...  now a bit like Rio ...  Vegas is a bit of a blur ... roulette, black jack and a poker tournament the first night (texas hold em) I used to be alright, but it was fairly evident that I am out of practice, not to mention I lose patience (pardon the pun) very quickly, and after a few, start gibbering away to anyone and forget to read signals ... hey ho brilliant night anyway.. (MGM pics)

Sunday, 1 January 2012

had to get out of Niagara .. my faith in Canada restored..

I only had 2.5 days in Canada, and only came to see the falls.. I am soooo gutted and sooo over Niagara falls, (yet very restricted due to flights).. but I have to get out.. so, I hire a car and drive to Niagara on the lake, which is lovely.

This is what actually made the trip to Canada, rather than the falls. 

Niagara – not what I expected …

Now tis’ the season to be jolly, and I am here smack bang between Christmas and New Year so I am seeing Niagara at its commercial best.

I guess I thought Niagara would feel a bit more natural and untouched … I knew it would cater for tourists, but I was thinking Sugarloaf not Great Yarmouth pumped up with steroids and throw in some falls, or the Gold Coast in minus 10 with Iguacu in the middle of it, the restaurants are mainly cheap chains and all you can eat buffets, I feel quite sad saying that, but.. that is what it feels like.  If you are after a falls experience I would suggest Iguacu by a long shot....