Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Out of all the Asian countries I’ve been to, Vietnam is my favourite so far. I would love to go back and explore other regions, as I found it to be a wonderful place. The people were incredibly friendly, there were endless things to do and the food was amazing! Here are some of the highlights…

  1. Ben Thanh Market – I absolutely loved this place. Yes, it’s busy and chaotic but that is what’s fun about it. There’s so much to take in, it’s hard to know where to look. They sell everything you can imagine and haggling is a must.
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Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City.

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Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City.

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Ben Thanh Market, Ho Chi Minh City.

2. Jade Emperor Pagoda – Built by the Chinese community in 1909, this Pagoda is tucked away from the hustle and bustle of the busy streets. It is very peaceful and serene. Many locals stop here to pray, making it a very special place.

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Jade Emperor Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh City.

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Jade Emperor Pagoda, Ho Chi Minh City.

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The turtles represent longevity and wisdom.

3. Bonsai River Cruise – Absolutely loved this two hour cruise along the Saigon River. The food, staff and entertainment were wonderful. There was a traditional Vietnamese show, a delicious buffet and stunning views of the city at night. There was even a magician who took my camera without me noticing (he took his life in his hands doing this to an Italian woman) but he put on a great show 🙂 Excellent choice if you’re looking for something that’s unique and a lot of fun.

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Bonsai River Cruise, Ho Chi Minh City.

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Bonsai River Cruise, Ho Chi Minh City.

4. Mekong River Delta Tour – This was incredible. We decided to hire a driver and tour guide for the day (seriously cheap!) to take us on a private tour of the area. I will never forget our driver Tong and our tour guide Thu – they were absolutely phenomenal. One of the many reasons I love Vietnam is that their customer service is outstanding.

Our first stop was to a beautiful Buddhist temple located in the Mekong Delta region. There are three large Buddhas that stand for the past, present and future. This temple is well worth a visit, as it is very inspiring and the architecture and gardens are gorgeous.

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Vinh Trang Temple, My tho.

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Vinh Trang Temple, My Tho.

Next, we took a boat tour of the Mekong River and stopped at Coconut Island. We learned how they make coconut candy, listened to traditional Vietnamese music and shopped at their market. We were also able to taste local fruits and teas. It was very interesting to be able to visit this beautiful little island and interact with the locals.

After visiting Coconut Island, we set off on a rowboat ride down a small river off the Mekong. I could not believe how incredibly peaceful this was. It’s something I will never forget, that’s for sure.

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Peaceful rowboat ride.

This wonderful day concluded with a traditional seafood lunch which was exquisite. We dined on elephant ear fish, shrimp & pork spring rolls, sticky rice balls and tropical fruits. The sticky rice balls were, hands down, my favourite.

5. Tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels – The following day, we went on a tour of the Cu Chi Tunnels. This was a fascinating experience – our guide was incredibly knowledgeable. We were able to explore the tunnels, learn about strategies used during the war and see some of the booby traps that were used. I could not believe how small the tunnels actually were (even after being made bigger for tourists) when we were inside. This was a very interesting and hands on experience that I would highly recommend to anyone visiting Ho Chi Minh City.

6. Independence Palace (Reunification Palace)Independence Palace AKA Reunification Palace was home to the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. This landmark contains the President’s office, the Vice President’s office, a conference hall as well as a telecommunications room. The grounds are beautiful and there are signs in English in each room. I would, however, recommend using a guide as they are wonderful at explaining the information in greater detail. Visiting this landmark really does make you feel as though you’ve stepped back in time.

7. The War Remnants Museum – This was pretty intense. You really have to be in the right frame of mind to visit this museum. It’s not for the faint of heart and is pretty confronting at times. It was incredibly heartbreaking, fascinating and moving – well worth a visit if you are interested in seeing another side to the Vietnam War.

8. Chinatown – Visited the Thien Hau Pagoda that is dedicated to the Lady of the Sea – a deity in the Chinese religion. There are dozens of incense coils near the altar that burn for a couple of weeks. We were able to attach our names to one of the coils and have it hung on the ceiling. This ritual is associated with good luck, happiness and health.

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Thien Hau Pagoda, Chinatown.

9. Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre – On our final night in Ho Chi Minh City, we wanted to do something unique. We decided to check out a show at the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre. This was incredibly different from anything I have ever seen. This Vietnamese tradition dates back to the 11th Century and is performed in a waist deep pool. A large rod is used by the puppeteers to support the puppets under the water, giving the appearance that the puppets are moving over the water. When the rice fields used to flood, the villagers would entertain themselves using this form of puppet play. The show is entirely in Vietnamese but you can still understand the story being told. What a great way to end an absolutely wonderful stay in Ho Chi Minh City. I will most definitely be back to visit other areas of Vietnam in the future!

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The very talented puppeteers.

Singapore

I only had a couple of days in Singapore, as it was a stop over between Phuket, Thailand and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I really enjoyed it though. I found it to be very clean, everyone was extremely friendly and many people spoke English.

We explored the city, did a bit of shopping and stopped at a hawker centre (AKA food court) for a delicious meal. Hawker centres are excellent, as you can grab a quick bite to eat for a very reasonable price. The food is amazing – low prices do not indicate poor quality here – you will leave satisfied and still have money to spend. We also had a great time exploring Singapore’s Chinatown district and the Chinatown Street Market. The Market has everything; souvenirs, food, toys and clothing at reasonable prices.

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Museum District, Singapore.

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Downtown Singapore.

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I absolutely love visiting markets in other countries!

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Beautiful rainy evening in Singapore.

Great couple of relaxing days in Singapore before heading off to busy Ho Chi Minh City!

 

 

 

Phuket, Thailand

We arrived in Phuket and immediately loved our hotel and our surroundings. We stayed at the Sea Pearl Villas Resort – it was phenomenal. Close to everything, clean, friendly staff and we even had our own little private jacuzzi outside our room.

Our first stop was to Wat Suwan Khuha. Upon entry you will see that there are tons of monkeys hanging out around the temple looking for food. They sell peanuts and bananas so that you can feed them. There is also a cave that you can enter with a stunning Buddha statue inside (photos do not do it justice).

Afterward, we took a boat tour to Koh Tapu AKA James Bond Island in Phang Nga Bay. This was incredible. I was in awe of the scenery. It’s no wonder the James Bond movie The Man with the Golden Gun was shot here.

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Boat ride to Koh Tapu AKA James Bond Island.

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Koh Tapu AKA James Bond Island.

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Koh Tapu AKA James Bond Island.

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Koh Tapu AKA James Bond Island.

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Lunch at Koh Panyee fishing village.

The following day, we decided to try a Fish Spa. I had heard about this from a few different people and wondered what it was all about. It sounds gross but the fish eat your dead skin and leave you feeling as though you’ve actually been to the spa. It was so strange at first and I was very ticklish but once you got used to it, it was pretty relaxing!

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Fish spa!

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Feeding bananas to a baby elephant (elephants are my favourite animal, hence, the tattoo on my right arm).

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Time for some coconut.

We wanted to spend a couple of days relaxing on the beach, as we were getting tired from all the sightseeing. We went to Patong and Kamala beaches and had a great time sunbathing and looking for crabs on our walks along the shore.

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Patong Beach, Phuket.

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Crab on the beach.

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Kamala Beach, Phuket.

We also wanted to get a ride in a tuk-tuk since we were seeing them everywhere. It was a little scary (they drive pretty fast and seem to have different road rules) but also really fun!

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Trying to mask my look of terror.

What a stunning place. I loved Thailand and cannot wait to visit again someday 🙂

 

Bangkok, Thailand

While I was living overseas, I was lucky enough to be able to do some traveling on that side of the world. One place I had always wanted to visit was Thailand. Here’s what I got up to in Bangkok…

We decided to take a boat cruise on the Chao Phraya River. In addition to exploring the river, our tour guide took us to see various temples and for an authentic Thai lunch. We fed the fish in the river, as it is believed to be good luck. We also purchased a souvenir from one of the many floating markets in Bangkok. I found this to be a great way to explore, as we had the boat to ourselves and were able to avoid the crowded city. I thoroughly enjoyed this experience and would recommend it to anyone looking to explore this part of Thailand.

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Chao Phraya River cruise.

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Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

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Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)

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Fish feeding frenzy!

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The most sacred Buddhist temple in Thailand…Wat Phra Kaew (Temple of the Emerald Buddha)

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Wat Phra Kaew.

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Wat Phra Kaew.

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Wat Phra Kaew.

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Wat Phra Kaew.

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Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

Another great way to see the city is to have a drink on a rooftop patio. We went to the Banyan Tree Hotel which has a great patio on the 52nd floor.

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Views from Bangkok.

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Banyan Tree Hotel.

Before we left, we checked out the MBK Shopping Centre which has some great prices on anything from electronics to clothes and everything in between. Admittedly, I’m not great at haggling (I sometimes pay people more than they’re even asking) but I got the hang of it and scored some sweet deals!

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Tuk-tuks are everywhere in Bangkok.

All in all, Bangkok was an enjoyable city. Typically, I prefer less crowded places but I’m glad I was able to have this experience. This was my first stop in South East Asia and I could already tell that I would enjoy this part of the world. From Bangkok, we traveled South to beautiful Phuket.

 

Adelaide, South Australia

I only spent a few days in Adelaide, as I was there for a Rolling Stones Concert. Here’s what I got up to…

I’m not a big shopper but I needed a nice dress for the evening, as it was for a work event. We went to Rundle Mall which is an outdoor shopping centre with plenty of buskers, sculptures and places to eat and drink. It’s an Adelaide staple – if you visit this city, you should definitely check it out.

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Rundle Mall, Adelaide.

We had a great evening – the dinner was delicious and the concert was amazing. The Rolling Stones may have a combined age of 1,000 but man can they move.

The following day, we decided to rent a car and check out some of Adelaide’s world-class wineries in the Barossa Valley. I was the sober driver, (not sure how that happened) so I was only able to have a few samples which were excellent. The wineries here are stunning and there are some great places to enjoy a bite to eat. We stopped by Rockford Wines, Saltram Cellar Door & Restaurant and Penfolds Wines.

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Rockford Wines.

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Saltram Cellar Door & Restaurant.

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Saltram Cellar Door & Restaurant.

My visit to Adelaide was short and sweet. In addition to enjoying the concert, I had a great time exploring the city and visiting the beautiful wineries.

Tassie Adventures

I went to Australia on a Working Holiday Visa, which meant that I could stay for a year and work with any one employer for up to six months in total. After only a couple of months, I knew that a year would not nearly be enough in this wonderful country. I decided to apply for a Second Working Holiday Visa, which meant…I would have to do agricultural work! In Australia, you are required to complete 88 days of agricultural work (planting & picking fruit or vegetables, weeding, etc.) in total, before you can apply for a Second Working Holiday Visa. I did not get paid to do this but I did have my food and accommodation taken care of. I chose Tasmania not only because of how beautiful it looked, but also because I didn’t know much about it.

Here are some of my adventures…

I stayed on three different farms during my time in Tasmania. The first farm was located in a very small town called Mangana. I had a lot of different jobs while I was there but I also made sure to explore as much as possible 🙂

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Wallaby outside my cabin.

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My neighbours.

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Lagoon’s Beach.

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View from the farm.

From there, I moved on to Georgetown which was beautiful. Each day, I would go for a walk by the beach and see pelicans, pied oystercatchers and many other species of birds.

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Morning strolls in Georgetown.

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Pied oystercatcher.

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Georgetown, Tasmania.

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Low Head Lighthouse, Georgetown.

I met an amazing family while in Mangana. They took me to Launceston to check out what is now one of my favourite places – Cataract Gorge Reserve. There are tons of peacocks, stunning views, great walking trails and a wonderful cafe that has delicious scones. Absolutely love this place!

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I’m not a tourist at all.

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My favourite Australian bird – the Kookaburra.

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Gorgeous peacock. Be careful – they will steal your scones!

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Cataract Gorge, Launceston.

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Cataract Gorge, Launceston.

I also lived in Hobart for a little while. During my time there, I was able to visit the heritage site Port Arthur. It was formerly a convict settlement but is now a popular tourist destination. It’s fascinating and very memorable – well worth a visit.

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Port Arthur, Tasmania.

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Port Arthur, Tasmania.

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Port Arthur, Tasmania.

The Museum of Old & New Art (MONA) is also worth a visit. It’s unlike any other art gallery I have ever been to. It’s edgy, strange and beautiful all at the same time. The Salamanca Market is another must-see. Aside from visiting the market, I was lucky enough to be able to work there for a weekend. I sold preserves and sauces made by Ann – the lovely lady that I was staying with. What a memorable experience.

At times, I found living there difficult because I was away from my loved ones and did not always have access to a computer or phone. However, I would not trade this experience for anything in the world. Tasmania is incredibly beautiful and has a lot to offer. Definitely worth visiting if you find yourself in that part of the world.

“Travel far enough, you meet yourself.” – David Mitchell

 

 

Ubud, Indonesia

We decided to hire a driver for the day to take us to visit the beautiful town of Ubud. It was very cheap (only $30 each for the day) and the service was excellent. Our first stop was to Sari Amerta to see how batik (Indonesia’s traditional textile) is processed. I couldn’t believe how much work goes into creating these stunning fabrics.

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Sari Amerta Batik Factory.

Then, we stopped at Celuk Gold & Silversmiths. We were able to see how their beautiful jewelry is made before checking out the finished products in the showroom.

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Celuk Gold & Silversmiths.

From there, we visited the ancient Puseh Batuan Temple which was built in the year 944. This temple is well worth a visit – it’s peaceful and has some amazing architecture. It is also incredibly well maintained for its age.

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Kira & I at Puseh Batuan Temple.

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Hindu offerings for Nyepi (Hindu New Year).

Nyepi (Hindu New Year) was coming up in a couple of weeks, so there were many offerings being left behind at the temple. We were told that Nyepi is celebrated by creating as much noise as possible to scare away evil spirits. The following day, however, the streets are completely deserted and tourists aren’t even able to leave their hotels.

We then stopped at Lukisan Gallery to see some traditional Balinese art. They had some very beautiful pieces – I purchased a couple of small paintings.

One of my favourite stops was the Dewa Malen Wood Carving Shop. Here, I made my favourite purchase of the trip – a traditional Balinese mask made out of crocodile wood.

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Dewa Malen Wood Carving Shop.

Our last stop before lunch was to Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave). This historical site has a cave, fountains and some wonderful carvings.

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Goa Gajah (Elephant Cave).

At this point, we were pretty hungry so we stopped for a bite to eat. We enjoyed an excellent view of the rice fields while we ate lunch. Rice noodles and caramelized bananas (delicious!).

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So good!

Lastly, we checked out Lumbung Sari where we were able to sample coffee and tea after taking a short tour of the House of Coffee. We stopped at their gift shop and I purchased some lemon tea and chocolate for my parents. It was pretty interesting to see how their coffee is processed.

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Lumbung Sari, House of Coffee.

Absolutely loved Ubud – would highly recommend it to anyone wanting to learn about Indonesian culture and traditions.