A Travellerspoint blog

Hanoi / Halong Bay

After coming from Indonesia we actually found Hanoi quite quiet, small and relaxed. Many people had warned us that Hanoi was thick with mopeds and it's crazy. We found people drove slower here and it was safer to cross the street compared to Java. It was a nice change of pace. We spent a day walking around the main attractions like the Old Quarter and HCM's Mausoleum (which was closed, go early). and enjoying the cheap beer prices after Indonesia.
After that we decided to take a Halong bay tour. We got a tour for 3days and 2 nights for $67. The cheapest we found after was $53 so shop around. The cheap tour doesn't follow the same exact itinerary as the more expensive ones, the tour guide was a bit rubbish, and you have a lot of free time. But if you just wanna see the sights, do a little hike and don't care about being left to your own devices, then this option is fine. If you want everything planned perfectly and more activities you will have to pay more. The cheap option was fine for us.
The tour started really well, we were cruising through all the little islands, we got to see a cave and the people on the boat were all really nice. However, when we had to wait 40mins for the kayaks and then only had 20mins on them, i knew what kind of tour we were on :) Some people on the boat had payed more than us so I felt a bit sorry for them.
The first night we stayed in a hotel on Catba island which was nice. There was a festival with fireworks and celebrations happening in the town, but unfortunately we never made it out to them. We had a few drinks in the hotel and ended up just staying there.
The next day we did our hike / trek which was easy but really nice. it had some great views from the top and a questionable tower at the top, which thankfully you weren't allowed climb. The rest of the day was "free-time" until we got a on a different boat at about 7pm. There were new people on this boat who were cool. We slept out on the water this night which was grand. The boat is basically just anchored off the dock and spins in slow circles throughout the night.
The final day we went back to Halong along the same route we came in on, had lunch and went back to Hanoi. Overall i was glad we didn't pay more for the tour but it was a great experience. We were very lucky with the people on the boat.

Posted by derryfadman 12:03 Archived in Vietnam Tagged boat vietnam island bay kayak tour hanoi halong chi ho minh catba Comments (0)

Yogyakarta

Fun times in and around yogya!

After Bromo we went to Yogyakarta by bus, which took 12hrs! :( We arrived in Yogya at midnight and seeing as we had been up since 3am, we were exhausted. We were meant to be staying with a French girl called Veronique who we met in the Gilis but our driver threw a tantrum and wouldn't bring us to her house, so we had to get a hotel that night, which turned out to be grand.
The next day we met Veronique, dropped off our stuff and went to rent scooters. It was my first time renting a moped. We arrived at the shop and rented a bike each and as we are getting ready to go I inform Vero that I've never driven a bike before. She says she's worried, but I assure her it will be fine. Literally five seconds later, whilst we're still outside the shop I crash into the back of her bike and end up breaking one of the lights on my bike...oops!! Of course, the owner sees everything and obviously is now skeptical of my driving skills. In order to fix the bike we end up having to go to a Honda dealership to get a price, find out they don't have the part, go back to the bike shop to wait for his mom (the real owner) and then pay for the broken light. After all this, I don't feel confident in driving anymore so I give the bike back.
Kevin and Vero find this whole process hilarious of course and constantly make jokes and laugh hysterically at me. It was quite funny though! However I have since learned and am a confident driver haha
Friday we went to Borobudar with Vero, Steve and Nuno (two really cool Indonesian guys) . It took about an hour to get there and we got in for free. Some friends from the Gilis had given us a map which worked perfectly.
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We climbed the fence and proceeded around the temple. It was really nice and we got asked for photos from loads of random people. When we were leaving it started to rain heavily. I wanted to wait a few minutes for it to pass but Vero said we should keep going as it rains all day once it starts. She said it would be a “funny story” It was funny because we ended up running back to the bikes, got soaked, and as soon as we reached them...the rain stopped. “Funny!”
After Borobudar we went to see a waterfall in Merapi National Park which ordinarily is white and beautiful but for us it was brown and muddy because of the rain. It was still a nice sight though and the surrounding valley was cool as we could see all the way up the slopes of Merapi.
Saturday saw us do the Hindu temples of Prambanan. Again we used our maps and tried to get into the site for free. We were unsuccessful on our first attempt as we were spotted by security guards and escorted out. We waited for a while and then tried again at a different spot. This time we were successful! The temples were very different in style to Borobudar, and in my opinion, nicer. The weather was great that day and got photos taken with random people again. When we went back to Yogya we went to a Batik party. I bought a sarong especially for it, which was entertaining. It was two people's birthday and for fun they had hired four Indonesian drag queens to come dance for the birthday boys. It was funny for about a minute and then some tourists started being rude.
We were meant to leave on Sunday but we were enjoying being there too much to leave. For lunch we went to a restaurant with “specialties”. We ate cobra, river turtle and frog legs. All quite tasty except for the Durian shake I ordered, which was disgusting. That evening we went to a place where the have street cafes, where there are rugs on the footpath where you can sit and drink coffee. You can even order coffee with a lump of coal in it, which was definitely different.
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Afterwards we did an Indonesian tradition I had been looking forward to. Near the Sultan's Palace there are two big trees where people try and walk between them. You start about 70-80metres away and the point is to make a wish as you do it. All sounds quite easy but you have to do it blindfolded! It's night-time there and there are lots of people around walking, eating, playing games and other blindfolded people too. It's dis-orientating. You have someone to guide you so you don't walk on to the road or anything but I still managed to walk over some people having a picnic and failed my first attempt. It's very easy to go astray when you have people like Vero bumping into you for fun haha.
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She succeeded somehow to pass on her first attempt, I got it on my second.
Yogya was a great experience and the next day we headed off on the train for Jakarta.

Posted by derryfadman 10:41 Archived in Indonesia Tagged indonesia java yogyakarta coffee scooter sultan prambanan cobra borobudar blindfold Comments (0)

Oslo

walking - drinking - random

sunny

I arrived in Oslo around 9am into Rygge airport and headed out to Anker Hostel where I was booked in. It was too early to check in so i just dropped off my bags and headed walking around the city. Oslo is a lovely city to walk around, it's nice and compact and i was lucky it was nice and sunny both days I was there. I saw the Opera / Play house, which, architecturally is very cool in my opinion. I was well impressed. I also saw the Cathedral, fortress and walked around the marina area which has a lot of cool looking restaurants and you can chill out along the boardwalk. i was told the ruter pass covered the ferry but when i got there it said it wasn't valid so i dunno if i just went to the wrong dock or i recevied bad info.
As it was a saturday night I headed out on the pub crawl that is organised through the hostel, it wasn't the best night as the places we went to weren't the coolest, but the people on the crawl were nice so that was cool meeting a lot of different people. We went to three different places which all their own quirks and charms and with the pass you could go back to the different bars throughout the night, but they're far enough apart. if you're a solo traveller I would recomend it. We got a free shot in the first and third bar which was pre determined before we got there which was fine. The second bar had 2 for 1 drinks which was great as alcohol prices are crazy in Norway!
Whilst I was out, myself and a couple of people from the crawl started chatting to these random Norwegian people who ended up inviting us back to their house where we drank and danced until around 7am. it was great craic. very random but very fun. Norwegian people are very friendly and I've a great impression of them.

Posted by derryfadman 04:09 Archived in Norway Tagged oslo pub random alcohol anker crawl Comments (0)

Singapore

I was only in Singapore for two nights but I was pleasantly surprised with Singapore after receiving many mixed reviews before I got there. Yes, it is expensive compared to other South East Asian countries, but people do J walk and litter here, which is something I heard they didn't. The architecture was the most interesting thing about the city, with it having some great examples like the Marina Bay Sands Hotel being the most intriguing. There are other great buildings, and the city also looks lovely at night when you can see the Skyline clearly.
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When I was there, there were some great light shows and art exhibitions happening around the bay area, which kept us entertained for a few hours. The Marina Bay Sands also is supposed to have a 360 degree view of the city from the restaurant at the top, but dressed in t-shirts and shorts we were obviously not guest, and politely refused entry ha-ha.
Around the city, Little India and Chinatown both have their charms and are interesting places to visit. There is also a great brewery (big place) on one of the canals / river where we tried some great own brews and chilled out. That area of the city was very pedestrian friendly and a lot of the buildings were brightly coloured so it was interesting.
Whilst there we met up with an old friend from Korea. We were told caning does happen often, and that tourists aren't exempt from it. First offence receives ten lashes. We even saw the place where they do it, which is a police station right in the centre of the city.
All in all, thoroughly impressed with Singapore...except for the prices.

Posted by derryfadman 05:22 Archived in Singapore Tagged architecture marina singapore bay sands brewery Comments (0)

Climbing Bromo

rain

Since St.Patrick's day we have used public bus, ferry, taxi, pedicab and train to get from Bali to Mount Bromo on Java. We took the ferry across to Ketapang and spent one night there in a dive of a place. We considered doing Mount Igen but decided to move on and do Bromo instead. (We later found out it was a good idea we skipped Igen as it was closed off, but the tour guide would still take you there, so it would've been a waste of time and money)
After spending a night in at the Hotel Bromo Permei in Probollingo, we set out on a tour of Bromo, which was to finish in Yogyakarta. The tour included transport to the Volcano, a nights accomodation, pick up by 4WD jeep for sunrise, and then shuttle bus to Yogya. I wasn't too pushed about the tour as you can hike Bromo for cheaper, but Kevin wanted to do it.
We stayed at Yosthi's near the mountain, which was overpriced and the food wasn't great. The views from there, and the town around it were nice though.
In the morning we started at 4am, but just like on Batur, it was raining. We have terrible luck with Volcanoes in Indonesia. The Jeep brought us up Penjakhan and then we trudged 2km in the wind and rain to wait for sunrise and see....nothing! It was just a big wall of cloud, so all you saw was white.
Disappointed we set off for the crater of Bromo. Whilst friving there we crossed a wide area of black sand, which was great. In the gloom of the rainy dawn it was cool driving across here as riders on horseback which just appear out of nowhere as the jeep drove by.There is also a temple at the base of Bromo which is pretty nondescript when you've just been to Bali, but it's an interesting location on the sands at the base of the volcano. The climb up was nice and short, and looking down into an active volcano is quite exciting. There was no railaround the rim, except in one section, so you had to be careful. Looking in, you could see and smell the sulphur oming out of the crater, but no lave though.
After a few minutes we descended, as the rain was coming down quite heavily and the wind was quite strong up on the rim. Then we drove back to Yosthi's, made our connectng bus and headed off to Yogyakarta. It was a great experience just a little disappointing we didn't get any sunrise views.

Posted by derryfadman 05:04 Archived in Indonesia Tagged bali java yogyakarta volcano ferry bromo igen ketapang probollingo yosthi Comments (0)

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