The Beautiful Landscapes of Tam Coc (Ninh Binh)

Not far from the hustle and bustle of Hanoi, you can discover spectacular landscapes with karst terrain, canals, caves and rice field stretching along the Ngo Dong river. Make sure you explore this natural site by boat to appreciate breathtaking views of the landscape and locals rowing the paddles with their feet. For further exploring of surrounding wonderland and its temples and pagodas rent a bike (every hotel offers bikes to rent), the terrain is flat and easy and also make sure, you pick a hotel situated a little out of of the main strip. You’ll taste the real countryside.

 

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Floating Villages in Ha Long Bay

On the second day of my stay on Cat Ba Island I went on a boat trip to Lan Ha and Ha Long Bay. The emerald green waters of this area keep a beautiful secret. Places where the time has stopped; floating villages, homes of Vietnamese fishermen. It’s quite difficult to describe those villages, it’s an unusual mixture of living in primitive conditions and romanticism. That place shouldn’t be missed.

 

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Paradise on Cát Bà Island

No description needed. Amazing and almost empty beaches, warm sea, little bars with Hanoi beer, greenery, slow life, chill days..

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Cat Ba Town Port

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Incredible sunset seen from the Cannon Fort

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Cannon Fort Views

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Cannon Fort Views

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Streets of Cat Ba Town

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Locals

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Cat Ba Town Port

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Heaven

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Perfect Timing

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On the Way to the Beach. No Human Beings Spotted.

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Amazing Greenery of Cat Ba Island

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Locals

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Cat Ba Town Port

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Cat Ba Town Port

 

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Solo Female Travel: Traveling Alone Not Lonely; Smile and the World Smiles with You

“Where are you going for your holidays this year?” “To Vietnam.”

“Oh, amazing! Who are you going with?” “No one.”

“Are you going by yourself?” “Yes.”

“Hmm, but how do you do that?” “Well, most probably I get on the plane an go. By myself.”

 

So, you decided to travel alone. Last week before first solo trip may be tough, let’s admit it. The whole thing is becoming real and you may be asking yourself – what am I doing? Doesn’t matter whether you want to visit a near country or if you’re going to the other end of the world. Regardless the distance, all of a sudden, one may feel certain doubts especially after having been lectured on how “safe it is for a girl to travel alone to Asia”. That’s okay. Feeling a bit nervous while boarding. That’s okay too. It’s more than okay to feel respect, actually that will most probably keep you on the safe side. The good news is the only person you depend on is yourself and honestly, who else in your life is possibly more reliable? Everything may be hard on the first day particularly if you seem to be experience all the possible troubles. But how could you grow if you are unwilling to face challenges? I’ve been asked many times since I came back from my solo travel, how did I manage the whole journey and what did I do for making it possibly smooth. Well, I don’t feel like giving advice, but girls! Safety first! No one needs to be lectured on how important it is to be careful, to have copies of passport, not to leave your drink out of sight, to avoid drawing attention to yourself by wearing flashy jewelry and clothes..and so on. Is it hard to estimate the situation? No. Not at all, seriously. When you’re on your own, your instincts are even more sensitive. Listen to them. If it doesn’t feel right, don’t do it. A little preparation and common sense will do as well.

Once you decided to set your foot in a remote land alone, make sure that you enjoy every single minute. This trip is you, from A to Z. It’s your journey, your freedom. You will cherish this unforgettable experience forever. Also, you will remind yourself what really matters and what rubbish should be thrown away. Be prepared for the “Are you traveling alone” question. You will be asked that question many, many times. Expect the level of your responsibility and confidence to grow. If you want to be alone, you will. But don’t expect to be alone often. People (locals included) will talk to you, so talk to them too. They would never approach you if you weren’t alone. You will experience things that would never be possible if not traveling alone. Still curious what wouldn’t have been possible?

To meet Frank, a German security guy protecting embassy staff all around the world who not only made my flight so much fun, but also gave me his Vietnamese number and was most probably prepared to wake up the German embassy in Hanoi if I would find myself in trouble.

To meet Le Anh, my airbnb host in Hanoi, who made me amazing Vietnamese breakfast and drove me to the bus station on her motorbike.

To meet an amazing French couple I had so much fun with at the Cat Ba island.

To meet Xuan Lai, an amazing Vietnamese singer who sang me a song by the waterfront and surprised me with the most sweet New Year wishes three months later.

To meet Yanaika. My favorite girl that I met in Sapa. I miss you girl, don’t think being pregnant is an excuse for not visiting me 🙂 Our Sapa talks will not be forgotten.

To meet Blake and Max, my Australian neighbours in Sapa. How could I foget their honest laugh!

To meet a bia hoi seller in Hanoi. Her hearty eyes are my favorite memory. One of my most precious memories and one of the reasons I still believe in people’s capacity for goodness.

To meet a Vietnamese assistant and a British guy at a bookstore in Hanoi where I showed up being drenched by rain after the heaviest storm I’ve ever experienced. I will never forget our discussion about life. My soaking wet sneakers either.

To meet a motorbike taxi driver who took me for that amazing night ride around shiny, vibrant and vivid Hanoi.

To meet Gregory from France. Having beers, the most random dinner, going for a walk, eating fruits on temple stairs making up life stories of the people who were passing by. Talking about life.

And many more.. Just to be fair, there will most certainly be a few moments of trouble. Be prepared for that. But don’t doubt that with you being your own best friend, you will sort everything out real quick and you will be having a time of your life. Being brave is a good thing, but NEVER forget to be grateful for making if back home safe.

Safe travels!

 

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Back to the Fragrant Harbor. Hong Kong vol 2

Written by Kamal Mirwani

Pictures by terismile

Amid the bustling and jostling of the mindless crowd, a couple walked, fighting the tide of people dressed in suits who seemed to be walking with determined, single-minded focus. This was typical of Hong Kong on a workday, especially in the financial district. The male was already starting to break a sweat as the hot sun beat down relentlessly on all those who were not wise enough to walk under the shade of one of Hong Kong’s many monolith skyscrapers. The streets were often the silent battleground of pedestrians all vying for space close to the entrances of buildings where shade and gusts of cool air-conditioned air were offered free of charge.

Finally, the male looked up to see what he had been searching for. At first it didn’t look like much, but this was his ticket out of the heat, the crowd and the noise. He excitedly pointed at the slow-moving tram to his partner, a beautiful, blonde girl who was clearly not from these parts. Her look of delight relaxed him as she seemed to be as excited about riding Hong Kong’s network of near-forgotten trams as he was. The pair ran through the middle of the street, ignoring the fact that the light was red, as they managed to make it to the tram stop and board the double-decker tram.

They took seats at the very front of the tram on the top deck so that they could have a bird’s eye view of the busy city action below while having great views of the buildings around them. The tram also provided blissful relief from the heat, a fact that pleased the male very much, indeed. As the tram moved away from the near-claustrophobic atmosphere of Central District, Hong Kong’s premiere business hub, the throngs of people thinned, the air seemed to clear and there was a fresh breeze that blew into the tram. The male looked over to his counterpart who was busy snapping up pictures with the enthusiasm and wonder of a child in a candy store. It warmed him to see her so happy.

Often the tram had to stop for the odd pedestrian who miscalculated how fast they could run and ended up right in the way of the tram when they shouldn’t have. This was typical of Hong Kong where jay-walking is as common as good food is in Italy. Soon, the massive buildings gave way to views of a park by the ocean, a memorial to Sun Yatsen, who many local Chinese believe is the founder of modern China. Further along, the tram came to a halt, the lights turning off suddenly to indicate that the couple needed to alight as the tram had reached its final destination.

The male took his female companion to an abandoned stretch of concrete directly adjacent to the ocean. From there, they had unrestricted views across Victoria Harbor, however with a less-iconic view. Instead of the usual Hong Kong Skyline, they saw hydrofoils taking wealthy gamblers toward Macau and vast bridges connecting different parts of Hong Kong’s mainland. A mild smog had also rolled in from China, which detracted from the view somewhat. Still, it was an enjoyable experience. The breeze by the ocean caused the female’s hair to flutter behind her like a golden banner, and the male couldn’t help but think that it looked like a beautiful ray of sunshine, sparkling and gold.

They walked around for some time longer, passing by stores that sold dried seafood which let off a horrid smell. However, instead of dampening their spirits, the smell made the couple joke and laugh as the pair were clearly happiest when together. The walk culminated with the discovery of another tram line, this one leading back the way they had come. They boarded, and thus began the sleepiest tram ride either of them would have. The male nodded off on many an occasion, his head looking like a bobbing lure on a peaceful lake as he fought valiantly against sleep and eventually lost the battle. The female snapped up a few more photos and soon began to feel fatigued as well. It was by pure luck that the male woke up when he did and led the way off the tram so that the pair could get on the bus that would lead back home. It had been a great day of exploring the sights and sounds of one of Hong Kong’s lesser known districts while paying tribute to one of the unsung heroes of Hong Kong’s public transport system. All hail the tram!

 

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