Hội An & Bai Xep, Vietnam…

Vietnam with a 2 and a 1/2 year old & 4 year old. People imagine all sorts of things for their children. Since we first fell pregnant, we only ever imagined this for ours – a Vietnamese sleeper train adventure. One big backpack, 4 of us, two weeks.

 


Ho Chi Minh City (Days 1 – 2)
Our tactic here was to keep it simple, like toddler simple, one ‘big’ thing a day. Namely a park when they could run free. The walk to get there became the adventure as we’d call at our favorite fresh juice and Banh Mi street stall to take refuge from the infamous traffic on the way. It did amaze us though (having both visited Vietnam a couple of times previously) how much our bodies remembered the reflex of the tactical ‘slow walk.’ AKA survival across the road whilst 100 motorbikes swarm around you.

September 23 park and Tao Dan park in District 1, have fantastic kids playgrounds; both are safe (ish), fenced, shady. Most importantly the former has a kiosk serving 60 cent beers whilst you watch the kids play. Australia get on this please!

When we felt really adventurous we’d throw in two things a day like a trip to Ben Thanh Market, the water puppets show, or an evening trip to the pedestrianised Nguyen Hue walking street. When i say evening, I of course mean 5pm, since the jet-lagged kids were still on Australian time. Afterall, getting in a swim before 6am is the new going out.


Where we stayed:
The Sunland Hotel – has a shallow toddler slide pool NEXT to a lady doing foot massages. Again, Australia please get on this!

Where we ate: Al Sham Restaurant – delirious middle eastern food and friendly owner who stuffed the kids full of Syrian honey cake & strawberry sticks on the three times we visited.

HCMC to Da Nang (For Hoi An) the SE4 sleeper train

The pros list:

  • It’s totally worth birthing two kids JUST to secure your own 4 birth soft sleeper cabin with none of the usual sharing with strangers on a train.
  • The line “we’re going to sleep on a train!” bought me us at least 6 months of excitement in the pre-holiday build up with the kids.
  • The kids actually slept. Helped by the rocking and ‘chug chug’ noises.

The reality list:

  • 17 hours is a LOT of crafting, dominoes and sticker books. Parents; Arm yourself with supplies. Oh how my husband and I longed for our Trans-Siberian express days where all we needed as a good book and vodka!
  • My youngest is a total bed-hog, meaning that I had somewhat less sleep than she did, sharing a single berth with a 2 year old in the starfish position.
  • The momentum that the kids loved, together with the screeching, jolting and excitement of sleeper trains that I also used to love just left me feeling exhausted this time. Old age maybe?

Hội An (Days 3 – 5)

There are places I know I’ll love before i get there. This is one. Cobbled old town set along a canal, French colonial architecture, quaint little shop-houses framed with lanterns. It reminded me of a glitzier version of Melaka in Malaysia.

It’s Instagram central here. Now I’d like to not be a cliche since I’m older and wiser, but nope, I donned actual red lipstick for a breakfast walk and posed like the best of them in the mustard yellow walled alleyways. All be it with my mini photo-bomber kids by my ankles.

Where I stayed: Thanh Van 1 hotel – nice courtyard pool, nice breakfast.

Where I ate: The perfect Long Island Iced Tea at a coffee shop called Wake Up, washed down with veggie spring rolls. Perfect mainly because it was ‘mama solo time’ for a few hours. Also because it was the same price as a smoothy. Easy choice.

What we did: The Lantern full moon festival, held monthly.

Cua Dai (Days 5 – 8)

We lucked out here with the beautiful homestay with home cooking and lovely staff who live on site with their two young kids, meaning that I could relax and not have to ‘shhh’ mine. It’s location might put a few people off as it was the baron building in the middle of a cows paddock, 5 minutes taxi ride from the Cua Dai main strip.  Strangely rows of pavements were all built in invisible streets looking ripe for developers, but all that seems ambiguous due to the Cua Dai’s coastal erosion problem. We personally loved the wide open space after being cooped up in cities. It’s 5 minute walk to a super quiet patch of beach with the pint sized toddler waves to play in at dusk.

Where we stayed: Sun Paradise Villa.

Sa Huynh (Day 9)

Since we couldn’t face the 5 hour drive back down south in one hit. We pit stopped for one night in the creepy Sa Huynh resort. It’s faded neon lights reminded me of the place in the movie ‘Bad times at the El Royal.’ It had one redeeming feature however….

 

 

Bai Xep (Day 10 – 13)

At last. Anywhere that’s cut off to traffic is our kind of place. We found our groove here. I liked it from the moment we walked in through the rabbit warren alleyways, where the only decision is whether to turn left to the fishing dock or right at the village well which was jammed packed with various pipelines to communally siphon off water. The beach is shared by a handful of iconic Vietnamese basket boats and three guesthouses (two backpackers and a fancy pants resort.) At sunset the whole village set up makeshift plastic furniture in the sand and sell their catch of the day. The only jolt from paradise came when the local kids came racing into the tide one day, ecstatic that they’d got their hands on an old polystyrene box. It became a shared raft, floating toy, ball and eventually disintegrated into 1000 pieces which were left all over the beach. A handful of 8 year olds then started experimenting with their heads in plastic bags whilst crashing in the waves. If ever there’s somewhere to make you appreciate the scale of the global climate emergency it was here.

Where we stayed: Haven Guesthouse.

Dieu Tri to HCMC the SE1 sleeper train (day 14)

Back on the 12 hour night train once more, which was pretty uneventful, except for it’s final moments. I’d previously joked that this trip was about re-connecting with ‘travel Kim,’ with the person and feelings that travel used to give me – moments that are few and far between once parenthood begins! Since 99% of this trip was the usual happy chaos of young children, my 1% of travel buzz came unexpectedly as we arrived into Ga Sai Gon station at dawn. Something about Asian cities in the very early hours of the morning makes me feel alive every time.

 

 

 

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Saint Petersburg, Russia

wpid-img_20140719_175307.jpg My top 5 spots;

1) The church on spilled blood; the postcard shot it’s gem covered onion domes, even without the snow.

2)  Udelnaya Fair; the flee market of all flee markets. Vinal, funature, antiquies, leather bags. Real one-off finds, but no logic to the pricing. Bric o brac could be $1000 rb or $10 rb depending on the seller.

3)  Kazanskaya street cafe’s, namely Zoom and Soup Vino.

4)  Peter & Paul’s Fortress beach for ridiculous Russian fashion spotting.

5) White lights festival on a summer’s July night; seeing the bridges rise in almost broad daylight at 1am, and the view from Teressa roof terrace.

Where we stayed; https://m.airbnb.com

24 hours in Taipai, Taiwan…

My top 3  spots for a stop-off in Taipei…

Taipei 101. Once the world’s highest tower, now relegated to 5th place, it does have bragging rights over the world’s fastest elevator.

Beitou Hot Springs. I love a jacuzzi but at 45 degrees they mean HOT!

Tamsui Seaside (or Danshui as it’s written in Mandarin on the MRT may just to confuse you.) Taiwanese Blackpool.

Getting there: http://www.flyscoot.com/‎ use Taipei as a handy stop-off to/from their Seoul route.

Where I stayed: Socket Hostel, 10 min walk from Sun Yat Sen Memorial Park MRT.

 

 

72 hours in Seoul, Korea…

Here are the top 6 fun/crazy/beautiful things I saw with 3 days in Seoul:

1) A bad-ass tattooed couple in their 20’s paying to cuddle a kitten….

Cat cafe’s are increasingly popular in Asia.  Not just with 10 year old girls, but because young couples often live in tiny, pet-free apartments.  Plus the National obsession  Hello Kitty probably helps.  I visited Toms Cat  where for 8000 Won (the price of a tea/coffee)  you can stay as long as you want and hang out like a crazy cat lady.  It’s surprisingly therapeutic.

2) Socks, socks & more socks…..

Forget Gangnam.  Hogndae Street is the new fashionable area. Weirdly it reminds me of an alpine ski village with all it’s second/third story  alfresco  coffee chains, or maybe it’s just the cool March air.  It’s close to Hongkok University so has a ton of  graffiti, clubs & funky boutiques nearby. One question though Korea; What’s with all the sock shops?!

3) I’m gonna pop some tags, I got 20 Won in my pocket…

Outside of  Ewha Women’s University is the warren of vintage flee market stores also know as ‘that street you want to visit.’ Correct. There’s rows of  shoe shops that remind me of UK 90’s chain Garage (with a 60,000 won price range.) Plus your usual Asian-esq slogan tees and rails thrift shop jumpers. It’s also waay better than the oddly popular Namdaemun Market.

4) The Bukchon ‘Observatory’ (some guy’s 3rd floor balcony)…

Bukchon & Insa-dong areas are both worth a little meander for arts & crafts. The maze of alleyways around Buchon Hanok Village are full of galleries & teeny tiny tea cafes. An enterprising guy has done a sterling job pinning flyers to lampposts to advertise  his 3rd floor balcony as a ‘private observatory.’ For 3000 Won you can get some nice get some nice shots of the Seongbuk-dong mountains and Gyeonbokgung palace rooftop. Plus he throws in a free orange juice.

5) Businessmen in suits hopping over stepping stones…

Cheonggyecheong is a 6km stream running through the center of the city. It’s definitely worth a spot of people watching as the city workers take their lunch break, just to see guys in suits with briefcases skip over the stepping stones like little girls in a woodland :)

6) Cheery blossoms come early….

I thought these were a Tokyo thing, so what a nice surprise!

Getting there: $350 SGD Singapore to Seoul (via Taipei) with Scoot Air

Where I stayed: $25 SGD shared dorm at The Closest Hostel (1 min from Hongik Uni MRT)

Where I ate:  BistroRE just off Yanghwa-ro 18 gil, Hongik University. (Home of the freshest mozzarella in Asia!)

 

 

 

Pic of the week; W Hotel Sentosa

Afternoon Tea Sentosa Style at W hotel's Drop The T @ Woo Bar. $68 for a birdcage for x2 people with freeflow tea 3pm - 5pm.

Funky afternoon tea at the W Hotel’s chic WooBar. The trip out to Sentosa Cove s worth it for a scrumptious ‘birdcage’ of passion fruit compote scones & savory cheese nibbles. Drop The T is $68 ++ for a cage for x2 people with freeflow Dilmah tea 3pm – 5pm.

Previous Older Entries

An.an.tas.in : The Anantasin is the name of a shipwreck just of the coast of the Sensi Parasise, Mae Haad Bay, Koh Tao, Thailand. It’s one of my many favorite places.

Lit.tle: Just because it’s cute.

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