Weekly Travel Musing – 2

Q – what do you do if somebody steals your shoes / sandals / thongs if you are in a country where it is common practise to take them off when entering premises?

A – walk barefoot.

Strangers and People are the Highlight of Travel

Strangers and People are the Highlight of Travel

Picture this – a world without people in it. Travelling to other countries without anybody to see or talk to. Sure there would still be art and beautiful beaches. But if there were either no people there, or everybody was the same, travel would simply be dull.

Culture or language would not exist without people. Some of my favourite experiences while travelling have only been brought to life because of the people that surrounded me, even if they were just…. strangers.

I love photographing strangers while I’m travelling. If I see people talking in a photograph, I imagine what they are talking about, or where they are walking to. Watching people celebrate festivals or even funerals in a different way than I have only known in my own, “normal” life, is magnificent.

Here are my favourite photographs of strangers that I have taken during my travels over the world.

  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
  
   

I feel that photographing strangers is the best way to reflect on your travels and really discover the culture of the places you visit. You can learn so much from people you don’t know.

Vietnamese Massage

Vietnamese Massage

I am a huge fan of massage. Here in England I treat myself to a massage once a month as my job involves heavy lifting. However, in my opinion, nothing compares to Asian massage.

On a trip to Vietnam a couple of months ago, I had the pleasure of experiencing authentic Vietnamese massage.

  
They use a combination of strong massage, strokes and they use small cups to “pop” your muscles which is great for releasing tension and improving circulation.

I felt higher than I have ever felt from a massage after experiencing Vietnamese. I would recommend paying more and visiting a proper spa in Vietnam. You can get treatments for around 3 dollars which is cheap and cheerful. But, to experience a treatment that will improve positivity and feel amazing during and after, expect to pay over 10 dollars. Trust me, it’s worth it. If you are in Hanoi, I recommend SF Spa which is rated highest on Tripadviser. You need to book in advance.

I had a treatment in Hanoi on my last day and tipped my therapist 5 dollars. When she didn’t know I could see her, she kissed the money and put it in her purse. This made me pretty emotional.

For me, massage is a huge part of travel. Especially if travelling solo, massage gives you human interaction and touch, which is very important. It also helps me relax and connect with the culture as most massage therapies in Asia date back thousands of years.

The Pilgrimage, Hue – the Perfect, Magical Escape

The Pilgrimage, Hue – the Perfect, Magical Escape

I spent 4 days / 3 nights at the Pilgrimage Resort in Hue. It is in a serene jungle setting that is impossibly beautiful. My visit was in the middle of a hectic trek across the length of Vietnam in a pretty short space of time. I was tired from pit stops and long train journeys and I was craving some much needed R&R. The Pilgramage Resort did not disappoint.

   
  
  
The resort is fairly large and the walk from reception through the lush trees and rooms tucked away is beautiful. The swim up bar in the pool is a great hang out spot for cocktails during the daily happy hour.

We checked into our honeymoon pool villa which was just stunning. It was modern, clean and very tastefully decorated. 

   
The sunken bath went down particularly well with me! 

  
  
I have always wanted to visit Hue and the famous perfume river, but it was much more touristy and built up than I had imagined. Hue city is fantastic, but I prefer staying somewhere a little quieter, which is why this property is so superb. It is located in a residential area which gives you the feeling of ‘real’ Vietnam. The walls back on to the village and homes. The hotel provides regular free shuttle buses to the centre which is really handy.

The resort runs free tai chi and yoga classes daily which I participated in. The tai chi takes place pool side, very early so as not to be disturbed and it was magical. The yoga was partly ashtanga and partly postures which was ideal and really got my blood flowing. Later that day my partner and I relaxed with a full body Vietnamese massage in the stunning spa. I am somewhat of a massage expert (having had one a month for the past 5 years) and this treatment was easily in the top 1%.

The good news is that you can book a room at this resort from around just 55 dollars a night which is insanely good value.

Bookings can be made direct on the hotels website:- 

http://www.pilgrimagevillage.com

I left this resort feeling energised and rejuvenated. I actually could have stayed for another week! Thank you, Pilgrimage hotel.

The Vietnam War Memorial

The Vietnam War Memorial

Some of the content of this blog is upsetting / disturbing. If you do not wish to read on, please don’t. I have to be honest, I knew very little about the Vietnam war before my trip there last month. It was truly a horrific war – blood and hatred spread for over ten years, to stop communism. I still struggle to understand it, I don’t think I ever will.

The museum stands proudly in the centre of Ho Chi Minh City housing war remnants and artifacts. Outside are jets and tankers, they were so old but I couldn’t help but notice the tyre tread on the wheels was better than my own car as if they had hardly been used – weird observation.

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Inside houses all of the photographs of the Vietnam War. They are brutally honest – they hide nothing. You would see photographs of children running down the street with GIs chasing them with their guns out. The most painful bit to see was Agent Orange. This was a defoliant chemical used in the war. It was spread over rivers and crops and caused a debilitating mutated gene so that future children and generations would be born heavily mutated and often live a considerably shorter life.. In my opinion, that is worse that cold blooded murder. You can still see the effects of it today out there.

I don’t think the infantries are to blame, they were following orders. Needless to say, it was a very painful experience just being in the museum for two hours, I cannot imagine trying to live through it for over ten years.

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My Tam Coc Boat Trip Experience

My Tam Coc Boat Trip Experience

We cycled into the Tam Coc boat dock near Ninh Binh in North Vietnam, left our bikes near a group of Vietnamese people and purchased our tickets. It wasn’t overly touristy here but a guy from our hotel had recommended this place as a beautiful tourist attraction. The boats appeared little more than a thin sheet of curved steel, I hoped they were safe. A small Vietnamese lady was our guide / rowing peddler. I felt a little sorry for her as we (being Westerners) were considerably heavier than her (we tipped her after!). I had no idea what to expect, but honestly I was totally blown away. It was such an intimate experience –  getting up close and personal with the rocks. The boat tour actually travelled underneath caves and when you are floating through these tiny gaps of cave darkness, you can really appreciate the power of these mountains.

I don’t think words can really do justice on how beautiful this place is, so I hope some of my photographs do…

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Our boat was similar to this

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Some of the locals selling food and beer out on the lake
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Travelling through one of the low crooked caves

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One of my favourites. So many colours and the water looks beautiful.

When we were returning our boat to the dock, we noticed that one of the other boat guides had hit her head on one of the rocks in the caves. Once we were back on dry land I grabbed my bike and cycled to where she had docked her boat and tried to explain that I am a medic (I am in the ambulance service in London) and I wanted to have a look at her cut. She did show me and it was pretty deep and at risk of infection. She also had a haematoma (bruised swelling) on her forehead which needed looking at. I said ‘hospital’! She needed a stitch. I was doing hand demonstrations of a stitch, at which point one of her male friends was there too. They understood what I was saying but she refused to go to hospital and simply asked me for ‘dollar’ before jumping back in her boat and rowing away. This made me sad. It really highlights the abuse of our ambulance service here and when people abroad really need help but either do not have access to it or cannot afford it.

Look Up More…

Look Up More…

I realised recently that most of us look within our line of vision to appreciate the beauty of a town or landscape. It occurred to me that this is cutting out maybe 60% of the actual view on offer and if we ‘look up’ more, there is so much more to be seen. It’s like you are seeing beneath the facade of what that particular location wants you to see and can appreciate the reality of this space.

I have taken some photos of a different perspective of towns and places and I feel that by seeing these, I have really seen the place.

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Homes and flats above the shops in the city centre, Hanoi, Vietnam.
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A stunningly unusual tree in Kerala, India.
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Flats and homes above businesses in central London, England.
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Beautiful art work for sale in Ubud, Bali.
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The white blob on the top balcony is actually a cat balancing on the edge, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.
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The detail in the upstairs / terrace of this old house, Malta.
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The actual insane beauty of the Sagrada Familia, Barcelona, Spain.
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Rooftops and flowers taken in beautiful Bali, Indonesia.