Kelowna – Part 3 of 3

Two weeks ago Julie and I embarked on a week long holiday to Kelowna for some relaxation, lots of food, wine tours, cider tastings, and to visit my friend Krystylyn. We left on Saturday September 5th and went home on Saturday September 12th. Let’s continue with this series.

Thursday September 10th 2020

Thursday started off with our typical breakfast before heading out. First stop was the Pandosy area in Kelowna. We walked around the area, went into a few stores, and even purchased some artwork for our place. I also saw a beautiful Art Deco style home near the beach, which had me in awe!

We stopped at Hotel El Dorado for lunch. I had a burger, and Julie had Fish and Chips. Hotel El Dorado, located right on the Okanagan Lake, was originally founded in 1926 by Countess Bubna, an aristocratic English woman. The hotel was originally called The Eldorado Arms Hotel, and was Kelowna’s most social hub until the 1960’s. Over the years the hotel hosted dog shows, garden parties, croquet, etc. In the 1980’s Jim Nixon took over Hotel Eldorado and began an extensive expansion. In front of the hotel is a beautiful old Cadillac and an old truck.

After eating lunch we went to Vice and Virtue, a brewery on the east side of town, where Julie and I grabbed some low gluten beer. The owner has a gluten sensitive person in his family and thus tries to keep a few low gluten content beers on tap.

After that we head back to our condo to relax for the rest of the day. We played some Catan and spent quite a bit of time by the dock. For dinner we made pasta and meat sauce.

Friday September 11th 2020

Friday morning was spent relaxing by the beach. On the dock we met a couple that just got married and worked for Air Canada based out of Vancouver. The lady was a flight attendant, and her husband was a baggage handler. For lunch we had some leftovers.

Dinner was our special night out at Quails Gate. We started the evening off with a lovely charcuterie board and a half litre of red wine soaking up the views over the orchard. All was going well until a wasp flew into Julie’s hair. Julie had no idea the wasp was there until she went to brush her hair, and that’s when he stung her.

The staff at Quails Gate were absolutely fantastic and ended up rushing over with a bag of ice, a slice of onion to draw the toxins out, and were able to accommodate our move inside. The service was absolutely impeccable. For our main course I had a lamb dish, and Julie had a dish dish; both of which were excellent.

After dinner we drove back to our condo and relaxed for the rest of the evening. Julie wasn’t feeling very well so she ended up spending the evening in bed watching Sons of Anarchy, and I spent some time at the dock.

Saturday September 12th 2020

Saturday morning we spent at the dock, before we had to pack up for our return trip home. We loaded up the car at around 11am and headed towards Kelowna. Brunch was had at KRAFTY Kitchen & Bar with Krystylyn. Julie & I both had a poutine bowl, and Krystylyn had a burger.

On our way home we had a quick stop at Upside Cidery for quick growler refills and Legendz Diner in Golden for a quick bite to eat. Legendz is a beautiful 50’s style diner run by a wonderful Indian family. They have owned it for the last decade or so and their dedication to customer service is top notch! Julie had a gluten-free club sandwich, and I had a Hawaiian Burger!

Be sure to check back soon for my next adventure!

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Vietnam – Day 8 – Ninh Binh

Today I woke up at 5:30am. I’m still struggling with this persistent jet lag, a whole 8 days later. I packed my bags and got ready, before heading down for breakfast at the buffet. After breakfast I walked about 10 minutes to the Hanoi central train station.

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There’s a few ways of obtaining train tickets; you can buy right at the station, or you can buy online from a third party which charges a small booking fee on top. Unfortuneately foreigners can’t book online through the REAL Vietnam Rail website unless you happen to have a Vietnam bank card, which I presume almost everyone won’t. Also one thing to note is that there are a lot of fake websites in Vietnam, and other parts of SE Asia for things like trains, airlines, museums, etc. You need to be extra diligent and do your research as they mostly all look the same. I read multiple travel blogs to ensure that I was picking the appropriate websites. Anyways, I chose to use the third party website called Balou, as it came the highest recommended. I only paid about $2 CDN more to book it online through them than just showing up, but it was a nice piece of mind knowing everything was taken care of beforehand.

The train departed Hanoi station at 7:30am and slowly crawled its way through the city before picking up speed. About 15 minutes into the train ride I realized that I had made a bad mistake… I forgot my passport and US cash in the safe back at the hotel. I called the hotel and explained the situation, gave them the passcode for my safe, and told them that I’ll be back tomorrow evening to pick it up. Phew, disaster averted.

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The train arrived at Ninh Binh station at around 10:00am. While exiting the station I booked a GRAB, which happened to be waiting right out front. It took about 15 minutes to drive from Ninh Binh train station to my accommodation in Tam Coc, called Tuan Ngoc Hotel. The fare was 76000 Dong ($4.35 CDN). After arriving at the hotel I dropped off my bags I decided to rent a motorcycle from the hotel for two days for a cost of 110000 Dong/day ($6.25/day). The motorcycle didn’t include gasoline so I had to find a gas station before I ran out of gas, as they had drained all the fuel out minus a few drops.

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First stop was Hang Mua viewpoint, about a 6km ride away. Something to note here is that you don’t take the first parking spot that people try to flag you down to because you’ll end up paying way more, and have to walk a fair distance. If you can drive past all the people standing in the middle of the road you’ll find yourself with parking right at the entrance for only 10000 Dong ($0.55 CDN). Unfortuneately despite reading this there was an extremely persistent group of very angry sounding Vietnamese women that wouldn’t get out of the road and pretty much forced me to park in their parking spot for 25000 Dong ($1.35 CDN). Obviously we’re not talking about much money here, but the fact they were so pushy left a sour taste in my mouth. Picture down below of where NOT to park.

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After a 15 minute walk from the very end of the road I came to the entrance of the Hang Mua Viewpoint, which had a nominal entry fee of 100000 Dong ($5.50 CDN). There is a small cave at the start of the steps up to the viewpoint with a tiger statue and some offerings from the locals.

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After viewing inside the cave it was time to start the hot and strenuous journey up to the vietpoint. 500 steps and about 20 minutes later I was dripping in sweat, but looking at an absolutely fantastic view of the karst sceneries of Tam Coc, as well as the Lying Dragon ontop of the mountain. I spent some considerable time up here getting the photos that I wanted to get, before heading back down so that I could get some lunch.

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After walking back to the bike I rode back into town to get some lunch from a restaurant, which I unfortunately forget the name of. I had some beef pho soup, but it wasn’t very good and the service was quite slow.

After having some lunch I rode a short distance away to Bich Dong Pagoda. The parking attendent wanted to charge me 30000 Dong ($1.65 CDN) but I ended up negotiating down to 20000 Dong ($1.10 CDN). I crossed over a bridge through some temple gates, walked a short while to the Lower Pagoda, before ascending 100 steps to the Middle Pagoda, which is built half inside of a cave. There are roughly 20-25 steep steps to the Upper Pagoda, which is fully inside the cave, which is also filled with bats. Bich Dong Pagoda was built by the two monks Tri Kien and Tri The in the early 18th century.

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It was starting to get extremely hot as it was mid afternoon, so I rode back to the hotel and hung out in the pool for a few hours.

For dinner I rode to the Bia Minh Beer Garden, which was just down the street. I probably could have walked but I was feeling lazy from my hike up all those stairs earlier today. For dinner I had a Hawaiian pizza, and a pork Banh Mi sandwich, along with a mini keg of fresh beer. I’ve never seen anything like it before; it’s a combination between a growler and a keg. This was some of the freshest beer I’ve had in SE Asia so far. During dinner it started to pour rain. After dinner I rode back to the hotel in the pouring rain and ended up going to bed at around 9:00pm.

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Be sure to check back tomorrow when I explore more of Ninh Binh before heading back to Hanoi.

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