Kuta – Bali, Indonesia

Today we slept in as long as we could. I think I slept in until 9:00am. We had breakfast at the hotel buffet, which was pretty mediocre, and then we lounged by the pool for the rest of the morning listening to podcasts, reading, and playing in the pool with our foam ball.

At lunchtime we walked to Biku Restaurant. We really like this place because they have gluten-free options for Julie, and the food and drink selection is great. We both ended up having a sandwich, and Chai Tea.

After lunch we walked back to the hotel, checked out, and took a GRAB (think Uber) to our next hotel, the Kuta Beach Heritage Hotel. This hotel was the most premium quality hotel of our stay, with a huge room with a king sized bed, rainfall shower, and a private pool on our balcony. The cost of the room ended up only being about $120/night, which gets you a low to mid-grade hotel back at home. After checking in we relaxed in the pool for the remainder of the afternoon.

At dinner time we walked down the street and ended up having dinner at the Hard Rock Cafe. Julie also purchased some things from the Hard Rock store. We both ended up having burgers for dinner and ended up watching an Asian Pop band perform. The music was a bit loud for our liking, however was pretty good.

After dinner we walked back to the hotel and watched more Netflix in bed.

Poolside Vibes – Bali, Indonesia

During the night we were both kept awake from the constant street noise, so we put in some ear plugs. The view from the street certainly was beautiful though! After waking up we went for the breakfast buffet, which was extremely mediocre. We spent the morning lounging by the pool; reading, listening to music, and playing with the foamy ball that Julie bought me.

At lunch we walked to Sisterfields Cafe. I had sourdough bread with arugula, bacon, tomato, and a fried egg on top. After lunch we both walked to the place I had dropped off the laundry the day prior and picked it up. In the afternoon we relaxed by the pool. I started to sneeze and get some sniffles in the early afternoon and made a mention of it to Julie. Towards the evening I was definitely getting worse.

For dinner we went to Bossman Burger, a local burger chain. Oh my goodness, wow, what amazing burgers!

Temples & Rice Terraces – Ubud, Indonesia

Today we had an exploration day on own. We started off with breakfast at Ely’s Kitchen, Ubud. The scooter ride to our breakfast place was amazing! We took a bunch of windy back roads. For breakfast I had a smoked salmon and scrambled eggs dish, along with some coffee.

After breakfast we rode the scooter to Goa Gajah. Goa Gajah, also known as the Elephant Cave, is a sanctuary near Ubud that was built in the 9th century. It consists of a cave, fountain and bathing pools. It’s believed that the cave was built for meditation purposes. The complex consists of Hindu and Buddhist imagery, as the cave contains lingam and yoni, symbol of Shiva, and the image of Ganesha, while by the river there are carved images of stupas and chattra, imagery of Buddhism. The cave was only discovered in 1923 by Dutch archaeologists. The pools and fountain were not discovered until a few decades later in 1954. During our visit an older man led us on a fairly long path down to another cave temple, that I think very few people get to see. I ended up tipping him a fair amount, but he seemed rather ungrateful, and wanted even more. I was still appreciative of him showing us though.

After exploring Goa Gajah we rode the scooter about 40 minutes to Tegallalang Rice Terrace. Tegallalang Rice Terrace is one of the most famous tourism destinations in Bali. Located in Tegalalang Village, north of Ubud, the beautiful rice terraces follow the flowing topography, and feature zip lines and jungle swings. This is a very famous Instragram spot. While we were there we went on a jungle swing, I flew the drone, and we ate some delicious food.

The rest of the afternoon was spent relaxing by the pool. Julie had purchased me this foam ball prior to our trip, and it was pretty fun to throw back and forth.

In the evening we went to Cafe Wayan & Bakery. The cafe has been around since 1986! We had some delicious Balinese food, and for desert had a gluten free apple crumble, which was honestly the best I’ve ever had.

Portugal – Day 7 – Lisbon

Today I spent more time exploring Lisbon. I started off with a breakfast sandwich and a coffee at Starbucks. I have to apologize for the poor colour balance on my photos today, as there was a massive sand storm that had blown sand all the way from Morocco. The sky was a bright orange colour, so I did the best I could to colour balance.

The Orion Eden Hotel is a former cinema, named Teatro Eden. This Art Deco style theatre was opened in 1931 and designed by Cassiano Brando and Carlo Florencio Dias, and was one of the city’s most important cinemas. The cinema closed in 1989 and was left in ruins until it was converted to the Orion Eden Hotel in 2001.

The Hard Rock Cafe sits not far from Teatro Eden, and is another former cinema that was called Condes Cinema. It was designed by architect Raul Tojal. This beautiful Streamine Moderne (a style of Art Deco) building has a streamlined corner, and a circular rooftop. The cinema closed in the 1990’s, and was left in poor shape until it was converted into the Hard Rock Cafe in 2003.

Avenida da Liberdade is one of the main boulevards in Lisbon, and has some of the most expensive shopping areas in Europe. The 90 metre-wide boulevard is 1100 metres long, and has ten lanes divided by pedestrian sidewalks, gardens, and a large amount of trees. The avenue was built in 1879, the site of a former park. There are some beautiful buildings that I saw along this beautiful boulevard.

The Rossio Railway station is Lisbon’s central train station. It was opened in 1891 and features a beautiful Neo-Manueline façade.

Praca Dom Pedro IV, also known as Praca do Rossio, is the main central square of Lisbon, and is known as the “heart” of the city. The square features a statue in the centre of Dom Pedro IV, however there’s an urban myth that the statue is that of Emperor Maximilian of Mexico, and that after Maximilian’s assassination the statue was unwanted and sold to Lisbon cheaply, as both Dom Pedro IV and Maximilian had similar appearances.

The Queen Maria II National Theatre is a historical theatre that was built in 1842, and sits on the north side of Praca Dom Pedro IV square. The Neo-Classical building was designed by Fortunato Lodi.

Across from Praca Dom Pedro IV square is a restaurant called Nicola, and it features a beautiful Art Nouveau design in the front.

The International Design Hotel is a beautiful historic 4-star hotel located on the Southeast end of Praca Dom Pedro IV square. This Art Deco hotel was built in 1930, and was renovated last in 2009.

Animatografo do Rossio opened in 1907 as one of Portugal’s first cinemas. This beautiful Art Nouveau style building is definitely worth checking out. It’s facade is comprised of sculpted wood, and two panels of azulejos tiles (blue tiles). In 1994 the site was turned into a peep show venue.

The Santa Justa Lift, also known as Carmo Lift, is an elevator in the historic centre of Lisbon that connects the lower streets of Baixa with the higher streets of Carmo Square, which is 45 metres (148 feet above). The lift was opened in 1899, and is designed in a Neo-Gothic architecture style, comprised mostly of iron. The hills of Lisbon historically presented a problem for travel between the lower streets of Baixa with the higher streets of Carmo Square, and in 1874 an engineer named Roberto Armenio presented a project to the Lisbon municipal council to have rail-lines that would be pulled by animals up an inclined plane. In 1882, the council gave permission to explore alternative plans for an inclined transportation system moved by mechanical means. While the use of animals never occurred, the elevator was eventually approved in 1896, and opened in 1899.

The Convent of Our Lady of Mount Carmel is a former Catholic convent located in the civil parish of Santa Maria Maior. The convent was ruined during the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. The monastery was originally founded in 1389. In 1407 the presbytery and apse of the church was completed. In 1423 residential areas were added the building. By 1551 the convent contained 70 clergy and 10 servants. In 1755 the earthquake hit and completely destroyed the library, and caused significant damage to the convent. Minor repairs to the monastery were carried out in 1800, with the roof being repaired during this time. Just ten years later the Police Royal guard occupied the site, which included the sharpshooter battalion, and the militia. In 1834 additional repairs were made to include the 3rd District Judge’s Law Court. The church was never fully rebuilt, and was rented out to a sawmilling shop. The buildings and site were eventually donated in 1864 to the Association of Portuguese Archaeologists, which turned the building into a museum. Between 1911 and 1912 the walls around the convent were reconstructed, with various arches build. In 1955 the facades and roofing of the garrison buildings was completed. In 1969, another earthquake hit, and curing the Carnation Revolution the convent was attached by rebels. This building just couldn’t catch a break!

Rue Garrett Street is another famous street in Lisbon, and is home to some of Lisbon’s most famous bookstores, including Livraria Bertrand, the oldest bookstore in the world, which was founded in 1732.

By then it was time to grab some lunch. I went out to Time Out Market, which is a massive food hall, to look around and see what there was to eat. I settled on a place called Ground Burger, and that certainly didn’t disappoint.

It was then time to go exploring again. First stop was The National Theatre of Sao Carlos, which was opened in 1793. It was slated as a replacement for the Tejo Opera House, which was destroyed in in the 1755 Lisbon earthquake. This beautiful neoclassical building was designed by Portuguese architect José da Costa e Silva. The building took only six months to build, and has seating capacity for 1148 people spread over 5 tiers of boxes.

I then checked out another funky metro station called Chelas Station. It is one of Lisbon’s newer metro stations, and was opened before Expo ’98 started.

Here’s a few random photos I also took during the day that I quite liked.

I then went back to my hotel for a bit to do some work, as I had a few meetings, and then I went in the pool and sauna for a few hours.

I was getting hungry, so it was time to eat dinner. I didn’t want to walk far, so I settled on a place called Udon Noodle Bar & Restaurant. I chose to have a chicken ramen dish, and it was delicious.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, as I explore more of Lisbon.

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Portugal – Day 5 – Lisbon

I started the day off with an amazing buffet breakfast at my hotel, before walking to the Sao Bento train station to catch a quick Intercity train to Campanhã station, where I had a coffee while I waited for my train to Lisbon. The train ride to Lisbon took about 3 hours.

Before I dive into Lisbon, let’s explore a brief history on Lisbon. Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city, as well as Portugals largest city, with a population of 2.9 million people if you include its metro area. Similar to Porto, the area was originally settled by Celtic people, however much earlier than Porto. They settled in 1200 BC. The Roman’s, Moors, and Napoleonic’s then came and occupied the Iberian Peninsula, which we learned about in my writing of the Portuguese history. Lisbon was an important trade city, due to its port access. Lisbon became the capital city of Portugal in 1255. A fun fact that I mentioned before is that the ruler of Brazil became the King of Portugal during the 19th century, and the capital city was moved from Lisbon to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil from 1808 to 1821.

I arrived at Oriente Station, which was about a 15 minutes walk to my hotel; Myriad by SANA. Oriente Station (Gare do Oriente) was specifically built for Expo ’98. It is covered by a translucent roof composed of a reticulated roof structure. It creates a very grand entrance to arriving passengers. The building was designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava. This modernist station is a hub for the Lisbon Metro, high speed commuter train, regional trains, national and international buses, a police station, and even a shopping center. The train station has a lattice of reinforced concrete supporting the main floors, and a lattice structure of glass and metal covering the main floors and train platforms.

It was time to check into my hotel. The Myriad Hotel is adjacent to the Torre Casco da Gama Tower & Myriad Hotel. The tower is a 145 metre (476 foot) tall tower that was built in 1998. The 22 floor hotel was later built in 2012, and stands 72 metres (236 feet) tall. The tower was built in 1998 for the Expo ’98 World’s Fair. At the base of the tower, which is shaped like a sail, was a three-story building that served as the European Union Pavilion during the Expo. After the Expo was finished the three-story building was supposed to be leased out, but never found tenants, and sat vacant, with the rare exception for one-off events. Both the observation deck, and restaurant were closed in October 2004. Parque Expo eventually received permission along the riverside to build a 178 room luxury hotel. The three-storey building was demolished to make way for the 5-star Myriad hotel, which was designed by Portuguese architect Nuno Leonidas. In 2018 the panoramic restaurant named Fifty Seconds, was opened up in the space that was previously the observation deck, and now has a one-star Michelin rating.

After settling in for a bit it was time to set out and explore the Expo ’98 site. Expo ’98 was the specialized World’s Fair that was held in Lisbon from May 22nd to September 30th 1998. The theme of the fair was “The Oceans, a Heritage for the Future”. 143 countries participated, and the expo received over 11 million visitors. The idea for Portugal to host the World’s Fair actually dates back to 1989. The expo was built in a derelict area of the city, and ended up creating a thriving neighbourhood that left a legacy. The buildings include Oriente Station (see what I wrote above), designed by Santiago Calatrava; Portugal Pavilion, designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira; Lisbon Oceanarium New Extension, designed by Campo Costa Arquitetos; Teatro Camoes (Camoes Theater), designed by Manuel Salgado (RISCO); Pavilhao do Conhecimento, designed by João Luís Carrilho da Graça; Utopian Pavilion (MEO Arena), designed by SOM; Torre Vasco da Gama (see what I wrote above), designed by Leonor Janeiro and Nicholas Jacobs; and Vasco da Gama Bridge, designed by Armando Rito.

Portugal Pavilion is the central hub, or jewel of the Expo site. Located along the Tagus River, this building has an enormous and thin concrete canopy (70 metres by 50 metres and only 20 centimetres thick) draped between two columns, creating a beautiful frame of the water. This beautiful building was designed by Alvaro Siza Vieira. The canopy is formed by the catenary arc of steel cables draped between the columns (porticoes) which were constructed with pre-stressed concrete. This is essentially the same technology used in suspension bridges, and Calgary’s own Saddle Dome arena. It is designed as a stressed-ribbon structure, wherein the loose cables are stiffened with concrete to eliminate sway and bounce.

The Lisbon Oceanarium was built for Expo ’98, and is the largest indoor aquarium in Europe. The largest tank is a 5000 cubic metres! It was designed by Peter Chermayeff, the same designer behind Osaka Oceanarium Kaiyukan, which is one of the largest aquariums in the world. I went to Osaka in 2017, however I didn’t have time to visit it unfortunately. Inside the oceanarium there is a large collection of marine species (over 450 species, and over 16000 animals), including penguins, otters, sharks, rays, seahorses, starfish, etc.

Teatro Camoes (Camoes Theater) is another Expo ’98 facility. It was a concert hall with a capacity for 873 visitors at a time. I wouldn’t call this building beautiful by any means, however it’s certainly unique. The building is comprised predominantly of corrugated metal that is painted blue.

Pavilhao do Conhecimento is an interactive science museum that was built for Expo ’98. The modern building was designed by Carrilho da Graça and engineer António Adão da Fonseca.

Atlice Arena, also known as the Utopian Pavilion, is a multi-purpose indoor arena that was built specifically for Expo ’98. It has a capacity of over 20000 people, and was designed by Regino Cruz, alongside Skidmoore, Owings & Merrill (SOM). SOM completed many large sporting pavilions in Portland, Philadelphia, Oakland, and Minneapolis, as well as the Casco da Gama Tower, where I stayed during my stay in Lisbon. This unique building certainly resembles a UFO. In the background of this photo you can also see Torres Sao Rafael & Sao Gabriel, which are two modern luxury condos that are located close to the Expo ’98 site. They both have 24 floors and are 110 metres tall, and are the tallest residential buildings in the country. They somewhat resemble sails.

The Vasco da Gama Bridge is a six lane cable-stayed bridge, designed by Armando Rito, that spans the Tagus River. It is the second longest bridge in Europe, after the Crimean Bridge. It was built to solve a major congestion issue on Lisbon’s 25 de Abril Bridge, and eliminate traffic to have to pass through the city. Construction took place between February 1995 and March 1998, which coincided with the opening of Expo ’98. It is 12.3 kilometres long, 30 metres wide, and 148 metres tall at it’s tallest point. The longest span is 420 metres.

Telecabine Lisbon is a cable car that was built for Expo ’98. It covers a distance of 1230 m from the Aquarium to the Vasco da Gama Tower. Each gondola car can hold 8 people, and the route takes about 10 minutes to cover. This is how I took the pictures I posted above.

Also on site is a beautifully created piece of artwork of an Iberian Lynx, dubbed Bordalo II, by Artur Bordalo. He was tired of seeing trash strewn about the city, so he decided to do something about it and make art. This art has been on site since Summer 1999. I was inspired to find more of his artwork, so I will source that out on other days.

After exploring the Expo ’98 facility I explored other area’s of Lisbon, starting with a few subway stations.

Olaias Subway Station is located on the Red Line of the Lisbon Metro. The station, designed by Tomas Taveria, was built in 1998 and features beautiful art that was created by Pedro Cabrita Reis, Graça Pereira Coutinho, Pedro Calapez and Rui Sanchez.

Picoas Subway Station is located on the Yellow Line of the Lisbon Metro. That station, designed by Picoas Subway Station, was built in 1959. It was rebuilt and extended in 1982, and rebuilt again in 1995 based on the design of Dinis Gomes. What caught my eye was the classic Art Nouveau entrance, similar to some of the metro stations I saw in Paris.

Next to Picoas Subway station is Av Fontes Pereira de Melo 28 is an Art Nouveau building that was built between 1910 and 1914 as a residence for José Maria Marques. It was designed by architect Manuel Joaquim Norte Junior. Also next door was a really neat looking abandoned set of old buildings.

The Campo Pequeno Bullring was built between 1890 and 1892. It was designed predominantly for bullfighting, however it is also used for various other events. This beautiful building is of neo-Mudéjar style, a romantic style inspired by the ancient Arabic architecture of the Iberian Peninsula. The building design was based off an old bullring in Madrid that was designed by Emilio Rodriguez Ayuso, which was later demolished. The bull ring has a circular floorplan with four large octagonal towers on each cardinal point with oriental-looking domes. The Western tower is flanked by two turrets and serves as main entrance. The windows on the building also have a horseshoe shape.

The Museum Residence of Dr. Anastacio Goncalves is a fabulous Art Nouveau style building that was the former residence of Dr. Anastacio Goncalves, that was later converted into a museum showcasing 19th-cenutyr Portuguese painting and Art Nouveau art and artifacts. The house was originally built in 1904 for José Victor Branco Malhoa, who sold it after his wife’s death in 1919. He moved into a home in Praça da Alegria. Between 1919 and 1932, the house exchanged hands a few times, before Dr. Anastácio Gonçalves, a great collector of artworks, moved in. Upon his death in 1965, the house and all its artifacts were left to the State, in order to create a museum.

Sotto Mayor Palace was built for the Portuguese aristocrat Sotto Mayor in the late 19th century. He was one of the wealthiest people in Portugal at the time. In 1988 the Sotto Mayor Palace was made a property of public interest after a fire at the palace.

I saw a beautiful Art Deco building on R. Rodrigues Sampaio 50C. I couldn’t find any information about it unfortunately.

Nearby to this Art Deco building I also saw two more buildings I found quite interesting.

Cinema São Jorge is one of the most prestigious cinemas in Portugal. It was opened in 1950. It consists of three rooms; Manoel de Oliveira, with 827 seats; Montepio, with 150 seats and room for 250 standing; and “Room 3”, with 199 seats.

Parque Mayer is the theatre district in Lisbon. It opened in 1956, and closed its doors in 1995. The land was originally used as a garden attached to Palacete Mayer (now the Spanish Embassy), before it was used as an amusement park in 1921, before the first of four theatres was built on the land. Teatro Maria Vitoria was opened in 1922, and continues to function to this day, although it was almost destroyed by a fire in 1986. In 1926, Teatro Varidades was opened. That theatre also survived a fire, and eventually closed its doors in 1992, and is currently undergoing restoration. Teatro Capitolio, a modernist style building, was opened in 1931, and is still in use today, however was closed for a long period of time due to extensive water damage. The last theatre, was Teatro ABC, which was opened in 1956, and was demolished in 2015.

Before heading back to my hotel I grabbed a salad, banana, and some sparkling water. I ate my dinner and chatted on the phone with a few friends, before heading up to the pool and sauna to relax for a bit. Continuing on the water theme afterwards I ran myself a nice jacuzzi tub, while watching some of the new season of Mayday: Air Crash Investigation. After getting my fill of relaxation it was time to head to bed.

Be sure to check back tomorrow, when I explore Sintra and Cascais.

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Vietnam – Day 12 – Hanoi & Travelling to Cambodia

Today was a day of relaxation before I had to board an evening flight to Siam Reap, Cambodia. I woke up at 6:00am and went downstairs for an amazing buffet breakfast. It doesn’t matter what you wanted, this place had it! I spent the first half of morning relaxing in my nice and cool air conditioned room, before heading upstairs to the pool area. I had the pool all to myself and ended up relaxing there until checkout time, which was 1:00pm.

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At checkout I left my bags with the reception desk and went in search of food. While I was walking I saw a restaurant that was called Bami King, who’s sign looked like a knockoff of Burger King, so of course I had to eat there. The sandwich was super saucy but didn’t really have too much flavour; probably the least favourite Banh Mi that I’ve had so far.

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I got back to the hotel around 2:00pm and relaxed in the lobby for about an hour editing photos. While I was there one of the hotel workers began playing the harp, and it sounded amazing.

3:00pm arrived quickly and it was time for me to head to the airport. I ordered a GRAB for 120000 Dong ($7.50) which was less than half of the price that I had paid when I had originally arrived in Hanoi. The reason for this was because the surge pricing wasn’t in effect due to it being mid afternoon. When I had originally arrived in the evening there was surge pricing in effect.

When I was at the airport I had to find a way to print my Cambodian E-Visa, which I sloppily had forgotten to print off before I had left for the trip. After talking to numerous Vietnam Airlines desks I found someone who was willing to help me. I had to email it to her Gmail account and she had to print it to some really older printer that was off to the side. Remember most airline tickets are still printed on dot matrix printers in the fair majority of the world, so finding a modern laser printer is difficult sometimes.

After clearing customs and security I sat and waiting for two hours before the 6:00pm flight. A storm had rolled in at this point in time and there was a ton of lightening. I tried to get photograph or the lightening, which has been a bucket shot for me for quite some time, but no luck. I eventually ended up getting a photo from a video screen capture, despite it being low quality.

Lightning

The flight was on a Vietnam Airlines Airbus A321. The flight arrived at 7:50pm. I was even served a meal on the 1h50m flight. Siem Reap International Airport was a complete mess. After landing we de-planed in the middle of nowhere and there was no bus or guidance of where to go. People haphazardly walked to a few buildings before finding the terminal, which was not actually very obvious to find. Customs was easily to clear as I had already applied online for a Cambodian E-Visa. After clearing customs I went to the taxi commission desk to book a taxi to my hotel, since GRAB didn’t operate out of Siem Reap. After paying my $10 USD ($13.20 CDN) I was given this young man who spoke perfect English. The first half of the drive went by seamlessly, but during the second half he was trying to get me to hire him as a tour guide. I told him that I had already scheduled a guide for the next 3 days. He started to cry and I asked him what was wrong. He told me that they have to get a number and are only allowed to pick up people every 3 days or so as the Airport Authority only lets the one taxi company show up and there is a huge wait list. I felt pretty bad so I gave him a $10 USD tip; regardless of if the story is true or not. The guy needs the money more than I do.

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He dropped me off at my hotel; Golden Citadel Hotel, a hotel you can typically acquire for about $21 CDN/night. The room has a king size bed, free bottled water, mini bar, and two rainfall showers. This is pretty food value and the hotel is rated 4.3/5 on Google. After checking in I realized that my British passport was missing so I phoned the Siem Reap airport lost and found, and they confirmed that they had my passport. Turns out it fell out of my bag on the flight, which is super sloppy of me. I told them I would pick it up tomorrow in the afternoon. The key for the room had a very amusing statement on the back of the keycard; I feel somewhere the thought was lost in translation…

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It was time to head to bed as I was completely exhausted, and my tour guide was to pick me up at 7:30am tomorrow morning.

I will be taking a slight pause in the Vietnam series. Check back tomorrow for a recent hike I took with my dad and our friend Filipe to Tunnel Mountain in Banff National Park, Alberta. The Vietnam Series will continue on Saturday June 29th.

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Vietnam – Day 11 – Ha Long Bay

Today I woke up at 6:00am. I showered and got ready to start the day. Breakfast was at 6:45am and was a delicious buffet with a large variety of food, including hot cooked eggs, omelets, etc. After breakfast we took a smaller boat to Sung Sot cave, which can hold over 1000 people in it at the same time. It was absolutely breathtaking, even bigger than the caves that I’ve seen in New Zealand, and the United States.

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After visiting the caves everyone gathered around for some cooking lessons, but I found them mediocre compared to the cooking class that I took a few days ago in Ha Noi. I was given a few hours to relax before the ship docked at noon.

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Checkout was noon and the tour bus took everyone back the same way we came, again stopping at a similar expensive touristy spot half way back to Hanoi. I was dropped off at my hotel at around 4:30pm. I was again staying in a different hotel in Hanoi, this one was called La Belle Vie Hotel, a rather luxurious hotel which I received for free from hotels.com. Every 10 hotels I stay at I end up getting one free for the blended average price of the last 10. You can also get sponsored by hotels to review them and leave a good opinion if you are crafty enough with your social media skills on Instagram.

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I relaxed by the pool for the rest of the afternoon before taking a 30000 Dong (1.85 CDN) GRAB back to the to the very famous Bun Cha Huong Lien Obama, where former US President Obama and Anthony Bourdain ate on May 23rd 2016, where I ate a few nights ago when I was in Hanoi.

After eating I decided to walk back to my hotel which took about 45 minutes or so. I stayed up and edited photos before heading to bed at 10:00pm.

Check back tomorrow when I relax and spend time in Hanoi before taking a flight to Siam Reap, Cambodia.

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Vietnam – Day 6 – Hoi An Eco Cooking Tour

Today I unfortunately woke up early again at 5:00am. I did some photo editing in the room until it was time to have breakfast. For breakfast I had Cao Lau Noodles at the villa restaurant.

I booked myself a cooking class tour with Hoi An Eco Cooking Class Tour company on a recommendation from Viktor and Sandrine. I was picked up at 8:15am and was taken for a tour of the Hoi An food market before venturing on a boat ride on a traditional basket boat. I went fishing and caught 3 purple crabs! After riding on the basket boat it was time to start my cooking class.

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During the cooking class I learned how to make pho, eggplant aubergine, Vietnamese pancakes, fish sauce, aubergine sauce, and shrimp salad rolls. The cost of the cooking class was 750000 Dong ($46.85 CDN). The class ended at 1:30pm and I was dropped back off at the villa.

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It was time to check out sadly… it was an absolutely amazing villa! I stayed here for four nights and actually had the whole place to myself. This family run villa has the most amazing friendly staff that are eager to make your experience in Hoi An as perfect as possible. The rooms are spacious, clean and bright. The rooms have a super cold minibar fridge with cold drinks that are very fairly priced. The pool is incredible, especially on a hot day. My favourite staff member was Lap; she works in the afternoons. She’s so sweet and makes sure you have everything you need; including if the weather is bad she wants to make sure you don’t get wet and gives out rain ponchos. You can rent motorcycles for fairly cheap (110,000 Dong ($6.85 CSN) for a newer Honda automatic with lots of power). The complementary breakfast is amazing with an option of 13 different choices with Vietnamese and traditional western foods as options. They also have amazing fresh fruit juices and authentic Vietnamese coffee. I would absolutely stay here again and would recommend it to anyone.

After checking out I had a private driver drive me to Da Nang Airport for roughly 130000 Dong ($8.15 CDN). I arrived at the airport at around 3:00pm.

My Vietnam Airlines flight to Hanoi was at 5:00pm on an Airbus A321 CEO (Current Engine Option). After arriving at Hanoi I took a fairy expensive GRAB ride to my hotel; O’Gallery Majestic Hotel & Spa, for 272000 Dong ($17 CDN). I received two nights for free at this $200 CDN/night hotel on Hotels.ca for free. If you don’t use hotels.com or hotels.ca you should; every 10th night is free with a blended average rate from your previous 9 stays. This hotel has everything you can possible imagine; a private pool, a massive room with a luxurious king size bed, free food, mini bar, a 3:1 staff to tenant ratio. I highly recommend this hotel to anyone who wishes to visit Hanoi.

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After checking in I walked to the famous Hanoi rail tracks where the train passes by every day in the evening at 7:30pm. After taking pictures of the train I went for some chicken broth pho at Bahn Cuon Gia Truyen Thanh Van. After eating dinner I walked back to the hotel and went to bed.

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Check back tomorrow when I explore the massive city of Hanoi.

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Vietnam – Day 3 – Hoi An

The next day I woke up at 5:30am. I didn’t realize this at first but I had the whole villa to myself; none of the other 12 rooms were booked. The villa had a restaurant that opened at 7:00am so I waited for the restaurant to open. I had some beef pho for breakfast. I borrowed one of their bicycles for free to ride into the ancient town of Hoi An. I explored around the local market, wandering up and down the streets to take in the sights, including the famous covered Japanese Bridge, which was built in 1719. It was starting to get too hot to bear at around noon, so I rode the bicycle back to the villa. I looked on the weather reports and noticed that it was 37 degrees, but due to humidity it felt like 46 degrees.

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After relaxing by the pool for a bit and drinking a few beers I decided I was hungry so I borrowed the bicycle again in search of food. I settled on a place called Pho Co Hoi An. I had some beef pho and a local beer. I was getting tired so I rode back towards the villa, quickly stopping for some bottled water, a bag of Doritos, and some more beer. The villa had a good supply of bottled water and beer, but I wanted to save some money by purchasing it at the store instead.

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I had what was supposed to be a short nap, but ended up sleeping from 3:00pm until 8:00pm. After waking up I walked into town and went to famous Banh Mi Phuong for dinner. Anthony Bourdain ate there a few years ago and featured it on his television show called Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown. Banh Mi is a baguette filled with savory meats, spices and a few vegetables such as shaved carrots and a bit of lettuce. To describe the taste of the Banh Mi at this particular restaurant I would say it’s like having Pho in a bun. It was so delicious, and very inexpensive; only 50000 Dong ($3.15 CDN) for a Banh Mi and a beer.

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After dinner I walked around and explored the night market, and watched people floating down the river in the love boats, as well as watch people making wishes with lit lanterns and placing them in the water. It was getting late so I decided to walk back to the villa. It was around 11:00pm by now so it was time for me to go to bed.

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Vietnam – Day 2 – Cu Chi Tunnels

Today I woke up at about 3:00am. I’m struggling a bit more than usual with my jet lag. I was starving and was in need of coffee so I walked to McDonald’s, since it was the only restaurant open around me. I had some Vietnamese coffee, Matcha Tea, and a deluxe Egg McMuffin, which was much better than the ones at home. After breakfast I walked back to the hotel and hung out until the hotel restaurant opened for breakfast. I had rice soup for my second breakfast, which was surprisingly delicious.

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After breakfast I waited around for my Cu Chi Tunnel tour bus to pick me up from the hotel. The bus arrived at 8:15am and the drive to the tunnels took about 2 hours, which included a half hour stop at a restroom facility. At the restroom facility there was a touristy-like shop that sold hand made paintings and art work made by disabled people who were injured during the Vietnam war directly, or indirectly from all the chemicals used during the war. You could see the people making the art work right then and there. They used sea shells, bone, paint, etc. to create a variety of art work, which was absolutely beautiful. The amount of time and effort that went into the art work was staggering.

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After arriving at the Cu Chi Tunnels we all donned big spray as we were very close to the river, and the mosquitos were quite prevalent. I didn’t want to get dengue or malaria. Our tour guide showed us around the tunnel complex and described what it would be like to have lived and survive in the tunnels, as well as showcase some of the traps that the Vietnamese used against the Americans and the Viet Cong. Towards the end of the tour we all had the opportunity to crawl through the tunnels, which were very narrow despite being enlarged roughly 40 percent for tourists. It was quite claustrophobic in some areas.

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On the tour I met this wonderful couple living in Malaysia. Their names were Viktor and Sandrine. Viktor was an avid photographer like me so we nerded our quite a bit on the bus ride back to our hotels. I decided to get off with Viktor and Sandrine at their hotel and go for some lunch and egg coffee at the famous tiny restaurant called Little Hanoi Egg Coffee (Góc Hà Nội). I wasn’t allowed to take photos in the kitchen area as to protect their secrete recipe. After climbing two flights of very narrow stairs we arrived at the top of the restaurant with a view of the street below. The room was decorated with plates, artwork, and photos on the wall. I had an avocado grilled cheese and egg sandwich with some deliciously rich egg coffee, which was almost too sweet and too creamy for my liking. Egg coffee is traditionally prepared with egg yolks, sugar, condensed milk and coffee.

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After having lunch with Viktor and Sandrine it was time to head back to my hotel and clean up before heading to the airport to head to the next city of Hoi An (the airport is in Da Nang).

The flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Da Nang was only about an hour and was on one of Vietnam Airlines brand new Airbus A321 NEO’s. The Airbus A321 NEO (New Engine Option) is a re-engined version of the Airbus A321 using CFM LEAP-1A or P&W PW1100G-JM engines and new Sharklet’s to increase fuel economy by 20%. The plane was only a few weeks old and the interior style was completely different than their old fleet with modern teal leather seats, instead of the older beige fabric seats with lotus flowers. The flight arrived at 8:20pm. I was greeted at the airport by a driver sent by my villa. The drive to Green Hill Villa took about 40 minutes or so. Since I had arrived at night I could see the beautiful lanterns of Hoi An lit up.

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I was greeted with a welcome drink in the reception area by the family who ran the villa; a young lady, her husband and their new born.

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I was quite tired and it was starting to get late so I ended up going to bed.

Check back tomorrow when I explore the beautiful city of Hoi An.

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