Langkawi

Type : Island
Best Date :  May-Jul
Expense :  Cheap
Things to do : Jet Ski, Beach walks, Paragliding, Shopping, attractions
Points of Interest: Pantai Cenang beach, Eagle Square, Sky Bridge, Golf

Brief

Langkawi is a group of islands on the west coast of Malaysia part of the Kedah state. Known as the Jewel of Kedah Langkawi is a popular place for tourism with its dive sites, many water sport activities and attractions within the main island.

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The Place

Langkawi was a place with bountiful attractions to see and a magnitude of activities to do. Langkawi was an itinerary I miss-planned when working on this visit, I only planned a two days stay resulting in not much time to see and do everything possible. Langkawi was an eye opener for me and I enjoyed every minute of it, I only wish I had stayed a little longer to see and do more. That’s a learning curve for me I guess, to never underestimate an area and do more research. However for the things I did do I cannot exaggerate the fun and enjoyment I had.

Firstly in Langkawi you must visit the beaches especially the ones in front of Pantai Tengah and Pantai Cenang. The sand was white and powdery and at times you will see amazing small crabs digging holes (harmless). Furthermore the beach is beautiful and scenic but best of all it was very quiet only seeing a few people from a space in the whole beach (well when I was there). At night although unlit the shores get a little more livelier with some shisha stands opening and a little more families roaming, this is a brilliant place to chill and unwind where some musics are played and fire dancers perform.

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The Pantai Cenang strip is a brighter and noisier place with various malls, market stands and restaurants. In my opinion this area or nearby place is the best place to stay as this is convenient for food, shops and even some attractions, other areas are difficult and may need some sort of transport.

One of my favourite place in Pantai Cenang and Langkawi altogether is the makeshift food truck park (I don’t know its formal name) which only appear in the evenings. Here you can dine on a budget with some of the most delicious food and drinks you can find on the island. There is a variety of different foods from burgers, local BBQ, rice dishes, fruits and many different beverages, anybody will be spoilt for choice. Furthermore these food trucks do have seats and tables usually reserved for customers who buy from their truck. A popular place for all tourists looking for a new experience.

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Pantai Kok probably has many of the most popular attraction in Langkawi. First we start with the best known mountain on the island Mt Mat Cincang which has a lot of attractions around its area. One of which is the Sky Bridge (cover attraction in Langkawi) the longest free span and curved bridge in the world. This is a brilliant place to visit and a sight to see even for me who is not brilliant with heights. To get here you will need to take the Langkawi Cable Car (Sky Cab) which is around a 15 minute ride from the oriental village to the top of Gunung Machinchang where the Sky Bridge is located. However after reaching the peak of the cable cart ride you will still need to get a Sky train or do a nature walk (tickets needed for both) in order to reach the sky bridge, a money rouse if you ask me. The SkyCab was safe and had brilliant views however in my opinion needs updating as it can get very hot inside the cabins as there is no air conditioning only small open windows. There are different types of cabins from standard, glass bottom and a VIP cart (don’t know the difference) however I’m not too sure about the prices. The Oriental Village below the mountains is an attraction in itself. My SkyCab ticket included 2 other attractions the 3D Museum which I thoroughly enjoyed and the Sky Rex a virtual reality simulation worthy to spare 5minutes for. There are also other attractions within this area but I deemed these would be for children and didn’t have the time. You can easily spend a whole day around this area alone (I spent half a day) as there is just so much to do, something for everyone.

Other attractions around Pantai Kok but missed due to time were the Telaga Harbour Park, Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls (seen from the Sky Cab), Bird Paradise, Crocodile Farm and many more. Not too happy about missing some of these.

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We also did one of the main activities to do in Langkawi the Jet Ski tour which we did with Wave Quest Watersport which was the company in front of our hotel. Its important to know there were plenty of different operators so I will just describe my experience with this company and I cannot guess the experience on other jet Ski tours. The tour we did was the Island tour which was a 6 hour tour visiting 8 different islands. The jet skis with this company were the one of the best quality I have ever used in a tour and I have been to quiet a few. The vehicles had two storages, one larger one in front of the jet skis for bags and the other in front of the driver for smaller items such as water bottles and smaller gadgets, no other jet ski I have used before had any storages. The tour also provided each individual with a waterproof bag to put all belongings in, a very well organised jet ski tour company from the start.

Firstly we stopped on our first island Beras Basah  island one of the two islands we got off to roam. This island was basic for me, nothing made me amazed the only plus were the population of monkeys. After about a 40 minute stopover we then went right back to the seas for hours of jet skiing we passed various of Langkawi’s magnificent island formations including Tuba , Lima, Singa, Jong Island passing some smooth and some aggressive but fun waves. Then for lunch and a longer stopover than the first we got off at the Pregnant Maiden Island. Here we got to swim in the fresh water lake which was fun and serene, a much more interesting island than the first stopover.  Although a lunch stopover there were not too much to eat in this island there were only a burger and a rice stand. After about a 1hr stopover we then head for the jet skis again and to visit some of the other islands including an echoing island. Finally ending this amazing tour we went to the Eagle point at Singa Besar Island where we fed eagle, this was an incredible sight to see and a worthy ending to a fantastic Jet ski tour. All in all this to me was the highlight of Langkawi a nice way to see many off Langkawi’s islands.

The next day, we visited Kuah Langkawi’s largest town. This is the place where most ferries enter and depart, it is not the place to look for beaches as in other locations around the island. I can only describe this place as more of a boat port area with a few malls built to appease tourists. We headed straight to Eagle Square and one of the main spot here is the Datarang Lang a 12 metre tall statue which overlooks the scenic harbour. A nice monument to see but would advise to visit in the morning or evening when the sun isn’t too strong. Apart from that there is nothing really to see here just a few nice views and a traditional market.

Other places to visit in Langkawi that we didn’t have the time to visit are Galeria Perdana Museum, Under water world, Durian Pernagin Waterfall, Telaga Tujuh Waterfalls and a whole lot more. Sadly with only 2 nights in Langkawi we only visited a few places.

Conclusion

Langkawi is beautiful, I didn’t expect too much before I got there but after just one night fell in love with the calm laidback conservative culture, an island that didn’t bow down to the western way of life by filling it with bars and clubs like other island destinations in Asia.  Places for alcohol was a little bit difficult but you’ve got to appreciate their culture. Nonetheless Langkawi was a magnificent place with plenty points of interests and loads of activities to enjoy. The island was much more special as it had both natural attractions along with man made ones. The Sky Bridge is a must visit albeit expensive and the Jet Ski tour is something everyone that is able should do. I think maybe 3 or 4 days is required to fulfil a trip to Langkawi.

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Back to “A small circuit around south east Asia”

 

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Reference:

http://www.panoramalangkawi.com/skybridge/
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A Small Circuit Around South East Asia

My first trip of 2019 and its a pretty big one. I visited 4 places of different characteristics. Kuala Lumpur which is one of Asia’s fastest growing cities, Siem Reap a majestic Cambodian Province, Langkawi a large adventurous island and Finally Koh Lipe a calm relaxing Thai island.

All were great and had its own approach

First Stop Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

The First stop and my base city for this trip. For the first part in Kuala Lumpur I stayed in popular KL hostel Backhome. An eye opener with lots of different things to see and do.

Second Stop Siem Reap (Cambodia)

One of the main reasons to venture in this part of the world was to visit Siem Reap, Cambodia. I have to admit the fact that Angkor Wat is consistently top 3 must visit places in various websites, made visiting this city a must.

Then Langkawi via Kuala Lumpur (Malaysia)

Venture to one of Malaysia’s popular island. Travelled by plane instead of boat due to work perks. Quieter than the usual islands I visit like Boracay, Crete, Cebu and others but Langkawi didn’t fail to impress.

Fourth Stop in Koh Lipe (Thailand)

A short venture to another small nearby island. Koh Lipe happens to be crossing the boarder to Thailand. An interesting experience with a beach immigration system.

Finale, Back to Kuala Lumpur

A rest back in Kuala Lumpur, this time a more chilled and comfortable accommodation, ready to fly back to London.

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Koh Lipe

Type : Island
Best Date :  Nov- May
Expense :  Medium
Things to do : Walk along beach, Sun bathe, Scuba Dive, Kayaking
Points of Interest: Sunrise Beach, Sunset Beach, Pattaya Beach, Walking Street

Brief

Koh Lipe is one of the southern most island in Thailand just in the edge of the Adaman sea near the border with Malaysia. The island is only about 3.5km long and lies within the Tarutao national marine park a popular dive spot.

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The Place

Koh Lipe was the last place I visited on this small south east Asian circuit venture. The purpose of this visit was to relax before heading back to London. It is a relatively quiet and calm island but can have its congestion with many tourists arriving for day tours. Nonetheless Koh Lipe is was an interesting visit, a place that small groups can enjoy.

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Firstly I want to write about getting to the island itself. There are no airports in this island so boats are the main mode of transport to get to and from the island. As Koh Lipe has a low sea level, there is also no piers for larger boats to dock and thus they have a to stop at offshore pontoon where passengers will take a smaller long tail boat to arrive on the island. These are said to cost 50 baht however I didn’t need to pay this when I arrived. Upon arrival depending on where you departed/arrived from/to  there is also an immigration and custom system which was unlike any other as you line up on the beach (a sight to see).

Popular ways to get to Koh Lipe are from Langkawi (Malaysia) or Koh Lanta, Koh Phi Phi, Phuket and Pak Bara from Thailand. There also several possible ways to travel to and from small islands within the Andaman Sea. I arrived and departed from Langkawi and there for required to through an immigration system.

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Pattaya Beach

One of the main points to visit in the island is Pattaya Beach the main point where visitors arrive and depart. This beach is a stretch of beautiful white sand south of the island. Arguably this beach is the most popular of the beaches with the most shops, bars and restaurants beachfront. This beach also connects to walking street one of the main parts of the islands. There is also an beachfront makeshift movie theatre  placed at night beachside which is an interesting concept.

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Pattaya Beach

Another popular place to see is Sunset Beach. The smallest of the main beaches visited. It is said you can see the best views of the lovely sunset however I in my opinion there is a better location. This small stretch of white sand beach is not very popular for high end hotels but a place for bungalows. Sunset beach is a bit further away to walking street than Pattaya and Sunrise beach.

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Sunrise Beach

Lastly Sunrise Beach where I stayed and another popular place unwind, popular for sunrise yoga and morning jogs. In my understanding this is the longest of all the beaches on the island. This is my favourite place in the island as it is much more quieter than other areas, this is also where a beautiful spot is to watch the sunset (in the northmost end of sunrise beach). However I did notice that the tide can get very high making the shore very thin, so walking around the beach can be difficult. Nonetheless there are many quiet bars, restaurants and massage places beachfront which makes this my favourite place to roam.

Walking Street is in my opinion the main roaming place away from the beaches. This short 15 minute (walking) stretch is full of hotels, restaurants, bars and shops. In my opinion at night this is the brightest and noisiest area in the island it is a busy street however it is not overcrowded and messy. This street has plenty sea food restaurants which is very popular in the island. There are also plenty souvenir, tour shops and massage parlour around here and most importantly for tourists this is the place for ATM machines and money changers which are very relevant in the island.

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Tourists come to this islands for the calm and relaxing atmosphere which you wouldn’t normally get from other islands. However a few activities are very popular in Koh Lipe, these are Snorkelling, Scuba Diving and Kayaking. There are a few different companies to choose from so research for best prices are a good idea. I did love my Scuba diving experience where I saw schools of fish, many different breeds and types of underwater creatures.

Conclusion

When I planned this trip I knew it would be a quiet calm place with maybe a few hundred visitors. However I was surprised when my hotel and scuba diving activities were fully booked, the island also had a few more people than I thought but it wasnt overcrowded. The sand and beach was lovely but there were plenty of boats parked in the shore which in my opinion ruined the potential scenery of the island. There were plenty of dogs around and unlike the aggressive dogs around the Philippines the dogs here were very friendly and many tourists love to play with them. My favourite part of the visit was definitely the Scuba Diving and also just walking around this small island itself. I’d say a 2 night stay is enough as anything longer would result into potential boredom as the island is small with not much activities or things to do, however if your purpose is to relax then maybe you could stay a little longer.

Back to “A small circuit around South East Asia”

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Ha Long Bay (Vietnam)

“Paradise Cruise, an excellent way to experience Ha Long Bay”

Type : Cruise, Island Hopping, Beach, Fishing
Best Date : Nov-Dec, Mar-Apr
Expense :  Expensive
Things to do Island hopping, swimming, fishing, trekking ect
Points of Interest: Tuan Chau, Dau Go cave, Thien Cung cave, Ti-Top island ect

Brief

Ha Long Bay which means the ‘Descending Dragon Bay’ is a popular excursion away from Hanoi’s bustling and chaotic city. The bay is a UNESCO world heritage north east of the Vietnam in Quang Ninh province. Ha long bay is said to have around 1,600 limestone islands and islets, many of which haven’t been influenced by human presence due to their steepness, height and sharpness which make them dangerous to venture and discover.

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The Place

There is many ways in which you can enjoy ‘Ha Long Bay’ but most popular is to take a 2 or 3 day cruise, many take private boats and some stay on the shores. Activities such as canoeing, trekking, scuba diving are available at some areas of Ha long bay which after experiencing the serene scenery, the reason why so many come here.

I experienced Ha Long Bay through a 2 day voyage with ‘Paradise Luxury Cruises’ which has plenty of tours to offer, they have a fleet of many named ‘Paradise Elegance 1’, ‘Paradise Elegance 2’, ‘Paradise Peak’. ‘Paradise Luxury’ and many more. I was in ‘Paradise Elegance 1’ and I will write about my the tour and my personal experiences with them.

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Our itinerary went like this.

DAY ONE:

07:30 – 11:30 Transfer from Hanoi to Halong Bay

11:30 – 12:15 Arrive in Tuan Chau Island. Light snacks at Paradise Suites Hotel

12:15 Transfer to Paradise Elegance Cruise ship

12:30 Welcome drink, cruise information and check-in

13:00 – 14:30 Lunch at Le Marin Restaurant (onboard)

14:30 – 15:30 Cruise and sightseeing along Halong Bay

15:30 Visit Sung Sot Cave

17:00 – 18:30 Happy Hour (Buy one, get one drink), free time

17:30 – 19:00 Anchor at Coconut Tree Island for overnight stay
Cooking demonstration at L’Odyssée Sundeck (onboard)

19:00 – 22:00 À la carte dinner is served at Le Marin Restaurant 

21:00 Enjoy live music at Le Piano Bar (onboard)

DAY TWO: 

06:30 – 07:00 Tai Chi demonstration at the Sundeck

07:00 – 08:00 Light breakfast, coffee & pastries

08:00 Visit Titov Island (1 hour) for swimming or hiking

09:00 Breakfast Buffet

09:30 Bill settlement and checkout

10:30 Return to Tuan Chau Marina

10:45 – 12:00 Light snacks at Paradise Suites Hotel

12:00 Return to Hanoi

 

So our journey started on an overnight stay in Hanoi having booked our hotel as a package deal with the cruise. The pickup from the airport to our Hanoi hotel using a luxury limousine van was inclusive of the package deal. Staying in the capital first was a good way to start off our Vietnam experience not only to climatise but also to soak up the atmosphere for the days to come. However the next morning an early wake up was required for the transfer to ‘Halong Bay’, the pickup arrives 07:30 which means a rushed breakfast. Again the transfer to ‘Halong Bay’ is inclusive with the whole tour experience and uses the luxury limousine van (used from airport to Hanoi hotel). Before the journey starts the driver will introduce himself and a bottle of water would be given to each passenger. The journey takes about 3 hours with a stop over to a lovely Vietnamese product factory which sells paintings, artwork, clothes and food products, however strictly no photography is allowed. This stopover also acts as a little toilet and snack break from the long journey.

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Upon arrival at the Halong Bay area you get off at ‘Paradise Suites Hotel’ at Tuan Chau island where you will register, check-in, get little instructions and receive your key card for your room in the boat. At this point you will no longer need to carry your baggage around as next time you will see them is at your room. Before leaving for the boat you will be invited for light lunch at the hotel until the transfer to your boat is ready (main buffet lunch is served on-board the boat). The transfer to the boat is about 5 minutes where you will get an extraordinary welcome, my highlight is petals getting thrown on you from a balcony upon stepping foot on the boat, which doesn’t usually happen. A quick welcome dance, safety and information briefing (whilst sipping on some welcome drinks) will be given before you get to go down and enter your rooms for the first time. After a brief wind down in your rooms the buffet lunch will be served, whilst the cruise starts to move.

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After cruising through the spectacular majestic limestone islets for about 2 hours you arrive at the first stop at ‘Sung Sot Cave’. This excursion is somewhat tiring  going uphill with plenty walking required, if you are not fit or would just like to relax then it is possible to stay on the boat and rest. However ‘Sung Sot Cave’ is an awesome sight to see and I advise everybody who has the chance to see this sight. After the tour which takes about 1.5hrs – 2hrs, you return to the boat, which is then a time to relax and have a rest. Alternatively if you don’t want to rest then the bar is at happy hour at this time which means 2 drinks for the price on 1.

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At about 17:30 there is a cooking demonstration/ lessons. This is a fun way to end the evening and to learn Vietnamese cuisine under breath taking sceneries, after completion a certificate is awarded at dinner. After that there is a 3 course ‘A la Carte’ (included in the package), divided into 2 menus ‘Western Cuisine’ and ‘Eastern Cuisine’, from what I can remember the ‘western cuisine’ had steak, roast chicken, pasta and more a like, ‘Eastern menu’ had food such as noodles, spring rolls and so on. Usually during dinner there is a live band or pianist but ours didn’t have one, but our host ‘Ronald’ was very good at conversing and entertaining his guests. The last activity on that day is ‘squid fishing’  here patience is required and although I didn’t catch anything, I still enjoyed the experience. After that I then ordered a few to drinks, returned to my room and then called it a day and slept in my nice comfortable ‘Queen size bed’, the only bad side is that the televisions didn’t work as well as it should due to signals being difficult to reach.

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Next morning, I woke up around 05:45 ready for a morning ‘Tai Chi’ session. The sunrise was spectacular from my balcony, and more so at the sundeck where the tai chi took place. The morning exercise took about 20-30 minutes full with warm up stretches, the martial art itself then a warm down. It was a weird experience and I definitely know I didn’t do it correctly but the result was interesting, my body felt very good after and throughout the day. After that, light breakfast is served which means a simple tea and coffee with some croissants and biscuits, only small bite until the full breakfast buffet which is served at 09:00. However before that there is another excursion out of the boat and onto ‘Titov Island’. This is an island much more challenging than the first outing at ‘Sung Sot Cave’ with much longer walks and steeper stairs, but it is not necessary to go to the top of the island and many just stay at the shores swim on the beach. However hiking to the top is enjoyable and it is the highest point of ‘Halong Bay’ overall, which has beautiful, majestic panoramic views. I didn’t get to swim in the beaches but all guest were told to be careful of jellyfishes, which didn’t sound very safe anyway.

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Upon returning to the boat there is about 10-30 minutes to freshen up and then the breakfast buffet is served. The buffet is like any continental breakfast found in any high end hotels, with hot and cold foods, fresh eggs, a good choice of juices and many more. After breakfast you start to feel the end of the cruise as you bill out at this point and pack to leave your luggage out of your room for collection (you wont need to carry your luggage again until arriving to the ‘Paradise Suites Hotel’. The last chance to take photos and videos and catch last glimpses of these islets are at this point of the journey. Upon arriving at the harbour you say farewell to the amazing staff and head to ‘Paradise Suites Hotel’ where you await your transport back to Hanoi. The last offering from the whole tour package is the light lunch whilst waiting for your ride back to the capital. When your ride arrives there is another 3 hours ride with a stopover, the whole cruise experience sadly ends.

Overall the cruise was a fantastic experience for all the family to enjoy, although younger kid may have limited to do. Firstly the boat was spacious with rooms good enough to be compared to a 5 star hotel. The staff in the cruise were very nice and knowledgeable, loved to converse and take care of their passengers with in high regard. The activities such as canoeing and fishing were good additions. The only small downside is that the television and Wi-Fi signals can sometimes be very weak. Although the cost of this cruise was very high plus a few add-ons, I still believe the experience was well worth it and thought that the 2 days wasn’t enough.

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Ha Noi (Vietnam)

“Why is Hanoi so chaotic, but much loved?”

Type : City
Best Date : Nov-Dec, Mar-Apr
Expense :  Very Cheap
Things to do : Sightseeing, Food Tour
Points of Interest: St Josephs Cathedral, Old City, Ho Mi Chin Mausoleum, Hoan Kiem Lake, Hoa Lo Prison, Ho Chin Min Museum, Halong Bay (Out of city excursions), ect.

Brief

Hanoi the capital city of Vietnam (socialist republic of Vietnam) and lies north of the country. Always known to be the capital of north Vietnam, however it was also chosen capital of the whole country after its reunification with the south. Colonised by multiple  dynasties and nations including the French, Chinese and Japanese throughout history, the city developed but slowly compared to other capitals around the world.

The Place

Arriving at Noi Bai airport my first impressions of the city is that it was very clean compared to my home country Philippines, furthermore there was also much less traffic but considering it was 10pm it might just be the case of everyone being home. Arriving near our hotel (at the old quarter) we entered much tighter roads somewhat filled with moving traffic, a bit less organisation and messier than my first impressions. It looked dangerous and my thoughts started to turn,  however when we got to our hotel in La Siesta Trendy the Vietnamese hospitality began to show, a delightful welcome which I rarely get from many of my travels. Heading out filled with plenty of money, gadgets and other valuables I remember asking the hotels guest relation officer if the city was safe. Very confidently he answered ‘Hanoi is very safe’ and from my experience I felt like it was one of the safest place I’ve been to even for a third world country.

The centre of tourism in Hanoi is the ‘Old quarter’ which is the bustling tight district full of traditional shop-houses and restaurants (canteens). Tourists love this area due to its unique lifestyle and preserved 13th century architecture. Many stroll these streets to experience the typical way of dining from the many street foods and canteens, many places are out on the streets with stalls and temporary light tables but there are fancy air-conditioned restaurants as well.

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Hoan Kiem district, is known as Hanoi’s city centre, the main hub and most luxurious for tourists. Being very chaotic and somewhat a messy city I was shocked to see luxurious shops such as Prada, Armani, Louis Vuitton and more alike. Moreover the upper class hotels (such as Hilton) and restaurants can be found here. Apart from its resident luxuries, Hoan Kiem has plenty of attractions as well.  ‘Hoan Kiem Lake’ which centres the city is probably Hanoi’s cover attractions, surrounded by a large ring road  and a belt of greenery, tourists come to relax and have a walk and getaway from the busy streets.  At the edge of the lake there is ‘Ngoc Son temple’ which stands on its own little island which is accessible through ‘Huc Bridge’ which in itself is a popular photo point. In the middle of ‘Hoan Kiem Lake’ you will see a little monument called the ‘Turtle tower’ or, here there are many legends but most formidable is to commemorate a warrior named Le Loi and the mystical sword he used to free the Vietnamese people from its Chinese occupants. A bit further away from the lake but still within ‘Hoan Kiem’ area is ‘St Joseph’s cathedral’ which was built by the French Indochina establishment, here masses takes place for the many Catholics in the country. Other than these attractions there are many more markets, shops and restaurants around the area.

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Ba Dinh which is unofficially known as the ‘French quarter’ is the political centre of the city, where many different nation’s embassy lie. Ba Dinh is much cleaner and more organised than other parts of Ha Noi. The district has many of the capitals historical and cultural monuments and museums most notable being the ‘Ho Chi Minh mausoleum’ which stands tall in the centre of ‘Ba Dinh square’, here the most iconic leader of Vietnam is laid to rest.  A 5 minute walk from the mausoleum is the ‘One Pillar Pagoda’ which is in the middle of a serene garden built on a single stone pole made out of wood. Museums such as the ‘Vietnam military’ and ‘Fine Arts Museum’ are also found here alongside religious place of worship such as the ‘Quan Tanh Temple’ and ‘Cua Bac’ a roman catholic church built by the French. The ‘Presidential House’ which has great historical significance is also a good place to go, designed by the French the building was intended for to be the main office of Ho Chi Minh, but he opted for amore traditional Vietnamese building. Other points of interest are the ‘Hanoi flag tower’, ‘Temple of literature’ and the ‘Thang Long, Imperial Citadel’ which all have impressive architecture and significance to the country.

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Overall Hanoi is very much undeveloped compared to other capitals around the world. They don’t have many of the bare necessities such as rail transport, traffic regulations and malls but the city is fabulous on what it does offer. Firstly the people, although they do not speak any English and it is very hard to communicate, they really are good people and do not try to cheat other people no matter how vulnerable, such as taxi drivers helping passengers without the sign of tapping the fares. The city is also very safe, I didn’t once feel I was in any danger or a target for theft. In my opinion I felt safer in Hanoi than traveling in Manila, Hong Kong, Barcelona and even London. I can confirm this as my phone which I dropped in my taxi, was returned very quickly after help from my hotel, after giving the taxi driver a little reward I just though to myself that wold never happen in other countries. Prices in Vietnam are also very cheap including taxis, restaurants and many products, currencies used are their own Vietnamese Dong but US Dollars are used in many upper class establishments. Hanoi is more for the adventurous individual as people looking for class would be very disappointed, its more for culture and the experience of another way of living. An open mind is required visiting the Capital. I would most definitely come back and I highly recommend to visit here.