Pizza, Pasta, Pronto - My trip through Italy

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Pizza, Pasta, Pronto - My trip through Italy

Post by : Lisa Gransow (Follow on Spotted Places @letsbeadventures)

6 a.m. – Airport Berlin SXF.
It should be the beginning of something great, of something new. The beginning of an unforgettable journey with my best friend. It should be.

We planned our trip for weeks, we were both looking forward to it but everything changed from one minute to another.

I was left at the airport utterly alone. My friend canceled the trip and went back home.
Really confused and tired I had to decide what to do. Should I go alone or should I also cancel my trip? It would be the first time travelling alone through a foreign country for a longer time.

Finally, I did it! And it was the best decision of my life.

I want to show you the beauty of Europe – the beauty of Italy and also the passion for travelling alone which I discovered.

You could visit Italy for months but I only had three and a half weeks.

There are so many lively cities, university cities, mountains, the sea, islands and lot of other hot spots.

My journey started in Milan, going on to Bergamo, Bologna, further on to Firenze, Perugia, of course Rome and last but not least Naples.

I will give you a little report about two cities which inspired me the most. Can you already guess which?

Admitting that it was a really hard decision because at least every city had its own charm but finally I have chosen Bologna and Naples.

Here we go!

B O L O G N A

It was a short term decision to go to Bologna instead of Venice and I am really happy about it.

Bologna is an university city with the oldest university in continuous operation, founded in 1088. The city is also famous for its towers. From originally 180 towers are only 40 existing today.

Bologna gives you a special feeling, Bologna is different, Bologna is not Spaghetti Bolognese.
I felt like being back in time – back in the 16th Century. Old buildings and high towers mixed with young and kind people – the best opportunity to meet someone.

I had the pleasure to meet students from Austria, Italy and even Germany and it was not like here in Germany going to one bar and than to one club, no, we went from bar to bar, everywhere happy people. A lot of people (especially students of course) and all were full of joy. So do not hesitate about writing in an Erasmus group on Facebook – I never had so many messages in 24 hours what to do and what to see in Bologna, about nightlife and invitations to home-parties. A great and funny experience which I do not want to miss.

The welcoming was kind and the goodbye was tough. I envied every lucky (Erasmus-) student in Bologna – an old city for young people.

Despite the lack of sleep sightseeing was not to be missed. I have chosen the ‘soft’ version and took the ‘San Luca Express’ a little tram which brought me through the city and even to the Basilika that gave the tram its name – the Basilika of San Luca. Next to the big church there were four kilometers of arch transitions which were built by monks.
A lot of people use it for sports, they climb the stairs even more than two times up and down and I used it for enjoying the view over Bologna because San Luca is over the city on the top of a mountain. Take your time and your breath when walking those four kilometers in spiritually and sweaty atmosphere.

Back in town you do not have to miss the Piazza Maggiore and you will not miss it because it is the main square in Bologna. From here you can reach every sight by feet.
Another thing that I learned in Bologna is the ‘Aperitivo’. Aperitivo is sociable eating and drinking at a bar or little restaurant. It starts around 7 o’clock pm and if you buy one drink for 8€ to 12€ you will get a food buffet for free. If you already have tried every kind of Italian Pizza and Pasta you should try Apperitivo!

Wanderlust? Let’s go to Bologna! You will love it.

Piazza Maggiore

Piazza Maggiore

N A P L E S

I recognized that I had reached the south of Italy. Naples is the third biggest city in Italy but it is really different to the two other big cities Milan and Rome.

Because of travelling by train the first impression of a city was always the same – a main train station. It became interesting when I had to look how to get to the hostel. In Naples I had chosen a taxi. My taxi driver looked like a Spanish Eminem who listened only to Spanish songs like Despacito. It was hot, dirty, loud and I felt the rhythm of Despacito ( Song by Luis Fonsi).

Naples was my imagination of Cuba. It had this special kind of Latino character. Even Naples is a bit more dilapidated than other big Italian cities it is full of life. Furthermore Naples is not that touristic as Rome or Milan. You can calm down from tourist shops, tourist groups and photoholics.

Maybe you will see a German ship cruise group because Naples is by the sea. So why not going on your own little ship cruise? There are two big ports where you can take a ferry and escape from city bustle.

My first recommendation when you are in Naples: visit an island. In Naples you have no real beach in the city center so take a ferry to Capri, Procida or Ischia. Spontaneously I decided to go to Procida and what did I found? A little island with colorful houses, little ports and dark sand beaches because of volcanic rock. It was the first time that I felt relaxed. If you are in hurry this is the perfect place for some feel-good hours.

Back in Naples you have to taste the best ice cream of the city: Casa Infante will give you a new ice cream experience. If you have chosen your flavors take your cup and go for a walk through the district of Vomero (can be reached by metro, stop ‘Vanvitelli’). Here you have a wonderful view over Naples and to the Vesuvius – one of the most dangerous volcanos in the world.

And here is my next recommendation: climb the top of the Vesuvius – and do not take the tourist bus. Too expensive and too touristic. Take the public transportation. It will bring you almost to the crater of Vesuvius but you have to climb the last kilometer by feet. This takes around 20 minutes and a lot of sweat but you will be rewarded with a breathtaking view.

left: view to the Vesuvius, right: view from Vesuvius

left: view to the Vesuvius, right: view from Vesuvius

Last but not least every journey comes to an end and here is my happy end – my last recommendation. You HAVE to visit an old Italian theatre. Whether it is the Teatro alla Scala in Milan or the Teatro San Carlo in Naples – you will feel like Alice in Wonderland. This was the play I watched in the Teatro San Carlo. The most inspiring aspect is the beautiful building. From the outside you cannot guess what you will see inside. I will give you a little sneak peek but you have to try it by yourself. I do not promise too much.

Naples is like a dirty man after a long, hot party night, and it is worth a visit because of its diversity – seas, volcanos, islands, culture, big city life, underground catacombs and so many other things that you cannot discover in only three days. I will come back Naples!

Furthermore do not hesitate about the Italian Mafia. I felt safe and sound in every Italian city, also in Naples. Maybe some travel guides say that Naples is one of the most dangerous cities in Italy but I never had any fear, quite the reverse!, I perceived the Italian as temperamentally, lively and warm people who make good food and ice cream.

After short three and a half weeks I was not afraid of travelling alone any longer. I always had fun travelling and exploring new places but travelling alone gives you the opportunity to meet people and see places from another view and not from the typical touristic one. You start living differently, acting more kindly and open-mindedly. I started understanding what it means to be far away from home and I lost my heart in Italy. Beautiful Italy with its variety and life full of joy is the perfect country even for a short term stay or a long term stay – it is your decision.

And do not forget – Italians speak with their hands.

 

Where to find Lisa :

SpottedPlaces : @letsbeadventures

Instagram : www.instagram.com/lasstunsabenteuersein

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A Dublin Spring

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A Dublin Spring

Post by: Rebekah Abigail Dobbs (Follow on Spotted Places @Miss_Venturous)

Top 15 bars, pubs & clubs in Dublin

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The travel bug bite

In the first week of February, I embarked on a cross-Atlantic voyage for two months that quickly became more than just a trip to experience a new trade; it became an unexpected opportunity to make friends and learn about centuries of the culture surrounding the alcohol industry from countries around the world.

Little ‘Miss Venturous’

As a young Alaskan girl who spent most of her teen years on the central coast of California, a few months in Washington and then moved to Oregon for a few years to make wine; it wasn’t the craziest of notions that I wanted to travel away from the West Coast.  I’ve been all around the US for the most part, to Canada, and to Mexico, but I got bit by the travel bug the first time I opened a National Graphic magazine as a kid and that feeling is never going to fade.

The best month so far

Traveling to the Republic of Ireland was one of the best decisions I ever made.  Between working odd jobs in restaurants and cash handling positions to making wine and hard cider, I knew that I wanted to progress to a vocation that utilized both my years of customer service and fed my interest in the alcohol industry.

Why travel for a vocational school?

In a time where a four-year degree doesn’t guarantee you a job, and the world is full of uncertainties, it can be a huge financial risk to travel for work, education or even just a vacation.  But, there are some age-old trades that never go out of style.

Bartending on the rise

As an aspiring world traveler, I like to work wherever I find myself so that I can continue to fund my ongoing adventure.  Bartending is a field full of opportunity around the world that is surrounded by great vibes and excellent times!  Per the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for bartenders is expected to grow by 10% (faster than average) between now and 2024 in the United States alone.

Finding the right one

The European Bartender School was a diamond in the rough. I initially was considering learning how to distil whiskey when an advertisement for EBS popped up on my browser.  Walking around Dublin you would’ve been pressed for luck if you were hoping to just stumble upon it walking down the street.  However, local bartenders and bar owners alike were very familiar with the school, and are happy to hire its graduates.  Located on the south side of the Liffey, the “Dublin Bar Academy” is a local branch of EBS (European Bartender School).  The instructors there: Calum, Stevie, and Richard are a witty, hilarious, and knowledgeable trio.  Through side-courses like the 4-hour long whiskey, scotch, and bourbon lecture and tasting at the Institute of Fermentation and Distillation, to a 6-hour long Craft Brew tasting and lecture, a day with EBS never disappoints!  There were pub-crawls, daily cocktail tastings, tours of Tullamore D.E.W. and the Guinness Storehouse with so much more.

European Bartender School at the Dublin Bar Academy class of March 2017

European Bartender School at the Dublin Bar Academy class of March 2017

Living in Dublin

While in Dublin, I stayed with 26 fellow students at the Abbey Court Hostel. These extra-stellar individuals quickly became like family. We lived together, ate together, drank together, and studied together; and even cried a bit together in a McDonalds on O’Connell street when we had to say our goodbyes.

I was asked shortly upon my return by a dear friend which bars and restaurants he should visit and where he should stay in Dublin, I quickly replied with a list of at least 50 bars alone and realized that I was truly diving into my northern European roots and staying “Irish Hydrated” throughout pretty much the whole two months I lived in Dublin.  Here’s a leaner version of my bar list of some amazing spots to check out in the city next time you find yourself there:

Top 15 Bars, Pubs & Clubs in Dublin

Small club and pub combination, great DJ’s and good vibes.  This place is always full of young Dubliners looking to have a funky time.  The small dance floor, outdoor smoking area (which makes up almost half of Workmans) lets you cool off after getting your groove on.

Absolutely dripping with ambiance, 37 Dawson St.  has unique walls of art, delicious food, and truly wonderful cocktails. (Especially their Mary Pickfords and Amaretto Sours)

Do you like sushi, signature cocktails, and an underground vibe?  Then Izakaya is your new favorite bar.  With top DJs every night you’ll feel like you’re in the know in a VIP way when you walk into this Japanese gem.

Rock n’ roll downstairs, Hip-Hop on the ground level dancefloor, and club music upstairs makes the Academy one of the most musically versatile clubs in the city.  With lines down the block it can be daunting to get in, but once inside it’ll be worth the wait. As you groove with beautiful men and women covered in glitter, you’ll gaze upwards to see circus-esque dancers above on the top balcony with hoola-hoops and poi.

They also have live music and tickets can be purchased in advance online.  I highly recommend getting yourself in the Academy to see Rodrigo y Gabriella on Sunday the 16 of July!

Located right next door the Abbey Court Hostel, O’Connell’s draws in young adventurers from around the world.  Go on by if you’d like to catch a match, have some fries and a pint, or meet up with some friends. They’re open with live music on most nights with Karaoke on Friday nights!

Shortly after arriving in Dublin I found myself walking through JW Sweetman’s doors for my first true Irish draft Guinness. I couldn’t have picked a better place to stumble into to kick off my adventure in Dublin. As the only microbrewery and craft brew combination bar in the city, they make themselves stand out from the rest.  If you get lost on your way, walk along the Liffey to the Heineken HQ off O’Connell street and you’ll be right next door.

Exclusive. Refined. Secret rendezvous. Late night soiree. No matter what you’re into you’ll love this.  Come ring VCC’s doorbell to step into the world of ‘silent movie starlets, cocktails and gourmet cuisine’.

Downstairs when you first walk in the door you’ll be in awe at their sky-high shelf of alcohol.  The backlit illumination makes it quite a sight.  “Farrier & Draper is a slick spot for the savvy drinker”. When you climb the stairs, you’ll find two Georgian style rooms that are open till the early AM with DJ’s playing every weekend.  The history behind this venue originates from the “Farriers” who were half veterinarian, half blacksmith, who worked for the aristocrats in the House of Draper (Clothing Producers) over 140 years ago.

Aaron Rowe @Aaronrowemusic (Check The Mezz Bar on Spotted Places app)

Killer live bands almost every night at this true dive bar made The Mezz one of my main hangout spots while living in Dublin.  With bras hanging off the back bar, dart boards, and an alley-way smoke spot, there’s a homey carefree vibe that surrounds this small pub.  When you are at the bar, ask for Slim.  He’ll keep you in the know about the after-hours bar life in downtown Dublin and the other hidden gems not mentioned here.

We had a resident bartender and mixologist from KOH come to lecture about Mixology over the course of our last two days, which included roughly 10-12 hours total of class-time.  At KOH, they craft their cocktails from beginning to end.  From infused sugar syrups to chocolate infused cognac they can do it all.  Their atmosphere and their food, as well as their killer cocktails, make them an excellent selection for any night out on the town.

If you like drag queens, dancing, karaoke and good times then The George is your new favorite place! With great brews on tap and a traditional club vibe, it’s an extraordinary place to hit with some friends some late Friday or Saturday night.

The George opened in 1985, making it one of Irelands oldest gay club, and provided a safe and fun place to have a good time; which remains true to this day.

Their pulled pork sandwich is heavenly; craft brews are on point and you can sit in a saddle-stool or chill in one of their picnic-style tables.  Perfect place to wander into for a pint and a bite on any given afternoon.

A bar, restaurant, café, nightclub and a tourist attraction make ‘The Church’ a holy all-in-one destination.  Award winning mixologists, live music, and Irish dancing contribute to this venues’ traditionalism as well as their modern twist. The Cellar Late Bar & Club within The Church is home to some of Dublin’s top DJ’s and photographers. Finally, after everything else they offer, they also have Dublin’s largest Beer Garden.

Located just across the Liffey from The Abbey Court Hostel, The Mercantile made a perfect late night stop for a signature cocktail and classic Irish cuisine.  The bar embodies Nineteenth century Dublin and “is the former workplace of Leopold Bloom in James Joyce’s Ulysses.  It was in Ulysses that Bloom was employed by Wisdom Hely of Hely & Co Ltd which was situated where the current Mercantile Bar & Hotel now resides.”

As part of the European Bartender School course, we had the opportunity to not only learn how to pour a “proper” Guinness but receive an industry tour along with free pints up top at the Gravity Bar.  With beautiful 360 degrees of historic and modern buildings of Downtown Dublin, you won’t get a better view than on the 7th floor of the Guinness Storehouse.

 

You can connect with Rebekah Abigail Dobbs here:

Spotted Places: Miss_Venturous

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/missventurous/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/miss_venturous/

Blog: https://parallelplanet.org

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6 Ways to Save Money While Traveling

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6 Ways to Save Money While Traveling

Post by: Jake Allegro (Follow on Spotted Places @jake.allegro)

It’s something every world traveler thinks about; how do you save those extra few dollars or euros while out there on the road? Well, it can be hard to do, especially if you’re trying to see every single attraction a city has to offer. However, there are a few ways you can save some cash throughout your travel adventure:

1. Hostels are a travelers Best Friend

Yes, it isn’t the most glamourous living situation, I mean who really wants to sleep in a room with ten other people? Well, if you’re truly a dedicated traveler, then chances are you’ve already experienced “Hostel Life” in all its glory, with the snoring roommates, the late-night party-ers, or just the loud and chatty bunkmate. That being said though, staying in a hostel can be a major benefit to your trip as well. You’ll typically meet cool, like-minded people, who are all looking to do the same too. Plus, with the money you save on a hotel, you can go out and experience more of the food, or nightlife, or whatever you’d like to see while visiting your country of choice.

All and all, hostels are a 50/50 shot. You’ll either win the lottery and be up all night with new friends, drinking and laughing the night away, or you’ll be up all night because the guy in bunk next to you snores like a chainsaw. Either way, you’ll have a story to tell.

2. Cook your own food!

Look, everyone dreams of going on the amazing tour through the city of Paris or Rome or Tokyo and eating all the amazing food from all the top-of-the-line restaurants, but chances are unless you’re Anthony Bourdain, you can’t afford to do so. So how do you get the same experience without the cost? Buy your own food from a local grocer and cook it yourself! All the same dishes you see at those fancy restaurants can be bought and made at home for half the cost. Walk down to the local Sainsbury’s or Tesco or whatever the local market is in the area, and buy the ingredients you need. You’ll feel the pleasure of knowing you made something great all while saving those all-important extra pennies!

And if it all goes wrong, and you end up burning the dish, or overcooking the chicken or whatever the problem may be, at least at the end of the day you’ll have a story to tell!

3. A Free Museum is Better than a £20 Museum

Yes, I know you want to go into The Louvre to see the Mona Lisa, but there are ways to do so without paying the ridiculous entrance fee. They have student days and on Sundays it’s free entry, so why not wait the two or three extra days to see it? That way you can take the euros you save and spend them on a few beers that night at the pub.

This isn’t confided to Paris either, lots of cities across the world will have museums with Student Days for a discounted rate, or even free admission one day a week. Granted, those days will probably be the busiest, but if it saves you the extra quid and you don’t mind a crowd why not wait it out. The Mona Lisa will look the same on a Sunday as it does every other day, well that is unless someone doesn’t steal it first!

4. Couchsurfing is a Great way to make new friends

If you haven’t heard of it yet, well now you know; there is a service out there called “Couchsurfing” where people open their homes to travelers for a free night’s stay. You may have to help out with cooking dinner or with a few chores around the house, but it’s honestly one of the coolest ways to meet new people in a country you’ve never visited. Often times, the hosts will be just as excited to have someone staying with them as the “Couch surfer” is to have a place to stay.

Couchsurfing is not just a way of avoiding paying for a hotel or hostel though, if you’re going to use the service you must be friendly and interactive with your host(s). Help cook dinner, engage in conversation, treat them to a drink after the meal, it’s all about broadening the global traveler community, and negative energy will not be tolerated.

A fun story from one of my own Couchsurfing experience, I was in Paris for a week, but I had not booked a place to stay. I thought upon arrival that I’d be able to just walk into a hostel and grab a bunk, but as chance would have it everywhere was booked up solid. Even most of the cheap hotels had no room to spare, so I turned to this new app I had downloaded called “Couchsurfing”. I opened it up created an account, and posted a notice that I was a traveler who had just come from the UK and was in need of a place to stay for just a night or two until a room in a hostel opened up. I waited a little while, walking around the streets of Paris as the sun started to go down. Finally, a notification popped up on my phone that someone had responded to my “plea for help”. It was three Brazilians who were living in a small apartment in Paris at the time; they said we should meet at a nearby market and then we’d head back to their place.

After a short walk, I ended up finding them in the streets of the outdoor market, were we proceeded to buy supplies for dinner that night. We went back to their apartment, cooked a delicious and fresh mushroom risotto (together) and then spent the night laughing and telling stories from all our travels. I actually ended up staying with them the whole time I was in Paris, and we’re still good friends to this day! So see, you never know what can come from a Couchsurfing experience!

5. Take local transportation

It can be a daring thought, going to a new country and jumping on their local transportation without really knowing how to use it, but it’s honestly one of the best ways to get to know a new city. Think about it: if you know how to get from the City Centre of Barcelona to La Sagrada Familia, you’ll feel much more comfortable in the city itself than if you have to ask every person for directions. Also, if you’re with a tour group or tour company who cover all your travel for you, you’re much less likely to go out on your own and experience parts of the city the tour doesn’t show you.

At the end of the day, the local transportation is what all the LOCALS are using! It’ll get you where you need to go, while helping you to look (at least a little bit) lees like a tourist in the process. And isn’t that really what we all want? To look comfortable enough in a city we’ve never actually been to?

6. Make friends with the locals

There’s no secret that no matter where you go in the world, the best people to ask for recommendations are the locals. They’re the ones who will be able to tell you about cool restaurants and bars to visit, or interesting sights to see. And once you know where the locals go, you can avoid all the tourist traps that are out there! Living like a local in any country is much preferred to living like a tourist.

Plus, locals will tell you all about the hidden destinations to visit; when I was in Toronto this past December, it was two local bartenders who gave me all the recommendations on where to eat, what to see, and most importantly where to get cheap drinks! That advice alone probably ended up saving me quite a pretty penny on the trip as a whole, and it was something that wasn’t even planned from the start! Getting to know the locals in any city will open up doors to see what the city or country is really like, and if you can do that all while saving money, well then that’s just a win-win.

Hopefully you can take at least a few of these tips and put them to good use. It doesn’t take much effort to save a few extra dollars throughout your travel adventure, and at the end of the trip you’ll be glad you did! And while some of these tips may not work in every city you visit, at least you know now how to (try) to save some money on your next big journey!

Carpe Diem Amigos and Bon Voyage!

Where to find Jake:

Spotted Places: @jake.allegro

Blog: www.nomadictraveling.com

Website: www.jakealegro.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/jakeallegro

Facebook: www.facebook.com/nomadictraveling

Email: carpediemwithjake@gmail.com

 

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First things first - Montreal to Quebec

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First things first - Montreal to Quebec

Post by: Nicole Peters  (Follow her on Spotted Places @Nicole22 )

2017 is the year of firsts for me. I moved across the country, which was also my first time moving, my first flight alone and my first time attending university as a visiting student learning a new language. The plan for my new journey was to fly to Montreal, where I would spend a few days and catch a train from Montreal to Quebec in order to attend my orientation session. Surprisingly I was not afraid of this, yet incredibly excited for this new chapter in my life.

While in Montreal, I explored the city for the first time as a solo traveler. Montreal, in general, is a safe city, but coming from a small town in B.C., the idea of being alone in such a big city was frightening. With much thanks to Google maps, I managed my way around, and found interesting spots that I would normally not have visited, including the Café des Arts, in the Bonsecours Market, next to the Old Port. I felt so free without a time limit; I had the ability to do whatever I pleased. I used the metro to my advantage, starting from Berri-Uqam, the main hub in Montreal, to Lionel Groulx to Peel, visiting and walking past site after site. Place Jacques-Cartier is an excellent street with dozens of tourist shops that sell neat souvenirs from Montreal.

Having been to Montreal in the summer and now the winter, I had thought that hiking Mont Royal would have been a great way to see the whole city. Since I grew up in B.C., I had no idea about the snow here. It took me double the amount of the time to walk to Mont Royal. So when I had reached the top, it was close to 4 pm. Therefore, the sun was dropping quickly and so was the temperature, but the stubborn part of me won and I started climbing the long upward trail. Less and less people were around me, but thankfully, I made it to the top before it became completely dark. Regardless of my poor planning, the view was worth the treacherous hike to the top.

Luckily, I had previously visited the province of Quebec, which included the city I had now moved to, Quebec City, so I had a basic understanding of the layout.  All of that information was lost in my mind as I focused on moving into my apartment for the upcoming months and letting the taxi driver know the right address to drop me off. Being completely disoriented, I tried to use Google maps to walk to the nearest Wal-Mart; however, after an hour of walking the same streets, I took a taxi to and from there, in order to purchase bedding and food.

One the day of the orientation for my program, I was given a map of the campus, but in no way was I able to use it to find my way. Luckily there were students heading to the same area, so I followed and managed to find the place I was supposed to check in. There were many international students in the program I was, so we exchanged our contact information so that we could help each other out exploring and conquering the city. That afternoon, I walked around campus and found my way to and from the buildings. I returned back to my room later and called my friends back home to update them.

The first day of courses was finally here, and after just looking around the campus for one day, I was still lost. I managed to find a would-be classmate when I was asking for directions, which was very encouraging and so we spent the day learning about each other’s journey’s of getting to Quebec. After my class, I was shown how to get to the closest market to buy my groceries, instead of paying for a taxi to and from the mall. During the next few weeks, I took in all the information about the city that I could.

The thing that was most challenging for me was learning the bus system. I have my car back home, so I never used the public transportation, so when becoming dependant on it was something I had forgotten to be prepared for. I had no idea where each bus was going, and which side of the street I should be on, however, the bussing in Quebec is easy to learn. The routes head for downtown or the old city, depending on the side of the street. I found that the app called “transit” is helpful for using the public transportation. It works based on your location, so it can use it anywhere in the world. Just type in the destination, whether it’s a stop, address or rough location, it will direct you to the closest buses that are going to that area. It will also keep you alerted to know when to get off the bus as well!

The first two weeks after my move were challenging, but I managed to adapt and soon I became confident in going about the city and cooking my own meals, although I am not anywhere close to a good cook. I learned to find some delicious, yet student-budget friendly places to eat, including Âllo Mon Coco, which is located in the Boulevard Laurier, serving huge, delicious breakfast meals that can last you for a few days easily. Another amazing place to eat is Cacao 70, which serves as a chocolate specialty restaurant; the “3 Chocolate” Chocolate Fondue is unbelievable. It is also located in the same area as Âllo Mon Coco, but two malls over, roughly a 5-minute walk, in Place Sainte-Foy.

Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app

Quebec City, being the tourist city that it is, has many sites to see, so I have yet to complete my checklist of things to do and see here, even though my time is coming to an end. There are hundreds of cafés to choose from, however my favourite is the Starbucks closest to my place, which is a perfect place for me to complete all my homework for the week. Another good place to go is Nektar Cafélogue, which has the best hot chocolate! It is a little bit farther away, but it is worth the trip to try it out. There are also plenty of historical monuments, being that the city is over 400 years old and that it was a major player in the Seven Years’ War. There are cannon monuments in the upper and lower village, statues of Gandhi, Champlain, Churchill and many other important historical political figures.

A walk in the walled city of Quebec is also a must, especially since the infamous Chateau Frontenac is located there. Something to also consider when traveling to Quebec, is that the winter months here are beautiful, however, it is imperative to be extremely cautious, as the snow is often covering layers of ice, so the ground is exceptionally slippery. Also consider, that most of the city is located on hills therefore it is a good idea to be extra cautious in general. To get to the Chateau by driving, you can follow the street Grande Allée, where there is pay parking available on both sides of the street. After parking, just continue walking straight down the road until the Chateau Frontenac comes into view. It should be at the end of the road. By bus, the easiest route is to take the 800 or 801 to the D’Youville stop. After getting off at the D’Youville stop, take a walk down Rue St. Jean past the tourist shops until reaching the Chateau at the end of the street.

Looking for another adventure, I decided to try out Dog Sledding when my parents were visiting. There are many companies here that offer the same experience. We set out to Lévis, which is a thirty-minute drive out to the other side of the St. Lawrence River, where the Aventure Plein Air Inukshuk is located. It was a once in a lifetime experience and everyone in our group had fun. The guides make sure the dogs are well behaved, so there is no need to worry about that part of the activity and just enjoy your time spent in the wilderness.

Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app

I have only been on my own for a few months now, but the knowledge I have gained will last me a lifetime. Not only have I learned so much about traveling and the French language, which was the reason I moved out here, but I have also learned so much about who I am and who I want to be in the future. Having been a shy person in the past, I now have started to speak up and share my own stories. Through traveling by myself, I have learned to look at life from a broader perspective because at the end of the day, that is what life is about; to learn, to express and to experience the world and all it has to offer.           

Where you can find Nicole:

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Penguins and Whales and Seals... Oh My!

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Penguins and Whales and Seals... Oh My!

Our Cruise to the End of the Earth

Post by: Dani and Riv (Follow them on Spotted Places @DykeTales)

When we started to plan our trip to South America Dani casually dropped into the conversation that she wanted to go to Antarctica if we were going to be that close (who knew 1000 kilometers was close). Now those of you who know us will know that Dani is 100% in charge of the budget and I do the planning. Every so often she throws me a planning curveball that makes me cringe but to date I have yet to be unable to make something work with the budget she gives me. Originally I looked into the 10 day cruises from Ushuaia, Argentina and discovered they can reach $10,000 USD per person. I knew she had her heart set on it but we could travel for a year (or longer in some parts of the world) on what it would cost for the 2 of us. More research revealed that you could book last minute cruises if you made it down to Ushuaia and patiently waited for available spaces on cruises that had disembarked from Buenos Aires. I found it very difficult however to find any information more up to date than 2010. People who had done the pilgrimage in 2010 were getting cruises as cheap as $3000 USD, which seemed manageable. This however turned out to be very old information.
 
Closer to our trip to South America I did a little more research and came across information from the summer season 2015/16. This stated that due to the increase in popularity of internet bookings the savings you could get by showing up in Ushuaia were no longer worth it when you factored in the cost of staying in Ushuaia and prices of the cruises were no longer as drastically low (having now been to Ushuaia we can now confirm that there are not as many tour agencies offering trips and the cheapest we found were $5,000 USD for the 10 day and $7,000 USD for the 7 day + flight; both leaving within 2 weeks). It was also during this research that I discovered a 21-day cruise starting in Valparaiso going via Patagonia, Antarctica and the Falklands to Buenos Aires. The major difference between this cruise and the 10 day is that you only cruise around you don't step foot in Antarctica but the cost of this cruise was only $3,500 AUD including tax per person and we have learned that this price dropped even further after we booked.

We're aware that for many of you reading this not stepping foot on Antarctica would be enough to put you off, for others it might be the thought being a backpacker on a cruise ship. We can tell you that if you can't afford the 10-day trip this is worth every cent.

Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app

The first 2 stops on this cruise are pretty pointless and there isn't much going on unless you've done your research into what there is to see out side of town. The cruise excursions are prohibitively expensive (and often not worth the money) so see if you can negotiate a good price with a taxi driver at the port. For the same trip people on the ship paid over $130 USD for, friends of ours got for $40 USD per person. At the next port friends got a 4-hour tour for $14 USD per person when excursions were going for hundreds. We did however book an excursion into Patagonia in Chacabuco. Despite having a wonderful day with the people we were with, we were disappointed to find out what we got for $200 USD. Admittedly this was a private park that you cannot enter without a guide and the trip included alcohol, a traditional lunch and folk dancing, however we had booked this for it's Patagonian experience and what it was a 2km amble along a boardwalk, through the bush, missing a lot of what the local area has to offer.

Magellan Penguin Chick

Magellan Penguin Chick


Our next stop and excursion was to a penguin colony in Punta Arenas. This was a well worth it trip to an island 2 hours away from the port that has 10,000 pairs of Magellan penguins and their chicks. 

From here you stop at Ushuaia, which is the southern most city in the world (Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app). This town is not far from the Tierra del Fuego National Park and some beautiful glaciers, however we decided to walk around the town and use our time to reconnect with our families as we had been cruising over Christmas Day and hadn't been able to contact them.

Now it was time experience the primary reason we chose the cruise. We were off to Antarctica! We were extremely lucky with our trip to there. The passage across the Atlantic Ocean to Antarctica is known as the Drake Passage and is supposed to be one of the roughest journeys in the world. I'm not going to say it was smooth sailing, as the ship was still rocking, but no worse than it had in earlier sailing days and experienced Antarctica cruisers informed us that this was an extremely gentle passage. As a result of this incredibly smooth crossing we actually arrived early giving us an extra day in the Antarctic Peninsula!

There are no words to describe the feeling you get, seeing Antarctica for the first time. It's sheer pristine beauty is breathtaking and as one woman we spoke to said, "sublime". Every single doubt we had about whether it had been worth coming despite not being able to land disappeared. The serenity is magical and to stand under the ‪midnight sun on New Year's Eve while whales spout and dive at the end of the earth is indescribable. The waters team with wildlife and ship-sized icebergs float by while penguins dive off them and seals sun themselves. 

After waving goodbye to our last view of Antarctica we were off to The Falklands. What can we say?! Stanley, which is the capital/only town, is a quaint little place with a surprisingly strong English community. The accents, the architecture, the food, everything screams England, despite being a community on the edge of South America. We fell in love with it so don't be surprised to hear we've put in applications to move. I think it's the resilience of the community here that really sold us on it. 

Our next stop was Puerto Madryn, which unless you are visiting the National Parks isn’t really anything special. It’s a nice enough place to wander around and a lot of Argentinians use it as a beachside getaway from Buenos Aires. From here we were off to our next stop and our next country Montevideo, Uruguay. Unfortunately our ship was due in on a Sunday. This meant very little was open but it was still a worthwhile stop. There are free museums and it is an easily explored city on foot. We were lucky enough to be on the ship so it was not an expensive stop for us but be warned Uruguay is a bit of a budget stretching country. This being said it did not appear to be much more expensive than Argentina or Chile which we managed to do under budget. After a day in port it was time for our final stop in Buenos Aires, where we began our South American adventure just over 6 weeks earlier.

King Penguins in Stanley - Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app

So how was the overall experience? We really felt that for what we paid and what we got to see, this was well worth the expense. Dani has decided she would like to work on Antarctica (actually surprisingly possible to do) after witnessing it's beauty and listening to the Antarctica experts that give lectures on the ship. We have also started to discuss moving to the Falklands after falling for its small town charm (we’ll keep you posted). Now we have been warned that we were incredibly fortunate to have seen what we did and have the weather that we did. We were told that some who book the expensive 10-day trips sometimes do not get to land due to weather and that on other cruises the weather has been so bad that they see very little. We were inexplicably lucky and we know that, let's all hope this is some kind of good backpacker karma for deciding to do something so drastically unbackpackerish and splash out!! 

Budget Time $$

As the cruise is all-inclusive (minus alcohol and soda) there is no need for a budget breakdown but here is what it actually cost. 

We paid $3503.50 AUD ($2567.60 USD) each for 21 days. This included all port fees and taxes. We also found out that the cost dropped even further closer to the time of the cruise (we booked 2 months in advance) and that if taken up with Holland America rooms were upgraded or shipboard credit was given (which can be used towards excursions, drinks, food at the paid for restaurants, shopping or towards the service charge). In addition, there is a daily service charge fee of $12.50 USD pp, that you pay at the end of the cruise, which is a total of $262.50 USD.

Cruise Money Saving Tips:

  • Pre-paid beverage packages offered upon booking are definitely not worth it, as most people do not drink enough to add up to the amount charged.
  • Tea and coffee is available all day in the buffet as are water, juice and iced tea.
  • Soda cards are available and give you $50 USD worth of soda for $25. We found that a card each was enough to get us through the cruise.
  • Free drinks are almost always available through activities on board such as the art auctions (read free champagne) and the cheap alcohol tasting sessions.
  • Go to the cultural shows/events like tango shows and musical performances as these can cost a lot of money off ship and they often bring on great quality, local entertainers.
  • You’re entitled to bring on board one bottle of wine per person during the cruise without a corkage fee. After this, it’s much cheaper to buy bottles onshore and pay the $18 corkage fee (if they notice you bringing it onboard) rather than buying a bottle of wine through the ship. Cruises are by no means cheap but there are definitely ways and means to get your monies worth and to ensure that you don't frivolously haemorrhage money (as so many on the boats do)!

Connect with Dani and Riv:

Spotted Places@DykeTales

Bloghttp://dyketales.weebly.com/

Instagram: @dyke_tales

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My Neverland - Agnes Water

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My Neverland - Agnes Water

Post by: Brittany Ferreira (Follow Brittany on Spotted Places @Brittany.Ferreira)

As you are driving down the east coast of beautiful Australia you might just head for the big things on the map; but please take note of the small things. Take a look beneath the path as its then the Bruce Highway. Leave the Highway near Childers and make your way through to Bundaberg; a quit big town which is famous for its Bundaberg Rum. If you’re driving to Bundabergs north and take the Rosedale Road you’ll find yourself on a Road surrounded by greenery wherever you look. Here and there you’ll see a small House while making your way thowards the coast. After taking a turn in an area called Berajondo and drive about 35 minutes on this road you’ll arrive in as I call it Neverland, better known as Agnes Water. 10 Years ago there was only a dirttrack leading to Agnes Water so you’re lucky that you can get there more easily today.

 

The Town

The Town itself is really small. Big Shoppingcentres like Woolworth or Coles don’t even think about opening a branch there and the only pub in town is accessible by foot almost wherever in Agnes you live. You get your Pizza from the only Servo there an if you’ve the munchies after 8pm you have to go there too. If you want to shop the latest Surfing Clothes you’ll find them in the Reef 2 Beach Shop where everyone knows exactly your size and you can book your first ever Surf class, as Agnes Water is the first stop when you go from north to south where you can go surfing. As walking along the shops next to Foodworks you can check out the bakery where they’ve got the best lemington and sausage rolls I ever ate.


If you go for vegan and raw food do yourself a favor and visit Amber and her Team at Sol Foods. On my daily walks through the town I always stopped there for a smoothie or two and some fresh vegan cake slices which always gave me shivers. She also has got the best coffee I ever had and likes to have a chat with you if you have any questions. Ambers food is as fresh as it gets and you can learn a lot about environmental friendly articles and about sea shepherd which she is a big fan of.

If you’re staying in town for longer and want some new ink underneath your skin go up to Ian. He’s an English lad who came to Australia when he was young and just stayed in Agnes his whole life because it was that beautiful. I really enjoy his artwork and got a lot of art on my body done while I was in Agnes. Make sure you go there during the winter time as there not that many people staying in Agnes. Do you want to get a facial treatment done? Go to the famous beauty shop named Glamourpussy. The staff is really friendly and I immediately felt like I was in good hands while someone was tinting my eyelashes.


Something you shouldn’t miss is the Stone and Rock Shop; a small shop close to the beach where you can wander around and take a look at the most beautiful stones on earth. Get lost and discover the stones and gems Australia and the world has got to offer and if you don’t want to spend a fortune you can buy a small stone and make your own necklace.

 

The Hostel

There are four Hostels in Agnes Water. The YGA, Southern Cross Backpackers, Cool Bananas and Backpackers@1770. I haven’t been to all of them but I can definitely say which one of them is the best. Back when I was in Agnes I checked in at Backpackers@1770 and I never regret it. If you stay a bit longer you’ll get to know so many people there and everyone is growing into a big family where you can always come back to.

The owners name is Oscar and he is in his mid-twenys whether than some old guy who is owning a Hostel. He’s been traveling a lot and if he finds the time he’ll sit down next to you and talk about his travels. If you’re lucky enough you’ll meet his parents who can tell you many stories about their travels around the world and Australia when it wasn’t that developed.
The hostel consists of three buildings. There is one building where Oscars Room is located, you can find the big kitchen area and the three spacious Double Rooms with Aircon in there too. The middle building contains a huge roofed Chill-Out Area with lots of couches and chair and a big TV. It also has the office, the laundry room and the staff room in it. Between those two buildings you can find a big Balinese hub where everyone is coming together, relaxes and enjoys the social atmosphere. If you can’t be bothered going to the beach just take a towel or one of the chairs and lie down on the meadow in front of the hub. In the last building you can find 6 dorms with 10 beds each. One of them is an All Female Dorm so if you’re a girl and don’t want to spend your nights in an Unisex Room this Room is perfect for you. Every single Room contains a big bathroom. As I was staying there and started to work as a staff member I immediately went to the staff room. Every Day between 10 and 12 every room and every bathroom is being cleaned to make your stay as comfortable as possible. Enjoy the quiz nights or the bonfires at the beach where you can see Oscar doing his fire tricks and if it gets colder during the night there’s a bonfire at the hostel where you can melt marshmallows, sit by the fire and listen to some guys with guitar skills.

Don’t miss out the opportunity to take a refreshing shower in the tropical outdoor shower hidden behind bamboo. The best time of the day to shower in there is when it’s short after sunrise and the sun is crawling between the bamboo sticks to warm you up. While taking a look above your head the palm trees are breezing in the wind.

Don’t miss out the opportunity to take a refreshing shower in the tropical outdoor shower hidden behind bamboo. The best time of the day to shower in there is when it’s short after sunrise and the sun is crawling between the bamboo sticks to warm you up. While taking a look above your head the palm trees are breezing in the wind.

My favorite part in this hostel is the kitchen. It’s a total artwork.

Every time backpackers stayed in this hostel they came around and drew or wrote something on the walls or the table. Whenever I was standing in the kitchen I discovered a new saying, a new language, a new phrase. Make friends with “Duke” the hostel dog, a crazy black and white crossbreed and you’ll never be alone again. Sometimes he comes along and cuddles up to you or just pokes his head through your legs while you’re having breakfast. If you want to take a walk with him just ask at the reception and you can walk down to the beach with him where he loses everything. Check in at that beautiful hostel and enjoy hiring bikes, surfboards and snorkeling gear.

Sometimes Oscar gets his 4-Wheel-Drive and will take you to one of the beautiful national parks around Agnes Water where you either discover the red Earth Australias or the huge white sand dunes and wonderful beaches.

Book your accommodation now!

 

The Beaches and beautiful Surroundings

As I already said, Agnes Water is like the Neverland. It has got a beautiful main beach where you can snorkel, swim, surf and do kite surfing which will take your breath away. Do yourself a favor and wake up early to take a swim in the ocean while the sun is rising and crawling up over the cliffs. The main beach itself is about 7 km long. If you’re taking the main entrance to the beach in the morning you might see the surf class having its lesson and enjoy watching them practice. There are some cliffs on the right side where you can go for a hike and sit down at the very end to see the surf pros surfing with the big waves which burst against the big rocks.

On your left side you can stroll down the beach and see the kite surfers performing their tricks in the wind. Lie down under one of the big trees and enjoy the beautiful weather and the salty sea. If you’re lucky enough someone with fresh coconuts will come up to you and you can buy them for $1 each.

Head south from Agnes Water along springs road until you come to the Springs Beach Sign. Turn left for around 400-500m until you find the track to drive to my favorite beach in this area. I mean, who wants to have their towel lined up next some stranger when you can go to this stunning beach. Whether you want to surf there or just lie on the beach this one is the best spot. As it is in front of a private housing estate you have to access the beach on a 250 m dirt track so prepare to take your 4-wheel-drive up there.
When you finally made it and walked the track down to the beach you’ll find yourself in front of deep blue waters and the most beautiful spot for beach lovers. White sand dunes and stunning headlands wherever you look.

 

Paperbark Trail Walk

If you want to get lost for about 15 minutes the Paperbark Park is the perfect spot. It’s on the opposite side of the entry of Springs Beach. It has some stepping stones as you walk in there and a wooden boardwalk. Take your time and just enjoy the silence and the beautiful butterflies all around you. It’s definitely a picture worth but I would suggest you leave your camera in your pocket, at least for a few minutes and breath in deeply.

 

1770 Sunset Lookout

As I was working for the hostels I had the pleasure to drive the Hostel Bus and show the guest the famous sunset lookout in 1770, a town where James Cook landed in 1770. Due to the fact that Agnes Water and the Town of 1770 is on a promontory you have the opportunity of seeing the sunrise and the sunset above the Ocean. Driving to the very end of 1770 you’ll come to a big parking lot. Park your car and make your way down to a bay where you can sit down at the small cliffs and watch the sunset. If you’re lucky you can see dolphins and sea turtles and the sun will immerse the coast into a beautiful golden light until the sun sets behind the mountains and the ocean. I would recommend you going there when it’s a bit cloudy so the sun shines through the clouds and give them a nice glow.

 

Activities all around Agnes

Get up, get out and do something. And you can do plenty of stuff in and around Agnes. Book a Surf Lesson, hire some bikes and drive around Agnes to find hidden places, hire a kayak and paddle around the coast to find the secret beach (I won’t tell you where it is, you have to find it yourself). Go snorkeling at the coastline and find beautiful fishes in the clear water. Book the famous Castaway Tour where you will discover the Castaway live for 3 days and 2 nights. You truly aren’t allowed to be a princess (or a prince as it’s said on the website) when it comes to the castaway tour because you have to live with the things provided; wildlife, insects, sand etc.
If you are more down for a relaxing reef cruise book a cruise on the Lady Musgrave Cruises or the “1770 Great Barrier Reef Cruises” and go out for a beautiful snorkel trip at the famous Lady Musgrave Island. This island is a 14 hectares coral cay on the nothern south barrier reef.

 

Getaway Cafe

If you’re looking for coffee and fantastic food in a tropical paradise look no further. I found it! The Getaway Cafe ! It’s a cafe which you can access on the Road of Springs Beach and Paperbark Park. The moment you enter the garden coffee through the big wooden Balinese doors all your problems will float away and you find yourself in a jungle with a stone boardwalk. As you walk up the wooden area and take a seat you can relax in the immense greenery and see some Kangaroos lying on the grass during the afternoon. The best thing I ate was the bircher muesli. A fresh pinch muesli with spoons of yogurt, fresh passion fruit, banana, strawberries and blueberries. On top of all that try the smoothies and enjoy the babble of the tropical pond.  

During my time in Agnes Water I made a lot of friends and we grew into a big family. I know that they are somewhere in the world and I’ll always share a special bond with them. Agnes Water is Paradise. I learned how to ride a long board, I nearly learned how to surf but always fell of the board, I could really relax and get to know myself better. It felt like home away from home and whenever I have the chance to come back I definitely will.

Connect with Brittany:

Spotted Places: @Brittany.Ferreira

Instagram: @britt_aany

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Vietnam Travel Guide

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Vietnam Travel Guide

Post by: GoGo Budget Travel (Follow on Spotted Places @ChloeLiying.Lin)

When it comes to Southeast Asia countries, Vietnam is easily my favourite pick. Once a lesser-known destination, it has become more and more popular among tourists in recent years. With its beautiful nature and cultural diversity, Vietnam attracted 10 million visitors in 2016, an increase of 26.0% from 2015.

From the peaceful rice valleys of Sapa in Northern Vietnam stretching to the bustling city of the Ho Chi Minh in the south, Vietnam is home to a wealth of attractions and amazing cuisine that will attract both budget and luxury seeking travelers. Here’s your complete travel guide for your 1 weeks’ trip in Vietnam.

Quick Tips

  • Currency: Vietnam Dong (click here for current conversion rates)
  • Visa: Many countries have Visa exemption between 15-30 days. You can check out whether you’re the lucky one here. If you need to apply for a Visa, the best method is to apply online.
  • Safety: It’s generally very safe to travel in the Northern and Central Vietnam. However, as it gets to the South, things become trickier and people are more cunning. Be careful of thieves in Mui Ne and Ho Chi Minh.   
  • Climate: Depends on region. Summer is extremely hot and humid, while winter is rather cooling.
  • Best SIM cards: There are four Telco companies in Vietnam and all of them offer similar services and pricings. A 5GB/30 day package cost 100,000 VND (around $5 USD). However, I still recommend Viettel as it has the largest network and most customers, closely followed by Vinaphone. Avoid Mobifone and Vietnamobile if you’re heading off the beaten track.

 

Day 1: Hanoi

Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam, is known for its centuries-old architecture and a rich culture with Southeast Asian, Chinese and French influences. At its heart is the chaotic Old Quarter, there are so many local food and restaurants for you choose from. Very often, travellers find themselves lost in choices. Luckily, when we visited Hanoi this time, our local friend Ha Linh brought us around to eat the best local food in Hanoi.

Must eat local delights recommended by the locals:

1) Pho - 10 Ly Quoc Su,
   Address: 10 Lý Quốc Sư, Hàng Trống, Hoàn Kiếm, Hà Nội, Vietnam

2) Square Cake (Bánh Chưng)
    Address: Along the street of the Old Quarter

3) Egg coffee (Fragrance Café & Restaurant)
    Address: 35 Gia Ngu Street, Hang Bac Ward, Hoan Kiem Distr

Apart from trying out all the delicious food, do remember to visit iconic sites like St Joseph Cathedral, Ba Dinh Square, Ho Hoan Kiem and more! For a more complete street food guide in Hanoi, check out my blog post here. http://gogobudgettravel.com/best-local-food-in-hanoi/

 

Day 2-3: Halong Bay

Hạlong Bay, in northeast Vietnam, is known for its emerald waters and thousands of towering limestone islands topped by rainforests. Many travelers face the same question when they are considering a trip to Halong Bay: “Should I stay in Halong Bay cruise overnight?” The answer is a definite YES!

Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app: https://api.spottedplaces.com/applink/aoAcBDkzh7LwkVEF

Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app: https://api.spottedplaces.com/applink/aoAcBDkzh7LwkVEF

Must-do activities in Halong Bay:

1) Enjoy the sunset and sunrise, and kayaking at the same time

Halong Bay is the most beautiful during sunrise and sunset moments. And you only get to see them if you stay overnight cruise. During these moments, the beauty of Halong Bay truly reveals itself. What’s more, you get to go kayaking in the quiet and serene bay as the sun sets. Truly amazing indeed!

2) Visit Sung Sot or “Surprise Cave”

Situated in the centre of the UNESCO World Heritage area, Sung Sot or “Surprise Cave” is on Bo Hòn Island, and is one of the most spectacular and largest grottoes of Ha Long Bay. The cave is beautifully lit by different colour of lights. One of the best advantage of choosing Halong Bay cruise overnight is that you get to visit the cave during the earliest hour, as soon as it opens.

3) Make your own spring rolls on the cruise

The cruise caters all the meals you need and light refreshment such as fruits. To be frank, I didn’t have high expectation of the food but to my surprise, everything tasted fantastic and fresh! What’s more, there’s a Vietnamese Spring Rolls making session. It is very easy to do and pretty fun making your own spring rolls!

 

Keen to find out more about Halong Bay and watch a video I made for the trip? Check out my blog post here! http://gogobudgettravel.com/why-choose-halong-bay-cruise-overnight/

 

Day 4-6: Sapa

Located at 1500 meters (4921 feet) above sea level in Vietnam’s remote northwest mountains, Sapa is famous for both its fine, rugged scenery and also its rich cultural diversity. It is a quiet mountain town and home to a great diversity of ethnic minority peoples. 

Must-do activities in Sapa:

1) Hiking

There’s no better way to explore Sapa than trekking. Sapa is orientated to make the most of the spectacular views emerging on clear days; overlooking a plunging valley, with mountains towering above on all sides. You’ll find yourself being surrounded by cascading rice terraces, endless greenery and amazing fresh air. Once you’ve stepped out into the lush fields, you’ll understand the Sapa area’s real charm.

Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app: https://api.spottedplaces.com/applink/E3wg371fsnWUnn9z

Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app: https://api.spottedplaces.com/applink/E3wg371fsnWUnn9z

 

2) Animal Watching

While you are trekking in the field, you’re bound to encounter a lot of animals. On the hill, you’ll see a buffalo sitting in the paddy field. Along the road, you’ll see horses passing by. Out of the blue moon, you may see domesticated pigs looking for food. The animals are gentle and won’t attack unless you provoke them. So just watch them quietly and enjoy the peace together.

 

3) Visit Cat Cat Village

Nestled in a beautiful valley about three kilometers from Sapa Town, Cat Cat- the old village of ethnic groups- attracts tourists from all over the world for its distinctive customs and practices which have been lost in almost ethnic villages.

 

For a more complete Sapa guide, where to stay and how to get there, check out my blog post here.

http://gogobudgettravel.com/top-5-things-to-do-in-sapa-vietnam/

 

Day 7-8: Ninh Binh

Located on the Southern end of the Red River Delta, Ninh Binh is around 2 hours drive from Hanoi. It is blessed with diverse topography of both mountainous and coastal areas. It can be said that the province contains all the scenic quintessence of whole Vietnam within its relatively small size.

Not only that, Ninh Binh represents typical rural villages of Northern region with vast green paddy field, expanding mountains and poetic river that flows to the horizon. Ninh Binh’s history is also worth mentioning: the ancient capital of Vietnam in the 10th century, Ninh Binh is a venue of relics that reflect its 1000 years of history and development. For a more detailed Ninh Binh travel guide, here’s my blog post dedicated to it.

http://gogobudgettravel.com/top-3-attractions-in-ninh-binh/

Top 3 Attractions in Ninh Binh:

1) Hang Mua Pagoda (Mua Cave)

Down a sleepy road between rice paddies, this cave is truly impressive at the peak. It offers panoramic views of the rice paddies as you climb up the zigzags stairs. There are in total 450 steps but the height of the cave looks a lot more than that.

2) Trang An Boat Ride

If you’ve heard the beauty of Halong Bay, Trang An is the Halong Bay of the land. It has spectacular landscape of limestone karst peaks permeated with valleys, many of them partly submerged and surrounded by steep, almost vertical cliffs. And – best of all – there are very few tourists, so you can really enjoy the serenity of nature. 

Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app:  https://api.spottedplaces.com/applink/HVwUlgnwOxuAOXHb

Check out this spot on the Spotted Places app:  https://api.spottedplaces.com/applink/HVwUlgnwOxuAOXHb

3) Bai Dinh Pagoda

Bai Dinh Pagoda is a religious complex covering a total area of 539 hectare, a size of more than 800 football fields combined! Located in the mountainous area, the peak of the pagoda offers breathtaking views. When you finally reach the top, you’ll be able to see a beautiful temple with gorgeous scenery as a backdrop. If you want to find out more about Bai Dinh Pagoda, check out my blog post here.

 

Cost Breakdown:

As Vietnam is a really cheap country to travel around, I spent around $450 USD for my entire 1 week trip. Such a budget really allows you to sleep in a comfortable and beautiful hotel, eat hearty meal 3 times a day, and pack your days with awesome activities!

Hanoi: $50 USD

Halong Bay Tour: $120 USD

Sapa Tour: $180 USD

Ninh Binh: $100 USD

Total: $450

If you have more time to spare, you can go further north to Dalat, Mui Ne and Ho Chi Minh. Personally I really recommend Dalat. Check out my complete Vietnam Travel Guide for more! Happy travel! http://gogobudgettravel.com/destination-guides/vietnam-travel-guide/

 

About GoGo Budget Travel

GoGo Budget Travel is an Investment & Travel blog geared towards the adventurous, off the beaten path-loving travelers. Most importantly, it’s for people who want to learn investing to fund their travel. The founder, Chloe, is a Singaporean Value Investor who has a passion to travel the world in the most genuine and budget-smart way. Whether you’re looking for investment knowledge, wealth management ideas, latest market news, to travel tips & tricks, Chloe will share with you her investment and travel experience so you can get on the road quicker, longer and better. Explore the world with GoGo Budget Travel.

 

Connect with GoGo Budget Travel:

Spotted Places: @ChloeLiying.Lin https://api.spottedplaces.com/applink/vxk1ywTem249iIe8

Facebook:https://www.facebook.com/gogobudgettravelchloe/

Instagram: @gogobudgettravel https://www.instagram.com/gogobudgettravel/

Twitter: @GoGoBudgetTrave https://twitter.com/gogobudgettrave?lang=en

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The Spotted Places Blog

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The Spotted Places Blog

Spotted Places has a mission: Inspire others to experience the world, both locally as well as globally.

We are excited to introduce our blog, which we hope will help to inspire even more people. We see our blog being very similar to our our Podcast, which allows listeners to hear epic adventures and amazing tips and tricks when it comes to travel.

Even before the Spotted Places app launched, we were amazed by our growing tribe. We see the blog as another opportunity to get to know our users and community. We invite everyone to apply to submit material for our blog. This could be a cross-post from something already published, or unique content to Spotted Places. You are even encouraged to submit stories of how you used the Spotted Places app to find a new favorite spot!

To apply to submit content, please fill out this application.

If you have questions, feel free to reach out! We always love hearing from our community! 

-Bryant, Co-Founder & CEO

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