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And on the sixth day, God created MANchester

I have written about my love for Vietnam, Las Vegas and New York on several occasions. I have even written about my experience in St Louis and compared it to my own home town. But I have never actually written about my city of birth: Manchester.

Manchester will always be home to me. No matter where I travel to or where I may live in the future, Manchester will always be the place I was born and raised and will therefore forever hold a special place in my heart.

In the wake of the UK riots last week, Manchester was one of the cities which were displayed in a bad light in world press coverage due to a small group of angry and unprovoked individuals. It is publicity like this that deters international visitors from experiencing certain parts of the world and invokes snap judgments about the inhabitants of an area. I wanted to write a post that showed how friendly, welcoming and downright wonderful Manchester is and to encourage people to visit the city at least once during their travels in Britain.

Cruize Control at Milford Sound

milford sound

Everything you have heard is true. Milford Sound is breathtaking.

Originally intending to take a day trip from Queenstown which included a cruise of the Sound, we changed our plans in order to be able to enjoy it to the full and decided to stay there for two nights. The day trips are long and tiring, usually a 12 or 13 hour round trip which includes a very early start on a bus, being shuttled onto your cruise boat and then back on to the bus to be home in time for dinner. Great if you are short on time. Not so great if you don’t like early start and don’t want to be half-asleep whilst cruising around one of the most amazing sights on the South Island.

Hot Air Balloon Ride Over Cappadocia: Part 2

balloon ride over cappadocia
What I loved about our particular pilot was how he knew exactly where to dip in the valleys so that you could get close to the rock formations.

balloon ride over cappadocia

All of the holes you can see that are carved into the side of the rock were homes for pigeons, who were considered to be very valuable in the years before artificial fertilisers came to pass (pigeon poop was used as a fertiliser for crops back then. Too much information?) The entrance to some of the pigeon holes were decorated with painted symbols and drawings and we managed to get close enough to snap some photos.

10 Things You Should Know Before Travelling to Vietnam

The facilities are good, use them

Before I got to Vietnam I had visions of squat toilets all over the country, like that of many other South East Asian destinations and so steeled myself for having to ‘hover’ on a regular basis.

This turned out to be a misconception and the only squat toilet I encountered was at a service station at the side of the road. Apart from this, the plumbing tends to work in much a similar way to Greece: don’t block the pipes by flushing the toilet paper down; instead use the bin provided and everything will be fine.

As with anywhere in Asia, arm yourself with plenty of tissues and antibacterial gel in case you’re caught short with no supplies. You may also be charged to use toilets if they are situated at popular tourist sites. Don’t be cheap and think you can get away with paying the minimum price unless you are male and are used to using public urinals. I made this mistake and was shown to an exposed toilet bowl with no door that could be seen from the street!

It WILL rain – there’s no best time to visit Vietnam

If you are travelling from one end of the country to the other, it will rain at some point during your trip. The seasons vary throughout the country and I encountered rain in both Hoi An and Hue. Even though it was still warm, the rain was heavy at times, but don’t let it dampen your fun.

Ponchos can be bought for a minimal price when you are there (the thinner plastic ones are good just for walking around whereas you should invest in the thicker, longer ones if you’re planning on riding motorbikes and cycles a lot).

Also, don’t bother packing an umbrella – it just adds to your baggage weight and even the lowest class of hotels tend to offer them free in the rooms. Note -  Make sure you return the umbrellas before you leave as you will be charged for them otherwise.

The trains never run on time

Once you’ve spent a few days in Vietnam you’ll realise that the Vietnamese are a laid-back people, who are never in a rush to get anywhere. This translates to their public transport system also.

Having used a few sleeper trains during my stay, it became custom to never expect to arrive at your destination at the intended time, even if you had set off within an hour of your departure time. Just go with the flow and be ready and alert to leave the train at your station when you arrive because they don’t hang around for long and you never know where you might end up if you have to stay on the train until the next stop.