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.
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The facilities are good, use them
Before I got to Vietnam I had visions of squat toilets all over the country, similar to that of many other South East Asian destinations and so steeled myself for having to ‘hover’ on a regular basis. This actually 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 very 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. N.B. 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 very 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 originally intended time and that was even if you had set off within an hour of your departure time. Just go with the flow and be ready and alert to depart 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.
I guess I’m getting nostalgic in my old age. Or maybe it’s just that fact that I haven’t lived in the UK for eighteen months now and I kinda miss it. (Ok, I miss the chippies and the TV shows, so sue me.)
But in the same vein as my English stereotypes post, I want to employ a list of must-do things that no-one should miss if they’re visiting the UK (and I said UK – not London), whether you’re travelling as a family or as a young backpacker.
Get Some Scones
When I spent some time in the US earlier this year, I was half disgusted and half intrigued by their notion of “scones”. To them, a scone is something triangular that is served in Starbucks, usually flavoured and often topped with some kind of icing, and definitely a different consistency to our scones.
It doesn’t have to be a full ‘afternoon tea’ (with a pot of tea, sandwiches, scones and preserves) but please, just once, try a proper scone (either filled with raisins or just plain) smothered in clotted cream and jam. It is an other-worldy experience unlike any other and one which is not enjoyed nearly enough, in my opinion.
Take A Ghost Tour In An Historic City
Some of the best walking tours I’ve ever taken have been in cities like York, where the history literally oozes out on to the streets. To accompany an actor around the city, as night is falling, while listening to gruesome tales of the Black Death and Victorian England, is definitely a memorable experience, especially around Halloween time. Kids of all ages can have great fun in the October holidays doing one of these tours around the country. Try one in York, Edinburgh, Whitby, Cardiff or Bath.
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.