Monthly Archives: February 2020

Vietnam, Hoi An

In case anyone thinks I’ve given up blogging about my travels – I haven’t but as I’ve spent the last three weeks with friends and on my own (planning the rest of this year and even 2021 travels) in a place I have often blogged about – I thought I would save this visit up for one blog with things I haven’t necessarily mentioned before although I have posted a few interim things on Instagram which is much faster!

I always love having people to stay at my place in Vietnam when I am there and this year I had two lots of visitors. Firstly my cruise and SE tour buddies – Luisa and Chris (and aren’t we glad we did the Asia cruise at the very start of the year thereby avoiding cancelled destinations and even cancelled cruise) and secondly Jo and Fliss – both of whom, like me, are rather enjoying not working. Jo is a regular visitor here but the other were newbies so it was fun showing them around.

Luisa and Chris pose by the pink wall in the old town of Hoi An. We enjoyed seeing the local temples and the Calm Spa in the rice paddies – water buffalo not included – we just chanced upon him and his owner on our way there.
Jo, Fliss and I loving not having a schedule anything more complex than gin time, spa time, food time, shopping time!
En route to cooking school – a stop at the colourful market in Hoi An is one of my favourite places to take in the freshness and buzz
Taking a rid in a traditional fishing coracle boat before we got down to some serious rice pancake making

My apartment is a very short walk from Marble Mountain but as is often the case I rarely visit there. But this time we took the short elevator ride to what I thought was just one pagoda but turned out to be a large complex of pagodas and temples. Pretty cool actually and literally on the doorstep.

Temples, pagodas and buddhas at Marble Mountain

En route to Marble Mountain there are about 10 massive – and I mean massive shops – selling marble everything. Again another place I had never beven into – but this time I decided that “Marble Bunnings” or “Marble B and Q” for my Brit friends had to be seen. So glad I did – check out photos below – not sure who buys these – and some are ginormous – but I did get a kick out of seeing what was for sale!

To give you a feel for the sheer size of these places – which also include an indoor area for the more delicate works
But it’s not just buddhas and lions. Do people really buy status of Washington and Einstein in Hoi An? I guess they might.
I actually quite liked these and could imagine one on my balcony at home – wherever that is!
And these made me giggle the most – there are about 12 of them – it was hard to choose my favourite 4

And a visit to Hoi An has to include shopping – ladies I’m looking at you! Of course I had to join in – such a bargain – so had some clothes and some shoes made (plus some Birkie lookalikes). We also bought a lot of other stuff – I won’t bore you….

Finally the two things I never tire of when I visit this part of the world – the evening light in Hoi An and the view from my apartment.

Dusk in Hoi An
Rain or shine doesn’t matter – I love “my beach” in Danang.

I will be back next year but now heading south to another of my “homes”……..

Laos, Luang Prabang – three days in this lovely town

I have always had a soft spot for Luang Prabang in Laos and so this is unashamedly by fourth visit. I always prefer to stay slightly outside of town as many of the hotels are situated in the peaceful rice paddies which gives a real flavour of the countryside. This time I stayed at the Pullman Hotel about ten minutes from town.

Feeling the serenity at the Pullman Hotel Luang Prabang

You can’t go far in Luang Prabang without seeing temples of every shape and size – they are all perfectly formed and well kept by the Buddhist monks. In fact the whole town is very clean – it is always being swept everywhere you turn.

Examples of Lao Temples in Luang Prabang

A particularly well known temple is Wat Xieng Thong or the Temple of the Golden City. It is known for its mosaics on the walls – just lovely.

Wall mosaics at Wat Xieng Thong

More exteriors at Wat Xieng Thong and a Lao couple in wedding dress

And where there is a temple there must be various incarnations of Buddha – something about that face is so peaceful to look at.

Buddhas in temples in Luang Prabang

Something I haven’t done since my first visit is to get up at the crack of dawn to give alms to the Buddhist monks. This time I convinced Luisa and Chris to leave the hotel at 5.30am so that we could do just that. First stop is to pick up a basket of stick rice. Then you put on the shawl and wait for them to float down the street from various monasteries in single file holding their rice bowls which we filled as they passed – no human touch allowed. It’s a really special experience and if you go with a private guide they will take you to the area where there are not loads of tourists – definitely a plus.

Giving alms to the monks before dawn

Me and my rice bowl. The ladies who get up earlier than us and cook the rice set off home at 7am.

Luang Prabang having a strong Indochine background due to the period of French rule of about 60 years also has quite a few interesting buildings that reflect both French and local architecture and sometimes both in the same building. We did an architecture walk after giving alms to the monks – and a lot of strong coffee.

French Colonial and Laotian houses in Luang Prabang

Wandering through the streets of Luang Prabang is always fun with something to see at each corner – colourful tuk tuks and colourful flowers and veggies and a mish mash of wires are common sights.

Street scenes in Luang Prabang

Between 5pm-10pm the night market is in full flow and a fun place to idle before heading off to a well deserved cocktail and Laotian meal.

Lots for sale at the Night Market

Luisa and I enjoy “Lohitos” in Luang Prabang

Once the monks are up and about they are visible until around noon. They are either at the temples cleaning and doing other chores or they are visiting from other places and are as touristy as anyone else including enjoying taking selfies and having their photos taken. Just as well as they are very photogenic – ranging from 9 years old to 90!

Novice monk and fully fledged monk

A sample of monks and three “wise” monkeys!