Ipoh, George Town, Langkawi – back to KL

We met our host and she showed us up to our apartment on the 19th floor, a quick handover and she left us to it, a great view from the balcony of the town and the infinity pool below, perfect in this heat!

The town of Ipoh was founded on the back of the tin rush that began around the 1880s when large deposits were found in the area, situated on the highest navigable point on the Kintra River the town was well placed for the export of the ore, despite the decline  in mining the town has undergone a resurgence of late and is a bustling town with a thriving street art and food scene. Seven pieces of street art in Ipoh have been created by Lithuanian artist Ernest Zacharevic, a name synonymous with the infamous works of George Town, Penang.  So we were keen to get out and explore…..

We started out exploring the old part of town, heading first down mural lane, where many walls and doorways are covered with all sorts of street art, great detailed paintings, all sorts of subjects, a lot of different people in various poses/situations, children playing, different scenes, some in better condition than others due to the harsh extremes of weather, some more detailed and brighter in colour than others, all very good we continued walking down to the train station, itself a landmark a combination of Moorish and Victorian architecture, framed by broad arches and capped with a broad white dome, used in the film ‘Anna & the King’. On from here we walked past the clock tower and came to the tourist info office, a respite from the heat outside where we picked up some useful maps, one for the art trail round town and the other for the temple caves.

Next stop was lunch so we popped into a Malaysian coffee house where Rich had Asam Laksa, a sour fish and tamarind noodle soup and I had Nasi Lemak, the national dish of Malaysia consisting of rice cooked in coconut milk, with cucumber, peanuts, a fried egg, dried anchovies  and sambal of which the sambal was very spicy, delicious though.

We continued walking round the art trail spotting the seven most well known of the art pieces, plus lots more art besides almost round every corner or on every doorway, really lovely.  We continued on down ‘Concubine Lane’ where wealthy merchants kept their mistresses, though pretty it is now full of stalls selling a lot of tourist ‘tat’.  After walking round a lot of the old town we wearily headed back to our apartment, it had been a very hot but interesting day.

We ventured out into the suburbs of Ipoh to visit several of the many cave temples, using our Grab app we called a taxi and just 7km out of town our first stop was to Kek look Tong  a craggy cave mouth beneath a towering cliff, the cave temple has three Sages which dominate the central cavern, along with many huge stalactites and stalagmites and as we walked towards the back of the enormous cave there was a golden Chinese Buddha of Future Happiness sitting beyond the main chamber, looking out onto beautiful landscaped gardens and lily pond, surrounded by forested cliffs.

It was cool walking through the huge caves and the beautiful gardens were lovely to walk around under the shade of trees and huge bamboos. There was a semi-circular arrangement of a series of miniature statues, depicting scenes from the life of the Buddha, which were very interesting as each was unique character with different poses and facial expressions.

From here we called another Grab taxi that took us down the road to Sam Poh Tong Temple to the right of the entrance was an ornamental garden with ceramic lions, miniature shrines and Buddha statues encircling a rock-studded pond packed with koi. The temple itself as we entered seemed quite small but as we followed the cave round it opened up into a tropical oasis with turtle pond fully enclosed by lushly forested and fern covered limestone cliffs. Nestled in the base of one of these sheer limestone walls was a breath-taking  bright red and yellow tiered pagoda, a real ‘secret’ garden, we spent some time in here just sitting under the shady palms with the sunlight streaming down it truly was magical.

The following day we headed in the opposite direction, again out into the suburbs of Ipoh, this time to visit Perak Tong Temple, established around 1926 by Chinese Buddhists Chong Sen Yee and his wife, this temple is popular for its mesmerising murals and panoramic views.

As we walked up the first staircase leading into the huge cave, the space was dominated by a majestic golden seated Buddha around 15m tall. Exploring the rest of the temple was a labyrinth of smaller caves with shrines, statues and many murals and paintings decorating the cave walls, near the back of the cave was a steep narrow staircase which led up through the cave, outside and still further up to a stone balcony, with another shrine and – after 450 steep steps views across Ipoh and the hills beyond. It was very hot and humidity was high, so the climb up kind of did us in, and we rested for a while at the top in the shade, before making our way back down on shaky legs.  Heading back to the apartment we had dinner, did some washing and packed up ready for catching the train on to George Town.

Leaving Ipoh we caught the train to Butterworth, a smooth journey on a timely, clean efficient train that took only an hour and forty-five minutes, as we arrived into Butterworth it absolutely poured down, luckily though the walkway to the ferry over to George Town was under cover and after buying our tickets for the ferry  RM 1.20 / 0.22p we only had 10 minutes or so before the next ferry.  It was a simple ferry, open sided with bench seats with room for cars, roll-on roll-off, we were soon underway and 20 minutes later docking into George Town.

We called a Grab taxi from the terminal and were soon heading over to our apartment.  After signing in and getting the keys we headed up to our apartment on the 18th floor, complete with balcony for sea and city views.  As per usual we settled in with a cup of tea and then headed out to pick up some groceries, we’d both been craving some Mexican fajitas, so with a good supermarket nearby (including Tesco) that’s what we cooked for dinner that night, delicious!

Bit of a late start the following morning, but we walked into town, already stifling hot, (no matter how long we’ve been away, the heat still gets to us!), we stopped en-route to try a Penang specialty at a restaurant called ‘Hot Bowl White Curry Mee’, we ordered a bowl each of the ‘original’ curry mee which was a steaming bowl of white coconut broth with vermicelli, regular egg noodles and beansprouts with pieces of congealed ducks blood (like soft jelly pieces) and we added ginger pork meatballs, a pot of fiery chilli paste was on the table for us to ‘add to taste’, it was very tasty and filling as neither of us were able to finish our bowls.  Leaving here we continued into town, stopping at the bus depot to pick up a unlimited bus pass each for the week for 30RM /£5.50 then onto the art trail.


An artist mentioned earlier with the art in Ipoh  Lithuanian Ernest Zacharevic in 2012 sketched a series of mural installations for the George Town festival, since then Penang has taken off as one of Southeast Asia’s street art capitals, as well as Zacharevic’s pieces there are works by local and international artists all over the old town, as well as paintings there are a series of steel wire cartoons, some fifty of them commissioned in 2009 to mark out the UNESCO listed parts of the city.  We had a map and followed the trail of art, some really good and creative pieces all round town for several hours, having seen most of them we called it a day and caught a bus back to our apartment to cool off.

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Penang Island was ruled by the sultans of Kedah until the late eighteenth century but with increasing raiding parties from the Thai and Burmese, help was sought from British trader Francis Light looking for a regional trading base to counter the Dutch presence, so through the British East India Company a deal was struck, military aid in exchange for cash, Penang then became the first British settlement in the Malay Peninsula, declaring it a free port, its population thrived increased by Indian and Chinese traders George Town took its name from British King George III, gaining independence from Britain in 1957.

Before the new millennium George Town was like a lot of cities shabby, unloved and a  victim of inner city decay, until George Town and Melaka the other former British straits settlements became a single World Heritage Site in 2008, and the  regeneration started.

The next couple of days we caught the bus and headed into the historic heart of George Town, a mix of Colonial, Indian, Malay and Chinese heritage.  We wandered round the labyrinth of streets with sights including several houses formerly owned by Chinese merchants, brightly painted many with decorative wooden doors and carvings, the Goddess of Mercy temple, a Chinese Temple dating from 1801 with dragon carved pillars and wooden roof beams, blackened by incense smoke and Sri Mahamariamman Temple founded in 1833 sited in Little India, pale green and red with a tower of sculpted deities, a mass of colour.  We also viewed  the Kapitan Keling Mosque, the oldest and largest in Penang dating back to 1801 it’s Anglo-Moorish  style with dark ‘onion’ domes, arched portico and minarets an impressive sight.

Wandering down Armenian Street we passed the Mor Hun Club, a still used traditional social club, with colourful tilework and carved gilt doors, you could hear the clacking of tiles from games of Mahjong being played upstairs. We came to Yap Kongsi which consists of  Ciji Temple with amazing colourful carved dragons swirling across the roof and beautiful tile work and ceramics whilst next door is the green and white Yap Temple looking more like a European villa but holding the clan’s ancestral tablets.  We continued on to the waterfront down to the Chinese clan jetties, communities of stilt houses built over the water set up by Chinese immigrants in George Towns early days, connected by wooden boardwalks the narrow alleys are quite claustrophobic and crowded with trader stalls everywhere we didn’t linger long.

Back out in wider streets we walked along Padang Kota Lama a promenade along the waterfront, a slight breeze giving us respite from the heat, we had great views over the straits to the mainland and surrounding hills. This led us past Fort Cornwallis, named after Lord Charles Cornwallis, Governor-General of India, we walked past the Fort, cannons perched over the walls at regular intervals and a lighthouse till  we came to St George’s Church, one of Penang’s oldest buildings built in a Neoclassical style  in 1818 by the East India Company.  By this point in the day we were hot, tired and needing some refreshment, so into a coffee shop to cool down with an iced coffee, rest our feet then catch the next bus back to our apartment.

As F1 fans we have been lucky to catch every race wherever we have been, either through our Airbnb having a ‘sports package’ on their TV or a nearby sports bar, this weekend was no exception as it was the Azerbaijan race from Baku, for this we headed out to a nearby sports bar ‘Healy Macs’ where we enjoyed a pizza and cold jug of beer whilst watching the race.

Another site in George Town we visited was Penang Hill – Penang Hill was the first colonial hill station developed in Peninsular Malaysia discovered soon after British settlement; Francis Light commissioned the area to be cleared to grow strawberries.  Though it was never fully developed (it was difficult to carve out the forest area), it became a favourite expatriate refuge before the advent of air conditioning.


Comprising Western Hill, Bukit Laksamana, Tiger Hill, Flagstaff Hill and Government Hill, it is located six km away from Georgetown. Set 821m above Penang’s capital, islanders call it Bukit Bendera and it is generally about five degrees cooler than George Town. It is the last patch of tropical rainforest in Penang so the flora and fauna here have been protected since 1960. Its oldest bungalow, Bel Retiro, is the holiday residence of the Governor of Penang. Today, the ridge on top of Penang Hill is known as Strawberry Hill.

We caught a Grab taxi to the base station, and after buying tickets for the return trip on the funicular we were soon heading up the hill, the funicular was opened in 1923 and the railway has a tunnel which measures 258 feet long and is the steepest tunnel in the world, with a maximum slope gradient of 52.9%, 27.9°, so pretty steep in places, though unbelievably it only takes just over five minutes to reach the top.  With several viewing platforms, we had fabulous panorama views over the cape of George Town, mountains, hills and across the straits to Butterworth and beyond.

We walked around the peak seeing the huge 2.75 tonnes cannon, one of the old funicular coaches used from 1923 to 1977 was on display and then continued up to Penang Hill mosque and Hindu Temple, the latter being restored and covered in plastic sheeting.  We walked further up to the Bel Retiro gate house, a prestigious property built in 1789 as mentioned earlier a colonial holiday residence for the governor of Penang.

We walked down the hill slightly to follow one of the numerous marked nature trails walking under 30m-high trees and with over 100 species of birdlife, ranging from ordinary garden species to exotic deep forest inhabitants calling this hillside home it was a cacophony of birdsong along with beautiful trees and flowers and spectacular views. One oddity was seeing a red post box, apparently one of the oldest in Penang, put up here during the reign of Queen Victoria.  Though indeed cooler up here it was still very hot with surprisingly little breeze so we made our way back to the funicular station and headed back down in the train.

Once at the base station we were not far from Kek Lok Si Temple, so we called a Grab taxi and made our way over there.  The Kek Lok Si Temple is a Buddhist temple and is the largest Buddhist temple in Malaysia, the entire complex of temples was built over a period from 1890–1930, the main sight in the complex is the striking seven-storey Pagoda of Rama VI (Pagoda of Ten Thousand Buddhas) with 10,000 alabaster and bronze statues of Buddha, and the 36.57 metres (120.0 ft.) tall bronze statue of Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Mercy.

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We were dropped off at the temple complex, and we were amazed at the sheer size and number of different buildings, shrines, temples, steps and corridors linking it all together.  Built into the side of a hill, we started at the bottom and worked our way up, a glass funicular took us up to the very top of the complex where the enormous bronze statue of  the Goddess of Mercy was in an open sided pavilion whose columns were covered in carved dragons, truly an astonishing sight, with more panoramas of the city below we walked across to the white seven tiered ‘Ten Thousand Buddhas’ pagoda, resplendent in the bright sunshine and capped by a golden Burmese stupa. Making our way back down in the funicular and then walking  through the remaining complex we were starting to flag a bit so  called a Grab taxi and headed back to our apartment.

As avid film watchers we have managed to see many films as we have been travelling, and enjoyed luxurious cinemas at a fraction of UK prices, Malaysia being no exception.  As huge Marvel fans we had been waiting for ‘Avengers Endgame’ to be released, the culmination of a 22 film story arc, so we were pleased to see multiple screenings being shown at the cinema nearby to our apartment, where we went big, as in IMAX big.  We were definitely not disappointed, loved the film and at £10 for the both of us great value!!

After the epic three hour film we walked back to our apartment, but stopping on the way to see a couple of temples.  First was Wat Chaiya Mangkalaram a Thai Temple dating back to the 1900’s, it was a brightly painted affair with huge gilded pagoda and the main hall flanked by several huge serpents painted gold and bright green with shiny reflective tiles all over, very blingy!  The huge ‘hangar’ like hall housed a large  33 metre long reclining Buddha, surrounded by many statues and shrines, the air heavy with incense smoke.  The second the Burmese Temple was just across the road, guarded by two large white and gold lions, inside a large standing Buddha.  We wandered round the beautifully landscaped grounds full of flowering shrubs and flowers with several smaller temple buildings and statues before walking back to our apartment.

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Later that afternoon we headed out by bus to Batu Ferringhi, a lovely stretch of beach fringed by palms for sunset, though with quite a bit of cloud cover the colours weren’t spectacular, still it was a nice walk along the beach.  Our week in George Town was nearly at and end, so it was soon time to do some washing, pack up and get ready to leave this time via ferry to our next stop, the island of Langkawi.

Langkawi – by Richard Gardner

Moving on from Georgetown, was simple as a Grab taxi to the Ferry port and then a three hour ferry crossing to Langkawi and then another Grab taxi to the hotel which was on the other side of the island, about forty minutes travel.

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Our room was at the back of the hotel, overlooking the pool, and the jungle covered hills behind along with quite a few monkeys wandering around. After unpacking a few things, relaxing for a bit, we headed down to a near by restaurant for dinner. The Cactus restaurant did a mix of local dishes and western foods, plus a few other items like curries. We enjoyed three meals here, I ate their Indian Noodle dish twice, and Julie really enjoyed their Beef Thai curry.

Collage 2019-05-11 12_46_56Weather on the island, and on this west side of the Malaysian peninsula was wet and stormy for the most part, so we did not get out to see too much of the island, opting to either stay by the pool, or walked the mile into the town centre and the main beach there, Julie got to swim at the beach once but this was often closed for swimming due to the high swells, rolling in all the time. However the beaches are clean for the most part and uncluttered with parasols and sun loungers.Collage 2019-05-11 12_34_42There was a very good, but small aquarium  in town, which we visited when it looked like the heavens were going to open up. They had a good range of local colourful species of fish, eels, crustaceans and jellyfish, along with living corals.Collage 2019-05-11 13_03_32.jpgOn the whole our time on the coast of Langkawi was one of relaxing and chilling, and looking at our options when we return to the UK, which is fast approaching.

Next stop we are back in KL for five nights, before our flight back to the UK. We love KL, a big, modern city with some great food options and some great Airbnb apartments to relax in.

Cameron Highlands…..and lots of tea!!

From Kuala Lumpur we headed out via coach, which was very spacious and loads of legroom for the 3 ½ hour journey to Tanah Rata in the Cameron Highlands, though it seemed like forever getting out of traffic choked Kuala Lumpur we were soon on the toll roads and quickly made progress, until we got onto the smaller roads heading up into the highlands, narrow, twisty and turning with sheer drops on one side, slowing progress down considerably, however we pulled into Tanah Rata on time and it was just a short walk to our apartment, which was over a shopping mall.  Once we’d picked up the key we settled in with a cuppa then went for a wander round town, picked up some groceries and had dinner, we had already pre-booked a tour of one of the tea plantation for the next day.

As any of you have read we are avid compulsive tea drinkers so jumped at the chance to see a plantation.  We went with a small eco-tour operator, based on reviews we had read, and we were not disappointed.  We met our tour guide/driver at 8am and we were in a small group of 6, loaded up into a Land rover we set off first to Mossy Forest, though the roads to get there were very narrow, steep, winding and seriously pot-holed, the necessity of the 4 x 4 soon became evident as the roads became little more than gravel, shale and sand.

At Mossy Forest our guide gave us a very detailed and informed talk about the various trees, mosses, flora, fauna and wildlife to be found in this whole area, it was so fascinating especially with the large carnivorous plants and medicinal plants and berries.  It was still quite early and the sun shining through the moss covered trees was really quite breath-taking and the birdsong chorus was so uplifting to hear.

Our guide pointed out various anomalies such as banana ‘plants’ that due to the altitude, there is not enough warmth/sunlight for them to bear fruit, the ferns that grew into twenty metre fern trees, various leaves that when crushed smelt like ‘Tiger Balm’, or citronella ‘leaves’ that were used as mossie repellent.  From Mossy forest we drove along more bumpy roads towards the Boh Tea plantation.

This is where we caught our first glimpses of the plantations covering every visible hillside, stopping at a viewpoint we got out to have a wander amongst the tea bushes though we had to be aware where we were walking due to scorpions and two types of venomous snakes present amongst the tea bushes.  It was a beautiful sight, tea bushes in neat lines curving over every contour of the hillsides, bright green of the new leaves ‘tips’ and the dark green of the older leaves near the ground.

The new shoots re-grow every 21 days after picking either by hand (very labour intensive), scissors or a 2 person held machine with a petrol motor and blades similar to a hedge trimmer that saws the young shoots  and they collect in a large sack attached to the machine, after some more photos and admiring the view we continued on into the tea plantation itself.

We were shown through the factory to see the process from field to tea bag which was very fascinating, Boh Tea is one of only a few producers in the world that plants, picks, processes, packs and markets it’s branded tea, easily ensuring quality standards are met throughout the entire process, the Boh plantation was planted in the 1920’s by an English family, descendants of which are still running it today, once planted a tea ‘bush’ takes 5 years to reach maturity for picking tea leaves, although the tea plant is most often referred to as being an evergreen shrub, when left in the wild undisturbed it grows into a tree with a bowl-shaped canopy.


Needless to say after seeing all this glorious tea, we were itching to try it, first stop was the shop where we bought a few boxes of English Breakfast, the traditional blend, and a variety of fruit teas, then onto the café with a raised outdoor terrace which overlooks the plantation fields below for a pot of freshly brewed loose-leaf tea, and it did not disappoint, we had it nice and simple with no milk and it was delicious.

Laden with our booty of tea bags we headed back down to meet our guide and we headed back through the plantation and into town where we were dropped off near our apartment.  Cameron Highlands are famous not only for their tea but also strawberries which are grown everywhere you look(though a lot are under poly-tunnels), as well as honey, with bee farms all over the place, and generally as a rich vegetable growing area due to favourable climate.  The afore mentioned strawberries I had to try, this was in a hard to find café but had great reviews, in the form of a cream tea, homemade scones with local strawberry jam and cream, very tasty, Rich had another favourite apple pie and ice-cream, both of course with a cup of Boh tea!

We were only here a couple of days as we were here solely for the tea, and from Tanah Rata we caught a coach over the hills and onto Ipoh, though the journey there was full of twists and turns and narrow roads and we were both glad when the coach got onto the main highway into Ipoh as we both felt slightly queasy from the bumpy ride.  Our Airbnb apartment wasn’t quite ready for check-in so we killed some time in a coffee shop, then headed over to a shopping mall to pick up some groceries, by which time our apartment was ready and we headed over to meet our host.

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Kuala Lumpur and onwards….

Blurry eyed our alarm went off at 5am! Final check of our apartment and we were off to the airport using our trusty Grab app to call a driver. Only 20 minutes later we were checking our bags and heading through security, with some time to kill before our flight was called we wandered round the shops, ending up using our leftover Dong for a small bottle of Johnnie Walker Red label whisky, that will be nice later!  Our flight was uneventful, a little under three hours and we were soon at immigration, where the queues are fairly short but seem to take ages, forty-five minutes later we were through with another visa stamp for 90 days.

By this time our cases were on the carousel and quickly through customs into the airport arrivals and shopping mall.  After getting some cash from the ATM, we picked up a monthly data sim card and not forgetting Richards favourite snack, some Dan’s egg yolk crisps (they are the best crisps!), we called a Grab taxi and were soon being driven the 50 minute journey into the city, dropped off at our apartment, we checked in with security and got the key and lift card from the mailbox and made our way to the 7th floor.

Our apartment was lovely, very spacious, comfy sofa and full kitchen including an oven, floor to ceiling windows and a balcony, the other unique thing was it had a bathtub, complete with view of the Petronas towers, definitely be getting some use!  We also had access to the infinity pool and spa on the floor below, which would be welcome as it was pretty hot, and the view from the rooftop garden was pretty special too.

After a quick cuppa, we headed out for some groceries, namely replenishing our stock of tea bags and some bits for dinner and back at the apartment just chilled and enjoyed the view of the city from our balcony.  It was F1 weekend so we found a bar showing the grand prix on multiple big screens so that was good to see the 1000th race from Shanghai with a cold jug of beer each, followed by cooking a full roast dinner back at our apartment utilising the afore mentioned full kitchen, very tasty it was too!

Another reason we like Kuala Lumpur is that it is a vibrant busy city without being too overbearing but also easy to get around, we used the next few days to wander round visiting a nearby Urban food park with a variety of food trucks and see the city sights as well as some re-supply runs, namely more medication and new trainers for both of us as ours were well and truly knackered, third pair for each of us, mind you they’ve done some miles!

Whilst  here we had a great thunderstorm one night that rattled thunder round the building and forked lightning across the sky, amazing to watch but woke to bright sunshine the next morning as if nothing had happened.

The afternoons were spent cooling off in the pool with city views and enjoying a bubble bath with a glass of bubbly, it has been the only Airbnb since we left the UK with a bathtub.

From Kuala Lumpur we are heading north up into the Cameron Highlands and visiting a Tea plantation.

Birthday in Hanoi, leaving Vietnam

We left our apartment in Ha Long and booked a ‘luxury’ van for the trip back to Hanoi, in reality it was a 5 seater minivan with more comfort but the same price as a bus.  Despite leaving later than scheduled we arrived in Hanoi early afternoon as the driver didn’t hang around and we were glad to get out of the car as the roads in Vietnam aren’t the best! After being dropped off  on the outskirts of the old city we called a Grab taxi and were soon at our apartment being let in by the security guard.  We chose this apartment for location, near to the great delis, cafes and bars we have used previously and the fact it had an oven, a rare thing in Vietnam, as Rich wanted to cook a nice meal for my birthday, me wanting steak and chips if at all possible, pepper sauce would be the icing on the cake, maybe a tall ask we’ll see!!

So  after the usual cuppa to settle in, we headed out for some shopping, and we found a great grocery store, where amongst other things we found green pepper sauce and olives, now we havent had olives since Australia! Now just to find steak. The next day we headed out to a great new place literally at the end of the lane our apartment was situated on, for the most amazing burritos, Rich having ground beef, I had chicken but both with all the trimmings, lime white rice, sour cream, cheese, black beans, pineapple salsa, jalepenos, so tasty and so filling.

As this was our 3rd time in Hanoi this trip, we had already seen the sights so we headed to the cinema down the road to watch ‘Shazam’ which was a great film and we had ‘sweetbox’ seats which was a sofa for two at the back of the cinema and with only two other people in the cinema it felt like our own private showing.

Rich has already mentioned Joma cafe and bakery in the food blog, we went there again for my birthday breakfast which didn’t disappoint, and on the way back to our apartment we found a small butcher/deli and picked up a nice couple of T-bone steaks.  Rich then popped back out on his own and came back with two dozen beautiful red roses, two bottles of wine, and a birthday card, he is very resourceful!

Later that afternoon we walked down to The 100 beer garden for happy hour and pre-birthday dinner drinks, which Rich has covered in the food blog, but they were some great beers and I know I have mentioned this before but the Vietnamese craft beer scene is really thriving with so many brewers, styles, tastes and strengths to please any beer lover.

After three (quite strong) beers each, we walked back to our apaprtment, where Rich cooked a lovely meal of steak, chips and pepper sauce, of course with the obligatory ‘chip butty’, it was delicious and I had a fabulous birthday.

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Needless to say after the beers and a bottle of wine we did have slight headaches the next day, soon fixed after a hearty breakfast of cooked eggs.  It was pretty warm and high humidity the next few days in Hanoi, though we did get out and stretch our legs.

One of these was to walk down to a botanic garden by the river not far from our apartment, though after a 20 minute walk in 90% humidity we did wonder whether it would be worth it as we were melting!  There was hardly anyone there when we arrived, after buying a ticket we wandered amongst all the beautiful flowers currently blooming in full effect, fields of lillies, sunflowers, a cinderella carriage covered with roses, a windmill, lotus pond and thankfully some shady trees to sit under and cool down in the slight breeze, it was lovely even though the heat was oppressive.

Heading back to our apartment we stopped to get a lime slushie each to cool down and got instant ‘brain freeze’. The last couple of days were spent finalising onward travel and doing laundry ready for packing.

Our time in Hanoi and indeed our three wonderful months in Vietnam had come to an end and even though after nearly eleven months, packing up cases ready to move on doesn’t get any easier.  Packed, packing double checked, flight checked in, alarms set, ready for Malaysia, first stop Kuala Lumpur.

Cat Ba Island to Ha Long City

So we left our apartment and caught a Grab taxi into the old quarter of Hanoi where our bus company was, and after a short wait our bus pulled up and once aboard we were soon on our way, though there were the  customary stops at various hotels to pick up other passengers.  Once on the faster toll roads and after a brief toilet break we were soon at Got port where we disembarked the coach and our ‘speedboat’, which was more like a rusty, welded together cargo boat, which to board we had to make our way cross another boat, to our waiting one.

We were soon chugging along and 10 minutes later we were docking alongside  another boat, again carrying our luggage through this boat back onto firm ground.  We then boarded another coach which then drove us to Cat Ba town at the  end of the island, dropping people off at their hotels en-route.  We were one of the last to be dropped off, arriving at our hotel just after 2pm, quickly checked-in we were shown to our room on the 6th floor, large spacious and with the all important kettle!

We unpacked a few things, had a cuppa then wandered down into town for a late lunch/early dinner, at ‘Mona’ restaurant, a lovely open terrace on the 3rd floor with great views over the bay, we enjoyed a  large Hai Phong local beer and ‘Bun Cha Nem’ – crispy fried spring rolls, served with fresh noodles, lettuce and herb leaves and spicy sweet and sour dipping sauce. It was delicious and much needed, we stayed here a while enjoying the views with our beer before heading back to our hotel and crashing.

The next few days involved some chill time and generally relaxing, we were only a few minutes walk from the bay but far enough away for it to be nice and quiet, our hotel rate came with breakfast included so each morning we would enjoy tea, coffee, juices, fresh fruit and a hot breakfast cooked to order, options were various banh mi with omelette, fried eggs, scrambled, pancakes with various fruit or Pho.  We had banh mi a few times, always tasty but the ‘Pho Ga’ is a delicious choice for breakfast, piles of sliced cooked chicken in a bowl with fresh noodles and the most delicious chicken, herb broth, such a delicious traditional Vietnamese tasty breakfast, or at any time of the day! Definitely something we’ll be eating lot of once we get home.

To stretch our legs we would walk from our hotel into town and along the bay front to the beach ‘Cat Co 3’ a small but lovely sandy beach with next to no-one on it most of the time, at the far end of the beach were steps up to a path leading around the headland for spectacular views over the bays and many limestone peaks stretching far into the distance, the path continued on till we came to the imaginatively titled ‘Cat Co 1’ beach, again another small lovely secluded sandy beach, though as is the case all over Vietnam undergoing development into a resort. From here we looped round onto the main road which brought us back into town.

One café we went to several times was ‘Like Coffee’, they did the most amazing mango shakes and big fluffy apple pancakes, got to be one of my ‘5 a day’ right!

Cannon Fort, a disused fort and also the highest point on the island was just behind our hotel.  We walked up the steep road which zig-zagged up the hill, it was very warm and humid so it was quite hard going but the views were getting better and better the higher we walked.  There were quite a few wild goats wandering round up here, we gave them a wide birth as they stared at us, some had fierce looking horns, though to be fair they seemed more interested in eating everything and anything!

We eventually came to an entrance gate and bought our tickets, continued on a bit further before the path levelled out and into a wooded area which led us to the 1st cannon (very large) sited in a trench, then onto a sunset viewpoint which gave spectacular views over the town, bay and further islands that seemed to go on into infinity, there were so many.

We continued along the path which took us round in a loop to more viewpoints, the trenches, ammunition depot buildings, a u-tunnel, a café with another stunning viewpoint, the 2nd large cannon, some ammunition buildings/stores then through the site of a now disused military airport that was used for helicopters in the wars with the Americans and the French, and back to the entrance.  We made our way back down the hill and to our hotel to cool off before heading back out for an early dinner.

The week passed fairly quickly as we were mainly relaxing and enjoying the spectacular scenery but it was soon time to pack up and head back to the mainland, we were now heading to Ha Long city.

We checked out and the hotel called us a taxi, well a ‘friend’ with a car, who drove us to the far end of the island to the ferry terminal, we had about a ½ hour wait then the ferry arrived, a simple roll-on roll-off with a car deck and 3 decks either side of metal bench seating, once the cars and scooters were loaded it was a free for all getting on and we were quickly away.  We sailed through the world heritage area of Lan Ha bay, amongst the limestone peaks jutting out of the water and it was very scenic cheap 45 minute ferry ride, we docked at Tuan Chau harbour and the ferry was soon unloaded and ready for the return leg back to the island.

We found a taxi, agreed a price and were soon outside our apartment, our host was on her way so we grabbed a coffee at the café across the road, one strength of coffee in Vietnam, extra strong, you are given a hot glass of water to dilute it down if you need to, we are used to drinking Arabica beans whereas Vietnam uses the much stronger Robusta beans, takes a bit of getting used to!

Our host soon arrived and took us up to the 26th floor to our apartment, showed us round, took photos of our passports, gave us the key and access card for the lift and left us to it.  Our apartment was lovely, 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a balcony with a stunning view over Ha Long Bay, first things first a cup of tea, we had a nice kitchen and dining area, then put some washing on and relax!

There was a grocery store at the ground floor of the apartment, Rich went and stocked up with supplies we settled into some more days of chilling, weather was very warm although quite humid so when we did go out for a wander along the bay front towards Ha Long city it was a sweaty affair, though the views across the bay made up for feeling a bit sticky!  We spent several days planning our onward journey as our time in Vietnam was coming to an end, our 3 month visa expires on the 13th April so our next hop will be back to Kuala Lumpur and then onwards exploring Malaysia, remarkably for us we have now booked our stays up to the first week of May.

Though back to this week we have enjoyed some downtime enjoying the stunning area around Ha Long bay and less busy but equally beautiful Lan Ha Bay, and Cat Ba Island. I would definitely recommend a visit to this unique world heritage area, easily arranged from Hanoi or multiple options to visit via Ha Long City and/or stay on Cat Ba.


Well tomorrow we leave Ha Long for Hanoi for the last few days before flying on to Kuala Lumpur, though I am looking forward to celebrating my birthday in Hanoi, especially as our apartment there has a full kitchen (incl. oven) so looking forward to (hopefully) steak and chips with pepper sauce and a bottle of red – I am easily pleased.

Rice Terraces of Sapa

We checked out of our hotel in Ninh Binh, with a warm goodbye from the hotel owners and they called us a taxi to the station, once there we checked our train, it was due in on time so we headed out to the platform to wait. The train journey was very nice, comfy reclining seats with loads of leg room and plenty of space to put the cases above our seats on the luggage racks.  Settled in we were soon on our way and 2 ½ hours later pulling into Hanoi station. We called a Grab taxi and were soon at our Airbnb apartment, the security guard gave us our key and showed us up to the 7th floor, we had arrived during his lunch so he quickly left us to it, though he did give us a spring roll each on the way up in the lift!

Quickly settled in with the kettle on and a few things unpacked we checked the cinema times for ‘Captain Marvel’ as we had previously visited Hanoi, this was just a brief stopover.  We headed out to the cinema and opted for ‘Gold Class’ seats, reclining seats with just 20 or so seats in the whole screening, still a lot less than standard seats back home!  It was a great film and on the way back to the apartment we stopped to pick up some groceries and back at the apartment cooked some dinner, opened a bottle of Saigon Red (bargain @ 85k / £2.79) and chilled with some Netflix.  It was also the first race of the 2019 F1 season, but instead of trying to find a pub to watch it in, we discovered our host had the sports package for showing the race live so we watched live qualifying and the next day enjoyed the race live in the apartment with a cold beer.

The next day was mainly a wander out to stretch the legs and we ended up in C-Brewmaster tap room, another great craft brewery in Vietnam, wander round the old quarter before having an egg coffee, then on the way back to our apartment stopping for a delicious dinner in Pho Cuon 31, a place we’ve been back to several times, Rich will cover further in the next food blog.

Following morning packed up we left our apartment and headed back into the old quarter to catch our semi-sleeper bus to Sapa.  Once on the bus we had top-tier seats side by side and we settled in for the 8+ hour journey, thank goodness for my iPod and Kindle!  We stopped to pick up a few more people then it was onto mainly toll roads and dual carriageways there, stopping briefly for several much-needed loo breaks, then onto some bumpier and twistier roads up into the mountain town of Sapa.

We arrived around 7:45 in the evening and were immediately swarmed by tour agents and taxi drivers, refusing their offers until they offered a decent price.  We finally agreed a fare and were soon checking into our hotel, we had a mountain view room on the 3rd floor, the view we’d see in the morning as it was pitch black and foggy currently, first things first a cup of tea, then some food.  We walked a couple of hundred yards down the road to a restaurant called ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ which was delicious food and a cold beer, just what we needed after the 8 ½ hour journey here, walking back to our hotel it was really foggy or just low cloud, be nice to see the mountains in the morning, tired out we then crashed .

Next morning  was sunny and the view was gorgeous, low-lying clouds swathed much of the valley below us but the green mountains seemed to stretch on into infinity. Breakfast was a hot/cold buffet with loads of fresh tea/coffee and further fine views from the restaurant as we ate.  We headed out into the town which like much of Vietnam is undergoing massive construction and investment, so hotels, restaurants popping up literally everywhere, negotiating through the town traffic was like a slalom, pavements are almost non-existent so you have to play chicken with diggers, lorries, minibuses, taxis and the ubiquitous scooters on stony roads with lots of holes!

Through town we followed the main road, itself mainly mud and sand and dodging the construction lorries we reached a ticket office where you buy access to the area amongst the rice terraces and ethnic villages.  A lot of people arrange organised/guided walking tours but us being us wanted to do it independently which was pretty easy with Google maps.  Another kilometre or so and the road branched off onto thankfully a much quieter paved road and we continued on down.  Here we were rewarded with stunning views at every turn of the road as it meandered down to the valley floor.  Lush green rice terraces covered every slope in curved shapes following the contours of the hills, fascinating geometric shapes surrounded by forested mountains, split by waterfalls and streams.

We didn’t walk all the way to the bottom as the paved road gave way to sharp rocky paths and as it was a scorching 31° it was pretty hot so we took a break and plenty of photos, just enjoying the stunning view before slowly walking back up the way we came, stopping at a café near the top for a cold coke, sit down on the balcony overlooking the valley, thankful for the cool breeze.

Back into town we headed to our hotel for a freshen up, cup of tea then out for dinner, we went to a restaurant ‘Viet Emotion’ this time opting for pure comfort food of large pepperoni pizza and fries to share with a cold beer!

Next day as we were only here for two full days, after breakfast we walked down to Cat Cat Village, an old village of ethnic groups where you pay an entrance fee of 70k / £2.28 to wander past their shops  with traditional handicrafts, jewellery and beautiful beaded dresses for sale, down a lot of uneven stone steps to the heart of the village and the river.  Crossing a bamboo bridge, we were amongst various wood and bamboo huts with thatched roofs, bamboo water wheels and a weir that led down river to a beautiful waterfall surrounded by a kaleidoscope of colourful flowers and plants.

Following the path along through the rest of the village, past more huts with strings of hanging corn cobs drying and views of the rest of the valley, we crossed back across the river via a very wobbly suspension bridge, past a few more shops and taxis touting to take us back up the steep hill and then we walked, it was another sweltering day, but we continued on till halfway up, a convenient coffee shop with an outdoor shaded terrace caused us to stop for a cold drink and rest weary legs and admire the view of the valley and surrounding mountains.

We finally made it up to town and back to our hotel for a rest before walking up into the main part of town, one to pick up a new data sim for our MiFi, which all the staff in the phone shop seemed to find surprising or amusing not sure which that we had a Mobiistar brand phone, made in Vietnam and two to check where the bus office was for catching our bus back to Hanoi tomorrow, as it is a different location to where we got dropped off 2 days ago. That done, after picking up some bread in a local bakery as we have an early bus so will miss breakfast tomorrow, we stopped for fresh lime juice in a coffee shop to cool down, we thought it would be cooler heading north and into the mountains, but not so!  Then back to the hotel to pack up, then dinner back down at ‘Good Morning Vietnam’ then alarms set for 6am.

All went well to start with in the morning, up early, cases packed, checked out and hotel owner called us a cab just after 7am, here is where the problem started, as mentioned earlier the town is undergoing major construction, the road outside the hotel was gridlocked, doesn’t help that is supposed to be a one way road, but that doesn’t matter to Vietnamese drivers, all roads are 2 way regardless of signs if they need to get somewhere and it’s a quicker route! So our taxi is stuck up the road, we walk up to meet it, get in and all good as we are going against the traffic, round another way, then we hit roadblocks the other side of town, after numerous animated discussions with other passing taxi drivers, our driver decides to turn round and go back the way we came, this time it’s worse as we have not even made it back past our hotel our original starting point after 30 minutes!!

The meter is ticking and at 7:35am we are back outside our hotel, gridlock not moving and our bus leaves at 7:45, resigned to missing it, we pay the taxi and get out and I ask the owner of our hotel if he can phone and explain to the bus company, he does and luckily they will wait for us, so now on rough rocky roads we sprint, well fast walk with our cases up into the town which is gridlocked everywhere, literally nothing moving – except fingers on horns – and make our way to the bus office, panting and sweating we arrive just after 8am, are directed to a lady with a clipboard and walk down to see the coach waiting, phew!!  Cases stowed, shoes off we clamber aboard our bunks on the semi-sleeper bus back to Hanoi, a few more people turn up and by 8:30am we are on our way back to Hanoi, headphones on, music starts, heart rate returns to normal, this will be a relaxing 8 hours!

Arriving back in Hanoi at just after 1:30pm we’d made good time, so once off the bus we called a Grab taxi and were dropped off at our apartment for the next few days, the security guard gave us our key and showed us up to the 7th floor. Settled in with a cup of tea, we put some washing on, Rich popped down to the grocery store to pick up some supplies and we chilled for the rest of the afternoon/evening with a film and a cold beer.

The next couple of days were a bit of wandering round the local area, predominantly expat with some great bakeries and restaurants and several local taprooms that we had to try.  A new brewery that we tried was the Turtle Lake Brewing company whose taproom was a 20 minute walk down by one of the many lakes in Hanoi, Rich will be writing about the several tasty beers we tried in his next food blog.

Bats  flying over the lake and over our heads as we walked back from the Turtle Lake Taproom

One thing that we had missed was a Sunday roast, so being here we checked out our options and sure enough a local restaurant offered a roast, so Sunday being our last day in Hanoi before leaving for Cat Ba we headed down to ‘The Fat Pig’ where on a covered upstairs terrace overlooking the lake we enjoyed a roast, consisting of a delicious pile of tender roast beef and chicken accompanied by roast potatoes, horseradish cream, 2 Yorkshire puddings, carrots, green beans, gravy and a dish of cauliflower cheese on the side, the meal also came with a local beer each, we opted for the C-Brewmaster Pilsner@ 4.5%, needless to say it was delicious and very filling, we wandered back to the apartment after for a snooze on the sofa, watch a film then pack ready for leaving for Cat Ba Island in the morning.

Such a beautiful view of Sapa Rice Teracces


Our chilled month in Hoi An

Well it’s been a while since I last wrote, (Rich has written his food blog) but we have been chilling in one of our favourite places Hoi An.  We initially came here back in December as part of our first visit to Vietnam, only staying a few days but were quickly enchanted by this beautiful, laid back town full of history even though it was full-on rainy season and we quickly knew we would be coming back for longer.

So while in Da Nang we initially booked an Airbnb for 3 weeks to start with, the trip from Da Nang is approx. 30 minutes by car, so using our handy Grab app we called a taxi and were soon on our way to Hoi An, our driver dropped us at our Airbnb, and our host Nguyen met us there.  We were shown round the lovely traditional Vietnamese wooden bungalow that was to be our home for the next 3 weeks, fully equipped kitchen, dining and lounge area and full modern bathroom with 2 outside spaces, one with a washing machine and table and chairs, a bit of a sun trap, ideal for drying clothes, and the front covered porch with sofa, table, and fish pond with water feature and 2 bikes that were ours to use freely during our stay.  Left to settle in, we headed first out to a local supermarket to stock up on basic supplies, including of course the ubiquitous tea bags!

As we were here for some time we planned on just relaxing and chilling either at the bungalow, wandering round the old town, going to the beach or using the bikes to explore further the beautiful and tranquil countryside that surrounds Hoi An, the rice fields, canals, vegetable village and many pagodas.

So many of our days were filled with a home cooked breakfast such as an omelette, French toast, Shakshouka etc. And we’d venture out on the bikes, sticking to the quieter roads where possible, and heading out across the rice fields where apart from the odd scooter racing past on the raised concrete tracks (using them as a rat run, not wide enough for cars thankfully) the only sounds were birds and crickets chirping, and in the evenings the croaking of frogs.  The main roads were unavoidable sometimes and the traffic as in all Vietnam is frantic, with cars, scooters, bikes and lorries all vying for the same piece of tarmac, right side or wrong side and horns blaring almost constantly like an out of tune symphony!

It was hard being a ‘European’ on the road at times as we’re taught to look right, left then right again, constantly aware of what’s behind and in front, to the side etc. But all that goes out the window here as Vietnamese only have ‘a cone of awareness’ which is only what is directly in front of them, in their direction of travel, things that they can avoid, anything they can’t see is not their concern!

We had the pleasure of being in Hoi An for Tet, Vietnamese New Year, we went down into the old town the evening of the new year celebrations kicking off as they last for nearly a week and watched the noisy, colourful parade of drummers followed by 2 dancing, twisting Chinese style dragons and a costumed pig, as it is the year of the pig and the riverside was all lit up by lanterns and hundreds of lit paper lanterns floating down the river amongst the many illuminated boats, a truly enchanting scene.

Hoi An Old quarter is a beautiful, historic place to explore easily on foot, Government rules dictate that shops and restaurants all display lanterns outside their premises while pretty during the day, at night it becomes a kaleidoscope of colour with lanterns of various sizes, shapes, patterns all glowing in the dark.  The city’s historic district, is recognized as an exceptionally well-preserved example of a prominent Vietnamese trading port for silk, porcelain,pepper,cinnamon and medicinal plants dating from the 15th to the 19th century as it is by the Thu Bon river . One of the prominent structures in town, is the covered “Japanese Bridge,” dating to the 16th-17th Century, and the town has been UNESCO heritage listed since 1999.

The town is a diverse mix of Vietnamese, Japanese, Chinese and French architecture and it has many beautifully restored houses, shops, assembly rooms and temples to wander round, you can buy tickets to see inside any 5 buildings, but we walked round the cluster of streets where they are and saw all of them from the outside for free.  Beautiful Buddhist pagodas, temples, Chinese assembly halls, old shops, all restored and elaborately decorated, painted and carved.  Very picturesque.

Whilst exploring  Hoi An we found many nice cafes, delis and the all important bakeries for lovely fresh bread, also it was a good excuse to go out on the bikes, we both really enjoyed the quietness and beauty surrounding the rice fields and cycled round these areas often and were a great spot for stunning sunsets, after which we would occasionally cycle on to one of several craft beer bars Rich has mentioned in his food and drink blog.

Another reason we came back here was to get some more dental work done, after having a cracked tooth repaired in December for the pricey sum of £7! And being advised I needed a crown, I booked us both in for a routine check-up and see what needs doing, Rich had a clean bill of health and just had a scale and polish, while I needed a crown and several fillings repaired/replaced, after the initial appointment, I had the filling work done straight away and 2 days later was back for my porcelain crown to be fitted, I cannot stress how thorough and professional the dentist team were, and we later discovered that the majority of their clients (70%) are from overseas, mainly Australia and New Zealand, where the dental work is substantially cheaper than at home and cheap flights offer an affordable alternative. My work and Rich’s clean and polish cost less than £200, just a crown at my dentist at home would be upwards of nearly £400, not to mention fillings would have been £50+, so I was thoroughly happy with the quick and cheaper treatment received here.

The weather this time around was drier than December, as in not ankle deep in rain, it was very warm, inching into high 20’s and early 30’s most days, so we cycled to the beach for some respite from the sun (hard I know!).  An Bang beach is the main stretch in Hoi An but we only went there briefly for a stroll as it was very busy with packed loungers, many noisy bars and sub-standard restaurants charging for over-priced mediocre food, so as the beach is a 40km stretch from Da Nang to Hoi An we headed further along from An Bang and found Coconut Beach, down a beach access road where we’d park our bikes up for free and for 50k / £1.62 we’d rent 2 loungers, table and parasol for all day use, the nice thing about this beach is that there was only a dozen or so loungers and most days we were only two of a handful of people here, we could order food and drinks, and we enjoyed tasty spring rolls, fresh lemon juice and whole coconuts here while enjoying a secluded sandy beach, clear warm water with little surf, our idea of bliss.

I mentioned earlier that we visited some of the many Pagodas in Hoi An. Utilising the bikes, we went to Martyrs Cemetery, a beautifully maintained memorial cemetery to remember the dead of various wars, a large obelisk and memorial plaque which was flanked by two pagodas sited over lily ponds with hundreds of names engraved round the pagoda centre. Further on where rows and rows of military tombs, very sombering to see line after line all marked with deep pink roses, surrounded by colourful flowers, shrubs and trees.

We also visited Chua Long Tuyen, a Buddhist temple complex, off the tourist trail so it was empty when we visited but so worth a visit.  With many towers, pagodas and statues we wandered freely round, amongst the many trees, shrubs and flowers, adorning the place in a riot of colours, with the buildings themselves beautifully carved and so colourful. Another one we visited was Van Duc Pagoda, again off the tourist trail down a dusty road, so we were the only ones there again, but the buildings and the beautiful marble statues were stunning, even more was the fact that everywhere was an abundance of wild flowers growing, sunflowers, daisies of many colours and magnolia trees added to the vibrance of the site.

One site that we wanted to visit was Marble Mountain which was almost half-way between Da Nang and Hoi An, so we walked up to the bus station and caught the local bus from Hoi An and it dropped us off at main road close to the entrance to Marble Mountain, now the journey was interesting to say the least, the bus was a rickety, rusty, taped together old thing with the A/C being all the windows open, a bumpy 40 minute ride but for a colourful view of local life and for less than 70p each it was worth it.  The conductor signalled when it was time for us to get off and the bus nearly came to a stop as we were hurried off, and left in a cloud of exhaust fumes and dust as the bus quickly accelerated on its way to Da Nang.


So Marble Mountains are a cluster of five hills made from limestone and marble,  also a well-known pilgrimage site with peaks, caves, tunnels and temples. Named after the elements metal, wood, water, fire and earth, in a coastal area that is renowned for stone-cutting and sculpture. There are also Buddhist sanctuaries and places of worship dotted across the mountains even in several of the caves.

fter walking down a dusty side road past the many marble workshops with stunning statues in all range of subjects from Buddhas and religious icons to wildlife, birds, horses and sizes from shoebox size to over twelve feet tall, stunning workmanship and exquisite detail in every piece, we reached the ticket office, bought our ticket and received a map, and started the ascent up the mountain via the many stone steps, now these steps were roughly hewn out of the hillside and so were uneven and in places nearly a foot high each step, so we were glad when we finally made it to the top.  At the top we reached the Tam Thai Pagoda, where we rested for a bit in the shade before going through a stone arch leading to a temple and surrounded by jagged rocks, a small steep set of stairs led up to a  panoramic lookout over the other marble peaks, My Khe beach, the sea and to the city of Da Nang.  We continued wandering round the vast pagoda complex, a mix of colourful flowers, shrubs, urns, lotus pond and many beautiful butterflies.

We came upon a set of steps, mostly eroded away but fixed somewhat temporarily with sandbags, so we headed down and were amazed  by an area of beautiful thatched buildings, Tam Ton pagoda, urns, altars and little grottoes, fine views, a large lotus pond, it was so pretty, and with no-one down here it was like our own secret garden waiting to be discovered.  After taking many photos and heading cautiously back up the steps and visited the largest cave here Huyen Khong, heading under a natural rock arch, descending down some dark steep steps we emerged into a large dimly lit cavern, sunlight was streaming like spotlights through the holes in the cave roof  and mingling with the heady smell of incense smoke, in the cave were offerings  in front of the altars and a golden Buddha statue  perched in a niche halfway up one of the cave walls, we lingered in here a while taking in the unique atmosphere and peace despite the amount of people visiting, back out in the sunshine we visited another smaller cave not as impressive but still with incense offerings and decorated altar.

From here we continued down some more stone steps to Xa Loi tower, a stunning 7-storey pagoda with more views over the coastline and to Da Nang, we then came to Linh Ung pagoda, surrounded by more flowers, marble statues, rock pool, an elaborate gate flanked by two lions, a large white sitting Buddha and a large lotus pond with white sculpted fish fountains, while this was all a lot to take in, we lingered here for a while, sitting in the shade for it was yet another hot day in Hoi An.  We finally made our way down some more stone steps passing some elaborately carved stone dragons set in the hillside on our way down to the exit.  From here we walked back up to the main road and caught the bus back into Hoi An.  We had spent almost 3 hours here and though it was hot it was well worth the climb up all those steps for it was a truly remarkable sight.  Needless to say once back at our hotel, I was quickly in the pool to cool off with a swim!

Last tour that we wanted to do was to My Son Sanctuary, luckily in our last week at the Hoi An Jade hotel they offered a tour there and for only $9 each we would be picked up from the hotel and driven there on a coach and would come back to Hoi An by boat, we booked up for the following morning.  We were picked up at 8am and were the first pick-up on the coach, after more pick-ups from nearby hotels we were on our way, roughly 40kms southwest of Hoi An, the roads gradually becoming bumpier and rougher as we headed into the mountainous and jungle interior.  We arrived and our guide gave us a brief introduction then we all got on electric buggies to take us up to the main site.  There our guide  took us around the site with explanations of the origins, history and beliefs of the Cham people.