Hoi An – 5 Top Tips from Harry Balfour

When planning a trip to Vietnam, most people seem to think of a bustling Hanoi or tranquil trip to Halong Bay. But the country is much more than this. For those visiting Vietnam that want a twist, Hoi An is the basket to put your eggs in.

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Hoi an is situated below from Da Nang and is roughly in the middle of the country. But what is there to actually do there? Well here are the top 5 things to do in Hoi An.

1.Get a Tailored Suit – Despite being 18, I have a knack for liking expensive things (which comes as a grave disappointment to my bank account). Hoi An is world renowned for its tailors. On our first morning in Hoi An we rocked up to Yaly tailor for our first fitting after picking out some sweet Italian silk and other materials. Regardless of the expensive
material, countless of magic suit fairies (Vietnamese Women) and the quality of the suit the overall price was astoundingly cheap compared to the extortionate London prices. I acquired a 3 piece cashmere suit with a shirt and tie for a total of $185.

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2. Visit Banh my Phuong Sandwich shop – a few hours of rushing about at a tailor all morning leaves a mark on the stomach. To hanker your hunger, 1 minute down the road from Yaly is the best sandwich shop in Asia. For 20,000VND you can get a sandwich meaning that for under £2 you can purchase 4 of them, if your feeling that hungry.

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3. Bike the Hi Van Pass – after watching the top gear Vietnam special (a must do before visiting the country) I felt it would be stupid not to rent motorbikes whilst traveling up the coast. Just after Hoi An on the way to Hue is a 20 minute stretch of road which cuts through the rolling mountains and offers the most breathtaking views. You can rent bikes
for the day from the city and capture the most incredible photos.

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4. The night market and the old town – strolling through the old town after dinner and a few drinks is always a wise idea. Down many of the narrow streets Chinese lanterns of all different colours light the way. You may find you stumble across the night market. Despite every stand having pretty much exactly the same products, it’s an enjoyable way to spend the evening and practice your haggling skills.

5. The Japanese Bridge – the most iconic of all the sites to visit in Hoi An is the Japanese Covered Bridge, built in the 16th century, pimped out with fancy swirls and artistic features, it is completely unique from the rest of the bridges in the city. This attraction has far much more historical background that exceeds my knowledge, nevertheless worth finding out.

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So there you have it! The top 5 things to do in Hoi An, my favourite city in Southeast Asia. This destination is definitely a hidden gem that is slowly creeping its way on to the map not just because of its historical significance but also for its drinking culture.

PWA World Cup Austria(Podersdorf) By Youp Schmit

A new World Cup season has been opened!

I arrived in Austria a day before the start of the event to get comfortable and ready for the competition. Day 1 of the competition had the registration early morning so we could get started as the wind was ready for us to rock the water! The wind was very strong, most guys on tour were all going out on the water with their 4,0 and smaller sails. Personally I like the power and the strong winds in my sail and I was perfectly comfortable on my 4,4 and 99NoveNove StylePro 92l.

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The competition started off smooth for me and I took the first round nice and easy, as I was advancing to my next heat in the third round I started to get more comfortable with the conditions and started sending bigger moves. I had a great heat in that round and was able to do all my moves within 5/6 min, meanwhile the heat duration was 9min. In those last moments of my heat I went for one of my favorite moves the “shovit-spock”, in this move I accidentally slipped out my back foot strap and slammed my calf muscle into the rail of the board. At that moment I didn’t think there was too much going on but as the adrenaline and tension started to go down, and as I was coming back onto the beach from my heat I was just not able to walk anymore. My calf muscle of my leg was stiffing up and giving me so much pain I could have literally cried!

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The special care doctor and physio therapists at the event took good care of me and did their best to try and take the pain away in any way but it was impossible. From that moment on you get very emotional as you know you are preforming so well and you want to keep going, but my calf muscle wouldn’t let me do it anymore, and I was forced to give away my next heat…

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Giving away my heat put me on the 9th place of the single elimination, I wasn’t very happy and I wanted to much better but I knew I had to accept it and be happy to be within the top 10.

The next day we had to wake up very very early in the morning, specially me! As I was in the first heat at 6 in the early morning.That morning I woke up up and my calf muscle was just as stiff, but a little less painful. I walked my way to the beach on my crutches, thinking I would not be able to compete.
I knew if I did not compete in the double elimination due my injury that my ranking would drop to the 13th place, I did not want to accept that and decided to fight threw my pain and make it a must to keep myself ATLEAST within that top 10.I knew I had to win just 2 heats to maintain that and that’s what I set my mind at 100% with all my will power.

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I got help from my competitors(friends) getting my gear onto the beach and even into the water for me, I would walk into the water on my crutches take over the sail and jump up on my board and cry my way threw those heats, I was able to keep pushing myself and screaming from the pain during my moves I was able to stick some nice moves and make my way threw those 2 heats that I wanted/needed to win.
I want to give a big thank you to the great friends on tour who helped me make this performance happen! And to all friends, family and fans for supporting me writing me motivational word, keeping me motivated and keeping my head up to keep fighting for it all!

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BIG thank you to all my sponsors for making this all possible!

I will be taking care and have a speedy recovery to be back fighting for it on the next PWA World Cup.

All the best,

Youp Schmit

San Blas – Panama’s Hidden Gem. By Philipp Hauptmann

When I first got to Panama, I knew next to nothing about the country. After some
adventurous and crazy weeks traveling in Central America, what I was looking for, was a
remote place in the Caribbean to relax and do some landscape photography – the fewer
people and the more basic the accommodations, the better.

So I asked my Panamanian friend to book transportation and we went to a place that I had
never heard about before and that would eventually blow my mind.
About a two hour drive north-east of Panama City, off Panama’s Caribbean coast line, there lies the San Blas archipelago. With its 365 tiny islands, crystal clear water and perfect
weather, it has everything that comes to your mind when you hear the word “Caribbean”.
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We stayed in a tiny tent that we brought, on an island so small it took me exactly 46 seconds to circle it. Apart from us, there was an Indian family living in three huts, some benches, a kitchen, a bathroom and most importantly a few awesome hammocks between palm trees.

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San Blas is geographically part of Panama but self-governed by the Kuna, Indians that
originally came from Columbia and settled in Panama in the early 19 th century. They still live the traditional life and keep the San Blas archipelago as pristine as possible – no hotels or mass tourism allowed.

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Sunsets on the archipelago are simply mind-blowing. In the evenings we just laid down in the sand and watched the sun set and the stars come out. It was nearly too picturesque to be real.

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During daytime, we went on tours going around the archipelago in a small fast boat and
stopped by various islands. We took pictures of starfish and snorkeled at a wreck, played
volleyball on a beach white enough to blind you and finally had tons of fresh seafood. It felt like paradise. If you ever come to Panama, you have to check out this hidden gem of the Caribbean!

You can follow more of Philipp’s amazing travels here.

You can also follow his amazing photography on his Instagram too!

“That’s Surf West” The Teaser with Federico Infantino

That’s Surf West – Margaret River WA – Fede Infantino Ita-999 from Fede ita-999 on Vimeo.

That’s Surf West is a new Windsurfing & Surfing short film.
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Federico and his girlfriend Elisa Mariani started to shooting  last October at Gnaraloo, and they decided to document the adventure with a collection of short videos and the official full Trailer and new Website coming very soon!

Jaeger Stone, Timo Mullen, Ben Severne, Federico Infantino, Ivan Zecca, Jesper Peterson, Scott Mckercher, the Severne Team and more are featured in the film

The best surfers of World at the WSL, WA locals boyz, XXL; big waves Riders , wild locations all in one film!

Follow the FB & Instagram page: That’s Surf West & Federico Infantino Ita – 999

Sponsor: GoPro, MaverX Masts, Goya Windsurfing, Quatro International, MFC Hawaii, Al360, Flymount, Elii Visual Art

Exploring Laos -Laung Prabang, with Caitlin Russell

We are very excited to have our first travel blog from the lovely Caitlin. Follow her travels and her awesome photography here.
Luang Prabang

The atmosphere is so different to anywhere we’ve visited so far; it’s quiet, relaxed, and the people – locals or otherwise – are lovely. Luang Prabang, suitable to the size of Laos, is minuscule in terms of land mass. It was beyond refreshing after several weeks of big cities swarming with beeping horns and overcrowded subway stations. Although the skyscrapers in the Chinese cities were impressive, I am decidedly more fascinated by the Lao landscape of waterfalls and mountains, seeing up close the craftsmanship involved in the temples and buildings dotted around town and meeting their friendly locals.

In this tiny little town there are an amazing 37 Buddhist temples. You’re able to go and donate food to the monks every morning after buying food from the morning market which is ran on the town’s Main Street between four and six in the morning. Our guest house owner ran us through the rules and how to show respect to the monks, which of course is extremely important to them, their religion and to the locals. As well as this, as you will know if you’ve ever visited Luang Prabang, is that the size of the town means that it is exceptionally quiet; loud noises could virtually be heard from any other point in the town and so as a mark of respect Luang Prabang is free from the all night parties that can be experienced in many other Southeast Asian towns and cities.

The guest houses in Luang Prabang are plentiful, immaculate and really fairly priced. Ours, The Apple Guesthouse, is part-owned by an Australian couple who we’ve got talking to over the past couple of days – the things they’ve done philanthropically speaking are beyond admirable. Their two adopted children are Lao, and they employ local young people at the guest house and send them to school and provide them with several meals a day in return along with a mountain of other voluntary work including teaching the monks at one of the temples English, where tourists are encouraged to help out (unfortunately we weren’t there on a Wednesday or we would both have loved to help out). They also gave us a map of the town, pointing out all the things we could possibly be interested in and all the ways to get there quickest. Hospitality like we had received nowhere else we received at the Apple Guest House. There was a communal balcony upstairs, which was as immaculate as the bedrooms and offered guide books, coffee, tea and fresh water.

On our first day of exploring Luang Prabang got off to a very slow start. It was Paul’s 23rd  birthday and so of course when we both took our malaria medication on an empty stomach which resulted in vomiting and an extra few hours recovering in bed afterwards. When we finally ventured back downstairs we walked first to the river bank and alongside the Mekong River which runs directly through the town. You’re able to take boat rides across to the other side of and along the river, and there are copious restaurants lining its banks on either side. We then made our way into town tried some of the towns famous fresh baguettes. Even in the heart of the town, the subdued atmosphere continued. People working, walking or cycling around had smiles on their faces and for the entire time I just felt so welcome and at ease.

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We climbed the town’s high point, Mount Phousi, which has a temple atop it along with giant Buddhist sculptures on the path up. In thirty five degree heat more than a few bottles of water were necessary, but the views at the top were more than worth it. Inside the temple a Buddhist ceremony was underway and so everyone was silent, only heightening the beauty of the entire experience. The remainder of our day was spent looking at the many other temples around the town and the National Museum. That evening we had dinner in town followed by some drinks and visited the night market.

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Luang Prabang is surrounded by wilderness, and sadly one of the carriers of felled trees are elephants. As time progresses, and it becomes more taboo, more of the elephants are being moved from timber camps to camps set up to rehabilitate them. Some of the camps are purely to visit the elephants, others you can bathe them and others you can ride them. I felt like when we spoke to people about our intention to ride elephants we were really looked down upon, and I totally understand if you oppose riding the elephants but I had looked in great detail at the sanctuary we were visiting and although it’s never 100% guaranteed to be certain when reading up online, I felt comfortable with what I had read that the animals were treated well and for me a well treated elephant carrying 150 kilos worth of people twice a day far trumps an abused, mistreated and underfed animal carrying several tons of timber daily. Again, I’ll stress that I completely respect the opinion of others that differ to mine but I expect the same in return. As an animal lover it was by far one of the best experiences of my entire life, to be so close and able to touch, feed and wash them was something I will remember for the rest of my life. I was so surprised by how their skin felt, and how overwhelmingly huge they were. The relationship evident between the animal and ‘mahoot’ or trainer was wonderful to see, and I loved every single second of it (especially when Paul got off and I got to bathe it alone).

After a short elephant ride and bathing them in the Mekong River, we then visited then Kuang Si Waterfalls, around five minutes from where the sanctuary was located. Sunday is traditionally Lao people’s family day, so it was busy, but stunning nonetheless. I had looked up the waterfalls for months previous to our trip and I couldn’t believe the injustice photographs, including mine, done to them. The water such a light blue-green in the white pools, paths beaten into the trees and greenery underfoot, bridges stretching across the pools and tree swings with a continuous flow of people diving into them. Outside the falls is a market with clothes, souvenirs  and food and just inside the park they are situated in there’s a small zoo with bears and other animals that I admittedly didn’t pay attention too because the bears were extremely fascinating.

Almost a year after visiting Luang Prabang and revisiting the piece I wrote on it, I feel my affection has only grown for it. Being able to compare it with almost twenty other locations in Southeast Asia, it was hands down my favourite place, and it beats the places I’ve visited elsewhere in the world, too. The art, the nature and the people make it so worth the visit, but if you go just for a break from the hustle and bustle of the surrounding towns and cities I guarantee it will be the best break you ever take.

 

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Central London – The Food Guide! By Nicole Duncan

When exploring London, deciding where to go to eat and drink can get quite overwhelming as there are SO many options! I have put together a collection of my top recommendations along with a few sneaky tips  and tricks for your time in this fabulous capital city.

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First of all a few essential apps to download:

  • **City mapper – This app will tell you all combination of  trains/tubes/walking/taxi etc that you would need to take to get to your destination. An absolute must have.
  • **Uber so that you can get taxis quickly and cheaply.

If you do decided to go to any of the following places it might be a good idea to try and book, some places don’t do bookings at all in which case just turn up but always good to double check this. Be warned you will need to wait to get seated in most places – but this is ok as they usually have a bar!

Bone Daddies – This is one of my favourite restaurants in London. It serves a series of different Ramen  (hearty Asian noodle soup) and you can pair that up with a number of  different sides. The service is fast and friendly, it is reasonably priced and the accompanying 70/80s punk music is a great addition to the experience. You also have bibs and hair bobbles on the tables, to stop getting Ramen all over you!

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Caravan Kings Cross – Famous for it’s breakfast and it’s relaxed attitude, this is a great place to grab some nice coffee and have some delicious food. Based in a listed Victorian building, the setting is almost as good as the food!.

Franco Manca is a sourdough pizza place which started off as a small independent restaurant in Brixton Village. It has exploded in popularity and is now all over the city! It is reasonably priced and has a great relaxed atmosphere.

Flat Iron – This is a steak house that only has one cut on it’s menu which is the ‘Flat Iron’. They will occasionally have other specials on but their menu is incredibly small, simple and extremely tasty. The best part of all of this is that it is only £10 for the Flat Iron steak which in London is an absolute steal! You also get given a meat cleaver instead of a knife and these are available to buy too, should you wish to. Cheap and delicious and good craft beers too!

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Wahaca is a Mexican street food restaurant- really good and reasonably priced too. Does amazing cocktails and you can choose either to get 3 or 4 of the smaller dishes or one of larger main plates. It is very different to your bog standard Mexican burrito joint and offers a wide variety of seasonal and exciting options. This is also another place which started off with just one restaurant and has spread like wildfire across the city.

Bubbledogs – Offers up the unusual combination of Champagne and gourmet hot dogs. It is a bit of a gimmick to be honest but never the less quite a fun night out ** Also note that through the back there is a secret Restaurant called The Kitchen Table. This won a Michelin star back in 2014 and you have the unique experience of sitting around the kitchen and watching and interacting with the chef.

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Honest Burger – in my opinion is one of the best burgers in London and the rosemary chips are not to be missed! Again, this venue also has some nice craft beers.

Breakfast Club – As you would guess,  is a great place for breakfasts and I love it’s huge menu of pancakes! It is an American themed restaurant and in it’s Spittalfields branch even has it’s own Speakeasy bar. **To get into this bar you need to go through the SMEG fridge door and then give a password. (Password can be found on the website or their twitter). The bar is called ‘The Mayor of Scardey Cat Town’ and it has a great menu of cocktails and accompanying bar food menu.

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Sticks and Sushi – This is a chain of restaurants from Denmark and specialisies in traditional Sushi and Yakatori sticks and is absolutely delicious. They also have ahuge wine and cocktail menu that goes along with the food nicely!

-Big Easy – This is another American themed restaurant however this is a place that specialising in BBQ’d meat and food of the South.  ** I would definitely advise pre-booking here. It also has a huge selection of Bourbon and cocktails. It is a little more expensive than some of the other places on the list but the portion sizes are huge and you also get your own bib whilst eating, so you can get some great pictures too!

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I hope this has made things a bit simpler for you and that you find something which tickles your fancy! Make sure and let us know how you get on!

GVS Co xx

 

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The Secret Beach – By Brenton De Rooy

We are very excited to show you guys our first installment from the lovely Brenton De Rooy! This man has been working with us from the very beginning and we love his approach to surf photography and his attitude towards life!

He describes this collection as ‘A few pics, barrels and stuff from a secret spot around mid North Coast Australia.

Enjoy!

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‘Road to the Mountains’: L’Dub White Salmon- EP2 with Nick Troutman

Another update for Nick Troutman on his travels! We hope you enjoy as much as we do!

We have made it to the west coast, and driven north to White Salmon Washington to meet up with some friends and get some creek race training in on the famous Little White River.

 

Follow more from Nick here.

 

My day with the Elephants… By Grace Melville

I was lucky enough at the end of last year to travel around Thailand with my parents and sister. We travelled around Bangkok, Chiang Mai before ending our time on a tiny island off the south coast. Those who have been to Thailand will know how beautiful this country is. It is a never ending sensory overload and I only wish I had more time to explore. This country has the ability to leave a profound effect on a person and I was no different.

Elephants are Thailand’s largest land animal and one of its largest animal exploits. This post will be about my experience in meeting elephants but I wish to speak shortly about the problems that surround elephant tourism. Being people of travel we care about the planet and this care naturally extends to animals.

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I think the simplest terms in which to put this is:

DO NOT go to any elephant ‘parks’ which advertise elephant rides or elephant shows.
DO go to elephant ‘Sanctuaries’.

Some in Thailand have seen the interest in elephants from tourists and have capitalised on this interest extensively. Unfortunately in this process the body of the elephant becomes nothing more than a commodity, used only for profit, at the expense of the elephant’s welfare and health. Those in charge are often uneducated in how these creatures need to be cared for, leading to widespread mistreatment. This is an issue across Thailand and Asia. Elephants are trained by having their spirit broken, known as ‘the crush’. This involves weeks of torture and beatings until the elephants submits. They are then used for rides, shows or as street acts where they are over-worked, under-fed and kept in appalling conditions. If you enter somewhere that offers rides or shows, I urge you to leave. 

My tip to avoiding such places is researching the place you are going to, read trip advisor reviews. It will quickly become apparent whether the company care about the elephants or money.

My family and I visited the Elephant Jungle Sanctuary. This was without a shadow of a doubt one of the most amazing experiences of my life. The Elephant Jungle Sanctuary has 5 locations around Chiang Mai and look after over 20 elephants. They are dedicated to the welfare and health of these creatures as well as educating the public on how they should be treated.

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My experience:

After a very early start and a bumpy 2-hour car ride up into the valley we arrived at the sanctuary. Upon arrival we were given a multi coloured thread top. I would recommend bringing shorts as otherwise you look half naked like I did. But to be quite honest no cared about the semi-nudity, least of all the elephants. After an introduction to the team we were given a talk about elephant care and a history of all the elephants in that location. The carers were kind and intelligent, stressing the need for improved conditions for these animals.

After this we were lead down to the wide open field where the elephants were. Coming face to face with these creatures in an environment that is entirely their own is indescribable. The elephants were not fearful and would happily walk around us sniffing our hair and eating bananas out of our hands. All the food is provided by the sanctuary so do not worry about bringing any with you. Fun tip: the elephants love the bananas and sugar cane, but aren’t as keen on the cucumbers so grab the former if you want to be popular with them! Be calm and patient with the elephants, they’re naturally curious and playful. But mind your feet!

Everything is done on the elephant’s time; the feeding session can take thirty minutes or an hour. It is completely up to them. After the feeding we went on a short walk with the elephants up the ravine and finally down to the small lake that lay below.

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Then it got really fun. We were shown how to help wash and scrub the elephants. Definitely bring a swimming costume or trunks with you because it gets very wet. No matter what age everyone was splashing around in the water. Truly unforgettable.

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After this we walked back to main hut and said goodbye to our new friends. This entire experience felt calm and natural, a far cry from the mechanic and capitalist attitude seen at other locations. This piece is by no means meant to sound preachy or condescending. Obviously no one in his or her right mind would wish to see an elephant hurt. My aim is to merely pass on the knowledge I learned from this experience and share the magic I felt from this day.

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Thank you and happy travelling x

Follow more of Grace’s adventures here.

Useful links to learn more and the website of the sanctuary I visited:

http://www.saveelephant.org

http://www.elephantjunglesanctuary.com