Barely Back Packers – Our 5 Month Adventure

From barely having backpacked before, going traveling for 5 months certainly threw us into the deep end. But my God… it’s been an adventure of a lifetime which will be forever in our minds.
Our route: New Zealand, Fiji, Australia, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia & Vietnam. Here is the action packed compilation video of Our 5 Month Adventure.
 All credit to Barelybackers.
Let us know your thoughts.
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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.

Top Ten Things To Do In Tuscany – By Harry Balfour

Follow Harry and all of his travel blogs here.

In the heart of Europe, lies the beautiful country of Italy, packed full of awe-inspiring beauty and rich in culture. The Tuscan region of Italy has so much to offer. Full of the ripe renaissance art and architecture, the City of Florence is a must see.

Pisa is of course held in high regards, as no trip to Tuscany is complete without a visit to the leaning tower of Pisa. There are also a few hidden gems within this region, and the less touristy Lucca is a terrific way to spend a few days.

If you are an art connoisseur or are a fan of culture, then a trip to Tuscany should be high on your agenda. With so much to see in one region of the country, it makes it difficult to cut it down into ten things to do… but I’ll give it a go. 

1 THE CATHEDRAL OF FLORENCE

By far the most notable and impressive building to see, is the Cathedral of Florence, the 450 ft structure towers over the old rustic roofs of the surrounding buildings. The fact that Assassins creed was based around Florence makes it even cooler.

The Dome was constructed by Filippo Brunelleschi between 1420 and 1434. This dome is significant as it wasn’t built the conventional way but instead had an inner and outer layer with a staircase in the middle. From the inside of the cathedral, you can see the beautiful fresco on the ceiling depicting the Last Judgement.

It is the cupola (dome) that catches most attention, however the bell tower (the campanile) is also a stunning structure. The 414 steps it takes to reach the top are certainly worthwhile as you gain a full viewpoint of the Duomo and the scenery behind.

The Cathedral is certainly worth a visit and if you have enough time, you are able to climb the stairs inside the dome itself which leads to wonderful view of Firenze (Florence).

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2 PONTE VECCHIO (THE OLD BRIDGE)

The Ponte Vecchio crosses the Arno River and is the oldest bridge in Florence. This bridge was constructed and completed in 1565 and was reserved for the goldsmiths in the 1500s.

The old bridge is a magnificent structure and unusual as it has shops situated along the bridge itself. We visited the Ponte Vecchio during the night, when all the lights were on and buskers were playing on the bridge.

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3 IL LATINI

After a long day of sight seeing around the old town in Firenze, the best way to spend your evening is to go to a restaurant, and what better way to do so then Il Latini, a local Tuscan restaurant with outstanding authentic food.

Situated on a cobbled street near the river Arno, Il Latini has a beautiful atmosphere. The food is delicious and has all sorts of local delicacies ranging from the al dente pastas to something a bit more unusual like rabbit.

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4 UFFIZI AND ACCADEMIA ART GALLERIES

I’m not the biggest art enthusiast myself but even I can appreciate the amazing works of some of the greatest sculptors and artists on show at the galleries in Firenze. The Uffizi art gallery is situated by the Palazzo Vecchio and the river Arno. Work from great artists such as Botticelli, da Vinci and Raphael are all found in the Uffizi gallery.

The Accademia was a highlight of my trip to Florence as it is adorned with the famous work of Michelangelo, ‘David’. In 1501 he was commissioned to sculpt the figure. It supposedly represents perfect beauty. At 13.6 ft, David towers above and sticks out like a giant.

Although  the figure, attracts most attention, for me what surrounds the sculpture is more interesting. Four statues light the way to the David, known as the Prisoners. These gifts for Cosimo I from Michelangelo were never finished but that is what stirs debate amongst artists as we never know whether or not he was meant to finish the sculptures, as the sculptures are depicted trapped in stone, hence the name.

 

5 BASILLICA OF SAINT MICHAELANGELO

If you’re looking for the perfect photo of Firenze, then the Basillica of Saint Michaelangelo is worth a visit. With breathtaking views of the Duomo and the rustic rooftops of Firenze, it’s almost impossible to mess up a photo of it (unless you’re my brother).

Not only is it complete with the views, the basilica is also unique as it’s outside the old city walls and up a hillside unlike most which are situated in the old town. Blessed with lush gardens full of cypress trees and adorned with the most beautiful frescos inside the church, the basilica is well worth a pit stop.

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6 WINE TASTING IN TUSCANY

As an 18-year-old boy, most people would expect me not to be interested in wine, unfortunately I have a rather expensive taste for wines, which comes as a disappointment to my parents. Nevertheless, the Tuscan region is renowned for its great tasting wine and fresh olives, which I had to try. Try and go out in to the more rural areas of the region and visit a few vineyards along the way.

7 MEDICI PALACE

Situated one street away from the San Lorenzo church, the Medici Palace is easily accessible and easy to find. This was where Cosimo the Elder, Piero and Lorenzo ‘il Magnifico’ resided. At the Medici palace, you gain an insight in to the most powerful family during the renaissance period.

In the summer of 2015, when we visited the Tuscan region, we thought it would be a good idea to bring our dog (the most well traveled dog). Stupidly, it never crossed our minds why you didn’t see many dogs in art galleries, especially a large black Labrador. Before we went into the Medici Palace, we saw a sign that said ‘no dogs allowed’ but we thought they would be lenient anyway. The women behind the counter, kindly asked if it was a small dog, which we nodded, before dragging this huge black Labrador more like a bear across the floor, trying to sneak him past the counter. As a rule of thumb, if you want to go sight-seeing in Tuscany, don’t bring a dog.

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8 LUCCA

Most people who visit Tuscany, end up spending most time in Florence or Pisa, however if you want to explore the real Italia, then a day trip to Lucca should be on your itinerary. Lucca is most famous for its in-tact renaissance city walls which surrounds the beautiful city. There are tonnes of shops which rent out bikes for the day, which is perfect for those people who want to ride across the city walls. Lucca also holds many Gelato (Ice cream) shops which has the true taste of Italy.

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9 THE LEANING TOWER OF PISA

The leaning tower of Pisa is the true landmark of not only Tuscany, but Italy as a whole. It’s funny to watch the swarms of people coming to the landmark to take the almost obligatory photo now, like the one below. Pisa is ideal for a two-three day trip but all activities could be fitted into one day. Once the photos have been taken, and for those who chose to climb it have done so, then a lunch seems fitting. We went across the main square and found a restaurant still in sight of the tower and had a pizza. The Cathedral which stands next to the tower is just as interesting and is worth a look after lunch.

*really nailed my pic at the Leaning Tower!

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10 STREET MARKETS OF FLORENCE & PISA

During our time in Tuscany, we visited a few street markets and found almost all of them to be unique and versatile. In Florence, we visited the San Lorenzo market which is full of cheap football shirts, chorizo, olives and wines, perfect for a backpacker on a budget.

Tuscany is so rich in culture that it was almost impossible to narrow it down to 10 things to do, feel free to comment if you feel I have missed out any things to see and don’t hesitate to  ask questions about my trip and if you are looking for certain itineraries for Tuscany then feel free to ask.

Meet the blogging team! Harry Balfour

Harry’s an avid traveller, keen blogger and developing photographer on a trip blazing a path all of his own just for you guys to enjoy. Harry spread his wings from cosy East Sheen in South London to tackle whatever slightly planned exploration had to through at him.

Now wandering the world one destination at a time and learning about many different cultures and escaping from all the troubles a young man has, of which we’re told there’s many ha.

You can follow his antics on his instagram @barelybackpackers and his adventures round the world on his blog here.unnamed-4