Freo. Home to a thriving arts scene, independent retailers, creative thinkers and everyone else in between, all bound together by a humbling sense of community. I think it is fair to say that the 6 months i spent immersed in Freo life were some of the best I have had. As a traveller, Freo is the perfect place to stop and earn some coin for further travels, and the nearby airport in Perth is a spring board into Indonesia and we all know what that means…. Waves Waves Waves.
I have put together a Top 5 list of things to do during your time in Fremantle. These are not your standard “TOP 5”, so you wont find these in your lonely planet books or travel guides, these are a some local sweet spots and hidden gems.
- Monument hill sunset
The old Fremantle docks make for a beautiful setting as the sun sinks into sea lighting up the sky giving you the most spectacular panoramic view of the Indian Ocean. With nothing between you and the east coast of Africa, it’s a must do, believe me.
- Holy smokes – Bourbon Bar
A very cool low key evening spot with good music and some outstanding bar snacks, be sure to try the jerky and the scratchings!. And of course their drinks are sublime, Holy Smokes boasts a massive range of high quality Bourbons so you’ll be sure to find a new favourite.
- Surfing the cove
All the way up the west coast of Australia there are world famous surf breaks. But if you are short of time, then the best surf break in the local area is a spot in Cottesloe called the cove. A right hand reef break, with easy accessibility from the car park, its a low hassle way to get wet and get your fix.
- Coffee – Jack And The Bean
Coffee, not something that is hard to come by in Fremantle and a lot of places do great coffee. However the coffee at Jack and the Bean topped with they exceptional service made it the go to spot. Start your day right and grab a brew from Jackie and the team.
- Sunset markets – south beach
If you are in Freo during the summer you have to get yourself down to the sunset markets, this is the pinnacle of the Fremantle’s community spirit. Friends and families getting together, hanging out with some beers and amazing food, all prepared by local foodies who delectable wholesome grub goes great with the beat of local musicians. Again a must do.
Thanks Fremantle, Stay stoked
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.