Top Things to do in Hoi An, Vietnam


Hoi An is an incredibly charming town on Vietnam’s central coast, well-known for its greatly preserved Ancient Town, cut through with canals.

I absolutely loved spending a week there, exploring the beautiful ancient city that is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
I was lucky enough to be there during the lunar lantern festival where the old town shuts off electricity in the evenings, is closed to traffic and transforms into magical alleyways of colourful lanterns, flickering candles and lively gatherings.



Once a major port, the melting-pot history is reflected in its grand architecture, a mixture of eras and styles from wooden Chinese shophouses and temples to colourful French colonial buildings, ornate Vietnamese houses and the iconic Japanese Covered Bridge.

It is an atmospheric and delightful place to visit, with little traffic and pollution, a nearby stunning beach, delicious and fresh cuisine and so much to do. 

Here are my top recommendations for Hoi An, a place not to be missed on your next trip to Vietnam.


Wander the ancient streets


There's no better way to explore a new place than by walking the streets. Admire the ancient and contrasting architecture; shops, bars, restaurants and coffee houses are all a photographer's delight.

Walk across the ornate Japanese Covered Bridge, check out the Tan Ky ancient House, visit the local fresh food markets.

Japanese Covered Bridge

There is so much to see and it's all in a relatively compact area, so wear comfy walking shoes and take regular breaks and refresh on traditional Vietnamese ice coffee to beat the heat.

A local market

After doing the sights in town (temples, ancient houses, chapels, the covered bridge) head south over the central footbridge to An Hoi islet, where the riverfront is lined with bars offering ice-cold glasses of the daily-brewed refreshing lager called 'Bia Hoi.' They usually go for around 5000 VND (US 20 cents!) and it's a great place to people-watch.


Gioan Cooking Class


One of my favourite and most memorable experiences throughout my time in Vietnam was doing a Vietnamese cooking class at Gioan Cookery School.

Hoi An is known for its diverse and excellent food, and it can seem that every other restaurant is offering cooking classes, but Gioan was one of the first original family cookery schools in Hoi An and they have a great reputation.

Beginning with a trip to a local market, we learned all about and hand-picked our fresh ingredients to use for the day. We got to choose our favourite dishes to learn how to make which were: fresh Vietnamese spring rolls with dipping sauce, Banh Xeo (country savoury pancakes), chilli chicken and lemongrass stir fry and traditional beef Pho!

Busy making Pho!

It was such a fantastic experience from start to finish and our teacher was so funny and easy-going. I learned so much that day and can't wait to start using my new culinary skills at home. The feast we got to eat at the end of it with our freshly made food was phenomenal.

Banh Xeo

I thoroughly enjoyed my time there and very highly recommend it!


Have a beach day


The nearby An Bang Beach is only 5 kilometres away or a 15 minute leisurly drive (or cycle if you're keen!). The sand is soft, the water is lovely and refreshing to swim in and there are plenty of loungers with sun-umbrellas to relax on free of charge if you purchase a drink or two.



There are also plenty of cafes and restaurants in the area to choose from and I highly recommend going to a place called French Bakery and Restaurant.
They offer a range of options but their Banh Mi in particular was one of the best I've ever had. I had the special pork one with chilli jam and for 40,000 VND ($1.70 US), it's an incredible price as well.


Get a new wardrobe


I didn't do this myself, but I know Hoi An is very well-known for this. There are many budget tailors and it's the place to take home a complete wardrobe of new clothes and leather goods. 
Shoes can be made to order and many handicraft shops specialise in embroidered linen.

If you decide you want a new wardrobe, do your research before you go; some of the tailors are cheap and very good, some are expensive and not good value, and some are pretty poor. 
If you have a favourite item you wish to replicate, take it with you, or take pictures of the clothes you want made.
Word of mouth is usually a great source and I'm sure Trip Advisor would be able to steer you in the right direction with the best reviewed places.


Do a bicycle/boat/walking tour


There are many tours on offer to explore more of Hoi An how you please. From sunset boat cruises along the Thu Bon River, to walking street food tours in the Old Town to venturing further with a bicycle tour.

Many homestays and hotels offer bikes to guests, and joining the many cyclists on the roads provides an instant immersion into local life.
There are group tours you can join for an easy few hours with just 9 km of cycling along quiet lanes, lunch included, or a more demanding 50 km adventure. All take in traditional villages, handicrafts, fragrant rice paddies and rickety floating bridges.


Visit Marble Mountains 


Only a half an hour drive away are the Marble Mountains, a cluster of five marble and limestone hills, named after the elements metal, wood, water, fire and earth. 
I visited on my way down to Hoi An from Da Nang, as it is between the two cities.



It is a well-known pilgrimage site with peaks, caves, tunnels and temples. There are Buddhist sanctuaries and even a special circular cave which leads to the summit where you can enjoy panoramic views.


Indulge in the local food

One of my favourite parts about travelling is trying the local cuisine. I have already written 'Best Places to Eat' for Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, and I will next write one for Hoi An too, as the food there was just as spectacular.

A few of the best local dishes that are a must-try and special to Hoi An and the central Vietnam region include:

Cao Lau - one of the most famous dishes, this noodle speciality has been eaten in the city since the 17th century. The hand-cut noodles are tossed with sliced pork, crunchy rice crackers, spices, big handfuls of fresh herbs and a small amount of super-tasty broth.


White Rose (Banh Bao Banh Vac) - A popular symbol of food in the ancient town, these are special shrimp dumplings made from translucent white dough bunched up to look like a rose. It takes three years to learn how to master them and apparently, there is only one family in Hoi An that produces them and distributes them to all the local eateries.


Mi Quam - a delicious bowl full of rice noodles, a choice of meat (chicken, pork, shrimp, quail egg etc.), fresh vegetables, a little broth and topped with peanuts, rice crackers or crunchy spring rolls.


Stay tuned for my next post where I will share my favourite places to eat including Banh Mi Phuong, Morning Glory, Phi Banh Mi and Cafe 43.


When to go: the central coast is at its driest and sunniest in May, June and July.
Be wary of the rainy season (September to November) as it can be prone to heavy downpours and bouts of flooding.


How to get there: getting around Vietnam is easy and there are many ways to get to Hoi An depending on your budget. Take a bus or train from any other major city to save money, or fly if you have less time and a bit more to spend. If you are only an hour or two away you can hire a driver to take you for around $100 USD and they will happily stop at any sights along the way.

Where to stay: there are many types of accomodation available to suit all budgets including guesthouses, hostels, AirBnbs, low-budget hotels to luxury hotels. Try and choose one close to the Old Town so you can easily walk or cycle there, or stay at the beach if you prefer a more relaxing style holiday. Most places offer multiple daily transfers to either the Old Town or the beach. If you can afford it, pick somewhere with a pool, as it's hot year-round!

Need to know: tourists need to purchase an entrance ticket to the Hoi An Ancient Town. It costs 120,000 VND ($5 USD). The tickets are valid for 10 days and you need to have it on you at all times. For more information visit the Hoi An Tourism site.



I hope you are inspired to visit Hoi An, a beautiful little city with so much to offer.
Let me know in the comments if you've been or are planning to in the near future!

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Happy Travels,

In Photos: Our Rarotonga Destination Wedding



Just over a year ago, I got married in beautiful Rarotonga in the Cook Islands on 24.11.16.
Since I have written posts on how to plan a destination wedding and a review of the Pacific Resort Rarotonga as a wedding venue, I thought I would share some of my wedding photos too, in case anyone is planning on having a destination wedding there themselves.

I 100% recommend it, it was such an incredible day and we couldn't be more happy with how it turned out. We both loved Rarotonga so much and can't wait to return again soon.
I hope you enjoy a snippet of our special day (don't worry, I won't share anything too lovey-dovey!).

Photography: Melanie Cooper
Venue: Pacific Resort Rarotonga

 







 
 








 
 






 

 









 

Five reasons why you should visit Rarotonga, Cook Islands


I got married in Rarotonga in the Cook Islands just over a year ago and I miss it so much! One week there was not enough and I'm yearning to go back and revisit the beautiful island this year.

If you're thinking about going (and you absolutely should), here are five reasons to help convince you to book those flight right now.

The friendliest locals

The amazing Rupene at the Pacific Resort

I couldn't get over how welcoming, laid-back, friendly and easy-going the locals are.
Every person you walk past will greet you with a great big smile and a booming "Kia Orana" (hello).
The customer service everywhere you go is excellent and you will notice what a huge difference it makes to be around such happy and positive people.


A slice of paradise

The happiest girl

The stunning white-sand beaches and aqua-blue lagoon will make you feel like you are walking around in a postcard.
Snorkel in the warm crystal-clear water, soak up rays on the beach or flop under a swaying palm tree.
This island slice of paradise is easily accessible and has direct flights of less than four hours from Auckland or Sydney and less than 12 hours from Los Angeles, Singapore and Hong Kong.


The incredible food

Best fish sammies on the island at The Mooring

I loved the food in Rarotonga so much I have already written a whole post about it: Best Places to eat in Muri, Rarotonga.
Food is a big part of Cook Island culture and that is reflected everywhere by being readily available, fresh, tasty and lovingly prepared.
The fish especially is the most delicious I have ever had in my life and one of their local dishes 'Ika Mata' knocked my socks off! (Or should I say, jandals).


Soak up the culture

Some of the awesome dancers at Highland Paradise

The local Polynesian culture is enthralling and I couldn't get enough of it while I was there. There's something about the beating of drums, the traditional dress, tribal dancing and storytelling that is absolutely mesmerising.
There are two popular cultural night shows that include a delicious buffet dinner feast;
Te Vara Nui Village and Highland Paradise.


Ultimate relaxing getaway

A tropical cocktail at the Barefoot Bar

From the second you get off the plane you are now on island time. The warm breeze will dance on your face, the traffic is minimal, the sparkling sea is calling your name.
The locals have a relaxed approach to life which means coming here for a holiday is exactly what you will get. It is the perfect place for couples, friends and even families with young children.
Rarotonga is incredibly easy and enjoyable, with plenty to do if you want or to just chill and soak up the relaxing island vibes.

Where to stay: Pacific Resort, Rarotonga - an incredible resort where I got married! I have a detailed review of them here if you are interested.

Barefoot Bar, Pacific Resort

When to go: It is beautiful and warm year-round and there is no bad time to go, however, the dry season is said to be the best which is May - October.

Where to eat: Anywhere that serves fresh seafood! If you would like my recommendations for Muri, check out my post here.

What to do: Join a snorkelling lagoon tour such as Koka Lagoon Cruises and Captain Tama's. Head to a cultural night as mentioned above, they are on alternate days so check their website for the days they are open.
You can go on a quad biking adventure tour through the jungle, hire a scooter or bicycle and explore the island. Go hiking, scuba diving, swimming, fishing, kayaking, the list goes on. Don't forget to save some time to relax!

A spot of snorkelling and kayaking in Muri Lagoon

I hope you are inspired to visit the beautiful Rarotonga in the Cook Islands, one of my absolute favourite places in the world.

P.S If you are thinking about getting married here, I 100% recommend it!!! We couldn't have imagined a more perfect day in absolute paradise.
If you would like to see our wedding photos, visit here.



Let me know in the comments if you have been or are wanting to head there yourself!

Happy Travels,
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On the Bucket List: 50 Travel Goals 2018


I always like to set certain goals at the beginning of each year, as it's always nice (or slightly shameful) to look back on and see how much has been achieved at the end of it.
This will be my second year as a fulltime blogger and I'm so excited to see what 2018 has in store for me.

I have no idea where exactly this year will take me (that's the exciting part!) but I thought I would write up 50 travel goals, tailored mostly towards my biggest goal of the year (to explore more of my own country New Zealand) and my two next new countries which are booked for March/April (America and Canada).

As I go through the year I will return and cross off each goal and what date I achieved it.

Here's to an amazing year of travel!


     [New Zealand]
  1. See the largest mountain - Mount Cook βœ“ 18/06/08
  2. Go to Bluff; the very bottom-most point of the South Island βœ“ 15/06/18
  3. Hike the Tongariro Alpine Crossing
  4. Go whale watching in Kaikoura βœ“ 31/05/18
  5. See a glacier up close (Franz Josef/Fox) βœ“ 8/06/18
  6. Visit the Lighthouse at Castlepoint
  7. Visit Hobbiton again! βœ“ 11/02/18
  8. Go kayaking or hiking at Abel Tasman National Park βœ“ 3/06/18

  9. Explore the Taranaki region
  10. Go camping in Manawatu
  11. See the glow worms at Waitomo Cave
  12. Do more adrenalin activities in Queenstown βœ“ 11/06/18
  13. Visit Hamner Springs
  14. Swim with the dolphins in Akaroa
  15. Do lots of skiing/boarding at Whakapapa βœ“ 23/07/18

    [North America]

  16. Go to Disneyland! βœ“ 11/03/18
  17. See the Hollywood sign (It was covered in fog!!)
  18. Stroll the Walk of Fame βœ“ 10/03/18
  19. Go to Venice Beach and Santa Monica Pier βœ“ 10/03/18
  20. Gamble and party in Las Vegas! βœ“ 14/03/18
  21. See a show in Vegas βœ“ 14/03/18
  22. See the Grand Canyon βœ“ 15/03/18

  23. Helicopter over the Grand Canyon (Wish I could afford it! Next time)
  24. Eat pizza in Chicago βœ“ 16/03/18
  25. See the green river in Chicago on St Patrick's Day βœ“ 17/03/18
  26. Get a great shot of the Cloud Gate βœ“ 18/03/18
  27. Eat Poutine and Maple Syrup in Canada βœ“ 19/03/18
  28. Visit friends in Ottawa βœ“ 18/03/18
  29. Visit Parliament Hill and the Museum of History βœ“ 19/03/18
  30. Stay at the Citadel in Quebec City βœ“ 23/03/18
  31. See a moose/beaver/bear (Probably a good thing I didn't actually!)
  32. NEW YORK CITY BABY! βœ“ 25/03/18
  33. Walk through Central Park βœ“ 25/03/18
  34. People-watch in Times Square βœ“ 25/03/18
  35. Go to the Top of the Rock/Empire State Building/One World Center βœ“ 26/03/18
  36. Eat pizza and hot dogs βœ“ 25/03/18
  37. Go ice skating at the Rockefeller Center/Central Park (Decided not to)
  38. Walk the Brooklyn Bridge βœ“ 28/03/18

  39. See the Statue of Liberty βœ“ 25/03/18
  40. Do a Gossip Girl tour βœ“ 30/03/18
  41. Go to Harry Potter World in Orlando βœ“ 03/04/18
  42. Drink cocktails and eat Key Lime Pie in Florida βœ“ 01/04/18

    [Other]

  43. Explore more of your own country New Zealand βœ“
  44. Visit your 30th country in 2018
  45. Go to a new continent βœ“ 8/03/18
  46. Travel to either (or all) Japan/India/Sri Lanka/The Philippines/Fiji
  47. Volunteer overseas or set it up for 2019 (Nepal or in Africa)
  48. Write great content and grow your blog
  49. Meet new and collaborate with other travel bloggers
  50. Have an amazing year doing what you love

So far achieved at April: 33/50

Countries visited 2018: 5 - United States of America, Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Indonesia

(If I end up going to Europe later in the year which is looking very likely I will update it to 100 travel goals!) 



Let me know in the comments if you have visited any of these places and what your travel goals for this year are too!

I wish you all the best for the new year ahead.

Happy Travels,

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*This post contains images that are not my own.

2018 New Zealand Travel Goals


Welcome to my first post of the year!

I intended this post to be all of my 2018 travel goals, but as I began writing about New Zealand it was already so long that it turned into its very own post.

This year I am back in New Zealand after living away for three years. Since I started my travel blog while I was away, I am thrilled to now explore more of my own backyard and go to those places I've always wanted to go to.

New Zealand is such a desired travellers destination for so many reasons and I would love to focus on writing great content for visitors, taking amazing photos and soaking up all that is special about my country.

Places I would love to visit in 2018 include:

[North Island]

Tongariro Alpine Crossing


I can't believe that I have visited Tongariro National Park dozens of times (it's where I go skiing and snowboarding) and I have not yet done the famous crater lake hike.
The pictures look insanely beautiful and I am now living only a couple of hours drive away so I'm making it a top priority this year.

Castlepoint


Castlepoint is a small picturesque beachside town on the Wairarapa coast of the Wellington Region. The farthest down on the east-coast of the North Island I have been to is Napier, so I would love to venture further down to Castlepoint which is again only a two hour drive away. It's home to a lighthouse which stands near the top of the northern end of a reef.

Hobbiton



Yes, I have already been to Hobbiton - but that was five years ago now! It's been far too long in my opinion and I would love to go back and take new photos (with my better quality camera). I am keen to finally write up some Lord of the Rings in New Zealand hotspot posts this year - stay tuned!

Taranaki


Taranaki is a coastal and mountainous region on the western side of the North Island.
I would love to see what the city New Plymouth is like and see the beautiful volcano Mount Taranaki up close.
Taranaki is one of two regions left that I am yet to visit in the North Island. The other one is Gisborne but I think unless I have a reason to visit, I'll leave that one for another year.


[South Island]

There is so much I would love to do in the South Island but I will try to narrow my goals down to be semi-achievable for this year:

Hamner Springs


Hanmer Springs is a gorgeous resort town in the Canterbury region of the South Island. Best known for their natural mineral Thermal Pools and Spa and the beautiful surrounding mountains, it would be the ultimate winter getaway destination.

Akaroa


Also in Canterbury, Akaroa is a town on the Banks Peninsula, southeast of Christchurch. Akaroa Beach is where rare Hector’s dolphins swim and the town has French colonial history and beautiful heritage buildings I would love to see. 

Kaikoura


Kaikoura is an east-coast town in the South Island known for its wildlife and sperm whale population. There are beautiful walks to see clifftop views of the stunning surrounding mountains and the sea below. I have stopped by there briefly once before but this time I would love to do a whale watching tour and a hike.

Fox/Franz Josef Glacier


I'm not fussy on which one - but I would love to see a glacier up close! Fox and Franz Josef Glaciers are New Zealand's most accessible glaciers and would be the ultimate adventure activity. Our country really does have it all.

Roy's Peak


Roy's Peak is a mountain standing between Wanaka and Glendhu Bay. It offers a full-day walk, with breathtaking panoramic views across Lake Wanaka and up to the peak of Mount Aspiring. Getting a picture here is a huuuge bucket list item for me!

Invercargill & Bluff


Last but not least, I would love to visit two of the southernmost places in New Zealand (apart from Stewart Island), Invercargill and down to Bluff. I've been right to the very top (Cape Reinga) so I would love to now go to the bottom-most point.


I'm so pumped for the new year and all the new travel adventures that come with it!
Aside from a booked trip to the United States and Canada in March/April, I can't wait to get cracking on my New Zealand goals.

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Have you ever visited any of these places? Let me know in the comments if you have any tips or if you're like me and would love to visit too! (If anyone wants to join me - hit me up).

Happy Travels,

*This post contains images that are not my own.

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