Posted by: lindsaygoes | September 22, 2019

Bouncing around Baku (part 2)

On our third day in Baku we headed back to Upland/Highland Park (on a bus this time) and walked through the Avenue of Martyrs and saw the panoramic view over the city again.

Avenue of Martyrs, Baku

Flame Towers, Baku

Then we headed to the Old Town. This morning the Miniture Book Museum was open, so we could see the amazing collection of tiny books, including one less than a millimeter tall!

Miniature Book Museum, Baku

Next we had a tour of Shirvan Shah Palace, where learnt more about the history of Baku, before also visiting a Caravanserais and the Maiden Tower, which is eight stories high and has a great view of the city from the top. The stairs were also surprisingly accesible rather than the narrow winding ones you often find in similar buildings!

View from Shirvan Shah Palace, Baku

Maiden Tower, Baku

After lunch we went to the Absheron Peninsula, where we first visited the Yanardagh Fire Mountain, which constantly burns due to methane gas being released from the ground.

Yanardagh Fire Mountain, Azerbaijan

Then we went to the Ateshgah Fire Temple, which constantly burns now due to a gas pipe feeding the flames, but historically had a natural fire and was a place of worship of the Zoroastrians.

Ateshgah Fire Temple, Azerbaijan

Ateshgah Fire Temple, Azerbaijan

Our final stop for the day was the Mardakan medieval fortress, which seemed higher than it was when you were between the walls and the tower.

Mardakan medieval fortress, Azerbaijan

In the morning we headed to Qobustan, which is home to ancient petroglyphs, some up to 15, 000 years old. It’s amazing to think those records still exist (and I suspect all we’ll be leaving behind are some plastic bottle remnants). There was a huge range of images, from dancing people, to horses and dolphins. Fascinating!

Qobustan petroglyphs, Azerbaijan

Qobustan petroglyphs, Azerbaijan

Then it was back to Baku and the National Carpet Museum, which is home to some amazing woven carpets, and embroidered items. It had a mix of old works, and new, including one carpet with an oil rig design!

National Carpet Museum, Azerbaijan

National Carpet Museum, Azerbaijan

After lunch we walked to the Museum of Modern Art. Once again, the building itself was unique and almost maze like, with rooms and corridors shooting off in all kinds of directions. It had a huge range of painting and sculptures, both from local Azerbaijani and international artists. Well worth a visit!

Museum of Modern Art, Baku

For dinner we went back to Nizami street for some more traditional Azerbaijan food – delicious!

Nizami Street at night, Baku

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Posted by: lindsaygoes | September 20, 2019

Bouncing around Baku (part 1)

So, we’re off on another travel adventure! We flew to Dubai, and then onto our first destination, Baku in Azerbaijan.

We arrived in the middle of the day, and so had some time to do a bit of exploring. We caught the metro across town to visit the Heydar Aliyev Center. It was all pretty easy to negotiate and we had managed to break our 100 manat notes before buying tickets, as the machines don’t give change, so that could have been a very expensive train trip! Once we left the station the tourist map we had didn’t stretch that far, and so of course, we headed in the wrong direction once we left the station. Luckily we didn’t get too far and soon were on the right track again!

Heydar Aliyev Center

The Heydar Aliyev Building is an amazing piece of architecture. Shaped like an enormous wave, its graceful curves reach into the sky. It contains a museum/gallery which we visited which had some very interesting exhibitions with sculptures, dolls as art and miniature models of many of Baku’s buildings. The park the Heydar Aliyev Center sits on also contains the ‘I ❤️ Baku’ sign, but it was too busy to get any photographs!

Art in the Heydar Aliyev Center

That was really all we had the time (and energy) for, and so we caught the metro back, grabbed a quick dinner and fell into bed!

The next day we woke up ridiculously early due to the time difference, but managed to find a 24 hour mini mart where we could get some water, and spend some time before breakfast was open. Then we headed out to explore the city. Our first stop was the information center, where we got a better quality map, and failed to ask any useful questions about what was open on a Monday!

National Museum of History, Baku

Then we headed to the National Museum of History, which was closed for renovation, so we moved onto the Literature Museum, which didn’t open for another two hours. So we kept going into the Old Town, where we got lost amongst the narrow winding streets, and enjoyed the peace before the crowds arrived. We mainly walked around the Old Town as the Miniature Book Museum is also closed on a Monday, and we were going to see some of the other sights the next day.

Old Town, Baku

Our next stop was the Funicular. It would have been useful to know two things about the funicular. Firstly, that it was closed on Mondays, and secondly that we were going to visit Upland Park (also known as Highland Park) the next day, and see the panoramic views anyway. Not being aware of any of this, we got to the funicular and finding it was closed, walked to the top. It was a lot of steps (my watch said we had walked 40 flights of stairs and 23 kilometres by the end of the day). However, the view from the top was pretty spectatular so it was worth the visit.

From the top of the Funicular. So many steps!

View over Baku

We headed back down and walked through Filarmoniya Park, a lovely place to have a break, and along Nizami Street, a pedestrian only mall with lots of shops and restaurants and got some lunch. Then we walked back to the Museum of History, which was still closed for renovations (we weren’t entirely sure what they were telling us the first time) and back to our hotel for a bit of a nap.

Filarmoniya Park, Baku

After that we met with our Intrepid tour group, and then headed back to Nizami Street for dinner. It has a completely different atmosphere at night, with locals and tourists alike enjoying the cooler evening air. Baku is a very nice city to walk through with lots of parks and underpasses to help you cross some of the busy roads (lots of steps though!). Before heading home we walked along the Baku Boulevard, getting a night view of the Caspian Sea, and the Flame Towers Light Show.

National Museum of History at night, Baku

Flame Towers at night, Baku
Posted by: lindsaygoes | March 19, 2019

More North Island Adventures

14 March 2019

The next day we left Wellington for a big driving day!

Tawa Lookout, Wellington, New Zealand

On our way out we stopped at the Tawa Lookout, and then in Whanganui where we drove to the Durie Hill War Memorial Tower, which had a fantastic view. I decided to give my legs a rest and didn’t climb to the top (probably a good idea!).

Durie Hill War Memorial Tower, Whanganui, New Zealand

Durie Hill, Whanganui, New Zealand

At the end of the day we got to Stratford, and at that point we were ready for dinner and bed!

15th March 2019

We had another early start today and drove to Mount Taranaki. The afternoon before everything had been foggy, but this morning we were lucky enough to get clear skies and a clear view of the mountain, although there wasn’t a lot of snow on it.

We did the Wilkies Pools Loop Track, which I would highly recommend! It had a real variety of scenery, from the Goblin Trees at the start of the track, to some small waterfalls and streams, and views of Mount Taranaki. The first half of the walk was very accessible, and the second half involved a little more scrambling and some stone crossings over streams.

Then we headed back into Stratford and visited the Stratford Pioneer Village, which has a number of historic buildings that have been moved to the site. Many of them also have a historical setup inside, and it was definitely worth a visit and a walk around!

Then it was on to New Plymouth, with a walk along Te Rewa Rewa Bridge and a visit to Puke Ariki Museum, which had a great exhibit on Illusions. We also visited Paritutu Rock for some lovely views.

On our way back to Stratford we stopped at a couple of the heritage properties in the area, Tūpare and Hollard Gardens. Both had wonderful gardens. Tūpare was very hilly with the landscape rising around you, while Hollard Gardens felt more open as the paths took us around the property.

That evening we managed to catch the Glockenspiel in the center of Stratford with the Romeo and Juliet balcony scene.

16 March 2019

Then it was time to start heading home. Until the next trip!

Posted by: lindsaygoes | March 17, 2019

North Island wanderings

12 March 2019

Woke up to every muscle in my body putting in complaints about the previous days activities and then had to compensate by shuffling around.

We had a photo stop Taihape to see the giant gumboot and then a longer stop in Feilding to visit the Coach House Museum which had some interesting exhibits and was very well laid out.

From there it was on to Palmerston North for lunch and a massage (so sore!) before visiting the Te Manawa museum and art gallery. They both had some great exhibits and were really worth the visit.

Then it was on to Wellington. We had time for one view point so I slowly limped up to the top of the Spinnaker Summit lookout for some wonderful views.

13 March 2019

It had fogged over in Wellington this morning so my first activity of the day was a walking tour that took me through Wellington. I was a little less sore but still shuffling along while we went though the city sights. It was fascinating learning about the history of the city and how the buildings had gradually encroached the waterfront with the wharf being pushed back several times to make space for the city.

We also saw a few of the historic buildings, many which have been upgraded to meet earthquake standards.

Then we visited the Mt Victoria lookout as the sky had cleared briefly and also went to the Pentone Settler’s Museum which was quite cute.

Posted by: lindsaygoes | March 15, 2019

The Tongariro Alpine Crossing

11th March 2019

We had a 6am pick up this morning to take us to the start point of the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. We had our walking poles, snacks and far too many layers of clothing.

The walk started off relatively gently as we walked towards Soda Springs and we were treated to a stunning sunrise as it got lighter.

It got a bit harder as we ascended to the South Crater, at which point I think I pulled something despite doing some training and yoga before hand. I managed to push on for the rest on the walk!

Walking along the South Crater gave us a bit of a break before tackling Red Crater Ridge to reach the highest point of the crossing and some more amazing views.

Once we reached the top there was no way but down. The track down to Emerald Lakes was a series of steep switchbacks covered in loose volcanic sand and gravel…my least favourite part of the crossing. My heart was pounding, knees were trembling and I wanted to be anywhere else. But I made it and the track for the remainder of the journey was a lot more solid!

We had some more stunning views once we passed Emerald Lakes with a few changes in scenery by the time we covered the full 19.4 (my watch said 20.4) kilometres in six and a quarter hours.

Then it was back in the bus before we spent some time in the hot tub at our motel.

Posted by: lindsaygoes | March 13, 2019

Feeling fine on old train lines

9th March 2019

It has been a long time between trips and it was an early morning start to catch a flight to New Zealand this morning.

I had a bit of a nervous moment when I got to the pre-booked airport parking. 4:30am, the gate was locked, the lights were off and I was wondering what plan B could be. Luckily someone in the office soon woke up and let me in and I was at the airport with plenty of time to spare.

After arriving it was a bit of a drive and an early night.

10 March 2019

Back in the car this morning. We drove a few hours to Taumarunui and after lunch started our first activity, the Five Tunnels tour with Forgotten World Adventures.

The tour involved driving modified golf carts along decommissioned railway tracks and through old tunnels built from 1911 (lots of work back then!).

It was lots of fun clattering through the gorgeous scenery of farmland, bush and the surrounding hills. We had afternoon tea of some tasty home made slice at the Matiere hall before hopping back on the golf carts and heading back though the tunnels.

Our next stop was Turangi. We had enough time to do part of the Tongariro River Trail before dinner. Before starting we hadn’t realised that there was a viewpoint with a spectacular view over the town. Well worth the walk!

We had an early dinner and an early night to prepare for the next day.

Posted by: lindsaygoes | April 9, 2018

Pictures from Phuket

3/4/18

From Hanoi we headed back to Thailand, flying to Bangkok and then Phuket. Phuket was our last stop for the trip, and we were planning to relax after all the racing around we had been doing!

We got to our hotel fairly late in the afternoon, so once we checked in we headed to the Karon Temple night markets where we had a look around and then got some dinner.

4/4/18

This morning we did a bit of a tour around Phuket to see some of the sights.

Our first stop was the Karon View Point where we got a great view over the coastline.

Karon View Point, Phuket

Next we headed towards the Big Buddha. On the way we had an opportunity to have a photo with a baby elephant. The poor thing was chained in a small enclosure, so I didn’t participate in that.

The Big Buddha was definitely worthy of its name. The main statue is massive, and there are several smaller statues around. While the main statue is complete, areas underneath and around are still under construction, and being fundraised for.

Big Buddha, Phuket

Next we went to the oldest and largest temple in Phuket, Wat Chalom. We walked to the top of one of the buildings, so we could see the view of the temple grounds, and we also saw people lighting firecrackers in a large chimney, as an offering.

Wat Chalom, Phuket

The tour then took us to a few ‘shopping spots’ – a cashew factory, honey farm and duty free shop before stopping in Old Town. We decided to stay there and look around a bit more rather than heading straight back to the hotel.

In Old Town we wondered around, looking at the Sino-Portugese architecture as well as some street art. We also got some lunch before catching one of the local buses back to Karon.

Phuket Old Town

Phuket Old Town

In the afternoon we got a foot massage and relaxed!

5/4/18

This morning we had an early start, being picked up at 4:50am to head to Phang Nga Bay. Once we got on the boat we were in time to watch the sun rise before getting to Panak Island.

Sunrise, Phang Nga Bay, Thailand

It was low tide, so we walked through the caves until they opened up into a mangrove filled lagoon. Because the tide was low, we could see mud skippers walking along the mud, and fiddler crabs, as well as the spreading mangrove roots.

Panak Island, Thailand

Next we headed to Hong Island, where we hopped in the kayaks and paddled through some caves into the islands central lagoon. As we passed through the cave, the karsts of the island opened up towards us, it was beautiful! The tide was still quite low, so we had a little walking to do before we hopped back into the kayaks and paddled around some more.

Hong Island, Thailand

Hong Island, Thailand

After that we went to Khao Phing Kan, which was the viewpoint of Ko Ta Pu, also known as James Bond Island. It was a little busier here, but still not too bad!

Ko Ta Pu (James Bond Island)

Back on the boat we had a delicious lunch, which lots of Thai dishes, before heading back to Panak Island where we had time for a swim before heading home.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Overall the tour was fantastic. We did it with Two Sea Tour, and the early start meant we got to a lot of the locations before they got busy. We even had Panak and Hong Island to ourselves briefly, and could take some moments of silence to listen to the surrounding birdlife, and really appreciate the stunning locations. Phillipe, who ran the tour was amazing, and really impressed us with his respect for the area and environment.

When we got back to our hotel we got a massage and took it easy for the rest of the day!

6/4/18

This morning we had a walk along Kata Beach, and had a swim and did some snorkelling. It was a bit cloudy initially, but once I got a bit further out there were thousands of tiny fish in schools, and a number of larger fish.

Snorkelling at Kata Beach

Then we had yet another massage, got some lunch and went to Patong for a little bit. Looking around Patong made us glad we were staying in the slightly quieter and less seedy area of Kata.

7/4/18

Today was our last day, so we relaxed with another massage and a facial before we had to pack our bags and fly home.

 

Posted by: lindsaygoes | April 5, 2018

Halong Bay to Hanoi

31/3/18

The overnight train from Hue reinforced why I don’t like overnight trains and between the bumps, the noise and the hard mattress we reached Hanoi a bit short on sleep!

We had a bit of a rest and some breakfast before we hopped on a bus heading for Halong Bay. I managed to have a bit of a snooze before we stopped at a traditional ceramic village and saw some painting and firing.

Once in Halong Bay we caught a tender to our junk and then enjoyed a delicious lunch as we set sail.

The scenery around Halong Bay is amazing with the numerous limestone karsts jutting out of the water with more distant layers fading to paler and paler shades of blue towards the horizon. The magic is contrasted with the huge numbers of boats in the area and floating rubbish. However, it was still very lovely and maybe a bit of reality is a good thing when you’re on holiday!

After lunch we visited Ti Top island which has an artificial beach and 427 steps leading to a temple. The island was swarming with tourists and the climb to the temple more of a challenge due to the number of people than the steps. It made for an interesting experience and the view from the top was worth it!

Then it was back into the tender to visit Luon Cave. We kayaked through the entrance cave and ended up in an amazingly peaceful enclosed open air inlet surrounded by limestone cliffs. We even saw some monkeys swinging through the trees!

Back on the boat we watched the sun setting and the lights of the other boats come on before we had another delicious dinner. The chef did an amazing job with the vegetable decorations!

1/4/18

I woke up early this morning to watch the sun rise but unfortunately the smog and clouds combined so I couldn’t see much. It was still nice sitting on deck as the world slowly came to life.

After breakfast we went to Sung Sot cave, also known as Surprising Cave. The cave has three segments, with the final cave astounding in its scale and grandeur.

That was the final stop for our Halong Bay trip and we enjoyed the scenery on our way back to the mainland. The chef also showed us how he created some of the vegetable decorations (I’m still not sure if I’ll attempt them!).

For lunch we stopped at the Hong Ngoc Handicraft center, which helps provide work for those with disabilities and then headed back to Hanoi.

In Hanoi we walked around and visited Hỏa Lò Prison, which had some interesting exhibits on the Vietnamese political prisoners kept there by the French (and how many of them escaped) and the US POWs.

Then we had an interesting walk to Hoàn Kiếm Lake and through the Old Quarter where we had dinner and a stop on beer street.

2/4/18

This morning we did some more exploring of Hanoi.

Our first stop was the Temple of Literature. There was some kind of ceremony that morning and the place was buzzing with primary school children, many who yelled out ‘Hello’ as we went past.

Next we went to the Ho Chi Minh complex where we saw the outside of the dominating mausoleum and Presidential Palace as well as having a closer look at the houses Ho Chi Minh had lived in. We also saw the One Pillar Pagoda.

Then we headed into the Old Town. We had a short walk along Train Street, where the houses lean over the train line and people have to pack up things in front of their houses when the train comes.

In the Old Town we meandered along the streets, looking at the different types of shops. Each street has a traditional speciality and we found one street selling lots of door handles and another selling every variety of remote control (although I’m not sure how traditional that one is!).

We made our way to the Dong Xuan Market, which was incredible. It’s mainly a wholesale market so we weren’t really hassled, but there are so many stalls selling fabric and clothing and the aisles between them are so tiny and full of people just getting through is a challenge!

As usual we had a tasty lunch before getting a massage. Then we went to the Womens’ Museum which I really enjoyed. Everything was really clearly presented and it was fascinating learning about the different ethnic cultures throughout Vietnam as well as costumes and some of the women in Vietnam’s history.

For dinner we went to KOTO which helps with hospitality training for disadvantaged youth and I think it was the most delicious meal of the trip!

Posted by: lindsaygoes | April 2, 2018

Hoi An to Hue

27/3/18

This morning we had an early start, flying from Ho Chi Minh City to Danang, and then getting a bus to Hoi An.

Once we arrived in Hoi An we had a walk around the Hoi An old town. While we were there we visited the Assembly Hall of the Cantonese Chinese Congregation, which had some amazing dragon statues, as well as the Japanese Covered Bridge. We also had a bit of time to check out some of the many tailors in Hoi An and I ordered a dress and some shoes.

After lunch we headed back to the hotel for a rest and a swim, before heading back to the Old Town to do a cooking class. A few of us did a class at The Green Mango, and it was a fantastic experience.

We made smoked duck rice paper rolls, green mango salad with squid, noodle soup, sea bass in mango leave and mango sticky rice. Everything was delicious, and our instructor, Hai, led us through each step and got us to try ingredients and herbs along the way, so we could see how the dishes came together.

After eating our meals (and no cleaning up after we ate!) we walked around the Old Town, looking at all the amazing lanterns. Along the river were lots of boats and people releasing floating lanterns into the river. We crossed the bridge to An Hoi, and walked around the night market there.

28/3/18

This morning we headed back into the Old Town, as I had to do some fittings for my dress and shoes, and we also got a foot massage while we were waiting.

After some lunch, where we tried one of the Hoi An specialities, White Rose, we caught a taxi to My Son, the largest Cham ruins in Vietnam. The ruins were overgrown in parts, but very enchanting, and worth the visit.

Back at the hotel, we had another swim before heading back into the Old Town. Once there, I had a final fitting of my dress, which was lovely, and my shoes. Unfortunately one pair of the shoes didn’t fit as there was a bit of a mix up with my orthotic insoles, but the other pair was great. Getting only one pair did mean I could close my back pack though! Then we had another fantastic dinner.

29/3/18

Today we left Hoi An and headed for Hue. On the way we went through the Hai Van pass where we travelled through a very scenic mountain pass, and then stopped by Tam Giang lagoon, which was gorgeous.

Once we got to Hue, we had lunch at a local family’s house, which was delicious. There were so many courses, and so much food that we almost needed to roll out of there! At our next stop we were able to walk it off though!

Next we headed to the Citadel and Imperial Enclosure. It was very impressive and we visited the Hall of the Mandarins, Thai Hoa Palace, To Mieu Temple Complex and the Dien Tho Residence, as well as seeing many of the ornate gates and gardens.

That took most of the afternoon. In the evening we went to a local style spot for dinner. We were still full after our lunch, so just shared a number of starters, which was also a delicious option.

20/3/18

Today we headed on a motorcycle tour of Hue. I haven’t been on a motorbike often and I was surprised at how stable it was, riding around the streets! Our first stop was Thien Mu Pagoda, which had a very impressive seven story tower, as well as some lovely bonsai and gardens. It also had a huge number of cicadas, and in some areas the sound was almost unbearable!

Then we hopped on a dragon boat for a leisurely ride along the water. Once we were done we hopped back on the motorbikes. It was lots of fun, winding along narrow country lanes. Our next stop was the Tomb of Tu Duc, which was again very impressive and extensive.

Then it was back on the motorbikes for our final stop of our tour, lunch at a pagoda Hoa Quang. It was a vegan lunch, and we had multiple delicious courses, and again were extremely satisfied by the end of the meal! The motorbikes took us back to our hotel, where we had some free time before we headed off again.

In our free time we went and got a massage, which was lovely!

We finished the day by getting onto an overnight train, heading to Hanoi. For some reason we managed to score some free fried rice to keep us going!

Posted by: lindsaygoes | March 27, 2018

Hopping around Ho Chi Minh City

24/3/18

Today was our last day in Cambodia, as we headed for Vietnam. We caught a public bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City.

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon but we still had time to visit the Ben Thanh markets before dinner and buy a couple of things.

25/3/18

This morning we started a tour to the Cu Chi tunnels. As it was a Sunday morning the streets were fairly quiet as we walked to the departure point of the Post Office, so crossing the street was a but simpler than at night.

Before we reached the Cu Chi tunnels we visited a local house where we saw how to make rice paper for rice paper rolls and even had a go making some (my attempt wasn’t very good!). We also saw some of the plants the family were growing such as tapioca and rubber trees and fed their pig.

Once we arrived at the tunnels we watched a propaganda video before being shown some of the ingenious things the Vietnamese guerillas had done to hide from or fight the enemy. We saw examples of the hidden tunnels entrances, examples of some of the nasty traps they used and squeezed through a section of tunnel (which has been enlarged for foreigners). To finish we tried some steamed tapioca root and banana leaf tea which the guerillas survived on through the war. Not the most exciting of cuisine!

Once we got back to Ho Chi Minh City we visited the Independence Palace, which was South Vietnam’s Presidential Palace and is still in much the same condition as the 1960s.

Then we went to the War Remnants Museum, which was packed with people. Some of the exhibits were quite difficult to view, particularly the effects of Agent Orange and the images of some of the birth deformities it resulted in, and the section on the torture that occurred.

Then we had a walk through the city and saw the Opera House and the Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee Building before we got too hot and relaxed with a massage.

When we went out for dinner we were directed up an old flight of stairs with no signage. After briefly wondering what we were in for we got to the top and a lovely restaurant with delicious food.

26/3/18

This morning we headed for the Mekong Delta. We went to the island of Bến Tre where we hopped in a boat for a short trip along the river, eating some fresh fruit along the way.

Then we visited a local house where we tried some home made coconut candy, which was very sweet and delicious, and some pandan tea. After that we got into some smaller boats which were paddled by some local ladies (they moved at a pretty good pace) along some of the narrower waterways.

At the end of the boat ride we hopped in a tuk tuk and headed to lunch. Lunch was at a lovely restaurant on the waterfront and was multiple courses of delicious food. The most impressive was the deep fried elephant ear fish which we put into rice paper rolls.

Then it was back into the bigger boat. On the way back to the bus we were served fresh coconut juice in the coconut. Yum! Once on the bus we had a brief stop at a local store where they were making banana sticky rice and coconut candies.

Once we got back to Ho Chi Minh City we went for a walk and up to The View Rooftop Bar where we had a great view of the city as the sun went down.

For dinner we grabbed some tasty street food.

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