FINALLY, I've had a chance to knock this post together. It's been a long time coming! Our Vietnam trip was six weeks ago, and I'm still only at the tip of the iceberg when it comes to going through pictures, so I'm going to do these posts one city at a time!
Ho Chi Minh was a culture shock like nothing I'd seen before. We flew in at about 1am, so the only thing that we saw on the first night was people, scooters and cartoon heat-lines coming off ourselves and everything around us. Our walk the next morning was next-level foreign. Everything in Vietnam is done on the street. Cooking, selling product, parking scooters, walking dogs, throwing chickens feet, the lot.
It makes a lot of sense, I guess; it's accessible to tourists, especially in the backpackers part of the city - you miss nothing, and you have enough food and sunglasses options to last you the capacity of your trip. We thought that people in Ho Chi Minh were fairly pushy when it came to trying to make sales, but it was nothing compared to the north of the country.
We didn't notice as much of a French influence in the infrastructure of the city (that came later), but we have read previously that it was a French-colonised country, and the influence was to be expected, in both the architecture and food.
We started the trip with food that was somewhat familiar to us; Pho, Bahn Mi, that sort of thing. Australia has (Westernized) versions of a handful of Vietnamese dishes, and we had eaten a lot of it previously. But nothing in Australia can be compared to authentic Vietnamese food, let me tell you now. Zilch.
The food got us right in the stomach feelings, and we didn't stop eating for two weeks.
On top of all that, the food is crazy cheap. 20,000VND equals 1 Australian dollar, and more often than not a packed bowl of Pho wouldn't break 40,000VND.
Get in my belly.
We didn't realise at the time - as Ho Chi Minh was our first stop - but it was the dirtiest of all the places we saw.
I didn't really mind - I became part of the furniture instantly, but some people, aka my high-society significant other, preferred the north parts of the country.
There was a lot of odd smells all mixed together to make one weird Vietnamese super-smell. It was a mix of food, dirt, fuel, sweat and heat, and I loved it.
It's a good insight into a developing country, but still a safe and friendly environment. Generally speaking, locals are happy to speak to you (provided you're happy to be coaxed into buying things, you've got to keep in mind that their sales are their life - they make very little money selling on the street - depending, of course, on their product).
Children were dubious of us, and we meet a few young children of some of our friends who were very shy, and took a while to warm to us.
Otherwise, local people are beautiful. So many of them are content, despite sitting on the street for hours at a time washing dishes or trying to shine our shoes. Most often, they're happy exactly where they are, and it was amazing to see.
Sydney in two seconds, because I miss it every now and again. Only in bits in pieces.
THE THING IS, the snow is crazy expensive. We tend to only go once a year (twice, if we're feeling flush on cash). After hire, lift passes and National Park entry, our pockets are starting to feel a bit shallow. So, this year we decided to be like those old Italian grandmothers who are thrifty as all nonsense and save some dollars.
Thrifty trick #1: Pack your own lunch.
Yes. Brown-paper-bag it. We made sandwiches, cooked soup and brought nuts, fruit and popcorn. The only thing we bought was coffee (because caffiene is non-negotioable.)
Thrifty trick #2: Pre-pay for lift passes.
This is not only a cost-effective line of attack, but also a huuuuge time-saver. The line up for lift-passes on site is miles long, full of large sweaty people in an overheated, claustrophobic room with only two staff, screaming children, impatient fathers (mine, specifically), and about an hours wait.
Pre-buy those tickets. You'll thank me later.
Thrifty trick #3: Take a bud.
Fill that car up. Smoosh as many little bodies into one vehicle as you can. It's not that hard to find people who want to chuck a sickie to go powder boarding for day, honestly.
Thrifty trick #4: Hire gear off-site.
Snow gear hire is expensive at the best of times, but you'll definately save by hiring before you get to the field. Alternatively, if you can justify it, buy gear. You'll use it year after year, it lasts, and will saves the very real phobia that many people have (myself included) of sharing pants with some other miscreant who has sweated in them before you get a chance to.
Well, that's my wisdom. 2017 was an amazing snow year; the best we've ever seen in our 8+ years of snow sporting. Get onto it, Australia, it's golden out there.
A huge thanks to Riverina Ski Sports, Burton Snowboards and Falls Creek Australia for making our snow season worth having. Links below.
Easter time is for our weird loud family to go to the beach for three days and pretend to like one another.
(I'm kidding, of course, they're great.)
Thirroul was somewhere I had never been before. A stones-throw from Wollongong, Thirroul is a sleepy little town with beautiful beaches, headland fishing spots and one particularly sweet fruit shop.
So, here's a few fun tips:
Paragliding atop a hill, with a clear view of Lawrence Hargrave Drive. (I didn't do this, of course, I'm a pansy, but I watched them for a while.)
Brunch at the Beach Pavilion. And not only brunch, but also breakfast. And lunch.https://www.thirroulbeachpavilion.com.au
Last, the fruit shop I couldn't get enough of. Full of nougat, gluten-free muesli and dried fruit. All good things for my belly.
Welcome back to notes of coffee snobs, where we look down on others and spend money we don’t have on trips we can’t afford so that we can pretend we’re well-travelled. So here’s New Zealand. Where three layers of clothing is never enough and for whatever reason they use money that doesn’t coincide with our own. (It’s fine, I don’t have to understand everything). Why through a window? Here’s why. I have a significant other who drives while I weale the camera, and here’s how our roadtrips generally pan out:
I ask him to stop so I can take a picture. He drives until he “can stop in a safe and legal manner”. My picturesque scene is gone forever.
My solution is as follows: never stop taking pictures. Even if the car is moving, there’s a coffee in my lap and the windscreen is sprinkled with dirt, bugs and bird excrement.
Okay, you got me. Not all of these were taken through a window. But the point is, this country is serious eye-candy.
Goodnight, friends xo
There are a lot of different reasons as to why we picked Tasmania for our honeymoon instead of pearly white beaches and luxury hotels for two weeks.
Firstly, it was cost effective. The most we ever spent on accomodation was $15 a night, other than two nights in a Hobart hostel. The rest of our trip was spent in a tent in camping grounds right around the state, sleeping next to cafes, beaches and - in one particular instance - a group of relentlessly rude ducks. Yes, we camped our honeymoon out of the water; and here's the secret to making it an undeniable success: SPEEDY TENT. We would recommend this for anyone planning a camping adventure:
Tasmania is known for it's friendly faces, natural landmarks and huge settler history. What it doesn't mention, however, and what you will NOT FIND when you type "Tasmania Attractions" into good ol' Wiki, is that the people are incredibly friendly, the roads are a BMW-rev-head's dream, and you will not find seafood better anywhere on the planet.
Additionally, the coffee leaves very little to be desired. We had a few really exceptional caffiene fills at the most unexpected of places. Pokey little towns with run down general stores and cafes packed with old antique bikes and plastic-coated placemats; lookouts with no towns for hours on either side, habitating one lonely coffee machine and targetting our addictions right when they hit us the hardest.
Here are a handful of our favourites:
The Nut Cafe & Restaurant
The Charles St Pantry
Crank it cafe
Fat Quoll Woodfire (10/10 pizza as well)
As far as things to do, Tasmania is a goldmine of possibility for people who are into hikes, campsites, and, for you fancier types, wine-tasting trails across both the northern and eastern sides of the state.
We ourselves took to finding as many trails and hikes as we could do on tanks of coffee and almonds that I inhaled from monster-sized bags stashed under my car seat.
Cradle Mountain is an absolute must for anyone in Tasmania, whether you climb it or not. We were due on a boat in barely four hours time, so we didn't get to see the tip top of the mountain that day. We did, however, pull ourselves up to Marion's Lookout to play with a particularly friendly crow, and it was as breathtaking as I'm trying to sell.
2 hours to the top, 1.5 hours to the bottom (2 if you're like me and stop every six steps to take pictures of plants and my husband of two weeks).
But there's more to Tasmania than good coffee, long walks and a tent that sets up in under a minute.
Look at those views. Just. Look.
The weather gave us every single season we could possibly want, ranging from sweet sunny mornings with flat whites on tables made from electrical cable wheels, to a burst of hail pounding against our poor, beaten down little BMW, and - much to our delight - fields of fluffy white snow and literal snowflakes getting stuck in our beanies.
While it never climbed higher than about 15 degrees, Kathmandu socks, sub-degree temperature sleeping bags and 6 layers of undergarments kept us alive for our thirteen nights.
So I suppose if you're a camper, a hiker, a photo-taker or a cold-lover, Tasmania will be a dream come true. Not only is the country green, hearty and full of the colours of life, but you will never meet nicer people, eat more succulent octopus (yes, I ate octopus, oddly amazing), or see a sweeter creature than the Tasmanian pademelon.
Here are a few of our favourite spots to note:
Scottsdale: Rollings hills, endless green, free campsites!
Coles Bay: Beautiful beaches, amazing food, cute boats all in a row.
Strahan: Incredible seafood, boat tours, endless BnB's.
Hobart: Great coffee, friendly faces, opshop with all your might.
Port Arthur: A historic goldmine, gorgeous buildings and endless photographic opportunity.
Devil's Corner: Views for days, ample opportunity to judge wine-snobs.
Nelson Falls: No explanation necessary.
Ain't he cute ^ ^ ^ ^ ^ ^
It's a state worth seeing, girls and boys. We'd recommend visiting in the warmer months to avoid frostbite. In saying that, no matter what time of year you visit, there will be countless seasons to choose from, it's unlucky you'll miss them.
Do a Port Arthur tour, hike along waterfall trails and stop along every antique store along the way and I can guarantee you'll want to go back.
Jas & Rohan