Bali in 10 days

The name Bali had always been connected in my brain to paradise, the same that happens with Hawaii or Fiji. From now on, it will be connected to rip off, a verb you will learn for sure if you visit that island. I collected enough experiences to write a whole post which will be here in the next days. But let’s be positive and focus on the good things now. Meow.

I started my trip in Kuta, as many others do, because it’s very close to the airport.

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The beach was big, people say it has good waves if you like surfing, the sunsets are nice… but honestly, as it happened to me with the coastline of Australia, I didn’t find it much better than many of the beaches we have in Spain. Well, I must admit that we definitely don’t have these gates of Hindu influence at the entrance of any beach:

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In case you don’t know, although most of the population of Indonesia is Muslim, the main religion in the island of Bali is Hinduism. Wikipedia can tell you why: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hinduism_in_Indonesia

On one of my nights in Kuta, I went with my hostel roommates to have dinner at Jimbaran beach. It was the first time that I ate in a restaurant literally on the beach:

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I’ll write a big post about vegan food in Bali in the next days 🙂

From Kuta, I did a one-day trip to Ubud:

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That picture is from the Museum Puri Lukisan. Even if you don’t enjoy art exhibitions very much, the buildings and gardens of the museum are worth seeing.

The small baskets you see in the forefront are daily offerings of the Balinese to their Gods. You can find them not just in this museum, but every few metres in every street of Bali.

Just behind the museum there is a vast extension of rice fields:

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Once again, my smartphone camera couldn’t capture this place as it really is. For me, it was a haven of peace: no tourists, no motorbikes, just some Balinese farmers, a cow here, some ducks there. And that all just a few minutes away from one of the busiest streets of Ubud.

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Being me, the animal-hugger, I also had to go to the Monkey Forest, where many macaques live.

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I had fun watching them but they are not as cute as it seems. They especially enjoy jumping on people’s backs and stealing anything they can put their hands on, so you have to be careful with your wallet, camera or whatever they can grab.

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I loved the babies. The idea of touching them didn’t even come to my mind: I bet their mums are perfectly capable of biting you in the face if you dare to approach them.

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There were also some… hmm… disturbing sculptures in the forest like this one:

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And I found this one quite funny. It looks like a monkey and a turtle going together on some drug trip, don’t you think?

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Some of the souvenirs were funny as well:

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And the day after Ubud, I went on a roadtrip with my roommates E. and N. all the way up to Lovina. We did some stops on the way, first in Candidasa:

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Then in Amed:

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After that we visited the water palace of Tirtagangga:

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But what impressed me the most of the whole roadtrip was seeing Mount Agung at sunset:

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It’s Bali’s highest peak and it has a perfect vulcano shape that reminded me of Mount Fuji. Incredibly beautiful, at least for weird people like me who like symmetries.

Lovina, in the north of Bali, was our last stop:

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The sand is dark due to vulcanic ashes. There are also some dolphins that gather every morning near the beach, and every accommodation offers boat rides to see them. I was so happy when I found out about it! Dolphins are one of my favourite animals but sadly, most of the times, if you want to get close to them, it has to be in some dolphin park where they are treated like clowns. Not my thing.

But then my stomach decided it was time to have some seasickness a couple of hours before my boat ride (weird stomach, I know), so I had to cancel my dolphin trip and spend the following days eating water and rice, rice and water. Maybe I didn’t miss that much. I’ll try to believe that The Simpsons were right and dolphins are evil creatures.

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So Bali was not exactly what I had expected. But then I went to the island of Gili Trawangan and that was indeed paradise. I’ll write about it on my next post!

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Melbourne and some Australian fauna

After 6 days in Sydney, I got on a train to Melbourne (34 EUR for an 11-hour ride, that’s cheaper than in Europe) to check another city in Australia.

Although I was freezing all the time (Melbourne can get pretty cold in winter), I enjoyed the city much more than Sydney. Here are a few of the things I saw:

Remebrance Shrine, built to remember the Australian victims of the two world wars:

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Immigration museum

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As I mentioned on my last post, Australia was first a land where British convicts were sent to work. Afterwards, non-convict inmigrants from all over the world kept joining the country, so it has indeed been influenced by immigration. In this museum, you can see, for example, a reproduction of the inside of the first ships that traveled to Australia

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or do a simulated interview to some virtual candidates who want to live in Australia nowadays:

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Here I felt as if, for a change, I was like that nice immigration officer in Las Vegas who found my plans of doing a round-the-world trip on my own extremely suspicious and wasn’t so convinced of letting me enter his country. Oh, I wish I could show him all my passport stamps right now.

State Library of Victoria

Free entrance! Free exhibitions! Free wifi! I spent some hours there, it has really a lot to see. It was so beautiful and I’m such a bookworm that, by the end, I wished I was a student again so that I could spend countless hours studying on one of those tables which were like pieces of art.

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Royal Exhibition Building

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I do like visiting Unesco sites, and I wasn’t going to make an exception in Melbourne. This building from the 19th century held the International Exhibition in 1880. After so many years, it is still used, for example, as a place for examinations of the University of Victoria.

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In the guided visit of the hall (it’s not allowed to visit it on your own), the chairs and tables were almost perfectly aligned waiting for the students. It must be great to do your exams in a place so full of history, don’t you think?

St Kilda penguins

Every day at sunset, a group of penguins goes back to their home in St Kilda pier. And an even bigger group of humans gathers there to see them:

It’s quite hard to make good pictures or videos because, for the wellbeing of the little penguins, using flash is not allowed. But I had a great time watching them for an hour, despite the freezing weather.

Great Ocean Road

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Following the road along the coast west of Melbourne, you can get to the 12 Apostles:

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This rock formations are one of the best-known tourist attractions of Australia, but I wasn’t very impressed. The North coast of Spain is full of landscapes like these ones although it’s still almost undiscovered by foreign tourists. And there are no tourist-helicopters disturbing you or snakes, spiders and ticks wanting to kill you 🙂

A little bit more far away there is the London Arch:

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Until 1990 it was still connected to the shore and was actually called London Bridge, but one of its archs collapsed and it looks slightly different now.

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No one was hurt physically on the day when the bridge lost its arch, but there is a funny story to tell. That 15th of January, a couple was actually trapped on the new-formed arch after the collapse. They had to wait for hours until a helicopter was able to rescue them and soon after, they were in all the newspapers and TV channels. Happy ending, because they survived. Not so happy, because they shouldn’t have been there: they were married, but each of them to another person, and their respective partners found out about the rescue and the cheating live on TV. So, apart from the risk of getting bad karma, this is another reason why you shouldn’t cheat on your partner: you never know when your 15 minutes of fame might come.

On the Great Ocean Road trip, there were also some stops to see some Australian fauna in the wild. Believe me when I tell you that these are kangaroos jumping free on a golf field:

And look, this is a koala:

So I was able to see wild penguins, koalas, kangaroos and, wait, magpies as well:

You don’t need to go to a zoo to see animals! Plus, it’s much more rewarding to search for them by yourself than to just look at them through a glass window or a fence.

Before clicking “post”, here are my vegan discoveries in Melbourne:

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After many months of using whatever shower gel I could find, I came across this vegan one in Melbourne. Yes, shower gels and almost all cosmetic products usually have some animal product in them, so I’m happy when I find somehting marked with the vegan sign.

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I hate throwing away food, I really do. But in one of my hostels, I found a jar of Vegemite for breakfast, checked that it had no suspicious animal ingredients and put some of it on my toast. Uuuggg, disgusting! If it looks like Nutella, it should taste like Nutella, I thought. But it was very salty and alltogether, disgusting. I had to throw away the toast, I just couldn’t get it close to my mouth anymore after the first bite.

Maybe Australians are just used to that taste of “salty Nutella”. It reminded me of the time I gave salty popcorn to a German friend and she immediately had to get it out of her mouth while her eyes were telling me: “Do you want to kill me or what!?”. In Germany, popcorn is usually sweet, in case you didn’t know.

That’s all for now. It is taking me a lot of time to update my blog. It is actually taking me a lot of time to do anything, actually. I never thought I would say this but I’m tired of travelling. I understand now why Willy Fog wanted to do his trip around the world in no more than 80 days: I’m now on my 104th day and if you asked me right know if I would rather see the stunning temples of Angkor Wat in Cambodia or just be at home with my parents or just have some beers with a person that I’ve known for more than one week… it would be a hard decision.

Anyway, I will be back in Spain on the 15th of August, and I am planning to enjoy my time in Asia as much as possible during this last month. Afterwards, it will be time for job seeking and I really need to charge my batteries because that’s an exhausting task.

I will try to write about my two weeks in Bali soon, I promise 🙂

Sydney

Australia was not on my plans when I started this trip, but then I found out that it was possible to fly from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney for just 130€, so I decided it was time to check another continent. Just Antarctica is missing on my list now!

My first stop was Sydney.

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My 6 days in the city went by so fast that I have the feeling that I spent just a weekend there. To be honest, I didn’t find Sydney much different from any big European city. Except for the fact that it’s in Australia and, as everywhere in that country, there are a lot of animals that might kill you: spiders, ticks, snakes, crocodiles, jellyfish, sharks… all of them are ready to welcome you with a fatal bite.

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Well, maybe you won’t exactly find a crocodile sleeping on your bed in Sydney, but I did have an encounter with a redback spider in Melbourne.

As I have done in some of the other cities I’ve been to, I downloaded the Tripadvisor app for Sydney and checked many of the suggested itineraries. After walking in the Royal Botanic Gardens, where I went “hunting” for exotic birds,

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I saw the Opera House and the Harbour Bridge at sunset

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and then I crossed the bridge as the sky was getting darker and darker.

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Another day, I went to visit the Hyde Park Barracks Museum:

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Australia was once the place where many British convicts were sent to work and this building from 1819 served as accommodation for them in Sydney. One of the statistics that remained in my head from all the information in the Barracks is that nowadays one in every ten Australians is a descendant of a convict.

For a day out, I booked a tour to the Blue Mountains. These day tours are ruining my travel budget, but there is no other way to discover some places that shouldn’t be missed. Like these ones:

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King's Tableland

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The Three Sisters

I would like to post pictures of me having lunch at some cozy vegan restaurant in Sydney, but everything is so expensive in that city that I just cooked. Here I am making a veggie wrap for a day out:

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This is a quick, easy and tasty vegan meal: you just need to wrap some rice, carrot, cucumber, olives, chickpeas and lemon juice and it’s ready.

Next stop: Melbourne. Be prepared for some videos of cute koalas, penguins and kangaroos…

Vegan Vietnam

I’ll be quick, because I don’t have much time: Vietnam is a great land for vegans and vegetarians. There is cheap tofu in the supermarkets, the local fruits and vegetables are delicious and, at least in the cities I visited, it was not difficult to find vegetarian restaurants. By the way… Oreos are vegan here as well… so… I might have gained some weight in the last month…

These are the restaurants I tried in the different cities I went to:

Tinh Tam – Le Loi (12 Chu Van An, Hue). It was so close to my hotel that I didn’t bother going somewhere else. The food was ok, they had a lot of options to choose from, specially if you enjoy mock meats. That’s not my case, because I don’t really feel that comfortable eating something which is not meat but looks like it. But anyway, it’s vegan and I’m on holidays, who cares! The price of the food was apparently cheap. For example, if I remember well, I got all this for less than 2.5 €:

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The thing is, as in many restaurants in the country, they had a menu in English just for tourists and another menu in Vietnamese written on the wall for those who speak the language. According to some reviews on Happy Cow, the locals seem to get a normal dish for much less than 1€. It doesn’t feel fair, but the tourist price was cheap anyway.

Quan Chay Nhat Da (98 Phan Chu Trinh, Hoi An). The staff was lovely, they spoke English and always greeted me with a smile when I arrived. I liked the food and it was one of the cheapest places I found in Vietnam, less than 1.5 € for a meal with drink. I can’t find any pictures on my cellphone, sorry!

Am Thuc Chay Mani (291/2 Vo Van Than, Ho Chi Minh City). Nice decoration, food ok, staff ok and less than 2€ for something like this:

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Apart from restaurants and Oreos, some other discoveries I made in Vietnam:

Gullón cookies:

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I know, I know, when you are in a foreign country you should try the local food. But I’ve been away from home for a long time and this cookies imported from Spain are the ones my mum used to prepare my birthday cakes with when I was I child… And they are vegan, cheap, and easy to find in any big supermarket in Vietnam. The cake, which is automatically associated in my brain to the concept of childhood, should look like this:

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Source and vegan recipe (only Spanish): http://vega-vegana.blogspot.com.au/2011/12/tarta-de-chocolate-y-galletas.html

Of course, there was no cake for me in Vietnam, but it was a pleasure to eat the cookies anyway.

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Litchis:

I knew the name, but I had never seen or eaten them before:

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If you squeeze them, you can taste what is inside:

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Very sweet fruit, and the way they have to be opened is a great anti-stress technique against Vietnamese street vendors.

Dragon fruit:

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Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Pitaya_cross_section_ed2.jpg

Isn’t it beautiful? It’s like a giant white kiwi with pink skin. I would like to take one home and use it as decoration for my bedroom. Oh wait, in order to do this trip I had to leave my old life behind, including my lovely shared flat in Berlin, so I don’t even have a bedroom to decorate…

I could spend hours writing more about Vietnam but I don’t have enough time. As I might be the worst blog updater ever, I will just try to update more often my facebook page with pictures and impressions of the countries I’m in. Like it, if you haven’t done it before 🙂

https://www.facebook.com/travelandtofu

Vietnam in 2 weeks

I’ll try to summarize my two weeks travelling in Vietnam from north to south in one post. Here we go!

Hanoi

The capital city of Vietnam actually looks like a very big, noisy village with lots of motorbikes in every street. The motorbikes seem to be almost everywhere in this country and you have to learn some kamikaze skills if you want to be able to cross any road (traffic lights are scarce). The trick is, no matter how many motorbikes you see coming from every direction, you just have to cross the street and they will somehow avoid running into you.

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My highlight of Hanoi was actually not in Hanoi. I took a day trip to Halong Bay because I wanted to experience this:

You just cannot miss Halong Bay if you come to Vietnam.

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By the way, when I arrived to my hostel room in Hanoi, this furball was waiting for me there:

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Its story is as follows: an English girl travelling around Southeast Asia was walking in the streets of some Vietnamese city and suddenly found those big abandoned eyes looking at her from a bush. She couldn’t do anything else but take it with her. When I met this girl, she was looking desperately for a way to travel with her kitty to Singapore or the Philippines, where she had some friends who had agreed to become the final adoptive family of the furball before she had to go back to England (taking the cat to England would have been too expensive).

One night, after she had had to change rooms because a girl in ours didn’t like to have animals around, her Swiss roomate told her politely that he would feel better if the cat didn’t jump on his bed. When he went out of the room some minutes later, the English girl did what any Cat Lady would have done in this situation. She grabbed a big bottle of water, opened it and spilled it all over his bed while all the other roommates were witnessing the scene. The following morning, Cat Lady and furball were already gone.

I could fill a book with this and many other hostel stories, really.

In Hanoi, apart from meeting potential book characters, you can visit Ho Chi Minh’s mausoleum, where the embalmed body of the former president of Vietnam is preserved. I only saw the building from the outside, because I’m not a fan of corpses since I was 16 and our Physical Education teacher at highschool took us to the Faculty of Medicine on a day trip so that we could learn anatomy from dead human bodies. True story.

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The Mausoleum itself is not very impressive, but the square in front of it is maybe one of the biggest areas of Hanoi without buildings, motorbikes and people people people, so I spent some time there just enjoying the pleasure of breathing.

I read everywhere that the Women’s Museum was definitely worth a visit, so I tried to go there on my last day in Hanoi. It turned out that the map which had been given to me at the hostel was not properly labelled, so I spent more than one hour looking for the museum, asking every security guard, shop owner or passer-by where it could be, even though I really hate asking for directions.

Eventually, everyone was sending me in a different direction (and they all proved to be wrong when I checked Google Maps afterwards), the temperature outside was close to 35 degrees Celsius and I couldn’t find any wifi, so I cursed a little bit in Spanish, went to the supermarket, bought some Oreos (also vegan here) and sat by the Hoan Kiem Lake to relax for a while.

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If you ever go to Vietnam and get lost trying to find some place on a map… You’d better ask other tourists.

I did go to Hoa Lo Prison Museum. There you can visit the cells where the prisoners lived years ago and see some exhibitions with material from the Vietnam War. The atmosphere was obviously a little bit cheerless, so from all the pictures I took, I will just show one that caught my attention because of my love for languages:

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American pilots during the war carried these documents with a translation in many languages of the phrase “I am a citizen of the United States of America. I do not speak your language. Misfortune forces me to seek your assistance in obtaining food, shelter and protection. Please take me to someone who will provide for my safety and see that I am returned to my people. My government will reward you.”

And the best way to finish my stay in Hanoi was by eating sunflower seeds (pipas in Spain) with some other backpackers on the street:

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Hue

The most known attraction of this city is its Citadel. Inside, you can wander around huge gardens and old buildings:

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I should have done more in Hue, but I was having some of those days where I could only think “I wanna get out of this country, now!”. Hue is a very touristic city, so every local is trying to make a profit out of it. That means that in every corner of every street, a man will offer you a ride on his motorbike for 2 dollars, a woman will try to sell you some handicraft products and a waiter will try to get you to eat at his restaurant. It might not seem a big deal, but if you spend a whole day having to say “no thanks” every two minutes, staying alone in your hotel room without doing nothing for some hours sounds like a dream.

Hoi An

I was already feeling in peace with the world when I arrived to Hoi An. And just the moment I got off my bus from Hue, about five taxi and motorcycle drivers surrounded me. “Moto ride, moto ride, two dollars” “Taxi, taxi, lady”. I was waiting for the driver of my hotel, because a free pick-up was included in the price of the accommodation, and I told that to the taxi and moto men, just in case one of them was actually my driver. “No free, you pay, two dollars” “You see, no one waiting for you, come with me”.

I sat on a bench to wait for a while just in case my driver was late, and even then I kept being offered moto rides while I was saying “No, please, I’m waiting”. Finally, I felt so pressed – “Where are you going miss, where are you going” – that I got into the first taxi I saw and left. I found out at the hotel that their driver had been late indeed (20 minutes late, not nice!), but I don’t regret taking that taxi to get out of the bus station.

And then I went for a walk and my grumpiness disappeared.

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Hoi An is a peaceful town with old buidings, nice bridges, clothes and handicraft shops everywhere and, most important: no motorbikes in the central streets during some hours each day. Even outside this hours, you get a feeling of calm that you won’t find anywhere in Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City.

If you want to visit the many buildings of the old town, you have to buy a ticket that gives you access to five of them. I followed the recommendations of my Lonely Planet guide and visited the Assemby Hall of the Fujian Chinese Congregation, Tan Ky House, Tran Family Chapel, Quang Cong Temple and the Museum of Trading Ceramics. My memories are a little bit mixed right now, but I believe this picture was from the Quang Cong Temple:

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I love symmetries 🙂

And in the Museum of Trading Ceramics, I had to smile when I saw some familiar names written in the Vietnamese way:

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Anyway, I still think that the best thing to do in Hoi An is just to go for a walk in the old town at sunset:

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Or at night, when you will probably come across some couples having their pictures taken in the most picturesque spots:

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Ho Chi Minh City

My final stop in Vietnam. While Hanoi looked like a big village with a lot of motorbikes, HCMC (formerly Saigon) looked like a real big city but still full of motorbikes and motorbike drivers who couldn’t care less about the pedestrians. In the widest streets, I sometimes had to wait 2 or 3 minutes at the crossings until I found a gap in the traffic and could get to the other side.

HCMC has plenty of museums and places to visit on a rainy day, for example the War Remnants Museum.

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In the museum, you can have a look at photographs of the Vietnam War and its consequences. That one of the damaged camera was the only one I considered taking a picture of because the other ones were just too appalling. After two hours seeing images of the horrors of the war, I had to sit down for a while to try to process how so much cruelty could have been possible. If you think I’m just too sensitive, take a look at the article on Wikipedia about agent orange. I wasn’t surprised to see that Monsanto, one of the most evil corporations I could think of, was involved in all that s**t.

Another site worth a visit is the Reunification Palace:

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The final episode of the Vietnam War took place here in 1975. Since then, the palace and its rooms have remained unchanged and are now open to the public.

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And these are all the places I visited in Vietnam. I should have stayed a couple of days more and visit the rice terraces of Sapa and the beaches of Nha Trang, so I guess I will have to come back some day. When you are travelling, no matter how good you plan your itineraries, there will always be something worth visiting that you will miss, it’s a fact!

In my next post I will write about all the vegan and vegetarian restaurants I found on my way in Vietnam. Finally a country where I didn’t have to cook!

Hong Kong

Travelling is great.

(Alert: grumpy post)

I arrived in Hong Kong on a hot, rainy Sunday. The streets were full of people and it was hard for me to walk around with my bags trying to find my hostel. But I found it!

It was a creepy, very creepy hostel. Dark place, unfriendly staff, not very clean room. But it was one of the cheapest in Hong Kong, so I felt that I couldn’t complain. However, I started to find reasons to do so. Wifi was not working, neither on my tablet or on my cellphone, and the staff didn’t care at all when I mentioned it. Great! Kitchen? This was the “kitchen”:

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A rice-boiler, a water-boiler and a sink, all covered in dirt. Great! Having a kitchen is one of the most important things for me in a hostel because I actually use it (for more than cooking rice and making tea).

I was already in the common room using the computers to search for another hostels in the area when some members of the staff started arguing and raising their voices. And then they started fighting against each other, breaking every object in the reception that they would find on their way. The situation got so bad that some minutes later two policemen arrived to check out what was happening. “Click to confirm new booking on Hostelworld”: YES.

I picked up my things, went back to the reception after checking that no bullets were flying around and explained the staff that due to no wifi, no kitchen and the unpleasant situation I had just witnesssed, I wanted to leave and get my money back (at hostels, almost always, you have to pay for your whole stay at the moment you arrive). They understood my position and let me go away with the money that I had given them just an hour before. Maybe the fact that a policeman was still at the reception keeping an eye on them helped.

The new hostel I found was finally a decent one. After many years of travelling, I’ve come to a conclusion: if a hostel has individual reading lamps and sockets, it’s a good hostel. And this one had that:

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But the grumpy part of the post is still not over. The following morning, I woke up and found that the right lens of my glasses was broken. Great! That led me to spend much of my time in Hong Kong at the optical store of the closest shopping mall to get my glasses repaired as quickly as possible. Great! Did I mention that on the same day I had that incident with my glasses, I accidentally spilled my lunch over my legs and now one of the few jeans that I brought for this trip has a beautiful oil stain on it?

And finally, the things I did in Hong Kong:

Victoria Peak. Getting the tram to go up this mountain is a must if you are in Hong Kong. You can have a good view of the city from the sky terrace of The Peak Tower:

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Ferry to Kowloon. On my last picture you can see Kowloon as the area on the other side of the bay. It is connected to Hong Kong Island by subway, but the nicest way to get there is to hop on a Star Ferry boat and enjoy the views:

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Hong Kong Museum of History. This museum is a good way to spend a rainy day in Hong Kong. It has lots of information about the city, from Prehistory until today. For example, you can see (and walk on) a model of an old fishing boat:

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Foot massage. I had initially planned to spend a day in Macau, but as it was raining heavily every day, I decided to stay in Hong Kong and invest some of the money I had saved for the trip on a foot massage. There are plenty of massage places in Hong Kong and you’ll probably be invited to get one while just walking on the street. I was actually talking with a Spanish guy at the hostel who had a friend from Hong Kong who had told him… how to distinguish a massage place from a “massage” place. If you see foot massages advertised with just a foot, then you will just get a massage.

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But, if at some moment a smiling face appears in the sign…

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Guess what? You actually get a massage with a happy ending. I got my massage (without quotes) after almost being kidnapped by a massage-PR lady in the streets of Kowloon and checking that there were no smileys anywhere to be seen. It was a great and relatively cheap way to relax after hours (and days) of walking from one place to another.

All in all, I didn’t really like Hong Kong. Too big, crowded, hot, humid and smelly for my taste. But I have to admit, it is a very tourist-friendly city: almost everyone speaks English, locals are not pushy with tourists (I’m in Vietnam now and locals ARE pushy with tourists) and you can find maps in the most visited places to help you find your way if you get lost:

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And finally, my vegan experiences. I kept cooking as in Japan:

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However, look what’s on the right side of the picture. “Oreo? Is this girl not vegan anymore?”. Good news! In some countries, Oreo are made without using any animal products, although they might have milk traces (I’ve already written before that I don’t care very much about that). So far, I’ve only found them in USA, Hong Kong and now in Vietnam. I was actually in New York last October and I remember being so excited about the vegan Oreos that every morning I would eat as many as I could for breakfast until my teeth would start hurting.

Usually I don’t eat almost any processed foods, and there’s no need to say that Oreos are not the best thing for your health. But who cares, they are vegan!

By the way (only useful for Spanish vegans), los bollycaos del Mercadona también son veganos. De hecho, cuando estoy en España y voy a comprar al Mercadona, la sección de bollería se convierte en un poderoso vórtice calórico del que me es imposible escapar…

Apart from cooking, I used the chance of having food labelled in English in the supermarket to fill my suitcase with vegan cereal bars.

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Quite often in the supermarkets, even in Spain, it’s possible to find at least one sort of cereal bars without any animal products, and they are very useful to have at hand when you’re travelling, just in case you can’t find any suitable food.

This was all about Hong Kong. Sorry for not having more pictures, but as I’ve mentioned before, it was raining almost all the time. And there were just not many nice things in that city to take pictures of…

Next post: Vietnam.

Lovely Kyoto (II)

(This is the second part of my last post)

On the day of my trip to Nara, I decided to stop at Fushimi Inari Taisha on my way back. This is a shrine known for the paths of torii gates that surround it:

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Each one of them has been a donation of a company or a person and the name of the donor is written on it:

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You can walk up a mountain trail with thousands of torii gates which lead to small shrines. I had already been told that I wouldn’t find anything special at the end of the path, so I decided to walk until my SD card started to complain about so many pictures and then I went back to my hostel.

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On my last day in Japan, I decided to go to Arashiyama. I went mainly to see a bamboo path so well known that it is actually, if I’ve guessed correctly, on the cover of the Lonely Planet guide for Japan. It should look like this:

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(Source: http://www.insidekyoto.com/arashiyama-bamboo-grove)

It seems to be a place to meditate, to get lost, to be in touch with nature… In fact, it was full of people, the bamboo groves didn’t look very impressive and there where even taxis passing by. This is the least crowded picture that I managed to take:

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But you know what? The trip to Arashiyama wasn’t so bad at all. Because that day I also managed to feed some wild monkeys:

I’m always suspicious of any kind of business that might have to do with animal abuse, but the monkeys in this park live free in the mountains and get in touch with humans just to have some extra food. Actually, you are not allowed to touch the monkeys, to feed them outside of the designated area or… to look at them directly in the eyes:

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I just love how in Japan everything can be explained with a cute cartoon. By the way, in Nara there were also similar warning signs, but in that case, they were thought to protect you from the superevil deers:

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I tried hard not to bother the monkeys, as my natural instinct with animals is to hug them. When I see a cute animal… do you remember that episode on The Simpsons when Homer believed to have found an alien, which eventually turned out to be Mr Burns?

I bring you love. That’s more or less me when I see a cute animal. It’s easy to understand why I decided to be vegan.

Back to the topic, I spent some time feeding the monkeys and taking pictures of them. The views of Kyoto from the monkey park are also pretty nice:

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Hey, you, give me coins, I wanna see the city!

And the monkeys didn’t care very much about the humans, they were just hanging around or yelling at each other. This one seemed to be playing hide-and-seek with its buddies:

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In order to feed the monkeys, you have to get into a cage. Funny. They were all happy after you gave them a peanut, except for one who didn’t seem satisfied until it got its third one. I guess not only humans are greedy.

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By the way, their hands seem so similar to ours when you see them from a short distance! Just a little bit smaller and hairier.

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If anyone is still reading my post after the avalanche of monkey pictures, I’ll just let you know that I have finished writing about Japan. I’m very happy that I decided to go there, it’s a great country where quietness reigns, everything is clean and well organized and people are just adorable. Plus, I didn’t do that bad as a vegan.

Next post will be short. I spent four days in Hong Kong and… let’s say I didn’t like it. See you!