A Travellerspoint blog

Welcome to Hanoi... CAN YOU SPEAK UP PLEASE!!

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When you travel, remember that a foreign country is not designed to make you comfortable, it is designed to make its own people comfortable. - Clifton Fadiman

Foodie moment

Pho is one of our favourite breakfast foods (well any time food!) and since we were in the home of Pho we headed out to find some good traditional noodle soup! Surprisingly one of the highest recommended Pho venues was a chain called Pho 24. As Mark's stomach was feeling a little iffy we thought a clean, western type venue would be a good idea! And it was good..... not great but still enjoyable, just not that different to anything we enjoy at home. In the evening, I wanted to head to the recommended Little Hanoi (9 Ta Hien - be careful there are numerous restaurants of the same name!) Situated on the 2nd floor of a building overlooking the Beer Hoi area we enjoyed an amazing meal. Mark was still struggling so it was up to me to lead the charge - make your own rice paper rolls, delicious fried Spring rolls and an amazing Caramel Beef... I was in heaven! It's just a shame Mark was unable to enjoy it as much with me.


Cultural moment

If one thing resounds with you whilst in Hanoi (maybe that should read echoes in your ears) its the noise! One of the biggest factors is the constant, uninterrupted honking of horns. People honk their horns every time they pass a car, motorbike, bicycle or pedestrian, just as a "I'm coming through, get out of my way!" signal. There are no road rules in Hanoi so with vehicles and people all over the road, you can jut imagine the chaos and noise that ensues!


Wow moment

The old quarter of Hanoi is like a shot of adrenaline to your blood stream. It is busy, it is crazy, it is overwhelming and it is exciting! Walking through the tiny, windy streets dodging bikes, street vendors, sprawling street restaurants and whole families sitting outside their house means you always need to be alert, but its never boring! The layout of the city is also amazing. Each street is named after the product that is sold on that street and every single shop sells purely that product! This means there is a sunglasses St, metal St, tools St, underwear street, shoe street and many more. You just don't know what you're going to see when you turn the corner. One of our particular favourites was chicken wire street - who knew there was so many different types of chicken wire in the world - and considering I did not see one chicken that wasn't completely 'free range', what are they using it for?!?


What we learnt today

This was a tough lesson to learn, but unfortunately one that would rear its ugly head again during our trip to Vietnam. In Vietnam you can get sick from nothing! We ate the same food, used bottled water for brushing our teeth, didn't eat ice and closed our mouth during showers but still Mark managed to get incredibly sick whilst i stayed healthy. We really have no idea how he got sick! Fortunately the worst was over after 24 hours and Mark was back up and at it. Till next time..... (Lucky we had a really nice hotel room to recover in!)


Posted by travellinglise 05:55 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hello again, our old friend Hong Kong

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"Tea is drunk to forget the din of the world" - Tien Yi-Heng

Foodie moment

We're back in Asia so where is the first place on the foody list - Yum Cha of course! We headed to the famous Maxim's Palace Chinese Restaurant. A bit of a mission to find but once you're there it is amazing! Chandeliers hang from the ceiling, panoramic views of the water out of the floor to ceiling windows, and the staff are wheeling around little trolleys filled with bamboo baskets filled with all sorts of goodies! I was in heaven!


Cultural moment

Yum Cha means "drink tea" in Cantonese Chinese. Although I love Yum Cha for the dumplings, the tea is just as important to the process, and it all fits perfectly together. As Yum Cha is often enjoyed as Brunch or Lunch, tea seems a better idea than beer (or bottles and bottles of wine! :) )


Wow moment

One of my favourite things about Hong Kong, and in particular Hong Kong Island is that even in the middle of all the glass, concrete and skyscrapers, you regularly come across small parks, green oasis' in a concrete jungle. It's so nice to be able to just step off the street and out of the hustle and bustle, into quiet pockets of serenity so you can slow your thoughts and catch your breath.


What we learnt today

Best initiative ever!!!! In Hong Kong, at Central station, they have something called City Check-in. Basically you can check in your luggage with your airline, 24 hours to 90 minutes before your flight, and they will ship your luggage off to the airport. It is great because it leaves you free to sight see around the city after check out with no bags tying you down, and you don't need to get to the airport as early to check in. Why does this not exist in other cities!??! So simple but a travellers dream!

Oh, and here's a picture of Disneyland at night as we flew over it :)


Posted by travellinglise 05:39 Archived in Hong Kong Comments (0)

Fairytale views from Neuschwannstein Castle

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"I want to remain an eternal mystery to myself and others" - King Ludwig II of Bavaria

Foodie moment

Why mess with a good thing, our final night in Germany, we headed to another restaurant owned by our favourite beer, this one named Augustiner Keller. A huge beer hall and outdoor beer garden situated in the centre of Munich, had Oktoberfest not been on at the show grounds nearby I'm sure this place would have been full to the brim. The food was reviewed as excellent - and it really, truly was! I was dying to try a platter of cold meats and cheese so we ordered the Augustiner starter platter with crispy radish, chive bread, home-made Obazda cheese, Regensburg sausage, cold Leberkase (meat loaf), Birnbach salami stick, Lower- Bavarian black smoked ham, Smoked Fish, Emmental and Chiemgau country butter, mini burgers and herb cream cheese, garnished with tomatoes, pickled gherkins and hard boiled egg. Looking back this would have been enough, but Mark always has to have a main course so we compromised with a salad and main to share. Unsuprisingly they both were huge! Tyrolean farmer's salad which is colourful lettuce with bacon, brown bread croutons, mushrooms, parmesan and balsamic dressing and Pepper pork cutlet fried in spicy pepper sauce with natural home made spaetzle (German noodles).


Cultural moment

Oktoberfest is definitely not a festival purely for tourists. This was particularly relevant at the train station in Munich as hundred of people pored off the regional trains, dressed in their finest lederhosen and dirndl, heading for the festival. People travelled from all parts of Bavaria (and beyond) for a day at Oktoberfest. It truly is an incredibly important tradition for the German people.

Wow moment

The cute little town of Fussen is the home of one of the most spectacular castles in the world, Neuschwannstein Castle. Commissioned by King Ludwig II of Bavaria, who later became known as Ludwig the Mad, this is a real life example of a true fairytale castle. In fact it is easy to believe the rumours that Neuschwannstein Castle was the inspiration for Walt Disney when creating his Disney logo and world famous Cinderella's castle. A bus ride up the mountain, then a short walk to the castle, makes it clear that not only did Ludwig choose a beautiful design he also chose one of the most stunning locations to build it. The views were amazing; crystal lakes, green fields, rolling mountains - true Bavaria. We didn't go inside the castle due to time restrictions but the views made up for it. I do suggest that you leave Munich early to come out to Fussen (or stay out there for the night), it is a long trip and the time slots for the tickets to go inside sell out fast!


What we learnt today

Bavaria is stunning! I've been to many beautiful places throughout the trip but the views across countryside Bavaria, outside Munich, are probably some of my favourites. The colours are so vibrant and the villages traditional and cute with their small streets and red roofs. Every now and then you would get a glimpse of a crystal blue lake mirroring a bright blue sky, surrounded by emerald green mountains and fields. I can only imagine how it would look in the winter snow but I'm guessing it would be every bit as impressive. I would definitely like to spend some more time in this area of Germany, driving around and exploring the amazing beauty Bavaria has to offer.


Posted by travellinglise 21:01 Archived in Germany Tagged landscapes lakes castles neuschwanstein_castle Comments (0)

Evidence of evil at Dachau

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“Everything can be taken away from a man but one thing: the last of the human freedom -- to choose one's attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one's own way” - Viktor Frankl, Concentration camp survivor and Dachau prisoner.

Foodie moment

A trip to Andechs Monastery & Brewery after our visit to Dachau lightened the mood considerably, but unfortunately had the opposite effect on our stomach. Whilst we have consistently been dumbstruck at the size of meat portions in Czech Republic and Germany, the meal at the monastery was by far the most overwhelmingly big we had come across - and we shared a meal!! Their famous pork knuckles only come in one size and weigh over a kg each (where are these monstrous pigs kept that these knuckles come from?! Or shouldn't I ask....) luckily the women cut ours in half so we could split it! With a side of potato salad and sauerkraut and some pints (no stomach room for steins!) of their locally brewed wheat beer, we were glad it was downhill to the bus meeting point - we just rolled!


Cultural moment

Whilst Germany are not exactly hiding the atrocities of their past, they are not also not forward in speaking about it. When we mentioned we were going to Dachau, many Germans were quite adamant that we shouldn't go there because it is not a fair reflection on Germany of today. I agree that it must be very hard for young Germans to be living under the shadows of their country's past. We came across many unfair stereotypes of the German people and Germany as a country, and found most of them to be extraordinarily untrue. We met some fantastic young Germans, who were fun, easy going and open minded. However, a past like that cannot be forgotten and ignored and it was good to learn that German schoolchildren regularly attend Dachau and other prison camps to learn about their past, and to help ensure Germany can grow and learn from the experiences.


Wow moment

Taking a break from the beer halls we decided to learn a little more about the darker side of German history, and join the tour to Dachau concentration camp. From the moment you step through the huge iron gates emblazoned with the German motto "Arbeit macht frei" (Work makes you free) you are hit with a feeling of sadness and hopelessness. Most of the actual camp is no longer standing as it was torn down after the war due to being in a state of disrepair. The administration buildings are still standing and they house an extremely detailed museum starting from the rise of the Nazi party through to the end of the war.


Dachau was one of the first concentration camps built in Germany and was built to house Political prisoners (basically anyone who didn't agree with the Nazi rise to power, or was in the way of their progress). This was then extended to include Jews, ordinary German and Austrian criminals, and eventually foreign nationals from countries which Germany occupied or invaded. In the twelve years of its existence over 200,000 persons from all over Europe were imprisoned here. Although Dachau was not officially an 'extermination camp' there were 31,951 documented deaths during this time, and countless undocumented ones. Deaths occurred due to starvation, beatings, mistreatment, torture and murder by SS guards. All bodies were cremated in the adjoining crematorium (which are still standing), but fortunately (and it is unknown why) the gas chambers in the crematorium were never used for mass extermination. On April 29 1945, American troops liberated the survivors.


What we learnt today

Words cannot express the atrocity of what occurred in the camps of Germany during WW2. The museum was hard to deal with at some points; with photos and videos (often unseen footage taken by SS Guards) portraying torture, death, medical experiments and human cruelty. Sadly I'm not sure if the world has learnt its lesson from these horrors. Even today the same scenarios are playing out all over the globe - dictators, genocide, prejudice - yet not enough is done to stop it, and (in the case of my country) the innocent victims, in the form of refugees, are ignored and sent away. I just can't imagine how we need any more evidence than what happened in Nazi Germany in order to come to a realisation that hate is a dangerous emotion, and prejudice and bigotry need to be stamped out immediately. Sorry political rant over! :)


Posted by travellinglise 04:08 Archived in Germany Tagged dachau Comments (0)

Ein Prosit Zum (A Toast To) Oktoberfest!

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The traditional drinking song of Oktoberfest which is played every 20 minutes all day, every day:
"Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit
Ein Prosit, ein Prosit
Der Gemütlichkeit.

English translation of Ein Prosit:
"A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times
A toast, a toast
To cheer and good times.

Foodie moment

Oktoberfest is known a lot more for its beer than its food, but saying that, there is plenty of traditional Bavarian food available at the fest (for a hefty fee). Each tent not only serves beer, but also have hot food available too. However it is common knowledge that people under the influence of beer tend to forget about eating until it is too late. That is where the pretzel girls come in handy. Every few minutes a girl dressed in a Dirndl (traditional dress) comes walking by with a basket full of pretzels, jolting your memory back into gear, reminding you of your need to eat. To say that I had a couple of pretzels during my drinking sessions at the fest would be an understatement.


Cultural moment

Being at Oktoberfest is simply an awesome experience, one that is enhanced by that fact the nearly every single person is dressed for the occasion in the traditional costumes. These are the Dirndl (a colourful dresses with apron) for women and the Lederhosen (leather overalls) for men. It was fantastic to see that everyone puts in the effort and gets dressed up, making the whole experience a giant dress up party. The one time we went for a short drink without costumes (because we came directly from a day at Dachau) we felt excluded, so we were really happy that we had our costumes for the majority of our time spent there. There are thousands and thousands of costumes available in the city (not cheap, some starting at around 100 euros each!) which really encourages people to get into the occasion and join in the fun. If we ever have a dress up party at home, we at least have some costumes to wear again!


Wow moment

Imagine a place that is half fairground, half beer festival. A place where everyone is in dressed in bright colours, and some of the best beer in the world is served table at a time in one litre glasses. Where total strangers become best friends, singing and 'prosting' on long wooden tables. A place where women wear curve enhancing dresses, and men dress in leather. A place where the smell of pretzels and roast chicken are permanently in the air. It is the place of dreams, and this place is Oktoberfest in Munich.


What can I say! It was everything that I had heard it would be and was looking forward to. I have always wanted to go ever since I saw the huge tents full of thousand of people having a great time on a TV documentary. Now we were finally here! The event is held on grounds that have 2 identifiable sections; the main street with the drinking tents (14 large tents that hold 1000s of people each at a time) and the fair ground section with rides and roller coasters. We spent most of our time in the beer tents, our favourite being the Augustiner-Festhalle. It was the first tent we went to on the first day and we were very lucky to get into it only because of Lisa's genius idea...


We had just missed out on getting into the Schottenhamel tent after lining up for hours in the morning and we had nowhere else to go, because by that stage everything else was full and you will only get served beer if you are sitting at a table in a tent. So Lisa came up with the genius idea to follow a group of local girls that ended up walking around the back of the Augustiner tent and into the back entrance after the front was closed. We got in against all odds and were greeted by a lovely fraulein (beer waitresses that can carry over 20 steins at a time!) that somehow found us 2 seats on a table where we made friends with 2 New Zealanders and 2 Chicagoans and 3 slightly strange Germans. We still had to wait 1 1/2 hours before the beer taps started flowing however, because no beer is allowed to be served until the mayor comes and taps the first keg at 12pm. Once the rocket exploded overhead symbolising the opening of the fest and the brass band did a lap of honour inside the tent, the beer began to flow.


Over the next 3 days that we visited we drank an average of 4 litres of beer each, our best being 5 litres each over a whole day, enough to put us in a jolly old mood, join in with everyone singing and dancing on the tables and chairs and make friends with total strangers. We visited 4 tents total; Augustiner, Schottenhamel, Löwenbräu and Hofbräu. It was a fantastic experience overall and would love to go again!


What we learnt today

After a few days at Oktoberfest there is one thing that we all agreed with, there is no possible way that an event of that scale and with that much alcohol could be successfully run in either Australia or the UK. The drinking culture here is completely different. Drinking is not seen simply as a means to get drunk, but enjoyed for other reasons; being social, excuses to eat good food and the great music and atmosphere found in the beer halls. During our time there we saw very little violence, couples arguing or people being sick, and considering the number of people there and the volume of alcohol drunk, that is quite amazing! I don't have the same faith in my fellow country-people to handle their booze in the same way!


Speaking of the beers, there are 2 sizes in Germany; "One" and "Half". One being 1 litre and half being half a litre. It is not uncommon for the local experts to knock down 10 or more litres of beer in one sitting and continuous visitations to the same beer hall every week over 3 years will earn you a permanent place as a VIP with your picture on the wall and your very own special beer stein locked away waiting for you. Miss one week though, and unfortunately you're back to square one in your quest for beer drinking immortality.


Posted by travellinglise 04:56 Archived in Germany Tagged munich oktoberfest Comments (4)

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