Pennsylvania and New Jersey

Northeast adventures

August to December 2013

After the midwest it was time to hit the northeast, getting closer to New York! Next state, Pennsylvania! Our first main stop was French creek state park, were we camped and hiked some of the trails. This place is really beautiful, it has a lot to offer too, from swimming, nature walks and canoeing. After a couple of days in nature, next stop was Philadelphia. Philly is a very charming city, with great historical significance. The independence national historical park, the liberty bell center and independence hall is a must see.

A stroll down market street towards the water  was a treat, especially with a stop at The Franklin Fountain for the most delicious milkshake! Penns landing at the water front is another must see. We also explored the south street and experience the memorable magic gardens, this place is amazing! It was in Philadelphia where we witnessed out first baseball game, Mets Vs Phillies at the Citizens Bank Park. Another place we visited in Pennsylvania was New Hope. A very charming, historic town located on the Delaware river. A beautiful town to walk around.

 Next State, New Jersey. We explored the stunning town of Princeton and walked the grounds of the famous Ivy league Princeton University, the campus grounds are precious. Atlantic city was another place we visited in New Jersey. Not my favorite place but it was nice to be on the beach.

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Rome

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Roma

Vibrant in art and culture, and showcasing a creative imagery into the past, Rome is an intriguing and breathtaking city to explore.

Rome is located in the central Italian peninsula on the Tiber river, 24km inland from the Tyrrhenian sea. Rome is the capital city of Italy, and also the capital of the Lazio region. Rome is also the most populated comune in Italy. With twenty eight centuries of history, and as one of the oldest continuously occupied sites in Europe, Rome showcases a rich history in amongst the now cosmopolitan and happening city. Rome is truly, a magnificent city to explore and to absorb the dreamy atmosphere.

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The city of love

This was my second visit to this charming city, and I would come back again! As we were based in Dundee   Scotland, we found cheap flights from Edinburgh (around $20 USD)! Only a three hour flight. So took the opportunity to travel to Italy and explore.

We found a cheap(ish) backpackers hostel to stay in, which was located in the city center. An ideal location so we could just walk around and explore. We were here for six days and five nights before flying to Venice.

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The eternal city

Walking through Rome provides a glimpse into ancient times. I was truly in awe walking around and visiting the ancient ruins. Rome is a very special place where you can feel and view history. Here is a list of the best ancient landmarks to visit when in Rome!

  • Pantheon: An ancient pagan temple, that has since been converted into a church. This is one of Rome’s best preserved monuments.
  • Janiculum walk: A beautiful walk through the hills, and when you reach the top an impressive view overlooking the Roman skyline.
  • Circus Maximus: An open field with ruins. This was once, one of the largest sporting arenas in the world!
  • Roman forum: A true glimpse into ancient rome. With ancient ruins linked to the former emperors. These ruins illustrate 900 years of history!
  • Piazza Navona: A breathtaking piazza containing three gorgeous fountains.

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Roman Colosseum

In addition to the ancient landmarks highlighted above, a trip to Rome would not be complete without a visit to the impressive Colosseum! A well preserved piece of history, and a major tourist attraction in Rome.

The Colosseum, also known as the Flavian amphitheater, is a huge stone amphitheater built between AD 70-72 by the Vespasian emperor. The Colosseum was used for four centuries! As the site of gladiator combats between men and other animals. The largest amphitheater in the Roman world, the colosseum could seat more than 50,000 spectators! The preservation of this ancient site began in the 19th century. kinsideold

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Highlights and must sees

In addition to the ancient sites must sees, here are recommendations of other points of interest that we enjoyed.

  • Trevi fountain: A well know landmark. A gorgeous 18th century sculpted fountain.
  • Spanish steps: 135 steps which are located between the Piazza di Spagna (at the bottom) and the Pizza Trinita dei Monti at the top.
  • Capitoline museums: A complex of art and archeological museums.
  • Pincian hill: Wander around the pretty gardens.
  • Visit the Vatican city:  The headquarters of the Holy Roman church and one of the world’s smallest sovereign states. The Vatican city became independent from Rome in 1929. Inside you can visit St.Peters Basilica, the Vatican Museums and the Sistine Chapel.
  • Get lost. Just rome around Rome and explore your surroundings.
  • Indulge in Italian food, coffee and wine!

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Rome

Rome is a very special city. Rich in history and culture. A beautiful city to explore and a great highlight of a trip to Europe.

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Cappochino rome

Hoi An

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Hoi An ancient town

The old town of Hoi An is a well preserved example of an old port. During the 15th to the 19th century, Hoi An was an major trading port. Hoi An has over 2,000 years of history. Hoi An was also a principal port of the Cham kingdom. This kingdom controlled the spice trade with Indonesia from the 7th to the 10th century.  As a result the culture and history of Hoi An is strongly influenced by the Cham people.  The second major influence of this charming town is from the Chinese. The buildings represent a unique blend of style from both foreign and local influencers. Hoi An old town is listed as UNESCO world heritage site and is well worth a visit.  The old town is so charming to walk around and to explore the rich history. The greenery that is covering the ruins is also so impressive, and makes the place so much more magical.

Hoi An is located in central Vietnam, in the Quang Nam province.  This area is a popular tourist attraction. People visit to see the charm of the old city and to relax at the beaches nearby. From Hue we travelled by bus for three hours to Hoi An, we stayed at a hostel at a nearby beach.

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An bang beach

As we were craving the sun and beach, we decided that we would stay at a beach close to the old town of Hoi An. We stayed at a backpackers hostel along the An Bang beach.The hostel was great and we met up with some other backpackers, and enjoyed the nightlife with them. Hoi An old town was easily accessible from this beach town, so we were able to make the most of visiting the ancient ruins and enjoying some time in the sun. You can also catch a glimpse of the Cham Islands from the beach!

Next stop on our backpacking journey through Vietnam is further South, the coastal resort city Nha Trang

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Hue

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Ancient city

After exploring the north of Vietnam, we departed Hanoi by train, and travelled south. Next stop, Hue which is described as the most royal city in Vietnam! Hue is located 700km (430m) south of Hanoi, in the Thua Thein Hue province, in central Vietnam. Hue was once the capital of Vietnam, founded in 1802 by Gia Long who was the first king of the Nguyen dynasty empire. Hue remained the capital of Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945. This powerful family ruled the then capital from 1802-1945. To this day the influence of a royal lifestyle and royal customs have had a huge impact on the characteristics of the people in Hue.

The city has a rich and interesting history,  with the affects of war still very present today. Visiting the city was very enriching and very different from other parts of the country that we visited.

We stayed at a guest house for two nights and three days, exploring the ancient ruins during the day and  then enjoying the Hue nightlife.

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Highlights and must sees

The Perfume river

This ancient city lies on the banks of the Perfume river. So beautiful to see on a clear and sunny day. The Perfume river is surrounded by the ancient sights of Hue. It is also perfect for people watching, taking in the river life of the people who live here. We were also grateful to witness a stunning sunset over the ancient capital, while sitting at the banks of the river.

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The Tomb of Khai Dinh

This tomb was built for the twelfth emperor of the Nguyen dynasty, Khai Dinh. The tomb is located in Chau Chu mountain, on a steep hill near the city of Hue. The architecture is a mix of western and eastern influence and took eleven years to build!

Thien Mu Pagoda

Translates to the Pagoda of the Celestial Lady and is considered to be the unofficial landmark of the city, with its iconic seven story pagoda. In addition to its rich history, the Pagoda also looks out to the gorgeous Perfume river.

The Mieu

A place to worship ten of the Nguyen dynasty kings. The Mieu is an ancestral temple to Vietnams emperors.

Imperial city (The Citadel)

The former residence of the royal family. Now, listed as an UNESCO world heritage site. This site is a large complex of hundreds of monuments and ruins. Rich in history and devastated by the Vietnam war, this former site of the old capital has a moat and ten ornate gates guarding the palace, temples and tombs.

Hue, was much different from the rest of our backpacking journey through Vietnam. I enjoyed the history and culture of this ancient city. The next stop after Hue, is further south – Hoi An

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Ayutthaya

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A day trip from Bangkok

Ayutthaya lies 80 km north of Bangkok and makes for the perfect day trip (or longer) from the busy city. The history of this place is spectacular. The historic city of Ayutthaya was founded in 1350 and was the second capital of the Kingdom of Siam. The city was attacked by the Burmese in 1767 and burned to the ground. The city was never restored and is now listed as a UNESCO world heritage area.  The Ayutthaya historical park is an archaeological site, which contains the remains of historic statues, Buddhist temples, monasteries and palaces. Visiting Ayutthaya was a highlight of our travels to Thailand.

 

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Getting there

There are various ways to commute to Ayutthaya from Bangkok.

  • Car/taxi service
  • Bus
  • Minibus
  • Boat – For a boat trip, you will need to book in advance. This method of transportation would also be for a longer trip, as it will take at least a day to arrive!

We chose to take the train service. This seemed to be the easiest and most cost effective. The train departs from Bangkok’s Hualamphong train station, and provides a scenic route. The journey will take anywhere from 1.5 hours to 2.5 hours depending on the service. The cost of a second class ticket (a carriage with A/C) will range from 245 – 345 Thai baht ( $7-$11 USD). The cost of a third class ticket ranges from 15-20 Thai baht ( 50 – 65 US cents). I found the train ride to and from Bangkok, to be relaxing and a nice break from the hectic city.

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Getting around

There are various modes of transportation to take you around the historical park.

  • Tuk-tuk
  • motorbike
  • mini bus
  • Songteow
  • Cyclo
  • Boat

We chose to rent bicycles for the day, to ride around the historical park on our own self guided tour. Renting a bike will cost you 40-50 Thai Baht  ($1.30-$1.60 USD) for the day.  It was easy to find places to rent bikes, pick up a map of the park and get going! We felt this was  the best way to see this historic city, and we were not disappointed. The ride was easy and we were able to explore a lot of ground, cycling between the ruins and taking in the beautiful sights. If we had been there for at least another day, I think a boat journey around Ayutthaya would have been worthwhile. Overall a trip to visit this historic park is recommended, being surrounded by the city’s history was an extremely fulfilling travel experience.

 

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