Niagara falls

Beauty

Niagara falls is as magical as expected. Whilst I was staying in Toronto for 10 days, I took the opportunity  to visit Niagara falls for a day trip.  A highlight of my visit to Canada. The views are breathtaking. Niagara falls is the collective name for three waterfalls that serve as the international border between Canada and the United States of America. These three water falls are named Horseshoe falls (The largest), American falls and Bridal viel falls (the smallest of the three).  These waterfalls are located on the Niagara river. Niagara falls formed, when the glaciers receded at the end of the Wisconsin glaciation about 10,000 years ago (the last ice age).  It is well worth the trip to visit this magnificent place.

 

Highlights and must sees

Canada side: 

  • Maid of mist: Breathtaking, close up views of the falls. This 20 minute tour departs every 15 minutes.
  • Niagara falls history museum.
  •  Skylon tower: Provides indoor and outdoor observation of the falls.
  • Niagara IMAX theatre: Showcasing true stories about Niagara.
  • Bird kingdom: The worlds largest free-flying indoor aviary.
  • Niagara parks butterfly conservatory.
  • Niagara skywheel.
  • Niagara parks botanical gardens.
  • Rainbow bridge: Stunning views of Niagara falls.
  • Floral clock.
  • Journey behind the falls. Close up view behind the horseshoe falls.

USA side:

  • Maid of mist tour.
  • Cave of the winds. Takes you close to the falls via the hurricane deck.
  • Niagara falls state park. Visit the discovery center. Take a hike along the trails through the Niagara gorge.
  • Old fort Niagara.
  • Aquarium of Niagara.

As I was based in Toronto, I took a day trip tour from the city to Niagara falls. The bus ride is about one and half hours. The first stop is Niagara falls. Here  we where given a few hours to explore the falls and town. From the Canadian side, you can see panoramic views of the three falls, which are amazingly beautiful. I was also able to get close to the horseshoe falls. After visiting Niagara falls, we traveled to the historic town of Niagara on the lake. A very pretty town to walk through, with its boutique shops, historic streets and victorian era charm. The final stop on the tour was visiting a vineyard with free wine samples. We had a tour walking through the beautiful vineyard. Here was my first time tasting ‘ice wine’ which was delicious! Ice wine is a dessert wine that is produced from grapes that have been frozen while still on the wine. I Would recommend a day trip (or longer) to Niagara falls!

 

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Toronto Islands

Escape the city for a relaxing and care free experience at the Toronto Islands. Only a 15 minute ferry ride, the gem of the Islands is must do. The Toronto Islands consists of a small chain of small islands located on the stunning Lake Ontario, south of mainland Toronto. The largest Island is Centre Island. Algonquin (Sunfish Island) and Olympic Island are the other major Islands. The Islands attractions are open from May to October, with the summer months being the most popular. The ferry leaves approximately  every 15 minutes during the summer months and less frequently during winter.  A round trip (for adults) costs $7 and is a perfect day trip from mainland Toronto.

Where to stay:

Looking for somewhere to stay in Toronto? All The Rooms have various accommodation for all budgets and traveling parties from families to solo travelers! Visit this link to view the range of accommodation options: Toronto accommodation  

Highlights and must sees 

  • I would recommend biking around the Islands to get the most out of the day. You can either bring your own bike on the ferry, or rent a bike once you arrive on the Islands. You can go from each Island by bike (or by walking).
  • A visit to the 200 year old lighthouse is a must see! Gibraltar point lighthouse is the oldest landmark in Toronto!
  • The centerville amusement park.
  • Far enough farm. A petting zoo on Centre Island.
  • Franklins children’s garden. This park is inspired by the popular children’s book.
  • Have fun on the water, with opportunities to canoe, kayak and paddle board on the lake!
  • BBQ or picnic either on one of the beaches or the lawns.
  • Explore the beaches across the Islands. Hanlan’s point beach. Ward’s Island beach and the Centre Island beach.
  • Photograph the Toronto skyline from the ferry.

I spent one summers day exploring the Toronto Islands. It was a cloudy day with periods of light rain. I left mainland Toronto around 9am to make the most of my time on the Islands. I took the ferry to the Centre Island ferry dock and walked the Islands, departing from the Hanlan’s point ferry dock around 6pm.  Centre Island is the most crowded and buzzing of the Islands. After exploring Centre Island I started my journey towards Ward’s Island. I made my way back through Center Island towards Hanlan’s point beach, spending the afternoon here. Stopping to see the Gibraltar point lighthouse. The atmosphere of the Islands is very calm and relaxing, a must see if you are in Toronto for a few days.  A highlight for me was the views of mainland Toronto from the ferry. Also, a fun fact; the Islands are car free making the Islands very pedestrian, cyclist and eco friendly!!

 

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Venice

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Venetian lagoon

Dreamy vibes, magical views and spectacular architecture, Venice is a poetic location.

Venice is the capital city of the veneto region in Italy’s north. The city is built on more than 118 islands, in a lagoon located in the Adriatic sea. This enclosed bay lies between the mouths of the Po and Piave rivers.  These islands are separated by canal’s and are linked via bridges. Venice looks like a city out of a fairytale. It is no wonder that the lagoon and part of the city is listed as a world heritage site.

From the romantic canals, the renaissance,  gothic palaces and dreamy vibes Venice is a very unique and breathtaking place to visit.

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An island city

We had just spent a week exploring the charming Rome and found a cheap domestic flight to Venice. This was my second visit to this magical city (I came here once before, as a teenager on a school tour). The second time around was just as charming. We stayed at a hotel in the San Marco neighborhood. The central and the most popular district on the Venice island.

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Highlights and must sees

  • Saint Mark’s Basilica: A beautiful church, with a mixture of eastern and western architecture. It sits on the very popular pizza San Marco.
  • Torre dell’ Orologio – The gorgeous clock tower that was built between 1496 and 1506! Which also sits on the popular piazza San Marco.
  • Doge’s palace: With stunning gothic architecture, this place was once the political and judicial hub of Venice.
  • Grand canal: This 2 mile long canal is considered to be the main ‘street’ of venice.
  • Rialto bridge: Described as the heart of Venice, this beautiful bridge was once the only way to cross the grand canal!
  • Campanile di San Marco: The tallest structure in venice. Note this is the reconstructed version, as the original collapsed in 1902.
  • Bridge of Sighs: An iconic bridge connecting the Prigioni to Doge’s palace.
  • Basilica di Santa Maria: Another beautiful church, with stunning architecture.
  • Murano Island: Take a trip to the Murano island to view an impressive glass-blowing demonstration!
  • Rialto Market: This one is for the foodies! A market rich in culture and food.

 

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Get lost

My favorite thing to do in any location that I visit is to get lost, by just wandering around and taking in all the sights. I find this the best way to absorb the place! And venice, is one of my favorites cities to get lost in, wandering the beautiful streets and viewing the canals is so beautiful. For a couple of days on our trip, the city was covered in dense fog, this added an extra charm to the city!

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Two day trip from Venice

While we were in Venice, we took the opportunity to explore a small village located in a mountain region located 70 km northwest of Venice. You can read about our adventures to Seren del Grappa  here.

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Wanderlust

With it’s charming atmosphere, gothic architecture and dreamy canals Venice is one of the most beautiful cities that I have explored. It is definitely wanderlust material.

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Oktoberfest

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Volksfeast

This sixteen day festival is the world’s largest Volksfeast – a beer festival and traveling fun fair. The festival is located in the city of  Munich, in the state of Bavaria, Germany.

History of oktoberfest

The origins of this festival goes back to 1810! When the then, Prince Ludwig married Princess Therese of Saxony- Hildurghausen. The people of Munich were invited to celebrate the festivities in the fields in front the city gates. The festival occurred the next year and has continued on ever since! This year will mark the 185th year of the festival, very impressive. Today, oktoberfest is the largest festival in the world, bringing in an average of six million visitors each year, from all over the world.

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Celebrating Oktoberfest

I had always wanted to visit the famous oktoberfest, and we were able to go..by accident! We had found cheap flights to Munich and just brought them without realizing that the festival would be occurring at this time! Our cheap tickets to Munich allowed us to enjoy the vibrant and spectacular festival. We were based in the city center of Munich and attended the festival on most of the days of our trip, in amongst exploring the sights and beauty of Munich.

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Copenhagen

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Kobenhavn

Charming waterfront, colorful buildings, stunning decor and a cosmopolitian atmosphere, Copenhagen (Kobenhavn in Danish) is a great introduction to Denmark and an insight into Scandinavia.

Copenhagen is located on the eastern coast of the island Zealand, and a smaller section of the city is located on Amager. Copenhagen is the capital city of Denmark, and also the cultural and geographic link between Scandinavia and mainland Europe. The city was founded in the 10th century and was once a small viking fishing village. Now the city represents a strong  urban and cultural modern city. Copenhagen has the buzz of a city and is still small enough to give you an intimate atmosphere. You can easily explore the city by foot or bicycle.

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A weekend in Denmark

As were based in the UK we were always on the lookout for cheap deals to travel more of Europe. We found a cheap flight (around $15 usd) to Copenhagen. So we jumped at the chance to visit the capital of Denmark.

The flight was only two hours from London. We arrived around 6pm and checked into our hostel. Generator hostel is located in the city center, just steps away from the Kongen’s Nytrov square. This hostel was so comfortable and the decor was gorgeous, the on site bar made is easier to meet other travelers. This was a standout backpackers hostel from all of my travels. We had two full days and a half day to explore this beautiful city.

 

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Highlights and must sees

  • Nyhavn: A beautiful neighborhood to walk around. Colorful buildings line the canal of this 17th century waterfront. A great place for a meal and drinks, with many options for bars, cafes and restaurants.
  • Frederiksberg Palace: A pretty palace that is located on Frederiksberg hill and overlooks the stunning Frederiksberg garden.
  • The Little Mermaid: A statue of the little mermaid is located on the Langelinje pier. The statue is over 100 years old!
  • Kronborg castle: A beautiful 16th century castle.
  • Amalienborg palace: The home of the Danish royal family.
  • Stroget: One of Europes longest pedestrian streets and the largest shopping district in Copenhagen.
  • The national museum: A look into Danish history, from the stone age, viking age, middle age to modern day Denmark.
  • Glyptoteket: A beautiful art museum.
  • Botanical garden: Walk around the gorgeous gardens located in the city center.

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From seeing the major sights of the city, wandering the streets and experiencing the Danish nightlife, our time in Copenhagen was well spent and very enjoyable. I would love to visit Denmark again to explore more of the country.

Our next stop is Malmo, Sweden, only a 40 minute train ride away!

 

 

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Brunei

Brunei Darussalam

Brunei is a tiny country located on the northern shore of the Island of Borneo. This small nation is surrounded by Malaysia’s Sarawak state and the south China sea. Brunei is one of the smallest nations on earth! It is also one of the richest, due to the countries natural gas and petroleum resources.

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24 hours in Bandar Seri Begawan

We had two months off from University. We made a rough plan to visit Bangkok and then to travel from the North to the South of Vietnam, first arriving in Hanoi. There were four of us going on this backpacking adventure in South East Asia. Next step, we needed flights. Trying to find a good deal with stumbled upon Royal Brunei airways – who were offering a great deal from Melbourne to Bangkok! Perfect. This flight deal came with the option of a stop over in Brunei….I had never heard of this country until this moment. We quickly looked it up and saw that we could also visit other parts of the magical island of Borneo, so we decided to book with this airline, and add Borneo to our travel plans.

We departed Melbourne and flew about six hours to arrive in Brunei. Flying with Royal Brunei airlines was a great experience overall. When we fist arrived, we took a connecting flight to Kota Kinabalu located in the Malaysian part of Borneo. We spent four days in Kota Kinabalu, before heading to Bandar Seri Begawan. We had 24 hours to explore the capital of Brunei before flying to Bangkok.

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We spent the day wandering around the capital of Brunei. We found the Royal Regalia Museum and looked around the museum for a good portion of the morning. A nice relief from the heat. The museum is a tribute to the Sultan, it was an interesting museum to explore.

The afternoon was spent exploring the markets and the pretty water front. The Tamu Kianggeh market was a highlight, so vibrant and filled with energy.  Strolling the promenade was nice,  I enjoyed the relaxed atmosphere. Late afternoon, we were all quite hot and bothered…due to carrying our luggage around all day, and from being hangover. So we tried to find accommodation for the night. Being so late in the afternoon and having no internet access. This didn’t work out so well. In the end we decided to have dinner and then visit the impressive Sultan Abdul Samad building. This is a must see and looks so spectacular during the night with the city lights. After this we heading to the airport and spent the night there before flying to Bangkok early the next morning.

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Mekong Delta

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Nine dragon river delta

The Mekong delta is located in southern Vietnam, a four hour drive (196.5km / 121 miles) south of Saigon. The area covers 40,500 square kilometers (15,600 square miles) of southwestern Vietnam. Incredible. Extending south and west from Saigon / Ho Chi Minh City to the gulf of Thailand and also to the border of Cambodia. The Mekong delta is a low laying plain, only three meters above sea level, and contains a maze of canals and rivers.

The Mekong delta is described as the food bowl of Vietnam. The agricultural importance is huge. The delta is able to produce more than a third of the countrys’ annual food crop! As, approximately 10,000 square kilometers of the Mekong delta is under rice cultivation. In addition to rice, the ecological diversity found here can also produce other crops/food. Not only does the Mekong delta provide food to the people of Vietnam, this area is also one of major rice-growing regions of the world.

The biodiversity found here is incredible,  from rice paddies, dense jungle to mangrove swamps. Home to not only  people, but over 1,000 animals species can be found here and not to mention the rich plant life. With such rich diversity, the Mekong delta is also under threat from climate change and over exploitation. Environmental protection is required to protect this amazing region and its inhabitants.

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Two day, one night tour

As we were based in Ho Chi Minh City we decided to take a tour to visit the ecologically impressive Mekong Delta. The Mekong river is one of the most impressive rivers in the world. The Mekong river is the 12th largest river in the World, the 7th largest in Asia and the largest river in southeast Asia. The river flows from the Tibetan Plateau to the southeast through Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam, finally flowing out to the south China sea.

Day one

We departed Ho Chin Minh City by mini van and drove for two and hours, arriving at My Tho, the gateway to the Mekong delta. Our guide was very informative, telling us about the local region. At My Tho we boarded a  boat to take a cruise around the Mekong delta. We stopped at an island, where we departed the boat to walk around the lush gardens and sample some of the local fruit, so delicious and refreshing. Next stop, a local coconut candy factory, here we tried samples and learnt about the local industries from the people who lived in the nearby villages.

After lunch from a local restaurant, we transferred into small rowboats, and rowed through narrow canals of the delta. This was an incredible and surreal experience. After this, we transferred back onto the bigger wooden boat and sailed to My Tho, here we continued on to Can Tho by mini van. In Can Tho we stayed at a hotel for the night. Can Tho is a city based on the southern bank of the Hau River, we had time to explore the city before and after dinner.

Day two

We woke up in Can Tho and had an early breakfast, before boarding another boat for a 40 minute journey to reach the impressive Cai Rang floating market. This is the largest floating market in the Mekong Delta. Floating markets are so amazing to see in person. We continued on to visit a noodle and rice paper factory  learning about this trade. Then  it was back to Can Tho for lunch! After lunch to was time to head back to Ho Chi Minh City.

The Mekong delta is a really fascinating place, the biological diversity is incredible and meeting the local people who live and work here was so rewarding.  A must see.

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Ho Chi Minh City

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Saigon

The largest Vietnamese city by population is located in the south-eastern region of Vietnam, 1,760km (1,090miles) south of Hanoi. The city has undergone several name changes, which reflects the settlement of various ethnic groups, and the various political and cultural groups. Ho Chi Minh City is the official name of the city, however the former name of Saigon is still commonly used.  When Saigon was the official name of the city, it was the capital of the French colony of Cochinchina before becoming the independent republic of south Vietnam. In 1976, Saigon merged with the Gia Dinh province, which surrounded the city and was officially renamed Ho Chi Minh City, named after the revolutionary leader Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Minh City has a lot of history. The area that reflects the city was once a part of the Kingdom of Cambodia. In the 18th century, relations with France began. Even when the Japanese occupied Saigon, the French still continued to administer Vietnam until 1945.  Although the city of Saigon was relatively unaffected by world war two (compared to other areas of Vietnam), it played a huge role in the Vietnam war, the fall of Saigon is described as  marking the end of the Vietnam war and as illustrating the beginning of the transition period of the unification of Vietnam.

This city has undergone so much change, and nowadays resembles city life, full of pulsing energy. The city is bold and dynamic.

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District one

We left the beaches of Nha Trang on an overnight train to the largest city of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh City. Our train ride was about nine hours long. We arrived early and checked into our guest house and set out to explore the city. The city is separated into twenty four districts, we were staying in district one. District one is the commercial and financial center  and is a very popular district for travelers. District one and district three is home to the majority of sights and filled with bars and restaurants.

With its rich history, fascinating culture and ever growing into a modern city, Ho Chi Minh City is very interesting  place to explore. The city has a mix of old new, from buildings with the classic French architecture to sleek new skyscrapers, from the typical vietnamese street food to fancy rooftop bars and restaurants, plus the charm of the ancient ornate temples and pagodas. This city was different from the seemly reserved capital, Hanoi, and contained different vibes from the other places that we visited on our journey through Vietnam. It was so interesting to see the diversity throughout Vietnam.

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Highlights and must sees

Ho Chi Minh square

Surrounded by stunning French colonial buildings, this historic square is a symbol of history of south Vietnam during the 19th and 20th century.

Independence Palace

Also called “Reunification Palace”  and was a significant government center during the war.

Saigon Notre- Dame Palace

Represents the French architecture and charm of the city. A cathedral built by the French.

Saigon opera house

Elegant French architecture, I was in awe of its beauty.

Central post office

A remnant of French colonial times, withs its stunning architecture.

War remnants museum

A museum which greatly documents and showcases the brutal impacts that war has on the civilian victims.

Ben Thanh market

A huge market, a great place to buy local art and souvenirs. I enjoyed walking around amongst the chaos of this busy market.

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The end of this backpacking adventure

We spent seven nights based in Ho Chi Minh City, after exploring areas of the north and central region of Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh City was a great place to finish the trip, we were able to explore the culture and beauty of the city and enjoy the nightlife, with both the local people and other travelers.

Mid way through our stay in Ho Chi Minh City we took a one night, two day tour to the amazing Mekong Delta .  Another great tour and very easy to access from the city.

Traveling through Vietnam was a really enriching and enjoyable backpacking journey. My knowledge of the history of Vietnam greatly increased. I loved experiencing the diverse climate and different landscapes throughout the country.  This was a really rewarding and memorable trip, arriving in the north at Hanoi and traveling throughout the country to reach the south. From looking into the effects of war, to the breathtaking world heritage sites, Vietnam has a lot of beauty to offer. From the history, culture, people, diverse environment and the delicious local food, Vietnam is a great country to explore.

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Nha Trang

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Riviera of the south China sea

Nha Trang is a coastal resort city, located on the south central coast of Vietnam.  This city is also the capital of the Khanh Hoa province. Nha Trang is well known for its beaches and water activities. The coastline stretches for six kilometers, with the palm trees, sandy beaches and mountain backdrop, Nha Trang is so stunning. 19 islands are located off the Nha Trang coast, so this destination is also perfect for island hopping and scuba diving experiences. Historically the city was known as Kauthara and is now often described as the Riviera of the south China sea!

Nha Trang has been a popular backpackers destination for years, and has recently became popular for luxury travel too. With its cosmopolitan feel and high energy, it is easy to see why Nha Trang is so popular.  Beautiful beaches, trendy restaurants and chic boutiques Nha Trang makes for the perfect getaway destination, and was a nice change of scenery on our backpacking journey.

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We departed Hoi An and took the over night bus travelling for ten hours to reach Nha Trang, Vietnam’s premiere beach destination.  We arrived very early in the morning, and relaxed on the beach until our accommodation was ready. We stayed in Nha Trang for four nights at a backpacker hostel. Meeting more backpackers to party with during the night. Nha Trang is well known for its nightlight and it did not disappoint, with options ranging from local dive bars to luxury restaurants and cocktail bars.

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Highlights and must sees

Island hopping

With 19 Islands just off the coast of Nha Trang, Island is a popular is an easy and enjoyable activity to do here. The options to snorkel and scuba dive are also great.

Vinpearl amusement park

This unusual large scale theme park is located on an island just across from the Nha Trang beach!

Thap Ba hot springs

A hot thermal mud center offering mud baths, and other spa facilities such as massages, it is a great way to relax and unwind.

Nha Trang cathedral

Beautiful architecture and also the largest church in the city.

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Po Ngar temple complex

Another rewarding experience  while you are visiting Nha Trang is to take a break from the beaches and nightlife and visit the Po Ngar temple complex. A charming complex to walk around and explore history. These temples were built by the Cham people (The cham people once ruled the central section of Vietnam) between the 8th and 11th century. Another outstanding visit to a historical site, during our travels of Vietnam.

After relaxing and exploring the city of Nha Trang it was time to continue our journy, next stop Saigon

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