Malmo and Lund

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Sweden

Malmo

Malmo is the third largest city in Sweden and the capital and largest city of the Swedish county of Scania. Malmo is located near the southwestern tip of Sweden, and is connected to Copenhagen, Denmark by the Oresund bridge. This small and vibrant city, is rich in history, culture and art and with its friendly people, pretty sights and sandy beaches, Malmo is a great city to explore.

Lund

Located in the southern tip of Sweden in the Skane province. Lund is the second oldest city in Sweden! The city was founded in AD 990 and still maintains its medieval charm and low key vibes. Lund holds great traditions within education, the Lund university was established in 1660, and today it is one of the largest institutions for education and research in Scandinavia. It is no surprise that the university and its buildings dominate much of the city.

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Southern Sweden

We have a friend who lives in Lund (who we had met in Townsville, Australia) who had invited us to stay with him. So from Copenhagen, Denmark we took the train across the Oresund bridge for 40 minutes until we reached Malmo. We arrived early and spent the day exploring the picturesque city before our friend picked us up and took us to his home in Lund.

We spent four days exploring Malmo and Lund, our friend was a great host and tour guide, who not only showed us the highlights but also took us to some hidden gems, and show us around the local night life scene. The weather was also so beautiful, sunny and mild. It also just happened to be the time of year that the Malmo festival was on, so we were able to experience and enjoy this annual festival.

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Highlights and must sees

  • Oresund bridge: The bridge connecting Denmark to Sweden.
  • Turning torso: Impressive architecture, a twisted and sculptured tower block.
  • Malmo castle: A 16th century castle which was built by the Danish.
  • Kungsparken: A pretty park to wander around, and also the oldest park in the city
  • Science and Maritime museum: 
  • The Stortorget: Malmo’s city center square. This square was built in 1536! And surrounds the old town.
  • Lund University and the historical museum: Visit the impressive buildings and explore the rich history.
  • Botaniska tradgarden: The beautiful botanical garden in Lund.
  • Lomma: The nearest beach to Lund

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Our time in Malmo and Lund was so enjoyable, and I think it was made even better as we had someone to show us around! I would love to return to Sweden, the next hopefully to visit the North!

Next stop, Munich, Germany, to experience the famous Oktoberfest

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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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Kota Kinabalu

Gateway to Borneo

Kota Kinabalu also referred to as KK is located on the northwest coast of Borneo, in the Malaysian state of Sabah. Kota Kinabalu, which was once formally known as Jesselton is the state capital of Sabah. The location is an ideal base to explore the northern region of Borneo.

Borneo

Borneo is the third largest (non continental) island in the world. Located in South East Asia, and surrounded by the south China sea to the north and northwest. The Island is divided by three separate countries. Indonesia, Brunei and Malaysia. Brunei has the smallest portion of the Island. The Malaysian part of the Borneo is split between two different states, Sabah and Sarawak. The Indonesian state of Kalimantan controls the largest portion of Borneo.

Borneo is a nature lovers playground. The majority of the island is covered by dense rainforest, with a great richness of species diversity. This rainforest is one of the oldest rainforests in the world! Estimated to be 140 million years old. Home to a range of unique fauna and flora, and the center of evolution and distribution of many species. It is understandable that a lot of ecological research is conducted here. With this, Borneo is also home to a number of sustainable, conservation and responsible travel projects. The Island of Borneo is a really unique and magical place.

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Four days in Kota Kinabalu

Kota Kinabalu was our first introduction to this amazingly unique island. Spending four days in this city was truly wonderful, the only negative was that it was not enough time! We stayed at a backpackers hostel, close to the center of the city. As we arrived in the afternoon, our first day was spent walking around and taking in the atmosphere of the city. Our first evening was spent at the night market, then on to an all you can eat buffet – and buckets of beers, the price was ridiculously cheap. The next morning, we woke up and started to explore more of the city. In addition to visiting the  sights and attractions of KK, the majority of our stay was spent island hopping, which included snorkeling and hiking adventures.

City highlights and attractions

KK water font and times square

With crystal clear waters and sunny skies the waterfront is gorgeous to walk along. Times square represents the commercial downtown area of Kota Kinabalu.

Sabah state mosque

Located close to the city center, the mosque is worth a viewing. The architectural design is very impressive.

Signal hill observatory tower

Provides gorgeous views of the city at the highest point.

Atkinson clock tower

This is the oldest standing structure in Kota Kinabalu. The towers sits on a hill overlooking the city.

Central market

A vibrant and busy market located on the waterfront. A great place to explore and take in the atmosphere of the city.

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Tunku Abdul Rahman Park

The Tunku Abdul Rahman park is a marine park with a cluster of five islands (Gaya, Manukan, Sapi, Sulug and Mamutik) located off the coast of Kota Kinabalu. These islands are easily accessible. The distance ranges from three to eight kilometers off the coast, and you can take a 15-20 minute speedboat ride from the Jesselton point ferry terminal.  Plus, all of the islands are a short boat ride from each other. Island hopping was the highlight of our time in Kota Kinabalu.  We were able to visit many stunning beaches, go snorkeling, hike through jungle trails and see some pretty impressive animal and plant species.

Kota Kinabalu, with its tropical islands and stunning landscape is a nature lovers playground, and is rapidly becoming a more popular tourist destination, due to the city being a cultural hub with natural beauty. Kota Kinabalu was the perfect introduction to the island of Borneo. I am so eager to return and explore even more of the Island. I would love to experience a wilderness trip, absorbing the true remoteness and adventure that Borneo can offer.

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SaPa

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SaPa

With the extreme beauty and dramatic landscape, it is easy to see why SaPa is said to be the tourism center of the northwest of Vietnam. Our visit to this gorgeous place, left me in awe. SaPa is an absolute dream to explore.

SaPa is 380km (236miles) northwest of Hanoi, located in the Lao Cai district and close to the border of China. The town of SaPa is described as a quiet mountain town and home to a diverse range of ethnic minority groups. There is a great connection between the people of SaPa and their surrounding land.  The town of SaPa sits at an elevation of 1500 meters. The region is dominated by the Hoang Lien Son range of mountains. Within this range, the highest mountain of Vietnam, Fan Si Pan is located here, at 3143m above sea level! Very impressive. The Hoang Lien Son mountain range, is the eastern extremity of the Himalayas, so amazing.

SaPa is home to a unique place of biological diversity, as the geological location and climate is able to support a great range of fauna and flora. Some of which is only found in the north west of Vietnam! Due to the high biological importance, the Hoang Lien nature reserve was made into a national park, the park includes the majority of the mountain range to the immediate south of SaPa. The beautiful souls of the people in SaPa and the natural beauty of SaPa made this travel experience so special. SaPa is a highlight of my travel adventures.

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Overnight train

As we were based in Hanoi, we took a two night, three day tour of this magical location.  Plus, two nights traveling to and from Hanoi. We were picked up from our guest house in Hanoi and transferred to the Hanoi rail station, where we boarded the overnight train to SaPa. Now, I have to admit this train journey was terrifying! Our cabin was fine, as we were traveling in a group of four, we were placed in a four bed (two bunkbeds) wooden cabin with air conditioning. We had brought some snacks and drinks to enjoy the train journey, however I had to stop drinking due to the constant violent rocking and loud screeching of the train, which made me afraid and the fact that I couldn’t see where we were going made this even worse. This fear was irrational, no one else in the group was scared (there was no need to be) the train was perfectly safe! Anyway, I did not get much sleep and was so happy when we arrived at the Lao Cai train station.

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Trekking the rice terraces

From the Lao Cai train station we were taken by mini bus to SaPa ( a 5o minute drive). Once we arrived at the town we were able to take showers before sitting down to breakfast. After breakfast, we began our trek from SaPa town. The views at the beginning of our trek was already so incredible, but continued to become more breathtaking the further we went into the mountains.

Our local guide, took us south east of SaPa, along the side of the Munong valley to the Y Linh Ho village of the black H’Mong. This section of the trek took us to lunch time, here we enjoyed a lunch with a local family, made by them. After lunch, we continued on our trekking adventure through the terraced rice fields. The sights during our trek were spectacular. Late afternoon we arrived at the Ta Van village of the Dzay people.

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Homestay

For night two, we were warmly welcomed by a family of the Dzay people in the Ta Van village for an overnight stay at their place. For the night we stayed at their traditional wooden house and we all shared stories about our lives, learning from each other.  We learnt from them about the daily life in this pretty village, and their family traditions. We shared a great meal with the family, there was a lot of talking and laughter. After dinner, their children were put to bed and  we all stayed up  playing board games and drinking rice liquor, the laughter continued well into the night. This was a really enjoyable experience! This was my first homestay and I would do one again.

Waking up the next day  to mountains views was so dreamy. The Ta Van village is absolutely stunning.

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Waterfalls and bamboo forests

We left the Ta Van village and continued on, trekking down to the south-west of SaPa to visit two more villages. The first part of this journey, was trekking through some gorgeous bamboo forests. After the bamboo forests we reached the Thac Bac- silver waterfall, the view was so majestic. The water falls down from a height of more than 100 meters. Next, we walked over the suspension ratten bridge! We then reached the Giang Ta Chai village where we met some of the red Dzao people.

After the Ta Chai village we crossed the Muong river up the mountain to visit our last village. This was the Supan village of the H’Mong. We connected with more local people before finishing our amazing two day trekking journey! From here, a mini bus took us back to the main village of SaPa.

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SaPa town

When we arrived in SaPa we were able to check into our hotel, and have the night to explore this charming place. The architecture of the buildings is so stunning and exploring the local stores and markets is a treat.

The next morning, we met up with another local guide who took us for a short walk downhill to visit the beautiful orchid gardens and pine forests. Next, we stopped by the small village of Suoi Ho. We continued our journey, trekking through rice paddy fields looking out to spectacular mountain scenery on our way to Ma Tra.  Another great day of exploring before taking the bus to the Lao Cai train station to take the dreaded overnight train back to Hanoi!

Trekking through SaPa is a must do, if visiting Vietnam.

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Tam Coc

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Three caves

Tam Coc located in the Ninh Binh province, is located 100Km (62 miles) south of Hanoi and 5km (3 miles) from the centre of the Ninh Binh town.  This place is breathtaking. The landscape consists of limestone outcrops and rices paddies along the Ngo Dong River. Tam Coc is essentially a flooded karst system, with three long tunnel caves eroded by limestone hills. These three natural caves are named Hang Cam, Hang Gialla and Hang Chateau. Often referred to as the Ha Long bay on land! A trip to this natural beauty, will have you row boating along the charming and peaceful Tam Coc system, rowing past rice paddy fields and into the mouths of the caves! Inside the mouth of a cave you will witness the gorgeous stalactites and stalagmite formations. It is easy to see why Tam Coc is listed as a UNESCO world heritage site.

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Day trip

As we were based in Hanoi, we chose the option of taking a one day tour to Tam Coc. Our tour was with about eight other people, we departed Hanoi in a mini bus. Our first stop was at the Hoa Lu ancient capital, here we were able to visit King Dinh and King Le’s Temples. Hoa Lu was the capital of Vietnam in the 10th and 11th centuries, so it was really interesting to see this historic location.

Next stop, the Tam Coc wharf were a Vietnamese buffet lunch was part of the agenda. After lunch, we rowed through the gorgeous Ngo Dong river, also referred to as the green sea!  I was in awe of the incredible scenery. The views are stunning. Seeing these formations was one of my highlights from the whole trip to Vietnam.

After the sailing tour, we were able to bike ride around the village before departing for Hanoi. The biking tour was fun, as we rode past the rice paddies and were able to see the local area.

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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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Bangkok

Krung Thep Maha Nakhon

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Bangkok, crazy, chaotic and absolutely fantastic! I have visited this wonderful city twice, and would go back for more, given the chance! This city is amazing to explore. Culturally rich, friendly locals with a great city vibe. There are many different areas of Bangkok to explore, gaining varying experiences from each.  In amongst the craze there are many hidden gems. From Royalty, temples, markets, canals, shopping, street art and a vibrant nightlife, this city has something for everyone. The food is also wonderful; local, fresh and healthy.

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Sukhumvit

For our first visit to the capital of Thailand, we stayed at a guest house in the Sukhumvit district of Bangkok. I loved this district, so vibrant and full of life. The nightlife was amazing, from night markets to classy bars. The shopping was fun, street markets and easy enough to get to the luxury malls to look around. Also, Sukhumvit road is the longest road in Thailand, and one of the longest boulevards in the world, pretty cool. Our stay felt authentic and we were able to hang out with the locals, which is always so fulfilling and gives you a better learning experience about that destination.

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Khao San Road

For our second visit, we decided to stay at a backpackers on the famous Khao San road. Located in the northern part of Rattanakosin. Described as the backpacking hub of South East Asia. It was crowded and full of partying. This was fun to experience for a day or two, however I did prefer our first stay in the Sukhumvit district, which gave us a better feel of how people actually live in Bangkok. I would love to return to Bangkok and have the opportunity  to stay in a different district. Bangkok has 50 districts, and these are split up into 169 subdistricts! So there are plenty of areas to stay in and explore.

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Highlights and must-sees

  • Grand palace – The official residence of the Kings of Siam. Located in the Rattanakosin area (the old city of Bangkok).
  • Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the emerald Buddha. Located in the Phra Nakhon district (the historic center of Bangkok).
  • Floating market-the closet one is Taling Chan which is fairly small. If you have time and want to travel outside of the city, the top rated floating markets near Bangkok are the Damnoen Saduek floating market and the Amphawa floating market.
  • Yaowarat road – Bangkok’s Chinatown, which is located in the Samphathawong district.
  • Wat Po- Buddhist temple complex located in the Phra Nakhon district.
  • Chao Phraya River – The “river of kings’ that flows through the city. Provides scenic views of the city and you can use boat transportation to get around to the different districts.
  • Chatuchak– a weekend market and one of the largest markets in the world! A popular shopping center for the local people, is now becoming popular with tourists.
  • Nightlife – Bangkok has a very vibrant nightlife. The best areas to go – Sukhumvit, Khao San road and the royal city avenue (RCA).

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