The Cloisters

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The MET Cloisters

The Cloisters are a treasure of New York City. A medieval castle, with the most beautiful grounds, stunning architecture,  and glorious artifacts in the galleries and chapel. The Cloisters are an extension of the MET – the Metropolitan museum of art. The location is in the charming and peaceful Fort Tyron park, in the Washington Heights neighborhood of upper Manhattan.

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A mini getaway

A  visit to the Cloisters, almost seems like a mini getaway from the chaos of Manhattan. You don’t even feel like you are in New York City! The peace and quiet makes a visit to this unique museum so calming and relaxing.  You feel as though you have stepped back in time, and the location makes it so much more charming. As the scenery is stunning.

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What to see

The grounds of the Cloisters are so charming, and a favorite of mine is to visit the gardens. With multiple gardens on offer no trip would be complete without exploring at least one.

Cloister gardens

  • The Cuxa Cloister
  • Saint Guilhem
  • Boonefont
  • Trie

The Cloisters contains an impressive selection of chapels and halls, all with stunning architecture and art work.

Halls and Chapels

  • Gothic chapel
  • Fuentiduena chapel
  • Langon chapel
  • Romanesquet hall

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Views of the Hudson

A highlight of the Cloisters is the view of the gorgeous Hudson river. After exploring the exhibits and gardens, head to the balcony to take in these sights. These sights will also include the George Washington bridge and views of New Jersey. I have visited the Cloisters multiple times and the prettiest time to visit is during the fall to see the gorgeous fall colors along the Hudson.

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Fort Tyron park

Before or after exploring the cloisters, I would recommend walking through the absolutely beautiful Fort Tyron park. Considered to be one of the city’s most beautiful outdoor pieces of art.

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Getting to the Cloisters

Located in Northern Manhattan, you can take the A subway (Blue express line) uptown to the 190th street subway station. From the station you can either follow the signs to the museum, by walking through the stunning Fort Tyron park. Or take the M4 bus to Margaret Corbin Dr/Cloisters museum.

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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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Seren del Grappa

Panoramic mountain views

Seren del Grappa is a gorgeous Italian village located in the province of Belluno, in the Italian region of Veneto. The small village is located near the sacred mountain, the Monte Grappa. Three battles were fought here during world war one.

A visit to this pretty village, will provide you with an authentic local Italian experience. The locals are very friendly and helpful. The homemade food is amazingly delicious – I had the best Italian meal of my life here. Seren del Grappa is a great place to explore  history and the natural reserves by hiking the many trails, either by foot or by bike. The views are just gorgeous.

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Two days in Seren del Grappa

My boyfriends grandfather  was born and grew up in Seren del Grappa. We were visiting Venice, which is located 70 km away and his mother asked if we could visit this small village. So we decided to go. We took a train from Venice to Feltre a hill town located 7.4 km from Seren Del Grappa. The train journey was really nice and quite picturesque, with the ice, snow and mountain views. From the Feltre train station we took a local bus into the small village of Seren Del Grappa.

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So now we had arrived, with no plan! His mother had given us the name of the bed and breakfast that her cousin owned. So we walked around the village until we found it. We walked in, and started to talk to the man and women at the desk. Luckily there was a man who could speak both Italian and English who was able to translate between the two parties. Next thing, they were greeting us with big hugs and kisses, as his grandfather was a well know and respected man. The family put us up for night, and made us the biggest and most delicious authentic meal. The warm welcome and generosity was a true indication of the people in this village.

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We spent our time in Seren Del Grappa, connecting with the family and friends and then exploring the gorgeous mountains. The mountains are just so pretty here! The hiking trails are very enjoyable. Other points of interest include the thirteenth century church of San Siro and scenes from the world war one battles that occurred at Monte Grappa.

The trip to Seren del Grappa, was really enriching as it provided an insight into the small village life of Italy. I have visited some of the big cities in Italy which are gorgeous, but this was a nice change, and we didn’t run into any other tourist! A very memorable trip.

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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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Munich

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The capital of Bavaria

A modern cosmopolitan city with a touch of traditions, and home to the most famous beer festival!

The pretty city, Munich is the third largest city in Germany and is the capital city of Bavaria. Bavaria is the largest (land) state and is located in the southeastern section of Germany. Often described as a fairytale city, with the numerous castles, views of the Alps and strong traditions still present. Munich is located on the banks of the river Isar, north of the gorgeous Bavarian alps.

 The city is absolutely stunning, rich in history with ties to royal Bavarian heritage. Munich showcases stunning architecture, beautiful galleries and museums, fine dinning and breathtaking views of the alps. Munich is a cosmopolitan city, however the traditions are still very present  and with a touch of medieval vibes. A great place to explore history (both good and bad), and to absorb German culture.

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Seven days in Munich

Our first visit to Germany, was to visit this beautiful city! Again, we found really cheap flights. From London to Munich the cost of the flight was around $15 usd), so perfect. We brought the tickets and then went to search for a cheap hostel to stay in……we did not realize that we were arriving when the world’s largest Volksfeast would be  happening. We could not find any accommodation! All that was left was a bed in a dorm room going for thousands of dollars, ah no thanks. We had nearly given up on looking for accommodation and had decided to just camp, however I stumbled across a local website where people rented out their apartment (this was not airbnb). So we were able to book a great one bedroom apartment located in the city center, we couldn’t believe our luck. This worked out perfectly, we could cook in the apartment (saving money on eating out), we were able to walk  nearly everywhere in the city and now we could even enjoy the Volksfest, you can read about our time at Oktoberfest here. 

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Highlights and must sees

  • Nymphenburg Palace: We spent a good portion of the day visiting this beautiful regal 18th century palace. Wandering around the well kept gardens is so dreamy.
  • Englishcher garden: A large and lush garden, with its own beer garden!
  • Marienplatz: Described as the heart of the city. This square is very popular and has a range of restaurants, shops and street performances.
  • Viktualiemarkt: A vibrant farmers market and is the cities oldest market.
  • St. Peter’s church: A stunning church and Munich’s oldest place of worship.
  • Residenzmuseum:  This hall is one of the most important palace museums in Europe.
  • Hofbrauhaus Muchen: This well known beer hall was founded in the 16th century!
  • Linderhof Palace: Stunning palace and is the smallest of the palaces built by king Ludwig the second second of Bavaria.

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Dachau concentration camp

One of the first concentration camps to open in Nazi Germany. It is now a memorial site, a place to reflect on the past and to mourn the victims.

Located 10 miles north of Munich, we took the train for a day trip to visit the Dachau concentration camp. Walking through the site was very confronting, eerie and heartbreaking. However it is important to step out of our comfort zones to acknowledge what happened, we cannot ignore the ugly past. If visiting Munich, I do recommend a visit to this memorial site to pay  respect to the victims.

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Munchen

Rich in history, Bavarian culture, stunning architecture, beautiful green scenery, fairy tale palaces and alp views, Munich has something for everyone. Our trip was very enjoyable and insightful. We learnt a lot about the location and experienced some great German culture. I would return, and I would also love to explore more of the state of Bavaria and the surrounding countries.

 

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Me in munich

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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Kuala Lumpur

Muddy confluence

Kuala Lumpur, also referred to as KL by the locals is the capital and largest city of Malaysia. Located close to the center of peninsular Malaysia in the Selangor state. The name Kuala Lumpur translates to “muddy confluence” and the city is called this, as it is located at the confluence of the Klang and Gombak rivers!

Kuala Lumpur was once a small Chinese village, with the locals working within the tin mining industry. The city has come a long way from this once sleepy village.  The city is described as being the cultural hub of Malaysia. Kuala Lumpur is a cultural melting point, the mix of Malay, Chinese and Indian communities brings this city to life.  The city is vibrant and full of energy. From modern skyscrapers to ancient temples, the mix of old and new is impressive. From the sights in and around the city, the modern shopping options and dinning experiences. Kuala Lumper is a great city to explore for short stays or even for a stopover.

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Five days in KL

We had just spent two and a half weeks exploring parts of Thailand; PhuketPhi Phi Island and Bangkok and we had the chance to explore a new country before flying to London for the beginning of an eight month work and travel experience in Europe.

We stayed at a guest house in the Bukit Bintang district, the ‘trendy’ area of the city. The Bukit Bintang area is well known for its shopping and entertainment. From fancy shopping centers/malls to night markets. The nightlife is also happening here, with many cafes, restaurants and bar options. Popular among the local youth and tourists, this is probably the best area to stay in for a first time visit to Kuala Lumpur.

Five days was enough time to explore the city and see most of the sights, we were also able to enjoy two day trips from the city.

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Highlights and must sees

The Petronas towers

The most famous landmark in Kuala Lumpur. These towers are very impressive, both from the ground and from the top! Standing at 451.9 meters tall and with 88 stories. These towers were once the tallest buildings in the world, from 1998 to 2004. They still remain the tallest twin towers in the world.

Kuala Lumpur bird park

A great way to escape the heat and humidity of the city is by exploring  this eco tourism park! The worlds largest free flight walk in aviary, I was very impressed.

Perdana botanical garden

A nature sanctuary in the city, another option to try and escape the heat! This makes for the perfect early morning or late afternoon walk.

Kuala Lumpur butterfly garden

This park is so impressive, walking around lush gardens in amongst 6,000 butterflies! Show casing 120 species.

Sultan Abdul Samad Building

Impressive architecture and represents a historical landmark of the city.

Menara KL tower

Another well known landmark of the city. Sitting at 421 meters tall, this tower offers impressive views of the city.

Chinatown

Vibrant and filled with energy. The perfect place for bargain hunt shopping and to enjoy the nightlife.

Jalan Alor

A strip representing the city’s local cuisine. The perfect place to explore the various food options.

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Day trips from Kuala Lumpur

Batu caves

A limestone hill over 400 millions year old, containing three caves and a series of cave temples. Batu caves is a place for hindu festivals and pilgrimages. This place is well worth a visit. We took a train from the Kuala Lumpur central station and travelled for approximately  17 km, north of the city to the Batu caves train terminal. A very easy and affordable (50 us cents)  journey.

When you  arrive, the first sight is the impressive statue of the Hindu God. After climbing the steep staircase you can enter the caves and explore. The limestone formations are impressive and I also enjoyed watching the cheeky monkeys.

Kanching rainforest waterfalls

A refreshing break from the heat of KL, we took a local bus from the Kuala Lumpur central market bus terminal to the Kanching rainforest waterfalls. The falls are located inside a forest reserve. It was nice to walk through this park, and a great hiking experience  to see the waterfalls. A couple of the waterfalls had a pool large enough to swim in. Many monkeys occupy the area, I know that they are a nuisance for some people, they are not for me. I was disappointed to see the amount of rubbish people left in this beautiful place. Remember, if you’re traveling, don’t leave your mark and take only memories.

I enjoyed my time exploring the city of Kuala Lumpur and the nearby areas. Hopefully one day I can return and explore more of Malaysia!

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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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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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