St. George Island

St. George Island State Park

After camping in the beautiful mountains and national forests along the Blue Ridge Park (Blue Ridge Parkway , Great Smoky Mountains National Park) we were in search of some heat and sun. We Looked at the map, in search of our new destination that wouldn’t take us too far off the direction towards New Orleans. We found St. George Island, located off Florida’s gulf coast, perfect! We headed to St. George Island State Park to set up camp, the busiest camping site we had encountered so far on our trip. While it was a little warmer, the sun remained behind the clouds for our trip,but we could still enjoy the beauty of this island, after all, it ranks as one of the top beaches in the US!

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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

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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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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