Mountain States

After a beautiful road trip through California and camping in the amazing Joshua Tree national park, it was time to continue the journey towards New York. Next up, the fabulous Las Vegas! Driving through Nevada was amazing, with stunning views of the desert. It is unbelievable to drive through a desert, with not much going on, to hit a hectic city in the middle of a desert! Las vegas is like no other place. It is hard to describe ‘sin city’, you just have to absorb the atmosphere. Time was spent, relaxing under the palm trees in the pool and shopping by day. Night we spent exploring the hotels, casinos and bars. A very different experience, but still very enjoyable.

After Vegas, it was time to get back on the road. Next, Arizona. We stopped by the beautiful Lake Mead and Hoover dam (highlighted in a different post), before moving on to the breathtaking Grand Canyon national park, where we camped and hiked park of the park (also, highlighted in a separate post). The views driving through Arizona are beautiful! After the visit to the Grand Canyon, the next main stop was the four corners. A very remote area, the only place in the United States where four states intersect at one point. The Northeastern corner of Arizona, Southeastern corner of Utah, Northwestern corner of New Mexico and the Southwest Corner of Colorado.

Next, the gorgeous Colorado. Driving through, we saw some of the most scenic views. One of the highlights, was a stop in Sliverton, with its breathtaking mountain views and being one of the highest towns in the United States. Next was camping at Elk creek, which was a great way to relax and enjoy nature. Colorado is a state that I need to visit again, perhaps during winter time, to hit the slopes.

Driving through the desert and mountains was a memorable journey, enjoying the varying environments that the US has to offer.

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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

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

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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Ha Long Bay

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Bay of descending dragons

The famous Ha Long bay is an absolute dream.  A UNESCO world heritage site and often included in lists declaring the natural wonders of the world. Sailing through this bay is a must do. Ha Long translates to the “bay of descending dragons” – the bay is located in the gulf of Tonkin and consists of thousands of monolithic islands rising from the ocean and topped with dense vegetation.

Ha Long bay is located 170km (105 miles) east of Hanoi in the Quang Ninh province. The Bay is of great biological interest and was really fascinating to see in person,  especially for someone who has studied Wildlife Biology and Conservation and as true nature lover. Ha Long is an area of 1,553 km2 which is mostly uninhabited and unaffected by humans – and it needs to remain this way to preserve this magnificent beauty. The bay consists of 1,600 limestone monolithic islands, which have gone through 500 million years of formation! The evolution of the karst has changed via the impact of the tropical wet climate, very impressive!

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Three day tour

We joined a small cruise for a tour of Ha Long bay – there was 12 of us for a 3 day, 2 night tour. We departed from Hanoi in a mini bus.  The first day was spent sailing through the breathtaking bay, our first glimpse into this beauty. When we boarded our ship, lunch was ready to be served, a full Vietnamese buffet. After lunch, the ship arrived at the gorgeous Sung Snot Cave, we were able to get out and explore. This cave is one of the largest in Ha Long bay. Walking through the cave was incredible, and we were also exposed to some amazing views looking out at Ha Long Bay from inside the cave! So incredible.

After exploring the cave, our ship continued on, sailing past the the amazing limestone monolithic islands, so much beauty to take in and try to capture on camera. Later on in the afternoon, our ship docked for the night. Here we were able to take kayaks out and kayak through the bay, this was amazing.  Our night was spent on the cruise ship, where  we enjoyed another Vietnamese buffet, we were able to jump off the ship and swim around our area and later on had drinks on the top deck of the ship. The rooms were small and each had their own bathroom, I found sleeping on a ship for the night to be quite relaxing and charming.

The next morning, the ship set sail and continued on through the stunning bay. After lunch, we were able to get off the ship and explore Monkey Island, here you can swim at two beaches and take a hike up the mountain for some great views! And yes, you do get to see monkeys! The afternoon was very enjoyable. Next, we moved on to our beach bungalow for the night. I loved our accommodation, the Island we stayed on was tiny, so it felt like a nice getaway and the bungalows were gorgeous. Here we met some other backpackers, and enjoyed a meal and drinks with them. The next day was spent sailing back through Ha Long Bay, then to our mini bus to return to Hanoi. This trip was amazing and extremely memorable. A highlight of my travels.

 

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