Whenever Hawaii is mentioned, images of cloudless sunny blue skies and world famous surfing beaches come to mind.
So it is so hard to comprehend that one of the most historical World War Two catastrophes happened on this island paradise.
The attack on Pearl Harbour occurred in the early hours of December 7th1941. The might of the Japanese war machine led by the imperial Japanese Navy attacked the U.S. naval base in a surprise air raid on the unsuspecting Americans reeking devastation as never been seen by America in their history of war.
The damage and loss of life for the U.S. unleashed by the Japanese on this day was immense. By the end of the air raid this is what had happened:
4 battleships sunk
3 battleships damaged
1 battleship grounded
2 other ships sunk
3 cruisers damaged
3 destroyers damaged
3 other ships damaged
188 aircraft destroyed
159 aircraft damaged
2,402 lives lost
Civilian casualties included:
The result of this attack was a major Japanese tactical victory.
What came about after the Pearl Harbour attack was:
United States declaration of war on the Empire of Japan
Germany and Italy declared war on the United States
Visiting Pearl Harbour is quite a moving experience. There is a museum at the naval base including audio and visuals detailing this tragic day in1941.
There is also an informative and captivating movie you watch before being taken out by boat to the memorial that has been built above the sunken wreck of the battleship ‘USS Arizona.’
The USS Arizona was torpedoed by the Japanese and sunk with all 1,177 crewmen aboard. The ship remains untouched to this day and is now the tomb and sacred site to all those that perished on this vessel. This memorial is also the viewing platform that you can walk on to and look down to see the wreck of USS Arizona. At one end is a marble memorial wall with every name of the deceased crew that was onboard that fateful day.
A naval officer is on hand to answer any queries that visitors have.
The attack on Pearl Harbour had a very profound effect on USA and President Franklin Roosevelt described it as “A date that will live in infamy.”
The Island of Oahu has so much to offer as far as sightseeing and adventuring goes, but a visit to Pearl Harbour is a truly amazing experience and should be on the top of your “to do” list.
A clever way to visit Pearl Harbour is on an Aloha Double Decker touring bus. Prices start from $10 USD.
It’s a great way to discover a new city and the bus stops at every major landmark. You can get on and off the bus as many times as you like whilst your pass is valid.
Maui is one of the world’s supreme holiday destinations and is renowned for its beautiful beaches and stunning scenery and for the past 17 years has been voted the “Best Island” by the Conde Nast traveller magazine. When you are there, it is very easy to see why.
From the months of December through to May the azure waters of the Pacific Ocean turn on a display of whale watching that is mesmerizing. Welcome to humpback heaven! This is where these massive and beautiful beasts come to play, breed and for mother whales to teach their young calves ocean management skills such as: breaching, flapping, slapping and the exciting humpback sport of krill fishing.
From the beach you can see whales all day as they play and cavort in the distance. But to experience the best whale watching display that I’ve seen, I advise you go on one of the many whale watching boat tours that are available.
THINGS TO DO
There is so much to do in Maui, so in no particular order, here are my
favourite and fun things to do:
*Whale watching on one of the many boat tours (Dec till May)
*Take a beautiful drive to Hana (a must do Maui excursion)
*Learn to surf at the many surfboard-riding schools that are available
*Waimoku waterfall hike, Haleakala
* The Spa Grande at the Grand Wailea Resort (for major pampering)
*Honolua Bay is great for swimming and snorkeling
*Makena beach; swim with turtles
*Wailea beach; relax and swim in this very friendly family beach and also enjoy a spectacular coastal walk.
*Wailea golf club (3 championship courses)
(Check with concierge of your hotel to help book some of these activities).
THE GRAND WAILEA RESORT
Accommodation was always going to be a difficult and important decision to make due to the huge amount of resorts and hotels that are available. After much research, I chose the Grand Wailea Resort for the following reasons:
Set in 40 acres of prime real estate, this Polynesian style resort sits on the edge of the Pacific Ocean and is surrounded by lush landscaped gardens and views to die for. In 2011, The Grand Wailea was voted ‘The Best Resort Accommodation’, ‘The Best Resort Restaurant’ and ‘The Best Resort Spa’ by Maui newsreaders. Not a bad rap coming from the local community considering the huge amount of amazing resort accommodation available in Maui.
The Grand Wailea has an array of accommodation to suit all budgets and at different times of the year they offer great deals.
WHAT TO DO AT THE RESORT?
*To ensure that you stay fit while you’re on holidays, the resort has a very comprehensive fitness center which can be utilized to keep the kilos at bay (personal and group training available).
*Pamper yourself at the Grande Spa that has beautiful facilities
*A 3km breathtaking coastal walk adjacent to the hotel emphasizes the island’s beauty. Walk in the afternoon while the sun is setting for spectacular views.
*The resort has two swimming pools available: one for children (noisy, slides and fun) and an adult pool where peace and serenity reigns supreme.
*Beautiful Wailea beach is the backyard of the resort and is also one of Maui’s finest and most popular beaches. It is the ideal beach to swim, relax, whale watch and sip a cocktail whilst watching the sun disappear into the horizon.
*The Grand Wailea has an array of cafes, bars and restaurants to choose from. One of the restaurants is the award winning and unusually named Humuhumukunuapua’a, which is actually the name of a local reef fish. The name alone is a conversation piece and the food is exquisite. A beautiful restaurant for that special or romantic occasion.
*Ensure you have a camera for whale watching photos and spectacular scenery everywhere!
*Pack a good pair of walking shoes to enjoy the coastal walk
*Temperature is always warm, so ensure you pack your summer wardrobe and plenty of sunscreen.
Hawaii instantly conjures up images of swaying coconut palms, azure blue water, perfect waves and white sandy beaches. For the surfing enthusiast, it also brings to mind an icon that is always thought of and that is the legend of Duke Kahanamoku, the father of modern day surfing.
On the promenade adjacent to Waikiki beach in Honolulu, Hawaii, the Duke’s larger than life bronze statue with outstretched arms is there to greet all tourists who venture down to the beach for the first time. Images of the great Duke Kanamanoku and his massive old wooden board surfing off Honolulu’s Waikiki’s beach are well known around the world.
Waikiki Beach is famous for its gentle rolling waves and upon arrival you are not disappointed. The beach and promenade is a beehive of activity filled with surfers, sunbakers and day-trippers. It is a kaleidoscope of colours and activity and overseeing all of this is an array of high-rise hotels and buildings that line up and guard this famous strip.
If you take a stroll to the southern end of the beach you will come to the world renowned and iconic hotel The Royal Hawaiian (a.k.a the pink palace). At sunset there is no better or more tranquil place to be in Waikiki then here, sipping a cocktail and witnessing sunsets that will be etched in your memory for a lifetime.
Here are my top attractions in Honolulu in no particular order:
The north shore of Hawaii
The world mecca of surfing which includes Wiamea Bay, Banzai Pipeline and Sunset Beach. In the winter months you will be able to see the world’s best surfing some of the planet’s largest and most perfect waves.
*Hire a pushbike, a great way to discover the north shore.
During WW11 on December 7th1941, Pearl Harbour was attacked by the might of the Japanese air force. 360 planes carried out this surprise attack and nearly 92 vessels were destroyed including the USS Arizona. Today all sailors who were on duty on that fateful day on the Arizona are still entombed on board this vessel.
A historical and very emotional must do attraction in Honolulu.
Hire a surfboard and get out and surf some of the most famous small and gentle waves in the world. Surf lessons are available by some of Waikiki’s best surfing instructors including Waikiki’s only full time licensed female surfing instructor Karen Schmidt.
*Go to The Hawaiian Oceans Waikiki located just behind the Duke Statue on the sand.
Other major Honolulu attractions:
*Aloha Tower is an iconic Honolulu landmar
*Diamond Head, a very famous dormant volcano in Waikiki
*Aloha Moana Shopping Centre and the many shops on Kalakaua Avenue, Honolulu Swap meet markets (near Pearl Harbour), to only name a few
*The oldest Chinatown in the USA
*Night time buskers on Kalakaua Avenue
*Redline bus tours will take you to nearly all the major attractions in Honolulu and is the best and fastest way to learn the layout of a newly arrived town
WAIKIKI RESORT HOTEL
Location, location, location… that’s what Mr. Hooker real estate legend used to say and that reason is obvious when you first arrive at the Waikiki Resort Hotel.
Only a 50 metre walk from the very impressive foyer and there you are standing on one of the world’s most iconic beaches.
Everything you need in Waikiki is in walking distance from the hotel including restaurants and shops.
The hotel has a great variety of accommodation available and the rates are very reasonable.
The hotel staff is very accommodating and friendly and can pretty much answer any question you may have.
WHERE TO EAT IN HONOLULU, HAWAII
*The Seoul Jung (Korean BBQ restaurant) at the Waikiki Resort Hotel
Bouncing around in the back of an open top jeep being driven down a dusty dirt trail in Sigiriya on a sunny late afternoon, I’m on my way to Minneriya National Park located in central Sri Lanka. I’m about to embark on an elephant safari and I feel like John Wayne in his famous African adventure movie “Hatari.”
Regulation requires that upon entry to the reserve every vehicle must be provided with a guide. At first I did not understand why a guide was required, but I would soon find out.
Our guide whose name was Sugath Liyanage, explained how he lives close by in a local village and all his life has loved elephants, which are a sacred animal in Sri Lanka. He is currently going through a voluntary five-year period of guide work before he becomes a fully paid guide.
Sugath informed us that there are up to 300 elephants that reside in this reserve and if we are lucky, today we may also encounter a herd of buffalos and many different types of birds such as storks, jungle fowl and the brown and black-capped bulbul. Also birds of prey including the grey-headed fish eagle and the white-bellied sea eagle also call Minneriya their home. Toque and grey Langur monkeys and herds of spotted deer can also sometimes be seen.
Look very closely we are told and you maybe lucky to see a Jackel or two lurking in the shadows.
If we do encounter these animals then that will be a bonus, but today we are on a safari and looking for elephants and for the first 20 minutes we see none. I have this horrible sinking feeling that today will be the day all elephants on this reserve will be in hiding and will not appear. I’m thinking, you know that old classic line, “you should’ve been here yesterday.”
Well 20 minutes into our hot and dusty trail ride and amongst the thick undergrowth we suddenly make out a few elephants, my heart skips a beat and a few moments later we come to the end of the trail and the park suddenly opens up, we now could be in any game park in the world. It is beautiful, miles of open land surrounding two massive lakes. Elephants, massive huge elephants are everywhere all sizes and ages. It was amazing to be so close to these majestic animals, some were in packs, younger elephants were playing, others were lying in mud baths and some were swimming. Further down the park elephants were roaming in the bush and there were little baby elephants sticking close to their mums and even some large males were hanging around. The reason they are hanging out, its mating season and the big bucks are hoping for some “elephant fun”. Generally the large males do not hang out with the herd unless its time to mate. Elephants generally live in close-knit family groups, led by a matriarch.
The dominant female is usually in charge and literally, when I say charge, get to close when there are young and baby elephants around and that is what they do, charge. Our guide explained to us that there were a few angry elephants in the reserve, that were known to charge quite often and from a distance at one time we witnessed one of these aggressive beasts charge a jeep that had encroached to close. As our safari continued, we got caught in a precarious position while we were a watching a group of elephants. Without our drivers or our guide’s knowledge another pack appeared from the bush behind us and were not happy we were invading their space. For a moment we were eyeballed by two angry herds, there were maybe 20 massive elephants, then, suddenly two charged our jeep. Then I realized why each vehicle must have a guide on board because in that instance the guides experience saved us from maybe getting attacked, an incredibly frightening but exhilarating moment.
*When the elephants charged, our guide stood up tall in an aggressive stance and yelled out to let the elephants know that we were not moving and in that instance they both backed off and returned to their herd.
The herd moved on, our heart rate slowed and the safari continued. Seeing these magnificent beasts so close in an environment where they can roam wild and not locked up in a cage in a zoo is a truly wonderful experience
*We organized our elephant safari through the staff at the Sigiriya Hotel.
*Safari duration is approx. 4 hours.
*Ensure you wear comfortable clothes, a hat, walking/trekking shoes, and take sun block, insect repellant and a camera.
A very exciting times for our new www.paradisesonline.com website and to celebrate I will take our regular readers and visitors to our site on a Sri Lankan adventure.
It was my first time to Sri Lanka and I knew it was a beautiful country from what I had heard, seen and researched over the years. But in reality, all I really knew about Sri Lanka apart from the internal civil war they had endured for years, that now has been resolved, was their passion for their number one national sport, cricket.
My plan for this trip was to visit the west coast of Sri Lanka, which would incorporate two resorts. First one in Negombo called Club Dolphin, which is approximately a 30- minute drive north of Colombo (capital of Sri Lanka) and the second one in Kulatara called Kani Lanka, which is approx. a 2 -hour drive south of Colombo.
I also arranged a visit to Sigiriya, which is located in central Sri Lanka and is famous for its ‘massive ancient rock fortress’ believed to be the 8th wonder of the world and is located in a Unesco World Cultural Heritage Site. Another reason why I was so looking forward to visiting Sigirya was that I had planned to go on an elephant safari nearby.
From Sigariya, an adventurous 10 hour road trip would see me pass through and spend a short time in Kandy, one of Sri Lanka’s largest and most populated cities and on the way visit some spice markets and an elephant orphanage.
From the orphanage I continued on to Kani Lanka and finished off my Sri Lankan experience with an exploration of the eclectic capital of Colombo, culminating with a stay in one of Colombo’s most famous and historical hotels that calls the Indian Ocean shoreline its home; the world renowned ‘Galle Face Hotel.’
I will in the following weeks do blogs on all these areas, parks,reserves, orphanages, hotels and resorts.
Starting with the Club Hotel Dolphin…….
THE CLUB HOTEL DOLPHIN, NEGOMBO
From what I had read, Sri Lanka was a tropical island of remarkable beauty and soon I was to discover a country full of a diverse mix of culture, people, food, wildlife and beaches.
After a 12- hour flight from Sydney via Singapore I arrived in Bandaranaike Airport. At immigration, a huge sign on the wall greeted me with the words: “Drug smuggling carries the death penalty.” That’s when I realized I was far from home. The airport was quite modern and clean but moments later, stepping off a travelator and in the blink of an eye, the airport suddenly turned from your average airport to a combination of a street bazaar and bustling middle eastern market, where all kind of wares were for sale, in a multitude of small stores. Touts lined up outside every shop attempting to draw you into their Aladdin’s cave in an attempt to sell you an array of eclectic goods such as washing machines, clothes dryers, vacuum cleaners and kitchen appliances. Walking further on, hundreds of people, many dressed in Middle Eastern attire, were gathered around luggage carousels waiting for their baggage to arrive, loudly chatting and proudly displaying they’re newly purchased goods.
From the airport I was transported to my first leg of my Sri Lankan journey that entailed a 30 minute drive north of Colombo’s main airport to a hotel on the west coast of Sri Lanka. The hotel is a rambling resort called the Club Hotel Dolphin set in a 20 acre garden compound that has an 800 metre Indian Ocean beach frontage.
As there is not much else to do in Negombo, once settled I settled in at the Club Dolphin, a multitude of activities were available such as:
Or, my favourite activity of choice… Lazing by the pool with a book. Resort staff encourage group activities, the most popular being pool volleyball. I felt like I was at a Sri Lankan version of Club Med!
The beauty of this resort is that it can either be a fun filled family holiday or you can chose to just relax and do absolutely nothing. The Club Dolphin resort is quite dated, but once settled in, it has a wonderful feel and a vibrant energy. I had a great few days of relaxing and catching up on some needed rest here, but my exciting adventure was just beginning and that was a road trip to the centre of Sri Lanka to the historical and cultural town of Sigirya.
Ensure you have a supply of quality sunscreen and insect repellant that contains deetdue to the very warm and humid temperatures, ensure correct clothing is packed and don’t forget your swimmers!
WHERE TO STAY The Club Dolphin Hotel www.paradisesonline.com All resort accommodation is available throughout Asia and the Pacific regions catering for all budgets.
TRAVEL INFORMATION For any information on Sri Lanka and the Maldives email me at: [email protected]
HOW TO GET THERE
Jetset Travel Rose Bay
(02) 9371 8166
Peaceful Negombo The Hotel Club Dolphin Sunset In Negombo Colourful Kani Frescoes Sigariya
Less than 50 minutes by taxi from the airport and the magic of this island has already cast its spell on me. Normally I need a day or two to unwind after I arrive to a holiday destination, but on this occasion, the metamorphosis from stress-head to not a care in the world, occurred in the ride from the airport to my hotel.
The beauty of Phuket is that it’s only approximately 8hrs flying time from Sydney. Of course this figure varies depending on which location you are flying from.
As I write this blog, I am outside my room adjacent to a magnificent 50 meter pool. From the end of the pool to Patong Beach is only 2 meters. It is mid morning and I have already walked the beach which allows me to have breakfast with a clear conscience, read the paper and contemplate a swim in the pool or a dip in the sparkling Adaman Sea.
Patong beach early in the morning is a beehive of activity. Coloured umbrellas are being erected in military precision, in ready for the influx of international guests who will make Patong Beach their home for the day. The sun is shining, the temperature is a balmy 26 degrees Celsius. Life is good.
HOTEL OF THE MONTH…..LA FLORA PATONG
I am staying at the La Flora Resort Patong on Patong Beach, which is the busiest and main area in Phuket. Hotel Le Flora Resort Patong is simply magnificent…….five star excellence.
There are more beautiful and peaceful areas to stay in Phuket. But for me, to be so close to the vibrant energy of Patong Beach, with everything available at your doorstep, is what I came for. Yet, when you enter Hotel Flora, the eclectic energy of the main street and town simply disappears.
Hotel La Flora Patong is a world class luxury boutique hotel and has a variety of stylish designed accommodation ranging from excellent to simply sublime.
“The La Flora Resort Patong is the only luxury boutique resort in the central Patong area that offers pool villas”.
The cuisine available in the Hotel is world class and the rooftop bar and restaurant overlooking Patong Beach is breathtaking.
I have to mention the staff, they were so professional and their attention to detail is just another reason that makes this hotel so affordable and exceptional.
The Hotel Flora is a few steps to the beach and 2 minutes away from Patong’s pulsating, raunchy and exciting entertainment/restaurant precinct and only 1 minute away from shopping and my favourite Asian pastime……. Massage!!!!
As the sun sets in Phuket, the main entertainment street, Bangla Road is shut off to vehicles and explodes in a plethora of loud music, beer bars, go go bars and dancing girls. Well, not all are dancing girls. What initially may appear to be beautiful sexy ladies in stunning evening gowns, big hair, gyrating to loud music on the street and draped in feather boas and costume jewellery, actually turn out to be not as “lady like” as they appear.
Welcome to the main “drag” of Phuket.
Top 10 best things to do in Phuket
1. Beaches, swimming, board sailing, jet skiing and para sailing.
2. Island tours.
3. Go Karting.
4. Day and night trips to Phi Phi Island and Krabi.
5. Temple Tours and a visit to the Big Buddha.
6. Restaurants (ranging from street carts and stalls to 5 star international restaurants).
7. Scuba diving courses and or snorkeling.
8. Massage (foot and body) Approx $10AUS for 60mins of bliss.
9. Cabaret Shows “Fantasea”….incredible entertainment which includes elephants, trapeze artists, comedians and much more.
10. Thai Boxing (Muay Thai)…International and local fights.
Phuket is unlike any other holiday destination in Thailand. It is colourful and has an incredible energy. Walking around town and the beach at night, where the markets and food stalls are, there is an amazing buzz and the smell of beautiful Asian food wafts through the air.
I have to be honest, there was one problem I had while I was wandering the markets and food stalls and that was what to eat. The variety of food is endless and all of it is so beautiful. The problem I encountered was to try not to eat to much. I failed, not only is the food so moorish its amazingly cheap.
I love Phuket and once you have been here, you will want to keep coming back.
For any more information on anything I have written, please email me on…..
Always travel with a small first aid kit which should include band aids, antiseptic cream, eye wash, tweezers and a small constricting bandage for any sprains that may occur on your travels, and always have some insect repellant that contains deet.
Its also wise to have a course of antibiotics and some medication for an upset stomach.
Ensure when in Asia that tap water is never consumed. Only bottled water to be drank at all times, also when cleaning teeth bottled water must be used.
At the time of writing this blog $1AUS =30 THAI BAHT
Sometimes known as the ‘eighth’ wonder of the world, Angkor Wat has always been a mysterious place that I definitely wanted to tick off my travel list and that came true for me recently….
The town of Siem Reap Cambodia is home to Angkor Wat, built during the early years of the 12th century by King Suryavaram II. One of the world’s greatest historical and religious sites, Angkor Wat is UNESCO World Heritage listed.
Angkor Archaeological Park is located in north-west Cambodia and contains the remains of the Khmer empire. It is Cambodia’s number one tourist destination and is so famous and important that it is featured on the national flag. But as famous as it is, it represents only a small portion of this extraordinary site.The Angkor region contains many temples (built between the 9th – 15th Centuries) and include: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, The Bayon Temple, Banta Srey and many many more. Each temple is so different and unique in its architecture that I recommend at least a few days to take in as much of this breathtaking complex as possible. As there is so much to see, it is advisable to organize a local guide to show you around.
Banteay Srei is approx 25kms from the main complex of Angkor Wat and is a comparatively small 10th century temple. It has a pink hue due to the hard red sandstone and has extraordinary detail and exquisite sculptures. It is one of the oldest and most beautiful temples you will see in Siem Reap.
The Bayon stands the center of Angkor Thom which forms the heart of the Angkor complex as it is today. The Bayon forms a three tiered pyramid with 54 towers, each dominated by over 200 enormous four meter high mysterious faces all looking out to the north, south, east and west. Each incredibly formed face has a faint smile and closed eyelids. As with most of this magnificent archeological site, the colours change due to the light, depending on the time of day. I advise early in the morning or late afternoon
Giant figs and silk cotton trees have embedded their roots so deep into this temple that they have been left untouched as disturbing them could mean the crumbling of this historical and magnificent structure.
Angkor Wat and the city of Angkor Thom are historical and majestic but Ta Prohm is by far the most dramatic and enchanting temple of all, making it the most visited and popular amongst tourists. The temple of Ta Prohm was used as the eerie and surreal location for the movie Tomb Raider, starring Angelina Jolie, making this site even more popular and well known.
Top Attractions at Siam Reap:
Visit Phnom Kulen Mountainand see Lingas (rock carvings in the river bed ), Sleeping Buddha and the Phnom Kulen waterfalls.
Ballooning….balloon ride above Angkor Wat.
Eating…Many restaurants catering for every budget and taste, but none better than “The Sugar Palm” restaurant and bar.
Bars/Nightlife…Pub Street and the Old Market area have establishments that cater for drinkers and diners either for a quite cocktail or a thumping night club.
Markets…In town there is the Old Market (Phasr Chas) and the Central Market (Phasr Kandal) and also the famous Angkor Night Markets.
Bike riding…both standard bike and mountain bike riding have become very popular in Siem Reap. There are many places to hire from.
Golf…Phokeethra Country Club, opened in 2007, was the first international golf course in Siem Reap. A very challenging par 72 hole course.
Other popular activities include; cooking classes, horse riding, spa and massage and also classes for painting, weaving and carving. There is plenty to do in Siem Reap.
*Due to amount of walking and steps you may encounter and the heat, ensure you wear comfortable clothing and appropriate footwear.
*Angkor Wat is so popular I suggest you start your tour early in the mornings for two reasons.
1. Less crowded
2. The light in the morning is perfect for great photography
Tuk Tuk driver and guide
Mr Pech Vanny English speaking driver….Tel+855 97 72 65 499
Miller Street Pyrmont – minutes from Darling Harbour, the Sydney Fish Markets, the Rocks and nestled amongst some of Sydney’s oldest historical streets is not where you would expect to discover one of the most opulent and exceptional organic spa experiences.
From the moment you enter this establishment, the ambience is overwhelming. It is as though you could be in a six star resort in Bali or Thailand. The soothing music and the scent of aromatic oils fill the air and the decor dominated by black mosaics and gold detail adds to the exquisite atmosphere.
Upon entering Panpuri, the very professional staff welcome me with a warm greeting. I am soon led to a private area and seated in a reclining sofa and handed a Panpuri Organic Menu for the exotic treatment that I wish to indulge in. I’m offered a soothing herbal tea and a cool refreshing towel as my masseuse explains what each treatment involves.
The Panpuri Organic Spa menu is extensive.
After a brief consultation, I decide to indulge myself in the Mali Moonlight Massage (signature massage) and choose the Jasmine oil for my treatment.
Before my massage, I am treated to an Organic Tea Tree Foot Ritual that makes me feel like royalty.
The massage was excellent. However, the only low point was when I was informed that my treatment had concluded.
The experienced staff have all been handpicked from 5/6 star hotels around the world including exotic locations such as Dubai, Morocco, Thailand, Bali and many others.
I spend the rest of the day in a Jasmine haze.
For Reservations: Please Contact Panpuri Organic Spa,
Tel: 612 9660 1916 : Treatments are available from 10am-10pm
December 2010 is an exciting time for “paradises.com” as we are now commencing a “live blog” and reporting to you from your favourite Asian destinations. Everything you want to know will now be available on line. Whatever information you require to make your holiday an event to remember, will be available 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year as the “paradisesonline.com” blogger is now at your service.
For my first live blog, I could not be in a more fascinating and exciting holiday destination than Hanoi, Vietnam!
I have only just arrived after a very comfortable flight aboard Vietnam Airlines from Sydney and soon I’m on a $5AUS cyclo tour charging through the narrow crowded streets of the old quarter of Hanoi, Vietnam. Pedal power comes courtesy of an old Vietnamese man with a leathery face and a heart of an Olympic cyclist, as he pedals frantically, dodging and weaving the incredible madness that represents the traffic in this area. What I am seeing on my cyclo, I would never see in the comfort of a tourist bus. Welcome to “The Old Quarter” Hanoi.
In such a short time I am falling in love with this city and its French Colonial influenced architecture, the people, the noise and the colour. Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in the world and witnessing the buzz of the old quarter, I now can see for myself why this is so.
There are so many historical, cultural and fun attractions in Hanoi. I will now endeavor to list them in no particular order.
*With the assistance of your “paradisesonline.com” hotel staff and myself you can now go on a discovery tour of Hanoi and what you will find is a city full of cafes, restaurants, galleries and shops; selling everything from local and imported clothes, traditional Vietnamese lacquered souvenirs to quaint music stores where you can buy quality guitars for under $50AUS. It’s a shopper’s paradise.
*Do the city tour at your own pace as I have, but I recommend you visit the Mausoleum of the great and legendry leader of Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh, who lies in a preserved and embalmed state. Uncle Ho (as Ho Chi Minh is lovingly known as) goes to Russia once a year for maintenance for about two months (around October and November), so pick your time to visit to avoid disappointment.
*The Army Museum is a major Hanoi attraction. It depicts the war history of Vietnam and gives you an insight to the remarkable fighting spirit of this country. For me, seeing the old B52 bomber (US war plane) that was shot down by the Vietnamese into a small lake during the Christmas bombings of Hanoi during the Vietnam War was a highlight. John Lennon wrote his famous song Happy Xmas (war is over) about this incident.
*Hanoi Hilton (Hoa Lo Prison) is a must see landmark. It was once used by the North Vietnamese army to house, torture and interrogate captured servicemen. Visually, the way they have set up the exhibition is very moving and gave me an insight into the horrific suffering that was part of this prison’s history.
*On a cultural theme, take in a show at the Hanoi Opera House. It is a small scale replica of the Paris Opera House and is a beautiful legacy the French have left in Hanoi. I would recommend that if you would like to see a performance, just show up and see what’s on.
*Also see the world famous Water Puppet show that is located near the Hoan Kiem Lake. The music is performed by a traditional Vietnamese orchestra and is a very comical show. The puppets act out stories that have been passed down from generations, with tales of harvesting, fishing and festivals detailing the history of Vietnam.
*The Hoan Kiem Lake is the historical centre of Hanoi. It is steeped in history and tradition and locals congregate there to exercise, socialize and relax. At about 5am each day, locals can be observed practicing Tai chi by the lake. It is a major scenic attraction and is a focal point for the local population. On most days, newlyweds are lining up to have their wedding photos taken there.
*When you visit Hanoi you must have a traditional Vietnamese Massage. It is very different from your standard massage. Your treatment starts with a soak in an old oak barrel filled with medicinal herbs, followed by a spa bath and a professional 90 minute massage. The massage incorporates hot bags filled with herbs that are placed on pressure points on your back. At the end of the treatment you are offered herbal teas and either a chicken or a fish rice soup. When you leave, you feel that the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders. There are separate areas for men and women. Two hours of absolute bliss and the cost is just over $10AUS for the whole treatment!
*The selection of food in Hanoi is delicious and Cha Ca (meaning grilled fish) is a favourite dish. Located in Cha Ca Street, Cha ca La Vong is the famous restaurant that Hanoians as well as visitors from around the world frequent. Pho Noodle Soup is another traditional Vietnamese favourite and the ingredients are white rice noodles combined with beef or chicken sprinkled with aromatic herbs. So simple, perfectly put together ingredients that make this a local fave.
To really get the feel of this city, ensure you buy your Pho Noodle Soup from a local street vendor. It is such a treat when eating in Vietnam to eat meals on a little plastic table and chairs set up on the street with the locals. One tip I can give you is; whenever I buy food from the street vendors, I ensure it is busy so that fresh food is constantly being turned over. It has worked for me as I have never been sick practicing this method.
*What I have noticed in Vietnam is the lack of obesity. I can’t understand why as there is so much food available and the locals always appear to be eating. I am so engrossed with the local cuisine that when I get home I want to continue eating Vietnamese food, so I booked into a cooking school for a one day lesson. It was so enjoyable preparing, cooking and devouring my days work. The menu for our class included a green papaya with dried beef salad, followed by rice noodles with grilled pork and finished off with a black sticky rice sweet dessert that was mouth watering. The cooking school I went to is well known in Hanoi. Each year it takes in up to 500 young people aged between 16 and 25. This includes: orphans, street kids, children of poor families, children of war invalids, ethnic minorities and hearing impaired children and they are trained in the art of cooking, in the hope that they will be one day able to gain a career in hospitality and turn their lives around. I had a great day and this is one activity that I highly recommend.
*”Crappachinos and Rodents Roast!” Coffee beans collected from weasel droppings? S_ _t sounds unbelievable! Well you better believe it. Coffee growers in Vietnam are feeding weasels with coffee beans and collecting the droppings after the beans pass through the animal. The beans are then ground and brewed. The process gives the coffee a musky, smooth flavour. Not only is this a bizarre process, but the coffee is very expensive and is proving very popular in the up market cafes that are fast replacing Vietnams street side coffee and tea stalls. Hang Hanh or Coffee Street is in the Old Quarter and is a favourite for those craving caffeine. “That’s me!”
An excellent café in Hanoi is the Kangaroo Café. It is located near the Hoan Kiem Lake and serves a great range of western and vietnamese food. The cafe is run by an ex pat named Max Hart who has an amazing wealth of knowledge of Vietnam. The cafe is situated at 18 Bao Khanh st. Hanoi.
*health and safety tip… to survive in Vietnam when crossing roads, be sure to cross at a steady pace, do not panic, do not suddenly stop or move backwards, ALWAYS keep moving forward and traffic will magically swerve around you.
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