3 days in Hobart: go far, without breaking the bank.

Hobart in Winter is not for the faint-hearted. Icy winds and single-digit temperatures (Celsius) frame an otherwise sunny day with frost.

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Snow on Mt Wellington

So what takes a lover of 40 plus degrees so near the Antarctic? – The knowledge that we’d not spent enough time there last year and cheap direct flights from Adelaide! Our aversion for the cold limited our visit and maximised our planning. Normally preferring to drive, we read up on the hazards of driving in Tasmania in Winter – snow, black ice, sudden weather changes (true all year) and decided to walk and catch public transport.

GETTING AROUND. 

From the airport, we caught the airport shuttle for $20 each, which took us to our accommodation, although this wasn’t one of the stops. We caught a public bus to Richmond, which was about $15 (for two) each way. Fares are cheaper after 9 and before 3. I downloaded MetroTas on my phone so that I could see what was available at any time and plan our trips, and we could have got a green card which is a transport card, which means reduced fares. Weekend services are not as frequent. Most of our travel was on foot, however, and the signage and street maps are amazing. As there are no footpaths for highways, make sure you get an underpass.

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clear signs from Hobart

PLACES TO VISIT

Salamanca Place is interesting, varied, accessible. We’re told the markets on a Saturday are great but we’ve always missed them. There is a large square with a fountain, where kids could run a bit, art, shopping, bars…

 

 

Kelly’s steps are located in Salamanca and these lead to Battery Point. James Kelly was a sailor and at the time he built the steps, in 1839, they were part of a cliff that overlooked the Cove. The buildings on the wharf were made of the stone from the cliffs (courtesy of Wikipedia). We took the steps and did the historic walk:  https://tasmania.com/things-to-do/walks/battery-point-historic-walking-tour/   credit to Dale Baldwin, that we could follow on our phones, taking us to historical places in the area. It took about an hour and is inclined from the steps. St George’s was an imposing building, not on the walk but definitely on the horizon and unmissable.

The Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens – an easy half hour walk from Hobart, even in the rain, well-sign-posted. The view and terrain was very pleasant and we went via the Soldiers of the Avenue, a memorial to the soldiers of the Boer War and the two Great Wars and past the gunpowder magazine. It was a good track until just after the sports field, where three choices led to the use of Google maps on our phones and following a narrow, muddy track for the last km. The gardens are not too big and you can probably get around in about an hour.

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Botanical Gardens

We took three, with stoppages in the gift shop, Succulent (the cafe), the lily pond, conservatory and the subantarctic plant house.

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subantarctic house
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conservatory
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well-designed
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lily pond
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centenary arch

 

Richmond is an historical town, not far from Hobart. It boasts the oldest bridge, oldest intact gaol and the oldest Catholic Church in Australia. We arrived around 9.30am, after a 40 min bus ride and left at 1.40pm. We had seen everything, but not visited every shop or gallery. Very interesting. The gaol was $10 entry and the miniature village was $15 (both for adults). We decided against the latter. The courthouse, village square and St. Luke’s Anglican church are all worth a stop. The town is known for the well-preserved Georgian architecture, so enjoy it. Take note of details like the chisel marks, used to create rounded edges on the bridge.

The oldest synagogue in Australia easy to get to, in the city

Australia's oldest synagogue

The waterfront and Hobart’s 200+ year-old piers, and some much younger.

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The Drunken Admiral
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An active fishing industry

FOOTSTEPS, artwork commemorating the 13 000 female convicts transported to Van Diemen’s Land (name prior to Tasmania) between 1804 and 1854 and the 2000 children they brought with them. Artists John Kelly, Carole Edwards, Joanna Lyngcoln and Lucy Frost.

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SELF PORTRAIT – The Bernacchi Tribute. Tasmanian Louis Bernacchi (1876 – 1942) was the first Australian to winter in Antarctica. He left from this point in 1998, with his dog, Joe. The husky also joined him in 1901 when they joined Scott’s Discovery expedition.

HOBART AT NIGHT

Some views and comparisons might lure you into the even colder night air:

 

 

PARKS AND CHURCHES

St David’s Cathedral, with artifacts brought from the UK, dating as far back as the 11th Century

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St David’s Cathedral
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interior, St David’s

St David’s Park

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Flinders’ Square

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TASMANIAN MUSEUM AND ART GALLERY (free or gold coin donation)

Now, I’m not talking about MONA (museum of old and new art) and you should definitely see that. Had we not seen it, we would have taken a ferry there, with wine and cheese, as recommended by Bridget and Chris, but we had, so…

This original museum houses some interesting displays that have been presented in a very human way. For example, the Tasmanian Tiger, now extinct, has some anecdotal accounts, questions of what if, and photographs. Some children, nearby, could follow the information and were asking their dad some further questions. In the migration section there were pictures of a couple who married by proxy in the 1950s and are still married, today. Real, everyday, history.

 

We went to the Bond Store Galleries, in the same complex but a different building. It has three levels of history and one was about mental health and incarceration, so be mindful of this if you take children. The stairwell is a piece of art and the walls, showing the results of convicts/prisoners practicing their writing, is sobering. Quite unsettling is the account of white invasion and the terrible things done to the Indigenous people. A provoking exhibition.

Mount Wellington TRY to get the amazing view that we’ve only seen in other people’s pictures. The last visit we went up and fog came in about half way up. This time, we were told that it would be closed if there’s snow, so… no luck. It is an impressive backdrop to Hobart, from whatever angle you catch it, even out of a bus window.

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FOOD

A walk across the road to the local pub for typical pub fare, at pub prices, but supersized. Local beer and “An Englishman”, a chicken Schnitzel with a Yorkshire pud on top. I had a plate of roast Mediterranean Vegetables. Good atmosphere, very big, warm fire, solo guitarist /singer.  Other nights, prepared meals in accommodation. Lunches at bakeries and breakfast provided. We ate at the pier one day, to have seafood at Mures, and discovered that which was very nice. However,  if you head for Salamanca Place, not far away, you can get a good meal for half the price, under substantial outdoor heaters. The view won’t be so close to the waterfront. There are many, many food possibilities, so do a bit of research with your phone or by foot.

ACCOMMODATION

There is a huge range and during winter the rates are very good. We stayed at Argyle Apartments, which had excellent reviews and they weren’t exaggerating. The studio room was spacious and had a huge, comfortable bed. We had a fridge and the usual condiments, with a kettle and a coffee machine. Arriving at night, it was amazing to enter a pre-warmed room and the enclosed balcony had a heater, sofa and table and chairs (and a great view of Wellington). The shared kitchen had a great variety of foods and a microwave for heating/cooking. There was also a stocked fridge, here. The amenities were in a separate corridor, but we had our own toilet/shower room. Great location, central to everything, and they allowed us to store our bags there on the last day and even come back and have tea/coffee while we waited for our shuttle.

We were on the go for a lot of the time, but it’s a good way to stay warm. The town is pretty small and so manageable on foot, or if you are restricted, there is a hop-on, hop-off double-decker bus, for $35 /day or local buses. It only rained the first day and we had sunny, but icy days for the rest.

Loads of charm in Hobart and nearby. Why not see for yourself?

Safe Travels. Take water and a warm scarf and beanie.

 

Richmond Bridge – geometry

Cee’s fun photo challenge involves scanning a picture and then picking a topic from what you see. Although I got pretty excited by ‘geometry’, I think I hit a few of the other possible topics with this one –

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the oldest bridge in Australia, with the oldest Catholic Church in Australia in the background. At Richmond, Tasmania.

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Geometry in tan bricks

Hand-in-hand in Hahndorf

Having heard so much about Hahndorf, we made use of a free Autumn weekend, got in the car and headed for the hills of Adelaide. A reasonable crowd heralded the town’s popularity and the colours, smells and quaint heritage buildings promised varied recreation.

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Our first stop was the Hahndorf Academy, established 1857 and now housing a museum with early artifacts, a shop selling handmade goods and an art gallery featuring works of Hans Heysen and various Aboriginal artists. Fabulous designs, textures and patterns.

It wasn’t long before we found our favourite diversion, an antique/curio shop, down a wide lane,

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before the famous fudge shop, of which people had told me.

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Which set us thinking about lunch. We ate at Otto’s Bakery, famous for it’s vanilla slice, but there was no shortage of options, indoors or out, and plenty of traditional German fare.

The Alec Johnston park, with a large playground and grassed area, is central, if you have children who need to burn off some energy.

Then it will be back to bric-a-brac at Grass Roots

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Sidewalk sales

soap or honey

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sacraments at St Paul’s Lutheran

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a smidgen of history/folklore

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follow a chair fetish?

appreciate Autumn

admire old architecture

and make time to visit a winery

We spent 4 hours in Hahndorf and it went very fast. If you are coming to Adelaide, be sure to put it on your itinerary. You might even stop at Lofty National Park on the way.

Safe Travels.

Colourful Melbourne

It is the fastest growing city in Australia, despite being in the second smallest state. Cosmopolitan, vibrant, at its core is the state’s business, administration, culture and recreation. Easily accessible from Adelaide (and Sydney, Queensland and Tasmania), I headed over for a weekend to explore it.

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So much to see and so little time. The street art is well-advertised and I found one area quite near, in Hosier Lane.

 

Other visual delights can be found in alleys, like shopping and food.

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Special mentions? The short stop donut shop, where I bought a lemon meringue donut.

 

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donut selection that day

That’s it, closest row, second from the left. I thought it was going to be a donut with meringue on top, so was unprepared for the lemon custard that oozed out from under the meringue. Super delicious. The owner was happy to pose with me and I’m happy to promote his business.

For dinner I ate Japanese both nights, and there were lineups on Saturday night that prevented us from dining at our first choices, so if you see somewhere good during the day, book a table.

For breakfast/brunch go to Krimper Cafe in Guildford Lane. The best I’ve had in Australia.

 

Pass through the rustic doors and try to decide what to have:

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Granola with pears, yoghurt, homemade jam and a mango lassie on the side.
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Avo affair
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Almond crusted French toast
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Self-selected scrambled egg, mushroom, goat’s cheese and yellow smoothy

Great coffees, teas, juices and more. Excellent service and relaxed, heated venue. Good prices, too.

Melbourne’s buildings exhibit a blend of old and new, some startling architecture and weathered favourites, caught within the net of overhead tram lines.

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Town Hall circa 1870
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city junction – check out the wavy edge on that building, right.
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Inner city residence (must have a gardener)
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Australian Centre for the Moving Image (2002) in the foreground and Flinders Street Railway Station (1910) down the way.
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St Paul’s Cathedral

Time to see something of the environment, so it was off to the Royal Melbourne Botanic Gardens.

 

A brief intermission for shopping on Bridge Road (a couple of hours) was made possible by the excellent tram system and a myki card that you tap on, and tap as you get off to initiate subtraction of your fare from the balance. Other shopping areas are Bourke Street Mall, Chapel Street, the numerous DFOs and so many hidden gems. Keep your eyes open and look at reviews online to get exactly the style you want.

I’d heard of the Queen Victoria Markets, so went to see that they have a range of fresh food, craft items, imports and clothing.

 

The Shrine of Remembrance is adjacent to the Botanic Gardens. It is a massive structure designed in the style of the Tomb of Mausolus and the Parthenon.

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Outside this entrance is the Cenotaph and Eternal flame, recording all the defence forces that have fought and where the battles took place.

 

The granite column has a basalt sculpture at the top, of six service men carrying a bier with a corpse, draped in the Australian flag.

I stayed at Quest on Lonsdale, which was well-situated and had a 7-eleven convenience store nearby and a couple of coffee houses, but no dining room of their own. The room was large and clean and the employees very helpful. It is on the edge of Chinatown, just up from the Greek quarter.

Saturday night took me to Jankara Karaoke on Russell Street, one of the few public karaoke bars. It was pretty good, but my friends and I were the only over 50s there. Make that 40s.  We had a good time, anyway. You can sing each time you buy a drink at the bar and I didn’t think the ones who sang the most had been ordering juice. Hmm, maybe the only over 30s.

You can get from the airport using the Skybus ($19) then from the depot to your accommodation on a Skybus Hotel Transfer (no extra cost). Trams and trains take you just about anywhere and four people stopped to ask if we needed help/directions when we were in the city and trying to find our way around. Melbournites get top score for being tourist friendly.

I saw the MCG and Etihad Stadiums but didn’t get tempted to do a tour – you might.

I walked 12 km one day and didn’t even notice it. A great city and still more to see. I must go back for the honey and sea salt donut.

Put Melbourne on your itinerary. It is buzzing.

Safe travels.

7 hours in Sydney

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It is the largest capital city in Australia and spreads over several kilometers. So, what sights did we see when we arrived at Central Station at 10 am and had to be on the 5 pm return train?

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Sydney Central train station

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We checked the large information board in the central foyer and then had the task of finding platform 23, complicated by little signage ON platforms, but plenty of arrows directing you TO platforms. We went three levels below ground, where we headed to Kings Cross, once famous as Sydney’s red light district, but at this hour of the day we were bound for Potts Point, an adjoining suburb. Plenty of heritage buildings, apartments and promising lane-ways, the area supports both the wealthy and the downtrodden.

 

Stopped in at The Butler, with a notion to returning for lunch and admired the great view.

 

After meeting family members, we took the train over the famous bridge to Milson’s Point. Lavender Bay was a short stroll and we entered Wendy Whitely’s Secret Garden. Following the untimely death of her husband, artist Brett Whitely, creative Wendy and  daughter Arkie, began designing  a garden on land that was something of a wasteland. Arkie died in 2001 and Wendy continued the work more ardently, subsequently spending 20 years converting it to a beautiful public garden.

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The tower that signifies Wendy Whitely’s house at Lavender Bay

The garden sits at the base of her own home, the tower of which is a landmark.

An impressive fig tree marks the start of it, with a sculpture/plaque at its base, etched with the words to a Van Morrison song and the famous Sydney icon beyond.

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& we shall walk and talk in gardens all misty and wet with rain…Van Morrison

There is a choice of paths to take, some steeper than others but all of them well-maintained. The plants, the resting places, birds and wondering bush turkeys are all very peaceful.

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good paths

 

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resting/eating spots
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some downhill paths

Needless to say, we’d worked up a hunger, so off to somewhere quite natural –

 

The Botanist, Kirribilli. A great range of vegetarian options in a funky, opshop-style setting. Very well-priced and delicious meals. My favourites were the fried cauliflower, tahini, pomegranate, yoghurt, currents, mint and smoked almonds and then the grilled marlin, chermoula, roasted fennel and green olive.

Fortified, it was time to attempt Cahill Walk!

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From Milson’s Point, go past the Burton Street tunnel to the Bridge Stairs, with the variety of signs indicating what you will see, what you can’t do and it is all free.

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The views of the Opera House, City and Harbour are wonderful. If you take the Pylon Tour, it will cost $15 but you will be almost at the top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, with stunning views and can get enviable selfies behind a very safe and secure wall.

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The Pylon tour includes a 15 minute video that explains the building of the bridge, with historical footage and the 200 step climb takes you past photos, relics and articles depicting the journey of the workers and stake-holders. It is quite startling to see what people did in the days before OHS&W regulations – men sitting on girders, suspended high above the water, with no helmet, harness or sometimes shirt.

It was time to sprint for the next train and return to Blackheath from whence we had come. We needed to buy an Opal card, which is a transport card, and you tap it on an electronic recorder at stations when getting on and off the train.  We travelled the whole day with a credit of $20 and we didn’t run out of money.

Some classic Sydney and something different. There is so much here to choose from, so do your research and do what you love.

Since first writing this post, a son has travelled to Sydney and utilised the Big Bus. It is a hop on, hop off, double-decker bus that takes you to the major Sydney city sights and/or the sights at the famous Bondi Beach. You literally hop on when you want and hop off when you want. The commentary is pre-recorded in 7 (?) languages  but nearby attractions are not necessarily signed. It is a great way to get around to the Opera House, Bridge, Botanic Gardens and other sights, for $49.50 online. You can hop off at 3 particular stops and joint the other tour.

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Pretty hard to miss. It can take as long as you like, between 8.30 am and 5pm. Try this website for more information: https://www.bigbustours.com/en/sydney/sydney-routes-and-tour-maps/

Take water and a hat. Safe travels.

 

5 Things you’ll love about the Blue Mountains.

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Why are they called blue, for a start?

Rayleigh scattering – the elastic

scattering of light particles, put simply. It is common with many such mountain ranges, that they look blue from a distance.

  1. ACCESS

The Blue Mountains are in New South Wales, Australia. They are accessible from Sydney by a two hour train ride to a heritage location, but we took a two and a half day drive from Adelaide. Coaches also travel here and you can hire a car.

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Blackheath train station
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great views from the carriage windows

 

2. ACCOMMODATION

We stayed in Blackheath Glen Tourist Park.  This had great facilities and wide sites for vans, as well as being near Pope’s Glen track to Glovett’s Leap, but we were told that the neighboring Katoomba Tourist Park was equally good, and ran shuttles to major attractions.

There are a multitude of accommodation options in the area and good access to all the necessities – supermarkets, bakeries, sweet shops, swimming pools, liquor, churches and more.

3. STUNNING VIEWS AND TRAILS

Climb the 250 million year old rock strata. Under the canopy of gum leaves seen from above, there is a rain forest below, with many waterfalls.

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Online maps available before we got there were too limited. Even visiting tourist shops en route proved fruitless. We had to wait to stop in at the national parks centre in the region, but they were marvelous at providing maps, suggestions and advice. There are 48 walks on the ‘selection of bushwalks in the Blue Mountains’ sheet. Great detail is here, concerning grade, time, distance and features to be experienced. This was invaluable in planning our outdoor adventures.

4. VERTICAL CHALLENGES

Reported to have the steepest train ride in the world it is really more like a show ride and these days travels very slowly compared with what carried people 20 or 100 years ago.

Then there is the Cableway or the Skyway, with viewing floors and up to 360 degree views.

Or just descend the stairway to the Three Sisters or Pulpit Rock and feel suspended over more than time.

5. HISTORY

Around 1900 the population of this coal mining area was 4000! However, it was very popular as a holiday destination and in Summer the numbers would swell to 30 000 people. The sewage system was unable to cope at these times and it was not uncommon for Katoomba Falls to be dis-coloured with refuse. Erk.

People ride here, walk here, drive here and arrive by the bus loads. It’s easy to see why.

At one lookout a man had his drone travel the 2km gap as he watched the view below on a smart phone. Unfortunately the echo could be heard across the canyon as we travelled to different lookouts, beyond where we could see it.

Take a hat, good walking shoes and water. You may need a coat if the clouds are hanging low, but they can blow away quickly, too.

Safe Travels!

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and it was the most charming of the places we visited in Vietnam. Beautiful, historic, colourful, if you only visit one place in Vietnam, make it here.

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Japanese Bridge (Chua Cau)

This city was once a major port from the 15th to the 19th century.  The famous Chua Cau Bridge was built by the Japanese in the late 1500s to join the Japanese section to the Chinese traders. It is in what is known as the Old Quarter and the various architecture and industry of old is well-preserved. The bridge is very popular and worth the fee to travel to the Old Quarter.

Boats line the central port, ready to take you on various short or long journeys and fishing nets sit, suspended over the river until used.

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The city is known for its lanterns and its tailors. In both, you will be spoilt for choice.

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And, while it is very pretty by day, it is enchanting by night. My camera at the time was determined to thwart my attempts, but I think you’ll get the picture.

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We stayed in a hotel with a Spanish flavor, although I think they would say French. Five generations of the family had built 5 separate sections, or blocks and there was a bakery well-beneath us. It was a bit of a warren, but very attractive, nonetheless, and at 3 stars I’d be way out of my comfort in 5 stars.

 

There are markets a-plenty and more places to eat than you could possibly visit if you stayed a year. We spent one day visiting My Son.

We were picked up by private car and taken to My Son (miha sonne) via countryside abloom with lotuses. A shuttle took us 2 km up the hill in 38C so we didn’t complain. The ruins are beautiful – great colour and structure of what is left after the bombing of 1968. The blackened walls are a sombre reminder that more than lives were destroyed. The Cham people were from 11C and these were their temples and meeting places – what we had learned were the first buildings erected as they were central to a village.

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The walk was great – picturesque and informative. The vegetation was dense and many gum trees were there. The driver said that they were very very old and that the people made eucalyptus oil ‘for the muscle and the baby’.

On our return, I noticed some extensive waterlily areas and the driver kindly stopped while I sloshed off in the mud to capture them.

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In the afternoon, we held off lunch until the shuttle took is to the beach, where we found soul café, recommended by a previous guide (Thanh). Had a cheap lunch of spring rolls and cau lau. Then we headed for the beach and avoided paying for a simple mat or a more luxurious lounge, choosing the sand instead. I was the only one who headed for the water and it was warm and salty. There were 2 lifeguards and red flags set up between which to swim. Few people were in the water, as most lounged under the grass huts or on the lazy boys. It wasn’t sunny, but still hot.

We saw some fishermen take their round boats out, using just a rudder but getting very far. There were junks on the water, too, but we didn’t see anyone on them. This beach is not the main beach. On arrival in Hoi An, the driver took us to an esplanade which I believe is the main swimming area.

However, I loved the character of the beach we ended at. In fact, the whole character of Hoi An was delightful. We felt safe walking the streets by day or night and knew to tip drivers, restaurateurs and the like. This was the tail end of our trip and a great way to end it.

Travel safe. Buy your water in Vietnam, but have plenty of it and take a hat (although the conical rice hats are the best sunshades I have ever worn).