Miyajima – A Day Trip Exploring One Of Japan’s Most Scenic Islands

Under the shade of rustling Japanese pines, a walking path traced the low rock seawall towards the Itsukushima torii gate. The smell of dried pine needles swirled in to meet the salty ocean air. Looking out to the sparkling waters separating Miyajima Island from Hiroshima Bay mainland, we saw one of Japan’s ancient icons.

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The sad transformation of Ubud

OK, i’ll come clean straight away. I’ve seen Eat, Pray, Love. I need to admit this, because that’s the preconception of Ubud I had in my head when we travelled to inland Bali for a few days. This is where Julia Roberts did all her movie stuff, bike riding through jungle mountain roads and past sparkling vistas of brilliant green rice fields shielded by lush tropical backdrops.

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So we got there, and…wait a minute, where are all the rice terrace farms? I can see a lot of bars, and a lot of traffic, are you sure this isn’t Denpasar? We drove from Sanur to Ubud and all we saw were roadside art galleries selling paintings of the Buddha, roundabouts protected by huge weapon waving warrior statues, and silver merchants. For the whole 45 minute drive, just highway, and shops. Where were the rice terraces? Read more

Seeing Hanoi on foot

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The streets of Hanoi rumbled into life in the morning like a great machine coughing into life, intoxicatingly fragrant with noodle soup, vibrating with motorbike engines, horns, shouting, conical straw hats, fruit and Buddhist shrines, pulsing and pumping like a heartbeat. Yet unlike the pantomime of certain tourist-laden streets in Ho Chi Minh City, there was always a feeling here that it was business as usual. I met Jeff at the airport immigration counter (by sheer coincidence), as he collected his visa, pre-arranged online (as is required for entry to Vietnam). We caught the bus into town, and a million motorbikes escorted us to the old town, a large sector of the city surrounding Hoan Kiem Lake. Spending time here can be as fast-paced or lazy as you want.

Bia Hoi, if you know where to look, is locally brewed beer sold for something like 3-5,000 dong (10-20 Australian cents). And it’s damn good, too. Take a kid’s chair, order a Bia Hoi, and sit and watch the street chaos. Restaurants dishing out bowls of pho (Vietnamese noodle soup) spill out onto the sidewalks in a frenzy of tiny plastic kid’s chairs too. At night, the chairs remain, and youths crowd the sidewalks sipping mango smoothies and chewing sunflower seeds, their broken shells scattered across the pavement. Welcome to Vietnam.

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