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Photo of the Week: Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

By on Jun 26, 2011 in Brunei | 0 comments

Lets face it, Brunei is not exactly at the top of most peoples travel itineraries. In fact, this devout Islamic country, rich in oil and wealth, is often hurriedly passed through for the bountiful adventures that await in the Sabah or Sarawak wilderness – which if I was honest with you, was exactly my intent when I boarded a mini bus in Miri (jumping off point for the Kelabit highlands) bound for Bandar Seri Begawan. Only spending 24 hours in this forgotten destination, I was instantly mesmerized by Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque, the grand royal Islamic mosque that dominates this small city’s skyline. From every angle and from every light of day, the mosque was spectacular to look upon. Visiting the mosque is a very spiritual affair and Islamic faith is strictly adhered to, so both men and women need be prepared to adopt the hijab which refers to a modest dress standard. Whilst Brunei wasn’t able to lure me for longer than my intended time, Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque makes it well worth a stop over.    ...

Photo of the Week – The Monks of Luang Prabang

By on Jun 18, 2011 in Laos | 0 comments

  Luang Prabang is my favourite city in South East Asia! It is a place that relaxes the soul, inspires spirituality and bountifully rewards the traveller who attempts the arduous journey through the land of a million elephants. I took this photograph of three young men who has just left one of the monasteries that resides within the slopes of Phu Si. These young Buddhist monks were presumably heading to the local river to bathe themselves, which is a common sight alone the river’s shores. What I loved about Luang Prabang, besides the immense culture, is the colour and vibrancy of the place. From the bright orange and yellows of the monks garments, to the intense red and blue parasols being sold in the markets. Delicious grilled fish would be laid upon the most vibrant green banana leaves and dazzling golden statues of Buddha would adorn the various Wats. Luang Prabang is a relaxing visit, alive with colour and is a beautiful place to spend a week recharging your soul before heading onto Vietnam or Northern Thailand.    ...

Photo of the Week: Sunrise from Mt Kinabalu, Borneo

By on Apr 24, 2011 in Borneo | 0 comments

  Standing on the summit of Mt Kinabalu in Borneo was mesmerizing and one of the greatest accomplishments of my life. I took this photo of a fellow climber as he stood there watching the warmth of the magnificent sunrise tame the clouds deep into the valleys below.  Only staying for about thirty minutes upon the summit, because even at half the height of Mt Everest it still packed a wintery blast, I headed for the comforts of base camp. Many people say on a good day you can see the Philippines and neither though I didn’t get the chance see our South East Asian neighbor, it was still a great day to be alive!      ...

The Vietnam Conclusion

By on Apr 1, 2011 in Vietnam | 0 comments

Hello, What’s Your Name? A three week adventure around Vietnam.   After three intense and chaotic weeks of travelling through Vietnam, Nic and I had made it to our last destination, Ho Chi Minh City airport for our flight home. It was with a mix of sadness that we were to be concluding such a great adventure, yet relief as my travel worn body, challenged at every corner on this overland trip, was glad to be heading home to the comforts of a clean shower and a comfortable bed. We had done it! A journey that so many dream of and a journey that will remain with me for the rest of my life. In retrospect, Vietnam is what I had always been looking for in my South East Asian adventures, rough and ready travel, chaotic Asian influences, amazing food and the chance to really get off the beaten track with no one holding my hand. Yes I nearly got Niki injured a few times, yes Giardia is not a good travelling companion and yes I was pick pocketed, however we can’t overlook the most important aspect. We had successfully travelled from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City for our honeymoon and Niki and I were still married by the end of it (not to mention the rules of marriage I learnt) – that tells me my marriage is as strong as Vietnamese rice wine. Wrapping up the Hello what’s your name? Blog Series, I want to share my thoughts with you on a country that is rapidly opening to tourism and some of my highlights over the three weeks. Hanoi, like an estranged lover, just as you get close it bitch slaps you and puts you back in your place. I liked Hanoi for this reason. It’s a political capital city with hard liners and a do or die attitude which more resembles China than South East Asia. I won’t lie though, I can see why this city wouldn’t appeal to everyone. It’s not relaxing, you’re constantly on edge from touts and manic traffic and you never quite feel like you’re welcome. Halong Bay. It’s touristy, it’s expensive and its one of the best indulgent activities I have ever participated in. Let’s face it, this is Halong Bay, nothing else in the world is similar! Splash out and spoil yourself with this one, its well worth it. Sapa’s uniqueness comes from the gracious Hmong indigenous people of the area who single handedly make it worth the 12 hours of train travel it will take you to get here. Its cultural vibe is rivaled by nowhere else in South East Asia as its not staged for tourists like Thailand. Well worth a trek to Ta Phin if you get the chance and the whole experience is a must when travelling to Vietnam. Hoi An is Vietnam’s tourist town and is polished, buffed and presented in a neat package. Needless to say Hoi An is popular and you’ll be surrounded by tourists from all over the world and from all walks of life. However if you’re like me and you wish you could have seen Asia in the times when Singapore was the whore of the east, Hong Kong was the opium capital and sea traders ruled South East Asia, then Hoi An can give you a glimpse into what a trading port would have looked like. No opium or ladies of the night (not that I saw) but heaps of great restaurants, relaxed nightlife, clean beaches and of course lots of lanterns. Hue! I don’t really understand where Hue fits into Vietnam. Torn apart by war, centered on its cultural history of emperors and moving forward whilst watching its back. Perhaps I was in a travel low whilst here or perhaps travel shouldn’t always be fun, sometimes it should be hard going and thought provoking – which Hue certainly is. Nha Trang is a small town and reminds me of the coastal towns of Spain – English breakfast cafes, themed pubs, tourist development, the beach and not much to do. Nha Trang was comfortable but I personally don’t know why people stop there. The beaches are better near Hoi An, there aren’t many attractions and unless you’re into getting cheaply drunk all night………ohhhh that’s why people stop there. Apparently it’s a good dive spot too! Ho Chi Minh City. I have to admit I didn’t give enough time to explore this city, only staying here for two days. Saigon as it was formerly known is just as crazy, chaotic and thrill riding as you expect it to be. It’s also very sobering with the War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace giving a horrific glimpse into Vietnam’s history. Make sure to give yourself plenty of time when visiting this city and hold onto to you knickers you’re in for the ride of your life! So with that I say thank you for sticking with me over the last five months, the trip to Vietnam was life changing. I really encourage you to visit Vietnam before it starts to open to the mass western tourism that so much of South East Asia has already adopted. Vietnam isn’t a walk in the park however if you’re thinking of travelling to Vietnam, you probably already know that.  That’s it for “Hello, what’s your name?” and with that I’d like to say my name is...

The Art Zoo in Bali

By on Mar 29, 2011 in Indonesia | 0 comments

  Forget the mundane Louvre, that crazy Gaudi dude or the supposedly good pop art of Tate Modern, the Art Zoo is where it’s all happening. I first saw the Art Zoo as I was cruising along the coast of Bali exploring the many hidden hideaways of the secluded northern villages. The Art Zoo lured me in with the promise of crazy colours and the opportunity to wander into the somewhat surreal realms of the Balinese art scene. I wasn’t disappointed. The Art Zoo is a gallery like none other and more represents an extension of the artist’s imagination than simply a piece of artwork produced on canvas. As you walk through the grounds with giant hands appearing through walls, long eccentric golden dragon spirits, crazy art and spiral towers, you start to wonder if you have crossed into Wonderland. Then you meet the Cheshire Cat.   Just as you start to form an opinion – you’ll either love this for the eclectic view into contemporary art or you’ll love that it’s incredibly corny that its fun – you meet the man behind it all or I like to kindly call him, the Cheshire Cat. Quietly swinging in his hammock, watching from a distance before enticing you into a riddle of conversation. It was explained that he had built the place from scratch over time, would eventually sell up because of too many foreigners and start over again somewhere else. The main mural that was being working on by him and his apprentices was about to be sent to Singapore for an exhibition, whilst other artwork was on its way to his Ubud gallery.   The Art Zoo in Bali is crazy in a good way as it doesn’t take itself too serious. It is well worth a stop and is found west of Tedjakula along the main coast road. It will take you about 3 hours from Kuta to reach it and if you’re planning to come this far it’s well worth staying a couple of days in the...

The Black Hmong of Sapa Vietnam

By on Jan 20, 2011 in Vietnam | 0 comments

I found this great promo video for a documentary that I wanted to share with you. It  explores the issues associated with the young Hmong women in Vietnam pursuing tourism as a way to survive. It’s not only thought provoking about how we travel and of our impacts on these remote destinations, however it also gives a rare insight into how the Hmong view tourism and their future. If your interested in finding out more about this documentary, check out Galloping...