Posted in Exploring Asia, Exploring Vietnam, TEFL experiences

Moving to hectic Hanoi, Vietnam

Having lived in Thailand for 1 year and 3 months, it was definitely time to move on and experience somewhere different. We wanted somewhere similar to Thailand’s cost of living and culture. So after 6 weeks living in Phuket, one of Thailand’s stunning beach destinations, we decided to move to Hanoi in Vietnam.

Flying from Phuket to Hanoi, we had to make a stop over in Bangkok for 11 hours. Such an annoying amount of time, Do we stay in the airport overnight? Or do we book a hotel and checkout at 3am in the morning? ¬†Deciding it would be very uncomfortable and strange to sleep out in the airport overnight, we checked into a hotel just 800m from the airport and sought out our nearest 7-11. These little shops are a life saver in Thailand! The humidity can get beyond unbearable at times, so usually we search for the nearest 7-11 and run inside for the aircon! The beauty about Thailand is that your always around 100m from a 7-11, they’re everywhere! Anyway, taking advantage of our last trip to 7-11, we stocked up on Thai ready meals and toasties, anything that we knew we wouldn’t be able to find in Vietnam.

Waking up at 3am and boarding the plane at 6am, we arrived into Hanoi around 2 hours later. Taxis were expensive on our own, so we met some other travellers and got a taxi together. Dropping us off at our guesthouse 30mins later and stepping out onto a busy main road, I realised just how crazy Hanoi is! The traffic here is insane! Crossing the road is so scary, you literally have to look in every possible direction when crossing and walk across slowly to avoid every driver.

 

IMG_4813
Chaotic traffic in the capital

What strikes me as absolutely crazy is that most motorbikes here have no mirrors, a taxi driver told me the Vietnamese remove them as they don’t want to be seen as uncool! Although, the only way around is by motorcycle so my boyfriend and I unwillingly rented one for just $50 a month. He loved driving in Chiang Mai, Thailand but here it’s completely different, it’s the opposite side of the road for one! It definitely took some time getting used to, trying not to drive up the wrong way.

IMG_4808
No mirrors and five people on one bike!

 

After staying in a guesthouse for the night, we went flat hunting. Contacting an agent seems to be the most common way of finding somewhere to rent here. We followed the agent to several properties and found two we fell in love with. Took an extra day to decide which one to go for, but when we moved in, it was definitely the right choice. Much bigger than the flat we rented in Thailand, with brand new furnishings and living by a huge lake, all for under ¬£400 a month. Accommodation is a bit more expensive than in Thailand and you don’t really find the added amenities like a swimming pool or gym but we found a gym just minutes from our apartment so it’s perfect!

There’s a local fruit and veg market about a 2 minutes drive from our place, we’ve taken full advantage of this and actually started to cook more now too. It’s definitely more expensive to eat out in Hanoi than Chiang Mai and to be honest, by now we’re craving some of our home cooked English dishes!

IMG_4701
Lovely little fruit market

The biggest difference I’ve noticed in Hanoi compared to Chiang Mai is the cultural differences. In Thailand, everywhere we turn there is a Buddhist temple or shrine, whereas in Hanoi it’s there, but it’s a lot harder to find. However, there’s so much character here due to the French ruling years ago. Many buildings have a European design and everywhere sells French baguettes. One of my favourite dishes in Vietnam is Banh Mi, a twist on both French and Vietnamese cuisine. It’s a French baguette filled with pork, pate, fresh coriander, salad and hot chilli sauce, delicious!

IMG_4718.JPG
Finding culture in busy Hanoi at Chau long temple
IMG_4924
The European influence at St. Joseph’s cathedral

We’ve also completed training at our new jobs and are now officially employed again. This time we’re both working in language centres instead of a school like we did in Thailand. Our classes are in the evenings and at weekends so we have all the days free in the week to explore. We work just 4 hours a day in the week and a bit more on the weekend but it’s perfect for me and Lee.

Overall, it’s been a good three weeks settling in to our new home in Hanoi. We’ve got a bike, a lovely apartment and a new job. And it gets even better because we’re off to Hong Kong in two weeks for a visa run!

FullSizeRender.jpg
Vietnam’s culture

 

 

 

 

Posted in Exploring Asia

Chased by Monkeys in the Batu caves, KL!

I love Monkeys or so I thought! Heading to the Batu Caves in Kuala Lumpur was at the top of my travel to – do list. Reading all about it and seeing other travellers’ photos, I quickly became jealous seeing their numerous close up’s of Monkeys and getting those awesome shots I’ve only dreamt of getting before.

thumbnail_IMG_2785

A golden statue 30 ft high stands at the foot of the caves, and then you have the test of 300 or so steep steps to climb to reach the magnificent caves. Dark and gloomy inside, bats flying above and wild monkeys stealing food from tourists, it was definitely an unusual sight to see. Add to that a few Hindu statues and a huge shine filled with people showing their respects, it’s a tourist hotspot and a great place to check out if you’re in Kuala Lumpur. If your lucky, you might even spot a chicken inside the caves too!

thumbnail_IMG_2769

thumbnail_IMG_2786 (1)
A chicken and a monkey inside a cave, not something you see every day!
Reaching the second part of the caves, you find yourself approaching a huge cave, with a large opening at the top revealing the glorious sunshine and 35 degrees heat. On the steps leading up to the shrine, I saw a man taking a handful of bananas as an offering up to the large Hindu shrine in the middle. I think you can guess how the story goes from here. Three monkeys come out of nowhere and one of them, (the leader it looked like) grabbed the whole bunch of bananas and ran away. The man was angry, very angry and started to chase after the monkeys himself. 

12923118_10153883588840845_8280051196078397415_n
Watch out for the monkeys on the stairs!
Note to everyone reading: do not buy bananas from the street stalls outside, unless your buying them to feed the monkeys!

On the way back down that enormous staircase, we spotted an attraction called the dark caves. You can pay 35MYR to have a 45 minute guided tour around the caves, wearing headlamps and trying to spot living things inside the cave. I took one look on the boards outside, spotted one saying these caves are home to one of the rarest spiders and I literally ran away from my biggest phobia of all time. That is not something I would pay to see!

thumbnail_IMG_2791

What was amazing to see were dozens of monkeys jumping all around the place. There’s street food vendors outside the caves,  selling delicious Indian sweets and snacks. I couldn’t help but spot monkeys perched on bins eyeing up their next victims buying food. I brought a selection of Indian sweets for the journey home and was surrounded by monkeys chasing me trying to sample my treats. I had to bury the plastic bag at the bottom of my handbag so they didn’t grab it. Although a lady in front of me wasn’t so careful. I saw a scary looking monkey jump right onto her chest, stole her plastic bag of snacks and ran away.  It looked very scary actually. 

thumbnail_IMG_2763.jpg

 

I highly recommend visiting the Batu caves if you’re visiting Kuala Lumpur. Just jump on a train to KL Sentral station and change to the KTM Komuter to Batu Caves. Only 5.20MYR for a return ticket and the train stops right outside the cave attraction. It’s open until 8pm and admission is free, although donations are welcome. Just be aware of those thieving Monkeys!