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Review: Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Indonesia

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If you are looking for complete relaxation in a beautiful secluded location hidden away on the cliff sides of Bali, then The Four Seasons Resort is the answer. This property boasts some of the most spectacular views in Bali situated on prime real estate. With a beautiful beach below, infinity pools looking across to the ocean and colorful gardens lining its corners, this resort is a must. It steps out of the busyness of the bigger cities.

As we entered the front gates to the property in Jimbaran Bay, it was clear to see why this resort has time and time again been noted as one of the best stays in Indonesia. Once arriving at reception we were greeted by the staff and took a seat in the lobby area. Immediately my attention was drawn to the stunning view from the top of the cliff side. After taking some time to soak up the atmosphere we were provided with our itinerary for the day and were ready to make the most of this experience.

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We were ushered to the resort’s very own Fitness and Spa Centre where we would be spending a large portion of the day. The center is equipped with a large gym, spa and massage treatments, yoga room and outdoor tennis court. The changing rooms are equipped with indoor and outdoor shower facilities, lockers, hot and cold plunge pools, a sauna and steam room.

Kelly began her day with an Anti-Gravity Yoga Class conducted at the property and from what I could tell, this was a very pleasant, soothing and relaxing experience. While the lesson was happening, I found time to sneak away and explore the property. Everywhere I walked or looked I was either greeted with magnificent view, smiles or hellos from all of the staff. A great highlight to the resort is its enormous size and the feeling of openness as you stroll about the property. There are so many spots across the resort where you can find your own little area for the day to kick back and relax. The infinity pools are a large selling point for the resort and are situated in a perfect location, which claims stunning views.

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After venturing about the property I had worked up quite the appetite and was excited to make our way down to the Sundara Restaurant within the resort to indulge. The staff was very attentive and sat us at a table with a sensational view out across the ocean. Once presented with the menu I quickly skimmed through the dishes and was left with one of the hardest decisions I have had to make in the past 8 months of travel – “What was I going to order?” Honestly, everything on the menu jumped out at me so there were some tense moments. The menu definitely does a great job to cater for the needs of all types of eaters. We ordered the Maki Maki (sushi), Salt and Pepper Crush (seafood tempura dish), Balinese Mixed Satay, Lamb Curry and the Beer Battered Fish and Chips. The food was delicious and not one crumb was left behind! After filling up on the sensational meal it was time to sit back and have a rest on the day beds, which overlooked the infinity pool.

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After some time taking in the picturesque setting that is the Four Seasons Resort Jimbaran Bay, we were shown about the property on a tour to see first hand the range of options people have when staying with the resort. We ventured about the Four Seasons Residences, which are everyone’s dream holiday retreat. These properties come equipped with your very own in-house butler, an enormous indoor/outdoor living space, large pool and can sleep up to 6 adults comfortably. These are perfect for families or a wedding party looking to have time with their loved ones. We were then shown to the villas, which line the cliff tops of the property. Once entering the front doors you immediately take in a spectacular view across the ocean. These rooms come with an outdoor-seated area, small pool, large indoor/outdoor bathroom and all the amenities you would ever need. It was a true retreat to sit back, relax and soak up the view. Whilst we drove about the property I found my eyes glancing to the lovely gardens that line the properties side walks, meticulously maintained with staff who stop what they are doing to say hello to each guest that passes them. Such a beautiful, beautiful place to be!

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After our tour of the property it was time for me to kit up and take part in a one-on-one personal tennis lesson with a pro. As a cricketer, from a young age tennis has at times been a struggle with a very sloppy forehand and backhand. With the patience of my instructor and some pointers, I was able to slow down my movements and improve my game. The lesson went for 60 minutes and I did work up quite the sweat, but I still had an awesome time! The Four Seasons at Jimbaran Bay also offers surfing lessons and stand up paddle board to name a few and these activities really add to the experience had at the resort.

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As the sun set, we wandered down to one of the many pools found on the property. We stopped at an infinity pool, which had an impressive view and reminisced on our day at the Four Seasons. While the sun came down we wandered back to the fitness and spa center where we went our separate ways and indulged in complete relaxation using the ‘quiet room’, sauna, hot and cold plunge pools, steam room and showering facilities. This center is all about complete relaxation and as we excited the doors I felt completely refreshed and rejuvenated after our experience.

Overall the Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay, Indonesia was an exceptional experience with sophistication throughout the entire day. From the reception to the hotel and restaurant staff we enjoyed every moment we spent at the property. I would highly recommend this resort to anyone looking for an escape where they can truly relax, forget about real life and be catered to for all your needs.

To make a booking with the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Indonesia click here.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Four Seasons Resort Bali at Jimbaran Bay, Indonesia in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy.

Review: Oceans 5 Dive Resort, Gili Air, Indonesia

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After six weeks of no under world adventures it was an absolute breathe of fresh air to arrive at the Ocean 5 Dive Resort on Gili Air in Indonesia. After a flight cancelation due to the volcanic activity on Lombok, we had to change our travel plans in order to cater for the deep desire to dive in the Gili’s. With a few minor changes we finally arrived on Gili Air a few days later. For anyone who has not yet been to the Gili Islands, you should try to make the journey as I can guarantee you this is the destination that you can just kick back and unwind. Island time is definitely present here because time moves much slower!

After settling on the island we made our way over to the Oceans 5 Dive Resort to check in with their staff for what would be our base for the next 5 days of adventure. The Dive Resort is situated on prime real estate right in front of the Gili Air pier where all boats arrive from the other islands and mainland. This dive resort oozes such a cool and relaxed vibe and if I were to open one myself it would be done exactly the same way as Oceans 5. The outdoor area offers all guests of the dive shop and resort a café named ‘Coffee & Thyme’, small boutique stores, big pool, a central bar and numerous options for seating from the large picnic tables, to bean bags or pool chairs there is something to meet your needs.

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Oceans 5 Dive Resort further offers Aqua Yoga Classes for those who are looking for the body-mind-spirit connection and freediving courses for those looking to challenge themselves.

The Oceans 5 Dive Resort is a 5 Star IDC PADI operated dive centre that offers a full range of PADI courses from beginner to divemaster and professional levels at an affordable price. The Resort further offers 10 stunning pool bungalows and garden rooms which have views across the pool and out to the ocean. With the location being so central and the island so small it’s in a great spot to access everything you will need throughout your stay on the island.

We met with the Oceans 5 Dive Resort staff who operated very professionally and did everything they could to accommodate for all of our needs during our stay. Ocean 5 offer 3 fun dives per day, which are conducted at 8:30am, 11:30am and 2:00pm. There is also the option for night dives, but these are on request. As the dive sites are maximum 25 minutes away, it’s only a one-dive boat trip which means less time on the boat more time in the water.

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A Day Of Diving:

After arriving at the dive shop early in the morning the office staff introduced us to our local dive guide for the day. He then took us to size up and set up our gear for the dive. This process was extremely stress free with our guide and other staff collecting our BCD, fins, regulator, tank, mask, wetsuit and computers ensuring these were the correct size. It’s important to note that Oceans 5 Dive Resort ensure safety and all of there gear is of the best quality and regularly serviced and maintained.

After setting up the gear, we took a seat with our dive guide who let us know which of the 17 dive sites across the Gili Islands we would be diving. The guide informed us of what we could expect to see and a rough dive plan referring to the map of the dive site. As a group, we went over the signs and signals for marine life and safety under the water to make sure everyone is knowledgeable and comfortable for the fun dive.

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Before we knew it, we were climbing aboard the dive boat and heading out to the dive site. Onboard the boat there is emergency oxygen and free water to drink before and after the dive to stay hydrated. On arrival at the dive site we suited up, buddy checked as a group then entered the water individually and descended as a group.

On your dives you can expect to see all kinds of marine life in all kinds of settings. From sandy bottoms to wrecks, there is so much on offer across the Gili Islands. Here are a few things you may spot on your dives: sharks, nudibranches, trigger fish, turtles, spotted rays, eels, lion fish, sea horses, orangutan crab, numerous coral formations and octopus just to name a few. I wouldn’t want to give too much away for your dive. but let me just say the Gili Islands has been one of the best locations I have dove around the world and Oceans 5 Dive Resort’s operation and dive guides make the experience extremely memorable!

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As a confident diver I still enjoy diving with a guide as the locals just have an eye to see the smallest of things that I would usually have missed. I can assure you that you are in great hands with the Ocean 5 Dive Resort guides. The ocean is their backyard and they conduct themselves in the water in a very calm manner on each and every dive.

A dive company making a difference!

Oceans 5 are trying their best to make a difference on Gili Air with an ocean clean up every few weeks. The coolest part about this ocean clean up is the fact that this is free to anyone who would like to be a part of it. Ocean 5 Dive Resort wear the cost and place you into small groups with a limit of around 45 minutes to enter the water off the beach directly in front of the resort and clean up the harbor. When we took part in the clean up between 12 people we brought up 80 kilograms of rubbish consisting of plastic, glass and household items.

It’s empowering to be a part of an ocean clean up. Even if this impacts in the smallest of ways, we were making a difference. As the staff in the Oceans 5 Dive Resort say, “If one local person sees what we are doing or asks the question, that can make the biggest of changes to the environment.”

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We had such an awesome time diving with the Ocean 5 Dive Team and have definitely made some life long friends here. I highly recommend anyone looking to dive in the Gili Islands to make their way over to Oceans 5 as this company operates in such a professional, safe and welcoming manner. It’s truly a memorable experience. We will be back!

To make a booking with Oceans 5 Dive Resort click the link here.

For any inquiries emails can be sent to info@oceans5dive.com

Disclaimer: I was a guest of Oceans 5 Dive Resort in Gili Air, Indonesia in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy.

VIDEO: What To Expect From Travel In Laos

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Laos is hands down one of my favorite countries to explore around the world. With such a rich history, it’s honestly the most unique destination when adventuring through Southeast Asia. Buddhism pervades every facet of life so change comes very slowly and the cities have curfews that are obeyed by most.

This is the perfect destination to kick back, relax and take a moment to appreciate the beauty that is Laos. From the mountainous terrain and countless waterfalls, this country offers so much to all travellers in the most honest and peaceful way possible. Laos is nothing but peace amongst the jungles where time feels like it slows down, and you can really appreciate each day for what it is.

For more information on Laos check out my complete travel guide by clicking here. This is a look into our past three weeks travelling from the North to the South of Laos. So many memories!

A Complete Travel Guide To Laos

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Visa on arrival (30 days) – Easiest way to attain a visa to Laos is by arriving into their international airports. Although this isn’t always cheap and there are limited airlines that fly the routes, it’s a good option to beat the hassle of a border crossing. Be sure to have 2 passport size photos on hand and US Dollars to make payment for the visa. The cost for the Visa’s differs for all countries and can easily be accessed online (Australia $30 + $2 process fee, USA $35 + $2 process fee.)

Minivan/Bus/Sleeper Bus/Flight Bookings –

The country is easy to travel through with many option from minivans to VIP buses. Note: Some of the roads are not that great with many turns and steep cliff sides. All forms of transport are very easy to book once you have arrived at a destination. Here is a quick rundown of the costs I paid this year (2015). These prices do change and the best bet is to shop around and find decent companies. Don’t always go with the cheapest options.

Hanoi – Luang Prabang (Flight) – $140 USD (Laos Airlines)

Luang Prabang – Vang Vieng (Minivan) – $14 USD

Vang Vieng – Vientiane (Minibus) – $4 USD

Vientiane – Pakse (Flight) – $160 USD (Laos Airlines)

Pakse – 4000 Islands (Minivan/Boat) – $7 USD

4000 Islands – Siem Reap (Boat/Minivan) – $30 USD (Asia Van Transfer)

Destinations

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Luang Prabang –

If peace and quite is what you’re looking for, then book a one-way flight to Luang Prabang. I have never been to a city that is so quiet, relaxed and peaceful as this UNESCO World Heritage City. This destination lays aside the Mekong River, which is the perfect backdrop for many great bars and restaurants. Accommodation is easy to come by and varies from hotels to guesthouses at affordable prices for all travellers. Many can be booked online via Agoda, otherwise you wont have any trouble finding a place on arrival.

What Not To Miss

Night Market – This market stretches for about 500 meters down the main street of Luang Prabang each evening from 5pm – 10pm. Here you can buy all kinds of souvenirs from hand made fabrics to silver and shoes. Just know that the prices can be negotiated so have your price set, and 9 times out of 10 they will be happy with this.

Alms Giving Ceremony – Awake early and walk to the main street of Luang Prabang where the ceremony will take place each morning. Your best option is to purchase offerings in the form of food prior to the day or arrival. Be sure not to interrupt the ceremony after it has begun. Follow as the locals do by kneeling down ready to give your offering to each of the monks. This is a great experience to be had, and I highly recommend this for everyone travelling to Luang Prabang.

Watch The Sunset From Mount Phousi – Prepare yourself for a short but steep climb to the peak of the mountain that looks over all of Luang Prabang. The cost is 10,000 Kip ($1.50 USD) and is worth every cent. As the sunsets over the Mekong River, this is a perfect spot to snap a few pictures and appreciate the true beauty that is Laos. 

Kuang Si Waterfalls – This is a great place to spend the day hiking, swimming and observing the jungles of Laos. This location is also the home to several rescued bears and is a great spot to adventure. Minivans operate from town for $5 USD return allowing you to have 2.5-3 hours at the waterfalls. You will need to further pay an entrance fee of 40,000 Kip ($5 USD) at the gates.

Tad Sae Waterfall – These are my favorite waterfalls in Southeast Asia and offer a great day of relaxation and natural massages from the waterfalls. Although a little bit trickier to arrive at, they are definitely worth the journey and I would highly recommend these for a day trip for families. There are many activities at these waterfalls including elephant rides, restaurants, numerous hiking trails, caves and waterfalls. To arrive at the waterfalls you need to:

  1. Find a tuk tuk driver and negotiate to pay no more than $5 USD per person for the 20 minute return journey and 3 hours at the waterfalls. If you want more time there then the price should be negotiated at this time. They will not leave until at least 4-6 people are in their tuk tuk.
  2. Arrive at the boat ramp and pay the 20,000 Kip ($2.50 USD) fee for the return journey on the pencil boats to the waterfalls.
  3. Arrive at the waterfalls and pay 40,000 Kip ($5 USD) to enter.
  4. Return journey make your way back to the boat, head over to the ramp and climb back into your tuk tuk who will then drop you in town. 

Bike Ride – Rent a bicycle or borrow one from your accommodation and take the riverside road around the town. Its a spectacular ride and very easy for all abilities with a flat, paved road. Be sure to time your ride so you don’t ride in the middle of the day when the sun is high in the sky.

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Vang Vieng –

Famously known for its party scene and tubing, let me say this destination is still going strong. After a change to regulations on tubing and the consumption of alcohol on the river, there seems to be an agreement now between the government and locals. In a nutshell, there are still 11 bars open on the river of which only 4 can operate per day. These bars are in full operation, but for those of you who have been tubing previously, there are no longer any high diving boards, zip lines or slip and slides. Everything else is still present with such an awesome atmosphere. There are great accommodation options. It just depends what you’re looking for, and food is very affordable.

What Not To Miss

A Day or 2 of Tubing – Arrive at the tubing rental in town around midday and pay the 55,000 Kip ($6.50 USD) fee for rental of a tube and 60,000 Kip ($7.50 USD) Deposit for the tube, which will be refunded to you if you arrive back before 6pm otherwise you will be fined 20,000 Kip ($2.50 USD) from your deposit. You will also sign your life away for full responsibility if you are injured whilst tubing on the river. Once there are 4 or more people they will provide you with a free tuk tuk ride to the top of the river. Once you jump in, the bars will be sure to throw you a line and pull you into their bar. Beverages are quite fairly priced at a few dollars per drink, and they will play all kinds of games to try and keep you at their location. Once you are finished with a bar, move onto the next. It’s important to note that usually from the last bar it will take you at least an hour to tube back into town to return your tube.

The Sandwich Ladies – If you are hungry, then you can’t go wrong with a sandwich from the numerous stands throughout the main area of the town. For $1 USD, these will blow your mind!

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Vientiane –

This capital city is almost like a through town for those travelling down to the south of Laos. Best bet is to relax in one of the riverside rooftop bars with a beverage in hand and watch the sunset over the Mekong River. There is an abundance of accommodation, restaurant and café options scattered across the city, which meet the needs of all travellers. The architecture of this city has a French twist and is a beautiful location to jump on a push bike and make your way to the sites of the city.

What Not To Miss

Night Market – Stroll up and down the night market that is set up each evening on the riverside and has all kinds of souvenirs you may be looking to purchase from shoes, clothing, rip off wallets, sunglasses and watches.

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Pakse –

This tiny little town is a pit stop to be made on the way to the 4000 Islands in the South of Laos. Pakse is super laid back with one main road that will cater for all your needs from accommodation, restaurants, motorbike rentals and tour operators. When arriving into the airport, be sure to walk outside the gates and jump into a Tuk-tuk (Song-teow) into town for $4 USD. The airport tries to charge $10 USD per person, so don’t be a sucker.

What Not To Miss

Day trip – Rent a motorbike for the day, costing you 100,000 Kip ($12.50 USD), Gas/Petrol ($5 USD) and entrance to the waterfalls around $5+ USD total. The bike rental will provide you with a map and help you choose your path whether to visit the waterfalls and/or villages in the region. The ride alone is awesome with countryside views on each side and a nicely surfaced road. The main waterfalls to get to are Tad Champi, which you can swim in & Tad Fane. I don’t want to give too much away, so just rent a bike and see where it will take you!

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4000 Islands (Don Det) –

Anyone who arrives at the 4000 Islands suddenly is overcome with not a care in the world. This is the easiest way to describe this destination. Time goes slowly in Luang Prabang, but in Don Det time goes even slower. This makes for such peaceful and relaxing days. If you’re about adventure or just tucking into a restaurant and relaxing with spectacular views across the water, Don Det Island will not disappoint. It’s important to note that this island has the occasional power shortage, lack of WIFI and most accommodation options only come with a fan. With that said, if you’re travelling through Laos make sure you stop here for a few days as it’s a quiet and tranquil destination.

What Not To Miss

Sunrise/Sunset – The Island of Don Det is broken up with the sunrise side and sunset side. Both sides of the island offer close to the same options however in the evening, your best bet is to tuck into a small restaurant/bar and watch the sunset over the river. I have never seen anything like the sunsets that we witnessed here with such vibrant and bright colours!

Eat at Mama Thanon’s – We dined here many times while on the island, and the small family run business has delicious food options at a very cheap price .The restaurant is located on the sunrise side, and you will not leave disappointed. Mama’s Banana & Chocolate Pancakes are mouth watering!

Kayaking Day Trip – This is a day well spent and the cost should not deter you as you get your bang for your buck! For the cost of 180,000 Kip ($22 USD) you will have breakfast and lunch included, bottled water, an English-speaking tour guide, kayak rental, entrance to both waterfalls, transportation between pit stops and entrance into Cambodia where you have lunch. The kayaking is awesome and if you are lucky you will stumble across the small pod of dolphins. For anyone adventurous, this is a must! 

Bike Ride – Renting a bicycle for the day will cost you 10,000 Kip ($1.50 USD). It’s an awesome ride around the Island of Don Det, and there is a pool at each end of the island. The pool costs 25,000 Kip ($4 USD) and is definitely worth it! You can also takes the bike over to Don Khon, which is one of the larger island, but you’ll pay 35,000 Kip ($5.50 USD) to enter the island.

Things Not To Miss In The North Of Vietnam

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Phong Nha

This absolute gem hidden away in the jungles of central Vietnam has so much to offer each traveller who makes the trek out to this destination. It’s easy to access by bus from Hue or a short taxi ride from Dong Hoi train station which will cost you $17 USD. This is such a beautiful place which is so new to tourism and shows a side of Vietnam not many people would ever get the chance to see. Walking or riding a bicycle down the streets everyone seems to have a smile on their faces and wave and scream “Hello!” It’s not to be missed, worth the money and the time.

Phong Nha also has many cave formations, including the world’s largest cave for height, width and volume and for a pretty penny you can partake in a tour which hikes and camps in the jungles of Vietnam for around $3000 USD+. After making it to the other various caves I can only imagine the size of the world’s largest as the smaller ones are spectacular. For anyone looking to stay in Phong Nha you can view my review of the Phong Nha Farmstay as I recommend this accommodation for all travellers.

What not to miss:

Instead of telling you what not to miss this is how you should attack things:

Day 1:

  • Make your way by bicycle to meet with the boat driver who will take you to the ‘Wild Boar Eco Lodge’ also known as the last point of civilization. Here you will experience a true Vietnamese meal and gaze out into the jungles of Vietnam.
  • On the return journey you will stop at ‘The Pub With Cold Beer’ and enjoy a beverage in company of other travellers if they are about.

Day 2:

  1. Jump on a bike and ride to the pay station for the Phong Nha Cave and Tien Son Cave.
  2. Pay for the entrance fees to the cave and boat rental for the duration of the trip ($15 USD Entrance & Boat Rental.) Note: the boat rental maybe a little more if it’s a smaller group of people as you pay a flat rate for the boat to take you to the caves and return.
  3. Arrive via boat at the the Phong Nha Cave and be paddled around 1 kilometer into the wet cave then walk yourself out and up to the Tien Son Cave.
  4. Board the boat and drive back to the port.

Day 3:

  1. Arrive in town and rent a motorbike ($8USD Rental + $5 USD Fuel) from the bike store opposite ‘Easy Tiger Hostel.’ This place is brilliant as they provide you with a map, ‘road side assistance’ if you break down and this even includes them driving out and fixing the bike for no charge at all. We didn’t sign anything; no passport handed over just a verbal agreement and a smile.
  2. Jump onto the bike and ride into the Phong Nha National Park and ride to the ‘Phong Nha Dark Cave’ where you will zipline, swim and explore the dark cave for around 3 hours. For the small cost of $17 USD its well worth the money. NOTE: After rainy period the dark cave may be closed due to the water level so make sure to check before arriving.
  3. Jump back onto your bike and ride to the ‘Paradise Cave’ ($12 USD Entrance Fee). After a short hike you will arrive at an enormous cave that you will walk one kilometer into. The cave could honestly fit skyscrapers inside. It’s something very special to see. We also had our lunch here, which was reasonably priced and decent food!
  4. Jump back onto you bike and complete the loop back to the motorbike rental store. On the ride back there are many photo opportunities. The complete loop is around 65 kilometers and will take you the day to complete.

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Ninh Binh

This area of Vietnam is known for its spectacular rock formations, caves and endless rice paddies. Easily accessible through tours departing daily from Hanoi ($20 USD+.) For those who are travelling by train through Vietnam, it’s easy to stop for a night or two snatching up a home stay online. This way you will experience something different from the rushed day tour.

What not to miss:

  • Tam Coc & the Caves . Arrive at the port and board a small boat to be paddled through the rice fields and three small caves to then return to port. Note to all travellers: be prepared to be hassled by vendors in small boats and almost forced into tipping the boat rower (typically $1 USD per person)

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Hanoi

This city in the North of Vietnam is much more lively than Ho Chi Minh City in the South in my opinion. It’s a fascinating city with streets that are lined with exactly the same sellers. For example, you’ll find an entire street of shoes or an entire street of bags. I am still unsure if this is good business. Anyway if you’re looking to buy shoes, artwork, bags or hang out drinking cheap beer then this is where you need to be.

What not to miss:

  • The Weekend Night Market is an awesome experience to be had with one of the main roads in Hanoi shut down for the evening. Here you can pick up a bargain if your negotiation skills are good, otherwise you may be paying a little bit more than you should.
  • The Beer Hois are located on many corners of Hanoi. These small bars serve the local beer for around $0.20 cents US and for that price you can’t say no.
  • The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum is where you can view Ho Chi Minh body. This is open most morning however make sure to check online before arriving as it may be closed to the public.
  • Wander the streets of Hanoi and really take a grasp of their culture and cuisine.

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Halong Bay
This world heritage site has been ventured to by many tourists over the past decade and is now showing the drastic effects of tourism. After touring here since 2000 the amount of pollution in the water is truly a disgrace and something really needs to be done soon otherwise the effects on this destination are going to change Halong Bay forever. It almost looks like people have upturned their rubbish bins into the waters.

The greatest piece of advice I can give to anyone travelling to Halong Bay is to be wise on who you tour with as we had a not so great experience with an operator on our last visit. The rough price for the 2 Day, 1 Night Halong Bay tour is around $89 USD all inclusive. For those who wish to stay on Cat Ba Island as well this is usually another $50 USD.

With that being said once you see past all the mayhem and blatant rip offs of Halong Bay, you will see the beauty that still exists with magical sunrises and sunsets. It’s just a pity nothing has been done to save this ecosystem from destruction.

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Here is a summary of the cost for my travel through the North of Vietnam via Train. NOTE. Always book these at the station directly not online and not with a tour operator. You can always check online for the schedules at https://vietnam-railway.com/

Danang to Dong Hoi (7 hours) – $9 USD Soft Seat

Dong Hoi – Hanoi (12 hours) – $18 USD Soft Seat

Things Not To Miss In The South Of Vietnam

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Ho Chi Minh City

This city in the South of Vietnam is one of my favorites places to venture about, as there honestly is so much to do. If you’re looking to spend a week here I can assure you, you will be able to fill your days with daily tours and venturing out on your own. If you’re wanting to learn about the Vietnam War then you have arrived at the right destination. Most tour operators are reasonable with their prices; however as always through Asia, the price is negotiable so don’t be a sucker and over pay.

What not to miss:

  • The Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour ($5 USD for Transport & $5 Entrance Fee) showcases a region that was bombed during the war. This region is scattered with hundreds of kilometers of tunnels that were used by the Vietnamese to hide from the Americans throughout the war. Here you will learn some history, climb inside the tunnels yourself and for those interested in firearms you can shoot a range of guns on the range.
  • The War Ruminant’s Museum ($2 USD Entrance) This is a must when visiting Vietnam to learn about the war. As confronting as it may be for some, this is an eye opener as to what went on during the Vietnam War, what the rest of the world thought about the war and the damaging aftermath of Agent Orange.
  • Ben Thanh Markets (FREE) Looking to pick up some souvenirs or rip off handbags, wallets and watches then this is the place to visit. At night there is a regular night market, which also offers great food options. Remember to bargain on the prices as they will shake you for everything you have!
  • Baba’s Kitchen (Farely Priced) I ate at this restaurant in 2011 and have recently returned. The food is just as delicious as before. Don’t get me wrong eating Indian food in Vietnam does seem strange however this is hands down the best Indian food I have ever had!

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Nha Trang 

This beautiful stretch of coastline in the south of Vietnam has so much to offer you. Once you see past the abundance of Russian writing on majority of the billboards and menus across the city, you will see the true beauty that is Nha Trang. There are many hotel and restaurant options to choose from. I would highly recommend the Azura Hotel ($18-$20 USD per night) one block from the beach and in the heart of all the action.

What not to miss:

  • SCUBA Diving ($75 USD for 2 dives, gear and breakfast) and/or Snorkeling. You should get out onto the reef and adventure. It’s something truly special. I highly recommend diving with Rainbow Divers (click here to read my review).
  • Thap Ba Mud Baths ($10USD +) Looking to relax in the fresh mud baths and leave feeling refreshed? Make your way here, and you will not be disappointed.
  • Watch a sunset from the beach of Nha Trang (FREE)
  • The Local 2 Restaurant This place has awesome food at a cheap price of around $2+ USD and has the cheapest Saigon Beer we could find in Vietnam $0.30 cents USD.

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Hoi An

This destination is a short taxi ride from Danang. The taxi costs roughly $20 USD to your hotel if your bargaining skills are good otherwise you can be safe and go on the meter which may be a little more. Once you arrive in Hoi An, you will almost feel like you are somewhere else in the world. If you have been to Cartagena, Colombia you will know what I mean. With a French colonial style of architecture this city is beautiful with such a cool vibe. If you’re in the market for tailored clothing and have a few days to play with then this is a place for you.

What not to miss:

  • Exploring the beaches. Jump on a bicycle, into a taxi or tuk tuk and make your way to the coastline and spend the day laying out and observing the stunning scenery.
  • My Sons UNESCO World Heritage Site ($5 USD for Transport & $5 Entrance Fee) If you’re all about the history of Vietnam then adventure to the old temple ruins. Quite a fascinating day tour with guides who will try and answer any question you throw their way.
  • Dining at ANY riverside restaurant! Most restaurants offer a set menu which is well worth the money. Best bet is to walk the riversides during the afternoon and return in the evening to dine at a place that fits within your budget. The restaurants all vary in prices. Don’t be fooled if no one is dining downstairs as most have a second floor or ‘roof top’ where most people will go to catch the fresh breeze and sunsets over Hoi An.

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Here is a summary of the cost for my travel through the South of Vietnam via Train. NOTE: Always book these at the station directly. Don’t book online or with a tour operator. You can always check online for the schedules at https://vietnam-railway.com/

Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang (10 hours) – $31 USD Soft Sleep

Nha Trang to Danang (13 hours) – $25 USD Hard Sleeper

#TravelInReality Week 5

Hey everyone! We’re writing this from our lovely hotel room in Vientiane – the capital city of Laos. This is the fifth post of our #TravelInReality series. If you haven’t read the intro, you can go here. Also, you can read last week’s post here.

We will be answering questions about traveling together as a couple – the good, the bad and the ugly. We’ll be writing week-by-week, and this week we traveled from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng to Vientiane. If you have any questions you want us to answer, leave a comment below or send us an email!


 

1.) Where did you travel to this week, where did you stay and how did you get there?

This week we travelled from Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng and Vientiane via mini bus, and stayed in modern and clean, but budget hotels.

2.) What was the most challenging part of this week?

KP: The week had gone super well until the very last night. Let’s just say we were really close to pressing cancel on our flights to America and parting ways. I’m not even sure how or why it all got to that point, but it’s what happens when you don’t communicate the little things that piss you off. It eventually boils over. We’re fine and dandy now after a long chat.

Sam: Having to deal with Kelly and her breaking computer. After pouring tea into her mouse pad early last week in Luang Prabang. This week the mouse pad slowly began to stop working which caused all kinds of arguments and frustrating moments.

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Tubing in Vang Vieng

3.) What was the most annoying thing he/she did this week?

KP: It was raining pretty hard while in Vietntiane one night, and I made it pretty clear that I didn’t want to walk back the 2 km in the rain because I wasn’t feeling good. For some reason, Sam was hell bent on walking back, and got mad at me because I wanted to spend the $4 on a tuk tuk. It’s what started the whole fight explained above.

Sam: The most annoying things was when we were completing work in a small café in Vientiane Kelly had a little bit of a cold so she was sniffling every two seconds. On top of this with her computer issues I watched her get frustrated and angry over and over again.

4.) What three things are you grateful for in your relationship?

KP: Ability to overcome obstacles, mutual respect and differing strengths/weaknesses.

Sam: Health, Smiles and Laughs.

5.) What was the number one topic that came up the most?

KP: Deciding on our accommodation for the next month or so. Sam likes to stalk Agoda.

Sam: Where shall we stay and Scuba Dive in Indonesia’s Gili Islands!

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Exploring Vang Vieng

6.) What was the best bar or restaurant you went to?

KP: We had such a fun time in Vang Vieng, which is filled with bars and restaurants, but my favorite had to be Jai Dees. It’s a hippie dippie bar that plays old school classic rock with a really laidback owner.

Sam: This would have to have been all the bars on the tubing river in Vang Vieng. All these bars have such an awesome atmosphere!

8.) What was you favourite memory from the week?

KP: We met an amazing British couple – Will and Rachael – in Vang Vieng while tubing down the river. We had such a great time tubing, partying and chatting all day/night. The tubing is definitely still ON!

Sam: Tubing down the river in Vang Vieng in the pitch-black dark of night singing the lion king with our newfound friends.

8.) If you could tell your partner one thing you wish he/she did differently, what would it be?

KP: I wish he would try to learn Spanish with me so we could speak in a different language together.

Sam: I wish she didn’t get so frustrated with the smaller things in life and found a resolution before getting frustrated and angry.

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Beautiful Laos

9.) From 0 to 10, 0 being “I could break up with him/her right now” to 10 being “I could marry him/her right now”, how in love do you feel after this week?

KP: All week we were so happy and had such an amazing time, so much so that I would say we were at a 9 most of the week. After the argument though, I’m pretty sure we were both feeling around a -2. Things are better now, but still feeling a little down from that.

Sam: Well technically we did break up one night after coming back to our hotel for about an hour. We were both in quite irritated and frustrated moods and fireworks flew. I was online about to cancel all of our flight and go our separate ways. Kelly was packing her bags and ready to check into another hotel. However somehow we managed to talk it out so in the space of an hour we went from a 0 ‘I broke up with you’ to about a 6/10 you’re all right!

Fun Fact About Sam/Kelly:

Sam managed a pub in England a few years ago.

Kelly falls asleep in all forms of moving transport almost immediately.


 

 

Stay tuned for Week 6!

The Ultimate Guide To Thailand

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Khanom

By far one of the much nicer and more authentic places to travel in Thailand. This little beach town is situated on the coastline in the south of Thailand. It’s a truly peaceful location with so much to offer with a beach that extends for kilometers. There is a wide variety of hotels, restaurants and bars to choose from and an awesome weekend night market a destination that you should make the effort to get to. So if you are looking to take some time and put your feet up my recommendation is to check into Jam Bay and grab a bungalow for a few nights. This place has everything you need with great food options, located on the beach with awesome company and an owner who is the coolest cat in Thailand. Guarantee your stay will be stress free and relaxing!

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Khao Sok

Adventurous and love the outdoors? Then this is where you need to get to. Khao Sok holds the record as the oldest evergreen national park in the world! If you’re not sold on this alone then simply searching images of this stunning place is sure to change your mind. Khao Sok is accessible by bus (minivan) from Bangkok, Phuket and Surat Thani with great bungalow accommodation and offers all kinds of daily activities, which include trekking to caves, kayaking, swimming and boating around the large National Park. I highly recommend anyone travelling to Thailand to take the time to adventure to Khao Sok.

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Krabi

This famous beach town in the South of Thailand sees many tourists each year and has stunning beaches, which are only a small boat ride away. Personally I feel the local beaches are a little bit dirty to swim and spend the day. Once you climb aboard a rented boat, make your way to Railay Beach where you will be able to see why this place has such a great reputation with travellers. This beach is a photographer’s best friend with clear blue waters and long tail boats moored on its shores. You have the ability to snorkel here, rent a kayak, sunbake, lay in the water or grab a bite to eat. A day well spent! I would recommend anyone travelling to Krabi to stay at the ‘J Hotel’ which is roughly $12 USD a night and ask for a roof top room. These give you your own roof top deck and stunning views out across to the ocean. There are many great food options scattered across the main beach area.

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Koh Tao

If you’re into your diving or are interested in becoming a diver, this is the place to be. With that being said snorkeling here is also a great option for the non-divers. This tiny little island out in the middle of the ocean has a reputation for awesome diving and partying. I can vouch for this. A short ferry ride from Surat Thani, Koh Samui or Koh Phangan will land you on the shores of Koh Tao. This island has lots to offer from countless dive operators who are very competitive with their prices to beach bars who will guarantee you have a great night. If you’re going to make the most of your time on Koh Tao, make sure you dive or snorkel during the days, rent a motorbike and ride to the secluded beaches and head out on the pub crawl. If your looking to SCUBA dive or undertake a course in Koh Tao I would highly recommend La Bombona Dive Centre. Please read my attached review. If you’re looking for accommodation Asia Divers Resort may be what you’re looking for. Click here to read my review.

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Koh Phangan

The home of Thailand’s notorious Full Moon Party, which operates each month, is sure to be a destination for anyone feeling like having a bit of fun. The madness begins two nights prior to the Full Moon once people start arriving on its shores and is just one huge party on Haad Rin Beach. If you’re looking to party non-stop, the Haad Rin Beach area is the place for you. If you’re searching for somewhere you may get some sleep, look to the other ends of the island as there are great options. I would recommend staying in the Thong Sala area and renting a scooter to get around the island. Tuk Tuks are easily accessible and the prices are always negotiable. During the night of the Full Moon Party the beach is packed with people, alcohol vendors and fire twirlers and skipping ropes. Just make sure you watch your valuables as unfortunately there are people waiting to pounce at any opportunity.

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Koh Samui

This is my least favorite island in the south of Thailand. After travelling here in previous years, each time I arrive back it seems like the authenticity of Thailand is slowly disappearing, especially in the Chaweng area. This area is becoming overpriced and over-travelled by tourists and you can see this in the way people treat the streets and the beaches with the amount of rubbish left behind. There are many other areas to stay in Koh Samui and I suggest anyone looking to get away and relax on a nice beach in Koh Samui to look else where on the island. Many yoga retreats and meditation programs are on this island as well.

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Phi Phi Island

This little island has had its fair share of wear and tear from Mother Nature and sees many tourists each year round. With several accommodation options for all types of travellers, the beach bungalows are always a popular sell. Phi Phi Island is all about tucking into a beach bar or laying out relaxing. This island also offers great SCUBA Diving options out to the smaller islands and surrounding areas for around $70 USD for 2 dives. A big seller from Phi Phi Island is their day tour to ‘The Beach’, which includes Monkey Island, snorkeling, cliff jumping and a mandatory bucket of local whiskey. travel-asia-thailand-adventure-guide-phi-phi-island

Chiang Mai

Hands down one of the highlights of Thailand. If you’re looking to escape the coastline and head inland to the jungles of Thailand then this is your destination. Chiang Mai is smack bang in the middle of the jungle with such a rich and thriving culture. Now known as a digital nomad’s hub, this location really has a lot to offer. You can spend your days roaming the streets and entering the countless temples within the city and spend your evenings strolling the night market picking out the local favorites of Khao Soy and Penang Curry to eat.

Chiang Mai offers many day tours to several Elephant Camps scattered around the region however I would highly recommend ‘Bobby’s Elephant Rescue Center’. All of Bobby’s elephants are rescued from Thailand and across the borders and roam free around his property. Once you meet the owner you will see the love he has for the elephants and they have for him. It’s a magical experience not to be missed!

Another great tour operating from Chiang Mai includes the day trip to the Golden Triangle and Wat Rong Khun (White Temple). If you unaware of the Golden Triangle this is where Thailand, Laos and Myanmar meet and you have the opportunity to jump aboard a board and travel over to step into Laos.

For those who are adventurous, rent a scooter from ‘Pop Riders’ and ride up into the mountains for the day to see Chiang Mai from up in the clouds. The ride up the mountain has some of the best views across Thailand’s jungles and into the city.

Last but not least if your into having a lazy day floating down the river get in contact with the team at ‘Chiang Mai Tubing & Beach Club’ they will be sure to look after your every need. That is right there is tubing in Chiang Mai, Thailand and for the price you will be silly not to jump at the opportunity! Click the link here to check them out! 

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Phuket

For those looking to party and pay the same price as you would for a beer in Australia, then Patong is the place for you. This region of Phuket is known for its over priced bars, ping pong shows, drug use, extortion, prostitution and robbery of tourists. However Phuket also has a much nicer side once you make your way to the areas outside of Patong. These areas are known as Kata and Karon Beach where you can find some of the nicest beaches in Thailand. There are hotels to meet your standard from basic stays to luxury and restaurants and bars to complement this. If you’re looking to get away and put your feet up for a few days I highly recommend booking yourself into Mom Tri’s Villa Royale Hotel. You will not be disappointed.

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Bangkok

This booming city is starting to remind me of Sydney, Singapore and Melbourne. With so much infrastructure and development going on, it’s slowly becoming extremely “high-rise.” Bangkok has so much to offer from stunning roof top bars to restaurants that will have your taste buds in a craze. Many travellers are also looking for that big night out and make their way to the backpacker’s area of Khao San Road which has an array of bars and clubs which party until the wee hours of the morning. I will vouch for Khao San Road. It is a good night out with a group of people and is something I feel you have to do at least once in your life. No need to worry if you get hungry on Khao San Road. You will be able to buy the local delicacy of bugs, insects and spiders. Bangkok also has many great shopping centers, which have very cheap food courts with many options for all types of fussy eaters.

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Top 5 Things To Do In Penang, Malaysia

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  1. The Penang National Park

If you are looking to have an awesome day out and about exploring nature then this is defiantly up your alley. Easily accessible by bus, the Penang National Park has so much to offer for all types of travellers. It’s also free. With several options from hiking along trails (2km-5km one way) to boat rides around the National Park this is a destination not be missed. Take note the trails are on uneven surfaces and can be quite a challenge for some. The route we took included an hour and a half trek to Turtle Beach to the turtle sanctuary. From here we boarded a boat for $13 and discovered the coastline and were dropped at Monkey Beach. This beach indeed has just that monkeys, water sport options and small restaurants and bars. I would suggest if you are not up for a great hike back to the gates of the National Park then elect to jump back onto a boat. The hike is very challenging with many areas under construction.

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  1. Georgetown Street Art

Georgetown is best known for its spectacular pieces of street art, which decorate its walls and side walks. Easily accessible by foot or bicycle you could spend an entire day roaming the alleys and streets discovering each and every piece of street art Georgetown has to offer. The street art ranges from unusual wire frame art to large-scale paintings. Defiantly a day well spent.

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  1. Khloo Kongsi Clan House

Recognised as one of the oldest clan houses in Penang, The Khloo Kongst Clan House can be found in the midst of Georgetown and is a beautiful piece of architecture. For a small cost of $3 you can wander about the property inside and out and learn more about the Chinese influence in Malaysia.

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  1. Dine at the Eastern & Oriental Hotel

This is a serious gastronomical experience in Penang, and I can promise you will leave extremely satisfied. The Eastern & Oriental Hotel offers buffet meals throughout the day that have an array of local and international dishes. We made a reservation for the buffet dinner arriving at 7pm and did not leave until close at 10:30pm. An unbelievably delicious meal!

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  1. Night Markets (Street Food)

Be sure to jump online and check out where each night’s market is located as there are several scattered across the city, which offer all types of authentic Penang dishes. It just comes down to what you’re in the mood for. My recommendation is to attend the ‘Farlim Night Market’ on Wednesday nights, where they serve up dishes like char koay kak, Japanese pancakes, lok-lok and many more. Although I will say this market gets quite busy as it’s a local’s favourite!

Review: Phong Nha Farmstay, Vietnam

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Until two weeks before arriving in Phong Nha I can honestly say I had never heard of this place before. Whilst staying in Nha Trang and speaking with fellow travellers the topic of Phong Nha happened to pop up in conversation. The way this destination was being described to me was something I just had to see first hand and my god I am glad I did! This majestic and remote area of rural Vietnam sits amid the coastline and mountainside. What had me most excited was the thought that this region of northern central Vietnam is a location so very new to tourism and is basically unspoiled. I was sold on this alone and with the chance to discover an area where limited people have previously been our travel plans were modified.

After arriving by train to Dong Hoi station we jumped into a taxi and made our way to our accommodation for the next four nights at the Phong Nha Farmstay. The taxi ride took about 40 minutes and after hitting the countryside you could see how remote this region truly is with limited cars and motorbikes on the road. I could already tell this was going to be a memorable journey.

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Once pulling up to the Farmstay my first impressions were ‘Wow, this place is beautiful.’ The house itself has a real French Colonial feel to it with lovely gardens wrapping around the property and breathtaking views. The Farmstay itself is immersed amongst the remote countryside situated around 8.5 kilometers from town. Once meeting the property manager at the doorsteps we entered the lobby/dining area and checked into our room. The staff was quick to offer us our welcome drinks of any beverage we would desire then we were off to check into our private double room with en-suite.

Our room was comfortable with a large bed, mosquito net, air-conditioning, fridge and a generous modern bathroom with high ceilings throughout. Over the course of our 4 night stay this was exceptional and made for great sleeps.

As we arrived late on the first evening I was eager to rise early and explore the property and see what was on offer. After strolling about I discovered the property has a large open dining area, which spans from the pool and game area out the back to the front where there are benches and more tables. There is also a rooftop entertainment area where you can sit back and gaze off into the mountain side and even catch a spectacular sunset. Once walking outside the front gates of the Farmstay directly opposite is their chill out hammock and outdoor entertainment area where they show evening movies onto the big screen for those who are interested. Although one of the greatest assets the Farmstay has would have to be their immediate landscape, which is any outdoor photographer’s dream.

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On our first day we were very lucky as the previous week there had been a large amount of rain, which had left the rice paddies that covered the land underwater. This allowed us to borrow a kayak from the Farmstay and paddle out into the middle of what seemed a lake and snap some sensational pictures.

The Farmstay has great options in terms of food with daily specials, which are changed regularly. With each reservation made you receive a complimentary breakfast from a selected list of options. I would highly recommend the ‘Beef Noodle Soup’ for breakfast. The dish is delicious! As there are limited food options around the area and you wouldn’t want to arrive back at the Farmstay after dark, we dined here each night. The food and drinks are fairly priced, and there are many different options for even the fussiest of eaters.

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The staff were polite and tried their best to work with you and communicate in English to the best of their abilities. If you have any questions or queries, they are more than happy to assist you in whichever way possible. You can relax and sleep easy with the assurance of present security on the property at all times.

The Farmstay has many tours which operate around the surrounding areas. They are known for their ‘Phong Nha Farmstay National Parks Tour’ which takes you through the National Park and into the stunning caves scattered throughout the park with a history lesson along the way. Other tours, which are offered include:

  • The Pub with Cold Beer
  • Paradise Cave 7Km Adventure
  • Jeep and Ural Tours
  • Hang En Trek
  • Boat and Bike Tours
  • Bicycle, Motorbike and Other Tours

For more information about these tours and prices click the link here.

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The Farmstay offers accommodation for all types of travellers from five bed dormitories (seasonal), Double and Twin rooms with en-suite and large family rooms. You will be able to find something that meets the needs of your travelling party. For a run down of the prices for accommodation click the link here.

All in all our stay with the Phong Nha Farmstay was exceptional with days full of adventures and evenings full of homely meals and great company. There is so much to do in this remote area of Vietnam and my greatest recommendation is to make sure you get to the National Park at some point its an awesome experience to be had.

For more information on the Phong Nha Farmstay and to make a reservation you can access their website directly at http://phong-nha-cave.com/

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As the sunsets from the Phong Nha Farmstay.

Disclaimer: I was a guest of the Phong Nha Farmstay, Vietnam in exchange for this review. As always, I would never endorse or recommend a service or product that I didn’t honestly enjoy.