Nha Trang

Our train arrived at Nha Trang early at 4:30am, where we disembarked, bleary eyed and sleep deprived (apart from me, as I actually slept for most of the journey). We were not looking forward to having to wait till 12pm before we our rooms were ready, but thankfully on arrival we were given our keys!

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Mekong Delta and our first sleeper train

We spent our second day in Saigon/HCM on a day trip out to the Mekong Delta – My Tho and Ben Tre.
We arranged this on arrival the day before with our hotel, Hoang Phu Gia, for 325.000 per person. Our guide, Viet of Kim Travel, picked us up at 730am, where we then picked up a few other people from surrounding hotels, to make our small group of 10.

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Ho Chi Minh

For the next 12 days I am doing the G Adventures “Vietnam on a Shoestring” tour, FOC courtesy of G Adventures and STA – (woo finally some travel agent benefits!)

We headed to the airport on Wednesday night, for our 12:05am flight with Malaysia Airlines to KL and onward to Ho Chi Minh. After quite a wait in the check in line, we exchanged $20AUD for 300,000 Dong (and the start of never ending Dong jokes) and had an exceptionally strong and tasty cocktail at Little Ludlow,before heading to our gate. Now somehow I managed to overlook preselecting seats for our flight until 2 days before (considering I’m a travel agent I’m not sure how I managed to forget this!), and as such we were seated in the middle row of 4. This wasn’t really that bad, there were many other factors which made the flight one of the most hellish I’ve been on.

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Romania-35mm photographs

I took 2 point and shoot “old-school” film cameras with me to Europe with various slide films. These are the results, cross processed in C-41 to get the colour shifts and unique qualities. I love how these have turned out and that I have a nice mix of each the places we visited in each type of film, as they each developed differently!

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Switzerland

We caught the train from Venice, via Milan, to Switzerland to stay in  Lauterbrunnen, a valley village in the Bernese Highlands area. It was a beautiful journey as we started getting into the mountains in Switzerland, and I was pretty excited to see snow, and travel past the gorgeous lakes.

We arrived into the tiny village of Lauterbrunnen, nestled between the steep mountains with cascading waterfalls, and walked the short distance from the trains (which looked like toy sets) up to our hostel. It is the off season so it is quiet in town, and slightly rainy.

Our hostel is clean and welcoming, and our private room is large, with the cutest decor (see pictures!) The view out the window is breathtaking. I could stay here for much longer.

As our plans have changed slightly and we are no longer visiting Gruyere, I’m actually happy just to have a few days of relaxing in this beautiful place.

We visited the Jungfrau mountain – even the weather for viewing wasn’t the best (read: snow and clouds) it was still an awesome thing to do, the “Top of Europe” and the highest train station. I actually enjoyed standing out on the viewing deck in the snow and freezing wind, even just momentarily.

We also tried fondue at the restaurant at the top of the mountain. We are not a fan of cheese fondue. :/

Venice

We spent 2 nights in Venice – the first night we arrived a bit earlier than expected, so left our bags at our hotel Locanda Casa Petraca as they were not ready/there yet to let us into our room due to us catching an early train.

We wandered around Venice for an hour or so, remarkably not getting lost! Our hotel had provided a great little map on how to get from the Water Bus station to the hotel, so we had no trouble there either. Venice at that time of night was quiet and beautiful.

 

 

 

 

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3 Days in Rome

Day 10 – Nov 5. Rome. Colosseum, Roman Forum, Palantine Hill

Our first full day in Rome and we repurchased tickets for an Underground Tour of the Colosseum, which takes you into the lower levels (dungeons) which have only recently been opened to public (By tour only) and also up to the third level, again only available on a pre booked tour.

It wasn’t that much more than the regular entry price for the Colosseum(+Forum/Palantine Hill)  and we booked directly through the Colosseum rather than with a 3rd party which charges more. It was great to get more info on the history of the Colosseum in general as well, and also to watch the general publics faces as we were allowed into locked off areas ;)

We had gotten up early expecting the walk from our hotel to be a bit longer, but really it was only 15-20 minutes or so!

The Colosseum was AMAZING, incredible that it existed, still exists and also the level of restoration that can be achieved! So clever.

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Day 9 – Bucharest and arrive in Rome

Today was our final day in Bucharest and we mostly just walked around and killed time till our flight to Rome!

After arriving late into Rome airport, we couldn’t locate our seat-in-coach transfer waiting for us at arrivals. Supposedly they were meant to be holding a sign with our name on it but weren’t. We called them (expensive roaming mobile phone costs! :/ ) and eventually they told us to go to a desk and then we had to wait some more, and then our driver arrived. He then proceeded to get lost trying to find our hotel but we made it eventually to Hotel Smeraldo, which is great. Super convenient location, great staff, decent breakfast and room, even if it is the smallest shower cubicle EVER! You can’t turn around in it!

We went for a walk though it was about 9.30pm and found ruins right round the corner from us and a great restaurant for our first italian meal! so good to eat real food again and the prices are good too!

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Day 8 – Brasov, Peles Castle, Snagnov

80% of the group had a HUGE night last night and were definitely feeling it, but we woke up early and walked around Brasov – the Black Church looked amazing but didn’t open till 10am and we left at that time unfortunately :(

After Brasov we stopped at Peles Castle – a neo-renaissance style castle built for the royal family. Unfortunately it was not open for us to go inside but I was mainly interested in the beautiful exterior anyway. We went into the interior of the smaller castle, which to be honest, I didn’t find very exciting.

En route to Bucharest we also stopped at Snagnov Monastery, the supposed burial place of Vlad the Impaler. A beautiful quaint and quiet little island.

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Day 7 – Sighisiora/ Bran Castle and Brasov

We woke up early and went to the cemetery again to see the headstones in the daylight, we didn’t venture as far in today and the oldest date we found was around 1860. We looked around the citadel a bit more then back on the bus to go to Bran and Bran Castle. I had been warned it was super touristy but didn’t expect it to be that touristy! It was also very busy! Wandering through the castle was difficult and not very exciting.

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