This trip started with an invitation:
My friends Linh and Paul were getting married, as she is from Vietnam their wedding was to be in Ho Chi Minh City – and I was invited!
Having never traveled in Asia my plans grew a little bigger than originally intended, but let’s be honest, once the first flight is out the way why not make the most of it.
So Vietnam extended into Singapore, which extended into Bali.
I had been wondering when I would be able to meetup with Lauren during 2018, but Linh kindly invited her along as well, and so everything began to fall into place.
Lauren and I would meet up in Vietnam, spending a week there before traveling to Singapore for a few days. From there Lauren would return home while I extended my trip by meeting Katja in Bali.
Ho Chi Minh City was everything I was expecting – and more. The traffic was truly crazy. Scooters everywhere, constantly weaving in and out of the other traffic and pedestrians. It was also non-stop, even through the night.
The wedding was magnificent; an amazing experience. As Paul, an Australian, only had limited friends and family present, we all had the privilege of being part of the proceedings themselves. The generosity, friendliness and welcome of Linh’s family, our hosts, as well as the wedding itself, will live on in my memory for a very long time.
One of the advantages of visiting a new country and meeting up with a local, is they can show you some of the places that only locals will know. During the day, Lauren and I enjoyed the many tourist sights, but in the evenings we visited various different restaurants and cafe’s. One in particular was a coffee shop which was located down a tiny alley and up a couple of poorly lit flights of stairs. We really weren’t sure where we were being taken!
One delicacy served for dinner … chicken salad including head and feet.
A number of the tourist sights we visited …..
- Binh Tay Market
- War Remnants Museum
- Reunification Palace
- Ho Chi Minh Central Post Office
- Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City really was crowded, noisy, constantly on the move, but it was amazing to see, feel and experience. The contrasts between street markets and shopping centers; between different restaurants and hotels, were often extreme. But it was definitely a place I am better for having visited. And with the incredible, once in a lifetime experience of Linh and Paul’s wedding an incredible trip in every way.
We left Vietnam on the 21st June heading for Singapore.
Lauren has a plan to visit 30 countries by the time she reaches 30 years of age and so we made a plan to tick off two while we were in Asia.
A short flight took us to the city state and what could have been a completely different world. Leaving behind the traffic chaos and noise, we arrived to a calm, quiet and extremely clean country.
The skyline from the roof of our hotel, Hotel Jen Orchardgateway, was incredible. Our hotel in Vietnam was, I would say, very traditional with its service, decor and appearance. Hotel Jen was again the polar opposite; very modern in every aspect. The corridors were reminiscent of the Starship Enterprise and on the one occasion we had room service it was delivered by Jeno.
While the city isn’t huge the subway system is exceptional; a tourist travel card gave us unlimited trips which we made full use of in order to see all the sights. It is strange when you get on a train at the front and realise there isn’t a driver. It certainly gives you a better idea of what the tube drivers in London experience every day.
There are many sights in Singapore which are simply unique; the Marina Bay Sands Singapore is just one such place – a spectacular building which you can see across the water during the day and which really comes to life when lit up at night. It is possible to go up to the roof top bars and restaurants but by the time we found the entrance, and saw how much it would cost, we decided to give it a miss for now. What an excuse to go back!
Adjacent to this are the Gardens by the Bay, which again are a night time spectacle with their towering plants lit to perfection presenting a futuristic other worldly sight. The largest and tallest of these “plants” houses a restaurant in its canopy.
The Merlion is the official mascot of Singapore. It combines the fish body representing the city’s roots as a fishing village, and the lions head represents it’s original name – Singapura meaning “lion city”.
During many of our travels in Europe, and other parts of the world, Lauren and I have taken the opportunity to visit the Commonwealth War Graves Commission sites and so we ensured that we were able to do the same here in Singapore.
Kranji War Cemetery is the final resting place of over 4400 casualties of the Second World War, 850 of whom remain unidentified. The cemetery also contains 64 First World War burials and commemorations, including special memorials to three casualties known to have been buried in civil cemeteries in Saigon and Singapore, but whose graves could not be located.
The Singapore Sling was invented by Ngiam Tong Boon, a bartender working at the Long Bar in the famous Raffles Hotel, sometime before 1915. Unfortunately the hotel was under going extensive renovations so we couldn’t see the bar itself but we did try the cocktail in their “pop up” bar – and it was definitely worth it!
At the end of our short visit to Singapore Lauren and I said our goodbyes and headed off in different directions, to separate parts of the globe.
My final destination being the Ayodya Resort, Nusa Dua, Bali. Having never traveled to Asia I was now in my third country in just over a week.
While the first part of my holiday with Lauren was about seeing the sights and experiencing the culture, Bali was about relaxing and enjoying a slow pace and being looked after.
Katja arrived the day before me and checked in first. This had the unexpected benefit, from my point of view at least, that the hotel only recorded her name against the room and as such she had to sign for all the drinks!
During our week at Ayodya we made sure that we tried all the restaurants and bars; the swimming pool and sea; beanbags on the beach and day beds by the pool. We also enjoyed the dance theater dinner, the dancers by the beach and the spectacle of a couple of Indian weddings.
We ventured off resort only twice to a local shopping area, Bali Collection, just so we said we had, generally preferring to enjoy cocktails while relaxing in the sun.
One exception to all this laziness was a game of squash towards the end of our stay. We weren’t sure who was more surprised by this show of physical excess, us or the member of staff at the courts who clearly hadn’t seen any other idiots wishing to play that day!
All round this was a great trip, from Linh and Paul’s wedding in Ho Chi Minh City to lazing on the beach with a cocktail in Bali.
Three different countries; three different worlds; one amazing adventure!