Top 5 Things To Do in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

1. Get shopping & eating at the Ben Thanh Night Market

Where? Intersection of Le Loi, Ham Nghi, Tran Hung Dao Avenues and Le Lai Street
Why go? Amazing food and crazy atmosphere – there’s a really big mix of tourists and locals, too.
How long will you need? Don’t bother getting there before 7pm for the night market – then, stay all night.
Cost? Food and trinkets are all super cheap

 

2. Take a day trip to head out and crawl through the Cu Chi Tunnels

Where? There are heaps of providers for these tours, but I’ve done it with Buffalo Tours twice now, and wouldn’t go with anyone else!
Why go? The Cu Chi Tunnels are an absolutely enormous network of interconnecting tunnels underground in the Cu Chi region of Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). The tunnels were used by the Viet Cong soldiers in the 1960s as communication and supply routes, as well as hiding spots and living quarters, which the area above ground was being bombed and razed. And seeing it first hand can’t even come close to reading about it.
How long will you need? The tour I did was a half day (morning)
Cost?  Private tour for US$52.00 per person, or small group tour for US$40.00 per person

 

3. Take in an incredible view of the city from EON51 Café at the Bitexco Financial Tower

http://eon51.com/cafe-eon/
Where? 36 Ho Tung Mau Street, Ben Nghe ward, District 1
Why go? Because the view is incredible, but it’s much cheaper to buy drinks at the café than it is for a ticket at the viewing platform!
How long will you need? An hour or so – it’s a great break from the heat and craziness in the city below.
Cost? We paid around AUD$18.00 for a fresh coconut and a fresh mango juice

 

4. Ignore the stuffy tourists and eat the street food!

Why go? So many people will turn their noses up at the idea of eating street food in South East Asia; those people need to get their heads checked, because some of the best food in the city comes from the street!
Cost? Everything is cheap, which means you can stuff yourself silly!

 

5. Join the locals and slow down with some coffee, bird song and people watching at Tao Dan Park bird café

Where? 110Bis, Nguyễn Du, Bến Thành, District 1
Why go? Each morning, from around 6am until around 8 or 9am, a corner of the park becomes a meeting place for men around 30 – 50 years of age, and their pet birds. Which makes it the most peaceful space set among beautiful gardens and full of birdsong.
How long will you need? Get there early and stay until the crowds start to drift off
Cost? So cheap I can’t even remember

Top 5 Things To Do in Bangkok

1. Shop up a storm at Chatuchak Weekend Market
http://www.chatuchak.org/
Where? Chatuchak Market is adjacent to the Kamphaengpecth Station (MRT) about 5 minute walk from Mochit Skytrain (BTS) Station and Suan Chatuchak (Chatuchak Park) Station (MRT)
Why go? Spanning 27 acres, it’s one of the biggest markets in the world. The atmosphere is electric, the food is great, and if you can’t find something you want to buy, it doesn’t exist.
How long will you need? At least half a day
Cost? Depends how much you plan to buy – make sure you barter, though!

 

2. Eat up a storm on Soi 38

Where? right near BTS stop: Thonglor
Why go? Because it’s street food heaven. They all congregate there and the smell of it all is magic.
How long will you need? An hour or two
Cost? You’ll be able to get a great meal for only a few dollars – the pork and noodle dish above cost under AUD$4.00!

 

3. Then, learn to cook for yourself at BaiPai Cooking 
http://www.baipai.com/
Where? 8/91 Ngam Wongwan Road, Soi 54, Ladyao, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900
Why go? To learn to cook! The classes are fantastic, very hands on, and come with full recipes for you to take home. And once you’re done cooking in the class, you get to sit down with your classmates and eat it all!
How long will you need? A few hours, depending on your class time:
Morning Class – 09:30 – 13:30
Afternoon Class – 13:30 – 17:30
Cost? THB 2,2200 per person (around AUD$80.00

 

4. Take a boat down the river to the Wat Pho Temple complex

Where? Maharat Road, near the river. Take the Chao Phraya River Express to the Tha Thien Pier – it’ll cost under a dollar.
Why go? Because Bangkok is a crazy city, and this is the most beautiful little piece of paradise you could possibly hope to escape to 🙂
How long will you need? Half a day
Cost? Entry is THB 100 per person (around AUD$3.80)

 

5. Take a stop off at Chinatown on the boat ride back to the city

Where? Take the Chao Phraya River Express back towards the city and stop at the Ratchawong Pier. From there, walk up Ratchawong Road to Sampaeng Lane, and Yaowarat Road (Chinatown’s main street).
Why go? This is the ultimate antidote to the peace and tranquility in the temples. Chaos is an understatement, the shopping is heavy on tacky souvenirs, but the food is great and the atmosphere is insane in the best possible way!
How long will you need? Add another few hours to your half day at the Wat Pho Temple Complex
Cost? Depends on your shopping habits!

Victorian mini-breaks: How to spend a day in Healesville

Founded in the mid 1800s, this sweet little town was born after a rail line was built through it to service the surrounding goldfields. The gold may have long since dried up, but Healesville now lives in some of the state’s best wine country.

Healesville is one of my favourite places to get away to. It’s a little over an hour out of Melbourne’s CBD, making it far enough away to enjoy some peace and quiet, but not so far that it’s a hassle to get to. And now that Victoria is opening up again, it’s the perfect time to go and explore for a night or two.

 

WHERE TO EAT & DRINK:
– Innocent Bystander Winery
Amazing wine, pizzas, cheeses, breads and pastries. It’s not cheap, but it is quality.
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– Mocha & Lime
Gorgeous little café that serves up a tasty brunch, it’s simple food done well. They also cater extremely well for special diets, including gluten free and vegan options. Bonus points for the floor to ceiling bookshelves at the back of the café where you can browse second hand books while you wait for your coffee.

– Healesville Harvest
A personal favourite of mine – incredible sandwiches using the very best ingredients, and a cake cabinet that’ll make your jaw drop. And yes, those lamingtons are as good as they look.

– Beechworth Bakery
Duh. This place is an institution in Victoria, as anyone who’s ever been on a road trip will know. Bottomless cups of tea, freshly baked bread, golden-crusted pastries, and a fireplace for winter visits. Perfect.

 

WHERE TO SHOP:
– Healesville Jewellers
My favourite jewellery shop in the world. They do they most beautiful pieces with precious stones, and they’re very reasonably priced. They also do a lot of one-off pieces, and can adjust ring sizes on site.


– Connection

A gift and homewares boutique where you can find some seriously unique trinkets. Brass globes, antique-style wooden desk sets, leather notebooks, llama jewellery dishes, and everything else in between.

– Verso Books
I’m a sucker for a good independent store. Verso stocks new releases in fiction, beautiful books in arts, gardening and cooking, and a brilliant collection of children’s books.

 

WHAT TO DO:

– Take a drive our to the Redwood Forest in East Warburton
Once you’re done walking and eating your way around Healesville, head out to the Redwoods. It’ll take you around 40 minutes to drive there, but it is more than worth the effort. Just make sure you bring an extra layer of clothes – it’s always quite a bit cooler in there tucked away under the trees.

– Visit the weekend market
Because everyone loves a good market! You can pick up some absolutely brilliant little treasures there, too, if you have time to dig around a little…

– Stop at the Yarra Vallery Chocolaterie on the way home
Because their chocolate is a thing of beauty. You can select a box from their Great Wall of Chocolate (I recommend the Tantalising Toasted Coconut Slice), watch the chocolate artists at work through the giant kitchen windows, grab a light lunch or dessert and enjoy the views from their gardens…

The Rose St. Artists’ Market, Melbourne

The Rose St. Artists’ Market, Fitzroy, Melbourne
http://www.rosestmarket.com.au/

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Celebrating it’s 10th birthday this year, The Rose St. Artists’ Market is a Fitzroy institution, as is the slightly eccentric, bearded, black leather clad gentleman who stands on the corner of Brunswick and Rose Streets directing foot traffic the right direction. If you haven’t been before and aren’t familiar with this guy, don’t be put off by first impressions – he’s really lovely!

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Open every weekend (both Saturday and Sunday, 11am – 5pm), I stop in every time I’m in the area, which is pretty often! What started back in 2003 is now an iconic hub for some of Melbourne’s best creative talent, and one of the best places in the city to support local talent by purchasing one-of-a-kind pieces, with everything from clothing and baby accessories, jewellery to homewares, trinkets to art work.

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Another great thing about this market is that the people selling the goods are the people who are actually making them, so it’s a fantastic opportunity to meet and speak to some seriously talented craftsmen and women.

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This is my favourite small market in Melbourne – the talent is phenomenal, and I’ve bought so many amazing pieces here over the years. If you haven’t been in a while, it’s definitely time to get reacquainted, and if you’ve never been before, this weekend might be a good time to make a visit!

Photo Journal: Bangkok’s Chinatown

If there’s one certainty (or as close to as possible) in life, it’s this: no matter what country or city you go to, Chinatown will always be there for you. Chinatown is a constant in most big cities across the globe, which is really quite phenomenal when you think about it. I always love checking out a city’s Chinatown as well, because you’re guaranteed to find some seedy looking little places with the most incredible food, as well as some real hole-in-the-wall shops that sell stuff you didn’t even realise you needed until you found it there.

Bangkok’s Chinatown is no exception to the rule – a quick and scenic boat ride down the river from the main tourist hub, it’s everything your mind conjures up when you hear the word “Chinatown;” it’s colourful, noisy, busy, constantly moving and bumping into you. It smells amazing and foreign, there’s stuff absolutely everywhere, with shops not merely contained to their physical stores, but with their wares spilling out onto the side walk. It’s tuk tuks and motorbikes masterfully dodging and weaving down the narrowest alleys possible, and making it look as simple as pushing a supermarket trolley through a wide open parking lot.

It’s people + craziness + market + food, which equals my heaven.

Here are some of my favourite shots from my visit in January…

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

Photograph © Jess Carey 2014

 

What’s the Chinatown in your city like? Always looking for recommendations to add to my travel bucket list!