Monthly Archives: October 2014

Cornwall – Port Isaac and Polzeath

Since I returned from Ireland, and before that as well, I have worked in a Bar in Polzeath, Cornwall. A pretty little village with a great surfing beach, this is one of the slightly less know gems of Cornwalls north coast.

High TidePolzeath grew up as a fishing village, just like all of Cornwalls’ towns, but instead of the deep water harbour, it features a large sandy beach, not so good for the fish, but great for surfing and swimming. It’s because of this beach Polzeath has warped into the town it is now, a bi-polar affair that swaps between the summer rush, with a packed beach and long waits at most of the cafes and restaurants, to the opposite in winter, when the regular locals go into hibernation and the beach is empty but for the few surfers chasing waves up and down the coast.

cliffsWhile this might not sound the best, if you time it well, it’s possible to catch the end of summer period, where the sea and weather are still warm, while the crowds have all gone. The pubs will be able to serve you, and it’s easy to get an ice cream without a half hour wait (if the weather is nice enough that you want one) Guessing the exact week is a tricky one, and there are a couple weeks in the years (one before and one after summer) that the posh uni kids flood in and order huge rounds of made-up drinks for them and their 5 mates.

Port IsaacThe beach is lovely, and depending on the tide, very big, or very small. There’s usually plenty of space for all the families to spread out though. The cliffs are well worth an explore, with some great views and nicely adventurous rocks and climbs for the younger ones, and of course easy cliff paths for the elder.

Port IsaacAlong the coast just a short drive is the rather sweet village of Port Isaac, most famous these days for it’s featuring in the British series Doc Martin. Thankfully, while the village has embraced the commercial aspect of the TV show, it hasn’t blown it out of proportion, and in fact with the exception of a the odd mug in shops and a lot of people taking photos of a fairly innocuous looking house, you wouldn’t know there was anything filmed there at all.

 
LanesIf visiting, make sure you park at the top, there’s a couple places to choose from, but do not try to drive into the village. The tiny roads and incredibly limited parking will leave you stuck, and often with a fresh set of scratches down the side. The walk down is not hard, and well worth it for the clifftop views. The town itself isn’t cheap for food and drink, not crazy, but not cheap, and there are some great spots with views over the harbour. Make sure you take a stroll through some of the winding lanes that thread their way between the main road at the top, and the harbour at the bottom.

Robin

It would be a pleasantly easy day out to drive to both of these stops, allowing for food and tea along the way of course.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Vietnam Pt6 – Da Lat

After the somewhat disappointing Mui Ne, we were looking forward to Da Lat, with it’s unique Swiss Alps reputation.

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ParkAnd it’s a reputation it deserves, while still un-mistakingly Asian, it’s really possible to get that alpine feel with the wide open but winding roads that weave and knot across the towns hills and suburbs. It’s got a lot of charm, with occasional European style bakeries, and some nice local food stops as well. We enjoyed a meal one night in (one of the many) Art Cafe, which features paper tablecloths and crayons, meaning you can draw yourself a picture before your food arrives. Functional accommodation at a decent price wasn’t hard to find which is always nice as well. The town has a pretty decent night market in the centre, ranging happily from the usual touristy fair through to more authentic basics, including some of the best thrift store style sale rails I’ve ever seen. It was be possible to stock up on fancy dress gear (especially 70s and 80s) for the next decade for less than a tenner.

Crazy HouseJumping on the mopeds again, we did a tour of the sights within the city which included the Crazy House, Palace, Cablecar and the steam train. Starting at the top, the crazy house is an Alice in Wonderland inspired piece of ridiculous architecture, fanciful staircases and archways span the gaps between castles and trees and towers. Imagine the Disney castle on acid and you’re about there. The Palace was an odd stop, not particularly exciting itself, as a holiday getaway for the Royal family, and not as impressive, either architecturally, or significantly as the Reunification Palace in HCMC,Palacebut they do allow visitors to try on some royal robes and pose for photos, which we did, and the results are quite hilarious.

The cablecar goes from the top of one hill near Da Lat, to another, a little further away, which gives you access to a very nice Temple and Gardens, which lead down to a lake. The temple building were nice, not overly impressive, but fitting for the location, and the garden was wonderfully taken care of. The ride in the gondola was quite pretty, with some nice views over the nearby hills and farmland. Finally, we hopped on the steam train, as it was leaving shortly after we had arrived to visit the station.TrainWhile the station was fairly pretty, the train ride lead through some more authentic (ugly) parts of the towns suburbs, more urban than the rural we had seen from the cablecar though. We arrived at the far end, with an hour to kill and no clue what to see, but thankfully the train staff were on hand to direct us to a big temple area, with several huge shrines and statues, along with a big statue manufacturer with plenty on display. Up in the towers, the views offered some impressive vistas both over more countryside, and across the temple grounds. Certainly no gardens with this one, but some interesting building structures, and highly ornate decorations. On our return home, we passed the ‘love garden’ a park filled with so many more of the giant tacky concrete sculptures that the area seemed to have in abundance. We didn’t venture too far in the dark, but having seen enough love heart benches and other overtly cheesy romantic features, we didn’t feel the need to go much further.

WaterfallThe next day saw us exploring a little further afield, checking out some of the local water features AKA waterfalls. The first was a touristy feature, with a strange little luge ride, another cablecar and shrines all over the place. While the waterfalls themselves were impressive the features somewhat ruined the area. The bottom waterfall is the bigger and more impressive as well as quieter, but you have to pay to take the elevator down to reach it. Once there though, it’s a much nicer part to spend time in, and a quick swim in the pool is very refreshing. Jumping into each waterfall seems to be a habit of mine. The luge was a peculiar event, as it’s on rails the only control you have is the speed, and it would seem that about 20% of the people on these rides like to go very slow, and with no overtaking lane, this means everyone ends up going very slow. So, really, I don’t recommend the luge, it’s just really annoying!

Elephant waterfallThe second waterfall is much further out and takes a bit of skill to get past the roadworks going on. Make sure your driver knows what they’re doing, it’s really not for beginners. That said, when you finally make it out there it is worth it; the waterfall is huge, and has plenty of climbing opportunities around to get different angles. The fallen rocks create quite a challenge to climbing, and getting as close as possible really is an adventure. There’s also a good pool to have a swim in, which is a must in my book. At the top there is another temple, this time featuring a massive Buddha, although this is the fat Buddha, rather than the skinny ones you find in Thailand.

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I don’t remember exactly where or what the waterfalls were called, although I believe the second was the ‘elephant waterfall’. The wikitravel page for Dalat was quite invaluable for this stop.

So after a good few swims, and plenty of moped adventure it was time to hop on the bus again heading overnight for Nha Trang.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Vietnam Pt5 – Mui Ne

Mui Ne is a fairly small place to visit, and the main tourist area is quite a way from the actual town, this time spread along the beach road to the South.

Fairy Cliffs

Again the beach is almost inaccessible unless you’re staying at one of the resorts, although there is a very nice looking backpackers hostel, that was unfortunately booked up. As with all these places, being a couple roads back from the beach really knocks the price of accommodation down. The strip was rather bland, with nothing more than usual affair of restaurants and cafes mixed in with the ugly resorts.

dunesTo the North of the town is an area with some very impressive sand dunes, so after meeting up with the Norwegians again we took a drive on the rented mopeds to find them. While they are quite pretty, especially around sunset, this boy has grown up on coasts, and seen piles of sand before, and usually a little less covered in people. Still, good for a couple snaps.
Mui NeLater on that night we heard of a party happening up in one of the bars further up, so we decided to check it out. We arrived perhaps a little early, but still, with practically no one there, I don’t think it was going to get much better, after a quiet drink listening to the pounding commercial pop, we decided to try another place. We found a much bigger bar, with a lot more people, so ventured in only to realise we were massively underdressed. The girls inside were in cocktail dresses, while the men had shirts on at least, and I’m sure I saw the odd waistcoat. It didn’t take us long to realise we’d stumbled in to a resort party, and that these resorts were mostly full of Russians, and Russians love to dress up.

So, out of place and somewhat confused, we again have ourselves a quiet drink and decide to move on, this time finding a tidy little bar, with a reasonable amount of people and music quiet enough to allow us to talk to each other.

Fairy SpringThe next day we decided to explore the ‘Fairy Spring‘, a fancy name for was is really just a pleasant stroll barefoot up through a river to a little waterfall. Certainly nothing impressive, but perfectly nice to do, although my friend Nico was rather frustrated by the experience.

We came to the conclusion that Mui Ne wasn’t really somewhere to spend a lot of time, and really, considering how nice so many others were, I’d really recommend skipping it completely.

Fairy Waterfall

So, Dalat was next.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

 

Vietnam Pt4 – Cu Chi Tunnels and HCMC

HCMC is a big city, so this is the second post. If you’d like to read the first part, please head back here.

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Our second full day in the city was spent exploring a little more, checking out the markets and playing in the park. The market at the far end of the park features lots of the usual Asian delights, so if it’s your first, you’ll love it, otherwise it’s very much a case of ‘same same but different’.

The Water Puppet Theatre is worth a visit, either in HCMC or Hanoi. I heard from various people that each was better than the other, but having only seen the HCMC version, I can happily recommend it as a piece of amusing light entertainment. I’m not entirely sure what the story was, but the puppets are beautifully made and splash about in the pool that acts as stage (and hides the wooden bars the puppets are mounted on) excitedly and while it’s not sophisticated it really is a fun way to spend an hour.

DCIM100GOPROA full day trip was booked for the next day, encompassing the Cu Chi Tunnels and a variety of Temples on route. The variety turned out to be just one, but it was grand enough, and different enough to have been worth the additional time and cost. The temple appears to be a mix of Asian and Western religious styles, and inside we were allowed to witness the monks in prayer. There are some pretty strict customs and rules, but nothing hard to keep to. You are allowed upstairs to see the monks for above as well, and take some photos of the incredibly ornate interior design.

DCIM100GOPROThe Cu Chi Tunnels is an area that was used during the Vietnamese War by the Viet Cong to secretly transport goods past the Southern Vietnamese lines and engage in guerrilla warfare tactics. It has a short informative video, explaining the situation, and then you are guided around the site, shown some horrific traps that were used against the US and Southern troops. These include spiked pits, leg traps and many more, mostly using sharpened bamboo to severely injure any unsuspecting enemy. We were taken to displays of how they disguised the chimneys they had to use when cooking inside the tunnels, and what the conditions were like inside. They also developed methods to protect themselves within the tunnels incase of discovery, often with changing levels to prevent flooding, and multiple entrances/exits. We were given a choice next, whether to continue overland, or to brave the tunnels ourselves – of course I gave the tunnels a go, and while these were bigger than the originals they were still very cramped up and unpleasant, you can see the video of this here.

DCIM100GOPROThe last part of the site is a shooting range, where they allow visitors to shoot a variety of Vietnam War era guns. I jumped at the chance and choose a large shotgun (I thought anything rapid fire would be over too fast). The guns are permanently fixed along the edge of the range, with very limited mobility, after a brief bit of instruction you are let loose on the targets. If you shoot three, you get a prize, but alas I only managed two.You can check out the video of my shooting on youTube.

After our tour, all that was left was to jump on decent bus up to Mui Ne.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Vietnam Pt3 – Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, or HCMC, named after the saviour of Vietnam, previously Saigon is the largest city in Vietnam, and you can really feel it. The most commented thing about this city is the traffic, and you can see why.

Bitexco Tower

It’s incredible, even compared to Bangkok, like a river of mopeds, with the occasional tree branch of a car being swept along. The traffic rules are very flexible, and you’ll often find the pavement filled with oncoming traffic as they try to edge themselves closer to the red light that has cause this momentary tailback. Crossing the street is not for the faint hearted, in fact, it’s more like doing a high wire tight-rope than crossing a normal street. Walk straight, slowly and keep moving, that way the the traffic will flow around you. Any sudden movements will leave you at the bottom of a multi-bike pile up. That said, I never saw any accidents in the city, which considering I think I saw more mopeds in the first two minutes than I ever did in any European country in total is a miracle.

Post OfficeWe stayed in Phạm Ngũ Lão Street, the backpacker area, in one of the many alleys that maze their way between the park and the drinking street that are home to the guesthouse and hostels that accommodate the travellers in the city. It’s close to plenty of naff fast food places, including the ‘arriving soon’ McDonalds, the second in Vietnam. Exploring this city was very different to Can Tho, the gentle urbanism replaced by big commercialism and in-your-face advertising boards and the constant need to pay attention. Despite this, from the main backpacker area most tourist attractions are only a short walk away.

Reunification PalaceThe Reunification Palace is open and is an interesting spot to experience, mostly thanks to the rooms in the basement that show what was necessary in order to survive the war. The building was an important symbol during the vietnamese war, and housed several significant events marking the start, and end of the war.

Notre Dame

On our wanderings we also visited the City Post Office and Notre Dame Catherdral, both of which are close to the Palace. In a nearby shopping centre, the food court gave us a chance to experience urban food in Vietnam, somewhat confusing, but we ended up with a good variety of interesting and tasty foods.

War Remnants MuseumThe War Remnants museum (there’s one of these in every city) is very impressive, while it has much less in the way of actual weapons, it still has a display of artillery, tanks and aircraft, inside is dedicated to photo, and art galleries ranging from the effects of napalm, peace posters and historical propaganda. The stories it tells through pictures alone convey so much more than the bad captions and artifacts that other museums rely on. It is both tasteful and poignant in its delivery, and with such a strong and simple message the impact is quite moving. Of all the military museums, this was the best, and of all the attractions in HCMC, this was my favourite.

SkydeckWe finished the day with a trip up the highest building in the city. You can reach the Saigon Skydeck on the 49th floor of the Bitexco tower throughout the day, or you can go a little higher, to the 52nd, and have a drink as well. It works out about the same price, but with seating and a drink, we felt the bar was the better choice. Watching day turn to night across the city was fascinating, especially as the roads changed to rivers of light blurring streaks across the city.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Vietnam Pt2 – Can Tho

So stop number two was the relatively small city of Can Tho. This was a place I really enjoyed, with enough interesting things to see and do, while still feeling unspoilt by tourism, or tainted by the commercialism of larger cities.

Temple

At the transit centre in Can Do, we met a couple of Norwegian girls who we joined teams with for a few days, making us a group of four for a short time. We found a very nice guesthouse to stay in, newly built with very comfy beds and showers tall enough even for Dutchman Nico.

TempleOur first day there was spent exploring the town, with a few spots we wanted to see, we wandered through the city trying to find them all, which meant finding a few more on route. The highlights were a buddhist temple, in which we were welcomed and guided around, and the monk explained the differences between the Vietnamese buddhists and others you may find in other parts of SE Asia. He himself was Cambodian, and very informative, taking us to the top floor and pointing out a few landmarks.

RocketMy favourite stop of the day (excluding Baskin Robbins, I have an ice cream problem) was the war museum. We’d arrived during lunch hour, which stretched from about 11am through to 2.30pm, but we had a look around at the vehicles outside, including a Mercedes Benz with bullet holes, and few planes, both intact and not, and plenty of artillery and tanks. With the lack of supervision, we cheekily jumped the fence and got some snaps inside these moving monstrosities.TankOnce the doors opened we wandered about inside, although it wasn’t as impressive as the bits outside. The badly translated English captions didn’t help to explain the military manoeuvres displayed. We managed to find some unlocked doors that lead up to the roof, so checked out the city from above again.

That evening we tried the food tour, which is run by local students to help raise money for educational causes in the region. It was good fun, and we got some great examples of local delicacies, many of which would be almost impossible to get as a tourist without a guide. Pork dumplings, baked prawn pancake parcels were the delicious starters for the stranger bits we tried, featuring mouse and snake. Mouse was surprisingly tasty, if a little fulfilling, it was crunchy with bones as the animal is cooked whole, but nice. The snake on the other hand was not. We tried both grilled and fried and both, while not bad tasting were a tough as old leather. Most of it seemed to be bones and skin, leaving a very unsatisfying mouthful that tasted more of cooking oil than anything else. I’ll stick to the mouse next time, sorry Mikey.

marketWe woke up early the next day, as the girls had arranged a floating market tour for us. We floated up past boats with thousands of pineapples, boats with hundreds of melons, all dishing them out to the various traders picking up their supplies for the day. Amazing to see that you could pick up about ten melons for the price it would normally cost a tourist for a few slices in the market.canalThe boat tour then took us off through some of the gorgeous little streams and canals that wind through the outskirts of the city out to where the farms start. Some lovely sights seen along the ways, including some kids waving from the bank and delightful temple bridges spanning the water.
Later that day we jumped on the bus to head to Ho Chi Minh City to see the sights there, and catch up with a few friends we’d met in Laos.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Ho Chi Minh

Vietnam Pt1: Border Crossing and Phu Quoc

After our time in Cambodia, we took the southern border crossing into Vietnam near the coast, it was all part of the transfer package we’d got to get us to Phu Quoc island.

Beach

The border crossing and transport was the usual ramshackle, but functional affair, and while I don’t remember the exact buses, I’m sure they were fairly typical unremarkable Asian style buses, which means they can’t have been too uncomfortable.

Vietnam sunsetPhu Quoc is actually closer to Cambodia, but is officially part of Vietnam, which means you must cross the border on land before doubling back by boat to the island. There is a hostel, but it was far from the beach but did look very cool, and with the abundance of mopeds the distance would be no issue. If you can find it, get in early and you might meet some other  (non Russian) travelers. Myself and Nico, the Dutch guy who had accompanied me since leaving Thailand, found a decent cheap twin room, and ventured out to find a bike for the couple days we were staying.

WaveThe main town is a fishing port, but the touristy area spreads southwards of here, mostly big fancy Russian filled resorts along the beach front, with a smattering of restaurants and shops either side of the road. We stayed at the far end of this road, where the natural village feel started in again. The restaurants do a reasonable job of catering to western tastes, while still offering a decent selection of local dishes. The fish/night market at the northern end of the strip offer seafood BBQs of some magnificence, and with decent prices too – after the long day we put this off till the next day.

ForestThe next day we took off to really explore the island on our moped. With some dodgy maps and a bit of googling we made a plan, and started looking. We gave up on the first waterfall, but found the second. Nothing overwhelming but pleasant in it’s jungle setting. We also bumped into a few locals posing in their underwear. After a bit more adventuring we returned to the entrance to find them drinking a very odd bubble tea. We were asked to join, and after a very odd (and pretty gross) bubble tea, we hit the road together and hit the beach. It was an odd way to spend an afternoon, joined by more and more of their friends, all hoping we’d be getting the drinks in, and then as soon as they’d appeared, they all disappeared again.
Phu Quoc PrisonContinuing our tour, we found a big ugly concrete wave, and the prisoner of war camp, with some interesting signs. The Vietnamese have no problem with showing their contempt throughout these historical displays, no sense of keeping un biased. Some of the torture devices they had on display were pretty horrific, and the conditions certainly didn’t look nice. This was an island controlled by the South Vietnam government, or ‘puppet government‘, which was indirectly under the command of the US. Some back roads along deserted areas, and past a few huge future resorts took us back to try the seafood market.

My advice when it comes to seafood – make sure you try lots of different things, but also get a decent amount of something you know you like. Nothing worse than trying lots of new things that taste rubbish if you’ve got nothing left to eat afterwards. Also, there’s a reason some of these things aren’t available in supermarkets in Europe, they simply taste terrible.

DCIM100GOPROThe next day we’d booked a snorkelling and fishing trip up on the northern side of the Island. It was good value including food, and lunch was some of the fish we’d caught earlier on. Not exactly fancy as far as the fishing went, just a line off the back of the boat, and the captain caught so many more than we could, I guess practice does make perfect. The snorkelling was very nice though, very clear and warm water and a good selection of fish and coral. Nothing I hadn’t seen before, but still a pleasant trip overall, and nice to see more of the northern half of the island, unspoilt and tranquil, especially compared to the somewhat ruined beach along the strip.

Our bus out left the next morning, and some more faffing and waiting at tranit centres got us on the bus to Can Tho

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Music Festivals around the world

Music is something that in international, but every country has their own take on it. Whether it be the music they make, the influences they work from or the way it’s played. Music festivals are one of the best places to experience this, as you’ll see a huge range of musical styles, both international and local, as well as seeing how the locals like to enjoy it.

Probably the strangest festival experience was a large festival near Pai, in north Thailand. The music was a good mix, there were ska/reggae cover bands, which are pretty common along with the strong rasta influence in the region, there were a couple Thai rock bands, who played a slightly dated sounding emo-rock, with occaisional top40 covers. There was a DJ stage, which was a nice mix of dubstep and comericial house, which unsurprisingly was where most of the white people were. Finally on the main stage the most popular and certainly the biggest pull were ‘bands’ (essentially DJs and some vocalists) that just covered modern Top40 songs. So the biggest names were those that didn’t play their own songs. But even more strangely than that; nobody pushed to the front, nobody pushed at all. In fact, the whole audience area was littered with tables, which worked hand in hand with the drinks being sold. Multi-packs of mixers, and whole bottles of liquor along with a bucket of ice. Perfect for sharing with friends around the little table you had in the middle of the crowd during the headline set. It’s something I’m sure some of the more mature festivals in the UK could take on with great success, but a very odd compared to the usual crush if you’re within 500 meters of the stage.

Another odd one for a UK festival veteran was Soundwave festival in Sydney. Single day festivals have often got a different vibe (I blame people having phone battery), but the Aussies don’t use the festival vibe as an excuse to be social. Instead I found most people stuck in their groups and the day lacked the community spirit you get at the longer events. The music while mostly American bands, was contemporary, even if a few of the bands would’ve had much bigger, or smaller, crowds in Europe. A case of each band getting a different reception as they spread around the world is never more evident than in Australia, where the styles are a little late, but from the local bands, you can hear the influences a few years behind the UK. The fickle music scene trends also really affect the popularity of a band, so while they can reach great success in one region, they could bomb in another.

UK festivals will probably always be my favourite though, the combination of naff weather, no phones and general drunkenness means you can be friends with anyone, at anytime. No matter who you’re watching, chances are you’re there for the same reasons, (because you love them, or you want to throw something at them) and that’s enough to make you friends. The rain makes them a little less fun, and rain is almost guaranteed at some point, just hope for a touch of drizzle over the epic floods that have been seen in past years. The tents, and the inability to find them along with the new campfire friends you make during the search are often some of the best times to be had at festivals. Something which is completely lacking from single day festivals.

So, in conclusion, the best festivals are multi-day with original bands, and a good mix of styles (without any mad clashes). Just like the ones we have in the UK.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

The Best (and Worst) Ways to get around the world

There’s a lot of different methods of public transport in the world, each one has it’s benefits and problems, so here’s a little of my favourite. If you’re got any transport horror stories, or favourites that I missed, let me know – if I get a lot, I’ll turn them into another post.

  • Trains

One of my favourites, they’re simple, they’re hard to get wrong, and generally pretty quick. If you’re lucky, you’ll be on a nice quiet coach with a few seats to yourself able to lie down and get some shut eye. The Sydney area double-decker trains are cool, although uncomfortable, and most British ones are passable. The Overnighters in Thailand are a little odd though, not uncomfortable until you need to go to the bathroom.

  • Buses and Coaches

I don’t think these are anyones favourite, but as far as cheap transport goes, these are the bomb. From the Greyhound and Premier buses that cart loads of backpackers from stop to stop, with the occasional riot/party on board, and some of the worst nights sleep imaginable to the Thai VIP buses with complementary food and water, big comfy chairs and plenty of stops. Then there’s the coaches in other parts of SE Asia, where it’s goodbye to any idea of luxury, and you’re lucky if you’re not sat on a stool in the aisle. Dangerous overcrowding, awfully maintained seats, sitting with your bags, it’s not good.

  • Mini-buses

Proabably the worst form of transport I’ve ever experienced, and rarely are they any good (outside of a western country that is). I’ve shared mini-buses with chickens, pigs, motorbikes, twice the amount of people the bus was designed for and so much more. If you’re lucky, you’ll get a real seat, not a wooden one, and if you’re really lucky, you’ll get it all to yourself. Sharing with your bag is not unusual, but makes it tricky to go to the bathroom. Often there’s no choice but if you can, avoid these death-traps!

  • Tuk-Tuks

They change depending on the country, but the typical Bangkok tuk-tuk is what most people think of. Named after the noise they make, these are little trikes that usually fit no more than three passengers, are cheap, and a great way to get around in the citys. Often confused with Song Thaws, which are more like pick-up trucks (or backies/utes in Africa/Australia) Tuk-Tuks are more common, and much smaller. Cambodian tuk-tuks tend to be a motorbike, with a carriage attached, while in Loas you’re looking for miniature minibuses. Always check what your journey should cost before you go, so you know you’re getting a good deal, but these should always be good value.

  • Airplanes

The best way to go to a long way, and sometimes the only way into some countries, but if you can avoid the short haul flights, please do. They really aren’t even close to being sustainable, even with the £1 carbon offset donation. I love them, because they take you a long way fast, but I hate waiting in airports. I think my favourite thing about them is watching all the movies during the flight, and not having to worry about food for a good few hours.

  • Metro/Tube Systems

Love them, I don’t care how confusing they are, how many people are squished in, there’s nothing better than zipping around a city via a network or tunnels or above the streets on tracks. I am have done three laps of Kuala Lumpur city centre before I got where I needed, but hell, it was fun. Singapore has a nice system, as does Dubai, just be aware that you may need to push to get off, they’re not as polite as the British.

  • Trams

Better than the metro/tube lines because you can see where you are easily so can hop on and off exactly where you need, or at least, where you think you need. But best of all of course, you rarely need to pay for these, especially as a foreigner. For 6 months in Melbourne I got away with playing dumb on the rare occasions I got caught. The same in Dublin, where the moment they heard a non-irish accent they just kicked you off to buy a ticket.

There’s a few I missed, local buses tend to be useful, but never popular, boats, which are really just very damp coaches, and I’m sure there’s some odd ones out there I’ve missed totally.

Have fun, and as my Dad always told me, ‘Mind the Trams’

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Sex or Death

I was introduced to the game Sex or Death while working in the greater Sydney area in Australia.

I was told about it by an Irish guy, who was clearly more cocky than he should have been about his abilities with ladies. It’s a simple principle – don’t book yourself a place for the night, just leave your stuff somewhere safe, apply copious amounts of deodorant and hit the town. The aim is to meet a girl and go home with her, as the only other option is to sleep rough on the streets and probably die.

This is not a game I’d recommend to anyone, ever. But it is fun, watching your friend desperately hitting on every girl in the club trying to find somewhere to sleep. I saw him waste a half hour chatting up a rather large girl, only for her mate to whisper something in her ear, followed by a rather humiliating rejection of my friend. As the night progresses of course and the more the alcohol takes effect, the more desperate and rediculous the players get, and so the less attractive the girls get, and the more idiotic (drunken genius obviously) the attempts become. I remember at one point asking another guy why he had two drinks, to which he said it saved going to the bar to buy her a drink.

Despite never actually wanting to play, times got tough at times in Australia, so a night spent curled up asleep in the back of a small car on a backstreet in Sydney was my punishment for losing.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel