Monthly Archives: November 2014

Save Money on your Holiday with Pre-Fit Delivery – Blog for Prefitdelivery.com

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There’s plenty of way that we can help save you money, and as only we know them right now, we thought it would be nice to share!

  • Avoid admin charges – Some tour operators will charge you to make changes to you bookings, including changes to your Pre-Fit Delivery time slot. This is due to the effort required to process this and send the information off to us – however if you get in touch with us directly we can usually make these changes for you
  • Upgrade your gear – We can hook you up with a rental upgrade, additional clothing and add a helmet on for the base price. No admin fee on those at all

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  • Discount retail – We have a supply of gear available to buy at each roadshow and fitting event. This might not be as extensive as the nearby Snow + Rock or Decathlon, but we do have all the essentials at very good prices including socks from £9 and goggles for £15 and loads more.
  • Ex-rental gear – We have a very limited supply of ex-rental bits n pieces from previous years which you can pick up at massive discount. This includes jackets and salopets from £20 and gloves and goggles from £10
  • Epic Swag – Ok, so buying extra stuff might not actually save you money, but we have some rad limited edition T-shirts and beanies from the guys at Mojo, Entirety and Park Clothing for sale, all for cheaper than it’s supposed to be.

So if there’s something you want to add to your booking, from a better pair of ski, through to switching to board hire, or you need that hard hat to protect your noggin we have it all – please get in touch with us and see what we can do to save you some dollar!

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Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

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Update: Pre-Fit Delivery and Wasteland Ski

So you may know that I’m now working with both Pre-Fit Delivery and Wasteland Ski.

PFD is a company that works closely with Wasteland, fitting ski and board boots to the customers before they head out to resort, meaning that on arrival they’ll be able to pick up their boots in seconds rather than waiting ages in the cold and trying to find the right boots after a hellish long bus journey.

I started on Monday in Loughborough and since then have visited Sutton Bonington (near Nottingham) York and am now in Manchester to meet a colleague who will be driving us down to London for the Wasteland Head Rep training day. After that is the Wasteland 20th Anniversary party, which is on a boat on the Thames, followed by an afterparty up in Shoreditch. After a day off in London I’ll be heading all the way up to Glasgow to do the Scottish Unis for a week (Glasgow and Dundee at least) then to Edinburgh to catch up with some family before heading back down to London again for an interview with a promising company (I’m keeping that one a secret for now) And then another day off before I hit Bath for 5 days straight, so we’re expecting some parties and maybe even a bit of chilling there as well. As soon as I finish there, I’ll be flying out to France to work my first week for Wasteland Ski, in Val Thoren, one of my favourite resorts.

So, an exciting period of time for me ahead, and if the last few days are anything to judge by, it’ll be a lot of fun! I’m very happy to working with these people as well, a lot of friendly fun people and easy going too. I hope next year follows the same sort of pattern.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

How to prepare for your Pre-Fit Session

Pre-Fit are here to make it easier for you – but you can help your session even easier, just follow these steps…

Pre-fit

  • Bring your own snow sports socks – Yes we’ve got some you can use, but they start to get a bit smelly after lunch time, save yourself the horror and bring your own. If you don’t have any, we’re selling some at £9!
  • Don’t wear skinny jeans – As good as you look, they’ll make your legs fatter, and the boots tighter than they will be, to get a perfect fit you want only the socks between your skin and the boots.
  • If you have questions, write them down – there’s a thousand things you could ask us, and we’ve heard them all, so we try to answer as many as we can before you ask. But there will always be more, so write all you can think of down before you come down, and we’ll help you out as much as possible.
  • Bring some money! – Everyone loves a new hat
  • Do some research – Your friend who has been skiing in Switzerland since 2 years old may not give you the best advice (you don’t need twin tips unless you’re throwing bangers in the park) If you’re just learning, we’ll let you know the best gear for you. Otherwise, check out our other blogs for what you need and what to expect.
  • Be a bit flexible – If you have lots of questions, make sure you’ve got a bit of free time after your session as sometimes we’ll overrun (usually sharing ski tour stories) So don’t book in 10 minutes before your final exam

Loads of gear to buy

So there we go, how to make your session a bit smoother. We’ll do our best to get the perfect fit for your boats, and we’re looking

Vietnam Pt12: Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is one of the big draws to Vietnam, for all types of tourist, from the cheapo backpackers through to rich Russians on private boats.

Ha Long Bay

There are an unbelievable amount of options to choose from, and a thousand different places to book them all. Each shop works with different boats, and trip suppliers. What confused me from the start was that the agent would show you a boat, tell you that you’ll be on that boat, and then tell you it leaves everyday – for a 2 day trip. It’s all just awful, and the corruption and bullshit is worse than anywhere, even Bangkok.

The crewSo after wandering around trying different agents for a while we picked a guy we kinda liked, and booked as a group – there were about 7 of us in total – to get a big discount. Although I have come to suspect that a big discount is not a discount at all, they’re simply selling you a cheaper package, possibly at a higher than usual price. There’s no way to know where this money is going, or that you’re getting what you paid for.

BusySo we get picked up, along with a whole load more backpackers for the bus down to Ha Long town, and meet some cool guys on the trip (which would have been so much worse without them) and assume we must be on the same boat – we’ve paid about the same and are doing the same length trip. We arrive at the Port, and are left standing in the bus park for at least an hour, after a little while our new friends are called away and put on one boat, and a bit longer after that we are taken to our new home. It’s not amazing, to say the least. The rooms are all doubles, so I’m sharing with Nico again, and the facilities are pretty standard cheap Asian. However, we weren’t expecting luxury (even if the pictures were a lot nicer!) Upstairs is the dining room, and on the roof a sun deck with some broken loungers and umbrellas.

cavesThe weather wasn’t great, so the sights were a little spoilt, but the caves were very cool, although that was an extra charge we hadn’t been told about. Not as spectacular as some of the caves I’d visited previously, but still worth a look. I also enjoyed the Kayaking, although a guide around the village would have been appreciated, we were just pointed in the direction of some cool rocky bits, and left to it.

The ViewsThere was also a lot of travel time, sitting on a slow boat heading out to the part of the bay that is so nice. Surprisingly we didn’t see any of the nice sail boats that are always used in the adverts for Ha Long Bay. I can only assume they start closer and spend the nights in the nicer parts of the National Park.

The best part was playing drinking games in the cabin in the evening, and then after a sneaky bribe to their captain the boys from the bus joined us for a bit of a party. More drinking games and some drum n bass kept us going pretty late until their captain insisted on returning to their anchorage. Speaking to the boys it seemed as though they’d done the same as us that day, and their boat was pretty much the same as far as standards.

Our troubles really began on the second day when we realised that quite a few things had been stolen. A pair of real Nike trainers and several amounts of cash had been taken from bags on deck. There were only a few crew members and the travel company rep on board during the thefts, so we tried to insist that the crew compartments were searched, but with no luck. The crew mostly hid away and the captain was belligerent in his refusal. On speaking with the rep, he explained that the crew and boat are hired, basically on a first come first serve basis, using whichever boat is ready at the time, so they have no responsibility for the actions of the crew, or if the boat is horrible.

It makes me think that the whole area is run as a total scam, overcharging for ‘upgrades’ that mean nothing and treating guests like cash machines. The customer service was terrible, the food was disappointing and overall the trip was a waste.

However on route back we bumped into some people that had gone out for the three day trip, who told us they had had no troubles at all, and that the food and service was excellent. They had paid a lot more than us, but in hindsight it may have been worth it just to get a meal that didn’t leave me hungry.

Booking Ha Long Bay is a minefield, I’d suggest booking through an agent at home, but you’d likely end up spending four or five times as much money and potentially ending up with the same thing. At least that way you can complain and get a refund. With the local agents you have no chance of that happening.

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Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

How NOT To Get A Chinese Visa In Hanoi

I planned my tour through Vietnam to include plenty of time in Hanoi to allow me to apply for my Chinese visa – this didn’t work out so well.

The main piece of advice I can give you if you are looking to apply is book your outbound transport. It’s so simple, but I know that it’s the last thing you want to do. Whether it’s the cheapest short haul flight out you can find, or the actual flight you want to take. Book it before you go to the embassy.

Day 1:

I found out from various forums what things I needed to fill out the forms, this is mostly the address and phone number of your hotel/hostel, your own details, passport, and plans for China. I found out which train I wanted to take in, and found out the name of a few hostels in the towns I was to spend the first few days. Some people have said it’s a good idea to have all these booked, which is easy enough with the hostels, as you’ll only be charged the 10% fee through the booking site. However, booking the train is a little trickier, they don’t tend to sell tickets for future travel, so good luck if you want to book that.

I also had a more general plan of my tour through China, which included a stop over in Hong Kong (when in Rome…) which counts as leaving the country as far as the visa is concerned, so I was applying for a double entry visa – same paperwork, just a different box to tick.

On arrival at the embassy I was given a big form by a grumpy security guard, so I filled it out as best I could. The guards will look over it once you are done, and will point out anything you missed, which may sound nice, but feels like getting told off by a strict teacher. You’ll also need to get photocopies of everything ever, there’s a place just around the corner, head right out the door and right again at the corner, and it’s on the right. Don’t listen to the taxi drivers at all. At one point I needed to check online for the hostel phone number, so asked where I could find Wi-Fi. After a few horrendous offers I decided to try a little walk, and about 200 meters away, opposite Lenin, is a coffee shop with an open network.

Once the form was filled in, and I answered all the questions I could, to the lady at the desk, I left with fingers crossed. I knew at this point I was very on the fence, as the lady had told me so. She said she would show it to her supervisor who could advise me whether it was worth applying officially. I’m not sure if this is a normal part of procedure, but I’m glad they did it for me, as it saved me paying for the application, which I’ve heard is an ordeal itself.

Day 2: 

No news is good news right?

Day 3:

Nope. I got a phone call that I could come and collect my passport from the office as they didn’t think it was worth putting through my application. They didn’t give any exact reasons other than ‘lack of evidence’ – not sure what they meant by this, but reading others experiences the only thing my application was really lacking was the transport out.

So if you’re thinking about applying, make sure you have everything, then double check it all.

In all honesty, I was actually a bit relieved when I was rejected, after about 5 months in Asia, I was starting to get tired of the similar landscapes, food and environment. Although it’s somewhere I really wanted to go, I know that, unlike places like Thailand which caters for the youth, China can be appreciated in much the same way at any period in your life, and it certainly isn’t going anywhere. I hope that I will go one day, preferably soon, to explore the amazing sites, but for now I am happy to have adventured in South Africa instead.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

WHAT DO I NEED? SNOW HOLIDAY ESSENTIALS – Blog for PreFitDelivery.com

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When heading out on your first snow holiday, there’s a tonne of questions you’ll be asking, but one of the key things is ‘what do I need to take with me??’ Hopefully we’ll be able to answer this for you right here – Here are the Snow Holiday Essentials:

Continue reading WHAT DO I NEED? SNOW HOLIDAY ESSENTIALS – Blog for PreFitDelivery.com

Vietnam Pt11 – Hanoi

So on to the biggest city in the north of Vietnam, Hanoi. The second largest in the country, and the capital while the country was divided during the war.

Church

There’s two little areas within the city that have a few hostels in each, the first is home to the Infamous Hanoi Backpackers, and Central Hanoi Backpackers while the other hosts the Hanoi Backpackers Downtown; a fancy new build with impressive bar, the starting point of the notorious bar crawl that sucks in pretty much all western tourists under 30. The two areas are a little way apart, but definitely within walking distance although getting from the last bar of the bar crawl back to the first area is a bit of trek.

LeninI stayed at the Central Backpackers, but if you’re a bit of a party animal I’d recommend either of the others mentioned above. Both are run by the same people, are very western friendly and good places to meet other people. They constant run games and have fun little events for theitr guests, they also run their own tours, the Buffalo Run, which takes those that don’t know the real cost of things via a few stops down to Hoi An over seven days, and the much discussed Ha Long Bay Castaway Tour. This tour was something I’d heard about since Thailand, and the reviews are unbelievably mixed, from pure love to spiteful hatred. It’s the perfect trip for those that love to get very drunk and enjoy drinking games along with a bit of daytime adventure activities. I’ve heard horror stories that include the drinking of vomit, 6am shotgun beers, and forced drinking on those that could not handle it. I also heard girls complain that they were constantly sexually harassed by staff members. However, I have also heard people say it was the best weekend of their lives, so it’s a very divisive tour as far as opinions go. I choose not to go with them for two reasons; drinking to excess doesn’t appeal at all (as I’m straight edge I wouldn’t be drinking at all but being on a boat with those people would not be pleasant) and it’s at least two times more expensive than most other options. I have written up my Ha Long Bay Tour here (coming soon).

EntranceWe had arrived in Hanoi with a little bit of extra time because I wanted to apply for my Chinese Visa while in the city, you can read my article on how not to get your visa here (coming soon).

While in Hanoi I had a very pleasant surprise; bumping into a friend of mine that I had lived with in Melbourne for some time. Simply walking past a restaurant around the corner from my hostel I heard a call, and was very happy to see Andy. This made our evenings out very entertaining, as we have one main thing in common, and that’s the meeting and chasing of girls.

Hanoi has a few little bits and pieces to visit, so over the course of a couple days we visited several of them. The first is the large lake between the two backpacker areas which is also used as a giant roundabout. On one side there is a bridge to an island on which there is a quaint little pagoda. While not spectacular it is a very popular stop and is worth a quick look. The city is also home to many churches as well as small temples, so a tour of this is possible if that’s what you’re into.Ho Chi MinhThe Tomb of Ho Chi Minh is probably one of the biggest tourist draws I’ve been to, although we arrived too late to visit his body (something completely against his wishing when he died) the monument is very impressive. It’s something I wish I had seen properly and visited his body as well, although I’ve heard it’s rather disappointing an experience.

War MemorialThere is of course the obligatory War Museum, although this is more of a tribute than a complete museum and features just a few of the larger pieces in the courtyard of a small citadel style fort. Across the road from this is a statue of Lenin, a man who didn’t do too much for Vietnam directly, but apparently their love of communism was enough to erect the dedication. Finally is the old prison, which famously hosted John McCain the US Presidential Candidate.Hanoi Hilton Hao Lo Prison, popularly nicknamed the Hanoi Hilton is a very peculiar place to visit, and shows the way the Vietnamese will try to change history by showing us a rather false view of the Prison. The first part shows the horrific condition that the Vietnamese were kept in by the French Colonists, while the second displays the lovely conditions that the Vietnamese wish to show that American prisoners were kept in. This includes a rather basic but pleasant dorm room and lots of photos of US soldiers sharing happy times including having Christmas dinner and playing basketball. The Museum claims that the nickname Hanoi Hilton was because the conditions were so good. It is general knowledge that this is all propaganda and in fact the conditions for the Americans were similar to those of the Vietnamese during the French rule. Accounts of torture, and terrible conditions are rife amongst ‘guests’.

One Pillar Pagoda

The city has plenty of great walking streets with market stalls and shopping littering the sidewalks, so shopping is easy and often tempting, and you can get pretty much anything you could want there. Overall it’s a pleasant city to spend a couple days in, although it gets a little dull if you’re there as long as we were.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

Veitnam Pt10 – Dong Hoi and Phong Nha Caves

Moving on from Hue on the bus got us into Dong Hoi mid afternoon, enough time to find a cheap place to stay, and explore the town a little.

Paradise Cave

ChurchThere’s not a whole lot in Dong Hoi, but it’s a great base for exploring the national park in which there are several amazing caves to explore. The worlds largest cave was recently discovered in this area of Vietnam, including a cavern so big you could fit the Sistine Chapel inside. Unfortunately this cave is highly restricted, and limited to only a few thousand visitors a year, with very expensive trips in through the network. Instead we settled on a couple of the smaller, cheaper options which were a little more suitable for our needs.

Paradise CaveSo, on the day we arrived we found the few bits of interest, including the ruin of the Tam Tao Church, and an archway which is one of the few remaining parts of the original citadel wall. This arch is now more commonly used for serious drug usage, so only go during the day and watch your step, I don’t recommend it at all as it’s small and pretty rubbish looking, but if you must, please don’t wear flip flops. We also found out that the circus was in town, so later that day I checked it out; and was mostly pleasantly surprised. Certainly they did far too much with animals, but it didn’t seem overly cruel. I wouldn’t like to say it’s a good thing in anyway, and I felt bad for having supported the activity. Excluding the animals though I was very impressed with the acrobatics, some impressive pieces of stunt work and well choreographed dance work. The clowns were amusing for the kids I assume, and overall it was a pretty good show, although not as impressive as the show we’d seen in Cambodia.

Paradise CaveBack on a moped again we headed up through the forests and fields towards the Phong Nha Ke Bang National Park to explore a few of the caves. The fist of which was the Paradise Cave, a dry cave with a huge cavern just inside the entrance. It features all the expected features, most of which I don’t know the names of. The walkway is useful and doesn’t ruin the vista like many do, but allows for easy passage through the cave, which is actually longer than the Phong Nha cave.DCIM100GOPROThe National Park itself is a lovely place to drive through, quiet roads within the deep valleys with hills covered in trees. We had a little problem with our bike, the petrol gauge was stuck at about 1/3, so we ran out of petrol about three times that day. Thankfully we’re very good at rolling down hills, and after the third time we made sure we filled it up and bought some spare as well. Pushing a moped around is no fun, and driving home in the rain because you were delayed sucks as well

BoatAnyway, the Phong Nha cave is the main attraction for the area, and we found out the hard way that you can’t just drive to the entrance. You’ll need to go down to the docks in the nearby village then rent a boat. The boat is best shared with other people to split the costs, but it’s Vietnam, so nothing costs too much. Once in the boat you’re taken up river to the entrance, and then inside on a semi-guided trip, including a short walking section.Phong NhaWe were hurried somewhat by our guide, while the boats skipper pulled the boat up through some shallows to meet us on the other side. It was a shame to be hurried so, but having seen so many caves in the last couple months we wern’t too concerned. The cave was very impressive and well worth the trip, hard to describe though!

As I said, heading back was raining and that’s something I hope never to repeat. That night we were on the coach again heading to Hanoi with an aim to getting me a visa for China.

Phong Nha Cave

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel

 

Vietnam Pt9 – Hue

Hue is one of the larger cities on the route up through Vietnam, and the backpacker area is nicely placed over a few streets in the centre of the town.

Ruins

TankIt has a large citadel near the town, and then lots of little(ish) tombs out in the surrounding countryside as well. We decided after a decent night out, that we’d cycle (no moped this time) to see as much as we could. So heading out to the Citadel area we checked out yet another War Remnants Museum, which while the field of tanks was larger than most, was all much of the same as the others.

PalaceThe Citadel is a large area, with big impressive walls all around, at the centre of which is the Royal Palace which unfortunately was under reconditioning while we visited, meaning a lot of scaffolding in and around the site. While it was still worth a look around, the limits on where you could ride bikes and having to pay more than we had expected soured the experience a bit. Once the work is complete I imagine the area will be quite spectacular, however while we were there the construction and restoration meant we saw more of the work in progress than the buildings actually being worked on.

TombThe best part of the day was certainly cycling through the countryside, trying over and over to find the various tombs that were dotted about. Many wrong turns and detours meant we got a little sneak peak of life away from the touristy side, including some horrible new construction sites of cheap housing, some posh housing and the fairly reasonable conditions of the outer suburbs of the city. Once out in the countryside we found the tombs we were looking for although there were plenty of mis-directions and unhelpful locals, there were at least enough that did help us, and provide us with soft drinks to keep us going throughout the day.

ViewEach tomb had a nice unique factor, and the main ones, Khai Dinhs Tomb and the tomb of Tu Duc, were very impressive. Again construction and restoration efforts meant the views were a bit less impressive, but still they each featured some fascinating architecture and a fun place to explore. There were a couple smaller ones that we’d found in between, some were free entry and others I’m sure were supposed to be ticketed, but we missed that bit. Certainly not as impressive as the main two, but they helped to fill the day with interesting stops.

TombCycling was a nice change from the moped as well, and with the mellow hills of the area and reasonable traffic we felt perfectly safe at all times. Overall we rated the tombs much higher than the citadel and palace, but we booked our bus out again for the next day as we felt we’d seen all that the city had to offer us.

The nightlife is pretty good though, one of the hostels has a decent bar, although it shuts a little early, but meeting some of the people we’d met on our route up we had a good meal with a load of strangers, and ended up the only group in a bar at the end of the night. Playing pool against the staff and YouTubing punk rock songs on the sound system was a nice way to spend an evening.

Off the next day heading to Dong Hoi, to explore the famous caves in the area.

Benjamin Duff

@versestravel