Tag Archives: touism

Rome Pt.1

So I had another couple of days available, so decided a quick jaunt over to Rome was in order.


I’ve never been to Italy before, but I’d heard good things about it, mostly about the food. But we all know about the history, at least some of it. The Ancient Romans, the Vatican and so much more, it’s really got a lot of the ‘big ones’ all in one city.

IMG_20151122_115213I took an evening flight over, and as always I was hopeless at finding my hostel on the public transport system. It’s pretty easy to get into town, and worth paying the extra for the direct train to Termini, the others don’t stop in the city centre, so you have to jump onto the metro. That said, buying a metro ticket for the length of your stay is a really easy way to save a lot of walking, valid on metro, trams and buses it means you can hop about all over the city. You can certainly see it all walking, but unless you’re an active walker, it’s easy to get sore feet from the miles you’ll clock up. I arrived at my hostel to find the friendly staff happy to help, and a room full of sleeping people, so I joined them.

The hostel was not IMG_20151122_120137very busy, and I didn’t meet anyone in the morning to explore with, so I set out alone, without any game plan to find somewhere for some food, and see what I could see. I found myself on Via Dei Fori Imperiali the pedestrian road that connects the Colosseum to Piazza Venezia past the Roman Forum. I close to take a right, and explored the area along with the ‘typewriter’ the magnificent Altare della Patria, and the Basilica di Santa Maria in Ara Coeli. I didn’t really know what I was looking at, but I was very impressed by the architecture of the buildings, both old and new, with some stunning designs and iconic views of the city, and back over the Forum. Inside the Basilica you start to understand why the Italian design has done so well, with incredibly delicate and intricate design and craftsmanship of all kinds to decorate the church. Certainly a good starting point, combining the ancient and the religious, two of the strongest influences over Rome, and certainly on the tourist industry.

IMG_20151122_143646From here I started heading toward the infamous Spanish Steps, which were unfortunately closed for renovations, but still quite a marvel to see. The Steps are well known as a meeting place, and at night quite an active spot for some socialising with a drink or two. It’s certainly known by the budget travellers as they can avoid bar prices and pick up some cheeky beers on the road. Again, the architecture of the area is quite remarkable, this time for the classical style, and the way Rome has blended so nicely from ancient to modern. From Spagna, down to the Piazza del Popolo is a short walk through some of the more commercial streets, and although busy it’s easy enough to enjoy the city. I can only imagine the hoards that gather on these streets during the summer months though, and I’m very glad I went at one of the quieter times of year. The Piazza is know for the huge obelisk in the centre and the twin buildings that make up one of the early gates to the city. You can walk up the hill from here to look over the city, and spot several of the famous landmarks dotted along the skyline. following the ridge of the hill leads back to the top of the Spanish steps again, from where there’s plenty to choose from.

IMG_20151122_151036I decided to save the Trevi Fountain for later in the day, and aimed at getting across to Piazza Navona, via a few of the churches and sights along the way. Through my rather improvised route I also stumbled upon the Pantheon, a spectacular temple again showing how ancient and modern worlds sit nicely within Rome. While it feels a little cramped in around the edges, theres enough space to appreciate the building, and getting inside was no bother (although I can only imagine the queues in summer). Inside it’s even more impressive with the high roof stretching up high above, it’s hard to understand how such a place could have been built so long ago.

IMG_20151122_152611Piazza Navona is a hive of tourist restaurants and souvenir shops, but the fountain in the centre makes it worth braving the square. Again Rome impresses with it’s design, and these walks just show sight after sight, with so much to see, and so many fantastic historic buildings along every street it’s hard to appreciate them all. If just one of these were in the centre of a modern city it would be a sight, but when compared to the massive tourist pulls in Rome they pale by comparison, which is something that could only happen in a city as impressive as this. The next stop was Largo Di Torre Argentina, a relatively insignificant section of Roman ruins, but home to a colony of cats who prowl the grounds seeking food and attention. On the way back to the hostel, to rest the worn feet and for a much needed nap I passed the horrendous crowd that was gathered around the Trevi Fountain. Truly a spectacle worth visiting, but not when you can’t relax and enjoy it. I made a note to come back later.

IMG_20151123_011810That evening I ventured to another hostel nearby to find some fellows, and did so. After a few drinks in some odd bars as we dodged the rain, we settled down with some takeaways outside the Colosseum. My first close look at the magnificent building was suitably impressive, and bigger than people had led me to believe, perhaps because they had been disappointed themselves. After a pleasant evening of easy conversation I headed home, back along Via di Forti Imperiali and back to the Trevi Fountain, which was much quieter and more peaceful. I spent some time relaxing and enjoying the incredible fountain built into the side of a building. I’m not sure what they do to make the water so gloriously blue, but it works. Strolling through the city gave me no worries, and despite the reputation for pickpockets I was happy not to have any trouble.

Continued here



Vietnam Pt8 – Hoi An and the Hi Van Pass

Hoi An is a gorgeous little town, maybe not as exciting as some, but definitely very pretty.


RiverI’ve seen photos of the town during Chinese New Year/Tet, which is very impressive, but getting through Vietnam on public transport is an absolute nightmare at this time of year. Unless you’re on a pre-planned tour it’s very risky to try traveling at this time, you’ll be crammed into buses, and lucky to get a bed for the night.

ShoppingYou don’t need to visit during Tet though, the town is still very pretty and a wonderful place to chill out for a couple of days. It’s most famous for its’ tailors, even the Top Gear guys dropped in to get a specially made suit while here. It’s a nice experience, and usually the hostels will have a book of recommended places to try. You can get pretty much anything made for you, out of any material you like, and if you’re not flying straight home then you can get it all sent back for you.BridgeIf you’re looking for something really nice, it won’t be cheap: A lot cheaper than Europe, but still a couple hundred dollars. However I recommend getting something really nice made up, then just for fun a couple silly costumes or jackets made up as well on the side. It all depends on where you go, their reputation and the material. It would be easy to spend days searching and trying places, but pick one and stick with it.

Other than that and the pretty streets Hoi An isn’t crazy with loads to do, with one major exception – The Hi Van Pass. Made famous first by the Easy Rider motorbike tours and then by Top Gear there’s a lot of different ways to experience this epic mountain road. We choose a one-way bike hire that included transfer of our gear to a hostel in Hue. It gave us the freedom to hit the places we fancied, and cost less than the tours.


My SonSo after an early morning suit fitting Nico and I jumped onto a ‘ped again and headed the wrong way in search of the My Son ruins, a historical Vietnamese city, made up of a variety of ruins, rebuilt structures and recreations it’s a fascinating chance to see some of the ancient history of the culture in this country. The next stop was the Marble Mountains, where if you’re willing to take the stairs you can climb up the steep cliffs that pop right out of the flat plains around.The viewThere are three in total, with the main one crawling with statue shops and trinket sellers around the base. The further up and into the temple and pagoda complex you climb, the quieter it becomes, and offers better and better views. The mountains are only a short distance from the sea, so it’s possible to see the huge sweeping curve of the bay and far over the flats up to the mountain range through which the Hi Van Pass road runs.

BuddhaBack down to ground level we continue our route along the coast towards the mountains, stopping out on a peninsula that features another huge Buddha statue that looks back over the bay we’d just driven up. Then into the town of Da Nang, where we looked for some lunch. Along one of the streets we burst a tire so had to find a shop to fix that. A lucky find on a back road killed two birds with one stone, bike shop and lunch next door, and we were very happy with price as well.HappyInstead of the usual tourist rip-off prices these guys charged the same as they would a local, happy with a few snaps with us instead. It’s meeting these people that reminds you that the locals are not all greedy cheats, but incredibly friendly and happy to help. As a thank you we dug out some odd coins from other countries that they seemed to love. Getting going again we headed north around the next bay to start of the pass.

Hi VanThankfully we had a more powerful bike than the TG boys, so getting up was no trouble even with two of us on board. As we climbed we stopped at several locations to get pics of the epic views which really must be seen to be appreciated. At the top there is a little bus stop with shops and supplies and a couple Vietnam war remnants, gun turrets and bunkers mark the border between North and South. An odd thing happened as we looked down the other side, the weather switches completely. On the Southern side there wasn’t a cloud in sight, on the Northern the fog was so thick you couldn’t see more than 200 meters. It made for a rather strange and unimpressive ride back down.

Hi vanThen we hit the road, the main road that runs through the mountains rather than over them. It’s a busy motorway and it’s absolutely horrible to drive along on a moped. I imagine it’s not much better in a car really, the trucks that are steaming along at full speed have no problem with pushing you off the road if they want to overtake. We saw two accidents that had happened along that stretch, neither were small, and that didn’t make us feel any better. It’s definitely doable, but I don’t recommend it to anyone, even experienced bike riders, it’s just so dangerous, especially when you’re wearing half a helmet and a hoody as protection. It’s also a long drive, and when we finally arrived in Hue, I was very relieved to get off and say goodbye to that bike.

Benjamin Duff