Eating like Obama

Aside from the amazing local food in Hanoi, of which Barack Obama himself sampled when he visited (see within), I loved wandering around the narrow streets of the old quarter and stopping at various cafes for a spot of people watching.


Once I had found my way around Hanoi’s old quarter and learnt how to safely cross the road, I managed to do some further exploring and a lot of eating. I’ve had much less time to write recently, with a lot of moving around, but I was keen to at least document my favourite things about my visit to Vietnam’s capital city.  

People watching at Cong Caphe

Loads of people say it, but watching the world go by whilst drinking coffee in Hanoi is one of the best things to do in the city. There are loads of quirky little coffee shops to hang out in but Cong Caphe was my favourite and it’s a chain. Yes, I said chain! They serve a huge range of coffees including a very popular coconut iced coffee but it’s the decor that makes it really different. Each cafe is designed to resemble a 1970’s bunker, all the staff wear army green and propaganda posters hang on the walls. The cafe has been critised in the past for pushing the boundaries of its communist theme but this probably helped them gain popularity, particularly amongst young people. Here’s me looking serious/vacant on the balcony at Cong Caphe. 

Drinking Egg Coffee

They don’t sell this in Cong but they do in loads of other coffee shops. Coffee is a big deal in Vietnam but egg coffee is just something else. Not to everyone’s taste (it’s like a dessert) but definitely something to try. Egg coffee is made with robusta coffee, topped with egg yolk which is whisked together with sugar and condensed milk. After a little research by my dorm buddy and new friend, we found the most famous spot to try this local delicacy at a cafe run by the family of the guy who invented it. Giang Cafe is not easy to find, on a main street but down a small corridor and above a shop making it feel like a secret spot. It reminded me of the secret bars in Barcelona. No vino blancos here but very cool cafe and very sweet and unusual coffee. 

Women’s Museum 

The Women’s Museum is actually good. There are a few museums in Hanoi that sound interesting like the War Museum or Hoi Chi Minh Mausoleum but I didn’t want to visit too many in my short time. A little sceptical about visiting a museum I knew little about but this place was actually a really impressive tribute to Vietnamese women. A perfect blend of photography, artefacts and history, (particularly about revolutionaries in war history), it left me feeling inspired! 

Weekends at the Lake 

Every single weekend in Hanoi, the road which surrounds the lake is closed to cars and bikes. This creates a nice peaceful spot in the city to leisurely walk around. In the day, a lot of young families visit and it kind of becomes a bit like a park on the roads. People sit chatting on benches and enjoying the atmosphere or visit a cafe or restaurant overlooking the lake. At night, the market stalls arrive and live Vietnamese classical singing can be heard through speakers all around the lake. 

Perfecting My Road Crossing 

It seems genuinely impossible when you first arrive. Motorbikes dominate the roads and they don’t seem to stop for anyone. Crossings might as well not exist although they seem like your only hope. To cross a road in Hanoi, you must firstly position yourself at a crossing and ascertain which direction the traffic is coming from (sometimes one-way which is a dream in comparison to both.) You must then walk out in front of approaching motorbikes. Yep, it goes against every rule in the Highway Code but if you don’t do it, you will spend your entire time in Hanoi on one side, of one road. Okay so you don’t literally step in front of a bike that is one metre away from you, you let those go of course. However, if there is enough room for them to swerve you, there is enough room to go. You must then keep your eye on all other oncoming bikes and repeat the process with each one until you reach the middle (and repeat the other way!) or the other side of the road, where you can finally let go of holding your breath. Once you perfect it, you feel like you have cracked everything that is Hanoian life but, in reality it’s still pretty dangerous. There is no way I would hire a motorbike but many brave, brave (stupid) tourists do. 

Train Street
Another extreme hazard that would breach all safety standards ever written in the U.K. There is a street in Hanoi with a railway track running along it! A street that is left with barely enough space to walk along, dominated by the track. It is also an active residential street for anyone to pass through and I noticed no safety signs, at least none in English anyway. It’s even a difficult to safely get to, with major roads to cross right by it. So I thought it would be a good idea to go? Well, the train only runs through twice a day at 7.30am and 3.30pm so I knew I would be safe. However, I know people who have been there to witness the trains passing and apparently minutes before everyone just disappears inside, so you know it’s coming. I didn’t fancy that but it’s still a pretty unique sight at any time of day and left me wondering which came first, the houses or the track?

Eating the Best Pho
Hanoi is of course where you will find all the amazing food which is reason enough to visit in my opinion. Pho is NOTHING like I have had in the UK. It’s simple ingredients with the perfect broth taste so good, it’s addictive. I’m desperate to try and find the same or recreate it (lol) when I’m back.
I can’t confirm I found the best but from the fair few I had, my favourite by far was from Pho Gia Truyen. Doesn’t look like much but it’s the one. Go get it. 

Eating Like Obama

When the don, Barack Obama visited Vietnam last year, he was taken to a Bun Cha restaurant which is supposedly one of the best for this local dish. Bun Cha is grilled pork served with noodles and a humongous bowl of leafs and fresh herbs for you to mix in yourself. It’s delicious and I had it a few times. So, with the huge incentive to eat like Obama, I had to have it at that restaurant too. At ‘Bun Cha Hương Liên’ there are huge photos on all the walls of Obama there that day with Anthony Bourdain. It’s a really basic, quite messy, local food restaurant but you can’t go wrong with places like this in Hanoi as Obama and I both know. 

Here’s one of me with Obama enjoying his Hanoian beer and Bun Cha. 

The Eiffel Tower Bridge

This was my favourite place to visit in Hanoi and possibly one of my favourite moments from my trip was to stand on this bridge during sunset. I think it’s one of the most underrated architectural features of the city. The Long Bien bridge, designed by the same guy who designed the Eiffel Tower. Intrigued by its similarity in style, I was keen to visit. The bridge has a central train track and either side can only be crossed by bikes or pedestrians. Stepping onto the bridge was a little unnerving with hundreds of motorbikes hurtling past me and there is a part of the beginning of the bridge you can actually feel shake beneath you. Once the bridge stopped shaking and I had committed to continuing, walking along felt quite exhilarating, especially as I was one of the only pedestrians there and the sun was setting behind me. I didn’t cross the entire bridge as it’s massive but once you reach the part that overlooks some very green farmland before the river, standing alone, it became the most peaceful spot within the madness of passing traffic. 

I would love to visit again and explore even more. If anyone has been, please share your unique or just food experiences in the comments as I would love to hear about them. 

Peace out ✌🏼️

My Perfect 2 Weeks in Myanmar

I feel so privileged to have been able to visit this beautiful country and be welcomed with open arms by its kind and gracious people after all the hardship they have endured.

I have to admit I was a little apprehensive about visiting Myanmar at first. As a fairly inexperienced solo traveller in a country only recently open for tourism, I wondered if I would feel safe and if travelling around was going to be straight forward. Luckily for me, there is already a common backpacker route which is very well catered to. Granted, following a backpacker route is not the most adventurous but it was ideal for me and provided a perfect introduction to Myanmar. 
The majority of backpackers fly to Yangon or Mandalay, take a bus or trek to Inle Lake, bus to Bagan or in a different order. With just over two weeks, I flew to Yangon and took night buses to Inle Lake, then Bagan, then back to Yangon.

There was just so much I loved about Myanmar that I could write about it all day. Instead, I have whittled it down to my favourite things about the country in roughly the order I travelled. 

Early Morning at Yangon’s Chinatown 

I flew into Yangon and stayed in Downtown which is where Chinatown is located. First thing in the morning when street sellers and hawkers are setting up it was hectic and I could barely move down some of the streets but enjoying the mad atmosphere was definitely one of my highlights. I did however manage to take a few snaps once everyone was ready to roll.

Shwedagon Pagoda at Night 

Just a short taxi north, I went to visit the sparkling, golden Shwedagon Pagoda. I headed there just before sunset which ended up being a perfect time. It’s cooler for one and when the sun goes down the whole place is lit up. You can just hang out and enjoy its beautiful, relaxed atmosphere. I met one family who had come for the evening to celebrate their eldest sons birthday and I can totally understand why. It’s a really special place. 

Strolling around Nyaung Shwe

After a couple of days, I took a night bus from Yangon to the closest town to Inle Lake. I finally got off the 12 hour journey (they tell you 8) at around 6am at Nyaung Shwe. I stayed at quite a cheesy hostel but it was super clean and comfy, sharing an ensuite bathroom with just 3 other girls. Although a little flashpackery, I had booked the previous night at the hostel so I could get straight in the room. For me, it was worth every penny to get into bed after the journey but I know some people will take advantage of being up that early and get straight on a boat for sunrise across the lake. I saved my boat trip for the next day. 

The town itself is so lovely with a huge traditional and not too touristy market, loads of nice restaurants for local food and back roads for exploring the countryside. I’m not confident on two wheels, but probably should have hired a bicycle for a bit further afield exploring. Apparently there is a pretty winery (however the wine is not good) where you can get some lovely views. I found my own pretty spots just from walking about. 


Inle Lake Boat Ride 

I’ll be honest, at first I didn’t think it was as idyllic as the Kerala backwaters but on reflection it really shouldn’t be compared. Inle Lake has a raw beauty that provides a fascinating type of agriculture to its farmers, fishermen and local people. When on the lake there is so much life from the communities but also vast tomato, giant cucumber and other veg growing in abundance surrounded by flourishing rice fields. 

As tourism is quite big here, you will be taken to various ‘craft workshops’ on the lake where you can learn how stuff is made and then gently encouraged to buy locally made jewellery, umbrellas (parasols), hand woven textiles and cigars. I’m pretty sure you can be taken out on a boat without the stops if, like me, you hate that kind of thing but I was with a group so just sat outside and kept quiet when I’d had enough of the group learning activities. 

The Food 
Myanmar has its own unique cuisine quite different to any I have had before. I couldn’t really compare it closely enough anyway. Traditional dishes include curries with chick pea tofu or pork. Tomato and tea leaf salads as staples, as well as one of my favourites the rice salad which like a lot of dishes, includes peanuts that creates a real contrast of textures and flavours. And finally I took a cooking class!

Myanmar People 

Beautiful, beautiful people of Myanmar! The smiliest bunch I have come into contact with so far are those from this country. Children were excited to see my funny white face and would always wave and giggle. This bunch came running over to me as I took a walk off the beaten track. They spoke no English but we connected over some flowers / weeds they had picked and then gave to me!

The most unique thing about how Myanmar people look is definitely the use of Thanaka on their faces. Apparently, Thanaka is a 2000 year old beauty secret worn by mostly women and children but also men. Made from ground bark, it is a multi-functional sun protection, fashion statement and is said to promote healthy skin from acne and ageing. Obviously coped myself two tubs! 
Whilst in Nyaung Shwe I was lucky enough to see a monthly procession where locals celebrated with offerings for the monasteries. All ages were dressed up for the occasion, including children as young as 4 or 5 in snazzy dresses and make-up. 

Despite my reservations, I felt so safe every where I went in Myanmar. Everyone was so welcoming and warm, offering advice and just chatting with no agenda. There was no hassling. The standard of hospitality in hotels, hostels, restaurants and even the buses was really impressive. I did have to deal with a bit of Yangon-to-the-toilet when I first arrived but that’s my weak western stomachs problem. Local taxis were easy to use as well as pick up vans which you can jump on a off for next to nothing. 

Wow Wow Bagan

My final stop before heading back to Yangon was Bagan. If there is a must see spot in Myanmar, there is no doubt it is here. It’s 2000 plus temples and pagodas spread across the landscape is utterly unique and magical to see. It’s an impressive archeological site dating back to as far as 12th century from huge temples to tiny stupas. You can, currently, climb up the very small and dark internal staircases to get a better a view although I’m sure this won’t be possible forever. My photos do not do it justice but I tried. 

Hire an e-bike for the best experience for exploring the huge site and make sure you see at least one sunrise (was 5am for me!) and one sunset. In May, its excruciatingly hot so ideally you have to start your day at sunrise anyway but it’s worth it. I took the flashpacker option again and hired a horse cart for my trips out. Sorry to all my animal and horse loving friends – I don’t know how you feel about this but hopefully we can still be friends!?

For just over two weeks I feel like I had the most perfect trip. 

I would love to come back and visit some of the beaches in the south which are said to be beautiful but maybe a bit earlier in the year as it was seriously.. boiling. 

Thank you Myanmar, I’m so glad I came ❤️️

Lost in Sri Lanka

This is the post excerpt.

Only joking mum and dad I’m not lost, but I am in Sri Lanka! I’m just 5 days into my 4 month trip starting here, then to India, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Indonesia (no particular order). A few people now have suggested I blog about my trip which I guess is a good idea, even if no one reads it, apart from you mum and dad. 

For the first part of my “backpacking” trip I have cheated a bit and am staying at a really beautiful yoga retreat called Villa de Zoysa, just near Boussa which is in the Southern Province near Hikkaduwa. I wanted to ease my way in gently to travel life whilst getting my zen on. I can honestly say this place has been a bit too nice and I don’t want to leave ever. My room is perfect (apart from various unidentifiable animal noises in the night), complete with private balcony, there is a pool, it’s opposite the beach, we have some amazing food and yoga twice a day plus staff wait on us 24/7. Despite all this, it is in no way pretentious, it’s a family run vibe, the owner lives here and eats with us every day. The relaxation and security of this place make it difficult to want to venture out into the unknown but I’m just going to have to go for it if I’m going to get the real sense of adventure I signed myself up for. Eek.

Also, this part of Sri Lanka is not ideal on a backpacker budget because there are a lot of holiday tourists around. Travel on tuk tuks and buses are cheap, however,  you can get caught out with some restaurants and shops which are quite expensive and sometimes not far off what I would pay in UK. 

Regardless, it’s a beautiful, beautiful place and I’m so chuffed I came here. Check out the sexy photo of me in my new traveller style, and some other stuff.

Peace and love ✌🏼️❤️️