You searched for vietnam - Bruised Passports Offbeat Travel and Fashion Blog Mon, 10 Jul 2023 11:51:53 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A slow week in Luang Prabang, Laos + Why you should visit Laos Mon, 10 Jul 2023 11:51:53 +0000 Laos, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. While its neighbouring countries, such...

The post A slow week in Luang Prabang, Laos + Why you should visit Laos appeared first on Bruised Passports.

Laos, a landlocked country in Southeast Asia, is a hidden gem waiting to be discovered. While its neighbouring countries, such as Indonesia and Vietnam get so much hype on social media, Laos is still relatively under-rated! However with its lush landscapes, rich cultural heritage, and serene atmosphere, Laos offers a unique and authentic travel experience.

Instead of packing our itinerary and making it hectic, we decided to spend a slow week in Luang Prabang. We based ourselves in Luang Prabang and spent our time exploring new things everyday. The city boasts of French influences and has some of the best cafés and bakeries in the country.

In this comprehensive guide, we will explore a 7-day itinerary for visiting Laos from India, with a focus on the enchanting city of Luang Prabang. From accommodation options and must-visit attractions to delightful culinary experiences, let’s dive into why Luang Prabang needs to be on your travel bucketlist

Laos is an offbeat gem

Flights and visa information

Luang Prabang is well connected to most major cities. If you are flying from Delhi, there are convenient flights to Laos while Thailand. If you have an Indian Passport, Laos offers an easy e-visa. Apply a week before you leave and make sure you carry a print out of your e-visa to the airport as well.

Best Restaurants in Luang Prabang

  1. Tamarind is well known for its authentic Lao cuisine. You can also take cooking classes and learn local recipes here.
  2. Manda de Laos offers an elegant setting and traditional Lao dishes with a modern twist.
  3. Night Market Food Stalls in Luang Prabang are in a league all their own. Sample a variety of local street food, including grilled meats, noodle soups, and a really cute hotdog lady who has a fan club of her own 😉
  4. Saffron Coffee brew a great cup of coffee. Try their falafel wraps and lattes – thank us later!
  5. Joma Bakery CafĂ© also has decent coffee. The pass is a mixed bunch – their breakfast burritos are great but we would suggest avoiding their burgers!
  6. Due to the lasting French legacy, Luang Prabang is home to the cutest bakeries – try fresh baguettes and pastries at the likes of La Banneton CafĂ©
You must explore the dining scene of Laos – whether it be the small cafĂ©s or the night markets


Saffron Coffee in Luang Prabang is perfect for a cuppa

Day 1- Arrival in Luang Prabang

Upon arrival in Luang Prabang, settle into your chosen accommodation. For a blend of luxury and traditional charm, consider staying in one of the city’s boutique hotels, such as Maison Dalabua or 3 Nagas Luang Prabang MGallery. Take a leisurely stroll along the quaint streets of the UNESCO-listed Old Town, soaking in the French colonial architecture and vibrant markets. Make sure you acquaint yourself with all the landmarks of Luang Prabang such as Sunset Point, Bamboo Bridge, and Big Bridge.

In the evening, visit the bustling Luang Prabang Night Market, a vibrant display of local handicrafts, textiles, and street food. This is the perfect place to taste small portions of local foods and also acquaint yourself with the rhythm of Luang Prabang.


Day 2: Exploring the Temples and Kuang Si Falls

Start your day with a visit to the sacred Wat Xieng Thong temple, known for its ornate golden stupa and intricate carvings. Continue to the Royal Palace Museum, which showcases the country’s rich history. In the afternoon, head to the stunning Kuang Si Falls, a series of cascading turquoise pools amidst lush forests. Take a refreshing swim or simply enjoy the serene beauty of the falls. You can opt for a guided day tour with a local company or rent your own scooty and drive to Kuang Si Falls

One of the must-visit destinations in Laos is the stunning Kuang Si Waterfall. Located near Luang Prabang, this multi-tiered waterfall cascades down into azure blue pools, creating a picturesque and refreshing oasis. Visitors can take a dip in the cool waters, surrounded by lush greenery and the soothing sound of nature. The site also includes a rescue center for Asiatic black bears, allowing visitors to observe these magnificent creatures up close.

Kuang Si Falls is a perfect day trip from Luang Prabang


Day 3: Alms Giving and Mekong River Cruise

Witness the ancient Buddhist tradition of alms giving as saffron-clad monks make their morning procession through the streets of Luang Prabang. Afterward, embark on a scenic Mekong River cruise, where you can admire the picturesque landscapes and visit the sacred Pak Ou Caves, home to thousands of Buddha statues.

You can rent a scooter, walk, or hail a tuk tuk to explore Luang Prabang


Day 4: Pak Ou Caves and Traditional Arts

Start the day with a trip to the local morning market to experience the vibrant local culture. Then, venture to the Traditional Arts and Ethnology Centre, where you can learn about the diverse ethnic groups of Laos. In the evening, indulge in a traditional Lao dance and music performance at the Royal Ballet Theatre.

Day 5: Mount Phousi

Climb the 328 steps of Mount Phousi to catch a breathtaking sunrise or sunset panorama of Luang Prabang. Explore the hill’s sacred temples and enjoy the serenity of the surroundings.

Day 6: Cooking Class and UXO Museum

We love taking cooking classes and learning new cuisines when we travel, whether it be in Cambodia or in Peru. And Luang Prabang was no different. If you have an extra afternoon, you can immerse yourself in Lao cuisine with a cooking class where you can learn to prepare traditional dishes like sticky rice, laap, and green papaya salad. Afterward, visit the UXO Museum to understand the lasting impact of the Vietnam War and the history of the area

Day 7: Morning Alms Giving and Departure

Experience the morning alms giving ritual once again if you want before bidding farewell to Luang Prabang. Take a final stroll through the town’s vibrant streets, collecting souvenirs and memories, before heading to the airport for your return journey.

Luang Prabang is ideal for slow travel and you will not want to leave

Extending your stay in Laos

Laos is often known as the “Land of a Million Elephants” and it truly has it all – from serene waterfalls to mystical caves and charming traditional villages. Slow travel in Laos is a unique and enriching travel experience but if you want to pack your itinerary, then here are a few offbeat scenic spots in Laos that you must visit:

  •  Kong Lor Cave in central Laos is a hidden wonder. This 7.5-kilometer-long cave system stretches through limestone mountains, and exploring it by boat offers a truly otherworldly experience. As you navigate through the dark and surreal caves, you’ll come across stunning stalagmites and stalactites, underground rivers, and hidden chambers. The cave is steeped in folklore, adding to its mystique and allure.
  • The Plain of Jars, located in the northeastern part of the country, is another unique attraction. This vast archaeological landscape is dotted with thousands of ancient stone jars, believed to be burial sites dating back thousands of years. The purpose and origin of these jars remain a mystery, creating an air of intrigue and fascination. The surrounding countryside offers stunning vistas, with rolling hills and rice paddies providing a serene backdrop.
  • If you enjoy homestays or traditional village life, a visit to Muang Ngoi Neua is highly recommended. This remote village, nestled on the banks of the Nam Ou River, offers an authentic glimpse into rural Laos. With no roads and limited electricity, Muang Ngoi Neua exudes a peaceful ambiance. Visitors can embark on scenic hikes through the surrounding mountains, explore nearby caves, or simply relax and soak up the tranquility of the village.
  • Another unique experience in Laos is the Bolaven Plateau. Located in southern Laos, this fertile highland is known for its coffee plantations, waterfalls, and ethnic villages. Trekking through the lush greenery, you’ll encounter thunderous waterfalls like Tad Fane and Tad Lo, where you can take a refreshing dip or simply enjoy the awe-inspiring natural beauty. The plateau is also famous for its coffee, offering opportunities to visit coffee plantations and learn about the traditional production methods.
  • If you love experiential travel, then one of the most unique festivals in Laos is the Boun Bang Fai, or the Rocket Festival. Held annually in various villages across the country, this vibrant event celebrates the arrival of the rainy season. Locals construct giant rockets and launch them into the sky, accompanied by music, dancing, and colourful parades and parties everywhere. The festival is not only a spectacle to behold but also an opportunity to immerse oneself in the local culture and traditions.
Luang Prabang is under rated and absolutely gorgeous

That’s it – everything you need to entice you into planning a trip to Laos – we promise you the country will offer a wealth of experiences that promise an unforgettable Asian vacation. Whether it’s exploring mystical caves, immersing yourself in traditional village life, or witnessing unique festivals, Laos has something for everyone. With its untouched natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, and warm hospitality, this lesser-known destination is waiting to be discovered and appreciated by intrepid travellers seeking off-the-beaten-path adventures. Hope you make it there soon 🙂


If you have any questions about planning a trip to Laos, don’t forget to leave them below. We will try to answer them asap 🙂

The post A slow week in Luang Prabang, Laos + Why you should visit Laos appeared first on Bruised Passports.

]]> 5
A Romantic Island Getaway in Koh Samui Wed, 06 Feb 2019 12:02:29 +0000 A palm-fringed island dotted with luxury resorts, white sandy beaches, and majestic temples, Koh Samui makes for the perfect destination,...

The post A Romantic Island Getaway in Koh Samui appeared first on Bruised Passports.

A palm-fringed island dotted with luxury resorts, white sandy beaches, and majestic temples, Koh Samui makes for the perfect destination, irrespective of whether you’re on your honeymoon, a romantic getaway, or a group trip with friends and family.

Savi in infinity pool at Conrad Koh Samui
The views that await!


How to get there

Bangkok is well connected to most major cities around the world. Koh Samui is a short flight away from Bangkok. Koh Samui airport is really pretty and surprisingly well-equipped for an island airport. You will find everything from wifi to snack bars here. Visa for Thailand can be obtained on arrival at Bangkok or Koh Samui airport (if you’re flying in from Singapore or any other country directly).

Packing for Koh Samui

While you might be inclined to pack beachy clothes for Koh Samui, I would urge you to pause and rethink. Yes you will need shorts and bikinis. But you will also need a couple of evening dresses and a pair of nice shoes if you intend to dine at a nice restaurant or celebrate an occasion. Most importantly you will need clothes that cover your knees and elbows in order to visit some of the magnificent Thai temples in Koh Samui. Lastly don’t forget to pack your toiletries (especially sunscreen!) because they are marked up significantly in Koh Samui.
Girl in a Flowing dress at Giant Buddha in Koh Samui
Flowy and covered dresses for the win 🙂

Where To Stay In Koh Samui and our favourite experiences

Conrad Koh Samui is one of the most famed properties in Koh Samui and over the years, many of our readers recommended the hotel to us because they know we love ourselves a scenic hotel. And scenic it is. Individual villas come equipped with huge bath tubs and plunge pools that provide unending views of the turquoise water and distant islands.  There are hammocks and loungers in the middle of the water. Kayaks are provided to all guests in order to make the most of its beach side location. Even the breakfast area provides panoramic views of the Gulf Of Thailand.
But that’s not all. Every room is spacious and well-equipped with rain-showers, indulgent toiletries, and luxurious beds. The resort, located on a hill, offers privacy to its guests and its idyllic environs provide a perfect excuse to disconnect from ‘real life’. And Jahn, their contemporary Thai restaurant is definitely the crown jewel of this hotel. If you enjoy Thai food, I would urge you to have a meal here during your stay at Conrad Koh Samui. The restaurant has won several accolades and culinary awards, but its unique and contemporary take on Thai food makes it truly special.
At this point, I should point out that if you’re a Hilton Honors member you can actually book most of these experiences and stay at Hilton properties using just your reward points! Irrespective of whether you travel frequently or once a year, we would highly recommend enrolling yourself as a Hilton Honors member (we’ve been members for over 11 years now!). You can enrol yourself for free here and start enjoying little perks. With every point you accumulate, you get closer to getting free nights at the hotel and/or experiences such as a special dinner set up on your anniversary or a spa treatment.
But the best part of this rewards program is, you can actually auction for Hilton Honors Experiences such as this entire Conrad Koh Samui experience (including hotel stay, activities, and experiences we experienced) and if you win the bid, you can use reward points to pay for the entire experience without spending a penny from your pocket. Money saved is money earned right? 😀
Ocean view villa at Conrad Koh Samui
Our spacious villa at Conrad Koh Samui

And the rainy weather did not stop us from enjoying our private pool and the rainbow that put quite a show for us:


signature bath experience at Conrad Koh Samui Thailand
Bathtub and infinity pool goals?
But holidays are all about the experiences that make them special. This Hilton Honors experience included a rich mix of cultural and scenic activities, some of which ended up being a highlight of our time at Conrad Koh Samui. Here are a few highlights of our experience in Koh Samui:
  • Dining to the sound of the waves

This is an experience like no other. Our experience included an indulgent 3 course meal by the beach and had our own little table, completely enveloped by twinkling fairy lights and music. Make sure you opt for an early dinner so you can relish starters and drinks as the sun sets, leaving the sky pink and orange. This one is perfect if you’re on your honeymoon!

dinner by the beach at Conrad Koh Samui
An unforgettable evening 🙂


  • Sandbar Excursion

If you want to take your island getaway to the next level, then this one is for you. It is possible to book a picnic on a remote sandbar at Conrad Koh Samui. Hop on a boat and head to the sandbar for an afternoon of relaxation. Of course this is dependent on the vagaries of weather, so do check with the hotel before booking a tour!

  • A cooking class

No holiday is complete without an experiential activity right? Our experience included a cooking class at our hotel and the chef taught us how to make Thai staples such as Tom Yum Soup and Pad Thai. Savi even made her own portion of mango sticky rice. Learning about local flavours is always our favourite part of visiting new countries. We’ve taken cooking classes in so many countries including Cambodia, Vietnam, and Peru and this will be filed under those cherished memories too.

thai cooking class at Conrad Koh Samui
Enjoying our Thai cooking class 😀


  • A rejuvenating spa treatment to wrap up your holiday.

We even had a romantic couples treatment including in our experience! There are dozens of treatments available at the spa  – make sure you choose a treatment with care as Thai massages don’t use oil and can be quite harsh for people who like soft oil massages. Conrad Koh Samui has one of the most scenic spas we’ve visited. Don’t believe us? Check this out!

view from Spa at Conrad Koh Samui
One of the most gorgeous Spa rooms 🙂


  • Visit an ethical elephant sanctuary

Another unique experience we booked at our hotel included spending a day meeting, feeding, and hugging the most gorgeous elephants at the Samui Elephant sanctuary, Koh Samui’s first ethical sanctuary. Each of the elephants here has been exploited, blinded, hit by circus acrobats, or been cut by their owners in the past! But they’ve been rescued and given a new lease of life here! The volunteers protect and pamper them like their babies and the bond they share with the elephants is the cutest! The volunteers look after them ever so well and don’t leave any stone unturned to pamper them. On this note, I’d like to say – please make responsible choices regarding animals when you travel. Do your research and don’t visit places that exploit animals as extreme exploitation of animals is extremely widespread in Asia.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Savi and Vid (@bruisedpassports) on


More Things To Do & See In Koh Samui : Suggestions & Tips

  • Fisherman’s Wharf Walking Street in Bophut is a lively street packed with shops, restaurants, and cafĂ©s. It comes alive in the evening and is the ideal place to grab a drink or two. It is also home to a couple of nice eateries including Fisherman House and Coco Tam. But both eateries and shops here tend to be overpriced for what they offer. If you’re hungry and have a car or scooter on you, we’d suggest driving just outside Fisherman’s Wharf Walking Street for much more reasonable and tastier options.  Try Malee Restaurant for a scrumptious Thai meal at competitive prices.
  • If you’ve relaxed to your heart’s content at your hotel’s beach and want to steer clear of over-crowded beaches in Koh Samui, then head to Mae Nam beach or Choeng Mon beach. You can reach Mae Nam beach via the main entrance of W Hotel but entrance is free and you don’t need to be a hotel guest to visit as this is a public beach. Expect great panoramas and fewer people – this is a gorgeous stretch of beach not many know about. Choeng Mon on the other hand is easily accessible and can be combined with a visit to Wat Plai Laem complex.
  • Of course you cannot leave Koh Samui without visiting some of its stunning temples. There are dozens of temples – small and big – but we suggest visiting the incredible Big Buddha and the expansive Wat Plai Laem complex. Both temples are close to each other and it is easy to spend half a day just admiring the intricate architecture, swooning over the colourful details, and photographing the huge murals.
  • No visit to any Thai island can be complete without seeing its night markets. Chaweng is the focal point of several small night markets. It is also the ideal place to party the night away. Make sure you relish the food at the night market outside Central Festival Mall and sample local beers as you walk around Chaweng checking out the bars and nightlife.
  • Admittedly Koh Samui’s waterfalls are not the best you would’ve seen. Places like Bali and Luang Prabang have better waterfalls. But if you have an extra day, you can use it to check out the cascading Na Muang Waterfall or Hinlad Waterfall. There are also several smaller waterfalls you might spot along the way. Entry is usually free although local ‘guides’ try and extort money from tourists in the name of admission fees
  • If you have 2-3 days to spare, we’d suggest heading out to a neighbouring island such as Koh Phangan or Koh Tao. Despite their proximity, these islands provide a different experience from Koh Samui as they are much smaller and in general, more party oriented. This makes them ideal if you’re travelling in a group with friends. So do include them in your itinerary if you have some time.
Giant Buddha Koh Samui Thailand
The Big Buddha in Koh Samui
Choeng mon beach secluded beach in Koh Samui Thailand
Choeng Mon beach in the North East of Koh Samui
Malee Thai Restaurant in Bo Phut
The gorgeous Wat Plai Laem complex


That’s it.  Everything you need to know to plan an epic trip to Koh Samui. Leave us a comment below with your favourite experience from Koh Samui or if you have any questions and we’ll try and help you out 🙂 Do read all our articles on Asia if you want to experience other amazing places. Here’s a video from our time in Koh Samui:


Disclaimer: We have been Hilton Honors members for over 11 years now, much before we had a website or social media was even a thing! But this year we got the chance to work with them for the first time as digital ambassadors. We are so proud of this association with a program we’ve loved using so much during the last decade! You can read our detailed Disclaimer Policy here

The post A Romantic Island Getaway in Koh Samui appeared first on Bruised Passports.

]]> 38
7 Island Getaways with pros and cons – choose one that is right for YOU Wed, 17 Jan 2018 16:02:21 +0000 It’s easy to get swept up with visions of idyllic beaches and dreamy sunsets but one always ends up confused...

The post 7 Island Getaways with pros and cons – choose one that is right for YOU appeared first on Bruised Passports.

It’s easy to get swept up with visions of idyllic beaches and dreamy sunsets but one always ends up confused when it comes to choosing an ideal island getaway for oneself. So we thought we’d put together a list of 6 of our favourite island getaways, with pros and cons of each, so it is easy for you guys to zero in on your ideal island getaway, whatever your preferences might be. You’ll find something here, irrespective of whether you’re after a luxurious getaway, a wellness holiday, or a road trip. Read on 🙂




“It’s as though I’d drunk a bottle of anise and fallen asleep wrapped in a quilt of roses. It pulls me along – and I know I’m drowning” Seychelles’ seductive beaches make me think of Garcia Lorca’s gorgeous poetry – it draws you in and before you know it, you’re in love! Seychelles is ideal for those who like a mix of culture, luxury, nature, and hiking on a romantic getaway.


Overview of Seychelles 


Gorgeous beaches, perfect mix of culture and scenery, island hopping opportunities, amazing hotels


Hard (not impossible!) to explore on a budget, public areas and beaches can get really crowded during peak times so privacy is not guaranteed


Romantic getaways and honeymoons


Bruised Passports Itinerary for Seychelles


Couple sunbathing on beach at Silhouette Island
Sunbathing on the gorgeous beaches of Seychelles


Woman at Anse Source D'Argent in La Digue
Savi at Anse Source D’Argent – we thought we’d give a different twist to one of the most photographed beaches in the world



What’s more romantic than being marooned on a tiny private island, positioned strategically between Asia and Africa? A sun-drenched island paradise far far away from civilisation and all that comes with it – laughing and playing in the sparkling ocean, bare feet on sand, sipping on coconut water, and reading on golden beaches. That’s the MALDIVES in a nutshell. You just need to take a deep breath and unleash the skinny dips, flower-laden baths, beach-side breakfasts, and the bubbly ??


Overview of Maldives


Gorgeous beaches, private and luxurious accommodation, perfect watersports


You have to stay put in one hotel as island hopping is inconvenient and expensive, no cultural experiences perse


Uber private romantic getaways and honeymoons


Bruised Passports in Maldives



infinity pool maldives travel fashion
Morning coffee with a view to boot in Maldives 🙂


Outrigger Konotta Maldives sunset cruise
A fiery sunset, a brewing storm, dolphins jumping out of the water, and our very own private Dhoni boat in Maldives



Along comes an island where it isn’t about the beaches but lush paddy fields, secret waterfalls, and sun-hazed countryside – about appreciating the thrumming rhythm of slow life. Ubud, with its labyrinth of smoothie bars, yoga studios, tie & dye boutiques, bohemian retreats, and vegan eateries is truly our ticket to the moon. The bustling resort areas of Sanur, Nusa Dua, and Kuta are similar to other beach-side getaways in South-East Asia. Unlike Ubud, the beaches of don’t scream special to us. Just head to Thailand or Vietnam if you want to hit beaches!



Overview of Bali 


Affordable, gorgeous highlands, amazing cultural experiences, vegan haven


Underwhelming beaches (in fact we don’t like most of Bali’s beaches), rowdy party goers, crowded touristy spots


Wellness getaways, getaways with friends, long sabbaticals


Bruised Passports Guide to Ubud, Bali


The Tegenungan waterfall Ubud Bali
We love Bali : Morning walks at The Tegenungan waterfall in Ubud


Sunsets in Ubud are amazing!



It was when she smeared powder all over my face and held my hand like THAT … that I realised this dazzling paradise garlanded with frangipanis, sugarcane fields swaying in the sun, the palm-scented ocean, and golden sunsets every single day would be a favourite. ‘Bula Vinaka’ is the phrase that greets you when you first land in Fiji!! It literally translates to ‘a warm hello’ and boy do Fijians live up to that promise!  Here sarongs are the national dress and everyone works on Fiji time – slow and easyyyyy


Overview of Fiji and French Polynesia


Uber-picturesque beaches, culturally immersive experiences, convenient island-hopping, incredible dives and snorkelling, incredible luxury hotels


Remote/hard to reach (unless you live in Australia or New Zealand), can get expensive


Honeymoons and romantic getaways, luxurious family getaways, island hopping cruises


Bruised Passports Itinerary for Fiji


Fiji itinerary kids at sigatoka river safari
Vid goofing around with Fijian kids – they loved his camera and wouldn’t let go 🙂


Ideal for a romantic getaway. Dinners in Fiji islands look a bit like..
Ideal for a romantic getaway. Dinners in Fiji islands look a bit like..



Canary Islands, Spain : these Spanish islands, located just off the coast of Africa, are perfect because they are warm even during winter months. They are accessible, affordable, and gorgeous but can get super crowded during summer months. Ideal for beach bums â˜ș?


Overview of Canary Islands


Proximity to Europe, picturesque beaches, Spanish villages and tapas bars, warm weather almost all year round


Rowdy tourist and crowded beaches during peak times


Family holidays, mini roadtrips, partying


Bruised Passports Itinerary for Lanzarote


Earth: The Mountains Rising From Volcanic Ash In Lanzarote


Spanish villages and warm weather – The Canary Islands are ideal for partying it up!


Fashion Blogger UK
Canary Islands’ proximity to Europe makes it ideal for short holidays



Don’t go here for the beaches but the rare wildlife, birds, flora, and fauna. Expect playful sea lions, lackadaisical iguanas, rare birds and blue-footed boobies diving into ocean in front of your eyes. The GalĂĄpagos Islands are heavily protected and expensive, but they’re amazing for nature enthusiasts! Swim with turtles and cherish this rare holiday in some of the most remote islands in the world.


Overview of Galapagos Islands


Extremely rare birds and wildlife, one of the most unique places on the planet


Extremely expensive as they are heavily protected


Bird-watchers, wildlife enthusiasts


Bruised Passports Itinerary for Galapagos


A gorgeous blue-footed booby on North Seymour island Galapagos
A gorgeous blue-footed booby in Galapagos 🙂


Blue-footed boobies dive into the ocean
Blue-footed boobies dive into the ocean for fish in Galapagos Islands


Boy sunbathing on tortuga bay beach with iguanas
Vid napping on the beach right next to the iguanas – only in Galapagos



Mauritius is known for its ethereal beaches with powdery white sands and warm azure waters. While it does have some of the most gorgeous beaches in the world, there is no dearth of things to do in Mauritius – it isn’t called Paradise Island for nothing! Even though we had to tear ourselves away from our lovely hotel, we are glad we did. Mauritius is perfect if you like your holidays jam-packed with activities and beaches.


Overview of Mauritius


Gorgeous beaches, perfect mix of history, culture and scenery, suits both luxury and budget travellers


Hard to find complete privacy if that is what you are after, beaches and markets can get really crowded during peak times


Family holidays and couple getaways


Bruised Passports Things To Do In Mauritius


Breakfast on the beach in Mauritius


Bike Ride Tour Mauritius
There is no greater joy than biking along the Mauritian coastline


Read about our Top 10 honeymoon and romantic getaways for more ideas


The post 7 Island Getaways with pros and cons – choose one that is right for YOU appeared first on Bruised Passports.

]]> 41
5 Travel Annoyances: A Rant Thu, 02 Feb 2017 17:31:55 +0000 Couleur locale has been responsible for many hasty appreciations and local colour is not a fast colour      ...

The post 5 Travel Annoyances: A Rant appeared first on Bruised Passports.

Couleur locale has been responsible for many hasty appreciations and local colour is not a fast colour           -Nobokov


Images make travelling special – a baguette tucked under an old man’s arm in Paris, dining under the moon in a busy Moroccan souk, strolling in the orange scented streets of a Spanish town, playing with colour at a historical monument in India, and devouring cannelloni in a seaside village in Italy. That’s the fun part!! 🙂


But there’s also another side to travelling- factors like illnesses, traffic, pollution, conservative ideologies, or crowds which spoil our idyllic vision of fabled cities around the world. When we first visited Venice and Rome, we’d hoped for fairytale cities but we got traffic, pollution, and travel agents instead – let’s just say we had to work HARD to find the magic in Venice.


That’s not all. Despite being a keen purveyor of street food we couldn’t quite get the bravado associated with gulping a snake’s beating heart in Vietnam. The list of course, goes on. Nobokov is right – it’s fun to acquaint oneself with local customs and traditions, but they aren’t always the best!  We usually don’t write too much about this sort of thing on social media but we wanted to share the stumbling blocks one encounters while travelling too since we’re always focussing on the fun stuff 🙂 Here are the 5 things we’ve discovered on our travels that annoy the heck out of us:


offbeat things to do in venice walk in venice at night
Gondolas bobbing on peaceful waters, the midnight moon peeking out from the clouds & the majestic San Maggiore cathedral all lit in the distance


  • Touts and vendors in Morocco and Egypt

    If you’ve been to touristy cities in Morocco or Egypt, you will know this. Sellers hound tourists. One way of harassing tourists that is popular in Marrakech is when vendors thrust their wares in tourists’ hands and then demand money for them. They insist they have to sell the items to you because you ‘touched’ them. If you do not pay, expect swear words at the very least. Things escalate very quickly there, so it’s best to give in. But aggressive vendors aren’t the only problem! There are lots of conniving groups and individuals that devise scams to fool tourists in this area. Watch out for them when you visit.

    We wrote about some scams we encounters and precautions you should take in our article on visiting Marrakech’s souks.


Marrakech Djemaa El Fna
The vibrance and chaos in Marrakech can be daunting


  • Outrageous cost of living in Switzerland and Scandinavia

    Now we’ve been to our fair share of affordable and expensive countries. And I know exactly why a pizza in London costs more than the exact same pizza in Siem Reap. The developed world has more amenities to offer to the average tourists, real estate prices are high, and labour costs a lot more. Despite this, there are some countries in the world which are just too expensive – expensive enough to dampen the fun of travelling around in that country. Switzerland is one such country – it physically hurts me to pay €12 for a cold stodgy sandwich in a supermarket in the Swiss Alps.

    Here are a couple of ways in which you can cut down costs in these areas:

    1. Rent a reasonable chalet in Switzerland instead of staying in a traditional hotel.
    2. Choose a road trip in Bavaria instead of the Swiss Alps. It’s as scenic but costs half as much.
    3. Choose an all-inclusive cruise in Norway instead of exploring individual cities by train or car and eating out at every meal.


Swirzerland can be very expensive - visit Bavaria instead!
Switzerland can be very expensive – visit Bavaria for an equally scenic, but much cheaper, trip


  • Casual Sexism in India and Fiji

    I think it’s no secret – as I’ve said before, Vid and I are vociferous feminists. And we think everyone should be. It’s the twenty first century – shouldn’t equality between sexes be the norm?

    Unfortunately it isn’t. And this riles us. We get REALLY irked when we encounter sexist practices engrained in daily life while travelling in countries such as India and Fiji (the list of countries doesn’t end there!). Casual subjugation is evident in the locals’ way of life in both countries. For example – men sit in first row and women in the second row during the sacred Kava ceremony in Fiji. Similarly in many parts of India, it’s considered the woman’s duty to cook and tend to the family. Even the most educated families hanker for boys to be born in the family and the rate of female foeticide is very high, especially in rural areas. A lot of women don’t have the independence of choosing careers, dating people of their choice, mingling with men, or expressing opinions in public gatherings.

    We end up having a lot of heated debates every time we encounter casual or regimented sexism while travelling – we’re hoping we’ve converted a few people along the way. Go equality 🙂


Here’s another way you can address this issue while travelling – just educate, as much and as frequently, as you can


There’s something I haven’t told you. But first look at that cherubic smile?? ** Just a month ago it was my birthday. Instead of birthday gifts, I asked all my friends and family to give me as much stationery as they possibly could. They got me TONS of stationery. Vid and I went and added some more stuff to this stash and set out on our road trip to Ladakh with a whole backseat full of stationery- notebooks, crayons,paints, pens etc ??? . Throughout our road trip we’ve been visiting local schools that work with less privileged kids in order to give them however much stationery they need for their kids. . I know I say this all the time because my heart belongs to working with lil kids but I will say it again ?? . The more I travel, the more I realise something : education, something most of us take for granted, is truly the greatest gift of them all. It’s the ONLY way to dispel ignorance and all sorts of societal evils (be it patriarchy, homophobia, casual sexism, or casteism) . So make sure you educate someone today. It DOES NOT have to be an earth-shattering endeavour because every little helps. You could teach less-priveleged kids while travelling, take 1 child under your wing, volunteer at a local orphanage in your own city, or donate wherever you deem fit – do WHATEVER it takes to spread the gift of education. It’s so rewarding and SO much fun?? . And if you ever travel within India make sure you carry food or stationery (pens, pencils, notebooks) instead of money or toys. Donate it to the local schools here- they could use a helping hand or two ??

A photo posted by Savi and Vid (@bruisedpassports) on


  • Conservative temple notices in Bali, Indonesia

Now you know just how much we love Bali. Ubud is our second home and we spend entire months living there and working on Bruised Passports. However daily life on the island is steeped in religious practices that promote inequality.


You will find deeply patriarchal notices adorning most temple gates in Bali. We’re all for respecting cultural idiosyncrasies and despite being atheists, we love visiting religious sites when we travel (purely out of anthropological curiosity!). However you will find notices prohibiting women on their period from entering temples because they are ‘unclean’- the stigmatisation of bodily fluids really annoys both of us. It takes sexism to a whole new level!!


Not impressed!
Not impressed!


  • Personal Stumbles Along The Way

We get a lot of comments on our social media posts about how perfect our life is. As we’ve said multiple times in the past, that’s not true. We have ups and downs like everyone else but we always choose to look at the light at the end of the tunnel. We’re both just glass half-full kinda people 🙂


Take for instance the month of January 2017. We had decided to spend 2-3 months working in Bali and we were super excited about it because we love living in Bali. But on this particular trip, things were just not meant to work out. I had an asthma attack within days of getting to Bali. But it didn’t stop there. Something about the intense humidity in Bali at this time of year made me really unwell. Despite visits to the local pharmacy and hospital, we just couldn’t get my asthma under control. After 4 weeks of struggling, we finally decided to fly out of Bali much earlier than we anticipated. Re-scheduling tickets was VERY expensive and it saddened us to leave our second home so soon.


But what can one do? Sometimes things just don’t go according to plan. And that’s ok. These little niggles come and go. The important thing is to focus on surrounding oneself with people who love the living daylights out of you. And not to let this little stumbling blocks make you lose sight of the bigger picture 🙂


Sometimes things just don't go according to plan and there's nothing you can do!
Sometimes things just don’t go according to plan and there’s nothing you can do!


That’s it – 5 of our top travel annoyances! Want to know the best thing about encountering these annoying traits while travelling? Each of them give you an amazing perspective on life – every time you see something you don’t like, you can make a conscious effort to avoid replicating it in your own life. That’s just one of the many ways in which travelling can educate you and hone each of us as individuals 🙂


What is the one annoying thing you’ve encountered on your travels? We’d love to know so do share with us 🙂


The post 5 Travel Annoyances: A Rant appeared first on Bruised Passports.

]]> 27
An Offbeat Rendezvous – A 2 week itinerary for Myanmar Tue, 10 May 2016 17:30:39 +0000 ” It’s been very rare to have known you, very strange and wonderful.” F. Scott Fitzgerald ‘Planning a trip to Myanmar’...

The post An Offbeat Rendezvous – A 2 week itinerary for Myanmar appeared first on Bruised Passports.

” It’s been very rare to have known you, very strange and wonderful.”
F. Scott Fitzgerald

‘Planning a trip to Myanmar’ isn’t a phrase one hears very often while talking to travellers. This isn’t surprising. Myanmar’s fraught political situation and harsh military regime led to the country being completely closed off to the outside world. As part of broader political and democratic reforms, tourism in Myanmar has been flourishing since 2010.


Tourism is on the rise in Myanmar. Hotels, roads, and airports are still being upgraded. But what the country lacks in infrastructure, it makes up in sights. Myanmar has so much to offer to the curious traveller who loves going off-the-beaten-path. We were spellbound by the pagodas, villages, and temples we saw during our trip to Myanmar.


Myanmar is unique and unlike any other Asian country we’ve visited. The commotion on the streets is very different from countries like Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. Tourists are fewer and the sights intriguing. Here’s a detailed itinerary and guide for Myanmar based on our experience in the country. We hope it encourages you to visit this li’l known corner of the world and discover its incredible wonders for yourself 🙂


sunset in Bagan Myanmar
A stunning sunset at Bagan definitely needs to feature on your itinerary of Myanmar


Ava temple myanmar planning itinerary guide
Make sure you visit the hidden city of Ava when planning a trip to Myanmar


Arriving at Yangon International Airport , Myanmar:



Citizens of most nationalities need to apply for a Myanmar visa but the good thing is that this can be done online. The visa costs $50/person. Application is fuss-free and it took just 2 days for us to get the letter of approval. Make sure you print the letter because you’ll need it at the immigration checkpoint at the airport.


Best time to visit

We visited Myanmar in April so we could attend the annual Thingyan water festival*. The country isn’t frequented by tourists during summer months, so it’s also possible to get some great deals on accommodation. However, in hindsight, it wasn’t the best decision. The water festival was a whole lot of fun but it was really really hot at that time. 45°C temperatures made it impossible to explore at any other time of the day except dawn and dusk. So many authors including George Orwell, Rudyard Kipling, and William Somerset Maugham mention Myanmar’s oppressive heat in their memoirs from the country. They’re right. The scorching heat just isn’t conducive to exploring towns full of unpaved dusty roads (yes Bagan,I’m looking at you!). So we would suggest planning a trip to Myanmar during winter months (November – January).


*If you do decide to visit Myanmar during the annual Thingyan water festival, time your visit in such a way that you can attend a day or two of the water festival before it ends. The water festival lasts for a week and most shops, markets, and restaurants are closed during that time. Taxis charge more.


Myanmar planning itinerary when to go
We had a lot of fun at the Water Festival in Myanmar but we wouldn’t recommend visiting during summer months. The heat is ruthless!



There are a number of ATMs at the Yangon International Airport. Make sure you withdraw money here as it’s hard to find functional ATMs in the city.



There is a taxi counter at the Yangon International Airport as soon as you exit the arrival gates. Booking a taxi here saves tourists the trouble of finding a cab and negotiating fare. Service is courteous and they even escort you to the taxi. The ride from Yangon International Airport to the city centre takes 45 minutes and costs approximately 8000 kyat (approx. $8/ÂŁ6).



Burmese food is heavily influenced by Indian, Chinese, and Thai flavours. Now as you probably know we love experimenting with local food and relish it in most countries. But Myanmar is the first country where we didn’t quite relish the local food. We disliked the food here for the same reason we love it in Ubud, Bali. We love healthy food and most food, street food, and snacks in Myanmar are dripping with oil and laden with salt.


We tried a lot of local food – dosas, curries, salads, breakfast soups. But we didn’t really enjoy the food in Myanmar. I did like the flavours of a couple of the traditional salads but I took a cooking class and realised that even traditional salads including Lah Pet Thoke (Tea Leaf Salad) and Gin Thoke (Ginger Salad) use re-fried beans and ladles of peanut oil in every serving. I hate saying that Mohinga, a popular breakfast soup, was probably the only Burmese dish I truly enjoyed. But what Myanmar lacks in food, it makes up in sights and smiles. It’s a gorgeous country full of little historical and cultural gems at every corner.

Myanmar food
We tried a lot of food in Myanmar and even took a cooking class but we’re not the biggest fans of Burmese food!


Suggested Itinerary for a trip to Myanmar:

  • Fly into Myanmar, spend 2 days in Yangon
  • 3 days in Bagan
  • 4 days cruising along Irrawaddy River with stops at Mingun and Ava (Inwa)
  • 2 days in Mandalay
  • 1-2 days in Yangon and departure from Myanmar


A few optional stops in case you have more time to spend in Myanmar:

  • Inle Lake is famous for its floating markets, stilt houses, and the unique one-legged rowing style of local fishermen. It’s also the starting point for the hidden Shwe Inn Thein pagodas
  • Ngwe Saung (Silver Beach), located in the Rakhine mountain range of western Myanmar is off-the-beaten track. Its white beaches are perfect if you’re craving a beach getaway.
  • Ngapali Beach is more popular with tourists and boasts of a number of resorts and hotels.
  • The Mergui Archipelago, just off the coast of Thailand, comprises a series of pristine Burmese islands, perfect for a romantic getaway.


That’s all the information you need to plan your trip to Myanmar out of the way. Now onto our adventures in Myanmar 🙂


Myanmar planning itinerary yangon monk
The things that await you in Myanmar: A li’l monk smiles while lighting candles at a pagoda in Yangon. Some of Vid’s portrait shots make my heart melt – just look at those eyes!




Accommodation in Yangon:

There’s no shortage of accommodation to suit every budget in Yangon. Whatever your budget, we suggest staying in downtown Yangon, close to Sule Pagoda. That way you will be a short walk or taxi ride away from most prominent sites in Yangon.


We chose to stay at Sule Shangri La Yangon. It’s conveniently located – a short walk away from Sule Pagoda, Bogyoke Market, and hustle bustle of downtown Yangon. The rooms are spacious and well-appointed but I wouldn’t expect anything else from Shangri La. The extensive breakfast buffet comprises a host of Burmese specialities including curries, dosa, Lah Pet Thoke (fermented tea-leaf salad), Mohinga (rice noodle and fish soup), dosa (savoury crĂ©pes), and Burmese curries. The best part? We found the fastest wifi in Myanmar at Sule Shangri La Yangon (you know my love affair with fast wifi, so I’ll stop at that) ;-). You can book here.


Getting Around in Yangon:

We walked around a lot in downtown Yangon and took taxis everywhere else. If you’re staying in or near the city centre, then most tourist attractions are less than a $3 taxi ride away. Just make sure you bargain and fix a price BEFORE you get in the taxi.


Things to do in Yangon:

There is no shortage of things to do in Yangon, but here’s a few things you can do during the 3 days you spend in Yangon:

  1. Yangon’s streets are spilling with street food at every corner. Visit local fruit and vegetable markets and sample local delicacies on Anawrahta Road in Yangon
  2. Walk around Streets 26-32, home to China town and India town. These offer the perfect introduction to the myriad influences that have helped shape contemporary Burmese food and culture.
  3. Stand at the feet of one of the largest reclining Buddhas in Asia at the little known Chaukhtatgyi Temple in Yangon.
  4. If you want a respite from the hectic rhythm of the city head to Kandawgyi Lake. The surrounding park is full of idyllic lotus ponds, overlooking the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda.
  5. The glistening Sule Pagoda stands tall at the centre of downtown Yangon. It’s possible to go inside the pagoda but you could skip it. This is because the activity surrounding Sule Pagoda – colourful buses ferrying locals, pedestrians rushing to work, fruit vendors peddling their wares – makes it special.
  6. You can’t visit Yangon and not see the iconic Shwedagon Pagoda. The elaborate gilded structure is probably one of the most impressive and underrated historical monuments in the world. Legend has it that it’s the largest Buddhist stupa in the world. The complex is intriguing and it’s easy to spend a few hours exploring it. Large parts of Shwedagon Pagoda  are made of gold and bejewelled with diamonds and rubies. If you’re in Myanmar during summer, then visit Shwedagon Pagoda during the evening or early morning because you have to explore it barefoot. Entry is 8000 kyat ($8) and you can enter and exit the pagoda multiple times in a day. Cover knees and arms or take a sarong along. Make sure you take a plastic bag to put your shoes so you can carry them with you instead of leaving them at the entrance – this is handy if you enter from one gate and exit from another.
  7. If you love exploring little known parts of cities or chatting with locals, hop on to Yangon’s Circular Train. The local commuter train goes around the city in a loop and stops at 39 stations along the way. The journey takes 3 hours and costs $1. If you feel bored or think the ride is getting monotonous, just jump off the train and hail a cab.
  8. If you do plan your trip to Myanmar during the Thingyan water festival, then make sure you visit the central stage in downtown Yangon. The area is swarming with locals, street-food vendors, and tourists. The stage lends a carnivalesque air to proceedings and gets the party started. Just get a water gun or a hosepipe and join the revelry 🙂


Myanmar Shwedagon Pagoda yangon
When you plan a trip to Myanmar, put the glistening Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon on your itinerary


Sunset at Kanowji Lake in Yangon, Myanmar
Sunset at Kandawgyi Lake in Yangon, Myanmar


girl in Shwedagon Pagoda complex in Yangon, Myanmar
Walking around in the Shwedagon Pagoda complex in Yangon, Myanmar


Revelry at the Thingyan Water Festival in Yangon, Myanmar
Hosepipes and a pagoda – Revelry at the Thingyan Water Festival in Yangon, Myanmar


Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon
We’d suggest picking a hotel close to the Sule Pagoda in downtown Yangon


Visit Chaukhtatgyi Temple in Yangon if you're planning a trip to Myanmar
Standing at the feet of one of the largest reclining Buddhas in Asia at the little known Chaukhtatgyi Temple


hotel room room Sule Shangri-La Yangon
Just casually hanging out and acting my age at our room at Sule Shangri-La Yangon 😉



Whoever knew that deep within Myanmar’s countryside lies an offbeat archaeological site that is bigger and much less crowded than the Angkor temples in Cambodia?! There are over 2200 stupas, temples, and pagodas in Bagan – no wonder every sunset and sunrise seems special here. Bagan is the focal point of tourism in Myanmar and it delivers. It was definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Myanmar.


Accommodation in Bagan:

Most accommodation in Bagan is either in New Bagan, Old Bagan, or Nyaung U (more backpacker type accommodation). All these places work well. This is because in both cases, you will need to rent a taxi or e-bike to explore the temples. There are a number of hotels, hostels, and guesthouses in Bagan.


Both of us wanted to stay at Bagan Lodge because it has great reviews online but it was fully booked during the time we were in Bagan. So we settled for Hotel Areindmar in New Bagan.  To be honest, we didn’t expect much from it but the hotel was surprisingly good. The property is charming and rooms are spacious and well furnished. Our room was well equipped with bathrobes, slippers, and an electric kettle etc. The pool and breakfast area is charming and laden with flowering vines. However do be warned that breakfast at Hotel Areindmar is a bit lacklustre – there is a small selection of cheeses, local specialities, fresh juices, and bread. Additionally the quality of food is, at best, passable.


Getting Around in Bagan:

You can either rent a taxi for the day or ferry yourself around on an e-bike! We opted for the latter and paid $7/day for our e-bike (if you’re quoted a higher price, bargain). When renting an e-bike, make sure it’s been charged overnight. We had tons of fun going around Bagan on our li’l e-bike and would recommend it. There’s a e-bike rental place right opposite the hotel.


Things to do in Bagan:

Bagan is home to some stunning pagodas and temples. Expect to find gargantuan gold and terracotta Buddhas, intricate architecture and expansive terraces that look out to hundreds of pagodas and the winding Irrawaddy river. Most tourists frequent a fixed route that includes less that a dozen temples. Most other pagodas, stupas, and temples are left unattended. You must visit some of these little-known buildings if you have the time.


Here are some of our favourite experiences in Bagan. Make sure you put them down on your itinerary while planning a trip to Myanmar:

  • Sunrise at Law Ka Ou Shaung – this tiny temple is a great spot for photography enthusiasts. There weren’t many people when we went which allowed us to enjoy the sunrise in peace 🙂
  • Sunrise at Shwe San Daw. This is one of the most crowded and touristy pagodas, so expect a lot of tour buses and people. However it is worth the hype and the view at both sunrise and sunset is quite something.
  • Sunset at Sulamani temple. This is one of the most popular Buddhist temples in the area but well worth the hype.
  • Sunset at Tha Beik Hmauk Gu
  • Sunrise at North Gu Ni
  • Sunset at Thit Sa Wadi : We liked this best of all the temples we visited. Perhaps because it is off-the-beaten track and less crowded.

We also explored tons of anonymous/little known buildings in the area. Bagan’s stupas are solid cylindrical structures with no entrance while its temples have either 1 or 4 entrances and house impressive statues of Buddha. A couple of things to keep in mind while exploring Bagan:

  1. Wear long-sleeved shirts and trousers or carry a sarong with you as you might be asked to cover up at some temples
  2. Carry a plastic bag for your shoes. Put your shoes in it and carry them with you. This is especially useful in larger temples with 4 entrances. You might enter using one entrance and exit using the other but you won’t have to go looking for your shoes 🙂
  3. Your feet will get very dirty as all temples and pagodas need to be explore barefoot. Make sure you book yourself a spa appointment in Bagan or on the cruise boat you will board from Bagan.


Bagan sunrise planning a trip to Myanmar
Planning a trip to Myanmar? Bagan’s sunsets and sunrises are completely worth the hype!


Hotel Areindmar Bagan Myanmar planning guide
Pool and breakfast area at Hotel Areindmar, Bagan. The hotel is great but breakfast is a bit lacklustre


Our room at Hotel Areindmar, Bagan
Our room at Hotel Areindmar, Bagan


Girl in temple in Bagan planning a trip to Myanmar tips
Exploring Bagan’s temples is a lot of fun


2 monks watch the sun set over dozens of temples in Bagan
2 monks watch the sun set over dozens of temples in Bagan


an e scooter to get around Bagan on our trip in Myanmar
We rented an e-bike to get around Bagan on our trip in Myanmar 🙂


Exploring temples in Bagan on our trip to Myanmar
There are so many temples in Bagan but it’s hard to get bored of them



Imagine gliding on the Irrawaddy river as you sip on a chilled cocktail. A river cruise is one of the best ways of experiencing the countryside of Myanmar and seeing its little-known towns for yourself.


There are dozens of river cruises on offer. Boats offer varying levels of luxury – everything from bunk beds to luxurious cabins and fine dining is on offer. Just make sure you check all details including the size of rooms, food available on board, and excursions before you book a river cruise. This is because you will be spending the better part of a week on the boat. It’s best to be well aware of what lies in store. We chose The Strand Cruise, which is in a league all by itself. The boat boasts of ultra-spacious suites with floor-to-ceiling glass windows that open to the Irrawaddy river. Unique cocktails, comfortable excursions, and luscious three-course meals made it an extremely memorable experience.


Here are some cruise ports and experiences that should definitely be on your itinerary of Myanmar irrespective of the river cruise you book

  • Mingun: Mingun’s unusual white temple Hsinbyume, with its seven concentric terraces is fascinating
  • Ava aka Inwa: Imagine exploring an ancient kingdom full of mystical treasures. Going off-the-beaten path was never as rewarding as it is in Ava, the ancient capital of Myanmar. Monuments and nature are completely intertwined here – we just couldn’t get enough.
  • Amarapura: This busy township of Mandalay is home to a host of attractions including the Amarapura Palace ruins and the U-bein Bridge that definitely need to be a part of your trip to Myanmar.
  • A cooking class: Taking a cooking class is the best way to acquaint oneself with the culinary culture of a new country. Burmese cuisine boasts of interesting dishes with a mix of Thai, Indian, and Chinese flavours. Don’t forget to try your hand at making a local delicacy or two aboard your river cruise
  • Understand the local way of life: Try to understand the importance of Thanaka, the yellowish cooling paste that is used as sunscreen all over the country. We saw it applied in hundreds of different patterns by people all over Myanmar. Vid and I tried our hand at grinding the ground bark and making the Thanaka paste. We were going for intricate patterns but ended up smearing it over our faces 😉 If that’s not for you, try to learn how to tie a longyi. The traditional Burmese garment resembles a sarong and is worn by both men and women around the country.

Planning a river cruise in Myanmar? Read our detailed review of The Strand Cruise

Myanmar smiling girl with thanaka paste on her face
Try to understand the importance of Thanaka, used all over Myanmar as sunscreen 🙂


The sun sets as we cruise down the Irrawaddy river
The sun sets as we cruise down the Irrawaddy river!


Girl in river cruise in Myanmar
A river cruise is an amazing way to see Myanmar’s countryside. You can see local Burmese villages and cities from your cabin window.


Mingun's unusual white pagoda Hsinbyume
One of our cruise ports – Mingun’s unusual white pagoda called Hsinbyume – it’s surreal and SO gorgeous!


monks in Mingun planning a trip to Myanmar
Two novice monks at Mingun’s white temple


Ava bhuddha temple planning a trip to Myanmar
The ancient city of Ava is such a hidden gem – definitely one of the highlights of our trip to Myanmar


The Strand Cruise in Myanmar
The Strand Cruise in Myanmar offers gourmet food and incredible sights!




Accommodation in Mandalay:

We opted for a longer cruise and explored Mandalay while we were still on the boat. However we would recommend spending a night or two in Mandalay. There is no dearth of accommodation if you do want to stay in Mandalay. There are dozens of hotels to suit all budgets. We heard great reviews of Sedona Hotel from fellow travellers.


 Getting Around:

There are loads of options here. You could hail a taxi or a cycle rickshaw. Alternatively rent a cycle or a motorbike. We were in Mandalay for a short time, so we just hailed taxis to visit most sites.

Things to do:

We reached Mandalay towards the end of our trip in Myanmar. By this time, we were all templed out! Mandalay is home to some impressive temples and monasteries, but having seen so many of those in Bagan, Mingun, and Ava, we chose to skip some temples and visited the popular spots. Here are some of our favourites:

  • Shwenandaw Monastery, a historic Buddhist monastery made out of teak wood is different from anything else we saw in Myanmar
  • The Ubein Bridge in Amarapura is a long bridge made of teakwood. It seems popular with locals and is great for those sunrises and sunsets.
  • Dee Doke Waterfall makes for a great day trip if you’re in Mandalay for a longer time. However this can get quite crowded.
  • Visit Dattawgyaik Waterfall aka Anisakan Falls for a less touristy experience. This is located mid-way between Mandalay and Pyin Oo Lwin
  • The scenic train ride to Hsipaw, a rural town located north of Mandalay is also extremely popular with tourists but we chose to skip this!


horse carriage in Mandalay Myanmar
Hop on a rickety horse carriage in Myanmar, just like the locals!


Myanmar's largest bridge, The Inwa Bridge
Mandalay is home to Myanmar’s largest bridge, The Inwa Bridge (seen here from our cruise boat)


The Mahamuni Buddha Temple in Mandalay
The Mahamuni Buddha Temple in Mandalay


Myanmar planning guide Ubein Bridge in Amarapura
The U-bein Bridge in Amarapura is made entirely out of teakwood



If you have an international flight to catch out of Myanmar, chances are you will find yourself back in Yangon. We spent the final part of our trip at the iconic Strand Hotel in Yangon. The colonial gem has hosted so many of my favourite authors including Rudyard Kipling, George Orwell, Somerset Maugham over the century. So I was really excited about staying at the hotel 🙂


The Strand Hotel epitomises vintage luxury. It boasts of uber-spacious suites with old-school bathrobes, traditional faucets, tons of fresh flowers, and luxurious toiletries in glass bottles. Little touches such as 24 hour butler service, starched white linen, and exquisite food amplify the experience. We spent our time at The Strand Hotel winding down from our trip across Myanmar. Think pillow nests, bubble baths, and breakfast in bed 🙂


Just like that it was time to say goodbye to Myanmar. The country surprised us in so many ways. We explored gorgeous historical sites, spoke to locals, sampled a new cuisine, and visited so many places we’d never heard of! Both of us were greeted with SUCH huge smiles everywhere we went in Myanmar – we’d definitely urge you to plan a trip to Myanmar while tourism is still in its nascent stages in the country and experience its charms for yourself.


Breakfast in bed Strand Hotel Yangon Myanmar
Breakfast in bed Ă  la Strand – I could get used to this ??


Vintage luxury: suite at Strand Hotel Yangon, Myanmar
Vintage luxury: our suite at Strand Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar


Tea time at Strand Hotel Yangon
Tea time at Strand Hotel Yangon


Myanmar planning itinerary yangon monk
Smiles everywhere – that’s Myanmar! 🙂


*All costs true of April ’16.


Planning a trip to Myanmar? Read all our articles on Myanmar 

Love Asia as much as we do? Read all our articles on Asia here

The post An Offbeat Rendezvous – A 2 week itinerary for Myanmar appeared first on Bruised Passports.

]]> 38
Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi – The Perfect Boutique Hotel? Wed, 13 May 2015 12:12:03 +0000 I’m sitting on a lounger in my balcony. I can see a glistening pool to the right but my eye...

The post Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi – The Perfect Boutique Hotel? appeared first on Bruised Passports.

I’m sitting on a lounger in my balcony. I can see a glistening pool to the right but my eye is constantly drawn to the miles of sugarcane and paddy fields on the left. Fog-laden mountains loom large in the distance.

Paddy Fields
Paddy fields and mountains in the distance



Glistening pools
Glistening pools


We arrived at Bon Ton Resort late one morning and couldn’t help marvelling at how peaceful it was.


Our room was equipped with every luxury we could possibly want – fine mosquito nets, a large king-sized bed, lots of storage. As far as bathrooms go, this one was pretty unique – a large vintage bath tub with an open-plan shower. Little touches – organic mosquito repellent, tiny bars of soap scented with lemongrass – made everything that tad bit more special.


BonTon Resort Langkawi Malaysia Review-23
Our room at Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi


Our room at Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi
Perfect place to work? Our room at Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi


Our room at Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi
Our room at Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi


Rustic wooden bath tub at Bon Ton Resorts, Langkawi, Malaysia
View from our window at Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi


Rustic wooden bath tub at Bon Ton Resorts, Langkawi, Malaysia
Rustic wooden bath tub at Bon Ton Resorts, Langkawi, Malaysia


Room at Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi
BEST shower ever!


There was no pressure to wake up for breakfast because our refrigerator was stocked with breakfast the night before. Everyday, we would laze around for a while before we managed to rouse ourselves and get to it. Breakfast was simple but filling – cakes, yogurt, bread, and tea/coffee. We devoured it in our rustic balcony, overlooking the swimming pool.


Every night we ate at Nam Restaurant, the proverbial feather in Bon Ton Resorts’ cap. Nam Restaurant is widely known as one of the best restaurants on the island and it lives up to that reputation. Dimly-lit lanterns bathe the proceedings with luminiscent glow. The cocktails were amazing but we couldn’t get over the traditional Nyonya Platter – a perfect introduction to Malay cuisine!


Breakfast at Bon Ton Resorts
The two of us having breakfast in our balcony at errr 1 pm 😉


Nyonya Platter at Nam Restaurant Bon Ton Resorts
Nyonya Platter at Nam Restaurant


Dinner at Nam Restaurant, Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi
Dinner at Nam Restaurant, Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi


We loved our stay at Bon Ton so much that we decided to stay at their sister hotel, Temple Tree, for a few nights as well. Temple Tree was very different from Bon Ton. It’s akin to a museum, laden with cultural artefacts.  Understated luxury and dollops of culture come together to offer guests an experience like no other. Every room at Temple Tree is different – some have Malay characteristics, others have Chinese furnishings, and the rest have Indian artefacts – a true ode to the melting pot of Malaysia.


Our bedroom at Temple Tree had 6 large windows that would flood the room with natural daylight everyday – don’t even get me started on the vintage bath-tubs, the chirping of the birds, or the stunning ethnic furnishings.


Our bedroom at Temple Tree by Bon Ton, Langkawi, Malaysia
Our bedroom at Temple Tree by Bon Ton, Langkawi, Malaysia


Our bedroom at Temple Tree by Bon Ton, Langkawi, Malaysia
Our bedroom at Temple Tree by Bon Ton, Langkawi, Malaysia


Bedroom at Temple Tree by Bon Ton, Langkawi, Malaysia
Our room had 2 vintage bath tubs – priceless!


Our bedroom at Temple Tree by Bon Ton, Langkawi, Malaysia
A bath with rose petals? Yes please!!


Our bedroom at Temple Tree by Bon Ton, Langkawi, Malaysia
Rooms at Temple Tree by Bon Ton are gorgeously decorated with ethnic furnishings


An ancient tree at Temple Tree by Bon Ton, Lagkawi, Malaysia
An ancient tree at Temple Tree by Bon Ton, Lagkawi, Malaysia


Both hotels are exciting yet incredibly peaceful. Rice paddies and palm trees might seem like a rural idyll but the hotels are minutes away from Langkawi’s most crowded strip, Pantai Cenang. Bon Ton Resorts offer the perfect introduction to local Malay culture – a stepping stone that will ease you into adjusting to life in Malaysia.


The hotels offer an apt prelude for what lies next – night markets serving local food, bustling villages, and hectic streets.


Our bedroom at Temple Tree by Bon Ton, Langkawi, Malaysia
Rural idyll?


Bon Ton, Langkawi, Malaysia
Bon Ton Resort is gorgeous and conveniently located


room at Bon Ton Resort langkawi malaysia
All set for the night – Our dreamy room at Bon Ton Resort


Bon Ton has some of the things I enjoy most about holidays in Asiaculture, history, luxury, and a high level of service.



Fact File

  • Bon Ton Resort and Temple Tree Hotel have only 8 villas each. All villages are over 100 years old. These antique villages are all furnished to a high standard. Understated luxury is the keyword here. Prices start at ÂŁ80/night. More information on their website
  • The hotels are a 10 minute drive from Pantain Cenang. Taxies are plentiful and cheap.
  • Aamir, the manager at Bon Ton Resort is amazing – don’t come back without listening to some of his tales 🙂
  • Bon Ton Resort & Temple Tree are not for you if you like big breakfasts
  • Both hotels support a local animal shelter. As a result there are a number of cuddly stray cats and friendly dogs around. It’s definitely not for you if you’re not an animal person.
  • Bon Ton Resort is located next to sugarcane plantations. You will wake up the sound of birds and coconuts falling from trees – priceless 🙂


Hungry for more? Here are the videos of our rooms at Bon Ton Resort and Temple Tree Hotel 🙂







Looking for Things To Do in Langkawi? We have the lowdown 🙂

Have you read our post on attending at a Chinese Wedding in Malaysia yet?

Planning a trip to South East Asia? Don’t forget to read our tips on accommodation, street food, and sightseeing






We were guests of Bon Ton Resorts, Malaysia. We are two extremely opinionated ninjas – so all views (good and bad) are entirely our own. Click on to read our full Disclosure Policy

The post Bon Ton Resort, Langkawi – The Perfect Boutique Hotel? appeared first on Bruised Passports.

]]> 19
Teaching English Abroad: Travel and earn as you go along Mon, 04 May 2015 05:19:30 +0000 They say ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’. This is nowhere as true as travelling. It’s a common...

The post Teaching English Abroad: Travel and earn as you go along appeared first on Bruised Passports.

They say ‘Where there is a will, there is a way’. This is nowhere as true as travelling. It’s a common misconception that you need to be rich to travel the world. Having visited over 60 countries in the past 10 years, I can safely say that is not true. We’ve met dozens of travellers on the road who fulfil their dream of seeing the world by volunteering on farms, leading tours, taking up location-independent jobs, and other such.


Currently we are taking a career break, so our priority is to see as much of the world as we possibly can. But we’re considering slowing down a bit and spending longer periods of time in one place. As you probably well know, we like living comfortably when we travel. Having consulted a lot of our traveller friends we’re beginning to think of taking up a teaching job in an exciting part of the world in order to make this happen.


Teaching English as a foreign language is a popular option because it provides travellers with flights, accommodation, and a stipend. More importantly, it gives them an opportunity to interact and live with locals and understand local culture in a way a fleeting encounter never can. It’s also an easy way to pick up a foreign language. In other words, it’s a bit of a win-win situation for someone who loves travelling.


The agency that we’re currently considering is the ESLStarter. We were drawn to it because we read a fair few glowing reviews of it online. On reading more we discovered they’ve placed over 5000 teachers in the last 10 years. The only pre-requisite for most programs is the TEFL certificate. There are so many choices but here are the 4 countries we’re currently considering. My top picks of the lot are Colombia and China while Vid is veering towards Peru.


  • Colombia

My love for South America is endless. I love the chaos, the people, the food, and the culture. South America fascinates me to no end. ESLstarter’s programme in Colombia is also open to non-native speakers of English who are fluent in the language. This is pretty rare and extremely exciting, especially if you’re from a country where English isn’t the first language but is widely taught and spoken. There are over a 1000 openings in Colombia this year and things are a bit different from China because the stipend is quite generous by Colombian standards – USD 500/month.

Internal flights from Bogota are included and the entire programme is carried out in collaboration with the Colombian government, which just makes it that little bit safer. The main draw here is learning Spanish – having travelled extensively we’ve figured Spanish is an extremely helpful language to know since it is spoken in so many countries around the world.


Turquoise ocean waters in Colombia
Turquoise ocean waters in Colombia


  • China

China has fascinated me for as long as I can remember. But I don’t want our skirmish with the country to end in Beijing or Shanghai. I want to get my teeth stuck into Chinese culture and ESLstarter’s programme in China provides the perfect option.


It doesn’t need any teaching experience and even fresh high-school graduates can apply. There are 100s of other interns learning Mandarin or taking TEFL lessons, so making friends should be easy. On getting to China, a number of cultural excursions and orientation lectures introduce teachers to Chinese culture. Accommodation and flight allowances are included as well. On teaching days, even meals are included. In addition to this there is a monthly living allowance of USD 300. Teachers are expected to teach 15 classes weekly so there is plenty of time to explore the area. What excites me is the opportunity to explore little known parts of China and get to know local culture better.


Exploring in China
Exploring in China


More details can be found here.


  • Vietnam

I remember visiting Vietnam for the first time three years ago. Almost immediately I was sucked into the Vietnamese rhythm of life. Over the next few weeks I took cooking classes, devoured street food, met locals, went on trips to floating islands, and shopped at little markets. When it was time to leave I just did not want to. That month in Vietnam felt too short, so I’d love to go back and see what staying in the country feels like. I’m not as keen to learn the local language as I am to learn more about Vietnamese customs and traditions.

White Sand Dunes in Mui Ne vietnam 2
Stunning sand dunes in Mui Ne – they are Vietnam’s li’l secret


  • Peru

There’s only 1 reason I’m considering Peru is for all the smiling faces we encountered during the one month we spent there. We explored Peru to our heart’s content last year and saw the cutest kids while travelling around the country. It’s hard to pass the opportunity of educating them while learning Spanish and spending yet more time in the country. Aah decisions decisions!

Peru Panoramas
Panoramas that await you in Peru 🙂


Visas are usually arranged by the company itself and most nitty gritties are well taken care of. However it’s best to check beforehand before you invest any money in a TEFL certification course or book flights. You can apply here.

So many of our friends are currently teaching English in South Korea and Peru. Do you have friends who’re currently travelling and teaching English abroad? Have you ever volunteered to teach English abroad? 🙂

The post Teaching English Abroad: Travel and earn as you go along appeared first on Bruised Passports.

]]> 8
A first timers’ guide to packing for a music festival Mon, 01 Sep 2014 17:39:09 +0000 I’m sure you would agree that the pure joy of discovering a new band that makes just the kind of...

The post A first timers’ guide to packing for a music festival appeared first on Bruised Passports.

I’m sure you would agree that the pure joy of discovering a new band that makes just the kind of music one loves is unparalleled. The heart beats just that little bit faster doesn’t it? Vid and I had a series of such epiphanies when we attended The Wilderness Festival last month.


Come summer, Europe is abuzz with festival calendars, and getaways and itineraries tailored around music festivals. While festivals like Tomorrowland, Benicassim, and Lovebox reign the popularity charts, Vid and I wanted to attend something a bit more laid back. We enjoy alternative, indie, and electronic music, so we knew Wilderness was the one as soon as we saw London Grammar, one of our favourite bands, on the line-up 🙂


The Wilderness Festival takes place deep in the English countryside. Cornbury Park is just 2 hours away from London. This August, we spent 4 perfect days with our best friends camping along with thousands of other wild ones at Wilderness ’14. Lazy days were spent attending forest raves under the glorious full moon, discovering trippy music at the Busking Stage, partaking in neo-pagan rituals, drowning ourselves in feathers and body glitter, attending spiritual workshops, and participating in book clubs. Wilderness Festival is a hedonistic wonderland peppered with fairy dust – highly recommended if you’re a hippie at heart!


If you’re just venturing into the world of camping at music festivals, here’s what you should be packing :-



#1 Camping Gear

The foundation of an amazing camping experience is a weather-resistant tent and warm cushioned sleeping bags. So it’s only fitting that we begin our guide to packing for a music festival with examples of some sturdy camping gear. We researched quite a lot before buying our camping gear. For this we hit Millets, UK’s premier outdoor store – the store has an enviable range of tents and sleeping bags to suit all budgets, so it worked perfectly for us.


We ended up choosing a tent that has received good reviews from the pros. The Vango Beta 350 XL is a spacious tent that is easy to pitch and folds into a compact case in less than 10 minutes. It shielded us from UK’s infamous rain and windstorms on more than one occasion during the 4 days. As for sleeping bags, we opted for Blacks‘ own-brand sleeping bags and they were snuggly as ever.


guide to packing for a music festival Vango tent
We opted for a Vango Beta 350 XL tent and Black and Millets’ sleeping bags


guide to packing for a music festival
Our tent was spacious but compact once packed


Vango Beta 350 XL Tent
Sleeping under the stars in our Vango Beta 350 XL Tent



#2 Cheap and cheerful clothes

You’ll be camping aka roughing it out, so leave your pretties behind. Don’t take anything you might regret losing – branded sunglasses and watches, expensive tablets and laptops, and designer shoes should stay firmly stationed at home.


Instead opt for quirky but reasonable clothes. Rich colours and breezy silhouettes work best. This watermelon tee and these Lennon-esque sunglasses are perfect for the laid-back vibe of music festivals and their affordable price means you won’t think twice before stepping into that mosh pit and enjoying what you’re there for – the music! 🙂


Outfit Details :-

Watermelon t-shirt (nom, nom, nom!) – still available on OASAP

Mirrored round sunglasses – still available on OASAP

Coin necklace – OASAP


Music festivals are perfect for quirky and colourful clothes – go as bright as you dare 🙂


guide to packing for a music festival
Watermelon tee – nom!



#3 Kimonos

Kimonos might be a festival staple for some people but if you’re anything like me, I’m sure you enjoy wearing them on city breaks, beaches, and everything in between. The loose fit of the kimono is perfect for channeling a bohemian vibe, something I just can’t say no to 🙂


Recently I’ve been loving this tie-n-dye number in black and white. It’s perfect for throwing over maxi dresses, playsuits, and loose trousers or wearing as a dress (just belt it up and voilĂ  dress!). The white printed kimono is just tasselled perfection – I’ve been living in it this summer. It’s perfect for prancing around in golden fields while the clouds roll overhead 🙂


Outfit Details

Black tie-dye Kimono –  Rosewe

White printed tasseled kimono – Rosewe (hurrah for free worldwide delivery 🙂 )


guide to packing for a music festival kimonos
Kimonos are a staple when it comes to packing for music festivals


guide to packing for a music festival kimonos
Tie and dye kimonos are just perfect for summer


guide to packing for a music festival kimonos
I’ve worn this kimono so much this summer 🙂


guide to packing for a music festival kimonos
Can you tell I love my tassels? 🙂



#4 Wellies

This one is dedicated to those of you who are planning to attend a music festival in UK. The atmosphere at a music festival might have you dreaming about tropical flowers and palm trees but a downpour is never far away when one is in UK. Make sure you pack waterproof shoes and a rain coat. Millets have a great selection of Wellington Boots, with everything from the iconic Hunter boots to more affordable ones. Vid chose funky Peter Storm wellies, befittingly adorned with vinyl records, while I went for a sedate black pair.


guide to packing for a music festival wellies
Wellies are a must for festival goers


guide to packing for a music festival kimonosguide to packing for a music festival wellies
That’s us flaunting our wellies while listening to some amazing music in a barn 🙂



#5 The Crazy Stuff – Flower crowns, moustaches, body glitter 

Aah now comes the fun part. Once the essentials are out of the way, it’s time to go wild (quite literally). Music festivals provide the perfect excuse to play ‘dress up’ with flower crowns, feathered ear cuffs, fake moustaches, body glitter, and body stamps.


All you’re getting ready for are lazy afternoons spent sitting cross-legged on picnic rugs with friends, endless conversations, and night-long concerts. Who can argue with that? 🙂


guide to packing for a music festival
There’s no festival without flower crowns and bohemian jewellery is there?!


guide to packing for a music festival
A bright backpack is perfect for carrying essentials around once you’re at the festival


guide to packing for a music festival
A hippie monkey invaded the greens in our camping area 😉


Guide to packing for a music festival
We weren’t kidding about packing fake moustaches





  1. 1 sturdy tent
  2. 1 pair of Wellies or waterproof walking boots per person
  3. 1 waterproof parka/raincoat per person
  4. Torchlight – you never know when you might need it
  5. 1 secure yet colourful backpack
  6. A battery pack for your photo/camera unless you want to opt for a bit of a digital detox like we did
  7. Swimwear – you never know when you might be overwhelmed by the need to take a dip in that country-side lake
  8. Colourful, bohemian, and quirky clothes – we love kimonos, maxi dresses, and Lennonesque sunglasses
  9. Dry shampoo and Hand Sanitizer – you won’t have regular access to running water, so these are a must
  10. Wet wipes – let’s just say these are the only things that will help you navigate grubby port-a-loos
  11. Flower crowns, moustaches, body glitter – go all out!!
  12. First aid kid
  13. Your most adventurous and bohemian self – get out there and have a blast without a worry in the world




If you enjoy bohemian fashion, check out our posts from the time I wore an oriental kimono in Saigon, a maxi kimono in Mauritius (which I still love!), and an eye wateringly bright one in Mui Ne


Do you guys enjoy music festivals? Which is your favourite festival? 🙂


Till later, Happy raving



The post A first timers’ guide to packing for a music festival appeared first on Bruised Passports.

]]> 11
Vietnam Diaries – 10 Things to do in Saigon Tue, 12 Aug 2014 21:10:52 +0000 If you’re ticking things off a bucket list, Vietnam is bound to rank highly on your list of places to...

The post Vietnam Diaries – 10 Things to do in Saigon appeared first on Bruised Passports.

If you’re ticking things off a bucket list, Vietnam is bound to rank highly on your list of places to see. However most itineraries focus on the surreal beauty of Halong Bay and the tiered tea and coffee plantations of Dalat. Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City as it is now known, is often overlooked. This might be because Saigon is the business hub of the country and is infamous for its manic traffic.


But we love urban spaces, so we really enjoyed the pace of this chaotic city. Saigon’s frenzied rhythm, colonial architecture, and dynamic food culture can be endlessly fascinating and endearing all at once. The city might not have seductive beaches or plantations enveloped in bewitching mist but there is no dearth of things to do in Saigon. From day tours and cultural monuments to food tours and country-side jaunts, Saigon offers everything one could ask for. Here’s 10 of our favourite things to do in Saigon :-


things to do in Saigon
Consider yourself warned – Saigon’s traffic might do this to you but that won’t stop you from falling in love with the city 🙂


1) Celebrate Tet (Lunar New Year)

This is definitely a controversial one. This is because Tet is a special time of the year for Vietnamese people – houses are cleaned and painted, gifts are exchanged, ancestors are honoured, prayers are conducted, and special meals are prepared from scratch.

For tourists this translates into closed shops and markets. In addition to this, most restaurants have special menus for Tet which are much more expensive than regular menus. Shops only open on the sixth day of Tet with a small ceremony.

But happiness is in the air. Locals are in a celebratory mood and there are processions and fairs almost everyday. The entire city is adorned with bunting and lights. Then there are bright red trees, bedecked with Chinese lanterns, wishing papers, and trinkets that pop up everywhere. Saigon transforms into a magical, albeit chaotic, wonderland over Tet – it needs to be seen to be believed 🙂


things to do in Saigon
The streets of Saigon are lined with heavily-adorned trees to celebrate Tet (Chinese New Year)


2) Take a Food Tour

Eating is such an intrinsic part of Vietnamese culture that a food tour offers the perfect introduction to the city. We opted for an amazing street food tour with Tiger Tours in order to familiarise ourselves with Vietnamese street food staples. We would highly recommend taking this tour on your first or second day in the city because it offers a great introduction to the sights and sounds of Saigon. 


Kim and Ngoc, our guides, took us around the city on motorbikes and showed us most of the major landmarks. The highlight of the tour is definitely the scrumptious food but we also loved Saigon’s wholesale flower market – it’s easy on the eyes and offers amazing value for money. It’s possible for pay less that ÂŁ2 for 50 stems of roses (yes FIFTY) – perfect for an impromptu romantic surprise eh? 🙂


Interested in exploring the street food scene of Vietnam? Don’t forget to read our detailed Guide to the Street Food of Vietnam (opens in new tab)


things to do in Saigon
Vid with Kim and Ngoc, our guides on the food tour


things to do in Saigon
Saigon’s gorgeous flower market


3) Explore China Town (Cholon)

Ho Chi Minh’s teeming China Town is the largest in Vietnam. China Town, or Cholon, is laden with pagodas, street food hawkers, and tea houses at every corner. The area is away from the tourist centre and there are few tourists here. But it’s one of our favourite parts of the city purely because it has so much character.

Come without an itinerary and let yourselves loose in the narrow bustling lanes of this area. Observe the rhythm of daily life and watch locals go about their routine, explore crumbling Chinese buildings, or follow the wafting aromas of food. It’s hard to go wrong here – the labyrinthine alleys are brimming with things to do and wandering aimlessly is bound to yield returns 🙂

things to do in Saigon
China Town in Saigon


4) Go offbeat with an immersive tour in Cholon

If you want to do something completely different, we suggest Urban Tales’ scripted tours as one of the unique things to do in Saigon. We’ve experienced several investigative treasure hunts in Europe but none in Asia. Urban Tales offers an exciting way to explore Saigon’s Cholon District for independent travellers like us who like to discover little-known sites, talk to locals, and really get to know a new city.


Going off the beaten path in Cholon
Going off the beaten path in Cholon (image credit: Urban Tales)


The thick plot is laden with all the usual suspects : a murder, red-herrings, and the chaos of Cholon district. In finding out more information about the ‘murderer’, the participants will experience a self-guided tour of the bustling area. We love such immersive tours – definitely a fun way to go off-the-beaten path and come back home with a tale to tell. Make sure your camera has loads of memory – who knows when you’ll find yourself in tiny Chinese medicine shops, little-known pagodas, or restaurants known only to locals again?


5) Visit The Mekong Delta

Less than 3 hours away from the chaos of Saigon lies the idyllic Mekong Delta. Here dozens of sampan boats peacefully glide down the river that is the lifeline of South East Asia. The seductive flow of the Mekong River is enchanting and offers the perfect respite from Saigon’s urbanity. It is possible to explore The Mekong Delta on a day trip but we would highly recommend keeping aside 2-3 days for this experience.


Hop over to our full-length article about A Day Trip To The Mekong Delta for details on planning your trip from Saigon to The Mekong Delta (opens in new tab)


things to do in Saigon
Visiting the Mekong Delta should definitely be on your itinerary


6) Shop

Don’t you know what they say? When in South East Asia, shop 🙂 Ben Thanh Market is usually the recommended shopping mecca to tourists visiting Ho Chi Minh City. Here you can find everything from coffee beans and bags to fruit and street food. However it tends to be overpriced and really crowded. If you want to grab some good bargains on clothes and accessories, head to Saigon Square, which can best be described as a flea market in an air-conditioned building. Put your bargaining boots on and go, go, go 🙂


things to do in Saigon
Hit the shops in Saigon Square to grab a few bargains


things to do in Saigon
Ben Thanh market can be overpriced and crowded but it’s definitely worth a gander



7) Explore Saigon’s religious buildings

Saigon’s streets are dotted with religious buildings – temples, cathedrals, pagodas – that bear testimony to its troubled past and its cosmopolitan fabric in the present day.


Saigon’s colonial past ensures the dominance of French architecture in the city. The Notre Dame Cathedral, established by French Colonialists, is one of the prettiest buildings in downtown Saigon and is frequented by Vietnamese Christians on a regular basis. We also enjoyed visiting the Mariamman Hindu Temple that serves the small community of Vietnamese Tamil Hindus in the city. The colourful facade is adorned with Hindu deities while the atmosphere is clouded by the smoke and fragrance of incense sticks. These buildings offer an engrossing peek into Vietnam’s history and must be explored, irrespective of whether you’re believers or atheists like us.


things to do in Saigon
The Notre Dame Cathedral in Saigon


things to do in Saigon
Colourful and intricate architecture at The Mariamman Hindu Temple


The highlight of a visit to China Town is definitely its pagodas. They offer a spiritual experience like no other. The fragrance of incense sticks hangs heavily in the tepid air while devotees pray with conviction, and unravel in the pagodas’ expansive courtyards.


There are 3 prominent pagodas in China Town. At the Thien Hau Pagoda hundreds of spiral incense sticks impart a smoky, hazy glow to the surroundings and bright pink wishing papers adorn walls. Then there is Phuoc Hai Tu (Jade Emperor Pagoda). A tortoise pond occupies pride of place here. Chinese people believe that  turtles are ambassadors from heaven. They buy turtles from vendors outside the pagoda, write messages on them, and free them from captivity by letting them loose in the pond. At HÎi Quån Nghia, deliciously lacquered porcelain figures are everywhere to be seen. Despite the number of devotees, the atmosphere is extremely peaceful, almost sublime.


There are very few tourists at these pagodas since they are off-the-beaten-path but we were greeted with warm smiles everywhere we went. A young Vietnamese couple even took upon themselves the task of explaining the importance of turtles in Chinese mythology to us 🙂 Highly recommended.

things to do in Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City’s pagodas are gorgeous to say the least


things to do in Saigon
Dozens of spiral incense sticks suspended from the ceilings of pagodas in Saigon


8) Hang Out With The Locals

If you’ve ever been to South-East Asia, you’d know that the people here are extremely friendly and love to share their culture with visitors. If you’re really interested in making some friends and learning more about Vietnamese culture, try taking tours with locals in Vietnam through WithLocals. Given the amazing variety of street food in Saigon, it’d be perfect to get on a scooter with a local and visit those hidden alleys for scrumptious street food that only the locals know about. We love interacting with locals wherever we go – be it for discovering local hidden gems or for sharing stories with them – we feel that such interaction with locals enhances our travel experiences and gives us a different perspective on life.

Trying our hand at making food with the locals :-)

Trying our hand at making food with the locals 🙂


9) Visit The War Remnants Museum

This museum might not be as haunting as the Killing Fields of Cambodia but it is a scary reminder of the atrocities committed by the US government and soldiers during the Vietnam war. Graphic photographs, paraphernalia from the war, and propagandist posters are bound to send a chill down your spine. Put this on your list of things to do in Vietnam. The museum definitely offers a watered down version of history due to diplomatic reasons but it is definitely worth the 15000 VND (£0.50) entry fee.


things to do in Saigon
Visit the War Remnants Museum for a history lesson


10) Take in the Coffee Culture

We’ve already spoken about Vietnam’s obsession with coffee in an earlier article, so we won’t write reams about this but it is safe to say that coffee, especially Iced Coffee, is a national obsession here. Of course it is possible to sample coffee at street food vendors, breakfast buffets, and every restaurant in town. But Saigon’s increasing number of modern cafĂ©s, which serve nothing but coffee and tea based drinks, offer a perfect chance to unwind after a long day of shopping and sightseeing. Then there’s the free wifi – we’re not complaining 🙂


things to do in Saigon
Ho Chi Minh City has a dynamic coffee culture





The post Vietnam Diaries – 10 Things to do in Saigon appeared first on Bruised Passports.

]]> 32
Mui Ne, Vietnam – The story of a fishing village in photos Sun, 03 Aug 2014 22:07:46 +0000 Despite being less than 5 hours away from Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne is off the beaten path in Vietnam. We’ve spoken so...

The post Mui Ne, Vietnam – The story of a fishing village in photos appeared first on Bruised Passports.

Despite being less than 5 hours away from Ho Chi Minh City, Mui Ne is off the beaten path in Vietnam. We’ve spoken so much about the beaches and sand dunes in this part of Vietnam, but it is the early morning fishing market that is the focal point of this tiny fishing village on the Eastern coast of Vietnam.


Every evening local fishermen leave for a long night of fishing. They are effectively surrendering themselves to the sea because their small boats are ill-equipped to handle bad weather or rough seas. At dawn, the fortunate ones return with seafood by the kilogram and their wives take over.


The catch is meticulously sorted, cleaned, and sold to local restaurant owners and street food vendors on the spot. The frenzied rhythm of the market is hard to understand for a mere bystander but closer inspection reveals the method underlying the madness. We loved experiencing the chaos of Mui Ne’s fishing market and wanted to share it with you. This is the story of dozens of humble fishermen and their wives that makes Mui Ne special 🙂

Mui Ne Fishing village Vietnam
At sunrise, fishermen return to the shore after a long night at the sea


Mui Ne Fishing village Vietnam
Tell-tale signs of the tiring night are everywhere to be seen as the fishermen pull into the shore


Mui Ne Fishing Village Vietnam
Fisherwomen are up at the crack of dawn and wait impatiently for the men to reach the village


As they pull into the shore, the
Sorting starts almost as soon as the night’s catch is handed to them


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
Sorting of shrimps, scallops, fish, and eels continues and shells are tossed aside with abandon


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
Over the years, thousands of discarded shells have been integrated into the sand making this one of the most unique beaches in the world


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
Once sorted, produce is washed thoroughly – you guessed it- on the spot!! The skilled fisherwomen don’t let even 1 shrimp go waste


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
Fisherwomen display their wares with pride


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
Seafood is sold to restaurant owners, street-food vendors, and exporters on the spot


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
Right opposite the fish market, stall owners sample fresh sea food as they BBQ scallops and other delicacies for customers


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
Some prefer to absorb the chaos from a vantage point


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
Once the last of the vendors walks away, a sudden calm descends on this beach


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
The boats seem to be stuck in limbo for the rest of the day. They rest on blue waters, eagerly waiting for the sun to set


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
As evening descends, fishermen prepare their colourful but flimsy boats for another night at the sea


Mui Ne fishing village Vietnam
At sunset, fishermen set out for a night at the seas …. once again!!

Have these photos tempted you to visit Mui Ne? Read our article on the Top 10 Things To Do in Mui Ne to see how you could be spending your days in this part of Vietnam 🙂

Planning a trip to Vietnam? Don’t forget to read our tips on accommodation, street food, and sightseeing in Vietnam

Read about  a natural wonder of the world in Mui Ne – The surreal White Sand Dunes of Vietnam

Looking for a place to stay in Mui Ne? Read about our experience at Pandanus Resorts

The post Mui Ne, Vietnam – The story of a fishing village in photos appeared first on Bruised Passports.

]]> 34