I love everything about Hanoi. Having lived like a local while volunteering in Hanoi, I fell in love with the culture, the food, the people, and the way of life. Mobile street vendors are a charming part of Vietnamese culture, and are abundant in Hanoi – you can get any anything, anytime, and anywhere. Vendors on foot and bicycles frequent the streets of Hanoi to sell flowers, sugar cane juice, and fresh produce, to name a few. I’ve even seen balloon vendors – that is, a person walking down the street with dozens of inflatable balloons strung from their limbs…truly a sight to see amongst all of the city chaos.
The Acropolis: Athens, Greece
I made a quick stop in Athens after hopping around the Greek islands for a couple of weeks. As soon as I arrived in Athens, I was ready to write it off as my least favourite destination in Greece, perhaps even a waste of my time. The economic crisis was fresh and there was quite a bit of protesting going on. The city looked dreary and run-down, and unfortunately didn’t exude the same Greek charm that the islands did. At night, however, the beauty of Athens’ ancient history came alive to showcase the pinnacle of Greek history and the heart of the city. Illuminated, and standing tall atop the city’s peak, the Acropolis could be spotted from any angle in the city.
Prague’s central tower in Old Town Square offers beautiful panoramas of the city, including this picturesque view of the Town Square from above. The perimeter of the Square is bustling with cafes, traditional beer houses, and authentic Eastern European restaurants, while the churches and landmarks in the centre add a historical element to the ambiance – a combination that spawns an irresistible old town charm! I enjoyed the special experience of visiting Prague during the FIFA World Cup, which only amplified the pre-existing energy in the Square. A few jumbo screens were placed throughout the Square, which drew massive crowds, especially for the final game – an electrifying experience!
Tourists flock to Siem Reap to see the beautiful, larger-than-life, ancient temples. Many tour companies suggest purchasing a 3-day pass and hiring a tuk tuk to assist in touring the temples of Angkor Wat. Since preserving the little cash that I had left was my top priority, I bought a single day pass and struck a deal with my tuk tuk driver from the hostel. I managed to cram it all into one day – I was ready to pass out by the end of the day, but it was definitely worth it!
I happened to be in Bangkok during the Queen’s Birthday, which was apparently of much more importance than I had anticipated. The Queen’s birthday is a national Thai holiday; a holiday so special that major arteries of the city are shut down and illuminated with lights, colourful banners, and lavish tributes to the Queen. I was lucky enough to visit Wat Benchamabophit just after a heavy rainfall, which helped me capture something rare – a photo without crowds!
Though Sydney is indisputably the main focus of New South Wales, many tourists don’t realize that there is much more to see in the beautiful state outside of the big city. Diverse attractions stretch across the NSW coastline and offer a wide variety of activities for tourists. Ranging from metropolitan Sydney, to the rich landscapes of the Blue Mountains, most destinations can be reached within a few hours by car or public transport. I had the opportunity to visit beautiful beaches in Newcastle while off-roading in a 4×4 on the sand dunes.
It was only after a few weeks of roaming around Northern Cambodia that I actually learned about alms-giving. I had the opportunity to ask my trusty tuk tuk driver and new found friend about the various customs that I had been observing. He explained that every morning, the Monks would walk around town in a single file line with pots draped in their linen, to allow the community to give them rice as a form of alms-giving.