Nazareth – A Muslim City in Israel

Nazareth – A Muslim City in Israel

I’ve been to Israel three times already and I did two trips to Nazareth. On my last visit, I was collaborating with Abraham Hostels in order to write a City Guide about Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. Since I also address sightseeing trips in my guide, I made sure to absolutely explore Israel further and get to know all the good spots. Therefore, I spent five days in Nazareth.

 

How to Get to Nazareth

There are different possibilities for getting to Nazareth. The easiest is staying in the Abraham Hostel (or Fauzi Azar in Nazareth) and taking their shuttle service. It might be a little expansive, but you don’t have to take care of anything. You will get picked up and dropped off at your accommodation. Easy! Negative – the shuttle is not available every day.

The next possibility is a Sherut. Sheruts are minivans, which travel fixed routes back and forth. You can either enter at one of the stations or just hold up your arm as soon as you see one passing and hope for the best. If there’s room they definitely take you in, otherwise they’ll give you an according signal. Positive – they are available every day, even on Shabbat.

The third possibility is taking the bus. It’s called Egged Bus and easily recognizable by its big green X. Negative – only available on Shabbat. To find out, when exactly that Shabbat is, you need to ask around, since it depends on the time of sundown.

 

The City of Nazareth

Nazareth and its 69% Muslim citizens are known as the Arabic Capital of Israel. 30% are Christians, so it’s no wonder the atmosphere of the city is quite different. I always had the feeling of being in the Middle East, more than in other cities. Also due to the fact that the population speaks predominantly Arabic.

Nazareth is famous for being the village where Jesus spent his youth. The city is riddled with churches and with the so call Jesus Trail – 65km of hiking and pilgrimage trail to various sites where Jesus is said to have lived and worked or simply was present. Therefore, this trail could have been walked by Jesus itself. It begins in Nazareth and ends in Capernaum

If you want to take a deep dive into the history of Nazareth, you definitely shouldn’t miss the free tour around the city. You can join daily – just ask at your accommodation what time it starts. The beautiful thing about this tour is that it not only covers the historical highlights, but also gives you a glimpse into modern everyday life.

 

Religious Sites in Nazareth

The city offers numerous religious sites. These are my personal highlights:

At the edge of old town, you can find Mary’s well. At this well, Gabriel appeared to Mary and announced that she is pregnant with the son of God.

Weirdly enough, there doesn’t seem to be a consensus regarding the location of the „Annunciation of the birth of Jesus”, as the archangel Gabriel is said to have appeared to Mary at other places as well. Not far from the well, a church was built, where Mary and Joseph supposedly had their house. It is named Church of Annunciation. Sadly, I don’t have a proper photo of the church since the surrounding area is rather narrow and the church itself is rather large. And by the way, this is the biggest Catholic church in the Middle East.

If you follow the Jesus Trail from old town uphill (yes, 15 minutes of walking up stairs but well worth it!) you will reach the Basilica of Jesus the Adolescent, where Jesus supposedly spent his youth. Not only is the church beautiful by its own standards, but you can also find a magnificent panorama across the city. In my opinion, this is the best view you can find in Nazareth.

 

Accommodation in Nazareth

During both of my stays, I was at the Fauzi Azar. When I first stayed here, it was not yet part of the Abrahams chain, but it was on my second visit. It is a beautiful Arabic building in the middle of the old town. The rooms are a direct portal into the Arabian Nights. Or rather, they were. This time I was in a newer part of the building and it felt like was accommodated in a cave without windows or any interior decoration that goes beyond the bed itself. So if you book your stay at the Fauzi Azar, ask for an older room that looks like this:

Similarly, the outdoor area is beautiful as well. As the surrounding old buildings also have a cooling effect, you will not start sweating and can enjoy the outside at a comfortable temperature. For my part, I really like sitting and working outside with my laptop. However, I have to add that Nazareth is not a big city and therefore, travelers don’t gather at bars or pub crawls. They rather spend their evenings in the cozy atmosphere of the hostel, which might not be acceptable for some Digital Nomads.

The real beauty of the Fauzi Azar is, that the collaboration (!) of Jewish and Arabic Israelis together created what it is today – a gathering place for people from all religions.

Sadly, I cannot give any information about other accommodations in Nazareth.

 

Final Thoughts

In my opinion, Nazareth is always worth a visit and you shouldn’t miss it during your stay in Israel. It is a special place – not only interesting but also very photogenic. I can definitely imagine going there for a third visit and even stay a little longer. Maybe I will even walk the Jesus Trail to really set the mood.

Have you ever been to Nazareth? How did you like it? Put it in the comments!

PS: This post was sponsored by Abraham Tours and I was invited to stay at the Fauzi Azar. I did not get paid and my opinion was in no way affected by this collaboration.

The Tel Aviv Guide for Digital Nomads

Tel Aviv Guide for Digital Nomads

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Haifa, Acre and Rosh Hanikra – A Day Trip from Nazareth

Haifa, Acre and Rosh Hanikra – A Day Trip from Nazareth

I already wanted to visit Haifa on my first trip to Israel 3 years ago, but somehow it did not work out. That’s why, on my third trip, I absolutely wanted to visit Haifa on my research trip for the  Tel Aviv Guide for Digitale Nomads. So I immediately booked a tour once I arrived in the  Abraham Hostel in Nazareth. A tour to Haifa, Acre and Roch Hanikra.

 

Stop #1 Mount of Precipice

Our first stop of the day was a biblical sight – Mount Precipice. These are supposed to be the cliffs, where the angry mob of cititzens of Nazareth wanted to kill Jesus, because they did not approve of his teachings at the synagogue (Luke 4, 16-30). Mount Precipice is located south of Nazareth on the cliffs of Mount Kedumim.

The panorama of the Jezreel Valley and Mount Tabor is fantastic and is said to be very picturesque at dawn. I couldn’t make if for sunrise, however, as I didn’t have a private transportation.

Barbara in the Galilee

We stay here for half an hour to take photos and marvel at the scenery. After that, onwards to the port town Haifa.

Stop #2 Haifa

Haifa is the third biggest city in Israel, after Jerusalem and Tel Aviv. Here, you can find the Bahá’í Gardens, that are a UNESCO world heritage site and also the most beautiful spot of the city. It is the spiritual and administrative centre of the Bahá’í faith. The gardens are on Mount Karmel and include i.e. the shrine of Bab, where the keep the mortal remains of Bab, the founder of Babism. It is the building with the golden dome on the following picture. Many travellers and pilgrims come here.

That’s why we come here, as well. There are several levels. First, we have a look at the gardens itself. Beware – as this is a holy site you are required to cover your shoulder as well as your knees. After about 30 minutes we take a car to the upper levels, where you can enjoy the view. Strangely enough, you don’t have to cover up here.

 

Stop #3 Acre

Acre (or Akko/Akkon – very confusing) is also a port town at the north coast of Israel. Findings from the bronce age show, that already 3 millenias before christ people where settling there. Acre is famous for its old town, situated at on a peninsula on the northern end of the bay of Haifa. It is surrounded by old military fortifications.

The people living here are mostly Israeli Arabs and Acre is one of the most oriental cities of Israel. Visitors can experience this on the big Shouk – the huge Arabian market offering clothes, local gimmicks, spices, fruits and vegetables.

For centuries, the city’s port was important in the eastern Mediterranean area. Nowadays, it’s mainly used for the ferry rides between Haifa and Acre, round trips and other boats tours.

Also famous is the 350 meter long tunnel from the Templar fortress in the west to the port in the east, discovered in 1994. The tunnel is carved into natural stone and is one of the attractions of Acre. I decided against walking the tunnel, as I did not want to pay entry for those 250 meters and rather take pictures in the streets and by the sea.

We had two hours to explore Acre. That is barely enough time to see the old town and get lunch. Then, we went on to the caves of Rosh Hanikra.

 

Stop #4 Rosh Hanikra

The grottoes of Rosh Hanikra are directly at the border to Lebanon. At the top end of the road, there’s even a (tightly locked) gate, separating Lebanon and Israel.

This spot has become a tourist attraction because the sea had carved beautiful grottoes into the limestone. The grottoes can be accessed and are connected by an easy path.

From the parking area, you can take a cable car down to the entrance of the grottoes or drive there by car. Since we had been late already this day, our minivan took us there. Using a staircase, you can then go deeper into the cliffs.

In the grottoes itself, you can hear the water crashing against the limestone walls. If you’re (un)lucky – like me – you might catch a splash of the waves and get soaking wet, which seems to be peak entertainment for attending children.

All in all, the path seemed very short. I expected more. Nevertheless, Rosh Hanikra is a beautiful place and the moment you leave the caves is breathtaking. The white limestone is a stark contrast to the turquoise of the Mediterranean Sea and blinding after the darkness of the caves. I admit that was an unexpected highlight.

 

Final Thoughts

The tour to Haifa, Acre, and Rosh Hanikra was a highlight of my Israel tour this year. As I mentioned before, Haifa was on my To Do list since my first visit and I had also heard about Acre. Rosh Hanikra was new to me but is now definitely on my Israel Must See list. I am really glad I took this day trip!

Have you been to one of these spots? Leave a comment!

PS: This post was sponsored by Abraham Tours and I was invited to the “Haifa, Acre, and Rosh Hanikra” tour. I did not get paid and my opinion was not affected by this collaboration.

The Tel Aviv Guide for Digital Nomads

Tel Aviv Guide for Digital Nomads

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Are you searching for a cool spot for digital nomads in the Middle East? You should check out Tel Aviv!

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Singapore Sightseeing: Classics and Insider Tips for your ToDo List

Singapore Sightseeing: Classics and Insider Tips for your ToDo List

In my posts and on Instagram I already showed you countless times how fond I am of Singapore. Here comes my post about what you shouldn’t miss in this beautiful city!

 

#1 Gardens by the Bay

Gardens by the Bay is a 101 hectare big national park close to downtown Singapore, that was build on land fills. Singapore aimed for offering its citizens more green landscape and some sort of recreational area.

The outer area of Gardens by the Bay is free to enter and you can take as many walks there as you desire.

The green houses, however, are 30 SGD, which is a lot but worth seeing once in my opinion.

Super Tree Grove

Scattered across the area are several so-called Super Trees. These metal tree constructions have a height of about 25 to 50 meters and are covered by rare plants. Each of them has a different name and topic. The most Super Trees are in Super Tree Grove, where there is a light show every evening (more on that further down).

Gardens by the Bay – Super Trees – Super Tree Grove – SkyWalk

They produce electricity through photovoltaics and, by collecting rain water, they assist the irrigation system and cooling systems of the green houses and the Super Trees itself.

Two of the Super Trees in Super Tree Grove are connected by a bridge – the SkyWalk.

Gardens by the Bay – Super Trees – Super Tree Grove – SkyWalk

Gardens by the Bay – Super Trees – Super Tree Grove – SkyWalk

Flower Dome and Cloud Forest

Also in this area you can find two green houses – the Flower Dome and the Cloud Forest – that host plants from Mediterranean / semi-dry climate zones and also display tropical vegetation.

Gardens by the Bay

Cloud Forest

Marina Barrage

Marina Barrage is a dam, but due to the nice park and green area on top of it, it became a favorite spot for picnics and kiting. Yes, kiting. The view of Garden by the Bay and Marina Bay Sands and also the skyline is breathtaking. If you can manage to be there on a clear day, you can see a beautiful sunset. Also, there are mostly locals here and less expats/tourists.

Marina Barrage

This is the view without the park in the foreground.

Marina Barrage

The Light Show in Gardens by the Bay

Every evening from 7.45pm to 8.45pm, you can see the light show in Super Tree Grove. Each time a different topic, the music gets accompanied by a 15 minute light show, coloring the trees in all varieties. This is a highlight for me and I try to include it at least once in every trip I take to Singapore.

Gardens by the Bay – Super Trees – Super Tree Grove – SkyWalk

Gardens by the Bay – Super Trees – Super Tree Grove – SkyWalk

This light show is free of charge.

 

 #2 Marina Bay

Even though Marina Bay is the youngest district of Singapore, it probably houses the most famous tourist attractions of the city. If this is your first time in this Asian metropolis or you just have a short layover, you will probably find your way here.

Marina Bay Panorama

The Merlion

The Merlion is a landmark in Singapore. Half fish, half lion, the legend says it protected Singapore’s people from enemies and violent storms. Therefore, they erected this 37 meter tall statue and the city got the nick name Lion City.

Marina Bay Merlion

 

The Helix Bridge

The Helix Bridge got its name from its design – it looks like a string of DNA.

Helix Bridge – Marina Bay

The ArtScience Museum

This museum in the shape of a lotus flower consists of 21 galleries. Three of them have permanent exhibitions with the topics curiosity, inspiration and expression. The other galleries are used for frequently changing exhibitions.

Museum of Artscience

Museum of Artscience – Helix Bridge – Marina Bay

Marina Bay Sands

The probably most famous hotel in the world is also a landmark of the city. Every time I see the gigantic rooftop terrace, it puts a smile on my face. To me it signifies the same as seeing the Frankfurt skyline – it means home.

Marina Bay Sands

On the rooftop you can find its world famous infinity pool, that is reserved for hotel guests only.

Located centrally on the terrace, you can find the bar C’est La Vie. Some kind of lounge during daytime, it turns into a restaurant in the evening. But be careful and respect the dress code! Shorts and bikinis are a not welcome here.

Marina Bay – Marina Bay Sands SkyPark

There is also a public area on the Marina Bay Sands terrace although it costs 23 SGD. However, I think this is money well spent as this is also the only place where you can watch the light shows in Gardens by the Bay and in Marina Bay from the top.

Gardens by the Bay – Marina Bay Sands SkyPark

 

The Light Show in Marina Bay

Same as in the Gardens by the Bay, there is also a light show in Marina Bay. Every day from 8pm and 9pm you can enjoy the show. And if you want to be especially close, just take a walk through The Shoppes. With the majestic skyline in the background, water fountains are painted in a multitude of colors by the lights, accompanied by music.

Marina Bay Lightshow

From the other side of the bay you may not see the water fountains but the laser show from Marina Bay Sands makes up for it.

Marina Bay Lightshow – Marina Bay Sands

 

#3 Arab Street

Contrary to the name, Arab Street is not only a street but a whole district. All around the Masjid Sultan Mosque you can find streets that make up the most hipster area of the town. Here you can find the creatives and the party people. Bright colors, hand-woven Persian carpets and aromatic Arabian teas – that’s the Arabian district in Singapore.

Sultan Mosque

The heart of the Arabian Street is the Masjid Sultan Mosque with nearly 200 years of history. This touristic highlight is perfect for learning about Muslim culture or simply enjoy the extraordinary atmosphere. Up to 5000 people can fit in the prayer room.

Arab Street

 

#4 Sentosa

In front of Singapore lies the small island Sentosa. It is an artificial island and basically a theme park. Numerous attractions are waiting for families and visitors that are looking to be entertained. I tried some of them but the only things that really convinced me were the beaches and beach bars. Even though you can see the huge container ships in the distance, I still found this to be an oasis.

Siloso Beach

Universal Studios

The Universal Studios are part of the theme park Resorts World on the island Sentosa. You can find 28 rides, shows, and attractions in seven different areas – each with a different topic.

Singapore Cable Car

I don’t know about you, but I love cable cars! And it’s also the best way to get to Sentosa. You can either walk over the pedestrian bridge, take a taxi, take the Sentosa Express, or said cable car. It is the most expensive way, but in my opinion worth at least doing once. You can take off from Harbourfront or Mount Faber.

Pro tip: The Henderson Waves are only a five minute walk away from Mount Faber station. So you can easily combine these two highlights.

Adventure Cove Waterpark

This theme park is all about water and offers fun for the whole family. There is an aquarium, water slide, a wave pool, you can go snorkeling and so on… I haven’t been there yet but I will surely go there!

S.E.A. Aquarium

Since I condemn imprisoning animals, I did not go the aquarium. Nevertheless, I don’t want to keep this information from you. Here you can find more than 100.000 sea animals from almost 1000 different species. 50 big pools offer you a glimpse into the underwater world.

The Crane Dance Light Show

The third and last light show of Singapore is on Sentosa. Each day you can find two mechanical cranes dancing and telling a story of love accompanied by water, light and music. I personally enjoy the other two light shows more but if you are already on Sentosa, why not have a look at the daily show at 8pm. After that, just take a stroll back to the Harbourfront.

The Beaches

Many people describe Singapore as a concrete block. I think that is a false depiction. Of course, the beaches are fake, at least on Sentosa, but still…. you can lie in the sand and enjoy a fresh coconut! What is there not to love about that?

There is a total of three beaches on the island – Siloso, Palawan and Tanjong.

On Palawan Beach there is a small suspension bridge, that leads to another smaller offshore island. Here you can find a lot of families with their children. A bit too crowded for my taste but at least the bridge is very photogenic.

Palawan Beach

Tanjong Beach is well suited for you, if you are looking for a quiet and relaxed time. It is relatively far from the metro station you probably arrive at. So you can take a taxi or a shuttle service, because it’s a 30 minute walk and that can be rather exhausting on a hot day.

But once you reach your destination, you can relax. At the Tanjong Beach Club, you can find refreshing cocktails and if you’re not in the mood for sand between your toes, just lie down at the pool.

Tanjong Beach Club

Tanjong Beach Club

 

#5 Chinatown

Even if that’s not a popular opinion – I am no fan of China Town. There’s no real reason, it’s more of a feeling. Although I feel at home in most parts of Singapore, I don’t have that same feeling in China Town. However, I still know my way around and can recommend you some nice spots.

Chinatown Complex Food Center

In Singapore, you can find so called Hawker Centers. Those are food centers where you can buy local cuisine for cheap prices. With 260 stands, the biggest and most famous Hawker Center is the Chinatown Complex Food Center. One of the stalls even has a Michelin Star. The most recommended dish is Chicken Rice and costs around one to two Euros. However, the cue in front of the stalls is sometimes extremely long, resulting in almost up to one hour of standing in line. 

Buddha Tooth Relic Temple

The Buddha Tooth Relic Temple was built in 2007. The rich interior architecture and the extensive exhibitions about Buddhist art and history tell a story of hundred of years of culture. In this temple you can find a shrine containing a tooth of Buddha (the left canine tooth allegedly). It was recovered from the pyre in Kushinagar, India, and brought here for exhibition and worshiping.

Sri Mariamman Temple

The oldest Hindu temple of Singapore is dedicated to the mother deity Mariamman and was built in 1827. This is the house of prayer for most Tamils and the Hindu population in Singapore. Due to its historical significance, it was declared a national monument in 1972.

 

#6 Nature Reserves & Parks

The reason why I love Singapore this much is that it combines all the advantages of a major city with a vast number of parks and nature reserves. They are within easy reach and you can escape the Hustle and Bustle of the city in a heartbeat. Let me list some of the most popular destinations. Sadly, I still haven’t managed to visit all of them but I will be in Singapore a lot more often and definitely explore further.

MacRitchie Reservoir

The MacRitchie Reservoir is Singapore’s oldest storage reservoir. It was built in 1868 in order to secure the supply of potable water. Nowadays, it is mostly used as a recreational area. Here you can go jogging, kayaking or simply relax.

MacRitchie Reservoire

MacRitchie Nature Trails

In the heart of Singapore you can find 11 km of trails around the MacRitchie Reservoir. It is easily possible to encounter several different animals on your journey such as macaques, monitor lizards, squirrels, flying lemurs, or owls.

You can choose between different paths to find the perfect distance for your walk. Road signs show you the way so you always know exactly where you are, how long it takes to your next destination and which alternative trails you can take. Remember to bring enough water as there is none to buy here.

MacRitchie Reservoire – MacRitchie Nature Trails

The highlight of the MacRitchie Nature Trail is the next point on this list.

 

TreeTop Walk

The TreeTop Walk is part of the MacRichie Trail. The whole circuit, including the TreeTop Walk at the center, is about 7 km long. Sadly, there are no MRT stations close to the starting point, so you have to take a bus to the parking area at the entrance Venus Drive or take a grab or cab. From there, you can follow the signs.

On this 250 meter long suspension bridge you will have a wonderful panorama view of the rain forest, walking 25 meters above ground.

Hiking in Singapore – TreeTop Walk – MacRitchie Nature Trail

Bukit Timah Nature Reserve

Only 12 km from the busy city center is the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, founded in 1883 and one of the first forest reserves of the country. It has a rich ecosystem, offering the visitors the possibility of marveling at numerous plants and animals of the region. You basically walk through primordial, tropical vegetation and experience Singapore as it was several decades ago.

BUKIT TIMAH NATURE RESERVE

Pulau Ubin

Pulau Ubin is Malay and means “Granite Island” – and you can actually find old granite quarries on the island. It is mostly famous for being the last Kampong  (typical village in Singapore) that hasn’t completely been urbanised and modernised. It is a trip through time, as allegedly this is what Singapore looked like in 1960.

Pulau Ubin

Pulau Serangoon aka. Coney Island

Coney Island or Pulau Serangoon is a 133 hectare island on the northern coast of Singapore between the already mentioned Pulau Ubin in the north east and the mainland in the south west.

The 50 hectare nature reserve includes coastal woods, grass lands and mangroves. Many Singaporeans come here for hiking or mountain biking. Also camping is very popular here. Sadly, I haven’t visited the island yet, but it is still on my to-do list.

Southern Ridges

The Southern Ridges are a nine kilometer walk through lush vegetation – but in the middle of the city! The paths are separated into smaller units and you can start and stop your tour anywhere and anytime.

I started at the Alexandra Arch and made my walk over the Forest Walk. You really have to remind yourself that you are still in an large city. Otherwise, you can easily get the feeling you were teleported to the next rain forest.

The Forest Walk connects to the Hilltop Walk. And here comes the highlight – the Henderson Waves! The Henderson Waves are bridges that go in serpentines across the highway. You don’t really notice the cars below, though. I actually only noticed once I went back to grab the bus and saw the bridge from below.

Henderson Waves

Botanic Garden

The Botanic Gardens are 158 years old and situated at the border of Orchard Road – the most famous shopping street in Singapore. They are marked as world heritage and the only place in Singapore listed at the UNESCO.

Since the gardens are easily accessible (the metro station is right in front of the entrance) and there is no entrance fee, many Singaporeans come here to find some peace. A picnic in the lunch break or walk after work… no problem.

Personally speaking, I wasn’t too excited about the park. Maybe after Gardens by the Bay, Marina Barrage and co. I was expecting more. No jungle, no futuristic structures, no skyline… just a park with tropical plants.

Singapur Botanischer Garten – Singapore Botanic Garden

As you see, Singapore has a lot to offer! I really can’t understand how some visitors claim two days would be enough to experience it. Hopefully, I was able to show you just how divers this country really is. 

Which of these spots in Singapore fascinate you the most? What would you love to see? If you’ve already been to Singapore – what did you like the most? I’m looking forward to your comments!

The Singapore Guide for Digital Nomads

Singapore Guide for Digital Nomads

Live Like a Local

Are you searching for a cool spot for digital nomads in South East Asia? You should check out Singapore!

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

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Beach, Sun, and Mountains – Two Days in Da Nang

Beach, Sun, and Mountains – Two Days in Da Nang

I’ve heard many stories about the coastal city Da Nang… but never did I manage to pay a visit. I wanted to change that, so I took a flight from Hanoi to Da Nang during my last stay in Vietnam.

Arriving in Da Nang

National flights in Asia are relatively cheap, so you can go from Hanoi or Saigon to any airport for maximum 60 EUR. The most common carrieres are Jetstar Airlines and VietJetAir.

I traveled with both airlines already and didn’t have a good experience with VietJetAir.

Click if you want to read my short review:

My experience with VietJetAir

Sadly, I did not receive a confirmation mail after booking my flight and I could not do what I always do – take a screenshot. So I had no booking code and no proof for booking. Nevertheless, I did not expect this much trouble. At the airport it was possible to find my booking, but the would not certify that I had booked a return flight as well. So, when I arrived in Vietnam, I had to book an additional flight since I didn’t have proof for my departure. Therefore, I do not want to fly with VietJetAir again if not absolutely necessary.

If you don’t want to fly, you can take a bus as well. There are night busses where you can sleep comfortably. However, I have to warn you. Long bus trips may be dangerous in Vietnam. I don’t know if it’s because of the terrible roads or the ruthless drivers or even the tired bus drivers, but there are far too many accidents on long distance bus trips. I only did one of those trips and that took 7 hours from Saigon to Da Lat.

As a last alternative I want to mention driving by bike. Vietnam is famous for it’s many travelers that bought a bike and took across the country. Which is of course also dangerous, but nevertheless popular.

 

Accomodation in Da Nang

Normally, I do House Sitting* or I rent an Airbnb*, in order to live like the locals. In Da Nang, however, I booked a hotel for a change, since I was travelling with a non-nomad friend. We chose the Aria Hotel, in the second row to the beach and including sea view from the rooftop.

I was impressed by the kindness of the personnel. They tried to fulfill our every wish.

The room was a little small, even though we already booked a bigger type. Apart from that it was nice and also the bathroom was small but cute. Most interesting was a curtain in the bathroom, that allowed opening or shading a window directed towards the bedroom. A modern trend, apparently.

The location was ideal – second row from the sea and you can walk to the beach in only a few minutes. The beach is very inviting and offers pleasant walks. Directly at the beach you can find numerous restaurants and hotels with rooftops, if you want to enjoy the view.

 

What can you do in Da Nang?

I have to admit that I was drawn to a place outside of Da Nang. I wanted to see a bridge, that is carried by a gigantic pair of hands. I had seen them quite often on Instagram and I knew, this is the Must See in Da Nang. In the hotel, we made sure that we were going to the right place. Because the bridge is in the mountains and you cannot find the bridge on Google Maps. The staff told us, we were going to the right place and would need to pay 700.000 VND entry. We were irritated, as it is almost 30 EUR. We only wanted to see the bridge, nothing else, so we didn’t plan to pay any entry for anything else.

It took us almost an hour with a rented scooter, including a fuel brake. The drive was wonderful, through small villages, past rivers and streams and through the woods. Only at the end, the road started to go uphill. Once we reached our destination, we realized what the staff meant. The bridge is part of a theme park.

As we already drove this far… we just payed and went in.

SunWorld

We were supposed to take a cable car ride to the mountain top. Easier said than done. There are three cable car lines and the one we were supposed to take was closed. So we followed signs to find the next one, but somehow took a wrong turn and ended up taking escalator after escalator.

At some point, we finally reached the end and entered a gondola. I took photos like a maniac, especially excited by the glass floor! We went higher and higher and after 15 minutes, we reached the clouds. Everything became white and the atmosphere became rather mystic. We broke through the clouds and continued upwards.

The whole cable car ride took around thirty minutes. Once we reached the top, my world turned up side down. Is this… supposed to be Paris?  Clad in winter decorations, we could see baroque churches and the Moulin Rouge. It felt like we’re in the wrong place. And also the only westerners around. 

We took a walk through the park, looking for attractions but had to admit, that there are none – except one. A summer toboggan run. So we went there and stood in line. And waited. And waited. And waited. And after an hour, we had moved 10m. We gave up.

Only one thing left to do – looking for the bridge with the hands. For this, we had to take another cable car. The first one, that we were supposed to take in the beginning and that was out of order, would have stopped half way up the mountain and let us see the bridge straight away.

As we descended through the clouds, we could see the part of the park, where the bridge is. Our search is over. Yes, it’s beautiful! But… do you have to pay 700.000 VND enty? I dare to say ‘no’.

We took a last ride with the cable car and as a farewell gift we had the most beautiful view of the day, as the sun descended and covered the sky in myriads of colors.

If you pay attention, you can spot waterfalls running between the hills.

Down at the entrance / exit we took a walk through the beautiful Chinese Gardens of the park.

As we left the park, the sun disappeared. In the dusk, we made our way back to the hotel.

 

Lady Buddha at the Linh Ung Pagoda

The next day, we decided to take a trip on a scooter bike along the coast. From the beach, you can already see the female buddha statue on the other side of the bay. And Google Maps said, it was easily reachable via bike. Actually, it is a whole peninsula, named Son Tra.

To get there it took us around 30 minutes and once we left the beachfront, we drove upwards. Jungle to the left, seaside to the right. Beautiful!

There are several stops on the way that invite you to take a break and just enjoy the beautiful view. We only had limited time till our plane to Saigon took off, so we could only take short stops. And we also wanted to visit the cathedral and the dragon bridge. 

 

The Cathedral

The cathedral in the heart of Da Nang was built in 1923 by the french priest Louis Vallet. Even though it is not as bright as her sister church in Saigon, it is still famous for its pink color (here you can see one of my pictures of the Cathedrale in Saigon on Instagram). You can see a rooster on top of the church, which also gave it the nickname “Con Ga Church” – Chicken Church.

 

The Dragon Bridge

The dragon bridge connects the city centre of Da Nang with the seafront. it is 666 meters long and has 6 lanes. Definitely worth a visit and if you stay over the weekend, you can watch it breath fire every saturday and sunday from 9pm.

 

Hoi An

There wasn’t enough time for a visit in Hoi An, but if you can fit it into your travel itinerary you should definitely go there and maybe even spend a few days! I only heard beautiful and romantic stories about Hoi An and even the drive should already be worth the trip.

Conclusion Da Nang

Since I only knew the major cities Saigon and Hanoi, Da Nang was a more than welcome change. The traffic is much less aggressive, there’s almost no honking, the ocean view is soothing and even vegetarians find a lot of good options there! Da Nang has a lot to offer and I will definitely come back and enjoy the city a little longer.

Have you ever been to Da Nang?

PS: All links marked with a Star (*) are Affiliate Links.

The Saigon Guide for Digital Nomads

Saigon Guide for Digital Nomads

Live Like a Local

Are you searching for a cool spot for digital nomads in South East Asia? You should check out Saigon!

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

VIETNAM
MEKONG DELTA
VIETNAM
CU CHI TUNNEL
VIETNAM
ZWEI TAGE IN DA NANG

Cu Chi Tunnels – Half Day Tour to Saigon’s Underground War Museum

Cu Chi Tunnels – Half Day Tour to Saigon’s Underground War Museum

On my last trip to Vietnam, I had several tourist highlights on my list. I booked a half-day tour to the Cu Chi tunnels for example. Up to this point, I had never concerned myself with this topic and it was about time to face it. The Vietnam War, or American War as they call it here, is a very prominent topic, especially in the south. On my day trip to the Mekong Delta, I was surprised how often it was mentioned. But I already realized in Ho Chi Minh how important the topic is, as i.e. the most popular museum in town is the War Remnants Museum. So I booked a half-day tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels at my hotel. The price of 314.000 VND (almost 12 EUR) included the drive to the tunnels, as well as the entry and guided tour of about 110.000 VND. On the premises, you also get a snack and tea. 

 

Cu Chi – An Idyllic Retreat Becomes a War Zone

Cu Chi was a place of summer and vacation for the Saigonese. On the weekends and during school holidays, families gathered here and spent their time in the fields, in the woods or at the lakeside. This ended as soon as the Vietnam War broke out. What many don’t know is that not only the guerrilla soldiers hid in the tunnels, whose entrances were concealed in the woods underneath leaves and twigs. But also the thousands of inhabitants of Cu Chi and the surrounding area. They built a system of tunnels and took the people underground to safety. The underground city contained sleeping areas, storage areas, medical stations, and even a kitchen area, to continue their lives underground.

 

Cu Chi Tunnels – The Half-Day Tour

To start the tour, I got picked up at my hotel. With a minibus and 20 other travelers, we went to the northwest. The ride took about 90 minutes. After an hour we made a stop and had a look at a workshop for decorative items, manufactured and painted by handicapped people. Parts of the different patterns are made with mosaic techniques, using broken egg shells. The small pieces are placed in a way that they create patterns and figures. Afterwards, they get painted. lacquered and polished. Fascinating! And everything by hand! After another half an hour of driving, we came to the entrance of the Cu Chi area. Our guide paid for us as a group, so we didn’t have to wait in line. My ticket was included already, but others had to pay for their tickets at this point. In the end, those travelers paid even less in total. Only 260.000 VND. Afterwards, we were led to a forest area. In a clear and open spot, we stopped and before we even had a chance to take in the surroundings, our guide opened an undetectable hole in the ground that was hidden by leaves. A staff member immediately took over and showed its purpose – it has been a hiding spot for guerrilla soldiers. 

Cu Chi Tunnels

Please excuse the blurred photo. The guide was so quick in going down that hole that I didn’t even have time to adjust my camera correctly! I was surprised by how people back then could remember those hidden entry spots, but they obviously had no other choice. Humans are really capable of extraordinary feats when it comes to life and death. We went on, past inconspicuous hills that were only given away to hide much more beneath them by the small ventilation holes on the outside.

Cu Chi Tunnels

Hidden by leaves, these holes were undetectable. An ingenious system also kept off snakes, rats or rain. By putting spices and chilies in the holes, bloodhounds were deterred from finding them. Next stop was the traps. We were told they were also meant only as deterrents, more than killing the enemy in masses. Several contraptions that reminded me of Indiana Jones were supposed to skewer the US soldiers.

Cu Chi Tunnels

While we listened to the explanations of the different traps, we could hear the sound of gunshots growing closer. I already knew what awaited us. A shooting range. In this safe area you could try out the actual rifles that were used during the Vietnam War for 600.000 VND (around 27 EUR) per magazine and the line was alarmingly long.

I neither shot one of the rifles nor did I get closer to take a photo. But I guess there are things that don’t need to be photographed. So we waited, accompanied by the relentless gun sound until the tour continued. The next highlight followed: we were allowed to enter one of the tunnels! Originally it was much smaller, but for touristic purposes, they had widened it, so tourists can pass through. During the war, people were crawling on their bellies through the tunnels. For me personally, it was already claustrophobic enough. You could exit the tunnel every 20 meters, but I walked the whole 100 meters. If you can actually call it walking. 

Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels

I am not claustrophobic but the thought of being trapped in one of the tunnels was terrifying. I was more than happy to leave the moist and hot tunnels after what felt like an eternity. Next, we got a little “snack”… but not just any snack. Of course, it was tapioca root. The people of Cu Chi survived on these roots for days on end. The roots and tea were even prepared in an underground kitchen, just like the guerrilla soldiers used to do it. The last part of the tour was a documentary about the backgrounds and history of the area.


Cu Chi Tunnels

This marked the end of the half-day trip and we went back to Ho Chi Minh City. We arrived around 7 pm and got dropped off at the Benh Thanh Food Street. 

Cu Chi Tunnel – Conclusion

For me, this is a really uncomfortable topic. Personally, I don’t like to concern myself with war history – I admit that. However, as it is an important part of Vietnam’s history and culture, I think it is critical to at least get a basic understanding of it. Even if it’s only out of respect for the Vietnamese people. Hence, I’m glad I made this step and experienced it with my own eyes. 

The Saigon Guide for Digital Nomads

Saigon Guide for Digital Nomads

Live Like a Local

Are you searching for a cool spot for digital nomads in South East Asia? You should check out Saigon!

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

VIETNAM

MEKONG DELTA

ASIEN

KOH CHANG

ASIEN

ANGKOR WAT

The Mekong Delta – A Day Trip To One of Vietnam’s Most Famous Sights

The Mekong Delta – A Day Trip To One of Vietnam’s Most Famous Sights

The day trip to the Mekong Delta starts at 7:45 am when the tour guide picks me up in the lobby in a hotel in downtown Saigon.

I fall asleep quite immediately after choosing my seat on the minibus. The ride is more or less 90 minutes and although I wake up every now and then, I barely hear the guide when he talks about the background and the history of the region.

The Mekong Delta

The river is 4,220 km long and, having its source in Tibet, flows through China, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. It’s here where it’s draining into the South China Sea through nine branches. It is the 12th longest river in the world and the largest in South East Asia.

The Mekong Delta has roughly 40,000 square kilometers and 17 million inhabitants, which is a fifth of the whole country’s population. It’s the area with the densest population in Vietnam. Since the river is a great water source, the surroundings are covered with rice paddies, which makes the country one of the world’s top exporters of rice. Therefore, the Mekong Delta is decisive for Vietnam’s economy.

He is talking about the war and how the Mekong Delta has been the site of guerrilla attacks and was used to transport weapons and food.

 

The Day Trip to the Mekong Delta

When we get to the My Tho boat station, I have a first glance at the river – wide and with brown water with no way to see through it. First, we take a motorboat and we see four islands: Dragon, Unicorn, Tortoise, and Phoenix.

Day Trip Mekong Delta

Day Trip Mekong Delta

When we stop on one of the islands, we get to taste some local delicacies: royal jelly (a honey bee secretion), peanut sweets, and fruits like the Vietnamese pear. The guide is explaining how the royal jelly is made showing us the honeycomb while we sip the delicious green tea with lots of yummy and healthy honey. Local women walk around who sell the tea, the honey, the royal jelly, and the sweets.

We move on and take the motorboat again to get to another place. From the landing stage, other groups take a tuk-tuk pulled by horses. I’m glad that our guide organized for us to take motorized tuk-tuks. He says that the horses are in a bad condition and too weak to carry chariots with four people over the rocky island. As soon as I see them, I totally agree.

Day Trip Mekong Delta

Day Trip Mekong Delta

Day Trip Mekong Delta

On the other side, there are rowing boats expecting us already. One by one, we get on the small boats that accommodate up to seven people. Then, the most famous part starts when we slowly and soundless glide through the peaceful water. I can’t imagine that this has been the setting of bloody warfare just a few decades ago.

Day Trip Mekong Delta

Day Trip Mekong Delta

I look out for crocodiles although we were told that they are all gone. The only ones remaining sit in cages on the island to demonstrate their fierceness.

Day Trip Mekong Delta

After around ten minutes, we turn around and make our way back and have a local lunch after which we have 30 minutes of free time to explore the area. They prepared something like a zoo where people can admire the animals that used to live in the Mekong Delta: the aforementioned crocodiles, frogs, and snakes. I don’t like the practice of keeping animals shut in cages so I rather use the time to talk to the other people in my group.

Day Trip Mekong Delta

Day Trip Mekong Delta

The last stop is a present. At least that’s what our guide tells us. I have no idea if other groups go there, too. But he says that no other guide takes people there to end the trip. It’s a pagoda with several Buddha statues – a beautiful place that makes a perfect conclusion of an amazing day.

Vinh Trang pagoda

Vinh Trang pagoda

Vinh Trang pagoda

If you have the chance to swing by the Vinh Trang pagoda, do it!

How to Get to the Mekong Delta?

The easy way is to simply book a tour. Since I was traveling with a friend from Germany, this is what I did. You can choose between a 1-, 2-. or 3-day tour. I went on a 1-day tour and paid 500 VND, which was 20 Euro at that time.

Included in the price are:

The bus ride to My Tho 

The motorboat ride to the islands

The rowing boat ride 

The lunch (with veggie food on request)

As mentioned before, it’s a quick ride of just 90 minutes. If the driver takes the national road instead of the highway it’s two hours each way. Apparently, you get to see the rice paddies on the slower way though, so it might be worth taking the national road.

You can also organize a trip on your own and drive with your motorbike so you can enjoy the rice paddies and stay in the beautiful Mekong Delta for as long as you like.

Final Thoughts

The Mekong Delta has been on my bucket list for quite a long time and I’m really happy that I finally made it. It was interesting to see the river with its smaller branches, with the islands, with its history, with my own eyes.

Yours Barbara

The Saigon Guide for Digital Nomads

Saigon Guide for Digital Nomads

Live Like a Local

Are you searching for a cool spot for digital nomads in South East Asia? You should check out Saigon!

Subscribe to my newsletter so I can keep you posted about my life of travels and as a digital nomad! You will never miss a new blog post, a new ebook or where my next adventure is going to bring us. Because it’s never going to be boring!

You could also be interested in the following destinations for digital nomads:

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