Xiamen, China

Xiamen is a port city on China’s southeast coast, across a strait from Taiwan. It encompasses 2 main islands and a region on the mainland. Formerly known as Amoy, it was a British-run treaty port from 1842 to 1912. Many Europeans and Japanese lived on Gulangyu, today a vehicle-free island with beaches and meandering streets lined with old colonial villas. I went straight to the countryside as part of my volunteer trip!

  1. Great for mountain biking as they have so much open land
  2. Teach at a local school, they could do with volunteers teaching English
  3. Stay in a traditional ‘Tu Lou’ protected by UNESCO World Heritage. A Tu Lou is usually circular in configuration, between three and fie stories high and housing up to 800 people. Smaller interior buildings are often enclosed by these huge peripheral walls which can contain halls, storehouses, wells and living areas, the whole structure resembling a small fortified city. There are several you can visit including Chuxi tulou group, Tianluokeng tulou cluster, Hekeng tulou cluster, Gaobei tulou cluster, Dadi tulou cluster, Hongkeng tulou cluster, Yangxian lou, Huiyuan lou, Zhengfu lou and Hegui lou
  4. Get a view from the top of the traditional houses
  5. Visit a tea plantation and pick tea leaves!

Hue, Danang and Hoi An, Vietnam

These three very different but each amazing cities is being written about in one post because I managed to cover all of them through the best tour I’ve ever experienced! Our driver Ben Lee was essentially a tour guide because he was very kind to go above and beyond his role. Get in touch with the company called VM travel, 47 Le Loi Street Hue City, Ben’s phone number +84919591234, they’ll plan it all out for you according to how many days you can afford to do) hueprivatecars.com

Here are some of the highlights I covered on the trip:

  1. Hue City : Hue Citadel is a huge complex that would take a full day to see if you are interested in covering all areas. However, I found it sufficient to just spend a few hours admiring its ancient architecture and layout. I visited so many Emperors tombs that did not look anything like what you’d expect! They almost looked like palaces. Thien Mu Pagoda is a great place for sunset views with the symbol of the octagonal 21-meter-high tower, the pagoda is the perfect combination of artificial architectural work and picturesque nature. 17098673_10156193612908849_4641827015865603483_n16938624_10156193612998849_5679356292316375870_n16939482_10156193613418849_5394646896633868568_n17155283_10156193613273849_5162353872608716134_n

2. Biking in Hue. This wasn’t part of the original tour package but because Ben was that amazing, he got in touch with his friends to help rent us bikes at a local rate and took us around paddy fields, vegetation sites as well as allowed me to experience sitting on a water buffalo! The buffalo was definitely more cute than scary. Tip: purchase a straw hat, it’s all part of the Vietnamese experience.

 

3. Driving from Hue to Danang, you take the Hai Van Pass connecting Da Nang with the town of Lang Co in Hue province. Of course, this means you stop by Lang Co beach for its amazing sand and blue waters. Hai Van pass is a more scenic route rather than taking a quicker tunnel route and its name refers to the mists that rise from the sea, hence reduced visibility as shown in my photos. You can also stop by the Marble Mountains where you will be able to explore the caves and pagodas on top of the mountain. Make sure you wear trainers if you want to get to the top because you have to wiggle yourself through a natural dark cave that isn’t huge and doesn’t have clear foot paths! Several Buddhist sanctuaries can also be found within the mountains. Fun fact: they collect oysters using old wheel tyres!

 

4. Danang. I cannot believe how developed this city is, almost felt like I was in Hong Kong. There is clearly a lot of investment going on here as it is a harbour city and you can find huge hotels along their main beach, as well as international food choices. We drove back here at night on the way back to Hue, just to see the famous dragon bridge beautifully lit up.

 

 5. Hoi An. This was a very romantic city and highly recommend for when it gets dark because of all the lanterns that makes the place unique. A must see, but one that can be done for a few hours in the night.16939306_10156197887073849_2383112232455110647_n