Crete (Heraklion), Greece

Expect to be shocked as soon as you step out of Crete’s Heraklion airport with a line of tour company stalls and groups of tourists! Pick up their tourist map because it shows you five routes you can take to tour the key sites in a mapped out way. You can spend two or three days visiting all the sites including the Palace of Knossos, and be sure to enjoy some fresh seafood along the waterfront, they are all in a row. A recommended restaurant would be Kastella 🙂 You can take a 20min taxi from the airport straight to the city 15Euros to most city centre locations. And from the city back to the airport, you can find taxi’s for as low as 10 euros! They will have sign boards so they can’t cheat you. They don’t use their meters in Greece so make sure you clarify price beforehand.

The main area is really walkable and the only commute is to the Palace. c800e5f2-ae88-4dbb-961b-299298c2d39b.jpeg

Heraklion, also known as Iraklio, is a port city and the capital of the Greek island of Crete. It’s known for the Palace of Knossos, just outside the city. The huge archaeological site dates back thousands of years to the Minoan civilization, and includes frescoes and baths. Guarding the city’s Venetian port is the 16th-century Koules fortress. Heraklion Archaeological Museum has a large collection of Minoan art.

Note for breakers: You can train at the town hall 8pm onwards! There are skaters there too.  I was lucky enough to join in on their busking the night I was there which was the highlight of my trip. F666FAB1-D99D-489D-B126-5CF3CEA79414

Note for EU students: You gain free entry everywhere to most sites!

Here are some of the highlights from my trip:

  1. Palace of Knossos –  the main Bronze Age archaeological site at Heraklion, a modern port city on the north central coast of Crete. It really is just ruined remaining but worth a visit since it’s their main highlight. Read some history beforehand as there are limited sign boards at the site. There are tour guides you can pay for outside if you have the extra money. I would also recommend getting the entry ticket that includes the archeological museum as they do a package deal that make’s it a lot cheaper.
  2. Archeological museum
  3. Venetian Port and fortress
  4. Historical Museum
  5. Church of St Titus 16AF610F-7781-4459-A74F-94F609E57A27
  6. Town hall 80632474-941B-4D2C-8484-04014629E8F5
  7. Cathedral of St Minas and Museum of Christian Art which is right next to the church 968CB171-17AE-4955-85BA-4A50A4A9B21A
  8. Natural History Museum 6C14AA04-CB55-42B7-9D00-C19A303F1F68
  9. Morosini fountain, Lion Square. 4CA19B9C-A13A-4989-85AF-5261DD23B52F
  10. Priuli Fountain 5EEFCCC8-4AE5-42A1-84DD-8D2B65FFECDD
  11. Enjoy the main street filled with shops D2FB5736-E979-4B09-83A5-98FEEF2C3E98
  12. Stay at Dom Boutique Hotel – one of the best hotels I’ve stayed at. They had amazing service and it’s in the heart of the city centre.

 

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh, formerly named and still informally known as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam by population found in the South. You can expect to find beautiful French buildings and chaotic road conditions, but it’s all part of the experience. The key part of my trip here was to learn about its history and tensions between North and South Vietnam. Here are my top 5 recommendations:

1)     Cu Chi tunnel tours. The Cu Chi Tunnels is a network of underground passageways that run to more than 200km in total length in this area alone. Work by the Viet Cong commenced in 1948 as a means of shelter from the French air attacks during the Indochina conflict. My tour package included a boat ride from Saigon River pier to the tunnels, followed by a biking tour. I wouldn’t recommend the biking tour here as the one I did in Hue City was WAY prettier and less polluted.

2)    The War Remnants Museum relates to the American phase of the Vietnam War. You can see displays of old military equipment and other related objects as well as larger exhibits including an F5A fighter and a UH1-Huey helicopter. There are many eye opening images showing the horrible effects of war and the use of the chemical agent orange that still haunts people today.  19238631_10155325724727159_921050545_o

3)    The Independence Palace which  witnessed the growth of Ho Chi Minh City during peacetime and throughout the Vietnam War until its end in 1975. Here you’ll also find the famous tank that drove through the palace gates. 

4)     Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica and Central Post office. These two landmarks are opposite each other. The post office is one of the oldest buildings in Ho Chi Minh City,  and you can admire its neoclassical-style as well as send a postcard to a loved one!

5)    Ho Chi Minh city at night. The atmosphere was really vibrant and City Hall looked beautiful! The temperature also gets better, less hot and humid. When visiting Vietnam, I suggest going around Feb and March to get cooler temperatures, although you would have to sacrifice super blue skies. Weather varies from the North and South so it can get tricky but as long as it isn’t raining right? 17098444_10156188818378849_4007128225811058179_n16997835_10156188818383849_1700268286543586539_n

Others: Binh Tay Market is where you can barter for everything you want to buy and is also a good place to exchange money at a better rate. Also, make sure you keep trying all the local restaurants (try not to eat too much greens if you have a sensitive stomach)

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Belfast, Northern Ireland

Belfast is Northern Ireland’s capital. It was the birthplace of the RMS Titanic, which famously struck an iceberg and sunk in 1912. As Belfast is quite a small town, I did a full day tour visiting the countryside and coast using this company: http://www.gameofthronestours.com/

  1. Titanic Quarters. A great educational museum presenting the history of Belfast and its shipping industry, as well as the the events that lead up to the famous and tragic event of the Titanic sinking. There is even a short ride inside the museum as part of the tour! You can spend a good 2 hours visiting the whole place. 18766038_10156537768448849_2423457743891510165_n
  2. Queen’s University. The exterior looks incredibly beautiful 20170527_162836.jpg
  3. Go on the well-known Game of throne’s tour. Most filming was done in Northern Ireland and most of the support role actors/actresses are from here too!
  4. Cross the Carrick-a-Rede Rope Bridge. You have to get lucky with the weather like I did in order for the bridge to the open for crossing. 18699816_10156532974868849_2409087796334240924_n.jpg
  5. Giant’s Causeway. Unique rock formation with no one really knowing the real truth behind this place. You can apparently find such formation in Scotland too. 18836804_10156537777358849_1680685730415260528_o

Others: Ulster museum and botanical garden, City Hall, Opera House where I watched a show called ‘Crazy’ and St George’s Market.