We’re back in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, where our trip started six months ago. We decided to come here and settle for three months in order to get some work done and save some money for the next leg of our travels. Arriving here after being in Ora for a month (a village of less than 200 inhabitants) was slightly overwhelming. For the first few days we felt blinded by the bright neon lights of the city and walked around in a something of a jet-lag fuelled daze.
But let’s rewind a little bit to the beginning of the month. We saw the New Year in at home, curled up on the sofa, drinking Prosecco and watching Top Gear with Andrea’s family. Jealous? You should be.
We mentioned in Month Five In Review how we had spent the first two weeks in Cyprus doing little other than hanging out with the family and eating loads of food. So we decided that during the last two weeks we’d head out and explore the island. But in typical ‘sod’s law’ fashion, as soon as we made plans, Cyprus was hit with the worst weather they’ve had in decades. Think torrential rain, freezing cold temperatures (it was colder than London at one point. This never happens), strong winds and storms. It was so bad that we couldn’t do half the things that we wanted to!
One of the things we did do, though, was spend some time in the capital, Nicosia, by what is known as the Green Line. Nicosia is the last divided capital in the world, and the Green Line cuts the city into two parts – to the south, you find the Greek Cypriot side, to the north you find the Turkish occupied part. The occupying forces have been there since 1974 for reasons that I won’t go into here, but since the easing of restrictions of crossing the border a few years ago, a lot of redevelopment has occurred in the neighbourhoods surrounding it.
We got to visit the highly enjoyable Centre of Visual Arts and Research, which houses paintings of visiting artists to Cyprus over the decades. Expect a blog post or two over the next few weeks on our time there. We also spent some time in historical Paphos, where we saw some impressive mosaics from the 2nd Century AD, ate mezethes (of both the meat and fish variety), and enjoyed the last few days spending time with the family. We didn’t do as much as we would have liked to thanks to the weather, but it was nice to just enjoy hanging out with everyone and not having to run from place to place.
We left mid-January and started our very convoluted journey back to Ho Chi Minh City, that went a little something like this: Larnaca>Doha>Dubai>Doha>Dubai>Ho Chi Minh City. Yes, ridiculous, but we already had a flight back to Dubai booked and it would have cost us more to simply change it so that we went direct from Doha to HCMC than to go to Dubai, spend the night there, and then head out.
The journey was so tiring that we’re only just getting over the effects of jet lag. Once we arrived, we only had three days to find an apartment, so we were feeling the pressure. Luckily we fell in love with the first place that we saw and we got settled fairly quickly. We’re now falling into a routine of working, exploring and enjoying having a space to call ‘ours’ for a while.
The month in numbers
Miles travelled: 5646
Number of modes of transportation: 3 (plane, car, Dubai Metro)
Number of countries visited: 3
Money spent: $1523 (this is excluding flights)
Number of plates of Vietnamese spring rolls eaten: 10
Number of beds that we slept in: 4
Ho Chi Minh City
Most popular Instagram picture:
Facebook update of the month:
Meal of the month:
Without a shadow of a doubt, it was the mezethes we ate at 7 St. George’s Taverna in Paphos. We sampled over 30 various dishes that tasted fresh and flavourful. If you’re ever looking to try the best mezethes in the country, you must visit this place.
Cocktail of the month:
No cocktails in January, just loads of Commandaria (dessert wine made in Cyprus). It’s the oldest named wine still in production and it tastes gooooood.
- Eating the most delicious brunch at Jar in Kato Drys (a tiny village near to Lefkara in the Larnaca district of Cyprus). For €10 we got to sample hundreds of different jams, chutneys and marmalades, as well as scones, halloumi bread, a large selection of cheese, yoghurts, eggs and bacon. It was bloody marvellous. For more information check out this blog post. We highly recommend this place.
- Other food highlights include the aforementioned mezethes at 7 St. George’s in Paphos, eating English style fish and chips at Andrea’s favourite fish restaurant in Dhekelia (again, much recommended) and feasting on Vietnamese food such as Pho and fresh spring rolls again!
- Finding a really cute apartment for our three months in Saigon for a fantastic price.
- Saying goodbye to Andrea’s family. There were many, many, many tears.
- Having to deal with rude DNATA staff yet again as we were leaving Dubai for Ho Chi Minh City. Despite having an outward ticket from Vietnam with Expedia, they made us find the Jet Airways desk (with whom our ticket to BKK was booked) and get the PNR number for their records. Utterly appalling behaviour.
- Finding cockroaches in our new apartment. Sigh (and ew).
Ho Chi Minh City. It’s good to be back.
Least favourite place:
Dubai. I think the love affair is well and truly over with.
We only stayed in one hotel during January, and as it wasn’t anything to shout about we won’t recommend it here.
General travel observations:
- We were quite surprised to see that despite all the doom and gloom that’s in the press about the Cyprus economy, things didn’t look as bleak as we imagined they would. All the cafés and restaurants were full, people were immaculately dressed (and carrying designer gear like handbags and sunglasses), and driving expensive cars. In contrast, when Andrea last visited the UK in 2013, she says you could really feel the effects of the recession – shops were closed down, bars were empty, and all the high street stores had sales on. Yes, it was Christmas when we were in Cyprus, which always leads to more spending, but the picture was still the same mid-January before we left.
Other blog-related news:
We are excited to say that we hit more than 3,000 views this month – our best month to date! While these aren’t record-breaking numbers, it’s so, so, so nice to see that our stats are going up month by month! And again, we’d like to thank you, our readers, for, well, continuing to read our posts!
Books that we read:
Andrea finished To Kill A Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, Memoirs of a Geisha by Arthur Golden and Seven Years in Tibet by Heinrich Harrer.
Ankit has yet to pick up his Kindle this month. (Note: Please, someone, tell him off for me. AA).
Most popular blog post:
Ankit put together a brilliant post on restaurants and cafés in Siem Reap, Cambodia that are helping the local community in various ways. It made our stats skyrocket!
What’s coming up in February?
We’re all settled here in Saigon, and will be spending most of the month here. There are loads of things we’d like to do while we’re here, such as finally visit the Mekong Delta, which is one of this area’s biggest attractions. The last two times we visited Saigon we intended on visiting, but during the first visit we ran out of time, and during the second we’d booked to go but Andrea was really ill so we had to miss out.
We’ll also be going to the Cu Chi Tunnels – a network of undergound tunnels that were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during the American (aka Vietnam) War. This is another place we never got round to visiting while we were here previously.
During February, we’ll also get to enjoy Tet celebrations. Tet is Vietnam’s New Year, so we’re looking forward to seeing how they celebrate. Apparently it’s really big deal.
Also high on the agenda is scoping out more cafés here in Saigon so that we can add an update to our popular Guide to Vietnamese Coffee and the Best Cafés in Saigon post. This city is heaven for coffee lovers and those looking for cozy spaces to read their books in or work. And, as always, we’re on the look out for great restaurants to eat in – watch the food and drink section for new posts. Oh, oh, oh and we’re also going to be busy drinking cocktails around the city in order to put together a post on the best ones here. It’s hard work, but someone has to do it…
Other than this, we’ll be working and trying to earn some money for our upcoming travels in April!