Category Archives: Travel

The Great American

kjAmerica is big. Life is short. And whether you’re the kind of traveler who strays off the beaten path or one who hits the biggest damn tourist trap no matter the number of selfie sticks, you have to admit that some places across this great land of ours absolutely MUST be visited before you die. Even if you’re not starring in a buddy movie with Morgan Freeman.

But where are they? And what should you do when you get there? From national parks and monuments, to baseball stadiums, beaches, and amazing road trips, we narrowed down the most iconic, popular, beautiful, historic, fun, delicious, awe-inspiring (should we go on?) parts of the country to 50 must-do places/activities. And while, sure, some are obvious and others may be a little cliche — they’re all still distinctly, 100% America. Now, how many have you ticked off your list?

Walk the Freedom Trail in Boston

Even if you fell asleep repeatedly in history class, walking this 2.5-mile path (just follow the red-brick line!) that passes 16 historical landmarks — from Paul Revere’s house and the Old North Church to Bunker Hill and the USS Constitution — is a must for any American. Just don’t forget to stop at the Union Oyster House, one of Boston’s oldest restaurants, along the way.

Compare Philly cheesesteaks from old rivals Geno’s and Pat’s

Team Geno’s, just saying. Although, yes, we know there are A LOT of places to get a great cheesesteak in Philly, which is why we put together this neighborhood guide.

atch a Broadway Show in New York City

If you can’t score Hamilton tickets (don’t worry, pretty much no one can), hit up the TKTS booth in Times Square for same-day discounted show seats to something; then take your obligatory “NYC baby!” selfie and get the hell out of there. Trying to tackle all of New York’s greatness is like trying to keep up with every new dating app, it’s damn near impossible. Concentrate on the biggies: eat a pastrami sandwich at Katz’s Deli, walk across the Brooklyn Bridge, and stroll through SoHo and Greenwich Village.

Drive Cape Cod to Provincetown in the summer

Yes, there’s a lot you don’t understand about the Cape, but that’s exactly why you should see it all. From the Bourne Bridge to the Chatham Light (and the Squire!), Truro’s vineyards to the the Cape Cod National Seashore, plan to eat lobster rolls along the way at one of these waterside spots, stop for a drink at the Beachcomber in Wellfleet, and end the night strolling around Provincetown.

The Airport Scams You Can Avoid Now

For many travelers, their journey begins and ends at the airport – making it a comfortable and familiar place where guards may be dropped. With signs are printed in multiple languages and police officers posted in high traffic areas, many travelers feel safe and secure while waiting at the airport.

However, travelers aren’t the only ones who feel at home at the airport. Scam artists also feel a sense of security while visiting different departure points, looking for unknowing travelers to target. As a result, smart scam artists and pickpockets have found ways to part travelers from their valuables without their knowledge. When a traveler lets their guard down even for a moment, it can result in the loss of wallets, passports, and even luggage.

Prior to arrival, every traveler needs to make sure they stay safe from pickpockets and other scam artists. Here are three common scams every traveler needs to watch out for at the airport.

Airport security checkpoint scams result in lost luggage

It is no secret that airport luggage theft is a problem in airports around the world.

From unscrupulous security officers stealing from luggage, to items being stolen directly from the carousel, luggage theft is a threat to anyone who passes through the airport.

One of the most common attacks on travelers involves a team of thieves looking for victims at the security checkpoint. Much like a bottleneck pickpocketing attack, an airport security check scam starts when a traveler sends their luggage through the x-ray machine. Once it’s through, another traveler will often cut in front of the line and intentionally set off the metal detector or body scanner. The alert causes a temporary pause in the line, allowing an accomplice to steal luggage on the other side of the security checkpoint.

In order to prevent becoming a victim of this scam, travelers should stay with their luggage until they are next to go through the metal detector or scanner. Only then should they allow luggage to pass through the x-ray machine. Those are stopped by security personnel for additional screening can ask that their luggage be held at the checkpoint until they can claim it.

Airport pickpockets target passengers at the carousel

When a flight arrives at its final destination, most travelers immediately congregate around the luggage carousel to retrieve checked luggage. Although carousel theft is a problem, smart scam artists are looking less at the luggage and paying more attention to the passengers.

The airport pickpockets strike as tired and jetlagged passengers huddle around the luggage carousels focusing on the bags, and not other passengers. When travelers drop their focus the pickpockets will utilize a “bump,” where they seem to accidentally run into a passenger. As a result, the pickpocket leaves with a traveler’s wallet or documents, leaving the traveler unaware they have become a victim until it is too late.

Much like any crowded place, the best thing travelers can do is stay alert of their surroundings. Those who keep their head up and focused on those around them are less likely to be singled out as a target.

Airport taxi scams prey upon tourists

After an overnight flight heading east, travelers may have no bigger want than to go straight to their hotel for some needed rest and jet lag recovery. After clearing customs and retrieving luggage, the next step is finding a way to get to the hotel. While some hotels offer shuttle service to and from the airport, others require a taxi ride – which is an easy way for travelers to get in trouble.

Most airports will offer an official taxi stand for licensed transport. However, scam artists will still solicit travelers directly, offering discounted ground transportation. The result can range from being taken for a long ride, to being taken to the wrong hotel entirely.

Unlicensed taxi services are not only illegal, but can be incredibly dangerous. Travelers who are solicited for an illegal ride should immediately walk away and either use the services provided by the airport, or book another form of ground transportation.

Even at the airport, scam artists and thieves are looking to take advantage of international travelers. By staying aware and alert of their situations, travelers can make sure they stay safe at both arrival and departure.

Small Cruises For An Offbeat Voyage

For some travelers, bigger isn’t always better. If you’re looking to take a cruise trip but don’t want the crowds or the tourist hot spots, you can book a spot on a number of smaller boats that offer a different kind of voyage. There are small cruises for all types of vacations, from super-cozy river rides to yacht-like trips through warm seas. Below, I’ve rounded up four small cruise ships that are worth looking into.

1. Lord of the Glens
Cabins: 26
Destination: Scotland

This small ship brings passengers through the Scottish highlands and coastal islands. Spanning just 150 feet, Lord of the Glens is “uniquely sized to fit through the network of locks and canals that cut through the heart of the Scottish highlands,” according to cruise line Lindblad Expeditions. Once you’re ashore there are bikes provided to explore the Scottish countryside, and there are also kayaks available for paddling on Loch Ness.

Lord of the Glens is actually one of several small cruise ships that Lindblad Expeditions offers with destinations from the Galapagos to the Pacific Northwest to the Arctic

2. UnCruise Safari Endeavour
Cabins: 42
Destinations: Alaska; Sea of Cortez

This small cruise ship has a focus on outdoor adventure. It comes equipped with kayaks, paddle boards, inflatable skiffs, hiking poles, snorkel gear and wetsuits. You can also check out marine life with an underwater camera mounted on the bow. All cabins are above deck with views of the voyage.

3. Sagitta
Cabins: 13
Destinations: Various locations in the Caribbean including Grenada and St. Lucia

This motorsailer is “built for comfort and blue water cruising,” according to cruise line Island Windjammers. The focus here is on relaxation, with multiple decks for sunbathing and dining al fresco. All cabins have portholes except two solo cabins located below the main deck.

4. Mekong Sun
Cabins: 14
Destinations: Laos and Thailand

This small wooden boat is designed to navigate to areas along the Mekong River that larger boats could not. Mekong River Cruises boasts that “your experienced captain guides your ship through awe-inspiring gorges, past labyrinths of pristine sandbanks, and confidently navigates turbulent rapids.” The ship’s size allows for sweeping views of the river voyage, while the cruise line focuses on letting passengers choose how they want to spend their time on land.

Avoid Restaurant Scams

How can travelers make sure they pay for just their meal, without getting skimmed on the side? There are many ways travelers can avoid unscrupulous restaurant scams as they travel around the world. Here are three easy things to look for when avoiding restaurant scams.

Restaurant Scam: Ordering Without A Menu

Every restaurant owner is always happy to see guests arrive. Once situated, those same restaurant owners may be even more pleased to recommend the house special before a guest has the opportunity to open menu. What may be omitted is the final cost of that same special.

Before accepting the hospitality of the restaurant server or owner, make sure to request the full menu.

 In many countries, restaurants are required to post their full service outside of their restaurant, including the prices, for public inspection.

Although travelers may feel pressured to order the house special, this may be just one of many restaurant scams a guest may face. If the server or owner won’t show you the menu, or doesn’t want to wait for your order, then simply walk away: having a good meal shouldn’t come at the cost of a restaurant scam.

Restaurant Scam: Paying Without A Bill

Once satiated with both food and drink, the time comes to pay for the meal. Every culture has different ways of requesting the tab, but the result is always the same: a server brings an itemized bill to your table. So what happens if a server does not bring your tab over, and instead orally recites the amount due? This may be another tell-tale sign of a restaurant scam.

Travelers who feel their bill is high or unreasonable for the meal ordered reserve the right to inspect a written copy of their bill. In some parts of the world, travelers are responsible for retaining their dining receipt. As a result, those who request their written tab can avoid a restaurant scam entirely.

How can travelers make sure they don’t fall for this? Depending on the destination, a traveler’s means of recourse may change. In many cases, having a discussion with the manager may resolve the situation. In other locations, special duty officers are usually available to resolve disputes.

Restaurant Scam: Paying Extra for Service

In North America, it is common to not include a service charge in the price of a meal. Such is why gratuities are a common and accepted practice. However, this long-standing tradition does not always translate abroad, or offers an ample opportunity for a crafty server to get extra money through a common restaurant scam.

In many parts of the world, a gratuity is acceptable and appreciated. At special events, like festivals, tipping for service is a reward for expedient service. However, in many other situations around the world, tipping is not an acceptable practice because service is in the price of the food.

So how can you tell if you need to be tipping or not? Before you arrive in your destination, do your due research on the local customs for tipping. A quick search of the internet can reveal whether or not tipping is required. Another quick way is to pick up the menu and read the information within. If your menu says “service is not included,” or “service is extra,” then expect to add a gratuity at the end of your meal.

What happens if the server demands a tip for their service? Then it may be a common restaurant scam targeting western travelers. A simple conversation with the management may be able to clarify any questions a travelers has, and keep them from parting with their money.

When a traveler understands the customs and norms when eating abroad, they can make sure to stay award and vigilant of whatever scam may come. Research and preparation ahead of a trip are the best ways travelers can avoid restaurant scams around the world

Your Passport Color Really Means

Travelers don’t have a lot of say in how their passports look. It’s hard to take a flattering picture (unless you’re Prince), you can’t choose which inspiration quotes frame your stamped pages, and you can’t choose the color of your passport cover.

“Most passports in the world are based on blue and red primary colors,” said Passport Index Vice President of Marketing Hrant Boghossian, though there’s an enormous degree of variation in hues. And while geography, politics, and even religion come into play when a country selects its passport cover, there are no guidelines or regulations dictating the color of these national documents.

“There’s nothing [that] stipulates the cover colour,” confirmed Anthony Philbin of the International Civil Aviation Organization, which issues passport standards on cover size, format, and technology.

So what can we infer about passport color? Boghossian says it’s a matter of national identity.

Red Passports

Burgundy passports are used by members of the European Union (sans Croatia), and countries interested in joining (think: Turkey) have changed their passport colors to match. The Economist called this a “branding exercise.” The Andean Community (also known for past EU-ambitions) of Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru also has burgundy passports. The Swiss passport, in effortless and famously Swiss-fashion, matches their flag,

Blue Passports

Boghossian told Business Insider that Caribbean, or Caricom states, typically use blue, though it’s common in the “New World,” as well. Vox pointed out the customs union of Brazil, Argentina, Paraguya, Uruguay, and Venezuela, known as Mercosur, all boast blue passports (except Venezuela, which still sports a red passport from its time in the Andean Community).

The United States’ passport, however, only became navy blue in 1976—to match the shade found in the American Flag. Before that?

“We believe the first travel documents in the U.S. were red,” Boghossian told Travel + Leisure. Green passports were used in the 1930s, followed by burgundy ones, [and] black passports in the 1970s.”

Green Passports

“Most Islamic states use green passports because of the importance of the colour in their religion,” Boghossian shared with Business Insider. Variations of green are also used by members of ECOWAS—Economic Community of West African States—including Niger and Senegal.

Black Passports

Here’s another, far more practical, interpretation for selecting passport colors. Dark colors (even deep shades of blue and red) show less dirt and tend to look more official. Examples include the Republic of Botswana, Zambia, and New Zealand—though for the latter, black is also considered one of the country’s national colors.

Ultimately, you can infer about color as much as you want, but passports represent something much greater than geo-political and economic ties. “We forget that [passports] belong to people. For some, they are a barrier. To others, a right of passage,” Boghossian said to Travel + Leisure.

After all, both the U.S. and Syria issue blue passports—but Syria has one of the worst-ranking passports in the world. Having a Syrian passport allows you access to only 32 countries without a visa, due to diplomatic relations. Meanwhile, the U.S. has the third-best ranking passport.

“Governments around the world have the freedom to choose the color and design,” reiterated Boghossian. “Unfortunately, only few have understood the importance of this document on their country’s brand identity.”

Boghossian cited Norway, which recently unveiled its winning passport design from a nationwide competition, as an example of a country using its passports to define its distinct personality and characteristics. The colors? Vibrant and hip.

The U.S. passport is about to get a makeover: and while the design has yet to be released, we know for a fact the country has a history of changing its passport cover.

Book a Cruise Ship Balcony Room

Deciding whether a balcony fits in your budget depends on how you value your time on the ship.

It’s hard to imagine a hotel charging extra for a room with windows, but when it comes to cruising, fresh ocean air comes at a premium: Typically, the coveted outdoor balcony space on a cruise costs at least $100 per person, per voyage more than an interior or porthole stateroom. But with budget and savings in mind, are cruise balconies actually worth the extra fee? We explore.

Yes, the balcony is an essential aspect of cruising.

Best-in-class balconies at sea feature upscale amenities like whirlpools with a flat-screen television and panoramic views, though the most obvious benefits of nearly every stateroom balcony start with the floor-to-ceiling windows that provide plenty of sunlight. After all, think of waking up to a peaceful sunrise and closing out the day with serene sunset cocktails—not to mention the coveted access to fresh air. Verandas are also a prime spot to enjoy a meal al fresco, with a notable standout being Crystal Cruises, which features in-stateroom course-by-course dining during lunch and dinner. On some of the larger suite balconies, namely, the Royal Loft Suites found in Royal Caribbean’s Oasis and Quantum class (averaging a hefty $25,000 total for two people, with price varying by ship/itinerary/length of sailing), there are open-air dining areas that seat up to eight people.

Koreen McNutt, Senior Director of Global Cruise at Expedia, tapped into the aesthetic element of cruises, telling Condé Nast Traveler that balconies are worthwhile “if your cruise includes a lot of scenic views”—especially on more exotic routes like European cruises through the Greek Islands and Alaskan cruises where whale spotting is not uncommon. Another element? Cruises can be crowded, and more space is usually always welcome: think of balconies as “your own private piece of heaven onboard that you aren’t sharing with anyone else,” says McNutt.

No, skip the balcony—you’re going to want to spend the money elsewhere.

Total rates quoted per stateroom can be deceiving on the larger lines, and once you’re on board, unexpected costs can add up quickly. The upsell game is intense, as specialty dining options (Thomas Keller, anyone?) typically outshine the included meals, costly port excursions are heavily promoted, and deals can be found within the duty-free boutiques. First-time cruisers on a budget should anticipate the costs involved with ship life and plan ahead, beginning with foregoing a balcony.

Sailing sans balcony? Lorri Christou, a vice president at the Cruise Lines International Association, the world’s biggest cruise industry group, says not to worry, noting that ships themselves have “become the destination,” with a variety of common areas and new top-deck activities—e.g. Celebrity Cruises’ new “A Taste of Film” series that pairs popular movies with multi-coursed meals, and the physical challenges found on the ropes course on select Norwegian cruises. Featuring more to do onboard than ever, “people often spend very little time in their stateroom,” she adds.

Some cruise lines are making it so that passengers without a balcony or porthole won’t even notice. Royal Caribbean’s Quantum class has made huge strides in interior design, introducing high-definition TV walls with a live feed of the ocean and ship’s ports.

The Hottest Restaurants to Try in Miami This Fall

From Doral to Downtown—and even 40 floors above sea level—Miami’s newest and best restaurants and bars are catering to locals on the mainland.

STK
Get your fix of STK favorites (Lil’ Brgs, anyone?), plus soon-to-be-new favorites like kale Caesar, beef carpaccio, and slow-roasted prime rib, at the steakhouse’s second Magic City outpost, nestled inside the ME Miami hotel. Finish things off with the Bag o’ Donuts. 1100 Biscayne Blvd., Miami, 305-722-7888

Sugar
With the sweetest views in Miami (40 floors up), this rooftop lair is the place to sip cocktails (ask for the off-menu spicy margarita with mezcal) and Instagram the city’s skyline. While you’re at it, treat yourself to the steamed prawn and scallop dumplings and a lychee crème brûlée that’s just as sweet as the sights. 788 Brickell Plz., Miami, 786-805-4655

Zuuk Mediterranean Kitchen
The guys behind My Ceviche have gone Mediterranean with their latest fast-casual eatery, which lets you make your own pita roll, bowl, or salad with up to three types of dips or spreads, a protein (such as spiced lamb kefte or baked falafel), and toppings. 1250 S. Miami Ave., Miami, 305-200-3145

Glass and Vine
On his nights off from Eating House, Chopped winner Giorgio Rapicavoli can be found helming the kitchen at this glass and garden oasis, putting the finishing touches on PEI mussels swimming in Florida wheat beer and sour orange broth with shallots and Zak the Baker bread for dipping, or frozen blue cheese crowned with hazelnut, local honey, and a dash of black pepper. 2820 McFarlane Road, Coconut Grove, 305-200-5268

PB Station
Don’t expect pork belly at the latest eatery from the Pubbelly Boys. Do expect seafood charcuterie (rock shrimp mortadella, for example), bacon-wrapped smoked brisket dates doused in mustard barbecue, and ricotta cavatelli octopus “Bolognese.” Feel like a nightcap? Take the elevator up to Pawn Broker’s rooftop lounge. 121 SE First St., Miami, 305-420-2205

The Spillover
Devotees of LoKal and Kush will relish Matt Kuscher’s fish shack focusing on sustainably sourced local seafood paired with ciders, meads, and sours. Not in the mood for Florida Gulf shrimp mac and cheese or a lobster Reuben? They’ve also got fall-off-the-bone barbecue gator ribs from Clewiston. 2911 Grand Ave., Coconut Grove, 305-456-5723

1111 Peruvian Bistro
Ferran Adrià and Gastón Acurio protégé Diego Muñoz has brought his culinary wits to Brickell at this Peruvian gem dishing out a fusion of cuisines and techniques, resulting in plates like pulpo al olivo wrapped in nori gunkan-style, nearly rare filet mignon “lomo saltado,” a fish cutlet whirling in peanut curry, and chocolate in a plethora of forms and temperatures. 1111 SW First Ave., Miami, 786-615-9633

5 Ways The New Trump Hotel is Trying To Make DC Great Again

One way or another, Donald Trump is about to arrive on Pennsylvania Avenue.

The Trump International Hotel, Washington D.C. has its soft opening on Monday. Located in the historic Old Post Office Building at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, it’s just a few blocks from the house Trump hopes to reside in come Jan. 20.

The Old Post Office, a Romanesque revival building that opened in 1899, has undergone a $200 million renovation to become a hotel.

Here are the five of its top amenities and features.

An opulent inaugural weekend package.

Even if he loses the election, Trump will make out big on Jan. 20 if a traveler books the hotel’s $500,0000 inauguration package. A stay in the 6,300-square-foot Trump Townhouse will include dinner for 24 in the duplex suite’s dining room (with the opportunity to select dishes from favorite presidential meals of past inaugural galas), 24/7 car service and two round-trip first-class tickets from anywhere in the United States

Wine by the spoon.

Many on Twitter lambasted Trump for eating pizza with a fork. Now it’s Trump’s use of spoons that could draw traditionalists’ wrath. According to Travel Weekly, the hotel’s lobby lounge, Cortile, will “offer ‘wines by the spoon,’ giving guests the opportunity to taste ounce-size samples of rare and expensive wine on a silver spoon.” Though people have been drinking wine for 8,000 years, a quick search of the definitive chronicler of mankind’s history — Google — found no other venue that serves it by the spoon.

A night in the former office of the postmaster general.

That 4,000-square-foot presidential suite —yes, it’s smaller than the Trump Townhouse (because Trump) — is the former office of the U.S. postmaster general. Its wood trim and carved symbols in the molding have been preserved, but the dining room with butler’s pantry, the canopy bed and the bathroom’s Calacatta gold marble are new touches.

Yes, there will be food.

Normally it’s not a big deal for a luxury hotel to a have a place to eat. But after celebrity chefs José Andrés and Geoffrey Zakarian backed out of their deals to open restaurants in the hotel because of comments Trump made on the campaign trail, it took a lot of work but  BLT Prime by David Burke has since signed on to open a location in the hotel.

The debut of The Spa by Ivanka Trump.

For a woman who’s managing multiple business endeavors, campaigning for her father and parenting three children, Ivanka Trump seems pretty relaxed in her public appearances. So maybe the 10,000-square-foot The Spa by Ivanka Trump — the debut of a spa line that will launch at other Trump hotels — will be “the careful stimulation of senses” that will make America great again. “There’s a very specific point of view that I think has not yet been done in the spa space,” Ivanka told Travel Weekly. “It’s going to be an experience very unique to us and our hotel company.

It’s a Great Travelling to Australia Zoo, Maroochydore, Australia And Cabarita

Australia Zoo

Beerwah is about 15 minutes from the Australia Zoo, so after our creepy night in a run down caravan park we got an early start to go see some crocs! I wasn’t expecting much from our visit to the zoo since most of the times I have been to a zoo I go home disappointed when I realize the most interesting animals are sleeping during the day. Or I can’t see through the cages to get a good picture.

We had planned to only spend a few hours, but ended up spending 5 without even scratching the surface of what they have to offer. We were very impressed with the crocodile show that was performed by the Irwins. I’ve never seen a live show with crocodiles and I was honestly afraid for the people on stage. They could have been taken down at any moment if something went wrong!! Definitely a highlight of the trip.

The other animals were equally impressive because they all seemed so much happier than they do at a lot of zoos. We really got the feeling like the animals are well taken care of and that they enjoy being there. The cages were not chain link, so it was easier to take photos. The habitat of the Red Panda was a wall about waist to chest high and that was it! It seemed the animals would be able to get out if they wanted.

We also saw a cheetah out of its cage with a couple of zoo employees and 2 tourists that were petting it. Another highlight for me was the Roo Heaven where we were able to feed and pet all the kangaroos roaming around.

Maroochydore, Australia

Our visit to the Sunshine Coast was bittersweet. We were in search of warm water and some waves. We found the warm water, but the surf forecast said no waves would be hitting this area for about 5 days, which was after we had to drop off our camper van to get ready for our flight to Thailand.

Our night in Maroochydore, we spent at Sea Breeze Caravan Park at a site that was practically on the beach. It’s a nice place and we would have stayed longer if we were not in desperate need of some waves. The next morning we drove to Noosa Heads, about 30 minutes north, where we found a posh getaway for people interested in shopping and lavish dinner cruises. In search of surf, and less touristy venues, we set our sights back below the Gold Coast to a little town called Cabarita.

Cabarita

Cabarita, Australia is a laid back, small town on the Tweed Coast. Thankfully, the town has protected wetlands that limit the amount of development and this gives it that small town feel where everybody knows everybody. We found Cabarita to be heaven on earth and a perfect place to spend our last days in Australia. The North Star Holiday Resort that we stayed at was huge and had everything you could possibly need.

We arrived on a Sunday night and went to the neighboring Pottsville in search of some dinner. We found the most unique restaurant and pizza joint called “White Jade”. We ordered a garlic and prawns pizza that was unlike anything we have ever tasted before. The staff was very friendly and there seemed to be a ton of regulars.

The next morning we found Hastings Point in Cabarita and enjoyed an early and uncrowded surf session. Hastings has both a North and a South facing peak, so you get to take your pick depending on what the swell is doing that day. We ate lunch overlooking the water and soaking up the views.

Our stay in Brisbane was a short one. After we had dropped off the van, we were just looking to kill some time before the last air tram left for the airport. The air tram stops running at 7:28 pm and doesn’t start up again until after 5 am. Since our flight left before 7 am, we figured we might as well just sleep at the airport since the tram didn’t start early enough and a cab ride would have cost $50 or more.

During our visit to Brisbane, we did stumble upon a street mall with many different restaurants and food shops. It was a Wednesday and most restaurants were having Wednesday night specials that we couldn’t pass up. We ended up at Ric’s Cafe & Bar and were able to share a huge plate of fish, chips and steak for $8.

About Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is a place that can put your senses on overload. We found this city to be intensely charming and full of life. The city is brimming with lavish hotels accompanying pools, intoxicating aromas from restaurants serving every type of cuisine imaginable, and prowling shopkeepers looking for their next sale. You better get used to the phrase, “you buy!” The shopkeepers show no mercy when they see foreigners walking through town, they even follow you with motorbikes and beg you to come to their stores!

Things To Do in Hoi An

If shopping is your passion, then Hoi An may be the place for you. You can bargain your way to happiness. If your desire is to sample foods from every continent, Hoi An will not disappoint foodies. We tasted some exceptional cuisine while visiting this energetic city. A favorite of ours was the little Italian Restaurant, Don Tien. In addition to the fish, pasta and dessert dishes that transported us back to Italy, we also learned that the owner hires only young Vietnamese who come from a disadvantaged background, including orphans, and this good deed gave the Don Tien restaurant another plus in our book. We dined on mouth watering Seabass with Tomato Coulis for just $4.50 US and finished it off with savory deep fried ice cream.

Another highlight of Hoi An is the river at sunset. You can hire either a motor boat or paddle boat with driver to take you wherever your heart desires for only $5 US. This was a much cheaper option to the $70 US sunset cruise we had considered booking previously. We had our own private boat and the close-mouthed driver slowed down every time he noticed us taking pictures. On this particular night the sky was covered in a rich, crimson-orange afterglow from the setting sun. At one point, we stopped for our driver to say hello to a friend of his who was fishing. The fisherman swung his net around and around in the air and finally cast it into the river. He could tell we were in awe at the beauty and technique at which he launched his fishing net and he offered to do it again so we could take pictures. After he caught a couple of fish in his net, he paddled over to our boat and asked for $1. That is when we became aware that taking pictures in Vietnam is not always free!

Many people who stay in Hoi An also visit the My Son Temples (pronounced Mi Sun) located near the village of Duy Phu. The My Son Temples are a 45-60 minute ride from the town of Hoi An. You can book a tour for $4 per person. Some compare the temples to Angkor Wat in Cambodia, the Borobodur of Java in Indonesia and Ayutthaya of Thailand. The cluster of about 70 temples date back to a period between the 4th century and the 14th century A.D. It is astonishing how these temples are still standing after numerous centuries. A few of the temples were damaged during the Vietnam war and you can still see large craters from the bombs. Temperatures at My Son can reach upwards of 110 degrees Fahrenheit and it is extremely humid, so come prepared with sunblock, hats and maybe even a change of clothes.

While visiting Hoi An, you cannot miss the street market where local vendors set up booths under the shade of tarps from early morning till dusk. The vendors sell trinkets, table runners, scarves, hand made lamps, hats, and food. It’s a great place to buy South East Asian fruit, such as our personal favorite, the mangosteen.

At first glance, mangosteen looks similar to a beet. Actually, the first time we bought this fruit we ended up throwing it away because we thought it WAS a beet and had no way to cook it. The second time around we were a little wiser, thanks to some fellow travelers we met, and we realized what we had been missing. By pressing down on top of the fruit’s hard outer shell, you can loosen the skin and begin to peel away the outer layer. What you are left with is a small white colored fruit that looks a bit like an orange and is sectioned in the same way. The flavor of this round, purple fruit does not compare to any fruit we have available in the United States. The divine flavor ranges from strawberry, peach and vanilla ice cream with a very slight sourness. I wish we had discovered this fruit earlier in our trip so that we could have been enjoying it the entire time!

One of our purchases from this outdoor market included two traditional Asian straw hats. We got tired of the scorching sun and decided this hat was the best thing to keep our faces and shoulders from getting fried. As we were trying on these hats, a few elderly Vietnamese woman made it known how ridiculous they felt we looked in them. It was very amusing and I absolutely have to agree with them that we looked silly in our hats, but that didn’t stop us from wearing them all over town.