Bern Münster (Cathedral), Switzerland

Bern Münster
Münsterplatz 1, Bern, Switzerland
https://www.bernermuenster.ch/en/berner-muenster/infos-kontakt/

After several days of indulging in mulled wine, cheese, and potato rosti, I figured we were due to do something slightly more labour intensive than raising a plastic cup to our mouths. Over a 10am beer and pretzel, I asked husband what he thought of climbing to the top of the cathedral’s bell tower. He looked down at morning tea and agreed.

We arrived around midday to find the gates just being opened, and made our way in – it may be a place of worship, but it gets a lot of international visitors, so you’ll still enter and exit via the small gift shop. It costs CHF 5.00 (around AUD $7.00) for a ticket to climb the 100 metre bell tower, and there’s only one staircase to take you up and down. One staircase made up of 312 steps.

Word of warning: it is small and dark, and as I mentioned, there is only one way up and down, so if you’re on the claustrophobic side, please be careful! But if you can push yourself up, you’ll be rewarded with some really spectacular views over the UNESCO World Heritage city.

I also really loved the carvings up on the bell tower itself – they’re one of those things that look like such small, insignificant details from the ground, but up close they’re some seriously impressive pieces of art.

On the way down, you’ll pass the actual bell of the bell tower. It’s an absolute behemoth, and when it rang on our way down (we were almost at the bottom), the whole tower vibrated. Consider your timing on the climb – I’m not sure how pleasant it would be standing right next to that bell when it rings…

If your legs aren’t completely jelly after 624 steps, you can make your way into the cathedral, too. It’s small, but beautiful – the stain glass windows and ornate ceiling are worth the visit alone. There’s no entry fee, it’s just asked that you’re quiet and respectful, as it is still a functioning church with parishioners.

Because Bern’s historical centre is so small, climbing the bell tower really does give you the best view over it. And the good news is that when you’re done climbing, you’re in Switzerland, so a big pot of cheese fondue won’t be far away to replenish your energy stores. Everyone wins!

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Top 10 Things To Do in Hoi An

1. Take in an amazing view and a delicious meal at Hoa Anh Dao Sakura Restaurant

http://www.hoiansakura.com/
Where? 119-121 Nguyễn Thái Học, Minh An, tp. Hội An
Why go? It’s one of the fancier restaurants in town, and it’s well worth it. That said, we ordered 6 dishes (including seafood), 3 beers and a cocktail, and got away for around AUD$60.00, which isn’t exactly going to break the bank, as far as fancy feeds go! And if you’re clever, you’ll ask for a seat in the rooftop courtyard, too – the best view in the city!
How long will you need? We were there for about 2 hours – perfect!
Cost? Depends how hungry you are – check out what we ate by following the link below, which cost us around AUD$60.00, and that should give you a good idea!
Read more:
Eat here: Hoa Anh Dao Sakura Restaurant, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

2. Support a good cause by drinking tea and coffee at the Reaching Out Tea House

 http://reachingoutvietnam.com/
Where? 131 Tran Phu Street, Hoi An, Vietnam
Why go? The beautiful space is serene and calm, made even more so by the request that guests communicate in whispers. The staff are all speech and hearing impaired, which makes not the smallest bit of difference in their service. If anything, it’s better than any other tea house I’ve ever visited; they were all so gracious, elegant and accommodating. And the tea and coffee variety is fantastic!
How long will you need? We stayed around an hour, but would have happily stayed longer if our tummies weren’t grumbling for dinner.
Cost? Varies a lot depending on what you order
Read more:
– Tea time: Reaching Out Tea House, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

3. Up your kitchen game at a Morning Glory cooking class

http://msvy-tastevietnam.com/cooking-classes/
Where? 3 Nguyen Hoang Street, An Hoi Islet, Hoi An
Why go? This is THE premier cooking school in Hoi An, and as far as I’m concerned, an absolute must! There are a few tours on offer, I’ve done the same one twice now (yes, I enjoyed it that much!): the Holiday Masterclass (including a trip to the market and a cooking lesson you’ll never forget).
How long will you need? This class runs from 8.30am – 1.30pm.
Cost? AUD$40.00 per person, which includes your market tour, cooking class, lunch, recipes and a little gift to take home.
Read more:
– Morning Glory Cooking Class, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

4. Cycle the islets of Hoi An with Heaven & Earth Bicycle Tours

 http://www.vietnam-bicycle.com/
Where? Meeting point for tours: 57 Ngo Quyen St. – An Hoi Islet, TP Hoi An
Why go? I don’t particularly enjoy bike riding and was talking into this by my sister; it’s one of the most uncomfortable but incredible things I’ve ever done. We got to see parts of this beautiful country we never would have had the opportunity to see otherwise, led by 2 local women who were some of the loveliest people I’ve ever met. It hurt like hell, but I’d do it again in a heart beat!
How long will you need? We took the REAL VIETNAM tour, running approximately 8am – 5pm.
Cost? Around AUD$60.00 per person, including water bottle and lunch
Read more:
– Cycling the islets of Hoi An, Vietnam with Heaven & Earth Tours

 

5. Stuff yourself silly with the city’s famous dish, cao lau

Where? All over Hoi An.
Why go? Ohh cao lau, where have you been all my life?! Thick, chewy noodles, the TASTIEST broth known to mankind, delicious slices of pork and fresh herbs/greens, topped with deep fried pieces of noodle. Magic.
How long will you need? Not long, if you eat as fast as I do when faced with something this good!
Cost? A few dollars.
Read more:
– Eat here: Miss Ly Cafe 22, Hoi An

 

6. Walk through the riverside night market and ogle the lanterns

Where? By the riverside, every night.
Why go? If you check out the #hoianlanterns hashtag on Instagram and don’t immediately feel the need to throw yourself into the middle of these perfect balls of light, there may be something wrong with you.
How long will you need? Spend the night walking around by the riverside – not only are there lanterns galore, but it turns into a market place with cheap souvenirs and delicious street food.
Cost? You can bring your own lantern home! The smallest ones cost around AUD$1.00 each – barter though, I ended up with 6 for $5, just because I asked!
Read more:
– Through my eyes: Hoi An’s lanterns, Vietnam

 

7. Take a trip out to My Son Sanctuary

 http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/949
Why go? My Son, dated from the 4th to 13th centuries AD, is the former capital of the Champa Kingdom. Set in stunning green, mountain surrounds in the Quang Nam Province near Hoi An, it houses the remains of the Cham temple towers. They’re incredibly old, insanely beautiful, and well worth taking the time to see.
How long will you need? We took a half day tour organised by a small local travel agent we found in Hoi An.
Cost? Honestly can’t remember, but I know it wasn’t much.
Read more:
– My Son Sanctuary, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

8. Stuff your face with all of the food at Bale Well

Where? 45 Tran Hung Dao Street, Hoi An
Why go? For a mere sum of AUD$6.00 per person, we got a bottle of water each and an all-you-can-stuff-your-face-with pile of fresh herbs and salad, peanut dipping sauce, stir fried veggies, rice paper, freshly fried spring rolls and BBQd meat on sticks. This is some of the best street food you’ll ever find.
How long will you need? Give yourself at least an hour!
Cost? AUD$6.00 per person will have you rolling out.
Read more:
– Eat here: Bale Well, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

9. Drink more tea at Cocobana Tea Rooms & Garden

 https://www.facebook.com/Cocobanatearoom/
Where? 16 Nguyen Thai Hoc St, Hoi An
Why go? Walk on in, and once you’ve breathed a sigh of relief at the air conditioning, you’ll be met with a wall of tea. Oh so much tea… oh so exciting! They have literally dozens of options to choose from, hot and cold, as well as a great coffee menu. And the best part? They’re all available to take home!
How long will you need? We spent about an hour there, but I’d happily stay longer – it’s just got that peaceful, homely atmosphere that you won’t want to leave.
Cost? Depends what you buy, but prices (particularly for take home tea) were very reasonable.
Read more:
– Tea time: Cocobana Tea Rooms & Garden, Hoi An, Vietnam

 

10. Just admire the perfection that is the colour yellow all around the city

Where? Everywhere you look
Why go? You’ll quickly notice that Hoi An’s theme is yellow. It’s everywhere, it’s warm and beautiful, and it completely defines the city. Everywhere you look, you see another perfect yellow wall, the same shade as the others, and yet somehow completely different…
Read more:
– Through my eyes: The Yellow City of Hoi An

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

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As you can see from the pictures, it sadly was not the sunniest or clearest day when we visited Ha Long Bay. No matter, it’s beautiful regardless. If anything, a little more interesting and mysterious, what with the fog and mist and all.

Ha Long Bay is located about a 3 – 4 hour drive out of Hanoi, and is located in the Gulf of Tonkin, in the Quang Ninh Province. The name literally translates to “descending dragon bay,” and it was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1994.The bay includes, I believe, almost 2000 islands and islets, and is just breathtakingly beautiful, especially when you’re floating through it on a boat, without a single care in the world…

We took a fantastic trip with Intrepid Travel; our guide was one of the best I’ve ever encountered. He knew his stuff inside out, and managed to explain it in a way that continued to be interesting and engaging all day long. If you’re interested, this is the trip we did, and for $118 per person including transfers, an enormous lunch, a top notch guide and driver, and a few other little surprises, it was money VERY well spent.

For an extra, very tiny fee (so small I can’t actually remember what it was now!), we paid the locals at the fishing village we visited to hire out a few canoes, and paddled ourselves around for a while. It was a truly incredible experience, to be out on the calm, still water, enveloped in calm.

But you’re not hear to read about it; here’s what it looked like on the day we visited…

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My Son Sanctuary, Hoi An, Vietnam

My Son Sanctuary
http://whc.unesco.org/en/list/949

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After seeing some stunning photos of it, Sib & I knew we needed to see the ruins at My Son, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

My Son, dated from the 4th to 13th centuries AD, is the former capital of the Champa Kingdom. Set in stunning green, mountain surrounds in the Quang Nam Province near Hoi An, it houses the remains of the Cham temple towers.

The Cham people came from Indian origins, and were renowned for their unique building techniques; the towers have been constructed, as our guide explained, without any use of binding agent or mortar, simply brick against brick.

Enough of the history lesson now though – here’s the beautiful space we had the privilege of wandering around for the morning.

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