Walking through the graffiti-filled streets of Olinda

Olinda might just be one of the most picturesque places in the world.  Set on a tree-covered hill next to the big North East city of Recife, Olinda is full of art workshops, galleries, churches, museums and lots, and lots, a bright graffiti.  You find yourself meandering through this UNESCO World-Heritage listed Old Town’s tree-lined streets just taking endless photos of the bright colours.  It must be truly immense when carnival is here


Top tip – Carneiros Beach.  It was back in 2013 that I visited Olinda, so a lot will have changed and I won’t into a detailed review.  But my top tip is to consider a day trip down to the Carneiros Beach area to the south of the city.  Many people make the 4 hour trip up to Pipa Beach, which is nice and often on the highlights reel for this part of Brazil, but Pipa is far more catered to surfing / kite surfing and partying.  Whereas, for picturesque beaches, Carneiros is beautiful and has the added advantage of having mangrove swamps to check out and various places to coat yourself in the mineral rich mud that is along the shore.  Your hotel can easily arrange for you to get down there and take a boat out.  Combined with Olinda, this makes a double picture-perfect trip

A 3 week itinerary for the highlights of Vietnam

Vietnam is a wonderful country to spend 3 weeks working your way through.  Hill tribes tucked in misty mountains surrounded by emerald green rice terraces and long palm-lined beaches; vibrant cities riding the wave of a country booming alongside idyllic small towns miraculously unaffected by the Vietnam War or commercialisation; and several truly world-class experiences within picture perfect landscapes that look like they were carved from a fairy tale.  Its also still super cheap and easy to travel through based on its long thin shape and the established bus routes that make hoping on and off sleeper buses simple


The below itinerary will allow you to see the highlights of Vietnam over 3 weeks using the bus network, without being super rushed and without having to double back on yourself other than using Hanoi as a hub for the experiences in the north

Tacky Nha Trang

Nah Trang was no doubt beautiful before the unobstructed development kicked in, but, now that it has, I’d suggest avoiding.  Whilst there are quite a few things to get up to, like the mud baths, the various boat trips and general partying / getting on the lash, its just that is super touristy and below par from the rest of wonderful experiences you can have in Vietnam


For ideas on how to get the best out of Vietnam, see this entry for a 3 week itinerary for the highlights of Vietnam

Rotorua’s geothermal landscape and Maori Villages

Just outside of Rotorua, you’ll be able to smell the various thermal spots long before you see them!  But don’t let that put you off as the thermal pools with their gushing geysers are beautiful and there is a great chance to see and learn a bit about Maori culture in the Maori villages nearby.  Overall, a must visit for this part of New Zealand


3 high levels tips for your visit:

  1. The place you want to visit is the Whakarewarewa Thermal Reserve.  The Reserve is broken up into 2 main parts: firstly, Te Puia which has walkways and around the bubbling mud, minerals pools and the booming geysers like the 15m /50ft high Pohutu.  Secondly, you have the Thermal Village, which gives you a chance to see how the Maori traditionally interact with the unique environment.  It can attract a lot of fellow tourists, but its big enough not to feel overly crowded
  2. Hot n’ Cold – the most enjoyable experience we found was with some of the natural pools that aren’t part of some of the reserves.  There are a few dotted around that have the combination of the hot water meeting the cold water of the nearby streams and give that wonderful feeling of moving somewhere in the middle to find that perfect temperature.  The one we enjoyed the most was called the Hot n’ Cold near Waiotapu which is free to use and can see more details in this good summary website – Rotorua Travel Secrets website
  3. Wai-O-Tapu Thermal Wonderland – visit here for the most colourful thermal pools