Marvellous markets

From the serene green of Mai Chau we’re thrust back into the hectic hustle and bustle of Hanoi with its waves of moped riders.

We’re nearing the end of this epic trip but we’ve still got a day left to go explore some more . . .

That can only mean one thing . . . MORE MARKETS!!!! Here we are in the night market in the centre of the old quarter.

I have had my eye on these tasty, colourful, frozen treats all week . . . not too sure how good they are for your innards but they look very pretty with their dry ice plumes . . .

Enjoy a close up of these water coloured, icy beauties!!! 🙂 🙂

And here’s the stall keeper, trying to studiously avoid catching my eye . .

The next morning I am still alive and not frozen solid internally so off we go.

First a little mild stalking of the basket carriers (it’s par the course now, like a daily habit) then off to check in again at train street as we want to see the beast in the day – but alas not the right time! Try again later . . .

A back street alley reveals a slightly rickety hot drinks stand.

And we spy piles of yet more mopeds – I wonder what they call a group of bikes? A rabble, a roar, a cacophony? . . .

Lots more of this vibrant city to come before we hop back on the plane!

Final bike ride

We’re nearing the end of our epic tour of North Vietnam and we’re off to another tiny village and more bone shaker bikes!

We’re in Mai Chau – a collection of villages, farms and huts spread out through a green large valley, home to the white Thai minority.

We’re peddling through yet more epic scenery. Lush green rice paddies stretch as far as the eye can see.

Beautiful, multi storied wooden houses are dotted throughout the verdant fields.

Huge lotus plants and miles of empty road beckon us on.

Naturally, I am less than graceful onboard two wheels . . . .

Of course, the bike fanatic is in seventh heaven and finding it all rather amusing!

This jaunty yellow van doubles as a little plant stall – I am dragged past it!

In one of the small villages we pass through, stalls are groaning under piles of beautiful local handicrafts including traditional headwear and beautiful cloth.

Like huge, patterned butterflies, these skirts look set to flutter away.

And here we watch one of the local women producing some of the wonderful colourful cloth.

It looks like rather hard work! No wonder they are all so slim and healthy.

As the rain rolls in we bid farewell to our last glimpses of rural Vietnam – for the time being at least.

Nowhere I have travelled can hold a candle to the natural beauty of Vietnam’s emerald green countryside.

Hubby looks a little awkward here as his sandals have got soaked in this irrigation channel!!

Colourful chaos

Carrying on with our exploration of the incredible Bac Ha market, we’ve taken a break for a refreshing beverage.

Coconut juice is just one of the many flavoursome drinks on offer, but caffine addict hubby is fixated on the strong local coffee!

We’re heading deeper into the market now and the vendors get closer together, the piles of fresh produce pile higher and we can really start to see some of the local characters.

We are also seeing more of the amazing traditional outfits of the many hill tribes who come to Bac Ha to trade, haggle and also meet potential marriage prospects.

These elaborately attired women come from miles around, often on motorbikes landed with veg, fruit and live stock.

One of the most colourful tribes is the Flower Hmong. Their cultural dress is a mix of traditional craftsmanship with modern materials.

Costumes cover women and children in a rainbows of colours from head to toe using heavy pin stripe appliqué, hand embroidery and beaded fringe work.

Other Vietnamese hill tribes include the Black H’mong who are skillful at using indigo dye to create their traditional dress, the red Dao and the Dzay.

Lots more colourful snaps from this incredible market to come. 🙂

Various vegetables

Moving swiftly away from the grisly meat end of the market, I’m back on more palatable ground in the colourful vegetable section of Bac Ha market.

Mountains of jewel bright carrots, onions, courgettes and bitter gourds tumble to the ground wherever you look.

Tiny, scorching chillies, quail eggs and all the fresh herbs you could possibly want or need.

Purple aubergines are cheek by jowl against ruby red tomatoes, zesty limes and bunches of spring onions.

It doesn’t get any fresher than this and watching the nimble bartering between the stall holders and the hordes of shoppers is a sport in itself.

Lots more colourful snaps to come from this frenetic and fantastic market.

Bustling Bac Ha

Bac Ha is one of the most colorful ethnic markets of all Northwest Vietnam.

It is a fusion of the many different hill tribes that inhabit the Bac Ha mountain district and here you can easily distinguish them by their different colourful traditional clothing.

I was in seventh heaven surrounded by the colourful typical traditional costumes of local tribes including the Tay, the Dzay, the Red Dzao and the Black H’mong.

The market is set out in distinct areas, one for handicrafts, art and fabric, others for fresh vegetables, others for meat and fish.

Let’s take a wander to the visceral end of the market first shall we . . .

A stall holder singes the hairs off a leg of pork, she’s wielding that blow torch like a seasoned pro!

Whether it crawls, gallops, squirms or swims, it is probably to be found in this section of the market.

You don’t want to mess with this tiny but fierce lady!

As a lifelong vegetarian, I am always appalled, yet also strangely intrigued, by the bloodier aspects of other culture’s cuisine.

In the UK people have a very sanitised approach to the meat on their plate, they rarely see it butchered or make the connection between the live animal and the tasty end product.

Here however it is unavoidable, grisly and rather stomach turning!

Easy riders

Mykonos is only a pip squeak of an island – one of the tiniest Greek islands we’ve visited (certainly in terms of things to see TBH).

But in order to reach some of the more remote, off the beaten track, beaches we opt once again for the king of small road warriors – the quad bike!!!

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We’re heading to the South East of the island first. Stopping off first at Kalafati beach (see my previous post) we then head up a dirt track onto a tiny spit of land with a teeny harbour and pretty church.

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Below is a remote, traditional little harbour side eatery – Markos Fish Tavern. Close to a tiny, tucked away sun spot – Divounia Beach

I love the colour combination of navy water, white boats and shades of yellow in the tangled fishing nets.

Naturally the hubby AKA the Easy Rider enjoys cruising around topless in order to complete the bronzing process.

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However, safety conscious (AKA spoilsport) wifey demands full coverage, helmets and annoyingly squeaks if we so much as creep above 20mph!

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The ‘smile’ below is partly because the wind has firmly stuck my lips to my teeth and partly through fear… so much for YOLO . .

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Vinegar Hill


Next on our tour of Brooklyn we’re heading to a curious little neighbourhood that is not exactly on the tourist trail – Vinegar Hill.

It’s a tiny neighbourhood in Brooklyn on the East River Waterfront between Dumbo and the Brooklyn Navy Yard.


The neighbourhood gets its name from the Battle of Vinegar Hill, an engagement near Enniscorthy during the Irish Rebellion of 1798.

Vinegar Hill was commonly known as Irishtown in the 19th century, one of several places in the New York area with that name because of its sizeable population of Irish immigrants.

Most of Vinegar Hill consists of 19th-century Federal Style and Greek Revival style homes mixed with industrial buildings.

Hudson Avenue and Plymouth, Water and Front Streets are not tarmacked roads, rather they are made of Belgian Blocks which are similar to cobbles but a bit flatter and more rectangular.

The tiny little district is like a miniature open air architecture museum.

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It feels like a place stranded in time – a odd, out of place that has sealed the past in amber and shows how Brooklyn would have looked in the early 19th century.

The area was declared a Historical District in the late 1990s but it does not feel as if any investment is forthcoming, rather it feels like the developers are circling like vultures, just waiting to be able to level these characterful properties and throw up more homogeneous, glass sky scrapers.

Sadly it has a air of slow and inevitable decay, as is evidenced by the lone three story walk-up houses that are still standing defiantly even though their neighbours have long been demolished.

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It is one of a vanishing breed of areas that shows how New York was, back when it was a mecca for anyone with a dream.

A place of opportunity no matter how rich or poor you were. There is little space for penniless dreamers in the Big Apple these days.

With its endless concrete canyons and ever higher towers, New York feels like a place so concerned with rushing to its future that it has no time to appreciate where it has come from.

Long may places like Vinegar Hill stay standing to allow for a nostalgic remembrance of the ordinary people that contributed to NYCs success.

Multitude of murals

As we continue our exploration of Orgosolo’s outdoor art gallery we come across everything from political and historical paintings to cubist style works.

Below is a painted reproduction of a movie poster for the famous Bandits of Orgosolo, a 1960 Italian film drama directed by Vittorio De Seta that featured local shepherds as some of the lead characters.

Other murals reflect more recent world events such as the 9/11 terror attacks.

This trio of modernist works depict local women carrying out traditional crafts.

The man is dwarfed by this ornate and detailed mural that takes up an entire house facade.

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While below a window is surrounded by colourful depictions of local life.

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I took so many pictures of Orgosolo that I might manage to stretch to a third post about it!

Kolourful Kos

Yes I am aware it’s spelt wrong – it’s getting hard to keep alliterating my titles! But as the name of this post indicates, prepare for some colourful snaps . .

First up a random snap of this lovely night time water display at our awesome hotel (did I mention it was 5 star . . !!)

Then it’s back to Kos town where I am entranced by this traditional style street slap bang in the middle of the centre.

From its eye wateringly bright white washed steps to the pops of colour from the primary coloured vases it is a visual delight.

The quaint little old / new street winds its way up to a taverna and fish house.

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I can’t get enough of it and naturally have to be physically dragged away once the man prop gets bored of posing . . .

He is rewarded for his efforts with a large beer however so not sure what he’s moaning about . .

Then it’s off for a tour of the back streets where even more delightful old tavernas are to be found.

Every where you look its a veritable orgy of colourful doors, windows and details.

My eyes particularly love this hot pink and blue combo on an old night club.

Possibly my favourite picture of the whole holiday is this mirrored window in shades of blue and pink.

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That’s it for the whistle stop tour of colourful sights in Kos town. Next up we’re headed to the mountains.

Marvellous Marbella

Last trip of our Spanish holiday now, a return to the lovely little town of Marbella.

Despite it’s reputation as the go to place for vacuous reality stars it’s actually a wonderful place.

Its beautiful old town is crammed full of character, whitewashed walls and splashes of hot pink bougainvillea draped across every surface.

As usual you find a plethora of colourful details tiles on every wall and surface.

Again I enjoy the wonderful displays of red geraniums all mounted in pale blue plant pots.

We take a brief stop for some tasty tapas at the lovely Virgin of the Balcony restaurant.

So named because it is literally underneath this ornate pale blue shrine of the Virgin Mary.

Then its onto the hub of Marbella old town – Plaza de los Naranjos or the Orange Square, named for the fruit trees that fill the square.

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Orange Square dates back to 1485 and is laid out in a typical Spanish Christian design, with whitewashed houses and a town hall, a governor’s house and a chapel on the corners.

After getting out fill of traditional architecture we get our feet wet at the beach.

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Then it’s back to Malaga for a final potter on Malagueta beach before heading home.

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Another superb Spanish trip completed! Fantastic food and beautiful sights. Next up Kos and terrifying earthquakes . . .

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