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Travel Guide To Iran

Grand Escapades’ Travel Guide To Iran – Friendliness, Culture, Modernity: So Far Away From The Clichés!

Jamkaran Mosque, Qom

Itinerary And Time Of The Visit

In April 2014, I spent 2 weeks in Iran and covered the cultural heartland of the country (most of which has now turned into the “Tourist Trail”, except Na’In & Qom): Shiraz, Esfahan, Na’In, Yazd, Kashan, Qom and last but not least Teheran.

In September 2017, I spent 3.5 weeks and wanted to discover less visited parts of the country and covered Tabriz & Northwest Iran (Zanjan, Soltaniyeh, Takht-e Soleiman); Teheran; Mashhad & Torbat-e Jam; the Southwest of Iran (Sushtar, Choqa Zanbil & Shush); before returning on the “Tourist Trail” (Kashan, Esfahan, Yazd & Shiraz). Continue Reading →

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Grand Escapades’ Budget Guide To Iran

Easy To Travel On A Budget!

Young Girl, in the Old City of Yazd

Type Of Travel

My two trips to Iran showed a major difference: on the first trip in April 2014, we were 2 and hence shared quite a few expenditures (double rooms, sharing cabs…). In September 2017, I was traveling solo, and had to cover everything on my own. This makes a significant difference, especially in a country like Iran, where you will have to rely on chartered taxis further afield and where you will more often than not pay the same for a single and for a double room… Continue Reading →

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Surf Halong Bay – Turf Tam Coc

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

It is all about limestone. At Halong Bay the tree covered outcrops rise from the emerald ocean, making it THE tourist attraction in Vietnam. At Tam Coc they stick out like pillars from bright green rice paddies. Hard to say, which one is more spectacular! We think it is best to start with Tam Coc, a two-hours drive south of Hanoi and then head for Halong Bay (even better to Cat Ba directly) since the latter might be the more spectacular one of the two. Continue Reading →

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Halong Bay – Tourism In The Fast Lane

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Yes, Halong Bay is a place of sheer beauty. Unique! The tree covered limestone outcrops rising from the emerald ocean create such a spectacular seascape you want to inhale it, so it won’t leave you.

Needless to say, to explore this splendor you need a boat. The options are numerous. Since most tourists travel in groups, their cruises are pre-arranged. Individual travelers have a wide choice of anything from a private junk to the typical packed cruise boats. Whatever you choose, the tours are organized by “Travel Agencies” all offering the same itineraries, taking everybody to exactly the same places, at the very same time, to a very limited part of the very vast Halong Bay! Imagine there are almost 2.000 islands and islets waiting to be discovered… Continue Reading →

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5 Reasons To Stay In Phong Nha Longer Than You Planned…

Paradise Cave, Phong Nha - Ke Bang National Park, Phong Nha, Vietnam

Paradise Cave, Phong Nha – Ke Bang National Park

Phong Nha National Park contains the oldest karst mountains in Southeast Asia and was granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2003. Only after Hang Son Doong, the Mountain River Cave, was identified as the world’s biggest in 2009, tourists started arriving.

Nevertheless, there is much more to Phong Nha than “only” caves. It is actually a great place to spend a lot more time than what we had planned…

 

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Central Vietnam… Clearly Not As Expected!

Not less than three different UNESCO World Heritage sites are packed into in a relatively compact area in Central Vietnam:

Full Moon Festival, Old Town of Hoi An, Vietnam

Full Moon Festival, Old Town of Hoi An

The Old City of Hoi An

Its new semi-pedestrian zone makes the perfect place for strolling and breathing in the unique colonial charm of this ancient town. The lovely one-story buildings (most painted in dark yellow) have quaint pillars, wooden balconies and roofs made of tiles. Continue Reading →

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Random Glimpses of Ho Chi Minh City

A Photo Essay

Opera House at Night, Ho Chi Minh City

Opera House at Night, Ho Chi Minh City

It is difficult to grab the complexity of a metropolis like Ho Chi Minh City in just a few days. This photo essay provides a few random glimpses of a huge and highly diverse city we visited twice, in 2003 and 2014, each time for about 5 days.

Ho Chi Minh City has changed a lot since our first trip: it has turned into a modern city, with sleek skyscrapers, elegant shops, hip restaurants for the well-off Vietnamese new middle-class and a lot of quiet and shady parks that invite you to sit down, relax or take a leisurely stroll. But there is still the Ho Chi Minh City we remember, the bustling city with zillions of motorbikes going any which way, a maze of small backstreet, vibrant and vivid markets that will challenge all your senses… Continue Reading →

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Can Tho & The Mekong Delta

A Photo Essay

Floating Markets, Can Tho, Mekong Delta

Floating Markets, Can Tho, Mekong Delta

From our trip back in 2003, we have few lasting memories, most likely because it was raining all the time. Only a few faint images of the Floating Market in Can Tho, and some tourist-overrun manufactures producing rice noodles and other local produce survived.

So on this trip we decided to explore this area on our own and were pleasantly surprised to find in Can Tho a very pleasant city. We took endless strolls through small back streets, and a few meters away from the waterfront, tourists were not seen anymore! Those few steps make you realize the huge gap between those still clinging on to a very traditional life, while others – especially younger people and the ever-growing middle class – have arrived in the globalized world of iPhones & western clothes.

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Grand Escapades’ Travel Guide To Cambodia

There Is Much More Than “Only” Angkor Wat

Itinerary And Time Of The Visit

Monks in Front of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Monks in Front of Angkor Wat, Siem Reap

Our two trips to Cambodia could not have been more different from each other. In July 2008, during our Round The World Trip, we spent two weeks there. We crossed the border from Laos on foot and checked out mainly Phnom Penh and of course Siem Reap, where we spent one week exploring many Angkor Temples. We finally crossed Tonlé Sap to reach Battambang, from where we headed overland to Thailand.

In December 2014, Gilles accompanied his father on his “Bucket List Trip” through Cambodia for three weeks, going On and Off The Beaten Track. We first spent one week in Siem Reap to see the most famous and the more remote temples of Angkor. Then we did a 10 day loop through the Northwest of Cambodia, where we were the only tourists. The common trip ended with several days in Phnom Penh, before Gilles headed alone to Kampot & Kep on the Coast and finally to Vietnam. Continue Reading →

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Grand Escapades’ Budget Guide To Cambodia

Transport Costs Will Be The Key

Type Of Travel

Floating Village of Kompong Luong, on the Tonle Sap, Cambodia

Floating Village of Kompong Luong, on the Tonle Sap

Our two trips to Cambodia could not have been more different from each other. In July 2008, we were on a Round The World Trip (one year), and therefore on a somewhat tight budget (between Backpacking and Flashpacking). However, since Cambodia was the last country we visited, we treated ourselves to better hotels and hardly ever ate at the markets as we used to do in other countries.

In December 2014, Gilles accompanied his father on his “Bucket List Trip”, which meant a pleasant mid-range type of travel. We rented a car with driver in and around Siem Reap, which significantly increased costs. Naturally, the costs for the trip in 2014 were considerably higher… Continue Reading →

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