<bgsound src="http://www.ijigg.com/songs/V2BFBCGCPAD" > My Big Big Adventure: March 2008

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Hanoi: 24-28 March 2008

Halong Bay: The Signature of Hanoi

24 March, a day to depart for a trip to Hanoi. This time round, I coordinated the trip and included my colleague, N, and her husband, E, to go along on this small and simple trip with me.

We touched down on Noi Bai Airport in Hanoi early morning, 8:30am local time to be received by a fair handsome Vietnamese in his Innova. It was our pickup from the guesthouse, APT Guesthouse. It was a pretty smooth drive until you hear the hongs from the cars around, and of course from our pickup too. Then I realised, Hanoi, similar to China, are horn dominated.

Welcome to Hanoi!

It took us about 45 minutes to reach our guesthouse. Unfortunately, that was the affiliated guesthouse from the same company as the one I had reserved are fully booked. I am ok for the arrangement, but not sure about E cos he seemed to undergo some form of culture shock, and was complaining throughout. I told myself "oh oh, this will not be good".

Eating my Pho Tai Chin

First day was trying local specialty rice noodle (pho) on low stools, something unique found in Hanoi. And walking around the Old Quarters to see some souvenirs and interest stuff around there. We heard that the 36 streets of Old Quarters sell uniquely owned identity merchandise, e.g. shoe street, wedding street.... like the olden days of Malaysia. Sandwiched within the old quarters are narrow lanes, around 30 ft wide. Here, you will find shops have its own distinctive designs, coupled with narrow shop frontage, probably around 12 ft wide by 120 ft long (some even longer!).

We then visited Ho Kiem Lake (which is situated in the center of the old city). In the lake, the Turtle Pagoda and Ngoc Soc Temple were a place we visited. It was a beautiful scenic red bridge to the temple. The feeling was like Taiping Lake but better. The entrance fee to the temple was 3000 VND.

Bookings for day tours were made at Sinh Cafe Travel [Tel: +84-(0)4926-1568]. Halong Bay 2D1N tour is US$31 (25-26 March); and Perfume Pagoda day trip US$18 (27 March). All these trips inclusive of meals. It is also interesting to note that meals on board ALWAYS exclude beverage, which you need to pay for it.

******* 25-26 March *******

New Friends in Halong Bay

The trip to Halong Bay, we met 2 Japanese (Kotomi and Utsugi) and Vietnamese-Chinese (Vincent Chong). Making new friends is part of the journey. When you meet someone who is embarking on the same journey as you, you will find that the similarity with the other person, instead focusing on the differences. That's what life journey is about.

Halong Bay is like little GuiLin in China. Breathtaking scenery, old boat, floating houses, islets around, that's part of Halong Bay. Halong means dragon decending into the water. The weather was not on our side when we arrived because lots of fog gathered. Anyhow, we did enjoy the scenic view of Halong Bay. That night itself, we went shopping for Fish Sauce (local specialty in Halong Bay. A box of three bottles cost us 70,000 VND), fruits (longan, ciku, passion fruit, water apple) , and walk around the quay. I realised that if you are with a local who speaks the mother tongue, it would be an added advantage. At least, we did not get con as we have experienced in Hanoi city.

We then settled down to have our late night snack of porridge (chao). There we met two Vietnamese from Hai Phong who are sailors. Because Vincent speaks Vietnamese, soon enough we became acquaintance with the sailors. We laughed, we talked, we shared our stories and of course food, like a band of brothers. The sailors are very nice to us, they even bought Hanoi Vodka for everybody on our table. It was a wonderful night.

E had met up with hooker on the street, surprisingly they are in uniforms. Because of his limited Vietnamese, the girl has to do some hand signs to show him what she does. When E told us about it, we had a good laugh.

The place where we bought our fish sauce sells exotic wine from marinated snakes and other exotic insects and animals. Traditionally, it is believed to have some form of cure. We managed to witness a special drinking of these exotic wines by westerners who are willing to give it a try. After all, it is considered a "healthy drink".

******* 27 March *******

On board to Perfume Pagoda

Perfume Pagoda, a pilgrimage for the Vietnamese, houses the biggest temple in Vietnam. It is a unique feature because you need to take a hand-row boat to the destination by boat woman. On this trip, we met 2 Australians (Damien, Aniza & Chris), 2 Germans (Steffi and Stefan), and 2 Vietnamese (which I forgot the spelling of their names). It was a pleasant trip, as we could see lots of interesting people, interest coal-baking ovens with fresh bread that smells wonderful, and also the delightful local delicacies of rare animal meats, aka dog, deer and even weasel).

Inside the temple, you would witness the beauty of Vietnamese architecture and also to observe devotees who come to pray for good health and happiness of their family. The ceremony was interesting to note, especially on the similarities.

Chris and I hit off well, especially with his belief in Buddhism. He is facinated by the beauty of the Buddhist philosophy and other philosphical teachings. Perhaps I could get him a book by T-Ratana for his collection.

Beautiful scenery was immortalised by the lenses of our cameras. This include the powerful row of the woman with full load of people. Not to mention, a good weather to complement the trip.

******* 28 March *******

Confuscius Teaching in Temple of Literature

It's our last day in Hanoi. In the morning, we went to Temple of Literature. In this temple, it was used for scholars to sit for exams and learn the mandarin literature from Confuscius. It has a big beautiful garden to complement a peaceful environment for study. It was a worthwhile trip, as the place was well preserved, especially with the uniqueness of architectural designs.

Lunch was in KFC. I heard from the Vietnamese tourist from Ho Chin Minh city, that you can pay for AirAsia ticket at KFC counters after booking online. Truely unique in such a way. Just in case you were wondering, AirAsia has an office facing the magnificent Ho Kiem Lake.

We used this limited time to do our last-minute shopping. We even explored some of the street that we have not explored before, mostly on clothes and staples shopping. We bought some silk clothes, I even order Ao Dai, a traditional costumer, awaiting it to be sent to me. And, we went to Intimex (supermarket) to get some delicious rice noodles. You cannot believed that there are at least 5 different varieties and sizes to choose from. Interesting indeed.

Traditional Vietnamese Costume: Ao Dai

Around 3pm, we headed back to the guesthouse in such rush manner. But just in time to have our lunch next door, Pho (rice noodle) for the last time before we departed.

Soon, the airport limo has drived into Hang Vai street where we stayed. It was a time for us to bid farewell to this land with abundance, with rich cultural background.

Goodbye Hanoi and see you again~ It was a wonderful trip with endless sweet memories.

Sunday, March 23, 2008





Tuesday, March 18, 2008

It's a small small world

Yesterday late at night, I have received a sms from my old primary school mate, W. What a pleasant surprise!

Let me see... it has been 16 years since I last spoken to him, wait, I think I have hardly spoken to him during schooling years. How the h*** he got my number? Apparently, my dear friend got my number from my high school mate, whom I met up not long ago.

I guess this world is a small small world. You will never know whether you would see your old friends again through another friend.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

My Palm is out

My Palm is out of battery. Worse off, I have lost ALL my contacts including all my friends, teachers, customers, acquiantances and other contacts, like restaurants. I am very very upset and angry of myself for being so careless.

Note to self: Will get upgrade or remember to charge battery often.

Beautiful Center Stage

Yesterday, I visited A's photo-shooting studio in Damansara. Oh my, you will be surprised how a simple factory could transform this beauty in the middle of nowhere.

I am surprised that simple primitive cement designs could spell a class-of-its-own. Full glass doors and windows, open office concepts, spacious studio, and an outdoor cafe with simple nature landscape to fill the environment.

When I got into the huge studio setting, it caught my attention. When A turned on the lights, I could feel like I am the star of the "show". With cameras, lights all set up at the center stage of the studio, one could not resist the charm of the beautiful masterpiece behind the lenses.

From that moment I know, A is a person who loves perfection. That's what artist life is. The center stage he and his partners created, and the young talented team to work together to create those dreams, it spells magic to this beautiful center stage. It's a life of its own.

Monday, March 10, 2008