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Interests, Pastimes & Hobbies

Saturday, July 26, 2008

The Lil' Things

A kind of Vietnamese fruit

A kind of Vietnamese fruit pronounced as 'Zau Za Dat' though all spellings start with a D. I suppose it's easy enough for local to judge if you're one of them. I like this sourish fruit, too bad for the guide trying to see if we'll flinch eating it. It's only suitable sucking for the juice as the flesh tends to stick to the seed.

The descending steps to the cave

This is the pagoda which made us hike the slope to visit. Just thought it's a mystical sight when I took this pic. I'm actually taking from the pagoda itself. It's some sort of a cave which reminds me of the one in Ipoh.

Another pagoda stop on the way to the peak

This is one stop before hiking to the cave pagoda. Looks like any other Chinese temple, isn't it? You bet, they believe in Buddhism, Taoism and ancestors worshipping as well. There were a Mother Kuan Yin, Guan Gong, and Zhang Fei inside just like any other Chinese temples.

You heard the music? This guy next to me just couldn't live without musics or was he trying to keep me entertained? *LoL* Apparently, Vietnamese have good exposure to Hongkie and Taiwanese singers as well. According to this guy, he sings lots of theirs songs during his Karaoke session. "Lau Tak Wa, Cheung Hok Yau, Chan Yik Sun, Chow Kit Lun" he said when asked about his fav singers.

He's the one who shared his Vietnamese song with me via bluetooth. Take a listen to it. It's been my fav too. He came with the ladies behind and that made 4 of us and the boat rower. It was so nice of the ladies as they never stopped offering me the lychees they've brought along.

See, that's one of the best thing travelling by myself. It's been great talking to them despite language barrier. However, I did enjoy using my basic 'tien Viet' + sign language + written conversation when I interacted with them. It was funny yet fun.

There're not much differences between people around the world except geographical and language differences, really!

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Working is Good

Working is not bad after all! I get working lunches here and there everytime there's a meeting(which includes those I'm not involved in). On normal days, I don't go out for my lunch.

Reasons being:-

1) "It's so hot outside!" (typical weather of a tropical country)
2) "Save petrol, why need to drive all the way out just for a meal?"
3) "Well, I don't necessarily take rice/noodles for lunch. Anything handy will do"
4) "Lunch time is my best quiet time, and I just wanna do my own things"
5) "There's ice cream, yoghurt and beverages at the pantry"

However, there's at least one working lunch every week I'm feeding on. In fact, yesterday, we had a farewell dinner which summed up to nearly RM2k for 20 pax. Woww...! See, another proof that treats is a pleasure when you work! I don't know for you but I wouldn't be stepping into such places for my own personal meal. Thereafter, I went home, wasted a bit of time before finally taking my bath and went to bed. Less than 12 hours, I met my colleagues again in the office and ust had McD for working lunch.

Indeed, my routine daily have been waking up, work, home, bedtime, and work. Not much of exercising eversince the trip. I still remember the feeling of sweaty clothes on me as I wandered around in Hanoi 2 weeks ago.

At home, I just dread sparing time for workout now. Everytime after work, I just head off right away home after dinner and stay passive. To make matter worse, I've stopped my line dance class since June considering all the travellings which were taking place. I'll be in fact in Bangkok for the next 2 weeks on work assignments. Well, I can foresee food and more good food. My gosh!

On the same matter, the fruits season is also a killlng season. Durians as in the king of fruit has finally arrived at my uncles orchard. Unlike most other fruits, this should be taken in small amount if you're watching your weight. It's creamy and sweet and thus is a good energy source if you're thinking of putting weight or keeping warm. Yum, I simply can't resist it as I've always been waiting for this though it's been sold throughout the country for some time. Talk about FOC and availabilty. Some other fav fruits of mine are also the rambutans(not too sweet kind), mangoesteens, mangoes and dukong. Yum...yum....yum...yum! Yes, yes , yes!!! OH NO!!! No, no, no. no!!!!

(courtesy of www.oneblackgoat.com/fat_animals.html)

Puhleeease...Meow Meow, you're way too heavy for your owner. Sorry to say, you're not cute at all!!!

Saturday, July 19, 2008

More of Halong Bay

My young Vietnamese friends
Look how cooperative my young Vietnamese friends were. I even have a video of the girl introducing herself in my hp(3gpp format, unfortunately).

Ladies at Halong Bay

Beauties on the boat overlooking the awesome scenery. They must be wondering whether I was more interested in them than the scenery. *LoL* To justify myself, I would say both. It displays the actual scenario both on and around the boat on that day.

Mystical Halong Bay

Wow! Seriously, I'm pround of this! Selling for postcards printing, anyone?

Mystical, isn't it? We entered this secluded area and stayed for the night. Here's where we swam as well.

Neighbours at Halong Bay

It turned out that we had gotten ourselves stalkers that night. No worries, that's just our neighbours. We happily chatted away under the starry starry night at the top deck though only having met that morning.

As mentioned in my previous post, I spent my night at the top deck. Thus, I had the opportunity to capture this shot the instant dawn broke at 5.15 am.

Things I enjoyed from this tour:-

1) The awesome scenery, of course!

2) The people I came to know - Kiwis, Vietnamese, Austrians, Neatherlanders, Japanese and my New Yorker room mate.

3) The satisfaction of being able to practise my Deutsch and Nihongo at the same time.

4) The credits I got for my fluency in both was definitely a bonus! However, my reply was "Iie, ma ma desu" and "Nein, nicht gut, so la-la".

Things I would prefer it to improve:-

1) The food quality served. It was very plain dishes of stir fried veggies and plain fried fish.

2) Water was sold and not included throughout our 2D/1N stay on the boat. A can of coke for example was sold at USD 1 and a bottle of 500ml drinking water for VND 5000. To me, Malaysian standard... OK-la, but this price in Vietnam, pricey! You're confused with the currencies? That's exactly how confused I was during the trip having to interpret and justify the price in MYR as well(3 currencies involved). These Vietnamese prefer to quote in USD so as they can come out with their own exchange rate if we opted to pay in VND. I can still remember the expression on the seller's face when she calculated her earnings for that day.

3) The bad service of my tour guide and bus driver needs improvement! Having dropped others safely at the hostels, we(me and roomie) were left stranded on the street. I supposed he's not happy with our ratings on the feedback form. Fortunately, I had known my way a lil better from my streets wandering earlier.

4) The typical case with group tours where more time's wasted in unfathomable waiting instead of activities listed in the itinery.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Moments at Halong Bay

Instead of the background voices, I've replaced it with a song I received via bluetooth during my trip. In fact, I would say this is the greatest souvenir from a trip ever. It's from a Vietnamese I got to know there. It left me with an absolute Vietnamese memory and it didn't need to cost a thing. Don't you love the song too?

Halong Bay's claimed to be a UNESCO World Heritage. The main attraction is the many karsts standing out from the water surface. It's simply magnificent especially when cruising between these 2 gigantic rocks. Often, I chose to sit right at the front of the bottom deck. It was simply so relaxing absorbing the sound, wind, and sights around that one could lose her thoughts. I took the 2D/1N cruise. We had a room for overnight stay but my then met room mate (who's still travelling and currently in Ho Chi Minh City) and I chose to overnight on the top deck that night.

Came evening we were treated to a short session of kayaking and also swimming. The few of us were excited to jump off the top deck(8m above surface) into the water. Shown is a short clip on something funny told by the guide before we did it. I finally gathered my guts to jump in and join the other 2 after for like 20 mins. I went Auch! when my butt came flat with the surface of the water. Imagine one's chest came flat with it from the high free fall. That's what apparently happened to a Korean when he jumped off with arms opened wide. "He died, " said the guide.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Vietnamese On The Street

This driver picked me up upon my arrival at Noi Bai Airport. He couldn't speak English and I thought at least knew some simple words like "You pick me...here to Hanoi.... FREE?" as the hostel offered the pick-up but apparently left my query unanswered when I asked if it's included in the price. "Yes, yes " was what he said and just hurried off driving me to the hostel. Sure enough, I was asked to pay this guy USD 13 upon arrival. Felt cheated, I knew it's around this cost but I would find a cheaper alternative if I'd known it earlier. Maybe a bus(USD 30cents) or sharing a taxi with other fellow travellers. In fact, I had all the time in the world and not in a hurry to reach Hanoi.

Later the next day in town, I booked a morning return taxi to the airport for USD10 which apparently was a minibus. I was the only passenger apparently and that's so cool+a lil apprehensive.

Just watch how this fella drives. Both of us didn't speak other than several attempts of my Vietnamese which he couldn't be bothered to entertain.

Me: Xin Chao (Hello)
Driver smiled and looked away.
ME: Bang ten la yi? (What's your name?)
Driver: Heng, ya....Heng
ME: Nai di Hanoi...gaan? (Here to hanoi....near?)
Driver just noded, and looked away.

So,thereafter I remained silent absorbing the view. The rest of the time was just him speaking on the phone. I just felt like asking " What's the hurry? Why so impatient?" The constant impatient honks really got on my nerves that I felt like giving him a smack on the face.

It was my last evening in Hanoi. The people and traffic had not slowed down. Across the street was a popular activity venue for the locals. There's a monument and around it people play football, rollerblading, and what do you call that... ball taming/balancing/passing with foot. Over here where I'm standing, there were still people jogging, walking and spending their time beside the lake, locals and foreigners alike.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Hanoi From How I See It

Every morning, this was what I had in the hostel. No complaints, as it's included even though I paid cheap for hostel, not hotel. However, the first 2 nights were private single ensuite which came with A/C, tv, fridge, and my own bathroom. Cool! My last 2 nights were dorm stays which were as cool as I got to talk to some fellow travellers. The thing is just the toilet seat was not properly hinged and there're no hooks for clothes! (which eventually I realized that these 2 flaws didn't only apply here)

Opps..I was talking bout breakfast, didn't I? How did I drift away so far, from something related to food to something ....?

Typical breakfast ala Viet

OK, here's breakfast. Baguette is their regular bread here due to some French influence since the war. However, it would be nice with lil touch of salt. The one in Hanoi is relatively bland to the ones in Malaysia. In fact, it's agreed upon by some Europeans that it should be a lil salty. Each of us got one. What you see here is only half of it, it's quite big. On my last breakfast, I just remembered I hadn't taken a pic of it throughout my stay in Hanoi and so I took this before leaving for the airport on my return flight to KL. That longish watermelon is called Blacklady back home if I'm not mistaken. Breakfast was served with their coffee which is a hit among foreigners. It's black and nice as it comes with a subtle fragrance which I haven't found in Malaysia's.

Hoan Kiem Lake

This small building is smacked right in the middle of the Hoan Kiem Lake at Old Quarters thus making it the focus of every photographers. This lake was the landmark I tried to return to everytime I lost my way wandering the busy Hanoi streets.

Viet meal - Bun Cha

This was my first taste of Vietnamese food. Had this for lunch after checking into my hostel. Does it look delicious to you? It was a generous serving of noodles and and grilled porks(I'm not sure, could be beef too) in soup. I am just not used to eating meat anymore and that's a lot of it here. The thing which kept me worried most was the soup was not hot. I might have added too much of the syrup with the pickled chilli into the soup that made it sweet too. The raw veggie comprised of bean sprouts, mints leaves and some other leaves foreign to me. How to eat them? Dip in the not so hot sweet soup and put in the mouth.

Street food

Don't know if the expression on my face gave me away. *LoL* Where did I sit? Look there, that's my seat and my "Bun Cha". Yeap, I tried the street food, basically that's where majority of the locals have their meals outside. Low chairs, street side and your music are the passing-by motorbikes and motocars honkings. Travelling is experiencing new things, don't you think so? And this was the first thing I tried.

 Cathedral at Old Quarters

Then, I was talked into getting a cyclo ride. It's some kinda tricycle, just that the rider cycles behind the passenger's seat. "How much are you charging per hour?" I asked. "Up to you." That's the constant answer from this 22 year old youth(who apparently guessed I was 20, *LoL*). So, I went sightseeing Old Quarters on the cyclo , kept up with a light chat with him, tried changing roles and clarifying some Viet vocabs. I've thought we agreed with 2 USD which means I'd get some change for my VND 50,000(1USD = 16,000VND). However, he came up with antics that he had no change and I might consider the rest as tips. I wasn't really happy and in the end got VND 10k in return. That's about RM2. Lesson learnt, ask for your change before you hand over your money which I did later in my trip with motortaxi riders and even lady hawkers. Didn't feel good about it though, to me, it's kinda rude.

Street badminton game

Do you know where Vietnamese carry out their sporting activities? Don't play play, one can even play badminton on a walkway by a street. Do not stereotype this to only children as next to them, there were a group of adults playing double matches. I even saw a group of youths playing roadside football. How dangerous it is to them and road users.

Bia Hoi crowd

Bia Hoi is popular among foreigners and locals alike. The picture above shows more foreigners than locals having a good time by the busy street chatting away(I'm not sure if they are disturbed by the traffic). Locals most probably knew better places to enjoy their Bia Hoi away from this crowd. Bia Hoi here costs as low as 3,000 VND (RM0.60) which was definitely cheaper than an iced coffee I had for 10,000 VND.

Street Bia Hoi session

Being a curious traveller, I took the opportunity to taste a glass with a packet of the local fruit chips which I love so much. I'm not a drinker and thus it was really difficult to swallow, I took in sip by sip alternating with some naturally sweet banana/jackfruit/yam chips. Luckily, I managed to walked back to my hostel safely that evening, though a lil dizzy.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Trip Of The Year - Hanoi

Exactly last week, I started my annual leave. In fact, I've got the time to blog today is all because I'm still on leave. *LoL* Well, I've actually a lot to tell but I simply don't know how to put it properly without stumbling on my words here and there. So, I've decided to tell it all slow lil by lil as the memories of the past 6 days start coming back to me.

Indeed, the solo trip to Hanoi has been an enriching one. I would not say it was a relaxing one but it's one that has raised my self confidence by leaps. I can actually do a trip by myself! Yay! I've actually made it! That's the trip of the year that's I've been planning since the flight bookings in February and the uncertainties before it really came true. At some points before the trip, I even doubt my ability to do it, half due to discouragement from my parents. Can't really blame them as which parents wouldn't worry especially travelling solo to a 3rd world country with traffic as crazy as in Vietnam. On the other hand, my work training which claimed to be starting in early July did affect my plans to the extend that I only booked my stays at last minutes.
So, exactly last Fri, there you go, some food stuffs, new pair of footwear (an easy slip-in and out, fast drying and most importantly light good walking sandals), camera+charger, rechargeable batts, etc etc.

Not forgetting of course my passport, the local currencies(which are USD and Vietnam Dong), extra camera's memory, Hanoi get around map(which was later provided by the hostel I checked in), KL Sentral - LCCT Aerobus schedule, handphone+charger, travel adaptor, booking statements, my very own self customized itinery, essential Viet vocab book, etc etc...

There you go, a backpack and a sling bag ready for tomorrow's departure to Hanoi for 6D/5N. Ciao, bedtime. So, I went to bed.. could hardly get a good sleep before my alarm rang and I woked at 2.30 am. Prepped and set off to KL Sentral for the 3.30 am ride.

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