Making friction work for you 13 November, 2008Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Slice of Life.
add a comment
Friction – it is the evil of all motion. No matter which direction u move, friction works in the opposite way to pull u back.
Like all couples, Dear1 and Dear2 have frictional encounters as well. ‘Hey, is it really true!!?? I thot u guys are just so loving!’ I bet u’ll say. Of course yes. We’re just a typical Singaporean couple, not saints. So even though u’ve read our posts on how loving we are, there’s always frictional works that are deliberately left out from the big screen.
Who to mop the floor? When to mop the floor?
What to do for the weekend? How to plan this weekend?
The sequence of laundry on the tekko? The order of plates on the drying rack?
Which clothes to wash in this batch? Why not this one more piece in this washing batch?
These are often argued conflicts between Dear1 and Dear2. Trivial, yet minor, these are the dreaded problems we face almost on a weekly basis.
But take heart, it is the understanding of these differences, coming to terms with them and resolving the problem that leads to ultimate joy. Joy, because we have done it. Joy, because we have did it. And joy, because we will continue to do it.
Life’s like that. Friction is plenty, and it’s all around us. What’s the breeze in the hair when you cycle at high speed? What’s the pushing force that keeps u running even faster so that u dun fall, when u run in a 100m race? And what’s the grip that allows u to savor the nicest wine from the glass? We need to understand which friction is acting, learn to make use of it, and learn to capitalize on it so that we can gain ultimate joy.
Take heart, be aware, and learn to make good of the friction.
I love u, Dear1.
Shop Till You Drop – In Ho Chi Minh City 9 November, 2008Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Shop till you drop, Travel & Discovery.
The Ho Chi Minh City trip was by far the most enjoyable trip that Dear1 and Dear2 have so far. Is it becos we had 3 other friends as companions, or is it becos it was a free and easy tour but becos we went on 2 full day trips with local guides who narrated freely about the culture and life tales of Vietnam, making the experience cheap yet rewarding? Hmm… Or was it the friendliness of the Vietnamese people, or even the fact that Dear2 finds the ‘just cross through the traffic’ exciting yet interesting? Hmm… I guess the cheap shopping and cheap yet not-stingy food in HCMC did play a big part as well. :p
Shopping, yes, let’s talk about shopping in HCMC. Shopping in HCMC can be very fulfilling, mainly becos of the exchange rates and that many big brands are actually manufactured in Vietnam so that u do not need to pay extra for import goods. Here I go…
Exchange Vietnam Dong (VND): Forget about exchanging any VND in Singapore at all. Even from the best money changers in The Arcade, best rate was 1 SGD = 10,000 VND. Not to mention that about half of the money changers here DO NOT have enuff VND to supply. Unlike the usual no-no of exchanging foreign currencies in the country that u visit or at the airport, PLEASE exchange your VND at the HCMC airport. The best rate on the day that we visited HCMC was 1 SGD = 11,433 VND. WOW!!
(Fake) Branded Goods: Yes, like Thailand, there’s A LOT of fake Coach and LV and Gucci, Lacoste and Tommy H and Timberland. But if u just want to flaunt that ‘branded’ bag and ‘branded’ polo tee at your friends, no need to go Thailand and face the increasing unfriendly sales people. Yes, the Vietnamese are soooo friendly people. Like many markets, you HAVE TO bargain 40% of the quoted price. Keep the negotiation atmosphere friendly, cos every dollar savings to us may well be their cost to feed the family for a day, so as long as the price is about what u’re willing pay, ‘let’s all be happy happy’ and close the deal.
Branded Goods: As mentioned, Vietnam is home to production of many branded goods. Dear1 and Dear2 got a Northface 3-layer waterproof jacket at VND 600,000, and waterproof Nike shoes at VND 430,000. Since these are essential for our upcoming Japan trip, taking into consideration walking in the snow, we allocated a sum for these. Afterall, I’m pretty sure that we’ll not see these prices anywhere in Singapore again. And oh, did I mention about the shop that sells extremely cute cats-and-dogs practicals in bright pastel colors? Not too sure what’s the name of the brand, and it might even be imitation of the original, but Dear1 pampered Dear2 with 2 sweet pouches at VND 70,000 each. Thank u Dear1!
Vietnam Souvenirs: If u are those who feel obliged to buy souvenirs for friends and relatives everytime u go on tour, HCMC is a good place to sweep up cheap knick knacks. Embriodered purses, clothe bags, egg shell picture frames, shell mirrors, ornaments in every shape and size and price, surely there’s plenty for u to choose from. Just make sure that your souvenirs dun get stashed away at the back of your friends’ cabinets (again), so get something that they will like.
Food: Eating in HCMC is cheap. Even in places where tourists frequent, u can get a hearty meal at half the price u’ll pay in Singapore. And I’m talking about places where they serve tourists. If u are adventurous enuff, take up a stool along the alley and order whatever the locals are eating (dun ask me what they are eating, cos it’s always hard to ask ‘what’s in this’ when most of the locals [not selling in shops] can’t speak English), I’m pretty sure that the food will still gel with our Asian tongue. And dun worry about hygiene, in the week that Dear1 and Dear2 were there, we absolutely have no problem with the stomach, but of course, please get your 1L bottled water @ VND 8,000 each anywhere, even from roadside stalls.
Reccommendation to Shop: If u have read up enuff about HCMC, Ben Thanh market will not come as as unfamiliar to u. The Ben Thanh day market has a WIDE variety of goods in the sheltered building, and some of the more ‘tourist’ goods gets moved out into the night market when the day market closes at 6pm. A reccommendation will be to stay in District 1 where the Ben Thanh market is, cos almost everything worthwhile to see and do and buy in HCMC is located in District 1.
2 hours flight away, and possbily cheap air tickets cos many airlines fly HCMC now (we flew on Tiger Airways at SGD 200 for return tickets), HCMC may be a nice place to visit now. Do visit HCMC soon, cos Dear2 has a feeling that urbanization and influx of tourism may quickly turn the now friendly and cheap city into one of the familiar cities we’ve seen so often, faced with extreme bad traffic and pollution, of stressful lives and not-so-cheap bargains for tourists anymore.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Day 4 (Last) 9 November, 2008Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Travel & Discovery.
1 comment so far
Day 4 – We started our day waking up the same time as the previous 2 days even though we’re not going on any day trips today. But rather becos today was our last day in HCMC and we wanted to do all the remaining things on our checklist before catching the flight at 5pm back to Singapore.
Breakfast was the usual egg, bread, coffee, juice and banana but it still tasted delicious even after eating the same thing for 3 days straight. We settled our bills with the hotel early without checking out so that we know exactly how many VND we have remaining to spend at the market place. Chanh also included the taxi fare from the hotel to the airport as part of the bill as he will ready a taxi for us when we check out. Really good service.
We set off to the Post Office and took lots of pictures on this bright sunny morning. We then visited the interior of the Notre Dame Cathedral. Next, we went over to the Post Office and mailed a postcard back to our Singapore address. Gee… After a quick stroll around these 2 places of interest, we realized we were running short of time and decided to head directly to Ben Thanh market for a last minute shopping spree.
We arrived and Ben Thanh market in good time with about 2 hours to spare before checking out. We visited the shops that we had purchased items from on Day 1 to save time. We bought 2 big ticket items there, a winter jacket for our upcoming Japan trip and a pair of outdoor Nike shoes also for our Japan trip. Both are genuine goods and at an unbeatable price. :D
We then spend our last few dollars (luckily we had some left) on lunch, again at Pho 2000. For our last taste of Vietnamese food before we board our planes, we ordered a bowl of pho and a bowl of curry with rice and bread. Needless to say, it was greatly satisfying. Yum yum.
Upon arriving back at our hotel, we packed out luggages and checked out of the hotel room so that Chanh can ready it for his next guest. He was so nice to us throughout our stay and we did not want to hold up his business. Our 1 luggage and 2 backpacks when we arrived at HCMC become 2 luggage and 3 backpacks. Any experienced traveler will know that returning luggage is always larger than arriving luggage becos of all the wonderful shopping to be done during the trip. Lol. The taxi was waiting for us, Chanh helped with the luggage, and off we go to the airport.
As we catch the last glimpse of the now natural looking Vietnam traffic, we realized how much we have learnt from their culture over the past 4 days, and how much we had enjoyed their hospitality. Everyone we met in Vietnam was very warm towards us and that made our trip all the more memorable and fulfilling. We were sad to have to leave so soon. There are so much more we have yet to experience. As we bid farewell to this charming country of Vietnam, we began looking ahead for our next visit to Vietnam. Ha Tien, Vung Tau, Phan Thiet, Nha Trang, Dalat, Buon Ma Thuot, Hoi An, Hue, Hanoi, Sapa…
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Day 3 9 November, 2008Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Travel & Discovery.
1 comment so far
Day 3 – We woke up early as usual to be greeted by the soft morning sky. After a quick wash, we headed downstairs for our hotel breakfast. We realized that Chanh actually serves the same menu every day. The only variation possible was black coffee, white coffee, tea or scrambled eggs instead of sunny-side-up. We decided to try something different today so we ordered scrambled eggs. We ate breakfast in a similar fashion as Day 2, putting scrambled eggs into the bread with some sprinkle of salt and pepper. Simply yet wonderful.
Now about the juice. Yesterday, when we first had the juice, it was immensely sour! The first sip brought about an intense sour reaction from the both of us, wrinkling our faces and eyes just to cope with the sourness. It was definitely fresh and pure, but just too sour. Today, we sat at our breakfast table together with an old lady who was also staying at our hotel. A short chat with her revealed that she was born and grew up in Vietnam before migrating. And she was back in Vietnam for a holiday. Seeing our wrinkled expressions with the juice, she taught us how to better enjoy the drink. Add sugar, she said. One spoonful, two spoonful, not bad, it tasted much better, at least the sour taste was neutralized. Three spoonful, hey, it’s good! The sugar actually brings out the fragrance of the juice and allowed us to slowly appreciate its richness. We thanked the old lady for teaching us about the Vietnamese way of food. It certainly made our travelling experience much more engaging.
The tour guide came to pick us up as usual and took us to the bus that is going to drive us 3 hours to the Mekong Delta. Our first stop, as usual, was a toilet stop. This time, it was at an uneventful touristy stop where they sold lots of food, drinks and souvenirs. What was interesting was the walkway leading to the toilets. The walkway was sheltered by a wooden roof with vines and flowers dangling from above. The flowers were beautiful on its own, but what’s interesting were the numerous bees at work. These bees were big, roughly 2-3 inches in length. The bees largely ignored the crowd walking about and concentrated on their task of collecting nectar from the flowers. One bee would pop its head into a flower to check for nectar while its buttock (and sting!) faced outwards. If there was no nectar in this flower, it would quickly move on to the next flower until it finds one with nectar. In those cases, it would remain inside the flower for some time before flying back to its hive. Luckily, these large bees fly rather slowly and so wasn’t too terrifying, and we were able to observe their behaviour. However, these bees weren’t very smart. After the first bee checked an empty flower, a second will check the same empty flower again and of course still found it to be empty. Haha… Cute, but a little inefficient. :P
We arrived at the smallest of the five major floating markets in Mekong Delta, Cai Be at around 11am. The guide informed us that the rush hour at these markets was 5am – 7.30am in the morning and that there was no way we could see or experience the liveliness of the floating market in a 1 day tour. A 2 day tour would allow us an opportunity to experience the real floating market and also give us more time to drive to Can Tho where the largest floating market is located. We did get the see the floating market *area* but void of boatloads of fruits and merchandise. Quite a disappointment.
Next, we visited a coconut candy making production line where the guide showed us the various steps in making coconut candy, and also rice paper. We would get a chance to taste the rice paper later in our trip. Back to the coconut candy, we got to taste some freshly made candy direct from the cutting board, still warm and chewy and actually quite rich and delicious. So we put on our tourist cap and bought 6 packets worth of candy (buy 5 get 1 free) for VND20k each, as a treat for our friends back home. So typical Singaporeans. Lol. The next stop was a pop rice making production line. There, the guide demonstrated to us how rice grains in a hot wok with black sand would actually ‘pop’ very much like popcorn. In another corner, a worker carefully mixed some simple ingredients available from the village region to produce caramel. Next, the popped rice and caramel were stirred together to form a uniform consistency. The end result was rice crackers! I’m sure everyone would had seen this type of rice crackers before, just that now we get to see how they were actually made.
After leaving the ‘factories’, we would take a long boat ride (1 hour?) to a village area where we would have lunch. The boat ride itself was quite interesting and offered lots of sightseeing opportunities. We travelled up one of the many river deltas in the area to reach our destination. Along the way, we saw fishermen, we saw sand miners, we saw constructors laying those wooden foundation columns for a new fish farm, we saw ppl cooking on boats, living in the boats, we say children working with their fathers near the river banks, and we saw the livelihood of these river people. It was, to a certain extent, thought provoking.
The lunch location turned out to be a rather nicely decorated tourist restaurant. Our package included a basic lunch of rice, pork chop and macaroni soup. The rice was again good, and so was the soup. I really liked how all the food in Vietnam was naturally prepared and doesn’t use too much artificial flavourings. This was just the basic meal and it wasn’t long before the restaurant started selling their other local delicacies. They recommended to us this locally caught Mekong Delta fish which was deep fried without removing the scales. The fish was to be eaten wrapped with the rice paper we’ve seen earlier together with some raw vegetables, cucumbers and rice noodles. Finally, the wrapped rolled popiah lookalike was to be dipped into a special sauce and into our mouths it went. Surprisingly delicious! We were surprised how simple ingredients such as these produce such good flavours. The fish again was very fresh and the tenderness of the flesh immediately filled our taste buds. There’s some kind of light sweetness to the fish, maybe becos it was caught from the fertile Mekong river? Whatever the case, our stomach appreciated the great lunch. There was additional cost for the fish, I can’t remember the price but it was definitely reasonable, perhaps slightly cheaper than Singapore fish, yet much much fresher.
It started to rain during lunch. I didn’t mention it in Day 2 but it rained in the mid afternoon at Cu Chi Tunnels too. Somehow, it just seemed to rain at around the same time every day in the afternoon in Vietnam. The rest our tour group didn’t want to go on the bicycle ride and chose to laze a relaxing after lunch break on hammocks provided at the restaurant, imitating the many locals that we had seen during our trip who were also did the same. We, on the other hand, decided to put on our locally bought ponchos (thin plastic raincoats) and cycle to the nearest town (1.5km away) to take a look at local life. Sadly, we were only allocated 1 hour to complete both lunch and the bicycle ride, so we had to rush a bit. And exercising immediately after lunch was certainly not comfortable. We went our riding in the rain along the village roads. The village itself was nothing very special, just looked very much like our kampongs that we can still find at Pulua Ubin and also Malaysia. What I liked about this short bicycle ride was being part of the Vietnamese traffic as a fellow road user! One motorbike horned me from behind. Beep! Beep! I turned around, looked for the source of the horn, and moved slightly to the right for him to pass me. Yes, Vietnam drives on the right. As we approached a junction for a left turn, there were a few motorbikes on the road and we kena horned again. Beep! We stopped, allowed the motorbike to pass first before making our turn. We got off our bicycles to push up a slope and a Vietnamese lady behind us followed suit and push her bicycle up the slope together with us. Haha… It was truly interesting and enjoyable being part of the traffic. Throughout our ride, I think we met around 15-20 vehicles on the village road, mainly motorbikes. It wasn’t as chaotic as the traffic in the city but we did get a small taste of Vietnam traffic. Too bad our bicycles didn’t have horns, otherwise we could have ‘Beep!’ other road users too. :P
We proceeded to the next item on our schedule which was a river rowboat ride with a local boatlady. The slim boat was able to take 4 passengers and 1 rower. But the time all 5 of us got on the boat, the water surface was barely 3 inches from spilling into the boat. Every time the boat rocked from side to side, the river would come as close as 1 inch from the edge of the boat. Scary. This is perhaps the same kind of boat the local ppl use to paddle their wares during the morning floating markets. Surely those hills and hills of fruits and vegetable weigh more than 4 tourists. It certainly takes good control to navigation such a boat around the river. We got a chance to wear the traditional conical hat during our boat ride as well. 4 conical hat passengers and 1 conical hat rower on a slim wooden boat, I’m beginning to feel a little bit like the river people myself.
It’s getting late and time for us to set off back to HCMC. The long 4 hour bus ride took us to a toilet stop in My Tho, one of the bigger town in the Mekong Delta. There was a Bonsai Garden at the stop but nothing interesting and we continued back to the city.
Upon arriving, we quickly head back to the hotel for a quick wash up and set off to catch the water puppet show at 8pm. I’m not really sure where the theatre is exactly but I think it was somewhere near the Reunification Palace. We showed the taxi driver the address and we arrived there shortly after at 7.50pm, and just in time too. We bought the tickets and went in, the theatre was about 25% full at max. The water puppet show was indeed interesting. The puppets were constantly in motion, dancing and moving to the rhythm of the music. There were 6 musician cum voice actors/actresses at the side of the stage that provide all the music and vocals for the show. It was a pity that the entire show was performed in Vietnamese language and we could understand none of it. At least the body language of the puppets were realistic enough throughout most of the show that we could at least make a good guess of the story that was going on onstage. This is truly one of the highlights of the whole Vietnam trip, so glad that we didn’t miss it.
After the performance, we went for a very late dinner at Pho 2000, yet another pho restaurant chain. This one was special in the sense that it was visited by American President Bill Clinton before, and they have a photo of the visit to show in the outlet. Compared to Pho 24, Pho 2000 have a larger variety such as curry and vegetarian. But Dear2 didn’t like the thicker noodles used this this restaurant chain. Still, the soup is good. :D
Finally, after a long day, we returned to our hotel for the night, close to 11pm. We half expected to be locked out, but was pleasantly surprised that Chanh was actually waiting for us at the lobby with doors opened. Probably he had not seen us return and decided to wait for us before closing. Talk about good customer service! We thanked him before returning to our rooms for our last night in HCMC. The next day, we would spend our last morning visiting Post Office and Notre Dame Cathedral again. Luckily it didn’t rain this time round.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Day 2 9 November, 2008Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Travel & Discovery.
1 comment so far
Day 2 – We woke up early to get ready for our day tour and was surprised that HCMC was already fully bright at 6am in the morning. The sky light looked comparable to 7.30am in Singapore. We washed up and headed downstairs, ready for the tour. The day tour costs USD8 and can be conveniently charged to our total hotel bill with Chanh. When we arrived at the lobby, to our second surprise of the morning, our hotel stay actually included free breakfast!
We sat down in the kitchen behind the hotel lobby and was served 2 sunny-side-up eggs, 1 french loaf, 1 orange (or was it lime?) juice, 1 cup of coffee and a huge bunch of bananas. Eggs were standard, but the rest was full of surprises. The french loaf was surely a remnant of the days as a French colony, but this one was injected with a local flavour. The bread was tough but crispy on the outside, yet very soft on the inside. This made it much easier to chew and to swallow. I cut open part of the bread and put in slices of eggs with half-cooked yolks. I then sprinkled the eggs with a bottle of condiment which Chanh claimed to be ‘pepper’. This combination tasted great! Soft, chewy and flavourful. On closer examination, the ‘pepper’ bottle actually contained a salt and pepper mixture, which explains why it was able to enhance the taste of my french-loaf-egg-sandwich.
The coffee tasted great too! Strong and thick, just the way I liked it, and certainly much better than the Nescafe I have been drinking every morning for the past dunno how many years. I would later come to learn that Vietnam is actually the world’s second largest exporter of coffee, after Colombia. I enjoy drinking coffee but I’m not an expert at differentiating the taste. All I can say is that Vietnam coffee is good.
I will talk more about the orange (lime?) juice in Day 3. On to the bananas! Raw looking green bananas with a lot of black spots on them. The type that I would not choose if I was buying bananas at the supermarket. Dear2 tried the banana anyway, and she found it good! Funny how everything in Vietnam tasted good. It was different from the bananas we have in Singapore, but different in a good way. I can’t really tell the difference becos I don’t really like bananas to begin with. Maybe Dear2 can describe the difference better.
And finally we’re on our way. Our tour guide came to pick us up at our hotel and we followed him to a bus that’s going to take us on our day trip. The bus would become fully packed with ppl from other hotels joining in the tour. As a result, the tour guide had nowhere to sit and had to bring in a plastic chair which he placed at the center aisle of the bus, near the door. Our guide, if I remembered correctly, his name is Minh. He is a survivor from the Vietnam war where he worked as an interpreter between the Vietnamese and English language. During the trip, he would share with us his many experiences from the war time and the many events that took place from after the war until modern today. He also shared with us his beliefs and ideals, and how valuable it is to have peace and happiness. From his talks, I was able to appreciate the hardship that the Vietnamese ppl have went through, and I was also able to feel his sense of patriotism towards his country. I was truly touched by his story.
We made our first stop at this handicapped handicraft factory for a visit as well as for a much needed toilet break. Here, we saw a large group of ppl with disabilities, mainly in the lower limbs. They were working at producing works of art shown in the picture below. Some were hand painted, but the really fascinating ones was those made using egg shells. The craftsmen skillfully pasted the crushed egg shells on the painting board, replicating a template piece solely by eye. Subsequently, the surface was polished until a uniform shine was achieved and the product can be sent to the marketplace for sale. It really goes to show how ppl with a deficiency in one area can be highly proficient in another.
Continuing with our journey, we travelled along the highway further out into the suburbs. Here, we began to observe more open spaces and rice fields. Occasionally, some cows can be seen in the fields, but they always seemed to be resting and not doing any plowing. Maybe plow time was much earlier in the morning? Frequently seen next to cows were these white feathered birds with long beaks and tall slim legs. I don’t know what species it belonged to and so that’s about the best description I can give. The bird does seemed to be feeding on some kind of insect (fleas?) on the cow. It would be interesting to find out more about this cow-bird relationship.
We reached our first main destination, Cao Dai Temple. According to the guide, this religion currently holds about 2.5 million believers around the world and even have a temple in USA. For more information about this religion, you can check out Wikipedia. We arrived at 11.50am, just before the daily prayers at 12noon. The temple itself was interesting from an architectural point of view, but I wasn’t very impressed by the prayers ceremony. It was, well, like a very typical religious ceremony. However, the exterior was quite impressive, with bright colours and a mixture of architectural symbols that seemed rather uncoherent. But Cao Dai represents a blend of different religions, so maybe that’s what the builders were trying to demonstrate with their temple design as well.
Soon after, we set off towards our next stop, lunch! We stopped at this small restaurant along some main road. The restaurant was managed in a very similar way to our cooked food stalls in kopitiams here. I ordered beef rice while Dear2 order some squids. Lunch was not included as part of the packaged fee so we had to pay for it. Food was decent but was priced at around VND40k which is very similar to Singapore pricing. For a restaurant out in the countryside, it certainly is making a big profit off tourists like us.
We arrived at our second main destination for the day, Cu Chi Tunnels. Again, for more details on this ‘tourist attraction’, please check out Wikipedia, or even Travel Wiki. Basically, it is supposed to be a site very active during the Vietnam war and now opened to public to educate ppl about the living conditions during that time. I thought the entire area felt too touristy and was more like an outdoor wax history museum. There were lots of exhibits, but everything felt rather fake and they looked more suitable for a city museum rather than an actual war site. For us, the highlight of this destination was the walk, or rather, crawl through an enlarged version of the tunnels used during the war. The tunnel was only 100m long, but the actual crawl inside felt much longer than that. Upon entering the tunnel, space became so constrained that there was just enough space to shuffle my feet. There were also upclimbs and downclimbs in the tunnels and the light bulbs were spoilt in some sections so we had to crawl forward in pitch black darkness. Also, the air was stale and humid, making breathing somewhat heavy. Having sufficiently experienced life in the tunnels, we exited the tunnel slightly before the end using one of the numerous emergency exits . It was tough. I really cannot start to imagine how the ppl back then lived in tunnels that were smaller than these during the war. At times like these, we can really appreciate the strength and resilience of the human spirit.
Another 2 more hours on the road took us back to HCMC and the end of the day tour. The time was about 7pm and we decided to head back to our hotel, which was walking distance away, for a small wash up before heading out for dinner. We had dinner at Pho 24, a restaurant chain selling pho, the traditional Vietnamese soup. It was yummy! And it was natural! The soup tasted so flavourful and yet didn’t leave our mouths and throats dry at night. This meant that the sweetness in the soup came from the long hours of preparation and boiling. Somehow, Singapore pho just doesn’t taste the same, I prefer truly Vietnamese local pho. I heard pho in Hanoi tastes even better! Can’t wait to visit Hanoi just to eat the pho.
After dinner, we had a stroll along the slightly less busy city streets. We went pass Ben Thanh again but did not go in. We continued walking and ended up at the Rex Hotel where we can also see the City Hall building, and a little bit further down, the Municipal Theatre. We had intended to visit these places during Day 1 but the rain prevented that. The night view was also nice, and it certainly had a different flavour from those typical pictures of these sites that we so often see in guide books. Too bad our dated Olympus camera from the 3.2 megapixels era couldn’t take any decent night photos. At the very least, we had those images tucked away as memories in our heads. We walked up Dong Khoi St and ended up at the Notre Dame Cathedral and the Post Office. These famous buildings did look different at night, but we were preoccupied with other things. We noticed that the main entrance of the closed Post Office was a gathering place for Vietnamese youth and dating couples. Each couple was usually accompanied by their motorbike while they hugged, cuddled and enjoyed each others’ company after a hard day at work. We had stumbled upon a dating spot, what an unexpected find! We didn’t stay longer as we felt slightly insecure being the only foreigners amidst the mob of local lovebirds, so we hailed a taxi and headed back to our hotel.
To our horror, our hotel was closed! For a moment, we thought we were locked out. Was there a curfew that we didn’t know about? Oh no! Locked out in a foreign land, what were we going to do? Slight panic rose up our stomachs. Suddenly, Dear1 noticed something on the wall outside the hotel doors. A doorbell! Ding dong! And the ever present Chanh came to our rescue and opened the doors. We were saved. He explained to us that there was no curfew but just that he had to close the main doors for security reasons. We thanked Chanh for waking up just for us at around 11pm at night and we retreated back to our rooms for a good rest after a long day. Just before retiring, we booked our full day tour for the next day with Chanh, a trip to Mekong Delta.
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – Day 1 8 November, 2008Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear1, Travel & Discovery.
Dear1 and Dear2 went for a short holiday to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam recently. It was truly a short trip, just 4D3N, but we enjoyed ourselves thoroughly. It was definitely one of our most enjoyable trip to date. Here’s the itinerary.
Day 1 – Set off from Budget Terminal at Changi Airport by Tiger Airways in the morning, 0745hr flight. We touched down at HCMC at around 0830hr local time. We bought Vietnam Dong at the airport becos our pre-trip research told us that it’s cheaper to buy VND in Vietnam, even at the airport, compared to the best money changer in Singapore. We bought our VND at 11200 at the airport whereas Arcade at Raffles Place quoted us just 10000.
Next, we hail a taxi to our hotel, Bich Duyen Hotel at Pham Ngu Lao St. Since it was the first time we’re taking a cab in HCMC, we were conned! The taxi driver asked for VND300k to drive us to our hotel in District 1. But so happens that there was a taxi meter running in the taxi, and it registered barely 100k when we arrived at our destination, which meant that we over paid extra 200k which translated to about SGD20. :(
After arriving at the hotel, we learnt that there are 2 reputatable taxi companies in HCMC whose phone numbers are 8272727 and 8262626. So if we ever wanted to take a taxi, we should hail one with either of these numbers displayed on their car bodies, and we can safely ask to be charged according to meter rates without being conned.
After unpacking and a short rest, we started our city walkabout. We were headed in the direction of the Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral. As we started walking, we realized the true chaos of the traffic there. Every millisecond a vehicle horn could be heard. Beep! Beep! There were motorbikes everywhere. Luckily, we read from our travel guide that the best way to cross the road was to walk at a steady pace so that drivers could drive their motorbikes around us. And that’s exactly what we did, just walk steadily and not too slowly, motorbikes will go around us. After several tries, it became quite natural! However, that doesn’t mean we could blindly cross the road. As one of our tour guides mentioned, Vietnam has quite a high road accident fatality rate due to the chaotic traffic conditions. We still must be very alert and look out for any potential dangers when crossing the road.
By the time we reached the Post Office, it was mid afternoon and the skies threatened to rain. We quickly seeked shelter at Diamond Plaza, a shopping mall less than 100 meters away from the Post Office. According to our guide book, it’s supposed to be one of the newest shopping malls in town, but we found it rather small and not very interesting. Besides, prices are not cheap! Some time passed and the rain didn’t stop. So we decided to abandon our outdoor walkabout plan and headed for the sheltered Ben Thanh Market instead, by taxi.
There, we bought quite a lot of cheap shirts, bags and shoes. And we enjoyed bargaining for every dollar with the local shopkeepers there. We had our dinner at one of the roadside stalls selling seafood. Wow! The fish was really fresh! Eventhough Dear2 was not a big fan of fish, she ate quite a big portion of the fish. To us, the fish was the highlight of the dinner.
It was getting late for Day 1, so we decided to take a taxi back to our hotel and rest for the night. Before going up to our rooms, we booked a full day tour with Chanh for the next day, visiting Cao Dai Temple and Cu Chi Tunnels.
Run Twice a Week + Arm Exercises 8 November, 2008Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Sports & Health.
add a comment
I think it’s time to make a decision, a decision to resolve to slim down.
With about 2.5 months to go before Chinese New Year, enuff about ‘I’ll eat less tomorrow’ and ‘I’m afraid that I’ll get gastric pain’. Come on, dun these just sounds like EXCUSES?
Yes, Dear2 wants to slim down, in time for the next Chinese New Year. Enuff about simply grinning when relatives comment that ‘u are fatter now ah’, and enuff about not looking good in ANY clothes that I wear. It’s time to resolve to slim down now.
Hey, doesn’t that sound altogether familiar, when Dear2 went on a ‘last minute ditch to slim down before the wedding’ in Sep. That was just barely 2 months ago, but the determination to look prettier during the day of my life just seem like such a long time ago… Where was the resolve to jog every other 3 days during the month to the run up of the wedding, and where was the ‘never say die until the last minute’ spirit when there was only 1 more week but 4 more runs to go before the actual day. The outcome – I did it, and I did it proudly.
But hey, like MANY other brides, ‘who cares about dieting now’ immediately sets in right after the wedding. Only those who’ve walked down the path of bride-a-hood can appreciate this instant freedom, so I shall not elaborate further…
Nonetheless, Dear2 really needs to slim down now, cos of the 2 reasons mentioned above. What Dear2 needs is the resolve to start the exercise plan, and to execute it. What better way den to pen down the resolve, and set out a plan here. As the saying goes, ‘One who fails to plan, plan to fail.’
So, the simple plan is (experience has shown that the plan is best spelted out plainly, anything complicated will easily become an excuse, afterall, it is SO easy for excuses to form…):
Run twice a week (min 6 km each) + arm exercises.
Cheer me on pls, Dear2. Nobody can force u to do what u dun want to do, except yourself. Like all things in life, if u want something badly enuff, u will find means and ways to get it. A toned body does not just happen by itself, there needs to be hard work and effort before u achieve it, so RUN for it!!
Bich Duyen Hotel 5 November, 2008Posted by dear1dear2 in Dear2, Travel & Discovery.
1 comment so far
We din have the chance to ask Chanh how Bich Duyen is really pronounced, cos even though the Vietnamese language makes use of alphabets, but the 6 tones for each word plus the Vietnamese language origins dating way back from Chinese long long time ago, all the Vietnamese words are almost un-pronounceable even for the dual-lingo Singaporeans like us.
Dear1 and Dear2 just returned from a 4D3N Ho Chi Minh City trip. Fun, interesting, fulfilling, shop shop shop and shop. and overall a very satisfying experience for the both of us. Let’s talk about the backpackers hostel we stayed during this trip today – Bich Duyen Hotel.
Located inside an alley on Pham Ngu Lao Street, the backpackers area in HCMC, the renowned Ben Thanh Market is a 1km walk away from the hostel (even though we usually take the cab there at a cheap fee of VND 12,000 [~ SGD1.20] which is the starting fare for the meter cab – yes, the fare has not jumped yet! Haha!). The ‘Are you kidding’ question on our mind still linger even though we had already mentally prepared ourselves for the super tiring stairs (cos there’s no lift in the hostel), ok clean room and ok friendly Chanh, the famed lengendary super attendant.
The ‘wow, thumbs up’ didn’t take too long to come – super clean bedsheets, wow, clean quilt, wow, there’s Discovery Channel and National Geographic channels, wow, Chanh literally lives in the hostel and can even to open up the shutters for us almost immediately when we returned to hotel at 11pm on 1 night, and all this for the price of ~ SGD35 per room per night. What a steal!
Dear1 and Dear2′s first backpacking trip was also liven up by the small little things that happened in the hotel. Iced bottled 1L water at $0.80 readily available from the refrigerator in the living room, which u can ask Chanh to add that to the final bill, plain sunny-side up from breakfast turned oishii just by sprinkling the pepper-salt shake, nice and thick morning coffee brew, freshly squeezed lemonade turned from sour to sweet by adding lots of sugar, internet access (disclaimer: 1 PC only) at the foyer, air con in the room, all the things that u’ll grow to live it like your own home if we were to stay a few more days.
5 storeys with 3 rooms per storey, and a common dormitory, the capacity of the hotel is really very limited. For those of u looking for a pleasantly surprised stay in HCMC, Bich Duyen is highly recommended. Book your reservations early cos some seasons seem to be peak for them all hotels. Btw, did I mention that this hotel is the number 1 high review from the Hostels Bookers? Good job!