Saturday, November 8, 2014
"Ho Chi Minh"
On October the 23rd, i embarked on my solo journey to Ho Chi Minh city to meet my cousin and her friend named Wani and Qistina. It was a plan we made earlier this month. This holiday was at first to pamper ourselves in a resort which soon changed to a shopping spree. We spent 4 days in Ho Chi Minh city and only managed to cover some of the attractions such as Ben Thanh market, Vincom Mall, Diamond Plaza, Saigon Square 2 (and missed out on Saigon Square 1) and walk around in the streets of Le Loi.
We checked in at Compass Parkview hotel - located at the street of Nguyen Du. Compass Parkview hotel is a four star hotel that exudes glam and convenience which is just 10 mins (or less) away from the.famous bargain shopping centre, Ben Thanh Market. Also, not far from that hotel are the palace and park that are always filled with people; having a picnic, doing yoga, chilling and simply enjoying the view. Although the hotel is surrounded by SMEs which is a sore to the eye, the hotel managed to maintain a clean and nice but simple minimalist design or environment. Our room was very spacious which have a living room, a kitchen and my personal favorite, closets - which are situated near the entrance of the room. It was perfect as we get to have one each.
The first activity we did was strolling down the road to the centre to find some food; halal food. I googled "halal food in ho chi minh" and stumbled upon this website (http://www.vietnammuslimtravel.com/halal-restaurants/Halal-Restaurant-in-HCMC/). We found one that is clean-looking and decided to walk all the way to the place. It wasn't that far but with the traffic and crossing the road on a hot day, it made the journey dreadful. Upon reaching to the place, we found out that place was already shut down. We then decided to take a taxi to go the Diamond Plaza. We were so hungry and food was in our mind. Diamond plaza is a luxurious Parkson-like store that sells G2000, Make Up Forever, MAC and some other international brands. As we reached the food court, our tummy was already growling like a wolf on a hunt for some prey. We had some Pad Thai, Grilled Salmon Pepper Rice, hotpot and some huge side dishes. People were actually in awed when they saw our food. I thought to myself, us Bruneians love love to eat. After lunch-slash-dinner, the girls went for shopping while i adhere. Funny thing happened when the sales person said to Wani this: wait for me as apposed to 'Please wait for a moment'. We laughed as she joked about running away. I remember her exact phase, " inda..aku lari ni..aku lari ni.." That was hilarious.
After an hour, covering only 30% of the plaza, we went outside to have a stroll. In front of the plaza is a Cathedral that is surrounded by old historic building which I didn't take account for because the cathedral itself is that gorgeous. By then, it was already night-time. The view was not as gorgeous as the one in Hanoi. After taking pictures,We went back to the hotel and cooked some noodles we bought from 24/7 store. I had Hao Hao while the girls had a spicy noodle soup.
The next day, as soon as our alarm went off, we went straight to the top floor of the hotel for some breakfast. The Vietnamese coffee is delicious and the view is top-notch. By now, you should know that i am a sucker for gorgeous view. Who doesn't? After breakfast, we decided to spend our day at the Ben Thanh Market. I was really excited to see all the fuss about this place but with these girls, my excitement diminished as they took an hour to actually get ready. Cant blame them though. Haha. (if you guys are reading this, holla~). As we reached Ben Thanh market, we were greeted by some sellers, pushing their things to our faces and asking us to buy them. Thank god, i learnt how to say No in Thieng Viet. As we explored the place, we bought some souvenirs, clothes and etc. It was fun as we tried different ways of bargaining. I tried the aggressive bargaining while they tried the other way around. This was our first time going to Ho Chi Minh and was really amazed how expert we were in bargaining. Guess we got that from my grandmama. I bought a lot of things for the family and seeked help from the girls to give it to them. Such an opportunist.
Besides that, our pampering session was the highlight of the day as we spent the whole night pampering ourselves, from getting our hair done, having massage, waxing and ending the night with chilling at the outdoor Jacuzzi. I had my hair colored which i specifically wanted grey color that ends up being blonde. It wasn't Britney or Paris blonde but it was blonde. I wasn't comfortable with the color but wanted to try it anyway. That night, i did not take a lot of pictures of myself.
The next day, we went to Vincom and Saigon Square to look for trench coats and boots. Vincom in Ho Chi Minh differs from the ones in Hanoi. In HCM, it provides various international brands while in Hanoi, is just crap. Going to Saigon square 2 was a mistake. It was small and filled with crappy stuff - stuff that we didn't favor. Although it was air-conditioned, it was not to our liking.
That night, we decided to have a fine dining and dressing up was not an option. It was mandatory! When travelling with these two girls, we always have that one night where we go big on everything. This time, we decided to go for 27 Chill, which is located at the AB tower - 3 minutes away from our hotel by taxi. Upon arrival, there were two lines; guest list and non-reservation. We cut the long ques because we made a last minute reservation. We were then ushered to the elevator and was greeted by another usher. The word Chill flashed before us as the elevator door opened. It was dark and glamorous. Chandeliers, marble floors and big vases can be seen.
The usher ushered us to our table which was om the 28th floor; the highest in Ho Chi Minh. The table marked reserved can be seen from afar. We were amazed with what we saw. It was a panoramic view of the city with colorful lights coming from the bar, just below us. We had seafood bucket and cauliflower soup for starter. 20 minutes later, our main course arrived. As the waiters laid out our food one by one, i thought to myself, 'damnnn this looks good!' Wani had Grilled Salmon while Qis and I had steak; rib-eye 30 days old and 21 days old steak respectively. I ordered the 400g because i starved myself that day. We dug in as soon as the waiters left. The rib eye was very tender and delicious. We also ordered side dishes namely cheesy fries, salads and mash potatoes. As soon as i tried the food, i immediately texted Jastina to try here in December. I have to give it a five star to their food, view and service.
Recommendable to splurge here for a classy dinner with some friends or loved ones.
After dinner, we decided to go back to our hotel and changed out outfits. It wasn't major, just to more comfortable clothes. We then hit to this club called Gossip. The place looks pumping from the outside. As we walked in, we were greeted with ushers wearing "captain" outfits with their hats and jacket. Mirrors everywhere, laser lights flashing and the pumping song filled the room. We sat at the bar and ordered coke. It was amusing as we looked our surrounding was filled with young girls with older men. The music was ok but the ambiance of the room was really exciting. Since Halloween is coming the place was decorated with Halloween muses and mannequins.
We were bored 30 minutes later and decided to end the night.
The last day at HCM was really really short. My flight to Hanoi was at 5.30pm so i need to go to the airport by 3.30. We left the hotel for lunch at Vincom and roamed around the mall till 2pm. We quickly went back to the hotel and packed up. I was only there for 15 minutes. At 2.30pm, hugs were exchanged and moments were made. I quickly went down and asked for taxi. I went straight to the airport and checked myself in. As I'm done with anything, flashbacks of funny moments came through my mind. I smiled.
I would like to thank those two girls who made the trip fun. I love you girls. Pictures from Ho Chi Minh, with love.
Monday, October 27, 2014
''out in the wild''
Last Sunday (19th October 2014), I woke up at the crack of dawn, feeling tired. Had a hot shower, checked the girls while waiting for Roland to finish his shower. Everyone was already in the bus, leaving Roland and I the last 2 people to get in the bus. Don't worry, it was very predictable! We then picked up others at the Hanoi University and were told the journey will take about 2 hours. We didn't expect much of this trip but a snooze fest.
Before reaching to the pagoda, we decided to have breakfast at some local cafe. It wasn't long till we realized we were in the middle of nowhere. The cafe we stopped was just an excuse to get the others awake and a pit stop to pee. The shop was surprisingly small which serves only Phõ (noodle) and nothing else. Options were either with pork or beef. Mind you it was 8am and we were hungry so Nazurah and I decided to get beef noodles which she ended up eating it alone. It didn't taste good. Although I remembered saying I like to be more adventurous and try Vietnamese food, this was just not on my list. Apart from that, I had encountered my worst nightmare when i decided to go to the toilet. We were told the toilet will be clean but what i experienced was otherwise. The place smells like something died in there and the place looks ghastly. There were literally shit everywhere. I am not kidding. It was everywhere! It was basically a hellhole. But i had no choice. I thought to myself; will i be able to pee here and suffocate myself or will i walk away.
2 mins later, i decided to pee.
After finishing breakfast, we continued our journey to Ninh Binh, passing empty classic designed building, rocky roads, cemetery on swamps and empty spaces. But minutes later, we were surrounded by green mountains with fogs covering the top part and lakes covering the bottom. Upon reaching the place, we were brought to the line for the electric car to transport us to the temple. It was pretty impressive and scary at the same time. It wasn't that high but the view was breathtaking. There are 4 temples altogether with different stories behind it; how monks tried to change from being mortal to immortal and how they want to lead people to the right path by helping others when in need. I wasn't quite sure with the story as i was stocked - feeling amazed by the 1000 ton gold Buddha in front of me. It was beautiful and beautiful was just it.
Then, we went to Trang An for a boat ride in a lake. The word 'bliss' was the right word to describe the place. The place screams serenity as it is located away from the busy town. It is such an amazing view. Upon arrival, we took a group photo and proceeded to the que because all of us were so excited. I was in one boat with Jas, Izza and Roland. I knew instantly the boat trip is going to be fun. Funny moments were shared as we rowed the boat towards this scary-looking cave. I believe there were at least 10 caves we went into, which took about 2 hours. It was fun at first but an hour later, we just wanted to get out from there as the driver slowly paddled along the calm-watered lake. When we reached the turning point, Roland decided to change seats and made the boat wobble. "Ish..dau dau..." and "nah kana marah lagi" was heard from the woman and Rolland. He decided to put his legs in the cold water while lying down, sleeping. We were already bored by then - even though we haven't covered most of the journey. After the endless selfies, we decided to race with the others boats. Laughter filled the air as we tried to paddled the boat as fast as we can but were not as close to the other boats.
I remember one moment vividly when Roland started to do something funny. He pulled the red flag and wave it to show his enthusiasm for the race. Just with a first wave, the flag flew above our heads and eventually to the water. We then had to make a u-turn to pick the flag up, while the others kept rowing their boats. We were left so far behind till we could not see them anymore. People were staring at us as they passed us by.
*can it be any narrower?*
It gets scarier when we entered the cave. I instantly imagined crocodiles trying to make our boat capsize. But what's more scarier was when we saw dozens of pots with red clothes tied around the top just like in the Chinese vampire movies. Also, there was a doll, just lying there..in the dark cave...creep the shit out of me! The trip soon turned from fun to drag. We joked about how the driver would eventually gets tired and decided to pull a small fan and use it a motor to get the boat move. (More pics below)
*that scary part of the trip*
*the women who paddled using her feet*
Nonetheless, I just love this trip. I have to say It was an experience that I will never forget. This was my first time. All you need are your funny friends, crazy jokes and breath-taking view. Perfect combo, if you ask me.
till next time. :)