Impressions of Ho Chi Minh (Photo Series).

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Our cozy hotel setup at the Silverland Sakyo Hotel. While I appreciated the japanese inspired designs, our room had no windows. We had a really hard time getting up in the mornings without natural daylight.

 

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Despite its allure, I never actually got to bathe in this thing.

 

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A man earning his keep by selling pastries, all precariously balanced on his head. He placed the tray on my head for a short second and had it not had been for the support of his hands, my neck may have snapped. That thing was HEAVY.

 

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Exploring local markets, all of which were selling plenty of fake goods. Kenzo jumpers, Michael Kors bags and Ray ban knock offs.

 

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Being overwhelmed, yet super excited about the array of local food offered at the stalls, all for an average price of 2 Euros.

 

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Incase you weren’t drooling already. This was at Ben Thanh Market. The perfect place to get some souvenirs and food.

 

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As you can tell, I’m pretty darn happy. Pictured are classic vietnamese spring rolls and a wonton noodle soup.

 

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A Banh Mi stand sheltering under a tree.

 

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Next to the famous post office, there was a sort of “book-road” filled with cute cafés and book shops. A great place to come drink a delicious iced-coffee while getting away from the afternoon heat.

 

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Stacks and stacks of second-hand books. I don’t know what it is about them but I have to hold myself back from taking bags of them back home.

 

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This cute little display was located right next to the Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral.

 

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We also visited the Trung Ngyuen Café which is well known for it’s coffee. I loved the originality of the sand floors. I took of my shoes straight away and dug my toes into the sand.

 

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Trung Nguyen coffee beans available for sale. Did you know that Vietnam is famous for its Weasel Coffee? Weasels can pick out the sweetest and ripest coffee berries. They eat them and once the berries are pooped out (still intact) , they are used to make a very aromatic and expensive brand of coffee.

 

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After bad service and much anticipation , I was disappointed that the coffee tasted like bitter medicine and the glass of water which was flavoured with some tea to help cleanse the palate tasted like pee water, or what I would imagine that would taste like. I think i’ll stick to my european coffee from now on haha.

 

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This picture was taken at the War Remnants Museum, which was not for the faint of heart. I knew the Vietnam war had been devastating, but upon visiting the museum, I was left teary-eyed  and speechless. After learning about the horrible torture that civilians were subject to as well as the rape and killing of innocent children and the long-term effects of “Agent Orange”, I couldn’t help but feel a deep sadness for humanity. This photo hit a chord with me because here were these children, who were unknowingly posing with weapons of war, without a care in the world, while other just as innocent children are still victims of war today.

 

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This handsome fella was sticking his tongue out at us as we passed.

As a side note, as you can see , I am no professional photographer nor do I claim to be. I’m just as clueless with a camera as I am with my life but I’m hoping you still get the overall picture (pun intended because I’m such a master of the written word).

– A Pearl of the Orient.

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Good morning, Vietnam!

For the first leg of the trip to Vietnam in February, Benny and I decided we wanted to head to the beach before exploring the city so we headed to Nha Trang via Ho Chi Minh and let me tell you, I have never had a more stressful connecting flight. As we checked in for our first flight to Ho Chi Minh from Bangkok, the counter assistant informed us that they would not be able to transfer our baggage directly to Nha Trang. Instead, we would, upon arrival, have to pick up our luggage, leave the arrival hall and walk to the departure hall and check in all over again to catch our next flight, with a mere 90 mins in-between. Normally, I would’ve been easy but knowing that we had applied for VOA’S (Visas on Arrival) which were subject to inspection and approval after handing over an official letter from the Embassy which was applied for weeks in advance, I had a bad feeling in my stomach since the moment we took off , which ofcourse, was not on time.  Upon arrival, I was ready to pounce like a tiger, till I realised our plane had not directly parked at the terminal. So, we had to catch a bus. After being dropped off at the terminal, we rushed to the office which was responsible for handing us our visas; There were atleast another 50 people waiting, and a bunch of tourists loudly trying to communicate with the officer who on his part, was choosing to ignore their flailing arms and wads of cash. When I did manage to fight my way through, I, half panicked, tried to explain the situation that our flight was due to depart in 50 minutes. While the other officers stood in the background chatting and checking their phones, he cooly told me to take a seat and that it’d be fine. With 35 mins left, our names were finally called. Not only did Benny and I have to jump the immigration queue whilst I was apologising like a crazy person, our luggage had not even arrived at the carousel. How we managed to make that plane is still questionable.

Anyway, we’re here to talk about my impressions of Nha Trang. We stayed at the Alana Nha Trang Beach Hotel, which was (suprisingly) next to a….beach. The first thing that I noticed on the drive from the airport was the vasts amount of ongoing construction of mostly hotels and resorts. Any space that wasn’t occupied looked pretty desolate. Despite the 45 minute drive to where all the action was at, Nha Trang seemed really small. One thing you’ll also notice when visiting are the Russians. I’m assuming Nha Trang is their “go to ” place because there were definitely more Russians than locals . In addition, pretty much everything was written in russian, as well at the menus and the staff were more likely to speak russian than english , which I found amusing. This was only somewhat disappointing in the sense that we didn’t feel like we were experiencing much of the ‘local culture’ and that everything was geared towards tourists. It was only when taking a late night walk towards the “inner city” where the tourists began to disappear and you began to see actual homes and locals riding on their mopeds. Speaking of mopeds, the traffic was crazy. Not only did I really notice the absence of traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, no one actually stopped for you when trying to cross the road unless you were literally in their face. You know that scene in Mulan where the old lady claims to have a “lucky cricket” which will protect her? So to prove her point, she crosses the road blindfolded? Thats basically how you felt, because if you gave a driver eye contact or hesitated in the middle of the road, well, it might not have been pretty.

Though I personally didn’t feel that Nha Trang was the type of place where you had a checklist of a million things to do, I did enjoy lounging on the beach, and visiting the mudbaths at I-resort. If you’re planning on taking a trip there, I would recommend that you go early to avoid the large numbers of people arriving at noon. The street food was also pretty great. Writing this post is making me crave a Banh Mi. What I loved was that each stand had their own unique way of making the sandwich. My favourite one had slabs of butter, pork belly, vegetables and a ridiculous amount of chilli. Hurts so bad, but tastes so good. Seeing as I feel like I have said everything there is to say about my stay, I’ll let some pictures do the rest of the talking!

– A Pearl of the Orient.

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View from the rooftop pool at our hotel.

 

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Enjoying happy hour upon arrival.

 

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Our first meal: Pho.

 

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After pushing through a crowd to see what all the fuss was about, I realised it was because they were about to serve up a massive snake and alligator for lunch.

 

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Taken shortly before high-tide resulting in this poor couple getting everything wet. On a side note, the waves were crazy strong and I got rolled around real good on my first attempt at a swim. There was sand in places it shouldn’t have been.

 

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I- Resort pool.

 

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Trying to figure out if I like the mud, which I decided, I really do. Also you naturally float in it so you can lie on your back and pretend to be an otter… it’s actually pretty fun. Don’t judge me.

 

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Fresh fish, anyone?

 

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Now this was where the action was at. This picture to me, was what what I imagined Vietnam to be.

 

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Had to get some Durian while I had the chance. The hotel would’t allow me past the lobby because of the smell though. Woops.

Bangkok 2017

Over the semester break in February, which yes, was almost four months ago (I’m a little behind on my writing) , Benny and I took a hiatus to go back to continent of culinary delights…Asia! With the intention of exploring a new destination, we opted to visit Vietnam but no trip to Asia would be complete without a cheeky stopover in Bangkok. After our wonderful experience in 2016, we had to go back .

This time around we opted to stay at a Hotel near Khao San Road to be near to the hustle and bustle. Casa Nithra was the perfect option as it was within walking distance as well as super clean, affordable and had the friendliest staff!

Having done all the “touristy things ” the year before we could focus on the one thing we came to do: Eat. I came to Asia prepared to pack on the pounds because it would be a crime to not take advantage of Bangkok’s street food culture. Every meal/snack was a new adventure. Though simple in appearance, I find thai street-food to be as comforting as mum’s home-made chicken noodle soup and packed with flavour and I’d pick it over a fancy five-course meal any day.

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Shrimp fried rice
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Crispy pork belly, pickled vegetables and rice drizzled in soy
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Chicken fried rice

 

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Spicy soup noodles with pork dumplings
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Pad Thai and Fried Banana Springrolls

 

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4 Euros for a bucket of alcohol? Yes, what you save in money you pay for in headaches.

When we weren’t eating (which was almost never) we just took the time to relax by the pool, get a massage or drink a cold Chang at one of Bangkok’s many street bars/ restaurants. Though this post isn’t filled with useful tips or adrenaline-filled tales, I just felt the need to convey my love for the city. The bright people, the dusty streets, suicidal tuk tuk drivers and of course countless food stands make Bangkok a breath of metaphorical fresh air.

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That’s all for now, Folks! Look out for my next post on Vietnam.
– A Pearl of the Orient.

 

Phuk- et! We’re going to Thailand.

Isn’t it wonderful when one has something to look forward to?  Back in September of 2015, Benny and I decided to take a pass on many nights of take-out sushi, expensive christmas presents and extravagant ski trips to save for a getaway in February to Asia . The cold weather tends to lose its appeal with the absence of ginger bread cookies and christmas lights ; apparently Christmas music doesn’t lose its appeal till much later as our local Chinese restaurant was still playing Silent Night, Holy Night till late January…

After months of anticipation we were off! Now when I look back at it, it feels like a dream. Our first stop was Bangkok. I’m not going to lie to you, Benny and I were more excited about the food than anything else and we did not come home disappointed! We were lucky to have a variety of street markets in the area and over- indulged ourselves with street food by averaging 5 or more meals per day. I wish I was exaggerating. For what they lacked in hygiene ( best not to dwell too long on this aspect) , they made up for in taste, atmosphere and price.

Then, we did all the typical things that tourists do like visiting The Grand Palace , shopping at Chatuchak market,treating ourselves to an obnoxious amount of foot massages , getting ripped off by boat tour guides , riding a Tuktuk with a driver who had no regard for speed limits and then… eating some more. Bangkok is also known for its crazy night life amongst tourists and although unplanned, we managed to have a crazy night out of our own. I would divulge the details, but then again I wouldn’t because my mum reads this blog and well…the rest is self explanatory.

Our next stop?… Phuket! Our main aim was to simulate sloths and that’s pretty much what we did. With the odd bout of water rafting and elephant riding, a majority of the time was spent drinking coconuts, lounging on sun-beds, getting sand in all the places it shouldn’t be and watching mums get hilariously wasted at the pool bars happy hour . IT WAS GLORIOUS; minus the food poisoning towards the end of our stay. That? Not so much fun. I know what you’re thinking…of course we got food poisoning over there from that ridiculous amount of street food we were consuming but alas! It was the juicy, innocent looking beef burger at the hotel that turned out to be the devil. The romantic Valentine’s day dinner plans the next day abruptly went down the drain (amongst other things )and we spent the day in bed pathetically slurping on instant noodles.

After barely recovering, we headed on over to Malaysia to visit my mum. Many things that were on our list such as visiting Legoland, or popping over to Singapore never crystallised. With battered bodies, we surrendered to rest and ironically, more food. All in all , it was an incredible trip and I feel like trying to write a post about it is actually doing it an injustice. Experiences like that are felt by the soul and sometimes they simply aren’t made for sharing.You just had to be there.

Holy shit, I am deep.

– A Pearl of the Orient.

P.S. I realise that some pictures would’ve gone along well with this post but seeing as I’m a broke student and couldn’t afford to buy a good quality camera ( though I hope to in the near future) before going abroad, I feel that most of the photos I took are not worth sharing . You can , however, check out my Instagram (apearloftheorient) for a few .