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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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.

 

London calling

I’ve always wanted to visit London and two weeks ago I finally had the chance to go in combination with a visit to the Warner Brothers Universal Studios to experience the making of Harry Potter and watch the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I guess you could say it was more or less a pretty nerdy trip.

We arrived in London early in the evening, got out of the airport, purchased an Oyster card, took the Tube and bus and arrived at our Airbnb pretty smoothly and swiftly, or so I thought. Turns out that my boyfriend and I miraculously managed to end up on the opposite side of town due to a certain misreading of street names. After a much lighter wallet and a cab driver as a new friend, we made it to our apartment as our stomachs were already ingesting themselves. We dropped off our things and headed to the nearest Restaurant (which happened to be pretty authentic Hong Kong cuisine) and I helped myself to a portion of chicken wings and char siu fan (Chinese bbq pork with rice). Too tired to explore much else, we turned in for the night so we could get an early start the next day.

The following morning we headed to Watford Junction to catch a train to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. According to Google Maps, what should have taken twenty minutes from Watford junction, ended up taking sixty. I have since then come to learn that there are actually two trains (one of them being an express one with fewer stops) and we OBVIOUSLY went and got on the slower one. Sometimes, I question my intelligence… sometimes! We however, did get a chance to have a look at our surroundings on the journey and the stark contrast between the flashy cars and shine and glamour of Central London and the outlying areas was pretty shocking. The neighbourhoods looked desolate in combination with the grey backdrop of a sky. The homes looked broken and the gardens untended with piles of rubbish and junk scattered everywhere, a sight one does not naturally associate with London.

Upon arriving at the studios, I felt like a seven year old again. Not only did we get a glimpse of some of the real sets used during filming, such as the great dining hall or the Gryffindor Common room, we got a close look at all the props and costumes used. We boarded the iconic Hogwarts train, posed for pictures in Hogwarts robes and got our first taste of Butterbeer (which is pretty much like Cream Soda topped with Ice-cream) and it was magical. I grew a new appreciation for the series and the amount of work and effort that must’ve been put in by the whole production team. If you’re an avid fan as I am, I highly recommend a visit, if you haven’t already been. I also read somewhere that the Forbidden Forrest will be a new addition to the studios in March.

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Welcome to a new semester at Hogwarts.
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Prof. Snape’s Potions Classroom. For the films, each individual bottle was filled with various items such as herbs and dried fruit and labels were all individually handwritten.
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If only Quidditch was real.
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This model was used to film the scenes of the castle with the backdrop of a green screen. There is so much detail in the model that I unfortunately cannot convey with a picture.
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Butterbeer-stache.

For once, thanks to what little self-control I have, I managed not to spend a fortune at the gift shop. I got myself a mug and the boyfriend came away with Voldemort’s wand. In the evening, we finally headed to the Palace Theatre ( a year and a half after booking the actual tickets) to watch the first part of the play.  I must admit, after giving up on reading the book, I was concerned that the play would not not live up to my expectations but J.K.Rowling had our backs all along and I couldn’t have been happier to be plunged back into a world of wizardry. The plot was gripping, the acting was wonderful and the production was effortless and well…for the lack of a better word, magical, a feat which evidently took a lot of time , practice and funding. For fear of spoiling someone else’s’ experience, I’m going to stop there.

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The next day was spent visiting the British Museum which is much larger than I had imagined and is very overwhelming to try fit in a day so we stuck to the areas such as “Ancient Egypt” which interested us the most. I must also acknowledge that I was pleasantly surprised that there is no entrance fee.

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“The Throne of Weapons” made of decommissioned weapons since the end of the Civil war in 1992, Mozambique.
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Part of the Rothschild’s collection: A reliquary supposedly made to contain a thorn (seen centered) originating from the Crown of Thorns that was placed on Christ’s head before Crucifixion.
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Ancient Greek Architecture.
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The Rosetta Stone, which features writing in Egyptian and Greek with three writing systems: Hieroglyphic, demotic and Greek and was historical in helping to decipher the Ancient Egyptian language.

After a few hours at the museum, we were already off to watch part two of the play, which filled me with sadness once it was over but I will be back when it heads to Broadway!
Now as much as I’d like to get into all the other fun touristy things we did on the remainder of our trip, well, we didn’t.

With Benny catching a cold and the freezing and gloomy weather, we couldn’t bring ourselves to do much else than walk by the Tower Bridge and Big Ben and visit a cozy little market in the evening. How local Londoner’s manage to walk around in shorts and mini- skirts while it’s snowing outside is beyond me. Really.

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Little Josie, Big Ben.
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Me clearly taking in the sights.
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A lovely market we happened to stumble upon.
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One of my favourite stores – It’s like waking into a fairytale.

And that was pretty much my trip in a nutshell. Before getting on our plane home, we popped into a a local diner for a proper english breakfast ( which in my opinion should be an everyday thing) featuring beans, eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and hash browns . I felt that we left a lot out on this trip and didn’t get to do as much as I would’ve liked but on the other hand, the two extra days there would’ve cost a fortune! I had heard that London was expensive, but the prices were bordering on insanity. On most occasions I had found that i’d be able to get two full meals in Austria for the price of one in London and when I was told my small beer cost about six euros, all I could do was stare like an Idiot. Nonetheless, I plan to come back for another adventure in London, perhaps when the weather is more suiting.

– A Pearl of the Orient.

What I didn’t expect in my early twenties.

As a kid, I often imagined myself all grown up. I pictured myself in my mid-twenties, living in my own apartment in a big city, with a successful job, an adorable golden retriever and a bathtub filled with 100 dollar bills. One day, reality got out of bed and proceeded to give me a slap in the face. So without further ado, here are a few things that didn’t turn out the way I expected.

 Not looking like an adult
This is not to say that I get mistaken for a child but …a prepubescent teenager at the least. Whereas this generations 12 year olds are busy looking like young adults, I’m still getting ID’d at the local supermarket for trying to buy a bottle of wine for gods sake.  WHERE IS THE JUSTICE!?

Not being a makeup godess
I have yet to master the fine arts of makeup. Though I can just about manage to put on foundation, blush and mascara, anything beyond that is pushing it. If I try to do anything out of the ordinary or involving more than two eyeshadow colours I tend to end up resembling Ursula from The Little Mermaid. I’ve also pretty much given up on trying to work false lashes for a night out. Most attempts have ended in a tantrum, tears, a faceful of smeared eyeliner and me back in my pyjamas. Ladies, it ain’t pretty.

Not being mature
Wasn’t I supposed to go through a life-changing transformation by now? I thought I’d wake up one day and I don’t know…know how to adult? I’m pretty sure I have the same mental state as I did a few years ago, I’m just better at hiding it. Someone farting? Still hilarious . Getting ‘cooties’ from boys because they are ew? Still a thing.

 Not being able to eat whatever
I know, I was shocked too. Contrary to wishful thinking, one can no longer eat Mcdonalds 5 days a week as well as a variation of sweets and chips without consequences. Now I actually have to TRY make health-conscious choices. When I don’t ( which happens more often than not) at least I feel guilty about it! I am going places.

Not being at the epitome of my party life
I thought finally being legal, I’d go all out. I’d leave my inhibitions behind and spend countless nights partying till dawn. Instead of having my tolerance increase, it has hit rock bottom. When three beers get you borderline drunk, you have a problem. Also, hangovers feel 100 times worse. I don’t know how I ever went out over more than 2 consecutive nights in a row. I can try to stick to wine spritzers all night to minimize the damage but you can bet that I’ll still wake up feeling like my bodys been dragged to hell and back again. Twice.  Plus let’s admit it, the best part of a night out now adays is the kebap on the way home though technically, it could probably be made of carpet and it would still taste bomb.

My love for red wine
Ok I realise I was just whining about hangovers but red wine is love. Women in movies like Sex in the city are portrayed for loving their wine and lots of it. Not that long ago I would have gagged at the thought so I don’t know how I got here, but there’s no going back. A glass of red wine after a stressful week or accompanying me on a night in is like having a warm, emotion filled embrace (in liquid form). Then I pass out, mouth open, hand in spaghetti, feeling like I’m lying in a bed of roses.

Having a schedule
I used to heavily judge those who had a calender and had to ‘check their schedule’ before agreeing to making plans.It sounds so obnoxious , right? I HAVE BECOME THAT PERSON. I probably wouldn’t make it through my semester without ical and god forbid if I lose that planner. I can actually use that pretentious line ‘I’ll pencil you in for Wednesday from 7 to 745pm’ and be dead serious about it. When it comes to brunches with my friends? It takes intense planning and swapping of schedules before we can agree to meet…three weeks later.

Not finding my calling
I have so many talented friends who have really figured out where they are going in life and are headed straight to the top. Me? I’m pretty much just chilling. I don’t quite know what to do with myself just yet. As for exceptional talents, I’m still looking. I can make really ugly facial expressions though? And my eyelids are really pudgy? That must count for something!

So a lot has changed and not everything happened like I thought it would but that is the wonderful thing we call life and as we’ve all figured out, sometimes you just have to roll with the punches.
Have a great weekend!

-A Pearl of the Orient.