Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Vietnam Trip - Halong Bay

Second day of my backpack began by preparing all our things to checkout from the hotel. We had an early flight (6:30am local time) to Hanoi and that time, we were very strict with the time and fortunately, we were right on time and did not miss our flight! Anyway, it was almost a two hours flight from Ho Chi Minh City to the capital Hanoi. Our arrival time in Hanoi was 8:30 in the morning and there, we met our tour guide Dung and we immediately got into the car for a three hour trip to Halong City.

About 12 in the afternoon, we reached the Halong port and Dung went inside to office and retrieved necessary tickets and chose a boat for us. It was a medium sized boat with 4 staffs and we were the only passengers. It was indeed a private tour and as soon as the boat started to move, we saw the breathtaking scene of Halong Bay. It was a nice view, very peaceful and calm. It was also a time to take a rest as we were informed that it will take two hours to reach the center of it and the beautiful cave.

Before arriving on the cave called Hang Sung Sot, we first had our lunch inside the boat which were mostly seafoods and freshly cooked. Dung said that we need energy to reach the top of the cave. We then came to the mouth of the cave after many steps reaching the top. When we came inside, whew! It was so beautiful and the rock formations were really nice. There were some stories and sometimes funny stuffs that Dung presented to us. The way to the end of the cave was very tiring but worth it.

Upon reaching the top, wow! The sight was really cool, very refreshing and seemed like we don't want to leave the beautiful scenery. We rested for a while then it was time for another steps but that time it was easier as the path was downward. We saw some locals selling fresh seafoods and other stuffs in their boat and Dung bought something but I forgot what it was called.

We came back to the boat, Ann and I decided to do kayak and we really had fun! At first we were unstable but eventually, we were able to grasp the technique on getting it perfectly. It was a very tiring moment yet very enjoyable. I think we spent almost two hours on that activity. After the long hours of visiting the famous bay, we headed our way back to port at around 5 in the afternoon and we had super nice rest on the top of boat while observing the sunset, it was a picturesque and we were happy we experienced that moment. More Vietnam pictures here!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh

My first backpack started in Vietnam last 26th of September and I admit, it wasn't perfect. I woke up so early to prepare and waited for my dear friend Ann to pick me up in my block. She was so late that we missed our flight. I was quite mad but eventually, we booked a ticket for the same day but on a later time and she paid it all so I was a bit relieved that time. So we were in Lion Air at around 11 in the morning and arrived in Ho Chi Minh City after 2 hours of flight. We were about to wait for her older sister's arrival but even her sister missed her flight in Tiger Airways. So we took a taxi going to the hotel and surprisingly, it was quite nice for a very cheap price! It was called Hoang Phong Hotel.

Since we were running out of time, we immediately went out of the hotel to check the city. Our first stop was in War Remnants Museum and it primarily contains exhibits relating to American phase of Vietnam war. It was so depressing looking on those pictures, mostly were the victims of war and how they were treated like an animal. I felt a sad atmosphere during that time and most of the tourists were showing the same expression. The museum also shows some equipments used on the Vietnam war. We next visited the Reunification Palace, it was the site of the official handover of power during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975. It was then known as Independence Palace but unfortunately, it was closed that time that we just took the picture from the outside. Afterwards, we walked to the Notre Dame Basilica which has two bell towers, reaching a height of 58 meters. It was a French architecture and all the original building materials were imported from France. Nearby, we found the Saigon Central Post Office where we bought some postcards and sent them to our family in Manila. The building was
constructed when Vietnam was part of French Indochina in the early 20th century and has a Gothic architectural style. It was designed and constructed by the same archict of the famous Eiffel tower.

Ann and I felt a need for some food so we decided to have our dinner in Ben Thanh market but on our way to this place, we saw the famous Ho Chi Minh City Hall. It was built in 1902-1908 in a French colonial style but it is not open to the public and tourists. It is now formally branded as People's Committee Hall, the statue of Uncle Ho in the front is a very popular place for photos. Afterwards, we went to this certain restaurant near the market and we had our dinner. We both had noodle and eventually satisfied with what we ate. So the shopping began in Ben Thanh Market where we bought some shirts, a cap, souvenir, ref magnet, keychains and other stuffs. We were busy shopping but the rain fell and we decided to go back to hotel to rest as it was a bit late and we still have an early flight the next day to Hanoi.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Ondoy + Backpack

Last 26th of September, I started my very first backpack series on which I travelled five countries (Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand & India) to experience the culture and see the wonderful and sceneric spots that each country is proud of. It became a bittersweet trip when on the same day, a super typhoon striked Manila and I was very worried about the situation of my mother and sisters. On the first night of my trip, I immediately called them but I failed to contact them. I was then informed that telecommunication is not possible on that day to our area. I called my father in Riyadh to get an update on the situation but he himself wasn't able to contact them. I searched the internet and saw the devastating effect of typhoon Ondoy in the metro. Some of them were seeking help from the roof of their home as their entire house was flooded by Ondoy.

I can't really enjoy my vacation that time but after few days... I don't know but I felt such a relief maybe it was because of my positive thinking about the situation and that I am a very optimist person. During my trips, I met these wonderful people that even for a little time that we spent together, I have learned a lot of experiences and lessons about their country and on how to be more confident in travelling alone. I met Dung from Vietnam, Jack from Laos, Dave from Myanmar, Soni from India and another solo traveller Brad during my connecting flight from Kolkata to New Delhi. I can say that eventhough my trip wasn't that perfect, I am proud to say that I have gained confidence, learned a lot of strategies, experienced several cultures and that I am a real survivor. When I got back in Singapore, I immediately called my mother and I was right, they were just doing fine, no harm and were in good condition. Think positive and always trust to God...

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