Thursday, March 29, 2007

15th Jan - 10th Day Pt 3 (Ha Long Bay - Hanoi, Vietnam)

Cold weather excourages intimacy? I think so as I saw a lot of couples (young and old) are not afraid of PDA (Public Display of Affection, which you'll be fined in Malaysia, mind you!) But they are just nice without excessive display of affection if you ask me.
(Insert the used-to-be-played-to-death "Love is All Around" here)
Floral arrangement around the Hoan Kiem Lake.

A little gal in bright red clothes; taken in one of the parks near the famed Hanoi church.

See? Kids exercise too!!! In this health-conscious country, Vietnam that is.

The kids were chatting and playing after the school ends while waiting for their parents. The gal in peach sweater waving cheekily at me.

What a cool brother he is? Fetching his two younger sisters back from the school! Oh yeah... it's no school uniform in the cold weather in Hanoi! I did asked their permission before the shot, hence the big and cooperative smile.

The famed Hanoi church (oppss... I need time to search the name of the church, slipped my mind) which I had to come back to visit as it's only opened 5-7 am and pm respectively.

Side shot of the church building

The entrance

Notice the shop name? I wonder what does it mean in Vietnamese?

Introducing JOON!!!!!! I met him while sitting at the steps in front of the church entrance waiting for the opening time. With his distinct Asian look, I was very sure that he is another traveller like me. We greeted each other and I got to know he just arrived in Hanoi on that particular day. He's very friendly and always carry a big smile (isn't that obvious?) with him. Apparently he is a social activist and he's passionately involved in issues such as child labour, especially in Asian countries. He has an impressive background as he was working with the UNHCR in Bangkok and involved in asylum-seeking procedures for Koreans in Thailand. Wow!!!!
We had a coffee at one of the shops nearby (shown above) and chatted the evening away. I got to know that he had a travel companion, a Korean guy who he met along the way as well but got sick, down with flu n stuff. We decided to have dinner together but went back to his hotel to get his friends some food and water, checking out on him. His friend (who I forgot his name already) is getting better and decided to stay in the room resting because they had book the Ha Long Bay trip the next day and it will be a waste having to go sick!

After we made sure everything's ok for his friend, we went out to the streets scavenging for food. I was determined to try the street food and Joon is a bit hesitant initially haha...... But we found a stall located near a crossroad junction full of local Hanoians enjoying their dinner and we said, THAT's THE ONE!!!
I took this pic of a sweet young Hanoian couple who sat behind Joon. Notice we actually sat on the small plastic stool in the pic below. They were a good looking pair and seems OK with me taking pics with them. I guess they were as curious of us as we are of them! They must be wondering what two Asian travellers doing here? Are they serious of having their meal here?

Taken by the Viet guy who's shaking a bit......
As you can see, it's DEFINITELY not the CLEANEST place to eat but I was damn determined to try out the food as I had a good experience during the noon time (previous post). We were the only non-locals and we ordered our meal by guessing actually haha.....
Joon is having hard time slicing the baguette (notice the sympathetic stare the guy on the left gave him?) which comes together with the gravy-potato on the bottom right. The dish in the centre is actually something like our Sandakan-style-kuew-teow-goreng (wet but not wat dan) with lots of vege (sawi I think). Then we had a bowl of eel soup which tastes DELICIOUS (WITH CAPITAL LETTERS LITERALLY). We also had a bottle of the local Bia Hoi.
If I remembered correctly, it only costs RM10 pax!

After the nice and full dinner, we took a walk around Hanoi and finally found the famous Minh's Jazz Club (listed in LP). If you are lucky (which we were) you will be able to catch Mr. Minh jam with his band as well. They played nice jazz though personally I preferred vocal jazz. However, it's more of a instrumental set with emphasis on the band, which is not a bad thing. I went to this club again 4 days later with my Ha Long-friends, Sharon, Ann and Lotte. Nice place to spend the night away. Heard that there's a disco (oh... are the youngster using this word anymore now???) built on a boat!
The female vocalists stretching her skills.

15th Jan - 10th Day - Pt 2 (Hanoi, Vietnam)

See... I never forget my root... Wa Si Hokkien lang

Herbal shop in the Herbal Shop Street. The auntie there is so shy she decided to close her face. Thanks to her for allowing me to take the photo of her shop.

Frying some herbal ingredients.

Me in the pic... There's a street selling mirrors and aluminium case, again.... forgot the name of the street.

Another shop selling Taoism praying stuff.

Taken at the street with the Viet Cong flag. Thanks Andrea for taking the pic.... we met again in Ha Long Bay!

Another shop selling Buddist and Taoism statues.
Landmark waiting area for local Hanoians and travellers alike. Situated next to the Hoan Kiem lake, it's the perfect place to wait or people watching. Notice the Korean words on the building? Yeah... they're EVERYWHERE!!!!!!!!!!!! Lotsa banks and tourist agencies around.

I found out later when I'm back to Malaysia that there're a lot Vietnamese who can copy the famous paintings around the world, i.e. works of Picasso and Rembrant (correct ah?) But the other pics, both paintings and photos are stunning.


Rich travellers roaming around in Hanoi in their cyclo. Some sad stories about the cyclo peddler is that they're not allowed in certain roads so that new ruling kind of affects their earnings.

I like this pic and the food even more.... I stumbled upon this stall when I was strolling along a road... The smell of the BBQ pork (shown in the small bowl) was soooooo good and I managed to trace it to this stall and sat down right away with this old man pictured. The whitish stuff on the left is noodle (free flow man!!!! ) or meehon and the vege (also free flow man!!!!!) also provided. Ice coffee (again... Vietnamese coffee rocks!!!) The meat is soaked in cold soup, sour taste and it's VERY DELICIOUS!!!!
The old man is actually a US citizen but he's a Vietnamese. He told me in perfect USised English tat tis is the best stall in the whole Hanoi for the kind of dish they sell. I had two servings of the meat and the whole meal only costs me USD3. Not VERY cheap but it tastes GOOD.

Temple of the White Horse

Stalls selling stuffed toys

Roast Pork on sale

The aunties were so sporting! They kept asking me to take their picture.

Green Tangerine as recommended in LP

The Memorial House

School Breaks - waiting for their parents to fetch them.

18SX? Art knows no boundaries. Cool sculptures in the park around the Hoan Kiem Lake.

Sculpture 2

Oh.. tis one more abstract

Hoan Kiem Lake

Nice floral arrangement - Hoan Kiem Lake

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

14th Jan - 9th Day (HCMCity to Hanoi)

My last day in HCMC and I spent the time walking around the city. Noticed the shops below? Giu Xe is actually parking shop. Lots of motorcycle thiefs around the city so it's not safe to park ur moto anywhere.

Two of my favourite fruits : Ciku (in Malay) and Fung Mau Liu Lian (in Hakka)

Indian temple in HCMCity

Trying to recall what's the name of this church................

Notice they use kemenyan?

The camera-hungry kid in the Ho Chi Minh airport.

Lotus anyone? Vietnam Airline's Logo

15th Jan - 10th Day (Hanoi)

I arrived in Hanoi very late at night. I took the airport bus and in the same bus were the nice couple below. We decided to stick together as we expect the bus to drop us at some hotel that they have commission. The "bus conductor" kept asking do we have any hotel reservation. Being the alert traveller haha.... we said we had a reservation. Then the bus driver as expected dropped us in some unfamiliar street with lots of locals "preying" us. They're trying to sell us their hotels claiming that theirs is the cheapest etc...

The pics above taken after we checked in into our "fake hotel", we went to the streets junction, Hai Ba Thrung to taste the local beer.
We ended up staying in this hotel, Hanoi Spirit Club Hostel. I remember this hotel is listed in the LP but it's not the same. Hanoi is very interesting as it's a game itself to identify the genuine stuff, being the hotel, restaurants, shops or fake goods. It's a good experience itself. The hotel is charging us USD10/night and the price is quite a norm. The interesting stuff happens in the next morning indeed........
Knowing that I'm not gonna stay more nights in the "fake" hotel, I woke up early in the morning to scout for a better hotel. After a successful scouting, I went back to the hotel to enjoy my breakfast. I greeted the hotel staff and was replied with some negative stares. I wondered why. Then there were some American ladies who came down for breakfast and guess wat? The hotel staff greeted them with such enthusiasm and warmth that can definitely melt the cheese at the very cool weather of Hanoi that morning!!! Upon probing more I found out that the American ladies bought the Ha Long package from them. Now the udang di sebalik batu telah terdedah. It's fine with me though but I just think they should be "less realistic". In addition, I'm being polite all the while! The real blow came later. I checked after I finished my breakfast and they actually asked me to asked the couple above to check out!!! Basically they are chasing us out!
"Ask your friend to check out NOW!!!" That's exactly what they said. Of course I didn't tell them to do so...instead I left a note and asked them to stay in the room till the last minute of check out time. Hope they did that!!!
Taken from the balcony of my USD10 room, featuring the small alley where the fake hotel is located.

Hoan Kiem Lake

The famous turtle : Signature of the Hoan Kiem Lake

Hoan Kiem Lake taken from the Turtle Temple

The Legendary Turtle in Question

Me at the Entrance of the Turtle Temple

Entrance of the Turtle Temple

Shoe Street (Hang - Street , I forgot what is shoe in Vietnamese)

Shoes in the Shoe Street - Pink Attack

Taken from the 2nd floor of a Coffee shop around the famouos coffee jucntion (refer to LP).

Me in self-indulgent pose, enjoying the nice Vietnamese coffee.

Another nice shot from the coffee shop I like most.

Selling bun anyone?

Apparently Hanoi produced a lot of paper bags. IKEA bag is here too!!!

CNY is near....