Archive | December, 2016

Ending the Year

30 Dec

Today I am back to reality as I have to go in to the office. It won’t be a lot of work but just to clear things that piled up during my absence. 

It has been a tumultuous year. There have been more downs than ups for me this year – injury that needed treatment, therapy and rest, work stress, death of pets and hearing/reading news of favorite singers (Prince, George Michael) and icons (Carrie Fisher/Princess Leia) gone too soon. I will go into my George Michael mode today, so move aside Michael Buble.

But trips like this to Vietnam with the family and golfing trips with friends are definitely highlights to cherish. I take heart that my 2016 is ending high with a very memorable family trip and looking forward to another occasion like this again. It may not be so soon as M1 goes back to university next week, so we will have to plan.

To all my readers, thank you for your support, reading and following my blog. Here’s wishing you a better and happier 2017!

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Ending on a High

30 Dec

Yesterday morning, we decided to give Ben Thanh Market another shot and visited again after breakfast. My game plan was not to look at any vendor in the eye and just look at the things on display. And if anything catches my fancy, I’d just whip out my iPhone5S, aim, shoot and walk off. It worked.

Managed to walk certain areas we missed the day before and these pictures sure are interesting. After the walkabout, we decided to walk around the neighborhood to kill some time. After all, our pick up was coming only by 12.30pm and we had more than a couple more hours. Hubby didn’t think we should stay in the room watching CNN and listening to depressing world news. 

I’d say it was a good workout but one must be careful when walking because the pavements are not even. I stumbled a few times when I was looking up.

We didn’t want to wander off too far and soon made our way back to the hotel, did a final packing, showered and checked out. Traffic was a slow crawl but we still arrived at the airport early. 

After saying our goodbyes to our tour guide and driver, we waited until the counters opened and checked in. And for the first time in five days, we craved something else to line the tummy. So M2 and I had Burger King and M1 had a sushi roll; hubby still chose Pho. 

We had a good holiday. 

 

Pickled stuff

  

Fresh mushroom

  

Dried mushrooms of all sizes

  

Cuttlefish and nuts

  

Missed out eating here. Next time!

  

Nearby park

    

M1 getting a ride

  

On the runway

  

Goodbye Ho Chi Minh!

   

We Say Goodbye

29 Dec

Vacations are fun when you’re living it and enjoying every moment. But sadness kicks in when you know it’s ending and you have to come back down to earth and reality. After four days of gastronomic adventure and fun-filled experiences, we say goodbye to Ho Chi Minh City today. 

I find that doing a 5D/4N trip has been rather ideal versus a 4D/3N. With an extra day, we can cover so much and the schedule is not so rushed. One can pace their itinerary and still have enough time for rest to recover.

It has been a truly wonderful time especially for the girls to see and experience–for their first time–the Vietnam culture and life. And the food… Oh, the glorious food! Not as spicy as Thai food, one can get used to having Pho and a grilled meat everyday. 

It will be yet another leisurely paced morning before we check out by noon. As we fly back to our country later this afternoon, these moments will be cherished forever. So goodbye Ho Chi Minh City, thanks for the great time!

The River Cruise

29 Dec

The river cruise was typical of any other cruises with the option of a dinner inclusive or not. Ours was dinner inclusive.

The meal was served ahead before the ship departed and like the last few arranged meals, there’s so much to eat. I shudder thinking of my expanded waistline and secretly vowed to go on a diet when we get home.

 

Springroll appetizer

  

Pineapple salad with pork and prawns

  

Grilled pork

  

Fillet fish with mushroom sauce

  

Grilled beef

  

Hotpot

 

The Crazy Cyclo

28 Dec

After the Water Puppet performance, we took the Cyclo City Tour. Man! The ride was crazy and scary. There seemed to be no traffic rules for this mode of transportation.

Our entourage ran past red lights, went head-on with oncoming traffic especially at the roundabout and junctions, and constantly millimeters away–not inches mind you–from another vehicle, be it a car or a motorbike. And when the buses approached, oh man… I’d cringe and will the guy to peddle faster.

Half the time I was either curling my toes or straightening my legs as if stepping on the brakes! Despite the seemingly reckless traffic maneuvering, there was no contact or accidents. Phew… Like I said previously, it’s controlled chaos.

And the traffic noise. My goodness… it made me realized the eight years I have been driving my current car, I can count the number of times I have used the horn of my car – less than my two hands put together. But these people in Vietnam… they use the horn as frequently as possible, probably more than the signals.

The ride took us from the theatre through the city, passing many of the sights covered two days ago and it was interesting to see them at this street level situation instead of from inside a van or standing at street level. It’s a different experience.

But at one point, we had to get off the Cyclo and walked alongside traffic because the uphill bridge was too much of a weight to handle. Once we hit the top, we climbed back on and the downhill ride was a breeze.

We survived the hour long ride and headed for the river cruise with dinner on board. By then an appetite was worked up.

 

We each had our own Cyclo

  
    
  

No gridlock can stop the Cyclo!

  
  

Had to get down and walk on the bridge

 

The Puppet Show

28 Dec

Our van came at 4.30pm as scheduled and we made our way to the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theatre for the performance. And I must say it was quite entertaining and hilarious despite not understanding what they were talking about. 

The movements of the puppets were as if they were on a high, jerky and unexpected, and had us all in stitches. And the accompanying vocals, sometimes bordering on pitch high hysteria was very comical.

Very entertaining indeed and one should consider this in their itinerary when visiting Ho Chi Minh City.

   
    
    
   

After Ben Thanh

28 Dec

The air con at Takashimaya was very refreshing and we were reenergized so the mall rat in us explored the place a little bit. Although we felt that purchases from outside were better, hubby did buy a pair of Doc Marten’s which were 60% off.

We went back to Saigon Square soon after and felt more comfortable there compared to Ben Thanh Market. I think the reason for this preference is that the vendors are not too pushy and the lanes between the stalls are wider, easier to navigate without being pushed from behind. Plus it’s cooler with air conditioning. We bought some fancy soap this time.

By then it was slightly after two and we stopped by the Street Food Market again for a late lunch. We had two bowls of Pho, a spicy noodle and a rack of ribs, something different from this morning’s Bahn Mi, Sticky Rice with Mango and dessert, eaten here too.

Sated we went back to the hotel to rest and be fresh again by 4.30pm. Such fun we are having!

 

I’m gonna love smelling like grapes!

  

Pho with shrimp

  

Spicy beef noodle

  

BBQ ribs

  

Sticky rice and mango

  

Mung bean dessert

 

Ben Thanh Market

28 Dec

Ben Thanh Market is a very vibrant place but I find the vendors there very aggressive and intimidating to a certain degree. It’s very crowded and competitive. One cannot simply make any eye contact with them. The minute they see you looking at them, they latch onto you,  that’s it!

One should not also touch any products on display if you have no intention of buying. They think you want to buy and they latch onto you, that’s it!

But buying is also a skill. You must not show interest otherwise you won’t get a good deal. We did not buy anything this morning from the market. And honestly I find haggling too much, it’s not in me.

After a while, we left and headed to Saigon Center for some cool air.

 

Fancy some fresh seafood?

  

Maybe veges instead?

  

How about frogs?

  

I think seafood would be good

  

Crabs looking crabby, all lined up

  

Peeled crabmeat

    
 

Taking It Even Easier

28 Dec

Today we slept in as there’s nothing planned for the morning. I thought it’s nice to give the girls and ourselves a break from eating and waking up early.

Did I sleep well? No because after the Temple Club disappointment, we went to a cafe and drank coffee. So that kept us up! And just when I was falling into deep sleep, the air con in our room started making loud squeaking noises. Haish…

The plan later is to have brunch and then explore Ben Thanh market and the surrounding area nearby our hotel. It will be only 4.30pm that our itinerary for today kicks in.

Affogato

Temple Club

28 Dec

Upon the suggestion of a friend, we opted to go to Temple Club for dinner over Pho 2000, famed for its Bill Clinton visit.

When we told the girls, M2 was like “Huh?! Is it a temple or a club?” Hahaha… sometimes I forget the baby of the family is still a baby.

It was a nice walk to the restaurant because the weather was cool. On our way, we passed the night street market and made an impromptu purchase. Braving to cross the busy streets and junctions, we soon found the place. 

The ambience was pretty cozy. We did not make any reservations so we had wait but only for a short while before we were seated.

However for such a fancy place, our table was pretty warm and there were no cloth napkins. When we asked about the heat, the waiter said the air con was not working! Huh?! How is this even possible? As for the napkins, he brought out one piece for the four of us and told us they ran out of clean ones! Unbelievable. 

Hubby had checked TripAdvisor and Travel&Leisure prior to making the decision to come here and both rated this place well. Contrary to this and the raves from our friend, our experience was a big let down. Certainly not what we expected.

The waiter did turn on the fan and brought out some paper napkins but mood was marred by then. The food somewhat made up for the situation but the ambience and service certainly was a disappointment.

One certainly would call if reservations are required but to ask whether the air-conditioning works, nobody does that. They need to work on their service and attitude to be better. We wouldn’t go back again nor would we recommend despite the good food if they don’t improve.

   
  

The drink choices

  

Mango salad

  

Temple Club platter

  

Sauteed squid with white pepper

  

Duck in orange sauce

  

Grilled fish