Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Hạ Long Bay…What can I say?

I won't dwell on Vietnam’s history or its geographical location nor its currency and population. All these info are just a  “Google” or “Wikipedia” away. As a matter of fact,  I am certain that all words which both describe and define Vietnam have been creatively used by these kick-ass travel writers and bloggers. So long story short, we had the most wonderful vacation in Halong Bay last November 2009. Here are the snapshots we took  during our (post-engagement) trip.

This has been an on-going tradition by Me & Eric, making our mark on every shore we set foot on. The idea started when we went to Boracay Island on 2007.

Trudge, embarking with us

Good evening Hanoi! Statues built in honor of the Vietnamese Soldiers who died during the French War.

First meal in Vietnam, an authentic Pho Ba in the streets of Hanoi. Pho Ba means  beef noodles in Vietnamese.

We don't know the name of the stall we ate from, but this is its signage

The morning after at Hoan Kiem Lake

The killer Vietnamese Drip. Their native coffee which will really (and I mean REALLY!) jumpstart your day.

 Eric's face when took a sip...

Those earthbound street nooks are common in Hanoi. They have this thing for mini-stools and table. It probably has to to with the climate.

Common means of living among locals are fruit vending.

Unlike in The Philippines vendors here do not yell to get thier buyers attention. 

Our travel guide to Halong Bay, Columbus Adventure travel. We were waiting for a couple more tourists and all roads off to Halong Bay

Halfway through our road trip, we made a pit stop for toilet break and refreshments.

Ahhh yes, this is may favorite part of every tour. Souvenirs and I mean unique and handcrfated souvenirs.

They are converting a postcard into a handicraft, amazing!

I'd say, if embriodery is a sport, these Vietnamese ladies will surely be the world champ!

Finally, after 3 hours of cold and dustry road trip, we are finally at the Halong Bay Jetty.

Trudge also getting a souvenir shot

Bon Voyage Mainland Vietnam!

Bridge portion of our junk

 Our room snug yet cozy room. Red petals and hearts aren't really my thing, but I appreciate the effort and creativity of the staff.

Famous spot in the postcards. This is a view right before you enter the Sung Sot Cave other wise known as Cave of Surprises.

Inside the Sung Sot Cave. It was named such due to the formations found inside by the locals and first-time visitors. Such as rabbit, dog and even a male genital. Surprising indeed! 

See what  I mean? 

The Scene while we were relaxing on the lounge deck of our junk
Ahhhhh more scenic views

Local vendors selling refreshments to the tourists near the fishing village

Trudge is also enjoying the view

Kayaking on a misty cold morning! yeah, bring it on!

Hoan, our guide, entering  the "throaty" formation of that limestone. 

Oh yeah! R&R indeed!

This was on our way to Cat Ba Island, an exclusive tour for guests who are taking a 2-night stay at Columbus Travel 
Our service boat to the secluded beach.

oh, this goes with lunch too!

We got barbecue fish, a salad and grilled beef. We stuff ourselves for the next adventure.

An hour of scenic bike ride to a local village.

we had a Vietnamese tea served by our host...too bad I could not remember her name.
We were with our guides and our fellow tourists Maria and David from Washington D.C.

Souvenir shot with our humble host before we took off.

After our 2nd day itinerary, we went back to our junk for another ...oh yes, R&R, dinner and fun as in karaoke and dancing. On our last  day, we rose as early as 5:30 to greet the sunrise. The foggy and misty surrounding blends well with its remote silence. 
Early morning, just me, eric behind the lens & my music.

 I went up to the lounge deck for some quite time with my music silently blasting from my iPod. As the sunrise takes over the foggy surrounding, I had a clear sight of the jade waters. Its stillness was very inviting, so I braved the cold waters for a swim after we had breakfast. It was  not really freezing just "fridge-cold" yet being Asian who's born and bred in the tropics I already shivered after a short while. Out of curiosity, I tasted it (what the heck,right?). It wasn't as salty as the seawater  like I expected but it is saltier than the river's freshwater (weird). We spent the whole morning capturing our last few moments with the proud and massive limestone formations while heading back to the Halong Bay Jetty. 

Finally,  lunchtime came and also time to bid our newfound friends farewell. It was truly heartbreaking to leave this paradise, as everything that appears on your window seem to be a moving  frame every second and it somehow stays with you. In fact, the pictures we took were just secondary compared to the experience we had. Seeing the place for ourselves, its 360-picturesque surrounding and the fun and adventure we had were just priceless and indescribable. 

Monday, February 21, 2011

A bit under the weather

Since I was a kid, we (me & my family) locally travel several times a year, specifically every summer.  That kind of stayed with me even after I moved to Manila and lived on my own. I couldn't let the summer pass without being somewhere, this time I travel with my then-significant-other-now-my-husband Eric and some of our friends.  

Having grown in a country where everyday is summer, except for the wet season, it has become a mindset that all I have to worry about is the rain. Though for the record, every time Eric and I travel there is not one moment that it doesn't rain. Thankfully those are quick participation most if the time.

Sometime in 2008, when I was based in Singapore, I also began expanding my travel map within Southeast Asia and the weather (again, except rain) is still not an issue...not until our Northern Vietnam trip. Thinking that I am still within Southeast Asia, it will be a “same ‘ol same ‘ol” thing so as usual, we packed light. No shoes just slippers, no jeans only shorts and quick-dry tops. That same week before our departure, Eric has been bugging me to call the hotel to confirm if they have arranged an airport pick-up for us which I only remembered hours before our flight.

I called A1 Hotel in Hanoi for confirmation and the hotel staff who took the call was courteous enough to answer my queries but right before we hang-up he informed me about the that there will be no aircon during our stay as it is under maintenance. 

What the? If I hadn't called, then we would not be informed about this?  Instead, I stammered and just said "ooookkkaaayyy?”. He probably noticed the disappointment in my tone so he replied “but don’t worry madam, it’s the winter time so the temperature here is 17°-15°  and could be 15° tonight”.  Did I just hear winter? In Vietnam? Winter in Vietnam? Again, unsure of what to say, I just said the longest “oookaaayyy?” in my entire like, thanked him and hang-up.

I sat still for the next few seconds, stared at Trudge (our travelling bear) then at our bloated bags and rushed towards my machine and Googled “Hanoi weather” and there it was!  Just as the hotel dude said, lowest was 17°C and highest was 15°C. I checked my watch and I have 30mins left before I have to "really" go to the airport. 

So, the fastest unpacking-and-packing (for two) in my travel history happened in about 15 minutes! *long sigh of relief* I called Eric that I’m off to the airport and I’ll see him there.

Finally, we were so ready to become 4-day Millionaires! 

Trudge the Travelling Bear proud of his millions! wee!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Travel Tales...Finally?

It was way (and waaaay) back when I decided to put our trips on paper so I'd have something go over with when nostalgia strikes. For some reason, I just kept putting it aside until today. I am lecturing me with a big N-O...it's now or never. Finally, after a few minutes in front of my machine, it got  me my first entry -- Yey! An intro to this "whole new world" I created.

First up, I have to dig through my stacks of  photos, notes, boarding passes, baggage claim stubs, brochures and worn out maps which by the way looked way freakin' awesome after the trip, all torn, marked and crumpled. It makes me feel like a certified wanderer (hoping to upgrade my self-proclaimed title as a Globe Trekker someday *sigh and smile*). As I was saying, I'm planning to begin with our most recent trip then work my way backwards until all has been put on record. 

Here's a glance of the "stacks" I have been telling you:

                       Top: 6 (not less than 4gb) USBs, 
                             Bottom L-r : 1 Tera-byte external HDD & 3 x 500gb external HDD 

Not to mention, the maps, brochures and souvenirs I have tucked somewhere which I'm not even sure where...Wish me luck! 

My, I feel sooooo Julie Powell right now. Alright self, bring it on!