Thursday, June 23, 2016

A short and easy trip to Saigon

Saigon is the old name for Ho Chi Minh city. I like to call this city Saigon because it sounds authentic.

This short and easy trip to Saigon are for first timer solo traveler.. For me this is my lazy trip with a limited time.

From Manila I flew over the South China Sea to Kuala Lumpur by Air Asia to get to Saigon. I spend my next 12 hours at KLIA2 for my early morning plane to Saigon. I spend most of the time relaxing at Quizinn by Rasa food court at Level 2. It is very easy to find this place, close to the departure hall.

The food court is open 24 hours and offering various kind of food from locals and internationals suitable for all ages. You are allowed to lie down on their long cushions bench and have a sleep while waiting for your next plane. The other end of the food court has a good view to watch the plane taking off and landing.

Shuttle from the Airport.

This is my easy and short trip in Saigon before jumping to another city in another country. Faces of the immigration staff and airport staff were tight like they still have this terrible war memory from the past. One of the immigration staff asked me a question in English but the pronunciation were not clear so I ask him to repeat the question. He just pulled his face tight and straight and eyes rolling without repeating the question. Oh life is too hard for him I guess.
A very serious bus driver. 

Next, a straight face from the bus driver of 152 that will take you to a bus stop which is close to District 1 and Ben Thanh Market that cost you only 3000 (0.13 USD) dong fare and another 3000 dong if you have a big luggage. 

At one of the alley in District 1.
Fortunately the weather changed from gloomy to a sunny bright day. I met a friendly young Vietnamese couple seated behind me. It's all started with me asking if the bus stop at Ben Thanh Market near to District 1, the backpackers area.

The man used to work in Malaysia and he talks about how great is our food. The young husband and wife are so friendly. They told me about Vietnamese popular dishes Banh Mi and warned me that it is not Halal. In general he knows that if you came from Malaysia, you are Muslim.

Accommodation - Nice and quiet hostel in a busy and happening street.

As soon as I got to Bui Vien street, I received many "Hello", "Hi," "How are you," from the young white guys from their bike. Probably these people who has spend long time wondering in Vietnam and they love to see another young solo backpacker asian woman

Vintage Hostel located at Bui Vien Street in District 1, the backpackers area which is the hive of activities and it is just a short distance from Ben Thanh Market. This hostel was only open 6 months ago when I stayed there.
The comfort and privacy  bed. Each bed has a curtain, side wall lights, reading lights, socket and a small space on the side wall to put your stuff. Locker is under the bed with security lock by card.

Most part of the wall here are well decorated with the mosaic arts. Vietnamese are very creative with the mosaic arts.
The best part of this hostel are the stairs, shine and clean. It reminds me of a rich asian home back in early 90s.
Getting around the city.

You can hire a bike to get around and drowned in the crowd of the bike. I never ride a bike in my life even though I was born and raised in Malaysia. I used my two legs to get me anywhere around the city. Motor bikes in Saigon are crazy, huge number of them. "Pin, Pin, Pin," you heard this all the time on the roads like thousands of "Pin".

They are coming!! The bikers!!
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica located about 20 minutes walking from District 1. Many of the buildings here has the influence from the French colonial.
The materials to build the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica was imported from France.
Located in District 3 is the War Remnants Museum, a must visit if you in Saigon. Five minutes of your time in the museum, you will learn the horrifying of the Vietnamese war or American war according to the locals.

Some of the American will think this is the Vietnamese propaganda but we already had enough stories been fed by the American media and Hollywood movie about the Vietnamese war that most part of the stories are on American side. 

The Vietnamese side tell their war stories here through a graphic image.
All the materials display in this museum are an eye opener of the aftermath of the war which often does not get shown on tv. For so long the world has forgotten about Agent Orange and its effects to the vietnamese and the American soldier who served in Vietnam war.

To remind you, agent orange was used by the U.S military from 1962 - 1975 in an attempt to destroy the forest in Vietnam and Cambodia, which were used as cover for the Viet Cong, as well to destroy the crops grown for the peasants. This forced the peasants to flee to the cities that were being controlled by the U.S military and as a result, the Viet Cong had a significantly decreased amount of food supply.

The effects of "Agent Orange" left over 100,000 of Vietnamese suffered the horrifying effects of the chemical.
Agent Orange is made from two herbicides, which was contaminated with dioxin. A dioxin is a highly toxic compound and can cause multiple gene mutations and chromosomal abberations. 

Picture from
Another site to learn about Vietnam War is Cu Chi tunnels. to get here easily, just book a tour that only cost you about $7 if I'm not mistaken. Dozens of tour agent at District 1. You can go by yourself if you have a bike and a GPS.

Cu Chi tunnels were used by the Viet Cong as a hiding spot during the combat as well as a supply routes, hospital and living quarters for the Viet Cong. The long of the tunnel is 121 km and now been preserved by the government, becoming one of the tourist attraction in Saigon.

The man demonstrate how to get in the tunnel. The tunnels door are closed and camouflaged, almost undetectable. 
Something caught my attention.

I finished my dinner and just sitting at my table facing the busy street of Bui Vien watching people passed by. As my eyes wild looking around in the restaurant, my eyes glued at a small rack with a glass door hanging on the wall. Inside the rack a few bottles of scorpions and snack lined up on the three levels shelve. On a small hand written sign says "Snake Wine".

Those snakes and scorpions in the bottles are the real one. The lady at the counter told me it's good for man, strong in bed. So, what I found in google about this creepy stuff. Most individuals in Vietnam believed by consuming snake wine, it can improve health and virility. They are other story about the unlucky one who drank this snake wine got bitten by the snake which is still alive after many months stuck in the bottle.

Ok, It's The Best Indian Food I Ever Had.

Ok here I am, visiting traveled in Vietnam but talking about Indian food. I was just craving for Indian food that afternoon and walked pass by this Baba's Kitchen restaurant. Checked the menu and decided to have my lunch here. So I ordered chicken kurma come with rice and nan bread.. My Goodness, the taste are so authentic. My tummy happy and I'm happy.

It happens that my Air BnB guest from German travel in Saigon and ate at Baba's Kitchen have the same opinion with me. THE BEST INDIAN FOOD THAT WE EVER HAD. We have not been to India so forgive us if we rated Baba's Kitchen on top of our list for Indian Restaurants.

New Friends & A Lil Bit of Party

This is what traveling are all about. Travel, Chill, Friends & Lil bit of party. Enjoy girlssss!!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Meet The World Famous Bus Driver from Manila.

I remember it was a weekend in winter and the weather was freezing cold. All I want in a crazy cold winter is doing nothing except lied on the bed watching any good program on TV. As I browsed the SKY TV channels, a reality TV programme called "A ToughesT Place To Be.." in UKTV caught my attention. 

Rogelio and Josh West in the series 1 of a "Toughest Place To Be A Bus Driver". Picture taken from

The programme took a different man from the UK with a different profession such as bus driver, binman, fireman, nurse, fisherman and other professions to do their job in a developing country under some of the toughest conditions in the world. It also showed what life is like for really poor people that many of whom exist on less than 2 dollars a day. 

Back then, I was planning for my Southeast Asia trip and when a series shows about the bus driver in Manila, Philippines and a binman in Jakarta, Indonesia. I made a plan to meet this two great guys. 

As  time passed and the date to my trip was getting closer, I dropped out the plan meeting the bin man in Jakarta, Indonesia and continue with the plan to meet the bus driver in Manila, Philippines. I try to picture myself meeting with him and snapped a photos and post in face book, "Hey look who I met". But, to accomplish that almost impossible because thousands of bus driver in Manila in the population of 20 millions. Actually I don't put a big hope in that.

Edwin Nombre far from left with a great smile.

The hostel where I stayed very often has an activity called True Manila, a project that allows foreigners and Filipinos alike to see the daily grind in impoverished areas in Manila. Edwin Nombre, the founder said the main idea for this project is sharing culture, kindness, and friendship.

Edwin Nombre took us to the slump where he grew up, San Andres. I asked him if he knows about Mr. Rogelio, the Jeepney driver from the BBC programme and it happens that he is Edwin friend. Mr. Rogelio lives in the same place where we had our project but he was at work. I thought that I have no luck meeting him since that the next day will be my last day in Manila.

I finally met Mr. Rogelio, the world famous bus driver from Manila.
When we was about to finish the project, Edwin stopped and talked to someone. At first, I did not take note with whom he was talking to because I would like to take this opportunity to have a good look of the surrounded buildings. When Edwin said he is the man that I asked about, I was shocked that he was in front of me and straight away I told him that I watched that programme and I admired his hard work. Of course I said that I'm his big fan.

Mr. Rogelio's Jeepney, this picture was from his Face Book.
Preparing the meals for the kids.
Later on that day, Mr. Rogelio had an initiative to find me in Face Book through our mutual friend, a lady who was a regular volunteer for True Manila. I felt so honoured that he wants to keep in touch with me and become a long distance friendship. Until recently, from time to time I had a short chat with him.
"Umupo dito," I heard this words many times by Edwin, asking the children to sit. It means something like sit here.
The building like this was built from the donations fund. By the look at it from outside, you can imagine how packed is inside the house with xis families members or more.

We stopped by at soon to be Edwin house to lend a hand for a couple of hours. His home and some others family was burned in a fire. Donations money were used to build up new home for them.
Some considered the slum like this in San Andres is a luxury slum or not as extreme compared to other slum in Manila. I don't do comparison because I never live like in this conditions and even it is a luxury slum, it is still not a proper home.

Had lunch at one of the restaurant in San Andres with the other guys from the same batch.
If you are visiting Manila, put this activity in your list. True Manila and if you have a chance you can have a Jeepney ride driven by Mr. Rogelio. Don't forget beside pay him the fare, tipping him as well. I wish this project all the best and to Mr. Rogelio, "You Are The Man!"

Sunday, December 20, 2015

The Truly Amazing of True Manila

First of all I admit that I am a bad blogger. I have not update my South East Asia trip in September. The last post was in October 17, 2015. What I've been doing? I've been doing plenty.

My First destination of my South East Asia trip is Manila, Philippines. Since my good friends move to Manila for a job, I was tempting to see the city.

I heard many things about Manila. Bad and good. Mostly bad things about Manila. Heard and read from someone and somewhere, Manila is a dangerous city to visit. This negative thought about manila from different persons who are actually not a well traveled person I considered them. After all, all those negative comments about Manila does not affecting my excitement visiting to the city.

From Kuala Lumpur I flew to Manila with Air Asia. Other airlines that has route from Kuala Lumpur to Manila are Cebu Pacific, Philippines Airlines and Malaysia Airlines.

Manila from above.
What to expect when you arrived at Ninoy Aquino International Airport. The immigration and custom clearance are not much different from any other International Airport. The condition of the airport is a typical poor country airport.

Transportation from the airport to your accommodation. Coupon taxi. White colour taxi that charge a specific amount depends on the distance. I was approached by a sweet petite lady, a taxi agent. Filipino are very hospitality. They always address someone by 'Sir' or 'Mam'.

The lady gave me the price to my destination (Airport - Makati) for 750Php. But I quickly said "Woww it's already gone up?" Pretending that I've been there before, the fact is it was my first time in Philippines. 

The tricks I created worth it. I only have to pay 450Php from Airport to Makati. Some bragging about they can bargain as low as 300Php. Hey, come on guys. Where is your human sense. You are in the third world country, poor country. Don't bargain too much. They are hard earn people.

Another taxi service is Airport metered taxis, the yellow colour taxi. They are about 30 percent higher than average taxi. They also highly unlikely to cheat you. 

WHAT YOU WILL SEE IN MANILA? These are according to what I have seen. 

Manila is a well known for its congested traffic. According to the survey from Waze, Manila is the worst city on earth to drive. However, my French house mate learns to drive and got his first driving licence in Manila when he lives there for 3 years.

I have to agree with him that Manila may have the worst traffic on planet earth but it does not means they fall in the category the dangerous city to drive. People seems have respect with others while on the road but lack of discipline.

Millions of humans! The population in Manila is reaching 18 millions. It is so clear from the air how despicably chaotic it is down there in Manila. What happen in Manila is the result of poor governance through the years. Corruption is an everyday hobby in Philippines. 

Meeting the most hospitable and friendliest people in the world. They are ready to help you in any situation. I had a long chat with the taxi driver, the lady boy food vendor at the night market, cleaning lady at the airport and the jeepney driver.

Intramuros is a must place to go if you love history. This is the oldest district in Manila located along the Southern Bank of Pasig River. Intramuros means "within the walls". It was built by the Spaniards in the 16th century. You can hire a tricycle to get around in Intramuros.

If you prefer walking, make sure you are all well prepared to use the power of your legs. If you planning to hire a tricycle, make a deal with the driver how much is the fare. It could be confused and you might trapped in their trick. They put certain amounts for 30 minutes ride.

Manila Cathedral.

Palacia Del Gobernardo, The first residence of the Spanish Governor General.
The Katipunan or known as KKK was a revolutionary society founded by anti-Spanish movement. The KKK Monument at Padre Burgos, near Taft Avenue. 
The homeless and the slums. My reason visiting Manila other than to meet my good friends was also to see with my own eyes the poverty in Philippines.

On my arrival, I saw a lot of sign and poster about APEC meeting. The meeting date was not far from the time I stay in Manila. The government were doing the best as they could to clear up the city from the street kids, but the country's leader that will come to Manila knows that third of the population in Philippines are poor and millions live in a slums.

My hostel located at Makati CBD, a business district with a modern high rise buildings and a huge luxury shopping mall. If you just staying around here when in Manila, you will never experienced the true Manila. Makati is just like any other business districts.

Makati CBD where I stayed when in Manila. 

This homeless family found their place to live on the roadside of a busy main road near Intramuros.
I found this interesting facts about homeless in Manila from A quarter of the population lives below the national poverty line (World Bank, 2012). It is estimated that around 44% of the urban population live in slums (UN Habitat, 2008). The capital, Manila, has the largest homeless population of any city in the world - 3.1 million. An estimated 1.2 million children in the Philippines sleep rough, with 70,000 in Manila (IBT, 2014).
This is considered a luxury slums compare the slums in Tondo.
When you travel outside Makati, the true Manila is right in front of you. The street kids playing on the street, people sleeping rough on the street, smell of urine, the poor scavenge for food or for any recycle items, a skinny street beggar in dirty torn shirts, a family with their carts full of stuff like mattress and their clothes, a tricycle driver touted the passer by try to make a living, try to survive day by day and all this what I saw really broke my heart. Nothing much I can do at that time but only to observe and reminds me how lucky I am and for this I should thanks my mum for gave birth at the right place.

Night Market and the happy Filipina. A. Avenue night market was the only night market I've been in manila. It was right in front of my hostel. Almost every night on my stay I visited A. Avenue night market and make friend with one of the seller there.

An open mic at the night market always the best entertainment. The world knows that Pinoy love singing and are a great singers. I have to say that this archipelago has the most singers and karaoke machines.  

There is no research or study has been done but I'm sure one of the reason contributes to their singing talents are Pinoy are one of the happiest people in the world. They can easily find contentment without the finer things in life, one of which grabbing that mic and warbling.

The downside part of the night market were the foods. There were nothing special about the food. In general there are almost the same kind of food.
Night market in Makati, just right in front of my hostel. If you expecting of variety and delicious food, night market in Makati does not offer that.

Deep fried or bbq foods were the most you can find at the night market.
Philippines cuisine. There's no stronger term to capture the essence of Asia's most unique, idiosyncratic, and underrated culinary tradition. Unlike their neighbouring countries, Vietnam, Thai, Indonesia and Malaysia which have a vast choice of the local cuisine. Many of their food are not spicy or not well used of spices. No Asian identity or ingredients in their food.

You can do some research about Filipino food and will come across with chicken adobo, lechon, tapa, longganisa, mechado, puchero and kaldereta. Mostly their food are rice and meat, a kind of meat with no expression.

Filipino are easily offended when you complained about their food. They are very defensive and telling you that you are not doing a good research about a good place to eat in Philippines.

In comparison with the country where I came from, the foods have the true identity of our own country. The taste is good, the unique essence are blended with the different ethnic and culture.

By the way food is not my main reason visiting Philippines.

Halo Halo one of the famous dessert I found in Manila. Nothing special, you can find something similar in any South East Asian countries.

GETTING AROUND in Manila is highly challenging. The public transport system in Manila are not well organised. The easiest public transport you could take is taxi. It does not hurt your wallet so much. LRT & MRT does exist here but the lines are not well spread out. I did used LRT & MRT for a couple of time from Ayala station, which is the nearest station to my hostel in Makati.

Jeepney is the cheapest and the most popular means of public transport in  Philippines. No two Jeepney are decorated the same way. Jeepneys were the left over from the US military jeeps from the World War II. 

In Metro Manila, we were always touted by the tricycles drivers. Tricycle is another ubiquitous means of transport in Manila. Unlike taxi, tricycle is only for a short distance ride that transfer you from another form of transportation to the other. 

The drivers park the tricycle in a queue waiting for the passengers at San Andres.
ACCOMMODATION. There are a lot of choice for the accommodations but not for a tight budget traveler. A very limited decent backpackers hostel in Manila and a bit pricey too.

I choose to stay at Our Melting Pot hostel on Makati Avenue due to the location is closed to my friends apartment. Overall the hostel is just average. The staff are friendly except the young girls that work in the evening shift doesn't seems have an interest to answer my questions. She seems more interested talking to the whites. Yes, I got it, unless if I am a westerner with blonde hair and sparkling blue eyes. What I have just a dull black hair with dandruff and yellow skin. So, I'm not in her list to be helpful.

Eventhough I only visited Manila, the experienced are exceeded to my expectation. I would love to come back to explore more on Manila and Pinoys.

The trip that was planned to visit my beloved friends changed into something adventure. Eventhough I explored the city quite well, but lack of photos due to my phone 'flat battery' syndrome. I left my iPhone 6 charger back home in New Zealand and bought the fake one in Kuala Lumpur and it does not work properly.

All the photos were taken with iPhone 6, very practical, good quality of photos and make traveling easy for you.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Christchurch to Kuala Lumpur by Qantas Airlines.

Winter is over. There was a stillness but I had five wonderful weeks away from the long quiet winter from the down under.

Like most of other years I will visit my family in Malaysia and at the same time I will let myself lost somewhere that I can find my own definition of freedom.

This winter break was slightly different form the previous winter season. Since that I was working so hard to save money, I decided it's time to reward myself with something a little bit different. Usually budget airline was my first choice to fly home but I came across Qantas Airlines low fare from Christchurch to Kuala Lumpur one way ticket fare for $NZD 525.00 with 2 stops over.

Picture from Flight Travels. If you love aviation, check out his cool vedio in youtube.
Traveling with budget airlines could be hectic with the long hours flight change. With the extra budget I have this year, I decided to go for full service airlines. It's not a huge different in the fare. Full service airlines allow 30kg baggage, PTV and meals serve on board means that you will not go hungry at 36,000 feet. My experience flying with budget airlines you will feel hungry at some stage because you have to pre-purchased the food. The food can be purchased on board as well. The difference in the meals serve is in full service airlines you get a complete set of meals plus coffee or tea after the main meals.
Flight scheduled at 6.45am, the waiting area were really quiet at 5.30am.

The flight change doesn't take long. Stop over in Sydney only took two hours and stop over in Singapore supposed to take up to 3 hours but the flight from Sydney to Singapore was delayed almost 40 minutes.

Christchurch - Sydney

From Christchurch to Sydney I flew with Qantas Boeing 737-800 Next Generation fitted with Boeing's slick Sky Interior. Qantas refurbished its fleet of Boeing 737-800 aircraft with a great level of comfort and enhanced in-flight entertainment options. If you flown with conventional aircraft, you will notice a dramatic difference.
Photo taken by me at Terminal 1, Kingford Smith International Airport, Sydney. Qantas Boeing 737-800 Next Generation.
Here are some photos that I took from Australian Business Traveller website. This photos was taken from a review made by David Flynn. Some photos are snapped by me but not much because I'm quite a shy person to be seen holding a camera all the time especially in a small space like inside the plane.

Photo from Australian Business Traveller. The entry area are spacious, brighter and more open.

Photo from Australian Business Traveller.

The overhead baggage compartment designed to give more headroom to the passenger. The steep sweep overhead compartment also contributing to the cabin's more spacious, brighter and lighter appeal.

Photo from Australian Business Traveller.

Photo from Australian Business Traveller.

Photo from Australian Business Traveller. The colours changes of the LED lights inside the flight can be change by the cabin crew through the LED monitor. You will notice a different themes during boarding and meals, as well mimicking sunrise and sunset.

Photo from Australian Business Traveller. Side wall lights dimmed into a soft plum colour.
I own this photo. If you are taller than me you will feel squeeze at the knee. Fortunately I am a short and petite lady, so the legroom is just nice for me. 

Photo from Australian Business Traveller. 
USB port at every seats next to the screen for you to recharge your smartphone or tablet. Also you can use your USB memory that loaded up with musics or photos. I reckon most of the traveller far more likely to use the USB port to recharge their smart phone or tablet.

Sydney - Singapore

Picture from Flight Travels.

My plane from Sydney to Singapore is Qantas airbus A330-300s with economy seats configured in a 2-4-2 layout. If you ask me what is the best seat. My answer is I don't know. As long as I don't seat next to someone who don't stop talking, someone with a stinky feet or sitting in front of the passenger with long legs and keep on kicking your seat. If where I'm seating has no experience with passenger like that, then it is the best seat for me. Any seats will land you at the same place.

It was really busy at Sydney Airport. The flight was delayed about 40 minutes from the scheduled time without any explanation from the airlines. The passengers who has been standing for long time to wait for the gate to open were searching for a seat.

I just want to get on board and waiting for the dinner to be served. Some airlines has a really good meals. I choose steam fish for dinner and they distribute an Australian signature beef hot dog with mustard and it was good.

The down side of this plane is the toilet. It was dirty. I don't blame the airlines service but the passengers itself. I will not explain further what I saw in the toilet but I suggest Qantas Airlines to have a bigger toilet sit to cater big western ass.

I don't have much time to explore Changi Airport because the transit durations cut to one hour due to flight delay from Sydney. At T2 transit lounge there is Xperience zone where you can catch the latest sport event or let your creativity run free at the interaction e-Postcard booth.

In such a hurry I managed to snapped a few pictures from the Orchid Garden. The garden was so mesmerizing with almost 700 orchids from 30 different species of Orchids. Orchids is the national flower of Singapore.

The giant replica of Vanda Miss Joaquim orchid, Singapore national flower.

I will assure on my next journey back home to choose the longer transit durations at Singapore Changi to explore the foods and the other gardens at the airport.

Share codes with Qantas Airlines route Christchurch - Kuala Lumpur is Malaysia Airlines that flew me home to Kuala Lumpur. The plane was not I expected. It's and old plane with a dull and boring interior. I had read some review before about Malaysia Airlines route Singapore - Kuala Lumpur using their new boeing 737-800 boeing sky interior.

More than half of the passengers on board has a connecting flight from Kuala Lumpur to Mumbai. Thought I was boarding the plane to Bollywood when I saw almost everyone on board were Indian.

When I booked the ticket I have other choice of Airlines route Singapore - Kuala Lumpur which has the share codes with Qantas. I chose MAS because I am sincerely supporting MAS whenever I am afford and I want that welcome feeling when I landed to my home country with the MAS signature landing announcement "To our visitors Selamat Datang to Malaysia, and to Malaysians WELCOME HOME. Thank you for flying with Malaysia Airlines, we are looking forward to see you again". That feeling when you heard the words WELCOME HOME is so meaningful especially if you live abroad.