Friday, 27 June 2014

Stuck in the labyrinth of skilfully maneuvered motorbikes of Hanoi, Vietnam

28 hours on the sleeper bus with lack of food (what’s new, really?) and proper clothing, I felt as though my skin has grown on the sleeper bed, and we’ve become one being. But all these sufferings were compensated with the most epic border crossing experience between Laos and Vietnam. The immigration office for border crossing is between two mountains and since it was winter, the temperature showed no mercy and dipped below 10degcels.

If there’s one thing I could buy then, it will be patience. Waiting at the immigration office with our new English and French friends was not one of the best decisions at that point because whatever camaraderie forged with the Asian locals was replaced with the obnoxious invisible label across our foreheads “FUCKED UP FOREIGNERS”. But honestly, those hostilities only lasted as long as we were in the custom, and I could not care less; ultimately, the French couple’s (they were about 80 years old and I totally love their retirement spirits and bravery for backpacking) parental instinct lasted more than the 28 hours bus ride and made sure we shared a taxi with them after we got off.

It was 8pm and our supposedly couch host had decided to bail on us and I was on the verge of tears but I guess being dehydrated better controlled my tear glands. But as if I was Mother Teresa equivalent my previous life, I got a reply from another host almost immediately. Her house was located in the most strategic spot and can you imagine our excitement when we realized that on the ground level of her shophouse was a restaurant??? We forgot our mannerisms and were literally savages with our hot bowls of noodle soup, while our new just-got-robbed German friend, another couchsurfer, started infiltrating us with his weird philosophies and jaded life back home. Not like I minded another companion since apart from Ping, we haven’t really had proper conversations with anyone else.

I have had a long history with harsh winter; this winter was no different. This was actually one of the coldest winters recorded in Vietnam -- while we were in Hanoi, Sapa was already snowing and I remember it being a big hoohaa on international news. (The same period with the snowstorm in Northern Hemisphere.) If you were to ask me how I survived that backpacking during that winter (because I underestimated SEA’s winter and packed only my skanky summer clothes), I have no recollection. Call it the survival instincts, because no, Vietnamese are not a fan of fixing their water heaters and having heated beds.

homemade vodka 

I am guilty for over generalising Hanoi based on my experience in Ho Chi Minh previously and I was left dumbfounded when I realized how much more orderly the chaos in Hanoi is as compared to Ho Chi Minh's. No, the myth of closing your eyes to get to the other side of the road only works in Ho Chi Minh, because I nearly lost my unworthy life in Hanoi. My death would just be another fuck people do not give, how tragic. But we were addicted to waves of passing motorbikes while skillfully maneuvering our way around the chaos on the sidewalks – smokers, shopkeepers, kids running around, TukTuks, or just garbage. It was just the same pattern repeating over and over again for the entire day as we crawled from one place to another.

Ham Tu Quan 

Refreshed after days of not showering
Hoa Kiem Lake 
okay, more pictures of ourselves while we still look good 

Our staple, Soi

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Rugby World Club 10s

Call me pragmatic but it is easier to love something when the conditions are right. I am actually thankful that my little competitive country, Singapore, likes bidding for sub-international events like Youth Olympic Games, Rugby Asian Qualifiers and most recently, Rugby World Club 10s, in the newly built stadium.

Did I mention how majestic the Indoor Stadium is? Needless to say, Singapore is perpetually in our own competition of being ‘one of the world’s biggest’; this stadium is one of the world’s biggest sporting infrastructures. Under these right conditions for an avid Rugby fan (not an active player anymore, LOL), I love Singapore. I don’t have to be a doppelgänger of the 9Gag Asian meme watching world cup with dark eye rings at unearthly hour, I can watch the game ‘live’ and be a total fanatic and take pictures with cute rugby players.

My favourite game: Asia-Pacific Dragon vs The Blues from New Zealand

Samoan boys doing Hakka; no one can resist half naked men.

Brumbies; Cup Runner-up. It was such an intense game against the Blues that i lost my voice instantly. I actually love seeing 20 men fight over the possession of one oddly shaped ball. I enjoy basking in everyone's cheering amidst their passion.

Conclusion: Rugby is still a game for the Oceanian. 

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

Luang Prabang, you sound like my lover.

It was a rush-backpacking trip for us since we only had 4 weeks during winter break to travel around and by the time we got on the sleeper bus to Luang Prabang, our only concern was proper surfaces to rest our energy-drained masses. Safety, maybe after we sleep.

Never understood love at first sight until I set my eyes on the streets of Luang Prabang. It was a perfect fusion of tourism settling into the cultural scene, not in a blatant way. Luang Prabang is definitely not a place where they are obsessed with ‘out with the old, in with the new’; it was indeed pleasing for the eyes and mind, for once, that the tourists here are actually abiding to the cultural norms and not have half their said-assets drooping out of their well-backpacked-backpackers clothes.

The Royal Palace in the heart of the City

200 odd steps to the top of Mount PhouSi. Located right beside the Royal Palace. We reached Luang Prabang that morning, so we did not have tours planned, Mount PhouSi made a good day trip; overlooking the entire city and Mekong River.

Rugged shoes

my dishevelled face

the little temple at the top of the mountain
there are a few monks who are pretty open and friendly to tourists where you can talk to them

Hi-jacked a hotel's backyard to have our lunch with a view

20cents goodness gone in 3 seconds
Night Market. Not sure if it's a daily or weekend-ly event as we were heading back to our rooms to retire for the night, the night market was just starting up and of course, who are we to miss any window-shopping or intense staring at good food? It was one of the favourite night markets out of this entire trips. The goods ranged from hand sewn bags to typical elephant pants to handicrafts to paintings to...

the temperature dipped and my hands trembled as if i had Parkinson
10000kip Buffet

Day 2 spent at Kuangsi waterfalls. Kuangsi waterfalls is 30km off city centre and you can get there via bicycles or rip-off TukTuks. We had everything but time since we were moving on to Hanoi the same evening, we packed our sense of adventure and took a TukTuk instead for approximately 7USD. (As we were on our way up the KuangSi Waterfalls, you have no idea how many times i secretly thanked all Gods that we didn't choose the DIY bicycle way. My quads would have died there and then.) If you're into those Chinese blue-green waterfall painting, Kuangsi Waterfall is the place you'll dig. It felt as if I walked into a Chinese painting by accident.

These people actually live on the land mass across Mekong and they cross this river to get to work in the city centre

No one was really into fashion by then

The Tarzan Swing that we didn't have enough time to do

i wasn't lying about being in a Chinese painting, was i?

Climbed to the top of the waterfall with our new Spanish jaded lawyer friend
i swore my boobs concaved a little

Alright, till next time Luang Prabang.

Gotta prep myself for our 28 hours overland to Hanoi. (Stay tuned for the craziest dipping of temperatures. Snow in Sapa.)