Backpack! Backpack!

I have been MIA in this blog since November last year and up until now, I still haven't organized my thoughts for this upcoming blog entry. Poor me. I have been swamped by work after Chinese New Year was over and being able to blog now means I'm starting to breathe again :-)
Last CNY, three of my friends (Patricia, Roxy, Aya) and I went backpacking in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Laos was supposed to be in the picture too, but since we would only be travelling for seven days (and mostly by land), there was no way we can fit Laos into the schedule anymore :-(.

The couple of weeks prior to our departure date were characterized by mega-lengthy trails of email exchanges (both purposeful and vexing), long hours of net surfing trying to find the best hotel rates, and nerve-wacky discussions on the numerous hostel reviews with focus on bed bugs! Never mind that it's 10usd a night, but bug bites are not worth it!

First Stop: Hanoi, Vietnam
After waiting almost an hour by the converyor belt, we realized that Patricia's luggage was missing! We checked it in with Roxy's but Pat's luggage was not able to make it. We called the Changi airport right away and good thing the assistance hotline was open 24 hours. It turned out that the inefficient girl at the counter of Tiger Airways failed to put a sticker on Pat's luggage. Ohemgee. We waited after two hours to verify with the ground executives. The next day an officer called to inform us that they will send the luggage the next day when we arrive at Ho Chi Minh. Thank heavens! This is blessing number one! :-) Lesson learned: always check and collect your baggage sticker, peeps. I love Tiger Airways now!

Because of the luggage issue, we lost a lot of precious time, so we just ate porridge at a nearby food house. It was so good I finished my bowl before everyone else did!
The next morning, we had a hurried breakfast of beef noodles and baguette - Hanoi version. The bread is only one of the many influences the French had over the Vietnamese. The houses built around our hotel were replicas of European buildings, too! (Sorry, not many pics to show - we were busy with our baguettes!)

Can you believe they use wooden chopsticks! Wood is not washable, friend!

Next place to visit was the infamous Halong Bay where the James Bond Cave is located. We went on a cruise to cross the bay and as we waited at the dock area, I started to freeze! My guidebook said it will be around 14 degrees in Hanoi during winter months, but I think it was even lower. I couldn't bear the cold wind so I decided to buy a 10-dollar used jacket! Such a rip-off!

For some reason, my feet have a high tolerance to cold climate, so I was still able to fair well with my fitflops! Hihihi.

Perhaps due to the fact that Vietnam's economy relies heavily on tourism, the locals really take advantage of the tourists (and their wallets). Above is the picture with a local kid selling a 20,000+ dong (it's a dollar i know, but even so, they're so tiny for crying out loud!) worth of tiny bananas!

Sitting on stalactites and stalagmites. Ooohsome!

The last night in Hanoi was spent driving around the Old Quarter with our Vietnamese friend, Ken :-) He was so gracious to drive us around and treat us out during our stay!

I wouldn't forget him of course, only for the reason that he introduced us to the simplest yet the most delicious Hanoi delicacy - the Nom! It is made of shredded fresh papaya, cashews and silantro leaves floating in very spicy, sweet and a little bit salty sauce, topped with thin slices of dried pork. Super duper yum!
Food stalls along the sidewalk are pretty common in Hanoi. People from all walks of life sit on very low stools and dine in the midst of the garbage! We did not care at all - food was awesome!

Second Stop: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Day 3 - We flew from Hanoi to HCMC to ride the land transfer (aka taxi) that will take us down to the border of Cambodia - Phnom Penh. Don't you notice how Viets love to use H in their city names? ;-)

The food here is even better, baby!
And ladies and gentlemen, drum roll please . . . our bill amounted to 3million! We're such rich kids! No sweat!

P.S. For this trip, I bought (on discount) Frommer's Vietnam guide, published by none other than John Wiley, of cows! It contains a wealth of important information you need to know about the place you are touring - travel contacts, detailed city maps, list of transpo companies, best places to dine, etc. And I shall quote Russel: "With this, we'll never gonna get lost!" Wink!

Third Stop: Siem Reap, Cambodia

To be continued in my next entry....


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