Singapore

After our somewhat difficult trip to Singapore, that night we went to eat at an Hawker stand (which is an outside food court). The food was good. Roger ordered a soup, it turned out to have pig’s intestine in it. Thankfully, Marjorie likes everything :-).Our hotel, Fragrance Hotel- Crystal, was in the Geylang district which is the red light district. The hotel was therefore cheaper than other areas, so we decided to splurge on food. Even if it was in the red light district, the hotel was really quite good. However, one of the best things about Singapore is the food. Man, could we go on about what we ate in Singapore…

On our first day, we started on Orchard Road which is the “Rodeo Drive” of Singapore with lots of shops and beautiful malls. Oh, yeah, we forgot to talk about how clean Singapore is. As they say, it is a “fine” city, i.e., you get fined for many things such as littering, importing chewing gum in the country, etc. Roger’s sister Anette and her family lived in Singapore for almost two years so we checked out the area where they used to live and gave her a call via Skype from there. It was neat.

We then had Dim Sum in Chinatown in a very nice restaurant called the Tea House, which was recommended by girls we met in Vietnam. It was very good. We were a bit worried about the price when everyone around us were wearing business suits. Turned out to be somewhat reasonable. We didn’t care anyway because it was so good. One of them had mango and shrimp, hmmmm.

That afternoon, we went to the Singapore Zoo which is a wonderful Zoo with open air habitats. We saw many cute and beautiful animals. Some included deer mouse and cat bear (which you can see in our photo gallery). That night we went on the Night Safari which was very cool. Our favorite site was when we saw the big bull elephant with tusks. It was so majestic to see in the evening light. After the night Safari, we went to the Newton Hawker Stand (which is like a big open air food court with fresh seafood everywhere!). The girls that we met in Vietnam had written for us a list of the dishes we should try in Singapore so we started working on our homework. We had some black pepper crab (we picked our crab), some grilled tiger prawns, and some chilli ray fish. It was all amazing.

The next day, it was pouring rain. We went to Santosa Island and visited Underwater world which is a big Aquarium. It was quite the thing to visit as for most of the visit, you walk through a huge tube where you have the fish swimming all around you. The rays were really cool to see. We then went to see “Images of Singapore” which is an interactive Museum on the history of Singapore. It was very interesting as we knew very little of Singapore’s history.

Finally, we went to 4-D Magic theater. This theater shows 4D movies where you not only see the movie in 3D but also have other physical aspects of the movie (water spraying on you, chair moving, etc…). They managed to scare me a few times during the movie. It was really a cool experience. That night we went to a very nice restaurant called Jumbo Seafood on Clarke’s Quay. It was amazing food. We had an Oyster omelet, Cereal Prawns, and Scallops. (all from the list).

For our last day, we spent the day walking around the city: went to little India and a bit everywhere, had some more food and Roger tried some funky drinks. In the afternoon, had one last Tiger beer in a nice place and then headed for the airport. Flew from Singapore to Bangkok and then Bangkok New York. I have to say, getting out of the airport in the middle of winter with our summer clothes on in New York (as we changed airport) was really cold!!! And then it snowed shortly after we arrived home in Montreal. Welcome home!

Kuala Lumpur (KL)

When we arrived in KL we were pretty tired so we went for a quick walk around the hotel, grabbed a bite and then relaxed in the hotel room. Around 9:00pm, we thought we should have some supper but we felt too lazy. As well, it was raining. We ended up going to a BBQ by our hotel swimming pool. It was beautiful with the rain falling on the pool and the food was great. All you can eat meat and seafood, salads and an amazing dessert bar. The cook was excited to have people and insisted on BBQ’ing a piece of everything for us: marinated beef, chicken, sausages, tigers prawns, crab, you name it. It was very nice and romantic :-).

The next day, we walked around KL, went to the Bird park and the Butterfly park. On the way there we came across monkeys swinging in the trees and a monkey crossing sign on the road. The bird park was great to visit. A large majority of the birds are free to fly and wander where they want as the big area is covered with a netting. It is nice to see the birds outside of the cages.

After visiting the butterfly park we walked to Chinatown. The fist thing on the agenda was to grab some food. After eating, we visited the huge outdoor market that is set up in Chinatown. We bought a few souvenirs. We then walked all the way back to our hotel. That night we went to eat at an outside food stand (called the Jalan Alor Food Centre). The food was amazing: we had butter shrimps, ginger beef, etc… and of course some great beer.
The next morning we got early to go line to go up the Petronas tower at 7:30! The counter opens up at 8:30 put you have to wait in the line up in order to get tickets for that day. We succeeded and went up to the bridge on the 41st floor at 9:00. It was great to be up there. I think the best part was the elevator. Before the hostess said welcome we are going to the 41st floor we were already there. It goes faster than 1 second per floor! The view of KL was amazing and the towers are very impressive.

We got back to the hotel to grab our bags to go to the bus station. We thought we were taking the bus to Singapore at 11:30 and were told it was going to take 5 hours… I could go on for a long time about this but I think you will need to come over for a drink to get the full story. In short, we got to our hotel room in Singapore at 8:00 pm that night after a few adventures…

Home Sweet Home (or so we thought)

Well, we made it home! It was a bit long but not that much. On the flight from Bangkok, watch 5 movies, had three meals, a nap of 4 to 5 hours and there you go, the flight is over. Everything went smoothly. We got home on Thursday, noonish feeling full of energy and then it hit us in the afternoon. We struggled to stay up until 8p.m. thinking we could sleep till the next morning and beat the jetlag quickly.

However, at around 5:30 we woke up because there was lots of noise in the back alley. We looked out and there were firetrucks in front of our house in the back alley. Tends to wake you up very quickly, even jetlaged. The restaurant across the back alley slightly to the left was on fire. Tons of smoke was coming up. I was pretty freaked out. Roger was telling me not to worry to try to relax (couldn’t really sleep from the noise from the trucks, chainsaws, water from the hoses..etc.). Roger kept checking. At around 7 am, he was looking outside our bedroom window and said ‘Holy shit’. I jumped out really fast and was pretty freaked out. Huge flames were coming out of the top of the building (did I mention that it was very close?!?!). I was starting to think about what I would need to grab if we got evacuated… Well, we did not sleep from 5:30 on.  The entire building burned to the ground :-(. It was a great Italian restaurant which we liked a lot. Thankfully, the firefighters managed to contain the fire to only that building.  It ended up being a general alarm with 125 firefighters fighting the blaze.  It was quite the thing to see (from our bedroom windos) as the restaurant is (well I guess now ‘was’) only 100 meters from our place…

Here are a few photos from our bedroom window:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=Welcome-Home

It is kind of funny (in a disturbing way) –  I was telling Roger when we arrived home that it was nice to be home and to be able to relax completely. When on the road, you have to maintain a certain level of alertness and vigilance for the bags and yourself I guess. Well, I was home and it was definitely the most freaked out I have been in the past 8 weeks!

I think the moral of the story is “Travel some more because you are not any safer at home” :-)

Bangkok Airport – Business Lounge :-)

Hello!

Well, we have now embarked into our 30 some hours marathon journey home. We took a flight from Singapore to Bangkok and we are now in Bangkok airport for a 5 hour lay-over. The nice part is that since we are flying business class we get to use the lounge with free food and drinks and free internet. At 1:00 am, we take our flight from Bangkok to New York which is 17 hours!! It is the second longest flight in the wolrd (for now…). I am not sure why but we do get weird looks in the business lounge. I am not sure if it is our back-packer look, our many bags or simply our age…

Speaking of many bags… we left looking like turtles (you can refer to our very first pictures), we are coming home looking like hypoppotamus. We left with 2 backpacks and 2 daypacks. We have bought 2 more bags plus a tube for paintings… It is quite the expedition, we sure lost more and more mobility as we went along. We left with 27kg and today weighted in at 40kg (and that with putting a lot of weight in our “day” packs). Probably a good thing we are coming home :-). Well better go get a drink :-)…

Happy New Year!!!!

We wanted to wish everyone a Happy New Year and all the best in 2007. 

Sorry that we are a few days late posting this but we were in Cambodia visiting the temples at Angkor.  We also have had some problems with slow internet connections.  We soon hope to post some of our final thoughts on Vietnam as well as a posting about our time in Cambodia (which was great).  We are now in Kuala Lumpur and leaving tomorrow for 3 days in Singapore before flying home on Jan. 11th.  More soon…

 

More pictures from Vietnam

We’ve posted more pictures from Vietnam. They aren’t in perfect order –
we’ve tried to put comments on most of them. There are only a few from Saigon as we are still here. We’ll post more later in the trip.

Hope you enjoy them!

Pictures from Hue:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=Hue

Pictures from Hoi An:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=HoiAn

Pictures from My Son:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=MySon

Some pictures from Saigon.

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=saigon

Transportation in Vietnam:

http://www.laforce.org/gallery/view_album.php?set_albumName=transportation

Ho Chi Minh City (also know as Saigon)

On the 29th, Ger, Rog, and I took a bus from Hoi An to Danang and then a flight from Danang to Saigon. We had the option of either taking a 24 hour train to Saigon or a 1 hour flight.  Seeing the price difference was only $11.00, we obviously decided to fly.

After checking in to our hotel with difficulty (apparently they did not have our reservations…) we went for a nice Pho (soup) and relaxed. The hotel, An An Hotel, is nice. The three of us are sharing a room.  The hotel is fairly new and the rooms are great.
That night, we met up with Fiona and Dave from England, whom we met in Halong Bay. We went for supper and drinks. The five of us and had a lot of fun. I had a Vietnamese fondue, it was really good. We are going to meet up again with Fi and Dave in Cambodia in January.

Rog and I spent the next day exploring Saigon on foot. It was fun. Once again, the traffic is crazy!! We went to visit the presidential palace (called the Reunification Palace) and also the War Remnants Museum. The latter was quite disturbing with many pictures from the war and the terrible effects of Agent Orange and Napalm on the civilian population. That night Ger, Rog and I went for supper to a very nice restaurant called Lemongrass. We shared a bunch a dishes, it was delicious. Then I came back to the hotel (I have had a cold the past couple days) and worked on the pictures. Rog and Ger went out on the town.

And today is New Years eve! No firm plans yet but one of the streets close to our hotel is closed for a big party so we might hang out there…

Tomorrow, January 1st, we flight to Siem Reap in Cambodia to go visit the ruins at Angkor Wat. On the 5th, we flight to Kuala Lumpar in Malaysia for 2 nights, and then bus to Singapore for 3 nights and then we flight from Singapor to Bangkok to catch our flight home.  Time sure does go by quick when you are having fun!
Till next time…

Hoi An

On the 24th, we took the bus from Hue to Hoi An and stopped at China Beach on the way. We checked in at the Greenfield Hotel and Gerald was already there. He took a flight from Bangkok to Hanoi the night before and one from Hanoi to Danang that morning so that we could spend Christmas together.
We stayed in Hoi An 5 days, until the 29th. We wanted to find a place where we could enjoy and relax for a few days without moving every second day. We needed a Christmas Holiday :-), and Hoi An was a great place for that.
Hoi An is an old town which used to be a very busy commercial port in its time (from the 17th to the 19th century). It is very charming, with old architecture and the waterfront. It is also know for its tailors and we took advantage of that :-).

On the 24th, we walked around town and took in the sites. It was really funny, there were little kids dressed up in Santa outfits! They had free drinks by the pool at our hotel and some traditional music and dancing. Emma from New Zealand (we met her during our tour in Hue – remember ?), was staying at the same hotel with her boyfriend Carl. We enjoyed the show together and then planned to meet up with them later for drinks. For Christmas eve meal, Ger, Rog, and I went to a very nice Vietnamese restaurant called “Le Cafe des Amis”. It is a set menu: you just choose between meat, seafood and vegetarian and they keep bringing you dishes. It was awesome. We then went for drink at the Tam Tam Cafe and met up with Emma and Carl and a few other people from our hotel: Claire and Susan from Ireland, and Sally from Australia. We had many great cocktails, chatted, and then danced (or more so created our own dance floor). That night a few of the girls thought we should all take a cooking class the next day, so we signed up.

The cooking course started with a visit to the market with Chef Thi to buy our ingredients for the supper we would make later on. Not everyone made it there, but for those who did, we really loved it, it was a lot of fun. Chef Thi is a very nice guy and a great cook. So, for Christmas supper, we all met up at Tam Tam Cafe at 5:30 and started learning how to make great Vietnamese food. We made spring rolls, crispy fried shrimps, fish soup, and fish cooked in banana leaves. It was all wonderful and we had so much fun!

On the 26th, we decided it was time to start shopping. The Italian couple we met in Halong Bay, Sissi and Matteo, had recommended a tailor so we went and checked it out with Emma and Carl. The ladies were very nice and the quality seemed really good, so we decided to all get a bunch of clothes tailor made. We ended up being in the store for over 4 hours. Between deciding on what to get made, in what style, with which fabric… Then there is the measurement, and most importantly the bargaining, which is Roger’s knack. He spent a very long time going over the price of every piece. It was very funny and entertaining as both parties where quite theatrical and dramatic :-). We were pretty exhausted after that so we went for some 3000 dong (20 cents) beer and spring rolls.

Yes we forgot to talk about the money, we are multimillionaire here, that’s great :-). One canadian dollar give you about 14 000 Vietnamese dong. So we have bills of 500 000, 200 000 etc. It can be confusing at times, but you sure feel rich!

The next few days were pretty much as follows, hang out in the town, go shopping, go for fittings, go for supper with Ger, Emma, and Carl, and then meet everyone and also other new people at the Tam Tam Cafe. Go home while Ger stays to play pool until the wee hours of the morning. We also went to the beach one which was very nice.
Oh, yes, I almost forgot, on the 28th, we got up at 5:00 am to go visit the ruins at My Son which used to be a Cham Empire. You can rent a driver to bring you there early before all the tourist arrive. Emma, Carl, Ger, Rog, and I all went. Seeing that not of us are morning people, the ride there and back was pretty quiet… However, the ride in itself was very interesting. Early in the morning, we saw all the school kids in their uniforms riding their bikes to school. It was really worth visiting early in the morning as it was very quiet and we had the opportunity to visit the ruins in peace.  We enjoyed our visit to My Son.
Now back to the clothes, we really went to town… suits, shirts, dresses, etc. We had a lot of fun going for fittings and rebargaining as we ordered more clothes.

By the way, since we have been getting complains about the lack of posts :-), the internet connection was already very poor in Hoi An, and then we had no connection on the 26th and the barely on the 27th because of the earthquake in Taiwan which damaged the internet cables. Plus we ARE on holidays you know ;-).

Anyways, we had a wonderful time in Hoi An. We loved wandering in the market and through the streets, bargaining and getting clothes made just for us, and hanging out with Ger and everyone else.  It really was a nice city that gave us an opportunity to stay in the same place for 5 days while still doing many things and meeting many nice people.

Hue (Central Vietnam)

Hue used to be the capital for a while and was where the Emperors from the Nguyen dynasty used to live. It has an old Citadelle with the Emperor’s palaces as well as their burial grounds. Unfortunately the Citadelle was mostly destroyed by bombing from the different wars.

On Dec. 22nd, after our 11 hours train ride from Hanoi to Hue, we had a very relaxing day in Hue. We checked in to our hotel and really liked the room. It was big with a private balcony with a nice view and even a computer with free internet in the room! It was very nice. We went for Pho (beef soup), walked around town and relaxed in the room. We took the opportunity to write a few blog entries and upload some of our pictures.

The next day was not so relaxing… We had booked a day tour to go visit all the sites. Our guide was pretty hard core and we did lots during the day. When we would get off the minivan, the guide would tell us, not jokingly, ” You have 30 min. Never, ever be 5 min. late, otherwise you walk to the next stop!”. It was an interesting experience, but we did see lots of beautiful sites and met some nice people. We met Emma from New Zealand. Her boyfriend was not there because he was crook (we learned that it meant sick…). That night was went to a nice restaurant called Y Thao Garden. The presentation was amazing and the food very good. You will be able to see some of the the way the food was presented in our photo gallery.  We met a very nice swiss couple and after supper, visited the beautiful house of the restaurant owners together.

The next morning, we took the bus at 8:00 for Hoi An.

Merry Christmas!

We wanted to wish everyone a Merry Christmas.  We hope everyone is enjoying the holiday season and are spending a wonderful time with their family and friends.

Things are great with us.  We are in a city called Hoi An in central Vietnam.  We met up with our friend Gerald and spent a wonderful Christmas with him.

Wishing you all the best over the holiday season!