Monday, June 22, 2009

A Quick Update

Just a quick update! I'll try to do some write-ups on my Vietnam trip when I have some time. Right now, I just want to laze around the house and do absolutely nothing! Never knew the whole travel would take so much out of me until I came back and all I could manage to do is sleep.

I'm still on my (forced) annual leave. There's no new jobs waiting for me in office anyway, except for some courses for the next 3 weeks. Plus, the situation in office looks bad, what with the economic downturn and all. Not much new jobs coming in, so us poor associates are left bumming around. Not that it's a bad thing, but sometimes it just makes me feel redundant.

I was in Port Dickson for the past 3 days, right after my homecoming from Vietnam. It was a reunion-cum-bachorellete weekend with my ex-classmates from BBGS days. One of them are getting married later this year, and as she'll be the first in our class, it's a big deal for most of us. And it's just soo good seeing them again after so long! We stayed at Avillion PD for 2 nights, and spent most of our time either in the room or in the pool. We only ventured to the beach once, and that was only to go on a Banana Boat ride (my face is all calar-balar now from being thrown off the boat!). But it was great! Catching up... playing monopoly and Superman... TruthorDare & "I never.." games... eating junkfood and being lazy... midnight bbq by the beach... Definitely memorable and I hope we'd get to do this again soon!

But I also feel kinda guilty for not being home so much for the past 2 weeks. My family have been doing a lot of travel lately, and more in the coming month, so it's difficult to get everyone together at one time. The parents are away on business trips at the moment, and they'll be back Tuesday only to be flying off again to Melbourne on Wednesday with my sister to visit the brother. An important event is happening this July, so it gets a bit more complicated when we can't get everyone together at the same time. But I'm trying to manage... my aunt is helping out, so hopefully things will work out by themselves.

Other than that... well... we've got the Standard Chartered KL Marathon 2009 this weekend! Super excited, but since I havent been to the gym lately, have to buck-up my training this coming week. And... I've also registered myself for 4 more runs this July! Anybody wants to join in and run with me?

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Vietnam: Last (live)Update!

So... it's my last night here in Vietnam. And I've mixed feelings about it. On one hand, I'd terribly missed the good friends I had made here, esp those biker dudes in Dalat (miss you guys!). And I still feel that there's so much more to Vietnam that I've yet to see... Muine, north of Central Highlands, Northwest of Vietnam (Sapa, etc)... But on the other hand, have to say I'm quite looking forward to just go back home.

I'm tired. Hanoi exhausts me. The city is chaotic at best, and horrifying at its worst, and I don't think I have the energy to keep looking where I'm walking every step of the way. Keep getting harrassed by xe om drivers at every corner of the street, keep getting myself lost in the streets of the Old Quarters (ok... that's my fault) and everytime I take out my cash, I feel like I'm being cheated off my money. Hanoi is not a city I would like to return to. Phnom Penh and Bangkok... yes. But not here. Not again. If I'd known things would be as it is today, I would've skip it entirely and spend the day elsewhere and just come back in the morning to make sure I make that flight home.

But I can never regret taking this trip. It's an eye-opener, and it showed me what I am capable of doing, even when I doubt myself. And all the experiences and new friends I had gained will only enriched me further, and at this point, I can't be thankful enough. So... Mr Bin, Mr Vu, fellow biker dudes, Mrs Quyen, Bao... thank you for your hospitality and friendship. I will definitely come back to see you guys!

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Vietnam: Update 2!

Hey good people! I'm in Hoi An!! Mr Bin had delivered me on his promise and he had gotten me here in plenty of time. We went through the Central Highlands for the past 2 days... and it was amazing. My words are insufficient to describe it at this moment, so maybe once I get back and have time to properly write, I'll tell all about it.
Yesterday was our final leg of the bike tour, and he was trying to rush me along so that I'd be able to catch the overnight bus to Danang. And at the bus station, I can't believe that I'd get soo emotional having to part ways with Mr Bin. It's only been 2 days, but he has been nothing but a great guide and a fantastic friend. I miss him and his crew of biker friends already. =(
The 14 hours bus ride, was surprisingly not so bad - except for that damn perv sitting next to me. While we were trying to make a conversation (as he speaks very little english), he tried to kiss me!! and who knows the horrors I'd faced when I was trying to sleep. Everytime I scold him, he'd sit still for awhile, pretended to sleep and went at it again. Let's just say I was so glad when the bus finally pulled in to Danang at 6am.
I hopped on a motorbike almost straight after getting my backpack and some haggling with the drivers. The english-speaking ones were asking for VND200.000 for an-almost-hour drive to Hoi An. I haggled with this one fella (non-english speaking) for VND80.000. I'm not sure if I should still feel cheated (a local bus would get me here for VND10.000) or if I was cheating him out of perfectly hard-earned money. But.. oh well...
I'd gotten a hotel, right next to the Confusious Temple, but there's no room available yet until afternoon and My Son's tourbus will only get here in another 10minutes. So I had the time to clean-up a bit, changed clothes and ... tada!! Here I am!
Am gonna have another rushed few days. Imagine: PACKED. I'll be back from My Son in the aftternoon, walk around town for the rest of the day. If I have time, I'd most probably rent a bicycle and cycle out to the beach. Tomorrow morning, am off to Hue for 1.5 days, and after that, will be taking a night train to Hanoi. Then HOME!
At this point... not really looking forward to going home. Well... at least, not yet. I feel like going back to the Central Highlands and join Bin, Vu and the boys go further up north. Ahh... next time? Perhaps?

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Vietnam: Update 1!!

Finally! Internet!! Yup... am writing this all the way from Vietnam!! And guess what? I'm still in one piece! And even better news, I'm absolutely enjoying my solo travel here so far! I've finally shaken off my jelly legs, and embraced this trip as it is.

I'm in Dalat at the moment, a hilly resort town set at the southern tip of the Central Highlands. It's cold and I'm trying to survive with only a cardigan. It's been a hectic trip up to this point. Arrived HCMC at night (yet another delay with AA), and following my tightly planned itinerary, I only had one entire day in the city before moving up north. So... yeah... still managed to squeeze in Cu Chi Tunnel, 8 city landmarks, Indian fare for dinner, Fanny for ice-cream and tons of walking all and around the city streets - all in one day. So yeah... you could imagine my exhaustion when coming back to the guesthouse last night.

And all bright and early this morning, had board on an opentour bus to Dalat. What was promised to be a 6hrs bus ride ended up to be an 8hrs nightmare. The seat was narrow, roads were bumpy and my butts were getting numb. By the time I reached Dalat, it was 4pm, I have yet to see anything as listed on the Lonely Planets and I am suppose to headout to Nha Trang first thing tomorrow morning. And to make matters worse, its the school holidays here in Vietnam, and Dalat being such a popular attraction, almost all the hotels I went to are either full, or just wont accept a single traveller like me.

But... it's the people that I meet - the locals mostly - in the restaurant, on the streets, in the hotel, that are slowly changing my trip day by day. I am so lucky to have met Mr Bin this evening. After hearing out my predicament, he took me up on his motorbike and we went straight to the waterfalls, the lake, the Buddhist Monastery and the Crazy House. It was getting dark by the time I came out of the Crazy House (yes... the owner is crazy) and it had just started raining. So we pulled to a side cafe, he treated me to hot local coffee... and he pulled out his briefcase. Ahh... always the salesman.

We started talking, and he showed me some of the places that he took his 'customers' too and their testimonials (3 notebooks full). And I have to admit that it is way, way more interesting than the places that I had planned on going. Travelling throught the Central Highlands on motorbike? Visiting the minority ethnicities? Sleeping in longhouses? Trekking through the National Park, and taking a dip under the waterfalls? Tell me you're not as swayed by this idea as I am. And I was so so tempted to take him up to his offer. But... I have another problem.

As you well know, I had planned my trip on a very tight itinerary. And this itinerary allows me to sufficiently discover Hoi An and Hue, yet still able to get me back to Hanoi by the 17th so that I can actually catch my flight back home. So I showed him my crazy-assed itinerary. And he showed me an alternative. Skip Nha Trang (which will be infested by tourists anyway), and he promised me that he'll get me to Hoi An by 14th, and I will still be able to enjoy a fullfilling trip there. Hmmmm.... this is getting tough. We went back and forth negotiating the price, and before you know it, we were shaking hands and signing contract!

But really... Mr Bin is such a lovely character, and he had been nothing but gracious to me the whole night. He even got me a perfectly decent room for $7!! Dude!
Ok. Shop is closing and I'm being kicked-out. Will try to update if the opportunity comes. Wish me luck!!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

The Brothers' Blooms : A Review

Up to this juncture, I've heard nothing but good praise for this movie. I saw the trailer a few times but I thought it looked maybe too cheesy and comedic for my taste. Really. Using a mute Japanese Harajuku Girl as a prop for all the randomness? Hmmm... let me consider that idea. But... I'm a fan of Mark Ruffalo (really, that guy don't get enough credit) and Adrian Brody have yet to dissappoint me with any of his movies (well.. maybe The Darjeeling Ltd was a bit too random for me). And... yes... I've heard nothing but good things about this movie, and I am nothing but a sucker for a good movie.

This movie is basically a con-movie. Think... Ocean Eleven (and Twelve... and Thirteen)... minus George Clooney (and the other 10, 11 or 12). The Brothers Bloom are perhaps the best con-artists in the world, renowned for their elaborate and dramatic ploys in order to syphoon money off innocent rich tycoons. And their latest 'Mark': Penelope Stamp - an epileptic pinhole photographer, well-known for her huge amount of inheritance, as well as collection of hobbies.

Of course, this would NOT be your basic straight-off-the-mill con job. We're talking about the Brothers Blooms here, and Stephen (Mark Ruffalo) is nothing but a good, dramatic narrator. And from the moment they made contact with Penelope, you know things aren't ever as they seemed, and you are dragged into this flurry of web, tangles and lies, and into the twisted and warped made-up world created by Stephen, and acted-out with sublime perfection by his brother Bloom (Adrian Brody), and... random Japanese chick, BoomBoom (Rinko Kikuchi).

It's a con in a con in a con being conned. Up to a point, you can't even trust your own instinct on what is real and what is not. Which, I think, lies the beauty of this movie. Being such an elaborate narrative, it's easy to mess it up and make the storyline very confusing for the audience. But what this movie did was... well, hell yeah you're confused! but you get the heart of the idea... the executions... the relationship between the brothers, as well as the blossoming romance... so basically, that confusion is anchored to something.

And other than the storyline itself (of a con in a con in a con being conned) , the movie is nicely packaged with a neat red ribbon. It's funny. Yet subtle. It's dramatic. Without being corny. It's an adventure... that is well executed by all players. And the characters are all lovable. Even the random Japanese chick grows on you.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

A Logistic Nightmare

So here's a dilemma: I'm flying out to Ho Chi Minh City on Tuesday. What was supposed to be an afternoon flight has now become an evening flight, which basically means that my half-day in the city is gone! Which means that my one-day excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels and the Cao Dai Temple have to be compromised... somewhat (to what extent, I'm still unsure). And I just realised that I'm flying back to KL via Hanoi on the morning of 18th. Which basically means that I've to be in Hanoi, AT ALL COST, by 17th. The cities that I planned to cover are: HCMC, Dalat, Nha Trang, Hoi An and Hue. If I plan to cover all of them sufficiently, I'd have one hell of a packed itinerary.

To ease myself a bit with the time management, there's the option of travelling by train and airplane. I'm alright with the train bit, but I'm worried that if press comes to shove and I have to get a domestic flight to connect between the cities, I'd blow my budget.

And here's a breakdown of my budget: USD500. I'm estimating roughly USD10 per nite at a hostel (although I found out that there's not much dorm rooms in Vietnam). I want to try and get a night train for either my Nha Trang - Hoi An (via Danang) leg or Hue - Hanoi leg where I can save on accommodation expense. Train travel is estimated at roughly USD40 from HCMC to Hanoi. I'm gonna throw in USD20 for bus travel as well. I expect the food to be dirt cheap... so that's roughly USD50. Err... shopping?... USD50? Out of city excursions? another USD50? Okay... I'm just gonna throw some numbers here but the bottom line is USD500. AND... I need to allocate roughly USD60 just in case I need to board an emergency domestic flight in order for me to go home!

So... amidst all these logistical nightmares... I found my solution in this:

A pair of brand-spanking (on sale) new loafers!
(Err... is that the sound of my travel budget shrinking?)

I spied these at Isetan while innocently window-shopping in the afternoon. Of course, I've been meaning to get me a pair once I'd realised that I've outgrown my sneakers. Well... more like the world forced me to outgrow them. Apparently I can't be taken seriously anymore if I'm walking around in Nike sneakers (people would assume I'm a school kid). So... yes... I'm trying on a more 'mature' ... outlook(?)... and these babies are my first step into... The Mid-20s Club! Now... the next step would be to try on dresses/skirts. (OMG!)

PS: Okay... okay... I've decided to throw caution to the wind and not worry myself too much on the logistics. Time and place will unravel itself in unexpected ways and the point of this trip is to challenge myself, and to create my own unique experiences. This is a time to enjoy, and relax, and chill-out and take things as they come. I figured... worse comes to worse... I'll just get a later flight home. =)

Breakfast @ Chinoz in the Park

Vietnam is clouding my head. I can't think straight anymore. I can't even think about exam tomorrow (yikes!) when I have Vietnam in my head!! But... yes... I am trying to navigate around that problem by distracting myself with the internet. (hint: not studying) Do you think I can sue Facebook and Youtube for compensation if I fail my exams? ... *silence* ... I figured not.

The familia balik kampung today to Alor Star (fka Alor Setar), leaving me home alone yet again. And after Monday's 'incident' (no... it's not an accident) I don't trust myself alone, unsupervised, with the car. Who knows what I'll do to it next?

But of course, Sunday is a compulsary family day no matter what. So, with the promise of Chinoz in the Park @ KLCC for breakfast, I made the extra effort to wake up early (translation: 8am!) this morning.

Never had breakfast here before, simply because I find difficulty waking up early on Sunday morning (translation: 10am and beyond only!). Apparently they have a buffet spread for breakfast, starting from 8am - 11am. @ Rm15 you'd get free-flow of fruit juice, pastries, muesli, yoghurt, cereals and a local specialty dish (today: lontong). For an additional Rm6, you can add any ala carte choices available in the menu, which consists mostly of egg-based breakfast set (ie. omellette, sunny-side up + full english breakfast, poached eggs + cured beef strips, scrambled eggs + smoked salmon) as well as a pancake set. We skipped the buffet, and jumped straight to the ala carte items instead (which comes with complimentary coffee/tea).

Poached eggs + cured beef strips + english muffin + hollandaise sauce.

This was quite good, although I wished they had balanced it with some greens or something, because on its own, it was a bit salty and the sauce was very rich and creamy. The yolk wasn't runny though - which would've made it a trademark perfectly made poached eggs.

Full English Breakfast = 2 sunny side-ups + sausage + beef strips + mushrooms + roast tomato + baked beans + toast

The serving was quite big, and although I didn't get a bite of everything else on the plate, I thought the roast tomato was nicely done: sweet with a hint of garlic.

Omelette (with a choice of turkey ham, cheese, mushrooms and/or herbs for fillings)

Again, another huge serving. Best shared between 2 people.

Overall, it was quite alright, although I find it rather frustrating that the coffee/tea was not refillable. But it was so nice sitting outside by the park, embraced by the still quiet of early morning, before the hussle and bustle of the day begins. I really need to start waking up early more often to enjoy this sort of moments. An excuse to try the pancake set next?

Monday, June 1, 2009

Idiocy of an Incompetent Driver

I'm an idiot. Particularly in regards to driving. Or... more specifically, parking. Wait. No... I'm an idiot when it comes to driving in parking spaces. So far, most 90% of my accidents occured in relation to parking. (I bet you're wondering how many accidents I've actually had so far in my short lifespan as a driver)

What happened? I crashed the car. No... more like, I scraped the car. And the bumper fell off. Well.. it came off partially and got dragged under the car, and I had to get one of the guys at the carwash to help me get it off completely. Thank goodness that thing is only plastic. No further dents to the car whatsoever. Now... my dilemma is what am I going to tell my parents. Or when should I tell them about it, since they won't be back until Wednesday. OR... I could just send it in for repair right now, and my parents won't have to know about it! (but... but... my gaji!!)

I'm not actually worried about their reaction since they normally would just brush it up under the rug. But I can imagine the onslaught of sarcasm... and I just can't stand it. And thank goodness my brother is not around. I hope he's not reading this. Or else, I'm pretty sure he's going to kill me... all the way from Brisbane. (oh please please please... let him be totally ignorant of this blog!)

Ahh... I think I'll break the news to my dad gently. Over an sms. (^__^) Plus, I have 3 more days to prepare myself for their reaction! I also have my exam this Wednesday to worry about. *sigh* I'm kinda not digging being home alone at the moment. This house is 'noisy' at night.

Oh... by the by... 7 days to Vietnam!