As a side note, as you can see , I am no professional photographer nor do I claim to be. I’m just as clueless with a camera as I am with my life but I’m hoping you still get the overall picture (pun intended because I’m such a master of the written word).
For the first leg of the trip to Vietnam in February, Benny and I decided we wanted to head to the beach before exploring the city so we headed to Nha Trang via Ho Chi Minh and let me tell you, I have never had a more stressful connecting flight. As we checked in for our first flight to Ho Chi Minh from Bangkok, the counter assistant informed us that they would not be able to transfer our baggage directly to Nha Trang. Instead, we would, upon arrival, have to pick up our luggage, leave the arrival hall and walk to the departure hall and check in all over again to catch our next flight, with a mere 90 mins in-between. Normally, I would’ve been easy but knowing that we had applied for VOA’S (Visas on Arrival) which were subject to inspection and approval after handing over an official letter from the Embassy which was applied for weeks in advance, I had a bad feeling in my stomach since the moment we took off , which ofcourse, was not on time. Upon arrival, I was ready to pounce like a tiger, till I realised our plane had not directly parked at the terminal. So, we had to catch a bus. After being dropped off at the terminal, we rushed to the office which was responsible for handing us our visas; There were atleast another 50 people waiting, and a bunch of tourists loudly trying to communicate with the officer who on his part, was choosing to ignore their flailing arms and wads of cash. When I did manage to fight my way through, I, half panicked, tried to explain the situation that our flight was due to depart in 50 minutes. While the other officers stood in the background chatting and checking their phones, he cooly told me to take a seat and that it’d be fine. With 35 mins left, our names were finally called. Not only did Benny and I have to jump the immigration queue whilst I was apologising like a crazy person, our luggage had not even arrived at the carousel. How we managed to make that plane is still questionable.
Anyway, we’re here to talk about my impressions of Nha Trang. We stayed at the Alana Nha Trang Beach Hotel, which was (suprisingly) next to a….beach. The first thing that I noticed on the drive from the airport was the vasts amount of ongoing construction of mostly hotels and resorts. Any space that wasn’t occupied looked pretty desolate. Despite the 45 minute drive to where all the action was at, Nha Trang seemed really small. One thing you’ll also notice when visiting are the Russians. I’m assuming Nha Trang is their “go to ” place because there were definitely more Russians than locals . In addition, pretty much everything was written in russian, as well at the menus and the staff were more likely to speak russian than english , which I found amusing. This was only somewhat disappointing in the sense that we didn’t feel like we were experiencing much of the ‘local culture’ and that everything was geared towards tourists. It was only when taking a late night walk towards the “inner city” where the tourists began to disappear and you began to see actual homes and locals riding on their mopeds. Speaking of mopeds, the traffic was crazy. Not only did I really notice the absence of traffic lights and pedestrian crossings, no one actually stopped for you when trying to cross the road unless you were literally in their face. You know that scene in Mulan where the old lady claims to have a “lucky cricket” which will protect her? So to prove her point, she crosses the road blindfolded? Thats basically how you felt, because if you gave a driver eye contact or hesitated in the middle of the road, well, it might not have been pretty.
Though I personally didn’t feel that Nha Trang was the type of place where you had a checklist of a million things to do, I did enjoy lounging on the beach, and visiting the mudbaths at I-resort. If you’re planning on taking a trip there, I would recommend that you go early to avoid the large numbers of people arriving at noon. The street food was also pretty great. Writing this post is making me crave a Banh Mi. What I loved was that each stand had their own unique way of making the sandwich. My favourite one had slabs of butter, pork belly, vegetables and a ridiculous amount of chilli. Hurts so bad, but tastes so good. Seeing as I feel like I have said everything there is to say about my stay, I’ll let some pictures do the rest of the talking!
Over the semester break in February, which yes, was almost four months ago (I’m a little behind on my writing) , Benny and I took a hiatus to go back to continent of culinary delights…Asia! With the intention of exploring a new destination, we opted to visit Vietnam but no trip to Asia would be complete without a cheeky stopover in Bangkok. After our wonderful experience in 2016, we had to go back .
This time around we opted to stay at a Hotel near Khao San Road to be near to the hustle and bustle. Casa Nithra was the perfect option as it was within walking distance as well as super clean, affordable and had the friendliest staff!
Having done all the “touristy things ” the year before we could focus on the one thing we came to do: Eat. I came to Asia prepared to pack on the pounds because it would be a crime to not take advantage of Bangkok’s street food culture. Every meal/snack was a new adventure. Though simple in appearance, I find thai street-food to be as comforting as mum’s home-made chicken noodle soup and packed with flavour and I’d pick it over a fancy five-course meal any day.
When we weren’t eating (which was almost never) we just took the time to relax by the pool, get a massage or drink a cold Chang at one of Bangkok’s many street bars/ restaurants. Though this post isn’t filled with useful tips or adrenaline-filled tales, I just felt the need to convey my love for the city. The bright people, the dusty streets, suicidal tuk tuk drivers and of course countless food stands make Bangkok a breath of metaphorical fresh air.
That’s all for now, Folks! Look out for my next post on Vietnam.
– A Pearl of the Orient.
I’ve always wanted to visit London and two weeks ago I finally had the chance to go in combination with a visit to the Warner Brothers Universal Studios to experience the making of Harry Potter and watch the play Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. I guess you could say it was more or less a pretty nerdy trip.
We arrived in London early in the evening, got out of the airport, purchased an Oyster card, took the Tube and bus and arrived at our Airbnb pretty smoothly and swiftly, or so I thought. Turns out that my boyfriend and I miraculously managed to end up on the opposite side of town due to a certain misreading of street names. After a much lighter wallet and a cab driver as a new friend, we made it to our apartment as our stomachs were already ingesting themselves. We dropped off our things and headed to the nearest Restaurant (which happened to be pretty authentic Hong Kong cuisine) and I helped myself to a portion of chicken wings and char siu fan (Chinese bbq pork with rice). Too tired to explore much else, we turned in for the night so we could get an early start the next day.
The following morning we headed to Watford Junction to catch a train to the Warner Bros. Studio Tour. According to Google Maps, what should have taken twenty minutes from Watford junction, ended up taking sixty. I have since then come to learn that there are actually two trains (one of them being an express one with fewer stops) and we OBVIOUSLY went and got on the slower one. Sometimes, I question my intelligence… sometimes! We however, did get a chance to have a look at our surroundings on the journey and the stark contrast between the flashy cars and shine and glamour of Central London and the outlying areas was pretty shocking. The neighbourhoods looked desolate in combination with the grey backdrop of a sky. The homes looked broken and the gardens untended with piles of rubbish and junk scattered everywhere, a sight one does not naturally associate with London.
Upon arriving at the studios, I felt like a seven year old again. Not only did we get a glimpse of some of the real sets used during filming, such as the great dining hall or the Gryffindor Common room, we got a close look at all the props and costumes used. We boarded the iconic Hogwarts train, posed for pictures in Hogwarts robes and got our first taste of Butterbeer (which is pretty much like Cream Soda topped with Ice-cream) and it was magical. I grew a new appreciation for the series and the amount of work and effort that must’ve been put in by the whole production team. If you’re an avid fan as I am, I highly recommend a visit, if you haven’t already been. I also read somewhere that the Forbidden Forrest will be a new addition to the studios in March.
For once, thanks to what little self-control I have, I managed not to spend a fortune at the gift shop. I got myself a mug and the boyfriend came away with Voldemort’s wand. In the evening, we finally headed to the Palace Theatre ( a year and a half after booking the actual tickets) to watch the first part of the play. I must admit, after giving up on reading the book, I was concerned that the play would not not live up to my expectations but J.K.Rowling had our backs all along and I couldn’t have been happier to be plunged back into a world of wizardry. The plot was gripping, the acting was wonderful and the production was effortless and well…for the lack of a better word, magical, a feat which evidently took a lot of time , practice and funding. For fear of spoiling someone else’s’ experience, I’m going to stop there.
The next day was spent visiting the British Museum which is much larger than I had imagined and is very overwhelming to try fit in a day so we stuck to the areas such as “Ancient Egypt” which interested us the most. I must also acknowledge that I was pleasantly surprised that there is no entrance fee.
After a few hours at the museum, we were already off to watch part two of the play, which filled me with sadness once it was over but I will be back when it heads to Broadway!
Now as much as I’d like to get into all the other fun touristy things we did on the remainder of our trip, well, we didn’t.
With Benny catching a cold and the freezing and gloomy weather, we couldn’t bring ourselves to do much else than walk by the Tower Bridge and Big Ben and visit a cozy little market in the evening. How local Londoner’s manage to walk around in shorts and mini- skirts while it’s snowing outside is beyond me. Really.
And that was pretty much my trip in a nutshell. Before getting on our plane home, we popped into a a local diner for a proper english breakfast ( which in my opinion should be an everyday thing) featuring beans, eggs, bacon, sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes and hash browns . I felt that we left a lot out on this trip and didn’t get to do as much as I would’ve liked but on the other hand, the two extra days there would’ve cost a fortune! I had heard that London was expensive, but the prices were bordering on insanity. On most occasions I had found that i’d be able to get two full meals in Austria for the price of one in London and when I was told my small beer cost about six euros, all I could do was stare like an Idiot. Nonetheless, I plan to come back for another adventure in London, perhaps when the weather is more suiting.
Isn’t it wonderful when one has something to look forward to? Back in September of 2015, Benny and I decided to take a pass on many nights of take-out sushi, expensive christmas presents and extravagant ski trips to save for a getaway in February to Asia . The cold weather tends to lose its appeal with the absence of ginger bread cookies and christmas lights ; apparently Christmas music doesn’t lose its appeal till much later as our local Chinese restaurant was still playing Silent Night, Holy Night till late January…
After months of anticipation we were off! Now when I look back at it, it feels like a dream. Our first stop was Bangkok. I’m not going to lie to you, Benny and I were more excited about the food than anything else and we did not come home disappointed! We were lucky to have a variety of street markets in the area and over- indulged ourselves with street food by averaging 5 or more meals per day. I wish I was exaggerating. For what they lacked in hygiene ( best not to dwell too long on this aspect) , they made up for in taste, atmosphere and price.
Then, we did all the typical things that tourists do like visiting The Grand Palace , shopping at Chatuchak market,treating ourselves to an obnoxious amount of foot massages , getting ripped off by boat tour guides , riding a Tuktuk with a driver who had no regard for speed limits and then… eating some more. Bangkok is also known for its crazy night life amongst tourists and although unplanned, we managed to have a crazy night out of our own. I would divulge the details, but then again I wouldn’t because my mum reads this blog and well…the rest is self explanatory.
Our next stop?… Phuket! Our main aim was to simulate sloths and that’s pretty much what we did. With the odd bout of water rafting and elephant riding, a majority of the time was spent drinking coconuts, lounging on sun-beds, getting sand in all the places it shouldn’t be and watching mums get hilariously wasted at the pool bars happy hour . IT WAS GLORIOUS; minus the food poisoning towards the end of our stay. That? Not so much fun. I know what you’re thinking…of course we got food poisoning over there from that ridiculous amount of street food we were consuming but alas! It was the juicy, innocent looking beef burger at the hotel that turned out to be the devil. The romantic Valentine’s day dinner plans the next day abruptly went down the drain (amongst other things )and we spent the day in bed pathetically slurping on instant noodles.
After barely recovering, we headed on over to Malaysia to visit my mum. Many things that were on our list such as visiting Legoland, or popping over to Singapore never crystallised. With battered bodies, we surrendered to rest and ironically, more food. All in all , it was an incredible trip and I feel like trying to write a post about it is actually doing it an injustice. Experiences like that are felt by the soul and sometimes they simply aren’t made for sharing.You just had to be there.
Holy shit, I am deep.
– A Pearl of the Orient.
P.S. I realise that some pictures would’ve gone along well with this post but seeing as I’m a broke student and couldn’t afford to buy a good quality camera ( though I hope to in the near future) before going abroad, I feel that most of the photos I took are not worth sharing . You can , however, check out my Instagram (apearloftheorient) for a few .