Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Travelogue - Vietnam - Phuket

It has been over 3 months since our Vietnam-Phuket trip and it seems like it has been ages already. I would be repeating myself when i say how time flies, but its true.. I feel it even more as i age. Perhaps time moves faster as you age. And with ageing my memory keeps diminishing as well.

Blogging was a way for me to collect those moments into containers that i could peek into later in life. Blogger and cyberspace were easier than writing diaries. And you don't waste paper and save few more trees in the bargain... good karma and all. Alas, there is no time to blog and write diaries either. Something that i rued as i sat down writing my memories from the NZ trip; i could not remember most of the things few months down the line. So the Vietnam and Phuket trip saw me carrying a small diary and pen along. I made good use of the diary i must say, but its only now that i have the time to transfer the contents from paper to blog.

I was half-tempted to throw my pretty little diary into trash a month back when i was packing the godawful amount of junk we have collected for the shift; enough reason for me to write a rant post, but i won't give in to temptation, collecting memories for posterity is more important and precisely the reason i did not have the heart to throw my pretty little diary.

So here i am writing each day as a post, starting from Day 1.

10.02.2010 - 09.10 A.M

The last big outing we had which was quite a spectacular one, i lost the details as time passed by. I did not keep any journal or any account of our trip to NZ. And i lost some wonderful moments of one of the best times of our lives.

So here i am, rectifying past mistakes, trying to jot down whatever comes to mind as we sit in the Silver Kris lounge of Changi Terminal 2 and gobble up some juicy Pineapple and Watermelon chunks. Hopefully, I shall be able to continue this - the journal. Our flight is at 10.05 A.M and we reach Hanoi at 12.30 P.M (Hanoi time).

The flight has taken off and I am visited by the all-too -familiar "knot-in-the-tummy-and-sinking-spirits" feeling... hello there. I hate flights. I love travelling.

Delish food in SIA Business Class and i stuff myself and hog like a pig. I need to divert the mind away from the fact that we are several thousand feet above ground and inside a container that's held in place by nut-bolts and screws.. not a comforting thought. The good food is some solace though -

Starter: Smoked duck breast with dried apricot compote mustard vinaigrette. (Hope i jotted down right, can't really remember how it looked :P)
Main (Vishal) - Thai fried rice noddles with chicken, cuttle fish, leafy greens & egg.

Main (me) - Braised fish with hot bean sauce, seasonal vegetables (cabbage, beans, carrots, cauliflower, mushrooms - i love veggies!) and fried rice.

Red wine for both of us followed by gourmet cheese with garnishes for me while Vishal had a delish mango pudding for company. Yummy!!



My first impression of Hanoi was that the streets and landscape was a curious mix of Calcutta in parts and Delhi in parts. Our guide for the Hanoi leg of the trip told us that there are 54 languages in Vietnam, Vietnamese being one of them. All i could see was motorbikes everywhere. All kinds. Motorbikes of all shapes and sizes and colours; the type and country of make changes as you move away from the city into the rural areas; Italian and US bikes and scooters for the city people, while the rural folks are happy with the cheaper Chinese makes.

We were picked up at the airport by our guide for the Hanoi and Halong Bay leg of our trip - Moon... how nice... i told her my name is a double of hers... munmun and she instantly warmed up to me and made me her long lost sister. I was showered with many compliments and i wasnt sure if that was part of the job. A sweet and smart girl who told us many things about Hanoi and Vietnam. About Vietnamese men in general and her husband in particular. About how the Vietnamese men have a soft spot for drinking and how her husband came home previous night (rather morning - it was 2.am) in high spirits and without his shoes on him. And everytime she spoke about her son, there was a smile on her face and i realised she could be any other woman trying to make a living in any part of the world; how similar all of us are despite all that is different in us.

After a quick stop and change in our hotel (a 100yrs old restored heritage building) we headed off to sight-seeing; The Temple of Literature (based on teachings by Confucius), the Lake of Returned Sword (Hoan Kiem Lake). Heard stories about Confucius teachings and the impact of the 1000 years of the Chinese rule on the Vietnamese culture. Evening was spent viewing the beautiful and amazing water puppets; i wish i had better pictures of the water puppets. It's a must-watch if you are visitng Vietnam. Took a rickshaw ride along roads of French Quarters and Old Quarters. Amidst the chaotic traffic and the sea of motorbikes, i noticed the numerous art shops and galleries of all sizes dotting the roads and lanes of Hanoi. I have never come across so many in one place before.

Had delicious spring rolls and large portions of dinner that we couldn't finish at this lovely, very European in it's architecture restaurant... the French must have built it years back... lovely.

And it was a short walk back to the hotel; it was hard to believe that we were at home in Sgp this morning and had already covered so much ground in a different country and city and it was still Day 1! And we were sooo looking forward to the next day and Halong Bay!

From Top Left Clockwise: Our Hotel Lobby, Temple of Literature, Streets of Honoi, Vietnamese women working in the Temple of Literature garden, The Hoan Kiem Lake.