Why we need a travel role model

This Friday, I’m flying to Ho Chi Minh city and travelling to My Tho for my friend Nguyen’s wedding.

Nguyen is a very important person in my journey to being an independent travelling woman. I can’t find a right term to describe her impact in my travelling life but the closest I can get is “travel role model”.

Nguyen and I met while I was on exchange at Xiamen University in China. She was in graduate school while I was an exchange student who was supposed to take journalism and advertising classes.

I was the first batch of exchange students at Xiamen University. There was another guy who was in Engineering so we had different classes. The staff at Xiamen University didn’t know how to handle exchange students so they dumped me at the Overseas Education College.

It was a complete mess. Instead of being assigned to real lectures, they expected me to take random classes for the students who were there to learn about the Chinese language and culture. Eventually, I sorted out half of the problem and had to solve the rest of the problem by taking extra modules back in Singapore.

But thank to the mess, I met Nguyen. I took a totally random class on singing and met her there. She was extroverted and joked with the teacher a lot. I’m quite the opposite.

At the end of the class, I invited myself to her dinner. She graciously accepted my self-invite.

Learning how to travel

I was such an amateur traveller that I bought TWO gigantic bags!

Nguyen took me under her wing. She brought me around the school, introduced me to the concept of taking naps during the university’s official nap time and showed what Vietnamese coffee looks like.

She told me stories of her travel from the South to the North of Vietnam and other tales. I was amazed that she and her friend could travel on their own across a country! (Mind you, I was 21 years old and knew nothing about travelling without my family.)

During a short vacation week, Nguyen suggested that we visit the historical town of Jingdezhen. I was more than happy to go because I love history.

I also found out that a nearby town has a preserved old Chinese law court. I was enamored with a fictional lawyer in a Hong Kong drama so we made a detour to the shabby court.

After travelling with Nguyen, I was sure that I would be able to travel on my own.

Some weeks later, I set off to Shanghai on my own for my first semi-solo trip. I stayed in a hostel for a night and booked a local tour group that went to the cities around Shanghai. I also bunked at a friend’s place for a few more nights.

At the end of my exchange, Nguyen and I took the night bus to Shenzhen. We took a ferry across to Macau where I took a direct flight back home.

Without her, I would have chickened out and take a flight straight from China back. I had a wonderful time in Macau and it remains one of the cities which I want to travel to again.

Keeping in touch

I’m usually terrible at keeping in touch with people. But somehow Nguyen and I managed to keep in contact for all these years.

In 2009, I had the chance to visit Vietnam because of her gracious hosting. (I found some of the blog posts from that trip.)

During the years, she updated me on her birthday trip to Boracay, her month-long backpacking trip to Europe and other trips. I updated her on my smaller trips and told her about my round-the-world trip. She was very supportive.

We met up again in Kuala Lumpur when she was on a stopover to Thailand. It was there where I met her husband-to-be Michael. The two of them have a meet-cute story that sounds like something from a romance novel about travellers in Venice. <3

Why we need a travel role model

If I hadn’t met Nguyen, I would probably take a longer time to become comfortable with travelling alone. I think it’s important to have someone in your life to show you what’s possible.

Having a travel role model makes it easier to cross that bridge from being scared of travelling alone to being a kickass solo traveller.

For every person who wants to venture into solo travelling, I hope there is someone in your life to guide you.

And here’s a big congratulations to Nguyen and Michael who are getting married on 1 March. I’ll see you both on Friday.

Who’s your travel role model?

PS I’m bringing the cheongsam I made in Hoi An for a wedding. Talk about prophecies.

My cheongsam from Hoi An

My Chinese New Year cheongsam
My Chinese New Year cheongsam. I’m sure there was something in my eyes.

During the Chinese New Year, I finally got to wear the cheongsam I got tailor-made in Hoi An. It had been in my wardrobe ever since I flew it back with me from the Vietnamese town.

Hoi An, Vietnam, is famous for its tailors. You literally (yes, in the literal way) cannot walk down a street without passing at least 2 tailors. (Well, not too literally if you’re passing paddy fields.)

Not a tailor in sight
Not a tailor in sight

Nguyen, you know her from my KL trip, also raved about tailors in Hoi An during one of our Facebook chat sessions. She said I must get at least an outfit done when I am there.

Frankly, I’m not a shopper of clothes. Clothes store make me yawn maybe because I rarely find things my size which I find flattering.

But I thought about getting a qipao (aka cheongsam) made–especially after I saw what Steph from 20-Something Travel got for herself–although I was not sure when I would actually wear it.

Allure of the cheongsam

Impressions of qipao; handsome man used for illustration purposes

The perfect image of a lady in cheongsam features a tight fitting dress and curves in the right places.

The not-perfect image of a lady in cheongsam features a loose-fitting dress with curves that suggest pregnancy. That, my friends, was what my dress turned out to be.

My tailor

Future, Hoi An
Future, Hoi An

I got my cheongsam made at Future. It’s at the street junction of Cua Dai road and Tran Hung Dao. (photo below)

When we were picking out the cloth, the shop owner suggested a black cloth. I explained that I might wear it for a wedding. After looking around, we both agreed on the cloth with blue background with green shiney embroidery.

The lady got my measurements and told me the dress would be ready the next day. I believe it was US$35 for the dress but I have a really bad memory (should have jotted it down!)

I picked up the dress the next day. When fitting, I realized that there were places which were slightly loose. Suddenly I became paranoid that she thought I was making it for my wedding and mistook my bloated stomach from the night before as a growing baby. (It was probably my overactive imagination though).

I felt too embarrassed to tell her that I wanted some parts of the dress to be tighter. I reasoned that I would probably grow into the loose spaces if I keep on eating with my healthy appetite.

I’m not complaining that the dressmaker wasn’t good. I’m saying that as a customer, I wasn’t even sure of what I want so that was the main problem.

At least I can still wear it when preggers
At least I can still wear it when preggers

If you are heading to Hoi An, remember to get something tailor made! Just make sure that you know how the end result should be and not be like me.

Recap of 2012 travels

2012 travel yqtravelling

Hello everyone,

It’s the last day of 2012. For today, I am recapping the journeys I made in 2012, along with a few related entries.

(Some of the cities do not have related blog posts because I am working on a really limited internet connection back home in Sabah. I’ll follow up with the posts once I reach the land of high speed internet–Singapore.)

In case you find this entry a little TL;DR, I want to wish you a happy 2013. May the new year be filled with (productive) travels.


-Yun Qing

January 2012

Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

yqtravelling january seremban negeri sembilan

In a nutshell: The Seremban which D and I visited was sleepy. There wasn’t much going around as it seems like most of the people prefer to look for a living in Kuala Lumpur.

Port Dickson, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

Port Dickson
Port Dickson

In a nutshell: The reason I dragged D along to PD was to wash my feet in the ocean. My family has a ritual of stepping into the ocean when the new year comes to “wash away the bad luck”. PD wasn’t as fantastic as what my primary school sample compositions tell me. I much prefer the beaches in Sabah.

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu for the Chinese New Year
Kota Kinabalu for the Chinese New Year

In a nutshell: Back home for Chinese New Year which is the most important festival for my family. I didn’t visit any new places while in Sabah.

February 2012

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur
Kuala Lumpur

In a nutshell: Impromptu trip to meet up with Nguyen in KL. It was great fun meeting her again after my trip to Saigon after graduation.

March + April 2012

Yogyakarta + Solo, Indonesia


In a nutshell: Back in Indonesia after D and my first trip back in 2009. It was great seeing the ancient monuments in Borobudur and Prambanan.

Solo, Indonesia
Solo, Indonesia

In a nutshell: The side trip to Solo was fun too since we visited Candi Sukuh and watched Orang Wayang.

Ipoh, Perak, Malaysia


In a nutshell: Finally back to crossing Malaysian states off my list. Ipoh will forever be remembered as the town with great food (almost as good as Penang) and a “castle” that is not really a castle.

May 2012

San Jose, California, USA

San Jose
San Jose

In a nutshell: On a business trip to cover an event in San Jose. I had the chance to visit Cupertino and see the Winchester Mystery House. I didn’t get to see much of the city because I was stuck in the convention centers getting my bills paid.

San Francisco, California, USA

San Francisco
San Francisco

In a nutshell: Side trip from San Jose after the business trip. I had planned to visit Napa Valley for a night but decided to stay in SF for the whole week. I saw two great shows, visited many fine museums and cycled a little.

June 2012

Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia

Kota Kinabalu
Kota Kinabalu

In a nutshell: Back home for a classmate’s wedding. didn’t get to visit other areas since I was back for only the weekend.

July 2012

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An, Vietnam
Hoi An, Vietnam

In a nutshell: A 5-day trip to central Vietnam. I had planned to visit another historical town, Hue, but decided to spend all the time in Hoi An. I ate a lot, drank a lot of coffee and cycled a lot.

August 2012

Jakarta, Indonesia


In a nutshell: A short weekend trip to the capital of Indonesia. We weren’t caught in traffic jams as we took the TransJakarta public bus. I didn’t do a lot of research so we ended up walking aimlessly.

September 2012

Tokyo + Kamakura Japan

Kamakura, Japan
Kamakura, Japan

In a nutshell: A day trip to historical Kamakura on the day I reached Tokyo. I love the little town with its little big Buddha and quaint streets.


In a nutshell: A 4-day business trip but I pre-extended the weekend before work. I had the chance to overnight in Ooedo Onsen Monogatari and catch Gintama Land before it was over.

Kuching, Sarawak, Malaysia


In a nutshell: Returned to Kuching. Trip wasn’t as great but I got to meet J the night before.

October 2012

Bangkok, Thailand


In a nutshell: My first visit to Thailand. I narrowed down my to-do list to a few sites and spent a productive weekend.

Alor Setar, Kedah, Malaysia

Alor Setar
Alor Setar

In a nutshell: State 9 of my Visit Malaysia project. A small town where our fourth prime minister, Dr Tun Mahathir, was born. Visited the Alor Setar tower, the second tallest TV tower in Malaysia, and saw a bird’s eye view of the town.

Padang Besar, Perlis, Malaysia

Padang Besar
Padang Besar

In a nutshell: State 10 of my Visit Malaysia project. Went to the market bordering Thailand. I was a little disappointed that the market didn’t straddle the border with stall owners on one side accepting ringgit while the other baht.

November 2012

No major travelling for the month. It wasn’t as bad as I expected because I had other things to busy myself with during the weekend. For example, reading Web comics, watching Youtube, eating, reading things online etc.

December 2012

Kudat, Sabah, Malaysia
In a nutshell: Back home for the Christmas holiday because of forced leave implemented by the company. Went on a roadtrip with Mom to the north of Sabah. We read a lot, ate a lot of fruits while at the hotel. Also visited the “Tip of Borneo”.

How has your year of travelling been?

#FoodFri 10 yummy things I ate while travelling in 2012

It’s the last #FoodFri of 2012. Here at YQtravelling, I want to take a trip down memory lane and bring back memories of the best food I’ve eaten this year.

Seafood in Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
I’m starting the list with a staple dish when I am back home for the holidays–seafood. In my case, seafood usually means crabs because they are cheaper than prawns and much fleshier than clams.

As for seasoning, I do not have a favorite and will eat crabs anyway it is cooked.

Read more: #FoodFri: See food, seafood

Tandoori chicken in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

In February, I was in KL with Nguyen. We, along with a friend working in KL, went to an Indian shop for dinner. I’ve been craving food from that store every since but I’ve not been able to visit again.

The naan that came along with the tandoori chicken was baked to perfection. The roasted red chicken was good on its own or with the naan.

Read more: Glutton in Kuala Lumpur

Salt baked chicken in Ipoh, Malaysia

I regret not taking photos of the salt baked chicken which L and I had in Ipoh. We bought it as an afterthought, thinking we might have something for supper while we wait for the day to end.

The chicken was still warm when we tore open the paper box. It was wrapped in wax paper. We had a little difficulty separating the chicken from the paper–bits of skin clung to the wax paper. The chicken tasted like steamed chicken that had been rubbed with salt. However, the skin was flaky like it had been baked.

We ate the whole chicken with our fingers while watching Johnny English in the hotel room.

Read more: Glutton in Ipoh

Banh Mi in Hoi An, Vietnam

Even though cau lao is most famous dish in Hoi An, the best that I had was made by the owner of the homestay. Her cau lao had heaps of meat and vegetable with generous sauce drizled all over.

Since you cannot buy her cau lao off the streets, I want to share the other great food I had in Hoi An: Banh mi.

I found out from Trip Advisor that there is a famous banh mi stall in Hoi An. The only reason I went was because Anthony Bourdain visited the stall before. I memorized the directions on the Web before peddling to the street. It took me a while to find the stall since it was tucked in between other shoe stalls.

I bought one with everything, another with pate and an empty bun. I cycled to the opposite bank and found a spot under a tree. My picnic was great. The bread was flaky and the filling juicy. I gobbled the two stuffed bread down in no time.

Read more: #FoodFri Glutton in Hoi An part 1
#FoodFri Glutton in Hoi An part 2: Restaurants

Sicilian pizza in San Francisco, USA
Sicilian pizza
I wolved down the rectangular clam chowder pizza while sitting on a patch of grass (in the shade, of course).

I don’t know if the pizza’s taste was augmented by the location that I was eating. In any case, the pizza was crunchy and cheesy.

Read more: Glutton in San Francisco

Avocado juice in Indonesia
Indonesian avocado juice, jus alpukat
My trips to Indonesia had always been with D. I don’t remember how we found out about the magical avocado juice but I am glad we did.

In Indonesia, even the small roadside stalls (warung) serve avocado juice. The cook scoops out creamy avocado flesh into a blender and mix it with ice (and maybe tons of sugar syrup). Then, she (most of the warung owners are ladies) decorates a glass with chocolate condensed milk.

The green blended drink is poured into the chocolate syrup glass. A straw follows.

Avocado juice feels like a creamy milkshake but with a green-ish taste. At first sip, you are surprised by how chunky it feels even though everything is puree. Then you slowly take more gigantic sips because you cannot get enough of it.

By the fourth sip, you are surprised that you only have an inch left in your glass. You wave down a server and order another glass before your meal arrives.

Mie in Yogyakarta, Indonesia
Indonesia mie, noodle
D and I were looking for a lunch place at the mall in Yogyakarta. We decided to have lunch at Mie Nusantara. Little did we know, it was the best noodle and that we would have (at least until now).

The noodle was springy and yummy with its black sauce. The gigantic fried meatballs were chewy and was nothing like the regular siewmai that I have back home.

We thought that other stores in Indonesia would have the same quality of food. Unfortunately, we went to a Mie place in Jakarta where we found the worst noodle ever.

Bean curd in ginger syrup in Bangkok, Thailand
I passed by the little hole-in-the-wall on the way to the Grand Palace in Bangkok. The spicy ginger syrup beckoned me with a wave like cartoon smoke.

I coughed through the meal because of the ginger. Strangely, the bean curd had hints of peanut in it even though I am quite sure they used soy bean for these dishes.

Flavored beer in Tokyo, Japan
japan beer, flavored beer
During my October trip to Tokyo, I didn’t have any mind blowing meal. The sushi at Tsukiji was a little bland while the udon at Shinjuku was too salty.

But, I did manage to buy a can of flavored beer (or it is considered alcohol, not beer). I fell in love with these low-alcohol fizzy drinks the first time I was in Japan. Every trip, I make sure that I buy a can (mostly from convenience stores) and get a little tipsy before bedtime.

I quite like Japanese-styled pudding (pictured with the beer). I am not quite sure if I should eat the caramel part before the custard or the other way around.

Everything else
To be honest, I’ve thought really hard about which food to put as the last in the Top 10 entry. Nothing special comes to mind so I am putting this generic entry.

Even the bad tasting supermarket sushi in San Francisco deserves a mention because without tasting something as foul, I would not be able to recognize what good food tastes like.

I am thankful that I am able to eat something other than McDonald while travelling. I am thankful for not being allergic to food types which gives me a chance to eat all sorts of interesting things while on the road.

Do you have a special dish for the year 2012? Share it in the comments below.

How did the motorcycle cross the river?

When I was in Hoi An, I saw a very curious scene. Boats would carry a large number of motorcycles to nowhere.

I wondered if they were new motorcycles, being shipped from the dealer’s to the wherever they sell motorbikes.

So when I saw one of the boats passing by while I was on the boat ride back to Hoi An from My Son, I looked carefully.

There are people sitting in the boat, shaded from the sun under a small roof while the motorcycles were out in the sun.

I realized that the boats carried the motorcycle drivers and their vehicle across the river. It totally makes sense now. A lot of people ride motorcycles in Vietnam and somehow they need to cross the river.

Other scenes of Hoi An, Vietnam

Party signs in Hoi An

Actually I’m not sure if these are socialist party signs but I love the retro look.

We must work towards a successful Vietnam. Even a Ho Chi Minh-look alike is featured holding a plant and shovel.

Everyone has the duty of saving those drowning in the pool of poverty. (Not being sarcastic.)

Driving on the road to success.

I think this is about being a happy family

Other scenes of Hoi An, Vietnam

#FoodFri Glutton in Hoi An part 2: Restaurants

In Part 1 of Glutton in Hoi An, I introduced the street food (ok, ok some were from restaurants) I had while in the town.

For Part 2, I’ll be talking about meals I had in restaurants–a bit pricey but still cheap when compared to Singapore.

Restaurant: Morning Glory

Address: 106 Nguyen Thai Hoc Street (TripAdvisor)

One of the restaurants run by Miss Vy (She’s Lonely Planet famous) where I had my grandest meal in Hoi An at the Morning Glory.

Instead of the airconditioned seats, I picked the two-person seater at the veranda. Similarly, I ordered enough to feed two persons and a child.

I ordered the stir fried morning glory (which disappointly turns out to be just kangkung), Hoi An pho, iced coffee and a kem flan (Vietnamese crème caramel).

The stir fried vegetable came with a serving of rice. I wasn’t brave enough to ask the waiter to take the rice back as I didn’t want to seem like a food waster. So I ended up eating my bland veggie with rice.

The Hoi An pho was the first I had. I was surprised by the mild soup as I remembered a stockier soup in Saigon. It was OK.

The kem flan came with shaved ice on top of the creme caramel. Interesting traditional combination.

The bill was 200,000 dong, one of the more expensive meals I’ve had but worth every cent.

Restaurant: Blue Dragon

Address: 46 Bach Dang St., Hoi An, Vietnam (TripAdvisor)

I visited Blue Dragon at one of those awkward timing in between lunch and tea time.

The meat set meal (120,000 dong) was definitely not an Asian-person appetite serving. Maybe a really hungry Asian person-sized.

Overall, the meal was yummy. The beef fried spring roll was a bit dry. The fried wonton and it’s spicy seasoning was great, it felt like I was eating seafood because of the sauce.

The rest of the main meal: rice with chicken and fried noodles wasn’t fantastic.

I forgot that I had a frui salad at the end so I was pleasantly surprised to be serviced cool banana and pineapple.

Please don’t let my review of the food stop you from visiting the place. It’s actually pretty cool since they are linked to a charity also called Blue Dragon. On the yellow wall, you can see the mark of where the last big floods reached in the shop.

Restaurant: Chinh’s Riverside Restaurant

Address: 54 Cua Dai Road, Hoi An +84, Vietnam (TripAdvisor)

Since Hoi An has both the sea and a huge river, seafood is a recommended dish. I did a search of cheap seafood places on TripAdvisor, found Chinh’s and decided to visit when I was at Cua Dai beach.

The place is right before the bridge bringing you back to Hoi An old town. The view is fabulous since you can see the river. I saw two fisherfolks who sat so still that I thought they were puppets put on water as a symbolic tip of the hat to the fishing life.

Chinh’s seems to be a family-runned place When I was there, there was a lady and an elderly lady. I heard them chopping and stir frying in the kitchen.

Again, being the gauche tourist, I ordered a two-person’s servings of seashells and prawns. The coffee was unfortunately from a 3-in-1 mix.

Nice place to watch the river flow by.

Restaurant: Mermaid

Address: 2 Tran Phu Street (TripAdvisor)

On the first night, Linh the homestay owner made a face when she heard that we were heading to Mermaid for dinner. The place is too small and not airy, she said.

Linh was right.

I decided to visit the Lonely Planet-famous eatery during yet another awkward meal time. I ordered the white rose and a coffee.

The white rose were sticking to each other, not quite the “har gao” feeling I was looking for.

There are better places for food in the city but don’t let me stop you. (Bad reviews didn’t stop me from experiencing it neither.)

Stayed: Loc Phat Homestay, Hoi An review

I spent four nights at Loc Phat Hoi An Homestay during my trip to Hoi An. The place is runned by Linh–who deserves her Superwoman title–her husband (Quoc) and the two kids Billy and Tony.

It’s a terrific place for a solo travelling female since being in a homestay feels safer than a generic hotel or a backpacker’s place where you meet drunk kids on their gap year.

It’s also great for an ISFP like me because there is just the right number of people for me to interact with and not feel too overwhelmed.

Since I arranged for airport pickup, I didn’t take note of the address when I left for Hoi An. Airport shuttle was US$13 one way and Linh’s younger brother’s picked me up from Danang airport. It’s a lot more convenient than trying to haggle with cabbies.

The household

The previous tenants were not exaggerating when they say how accommodating Linh and her family is.

Linh whose day job is at a nearby hotel made sure that I was comfortable and changed my bicycle which had a loose chain. She even made extra keys for the tenants.

While I was there, Linh and her family slept in the living room, giving up their room to a pair of travellers. I think there was a mix up so they didn’t confirm their accommodation or something like that. I thought it was really nice of the family.

I also ate two of Linh’s meals, not refusing the second serving like how our Asian culture dictates. The family dinner was nice. And the cau lao which I had before leaving was the best cau lao I had during the trip, trumping even the central market one.

The tenants were really colorful characters. There was R who spent 30+ years with her husband and son on a boat! Two travelling 20-year-olds who asked me to have dinner with them (so sweet).


$10 room

My $10/night room was the one facing the front garden. I had a large window and an even larger bed.

In the room, there are hangers which I used to dry my laundry. Multiple electrical plus. A tiny table with an equally tiny chair (children size) which acted as my makeup table.

Room with a view

The room has a standing fan which I had to use throughout the night because of the hot Vietnamese summer. In the morning, I can see a bit of sunrise right out of the window.

I do feel conscious that the opposite neighbors might see me while I change or sleep in ugly positions, but it’s probably my over active imagination.


The road to Old Town

The house is in the middle of the roads to Old Town and Cua Dai beach. While it might seem a chore cycling to both destinations, it’s actually really easy if you pick Nguyen Duy Hieu to cycle (there’s less traffic compared with Cua Dai Road).

If you don’t have much time in Hoi An, I would recommend staying in the Old Town for the night view. But staying away from the attractions means I have incentive to explore the neighborhood and to discover the best coffeeplace in Hoi An (Cafe 139, on Nguyen Duy Hieu).

At the end of Cua Dai Road is the tailor where I made a qipao (more on that in a future post) so the location’s great.

Taxis are cheap and run on meters so they are a good alternative to cycling.

My trusty bike


I recommend contacting Linh directly through the site since it takes away the hotel booking site charges that both parties have to pay.

Stayed: Loc Phat Homestay, Hoi An review
Pro: Wonderful hosts, in middle of road to town and beach, cheap (US$10), airport/train transportation available at extra charge
Cons: Might be a bit warm in the room (because of the Vietnamese summer)

#FoodFri Glutton in Hoi An part 1

Vietman will always have a place in my stomach. It was the place I first started liking raw vegetable, ate banh minh, slurped good pho and discovered my love for buttery Vietnamese coffee.

So during my trip to Hoi An last week, I ate like the glutton I am.

Thought with all my cycling in Hoi An, I probably would have dropped one dress size. Unfortunately, my body believed in replacing all the muscle and fats I’ve lost in case of a zombie apocalypse so I probably ended up half a dress size larger.

I’m not sure if it’s the food portion or my vigorous cycling, I was really really hungry on Day 2 of my Hoi An trip. Even after a meal, my stomach would send signals to my brain saying: Hey! You should put more food into your mouth.

My brain obeyed and I ended up eating double portions of everything: banh mi (one pate and one plain) for tea time and a dinner for two at Morning Glory. Yikes! I was very pacified after the meal at Morning Glory that my stomach stopped complaining and was busy digesting but the feast went on.

Enough about my appetite, let me show you some of the yummies I had.

Cau Lao

A famous noodle dish in Hoi An. My sister and I were trying to figure out what Cau Lao might mean in Chinese. Translations say “dry noodle” and she wondered if it’s “gon lau”.

The better Cau Lao I had was in the central market, eating next to locals. I was charged the price of a big bowl which I think is my tourist tax. Still, it’s only 20,000 dong (S$1.25).

The noodles are flat and translucent. There are slices of pork and pieces of pungent leaves–a taste I associate with Vietnam and have grown to love.

However, the best cau lao was made by the lady running the homestay. I had two servings and it was terrific!

Banh Mi

My first Banh Mi in Saigon took me by surprise: fluffy, crunchy, tough and airy. A wild combination for a small baguette.

Unlike the jaw breaking French baguette, banh mi is more airy but with an equally stubbon but crispy crust.

The banh mi that I eventually ate in Hoi An was from a stall which legendary Anthony Bordain visited before. The reviews on TripAdvisor raved on and on. Despite just putting my head on my pillow and the sun being bright and strong at 2pm, I decided to find the famous stall and stuff myself with bread.

Banh Mi Phuong is not too easy to find. It’s next to shoes shops so you might miss it. At the junction of Nguen Duy Hieu and Phan Boi Chau, head towards the bridge but look at your right. The stall is right next to the small pedestrian entrance to the cloth market.

I bought one with pate and two empty ones to chew. The lady was puzzled why anyone would get empty ones when her fillings are to die for. (I didn’t dare tell it’s for my food baby–aka tummy.) All that bread for 25,000 dong. Amazing!!

I found a picnic spot opposite Hoi An town. It was a not too romantic place, perfect for my not-too-romantic face stuffing.

The sandwich was alright, yummy but not out of this world delicious. I wouldn’t mind having it from time to time. But the filling were substantial.



I’m not a pho connoisseur but Hoi An pho tasted different compared to Saigon pho. The stock less “busy” with clearer soup.

Before starting my meal, I drown the vegetables that came with the noodles. After drowning them in soup, they become half cooked and more edible. The flat noodles were perfect with the clear soup.


I had coffee at about every rest stop, coffee shop and restaurant. I was charged all sorts of prices from 9,000 to 25,000 dong. I had 3-in-1 mix, pre-made and metal filtered coffee.

The best coffee place for Vietnamese coffee in Hoi An is at Cafe 139, on Nguyen Duy Hieu. It’s a cafe under a house, next to the ditch/river. For only 10,000 dong, you get a buttery iced Vietnamese coffee *and* a glass of sweetened tea.

The serving is very petite–the regular Vietnamese size–while the ice cube really large. I usually read while I wait for the ice to melt before taking careful sips.

This edition of #FoodFri features part 1 of my Glutton in Hoi An post. In the next edition, I will showcase three (or more) restaurants I visited. Stay tuned!

What is your favorite Hoi An dish?

No sex on the beach and other travel tips

Subtitle: Can we please be civilized travelers?

Sorry if you were led here by the title but I won’t be sharing any sex-on-the-beach gone wrong stories or anything as scandalous as that.

Instead, I will rant about tourons (tourist+moron)–thanks to LandLoper Matt for teaching me this term.

The title of this post came from a conversation I overheard. A local in Vietnam was telling visitors that some tourists would party on the beach at night, get really drunk and pass out on the sand and then hump each other (he used the better word “make love”) during sunrise.

Before I get into the story of my personal experience of meeting unruly travelers, here’s the travel tips I promised:

  1. The “Dos & Don’ts” section in your Lonely Planet is not used to add weight to your guidebook. Read the chapter for Flying Spaghetti Monster‘s sake.
  2. Respect the local culture and don’t do things you won’t do in front of your grandma in front of locals.
  3. Just because you are excited being at a new place, please don’t shout your satisfaction to your fellow travelers.
  4. Stand on the right side of the escalator. No, not the side of your right hand, the correct side which is the side most locals are standing at.
  5. Be polite. Remember, it’s you who’s visiting their country so be respectful.
  6. Lastly, yes. you are allowed to have sex on the beach but please find a secluded area and not hump like wild dogs in public.

Back to the main point

Sunrise, marred by touron backpackers

This post is inspired by a scene I saw at Cua Dai beach:

Picture this: A drunk young person with a buzzcut, who I think is called Allan, was making a fool of himself by first shouting at his drunk sleeping friend Charlie and then walking in a zigzag line into the sea. He proceeded to manhandle a fellow girl traveller–let’s call her B–in what is mistaken as an act of courtship (it’s about hamsters though).

In the sea was also D who probably felt left out from the manhandling was also shouting a lot while flapping around in the sea. Girl, you do not get attention that way and he’s not worth it.

The locals (and I) were sneaking peeks at the rowdy foreigners. It didn’t feel very comfortable watching these people being less than human.

Later, the gang picked themselves up (not very successfully) and headed back. I was also going to cycle back so I eavesdropped on Allan and B’s conversation at the bike parking lot.

–You are a beautiful girl. Something something something.
–Aww, you’re so sweet.

B seemed like the only not drunk person which signals being level headed so I wanted to shake her to say: “Why would you believe a drunk?” Of course I didn’t.

B had a bicycle and wanted to ride back but Allan insisted he ride. I didn’t think he was sober enough to cycle and true to that, Allan also managed to fall off his bike, scraping some skin and brusing his ego.

While I was pedalling back, I saw Allan brought back on a motorbike with two other people while B cycled a long way behind them.

Besides Allan’s friends Charlie who was drunk on the beach. Another girl slept on the pavement in front of a hotel while Allan and B were speaking to each other.

The scene was really disgusting.

‘I pity the fool’

Is there something about being away from home that makes some travellers uncouth? Does being in a foreign country means that the rules and social etiquette at home do not apply anymore?

Guardian has an article of this phenomenon happening in Vang Vieng. Things are not pretty there, some broken limbs and cracked heads (not to be confused with crackheads).

“It’s pure Darwinism,” says backpacking travel expert Stuart McDonald, a regular visitor to Laos and the Australian founder of travelfish.org. “If kids keep getting tanked and jumping off trees or ropes, they’re going to keep dying.”

Perhaps going on the road less travelled means I won’t meet with such travellers.

Do you have any travel pet peeves?