See you in Vietnam!

If the weather permits, I’ll be landing in Da Nang airport, Vietnam, at 4pm+ Singapore time later today. I bought the tickets last October when AirAsia started its flight to Da Nang–9 months in advance.

It wasn’t until the past few months that I started reading up on Da Nang. I was thinking of places to visit but I realized the historical town Hoi An is more suitable for me than beach town of Danang. (I’m also very tempted to visit Hue.)

I’ve done the best I’ve could in preparing for the trip, including reading guidebooks and clipping Hoi An-related content from the Web using Evernote.

I’ve also booked a room at a homestay with good reviews on TripAdvisor. As a solo female traveler, I feel safer living with a family than a single room in an unknown motel especially in a country where I don’t speak the language.

I expect to eat, cycle, get tailored clothes, pretend to sun myself at the beach in Hoi An. But the activities aren’t set in stone. ;)

Onward march!

Revisiting Vietnam

The last time I was in Vietnam, it was in the summer month of August in 2009. I just graduated and was looking for a job. But Nguyen, whom I met while on student exchange in China, persuaded me to visit her in Saigon to eat pho.

Since then, I’ve leveled up my travelling skills. I’ll be bringing the same red backpack but without the heavy carry-on. (My goodness, was the bag really only $4.90?!)

The food was wonderful! Pho, french baguetee and all those yummy unknown. Also, Vietnamese coffee can only be described of as f*cking great(a la DollarShaveClub).

Other pre-trip entries:
Selamat tinggal, I’ll be in Yogyakarta
Do you know the way to San Jose?

Do you know the way to San Jose?

All guide books seem to have a line about how asking, “Do you know the way to San Jose?” would lead to stinkeye from the locals.

Anyway, by the time this post is lived, I will be on the 18-hour flight from Singapore to San Francisco. (OK, a 1 hour 45 minute stop in Tokyo Narita in between.)

It will be a week of work in San Jose, covering a very cheem (Singlish lesson: cheem=profound) event, then a week of being a tourist in San Francisco.

You know what will be the first thing I do after I toss my luggage into my room? Toiletries shopping!

Anyway, since this is really a work trip, most of my time in San Jose will see me stationed at the convention center and my hotel room, busily taking interview notes and typing out–what I hope is–brilliant articles that would make Hemingway proud.

But since this is a travel blog, I’ll share some of the interesting San Jose sites which hopefully I would get to visit after typing out the brilliant articles mentioned above.

  • Winchester’s Mystery House

Official site: (Creepy music on the site. Blah.)
Nice tour room-by-room description:

When I first saw the house in a TV program about scary places, I was very intrigued. Doors that lead to nowhere? Wealthy widow who keeps on building her house so spirits will be pleased?! WOW.

But then it’s not really that haunted so I’m not very impressed. I think I should get this off my list on Day 1.

Also, I’m really disappointed that I won’t be able to go on the Flashlight Tour which happens only on every Friday the 13th and on Halloween. Imagine a night tour of the mansion!

  • Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium

Official site: Rosicrucian Egyptian Museum & Planetarium

Ancient Egypt has been a fascinating topic for me, although I haven’t read as much of their legends as I do Ancient Greek stories.

But a chance to see artifacts from that time period means a “must go” on my list.

Unfortunately, a lot of the Yelp reviews of the museum are negative.

  • The Tech Museum

Official site:

My hotel is really near the Tech Museum. Think it’s a must-drop by since I am working in tech (sort of).

  • San Jose MOMA

Official site:

I’m a fan of old art more than modern art. If I have time, I might drop by.

  • Gilroy Premium Outlet

Ok, a premium shopping outlet is not supposed to be even on the indie traveller’s list. But it’s been recommended by a lot of my work acquaintances who, come to think of it, probably earns 5 times my salary.

Even though it’s on my list, the place is very out of the way. I’ll have to change trains and everything. Plus, I need to visit here before heading to San Francisco or else I’ll need to put in 4 hours of return trip and $52 for the Greyhound bus.

Yucks! (Maybe I should get the bags at the airport.)

First time in US of A

This will be my first trip to the US and I’m not very sure what to expect. Too much TV makes me think that I actually know the place and the people.

I’ll need to do a couple of American things while there:
–eat burgers at McDonald
–eat hotdogs from hot dog stands
–run for cover while super aliens destroy the city
–drink soda (what flavor is it?)
–buy Old Spice
–watch Mad Men on TV
–watch Game of Thrones on TV
–drink lemonade

What else should I do?

Selamat tinggal, I’ll be in Yogyakarta

Translation: Goodbye (to those who are staying) or “So long suckers!” Just kidding.
Malay trivia of the day: Selamat jalan is Goodbye too but you say it to those who are leaving.

By the time you have read this blog, I’d be in Yoygakarta (Jogja, for short). Finally breaking my 7-week trip-less spell. Phew!

I’ll be away for 8D7N. We’ve only booked one night of hotel for the whole trip. That’s the hotel right in the Borobodur complex which also allows us free entrance into the temple grounds.

The decision to visit Yoygakarta (someday) was made somewhere in my last semester. I remember asking an Indonesian from my “stress-less sessions” about the place and she admitted she has not been there.

I’m not even sure where I’ve first heard of Jogja but it must have been from D. Perhaps it was during my Bandung trip that I learned of the place.

At the time of typing (07:51am), there is about 4 hours to our flight. I haven’t packed yet. I have a visual representation of the things I need to bring, just in case. But I’m not terribly worried, since everything can be bought during the journey.

What does Jogja have to offer?

A friend of my mom’s was very curious why I decided to go to Jogja instead of the more popular destinations such as Siem Reap. I couldn’t really answer her then but in case you are wondering, here are some of the things I’ll be doing:

  1. Visiting ancient hindu temples at Borobudur and Prambanan. (Or as I tell my mom’s friend, “Something like Angkor Wat, but smaller.” correction: Jogja is advertised as the largest Buddhist temple on eartj. But, I still have no idea which is bigger.)
  2. Watch Ramayana ballet
  3. Eat lots of Indonesian food
  4. Drink lots of avocado juice with chocolate syrup
  5. Read an Indonesia/Malay book on round-the-world travelling (and review it)
  6. Try to be spiritually connected to the heavens during sunrise at Borobudur (and feel sleepy doing it)
  7. Meet some couchsurfers. (I’m quite terrified about this because my social skills with strangers isn’t terribly good.
  8. Make a travel video of the trip: Very excited about this

Besides Jogja, we’ll be going to Solo/Surakarta, hopefully by train. There are erotic temples around the area. ;) I’ll be there, of course.

I’ll be getting a local SIM when there. Hopefully the microSIM for iPhone 4’s are available. I’ll update on Twitter or even do short posts when there.

See you in 8 days! (I’ll still have two scheduled posts for next Tuesday and Saturday. Stay tuned!)

Have you been to Jogja? Any recommendations?

0812 Pre trip and Leaving for Saigon

My trip to Ho Chi Minh City began in an instant message chat:

Me: I’m hungry!
Nguyen: Come here and I’ll treat you dinner.
Me: (Thinking she’s still in China) I want claypot noodles
Nguyen: You should ask for pho. I’m back in Vietnam
Me: Oh!
Nguyen: Want to come visit?
Me: (After 5 minutes of inner struggle) I’ll ask my mom

The tickets were quite cheap, and mom (being mom and perhaps a bit guilty that she let my sister go to Australia while I could not go Taiwan) said yes.

So I bought a ticket leaving Aug 12, and returning 22. And the rest, will be (hopefully) recorded here.

I started packing my bags four days before the trip. Packing as in throwing everything I want to bring into a box to decide if I really need them.

I didn’t want to drag a luggage around as Nguyen might be fetching me on her motorcycle. So I got a red backpack from Carrefour at $4.90 as a check in bag.

A girl needs all her toiletries, and not all of them are in 100ml containers. 100ml of sunblock can only last how many days?


I left the house on a sunny morning, 15 minutes later than planned.

Nearby, there was this sign.


On the MRT, I was appalled by who would want to buy bakkwa that looks like Chinese sausages or more yucky–stools.


Part of my: These Crocs are made for walking series. In the MRT


I was just barely on time for check in as the budget terminal shuttle bus took the longest time to arrive.


I’m leaving on a jet plane~


Immigration form that I filled in painstakingly which the immigration officer didnt collect.


Another part of the–photos in foreign toilets series.


Welcome to HCM indeed. While walking along the corridor to the baggage collection, I looked out the window at the car park and realised it’s really a “motorcycle park” instead


I changed my Singaporean dollars to Vietnamese Dong at $1 to 12,530 and I was a millionaire.

As I stepped out the airport, scanning the crowd, I saw a someone with a big hat shouting. It’s Nguyen! It has been two full years since we last met.

I met her mother and we hopped on a car to her godparents’ place.


Nguyen’s godmother prepared a huge lunch!

First up was stuffed snails. I figured if the French can eat them, so can I. I dipped them into fish sauce and garlic shreds. And they were chewy and yum!


Underfed-looking spring roll rolled by myself


After lunch, I went with Nguyen and her mom back to her home in My Tho.

And I rediscovered an old skill of mine– I am able to fall asleep on any cars as long as the scenery is not buildings. So I slept all the way from Saigon to My Tho and woke up with a sore neck. But all was well!!

At night, I had my first motorbike ride since 10. I admit. It is super duper scary. I had flashes of my life passing by my eyes. And wondered if my insurance (thank heavens I bought it) pays for motorbike accidents.

But Nguyen was a very good driver and I survived my ten days of bike riding.

We had supper– noodles.


I found this funny– electrical candles in front of the Virgin Mary


Very yummy shaved ice with a lot of fruits