Top 5 cities to go for its food during long weekends in 2016 (Singapore travellers)

Have you heard the good news? Singapore’s Ministry of Manpower has announced 2016’s public holidays.

The news outlets reported that there will be six long weekends in 2016. But if your workplaces gives you off-in-lieu for Saturday public holidays (not all companies do), you actually have eight long weekends (nine if you take leave on 8 August, Monday).

2016 long weekend singapore yqtravelling

I really love weekend travels. Even though this means that my trip is short, I don’t want to use my work leave. I’m a hoarder even when it comes to annual leave.

If you are planning to go for more weekend travels in 2016, I recommend these locations to go for their yummy yummy food.

Ipoh, Malaysia

I would visit Ipoh again and again for its food. It might not be as famous as Penang for its local food but that little town serves really good chicken.

Ipoh Beansprout chicken
Beansprout chicken feast in Ipoh.

How to reach Ipoh from Singapore: 

Long-distance bus (7 to 8 hours)
Several bus companies run Singapore – Ipoh routes.

Train (6 + 2 hours + waiting time)
You can take the night train from Singapore/Johor Bahru to Kuala Lumpur. From KL, there is high-speed train to Ipoh, but the price isn’t budget friendly.

Airplane (1 hour 35 minutes)
Firefly and Tigerair has flights between Singapore and Ipoh. Remember to research on the timing.

Yogyakarta, Indonesia

Pronounced as “Jogjakarta”, the town on the Java Island is home to gorgeous historical sites such as Borobudur and Prambanan. But the food is fantastic too.

Nasi gudeg Jogja
Nasi gudeg

I was deceived by nasi gudeg the first time I ate it. I thought the dish had a surprisingly generous serving of beef boiled so soft that I don’t have to chew it like a cow. Later found out that the “beef” is actually young jackfruit. I was disappointed but it’s still a very tasty dish.

mie nusantara siomay
Mie and siomay

I also had the best mie while in Yogyakarta. It was in a noodle shop inside the main shopping mall. The noodles were springy and seasoned lightly with soy sauce.

How to reach Yogyakarta from Singapore: 

Airplane (2 hours 15 minutes)
AirAsia flies to Yogyakarta at a rather good timing. But the flight back leaves in the morning which is annoying.

If you find the flight timing for Yogyakarta terrible, your second best choice is Jakarta since it is the capital. There you can drink all the avocado juice you like.

Bangkok, Thailand

I went to Bangkok for my birthday in April, spending a three-day weekend there. I ate normal stuff like pad thai, I didn’t eat enough food. I still haven’t tried Mango Sticky Rice.

Pad Thai
Pad Thai

How to reach Bangkok from Singapore: 

Airplane (2 hours 25 minutes)
Loads of budget airlines fly from Singapore to Bangkok. Pick those with good departure and return timings so you can maximize your trip.

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

When I was in university staying in the dorm, my Vietnamese neighbors would cook with fish sauce. The potent smell wasn’t to my taste so I avoided Vietnamese food.

Then I went to Vietnam and I discovered that fish sauce is kind of like durian–stinky when you smell it but delicious when you taste it. I also discovered many other deliciousness that doesn’t involve fish sauce.

Vietnamese Pho

Vietnamese Pho

Declious banh mi in Saigon
Declious banh mi (Vietnamese baguette)  in Saigon
Extremely addictive Vietnamese Coffee.
Extremely addictive Vietnamese Coffee.

How to reach Ho Chi Minh from Singapore: 

Airplane: (2 hours 5 minutes)
Loads of budget airlines fly from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh. As usual, pick those with good departure and return timings so you can maximize your trip.

Shanghai, China

I would travel to Shanghai for just a weekend so I can eat the food. In fact, I’m doing it at the end of May.

My tongue still longs for the taste of shengjianbao: dumplings fried on one side ’til crispy. Take a bit and the soup flows out so you have to slurp it up fast. After two slurps, you can eat the meat along with the crunchy part.

The most delicious tiny buns/dumplings: shengjianbao
The most delicious tiny buns/dumplings: shengjianbao
小笼包 (xiao long bao)
Can you look at these delicate 小笼包 (xiao long bao) and not feel like licking your screen?

The home-cooked style restaurants in Shanghai are fantastic too. The soups come in porcelain basins and the servings are gigantic. I loved Grandma’s Place (a chain restaurant) when I was in Shanghai.

A feast at Grandma's Place.
A feast at Grandma’s Place.

How to reach Shanghai from Singapore: 

Airplane (5 hours 25 minutes direct)
Choosing a plane with a good timing is critical. I am taking Malaysian Airlines so I will reach Shanghai early at 7:30am on my first day and leave at 2pm-ish on my last day.

Another good alternative is Taiwan if you don’t want to fly that far to Shanghai.

Check out all the Weekend Travels posts:

 

 

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.

Continue reading “Why we need a travel role model”

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.

Ciao!

-Yun Qing

January 2012

Seremban, Negeri Sembilan, Malaysia

yqtravelling january seremban negeri sembilan
Seremban

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

Yogyakarta
Yogyakarta

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

Ipoh
Ipoh

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

Jakarta
Jakarta

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.

Tokyo
Tokyo

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

Kuching
Kuching

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

October 2012

Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok
Bangkok

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
kudat
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?

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).

Room

$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.

Location

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

Booking

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.

Pho

Pho

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.

Coffee

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?

The ride to My Son which never came

A portion of this entry was written on July 14. Timestamp of writing time included.

Sunrise from afar

[6.08am] The bus that was supposed to take me on the Sunrise My Son tour should have picked me up at 5am. Instead, I’m in my room enjoying the last of the cool morning air.

Turns out, the tour bus misinterpreted my address “3XX, name” as “room 3XX, hotel name”. Worse thing is, I left a wrong phone number with the tour so even if they did try contacting me, it wouldn’t go anywhere.

I decided to sign up for the sunrise tour the day before because I want to escape the tourists and the heat. I biked to Hoi An old town and stopped by a travel agent, which turned out to be Blue Coral, and signed up for a tour + boat ride package. It was US$14 but I didn’t have dollars so I was charged 210,000 dong.

Really excited for the trip, I woke up at 4.30am, went to brush my teeth and put on BB cream in the semi-darkness lighted only by my torchlight.

At 4.50am, I was waiting at the junction.

The 10 minutes until 5am there felt like a very long time. The sky was still light blue with a peep of orangege from the east. There was a surprising number of people zipping by. 5 am!

5.13am

I waited and waited.

Then a public radio started broadcasting. I wasn’t sure what the content was but it felt very socialist–in a positive way. A very uplifting female voice was announcing something which I regret not being able to understand.

As I waited, taxis passed by, giving me a honk or two. I shook my head.

I saw buses turn into a corner but they never turned to me.

Dog which kept barking menacingly at me

At 5.25am, I texted the phone number on my receipt. At 5.40am, I decided to head back.

At 5.50am, a phone call arrived. A man said the tour bus has left as they thought I was staying in a hotel. I asked them to pick me up at the right place for the 8am tour instead.

Funny thing is, my homestay owner said last night that tours sometimes don’t come and pick people up. And that if we have a tour, we can ask her to call and confirm.

I thought to myself: Nah, it won’t happen to me. I just booked it this morning.

And it did, but in a different way.

But the time standing outside was not wasted. I got to see and hear a part of Vietnamese life that was hidden from travellers who wake up at 9am for breakfast.

Still, next I’ll remember to be really specific about my pickup address and also write down the right phone number.

PS Luckily, I was still able to join the 8am tour to My Son. The sun was hot but there wasn’t too many people around. All’s well that ends well.

What travel mishaps have you encountered? Did it end well?