Monday, August 08, 2011

Vietnam trip, Part 1

It has been a long time since hubs and I took a trip alone, just two of us, any where since the kids arrived. C'est la vie! That's why while planning our Malaysia trip, I took the liberty to book us a little  trip to Saigon AKA Ho Chi Minh city.
REALLY tiny in with! It looks like being SQUEZZZEEEEEEDDDDD!
I thought that since hubs was born there, I thought that it'll be nice to go for a visit. It'll be his 1st trip back to his home country ever since his family got out of there late 70s. And besides, it'll probably be one of those trips to one of these countries that we'd rather take alone, minus the whatever hazards the little ones will bring. :p

HCMC was surprisingly refreshing despite the fact that it has about 8 million people just in that city alone. Weather isn't that hot and humidity is not as high as in Kuala Lumpur. I think it's just a fact that its facing an open sea that helps to "chase" out all the hot air?

My 1st impression of this vibrant city is that, there's sooooo..... MANY motorcycles! The streets are full of them. Cars, lorries, buses and vans we could only count a few. But I can see there's a lot of growing population of the wealthy as there's no less amount of luxury cars cruising about the busy, busy streets of Saigon on our way towards our hotel.

It took us about 1 hours to reach our hotel in district 1 in the not so heavy traffic jam. When we arrived, they had a small problem with the room so they had to check us into another hotel, a sister hotel of theirs and we got an upgrade. Nice! This room at this other hotel was an equivalent of a suite for a 3 star hotel, my guess is. They paid for our return transfer to that other place.

I don't really care for a bigger room when I travel, since I'm only there at night to sleep in. What is most important for me is that the room is clean with reasonable sized bed (I've slept in really, really SMALL single bed made for kids in Verona, but that's another story), has a clean toilet and shower, and with no flying/crawling around insects of any kind (had a BAD experience here, unless of course if its sleeping under the stars in the jungle).

What is so nice about this city is that, even if its a 3 star hotel, we get Internet WIFI access for FREE!!And one could even get Internet WIFI access for free as well in most restaurants. And its just not slow a** connection but pretty fast ones. Malaysian hotels should learn a thing or two here.
The green, green fields of paddies.
At the pier for our Mekong river tour.

Anyways, since we were there for only 4 days, we didn't get to visit a lot of places. Did a day trip to visit the Vietnam part of the Mekong river and its 4 islands and another day trip for its city. We were joined by a couple of lovely New Zelanders for our river trip.
Already for the trip! :)

The river itself flows from the borders of China off the Tibetan plateau. So one can just imagine how many thousand miles it has travelled to get to the South China Sea. As we travel by boat, there were catfish farms (which I refrain from eating), boats pushing/pulling sand from Cambodia to Vietnam, along this wide and long river.

The 1st stop was at Turtle island, where we got to visit a honey bee farm; got a taste of their honey tea - which is not bad. And then they even have a snake farm.. The snakes were breed to make snake wines. Don't ask me how it tastes like, I'm not very much into snake wines. :p And then it was a visit to their coconut candy "production line". There's this little girl helping her mum warp the candies. And she's just 5 years old! I wish Owen would help me pick up his toys... :p

Next stop is at this fruit farm where we were entertained by local Vietnamese folk singers backed up by a 3 man band, playing traditional Vietnamese instruments. I know, it's kinda cheesy. But hey, it gets touristy here! Plus I've never seen so many longans along the pathway to the horse drawn carriage we take next. The carriage ride through their small village and we next hopped into a sampan (long boat) at the end of the ride. The canal runs through this island and there its really small and tight with traffic. Hubs helped the lady row the boat up front while she navigates through tight spots... We then hopped back to our river cruise boat towards the Phoenix Island.

It rained by the time we went for lunch at Con Phung Island (Phoenix). We were the lucky ones to reach the restaurant before it was pouring! LOL! The restaurant was quite interesting, it was built on a marsh full of water lilies! The sight itself was so pretty. And what with the pouring rain, I got to play around with the camera while waiting. :)
Our ride after lunch to the other side of the island where we'll take a boat ride along the tiny river.
The rain didn't really stop by the time we finish our day trip. It was still drizzling. But the skies cleared when we got to our hotel to reveal a calm and cooling night out with hub's uncle who lives in Hamburg. This uncle happens to be on his vacation trip with wife and 2nd son. And guess what? They all were down with diarrhea and vomiting on the 2nd day they arrived. What a way to began a trip. :( Good thing they've recovered a little by the time we meet up with them for drinks.
Drinks at this bonsai garden with hub's uncle & family
Don't worry, he's just interested in the desert rose bonsai plant. Don't mind the doggie! ;)
After that we decided to go towards the wholesale market area for a meal nearby. It was within 20 minutes of walking and dodging traffic to get there. LOL! The market is close of course but there was their night market that is open. Had dinner of grilled pork with rice, Vietnamese Phô (noodles with vegs in meat broth), crab & prawn meat  on sugar cane, Viet style spring rolls, deep fried squid with pork, and to finish off, a refreshing young coconut drink. It was ALL YUMMMY food.... :p  I just wish I still had some place left for dessert. Well, make that courage to try out street vendor desert! LOL!  

Viet trip, part 2

Impressive stone carvings at the temple court yard.
The next day, right after breakfast, we went on a HCMC tour whereby we went to Tien Hau tample in Cholon, built and rebuilt since 940 A.D. Its surprising to see that its still standing to this despite the war here. The wood carvings on its entrance and courtyard is really impressive!  We managed to do some prayers while we're there. :)
There's more stalls and tiny aisle once you go in...
Look at the "mountains" of dried prawns!!! But why are they so PINK?

A short visit to the Ben Thant market was next. Why short? Coz there wasn't enough time for me to go fabric shopping! LOL! The stalls were so tightly packet that its virtually IMPOSSIBLE to pass if we were to walk side by side! Fabrics and other items that were sold were PACKED vertically and did I mentioned that most of them looks like its going to topple over if one were to touch them? Was a hot and stuffy as it is, but there were so many people around. The place one could get a breather was either at the ground floor where food and jewellery were sold OR at the locally produced souvenir section. 
"Implating" them egg shells is hard work.

Worker sawing thru the mother of pearl

Just some of their products. There are more cramp into the next room!!
Then its off to the lacquer factory and shop. Honestly I've never got to know how lacquer good were made. So this was a chance to find out. It takes so many work and days for the primary lacquer to set. And not to mention the second procedure where one paints on it or set it with egg shells for a particular design. And then its another process of making the item shine. Those craftsman are really talented. And hubs being so impressed, bought 3 miniature paintings.
Me, happy to arrive here nevertheless
The visit at the War Museum saw a sad one for me. After seeing photos of dead children, I had to stop and get out of the room. Its just so sad and even now hearing about war and recent horrific crime, I'm thinking how can one human do that to another human being? Its just pure EVIL!! But still managed to take some photos of tanks outside the museum.
Hubs thinking of what to order! ;)

Replica tanks on the grounds
View of the main street from the Palace top floor.

Needless to say, my appetite for Huê province food ( a region in central Vietnam) at this restaurant. I did however managed to taste some delicacies wrapped in banana leaves. It was delicious although I've completely forgotten the name! LOL!
Part of the basement; look at the type writers!
We when make our move towards the Reunification palace. Looks as if it was frozen in time. There's 2 replica war tanks just on the gates of the palace. The tanks crash onto the place on 30th April 1975 and it ended the war. The recreation room was really late 1960s looking. And the basement. OMG! It looks eerie with the telephones, telegrams and other machines still looking in perfect working condition!

After having some photos taken on the grounds of the palace, it was the national post office building stop. This building was opposite the Cathedral of Notre Dame, which incidentally looks like the one in Paris! Only smaller... hehehehehe...
Hubs: we'll be back next time for sure!! :)

Soon after the tour and being dropped off at our hotel, we decided to go out on our own since it was rather early to meet up with hub's uncle for dinner. We went for a coffee at this Trung Nguyen coffee chain about 15 minutes walk from the hotel. As I don't really drink coffee, theirs are like a kick to my system! LOL! I couldn't sleep still late that night! And all I had was coffee with milk.... :p

As our plane are only leaving at 4pm, we decide to walk towards the HCMC Fine Art Museum. They were showing paintings and drawings of kids at the ground floor, contemporary art from local and international artist on 2nd floor and 3rd floor holds the museum's permanent collection. BUT at the basement, there's local artists galleries. Hubs ALMOST wanted to purchase one but I told him, how are we going to transport it back even in an art tube? That brought him back to earth. We only have hand carry with us this time. Perhaps next time when we have checked luggage as I think we'll go back there for sure the next time we return home.

Hamburg trip

The Rathaus: Mayor and city council building
I know this is a LOOONNNNGGGG ago post. Well what can I say? Better late than never, right? :)

Was there for hub's cousin's wedding which was on 9th of July. So it was sort like a long weekend with his side of the family only difference is that this time around its with his aunts and uncle.

View from a veiwing deck near Unilever HQ.
We flew with Lufthansa airlines this time since there was on sale when I booked this trip a few months back. The flight there was good my only complaint was that of the really small plane from Geneva to Dusseldorf airport; lots of turbulence, and that the next flight from Dusseldorf to Hamburg was delayed for 2 hours! Nice. :p But then again this is still better than having to missed a flight and awaiting for the next one for 6 hours at the Orly airport, just because they have a strike. Got to know about it when we met by chance one of his cousins that just arrived an hour after us. 

The many overpriced apartments along the river...
We didn't managed to get to see much of the city on our 1st 2 days when we were there. That's because the very next day was the wedding and by the time we check into out hotel it was really late. Thank goodness I've booked us a triple as we managed to get a glimpse of the several rooms that were being made up, it was TINY! Breakfast was the typical German continental style; choice of cheese, choice of hams, hard boiled eggs, fruits, cereals, milk and yogurt. Love their hams, cheese and the breads were different as well. Like the fact that its full cereal type and using unbleached flour in their breads. :)

Really like the shape of the windows here.
As with any typical Chinese (they are Vietnamese Chinese) wedding, there's the tea ceremony at home in the morning and then followed by the couples church ceremony in afternoon. It was a really nice weather for a wedding that Saturday. And since I didn't really understand the whole wedding, they were always spoken in either Vietnamese or German, I had a ball with the kids! ;p

Some apartements along the river view from the boat ride.
Since the youngest did not rest well, he was pretty edgy the whole time. And the older one decide its funny to irritate the hell out of mummy by running around, causing trouble and of course making noises during the church thing. I was pretty much worn thin by the time we reach the hotel at 1am! Until now I did not know that my 1 year old can scream and scream for 1 hour non-stop in a moving car on our way back. :( No mater what I did, it just made him scream louder still! Sigh.... The best part was how Owen managed to sleep through the ENTIRE screaming!!!! LOL! It just amazes me.

The pier.
Sunday was a LAZY day for us. I some how manage to wake up at 8:30am despite the fact I slept at 3am! So decide to let the boys sleep in while I ate breakfast and surf the net at the breakfast area. We then met up with another aunt who came to "pick us up" to head towards another aunt's restaurant for a late lunch.

Rickmer Rickmers; built in 1896 and now a permanently moored as a museum ship.

The S bahns were really well maintained and clean. Its even better than the metro in Paris! We went to window shop in the city after lunch and we've notice that the prices displayed on their windows is cheaper compared to Paris. Even eating their traditional hot dog (wrust with a slice of bread), french fries and drinks costs us less than having a sandwich in any Parisian side walk vendor. The city itself is very clean. Must be the clean and tidy German mentality? Any mind you, Hamburg city has a 1.8 mil population, coming 7th place while Paris ranked 5th with 2.2 mil. Paris is really filthy, with dog poo, so called gang tagging, over flowing rubbish bins, smell of pee in and around the metro stations.... Must be their French, laissez faire attitude? Anyways, don't let my statements put you off visiting Paris. Its really a beautiful city if you close one eye.
One of the many WWII relics

The following day, we went to tour the city again this time going a little bit further the city limits towards the Elbe river. We went for ice-cream at the Walls store right in the Unilever Haus. I made an order for a really delicious cherry jam, cherries, berries mix fruit, with chocolate chips, crushed nuts and natural yogurt mix! It was YUM!!!

One thing that strikes me is that the new area where the Unilever building was built on, there's a lot of creative architectural office and apartment buildings all round. There's also a lot of really wide pedestrian walk paths along the river as well. Which was a nice change. And topped off the day, we took a boat ride along the Elbe river. The boat is like a bus as is stops at its "stations" to drop and pick up passengers along the river.
Lunch at the street walk with hub's aunts.

As our flight is only late in the evening, we met up with another aunt of his for lunch and some last minute shopping before our taxi arrives. Did some walking about at the nearby park before we realised that we're going to be late to meet up with the taxi driver! LOL! How time flies when you're having a good time eh?

There's still a lot of places we didn't go to due to lack of time and having small kids is not really ideal to travel with when one wants to do the walking tour. May be next time we'll return there for a longer and well planned trip.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

My 1st sale!

My little girl and big girls clips and bands. :)
After "slaving" for few weeks, I've finally made my 1st sale of hair clips yesterday at the open market at Vevey. This market is actually like a yard sale market but one could still sell handmade wares. 
I joint a South African friend,Carmen, who makes little bags and scrunchies for little girls and some beaded jewellery. She makes South African sweeties as well. But unfortunately in this market we aren't allowed to sell food and drinks as its strictly non-food items.

Some of our wares. And that big "pot" behind is a pincushion I made in case you're wondering.
We had to set up shop by 8 am therefore in order to get a nice spot we were there by 7:15am. I've not woken up at 5am plus in the morning for "work" since the last time I quit my job in the F&B line. Only for my babies. :)

As this was a free and easy market, the rest of the stalls were very quickly set up by 7:45am. Just opposite us a little girl who just set up her stall on the floor displaying all her toys to be sold. The fact that no fee was charged for sellers makes it easier. One can display their items on top of overturned cardboard boxes covered with a blanket or on top of a picnic blanket on the floor. The only rules are to registered a week before, to show up before 8am and stalls have to be within the marked area or their "boxes". But after that one can leave in the afternoon or even stay the whole day.

Carmen: Hello everyone!! :D
This time around since its August, there's not much crowd. People normally take August Summer holidays its the warmest month of the year.  And plus the weather was playing passing rain clouds and hand and seek sunshine with us! :p Rain came and went, but was a good thing it wasn't heavy. Just light showers. Then the sun came up finally nearly lunch time and by 1pm, it was HOT!!

I actually sold my 1st pair while setting up shop, then the second when the sun came and the 3rd a few minutes before we decided to close shop. My friend, Carmen actually didn't managed to sell anything until we were starting to pack up. A lady came by and was asking if her bracelets were taken seeing that there's none of her stuff on the table. She finally took 3 and promised to take some more of Carmen's stuff the next time if she makes necklaces. :)

The next date for us would be 10th of September. We'll be making a few changes here and there to improve our stall image for the next time. Well, we have to since it'll attract more customers. We'll have to make more clips, hair bands, bags, scrunchies and jewellery for this day as well since there'll be a neighbourhood party at the same venue. :) I'm all excited just thinking about it!!! :D