Tuesday, February 27, 2018

On the Road to Mekong Delta: Graveyards and Mekong Rest Stop in Dong Nai

Visiting Vietnam is probably not complete without at least spending a day in the Mekong Delta River region.

The Mekong Rest Stop - really nice place!

Our minivan, just 8 of us guests plus our driver and tour guide.

The Mekong Delta, also known as the "Nine Dragon River Delta" is the largest river that snakes through the south of Vietnam passing 12 provinces and a large network of distributary rivers.

Choosing a Mekong Delta trip was quite a challenge for us because there were so just many Mekong Delta trips offered. It can really get confusing when they are almost the same. The family has to find the best one that suits the wishes of the family and can accommodate the parent's mobility challenge as well.

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Sunday, February 25, 2018

Utrecht: Sunny Day Biking in Maxima Park & Break at Anafora

Goedendag, goededag, goeiedag, goeiendag are ways of saying "Good Day" in Dutch =)

Back in October last year, Dutchman and I did a combo run in Maxima Park in Utrecht. He with his skates (rollerblades) and moi with my bike.

It was lovely weather for a weekend in October which only meant that beaches and parks will be full. We do not always have great weather here in the Netherlands so when the skies are blue and the sun shines, we hit the outdoors.

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Saturday, February 24, 2018

Street Food and Street Dining in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

The street food and street dining scene in Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon is surely hands-down impressive! Wow. Yep, people are out and dining on the streets and Vietnamese food is my favourite.

Street dining in Saigon / HCMC.

I am super excited these days because 2 months from now I will be flying back to Asia again, this time to Shanghai, China, and Hong Kong (and New Zealand as well!) and I can’t wait to check out the street food scene there. So while waiting for this trip to happen, let me dig some of the pictures I have on street food and street dining in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.

I was in Ho Chi Minh City aka Saigon or HCMC with family in December 2016. Our family holiday trip was during the week between Christmas and New Years. Although Vietnam is predominantly a Buddhist (and Atheist I guess?) country and it celebrates the Lunar Year as well, there was quite some Christmas spirit in the city with preparations for the New Year.

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Friday, February 23, 2018

Ho Chi Minh City Hall and Shopping Malls

I do wonder about the simplest of things. Such as if most people visiting Vietnam know who or what Ho Chi Minh is? Do people even care?

Moi with Ho Chi Minh standing in bronze behind me and the beautiful City Hall in the background. I am smiling in the picture but it was so fricking HOT on that day. 

Ho Chi Minh

Ho Chi Minh is the revolutionary man behind the Democratic Republic of Vietnam (or North Vietnam then). He was a polyglot who can speak French, Russian, Mandarin, English and Vietnamese fluently. A communist and a staunch nationalist from the north, he formed the Viet Minh coalition that eventually threw the French out of the country after almost a century of occupation. The Battle of Dien Bien Phu (or First Indochina War) was the defining moment, the end of French rule in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Laos.

He also later became an important figure and influence during the Vietnam War (Second Indochina War/American War), although he did not see the victory together with his comrades against the Republic of Vietnam (South Vietnam - Vietnam was divided then), the United States and its Allies because he died 6 years before the Fall of Saigon. It was a war that lasted almost 20 years.

When North Vietnam (or Viet Cong and its allies) captured Saigon, the capital of South Vietnam, it sent the Americans and its Allies packing back to their respective countries. A popular musical back in the 90s, "Miss Saigon" would probably help jog the memory of some from my or earlier generation. South Vietnam was reunited with the North under the communist credo.

A foreign newspaper was said to have quoted:

"When the North Vietnamese marched into Saigon yesterday, they were led by a man who wasn't there".

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Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Saigon/HCMC: Watching the World Go By at Lamenda Café

One evening in Saigon, the sister and I were looking for a place to hang out after dinner. We have just tucked the parents into bed (hehe, the other way around huh?) and we were ready to chill the evening away.

Coffee and Cocktails.

We want to sit down somewhere and talk over a fresh cocktail drink and watch the world go by. Unfortunately, there’s not a lot of cool outdoor places in Ben Thanh area where we were staying where you can sit back, relax and watch life happening before you on the streets.

But we got lucky though when we came upon this lounge café just a block away from Ben Thanh market and our hotel. It was, I guess, the only cool and chic place to hang out in the vicinity.

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Sunday, February 18, 2018

The ‘Barbecue Garden’ in Ho Chi Minh City

This is a great place for some casual outdoor dining in Saigon.

Our table has its own stone grill.

The family came from a very long day trip in the Mekong Delta so after having some needed rest at the hotel, we freshened up and got ready for dinner. I told the family that we are going just further down the road so no need to take cab rides. We’ve had enough driving for the day so some nearby restaurant would do us really well for the evening, especially for my mom who is mobility challenged.

I actually saw the Barbecue Garden a few times during our walks in the area. It is not too far away from our hotel in Ben Thanh. It’s on the same street, Le Thanh Ton corner Nam Ky Khoi Nghia and is just a 4-5 minute walk so this really came as a handy choice for us.

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Saturday, February 17, 2018

Verdun, France: The City Behind the Greatest Battle in History

Many younger people (30-something and younger) may probably have not heard about Verdun in France.

It is a small city located on the River Meuse in the Lorraine region in the north of France. It is not too far away from Luxembourg. It is a fortified city, however, not much has remained of its fortifications except for the Chatel Gate and the Citadel.

The main tourism draw of the city and its nearby environs are its contributions to history and memorial monuments of the First World War, namely the Battle of Verdun, the world's longest and largest battle ever. Other than that Verdun is a relatively quiet and very local city.

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Friday, February 16, 2018

France: Douaumont Ossuary and Cemetery in Verdun

In late spring last year, Dutchman and I went on a long weekend road trip to the World War 1 battlefields of France.

Perhaps not the most ideal and romantic weekend getaway, but the Dutchman has a longtime fascination with the wars in Europe, particularly World War I and II, and Verdun was one of the places he talked about, as the longest and largest battle recorded ever in history. He would like to show it to me.

He has been here in the battlefields a few times during his younger years and he promised me that he’ll go back again, but then together with me. The trip plan wasn’t really a high priority, it was more of like – when we get the chance or we will wing it. Well, I am always in for a trip but I am also a curious individual especially when it comes to history.

The chance came last year in May. It was one of those religious public holidays that constitutes a long weekend opportunity. I was as well in between jobs, although I already had an offer after leaving my previous work in March, I negotiated to start the second half of June to be able to enjoy the last few weeks of free time which includes this road trip and an early summer holiday in the Mediterranean.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Panorama Photo Gallery of Gulangyu Island and Xiamen City Skyline

These panorama pictures of UNESCO World Heritage Site, Gulangyu Island, and Xiamen City skyline and coastline were taken from the top of Sunlight Rock.

Panorama view of Xiamen City from the top of Sunlight Rock in Gulangyu Island.

Gulangyu's rooftops.

I have wanted to post these pictures as part of my next entry about Sunlight Rock, but because there were just too many pictures, and of course, I want to post all of them, I have decided to split them.

The views from the top of the rock are spectacular. The terracotta rooftops in downtown Gulangyu represent the colonial past of Xiamen. Mansions in Victorian-style architecture, some of which are restored to their former glory, while many are still left in a considerable state of deterioration.

Across the straits are the Siming coastline and the ever-changing skyline of Xiamen city. Give it another 5 years and Xiamen will have a much busier skyline I am sure.

The new addition to the skyline is the Twin Towers (Xiamen Shimao Cross-strait Plaza) on the southern end of the coastline. Standing 300-meters each, they are designed like windsurfing rigs or windsails about to sail away to the South China Sea. The Twin Towers has become a landmark of Xiamen.

[To see the rest of the pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

Friday, February 09, 2018

Street Food Scene on Longtou Road (Dragon Head Road), Gulangyu Island, China

One of the many street vendors on Longtou Road.

Longtou Road or Dragon Head Road is the main commercial street of Gulangyu Island in Xiamen, China. It is basically a network of interconnected streets and alleys. People can find many shops, restaurants, and commercial establishments housed in century-old European-inspired mansions.

Since the whole island is pedestrianized, it is very easy to navigate the area on foot freely. No need to look back for incoming vehicles and pause at crossings and stop lights. Very ideal =)

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Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Fujian, China: In Just Less Than an Hour on Gulangyu Island

Gulangyu or Kulangsu is a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site in Xiamen, in the Fujian province of southern China.

Pre-wedding photoshoots are very popular on Gulangyu Island.

Monks on a (touristy) field trip. Taking a souvenir photo on the promenade of Gulangyu with the panoramic skyline view of Xiamen as a backdrop.

Known for its rich history and architecture and as an ‘International Settlement’ during the 1840s to 1930s, it attracts a sizable number of tourists every year. It is a pedestrian-only island so people go around on foot. Only gulf caddies and official government vehicles are allowed on the island. Not even a bicycle is permitted to be used.

Apart from the preserved Victorian-style buildings, the island is largely a residential area with a population of 17,000. The residents commute with the ferry to Xiamen which only takes a few minutes.

The foreign enclave obviously has had its glorious days, and today it serves as a remembrance of Chinese foreign policy in the 1800s.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

Saturday, February 03, 2018

Makati, Metro Manila: Greenbelt and Ayala Triangle during the Holiday Season

Most people and I mean non-Filipinos, do not realize that (Metro) Manila is actually a conglomerate of cities. People thought that its 1 big city. It is and it is not.

The Santo Nino de Paz Church and garden in Greenbelt. An oasis in the middle of a concrete city.

Christmas decorations on the buildings on Ayala Avenue, Makati City.

Here in the Netherlands I always try to explain that Manila (Metro Manila) is like the Randstad. The Randstad in the Netherlands is the urban area of the country composing of the 4 major cities connected to each other by the fast highways: Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam, and Utrecht. Manila, on the other hand, is composed of not just 4 cities but 16 interconnected cities! And that the population of the whole country of the Netherlands is the number of people living in Manila alone.

That is enough for anyone living in the Netherlands to understand that we are not comparing apples to oranges =)

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Thursday, February 01, 2018

Stopover Stay at Makati Diamond Residences

The other year I spent my new year's celebration in Manila. I went on a holiday with my family in Vietnam end of December and instead of taking the flight from Vietnam to Amsterdam, I decided to go back to the Philippines with them and spend a stopover in Manila.

Buildings view from the hotel room window.

We stayed in Manila only for 1 night, on New Year's Eve. The family flew back to Cebu the next day and moi to Taiwan for another stopover before heading off to Amsterdam. It was a trip with a lot of stopovers and I can’t wait to have another similar trip this year. In fact, I am already looking at options for my stopovers. The choices are endless and I am excited =)

In Manila, we stayed at the Makati Diamond Residences in Makati City. The hotel residence is located beside the Greenbelt entertainment and shopping mall so it was a good location, especially for my mom who is mobility challenged.

[To read the rest of the post and see more pictures, click the READ MORE link below]

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