Day 1 (Thu, 17 May)
meeting the rest of group at Terminal 3 of changi airport (budget terminal)
so mafan... still have to take shuttle bus from Terminal 2
was actually bit late... only realise i was late when i saw CJ at the bus stop =x
we check in luggage, and mine was the SMALLEST and LIGHTEST *4.8kg*
n my backpack was a schoolbag, not those backpacking kind de... so bad for e back
taking Tiger Airway (TR308)... the exciting part is tt we hav to board the plane the old primitive way by climbing a staircase from the road area into e plane.
plane depart from s'pore at 4.15pm, and reach Hanoi Noibai Airport at 8.10pm
journey was short... basically end up chatting with edwin n dias, din read a single bit of the straits time that i bought =x
an interesting point about Tiger Airway is.... they insist tt u hav to seat at your seat when e seatbelt sign is on. n e sign was on for so long!! poor dias n edwin cant go toilet
they were so inefficient- no immigration card. all of us end up having to stand ard to fill in our immigration card at the departure hall
we checked in Hanoi Blue Sky Hotel in the old quarters of Hanoi... this place is quite nice given tt it only costs USD$5 per night (if i not wrong)... However, if you wan air-conditioner, need to pay additional USD$6. so -_-"
for my room 301, e knob at e toilet door is missing, and the water temperature is super hard to adjust- sometimes super hot, sometimes super cold. n worse is- the television plug is frailed, so my roommate (selena) accidentally touch in whilst plugging in e fan n get a huge electrocuting shock... so scary la!!
after settling down, we went for dinner somewhere near our hotel. and all of us randomly ordered fried rice *pengs* and all looks e same, but diff version-> chicken, seafood, mix... end up staring hungrily at chee wei's pho (a kind of kway teow). i was so tired of the fried rice, and felt comforted jus eating a bowl of plain rice.
we went for late night shopping at the old quarters... shd hav gotten e beaded handbag which i like- din manage to go back there again *sobz*
went online before going to slp. e internet connection is so so so so awfully slow n laggy... gave up on it!Day 2 (Fri, 17 May)
woke up at 6.50am (vietnam time)
thanks selena for waking me up *everyone knows im hard to wake up de* n i got up to 7.30pm to prepare :P
went for a sumptous breakfast at this well known restaurant- Croissant. had a heavy meal of hot chocolate, bread, egg with toast (filled with ham n cheese)... spent 49000Dong (S$4.90).... so full tt i cld hav skipped lunch le
went with all our backpacks and barang barang to visit the places of interest- Ho Chin Minh Masoleum- *saw the guard changing ceremony*, Presidential Palace, One Pillar Pagoda... all this place are closed!!!! so suay *note not to visit on Friday!!*
However, temple of literature was opened, saw statues of Mencius n..... *cant recall* anyway, their temples are so chinese-like. they had this stone turtle carrying plagues in the temple- believed tt rubbing the turtles' head can improve intelligence......
the sun was really awfully scorching... we are in jeans somemore *attire for the masoleum*... so end up fully drenched in sweat =x smelly n tired
was still full when they stop by for lunch, so only had beef noodles soup. learnt tt sua tuoi= milk and la vie = mineral water :p
we went to this National Fine Arts Museum.... its a typical museum of paintings, pottery *realise tt all are very chinese-influenced*- im quite inspired by e intrinsic details of the art pieces.
end up walking ard aimlessly after tt...
n then settled in another high class restaurant- KOTO Restaurant. had dinner here. n i tried my first piece of Rabbit meat. its unbelievably tender, n had a diff taste to it. I had their local pho with beef (had to dip e pho into this soup base thing), and also a super sweet chocolate mud cake *which was eaten in a rush- cos the waitress din understand our orders*
we had to rush for out train cos they served e meals super slowly, and settling the bill took longer than expected.
so suay tt it rained heavily... n my poncho was torned... n we had to rush for a train
after entering, had a hard time looking for our train- platform 6, SP1
had to cross e tracks which was so dark, wet and uneven...
we had the 6 beds per cabin bunk... n it was super cramped *especially e highest bed- which i was sleeping in* franchie slept in e other top-most bed. both of us bumped our head super hard at the ceiling of the train a few times-> had to change on e narrow bed whilst lying down =x
train ride is pretty bumpy, e blanket is smelly *but im dirty n smelly cos i din bathe*, but i slept well! :DDay 3 (Sat, 18 May)
arrive at our train station *lao cai* in e morning at 6.30am.... and was abruptly woken up by e conductor knocking on our cabin door- and we had to rush to pack up our stuff n alight from the train shortly after...
was in such a disarray, hair messy, haven brush teeth, barang barang all over e place =x
urgently had to go toilet, so can only make do with this dirty-smelly toilet at e train station. 2/3 of the toilets do not hav door... n e flush is kns
we took a super long bus ride to sapa... to Cat Cat Hotel
sapa is some distance up into e mountain, cold weather, nice peaceful view- can see e clouds beside you :P
my room in Cat Cat hotel is super duper pretty and comfortable- esp with e comfy bed w thick quilt blanket and a lovely fireplace n huge toilet *love it lots!!*
one drawback is tt we need to climb tis long flight of stairs to reach our room :(
but heard tt they gonna built a lift soon...
once i step out of the hotel, some h'mong villagers rush up to us to sell their things; bangles, pencil case, hand-knit bags, whistle.... kinda freaked out by them cos they were so so so persistent and pushy, and they followed us all around wherever we go. repeating e usual phrase "buy from me! buy from me!"
i roam ard the village place with half e group (cos e other group walk too fast le)
we walk ard v long, but still dunno wad to hav for lunch... end up sitting at tis roadside stall- sitting on tis ultra short stool under a huge umbrella. we had barbequeued tapioca and bamboo wrapped rice. we ordered a semi-hatched egg which look kinda gross n nobody wanna eat it =x
we went back to hotel for lunch. after tt, dias rented 2 jeep to bring us to visit the waterfall (trac bac)
unfortunately, i sit in e lao-pok (old) one... at first, i sat at e front seat (squeeze in 1 seat with jacelyn) good view of the way, but was pretty scary when one point in time i saw our jeep tilting to such a horrible angle *almost toppling over*. At another point in time, there was a traffic jam cos of a huge patch of muddy ground. all other vehicles couldnt get over tt, but our jeep manage to with ease and overtake tis big bus in front :p then i sat at e back wheel there which is super jerky n bumpy *butt pain* and i felt like flying off everytime e jeep get over a rock =x
e jeep driver drove us to tis ulu place *dunno to look out for wad* it was so so so cold n foggy tt we cant see anything ard. well anyways, everyone had a short toilet break out in e open :D
then he drove us to e waterfall... which was damn spectacular- definitely better than tt in s'pore botanic garden =x e water was too cold for us to jump in for a swim. so i jus soak my feet in for a moment only. we get a tour of the waterfall... and on our way down, we encounter a landslide which block our way down... thanks to e hero!! who help us get over it :D
me n edwin had 2 sticks of grilled meat (beef/pork) *very yummy* and tried their vietnamese tea *which tasted sweet*
we went back on e jeep as well, wash up a bit... n visited this high class restaurant for dinner.
i spent e least cost i ordered this Fried Pho... n its one of the yummiest dish there *though a bit oily*!!
e majority of them went back to hotel, but me n some of them went to look for a pub- on our way, we chance upon some performance, and a really busy roadside... it was super duper misty and cold there. we cant find the pub tt someone introduced us to =x so we go to red dragon pub *near e restaurant we had dinner*
i tried my first sip of:
-Bailey (taste chocolatey),
-sweet Martini (which in fact tasted bitter)
-dry Martini (tasted worse)
-Americano (e most awful tasting mix)
-Vietnam mix (best tasting- cos got tis tinge of sweetness n less concentrated)
we end up playing 猜拳... n e forfeit-> drink funny concoction of mixing diff drinks *eww.....*
E best thing is, i get 'immunity' cos im younger than 21yrs old :P... n i get to drink sprite instead.Day 4 (Sun, 19 May)
woke up at 7.30am and i get to slack in bed :D realise tt e sun came out really early in vietnam, n their day started pretty early de
had papaya milkshake for breakfast cos im trying to clear my bowel =x haha...
took a bus to this Bac Ha market (which is crowded n active only on Sunday morning)... the bus ride lasted for 3 hrs n we travelled like 120km... here, we get to see another tribe which wear slightly diff attire from the h'mong we see in sapa. shopping was pretty fun cos we really get to put our bargain skills to e test :p n barganing 1000dong (S$0.10) was pretty fun too =x i bought a lot of fishes as souvenir!! we also bought some lychees in e market cos we wanna take photos with them in their costumes... had fried pho for lunch, tried their spring roll too *yummy but v oily*
on our way back to hotel, we visit tis palace place... which is under renovation. nonetheless, we manage to took some funny pics here, n i get to 'carry' e concrete mud this construction workers are carrying =x
the bus driver then bring us to visit e vietnam-china border... surprisingly, vietnam n 云南 is actually very very close to each other, jus barely separated by tis river (which is of swimmable distance)... some of us even suggested going across border jus to get a stamp on e passport to show tt we've been to china :p *such a pity tt we only hav 15mins free time*
some of us had dinner at hotel--> hot pot. e rest of them went out to eat. spent 40,000 dong for a heavy, healthy n delicious meal :D e guy was so so so sweet to help us to cos we super lousy at it =x haha.... meanwhile, we get to chat with some of the foreigners who are having their meals there as well... about politics n facts about australia n canada
tt guy later brought us out for supper, after dias n e rest came back :D we went to their typical 'kopitiam' where most of the locals usually hang out. it was late le, so all of us were on our guard, n strongly refused to drink too much of e h'mong apple wine tt they offered us. it tasted a little sweet, but is super strong. we also learnt tt bottoms up = zook = 干杯... food they served were simple yet nice: cucumber slice with crushed dried chilli, freshly plucked peppermint leaf, fried chicken legs... its definitely and enjoyable supper with e guy being e centre of attraction, and his popular phrase "so funny... hahahha"Day 5 (Mon, 20 May)
woke up early, feeling refreshed and very very excited about the trek/ mountain climbing tts gonna last 3 Days 2 Nights...
had a super marvelous banana pancake *love it lots* with banana milkshake, a meal rich in carbohydrate to fuel e climb :p
they arranged for 2 guides mee and chei and a group of porters.... we collect our lunch pack (2 bananas, 2 bread, 1 apple, 2 hard-boiled eggs) and were ready to go!! most of the ppl did not bring much barang barang, cos they deposited their clothes in the guy's- chee wei and dias- bag. i should hav done tt, given tt my bag wasnt tt optimal for heavy load... took a bus to mid-mountain *1600m*, where our trek COMMENCE!!
weather condition: high wind, rainy, cold
we started off at 8am with me snugly and tightly wrapped in shawl and thick jacket with jeans, + poncho over myself. started stripping off after trekking a bit, cos it suddenly gets super warm (with e trees blocking out the strong cold wind) im so so so lousy, cos i started panting near e starting point, partly cos of poor stamina- no training somemore =x
was so greatful for the break near e starting point in a clearing... had a super duper yummy lunch *mayb cos i was hungry*... of only bread with sliced tomato, cucumber and cheese fillings. we go pee behind some trees, and were ready to continue!!!
the trek was much much tougher and longer than i tot *even experienced trekkers find it kinda tough le, what more for a first-timer beginner like me*.... lots of upslopes and downslopes (of bout 70 degree inclined).... many a times, i have to get down low on my hands, end up getting lots of scratches and cuts and bruises. had rocky terrain which is hard to walk on cos e rocks will dislodge, had muddy terrain where ur feet will sink in and shoe get stuck, or u will slide and fall, or jus get your pants wet.
halfway through the trek, the sole of my left New Balance shoe came off :( i had to end up walking with tt cloth like bottom of the shoe *which render zero friction- and zero shock absorbance when land on sharp rocks* the bag seems to get heaiver with every climb, particularly cos of fatigue... thanks franchie for carrying my bag for me for remaining half of the climb to basecamp.
was so amazed with the porters and guides cos they carry a lot of things (all our sleeping bags and all our food for 3 Days 2 Nights)... and yet, they can move through the mountain with ease, kinda like 蜻蜓点水 kinda skill :D
we reach basecamp at bout 5pm and settled into tis huge tentage *supposedly built by them*... cos its made up of thick wood, and is super zai and very very stable (with double layer to trap heat)... outside was so damn cold and raining, we decide to cuddle together, and did not leave e tent e whole night. food was served in our tents too!! the meal wasnt tt nice, but we were so hungry tt we chomped down a lot :p i threw away a pair of wet socks, and hang my jeans to dry (which actually gets wetter cos of the moisture in e air =x)...
i changed into my trackpants and went to sleep. bed was hard (wooden bamboo base)... but was glad for the thick sleeping bag. din hav a good night rest cos CJ started coughing, after tt she started snoring =x... and e hard bed gave me lots of backache/ hipache/arm ache... + e muscleache i sustain in e trek to basecamp *2300m*...Day 6 (Tue, 21 May)
woke up at 6.30am in e morning. im one of the last to wake up =x outside was so so so cold, felt v reluctant to leave e tentage... had to brush up using river water, and to do business amongst e trees. we had maggi noodle for breakfast which wasnt e least bit filling.
had to continue e climb towards the summit *3142m* in my spoilt shoe :( edwin volunteered to carry my backpack... really greatful for tt!! and tdy, e climb was a lot a lot worse than yesterday's- longer distance, more tougher terrain... my shoe totally gave way halfway to the summit, and i had to borrow jacelyn's sandal to continue moving on. the weather was much worse at a point, where e wind was so so so so strong, so so so so cold, and e slope was so so so steep... felt so so so tired and wanted to go home badly :p edwin actually lend me his waterproof sweater as well. so i got double protection against e chill, n he's only in berms and t-shirt.
amazingly, i managed to went up to a height of 2900m.... though i din manage to go all e way to e peak, but its still a feat which i never imagined myself to do :D given more time, i believe i cld've made it to the top... e guide told us tt we had to rush back to basecamp before night falls *cos it wld b v dangerous/ impossible to travel in e dark*, and we were suppose to reach summit by 12 noon, but we only covered tis height. in e end, we splitted into 2 groups - some continued, some U-turn back to base camp. the trip back was equally gruelling :( halfway through, it started to rain heavily *and i din hav my poncho with me* end up getting wet from head to toe
manage to went back the earliest amongst others, get to change into dry clothes. and get to dry up ourselves. e best of all, we get e best seat beside the fireplace!! :D e warmth of the fire was really a blessing! get to use e heat to dry our wet barang barang. i decide to throw away my trackpants cos its so super muddy and heavy...Day 7 (Wed, 22 May)
my legs were aching so badly... find it hard to move ard. feel like its almost impossible to get back to our starting point. every step requires x2 effort. but we finally made it back!!!!!! was so so so relieved tt everything was over. surprisingly, the travelling back portion was a lot easier. apparently, they brought us on a longer way up to basecamp, but we are going on a short cut down. hav to cut through river 3 times, and get really really wet. but its a lot faster, n terrain wasnt as bad.
felt SO GOOD to be back to Cat Cat Hotel!!! took my own sweet time to wash up, and remove all e dirt from my nails.... 3 days of no bathing, warm water definitely feels damn nice! :D was too tired to move ard town for dinner, end up having dinner at e restaurant at Hotel :p we quickly packed up and board a bus which brings us to the train station Lao kai.
had to catch night train back to hanoi, i 打包 tis simple bun with floss and meat filling for dinner. its super nice can :p tis time round, i din sleep at e highest bunk, i slept at e lowest instead -> cos my muscle ache was too much to bear =x played till e wee hour of the night, and we only slept v v v little for the whole train journey.Day 8 (Thu, 23 May)
woke up in e morning feeling totally drained... super shag. i carelessly left my shoe bag with my ponchos and a cap under my bed :( we went back to Blue Sky Hotel. they do not hav sufficient hotel rooms, so i end up having to temporarily settle in lukman and jacelyn's room. had breakfast at tis shop beside the hotel, selling only beef noodles *in diff version* haha... cant read e names, but they all seems e same. its super yummy for the price. roam ard hanoi with e whole group, and settled down at tis gelato shop- our common meeting place. whenever we went there, we grab a cone of gelato ice cream for bout S$1 only!! *u cant even get any gelato in s'pore with tt amt of $$ :P* my fav is Mint After Eight :D *mmm..... e tot of it makes me drool*
we get kinda splitted up from e rest; cos me, edwin, qing yun and Sk wanted to get a massage, e rest of them wanna go visit museum of ethanology. we manage to find a massage place at the other corner of the lake in a hotel. its damn shiok... and its actually v cheap only S$10 for 50min massage, plus sauna n bathe included too :D e massage really soothe my muscleache a lot!! we randomly roam ard the area (tt corner of hanoi is more developed)...
went to walk ard tis street... where they sell a lot of pirated bags and shoes :D get myself a pair of fake Kappa shoe and a fake North Star backpack.... SK wanted to rush back to hotel to deposit our barang barang, n e rush was getting on my nerve. furthermore, we lost our way to n fro hotel. seriously believe tt it wld b better if we cld slack somewhere to rest or shop more?! had a pretty bad mood *particularly cos of my cramp*... so in e end i kinda lost my cool =x sorry guys.
on our way out of hotel, we encounter tis lady throwing a huge tin can containing a few glass bottles at tis man who is running away. was so so shocked cos everything happen right in front of us. if we are jus a few steps ahead, we wld b in e way of e can =x *so freaky*
went for dinner at another posh restaurant -> did i mention tt food in these posh restaurant cost bout e same as those in food court :p after tt, we went to watch water puppet show... it was quite lame actually. pretty amazing how they manipulate the puppets :) n i was particularly humoured by this water fairy which 'dance gracefully' =x pretty nice nonetheless...
Day 8 (Thu, 23 May)
selena and I get settled in our room-> at level 4, so hav to climb :( took a bus to Ha Long Bay.... e bus ride was so long... most ppl jus ZZZZ.... we board e junk boat, and waited for lunch!! there is tis nice inclined chair on e highest level of the boat, i sat there and jus doze off unknowingly =x
i absolutely love ha long bay!!!!!!! tt place is so pretty, so peaceful, so serene...and the water is so calm! its a perfect place for a getaway from the buzzling city life :D
after lunch, we nua a bit... n went to tis Sung Sut Cave. e cave is amazingly cooling - like natural air conditioner. and the size of the cave is remarkable!!! those pretty stalacite formation, coupled with the colourful lighting make e place seems like a wonderland :D
after which, e junk boat brought us to another region where we get to kayak in the sea. the experience is totally different from kayaking in sentosa or east coast park :p we get to kayak over long distance to explore the nooks and cranes of the place. love the sensation of kayaking under a cave-like place to get into a lake surrounded by limestone mountains. every turn shows us a new scenery--> can easily get lost if you row a boat in tt area, cos there dozens/ hundreds of mountains tt dot the seascape, and every direction you turn seems e same.
we had a great 6 course dinner + a crab which they bought. haha... meal was simple yet delicious. nua at the highest deck of the boat. enjoy e night breeze, and gaze at e stars *sry guys, i really cant recall e constellation =x* most of us jus lie ard and participated in e spine-tingling story telling session; sensitive keywords-> seaweed, hair, pigeon, ice, hot air balloon..... :p i wanted to slept at e highest deck, but e night became too cold for comfort. i end up going back to my room to zzz...