[TRAVEL] Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – PART II

If you do want to take a tour out to the nearby places, like beaches for scuba diving, or boat trips up the river, I’d suggest NOT going to the tour agency or booking through your hotel. These places charge a premium, and you’ll end up paying USD 60 when you could have paid around USD 9.

Drop by the backpackers street (that’s where we went for the SPA incidentally, if you read Part I of my HCMC post) and head into one of the travel agencies located there for a good price.


We decided on exploring the tunnels made by the Viet Cong, and it was after a pretty long bus ride that we finally reached them because the bus picks up many passengers on the way so for an hour or so it makes its way around town before finally hitting the road.

It was here, when faced with the decision of whether to crawl through a dark tunnel, through which I had to stoop and duckwalk, that I realised I’m sorta claustraphobic. The first few metres are lit, but after that it’s pitch dark and I had the irrational fear that I wouldn’t be able to breathe or start choking and throw up. I mean, if I had to, I would be able to creep through those tunnels, but since it wasn’t a matter of life and death, I decided to chicken out and stress myself a little less. It’s strange though, I didn’t feel this way cliff diving at Ariel’s Point in Boracay, so I guess I have more of an issue with small dark places than I do with heights.

The Rest Stop along the way is a sort of welfare house for those affected by Agent Orange.
Here you’ll find the natives hard at work, creating souvenirs and furniture.
There’s also a small coffeeshop with food and drinks for you to replenish your energy.



a very skinny cow.


Some of the weapons used during the Vietnam War.


gun barrels


the outside of the gun gallery.


Cyn shooting an AK47 which is strapped to the railing. The recoil is minimised, but the sound can be FELT through out your body… all the way into your bones. This is probably the highlight of the excursion to Cu Chi tunnels.


different bombs used during the Vietnam war


American Tank that was left behind during the war.


These are peep holes, not the actual tunnels themselves, from which the Viet Cong emerge to check location as they travel in the tunnels..


A larger guy than the one above fitting himself inside.


booby traps with sharpened bambo spikes at the bottom.


They might look like motorbikes, but they actually aren’t. They’re some sort of tricycle wheelchair which is hand operated and the disabled workers get around in these.

DSC_4589 DSC_4588 DSC_4586

Vietnam being an ex-French colony and all, we decided to try out what their colonial masters added to the local Vietnamese culture, cuisine-wise.
And we weren’t disappointed.

For something like 40USD per head, we had a full course French dinner, complete with the Chef coming out to greet us. It’s a really good deal, and the quality of the food is pretty good. The presentation is lovingly done, and whilst the serving staff might not be very good with English, you can always speak to the maitre d instead.

La Villa is located slightly out of the main city area, but your cab fare will probably still be under 10USD.
It’s a bungalow in one of the housing estates, and it might look dark and uninhabited from the outside, but once your cab stops at the gate, someone will pop out to greet you.

All in all, the experience was good, but they do take their time to serve their courses, just like a proper French restaurant would, so be prepared to spend a good long relaxing evening there.


Inside the restaurant


Part of the menu


Candied cherry tomatoes with vegetable mousse and some kind of mushroom paste on biscuits.


I know some people don’t take Foie gras because they don’t approve of how the animals are treated. But… This was yummy.


French Onion Soup


Scallop Risotto.


Salted Black Cod




Steak, complete with a sprig of fresh peppercorns. And those roasted looking things are actually brussel sprouts, not potatoes.



More Foie Gras, with Steak.


The cheese tray!


Mille feuille, which was a little too sweet for my liking.


Dark Chocolate Mousse cake


First look at the entrance.



These 3 buildings are pretty close to each other – the post office and notre dame are right across the road from each other, and Diamond is across a road from Notre Dame.

Having visited the Notre Dame in Paris, I was having a sort of identity crisis seeing the architecture juxtaposed with tropical palm trees.

Also, if I was feeling more hardworking, I would have visited Notre Dame in the morning, because the sunlight would be hitting it from the direction of the 2 towers. However, I’m LAZY, so the earliest I managed to get there was 3pm. The first time I popped by, it was in the evening around 5pm and the sun was coming from behind the building. So my shots aren’t that fantastic.


taken from the side opposite the post office


taken from the side of Diamond.


Evening sun from behind the 2 towers as I elaborated on earlier.
This shot taken with the statue of Mother Mary (I think), holding something that looks like a… bomb.


Evening sun coming from the back of the building. Took the chance to photograph from the rear.


The post office. This area seems to be some kind of hot spot for wedding photography. I took the picture in B/W because the colours of the building are, in my opinion a little… clashing. It has teal highlights against peach walls.


You can see some of the colour scheme in this picture.
This is just inside the main entrance.


Souvenir shops along both sides of the entrance.
Didn’t buy anything here, but you might want to pick up one of those pointy hats on the bottom left side of the picture.


So colourful… so pretty… it’s like being in some alternate reality like… wonderland or something. I was terrified that my large unwieldy bag would knock something down.


ATM’s housed in wooden “phone booths” showing the different timezones.P1060630


Diamond shopping centre


The inside of Diamond, on the first floor. Pretty much is what you’d expect in any normal department store.
Korean stuff seems pretty hot here too, and they carry a premium brand of cosmetics and skin care http://www.whoo.co.kr/ which you might like to check out.


They didn’t let me on to the roof. So this was taken from behind a glass door, with my zoom on max.




The currency in HCMC!


Ho Chi Minh himself. Well, his bust, at least.

[TRAVEL] Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam – PART I

[Warning… EXTREMELY HUGE PHOTOS coming up. Haven’t gotten the hang of WordPress yet… since I just ported over from Blogger. So… I’ll try to make it more readable in Part II]

Let’s start this post with… I’m a kiasu Singaporean.
Being a kiasu Singaporean, I couldn’t resist when there was a Jetstar Asia sale sometime back in November 2012, and I gathered 3 more friends to go on an excursion to Vietnam with me.



The Somerset Residences pool in the afternoon

This was our first trip to Vietnam, and I guess we all weren’t too sure what to expect, and we were all definitely not prepared for the trip.
“How unprepared?” you might ask.
Let’s say… we only booked our accomodations 4 hours before flying off.
So I could think of a whole pile of excuses for this last minute planning, but the top one on my list is that we just got back from NCCL and Boracay.

To be fair, we did look at a couple of places quite a while back, so we hurriedly scanned through some of the listings and decided on a Somerset Service Apartment at Ngyuen Binh Khiem. We were upgraded to a 3 room apartment, fully furnished with dining table, living room, modem, kitchen, washing machine… basically everything we would need for our 8 day stay, and some more. It’s pricier than a normal hotel and there are lots of expat families living there, in particular Japanese and Caucasian expats. The pool is usually filled with expat kids splashing around in the evenings.

I have absolutely nothing to complain about when it comes to the service provided. I could not be happier with the accomodations. The only minor unhappiness I had was an allergic reaction to something, I’m guessing the bed linen detergent or beddings. But since I’m the only one who got it, I can’t say for sure what caused it. The staff cleaned up our extremely messy and oily kitchen daily, they took the initiative to fix our leaking aircon when they saw it during one of the daily cleanings, and their response is prompt round the clock.
The first meal of our trip was Pho, naturally. The shop that the receptionist recommended we try was also listed on trip advisor as one of the best Pho places around.

Pho Hoa




My bowl of Pho after I was done adding stuff inside


Our table of food…


the other tables waiting for food or eating.

After trying most of the different permutations of meat, we’ve decided unanimously that the “Raw Beef” is the best. We had spring rolls and other side dishes too, but I’d recommend the Raw Beef Pho. The coffee there is kinda overpriced, but still relatively cheap compared to Singapore. So just get one!
Trung Nguyen is on everey street corner, and they sell their special roast at every one. If you have the chance to pop by a supermarket like Big C, they might have better prices because, like all supermarkets they have daily specials and super savers. Just remember to buy a Long Cam too! That’s the metal contraption which they use to filter the coffee.


a coffee filter at Trung Nguyen opposite our apartments.

Stark Tower and Bun Bo Hue

On one of our random walk abouts, we decided to visit what we all the Stark tower, which is actually called Bitexco Financial Tower (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Bitexco-Financial-Tower/203803992991729?ref=stream)

On the way there, we got hungry. Holidays always make me permanently hungry… So we popped into a shop that looked promising.

Bun Bo Hue.DSC_4733


The beef. Sweet, and surprisingly tender, despite how it looks on the plate.

Fried beef with chillies, peanuts and all kinds of yummy fragrant greens. Was meant to be eaten with the bean/rice biscuits, but we enjoyed it with our rice.


My bown of extremely nice dry beef noodles.



And after eating and harrassing the kittens at the shop (yeah, the mummy cat at the restaurant had some kittens… which we were playing with) we trotted off to Bitexco Tower.
I can’t really say there was much to do there, we went to Top Shop and looked around a bit… and apparently you can pay some money to take a lift up to survey the city, but we didn’t.


Doesn’t it look like Stark Towers?


Other random walkabouts and discoveries

Took a walk along the river, there are restaurant boats and other large marine vehicles. This ojne happened to catch my eye. The river is teeming with life, you can see little fish zooming around, and the surface is carpeted with water plants, especially in the sheltered areas. The river flows pretty quickly though, and looks a little murky. But I guess that’s to be expected of being downstream.




The Opera House


Random bakery with a little Nemo!


A shop that makes and sells miniature boats for display. It’s somewhere near the Opera House, if you wander around enough you’ll pass by.


Steet side beef noodles at Ben Thanh marketP1060704


Meat instant noodles at Saigon Square 2. (the newer one) and This isn’t nice to eat. So don’t eat it!


Crossing the street outside Ben Thanh is not really that hazardous an affair as it looks. We’ve learnt that if they honk at you, it means they want you to stop. If they don’t honk, just continue walking slowly and they’ll sorta flow around you.
It’s pretty safe too, no snatch thefts occured.


At a random SPA which uses Dematologica products. We did a mix of facial and massage, and one of us did hot stone.
It was much much better than expected! And it cost about 400,000 Dong per person for the facial and massage package.


A home cooked dinner consisting of fresh shishamo, toasted baguette, supermarket bought crossaints (not nice… get from the local bakeries!) and a 250g piece of Rib eye which I procured after a huge amount of gesturing and sign language.


a 9 USD Deuter bag. It’s really quite a good buy! Very well made. Drop by Ben Thanh Night market and look around.


The front of the bag



possibly indicate what needs to be considered in the hereafter extended essay writing service IV In 1988, he met Stacy, a senior in highschool cultivate, who furthermore came from a tumultuous downplay when she was four-spot eld ancient, her stepfather had suppressed her fuss to decease during a fighting Use your redaction skills and neatly right any errors in spelling or punctuation that you observance.

[Travel] Quezon City – NCCL, PGF – 10-13 May 2013

It was our first visit to the city and we arrived very early in the morning…
The Terminal 1 is confusing in that, the public isn’t allowed into the building at all, and the arrival reception is outside the terminal, across 2 streets. So it took us a while to get there. Or maybe it was just that particular terminal.
When we finally met up with the RGN representative, we had an incident free trip to our hotel – Eurotel, which is conveniently right opposite the SM Mall.

This trip marked the first time meeting Tarn aka GREENBEAN*. That’s her on the left, and pinkle* on the right. They’re our Thai teammates and we’ve been playing with them regularly online. We’ve known pinkle* for quite a few years, but we don’t see each other very often.  So it was great to finally meet up IRL!

Our first meal was at Jollibee, the famous fast food chain. This is apparently one of the dishes they are famous for… pasta and fried chicken.

The trip also marked huayan’s return to the active roster. That’s her on the left!

The showmatch game took pretty long to start… I suspect its partly my fault for messing with the com -.-
DotA 2 was taking very long to update, and I was meddling with wtfast… when… the whole com rolled back. We spent the time being interviewed by the Emcee with the crowd looking on.

One of the messages on my steam friends list! Much loveeeee =D

And this was our first draft… (ours on the right)

After our day’s duties, which included a meet and greet session with the fans, we had an really nice dinner! I loved the adobo squid (on top of the grilled seafood and meat platter).
Best thing was, it was a treat from our lovely NCCL host!

If you’re interested in looking at the photos from the meet and greet session… GO TO THIS LINK!
There’s over 500 photos of the final day of NCCL there for you to see. Here’s an example!

And that more or less concludes our Day 1.


Day 2 – PGF and it’s the start of our matches.
I remember waiting around, watching lots of games… not just DotA2 but StarCraft 2 and Crossfire too.
Tried more food from Adobo House and Mang Inasal (hope I got all the spelling right) and I decided that the longanisa from Adobo House and the bbq chicken from Mang Inasal are my favourite foods. =p
Our group had Orange, Gangsters and Mineski. Didn’t win, but I hope and think we put up an ok fight. Except against Orange I guess… But seeing as they are a TI team… I don’t feel THAT bad.

Some random photos from PGF now!

me and my gamer tag!
the PGF stage
stuck my SteelSeries Flux in ear pros into my ears cos the stage was SO VERY LOUD. used them as ear plugs!
our new gear bags!!
Eliza and I. watching SC2 i think.
PKing Orange………
Stage match against Gangsters
game against Mineski
Adobo House! was so hungry I forgot to take a pic until i almost finished… There’s always lots of rice… it’s almost always free flow!

The trip was great… the fans were totally overwhelming us with numerous requests for photos. I was quite touched to realise that we had so many fans there.
The games were shaky… that comes with having a changing roster and well… we’re getting back on our feet!
I’ve tasted better food, but well, it’s a shopping mall, so I guess if I want the real local food, I need to travel somewhere to get a good taste.
Would I go back for NCCL or PGF? DEFINITELY.

The International… So Far.

I’m finally recovering from the 20+ hour flight, 2 days later.

day 0 can be read here :http://teamzenith.wordpress.com/2012/08/24/the-international-2012-day-0/
and day 1 here :http://teamzenith.wordpress.com/2012/08/25/the-international-2012-day-1/#comment-135

as an unofficial add on to these 2 posts though, i’ve got a bunch of photos to share.

day 0, Living in Transit :

xy, being very tired at Dubai while waiting for our connecting flight to Seattle.
ice and i, on the way to the valve office
xy me and aloy trotting along
while waiting for the traffic light
the guys entering the Valve building
Group stages revealed!!
hy, spoilt for choice. valve is well prepared for a zombie apocalypse.
the simlarly well stocked ladies. never seen a larger bottle of listerine in my life.
photo wall of photos from valve’s filming, and The International 2
i found scythe!
the training room, with orange and EG.
a short video to show how the bootcamp room is like. i believe its where portal 2 was.

[ 02072010 6.29am | 12.29am in paris ]

been walking around paris for the past couple of days.
day 1 – arc de triomphe, champs elysees, eiffel tower
day 2 – louvre, engagement bridge, st michaels fountain, notre dame
day 3 – eswc!

day 1 was the most taxing, because we walked up the eiffel tower *pants*
i have realised that i’m really really unfit. i shall go running 3 times a week when i get back.
weather here is REALLY HOT. if not for the cool wind, i think i’d be sweating buckets.

day 2 was unbearably hot. stuck in the square at the louvre watching the guys take turns to take pics with a status was more than i could take. i ran into the museum for air-con before i could wind up in hospital for heat exhaustion.

at the end of these 2 days, i have concluded that i need a better pair of shoes – with good sole support.
thank goodness i didnt overestimate myself by wearing heels.
it would be quite fun to see Aeon carry me to the Metro. NOT.
so here are some of the funnier pics.

huayan might be giving a funny face… but shes not the funny one…
check out XY’s expression!!!
sitting at some random chair taking pics cos the lighting is great.
anyhow snap also turn out damn nice.
all i need is a prettier face.
hyhy tofy xy roy ice
huayan was mega excited to be at the louvre.
i took a picture of roy taking a picture of her and hyhy.
fail statues. or fail photos of some statues.
i was trying to take a pic of the guy’s face from below… from the perspective of the kid at his knee.
i didnt realise that he wasn’t very dressed..
so i accidentally upskirted him.
i shall ZI PAI!!!
statue giving me the third finger. @@;
and next follows a series of photos like this one here …
on egyptian hieroglyphics
on a sarcophagus
on a statue
on a mummy!
me squeezing a birdbird at notre dame!
haha… its a baby and already so fierce, trying to peck at me.
unintentionally photographed in the exact same position as this signboard…

for more pictures…. http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=190915&id=679036463&l=c58092672c
thats the fb link !