Wednesday, July 27, 2011

The Faces of Sapa, Vietnam

The real deal is, I have to single handedly put everything back together with on my own, it will definitely take some time and is testing my patience and others, it's typically frustrating at this moment.

But there is a sweet encounter, a detour of personal interest, I do hope it turns out good for both of us. Breath, Andrew, breath! You will eventually reach the final line, slowly but surely.

Give me a hug if you see me, we all need a lot of loves, good time and bad time.

Sapa, Vietnam

The weather at night was still moderately warm before I embarked on Sapa Excursion, located at the the remote Northwest mountains of Vietnam, it is famous for its rugged scenery and also its rich cultural diversity - Wiki Travel.

Sapa and its surrounding is a host to hill tribes and rice terraces, it ranks among Halong Bay and Hoi An in terms of tourist attraction solely on the merit of its natural beauty and surrounding attractions.

It's particularly rich in opportunities for treks, homestays, and beautiful panoramic views, you can book such tour packages for as cheap as less than RM120 or $30.

The magnificent of rice terrace panoramic scene of Sapa

The Black H'mong lady with her baby, who stopped me from going into China border when I got lost in Cat Cat Village


The kids would be mingling around, normally the parents were the one doing the selling, kids at this age were too young to be selling

I will have detail writeup about Sapa in other posts.

Bia Hoi (Hanoi Beer)

There was at least couple of hours interval before catching up with the eight hours overnight air-conditioned train at 10pm after I got back from Halong Bay Excursion the same day.

I was carrying my backpack roaming around in Hanoi Old Quarter, realizing how heavy it was, I quickly settled down at the busy junction for some good street food, usually noodle soup or meat rice and cheap Hanoi beer.

A glass of bia hoi for RM1, no kidding

Busy inter junction famous for bia hoi

A glass of Hanoi beer (Bia Hoi) was as cheap as $0.30 or less than RM1.00.

I stayed there for at least two hours, I took a mouthful sip of the soothing beer and pulled out the "Nothing box" in me and started watching the people, cars and bikes went by.

A "Nothing box" according to Mark Gungor, is one of the many boxes in men's head that literally contains nothing inside. Hence, that explains why we can be stoned for minutes or hours (it looked like a man who was in deep concentration yet felt like his soul had wandered far away from the body, doing absolutely nothing but starting out at something blankly without soul).

Yet when you ask a man what is he thinking, he will say, nothing my dear.. Really, nothing..

It was interesting to be sitting at the what looked like a kid's chair, encountering some random drinking travel mates whom we shared our random experience about some of the highlight of our traveling experiences.

Sapa was one of the topic too, it's quite usual I'd speak about the next destination I was heading to with the travelers, they might be coming from these places, just to be sure I wouldn't miss out on things that worth doing.

Taking The Night Train to Lao Cai, Sapa

It was about 8pm I took off to find a guest house for shower, paid $1 buck for a quick shower before I started walking down to Hanoi Railway station at the east of the town, it was half an hour walk.

Probably wasn't the best idea to walk (half an hour >.<), but I was happy to be able to familiarize myself with the confusing streets since I'd be coming back, it was OK with little help from the easily shy-away locals who spoke very limited English.

Hanoi railway station

To Lao Cai, Sapa
The walk way mixed of departures and arrivals
I spoke about my fantastic experience with my local friend, Tien, who was my trusted driver in two separate post in Exploring Hanoi Old Quarter Streets and My First Couchsurfing Experience in Hanoi.

Tien was considerate enough to book a soft bed overnight train ticket for VND250k, but it wasn't easy to sleep on the train even with the soft bed. 

I was literally awakened by the noisy rail every other hour, the coach was moving swiftly which made it almost impossible for someone to go into deep sleep.

I shared the six bed coach with five other local passengers, it was more comfortable taking the lowest bed by paying additional couple of dollars because there was very little space between the top deck and the ceiling of the coach.

The 6 soft bed coach

There's very little space between the top deck and the ceiling of the coach, I took the most comfy lowest deck

I'd recommend anyone to take the lowest or middle deck for a lot of reasons particularly if you are traveling with your backpack where it would just sit beside you if you are taking the lowest deck.

And I knew an Israel mother who was traveling with her eighteen year-old daughter and booked all the four bed coach for $100 so they wouldn't need to share with other traveling passengers.

The Faces of Kids from Sapa

It was 6am when I looked at the clock, the train finally came to static mode and I knew we arrived from the faces of other passengers. They were all awoke by now, either playing with their phones or combing their hair.

The bus or minivan, for VND120k, took me from Lao Cai station to the town. The bumpy and curvy road wasn't the most exciting one, but the quiet morning with the beautiful green surrounding and fresh air were quite refreshing.

It was such a relief after a long eight hours ride, the surrounding nature consumed me.

I was feeling recharged with so much energy and excitement slowly building up as we neared Sapa town.

That day, I spent $39 dollars for guest house and a travel package for home stay and trek on the next day.

These were just some of the kid's pictures mainly taken from Cat Cat Village, 15 minutes on foot from Sapa town near the Church.

They were kids from Cat Cat Village, Sapa

He was sneezing and got some leftover between the nose and mouth

Had you ever hold a knife at his age?

She looked seemingly like the big sister in the group

The big sister taking care of the younger one

This boy looked like an old man

Beautiful girl

Walking up and down this little kid

She has beautiful oriental eyes

Playing with toys

Kids gathered to watch TVs, we weren't any different too when we were small

I remembered I had balloons too when I was small
These were such lovely kids, with pure soul, simple characters and genuine, I remembered every faces of them, though interaction was scarce and the sweets I brought for them ran out pretty fast.

When I looked them in their eyes, seriously, nothing else mattered. Their pure soul and smiles would melt every single traveler's heart, your life would never be the same again after you see them.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Erawan National Park, Kanchanaburi

Sprained my ankle playing basketball on Saturday, it was bad and I don't intend to post a picture of it! I have to act OK in front of my mom which was the toughest thing to do with the striking pain, luckily she never asked me to jump to prove I wasn't acting in front of her.

Great... Now I have my shoulder and ankle to worry and no basketball for at least two weeks, that's also why I was staying home over the weekend.

My aunts and cousins came to visit this morning, it was sweet seeing their kids, now are between 3 - 8 years old, very lively but shy to communicate with their uncle except this sweet 3 year-old little kid, I thought he like me. He sure had a lot of fun playing with Vivi, my 6 year-old schnauzer.

My first week in action in my dad's company, it's mixed feeling. I'm new to this company but I feel comfort. I thought I'd feel bored about this business but I'm fully motivated to keep things going. To say it's in my blood I'm not exaggerating, maybe after all, it's my father's legacy.


Visiting Kanchanaburi wasn't as mundane as I was expecting, surprisingly, it was rather exciting to find so much history from the World War II by the Japanese. I have a more introduction of Kanchanaburi that have some detail information on how to get there and which guest houses I stayed in earlier post so I won't need to write again.

I left Bangkok from Thonburi train station to Kanchanaburi, I remembered having the delicious noodle soup before paying 100 Baht to take the cab to the station in the morning.

The experience traveling to Kanchanaburi on train was unforgettable one, the ticket was available for only 100 Baht, reaching the destination in less than four hours.

I took the tour package for 1,000 Baht from the tour agency on the street, pretty decent price I paid for any day trip that include transportation to ride the elephant, bamboo rafting, Erawan waterfall, visiting the Death railway and finally dropping off at my guest house after short visit to the Bridge of River Kwai, and lunch of course.

The elephant riding was bumpy and uneasy, but once I synced with its rhythm it was going fine, such a great experience particularly when the elephant went into the river.

The elephant was as calm as the water

Going to get soak!

A shot with the 70 year-old elephant
Bamboo rafting was at the other part about 10 minutes drive from the elephant spot.

The water was cold, the sight of the calmly surrounding was just relaxing, I took a swim alongside the bamboo raft, but you better be sure to stick around though the current wasn't strong, safety first.

The manned bamboo rafting

The rare sighting of me, thanks to my rafting companion

Erawan Waterfall, National Park

Erawan National Park was designated in 1975, it covered 550 km of high mountains and attractive valleys.

Erawan National Park
Erwan Waterfall

The 7 tiered Erawan Waterfall

The 7 level of this stunning waterfall was surrounded by beautiful trees, monkeys and orchids. There was a small trails up to the 6th and from there you have to scramble your way up the cliff to reach the 7th level which I managed to go as high as 6th tier due to time factor.

It required some stamina to do the hiking, it could be the possible key factor too that I wasn't reaching the top, haha.

The trail to the top tier

The wooden bridge

The sight of the tumbling water and free fish spa experience was simply awesome, though tinglish but it was quite fun to sit by the slippery rock and put your feet into the water so the fishes could perform the magical foot massage for you.

Free fish spa

There were a few interesting people I met that took on the same package and trip with me, particularly this English at his early 60s, who was retired and earned his living creating friendly neighbourhood website for folks around his town and traveling Asia first time.

And a lovely couple from London working for Apple who were planning to visit KL in August that I'd be the host if not of my father's condition.

There was plenty of combination to take on for the tour package, if you like to spend more time at the waterfall you can do so. The group usually ended up meeting each other at lunch discussing about how great the experience was and planning on traveling together on next destination.

Trust me, it must be good after long hour of exhausting hiking
Next, I'll be working on the Death railway and the Bridge of River Kwai post.