Saturday, 21 March 2015

Get to Know about Nay Pyi Taw, the Administrative City of Myanmar - Part 1

This article was inspired by a German traveller, Dennis Kopp in his blog, See World in My Eyes. He gave up  his career in architecture and go on a budget travelling to see the world. Well, you can know more about Dennis Kopp on the links below. Sorry Kopp if my introduction about you is not bombastic enough.
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Recently I read an article with title 11 Curiosities  Making Vietnam so Special and read about the new administrative city of Myanmar at Nay Pyi Taw. If many years ago the Malaysian government shift the administrative city from Kuala Lumpur to Wilayah Persekutuan Putrajaya with amazing architecture buildings. The same happened for Nay Pyi Yaw. A truly new city with traditional and modern build of buildings. Here I shared some photos of Nay Pyi Yaw which I collected from several sources. I love architecture and design, so don't ask me why I just share building photos in this blog entry.

Kempinski Hotel Nay Pyi Taw's Royal Pavilion greets each visitor upon their arrival. During ancient times, Pavilions were the welcome lounge of palaces; a place to provide pleasure, relaxation and comfort for diplomats, kings, and royalty of the country.

Naypyidaw International Airport, previously known as Ela Airport, officially Nay Pyi Taw International Airport), is located 16 kilometers southeast of Naypyidaw, the capital of Burma (Myanmar). Before the foundation of Naypyidaw, this was referred to as the airport of the nearby town of Pyinmana. The airport officially opened on 19 December 2011 (source: Wikipedia)

Photo source: Skycrapercity

Wunna Theikdi Stadium is a multi-use stadium in Naypyidaw, Myanmar. It has capacity of 30,000 spectators. The stadium hosted 2013 Southeast Asian Games and 2014 ASEAN Para Games opening and closing ceremonies (source: Wikipedia)

Photo source: Skycrapercity

Photo source: Skycrapercity

The Uppatasanti Pagoda called the "Peace Pagoda" is a prominent landmark in Naypyidaw, the new capital of Burma. The pagoda, which houses a Buddha tooth relic from China. It is nearly a same-sized replica of Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon and stands 99 metres (325 ft) tall.(source: Wikipedia)

Photo source: Skycrappercity

Photo source: Skycrapercity

Day 3 Kota Kinabalu - Pasar Malam Sinsuran

Basically, it was our last night in Kota Kinbalu. Nothing much to do, We just planned to mingle again at the Todak Waterfront area to enjoy the sunset and having dinner at Pasar Malam Sinsuran (Sinsuran Night Market). Here are some photos during the sunset time which is really beautiful and peaceful.

Then, we walked to Pasar Malam Sinsuran for dinner. Hell yeah! There are so many foods here. It might be hard for you to choose as there are so many food stalls here. More than 20 vendors selling grilled chicken wings, fried foods, rice and local made snack. Besides there are vegetable, eggs and daily groceries needs can be found here too.

The first stall that we go sell local savories. There are 'kuih' for us to sample such as Bingka Kelapa, Lenggang, Pasung, Kuih Kelapa and many more. Trust me. Its never taste as good as you see. Not enough sugar and some have too much flour which had effected to the real taste of the foods. After taste the 'kuih', then I figure out that all those have a almost similar taste with 'Kuih' in Semenanjung, but come with a different kind of shapes. 

The only delicious thing at this 'kuih' stall was the Pisang Cucuk, Fried Banana with stewed stick and covered with brown sugar. It was very tasty. Only that suitable with lur taste bud.

Then we make another round at the night market to find our next catch. I used to eat Coto Makassar on last 7 years ago when I stay with my Sabahan housemate. Coto Makassar consisted of beef, beef fat, the stomach and some other parts. We found a stall sell this Coto Makassar and would love to try it. Oh ya, people enjoy this Coto Makassar with Burasak, a stuff rice like Ketupat which we normally will eat it during Hari Raya. The taste of the Coto Makassar was okay, not wow. We also ordered a plate of Fried Noodle to fill our stomach. Oh ya, please don't expect the food with same name in Sabah and Semenanjung can have similar taste. It can be a little bit different or in some places, very far different in terms of taste.

Since we are already full, we don't buy anything else and just take a short browse at the area before going back to our hotel room for resting.

Friday, 20 March 2015

Day 3 Kota Kinabalu: Fish Market & Self BBQ-ing at Tanjung Aru Beach

Good Morning! I have to start this entry by wishing "Good Morning" because we start our 3rd day in Kota Kinabalu the earliest. The plan for the day is going to the Fish Market, buy some fresh seafood and grill it by our own by using the stuffs that we bought on the night before.

But beforehand, we went for breakfast at another restaurant with name Kedai Kopi Kinabalu. We ordered a Laksa Kuching which we finally discovered that the Laksa Yee Fung (In Yee Fung Kedai Kopi) have the sama taste which we concluded that this is Laksa Kuching.

So, we bough a fish, few grams of prawns, some squids and clams. How much does it cost? Fairly cheaper than the price of those seafood that we discovered on our first day in KK. The price for the fish that we bough was around RM20 at the open air restaurant, but only RM8 in the market. The squid that we ate 2 days ago was RM18 for four, but we only pay RM6 for eight squids in the wet market. Isn't that interesting. You pay cheaper and grill it by your own.

So, what is next? From the Fish Market, we move to the Pasar Besar Kota Kinabalu to buy soy sauce to marinate the seafood, salt, lemon and some chilies.

 Then, we walked to the Marina (I forgot if they called it Marina Waterfront) to catch bus No. 16C to Tanjung Aru Beach. After almost 30 minutes waiting, our bus arrive and immediately leave for Tanjung Aru Beach. Some info about this bus, the ticket is RM2 from KK Centre to Tanjung Aru Beach, it is air conditioned and will directly stop at the entrance of Tanjung Aru public beach. The bus also will stop at Terminal 2 of Kota Kinabalu International Airport which is the terminal for Air Asia carrier too.

Immediately when we arrived to Tanjung Aru Beach, it was burning hot and yet  very windy. Without hesitation, I set the fire for immediate grilling as my stomach start to mumble. I marinated the squid and prawn with soysauce and salt, then immediately I grilled it. One good and bad thing about BBQ by the beach side is, you don't have to keep blowing the charcoal to make the fire as the wind really will help you up. But the challenge is you will need some luck to start the fire itself (which is I have that luck).

The fish was fresh, fleshy and yummy. Ah! I'm so enjoy it actually. The prawn and the squid also was nicely done. The best part is to prepare the clams before we swallow it all. Well basically, once the clams ready, the shell will open by its own which is mean, you can remove it from the fire.

Inspired by Quan Oc in Vietnam, I garnished my clams with lemon, chopped peanuts, soy sauce, Chinese parsley and lemon. I tell you what, it was so tasty when the taste of the fresh clam mix with the lemon and soy sauce.

I think we spent almost 4 hours at Tanjung Aru beach, but the extremely burning weather don't allow us to be swim or walk along the beach side. Enough with resting, BBQing and chilling while enjoy those grilled seafood.

Done with everything, we pack our things and wait for bus No. 16C again and take a 15 minutes journey to the Marina. 

Thursday, 19 March 2015

The Close up of Vietnam International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (VIHABF) 2012

First entry: 27/11/2012 2010hr

The Binh Thuan Province People’s Committee, The Department of Culture, Sports & Tourism and Chien Thang Company Limited had successfully organized Vietnam’s 1st International Hot Air Balloon Fiesta (VIHABF) from 27th August 2012 to 3rd September 2012 at Sea Link City of Mui Ne.

This event had attracted more than 50 participations of International balloonist’s and balloon experts from more than 12 countries such as Malaysia, Belgium, Switzerland, United Kingdom, the United States, India, Netherland, Australia and Vietnam.

The opening ceremony was on 27th August 2012 with an appearance of the State Vice President, Mr. Nguyen Thi Doan and three hot air balloons took off during the event. The first balloon was piloted by a Spanish balloonist, Joseph llado and the second balloon belonged to Vietnam and directed by a French balloonist, Gael Cardon. Meanwhile the third balloon was from the Netherland’s and piloted by the cooperation of Swiss and Vietnamese balloonist, Adrian helf and Le Trong Nghia. Mr.Nghia is Vietnam’s youngest balloonist at his age of 29 and he had piloted hot air balloon since year 2004 at the early age of 21.

According to the balloon expert, only 3 balloons could be piloted during the opening day due to the weather factor. The best time to fly the balloon is int the early morning and late evening. Tropical weather can harm the balloon handler if they want to fly the balloon in the afternoon because of the hot weather. Flying with hot balloon is always safe but the pilot needs  to be careful especially during takeoff and landing.

In Vietnam, people did use hot balloon’s for military purpose during late 18th and early 19th century. The colourful balloon is to symbolize the friendship, peace and cooperation during the war time. This first event also managed to attract thousands of local and international visitors to Binh Thuan province, particularly to Mui Ne. During this event, there are were total of 17 balloon performances and the balloons came with various sizes and shapes such as giant shopping bag by Cliff Resort and Residence, Coke Bottle, Golden pig, Elephant shape, Golden cat and typical round shape.

Besides, there are were some miscellaneous air show such as paragliding, paramotor, ultralight craft and gliders too. There were many booths selling some souvenirs and foods as well which were located at the same site of the event where the visitor is not only coming to view the balloon, but also to buy something and enjoy the foods here.

This event also was celebrated to the 67th anniversary of National Day of Vietnam on 2nd September 2012 and the 20th anniversary of Binh Thuan province’s re-establishment. There are were other events at Nguyen Dinh Chieu streets which is called as Binh Thuan Foods festival at night time with foods stalls and cultural shows during the anniversary celebration.

This article was published in The Vietnam Guide on September 29, 2012

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

How Much to Spend for 4 days 3 Nights holiday in Ho Chi Minh City?

Before you continue reading about my travel itinerary, kindly take note that the price was as at 2009. You perhaps need to add another 50% of price increase if you read this in between year 2015 - 2017.

First Blog Entry Date: 28 Feb 2013 9.23AM

Are you planning to visit Ho Chi Minh City and still not sure about how much to spend during the trip? You should continue reading this guide as if it can give you some clues on how to enjoy the trip and saving some money.

This guide made by assumption that you are going to spend 4 days 3 nights in this city. You will cover most of tourist attractions, local foods and shopping during the trip.

Day 1

Once you arrive to Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the first thing to do is find a money changer to change some money for taxi or other immediate use. USD50 is enough for change as the exchange rate in the airport normally not as good as in town. After that, you will go out from the arrival hall and catch a taxi. Basically, you will be approached by some taxi drivers (mostly wearing white shirts) and they will ask for your destination and giving a very confusing taxi fare. This is a scam as taxi in Ho Chi Minh City supposed to use meter. From the arrival hall, turn to the left side of the airport and you will see airport taxis in queue and this is the safe choice for travellers.

For first time traveller, I will recommend you to stay at backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao in District 1. All your needs are here such as cheap room, delicious local foods, cheap beer, English speaking travel agencies and souvenir shops. The price ranges for the hotels at this area are between USD10 to USD30 for one night.

As for foods, you need to get familiar with signboard written in Vietnamese such as Pho Ga, Pho Bo, Bun Bo Hue, Hu Tieu Mi and Com Tam which can be found at almost every corner in this district. The price for this local foods are between VND25,000 to VND50,000. Ice tea or locally call as “Tra Da” (Pronounced as Cha Da) is normally free or VND1,000 each. Always remember that the wet tissue presented on the table is not free.

On Day 1, you can go for some sightseeing around the backpacker area and wondering at night market on the side of Ben Thanh Market.
  • Airport to Hotel: VND200,000
  • Hotel – 1st Night: VND400,000
  • Foods (Lunch & Dinner): VND100,000
TOTAL: VND700,000

Day 2

After get familiarized with your area, second day is for you to walk further for a city tour. Get a map and spot the location that you wanted to go. You probably will need help from your hotel receptionist to figure out about where to go by walking and where to go by taxi.

From backpacker area of Pham Ngu Lao, you will walk to Ben Thanh Market before go through Le Loi Street which is one of the important street in the city. On the way, you will pass The Rex Hotel on your left with a big roundabout of Nguyen Hue and Le Loi Street and Tax Shopping Centre on your right hand side. Not really far from the Rex Hotel, you will see a colonial style building of Ho Chi Minh City’s People Committee Building which is very iconic photo photography lovers.

Keep walking until end of the Le Loi Street; you will be greeted with HCMC Opera House which located at intersection of Dong Khoi Street and Le Loi Street. After some photo snapping at the opera house, turn to the left of the Continental Hotel and you will find a gigantic Notre Dame Cathedral after less than 5 minutes walking. Next to the church, you will see Ho Chi Minh City Post Office on the right side. Your journey is not end here, spot for Reunification Palace on you map which just 10 minute walking from your current area. Before that, you can have your lunch at some restaurant located along Nguyen Du street. If from Dong Khoi Street, turn to your right for economy rice stalls or turn to your left of Nguyen Du Street for slightly expensive foods local and international foods. The landmark here will be the coffee bean of Metropolitan building at the intersection of Dong Khoi Street and Nguyen Du Street.

You also can go to War Remnant Museum, easily reach by metered taxi with price around VND40,000 for single journey. After finish visiting the museum, you can choose to walk back to your hotel as you wouldn’t miss the opportunity to see Saigonese late afternoon activities along the way.
  • Transportation during City Tour: VND100,000
  • Entrance Ticket during City Tour: VND100,000
  • Foods (Breakfast, Lunch & Dinner): VND150,000
  • Hotel (2nd Night): VND400,000
TOTAL: VND750,000

Day 3

Third day is to explore the countryside living of Vietnamese by taking open group tour to Mekong Delta. Good reputation Mekong Delta tour operator such as Sinh Tourist at De Tham Street, Pham Ngu Lao is always the safest choice. Day trip to Mekong Delta will cost you around VND200,000 per person. Basically you will join open group and this trip will depart as early as 7.30am and coming back to Ho Chi Minh City latest by 6.00pm. During this trip, you will see the splendid view of paddy field, crossing Mekong River by boat, visiting coconut candy factory, visiting brick factory, sampan rowing and having Vietnamese lunch while listening to Vietnamese folk music.

Back to Saigon is your final night for you to enjoy Vietnamese foods, making new traveller friends and grabbing something for your last minute shopping in night market.
  • Mekong Delta Trip: VND250,000
  • Foods (Breakfast & Dinner): VND100,000
  • Hotel (3rd Night): VND400,000
TOTAL: VND750,000

Day 4

Sit back and relax. Pack your things and most of hotel’s check out time is 12pm. You need to check with your hotel receptionist if there are any additional charges if you choose to late checking out. You hotel also can assist you for airport transfer which will cost you a fix price USD15. The journey to the Ton Son Nhat International Airport will take around 1 hour subjected to the traffic condition.
  • Breakfast: VND50,000
  • Hotel – Airport: VND250,000
TOTAL: VND300,000

GRAND TOTAL: Overall, you are expected to spend around USD122.50 or VND2,450,000 for 4 days and 3 nights holiday in Ho Chi Minh City (exclude shopping and airfare)