Indochina 2012: Bangkok and Ayutthaya, Thailand

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From Phnom Penh, we flew to Bangkok on March 1. Immigrations at Suvarnabhumi Airport is just crazy–hundreds upon hundreds (thousands?) of people lined up and it took us about an hour and a half to two hours to get off the plane, go through Immigrations, get our luggage and meet up our driver.

I didn’t expect the airport was that far from where we were staying and we were just about to die of hunger because other than the hotel breakfast at Phnom Penh, we forgot to eat lunch because we spent half the day at the Russian Market and half the day in two airports and didn’t realize that until we were in our car going to Bangkok City Hotel in Pratunam. We planned to vist Madame Tussauds, however, we got in so late that we just didn’t have the energy to do so. I loved the fact that our hotel was right beside a 7-11 store. They sold this Meiji drink that is pretty much like Yakult but in bigger bottles. I love Yakult so much and I loved the fact that I still have some drink left after one gulp, LOL. :) This one’s an iPhone photo.

March 2 was spent going around the outskirts, in Bang Pa-in to visit the King’s Summer Palace, and in Ayutthaya to visit the historical monuments. I booked the tour online through Thailand Great Tours (only two days before the tour) because we couldn’t be bothered to book it upon arriving in Bangkok, just so we can save time. They accept PayPal (thank goodness for the PayPal app) and the Join Tour is at a reasonable price of THB 1,200 for the whole day tour including lunch. TGT responds quite fast and I plan to book some tours through them again when I go back to Thailand next year. But get this, there were only three of us in the tour so it pretty much ended like a private tour–not a lot of waiting and lingering! :)

Here are some shots from the King’s Summer Palace.

And here are some shots from Ayutthaya–I keep repeating this all over–did you know that the first part of the 1995 Mortal Kombat movie was filmed here? I only found out about that when our tour guide shared that to us. Also, I wanted to ride an elephant as that is on my bucket list but when I finally saw them, I couldn’t take the smell :( so I just took photos and videos instead because they looked amazing. I will ride an elephant someday, I promise myself that. :)

On March 3, we did what girls would normally for fun–SHOPPING! We took the BTS SkyTrain to Chatuchak Market and found ourselves in Nirvana. No, not really. But I did manage to buy a lot of stuff that I had to buy a backpack (knockoff, naturally) because I know it wasn’t gonna fit in my hardcase luggage (which survived, hallelujah)! As always, haggle! We also went shopping at the Platinum Fashion Mall which is just… heaven! *_* It’s the biggest retail/wholesale fashion market in all of Thailand (or Southeast Asia? I’m not sure).

On March 4, I turned a year older. We were at the airport waiting for our red-eye flight when the clock struck midnight. Who says it’s bad luck to travel on your birthday? Not me.

This pretty much wraps up my 2012 Indochina trip. I’m gonna do this trip again next year, this time starting out in Hanoi, Vietnam. Who wants to join me? :)

Indochina 2012: Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, Cambodia

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We woke up in the wee hours of Monday morning and headed to The Sinh Tourist office in De Tham St. for our bus ride to Siem Reap. By far, it’s the longest bus ride I have ever taken with about four or 5 stops, including the Vietnam-Cambodia border, which is about 2 hours away from Saigon. Immigrations was a no-brainer; the bus conductor collected all the passengers’ passports and handed them over to Immigrations when we exited Vietnam. A few meters further was the Cambodia Immigrations where we went through one by one (they have this biometrics machine for all fingers and camera for photos).

We had to stop over at The Sinh Tourist office in Phnom Penh to change buses and we waited roughly about an hour (and had lunch there). The bus arrived at almost 2:00 pm and off we went to Siem Reap, which was mostly uneventful as we were asleep 90% of the time.

We arrived at Siem Reap at about 8:30 pm where our hotel’s tuktuk picked us up at The Sinh Tourist office for free. We stayed at the New Angkorland Hotel which was probably the best hotel we stayed at among all five hotels that we stayed at.The room was huge, the floors were carpeted and our room had a pool view. The staff were a friendly bunch too.

That night’s dinner was rather amusing as we were too tired to go far from the hotel and just had some chicken curry with stuff we just didn’t like at all at a nearby restaurant. It seemed like Siem Reap sleeps quite early. We called it a night as we had a sunrise to catch the following day.

While we were only building the trip, I had contacted this tuktuk driver at Angkorwattuktuk.com and arranged for a Camry for me and my friends at $30 for a sunrise to sunset Angkor Wat Tour, and when we were in Saigon, he emailed me that he had to attend a wedding and endorsed us to his friend who did not show up on our agreed date and time. Fortunately, the hotel driver (his name was San) who picked us up the night before was around and we booked his tuktuk for the entire day for $20.

It was dark out when we set off for Angkor Wat but it wasn’t unusual to see a whole bunch of tourists coming out to see the sunrise. A one-day pass costs $20. Off we went in the darkness (people sell flashlights there), but a lot of our fellow tourists had flashlights and we let them guide us as we headed to Angkor Wat.

It was rather dark and I was preparing the settings of my dear old Nikon D3000 and when I took a test shot, a translucent Buddha image appeared on my cam! I was caught offguard since I couldn’t see anything where I pointed my camera at that I deleted the image immediately (and later on, when there was daylight, I found no trace of any Buddha image anywhere). My officemate said it could have been the outline of the temples. Now, why did I delete that image? :(

Anyway, here’s a series of shots from my Siem Reap tour (I could barely remember the names of the temples, I’m sorry).

Dinner at Pub Street was sort of like a Mongolian dish that was cooked right on the table. It was quite alright, but dessert was really yummy–Blue Pumpkin Ice Cream at about $3.00 for a scoop.

By Wednesday, my college friend and I went back to Phnom Penh and my officemate remained in Siem Reap because she was flying to Singapore the following day. I don’t have photos in Phnom Penh as I was too lazy to bring my camera around. I just took photos with my phone but I can’t be bothered to upload them at the moment. We stayed at Circuit Hotel which was a walking distance from Sorya Shopping Center and Central Market.

While we were resting that night, I was searching for stuff to do before our afternoon flight to Bangkok the following day and came across more wats and monuments. And then I found out about Phsar Tuol Tom Pong (Russian Market) which sold U.S. brands at a fraction of the cost. My friend and I woke up a little later than usual, had a quick breakfast and completely forgot about eating lunch because we got too excited at the market (we took a tuktuk ride from our hotel to the market which cost us $3). Tops at $2, short dresses at $3, long dresses at $5! Zara, F21, Gap, Aeropostale, Hollister, Old Navy products abound! These were originals that didn’t pass U.S. standards but you can barely see what was wrong with it. I didn’t see anything wrong with my purchases. Of course, we also bought quite a lot of Cambodia souvenirs to bring home, and knowing we were going to shop around, we already increased our baggage allowance when we purchased our flight tickets onwards. As always, with markets, haggle, haggle, haggle! :)

In the afternoon, we took another tuktuk to the airport for $7 to catch our flight to Bangkok. In all fairness, Phnom Penh’s airport was small, but it was clean and organized. Props to them Cambodians.

All in all, the Cambodia was amazing. Siem Reap was the highlight of my Indochina trip, and Phnom Penh was the highlight of the shopping part. No doubt about it, I’m going back there next year.

TRIVIA: We saw a lot of shirts that said “Same Same” in front, “But Different” at the back. Going through Google it seems that this refers to faked brands like The North Face bags or Rolex watches. How we understood it was when shop vendors would ask us where we were from and when we would say, “the Philippines”, they would respond, “Cambodia and Philippines, same same.” :)

Indochina 2012: Saigon, Vietnam

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As mentioned 3 blogs ago, I was going to go on a trip to Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand this year. It wasn’t a backpacking trip at all; more like flashpacking. I brought along a hard case luggage that I feared it would crack or break after all the plane rides and bus transfers. Thankfully, it didn’t. I don’t know if the Pacsafe luggage strap helped at all, but I bought it to keep my luggage secure in case my suitcase fell apart.

The first part of my trip was spent with a couple of friends, one from work and one from college. The first stop coming from a red-eye flight from the Philippines was Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, or as the locals call it, Saigon. We stayed at the Hoang Hai Long 2 which was a minute away from Ben Thanh Market on foot. This was the second time I’ve been in the city, and since my officemate and I have been there before, we decided to take my college friend on a walking tour on our own.

First things first, we went to my favorite sidewalk vendor for a glass of Vietnamese iced coffee beside Pho 2000, across Ben Thanh Market for 20,000 VND (1 USD). In case you didn’t now, Pho 2000 is the restaurant that former US President Bill Clinton once visited, and I don’t know if that matters, but I just felt like sharing that. I had gone there before and they have good food, just that pho isn’t for me (blame it on the coriander), so we didn’t go eat there this time.

Next was to get bus tickets to Cambodia, so we walked all the way from Ben Thanh Market, through Pham Ngu Lao St., down to De Tham St. (a backpacker’s district), and walked into The Sinh Tourist (http://www.thesinhtourist.vn) office and booked for the next day’s trip to Cambodia. From Saigon to Siem Reap, it costs $17 (and since our flight to Bangkok was from Phnom Penh, we also had to get Siem Reap to Phnom Penh bus tickets at $7). Not bad.

We took a cab to Vo Van Tan St. to get to the War Remnants Museum which cost about 100,000 VND (5 USD). I had been there before although I didn’t get the chance to visit the inside of the building. This time around, I did. Remnants from the war are displayed all over the museum: guns, missiles, soldiers’ uniforms, grenades. Photographs and extensive documentation of the massacre and torture hang on the walls, bringing us back to Vietnam’s tragic past. In my opinion, the most horrible of them all was the massive effect of the orange agent which left the succeeding generations mutated.

Then we took a walk along the length of Vo Van Tan St. to 103 so we can have some yummy ice cream at Snowee Creamery for 60,000 VND (3 USD).

After which, we went on a walking tour of city sights such as the Reunification Palace, the Notre Dame Cathedral and the uptown Dong Khoi. We had late lunch of pizza and cake at the New York Dessert Cafe (NYDC) which was an artsy fartsy place that (get this!) had Philippe Starck Ghost Chairs (or imitations of it).

The rest of the afternoon was spent haggling at the Ben Thanh Market, and we had dinner at Wrap & Roll where you could order a set of fillings and leafy veggies to make your own fresh spring rolls.

Tip: If you wish to remain connected with your Facebook friends, you cannot access Facebook from Vietnam without rigging the Internet settings or going through a proxy which is super slow. A waitress at NYDC tipped us that we can do so using the Opera Mini app, and we were able to! Just download it for free from the AppStore! ;)

Brisk Photo Walk

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It’s always a struggle for me to lose weight, and here are the reasons:

Food.

  1. I love fizz too much. I need it. Fizz is for me as alcohol is for drunkards. I can easily give up coffee because it doesn’t do much other than give me palpitations (except if Starbucks brings back their Dark Cherry Mocha in December, but I can compromise).
  2. I love sweets too much. Cupcakes are my weakness; red velvet ones with cream cheese frosting especially.
  3. I love spicy foods too much, and I don’t know but spicy foods tend to boost my appetite.

Sedentary Lifestyle.

  1. Much of my work is done seated in front of a computer at least 85% of my 9:00 to 6:00, and that can still extend 2, 3 or 4 hours more. And when I get home, I’m just too tired to do anything much else.
  2. I hate exercise. :( Plus, I’m asthmatic. And I’ve thought about swimming, but the nearest pool is about 30-45 minutes away. That’s really far. Although there’s one that’s closer to where I live, but there are a lot of people going there already.

Anyway… I think I have found the perfect beginner exercise for me–brisk photo walking! Heh. That way, it wouldn’t be so boring. :) Kinda like retail therapy. :P

Here are some photos I managed to get during my walk with my mother the other day.

Photo Walk Sights

Photo Walk Sights

You would think I had to stop, find the best angle and take several shots. No, that wouldn’t be exercise no more. It was more like: brisk walk, click and snap, brisk walk.

It was a good start, I think, and I have been gradually decreasing my rice intake this week. :) Wish me luck.

White Chocolate Rice Krispies

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White Chocolate Rice Krispies

White Chocolate Rice Krispies

My younger brother and I randomly stopped by at a local baking supplies outlet last Monday morning and I thought I’d make something. I didn’t even have any plan whatsoever of what I’d make. Ideas just pop into my head, based on the “inspiration” around me.

Here’s a simple no-brainer recipe.

Ingredients:

  • White chocolate
  • Rice krispies (the puffy ones!)
  • Wax paper cups

How-to:

  1. If the chocolate is kinda hard, have it melt a bit first, in a double boiler on the stove or in the microwave for a few seconds. But mine was kinda soft so there was no need to melt it. (Plus, if you had to melt it, you’d need to let it cool down which would defeat the purpose of a 15-minute dessert! It would also be messier!)
  2. Shave or chop some white chocolate so that it’s “workable” by hand and roll it into the rice krispies (rather, press rice krispies into the chocolate).
  3. Roll it into a ball and then coat it with rice krispies (again!) all over.
  4. Place the chocolate balls into little wax paper cups. I used 3/4″ ones but if you feel like making big ones, be my guest. But little balls are just right.
  5. Put it in the fridge for a bit so that it wouldn’t be soft to bite into.

As an option, I would recommend drizzling chocolate syrup on it or dusting it with cocoa powder or dipping it into melted bittersweet chocolate to balance the sweetness. I’m getting some over the weekend. I didn’t really know yet how it would turn out until we tried it, but my brothers said it was yummy but too sweet. My mom and sister loved it though.

Here’s the plan…

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This is the nth time I’ve tried to get back to blogging.  I’ve been through hell and back and I still haven’t developed that foundation to keep me going (not really).

My excuse is the same—I didn’t have time.

Well, now, I’m going to make time for it. Who’s gonna stop me? :P

I am not gonna live my life or spend my time according to how others demand it. Not entirely at least. I still have a 9:00 to 6:00 that gets me by from payday to payday.

So here’s the plan… among other things, I’m going to make this blog my to-do list for things that have nothing to do with work at all, and here are some things I want to do before this year ends:

  • Prepare for a sort-of backpacking trip through Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand early next year. I realized a love for traveling when I first went out of the country in 2009. I am a late bloomer, you may say that, because (to put it bluntly) I am not as fortunate as some people who have the luxury of time and resources to travel as frequently as they want. But it’s never too late for anyone to start exploring places other than their own. I have had two cancelled trips (local ones, Ilocos and Cagayan de Oro) this year because of weather conditions and budget constraints, and there’s no way I’m going to cancel that trip. NO. WAY.
  • Start making money from my art, and my sister’s too. If there’s anything stupid about that, it’s not starting soon enough. I have had a few freelance jobs since I graduated from college back in 2004 (okay, go ahead, you now have a ballpark figure of how “old” I really am); among them were logo, web, event invitation and business card design. I’m not sure why I shelved that extra buck-earning capabilities aside. Probably because “I didn’t have time.”
  • Learn a foreign language, on my own for now.

Now, those aren’t really ambitious goals, are they? I have more than four months to work on it.

On second thought, here’s an ambitious one:

  • Lose weight, no shit. That’s the most difficult one yet. But what the heck, I’m winging it.
This is a repost from my Tumblr, where I originally planned to blog from. I’m transferring back to WordPress since I’m getting spam as early as now. >:/