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Friday, March 27, 2009

Travel to Vietnam Part III

16 June 2008

Our journey to Da Nang continued with Vietnam Airlines because there was no MAS service to Da Nang. The journey was quite boring, perhaps because I'd been too long in the flights and I was also tired. I tried to sleep but I couldn't. So did my friends. Seemed they forced themselves to sleep even though they're not sleepy.

I just kept watching the stewardesses. Thought they're not too sexy like AirAsia stewardess. They wore traditional Vietnamese costume. The blouse they wore was long, extended beyond their knees. From hip and below, the blouse was cut into two at both sides. Inside the cut, a white trouser which they wore together could be seen. When they were walking, the front cut of the blouse followed their knee movement, the other cut lagged behind. So graceful.

From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam Airlines that we board to Da Nang.


The journey to Da Nang was quite far, it took one hour and ten minutes. It was a long journey as I was quite boring. I got window seat but I couldn't see anything down under as the clouds were thick covering Vietnam lands.

When we were about to reach Da Nang and our plane was lowering down its altitude, then only I could see the beautiful scenery of Da Nang. Far behind, there were mountains giving peaceful colour to Da Nang. In front of the mountains, there laid green, fertile lands decorated by squares of paddy fields. There were rivers flowing slowly, connecting the mountains and the green lands.

When our plane was getting lower and lower, I could see the afternoon sun shone through the thick clouds creating lines of white ray straight to the lands. The lines then reflected from the surface of the rivers giving a very magnificent view. Oh, this was very beautiful and tranquil!

From Vietnam Trip - Da Nang

Sunshine is reflected from a river in Da Nang.


From Vietnam Trip - Da Nang

Afternoon sun shines onto Da Nang.


From Vietnam Trip - Da Nang

A crook river in Da Nang.


From Vietnam Trip - Da Nang

A river widens in Da Nang.


After few minutes, our plane safely touched down at Da Nang International Airport. The airport here was smaller than the one in Ho Chi Minh City. There were no aerobridges here. We got out of the plane with traditional staircase and we then took abus that was ready waiting just in front of the staircase. Here was much like Soekarna-Hatta Airport in Jakarta, Indonesia. Once again, the driver was on the left hand side and I was still not getting accustomed to it.

From Vietnam Trip - Da Nang

We get out from the plane via staircase and then get onto a bus to the terminal.


There was no immigration point here as we've already gone through the process at Ho Chi Minh City airport. So, we went stright to claim our luggages. Very much similar to Ho Chi Minh City airport, there were so many people waiting outside. Thought this was a norm in Vietnam but I was not sure what they were actually doing. I did care much as our bus was already waiting for us.

We would be staying at a beautiful resort called Furama Resort. While on the way, the surrounding was very similar to Ho Chi Minh City. There were a lot of motorcycles on the road. Everybody rode slowly but traffic was still smooth. For those riding bicycles, they could even stay in the middle of the road because their speed was also the same as those riding motorcycle. Occasionally, if there was any bigger vehicle wanted to pass through, they gave way, including our bus. I like driving style here. The traffic was slow and steady, no rush and definitely less stress.

The development in Da Nang was also amazing. It looked very rapid. Seemed they really had awaken from the darkness of war that had ruined their lives for so many years. The development rate of Vietnam had actually surpassed Malaysia and foreign investment had kept pouring in. On the reasons was cheap labour. However, there was a setback despite all these. The cost of living had spiked tremendously until a level that Vietnamese couldn't cope with it. With only a considerably small of money that they received from their job, they couldn't catch up with the high inflation rate.

After about half an hour, we finally reached Furama Resot. The beautiful resort was located facing South China Sea, the same sea that reached our shores at East Coast Peninsular Malaysia, Sabah and Sarawak. The beach here had been well-known since the war time and once became a relaxation place for American troops. The sands were white and the beach was wide, suitable for all kinds of beach activities. The sea was blue but it's still shallow, ideal for swimming activities. From the beach, I could also see the famous Monkey Mountain, whose beach was one of diving heavens.

At night, we had cocktail party but I didn't enjoy much. I was very tired. I went back early and got onto bed early too.

..to be continued..

Previous entries:
Travel to Vietnam Part I
Travel to Vietnam Part II

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Travel to Vietnam Part II

16 June 2008

As our plane was moving further up, we could see more houses and buildings replacing the green paddy fields. This was a sign that we were approaching Ho Chi Minh City, which was used to be called Saigon.

Ho Chi Minh City was indeed a large city. Until the horizon, I could still see buildings. This was far bigger than KL.

From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City
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Aerial view of Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam - formerly known as Saigon.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh City, the biggest city in Viet Nam.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

A river flowing through the city of Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

A view at Ho Chi Minh City suburb, Viet Nam.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh, Viet Nam - a densely-populated city.


When I first reached the Ho Chi Minh City international airport, I was impressed with current development of Vietnam. The people have awaken from the destruction of war. The terminal building here was also impressive, with one glance, it resembled KLIA. The wall was made of glass and it's leaning outside from floor to roof. This gave the impression that the hall inside the building was bigger than its actual size. Although there were quite a number of passengers and visitors, the customs and immigration processes were efficient. There were a lot of counters opened.

From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City
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New terminal building at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

We arrived at 10.24AM.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Carousal area at Tan Son Nhat International Airport, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam.


Actually, Ho Chi Minh City was not our final destination. We would continue our journey to Da Nang, one of the historical and beautiful city in Vietnam. Here was one of the battle fields during Vietnam war and also the centre of ancient Champa kingdom.

We still had four hours before our next flight. So we had ample time to go round the city. As planned much earlier, we wanted to go to Ben Thanh market and for that, we chartered a van for our round trip.

When we first got out from terminal building, I was shocked to see a lot of people waiting outside. Not sure whether they were waiting for somebody or were looking for money by offering some services to tourists.

While on the road, I felt quite awkward because vehicles here was left-hand drive. I still needed to adjust myself even though I was not driving as this was actually my first time being in a country with left-hand drive. Vietnam was once colonised by American while Malaysia was colonised by British. So, that's why both countries now have different legacies. After researching from Internet, now I realised that only a handful of countries in this world are right-hand drive. The majority are left-hand drive. Almost all Commonwealth countries and few others like in South East Asia such as Indonesia and Thailand are right-hand drive.

Another uniqueness about Vietnam was its millions of motorcycles on the road. Everywhere were motorcycles. They occupied almost the whole road. When Miss World competition was held here, it also featured motorcycle on the stage during award giving ceremony.

There are reasons why Vietnamese prefer motorcycle. All vehicles are sold only by cash. There is no installment even one wants to buy a car. Because the economy is just recovering and the standard of living is still not high enough, the people here can only afford to buy motorcycles. For those who can't even afford to buy motorcycles, they only had bicycles.

For those who could only own bicycles, it's not bad at all. The traffic here was very slow even when one person rode a bicycle, the speed was almost similar to those riding motorcycles. However, for those who were not familiar with traffic here, it could be dangerous. The traffic was quite chaotic and was without proper rules. There was one instance; our van started to move after a traffic light turned green but there was a pickup wanted to cross in front of us. So, everybody including motorcyclists gave way so that the pickup could get out. They're so tolerant here. I couldn't imagine if this could happen in KL. Despite all these, the rate of accident here was very low.

From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Everybody rides motorcycle in Viet Nam.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

One lane is almost full with motorcycles.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Part of millions of motorcycles on the roads in Viet Nam


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Motorcycles waiting at a traffic light in Ho Chi Minh City, Viet Nam.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Eventhough the traffic light in our direction is green, there is suddenly a pickup wants to cross in front of us. Amazing! This can only happen in Viet Nam


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

I like this guy style. Really cool! I wish I could get his bag and helmet!


After half an hour going through quite a heavy yet smooth traffic, we reached Ben Thanh market. After we entered the market, hearing that we all spoke Malay, the shop owners there greeted us in Malay! I was amazed the fact that they could also speak Malay. I guessed either they had worked in Malaysia before or perhaps they were Malay Cham who were actually originated from Vietnam, although most of them are now living in Cambodia.

Here, a lot of local goods like handicrafts, clothes and local delicacies were sold. There were also unique and beautiful paintings made from hand-woven thread. I bought a bed sheet set with rose motive made from hand-woven thread too. It was beautiful.

The price here was cheap, provided you knew how to bargain. Shop owners here were very reluctant to let you off unless you bought something from their shops. However, it could work our way if we knew how to bargain. The trick was to ask for a ridiculously low price, then you could match exorbitant price sent initially by the shop owners. In the end, at least you got your desired and reasonable price.

I also saw a few Malaysian shopped there. Perhaps they're preparing for a wedding ceremony by looking at type of cloth they were buying.

Here, you can buy goods in US Dollar, in addition to Vietnamese currency, Dong. The minimum note you can trade is one Dollar. If there is smaller change, it will be in Dong equivalence.

After finishing shopping at Ben Thanh market, we headed back to the airport to catch our next flight to Da Nang.

..to be continued..

From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

One of the entrances at Ben Thanh market, Ho Chi Minh City.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Hand-woven painting from thread are widely sold at Ben Thanh market, Ho Chi Minh City.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

The diagram of Ben Thanh market, Ho Chi Minh City. All types of goods sold here.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Clothes section at Ben Thanh market, Ho Chi Minh City.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Crafts section at Ben Thanh market, Ho Chi Minh City.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Travel to Vietnam Part I

16 June 2008

I was really excited to know that I was going to Vietnam. I'd never been to Vietnam which was recovering fast from war. All I knew when I was kid, Vietnamese were refugees and sought shelter at an island in Terengganu, Malaysia called Pulau Bidong. Locals used to call them 'drift people'. A famous picture portraying a young girl running naked, looked terrified was also still fresh in my mind.

I also remembered a story from a worker at an oil rig telling me that when he just started working there, he saw a mother was hugging her crying baby while she was struggling to keep afloat after her boat crashed onto oil rig pillar. Being under huge stress, the poor mother threw her baby into the sea. The baby was fast carried by raging wave and had not been seen again. The mother kept crying even after she was saved and he couldn't even say a word to see the most terrifying yet sad incident in his life. He wished he did not see that incident.

That was one of the sad stories of Vietnam. However, now everything has changed. Vietnam has awaken up and never looked back. Those years Vietnamese came to Malaysia as refugees, then they came to work and now they went back to contribute to their nation.

Our journey started in the morning. As usual, I pre-booked a taxi with a driver which I normally called. He came sharp at 6.30AM and we reached KLIA at about 7.30AM after going through usual morning rush.

Actually my e-ticket was kept by my colleague. Unluckily, she still hadn't arrived yet as she was still trapped in traffic jam. I was becoming anxious, worried about expected long queues during this morning rush hours at the security check point. After half an hour waiting anxiously, she then arrived, looking tired.

Queues at check-in counters were long. We split into two lanes to gamble if one of us could get to the front first. However, after waiting for so long, the queues still did want to move. Seemed at this time everybody was having problems while checking in. We were nervous, afraid that we might not catch the flight.

Then, I saw an airline guy was walking around to see the situation. I was quickly appeal to him if he could help us. He then asked for the e-ticket and agreed to help us. He brought us to the furthest empty counter from the queues and processed our check-in. We were so relief..

Our problem did not end there. We still had to catch other long queues at the security check point and perhaps the immigration check point as well! At the security check point, we had to ask permission from other people there so that we could cut the queue. However, at the immigration check point, the queues for Malaysian were not long and we could get through very fast.

While we were briskly walking to the departure gate, we saw other friends walking towards us. They already had breakfast. I was a little bit disappointed as we had no time for our morning meal. I was unfortunate but still could have my breakfast in the flight later.

The weather was very clear and our flight took off without any glitches. I could see the greens underneath. Our flight cut across the Titiwangsa Mountains, the backbone of Peninsular Malaysia. While our flight moving Northeast, I could also see Kenyir Lake in Terengganu, which is the biggest man-made lake in South East Asia. I've been there few years back and that was one of the best place for fishing and camping.

From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Terengganu Highlands


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Kenyir Lake, Terengganu.


After few minutes enjoying spectacular view of Kenyir Lake from above, the pilot announced that the passengers could view Kuala Terengganu city on our right hand side. However, I couldn't see as I was seated on the left hand side. Nevertheless, I was lucky as on the left, I could also view beautiful beach at Merang, Terengganu. There was a white line of sand separating blue South China Sea and the green land of Terengganu. After a while, there was another surprise. Our plane was flying over Redang Island! The view was spectacular. We could see white sands at the beach. In shallow water, the water was green and it's where corals lived. Redang Island was one of diving heavens among Terengganu islands.

From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Merang Beach, Terengganu


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Redang Island, Terengganu


While enjoying the beautiful scenery below, my breakfast arrived. I almost forgot that I was hungry. After finishing meal, our plane had actually reached Vietnam shore. There were big rivers flowing between paddy fields. Along the river banks, there were houses. Believed they used rivers as their main tranportation.

..to be continued..

From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

We are flying into Viet Nam.


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

A wide river in Viet Nam


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Agricultural area and river in Viet Nam


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

Paddy fields in Viet Nam


From Vietnam Trip - Ho Chi Minh City

More and more inhabited areas in Viet Nam

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