….but for life not to escape us…

Well, I hope you enjoyed the last set of pictures I put up.

I’m pretty pleased with how they turned out.  I have no intentions of getting into photography, and I will not be buying a dslr which I have to buy another case for and worry about dropping or having stolen.  But it’s just nice when you look at photos later and then go, “wow that would be a good screen background sometime”.

Anyway, I’ve had an eventful couple of days.

I was playing around in HCMC and I took a guided tour of the infamous Cu Chi tunnels, it was really so fascinating! And the guide was an animated storyteller who liked singing.  He did an impromptu singing performance for us.  It was fun.  And then I went to mui ne.  That wasn’t actually a planned stop, but I saw some pictures from someone else that went and they looked very nice, so I thought I’d go.  It was kind of a waste of money.  There’s nothing there other than sand dunes and more sand dunes and incredibly thin cows walking around on the sand dunes. (There’s the beach, if you’re into that…) Plus I wanted to see the famous sunrise, so I paid for a sunrise tour (which wasn’t too bad) but the weather was terrible and the driver got started late and had to pick up eight more people.  By the time he finished getting everyone, the sun (if you can call it that) had risen in the clouds.  And then it rained. :/

Then I went to Nha Trang.  I had hoped to meet my ex roommate but she was on a business trip.  Bad timing, haha.  It’s okay.  I had fun.  The pictures in the last post are from Nha trang.  The Sinitic-style temple is the Long Son Pagoda.  The one made out of bricks is the Po Nagar temple.

And, in Nha Trang, I went cliff jumping.

I went to Ba ho, which is like a nature reserve.

It’s like the place in Jeju.  I like it.

It cost me about $46 to go there and back by taxi because there was no public transportation, and then the impromptu tour guide extorted $18.18 out of me…so it was expensive, but it was really nice.

And then I went back to HCMC to meet my friend again.  I got to meet her baby and other family members. 😀

Now I am in central Vietnam, in Hue, the old capital.

I was originally going to take the plunge and do a couchsurfing arrangement, but that didn’t work out, so I stayed in another hostel.

I went to see the Imperial palace yesterday, it was very nice.

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I saw this eight years ago!! Now it is undergoing renovation. The area around it has become what I imagine as a mini harajuku
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Impressive looking temple/pagoda/shrine

 

District 1

Eleanor’s plan, day 1:

Apply for student visa for next semester (morning)

Taking a long walk, exploring the city, seeing if I recognize anything (afternoon)

Eating dinner with my friend (evening)

I should know by now how this whole visa run thing works, but I forgot an important part.

Visa offices tend to be open shorter hours, and sometimes they are only open in the morning.  And I’m too scared to process this one by mail because I’m not living in one address for a long period of time.  So I made the 45 minute trek to the visa office.

And arrived exactly 13 minutes after they stopped accepting applications.

On Friday.

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Well, I was kind of not too happy, but I continued on with the plan for the day, eating some nice Pho and checking out the Ho Chi Minh City Museum.  The fee for taking photos is more than the entrance ticket price.  So I didn’t take any photos.  It’s an amazing museum though, I wish I had gone eight years ago.  Somewhat of an eccentric collection, this museum contains everything from replicas representing the history of Vietnamese heavy industries and shipping to wedding garments from the minority groups in the region to archaeological treasures.  Then I took a motorbike-taxi back, and later went to meet my friend.

 

Welcome Back

“Ladies and gentlemen, we have arrived to Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Please remain seated with your seat belt fastened until the aircraft comes to a complete stop.  The local time is 3:20 PM.  Thank you for flying with Air Asia.  We hope to see you again soon.”

I’m back.

I’m back in Vietnam.

I’m amazed.  Vietnam was my first destination out of the US, and thus is forever special in my heart.  I came here as a high school student with my family in December 2009 for ten days and I loved every single second.  And I came back! I still can’t believe it.

As soon as the plane stopped moving, I was out of my seat, grabbing my carry-ons and trying not to be squashed by the surging multitude of people behind me doing the exact same thing.

Once I was out of the plane, I ran straight to the passport control, causing people to give me the disapproving “get your act together” look.  They probably thought I was going to miss a flight.  It was just such a great feeling to be returning here, and I couldn’t wait to be out of the airport and into the city.

But even thought I was in a hurry, I did notice a lot of changes to this airport.  It’s significantly more advanced than DMK and not quite to the level of  ICN.  There was a whole rack of immigration officer stations, whereas Bangkok only had four people processing everyone.  In Korea, there were people directing you into clearly marked and defined lines, and there was one of those hi-tech glass gates for each station.

I got an e-visa this time, so I was holding on to my cell phone with the visa screenshot, earnestly hoping there wouldn’t be any problem for not printing it out.  The immigration officer looked at the screen for the longest ten seconds of my life, and then let me through.  Praise God.

But anyway, I went and stood at the top of the escalator, looking down to the luggage area. I remember doing this eight years ago as well.  There are more luggage carousels than last time.  The floors are new, with white, sparkling linoleum as opposed to the grungy floor in my memory.  The luggage carts are new as well.  In addition, multiple SIM card and currency exchange booths provide color and interest to the landscape.  There is now also air conditioning in the airport.

As always, more to come!

Other than Bangkok

I think Chiangmai was my favorite. There were seemingly temples every 100 meters, it was crazy.  Chiangmai was also slightly less hot.  (Right now I’m just dying in this abominable Bangkok heat.)


I didn’t make it to any of the elephant sanctuaries or cooking classes (I’m on a budget, remember?) but I did manage to get out and go running a couple times, and I even made it to a rock climbing gym!

In short, I enjoyed my time here. 🙂

 

classically Thai

Top things to do in Bangkok:

  1. Get lost. (S)
  2. Get hopelessly lost. (S)
  3. Spend a lot of money in taxis because you’re so lost. (S)
  4. Visit temples (S)
  5. Visit more temples (W)
  6. Go on a pre-arranged tour of Ayuttha (a series of comparatively ancient temples) (W)
  7. Get ripped off when purchasing a tour to the floating market (S)
  8. Visit the floating market (S)
  9. Buy tourist junk at the floating market (W)
  10. Buy more tourist junk on Khao San road (S)
  11. Drink Chang and Singha on Khao San road (W)
  12. Go visit the bank (S)
  13. Go visit the visa service center (S)
  14. Ride the BTS, MRT, and Airport Rail line. (S)
  15. Eat street food (S)
  16. Get minor food poisoning from street food (S)
  17. Build up extreme heat tolerance (S)

Some of these things are better done with a friend.  For your reference, I’ve annotated the ones you can do by yourself with (S) and the ones you should do with someone else (W).

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I’m proud to say that with the exceptions of numbers 10 and 11, I have completed every one of these things. (I’m going to buy tourist junk in Chinatown on my last couple days.)

I’m not going to bother telling you about me getting lost, it’s already happened so many times I don’t even remember each incident clearly. (Not that I really care to do so, jajaja) Chances are also, that if you’re reading this, you probably already know who I am and that I have a high propensity of getting lost easily.

Getting ripped off: I was reviewing my last posts and realized I hadn’t told this story here.  Well.  I booked a tour for 550 that should have been 250.  (And then had to pay an extra 150 on top of that.) And I booked it for 3 people because I thought my friends would come with me.  But they had already made plans. 😦 So that was just dumb.  Someone made a really nice commission off me that day.

But I’ve enjoyed the temple-hopping here, both on my own and with others. I met up with my friend from the Dankook exchange program and went on the Ayuttha tour with him. (Ayuttha was one of the old Thai kingdoms and the ruins are a designated UNESCO heritage site.)

Moving on, I had to make the trek out to the Thailand branch of my bank in order to inform the USA branch/call center to let them know I was travelling.  This was very inconvenient, but I feel special now.  Probably not so many tourists say they went all the way to the bank to make a phone call.

The bank is located inside the Central World shopping mall.  I’ve got to say, the shopping malls here and in the Philippines are pretty darn intense–more than 5 floors, with large, spacious interiors, shiny tile floors and most importantly out here, STRONG AIR CONDITIONING.

I also had to visit the China Visa Service center…but I didn’t finish applying because I was missing a document.

I rode all three modes of train here in Bangkok. It was fine.  I think that’s just going to be one of my travel idiosyncrasies–that I make it a point to ride the metro system in every place I visit.  Like how I try to visit a library or a bookstore in every place I visit, despite not being able to read anything.

The beer was okay.  It tasted like fermented wheat juice with alcohol.  😛 I wouldn’t call myself an alcohol connoisseur,  but I was super curious to try the Chang and Singha, purely because there are a lot of tourist t-shirts with Chang logos, and I like the word “Singha”.  It sounds good. Strong and powerful. Plus the logo is even better than the Chang logo.

I’ve enjoyed the street food, but the portion sizes are pretty small, so I get hungry again later.  And last night I think I had mild food poisoning, because my stomach was hurting. (Don’t worry, I’m fine. I’ll just be a little more careful from now.)

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The temple outside the airport

 

Posting after the fact, but it’s one of those stories that I do believe will become immortal.  Well, actually, in a sense, all stories are immortal…okay, let’s not go there today.

So.  I was stuck in the Bangkok airport. FOR 22 HRS.

I could have taken a taxi back to downtown Bangkok and spent another night in a different hostel, but seeing that I had already been quite a generous contributor to Bangkok’s taxi industry, I was not inclined to do that.

I could have paid extra to change my flight again, because it was comparatively inexpensive, but at this point in time and in life, I have more time than money, so I decided to just wait.

For 22 hours.

(Well, I’m not going to count the other 2-3 hours that passed while I went out exploring around the area.  These pictures are a result of that.)

Now, this is my fault, because I booked a flight ticket for 1 July, and my friend told me they had changed their flight to 30 June because the 1 July flight had been cancelled.  So I wasn’t too careful when I bought the ticket…because I assumed all flights to Chiang Mai on July 1 had been cancelled.  I don’t know how I arrived at this conclusion.  I really don’t.

This makes me kind of mad.  This is the THIRD time within the span of 5 months where I’ve spent a significant amount of time in an airport.  (22 hrs has got to be a record.) also the third time where I got the flight details wrong.  I can’t believe it’s the third time.

But anyway, there was a nice convenient bridge to go outside the airport.  I seriously debated about whether I trusted myself enough to leave the airport and make it back without getting so lost that I actually missed my flight, but I got so bored waiting I decided to risk it.

But I made it back, hallelujah.

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