Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Holidays in Bangkok - Day 1: Arrival

Today is my first day in Bangkok, and I'm using Blogspot in Thai language! God knows how to turn to English, I just can't see the button to change the language, so I am just clicking here and there, and by sheer I am.

Arrived at the new Bangkok airport at around 4.30 pm, when mom and I got the rented Honda Jazz from Avis, it was already about 5.30 and by the time we reached the hotel it was 8 pm (the internet said 45 mins to reach the area where we are staying for today)! Thanks to the massive traffic jam, and not very sure of which turnings to take to our hotel, we had to take a big detour, as instead of turning left at one junction, I decided to turn right, and hence took another 1.5 hours to turn back. The traffic police screamed at me as I couldn't tell which road to turn and which one not to. Too bad I didn't understand Thai and he couldn't speak a word of English...oh well.

We walked about 5 minutes from the hotel for dinner at a cafe called Cafe Nero, I ordered soft shelled crab served on rice and fried Thai basil and stir-fry vegetables in green peppercorns...yummy yummy. Mom has roast chicken leg served on rice and stir-fry veggies...Too bad I didn't bring my camera along with me.

I forgot to bring my power adapter and I have only 40% of battery life left on my Macbook...Oh well. I guess I just have to try to buy an adapter from the supermarket tomorrow.

The hotel we are staying tonight sucks...Run down and in bad shape...But oh well, we only paid 1100 baht a night so that's very cheap considering it's Christmas season and everywhere else that I saw on the internet were easily 2000 baht and above for one night...

Thank goodness we're just staying here for one night...and tomorrow morning we're driving off to Hua Hin and Cha-Am to stay at the beach...hopefully a nicer hotel!

Till I post again, it's time to shower and sleep, it's now at 10 pm as I type...Too tiring driving in the massively-jammed Bangkok...The car didn't move an inch for 20 mins when we were in somewhere near Westin Hotel in Sukhumvit...(please pardon my grammar as I am really lazy to read through haha...) No photos taken yet...hopefully will take some tomorrow!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Curry Chicken Rice and My Missing-In-Action

I have been really really busy and have not had time to update my blog since my last post on my Hanoi trip. Right now as I am writing, I am down with a bad flu and coughing badly. My throat hurts and I hope I don't lose my voice cuz I make a living by talking! (Interpreting rather...)

However, I have been still posting food photos to flickr diligently and from now onwards if there're no updates on my blog, you are most welcomed to view my photos here.

My latest creation was curry chicken rice, I made it just to shoot the photos! Too bad I couldn't eat much of it as it made me cough...

What do you think of my new pictures? I think I've improved a lot since I first taken photos with my Canon EOS 350D! This batch of photos were taken with my new toy, the Canon 50mm f1.4 lens...

Sunday, October 21, 2007

My Hanoi Trip

Sorry guys. I didn't keep to my promise, wasn't able to blog from Hanoi as my trip schedule was very packed and I was away on the sea and off the coast for a few days, so didn't manage to use the computer much, even though there was free computer access at the hotel in Hanoi. And when I came back to KL, I had 1001 things to attend to and didn't have the time to blog at all (but I still managed to post photos to my flickr album :P). I'll briefly go through how my trip went in Hanoi, incorporating the food and dishes I've tried in Hanoi and Halong Bay. I went with mom and we were there for 5 days from September 21 - 25.

Day 1: Arrived in Hanoi.

Our flight left LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal of Malaysia) at 6.35 am so mom and I had to leave the house at 4.30 am! Reached Hanoi about 9-ish am (Hanoi was one hour behind us). We didn't do much after we checked in at the hotel in the Old Quarters. We just walked around and looked for a place to have lunch. Nothing special, just some beef pho (rice noodle soup) and we went back to the hotel and crashed (lacked of sleep the night before!). Hanoi reminded me of Malaysia (particularly my home town Teluk Intan) in the 80's, with lots of people riding motorcycles (most without helmets) and bicycles. After a nap, we took a taxi to the West Lake area and walked around...went to visit the oldest Buddhist pagoda in Hanoi (Tran Quoc Pagoda) there, had coffee at Highland Coffee (I call it the Vietnamese Starbucks hehe) on the lake, walked around the Hoan Kiem lake area after that, had dinner and waited for the famous water puppet show to start.

Woman selling flowers on bicycle in the Old Quarters.

Another bicycle vendor and motorcycles in the background.

West Lake, Hanoi.

Oldest Pagoda in Hanoi, Tran Quoc Pagoda

Had coffee at Highlands Coffee at West Lake

The water puppet show was really amazing and worth watching. Even though the whole show was in Vietnamese but my mom and I totally enjoyed it. Went back to the hotel after the show and retired early as we had to get up at 6 am the next day to catch the tour to Halong Bay.

Water puppet show

Day 2: Halong Bay

We had breakfast at the hotel but it wasn't very good, I just had a bowl of beef noodle soup and some fruits. The tour van picked us up at 7.30 am and headed towards Halong Bay. It was a long road journey, took us about 3 hours to reach the jetty where we boarded our Imperial Junk boat. Tonight, we would spend the night in the cabin on the boat. The boat took us on a cruise passing thousands of islets. Halong Bay is recognized by UNESCO as a World Natural Heritage Area for its exceptional scenic beauty and outstanding geological and geomorphic values.

After lunch on the boat, we visited the amazing Sung Sot cave then went to an island (with man-made beach) for a swim and we walked up 400+ steps to the gazebo at the top to view the spectacular scenery of Halong Bay.

After we got back to the boat, we showered, had dinner on boat and crashed off for an early night in the cabin on the boat docked on the quiet and calm sea.

Our Imperial Junk Boat (the one in the middle)

Other junk boats, from the view of our boat

One of the dishes for our first lunch of the tour
Beautiful Halong Bay from a gazebo on top of an islet

The amazing Sung Sot Cave, really huge! (See the people walking? It's just a fraction of the huge cave)

Halong Bay from Sung Sot Cave.

Another view of Halong Bay from Sung Sot Cave.

Night scene from the window of our cabin.

Day 3: Cat Ba National Park, Viet Hai Village, Cat Ba Island

A day filled with exciting and challenging activities. We cycled for about 45 minutes from the jetty to Viet Hai village situated in Cat Ba National Park, stopped for a drink, then walked to an ancient house (built based on the ancient architecture of Vietnam) through the primitive rainforest and back to where we parked our bicyle to cycle back to the jetty. I was really amazed with my mom who insisted on cycling though one local Vietnamese guy kept riding his motorcycle next to her and tried to persuade her to take his motorcycle (with a fee of course! Cycling was free).

We went back to the boat for lunch and boy it tasted really good as we were really hungry after the cycling trip! The tour crew prepared 7 dishes for us and we finished almost everything!

Above two pictures were taken during my cycling trip in Cat Ba National Park.

The so-called ancient house, was originally meant to be a resort but the construction was abandoned.

Paddy fields en route on my cycling trip back from Viet Hai Village

BBQ prawns for lunch, fresh from the sea around us!

After lunch we were supposed to kayak for 2 hours to Monkey Island/Lan Ha Lagoon for a swim but it was so tiring that mom and I gave up after 45 minutes and kayakked back to the boat instead of heading towards the island.

After that the boat took us to the beach where the rest of the group was swimming and we headed to Cat Ba Island to check in to our resort. Boy, we were really tired and sore! The resort we stayed in had a beautiful beach and was very quiet. We had a 7 course dinner (again) to ourselves (the rest of the group stayed in a cheaper hotel in Cat Ba town) and slept early as we were really tired.

Mom kayakking, I was sitting in the front of the kayak.

Floating village near Cat Ba island.

Photos of Sunrise Resort, where we stayed in Cat Ba town.

My breakfast in Sunrise Resort: Bacon, sausages, pancake etc.

My breakfast in Sunrise Resort: Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup.

Day 4: Back to Hanoi

We woke up at 5.30 am and walked on the cement pavement to the other side of Cat Ba Island from Sunrise Resort, hoping to see the sunrise but we were disappointed. Came back to the hotel to have a great breakfast and met up with the rest of the tour group and headed back to Halong town (where we boarded the boat to Halong Bay), had lunch at a local restaurant, and back to Hanoi.

When we reached Hanoi and after checking in at the hotel, we went to a famous restaurant to try the Cha Ca La Vong, recommended by our tour guide, a restaurant that is famous for just one dish, grilled fish or cha ca. It was a very special dish, worth trying.

The condiments that came with the fried fish (cha ca).

The fish being fried with the herbs in oil on a small stove.

Cha ca ready to be eaten...served with peanuts, some "secret" sauce and rice noodles. Yummy yummy....

Day 5 (last day): Props hunting day

I did not forget one of the main reasons I came to Hanoi - to shop for props for my food photography! Managed to get to Hang Da market that sells lots of ceramics and crafts, besides the normal vegetables, fruits, fish and meat...Spent more than RM 300 just on props (who say Vietnam is cheap???) and souvenirs for my friends! I wish I could buy and carry more though...:-(

Props heaven in Hang Da market!

Mom standing in the background with the ceramics vendors (can you see her?)

These cute little Vietnamese pineapples were just slightly bigger than my fist!

After finished shopping, we walked back to the hotel to pack, checked out and went hunting for lunch. Found a "food court" that looked quite posh with lots of people sitting and queing up. And cheap too! We spent only about RM 25 for 5 dishes and 2 drinks! The "food court" (I found out later from the internet, called Quan An Ngon) is as follows: "Quan An Ngon got started in HCM City five years ago, and judging by the lunch and evening crowds, its new Ha Noi branch seems to be as popular as its southern predecessor. The concept was to assemble the ‘best of street food’ in a setting more conducive to enjoying smart lunches and sultry evening meals. Experienced food-vendors were transplanted from Ha Noi streetsides into a gentrified version of a bustling food market, dressed up in tunics, and stationed at rustic stalls around the perimeter of a large courtyard. Guests dine in the lush courtyard among potted trees under a large canvas marquis, or in one of the large dining rooms or on the balcony in the spacious adjoining villa," writes Johny Shaw in The Vietnam News.

All the above are pictures from Quan An Ngon.

After lunch, we went to our last stop, Museum of Etnology to look at the various different tribes (cultures and houses) in Vietnam. It rained very heavily so we didn't manage to check out all the real model houses (actual sizes) but it was worth visiting!

All pictures above were taken at the Museum of Etnology, Vietnam.

Rushed back to the hotel after that and time to leave Hanoi! Our flight was at 8.30 pm. All I can say is that Vietnam is worth visiting and I'll be back again to visit some other parts! It has so many unique attractions and cultures and so much character!

What I have also gained on the side is the time I spent travelling with my mom. This is the first time that I travelled overseas together with my mom. I normally travel alone. I think we're a lot closer now! (What I think anyway...)

(More photos of Halong Bay and Hanoi can be viewed on my flickr album.)

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Last batch of mooncake photos

Well, my friend Wai Quan lent me her EOS 350D so that I can take it to Hanoi, while waiting for my own 350D to be fixed. Boy, I have been having so much withdrawal for not having my dslr with me, felt so handicapped and disturbed. I felt like my heart and soul is back now haha....But her camera has got some firmware problems, it doesn't shoot in RAW mode and there are no White Balance settings and color tone. Still better than my point and shoot though. At least I've got the lenses and exposure to play with.

Don't think I'm making anymore mooncakes before Mid-autumn festival as I'm leaving for my long-awaited vacation in Hanoi tomorrow. Well my hotel room has got free internet access so I am gonna take lots of pictures there and hopefully upload some of the food photos from there.

I'm typing this from a cafe not far from my client's office, while waiting for my interpreting project to start in an hour's time or so. My internet connection at home is dead at the moment (Apparently I forgot to pay the bill and they have temporarily suspended me, how cruel! What's life (and work) without the internet man!!!) So I'm just quickly uploading all the images while I have access to the internet.

The next post will be from Hanoi I hope...the purpose of the trip is to take lots (and lots and lots) of photos (scenery, people and of course food!), do some shopping for props (key objective hehe) and eat! And by the way, my lighting set is coming sooooooooon and I am so damn happy....finally able to set up my food photography studio!