Thursday, July 30, 2009

Sapa, Vietnam

Busy Sapa market on a Saturday.
H'mong tribe people throng the market. Note the huge rattan shopping basket they carry on their backs

These are the beautiful mountains in northern Vietnam. Beyond them is Yunnan in China. Northern Vietnam is mountainous, ideal for trekking.

Apart from Halong Bay in North Vietnam, the cool mountain resort of Sapa north-west of Hanoi is another must-see attraction. An overnight train ride from Hanoi is all it takes to reach the area. What draw visitors to Sapa are the people from the various hill tribes in the north and the beautiful mountain ranges bordering Yunnan in China. For the hardy, a trek to the villages or mountains is a priority. In the crisp cool air of Sapa, your spirits soar and all your anxiety melts away. No kidding.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Karnival Turis Indonesia di Singapura (Indonesia Tourism Carnival in Singapore)

Saya sering melawat Indonesian sejak dua puluh tahun dulu. Pada pendapat saya, Indonesia ia lah satu negara yang indah sekali. Foto atas menunjukan karnival turis Indonesia di Singapura. Tujuannya nyata - untuk menggalakan warga Singapura melawat Indonesia.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Hanoi, Vietnam

For me street life is every country is unique, and I found Vietnam fascinating as it's very much different from Singapore which is cosmopolitan and ultra modern. Here an inter-city bus had just arrived, and people were waiting patiently for the goods to be unloaded from the bus roof (note the the conical hats worn by the women).

Bottled gas sold by the roadside. No, the woman is not a masked warrior belonging to some secret sect -the mask is ward off the swirling dust and air pollution, the latter thanks to the millions of motor-bikes in Vietnam.

Don't scoff at this skinny bike - it's capable of herculean tasks.

June is the lychee season. So cheap that I had them for lunch and dinner.

I'm sure the manufacturer of this three-wheeler didn't have this in mind.

Halong Bay, Part 2, Vietnam

Vietnam has 5 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, with Halong Bay being one of them (Malaysia has 3, Thailand 5, Indonesia 7 and Sri Lanka 7, just to give a few examples). But can Halong Bay qualify as one of the 7 natural wonders of the world? Let the reader vote.

On a cruise in Halong Bay, our boatman moored his junk near this cave for a little exploration.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Halong Bay, Vietnam

This is even better than the cruise ship I took some time back.
Halong Bay, the spectacularly scenic bay in North Vietnam, consists of thousands of limestone karst islands of varying sizes rising from the placid waters like so many sentinels standing guard is a must-see attraction.

A UNESCO World Heritage Site, it's best seen from the privacy of a junk like the one in the picture. Large tourist boats are available but be prepared to be elbowed in the chest and other body parts.

With me were a European couple. I sat on an arm chair as we cruised silently through the bay. At mid-day we anchored off an island, and had a refreshing dip in the cool water. The European couple swam to the island about 100 metres away to frolic on the beach there. But since I couldn't even pass my swimming tests I decided not to pretend I was the next Michael Phelps in the making.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Best and worst airports to sleep in

Have you ever slept in an airport? I have when I arrived in a foreign country in the wee hours of the morning. The reason is not to save a few bucks but to thwart the thieving vultures who emerge late at night to relieve travellers of their money.

According to the travel website A Guide to Sleeping at Airports, Changi Airport in Singapore is the best airport for sleeping followed by Seoul's Incheon, Amsterdam's Schiphol and Hong Kong's.

Know which are the worst? Well, Moscow's, Delhi's and Charles De Gaulle are some of the worst, followed by JFK and LA's LAX in USA.

In Changi, you can even eat off the pristine floor. No kidding.

Airports I have slept in: Brunei, Bangkok and Sri Lanka. Nothing remarkable about these airports.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Halong Bay, Vietnam

Halong Bay: Undoubtedly one of the must-see attractions in north Vietnam, Halong Bay is a UNESCO World Heritage site. One way to cruise the bay is on a tourist boat like the one shown in the photo but I preferred the old-fashioned way of cruising on a junk (to be described in my next blog post)

Halong Bay: Fishermen in action.

Halong Bay: The calm waters is perfect for a leisurely cruise.

Who can resist a cruise in such placid surroundings?

Friday, July 17, 2009

Hoan Kiem Lake in Hanoi, Vietnam

Probably the most photographed bridge in Vietnam. It leads to the temple by Hoan Kiem Lake.
Jade Mountain Lake Temple by the lake.

Panoramic view of Hoan Kiem Lake (lake of the returned sword). An interesting legend is associated with the lake. Situated in the Old Quarters of Hanoi, it's a lively area with cafes, bus stations and locals out for a stroll. But beware of scammers and pickpockets. Someone tried to open my backpack but fortunately I was vigilant. Young girls will befriend you but it's wise to simply ignore them unless you want to end up robbed (happened to a friend whose commonsense suddenly deserted him).

Seniors enjoying a game of Chinese chess.

Brew your own coffee. The coffee brewing paraphernalia makes a good souvenir or gift.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Hanoi, Vietnam

A roadside mechanic: Vietnamese life, social and business, seems to revolve largely on the streets.
Hanoi traffic: Vietnam has millions of motor-bikes. Renting one is dirt cheap but it can be a scary experience to plunge into the maelstrom of Vietnamese traffic.

A street for toys: Hanoi still retains its old world charm. Compared to bustling Saigon,where construction work on new office blocks and apartments goes on at a frenetic pace, Hanoi is leisurely. In the old city, each street is devoted to one craft or business.

A toys street

The lychee hawker: In season, lychee are incredibly cheap.

These days more and more people are venturing to Vietnam. Unlike the hordes of backpackers and tourists you inevitably bump into in Thailand, Vietnam is comparatively quiet on the tourist front. But the momentum is gradually gathering pace so go before it's too late. Go while you can still have miles of pristine, golden beach all to yourself.


Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Lower Peirce Reservoir, Singapore

Lower Peirce Reservoir
The boardwalk
A peaceful corner of the reservoir.

Lower Perice Reservoir (off Upper Thomson Road) is quieter and less crowded than MacRitchie Reservoir. The boardwalk is not as long as the one in MacRitchie. From the entrance it takes only 15 minutes to cover its length. Being quieter, this reservoir is ideal for walking meditation.

Monday, July 13, 2009

MacRitchie Reservoir, Singapore

Anyone knows the name of this plant?
A forest path

The boardwalk.

The boardwalk affords a scenic view of the reservoir

MacRitchie Reservoir

MacRitchie Reservoir in Singapore is very popular with joggers and trekkers. The boardwalk enables visitors to get a close-up look at the lush foliage without getting their feet dirty. But really a walk in the forest confers greater enjoyment.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Hakkiduwa beach Part 2, Sri Lanka

Photos above show Hakkiduwa beach.
Best budget accomodation: Richard's Son Beachside Bungalows, next to beach, spacious compound with shady trees and hammocks, clean and well-maintained ,1000 rupees (June 09)

Hakkiduwa Beach, Sri Lanka

Negombo beach

Being an island, Sri Lanka is blessed with many beautiful beaches. Many are deserted, and you can have the whole place to yourself and perhaps imagine you're Robinson Crusoe.
Many travellers first acquaintance with the beach here is in Negombo because this town is the nearest to the airport. However, the beaches here are overrun with a kind of seaweed.

Hakkiduwa in the south-west has better beaches.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

The crows of Sri Lanka

Sri Lanka must have the largest crow population in the world. In many countries they are regarded as pests. In Singapore we used to have the same problem but the crow population is kept under control by culling (shooting) them. Cruel maybe but it's the only way.

In Sri Lanka I couldn't spot smaller birds like the house sparrow. Not surprising since the crows have muscled them out. Even at the airport I saw crows roaming the skies. I don't understand why the airport authorities don't see them as a potential danger to aircraft. Crows also compete with dogs for food scraps.

And when I walked under trees I was nearly bombed by their shit.

Surprisingly, Sri Lankan remain unflappable.

Three guys from Slovenia told me in their country crows can be taught to talk like parrots!

I hope Sri Lanka will do something to curb the crow population. It would be nice to see other bird species as well.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Ella Part 3, Sri Lanka

Ella school.

An old-fashioned school bell.

This is not what you think but the school canteen.

A classroom and office.

Morning assembly

Having been an educationist all my life, I never miss the opportunity to visit a local school.

So imagine my delight when I stumbled on this school in the little village of Ella while out on a stroll in a country lane.

I caused quite a stir among the students who were having their morning assembly. After the assembly the students would have a meal prepared by the villagers and paid for by the government.

As you can see from the photos, the school is very modest. Despite this I am sure Sri Lankan teachers work very hard to educate the younger generations.