Singapore 2016 || Artscience Museum, Gardens by the Bay, Merlion Park & Makansutra

I write this down, with hives all over my body and the urge to scratch every inch of my skin. If you follow me on Instagram (@teeshue, because shameless plugging) and has watched my stories, you would know how I am now on Day 6 of my breakout. It was strange, really. I have no known food allergies (safe to say the imaginary allergies I’ve invented to get out of eating things I don’t like will never be used again), and I was shocked to find red dots peppering my face one morning. I had seafood ramen the night before (I’m looking at you Yushoken), and didn’t experience any adverse effects until I woke up the next morning. What started off as small red spots, turned into lumpy hives and an immediate trip to the emergency room. I spent a few hours with a heplock on my left hand where they proceeded to flush in the medication. One of the medications stung even if it was diluted, the other had me so dizzy I felt nauseous just having my eyes open, and the other one was to prevent a stomach ache that was threatening to happen. I got wheeled around for tests, and all of them came back with positive, albeit, useless news. They could see no infections, nothing wrong with my blood work, and even my lungs are fine (they took a chest x-ray). I was prescribed meds, told to go on a hypoallergenic diet (summary: nothing tastes good), and was discharged. Every day, the hives keep looking more prominent, the spots have spread, merged, and you can’t even distinguish one from the other. It feels like I have a world map of hives all over my body, and maybe if I look hard enough, I’d find Russia by my shoulders. Ugh. I try to avoid expletives, but everything is so fucking itchy. So. Fucking. Itchy.

I can’t help but wish I was back on vacation where most of our daily problems revolve around where to eat in. Since we woke up quite late on our third day in Singapore, we headed to the nearest mall’s food court to have brunch. we decided on chicken rice. When in Singapore, do as Singaporeans do. And I bet it’s safe to assume that it’s chicken rice. 😉 (Now I’m sad because I can’t eat poultry!!!)

Our itinerary for the day was actually Singapore Flyer, Artscience Museum, Gardens by the Bay, and Merlion Park. However, my brother who was celebrating his birthday vetoed the Singapore Flyer idea. I couldn’t really argue with that because it’s not his cup of tea, so we headed to Artscience Museum as well. We initially were headed to the Gardens by the Bay, until I remembered that we were supposed to go there late in the afternoon so it wouldn’t be too hot to roam around.

The train station is connected to The Shoppes at Marina Bay Sands, and oh boy, the place just reeks of opulence. How opulent, you ask? Well they have mini gondolas and an indoor version of a canal. Visitors could pay for a ride but I have long made a promise that I will not subject myself to gondola rides unless it’s on Venetian waters.

There was a fair amount of walking that needed to be done from the station to the museum. We basically just walked the entire length of the mall, and although it was a little intimidating to be surrounded by things I probably would never buy in this lifetime, it was fun to see how the other side lives. Haha! But in all honesty, there was a point in time in my youth where I probably would not even step inside the place, or rush if I really needed to go through. Now that I’m making my own money, I found a tiny bit of confidence to go to fancy places. 🙂

The museum is pretty hard to miss once you are in the vicinity of it. It’s this huge weird shaped structure that is supposed to resemble an open lotus flower, hence, it was surrounded by actual lotus flowers. I personally do not see the resemblance as it looks more like a futuristic spaceship to me. And since we’re already on the topic of spaceships, one of the ongoing exhibits when we visited was on NASA – A Human Adventure.

Inside the exhibit was a plethora of novelty items and space-themed memorabilia. When they first launched satellites and sent astronauts to space, a lot of children’s items was released for the public too.

There were also non-working prototypes of machinery, satellite parts, and even the ship they boarded to go to the moon. Museum visitors can also pay for a ride where they mimic the sensations of being aboard a ship that takes off from Earth. We paid to get into it, and it was quite an educational experience. Outside, you see the contraption rotate at a high speed. But while onboard, there was a perception of one moment where gravity had a grip on you, and suddenly you are released. It is quite difficult to put into writing.

Another exhibition on the same floor (which was the basement), is Future World. It’s an interactive exhibit which is great if you are visiting with children. Hell, I’m not even a kid and we spent a good chunk of our time here. You have options to draw a variety of things and species which you are able to virtually add on to a town or the sea, and these boards even respond to external forces (I didn’t know how to phrase it appropriately haha). One can disturb drawn on marine animals and they will scatter! How adorable is that? There was also an installation of how land and sea has changed over the years, and it was so easy to get lost in it especially because there were bean bags in the middle.

The last exhibit we went to is Journey to Infinity: Escher’s World of Wonder. It’s at the highest level of the museum, and among the three exhibits, it had the most ‘museum’ vibe to it. Walls are lined with the work of M.C. Escher. Like me, you may not be that familiar with his name. But if you see those illusions of seemingly endless puzzles – well, it is his life’s work. His interest in it was both born from nature and math, and how the two is intertwined. Fascinating stuff. There was also a gift shop full of puzzles somewhere inside the exhibit.

Heading back to the station, we passed by TWG, and I wanted to try it out. It’s a Singaporean brand which has already expanded in Manila, and I was torn whether to try their Singapore branch as well. The sibs left the decision up to me, and I ended up suggesting having cakes in Bakerzin instead. So we walked all the way back to the station and had to go the other way from where we came through to get to Gardens by the Bay. It was high noon at the time, and the sun unforgiving, that we paid for all-day shuttle rides to get to the domes (and essentially, Bakerzin). Instead of cakes, though, we ended up ordering snacks that were.. frankly, just disappointing. Head to Bakerzin for their cakes and nothing else – is a tip I would give to anyone willing to listen.

My sister ordered the carbonara (bland!), and, the birthday boy and I, both had unappetizing fish and chips.

I bought tickets to both conservatories via KLOOK, which is a ticketing app for tourist attractions in Asia. There was a minimal discount if you buy from the app, and I double-checked with the actual prices to make sure that I was buying them for less than they cost. What? I may not look like it, but I’m also frugal in so many ways.

Entering the Flower Dome was magical. Aside from the temperature drop (vacationing in a tropical country when you come from one isn’t the most fun thing to do), the entire dome was oozing with Christmas spirit. I admittedly had been the Grinch this past holiday, but even I could feel myself becoming festive inside the dome. There were nutcrackers and ballerinas spinning inside enormous snow globes, winter-themed Christmas trees, and fake snow. I would really like real snow now, please.

The temperature is centrally maintained for the upkeep of the plants that are used to this climate. I’m not sure if most of the flora and fauna in the place can survive the high heat outside, but most of them were imported from places of cooler climate.

I wasn’t able to guess by looking at it outside (maybe because I was too near), but this place is huge! Given that, you’d find there were a lot of couples who decided that it was the perfect place to get their prenuptial photos taken. The couple below weren’t the only couple having their photos taken that day.

The other conservatory, Cloud Forest might even be the bigger of the two, with its own manmade waterfall! How crazy is that! Seeing all this, it’s pretty hard to imagine how small of a country Singapore really is. The balance between nature and the high rise buildings over at Singapore does not tip excessively either way.

Visitors can take the lift to get to the walkway up top. I did not expect it to be that high, but it was.

Below the waterfall is the secret garden, filled with tropical rainforest shrubbery.

If we’re going to be honest, we hanged out around the Supertree Grove to wait for it to light up before taking photos. But we got bored and being bitten by mosquitoes while waiting turned us off the idea.

Our last stop for the day is The Merlion Park. On our way there, we passed by The Fullerton Hotel. It looks so majestic from the outside.

It was a hot and humid evening that we grabbed the opportunity to buy smoothies from the nearby stall. Bleh! I had the mango flavored one and it was the embodiment of artificial in a cup.

A nice moment though was while we were trying to take selfies with the big Merlion in the background, a fellow tourist offered a hand. She even took them in different angles! (I’m not sharing it here though because it was too dark and I would need to edit it first which I’m real lazy to do)

Since it was my brother’s birthday, dad was meeting up with us at Esplanade so we could all walk over to Makansutra. Unfortunately, it rained when we got there and it made it harder to find a table we could occupy. The diners of the tables outside of the covered area (they had tents erected) immediately rushed to find another table and we were left to wait for other people to finish their dinner. We did get to eat so much food later that the wait was worth it!

We’ve been to Singapore countless times, but this was the first time I tried chili crab. I enjoyed dipping the bread in the sauce. (Now I’m craving again!!!)

Singapore 2016 || Travel Highlights

Last year, I bought me and my siblings’ tickets to Cebu and ‘sponsored’ an out of town trip instead of buying them birthday and Christmas gifts. We were there for four days, and it was there where I promised that trips will be my presents from then on. This year, I decided that I must up my game and treat the siblings to an out of the country trip. Not trying to be sentimental, but having mom die so near the holiday season have unfortunately drained us out of yuletide feels (although I am hoping this is temporary). It’s the second year where it was noticeable how much our house lacked any hint it was nearing Christmas (aside from our festive red and green curtains).We decided on Singapore being our destination since our dad was based there and we would save a great deal of money by staying with him in his flat. Sure, we can go anywhere else as it really is a ridiculously expensive country, but I managed by spending half my year saving up for this trip. All my night shift premium and salary bonuses went to flying us three to The Lion City. And as I’ve said over at Instagram (@teeshue), it is the trip I am most proud of for that past four years where I’ve been paying for my own trips.

We decided on Singapore being our destination since our dad was based there and we would save a great deal of money by staying with him in his flat. Our trip was supposed to cover both Christmas and New Year’s, extending the trip to longer than two weeks. However, my sister needs to go back to school early. Sure, we can go anywhere else as it really is a ridiculously expensive country, but I managed by spending half my year saving up for this trip. All my night shift premium and salary bonuses went to flying us three to The Lion City. And as I’ve said over at Instagram (@teeshue), it is the trip I am most proud of for that past four years where I’ve been paying for my own trips. The sibs may annoy me so much that I’ve literally thought about strangling them, but I have no regrets over spending my money on them. Heh. 😛

Taiwan 2016 || DG Hotel (Daodaocheng Garden Hotel)

I don’t think I will ever be the type to be a backpacking traveler. The fact that I have back pains resulting from poor posture and my sudden weight gain (I’m unfortunately an emotional eater and the past year have been a rollercoaster of emotions), I am physically limited to carrying light luggage in order to not strain my upper body. I also rarely manage to get so much bang for my buck, because I make mini splurges here and there, which includes blowing a good portion of my budget on accommodations alone. I really admire those who can do it long term and I have high hopes that there will come a time where I can travel with them and learn their ways. But for now, let me tour you around this shabby chic boutique hotel I stayed in for my long weekend in Taipei.

C always teases me that I have the affinity to book “hipster” rooms. Even when I’m booking via Airbnb, the rooms I book look like it came out of a Pinterest board. When I chanced upon DG Hotel, I already knew it would be the hotel I’m going to stay in. It was fairly new as it just opened a few months ago (June 2016), and didn’t have any English reviews yet. I knew it was risky to book a room that hasn’t been reviewed extensively yet, but I did the same when I booked Cambana d’Angkor Suites and I was not disappointed. So I went ahead and booked it (primarily because even their website is screaming my name haha).

The hotel is located on Dihua Street. Its location is a treat in itself because the old architecture has been preserved by the government. The area is generally quiet, which is something I like, and does not resemble the busy Taipei I often watch on television. It’s a great exposure to how the locals live because I rarely saw tourists while I mulled around the area. However, the downside to this are the limited food choices. The hotel has a cafe which serves Western cuisine, a wine & tea place beside it (Grand mom’s tea house is only open during lunch (11:30-13:30?) and dinner (19:30-21:30?) and I think a restaurant that is only open for lunch (but closed on Mondays) a block away. Yansan Night Market is a 20-minute walk away but it is only open at night. It is quite accessible since one of Daqiaotou Station’s (Line 4, orange line. Also, one station away to get on the Tamsui line/Line 2 where Taipei Main Station is) entrances is a 10-15 minute walk. A bit of a long walk (with stairs) before you get to board the train though (just a note for people with knee problems). For convenience, you can simply take a cab and the staff will call one for you. Keep one of their calling cards with you for when you take a cab ride back. Fare to and from the airport should not cost you more than 1200 TWD.

Their check-in time is at 3:00 PM. I arrived before 11 AM but I was told of their check in time, so I had to avail of their free wifi to do a quick check of my itinerary before I headed out. It kinda sucked that I wasn’t able to freshen up first, but they did let me avail of a late check out (past 4 PM) on my last day – free of charge.

The staff is very helpful. Although there were times that the language barrier is a challenge, they will drag someone over who is great in English to do the translating. Or literally show you their phones with the directions in English. Someone is available at the reception at all hours (I would know, I got back past midnight and still got to chat with Audrey and this girl with glasses whose name I forgot, sorry!). The hotel door would be closed if you arrived a bit late (maybe around 9 PM?), but you can use your key card or ring the door bell. They do have maps of the area available but it’s in Mandarin. I only took one copy to take note of where the station is, as well as the convenience stores. It would be so much better if they have English ones for foreigners like me. 🙂

The thing that really sold me that I really loved about this hotel is it looked so much better in person than in their photos. Even the smallest details are well thought out. Look at the details of the hotel lobby!

It was not named a garden hotel for it to not be filled with flowers. They have a mix of real and fake plants all over, and there were times I couldn’t tell the difference. I’m not gonna lie, I may have occasionally touched the decor to find out if it was real or plastic. Haha!

Ask anyone who knows me really well and they would tell you that this is probably how my dream house would look like once it’s built. Of course, if I put in C in the picture, I’d have someone veto some of my ideas. Haha!

Even the elevator doors are painted on. One question: CAN I LIVE HERE?

This is the hallway leading to my room on the third floor.

I booked the Joy Double Room and got this quaint space. I had a small sitting space, hangers for my clothes, and unfortunately, no English instructions on how to operate the AC. Haha! That may seem to sound so random, but I have the tendency to adjust the temperature to freezing. I literally had to go on Google to search ‘how to adjust Mandarin AC’. And yes, I realize now while writing this that I should have just called the reception for help *facepalm* but a very short instruction manual would have been great.

They do have some guidelines in the bedside table, but again, it’s all in Mandarin. There’s also a big ass TV in front of your bed, and a box of tissue if maybe you managed to go on a channel where they are showing some Hallmark movie.. But it’s not gonna happen so do not even bother turning on the television unless you understand Mandarin.

The bed is sooo comfortable. The photo below is even taken after I jumped on it – you know, for science. I slept like a baby all three nights of my stay, and I spent the night of my birthday in this bed, eating cheesecake. There’s also an abundance of pillows, because obviously, this room is for two people. Even if I had someone with me, it is guaranteed that we will not be left wanting for pillows. They also have blackout curtains which are great if you plan to nurse hangovers while you’re in Taiwan. Or if you just got out of the shower and do not want to be seen by the neighbors in the apartment building across the street.

Below the sink is the extra towels you can use. The bathroom is probably my favorite part of this room which is weird because I did not even have a tub. But they do have a rain shower head and a detachable shower head. The knobs are pretty easy to figure out. You can also lather as much liquid soap and shampoo on yourself, but for folks with crazy damaged hair like me, bring you own hair products. 😛 You can also adjust the vent in the bathroom. I video called C just to tell him I can click a few buttons and literally dry clothes in the bathroom (thanks to the sun icon in the button, I didn’t need to heed Google for help). But the best part is *drumroll*, the toilet. Aside from the fact that there’s a freaking painting above the toilet, you don’t even have to hold a bidet in your hand! They have a switch with two options: wash your ass or wash your lady parts. Shitting will never be the same again. (Do you guys realize how mind blown I was in Japan and Taiwan? lol)

You can use their safe, water kettle, mini ref, and hair dryer. They also provided a basket of coffee, bottled water, and your usual toiletriesThey replenish this basket every day too. I would know because I hoard hotel toiletries for when I go on vacation where I hoard more toiletries (it’s a vicious cycle). However, what they don’t do is clean the room every day unless you put on a sign at your door. While at home or renting Airbnb rooms I tidy up my things, I don’t really do the same in hotels because hotels got me spoiled, yo. I’m used to getting back to my room at the end of the day with the trash cans empty again and the bed tidied up. My most memorable on was with the staff at Wakeup Copenhagen who were insanely tidy – my already folded up clothes that were stacked in a table was folded up again, albeit more neatly (like how they fold clothes in stores!!). So if you’re like me, do yourself a favor and get that ‘Please clean my room, thank you very much’ sign from your bedside table before you go wander off for the day (they would not tidy your bed, though, but that’s okay).

This is the hallway that leads to the cafe. The hotel has a cafe that opens after breakfast and I’m not sure what time it closes.

But first, let’s discuss, just how adorable this hotel is. I wanted to spend every breakfast just posting photos of it on Instagram (@teeshue, if you’re interested in mine).

I think you can buy those pillows from them? You can ask the staff to confirm. 🙂

They did not miss any details. Whoever did the interior design of this place, all the highest of fives to you. And are you interested in being my friend, and maybe do my future home? (I’m not even kidding at this point)

On Sunday morning, there was this set up where you can toast your own bread and get your own juice/milk/coffee/water/jam/utensils. That was the only time I even had anyone else eat breakfast the same time that I was having my breakfast.

This may seem like it’s open, but there’s a glass wall with that fence. The roof is also made of glass but it’s not unbearably hot inside this air-conditioned area.

Mismatched and floral chairs tied in the look. If there was something disappointing with my stay, it’s the fact that I can’t take all these furniture home with me.

They have huge breakfast servings. It’s big enough that I often eat my lunch late because even with all the walking, I’d still be full. So if you want to go on a food trip in Taiwan, eating breakfast here may not be the best idea. 😛

Overall, I had a great stay over at DG Hotel. Helpful staff, fantastic interiors, and nice rooms. If I’m being honest, it definitely is an expensive choice if you’re planning to just sleep in it (there is another themed hotel I was looking at that was cheaper). However, it’s perfect for a relaxed stay and for special occasions. Have you seen their Exquisite Double Room? If I was honeymoon-ing, I would probably book that! 🙂

DG HotelNo. 334, Section 1, Dihua Street, Datong District, Taipei City, Taiwan 103

P.S. Here is Day 1’s vlog! 🙂

Ho Chi Minh 2015 || Cu Chi Tunnels (and my lack of upper body strength)

The resolve to get all these posts out of my Drafts has strengthened over the weekend so I finally only have this and one more left for Vietnam. After that I can finally move on to writing about the days I spent in Cambodia! The past four months flew by, and the need to keep my mind away from being idle has helped me keep my sanity. Nothing else can drive an over thinker up the walls best than having the time to get the wheels inside your head rolling. Trying to write every day has helped me with that, though. The time I spend writing oils up my rusty machine that produces creativity, and I feel energized to do a lot more (I update my Instagram (@teeshue) more often though so feel free to follow me there!). It also helps reduce this massive backlog – yay for that!

I have read so many articles about the difference between being a traveler and a tourist. I can’t really say I fall into one category because I do like to check out all the tourist spots and eat all the touristy food. I can sleep in a hostel with strangers or stay somewhere with very basic amenities (using ‘very basic’ loosely here), but I’m also willing to shell out extra money for nice hotels. I do book tours but I don’t like the package tours because I like to be in charge of my schedule and itinerary. I want to see everything and I happen to enjoy sitting down in a local cafe to read. So, yeah. I did book a half day tour to Cu Chi Tunnels and had my breakfast while walking on the way there. One of the constants on what to eat in Vietnam lists, banh mi which I bought from a random stall (I just had the guy manning the stall to put in everything lol) for VND 12,000.

I passed by this woman selling tau hu fa (which is reminiscent of the local taho and with a similar name as well) for VND 7,000. It is soybean pudding with coconut milk and ginger. I was a bit flabbergasted when I tasted the ginger because I grew up buying this from street peddlers with caramel and sago.

I also bought iced coffee with LOTS of condensed milk for VND 20,000 after checking in and getting my boarding ticket. Even with that much sweet milk, the coffee was still too strong and did a great job of jolting me awake. I saw another tourist pour half the contents of her water bottle in her cup to tone down the taste.

To be completely honest, as much as I support helping a community’s livelihood, I got seriously bored with having to stay at the stopover for Handicapped Handicrafts for a while. My expectation was we will be going straight to the Cu Chi Tunnels.

They do show you how they make the portraits. They make an outline, and fill it in using egg shells. Yes, egg shells! It undergoes a long process after that and you can see the output in the next photo. 🙂

They encourage you to buy something.. by staying in the shop for a long time (it may have only been 30 minutes but it felt like a while).

The tour itself only cost VND 59,000 but you have to pay the entrance fee to the tunnels which cost VND 100,000. The guide collects it before you arrive, or you can pay for it yourself at the ticket booth if you happen not to trust the tour guide. Of course, I went the lazy route and just handed my money over.

This is one of the many camouflaged entrances to the underground tunnel maze. It is smaller when it was still in use during the war and they enlarged it to accommodate visitors. When the guide asked for volunteers to try it out, I immediately raised my hand and…. oh fudge what the hell did I sign up for? The initial drop was okay until I had to get out and my weak core needed the assistance of an American guy to pull me up and out. Damn. (A Filipina who was on tour with her niece volunteered to hold my bag as you can see in upper right of the photo).

Since this is during war time, the Vietnamese set up so many traps integrated with nature.

Here are the air ducts that provide oxygen inside the tunnels. The invading party used dogs to sniff this ducts out so they can barricade it while the Vietnamese put pepper to avoid canine detection.

Rice paper near the shooting range. I didn’t try the shooting range because the queue was super long!

The guide asked the entire tour group which of us wanted to crawl 150 meters and again, I raised my hand along with three other tourists and another guide. The rest of them were going together and crawl 20/40/60/80 meters and exit at different stages while the four of us entered a different tunnel. Fortunately for me, I was second to the last and the same American guy (who pulled me up) was behind me. There was a point in the tunnel where you had to raise yourself using your elbows and I had a really hard time climbing up, it was getting dark while the guide and couple before us are far ahead already. The guy asked me if I would mind if he touched me and of course, I said I wouldn’t, so he placed his hands on my bum to push me up. I cannot imagine how it would feel like if I had to crawl in that small tunnel while bombs are hitting the ground above – especially with my barely existent arm strength. I was sweating like a pig once we got out and it felt like I crawled for hours. How fun and exciting!

So that was the only fun part of the tour.. And the tour + entrance fee cost more than My Tho and Ben Tre. Honestly, though, I had much more fun with the Mekong Delta tour (crawling aside). During this tour, there were so many people so the waiting time sucked. I do hate waiting. I hope you guys don’t hate waiting as much as I do.. or else I’d lose blog followers. Hahaha!

Huế 2015 || Wherever you are, be all there

It’s finally the weekend! For more timely updates on my life, just in case some of you are interested, I update my Instagram (@teeshue) more often. 🙂 I’m a bit unsure on whether I have already written about how I impulsively bought a plane ticket for MNL-HAN and REP-MNL. A lot of my friends had done the Vietnam-Cambodia combination and I was horribly unaware that they came from Ho Chi Minh! The rebooking fee for airfare (I flew via Cebu Pacific) was horrendous and HAN-REP flights were crazy expensive. I decided to travel by land and arranged stopovers in between.

On my first day in Hanoi, I bought a $30 soft seat ticket to Hue. The Reunification Express did not have a “Hop On Hop Off” kind of ticket so you would have to either buy your tickets in advance (there are travel agencies where you can book online and they will deliver it to your hotel), on the day itself (not something I’d recommend) or buy it a few days prior.

I approached Phung of Central Backpackers Hostel and the ticket cost almost the same as I expected, thanks to research. I once took the 14-hour night bus to Cagayan Valley from Manila so a soft seat in an air-conditioned coach seemed reasonable. I also got a free bottle of water and front row seat to the television. CAN I JUST SAY THAT I WATCHED THE VIETNAMESE VERSION OF MY HUSBAND’S LOVER AND BE CAREFUL WITH MY HEART!!! I also watched a Vietnamese drama after. It started with this girl (with bangs) in a fancy party who everyone is ignoring and she was trying to seduce this mustached guy but Mr. Suave is very “meh don’t care”. Then there is this girl who everyone likes (I’m assuming because the girl with bangs is a wallflower) just stares at a faraway distance like “I’m pretty and I know it so you can all suck it” and Mr. Suave is in lurve with her and they drink champagne. Then Ms. Congeniality smiled smugly at Wallflower like “I win bitch”. Then fast forward to next morning where Mr. Suave wakes up beside Wallflower and *dun dun dun* they are both naked! Ms. Congeniality then calls and Mr. Suave tries to act like nothing happened and yet acts very suspicious the entire episode. Wallflower is pretty happy and has started stalking Mr. Suave – I’m guessing, to insist that their crazy wild night of sex (which both of them do not remember by the way – I’m smelling a setup/plot twist) meant something but gets heartbroken because Mr. Suave insists otherwise. Sorry dear, that’s how men are. There were some plotting between supporting characters and I seriously wished it had subtitles because HELLO I’M HOOKED. Other points of interest: guy hides in the grass while watching other guy sneaking out to drop off a letter in the mailbox of a huge house. There’s also a horror drama and an Indian drama involving man slaps. Now that’s a cultural experience.

I was the only foreigner in the entire coach. At first, I was seated next to a mom and daughter combo. That little girl is a ball of energy. She’s either crying or running around the coach. Also, the mom thought I was Vietnamese! Now that was new. I almost always get mistaken as Chinese or Korean (because of the hair color), but never from the Philippines. How to fit in – be super chill, remove your slippers and find the most comfortable sitting position in the train (even if it means putting your feet up or crossing your legs – just make sure that at least one of your feet is bare). Blend in with the locals – check!

I didn’t buy anything from the trolleys for dinner because I ate from Cafe Nola before I boarded the train.. but I did buy train breakfast (with the help of the nice old man who sat beside me after the mother-daughter combo got off). He was explaining something about the porridge with chicken bits that cost VND 25,000 (I’ll pay a lot more dong for some salt and pepper). He’s really nice. Even though we couldn’t understand each other, I showed him my train ticket (the announcements are in Vietnamese) and he gestured to me when I should get off the train. Best train ride ever!

Since some of my friends have asked how the train ride was, below are some tips for the train ride from Hanoi to Hue:

  1. Make sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before your train is scheduled to depart. This is written on the ticket as well since you have to ensure that you are on the train before it departs.Tickets are non-refundable. The hostel called up a taxi for me (from a reputable taxi company) and it cost me only VND 30,000. There was minimal traffic but you never know right?
  2. Take the night train. The train left the station at 7:30 PM and I passed the time sleeping. Around 5 AM, the kind old man beside me roused me and started talking in Vietnamese while gesturing to the window. I thought he was saying that I was near my stop until I had the best sunrise experience of the entire trip – probably one of the top three best sunrises I have ever witnessed. Mountain silhouettes on both sides of the train and the sky is a mixture of orange, pink, yellow and purple hues. Just watch the windows until the sun has fully risen. While most of the people my age had their phones on to capture the view, I sat there and just watched everything go by. The train will also pass by a long array of lotus fields in full bloom. It was so mesmerizing! I wish I could have conversed with the old man who generously shared with me the beauty of Vietnam. Language is not a barrier. 🙂
  3. Pee before boarding the train and do not consume the bottle of water they give out at the start of the train ride. I’m serious. Unless you want to try adventure peeing. *GRAPHIC DESCRIPTION* There were 2 toilets in between coaches. The first one I checked had pee and vomit and the train isn’t running smoothly so it’s swishing around the bowl. The floor is wet and had vomit bits all over it. The toilet is very tiny and you have 90% chance of getting splashed. I nope-d the fuck out of there the minute I opened the toilet door because there is no fucking way I’m peeing in that while in a moving train. I don’t even pee in planes and buses due to my aversion to peeing in public toilets, especially on public toilets in moving vehicles. I decided that I’ll wait until I get off at Hue in 3 hours, I almost didn’t see the other toilet. There was no water in the bowl although the lid is super wet. So I held on tight to the walls in a semi-squat position (which involves avoiding direct contact with the toilet) and peed very slowly and very carefully to not get anyone else’s pee in contact with any part of my body. I later sprayed my hands with alcohol since it had contact with the cubicle walls. I need a portable penis for peeing.
  4. Bring your earphones and music with you, unless you want to get hooked on Vietnamese pop songs. It’s not really a bad thing. This song plays on my mind at all the random moments. It played so many times on the train, I can nearly sing it.

I am trying to overcome the challenge of actually finishing this Vietnam+Cambodia series since I have a lot of backlogs. I may have enough content to write about until.. October. Yet here I am, still writing about how my life went from 2-3 months ago. The stark contrast between my life then and how it is now has made me long for the carefree days of traveling by myself where I know no one and nothing, not even the language.

Only my close friends are aware that I was actually planning to quit my job before I left, along with the attempt to extend my vacation and just go where the wind takes me. However, my mom’s condition took a turn for the worst a few weeks before I had to leave and I decided to not go through with quitting since my job pays for premium HMO. Her health since then has been one godawful roller coaster ride, and we cherish the few good days in between.

Half the time I feel guilty that my thoughts are full of hate and anger. I could never hate my mom, but I hate this horrible situation. I hate how she screams in pain, or how she whimpers in her sleep. I hate how I have been to five different hospitals this year alone, and it’s not even over yet. I hate that all the feelings I have buried against other people have started to resurface because I no longer have the energy to keep them there. I hate that my siblings have to experience this at their age when I was young and carefree during that time of my life. I hate that I got asked if I wanted a promotion at work because it’s so hard to keep up with everything as it is, and I don’t even enjoy what I’m doing. I hate that I am so confused on how I should be feeling with having a mother who is alive and breathing, but always in horrible pain. I hate the feeling that my life is on hold because I know I would hate myself more if I am not there for her when she needs me. I hate the fact that most of my anger is stemming from my selfishness. I hate that my hate is at capacity.

Maybe that’s the real challenge then. To tamper down all the negative thoughts from thinking about the future, or thinking about what could have been or what could be. I guess in time, I will understand that there is a bigger picture in all these. That there is a reason on why the same omnipotent higher being who created magnificent sunrises, such as the one I experienced in Vietnam, would also introduce bad things to good people. But right now, I hope to get through these posts first.

Vietnam-Cambodia Travel Vlog

Hi guys! I’m back in the Philippines and have shed off my angst overseas. If you were following me on instagram (@teeshue), I hope I did not annoy any of you with my daily lengthy updates on my life. I also got surprised with the Tumblr notifications that pops up whenever I get the chance to connect to the internet because.. hello to 40 new followers. Where did you all come from?? I am not complaining though but I have never had that much people follow me in the span of 2 weeks (unfortunately, I’m not popular haha). Thank you for following and drop me a message if you want to talk! 🙂

Anyway, here’s a 7-minute video of 2 weeks and four cities where I got 100 pimples and 3 shades darker. I forget to take videos/photos on most days.. admittedly, I think it’s for the better because I was more in the moment than the need to document everything (it’s also pretty hard to take videos of yourself though this video just proves I don’t need a monopod :D). The only thing I documented religiously during this trip was my expenses – down to the last dollar/dong. Hahaha!

I used Yuna’s songs since I have been listening to her albums on repeat while traveling. I love the vibe of her songs since it’s very empowering and lively. The music videos are brilliant as well and I love all her outfits (turban peg!!!). I was only going to use Rescue, “Yeah, she’s got life in her veins, she don’t need no rescuing, she’s okay. That girl is you yeah and that girl is me, that girl is stronger than the raging sea.“ but had a bit more of video left so I added Come Back (brilliant outfit and perfect LDR song if you ask me haha) as well since it covered Siem Reap where I spent 4 days before I came back home.

I can’t thank my parents enough for being very supportive by letting me live my own life (the amount of “I’m surprised your parents let you do that” I have gotten when I’m already 23 is surprising). And C for being the best boyfriend ever for accepting that I will always wander off to who knows where because I can’t seem to stay still (and all the airport drop offs and pickups and flowers and welcome home signs hahahaha).

So yay, for solo trips! I will write about this trip soon. I just have more than a thousand photos on my camera that I have not yet gone through and yet I’m already planning my next trip lol. How about you, where do you plan to go next?

Cupcake Girl Goes Solo in Vietnam+Cambodia

Hanoi Scammed on my first night in Vietnam || Ice cream for lunch because prison visits are exhausting || Museums for women will PHO-rever make me happy || Drenched in revolution, history, and a little bit of rain || Be water, my friend || Chocolate for breakfast || Fundamental change via ultimate orgasm || It’s a dog eat human world|| #KathNielHanoi || Social behavior and Social Club || Bye, Hanoi

Huế Wherever you are, be all there || Hue Riders || I did it my Huế || Huế to go!|| The Huế I am

Ho Chi Minh Slept my way to Ho Chi Minh (and my first Airbnb experience) || Saigon Hotpot and getting lost with strangers || The Foodie || Mekong Delta || Cu Chi Tunnels (and my lack of upper body strength) || Good night, Vietnam

Siem Reap Cambana d’Angkor Suites || Preah Khan || Preah Neak Pean & Ta Som || East Mebon & Pre Rup || Banteay Kdei & Phnom Bakheng Sunset || Angkor Wat Sunrise || Bayon || Angkor Thom || Ta Keo & Ta Prohm || Angkor WHAT NOW?

Cebu 2014 || The Henry Hotel

From Bantayan Island, I was going to spend a couple more days in Cebu City because.. lechon. As usual, I became all too dependent on Trip Advisor in finding an accommodation which led me to The Henry Hotel. Since I was travelling alone, I found it a bit more expensive (as you can see, even though I am not a luxurious traveler, I’m not exactly a budget traveler either) but since my accommodations are where 75% of my travel budget went, I made sure I was going somewhere well worth every single cent. I don’t think a lot of taxi drivers are aware of the hotel. It’s not quite near from the North Bus Terminal as it cost me Php 125 to get there. If they are not familiar with the area, inform them it’s near Banilad Town Center (BTC). From BTC, just look for a black building near the flyover and intersection.

The Henry Hotel is a boutique hotel, which isn’t one of the generic fancy looking hotels. I would go as far as say it’s hipster paradise. Every spot is picturesque! It had an “unfinished” vibe overall and it’s very quirky. All the hotel staff wore hipster glasses and bow ties. This red statue was the same photo I kept seeing when I researched on the hotel. Also, I took this photo while sipping on my welcome drink. I wonder where I could buy that dalandan juice..

Since this is my best attempt at a hotel review (something I rarely ever do because I usually do not go on staycations), my only gripe about this place was with reservations. I reserved the room through email (I do not plan on getting a credit card, I don’t trust my self-control when it comes to impulsive buying), and they take too long to respond. I tried calling their mobile number, but when the line got cut they did not even make an attempt to call me back. Also, I was told that I just needed to pre-arrange a late checkout (up to 2 PM), so I did but was denied that on the day itself.

Graffiti art. I took the stairs half the time since I was only staying on the third floor.

I may work in an IT company but this was the first time I encountered an elevator button that looked like this. I literally just stared at it for 5 seconds before realizing it was the elevator buttons. Haha!

I did not get the chance to check out the Qube Gallery on the 1st floor and the entire second floor (Scrapyard Bar was closed for renovations, I wanted a drink okay). The Reading Room on the third floor is something you can use for a fee (it had a computer, couches, etc), but whenever I take a peek, a group of foreigners was there.

This chair is actually big! I wanted to sit on it and have a photo taken but I rarely chance upon other people on my floor.

If I ever buy a condo, I would probably use this room as inspiration! The room I got was so spacious! The smallest room in the hotel is called ‘Big Room’ and for good reason. It is at 36 sqm which was spacious even if I had C with me.

Some of the rooms do not have bathroom doors and I’m glad I have one. I hate taking a bath in a cold bathroom. See that brown door on the right? It’s locked because it connects my room to the adjacent one. Unfortunately for me, the family that booked that room had noisy kids. I had half a mind to call the reception to ask if I could transfer, but decided to do it later if they still were noisy when I am trying to sleep. Luckily, it seemed that the kids slept earlier than I did so I had no problems in that area.

Even the bathroom is spacious!

No single detail left untouched in this hotel. This hotel is so keen on details!

Sleeping in this bed is one of the most memorable experiences I have in Cebu. Haha! I know that sounds lame but I have a sleeping problem and I get so restless at night. When I was in Cebu, I slept soundly. Whenever I’m out the whole day, I get back in the evening with a made up room.

Even the escape route did not seem impersonal!

If you follow me on instagram (@teeshue), you’d find out just how much I was raving about their attentive hotel staff. When one of the staff saw me head to the pool in my swimsuit, he followed me to ask if he could get me anything to which I thanked him and declined. While sitting in a pool chair, browsing through Facebook, the same guy asked again. 15 minutes later, he went out with a fresh towel for me (even if I had one with me). The day after, I asked if I could go swimming anytime I wanted to but was informed that the pool was only open from 6 AM-10 PM. It was perfectly fine by me until someone from the reception called the room to tell me that I can go use the pool anytime I wanted, I just need to inform the reception whenever I do (obviously for safety purposes). Nice!

They also have a boutique in the hotel which I did not check out. I now regret it.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my stay here! C and I have even agreed to stay here if we ever find ourselves in Cebu again. 🙂

The Henry Hotel

One Paseo Compound, Ma. Luisa Entrance Road, Banilad, Cebu City 6000

+63 32 520 8877

Cebu 2014 || Bantayan Island

Yes, that is a shameless airport selfie! If you follow my Instagram (@teeshue), you’d know how vain I turned into during this entire trip. As mentioned from last week’s post, I went on a solo trip for my birthday. My boyfriend (who is too punctual it’s annoying) decided to pick me up from the house by 3 AM so he could drive me to the airport. But since he’s crazy about running late uhh traffic at 3 AM, really? me, he was at the house by 2 AM waking me up and ensuring everything I need is in my bag. He knows how scatterbrained I get sometimes. There was a time I accidentally left my bag (with all my money and phone) on a bus (I hailed a cab once I realized this and have him race to the bus terminal to recover my bag) and kept telling me to please be careful.

Sufficient to say, I was at the airport three hours before my 7 AM flight. I slept in one of the airport chairs and set my alarm to make sure I do not miss my flight. Haha! When I boarded the plane, I slept through the one hour flight as well. 🙂 The plane landed at around 8 AM. I went to the regular taxi stand to get a ride to the North Bus Terminal instead of the more expensive airport taxi. The ride took about 30 minutes and cost me Php 165, while using the airport taxi will cost me, at least, Php 100 more.

Unless you have a lot of luggage with you or you can spare Php 10, when the driver asks if you want to be dropped off at the terminal, do not say yes. It’s just a short walk from the entrance anyway. For some unknown reason, Cebu is a place with a lot of terminal fees. I was aboard the air-conditioned Ceres bus bound for Hagnaya Port by 9:20 AM, thinking the travel time will take about 3 hours (like I read in blogs, plus the fare is cheap at Php 160). But I was so wrong!! I arrived at Hagnaya Port by 2 PM. 😦 The departure time has an interval of an hour and the next ferry will be leaving by 2:30 PM. Fortunately, you can board the ferry already and wait there. The one-hour ferry trip cost me Php 170 plus the Php 10 terminal fee.

Aboard the ferry was the first time I actually felt unsafe and when I started doubting my decision to go alone. Three guys separately talked to me, and two of them reeked of alcohol. They knew how to speak the local dialect and noticed that I only answered in English, concluding that I must be a tourist. They all had unsuccessfully tried to find out where I was staying (each of them “wanted” to help me get there), to which I just answer that someone was meeting me at the port. All throughout this ordeal, a line from one of my favorite Bollywood movies, Jab We Met, kept ringing in my head “A woman traveling alone is like an open treasure box.”

Thank God for port transfers! I walked slowly and my mind was willing those creepy strangers to go ahead. I had already seen my name in one of the signboards held up by a man in a shirt with the resort name plastered in it, but I stayed back and didn’t acknowledge him. Once I was sure they were out of sight did I approach the man (his name is Jose) to take me to Anika Island Resort (details in another post). Some people are more adventurous than I am and do exciting things in Cebu such as go to the falls or go diving. But my life has been so hectic and busy, all I wanted to do was do nothing. So when I was researching on what to do for my birthday and found a great island to relax in, I set my sights on Bantayan Island. I was a little worried since the island was greatly devastated by last year’s super typhoon, but I wanted to see for myself.

Along the road towards the resort, Jose pointed out a lot of areas that are still trying to recover from the typhoon. The resort’s beach has been cleaned up but if you walk past it, you’d still see a lot of areas that are not the same.

To discuss less depressing things.. I ate a lot while I was in Bantayan Island! The food from the restaurant tasted okay although the prices was a little steep (Php 150-250/person price range), given that I was in a remote area. However, it rained on and off throughout my entire stay that I didn’t find it in me to get out of the resort and eat somewhere else.

Dinners by the sea!
Island food for breakfast every day!
Chicken BBQ for lunch!

Honestly, my entire stay in Bantayan Island was a staycation. I lived off mango shakes, walking around in my bikini the entire day, sleeping on a beach chair, sitting on the sand while reading.. from dusk til dawn. #TRUESTORY

And swimming.. until I got unfortunately stung by a jellyfish. I had welts all over my legs and left arm. I panicked and was on the verge of tears thinking I’ll die, Luckily, the girl manning the reception and Jose acted quickly and was there to bathe me with vinegar. Good thing I got stung on my last day because there is no way I’d go back to the water after that.

All that fiasco aside, all I had to do was look forward to #nofilter sunsets in Bantayan and the entire trip was worth it. 🙂