48 hours of land travel, 16 days, 4 cities, 2 countries, 1 Cupcake Girl

I am very fond of lists.

So what do I do now that I have recapped my first ever solo trip out of the country? Make one!

The most common question I got asked when I told people that I will be traveling/has traveled alone is if I am on a soul-searching journey or I wanted to go off and “find myself”. I honestly have no idea why I still pushed through with this trip solo, but what I do know now is that I learned a lot from it. It was actually a bit hard to think of a title for this post because I didn’t know what direction to take in making a summary of sorts. I don’t think a “things you will learn from traveling solo” approach will apply to everyone since we all have different priorities and personalities. I also am did not plan on a “why you should travel solo” list because I’m not gonna lie, I find traveling with a companion cheaper haha (but if I did nudge you towards that direction, let me know and I am so excited for you! :D). I decided to simply write about what I think I got the most out of from this trip: learning more about myself.

Here are the 15 things I learned from traveling solo..

I can survive with a limited number of clothes (and things in general).

I decided that since I was solo, it would be more efficient for me to have my hands free while navigating my way through a foreign city. Also, there are two things you should know about me: when I buy things, I usually am a hoarder and when I travel with a suitcase, I have enough clothes to last me up to twice the duration of the trip. I live with the mentality that if I can’t pick between two (or three) items, I’ll just get all of them, which eventually results in wastage (didn’t really get to wear that outfit, only used this shade of blush once cos I bought all six shades). Traveling with a backpack and one small handbag has made me realize that I can survive with just the basics. I had to plan my bottoms to coordinate with at least two tops, so I can use it repeatedly. I didn’t even have space to put in my flat iron, my excessive makeup bag, the third pair of sandals and an array of accessories. I didn’t go crazy buying souvenir items I am going to forget about in a few months because I didn’t have space for it. It made deciding what to wear or whether to buy something easier. Surprisingly, when I got home I noticed the practice sticking to my everyday life: do I really need to buy all three colors of the same top/I already have a similar lipstick shade/I don’t think I can use this pair of shoes beyond this event. It doesn’t really mean that I will be traveling with a backpack for the rest of my life, but it has made me realize that I really do not need a lot of things to make me happy. 🙂


Absence makes the heart grow fonder.

I love traveling with C! He is my favorite travel buddy, primarily because he lets me take the reins in the planning. He’ll simply tell me the places he wants to go to, or the things he wanna try and I get to plan the rest. Going without him has given me moments where I see something interesting and I wish I can just nudge him so we can have the moment together. The physical distance made us feel closer than ever because our Facetime calls in bed are more meaningful, filled with more details about our days and we learned to truly enjoy each other’s company (albeit virtually). This solo trip just proved that I do not need him in my life, but I really want him to be. 🙂


I like not having to wait for anyone.

Missing C aside, I loved not thinking about anyone else. Traveling with my family meant sleeping in the same bed as my siblings (my little sister plays with people’s hair when she sleeps), we only tend to go to family-friendly places, and there are four other people to contest your food choices. With C, I do have more freedom to do whatever I want, but it comes with a price. Literally, a hefty price tag because this guy likes staying in comfortable places and shopping. There are also differences when it comes to pocket money when vacationing with friends, which leads to different priorities on where to spend it. When it’s just me, I do not have to wake earlier than my siblings to get first dibs in the shower, spend 30 minutes just rousing C from his sleep, or argue on where to go/eat. I get to decide on my own pace. 😛


It’s fairly easy to engage with the locals even if you do not speak the same language.

I don’t know if it’s just me, but when traveling in a pack (or as a couple), we tend to rely on each other. Are we lost? We can do this together! But when you’re solo, you rely on the help of friendly strangers. I personally was more open to engage with locals – would I have accepted that invite to get coffee with a local I met on the train if I was with C? No one would probably approach us. Or would I have hanged out with the cool girls from Saigon Hotpot on my last night in Ho Chi Minh? My mom would have insisted that I stay in and get some sleep so I can get up early. Again, I love traveling with family/friends/C, but it’s more likely for me to grab an opportunity to know people when I’m in an unfamiliar place by myself. Even when we have to rely on Google Translate to converse.


It’s very easy to make friends.

Not only with the locals but with the Pinoys as well! There are A LOT of Filipino backpackers, and I never thought I’d say this but one week in, I missed speaking to someone who can understand what I’m saying. Whenever I hear someone speaking in Tagalog, I immediately strike up a conversation with them (or have a 7-hour one, like the one I had with the Pinay I met on the bus to Cambodia).

It’s okay to spend your hard earned money on experiences.

I’m a practical person, and admittedly, frugal on some things. I, unfortunately, have never been rich but I realized that with experiences, you never know when the chance to do something will come up again. So I paid for the experiences that seemed exciting, booked a 4-star hotel room for my last nights on vacation, and ate like a queen as much as I can. (How luxurious is it to bathe in a tub while watching television after a long day, right?)

The world is huge and yet small at the same time.

It goes without saying that we never really run out of places to see or adventures to try. But no matter how different the culture, we all live almost the same lives. We go through the same struggles: will I ever get what I want out of life? Do I get to pursue my goals someday? Is someday today? What about the bills I have to pay? I got to talk to so many people of varying races, from opposite parts of the world, only to find out that we are asking ourselves an alternate form of the same question.

Going home is as exciting as leaving.

Sure, I do not anticipate the work load I eventually have to tackle. But there is familiarity in routine that you just cannot get out of vacations.. Knowing what you know now when you get back and applying it to your life is invigorating in a weird kind of way.


I am more than I give myself credit for.

When I got on the plane to Vietnam, I couldn’t sleep. I was going through another level of anxiety that I don’t normally experience because I didn’t know if I could actually do it. I was raised to believe that whatever I put my mind into, I can achieve. But I rarely ever get to test my limits – how long can I walk with a 12-kilo backpack in high heat, can I sleep with seven other people in the room, I can’t eat a frog right?? And I did it all! 🙂

I rarely get enough alone time.

Growing up in a family-oriented household, we were expected to share and ensure that everyone has got a share of everything. Working with teams, you are expected to be one harmonious unit. Being part of a couple meant constant attuning to your partner. By yourself, you can be selfish – and it’s okay. 🙂

It truly is about the small things in life.

May it be that hole-in-the-wall with the amazing pho, or little acts of kindness (men drinking coffee in the street walks you to your destination, two guys stopping on their tracks because you looked lost and helped you, I have endless examples!) – it is easy to find joy in the small things. My daily life is spent chasing down career opportunities, wanting better clothes, rushing to get to the office before rush hour.. but there is a different kind of satisfaction in eating a bit of grilled frog, running to catch your train and finding out you got in a few minutes before it leaves, a flat surface I can put my camera in to take photos during the golden hour or catching magnificent sunrises.

It’s okay to make mistakes (within reason).

There is a negative stigma attached to failure. Nobody’s perfect and we slip up from time to time in making those life decisions, the small ones such as where to eat or life changing ones like “WTF I’M TRAPPED IN A TAXI IN A FOREIGN COUNTRY AT 2 AM”. Some people had to chop off their arms because of these mistakes, but as unfortunate it is at the moment – we have to admit that it’s a learning moment. I forgot to bring my sunscreen and suffered from sunburns because I thought it would be okay not to buy one.. now I learned to ensure that sunblock is always in my things to pack list. I made the mistake of not doing the smart thing such as insisting that the hostel send me a car to pick me up from the airport, and I learned to always confirm before I arrive at my destination that I will get picked up. You know what they say, experience is the best teacher. 😛

The world may be a dangerous place, but you got your instincts to get by (again, within reason).

Everyone who knew I was traveling solo was very worried because (I have to quote Jab We Met again) “a girl traveling alone is like an open treasure chest”. Even my mom agrees with that, but the stubborn person that I am believed that if all the other solo female travelers can do it, I can as well. With this experience, I learned how to prepare by doing lots of research and trust my instincts: if something feels off, remove yourself in the situation and always be alert. I was lucky to not go through anything traumatic that could discourage me from going on another solo trip. In fact, I’d do it again in a heartbeat!

I should not care about what people think of me.

It is significantly different when you are aware that no one you know is watching your every move. I am very conscious of taking food photos in restaurants, posing in public, or being spontaneous. When I was solo, I couldn’t care less if they choose to stare when I sit down on museum floors, stand up to take nice food photos for my blog, or do math problems in cafe. I was so afraid of judgment from people I actually know that I have limited myself to do what I considered where “acceptable” behavior. Now, I dyed my hair the color I wanted to, sang in public karaokes and take wacky ass photos.

There is something very liberating knowing that you can go anywhere by yourself.

Funny story: I had no plans of buying souvenir sleeveless tops from the night market, but when I saw this top I knew from the depths of my heart that I had to buy it! Backpack + glasses + selfie = so me! Only the caption is untrue because even though I was alone, I wasn’t lonely. My self-confidence even increased with the knowledge that I got my own back. I can trust myself and I can take care of me. I spent my own money, carried my own things, and even washed my own clothes. This may not seem like a feat to a lot of people, but it is for me. 🙂

Who else here has traveled alone? Share in the comments below the things you have learned while doing solo travel and let’s celebrate our independence together! 🙂

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.

Hanoi 2015 || Bye, Hanoi

Xin chao! Again, it’s been a while since I have written anything. I have been trying to succeed, or rather, survive, in a lot of aspects in my life, that it has put me into a constant state of exhaustion and anxiety. I am at the point where I’m this close to punching the next person that tells me to “relax”. Keeping it together is not as easy as it sounds, unlike this woman who can look posh and wear a tight pencil skirt while maneuvering a motorcycle.

I went back to Ngoc Son Temple because I remembered that I didn’t get to enter when I first went.

Entrance fee is at VND 20,000.

Apparently, it’s a popular prenuptial photo shoot venue. They were one of the three ongoing shoots while I was there.

I have lots of photos with this kid in it cos he kept posing for the camera. Hahaha!

We have to talk. Uh-oh.

While on the temple, I knew I still had some time to burn before I need to go back to the hostel. I have already packed my bags and even though I knew that there is going to be a food trolley in the train, I decided to go look for dinner. I happen to enjoy out of the way, albeit a little hidden, establishments. Does that make me a hipster? Haha! I found Cafe Nola listed on TripAdvisor and the reviews were interesting. You have to enter a narrow alleyway, and it’s very easy to miss the sign unless you’re looking for it.

You’d have to climb a lot of stairs and take your pick where to seat. So of course, I went to the highest part and under the umbrellas which they became known for.

Bun cha wish your girlfriend was hot like me. Hahaha /lame

The days I spent in Hanoi have been surreal, exciting, the shortest and the longest of this trip. I felt like I had so much time, yet so little. While thinking I have seen what Hanoi has to offer, I take another street turn and feel like I have just scratched the surface. I was getting scammed in a cab one night, and drinking with practically a stranger on another. I was wary of taking any motorcycle tours but hopped on a motorcycle tour of Old Quarter with a girl I met 10 minutes ago. It felt like home, but I was getting lost in every corner.

Until I see you again, Hanoi! 🙂

Hanoi 2015 || Social behavior and Social Club

The first time I stayed in a hostel was in Hanoi. I was lucky enough to not have roommates steal from me, nor anyone who snores. Yes, that’s a legit concern when sleeping with strangers! My friends tell me that I am a chatty Kathy, and I have never had a problem making conversation. However, I was really confused on how to open up with the people I’m staying within the hostel as most of them just come and go. I don’t even notice when they get back in the middle of the night and usually just see who my current roommates are when I wake up in the morning. On my third day in Hanoi, I met Olivia from Korea. She is the only roommate I had an actual conversation with. She used to study in the Philippines and she quit her job to travel. How fun! (Note: As of writing, we have met up for coffee here in the Philippines!)

On my last night in Central Backpackers Hostel, I was roused by 5 of my roommates (I haven’t really talked to them). They were so drunk that the entire room reeked of alcohol. “Oh God, earthquake! I don’t wanna die here!” was the first thought that ran through my head as my eyes flew open when the bed started shaking. Lo and behold, the girl sleeping in the bottom bunk (I was in the upper one) brought back a guy with her.. and yes, you know what happened next. T_T I didn’t know what to do.. Should I open the lights? I laid there in silence, waiting for them to finish and then gave in to the urge to shower (if they had sex in technically the same bed as mine, did I just go through my first threesome experience?). When I went to the bathroom, there was a used condom on the shower floor when the trash bin is right beside it. Eeew. So one horrible night out of four is not that bad for my first hostel experience, I guess. But I’ll probably stick to a solo room next time. $5 is cheap but sharing a bunk bed with inconsiderate strangers is not an experience I want to repeat.

For my last breakfast in Hanoi, I went to Hanoi Social Club! I made plans to eat brunch with Olivia but I was eager to get out of the room and I didn’t know if it’s okay to rouse her from sleep. Haha!

Would it sound pretentious if I say I like cafes that make me feel like I’m on a movie set? 😛

I squealed when this cat jumped onto my lap and I didn’t know what to do. When I was younger, a cat bit my leg and my mind take me back to that time with every cat encounter. One of the staff started chasing the cat around and kitty decided to stay there and watch me eat. Huhu

Chorizo and Potato Fritters. Yum!

I was telling my friends via Viber (and the cafe’s wifi) about the bunk bed incident so Vernice (a friend who quit her job to travel) asked a friend she made when she lived in Hanoi for a while if she could come meet with me. I waited for Thu in the cafe and she brought me to an establishment overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake, IFEEL Coffee.

I was wearing a short white dress while sitting at the back of her motorcycle, as she toured me around Old Quarter. She pointed out this coffee shop which was run by three different generations.

One of the places we tried is Cafe Giang along Egg Coffee Lane. Thu brought me here so I can try egg coffee. This unassuming cafe was in the second story of a house, hidden by other establishments. The reason I went out of my comfort zone is to gain new experiences and this is why I always stood by the approach of eating local food. I appreciate shops which are referred by locals, because consuming the same food that they do on a regular basis or when hanging out with their friends, is taking an actual peek at the lives they live.

Apparently, they whip the egg until it’s frothy and pour it over the coffee (and ice because I wanted mine cold). Thu had the egg with mung beans and ice. Drinking egg coffee is like sipping melted marshmallow frosting; the consistency has made me want to eat butter sponge cake with it.

Chocolate Popsicle from Kem Trang Trien. It’s a drive-thru ice cream place, how cool! The ice cream is pretty cheap too. It only costs 7,000 VND. Leng recommended this to me the other day. According to Thu, this shop was opened by the government but they are slowly trying to make this privately owned.

This was our last stop since Thu is running her own business, Jade Hanoi (heads up for those who want to get their own clothes tailored!).

While walking around Hoan Kiem Lake, the sandals I used and broke in Cebu, which C had repaired, broke again. Fortunately for me, I kept a nail cutter in my bag for the entire duration of this trip. I permanently cut off the offending strap and did the same on the other pair. Ta da!

The last spot I had left on my list is St. Joseph Cathedral. I passed by a boutique with a cafe upstairs, which naturally, made me curious. Marilyn Cafe it is! I had my usual order which was lime juice and a few glasses of iced tea (VND 75,000).

To be completely honest, I sat there just to take a rest from all the walking. Haha!

Thu wrote down a street food, banh goi or pillow cake, that I must try which was within the hostel area. I went back to the hostel and it was only 100 meters away! The only landmark I was given was “under the big tree” and it literally was true. Maybe it’s an Asian street food thing to fry food in large vats of oil. Banh goi reminded me of eating sumpia peddled by a manong here in our village for merienda.

I, unfortunately, have to cut this post short. I scheduled this post to be published a few days ago but I have been quite busy and totally forgot about it. Since I blog and write at my own convenience, there are a few circumstances of when I do is less than ideal. Right now, I am sitting on a hospital room couch, across my mom who is sleeping. I find it a bit ironic to be writing about a time wherein I was adventurous and carefree, while the person who I got those qualities from is either catatonic or crying due to pain in a hospital bed.. I wonder if years from now when I look back and read this post, will I envision myself back at this moment? Hopefully, by then, we all are in better places.


Hanoi 2015 || #KathNielHanoi

Hello again! I have been thinking about doing a vlog after The Cupcake Girl Goes Solo in Vietnam+Cambodia series is over. Maybe you guys can send me some ideas or questions you want me to answer. Send me a message and put #CupcakeGirlVlog on the first line so I can keep it in my inbox. I’d like to not plan my answers before doing the video. 🙂

I was walking along Hung Vuong and this girl chatted me up and I thought she was being friendly. I responded in kind, but apparently, she wanted to sell me stuff. $1 for 5 pcs of postcards. Yes, that IS cheap but seriously? I refused and she followed me until I got to Quan Thanh Temple (VND 10,000).

This is one of the four sacred temples built in each of the cardinal directions to protect Hanoi’s citadel from evil spirits.

Koi fishes in this fountain, uhh, pond?

Huyen Thien Tran Vu.

I had Cong Caphe in my list of cafes to try in Hanoi because I was told they have really good coffee and knew that they had a branch in Dien Bien Phu street. I thought it was nearer, hence, I walked. And walked. And walked.

I didn’t see any tourists but I saw a lot of interesting stuff, though. Such as more yellow buildings and a lot of luxury cars driving by.

I was so happy when I finally saw this sign because it meant I was in the right direction. I have been walking in 39-degree weather and my brain have started to get sun-fried, so I honestly swore to myself that if the coffee was bad, I’d leave a scathing review on the travel blog that recommended it. Hahaha!

I am a huge fan of quirky cafes and this was a hit. I don’t understand some of the items in the menu (it was in Vietnamese) so I just pointed out photos of drinks that looked interesting. This was Coffee with Coconut Smoothie which I never knew would be such an interesting and flavorful combination!

Lime Smoothie – please note that this is not the name that was on the menu. Haha!

After spending VND 90,000 at Cong Caphe, I went to Cot Co Tower. The photo below is NOT of the tower (just an FYI you guys haha).

Cot Co Tower is right across Lenin Park. The park was captivating, to say the least. It was delightful to watch how a normal weekend in Hanoi is to its’ residents. Teenagers of different races were skateboarding, playing football, and hanging out with their friends. Our looks and culture may vary on the outside, but we all are similar in more ways than we know.

By the time I finished taking photos in Lenin Park, I only had 30 minutes to climb the Cot Co tower. I decided not to proceed since I really do not enjoy having to rush when touring. Hence, I decided to go to the Ancient Citadel. I walked the length of Nguyen Tri Phuong as illustrated in the map from City Pass Hanoi City Guide. However, when I tried going to Cua Dong street, a guard who unsurprisingly did not know how to speak English and had mistaken me for a Korean (I’ve stopped counting at this point), was gesturing for me to cross the road. I was pointing to the map, but he kept shaking his head and had started ushering me to the opposite side. I ended walking to Phan Dinh Phung street which was quite far.. Ugh! Out of frustration and hunger, I made a decision to head to Thien Phat Vegetarian Restaurant in Hang Hanh street. Only to find out that it was already closed for business! T_T I ended up at the adjacent restaurant, Buon Dua Le Cafe. My first order was of Coconut Yogurt with ice.

I had the chicken curry with rice. Sorry to say, it was a bit bland but everything is delicious when you’re famished.

I was paying for my meal (VND 160,000) when Thuy asked me where I came from. She literally squealed when I told her I’m from the Philippines because she’s a Kath Niel fan! She’s now a Facebook friend and we keep in touch – I update her when they have new projects so she could watch it online. Hah!

It’s not even a quarter of my trip to Vietnam but I have already met a lot of interesting and genuinely nice Vietnamese people in Hanoi. The atmosphere is pretty similar to the environment I grew up in at home. You have to be very careful to avoid petty theft and there are a lot of people who is looking out to take away your hard earned money. But just like any other city, not everyone is like that at all. You just have to take the good and the bad and enjoy the authentic experience. 🙂

Hanoi 2015 || It’s a dog eat human world

One thing I learned from my mom, is that the best way to avoid getting lost by yourself is to walk to places. You can ask any of my siblings. Or my dad. Even C! If we get a tattoo for every kilometer we’ve traveled by foot because our mom insisted, we’d be covered in ink by now. Now that I have just started traveling with my own money, I realized that I prefer walking too. Getting scammed by a taxi driver may have fueled the decision to walk, but I am proud to say that the only time I took a taxi in Hanoi is to go to the train station. While in Hanoi, I walked an average of 20 kilometers per day! You see a lot of interesting things while walking, which you would not see when aboard a quick vehicle. Such as that pastry artwork which I would have bought if I had the luggage space.

Although walking is a great way to roam around (while doing a light bit of exercise at that), you can also get crazy experiences. Luckily, mine wasn’t getting mugged or harassed, but it did become the inspiration for this post’s title. I have not had lunch yet, and while walking towards the Ho Chi Minh complex, a dog started to chase me! My maxi skirt was a lifesaver when the dog made an attempt to sink its teeth on my leg so I ran like crazy and didn’t realize where I was going. I made a turn and found myself in this street with pretty trees. I went inside to buy a drink (milk tea in a bottle for VND 10,000) and ask for directions, and I was not surprised when no one knew how to speak English.

Since Hanoi has so many narrow streets, both of the maps that I have with me is incomplete. Unfortunately, the wrong turn I took led me to a street that was not in either. I seriously contemplated hailing down a taxi, but as I was walking around, I found a street that I just knew was on one of the maps. Yay! From there, I found myself back on track.

I am near!

There is an abundance of parks in Hanoi. I may not understand the language, but the city feels similar to home.

I finally got to my destination which was the Ho Chi Minh Museum! It was closed for lunch, but I was impatient so I did not go inside anymore. At this point, I have been to a lot of museums and the choice to wait outside in the heat or save the VND 40,000 and go on my way is an easy one.

Here’s the schedule for anyone who is planning to go..

I looked through the artworks and other trinkets being sold outside the museum and the prices were just.. whew.

There was a temple(?) right outside the museum. I couldn’t read what it said but I went in any way. #rebel LOL

A pure black cat as a guard.

Stumbled upon One Pillar Pagoda when I went out the temple’s back gate.

The Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum from the back. It was already noon when I got there so it was already closed for public viewing. I heard that the line gets really long, though.

Witnessed the changing of the guards where they march all the way from the back to the front of the mausoleum.

In front of the mausoleum is the Ba Dinh square. I have no photos because, at the time, I was surrounded by a huge Korean tour group, all of them wearing a non la. The chance of taking a photo with no tourists in it was nil.


Yellow buildings everywhere in the Ho Chi Minh complex. Even the Presidential Palace was yellow. I didn’t take a photo though cos the guards were eyeing my camera and I did not know if I was allowed to take a photo or they were going to smash my camera to the ground once I do. Better not take chances. 😛

What are your crazy experiences while traveling? Do you prefer walking while traveling as well? 🙂

Hanoi 2015 || Fundamental change via ultimate orgasm

It may seem cheesy but I try to write from the heart. And I admit that I literally laughed out loud by myself the moment I wrote that down. I have always had that “let’s get this over with” attitude, and though it’s been beneficial to me (read: on most working days), it doesn’t do anything for my writing. Although the only credible writing experience I have is for the school paper (for three years!), I like to think that my posts have a bit of personality. When I write listlessly, everything translates detachment, and although it may just be me, and it feels impersonal.

My sleeping problems crept up on me and I never realized I had one until I started living out. This is affecting a lot of things – my back pain has worsened and has spread upwards my neck (something I even went to the emergency room for), my ability to focus, my mood (grumpy without coffee), my physical appearance (my eye bags have turned to huge ass luggage set), and even my appetite. I sometimes lie in bed until 2 AM, so frustrated that my mind would not shut off and let me rest. Just as frustrated when I was trying to cross the streets of Hanoi.

You know what (somewhat) relieves my frustration? Quiet museums (yes, I am completely serious). Vietnam Fine Arts Museum (VND 30,000) is just one heck of a road across the Temple of Literature.

Empty hallways.

And the first agenda upon entering the museum? Pee, of course. Oh, and take a selfie in the mirror above the sink.

There was an exhibit for a specific artist, whose name I forgot, and the items wich I have dubbed as “statement tapestries” would have been something I’d buy for my hipster library cafe. I giggled at this one, hence, naming this post after it.

Flow to live by.

One floor was dedicated to paintings. So many paintings! I’m not even going to pretend that I understood everything. I did take the time to look into each one and took photos of the ones that made an impact on me.

And yes, I am vain enough to take more photos of myself in an almost empty museum.

The first floor is full of what I believe is “cultural” art. I don’t even know if that’s a thing cos obviously, I am no art connoisseur. But the exhibit items are somewhat a reflection of a culture and its’ history. I don’t think my views on things is making any sense at all. Haha!

That way.

Disclaimer: I respect museums to not touch their stuff. I promise.

Another encounter with the Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara.

There was an exhibit about a province in the north of Vietnam, which is colder than the rest of the country.

I have always been fascinated by miniatures.

Look at this pair of slippers!

Traditional houses.

The ceramics exhibit is one large dark room in the basement. The low ceilings actually made me feel a bit trapped.


I have said it before, and I will always say it. Century-old handmade detailed ceramic items are fascinating. Can you imagine having to do those by hand?

This post was supposed to be longer but I think this post is long enough. I’ll try to write more in the following days if I can manage to catch up on some zzzzzs, but I have learned not to make promises that I am not sure I can keep. 🙂

Hanoi 2015 || Chocolate for breakfast

My Drafts folder is full of untitled posts and random photos. I know I promised consistency in posting, but my mom got confined for the xxx-th time last week. Thankfully, she was discharged last weekend. Now I’m squeezing writing this post in between breaks while I work from home [to take care of my mom] in my pajamas. 🙂

I passed by Joma Bakery Cafe (#22 Ly Quoc Su) on my way back to the hostel the previous night. It was in my Hanoi City Guide so instead of availing of the free breakfast from the hostel, I headed here.

The Vietnamese name is also written on the name card.

There was a large dining area in the back, as well as a number of outdoor tables and chairs. However, it was raining when I went there so everyone stayed inside.

There was a little girl playing around and I said: “xin chao” (hello) and she greeted me back. Then she touched my hair and brought her sister(?) who touched my hair as well. I assumed their mother who was chatting with a friend was too busy to take notice.

Chocolate Croissant and Iced Latte for brekky – all for VND 85,000.

I decided to walk to the Temple of Literature once the rain stopped pouring. Look at this thin establishment!

I was thinking that I got a bit lost but I found myself on the right path with all the other tourists walking to the same destination. Entrance fee to Temple of Literature is VND 30,000.

The Main Gate to the temple.

I am not a fan of huge crowds and there were so many people. T_T

I’m not sure why but there were a lot of women in their aoi dai, roaming around the temple or getting their photos taken.

These women even smiled gamely for my camera, and I thanked them when they reached me. Basic Vietnamese phrases are lifesavers!

Anyone knows what this means? I’m really curious.

Constellation of Literature Pavilion and the Second Courtyard.

Well of Heavenly Clarity (the things you pick up by subtly walking behind tour groups)

Apparently, the turtle is one of the four holy creatures because it stands for wisdom and longevity. So they placed the names of those who passed the royal exams here.

Buying stuff in tourist spots would cost you tourist prices. The souvenir stores in the fourth courtyard are not different.

I like miniature figures.

Altars to Confucius and his disciples.

I was trying to take a selfie when an old American couple saw me setting up my camera for the timer and offered to take a photo of me. I trusted them because the husband had this gigantic camera setup (I have a point and shoot). Apparently, they thought I was Korean (# of times someone thought I was Korean = 7). They are celebrating their 35th anniversary and they are traveling Asia for 3 months. They recommended a nice hipster-ish cafe I can try. What’s funny was when I checked the photos (he took three), all of it is blurry. Hahahaha!

After exiting the temple, I met two Chinese female travelers on their way to the Mausoleum (# of times someone thought I was Chinese = 2). We crossed the street together and said our goodbyes. There is a park across the main gate and I went inside.. cos why not.

Up next is Vietnam National Museum of Fine Arts, getting chased by a dog, and typical me being genuinely lost. 🙂

Hanoi 2015 || Be water, my friend

After the disastrous attempt at getting back to the hostel, I decided to walk around and look for the Water Puppet Theater. Look what I found on the way there, MAC and Estee Lauder. The super girly me rejoiced and was about to cross the street when I realized that I still have four cities to go and it wouldn’t be that beneficial for me (and my wallet) to go crazy over makeup.

Although if any of you guys decide to look for it, it’s near Hoan Kiem Lake.

The Turtle Tower.

I used the lake as a reference to get to Ngoc Son Temple. Aside from visiting the temple and crossing it off my list, I knew that the theater is almost across the road from it. Unfortunately, the temple is already closed when I got there. It’s for another day, then.


I was starting to get frustrated why I couldn’t seem to find it when I have unknowingly passed by the theater a few times. /facepalm

Theater schedule.

Tickets cost VND 100,000 (Php ~200). I got lucky too! I was in the second row (Row B) so I’m safe from the splashing water and in the middle of the row (Seat 9).

I didn’t read any of the reviews before I went here. I seriously just skimmed the list of things to do in Hanoi and tried to do whatever strikes my fancy. So when the narrator starts speaking in Vietnamese, I am guilty of waiting for an English translation. When none came, I laughed a bit at myself (on the inside cos laughing out loud would probably scare my seatmates haha) for not reading reviews. What I can say is this “band” is very talented. The female singers hit those high notes like their lives depend on it. The other musicians play an array of instruments (simultaneously!) while I watch the drummer who seemed to be the happiest of the bunch.

Even though I did not understand the dialogue, some of the scenes are admittedly funny. This is something I’d recommend for families with small children.

The puppets used in the show.

Leng is a Malaysian solo traveler as well! She spent the whole month in Vietnam and while Hanoi was my first stop, it was her last. I chatted her up while we were waiting for the show to start. Once it did, we had a whispered conversation about not understanding anything. Hahaha!

It was a Friday and Leng was telling me about her night plans. Apparently, the Dong Yuan night market is only open on weekends.

And yes, I tagged along!

There were too many cheap stuff available! It was a significant version of Divisoria. If it was my last stop, I would have gone home with boxes of goods. Fortunately, I was still in my “save all the money” phase.

However, I never scrimp on food. So I went and threw my “save all the money” crap I kept internalizing and tasted all the street food. Hahahaha! I spent a total of VND 20,000 which is insanely cheap if you ask me.

Even though I was really full, I still went with Leng when she told me that there’s a nice hole in the wall place right across the hostel she’s staying at. Lo, and behold, we were staying in different branches of the same hostel!

Chicken bahn mi with lots of potatoes!

Milk tea with jelly that had cheese inside it. Yummers!

It was already 11 in the evening, and I decided to take a rain check when Leng invited me to a pub for a beer. I was so tired and I just knew my legs would be sore the following day. Overall, I was so glad to have spent the evening in a great conversation with Leng. Writing this now, it still feels surreal that I actually went and made friends in Hanoi. Have you made friends while traveling? 🙂

Hanoi 2015 || Drenched in revolution, history, and a little bit of rain

I got a bit lost looking for the Vietnam Museum of Revolution. One of the things that were a bit difficult is the fact that not a lot of people understand English. So I just went on my way and after countless steps reached my destination. The ticket I bought cost VND 40,000 and is also valid for the adjacent museum on the same day.

This museum felt very old. It did the part of transporting me back to the time of the revolution. I didn’t take a lot of photos here since I just read the captions, gaining more insight on Vietnamese history. They say museums are for tourists and that travelers usually go without it. So call me a tourist then.

I can’t believe I traveled from that red star in the upper part of the map, followed the red arrows going down and then crossed the border to Cam Pu Chia.

It was drizzling when I exited the museum and had to walk briskly to my next destination. Cos that’s how I roll haha. Fortunately, the National Museum of Vietnamese History was just across the street.

It’s hard to miss this yellow building! I have seen countless buildings of this shade (including the prison) and those usually are of French architecture.

Unlike the previous museum with its drab coloring, this building looked remarkably classic. I may have been swayed by the pink hues and the romantic feel of this museum. I say romantic because it looked like a place I’d go on a date in. 🙂

There was an ongoing exhibit of lotus-inspired artworks while I was there. It was a dark room with whimsical gold lotus plates and other similar paraphernalia. /swoons

The vast first floor deals with pre-”civilization “ artifacts.

I waited for 15 minutes for this guy to move.. to no avail. I kinda regret my impatience now.

I shamelessly sat there for 15 minutes to take a rest. All the walking have tired my legs out. See what I said about pink hues?

Elaborate incense burners.

Thousand-armed Avalokitesvara – there are variations of Avalokitesvara and this one had a thousand arms and eleven heads. (I Google-checked if my memory serves me correctly. I only made actual notes of prices but never names or interesting facts in my journal. Hahaha!)

Candle holders but I can see those as cupcake holders! Imagine how nice it would be for themed parties.

When I got out of the museum, the drizzle has ceased and I was fairly confident that I can book the 2 days/1 night party cruise for the following day. The universe thought “oh no, you don’t” and decided to produce a strong downpour while I was looking for the way back to the hostel to pay for the tour. I found a girl waiting out the rain under a tree, unsuccessful in that endeavor since she was as drenched as me in her uniform. After a few tries, we failed to strike up a coherent conversation. She didn’t know how to speak English, but in the midst of our awkward attempts she started reaching inside her bag and said “rain.. here!”, pulling out a small promotional plastic fan, handed it to me and made gestures of covering my head with it. We then went our separate ways after I smiled and said ‘cam on’. Have I mentioned how much I love Vietnam?

I had no clue where I was, and in fear of having my paper map disintegrate in the rain, I went inside a random cafe. I had the best luck, though, because Hanoi Tropical Cafe had the quirkiness I love in cafes. Also, the staff handed me a lot of tissue the moment I went inside looking like I came fresh from the shower. VND 67,000 well spent.

Passion Fruit Smoothie.

Lime Juice.

After the rain ceased and I was done plotting on how I can get to my next destination, I went and braved my way on the streets of Hanoi. Any guesses on where I went next? Hint: It’s related to water! Let me know what you think in the comment sections or you can message me. 🙂