Thursday, October 31, 2013

Just A Minute, October 2013

I can't believe we are staring at the end of the year already! Where did August, September and October go? The days have been flashing by so fast that I can barely hold onto them. The next two months are going to be just as hectic, I am heading out to Hong Kong and Bali (again!) for year-end vacations with friends and will be attending my favourite cousin's wedding, not to mention laying the groundwork for projects at work in the new year. No end of year slowing down for me, I am afraid!

I mentioned on Twitter a few weeks ago that I had ordered my very first 50mm f1.8 lens! I received it and managed to snap a few shorts on the tail end of the current film in my camera. I developed those photographs this week and I am loving that depth of field and how much more light I can get for night shots!

Watching | Itazura Na Kiss, a Japanese drama remake. The original was the first drama I ever watched as a wee 12 year old.

Reading | Nothing at the moment but I am impatiently waiting for Julia Quinn's latest book to reach me.

Enjoying | Swimming. I recently began swimming on the weekends and I really enjoy being there early in the day, slicing through the waters and watching the kids' swimming classes around me.

Craving | Korean BBQ! Meat, glorious, meat!

Sunday, October 27, 2013

French Dinner & Egg Coffee, Hanoi 2013

Arriving back in the Old Quarter after our rainy adventure to the Perfume Pagoda, we headed out to DC Bistro Boutique, a French bistro recommended by a friend of mine. Why a French bistro when there are so many other Vietnamese food to try? Because they had a three-course set meal for only 7USD!

I selected the pate rillete for starters, seafood gratin for mains and the best chocolate mousse in the world for desserts. I admit I wasn't sure what I was going to get when I said I would have the rillete and I had to look it up later. I was rather relieved to find out it was just pork pate. Not pictured was the freshly baked bread and home-made butter, because it disappeared rather quickly between the two of us.

After dinner, we headed back to the Old Quarter, soaking up the lights and sounds. We were also intent on finding a cafe to try the infamous Vietnamese Egg Coffee or Ca Phe Trung. I had no idea what to expect with this variant of coffee, in my mind I expected a raw egg whisked in with black coffee. What we got was a creamy, sweet drink with no discernible traces of raw egg. Research later told me that preparations for Vietnamese Egg Coffee begin with the egg yolk being whisked with condensed milk and a little filtered coffee. The fluffy mixture is then poured on top of the coffee. If you are in Hanoi, make sure you give it a try!

Saturday, October 19, 2013

Perfume Pagoda, Hanoi 2013

When we first read about the Perfume Pagoda in guidebooks, we immediately knew we wanted to go there. We booked a day trip on our first day in Hanoi for the next day. We booked through our hotel but travel agencies are everywhere in the Old Quarter. We were picked up early in the morning by our tour guide at our hotel, joining a small group of three other travellers for the trip. 

We drove for about 2 hours from Hanoi to a jetty on the Day River. From the bus, we transferred to a narrow metal rowboat, powered by one woman! Our new travel friends were all shocked at the size of the boat, one lady kept laughing in disbelief the first 10 minutes we were on it. I was a little more prepared because I had googled photographs of the trip but was still extremely skeptical how we could all fit. The ride was about 40 minutes to the temple, it was really peaceful watching the beautiful scenery go by and listening to the rhythm of the rowing. Since it was the off-season, there was only one or two other boats on the water the same time as us. It drizzled throughout the day, making it a rather damp and humid trip. We were lucky that the heavy rains only came down at the end of the day just as we boarded our bus back to Hanoi.

Alighting from the boat, we first encountered the Den Trinh (or Presentation Shrine) and Thien Tru Pagoda (Heaven Kitchen Pagoda). These two buildings were located at the foot of the hills and accessible by walking. We ate a simple lunch at the only restaurant in the complex. You can't go wrong with hot, freshly-cooked food.

After lunch, we made our way to Huong Tich, the sacred centre of the Perfume Pagoda complex, where thousands of Vietnamese flock every year for their annual pilgrimage. Most Vietnamese prefer to hike from Thien Tru Pagoda to pay their respects at other temples along the way but there is also a cable car to the top. Be warned that even with the cable car ride, there is still a lot of walking up stone-tiled slopes (not fun when the weather was so wet). 

The final descent to Huong Tich is 120-steps of rough hewn stones. From the top, the grotto looks like the inside of a dragon's mouth (Vietnamese revere the dragon!), and incense smoke perfumes the air. Within the grotto, there are many ancient carvings and stone formations that resemble Buddhist symbols. It was incredible! We made our way further inwards to pay our respects, giving thanks for our safe journey and praying for the future.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Exploring Hanoi, Hanoi 2013

On that first day in Hanoi, we walked and walked and walked. Heading south of Hoan Kiem Lake, we walked around to the Hanoi Opera House, The Museum of Vietnamese History, then eastwards past the Hanoi Railway towards the Temple of Literature.

Although the Museum was closed by the time we reached, the grounds were still open so we stepped in for a little look. Sitting right at the entrance was the Vietnamese revolutionary Ho Chi Minh's armoured car. Pretty cool!

By the time we reached the Temple of Literature, it was closed as well. (Notice a pattern? Tourist attractions in Hanoi close by 6pm.) Instead of exploring the Temple, we hung around the park adjacent to the Temple. Once again, the neighbourhood vibe was in abundance.

When our stomachs started to rumble, we hailed a cab to take us to the eatery Bun Cha Hang Manh at 1 Hang Manh to try Bun Cha for dinner. Bun Cha is a dish of grilled pork, rice noodles and spring rolls. The rice noodles is eaten together with the grilled pork, with the dipping sauce to flavour and dampen the noodles. I enjoyed this dish very much, the portions are humongous and you are bound to leave this place with a full stomach.

Monday, October 7, 2013

Hoan Kiem Lake, Hanoi 2013

One thing I really like about Hanoi is its cozy neighbourhood vibe despite being the capital of Vietnam. As we strolled along Hoan Kiem Lake, we encountered the locals walking alongside us, hanging out and chatting, taking wedding pictorials, exercising and playing games. Very unlike other capital cities of the world.

Film Notes
I really really like tungsten film.
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