Posted by : foongpc | Monday, September 29, 2014 | Published in


The rain had begun to fall again after a long dry spell. In fact, it has been raining daily since the start of the Nine Emperor Gods Festival last week.

Hopefully the rain will help fill up the Sungai Selangor Dam which was reported to have reached the critical level a month ago. I am keeping my fingers crossed although I heard that the rain did not fall over the dam area.

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Took the above photo from inside my car during the rain

With the daily rain, the temperature had also dropped to a more comfortable level. I always love the refreshing smell of the air after a heavy downpour. So yes, I admit I love the rain. And if you are one of those few people who dislike the rain, maybe you should learn how to enjoy the rain.

Anyway, what I would really like to share with you today is a piano piece I composed a few days ago while it was raining lightly outside. Many things inspire me to come up with a song, and rain is one of them.  As such, I have named this song 'Raindrops'.

Note : This work and recording is copyrighted. All rights reserved. 

Now sit down, relax and press Play.
Can you hear the raindrops? : )

My First Day In Hanoi With Hanoikids (Part 3)

Posted by : foongpc | Friday, September 26, 2014 | Published in


Continued from Part 2

By the time we left Hanoi Soul Cafe, the rain had already stopped. Son, my guide from Hanoikids took me for a walk around Hoan Kiem Lake.

I enjoyed walking around this lake very much but we did not cover the entire lake, so I promised myself to come back again the next morning. I will share photos of this beautiful lake on a separate post.

We reached the Ly Thai To Park, a concrete open space that faces the lake. Here, a statue of Ly Thai To stands majestically overlooking the park.

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Ly Thai To was an Emperor who reigned from 1009 - 1028 AD. He was also known as the founder of the city of Hanoi, having moved the capital to Hanoi in 1010.

There were many locals and some tourists at the park that evening. It appears to be a favourite place for the locals to hang out in the evenings.

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We walked along Le Thach Street and reached the French Quarter area. Opposite is the
State Bank Of Vietnam Building.

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Then we turned right into Ngo Quyen road and I saw this yellow colour building on the right. It is the Government Building of Vietnam.

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The majestic front gate of the building.

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Walking a little further, we reached the most expensive hotel in Hanoi on our left. It is the Sofitel Legend Metropole Hotel.

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If you can afford this expensive hotel, do make it a point to stay here. Many visiting dignitaries and famous celebrities have stayed in this hotel.

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Built in 1901, the building itself is a colonial classic, with timeless charm and stunning rooms. Son brought me inside to have a look around. I however did not take any photos of the interior.

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The photo above was taken inside the hotel compound.

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I definitely cannot afford to stay in this high class hotel, so just visiting it was good enough for me. LOL!

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Oh look at these classic cars parked in front of the hotel! I am pretty sure every visitor to this hotel would not miss the chance to pose in front of these vintage cars.

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A stone's throw away from the hotel, near a roundabout stands another grand building - the Hanoi Opera House.

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Besides Western operas, this Opera House also features performances by classical orchestras, as well as local puppet shows and traditional Vietnamese songs and dramas. However, I did not watch any shows during my stay in Hanoi.

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Lastly, Son brought me to visit another famous hotel in Hanoi - the Hilton Hanoi Opera Hotel.

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Located near to the Hanoi Opera House, this hotel is another high class hotel in the French Quarter.

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I went inside to have a short tour then came out again. There were many high-end restaurants around French Quarter but we did not visit any of them.

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It was already past 6pm when we left the French Quarter and headed back to the Old Quarter. On the way back to my hotel, we passed by this souvenir shop.

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So many masks! I regretted not buying any of them.

By the time we reached my hotel, it was almost dark. I felt a little sad bading farewell to Son. It had been a great day going out on a tour of Hanoi's chaotic Old Quarter and high-end French Quarter with him.

I highly recommend Hanoikids. If you like to book a tour with them next time you visit Hanoi, check out the Hanoikids website.

My First Day In Hanoi With Hanoikids (Part 2)

Posted by : foongpc | Tuesday, September 23, 2014 | Published in


Continued from Part 1

While exploring the Old Quarter in Hanoi, I came across Sinh Cafe Travel, a local tour agent and decided to check out the tours they provided. I ended up signing up for two tours for me and my friend who would be arriving the next day - one to Halong Bay and the other to Perfume Pagoda.

Both the Halong Bay and Perfume Pagoda were one-day tours and they cost US$25 each - slightly cheaper than what the tour agent at my hotel charged. I was glad I did not book any tours via my hotel!

I will be blogging about Halong Bay and Perfume Pagoda in future posts, so do look out for them.

I was a little bit lost walking the streets of Old Quarter but luckily I managed to find my way back to my hotel and rested for a while before my guide from Hanoikids arrived at around 2pm. He was a nice, young man who introduced himself as Son. (rhymes with 'born').

I did not really have a planned itinerary but since I had not taken lunch yet (not to mention I was freaking hungry after all the walking around Old Quarter), I told Son to bring me to a good restaurant for lunch.

He brought me to New Day Restaurant located at Ma May Street.

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This is Son smiling for my camera. We were seated inside the restaurant and I was all eager to taste my first real Vietnamese meal!

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I ordered quite a number of dishes under Son's recommendation, but more about them in a separate post. Meantime, I shall just show you my bowl of delicious pho bo (beef with rice noodles soup).

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Son told me he joined Hanoikids as a means to improve his English and also to meet people, especially from other countries. It was pretty interesting talking to him.

The good thing about getting a guide from Hanoikids is you do not have to pay him (it's free) but you do need to pay for all the meals, transport and any entrance tickets to sites. So yes, I paid for his lunch and I was more than willing to do so.

Since it would only be a half day tour, I asked Son to bring me to places around Old Quarter and anywhere that's not too far away. Right after our late lunch, he brought me to a traditional Heritage House along the same road as the restaurant.

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It was an interesting look at traditional Vietnamese architecture. More about this Heritage House in a future post.

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After about half an hour exploring the Heritage House, Son brought me to Hang Bac Street to visit the famous Kim Ngan Temple.

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Did you know that each of the 36 guild streets in the Old Quarter is associated with a traditional craft? Hang Bac (also known as Silver Street), for instance, is famous in Hanoi as the place for trading and making gold and silver jewelries.  Perhaps that's why the statues and plants outside the temple were wrapped in gold and silver?

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More about this Kim Ngan Temple in a separate post.

When we left the temple, the sky looked as if it was going to rain, so Son suggested we search for a cafe to escape the rain and to have a drink at the same time. I was thinking drinking Vietnamese coffee while watching the rain fall would be the perfect thing to do, so I quickly agreed.

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Soon, we reached a big, wide junction near Hoan Kiem Lake and this was clearly a nightmare for anyone not used to crossing the roads in Hanoi. Cars and motorbikes were coming in all directions, and I mean ALL directions!!

If I were to wait for the road to be clear before I cross, I would be standing rooted at my spot the whole day! No kidding!

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Thankfully, Son was there to help me cross the road. By the way, I took the above photo while standing smack in the middle of the junction with cars and motorbikes flying all around me. I must say though, that the photo did not really capture the actual situation - in reality, there were more cars and looked more chaotic than this!

Now for first timer visitors to Hanoi, read carefully. This is how you cross the road in Hanoi.
First, say a little prayer. Look to your right, then to your left. Any cars coming?
If no (which is rare), don't wait. Cross the road!
If yes, what are you waiting for? Cross the road!!

OK, this may sound like a joke, but it is not really. You need to take that first step and walk slowly, but at an even pace, firmly and decisively. Then you will see a miracle happen before your very eyes. As you walk across the busy, chaotic road, cars and motorcyclists will skilfully swerve and avoid you.

Yes, only in Hanoi and in Vietnam do you cross the road like this. Attempting to do so in any other  country (especially Malaysia) will result in dire consequences. Do remember not to run or slow down as you cross the road or you will confuse the motorists. You got to trust the motorists. Did I mention that Vietnamese drivers are among the best in the world?

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Son brought me to Hanoi Soul Cafe and we sat at the balcony overlooking Hoan Kiem Lake.

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Somehow I decided not to order coffee and went for coconut water instead. We spent about an hour here chit chatting and simply observing the streets below.

When we finally left the cafe, the rain had stopped. Son wanted to bring me to the French Quarter. Situated at the south east of Hoan Kiem Lake, the French Quarter is totally opposite in character compared to the Old Quarter. Think French, wide roads, more orderly traffic, high class buildings and expensive restaurants and you will get the idea.

But this post is probably getting a bit too long, so maybe more about the French Quarter in Part 3?

To be continued ....

My First Day In Hanoi With Hanoikids (Part 1)

Posted by : foongpc | Thursday, September 18, 2014 | Published in


Last year in March, I went for a 5-day trip to Hanoi, Vietnam with a friend. It was my first time in Vietnam and I was extremely excited!

My friend could only join me on the second day, so I would be going solo on the first. Not that I really mind since I love traveling solo, but a travel companion would be nice. Two months before the trip, I came across a website that offers free personalised tour by a non-profit, student-run organisation in Hanoi called Hanoikids.

Now I am not very fond of joining any tour groups, but this is totally different. What Hanoikids do is they will send a local student to be your tour guide and the itinerary is entirely up to you! Since it was my first time in Hanoi, I thought that getting a local student to show me around and introduce me to the local culture would be a great idea.

Unfortunately, when I emailed Hanoikids to book a one-day tour, this was the reply I received. (Please enlarge to read).

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I learnt that you need to book the tour way ahead in advance, probably 3 - 4 months ahead. I had made my bookings only 2 weeks before my trip so they were not able to accommodate me.

Luckily, 2 days before my trip, I received an unexpected email from Hanoikids telling me they could now offer me a half-day tour on the day I requested. Even though it was just half day and not a whole day as I had initially planned, that was good news indeed!

So I was really excited that early morning at the airport waiting for my flight from KL to Hanoi.  Although the AirAsia flight was supposed to take about 3 hours and 20 minutes, I arrived at the Noi Bai International Airport 15 minutes ahead of schedule. Surely, that's a good start to my Hanoi trip!

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One thing good about traveling to Hanoi is that you do not need to fill in any immigration card during the flight or at the airport. I have always found them to be such a hassle although it's a necessary procedure in many countries.

From the airport, I took a taxi to my hotel (Rising Dragon Palace Hotel) located at Old Quarter. I noticed that taxis in Hanoi were mostly Toyota Camry cars. The journey from the airport to the hotel took about 45 minutes, and I was charged 315,000 VND (Vietnamese Dong) / US$15 / RM48. The taxi did not use meters and this amount was agreed upon before I entered the taxi at the airport.

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The Rising Dragon Palace Hotel

I did not have the exact amount so I offered the taxi driver 400,000 VND (in fact, 400,000 VND was all I had in my wallet - the rest were US dollars and some Malaysian Ringgit) but he told me he had no change. Now I was not sure whether he genuinely did not have the change so I told him to wait while I went into the hotel to ask for some change. Later, I found this to be a wise thing to do as I discovered a lot of the taxi drivers in Hanoi (though not all) like to say that they do not have change.

My first impression of the Rising Dragon Palace Hotel was their excellent and friendly service! But more about this hotel in another post.

Immediately after checking into the hotel, I went out to explore the streets of Hanoi. My first priority however, was to search for a bank to change the US dollars I had with Vietnamese Dong. The hotel also provided money changing service but I found that their rate was not too attractive.

I managed to locate a bank near the hotel (it's called Sacombank) with quite an attractive exchange rate and became an instant millionaire! LOL!

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I was not sure if 4.2 million VND (about US$200) would last me for the next 4 days, but I could always buy again if it's not enough. How I wish that was US$4.2 million and not 4.2 million VND! LOL! I also requested more of the smaller 5,000 VND bills from the bank just in case I would come across taxi drivers or even local people who would dare to say "No change" to me!

The best way to explore the Old Quarter area in Hanoi is by foot. Well, that's the advice given to me by one of the hotel's staff and he's completely right! It was the end of March and I have to say the weather in Hanoi at this time of the year was pleasant. Not too hot, and not too cold. Just perfect, especially for walking around!

Very near to my hotel is this departmental store called Hang Da Galleria. It has a cute clock atop the main entrance. Surprisingly, I did not go inside - maybe because I was too busy walking the streets LOL!

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Opposite the departmental store is the Hanoi Theatre. Oops! I forgot to take a picture of the Hanoi Theatre building! Damn!

My first impression of Hanoi streets was the traffic! It was pretty chaotic and crossing the road was quite a nightmare. Later, my tour guide from Hanoikids would teach me the correct way to cross the road!

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The sight of local woman in conical hat carrying two baskets balanced with a stick on her shoulder was everywhere.

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This is Hang Gai Street, one of the more famous street in the Old Quarter.

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Despite the chaotic traffic, I found the Old Quarter to be quite charming. Look at the buildings!

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I must have walked around for quite some time because when I looked at the time, it was almost 1pm. I needed to rush back to the hotel as my tour guide from Hanoikids would be meeting up with me there at 2pm.

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But with so many streets in the Old Quarter I lost my direction and did not know how to get back to my hotel. Would I make it on time?

To be continued ....

Goodbye Penang!

Posted by : foongpc | Thursday, September 11, 2014 | Published in


This is my last post on my Penang trip last year.

After my lunch at Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng, I went back to my hotel and checked out. But as there were still a lot of time before the Aeroline bus departs from Queensbay Mall to Petaling Jaya, I left my luggage at the hotel and took a stroll along Gurney Drive before heading over to Coffee Bean near Gurney Hotel for some coffee.

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Later, I took a taxi to Queensbay Mall and did some window shopping there before the Aeroline bus finally arrived at 5.30pm. It was time to say goodbye to Penang! I would miss Penang, but no worries, I will definitely be back!

There are still a few places which I did not visit during this trip, namely the Botanical Gardens and Penang Hill, both of which I had visited many years ago. And of course, there are still many, many more Penang food that I have yet to try, so I am actually looking forward to my next visit already!

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It was a pity I did not manage to enter the Kapitan Keling Mosque during this trip as there was a prayer in session at that time. I managed to take some photos of the mosque from the outside however.

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I was glad I managed to squeeze in some time to buy my favourite Tambun biscuits from Him Heang located at Burma Road.

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These delicious Tambun biscuits make very good gifts so I bought a few boxes. But guess what? Instead of giving away as gifts, I ate most of the biscuits. Haha!

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I also bought this Nutmeg concentrated juice at Him Heang. 

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I still remember drinking nutmeg juice almost every night after returning home from Penang. It was refreshingly good!

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So once again, goodbye Penang! I will visit you again in the near future.

If you missed any of my Penang posts, worry not. Here is the complete list of my Penang posts in chronological order.

1. Taking The Aeroline Bus To Penang
2. Fooyo Fried Ice Yogurt @ Prangin Mall, Penang
3. Discovering The Murals Of George Town, Penang
4. The Steel Rod Sculptures Of George Town, Penang
5. Walking The Streets Of George Town (Part 1)
6. Walking The Streets Of George Town (Part 2)
7. My Visit To Fort Cornwallis
8. My Stay At Evergreen Laurel Hotel In Gurney Drive
9. Penang Laksa And Cendol @ Joo Hooi Cafe
10. Penang Food Hunt : Cecil Street Market Hawker Centre
11. Penang Food Hunt : Bak Kwa Bun And Duck Leg Wrap
12. Penang Ais Tingkap (Window Sherbet) @ Tamil Street
13. The Floating Temple Of Penang
14. Joez Coconut Jelly In George Town, Penang
15. Penang Food Hunt @ Kimberley Street
16. Eating Penang Hokkien Mee @ 888 Hokkien Mee
17. Yummy Bagel Muffin & Yogurt @ The Mugshot Cafe
18. Tiger Char Koay Teow @ Ping Hooi Cafe 
19. My Visit To Leong San Tong Khoo Kongsi In Penang
20. My Visit To Kek Lok Si Temple In Penang
21. The Dhammikarama Burmese Buddhist Temple In Penang
22. The Reclining Buddha At Wat Chayamangkalaram In Penang
23. Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng @ Seng Lee Coffee Shop
24. A Relaxing Afternoon At Gurney Drive


Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng @ Seng Lee Coffee Shop

Posted by : foongpc | Tuesday, September 9, 2014 | Published in


After visiting Wat Chayamangkalaram, I realised it was time for lunch. Despite the sky threatening to rain at any time, I walked towards Jalan Burmah hoping to find the famous Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng.

On the way, I passed by the Pulau Tikus Police Station.

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And the Sin Hwa Coffee Shop which is famous for their Penang char koay teow.

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Soon, I reached this building which on one side faces Jalan Burmah and the other faces Bangkok Lane.

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It's Seng Lee Coffee Shop.

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In this coffee shop is the famous Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng, so called because the mee goreng stall faces Bangkok Lane.

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To readers who are not familiar with mee goreng, it is actually fried noodles. In this case, it is Indian fried noodles. You can order your mee goreng plain or with squids and eggs. You can even mix the mee goreng with mee rebus if you like.

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My plate of piping hot mee goreng complete with extra squids and eggs for RM5.

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How did I find it? Well, it was a bit too soggy to me. Other than that, it was pretty fine. I have to say though, that I am not a huge fan of mee goreng as I feel it is oily and not very healthy. Haha! I guess eating it once in a while is OK.

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Interestingly, the Bangkok Lane Mee Goreng stall has been around for more than 80 years. That's a very long time!

If you plan to try this mee goreng, do take note that the stall operates everyday from 8am to 6pm except on Mondays.