Tuesday, 21 September 2010

3 Reasons Why I'll Never Return to Vietnam

My sis is now in Hanoi for a short holiday, despite me and 101 other people telling her not to go. Reason is because Vietnam sucks big time!

When I visited Hanoi in November 2007, I came back vowing never to return again, just like what travel blogger Normadic Matt said in his site, 'Why I'll Never Return to Vietnam'.

1) Dishonesty
First of all, the Vietnamese are a bunch of dishonest people. In fact, they are so dishonest, they bring dishonesty to the next level.

I know it's unfair to label ALL Vietnamese people as dishonest, as this may be a case of a few bad apples spoiling the bunch. But based on my experiences, the bad apples are indeed MANY.

The mother of all cheat experiences happened within my first few hours of landing in Hanoi.

I was exploring the streets of Hanoi when I saw a girl carrying a basket of pastries. She asked me in broken English if I wanted to buy some. At that time I had just arrived and was rather hungry, so I thought why not? Moreover I kasihan (pity) her lah.

I didn't have any small change with me, so I asked if she had change for a big note, to which she said yes.

So I chose 3 pastries which costs 20,000 Dong and handed her a 50,000 Dong note. She took the money, tucked it into her waist pouch, picked up her basket and started moving away. When I asked for my change, she gave me a smug look and kept on repeating, "Vietnam pastries, very good, very delicious" and kept moving away. Soon she was lost in the crowd.

I did not give chase for fear of getting waylaid into an alley where thugs are waiting to beat the crap out of me. You'll never know what sort of syndicate is going on and it's always better to be safe than sorry, especially being a foreigner there.

That incident happened at the beginning of my Hanoi trip and it spoilt the rest of it as I had to constantly watch my back for fear someone may just come up and rob me. My mind was not free to absorb the culture and atmosphere of Hanoi and I hated that feeling.

2) Nothing really interesting to see
Apart from having a drap and dull landscape which mades poor photos for my point-and-shoot camera, there's nothing much to see and do in Hanoi.

Of course there's the famous Tha Long Water Puppet Theatre, but there's perpetually a long queue at the ticket counter. After spending like 30 minutes in queue, the ticket seller puts up a sign saying "Sold Out" and the line disperses.

Later another traveller told me she bought her ticket from the same counter after me. So what's happening here? Why tell people tickets are sold out when it's not the actual case? If this is how they do business, then I wouldn't want to spend my money making the water puppet theatre richer.

Hoan Keim Lake is a good landmark to navigate your way around Hanoi. But look at how drap the lake looks. The more interesting subjects to observe there would be the benches where couples neck away like there's no tomorrow.

3) Language problem
Language was a huge problem. The Vietnamese can't communicate in simple English. Everywhere I went I had to use sign language or whatever forms of communication known to humankind.

And when they speak English, it doesn't sound like English.

I was at the Tourism Office in the middle of Hanoi to make a few enquiries and to book a taxi to the airport for the next day.

The officer there spoke English that didn't sound like English, and I had a difficult time trying to tell her what I wanted. I was worried she may not understand me but thankfully the taxi arrived on time and I kissed goodbye to Vietnam, vowing never to return unless it's a matter of life and death.

Ordering food from roadside stalls can be a nightmare. First, you don't know which meat to point at (choose). Silap-silap point, get dogs meat. Secondly the hawker won't be able to tell you how much a bowl of pho (noodles) costs. But thank God we all share the same numerical system and for electronic devices to display the figure.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Missing a Ribbon

I was at the bus stop opposite my office, waiting for the feeder bus to the nearest LRT station when I looked down at my feet and saw this:

My left shoe was missing a ribbon!

I wonder how long I had walked around with a missing ribbon. No wonder lah a few passengers on the bus and LRT were looking at my shoes, wtf!

I love these Elle ballet flats; they are comfy and I bought 'em for a steal at 70% discount that came to RM40 plus. But now it looks it's time to say goodbye. Maybe I should just rip off the right ribbon and still use it.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

My First Ever Hari Raya Aidilfitri Card

Eventhough I don't celebrate Hari Raya Aidilfitri, I received my first ever Aidilfitri card from Hotel Singahsana recently, and it made my day. Would you feel elated to receive a card for a festival you do not celebrate?

This Raya I'll be snoring away in my mum's place, surfing the net, watching lots of telly and researching for a few writing projects. Oh yeah, I also need to attend an old friend's wedding dinner on Sunday.

To all my Muslim friends - Selamat Hari Raya Aidilfitri, Maaf Zahir & Batin. Drive carefully wherever you are and go slow on the grub!

Tuesday, 7 September 2010

What I Bought at Popular BookFest 2010

As I mentioned in my previous entry, I was at the Popular BookFest last Saturday and I went crazy looking at all the books on bargain. Here's what I bought:

For my love of history and travel:

Cathedrals and Castles: Building in the Middle Ages - RM10.32
The Forbidden City: Center of Imperial China - RM10.32

For my desire to become a cultured person:

A Brief History of Art - RM15.92
Great Painters - RM15.90
Van Gogh - RM15.92

For my new hobby that's growing in a small apartment balcony:

Practical Small Gardens - RM15.92 

Because I loved Dan Brown's previous novels I bought his latest work. And because an Asian writer, i.e. Aravind Adiga could win the Man Booker Prize award, I wanted to see what it's all about:

The Lost Symbol - RM25.90
The White Tiger - RM24.67

For the woman that I am:

 Eat, Pray, Love - RM25.90

And finally to complete my Malcolm Gladwell collection:

What the Dog Saw - RM23.90

Total damage was RM184.65, which I think is cheap considering the first 6 books at the top of this entry are all printed on glossy thick paper with extremely colourful pictures. Now I'll have lots to read during my trip to Syria and Jordan.

Sunday, 5 September 2010

Tickets to Syria and Jordan Bought at Matta Fair

Yesterday I spent the entire day at Matta Fair and Popular BookFest. Both fairs were held in separate locations - Matta Fair at Putra World Trade Centre (PWTC) and Popular BookFest at KL Convention Centre. But thanks to a comprehensive public transport system in KL, travelling between both places was a breeze.

My aim at Matta Fair was to get the cheapest tickets I could find for my upcoming trip to Syria and Jordan. It's usually my practise to get 2 or more quotations before deciding to buy anything. So I enquired at Dhesu Travel & Tours, World Discovery Travel, Emirates counter and finally Triways Travel Network.

I went to Dhesu Travel & Tours simply because there were not many people at their counter. The reservation & ticketing agent was helpful. After telling her my travel dates and destinations, she told me Emirates has a promo fair of RM2,130. I noted it down, took her business card and said I'll return after browsing around.

The agent at World Discovery Travel was not helpful and the girl at the Emirates counter could not speak English properly. She thought I wanted to go to Manchester after I clearly said "Damascus". Finally she had to call another staff to attend to me.

I cannot comprehend anyone in the tourism industry who is unable to speak English properly. But maybe the dumb pussy is a temp staff specially employed during Matta Fair. And if that's the case, then Emirates is making a huge mistake. But anyway, the price quoted by Emirates including Triways Travel Network were rather expensive compared to Dhesu - all more than RM3,000. Moreover tickets were not available on my intended travel dates.

So I headed back to Dhesu and in the process of finalising my booking, I realised that the agent had got the destination wrong. She keyed-in Dammam in Saudi Arabia instead of Damascus in Syria. But can't blame her lah cause the code for Dammam is DMM and code for Damascus is DAM, only one letter difference. 

No wonder lah the price she quoted earlier was only RM2,130 cause it was to Dammam. I mean who goes to Saudi Arabia but the Arabs themselves. No wonder lah so cheap.

But I can imagine myself boarding a flight thinking I'm going to Syria and landing in Saudi Arabia instead, bang balls man ... It won't come to that lah, but it's worth imagining - part of travel risk management :-)

So all in all, it costs me RM2,623 for a return ticket (including RM30 agent fee and 1.5% credit card charges). When I say return ticket, it means entry via Damascus in Syria and exit via Amman in Jordan.

Now I can relax a bit cause buying flight tickets which is the most basic and fundamental task of planning any trip is completed. Now I just have to make sure my arse is on that plane when it takes off in the wee hours of 27 September.

Friday, 3 September 2010

RM200 Worth of Shopping Vouchers

When my office moved to a brand new building in July this year, the management organised a competition amongst staff to name all the 10 meeting rooms in the new building. The Grand Prize was shopping vouchers worth RM200.

I sent in 2 entries and one of it won the Grand Prize. My boss told me I can choose which shopping voucher I want, buy it and claim back from the company.

I initially wanted to get Sen Heng vouchers so that I can buy my oven. But after discovering that Sen Heng does not sell vouchers, I decided on Isetan instead.

So yesterday on my way back from work, I made a detour to Isetan Lot 10 to get the vouchers. It's been a little more than a month since we moved to the new building, even the names on the meeting rooms have been put up, but now only I'm buying the shopping vouchers. It just goes to show that procrastination runs in my blood.

Now that I've got the vouchers, I think I'm gonna wait till the next Isetan members sale and use them to buy dresses, accessories and all the other stuff that makes up my world.
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