Posts Tagged ‘asia’

When I visited Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam, I made sure that I would have my fill of their infamous pho or Vietnamese noodle soup. I was hellbent on trying as much pho as I could that it was actually my first meal in Vietnam (our breakfast in Ben Thanh Market). But there was one restaurant that made its mark on me, mainly because their noodle soup was really good.

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The restaurant was just an accidental discovery but it was already way past lunch time and it was the only restaurant we spotted around the area. We didn’t know anything about the place but we bit the bullet and went in anyway. Upon entering, I was appeased when I saw one wall plastered with photos of locals enjoying their food. Maybe it wouldn’t be so bad if locals frequent the place, yeah?

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When we got seated, we were immediately served with some sort of pastry. We weren’t exactly sure if they were complimentary but Timmy was too hungry to bother so she went ahead and ate one. I was saving room for my main meal so I only took a small bite off of hers. It was actually delicious! The pastry was flaky, and the filling (which I suspect to be minced pork) was tasty and savory.

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Also on the table were the usual accompaniment for pho – mung sprouts, cilantro and chives. There were also some additional condiments like garlic oil, sliced peppers, marinated garlic and three types of sauces that I honestly didn’t use so I never got to identify them.

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After a short while, our orders were served. Timmy and I got the same thing which had everything on it. Wantons, shrimp, pork balls, and egg noodle soup. My favorite part was the “pork chops” which were actually boiled pork reminiscent of our very own nilaga. The pork pieces were so delightfully tender and the broth was really tasty. I think the dish cost around ~Php120, honestly a fair price for such good quality.

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If I ever have the chance to go back to Ho Chi Minh, I would definitely pay this restaurant another visit. If you’re going to HCMC, this is a must-try! It’s around 8 minutes by foot from Ben Thanh Market.

Check out my previous posts on my Indochina trip here:

The Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) Fine Arts Museum is only a few blocks away from the famous Ben Thanh Market. After our filling breakfast inside Ben Thanh Market, we lugged our bags and made our way to the museum. Towards the same direction is Le Cong Kieu Street, a whole strip of stores selling antiques. It was still too early for our visit as most of the stores were still closed. Those that are open had moody owners who shooed us away when we tried to take photos. LOL OK then. Moving on…

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The Fine Arts Museum of Ho Chi Minh City is one of the largest fine arts centers of Vietnam. The building that houses the museum is a yellow-white grand colonial-era mansion that is a combination of French and Chinese styles.

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The museum covers three floors and it focuses on collecting, keeping, preserving and displaying fine artworks typical of Vietnamese people, especially of Ho Chi Minh City.

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The first floor hosts rotating exhibits of domestic and international contemporary art. The second floor is where paintings and sculptures of Vietnamese and non-Vietnamese artists are displayed. The third floor holds a collection of historic art ranging from the 7th to early 20th century.

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I was quite impressed with the variety of mother-of-pearl inlaid woods on display. There were also lots of interesting woodcut paintings and wood sculptures.Below are some of my favorites.

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And for some reason, I am quite drawn to anything with faces of elder-looking men and women. Below are some carvings and sculptures with hauntingly beautiful faces.

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And then there are these heart-wrenching family themed sculptures. They’re not necessarily all sad-looking but I guess I just associate it with war and death and the separation it inevitably brings.

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And below are some of my favorite paintings and caricatures which focus on the Vietnamese resistance to various colonial rulers. I especially loved that of a woman supposedly in the middle of a battle. Girl power!

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As I mentioned above, the first floor is home to rotating galleries of various artists. During our visit, artworks of local children were on display. Isn’t the one on top just creepy? Haha. What could have inspired a little kid to draw bodies floating down a river?

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Finally, I feel like this certain image is what Vietnam is most popular of. I am now so pissed off that I did not buy a painting featuring a Vietnamese woman. Maybe when I go back *fingers crossed*

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Entrance fee to the HCMC Fine Arts Museum is only at 10,000 Vietnamese Dong (only around Php21) so it is a shame to pass up on a really cheap and entertaining side trip.

Have you been to the HCMC Fine Arts Museum? What were your favorites?

I didn’t plan on making a separate entry for this restaurant but I remember how happy we felt to have found a place to eat good Thai food at a very cheap price (relative to Phuket’s prices.) Suksabai Restaurant is just a few blocks away from our hotel, Rambuttri Village Inn.  We didn’t know anything about this place before choosing to eat here so our food were all happy accidents.

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Lorraine had this spicy seafood pasta dish. We were all quite surprised to see this type of pasta because we are used to using macaroni shells on our desserts here in the Philippines. The dish packed a lot of spice, a good way to perk us up before we go out to explore Bangkok. It could have used a tad more seafood slices if you ask me, but Lorraine seemed to be content with her dish.

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Allan opted for the seafood fried rice. It was also quite tasty and really spicy. Allan didn’t even bother ordering another dish because this was rice + viand in one, they were quite generous with the shrimp and fish pieces. 

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I on the other hand, being the soup addict that I am, had to get something with well… soup. LOL. It was very hot that day but I just couldn’t help myself. I don’t even understand this addiction haha. My food was also quite good! The soup was hearty, the chicken slices were tender and the veggies tasted fresh. I loved it!

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Suksabai Restaurant is a nice place to hang out and people watch since it is just right on the side of the road. The atmosphere was really nice and I heard they have live music in the evening. Sounds like fun!

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After the Phuket leg of our Thailand trip, we boarded an overnight bus that would take us to Bangkok. It was bittersweet; I would finally be able to explore Bangkok but will be leaving behind the serenity of Phuket. Nevertheless, I was more than excited to partake of what Bangkok has to offer. Let me start with our hotel: Rambuttri Village Inn.

Rambuttri Village Inn is near Khao San Road where most of the backpackers and budget travelers gravitate towards to, especially at night. It is strategically located at the more quiet and less crowded Soi Rambuttri. However, it is quite far from any train station but we honestly didn’t mind.

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We arrived early in the morning and as expected, our room wasn’t available yet. We killed some time at a nearby Burger King where we also had breakfast. When we got back to the hotel, we still had to wait a little while for our room. We didn’t mind because the lobby offered comfortable sitting areas where waiting guests could rest and lounge while they wait for their rooms to be ready.

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The room that we got was pretty basic – cable television, aircon, comfortable bed, a huge window, and a sizable bathroom. It was just right for us, though significantly smaller than our room in Phuket. Still, we didn’t mind because we expected to be out most of the time anyway. We didn’t have anything scheduled for our first day in Bangkok so we decided to check out the rooftop swimming pool.

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Their pool was the only thing that stood out from our whole hotel experience. Bangkok is quite hot and humid so having a swimming pool is a really big plus. Not to mention the fact that we had the pool all to ourselves. Guess all the other guests were all out exploring the city.

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Since the pool is at the rooftop, it gave us quite a good view of the surrounding buildings. Although we didn’t know exactly what we were looking at, it was still nice to be able to see our surroundings from a bird’s-eye view.

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I did not take any photo of our room because as I said, it was as basic as can be. But another nice thing with our hotel is their outdoor garden where guests could sit down to eat their meals or just relax. Below is the view from the café in front of the hotel. So relaxing, yes?

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If you want to see my previous entries about our Phuket trip, click the links below:

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The street across Patong Beach is lined with establishments – bars, stores, hotels and restaurants. There are different types of bars around, from the usual backpacker’s watering hole to the eccentric A Go-Go Bars. As expected, a good number of lady-boys are walking around offering massages or whatever. Hehe.

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On our second night in Phuket, we decided to walk the strip along Patong Beach. I was actually hoping to get a light buzz from one of the bars but my friends weren’t really up for it.

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During our long walk, we came across a pink mobile bar. It was our first time to see one so you can just imagine our excitement, haha. It’s painted a very bold pink, decked with blazing lights and blaring out some Thai hip-hop music. It just demands attention. Weirdly enough, no one was around. Not even a single costumer.

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Since it was decided that we will no longer drink, we resorted to taking part of Patong’s street food. From grilled meat and seafood, fresh fruits and utterly delicious (and cheap!) crepes – basically anything a night owl would crave for.

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I feel like the huge amount of restaurants overwhelmed our hungry tummies because we actually ended up having our dinner at Subway. LOL. It’s quite comical, actually.

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After filling our tummies with sandwich and street food, we walked back to our hotel to retire for the night. I hope to get back to Phuket someday and take part of the infamous Patong nightlife. For real, this time.

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Phuket’s Big Buddha is a must-visit destination. It is one of the island’s most important and revered landmarks. Both tourists and devout Buddhists flock this local landmark everyday. There are two major Buddha images up the hill – the bigger one is 45 meters high and 25 meters across the base.

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This place also serves as a museum narrating the history of the Big Buddha. Upon entering, we immediately saw a lot of Buddha images everywhere.

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Despite the huge number of visitors around, the complex is rather peaceful and the only noises you could hear are the tinkling of small bells in the wind and a soft background Dharma music. You could actually buy a bell and get your name engraved on it.

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Also scattered all over the place are numerous donation boxes – most of them are placed near the base of statues. It could be off-putting for some visitors but the construction of the Big Buddha monument relies solely on public donations.

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On the right is the second major Buddha image, it is 12 meters high and is made of 22 tons of brass. It looks quite regal but dwarfed by the white marble Buddha.

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The top of the hill offers a sweeping 360-degree view of the island. I could just imagine how serene it would be at the top during sunset.

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Before leaving, we offered some prayers (though we’re not practicing Buddhism). As per tradition in most temples, we got a string bracelet blessed by monks for luck and fortune.

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For our last meal in Phuket, our driver brought us to Phongphang Seafood Restaurant. This restaurant gives off a Dampa vibe with all the tanks that contain live seafood scattered all over the place. You can make a selection from the live seafood and have them cooked to your liking. Or if you’re really not in the mood for that, you can order from their ~normal~ menu, which is exactly what we did.

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Green Chicken Curry – Super strong curry taste. And you see those grape-like bunch of green thingamajigs? They tasted funny. Curiosity got the better of me and I popped one into my mouth. REGRETS.

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Crispy Fried Shrimp w/ Garlic – Juicy shrimps with a light and crispy batter topped with crispy garlic bits. YUM!

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Sauteed Vegetables – The Ilocana in me always wants vegetables. They look and taste like chopsuey.

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Seafood Tomyum – Deliciously sour and spicy broth with lots of seafood goodness in it. Especially loved the fish meat.

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Seafood Fried Rice – Of course we gotta have rice. I loved how generous they were with the seafood. Lots of shrimp and squid bits.

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Watermelon Shake & Fresh Coconut Juice – fresh and not overly sweet. Perfect way to cool down on a very hot day.

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Phongphang Seafood Restaurant is quite a long drive from Patong Beach but it is definitely worth a try. Wish I could go back someday for the live seafood!