Saturday, December 22, 2012

Last of my Adventures in SE ASIA: Vietnam!!!

From December 6th-14th, decided to spend last of my remaining time in SE asia with an adventure in Vietnam with some of my friends. Specifically, Ho Chi Minh, Nha Trang, and Hanoi.

Dec 6th-8th Ho Chi Minh

Left Dec 6th from Singapore to Ho Chi Minh, before we did that, had to go through the struggle of dropping off the rest of our luggages at a storage place in some hostel somewhere in Singapore because we were getting kicked out, or our checkout date is the 10th, but we would still be travelling so had to check out earlier. After all the struggle, and the delay in our flight due to rainy weather ( so much for tiger airlines delivering 99.99% of their flights on time), were able to land in Ho Chi Minh safely. Much to our surprise, one of our friends Anh, from our UC EAP singapore program, was able to pick us up with her uncle, and was such a nice convenience for us, to have someone pick us up, not go through the hassle of getting lost and figuring out all these stuff. Took us to this amazing pho place, which kind of puts most of the pho restauraunts in Cali to shame haha....had some bomb pho, some random meat rolls that taste like beef jerky, egg rolls, and etc. Despite all the msg in pho, I think all the extra greens in the food would make up for it. So after all that, she took us to our hostel, helped us check in, dropped our stuff off, and she showed us around the neighborhood, city, and taught us a good amount of Vietnam that we should know, along with some travel advise. Was a really nice way to start off our trip, then the next few days we would walk around trying to see  all the sights within HCM, such as the reunification palace, war remnants museum, notre dame cathedral, and the Cu Chi Tunnels. Despite not being able to shoot a gun at the tunnels :(, still really appreciated it, cause felt like I learned so much more this time around compared to the when I visited in 08, probably because we didn't have a tour guide, and we were just walking around on our own trying to see/learn what's what. Had a pretty interesting tour guide (Mr.Bean), whom was a Vietnam War Veteran, yet was fighting on the US side, so had a lot of interesting stories to tell us, as well as sharing his story from a different perspective. Think he made the tour and the cu chi tunnels lot more exciting, compared to us just going on our own, as well as sharing random facts here and there, and telling us how lot of things portrayed at the tunnels are BS hahahaha...and it's not 100% accurate. Well besides all that, we also had a chance to meet up with one of our friend's roommate, once again showing how small the world can be even being at a completely different country. Was nice catching up, grabbing a drink, and just enjoying the nightlife in Vietnam, which is not what I expected at all....on the 8th, after seeing a good amt of HCM, was able to book a sleeper bus for Nah Trang, so we can make our way towards Hanoi, by the 11th haha....Time was kinda short for us, also before we left, checked out this pretty sick observation deck (avengers tower) haha, chilled at the bar up there, saw the night view of HCM, and bounced right after to our next resort city (Nah Trang).

Our bus ride was kinda interesting, had some interesting australian? I think people on the bus, bus driver might have left a person behind during one of our pit stops and stuff? which we still don't know to this day...but got there safely after riding in our pods.

Dec 9th-10th.   Nha Trang

After our 8 hourish sleeper bus, arrived at the nice coastal city of Nha Trang, where our plan was to just have a nice day at the beach, relax a bit, and just enjoy ourselves before our hellish 30 hour train ride to Hanoi.....since we arrived at 6am, couldn't really check in, so had breakfast at the hotel, walked around the neighborhood, and went to the train station to book our train for the following day to Hanoi, since we would only be staying in Nah Trang 1night 2 days. After we booked it, were able to check in our hotel, was quite nice, relaxed a bit, headed to the beach, enjoyed the sights, read a bit, took a nice nap, and avoided the Sand people ( vietnamese locals with raiden hats, and covered themselves up completely, and goes up to you trying to sell you stuff without saying a word) haha......not much happened in Nah Trang, was very relaxing, ate at the backpackers district, was a very quiet, and small city compared to HCM, but was nice either way since we were able to relax, and just be away from the hustling city.

Next day, headed towards the train station, preparing for our 30ish hour ride, had no idea to expect, and our low expectation we had was even lowered. hahaha...expected food to be provided but wasn't, so survived 30 hours living off cookies and 1 bottle of water haha.....while trying to sleep in our ridiculously below freezing sleeper compartment with hyperactive babies, some roaches hustling around here and there along with some rats....just the big deal...think that's how I started getting sick....haha.....

finally landed in Hanoi, and everyone had this ridiculously relieved look on their faces as the train finally stopped and we finally exited haha.....

Dec 11th-14th Hanoi- Halong Bay Cruise
Finally arrived in Hanoi, checked in our hostel, met up with Ashika and Xiao Zhen, and went out to explore/eat dinner in Hanoi before we head out for our Halong Bay Cruise the following morning till the 13th.
Made some new friends at the hostel, explored around the city, and was very chill....I guess that's one of the things I like so much about travelling, just meeting new people, hearing their stories/adventures, getting new tips and even lessons as well from people all around the world. Even though I've traveled quite a lot throughout my life, travelling with just friends, on my own, and the life of a backpacker was something I have never done before and one of the highlights throughout the past few months. Just the idea of travelling became something that I really started to enjoy and appreciate so much, especially the culture shock we would experience, the types of food, and talking to backpackers as well and how common everyone's mindset is when we're all in a foreign country.

Our Halong Bay 1night 2 day cruise was something I really enjoyed, despite being a bit under the weather. Thought it was the perfect way to end our adventures in SE Asia, a nice relaxing cruise with amazing sights, good friends, and even new friends as well. There's over 1000 islands around the Halong Bay, and it is one of the world heritage sights as well. Throughout our trip, was able to explore one of the caves in one of the islands, check out a local beach, try some "fishing" ( though we didn't catch anything), ate some bomb food and etc. Enjoyed our time on the boat, don't really know what happened the last night on the boat, ended up with some markings on our face, and etc...but yeahh haha couldn't have asked for a better way to end my adventures in SE Asia, besides the fact that my camera had passed away ( fell in the water), well it was time to get a new camera, and the memory card wasn't damaged, so was all good.

Don't know when i'll be back in SE Asia again, but I'll definitely be back, and Singapore as thanks everyone for following throughout the months, much appreciated and thanks to all the people I've met in, definitely hope we can meet up one day again, whether it's in your home country or something.

not sure what this building is..but seemed important

Vietkong soliders just chilling

can't forget the pho in vietnam

always nice seeing a familiar face

huge cathedral in the middle of the city

bummed we can't get in

reunification palace

one of the highest observation decks in the world...looks a bit like Avengers tower no?

our spaceship/sleeper bus

nice day for the beach

getting deported?

our cruise boat...looks a lot nicer on the inside....

Halong Bay Cruise...over 1000 islands 

last pic..before I dropped my camera :(

Friday, December 14, 2012

Can't believe it's really over


So I just finished 3 of my finals, started packing, cleaning, and even started saying my goodbyes. Never would I have imagined, when I boarded the plane 4 1/2 months ago, exactly on July 30, 2012, that I would have expected this time to have come, of saying goodbye, and this trip/program/adventure ending so quickly. When I first applied to study abroad in Singapore, I had no idea where it was on the map, and had little to no information about it, had no what to expect, barely did any research, and just went with the idea that I would be away from home for the next 5 months.Just the thought of being able to start fresh as if it's the first day of college again or something, even create a new identity, and just experience something new that I have never done before. This trip has surpassed every single one of my expectations and more for I would have never expected to have met such amazing friends whom I feel like I have known for years now, shared so much amazing experiences with them, shared laughter, studied, struggled, and especially travelling together as well. I can clearly say that I have formed bonds, relationships, much deeper than I would have ever imagined, and very thankful for every single person I have met, the conversations we shared, along with the laughter and much experiences.

12/15/ I just came back from my trip to Vietnam - ho chi mih/nahtrang/ha noi/halong bay cruise....despite the difficulties/ I would say this trip was a success....was able to fully relax, and just enjoy our time travelling and not get stressed out over anything which was true towards the 2nd half of the trip - nah trang and the ha long bay cruise....Despite some difficulties such as riding a 28ish hour train ride from nah trang to hanoi with our friends mr/mrs. roach/rats, we came out alive ...barely.....i'll update more about vietnam when i'm back in the states along with pics up to the point my camera survived...before it fell in the ocean...>< well good thing the memory card didn't get damaged...and gives me a excuse to invest in a better camera too, in the near future.

Today....arrived from Vietnam to Singapore mid afternoon.....and I think it really hit me that almost everyone had left early...whether it was to travel..or had gone back home....I realized that I didn't really have anywhere to go dorm to go back to....and my ez link card (mrt subway access card) for some reason got I had to pay and get a day pass so I could travel around Singapore. Just not having a place to go back too, and even the small inconvenience of having my ez link card not work, as well as the people I can call up being very limited now made me realize that it was actually over...Though I enjoyed the little getaway/relaxing trip to Vietnam, and helped keep our minds off of things, being back here just made me realize how it was all over already....Very bittersweet feeling, knowing that I probably won't see some of the friends i've met here again, though it felt like I knew them really well, and just many other small things that i'll miss such as the convenience of where we lived, of how we'll always be bound to run into someone we know either on campus, or near our apts, just being so open to try/do anything. Kinda sucks that I wasn't able to say goodbye to everyone I met here as well, regretting it a bit at the moment, and the fact that saying goodbyes isn't my forte...never liked saying it haha....

well enough of me rambling on....and though i'll miss this new life I had while I was in Singapore, i'm also very excited to be going back home as well....seeing my friends/family, even starting school again, and even the idea of meeting up with UC EAP students again, wherever in cali it may be haha...

Definitely, it was an experience to remember, and even life changing, learned so much about this country, the culture, about southeast asia, and even about myself too....Gave me a sort of clearer idea of what I want to do in my future, and definitely this is a country I would love to come back too see how much it will change over the years....and just look back and reminisce on it.

Enough of this rambling....gonna try to get some sleep at the airport now before I head to Tokyo - have 10 hr layover....where imma try exploring or most likely get lost in the city and freeze my butt off and then back home I go!

my last post prob will be my next one...on Vietnam...Doubt i'm still going to keep updating this, though I will try too...but probably not as often....oh and no pics for this post...maybe...just a few

3/4 roommates present from the past 4-5 months, olivier from France/jarno from Finaland/missing: Daniel from Canada, don't know where in the world he's travelling to this time now.....

Monday, November 26, 2012

Finals time

Can't believe how fast time has gone by during my stay in Singapore. I would have never expected when I arrived in July for my study abroad experience to have gone by this fast. haha and I was thinking how long 5 months was going to be back then.

Looking back...I would have to say this was probably one of the best times of my life...the whole study abroad experience in Singapore, being able to travel to all these S.E. Asian countries which I would have never imagined of at the start of this program, along with the great friends/experiences I have made throughout my stay. Definitely one of the best experiences of my life, and just can't believe how fast this is coming to an end. I mean I have less then 2 full weeks in Singapore along with +10 days of traveling in Vietnam after finals. Also, due to finals coming up, hard for me to actually explore/hang out as the study part of study abroad is actually kicking in.

Definitely enjoyed my time at NUS, despite how competitive it is, and how much i'm behind in all of my readings, I shouldn't even be writing this at the moment, but thought I should update.

Also, last weekend, was able to enjoy Bintan, Indonesia with Jay, and was nothing like we have expected. Was one of the most unplanned trips ever haha, maybe that's why it was nothing like we have expected. Going to Bintan has confirmed my previous notion that Indonesia isn't very big on the tourism sector. Not much tourists in Indonesia, or foreigners in general, besides Bali really... Also, I realized how big Bintan actually is, as we can't really walk around anywhere, and had to call a cab in advance to take us to town/resorts/etc. which ended up being more costly than we had expected. But all in all, thought it was a pretty chill trip, got a foot reflexology massage, shot fireworks, slept in huts literally on top of the ocean, and snuck in to a resort and was able to enjoy some white sandy beaches. haha...

Now just need to study/cram for my finals, take it, pass my classes, pack up, head to vietnam, and then head back home. Kind of bittersweet to be going back home, but really looking forward to some friggin mexican food, real chinese food (panda express), and of course snowboarding now haha...

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

1 month left...Time to start counting the days

It's been a while since my last post...and personally it's been a lot harder for me to update these days....mainly cause of my laziness so my fault on that part...but hope fully I can update quite a bit more often as my time in Singapore is coming to a end REAL SOON.

To start off, last weekend, I had the farewell UC EAP dinner with our NUS Advisor Daisy at this really nice buffet, with the rest of our UC EAP students one last time as a big group. Was kind of our farewell dinner, since it would be a lot harder for us to get together quite often now, with finals approaching, people travelling and such. It was all covered by our wonderful eap director Daisy of course haha, always down for a free meal especially a buffet you know! It was quite a memorable night, because it's been a while since i've seen some of our UC Eap students, actually talked with some of them, and kind of hit me that, we would be leaving very soon, and going off on our different paths once again. Whether it would be back to our respective UC's ( go irvine!), or entering the work force/grad school, or even for the few that are staying one year here as well! Was kind of a bittersweet night, but made me really cherish these moments we had here, the outings we had, the people I've met, and all the amazing new things I tried, and can't forget the travelling experiences as well!
             Definitely made me realize how short time is, and I just need to make the most out of it, and this definitely was one of the highlights of my life. Deciding to come to UC EAP Singapore 2012, to study abroad. I really will miss everything about this, but very excited to be going back home as well, so BITTERSWEET, in everything as of the moment. More Importantly, so excited to be having REAL CHINESE FOOD (Panda Express)!, can't believe they don't have orange chicken, and chow mein here, so disappointed, when I first came to Singapore haha...

  Enough of this jibber jabber..haha to update more on what's going on as of the moment, it is currently my last week of lecture right now. Yes I know it's only early november, and I don't come back till the 15th haha... After this week of lecture, I have a week off until finals officially begin, they call it Reading Week here, where it's a week off just for studying for finals, or travelling :). I will be travelling to Bintan just for a short weekend starting this Sat from (sat - mon), so off to INDO again, i'm sure it'll be better this time, and not as sketch since i'm not going there alone haha.....

- After this reading week, we have 2 weeks of finals, but for me, I don't start until December 1st - till the 4th, which is quite stupid because I have Finals on the Saturday.. -_-...friggin a, this shouldn't be allowed even in Singapore haha....

So I feel very unprepared/screwed for finals, because one, there's so much reading to do/catch up/start on haha....and these Singaporeans scare me sometimes, on how much they study, making me feel like I should be reading/studying something else, though I don't really know what... sigh.... -_-

Well Besides the upcoming finals coming up/being screwed/panic mode/mental breakdowns about to occur sometime soon, still have a lot to figure out even back home, such as registering for classes back home, finding a place to stay in Irvine, so i'm not homeless when I go back to school for winter quarter. Along with that, my travel plans for after finals, since I end on December 4th, plan on travelling from either the 4th/5th - 14th. Plan is to go to Cambodia/Vietnam once again, though I've been there before, really excited to go there outside of the missions field, see what the culture is really like/ interact with the locals/ and experience more of these countries. Mainly just end my Study Abroad exp. with a bang before I head back home haha....

Think that's about it for now, and for those still keeping up with my blogs, Thanks! and i'll try to update more often, and with pictures as well!

just strutting down Marina Bay Sands...the usual....

amazing view from top of the Singapore Flyer (world's highest ferris wheel/observation deck)

never ceases to amaze me, everytime I come here

vomiting merlion

downtown Singapore

me and my sarong as the Southern Most Point of Continental Asia.

look what I found! Going to miss these rice balls

UCEAP NUS 2012 group photo