Tuesday, June 30, 2015

#OOTD Series: Vietnam and Cambodia

I tried my very best to pack "light" which of course was very hard for me to do. I used my medium-sized baggage which surprisingly was 1/3 full only and weighing 10kgs hehehe unlike any other bloggers out there, I wanted to be the realistic one, I packed which are deemed feasible (I cannot afford to have many outfit change per day nor will I wear a maong jacket under a scorching sun for #ootd purposes).

Tip: Pack your essentials. A light-weight bag that can go with your outfits while fitting everything, three pairs of shoes: rubbershoes, sandals, and slippers., a scarf that will save you from the cold aircon buses and plane, and give you that much needed cover., and lastly your 'oomph' fashion item: may it be a hat, shades, or a belt.
White, green, and brown hues are my to go colors

Vietnam and Cambodia are two countries who are very conservative. It is almost always advisable for one to wear clothes that cover both your shoulders and knees. For countries that are even hotter than Manila, this is a problem as we want to wear our breeziest clothes: a spaghetti strap and short shorts.

I tried my best to come up with outfits that will go well with our itinerary. Here they go.

Day 1: Mekong Delta Tour
Photography by: Andrew Qua

Teal is such a lovely color, it pops out with any background. The color itself is your statement.
Rompers are very easy for ready-to-go women like me.

Day 2: Cu chi Tunnels
A trip to Cu chi tunnels require you to duck walk/crawl under a narrow tunnel (which was way bigger than it used to be) where pants can save you from a wound or two. Plus, its set in a forest so pants are best to avoid all mosquitoes.
I originally wanted to wear a cap with this outfit. Unfortunately, it was very cloudy. Wearing one may be too off.

Day 3: City tour
Photography by: Mara Medina
Photography by: Andrew Qua

Everyone in the group was wearing the shades of black and/or white. Black is too dark for a hot day so I opted to wear a white breezy dress, instead. 
Who thought that a cellphone case can be your fashion accessory too!

Day 4: Killing Fields
Photography by: Andrew Qua

I wanted to wear this ensemble since it will perfectly match the red walls of the Royal Palace. Too sad that we arrived past 11 o'clock and it was already closed.
A maxi skirt can be more breezy than your pants so you can opt for this one and it gives you that needed cover.

Day 5: Phnom Kulen Mountain
A visit in Phnom Kulen includes a little hike so a sporty wear will be perfect!
Photography by: Andrew Qua

After swimming in the falls, I changed into this. I bought this pants during my trip, you can easily find this everywhere in both Vietnam and Cambodia. Its a good pasalubong for your love ones, too.
I borrowed that red hat i'm wearing which made me realize that maybe you can talk out with your travel companions on what they'll wear and you can share some things.

Day 6: Temple tour
Photography by: Andrew Qua

The temples are mostly in the hues of brown, grey, green so wear clothing that will pop in those colors. Some temples are very strict when it comes to dress code so bring your favorite scarf along with you for cover andddddddddddd as props for your #ootd.

So that's it. I hope you like my first attempt in doing my #ootd posts. I'm sure i'll get better in time! So watch out for my #ootd series from time to time ;)

Monday, June 29, 2015

#Cambodiaries: Phnom Penh

Crossing the Vietnam-Cambodia border was easy breezy. Our bus conductor collected our passports prior to disembarkation to the immigration. We waited for our names called, got our passports, drove forward towards the Cambodian immigration, handed our passports for stamping and fingerprint, and hello Cambodia, here we come!

Phnom Penh is 6 hours away from Ho Chi Minh- we stayed a night to half our bus trip (and do a little side trip) to Siem Reap which takes another 6 hours. We stayed at Royal Mekong Botique Hotel- I had the hardest time choosing a hotel to stay at Phnom Penh, I felt that the hotels were too expensive for how they looked like. Among everything that I saw, this place looked the most promising. But it looks better than it really is. The paint on the walls were peeling off, dirty towels, and slightly smelly rooms. Nothing unbearable though.
*Photo from Agoda.com

Tripadvisor is a God's gift. I love it how it finds the nearest establishment near your hotel. And that's how we found The Sugar Palm. 
We wanted to try the famous Amok but we were too hungry to wait for 40 minutes so we ordered whatsoever was fast. Curry was good enough for our hungry stomachs, I like the idea that it added sweet potatoes but the chicken meat was too few.

We started early for our city trip to Phnom Penh, i would say that it was short but it was worth remembering, our eyes were opened on how big the societal gap in the country was. At one you'll see a very dirty unpavemented busy road and on the other, a very rich neighborhood housing HUGEEEEEEE homes that can probably house 50 families. We couldn't complain further after our trip to The Killing Fields. 
Take the audio tour to appreciate the Killing Fields, its worth listening to.
The bones excavated are undergoing studies to determine the cause of death. Its so sad that most were beat to death using unimaginable weapons. 
There are several Killing Fields scattered all over the country where Cheung Ek in Phnom Penh is one of them. 
Spirit houses are scattered all over Cambodia to remember all those who have suffered during the Polpot's Regime that killed three million of eight million population of Cambodia in the 1970's.
Children were also killed for the purpose of eliminating the threat of revenge in the future

During that time, all were ceased. Businesses and schools were closed down. 
Cambodia has just been out of the regime for 35 years, no wonder its still recuperating.
The brunch that caused us to miss the opening of The Royal Palace (it closes at 11am and reopens at 2pm). I blame the kuya who said 'Free wifi here.' He definitely got our attention there.

Peeking into the gates made us even more sad because The Royal Palace was so grand and so vibrant, it could have been good in Photos.

To cap our Phnom Penh tour, we went to Wat Phnom, a temple situated on top of a hill, where Phnom Penh derived its name. The temple was small, nothing really to see inside but I was amazed with this clock on the ground that actually works.

End this post I suggest to try reading the Cambodian history especially during the Polpot regime or simply watch the movie 'The Killing Fields' as it will make us be even more grateful with our lives.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Survival Tips for Couples (with Busy Schedules)

In the spirit of my fourth anniversary with my long time boyfriend, I dedicate a post on how we actually came to this day despite our busy schedules. 

My friend in highschool ran for student council elections. During her meeting de avance, she was asked "what will you choose- your position or your relationship with your boyfriend?" She immediately answered, "I will choose nothing. With my sense of responsibility and time management, I believe I can do both at the same time"

Being in a relationship is a responsibility. It will require time and effort. So first and foremost, ask yourself if you are ready.

Medicine school consumes almost all of your time. Even on free days, you'd rather sleep the day or might just need to advance for the hectic week to come. My boyfriend graduated business in a different university but he understands my dream and my goals. Go be with someone who will push you to your dreams and give their 100% support even if in most times they won't be your number one priority.

When you have found the one for you who will share that dream, congratulations, hold on to that person because he/she is for keeps. But you may ask, how do you actually make a relationship work when you're too preoccupied with work or with school? Here are some of the tips (that will not only aid you to a long relationship but a working relationship) that works with my boyfriend and I (thinking that four years (and going stronger) is long enough for this age and day):

  • Absence make the heart grow fonder. Being with someone 24/7 is not healthy. In time you lack things to talk about or do, and everything will seem so boring and so plain.  I see my boyfriend once a week only at most times but this distance made every date like the first one
  • If you have nothing good to say, zip your mouth. He may not agree with me with this one because he's the 'never let a day pass without fixing the problem' type of guy but sometimes if you're so mad- it turns you to a very irrational person who has nothing but harsh words to say which actually does more damage. But of course, don't let days pass without talking. Sleep your anger off and thats it, its time to talk the next morning.
  • Find your common ground. Or your common 'thing.' Find the simplest things that makes the both of you happy at the same time may it be strolling in the mall, watching movies, wakeboarding, or simply dining together. 
  • Meet halfway. You won't always agree with each other so learn to compromise. 'nuff said.
  • The Five Languages. I first read about this at Richard and Maricar Poon's blog and I agree that a couple must find their language of love. Sure we appreciate all but there will always be the one that is more important to you. One may give you the most expensive gift but won't appreciate it as much as receiving a hand written letter. Find the tickle spot of your partner.
    • Words of affirmation. Its not at all times that actions speak louder than words. Sometimes one would need to hear how much you love them or how beautiful she is. 
    • Quality Time. This is almost synonymous to quality conversations. Give them your undivided attention. This is Doj's language of love. Despite my divided attention in our dates (80% on him, 20% on my handouts) He understands how busy I am with school so he appreciates it whenever I give him time. 
    • Acts of Service. This is my language of love. I appreciate it very much when one opens the door, drives, cook for me. 
    • Gifts. Its not being materialistic but you just appreciate the thought and effort he has put into in buying that gift.
    • Physical Touch. Its not necessarily what you think, sometimes a mere touch will give you the sense of security that the one you love cares and loves you back.
  • Keep the surprises coming. The small things are the big things. Surprise him once in awhile with love letters or home cooked meals. He will appreciate that.
  • Humble yourself. If you're wrong, humble yourself, and say sorry. If he's wrong and won't admit, humble yourself, and be the better person to understand where he is coming from. Initiate the talk if you need to.
  • Put God in the center of your relationship. Probably everyone will include this in their tips. Why? Because it works. Being in a relationship does not only require love but FAITH and TRUST, too. It is through Him that we learn and reciprocate all the three elements of unconditional love.
To end this note, I just want to greet my boyfriend a happy fourth anniversary. Thanking you for making this relationship a two man team:) i love you lots. ❤️

Thursday, June 25, 2015

#Vietnamazing : Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

*Our trip was divided into three legs: Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh, and Siem Reap.

The first leg of our journey was a visit to the beautiful city of Saigon. We arrived at midnight so there wasn't much to see yet. Our first impression of Saigon was that it was clean (at least cleaner than Manila), we did not see much trash nor were there any beggars sleeping along the roads. After days of touring the city, our impression did not waver. In fact, we even loved the city even more with its luscious gardens found in almost every block and roads lined with tall trees that made walking in the pedestrian lanes much more tolerable (not that we have a choice hehe no tuktuks here, its either you walk or you ride the taxi). However the the roads were filled with countless motorcycles (I think ratio of motorcycle to car is 10:1), which made crossing the street an adventure itself.

We stayed at The Townhouse 50 in District 1. Just upon entering, the hotel will give you 'chill vibes' with its very quirky interiors and very friendly staff like Mr. Johnny.
Disclaimer: Photo from Agoda.com
The rooms were very clean, the mattresses were thick and soft enough not to give me back aches, the air conditioning was cool, and the bathrooms were very spacious. Each room in the hotel looks different and have different amenities. So make sure to let them know which ones you need. 
Our breakfast was a choice of bread with peanut butter/jam/egg or instant noodles along with a mini buffet of salad, fruits, siopao, sausage, and our favorite spring rolls. 
My friends thought that the scrambled egg is too bland until we realized (upon seeing the foreigners) that after all we did not know how to eat it, apparently the salad bar was meant as not salad only but as condiments for the sandwich.

On our first day, we took a two-hour bus ride to the Mekong Delta River, a river that produces a very fertile soil that makes agriculture prosper in Vietnam. There are several tours being offered. We took the My Tho/Ben Tre tour which was the more popular option among tourists as it shows you a glimpse of how the Vietnamese live and work.
 I thought that the traditional cone shaped hats were available during the ride but you need to buy them pala :(
I had no high expectations with our lunch since it was only included in the tour. But boy, I did eat a lot! The food was better than expected and probably one of the best Vietnamese tom yum-like soup I had tasted.

 We initially ate the fried fish like our usual fried tilapia but the waitress came up to us and offered to prepare the fish which was actually the meat for the fish roll.
 Eat all you want coconut candies!

The tour consists of fruit tasting (mango, langka, banana), coconut candy making, and horse ride which are widely available here in the Philippines... Except for the boat ride along the mangroves and the free lunch, I will not recommend this tour to Asians like us unless you have a day to spare.
We had our dinner in Pho 2000 where the former President Bill Clinton dined during his state visit. I realized how appreciative he was for ordering a second bowl because this is the worse pho I ever tasted! EVER! Even the wet wipes and ice for water were for a fee! And why don't I have photos of the food? Because we dined in the dark!! Now you would probably know how disappointed I am with Pho 2000. So do yourself a favor and eat somewhere else. 

Next day, we had a very informative Cu Chi Tunnel tour. This is where the Vietnamese defeated the Americans during the war. Its amazing how bamboo sticks are stronger than bombs.
Some of the traps they made and used during the war
Towards the end of the tour, they'll allow you to duck walk along the tunnels which were narrow enough to prohibit the bigger American soldiers to fit through. (The tunnels we passed in were made to be wider and higher than originally made for the benefit of the tourists.)
This place has got me thinking if we, Filipinos, devised strategies like the Vietnamese did, will we be able to win against the Spaniards, the Americans, and the Japanese? How many lives could we have saved from the cruelty of these colonizations?... For history junks, I would definitely recommend this tour.
Tam Hao Hand Pull Noodles.
I ordered the roast duck in dry noodles (which was my favorite, the sweet sauce in the noodles complemented the salty duck) and spicy beef pho (which had the right kick of spiciness that made every spoon of soup heaven-sent).
 L'usine Cafe.
The meals were quite expensive but we couldn't pass our stay without trying this quaint cafe that serves one of the best chocolate cakes. The cafe was well lit and was not too busy- we all imagined ourselves doing our review sessions here.

We originally wanted to do the city tour after the Cu Chi Tunnels however, heavy rain poured so we opted to do it the following morning. We made use of google maps to get from one place to another and everything was near each other so its wasn't much of a hassle.
Tao Dan Park
War Remnants Museum
Notre Dame Cathedral.  
Did you know that all materials used to construct this Church came from France?
Saigon Post Office
And.. for our last lunch in Vietnam, Carl's Jr. When my eyes laid upon this establishment, all childhood memories in this joint came back and I had to persuade everyone to eat here.

I recommend for one to do the city tour first to get you acquainted with the city, a half day walking tour made us hurry a lot but walking allowed us to appreciate Vietnam a little more... I'm certainly hoping that I can go back to Vietnam really really soon. Two and a half days in Vietnam does not suffice. Vietnam is truly #VietnAMAZING.