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In 2 weeks!

Goshh. We have 15 more days before our family trip to Vietnam. Specifically, we’re gonna set our footsteps into Hanoi and Sapa.

It happened on a September night when my SIL and I were just checking out air tickets prices on various booking agents online when we saw Hanoi was going at only SGD 300 per pax, tax and fee included. Simultaneously juggling another tab, I googled and discovered halal-friendly hotels in both cities. Ape lagi, tickets murah, makanan halal available, on the spot kita beli. LOL!

The irony is, I have never ever heard of Sapa yet I still agreed to go along. Only because I was mesmerised by this photo from Google:

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I mean, I simply love mountainous views and rice fields alike. More so because it’s much cooling at higher altitudes and you tend to feel a different kind of relax.

Well on the very next day, you gave it away as I googled to find out more on the weather in December, I was…………………….. dumbstruck.

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WINTER? Sapa is in Vietnam, Vietnam is in South East Asia, how could it ever has winter?

As I digged deeper, indeed, Northern Vietnam enjoys the 4 seasons. Unbelievable!

I became immediately excited because only the other day I was lamenting that those cold wear I bought for Haney for our trip to Perth in August would be only worn once, now stored aside and no longer of use and she wont be able to fit them anymore. So the next time we’ll get to visit winter, probably I’ll have to purchase new bigger sizes. Hence this news that Hanoi and Sapa will be within the winter season when we visit this December is definitely a great news to me! Hahhhh pakailah Haney segala baju-baju sejukmu selama 8 hari tu ye. Ya Allah, you heard me. Syukur alhamdulillah ameen.

Current preparations:

  1. Accommodations

When we found out that only Cosiana Hanoi is Muslim-friendly, we booked the Family Suite for the 6 of us (5 adults and a toddler) at only SGD 370. TripAdvisor seemed great…… until a reviewer pointed out that there is only 1 bathroom in the Family Suite. One of my expectations when booking a unit with multiple bedrooms is it MUST have more than 1 bathroom. Are you kidding me with only 1 miserable toilet? Imagine in the morning, how hectic it would be? Plus it’d be a total waste of time waiting for one after another to finish! My SIL wanted all of us to be in the same “house” so opting of 2 separate rooms was out. Jadi gigihlah saya cari accommodation lain. Very challenging because I have to consider accommodations that are family-friendly since there is a toddler and an elderly travelling in our group.

In Sapa, no choice but to book 2 Suite Room as unlike Hanoi, they do not offer  multiple bedroom units. You see, when you search for hotels in Sapa, you will bump into some really nice ones.. very captivating. In fact so captivating that we cancelled our booking at Cosiana Sapa too!

So where will we be accommodating? Heh… wait for it. Nantikan!

2.  Baby/Toddler-related matter

Because this trip will be 8 days long and is in winter, can you imagine the number of things to bring? I had to think how I can SAFELY cut out items yet they still appear in Vietnam later.. without me having to lug them from Singapore. Hah! Im gonna apply the same steps I used during my Perth trip. Order online and have them delivered to the hotels! #momlifetravelhacks

If in Australia I used the services from Coles, this time I’ll be engaging:

– lazada.vn to deliver electric lunch box (to cook Haney’s meals), kettle (yes, I always ensure I boil water in a new kettle for Haney), a 1kg sack of white rice, some wet wipes and baby bottle liquid detergent. These are so cheap! I may or may not bring them back home though. Depends on my luggage space and weight by the end of the trip. You can even get diapers – huggies, pampers, drypers – and imported milk formula here. However hnestly, for diapers and formula, I feel safer to bring them along in my luggage. Personal choice.

naturallyvietnam.com to send me fresh vegetables and fish for self-cook.

It’s so difficult to find online grocery shops that can deliver to Hanoi. Partly I believe is because Hanoi is still a little less modernised as compared to its sister state – Ho Chi Minh City. I struggled and alhamdulillah, ada jugak yang boleh menghantar.

Actually if you think I’m leceh and why the heck would I need all these during travelling, these are all for my darling little girl. I insist to still cook for her no matter where we go. Rasa lebih selamat and bersih bila saya sendiri menguruskan pemakanannya. There will be a time where I know I no longer need to, but for now, it’s my choice and Im satisfied.

3. Clothes

Just gonna lug whatever cold wear we have. I always have this system whereby I pack my clothes by day and ziploc them with labels like Sunday, Monday. Both for myself and Haney. I hate to imagine if I have to do 14 individual sets for day + another 14 sets for pyjamas. 28 sets! My goodness, how bulky will my luggage be?! I decided there is no way I can apply my normal system for this trip. I have decided to instead pack 3 sets of day clothes and 3 sets of pyjamas each, making it a total of 12 sets. Those hotels are so gonna benefit from my laundry requests. Hehehehe. Well, I think by now probably you’re wondering what about my husband’s clothes. Hmmm dia suka pack sendiri, so I tak kacau what he packs usually. I just know yang dia ada bawak baju.  Jangan tak bawak pulak. Aniaya!

4. Footwear

It’d be crazy for us to appear at Changi Airport in boots. I’ll just pack a couple of cute boots for Haney and a pair for myself. The kind of boots that we’ve got are like Phua Chu Kang kind – waterproof. Since Sapa is definitely nowhere near London, no point getting fancy schbancy ones, right?

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Pics from google.

Ya get what I mean?

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Holidays

Day 3 and Bye Bye Phuket!

Lazing in bed after breakfast and thinking of just chilling in our room till checkout at 2pm.

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And then…… Toha (driver) sent me some photos via Whatsapp at 11.35am.

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Real time flooding! Astaghfirullahalazim! Semoga sesiapa yang tergendala, terselamat akhirnya ya.

We immediately googled for news, true enough, Patong was experiencing dramatic flooding due to Typhoon Doksuri. Read here.

Toha said roads were closed thus he was not able to continue his journey to pick us up. He also managed to warn us that roads to the airport were also closed. When spoke to our hotel, they said no taxis available for transport either. Basically no taxis coming into their hotels and no taxis available to send guests away.

I checked SQ’s website and it appeared that our flight scheduled later was still as status quo. It was already 12pm and we had to check in at 3pm. 3 hours. How could we get to the airport in that situation?

I remember I bought our flight tickets using my American Express Singapore Airlines Krisflyer card as it has the complimentary travel insurance. So I called them up, explained my situation and was really, really majorly disappointed when they would not cover me for canceling and rescheduling my flights. I read through their policy coverage and really felt like dumping it into the fire churn!

I took another risk. I called up SQ myself, knowing very well my tickets were not cancellable and non-refundable. I took a deeeeeep breath, talked slowly yet firmly explaining whats happening and what assistances I would need from SQ. The lady over the phone was just as apologetic as the one from Amex and proceeded to give me the same answers. I refused to take NO for an answer so I talked to her over and over again to the point that I made her try to think if she was in my shoes. Please be empathetic, man. It magically worked. It worked! Not once but twice over the phone! She made it such that we could forgo our seats at 5.50pm and to hop on the next day flight at 10am. Syukur alhamdulillah.

Just when we thought we’re fine now, the hotel reception called about half hour later and informed us that they thought the roads should be “alright” and we “may catch night flights if available”. Another scrambling over the phone with SQ and yet another thankful situation: an 8.30pm flight for us. PHEW.

You will not believe what happened next.

Just as we put down the phone for the second time with SQ, the same receptionist called us out rather rashly, saying that there was a hotel car that just managed to reach the hotel and that the driver said he could send us to the airport. So were we keen? KEEN? We’d take the chance of course! Yes, the flight was at 8.30pm and it was already 2.30pm. 30 mins past our check out time. Look, it was flooding so we won’t know how long the journey might take us. So in any case, it’s better to arrive at the airport early isn’t it?

10 mins given by the hotel for us to pack our belongings. Express check out and hopped into the car, we go.

Soon, I almost regretted with our decision.

We were NOT told that we’d be taking the mountainous route to the airport. MOUNTAIN. In the rainy weather and slippery road. Slippery winding road that shares with huge transportation like the bus.  And my driver memang champion. Bawak kereta ala ala F1. I was so mabuk then I could no longer sit. I had to lie on my hero’s legs. Dalam hati, saya baca doa banyak-banyak, semoga selamat kita sampai.

2 hours later, we finally arrived at Phuket International Airport. Alhamdulillah ya Allah.

Suddenly a thought crossed my mind. I told my husband to go along with me. We headed to the SQ check in counter and asked if we could be placed back onto our original flight at 5.50pm. Bearing in mind it was already 5 mins past 4.30pm, our chances were almost zero.

The lady serving us called upon her superior, a gentleman who then checked on our details in his system. “When you called Singapore Airlines in Singapore Office and changed your flight just now, no charge you?” I said no. “Okay. Please wait moment.” He picked the phone, started punching numbers and began chatting. My husband and I just looked at each other, hopeful eyes and tired smiles. As the guy looked at us after putting down the phone, he let a wide grin and said, “Ok, you are back on the 5.50pm. No charge. You must check in now and proceed to gate.” Wooohoooooooooooooooooo!

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Tiba di Gate, masih ada dalam 30-40 minit before boarding so we took a seat at a coffee joint that serves Illy Coffee. When we’re all settled, we breathed a deeeeep relief.

We couldn’t digest what whirlwind just happened in the early part of the day. The chain of events that took place was just…. wow.

From being told no way to get to the airport yet somehow we arrived in one piece, on the same day. Multiple flight changes that eventually led us to hopping onto our original flight. All changes were not charged by Singapore Airlines, ironically.

We made it. Dengan kuasa Allah.

Ya Allah, syukur padaMu.

Later that night at 9.15pm, we saw my parents and our daughter waiting for us at Changi Airport’s arrival gate. I teared of joy; never felt more grateful than ever.

 

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Day 2 in Phuket

Itinerary for the day: Jungceylon and explore the streets leading the way back to hotel from there.

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I think this is the only mall in Patong. Big and carries international brand names. Prices are on par. So not the best place to shop.

However, I recommend having your muscles massaged at Montra Traditional Thai Massage on the basement level. They have a number of outlets within the same floor. Very odd, but I guess its their way to eat a bigger slice of the pie. Seems to work very well for them.

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We took the Aromatherapy Massage + Foot Reflex package each, THB 860 (SGD 35). Seriously S$35 for a 2-hours session?! Dream on if you think SG will ever have that offer. Murah sangat mestilah kita grabbed the chance.

When you opt for Aromatherapy, they offer you a set of essential oils to choose from. I requested for Ocean while the husb.. sorry, I can’t remember. LOL. Bau Ocean tu sangat sangat menyenangkan. Belum start urut, saya boleh rasa urat2 tu da mula relaxed. Hehehehehe.

When we’re done, we walked all the way, passing by the infamous Bangla road and feasting our eyes on somewhat all-the-same souvenir shops. We stopped by Kusuma Seafood for dinner. Ini bukan photo saya because saya syiok makan sampai lupa nak amek gambar. Credits and Thank You to Hidayu’s Journal!

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Waiter yang ambil order kami waktu itu saya rasa orang Kelantan agaknya. Masalahnye, orang Singapura macam saya ni susah sangat nak faham loghat Kelantan. Saya yang malu sebenarnya. Itu yang saya minta maaf kepadanya dan jujur beritahu yang saya tidak faham apa yang dia maksudkan. Maka, dia tunjuk handsign “Tunggu” dan memanggil seseorang untuk mengambil alih. Hahhh datang pula seorang Puan, dan alhamdulillah boleh cakap Melayu biasa! Now we can order!

Makanan rata-rata rasa sedap walaupun tidak ada yang WOW. Kami cukup happy lah overall sebab nasib baik sedap biasa dan service pon baik. Syukur sangat.

Eventhough it was already quite late, we didn’t want to just sleep because we wanted to fully utilise our last night in Phuket. Jalan punya jalan, kita lalu suatu pub yang ada live band. Kita masuk and requested to be seated outdoor. Ordered some iced tea and basked in the ambience. Lagu2 yang dimainkan pon best seperti nyanyian kumpulan Coldplay dan Maroon 5.

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Salaam dan good night!

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Day 1 – Part 2 Phuket

The plan for the evening was to go to Bangmud Floating Restaurant. Tempat ini menghidangkan makanan seafood yang halal. Owner pun orang Islam.

You’d need to hire transport to take you to Laem Hin Pier and then hop on a small boat (free) for about 1 min’s ride away. Sangat fun!

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Us sharing the same boat with a group of students.

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Seating arrangement is a mixed of normal [tables and chairs] dan juga style lesehan. Lesehan bermaksud duduk di lantai. Dengan view yang begini, dengan angin tiup sepoi-sepoi reti bahasa dan makanan laut yang segar lagi panas2, aduiiiii berejam lah nikmatnye!

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Suami (kiri) dan private driver kami yang bernama Toha. Dia seorang Muslim yang sangat peramah, dan solat pun tak pernah tinggal. Ini adalah kali kedua saya engaged his service. Kalau anda ingin tahu rates yang dia charge atau nak his contact details, sila pm or leave me a comment.

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Dah makan, dah kenyang. Lets enjoy the late afternoon view. Breathtaking.

Hahhh now that we had loaded ourselves with what could be 2-3 kgs of food in our stomachs, time to burn them all! Bring it on, Chillva Market!

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It is just like the other night markets except a little smaller in scale. Ada juga makanan halal. I just love to soak in the night market’s ambience. Rasa best gitu.

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The pic above was taken at Kalim Beach. Toha insisted for us to visit this place. In the evenings daily, a stretch of the road would be lined with pop-up food booths – all HALAL! So we got ourselves some mango sticky rice, bbq drumlets, choco banana crepe pancakes and coconut juices. Sat on rickety chairs and foldable table literally by the beach. I must say that with the view and the resonating calming sound of the waves, it is impossible that you don’t have a good, goood time in Phuket.

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Hello again, Phuket! Day 1 – Part 1

This time, it was just my husband and I. A little couple getaway time. Thanks to my parents for allowing us to “park” baby for the 2 nights! 🙂

Flight
Singapore Airlines
Cost for 2 pax: $418.20
Cost per pax: $209.10

I usually explained to others that my family would normally opt for full fledged airlines whenever baby travels with us. Simple reasons like service and space fit the bill. We’ll “reserve” budget air travels when it’s only the both of us. However when the opportunity arose, I was at the Payment page of Jetstar when a sudden thought strike.

Mind Bubble: Hey, why don’t you book SQ and enjoy your time savoring the meal as you watch movies? Don’t you realized how you missed that on your previous SEVERAL flights?

Well, of course. Every time we were about to eat or take a shut eye, baby would woke up and demanded attention whilst in her bassinet. Often, we were kept really busy as parents. Nope, ain’t complaining though!

So………………… that explains why I got us on SQ eventually. Hehehehe.

For hotel, I decided to go on the old, wise route. Googled for halal-friendly hotels. You see, the last time I went with my girlfriends in 2012, we accommodated at Wyndham Sea Pearl Villa. It is a beautiful resort but because of the food, or the lack of, we were constantly hungry and it kinda spoiled our moods in some way. So now i’ve grown wiser. Much wiser.

My husband as usual left me with all the planning, which I like actually because it means freedom!

I came across Ramada Phuket Deevana which offers Halal food for its guests. How wonderful!

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Nampak tu logo Halal. Alhamdulillah, makanlah tanpa was was. When we were sitting at the lobby lounge, one of the wait staff offered to show me their Halal certification. Bagus kan!

Now for the room. For THB 7,150 (SGD 296), we opted for the Junior Suite with Terrace. I have a video of it but I can’t seem to upload it on WordPress. If you’re keen, do send me a pm or leave me your email on the comment and I’ll send it over to you. Here are the pictures of the room from their website. In real life, it looks EXACTLY the same!

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Brightly lit room. Spacious. Very spacious.

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Yup, super love the luxurious bathtub in the balcony! Well, it’s not a jacuzzi.. so don’t say I didn’t warn ya. When I was having my own me-moment soaking in, it was raining moderately and clouds were hovering low against the mountainous backdrop. Heavenly view.

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The bathroom itself is really huge. You won’t ever feel claustrophobic inside. The colours were also zen-like, so you’re all calm and composed as you take your time refreshing up.

Selain daripada gym dan pool, yang menarik tentang hotel ini adalah the availability of Kid’s Club room! Yayyyyy! Kepada keluarga yang mempunyai anak-anak kecil, hahhh ni memang sesuai sangat untuk memberi ruang kepada anak anda melepaskan segala tenaga tenagi (eh ade ke perkataan ‘tenagi’?). Barulah malam tak menyeman dan tidur pun lenyak setelah kepenatan.

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Gambar dari website mereka.

Bilik ini terletak di lantai yang sama dengan pool dan gym. Ruangnya cukup besar dan saya rasa amenities yang disiapkan juga cukup untuk keep your kids’ occupied.

Here, I would also like to express my gratitude to 3 bloggers – Lancareno, Redscarz and Faizal Fredley – whom blogs I bumped into while googling for this hotel’s review. Kalau anda terbaca post saya ni, Assalamualaikum chuolls and Thank You!