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Holidays

Sapa

It was 9am and our driver was already waiting at the lobby. I wasn’t sure if it’d be a good idea for Haney and I to go along as she was unwell. But after assurance from my husband that we’d rush back at the first sign of distress, I packed our luggage and hopped onto the van. So 5 hours right huh? Let’s go!

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For the first 4 hours, I must say traffic was awesome. Look at the picture above. It’s two-way road, separated by those steel dividers. And the lanes for each direction are very wide, probably to accommodate large vehicles e.g. tourist buses. So it was all smooth and we fell asleep due to boredom.

Suddenly all of us were rudely jolted to wake up. Not by the driver but by the narrow winding road uphill to Sapa, which was then the final 1 hour ride. Sapa is located on a mountain fyi.

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And this, my friends, is an unedited photo of the Muong Hwang Valley view from my room’s balcony! Absolutely breathtaking in actual!

We booked the Duplex Suite Terrace at Aira Boutique Sapa and could never be happier spending our penny there. Service was superb right from when we reached the doorstep up till our 2am check out (yup 2am. I’ll blog about it soon).

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Spacious lobby with a winding staircase and it exuded the luxurious feeling, what with the yummy scent and colour theme used. Perfect.

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Right after the winding staircase is where the spa is located. The masseuses are fantastic! I went once but I so couldn’t resist another session that I ended up going for another on the very next day. This wonderful platter of sugarless tea and watermelon are for guests to savour after each spa session. I still remember asking them what that drink was because it tasted quite…. funky? Imagine drinking rainwater collected from wet soil. Yup. I was then told it was made from roots. So I assume it has to be ginseng. Ya think?

 

Welcome to our suite! This is the lower bedroom, has 3 beds, good for my SILs and MIL.

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Plus a cute little kitchenette and dining area below.

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And then I realised I don’t have ANY photos of my bedroom upstairs. The toilet was totally liveable. The bathtub handheld shower was in the shape of an old school telephone. Really cool stuff! Water pressure and heating were consistent. Trust me, in a super cold environment, the last thing you’d want is trickling icy cold water for bath!

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Holidays

Hanoi – Days 1 & 2

Happy Birthday, Papa! And let’s go Hanoi!

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Above: Found a top from Mothercare that shouts “Happy Holidays” and I thought how apt!

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We flew via Vietnam Airlines but for a full-fledged airline, it’s a disappointment to not have IFE installed on all of its planes especially the short hauls. Otherwise, everything else was pleasant enough.

3.5h later, we reached Noi Bai Airport. Wasn’t crowded so it took us really quick to exit the custom immigration and be met with our driver from Viet Lotus Travel. Did a google search and that’s how I bumped into reading great reviews of them on TA. Mr. Sinh was especially helpful and prompt in all his replies. His drivers varied by day. Most could not speak English so you have to ensure you communicate timely and clearly with Mr. Sinh in order for him to liaise well with your driver for the day. Kalau awak ingin tahu, I engaged them for:

8 days car with driver service trip consisting of:

– Return airport transfers (i.e. 2 ways)
– 1.5 days of jalan-jalan ikut suka hati kita mana nak pergi di Hanoi
– 4d3n trip to Sapa by private minivan + driver accompanying us throughout our trip there
– Grand total: USD 550 (divided by 5 adults, ok lah tu harga kan. Yang dak cik tu, perrr.)

Along the way to our hotel, Hanoi seems very much like Bangkok – night life is vibrant and people don’t sleep till late. But I like it, tak sepi. Barang-barang yang dijual pun seperti sama di night market di negara mana jua.

Tempat penginapan kami adalah Somerset Grand Hanoi, terletak dalam satu jam daripada Noi Bai Airport. The moment we entered our apartment,

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Such thoughtful simple surprise! They’ve prepared a cute instant noodle dining set up for me & my husband, and behind that little table plant was a box of chocolates and some other sweets. I forgot to take a picture of the black forest cake in the fridge which they gave for my husband’s birthday. Awwww.

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Sangat luas! 3 bedrooms (king, queen and twin), 2 bathrooms, dining area, TV area, kitchen, work desk and even laundry facility! So with 5 adults and a toddler, memang puas and everyone had good sleep each night. What we also love about this hotel is the availability of a supermarket linked to the building. Convenient kan!

Total cost for 4 nights: SGD 870 (to divided by 5 adults). Really reasonable. ūüôā

So anyway, the following day, we headed to AEON Mall Long Bien. It’s relatively huge and super crowded! Rimas pun ada until we felt like leaving. But what saved us was the play areas at Levels 2 and 3. Pretty much Kidzania-like, at a fraction of the cost (no thanks to the size of the area and quality of equipments). Haney was kept occupied while my SILs pounded the shops.

Haney though, she developed fever on that particular morning and kept pooping. Yep, diarrhoea. It got so bad to a point that the poop EXPLODED out from her diaper in the car whilst on the way to have dinner at Batavia Restaurant. Sampai terkena lantai kereta tu. Luckily the driver was super understanding; he acknowledged that we needed to stop by the roadside immediately to clean up both the kid and floor, yet he did not once even made any slight remarks about it.

We popped by 2 pharmacies for baby panadol and diarrhoea relief medication. If you asked me, yes, I was very skeptical about their medicine quality but saya tawakal. I prayed and prayed and prayed that she’d stop pooping so all of us could continue enjoying our holiday peacefully.

Holidays

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?

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.

 

Uncategorized

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!