Hong Kong, Hari Ketiga

My friends went back the next day, going directly to office to work to face their Monday blues, while I took annual leave which actually days that were carry forward from 2012. That morning we had our breakfast in the room with leftover from last dinner.

That day, we went to the Peak. Many people said visit to Hong Kong is incomplete without getting the nice view of the city from there. That was one of the reasons why my friends rushed to the Peak the day before even they just got back from Macau. We took MTR to Central Station and exited J2 and had short walk to Peak Tram Lower Terminus. While getting there we met a Malaysian family from Johor. They were friendly and enjoyed having our company. The husband is a retiree and the wife is a homemaker, with them their teenage daughter. Since Johor is just next to Singapore, they took Tigerairways from there.

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View from the tram – choose the right side for the view.

At the Lower Terminus, there was a small exhibit of the Tram depicting the history of the Tram. As we got into the Tram, all of us sat at the right side of the Tram, for the view of the city. The family went to Madame Tussauds, we went to the top of the the Peak – Sky Terrace 428. Initially the plan was to have lunch at Wan Chai Mosque Canteen but I suggested to my wife for our lunch at Bubba Gum restaurant, there was not many people, so we got good table with nice view of Victoria Harbor. We ended our visit there  by strolling around the complex before going down by Tram.  As we reached down, it was getting crowded at Lower Terminus. I was glad that we went there earlier.

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Epworth lodge with beautiful roof top garden, the tram and Lion Pavilion.

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Victoria Harbor – was cloudy that time.

We went for shopping at Tsim Sha Tsui area and had a rest at the hotel before going out again that night.

Within walking distance from Butterfly on Prat, we walked to Avenue of Star to watch the Symphony of Light and continued strolling the promenade trying to locate hand prints of our favorite Hong Kong artists. Hong Kong entertainment was famous in Malaysia in 80s and 90s but now K-Pop has overshadowed everything including Bollywood and J-Pop. K-Pop popularity among Malaysia youngsters is greater than Hollywood.  While locating the hand prints we could smell delicious grilled squid from stalls there. We wanted to try but we concerned whether the squid was marinated with non-halal ingredient.

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People were waiting for the Symphony of Light.

We ended the night with shopping again around Tsim Sha Tsui area. We didn’t go to Ladies’ Market since we heard reviews that they were selling low quality goods from China.

Hong Kong, Hari Pertama

In January 2013, we went to Hong Kong. We went together with my friends. We flew at Friday night from Saigon to Hong Kong by Cathay Pacific Airways. From airport my friends and us went to separate ways to our hotels. The taxi was old but spacious and comfortable. It was Crown Comfort, the same type I usually used to go to my secondary school since there was no other public transportation that time. We had the hotel address in Cantonese, so it was handy since our driver can’t speak English much.

We stayed at Butterfly on Prat and the room was deluxe double bedroom. Our friends stayed at nearby hotel within walking distance. I selected this boutique hotel because of the location. Nearby, there are halal eateries, MTR, shopping places and attractions. The room came with free WIFI and microwave. I requested for high floor since that area could be noisy with several clubs not far away. We were given room at level 16.

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Our room at Butterfly on Prat.

The next day, after good sleep, we met my friends and went to Wan Chai mosque canteen to have breakfast. We got to the mosque by MTR to Admiral Station and took taxi from there. The food was very nice. It was the best dim sum I’ve ever had so far. No wonder the canteen was featured in CNN travel.

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Our first set, we ate until full.

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Address and details of the Canteen.

Happily with our full tummy, we head to a place to burn some calories. We took taxi to Hong Kong station and took MTR to Disneyland. Initially, I was discouraged to go to Disneyland because of the reviews at TripAdvisor but I glad I went. To collect our ticket was very easy; we used the Automagic Ticket Dispensing Machine for our online purchase – simply by inserting the credit card.

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Inside MTR to Disneyland.

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Jumbo ride.

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Morning performance.

The rides at Disneyland suit my son. Personally I like Mickey’s PhilhaMagic, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster and Big Grizzly Mountain Runaway Mine Cars. My wife and I shared the joy shopping at Main Street, USA. My son had for himself Mickey stuffed toys and Lightning McQueen. Apart of the joy, there were few annoying moment when there were people tried to cut the queue, their trick was one person go ahead first and that person will call the rest of the gang to join him as if he was queuing from the beginning.

For lunch, we went to Tahitian Terrace and there were several selection of halal food. For praying, we asked the staff there and they gave this room at city hall, which was very pleasant.

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Wife performing prayer inside a room at City Hall.

We were there from morning to night. My son was amazed by the Flight Fantasy Parade. The end of the night was indeed magical. Superb fireworks and good sound system made us felt overwhelming, I felt so happy and I couldn’t hold myself to kiss my wife.

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The fireworks at Disneyland.

From Disneyland we went back to hotel by MTR. It was not crowded; probably many chose to stay at Disneyland Hotels. Before going to Hong Kong, I tried to book there too, but no room available. By the end of the day, we could not contact my friends, probably the small Disneyland was not too small, but we managed to plan the next day through facebook.

Bangkok, Hari Ketiga & Keempat

The sun shined bright again that day, we are blessed. After having breakfast prepared by my lovely wife, we head to Chatuchak Market. The market is easily accessible by MRT or by Sky Train. We went there by Sky Train to Mo Chit station and took Exit 1. It was not difficult to locate the market as the crowd was heading to the market too.

Since I’ve been to Siam market at the border of Malaysia at Padang Besar and Bukit Kayu Hitam, I thought the shopping experience was nothing different but I underestimated. There were much to see and there were several halal eateries – up-to-date clothes, beautiful accessories and marvelous food!  I got for myself several t-shirts; my wife bought some necklaces and cardigan; we got for our son lion and zebra shirts and pants with tail. And the price, it’s cheap. The excitement exploring the market made we forgot about the time. It was already afternoon, so we went back to hotel for prayer and rest.

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Chocolate Banana at Chatuchak.

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Coconut Ice-cream at Chatuchak.

Late afternoon, we went to Jim Thompson House. Using Sky Train, from the hotel we stopped at National Stadium station and took Exit 1. We managed get to the entrance at 4pm, before it closing time at 5pm.

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Our tour guide at Jim Thompson.

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Front of Jim Thompson House.

We were guided to explore the house by a lady, her English was fluent. She explained the architecture of the house, Jim Thompson’s collection and the mystery of his lost at Cameron Highland, Malaysia. Unfortunately, photograph is not allowed inside the house. This place is well persevered and indeed worthy to visit. We ended the visit there by having drinks at the restaurant, facing the beautiful koi pond.  That time, I felt like we were on honeymoon again. My son was sleeping, giving us chance for romantic moment.

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At the restaurant, Jim Thompson. The same picture used for my gravatar.

It was almost dark, from Jim Thompson, we continued to Siam Paragon. We felt the mall was unique because we saw the second floor was selling luxurious and super car such as Lamborghini, Hummer, Maserati and Ferrari. Other than that it was normal to us. My wife didn’t feel to eat there so we went back to Terminal 21 and continued shopping. Indeed, Terminal 21 has become our favorite mall in Bangkok.  We shopped until the mall closing time and walked back to hotel.

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Toilet at Tokyo Level, Terminal 21. Toilet at each level has unique design according to the level theme.

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Tokyo Level at Terminal 21.

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Shops part of the double-decker bus, London Level at Terminal 21.

The next day was our last day in Bangkok. Before checking out, we went again to Terminal 21. My son and I bought our favorite crispy seaweed at Taokaenoi Land.

Taxi to airport, flight check in, it was smooth. From DMK, we went back to SGN. I would came again to Bangkok, to shop.

Bangkok, Hari Kedua

From the big glass window, the sunrise shined to our room. My son was having his milk on the bed while we were preparing the breakfast. For early riser like us, having early breakfast in the room is always convenient.

The main agenda for that day was Grand Palace Visit. Quite convenient, we took Skytrain to BTS Saphan Taksin Station and took Exit 2. It was about 5mins walk to the Chao Phraya Express Boat Sathorn Pier. We wanted to purchase return ticket, but the person at the counter told us it can be bought at the respective pier, which was true and no hustle. Our boat ride just to one destination for the Grand Palace, we didn’t choose to visit all of the Wats because it is common to us. In Malaysia there are number of Wats since there are more than 40,000 Malaysian Siamese mostly in Perak, Perlis, Kedah and Kelantan.

The boat was huge, open air and gave us full view of both sides of the river. The water was murky but many fishes can be seen playing at the surface. They’re large, probably catfish. A plump tourist guide with microphone explained to us about the river. The name of the boat company was taken from the river, Chao Phraya. As I read in the internet, the tourist guide cautioned us to be careful with this infamous scam nearby Grand Palace, where a man will tell the Grand Palace is closed and offer his Tuk Tuk to other interesting places which actually gemstone/retail shop – they will force to buy at very expensive price.  Fortunately, we did not encounter that.

Instead of Tha Chang Pier, our stop was at Supathra River House. From there it was 7mins walk to the Grand Palace where we passed stalls selling religious goods. Quite unusual, the stalls also were selling dentures. We bought ticket at the counter there before getting in.

It was hot and crowded so the visit at Wat Phra Kaew was short. My son can’t bear the heat and he was crying. So we walked to Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat. It was less hot there since it was under the shadow of the Throne Hall. The building is beautiful, a blend of European and Thais. My son stopped crying and he had a photo with the Royal guard there. At Grand Palace, that area is our favorite.

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At Wat Phra Kaew.

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Main entrance of the Phra Thinang Chakri Maha Prasat.

We noticed at our ticket the visit was included with visit to Pavilion of Royal Regalia, Royal decoration and coins. The place is near to the entrance to Wat Phra Kaew, so we walked to where we began. Before we reached to the exhibit, an old Turkish lady gave Salam to us. From the Salam, we started to chat. Seeing me carrying my son in baby carrier, she thought my wife is the breadwinner and I’m just a house husband. It is indifferent to the past, where in the past generally only woman played role in raising child while the man mainly focus on how to earn for the family. Now, it is common for man to heavily involve in taking care of the child and not uncommon for woman to work. We ended our chat, with Salam and the Turkish lady, Fatma Meral, gave a card she made by her own. We continued our walk to the exhibit nearby.

At the Pavilion of Royal Regalia, we saw a lot of exhibits. My wife seemed to enjoy reading about the sword, coins and learning about all of the Royal Collection, while I enjoyed the most being in air-conditioned. It was weird, because my wife not really into museum while I love museum.

From Grand Palace, we had lunch at Pier21 before resting at the room.

That night, I was thinking to try something different. Based on pictures at the internet, it looks like a haunted mall. The place is Mansion 7. From our place, we took MRT to Huai Kwang Station and walked out at Exit 1. We walked about 5 minutes to get to the Mansion 7. I was expecting for shopping experience but the major attraction of the place is the Dark Mansion, a haunted house. There were several restaurants, bars and few stalls. We checked out the souvenir shop but nothing to buy. Anyhow, the place achieved to be in eerie with their decoration. My wife suggested trying the Dark Mansion and she will wait but I didn’t dare to get inside alone.

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Entrance to Mansion 7.

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The Dark Mansion.

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Huge! At Mansion 7.

So we went back to Terminal 21 for shopping and had dinner at Manhattan fish market restaurant before resting at the room.

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Lighthouse at Terminal 21.

Bangkok, Hari Pertama

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The Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall.

Using part of my remaining annual leave in December 2012, I’ve decided to bring my family to travel to Bangkok. I’ve been to Thailand twice before. One when I was in secondary school, there was a program with Princess Chulabhorn College, Satun and another one was a visit to Krabi with my friends.  The experience helped to set some expectation to this welcoming smiling city.

From Saigon, my son, wife and I took Airasia flight to Bangkok. We noticed that the check-in at Airasia Saigon was still required even though the passenger already done it online, so the queue at drop bag counter was not really quick. Instead of Suvarnabhumi (BKK), the flight landed at Don Muang (DMK). At DMK airport, conveniently we changed some of our cash to Thai Baht before queuing and taking taxi to our hotel.

Along the way we had a look of the city. A unique Elephant Building was sighted.

We got to our hotel in about less than 30mins. The hotel we chose was Grande Centre Point Hotel & Residence – Sukhumvit Terminal 21. Based from online reading, we selected this place because Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) & Bangkok Mass Transit System (BTS) Skytrain are just next to the hotel. The hotel also connected to Terminal 21 Mall that eased us to get halal food there.  The halal shop is located near to the lift.

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Selling Halal food, Pier 21.

The room type we stayed was Deluxe Premium. There was free Wifi, huge fridge, combo washer-dryer, electric stove and microwave. The groceries can be purchased at Gourmet Market, lower ground of Terminal 21, making it convenient for us to have meal in the room.

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Available in the room.

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The kitchenette.

After settling in and short rest, we visited Ananta Samakhom Throne Hall in the afternoon. BTS & MRT were not within the area, so taxi was the best way to get there. I’ve decided not to take any tuk tuk since there are so many scam stories. Days before we visited the place, the King had event for his birthday there. It is not allowed to take picture, not just inside the Throne Hall but also at the garden. All visitor need to wear proper attire, even woman wearing pants or jeans is considered improper.  Wifey was wearing jeans that time so she purchased the Thai Sarong which cost only THB50. She didn’t mind since she bought it as souvenir. For the ladies who don’t want Sarong as souvenir, you should be wearing long dress/skirt for the visit.

The Throne Hall has European architecture. At the dome ceiling, drawing of Siam history and culture can be seen. Among the exhibits, includes crafts made of gold. We were wondering whether some part of the gold was originated from Northern states of Malaya. Kedah, Pattani, Kelantan & Terengganu were presenting golden and silver flowers to Siam but the reason was unclear whether in the form of tributary or friendship. The practice ended in 1909 when British established their rule.

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Postcard of the dome ceiling.

At the Throne Hall ground floor, we visited the Queen’s exhibit until the exit door. At the exit, guestbook was available, which I wrote down our thank you notes.

We took taxi to get back to the hotel. The taxi driver was friendly and chatty so we talked quite number of topics. During our conversation he said that there is no freedom Malaysia, I was shocked and said, I don’t understand. He explained that there is no freedom in Malaysia because the drink (alcohol) is expensive.  Bad things are not cheap in Malaysia, cigarette is also expensive – my short reply. Then he changed the topic to English proficiency among tourist.

Our first day in Bangkok was mostly spent for traveling, so it was short. We had our dinner at Pier 21, Level 5 of Terminal 21 and strolled in the mall. Since the hotel is connected with the mall, we spent the time until we tired.

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Replica of San Francisco bridge, taken from Pier21 food court.

Da Lat, Tanah Tinggi di Vietnam

Cameron Highland (in Perak, Malaysia) is always in our heart. We were hoping to see something similar at Da Lat, Vietnam. Da Lat has not much similarity with Cameron Highland but its uniqueness made the trip worthy.

We went there in end of December 2011 by Vietnam Airlines. We stayed at Saigon Dalat hotel, which was wonderful. The room was spacious and cheap.

As usual, halal food was not available.

Below were the places we’ve visited.

DAY 1: Cho Dalat (Market) and Linh Phuoc Pagoda

Selling Ducks at Cho Da Lat.

Selling Ducks at Cho Da Lat.

Linh Phuoc Pagoda.

Linh Phuoc Pagoda.

DAY 2: Datanla Falls, Truc Lam (with cable car), Bao Dai’s palace, Crazy House, Flowers Festival Exhibit

Crazy House.

Crazy House.

DAY 3: Cho Dalat and Flowers Festival Street Market

Of all the places, we enjoyed the Datanla Falls because of the manual roller coaster (there is brake). Sliding down to the fall was fun and exciting! From that fall, we took a cable car to get to another fall. Going up to the starting point, we used again the roller coaster. The falls was OK but the ride was fun.

View from our roller coaster.

View from our roller coaster at Datanla.

We were on the right time where there was Flowers Festival. The flowers, fruits, vegetables and plants were beautifully arranged in many creative ways.

Vegetables.

Vegetables, the hut too made of vegetables.

At Flowers Festival.

Tulips at Flowers Festival.

Makanan Vietnam yang Halal di Saigon!

Getting halal food in Saigon is not difficult. Many are available within Ben Thanh market area, making it convenient for the shoppers. But most of these foods are not cheap. The price can be easily similar or higher than those at food court, KLCC. Browsing through the menu, the foods sold are not authentic Vietnamese food; mostly are Malay (Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia) foods. It’s somehow beat the purpose for tourists who want to experience Vietnamese dishes.

The recommended place to go is local eating places. Unfortunately the location is not within walking distance from Ben Thanh market, you have to take Mai Linh or Vinasun taxi to get there. But the foods are cheap and authentic, made by Vietnamese Muslim. Below are the 4 eating places that provide halal food that you should try.

  1. Halal food stall, 191 Hai Ba Trung, District 3, HCMC. My favorite is Pho – Vietnamese Beef Noodle Soup and my wife likes Bo Kho. There are also Vietnamese version of laksa which are Bun Ca, Bun Bo and Bun Xa. The food are served at a low table, so you have to squat to sit. While eating, motorbikes and sometimes small lorry will pass the alley, so be careful if you have small kids.

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    Bo Kho in red, Pho in white soup.

  2. AA restaurant, 722 Truong Sa, District 3, HCMC. Com Tam – local broken rice with grilled beef, served with fish sauce is my usual dish. When we go there, we just sit and the food will be
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    Our usual com tam with some extras.

    served.  They know already our favorite, where we usually have extras as in the picture below.

  3. Behind Tran Hung Dao mosque, 459B Tran Hung Dao, District 1, HCMC. The shop located at an alley. The menu is similar with halal food at Hai Ba Trung.
  4. At Cholon Jamial Mosque, 641, Nguyen Trai, District 5, HCMC. Here there are more varieties.  We love the fish curry, beef salad and fried chicken. While waiting for the food, you may perform your prayer at the mosque.

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    The mosque at Nguyen Trai.

These are eating places that I have frequented to. There are several more eating places by Vietnamese Muslim in Saigon.