Những chuyến đi đầu tiên

“Kỳ thực trên mặt đất làm gì có đường, người ta đi mãi rồi cũng thành đường mà thôi…”

Lỗ Tấn – Cố Hương

Chủ đề ngày hôm nay là những chuyến đi đầu tiên ✈️ ⛴ 🌴

Chuyến bay lần đầu tiên của mình là một chuyến bay quốc tế, Aeroflot bay từ Hà Nội-Moscow. Hồi đấy học lớp 8, chẳng biết tiếng Nga và cũng chẳng biết sợ nên cũng không thấy sao. Vẫn đi và về và giờ đang ngồi ở nhà gõ cái status này.

Hồi 17 tuổi, lần đầu tiên chính thức xa nhà, cũng một mình sang Úc, lần này biết tiếng Úc nhưng cũng chẳng biết gì hết, nên không biết sợ. Giờ đang ngồi ở đây ngẫm nghĩ về quá khứ ngu si 😛

Đi làm công việc lần đầu tiên, cũng là đi một mình bay hàng loạt các chuyến bay nội địa từ Canberra – Sydney – Brisbane – đảo Hamilton sau đó đi tàu biển Fantasea từ đảo Hamilton đến được chỗ làm việc trên đảo Lindeman. Vẫn không hiểu sao đến được đấy và bây giờ đang ở đây. Hồi đó cũng chẳng biết gì nên cũng không biết sợ.

Lần đầu tiên đi trực thăng trên đảo WhitSundays, chóng mặt đến mức chẳng nhìn thấy gì hết. Đến lúc đi qua một hòn đảo hình trái tim, có người nhắc mình là, nhìn kìa, đảo hình trái tim. Vì chóng mặt quá nên mình chẳng nhìn thấy gì nhưng cũng lấy điện thoại để cố ghi lại hình ảnh để nếu may mắn thì về nhà sẽ nhìn thấy.

Giờ biết biết chút xíu, biết thêm chút kinh nghiệm chỗ này chỗ kia và nghĩ lại thấy sợ – chẳng biết hồi đấy mình xoay sở kiểu gì. Giờ rút ra một kinh nghiệm là:

Những người tự tin là những người không biết sợ – nguyên nhân chính là do không biết gì, vì nếu biết thì sẽ bắt đầu biết sợ và có xu hướng né tránh! Mình thấy cái này đúng trong hầu hết các trường hợp 😛

Nói chung là cũng chẳng có gì phải sợ, cuộc sống mà! Cứ có mặt đất là sẽ có con đường. Ngày xưa học lớp 9 lúc nào cũng nhớ câu nói của Lỗ Tấn trong truyện Cố Hương: “Kỳ thực trên mặt đất làm gì có đường, người ta đi mãi rồi cũng thành đường mà thôi…” 🦶

Tháng 02/2019

Sapa 2016

Well trust me, I know, I know, I was supposed to be sitting and writing 2 motivation letters which would need to be urgently sent to Finland by tomorrow for my MBA applications. But since I not yet have any motivation to write that sort of thing (Well I don’t even think that I actually want that MBA but let’s see…) so I am writing a quick post about of of my recent trips to Sapa.

So finally I could sneak out of the office after months and months of not heading to anywhere new. The trip was pretty quick and simple, just like how I wanted it to be.

The only advice that I can tell you all write now is that you don’t have to do what I do because the way I travel pretty much defines who I am so you do what works well for you.

I knew Sapa was not a huge town – even though it is part of Lao Cao province, which is in fact, one of the largest provinces in Vietnam and famous for having hundreds and hundreds of mountains including the Fansipan – the tallest mountain in Southeast Asia – also known as the Roof of Indochina. I know thousands and thousands of young and old people want to get to the top of the mountain for at least once but for me it might not be the case… I have climbed a few high mountains so not that I am weak, lazy nor having Batophobia (A new word that I have just picked up for those who are afraid of height), I just don’t want to do it here…

For those who travel from Hanoi (like me), you could either travel by coach or by train to Sapa. I wanted to do the train but my nephew and many other friends said it is better if we travel by bus because it is faster and will go direct to Sapa. The train would take longer and only get you to Lao Cai City and you will need to take a one-hour bus to Sapa. I heard there have been a few ‘luxury’ tours by train now which have been operated by Victoria Sapa so that the luxury travellers will have the best of everything… which would be pretty nice to try… I have only travelled by train twice in Vietnam but I must say that I was very happy with the train facilities on my last trip, which was almost a year ago compared to how it was back in 2008.

We had purchased the tickets in advance and got onto the coach at 10PM. Think the name of the transport provider was Camel. This reminds me a lot of the time I travelled by Greyhound or Murray from Sydney to Canberra and vice versa. I consider myself as a super easy-to-be-pleased traveller because I slept almost all the way from Hanoi to Sapa. When I woke up, I heard some people talked about how they got panicked that night when the coach was driving up to the mountain. We got their at around 4:30AM and the bus driver was nice enough (I’m sure this is how they operate the tour) to let us sleep for another 1.5 hours after we reached Sapa. We all know this is good because we can rest a little more (there is absolutely nothing to do at 4:30 in a 5 degrees foggy whether) and so that the driver can rest too after a long hours of driving.

So we made it there – my cousin for the second time but me for the first time. I asked if my cousin was so sure that she wanted to go for the second time and she said it was always different when she travels with me – I am not entirely sure about that…

I like to do it my way, I know. Many friends told me that I do not have to worry about accommodation because I can easily find it anywhere. I will never listen to that advice because firstly, I am a hotelier, I need to experience the service so I would choose carefully where I would like to stay and secondly, I am a female travel, I want to make sure I am safe – so that I can sleep well at night. (I had this experience once when I was so new to Sydney and I was ‘brave’ enough to book a budget hotel at King Cross – Oh tell me about it… For me it was absolutely a terrifying experience right in the first moment I got there. Everything in that place reminds me of the video “We found love” by Rihanna… so with no hesitation I immediately book an #AccorHotels right on the next day… Maybe I am just not the right person for that travel style – I would never be ready for be coming a pack pack-backer…

I know I made the right choice to ensure I have everything on the book. I knew that I would stay at the Hill Station when I am in Sapa so I immediately checked with Soeren, the owner of the Hill Station if the rooms were available on my travel date. He told me the only date he had room available was on January 31. I was like… perfect, so I will take my annual leave on January 31 – I would travel on January 30, as soon as I finish work and I can catch the night coach and get there in the morning of January 31, 2015 and celebrate NYE there and leave Sapa on January 01, 2016 in the afternoon. That should be more than enough for a small town like Sapa anyway.

It was more or less, a little different from what I imagined of The Hill Station and its collections but it is overall a very pleasant experience. I got one of the nicest rooms (All rooms are nice and there are only 3 rooms available) so I consider myself lucky.

Although the whether wasn’t that nice but it was definitely not a big deal for me. I know I can always have fun in all whether conditions. Here are a few things that I would like to list for my trips in Sapa:

  1. Hotels – yes plenty – so don’t worry but don’t be so reckless anyway because if you travel in high season and you don’t want to sleep in the mountain then better get yourself a room before you head to Sapa. It is COLD there 🙂
  2. Food – Yes – I never knew Sapa is famous for FISH (especially Salmon) and wild animals (of course – there are trees and forests everywhere) but please don’t eat them. The funny part that I found was that I did not have food on the streets. There is something about me that I did not noticed so much until I have my dinner booked at U-Sapa. I was having dinner with my cousin and suddenly noticed that we were the only 02 Vietnamese in the dining room. The rest are foreign tourists and yes there is a Vietnamese lady too but she was with her foreign boyfriend. Anyway,  whether they are foreign or not has never been my issue… Could it be the reason that I entered a dining room with full of foreigners? Have I become one of them? Hmmm Still I am just not into street foods especially on rainy days…
  3. Foot massage: It is quite obvious that you can get a local “Dao Do” foot or body massage for no more than $US 3 per half an hour. I wanted to try but we spent too much time for eating and shopping so we completely run out of time for the massage…
  4. Shopping: This is one of the most fascinating experience. I never worried so much of being ripped of here. Who would and who could RIP ME OFF by the way?  Perhaps they can do that on foreigner but please I am Vietnamese. Those Mong kids who try to sell you a 0.5 cent key ring or those ladies (young & old) who try to sell a beautiful necklace for $US 2? And one of the sales lady was just so funny and at the highest level of honesty. She thought that we were students and had no money so just try to lower the prices as much as possible… For that only reason we have come back to her 2 times in a row whenever we need to buy some things and did not bother going to other stores… I must say that I really had good laugh while making a deal with them. I had bought so so many products before I left Sapa but let me guess, it did not cost me more than $US 60 for all the souvenirs, which include 02 of my favourite scarfs; 4 beautiful necklaces; 01 bracelets and over 50 hand embroidery products of all kinds. I don’t know if I should be happy because I’ve got so many products for a good price or I should get upset because what we pay for such beautiful things are so cheap and the human workforce and women are extremely under appreciated and the kids are sent to the market to sell stuff instead of going to school…. IMG_1935.JPGOverall, the experience of Sapa was good. I had a great stay thanks to the hospitality of The Hill Station staff and many other people. Hope to go back there again on a sunny day…

Ma Maison Saigon

After almost a year of following all the tweets, I finally made it to the Ma Maison Boutique Hotel Saigon last year on a business – leisure trip (November 2014). By previously knowing that the hotel address will not be easy to find, I did not get freaked out when the taxi driver didn’t even know about Ma Maison when I asked for the direction.

My first impression was with Tam, a 16-18 !? little boy – hotel staff with a friendly innocent smile which definitely made me feel most welcome. He and another hotel staff greeted me at the entrance. They offered me a glass of cold and super sweet – I must say the sweetest glass of passionfruit juice (not because of the sugar but natural passionfruit) that I have drank in my life (So make sure that you will try when you’re there).

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The check-in counter

I have heard of the big black and white cat living at the hotel (the hotel owner is a cat person) but I can’t even remember whether I have seen her… It doesn’t matter so much anyway because I am not very much fond of pets or animals and sometimes – oh no most of the times I even get scared of them – black and white (or black or white) cats especially.

The room is super cute – all I can say and I did feel like I was a princess in a Proven style building (I’m talking like I know what I’m talking about… Provence… France… French… :). And the princess was super easy on that day. She stayed in a small little room and in a tiny little bed but since she’s full of vanity so she enjoyed every single moment of that as well as every single piece of furniture and artwork hanging on walls…

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Waking up at Ma Maison was another pleasant part. Of course, there are neither American breakfast nor club benefits. In here I was offered in a super simple way with a very simple breakfast menu of 2-3 items. Well at least they asked me how I would like the egg to be cooked and the egg was much better than many other places that I have been too. I’m sure my Aussie dad Graeme would love it to – He hardly ever complains about anything except for his infamous laptop which takes half an hour to get started. Perhaps the princess was super easy on that day – I do feel there’s more than plenty. If there’s a word to describe my feeling I would say “deja vu” is the one. This is the exact same feeling that I got when I was at Zen Valley Dalat which I don’t often get…

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By the time having breakfast, I spent some time chatting with Tam, the little boy that I met the day before. I asked if he could tell me the reason that he worked here whilst he is still so young. He said his family is from the South-Western Vietnam or “Mien Tay” is where it is called. His family could not afford to send him to college. Tam said he was lucky because he was the nephew of this hotel owner who brought him here and gave him this job opportunity so that he could work and save money to go to college in the future. His eyes got sparked when I said I was from Hanoi. He said he wanted to work for a hotel in Hanoi one day then greeted me politely before getting back to work. I was looking at his honest face and did not say much.  At the end I could only wish him all the best for his future endeavours…

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Living the island

Picture me..

An 18 years old girl who recorded herself as the youngest and the only Vietnamese G.O at Club Med Lindeman Island. 48++ hours of work per day and 6 work days per week and only once per every 2 weeks I took a ferry to go back to the ‘main land’, work was hard but almost a worry-free zone just because there were no targets, no numbers nor any ‘mission impossible’ that was assigned to me at that time. Well, let’s be fair, neither me nor any employers should expect too much from a just turned 18 years old employee but I gotta admit that I had learned so so much from there… Sadly Club Med Lindeman Island was closed down in late 2011 and the property was sold to some Chinese billionaire… Anyway I hope they will turn the island into a new paradise with a generation view point…

Although it only lasted for 6 months on the tropical island but I am so glad that I made it there – it was definitely one of the best 6-months of my entire life to be able to live in one of the greatest places on Earth and meeting some of the most amazing people in the world. My island’s friends are the one-of-a-kind friend in the world: my bestie Phillipa, my Aussie dad Graeme and my favourite handsome English Joe who are always on my side no matter what happens…

GO

Me, 18 years old at Club Med

8

The 8th hole

go2

With my favourite GMs and GOs

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The heart shaped island from the WhitSundays, Australia

Dalat – Part 2: The Zen Ambience

I guess Mai Dung, the owner of Zen Cafe would never get bored of telling us her stories about Dalat. Mai Dung is originally from Hanoi. It had come to a certain point of time when she realised she had got enough of all the unnecessary stress , headache and attachment of the chaotic city, Dung sold her house and moved to Dalat. I didn’t bother to ask how did she ended up living with Axel up here but I think I can easily tell the reason why. Axel fell in love with Mai Dung and with Dalat too – the reason he decided to book a ticket to come back to Dalat for the second time, but this time was a straight one-way ticket. I heard Axel’s sister will come all the way from Austria as well to help them manage Zen Cafe and Zen Valley. 

I spent half of my day wandering around the “Zen Valley”. There were flowers everywhere obviously and many beautiful houses. I love how they painted their houses in different colours which made me feel like I was in Venice. But what surprised me the most was the number of pagodas in this floral city. I was told that there are about 5 or 6 different pagodas all kinds just near by the resort where I stayed. I kept wondering but I think I know why – and perhaps I will explain the reason in the next chapter.

A Buddhist Pagoda in Dalat
                                                                                        A Buddhist Pagoda in Dalat

After having passed by a few pagoda, I made my way up to my all time favorite spot – the Zen Cafe again for my late lunch. It was all decided for that day: my lazy day and that I will just do whatever I feel like doing.

Zen Café - 27C Pham Hong Thai, Dalat City
                                                                        Zen Café – 27C Pham Hong Thai, Dalat City

Happiness is when you find your inner peace.
                                                                 Happiness is when you find your inner peace.

Yummy :)
                                                                                                           Yummy 🙂

@Zen Cafe

Zen Café
                                                                                                      @Zen Café

@Zen Cafe
                                                                                                      @Zen Cafe

That was how I spent my second day in Dalat. Getting back to the Valley for a hot shower in the evening, I watched again “Now you see me” for the 4th time of my life – I just can’t help watching it over and over again every single time I see the film on StarMovies. I guess it was him Jesse Eisenberg – the main reason that I am so particularly obsessed with this film. And then the only option on TV for me was StarWorld Asia where I can watch American Idol, U.S MasterChef, the Rachel Zoe Project and later on Styled to Rock. That night was the first time in my life I paid attention to “How I met your mother” and fell it love with it. The episode was about Robin & Barney’s wedding and it belongs to Season 9 – the last season of the entire series. When it comes to this, I am not even sure whether I have missed all interesting parts of the series or the fact I have saved lots of my time for not following it from the very beginning? Because it didn’t take me 9 years and 9 seasons to give the answer to that question: “How Ted met the Mother” but only a few of the very last episodes.

I had taken the below picture before putting a happy ending for another peaceful day in Dalat. I think that probably was a mulberry farm. I could see the farmers kept the light on during the night for which I didn’t quite catch the reason. I enjoyed the view pretty much then later on, I figured out something different. Obviously the beautiful light down there was not there to entertain me, it is to maintain a suitable light and temperature condition to speed up the growing process of the mulberry trees. In other words, these trees are forced to grow up 27/4 so the harvest season will come faster. Poor trees! I thought. but I guess this is just LIFE. Goodnight!

Beautiful night view from my window...
                                                                                    Beautiful night view from my window…

To be continued

Dalat – Part 1: The City of Eternal Spring

I picked Dalat, after having thought of some possible destinations where I can go for a quick getaway and without having to worry about getting a visa. (Yes it is not easy at all for Vietnamese when you need to travel overseas). All what I wanted was to have some peace and quiet. I guess I had enough of stress from work, home, relationships and myself these days. Dalat was simply a perfect choice for me at that point because 1) It was a place that I had never been and noone knew me; 2) A place which is absolutely peaceful and quiet; 3) It offers the best weather in Vietnam (for me); 4) Vietnam Airlines offered me a great deal for my round trip tickets. I purchased the tickets right away, 10 days before the trip and it was one of the best decisions that I have ever made. So welcome to Camellia to the City of Eternal Spring.  

I took a Vietnam Airlines’ regular flight from Hanoi – Dalat at 01:45PM on a Wednesday afternoon. I know this is not very relevant but I am quite impressed with the fact that we have free wifi and free drinking water at Noibai airport now. I think they might probably need better recycling and trash station but it will take time to improve anyway. It didn’t take me so long on the 1.5 hours flight, just in time I finished reading the Buddhist Tales: The Price Goodspeaker, one of the most recent books I’ve read. I’ve been reading quite a bit of Buddhist tales lately and I must say that I have learned so many good lessons. Yeah I was so excited. Not the first time I travel alone but this time was a bit different…

Dalat from high up above...
                                                                               Dalat from high up above…

DL2

...or down below...
                                                                                           …or down below…

I took a taxi from Lien Khuong Airport to Zen Cafe. It took me about 45 minutes to get there and just like what I had imagined, I did not get disappointed at all. I found Zen Cafe on TripAdvisor. I am sure many people would easily fall into the ‘trap’ just by hearing the name and also a very good rating too. But I must admit that Zen Cafe was a real good trap though so I do consider myself very lucky. The cafe is managed by Axel, a native German and Mai Dung, Vietnamese, obviously. They were and are simply one of the best couples that I have met in my entire life.

A few days before my trip, I sent an email to Axel to ask if they still have accomodation available. I know it would not be easy for such location to have room available for me at that stage, considering they don’t have many rooms (like 3 guest rooms?) and it was very close to public holiday. I was looking for alternatives at the same time and almost made my booking at another resort. It was an absolutely stroke of luck for me I must say, I left my wallet with my credit card at somewhere I can’t remember (Yeah I know, I’m talking about my wallet and my credit card) so it was not possible for me to make the transaction. Axel got back to me with an email and just like what I had thought, his rooms were sold out! But, yes, but, “we have since some weeks new and nice bungalows nearby in a quiet valley with a wonderful view. We offer you this accommodation for a special rate for these days… Take a look please to the pictures and let me know your idea…”

I was like, YES. Yes. yes please! Axel dropped me at the Zen Valley, after about half an hour spending on a quick chat at Zen Cafe. Amongst all the beautiful bungalows that they have, Axel was too nice to let me decide ANY room that I feel most comfortable with. So I chose this one, not necessarily the most spacious one which I didn’t really need but it was the most suitable accommodation for me on this vacation:

My Dalat Home - The living room
                                                                                  @My Dalat Home – The living room

My Da Lat 'Home' - The Bed Room
                                                                              @My Da Lat ‘Home’ – The Bed Room

View from the room...
                                                                                           The View from my bedroom…

...Sunset...
…Sunset….

The sun was going down very quickly and I managed to head up to Zen Cafe after having my shower. At Zen Cafe I met couples of new people with all different nationalities: German; American; one mixed Chinese – Vietnamese and myself 100% Vietnamese. We decided to share a cab and make our way to the night market. Although I never liked going to the markets but come on, I told myself : “You’re on holiday so let’s just enjoy!”

A little bit of the local taste...
                                                                                          A little bit of the local taste…

DL10
                                                                                  The “tricky” strawberries

It was a $1 durian, a nightmare to a couple of people but I am okay :)
                                                                               Dare to try durian? Challenge accepted! 🙂

To be continued…