Archiv für den Monat: Januar 2010

Mekong Delta

Going Vietnam, going 2010

This trip was a girls trip again: Kati, Judith, Janina, Elli and me are going to Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) city in Vietnam.
The hostel we had there was really really nice and I can highly recommend it to everybody who wants to go to Ho Chi Minh – NgocThao Guesthouse. It is a friendly place with nice staff, clean and nicely furnished rooms.
The first time we went out on the street by day was crazy, traffic is crazy. Thousands of scooters are out on the street, driving like crazy and actually the first time we had to cross a street was an adventure. Even if there is a red street light nobody cares.
Our hostel was located in district 1, which is the richer district and city centre of Ho Chi Minh, where you will find the most sights of the city. All those sights in this district were walking distance and so we spend our first day exploring the city by feet.
One can see a lot of French influences from the Colonial era in the city, like Notre Dame, the old Post Office, the Opera House.
Ho Chi Minh is a really nice city. The air is fresh and the people sit in cafés or on the street on little children’s chairs and tables, having drinks and snacks. And actually you will find a lot of people who are wearing the traditional rice hats and people carrying goods on sticks over their shoulder.
Furthermore you find a lot of art ind the city, there are streets in which one gallery follows another. I saw a lot of people on the streets who were playing some kind of Vietnamese chess and another game was very popular: the ball looked similar to those with which one plays badminton. But the people were kicking this ball with their feet, like we play ‘hackysack’.
We also visited the War Remnants Museum about the war between the States and Vietnam. The exhibitions in the museum were shocking and deeply moving. But I was glad to visit this place, because in Europe we know so less about this brutal war.
Then we went to the colourful Benh Than market and took a look around there.
In the evening we went to a very cheap but really good Vietnamese restaurant, which the owner of our guesthouse had recommended to us. The food was really good and we tried a lot of different dishes, even those we didn’t know the ingredients. Surprise!

The second day in Ho Chi Minh was already New Year. But before the big celebration in the city centre we went on a tour to visit the Vietcong tunnels outside of Ho Chi Minh.
Again this was a day full of history and learning. I found this trip to those tunnels there really interesting. But the weird thing about this museum and memorial was, that at the end of the tour one could shoot with the kind of guns that were used in Vietnam war. And actually after hearing about all this sad and brutal things that had happened in this war, some people were willing to shoot. It was unbelievable for me! For me the sound of the guns was horrifying, it felt like you are timetravelling back to the time of the war.
Finally we were walking through a part of the small tunnels in which the Vietcong fought.
And then…back in Ho Chi Minh the New Year’s Celebration was about to start.
We were walking around the huge festival area, lingering around here and there at a stage. From a friendly street vendor we bought some funny crowns and actually we were the stars of the night! It was unbelievable, everybody wanted to take a picture of us. It happened to us that we found ourselves posing for 15minutes for a never ending line of people who wanted to take a picture of the funny white people. The funny thing was, that we were not only interesting for the Vietnamese, also other western nationalities (e.g. New Zealand) wanted to take pictures of us.
With Vietnamese beer and fire candles we made our way through the crowd close to one of the big screens. 10… 9… 8… 7… 6… 5… 4… 3… 2… 1… Happy New Year! Six hours before Germany we celebrated the new decade. Sadly there were no fireworks, only on the live screen from Hanoi. After 00.00 o’clock they were playing two songs and then… the end. The public party was over. We were totally surprised. A few minutes later they opened up the streets again for the traffic and hewego again with the scooters!
In this festival area we met some nice people from the Netherlands, they also head some funny things on their head :D and we celebrated together and were looking for a club to end the night.
But the clubs were closing soon and so we went to the 24h-store bought food and sat down in the street and watched the people in the street. I was playing with a little Vietnamese girl that was selling gum and had a conversation with a nice Vietnamese woman (Kim) who gave us travel tips.
Happy New Year. I am sure 2010 is going to be even better than 2009.

The next day we slept until midday and then did some sightseeing, following the advices of Kim from last night. That means first we visited two Pagodas (temples), one for the women to pray and one for the men. But the pagodas are open for everyone and every sex. Those temples were different from those we saw in Taipei, but still they were really beautiful. By coincidence we met Kim there again and she was so lucky that we were actually considering her advices.
After that we went to the highest building in town and enjoyed a fresh juice and a great view over Ho Chi Minh.

Finally our last day in Vietnam came. We had to get up early because we had planned a trip into Mekong Delta.
We were shipping through the Mekong Delta, its river, its canals and saw a floating market there. It was very interesting to see the peoples familiar dealing with shipping. Even on thise really small boats they were standing, eating or calling.
We also tried some local sweets like coconut candy and got to know how this all is produced. In addition we tried snake wine, which is actually a schnaps in which lies a snake. It is really strong, but it promises to become potent.
The Mekong Delta was a great experience. There is not so much to tell about, the pictures say more.

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You spend Christmas in the cold? I did not.

Just one day after I came back from Taipei my sister arrived in Manila. We did some sightseeing/ culture shocking in the city and voila – Christmas was already there.

I spend Christmas Eve together with my flatmates Nina and Judith, our Austrian friend Kati and my sister. Later on in the evening the lonely French Milou was joining us as well.

I cooked the main course of the dinner after a traditional receiot of my mum and I made Bratäpfel for desert. Luckily my mum had sent me some Christmas sweets from Germany and my sister brought some Christmas sweets from home as well.
Late in the evening we went to the Church on campus and I attended my first catholic Christmas mass.

On the second day of Christmas my sister Elli and me left to Caramoan Islands. It was a looong trip by bus, then again by van and at last a boat ride. After 12h of travelling we reached the Caramoan Islands, took a tricycle to Centro Caramoan and looked for accommodation in the small town.
Because we were travelling half a day it was already the next morning and so we started our sightseeing tour right away.
A trike took us to beautiful Paniman beach which is far away from tourism. We only met fishermen and their kids there. The fishermen were pulling huge fishing nets out of the water and on the beach the fish was drying.

Not even the landscape there was nice, even on our way there we went through a beautiful rich landscape. It felt like they had everything there: palms, jungle, mangroves, rivers, the sea, beaches in white and brown, mountains and valleys and rice fields and lots of animals.

We spent the whole day on the beach and walking through the beautiful valley behind Paniman beach. Some kids were joining us while we were sitting at the shore.
The next day we rented a boat and went to the small Islands of Caramoan. There one can find one island after the other and every island is a paradise for itself. The island hopping ws really relaxing – boat ride, beach, sun, boat ride, beach sun etc. After that we went to Gota beach and went hiking though the area and the valley there as well.
And finally Christmas was over and Elli and me were on our way back to Manila.


But the journey did not come to an end. Next destination: Vietnam.

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Taipei 4th

And then there was the first and the last day. We decided to go a little bit out of town to see some of the Taiwanese countryside. We went to the so called Green Lake which is actually not a lake but a big river with green water. We crossed the river and went up the mountains afar from the city.
As we reached the top of the hill, there were some Taiwanese. Those Taiwanese turned out to be a Christian group who were on their Sunday trip. They shared their food and tea with us and I was moved by the warmth of those people. Furthermore we played a game together whereby one girl tried to translate the rules to us. During the game the priest told a story in Mandarin, which we could not understand, but it was still fun. We only had to remember one word because this one word caused the action in the game.
After spending a lot of time with these people we did not understand but still somehow did, the Christian group was about to leave the hill. They made a circle around us and everyone of this group was saying their personal prayer for us. It was amazing, because they were praying out loud and there were all these voices around. So far, this was maybe the most moving moment for me in this semester abroad: this warmth of the people and the top of that cold hill. Sounds cheesy, but it’s true.

Last but not least we went to the Taipei 101 which is the highest building in town and one of the highest buildings in the world. We went up to the 91st floor in not even fourty seconds (I actually got pressure on my ears).
The view in almost 400m height over the city by night was amazing and the high entrance fee worthin.

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Taipei 1st

Taipei 3rd

The third day in Taipei started with a visit of two temples: the Buddhist Bao An Temple and the Confucius Temple.
Because Confucius is the Educator and Teacher the temple was also crowded by people who were practicing different things: children dancing groups, small orchestras, Thai Chi practitioners etc.
The Buddhist and the Confucius Temple were really different from each other, but still both were really beautiful and fully decorated.
Afterwards we took the Santa Claus bus to go to National Palace Museum. Actually I found it really funny that every bus driver was dressed like a Santa, cos usually Christmas is not that big in this Buddhist country and one cannot see that huge Christmas decorations like in the Philippines.
The National Palace Museum actually used to be a huge and impressive palace. Nowadays this museum informs about the Taiwanese and Chinese culture and the different dynasties. Although the museum was nice to look at and the interior had a nice design, the content actually was disappointing for me. I expected more information about the country and the people itself. But sadly it was more like one China vase after another.
In the evening Knuwu, the girls and me tried some Taiwanese beer. Actually it’s not that good – we stick with the German.

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Taipei 2nd

The second day in Taipei we visited one of the most biggest mangrove forests in the world. It was wonderful to walk though the forest but still you were in the city and you could see the skyscrapers around. Our walk ended at Fishermen’s wharf and in outer district of Taipei where we visited again different temples, an historic area and a market.
After that we went to the Hot Springs in the middle of Taipei. And again it was like to be in an oasis – a green spot with those hot steaming spring, but still when you looked up you found yourself surrounded by skyscrapers.
There were three basins in which the water of the hot springs was floating. We went into the second one and I felt like I was cooking, because it was so damn hot. We could not believe that the Taiwanese could stand this heat! When we went out of the water a short time later our bodies were completely red. We found out that we went to the wrong basin, cos the first one is the coldest one should start with. Like in a sauna you switch between the hot basin and a frozen one. And after a while we made it even to the hottest basin!
After this relaxing bath in the hot springs we made our way to Shida Night Market. There are lots of night markets in Taipei. On those crowded night markets one can find a lot of street food, but also clothes, jewellery and other things.
Taiwan has a really nice cuisine, we enjoyed the fresh and healthy food there. But still since it’s Asia-Asia one can also find a lot of chicken feet, complete pork’s heads, pork’s feet and every dead animal is always sold complete, that means with head, feet and so on.

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Taipei 1st

Those days in Taipei were really cold. It was like I finally had a fall/ winter. During the day there were around 13°C and in the night around 10°C. But surprisingly I was appreciating the coldness. Yes, I can not hide I am a European.

But strangely they had no heating there. So all rooms in our hostel were really cold, but they had warm thick blankets so that we could have a warm sleep.

Taipei was our first trip to what we call Asia-Asia since we left Germany this year. Asia-Asia means symbol characters, a language that is completely different from ours, a temple culture and less American fastfood.

Taipei is nice, it’s clean, it’s green and you feel like you can breeze fresh air. But to my surprise the streets and subways were empty during weekdays.

The frist day we went by foot the whole day and I am lucky we did. Because thereby we got to see much more, than we would have seen by taking the Metro.

First of all we visited a huge Memorial in the typical Chinese architecture and I can tell I was really impressed.

On our way to the next sight we found an indoor market by coincidence with a lot of Taiwanese food and specialties. Every dead animal you saw there, still had a head, altough it was cooked, fried etc.One could buy pig’s feet, whole gooses and for sure a lot of things one could not even guess what it was.

In Taiwan you can never aks. Nobody will understand you, nobody can speak English and even if you find someone who can speak some words you will have a hard time to understand him.

In addition we also found a second hand store with all goods you can imagine. It was wonderful to wander through these old chinese relicts and to explore the daily goods of the people but in a different way than going to a musuem.

While we were walking though the streets of Taipei we also found a street where they sold pets, especially birds. There one could really see the attitude of Asians towards animals. The small cages where so crowded of birds – it was unbelievable.

The next stop that day was the Longshan Temple and what I liked about this buddhist temple was, that it was really crowded but not by tourists. A lot of believers were there around praying and bringing sacrifices.

Then we had a walk on the shoreline of the city river and again we were walking in the green and you could here the sounds of animals. This is actually something I really miss back in Manila.

At last we made our way to the underground mall, but we just founf this place by coincidence. We didn’t know that this was the underground mall, we just thought it was the Metro. But actually one has to walk through this underground mall to get to the station. And there was a strange thing that you would never see in Germany.

There was an open dancing studio inside this station/mall. People who were on their way to the station just crossed this kind of studio. But studio is not the right expression. It is more like a hall and there are mirrors at the wall and people are dancing infront of those mirrors, one dancing class just right next to another one.

And everywhere there are those gambling and toy machines and manga figures all over the place. Often the advertisements are mangas.

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