Travelling Leila

My impressions about the places I visit

Archive for the tag “Nightlife”

Vietnam – Day 4

РУССКОЯЗЫЧНАЯ ВЕРСИЯ ПО ЭТОЙ ССЫЛКЕ. CLICK HERE FOR RUSSIAN VERSION.

8 June 2017

As I wrote yesterday, the Ho Chi Minh part of our trip is over, and this morning we said goodbye to this lovely city. At about 9am we were picked up from the hotel by the travel agency’s driver and carefully delivered to the domestic airport terminal, from which we flew to the city of Hue in central Vietnam, the former capital of Vietnam under the Nguyen dynasty until 1945.

The flight only lasted an hour, and there wasn’t even passport control at the Hue airport – so we basically left the plane, collected our luggage and headed straight to the exit where our today’s guide Lan was already waiting for us.

While still on our way, we already noticed that Hue looked quite different from Saigon – in terms of both vegetation and buildings.

IMG_2397

Since it was lunch time and we were already massively hungry, before going to the hotel we were taken straight to a restaurant. The restaurant reminded us of the “Istirahet” in Baku for some reason, even the smell was remotely similar. However, this initial impression vanished quickly, especially when we were seated at a balcony and served a menu with local Central Vietnamese dishes. It seemed that the food tasted differently from that of the southern region, even the spring rolls weren’t quite the same, but again everything was delicious.

20170608_134047

Our hotel is located right in the heart of the tourist district, on a small street with many restaurants and bars. The room is bigger than in the Ho Chi Minh City, plus there is a balcony with a superb view over the Fragrant River, and complimentary fruits in the room (bananas, rambutans and some other unidentified fruit).

IMG_2392

IMG_2396

20170608_143749 (1)

In the hotel, we literally just had time to change our clothes, since we were supposed to go on an excursion with Lan. We headed straight to the Imperial Citadel, which is a huge palace complex with at least a hundred different structures (including a theatre, a library, a meditation pavilion etc.) and was built in the early 19th century in just 27 years.

IMG_2404

IMG_2444

IMG_2451

Inside the Citadel was the Imperial City, consisting of several blocks, and the Purple Forbidden City, which served as the residence of the last ruling Nguyen dynasty that existed throughout the colonial era and ended in 1945 with the outbreak of the First Indochina War. As a result of this war and the subsequent Vietnam War, the complex was badly damaged by bombing and today it only consists of the remnants of former luxury. The destroyed buildings are being slowly rebuilt, while the complex in its original grandeur can be admired on either a model or the video animation.

IMG_2409

IMG_2417

IMG_2432

I must say, the Imperial City reminded me of the Forbidden City in Beijing, but I liked it a little more, most likely because of the opulent vegetation all around.

IMG_2434

IMG_2438

IMG_2442

IMG_2454

Besides individual pavilions and palaces, there are several gates that survived the bombing, and Lan explained to us that each had been intended for certain people: some were exclusively for the emperor, others for women, others for mandarins of a certain rank, and so on.

IMG_2406

We also got to see the Palace of Supreme Harmony, which was used as a throne room for memorable celebrations. It was very impressive, but unfortunately taking pictures was not allowed.

Then we went to the Imperial Museum, which, as I understood, also belonged to the palace complex, but maybe not, because walking there took quite some time. In the museum, we had to put some ridiculous shoe covers on top of our shoes, and we were the only visitors. Once again, they requested no photography, which was such a pity, since there were a lot of interesting artefacts: lacquered furniture, dishes, jewellery, clothes, and even a set for some traditional board game.

As we were walking from the museum to the car, it started to rain, and on the way to our next destination – the Thien Mu Pagoda – the light rain turned into a heavy downpour, and we had to visit the pagoda under it.

Therefore, unfortunately, the visit turned out to be too brief. The Thien Mu Pagoda, or Heavenly Lady Pagoda, is the oldest in Hue and was built in 1601. In front of the main gate there is a seven-storied tower, constructed some two hundred years later. We did not get in the pagoda, probably because of the rain, or because it was already about 6 pm – and in fact, according to Lan, there was a statue of Buddha Shakyamuni inside, which would have been really interesting to see.

IMG_2462

IMG_2465

We then got on a boat to get from the pagoda to the city centre on the opposite side of the river, and this trip was not the most pleasant. Actually, even back in Ho Chi Minh City our guide Phuoc had explained to us that the tipping culture is very important in Vietnam and a dollar or two should be given practically to everyone – waiters, drivers, porters – of course, if you’re happy with the service. So pretty obviously we were intending to leave a tip to the boatwoman. But during the trip she began to show us souvenirs arranged on the boat for sale – various pictures, postcards and bookmarks – doing it very insistently, literally demanding us to buy them, which, in truth, didn’t seem quite nice. When we refused, she didn’t even help us get off the boat, therefore we didn’t leave any tip…

IMG_2471

But this little incident was very quickly forgotten when we returned to the hotel and decided to take advantage of the 50% discount on spa services that was offered. We were seated in the lobby of the spa, served some tea and showed a list of services to choose from. Both of us went for one-hour full body aroma-massage, and… oh goodness, it was amazing, such a wonderful relaxing massage from head to toe!

After that, we again felt surge of energy and went for a walk along our tourist street in search of a restaurant, and then a bar or pub. We found the restaurant at once – I’d actually noticed it earlier when we were driving somewhere – it was La Carambole, positioning itself as a French-Vietnamese restaurant. And indeed, the menu had both French and local Hue dishes. Since we still haven’t had enough of Vietnamese food, we can’t yet understand how one could want a cheese platter, for example, but as for fried rice and grilled meat with lemongrass and chili – they are always welcome!

Among other things, there are quite a few hotels and hostels on our streen, and one of the latter had a buzzing bar downstairs, where we saw big company, mostly dressed in the same shirts with bananas (which were hung right in the clothes shop across the road, there might have been some promotion like “buy 20 – get 1 free”), and some guys walked around in sun dresses or pareos with a bikini top 🙂

20170608_195714

20170608_205232

Generally, it seemed that there were more tourists in Hue than in Ho Chi Minh City. On the other hand, the latter also has its own backpacker area, where we hadn’t been in the evening, soit’s quite possible that we don’t have the full picture.

Advertisements

Hong Kong – Day 5

РУССКОЯЗЫЧНАЯ ВЕРСИЯ ПО ЭТОЙ ССЫЛКЕ. CLICK HERE FOR RUSSIAN VERSION.

4 December 2013

Today we made a particularly good choice, visiting the Chi Lin Nunnery and the adjacent Nan Lian Garden.

IMG_8194

It’s hard even to imagine such beauty, peace and tranquillity as in this garden, which is essentially an amazingly harmonious composition of water, rocks and trees, and also traditional Chinese pagodas, bridges and pavilions. As for the skyscrapers in the background, not only don’t they seem to disturb this harmony, but they actually emphasise it in a rather unique way.

IMG_8210

IMG_8211

Overall, the garden is somewhat oval-shaped, and each turn of the track uncovers a new charming scene, e.g. giant banyan trees, or exquisite bridges over a pond with large colourful fish, or a waterfall with a water mill. And there you are, walking and admiring it all, accompanied by the low-pitch, vibrant, ’nasal’ sounds of guqin, a traditional Chinese stringed instrument, which feels like the most appropriate accompaniment in this place.

IMG_8213

IMG_8218

IMG_8223

IMG_8226

IMG_8232

There are some lotus ponds right in front of the monastery. The petals move gently under the light breeze, and you feel like you could spend hours and hours just looking at them – at least, you somehow begin to understand Asians who find pleasure in the long contemplation of beauty. Neither taking pictures, nor even talking is allowed in the monastery, even in the public section (the other section, where the monks actually live, is closed to public altogether). There are sanctuaries on both sides, while in the centre there is a magnificent gilded statue of Buddha Sakyamuni. The monastery is also filled with music, not guqin sounds any longer though, but the chants of the monks. Even though we have nothing to do with Buddhism, still a sense of the sanctity of the place was definitely present.

IMG_8234

IMG_8237

IMG_8241

IMG_8244

IMG_8247

IMG_8250

IMG_8253

IMG_8254

IMG_8256

IMG_8258

As we returned to the Nan Lian Garden, we decided to try the tea ceremony there. The tea house has a couple of requirements: first of all you have to remove your shoes, leave them outside and put on the slippers provided, and also to switch off your mobile phone and put your camera away, as taking photos and videos is prohibited. The order has to be at least one portion per person. And a portion in this case is not one cup but rather 6 grammes of dry tea, which can be brewed in a small teapot six times. But I’m getting ahead of myself here – before talking about brewing I have to mention that there is actually a high degree of self-service here – you fill the iron kettle yourself and put it on the stove to boil, then you call the waitress. She brings you teaware and dry tea leaves, explaining how to brew them. It is actually a whole science (or should I say art?) in itself: you first rinse and fill the teapot with boiling water (the teaware stands on a grid with a drain underneath it). Then you pour the same water into a jug and cups, which thus get rinsed as well. You carefully add the tea to the tiny teapot, fill it with boiling water up to the top, then immediately pour it away – this is how the tea leaves also get rinsed. Now comes the final part: you fill the teapot with boiling water once again, keep it there for just a few seconds, and then pour the tea into the jug (so that it doesn’t get any stronger), from which it can be poured into cups.

IMG_8267

IMG_20131204_130604

It’s worth emphasising that these six grams is a lot for such a small teapot, way more than the portions we are used to. The tea that we had is called Da Hong Pao, which grows high in the mountains and is considered one of the most expensive teas in the world.

IMG_20131204_131835

IMG_20131204_133918

IMG_8266

IMG_8269

IMG_8274

Our lunch that day was quite unusual too – it was vegetarian, as it is always the case with monastery restaurants, with a very high content of various types of mushrooms.

In the evening we went to Lan Kwai Fong yet again. Even though it was only Wednesday and not Friday, the place was way more crowded and fun than during our last visit – which in fact is quite logical. The last time we were here was Sunday, when pretty obviously very few people are keen on drinking and hanging out late before a Monday. And on a weekday, of course, many people want to relax and chill out after a hard day at work – this is exactly why we saw such a considerable number of ‘white collars’ there.

Singapore – Day 3

РУССКОЯЗЫЧНАЯ ВЕРСИЯ ПО ЭТОЙ ССЫЛКЕ. CLICK HERE FOR RUSSIAN VERSION.

26 November 2013

If you feel the urge to move somewhere, do yourself a favour and move to Asia. Here is where one understands that Europe has totally outlived itself, as Asia has already left it a hundred paces behind and keeps developing by leaps and bounds, while Europe is busy with stuff like gay marriage. Having breakfast in Asia is also much better – any croissant would pale in comparison with hot noodles and dim sum early in the morning!

Being in Singapore and missing the opportunity to visit the zoo would be a big sin. The zoo is huge here, and the animals are kept almost in freedom. We rejected the suggestion to go on a 3.5 hour zoo tour with a transfer from the hotel, as we wanted to neither have any time limit nor to overpay, and so we went there all on our own – first by tube and then by bus. We do sometimes end up in silly situations here, underestimating how everything here is made for the convenience of people, so coming out of the tube at the Ang Mo Kio station, we walked out into the street in search of a bus stop. We shouldn’t have walked out at all, though! It turned out that the tube station was directly linked with the bus depot.

The bus ride was long but seamless. We purchased regular zoo tickets only and not those for various safaris, as we were told that not all animals would be represented there till the end of the year.

Notice

Giraffes

Zebras

Cheetah

Kangaroo

Tiger

Hippo

Butterflies

LionessHippo

Even though we knew that the animals were more or less free here, it was still unexpected when we saw monkeys friskily jumping on the tree branches. As usual, most of the zoo looked more like the Land of Nod, though, for example the leopard cat did not even bother to come out of its shelter.

Proboscis Monkey

White-Faced Saki

Finger Monkey

Chimpanzee

We literally had lunch with orangutans – we were sitting in the open cafeteria (the usual zoo type, with the only difference that it served Chinese, Malay and Indian dishes as well as western fast food) and they were swinging on ropes above our heads, landing on some kind of hammocks stretched between the branches, and eating leaves.

Zoo Cafeteria

Orangutans

The zoo offered a chance to ride on elephants. We had a thought about it, which, however, somehow never materialised. Generally there was a huge variety of animals: there were lemurs, and babirusas, and porcupines, and tapirs, etc.

Lemur

Porcupines

Babirusa

Elephant

Painted by an Elephant!

I am traditionally fond of reptiles, especially snakes – certainly not enough, however, to welcome their behaviour, as during Harry Potter’s London Zoo visit.

Crocodile

Komodo Dragon

Rhino Iguana

Kingsnake

Reticulated Python

Oriental Whip Snake

Some Green Snake

Generally, all animals were grouped according to different parts of the world and climatic zones, even the cold tundra was represented here, particularly, there was a dirty polar bear swimming in circles in a huge pool, following exactly the same trajectory, even poking its head to breathe strictly in the same place, and the large glass allowed to see it under the water as well, like in an aquarium.

Polar Bear

We were lucky with the rain – again! – it started pouring when we were drinking tea under the roof of the cafeteria, just before leaving.

In the evening we decided to explore Singapore’s nightlife, and following all the tips we had read on the Internet, headed to Clarke Quay, where all the entertainment seemed to be focused. Apparently, there’s not much happening there on weekdays – for instance, none of the places supposed to be night clubs was functioning as one; instead they only served as a shelter for those few visitors wishing to have a drink or two. Most of the people were concentrated in the waterfront restaurants and were eating, eating, eating (and still, there weren’t too many, indeed, Singapore somehow looks surprisingly uncrowded – I wonder whether this is a seasonal phenomenon, or something permanent), but even those left at around 11pm.

Post Navigation