Phnom Penh was more of a stop over, not quite the destination.
There are countless stories, in words and in photograph. But I look at these photos, and all the words seem to disappear.
“The Cambodian genocide of 1975-1979, in which approximately 1.7 million people lost their lives (21% of the country’s population), was one of the worst human tragedies of the last century. As in the Ottoman Empire during the Armenian genocide, in Nazi Germany, and more recently in East Timor, Guatemala, Yugoslavia, and Rwanda, the Khmer Rouge regime headed by Pol Pot combined extremist ideology with ethnic animosity and a diabolical disregard for human life to produce repression, misery, and murder on a massive scale.” (From: The CGP, 1994-2013)
Here’s a bit of a breather from my Indochina travel series. I also have not decided on what kind of color treatment to employ next (Clue: Temple Run) so this post is not really uncalled for.
Went to Vigan with Tita Tina for lunch yesterday and then went back home almost right after.
Yes, we “casually” travelled the two-hour distance between Laoag and Vigan just to satiate our appetites. We couldn’t think of anything closer to home that has the ability to excite our palates so we settled not for convenience.
No need for guessing where we went because *tanaaan*
The history and art enthusiast that I am went seventh heaven and back upon reaching the lobby.
After a little peak of the hotel’s artistry, we were led to the Comedor where Cafe Luna is..
..and where these paintings are on display.
The cafe offers selection of authentic Ilocano, Spanish and fusion cuisines. We were pretty much sure what we went to Vigan for so ordering came easy despite the array of delectable choices.
While not part of our original checklist, we fell love at first sight with these babies. You know what they say, there’s always room for dessert.
Now, since it takes sometime to prepare our order, just because it demands to not because of service issues, Tita Tina and I went on a little exploring.
If you wonder, they have attentive and polite service crew. Tita Tina also noted how most of them are still young and must have probably undergone proper yet rigorous training.
Wasn’t able to take a photo of the pool but how do you like this view?
There’s a grand staircase leading to it which moonlights as a go-to photo-op spot. #BestInAvail
Later on, I was told that this 3D art featuring some of Vigan’s best was internationally commissioned.
And that the most expensive rooms have porcelain bathtubs. Amazing, but not quite surprising given that Hotel Luna is a competitor in the luxury heritage hotel market.
Naaks (pretend) foreigner in her own land, haha.
Two seconds after, the sun came out and the wind started blowing off my hair. #CouldNotCatchABreak
Makabalik na ngang Comodor, lol.
Started with this native Sinanglao, a specialty soup made with beef innards and meat.
It’s not as bad as I make it sound or look. I’m absolutely not a picky eater, but I am conscious with the food I eat and this one just makes the cut! Ergo, trust me, hihi.
Then we moved on to the star of the afternoon.. Paella.
I forgot the exact name of this dish, but it’s the one with mixed chicken and seafood (You don’t saaay!) in it. There’s an option to have just one of the two, so we gave up the chicken. If this isn’t for you, maybe Paella Negra (the one with squid meat and ink) or Paella Ilocano (the one with bagnet and longganisa) will work better. BTW, they ship the saffron (the ingredient used for coloring) all the way from India.
A word of caution though, this thing can get really spicy, as did our order. It might help to ask them not to put too much Ilocano pepper unless you can’t be bothered with the need to separate them from your plate, as we did.
If love at first sight was this good, I wouldn’t mind having it the next time I fall in love. #Word
Crisp meringue on the top most part, then it gets softer as you reach its bottom. Brazo de Mercedes has been changed for me 5ever.
After the two-hour lunch (well, #Sloweaters and #BestInStorytelling), we went to see the exhibit upstairs.
The 1883 “The Mandolin Player” (La Mandolinera) by Juan Luna.
Arturo Luz’s “Palitana” and Malang’s “Two Women.”
Eduardo Castillo’s “The Winnowers” (foreground left); and newly installed Ben Cab originals, both sculpture and painting.
Last but not the definitely not the least, “Shawl of Innocents” by Araceli Limcaco Dans.
Now to Đồng Khởi Street, the commercial heart of the city and where memories of the French colonial period stand still. It has been thrice renamed in the past, marking significant changes in Saigon’s history.
As the center of life and glamour during the French colonization, the street was called Rue Catinat. Then, it was dubbed as the Tu Do or Freedom Street after the first Indochina War. In 1975, when the communists took over South Vietnam, it was finally given the name Đồng Khởi, which translate as Total Revolution in English.
Such is also the fate of the Independence Palace (Dinh Độc Lập), also known as the Reunification Palace (Dinh Thống Nhất). Its name and purpose has followed the torrential waves of history.
Greeted by these cuties before entering the palace.
I want one of this in my future home please. #RandomSharing #EasilyDistracted
The palace’s construction commenced on July 1, 1962 and was fully completed by 1966.
Built in the former site of the Norodom Palace, headquarters of Japanese officials during the World War II, it boasts of expansive rooms including diplomatic chambers and reception halls that could accommodate up to 800 guests.
The Conference Hall.
The Independence Hall served as General Nguyễn Văn Thiệu’s home for about eight years. This was his suite and at the far end is his bedroom. I am particularly curious as to how the giant tusks made him feel. #Spooky
The Cabinet Room.
I know what you’re thinking, where the heck is the cabinet here? Hoho
View from the roof top.
Can never get over of Saigon’s lush and verdant green sceneries. (Tagged under: City planning done right.)
“Skin as white as ivory, lips as red as ruby..” Yii, Snow White.
Meanwhile in my universe: “Skin as dark as ebony..” Aminin mo, cinonsider mo talaga siya, haha.
Regular bungisngis, poise less me.. which surprises people from online who meet me in real life. I tell you, my writing tone is more somber than my personality. And, I’m not even that somber to begin with. #Telling
Maxi dresses were particularly helpful because of the ease and comfort it provided to me. The length was also appropriate for temples that required strict dress code, even more when worn with my favorite scarf. Packing wise, it’s light weight and requires little luggage space. #TravelHacks
Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral (Nhà thờ Đức Bà Sài Gòn), seen from a different angle. I believe it’s as charming as its main facade. Also, makes me want to travel to Europe soon. #ThinkingAloud
Adjacent to the cathedral is Saigon’s Central Post Office (Bưu Điện), where I missed not the chance of sending some postcards.
A friend of mine got me into the old school correspondence earlier this year, and I couldn’t be more thankful for it. I get too much kilig from writing, sending and receiving letters and postcards in my pigeon hole.
Inside is this stunning ceilling!
Wouldn’t mind walking to the post office to drop my mails every week if it were this pretty. The ones in QC just fail in comparison.
Diamond Plaza which is surrounded by luxury brands such as Louis Vuitton, Hermes and Burberry. Aptly named, me thinks.
Saigon Opera House (Nhà hát lớn Thành phố Hồ Chí Minh).
You can see my friends from this photo. Had to get to the other side of the street to get a good view of the opera house.. which was the case most of the time. #Photography #LongDistanceRelationship
Such a well preserved beauty..
but wait until you see it at night.
#DreamSequence after grabbing coffee at L’Usine.
Another fail moment following our War Remnants Museum experience: We stayed for hours inside the cafe, leeching free wifi and all, not knowing that just a floor above us was an art gallery. We only noticed the sign on our way out for dinner. It also didn’t help that the cafe owner was actually cute, lol. (Tagged under: Why, universe, why?)
Then, dinner at Pho Hoa Pasteur. It was recommended to us by our Art Studies professor, whose reviews in art, food, and movies we respect so much.
Tell me I’m not the only one suffering from that random noodle. Huhu, wut u du dur nudul? #TheOC
The next day, we took a trip to Cu Chi province supposedly to see the tunnels. But the universe planned something else for us. We ended up navigating streets and locating buses to no avail. After much thought, patience and hours spent, we resolved to forego it for now as we were already scheduled for Cambodia that same afternoon.
So yes, next time we return, it will be for Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh’s Cu Chi Tunnels. Can’t wait to go back already!
This summer has been particularly nice and naughty to me. Naughty because half the time, it bummed the life out of me. And nice because the better half of the time, I was also everywhere—ie, Iloilo, Boracay, Guimaras and then, sweet heavens, some.
Before the cloudy days came, and the frilly summer dresses bid goodbye, Mario, Andre, Haj and I took one last long hurrah in Viet Nam, Cambodia, and Thailand. Quite frankly, our finances have been dwindling since returning, it’s not even funny. But we couldn’t help laughing at our half-filled wallets and bank accounts.
Point is, we did not go that far to come home regretting. Here’s a little part of my why.
We arrived in Tân Sơn Nhất International Airport at forty past midnight. There’s an hour difference between Viet Nam and the Philippines and since we’re all suckers, we took a really sweet time complaining about jet lag. #MischiefManaged
The morning after, Andre woke me up and I remember asking him what time was it and he said 6 AM and I thoughtlessly answered back, “Here or in the Philippines?” in the hopes of getting another hour in bed. It was too lol-sy that I just had to jump out of my cozy, cozy bed after. Hoho
First order of business: War Remnants Museum (Bảo Tàng Chứng Tích Chiến Tranh) because no one goes to Saigon, Ho Chi Minh’s official name until 1975, for the first time without dropping by this place.
And boy, did we literally just drop by the museum! There’s a souvenir shop that’s strategically located in front and we were lured into it by all the art and novelty items. It took us forever deciding which one to take home and only finished a few minutes before the museum’s lunch time closing. #MissedSaigon
We did manage to see *a little bit* of the museum.
The Viet Nam War (Chiến Tranh Việt Nam), aka the Second Indochina War, was waged against American led anti-communist forces. It lasted for nineteen years and resulted to one, the withdrawal of American forces against the communist front and two, the annexation of South Viet Nam by North Viet Nam.
Millions of people died during this war, including some members of the Filipino humanitarian team sent by the government.
1/2 of the series, and the caption reads like this: “Two little boys popped up from nowhere (and the) GI’s I was with opened up, then moved in close to finish them.”
“When these two boys were shot at, the older one fell on the little one, as if to protect him. Then the guys finished them off.”
Hơ Vản Lơi (left) and Hơ Vản Đang (right) both victims of land mines.
Even more wrecking images of individuals and families together.
Original propaganda designs are also part of the exhibit.
The infamous “Napalm Girl” of Associated Press photographer Nick Út. Its focal point is the Vietnamese-Canadian child Kim Phuc (Phan Thị Kim Phúc) running naked after South Vietnamese forces dropped a napalm bomb in the village of Trang Bang. This Pulitzer Prize winning photograph turned forty in 2012, and continues to influence our view on children’s condition during war.
As in all other armed conflicts, the memories of the Viet Nam War reassures us that no one person or group emerges as winners.
Walked our way to the market with a heavy heart.. but not for too long because Saigon is breathtaking. The equation cleanliness + safety + trees leads us to the feeling of peace as its sum.
And it’s maintained all overt he city! We kept on asking ourselves why can’t we have or at least, start doing the same at home. What we get instead are stories of age old trees being cut for road widening and short term projects. Boy, do we have not our priorities set straight. #NoOffense
Just another park attraction! #AllThoseGreens, I covet!
Other greens in the park include these water lilies…
and succulents that are too excited for Christmas.
Special hello to my friend and fellow cacti enthusiast, Fran: I squealed, thought of you, and went to cacti heaven upon seeing these. ~(“u”)~
Even electric wires create a beautiful mess in Saigon.
I realize how fleeting really is my attention as our trip progressed.
Lost count of the number of times I was distracted in the middle of doing something important (ie crossing the street) by significant and trivial objects alike. #FruitBasket #PedestrianLane
Already famished at five past one in the afternoon, we made a beeline for our first authentic pho and spring rolls.
One serving of the well-loved pho is filling enough for two stomachs, so sharing would be a good idea. Unless, of course, you have a bottomless pit for a stomach then I’d rather you become more selfish. Yii.
In front of the market is the Lệ Lơi-Tran Hung Daơ rotonda where major roads of the city converge. It is also home to General Tran Nguyen Han Statue (center right).
In the background is the Bitex Financial Tower (Tháp Tài Chính), declared tallest Vietnamese skyscraper in 2010. The record was short lived as Hanoi’s Landmark 72 reigned over the next year.
Never considered having an iPhone or a mirror-less camera as much as I did in this trip.
In case you are wondering, I brought with me my 5D MKIII camera and 50 mm f/1.4 lens the whole time. Fancy as it may sound, I had to go through hell and back to document things properly. First, because my equipment weigh like a baby and second, my lens is not exactly landscape photography appropriate.
Decent looking photos > Back Ache + Bad Posture
Scooter city! Imagine living in a quaint loft in this city, with a gray Persian cat, a white Vespa and a wardrobe stuck in the past. #Dreamy
When art imitates life.
Some street art and figures wearing the traditional conical hat seen in most East, Southeast and South Asian countries. Vietnamese refer to it as the nón lá, while we call it salakot.
I can imagine myself living in this city for a year or two. Wouldn’t hurt to dream, right?
I am friends with a bunch of people who double the fun and madness about love. Oh please, let me tell you a little about them.
There was once a friend of mine who tried running away from a breakup by chasing the ghost of this city. This she did by aimlessly wandering the streets, in the dead of the night, and had all of us panicking the next day. I know of another who had his braces removed in order to forget the lover’s kiss, just because he can and because the ex-lover wore braces, too.
When someone told me off about blogging, which hit some familiar strings so wrongly, I thought I would never be able to bounce back. It was an almost failed love story.
Run, I did. (Like my friends usually do.) But write? I did not. At least, not properly.
There are lessons I pick up, some wrongs and rights, from watching my crazy bunch of friends. I see them fight for the ones they love (sometimes, once loved), and for themselves. I rarely do, but here be a blog post that was almost never written anymore.
Tell me something I might not know.
Photos by Ulysses, edited by Me.