Vang Vieng, Laos : Easy Go!

It was so good to be back in Vang Vieng, Laos.  I spent 12 nights in August 2012 in Easy Go Backpackers Hostel, few days before the tubing activity got shut down (re-open again) by Laos PDR government and all the bars along the river and also on the “party island” being torn down and torched.
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I am not gonna touch the tubing shut-down issue here as I already did.
Coming back to Vang Vieng in 2013, 2014 and the whole month of April in 2015, brought me straight to Easy Go Backpackers Hostel without thinking twice. They’ve improved a lot! Last year, they only have few rooms and few beds. This year, they extend it to bigger volume. Not only that; from self-made wood and bamboo beds with thin mattresses and mosquito nets full of holes everywhere, now they get a proper beds with better mattresses and good mosquito nets. Although they’ve improved in that area, they still maintain the chill, backpackers-friendly environment, Laotian-style. Bamboo walls, cross-legs common area with floor mattresses, dining table and chairs, coffee & tea and hot water. The pool table is still there next to the reception counter, wifi still working although not the best, toilet & bathroom still the same and lockers still there too. And for less than USD$3 a night, I am not complaining!
The best part of this hostel is the view from the common area – facing the mountains that lay just next the Nam Song (Song River). The panoramic view is just breath-taking especially in the morning and during sunset. It is just very beautiful.
Should you come to Vang Vieng, Laos PDR, I strongly recommend you to stay in Easy Go Backpackers Hostel which you can book via Hostelworld and Hostelbookers. If those website are too difficult for you, check on their facebook 🙂 Cheers!
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Note: Easy Go (with sister company Spicy Lao) recently open a brand new Easy Go branch in 4000 Islands (Don Det), Laos.
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Vang Vieng, Laos : Same Same, No Difference

I was in Vang Vieng, Laos, in 2012 for 12 days and left just few days before the tubing activity was forced to shut down by the government of Laos PDR. There was number of death and injuries from the past years but what I heard is the tubing was shut down not because of “that” more than 20 young soul (mainly Australians) died on Nam Song (Song river) but just because one of Australian minister’s son died, the Australian government put on pressure towards the local government and … no more tubing for few months.
When I was there 2012, I felt sorry for the locals that their beautiful town was like being rape by drunk zombies, culture insensitive people and well, annoying youngster who acted like they own that place. Although there was (and still) a sign of no bikinis for woman, no spedo for man but these unculture people seems like blind and illiterate – ignorance to the max. Of course the locals not saying anything because they need money from the backpackers/tourists but that should not be a license for one (in this case, many) to act like a douchebag.
It even kindda annoyed me too that to learn that these youngsters came to Vang Vieng just to get drunk, to get high and tubing. Vang Vieng is more that that. Vang Vieng is not just about tubing along Nam Song. In Vang Vieng you can go cave tubing, swim in a chill Blue Lagoon, rock climbing, kayaking, enjoy the scenery with hot-air balloon and well, eat lots of delicious baguette sandwiches or pancakes!
So, I came again to Vang Vieng in December 2013, March 2014  for visa run from Hanoi, Vietnam.  And again in April 2015 (stayed there for a month) before going to Hanoi again for a month – just to kill some “time” before going off, back to Europe.
The town was not as busy as back in 2012 but still I’d still able to see few drunk zombies walking back to their hostel/hotel when the sun already rised. Just few, very few compare to 2012 butincreasing. But still many still on the road with their bikinis, as well on the river side. Well, can’t they just wear shorts and singlet or t-shirt for tubing rather than showing their boobs, bums to the local that definitely not gonna say a shit about it but for sure they not gonna like it? Mehhhh…
On the other note, tubing at Nam Song seems kinda boring after the “shut down” as the river is not as deep as back in 2012 although it wasn’t dry season. The water also pretty cold that make everyone shivering when they off to the land. And instead of line of bars on the left and right of the river, there were only 3 tubing bars open. Maybe more now. The crazy first bar (Q Bar) and second bar (Star Bar) that on-business in 2012 wasn’t there anymore. People will start at the first bar (Mama’s Bar) and 100 meters down to the right is second bar (Kangaroo Sunset) and another 100 meters down to the left after second bar is the third bar (Last Bar). That’s about it. And from my observation, not many people tubing all the way down to the town like last year. They’ll stop at the Last Bar, party until sunset and then go back to the town by tuktuk.
Tubing still charged at the same renting price of 55,000LOK and deposit of 60,000LOK. If you rent the tube, you get to the Nam Song for free but you still have to pay 10,000LOK if you decide to go back by tuktuk. If you are not rent the tube, you still can go to the Nam Song and pay the tuktuk 10,000LOK per person (min. 5 people or else they’ll charge you more).
To go to Blue Lagoon, I suggest to rent a semi-auto scooter at 30,000LOK up to 8pm. But in order to go to Blue Lagoon, you gotta pass through a bridge where the local charge you a passing toll for 5,000LOK return and then you need to pay another 10,000LOK per person in order to enter to the Blue Lagoon. I am not sure how much you have to pay if you want to go to the Blue Lagoon by tuktuk.
Hot Air Baloon or “Vang Vieng From The Sky” available at few tour office around the town and the price is between USD$75 – USD$80. I didn’t do that because I am running out of money. LOL!
For rock climbing, there’s a few climbing school/center around Vang Vieng. For courses, the fees are varies from USD$25 per half a day to USD$165 for 3 days course. Not sure about “fun” climbing fees for those who already have experience in rock climbing though.
**Sorry, I don’t have the picture of rock climbing in Vang Vieng as I am not a rock climber nor did I go to the rock climbing location.
Well, for any other activities like kayaking all the way down to Vientiane (yeap! they have it!), cave tubing and others… I suggest you to check with your hostel/guesthouse or any other tour office and pick the best and the cheapest one 🙂 And if you just too lazy to do anything, get your bum off to Smiley Beach and chill in a hammock or beach bed or tube without moving anywhere. You just need to buy a drink or two and maybe some sandwich or pancake? Or maybe rent a mopet and drive around and visit the quite (and dry) waterfall?
As for night life, this year, during happy hour you have 3 options which is Gary’s The Irish Bar for marvelous western food and live music (this place is have good number of patrons), Kangaroo Sunset for a fish pumping top remix top 40 music from yesteryears to current, so-so food, disgusting cocktails, sleazy ambiance for youngster who looking for horny backpackers (sorry for being judgmental here but that’s how it looks like) and third one is Sakura Cafe/Bar for much chill-out ambiance, decent local and western foods, good music and also pool table, table tennis, beer pong (looks like an empty bar but it is not as the place is pretty big and dark and most people hang out a bit on the inside area). All these 3 bars situated on the same road. After midnight you may go to Room 101 or Viva Vang Vieng which was not my favorite at all. Just my personal taste not quite match it.
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 (Oskar, Alex (now one of the owner), Nikos, Me, Nico & Simon. I am one of pioneers of Sakura Bar in Vang Vieng (2013) before it turned into ou-of-control party place that offers patrons cheap boozes, laughing gas and all sort of “fun”).
I hope any of you that plan to go to Vang Vieng in a near future or anytime, please respect the local. Please be sensitive with their culture. Please put on your clothes. Please don’t act like a scumbags. Please don’t be a zombies. Please stop acting to the level people call you a train wreck, a white trash and such. Most important, becareful when you do weed or mushroom… plain clothes police officers, honest and dishonest, are everywhere in Vang Vieng. And one of my friend gotta pay hefty amount of USD$600 fine after get caught smoking weed in the middle of the night near the river where he thought safe.
Enjoy Vang Vieng. You’ll love it!

Hanoi, Vietnam : Food Hunting Part 4

Well… basically, to be honest, I am tired of the “airy baguette” for breakfast. It is like I’m munching on nothing but air. Also, I just unable to adapt to the way of local people here having their breakfast with Pho – the noodle soup or Bun Cha – another version of noodle soup but they separate the noodle and the soup (eh?). In another word, I just don’t like the local baguette and soupy food. Well, I never was a soup fan anyway. Mehhh…
So, after Michael left to Ha Long Bay and I still had that motorcycle that we rented with me, I just went around Old Quarters looking for non-local stuffs to eat. I was about to go to PUKU but PUKU is a little bit out-of-budget place for me so I kept wandering around the Old Quarters and randomly stopped at Rainbow Cafe/Restaurant at No. 37-38 Hang Hanh, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi because I was so hungry.
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(image from tripadvisor)
I opted for so-called American Breakfast priced at 62,000VND. As you can see, the breakfast consist of salad (tomato, lettuce, cucumber), fries, sausage (really small one, cut like a flower, not enough for me), ham (not really a good one but eatable), 2 sunny side-up fried egg (this one is pretty good, not well-done, loved it!), baguette and butter.
I was so happy that it was a real baguette! I mean a proper baguette! Not that airy baguette being sold by any road side of Hanoi. And… it was still warm when being served to me. So I just stuffed every single other things on plate in the middle of the baguette (and lots of chili sauce, too) except the fries. It was so good and filling too! I was so happy!
And yesterday at night, I followed Nico to Hang Trong street to try this local street snack. The stall only open after 6.30pm and situated next to Pepperoni’s Pizza Restaurant, in front the juction of Pho Bao Khanh. The snack called “banh trang tron” and have no translation for it in English. Hehehe!
vfood banh-trang-tron
(image from google image)
The ingredients to use this snack is shredded rice papers, shredded/thin-sliced young mango (lots of it!), peanuts, dried shrimps, beef jerky, pork jerky, fried shallots, quail eggs, soy sauce, satay sauce, salt and chili. It is a bit like “rojak” in Malaysia/Singapore/Indonesia because all the ingredients (except the beef/pork jerky) being mixed in one huge bowl and before serving, topped with those beef/pork jerky.
The cost of this snack @ banh trang tron is 20,000VND per serving. It wasn’t big enough to make me feel full but good enough as an appetizer before real stuffs.

Hanoi, Vietnam : Food Hunting Part 2

Walked around with my roomies Philip from California, USA and Inge from The Netherlands without any intention, we passed by a street food stalls at No. 57 Hang Bo Street, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi (Old Quarters area) full of customers and we made a decision to give it a try although we had to wait for more than 10 minutes for a sit. A really super-low sit on super-small chair.
They served this deep-fried cake with prawn (in Malaysia they call such thing as “cucur udang”) and fried wanton dumplings with meat. Those two items were served together with the typical shrimp-broth and fish-sauce sauce and fresh herbs. The snacks are called“Cat Toc Trong Ngo” and I have no idea what does it mean in Vietnamese.
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(image from soshiok.com)
For 3 of us, we paid 60,000VND which is pretty cheap.NEXT!
As me and Philip and Inge kept on walking on the same day, we reach the end of west-side of Old Quarters. Turn to the left, as we kept on walking, we passed a single food stall selling a local dessert and since Philip talked about a jelly & coconut milk (I am not sure what does it called in Vietnamese), we decided to make a stop and try it out.  Oh! In Malaysia, Singapore or Indonesia, they called it “ais kacang” or “air batu campur”.
The desserts was a rich mix of variety type of jellys and some other stuffs including red beans, corn kernels and mung beans paste and coconut milk. It was good and not the same like the one that me and Michael had few days before in Quan An Ngon.
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(image by sweetsbychan.com)
Situated right in front of the gate at No. 79-81 Ly Nam De, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi(Old Quarters area), it definitely worth a stop and 20,000VND each of the yummy local dessert.
Note: Again, I apologize for using images that I took from google image. I lost all my food pictures 😦

Hanoi, Vietnam : Food Hunting Part 1

So…. me and my dorm mate, Michael from Germany decided to roam around Hanoi and hunting for a good Vietnamese food. We are so tired of pho (noodle soup), bun cha (dry noodle with sauce, herbs, spring rolls & grilled meat patties), bun nem chua be (like bun cha but without the grilled meat patties), my xao bo (fried egg noodles with beef and greens), banh my (local-styled sandwich), cong ga (tapioca porridge with chicken) and such.
So we rented a bike just for that purpose – food hunting! And we had map prepared, too!

The first place we went to was No. 14 Hang Ga, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi (still around Old Quarter area)  “Banh Cuon Gia Truyen” a small restaurant that serves Banh Cuon –or a rolled cake that made from thin layer of steamed rice batter rolled withseasoned ground chicken or pork (you choose!) and mushrooms and topped with lots of fried shallots and chicken floss. It came together with special essence sauce that gives the sweet taste. Well not bad … and the price is not that expensive (but the portion was not big enough for a foodies like us). Chicken banh cuon for 35,000VND and pork banh cuon for 40,000VND.

vfood banhcuon(image from buzzfeed.com)

After that, we went to No. 31 Duong Thanh, Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi (yes, still in Old Quarters area) “Cha Ca Thang Long” a fully air-conditioned small restaurant that servesCha Ca – a crayfish dish stir fried together with dill (yes, dill!) and spring onions – right in front of our faces. The other key components of this cha ca dishes is bun (rice noodles), fresh herbs consist of coriander and Thai basil, shredded scallionsfried ground peanuts, and the special sauce with chili for a bit of spicy taste. The price of Cha Ca is 120,000VND per serving which the portion served was pretty enough for both of us (probably because we had banh cuon earlier on). And two cokes for 20,000VND each. Well… burppp! Hahaha! It was a good meal. Very decent.
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(image from vkeong.com)
Then both of us took our rented motorbike to the West Lake area. The weather was really chill and windy! It took us quite sometimes to scroll around the lake. Yeap, it is a very big lake. Both of us decided to take a stop at “Ngõ 128 đường Thụy Khê, rẽ phải 30m, Tây Hồ, Hà Nội” (No. 128 (facing) Thuy Khe, turn right and 30meters down, Tay Ho District, Hanoi and…nope, this is no longer in Old Quarters area) “IGC Coffee” – a coffee shop set across the street from the lake side. Me and Michael sat facing right the lake, enjoyed the cool breeze of winter in Hanoi. We spent about one and half hour here, escaped from the busy, dirty polluted air, noisy Old Quarters area.
We had double scoop chocolate ice cream with Kahlua and sweetened whipped cream (35,000VND each), iced black coffee for him (20,000VND) and iced coffee with condensed milk for me (25,000VND).
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(image from steamykitchen.com)
Since it was about to close to rush hour, me and Michael decided to heading back to the Old Quarters area and go for the last shot of our food hunting day. We made a stop at“18 Phan Boi Chau, Cua Nam, Hoan Kiem Distirct, Hanoi” to the famous a’la food court restaurant called “Quan An Ngon” for early dinner (well, it was not even 5pm! LOL!). So I ordered Banh Xeo – a famous Hue food – a shrimp pancake with bean sprouts and scallions, rolled together (by my own) with fresh herbs and sweet chili sauce in a rice paper. For Michael, he had a fresh grilled squids and steamed rice. When we were about to pay and leave the place, Michael got distracted by a colorful desserts served to a customers on the next table. Well, what else, so we decided to try it. I don’t really know what does it call but it was a various type of jelly, tapioca mixed in water chestnut and coconut milk. And… we were really really really filled and full.
Price for the Banh Xeo is 58,000 VND, fresh grilled squid 120,000VND, steamed rice 20,000VND, dessert 24,000VND each. And well, we had diet coke (hahaha! diet!) for 22,000VND each.
vfood banhxeo
(image from yeutre.vn)
Well… that was an early dinner. Somewhere around 10pm, we got bit hungry again and decided to have a simple dinner 6 doors down to the right from our hostel because we couldn’t even bother to go to anywhere else as we were so tired and Michael was pretty drunk from the drinking game during the beer-o’clock in our hostel. LOL!
I had spicy chicken fried rice for 40,000VND and Michael had Bun Nem Chua Be for himself at the price of 35,000VND and both of us had old-style bottled coca-cola for 10,000VND each.
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(image from yelp.com)
And that was the end of food hunting for us 🙂 So basically both of us spent 740,000VND in total (est. USD35.00) for all of above – meals, drinks & desserts (5 places, lots of food). Guess it was pretty good for 2 people, right? More on food hunting soon!!!
Note: Apologize for using someone else’s pictures that I googled from. I lost many of food images from my hard disk.

Malaysia : Something Different, Really Trully Asia

I don’t know why but I got pissed off about people who told me that they don’t like Malaysia when the only place they’ve been in Malaysia is just Kuala Lumpur and was there for only 2 days before fly to some other country.
Malaysia is not just Kuala Lumpur, you idiots. Malaysia consist of Johor, Negeri Sembilan, Melaka @ Malacca, Selangor, Perak, Pulau Pinang @ Penang, Kedah, Perlis, Pahang, Terengganu, Kelantan, Sarawak & Sabah and 3 Federal Territories which is Kuala Lumpur, Labuan & Putrajaya and lots of Island like famous Sipadan, Perhentian Kecil, Perhentian Besar, Tioman, Langkawi, Pangkor to named a few.
Malaysia-Map
Also house of few National Parks and one of them is the oldest tropical rainforest in the world situated in the state of Pahang mainly known as Taman Negara. Penang noted as the #1 street food capital of the world, it is fucking cheap and variety. Malacca is a historical city listed under UNESCO Heritage which is a must to visit. Sipadan is one of the top 5 diving spot in the world leaving all the overrated islands in Thailand, Indonesia and The Philippine. Perhentian Kecil recognized as #13 the most beautiful beaches/islands in the world, leaving the so famous Maya Bay in Thailand behind. Sabah is a original house of Orang Utan and they have the sanctuary there. Sarawak is a house to 2nd the biggest cave (Mulu Cave National Park) in the world that can fit in 40 Boeng 747. Langkawi, Tioman and Labuan are duty-free island for cheaper alcohols & cigarettes (well, I have to agree alcohols & cigarettes are not so cheap in entire Malaysia, probably because the government don’t want to encourage people to damage themselves).
There are so much to offers in Malaysia, not just Kuala Lumpur, aite? So stop telling me and discourage people to come to Malaysia by telling them how you hate Malaysia just because you been there for 2 days or maybe slightly more days and just did a very much just a touristy stuffs. Oh, and alcohols & cigarettes is not the only way you can achieve happiness and I bet it certainly not your main goal of traveling the world, right? And certainly not a culture in Malaysia especially when Malaysia’s official religion is Islam. Modern/liberal Islamic, not fucking stupid moron suicide-bombers/terrorists that too absurd.
Note: Malaysia consists of 3 major races – Malay (the highest majority), Chinese & Indian. Not included more than 32 ethnic minority which is Kadazan, Dudun, Bajau, Melanau, Iban, Dayak (to name a few) which mainly in Sarawak/Sabah. The main (official) language is Malay but many speaks English, Chinese (Mandarin/Cantonese/Hokkien/etc.), Tamil too.
It is a pro-claimed democratic country. Well, I have no say on the political issue here (fuck it!). People can practice their religion (Islam/Christianity/Taoism/Hindu/etc.) freely and respect each other. You’ll hear an Islam prayer calls 5 times a day if you live near mosque/surau/musolah and never ever mock it. Religion is pretty much still a very sensitive issue.
The rest, go and explore yourself  Cheers!

Hanoi, Vietnam : Hanoi Celntral Backpackers Hoste

hcb

Address (Hostel 1) :
Hanoi Central Backpackers Hostel 
No. 16 Ly Quoc Su Street
Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Vietnam
Address (Hostel 2) :
Hanoi Central Backpackers Hostel II
No. 11 Hang Manh Street
Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Vietnam
Address (Hostel 3) : *the biggest, newest*
Hanoi Central Backpackers Hostel Old Quarters
No. 16 Thanh Ha Street
Hoan Kiem District, Hanoi
Vietnam

 

Charge: USD$5 per night for 8-beds dorm room with free simple breakfast froom 7:00am-10:am (all 3 hostels) and free flow of local fresh beer (bia hoi) everynight during beer-o’clock hour 7:30pm-8.30pm. Also other offers like free shots, cocktails, etc. (hostel 1 & 3). Also, free pub crawling guided tour with special deals!
All 3 hostels also offers private rooms at good rate.
  • Free wi-fi in a room and free computer/internet usage in common area.
  • En-suite bathroom/toilet in every dormitory, with hot & cold shower.
  • 24 hours air-conditioning
  • Balcony (hostel 1 only)
  • Hair-dryer to borrow from the receptionist

 

  • Laundry service for 30,000VND per kilogram
  • Taxi service to the airport for USD$15 per taxi, not per person
  • Tour service to many places including Ha Long Bay, Sapa & Perfume Pagoda
  • Bus, train and flight booking service for domestic & international routes
  • Visa service for any other countries especially Laos, Cambodia, Thailand & China

 

Note: This is not paid neither free advertisement for Hanoi Central Backpackers Hostel chain.