Sunday, June 29, 2008

Princeton University

Had an opportunity to visit Princeton University in the States a couple of years ago. I was brought around by a friend and I have to say the campus grounds are really pretty. If I had not visited him, I guess as a tourist, I would not have come here. The architecture was great, and the surrounds are equally great. Certainly worth a visit! Just sharing a couple of pics here...

The above are Alexander Concert Hall and Blair Hall respectively. Anyone watched A Beautiful Mind? Some of the buildings would look familiar cos its filmed here.

I even had a glimpse of the cafe that Albert Einstein supposedly frequented! Cool huh!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Mekong Delta

The Mekong Delta is a region in south Vietnam where the mighty Mekong River empties into the sea. Millions of Vietnamese call this area home. They build their houses along the river edge and their "backyard" is their livelihood. For some, their boats are their home...

A trip through the delta will open up your eyes, and is a highly recommended side trip from Ho Chi Minh. In fact, my suggestion is to go for at least a 2-day trip. This is because one of the highlights of the trip is to see and experience the early morning floating markets. For the single day-trip, you will miss this highlight.

The Mekong Delta marketeers do their transactions on "floating markets". Their merchandise are brought along in their boats, and they scour around a large area, or hang around an area. Residents on the banks of the Mekong who need to buy something will just take their small boats to these areas - essentially "going to market". Those living in the boats just bring their "home" to market!!

Among the things you'll see along the delta and its tributeries, are "factories" which produces various kinds of snacks that are rice-based. One of them, known as poprice, is certainly interesting to see them made. They take rice grains, after being de-husked, and throw them into hot sand where they will be "popped" (like pop corn). Then they are mixed with a concoction of maple syrup, coconut milk etc. Then they are put into a mold, and cut into blocks of sweet nice snacks! Yummy!

The people of the Mekong Delta are among the friendliest in Vietnam, especially if compared to city folks in Ho Chi Minh. I really enjoyed the Mekong Delta.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Hoi An, Vietnam

For those making a trip to Vietnam, esp when you're flying in to Danang, here's a recommendation. Visit Hoi An.
Hoi An is a lovely town north of Danang. Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the old town has a charming ambience with a more relaxed feel than the bigger towns like Hue. The section by the Thu Bon river is very nice and is my favourite part of the town. 

Hoi An is also home to many art galleries and tailors. So, besides just relaxing in town, you can have your shopping fix. Guesthouses are plentiful, and if you have the budget, there're more upmarket "boutique hotels" being built as well. Besides spending a couple of days here to chill out, you could also arrange day tours out to another UNESCO site : My Son (pronounced Mee Sawn). It is basically a site containing Cham ruins dating back to the 7th century. The Cham are a race that inhabited these areas then. If you're into historical and cultural stuff, this should be interesting.

In Hoi An itself, my favourite  part be the morning wet market. Here, it is a true local market, and nobody bothered a tourist like me. So it's great to see and experience a true authentic scene. 

Overall, Hoi An is an excellent place to just relax and enjoy a slow pace break from work/citylife. Well, before it gets overrun by tourists!

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Pulau Ubin, Singapore

Pulau Ubin, an island off Singapore, is one of the last few places left, that Singaporeans can enjoy alittle bit of rural life. During weekends, it has become a favourite getaway for many. Easily accessed via bumboats from Changi, it makes for a great day-trip and even a simple overnight camping trip.

Cycling remains the most popular activity in Pulau Ubin. Aside from that, Chek Jawa, a wetlands nature spot, has become a focal point in nature education and conservation for Singapore. There are even resorts/chalets on the island that provide a complete holiday experience.

I hope the urban developement that rampages through Singapore stop short of this island. While hoping, photography is all I could do to preserve this portion of Singapore. Besides, the sunrises and sunsets here is pretty!