For our second night in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC), we had no idea where we would be having dinner. Well, we came up with a list but these were quite a distance from our hotel. And we were just too tired after a whole day of travelling (being cooped inside the coaster can be tiring, too). So our group decided to walk the whole block from our hotel in search of dining places (although the hotel serves dinner, we opted to dine out).
Our second day in Viet Nam has brought us again outside of the Ho Chi Minh City. Our first stop was a production area where people who have suffered from Agent Orange during the Vietnam War create art pieces such as paintings, life-sized figurines and bric-a-bracs, to name a few. Part of the proceeds is for the benefit of the victims of Agent Orange.
Night fell as we entered Ho Chi Minh. And as expected, the city was in a rhythmic chaos during rush hour with scooters, cars and buses just making their presence felt everywhere, inching their way in major thoroughfares.
It was midnight (Viet Nam time) when our group arrived in Ho Chi Minh. After breezing through the immigration, we immediately went straight for the money changer counter just near the arrival exit. The next moment, we were already inside the van arranged by our hotel.
If I am to be asked about my favourite in Taiwan, I'd have to say it is enjoying the gastronomic feasts. From the food being sold down the streets and in the night markets, to the hot pots served in a cozy place to the weird and outrageous edible servings you could imagine. It's the small eats and the piping hot dishes that I've come to love, a motley of culinary influences.
In New Taipei City in the northernmost part of Taiwan is a natural gem that will definitely blow you away. If the United States has the Grand Canyon, Taiwan has Yehliu Geopark with the vast blue ocean as backdrop.
The Yehliu Geopark features a beautiful geological landscape on a cape in the north of Taiwan. Such wonder of nature was formed over time through sea erosion, earth movement, weathering of rocks and the crashing of mighty waves against the land mass. Let your imagination work and run wild!
One of the must-do when in Taiwan is to visit a night market. From the clusters of entrepreneurs selling their wares on the streets, night markets have evolved and are now tourist destinations. The more popular ones are found in Taipei. Since we were based in Taoyuan, we visited one night market in that city.
Nestled in a nature park in Taoyuan is the resting place of Taiwan's former leader Chiang Kai-shek. He was fond of this place and spent a lot of time here because it reminded him of his hometown Fenghua. A guesthouse was established which was named Cihu Guesthouse in memory of the president's mother who was benevolent and kind (cihu=benevolent). When the former leader passed away, he was entombed in the guesthouse which is now known as the Cihu Musoleum.
The Shihmen Reservoir is located in Taouyuan. It is one of the biggest reservoirs in Taiwan which provides water supply to the northern part of the country. Today, the reservoir has become not just a source of water supply but also a tourist destination itself.
While many flock to Japan, China or South Korea during spring to see the cherry blossoms in bloom, I was lucky to have seen it again (my first time was in Sweden in the spring of 2007), this time in Taiwan, particularly in Jinguashi.
Jiufen is a village up in the mountain of New Taipei City with narrow, steep roads and alleys. I am surprised by the volume of tourists that flock to this place. But who wouldn't be charmed by the quaintness of Jiufen, the cool temperature and the beautiful view of the ocean?
Just north of the Philippines and close to Batanes is the beautiful island of Formosa, now know as Taiwan. I remember a trivia back in high school that the crow of a rooster at dawn in Batanes can be heard in Taiwan. Given the proximity, there might be probably some truth to it.
Stegesund is one of the many islands in the Swedish archipelago. It is close to Stockholm and just across Vaxholm. It can be reached by passenger boat from the capital city or by bus (No. 670) and a boat from Vaxholm. While in Sweden, I frequented this island during springtime to prepare the house for the summer months, and autumn to board up the house and plant the tulips that will be in full bloom come spring and summer. The century-old summer house which has become a temporary abode for me is one of my favourite places on earth. Who wouldn't fall in love with the old charm and cozy vibe of the house which overlooks a body of water and is nestled in the woods? Plus, the owners of the house are such lovely hosts.
Enjoy this montage of the island of Stegesund. And special thanks to Åke, Thure, Joel and their furball Freja.
Whenever I am asked what my favourite foreign city is, in a heartbeat I'd say Stockholm. It's the city where I stayed the longest (almost a year for my studies at the Stockholm University), where I immediately adapted to the daily grind of the locals who are oftentimes stereotyped as aloof and cold (No, they're not. They are just not nosy since they value their personal space but they are one of the most engaging conversationalists I've met), where I learned to to live on my own and fend for myself. But most of all, Stockholm has become my (Stock)home because of the people I met who eventually have become my lifelong friends and the many beautiful memories we have made together.
It took me five long years to finally step again on Swedish soil. It felt so good to be back in my favourite foreign city. The weather was in a mood, swinging forth from heavy rains to overcast sky to a bit of sunshine. But that didn't stop me from enjoying this homecoming of sorts. It was raining when I arrived at the Arlanda Airport and my good friend and fellow Waray Joel Bagon was there to pick me up. After settling at their elegant flat on Norr Mälarstrand, we immediately roamed the streets of Stockholm. We walked and walked and walked. It was just lovely to see Stockholm again in the midst of the rains and the changing of seasons from summer to autumn. It was also comforting to hear the Swedish language, see familiar signs and visit the places I frequented. And what's an afternoon in Stockholm without the traditional fika? But what made this short trip to Stockholm more memorable was meeting most of my friends, people who have become a big part of my almost a year stay in Sweden (but that deserves a separate post). I've compiled photos from this trip in this video. Enjoy and for those who miss Stockholm, let's have a dose of nostalgia.