Thursday, January 30, 2014

First Working Day of 2014

[Ok this post was meant to be completed a couple of days back, but I was so caught up in the work + gym routine (plus the lack of sleep) post travelling it resulted in a slight delay.]

Today marks my first working day for 2014, after a glorious one month holiday.

I thought I would feel the typical Monday blues that most people (I know, at least) do, but instead I felt eager to continue where I left off, excited to pick up new assignments. This must be coming from the goodness of my one month rejuvenation break. Now I’m feeling all gung-ho to be productive at work once again. Long breaks (& short breaks) are indeed good for the soul. 

So far 2014 has been a blast!

Went to Vietnam and experienced one heck of an adventure – from climbing the lime stone hills at Cat Ba Island to sitting on a tiny chair at a bustling Bia Hoi joint people watching. Of course, there are so much more in between and I must definitely find time to pen it down (before my memory slips away).

One particular thing I like about travelling is how it gives me the time to ponder over life, be it that 4-hour intercity bus ride, or up in the air, and when I’m simply waiting in transit. It is mostly during these times that I can do a self reflection and at the same time make mental notes for improvements. It’s something akin to picking yourself out of that tiny little box called daily routine and do a close examination of what went wrong / what needs maintenance etc.. all in all it’s very refreshing.

I thought I’d share some thoughts I gathered for 2014 while traipsing through Vietnam.

I am anticipating that 2014 is going to be an endurance year for me. It’s my 3rd year on the job, and expectations are only escalating, leaving minor room for slack and error. Pining for climbing the career ladder, there are sacrifices one has to make. The long hours, the accumulated stress, peer pressure to perform, brain scrunching work... I want to grace it with God’s strength. (:

Work aside, endurance also applies to the health aspects. Ever since joining the gym back in 2012, my fitness has improved positively, and the endorphins have indeed made my happier! I can now attest to the articles about the benefits of exercising / keeping healthy because it’s all really true! One of my resolutions for 2013 was to run a 21km marathon, to which I sadly did not (only ran a 16.8km). So this year is THE year for it.

Yes also to spend time with loved ones. Point to make more effort in catching up with the ones who matter, apply more care in the process of it all. Afterall, I want to simultaneously build my eulogy as well as resume. Too often I border being cold / distance, perhaps it's the lack of enthusiasm arising from the fear of rejection. Have to make mental note to learn how to cope with rejection, part of being an adult.

Here's to living it all out in 2014! Now, time for some CNY cookies!

(ahah, just note that more than half the content has no relation to my title)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Vietnam Series (Part 1) – Getting from Hanoi to Cat Ba Island

Just got back from our 12 days of fantastic- tripping around Vietnam. It was entirely a DIY trip, so we mulled through tons of travel blogs / articles and also our trusty Lonely Planet to plan our journey. Travelling in the month of January in Vietnam can be quite tricky when it comes to packing for attire, since the misty cold winter lingers up North (average of 16◦ in Hanoi / Cat Ba Island) but the sun shines warmly at the South (average of 25◦ in Saigon).

As we were doing our typical pre-trip rigorous research leading up to our adventure, we faced a mini dilemma of sorts. We wanted to do some rock climbing on Cat Ba island, but wanted to cover Halong Bay at the same time. At the very end, we decided that Cat Ba > Halong Bay.

Since Cat Ba is the trip less taken, getting from Hanoi to Cat Ba requires a bit more transit as compared to Halong Bay. Z has taken the liberty to write the (nitty-gritty) details as reference below:-

Bus Company: Hoang Long

Departure Times: 5.20am, 7.20am, 11.20am, 1.20pm

Duration: 4 hours from Hanoi to Cat Ba Town (including transits and waiting time in between)

Cost: 210,000VND per person (covers 2 bus rides, 1 speedboat ride, and 1 final bus ride)
(some sources have claimed it to be 240,000 VND which might be the peak summer season price)

Bus Station Address:

Ben xe Luong Yen,So 1 Nguyen Khoai

1.      The bus station is a 15 minute taxi ride from the Old Quarter in Hanoi. Motorcycle taxi should cost around 40,000 VND per person while normal taxis should not cost more than 80,000 VND.

2.     Once you’re at the station facing the petrol station, the ticket office is to the left with a counter for Hoang Long inside. Show up at the bus station at least 20minutes before departure as the buses are punctual! You will board a red Hoang Long bus that is air conditioned with reclining seats and reasonably clean. Then it’s a 2 to 2.5 hour ride to Hai Phong City. The bus will most likely make many stops to let people on and off along the way. Just point to your ticket and say “Cat Ba” and you will be fine.

Note: Do not use the toilet at the bus station unless absolutely desperate. As in DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES use the toilet unless you are literally on the verge of pissing your pants. It is hands-down the foulest-smelling toilet I’ve been to! And I’ve been to many poorly-maintained Malaysian public toilets in my life!

3.       The bus will stop at a small Hoang Long office by a main road and you will need to disembark with all your luggage. At this bus stop/ office, you may get a toilet break/ buy some snacks and drinks as you wait for the next trip. You will then have to get on another similar bus which will take you to the pier which is approximately 45 minutes away.

4.      Once at the pier, you will board an air-conditioned speedboat that will take you to Cai Vieng harbor on Cat Ba island after 35 minutes.

5.        Once on the island, you will transfer one last time to another bus which will take you into Cat Ba Town in 30-45 minutes. The Hoang Long office/bus stop in Cat Ba town is along the main road facing the harbor where almost all hotels are so it should be just a few minutes’ walk to your hotel.

On your return journey, it will be the same thing but in reverse! Just buy tickets from the Hoang Long office/bus stop in Cat Ba town, or even from your hotel in Cat Ba.

Busses depart at: 7:15AM, 9:15AM, 1:15PM, and 3:15PM

Take note that once again, this depends on the season. When we were there during winter, the 7.15AM and 3.15PM buses were not available. There should be a sign board outside the office indicating departure times. It’s the same price for the tickets all the way back to the same bus station in Hanoi. Once at the bus station you'll need to get a taxi to your intended location in town. Prices for taxi are as stated above. You will get hustled by dozens of taxi drivers the second you step down from the bus, so brace yourself! We’ve been advised that taxis waiting at bus stations are more likely to be rigged, so try and walk out to the main road and hail down a Mai Linh taxi if possible.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

About time for an update

Am writing this while taking a short breather from researching for my upcoming Vietnam holiday. Stomach's feeling a bit wonky at the moment, could've been from the turkey ham and cheese sandwich I just had from Pickle and Fig a couple of hours ago. 

Meant to write a reflection post of how 2013 has been for me, but I've been merrily enjoying my month long leave basking in the festivities! That aside, there's the time consuming event of choosing housing stuff for the new house renovation... which I really hope we can finalise soon enough. 

Today has been a great day though. Woke up feeling all the aches from pump and spin class y'day, and decided that my body deserves to lay in bed for that extra one hour - whereby I updated self on all social media platforms. 

12pm - Toasted bread with parmesan cheese for breakfast, continued the remaining bits of About Time, worked a little, got dressed and scooted off to Serai to catch up with Jia. Ordered the Serai platter to share (cuz she had two servings of Klang BKT prior to this), and ended the session with a slice of Hazelnut Rocher (picture below), which was reeallllyy quite good except I wished it wasn't so crumbly. 

5pm - Watched Blackfish with Z, a documentary about killer whales in captivity. Sigh, am saddened by how humans would do anything just to make profits - sacrificing the life of animals and also human lives. )': 

8pm - Had dinner with Esther at Pickle & Fig. As usual, we talked about everything under the stars! Neverending conversations with this girl I tell you. :p We need to have a staycation where all we do is sit by the pool, sipping cocktails and chat all day! 

How long will I love you - Ellie Goulding