After procrastinating since December 2019, we finally went to see the exhibition Disney: Magic of Animation at ArtScience Museum. The exhibition will last only until 29 March 2020 so if you haven’t visited it, you better do it soon. During this period, however, they will limit the time to 30 mins per visit to avoid too many people inside at the same time. When we were there it was empty so we could enjoy it with no rush. In the end, we spent around 1 hour inside the exhibition.
I hope you guys enjoyed the photos. Stay safe and stay home if you can. We need to stop the spread of the virus.
Woke up early for 10 am flight and realized it was domestic flight from Ho Chi Minh City so I actually didn’t need to go to the airport that early. Arrived at domestic airport at 8am and while waiting for drop-in baggage saw an email from Vietnam Airline saying the flight has been reschedule to 12pm! Okay… So, I waited for my friend and we decided to check-in the baggage first and go somewhere else. My friend wanted to go to shopping mall, but at that time none opened yet.
Since I was hungry, I suggested to go have breakfast. But they’ve eaten already at home so it was just me. At first I wanted to try com tam ba gien. I’ve been wanting to try it but changed it to banh cuon (which I regretted later). The place is very close from airport. We went there by taxi. It only cost us 27k vnd but the airport surcharge is 10k. So total 37k. Only me ordered banh cuon. The place is very local. Their banh cuon was disappointing. I didn’t like it. No minced pork! Only the rice paper with fried onion on top of it. And they charge me 40k for that. I think it was a tourist price…
We went back to airport, which is very near, only 5 mins. The taxi cost 26k vnd but he asked for 10k surcharge as well! Next time if you are stranded in the airport, just stay inside unless you go back to your house/hotel which worth the cost.
We decided to wait inside and just proceed to security check. The queue was very long! Embrace yourself.. enjoy every moment… Once we got through the security, we went to food court to get snack for my friend’s son. I ordered cajun fries in the end. Too tempting. But it was around 10am already. So it was well calculated 😀 I knew we will get lunch on the plane.
By 11.20am we went to the gate and not long after we heard an announcement that our flight will have another delay to 12.30pm due to technical problem. Oh well, already waited for hours, another 30 mins was not a big deal.
Boarding the plane. They served lunch in the air so it was good. Arrived in Hanoi at 2.30pm. My friend have arranged a pick up service by Binh Minh Limousine so we just needed to wait for them. She already told them that we were gonna be late to arrive there and they knew it. She tried to get in touch and it was really hard to get in touch with them. The phone number listed in their website and facebook were not responding. I tried to look for their phone number through other website and called them. It was the same number that my friend tried earlier.
They finally picked up my call on the 3rd tries. It was already late for 1 hr since our arrival time and they asked us to wait another 10 mins. We were told before that an executive van will pick us up directly from airport and take us to our homestay. But when we arrived in Hanoi, they told us they were sending a small car to pick us up from airport and bring us to their center then we will use the limousine van. We didn’t understand why they couldn’t pick us up with the van because we saw many vans on the airport as well. They said vans are not allowed to go into the airport. After so many communication back and forth and still no car, we decided to take taxi to our homestay instead. It was more expensive but we were just too tired of waiting.
They called my friend when we were on the way in taxi. Asked my friend to hand in the phone to driver but she didn’t do it. And they hang up on her! So rude. After that, they called her many times but she didn’t pick it up. Dude, manage your business better if you don’t want to lose customer…
It took us 2 hrs to go to our homestay in Ninh Binh, Sierra Homestay. And the taxi cost was 1.6 mil vnd. We paid more than if we used the limo taxi. It would be 300k vnd per person if we used the limo from binh minh company. But anyway we finally arrived in Ninh Binh! Yay.
The people from our homestay are very friendly. We got our rooms and immediately headed out for the chance of taking photo before dusk. I got a few good shots. The man with the water buffalo was very nice. He couldn’t communicate with us but he still tried to get us a scene with his buffalo. He tried to tell us that the buffalo were heading to a certain direction so he asked us to wait there.
We didn’t know where to eat since it was just our first day here and no chance to look around yet. I ordered fried noodle with pork. It was good. But it couldn’t fill me up for long enough. I got hungry again…
It was my birthday trip and I never been to Nha Trang before. Excited to see how it looks like! We took flight with VietJet in the morning, and was delayed for almost an hour! My husband booked a car from the hotel to make it easier. But actually you can take taxi to the city as well. There are Mailinh and Vinasun in Nha Trang. The trip from the airport to our hotel took about 40 minutes. Yes, it was far!
We stayed at Alana Beach Hotel because the location is good and their price is reasonable. One of the reasons for their low price is the new construction building next to them which block the view to the sea! From our room, we could see sea about half of the window. Not bad, but would be better without that building though! The most damage made by that new construction is in the bathroom. There is a big window next to bathtub intended for guests to enjoy the sea view while taking a dip. Now it is blocked by the construction, and of course we need to close the curtain. Unless you don’t mind being watched by the workers lol.
The hotel provided a flower bouquet and a small cake for my birthday! I’m sure it was a request from my husband though for the flowers because the color was red and white. Just like our flag color. My birthday is the same as Indonesian Independence Day. Hence the color of the bouquet. The upsetting part was when I realized that I couldn’t bring the bouquet home 😦
It was past lunch time when we arrived at the hotel. We ate the cake to fill up our tummy before going out to find a place to have lunch. My husband reminded me about nem nuong which I love in Saigon. He said new nuong in Nha Trang is different. More authentic and taste so much better. He found a place called Nem Nuong Ninh Hoa, not far from our hotel. About 13 minutes of walking. Off we go to that place!
The place was very empty when we arrived. It was past 1.30am so no wonder no one was eating there. I just want the nem nuong. My husband ordered beef as well. They served the food quite fast. Nem Nuong consists of crispy fried rice paper (which I like so much) and grilled pork. They came with vegetables and dry rice paper. We need to make the roll our self by putting everything we want on the rice paper and rolled it. Can add the sauce as well.
First bite and I was in heaven! It was so good. The combination of vegetable, pork, crispy rice paper, cucumber and mango were really nice. I loved it! Totally recommended this place for lunch or dinner. They have another branch on the same street just a bit further away.
After lunch, we walked to Sinh Tour which is close by as well. I wanted to ask about private tour with them. When my friend came to Vietnam last time, they went to Mui Ne and they used Sinh Tour’s private tour and it wasn’t expensive, so I wanted to try it in Nha Trang as well. For private tour, the minimum is 4 people. Since there were only 2 of us, the price was too expensive. The guy then offered us to rent a car, which would cost about 700k vnd for 4 – 5 hours. Still a bit too much for us. We also asked about Island Tour. And in the end, we didn’t use their tour service.
I haven’t made any itinerary for this trip, so everything was decided on the spot. For next destination, my husband suggested Long Thanh Photo Gallery. On google map, Long Thanh Gallery is located near Nha Trang Cathedral and Long Son Pagoda. Both about 10 minutes walk from the gallery. So first we go to Long Thanh Photo Gallery by taking a taxi, and it cost us 31k vnd which is not bad.
At the door, there is a sign “Please press the bell”. I pressed the bell and waited until someone showed up to open the door. It was a lady who opened the door. Followed by a guy which is the photographer, Mr. Long Thanh. It is a small gallery but filled with many beautiful photographs. All in black and white style. We strolled around the gallery and found some interesting photo to buy, but the problem is we didn’t know the price.
I started a conversation then with the photographer. He is very friendly and helpful as well. He gave me the price list and explained about his work. All of those photographs were taken with an analog camera in black and white film. So it is different than the one taken with a digital camera in monochrome style (Yes, he is very proud of his work. I would too! if I were him). He developed and printed it himself. He also told me that he likes to collect cameras. There are about 45 cameras that he owns now. That’s a massive number! I asked him why didn’t he exhibit his camera to the customer, like in a museum. He explained that he doesn’t have a proper storage to store his camera downstairs, and it is hard to maintain it. Now he put all camera in his working room inside special boxes that will protect the cameras. Make sense. Truly a photographer who loves his camera.
It is not allowed to take picture in his gallery, so I asked him to take photo with me instead after he packed up my purchases. If you are visiting Nha Trang and love photography, make sure to stop by at this gallery. He gave me discount as well for my purchase! And you can pay with credit card, not necessarily pay in cash. The photos are packed in a sturdy tube (We put it in our luggage and it is still good when we arrived back in Saigon).
After saying goodbye to Mr. Long Thanh, we continued walking to Long Son Pagoda. It took about 10 minutes of walking to reach it. This pagoda is huge and there is a certain area (the main hall) that you can’t go in if you don’t wear appropriate clothes, but you still be able to explore another area. My purpose here was to see the big Buddha statue! We climbed up the stairs and found something on the left area. Sleeping Buddha statue!! It is so majestic and nicely made. After taking some photos, we continue our journey to the top. Bring a bottle of water with you if you do this. Or you can always buy a drink there. There is small shop which sells drinks and coconut.
From the top area, we could see the city as well. The other part of the city though, that is full of buildings. The Giant Buddha statue reminded me of the one in Lan Tau Island, Hong Kong. But this one slightly smaller. Took some pictures and off going down back to the entrance. After the climbing, I felt very exhausted (getting old??) so we decided to go back to hotel first to rest. At the entrance, we took taxi from another company (not Mailinh nor Vinasun) and already prepared for getting scam with the fare. The trip from Long Son Pagoda to our hotel is about 12 minutes of driving, and it cost 61k vnd. My husband thought this is too much but maybe not really. Need to compare more.
After resting for a while, it was time for dinner. I wanted to eat seafood since we were in beach city. My husband found a place in Nguyen Thi Minh Khai street number 79. In the afternoon we passed by a place in that street that looked interesting. We checked them out to see if it’s the same place. Apparently not. This first place (I forgot the name) has smaller number than 79. And while we were waiting to be served, my husband checked on their review. It was 4.5 out of 10! Time to keep moving.
We walked to the other direction for bigger number, and tried to find number 79. It was a long walk and all we could see was number 75! There are so many building with number 75 (even inside a small street, still have number 75). When finally we arrived at number 79, we were disappointed because the place has changed. It is not a seafood restaurant anymore but selling Vietnamese noodle instead 😦 We also visited a restaurant with 79 on its name just in case, but they also don’t sell seafood.
With hungry stomach and tired legs, we decided to try Lee’s Grill. It has a good review as well. The place is clean and comfy but their menu is very minimal. I couldn’t find any interesting dish to order! (Well there was a spicy Korean noodle with seafood on the menu, for 70k vnd, but nope!!). My husband ordered assorted seafood skewers to share, and a Korean style clam soup. Then we got a portion of salad and garlic bread for free!
The skewers were pretty good. My favorites were grilled baby octopus and bacon with cherry tomato. Baby Octopus was not hard to chew and it tasted yummy as well. Marinated well. Bacon is bacon. Never wrong.
After dinner, we walked back to hotel but made a stop at T-shirt shop, named Ginkgo. Their t-shirt has a unique design and good material. They are using organic cotton. The price is a bit high though. Average prices are 310k vnd for a man t-shirt and 400k vnd for ladies t-shirt.
Continued our journey to the hotel afterward. Around 9 pm, we went to Sailing Club. It is a famous club in Nha Trang. Entrance fee was 150k vnd and we got a ticket for drink. We had to choose which drink we want, was it beer or a cocktail (vodka mixed with orange juice). I chose cocktail of course for that price!
When the drink came, I just remembered that I don’t like vodka! Silly me. Fortunately, this cocktail was acceptable. The portion also quite big for a cocktail. We also ordered chicken wings because we suddenly felt hungry. It was very yummy! The sauce on the wings were delicious and it tasted like they were using worcestershire sauce. Must try! Then dip it in cheese sace if you fancy. But even without it, already finger-licking good!
The Sailing Club that night was full, but not many people were dancing on the floor. Music was cool and updated. MC was trying so hard to ask people to join her dancing. There were some people smoking but I didn’t mind it because it was an open-air. What I hate about pub in Asia is they smoke in the room!
After enjoying the music and atmosphere for a while, we went back to hotel and rest for the day.
I’ve just returned from a trip to London. Yes! London. As you have read on my previous post about how to apply visa to UK, finally that day has come!
London is a HUGE city! I was confused by how to make my itinerary there because I didn’t know any area in the city. I got help from some friends who lived there before, so that was convenient. They pointed out some places to go and I marked it on my google map app. I also did some researches on website. One of the them that I used more was the official visit London website. They have many things to learn about your trip to London. Although some are confusing until I arrived there and tried it myself.
If you’re too lazy to read that link and wonder how did I do my trip, keep reading. Psst, it’s easier to understand 😉
What currency should I bring?
London uses Poundsterling (£) as currency. You can either have it before your trip or after you arrived there. I always bring USD whenever I traveled, and exchange it to local currency on destination’s departure hall. So for this time, I brought some USD as usual and exchanged it to GBP (£ ) at airport. At Hearthrow terminal 2, there are 2 money changer. They are from the same company, which is Travelex. Their rate is pretty bad though. For my trip, 1 GBP = 1.43 USD, while on online listed 1 GBP = 1.27 USD. Such a big difference! But I still recommend you to do it there. First, it is easy and convenient. Second, if you exchanged more than USD500, no commission fee. And lastly, if you have leftover £, you can exchange it back to USD with same rate by showing the receipt. They gave me receipt on paper and via email.
Where to buy a Prepaid Simcard?
Okay, this one is important. Everyone wants internet haha. There are many fending machine at airport selling simcards. How cool is that?! A simcard fending machine. If you want to buy there, select vodafone or lycamobile or 3. And not more than £20. It depends on how long is your trip as well. But for £20 you can get internet access for a month period. So if you’re staying less than a month, it would be more than enough.
There is a booth as well where you can buy a simcard with internet package included. I was interested to buy there but I saw the price was not reasonable (more than £20), with a very minimum package of internet data. So I waited until I reached my hotel before buying a simcard.
If you want to buy it in the city, try finding a Tesco (or Tesco Express). It is a supermarket and they have prepaid simcard. I bought mine at Tesco Express. £0.99 for cards only. Then I bought a top up voucher there as well, for £20. The guy at the shop might not know how to activate the package. But don’t worry, just connect to wifi and go to the provider website, and follow the instructions there. I bought simcard from Lycamobile, you can read it here on how to activate the data package.
How to Reach my Hotel if I don’t have any internet connection yet?
This was what happened to me as well. I didn’t have any connection on my phone. And trying to connect to wifi at airport was taking too long (then failed in the end..). But I wasn’t worried because I have been searching the route to reach my hotel before my departure. I took some screenshots on my phone on all possible route with train. I didn’t want to take taxi or Heathrow Express. So tube train was my only option.
I downloaded Citymapper app on my phone. It is available for both iPhone and Android. For London, it is easy to use this because it is listed as one of the city. This app doesn’t have some cities. Only big cities in the world. Changed your city to London, then find your way from Heathrow to hotel. Take some screenshots on every possibility (not too many though! Or else you’ll get overwhelmed or confused by it lol). Once I arrived in London, I opened the screenshots and followed the fastest route (less stations to reach my hotel). I went to ticket machine and bought a one way ticket to nearest tube station from my hotel (it was Tower Hill). The ticket price was £6. It would be cheaper if I used Oyster Card ( I will explain about this on next section below).
Another way to reach city from airport is by Heathrow Express. They claimed to be faster than tube train or taxi, which is true but not by far actually. You can buy the ticket online or on the spot. For on the spot ticket, it was £27.
The last resort to reach your hotel is by taxi. They are the easiest but most expensive way to reach your hotel. For my case, it would be around £70. Or you can use Uber as well which is much cheaper, would be around £40. These rates were from estimation on google map. It could be higher as well depends on the traffic.
It takes almost 1 hour to reach my hotel from airport by taxi, which is about the same if I take train. That is another reason why I choose train. About the same time to reach hotel but a lot cheaper!
But after I rode the train, I found out that the train was narrow and was packed with people along the way to my destination. So if you have a big suitcase, you might want to find a place in the corner to make it easier for others (and to not getting on people’s nerve..). Also it would be easier for you to get off of train. I sat on the seat with my suitcase in front of me, and it was hard for people to pass by (and for me to get to the door). I got up to reach area nearer to door 2 stations before my first destination.
Another thing you need to consider is how many time you will change the line. If your hotel is located near one of station on Piccadilly Line, it is easy. Mine wasn’t at it. I needed to change line to reach my final destination. So it was not much a hassle. If you are unlucky though, you can get off at station without elevator, stairs all the way to exit. I have no idea which station has no elevator. I only know Tower Hill has it 😀
How to get around in London?
One thing I like about big city in a developed country is they have a really good public transport system. London is one of them. It is very easy to get around in the city. There are many ways you can take :
The easiest and the most expensive transport in the city. Some area will cost you a lot if you take taxi, because of the bad traffic. Area around Westminster Bridge to Westminster Abbey is always busy. There are 2 type of taxis in city, the normal taxi (fit about 4-5 persons) and large taxi (it fit up to 8 persons). Their rate also different, the large one is more expensive.
Tube (Underground Train)
Tube is a convenient way to travel around the city. Their routes cover most of the place in the city especially for visitors. To ride a tube, you need to buy a ticket or oyster card or travel card. This one I read it before on visitLondon website. Rest assured I’m gonna suggest you which one you should buy. My friend suggested me to buy 7-day travel card for zones 1-2 because there are where all the attractions mostly at. From the website, I read about Visitor Oyster Card and I tried to buy it before my departure date (because it is said you can only buy it via online and not in London). Sadly, they don’t deliver to Vietnam. So I was thinking to get a travel card instead once I was there.
For zones 1-2 and 7-days travel card, it costs £38. I arrived on Wednesday and would leave on Monday. Not exactly 7 days but I thought still okay. When I was about to buy it, I saw a notification paper next to the machine, where they encouraged people to buy Oyster card (pay as you go) because there is no limit on the usage per day. I thought travel card was like that, wasn’t it?! In the end I bought Oyster Card. And after using it during my trip, I highly recommend it! Buy Oyster Card when you travel to London.
You can download the map first to your phone. Or if you are using Citymapper app like me, you don’t need to carry map. Another thing to be considered is walking tube map. It provides you on how long will you take to walk between the tube station. And why is it important? Because some stations are very far to reach the train. Sometime it takes the same amount of time to reach the train and to reach the next station. So, you can plan ahead which mode of transport are you gonna take.
How to ride a tube : If you have experience with subway system in big city, it won’t be a problem with you so you can skip this part. When you entered a station, tap your oyster card and wait until the light turned green and the portal opened. If you have ticket, put it inside a slot, and take it at top side of the gate, then you can enter the portal. Do not forget to take your ticket because you will need it to exit the station on your destination. For oyster card, tap again on the gate once you reached your destination. So, tap > enter > find your train > get on on the train > get off > tap > exit station.
How to buy Oyster Card : Oyster Card can be purchased at any tube station. There are 2 types of machine, small and big. The small one only accept card and coin, and doesn’t give change. You need exact amount of money, or else the leftover won’t be returned to you. The big one accepts anything (coins, notes, card). On the machine, press “Next Customer” if it is not the main page. There is a split screen on main page. On the right side, pick new oyster card. Then pick how much money you want to be in it. They will charge £5 for the card. And later on you can return the card and get your money back before your departure from London.
How to Top-Up Oyster Card : On main menu, choose top up oyster card on the right side. Then tap your oyster card on the machine. Pick how much you want to top up. Lastly, tap your oyster card at the machine again, and it’s done. Very easy.
Boats (River Bus)
I only tried this one time during my stay. I traveled from Tower Hill pier to Embankment Pier. I could traveled with train as well, but decided to take this boat just to try. The one-way ticket was £8 per person. Quite pricey indeed. We went to the waiting line with a bunch of people there who wanted to go to the same direction. The boat was big and convenient. It has a small shop that sells snacks and drinks. We (the boats) stopped by at several piers before we reached our destination. You can use oyster card to ride this as well (the reason we bought one ticket was because we haven’t had enough credits on our card haha).
Bus is one of my favorite public transport. You can only ride a bus with oyster card (and easiest way anyway). When you get on on a bus, tap Oyster Card on the machine and take a sit. The bus will have announcement of which number is it and where is it heading when you boarded it. If you want to stop on next station after they announced it, press the “Stop” button nearby. When the bus reached your destination, the driver will open the door and you can get off the bus. No more tapping! I was confused when I first ride it haha, apparently for bus in London they charge flat rate everywhere! £1.5 for each ride everywhere.
There are many bike for rent in the city. We didn’t try it. But I saw one of the machine, and you can pay with bank card. To read more information about it, you can check out their website.
If you want to travel between Greenwich Peninsula and Royal Docks, then you should try Emirates Air Line Cable Car. It is said to have a magnificent views over East London. We didn’t go to those areas so we didn’t have a chance to try it. If you want to read more about it, check here.
London is a nice city to walk around. If you plan to walk far, make sure to wear a comfortable shoes and don’t bring too many stuff on your bag. I walked so much there that my feet sore… On 2nd day of my stay, my friend was visiting me from another city, so we walked around the city (rode train in between). I checked my step counter that day and it was 28.942 steps! But I really enjoyed it 🙂
How to pay on Self Check Out in supermarket?
This is for just in case you go to local Supermarket like we did 🙂
I never done this before. Coming from Vietnam and Indonesia, I haven’t seen something like this. But I guess there is always something to learn when you travel!
We were at Sainsburry’s local supermarket, buying some snacks. We didn’t bring any bag, so we just clicked on “Start”. Then we scanned our item one by one. Each time we finished with scan, we needed to put the item on the metal area. After we finished scanning all of them, the machine asked if we want a plastic bag for 5 pences. We didn’t take it because it was still manageable with my bag. And finally we had to pay for it. This machine accept every payment; coins, bank notes, cards. Very convenient!
How to get tax refund in London?
No, I’m not gonna buy anything in London. Really?? Even I didn’t think that! I knew I’m gonna buy something there. Therefor I need to know about the process for tax refund. What you should know about tax refund in London are : 1) not all shops participating in this scheme; 2) different shop will have different minimum purchase condition. Make sure to ask the shop attendant about this. I had an experience where the shop attendant didn’t know the minimum purchase condition but she gave me tax refund form. It was more than £100 though.
These are the step by step on how to claim tax refund : 1) Ask for tax refund / tax free form; 2) The shop will need to put signature and stamp on it, so make sure your form has it; 3) Before leaving to airport, fill in the details on form and sign it; 4) At the airport, go to tax refund claim BEFORE checking-in your luggage. If your total purchase is more than £5000, then you can do it after check in (that was what I understood from the officer, but better check it again here); 5) Present your goods to the officer and they will check all the form, passport and boarding pass; 6) They will pay you the tax minus administration fee in currency other than GBP. I chose USD instead.
If you want to get your tax refund, make sure to arrive at airport at least 3 hours before your flight.
How much should I give for a tip?
Tipping is unusual for me, that is why I liked it in Netherlands when they don’t normally give a tip 😀 In London, tipping is ‘optional’. Most restaurants put it as service charge included on bill (some put it as ‘optional’ under your total spending, which is a bit awkward if you don’t pay that..). Few of others don’t put it on the bill but it will be at the machine when you pay with card, then you can choose how much you want to add as a tip for them. The average service charge in London is 12.5%. It is quite high, but overall their services were great.
Should I buy ticket (shows, trains, attractions) on the spot or online?
Online. Plan your trip and find everything on internet, from musical shows, train tickets to another city, madame tussauds, warner bros studio, etc. Everything is better to do via online booking. Some tourist attractions need you to queue to buy their ticket. Come early if needed.
What if I have another question that is not listed here?
Then ask the receptionist at your hotel or Google 😀 I put everything that I know and experienced here. Hopefully this can help you and your upcoming trip.
Most importantly, enjoy the city! Explore, Experience.
Extra tips! If you’re planning to take picture of Tower Bridge, do it in the afternoon before sunset. If you joined a tour though, it will be tricky since they usually go to that area in the morning to visit Tower of London.
Extra tips #2! If you want to take picture of Tower Bridge on sunrise, you can do it at London Bridge. The view will be Tower Bridge with sun in the background.
I will post about places to go in London soon! Until then, ciao!