If I had to choose one word to describe January, it would be gluttony. This was the month of the best eating ever!
Dec 29 – Jan 9: Bangkok, Thailand
We rang in the new year in Bangkok. It was actually our fourth time in the city, but our first time to properly explore it. For some reason (and I’m gonna sound like a really bad traveler now), we just weren’t that interested to see the main tourist attractions, like the wats or floating market. We didn’t even go to the Royal Palace (reason? we didn’t want to wear pants). We had just come back to Thailand after over two weeks in Siem Reap, and as much as I enjoyed Khmer food, I couldn’t wait for variety and spice again! And so, all we wanted to do in Bangkok was to eat as much as possible!
As such, we kicked off the first of the year in style… with afternoon tea at Twinings in Central World (I LOVE Bangkok malls!). I’ve always wanted to eat a tray of little cakes and sandwiches, but we couldn’t afford it in London. So D indulged me and accompanied me to Twinings, where I then ate the entire set by myself. :D
The rest of our week+ in the city was spent searching for good eats. I realized that I was actually a little tired of pad thai & basil chicken & curries, so we looked for more Chinese-influenced foods. We ultimately found our favorite places for noshing: Chinatown and Bang Rak.
As a foodie, Bang Rak is the place to eat at during the daytime, and Chinatown is the place to go come nightfall. I haven’t written anything yet about the stuff we ate there (as I still seem to be stuck on Cambodia on the blog) and I’d love to talk all about it now. But as I’m going through my Chinatown pictures for this post, I know that it’s impossible to capture the true spirit of this area in just a short round-up. I will need to expand it into its own post!
Here is a sneak peak at some of the best food we had!
The first three times, Bangkok functioned as more or less a pass-through city on the way to our next destinations. Every time, I couldn’t wait to leave to get to where we really want to go. But this time, I felt a little sad to say good-bye. And this time was also us saying good-bye to Thailand for the foreseeable future. But we were headed next to Vietnam, the country I’ve been most excited to visit!
Let me end our adventures in Thailand with this: my favorite picture taken in Bangkok (at the Chatuchat market)!
After 2.5 months, our time in Thailand may have come to a close, but I still got a couple of posts in the works, so keep an eye out!
Jan 9 – Jan 23: Hanoi, Vietnam
Despite having been to China and other Southeast Asian countries, Hanoi was NOTHING like I’ve ever experienced before. If I thought Istanbul was an assault on the senses, then it’s got nothing on Vietnam. If I thought traffic was wild in Siem Reap, then it’s practically tame compared to the madness on the streets here.
This city is a madhouse. You have to be on super high alert at all time. But it’s all SO exciting! Honestly, there is not much to see in Hanoi. But it was so exciting to just walk around town and simply observe all the life and activity.
We stayed in the Old Quarter, where there is a ton of street food and cafes. Our daily routine basically consisted of walking around, eating at wherever looks packed, and spending hours in cafes. Life in Hanoi was relaxed despite the non-stop frenzy out on the streets (Look out for a Day in the Life soon!)
Somewhere in the middle of our two weeks here, we fit in a mini trip to Halong Bay. It was a gorgeous day (if a little foggy, but that only added to the atmosphere!).
When planning this Halong Bay trip with our hotel tourism agent, we had originally planned for a two night stay at Paradise Suites Hotel. But literally just days before this trip, the agent told us that he just returned from a trip there himself and that the hotel is very boring, so he recommended that we change it to one night only. We took his advice and stayed only one night.
Oh how I wish we hadn’t listened! This was the most luxurious hotel room I have ever stayed in! The bed was the biggest bed I’ve ever seen (it was wider than it was long!). The down pillows were the softest I’ve ever laid my head on. It was literally like resting upon a puffs of cloud. So heavenly! I haven’t had such a good night’s sleep in ages.
We fully enjoyed our one night there, including splurging on wine and a fancy dinner at the hotel restaurant (by splurge, I mean that the total bill was US$35 :P). This definitely proved the fact that even though we are very budget conscious, I love some luxury every now and then! Maybe we’ll even make occasionally checking into a nice hotel a habit. :) We returned from Halong Bay very well rested.
Once back, it was our mission to discover all there is to discover about North Vietnamese cuisine. Vietnamese food is already one of my favorite cuisines, but SoCal only has South Vietnamese restaurants. So northern style food is completely new territory to me.
Don’t worry, I will do a full post talking about all about the food! Which one looks the yummiest to you??
Jan 23 – present: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Our first week was spent in District 1 (though not in the center). It was a bit of a disappointment at first after Hanoi. I loved the closed, cramped quarters of the old city in Hanoi. There was so much life going on every square feet. By comparison, HCMC seemed more sprawled out, less intimate.
After a week in District 1, we moved to District 3 in order to experience a different neighborhood. When I was booking the places, I didn’t realize that I had booked two rentals only 0.5 miles apart. We thought, “Great. Major fail.”
It turns out: even though they are so close on a map, the two neighborhoods could be two completely different cities! Now District 3 is more of the Vietnam I had fallen in love with: tiny alleyways, gritty marketplaces, ramshackle buildings, street vendors every corner, laundry on clotheslines, overflowing shops…
But one thing for sure: no matter where you stay in HCMC, you are never far from good food! We quickly discovered that HCMC has a wide variety of Vietnamese cuisine, not only from the South, but from North and Central as well. We wasted no time trying all the different foods that I’ve never even heard of (again, will have individual post soon!)
I love Vietnamese food more than ever now!
This month was probably the hardest for me emotionally. All the despair I’ve had over the past few months over struggling with writing and feeling loss of purpose came to a head this month, and I ended up writing more personal pieces on the blog because of it.
I just want to take a minute to thank everyone who took the time to comment, email me, and/or share your stories. Because of all your support and suggestions, I’m feeling much better already! I’ve been finding things to keep me busy (you may have noticed that I’ve been doing minor blog makeovers and my spanking new About page!) and I’m looking forward to the next few months!
Coming up in February
On Friday (the 6th), we are headed to Singapore! Honestly, I’ve never felt an urge to visit Singapore, but we wanted to go somewhere really fun for Chinese New Year. Singapore always does a huge celebration, and as a plus, they are also celebrating their 50th anniversary this year, so I imagine that it will be EPIC!
Our time in Singapore should be interesting because we will be staying with an expat family in their extra bedroom (Singapore is expensive and we can’t afford our own rental this time!). The best part is that we are staying there for an entire month. Once again, I’m so looking forward to fully unpacking and settling down somewhere for a whole month!
Have you been to Singapore? What are you best suggestions? As always, I’m most looking forward to EATING!