Early summer in 2011. My parents and I planned a trip to Adelaide-Melbourne but an unforeseen circumstances had us dropped Adelaide. My lovely aunt and cousin Dilys suggested that since our stay was two weeks long, we should at least visit Australia’s largest city Sydney and her capital Canberra. Sounds brilliant!
The tour we joined consisted mostly of Chinese nationals, a few Hongkies and four Malaysians. I have to say they were pretty shocked when they knew I speak fluent Mandarin, Cantonese and English – that very proud moment to be a multi-lingual Malaysian.
The journey from Melbourne to Canberra took about 8 hours, the scenery along the journey were mainly dried grass with some patches of green visible. Passed by Albury, the common boundary of Victoria and New South Wales. We reached Canberra around 5 o’clock in the evening. Since it was summer, the days were longer than nights, which means more time to explore.
Canberra is a planned city, very much like Putrajaya. It is a very visual appealing experience to see how the city was planned in such a way that from the Parliament you can see the National War Memorial at the end of ANZAC Parade, vice versa. In Putrajaya, a similar concept was drawn – Prime Minister Office overlooking Putrajaya International Convention Centre and in between lies a long boulevard.
Lake Burley Griffin is a man-made lake. The two bridges crossing the lake form the Parliamentary Triangle – connecting the Parliament with the City and Defence Headquarters. Where as Putrajaya has a man-made lake and 9 bridge crossings!
Months ago, the idea of sleeping in a train was so foreign to me. The thought of sleeping in a moving carriage for 11 hours was worth it considering the beauty that Sapa has to offer. Sapa is located in Lao Cai (pronounced Lao Kai) province, some 350 km northwest of Hanoi. Bordering China’s Yunnan, the mountains dominates the region and is at the eastern extremity of the Himalayas. Sapa is some 1500m above sea level, there’s really no problem of having to adjust to the change of attitude as my body is able to handle the gentle ascend within that 11 hours in the train.
Most of the trains start from Hanoi station (Ga Hà Nội) in the evening from 8pm to 11pm and arrive at Lao Cai station early next morning. JF and I had initially booked our train ticket from the tourist information centre at the airport upon arrival. The cheapest ticket for a sleeping cabin is around USD40 – saved a few bucks for accommodation.
After spending a day sightseeing in the city, we decided to have our dinner at Quan An Ngon, a popular place among the locals and tourists. The service and food was good, so as long as you speak simple English your order will be taken. We ordered a plate of spring roll (steamed and fried), morning glory and coffee.
Address: 18 Phan Boi Chau, Hoan Kiem, Ha Noi
The train station is just a walking distance from where we had dinner. It does not boast of modern design and facilities but an old yet practical station.
Gracious, polite and generous people with chaotic traffic on the street in an attractively unusual or old-fashioned city. Hanoi has her charm, it was the familiarity of the Chinese heritage and the unfamiliar language that made me felt pleasantly strange when I set foot in this city.
To reach Hanoi, the two of us took the airport bus to the city centre, bus fare D14,000. Got ourselves a local SIM for D250,000 which we shared so that we could connect with our friends and family while on the go.
There are a lot of people walking on the street, young and old, happily talking to each other in very animated ways. Some are sitting on a low stool drinking coffee or slurping a bowl of beef noodle to keep themselves warm since it is winter.
The banana leaf rice is among my favourite local Indian food. Rice is served on a banana leaf with a variety of vegetables, pickles and papadum. The papadum (giant round crackery thing) and mor milagai (sun dried chilli) is my must have. I’d be much happier if they have the mango chutney. To make up for the lack of mango, I ordered a plate of mutton instead.
Did you know that the rice and dishes are refillable?
Restaurant: Chennai Kitchen @ Sentul Boulevard
Price: RM 14 (banana leaf rice with mutton)
When the stars line up and you catch a good break, and people think you’re lucky but you know it’s grace. It can happen so fast or a little bit late, timing is everything.
You know I’ve had close calls when it could have been me. I was young when I learned just how fragile life could be. I lost friends of mine, I guess it wasn’t my time, timing is everything.
I could have been a child that got took home and I would have been one more unfinished song. When it seems a rhyme is hard to find, that’s when one comes along just in time.
When I remember that day when our eyes first meet, you ran into the building to get out of the rain because you were soaking wet. And as I held the door you wanted to know my name, timing is everything.
I could have been another minute late and you never would have crossed my path that day. When it seems true love is hard to find, that’s when love comes along just in time.
Well you can call it fate or destiny, sometimes it really seems like it’s a mystery because you can be hurt by love or healed by the same. Timing is everything and it can happen so fast or a little bit late.
- Adapted from the original soundtrack of Country Song – Timing is Everything