When the flavours infuse on your first bite and you’re not sure whether to scream with joy or orgasm, you know heaven is a place on earth.
The moment you walk into the opulent obsidian foyer of the Sofitel in Kuala Lumpur, you don’t even need to see your room to be convinced that heaven is a place on earth. The brand new 5 star hotel screams luxury in a way that combines the old and new creating a nostalgic vibe. I passed the cafe, wine bar and reception on my way to the dining area. Dining solo, I decided to check out the new restaurant. It was buffet night, however I chose from the A La Carte menu. The service was incredible, it wasn’t pushy and the staff didn’t stand too close (as is the case in other 5 star hotels ) while I took my time to peruse the menu, check Facebook and take a few selfies. The moment I closed the extensive menu a staff member was ready to take my order. I was in a vegetarian mood and ordered the portobello main and mushroom soup. As I waited for my dinner to arrive I was invited to peruse the buffet menu that was immaculately presented and consisted of asian cuisine, western cuisine and oh my god, the Chocolate Fondue fountain. Was it too late to cancel my order and ask for the buffet?
I admired the artworks on the walls as I tucked into some freshly baked bread, trying to figure out how I could get my hands on the fondue fountain.
My entree and main arrived at the same time. A typical serving for a 5 star restaurant, I was served an inverted portobello mushroom delicately topped with vegetables and garnished with truffle oil and pesto. The portobello was insatiable, the truffle oil was just the right flavour to infuse the tomatoes and pesto and highlight that rich fungi flavour.
But the star of the show was the Mushroom soup, who knew soup could taste so rich and flavoursome? Well, I thought that was only possible when I made it myself. The soup was served with bruschetta that was so delicious, I could’ve ordered a plate of that alone.
This was the Sofitel’s first buffet night and unfortunately much of the food looked untouched.
At the end of my delicious meal I asked if I could order the desserts available at the buffet, the manager walked over and invited me to try as much as I could eat of the dessert menu- complimentary! I walked over and tried a selection of perfectly crafted tiny desserts that were almost too cute to destroy with a bite.
The white chocolate with berry compote was delicious and a match made in heaven as I twirled it under the fondue fountain. The fondue was the best I have ever tasted and believe me- I know fondue! It wasn’t too rich or creamy, it was perfect in consistency and taste which I must admit led to a bit of over indulging.
As I finished my second dessert plate I was brought a generous slice of the bread and butter pudding by a lovely waiter who didn’t show any hint of judgement. Brilliant, guilt free indulgence.
When I eventually decided I had overindulged and needed to leave, I was left with a sense of regret that I hadn’t booked a few nights in the Sofitel. My gosh, what a dream come true that would be! This looks like a hotel that didn’t just spend big on the grand entrance, I’d bet they put the same level of detail into the rooms too. I would love to review the experience of staying in a world class hotel that will surely be at full occupancy soon, if it isn’t already.
I have stayed and dined in many 5 star hotels around the world and this is one of the best. It gets 5 starts from me and fingers crossed that I can stay the last 3 nights in a suite. It is this hotel that will complete your stay in Kuala Lumpur and leave you wishing you didn’t have to leave.
Im in Malaysia until 16 August 17 and hope to return to check out their bar and in future indulge in their rooms. Check out my instagram: Eternity Hausen
Da Nang- Ho Chi Mihn
I set out for Da Nang airport in style, sporting a new t-shirt from the markets and being super early, I was ready to check in. *ding* An email in Vietnamese from Jetstar, probably telling me to check in online. I soaked up the rays as I was driven to the Airport feeling totally chill.
My flight was delayed for 7 hours. Goddammit. Thanks a lot Jet star Pacific. Can you send email in English please? I sat with some Austrian travellers who attempted to teach me German for 5 hours which helped pass the time. With no reason that was able to be translated to a language I understand, I just had to wait. I was hoping to be in HCMC at 5pm, so when I arrived at 1.30 am and I got pushed around at the taxi line because of people jumping the queue, my patience wasn’t simply thin, it was gone. To everyone who pushed in front of me, I ordered them to the back of the queue. Speaking with an authorative voice, a few Australians watched on and cheered for me as i told at least 6 people off. I felt uqite justified when a few Aussies high-fived me and offered to share a cab into the city. Cheers to Australian Travellers, sticking together.
I arrived to my sleep pod hotel in District 1, HCMC, not really knowing what that was. I saw an online deal and had to book it. I didnt really know what it was but after watching the hotel bell boy lock himself in during his demo of how ‘safe’ it was…. then explaining sometimes it doesn’t work “because the wifi is unreliable” and relying on the SOS button to help him escape, I was certain I wouldnt be staying in the Start-Trek style sleep box. He was locked inside and said to me “Its okay, I’ll press the SOS button. *pause*…..oh, its not working. Sorry, malfunction. You will be okay.” Gawd. What a nightmare. By the look of it I would’ve been pickled in a jar or frozen and awoken mid-flight to Mars. Of course there was a manual override which he did not know how to use. I upgraded to the last room in the hotel, the Presidential 2 bedroom suite. It was nice and worth the difference. I enjoyed a shower after the long delay. I gazed into the buzzing city from my 10th floor high view. There were hookers spilling into the streets of HCMC. Real ladies? I’ll never know.
As I stood in the shower looking out of the floor to ceiling window enjoying the view, I”m almost sure someone was looking in, perhaps enjoying the view too.
Day 1: Hoi An
Ba Na hills
Bana Hills Video link
I flew to Da Nang. I wanted to go to Han Oi and then look at Halong Bay but flights were mostly fully booked or too expensive for a 3 day trip, so off the Hoi An I went. I flew into Da Nang and took a 35minute cab right along the ocean to my Home stay. Yep, I picked a home stay. It was just like a hotel, except the lady who checked me in owned the place. It worked out pretty well actually, she cooked my breakfast (for $1AUD) when ever I liked and had a puppy named Lucky. I was left alone in the gigantic house just as I would be in a hotel.
On my first full day in Hoi An I took a day trip to Ba Na Hills. It was an incredible experience that I highly recommend. Your tour guide will drive you an hour or so into the Jungle and then you catch a 5km state off the art cable car to the peak where a French castle awaits. It has been bought by Russians who have turned it into a theme park (and scatterred Russian art alll through the joint) with roller coasters, countless restaurants and performances outdoors. If that doesn’t interest you then the view is well worth a look.
Tips- if you aren’t great with cobble stones, steep hills or 40 degree heat while inside a flying glass box, this is not the tour for you.
Day 2 & 3 Hoi An
I cycled into the night markets in Hoi An to discover streets filled with coloured hanging lanterns and tok toks al about. It was beautiful, balmy and busy.
It was nice to sit in a coffee house in Hoi An and take in the view of the river and travelling sales people balancing bamboo sticks atop their shoulders with various items in an upside down Vietnamese hat on either side. It was so busy with tourists but also many locals. Well, I assume they were locals, there were also many Asian tourists. If you want to go shopping this is the place to do it, but I’m not fussed about it. After a day or so every tailor store looked the same. I mean it, I really could not find which tailor had made the dresses I ordered! I discovered that the trick to getting tailor made clothing is to find a material or pattern you like and hope for the best. I found a beautiful piece of chiffon that I had tailored dresses made from. You can see the picture below. They’re good, but they’re not what you’d expect at home. I cant quite figure out why…. but when a ball gown is $50USD, who cares. Silk is the specialty here with every tailor claiming to have the best silk in the land that are hand dyed with natural inks. The business owners have no issue stealing business from their neighbour and yelling out “Thats SATIN! not silk. I HAVE REAL SILK! COME TO MY STORE.”
Many tourists make a game of bargaining the Vietnamese products down to the lowest price with no intention of buying anything. While this may be fun for some, after my experience at the Ben Thann markets I wasn’t going to do that. I wish I could say it is because I have too much respect for their business, but it is truly because I simply dont have the patience to make a sport of it when I don’t want to purchase anything. That counts as respect, right? There are plenty of coffee houses, bars and streets to wander instead.
Cycling was my mode of transport, I never did make it to the beach because I kept getting caught in Monsoonal rains. I found it amusing that as soon as it rain merchants seemingly appear out of thin air selling ponchos to tourists! See the pics!
Between Da Nang and Hoi An there is a 5-10km long construction zone along the beach. Imagine Denarau Island in Nadi before it was built. They’re building the Sheraton, Westin, and all of those Westerner hotels. i’m sure it will look amazing when its done and be sold as the new ‘Asian tourist playground”-good for Vietnam. Better for me next time I stay, if you like that Western feel…
My patience is generally pretty good, at least I dont show if I’m impatient and I mostly keep my composure. What really challenged my in Vietnam is lack of respect for personal space. On a tour bus travelling back from Ba Na Hills a lady sat beside me, child in her arms, and sprawled out. She casually rested half of her 3-4yo sleeping child on my lap. IT was at least 33 degrees, the aircon was struggling and she didn’t make eye contact. I moved across with a bit of a huff, trying to signal that I wasn’t happy about this. In Australia, that would have been a very obvious non-verbal cue that I wanted more space and was annoyed. What did this woman do? She took the extra space! God. Do you think I could get it back? Nope. She didn’t speak English and seemingly could not care less that she. Wass taking up 1.5 seats.
How hard is it? Go to the back of the line and wait your turn. This applies at the airport for taxis, customs, hotel lobbys, cafes etc. At first, when I noticed people were moving ahead of me I assumed their family was up ahead. Nope. They just lack the social etiquette I’ve come to expect.
Earlier today I was in the Border security queue of about 150 people trying to leave HCMC. I had waited 25minutes, it was hot, my feet were sore and I just wanted to pee. Finally, I was 3rd in the queue and feeling happy about it when an Asian family appeared in front of me. 2 adults, 3 kids. There was not a chance they were going first (I’d had enough of this behaviour the night before at 1am in the taxi queue). I asked the guy what (the bloody hell)he thought he was doing as his wife just looked around as though nothing was going on. I told him to go to the back of the line and as I looked back I saw other families and individuals doing the same, just cutting the queue. I think people get away with this behaviour because no one speaks up. People don’t want to cause a fuss. Well, I was as polite as required and in case you’re wondering, they weren’t running late. They were just rude.
So, there is a social Hierarchy in Asia. Singaporeans are at the top, followed by Hong Kong, Mainland China and then….well who cares. The point is that Vietnamese, Thai, Laos, Phillipinos and any other developing country doesn’t get a look in when deciding one’s importance. The next thing to look at is the whiteness of skin (desirable in Asia), clothing and posture. Western Caucaseans don’t get a look in. I had a Singaporean lady explain this to me recently when she jumped the queue (Yes, I was about to have a go at her) She gave me a ‘cultural lesson’ That in Asia, us (also white skinned)Westerers, although guests in their country need to make way for this social hierarchy and class system that they have.
While I don’t find it particularly difficult to tell Thai, Phillipino, Malaysians, Singaporeans apart, many people do. And quite honestly, when queueing up in Western fashion, they don’t care. I couldn’t care less about the hierarchy, so I’ll continue to hold my ground in western-queue fashion
This is it. I’ve finally taken my first steps on an adventure of a lifetime. A bit of eat.pray.love and a bit of study. I didn’t realise how quickly it would come up. I’ve always wanted to travel solo and have been talking endlessly about it to anyone who will listen. So here I am, in the prime of my life, embarking on lengthy trip. Like death, you know it’s coming but nothing can prepare you for how you will feel when it happens. It feels exhilarating and terrifying. Exhilarating because I’m excited to travel and enjoy new experiences, terrifying because of the purpose of my trip.
I’ve spent the past week buzzing around getting Visas, a backpack, a selfie stick (yes, I am now one of those people I said I’d never turn into) and enough pharmaceuticals for a heard of cattle to overdose. I’m generally the traveller who packs a carry-on bag with merely a bikini, thin jumper, sunscreen (okay, I dont really pack sunscreen I pack tanning oil then moan the whole way home about my burned, peeling skin) and a few sundresses for a tropical vacation (sometimes I even throw in a razor). This time my suitcase is packed to the brim. I have everything I’ll need for rain, monsoon or cyclone. Lucky, because it is wet season in Vietnam.
So dear reader, I hope you enjoy my travel blog as I delve into the social happenings of South East Asia. I’m not talking about nightlife or partying (I am a married woman travelling alone for Christ’s sake), I’m talking about the interesting people I meet along the way and the way the way things are done in Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand (These are just the first 3 countries on my list. I’ll be winging the rest); the way people live, the social norms, the poverty and vast differences between our culture and theirs.
Before I was chauffeured to the Bus station by my husband there were a few last minute items on my to do list. Namely, getting my nails done. Shellac and acrylic neon lime and magenta. It makes me feel radical, but I know (and as my father warned me on the phone last night) I will be staying safe. I sent my husband off to get my prescription Anti-biotics while I asked the Vietnamese lady who was hurriedly bufffing my nails how to say “Hello”, “How much?”, “That’s too expensive” and “Thank you.” I figure manners can’t hurt. Especially when I suspect the majority of white westerners will be making nuisances of themselves. I told her I am going to Cambodia to participate in an Anti-human trafficking program. She let out a big sigh then took a deep breath, her eyes welling up. She then told me about a little boy who was taken from her village in Ho Chi Mihn city south. He was 4. The boy was gone for a month before he was found. During that month the family worked with police to find their son. Can you imagine? Kidnapping is one thing, but to have your only child taken and sold as a sex slave at four years of age. Fuck. When I was four I was playing on our farm and hearding chickens into their pen at night, lest the foxes eat them (They wouldn’t, Dad make a fox proof fence). The child was eventually found in a human trafficking ring and was returned to his parents. Returned? Hmm…that seems odd. Why? Because the child was dead. He died due to sexual injuries inflicted upon him by an adult. Now think about that for a moment. Think about the size of a 4 year old asian child.
Did your stomach just flip too? Take a breath before we continue.
I guess now is a good time to tell you the purpose of my travel. I won a scholarship earlier this year to participate in an Anti-Human Trafficking immersion program in Cambodia. Don’t know what human trafficking is? Watch ‘Taken’ with Liam Neeson- it’s a kick-arse movie. Part of the preparation for the program was to research the topic extensively. Youtube was good for B grade documentaries and bleeding heart journalists trying to save the world; journal articles were good for a socioeconomic perspective. I dont think either has prepared me for what I’ll experience. Perhaps the one thing that never occurred to me was how many children are involved. I must admit that I felt pretty silly that it never occurred to me that thousands of children are trafficked. Here I was at the end of ‘Taken 2’ thinking that only attractive twenty-somethings get ‘taken’ and sold on the sex-slave market in Eastern European ghettos. How naive is that? Am I really the classic westerner, living in a bubble? Surely not. Perhaps it was because until recently that I thought people were inherently good. Nope. They’re not. There is an entire market of shit heads out there buying children.
I’m looking forward to the trip and a friend pointed out to me that rather than saying it will be ‘fucking horrifying’ that I should try the term ‘confronting’. So, dear reader, if you can handle a ‘confronting’ blog, get comfy, grab a box of tissues and then lets begin this journey….