My First Midori Traveler's Notebook

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Everyone who is close to me knows i never live without a notebook.

Since primary school, i've always had a "daily planner" with me in which i will write down my homework and to-dos of the day. From reminding myself to drink more water to jotting down the airing time of my favourite cartoon. It's like the notebook is my brain, i can't get things memorised or done without it. 

Now that i have grown up (sort of haha), instead of having a single daily planner i have few notebooks all for different purposes. One for daily random to-dos, one for work, one for journaling, one for when i go travel, one for photography notes taking, you can imagine how the list goes on. 

And shopping for notebook is one of my favourite thing to do! Whenever i go into a bookstore i will always lookout for any unique notebook to buy. I already have a drawer full of notebooks but luckily the boyfriend is quite supportive in this and sometimes look for them for me too. 

Then one day i stumbled on Midori Traveler's Notebook.

The leather cover, the customisable inserts, the brass accessories. It's perfect. 

Now it's my everyday to-dos planner which i never leave home without. 
My plus one. 

My Best Friend's Wedding

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On 23rd of September 2015, I stood excitedly peering out the church entrance over and over again, at a seat i carefully chose so i can be the nearest to the aisle.

It was the day my best friend got married. 

This is my first time attending a wedding of someone that is close to me. Of course I've attended tons of wedding since young but it was always relatives or family's friends. Never someone who i personally know. 

Witnessing her stepping on the aisle clinging onto her father's hands, wedding song in the background, a wide grin across the groom's face. From the bottom of my heart, i'm really happy for her. For them. To have found each other. 


5 Best Restaurants in Hoi An, Vietnam

While planning for our Vietnam trip, the foodie in us hoped to experience more the local Vietnamese food. We spent days watching all kind of food channel which features Vietnam, like Gordon Ramsay's Great Escape in Vietnam.

But we didn't want to stress ourselves out with the perfect food finding so we decided to eat the locals eat and just follow the crowd. Boy did we just last for only a day!

It was a mistake. We didn't like the local food so much. We've tried them all: Cau Lau, White Rose and Banquette but we can't imagine eating them for the second time. This trip would be screwed if we cannot enjoy the food here! By the end of first night's dinner, we gave up and start pulling out our phones to check restaurant reviews on Tripadvisor. It was our trip saviour!

Here's the list of restaurants that made our trip awesome!

1. Streets Restaurant Cafe
This was the first restaurant that brighten our trip. Street Cafe is actually owned by a culinary school named Street International. So the food you can expect is not just simple dishes of traditional food, but Vietnamese inspired dishes, fusions.
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We have soon developed a liking in dining by the roadside in Hoi An.
After only one day of eating Pho and Cau Lau (Vietnamese noodles), us being the typical Chinese through and through had already started craving for rice. So we ordered Glazed Pork Ribs on Bone with Vietnamese Kim Chi and Asian Style Chicken Curry with Coconut Milk.
(click here for full menu for Street Cafe

The feeling of having steaming hot rice in our stomachs was sooo gooooddd!
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The meal ended with a sweet note - a pineapple coconut ice cream. The taste of sweetened pineapple and a rich coconut flavour of the ice cream, it was a great combination we never tried until now.

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Pineapply Coconut Ice Cream

Bill came at 440,000VND, which at that time was around RM55 to 60. Not too expensive considering we ordered 2 main dishes, 2 drinks and desserts. 

2. Morning Glory
One of the top rated restaurants on Tripadvisor! It certainly did not disappoint us.

Morning Glory is so popular among the tourists that it was full house even well before dinner time. By dinner time, you can see staff lining up chairs in front of the restaurant for the waiting customers. It's that popular.

Our orders under Miss Vy's Creation category:
(view full menu for Morning Glory here)

1. Crispy Roasted Pork with red rice risotto.
The crispy roasted pork is just like the Chinese siew yokso it's no special to us. But the red rice risotto was superb! It was our first time tasting such risotto we loved it. The taste was not too strong like usual risotto but with just a hint of scent and butter.  
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2. Mine: Prawn Curry with steamed rice. 
Steaming rice and hot curry fresh prawn, need i say more? 
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Dessert was a custard thingy which was a rather disappointment i didn't bother to memorise its name.

I didn't keep the bill, was i believe the bill was roughly around 550,000 to 600,000 VND including 2 drinks and 1 dessert, slightly higher than Street Cafe. In fact i think it was our most expensive meal in Hoi An.


3. Miss Vy

Miss Vy actually shares the same boss as Morning Glory, except the surrounding looks more traditional and the price was slightly cheaper too. 
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This time, instead of dessert, we order a traditional appetiser - veggie and a slice of beed wrapped in a very chewy transparent dumpling skin. We didn't like most of the traditional food we had, but this was nice! 

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Our main dishes: Egg fried rice and chilli steamed fish.

It seems like not only the interior was not as flashy as Morning Glory, so was their food. It might looked like a normal egg fried rice, but it was sooo delicious and warm! It tasted like something a super mom cooks for her beloved children. 

The steamed fish was just so-so. Upon ordering, the waitress asked us if we want "little spicy" or "very spicy", we looked at each other, scared. If they have to ask such question, does that mean the dish is very spicy? It turned out our Malaysian endurance for spiciness is so high that "very spicy" was quite mild for us.  

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4. Duck Cafe

One thing you'll notice traveling in Hoi An is you can only have breakfast in your hotel, no matter how shitty the hotel food are. For some reasons, restaurants and cafes are not allowed to serve customers until 10.30am. So we patiently waited until 10.30am for Duck Cafe before leaving An Hoi for Cua Dai.
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It was a Vietnamese x Japanese Fusion restaurant. You can find Japanese elements everywhere. Matcha delivered from Japan was featured in the menu, Japanese books were lined up in the shelves, even manga Conan in Vietnamese can be found!

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The food was quite delicious, though not as awestruck as the previous restaurants, but the overall experience was the nicest. The ambience was so cozy and quiet. The staffs were so friendly and helpful too! 

Did i mention that the cafe exclusively hires people with disability? The bf always has a soft spot for disabled people, so we bought some handmade bracelets from them.

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Our favourite dessert in Hoi An - Affogato with Vietnamese Coffee! It has the extra milky taste compared the usual expresso. 


 5. Lucky Beach Resort

Our last restaurant in Hoi An that made us regret cutting our trip one day shorter!

If you dislike busy and crowded beach, just find your way to Lucky Beach Resort. The owner will lead you to their backyard, then you'll find yourself immersed in the most serene part of An Bang beach.
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The best part is, you can have lunch at the beach with blue sea as your view! How relaxing is that! Only lunch was allowed to dine at the beach as they do not have enough lighting as the sky gets darker. And sadly enough, we reached there at sunset so we have to dine inside.


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All the seafood was so fresh! The owner told us that his fisherman father brought seafood back to her restaurant every morning so all their seafood will always be fresh. They were quite honest too, there are some dishes they urge us not to order because they think required seafood was not fresh enough.

I think all in all, the bf and i value the overall experience more than the food alone. Give me awesome food but crappy service, we will never see us again. But give us okay food with excellent service, we will come back!

And dining at Lucky Beach Resort is one of the most wonderful experiences! If we got the chance, i will spent the whole day here by the beach and have my 3 meals here.


Hoi An, Vietnam: 6 days 5 nights


After around a year of working without taking much leave for vacation, I wanted to go travel. I mean like flights and passport stamping kind of vacation. I wanted some place in South East Asia as i believe as an asian i should start my traveling journey here. I wanted some place small, some place less known, some place with a history, some place relaxing. After weeks of travel blogs reading, i found Hoi An.

Located on South Central Coast Region of Vietnam, Hoi An is a rather less noteworthy small town, famous for its tailors and silk lanterns, offers daily night markets and locates just near enough to beaches. It's just everything i wanted for this getaway. 

Our budget for this trip was RM1500 per person including flights, hotels and all kind of expenses. But we made it with RM1300 per personWe haven't been counting our pennies throughout the trip! 
Golden Sunset



HOW DID WE GET THERE
I only started searching for flights one month before. After some careful arrangement and planning, i've got our return flights tickets at around RM350 per person including tax. 

Its nearest airport locates at Da Nang, roughly 45 minutes (or 
RM63/363000VND) away from Hoi An.
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WHERE WE STAYED 
As for hotels, our budget was RM100 per night, for 5 nights it was RM500, divided by 2 persons, it's RM250 per person. It wasn't hard to get cheap hotels from Agoda or Expedia. I prefer using Booking.com as they have comparison of price from all websites. Then Tripadvisor to check the quality of the hotel. So far the reviews have been quite accurate!


(trace turquoise line for our movement)
For 5 days we stayed in 3 different hotels to diversify our risk of getting a shitty hotel.

1. First 2 nights was in the city of Hoi An - Phuoc An Hotel:
I am so glad that it was our first hotel as it left us a good impression on Vietnamese. Admittedly it's a bit far from all the happenings at the riverside and the room needs some maintenance but the staffs made it up with their helpfulness and friendliness. So we happily stayed there with weak electricity and low water pressure. 

2. Then another 2 nights at the riverside on the island of An Hoi - An Hoi Hotel:
Though strategically located around night market happenings, our stay here was not pleasant at all. Room condition was better than Phuoc An but the staffs were so rude. The front desk girl got angry at us for not understanding "pa po" which apparent meant "passport" and they were being oblivious to our air conditional problem until we made multiple calls to the front desk. 

 3. Final night at beachside of Cua Dai before heading back to Da Nang Airport - Ki No Homestay:
The best hotel throughout the trip! The room was newly renovated and cozy, the owner family was so friendly and there's a breakfast menu you can order anything for free! Too bad we only get to stay here for one night. Initially we booked for 2 nights but we were forced to fly back home one day earlier so we tried to cancel via booking.com but failed. Seeing us paying for 2 nights but only get to stay one night, the owner gave us free taxi ride to Da Nang. They really didn't need to do that because the policies in booking.com clearly states that no refund is available after certain date. 


WHAT DID WE DO
When i told my friends that we were going to a small town in Vietnam for 6 days, the most often replies i got was "Har? So long ah? What are you gonna do there?"

Honestly i didn't know. Though i have listed down some attractions around Hoi An but i didn't plan our itinerary. I didn't want to get tied down by our own schedule so we agreed we will just go with the flow, do whatever that feels right at that time. 

And we know our travel pace. We like to slack and get to know a place slowly. Not just hopping from one tourist hotspot to another just to mark our dots on map.
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Oops, we really didn't do much! And we loved it.

MY SON
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After checking in at Phuoc An Hotel, the friendly staff told us to come down after we freshen up. He then introduced us to all the one-day trips around Hoi An. If we are interested he will sign us up with the tour guide.

The first thing that caught the bf's eyes was My Son.

My Son, pronounced as Mi San which means beautiful mountains, came as a pleasant surprise. The bf is interested in anything historical so we quickly signed up for the sunrise session. They have 2 sessions; one at 4.30am, another at 8.30am. It costs us roughly 
RM60 per person with the option of traveling back with boat. It gave us an extra stop at the Kim Bong, the carpentry village. There isn't much thing but a souvenir shop selling everything wooden. We bought a RM8 coconut bowl. It's gonna be my ice cream bowl. 

It took us 2 hours drive to reach My Son. So by the time we reached, sunrise time was already long gone. I didn't get to take sunrise pictures as i planned to but we were so glad we took the earlier session as it was still very cooling in the early morning so we really enjoyed all the sightseeingsIMG_0022


The fun was mostly owed to our tour guide. Without his lively illustration and story telling skills, My Son would just be a bunch of old bricks to us. He also kept us connected by asking us questions when the same element reappeared to ensure we understand. Until today the words "linga", "yuri" are still fresh in my head. It was really fun. So make sure you go with a tour guide. 

Towards the end at around 12pm, the sun got a lot hotter we were so glad it's time for us to go back. I instantly felt so smart for choosing the sunrise session over the morning session. 

If your hotel does not provide such service: You can always sign up at any travel agency in the night market. They will ask for your hotel location and upfront payment is required. At first we were a bit skeptical of the upfront payment but the tour guide (another one day tour) did show up at our hotel and no extra payment was required. Plus you can always keep the receipt for future reference.

NIGHT MARKET
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One of my favourite thing in the world is night market! I think a night market reflects so much on a place. You get to see their native products, traditional snacks, handcrafts and so on.

There's an endless possibility of what you can find in a foreign night market, very often at a cheaper price too! Everyday after dinner we spend our whole night at An Hoi Night Market, just scrolling around checking things out. Continuous for 4 nights until we have learnt every corner and every nook of it. 

The night market is the most happening place in Hoi An. Well before dinner time, you can see people start swarming into it. Most of the best restaurants located here too. If you want to secure a seat without queuing, i suggest you go at around 6.00pm. 

There's also a historical Japanese Covered Bridge you can find at the west side of Hoi An. It's easy to find especially when it's shown distinguishably on every map of Hoi An. You can buy the entrance ticket at the nearby stall which costs around 
RM23 per person. At the end of the bridge, it's another less crowded part of night market. It's quite boring so we only went there once. The ticket was a total waste of money.
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This picture is probably the best thing that came out of the the paid ticket. 

AN BANG BEACH

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One of the thing that makes Hoi An perfect is its location near An Bang beach which is listed as one of the Asia's Overlooked Destination. Its neighbour, Cua Dai Beach is exactly the commercialised beach we hated. We got tired at waving at the aunties, telling them "no no we don't want a seat".

But the quiet spot is not easy to locate. Saying "An Bang beach" to your cab driver is not the magic word. It will only bring you to the main spot of An Bang which is just as commercialised as Cua Dai. We were charged RM14 for 2 beach couches, surrounded by noisy crowd and horrible background music from the restaurant for hours before we finally gave up. 

From Cua Dai to An Bang is a long stretch of beach. The trick lies in searching the quiet spot BETWEEN them. Skip the main roads and taxi. Take a walk from An Bang beach towards Cua Dai, you'll pass by some residential area, stop when you see a stretch of restaurants. Behind the restaurants is exactly the overlooked part An Bang beach. It's the most serene beach i've ever been to. The restaurants can have tables set up for you to have your meals on the beach too. I still can get over how calm and relaxing it was sigh.

I will definitely go back one day and spend my whole weekend there. And i wish the beach will remain as serene when i can finally make it there again. 

Deep Blue Sea
WHAT DID WE MISS: 

1. Tra Que Village: It was said that you can experience the farming life of Vietnamese here. You can watch the gardeners' everyday lives and even join them too! There's a restaurant there which uses the freshest crops produced by the local farmers. Many bloggers claimed it's the best restaurant in Hoi An. Argh how can i missed that!!


2. Friendly Leather Bags: Hoi An is famous for their handcrafts - silk and leather goods. It was said that you can browse the bag design you want on a computer, the shop will customise it with your desire size and tiny changes. They even offer to send the finished products to your hotel so you don't have to make a second trip there again. But i only read about it on our last day in Cua Dai Beach so i decided not to make a trip back to the town again. 




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