travel writing

On first meeting: Marrakech

It’s late at night. Your taxi moves through a sea of people, there’s horses and motorbikes and people clogging the streets. The roads become passageways, it’s too tight for a car but your taxi competes against a mess of people and honks and blares. A handicapped woman hails, “taxi taxi” and you drive past her. Your driver mimics her voice under his breath, cursing that she only needs him when he is occupied, and can’t find a fare when he’s available. You look out the window at the chaos before you. He stops. Leaps out of the car and says: “too narrow”. He cannot drive any further. He has thrown you to the wolves.

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Botanical Gardens, Singapore

The Botanic Gardens are impressive and extensive. After seeing Gardens by the Bay, all artificially implanted with random varieties mixed together, it’s rather refreshing to see a natural progression of acclimated plants I’m their element. The orchid section is stunning and the grounds are huge. It’s not immediately in the city, so plan how you get there and back. We’ll worth it for the old, traditional collection of botanical specimens.

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Lotte Observation Deck and Top of Hanoi

When in Hanoi, visiting the Lotte Tower is an absolute must. It’s a short drive from the Old Quarter (where most tourists stay) and for someone unaccustomed to Vietnam see public transport, such as myself, get yourself a driver. 

Side note, the taxi fare out of the gridlocked Old Quarter is guaranteed to skyrocket so we picked up an Uber and it cost us next to nothing.

The Lotte Observation Deck sits over sixty floors above Hanoi and boasts breathtaking panoramic views. It’s open day and night. We went at night and thoroughly recommend it. For a modest entrance fee, the observation deck offers interactive experiences for people young and old. The highlight for me was the glass skywalk, where you take your shoes off and walk right out into the night sky- not for anyone with vertigo! 

The Lotte tower also offers a range of eating options, so I recommend making an evening out of the experience. At the skydeck there’s a fast food eatery or two, but if you delve a little deeper, you’ll find award winning restaurants and bars within the Lotte tower. 

Top of Hanoi is literally the top of the city. This open-air restaurant sits you up in the clouds, overlooking all of Hanoi, the twinkling traffic, the city glow. You can secure yourself a table through reservation, but we were able to walk right in. The cocktail bar is exciting and innovative, and their mains are reasonably priced given the location. We were shocked that we were sat on top of Hanoi and didn’t have to pay an arm and a leg! My friends chose pasta dishes and I had a pan-seared salmon dish- the food was to die for. The service personnel here were very attentive, friendly and ready for a chat. This venue is worth it for the food, and the magnificent views.

Afterwards, we weren’t ready to go home. We headed down about thirty floors to the lounge where we were greeted by live piano, sleek aesthetic and deep sofas. The dessert and cocktails there make for the perfect ending to a wonderful night. 

Traveler’s note; I compared this experience to a similar one I had at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. For me, this evening was much more relaxed, affordable and all-inclusive as the stunning view was paired with fine food and great service. It was honestly the perfect way to unwind and celebrate the end of our trip to Vietnam.

Temple of Literature, Hanoi

The Temple of Literature is such an interesting place to visit. It can get very hot and the heat is still, so it’s hard to be there for too long. The museum is at the far end of the Temple complex, so don’t burn out on the way to the end because thats were all the artefacts and displays are . 

It’s a temple that was built in 1070, and became Vietnam’s first national university dedicated to education, thought and philosophy. Read the plaques as some things are not what they seem; we found a hall of what looked like tombs, but upon further inspection they were lists of all the university graduates! 

The complex is beautifully maintained and apparently still frequented by students seeking spiritual guidance in their exams. As a tourist, it’s worth stopping by as an insight into Vietnamese history and culture. 

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

The Elizabeth Hotel, Singapore

The Elizabeth Hotel suited our needs. It was a short walk to Orchard road, but not right in the hustle and bustle, which provided us with a little oasis. The staff were very welcoming and hospitable. They helped us understand the city and organise tours and activities. 
The facilities are great, the pool is lovely, the gym is good enough and the buffet breakfast is exciting and delicious. In fact, the restaurant is a highlight as the windows offer a beautiful view.
 Our rooms were satisfactory (beds a little hard though). One thing we did appreciate was that the hotel supplied a mobile phone for personal use, local and international calls, and Internet which is super handy when trying to navigate the city. 

I would definitely go back to The Elizabeth.
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Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.

Or Tor Kor (OTK) Markets, Bangkok

These fresh produce markets are simply wonderful.

They’re a maze of everything food related. There are a few florist stalls to add a subtle fragrance to accompany pin pricks of colour. Their fresh coconuts can be dehusked and grated according to your needs. As you move through these, the fresh fruits and juices offer refreshment for the weary traveler who finds themselves uncomfortable under the blanket of smog that settles over the city.

The markets have an extensive marine section, both alive and otherwise. This doesn’t smell too fishy, though. I believe that those involved in maintaining the markets pride themselves in its cleanliness. I learnt from a stall holder that they don’t have a rodent problem (unlike other areas of the city) because they’ve addressed the issue head on, in a humane way (!).

They also have a section dedicated to dry goods, such as dehydrated fish, jellyfish, abalone, curry powders and more. They’re so pungent, you can really tell that they’ll add depth to whatever dish you decide to cook.

The bags of spice are aromatic and sensual, and at this point, your visit to the markets has become spiritual.

Finally you reach the middle. There are vats of curries and crowds of people. It’s a wonderful place, bustling with life and colour. I recommend you go, buy some produce and make yourself something. Or just go to see the exotic variety.

We bought enough food from these markets to have a feast fit for a king. We had crab, and pomelo salad and we learned how to make Tom kha ghung from scratch.

***click the links for photos!

 

 

Disclaimer: This review was also posted on TripAdvisor. This blog has no affiliation with TripAdvisor. I just share my experiences to spread the love to fellow travelers.