Tuesday, August 2, 2011

homeward bound

I'M COMING HOMEE!! :D to california.. so I still won't get to see you all yet, but at least I'll be closer and in the same country as some of you..

but let's jump back a month-ish and briefly summarize the rest of my adventures:

-Kuala Lumpur: 7hr bus ride (2hrs waiting at sg and malaysian customs) fun times wandering around malls, trying local food (curry laksa soup is delicious), succeeding somewhat in bargaining for clothes in central market, getting lost in the cramped aisles of fake junk in chinatown, swimming in the infinity pool at the hotel, and shopping some more..
Here's a picture of the inverted dome at the Islamic art museum, which was quite gorgeous.

-museum hopping:
From the asian civilisations museum: this is a modern artist's take on the actual terracotta warriors that were on display..

The art and science museum had some exhibitions on Van Gogh and the Tang dynasty shipwreck. The National Museum had an exhibition on watchmaking (so many elaborate pocketwatches..)

Toy museum: soo adorable! Picture walls of teddy bears, shelves of small figures of robots, spaceships, tintin, mickey and the gang, tom and jerry, daleks, and so much more.. (I think I still haven't seen the sword in the stone, so that should be remedied when I get back.)

-Pulau Ubin (sorry I don't have pictures): island off the east side of sg (I stayed near the SW side) so we took the MRT, bus, and then cute little riverboat ferry to the island, and went cycling for a few hours, gotten eaten alive by mosquitos, harvested these random leaves growing along the side of the path, which were apparently edible (I don't know what they are in english, but they're called "la lơt" in vietnamese) and then my cousin proceeded to make dinner for us with the leaves the next day. I can report that we are all alive and well, even after eating these mysterious leaves growing on the side of the path. They did taste good though when you wrap up ground beef with them.

Other miscellaneous-ness include:
-July 4th was uneventful: they didn't sell marshmallows or graham crackers at the grocery store near campus, so I was unable to make microwave s'mores :[
-Meeting with Dean Hastings at NUS
-Kayaking in MacRitchie reservoir=bad tan lines (which have simply just gotten even worse -.-")
-HP7: There was a distinct lack of audience participation (i.e. commentary, obnoxious laughter, etc), but still fun and enjoyable. Also chinese subtitles :P
-sg food festival+black sesame ice cream: tastes kind of weird-not necessarily bad, but not my favorite..
-Chocolate lava cakes, lemon meringue pie, and deliciousness fox cookies: not all in the same day..
(also my cousin's birthday is on friday. She wants me to make some sort of special type of cake that's purple or pink colored for her (and not too sweet!!): any suggestions? Erin, do you mind sending me your pink champagne cake recipe if you still have it?)
-Lunch other international students from Caltech and Imperial College, London.
-Chinatown and little India
-Shopping and eating.. repeated a few more times..and then some more.
-Trekking through many park trails for a few hours..

And now, my time here in Singapore draws to a close, and I begin the traditional exiting ceremony. I had a phone conference with Lilly-NUS regarding the cortisol analyses last Thurs and bid farewell to all the researchers, clinicians, neuropsych raters, coordinators, and all the other kind people I've gotten to know these past weeks. (although I still have some work left to pass to the Lilly-NUS people, but at least I can do it at home.) I wistfully say goodbye to all the delicious food that I won't be able to exactly replicate or find in the states.. (koi bubble tea, mango sago, grass jelly, chili crab, fresh noodles, dragonfruit, guava, papaya, longan, rambutan: I will miss you..but this won't be goodbye forever. I promise. but I will most certainly not miss you: durian smell.)

and I end this chapter of my summer adventures in SE Asia with my trip to Vietnam. :]
It rained much of the time I was there, so the weather was actually fairly cool in comparison to sg, but usually it's just as hot.

First order of business: visiting family- I stayed at my cousin's house: she's actually on my dad's side, so she took me over on her motorbike to see my mom's side, who live in a different part of Saigon, but only a 15min drive away. My grandmother's older brother is 90! and he totally ate way more food than I did, when I had lunch with them on Monday. Yeah, he's that cool- and you'd never know he could eat that much since he's as thin as a stick! but still very healthy. albeit somewhat forgetful, since he didn't really remember who I was for awhile, but by the end, he did remember. :] Unfortunately this may be the first and last time I see him, since I don't know when I'll get the chance to come back.. T.T I was very happy to meet everyone and hear all the funny stories about my mom, aunt, uncle, and grandmother from long ago. I tried my best to talk/answer their questions, but my vietnamese is quite limited, although I think it's gotten a bit better from the past couple days?

A bunch of family on my dad's side drove a car out to the countryside to see the Cao Dai temples, Một Thoáng Việtnam: a new cultural center that has stuff from all the different regions in Vietnam and history of the country, etc., and Cu Chi tunnels from the Vietnam war.

This is the Cao Dai temple: the religion was created in Vietnam, and it might only be found here..not sure.. There were signs that directed men to enter on the right, and women to enter on the left, but it didn't actually matter which entrance you came in. If you wanted to know, we all entered on the right: all 3 guys and 6 girls.

Cu Chi tunnels: It was raining, so everything is slightly muddy, thus we ended up much dirtier than usual. The shooting range they had open for tourists to play around in nearly gave me a heartattack, and I quickly ran away to avoid any of the unpleasant sounds.
This is the much enlarged entrance to the tunnels. They slightly enlarged 100m for tourists to crawl through, with exits every 20m in case the tiny, suffocating, dark, damp enclosure gets too much for you. It's literally about as large/wide as me curled up sort of like a hedgehog. There were a few tiny lights inside, but corners were difficult to navigate. It was fun sliding down/climbing up/down through the tunnels, but I was very relieved to breathe fresh air after those 100m. Then we nommed on some steamed cassava root with a mixture of sesame, brown sugar, and peanuts, as a reward for going through the tunnels and to finish our tour there.

On the left is a mock house at Một Thoáng Việtnam, but I don't remember what region this is from- perhaps Hue?
Also, on the right is
mắm nem: fermented fish (anchovies/fish chunks/pulverized fish) that's been sitting in jars, possibly for more than 10 years. sounds delicious no? ewww, that's one VNmese thing I really can't eat. If you thought fish sauce was bad, don't ever go near this stuff. The smell is not quite as overpowering as durian, (in that the smell doesn't spread as quickly) but definitely fishy-er and perhaps much more unpleasant in some ways.

and of course Saigon, the crazy city itself, with an inordinate amount of motorbikes on the road with cars, of which neither of the drivers seem to follow the traffic lights, or rather the lack of traffic lights in some cases, and crossing roads is like playing frogger, as you slowly maneuver your way through the traffic. The night market at Chợ Bến Thành was fun and has lots of cheap shopping :] since the exchange is something like 20000đòng to 1USD, but they always talk in 10- and 100-thousands..
My cousin and I are sitting on her motorbike in the alley in front of her house.
Sorry the other picture is so dark- it was in a parking lot at night, but if you can see it, there are lots of motorbikes.. so all of them on the road=craziness..

Last but definitely not least: the food. OMG food!! So delicious. unbelievably delicious- okay maybe I'm a bit biased since I grew up on all of this stuff, so if I described it, you might be weirded out or not find it as amazing- I would tell you everything I ate, except I don't know the english translation of most of the food I ate. Except pho obviously, which tasted almost exactly like my mother's <3 Also, this would be so torturous for you to read about it and not taste all the lovely flavors.. ahh, I miss it already.

Unfortunately we only stayed for 3 days, although I'd dearly love to stay longer and explore the country my parents grew up in.

But alas, now I am back in Singapore for 3 more days, wander around a bit more, and figure out how on earth I'm going to fit all of my stuff in my suitcase and have it be under 23kg >.< Friday is my cousin's birthday, and Saturday morning I embark on my journey home.

Sorry, this was very long. Anyway, I hope all your summers have been going well.
I miss you all dearly- and I'll see you soon! <3

1 comment:

  1. I can certainly send that to you! Can't wait to see you in a few weeks :)