Hanoi vs. Saigon 

What are the things that cross you mind when you hear Vietnam? For me, Vietnamese food and coffee. I know it’s pretty shallow, and some people might have a horrible memory of Vietnamese war. Vietnam is a place with a long history, ancient traditions, and historic attractions. When people plan a trip to Vietnam, they either have to choose between Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) since they are at the northern and southern of the super long country. Many people will choose Hanoi since they can go to other places like Ha Long Bay and Sapa. That’s what I did in 2012, my first trip to Vietnam. When I went to Hanoi in 2012, it was really fun. I traveled with 2 of my very good friends and it was really fun. The highlight of the trip was its amazing food and coffee. Since then, every time I hear Vietnam, Vietnamese food and coffee come to my mind every time I hear Vietnam. But overall I wasn’t very impressed with what I saw and experienced in Hanoi. Since then I said, I would go back to Vietnam to eat Vietnamese food.A week ago, I went to Saigon and I didn’t have that much of high expectation. After all, I went to Vietnam to eat. But, it was a sweet surprise, I absolutely fell in love with Saigon.
So, which one should you go to? Well, it’s totally your choice and don’t rely on this blog. But I’m  bias; I’m team Saigon.
Food

Bun Thit Nuong ( Vietnamese grilled pork and rice noodles), Vietnamese sausages and rice noodles, and Banh Xeo (Vietnamese crepes)

Pho Bo (Vietnamese noodle soup with beef)

Bahn Mi with beef steak

Bahn Mi cart in Hanoi

Bun Cha (Vietnamese grilled pork and noodle with dipping sauce) – couldn’t find it in Saigon….saw everywhere in Hanoi

So no matter when you go in Vietnam, you’ll get to taste delicious Vietnamese food and coffee. Pho and Bahn Mi can be found just about any street corner and they are cheap and absolutely delicious.
Cafes

Vietnamese iced coffee vs. coffee with fresh milk

One of the modern cafes in Saigon


Hanoi’s coffee street


Vietnam has its strong coffee culture and there are thousands of great cafes. But busy and modern Saigon has more modern style cafes. They don’t typically serve food so we usually ate first and then headed to a café to relax. I usually have my coffee with fresh milk and I don’t like my coffee sweet. Also in the morning, I like my hot coffee, not iced coffee. But I tried Vietnamese iced coffee and they were pretty good. Typical Vietnamese drip coffee is served with condensed milk and when I asked for fresh milk instead of condensed milk, they looked at me like I was an alien and gave me a why-would-you- order- coffee –with- fresh- milk look. But I got my hot coffee with fresh milk in some of the cafes in Saigon.
People
Hanoi is the capital city of Vietnam and you will get to see traditional Vietnamese culture. People there are intense and conservative.
 People in Saigon are definitely friendlier than people from the north. Most people I met went above and beyond to help us. Our guides when we went to Cu Chi tunnels were great, friendly, knowledgeable, and well prepared. The people from the hotel we stayed were very helpful and friendly. While walking and exploring places in District 1, some Vietnamese women stopped me and warned me to be careful of bag snatchers. In Saigon, when I asked for coffee with fresh milk, although it sounded ridiculous for them, they did it for me anyway. I bought 2kg coffee beans at Phuc Long coffee shop, the electricity was out but one of the employees went out of his way and offered to take the coffee beans to another branch of Phuc Long to ground them.
To be continued 

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I ❤️ Pai

There’s just something about Pai. It is a place I had been longed to go for a while since I heard so many great things about this small town in northern Thailand. 

As soon as I arrived, I immediately fell in love with this charming little town. Some people may have never heard of Pai before, but they have been to Chiang Mai many times. If you go to Chiang Mai but not Pai, you are missing out. The easiest way to go to Pai is to use AYA mini van service and it’s the only one service running between Chiang Mai and Pai. If you buy the tickets straight from AYA, it’s 150 baht one way, but hotels and travel agents might add 20-30 baht extra. AYA service will come and pick you up from your hotel. Don’t be alarmed if they come and pick you up with a truck; they are just taking you to the bus station. It’s a three hours ride from Chiang Mai and the first hour and half is pretty uneventful. But over 700 curves await next hour and a half. My friend and I left around 8 from Chiang Mai, and I didn’t have breakfast before I left to prepare the windy roads up to Pai. It’s very scenic on the way, and the van drivers stopped only once for 15 minutes on the way.
Upon arriving in Pai, the van stopped at AYA Travel service and that’s where the city center of Pai is. Unlike Chiang Mai, there are no public transportation. So you only have 3 options to get around:_ rent a bike, rent a scooter, or rent a car. There are many package tours to choose and they are 500 baht. But if you have more than 2 people, the best way is to rent a car and it’s probably cheaper than buying package tours and you can go at your own pace.

From the city center to our hotel, it’s less than a kilometer and I knew that we could definitely walk. But since our bags are a little heavy, we willingly paid 100 baht to go to our hotel. The first day we just walked around the town and checked things out and had massage. Pai river is about 500 m from the city center and I’d like to stay at one of the rivers by Pai river next time.
The next day our driver picked us up from the hotel by 7:45 a.m. and took us to different famous spots in Pai. Yhun Lai view point was one of the highlights of the trip. The weather was cool and the view was stunning. However, if you are going up there on a motorcycle or a bike, it might be quite challenging. You need to pay an entrance fee of 20 baht and you get a pot of nice warm tea. Sipping the tea as you look out across the fields below is well worth 20 baht. It is one of the best place to see sunrise so make sure to go there in the morning.

From the view point, the driver took us to Santichon Chinese Village. It’s not a real village, but sort of like a tourist trap. So skip it; you won’t miss anything.
Then we were off to a waterfall. Mor Paeng waterfall was very quiet but very average. The waterfall was nothing compared to what one would see in Kanchanaburi.

There are more than one hot springs in Pai, but the main one is overpriced, 300 baht per person. The one we went is only 20 baht per person but smaller and quieter. It’s about 4 km from the main road and if I were on a motorcycle, I would not be able to make it as the road was very steep and challenging. The hot spring is not hot but warm. It was a nice experience but the bathrooms were quite small and filthy so I had a hard time changing clothes. I was told by some tourists there that the main hot spring is more developed but very crowded.
After lunch, the driver took us back to the town to see the famous spots in Pai. Most places were worth the visit except from The Heart of Pai, Pai Waan hotel, Strawberry Farm, and Tree House. The Heart of Pai is a upside down small house in front of The Hart of Pai hotel and not sure why it is a famous spot, but I could understand it might be fun to take a picture of a upside down house.
But I don’t get the point why one would go to Pai Waan resort to take a picture of pink color splashing all around the resort. Apparently it is popular with Chinese tourists as there were many of them taking pictures at the resort. Mari Pai is another resort witha giant tree and the swing. It’s lovely there but I would hate to stay at the resort because I don’t want to be intruded by tourists who are not the guests of the resorts walking around, making noises, and taking pictures. Then another stop at Coffee in Love, a coffee shop with a nice view; we stopped to take some pictures and also had coffee. We made a quick stop at Strawberry Farm which is not very impressive.
Pai Canyon is the place to go for sunset but since we were heading back to Chiang Mai on the 5:30 van, we went to Pai Canyon around 2. Man, it was hot! If you are into hiking, you should walk where the paths go down and less than an hour, you would be back to the point where you started. It is very small but could be very slippery when it rains and scary for those with fear of heights. I am into hiking so decided to go down the path and asked my friend if she wanted to join or wait. She decided to join me. When we got to a point where it requires taking a huge step or a jump from one ridge to the other side, she had a mild panic attack. I tried to calm her down, but it was my first time encountering someone with a panic attack so didn’t exactly know what to do or say. Finally we did finish and I was so glad to go back to the car with no injuries whatsoever.
After a quick stop at the World War II memorial bridge, we came to Tree House to get something to eat before we went back to Chiang Mai. The service there was terrible and they sure didn’t know what they serve. My friend ordered French toast and they brought 2 pieces of garlic bread insisting that was French toast.
Our last stop in Pai was Mae Yen (White Buddha on the hill). Although stopping at different “famous spots” was a little annoying, I enjoyed my time in Pai. My only disappointment was that I couldn’t go to Lod Cave, but that is my excuse to go back to Pai.
Obviously one night wasn’t enough and saying goodbye so soon was a little bittersweet. Hope to see you soon, Pai!

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Chiang Mai

Most people who have been to Chiang Mai love the city and I am one of them. I just got back from Chiang Mai a few days ago and it was my 4th time there and I’d love to go back again. Although I live here in Thailand, I like to play tourist and doing all kinds of fun things in Chiang Mai.
My friend and I arrived to Chiang Mai around 10:30 in the morning and after lunch, we walked around Tha Phe Gate area and explored many shops before the cooking class. Although I have been in Thailand for 8 years now, I had never done a cooking class before, so it was a great chance for me to try it. The ideal would be a morning cooking class, but because of the time, we took an evening cooking class with a market visit. There are so many cooking classes to choose from, but I wanted to make most of my time in Chiang Mai and didn’t want to waste my time trying to figure out which one to choose so I relied on Trip Advisor before I went to Chiang Mai and found this place called Siam Rice Cookery School. If you are interested, you can check out their website.
Evening class is from 4:30 p.m to 8:00 p.m and they will pick up people from different hotels and we arrived to the market around 4:45 p.m. The market visit was short and brief and it is actually not very useful if you don’t live in Thailand because you might not have wet markets like the ones in Thailand.
After the market visit, we went to the cooking school and started learning how to make Thai food. The instructor Nancy speaks very good English and she gave us easy to follow directions. The only complaint I have is that she used chicken seasoning powder and no matter what they write “No MSG” on the package, I have a hard time believing it. Aside from using chicken seasoning powder, I really enjoyed my experience at Siam Rice and I would recommend people to go there. We learned to make 5 dishes and Nancy was very flexible and she made an adjustment for those who didn’t want to make Thai desserts by teaching them how to make stir fried. There were also vegetarian options as well. You will get a certificate and recipe book at the end.
On our second day, we booked one day trekking tour with Travel Hub. Trekking and bamboo rafting were canceled due to the heavy rain from the night before, but we weren’t informed a head of time until we were ready to go back to the hotel. White water rafting was amazing and fun, but instead of 2 hours trekking to a waterfall, they took us to a small waterfall. Lunch was pretty bad and I regretted about doing elephant ridding because the elephants were chained and had to carry that heavy houdah (seat) on their back. Last time I was in Chiang Mai, I went to an elephant camp, it was a different experience and I wasn’t thinking clearly when I signed up. When I got back to the hotel, I complained to Travel Hub about the trekking and bamboo rafting being canceled. As expected, Travel Hub didn’t operate the trip but another tour company. But they took the responsibility and they refunded us 300 baht per person which I didn’t expect they would refund. 

But overall white water rafting made the whole day worth it. 

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In ❤️ with coconut oil 

Have you got a boyfriend yet? Are you dating? Have you found someone special? Are you in love? When are you getting married? Those are the questions I have been bombarded with since I got home for the summer vacation. Unlike other summer, I am spending almost 2 months with my parents here in Yangon. Because of my longer stay here in Yangon, I try to see friends and relatives I don’t normally get to see during other holidays. 

My favorite question recently was “are you in love?” 

Most people assume that singles are sad and lonely people because they are missing the other half. But I live whole and happy life and I am truly, madly, and deeply in love. But not with a person but with coconut oil. (Sorry, this post isn’t about my life as a single but it is about how much I am in love with coconut oil :))

I’m in love with coconut oil!!! 😊
I’ve been in this relationship with coconut oil for over 3 years and until death do us part, I am not leaving coconut oil for any other oil. 

Coconut oil has caused no harm to me since I started using it and I am more and more in love with coconut oil every day. Coconut oil is my …..

Body scrub:

A little bit of coconut oil can be applied before using body scrub. I also make my own body scrub by mixing coconut oil with sea salt.
Shaving cream:
Just rub coconut oil onto skin, and shave. No more shaving cream. 
Body lotion:
After shower, rub coconut oil in hands to warm it up and the use it instead of body lotion. 
Cuticle oil:
I use coconut oil as cuticle oil because of it is anti-fungal and anti-bacterial. Rub the oil into cuticles to get healthy nails.
Hand lotion:
After washing dishes, I go straight to coconut oil and use it as my hand lotion. It works within a minute. 
Makeup remover:
I’ve been using coconut oil as my makeup remover for 3 years. Say no to make up remover because most of them are alcohol based and they will make your skin really dry. 
 Night cream:
After washing my face with coconut oil, I use coconut oil again as my night cream. Just one or two drops to your face and it will keep your skin hydrate while you sleep. 
 Lip balm: 
If you use it as night cream, why not as lip balm, too.
See!!! That’s how much I love coconut oil and I can’t take my eyes off on coconut oil. Since I use coconut oil, I said goodbye to shaving cream, body and hand lotions, and makeup remover. Thank you coconut oil! ❤️

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Unwanted gift 

People like receiving gifts in general. But people don’t necessarily like the gifts they receive and they also react differently.A couple of weeks ago, I received an ukulele as a gift from a brother in Christ. I like the gift I received so much. But more than the gift I was so appreciative that someone I consider as my own little brother thought carefully about the gift that I would really like. A few months ago, I was telling him that I was planning to learn ukulele but since then I didn’t mention anything at all to him. It was like you still remembered our conversation. This is an example of receiving a gift I love from someone I love.

Many years back, my dad gave me a digital clock as a gift. I wasn’t thrilled to receive a clock but I knew that it would be useful so I used it for many years until it stoppped working. But the clock was from my dad and I’ve been using it for many years that I’ve attached to the clock. But I love the giver of the gift that I keep the clock although it is not longer useful anymore.

But there are many gifts I received that I don’t necessarily find the gifts useful and I also don’t have a personal relationship with the giver of the gifts that I don’t feel like keeping them. When I find someone who would use them, I give them. Sometimes, I have to throw them away because so many junks are accumulating in my room. 

God is the giver of good gifts. In Matthew 7:11,it says, “So if you sinful people know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give good gifts to those who ask him.” It is His nature of God that He gives good gifts to his children. Based on Matthew 19:11, Jesus was saying that singleness is a gift and Apostle Paul mentioned again in 1 Corithians 7:6-9 that singleness is a gift to some people. 

This gift is something I received until now and I am not thrilled about it. If I have a choice, I would give it back to God gladly. But I trust the giver of this gift that He is a good good father and by His nature, He does what is best for us, not what is easiest for us. And His plans are better than mine. God knows what He is doing. So although I wasn’t thrilled to receive and I have no other choice so I started using this gift by actively involving in different activites. I am surprised that I found myself saying to a friend a few days ago that “I am starting to believe that singleness is a gift.” I like it I can actively involve in different ministries at church without any distractions and without asking permission from any one else. I can also travel to many places with my single friends and live a carefree life. 

Ecclesiastes 3:1 says, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven.” Whether singleness is a season or for life, it surely is a gift. Trust the giver of the gift and believe that He only gives the good gift for His children. I am using the gift wisely for His kingdom and learning to be thankful everyday for His gift. 

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Church, the bride of Christ 

Recently I had a conversation with a friend and it was mostly about people leaving church for various reasons. Some have turned their backs on church because of some awkward conversations and insensitive comments they have received from the people in the church. Some people don’t necessarily turn their backs on church, but Sunday mornings are for sleeping in because the whole week has been filled with so many things. 
It saddens me to see that my brothers and sisters, whom once actively involved in church, have turned their backs  toward church and they only come to church once a while or they don’t show up at all. 
I am not blaming nor judging them for stop attending the church. It’s true that some people from church are judgmental and they have made hurtful comments knowingly or unknowingly. But why do they make such hurtful comments intentionally or unintentionally? 
Some people have made choices that the Bible clearly mentions is sin and if you have been walking in that path, others will make comments and ask questions that will make them uncomfortable. The truth hurts especially when you point out the truth without love. Those who have made choices out of flesh don’t want to be reminded that they aren’t walking according to the bible.
I see the problems in both sides but I have no real solutions. It’s not like I take sides blindly, but I want to stand for the church, the bride of Christ. The church has been the home for sinners like you and me and when we start judging others, people don’t see us as individuals but they see the church and overgeneralize that Christians are judgmental. The bride of Christ have been beaten up and tear down by its own people and some have left the church. 
Every church has its own problems and there’s no perfect church on earth. But even with all the drama and problems, I love the church. Through those challenges, I experience the unending grace of God that He is still using imperfect people. He is using those moments to teach us there is no perfect church on earth and the heaven is our ultimate home. 
Although we will never find a perfect church here on earth, I believe with all my heart that it is very important that every believer should be a part of a spiritual family, local church. I have come up with some of the reasons why I would not leave a church even when I have been hurt by another person in the church.
Church for me is a spiritual family and like every family, there will be problems, but you don’t leave your family every time you have been hurt by your brothers and sisters.
Church is also the bride of Christ. At a wedding, the bride should be the center of attention and her bridesmaids should help and support any way they can to make the bride feel special. If the bride has a wardrobe malfunction, her bridesmaids should find a way to help instead of tearing her down, making fun of her, and leaving the wedding. Likewise if there’s a problem at church, we shouldn’t be judging or making fun; we should support the church.

Like your family members, church is sometimes a pain in the neck. I’m not saying that we should never leave a local church. There’ll be a time when God will say us specifically to join another local church. But we shouldn’t just leave a church just because someone in the church is annoying us. 

If we focus more on our creator God’s grace, mercy, and love, we’ll be able to tell the truth in love when we need to correct our brothers and sisters. Then we’ll less likely hurt our own brothers and sisters. I personally believe that I don’t need to judge unless it comes from the Holy Spirit. 
Church might make us uncomfortable but better is one day at His house than a thousand elsewhere.

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Singapore (Part 2) – “The view’s a whole lot better second time around.”

Next stop after the lunch at Naughty Nuri’s was to the famous Peninsula Plaza aka Little Burma. The 97% of the plaza is filled with Burmese owned businesses and it looked and smelled like as if I was back home in Burma. People have different kinds of craving when it comes to food and they would pay crazy amount of money just to have a taste of home.

  

On Saturday evening I looked up on the Internet to go to Joseph Prince’s church. I don’t necessarily follow Christian celebrities but I am also not against them. I believe that God is using different people to advance His Kingdom. A friend recommended me to check out Joseph Prince’s church in Singapore so I was a bit curious. But I was very disappointed by the information I saw on the website. There were no seats available for that Sunday. Shouldn’t church be available for everyone? I understand about limited space but something wasn’t right. So next morning I attended Every Nation church in Harbor front. I arrived there a bit early so I had my  brunch. Laksa from the food court was a disappointment that after two or three bites, I couldn’t make myself to eat anymore. I was about to give up on Singaporean food at that point, but thanks to Golden Lava French toast made with salted egg yolk from Toast Box; it saved my morning and I have become an official fan of salted egg yolk by the time I left Singapore. 

 


After church, I met up with a friend for lunch and wandered around China town. From China Town, I went to Little India and realized that not every part of Singapore follow the strict rules. It was fun and interesting to walk around Little India and I wished I wasn’t so full from lunch as it would have been fun to train someIndian food. But my stomach had no room even for a cup of chai tea. 

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