TRAVEL: Sri Lanka (2018)

I love going away on a holiday for my birthday. What’s a better way to spend the day than being away from work, relaxing under the warm sun, and enjoying good food and good company?

To be honest, Sri Lanka was not my first choice of destination for my birthday this year. I was hoping to spend some time in Melbourne (or any city in Australia) instead. But after watching some travel videos on Youtube and some convincing from my partner, I decided to give it a go.

Now, I’m completely sold and I am already looking forward to returning for another trip. My favourite things about Sri Lanka are the friendly locals, the delicious curries, and their aromatic teas. I am not a huge travel blogger, but I thought it would be nice to share some of the places we went to, things we did in, outfits I wore and snaps I took…

Colombo

We spent only 1 night in Colombo and I’m sure that’s all you need. Colombo is such a large, busy city and we just didn’t think we needed that since we were coming from Singapore! Our first dinner was at a Sri Lankan buffet at Nuga Gama at the Cinnamon Grand Hotel where we discovered hoppers and my love for unsweetened ginger tea. It’s a little pricey compared to everything else you could have (since it’s located in a hotel), but it was such a beautiful alfresco dining experience and it gave us a good introduction to Sri Lankan cuisine for us.

Kandy

Mountbatten Bungalow

Our first meal at Mountbatten Bungalow

We travelled to Kandy from Colombo via the train. Our first class tickets were purchased in advance via the Visit Sri Lankan Tours website. After we arrived in Kandy, we took a tuk-tuk to get to our accommodation, the Mountbatten Bungalow. This is where we spent most of our time in Kandy.

Breakfast at the Bungalow

There’s a pool and fully-equipped kitchen. Everything we needed was available here (WiFi included) and we enjoyed all the hours we spent lazing at the pool under the sun. Of course, I also spent some time to knit my Beauty School Turban (pattern by Amy Appel on Ravelry) by the poolside!

Galle

The Lighthouse

Our next big stop was Galle Fort. We travelled from Kandy back to Colombo via train, and then hired a car to take us to Galle from the Colombo Railway Station. We would have loved to enjoy a scenic train ride from Colombo to Galle. Alas, the timing didn’t match up and we didn’t have many days planned our for this entire trip, so a hired car was the most time efficient method of travelling.

Knitting my turban outside our room at Rampart View Guesthouse in the morning light

We stayed at the Rampart View Guesthouse, in a cosy room that was located right next to the fort. We loved taking walks along the fort in the morning and watching the sunset in the evening.

Hoppers and roti at Galle Fort, Sri Lanka

There were also many restaurants and cafes that are worth visiting within the fort. My favourite tea place was a little “dive” tea shop called Royal Dutch Cafe. They were so many different types of tea available from the menu, and the tea I ordered came in a beautiful teapot in red and gold. Of course, the tea was brewed to perfection, like all the other pots of tea I had in Sri Lanka.

Unawatuna Beach

We also spent an afternoon at the Unawatuna Beach near Galle where I got harassed by a little monkey kept in chains called “Lala” and bought some peanuts from a toothless septuagenarian.

Matara

While we were in Galle Fort, we realised that we had more time in the area than we thought, so we decided to take a little day trip out of Galle to another nearby town. We ended up taking a train to Matara for a walk along the beach and some restaurants. As we didn’t have any train tickets booked beforehand, we ended up purchasing second-class tickets which was only about SGD0.70 each.

Check out the metal straw they use at The Doctor’s House!

Butter Chicken Woodfire Pizza xoxox

We had a delicious lunch at The Doctor’s House and briefly discussed the possibility of us abandoning our city lives and live in a quiet town like Matara. The conclusion was that we simply could not live the life of a beach bum.

And so, here we are, back at our city lives in Singapore.

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TRAVEL: Vietnam (2015)

Ho Chi Minh City Hall, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam - Love the French colonial architecture style of this building

Ho Chi Minh City Hall, Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

If you follow me on Instagram @gwenstellamade, you would have seen several photos of my adventures in Vietnam a few weeks ago. Yes, my boyfriend and I went on a 9-day trip to Vietnam and it was such a good trip! One of the best things about being a Singaporean and living in Singapore is the ability to travel southeast Asian countries easily and quickly. Most destinations are just a few hours away on the plane and there is no need for a visa.

There are so many things we did and ate on the trip, here’s just a selection of some of the memorable moments I managed to capture in photo.

These retro floor tiles caught my eye while my boyfriend was getting his feet measured for a pair of custom-made leather shoes. He got a pair of simple brown shoes made to measure for USD50.

Retro floor tiles, Hoi An, Vietnam

These retro floor tiles caught my eye while my boyfriend was getting his feet measured for a pair of custom-made leather shoes. He got a pair of simple brown shoes made to measure for USD50.

Reaching Out Tea House, Hoi An, Vietnam

Reaching Out Tea House, Hoi An, Vietnam

It’s no surprise that I found my way into a teahouse while on a holiday. This teahouse hired people with hearing impairment and the entire teahouse is a sanctuary for people who want to get away from the busy market streets just for a while.

Dinner against the beautiful sunset

Dinner against the beautiful sunset, Hoi An, Vietnam

Did I forget to mention that this trip was also part of my birthday celebration? My boyfriend booked a sunset dinner cruise with Cinnamon Cruises in Hoi An for my birthday dinner. We were lucky because there happened to be NO ONE ELSE on the same boat with us.

Shopping for craft supplies, Hanoi, Vietnam

Shopping for craft supplies, Hanoi, Vietnam

And then boom! We were in Hanoi and there was a street with every single store selling craft supplies like zippers and beads! As you can see, I was a very happy girl.

Street banh mi stall, Hanoi, Vietnam

Street banh mi stall, Hanoi, Vietnam

In Hanoi, our search for the best banh mi (aka Vietnamese cold cut sandwich) began. It wasn’t this streetside stall. Get your best cold cut traditional banh mi for just 1USD at Banh My Ba Dan on 34 Lò Sū.

Hanoi springrolls freshly fried in a cooking class, Hanoi, Vietnam

Hanoi springrolls freshly fried in a cooking class, Hanoi, Vietnam

These fried Hanoi spring rolls were so tasty and easy to make! I can’t wait to try the recipe we learnt in our cooking class now that we’re back home.

Tam Coc, Vietnam

Tam Coc, Vietnam

And because we got weary of the busy streets of Hanoi, we also spent a day in Tam Coc. The tour guide described it as touring Ha Long Bay on land. He was wrong. We travelled around the rice fields and countryside with Ha Long Bay in the background.. on rickety bicycles.

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

Ha Long Bay, Vietnam

And of course, we travelled to Ha Long Bay by boat to see the UNESCO World Heritage site up-close and personal. We travelled and stayed overnight with ANNAM JUNK which kept us well-fed with 8 – 9 course meals. I will never forget the experience of kayaking along one of these limestone beauties.

Coconut coffee smoothie in Cong Caphe, Hanoi, Vietnam

Coconut coffee smoothie in Cong Caphe, Hanoi, Vietnam

Last but not least, this coconut coffee smoothie has got me hooked! I have never been a coffee drinker, but this little devil has got me wanting more. Does anyone have any good coconut coffee smoothie recipe to share?

And there you go, that’s my little adventure in Vietnam.

Have you travelled to Vietnam? What was your most memorable experience?

 

xo G