Changi Beach Vibes

I’ve been saying forever that I want to explore Singapore’s Changi area more.  And yet it’s somewhere I’ve still not seemed to reach.  Until now.  A ten to fifteen minute cab ride from Changi Airport, you find a very different side of Singapore.  A welcome distraction from the glitz of Orchard Road or the overpriced drinks of the Quays.  I almost feel reluctant to tell you about it.  It’s Changi Beach.

Tapping my EZLink card on the POS machine to pay for my fare (so handy), I hop out of the cab.  I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect upon arriving here, so I’m not sure where to head first.  The waterfront seems like a good idea.  A wooden boardwalk overlooks a jumble of boats, gently bobbing with the tide.  This is Changi Point Ferry Terminal and these boats will willingly whisk you away to Pulau Ubin (which I STILL haven’t made it to…).  All you have to do is wait til there’s enough people to fill the boat.  It’s a couple of bucks per ride, plus a little more if you are taking a bike with you, and the boats hold twelve people.  It’s all cash operated and there are no set departure times.

Ferry Terminal
Ferry Terminal
Idyllic
Idyllic

Alongside the terminal, is the Changi Point Coastal Walk, an easy 2.2km scenic walk.  Opposite the terminal, a small concrete bridge leads you to Changi Beach Park.  Here you’ll find a massive hand pointing to the sky (no idea what that’s about) and the site of the Changi Beach Massacre.  This place is relaxing and there are people dotted across the shoreline, enjoying each others company, fishing or just strolling.

Changi Beach Sculpture
Which way?
Changi Beach Massacre Plaque
Changi Beach Massacre Plaque

But if you aren’t heading out to Pulau Ubin (PU), or looking to chill along the beach, there’s plenty of places to eat.  It was hard to decide where to head for really.  The beachfront grill with the cool live tunes?  Or one of the no-doubt awesome local eateries which line the village or back up the road to the very retro Coastal Settlement?  But the afternoon heat was rolling in and as I lifted my sunnies to wipe away the sweat, one word caught my eye.  “Brewing”.  This word belonged to the Little Island Brewing Company and once I’d spotted that word, there was no turning back.

At LIBC, you purchase a card and top it up with cash and then you are ready to tap and drink from a range of local brews.

Little Island Brewing Co. Drinks Card
Little Island Brewing Co. Drinks Card

They also have a fair sized menu and lots of space to chill. And the beer is pretty damn good!

LIBC Brew
LIBC Brew

It’s definitely a place I’d love to come back to; perhaps next time I’ll be boarding one of those boats for my illusive PU trip!

Challenging the Norm About Pricey Singapore

Whenever I go to Singapore (haha, like ALL the time), people say to me “but Singapore’s so expensive!”.  I always answer like this:

Well, Number 1 – I come from Perth, so it doesn’t seem that expensive to me, about the same prices but with loads more choice, culture, art and things to do.

And Number 2 – You can actually make it as expensive or inexpensive as you like.  As long as you embrace the Singapore that is hiding away from glitzy Orchard Road.

Writing this article, I guessed it was time to put my money where my mouth is and given my current (un)employment situation, I am doing Singapore on the cheap.  Wanna know more?  Read on!

First things first – arrival.  Usually when I reach Changi Airport, I grab a cab to my hotel, which costs around SGD$25-30 (around the same cost in AUD).  However, given my tight budget this time around, I decided to make use of the new MRT line that runs from the airport into the city.  It’s not the most fuss free journey as you do have to stop at Tanah Merah and change lines, however for a couple of bucks, it suits me fine.

Next, where to stay in Singapore that won’t break the bank?

I scored a great deal and am paying just $12 for my two night stay at the Naumi Liora.  How on earth can I do that?  Well, I actually had a fair few Agoda Points saved up which allowed me to save big!  Ok, well not everyone may have Agoda Points and that’s fine – I like using Agoda for this reason, that because I do a bit of travel, the points do add up and it pays dividends for me.

You can still stay in Singapore without breaking the bank though.  How?

AirBNB is taking off in Singapore and the great thing about this is you can score yourself an apartment for a great price AND get to experience Singapore local style by staying in the suburbs.  Of course, there are plenty of apartments in the CBD as well.

Singapore has some great options in the way of hostels – over 83 of them in fact.  Check out a website like www.hostelworld.com and take a look at the options.

There are some great little hotels that are a little off the beaten track.  I hear you, you want to be near all the action, but honestly with Singapore’s amazing transport system, it won’t take you that long to get anywhere if you need to save some cash.  Besides, there’s more to Singapore than just Orchard Road.

Keep an eye out on accommodation websites like Agoda or Booking.com because you can honestly get some great deals.  I have stayed in some quite expensive hotels for around $200 per night because of a great deal.

Of course if you want a swimming pool, in-house dining options and to be right on the steps of an MRT station, then chances are you will be paying more.  A lot more.

My hotel, the Naumi Liora is housed in a gorgeously renovated heritage building, a row of Chinatown’s famous five footway buildings in fact.  I have a Heritage Single room which would normally retail for around SGD$150 per night.  It’s 2 MRT stops from Sentosa, close to Clarke Quay and Chinatown and a host of other places because of the MRT stops nearby.

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The room is not large, but I’m not here to spend all day in a room the size of the Taj Mahal, I come to explore and get out and about, so I don’t care how big the room is, only how comfy the bed is at the end of the day.

There is no pool and there’s no in-house dining.  BUT there’s a cool little snack bar with chips, biscuits, coffee and tea in the reception area and a quaint little garden area to chill.  AND there’s loads of restaurants and cafes around the area, so you really don’t need in-house dining.

Speaking of dining, it’s the price of alcohol that is likely to blow your budget the most in Singapore.  Grabbing a beer from a hotel or bar in Singapore can set you back about SGD$13 for a 330mL can/bottle so you’ll be enraptured at finding a long neck for about half the price here in Chinatown (try the Chinatown Seafood Restaurant on Pagoda Street).

Breakfast in Singapore doesn’t start until late (think 10/11am at most establishments) if you are after a Western Style meal.  But you can eat like a local at a much earlier time and for a much cheaper price if you head to a food centre – think under $5 against $20 for a cafe meal.  There’s also places like Kopitiam and Ya Kun Kaya Toast, where you’ll find just that (coffee, tea and kaya toast) for a decent price.  The best thing about all of these options is that you’ll be eating local.

There’s a bunch of things to do for free or next to nothing in Singapore.  Wander through Gardens by the Bay (you’ll need to pay to enter the domes), head to the Botanic Gardens for a picnic, stroll through one of the amazing ethnic quarters, watch a light show over the marina or head over to Sentosa Island (you’ll only need to pay for island admission).  Sometimes the museums and galleries will have a free entry day or if you are lucky enough to be in Singapore during one of the few open days – you can check out the beautiful grounds of the Istana.  Picking up an icecream from one of the carts along Orchard Road will only set you back about $1.20.  Plus, it doesn’t cost money to window shop.

So I start my second day in Singapore with no particular agenda, simply wandering the streets.  I really love the area that this hotel is in – full of beautiful heritage buildings with funky little shops popping up.  I meander through the streets taking in the day and watching people go about their lives on the little red dot.

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Before long I come across a little cafe called Free the Robot, which reminds me that I haven’t had breakfast.  I order up one of their sandwiches and their own brew iced coffee and grab a seat outside along the five footway.

Nice and full, I step inside the Indian Muslim Heritage Museum just up the road.  The museum has an interesting array of items and notes explaining the lives of the Indian Muslims in Singapore.  It’s a relatively new museum in Singapore, only having opened in 2015.

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Next stop is the National Gallery of Singapore.  This gallery is also new to Singapore having only recently opened and I especially want to see the Wu Ghuangzhou exhibit.  Unfortunately the exhibit is closed and being reconfigured but entry to the gallery today is free so I take the time to wander around and enjoy the works.  I think Singapore does galleries well and this one is no exception.

When visiting the National Gallery, you must go up to the roof area, especially for the views over the Padang and across to Marina Bay.

After spending a few hours at the Gallery, I reckon it’s about time for lunch and one place I’ve been dying to try for years now is Lau Pa Sat.  Also known as Telok Ayer Market, LPS is a food court nestled under a beautiful iron roof in the CBD.  Here you can wander around and choose whatever food takes your fancy before grabbing a seat under the fans to relax and chow down.  Plus you can get a great meal for an absolute fraction of the price of a western restaurant.  My meal came to around around $8 or so and that was for a beef and rice dish with soup and a pint of beer.

The rest of the afternoon I spent simply wandering, jumping on a train to Orchard Road to do some book shopping and just unwinding and getting ready for the trip home tomorrow.  Wine helps me do that, so I head to Clarke Quay to a little place called SQUE, which I frequent quite frequently for its drink specials.  This is usually a great place to grab 2-for-1 wines, beers or other drinks depending on the day and it has outdoor seating so you can sit opposite the colourful Clarke Quay and watch out over the river.

Yep, I think I’m ready to go home tomorrow…and boy, I can’t wait to work.

 

 

 

 

Christmas Road

Townhouse 50 has a great little breakfast.  There are fresh fruits and little spring rolls and dim sum, plus you get to choose one of a couple different main meals – usually some kind of eggs.  I’ve enjoyed my stay in this cute little place.

Several hours later, I arrive in Singapore and because of my budget constraints, I’m doing everything on the super cheap, which includes catching the train from the airport to my hotel.  By the time I arrive at the Naumi Liora, stepping in chewing gum along the way, I feel like the wreck of the Hesperus and am beginning to wish I’d sprung for a cab.  My room has the tiniest bathroom you’ve ever seen and I wonder if I’ll actually be able to get in the shower at all.  I do, and I emerge freshly cleaned and ready to explore the streets.

Being close to Christmas, the lights are strung up across Orchard Road, glittering away for all to see.  For six weeks each year, Orchard Road becomes a wonderland of twinkling lights, Christmas trees, stars and reindeers.  Each years display is different and more dazzling than the last.  This is my 3rd Christmas visit and it never fails to exite me like a little child.  I wish we had displays like this back home in Perth.

For dinner I jump on the MRT and head to Chinatown Food Street.  For a few years now, there’s been a salted egg yolk craze and each time I’ve tried to track down something to try, I’ve been out of luck.  I’m not leaving this time til I succeed, so it’s a good thing when I see a stall with salted egg yolk fried chicken.  Not the healthiest, but…oh well, you know.

The first thing I notice is that it’s incredibly salty.  And a little dry.  And probably should have some rice or something else with it.  When I think nobody is looking to notice that I’m leaving half a plate of food behind, I duck off to head back to my hotel.  After all the fresh flavours of Vietnam, this dish is just way too heavy and overpowering to make any great impressions on my palate.

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On the way, I spy an icecream stand with some interesting flavours on offer.  Chili crab icecream would be a fantastic thing to try, I think to myself, handing over a couple of dollars.

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Until I swallow the first spoonful and realise that no, no it is not.  I’ve really struck out with my menu choices tonight, which is strange for Singapore.  Maybe it’s just me and a good night’s sleep will fix everything.

Shopping Saigon

Today I have no plans but to explore the bustling city of Saigon.  I have no idea where I am going or what I will see, I merely pop in and out of shops as they call to me and explore what’s inside.  The only thing I know I must do is to try Avocado Coffee, so I head towards Shelter Coffee & Tea’s tiny little shop at 13 Lê Thánh Tôn, with little detours along the way.

The busy streets give way to a quieter area in District 1, which contains Japantown.  Here is where you’ll find this little green monster.  Sinh To Bo.

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I place my order at the cash register and then head up the narrowest little staircase to a seating area upstairs.  I am the only one here so I take the opportunity to spread my arms above my head and try and fan my armpits under the aircon.  It’s so hot outside that I am sweating rivers.  I’ve just about run out of tissues to mop myself up with.

In no hurry, my coffee arrives.  It looks like a cup of vomit, I won’t lie and it takes a few deep breaths and a stern talking to, to actually lift the cup to my mouth and drink.  But when I do, I am pleasantly surprised.  It’s a thick, rich texture almost as though it has icecream in it and it tastes sweet, I’m assuming from condensed milk.  It really is very yummy in actual fact and I pat myself on the back for being such a brave girl.

After a bit more wandering I come across a modern looking mall – it happens to be Parkson.  The blasting aircon inside makes me decide that this is where I’ll find lunch today.  Whatever it is, I will eat it in the icy cold aircon, so my pants will have a chance to unstick themselves from my legs.

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On a food floor of the mall, I come by a restaurant serving local dishes and decide that’s fine by me.  I still haven’t tried banh xeo and lucky for me, it’s on the menu.  What I’m not expecting is such a massive crispy pancake that could actually feed two people.  It looks absolutely delicious though, with a scattering of perfectly fresh herbs and salad leaves that I give it a really good go.  Banh xeo is made of a rice batter, which is then stuffed with bean sprouts, pork, shrimp and green onions, along with the herbs and salad greens that have accompanied it.  Somehow you tear some off and incorporate the herbs while trying to dip it into a beautiful light dressing and trying not to let the whole thing crumble in a mess before it gets to your mouth.  But when you do finally get it there, it’s a true taste explosion.  I love this lunch.  I later find out it’s meant to feed a family.  Oops.

Probably because of the huge amount of food I’ve just eaten, I suddenly feel quite tired and weary and could quite easily head back to the hotel for an afternoon nap.  But I spy a nail salon and looking down at my poor feet, I decide I will treat myself.  You know who won’t be getting a treat?  The poor girl that has to repair these wrecks.  The weeks of trudging along dirty, rain-soaked streets and lack of scrubbing brush or proper soaking facilities means that they look absolutely filthy, my toenails are caked with dirt and my heels are cracking.  But she does a hell of a job and in no time at all, they almost look amazing.  The pedicure takes around an hour and only costs me around AUD$30.  I pay her quite a tip in compensation for the possibility that she will never be able to unsee my feet in her nightmares and head towards the hotel for cocktail hour.

Tomorrow, I depart Vietnam for a few days of unwinding in that good old second home of mine.  Reflecting, I now feel like I’ve seen enough of Saigon and I’m happy to leave her behind for greener pastures, but I’m glad I came back to see her on my own terms.

Return to the Mekong

Thought I’d finished with the Mekong on this trip?  Well, not quite.  I’m about to board a bus to visit the Mekong Delta with Urban Adventures doing all the hard work.  The meeting point for today is outside the stunning Saigon Opera House, so I get a glimpse of some of Saigon’s beautiful french colonial style buildings while I wait.

My guide for the day is Thanh and he seems like a great guy.  Jumping on a minibus, we head off for the village of My Tho, about 2.5 hours away from Saigon.  I love getting out of the city.  These days always end up the best, so I can’t wait to see what today has in store for me.  I watch the streetscape change and flash glimpses of everyday life at me through the bus window as we move further and further away from the city.

Once we reach My Tho, it’s a short boat ride to the start of our journey through the Mekong Delta.  The Mekong Delta consists of many islands Today, we will visit two – Con Phung (or Phoenix) and Thoi Son (or Unicorn).

Exotic fruit abounds when we enter the clearing on Thoi Son.  Hot pink dragonfruit, spikey pineapples and ripening bananas great our eyes and after Thanh shows us how to carry a traditional bamboo pole basket across his shoulders, we take a seat to enjoy some tea and a plate of beautiful tropical fruit which includes dragonfruit, pineapple, mango and pawpaw.  Nearby a small group of musicians perform traditional songs.

Cacao tasting is also on the agenda as we pass by a fallen fruit.  Thanh breaks it open and we get to pull off one of the seeds and suck off the white pulp covering the seed, which tastes kind of tangy.

Wandering over the rough pathways of the village gives us a good glimpse of life on the island.

Honey awaits us at our next stop.  Here, we are given nut snacks and a taste of local honey liquor which tastes amazing.  Strong, but amazing.  This is one of many cottage industries that help sustain life in the Mekong Delta.

Our visit to Phoenix Island starts with a Cotton Candy making business.  We are shown how the coconuts are shredded by machine and heated to become toffee-like before being sliced and wrapped and eventually sold to a customer.  The cotton candy comes in a bunch of different flavours including ginger and coffee and tastes yummy.  The process was really interesting to watch.

Xe Loi are a kind of motorised cart.  We are handed out helmets…very sexy helmets…

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…and climb aboard for our next stop.  It’s such a fascinating ride and a great way to see the island, even if the ride is a little bumpy at times.

We head through the end of town and out on to some even smaller, more rural roads.  It feels like we are speeding along due to the bumpy ride and the tiny pathways we are travelling on.  We dodge tree branches (hence the helmets) and narrowly miss crumbled pathways.  And then all of a sudden, there are three xe lois.  What happens now?

So much fun!!  We do safely arrive at our lunch destination though and dish after amazing dish of food is bought out for us to enjoy, along with nice cold beers.  The restaurant is a couple of large outdoor pavillions with tables and chairs so can still enjoy the outdoors, with chickens running amok nearby.  The rain has started, but we have plastic raincoats and full bellies and we are having an awesome day.

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Leaving the restaurant behind – I could have sat there for much longer – but our time is coming to an end.  We walk down narrow concrete steps to some wooden sampans lined up against the dock and begin our paddle down the Mekong towards the bigger boat.  I’m not going to lie, getting from the sampan to the boat was a little nervewracking, but we all managed just fine.

With everyone safely back on the ferry to My Tho, Thanh hands out fresh coconuts, shell partially removed, straws inserted, for us to sip.

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And with that, the day is over, and we are back on the minibus and heading back to Saigon.  This has been the best.day.ever.  Well, not quite, but close.  Very close.

Cảm O’n Vung Tau

Emboldened by the lack of illness from the Ca Phe Den with ice that I had for breakfast yesterday, and despite the constant drizzle of rain today, I head back to Bistro 9 to try the Ca Pha Sua Da – Vietnamese coffee with milk (and ice) and am rewarded with yet another delicious cup of wake-me-up.

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Watching the construction work take place at the Rex Hotel across the road, I sit in stunned contemplation.  Safety is certainly not a priority here as the helmetless foreman, cigarette in hand, leans over a window opening (no safety harness) to direct a truck that is back up below.  Another helmetless worker dumps wheelbarrows full of concrete rubble over a similar window opening (again no harness) into the truck, three stories below, rubble and dust freefalling down the front of the construction.

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Back home, that job would have been stopped – or rather, it wouldn’t have even started when the workers rocked up sans safety boots.  A harness carrying sacks of cemet is pulled up to another window, swaying madly and on an angle.

The rain seems to have settled in, and with nothing much more I want to do out in the heat, I people watch from my hotel window, watching people go about their Monday morning.

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I bid farewell to Moon and Uncle G at the dock, having had a really nice time, and board the ancient Russian ferry back to Saigon.

My next hotel is a cute little place called Townhouse 50, not far from the Ben Thahn Markets, which I have no intention of visiting.  My last trip here consisted of a t-shirt and knickers hunt after my luggaged failed to arrive in Vietnam at the same time as I did, so I consider my trip to the markets done.

What I didn’t get to see was the War Remnants Museum and that is particularly what I wanted to visit this time around.  There’s plenty of time to do that this afternoon, so I take  a deep breath and head out onto the crazy streets of Saigon.  Its quite the journey trying to find my way amongst the maze of streets, dodging scooters that have decided to ride on the footpath and trying not to stack it on broken, upended bits of concrete, but I finally make it.

Four floors of exhibitions relating to what the Vietnamese refer to as the “American War”, and all of them packed with tourists.  Tourists going the wrong way around the exhibition, tourists standing in front of exhibits for way too long while bigger and bigger groups of tourists cluster around them…I should have known better.  Normally, I would grin and bear it but for some reason today, it is really grating on me.  I just can’t make the most of my time here and I’m annoyed (in hindsight, I should have returned early one morning before everyone else like I normally do instead of braving the afternoon session).

So I return to the hotel area instead and make it in time for happy hour at the MZ Wine Restaurant.  I’ll start exploring tomorrow.

A Reason for Cold Showers

How was your bath? you ask.

COLD.  It was cold.  I turned on the taps, popped in some bubble bath, cracked myself a cold drink and was all ready to get in the bath when my toe realised that this was not the haven of relaxation I was after.  Oh dear, the bath will have to wait.  Luckily, it’s so freakin hot in Vung Tau that a cold shower doesn’t really matter.

I’ve got one last day of exploring in Vung Tau because tomorrow I head back to Ho Chi Minh.

For breakfast I’ve had enough of eggs, which is basically what I’ve been living off for breakfast and dinner the last couple of days.  I’m so sick of eggs.  So sick of them in fact, that I throw my freshly cooked ones into the bin and head to the streets in search of a ‘real breakfast’.  Bistro 9 comes to my rescue.  With an omelette.

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It’s a really good omelette though.  Throwing caution to the wind, I also order a Ca Phe Den – black Vietnamese coffee.  With Ice.  Yes, I know, don’t drink anything with ice in it.  But you know what, it feels ok here and let’s face it, the hotel is just around the corner if I need to spend the rest of the day there.  And besides, it’s delicious.

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This morning Uncle G is taking me to the Worldwide Arms Museum.  Robert Taylor managed to amass an enormous collection of uniforms, models and weapons from across all wars and all 52 years worth of collecting are now on display here.  Entry is 100,000 dong and the museum is set in a beautiful colonial building.  An army of handsome male models proudly display war time uniforms of different countries and eras, adorned with massive furry hats, pompoms and pouffs, heavy wollen coats and skirts – all of which would be heatstroke-inducing in this climate.

There are rare firearms, photos and other memorabilia all housed here – quite an amazing collection.

After leaving Uncle G at his apartment, I decide to head out and make the most of my last afternoon in Vung Tau.  Despite the oppressive humidity (thank goodness for the cold shower in my room, huh), I stroll down the waterfront in search of Bach Dinh, Villa Blanch or the  White Villa as it is known and depending on who you are talking to.

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Bach Dinh is a colonial era mansion overlooking the South China Sea and it was built as a retreat for French Governor General Paul Doumer on the site of a former Nguyen Dynasty Fortress.  Doumer was an important force in the major expansion of infrastructure in the capital, most notably the bridge across the Red River and he went on to become French President until his assassination in 1931.

The house displays a collection of China recovered from a ship that sank off the coast, but the actual house itself sits in a state of neglect, which is a shame.  Though, for 5,000 dong, it is still worth a visit – even if just for a whisper of breeze from above the ocean.  The views from the massive windows are fantastic

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Tonight is buffet night at the Red Parrot.  That also means 2-for-1 drinks.  Woo hoo – Jack Daniels coming right up!  The buffet is a Western style and is pretty good.  The venue is cool too, decorated with flags and a host of memorabilia.

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It’s been nice to spend time with Uncle G and I’m so glad that I gave Vung Tau a good few days to feel the vibe and explore without rushed timelines and enjoy chilling out and dining on magnificent seafood, rather than just a night or two.  It’s not something I usually do but something that I seem to be gravitating towards more and more – simple things and relaxed time.  I still need my days of go, go, go, but relaxing is good too.  I must be getting old.

Day 3 in VT

I have to swap accommodations today due to a ‘booking mishsp’.  Uncle G is furious because, like me, he’s a planner and had this room booked for me well in advance.  I don’t mind so much firstly cause I get to try out another place and secondly because this one has a bath!  Besides, Darby Park is right next door to Sunshine.

But that doesn’t happen til later so the three of us take a 45 minute taxi ride out to Long Son for lunch.  Only in Asia would you consider doing this because in Australia it would cost you probably $100.  This trip costs about $40 AUD.

On arrival to Long Son Island, floating restaurants lay bobbing on the water just a quick boat ride from the dock.

Moon chooses Lang Be – she sure knows how to pick great places to eat and after negotiating our way over the planks to a table, she begins to plan the menu.  The food is fantastic, yet again.  I never usually eat so much seafood back home in Australia, because it is expensive.  But here it seems as though there’s hardly a meal where seafood is not included.  

It is quiet here at the moment, as we have arrived before the rush, but as we eat groups of people start arriving and the place fills up quickly.  I could imagine spending a whole afternoon here with a group of friends, swinging away on one of the hammocks, beer in hand eating delicious seafood.  Heaven.

Oyster farming is big business here with many families enjoying an increased standard of living thanks to the income earned.  The oysters raised here are apparently much bigger than those from the sea.  Once harvested, the oysters are sold to farms or to the floating restaurants on the Rang River, like the one we are dining in.

Long Son Island is a fairly untouched place and not on the usual tourist trail.  I love places like this, places that you usually find only with the knowledge of locals.

Back in Vung Tau and settled into my new abode, I decide to head out to hunt for a glass of white wine down along the front beach.  Gripping onto my bag and camera tightly, because EVERYONE has told me to be careful around here, I’m not sure where I’m heading, so I just keep walking until I find somewhere just right.  That place is the Summer Wine Bar – perfectly named.

While I’m sipping my wine, which is not the best wine I’ve ever drunk, but still nowhere near as undrinkable as that ‘mystery wine’ in Lyon earlier in the year (trust me, if I find a glass of wine undrinkable, it must be bad), two cops pull up on a single bike and sit for a while.  I wonder what they are doing, until I see an old lady struggle to her feet and lift a bamboo pole laden with wares to her shoulders.  She’s been asked to move on.  At least she doesn’t have to run when she sees them coming, as happens in Hanoi.

The breeze occasionally wafts in from the beach but otherwise its still really warm.  My mind keeps drifting back to one thing – I can have a bath tonight.

The sun beats down on me as I walk along the foreshore.  People are out enjoying the afternoon, fishing, walking, exercising, cyling or just chatting.  Little sandcrabs scurry along the beach, the tide lapping after them and there are shells – real shells like I haven’t seen for years.  It seems this is quite an idyllic spot.