chúc mừng năm mới..

… happy new year!

The Vietnamese New Year (Tet) is just round the corner and you can feel the preparation fever all over the city.

Yesterday, after my class with the 3rd grade, one of my students came to me and handed a tiny yellow bundle, which appeared to be one of my best gifts ever. I opened it and what I saw was a cone, a plastic bracelet, a seashell and a jagged little figure of a dragon I suppose. I enthusiastically thanked the girl and marched upstairs to my safe spot, where I looked into the wrap again. What I hadn’t noticed before, and what I could see then was a card that you can see below. I opened it, gave myself a big smile and then wiped tears of my cheeks. Such a lovely card and the girly little treasures that make me believe in what I’m doing.


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Malaysia, Langkawi

On the 24th of December, we are up already at 6.30 am, and we leave our guesthouse shortly after 7. The city looks amazing in the gentle morning light. We march towards the ferry terminal, no, no taxi, we mainly walk around our destinations. We arrive there and it actually surprises us too see that many people taking the boat too. We feel relief after getting our tickets- it’s Christmas Eve tonight and we want to spend it on the tropical island, no doubt. We arrive after three hours of a bumpy ride, finally! Taxi drivers approach us immediately, and this time we have to take a taxi, as that’s the only way of transport on Langkawi.


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Malaysia, George Town

‘In 2008 the historic center of George Town was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site for having a unique architectural and cultural townscape’- we read in an illegally copied version of Lonely Planet, which we bought in one of the most touristy streets of Saigon, just a day before our holiday in Malaysia. From that moment on, it becomes our undeniable companion, which we flick through every time we need advise on a hostel or a place to eat. Although many places that we visit on our way, are still the ones that we discover ourselves, or have heard and read locally.


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Malaysia, Cameron Highland

After a 4 days stay in KL, we head north to Cameron Highlands. The coach we are taking turns out to be a positve suprise. It’s very spacious- even P.’s long legs find their comfort zone, which is very much needed after the endless city walks. The steep curvy roads make us feel a bit dizzy, although it all pays off. For a few days we explore tea plantations, jungle tracks, dive into delicious Indian/ Thai/ Malay food and warm ourselves up with many cups of tea in our cosy cottage room. The temperature doesn’t go above 18°C degrees, but we love it. Feels almost like Christmas! 🙂


tea plantation

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Malaysia, KL

So we are back, and I can’t believe this is it, the holidays are over and we’re left behind broke, but with thousands of new memories, suntan and over 600 photos on two memory cards. I wanna go back, well I don’t wanna stop going to places.. Malaysia, its diversity, architecture, nature, people, food and monkeys (yes, monkeys!) are only a few things worth going there for.

Well, let’s start with Kuala Lumpur, our first destination.

KL through my eyes

(ok, Pieter’s eyes too)

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off we go

Saigon went mad about Christmas or rather Christmas decoration. I didn’t have a chance to take pictures, but nearly the entire city center has been decorated with flowers looking over the streets, Christmas lights and trees. I must say it looks pretty impressive, but at the same time makes you feel a bit confused. Where’s the snow I’m asking, and the cold that makes you wear a jumper and heavy boots? So you wear t-shirts, shorts and sandals instead, while all those fake santas hung all over the city are looking down at you. Does it feel like Christmas? I wouldn’t say so.


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meanwhile at the school yard

Every day, at 8.30 all kids go down to the schoolyard, where they do a little dance to a Vietnamese song.

It’s funny to watch as some of them are not enthusiastic about it at all. The enthusiasm starts where the song is over and it’s time for breakfast.

My enthusiasm starts there too, as I go up the school stairs to my safe spot, far from the screaming children and never stopping attention on their only foreign English teacher.

It’s time to take a deep breath.


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Sitting now in the school’s computer lab, while the entire school including kids and staff is asleep. Once, out of boredom I went to the school canteen to buy something sweet, however there was no chance that I could get anything…The canteen staff was happily asleep on the floor.

In other countries asking for a cafe while you wait, is the most obvious question in the world. Here, the question that would never surprise anyone is: ‘Excuse me, where can I have my afternoon nap?’. Vietnamese sleep literally everywhere. Chairs, tables, floors in the shops (where they eat too), pharmacies (once, I had to wake the staff up to get my medicine), even on their motorbikes, which is a very common view on the streets here.

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from a teacher’s diary: one day at the Primary

I leave home early, around 6.30 to arrive at the school gate just before 7. I do my ‘still zombie walk’ to the classroom, where I have my first class. I’m welcomed by applause and random ‘good morning teacher’ shouts, until they all stand up and greet me all together: ‘Good morning teacher!’. ‘Good morning children, sit down please.’, that’s my common response. Asked how they are, students chorally say that they are fine, which is sometimes followed by polite ‘ And you?’ and little hand gestures pointing at me. That’s a very common routine here in Vietnamese schools, which surprises you a lot at first. My first thought was that it’s very drilled, nearly army like.


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why don’t we..?

This morning while checking the Lonely Planet’s Best in Travel 2014- top 10 countries.

– P., why don’t we go to Malaysia?

– Why not. Check the skyscanner for flights.

Skyscanner flights’ options showed us flights around $280 per person for a return ticket. Not too pricey, but considering it’s an only 2 hours Ho Chi Minh (Saigon)-Kuala Lumpur flight, I knew there must be some cheaper ways.

And there it is, the same route, but this time with the low budget Air Asia airlines for $150 only! So we booked it without much hesitation. We will go during our two week Christmas break, which starts for us on the 16th of December. That’s also a perfect fit, as our visas are about to expire around that time, so we can combine leaving the country with obtaining on-arrival visas at the airport when returning from our holidays.

So, yes, a Christmas Eve lying on of the Malaysian beautiful beaches, drinking cocktails and enjoying the sun and the sea breeze. Can it get any better? Continue reading

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