Solo Overland Backpacking Trip to Thailand and Laos – Part 30: End of Chapter One.

Previously: Part 29: Open!

*****

Still Day 7: Sunday, 1 September 2013

Off I went to the bus station. The bus station is very simple, it does not reflect the fact that this is the main bus terminal for the capital city. Still, I found it amazing, to breath a different air, to have a different view and to see how people live on this side of the world.

Talat Sao bus terminal, Vientiane.

Aku terus bergerak menuju ke stesen bas. Stesen bas Vientiane sangat basic, tak canggih macam TBS-BTS kita yang macam lapangan terbang tu. Memang kalau orang tengok, orang fikir dua tiga kali, betul ke ni stesen bas untuk ibu negara. Tapi, aku tetap rasa seronok. Rasa teruja. Menghirup udara berdebu Vientiane, pemandangan yang berbeza, cara hidup yang berbeza.

“Time is money”. Something I learnt from Yuya and Hibiki, the Japanese guys whom I met upon arrival.

I walked towards the window which stated Vientiane-Nong Khai since I intended to take the bus across the border before continuing my journey back to Bangkok via train. There was a bus schedule pasted on the counter’s wall and since I did not want to be late, I bought a ticket for the 3.30 pm bus. After I received the ticket, I was asked by a guy “Ticket to Nong Khai?”. I answered him, “Yes..” before continued “Japanese?”. He nodded.

Di stesen bas, aku pergi ke tingkap yang tertulis Vientiane-Nong Khai sebab rancangan aku ialah nak naik bas seberang sempadan sebelum sambung naik keretapi ke Bangkok. Ada jadual bas bertampal dekat dinding kaunter tu. Aku tak nak lambat, jadi aku pilih tiket bas pukul 3.30 petang. Lepas dah dapat tiket, seorang mamat tegur aku “Tiket ke Nong Khai?”. “Ya” aku jawap, sebelum aku tanya lagi “Dari Jepun?”. Dia angguk.

Apparently, he was travelling alone too and was planning to go to Bangkok. His name was Ken. After he bought his ticket, we seated on the bench and exchanged our travel stories surrounded by the exhaust fumes from the buses. I saw children playing at the bus station, smiling, laughing, always happy.

Just hope that no one took your assigned seat.

Dia pun berjalan seorang diri jugak nak ke Bangkok. Nama dia Ken. Lepas dah beli tiket, kami duduk atas bangku sambil berkongsi pengalaman kami dengan dikelilingi asap bas. Nampak budak-budak main kat stesen bas, seronok je diaorang. Senyum, ketawa, gembira aja.

Children.

I thought to myself, how lucky they were to become kids. No need to think about anything, about commitment, about money, about all the petty things that us, adults always have in our minds.

Kadang-kadang aku rasa, beruntung jadi kanak-kanak. Tak payah fikir pasal apa pun. Pasal komitmen, pasal duit, pasal hal-hal kecil yang selalu buat kita orang dewasa tertekan.

The bus that brought Ken and me to Nong Khai.

Around 4.00 pm, the bus arrived. I entered the bus, put my backpacks on the floor and grabbed a seat. I looked out the window and saw the evening sky of Vientiane, my last for 2013 for sure. Deep in my mind, I felt sad having to leave this city. Nevertheless, life must go on. “The Scientist” by Coldplay was playing on repeat whilst the bus moving across the Friendship Bridge, entering the Land of Smiles.

This was hard.

Dalam pukul 4.00 petang, bas aku pun sampai. Aku masuk dalam bas, letak backpack aku dan cari tempat duduk. Aku tengok ke luar tingkap, tengok langit petang Vientiane buat kali terakhir untuk tahun 2013. Dalam hati, aku rasa sedih kena tinggalkan bandar ni, tempat ni. Tapi, hidup mesti diteruskan. Lagu “The Scientist” dendangan Coldplay berputar dalam kepala aku sepanjang perjalanan bas merentasi Friendship Bridge untuk ke negara Gajah Putih.

Back to the Land of Smiles. Chapter One ends.

“Nobody said it was easy It’s such a shame for us to part Nobody said it was easy No one ever said it would be this hard Oh, take me back to the start.”

End of Chapter One.

Tamat Bab Satu.

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The Vientiane-Nong Khai bus costs me 15,000 kip.

Solo Overland Backpacking Trip to Thailand and Laos – Part 29: Open!

Previously: Part 28: We Meet Again

*****

Still Day 7: Sunday, 1 September 2013

I did feel that I have spent more time than needed in the mall. Although it is the main shopping mall of Vientiane, there weren’t so many interesting things to be seen and done here. Plus, why go to a shopping mall when you are 2000kms away from home. Since I was not satisfied that the museum was closed, I walked back to the museum and I had a big smile when I saw that the door was opened!

Glad it was opened!

Aku rasa dah lama sangat aku duduk dekat mall ni. Walaupun Talat Sao Mall ni kompleks beli-belah utama di Vientiane, tapi tak banyak benda menarik pun untuk lepak lama-lama kat sini. Dah lah tu, aku ni 2000km dari rumah, takkan nak lepak mall je kot kan. Sebab tak puas hati tengok muzium tutup tadi, aku jalan balik ke arah muzium. Tersenyum lebar aku bila tengok muzium tu dibuka!

The main entrance of the museum. Sadly, no photos are allowed to be taken inside the museum.

Apparently, it closed for an hour over the weekend i.e. from 12.00 pm to 1.00 pm. I paid for the entrance ticket and toured the museum. Personally, I am a guy who love history and museums. Once, I went to the National Museum in Kuala Lumpur and continued to other memorials situated nearby alone after sending my friends to a course. Going to museums is one of the ways to learn the history of a place from another perspective and it is fun and interesting to see what the museums have to offer.

Rupa-rupanya, muzium ni tutup satu jam bila hujung minggu dari pukul 12.00 tengahari sampai pukul 1 petang. Aku bayar tiket masuk dan jalan tengok pameran-pameran dalam muzium ni. Aku memang suka sejarah dan muzium. Pernah sekali tu, lepas hantar kawan-kawan aku pergi kursus, aku singgah Muzium Negara dan memorial-memorial lain kat kawasan tu sorang-sorang. Bagi aku, pergi muzium boleh buat kita belajar sejarah sesuatu kawasan dari perspektif berbeza. Dapat tengok pameran-pameran yang ada pun dah cukup menghiburkan aku.

The road view near the museum.

Laos National Museum is so old and it is also situated in an old colonial building. If you are coming from a more developed country, don’t expect any interactive exhibitions because most of the exhibitions are basic photo and caption thing. Nevertheless, it is still interesting to know how Laos was born and how they became a communist country.

Muzium Negara Laos ni memang lama sangat. Letaknya pun dalam bangunan penjajah lama. Kalau datang dari negara yang maju sikit, mungkin akan terkejut sebab tak ada pameran interaktif kat sini. Yang ada kebanyakannya pameran gambar dan caption.

Outside the museum near the National Stadium, I saw this. This view reminds me of a travelling movie. Or a NatGeo documentary.

In fact, some photos lacking a good explanation and the English translations were out of hand. I smiled reading some of the captions. The best part was that they had an ASEAN segment near the exit door, and I found that they misspelled Malaysia’s Prime Minister’s name as well as the capital city. And one of the guests jotted down this comment in the guest book (and yes, they uses boxed-pages-book for the guestbook, which we in Malaysia use as a Math exercise book for elementary schools).

Ada sesetengah gambar tu memang aku tak faham apa yang dia nak cuba sampaikan. Tak tercapai maksud dia tu. Aku senyum je baca caption-caption yang ada. Yang paling best, ada ruangan ASEAN. Tapi, dia salah eja nama PM Najib dan nama Kuala Lumpur jadi Kuala Lampor. Siap ada pelawat yang bagi komen lagi pasal salah eja ni.

I wish I had met the guy (or girl) who wrote this. Maybe then, my travel plan will changed. The comment below, on the other hand, was written by Emma, the German friend of mine. Lol.

It was an amazing visit nonetheless. I learnt a lot about Laos history through the photos exhibited. Soon, I went back to the guesthouse, grabbed my backpacks and walked back to Talat Sao market, to catch a bus to cross the border back to Nong Khai, Thailand. Vientiane, you shall be missed.

Don’t!

Dah habis melawat muzium, aku kembali ke guesthouse untuk ambil beg yang aku tinggalkan pagi tadi dan jalan kaki semula ke pasar Talat Sao untuk naik bas nak seberang sempadan ke Nong Khai, Thailand. Aku pasti akan merindui Vientiane.

I wonder why I snap this photo will the pole visible in the middle. Hehe. Anyway, this is part of Talat Sao market, heading towards the bus station.

Any of you love museums too? Or do you prefer malls instead?

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To be continued – Part 30

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Laos National Museum is open everyday except on Public Holidays. Located opposite the Cultural Hall, the entrance fee is 10,000 kip per person.

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Hotel Review: Hotel de ART, Shah Alam (Malaysia) – Where to Stay

Shah Alam is the capital city of Selangor. Although some said the city is boring, Shah Alam has a lot of attractions to be visited such as the Blue Mosque and i-City. One of the hotels that we can consider to stay at is Hotel de ART, located at Section 7, Shah Alam.

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PROS & AMENITIES

The reception area.

Hotel de ART is categorized as a boutique budget hotel and people tend to have a negative perception with the word ‘budget’. Nevertheless, this hotel is not your typical type of budget hotel. It is so artsy, it is also dubbed as the first art-themed hotel in Malaysia.

The ceiling at the reception. A classy look with a decent price.

The first place that I went to was the reception area, to check-in. Despite its limited space, it is comfortable enough, with sofas for other members of the group to wait at and a TV to entertain them. They also sell can drinks apart from having a water dispenser there. The staff are also friendly, it was not a hassle during my check-in.

Waiting area at the reception.

Hotel de ART has 58 rooms and all rooms have different themes such as Mickey Mouse, Lady Gaga and Paris. As for my room, I was assigned a nature-themed room and it suits me well since being an excursion from my busy days, having such a room definitely provide comfort for me.

The corridor at one of the floors.

The room itself, though not so big, has many amenities. It has a prayer mat for Muslims, mosquito repellent, coffee facility and a working desk. So, if one is on a business trip, this hotel is comfortable enough yet will not burn a hole in the pocket.

The bed is so comfortable!

Trust me… I was there!

As for the bed, I was really shocked when I lied down on it. It was so comfortable and the comforter was very thick, I fall asleep in the matter of second!

Working desk for the workaholic in you.

Another amenity that I wish to highlight is the fact that it has water dispenser near the staircase, which is good if one wants a glass of ice-cold water. Hotel de ART also teamed-up with Hailam Kopitiam, so all guests will receive a voucher for free breakfast at the Kopitiam, situated downstairs. Though choices are limited, this is definitely a plus point for a boutique budget hotel.

This is so thoughtful.

In terms of security, the access card is needed to access the main door (if your room is situated in a different block like mine) and the room. I would say that it is safe enough, as there are also CCTVs around.

CONS & SETBACKS

One of the setbacks for the hotel is the location. Although strategically located at Section 7 beside a lake, the means of public transportation to go here is mainly the taxi. There are Rapid KL buses but the frequency is unreliable.

The spotless bathroom.

Apart from that, this hotel is separated into 3 different blocks. The block where my room was located has no lift and it could be a hassle for the elderly and for those who bring a lot of luggages.

The coffee making facility.

Choices for coffee making is also limited as they only give a sachet of Nescafe 3-in-1, but since this is a boutique budget hotel, I don’t consider that as something that is too serious.

Having the Jumbo is a bless.

Overall, this is a really nice hotel to stay in. If you want a short staycation or on a business trip, or just want to stay in a hotel once in a while, this hotel is definitely worth the price you paid for.

+++++

Hotel de ART is an art-themed boutique hotel situated at Section 7, Shah Alam, near UiTM 2nd gate.

For bookings and enquiries, do visit their website or contact them at:

No 3, Jalan Kristal AS7/AS,
Seksyen 7, 40000 Shah Alam,
Selangor, Malaysia

T: +603 5518 0975 / 55180976 

Rating (Maximum 5 stars):

  • Value for money: 4 stars
  • Location: 3.5 stars
  • Customer service: 4 stars
  • Security: 3 stars
  • Cleanliness: 4 stars
  • Facilities: 4 stars
  • F&B: 3.5 stars

Overall: 3.71 stars [ 74.3%]

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I would like to personally thank Ms. Jenny of Hotel de ART for making my stay at the hotel possible. Kindly be informed that all the contents/reviews are of my personal views.

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Where To Stay‘ is the series for hotels/hostels/accommodations reviews by The Best Things In Life.

Solo Overland Backpacking Trip to Thailand and Laos – Part 28: We Meet Again

Previously: Part 27: Time to Bid Goodbye

*****

Still Day 7: Sunday, 1 September 2013

Since the museum was closed, I decided to do a quick walking tour around Vientiane. Vientiane is so relaxing despite its capital status.  No hooha here and there or honking now and then. I remembered reading a signboard stating Nam Phou Fountain and so, I decided to check that out.

Nam Phou Fountain.

Memandangkan muzium tutup, aku pun buat keputusan untuk jalan-jalan pusing Vientiane. Vientiane ni walaupun ibu negara, tapi tenang aja. Tak adanya nak trafik jam ke, hon sana hon sini ke. Tengah jalan-jalan, aku teringat aku ada nampak papan tanda tulis Nam Phou Fountain. Dah tak tahu nak ke mana, aku pun pergi jelah situ.

In broad daylight, this place is nothing but just a square with cafes and bars surrounding the square. I was told that the fountain will operate at night time with colour and musics illuminating the atmosphere. There are even live bands performing at night.

Siang hari, tempat ni tak ada apa pun. Cuma ada dataran dengan kelilingnya ada kafe dan bar. Tapi, aku dengar kata malam ada lampu warna-warni dengan muzik. Kadang-kadang ada live band lagi.

Genuinely happy to meet again!

I walked further towards the shop houses and suddenly, I met Yuya and Hibiki again. They were leaving to Thailand today too and just like me, they were wandering the city before boarding the evening train back to Bangkok. Such a small city, otherwise you won’t bumped into each other just like that.

Ministry of Post and Telecommunications – in Lao and English

Aku jalan lagi menuju ke rumah-rumah kedai dan tiba-tiba aku terserempak dengan Yuya dan Hibiki. Hari ni hari terakhir diorang sebab diorang pun akan balik ke Thailand petang ni. Memang kecil je Vientiane ni, kalau tak tak ada lah nak terserempak sampai macam ni sekali.

All in one frame – motorists, backpackes and err… cart pusher? Well, even she obeys the traffic.

One thing I love about Vientiane is the view. I love the view with French signboards on government offices (though I am pretty sure that most locals can’t speak French), the view where vendors pushing their carts and backpackers/travellers/tourists or whatever we call them – zigzagging the streets, the scene at the market. The warm weather but cloudy. This place will be hard for me to forget, I am sure.

The unforgettable part of the journey – an impromptu stop at Vientiane

Satu benda yang aku suka pada Vientiane ialah pemandangannya. Walaupun Vientiane ni bandar, tapi dia ada karisma yang tersendiri. Ada papan tanda dalam bahasa Perancis yang mana ironinya, ramai rakyat tempatan tak tahu pun berbahasa Perancis. Ada penjual tolak kereta sorong dan traveller dengan backpack berat jalan ke sini ke sana. Cuacanya yang baik tapi mendung. Memang susah nak dijelaskan dengan kata-kata.

Talat Sao Market

After a while, I took refuge from the scorching sun inside the Talat Sao Mall – and again, I met those two Japanese boys. After a quick Hi and Bye, I bought some postcards, sat on a cafe and jotted down my words onto the postcards – one for my future self and also for my friends.

Checking out the market is one of the best ways to learn about the locals.

Dah puas jalan-jalan, sebab panas sangat, aku masuk dalam Talat Sao Mall. Tak sangka, jumpa lagi dengan dua mamat Jepun, si Hibiki dan Yuya. Lepas dah ber Hi dan Bye, aku pergi satu kedai ni beli poskad. Aku duduk kat satu kafe dan mula menulis poskad, untuk kawan dan juga untuk diri aku sendiri.

Postcards writing time

Have you been to Vientiane? What do you think of it?

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To be continued – Part 29

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Vientiane can be explored on foot and by bicycles. 

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Solo Overland Backpacking Trip to Thailand and Laos – Part 27: Time to Bid Goodbye

Previously: Part 26: Mamak Fried Rice

*****

Still Day 7: Sunday, 1 September 2013

After breakfast, I went back to the guesthouse to check out and to put my backpack at the luggage area. I had promised Martin and Emma that I would meet them at their guesthouse to bid goodbye as I will be going back to Thailand this evening while they will be furthering their journey to the south-eastern part of Laos.

Definitely one of the strictest guesthouses around. The same message but with 3 different versions.

Lepas sarapan, aku pulang ke guesthouse untuk check-out dan untuk letak backpack aku kat tempat simpan beg. Tak kuasa aku nak bawak beg berat tu jalan-jalan pusing Vientiane dengan masa yang masih bersisa, Lagipun, aku dah janji nak jumpa Martin dan Emma kat guesthouse diorang pagi ni. Aku nak balik ke Thailand dan diorang pulak nak teruskan perjalanan ke tenggara Laos.

With Martin and Emma. (Tangan saya kat beg Emma ya, jangan tuduh lain pulak! Haha)

When I reached their guesthouse, they have been waiting for me. We talked for several minutes and they told me not to forget to visit the National Museum since it was quite awesome. I told them that I will visit the museum as it was part of the plan. After a while, we bid goodbye. It was a hard moment for the three of us. Though we just met, but being strangers in a foreign land with similar interests had bonded us together.

Lao National Culture Hall. Such a vast building. I think this is equivalent to Malaysia’s Istana Budaya.

Sampai je ke guesthouse diorang, diorang dah memang tunggu aku. Kami pun dok sembang dan diorang pesan jangan lupa lawat Muzium Kebangsaan Laos sebab berbaloi lawat muzium tu. Aku cakap memang aku ada rancangan nak lawat, jadi kalau tak ada halangan akan aku lawat. Lepas sembang punya sembang, kami pun berpisah. Agak sukar sebenarnya masa nak berpisah sebab kami sama-sama traveller asing di bumi asing. Lepas dah kenal, nak kena berpisah, memang payah. Tapi, adatlah bila mengembara macam ni.

The facade of the National Museum. It really looks old.

After we bid farewell, I did some walking tour around Vientiane. I referred to the signboard and the map that I have and I walked towards the National Museum. Unfortunately, the museum was closed.

National Museum – Closed

Lepas ucap selamat jalan, aku pun jalan-jalan sekitar Vientiane. Tengok signboard, tengok peta untuk ke Muzium Kebangsaan. Elok je aku sampai, Muzium tutup lah pulak!

When you found friends during your travels, was it hard to say goodbye?

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To be continued – Part 28

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Lao National Museum is situated opposite the Cultural Hall and is housed in a former French residence building.

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