Brunching at Madison Rooftop Terrace

On stepping onto the terrace of Madison, you're in the perfect spot for the most spectacular view of St. Paul's Cathedral and the skylines of the City of London. A delicious Sunday brunch accompanied by a fruity mocktail at Madison Restaurant Bar sure set the mood for the weekend. 

Madison Restaurant Bar, London.

The Little Monks of Bagan

They say early bird catches the worm. This is especially true for Bagan, where you'll miss out on half the experience if you don't rise with the sun. Not only will you witness an amazing sunrise from the top of a pagoda, but also catch the morning meditation at the monetries in town. This is where the monks collect their daily alms, also known as food donations from the local community - and it's a sight not to be missed!

The iconic monks of Bagan 

During this early morning, Sophie and I met a friendly local who was so kind to guide us around and show us some of the unique pagodas in the area. The people in Myanmar are very approachable, but in a very friendly and non-tacky manner. Since they're mainly interested in practising their English, we as tourists also get to learn so much about their history, for free. It's a real win-win situation. 

Sunset River Cruise

- Appreciating a beautiful sunset enriches your life beyond the moment -

On our final day in Bagan, Sophie and I along with some friends that we met on our journey, decided to book a private sunset cruise on the Ayeyarwady River. I found the number of a boat driver in the hostel's notice board and thought I'd give him a call. It seemed a bit dodgy at first, as we had to drive to a specific location about half an hour away, meet the guy and 'follow him'. But needless to worry, we ended up at a beautiful little garden by the river where we had a drink before boarding the boat. 

For 20 000 kyats, or $16 we got the whole boat for ourselves for about two and a half hours. Although it would be a lie to say that it was the most stunning sunset I've seen, it was a lovely experience. It was cloudy indeed, but at least it wasn't raining!

What I really loved about this boat trip is that at one point they'll shut off the motors and let the boat drift down the river with the current, and end up back to where we started. It was such a nice calm and I'm so happy we did it. I recommend it to anyone planning to visit Bagan in the future.  

Sunrise and Pagodas

An ancient city located in central Myanmar hosts one of the world's greatest archeological sites. Over 10 000 pagodas, temples and monasteries used to be constructed on the city's site, in which about 2200 still remains per date. 

Sophie and I travelled to Bagan by a very comfortable night bus from Inle Lake, and we flew back to Yangon. The temperature was above 30 degrees celcius and walking all day didn't feel like an option. Nor did biking, which was our initial plan. Thank God for e-bikes and its cheap rent of 4000 kyats/ $0.30 a day. 

The Temples of Bagan at sunrise, photo by traveller.com.au for illustration

Bagan is famous for its magic sceneries of hot air balloons drifting over the pagodas during sunrise. Unfortunately it's suspended during the rainy seasons from April to September, so we didn't get to see it this time. But who knows, I might be back one day!

Every morning at around 4:30AM, Sophie and I would be up and out with our e-bike, in search for a new pagoda to climb for the daily sunrise. 

We stayed three nights in Bagan at Ostello Bello, which definitely is one of the most popular accommodation in Bagan amongst foreign travellers. We booked a private bedroom for our stay, which I think was one of the best decisions we ever made considering our physical conditions at that time. Dormitory plus food poisoning would just be a nightmare within a nightmare. 

I personally think hostels can be a very fun experience, especially if you travel solo because you're more incentivised to meet new people. Not to mention, like-minded travellers. Luckily both Sophie and I are social animals, so we managed to meet a lot of new people on our Bagan adventure despite being in our own comfortable hub.  

Overall, I really enjoyed Bagan and the authentic sights it has to offer. It was unlike any place I've ever been to before - truly unique! More stories and photos coming up next.

Breathing Yangon

There are certain places that challenges my endurance more than others. These places requires me to either know how to hold my breath forever or die trying. 

In China, every time I entered a public squat toilet my nose would automatically shut off, like a natural reflex. So now, like Ariel under the sea I can probably dive the Great Barrier Reef without an oxygen mask. Likewise with this market we visited in Yangon. Imagine the smell of fish, rotten meat, durian, sweat and dirt all in one potion. Breathing felt like self-harm. 

But the sights were unique. It was special seeing all these people just going through their daily routines. This market was located in the suburb but travelling around the country we would see this everywhere. Indeed, Myanmar is still a developing country and it's clearly reflected in the local people's lifestyle and their way of doing business.

Ironically, Sophie and I both caught a terrible food poisoning that night, which lasted for the next five day. Eventually I was hospitalised and got IV fluids and antibiotics through my veins, mhm.. We're still not completely sure of the source, because we didn't eat anything from the market. However we bought some mangos from a stand before coming there and it could've been the water that they were washed in or the utensils used. 

Prior to exploring Myanmar my sister warned us both from eating street food. I told her I'd lived in China for almost a year and nothing ever happened to me so I would be fine. I couldn't be more wrong. Hygiene in Myanmar is another level, guys.   

Great Ocean Road Trip

- The 12 Apostles -

While in Melbourne I got to experience the Great Ocean Road by car. Another check on my bucket list! The day was spent exploring Lorne, Apollo Bay and Port Phillip Bay in addition to the 12 Apostles. It was a great travel through Victoria's West, capturing beautiful natural sceneries from early morning to sunset. 

Pit stop in Apollo Bay for some nice seafood lunch

Kudos to my aunt for taking this photo. She knows how to keep that angle straight.

The scenery at the 12 Apostles was very beautiful, but honestly I felt a bit disappointed overall. There were no where close to twelve apostles left. In fact I think I only counted six and a half thanks to global warming. My postcard is a bit outdated indeed, but oh well it was a lovely day catching up with my family. 

A spiritual experience in Kuala Lumpur

If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people, you might better stay at home.
— James Michener

Travel is fatal to prejudice. It's opens one's eyes and mind, and helps us see things from different perspectives. Before travelling became such a big part of my life, I was stuck in a small town, with a small-town mentality. With that it's easy to only see as far as the eyes can reach, trust everything in the media and be ignorant, basically. The power of news media can be so distorted and once an interpretation has been instilled into someone's mind, that'll become their belief. And then that 'truth' will be fostered into the minds of the next generations and so on - and what we'll be left with is a world filled with discrimination and where people fear each other. 

Religion especially can be very complicated and conflicting. Why is there so much disagreement, confusion and division in religion? I think it's because people hold on to their religious belief while refusing to learn about other's. My time in Kuala Lumpur was short, but I feel like I acquired a lot of spiritual knowledge and got to broaden my understanding of other religions.

 

🕌 Jamek Mosque. Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

A photo posted by Martha Huynh (@marthahuynh) on

Sri Mahamariamman Hindu Temple

Pit stop, Malaysia

- Maximising my extended layover in Kuala Lumpur -

Hello, Kuala Lumpur! 🇲🇾 Follow #martharoundtheworld on snapchat: marthah

A photo posted by Martha Huynh (@marthahuynh) on

I try to avoid budget airlines whenever I can, because my flight to Seoul in January traumatised me for life. But this time I took a chance and booked a budget flight from China to Australia, via Malaysia.

One of the reason it’s called ‘budget' is because the transit from destination A to B is ridiculously long and they don’t feed you (so I had to buy food at the airport and ended up getting food poisoned, but that’s another story.) My flight from Shanghai to Sydney had a 17 hours layover in Kuala Lumpur, which might sound dreadful but that was exactly what I wanted. Who said I was going to spend all those hours at the airport anyway. I landed in KL in the morning and departed again at night, enabling me to get a whole day of sightseeing.

I looked for the cheapest ticket to Sydney that I could find (about 1300RMB) with the most ‘convenient' layover - and voila, two countries for the price of one. 
Prior to my journey I would of course make sure if I needed a visa etc, find out how long it would take me to the airport into the city, pre-purchase the tickets online to avoid queuing at the airport and so on. Little things like planning a bit a head really helped me maximise my time to explore the city.

During my time in Kuala Lumpur I got to see the Patronas Twin Tower, the KL Tower, window shop at Central Market, sightsee around Chinatown and eat from local food stands (risking more food poison but yolo), visit one Hindu and one Buddhist temple and two different mosques, get familiar with the city’s metro, eat Malaysian cuisine, get attacked by monkeys at Batu Caves etc. Great times! Although half of my time was spent wandering around alone, I felt so happy and content. 

They say that travel broadens the mind, and opens a person up to different cultures and new experiences. This is certainly true, and if you are a woman traveling alone, even more so. It takes inner strength coupled with a sense of adventure to travel solo, yet it can be one of life’s most rewarding experiences
— Victoria Cox

Librairie Avant-Garde

- Turn something rotten into a miracle -

Librairie Avant-Garde is a vast underground parking lot that was once used as a bomb shelter, now turned into a church-looking bookstore.

I didn’t have many places on my itinerary for Nanjing since I wanted to keep it spontaneous. However, Librairie Avant-Garde was a must-go from the start. It took me nearly an hour of walking/ getting lost, and a few metro rides to get there, since it was a true hidden gem. But it was well worth it and I ended up spending almost an hour just roaming around, flipping pages. It was a happy moment in my favourite bookstore in the world. 

Although most of the books were in Chinese, I found and bought the ‘Little Prince’. It's written in English, Chinese and French all in one and I can’t wait to re-read it during my travels. Last time I read it was in middle school for an English class assignment, and I don't think I understood the true meaning of it back then. It's going to be interesting to see what impact it will make this time around.

So to anyone who will be travelling to Nanjing in the future, I highly recommend to check out Librairie Avant-Garde. It's different and I loved it.

A photo posted by Martha Huynh (@marthahuynh) on