Saturday, November 4, 2017

The Proposal

It happened months back. Initially weren't sure whether I want to share this but happy news are meant to be shared! And I guess it is good to have this documented because my memory is getting worse these days, moments like this should stay and be remembered 😍

June 16th 2017, the day started just like any other normal days. It wasn't a birthday, an anniversary or any festive day. It was a Saturday, I picked him up from work (he works half day) and as usual we will go to the gym together. In our gym clothes, maximizing our workout. I usually don't touch my phone at all when I workout, I realized he occasionally used his phone and figured he's busy with work, which he usually is since he ventured into entrepreneurship.

After we are done, all sweaty, he told me he wanted to get flower pots! πŸ˜‚ We had been talking about getting a pot for our baby avocados for weeks. However cause we were so sweaty, I told him we could get them next time, yet he insisted on getting them so I was fine with that.

On our way back, he was talking about how we met, from strangers to coupleπŸ‘«. How we used to just chat and talk, be each others' pillar and encouragement even before we got together. How it all started so abruptly but feels so perfect. It feels like a casual talk. We usually talk and laugh about the process, and how far we came, with all the doubts and becoming so in love. 

When we arrived his house, his families were at the living room. As usual I will just walk to his room, prepare to shower and get change for dinner. I walked ahead of him because he has to lock the main gate. This was when it happened. 

As I reached the room, I stood frozen at the door, staring at the bed. For a moment my mind went blank. The first thing I thought was "oh maybe his sister was doing some handcraft so she used his bed because his room is downstairs and more convenient". Not till he walked in and told me it's for me that I was trying to figure things out. You see, from where I was standing at the door the "Marry me?" was upside down and the flowers bouquet was blocked by the door πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚

He held on to my shoulder and made me stand in front of the bed, only then I could see the whole view "Marry me?", the ringπŸ’, the bouquet and heart shape petalsπŸ’ž. I couldn't say a word. He took the ring from the bed, and I told him "I really need to use the toilet". So he asked me "ring or toilet first?" and I said "toilet!" while I rushed to the toilet. πŸ˜‚πŸ˜‚ epic proposal hahaha

When I got back, he kneeled on one knee and presented me the ring, said "Marry me?" and I said "yes!". And he puts the ring on my finger. Then I started sobbing, badly. I wasn't sad at all, I was surprised, happy, shocked, overwhelmed? We did talk about getting married but I never expected that ME, I, Meilin! would ever get married. I am not someone who ever plan for marriage, not someone who always look forward to get married. I was so glad, so delighted, it felt so unbelievable. This man, actually thought I am worth marrying! This man actually wants me to be his wife, his lifelong partner! And this man is so great I always thought he dropped from heaven and is my guardian angel! ❤πŸ‘«

All the time I was sobbing so hard, he had to close the door and he hugged me tightly, gave me kisses, making sure this is what we both wanted and he is there to stay....all the time while we were still sweaty in our post gym clothes, but it was perfect! Workout and gym are what brought us together, our common interest. 

This proposal after gym and in gym clothes is just perfect. It was not a romantic candle light dinner, an overseas trip, a stay-cation at the beach, on top of the mountain or in the water Lol, but it was totally US, totally our style. This man picked a very simple ring, which is totally my style for simplicity. He just knows me so well, sometimes I figured more than I know myself.

Background story: since he was working all morning, where did he get the time to do all the decorations and buy the flower bouquet? He asked his sisters to help him πŸ˜‚ I feel so shy cause his sisters actually knew that he was going to proposed since like a week before so they had been in their poker face. And, he picked the ring with his Mum and sisters, so his Mum knew as well. His family collaborated so well for him to surprise me! πŸ’•

So that's how we got engaged! Now planning for our wedding, which is about a year to go!

Monday, September 25, 2017

5D4N Luang Prabang

"Luang Prabang, a former capital of Laos and currently is a UNESCO World Heritage city. "

Expenses ALL-IN including return flights & accommodation for 2 Pax approx. RM1700
That is approximately US$200 per person, and it wasn't even a budget trip!

I have always preferred a place unlike KL, far from the hustle and bustle of the city. So when I wanted to choose a country I have never been in South East Asia and is affordable, it was Luang Prabang (thereafter referred to as LPQ).

I was left with Laos and Myanmar but Myanmar require Visa for all foreign travelers. No more Visa-on-arrival, and it's RM80 (done in 5days) or RM150 (for express). This could be similar price as my promo flights! Nevertheless, I will keep Myanmar on my list.

Back to LPQ.....

For a short 5 days 4 nights (5D4N) getaway, I wanted to know what LPQ has to offer. I went on a not-so-budget trip with my fiance and for the first time ever stayed at a more proper room compared to most of my South East Asia/Indochina trips (I am still frequently in backpacker mode, used to staying at dorms but my fiance is not quite use to that)

Here is my itinerary and other notes:

  • CURRENCY The currency used in Laos are "USD $" and also their local currency "kip". Currency exchange during my travel: $1 = 8300kip. Many countries do not offer exchange in Kip. Bring USD and there are plenty of money changers around LPQ, mostly offering 1:1 rate for USD. For bigger amount exceeding 500k kip, mostly USD will be accepted.

  • FLIGHTS AirAsia flights return: KUL-LPQ-KUL RM250/pax. I did not buy this during promotion or Zero fare and I bought it only 2 months ahead! LPQ airport is just 6km away from LPQ city, the fare for taxi to the city is standard $6 or 50k kip. We booked ours through the hotel to prevent being caught in haggle, same price.

  • ACCOMMODATION I booked "Soutikone Place House 2" through, double superior deluxe bed room for $20/night, total $80 (there are cheaper options, could go up to $10/night during promo) with great breakfast. I would suggest to get a hotel on/near Sisavangvong Road or Sakkaline Road for convenience to shops & eateries, and hotels along Mantatoulat Road or Soulignavongsa Road for Mekong river view 

  • TRANSPORTATION Hiring a private taxi with driver and/or guide would cost approx. $80/day. ½ day tour (approx. 8AM-1PM) cost $25-30, 1 day tour cost $35-40 (approx. 8AM-5PM). For us, we just took tour for 1 day, other days we either walk or booked for shared transport. All attractions within the LPQ city are within walking distance.

  • LANGUAGE The Laos language is the official language but those who work at the souvenirs store, restaurants/bars, hotel understands basic English since LPQ is a tourism based city. "How much?" would be your most used question, and even if they do not know how to reply, they will key the value in their calculator and show it to you 😊

  • FOOD Typical street food 20-30k kip per meal, vegetarian buffet 5k kip. Restaurants (pizza, Lao set meals, Western food like steak, burgers etc.) 35-60k kip. Cheaper options are Porridge 10k kip, sandwich 10-20k kip, soup noodle 15k kip. Halal food might be difficult to find but there are halal restaurents. Vegetarian food available at some restaurants. We noticed that there are many fusion food in LPQ, probably due to tourism in the city.

  • WEATHER Further north and in Luang Prabang, rainfall tends to be lighter and you can often expect rain during the night or mornings with some relatively clear afternoons. Across Laos, throughout much of the rainy season, daytime temperatures average around 29°C in the lowlands and 23°C in the mountain valleys. - selectiveasia. During my trip, the weather was on our side. It was mostly cloudy with slight sunny afternoon, temperature around 25°C. It rained during the wee morning, when we were asleep so our trip was not affected. It only drizzled on DAY 4 Saturday morning. Tee and shorts/pants are the perfect outfits. Remember to cover up for temples visit though!


The is a very helpful high resolution map: 

Not only the street names and main attractions but also the names of the shops. 
Save this in your mobile phone for convenience!

DAY 1 (13 Sept, Wednesday)

  • Arrival: our flight was delayed for 1hr, arrived at 4PM. No visa required for Malaysian, just fill the arrival and departure card, go straight to foreigner counter.
  • MOUNT PHOUSI (Entrance fee: 20k kip). Phousi stupa and sunset, can start hike up around 5.30PM. Hike up using back entrance along Ratsavong road and exit at main entrance along Sisavangvong road, main entrance exit connects directly to Phousi night market
Stairs up the back entrance

Luang Prabang city view from the first viewing point

Sunset from the second viewing point

  • PHOUSI NIGHT MARKET (Open: 6PM-10PM). Can get street food, juices, and souvenirs here
Night market, still quite empty when we descended from Mt. Phousi because it just opened

Lao exotic whiskey are sold at the night market but whiskey village is slightly cheaper

  • Dinner at a restaurant along Sisavangvong road or at night market.

DAY 2 (14 Sept, Thursday)

  • ROYAL PALACE /NATIONAL MUSEUM (Open: 8AM-4PM, Entrance fee: 30k kip) Located opposite Phousi main entrance. No bags & camera allowed inside, free lockers provided, cover up for shoulders/legs at 5k kip with 50k kip deposit. *We passed by the Museum on Saturday and realized that it is closed, some sites also mentioned that it is close on Tuesday.
Entrance to the museum

One of the temple in the museum

  • WAT VISOUN TEMPLE Walking distance from our hotel, free entry 
  • KUANG SI WATERFALL (Entrance fee: 20k kip; book mini bus return 45k kip/pax with pick up from hotel) 2 trips available: depart 11.30AM return 4PM OR depart 1.30PM return 5PM. Along the way you get view of rice terraces, plantations; 30km from city, approximately 1hr ride, winding road- take sickness pill if needed; hike up till highest point for best view.
Excited but could not take a nice pic due to the shades πŸ˜…

The water gets quite deep and high current so be aware if you cannot swim, no life guard but there are warning signs around

Blueish water!

The end of the path is a scenic multi tier waterfall

  • ASIAN BEAR RESCUE CENTRE Located at the entrance of Kuang si waterfall, no entrance fee. Quite a number of Moon Bear and Sun Bears, feeding time around 2PM.
Playful bears

Have a good nap 😴

  • Food & souvenirs stalls at the entrance, similar to prices in the city. Fresh coconut 10k kip
  • Back to city by 4PM, have a rest and dinner 

DAY 3 (15 Sept, Friday)

took 1 Day Tour with Manifa Travel:  Mekong river slow boat + elephant riding + Mahount (elephant training) + Pak ou caves + whiskey/weaving village for $35/pax including transport+ lunch; exc Pak Ou cave entrance. 

Note: I would encourage to take 1 day tour instead of ½  day tour. For ½ day tour, you might be mixed with the 1 day tour and there will be lots of waiting and waste of time.

Note: There are many tour agencies around the LPQ town itself but they offer similar tours, different prices. So make sure you do your survey and are comfortable paying for what they offered. Book tour 1 day in advance.

Note: If you want to visit Pak Ou cave ONLY, you could take a 2hrs slow boat ride from the pier which departs at 8.30AM and return at 1PM for 65k kip/pax return

  • MEKONG SLOW BOAT Boat departs 8.30AM, 1.5hr ride to whiskey/weaving village. 
The water is so close to the edge of the boat!
And, do not expect life vests because I was looking for them the moment we boarded
Offshore life saving instinct kicked in πŸ˜“

  • WHISKY & WEAVING VILAGE Ban Xang Hai (whiskey & weaving same place) Do not expect too much as this is just a small stopover village. Whiskey sold here is cheaper than at the Night Market. 100ml small whiskey rice wine bottle can be hand carried, but only those 15% liquor. Our 50% liquor was confiscated at the custom. Be careful because the cap is not tight, liquor might spill (more worrying if it's check-in baggage). We did not get those with scorpions/snakes/centipedes because we were uncertain about the custom laws, advisable for some research on this.
There are 3 types of rice wine (or they call whisky).
The cloudy and purplish are lighter <15%, while the transparent is stronger 50% alcohol.
 I tried these 3, none of it with the exotic beings, but I am guessing the exotic whiskey
is similar to the 50% alcohol but with additional "flavoring"

The whiskey distillation tools

What they sell here are similar to those at the Night Market, I was thinking probably the Whiskey Village is the supplier😊

  • PAK OU CAVES 4000+ Buddha statues (Entrance fee: 20k kip) Located another 30mins from whiskey village; lower Tham Ting and upper cave Tham Theung (quite a hike). Do bring torchlights for the upper cave, or your mobile phones would also be sufficient. Not a big cave if you have been to caves in Malaysia like the Batu/Niah/Mulu caves, however some highly placed statues are fascinating (mostly are small statues tho)
Note: If you choose to go by land to Pak Ou, either tuktuk or minivan, still need to take boat to cross the river to the cave

The slow boat stop next to the cave

Ran out of breath once we arrived the upper cave

Dark entrance of the upper cave

  • ELEPHANT CAMP For lunch, given very fulfilling lunch
  • ELEPHANT RIDE Initially wanted to opt out for this, since I did this in Mondulkiri, Cambodia (a well known elephant conservation & reservation) way back and I do not support riding animals, but my fiance has not seen or ride one. I saw that the elephants are well take care of so I went on with it. The ride was approximately 30mins. 
  • MAHOUT Elephant training/ controller. A very short lesson on the elephant training language and then we get to ride directly on elephant without seat, giving instructions to the elephant is not easy. And no, they don’t listen to soft voices, it usually has to be loud and rough. This is another approx. 30mins. Each elephant is only allowed for rides approx. 1hr and 2 persons per day. 
The Elephant language for Laos Elephant only? Took this lesson and repeated after our guide like Kindergarten kids πŸ˜…

I was honestly freaking out because I had nowhere to grip on and was sitting on it's bare back
Though it was "abrasive", elephant skin is rough and their hair so coarse, I prefer this over using the seats!

Going downhill was scary, if I do not balance properly I felt like I will fall over

I brought long pants but didn't know it was time to ride the elephant so I had no time to change πŸ˜“

  • BATH WITH ELEPHANT After the ride, straight into Mekong river to bath with elephants, make sure you wear the proper attire from the ride itself. Changing room & shower available at the camp.
The playful elephant splashing water

The mahout asked my elephant to take a dip and I was freaking out I would fall
I cannot swim and when it dipped, the water reached above my chest! πŸ˜‚

Tired, used all my energy to stay balance on the elephant. Back to the city!

DAY 4 (16 Sept, Saturday)

  • ALMS GIVING CEREMONY (5.30AM-10AM) starting from Wat Xieng Thong and along Sisavangvong road

Tourists took part in alms giving
There are these packages available for booking one day ahead for you to join the alms giving ceremony

  • RIVERVIEW Viewpoint Cafe for Park & riverview
The connection of 2 rivers, the Mekong river in brown and the Nam Khan river in green

  • WAT XIENG THONG Golden city Temple (Entrance fee 20k kip) This is the most well known temple in LPQ, known as the Golden Tree Monastery. However do not expect too much of the size, we had a tough time looking for the entrance. There are 2 entrances, one along the Sakkaline main road and another from the side alley. The architecture is worth a visit.
The entrance which we almost missed, the signboard was also kinda faded


When we were about to leave, a couple in Laos traditional costume came to take wedding photo!

DAY 5 (17 Sept, Sunday)

  • Chill & relax, ordered Lao Coffee and just sat around πŸ˜‚
  • Departure: to airport at 1PM (only take 10-15mins ride to the airport)
Some of our food compilation:
Top most right is the only exact Laotian meal we had, and of course Beer Lao.
Most of the food are fusions, varieties of Asian and Western meals

♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥

We wanted a very chill & relaxing trip, no rush, so we opt out on some other attractions. 
If you want to maximize your LPQ experience, some other things you could do:

Bamboo bridge (5k kip) 
Tad Si Waterfall 
Ban Na Oune (Hmong Village) 
Ban Tha Pane (Khmu village) 
Massage (50-60k kip/hr) 
Visit Vang Vieng! (this is around 3.5hr ride from LPQ)
    *Villages visits are offered as tours, might be difficult to go on your own.

    • LPQ is a very relaxing place. Honest people, no haggling besides the Night/Day Market, people are friendly and weather was great during our trip (around 25⁰C, it was mostly cloudy with some late night rain which did not affect us and light drizzle on DAY 4). 
    • LPQ can be explored in 4D3N or 3D2N (there is a tour which offers Pak Ou cave & Kuang Si waterfall in 1 day, these 2 must-see attractions), thus is a very suitable destination for weekend getaway.

    Approximate breakdown of the expenses for 2 pax. Purple is the currency that we paid in.

    ps: I just notice that I have not blogged anything on my Vietnam trip. 
    I was traveling solo and in a hurry, it was slightly disorganized πŸ˜“