FF was especially nice and brought me hiking, cycling, lunch and exploring the new Eslite World in Taipei Creative Park.
Incidentally, an ex colleague who is based in Sydney returned to her home country for a short trip, found out on Facebook that I was in Taiwan and we arranged to meet. I had been working with her for more than 5 years but never met in person so it was certainly interesting to see her in person.
What's more? On my last day of the trip, just before I headed to the airport, I even had the chance to meet Ailsa, a friend I met on the internet about 7 years ago. We met in Hsinchu train station at the MOS burger outlet for a quick lunch.
As we draw to a close for the year 2014, is there anything particular that you is especially memorable for you?
Perhaps, a special vacation, a new job or a new beginning?
I had quite a few high points this year. Let me share with you one of them.
Being an avid runner, I made it a point to do an overseas race out of where I am based. I had this in mind in Jan 2014 and decided that I would sign up of the next international race (without hestitation) I came across.
I received a mailer from the Taiwan Running Association on one such event. Almost immediately, I signed up for it as a birthday present for myself.
The race is the Asics 21km run in Nantou, about an one hour's drive from Taichung, in high altitude.
As I drew nearer to race day, I took leave from work and booked an air ticket to Taipei and the accomodations in Taipei and Taichung as I needed to collect my race pack in Taipei and to meet up with some ex colleagues.
After collecting my race pack in Taipei, I headed to Taichung where I have booked for myself a nice hotel to some serioulsy good rest before and after the race.
On race day, I was awake early despite having just a few hours' worth of sleep. Also, I did not want to miss the transportation to the race venue. No way I am missing this after travelling all the way here!
I took a quick breakfast, got geared up and hailed a cab to the pick up point.
The mini bus was still there when I arrived. Throughout the bus trip there to the race venue, I was very awake and did not even take a nap. I was running on adrenaline (pun intended).
When I arrived, I was blessed with a cool temperature of 20 degree Celsius, a sunny day and a rustic, natural scenery. All the ingredients of an enjoyable race were in place.
It took me a while to get used to the terrain as it was a place I had never ran before (It was constant up and downhill ! I didnt know I signed up for that!) The dynamics of the race crowd were also vastly different from those I am familiar with.
The race was very well organised with plenty of hydration stations, well stocked with pre-broken biscuits, bananas and drinks along the way.
Along the way, I enjoyed the beautiful scenery. Many runners like myself stopped to take photos of the little town we went by.
The villagers were also very warm and friendly. They came out of their homes to cheer us on.
Crossing the fininishing line was aboslute elation. I collected my finisher's medal with thanksgiving. Lunch was even provided in the form of a bento set.
After lunch, we had some time to kill before I catch my flight. We asked the waitress to recommend a spot where we can have a leisurely afternoon stroll. She scribbled something on a piece of paper and we passed it to the taxi driver to take us there with very little idea of where we were heading.
It turned out to be a park:
After visiting the park, I paid a quick visit to the General Post Office and other city attractions before I headed to the airport:
It was much of a coincident that an ex-classmate of mine, K, whom I have not seen since 1996 (17 years!) was in Ho Chi Minh City together with V (also my ex-classmate) at the same time.
I actually arrived a day earlier and since we stayed in hotels near each other, we arranged for a late supper as well as coffee the night they arrived. It was a great catch up reminisencing our school days. During coffee, V recommended a villa styled resturant we should try and we agreed.
After coffee, as we departed and crossing the road, a man chased after me and I realised that he is the waiter in the cafe we went to. I have left my newly bought camera behind in the cafe! I was grateful to that gentleman.
On the day we were scheduled to meet, I took a twenty minutes taxi ride to where we were suppose to meet. I didnt expect the restaurant to be that far but the food was good.
The French owner, being generous gave us almost non stop serving of free cheese and truffles too!
Food is good and we spent about US$90 for three.
3G Trois Gourmands
Address: 18 Tong Huu Dinh Street, Thao Dien Ward, District 2, HCM City, Vietnam
No visit to Ho Chi Minh City is complete without a visit to the former Presidential Palace (now called Independence Palace). I was looking forward to the visit as I had on a sideline basis, studied the Vietnam War for many years.
During the Vietnam War, the Palace also served as a command center to coordinate war activities. Much of the remnants stayed the way it was since 1966.
The hotel may be far from the central of Ho Chi Minh City but it does have its good points. Being relatively new, the facilities inside the hotel are top notch. The spa and the buffet breakfast are perhaps the best in Ho Chi Minh City.
The hotel also provides shuttle bus services to and fro the main attractions too. Location, I feel, in this case is not too much of a problem.