Ximen Corner Hostel Review

It’s my 5th time in Taiwan, this time I am bringing my mom to see my favorite city in Asia. Like you guys know I love staying in hostels, that aside from the fact that hotels in Taipei can be a bit off of my budget. Knowing that it is spring, I understand that it can be difficult to book accommodations in the city. I tried booking my favorite hostel, Wow Hostel Ximen, for the entire duration of our trip but they were just full on our first two days.

I had no choice but to find another one. I remembered booking a different hostel for my cousin about a year ago when they visited. I checked them out at Booking.Com my go-to site in searching and reserving accommodations every time I travel. Searching for Ximen Corner Hostel I found that they have available beds in their dorm rooms on the days we need. I’ve seen the place before since I booked my cousin there so I didn’t hesitate to reserve beds there for our first two days.

We arrived during the wee time in the morning. Hostels usually do not staff their receptions during these times to save. It is common that they would just give you instructions so that you can check in your self to your room. To my amazement, Ximen Corner Hostel had someone waiting for us to check in, in the reception. Again this is 3 AM in the morning!

The lady was so pleasant and helpful, especially that my mom has a disability. She helped me carry our luggage to our rooms so we can settle. She gave us a quick tour of the hostel showing us where we can get breakfast, where the lounge is and other facilities that we may need during our stay.

Breakfast

Tired as we are, we decided to call it a day and just take a good night sleep. Waking up, breakfast was served at a corner of the hallway near where the water dispenser is. Breakfast was your typical bread, butter, and jam. It was just a bit disappointing because they didn’t have good mugs to fix your coffee on. Instead, they provide paper cups that are a bit small for a good mug of coffee to start my day. I really don’t expect much with hostel breakfasts especially that they are cheaper than normal hotels. I know that Ximen Corner Hostel is cheaper by about a couple of hundred NT$ compared to my first choice, but I still think breakfast could have been better. Also, coffee is limited to breakfast that ends at about 10 AM. There are no free beverage options after that.

that little nook in the hallway where they serve breakfast

Beds

The beds are comfortable enough to sleep soundly. Each bed is configured to provide privacy with the curtains and dividers between beds. It was comfortable enough for me, I could say to the extent that it is better than most of what I have seen in Southeast Asia. The Rooms are big and the temperature is on the comfortable to the cold side which I like. I say that it’s comfortable because it does provide a warmer temperature compared outside during winter but it’s not hot as if you will sweat.

Location

Ximen Corner Hostel’s location is superb. It is accessible to both the main road and the walking street. Our taxi dropped us off just a few meters away from the hostel which is great since my mom would have to navigate less of the uneven alley. During day time, the hostel is just a few steps away from the walking street and my favorite food shop in Ximending, Hot Star. It is also near other food stores like Yoshinoya and KFC if you want something familiar to your palate. Ximen Corner Hostel is also about fifty to a hundred meters away from the Ximending MRT station which will be really helpful especially if you plan to do most of your tours DIY style.

Facilities

Ximen Corner Hostel has good facilities that will cater to your travel needs. They have a really helpful reception that can provide you information on how to get to your destinations. Their rooms are all equipped with bathrooms so you do not have to go out to take a shower or use the toilet. You can also lounge around their common room that has comfortable sofas where you can hang out with your friends. You can also buy a token at the reception and battle with your friends on their nostalgic arcade game machines. The hostel also provides water for free for the entire day, coffee though is only available during breakfast. I am not sure if they have laundry services, I did not see any during my stay.

Edit: I recently found out that they do have laundry service. 

 

 

 

 

PWD Accessibility

Having my mom with me gave me a good opportunity to see how accessible this hostel is for people with disabilities. Ximen Corner Hostel is pretty accessible from the outside as the building from the alley has a small ramp to accommodate wheeled chairs. The elevator going up to their floor also has buttons low enough for PWDs to reach. Also when the elevators are accessed via this button, the door closes slower than usual giving enough time for PWDs to come in or out of the car.

Coming into the reception was hassle free as the car aligns really well to the floor. After checking in we proceeded to our rooms.  the hallways are nice and wide. Then on to the room is where we face some issues and here’s where my mom starts to complain.  The entrances are elevated from the hallway floor so you would have to take a step up to get in, and then another step to go down to the room floor. So if you are on a wheelchair it will be difficult if not impossible to get into the room and the bathroom

What I Think About Ximen Corner Hostel

As a backpacker, I’d say that Ximen Corner Hostel offers a really good value for your buck. Affordable price that gives a good bed, a comfortable environment, and a pretty hip style hostel. The staff here are also extremely helpful and friendly, they actually transferred my mom to my room which was more expensive than the all girls room at no additional cost. If you are really trying to save I’d say this is the best one for you.

The things that I didn’t like about this hostel though is that there are no windows. The hostel is housed in a commercial building with a few floors turned into hostels. Also, coffee or tea isn’t available the entire day which could have been awesome. As for my mom, if you are a PWD, we’d recommend you check out other hostels. Accessibility to each room is just bad for wheeled people. However, if you are on crutches you will still manage to go around, as its just the entrances to the rooms that are elevated from the hallway floor.

 

If you are considering checking out other hostels check out my review of other Taipei Hostels Below

Meander Hostel 

Ximen Wow Hostel

Cavemen Backpackers (coming soon)

5 Tips On How To Take Better Travel Photos

A lot of us travel for food, some travel for seeing sights and some travel to experience the World. But all of this comes down to one thing we all want to create memories. How else do we commonly hold on to these memories? Photographs. As many millennials now say; It didn’t happen if it isn’t in a picture.

For sure almost all of us have that easy access to phone cameras closely kept near us. As they say, the best camera you can have is the one you have right now. Quite possibly if you really like taking photos a lot you might have a digital camera and if you are quite serious about it may be a DSLR. But no matter how good or bad your camera is, knowing some techniques on how to shoot can only make your photos looks better.

So here are 5 techniques that I use when taking photos while on the road.

 

1. The Big Picture

While it is awesome to take photos of and with friends, you can still make it better by showing a bigger picture. instead of taking a tight shot, try showing more of your surroundings, where you are at the moment or maybe a landmark. It doesn’t also have to just with group photos, you can also use this technique with solo photos.

As shown below the first photo does show the subject clearly but it doesn’t tell much about the trip. Comparing shots, the second photo shows the subject and where he currently was. It shows the trains that are evidently Disney themed giving whoever is viewing the photo an idea that I am in the Disneyland Station.

This picture was taken by my dad. It does show me clearly, but it doesn’t give the viewer a clue on where I am at the moment. This photo could have been taken at the mall due to the way it looks like.

 

This photo, on the other hand, this photo suggests that this was taken in the Disney Train station as evidenced by the Disney themed trains at the back of the subject

 

2. Eliminate The Crowd

We all have that idea of a picture perfect place with no crowds at all. Reality though is, these picture-perfect places are full of tourist. Still a photo without any stranger in it could be amazing. If you are a techie person and knows a little Photoshop, you can take several photos and use the median function of the software.

But if you’re not even a photo enthusiast and you just want to take a good photo with your phone, you can actually do this trick. Change the angle of your photo. Crowds, of course, are always at eye level. Eliminate strangers from your photo by taking a photo from a lower level putting your subject above you avoiding the eye level where the crowds are.

See how on the first photo shows the huge crowd in the area. Then just by looking for an interesting background and a good angle, the image drastically improves as shown on the next two photos.

 

 

 

3. Use Objects As Frames

Putting the focus on your subject such as your self is crucial to a good photo. If there are too many things happening around the subject it is best to put some sort of frame around them to draw the viewer (who ever is looking at the photo) to the subject of your photo.

In this photo, I used the towers to frame my subject. The foreground with the detail of the tower we were in and the background with the tower adjacent to us. This eliminated much the view of much of the buildings surrounding us. Note that I used a mobile phone only (Asus Zenfone 5) to capture this image. With the right composition, you can capture Instagram worthy photographs with minimal equipment.

 On this photo, I used the towering greeneries of the tries to frame the Angkor Wat. I noticed that the tree tops had this distinct divide while it also somewhat follows the curves of the prangs of the temple, so I took advantage and used them as a frame.

 

4. Create a story

shoot series of photos that will tell what happened on your trip, show what happened when people’s reactions when food was served to them and when they first tasted the dish. It wouldn’t hurt to take as much photo as you can, but also be conscious of your intention to create a story. Take an establishing shot showing the location, then maybe a shot that shows the situation then maybe a photo or two of the event that happened and the people’s reaction.

 

5. Capture Moments

Candid shots are great in keeping memories. Though it is difficult to know when great surprises can happen, it is not impossible to accomplish. Moments are not limited to candid events though, always have your cameras ready for things like your dad’s first time holding a snake. Don’t be afraid to take lots of photos or even take pictures in burst mode capturing all emotions on their faces.

Baguio Hostel: Skyline Seven Backpackers

I’ve arrived at Skyline Seven Backpackers late that night and was welcomed by a guy. I had this weird feeling about the place, like something was missing. I though that hmm… maybe its just me. Earlier that day, I was trying to book online but my I was having trouble with my card. So I call their number and asked if I could just walk in at the property. Some one replied and yeah they said that it was fine.

I arrived late at night and checked in. I shown to my bed and I just put my bag on the bed then set up my work station at the dinning hall.

 

BOOK SKYLINE SEVEN HOSTEL HERE

The Rooms

I booked a single bed in a dorm room. The room smelled okay for me. I knew that it was an old house and old houses have this distinct smell. So no complaints about that. The dorm room I was in had about six single beds, no bunk beds here so wiggly beds when someone gets off from the top! Basic bed setup was with linens and a warm blanket. Note though, there are no room heaters here, man, the cold weather is what people come here for!!!

Just like the usual hostel set up, the bathroom is shared and is outside the room. I think they have a couple of room with ensuite bathrooms and that is it. See this hostel is actually an old house turned into something productive such as this hostel. Just saying, to set your expectations.

 

 

What I Like

Cheap – Yes, it is cheap but not that place that feels like you are poor and didn’t have a choice but to take it. It is more of value for your money kind of place.

Good Location – Located at the Military Cutoff road, it is just about several hundred meters away from SM Baguio

Breakfast – Simple breakfast; Bread, jams, and coffee.

Internet – The best internet connection I could find in Baguio.

Bummers

There was no water in the common CR when I tried to use it around 3 am (don’t judge, I work at night. Haha!). I later found out that the hostel actually didn’t have a water line! Since it was an old house, its water supply is actually rationed and stored at their tanks. Unfortunately, they had a situation with their staff and had to replace them. Anyways, hopefully, that has been sorted out already.

Who Can I Recommend This For?

I’d say this is one of the few places that I’ve been to around the Philippines where the internet really works! Digital nomads would love to work here. The speeds aren’t lightning fast like our neighbor southeast Asian countries but I’d say its one of the most decent. During my visit speedtest.net gave these numbers when I ran their app.

 

BOOK SKYLINE SEVEN HOSTEL HERE

 

 

Siem Reap Pub Hostel Review

On my recent Indochina backpacking trip, I wanted to make sure that my dad was gonna have a good time. I wanted to get some thing “standard” that would give my dad somewhat a vacation feel. Staying away from my usual hostel accommodation, I booked private rooms for us.

I had a few criteria  for a good accommodation. I need it to be clean of course. My major pet peeve is a dirty bathroom.  I hate bathrooms that smell like a public toilet and has yellowish bowls. It doesn’t have to be big, it just need to have hot and cold water and like I said a clean bowl.

 

CHECK SIEM REAP PUB HOSTEL PRICES 

 

It has to have a pool. I wanted to make sure that there’s somewhere we can hangout when we are just too lazy to go out. Some may say that it is totally unnecessary, but traveling longer than many (at least for Filipinos) made me change my mind. There are times when you just have to slow down when you start feeling that your trip is become like a race. Some may want an awesome view at a high floor or a really good room in an expensive hotel, but for me I just need to see a pool within reach.

It also needs to have a good internet access. Being a digital nomad has allowed me to travel with my family and still be able to work. Beautiful ain’t it? But it still has limitations. I can only go to places where the internet is good allowing me to connect to my files and work load. Reading from the reviews on my favorite booking website, I find that there are some that says the internet was good and did not find any bad comments. That was good enough for me. Here are some of the speed tests I did around the hostel.

 

WIFI Speeds

3rd floor corridor2nd floor corridorGround floor lobby

Unfortunately, this didn’t hold true with the connection in our room. I had a hard time connecting to the internet and actual have some work done. Good thing I have a local sim that gave me enough bandwidth for my work.

The Room and Price

If you’ve been following my blog you know that I always look for the best priced accommodation. Not just some cheap room, I always look for value. I’d say that is what Siem Reap Pub Hostel does offer, good value with its accommodation. I scored 2 rooms for just $11 a night! Each room was equipped with air conditioning unit keeping us cool all day. The bathrooms are also en-suite so there’s no need for you to share or wait for them to free up. Of course the best thing about having your own rooms is the privacy you get. I would have settled staying in a dorm room if I was alone. I’m just not sure though if they have a good place to work at if you are at the dorms. As far as private rooms though, most of them have tables you can work on.

Location

Siem Reap Pub Hostel’s location isn’t my favorite (full disclosure, I am biased for Sok San road) but it does locate you almost at the middle of everything. Market road is a few steps away while Sok San road where the cheap foods are is just a few minutes walk from the hostel. Also, you don’t have to worry about getting to the hostel when you arrive. The hostel provides free pickup from the bus stop (not sure about the airport though) going to the hostel.

Would I Recommend?

Would I? Yes! The value that Siem Reap Pub Hostel offers is incredible. Free Pick up, swimming pool, good internet on some locations, location and the friendly staff are awesome. I couldn’t tell though if this is as social as it should be for solo travelers, I was traveling with family.

CHECK SIEM REAP PUB HOSTEL PRICES 

2018: Sharing The Gift Of Travel

Over the past years, I’ve traveled solo exploring most of Southeast Asia. Every once in a while though, I get this idea that it could be a lot more fun if bring friends or even family with me. Don’t get me wrong, I still love solo travel above all, but I guess sharing the gift of travel is a good idea.

My 2018 was filled with travels shared with friends and family.But these trips didn’t just happened this year alone, its preparation even dates back a year earlier. Budgeting for several people  for a couple of trips was quite a daunting task. It was quite scary assuring them that the amount I ask them to save would be enough for the entirety of the trips.

The first trip I had was on January. This trip was particularly the hardest. It was a fourteen day Indochina trip starting in Vietnam. Not everyone can join the trip at the same time. We began the trip with four friends going to Ho Chi Minh City. Two of them bailed out last minute, leaving me with two companions. Before we head out to Phnom Penh, three friends joined us; then another three followed when e were in Siem Reap. Three people later went ahead to Bangkok after a day in Siem Reap, then two friends joined us when we arrived in Bangkok. It was a roller coaster ride indeed! A logistics nightmare, but it was fun!

 

March is a good time for Taipei, one of my pet cities in the world. I love the cool weather during spring and how beautiful the Cherry Blossoms are. A trip with your friends wouldn’t be complete unless someone backs out. Yep one backed out, so in with my best friend’s aunt. I’d say that the tour turned out good, I feel like everyone felt they got their money’s worth that they even sat down one of the scheduled tours. I stayed in Taipei for a couple more days after they left. I wanted to enjoy the city like how I always enjoyed it to be. The city is just full of life and class.

 

After a few months of staying at my base, my feet itched for some travel. Easiest place to get to? Baguio! It has been a while since I’ve been there so I was really excited about visiting it again. It was just a bus ride away after all. I revisited all the usual tourist spots like the Burnham Park, Mines View Park and the Baguio Cathedral. I wanted to check them out again since it has been a few years since I’ve been to the city.

The highlight of my travel year was on November. It was a surprise for my dad. All he knew was that we are going to Viet Nam, he was surprised later on that we are actually backpacking across Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand! He only figured everything out when we checked out of our AirBnb in Ho Chi Minh city and rode a bus to Phnom Penh, Dad also met my girlfriend for the first time, who is Cambodian and is based in the capital city. Our journey ended in Bangkok where shopping was really good. We had loads of fun and dad really enjoyed biking around Siem Reap. As for me it was awesome having traveled with dad knowing that he hates bus rides, but still manage to make it through. He actually didn’t got dizzy at all!

Don’t get the idea though that this year was just all good. This year was also my most challenging, as one of my projects went down the drain. It wasn’t even my fault, I was just there to assist. But then everything snowballing that caused difficulties for me in planning my travels for 2019. It was traumatic, but I learned a lot in the process.

Travel was abundant for me on 2018. I am grateful that I was able to share my passion with friends. It was tiring but fulfilling showing them

Mekong Delta Tour

I’ve always wanted to see the Mekong Delta way back during my first Indochina Backpacking Trip. The thing is I have always been put off by the price that I see online. But that has changed thank God to apps like Klook! This year I went back to Vietnam with my dad and I made sure that I visit so I booked my Mekong Delta Tour at just $14. (Get extra HKD 25 discount when you sign up using this link)

For those who are not familiar, The Mekong Delta is where the great Mekong River expands before it meets the ocean. This area is  70 kilometers away from District 1 of Ho Chi Minh city. Travel to our jump off point was about 2 hours given that travel was great going south.

I normally do not like joining organized group tours, but this is an exception. I tried planning doing this DIY, but it was just to toxic and expensive. Just the travel alone was so daunting that I thought it wasn’t worth doing just a day trip.  I just gave up back then. Having the opportunity to visit this area of Vietnam this convenient is something not to pass up.

Our Mekong Delta tour started at De Tham street near Bui Vien, where we waited for our tour bus. We waited along with a throng of people, waiting for their own tour buses. I was so anxious at this time thinking that we’re just gonna go through some crowded tourist spot.

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

Bee Farming and Traditional Viet Music

Our first stop was some sort of rural residence turned tourist spot. We tasted royal jelly honey tea while listening to traditional Vietnamese songs. They showed us how they farm the bees and let us hold a colony of bees.

 

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

 

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

 

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

Of course after tasting for free they will go around and sell you some honey. Don’t let that turn you off though. They will just go around and ask if you want to buy and not really push for it, which is kind of nice. The performers will also try to sell their CDs for about $5 if I am not mistaken. That too wasn’t pushed to us guests. A tip box though was passed around, which I think is just right. I mean, the performers were awesome and the cultural experience was superb!

Row Boats

Next stop was the one I was really looking forward to, the paddle boat ride. I wanted to experience how tranquil it is while paddling through the canals of the delta. We were grouped into fours, the maximum capacity of the boat. The boat ride was quite short but it felt like it was the best part of the tour. The canals were surrounded by nipa trees, they were narrow, just enough for two boats to pass by each other. It was what I was expecting it should be.

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

 

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

The row boats took us across to our next destination, a coconut candy factory along the canals. There we sampled candies that are freshly made and liquor made out of coconut water. They showed us the process from start to finish on how to make products out of coconut meat and it was quite interesting. Who am I kidding? Hahahaha, well maybe at least for the westerners who have no idea on how to cook something out of coconuts. We Asians dude! Lol!

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

 

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

 

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

Lunch was next on the agenda. we boarded a bigger boat that crossed the river to Pomelo Island for lunch. The eyot is filled with Pomelo trees, hence the name. We waited I think for about five or seven minutes to be served of our set lunch. Each plate is made up of an egg, rice some veggies and pork. There is an option to upgrade your meal to a full course lunch. Upgraded lunch sets includes a whole Elephant Ear fish (Giant Gourami), grilled shrimps and a fresh spring roll set. There also needs to be two of you upgrading so you can get the Elephant Ear Fish. We didn’t upgrade, we thought it was excessively expensive to pay for an extra $16 for the two of us for upgraded meal. But like I said, you pay for the experience.

Temple Visit

Back at the boat after the eating, we were ready to come back to Ho Chi Minh. We have one last stop though, the Chua Vinh Trang. The temple was adorned with big statues of Buddha in different poses reminding of his teachings. We didn’t visit any temple in Vietnam on this trip aside from this  so it was awesome to see one before we head off to our next destination the following day.

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

 

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

MEKONG DELTA TOUR

Back at the bus, we comfortable sat on our seats as the driver navigates back to the city. I didn’t see much of the sights I was dead tired sleeping. I woke up when we were almost back in District 1. For $14 (plus $3 – my card was charged less than Php 600) a person, I’d say this is worth the trip. Saving your self from the hardship of commuting and coordinating the activities plus saving money because you guys are doing it in a group is a no brainer decision that you can do. So if you have plans of taking this trip, go ahead book that seat and enjoy your day!

 

 

 

My Aussie Fascination

I’ve been fascinated by the land down under ever since I was a kid. I mean those cutie patootie Koalas and Kangaroos are just so adorable. Blame it on network TV cartoons! Hahaha. But seriously, Australia seems to be a world of its own, full of adventure spread over a vast land of mystery.

Now that I’ve already transitioned to being a Digital Nomad, I now have the freedom to travel as much as I want. That is as long as I have access to the internet. I’m pretty sure thought that it won’t be a problem in Australia.

Over the last couple of months, I’ve been toying with the idea of flying to Australia but I am still at the very early stages of planning my trip. to tell you the truth though, I am very excited about it.

Planning The Trip

I started searching for the cheapest flights first. Yep this is how I start my trips. To save, you have to be flexible. Thank goodness for sites like Kayak  I can easily find cheap flights to the land down under. Yeah, there are other flight booking websites, but honestly it’s kinda hard to trust those “other sites”. I may be a cheap traveler but of course, I try to stay smart as well and stick to industry trusted websites.

The List

Cliche as it may sound, I try to make a list. I write down the places that I want to see. This list eventually becomes my itinerary. I include what are their opening hours, fees if any and what are the best times to visit them.

Here are the places on my list that I plan to see, most of them are in Melbourne. I thought of seeing Australia one city at a time for now and I think Melbourne is a great place to start.

Opera House

Built at the end of the 1950’s, this architectural marvel caught my fascination with its Sails like roof that seem to face the Sydney Harbor ready voyage across the seas. But my fascination with the Opera House does not end there. The building, unknown to many is one of the few auditoriums around the world that was built by Bolt, Beranek & Newman; The same company that constructed the acoustics of the PhilAm Theater in the Philippines, The United Nations Assembly Hall and the Lincoln Center to name some. I want to experience and see how similar or different each projects are.

Sidney Bridge

Yep the bridge and I am not even just talking about at just staring at it. I want to climb it! I saw a few videos on YouTube where people climb the support structure of the bridge. It looks so much fun…. ermmm… unless I get some panic attack! Hahaha! Well… one thing remains, I still want to try it. Maybe at night though spend a couple of hours just admiring the bridge it self and tell my self, good job! You just overcame another challenge for your self!

Coffee Shops

I remember Erwan Heussaf said on his latest overnight video, what the world knows as next wave coffee shops are just but the ordinary coffee shops Melbournian have always known. I am a coffee enthusiast if not, an addict. I love tasting coffee and experience how different they are from one place to another. It tells a one’s city’s character and culture by how people treat its coffee. Do I sound a coffee addict already? But yes that is very true for the most part, that is why I wouldn’t want to miss tasting Melbourne’s coffees.

The Botanic Gardens

Green spaces are something that Filipinos who live in the metropoilis aren’t well versed of. This is something that I don’t experience much due to poor urban planning. That is why every time I visit another country, I take time visiting green spaces like the Royal Botanic Gardens. Lame as it may sound but seeing beautiful green spaces for me is enough reason to travel.

I know there’s just so much more to see and do in Melbourne. But hey, I am just starting out. I hear from lots of long time travelers that Australia is a great country to backpack around like the Indochina region; I have no doubts about it. I feel that starting out in this city will give me a good feel of how I can navigate around the continent and meet fellow travelers who are starting out their journey.

Exploring a new country always gives me that certain high that I cannot explain. May be its because of the randomness or unpredictability of what could happen next. Beyond the highs that you anticipate, you should never skip through planning specially if your are travelling on a budget. Sure things may not always go as planned but having that certain direction can always lead you to great adventures!

 

Cu Chi Tunnels: Viet Cong’s Secret Weapon

It’s my second time in Ho Chi Minh city, it’s my chance to do things I’ve missed out the first time I traveled there. One of them that I really wanted to do that time was to visit the Cu Chi Tunnels .

There are many tour companies that offer organized trips to the tunnels like the ones offered by Klook. They cost a bit more but it’s pretty convenient. You signup, pay and show up on your tour date. Easy! I am actually booking one for my up coming trip with my Dad, you know, senior…. Hahaha!

But I was alone on this trip and yes still on a budget. So nervous as I am, I told my self heck yeah, I’ll just wing it and do it DIY!

How To Get To Cu Chi Tunnels

Before we go into putting our selves in a bus, let me just clarify that I’ll be visiting the Ben Duoc site. This is the original and authentic tunnels that was built way back during the French and Vietnam war. The other site Ben Dinh as research tells me is reconstructed or replica tunnel system made for tourists. Ben Dinh is also where most of the group tourist buses are taken.

You want to find your selves at Ben Duoc. To get there take a Ho Chi Minh – Cu Chi bus (Bus 13) departing at Park 9/23 for ₫10,000. Make sure you have comfortable clothes on (specially when it’s hot) as it takes about 1.5-2 hours to get to Cu Chi bus terminal. Hold on tight, you are not yet at your destination. You have to take another bus (Bus 79) that will get you to the tunnels.

When you get on bus 79, make sure to tell the conductor that you are going to the Cu Chi tunnels, they’ll let your know when you have arrived to your destination. travel time from the bus station to Ben Duoc is about 45 minutes to an hour.

Google Maps Direction: https://goo.gl/Hsjfsa

The Tunnels

From the gate welcoming with an arch, you will have to walk about 1 kilometer to the forested part of the park. If you are doing this DIY, you will be directed to start at the orientation area, where you will be ask (with pretty much no option to opt out) to watch north Vietnam’s version of the “American War”.

After the “Introduction” A tour guide will be showing you around the park explaining each site’s significance to the war. One of the interesting yet cringe inducing part of the tour are the human traps that the VietCong have devised to fight off the enemies.

The highlight of the tour, of course are the tunnels them selves. Your tour guide will tell you how long the entire system is and when they started building the tunnels which is pretty amazing. You will get to experience going through a few of the original tunnels. This is what sets Ben Duoc apart from Ben Dinh, as the later is just a replica of the tunnels found in Ben Duoc to accommodate big sized foreigners.

The tour ends with a taste of the boiled cassava dipped into sugar. Pretty common snack for Asians but it could be exotic for westerners. Honestly love it, but I wont blame you if you don’t. It tastes bland and sugary.

You may not agree with the stories of the tour guides but just keep an open mind and always remember that they are telling their side of the story. The Cu Chi tunnel though really far from the city center I can say is a must do to be able to learn more of Vietnam’s culture and history.

 

BOOK YOUR CU CHI TUNNEL TOURS WITH KLOOK

 

Cu Chi Tunnel Ben Duoc
Address:Phú Hiệp, Phú Mỹ Hưng, Củ Chi, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Phone: +84 28 3794 8830
Opening Hours: Daily 7AM – 5PM
Entrance Fee: VND 90,000

Yes Pho: Baguio’s Best Vietnamese Restaurant

Traveling up north to the Pine City of the Philippines, Baguio, caught me by surprise! I’ve been craving for a Bahn Mi for weeks already looking for that authentic Vietnamese taste. But it’s kinda hard to find something close to what I remember tasting in Saigon.

On my first day in my quick escape to the Summer Capital of the Philippines, I went out walking from my hostel to get some cash from the machine. I walked all the way back to the terminal, but the ATM machine wasn’t working. I walked farther and found another bank and got some cash. I saw this small restaurant just right beside the bank. It says, Yes Pho… Hmmm… I was intrigued by the name… can it be something I have been longing for?

As I stepped inside the shop, this old familiar smell welcomed me. I don’t know what it is but it was something I remember smelling back in Vietnam. They just opened that morning so they are still stewing and brewing things up, it was perfect time for me. The shop is hinted with Vietnamese culture with the hats reminiscent of the southeast Asian country.

I asked if they have a Bahn Mi but said that it wasn’t available yet. Turns out later that it was actually their first day offering the said sandwich.

My spring roll was made fresh when I ordered it. I asked for a shrimp and chicken spring roll. I sat outside to savor the fresh…(fresh daw oh) and cool Baguio air. My food was made pretty quick and was served after a few minutes..

It was served on a plate along with a peanut sauce. Honestly, I haven’t tried this dish with peanut sauce so this is something familiar but is also something new for me. 3

Each spring roll was carefully crafted. It looked full with the vermicelli. I thought that it was gonna be just like those cheap spring rolls I tried in Saigon. But then I took my first bite. I was surprised that inside the bed of vermicelli were more vegetables who’s flavors played on my palate. It was a refreshing surprise.

The chicken fresh spring roll was good but I liked the shrimp best. It was so refreshing and it totally transported me back to my memories of those small side walk stalls in Ho Chi Minh and possibly better.

 

Like a true Vietnamese spring roll it was beautifully presented. Just look at that, why wouldn’t you crave for more of that! I dipped the roll on to the peanut sauce and it was a revelation. It gave me a different experience yet familiar. The I thought that most Filipinos would love the peanut sauce but being someone who is better acquainted with the vinaigrette dip I think I’d stick to that. I asked if they have that kind of dip and they did, stupid me I didn’t ask before taking a bite.

 

Ho Chi Minh or Saigon can be thousands of miles away and can be costly to come back every so soon. Or maybe you could be someone who have been wanting to experience Viet Nam but have not had the chance because of time or money. Well, I highly suggest that you try out this restaurant in Baguio city and take that journey to back to Saigon through your palate. With that, I can dare say that this is one of the must try restaurants in Baguio city.