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 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.

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.

 

 

 

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!

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.

 

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!

 

 

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.

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.

 

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!

 

 

 

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

Mui Ne Day Trip Itinerary and Travel Guide

Ho Chi Minh can be a bit draining (specially for long term traveler), One quick getaway from the busy streets of Ho Chi Minh city is the costal town of Mui Ne. Located at the southern part of central Vietnam, Mui Ne offers beautiful landscapes, cultural experiences and some opportunity to bask under the Sun on the beach. Continue reading

10 Things You Need To Do In Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Most people struggle on coming up on what other things to do when planning for trips to Ho Chi Minh. Some get stuck to just doing a city tour and eating on the side streets. But there’s more to Saigon than these. Check out these 10 things you need to do in Ho Chi Minh City when you visit for more ideas! Continue reading

Saigon Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour

Probably one of the best cities in Southeast Asia if you are a fan of walking tours. Doing a Ho Chi Minh City Walking Tour is relatively easy even for beginners. Most of the attractions are at walking distance from each other. They can also be reached with leisurely walks along the tree lined streets of Saigon. Continue reading

A Night Of Good Food With The Saigon Free Walking Tours

Whenever someone asks me “what is it there to see in Viet Nam” I always reply with “You are asking the wrong question, you should be asking what is there to taste in Viet Nam”. So it was a delight to learn that there’s a group in Ho Chi Minh that provides free tours for tourists thanks to the Saigon Free Walking Tours. Continue reading

Travel Guide: How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

Being part of the main land Southeast Asia, Vietnam is one of the usual stops for backpackers. So aside from taking the plane to the country, to save money most travelers actually cross borders via land. If you are wondering how to go to Vietnam from Cambodia via land, you’d be surprised that it’s relatively easy. Let’s check on some things first.

VISA Requirements

If you are a non ASEAN citizen you might want to check Viet Nam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs if you are needing to secure a visa prior to your arrival. You will also notice when you buy your bus ticket that the staff will ask you some questions. This is to determine if you are aware of your visa situation and that you have secured one if necessary.

On the other hand, if you are an ASEAN citizen, all that you’ll be needing is your passport. ASEAN citizens with passports issued by member countries  are currently afforded visa-free entry into Viet Nam for a period of 21 to 30 days.

How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

check on google maps here

How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia (Border Cross)

screen cap from google maps

The Journey To Viet Nam

As you buy your ticket, the staff will actually ask you if you have ever been to Viet Nam. I think this is their soft probing if you are aware of the things that you need to know on how to go to Vietnam from Cambodia. They will also inform you if you need a visa, ergo they will not sell you tickets if you don’t have.

Say, you have your tickets already and its time to board the bus. Before the bus leaves, the steward will collect all passports to double check if you have the right documentation. As soon as you arrive at the Cambodian border, all passports will be redistributed. You will have to get off of the bus and line up for your passports to be stamped out.

After everyone has been stamped out and have boarded back on the bus, you will be taken to the Duty Free shop for dinner. Yeah, It’s a bit over priced but the food isn’t that bad and you have no other choice. After about an hour everyone jumped backed in the bus heading to the Viet Nam side of the border.

On the Vietnam side of the border, the bus steward will be the one to process your passports for you. You will actually be asked to bypass the immigration officers booth after handing you back your passport. As you exit the processing center, an immigration officer will then check your passports one at a time. This is to make sure that everyone was processed accordingly.

Your bus will be waiting at the exit of the processing center. Once everyone is back on the bus you’d be on your way to Ho Chi Minh city! There’s one difference that should be noted between the Cambodian and Vietnam border processing. As you exit, the Cambodian border center will just as yourself to step off the bus without your belongings. On the other hand, the Vietnam border will ask you to unload everything and have everything scanned. I guess the later’s immigration process is a lot stricter since you are entering their country.

Your journey ends at the Pham Ngu Lao street where everyone gets off. If you have not booked a room just yet, you are almost guaranteed to find one along the alleys of Pham Ngu Lao.

hopefully this gives you a good idea of what bus company to take and some insight on How To Go To Vietnam From Cambodia.

Fare: $14 (as of 11/29/2016)

 

If you have any questions, suggestion or inputs please do let us know on the comments section!