5 MUST SEE PLACES IN SIEM REAP (NOT ANGKOR WAT)

So I am writing this during the time of the Corona Virus Pandemic that originated from China. Whew, that sounds biblical! Anyways it is those times and almost no one is reading about travel. Why? coz no one is able to travel leisurely at the moment as borders of countries closed up because of the virus. So I thought to share a quick tour we did around Siem Reap a couple of years back when I kidnapped my dad on a 14 day Indochina Trip.

Anyways I just want to share with you some places that you can go around Siem Reap on days that you are not raiding the Angkor Wat complex. These are pretty much free locations that you can spend time and wander.

1. Prom Rath Pagoda

One of the important pagodas in Siem Reap, the Wat Prom Rath Pagoda features a sculpture garden that depicts Buddha’s journey to nirvana. Inside the temple, the inner side of the walls exhibits a mural of Buddha’s life from birth to death. A very interesting place to learn more about Buddhism.

 

 

 

 

2. Pub Street

Siem Reaps most famous street. Drown yourselves to 50 cent beers and dance the entire night with wonderful people (well mostly white lol) from all over the world!

 

3. Angkor Arts Market

Cambodia is just full of talented people, especially with visual arts. Just look at the Angkor Wat. The Angkor Night Art Market is one place that you can visit, just right across the Siem Reap river to find authentic Cambodian arts and handicrafts.

 

 

4. Apsara Dancers

There are quite a few restaurants in Siem Reap that have shows showing traditional Cambodian culture. We dined at Koulen Restaurant. They charge $12 for adults and $6 for children. It includes a buffet and a cultural show. The show consists of some traditional dances and Apsara Dancers. Apsara is the ancient ballet dance of the Khmer empire. The buffet at this restaurant isn’t really the best. However, since we came there for the show it wasn’t so bad at all. There are other restaurants that offer the same, with good food selection and great deserts. For sure you can find one that would fit your budget.

 

5. Preach Ang Chek

A small temple by the Royal Independence gardens. Preach Ang Chek is said to be a shrine for 2 Angkorian princess. The statues were moved around the city until it found it’s current place in 1990. I like the open layout of the shrine where people can freely walk in and out. You can also see the statues from the outside. The trees at the adjacent parking lot also houses a cool group of animals. If you look up and stare just long enough, you will notice that the black things hanging at the top are not part of the trees but are actually huge flying foxes!

 

 

 

 

7 THINGS I REALLY LOVE ABOUT LOS ANGELES (2021)

Los Angeles is one of my favorite cities in the world. I’ve always thought of spending a lot of time in LA meeting new friends and just enjoying the city by the sea. It may be because of too much TV but Los Angeles really has never lost its charm to me.  So, let me share with you 7 things I really love about Los Angeles I realized on my last visit to the city. 

  1. Beaches

    Eons ago, lol, when I was a kid I used to always watch Baywatch. Yes, that bikini running, David Hasselhoff starring hot hot hot show shot in California. I’ve always fantasized about having an amazing body with six-pack abs and just walk shirtless at Venice Beach. Spoiler alert: didn’t happen. LOL. But that fantasy also has given me the fondness of living near the beach. A few years back, I even attempted relocating at Subic Bay, though I horribly failed, at least I tried. I also just bought a plot of land near the beach in Batangas! Anyways, I am getting a bit off the topic. L.A.’s beaches is absolutely #1 on my list because of that.





    LA’s (and its nearby Orange County) beaches are absolutely picturesque. Not just Venice, Dockweiler and Manhattan beaches, but if you go down south at Huntington Beach it just gets better. I absolutely love the beach culture of LA. How people respect other people’s rift with their beach thing. It’s just awesome. The sand may not be as fine as Boracay but it’s just the culture that makes it so different and beautiful. 






  2. Everything Has Labels

    Way back in early 2019 I weighed about 70kg, I’m 5’6″ so I was pretty thin. I’ll put a photo below for those who can’t imagine how thin I was. I gained weight towards the end of that year and through 2020 due to many factors. It was really a struggle to watch what I was eating when I was staying with my aunt in North Carolina. I mean, how can I say no to the awesome food my aunt and uncle cook every single day!

    When I moved to Los Angeles after a couple of months with them, I was able to watch what I eat since I buy my own food. I buy my food good for a few days from the neighborhood grocery, Ralph’s. The best thing about doing grocery is that there are labels on how many calories each serving of food there is. I can just mix and match without worrying about exceeding my daily caloric intake targets!

    Amen to ZERO Calories!


    Mix and matchin’ my proteins for dinner. 


  3. Transportation

    The first time I was in Los Angeles, was ages ago. At that time, we were pretty much confined to the house and hotel where we were staying at. I was too young, didn’t had a car, and didn’t know how to drive. Public transportation at that time was next to inexistent. Don’t even ask about Uber or Lyft when computers back then, were still running on WindowsXp. Today, Los Angeles may not have a metro system as fancy as the big cities but their buses do run 24 hours. Paying the fare is also really easy, just get yourself one of the metro cards that you tap in and out. The local train-bus network even reaches as far as Huntington Beach, Anaheim and New Port or even farther. They will get you to where you need to be. A bit of warning though, they don’t smell that good especially the train. LOL.








  4. Groceries


    Many of us are under the impression that the US is an expensive country to travel to. That’s somewhat true. However, if you try to be a thrifty traveler and focus on the things that really matter to you grocery stores are a great place to get your supplies! I was stranded lived in LA’s Korea Town for a little over a month. And a couple of blocks off from my hostel is Ralph’s. This grocery store, which I think is owned by Kroger, has almost anything that you need, including a bank! I could always go to Ralph’s at any time of the day (it is open 24 hours) and pick up one of the zero-calorie iced teas whenever I am craving for it. They have baked goods, flowers, a pharmacy, eye clinic, meat, and poultry section, it was a really well round-off store. So next time especially when you are on long-term travel in California or anywhere, do not forget to give the groceries in your neighborhood a visit. my local Ralph’s store in Korea Town. (screenshot from google maps) 

  5. Creativity

    Los Angeles is just overflowing with great talent. This city will truly change you and affect you especially if you are a creative person. I myself, though not a truly creative person, felt this effect when I lived there for a short while. Since I was living in a hostel, I met so many people trying to make it out there in Hollywood. There were actors, musicians, and visual artists. I especially got involved in a creative project with a rap artist called LateAfter. I was honestly reluctant and doubtful to say yes. I only had a cheap Sony A5000 camera and a gimbal for my travel Vlog. But yeah he saw so insistent that I just said yes to it. I tell you it was something that I could have not experienced if I did not meet people that are artists like LateAfter8. Here’s the video we shot that night. 




  6. Electronics

    If you are someone from a country who, like The Philippines, taxes two to three times the price from the country that Export it. So buying straight from the source and bringing it back to your home country as personal property (as it actually is) saves you a lot of money. Imagine I got a Surface Pro 4 from Amazon for just about 
    bought my dad a cool soundbox for $99! 

  7. Mexican Food

    With its population made up of at least 59% Latino, Los Angeles is an awesome place to taste authentic Mexican food. I lived in Korea Town for a little over a month. My favorite place to go to for some late snacking was at W 8th and Irolo. I discovered the area on one of my few exploration walks in the neighborhood. I found a bunch of small Mexican food stalls that set up late in the afternoon, just in time for the workers going home to buy food. Oblivious if the prices were cheap considering that this is Los Angeles, I asked one of my hostel friends. She said that $5 for street food was pretty cheap already. Throughout Los Angeles, you will find many places with trucks and stalls that offer Mexican food. If you, however, are the restaurant type; expect to pay more for your food plus tips!

    Real taquitos baby!



    One of the Mexican Food Trucks in my neighborhood. 


 

 

Cavemen Backpackers

My mom had left for Manila already and we’ve checked out of Ximen Wow Hostel. I wanted to extend my stay there but they were fully booked that night. Again I am off to find a new place to stay before I check in to the Airbnb room I booked.

I searched for good cheap hostels near Ximending, I thought that it was a good opportunity to hostel hop and experience other places. There were a few hostels that came up while filtering through good prices. In the end, though, there were two that peaked my list. They were Cavemen Backpacker Hostel and NEOSOHO. Their price really just differed for about $1-$2, so it was up to the reviews for me to decide. Reading through, Cavemen Backpackers appears to be better as it is newer than the latter. I also read some issues about how the hostel smells old so I thought, heck it’s just a dollar more so I went with Cavemen Backpackers.

Location

It was kinda difficult to find the actual building at first. The sign was small so it was easy to miss. I actually passed by the building on my first attempt to find it. I consulted google maps and it shows that I was actually standing right off the building. So I asked the doorman on the building in front of me. I was directed to the next building where a small signage was.

Cavemen Backpackers is just about 200 meters from the nearest Taipei Main Station entrance. It is also near Coffee Alley where you can find good restaurants and coffee shops to hang out.  If you are a Museum geek, this will also work for you as it is just walking distance from the Taiwan Nation Museum. Other attractions near the hostel are the Peace Park and the Presidential Palace. Ximending, if you are up to walking, can be reached at just about 900 meters from the hostel.

If you are arriving late at night via bus at Taipei Main Station from the airport, you can just walk up to the hostel, no need to take a cab. If you are a night owl, I am not quite sure that you’ll like the night scene in this area. Also, though it is near a Taipei Main Station entrance, keep in mind that Taipei Main is huge and that you have lots of walking to do inside the station to get to the platforms itself.

Facilities

Cavemen Backpackers has a central bathroom with multiple toilets and shower stalls. One for each gender. It really feels like a big college dorm if you will. I find it clean and airy as it is located at the end of the hostel. The hostel also has a laundry room that you can operate with Taiwan dollar coins just a room away from the shower area.

The reception area is well lit and open as you get off the elevator and on to the glass doors. Adjacent to the reception is a huge working and lounge area. There are tables and chairs that are comfortable enough to work on for hours.

 

 

 

 

Common Areas

The hostel has a spacious area where you can lounge. They had tables where you can work or eat food. The entire area is well lit and the temperature was just right.

I arrived earlier than my check-in time so I comfortably lounge at the common area. I actually fell asleep while waiting for my bed to be ready.

 

 

Overall I feel that Cavemen Backpackers hostel is a good buy. The facilities are clean and the location is not that far from the Taipei Main Station. There are good places to eat and hang out. The only thing that I think is a low for the hostel is that it feels a little too sterile. I didn’t feel the right energy of a youth hostel. I’d say that its a good place to stay for a night or two. If you are planning to stay long term, you might want to reconsider another place somewhere like in Ximending.

 

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!