Tag Archives: Ho Chi Minh City

Vietnam Diaries: The Road to Dalat (Day 2)

As the designated itinerary planner for our travels, I thought to explore Vietnam this time rather than cross the border to Phnom Penh, Cambodia like we did last 2010. Given that cheap (and sometimes hassle-ridden)  flights to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are now available courtesy of Cebu Pacific, it is best to explore the beauty of Cambodia separately.

The best site to do your research for suggested itinerary and hotel recommendation is Trip Advsor.  I still do research in Girltalk, but found the forum ridden with comments that provide no help at all so I just browse through the topics but still stick with Trip Advisor.

I recently got acquainted with a blogger who went to Vietnam early this year and he explored Mui Ne; his detailed description is so helpful that all I have to do is follow his itinerary. And then I read about Dalat. It’s very similar to the weather in Baguio and I thought this is poles apart from the temperature in Saigon; a welcome respite from the heat indeed.

Getting There

A very interesting rock formation you will see on the way to Dalat 😉

While Sinh Tourist offers tours to Dalat from Saigon, I decided to take Phuong Trang bus as it is more flexible. Sinh Tourist only have one trip in the morning and we can’t leave that early since we wanted to spend more time with our two other friends who were leaving earlier than us. Phuong Trang have buses leaving for Dalat every hour. We decided to get the 11AM trip and estimated arrival at Dalat is around 7PM.

Tips:

  • Terminal is located at 272-274 De Tham Street. Your landmarks are the Allez Boo resto and Highlands Coffee Shop.

One of the many twists and turns before reaching Dalat.

  • I don’t suggest taking the night bus. Much as it will be more travel-efficient because you can just sleep the 8-hour ride away and wake up in Dalat, traveling at night can be quite dangerous as the narrow roads go up and down the mountainside. Mix that with some hellish bus/truck drivers and motorbikers and it’s not worth taking the risk.
  • Book your ride a day before, preferably in the morning so you get the seats in front. 
  • Fare is VND190,000 (Php380) , one way. You cannot buy a roundtrip bus ticket so upon arrival in Dalat, buy your ticket for your trip back to Saigon. They will then ask you where you’re staying because a shuttle will fetch you from your hotel 45 minutes before your schedule. Sweet right?

(I learn later on that the hotel you’re staying on can arrange this for you. 🙂 )

  • Phuong Trang in Dalat also offers a free shuttle ride to your hotel. So that’s one cab fare saved!  
  • Bring jacket and pants. It’s bound to get as cold as 15°C at night.

Place to Stay

I relied on Trip Advisor for this one. Since our primary rule in traveling is, Thou Shall Not Spend Too Much on Accommodation, I checked out the Bed & Breakfasts (BBs) and Inns and found this gem.

Their cozy, comfy twin room costs USD15 per night. You don’t need an aircon room in Dalat. You will actually welcome the warmth of your room after you’ve stayed out in the cold night.

They ranked #4 among the BBs and Inns in Dalat. I initially emailed Dreams Hotel as they ranked first but I never got a reply from them. Mr. Tung of Les Sapins (it’s French for ‘The Pines’) was quick to respond and so I confirmed our room here. Our room was spacious, has a working hot shower, and its location, super! Go straight up that street and it’s lined with restos, bars, tour operators / easy riders, banks and the night market. Walk further and you will see the Xuan Hong Lake right in the heart of the city. Dalat tour photos on the next post. 🙂

Tired is an understatement but when you get a cozy room as this, good mood prevails 🙂 // Photo courtesy of Ivy

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Preview: Vietnam Redeux

Two years after our first visit to Vietnam, we’re going back and this time we won’t be crossing the border to Cambodia like we did last time. With Cebu Pacific’s direct flight to Siem Reap, travelers now are luckier as they don’t have to endure the 12-hour bus ride from Ho Chi Minh City.

Here’s the itinerary I prepared for this trip. And just like the earlier post on Ilocos, I will post photos  and as much tips and info as I can for each day of this trip  as reference for those who stumbled upon this personal-often-times-avenue-for-my-crazy-thoughts blog. 🙂

Day 0     Oct 22   Departure from Manila: 10:50PM

Day 1     Oct 23   ETA in Saigon: 12:20AM ::  Chinatown tour  ::  Saigon City Center tour or Vung Tau

Day 2     Oct 24   Saigon City Center tour ::  Departure for Dalat

Day 3     Oct 25   Dalat City Tour :: Night stroll

Day 4     Oct 26   Head back to Ho Chi Minh City :: Check-in. Shop. Stroll. Sightseeing

Day 5     Oct 27   Breakfast.  Checkout. Last minute shopping :: 10PM Head to the airport

Day 6     Oct 28   Red-eye flight back to Manila: 1AM :: ETA Manila: 4AM

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Travel Diaries: Cao Dai’s Holy See, Vietnam

 The main temple of Caodaism (also known as Cao Dai’s Holy See) is located at the south of Vietnam in Tay Ninh. It is not the first time that I have set foot in a temple but this is definitely the first time that I witnessed such a grand ceremony. It was high noon that time and the ceremony was about to commence.

photo by jumbledcoffeethoughts

Everyone was instructed to leave their shoes outside the temple (just imagine how hot the pavement was since it was 12 noon!). Women enter the temple from the left while men enter from the right. But both genders will eventually meet in the balcony.

It was indeed a feast for the eyes as there are three principal colors of Cao Dai. Yellow for Buddhism, Blue for Taoism and Red for Christianity and these are represented in the robes of their priests; the followers on the other hand, wear white robes. It is safe to say that Caodaism is a fusion of the aforesaid religions including Confucianism, Hinduism, Islam, and Judaism.

photo by jumbledcoffeethougts

Tips:

  • It is more convenient to book a tour at your hotel if you wish to visit the Holy See as this is very far from the center. The tour package we got consists of a visit to Cu Chi Tunnels and the Holy See (with a side trip to the Handicapped Handicraft) and costs around US$12. With the scorching heat in Vietnam, you’ll be thankful for the convenience of the ready transport.
  • If you are fussy with your food, it’s best to bring your sandwich or anything you can snack on outside the bus (and enjoy people-watching) because the lunch stopover is usually at those hole-in-the-wall restos that serve so-so food (based on experience Ü).

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Travel Diaries: Vietnam

I recently visited Vietnam and Cambodia with two of my constant travel gal pals and I took it upon myself to make us an itinerary because we’re all simply clueless on what touristy things to explore in these places.

Armed with info gathered from TripAdvisor,Girltalk and other forums, we headed to Ho Chi Minh City (also Sai Gon or Saigon to the locals).

Tip: If you have more money to spend on airfare, don’t bother with Cebu Pacific because their current flight schedule to HCMC from Manila is around 11PM; you’ll arrive there around 1AM. You’ll find that you’re somehow lugi with your hotel because it’s like you paid for the whole day even if you arrive at 1AM.

But the hotel we stayed in is worth all the money. We stayed at Tan Hai Long 1, which by the way is in such a superb location that the only time we hailed a cab was when we’re leaving for the airport five days later. You can really explore the city on foot from this hotel. There’s a mixed review about Tan Hai Long 1 but we definitely loved our stay here because of the reasonable price, friendly staff, hearty breakfast buffet and the strong Vietnamese coffee that never fails to give that oomph to my day.

After some few hours of sleep and tummies loaded with delicious breakfast, we crossed the SUPER BUSY Le Lai Street. Crossing the streets of HCMC is one big challenge to surmount. It will seriously revive your spiritual relationship with God because you’ll be praying each time: Lord, tulungan Niyo po akong makatawid sa kabilang kalsada at hindi sa kabilang buhay. Amen. Then like an answered prayer, you’re all strong-willed and focused to get to other side of the road without getting run down by a speeding motorbike or cab. The rules when crossing the street: Look left. Look right. Look up (to pray). Cross the street with these in mind: Get to the other side. Alive. It sounds exaggerated but till you experience it for yourself will you know what I mean. *wink*

I was so lucky to stumble upon this very informative site: http://vietnam720.info/. It’s loaded with tips and information on getting around Vietnam (plus the author is always kind in answering your queries). The museum skeds alone is a huge help so you can plan that one precious day in the city.

  • The Notre Dame Cathedral and Saigon Post Office are right next to each other.

  • Walk a few more blocks and you’ll find the Reunification Palace.

  • Right behind it is the War Remnants Museum (we didn’t get to see it because it was close that time).
  • The Saigon Opera House and the People’s Committee Building is just within each other’s vicinity. It’s a sight to behold at night.

On our second day, we opted to go on tour to see the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Cao Dai Temple (with side trip to the Handicapped Handicraft) as these are a few hours away from the city. We paid US$12 for the tour; excluding entrance fee to the Cu Chi Tunnels. This is worth it as it can be very scorching in HCMC; the airconditioned bus is really a welcome shelter. But one thing that brought smiles during the trip? We saw Jollibee’s engaging grin in Vietnam! It was located in somewhere in District 5. I later on discovered that there are 11 Jollibee stores in HCMC alone and several other stores across Vietnam.

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Travel Diaries: Cu Chi Tunnels, Vietnam

Back in my school days, I cannot be bothered with my history class. I listened during lectures, do assignments and pass quizzes because failing simply is not an option. Now that I’m way past my student days, history is more interesting especially when it can be experienced on a personal level.

Going to the Cu Chi Tunnels was just one of the many brushes with history during our Vietnam-Cambodia trip that made everything more than just a vacation; it cleared the mind of work-related issues and traded it with more substantial information (which I really need, you know!). 

The Cu Chi Tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War and were the Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tet Offensive in 1968. The 121-km-long complex was preserved by the government as a memorial park and a famous tourist destination. The tunnels were even enlarged and broadened to accommodate the tourists who want to go down and dirty. 

The tunnel leads to this tiny opening

 Tip: If you plan on going down the tunnels, two things. Make sure you’re not claustrophobic and you have a change of clothes because you’ll really sweat like anything.     

 As you go along, you will see the how the Viet Congs look during those times; how they manage to live that time; and how they can make ingenious and menacing booby traps. 

There’s a film showing towards the end of the tour where you can watch how the Viet Congs defended their turf then against the Americans. But well, this is pretty much one-sided considering it is their account on history. So deal with it ok? We are outside this part of their history so let’s just steer clear of it. *wink*  Makes me wonder how the Americans, who we were with us on the tour, felt during the film showing (???).

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