March 27, 2018

Beautiful Vietnam


Vietnam has always been part of my dream destinations. It's actually the very first country I'd like to visit. It has some kind of a charm that always attracts me to visit it. 

Saigon River. View from our hotel.
I had so much fun exploring this beautiful city. We arrived at around 7 in the evening. After checking in at our Airbnb accommodation, we went out for dinner and some beer. 


Ho Chi Minh City Hall
Our first full day was spent for the Saigon Walking tour. After breakfast, we went first to the Ho Chi Minh City Hall. We then head over to the Notre Dame Cathedral. It is about 8 minutes away from the city hall. 


Notre Dame Cathedral
Just right across the cathedral is the Saigon Post Office. I managed to send out letters back to the Philippines. Felt great. I haven't actually sent out snail mail for the longest time already. 


Post Office

We also visited the Reunification Palace, War Remnant Museum, and the Jade Emperor Pagoda. These three are not too close to each other. Hence, we opted to hire a motorbike to bring us to these places. 

Reunification Palace

War Remnant Museum
Jade Emperor Pagoda
From the Pagoda, we then had lunch at the 'Lunch Lady.' This place was featured by Anthony Bourdain in his show. It is a bit hard to find, it's just a street food stall. Their Chicken Pho was so delicious. 






After our sumptuous lunch, we continued with our talking tour and we headed to the Opera House. It's a bit of a long walk from the Lunch Lady. We got lost a few times. But I guess that's the beauty of exploring. 

Opera House
Ho Chi Minh's Shopping District
From the Opera House, our next stop was the Bitexco Financial Tower.  It is a skyscraper in Ho Chi Minh City and is one of the tallest buildings in Vietnam. 

Bitexco Financial Tower
During our tour, ASEAN was being held in Vietnam. 




We ended our walking tour with some Pasalubong shopping at the Ben Thanh Market. It's a souvenir haven in Ho Chi Minh. Be sure to haggle. You'll be able to find cheap stuff here including the very cheap North Face bags. 

Mekong Delta River Tour


Vĩnh Tràng Pagoda
State of Budai (Bố Đại)

Sleeping Buddha
On our 2nd day in Ho Chi Minh, we availed of the Mekong Delta River tour. On our way, we made a side trip to the beautiful Vĩnh Tràng Temple. It is a Buddhist temple near Mỹ Tho. We spent about 20 minutes in this beautiful temple before we head over to the Mekong Delta River. 


Visiting Mekong Delta River was the highlight of my Ho Chi Minh trip. I am amazed by how simple life is here. The place itself is magical. After the quick side trip at Vĩnh Tràng Temple, we arrived at My Tho and embarked on a motorboat and headed to the Unicorn Island. 

Vietnam Flag

From Unicorn Island, where we had lunch we head over to the bee farm and had a taste of their delicious honey tea. 

Tea Tasting
We were then made to walk around peaceful villages and watch the life of people in Mekong Delta.

Mekong Life

The most exciting part of this tour is the 15-minute boat ride that will explore the canals of the Mekong Delta. You'll be mesmerized by the beautiful coconut tree landscape. 


Row row row your boat


Also on this trip, we were able to taste some of their tropical fruits and have been able to witness how coconut candies are made. 


I had so much fun with the Mekong Delta River tour. A day well spent. At around 5pm, we head back to the city. We had another round of pasalubong shopping. 

What I will miss most in Ho Chi Minh are their local street coffee shops. It's so laid back and refreshing.

Oh Saigon! You're amazing. You're enchanting. You're beautiful. I will sure be back and explore more of your beautiful tourist spots and culture. 












September 26, 2017

Temple Run: Amazing Siem Reap

Cambodia: The Kingdom of Wonder

We arrived in Siem Reap at around 9:30 in the evening. Please note that they are 1 hour behind from Manila time. We were fetched by our Airbnb Superhost, Chanak. After checking in at De Sonyn Botique, we have arranged with Chanak our Temple tour and we immediately went to Pub Street to grab some dinner and beer. It was just a 10 minute walk from our hotel. 

This place is perfect for the party people.

T E M P L E  D A Y  T O U R

Blessed by a monk

Sunrise at Angkor Wat
We started our day early. We opted to do the Grand Circuit Day tour with Sunrise. Our tuktuk driver was very prompt. He was there to pick us up at 4:30 am and brought us straight to the ticket office. Just a tip, if your hotel booking includes breakfast, you may inform the staff ahead of time to have your breakfast packed instead so you could bring it on your tour. Since we only have a few days to spend in Siem Reap, we just purchased the Angkor Temple Day Pass for $37. The pass is personalized, it has your own photo on it. Make sure to keep it with you the whole trip as it will be checked in each temple you'll be visiting. 
                                               
ANGKOR WAT 




After witnessing the beautiful sunrise, we immediately proceeded inside the Angkor Wat temple. It is amazing to see how intricate the details were of the parts of the temple. I was lucky enough to have experienced being blessed by a monk inside the temple. 

Beautiful paintings being sold outside the Angkor Wat temple.
PREAH KHAN 





Before going to this temple we had our lunch at a restaurant inside the Angkor Thom temple. I ordered string beans with pork for $7, which I guess was overpriced. I didn't find the food delicious. 

I personally enjoyed Preah Khan. You can take a lot of good pictures from this temple. We have an encounter wherein a police officer inside the temple has been proactively sharing information about the place and has offered to take a picture of us and even instructed us what poses to do. Eventually, he asked for a few dollars. 

NEAK PAN



Leading to the temple is a beautiful water scenery. It is the most unique temple, it is surrounded by water. But I've seen some photos that it's different during the dry season. You would also be welcomed by a group of locals who perform some of their cultural songs. They're refreshing to watch. 

TA SOM 


Just a few minutes away from Neak Pan. Our next stop was at the Ta Som temple. 

EAST MEBON


This is my favorite temple. I find this the most beautiful among all the other temples we have visited. Just a heads up, you need to do lots of climbing to reach the main temple. It's worth it, believe me. 

PRE RUP



Almost similar with the East Mebon temple. This is a beautiful one too. Although, this one requires more climbing than the first one. I opted not to climb up anymore as there's an ongoing construction above. 

BANTEAY KDEI




I thought at first this was already the Ta Prohm temple. I wasn't paying attention when our driver said the name of this place. From the entrance, you will have to walk around 3-5 minutes to reach the main temple. This is is pretty small compared to the other temples. But it's one of the most beautiful as well. 

TA PROHM





This is probably one of the most famous temples in Siem Reap. This is where the Angelina Jolie movie, Tomb Raider, was shot. As this is one of the major temples in the tour, expect that there'd be a lot of tourists roaming around. Also, there's a long line for picture taking but it's worth it. Niyeaam


TA KEO



Before we head back to the Angkor Thom complex, we stopped by this beautiful temple, Ta Keo. 

BAYON


Bayon Temple is part of the Angkor Thom complex. Angkor Thom is part of the 4 major temples in the Temple tour. Coming from Angkor Wat, we've already passed by this area but our driver opted to do the smaller temples first and make this us our final temple destination. There's a lot to see in this temple. However, the sun was too aggressive already so we had limited activities done. 

Angkor Archaeological Park
Alright, while we were happy that we're able to visit 10 temples in just one day, we also felt so tired during the whole trip. Angkor Wat alone can take up so much energy already. There are temples that would require a lot of walking and climbing so you gotta be prepared.  We started our tour at 430 am and finished at 1pm. Temple fatigue is real. But I guess this can be avoided by managing the phasing of your tour. Or I would highly suggest you do the Small Circuit tour which covers the 4 major temples if you only have a day to spare. 

Explored the Angkor Archaeological Park via TukTuk. 
We paid $25 for our tuktuk service. It was arranged by our hotel. I wouldn't know for sure if it's the same with the other tuktuk service but ours had unlimited supply of bottled mineral water. We opted not to have a guide, the only downside is that we've no information about the temples we're visiting. I suggest you get a guide book beforehand. Our guide didn't converse much in English but we loved his service. 


We're back at our hotel by 3 pm. I immediately asked Chanak to reserve us a table at the Koulen II Restaurant for the dinner buffet and to witness the Aspara Cultural Show. I would have wanted to do a quick afternoon swim but the sun was scorching hot that time and we're too tired already from doing all the 10 temples in a short span of time. So we decided to just sleep and rest. 

Aspara Cultural Show
We went to Koulen Restaurant by 6pm. Chanak brought us using his motorcyle. He's really such a superhost. He didn't leave until we're able to secure our reserved table. It costs us $12 for the buffet plus show. You should try this out. Believe me. It's all worth it. Their buffet has a wide range of food selection from local dishes to international cuisines. 

The dinner starts at 6pm and ends at 830pm. Please note that the $12 fee only covers the food. You would need to pay for the beverage separetly, we had bottled water and coke for $4.



The cultural show starts at 730pm. They have performed several dances and they're amazing to watch. You would witness how rich their culture was through their performances. 




We headed to the Night Market after our dinner. We paid $2.5 for our tuktuk service (good for 2 pax). We bought souvenirs. Make sure to haggle and demand for the price you would like to buy the item(s) for. Most of the time the sellers will give in. But make sure it's also reasonable. The night market is just adjacent to the Pub Street. We decided to go home early and prepare for our city tour the next day.