Vietnam Vibes

Vietnam may be popular as part of the Indochina backpacking series (Vietnam-Cambodia-Laos-Thailand), so most travelers under this category, spend only a night or 2 in the city of Ho Chi Minh, before moving to another country. We were in Vietnam for 4 days, and you’ll never go wrong if you want good food, budget and city vibes in your itinerary.

DSC01044-01

Saigon City Hall at night

Ho Chi Minh is an hour behind Manila and would take about 2.5 hours of flight. Based from my experience, your budget will have a long way to go because Vietnam is actually cheaper than Manila, and it’s best to bring US dollars. You can have it exchanged in Vietnam Dong at the airport for your Grab fare or taxi fees, and the rest around the Ben Thanh Market for good rates.

Ho Chi Minh, VIetnam in a glimpse of 3 days, 3 nights (06.10.18-06.13.18)

Our flight was via Cebu Pacific and left Manila around 10pm, and arriving a little past midnight (Vietnam time) at Tan Son Nhat International Airport. We had our dollars exchanged for their local currency to pay our Grab ride. Airport to our hostel in District 1 was about 20 mins., and we were charged 108K VD. My parents and sisters arrived a day earlier than us, so they were already in the room when we arrived.

We stayed at Polygon Hostel, which is a few blocks from Ben Thanh Market. We had a good deal from Agoda, and booked it for only PHP 9659.52, considering we’re 5, all with breakfast buffet. We just made additional payments for early and late check in that cost us 1M VD. It was a total of  597/hd per day. Good deal indeed. The hostel was the perfect one if you’re looking for strategic location, value for money, complimentary breakfast, and staff that speak good English. If you’re a first timer, their lift is quite shocking. It stated that it can fit 8 pax. We’re 5 when we took the lift, and we were packed inside. It turns out that most buildings have that size of a lift. It was really small and I think it was made for locals. I barely saw a fat or big Vietnamese.

Since we arrived at midnight and we were hungry, my parents recommended a nearby Japanese restaurant. The restaurant was already closing, but thanks to my sister’s convincing powers and the staff welcomed us. Each of us got a rice meal and gyoza and our bill was a little more of 1000PHP but not more than 2000PHP.

06.11.18- Independence Palace, Cu Chi Tunnel Tour

DSC00929-01

Independence Palace

We woke up at past 7 for our breakfast before going for a walk. Our first stop was the Independence Palace. It’s about 10-15 mins. walk from our hostel. Independence Palace played a vital role during the Vietnam War in the 60s-70s. It used to house the French Governor during the French Colonial Period, and the South Vietnamese force during the war. Many historical events occur in that building. The interiors were preserved from how they look like nearly 50 years ago. Some of the fighter planes were also on display at the grounds of the palace. Entrance is at 65000VD.

DSC00909-01DSC00890-01DSC00891-01DSC00887-01DSC00895-01DSC00899-01

DSC00911-01

Pres. Nguyen’s office

DSC00913-01

First Lady’s Portrait

It was really hot that day, and at the same time my mom was experiencing jet lagged.  We were forced to leave earlier than expected because my mom was having a headache. We took a cab going to our hostel. We stayed at the hostel until our tour fetched us at the hostel.

It was past lunch when our tour group arrived. We were taken to the Cu Chi area, an hour away from downtown. Cu Chi Tunnel was a base camp used by Vietcong. They lived in the tunnel during the war, and have the complete supplies to survive. I would really say that Vietnamese are smart people based from the tactics used by the guerrillas. Everything was planned out well, that Americans couldn’t spot their enemies. We were toured around the area, and showed us how everything was well maintained down under. We were also given the chance to go under the tunnel and tried to fit ourselves going down and up from the tunnel. The effects of the war have lasted until today. You’ll see bomb craters, and the effects of Agent Orange (chemicals used to kill crops and forests) to  forests and  even to humans. You’ll get to see how traps are made, and even their combat sandals. We get to taste tapioca (local cassava), which was their food while living in the tunnel. You also get a chance to fire a gun, but for a fee. Our tour only includes transfers, tour guide, cassava, and entrance to Cu Chi Tunnel. Our tour was booked from Klook. It was 22USD per head and we availed the premier tour. I still got a 5USD discount from the total because of my rewards points from previous bookings.

DSC00952-01

Viet slippers are weather proof and leaves no trace of footprint

DSC00950-01

Making of bombs

DSC00948-01

A kind of trap made by the Viets

DSC00938-01DSC00937-01

DSC00935-01

One of the entrances to the tunnel

DSC00933-01

Bomb crater

When we got back to our hostel it was past 5 in the afternoon and rested for a while before we had our dinner. While looking for some restaurants to have dinner we spotted the Saigon Street Food Market. We went inside and we didn’t go wrong because it was a haven of good food. We had pho, barbecue, and some rare fruit juice for drinks, and it was in big servings. I didn’t quite expect that good food will come this cheap.

DSC00956-01DSC00962-01

 

06.12.18- Mekong Delta, Saigon Cathedral, Post Office, Opera House and City Hall

DSC00976-01The next day, it was my birthday, and we had the whole day for tour. After breakfast, we were picked up by our group tour bound for Mekong Delta. It’s roughly a 2-hour bus ride from our hostel in downtown Ho Chi Minh. Before we reached Mekong Delta, we had a stop over at Vinh Trang Pagoda, a Buddhist temple and monastery.

DSC00967-01DSC00968-01DSC00973-01DSC00964-01DSC00974-01

After several minutes, we transferred to a ferry ride going to Unicorn Island. We were welcomed by folk singers and served with native fruits and tea. We had a tour to the cocoa, honey and coconut production. We had the option to buy their products as souvenirs. Part of our tour was to be served with local lunch and a cruise down the Mekong Delta tributary, it’s actually like a swamp. We availed the tour from Klook and bought the premier tour for Mekong Delta full day tour at 25USD per head.

20180612_112015-01

Native fruits and tea were served

20180612_120242-0120180612_112826-0120180612_113002-01

20180612_113032-01

A folk singer sang to me their version of Happy Birthday song

20180612_113039-01

20180612_115040-01

Cacao drying before turning into coffee

20180612_124157-01

Candies for souvenirs

20180612_124500-01

Snake wine

20180612_124506-01DSC00979-01DSC01023-01DSC00997-01DSC00992-01DSC00985-01

After the Mekong Delta tour, we still have time to go around the city. We had the chance to see French architecture through the Saigon Cathedral, Post Office, Opera House and City Hall. We wanted to go inside but the cathedral is under construction, while the post office was already closed when we got there. There was an on-going show when we passed by the opera house. We didn’t bother to go in, because our stomachs were already asking for dinner.

DSC01027-01

Saigon Cathedral

DSC01028-01

Post Office

DSC01031-0120180612_183011-01DSC01043-01

We, once again, had dinner at the Saigon Street Food Market. We had a sumptuous meal for 5 persons, and believe it or not our bill didn’t go over PHP 2000. You’ll never go hungry and broke when you’re in Vietnam.

20180611_193927-01

 

06.13.18- War Remnants Museum, Lunch Lady

After having breakfast, we went out for a walk until we reach the War Remnants Museum. It is a museum dedicated to the Vietnam-America War in the 60s till 70s. You get to see to see the planes and choppers used by the Americans, as well as the impact of the war to the civilians.

After our museum tour, we hailed a cab going to district 4 where the famous Lunch Lady is at. I was actually expecting a restaurant when we arrive, but what we saw were few tables and chairs in the middle of an alley. I’ve learned about the Lunch Lady from Anthony Bourdain, wherein he features local dish of every country that he gets to visit. It was not a disappointment to spend our lunch with the Lunch Lady. We ordered a set meal, and it was so good and in large servings. Definitely good food! A little bit around PHP 2500 were spent for lunch, and definitely worth it.

20180613_131329-01

Sumptuous lunch for 5

DSC01050-01

With the famous Lunch Lady

In the evening, we flew back to Manila and bought some souvenirs from the airport, since we didn’t have a chance to go around our hostel after having lunch.

20180613_170701-01

Free cake from our hostel coz it’s my birthday

Budget for this trip:

Accommodation- PHP 11900.3 (3 days plus early and late check-in fee, 5 pax with breakfast)

Cu Chi Tunnel Tour- PHP 5250 (5 pax with snack; premier tour)

Independence Palace Tour- VND 65000 (PHP 146 per head)

Mekong Delta Tour- PHP 6250 (5 pax with lunch and fruits/snacks; premier tour)

War Remnants Museum Tour- VND 40000 (PHP 90 per head)

Lunch/Dinner- PHP 7000 (5 pax; large servings)

Taxi- PHP 1000 (assuming, including airport transfer)

TOTAL-PHP 32580.3 for 4 days (PHP 6516.06 per head without airfare and shopping)

The Charm of Coron

20170827_171307-01

A 45-minute plane ride from Manila can take you to the world’s best island, according to Travel + Leisure’s website . After garnering a score of 93.15 from its survey, Palawan, Philippines landed in the no. 1 spot of The World’s Best Island category published last July 2017. It feels so proud to be living in a beautiful country, envied by many. Although issues may arise like safety, I would still consider myself lucky being a local. I can freely move from islands to islands, without the fear that someone would just abduct me. If I could only purchase an island, I would have done it, and spend most of my free time there. The town of Coron in Palawan is so blessed to have such natural beauty, therefore it doesn’t need any theme park to “promote” or “beautify” the place.

20170824_071931-0120170824_072159-01

Coron, Palawan in a glimpse of 5 days and 4 nights (08.24.17-08.28.17)

I took the earliest flight possible from Manila via Cebgo. Knowing that most flights going to Coron are always full, I did not take the risk and took the first flight. Flying stand-by, can be heart-pounding so I kept my fingers crossed, and I was able to smoothly checked-in. When I asked the ground crew about the flights back to Manila on the 28th, he told me that all flights are over-booked.

20170824_073101-01-01

Francisco B. Reyes- Busuanga Airport

We arrived 15 minutes ahead of our scheduled time of arrival in Busuanga Airport. After getting my checked-in luggage, I took the van that will drop me off at our hotel. It was  a 30 minute ride with a picturesque view. I was wide awake at past 7 in the morning and trying to capture the beautiful scenery.

20170824_075251-01

Lush of green in Busuanga town

Our hostel was in downtown of Coron, and a few minutes away from the port. I was planning to sleep before all my colleagues arrive, but I was too early to check-in and all rooms are still occupied, so I waited for another 4 hours in the lobby and trying to get some sleep.

08.24.17- Mt. Tapyas

After several hours of waiting, we strolled around the town to look for a place to eat. First, we passed by Tea and Shake place to satisfy our cravings for shake. I got myself a mango shake while others got avocado. It costs PHP 119, and it was worth it. A few blocks away, we found a place to have our lunch. We ate at Island Boy Grill. They serve different seafoods, adobo, sisig, and a whole lot more that is budget-friendly.

20170824_122158-01

Tea and Shake place

20170824_131217-0120170824_131311-0120170824_131143-01

In the mid-afternoon, we went to hike Mt. Tapyas. It’s about 700 steps going to the peak, and it’s the second highest mountain in the town of Coron. You don’t need a tour guide to go here. Just navigate through your phone to get into the jump-off point. Once you have reached the summit, you get a nice view of the town. However, when we went there, it was a bit gloomy, and the sun was hiding behind the clouds.

20170824_163347-01

The giant cross at the summit

20170824_163241-0120170824_163532-01

We were supposed to take a dip into the Maquinit Hotspring after going up, but we all got hungry. We walked around the streets to search for a food place. We ended up eating at Altrove, where they serve pizza and pasta. The restaurant looks like an old house converted to a food place wherein you have to remove your shoes or slippers before entering.

20170824_175236-0120170824_181803-01

 

08.25.17- Hidden Lagoon, Kayangan Lake, Twin Lagoon, Smith Beach, CYC Beach 

Our wake-up call is at 7:00 am. We had our complimentary breakfast with a choice of pork tocino, chicken hotdog, longganisa and danggit with rice and coffee before leaving for our day’s activities. We were transferred by the van going to the port to meet our tour guides and boat men. We availed the ultimate tour (3-day tour) for only PHP 3400 per head, which includes boat and van round trip transfers, lunch buffet and snack, entrance fees, tour guide, and lifevests.  We pay extra to rent snorkeling gears and kayak boat.

20170825_095055-01

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2713.

Hidden Lagoon

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2775.

I could have just imagined how it looks like on a sunny day

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2739.

Kayangan Lake

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2742.

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2766.

Our first destination is at the Hidden Lagoon. It’s so beautiful and quiet. Then we moved to Kayangan Lake. There are about 300 steps to reach the viewing deck and lake. The line to the viewing deck was so long, so we went first to the lake. We dipped into the lake with our vests on. It was not crowded when we were there. I could just imagine how it looks like during peak season. When we started leaving the lake, the clouds are getting dark too. The rain poured when we were about to go to the viewing deck. We were not able to enjoy the view because it was too foggy. We got into our boat and moved to Smith Island to have lunch. Our lunch includes pork liempo, seaweeds, shrimp, pineapple, banana and rice. The rain has stopped while having lunch, so we were able to enjoy the moment and we have spent some time in the beach.

20170825_122718-0120170825_130118-01

After lunch, we moved to CYC Beach (Coron Youth Club). The weather cooperated well, and we got to paddle a kayak along the shore and near the mangroves. It was the first time that our friend was able to fly his drone, since drones aren’t allowed in the lagoons.

20170825_141412-01

For our final stop, we went to the Twin Lagoon. As we were approaching, the rain is getting heavier. We still continued and swam in the lake. The water here is a mixture of hot and cold. You have 2 choices to go to the other side of the lagoon. First, you take the stairs, or you swim under the rocks. I opted to take the stairs instead, because I could see the sharp edges of the rocks, and you have limited movements.

20170825_133622-0120170825_145139-0120170825_144918-01

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2802.DCIM109GOPROGOPR2810.

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2829.

Swim must go on at Twin Lagoon

Before going back to the port, we had banana cue for snacks.

For dinner, we went to Carl’s BBQ and ordered ribs and barbecue. They serve good food, and ambiance is nice too.

20170825_193913-01

Carl’s BBQ

08.26.17- Malcapuya Island, Banana Island, Bulog Dos Island

It was a 2-hour boat ride from the port of Coron, and waves were a bit strong. We were soaked in water for half the trip because of the waves. Our first stop was at Malcapuya Island. The beach is nice as well as the sand. The sand is comparable to the sand of Boracay. We got to enjoy it before the rain has fallen. A store is available in the island, and we got ourselves a fresh buko juice, turon and banana cue. There was also a free taste of squid. If you like it, you can buy a pack for PHP 200.

20170826_112515-01

Malcapuya Beach

We needed to hurry up for Banana Island, because it’s almost lunch time. Luckily, the rain has stopped when we reached Banana Island. Banana Island is quite developed. There were nice nipa huts, hammocks, swing and a volleyball court. Perfect for your selfie needs. For lunch, we had pork liempo, tulingan fish, squash and stringbeans, banana, watermelon and rice, and for snacks, we had the Kababayan bread.

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2837.20170826_123725-0120170826_133257-01DCIM109GOPROGOPR2839.DCIM109GOPROGOPR2840.20170826_122744-01

For our last stop, we went to Bulog Dos Island. It’s a small island that has a sandbar, visible during low tide that connects to Bulalacao Island, where the Two Seasons Hotel is located. It has really a nice view, and quite plenty of underwater creatures. We hung out by the sandbar, and we saw a starfish. There was also a jellyfish, as big as a fist, that stung my boyfie. I told him to pee on his legs and ask the boatman to pour vinegar on his legs. It worked well, and the day after it was gone.

20170826_143851-01

Just a few meters away from Two Seasons Coron

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2859.

Glad to have seen a starfish during our trip

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2865.DCIM109GOPROGOPR2853.DCIM109GOPROGOPR2870.

For dinner, we went to Winnie’s. They serve exotic seafood dishes. Since I’m allergic to seafoods, I had porkchop instead and it was delicious.

08.27.18- East Tangat Gunboat, Lusong Gunboat, Pass Island

Our activity for this day is mostly underwater. We got to see the Japanese shipwrecks from World War 2. They are shallow and is easily visible once you go underwater. We went to the East Tangat Gunboat and Lusong Gunboat. Both can be viewed while snorkeling. There were also beautiful sea creatures living within the area.

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2887.

Getting ready for the day’s activity

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2890.

A Japanese shipwreck from World War 2

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2903.

Our next destination is at Pass Island. For me this is the most beautiful. Crystal clear water, fine sand, mangroves on the other end, coconut trees and plenty of sea creatures. Even in the shallow part, school of fishes are swimming with us. Some of our friends even saw a stingray when they went a bit far. Just don’t forget to wear your aqua shoes to avoid stepping on sea urchins and stone fish that can be poisonous. When we were half way eating our lunch, the rain poured. We have the same set of meal, but this time we have mangoes and chopsuey.

20170827_122748-01

Approaching Pass Island

20170827_142425-0120170827_143334-01IMG_20170828_075719_925-0120170827_142447-0120170827_123650-01

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2913.

Plenty of fishes in the shallow water

DCIM109GOPROGOPR2916.

We spent the whole time in Pass Island, so we weren’t able to see the Lusong Coral. It houses beautiful corals according to our guide.

After a long day, we had dinner again at Carl’s Bbq. This time we ordered barbecue, chicken cordon bleu, chopsuey, and sizzling gambas.

20170827_195109-01

Barbecue for dinner

After dinner, we went around town to buy souvenirs like shirt, ref magnet and dream catcher. Of course, we will not forget the famous cashew nuts of Palawan.

08.28.17- Busuanga Airport

We have to leave our hostel after eating breakfast to catch our flights. I tried my luck to get into the first flight, but it was overbooked and I was bumped off. I waited for the next flight and I was told that it is full again. I already considered flying to Clark just to get home, but luckily, I got a slot for the midday flight. We were ahead of scheduled time of arrival again.

For our itinerary and total damage to our wallet, feel free to click Itinerary- Coron, Palawan 2017