The Land of Smiles- Thailand

“I’ll come back, Thailand!” I told myself a hundred times.

Thailand is one of the most visited countries in the world. This is because it is cheap yet fun and great. It offers exquisite foods, diverse cultures and astonishing destinations.

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Bangkok, Thailand at night.

It was a balmy 1st week of June in the year 2016 when we arrived at the bustling capital city of Thailand, Bangkok City. After hours of ride, we reached the border of Cambodia and Thailand via bus. We hired a ‘tuktuk’ from the border to get to Aranyaprathet, the train station and the border town in Eastern Thailand.

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We rode an open train to get to Bangkok, Thailand. There are two trains a day from Aranyaprathet going to Bangkok’s Hualamphong Train Station.

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We departed 1:05 PM and scheduled to arrive at 8:05 PM. It was very exciting, all of us (my sisters) experienced an open train ride for the first time in our lives. Due to too much excitement, we didn’t sleep or even blinked an eye for the whole 8-hour train ride, we were all eager and happy.

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The view from the open-train ride.

The train has different compartments, there was this one area (the end of the train) where you can only see monks separated from other passengers.

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Although all the trains are 3rd-class, which means no aircon (windows open for a substantial breeze), there are comfort rooms per compartment for the passenger’s convenience. The seats in the train are a mixture of padded and wooden benches.

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In every train stations, numerous locals will get in. And along the trip, there are many vendors that sell foods and drinks. My favorite was the spicy pork-rice meal, it was too spicy that I loved it so much.

We arrived past 8 in Bangkok, Thailand. Outside Hualamphong Train Station, there are plenty of taxi drivers asking you where to go. Eventually, we rode a taxi going to our hotel. 

We had a hard time looking for our hotel, there are various streets which they call “soi“. Soi is the term used in Thailand for a side-street branching off a major street .We searched for our hotel without knowing that we went back and forth at the hotel’s exact location.
Upon our arrival at the hotel, we all fixed our things and freshened up. After that, we went out for dinner. It was very late, but Bangkok is still alive. You can see different shopes offering various services. Some of the shopes offer Thai massage, some are bars, restaurants and travel and tour agencies. 

With so many choices we had, we ended up eating on a “street-food” style store. It was a store installed during night only. We tried the best-selling foods they have and it was all great.

After eating, we looked for a travel and tour agency that is still open, we were able to book a trip for tomorrow’s activity.

Day One:

Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

This is the famous floating market known all over the world. This popular floating market is about 100 kilometers southwest of Bangkok in Ratchaburi province.

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The floating market is a very lively place and it is a busy place too, there are countless transactions between traders, vendors and visitors. It is colorful and tourist driven place.

We tried some of the goods that they sell. They were all delicious and appetizing. I would highly recommend the coconut ice cream and the sticky rice with mango.

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We looked around the floating market for an hour. The concept of a floating market was something new for us and we enjoyed it so much.

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Kanchanaburi War Cemetery

We had a short stop at the war cemetery in Kanchanaburi that has almost 7,000 soldiers who died during the construction of the death railway. The cemetery was designed by Colin St Clair Oakes.

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The graves are immaculately kept. It is extremely maintained.

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The visit at this place was very sincere and moving. Admission to the cemetery is free.

 

JEATH War Museum

This is one of two war museums in Thailand about the Death Railway. It was built from 1942 to 1943. The museum was founded by the chief abbot of Wat Chaichumpol Venerable Phra Theppanyasuthee.

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JEATH is an acronym for the countries: Japan, England, Australia/USA, Thailand and Holland which were all involved in the construction of the railway.

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There are many artifacts, correspondence and artwork from former prisoners of the war that show how hard and harsh the life they had. There are also various personal effects and war relics, including an Allied bomb dropped to destroy the bridge that didn’t explode.

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The JEATH War Museum is located on the river near the rail bridge. Admission is 40 Baht (58.10 PHP).

 

Bridge over the River Kwai

Featured in books and films, the last stop we had on our day tour was the River Kwai Bridge in Kanchanaburi, Thailand.  This bridge is part of the infamous Death Railway.

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Our visit at the bridge is very interesting. Standing on the bridge while enjoying the view to the river is very nice and relaxing.

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The view from the River Kwai Bridge.

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There are train travels offered in this attraction or you can take a walk to cross the bridge on foot, too.

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We waited for more than 30 minutes, so that the crowd of tourists disappear, it was worth the wait!

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This bridge and the Death Railway is now considered as an important symbol of peace, portraying that war is the great illusion that benefits no one.

At night time, we visited night markets and bought some “pasalubongs”. The pasalubongs we had bought was surprisingly cheap. 

Night markets in Bangkok  are the most enjoyable way to spend the vibrant Bangkok at night.

Day Two:

Of course, we shouldn’t miss shopping when we go for a tour. And on our second day in Bangkok, we have visited shopping malls.

Siam Paragon is 3rd largest shopping mall in Thailand and is one of the biggest shopping centers in Asia.

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Siam Paragon is on Rama I Road in Pathum Wan district, and is adjacent to other shopping areas. It is next door to Siam Center and Siam Discovery Center and opposite Siam Square.

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Bangkok Art and Culture Center

The Bangkok Art and Culture Center is a  midtown facility for the contemporary arts. Bangkok Art and Culture Center offers variety of art and culture, creativity, imagination and inspiration for all the guests visiting the place.

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The design of the interior has huge white curving facade and spiral walkways. It was very astounding. The center also includes bookshops, cafes, craft shops, commercial art galleries and an art library.

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There are 9 floors inside the building, each floor is designated to a particular gallery. Every year, the theme of the center changes. Isn’t that cool?

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Photos are allowed on the lower floors but are prohibited in the galleries on the higher floors. Admission is free and the center is open from 10:00 AM till 9:00 PM every day except Mondays.

Hello Kitty House Cafe

On our way to the place where we will eat dinner, we have came across the Hello Kitty House Cafe. I have seen many travel shows that featured this place, so we grabbed the chance to go and visit it.

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The place is so cute. As you enter, you will stand in awe and feel you are in the Sanrio World. This place is very suitable for Hello Kitty fans or family with young children. There are 3 floors- the floor of the cafe, the spa and for Hello Kitty merchandise.

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I wished my mom would come with us since Hello Kitty is her favorite cartoon character.

Unfortunately, we didn’t visit the Grand Palace anymore since we went to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s Royal Palace. But the Grand Palace should be included in your itinerary while visiting Thailand.

Our last stop before our flight back home was, of course, FOOD! We met some of my eldest sister’s friends which are currently working in Thailand. We had an eat-all-you-can dinner for only 139 Baht (201.91 PHP)

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My Thailand experience was quite short but was very memorable. I’ll really come back, THAILAND.

 

The Kingdom of Wonder – Cambodia

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The Kingdom of Cambodia is one of the poorest country in the world. One of the reason is that they are still recovering from the war which lasted for decades under Pol Pot’s regime and also, they still have dishonest government officials.

Today, Cambodia is politically firm, but some of the citizens remain poor and unable to provide their everyday needs. Despite all of these, Cambodia’s tourism and history is very rich and splendid. You can find beauty in every thing, they have phenomenal architectures and happy and contended people.

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Summer of 2016, we visited two famous places in Cambodia, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Although Cambodia went through a lot of circumstances (corrupt officials, poverty and some are still recovering from the horrifying genocide that was carried out by the Khmer Rouge regime which was led by Pol Pot between 1975 and 1979) that hindered the country from progressing, it is one of my all-time favorite destination. The people here are very friendly moreover,the places and tourist spots are incredibly great.

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PHNOM PENH

After 8 hours of bus ride from Vietnam, we (together with my sisters) arrived at Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia.

We were welcomed by our tour guide (since we availed a Cambodia Tour at Vietnam) with a welcome sign together with my sister’s name which was supposed to be Ma. Monica Chelsea Ballesteros. It was funny but I really find it adorable.

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After our arrival, our tour guide brought us to have lunch. They prepared a very appetizing meal for us.

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We went next to our hotel to rest a bit. Not wasting any of our time, at the very same day of our arrival we visited some places around the city.

1. Royal Palace

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The Royal Palace has been occupied by the Kings of Cambodia since the 1860s.

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Wearing proper attire upon entering the Royal Palace (no revealing clothes) is highly implemented. Removing shoes when going inside the building is a must.

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2. Wat Phnom

Wat Phnom or the Mountian Pagoda is a Buddhist temple, it is the tallest religious structure in Phnom Penh. It was built in 1372, and stands 27 metres (88.5 ft) above the ground.

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Wat Phnom is the central point of Phnom Penh.

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A photo of us with a monk.

3. Independence Monument

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This monument was designed by Cambodian architect, Vann Molyvann. This was built to commemorate Cambodia’s independence after almost a century of French colonization.

4. Statue of King Father Norodom Sihanouk

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Norodom Suramarit was King of Cambodia from 1955 until his death in 1960.

After visiting these places, we toured around the city then went back to our hotel.

The next morning, we were ready for our next destination. The two destinations we went was all about the history of Pol Pot’s Regime. By visiting these places, I learned the rich history of Cambodia, how tragic and sad their past was. It was really heartbreaking.

5.  The Killing Fields

The Killing fields or Choeung Ek is the site of a former orchard and mass grave of victims of the Khmer Rouge. They were all killed between 1975 and 1979.

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Memorial Stupa
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Removing your shoes upon entering the Memorial Stupa is a must to show respect.

As you enter the place, you will see a Buddhist Stupa which contains more than 5,000 human skulls. All the skulls were arranged by sex and age, how they were killed and tortured.

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You will experience the audio tour where you can hear stories about each of the places you go in the Killing Fields.

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6. Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum

This was the prison used by the Khmer Rouge Regime led by Pol Pot. Inside the buildings, there are different rooms where you can see the cells, beds, shackles. Tuol Sleng means “Hill of the Poisonous Trees” or “Strychnine Hill”.

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The site is a former high school building.

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You can also see stories and real photos of the victims. There are also foreigners who were starved to death, tortured and killed during this reign of terror.

After visiting the Killing Fields and the Genocide Museum, I realized how much terror the Cambodian people experienced. Visiting such places should be treated with respect. It was really hard to imagine that this just happened in the 70’s.

SIEM REAP

In the afternoon, we went to Siem Reap. We traveled via bus to get there. We were again welcomed by our Tuktuk driver with this sign.

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The lost and found “Jenninz Felice”

We arrived at our hotel to rest for the activities and itinerary waiting for us for tomorrow, but before resting, we went for a night swimming to relax and have fun.

It is said that  Siem Reap is the gateway for the temples of Angkor. It is the capital city of Siem Reap Province in northwestern Cambodia. There are many beautiful temples to go and we have visited some of them.

  1. Angkor Wat Temple

Angkor Wat is the best place to visit in Siem Reap. Angkor Wat means “Capital Temple”, “Temple City” or “City of Temples”, it is the largest religious monument in the world.

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This place was built between roughly A.D. 1113 and 1150, and encompassing an area of about 500 acres (200 hectares).

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Angkor Wat was originally built as a Hindu temple dedicated to the god Vishnu, it was converted into a Buddhist temple in the 14th century.

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The main entrance going to the temple. Again, proper attire is a must (no revealing clothes).
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Over view from the top.

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The temple reflected perfectly in its surrounding pool.

2. Angkor Thom & Bayon Temple

Bayon was the state temple made by Jayavarman VII, a powerful ruler in the late 13th century.

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Bayon Temple is a Buddhist temple.

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3. The Baphuon

Is a temple near the Bayon Temple. It was built as the state temple of Udayadityavarman II dedicated to the Hindu God Shiva.

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The main entrance going to the temple.

4. Ta Phrom

Built from 1186 and originally known as Rajavihara (Monastery of the King), Ta Prohm was a Buddhist temple dedicated to the mother of Jayavarman VII.

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This is the place where Angelina Jolie’s film TOMB RAIDER was filmed. It is sometimes called the Tree-Eaten Temple.

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After the long day of visiting the temples, we went to buy ‘pasalubongs’. It was a long day but really worth it.

We went home and rest because tomorrow, we will go and visit Thailand! Stay tuned and know how we experienced Thailand!

The Lion City- Singapore

My first ever trip overseas was to Singapore together with my family. It was in the year 2010, when I was in 2nd year high school. We stayed there for 9 days which was a very worth remembering experience for me.

Fortunately, the ticket we (with my sister) booked for Vietnam last summer of 2016 has its stop at Singapore for 15 hours which we can visit places again and had the chance to fetch our eldest sister since she works in Singapore as a nurse.

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Singapore is South East Asia’s most thriving and vibrant city. It is the world’s only island city-state and 2nd of the smallest country in Asia by land area (716.1km²) next to Maldives. Singapore is known as a progressive and rich country not only by wealth, infrastructures and economy but also in tourism, history and diversity. This country is also referred to as “The Lion City” or “The Garden City”.

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Since Singapore is a small country you can visit the superb landmarks and impressive attractions for just few days, moreover, Singapore’s transport systems are very systematic, so getting around the country is convenient. It is a city full of impressive things to see and do.Here’s a list of some tourist attractions you can find there. (The photos are from 2010 and 2016 visit.)

Merlion Park is Singapore’s major landmark and tourist attraction located at One Fullerton. It is a half-fish, half-lion and served as their national icon.

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Marina Bay Sands- Marina Bay was still under construction when I went to Singapore for the first time. It is the most expensive standalone casino property at 8 billion Singapore dollars, including the land cost. The majestic hotel towers slope and the sky park that connects the three 55-story towers gave the structure a very unique look.

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Chinese Botanical Garden is a 13.5-hectare garden that will bring you a taste of ancient China, you can see here majestic bonsai, statues of famous Chinese Philosophers, series of stone bridges and pagodas.

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Chinatown- The best place to buy ‘pasalubongs’. The things to buy in here are affordable compared to the malls and other places, moreover, there are wide variety of stuffs to choose from. It is located in the Outram district.

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Singapore Zoo- The Zoo is a must visit attraction in Singapore. It is spacious and it has many different animal species. You need to wear a comfortable shoes since you’ll end up walking quite a bit.

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Singapore Flyer – Towering 165 metres above ground, the giant Ferris wheel of Singapore is located at Raffles Avenue next to Marina Square. Singapore Flyer is the world’s largest Giant Observation Wheel. Upon riding the Singapore Flyer, you can see the panoramic view of the whole city. The best time to visit is by night because of the lights of the infrastructures that contradicts the dark sky.

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Super Tree Grove at Gardens by the Bay- Super Tree Grove was not yet built when I first visited Singapore and when I went to visit the area last summer it really amazed me. The Super Tree Grove has impressive artificial garden constructions that is literally breathtaking.

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Sentosa Island is one of the most visited place in Singapore. There are many attractions in Sentosa this includes a 2 km long sheltered beach, Fort Siloso, two golf courses, the Sentosa Merlion, 14 hotels, and the Resorts World Sentosa, featuring the theme park Universal Studios Singapore. You  shouldn’t miss the Skyline Luge & Skyride and the Songs of the Sea!

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Orchard Road- Visit the Asia’s most famous shopping street, it is a 2.2 km shopping belt. You can see here high-end shopping malls and numerous department stores.

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Jurong Bird Park – Jurong Bird Park is the largest bird park in the world it is a 20.2 hectare open-concept park. You can see more than 8,000 birds of 600 species and 29 of those are endangered species.

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Singapore Night Safari- Unfortunately, it rained when we went to the night safari so the animals were all in their respective homes. It is the world’s first nocturnal zoo.

Science Centre Singapore is in Jurong East, Singapore, there are over 850 exhibits found here. Some of the exhibits here are interactive, it is very educational and promotes knowledge for the public.

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Esplanade Park is one of the oldest heritage parks in Singapore. Whether at day time or night time, Esplanade offers a great and dazzling view. This is also a best place to take a picture of the Marina Bay Skyline.

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Universal Studios Singapore- Stand in awe on this incredible theme park. This is the place suited for everyone, there are extremely fun and thrilling rides that you can enjoy. We didn’t waste our time and just try all the rides we can, go to each themed areas and took lot of pictures. It is a must visit place when you go to Singapore.

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We also had a short visit at Johor Bahru, Malaysia. We didn’t miss this chance because it was just a bus ride from Singapore.

Singapore is the best country I’ve been to so far. They’re so progressive and developed- the people are disciplined, the transport system is systematic, the tourist spots are well maintained and it is a very clean country. You can also observe how people really follow the simplest rules and regulations they have, no doubt they are one of the most visited country in the world because of the comfort they offer to their visitors.

Visit and don’t miss going to this place, put on your bucket list – Singapore. The place that is easy to enjoy yet so hard to forget.

Pearl of the Far East- Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Motorbikes, yes motorbikes! Millions of motorbikes,scooters, bicycles and vehicles will just pass by every now and then. That was the first thing I saw in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam, it was like a swarm of bees! The streets were busy and vibrant. Foods are really different. The destinations are amazing. It is like a new world for me.

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Bui Vien Street
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The busy streets of Vietnam. This photo was taken by me while riding the taxi from airport to our hotel
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Various delicious choices

Ho Chi Minh City, formerly named and still also referred to as Saigon, is the largest city in Vietnam. It was named after the revolutionary leader, Ho Chi Minh.

Together with my sisters, Charisse Hazel Ann and Ma. Monica Chelsea, we stayed in Vietnam for 4 days. We never missed any chance to discover this country, we had lots of activities and exciting itineraries. Here’s a list of ‘what to do’ and ‘where to go’ for you to enjoy Vietnam.

WHERE TO GO:

1. Ben Thanh Market

After eating our dinner on our first night at Saigon, with only a map and with the help of the locals we found Ben Thanh market. This is a must-see place, there are many fun clothing and food stands. The price in here are quite expensive so negotiate hard.

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Sweet and colorful Bành tèt (sticky rice) sold beside the Ben Thanh Market

2. Cu Chi Tunnels

We had half-day tour at Cu Chi Tunnels. The tunnels were utilized by the Vietnamese soldiers (Viet Cong soldiers) for them to hide during wars and it served as a passage and a supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters.

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A secret refuge of the soldiers
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Traps made by the Viet Cong soldiers

3. Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral also known as the Saigon Church, is a Catholic church in a largely Buddhist country.

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4. Saigon Central Post Office

On the other side of the church is the splendid Post Office. This structure was designed by Auguste Henri Vildieu and Alfred Foulhoux, but is always mistakenly credited to Gustave Eiffel, a French engineer who designed and oversaw construction of the Eiffel Tower.

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Inside the Central Post Office

5. Saigon Square

Saigon square is the best place to buy “pasalubong”. The vendors offer low prices and still negotiable.

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6. Vinh Trang Temple

Before going to Mekong Delta we had a short stop at Vinh Trang Temple, it is a Buddhist temple near Mỹ Tho in the Mekong Delta region of southern Vietnam. In here, there are 3 large Buddhas, a giant happy Buddha, a giant standing Buddha, and a giant reclining Buddha.

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The happy Buddha

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The reclining Buddha

7. Mekong Delta

You need to ride a boat to reach Mekong Delta which is the Southern most part of Vietnam. We had some stops at different places to witness the Vietnamese culture. We went to some factories where they make their products like coconut candies, bành tràng (rice wrapper), woodcarves, snake wines and more. 

After having lunch, we went to Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta river is a 60,000 kilometer long web of interconnected waterways, which span across three Vietnamese provinces. We had the chance to ride ‘sampans’ to have a short tour in the river. Unfortunately it was raining hard, we were all wet and didn’t have very good photos.

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The boat that brought us to Mekong River
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Coconut candy Factory, Snake wine, Honey Juice and some of the Vietnamese cultures

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We were provided plastic for us not to get wet

WHAT TO DO:

1. Eat Vietnam’s best street foods. Street food is a major part of Vietnamese culture.

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2. Don’t miss the Saigon beer!

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3. Buy a non la or Vietnam’s infamous hats

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4. Shop until you drop

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5. Drink snake wine

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Visiting Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam is so much fun. You can learn a lot from their culture and practices. Their history is very rich. Next time when you visit this place, you will know why it is the ‘Pearl of the Far East.’

TIPS and NOTES:

1. The best time to visit Vietnam is Summer.

2. You will become a millionaire there. (Hihihi)

3. Be cautious especially when crossing the road.

4. Philippine time is 1 hour ahead of Vietnam.

5. Don’t let the local vendors scheme you so always ask for prices beforehand.

6. Practice how to haggle hard.

7. There are many motorbikes. They just park anywhere, with no locks like nobody will take it because they have their own. It is really different in the Philippines.

8. There is a Jollibee outlet in Vietnam.

9. There are tons of money changers and ATM’s.

10. There are many travel and tour agencies which can help you to organize your trip.

11. Some taxi drivers lie to you. Take the honest ones like Vinasun.

12.Always show gratitude. ‘Càm ón’ is the Vietnamese word for thank you. We were thought to say it as “Kah-mung.”

13. Be wary.

14. Be bold.

15. Enjoy

 

TRIP DETAILS:

Hotel:

Yen’s Hotel 2

#65 Bui Vien St, District 1, HCM City, Viet Nam

email: yenshotel2@yahoo.com.vn

Travel and tours:

SAPPHIRE TRAVEL AND TOURS

#266 Bui Vien St, District 1, HCM City, Viet Nam

Heaven on Earth

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It’s summer!! Are you looking for a good place for your summer escapade? Coron, Palawan is the best place for you.

Coron is a first class municipality in the province of Palawan, Philippines.  Coron Island Palawan is surrounded by islands with majestic limestone cliffs, mountain ranges and coastal areas mostly covered with mangrove forests. There are various primeval caves, underground river systems, picturesque coasts and breathtaking white sand coves.

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It was June of 2015 when we decided to have our summer vacation at Coron, Palawan. There are many activities to do there, you can do island hopping, snorkeling, wreck and scuba diving, explore the Coron reefs, kayaking and many more.

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We stayed in Coron for 5 fun days, here’s a list of the places we visited:

CYC Beach or Coron Youth Camp Beach is a white sand beach, it is the only beach in Coron without an entrance fee.

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Twin Lagoon is a lagoon with shallow body of water separated from a larger body of water. You can climb a wooden stairs or swim underground to pass the entrance and be able to go to the other side of the lagoon. The water here is cold and sometimes when you swim farther it becomes hot.

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Kayangan Lake is dubbed as the cleanest lake in the Philippines. You need to climb for 10 minutes to be able to reach the place. It offers crystal-clear water.

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Coron Town we also had the chance to see the town proper of Coron, we bought some t-shirts and “pasalubong” in here.

Apo Mountainous Island  just at the back of Majika’s Island Beach Resort (the place we stayed). Apo Island is covered mainly with some plants and trees. We reached the peak just right in time and witnessed Palawan’s sunset.

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Lusong WWII Shipwreck is a Japanese sunken boat that sunk in September 1944. Currently, this ship is now covered with corals and became the home of different fishes.

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Coral Garden is very amazing. It is a very long swim but worth it. The jellyfishes are surrounding us and we were all worried about it, there are several nice corals and different species of fish.

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Pass Island is a white sand beach resort. It is called the “Pass Island” because people just pass by at this island. It possesses a very fine white sand. There are several corals and sea creatures found in here, and it is just a few meters away from the shore.

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T. Sangat Gunboat Wreckage is our final destination. It provides a shallow beach accessible dive opportunity compared to Lusong gunboat.
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Palawan is one of the best destinations in the Philippines.
It is wondrous.
It is grander.
It is splendid.
It is the Heaven on Earth.
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Some Wonderful Shots:
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Feeding Frenzy
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Underwater Rock Formations
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Cheers for a BUOYant life!
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Majika’s Island Beach Resort
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Fish Attack

Travel Details:

Majika’s Island Beach Resort:

If you are looking for the best place for you to stay, to relax, to escape, to enjoy and savour each moment of your Palawan Escapade,  Majika’s Island Beach Resort is the best place for you. We availed the “Just Fly in and we’ll do the rest” Package which was 5D / 4N Nature Adventure. There are other package options and you can alter it if you like.

Majika’s Island Beach Resort offers one of the best places to stay in Coron, they have friendly and caring staff, good cooks and a very funny owner, Ate Majika. They offer good and palatable foods, they cook various meals from breakfast to dinner. We also rode kayaks just after we arrive it was my first time and I learned fast how to paddle, we also tried to snorkel the corals on the reef just in front of the resort. The whole resort was powered by solar power and a generator. There will be no phone reception at the resort so it will be an opportunity for you to have a holiday away from busy world of work, school, city life and Internet.

Majika’s Island Beach Resort: http://majikaislandresort.wix.com/majikaislandresort or send them an e-mail to: majikaislandresort@yahoo.com

How to go there? 

We took a plane from Metro Manila, the travel time will take around 55 minutes. We landed at Busuanga Airport, and we reached Coron after  a 45-minute scenic ride by van and a 15-minute transfer through a mangrove forest by boat.

A Place Where the Sun Shines the Brightest 

Baler is one of the top destinations here in the Philippines. It features the best sunrise and sunset, perfect site for surfing, amusing historical places, wonderful scenic views and peculiar tourist spots.

Baler is found in the province of Aurora, Philippines. It is accessible by bus or private vehicle and is labelled as one of the “top surf spots” in the Philippines.

Our trip to Baler was unusual, most of the time; you stay a day or two to some of the destinations to savour each moment, but we visited 9 destination places in Baler for just 10 hours excluding our trip from Baguio which was 7-8 hours. And I assure you, it was a great jam-packed adventure.

5:00 AM– Perfect time for walking along the beach and witnessing the sunrise at Sabang Beach.

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6:00 AM– We had our hearty breakfast, after that, Kuya Rommel, our accredited tour guide/ tricycle driver fetch us.

6:30 AM-Arrival at Ermita Hill. Ermita Hill is situated in Mt. Dibudalan at Sitio Dicaloyungan, Barangay Zabali, Baler, Aurora. According to Kuya Rommel, this place was said to be a safe area when tsunami occurs, Ermita Hill was historically the place of settlement of the people in Baler when “Tromba Marina” devastated the whole municipality last December 27, 1735. Beside from its interesting history, it provides a magnificent view of Baler Bay, Diguisit Beach and Aniao Islets.

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7:30 AM- We went to the Diguisit Bay and Aniao Islets.

The Diguisit beach is kilometer long semi-white sand beach. It is a serene place and perfect for photo-op. During low tide, the rock formation is seen, you can walk through the rocks, but extra care is needed because it is sharp and rough rocks.

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The Aniao Islets are magnificent rock formations located near the shores of Diguisit Bay. The Aniao Islets has smaller rock formations, it is the best place to relax and feel the breeze since it is a tranquil place.

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8:00 AM- Diguisit Waterfalls. It is a waterfall that is found just beside the road, you just need 2-3 minutes to climb and see its main falls.

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8:30 AM- Baler Hanging Bridge. It is a very long hanging bridge connecting Brgy. Tibang and Brgy. Sabang. In here, you can see where the sea and river meets. It is fun and exciting.

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9:00 AM- Historical walk to Museo de Baler/ Baler Church / Donya Aurora Aragon-Quezon Ancestral House

Baler, Aurora is not only visited for its beaches at tourist spots, it is also visited because of its rich history.

The Museo De Baler lets you taste history, tradition and culture of Baler. This museum contains the most important pieces in the town’s history.

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Just a few steps from the museum is the Baler Church (San Luis Obispo de Tolosa), this is where “The Siege of Baler” happened. We weren’t able to enter the church since we are wearing inappropriate clothes.

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The Donya Aurora Quezon Ancestral House is just near southeast of the Baler Church.

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10:30 AM- Millenium Tree. At 600 years old, this enchanting is a must visit attraction because it is the oldest tree in the Philippines and the largest Balete tree in Asia. Its enormous trunk is equivalent to 62 men holding hands with arms outstretched. The tree’s thick roots developed a cave where you can enter.

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11:30 AM- The Ditumabo Falls/ Mother Falls.

Kuya Rommel guided us going to the Mother Falls, from the drop-off point, it is approximately 2.6 kilometers and you need to hike 30-40 minutes to see the famous falls. While trekking, you need to cross rivers, walk through narrow passages, climb some boulders and see series of mini falls. I really enjoyed it, getting there was easy for me compared to what I have been experiencing in some of the falls I visited.

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After the trek, we saw the captivating falls. It is the highest waterfalls I have seen in my life, towering 140 feet. It has a really strong current that is why you can’t really enjoy the swim in its 15 meter pool, you cannot even stand straight or stand for a long time because you will be flowed away.  You cannot also take a perfect photo because even at a far distance the water splashes to you. Its water is cold, the waterfall is surrounded by cliffs and several floras especially vines and shrubs.

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2:00 PM– Sabang Beach.  Since we finished early, Kuya Rommel asked us if we want to go back to Sabang beach until 4:00 PM, we agreed and didn’t miss the chance to feel the strong surfing waves Sabang beach has to offer.

That 10-hour adventure was really worth it. Baler is very vibrant, each place you go has magic, from its sunrise to sunset, from its beaches to mountains, it is indeed the place where the sun shines the brightest.

Travel Details:

Getting there: (from Baguio City)

  1. Fare- 260 php- student
  2. Bus- Lizardo Trans, their terminal is at Slaughter House. There are only 4 available trips, we had the last trip which was 2:00 PM

Accredited Tour Guide and Tricycle Driver

  1. Kuya Rommel Buencamino- 09382760737
  2. The accredited tour guides in Baler are tricycle drivers; you can contract them for a whole day trip which is worth 800 php.

Place to Stay:

We brought our own tent and stayed at Baywalk Tent City and Cottages. There are cottages there where you can rent for reasonable prices, but for us, they charged us 100 php per head since we have our own tent and will just be staying for short hours. Baywalk Tent City and Cottages is located at Sabang beach, beside Costa Pacifica.

Entrance/ Registration/ Environmental Fees:

  1. Museo de Baler- 30 php per head, including the entrance fee for Donya Aurora’s Ancestral Hous
  2. Millennium Tree- 20 php per head.
  3. Ditumabo Falls- 30 php per head

Going Back: (to Baguio)

  1. Fare- 260 php- student
  2. Bus- Lizardo Trans, the last trip is 5:00PM at Baler Bus Station.

 

Cascades from the Blue Sky

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Majestically rising 40 feet, Tangadan Falls, hailed for having the cleanest inland body of water in La Union, is situated in Sitio Bulala of Barangay Duplas, San Gabriel.

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The cascades is surrounded by a dense rain forest and is difficult to reach because of its hidden location. Tangadan Falls is magnificently beautiful, it was known before to be the “hidden paradise” of the province but it was already found and was very famous especially today.

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This picturesque falls looked like a wall of brown satin threaded with silver. It is huge yet lovely.It was roaring down into the pool like a gigantic water spout.

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I visited Tangadan Falls for three main reason:

  1. We were required to have an Eco Walk in one of my course and we chose Tangadan Falls.
  2. I heard the place several times and I am really eager to visit it.
  3. Since I was born and raised in La Union, I must go and see the hidden gem of my own province.

HOW TO GET THERE?

  1. Ride a bus going to La Union/ Vigan/ Laoag/ Abra/ Candon. (When you are from Baguio, Metro Manila, Pampanga, Pangasinan)
  2. Drop off to San Fernando, La Union Plaza.
  3. Walk few meters (at San Fernando Market) to the jeepney going to San Gabriel .
  4. The jeepney will drop you to the town proper of San Gabriel.
  5. From San Gabriel town, ride a tricycle heading to the drop-off point going to Tangadan Falls.

 

WHAT TO EXPECT THERE?

Long Tiring Hike.The trek going to Tangadan Falls is really hard, you need to exert effort to leap, balance and walk but after this it will surely be worthwhile. The trek can last for an hour or two.There will be steep trails (rain forests), muddy paths (grasslands), and several cobbles and boulders (rivers). The hike doesn’t require hiking equipment. I used a pair of slippers since there are times that you will get wet.

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Multitude. Since it is an emerging tourist spot, expect large number of visitors especially on weekends and holidays.

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Convenience. Nipa huts are set up in the area where you can stay. There are life vests, salbabidas and bamboo rafts to be rented if you wanted too. There are also several stores going to the Falls and in the area itself so you can buy all the things you need there in reasonable prices. There is also a comfort room for you to change clothes and do some necessities.

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Exhilarating Experience. Expect to have a memorable experience. All the things you will experience will be worth remembering because the beauty of the waterfalls is really surreal. The water is clean and has a strong pounding sound. The bliss-pool at the bottom was varnish clear and cold.

WHAT TO EXPLORE THERE?

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You should try the following to completely enjoy the Tangadan Falls experience.

Cliff Diving. You can jump at the cliff diving point 15-minute away from Tangadan Falls. There are options to choose whether to jump at 20 feet, 8-10 feet or if you don’t have the courage you can just watch someone else to do so.

Sight Seeing. You can go to the top of the Tangadan Falls’ cliff, in here you can view the whole cascades and try to dip into series of mini falls and mini pools.

Shower at the Falls. This is a must. You should try to shower under the falls by (1) swim to approach the falls, but I’m telling you it is really hard or (2) by bamboo raft.

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Rent a bamboo raft. It’s cheap yet very fun and exciting.

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Swim. Relax, unwind and just feel the ice cold water Tangadan Falls has to offer.

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Diversity. There are several floras and faunas to see there. While hiking, you can see varieties of animals and plants. You can hear the birds chirping and the bamboo trees swaying with the wind.

WHAT DO YOU NEED THERE?

  1. Hydration
  2. Food
  3. Swim wear and extra clothes
  4. Camera if possible the under water camera

HOW MUCH TO SPEND THERE?

  • Fare going to San Fernando: 80 php- student from Baguio (Partas Air-conditioned bus)
  • Jeepney going to San Gabriel: 26 php
  • Tricycle going to drop-off point: 10 php per person (3-5 person per trike)
  • Tour Guide: According to what is agreed, probably 100 php per person. (Not required)
  • Registration Fee: FREE, just write your name and the place where you came from.
  • Nipa Hut Rate: 300 php per hut
  • Life Vest Rate: 50 php per vest
  • Bamboo Raft Rental: 20 php per head (Bamboo Rafts are per batch, we are only 5 so we waited other groups to be with us, we are 11 in the raft when we used it, it is okay since it is big and sturdy)

WHY SHOULD YOU GO THERE?

Tangadan Falls is a place you can really fall in love. You can see its rainbow, you can hear its songs and you can feel its boldness. It is a masterpiece of the Lord. It is the cascades falling from the blue sky.