Davao Trip – 3 Days 2 Nights DIY trip

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Last October 16 to 18, I had my last trip for the year. My sister and I went to Davao City! :)

It was a DIY trip. I booked a twin room at MyHotelDavao which is in San Pedro Street in downtown Davao. They have an ongoing promo for their rooms. The twin room is priced at Php 1,620 but we got it for Php 1,050.

Photo from the MyHotelDavao website.

Photo from the MyHotelDavao website.

I was no longer able to get a picture of the room because we were so tired when we got to the room. But the picture above is the same as to what the room really looks like.

Our flight out to Davao was at 5 AM. So we started our day at 2:45 AM. At around 3:30 AM, we were already at NAIA 3. We checked in our bags and went directly to our designated gate. It was an uneventful flight. We arrived at Francisco  Bangoy Airport in Davao at around 6:50 AM.  Just in time. We took a cab (a pink cab!) from the airport and went directly to the hotel.  The taxi fare is around Php 135. We just left our bags at the counter and went out again to find breakfast and start our Davao exploration. :)

There had been a small glitch at the start of our day 1 walking tour of the city.  Apparently, there is no Sun Telco signal in Davao. Good thing my two phones automatically connected to Smart (roaming). That’s their network integration at work. :)  Using the google map on my phone and by asking around, we were able to find Taps. It’s a well-known breakfast establishment in Davao. The one in Gov. Duterte Steet which opens at 6 AM. Don’t know if it is the same for all branches. Their food is quite affordable. Taste is okay. Nothing out of the ordinary.

Part of the Taps Menu

Part of the Taps Menu

After breakfast, we proceeded to visit Museo Dabawenyo. It is located near the Andres Bonifacio Rotonda.  We had a bit of a hard time looking for it since the gps of my phone won’t work as well as I want it to. Plus when we asked some locals, they don’t seem to know the place. Sad.

Taking of pictures are not allowed inside the museum. As per the guide who assisted us during the trip inside the museum, they have disallowed taking of pictures since some visitors post the pictures but put in inaccurate information about it. This is the only one that is allowed to be pictured:

Tri People of Davao

Tri People of Davao

From here, we got directions from the Manongs on how to go to D’Bone Collector Museum.  Admittedly, at first I wasn’t so sure if I should include this in our itinerary. And good thing that I did. It was a very informative tour (c/o Darell, owner of the museum) and the bone collection are simply amazing. Here are just some of the snapshots. I failed to take more snapshots of the bones since I was attentively listening to Darell’s accounts on how they got the bones and his dealings with local authorities with regards washed up sperm whales.

Different Breed of Dogs

Different Breed of Dogs

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A walrus. I remember 50 First Dates here.

A king cobra.

Monkeys

Monkeys

Dolphin. Bones and it's cast. She is called 'Lost' for all the loss she had at sea. Her child and her life.

Dolphin. Bones and it’s cast. She is called ‘Lost’ for all the loss she had at sea. Her child and her life.

We finished roaming the museum almost at noon. So we decided to head back to our hotel so we can get a bit of rest and freshen up. We were sooo tired. Before getting on a jeep, my sister bought half a kilo of rambutan and half a kilo of lansones. They were quite cheap as compared to the prices here in Manila. We took a jeep passing along San Pedro and got off in front of the hotel.

After resting, we were supposed to go out for lunch at Kuya Eds buffet place. But my sister ate the rambutan and lansones all by herself! So of course she is full. I ended up going out myself to eat at a bbq place. Only costs Php 79 and I had soup, rice, and 2 pieces of bbq. Good deal.

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After I returned to the hotel, we decided to go to a local mall. Sister need to buy a hat. And in sunny Davao, it would really be of help. We went to Gaisano Mall. She bought a cap from Penshoppe. :) Since we were not eating on time, we were already hungry by the time we went out of the mall. We saw a Minute Burger and bought their buy one take one burgers. Talk about budget travel. :)

Then we asked directions on how to go to Aldenvinco Shopping Center. I know it was just near since we passed it on our way to the mall. But since my sister is too lazy to walk, we took a jeep. And got lost. Hmp. I don’t know where we were so we just went back to the hotel.  We also opted to have dinner at the hotel. Which was a bad idea. Their buffet meal is not so good. Oh well. That’s what happens when you travel with a lazy person. Wouldn’t want to walk.

On the second day of our trip, we were scheduled to go  to Samal Island. We again had breakfast at Taps. After breakfast, we took a jeepney ride going to Sasa (Php 18 each) and the driver  dropped us off at the Roro/ ferry wharf. Cost for the ferry ride going to Samal Island is only Php 10. You will be given a token that you would use to pass a turnstile.

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Waiting for boarding.

Waiting for boarding.

Boarding the RORO ferry

Boarding the RORO ferry

The trip only lasted for 10 minutes. In fact, from the ferry, you can already see the outskirt of some beaches in Samal.

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Once you get off, the only mode of transportation available is that of tricycle or habal habal. We hired one habal habal to bring us to Monfort Bat Sanctuary and Hagimit Falls. We did not include going to a resort because none of us wanted to swim. So what’s the use right? Anyways, we hired the habal habal for Php 500. At first I thought it was a steep price but given the distance of each destination, I guess it is already worth it.

First off, Monfort Bat Sanctuary. The place is owned by Ms. Monfort. No, she is not a foreigner. She is purely Filipina who is the adoptive daughter of the Monfort couple who hails from Spain. There are I think 4 or 5 cave entrances where you can see the bats. At first, the guide said that we will only be allowed to view and not go to the caves. I was a bit disappointed but at the end it just worked out fine. The smell of the bats was sooo bad. I actually gagged and almost threw up. It was a different kind of smell. Like chemicals.

Bats. Bats. Bats. Just a few of the million that are in the cave.

Bats. Bats. Bats. Just a few of the million that are in the cave

There’s a specific place where males stay. A maternity ward. A nursery ward – this is where I almost puked because of the smell. There is also a seniors ward which the guide says is the smelliest so we ran away from it. :)

Next stop is Hagimit falls.

Hagimit Falls

Hagimit Falls

This is a good place to take a dip. My only issue is that the CRs doesn’t have any lights. :) Other than that, a good destination. But probably just on a weekday. I think this place gets full during weekends. After spending a few hours here to rest, we again rode the habal habal to get back to the wharf where we would take the ferry back to the city. Cost is again Php 10. We again took another jeep going back to the hotel. We just freshen up and took another jeepney ride to have our very late lunch at Luz Kinilaw.

Food here is good! We had grilled shrimp and panga ng tuna. The tuna was soo big and soo yummy. :)

Huge portions @ Luz Kinilaw

Huge portions @ Luz Kinilaw

After our late lunch, we then proceeded to try once again to find Aldenvinco Shopping Center. Good thing we got good directions this time. I spent more than Php 1,000 :). I bought shirts (white – Php 100/ colored – Php 120); bags (Php100-250); sarong (Php 250); ref magnets (3 fo Php 100); and key chains (Php 10).  We bought them from Sam and Naim’s souvenir shop at the back of the shopping center.  After this, we also got directions on how to go the Pasalubong Center. There, sister bought a flute. We also got our durian candies there and I sampled their durian ice cream. Creamy!

Pasalubong Center

Pasalubong Center

Durian Ice Cream

We got back to the hotel at around 6:30 PM. When we already took a jeepney ride back to San Pedro, the rain poured! Since the rain did not stop, we just opted to have dinner at one of the many JFC (Juicy Fried Chicken) places that we see. There is one located near the hotel so we went to that one. The place boasts of only Php 20 for one piece of chicken. True enough. Dinner for two only costs Php 116.

Meal for two - Php 116.

Meal for two – Php 116.

After dinner, we already called it a day since we will be going to Eden Nature Park early the next day.

On our third and last day of stay in Davao, we woke up early and had breakfast at Jollibee. After breakfast, we walked one block and took a ride in a jeepney going to Toril. Travel is almost an hour and cost is Php 15 each. Once we reach Mercury Toril, we hired a tricycle for Php 200 to bring us to the resort. The resort is on the higher parts of Toril. The trike driver says that it is near the foot of Mt. Apo. True enough, I can feel the trike was having a hard time going up.

View from the trike going to Eden Nature Park

View from the trike going to Eden Nature Park

We paid an entrance fee of Php 200 each which already includes a plated snack. We also paid Php 120 for a guided shuttle tour around the park.  You really wont’ be able to tour the place just by walking. It is quite big. Just look at their map.

 

Map of Eden Nature Park

Map of Eden Nature Park

Here’s a few snapshot at the park.

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Flowers! :)

Flowers! :)

We were supposed to do the skycycle and zip line but we are already running out of time since we would need to be leave for the airport by 4 PM. We just had our plated snack and went back to the hotel.

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After a quick shower and change of clothes, we went out again to have our late lunch at Jack’s Ridge. Unfortunately, when we got there, we were informed that they only take lunch orders until 1:30 PM. We were there at 2:30. :) So we ended up having some heavy snack at the Cafe.

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That was the last place we visited and then off we go to the airport. Back to Manila, back to reality. :)

All in all, I think three days is already enough for a Davao trip. But one whole day should be spent at the Eden Nature park and another whole day at Samal Island. :) Our total expenses is around Php 5,000 each excluding the pasalubong shopping.

Now where should I go next? :)

 

My Lakbayan Grade – C

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Despite my recent travels, I’ve still got a lot to cover. :)

I initially wanted to visit each province but it seems a high goal so I have settled to visiting at least one place in each region. So far, here’s what I have:

Region Place Visited
CAR Baguio
Region 1 La Union
Region 1 Ilocos Sur
Region 1 Ilocos Norte
Region 2 Tuguegarao
Region 3 Bataan
Region 3 Angeles
Region 3 Bulacan
Region 3 Pampanga
Region 3 Zambales
Region 4-A Batangas
Region 4-A Cavite
Region 4-A Laguna
Region 4-A Quezon
Region 4-A Rizal
Region 4-B Palawan
Region 5 Albay
Region 5 Naga
Region 6 Bacolod
Region 7 Bohol
Region 7 Cebu
Region 10 Cagayan De Oro
Region 11 Davao

I am still missing Region 8, 9, 12, 13 and ARMM.

I also want to visit each country in the South East Asia. So far I have already visited Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.  I’ve still got Brunei,  Cambodia, East Timor, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, and Thailand. I’m eyeing either Cambodia or Thailand for next year.

What makes it hard for me to travel aside from funds :) is the fact that I would mostly go on solo travel. It’s either Nanay is not comfortable with that idea or it costs much more when travelling alone. Plus of course the safety issues.

Oh well, I’d still visit as much places as I can.

Cause it is good for the soul. :)

Pen. Paper. Sketch

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I sketch. Mostly when I’m bored. Or in a certain mood. Does that make me an artist? Lol.

I recently bought a sketch pad ’cause my old one got soaked when I left it near a window and it rained. Plus I already got tired of using my note pads and scratch paper to sketch.

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It is using this scratch paper that I thought I should buy a sketch pad. :)

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I usually sketch what I see.  The picture of the building above is my view from my work desk.

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My latest sketch is that of my sketch pad. :) I just finished an hour ago. And yes, I’m a little bored. Typhoon Santi decided to visit our country even if it is already the ber months. Can’t go out. Hmp.

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And these are the other sketches.  See how I use scratch papers and note pads. I just have to draw when I feel like it.

This is where I keep my pens and other supplies at work.

This is where I keep my pens and other supplies at work.

 

I think I just saw the pic of a dog and tried to copy it.

I think I just saw the pic of a dog and tried to copy it.

 

Sketch of a souvenir I got from guess where? Malaysia. :)

Sketch of a souvenir I got from guess where? Malaysia. :)

 

Admittedly, Winnie the Pooh was a big part of my  adult life. Yes. Adult life. Back story there. :)

Admittedly, Winnie the Pooh was a big part of my adult life. Yes. Adult life. Back story there. :)

 

I think he is a character in Ragnarok. Just saw him in a drinking cup.

I think he is a character in Ragnarok. Just saw him in a drinking cup.

 

 

Yes. That's my mug. And yes, I drink tea.

Yes. That’s my mug. And yes, I drink tea.

 

This is my hand. :D

This is my hand. :D

 

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I call this the Emo kid. It sums up what I felt during that time. I’m an artist, I tell you. Lol

I’d probably sketch more specially with my two-week vacation and that it is raining. Plus I can feel like I want to sketch. Oh wait. The sun came out. I’m going to the mall!

:D

 

 

 

Two weeks of Leave

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One difference in my new work is that we are required to take a two week leave every year. I’m not sure if it is the same for the other banks. On the onset, it seems like a really good idea. Two weeks of paid leave! But it does have its pros and cons.

Pros:

  1. It’s two whole weeks of unspoiled rest. Even if there’s an emergency at work, you won’t be required to attend to it. In fact, you are kind of “banned” from showing up at work. Lol.
  2. If you are wise enough in scheduling your leave, you could end up with an almost 15 days of rest. Mine should have been like that. I have scheduled it October 14 to 25. Then recently, it was announced that October 15 and 28 are holidays. This would have meant that I don’t go to work from October 12 to 29. :) Unfortunately, I had to re schedule because of the changes in my project schedule. I started my leave yesterday, October 9 and it would end on the 23rd.
  3. Of course, the leave is paid so aside from being paid, you get to use your allowance for mall hopping. Lol.

Cons:

  1. You only have 5 days of leave that you can schedule and use thru out the year. That’s the balance from your 15 day vacation leave.
  2. It is too costly. Imagine having to schedule two or three out of town trips in a span of 2 weeks. Budget buster. Even a trip to the mall is costly. And if I schedule a family trip? That would mean cost x 8.
  3. Expect calls / SMS from work. You are not allowed to visit work but it wouldn’t stop your assistant from consulting you from time to time.
  4. You’d get a bit bored after a while. :)

For now, I only have one trip scheduled. My Davao trip! And I am also scheduling a trip for my cousin. She would be visiting from UAE and I’m fixing a Bohol trip for her. :)

Okay, let’s see what else can be done during this leave. :)

Grab Taxi — New Mobile App Review

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A month back, I have read in Rappler about this new mobile app that you could use to get a taxi. I immediately got interested because it is quite hard to get a cab specially in the Makati area on a friday night. And since my Vietnam trip was scheduled on a Friday and a payday Friday at that, I thought I should download the app just in case.

I was actually planning to use it before the flight just so I know how it works but I’ve never gone around to using it. Come the day of my flight, true enough, there was a line of people trying to hail a cab along Paseo de Roxas. So I whipped out my phone and started the Grab Taxi App.  It’s logo is a white outline of a cab inside a green outline.

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Upon opening the app, you would be reminded that you would have to pay a fixed fee of Php 70.00 on top of the metered fare.  Fair enough if you’d ask me. I wouldn’t mind paying this amount as long as I get to find a cab on a busy friday night.

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As with most apps, this one needs data connection. That’s no problem on my part since I’ve got unlimited data subscription. Next thing is that you should turn on your GPS.  The app would need to know your location because it will then send out that information to all the taxis which have the Grab Taxi app.

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Once you put in your location and your destination, you would have the option choose whether you would want a regular cab or a deluxe cab. You can also put in a note to the driver.  Just like what I did. I said I’d be waiting along Paseo de Roxas in front of a particular building. Once you click ‘Book Now”, the app will be sending your information (location and drop off point) to all the cabs within a certain radius. I wasn’t able to get a screenshot of that one and I cannot do it now cause my phone connection sucks.  Basically what you would see is a cluster of taxi and each one would light up red or green. At first try, the message I got from the app is that they were not able to find me a cab. I tried again and the app was able to get me a cab. :)

What’s gets cooler with the app is once they find you a cab, they will also send you the cab plate number, the mobile number where you can call (not text. not recommended) your driver and even a picture of your driver! You can also track the whereabouts of your ride. See here:

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If you click on the ‘Call Driver” icon on the lower left side of the app, you will be able to do a video call with your driver. :) You can also opt to cancel the booking. Just don’t know how that works though.

True enough after less than 5 minutes, Mr. Driver arrived and off we went to the airport. He was very courteous and is apparently new to using the app. They pay Php 50 per day for the use of the app plus the mobile unit where it is installed. I think it is like a rent to own kind of thing for the unit. He says it helps them cause the operator gets to know the whereabouts of his taxi and there are now several users that they get good pickings of their passengers.

The only downside I find on the app is that it does not recognize all location. I also used this app when I arrived from the airport and I was indicating our street. It couldn’t find the street as my drop off point. So I had to settle in indicating that the drop off point is the hospital near our street and just told the driver my exact destination when I got to talk to him. By the way, the one who fetched me at the airport is again nice and courteous. I guess it helps if you have his picture and other details with you. :)

For this app, it’s 4.5 out of 5. :)

Weekend in Vietnam – Day 2

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For the day 2 of my Vietnam trip, I went on a city tour. I know that I could have done this on my own but given my very limited time of stay, I opted to join a group tour. It only costs 199,000 VND anyways so it’s all good. 

The day started with breakfast. Still the same but now without the sausage. Didn’t really like the one in Day 1. The coffee was a bit extra strong. So good. :)

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For this trip, I get to be with two other Filipinos (Mom and daughter) for the trip. There was actually a group of Filipinos on my Day 1 trip but I only get to talk to them on the latter part of the trip cause they thought I’m Malaysian. Actually, all thru out the trip, I’ve been asked more than 5 times if I am Malaysian. At the market, they even quote Ringgit prices. When I went home, I wore this shirt and jacket just to say, “Filipino po ako!” :)

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We were again fetched from our hotels and we’re led to a green bus. It was the same kind of tourist bus I had the other day. When we got in, I again chose a window seat. This time determined to say “No” if someone asks for it. After just a few blocks, we stopped and had to get off the bus. We were transferred to a smaller one – a coaster. I guess the tourists riding the coaster are bound to the CuChi tunnels, thus the switch. Plus we were smaller in number so the coaster bus would work just fine. When we transferred to the coaster bus, I took the very front seat (adjacent to the driver) so I could get a good look at the city during the tour. It is on that seat that I get to see that it seems Vietnamese people have a death wish when riding their scooters/ motorcycles. As in they would be swerving at the front of the bus. Ignore traffic signs. Beat the red light. Traffic lights are there for a reason. They are not mere suggestions. There were more than 10 times that I cringed thinking we would be hitting some riders. Fortunately, none of that happened.

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Our first stop – War Remnants Museum . I love museums. It amazes me to see how people live when I was still not around. I like seeing relics. I love anything that has any history on it. For this museum though, it was different. I had been to war museums before (love the one in Corregidor ) but this would just make you tear up. They did not just show you what arsenals were used during the war. They show you pictures. The pictures of those who died from the war, families that were separated, babies with abnormalities due to chemical warfare and soldiers who had to kill their opponents. Those soldiers. Those guerillas. Those who need to kill another person. I cannot imagine how they felt after. When I get upset and I say mean things, I would still feel guilt even if I was ‘right’. And that is just for uttering mean words. But for those man and woman, they have taken lives. And they did not do it ‘cause they are mean or they just want to. It was part of their duty. Those who start a war would have probably drank a gallon of unicorns blood.

Anyways, I am a tourist so I did what a tourist usually does. Take pics. But I cannot take pics of those people. So I have this.

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 And this is so true….

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This one. See the caption? In war, material things lasts. Not people. 

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 This is a good work of art. Made from salvaged metals used during the war.

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Right after the museum, we went to this coffee shop where they gave out free samples of coffee and tea. I think this is a tie up with the travel agency. To get the tourist to buy their products. Anyways, I tried their Coffee Alamid but didn’t buy any. Was too expensive. J

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After the coffee and tea sampling, we went to China Town where Thien Hau Pagoda is located. Mr. Than (our tour guide) explained that the Chinese people settled in this part of the city and have the temple created. Initially it was only the Chinese who visits the temple but it is now open to all who practice the same religion. I love the intricate design of the temple.

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There is also this activity open to all who visits the temple. For a fixed donation, you would get a piece of paper where you put in your name, age and wish. They put it at the top of a long coil of incense (I think) and light up the lower part of the coil. Supposedly, once the ember reaches the piece of paper and it burns, your wish might come true. The temple was filled with the smell of incense.

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After the visit to the temple, we were brought to Binh Tay Market. We were given 45 minutes to go around and buy whatever it is that we would want as souvenir. I wasn’t able to buy anything here. I was set that I would be buying in Ben Than and in Saigon Square. 

After the market, lunch. We were again brought to a partner restaurant and had our lunch. I learned from my dinner the other night that I can’t really finish one serving of the food in Vietnam so I just got one order of beef pho and iced coffee. Only costs 75,000 VND. After lunch, we again visited another Handicapped Handicrafts. Needless to say, I didn’t even try to look for the items on sale. J

Our next stop was at the Reunification Palace . Learned a bit of history on why it was called that way. On the same room wherein the South and North Vietnam agreed to unite, we were given a brief history of politics. Mr. Than also said that the Palace is no longer in use and that political activities is done more in Hanoi . Thus Hanaoi is considered the poltical center  while Ho Chi Minh is the financial center. The tour of the palace consists mostly of showing us different rooms. 

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I also got this great shot of the view from the top floor of the Palace looking out into the streets. 

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After the Palace, it was a very short ride to Notre Dame Cathedral. Too bad we already had to leave at once. So after a short prayer, we had to live and just check out the façade of the Post Office which was just beside the Church. Didn’t have the time to see the inside of the building.  We however chanced upon this couple who seems to be having their pre nuptial photoshoot at the side of the Church. So cute. J

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The tour ended at around 4:00 PM and the three of us went back to the hotel. We agreed to meet at around 6:30 at the lobby so we can go shopping at Be Than, Saigon Market and go back to the Coop Mart for more coffee. J From the hotel, we hailed a VanSun taxi (recommended by the Hotel) and went directly to Ben Than market. We were told by our tour guide that the market is open until midnight but when we visited, half of the stalls were already closed. I just ended up buying shirts for my sisters and brother. We then walked towards Saigon Market. Along the way, we saw this mini version of a local transportation- Cyclo. Back at the Reunification Palace , it costs around 390,000. Here, I got it for only 180,000. J Cute!

 

I've put it besides my LG phone for scaling. :)

I’ve put it besides my LG phone for scaling. :)

At Saigon Square , I got 3 kipling wallets for 65,000 VND each. Quite sure its just an imitation but it’s good! From Saigon square, we got into another VanSun taxi to go to the Coop Mart to buy more coffee. Got all of this for 41,000 each. I actually bought 5. 3 I’ve given away, 2 is mine. J

 

I already tried the one at the left. Was good!!

I already tried the one at the left. Was good!!

We got back at the hotel around 8:00 PM. We initially wanted to dine out but we were just too tired. I was to leave that night at 10:30 PM while Hazel and Haven (the mother and daughter companions I have) would be going on a 12 hour bus ride going to Cambodia . They would be leaving at 6:30 AM the following day. So instead of dining out, we all opted to just go back to our rooms and order room service. Unfortunately, when I asked for room service, they can no longer cook food for me. I think the cook already went home. I was being offered some instant noodles but I really don’t like to eat that at that time so I went out again to buy some sandwiches at the same restaurant I had dinner the night before. I ordered chicken and burger sandwiches which comes with fries. I sent the burger sandwich to the mother and daughter team just to be sure that they also get to eat something warm. After the meal, I had a quick shower, checked my things are all packed and waited for my ride to the airport.

At 10:30 PM, I was on my way back to the airport. My flight is at 1:00 AM and I arrived at Manila at 4:30 AM. I again used the Grab Taxi app and I’m home by 5:30 AM and out again at 6:30 AM to go to work. Yes. Work. You gotta work so you can travel. Unless you won the the lottery. J

All in all, I’d say the trip was good. Had a few misfortune (over priced item at the shop and cliff hanger seat) but I would definitely go back. But this time, I won’t be a tourist. I’d be a traveler. I really prefer to just mingle with the locals. Eat where the locals eat. Get lost wandering the streets. That’s really my kind of travel. :) Next time. :)

 

Weekend in Vietnam – Day 1

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My weekend trip to Vietnam started on a Friday. I had my flight scheduled at 10:50 PM (PH time) and I would be arriving in Vietnam at 12:20 AM.

My work ends at 5:30 PM. I just had a change of clothes and I already proceeded to the airport. Since it is a payday weekend, I opted to use this newly downloaded app that I have – Grab Taxi – so I can get a ride to the airport. I’d write a separate review on the app which by the way is quite cool. J

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After about half an hour, I was already at the airport. I was quite early that the check in counter is not yet open so I just whiled away the time watching Harry Potter on my phone. After a while, I paid for travel tax – Php 1,620 and I checked in to get my boarding pass and proceeded to look for dinner. By the way, I still don’t understand why would we have to pay for travel tax when I have already paid taxes for my plane ticket and paid for airport terminal fee. Is it because I would be spending money outside the country and the government makes sure I give them some before I do so? But I already paid income taxes! All 32% of it! Oh well. Anyways, I had to eat something heavy since flights usually leave me hungry. It’s only a three-hour flight but still. Plus during that time, I kinda felt a bit sick with the flu so I had to take meds just to be sure I won’t spend the weekend holed up in the hotel.

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My flight departed on time and after 3 hours, I was in Vietnam . J It is only then that I realized that I wouldn’t be able to speak in Filipino for the next two days and would have to speak in English. It’s not a problem really. Just weird that I only thought of it when the plane landed in the country I’m visiting. Since I would be arriving in the wee hours of the morning, I have asked my hotel to provide me an airport transfer. When I went out of the airport, the guy from Nguyen Khang hotel was sitting with the rest of the crowd with names on paper probably waiting for other passengers like me. I said good morning and said I’m (my name) and pointed to the piece of paper with my name on it which he was holding. He didn’t smile. He basically ignored me and just made sure that I followed him to the car. I guess he doesn’t like the time that he had to fetch me. Well, wait till he needs to bring me to the airport on my flight back. Hehehehehe.

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Nguyen Khang is one of those budget hotels located along the backpackers area along Pham Ngu Lao. We entered a side street and along the row of other hotels is Nguyen Khang. We went up one flight of stairs and on the top of the stairs, the driver tapped on the glass wall. Apparently, Ms. Huong, the one I have corresponded with sleeps on the lobby of the hotel. She let us in and then the driver magically disappeared. J Ms. Huong has been very accommodating asking me if I want anything prepared. I just asked for a bottle of drink which I got from the ref on the lobby. I got the key to my room which was just on the side of the lobby. Here’s what the room looks like. Was OK considering the price (23 USD per night).

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After unpacking, (I can’t sleep without doing it) I slept. Woke up at around 6:00 AM and just got ready for a long day. Around 7:00 AM, I had some of my USD changed into VND. I became an instant millionaire! Lol.

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 After that I got breakfast downstairs. Breakfast is free and this is what I have:

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I love the coffee. I take mine black with a bit of sugar, no cream. Good! Strong but good. I also like the baguette. The baguette I buy here (even in Rustans) is a bit tough. This one is different. The outer part is really crusty like the ones in croissant. It’s like a long croissant. Flaky in the outside, a bit gooey and chewy in the inside. J After breakfast, I showered and waited for someone to fetch me for my CuChi- Cao Dai trip. At around 8:30, Mr. Binh from the travel agency fetched me and a couple from another hotel. We waited along the main street for our tour bus. Was lucky to get a window seat. J Along the way, we also got a few more tourists who would be joining the tour. On one stop, a Malaysian couple boarded the bus but they had to take separate seats coz the bus is full.

Our first stop was at a Handicapped Handicrafts. Mr. Binh says that it is a place where some of those that were injured due to the war use their skills and create lacquer artworks. They also use eggshells, paints and mother of pearl (?) to create really good paintings. Here’s a few of snapshots of the shop and the items they made:

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I actually enjoyed seeing all the paintings and other items they have on display. They are all a bit pricey though. I just thought, well they worked hard to create it. So I chose two ref magnets which I usually buy as a souvenir and a small box with a comb on it for Nanay. Unfortunately, I was scammed. The girl who helped me doubled the price of the box with the comb. And ‘coz of the confusion with the currency, I only realized it when I saw the receipt when I got back to the hotel. It was only supposed to cost 110.000 VND but the OR shows 220.000. Why?? Why do that? I don’t normally buy at souvenir shops ‘coz I know it costs more but at that time I thought, what the heck. I’d pay a few more but at least it’s for a good cause. Shame on you! Oh well.

When we were getting back to the bus, the Malaysian woman I was sitting with asked me if it is OK for me to exchange seats with his boyfriend so they can sit together. I of course said yes. No worries. Well, I was at least expecting a thank you but none was given. What is wrong with people? Saying thank you is free. Use it freely! I got to sit beside a male Caucasian. Solo traveler too. Didn’t’ talk to him ‘cause… I just don’t. Hehehehe.  The thing is, he is big and he occupies some of my space. L In fairness to him, he does try to keep within his space but he is too tall that it is just not possible. So for the rest of the trip, I had to put up with sitting at the edge of my seat that my back hurts a bit.

Our second stop was at Cao Dai temple. It is a very colorful temple wherein they pray for all religions. Cool! Here’s some pics.

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The monks(?) wearing blue prays for the Catholics and Christians.

After around 20 minutes of watching them pray, we went back to the bus so we can have lunch and be on our way to CuChi tunnel. When I boarded the bus, I got a bit disoriented. My seat was missing. Well, it was still there but someone else is sitting on it. And my big guy seatmate was at the front row of our seat. So I took my things (water bottle and souvenir item I bought) from my already occupied seat and settled on the front row. This ala Trip to Jerusalem of ‘stealing’ seats continued all thru out the trip. Again, why people? Why? Whether you sit at the back or at the front, we would all be going to the same place. It’s the same bus! Oh well.

We stopped at a restaurant and I opted for this meal. Rice and some fried shrimp.

IMG_20130914_141919Quite cheap for  1185,000 VND.  And I’m pretty sure I paid for the right price.

After the meal, we started our travel to CuChi tunnel which seems like almost two hours. During the first hour, Mr. Binh told us a bit about Vietnam , the tunnels, the war and about himself. I think he’s a bit on the angry side. Lol. But he does love Vietnam . I guess that qualifies him to do the tour.

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At the CuChi tunnels, we paid  90,000 VND for entrance fee. This wasn’t included in the trip. We were shown a battle tank, some of the opening of the tunnels and the traps that the Vietnamese soldiers used. We also got to know how they survived by being innovative and using their familiarity with their surroundings. You can also fire a gun if you want to but I didn’t go for it. Highlight of this trip was us trying to get on the tunnel. I think it is around 100 meters. That was cool! J The only downside is it was too hot on the tunnels that when we got back in the bus, there was a definite ahhhmm ripe smell. J

That was the end of that day tour and we travelled for another 2 hours to go back to the city.  At around 7:30 PM, we stopped in a street where most of the travel agencies are. Only, I was not told that we won’t be brought back to our hotel. I had to find my way back! There is a reason why I need GPS. I am very bad with directions and the only direction I got from Mr. Binh is that I go straight ahead and turn left. Duh. Oh well, so I walked. And walked. And walked. When I was almost ready to spend on a mobile phone call to the hotel to get directions, Ms. Huong greeted me on the streets. She was just buying her dinner and I was actually near the hotel. On the back side of the street, but still near. So I got back to the hotel and rested for just a bit (like 20 minutes) and went out again to look for a grocery store. Why? Cause I’m gonna buy some coffee and noodles. Lol. Ms. Huong gave me a map and even accompanied me out on the streets to show me which way to go. But of course, I got lost. As expected. And not just once but three times. Once going to the Coop Mart and twice trying to go back to the hotel while carrying two large bags of coffee, tea, dried fruits and noodles. I spent 357,600 VND (around Php 715) for groceries. J

Screenshot_2013-09-15-18-25-51(Don’t know why I go on solo trips when I can easily get lost even with a very simple map. Well, ‘coz it’s fun. :)

Back at the hotel, I just deposited the groceries at my room and went out again to find dinner. It was already past 9:00 PM so I just ate at the first resto I found. Their beef pho was good and the serving was big. Didn’t realize it would be that big that I also ordered fried spring rolls which I didn’t touch and just asked for take out. For this meal, I paid 123,000 VND. Food was good and cheap and they have a strong wifi that I was also able to video chat with my cousin in UAE while having my dinner. J

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I actually wanted to have a beer when I finished my meal but decided against it. First, I really don’t drink and I don’t know how much the alcohol volume of a Vietnamese beer is. Second, I have another whole day tour the following day which starts at around 8:00 AM and lastly, my body craves rest.

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Beer and water, same cost. :) Beer drinkers heaven. Lol.

So that’s the end of my Vietnam trip Day 1. Expenses are within the budget. J