Bui Vien

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Otres Beach

Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Bukit Bintang

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Big Lagoon

El Nido, Palawan

Bangui Windmills

Bangui, Ilocos Norte

Calle Crisologo

Vigan, Ilocos Sur

Filipino-Chinese Pagoda

San Fernando, La Union

Wednesday, 10 December 2014

The-Not-So-Frugal-Travel: Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam (and things you must know)

..So the story continues

We (yes, I just had to use this term) arrived in Ho Chi Minh from Cambodia at around 9 PM via Sorya Bus Company. Having been ripped off in Cambodia, we didn't have any Vietnamese Dong anymore -- just Philippine peso. We were worried about having to walk miles from wherever-the-bus-drops-us-off to our hotel in Bui Vien.

Luckily, we met some friendly Vietnamese travelers while traveling on the same bus to Ho Chi Minh and we shared taxi with them after the bus dropped us off somewhere in District 1. We decided to split the bill-- i'll  pay using my credit card and they'll pay me half of the bill in cash. And YES, taxis in Ho Chi Minh accept credit cards (although you still have to call your credit card company in advance and let them know that you'll be using your card abroad) so we were able to get to our hotel without any difficulty.

photo from http://www.tan58hotel.com/Room/

We stayed at Tan 58 Hotel in Bui Vien which we booked online through Agoda.com when we were in Cambodia. I do apologize for not taking pictures of our hotel. The rooms were pretty good, they basically have the necessities (wi-fi, a/c, soap & shampoo, fridge, drinks, coffee & tea, towel, slippers, etc.)  that a backpacker needs. This hotel is located at the center of Bui Vien so it won't take much time to find this hotel. This is one of the inexpensive hotels in Bui Vien.

Eating at a local Vietnamese Restaurant in Bui Vien

We were restless, but that didn't stop us from going out and enjoying the nightlife in District 1. We basically splurged on food and drinks. We didn't have the chance to drink in Cambodia, but we did have a lot of chance to drink in Vietnam. 

Heineken Ho Chi Minh Version

The beer that gave him terrible hangover-- Saigon Beer.

The best nachos I've had.

Ho Chi Minh is very lively at night. Most hotels have money exchange so you don't have to worry about your Peso not being changed to Dong. If I were given enough time, I want to explore more around Ho Chi Minh city. Anyway, the next day, we woke up a little early to have coffee in Starbucks. We spoke to the manager and she told us that Starbucks has just been established in Ho Chi Minh 2 years ago. The servers were very friendly and they even helped us find a souvenir shop in District 1.

One lovely morning in Bui Vien.

Ben Tanh Market

According to our research, Ben Tanh market is the most popular spot in District 1 to buy souvenirs. But, the problem is, we only have few Vietnamese Dong left so we decided to shop around Bui Vien and look for some souvenirs. We paid by credit card, which really saved our trip. You can negotiate the price in most shops, especially in Ben Tanh, so getting a cheaper souvenir won't be a problem for tourists. I do agree with some travelers that vendors in Ben Tanh are just way too aggressive. So I suggest not to show so much interest in their product, otherwise, they will grab your arm and force you to buy it.


Finding Lunch Lady was a little bit of a challenge for us, since we didn't know exactly where her food stall is. We rode a taxi to 23 Hoang Sa St., District 1 (thank you Google Maps) and had lunch at her food stall. As most people know, Lunch Lady appeared in Anthony Bourdain's show and she has been famous since then. We were surprised with the amount of food that they serve! We were so full that we weren't able to eat everything!

 Lunch Lady's Pho

 Fried spring rolls

 Veggies as a side dish

Fresh spring rolls

We came in on a Wednesday afternoon. Lunch lady serves different dishes everyday as she has no fixed menu. Her food stall is packed with customers when we went there at lunch time. The cost of our lunch is pretty reasonable (200 PHP per person).

There's a lot of places to see in Ho Chi Minh, but because we were so hyped on eating a lot of local foods, we weren't able to go to historical places and museums. We just strolled around and eat a lot.

Notre Dame Cathedral in Ho Chi Minh

Park on Pham Ngu Lao

If you're planning on traveling in District 1 of Ho Chi Minh, here are the things you must know:

  • Most stores and restaurants accept credit cards (mastercard and visa). 
  • Motorbikes are for rent so if you wanna stroll around Ho Chi Minh, you can just rent a motorbike. 
  • Some hotels have money exchange.
  • Bui Vien and Pham Ngu Lao hotels are inexpensive and you can negotiate the cost of room especially if you're staying for less than a whole day. In addition to that, hotels offer city tours with a reasonable price.
  • Banh Mi (Vietnamese bread) costs around 35 PHP each.
  • You should try the coffee they sell on the streets -- it tastes like coffee with a mix of chocolate in it.
  • Mekong Express is one of the commonly used bus transportation by foreigners and their office is located along Pham Ngu Lao st.
  • Some food stalls are open even until 3AM.
  • Vietnam is 1 hour behind Philippine time.
  • There's no airport tax in Vietnam but still be aware of the weight of your baggage, as you will be charged for excess.
  • The airport is approximately 30 minutes away from the city.
  • I highly recommend VinaSun taxi. Taxi from airport to Pham Ngu Lao should be just around 150,000 VND. The flat rate is half of the flat rate here in the Philippines. To find this taxi at the airport, walk left outside terminal 2 and you will find VinaSun taxis lined up. They don't speak English very well so you have to simply tell them the name of the place you're going to. DON'T use taxis that charge 400,000 VND to go to the city center.
  • Have most of your money changed at Forex in NAIA
  • Chocolates are a bit costly, I suggest buying coffee as a souvenir (from Highlands Coffee or other local coffee shops) instead of chocolates.
This is the estimated cost of each person (for 2 nights/3 days) for Vietnam travel only.

Terminal Fee instead of Airport Tax, sorry! :)

Again, this budget can go down to as low as 8,000 PHP if you are backpacking and if you don't plan on spending so much on shopping and eating. This estimated cost excludes Ho Chi Minh City tour. I would appreciate corrections, if there's any, regarding the information above. Vietnam is a pretty safe place and Vietnamese are one of the kindest people I have met. 

Happy Travel! 

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

From Ho Chi Minh to Sihanoukville, Cambodia

The "Sihanoukville" tour was not originally included in my itinerary when I booked a flight ticket to Vietnam. A few days before my trip, I researched some YouTube videos about Cambodia and viola, I found this really great video called  "Winter of my Dreams" which was taken in Sihanoukville, Cambodia.


Then I bought a Lonely Planet Guide Book for Southeast Asia only to realize that this little town called Sihanoukville is located 12-13 hrs from Ho Chi Minh. I was like, "no way". But then again, being a travel go-getter freak, I decided to spend 2 nights there. Besides, it's a beach and I can't say no to that.

After arriving in Than Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh, I went straight to Pham Ngu Lao, which is a "tourist haven" for travelers like me. I spent a couple of hours in Eco Hostel, paid $15 for a single room and waited until 7 AM to board the Mekong Express bus to Cambodia.

My $15 a/c room in Eco Hostel w/ free wifi and w/ private bath. 

At around 6:30 AM, I boarded Mekong Express bus (I booked one-way ticket in advance via catmekongexpress.com for $26) to Sihanoukville. I felt a little uncomfortable because it's my first time to cross the border and I have never been to an International Border Crossing before. 3 hours later, we reached Moc Bai Border and got off the bus to have our passports stamped. 

Finally! At the International Border Crossing of Moc Bai! 

Times like this, I felt really strong and tough. What if something went wrong? I must have a plan. I have always been the "it's okay, whatever" type of girl and at that time, I realized, this is a big thing for me -- traveling across two countries, it is a BIG thing. I must be tough. I'm not a travel expert and this is my first time. There will be a lot more experiences like this. I must be strong enough to protect myself from whatever dangers the border-crossing might have.

Somewhere between Cambodia and Vietnam

I felt a big relief after I got my passport stamped. I told myself, "I can do this again and again." It wasn't that difficult. No scams, no hassle, nothing. Or maybe I'm just lucky. I boarded the bus again and traveled for 3 hours to Phnom Penh. At that time, I just felt so exhausted and tired. In addition to that, I only have a couple of dollars and Vietnamese Dong left. I didn't know exactly where I can have my money changed. From Phnom Penh, I was transferred to a VIP van together with a French woman who works at the Embassy of France in Vietnam and had some short talks with her.

She's so strong, I thought. She was traveling alone and she had done it before. Wow. 5 hours have passed and I still haven't arrived in Sihanoukville. It was gruesome and crazy. I have been sitting for 11 long hours. I kept on telling myself, "be patient, you'll get there." An hour later, I arrived in Sihanouk City and had my money changed. I was surprised to know that the exchange rate was 1,000 PHP= 19 USD. Total rip-off! I had no choice but to agree with that rate. 

Mushroom Point has two locations - 
the one on the beach front and the one on the side of the road. 

Mushroom Point's beach front resort

At 9 PM, I arrived in Mushroom Point, Otres Beach. I booked my hostel in advance and just had to pay the balance before I check out. I stayed in a bungalow dorm on  my first night and then transferred to a private room on my second night.

My lovely bed. A couple can sleep here.

I paid around $50 for 2 nights (one in dorm room and the second in private room) and booked via hostelworld.com. The next day, I transferred to a private hut and the room I had was just simply amazing. I was completely satisfied. 

My own little comfy room at Mushroom Point

Moreover, I had some relaxing time at the lobby area which is completely cool and amazing. I could stay here all day just smoking and drinking, I thought. 

Totally cozy

The breakfast I had was superb. Honestly speaking, it was my first time to eat a chunk of mozzarella cheese. My $4 breakfast was all worth it. One of the best breakfasts I had in my entire life. I completely embraced my life. I'm lucky, I thought. Never in a million years have I thought that I'd be able to travel this long, become friends with the locals and tourists, and just love the moment.

There's a lot in it. Just look.

What made me even happier is the beach. I'm a beach-lover so I really appreciate the fact that Sihanoukville has a beautiful and clean beach. It is peaceful and it's just a nice place to spend the afternoon lying on the sand, doing nothing.

Simple and amazing

Close look of the sand

Otres beach is the quiet seaside part of Sihanouk City. If you want to party and do a lot of activities, you can go to Serendipidity and/or Occheuteaul Beach. When I was there, I just ate and lounge on the beach -- because that's what I wanted to do for a long time. 

Long stretch of Otres Beach 

I just didn't care about how fat or ugly I look.

They thought I was Cambodian!

Otres beach is just basically one of the best places to eat, relax and reflect on yourself. You just have to make sure you got enough dollars as the people here only accept US dollars and Cambodian Currency. They don't normally accept credit cards (some shops accept visa) and Vietnamese Dong. I must say that this is a rural-kind-of place. A bottled water is expensive (around $1) and I don't encourage you to drink tap water. I experienced some stomach problems so it's best to be extra careful with what you eat and drink.

Mixed veggies with pork for around $4

For dinner, I ate local Khmer food which is similar to our food in the Philippines -- the mixed vegetables. I also ate mushroom omelette with cheese and fries ($3). Didn't taste really well, probably because I have never eaten a mushroom omelette with cheese but it was a great experience for me.

Everybody wants to rule the world.

To sum it all up, I spent around $80 for 3 days and 2 nights in Sihanoukville (excluding the bus ticket to and from Ho Chi Minh). Foods were a little expensive and the tuk-tuk as well. You can rent a motorcycle for $5 an hour, I guess. Bus ticket to and from Ho chi Minh is around $25-$26 per one way. There's a lot of creatively-built hostels in Otres beach and it's best to book in advance as hostels are fully booked most of the time.

Done Right hostel, just a couple of blocks from Mushroom Point 
- also recommended by Lonely Planet

European and Australian tourists that we have met there have been staying in Sihanoukville for a couple of weeks and it is suggested to stay longer to fully enjoy the beach and the town itself. You might as well buy some bottled water in Vietnam as it is cheaper than in Cambodia. If you got questions on how to get to this small town, just let me know. ;-)

Happy Travel!


  • Bus from Ho Chi Minh to Sihanoukville - $26 (booked online via catmekongexpress.com)
  • Lunch in Svay Rieng, Cambodia (just couple of hours away from the border) - $4
  • Sihanoukville to Otres Beach - $5 (van or tuktuk will do - just 15-20 minutes away)
  • Mushroom Point (2 nights) - $10 per person for dorm room and $15 per person for private room ($50 for 2 nights for 2 - booked via hostelworld.com)
  • Budget for food - $25 
  • Bus from Sihanoukville to Ho Chi Minh - $25 (Sorya Bus Transport - booked in Sihanoukville)

Total: $110

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Holy Week Travel: Caramoan

Everyone knows that traveling on a Holy Week season isn't a good idea, but because I was so hyped to celebrate my birthday, I was able to convince Jm to travel in Bicol Region, specifically, Caramoan.

En route to Sabang Port

Caramoan is a hilly peninsula located South-east of Luzon. It takes 12 hours by bus and around an hour by plane. Since it was Holy Week, we had a hard time looking for an available bus to Caramoan. We actually paid more than the regular price just to get on a bus to Caramoan (1,000/pax). The bus wasn't spacious at all, and there were more passengers than seats!

Anyway, we arrived in Camarines Sur at around 5am in the morning, then took a 1 hour jeepney ride from Naga to Sabang Port (100/head - should be just 50 per head- ripped off!!). 

Map of Camarines Sur displayed at a local restaurant in Sabang Port

Then, from Sabang Port, we rode a boat to Caramoan Guijalo Port (120/head). We arrived in the port at around 1PM. We were hungry but we decided to go straight to Paniman Beach. We had a 30-minute tricycle ride (300 pesos- wth) from Guijalo Port to Paniman Beach.

Just right outside our Family Room

Good for 4 people

We had a hard time looking for a place to stay since all rooms were already booked for Holy Week. Luckily, we met a couple who were looking for a place to stay too, so we decided to share a family room with them. 

Finally, Paniman Beach!

I'll write about my Island hopping adventures in my next post! 

Saturday, 9 August 2014

Train Ride from Sentul to Batu Cave

After the KL tour via GoKL Bus Ride, we opted to go to Batu Cave. We took a cab "somewhere" near KLCC (we didn't know how to get to Batu Cave, so we tried to walk to the nearest train station but we couldn't figure out where) so the cab driver took us to Sentul Station (KTM Komuter) and paid just around 7 RM. 

We got on the train at Sentul Station and traveled for less than 30 minutes before we arrived at Batu Cave Station.

The Golden Buddha

When we got there, there were so many stalls selling local products and food. You can also see some temples and shrines, as well as mini zoo, yes.. mini zoo! Hahahaha. We were too excited to see what's inside the cave so we climbed up for around 45 minutes.

Being exhausted wasn't that of a problem.

Don't expect a good-smelling, cold cave because it's literally a bat cave and it smells like a bat but, if you're adventurous, you'll appreciate these things. 

Another temple inside

These temples thingy make me want to fast forward time so I can travel to India. It's a big cave and some few people were in it, and yes, more bats. I wonder why most Indians don't wear slippers in Batu Cave. You can stay there for as long as you want and enjoy the interesting miniature statues. 

The end-part of the cave

There's a small opening at the latter part of the cave. It's pretty interesting to see this wonderful creation of nature. It doesn't cost much to travel from Kuala Lumpur Sentral to Batu Caves.. Probably just about 25 - 30 RM for the transportation (for 2)..

Thursday, 29 May 2014

Travel Thursdays: Caramoan

Hi! I know, I'm so sorry I haven't been writing a lot this year. I've been having a crazy hectic schedule that makes it quite hard for me to spend time writing on my blog. 

But, anyway, I got to spend my birthday in Caramoan (yes! Bicol Region, finally) and it was on a Lenten Season so it wasn't really a "budget-trip". Sigh.

There's just too many tourists in Paniman Beach and as expected, most resorts are either fully booked already or too expensive. Jm & I met a couple and shared a room with them-- to save money on accommodation.

15 minutes boat ride from Paniman Beach

It was almost a 17-hour trip from Manila to Camarines Sur (traffic, road reblocking, Maharlika Highway traffic, etc.). A week before our trip, we tried to reserve a seat at different bus companies but all of them are fully booked already. So, on the day of our trip, we tried our luck and found a "colorum" bus along Taft Avenue that would go to Albay, Bicol. We had to pay more-- 1200 PHP each.  It was not a sleeper bus. It was not spacious and there were people sitting in the aisle of the bus. 

Halfway through Sabang Port (waiting for passengers...)

We were dropped off at SM Naga and from there, we took a tricycle (the driver charged us 60 PHP instead of only 20 PHP) to a street where a jeepney bound to Sabang Port was waiting. The fare was 100 PHP each and travel time from Naga to Sabang Port was around 1 hr and 30 mins. You really need not take a tricycle from SM Naga, you can just walk around SM Naga and look for a jeepney bound to Sabang Port. (We realized that the van fare from SM Naga to Sabang Port is also 100 PHP) We should have taken a van instead!

From Sabang Port, we waited for a boat to Caramoan Guijalo Port for about an hour. We paid 150 PHP each. Travel time is 1hr and 45 mins. From Guijalo Port, we took a tricycle to Paniman Beach-- 300 PHP. Travel time is around 30mins. When we got to Paniman Beach, we had a hard time finding a room to stay because there were only few rooms left which cost more than 1,500 PHP per night. Fortunately, there was a couple who was looking for a room to stay too, so we offered to share a double room (1600 PHP) with them so we can split the cost. *wink* 

Beach front. Fair enough. Good for 4. (1600 PHP)

We wanted to tour around Caramoan so we rented a small boat (1,200 PHP - 4 islands) for island hopping. I seriously forgot the name of the islands but it wasn't that exciting anymore because of the crowd! There's just too many people...

It was a nice beach, yes.

Yes, white sand. Woohoo

Enjoy the beach!!

This island reminds me of El Nido-- clear water, white sand, beautiful big rocks.. Refreshing.
Then, we're off to the next island..

Off to the next!!

A little more serene~~~~

Then off to the next island...

A crowd favorite.

Super-enhanced photo!

Then we're off to the last island...

It's a relatively small island-- just a small cave and that's it. I love the scenery.

Just a small cave.. 

This island could have been stunning, only if there were no writings on the rock. It's never cool to destroy nature. NEVER.