Vietnamese Encounters

I forgot about my hunger when I got off the taxi in front of my hotel in Hoi An. I was excited to be in a new place, and after checking in and dumping my things into my room, I was out in the streets, eager to explore. I turned left in a crucial intersection, towards the opposite direction of Hoi An’s old quater. There was nary a tailor in sight, just houses and shops catering to the local’s needs.

Riding in Ho Chi Minh
Morning traffic in Ho Chi Minh city

She was standing on the curb, about to ride her scooter, when she called out to me in English. “I saw you on the other street,” she said. “You’re in the wrong part of town. Did you just arrive in Hoi An?” I was never the type to start a conversation when I travel, so to have someone engage me in conversation can be a treat, specially after traveling solo for a couple of days. I was just to ecstatic to be talking to somebody that even when the word “tailoring shop” was thrown into the conversation, I shrugged it off, and instead hopped into the back of the scooter when she offered to take me to the Central Market, where her shop was.
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Category: Vietnam
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Work and Play in Singapore

Last Friday I found myself in the company of Filipino bloggers and Singaporean representatives of the Singapore Tourism Board and Contact Singapore. Since it was the start of the Singapore Food Festival, we were treated to sumptuous Singaporean dishes: the Singapore Slaw, a very interesting mix of colors and textures; Bawan Kepeting, a traditional Nyonya meatball soup; Singapore Laksa and Mee Goreng, very spicy but also very very good; Hainanese Chicken Rice, plated in the most beautiful way, and; Sago Gula Melaka with Vanilla ice cream, which is pretty much tiny tapioca in light syrup with a dollop of ice cream.

Hainanese Chicken Rice
Heritage Hotel’s Hainanese Chicken Rice

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Category: Everything Travel
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Philippine Travel Mart 2010

The 21st Philippine Travel Mart was formally announced yesterday to an overwhelming crowd of seven (yes! Count ‘em, SEVEN!) bloggers. It’s not an exclusive event, it’s just that Typhoon Basyang made sure everyone stayed where they are so I can finally win in an event raffle.

Gloating aside, this year’s travel mart will be held on September 3-5 at the Mega Trade Hall of the SM Megamall in Ortigas.
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Category: Everything Travel
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Travel Expense: Vietnam, Thailand and Malaysia

It’s not the cheapest of trips (specially if you see the version where my personal shopping was included), but relative to how much I spent on previous trips, this is pretty good for a 2-week jaunt across three countries. The tickets I hoarded last year played a big part in keeping the budget low. For a total of Php 5,275.85, I was able to fly to Saigon from Manila, Saigon to Da Nang, Hanoi to Bangkok, Bangkok to Krabi, Krabi to Kuala Lumpur and Kuala Lumpur to Manila.

Vietnam was pretty cheap. Dining at the restaurants can set you back around Php 300, while dining in the streets or markets can go as low as Php 40. Accommodation is also relatively inexpensive. My rooms range from $15 to $18, all with air conditioning and a fan, with ensuite toilet & bath, cable TV, a closet and even a small fridge. While the xe om is the most popular way to getting around town, I prefer to hop on a cab. The taxis in Vietnam are well kept with good air conditioning. Meter starts at VND 9,000 for the small cars, VND 10,000 for the sedans and VND 12,000 for the vans (depends on the company). Be careful about the taxis though; there are rogue taxis that use a very fast meter! They use the same name as the big cab companies, only changing one letter and using almost identical hotline numbers.

Krabi, on the otherhand, is pretty expensive (as expected). However, in the midst of the Thai and Italian restaurants, there are small street stalls selling noodles and rice. I stayed in Ao Nang beach, and it’s small enough to walk around. You can take the tuktuk around town, but to go beyond, you’d either have to ride the government songtheow (with routes to Krabi and other places) or hire a taxi (taxis in Krabi are Toyota Fortuner. Sosyal!)

Bangkok and Kuala lumpur are only in the itinerary for transit and shopping.
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Category: Travel Budget, Vietnam
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Congrats to the Living la vida Imelda contest winner!

Thank to everyone who shared their Metro Manila itineraries! It was such a joy to read the replies, specially the ones that included detailed descriptions, significance of the places and means of transport. It gave me plenty of new ideas for when I have friends and family coming to visit. If you’re thinking of places to bring your guest, the comment section of that post is rife with possibilities!

Chyng deliberately disqualified herself by saying outright that she wouldn’t take her guests around Manila, while Cornelio started with Manila, yet ventured out of town and had his itinerary spread for more than a day. I intentionally limited the itinerary to one day and only within Metro Manila. Why? Because most of those who travel to Manila only transit here — they fly in only because Manila is the main international hub and they use it as the jump off point to exploring places outside Manila.

In Requiem: Phonie's last days
Father Blanco’s garden circa 2006

Allan Reyes said he’d take his guests to Tondo so that they will see the real Manila, and erica yu-b said she’ll take them for a peek at Smokey Mountain so that her guests would help make the Philippines a better place. I understand what you guys are coming from, but let’s face it — those squatters is what the world already have in mind when they think about Manila. That is what’s often depicted in the media. I believe it’s every Filipino’s responsibility to make the Philippines a better place, not our guest’s.
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Category: Everything Travel
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