Posted in Thailand

Bangkok (Not) Dangerous

Whoever believes that cheesy Nicholas Cage remake movie “Bangkok Dangerous” has never been to Manila. Despite that one particular scum of a taxi driver who managed to rip us off, we felt a lot safer in Bangkok and have not encountered anything close to being dangerous. Bangkok may be quite a tourist trap to be honest and the prices of tour groups may sometimes go off the roof – but which tourist spot isn’t? We just try to always keep in mind that the money we paid helped put square meals on their table or send their kids to school and we feel a lot better afterwards. But all those money spent are absolutely worth it. The richness of experience and adventure you will gain in this colourful city is priceless!

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Wat Traimit Temple

Bangkok has so much to offer that you can never run out of things to see and discover. You may even find yourself wishing to stay longer in this exciting and interesting city. Here are some of the highlights of our little adventure in this city of smiles.

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Chao Praya River Cruise

1.) River Star Princess Cruise. A sight-seeing boat cruise around the famous Chao Praya River in Bangkok highlighting the historic landmarks and vibrant sights while the cool evening breeze helps you feel more relaxed and refreshed after a hot and humid day’s stroll. This tour includes buffet dinner inside the luxurious boat with live bands and cultural performances. The boat cruise gives a high-roller feel that we somehow felt a bit under-dressed for the occasion. The vocalist of the band is a Filipina who is a total crowd-pleaser and cheerily gave in to our song requests from time to time. You can also leave your inhibitions at home as their stage is open for dancing and karaoke-style singing. So much fun!

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Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)

2.) Temple Visits. This is definitely a must and one’s travel to Bangkok is not complete unless you’ve seen the subtle yet intricate beauty of Thai temples. We managed to soak in the elegance of Wat Trimit (Solid Golden Buddha), Wat Pho (Reclining Buddha) and Wat Benchamabopit (Marble Temple).

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3.) Siam Niramit Cultural Show. Another must-see in Bangkok! Siam Niramit is a state-of-the-art 2000-seat theatre and the largest stage production per Guiness Book of World Records. We had a buffet dinner before the show and a stroll through the authentic traditional Thai village just besides the theatre. The cultural show in itself will give you a brief insight on the colourful Thai history and its rich heritage which are presented through specially crafted dance and musical numbers. The stage’s lighting, visual effects, design, cirque-esque stunts and over-all production is such a grand spectacle that will leave you amazed for hours! There are hundreds of performers on stage, live animals, a small river and even rain showers and lightning. It doesn’t get much bigger that this. If you were not on this show, you haven’t seen anything special in Bangkok, I tell you.

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Damnoen Saduak Floating Market

3.) Damnoen Saduak Floating Market. This maybe a tourist trap for some but for us it’s a once in a lifetime experience and didn’t mind paying a bit more. Floating market at Damnoen Saduak is the old traditional way of selling vegetables, fruits, etc. from a small boat. We hired a paddle boat to take us around the unique and bustling market situated in a river with wooden canoes filled with different produce, handicrafts, food specialties and whatnot. We didn’t buy much here except for some Thai spices and coconut ice cream as we know very well that their prices here are really very touristy.

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4.) Chatuchak Weekend Market. If you’re a bargain hunter and love to haggle to save your life, you’re in for a real treat! This is one of the most famous weekend markets in all of South East Asia and for good reasons — some 5000 to 6000 stall open selling pretty much anything. It seems to meet with mixed review — you either love the crowds, the hear, the noise and the bargains, or you don’t. We managed to bought two pairs of flat shoes, some souvenir items and shirts, Thai snacks and 5 kilograms of Thai jasmine rice despite the heavy crowd and scorching sun but we never regretted it since all are such a steal! One day is not enough if you main purpose of visit in Bangkok is to shop.

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Old temples in Ayutthaya

5.) Ayutthaya Historical Parks. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, Ayutthaya Historical Park incorporates over a dozen ancient temple sites and ruins which makes you feel you’re inside that once famous Temple Run mobile app game of Lady Lara Croft’s Tomb Raider. Ayutthaya is the old capital of Siam and a must-see if you have any interest in ruins or ancient culture as the temples are well-preserved and very fascinating.

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Bangkok is a city that should be in everyone’s bucket list and for all good reasons. It’s a modern city by all means yet their traditions, cultures, architectural wonders and authentic Thai cuisine are still very much intact. Again, we can’t help but sigh in frustration at how the Philippines is being left out again by our Asian neighbour.

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Posted in Vietnam

Saigon in a Nutshell

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People’s Committee Building – Ho Chi Minh City

After this trip, we found a whole new respect for Ho Chi Minh City, and Vietnam as a whole. We thought we will be bored at our wits’ end and just have a relaxing staycation, order some room service and just curl up in the airconditioned comfort of our hotel room while watching re-runs on HBO. But Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) surprised us in many ways. One can never run out of things to do and places to visit in this bustling city. From Buddhist temples, to museums of sorts, to interesting architectures of French influences and other famous landmarks. The only thing that could stop you from visiting all these places is the unforgiving heat, it can barbeque your flesh in an instant, but even that didn’t stop us from roaming around.

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Ho Chi Minh City is often coined The Motorbike Capital of the World

Saigon will not let you stay in your hotel, it will kick you in the butt and let you immerse into it’s chaotic yet charming and one-of-a-kind culture. Crossing the streets alone is an adventure in itself. Saigon is often dubbed “The Motorcycle City” since motorbikes are their primary mode of transport and they are just the king of the streets here. If crossing the streets of Manila is a challenge, it could be a spiritual experience in HCMC because you might want to pray for your life and call all the saints you know while crossing. It’s just that intense it will give you an adrenaline rush.

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Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica of Saigon

And don’t even get me started on food. Saigon is just a foodie heaven! If you’re a sucker for street foods like me, you’re in the right city. It’s packed with immense flavour at every nook and cranny. You don’t have to make a reservation at some fancy resto to taste this world-revered cuisine.

Here’s my personal list of food you must try when you’re in Saigon. Just be ready to get your hands dirty and stretch your tummy  to fill in all this good stuff.

1.) Pho. This is a Vietnamese noodle soup consisting of broth, linguine-shaped rice noodles, a few herbs and meat. It is a popular street food in Vietnam and is primarily served with either beef or chicken. We tried this at Pho 24 which is a famous Pho Chain in HCMC. We chose this joint because of its close proximity to the attractions we visited but I’m pretty sure there are better versions of Pho somewhere else. Nonetheless, it still gave us an impressive introduction to Pho.

2.) Banh Mi. Banh Mi is a Vietnamese meat-filled sandwich on a banh mi bread or the more commonly known French bread/baguette. We had ours at Highland café and some street stall. You can have this anywhere in the city and it will be delish nevertheless.

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Delicious Pho noodle soup @ Pho 24

3.) Vietnamese Spring Roll. You can have this either fresh or fried with sweet/sour/spicy (take your pick) dipping sauce on the side. Either way it’s just addictive.

4.) Grilled Red Snapper (with spicy rub). One word: dynamite! We had this at an open-air hawker-style resto at Benh Than night market and the communal dining experience made it extra special.

5.) Ca Phe Da. Finely ground Vietnamese-grown dark roast coffee individually brewed with a small metal French dip filter into a cup containing about a quarter to a half as much sweetened condensed milk. It may be a little too sweet, but what the heck, I have a sweet tooth after all so I enjoyed it a lot.

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Suoi Tien Amusement Park

Aside from visiting all the touristy spots, we also had one good whole day at Suoi Tien amusement park. We just love theme parks! And this Buddha-inspired amusement park is just out-of-this-world! It’s even considered as one of the world’s most bizarre theme parks.

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Buddha-themed amusement Park

We spent a couple of hours on the pool and enjoyed every bit of it. The sculptures, the pure tackiness of some of the rides and its overall cheesiness put a smile on our face all day.

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Independence Palace

In a nutshell, we just had a blast in Saigon! The people are very friendly and polite. The shopping scene especially at Benh Than night market is not to be missed at all. The throng of tourists just proves that HCMC has a lot to offer. And you can see that their tourist spots are well-maintained.

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War Remnants Museum

Once again I feel sorry for Manila. The streets of HCMC are just cleaner, more organized and probably more developed that I can’t help but compare. It’s sad that we seem to be really left behind by our Asian neighbours. And Vietnam shows no sign of stopping any time soon.