Saturday, May 16, 2020

History Addict In Vietnam

What would usually come into your mind when the country "Vietnam" is uttered by someone else?
Well to me, it will usually awaken some kind of plain curiosity.

Growing up, I heard about "Viet Cong" which seemed to have a negative connotation at first. My impression of this word was that this is something about a fighter. I've heard about the war, Vietnam War, but it was kind of vague because it happened before I was born.

Sadly, it occur to me now, how unfortunate if as a human being, when all you hear about a certain place or word connotes negativity. After college, I bought a book by Danielle Steel entitled "Message from Nam". This made me curious about Vietnam once again. I started checking about Vietnam and US war.  And eventually forgot about it :)

The third time that Vietnam is back in my mind was when I started visiting our Microfinance Branch in Palawan. Everybody seemed to suggest to give their food a try, saying it can only be found there. It is called CHAO LONG. As a foodie, I checked its history and found out that this dish was Vietnamese-influenced. The reason? Vietnamese refugees, during the war, ended up staying in Palawan and introduced their food to the local people.

So there.

Yet, it was only until 2015 that I finally met a Vietnamese person, a volunteer worker in our company, sent by one of our funding partner based in the US. And I find it exciting that there is someone I meet who's from this country.

Together with my three other colleagues we visited Vietnam in June of 2018. Kendy, Omin and Michelle were with me during this trip.  Since there was no direct flight to Ho Chi Minh from Cebu (or was there?), we opted for Manila to Ho Chi Minh for our flight via a promo fare from Air Asia.

We were excited. It was my first time to go with others on a trip as I usually go solo. I felt like a mother with little chicks in tow. I have this feeling that I'm responsible for them since I was the one who influenced them to join in the first place, LOL! :D

Vietnam is almost like the Philippines but also different. We arrived at around 1:00AM, as most promo fares are at night. We were so tired and wanted to sleep right away. We took a taxi to our Airbnb accommodation with the help of the Airport taxi assistance service. Since I am with three more lives, I decided to play safe all the time. Even while at the taxi, we noticed how part of the highway was so like parts of Manila too.

Our hostel was a four-storey building. We kept on banging the door for a long time and saying something to hopefully wake up the staff. To no avail. Eventually, we noticed the doorbell and press. Staff came out. We all laughed. The staff was helpful and he assisted in carrying our luggage up to the fourth floor since there was no elevator. We were so tired so we just slept and have no care of the world.

The highlights of  our stay in Vietnam were the following:
We were able to see the Reunification Palace
Visit the War Remnants Museum
Experience the Cu chi tunnel
Ate Pho
Vietnam's coffee
And being hosted for two nights as Couchsurfers

Reunification Palace
What I like best was the tour at the War Remnants Museum. From the moment we entered, we were given a small piece of sticker, a circle one that we can stick on our shirt with a drawing of a DOVE on it, representing peace. That was a moving moment for me. That we should learn from history, and if we can, CHOOSE PEACE. The Museum speaks so many things that I was not aware of, at first. It was painful to read all the stories. If you are not careful, you will come out of the place feeling depressed. I like Museums, even if it always make me feel that way. We can only understand a country and  its people if we are willing to see and learn about their past. And Museum is the best place for me to learn. I like how the airplanes outside the building looked so well-kept and shiny. As if the war ended only two years ago. If you are the kind of person who likes history, Vietnam is one of the places that you should need to visit. It is so rich in history and strife in the past.

Vietnam is one of the affordable countries to visit in Asia. Their food is delicious too. I remember hosting someone from Chile and his main complaint in Bohol was the lack of vegetable dishes. He explained that coming from Vietnam and having lived there for more than a year he has become used to their healthy veggies which Bohol sorely lacked.

During my visit in Vietnam, I finally understood him. Yes, their food is delish. I cannot say the same thing for my three travel buddies, LOL :D I believed they detested the smell of some herbs, especially that moment when we had our Pho ;)

Condiments for Pho - according to your tastebuds.

Basil and I don't know what else.

Pho - looking so yum!

Lemon and chili.

Looking colorful and fresh.

How lovely is this? ;)

Mouth-watering :)

Even the food presentation looks delish, no food is bland.

You must include in your list the coffee in Vietnam. You can give it a try during breakfast. At first, I didn't understand. But, the server was patient enough to explain. Coffee was good for us Filipinos. Maybe not for some Westerners. It was more sweet than bitter, typical for coffee of people from the West. I noticed how they like it black and bitter. But more than that, it was the waiting and stirring and doing it so slowly like playing that make the experience memorable. Or maybe, I'm just shallow :)

I even find their service to be impeccably done too. A buko (young coconut) being served like this is something I so admire from their vendor. For me, this takes a lot of work. I admire how they think so highly of their customer to present it like this :)

Almost tempted to give a server a tip.

Accommodation in Vietnam is affordable and their standard service is commendable too, putting ours here in Philippines to shame. Now I understand the feedback of our volunteer staff in terms of our incomplete hostels service (no free toiletries and electric iron, toilet curtains, etc). Vietnam has it at a very affordable price, and it is really clean too. During our travel, the options for hostel was even at this range Php200-Php450 per bunk bed at dormitory-type. It was also easy to find a room for Php1500 for a night that can accommodate 4. Our toilet was complete with complimentary shampoo, soap, bidet and of course toilet shower ;)

Hostel toilet.

Complimentary toiletries.

Room for four Boholana Travelers.

Yours truly - at Reunification Palace.

At the entrance of Reunification Palace.

Naks, Kendy and Michelle were anticipating a scary virus nearby? :) Bus stop at Ho Chi Minh.

Ho Chi Minh, as one of Vietnam's busiest City is not that easy to navigate as well. Since most people don't speak English, asking where the terminal for buses and you'll receive a blank look or shaking of their heads or pointing somewhere you can't fully understand.
The four of us have been asking for the bus terminal and a few locals pointed to us a specific place - and they meant BUS STOP!
Okay, so we got it, bus would just pick us up from this place and we don't have to go to the terminal.
That's pre-covid days by the way, but Kendy and Michelle were face mask-ready.
With our Couchsurfing host. We stayed at his place for two nights.

As a Couchsurfing host myself, I wanted my colleague to understand how it works. This experience also will allow them to see the kindness of strangers and that meeting them should not mean danger. It was all worth it.
A place to stroll once you exit Cu Chi tunnel.
One of the places to see when in Ho Chi Minh is to visit the Cu Chi tunnels. It can also include experiencing it yourself, squeezing inside the tunnels and coming out the other way. It is scary for claustrophobic people like me, (I almost cried and had panic attacks) but it can be very adventurous for YOU if you really want to feel all that Vietnam can offer.

Michelle can't hide her excitement for this experience at Cu Chi tunnel.

You will see how the patriotic Vietnamese fought the war with Americans using these tunnels. It pays to listen to the orientation prior to experiencing the tunnels yourself. Once you focus on listening and understanding what they did to resist, you will have a new respect for these people. They indeed fought well. And this part of their history, I guess, is what contributes to their feeling victorious and being "fierce" as they say :D

Omin was temple hopping-ready.

After the Cu Chi tunnel experience, we were given an afternoon snack or a treat. It was composed of a boiled cassava and it can go with a grated coconut with sugar and sesame seeds. As the guide explained, it was the staple food of the fighters during those times. After we exit the place, we can also choose to check on a park that has many palaces. Or was it temples?

RICE for Filipinas!
As Filipina women, we long for rice. Yes, rice is LIFE! How we were so relieved after finding this place :)

Vietnam is also a place to feel like a MILLIONAIRE. From the food that we had, we paid 751,3000 Vietnamese Dong. Yes, for us this is something, something to laugh too ;)
How this country made us feel so rich! :D

And on to this bus one morning, for our travel to Phnom Penh, Cambodia for 8 hours (when they said five) ;)

Wait for it :)

Carpe Diem!

Saturday, May 9, 2020

Hoping For More Days at Kota Kinabalu

The original plan was to visit Brunei ONLY. However, upon checking the map, KK or Kota Kinabalu in Malaysia was very near too. Upon doing research on what to see in Brunei, many travelers mentioned a two day or three day is the most for this small country. But alas, we have more than a week for this vacation.

So at the last minute, we have decided to include KK for our trip. 
I was with my cousin Marlou and colleague Kendy for this escapade. So after staying two days and three nights in Brunei, we took a bus to KK. 

I always love taking bus rides, instead of flying. With it, I felt like there is no rush. 
So from Brunei Darussalam, we took a bus to KK for almost eight hours through Sipitang Express. For that particular ride, it seems like it was only a four-hour equivalent of a bus ride if we were in the Philippines. The bus was kind of very slow ;) It was not just my observation. Even the other Filipinos on the bus said the same thing, and we all laugh. Or maybe because drivers from Malaysia and Brunei are just very careful and responsible ones. 

We arrived at KK, late in the afternoon :) Enough time so we can unpack and look for a place to dine on our first night. And we were never disappointed for our first night there. We were advised to go to the Filipino night market. If we have to be sarcastic about it, we would wonder if there is a necessity to go to a place full of Filipinos. But, it turned out to be a must-see place for me. The place itself is full of seafoods. I have never seen a place like that in my whole life.  Most of the restaurant owners are actually Filipinos. I was delighted and overwhelmed with what I saw.  We ordered food, filling dinner actually. I was so full, my tummy feels like bursting :) We bought some souvenir items and decided to start walking back to our hotel - Masada Bed and Breakfast. 
As novice and naive as we can be with our gadgets, data-wise, we got lost along the way. It took us a long time to find our way back :D

I know what lies ahead. The next day would be a hectic one, the only remaining day strolling and exploring of KK. To add to the excitement was my toothache. Wow, why Lord? Why now? :D

The day was almost the best except for my toothache. It can hardly eat properly.
Our morning of Nov 4, was spent on different places such as Muzium Sabah, Sabah State Mosque and The City Mosque or The Blue Mosque. 

We also spent a moment by the sea, observing sunset.
It was also the moment when we try to find ways to ask someone to help us book a Grab taxi to go back to our hotel.

A word of caution: If you are in Malaysia, make sure to have a mobile data to book your Grab taxi or you will be miserable. If not, then make sure to find a place with free wifi so you can book a  Grab taxi for your next destination. Taking a regular taxi will be very expensive for you.

We waited and we waited until we decided to just walk, for a long time, until eventually, we found a bus that took us back to a mall close to our hotel. It was tiring, yes, but it was worth it.

What was exciting about the decision to come to Kota Kinabalu is the fact that by going there, through a bus, it would mean that I can have a total of 16 stamps on my passport. As a third world country passport-holder, passport stamps is LIFE!

The next morning, we headed back to Brunei for our flight at night back to Manila.

It was such a quick trip to KK.

How I wish I can have more days in Kota Kinabalu.

Lourdes at Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, also known as Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kianabalu.

Muzium Sabah.

Inside Muzium Sabah.

Lourdes at Sabah State Mosque, also known as Masjid Negeri Sabah.

Kota Kinabalu City Mosque, also known as Masjid Bandaraya Kota Kinabalu in Sabah Malaysia.

Lourdes at the entrance to Muzium Sabah.

Lourdes inside Muzium Sabah.

The three of us: Lourdes, Kendy and myself at Kota Kinabalu City Mosque.

Lourdes at Muzium (Museum) Sabah in Malaysia.

Kendy and Lourdes inside the Muzium Sabah, in Malaysia.

I find this romantic side of a place, this seaside near Kota Kinabalu City Mosque.

The three of us, Lourdes, myself and Kendy inside Kota Kinabalu City Mosque.

Shrimps at Filipino Market in Kota Kinabalu.

If you want cheap pasalubong for home, this place is perfect for such too - Filipino Market.

Filipino Market's usual display of seasonings and food packs.

The abundance of seafoods and fish at the Filipino market in Kota Kinabalu.

Monday, April 20, 2020

Punta Bunga - Another Face of Boracay

This is my second time in Boracay. This travel was paid by my company as I was chosen as one of those to attend the Summer Camp for Append Party-List. At first, it was not something that made my heart jump since this would be my second time. However, our location was situated far away from where I stayed during my first time. So, here, I was able to explore another area that is quite different from those frequented by the crowd of tourists. In fact, I realized that I was almost facing the five star hotels from where I can walk around smooth and soft sand that is only at Boracay :)

A little walk from where I stayed, by going down a stairway, and I would see this place. 

So here, I'm at Punta Bunga :)

How fine is the sand?! I'm so fond of this island :)

I can't understand the negative side of what people are saying about Boracay.  No matter what they claimed it to be. My heart is always full, when I'm here :)

Wide and the place looks just meant for a few people and me ;)

I can tell, the real tourists are still relaxing from the hotels near this place. I wonder if eventually, some Security personnel will shoo us away. Until I finished swimming there, it did not happen, so I'm thankful :)

Enjoying the place even if I was surrounded by local kids. 

Local boys were able to capture this picture of me. Traveling solo has its own challenges. And the tough one is having remembrance photos, when I don't have tripod to use for self. Thankful for the kids who made it possible.

Boracay, I will see you AGAIN, for sure :)

Quarantine Diaries 4/19/20 - Ginger Tea

There is so much time to do the things that I have been wanting to do. One of it is to choose to be healthy. During this quarantine period, I decided to make ginger tea.
I accomplished it!
I gave three mugs for my Aunt and my two cousins.

In the end, what's funny was that, my Aunt decided to add oatmeals to her tea, LMAO :D

Oh well. But I really meant well. You know that Lord. 
And that is all that matters ;)

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Tawi Tawi - You Are Not That Scary

It has been my dream to see Tawi Tawi for a long time.
Yes, I know what you are thinking: 

"Why Tawi-Tawi?"
"It's dangerous there!"

That is what the mainstream media has been telling us, since the day we were born.  The good thing is, flights going to this place has been very cheap, from Zamboanga City. So I don't want to pass up the chance. All work for the whole year makes me sick, so, out of the blue I visited Tawi-tawi without telling anyone ;)

Before reaching Tawi-Tawi province, I have to stop by at Zamboanga City.  And took another flight to Tawi-Tawi. 

I was able to find a place to stay through someone else's post at FB.
This is where I stayed in Sanga-Sanga, Tawi-Tawi. This village is closest to the airport. One of the advantage of staying here is that, it will just take one minute walk to the Airport. Yes, you are right - I said ONE MINUTE!

This is where I can sit the whole day if I want to, while enjoying the breeze. Overlooking the sea :) Homestay Accommodation. 

Food is also part of what I pay for. My lunch :) I love that they always put on turmeric in their dish. It produces the yellow color and is very healthy too. 

My mat is very colorful :)

My dinner is this yummy sinigang. The good thing with staying with a Muslim family is that you will be served a lot of seafoods. As a pescatarian, this is heaven for me :)

So what are the places that I have visited in this province?

Here they are:

Bolobok Cave. Yes, from underneath this place is a cave. From here, you can see the BLUEST ocean of Tawi-Tawi. 

Morgan, the brother of the my Homestay owner accompanied me to these three beaches and the trek to Bud Bongao.

The second beach near Bolobok Cave where Morgan took me to see.

Cove and Rock Shelter. 

The Climb to Bud Bongao started. 

Almost there? 

How many minutes more? I almost fainted ;)

At the top of Bud Bongao. Why it's worth it. 

Homes of the local people in this area. The water is clean though. 

Near the Airport.

The market at Batu Batu, Panglima, Sugala every Saturday where people still practice the Barter System. 

Strolling around, watching what each boat has brought with them. 

Just one of the home-cooked food that local people are selling or offering at barter. Some of the vendors would have a fish in exchange of this snacks. I really find this amazing. 

Dried Stingray was also readied for barter and sale. 

The mosque that I decided to check after visiting the market, on the way back to my Homestay :)

Lapid-Lapid Bridge is breath-taking :)

As someone from Bohol, how  to reach Tawi-Tawi?

My trip was Bohol to Cebu at night via Lite Shipping for a cheaper rate of ferry. Then on to Mactan Airport for my Cebu to Zamboanga City flight. From Zamboanga City, take another flight to Tawi-Tawi . 

Trip happened last October 26-28, 2018.

If you think you would like to stay at where I stayed, you may contact:
For assistance of possible motorbike transport, you may ask assistance from Morgan. He can possible refer you to another person who can do it for you or he can do it himself and be your tour guide. As this guy is still a student, please be generous with a fee or tip :)

History Addict In Vietnam

What would usually come into your mind when the country "Vietnam" is uttered by someone else? Well to me, it will us...