That Place Called Sagada: Trekking Experiences and Food Trip

“I’m just a SOLIVAGANT in a much different world than mine. And seeing this kind of view makes me wish that at all times, we as wanderers, should always be kind to Mother Nature. To hope and pray for the protection and preservation of God’s gift to us mankind.” -Jassy

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For our second day in Sagada, our first activity was the trekking to Bomod-Ok Falls.

According to our assigned local guide named Kuya Salvador, this trekking experience will take about 7,500 steps in order to reach this famous waterfalls in the area. Upon arrival, it was already a bit crowded. And except for me and Ate Arge’s mom, the rest of the group went out for a short swim near the waterfalls.

So while I was there, I’ve utilized my time by just enjoying the view of the place, do some bookstagramming, and also to take some videos and pictures of the area.

 

Anyway, the views of the mountains while we were trekking there were really beautiful and breathtaking. But on our journey back to the main site, it was very physically exhausting since we had to climb quite a number of stairs, and because of that, we had to stop and take a short break every now and then. Plus, the jeepney ride back to the main site was for one moment, a bit similar to the road trip to Shimla, India; I have never been there, but I’ve seen a travel documentary about it. So the similarity was there, and I was quite overwhelmed by that experience alone.

 

 

Back to the main site, we were welcomed by a very sumptuous feast for our lunch, and had a great time eating it all.

Just a little something for anyone who’s planning to visit Sagada, when trekking there, one should always make sure to really eat well because such energy is really needed to walk such long distances.

 

After our lunch, we went for a short side trip at the Sagada Weaving. Then head off straight to the Echo Valley, the area where the famous Hanging Coffins were also located. And since we were already fresh from our trekking in Bomod-Ok Falls, walking and climbing the stairs there was already a bit easier for us, and we stayed there for about 2 hours.

For our next stop, it was the Sagada Pottery House. A vintage place in where they make a pottery and sell it to its visitors for a very hefty price. Which is entirely understandable since the process to make it is not an easy one.

 

 

Since we still had time, Kuya Ron had decided to take us at Lake Danum for a short visit. And we really had a wonderful time enjoying the view of the lake despite the coldness of the weather. Then at 4pm, we were back in town for our free time to do our own thing like souvenir shopping, and food trip.

Well in my case, I’ve decided to join my fellow joiners for an early dinner at the Salt and Pepper Diner. Ordering their very own Grandma’s Delight paired with a local mountain tea; and went out on my own to buy some souvenirs to bring back at home, and take a short side trip to the Yoghurt House.

 

The Yoghurt House is definitely the kind of café that I would love to visit, and while I was there, I had no idea what to order. So I’ve asked their staff for an advice as to what is their best seller, and I was given their specialty – Plain Yoghurt with Sagada Honey. It tastes like a vanilla ice cream, but soft and sweet due to the local honey that both of which had really blended well. Moreover, I also had the time to be acquainted with its staff and found out that in Sagada, most of its students after school would actually do a part-time at the different establishments in the area. Which is something that is quite normal and necessary for them because they are a self-supporting type of community.

 

It was a drizzling and cold early evening by the time we were back to our guesthouse for we really need to rest and prepare for the bonfire session which would officially start at 8pm. And I must say, that bonfire session was definitely one of the highlights of our trip, and I’m so sorry that I just couldn’t elaborate more on that because it was a very private moment that I had to leave it that way.

So for our last day in Sagada, our call time was at 4:30am. A very early start in preparation for our sunrise viewing at the Kiltepan Peak, and that is why we really have to wake up way too early for the jeepney that will take us there will be arriving at the guesthouse at 5am; and at the same time, to put all our bags inside the van because Kuya Ron will be waiting for us at the Sagada Homestay along with our things after our trip from Kiltepan.

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That’s how our second day in Sagada had turned out to be and will share with you later the story of our side trip to Baguio and journey back home.

Thank you so much for reading.

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DAY 1: That Place Called Sagada: The Long Journey and First Day in Town

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That Place Called Sagada: The Long Journey and First Day in Town

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What is it about traveling solo that makes me wanna cry? Seriously, my recent trip to Sagada was already my second solo adventure. But from the moment that I arrived back home, I was crying so hard and I just knew that I will never ever be the same. Because it had already taken a special place in my heart and will truly long for it wherever I go. A desire that I hopefully pray that I will have the chance to visit it again, not once or twice, but for quite a number of times.

Anyway, Sagada, known as one of the most sought-after tourist destination in the Philippines, has always been at the top of the list of those places that I really wanted to explore in my our very own country. And I’ am so grateful beyond words for finally having the opportunity, the time to visit, and also get to know in person this queer small town in the Ifugao Province.

(Stopover in Banaue for Breakfast)

Well as usual from my previous blogs, I will share with you my travel diary about my trip there. However, there will be certain things that I would have to omit or filter for such reasons that those moments were so private or special that I just couldn’t share it; and that whatever that is, is something that I wanted to keep it to myself.

First of all, this trip was actually decided when I had the chance to book earlier this year a promo fare going to Manila and also had already planned to book my tour in Sagada under Ms. Aileen of FG Travelers, the same one that had handled our tour in Ilocos Sur and Norte.

Unfortunately, a day before the trip, I was informed by her that majority of its joiners in our scheduled tour had to reschedule it for another week. Considering that I’ am only a solo joiner, Ms. Aileen of had no choice but to transfer me to another travel agency. So by the time that I was informed about it. I was quite nervous and anxious because of the unexpected changes. But who would have thought, that such alterations in my Sagada tour would turn out to be a very unique and memorable experience. Truly a blessing in disguise.

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Moving forward into my story, I’ve arrived in Manila in the early morning of Thursday, and I was informed upon arrival that the new tour guide would pick me up in front of MOA SMX Convention at around 8pm. Therefore I had the time to visit my relatives in Makati before heading off to my assigned meeting place in the early evening.

Then at 8:30pm, Mr. Ron of Travel Ventours had arrived along with two fellow joiners named Miss Arge and her mom. And as for the rest of the group, they were picked up in a different mall. So by the time that our group was complete. We were officially on our way to Sagada with a short side trip to Banaue for our early breakfast, and a site seeing in its world famous Rice Terraces. According to Kuya Ron, the journey will take for about 14 hours including those many stopovers that we really had to do.

(Greeting the new day in Banaue)

Well, I must say, the journey was quite exhausting due to the number of hours that we were sitting in the van and also to our lack of sleep. But it’s a good thing that we were only 10 in a 14 seater van because it had really made us entirely comfortable in our sitting position all throughout our journey. Which was truly important since it’s a very long road trip. Thus, it was a big factor that made it less stressful.

I think it was around 5am that we’ve finally arrived in Banaue for our breakfast. So we were taken at the Banaue Sunrise Restaurant and Guesthouse. This Bed and Breakfast type of restaurant is known as the place where many travelers around Ifugao and Benguet Province would stop over. As to their food, it’s a bit pricey, but their servings are quite big. Plus, they provide such a very delicious brewed coffee. In which I’ve really enjoyed drinking while I was watching the beauty of the sunrise in Banaue.

(Banaue Rice Terraces)

After that, we went straight to Banaue Rice Terraces for a short stopover to take some pictures, and see in person as to one of the most stunning views in the world. But honestly, the views around Benguet were definitely more breathtaking than the one I saw in Banaue.

Anyway, the journey to Sagada from Banaue will take for about 2-3 hours depending on the weather. In our case, it was a bit foggy and then suddenly a sunny trip all the way to the mountains. Moreover, it was a bit scary because of the zigzag roads that we had to pass through, and I was a bit nervous. By the time that we were about to approach Sagada, everyone in our group was truly grateful for the sunny atmosphere. And from the moment that we had finally arrived in our guesthouse. We were all entirely greeted by such a cold weather.

Upon arrival in the guesthouse, we were given for about 3 hours to rest and get settled into our assigned rooms. Then go out again to eat our lunch at the Sagada Homestay Inn and Restaurant. Plus, if there’s one thing that I’ve observed in our first day in Sagada is that the cost of its meals there is somewhat expensive.

After our lunch, we went back to the guesthouse to drop-off two of our fellow joiners who wouldn’t be joining us in the trekking inside the Sumaging Cave. As for the other two in our group, Ate Arge’s mom and solo traveler Miss Rizelle, they would be going to a different site seeing.

(Sagada Homestay Inn and Restaurant)

The reason that there were four joiners who have decided not to join us was that it’s a challenging physical activity and that they don’t want to really exhaust themselves. But as for me, I wanted to know what the fuss was all about. So I’ve decided to really go for it.

Considering that the five of us who were willing to trek inside the cave are amateur trekkers. We were just requested by Kuya Ron (Tour Guide) for the safer option because the cave connection (Lumiang to Sumaging Cave) is for those who have such an experienced in cave trekking.

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Some tips for anyone who are planning to go there:

  1. Bring with you a waterproof jacket.
  2. Wear Leggings, or Shorts
  3. For your footwear, make sure that it’s a rubber slipper.
  4. Don’t bring anything. Both of your hands need to be free from any handy thing.
  5. If you’ll bring your phone or camera, make sure that its waterproof.
  6. It’s a must that at all times, you should definitely follow and obey your assigned local guide inside the cave. For its really risky if you don’t.
  7. Be physically fit, and be willing to hold those big rocks despite all of its muddiness and sliminess.
  8. And lastly, always pray for your strength and safety inside.

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(The Entrance Going to Sumaging Cave)

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(Group Picture)

By the way, even if the Sumaguing Cave was a much safer choice. It still doesn’t mean that it’s entirely secure. It is because, as a trekker, one should be very responsible and careful inside the cave. One mistake, and it could be fatal, and it’s entirely up to that person to be alert and attentive at all times.

Honestly, it was a very exhausting and scary experience, but the kind of experience that makes all the hardships inside totally worth it, and like I said, just be careful. The trekking took for about 2 hours and had really made us all physically tired and wet by the time that we were out of the cave. At 4pm we were back to our guesthouse to change and take a short rest before heading back to town for our dinner.

(Sumaging Cave)

For our first dinner night out in Sagada, Kuya Ron’s first choice was supposed to be in Salt and Pepper Diner, but the restaurant was already fully booked that we had to transfer to another one. Somewhere a bit farther from his first choice, the Sagada Hub. And upon arrival, I was surprised to know that for a meal, it actually cost about P150-200. I must say, for a local destination. It sure is expensive.

And since it was quite obvious that we were all so tired. We went back to the guesthouse so that we could sleep early and prepare for our 6am assembly time for breakfast because we really need to have an earlier start in our trekking to Bomod-Ok Falls.

So that’s the story of our journey and first day in Sagada, and I’m so looking forward to sharing with you my travel diary of our second day of trekking there.

Thank you so much for reading.

DAY 2: That Place Called Sagada: Trekking Experiences and Food Trip

Highlighted Poems: The Sun and Her Flowers by Rupi Kaur

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“Poetry is what happens when your mind stops working, and for a moment, all you do is feel.”

-Atticus

For my first blog post for the month of November 2017, I’m going to share with you those poems that I’ve highlighted and saved while I was reading Ms. Rupi Kaur’s latest collection of poems.

In which by the way these poems have been a very inspiring and mind-boggling one to read. And it’s like getting into a glimpse into the poet’s vulnerability, and because of that, she was able to flow such thoughts in a writing that had resulted into creating such poems that a lot of modern women can truly related themselves into.

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

Furthermore, it was very thoughtful of her, to dedicate it to her dear mother – the woman who was braved enough to leave behind her family and country in order to pursue a better life with her husband and children to a place that is culturally different than what she was used to.

In addition to that, ever since Rupi Kaur had been a child, she had always looked up to her mother as a source of strength and inspiration in becoming the kind of person that she wanted to be. Someone who is independent and knows her worth as a woman.

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

And if you want a copy of this book. You can buy it online with a free shipping worldwide at Book Depository.

Well, that’s it for now. Till my next book review.

Thank you so much for reading.

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

the sun and her flowers by rupi kaur

 

 

Book Review: The Note by Zoe Folbigg

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London commuter and her Train Crush | Daily Mail Online

A heartwarming true story about the author of this book. Which is tale of a love, but also truly inspiring and uplifting to read.

I think it was in late September, when I was scrolling on my news-feed on Facebook that I came across an article about a young woman who commutes to work every day by a train. Usually, it would just be an ordinary and typical day for her, but suddenly it wasn’t so anymore; for there was a new commuter – a beautiful young man.

Then after that, he became a fellow passenger every morning, and as time passes by, she had fallen in love of this particular stranger. Of course, it sounds kind of irrational to fall for someone you really don’t know at all. Except for this woman, because she tends to feel like there’s a real connection between her and the guy. And deep down, she just knew that he could be THE ONE.

For months she’s been wanting to have the chance to get to know him. However, every time she sees him, he’s just always stuck in a book- reading. Then one day, after gathering such courage and words of inspiration from her love ones. She was brave enough to slip him a note, asking if he’s interested to come and meet her for a drink.

So wanna know what actually happened to them?

Well, there’s only one way to find out. And that is to read it.

Furthermore, I would like to share my own insights about the novel, and I’m going to be very bunt by telling you that after reading the article. I was so intrigue of the story that I’ve decided to get my own copy and read it right away. But the thing is, I actually didn’t enjoy reading the first half of the book. I guess, as a reader, I was a bit confused on how some of the point-of-views of the main characters were being presented. So it took a little getting used to before I was able to really grasp the author’s writing style.

Yet when I got to the second half of the story, especially to that part when the young woman had given the note to the train main, it got all exciting, that in just a matter of days, I was able to finish reading it.

Then after going through the whole romance of the author and her train man, (despite the minor difficulty that I’ve encountered), I just knew that this one deserves a book review in my blog. Because I wanna share and recommend to you a novel that doesn’t really focus on the romance itself, but on the importance of being courageous in pursuing what you really want and also to what makes you profoundly happy.

Plus, this story enlightens its readers on the simple thought that being brave by taking a chance on something you desire could really change everything. You just have to believe in it.

By the way, if you want a copy of this book. You can buy it online with a free shipping worldwide at Book Depository.

Well, that’s it for now. Till my next book review.

Thank you so much for reading.

The Vietnam Project: Day Tour to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc

“Go to a place where you’ll feel at ease and most likely yourself.”

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On our fourth day in Vietnam, we’ve had the chance to visit and experience one of this country’s greatest treasures. Which was a road trip to the Ninh Binh Province to visit its Hoa Lu Temples and a river cruise in Tam Coc. And if there’s a day tour that I would most certainly recommend for you to do when you’ll visit Vietnam. This is definitely one of those.

Just the same as I did in our Halong Bay tour, I’ve also booked this Tam Coc tour online, and by pure coincidence, both of these tours were booked separately, and it was only after booking, when I was about to check my e-vouchers, that I’ve noticed that it was all under the same travel agency named Halong Hanoi Transfer.

It was around 8:30 am in the morning that we were picked up by our tour guide at the Hanoi HM Boutique Hotel. Actually, the shuttle bus was kind of late for about 30 minutes; and for one moment, my sister and I thought that we wouldn’t be able to get some comfortable seats, but it’s a good thing that we were still able to for assigned bus was almost full by so many travelers from different countries like in Thailand, India, USA, China, and South Korea. However, despite the number in our group, we didn’t had that kind of friendly vibe to one another. Not like in our Halong Bay tour; it is because each one of us were really accommodating and friendly towards each other especially to those group of Filipinos that we’ve met on board.

This full day tour was headed by a very funny guy named Doc. At first glance, he may seemed to be so serious on the outside, but when he started talking to us during our journey. We were all quite surprised that he speaks in a very humorous and hilarious kind of way.

Well moving forward, the journey to Ninh Binh Province took only for about two hours including the stop over at a souvenir shop in which most of the items that are being sold there were handcrafted by the locals who are disabled.

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Then an hour before noon, we’ve arrived at the Hoa Lu Temples. A famous historical site in Vietnam that were built during the Dinh and Le Dynasties.

Actually, the place looks kind of similar to “The Temple of Literature” in Hanoi. So when Mr.Doc was giving us in our group some historical insights about the place, my sister and I were at an advantage. For we’ve remembered some of the main points that Mr. Bui Duy Khanh (tour guide on day 3) had shared with us, and because of that, we were able to answer some of the questions that were given to us by our tour guide.

From there, we were all given an hour to explore on our own the temples. And since the place was less crowded, we’ve had a wonderful time wandering around while taking tons of photos. Then head off straight to Tam Coc for our buffet lunch.

It was a very hot and humid fourth day, but I would have preferred that kind of weather instead of the rain. Cause then we wouldn’t been able to enjoy our tour. After our lunch, our guide was already waiting for us at the Tam Coc wharf in order to assist us in our ride to the sampan boat. In which this kind of boat can only accommodate three passengers, including the guide who will row the boat using either their two arms or legs. The river cruise took for about two hours, and despite the blazing heat of the sun, we most certainly had one of the best time of our lives, and it was such an adventure especially the journey inside the caves.

Some tips for you guys, always make sure to bring a bottle of water and your own snacks with you. It is for the reason that such items there are being sold at a touristy price. Plus, if you’re someone who’s also very conscious about being under the heat of the sun, make sure that you’re wearing a long sleeve, or a cardigan maybe, and to wear cap; and if you also have an umbrella with you. That would totally be awesome.

To continue our story, I would also like to share some thoughts with you my fellow readers, and that is, during that boat ride, I’ve realized that one must definitely try to utilize and absorb all the stunning views of Tam Coc. Well, of course, taking tons of pictures and videos there are definitely a must in order to have something to remember. But the thing is, as much as we want to capture everything. We just can’t. So the best thing that one should do is to just sit back, enjoy the ride, drink something (maybe a cold beer?), eat some snacks, listen to some favorite music on your phone, and just take it all in. Because the only thing that you will truly gain from it all are the unforgettable memories from that experience. Including the amazing views that you’ve captured right before your very eyes.

Furthermore, I would also like to say a huge “Cam On” or “Thank You” to the woman who was assigned to row the boat for us. That despite our language barrier, we were still able to communicate through our smiles and hand gestures. And by the way, giving some free snacks and tips to the rower is somewhat optional. But in our case, we were so grateful to her that we didn’t mind giving something extra because it was all worth it.

 

Back at the dock, Mr.Doc was already waiting for all of us in our group to assist us individually in choosing the bicycles that we will be using for our Do-it-yourself exploring in the small town village of Tam Coc. But the bicycle experience are for those who really knows how to ride the bike. So if you don’t know how to ride it, then the tour guide will give you the one hour free time to explore the small town village by walking.

At first I was somewhat hesitant to do it because it’s been years since I’ve ridden a bicycle. So I was totally nervous. But upon hopping on and moving forward. I was profoundly enchanted of everything around me. Almost to the point that I can’t believe that I was actually doing it. The first stop was at the center of the village, and then we went along the highway road going to the rice field of Bich Dong with an overview of the mountains of Tam Coc.

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It was most certainly one of the best highlights of our trip in Vietnam. Even I was kind of imagining that I was Elizabeth Gilbert of “Eat, Pray, Love”; cycling around the countryside, and greeting “Xin Chao!” to the locals every time we pass them on the road. Well I wish we could have explore more of the rural village. But we were on a schedule, and we have to get back to our meeting area as to where our shuttle bus was waiting to take us back to Hanoi. And during our journey, while I was looking outside the window of the bus, I’ve had this overwhelming feeling deep inside of me because that experience alone was definitely one of the coolest things that I’ve ever done as a traveler, and it was entirely unforgettable.

Exploring the Small Town Village of Tam Coc

Then at 6:30pm, we’ve arrived back to the city and were dropped off at our respective hotels.

So for our free time in the evening, Fatimah and I went out again to eat some dinner at a local restaurant that was just a walking distance from the hotel. I’ve ordered a “Dried Beef Salad”, and for my sister, she ordered the “Bird Salad”. But mine was more delicious than hers.

It was still an early night, and the streets had gotten a bit quiet and less crowded since the night market is only available during the weekends. And because we still want to utilize our time, we went out again to explore every nook and corner of the old quarter, and to continue buying some souvenirs. Cause by tomorrow morning, we would have to start packing our things for it’s our last day in Vietnam before we head back home to the Philippines.

The Rice Field of Bich Dong

The thing is that during those times that we were wandering in that area, both my sister and I felt somewhat emotional again. For the reason that we still can’t believe that we’ve mostly accomplished all of the things that we’ve planned for months. Furthermore, we know that deep down, we will surely going to miss everything about Vietnam; including those people that we’ve met, the food that we ate, the places that we’ve explored, the night market, and also some insights that we’ve learned.

Moreover, it feels so surreal that we were only there for about a number of days; because it felt like we were there for a long period of time. I guess it really shows that we’ve had such a wonderful time.

And that my friend is how our favorite and memorable fourth day had turned out to be.

By the way, are you looking for a place to stay on your next trip that provides such huge discounts and tons of reviews?

Because I would definitely recommend for you to book it under Agoda.com

One of the best sites for hotel bookings. And not only that, it’s convenient and reliable for every travelers out there.

 

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Hoan Kiem Lake

The Vietnamese Version of Chicken and Beef Salad

And below are the links that would direct you to the Vietnam Project Series.

DAY 1: The Vietnam Project: First Day in Hanoi

DAY 2: The Vietnam Project: Halong Bay Tour

DAY 3: The Vietnam Project: Hanoi Free Tour Guides

Thank you so much for reading.

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The Vietnam Project: Hanoi Free Tour Guides

One big tip of knowing a particular place?

Converse with the locals, and from them, you’ll learn something quite different.

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Old Quarter

Anyway, are you familiar of this kind of program in which there are some organizations in Hanoi that gives free tours to its foreign visitors?

But the tour is not technically free. For you will be the one who will pay for its transportation, snacks/lunch/dinner, entrance fees, and other gratuities. All you have to do is book online, inform them of the list of places/sites that you wanted to see, and wait for some confirmation from them if there’s a vacant schedule for you.

My first choice was the Hanoi Kids Organization, but upon booking, I wasn’t able to have a slot for our requested schedule which was on the 3rd day.

So I’ve decided to change our bookings to the Hanoi Free Tour Guides. A similar organization from my first choice, but this time, these are being handled by some college students who wants to do this kind of thing in order for them to practice their English language.

The organization had assigned us to someone who majors in economics named Bui Duy Khanh. He’s very friendly, and his English is really good. And as our private tour, he’s also very informative of its background and history on every major site that we’ve visited.

But I only did have one major concern, and that is in all of our tours, we’ve mostly used a taxi as our mode of transportation. So it had taken a big part of our budget. Luckily, we’ve only consumed for about 80% of what I’ve already set aside for that day.

Well if you are the very thrifty type of traveler, I would definitely suggest the Hanoi Free Walking Tours.

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Maison Centrale/Hoa Lo Prison

So what is the advantage of doing this?

Well aside from the fact that we will able to help these younger generations to practice their English. The good thing about availing for this free tour is that each traveler will have the chance to learn from a local’s perspective about the history, the culture and the people of Vietnam. Which is something that you won’t get to experience if you’ll just decide to do the tour on your own now that the Google Map is very handy nowadays in terms of traveling or exploring an unfamiliar place.

 

 

For our first tour, it was the Maison Centrale, or mostly known as the Hoa Lo Prison. It’s the place where the Vietnamese that went against the government were imprisoned, and tortured during the French Occupation. While exploring, I almost vomited inside, and I ‘am so not joking when I tell you that I was feeling nauseated while going to every cell, and see in person the kind of place that for sure would really disturb its every visitors. It’s just that, the thought of how they were tortured in some ways beyond your imagination was so insanely hard to grasp, and to think of all the pain that these people had gone through during those tough times. It’s just so sad and at the same time insanely creepy.

We were there for almost two hours before we’ve headed off to our next destination which was the Temple of Literature.

 

 

The Temple of Literature is an ancient temple and the very first university that was built in Vietnam. A thousand years old building which was dedicated to Confucius, sages, and scholars.

It was a very hot and humid late morning, and as much as we were trying our best to really listen to our tour guides’ insights about the place. My sister and I were really beyond exhausted to keep up and felt so bad for him. But then at the same time, we felt so grateful towards him because he was entirely patient to wait for us to rest, before we continue exploring.

 

 

After that, we had a short break by taking our lunch somewhere near the temple, (a place that was recommended by Mr. Khanh). But before our very short journey to the restaurant, I would like to share an experience in which we were actually scammed by our taxi driver. What happened was that, the driver acted out like he was not familiar of the place (it’s kind of hard to believe since his vehicle has a GPS), so he was driving off from one block onto another, and then go back as to where we were picked up at the main entrance of the temple; and from there, that’s when he had finally went straight ahead to the restaurant. And instead of paying the usual fare of 30,000 dong (P68 or $1.32); we were charged for about 60,000 dong (P135 or $2.64).

I know it’s not much compared to what we’ve heard from some Filipino travelers that we met on Halong Bay. Sharing that experience to its fellow travelers on how they were scammed from 100,000 dong (P225 or $4.50) all the way to 500,000 dong (P1,126 or $23) in just a matter of seconds. So I would definitely advice for you to be very careful in terms of booking a taxi especially from the airport to the city proper.

And at that time, I was kind of disappointed in our tour guide for not saying anything since he should know the exact direction of the place. But as already mentioned, we were so tired and hungry that we just sort of let it slip away and forgave the driver for doing something like that.

So moving forward at the restaurant, each one of us in our very small group had ordered such heavy meals for our lunch and it was very delicious.

 

 

We were there for about an hour, and during that time, we’ve had a sort of an open forum. In which Mr. Khanh was very generous to share with us about his experiences as a personal tour guide, and also enlightening with us the modern day culture of Vietnam, and how the war had molded them to aim a life in peace and tranquility. Also, in our part, my sister and I had pointed out some important information about the Philippines. Our history, our culture, the food, the day to day living of the Filipinos, and so many other things.

Then after eating our sumptuous meal, we went to visit the monument as to where Ho Chi Minh’s body was laid out and preserved for all the people to see. However, the place is only open for public viewing in the late morning. And in our case, we went there in the afternoon so we weren’t able to have the chance to go inside but had decided to take a picture of the monument.

 

 

Furthermore, who was Ho Chi Minh? And why is it that up to this day, he’s considered to be a very important figure in Vietnam history?

According to our tour guide, this man came from a very poor family background who leads a simple life, but because he love his country so much, and wants to help its people gain their freedom against the French government. He has decided to travel the world, working from one odd job to another, to learn about each country, and get some insights about its style of leadership, and from there, did some writing; for he’s also a journalist. And when he came back, he has done everything that he could to help his fellow countrymen in attaining their independence, and later on, was voted as the new leader of Vietnam.

 

 

Our next tour was the Presidential Vestige, the residential area of Ho Chi Minh during his leadership. Not the glamorous and French palace as you’ve surely seen in one of our pictures. Although at present, it is being used as a guest house to all of its very important foreign visitors.

His first house was located at the main entrance, in which he stayed there for about four years before moving into a simple bamboo structured type of residence. At first glance, the massive area kind of looks like that you’re in the French or English countryside. It is because the president loves to be with nature that he has requested to put up a variety of plants and a certain number of animals in which today still remains. I remember our tour guide sharing with us a story that when an Australian journalist had asked the president about his favorite working spot. He said that it was being outside in the garden that he tends to have the concentration that he needed the most in order to work.

An overview from a very inspiring leader who has dedicated his life to save and serve the people of Vietnam.

 

 

Anyway, my sister and I had both agreed that in our third day of exploring, this is definitely our most favorite place that we’ve visited. I mean, the place looks so picturesque that how we wish that we could live in that kind of peaceful environment. Then, for the last site to visit with Mr. Khanh, we head off to the One Pillar Pagoda. Which was a short walking distance from the Presidential Vestige. Legend has it that when a married man had prayed for a son, it was in that very same spot that he’d prayed wholeheartedly, and where his wish was granted.

That ends our day tour with Mr. Khanh, and after that, he guided us back to our hotel in the Hoan Kiem District. For our token of appreciation (cause giving cash is not allowed), Fatimah and I were actually not prepared as to what would be our gift for him. So we’ve decided to give him my sister’s “Privacy Glass Protectors for iPhones” in which she just bought before our trip to Vietnam. The reason was that we’ve both noticed in one of our discussions with him that he seems to enjoy talking about gadgets specifically about some iPhone accessories. So upon arrival at the hotel, my sister went back to our room to get it and give it to him. Then before saying our goodbyes, we took some photos together as a group.

 

 

Mr. Khan, if there’s an opportunity that you will be able to read this blog of mine. I just want to say that, Fatimah and I are so grateful that you’ve been our assigned tour guide on that day. From the bottom of our hearts, thank you so much for all the things that you’ve shared to us. We wish you all the best, and hopefully, after attaining your college degree, you will be able to pursue your plans of traveling to Singapore and Australia, and also to so many other places. Hope to keep in touch with you via email or Facebook. Again, Maraming Salamat (Thank You) and God Bless.

The tour ended at around four in the afternoon, so we still had time. And since it’s the last day of the night market, we had to make sure that we will be able to finish buying the souvenirs that we wanted to give for our friends and family back home. So after staying at the hotel to rest and freshen up. We went out again to start exploring the night market for the second time around.

 

 

Just a little thought before we continue, I would like to point out that our trip to Vietnam was not just about visiting some of the best spots that the country could offer. But we also took the chance to explore one of the most authentic parts of its main capital.

So wanna see the real Hanoi?

Wander around to every nook and corner of its old alleyways like the old quarter, and you will see the culture and day to day living of the Vietnamese people. Well, it was truly a mind-boggling experience, but it was something that we will never ever forget.

An insight that made me so grateful because I have gained something new in my quest to learn more about each place that I would visit and explore.

 

 

So on our last chance to experience the night market in Hanoi, I would definitely say that it was truly an evening to remember because the crowd had gotten way bigger than the other night. Plus, we really had a great time walking from one corner to another, trying to blend in with everyone around us.

Another advice, try to make sure that your visit to Vietnam falls on the weekend. For you will have so much fun experiencing the night life there; almost to the point that you’ll lost track of the time, and the next thing you’ll know, it’s already way past midnight.

 

 

As for buying some souvenirs, I’ve already mentioned that shopping in there can be very cheap. That for about P 2,000 ($40 or 1M Dong), you can insanely buy tons of items not just for yourself, but also for also for your friends and family. Just don’t forget to bargain at a very big discount.

So that’s how our third day have turned out to be, and I’m so looking forward to share with you our fourth day in Vietnam. Which was a side trip to the Ninh Binh Province to visit its Hoa Lu Temples, and enjoy a river cruise in Tam Coc.

Thank you so much for reading.

 

 

 

 

DAY 1: The Vietnam Project: First Day in Hanoi

DAY 2: The Vietnam Project: Halong Bay Tour

DAY 4: The Vietnam Project: Day Tour to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc

The Vietnam Project: Halong Bay Tour

“Search the globe, and you will never find a place that looks remotely like this.”

-Anthony Bourdain

 

Our second day in Vietnam is a full day trip to the 2,000 islets of Halong Bay, a very popular destination, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Well I remember on that early morning when I was kind of worried about the weather since it was raining on our first day in Hanoi, but luckily it had slowly turned into a sunny day.

It was expected that it’s going to be a long trip, so my sister and I had to wake up way too early in order to prepare for it, and also because we don’t want to keep our travel agent waiting for us. By 8:30 in the morning, we were picked up by our tour guide at the hotel lobby, and assisted us to the bus that was already waiting outside.

Along with some fellow Asian travelers on board, the shuttle bus was kind of full packed. So it’s a good thing that we were still able to get such comfortable seats since the trip will take for about four hours to travel, and while we were halfway through our journey, we’ve had a short stop over at a souvenir shop in order to take a break for about 15 minutes.

 

 

I think it was around lunch time when we had finally arrived at the port, and from there, head off straight as to where our assigned boat was located. Then upon boarding and at the start of our cruising around the bay, all of its travelers were given a sumptuous and delicious seafood with Vietnamese dishes for lunch. Of course, we all ate right away due to the fact that all of us were so hungry from that road trip; and while eating, we were utterly enjoying the wonderful view outside.

After that, we were given the free time to relax at the sun deck, to explore around the boat, to take it all in the amazing views around us, and as usual, to take some photos.

 

 

In our tour, we were also given the option to Kayak in the emerald-green waters of the bay, or go for a bamboo boat ride. But all of us in our group had decided to go for the latter option.

By the time it was our turn, my sister and I were paired with a young Indian woman and her mother.

So while our designated local guide was rowing the boat for all of us, we both take turns in taking some pictures to one another, and for that, I will always remember them for being so nice and so kind towards me and Fatimah.

 

 

 

Moving forward, the Bamboo boat ride was such a fun experience especially when we get to see some islets of the bay in a much closer look, including some local families who actually live in a boat. But I was kind of disturbed because I’ve noticed that there are some scattered pieces of a Styrofoam floating around near the small caves. I just hope that the locals would do something about it, because it’s such a pity to see a marvelous place slowly turning into a garbage area.

 

I almost forgot, by the way, in case that you will have the opportunity to encounter a local seller in Halong Bay that sells some souvenir items for a price of 15,000 dong (P34) or below. I truly suggest that you will buy it right away because it’s such a bargain, and those products back in Hanoi would cost for about 20,000 – 40,000 dong per item.

 

 

For our next stop, it was the Thien Cung Cave (Heavenly Palace Cave). I think this part in our tour was definitely the most exhausting thing that we all did. Probably it was due to the fact that we had to climb quite a number of stairs just to get there. Moreover, it was so crowded. Tons of foreign visitors. So it’s either you’ll enjoy it there, or you won’t. Well in our case, we’ve had a wonderful time wandering in that area.

Well anyway, the Cave was enchanting and colorful to look at; but instead of taking photos, I’ve used my time there to just walk around, observing the place, and just letting my sister Fatimah take most of the pictures. After that, we were back once again to our boat in preparation for our trip back to the mainland, and while on cruise, we’ve had the rare opportunity to witness the beautiful sunset around Halong Bay. Which is truly a magnificent sight to see.

 

The thing is, for years I’ve been wanting to see Halong Bay in person, and never mind that it was such a long road trip because from the moment that our boat had started cruising around the bay, I’ve tried to grasp everything right before my very eyes. Already getting an idea of what my idol Anthony Bourdain had felt back then when he went to visit there for two days. Furthermore, it looks so beautifully majestic that made the journey all worth it. And because we really had a great time conversing with our fellow travelers on board, my sister and I are also grateful to the them for making that day a very memorable one; like our tour guide, two travelers from Thailand, one Singaporean, and a group of Filipino travelers from Manila (who are also our fellow passengers on our flight going to Hanoi), and so many more.

 

Then at around eight in the evening, we were officially back to Hanoi, and all of us were dropped off back to our respective hotels.

It was still an early evening, so my sister and I had decided to go out again after taking a short break; and since it was also the weekend, we had the chance to experience the night market in Hanoi; an awesome evening with a big crowd and lots of stalls that sells so many affordable products (in which Hanoi is already getting known for). From food, clothes, shoes, souvenir items, bags, toys. There are just so many things to buy!

Even for a budget of 500,000 dong (P 1,000 or $20), there are tons of items that you can purchase in that kind of amount.

Some tips, bargain all the way and go for the reasonable price that you are aiming for. So how can you do it? Be a good negotiator, and don’t just buy right away, because not all stalls sell the same price for a certain product and it actually differs from one corner to another. So be very meticulous in terms of purchasing an item that you wanted to buy.

Plus, we also had the chance to try the Vietnamese edition of KFC. And I’m so sorry that I’m going to say this but, I think our Filipino version is so much better and tastier.

 

Overall, it was a very unforgettable night and we really had so much fun blending in with such a massive crowd, which also made us look forward to the next night market.

And that’s the story of our second day of exploring.

Thank you so much for reading, and will keep you posted to the next part of our story.

 

 

DAY 1: The Vietnam Project: First Day in Hanoi

DAY 3: The Vietnam Project: Hanoi Free Tour Guides

DAY 4: The Vietnam Project: Day Tour to Hoa Lu and Tam Coc