Thursday, June 23, 2016

A short and easy trip to Saigon

Saigon is the old name for Ho Chi Minh city. I like to call this city Saigon because it sounds authentic.

This short and easy trip to Saigon are for first timer solo traveler.. For me this is my lazy trip with a limited time.

From Manila I flew over the South China Sea to Kuala Lumpur by Air Asia to get to Saigon. I spend my next 12 hours at KLIA2 for my early morning plane to Saigon. I spend most of the time relaxing at Quizinn by Rasa food court at Level 2. It is very easy to find this place, close to the departure hall.

The food court is open 24 hours and offering various kind of food from locals and internationals suitable for all ages. You are allowed to lie down on their long cushions bench and have a sleep while waiting for your next plane. The other end of the food court has a good view to watch the plane taking off and landing.

Shuttle from the Airport.

This is my easy and short trip in Saigon before jumping to another city in another country. Faces of the immigration staff and airport staff were tight like they still have this terrible war memory from the past. One of the immigration staff asked me a question in English but the pronunciation were not clear so I ask him to repeat the question. He just pulled his face tight and straight and eyes rolling without repeating the question. Oh life is too hard for him I guess.
A very serious bus driver. 

Next, a straight face from the bus driver of 152 that will take you to a bus stop which is close to District 1 and Ben Thanh Market that cost you only 3000 (0.13 USD) dong fare and another 3000 dong if you have a big luggage. 

At one of the alley in District 1.
Fortunately the weather changed from gloomy to a sunny bright day. I met a friendly young Vietnamese couple seated behind me. It's all started with me asking if the bus stop at Ben Thanh Market near to District 1, the backpackers area.

The man used to work in Malaysia and he talks about how great is our food. The young husband and wife are so friendly. They told me about Vietnamese popular dishes Banh Mi and warned me that it is not Halal. In general he knows that if you came from Malaysia, you are Muslim.

Accommodation - Nice and quiet hostel in a busy and happening street.

As soon as I got to Bui Vien street, I received many "Hello", "Hi," "How are you," from the young white guys from their bike. Probably these people who has spend long time wondering in Vietnam and they love to see another young solo backpacker asian woman

Vintage Hostel located at Bui Vien Street in District 1, the backpackers area which is the hive of activities and it is just a short distance from Ben Thanh Market. This hostel was only open 6 months ago when I stayed there.
The comfort and privacy  bed. Each bed has a curtain, side wall lights, reading lights, socket and a small space on the side wall to put your stuff. Locker is under the bed with security lock by card.

Most part of the wall here are well decorated with the mosaic arts. Vietnamese are very creative with the mosaic arts.
The best part of this hostel are the stairs, shine and clean. It reminds me of a rich asian home back in early 90s.
Getting around the city.

You can hire a bike to get around and drowned in the crowd of the bike. I never ride a bike in my life even though I was born and raised in Malaysia. I used my two legs to get me anywhere around the city. Motor bikes in Saigon are crazy, huge number of them. "Pin, Pin, Pin," you heard this all the time on the roads like thousands of "Pin".

They are coming!! The bikers!!
Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica located about 20 minutes walking from District 1. Many of the buildings here has the influence from the French colonial.
The materials to build the Saigon Notre-Dame Basilica was imported from France.
Located in District 3 is the War Remnants Museum, a must visit if you in Saigon. Five minutes of your time in the museum, you will learn the horrifying of the Vietnamese war or American war according to the locals.

Some of the American will think this is the Vietnamese propaganda but we already had enough stories been fed by the American media and Hollywood movie about the Vietnamese war that most part of the stories are on American side. 

The Vietnamese side tell their war stories here through a graphic image.
All the materials display in this museum are an eye opener of the aftermath of the war which often does not get shown on tv. For so long the world has forgotten about Agent Orange and its effects to the vietnamese and the American soldier who served in Vietnam war.

To remind you, agent orange was used by the U.S military from 1962 - 1975 in an attempt to destroy the forest in Vietnam and Cambodia, which were used as cover for the Viet Cong, as well to destroy the crops grown for the peasants. This forced the peasants to flee to the cities that were being controlled by the U.S military and as a result, the Viet Cong had a significantly decreased amount of food supply.

The effects of "Agent Orange" left over 100,000 of Vietnamese suffered the horrifying effects of the chemical.
Agent Orange is made from two herbicides, which was contaminated with dioxin. A dioxin is a highly toxic compound and can cause multiple gene mutations and chromosomal abberations. 

Picture from www.personal.psu.edu
Another site to learn about Vietnam War is Cu Chi tunnels. to get here easily, just book a tour that only cost you about $7 if I'm not mistaken. Dozens of tour agent at District 1. You can go by yourself if you have a bike and a GPS.

Cu Chi tunnels were used by the Viet Cong as a hiding spot during the combat as well as a supply routes, hospital and living quarters for the Viet Cong. The long of the tunnel is 121 km and now been preserved by the government, becoming one of the tourist attraction in Saigon.

The man demonstrate how to get in the tunnel. The tunnels door are closed and camouflaged, almost undetectable. 
Something caught my attention.

I finished my dinner and just sitting at my table facing the busy street of Bui Vien watching people passed by. As my eyes wild looking around in the restaurant, my eyes glued at a small rack with a glass door hanging on the wall. Inside the rack a few bottles of scorpions and snack lined up on the three levels shelve. On a small hand written sign says "Snake Wine".


Those snakes and scorpions in the bottles are the real one. The lady at the counter told me it's good for man, strong in bed. So, what I found in google about this creepy stuff. Most individuals in Vietnam believed by consuming snake wine, it can improve health and virility. They are other story about the unlucky one who drank this snake wine got bitten by the snake which is still alive after many months stuck in the bottle.

Ok, It's The Best Indian Food I Ever Had.



Ok here I am, visiting traveled in Vietnam but talking about Indian food. I was just craving for Indian food that afternoon and walked pass by this Baba's Kitchen restaurant. Checked the menu and decided to have my lunch here. So I ordered chicken kurma come with rice and nan bread.. My Goodness, the taste are so authentic. My tummy happy and I'm happy.

It happens that my Air BnB guest from German travel in Saigon and ate at Baba's Kitchen have the same opinion with me. THE BEST INDIAN FOOD THAT WE EVER HAD. We have not been to India so forgive us if we rated Baba's Kitchen on top of our list for Indian Restaurants.

New Friends & A Lil Bit of Party


This is what traveling are all about. Travel, Chill, Friends & Lil bit of party. Enjoy girlssss!!!

Friday, January 15, 2016

Meet The World Famous Bus Driver from Manila.

I remember it was a weekend in winter and the weather was freezing cold. All I want in a crazy cold winter is doing nothing except lied on the bed watching any good program on TV. As I browsed the SKY TV channels, a reality TV programme called "A ToughesT Place To Be.." in UKTV caught my attention. 

Rogelio and Josh West in the series 1 of a "Toughest Place To Be A Bus Driver". Picture taken from shivviesscene.com

The programme took a different man from the UK with a different profession such as bus driver, binman, fireman, nurse, fisherman and other professions to do their job in a developing country under some of the toughest conditions in the world. It also showed what life is like for really poor people that many of whom exist on less than 2 dollars a day. 

Back then, I was planning for my Southeast Asia trip and when a series shows about the bus driver in Manila, Philippines and a binman in Jakarta, Indonesia. I made a plan to meet this two great guys. 

As  time passed and the date to my trip was getting closer, I dropped out the plan meeting the bin man in Jakarta, Indonesia and continue with the plan to meet the bus driver in Manila, Philippines. I try to picture myself meeting with him and snapped a photos and post in face book, "Hey look who I met". But, to accomplish that almost impossible because thousands of bus driver in Manila in the population of 20 millions. Actually I don't put a big hope in that.

Edwin Nombre far from left with a great smile.

The hostel where I stayed very often has an activity called True Manila, a project that allows foreigners and Filipinos alike to see the daily grind in impoverished areas in Manila. Edwin Nombre, the founder said the main idea for this project is sharing culture, kindness, and friendship.

Edwin Nombre took us to the slump where he grew up, San Andres. I asked him if he knows about Mr. Rogelio, the Jeepney driver from the BBC programme and it happens that he is Edwin friend. Mr. Rogelio lives in the same place where we had our project but he was at work. I thought that I have no luck meeting him since that the next day will be my last day in Manila.

I finally met Mr. Rogelio, the world famous bus driver from Manila.
When we was about to finish the project, Edwin stopped and talked to someone. At first, I did not take note with whom he was talking to because I would like to take this opportunity to have a good look of the surrounded buildings. When Edwin said he is the man that I asked about, I was shocked that he was in front of me and straight away I told him that I watched that programme and I admired his hard work. Of course I said that I'm his big fan.

Mr. Rogelio's Jeepney, this picture was from his Face Book.
Preparing the meals for the kids.
Later on that day, Mr. Rogelio had an initiative to find me in Face Book through our mutual friend, a lady who was a regular volunteer for True Manila. I felt so honoured that he wants to keep in touch with me and become a long distance friendship. Until recently, from time to time I had a short chat with him.
"Umupo dito," I heard this words many times by Edwin, asking the children to sit. It means something like sit here.
The building like this was built from the donations fund. By the look at it from outside, you can imagine how packed is inside the house with xis families members or more.


We stopped by at soon to be Edwin house to lend a hand for a couple of hours. His home and some others family was burned in a fire. Donations money were used to build up new home for them.
Some considered the slum like this in San Andres is a luxury slum or not as extreme compared to other slum in Manila. I don't do comparison because I never live like in this conditions and even it is a luxury slum, it is still not a proper home.

Had lunch at one of the restaurant in San Andres with the other guys from the same batch.
If you are visiting Manila, put this activity in your list. True Manila and if you have a chance you can have a Jeepney ride driven by Mr. Rogelio. Don't forget beside pay him the fare, tipping him as well. I wish this project all the best and to Mr. Rogelio, "You Are The Man!"