Welcome to this page

Welcome to my blog!
I am sharing stories of my trips and providing some tips in case you also want to travel.
This is also a photo blog, so I hope you like the candid photos I have taken from different places!

Thank you for visiting my blog.

- CB (freezymenthol)

Monday, December 31, 2012

Saigon, Vietnam - An Unlikely Holiday Destination

Again, Cebu Pacific Piso Sale, and with all of the folks booking Singapore and Hong Kong which gets sold out in a blink of an eye, we decided to book in one of the most unlikely destinations to visit, Saigon.

Saigon, or now known as Ho Chi Minh City was just more than an hour's away with the plane just crossing South China Sea. Before coming to Vietnam, it is best to print out your hotel address in English, Viet and Chinese languages so that when you arrive in Saigon just present it to the taxi driver. Taxi is the BEST option when commuting around the city.

Busy side streets of Saigon.  Be prepared with a LOT of scooters.

Things to bring:
  • Light clothes, since Saigon is has a tropical climate like Manila
  • Extra money, that is if you intent to shop at Ben Thanh Market
  • Camera
  • Raincoat or jacket if you intent to visit June onwards
Upon arrival you would notice how interesting the traffic situation is in Saigon. The motorcycles really outnumber the cars. So if you think Manila's traffic is bad, think again. You will have a hard time crossing the street. The technique in crossing the street would just to put forwardas motorcyles would just avoid you by swerving onto the opposite direction.
Whenever I go to Singapore, Seoul or Hong Kong, I normally create my itineraries and avoid the group tour. But in this case, I would suggest that you set up a tour with an agency because this is more convenient here in Saigon. Here are some interesting places to visit before you exhaust all your money in shopping at Ben Thanh Market. Here's a preffered agenda
Day 1 (Whole day): Mekong Delta Tour
We opted to take the Ben Tre Tour since this is the most inexpensive of all tours. We are fetched by a van at 8:00am with an English-speaking tour guide. While passing along the busy streets of Saigon and towards Ben Tre, the tour guide was explaining the recent history of Saigon, the war and how the city came back to life.

The drive would take about 2 hours from Ho Chi Minh to the Mekong Delta which is known as the rice bowl of Vietnam. Upon arrival, we took a boat cruise around islets and tropical orchards through the canal of Vam Xep and reached a small islet, followed by a relaxing walk along shady and palm fringed trails passing by local villages where we saw their peaceful daily life. We also vistied a bee farm along the way and had a special tea with honey and sample fruits with a local family and share their stories of life in the Mekong Delta. We also had a chance to ride a horse-drawn cart that took us to a handicraft village, a coconut candy factory. After that we took a gondola and rowed through the tree-lined canals of Mekong River before returning to My Tho by motorized boat.
The we had our lunch at local restaurant on before heading back Saigon
For more details on this tour, you may refer to this website (below) or just make reservations at the hotel.

Day 2 (Whole day) Cu Chi Tunnel Tour
A trip to Saigon would never be complete if you have not experienced the Cu Chi Tunnel. Just like the Mekong Delta River Tour, this trip would almost take an entire day.

Visiting the Cu Chi Tunnel was the highlight of my trip in Saigon

Entering one of the tunnels

Cu Chi is about 40 km northwest of Ho Chi Minh City in Southern Vietnam and the trip would take abut 2 hours, so its better to join on guided tours rather than commuting by a bus.
A Tank of display in Cu Chi Tunnels

Some traps made by the Vietcong

The entrance fee in the complex is 80000 VND. Upon entering the complex you will be briefed at one of the make shift bunkers on how the Cu Chi Tunnels were built and what the purpose of the tunnels were. You get to experiencing squeezing in those narrow tunnels as if you were oart of Vietcong Army during the Vietnamese War.

For this trip, better bring some bottled water and extra clothes because crawling through the tunnels will be very dirty - but that is what you paid for basically.
There's also a rifle range at one stop of the tunnel tour, and you can try it out as well.

Day 3 City Tour
Reunification Palace

This is a very symbolic place in Vietnam's modern history.  The Reunification Palace was the seat of government of South Vietnam before it surrendered to the Vietcong and North Vietnamese Army.  This is now houses great memorabilias of the Vietnam War.

Reunification Palace

Status of Ho Chi Minh

Front of the Reunification Palace

Conference Room
One of the tanks that came inside Reunification Palace during the fall of Saigon

War Remnants Museum
They say that whoever wins the war tells the story, and no other way to cement that statement by going to the War Remnants Musuem.  Be warned, there are a lot of graphic images in the museum showing US war crimes.  But this is the side of the Vietnamese People and how they perceived the war to be.
War Remnants Museum
War Remnants Museum

Notre Dame Cathedral

Just within walking distance in the central city area, Notre Dame Cathedral stands as a reminder of the French Colony in Indochina.  When we went there, several couples were doing pre-nuptial photoshoots.  It was just fascinating to see that even in a Communist country, you are still free to choose what religion you believe in (unlike in North Korea).

Visiting the tourist center across Notre Dame would be a good starting point if you want to avail of different tour packages and any other helpful information with regard to this city.

Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral
Notre Dame Cathedral

Train Station across Notre Dame which is now converted into a Tourist Center
Tourist center in Saigon
Shopping at Ben Thanh Market

Great souvenirs in Ben Thanh Market
Souvenirs at Ben Thanh Market
Ben Thanh Market has a wide array of products that you can shop for, from knock-off bags to great souvenirs.  It's like Greenhills in Saigon!

During our spare time, we also had a chance to explore the nightlife of Saigon.
Interestingly, we also found a lot of Jollibee stores around the city. So if you miss the "Langhap Sarap" food, you can drop by in any of the Jollibee stores withon Saigon.

Overall, a visit to Saigon or Hi Chi Minh City was worth the experience.  The city has reincarnated from the ashes of the war a few decades ago.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Legoland Malaysia - A New Theme Park in Southeast Asia

When we think of theme parks in our region, we always think of Disneyland and Ocean Park in Hong Kong and Universal Studios in Singapore.  But we the region has a new theme park to watch out for and it is located in Johor, Malaysia which is just near the border of Singapore-Malaysia, Legoland!

This is the first Legoland in Asia and I will provide you some helpful details should you wish to visit this new theme park. 

On our way to Johor-Singapore border via Taxi

Legoland, Malaysia - we were there during the Opening Week

A Lego Kid at the entrance
Some Lego Mascots for photo ops

Getting There:

If you are coming from Singapore, the best and most convenient way, however the most expensive way is getting on a Singapore-Johor Taxi Service.  Below are some information you may need:

Singapore-Johore Taxi Operators' Association (Johor Taxi Service)

Tel: (+65) 6296 7054
Ban San St Singapore
Singapore Taxis
For Legoland, Malaysia - the taxi fare would cost SG$80 one way.  Please arrange a pick-up with the driver on your way back to Singapore.

I suggest you go for this option so that you won't need to go down at customs if you are to ride a bus.  This is much more convenient. 

A cheaper alternative would be taking a bus, but I suggest you book in advance as tours going to Legoland, Malaysia are very limited from Singapore.  Here is the link for your reference:


The Park

The theme park features 40 different rides and attractions (more on that later).  And just like any theme park, it has basic amenities such as a clinic, locker, wheelchair for those disabled, stroller for babys and toddlers.  You may get a brochure as soon as you enter the park so won't get lost.

There's a mini market where you can rent strollers and wheel chairs

Below are the ticket prices for Legoland, Malaysia:


Ticket Reg. price Online (7-Days Advance Booking)
  • 1-Day Ticket Adult (12-59)  RM 140,  RM 105 (when you book 7 days in advance) 
  • 1-Day Ticket Child (3-11)    RM 110,  RM 82.50 (when you book 7 days in advance)
  • 1-Day Ticket Senior (60+)   RM 110,  RM 82.50 (when you book 7 days in advance)
There are days when the park is open from 10:00am to 6:00pm and certain peak days until 10:00pm.  To be sure, check out the calendar on the link below:

A lot of Lego made structures inside the park

The park itself is just about the same size as Universal Studios.  During high noon, I may opt just to stay on a shade or at a Restaurant, since walking and strolling in the at that time maybe very uncomfortable.

The Rides and Attractions

Dino Island Ride
Indoor Laser Point ride in Legoland Malaysia
On opening day - notice the short lines.
Roller coaster at the background.  It was ok, but not as great with T-Express in Korea (my all time favorite)
entrance to the roller coaster ride
We'll if I am to compare the rides here than in Universal Studios Singapore, the rides here really are family oriented and mostly geared to kids and toddlers.  Their roller coaster does not even have a loop and the Dino Island Ride was pretty lame compared to Jurrasic Park the ride, or even Jog Log Jam in Enchanted Kingdom.  The only saving grace of Dino Island Ride was the decorations were mostly made out of Lego.  Check-out the video I made of the Dino Island Ride on Youtube:

Here's also a video showing the different rides and attractions:

One of the best attractions however, was the Legoland Area where it displays Asia's scenic destinations in Lego miniatures models.  You will appreciate the intrictae details and there are some parts wherein it's interactive and push buttons here and there and some Lego miniatures will move.

Lego miniature of KL
Lego KL
Lego China
 Overall it was a very nice theme park, except for the less than exciting rides, the Lego Miniatures were something worth visiting.  This is a nice alternative to the already crowded Universal Studios Singapore.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Kota Kinabalu Second Time Around

It's better the second time around!!!

Last year, I went to Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, Malaysia as a lone backpacker.  Enjoyed visiting the islands and shopping at the various outlet stores in downtown KK.  I also had a chance to immerse myself with the locals and the tourists.

This time, I brought my family to let them experience what Kota Kinabalu has to offer.  I wanted to post another photo blog just like before, but decided to do a travel blog instead to help people plan for their trip should they go to Kota Kinabalu.

Things to Bring:

If you plan to go to the beach, bring the essentials - extra towel (in case the hotel won't allow you to bring theirs), sunblock lotion, goggles or snorkeling gear (you will need it), proper swimwear (the Marine park is strict) and light clothes.

If you plan to hike at Mt. Kinabalu - bring a mountaineering backpack, and shoes, essential mountaineering gear I suppose (sorry, I don't climb, but I guess you know what I mean).

If you plan to shop, bring an extra luggage - you will definitely need it.

Getting there:

Cebu Pacific offers regular flights from Manila to Kota Kinabalu.  Other airlines also offer the same such as Air Asia.  Be sure to go to the following sites to check their travel dates:


These are budget airlines so be sure you know their rules and regulations - especially the luggage policy.

NAIA Terminal 3

Once you arrive at the airport, you can take a taxi cab that would take you to a hotel in downtown Kota Kinabalu.  The taxi would cost MYR30.  It is a flat rate so don't expect you can haggle the price.

A view of KK Airport from the window.  Sunset looming in.

The only way to go to downtown KK from the Airport would be by taking a taxi which would cost MYR30

Where to stay:

There are tons of hotels in Kota Kinabalu from the backpackers' hotels, botique to hotels to even 5-star hotels.

If I were to recommend a hotels to stay that would be Hotel Eden 54, and Jesselton Hotel for those budget conscious.

Jesselton Hotel is very historical.  This is where the Bristih Royals stay during the time that KK was still a part of the British Colony.  The accommodations here are very reasonable.

Hotel Eden54 is where we stayed.  It's a very nice Botique Hotel. Ling-ling, the receptionist was very helpful and courteous.

For those who wants a perfect view of South China sea, try Le Meridien, Hyatt and Hotel Gaya.

Hyatt is facing South China Sea and will give you great views from your hotel room.

To those who want to splurge, there is Sutera Harbour, and Shangri-La Tanjung Aru.

You may want to check the following websites for good rates:

Those are the sites where I usually go to and book a hotel.

Getting around:

In downtown Kota Kinabalu, you can walk from Centerpoint Sabah Mall to Suria Sabah Mall and you can find interesting shops in between.

You can also take a cab and the usual far is MYR10-15. 

Here are some few places you can visit in downtown KK.

Suria Sabah Mall
  • It is one of the bigger malls in downtown KK with high-end brands to tempting outlet stores (especially F.O.S).  There is also a food court which is overlooking the islands of Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.
Suria Sabah Mall

Gaya Street Market (Sunday only)
  • Every Sunday from 6am to 12pm the stretch of Gaya Street is closed for the regular weekend market where you can find souvenirs, shirts, pets, novelty items and many more.  I would suggest that you come there very early.  Because around 9am onwards it could get very crowded.
Gaya Sunday Market
Gaya Sunday Market

Atkinsons Clock Tower
  • This old clock tower stands discreetly at the hills side of Kota Kinabalu City.  You can see the clock tower when you  go at the back of Jesselton Hotel.  There really isn't anything to do here apart from taking photos with the clock as your background.  But this structure has been witness to how Kota Kinabalu developed from being Jesselton to the city that it is today.
Atkinson's clock tower

Signal Hill
  • It is an observation deck at the top of a hill in KK City.  This place offers a fantastic view of the entire city and a peek of Tunku Abdul Rahman Park.  Don't fret this place is free.  There are two ways to get there: take a taxi (the easiest one), or take the jungle trek up the hill (I suggest you do this).  The jungle trek starts form a flight of stairs at the back of Jesselton Hotel.  Just follow the route and it'll take you to Signal Hill.
Signal Hill taken from our hotel room

Jungle treck going to Signal Hill
a view from the top
My brother and my cousin on the other side of the deck.
panoramic view of the city and the islands.

1Borneo Mall
  • This is the biggest mall in KK.  But this is already about 30 minutes outside of downtown KK.  The the trip going there is almost worth the considering.  The taxi would cost MYR25 and on the way you will see the floating Mosque, University of Malaysia in Sabah, the Immigration Building and the a great view of South China Sea. 
Jesselton Point
  • This place will be your starting point if you plan to go to Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park.  It has a big arch with a sign "Kota Kinabalu Welcomes You".  There are good hawker stalls that offers cheap food and drinks.  Great place especially during sunset.
A Welcome Sign that greets tourists and visitors of KK
Speed boats in the background.  These would take you to any of the islands in Tunku Abdul Rahman Marine Park
Jesselton Point

Tunku Abdul Marine Park
  • If you are not hiking to Mt. Kinabalu (which is one of the two reasons why you are going here), then going to Tunku Abdul Marine Park will be the highlight of your trip.  In Jesselton point you can purchase tickets for the speed boats that would take you to any of the islands: Palau Manukan, Palau Sapi, Palau Mamutik, Palau Sulug.  One island trip would normally cost around MYR17.  But going to two or more would actually save you money.  
  • I would suggest to take the Palau Manukan-Mamutik combo for starters.  This would cost about MYR25 and an additional MYR7.20 for the terminal fee and MYR10 for the environmental fee.  The environmental fee would be paid when you dock on the first island and is a one time payment if you hop on to two or more islands.
  • The park has basic ammenities such as a canteen/cafeteria, changing rooms and restrooms.  They alsohave beach tables for free. 
Purchasing tickets that would take us to the islands

stern warning not to feed the fishes in the Marine Park

Palau Manukan
Welcome greet here in Palau Manukan

Bomb shells found in these islands

A photo taken from Palau Manukan overlooking Palau Gaya
Bring goggles or snorkeling gears, you will enjoy the day of swimming with the fishes in these islands

You may see a "bayawak" roaming around Palau Mamutik

Swimming with the "bayawak"
the sand is comparable to Boracay, IMO

Mt Kinabalu Park
Where to eat:

Seafood!  Yes, there is a dampa style dining in down town KK.  I would suggest you try Hua Hing restaurant.  They have the freshest finds at the most reasonable price.

Alway have a dinner in one of these seafood restaurants.
"Dampa" style.  But the good thing here is no extra charge when the restaurant cooks the seafood.
Hua Hing Seafood Restaurant

Also try Malaysian hawker stands that offer Nasi Goreng and Nasi Lemak.  But if you're not into local food, then you'll find the usual McDonalds, KFC, Burger King and other international establishments around.

KFC in Malaysia for those who do not want to eat local food.

I hope you find this blog helpful.  If you have any questions, just hit the comments section and I'll respond back.

At the dock of Palau Manukan, waiting for the boat that would take us to Palau Mamutik (island at the back)