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.