Thursday, September 30, 2010

experience batad

when i was there a year ago, i promised myself that i have to see it again this year. the experience of being there and the grand view of the terraces being higher and even older than the Colosseum in Rome made it my number one most memorable trip of last year. i remember quoting from the Unesco World Heritage website saying "The Ifugao Rice Terraces are the priceless contribution of Philippine ancestors to humanity". this time i'm opening it to those who want to experience and see the Eight Wonder of the World plus a sidetrip to see the Banaue Rice Terraces. planned trip will depart Manila 10:00pm of Oct 22 and return to Manila by Oct 25 3:00am just in time for us to be able to vote for the barangay election 2010. if you're interested, email me at i.dongho@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Vinh Nghiem Pagoda Ho Chi Minh

if there is an exciting way to explore Ho Chi Minh, it would definitely be by riding a motorbike and experience first hand how it is to go along the hundreds of motorbikes that drive along each street in the city.

since visiting the towering Pagodas was not on our itinerary, i decided early the next day to wake up early and visit at least one of Vietnam's Buddhist pagoda. checked in the internet and chose to visit just one, since Ho Chi Minh is a quite a big city to explore all the other pagodas.

Pagodas are towers which represents a house of worship for Buddhist and Taoist but according to wikipedia, in Vietnam it is a more generic term referring to a place of worship as a whole. this city alone has seven pagodas.it took me quite some time to choose one and ended up with Vinh Ngiem Pagoda which is under the third district of Ho Chi Minh just along the highway of Nam Ky Khoi Nghia. i had to do it alone since my travel buddies Nadz and Melissa decided to take more sleeping hours."bring me to Vinh Ngiem Pagoda" while pointing at the temple in the map of Ho Chi Minh trying to negotiate with a motorbike driver outside of our hotel in De Tham street. we agreed at 100,000Vietnam Dong roughly at 225Php two way and immediately handed me a helmet.

thinking that he already knew the place, i started to take photos along the way but to my surprise, he brought me to Ben Thanh market and i brought out the map again and this time pointing at the street that goes to the Pagoda. then he nodded.just about 20minutes we reached Vinh Ngiem Pagoda, which is actually the first Pagoda in Vietnam to be built in Vietnamese traditional architecture. unaware that it was actually the birthday of Buddha during that time and so a tent was laid out in front of the temple with people offering flowers and incense.

we went up the main area and with the driver who was now so aggressive in bringing me around the temple after seeing my camera. he even seemed more excited than i am. not much difference from the Buddhist temples in the Philippines only that this has a pagoda.

had the chance to enter and politely took some photos since it was not prohibited. i felt fulfilled as i can't leave Vietnam without visiting a pagoda. signaled my driver that i am ready to go back to the hotel but he was trying to tell me something while doing some hand sign which looked like he's bringing me to another one or maybe he meant something else. that comes on my next post.

island: Greater Asia
city: Ho Chi Minh
country: Vietnam

GPS location
10^ 46' 20.99" N
106^ 41' 22.02" E

escape rate:
temple location: 4.0
temple historical background: 3.5
temple structure: 3.5
temple pagoda: 3.5

Sunday, September 26, 2010

vietnam night market

if foreigners visiting the Philippines look for Divisoria and Greenhills for shopping cheap items, Vietnam's Ben Thanh market in Ho Chi Minh central district is as popular. but here, the big bargain begins when the sun goes down.by day, most of the items are sold at regular prices inside the big marketplace but by night, prices are cut down half or even lower when you're really good at haggling. that's when you start buying by the volume. you'll be surprised as the shops inside the market closes at 6:00pm but stalls begin to gather along the streets near the market. among the busiest streets are Phan Chu Trinh, Nguyen An Ninh and Truong Dinh all which are just a walk away from the central market place.
the ladies will definitely love this place as bags, clothes and shoes are among the most popular. souvenir items like those small key chains, figurines, paintings, and the popular Vietnam shirt printed with a star. you can buy the items using their currency Vietnam Dong or US Dollars, language barrier is not a problem in the market as the phrase "how much?" is well understood here and you get a reply from the calculator. easy right? beyond shopping, food tripping comes as a bonus after a night of bargain. the most popular of which i would recommend too is Hai Lua which occupies about five to eight stalls. in short, you won't miss seeing it. they have a wide range of Vietnamese food and it is beyond the popular Phos.

how to get there: from the backpacker's district of De Tham, just walk along Pham Ngu Lao until you reach the bus center and it's just across your left or walk along Le Lai until you reach the Tran Nguyen Han circle.
best time to go there:
6:00pm onwards for great bargain.

island: Greater Asia
city: Ho Chi Minh
country: Vietnam

GPS location
10^ 46' 20.99" N
106^ 41' 53.04" E

escape rate:
market location: 4.0
market area: 3.0
market bargain: 4.5

Thursday, September 23, 2010

war remnants museum vietnam

if there's something too painful to see around Vietnam, it would be the War Remnants Museum. it brings back the past, the time when most of the countries were already recovering from the World War II while Vietnam remains a war torn country.
it was way past noon when we have to wait for the museum to open at 1:00pm but from outside, one can have a peek of some of the displayed US chopper and fighter planes. it costs just around 15,000Vietnam Dong or around 35 Philippine Pesos.
built 35years ago as a memoriam to the American-Vietnam war. it is composed of a block type structure, a replica of a prison camp and an area displaying some of the war equipments. some of the thematic rooms on the top floors has air condition system while the ground floor is open.
among the most disturbing parts of the museum are the ones on the ground level which includes photos of the victims of the sprayed chemical with the code name Agent Orange. it affected millions causing physical deformations to Vietnamese exposed to the Operation Ranch Hand.as you go from one level to the other, it ends up with a perspective of how Vietnam is recovering. now, a joint group of US and Vietnam personnel continuously move to extend humanitarian assistance to the victims and the areas which are still causing some effects.
island: Greater Asia
city: Ho Chi Minh
country: Vietnam

GPS location
10^ 46' 45.65" N
106^ 41' 31.71" E

escape rate:
museum location: 3.5
musuem area: 3.5
historical value: 4.5

Monday, September 20, 2010

three stop: ho chi minh

here are three stops which you can do on a short walk in Ho Chi Minh City in Vitnam. all three stops are within five to ten minutes walk from the Notre Dame Cathedral.
[1] Saigon Central Post Office
one of my favorite stop after a day walk around Ho Chi Minh is the old post office which now remains as one of its landmark and was designed by the French engineer Gustave Eiffel.
it has retained some of its old phone booths with some shops inside. maps, murals and beautiful pillars makes it more attractive. Vietnam stamps are still available around this area where can buy for your collection.it is just across the Notre Dame Cathedral in Cong xa Paris street in Ho Chi Minh.[2] Bun Bo Thanh Noi Hue
from the cathedral just walk straight along Pham Ngoc Thach and when you reach the circular plaza, find this small food shop along Tran Cao Van street. you can easily miss out this place as it occupies a small entrance like majority of the shops arond Ho Chi Minh.
it's here where one can find a really good variety of Vietnam Pho. including its crabilicious Pho, which is basically a pho with crab rolled meats. you'll find the owner of the shop so excited to welcome you when he learns that you're a foreigner.
the waitress won't understand your order as the menu are written in Vietnamese language. so what's the best thing to do when you're there? go to the kitchen and from there point the one that they're cooking and say that's what you want. i'm sure it's something good. that makes it more exciting to eat.

[3] Cong Truong Quoc Te Roundabout
just right next to Bun Bo Thanh food shop is this circular man-made water park which transforms into a decorative structure on special occasions. an irregular pathway leads you to its center which has a long ladder.few steps more along Pham Ngoc Thach brings you to a modern look of Ho Chi Minh. that makes a somehow tiring yet a worth walk around Ho Chi Minh.

Monday, September 13, 2010

japan japan

i arrived in Tokyo yesterday and was amazed by its beauty. definitely one of the most efficient and modern city. i'll explore a bit of the land of the rising sun and will soon be blogging about it.
i will also be visiting Hokkaido, Nagoya and Osaka in the coming days and so i won't be able to drop by your blogs. the Vietnam series continues for the meantime while i'll be away for this trip.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

notre dame church

"without the motorbikes passing by Notre Dame Cathedral Basilica, you might say you're in France" they would say. undoubtedly yes because almost all the materials used in building this church was imported from France and was completed in the Easter day of 1880.
it's a relaxing walk coming from Reunification Palace along Le Duan street because of the park filled with trees and its wide green lawn. parallel to this street is Han Thuyen and Alexandre de Rhodes which has a number of restaurants and establishments.
the street surrounding the cathedral is named Cong xa Paris and is definitely one of the nicest area that we've been in Ho Chi Minh. wide and spacious streets and the beautiful sidewalk. perfect for cycling or jogging.
the structure was designed by architect J. Bourad after winning the bid over 17 other proposed designs in 1876. the cathedral's original bricks from France though were replaced when it was damaged during the war.
now stands as a symbol of Christianity in Vietnam and as a French colonial city but with the many motorbikes around the place, it still gives it a touch of Saigon.

island: Greater Asia
city: Ho Chi Minh
country: Vietnam

GPS location
10^ 46' 37.64" N
106^ 41' 43.77" E

escape rate:
church location: 4.0
church facade: 4.0
church area: 4.5
church history: 4.0

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