The Table Mountain

I didn’t know what to expect weeks before my trip to Cape Town in South Africa.  I had mixed emotions and like what I normally do before traveling, I lower my expectations.

I did my research about South Africa. I looked at pictures, read its history and browsed some personal experiences of people who have been there in the internet.   With only a week to go around Cape Town, I did my usual top 10 list of  where to go, what to do and which ones must see.  Table Mountain ranked number 1 on my itinerary which I based on the many personal accounts of people from travel sites and blogs.  What I read excite me.  The Table Mountain grew on me as the day drew nearer to my trip to Cape Town.

The Table Mountain is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, I have been to the 2 others on the list (Underground River in Puerto Princessa in my country the Philippines and Halong Bay in Vietnam).  The Table Mountain definitely deserved its spot in this prestigious list though (I believe) there are just so many that should have been included or the list does not just consist of 7 (make it 12 or something!).

This captivating mountain which I found absolutely remarkable and nothing like I’ve seen before became the backdrop of my stay in Cape Town.

The Table Mountain as seen from my hotel room made my every morning in Cape Town truly awesome.
Table Mountain as seen from the Waterfront
The V&A Waterfront is a prime tourist area in Cape Town. The Table Mountain makes the waterfront even more picturesque.
Table Mountain
One blogger wrote, “it is a mortal sin to miss the Table Mountain”.. I didn’t want to commit such sin, so off to the top I go.
On top of Table Mountain
On top of the world, I mean the Table Mountain overlooking the stunning Cape Town and the Atlantic Ocean.
On top of the Table Mountain
On top of the Table Mountain overlooking the Atlantic Ocean and the Indian Ocean.
The Table Mountain
The Table Mountain as seen from my seat on board the Emirates Airlines. I surely left my heart in Cape Town.

Cape Town is probably one of the most beautiful cities in the world and South Africa is on my top 7 list of the world’s most picturesque countries.

New Pups in the House

Meet our new puppies, Chukchak and Chenes.  They are typical Filipino dogs also known locally as Aspin. A dog in the Philippines is aso and pin is short for “pinoy” which is a colloquial term that refers to Filipinos.  Thus the term aspin = as+pin.

Anyway, I think they are just about a few weeks old.  I like these dogs because they just won’t stop barking if they feel like they need to go. So we let them out of the house to do their thing.  How’s that for potty training?

I hope they can withstand the cool mountain climate here and serve as guard dogs in the future.  An aspin is known as very loyal and overly territorial. They protect their masters and their abode with all their might.   So intruders and strangers alike, beware.

This is Chukchak, she’s a girl.  We name her like so for a lack of a better one.  We used to name our dogs after famous people like actors and beauty queens but we just got tired of naming them such.  I don’t know what Chukchak means but it’s like an expression that could mean, ‘whatever’ or ‘anything’.

Serious pose, full body (well, almost)

Meet Chenes.  She’s a girl too.  She’s quite the shy type.  Hopefully she evolves into a wild one someday.  Just like Chukchak’s name, Chenes doesn’t mean anything concrete.  It’s an expression that could mean ‘anything’ or ‘whatever’.

Half body, serious
Close up, passport photo

Love these pups… aren’t they cute ?

Ho Chi Minh Revisited

Indeed, Vietnam is sweeter the second time around.  Unlike last year when I traveled all by myself (Vietnam Adventure); I experienced many nuisances so noteworthy, I learned from it.

This trip is particularly special because I get to travel with my mom and friends after availing a 3-hour flight via Cebu Pacific Airlines from Manila.  Our intention was to travel through 5 countries of Indochina and the Malay PeninsulaWe entered Ho Chi Minh with the wish to go to Cambodia, then to Thailand, Malaysia and then exit Singapore to the Philippines.

Ho Chi Minh City (HCM) changed, it looks a lot better. I noticed that the city streets are well-lit (we arrived past 1AM)  and cleaner.  Obviously, Vietnam is developing in an unprecedented way and I am happy about it.  I can’t wait to explore other cities in the northern part of this country.

People driving the scooters and motorbikes are more careful now.  Traffic lights, signs and directions are clear everywhere. There is an observed speed limit but crossing the streets are still quite tricky.

Welcome to Ho Chi Min, the motorbike capital of the world.
The main mode of transportation here is a scooter or motorbikes. Be careful when crossing the streets or riding a bike especially for  first timers. There does not seem any strict rules on how to drive these things, pedestrians must take extra caution.

Ho Chi Minh in southern Vietnam is the destination when you want to explore the culture and heritage of the people.  The history behind the Vietnam-American War that took place here now plays a major role in their tourism industry.  A visit to this part of the country is incomplete without commemorating the sad and tragic story behind the war.  The Cu Chi Tunnels is a silent witness to what took place and the tourists can only imagine how it was like back then.

An old video presentation for visitors, it’s like an overview of the war. You’ll be lucky to have a guide like what we had, he claimed that he is a war veteran. Expect his story as personal as it can get.
The Tunnel System. Our guide shows us the map of the tunnels that were built during the war. The tunnels are unbelievably long.
It could be very hot or really wet when going to the woods to personally see the tunnels. At any case be ready, if you are a bit more participating, why not try to fit in this hole where the Vietnamese soldiers hid during the war.
The Vietnamese created a wide array of traps for the enemy to choose from. In this hut you will see just what they are.
Try not to fall in any one of those holes or else. Again, I can only imagine how it was like back then.
The Vietnamese soldiers create shrapnel, bombs and other weapons by hand as depicted in this life-sized diorama.

The tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels would normally take an entire morning depending on how the guide tells the story.  Make sure to bring enough drinking water for hydration.  Get ready with an extra shirt especially if you perspire a lot.  Now, be very careful not to take offers from anybody in the streets to take you around or bring you to the Cu Chi Tunnels.  You would not want to get robbed (ripped) just like what happened to me last year.  The best and cheapest way is by bus which you can book for $5 per head through the many travel agencies around District 1 of the city.  Prepare another $4-5 ($VND* 90,000) for the entrance fee.  The bus will do a short trip to a local factory that creates local handicrafts.

* Vietnamese Dong $VND20,000 = $US1

The local factory creates beautiful handicrafts. Most of the workers are people with disabilities, so I guess buying from this shop benefits them.
Since Vietnam is our first destination, we decided to buy only a small item that we can easily carry.

Ho Chi Min is also a bargain hunter’s paradise.  Visit the Ban Than Market in District 1 and see for yourself an astonishing array of anything and everything.  A word of advise though, if you are not sure to buy any, do not make an eye contact.  You would not want to piss them off. Generally, the vendors would quote high prices for their product as a buffer for the discount you wish to have.

The streets are still chaotic even at night. Again, observe precautionary measures even just crossing the streets.

Strolling at night is relatively safe but just make sure to cross the streets well and keep your personal belongings. Hold on to your cameras, wallets and electronic gadgets when near the roads, better keep them out of sight.  They can easily be snatched.

Parks are well-lit and there are many people doing their early evening walks, jogs and various exercises

Restaurants near Ban Than Market and the District 1 offers an array of authentic Vietnamese cuisine if you are up for it.  But one of the best ways to enjoy dinner especially if you are there only for a night is to try the Dinner Cruise along the Saigon River.  It’s fun, relaxing, the food is good and the cultural shows are really entertaining.  Dinner costs around $US 14.

On board the River Cruise
get on board one of this and have a fun night in Saigon.
Ho Chi Min glitters at night

Ho Chi Minh city is a tourist-friendly destination.  Approach the many travel agencies in the main tourist area for information; they communicate in English well.  Be wary and vigilant to people who offer just about anything.  There are many places to stay in Ho Chi Minh depending on your budget. You may get other information from your hotel’s concierge or the front desk.

To go to Cambodia, book either a night or a day bus for around $22-$24 depending on the company.  I highly recommend the Mekong Express.  A night bus saves you an overnight stay in a hotel while you’d definitely enjoy the country side on a day trip.  Either way is worth it.

I’ve crossed the Vietnam-Cambodian border on my next post.

Happy Halloween

It is the night before November 1, All Saint’s Day. It is an important holiday here in the Philippines.  This is the day when everyone remembers their departed loved ones by visiting them in their resting place. Millions of Filipinos travel to distant provinces and islands to celebrate or commemorate.  It’s a long weekend too so I bet everybody will enjoy their long vacations.

Though I’d definitely just stay home this year and light several candles for my father, grandfather and many others whom I love dearly; I just had enough of all the scary stuff being shown on TV from the cable networks to the local channels.

Seriously, I get it and since the start of this week the horror movies come one after the other.  Though I can’t say I did not like them (horror movies) and all that but I just really have to take a break and lighten things up with these photos of Halloween in the largest Theme Park in South Korea, The Everland.

This is perhaps the scariest I can go, yup, seriously.

This is the nearest I get close a dead tree with Casper above me.
If catching ghost is this easy, I’d definitely recommend it to the ‘Ghost busters’.
Want some pumpkin?
Pumpkin Soup anyone?
Now that’s really scary 🙂

Happy Halloween everyone, now who’s ready for a trick or treat?

Adventure in Southeast Asia

I embarked on a 12-day solo adventure in 5 southeast Asian countries exactly a year ago. It has been  the most adventurous travel escapade I had until now.

Unlike last year where I can hop-on and off from buses, running trains and sorts with ease; this time, I get to travel with my 62-year old mom, my best friend, closest friends and their families. All ten of us experienced an exhausting but fulfilling 9-day adventure trip in Southeast Asia.

After several days of thrilling fun and adventure we made it to Singapore.

We traveled more than 2,000 kilometers on land from Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam then crossing the entire Cambodia nation with a two-nights stop in Siem Reap.  Crossed the border to Bangkok in Thailand for a night and then rented a van to Penang in Malaysia.  An overnight bus to Singapore concluded our trip with an awesome escapade in Singapore.

Welcome to Vietnam, the Motorbike Capital of the World, and so it seem.
One has must cross the streets of Saigon with care. The motorbike drivers are the kings and queens of the road !
Ho Chi Min formerly Saigon is the historical hub of Vietnam. Make sure to visit the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels where the Vietnamese dig an enormous underground tunnel system to win the battle against the America.
Our historical guide (seated) claimed that he was a Vietnamese solider. The stories he told based from personal experience.
A relaxing river cruise along the Saigon River kept us busy while waiting for the bus to Cambodia. Saigon’s skyline glitters at night.

The trip consisted sleeping in buses and vans and getting caught in horrendous 9-hours queue to cross the 10-minute ferry ride across the Mekong river. We experienced first hand together with all the tourists on board our bus to bribe a traffic officer to help hasten our ferry ride to no avail.

This is the queue to cross the Mekong River, it was several kilometers long and kept us 9 hours behind schedule. The long weekend and the burial ceremony of the King of Cambodia made traffic in the key areas of Cambodia terrible.

Crossing international borders were not as smooth too as it was last year because of the surge of tourists to Thailand and a looming long weekend due to national holidays.

Siem Reap in Cambodia is home to the World Famous Angkor Wats

My mom and friend’s dream to cross the southern Thailand peninsula to Malaysia did not happen since outbound trains from Bangkok to anywhere are all fully booked.  We experienced to eat exotic (super spicy) street foods and practically dining in street corners and market stalls.  We slept in dormitories and hostels much to my mom’s shock and surprise since she had to share a room with a total stranger.  We experienced running while pulling and carrying our luggage that gets heavier after every major stop in a city.  And we endured the driving ability of a Thai man trying his best not to fall asleep to reach Malaysia in an overnight 12-hours ordeal. And to top it all, language barrier did not do much of course to ease our desire for a wonderful escapade, in fact it made it all the more challenging.

The best way to indulge in Thai cuisine is to dine in at the many food stalls found around the Grand Palace , like this one.
This is a must see in Thailand along with many other Wat and palaces in Bangkok.
If shopping is your deal, Bangkok’s Chatuchak market definitely got it all.
A short stop over to the historical Georgetown in Penang Malaysia became our gateway to Singapore.

After what seem like forever but truly an adventurous one, we made it to Singapore with a grand accommodation in a friend’s posh condominium and a big celebration in Singapore’s Universal Studios.  My mom and friends especially those who traveled for the first time abroad thrilled and surely will never forget our ordeal in an adventure to Southeast Asia.

The Marina Bay Sands
At the Merlion Park
A wonderful and fun night at Sentosa.

To cap the entire SEA trip, my mom and I enjoyed the rides at Universal Studios in Singapore.

I will soon post a per country escapade of our Southeast Asian adventure.

Un Jour Parfait à Paris

What to do when in you are in the most romantic city in the world?

How to spend a day at the City of your dreams?

How can you make a visit to Paris perfect enough to reminisce until the day you see it again?

Anyway you spend a day wherever you are will be just right for as long as you are having fun. Here’s how to make a day in Paris perfect.

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Indeed, it was un jour parfait !