TRAVELOCITIES

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AUTHOR

EK Encarnacion, half-panda, half-polar bear, is a licensed chemist who dreams of making it big as a writer, chef and restaurateur, theater actor, and a traveling TV host. He dreams of traveling around the Philippines and around the world.

Like this blogger's Facebook Fan Page: EK Encarnacion Facebook Fan Page and/or follow him on Twitter: EK Encarnacion Twitter Page , and get up close and personal, and be updated with his newest blog entries.

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Travelocities is a blog that focuses on the adventures and thrills of traveling to new places. Travelocities is certified Pinoy blog. For a list of more Pinoy blogs, visit: Blogs ng Pinoy and Blog Directory for the Philippines

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Travelocities by EK Encarnacion is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.
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7:19 PM
December 10th, 2010

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 5): On Being Left Hanging

By: EK Encarnacion

After a kilometer of clothing boutiques and restaurants, my mom and I reached the end of Dong Khoi Street where we were greeted by the flowing Saigon River.

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – SAIGON RIVER

Like most rivers in Asia (and perhaps in the world as a whole), the beauty of the Saigon River has faded thanks to the mismanaged progression of urbanization which is fuelled by the overgrowing human population. Mainly used as water supply and for transport of cargoes in and out of the country, the Saigon River is starting to become polluted (which later may result to its eventual non-usefulness) by residential and commercial wastes, loose sediments from the river banks, branches and twigs from nearby trees, and oil spills from crossing boats.

By the Saigon River (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

My mom and I took a few photographs near the port and went back to our tintins to finally end the tour. We silently made our way through Ham Nghi Street—no picture-taking: just me, my mom, our tintin drivers and the rest of Ho Chi Minh.

Inh and his friend dropped my mom and I back to our starting point, 23/9 Park. I got two 5 US$ to pay Inh and his friend for their services. My mom and I were about to turn away when Inh pulled my lower arm and said, “Not 5 US$, 10 US$.” I said, “Yeah, 10 US$ for the both of you. That was our deal a while ago—5 US$ each,” while removing his grip from my wrist. Inh started raising his voice, “But I worked hard! I sweated. I pedalled the tintin. Give us 10 US$ each!” I told him calmly, “I’m sorry but that wasn’t the deal we had.” My mom and I managed to gain a step away but Inh and his friend hastily slid in front of us. “Not 5 US$, 10 US$” he repeated. I was infuriated. I angrily retold him how we ended our deal earlier this morning. But it seemed that all the words coming from my mouth were falling into deaf ears. He kept making reasons—even changing statements every so often. The four of us verbally quarrelled for some time until my mom and I noticed that we were inviting the attention of nearby locals. And then I thought hard. There was no written proof of our deal. It would be difficult to convince other people to side with us—we’re foreigners in the country. My mom and I were standing on another territory. And our bus for Phnom Penh, Cambodia will be leaving in an hour. I furiously pulled two more 5 US$ from my wallet. Honestly, I would have punched the two of them right in their faces for being painfully annoying and for not keeping their promise. But I wasn’t raise to knock people’s jaws. As my mom and I walked away from Inh and his friend, and their tintins; I told myself that I would be including this story of untrustworthiness—not to ruin the image of the Vietnamese people but rather to warn other tourists about such delinquents lurking and giving dishonour to good societies.

Inh (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

My mom and I headed to Ben Thanh Market located across the roundabout to purchase a few pasalubongs to bring with us back home in the Philippines.

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – BEN THANH MARKET

Ben Thanh Market is perhaps the most popular marketplace in downtown Ho Chi Minh. It is a structure that has withstood the test of time and continues to symbolize the humble economy of Vietnam. It is a must-visit site for tourists who would like to bring home a piece of Vietnamese culture including: local handicrafts, beautifully-woven textiles, and souvenirs of varying sizes. It is also home to a few food stalls that offers a bite of real Vietnamese cuisine.

Ben Thanh Market (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Although my mom and I would like to explore the entirety of Ben Than Market, it was time to head back to our guest house, pick up or bags and pay our bill just so we can catch the schedule of our bus’ departure. Whilst carrying the items we bought, we traced back the route we walked during the earlier part of the day. Indeed our [first] Ho Chi Minh encounter was drawing to a close.

When we reached our guest house (with the pungent smell of burning incense-like odor still diffusing throughout the lobby and now reaching the hallways), we finished what needed to be done and left without delay. My mom and I entered the Sapaco Bus Terminal and coordinated with the staff, who in turn directed us towards our assigned bus. As I sat down inside the bus and looked through the window, I recalled from how Minh, our airport taxi driver, warmly welcomed us until how Inh, our tintin driver, coldly treated us. I was having a mixture of emotions coming up with a final impression of Ho Chi Minh and its people. But in the end, I realized that a short stay was not enough to judge the city and the society or, furthermore, if rating a city and its society was even rightful and plausible.

As fellow passengers entered through the bus door, I wished to go back to Ho Chi Minh sometime in the future and indulge myself with more of the beautiful things that the city and the people can offer. I know that down the depths of my mind there is more to Ho Chi Minh than what I had experienced.

And that is one of the things I hate the most: the feeling of being left hanging—the thought of something missing.

Click on the following link to read Part 4:

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 4): At the Heart of Ho Chi Minh

Click on the following link to read about EK Encarnacion’s Ho Chi Minh-Phnom Penh Bus Ride:

Ho Chi Minh-Phnom Penh Bus Ride

Flying to another country from the Philippines? Learn how to make your way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by clicking on the following link:

Making Your Way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EK Encarnacion isn’t really fond of being placed in an open-ended situation. To learn more of his dislikes, visit his other blogs: Every-Comedy-Thing (life blog), Culinary Coliseum (food blog) and By God’s Grace (gratitude blog). His works are also indexed at The Filipino Diaspora, an online pool of Pinoy writers.

10:50 PM
December 9th, 2010

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 4): At the Heart of Ho Chi Minh

By: EK Encarnacion

Inh and his friend continued to tour my mom and I around the city. We fearlessly crossed several major road intersections—squishing our way between colonies of motorcycles (Yes. What else is a better way but to compare them to ants), a few cars and a bunch of humongous tourist buses. And after a blood-rushing ride, we made it (alive and whole—thank you God!) at Saigon Center. Our first stop was the majestic Notre Dame Basilica.

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – SAIGON NOTRE DAME BASILICA

Also referred to as the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica (Vietnamese names: Vuong Cung Thanh Duong Duc Ba Sai Gon / Na Tho Duc Ba Sai Gon) is located within the Cong Xa Paris hexagonal roundabout—overlooking Dong Khoi Street. Constructed, beautified and completed in the late 19th century (1850’s–1900’s); the cathedral was an answer to the call of having a sacred place for French colonists and Catholic-converted locals to conduct religious services. Built with materials imported from France (including oven-baked brownish-red bricks from Marseilles), the basilica stands secured on each side by two bell towers with height reaching to about 60.5 meters (including the tallness of the more recently installed crosses). A flower garden was strategically constructed in front of the cathedral with a Roman-made granite statue of the Virgin Mary humbly welcoming everyone at the path to the church’s front door. The Saigon Notre Dame Basilica is not only a place for performing religious rites but also a refuge where people can temporarily stay after a busy day at the city, spend time with loved ones and, last but certainly not the least, take beautiful photographs. And it is because of the last reason why many Vietnamese soon-to-be married couples, models, actors and actresses, and music artists visit the cathedral to do pictorials and video presentations.

 

Front View of the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Virgin Mary (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Back View of the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Side View of the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

I was actually blessed to chance upon a groom and his bride, and their photographer conducting pictorials at the side of the cathedral for the couple’s wedding album. I was so in-loved with the concept of a European-inspired background that I cannot help but capture that heart-warming split-second through the lenses of my camera. In fact, for some reason I felt envious. And not because I’m single but because I wanted a DSLR camera so badly just so I could have high-resolution pictures of unforgettable moments and settings such as what I have witnessed. But I know that eventually I will be able to afford one at the right time.

Wedding Shoot (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Another famous Vietnamese landmark, the Central Post Office, can be found a few meters from the basilica.

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – SAIGON CENTRAL POST OFFICE

The Saigon Central Post Office (Vietnamese name: Buu Dien Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh) was built in the early 20th century (1900’s-1950’s) to serve as a center for sending, receiving and distributing mails—letters and packages. Along with the Saigon Notre Dame Basilica, it is said to be another one of the remaining French contributions in the history of Vietnam. It was conceptualized and designed by acclaimed architect and engineer Gustave Eiffel; who, as the surname suggests, is the pioneer behind the construction of the famous French national landmark, the Eiffel Tower. The prevailing architectural style used throughout the Saigon Central Post Office was European Gothic.

Partial View of the Saigon Central Post Office (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

TRAVELOCITIES INFORMATION – THE LAST LETTER WRITER

Letter writers are those who offer writing services to customers who cannot compose letters on their own. The last official member of this working group was Duong Van Ngo. He has worked at the Saigon Central Post Office until February 2010.

After roaming around and taking photographs, my mom and I headed back to our tintins and traversed the length of Dong Khoi Street, an avenue that is not at all Greek to any certified shopaholic. Standing fierce and proud, the Vincom Center welcomes locals and tourists to Ho Chi Minh’s shopping district.

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – VINCOM CENTER

The Vincom Center is a towering mall overflowing with hundreds, if not thousands, of fashion stores that prove that the Vietnamese are updated to the trendiest clothes, accessories, and items circulating in the Western hemisphere. It also serves as a home to numerous food chains and restaurants that offer some of the most popular foods and beverages in the city. A portion of the building is also dedicated to operate as offices and apartments. The regular operating hours of the establishment is from 9:00 am to 10:00 pm. Click on the following link to read more about Vincom Center.

TRAVELOCITIES LINK #1

Vincom Center Website

Vincom Center (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

A short distance from Vincom Center is the Opera House.

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – SAIGON OPERA HOUSE

Also called as the Ho Chi Minh Municipal Theatre, the Saigon Opera House (Vietnamese name: Nha Hat Lon Thanh Pho Ho Chi Minh) is the third of the three European-inspired architectural inputs placed at the center of downtown Ho Chi Minh during the French colonial period. It is located near the intersection of Dong Khoi Street and Le Loi Street. Mainly designed by architect Felix Olivier and supervised by fellowmen via profession, Ernest Guichard and Eugene Ferret in the early 20th century (1900’s-1950’s); the theatre resembles the renowned Opera Garnier in Paris, France. Although the three-storey building can seat approximately 1800 individuals, in-house musical performances are rarely organized, held in its premises, and patronized by the public unlike in its European counterpart.

Saigon Opera House (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

The remaining stretch of Dong Khoi Street is lined with boutiques, dining areas and deluxe hotels. Some of which that my camera did not fail to capture includes:

Louis Vitton (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Gucci (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Milano (Photograph by EK Encarnaacion)

Levi’s (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Gloria Jeans’ Coffee (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Times Square 5-Star Hotel (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Marriage, Music and Malling. Saigon Center truly does its best to live as a metropolitan paradise for urban dwellers and visitors—a sanctuary for romance, entertainment, fashion and relaxation at the heart of Ho Chi Minh.

Click on the following link to read Part 3:

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 3): Of Wars and Woes

Click on the following link to read Part 5:

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 5): On Being Left Hanging

Flying to another country from the Philippines? Learn how to make your way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by clicking on the following link:

Making Your Way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EK Encarnacion dreams of living in a temperate region so that he can wear layers. He loves prep style but is contented with presentable semi-formal and casual attires. To learn more of his other tastes, visit his other blogs: Every-Comedy-Thing (life blog), Culinary Coliseum (food blog) and By God’s Grace (gratitude blog). His works are also indexed at the Filipino Diaspora, an online site filled with Pinoy bloggers.  

2:35 PM
December 8th, 2010

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 3): Of Wars and Woes

By: EK Encarnacion

After braving Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street and battling a thousand motorcycles, we finally made a couple of turns into narrower alleys and reached, perhaps one of the most must-sees in Ho Chi Minh, The War Remnants Museum.

The War Remnants Museum (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – THE WAR REMNANTS MUSEUM

The War Remnants Museum (Vietnamese name: Bao Tang Chung Tich Chien Tranh) is located at 28 Vo Van Tan Street at District 3. It was formerly known as The Museum of American War Crimes before the United States and Vietnam gained amity. By simply basing on the establishment’s original name, it is obvious that the museum illustrates the atrocities of American troops in Vietnam. Eight themed rooms were designed to portray various aspects of the war. Gruesome photographs such as tanks dragging bodies through the streets, American soldiers apparently water-torturing a Vietnamese fighter, an American M16 rifle pointed against a civilian woman’s head, bodies laying on puddles of blood, heads of dead Vietnamese with American soldiers at the background, and distorted bodies due to exposure and contact with Agent Orange, Napalm and White Phosphorus contribute in creating a spine-chilling atmosphere inside the building. Along with war artifacts and artilleries; jars that contained fetuses greatly damaged by Agent Orange, tiger cages used to detain Vietnamese civilians, and a French guillotine intensify the eeriness diffusing within the museum’s premises and attest the fact that the museum is truly not for the faint-hearted. It is essential to remember, however, that the museum was created from the point of view of the Vietnamese. It is their side of the story. There have been issues and debates about displaced photographs, out-of-context quotations, inaccurate captions and other anti-American propaganda that were utilized to capture the sympathy of the viewers and eventually urge them to brand the Americans as the antagonists in the Vietnam War. Although there will always be a clash in many details of this historical event, the horrific consequences of the Vietnam War (or any war for that matter) will continue to be passed from generation to generation.

The War Remnants Museum is open daily from 7:30 am to 5:00 pm. The ticketing booth closes for a lunch break from 12:00 pm to 1:30 pm. The last admission to the museum is scheduled at 4:30 pm. The cost for the entrance fee is 15000 VND or approximately 0.75 US$.

The War Remnant Museum was one the places I was looking forward to visiting in Ho Chi Minh. But alas! Of all the possible days in the year, the museum was unavailable that day due to cleaning and/or renovations! You don’t know how disappointing it was—travelling for miles, standing at the gate, inches away from the building only to be told that no one is allowed to enter (at least for that day). You don’t know how disappointing it REALLY was. And the fact that I am being reminded of it again is giving me heartbreak.

And so my mom and I asked… (wait, let me correct that). And so my mom and I PLEADED the guard if we could just take a few photographs of the captured American chinook and tanks outside the establishment. He thought for a while (insert cricket sounds here) and finally agreed. And thank heavens he did! At least that granted close encounter with a historic military craft and terrain vehicle cheered me up a bit.

Chinook Helicopter (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

M48 Patton Tanks (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

As my mom and I got into our respective tintins, she told me that if ever we’re going to come back to Ho Chi Minh, we shall visit the museum once again and hopefully, by that time, be caught under the bone-tingling atmosphere described by those who have experienced it firsthand. Believe me, I will hold on to that promise.

Inh and his friend pedalled once more and brought my mom and I to another must-see structure in Ho Chi Minh—The Reunification Palace.

Reunification Palace (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – THE REUNIFICATION PALACE

Formerly known as the Norodom Palace (after King Norodom of Cambodia) and eventually, the Independence Palace; the Reunification Palace (Vietnamese name: Dinh Thong Nhat) is a time capsule that contains significant events in Vietnam’s history.

After France invaded South Vietnam, the first palace (Norodom Palace) built on its grounds was used by a series of French governors as their residence and office during their respective periods. When the French were defeated during World War II, the Japanese replaced them and used the palace as their headquarters. But the Japanese occupation was short; and France, being a member of the Allies, regained power and took over the whole country. The Viet Minh communists did not want invaders on their soil and persistently fought their way in North Vietnam until the French troops surrendered. The last members of the French battalion headed by General Paul Ely handed the palace to Prime Minister Ngo Dinh Diem and the entire South Vietnam to anti-communists. The following year, Ngo Dinh Diem declared himself president of the Republic Vietnam, renamed the palace (Independence Palace) and stirred a rebellion. Two pilots of the Vietnam Air Force flew planes and bombed the palace. Miraculously, the bomb dropped at the palace’s main office, where Ngo Dinh Diem was reading, did not detonate! Ngo Dinh Diem escaped the assassination attempt, ordered the wrecked palace to be demolished, commissioned a new building in its place, and transferred to Gia Long Palace (now called the Ho Chi Minh City Museum). However, a successful coup d’état caused the death of Ngo Dinh Diem even before the construction of the new palace was completed. General Nguyen Van Thieu of the military junta took over and inaugurated the new Independence Palace, where he, in due course, resided and worked. But the communists in North Vietnam thought that the time has come to unify the country and launched a full-force campaign. At 10:45 am on the 30th of April 1975, a military tank of the North Vietnamese Army crashed through the main gate of the palace and, consequently, ended the Vietnam War. The building was renamed the Reunification Palace in memory of the said historic moment.

The Reunification Palace is located at 135 Nam Ky Khoi Nghia Street at District 1. It is a palace mightily standing at the center of a 12-hectare land area bombarded at all sides by spacious gardens covered by various greeneries. The palace has a presidential office, a couple of receiving rooms and bedrooms, a basement with old radio equipment and walls covered with strategy and tactics maps, and a helicopter pad at the rooftop. Not to be missed when visiting the palace are two original Russian tanks used during the capture of the palace and parked at the lawn. The palace is open daily to visitors from 7:30 am to 4:30 pm. The ticketing booth closes for a lunch break from 11:00 am to 1:30 pm. The cost for the entrance fee is 15000 VND or approximately 0.75 US$, and is paid at the main gate. Heavy security checks are conducted. Dangerous items are confiscated. Small bags are permitted to be taken inside while large baggages are to be deposited at the security counter. The palace is also strict in implementing the “No Smoking” and “Keep off the Lawn” policies.

With all the rich history that pervades the Reunification Palace, it is a shame not to be able to enter through its gates, walk on its grounds and feel its rooms and hallways. And with that, my friends, I say to you, “shame on me.” You can start launching and throwing those tomatoes right at me. For the second time around, the establishment I wanted to go visit was unavailable for public viewing (at least for that day) due to a special visit from a VIP, whose name was not mentioned by the officer at the gate. You see, the Reunification Palace is oftentimes closed for special events and visits from prominent people. And that day, of all the 365 days in the calendar, that person, whoever he or she is, snatched my once-in-a-lifetime privilege to inhale some of those remaining historical air trapped within the palace!

There was no hope begging the officer because the palace was to be patched up before the VIP arrives. And so with all the remaining pride I have, my mom and I took a few photos at the front gate.

History Behind Bars (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Russian Tanks (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

TRAVELOCITIES TIP #1

To further indulge in Vietnamese history, there are lots of significant places that I have not visited (which hopefully I will when I get back) that you may include in your checklist. The following are:

  1. Ho Chi Minh Museum – It is an old building guarded by a peaceful garden and is located at the waterfront of 1 Nguyen Tat Thanh at District 4. It houses influential Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh’s (from whom the city was named) personal items and is a more visual reference for a basic outline of his life.
  2. The Museum of Ho Chi Minh City – Located at 65 Ly Tu Trong at District 1, it is another powerful resource for studying Vietnamese history. Confined inside its walls are communist artifacts and items related to different subjects such as religion, archaeology, and economy.  
  3. Cu Chi Tunnels – It is a network of hand-carved underground tunnels located at Cu Chi District, 55 miles northwest of central Ho Chi Minh. The narrow passages once used by Viet Cong guerrillas has been cleaned and improved to serve as an area for viewing Vietnam War exhibits, a souvenir shop, and a shooting range (1 US$ per bullet) for the entertainment of both local and foreign tourists.

The War Remnants Museum and the Reunification Palace are two of Ho Chi Minh’s most powerful memoirs of Vietnamese history. Despite being old structures in the modern world, they seem to take the past with them and allow the new generations (both natives and foreigners) to not only have a glimpse but rather have an overall feel of the pre, mid and post-Vietnam War. And I am frustrated, embarrassed but mostly, deeply sorrowed that I have failed to experience their historical potencies that day. And I pray that God wills me to have another stopover at Ho Chi Minh. And if ever it does happen, I will do my best to no longer miss the opportunity of witnessing the wars and the woes. At the bottom of my heart, I am hoping—desiring to revisit.

Yes. Someday I will.

Click on the following link to read Part 2:

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 2): Under the Green Canopy

Click on the following link to read Part 4:

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 4): At the Heart of Ho Chi Minh

Flying to another country from the Philippines? Learn how to make your way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by clicking on the following link:

Making Your Way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EK Encarnacion has experienced being inside a submarine and would love to be given the opportunity to ride a tank and a warplane. Boys and Toys as they say. To learn more of his likes, visit his other blogs: Every-Comedy-Thing (life blog), Culinary Coliseum (food blog), and By God’s Grace (gratitude blog). EK’s works are also indexed at the Filipino Diaspora.  

10:30 PM
December 7th, 2010

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 2): Under the Green Canopy

By: EK Encarnacion

If my mom and I were plants, we would have been photosynthesizing by then as the sun had been scattering its blinding rays for more than an hour already when we woke up. I got up and took a bath while she prepared a small bag to take as we tour Ho Chi Minh, and then vice versa. After getting ourselves ready; we left our large bags in the room, locked the door and headed to the reception area to surrender our room key. To my discomfort, the lobby was filled with an even MORE (note the capitalization and bolding for further stressing the point) pungent burning incense-like odor I first encountered outside the airport. I rushed outside to the streets to have a gasp of a fresher and more tolerable air. I have really nothing personal against the owner’s religious beliefs. But since he built a guest house that accommodates almost anyone, he should have at least taken into consideration the fact that not everyone could feel at home with that very overpowering (not to mention, asphyxiating) smell that is saturating his place.

 My mom and I first proceeded to the Sapaco Bus Terminal, a few meters from the inn, to purchase seats of a bus that will leave for Phnom Penh, Cambodia on the same day.

TRAVELOCITIES REMINDER #1

Sapaco is a popular bus company in Vietnam. Its main terminal in Saigon is located at District 1 at the intersection of Pham Ngu Lao Road and Do Quang Dao Street. The said terminal opens for business at around 5:30 in the morning. The schedule of departure of buses are 6:00 am, 7:00 am, 8:00 am, 9:00 am, 10:00 am, 11:30 am and 1:00 pm. Sapaco is said to be one of those that offers the cheapest modes of transportation from Saigon to Phnom Penh, Cambodia (approximately 6 hours travel) and from Saigon to Siem Reap, Cambodia (approximately 12 hours travel). The Saigon to Phnom Penh fare ranges from 11-15 US$ while the Saigon to Siem Reap fare falls within 18-22 US$.  Bus fares are dependent both on the route to be taken and the services included. The usual amenities claimed by the bus company are air-conditioning, checking of passports, usage of toilet, a wet towel, a bottle of water, immigration processing, and a rest stop. For non-ASEAN passport holders, a visa entry for Cambodia is required. The bus company also claims to handle visa processing for about 24-26 US$. Sapaco also promises tagging of checked-in luggage for security, a hand towel, and a snack. But my mom and I were certain that during our travel the company missed out on these three. Despite its appeal to budget backpackers, the bus company has also earned negative comments from a lot (and I really mean it) of dissatisfied (and some, abused) customers. My mom and I’s trip via Sapaco may be deemed as relatively good overall. However, we still have our little share of commentaries and suggestions. But that is to be featured in my blog entry regarding our bus travel from Saigon to Phnom Penh). A popular and oftentimes considered to be the most patronized and most suitable substitute for Sapaco Bus is the Mekong Express. Its fare falls on the same range as Sapaco but the services are said to be more complete thus allowing the company to receive a downpour of good reviews.

Upon arranging our ride, we then crossed a short pedestrian lane traversing Do Quang Dao Street to reach the other segment of Pham Ngu Lao Road.

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – PHAM NGU LAO ROAD

It has been said that Pham Ngu Lao Road is comparable to Thailand’s Khao San Road (to be featured in my blog entry of Bangkok, Thailand) and to the Philippines’ Baclaran, Divisoria, Quiapo and Recto. This main avenue at Pham Ngu Lao Area at District 1 is lined with stalls/stores/shops/mini markets that sell cheap items including authentic Vietnamese street food, clothes (which more often than not are either imitations or those belonging to Class A or Class B), toys, souvenirs and war memorabilia. Local restaurants, cafes and bars are also a common sight so as to provide inexpensive Vietnamese dining experiences with an additional taste of local entertainment.

Pham Ngu Lao Road (Photograph by EK Encarnacion) 

As my mom and I walked along the sidewalk of Pham Ngu Lao Road, we chanced upon lots of Vietnamese shop owners seated on small stools drinking cups of hot coffee or tea. Western tourists also dominated the area—briskly walking with their backpacks while clutching a map or two in their hands. And then there were motorcycles, a hundred (or more!) of them parked along Pham Ngu Lao Road. At the corner of my mind, I have reason to believe that the ratio of motorcycles to a resident in Ho Chi Minh is 2 is to 1. I seriously believe that we have a problem of air pollution at Ho Chi Minh (and I’m not just talking about the pungent burning incense-like odor but also of the exhaust from motorcycles!). Anyway, I honestly was expecting to bump onto a bigger and noisier crowd at Pham Ngu Lao Road. But I guess most people were just too sleepy to wake up early (although, it was kind-of late for me) in the morning.

My mom and I traversed Pham Ngu Lao Road to reach the other sidewalk and stroll under the trees of a small unnamed park. I wasn’t that much surprised to be seeing several people engaging in physical activities at the site. A lot of East and Southeast Asians (most especially those residing in the mainland) have surpassed a hundred years of existence due to regular exercise and/or movement, and intake of medical herbs and other plant extracts. There were a number of senior citizens and youngsters (but mostly senior citizens) jogging, running and/or walking. However, what really caught my attention and perhaps my most favourite park scene was a team of men, whose ages probably fall within the late thirties and early fifties, playing a game resembling the Philippines’ sipa or Malaysia’s sepak takraw. I was just so astonished at how they were able to turn the ball back and forth from one side of the court to the other at a blink of an eye. If you have watched a ping pong match before with Chinese players at both sides of the table, then the staggering speed of the ball I’m speaking of in this paragraph would be a no brainer.

The Vietnamese Version of Sipa or Sepak Takraw (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

I was also able to find a peddler wearing the traditional Vietnamese headdress called non la.

TRAVELOCITIES INFORMATION – NON LA

Non la means leaf hat. This conical headdress in Vietnam are the most noted in Southeast Asia as the Vietnamese as oppose to other nationalities are said to decorate their hats with beautifully crafted ornaments that convey love and war. And so I asked my mom to take a picture of me with the street vendor passing by on the background.

My mom and I reached the intersection of Pham Ngu Lao and Nguyen Thi Nghia and waited for a thousand motorcycles to pass before we can actually reach 23/9 Park.

Vietnamese Peddler Wearing a Non La (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION - 23/9 PARK

23/9 Park, rarely called by its actual name: 23 September Park, is one of Ho Chi Minh’s prominent parks at District 1 perhaps next to 30/4 Park (to be featured in the later portion of this entry). Although of small land area, 23/9 boasts of its relatively clean cut green flooring heavily adorned at one end with giant trees that stand inches away from and along the sidewalk of the park. The park is a relatively good place for exercising with a group, spending time with loved ones or just being alone and contemplating on things.

 

23/9 Park or 23 September Park (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Under the Green Canopy of 23/9 Park (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

TRAVELOCITIES LINK #1

Time Lapse Video of 23/9 Park

TRAVELOCITIES TIP #1

There have also been reports of undesirable activities such as gambling and prostitution happening in 23/9 regardless of the time of day. Card scams conducted by devious Vietnamese, Malaysians, Filipinos and several other Southeast Asian nationalities lure tourists into playing cards, trapping them into the complexities of the game and causing them to lose large sums of money. Prostitutes skulk around the area and offer sexual services. Fortunately, my mom and I did not encounter any of these people. I highly suggest that you always practice vigilance when strolling at unfamiliar grounds.

While my mom and I were busy taking photographs, an old man named Inh approached us and offered a tour of Ho Chi Minh via a mode of transportation called a tintin.

TRAVELOCITIES INFORMATION – TINTIN

A tintin (also called a cyclo or a cycle rickshaw) is a three-wheeled vehicle introduced in Vietnam during the French colonial period and is nowadays prevalently used in the country’s major cities such as Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi. Its population most likely tails that of motorcycles and is often a more local way (as opposed to a taxi cab) of touring specific sites around metros. The vehicle comfortably seats only one passenger while the driver pedals at the back. It appears to be a fusion between a bicycle and a tricycle or better, a creative variation of the Indonesian becak or Philippine pedicab. The advantages of a tintin over a motorcycle in viewing Ho Chi Minh are as follows: (a) the former is more stable having three wheels rather than two; (b) as a result of (a), the passenger feels a little more secure and can remove his or her grip from the side handles at any time to check on his or her bags, take photographs, or read a map; (c) the passenger is able to have a 180 degrees unhindered front view of the places as the driver is pedalling at the rear end; and (d) as a result of my environmental advocacy, a tintin is a hundred times more eco-friendly than a motorcycle (plus, the driver gets his daily dose of exercise and burns unwanted fats).

Inh offered a 10 US$/passenger tour of Ho Chi Minh’s most acclaimed landmarks. My mom and I refused because we both know that it was too much for the route and service he specified. I mean, we’d rather walk if that was the case. But he was persistent. He then offered a 5 US$/passenger tour of Ho Chi Minh. To think that the price was halved at an instant, I really made sure that all three of us understood what he just laid down in front all of us, “You mean, my mom will pay 5 US$ for her ride and I will pay 5 US$ for my ride, which makes it a total of 10 US$.” He nodded his head with gladness. Although I still believed the price could have been lowered, half the original fare wasn’t really a bad offer after all. Eventually, my mom and I agreed. Inh called his friend whose name slipped my mind. Before we took off, my mom and I did some shots while sitting on the tintin.

Me on a Tintin (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

The first destination in our roster was 30/4 Park.

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – 30/4 PARK OR TAO DAN PARK

Although logic may indicate that 30/4 is called 30 April Park, it actually isn’t. 30/4 is most commonly known as Tao Dan Park. 30/4 is apparently Ho Chi Minh’s most favourite site for practicing martial arts, camping, buying souvenir items, appreciating detailed sculptures or just aimlessly wandering alone or with a special someone. Truong Dinh Street cuts 30/4 into two separate forested areas of equal size. Dispersed throughout both green zones are towering trees that seem to reach out to the heavens.  Sculptures, park sheds and establishments are strategically placed at various locations to provide more things for the eyes to feast on. Tao Dan Park was featured in Season 15 of the hit reality TV show, Amazing Race. It was actually the site for one of the choices in a Detour. In the said task (called Child’s Play), teams had to find a kiosk named Nhiep Anh Cong vien Tao Dan Kiosque Giao Anh and transport a concrete animal statue to a nearby children’s playground, collecting five different colored balloons along the way, in order to receive the next clue.

Truong Dinh Street: The Crossing of Tao Dan Park (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Martial Arts Practice at 30/4 Park (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

 

Camping at 30/4 Park (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Pinwheels for Sale at 30/4 Park (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Sculptures at 30/4 Park (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Tao Dan Kiosk included in the 15th Season of Amazing Race (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

My mom and I enjoyed the sceneries while seated on our respective tintins. We also got down on a few chosen locations to take pictures. We took off afterwards. As Inh and his friend pedalled the tintins and took my mom and I at the intersection of Truong Dinh Street and Nguyen Thi Minh Khai Street, I cannot help but look back at the magnificent forest resting right in the middle of urban Ho Chi Minh. How I wish the Philippines was also able to preserve astounding jungles at the middle of every city in Metro Manila (not just the Eco-Park in Quezon City)—parks with lofty trees that can counter the heat effects intensified by concrete buildings and asphalted roadways.

But soon I found out that it wasn’t just the green canopies that I was envious of. 

 

Click on the following link to read Part 1:

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 1): Anh Yeu Em Miss Saigon

 

Click on the following link to read Part 3:

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 3): Of Wars and Woes

 

Flying to another country from the Philippines? Learn how to make your way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by clicking on the following link:

Making Your Way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EK Encarnacion has planted a lot of vegetable-bearing seeds during high school. But in his years of existence, the only plant he managed to grow was monggo, which can be done by a kindergarten student with his or her eyes closed. Fine! He doesn’t have a green thumb. To learn more of his inabilities, visit his blogs: Every-Comedy-Thing (life blog), Culinary Coliseum (food blog) and By God’s Grace (gratitutde blog). His works are also listed at the Pinoy group blog, The Filipino Diaspora

9:35 PM
December 6th, 2010

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 1): Anh Yeu Em Miss Saigon

By: EK Encarnacion

Aerial View of Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam at Past Midnight (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

It was about an hour past midnight when the craft landed at the Tan Son Nhat International Airport. My mom and I got our hand-carries from the overhead compartment and joined the rest of the passengers in a long slow-moving caravan out the plane and through the airport. Knowing that I am now in a non-English-speaking country, I immediately pulled out my camera and took a picture of the first Vietnamese words I’ll encounter. I honestly thought I’ll be taking a photo of the restroom. Good thing this signage came first.

Den and Chuyen Tiep Signage (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

My mom and I did a few more photo-ops at one of the airport’s hallways, waited at the area for claiming our baggage and instantly grabbed our check-ins which were restlessly lying down on the revolving conveyor belt a few minutes later.

Welcome to Ho Chi Minh City Signage (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Welcome EK Encarnacion to Ho Chi Minh City! (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

Ho Chi Minh City Welcomes Me and My Mom (Photograph by EK Encarnacion)

We then proceeded to the immigration counter to get our passports stamped (hooray! my very first mark in my new passport!). Afterwards, we made our way to the exit. Upon stepping outside, I took one large breath of Saigon air and discovered something. There was a distinct smell in the atmosphere which may be somewhat associated with mainland East Asia. I don’t know if my nose was just playing tricks on me but (really) I was able to recognize a (and I’m not really sure about this!) pungent burning incense-like odor mixed with the smell of Oriental spices and herbs. And believe me I did check if somebody was just offering prayer to the gods while partaking in a bowl of noodle soup (talk about multitasking!)—but to my surprise, there was none.

A taxi driver approached us and suggested a 12 US$ ride to Pham Ngu Lao at District 1 but my mom refused right away. I asked her why and taught me my very first lesson in Vietnam, or in travelling for that matter.

TRAVELOCITIES TIP #1

Bargain. Whenever possible, bargain. If not, determine the lowest travel fare or item price by inquiring other people who appears trustworthy. When mingling with tourists, public utility drivers and street/market/mini-mall vendors often put large amounts of additional charge on the final rate of the fare or price, which in most cases is ridiculously twice or thrice (or worst case scenario, five times) the original cost. Do not be swayed easily by the seemingly heart-warming first offer of a driver or vendor. The cost of an airport taxi ride from the Tan Son Nhat International Airport to Pham Ngu Lao Road had been known to play at around 6-7 US$ (or perhaps even lower).

TRAVELOCITIES TIP #2

Notice that the currency I used is in US$. Due to the influx of tourists from all parts of the world, Vietnamese public utility drivers and street/market/mini-mall vendors accept US$. However, it is quite advantageous to slip in a few Dongs (Vietnamese currency) in the wallet so as to pay for travel fares and item prices that cost less.

Vietnamese Dongs (Credits to Google Images for the Photograph)

After a bunch of other drivers came and proposed similar rates, a friendly taxi driver named Minh agreed to the fare that my mom and I knew. He first assisted us in loading our baggage at the back of the taxi then invited me and my mom to take our respective seats. Inside, I got the chance to have a short chitchat with and learn a few handy Vietnamese phrases from Minh who can speak English more fluently than others.

I learned that Minh has been a taxi driver for more than ten years. He has already been married to a woman who up to this very moment I still cannot recall the occupation he mentioned. Or maybe she was a housewife? Sadly, it slipped my mind. Anyhow, he (if I am not mistaken) has five daughters whom he is proud of. Although I remembered him stating that being given a son would make him even happier.

A few useful Vietnamese phrases I have extracted from Minh included:

TRAVELOCITIES TRANSLATION – VIETNAMESE

Hello, Hi, Good Morning, Good Noon, Good Afternoon, and Good Evening – Xin chao

(Notice that the Vietnamese do not differentiate the times of the day. A single phrase applies for all)

Excuse me and Sorry – Xin loi

Do you speak English? – Ban co noi tieng English?

My name is EK EncarnacionToi ten la EK Encarnacion

I am from the PhilippinesToi den tu Philippines

Where is the airport? – San bay o dau?

How do you say _____ in Vietnamese? – Ban noi _____ the nao trong tieng Viet?

How much is this? – Cai nay gia bao nhieu?

Thank You or Thanks – Cam on

Goodbye – Tam biet

I love you – Em yeu anh (directed towards males), Anh yeu em (directed towards females)

Despite the time, I was still hyped about learning Vietnamese phrases that I can use during my stay in Saigon. Unfortunately, Minh finally came to a halt and indicated that we have already reached our stop. Minh unloaded our baggage and my mom paid him in return for all his graciousness. For a weird reason, I felt sad bidding farewell to someone who I barely knew but had been very accommodating to me, my mom, and my queries. And so I asked Minh if he could give us a calling card so that my mom and I can contact him if ever we come back to Vietnam. He told me that he doesn’t have a personal number but would be giving us the contact details of his friend whom we can call and ask to direct us to him.

And after writing down the number, he drove back to the airport while my mom and I carried our bags to survey the area for open (because it was just past two in the morning!) and clean but inexpensive guest houses or inns at Pham Ngu Lao. We were actually blessed to find one that was open although the guest house wasn’t really a place I would recommend as it was small, crammed and quite non-homey. The only two important things I would praise the inn for were our room’s relatively good air-conditioning unit and the place’s nearness to the Sapaco Bus Terminal for land travel going to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, my mom and I’s second destination city.

TRAVELOCITIES DESTINATION – PHAM NGU LAO

Pham Ngu Lao, named after Vietnam’s national hero, is a famous area at District 1 and is known to be Saigon’s khu tay ba lo or backpackers’ haven. Guest houses and inns, hotels and mini hotels are scattered across the vicinity and offers the cheapest stay-in rates within the city. Pham Ngu Lao is also home to a lot of stalls/stores/shops/markets, local restaurants, cafes, and bars and thus, is also one of the busiest places around the metro especially at night. Pham Ngu Lao Road is the main street in the locale and is paralleled and intersected by other minor lanes such as Bui Vien, De Tham, and Do Quang Dao. This crisscross network of roadways creates one of the city’s well-travelled mazes that should not be an unfamiliar ground to budget-inclined and adventurous tourists alike.  

TRAVELOCITIES TIP #3

Not all guest houses or inns at Pham Ngu Lao are open at early dawn. Therefore in order to avoid what my mom and I experienced, I highly suggest that you either (a) choose a flight that will take you to Saigon somewhere during the day or (b) contact the owner or staff of your chosen guest house or inn, hotel or mini hotel beforehand so as to inform them of your arrival in case your plane is scheduled to land in Saigon at night or at dawn. The following is a list of some of the guest houses or inns, hotels and mini hotels located at Pham Ngu Lao Road and the streets parallel to and intersecting it. The prices for these guest houses or inns, hotels and mini hotels are expected to be more affordable as Pham Ngu Lao is, as mentioned earlier, a backpacker-friendly neighborhood.

Pham Ngu Lao Road

  1. Duna Hotel
  2. Elios Hotel
  3. Giant Dragon Hotel
  4. Tram Anh
  5. Vien Dong Hotel

Bui Vien Street (parallel to Pham Ngu Lao Road)

  1. An An Hotel
  2. Hai Ha Hotel
  3. Happy Inn
  4. Huong Mini Hotel
  5. Kim Hotel
  6. Le Trung Hotel
  7. Phan Lan Guest House
  8. Phi Long
  9. Phoenix Hotel
  10. Thai Nhi Mini Hotel

De Tham Street (intersecting Pham Ngu Lao Road)

  1. Hoang Linh Hotel
  2. Hong Hoa Hotel
  3. Quyen Thanh
  4. Ngoc Dang Hotel
  5. Orient Hotel
  6. Vinh Guest House

Do Quang Dao Street (intersecting Pham Ngu Lao Road)

  1. The Trinh

You may want to check on the following links to learn more (e.g. prices, amenities and reviews) of these inexpensive guest houses and inns, hotels and mini hotels at Pham Ngu Lao as well as the more pricey, more comfortable and more accessible (i.e. those that are still open even at past midnight) hotels around Central Saigon.

TRAVELOCITIES LINK #1

Travelfish (Ho Chi Minh City Guest Houses, Hotels and Resorts) Website

TRAVELOCITIES LINK #1

Agoda (Ho Chi Minh City Hotels) Website

As we settled in for a while before the sun eventually breaks into the horizon, my mom and I strongly hoped that the goodness and blessings we experienced during our ÐÊN (see the second photograph again) would continue to extend until the time we leave the city. In fact, after I lied down on the bed, I remembered Minh and how he had made a good first impression on me and my mom. As I closed my eyes and wished that the other locals we will meet during our stay are as welcoming as Minh, I joyfully whispered the words “Anh Yeu Em Miss Saigon” to myself.

But maybe I concluded too soon.

Click on the following link to read Part 2:

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon), Vietnam (Part 2): Under the Green Canopy

Flying to another country from the Philippines? Learn how to make your way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport by clicking on the following link:

Making Your Way Through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EK Encarnacion’s obsession with the reality show Amazing Race has caused him to be quite familiar with Ho Chi Minh. To learn more of his other obsessions, visit his blogs: Every-Comedy-Thing (life blog), Culinary Coliseum (food blog) and By God’s Grace (gratitude blog). His works are also indexed at one of the best online pools of Pinoy writers, The Filipino Diaspora.  

12:10 AM
December 3rd, 2010

Making Your Way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport

By: EK Encarnacion

Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Credits to Wikipedia for the Photograph)

It has been almost four and a half years since I last rode an airplane. I have already forgotten the feeling of flying at the stratosphere while gazing at the earth’s surface below through a small oval window. As I sat in our family car on our way to Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, I cannot help but be excited. Not primarily because I’ll be able to sit inside an airplane again and be attended by stewardesses, but rather because I’ll be able to visit another place—another country that is.

I really love travelling. I enjoy meeting new people from all walks of life and immersing myself in the fusion of cultures. I love experiencing new things especially those that I never or rarely encounter in my daily routine. And that night, I knew I will be able to make my dreams come true again. For that night, I will be flying to the city which was the setting of the musicale that made Lea Salonga internationally famous: Ho Chi Minh, the new Saigon.

The idea started when my mom and I learned that my godmother and cousins residing in Cambodia, to whom we are really close to, are leaving for the United States for good. That means, it will be more difficult for us to see them again knowing that flights to the U.S. are pretty much expensive as compared to flights to neighboring countries. And thus, both of us decided to immediately purchase tickets online via the Cebu Pacific website.

TRAVELOCITIES TIP #1

Cebu Pacific is the Philippines’ second flag carrier offering air travel both in and out of the country. Recently, it has become one of the most patronized airlines due to its relatively cheap flight offers and much awaited seat sales (e.g. 1 Php, 50% off and 64% off air travel) and other promos. Indeed, they are making more and more people realize that they are doing their best to live by their tagline: “It’s Time Everyone Flies.” To learn more about Cebu Pacific, click on the following link to browse through their website and subscribe to their seat sale alerts.

TRAVELOCITIES LINK #1

Cebu Pacific Website

Upon arriving at the airport, my mom and I bid farewell to my dad, walked through a metal detector (while our things underwent an X-ray scan), and went straight to the travel tax counter at the front-rightmost portion of the terminal.

TRAVELOCITIES TIP #2

As much as possible, arrive at the airport at least two hours before the scheduled departure as lines at particular counters may be extremely long, time of flights may be modified, and other unexpected problems may arise. It is better to be earlier than the plane than to miss it even by a split second.

TRAVELOCITIES REMINDER #1

A Filipino citizen leaving the country is required to pay 1632 Php (as of writing) for Philippine travel tax. This was and is not incorporated with the cost of the ticket unlike those done in other countries such as the United States.

Afterwards, my mom and I went to our designated check-in counter to confirm our tickets, present our passports, determine our allotted seats, and weigh our luggage.

TRAVELOCITIES REMINDER #2

In travelling to other Philippine provinces and most Asian countries, a person is allowed to bring small hand-carries with a combined weight of 7 kgs or less (as of writing). Hand-carries are items that can be taken inside the airplane cabin and placed inside the overhead compartment. The same person is also permitted to bring check-ins with a total weight of 15 kgs or less (as of writing). Check-ins are items that are to be deposited at the luggage counter and taken into the baggage area inside the airplane (away from the sight of the owner). Other weight requirements apply for non-Asian countries.  

TRAVELOCITIES TIP #3

Cebu Pacific offers Go Lite promos which slashes 100 Php off the cost of the ticket when a person does not want to have check-ins. This is highly suggested for people who will only be staying at their destination cities for only a short period of time. In case of transient travellers who would be buying lots of pasalubongs or souvenirs for loved ones, it is recommended that the Go Lite promo be availed for the departure flight but not for the homebound flight as the person may be endanger of having excess baggage.

After we confirmed our tickets and passed our luggage weights, my mom and I headed to the immigration center to finish our remaining requirements. We fell in line to first pay our terminal fees and subsequently, to get ourselves cleared and validated by immigration officers.

TRAVELOCITIES REMINDER #3

Filipinos and foreigners leaving the country are required to pay 750 Php per person (as of writing) for the terminal fee. On the other hand, the terminal fee for domestic flights cost 200 Php.

Lastly, my mom and I walked through a second metal detector while our hand-carries were subjected to a final X-ray scan for security purposes.

TRAVELOCITIES REMINDER #4

Long hard objects, such as umbrellas and camera tripods, which may be used as weapons are not allowed to be part of hand-carries. Similarly, toothpastes in tubes, bars of soaps, hair waxes, lotions, and liquids and gels (e.g. alcohols, perfumes/colognes, shampoos, hand soaps and etc.) that are contained in non-transparent bottles and/or that exceed 100 ml are not permitted as they may also be used for harming other individuals or damaging airplane properties. 

TRAVELOCITIES TIP #4

To avoid delay, include all items that may be deemed as probable weapons (or as questionable for that matter) in check-ins.

 

As my mom and I headed to our assigned boarding gate, I began to feel more relaxed. At last we have reached the end of what seemed to be a labyrinth of airport responsibilities. The only thing left for us to do was to wait for the gate to open and the plane to accept passengers. While I sat at one of the seats at the waiting area, I thought of creating a blog entry about the basic airport procedures so that others who will soon be flying in or out of the country will be less troubled and more prepared.

And thus, you have this—my personal essay (and gift to you) embellished with reminders and tips on how to make your way through the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. 

  

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EK Encarnacion lost his favorite Fibrella umbrella at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. Continue following this and his other blogs and you may just find out why and how in one of his adventures: Every-Comedy-Thing (life blog), Culinary Coliseum (food blog), and By God’s Grace (gratitude blog). All his works are also indexed at The Filipino Diaspora.

11:26 PM
December 1st, 2010

Discover the World in an Instant

By: EK Encarnacion

Contrary to what most people think of me, I am NOT RICH. And no, I don’t have a Swiss bank account! What the heck is wrong with you people?! For your information, I live in a small house with one small bathroom that is probably the size of your second smallest cabinet. But enough of the convincing! Somehow I feel that at the back of your heads my explanations will only read out as “BLAH-BLAH-BLAHS.”

I actually never thought that I will be creating a travel blog. I do not have a large, if not endless, supply of moolah that I can just withdraw, take anywhere and spend until the last centavo. Second, I have only been to a few provinces in the Philippines—some of them I can’t even prove because of lack of pictures. And excluding my most recent trip, I have only been out of the country once. Third, did I already mention that I am NOT RICH?

Despite being a novice at writing, I insisted on making a travel blog because somehow I believe that this could be my way of thanking God for miraculous trips or getaways that I never thought I will experience in my whole life. Somehow I want this to be a testimony that even an average class citizen such as me can explore the wonders of this world He created.

So what makes me an eligible travel blogger? I actually have no idea! The only thing that I know is that I have a strong passion for travelling; for meeting and befriending different kinds of people; for learning new cultures, traditions and languages; for tasting various types of cuisines; and for taking risks and trying out new activities. I am willing to go the extra mile and find out what is behind our neighbourhood block; what is found in the other provinces; what is hidden at the back of the mountains or in the middle of the jungle or within the depths of the caves or underwater; what is beyond the horizon—where the sky and the sea meets.

I am nothing but an ordinary person who desires to have a glimpse of this Earth and to share it with you. Let God be the pilot and I, your travel buddy. And together we will discover countries after countries; provinces after provinces; places after places; blog entry after blog entry in one sitting. Together we will travel from one location to another at a speed that neither a jet plane nor a bullet train can surpass. Together we will discover the world in an instant.

Credits to Google Images for the photographs

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

EK Encarnacion dreams of becoming a travel show host, a job that includes extensive traveling to different places. While he is still waiting for the right opportunity, he busies himself writing for this and other blogs: (life blog) Every-Comedy-Thing, (food blog) Culinary Coliseum and (gratitude blog) By God’s Grace. His posts are also viewable at the online community, The Filipino Diaspora.