In southern Vietnam, the title for highest peak goes to an extinct volcano that is forebodingly called Black Virgin Mountain. Núi Bà Đen (which more precisely translates to ‘mountain lady black’) sits, like an upside-down mixing bowl, in Tay Ninh province — about 100 kilometers northwest of Ho Chi Minh City, and only about 30 kilometres from the Cambodian border. The cinder cone is just short of 1000 metres tall – not huge – but the flat farm fields that surround it make it impossible for the granite bulge to hide.
Thủ Dầu Một (pronounced Too Yow Mot) is about 20 km north of Ho Chi Minh City — straight up the QL13. It’s the capital of Bình Dương province. In 1996, the Vietnam Singapore Industrial Park (VSIP) was officially launched in the province. A cooperation between the two countries, the industrial park is a 500 hectare (1235 acres) industrial area that is equipped to hold over 200 manufacturing plants. They offer ready-built, modern factories that are fully equipped for foreign investors. The project brought a lot of attention to Binh Duong province. (more…)
Considering Trip Advisor rates the Củ Chi tunnels the number 2 thing to do when visiting Ho Chi Minh City, it’s ridiculous that we waited this long to see them. The 121 km tunnel system was preserved after the Vietnam War. They are one of the best ways to experience the Vietnamese side of the war, and to understand how they were able to beat one of the most powerful countries in the world.
Exploring Vietnam: Cu Chi Tunnels
There are many ways to get to the tunnels from Saigon. Most people take a tour that includes the ride there and back, a tour guide, and entrance fees. Since we only live about an hour away, we drove our scooter there. It was a nice ride that had us crossing a river by ferry, driving past rubber tree forests, and seeing some of the country-side. (more…)
There are many advantages to traveling with your spouse/boyfriend/girlfriend. Saving money is a major one. Having two brains also helps significantly. But don’t think that everything will be peachy all the time. You are going to fight — hopefully not fist fight. One of you may go a little crazy for a short period of time, and may want to throw the other one down the steps of Angkor Wat. This is not a good idea and should be avoided at all costs. Killing your partner will only make the vacation more difficult (what with the funeral arrangements and the awkward phone call to their parents). Here are my tips to avoid a relationship meltdown while travelling abroad. (more…)
When we were planning our trip to Malaysia we originally had planned a stop or two between the island of Pangkor and the state of Penang. Knowing that we’d have to take 2 boat trips and a bus, we thought it would be too much in one day. Of course, plans change when you’re traveling, and we ended up having to go all the way to Penang in one, fairly easy, fairly short day. Here’s the best way to get from Pulau Pangkor to Penang (and also the cheapest). (more…)
Ask anyone what the highlight of their Vietnam trip was and the majority of the time you’ll get the answer “Halong Bay” — gorgeous limestone karsts jetting up from picture perfect grottos. It’s hard not to love it. But of course, an attraction like that comes at a cost. The tours can be expensive (as far as Vietnam goes), and of course they’re filled with our greatest rivals, tourists. To save money and add adventure, we recommend seeing Ha Long Bay via Cat Ba Island, the UNESCO Heritage island that’s filled with beauty and attractions. To read about how you can do it visit: Cat Ba Island: An Alternate Route to Halong Bay, and to see what you are missing/what’s in your future, watch the video below.
It’s easy to take a bus from Kuala Lumpur to the Cameron Highlands (4.5 hours), or Penang (about 4 hours) buzzing right past Ipoh like it was a solicitor on a sidewalk, but don’t underestimate the 4th largest city in Malaysia. I know, the name Ipoh looks like it’s an acronym for something boring — International Party of Humdrum or something, but it actually gets its name from a tree. Yes, trees are boring too, but this particular tree, the Pokok Ipoh, is notorious for killing people. It’s sap is highly poisonous and was used by indigenous people to coat the tips of their darts for general killing purposes. The Chinese have a saying about the tree that translates to: “Seven up, eight down, nine no life”. It means that if someone is poisoned by it they’ll only be able to take seven steps uphill, eight steps downhill, or nine steps on level ground before falling to their death. Yeah man, Ipoh is bad-ass. (more…)
When I first arrived in Malaysia at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport, I headed straight to the KLIA Ekspres train. The 28 minute non-stop train to KL Sentral. I bought my ticket — 35 MYR (about $10). It’s not a bad price considering it’s a non-stop ride on a nice train, but this is a budget travel site. Also, when I got off the train at KL Sentral, I realized that for the area I wanted to go to, around Pettaling Street, I’d have to take another train plus walk for 10 minutes, or to grab a taxi. There had to be a better way. Of course, there was.
Star Shuttle has been offering buses to and from the Kuala Lumpur International Airport since 2007. They run about 42 trips per day. That’s pretty much a bus every half hour (no services between midnight and 3AM). You can check out the schedule here. The cost of the trip is 12 MYR ($3.23 USD). The best part is, they drop you off outside of Puduraya station, about a 5 minute walk to Pettaling Street and my budget hotel of choice in Kuala Lumpur Mayview Glory Hotel. The total time on the bus is about 1 hour and 30 minutes, but it’s a nice easy ride and the buses are rarely full.
If you are coming from the airport, you can buy your ticket at KLIA or KLIA2 (see location of ticket offices here), or you can buy the tickets online.
If you are heading to the airport (either KLIA or KLIA2), it’s possible to buy the tickets at the location where the bus picks you up. The bus stop is across the road from the McDonald’s in Chinatown at 55 Jalan Silang. You’ll see a couple of guys sitting at a table.
A convenient location and an extremely fair price. Skip the KLIA Ekspres train and hop on the Star Shuttle bus.
The best advice I have about getting your Vietnam visa in Kuala Lumpur is: don’t do it if you don’t have to. Vietnam now permits visas on arrival if you are flying into Ho Chi Minh City, Hanoi, or Danang via an international flight. You simply find an agent to get you a letter of approval (Google ‘Vietnam visa on arrival’ and you’ll find a bunch of companies to choose from), print out the letter, and bring it (along with the visa fee in USD cash, your passport, a completed copy of the Entry and Exit form, and one passport size photo) to the “Landing Visa” counter when you arrive in Vietnam. The cost depends on what type of visa you get – $45 for a one month or 3 month single entry visa, $65 for a less than 30 day multi-entry, $95 for a 30 day or more multi-entry. On top of that you’ll have to pay the visa agent… usually about $10. The only downside is, there may be a long wait at the airport. Some people get through in 15 minutes, for others it takes an hour. It all depends on how many people are doing it, and what airport you go to (HCMC is busier and will take longer).
So far, this article has been a little off-topic. If you need to get your Vietnamese visa in Kuala Lumpur it costs more, and requires a couple trips to the Vietnamese embassy, but here’s how to do it: (more…)