We made a break for Taytay, hoping to escape the mass tourism and expensive prices of El Nido. We took Roro Bus for P138/$3.20 from El Nido Roro Bus Terminal. The bus was air-conditioned and left at 10am. It was a quick ride to Taytay: only an hour and a half. We took a tricycle to Casa Rosa Pension (our review here) for P50/$1.20. We scored a basic bamboo fan hut with a shared bathroom for P500/$12. The view from the restaurant was beautiful: definitely worth the climb.
We hopped on a jeepney in Port Barton bound for Roxas which is the transfer point for onward travel to El Nido. On our jeepney were 17 people and two chickens. We stopped to pile a shitload of animal feed on the roof and then we were off to Roxas (with a quick stop to drop off a delivery of a shitload of animal feed).
We were informed that the jeepney to Port Barton left from Puerto Princesa‘s San Jose Terminal at 9am. We ate breakfast and took a tricycle to the terminal (P60/$1.45). When we arrived, we had a couple of buses to choose from. We were excited at the prospect of taking our first jeepney, but the buses were a lot bigger and more comfortable so we took the 9:30am bus to Port Barton (P200/$4.80, about 4 hours). Before the bus pulled out of the station, a large Filipino man read some bible verses for us and prayed for our souls (and asked us for a donation for the privilege). We were off! [Cue the obligatory dance music]
We flew from Ho Chi Minh City to Manila, cleared customs with our bags, and continued on to Puerto Princesa City on the island of Palawan. We chose to spend two weeks in Palawan to relax on some white sand beaches and do some island hopping. By the time we arrived at Puerto Princesa International Airport, we hadn’t slept for 24 hours. We had booked an airport pickup and a couple of nights with Dallas Inn (P600/$14.40 double bed room with private bathroom, P300/$7.20 per person for dorm). We exited the airport and scoured the pickup drivers for our name on a board. No luck. Our flight had arrived late and we didn’t feel like waiting around for who knows how long, so we jumped on a tricycle for 50 pesos/$1.20. When we arrived at the guest house, they told us that someone had been sent to pick us up. Not really sure what happened there. Aside from the airport pickup debacle, Dallas Inn is arguably the best backpacker accommodation in Puerto Princesa (make sure you book ahead).
The Story – Can Tho, Vietnam
A bus from Vinh Long (1.5 hours, 50,000d/$2.50) took us to Can Tho, our last stop in the Mekong Delta. It is the fifth largest city in Vietnam so it’s nothing to be balked at and isn’t exactly a sleepy little Mekong town.
The Story – Vinh Long, Mekong Delta, Vietnam
Coming from Ben Tre, we took Bus 8 from the bus station for a very reasonable 20,000d/$1. The bus had absolutely NO leg room. We piled our luggage on our seats next to us and hoped that no one would want to sit down there. We were lucky that Asian people never want to sit next to westerners on a bus. The bus was used for everything from cargo transport to school bus, and it appears that tickets can be bought or bartered for with pretty much anything, including motorcycle parts [disclaimer: this may or may not be true].
The Story – Ben Tre, Vietnam
We almost decided not to go to the Mekong Delta. It’s one of the places we found the most difficult to research transportation for. Even Lonely Planet’s Southeast Asia on a Shoestring suggests that the easiest (and cheapest) way to do it is to buy a tour from a travel agent in Ho Chi Minh City. This may be an easier option but the idea of spending three days on a tour bus, cramming in as many towns as possible, and eating in the prescribed restaurants is not really our scene. We decided to go at it alone.Our first stop in the Mekong Delta was Ben Tre.
Our Budget Guide to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The Story – Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam: Our First Visit
Having spent the last few weeks in the safety and comfort of Vietnamese beach resorts, we were a little nervous about venturing to Ho Chi Minh City. We pictured it as a huge, vast metropolis with billions of people milling about on their motorcycles in conical hats. We thought it would be dirty, and we thought the overpopulation of Vietnam would be felt here the most.
There are 329 beer producers in Vietnam. Sara and I would love to try all of them but we don’t have the time or the liver to spare.
Beer brand popularity widely varies from province to province. This is because there are so many breweries and the cheapest, and freshest, beer is often the one made by the closest brewery.
Ryan: A pretty clean taste. Easy to drink. Who da man? Huda da man! 6
Sara: It’s good — not too strong. I wouldn’t buy it if it weren’t cheap and plentiful here. I think the volume of the bottle is ideal. You can really taste that Danish technology. 7
The Story – Mui Ne, Vietnam
We left for Mui Ne from Nha Trang, taking a bus that we booked through our hotel. We usually book buses directly with the company to avoid the commission fee that hotels and travel agents charge, but we were having a hard time finding a bus ticket office. The only ones that we could find were sleeper buses (Sara’s worst enemy). The hotel hooked us up with Tan Hanh Travel (126,000d/$6). We found out that the bus’ ticket office is at 14A Tran Hung Dao and if we had booked directly through them, we would have only paid $5 for the ride (that’s a savings of 2 beers!).
The Mekong Delta provides many treats to a traveller: the abundance of river waters, the friendly people, the less-touristy cities, and the freshly grown tropical fruits. We decided to indulge in the latter. If you enjoy this article and want to learn more about Vietnam’s amazing food, we recommend checking out Vietnamenu: A Food Lover’s Travel Guide to Vietnam