Drinking beer in Myanmar usually happens at a beer garden. The Burmese head there when the sun goes down, ordering draft beers and BBQ or fried foods. The atmosphere is exciting. People are happy and sociable. Cigarette girls come around trying to sell packs of smokes. Kissing noises are heard, but only to attract the waiters. Premier League football is often playing on the TV, with the Burmese locals cheering on their favorite English team.
If you’re in Saigon and you need a break from the ‘beep’ or the ‘beeep beeeep!’, then a trip to Mui Ne is my suggestion to you. It’s a cheap bus ride from the backpacker district and there are plenty of hotels and resort where you can sit by the pool or the ocean and just relax. There’s also a few sights to see around the area. We rented a scooter and cruised around, stopping to see the amazing Fairy Stream. The seafood in Mui Ne is great. We spent far too much time throwing entire once-living creatures down our gullets. For lots more information about traveling to Mui Ne on the cheap, check out my guide to Mui Ne, Vietnam.
In this episode of Exploring Vietnam, I investigate the Mekong Delta and its oh-so-fertile lands. The Delta is responsible for 40% of Vietnam’s food. It’s a very important place that is often over-looked by tourists. From Can Tho, I visit the local market, take a bicycle ride around farm land, and tour the floating market of Cai Rang. Learn about the popular fish of the area, see the area’s fruit growing in orchards, rice paddy fields, and of course the craziness of the floating market. The Mekong Delta is my favorite place in Vietnam. If you make it to the country, don’t skip this miraculous area.
If you’re visiting the ancient trading port of Hoi An, you should also consider a visit to the Cham Islands, a group of eight islands in the South China Sea, 19 kilometers off the coast of Hoi An. They are apart of the UNESCO Cu Lao Cham – Hoi An Biosphere Reserve, which includes Hoi An, the islands, and the waters around them. This made the islands a popular tourist location… and basically screwed them. Pollution levels went up, fish populations went down, and the islands were built on with almost no regard for the natural beauty. The UNESCO money wasn’t spent on protecting the islands, but making them into a money generator. There are a few activities that might interest you: SCUBA diving, snorkeling, camping on the beach, etc. That being said, you’ll want to choose method of visiting wisely. I went on a tour with a local company. Here’s how that went:
The 21 km mountain pass that cuts through the Annamite Mountain range, is widely considered the best road in Vietnam. Whether you are in a car or on a motorbike, you’ll experience curves that make your heart beat faster as you drive past beautiful scenes, including the South China Sea from 1500 feet up.
Pangkor Island can easily be reached from Puduraya bus station in Kuala Lumpur. You can catch one of the many buses (20-28 ringgit, 3.5-4 hrs) that leave in the morning (from about 7AM-2PM) to Lumut. At the Lumut bus station, it’s a short walk to the ferry terminal where you can grab one of the frequently running boats to Pulau Pangkor, or Pangkor Island.
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).
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 Story – Vung Tau, Vietnam
If you’re looking for a short vacation while in Ho Chi Minh City, Vung Tau will hook you up with that sweet sweet ocean noise. It’s the closest beach town to Saigon, so it’s popular but certainly wasn’t busy when we went on a Monday/Tuesday. The city is on a peninsula and it feels very Miami Vice.
Every year Toronto’s exhibition grounds holds the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, one of the largest agricultural fairs in the country. It started way back in 1922, and has since expanded with an average of 320,000 people attending every year. Vendors come from across Canada bringing their commodities, whether it be produce or animals. Sara and I mainly went for the latter – seeing, petting, learning, and eating our way through the barnyard animals (and some not so barnyard… kangaroo is delicious). There are plenty of family friendly activities and some exclusively for adults (beer and wine anyone?).
Where: 39 Manitoba Dr, Toronto, Ontario, Canada
When: Every year for 2 weeks in November
More info: The Royal
When I saw a deal on bus tickets to Philly – $20 each roundtrip – I jumped on them. I probably should have crunched some numbers first, but every time I tried the only number I could think of was 20.
We only had a weekend, so this was a short trip with a ton of bus time. If you don’t count sleeping, we spent about the same amount of hours on the bus as we did in Philly. Not ideal, but still worth the effort. Megabus was comfy and inexpensive. We managed to get the front seats on the upper deck, so we had a great view and lots of leg room.
Philadelphia is a really cool city. If you are going to travel around America, your stop in Philly will be your history class. Watch the video for more information and to see Sara rap.
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.