Category Archives: Activities

The Discovery Caves Tour in Phong Nha

I had read that the caves in Phong Nha were a must see when traveling through the mountainous region in Vietnam. I asked our hotel what tours they recommended to see the different cave networks and they recommended a tour through Discovery Tours. Discovery Tours had a tour package that would take us to the Botanical Gardens, Paradise Cave, and the Dark Cave. It included hotel pickup, entrance fees, an english speaking guide, lunch at the Dark Cave Restaurant, zip-lining, kayaking, and a mud bath in Dark Cave. To top that off, at the end of the tour you receive a free complimentary cocktail. The tour cost Lisa and  I 2,781,000d ($122 USD) for the whole package. Discovery Tours would pick us up from our hotel at 7:30 and return us to our hotel at 16:00 making the tour roughly six hours long.

Check out our YouTube post on our Discovery Caves Tour Here.

What To Bring

-A swimsuit
-Change of Clothes
-A towel
-Waterproof Camera with floatation attachment (Our tour guide informed us that we wouldn’t be allowed to bring our camera into the dark cave unless it had those two features).
-Comfortable Hiking Shoes

The Botanical Gardens

The tour van picked us up from our hotel around 7:30, just late enough that we could still catch breakfast. After rounding up the other tour guests from their respected hotels, we headed north to our first destination; the Botanical Gardens. The Botanical Gardens offered us a glimpse of the wild life that inhabited Phong Nha. They had a monkey enclosure that provided refuge for local monkeys and protected them from poachers. We were allowed to feed the monkeys fruits that were offered at the general store. Lisa had saved a banana from breakfast and gave it to the eagerly awaiting monkeys. They were stoked for their treat! After viewing the monkey inclosure, our guide took us through a nature trail that cut through  deeper into the forest. On the trail, we encountered wooden bridges, streams, and tons of lush vegetation. Watch your step though! Due to the streams and vegetation it was easy to lose your footing or trip on a root. The trail ended at a scenic point that overlooked a beautiful waterfall cascading into the forest below. The whole tour lasted maybe twenty minutes total, making it short and sweet.

Paradise Cave

Stalagmite in Paradise Cave
Checking out a massive stalagmite in Paradise Cave.

Paradise Cave Pass

Our pass to enter the Paradise Cave.

The next stop on the tour was the Paradise Cave, one of the longest caves in the world. The cave from start to finish is a total of 31.4 kilometers, but the tour only  allowed access to the first kilometer from the entrance of the cave. The stairs leading up to the entrance of the cave was a journey and a half. It took about fifteen minutes for Lisa and I to scale the stairs to get to the front entrance of the cave.. We were allowed one hour and fifteen minutes to explore the cave, which our guide told us was more than enough time to walk the entire length and back. Entering the cave, we descended down a wooden walkway to the floor of the cave which is lined with lights illuminating the vast cavern. The sight was truly one to behold! Enormous stalagmites rose from the cavern that looked other worldly. The only thing to match the size of the stalagmites were the daunting stalactites that converged down from the cave ceiling. What caught my eyes though were the shallow pools surrounding some of the stalagmites that were so calm they acted like mirrors on the cave floor. It took Lisa and I about forty five minutes to walk through the entire cavern, and that included us stopping and taking pictures.

Dark Cave

The Dark Cave was our third and final stop of the tour. The shuttle dropped us off in front of the Dark Cave restaurant, where we had our complimentary lunch that was included in the tour. There our tour group was divided into two tables; one dedicated for vegetarians. Servers placed one large serving tray on each table that had enough food to serve 6+ people! The tray included fried pork, grilled chicken, BBQ pork ribs, long white noodles, an array of fruits and vegetables, noodles, white rice and sticky rice. Between the six of us at our table, there was still a ton of food left over.

Lunch at Dark Cave
The food they served us at the Dark Cave restaurant was simply amazing.

After lunch, we had the option of either kayaking to the cave entrance or zipline to it. I opted to zipline, because why not? Lisa and I changed into our swimsuits and put our bags back on the van. Once everyone was changed into swimsuit attire, our tour guide then took us to an area where we signed health wavers and got fitted with life vests, helmets, and zipline girdles. There we also had an option to buy a little foam floatation device for 10,000d that we could attach to our waterproof cameras ( they wouldn’t allow us to take our cameras in without one). Once we were all geared up we walked over to a tower by the Dark Cave Restaurant where we would take the zipline to the Dark Cave Entrance. The zipline is 400 meters long and 20 meters at its highest and, according to our guide, is the longest zipline in all of Vietnam. This was my very first zipline ever so I was nervous as hell walking up to it. When my turn came to strap in I took a deep breath, lifted my feet, and held on for dear life. The view was l breathtaking (literally and figuratively) as I zipped down over the river. Coming to a sudden stop at the bottom, I joined Lisa and the rest of the tour group.

Zip line at Dark Cave
I had such an amazing experience zip lining to the Dark Cave!

There was a wooden walkway just like the one we saw at Paradise Cave that we followed into the Dark Cave. We were instructed to turn on our headlamps and walk cautiously on the walkway. The water from the river had made the walkway so slippery that I was surprised that I didn’t eat it at certain points. The walkway ended just inside the mouth of the cave and we had to wade through water which ranged from knee to ankle deep. About 20 meters into the cave we were solely reliant on the light from our headlamps to see. Eventually we made our way to the back of the cave where we were lead by our guide through a narrow crevice on the cave wall. Be careful when walking through the crevice for there are rocks that protrude sharply from the ground. I learned the hard way when I stubbed my toe on one while I was taking a video. The crevice opened up into a small cavern that was filled with mud (this is the mud bath advertised in the tour). The mud isn’t thick like you would think and makes you very buoyant to the point where you can just lay on your back and float. We returned to the main cavern where our tour guide enticed us to slide down a slope into the water of the cave. I should’ve learned not to do that when I witnessed Lisa going down first and almost flew off the slope. It was fun, but left a bruise or two on my butt. In the water we washed off all the excess mud and dirt from the mud bath and headed to the mouth of the cave.

Dark Cave
Finding fun in the depths of Dark Cave.

When we exited the cave we were given kayaks to take back to the landing by the Dark Cave Restaurant. Our guide said we could swim back if we wanted to, but after the long day we opted for the kayak. At the landing most of us just hung out and swam in the river. They also had a small zipline that tour guests can use to jump into the river.  Once everyone had their fill of the river we went back to the restaurant to have our complimentary cocktail. Lisa and I talked with the other guests about the tour while we sipped on our rum and cokes. Definitely a great way to end a long day of exploring caves. When the rum bottles ran dry, we loaded up into our tour van and headed back into town.

The whole experience was amazing and I would definitely do it again. It was fun feeding the monkeys at the Botanical Garden and we learned a lot about the wildlife in Phong Nha from our tour guide. The breaktaking views of the cavern in Paradise Cave left us in awe as we snapped off picture after picture. The Dark Cave was definitely the highlight of the tour with the zipline, kayaking, and the plunge into the depths of the cave itself.

For more travel tips of Vietnam, check out my other posts Things to Know Before Traveling to Vietnam, How to Apply for a Vietnam VISA

Jaipur, the Pink City

Jaipur, also known as the Pink City, is the largest city in the state of Rajasthan. Jaipur gets its nickname due to the architecture having a pink hue. Nowadays, the buildings in the city have more of a salmon color due to sun damage. Some of India’s well known landmarks such as the Hawa Mahal can be found in Jaipur. While visiting the Pink City of Jaipur, Lisa and I explored these amazing places.

Hawa Mahal

Hawa Mahal
The pink beehive structure of the Hawa Mahal is nothing short of magnificent.

The first thing we wanted to check out was the beautiful Hawa Mahal. You can’t look up Jaipur without coming across a picture of the majestic pink structure. Built in 1799, the Hawa Mahal was constructed of red sandstone with over 950 small windows called Jharokhas. The reason for the Jharokhas was to allow the royal women to view the festivities of the streets below without being seen. If you wish to enter the Hawa Mahal, the entrance fee is 200 rupees for foreigners and 50 rupees for Indian visitors.

Travel Tip:

To get the best view of the Hawa Mahal go check out the Wind View Cafe which is located just across the street. There you can get incredible pictures of the Hawa Mahal from the rooftop cafe.

Galta-Ji Temple (Monkey Temple)

Located on the outskirts of Jaipur, the Galta-Ji Temple (also known as the Monkey Temple), rests within a crevice among the hills. The Galta-Ji Temple is well for its large population of rhesus macaques and langur monkeys which is why people have given it the nickname Monkey Temple. Keep in mind, the monkeys at the temple are WILD so please approach with caution. The Galta-Ji Temple is also known for its natural spring that fills seven large pools called kunds. Hindu’s from all over travel to Galtai-Ji to bathe in these kunds to cleanse their souls.

rhesus macaque
I somehow managed to get a rhesus macaque to chill with me.

Travel Tip:

When visiting the Galta-Ji Temple, be sure to enter on the Western Side. That way, you can also visit the Sun Temple and get a panoramic view of Jaipur.

The City Palace

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If you love learning about history then you better head to the City Palace located in central Jaipur. The City Palace hosts a marvelous museum that displays historical artifacts from previous eras as well as well maintained art pieces. There is an artisan section of the palace where you can purchase handmade crafts from vendors selling anything from jewelry to one-of-a-kind paintings. The City Palace still houses the Royal Family of Jaipur therefore some of the areas in the palace are restricted to visitors. The entrance fee for foreigners is 500 rupees and 190 rupees for Indian visitors.

If you like this post, check out my other posts about India Within the Walls of Agra Fort  Camel Safari in PushkarWhat to Expect When Traveling to India, and Common Scams in India.  

 

Within the Walls of the Agra Fort

Lisa and I visited the old Indian capital of Agra to see the infamous Taj Mahal. The only problem though, is that the Taj Mahal is closed every Friday. Guess what day we happened to be there? Yep, it was Friday. And of course we had a train to catch that evening so we weren’t able to extend our stay. Feeling a little down, we wanted to make use of our time in Agra and decided to see the famed Agra Fort where Indian royalty once called home.

Amar Singh Gate
The Amar Singh Gate Entrance.

The Agra Fort is an immense fortress that over looks the city of Agra, India. Also known as the Red Fort of Agra, the Agra Fort was used as a military fortress as well as a royal palace for the emperors of the Mughal Dynasty. The third Mughal Emperor, Akbar, rebuilt the fort using red sandstone from Rajasthan and completed the remodel in 1573. From the fort you can see the great Taj Mahal looming in the distance.

Taj Mahal from Agra Fort
You can see the Taj Mahal Looming in the Distance.

In a tragic twist of fate, the Mughal Emperor Shah Jahan, (the Emperor who commissioned the construction of the Taj Mahal), was imprisoned at the Agra Fort by his third son Aurangzeb during an overthrow. From 1658 until his death in 1666, Shah Jahan could only gaze upon his beloved Taj Mahal from the confines of his cell. It is rumored that Shah Jahan was imprisoned in the tower known as Muasamman Burj which has a marble balcony that faces the Taj Mahal.

Arches in the Agra Fort
Beautiful arches within the main court of the fort.

The architecture of the fort is truly astounding. From the intricate inlay carvings to the massive sandstone walls there’s a lot to behold. Personally, I loved the decorative arches above all the hallways of the fort. Along with the sandstone, the arches made the fort truly feel like a palace.

I couldn’t believe the intricate detail of the inlays within the walls!

The entrance fee for the Agra Fort differs between foreigners and locals. For foreigners, the price of entry is 550 rupees while local price is only 40 rupees each. Be aware that camera tripods are not allowed inside the fort, but in case you happen to bring one there is a cloak room where you can store it free of charge.

The second floor of the fort had amazing views of the courtyards.

Like any touristy place, be sure you visit the fort as early as possible to avoid the big crowds as well as the heat. Bring water to stay hydrated as well as some snacks. There are guides available at the fort if you would like more in depth knowledge about the history and architecture.

More amazing sandstone.

Travel Tip:🐿

“You are now, Squirrel Girl.”

While walking around one of the gardens in the fort, I heard Lisa burst into laughter. I turned around to see her holding a squirrel in the palm of her hand! Apparently the squirrels in the fort are so use to visitors that they will just come right up to you. There are even people inside the fort that will give you food grains to place in your palm for the squirrels to eat. Just be sure to tip the guys!

Check out my post What to Expect When Traveling to India  for more travel tips!


Camel Safari in Pushkar

While Lisa and I were enjoying the wonderful village of Pushkar, we decided that we wanted to do at least one tour during our stay. The staff at our hotel recommended that we try a camel safari tour through the desert just outside the city. Lisa and I had never done that before and thought that would be a great experience. The tour agency we went through was called Pushkar Sun Dune Camel and Horse Safari. For 700 rupees each, Lisa and I opted for the sunset camel safari which was about two hours. We would be provided transportation to and from our hotel as well as an English speaking tour guide.

Getting There

Around 5:15pm a tuktuk arrived at our hotel to take us to the starting point of our camel tour. I was excited! I had never ridden a camel before or any animal of that size for that matter. Lisa and I sat on the rear of the tuktuk as it sped through the city traffic.

The Starting Point

Once we arrived at the dropoff, I could see two camels laying out in the sand near the road. The camels paid no attention to the strangers approaching them. Too preoccupied with their evening meal of grain. Even though the camels were laying down they were still massive! From floor to their head was about five feet at least and about eight feet long. Two young men approached us as we were gawking at the camels. One of them introduced himself as our tour guide and indicated that the other was his assistant. Our guide’s name is Raul, and he works for the Pushkar Sun Dune Camel and Horse Safari.

Meet the Camels

Raul introduced us to our camels one by one. The one I picked out was named Romeo and Lisa’s camel was named Jimmy. You would think that we’d get a lecture or some type of tutorial on how to ride a camel, but no. Raul asked me to hang my backpack off the front of the saddle then mount the camel. I was a bit nervous getting on my camel, especially since he(Romeo) watched me the entire time I was near him. Once I was on, Raul instructed me to lean back as much as I could. Before I could ask why, Romeo stood up back legs first which caused my body to lurch forward. Then Romeo proceeded to stand up on all fours finally leveling me out. I watched Lisa go through the same steps: Awkwardly getting on the camel, laughing as she flew forward when the camel stood up, and being completely mesmerized by being on a freakin’ camel!

The Journey

As we rode off towards the sunset, our guide Raul would serenade us with traditional Indian songs as we trudged through the desert. At one point we spotted a wild Antelope grazing on the little vegetation was found amongst the sands. Without warning, the reigns of my camel fell off and the two guides had to slowly approach my camel and attempt to put the reigns back on. I thought that at any moment my camel might take off running with me on its back! Good thing our guides were experienced and easily placed the reigns back on without any incident.

The Gypsy Stop

Towards dusk we came across a Gypsy camp where other camel tour groups had joined together. Raul informed us that this was a free stop where we could watch Gypsys’ perform traditional songs and dances. One performance I enjoyed in particular involved two Gypsy woman dancing while balancing bowls on their heads which were lit on fire!

Lisa and I watched the dancers for about fifteen minutes before we started walking around the encampment. We saw tons of other camels with intricate designs shaved into their hides. Some even had gold and silver nose rings that would compliment their heavily adorned saddles.

The Return

As the Gypsy performances came to an end, people started returning to their camels and chariots. Lisa and I found our camels and awaited for Raul and his assistant to join us before we mounted our camels and set off. The ride back to our starting point was calm and relaxing. The sunset was a glowing brilliantly behind us as the moon was illuminating our path ahead. Raul continued telling Lisa and I other facts about the desert as well as historical information about Pushkar itself.

We had reached the end of the tour at around 7:30 just as the sun had completely disappeared over the horizon. Lisa and I disembarked off our camels one by one with the assistance of Raul. Raul’s assistant grabbed two bags of grain and placed them in front of our camels. Lisa and I took a seat next to the camp and Raul offered us some hot chai tea. As we drank our chai, we watched enormous fruit bats fly over head silhouetted by the moon. Sipping chai next to camels underneath a full desert moon was just the way I wanted to spend my evening.

Once Lisa and I had finished our chai tea, Raul gave us a ride back into Pushkar and dropped us off back at our hotel. We thanked him so much for such an amazing and authentic experience.

A Wonderful Experience

Overall, the tour was amazing and definitely worth trying if you ever find yourself in Pushkar. Riding the camels through the desert was an experience by itself, but watching Gypsy performances as well as viewing the sunset on the back of a camel was truly spectacular. Next time we would want to try the overnight camel safari where we would be able to camp out in the desert!

Train Travel in Vietnam

Train in Vietnam
First train ride in Vietnam.

Taking the train in Vietnam was an amazing experience that I was fortunate to have. I had read through other blogs that taking a train allows you see the more rural parts of Vietnam that are far from the main cities. Having never taking a train before, I was intrigued by the notion and wanted to experience it for myself.
Lisa and I decided to to book the SE10 train going from Ho Chi Minh to Nha Trang as our first trip. The trip would take 7 ½ hours to complete and would take us through the rural parts of Vietnam. To get the most out of the experience we chose to take the day train so we could appreciate all the the views as we passed by. We brought two backpacks with us which we stored in the overhead storage compartments above our seats. Throughout the trip, the train would occasionally stop at other stations to pick up fellow backpackers and daily commuters on their way to work.

Where to Buy Tickets

There are a few different ways to purchase a train ticket. You can go to the local train station and purchase a physical ticket there. Go online to sites like Baolau.com, Vietnam-Railway.com, or 12go.asiaand purchase a digital ticket that you can download or print. Or you can purchase train tickets through your hostel, homestay, or hotel. Sometimes you can get a deal with your accommodation where they will arrange a car to drop you off or pick you up from the train station.

We chose Baolau.com to purchase our tickets to Nha Trang from Ho Chi Minh city. We purchased soft seats that cost 189,000VND ($8.32USD) + 10,000VND ($0.44USD) service fee. When we purchased tickets through Baolau.com we were first sent an email receipt of the tickets then had to wait a few minutes to an hour for the actual ticket to be emailed to us. Through Baolau.com we were able to download a PDF file of the train ticket onto our phones which was convenient.

Before boarding our train we took screenshots of our tickets just in case the PDF wouldn’t load and ended up using that to board the train with no problem at all. We met some other travelers who were panicking because they didn’t know if they needed a printed ticket or not, rest assured the screenshot of the ticket is more than enough.
Keep in mind that if you are unsure about something don’t hesitate to ask any employee at the train station. Through our experience the train staff are very helpful and will approach you to see if you’re ok or if you have any questions.

Overhead storage compartments.

Types of Seats

When purchasing train tickets you are given the option of what kind of seat you want. They range from hard seats, soft seats, four person berths and six person berths.
The hard seats are the cheapest option, but the least comfortable. They are wooden benches similar to the ones you would find outside of a train station.
The soft seat is a vinyl-covered seat and is one of the more comfortable of the seating options on the train.
A four-person berth is a room with two bunk beds adjacent to one another. These are used primarily for night travel and are more costly than the soft seat and hard seat option.
The six-person berth is a room with two three-person bunk beds that are adjacent to one another. The six-person berth is cheaper than the four-person berth however you are now dealing with six people sharing the same amount of space that the four-person berth would be sharing.

4 person berth sleeper cabin.

Benefits of Taking a Train

  • Amazing views of the countryside.
  • Inexpensive option for long travel.
  • By taking an overnight train you can eliminate having to find an additional accommodation for the night.
Awesome view of Vietnam’s coast from the train.

Exploring Phong Nha

 

Rice fields Phong Nha.
Rice fields in Phong Nha.

Phong Nha-Ke Bang National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its beautiful caves including the largest cave in the world, Hang Son Doong. Take a trip to Paradise Cave that’s over 31 kilometers long or explore the cavernous depths of the Dark Cave. Take a motorbike out and explore the breathtaking landscape filled with towering karsts, lush rice fields, and mesmerizing sunsets. Here is a list of things that are a must do while visiting Phong Nha.

The Botanical Gardens

The Botanical Gardens offers guests a glimpse of the wildlife that inhabit Phong Nha. There is a monkey enclosure that provides refuge for local monkeys and offers protection from poachers. You can purchase fruit from the general store there to feed the monkeys. A nature trail to the right of the monkey inclosure takes you through the forest to a beautiful waterfall that cascades down the mountain.

Paradise Cave

At the length of over 31 kilometers, Paradise Cave is one of the longest caves in the world. Most tours only allow you to view the first kilometer of the cave which is still a pretty big distance. Descend into the depths of the cave and you can see just how vast its caverns really are thanks to the well-lit wooden walkway. Enormous stalagmites rise from the floor of the cave that look otherworldly. The only thing to match the size of the stalagmites were the daunting stalactites that converged down from the cave ceiling.

Paradise Cave
Inside Paradise Cave.

Dark Cave

For those seeking an adventure go check out the Dark Cave by the Chay River. The Dark Cave can only be viewed through tours which include a 400 meter zipline from the wildlife observation to the caves entrance. For those who don’t want to zipline, kayaks are available for use to get to the cave entrance. Headlamps and other gear are provided to help guests traverse the pitch black cave. A cavern inside the cave is filled with rich mineral mud that guests are allowed to take a dip in. Afterwards jump into the river to wash off and enjoy another zipline that takes you from the landing near the Dark Cave Restaurant into the river. A trip to the Dark Cave is a must for outdoor enthusiasts!
Check out our post about the Discovery Caves Tour to read about our first hand account of seeing the Botanical Gardens, Paradise Cave, and the Dark Cave!

The Duck Stop

The Duck Stop is must-see for anyone traveling to Phong Nha who wants to enjoy a cold beer and feed some friendly ducks. Located just 15 minutes by bike from the main road on Phong Nha, visitors can feed the ducks, have a delicious pancake meal, and ride a water buffalo named Donald Trump. The farmer who runs the Duck Stop is eager to show visitors a good time and will give a tour of the farm.

Duckstop
Biking through the mud to the Duck Stop

The Pub with Cold Beer

The Pub with Cold Beer
The Pub with Cold Beer.

If you take a ride to the Duck Stop then you’re bound to ride past the Pub with Cold Beer. As the name suggests, this stop has chilled beer to cool you down from the heat of Phong Nha. Not to be confused by two other stops with the same name, this pub has tables, bathrooms, and a view overlooking a small river. You can stay the night at the Pub with Cold Beer as it is also a homestay.

 

Shipping Stuff from Hanoi, Vietnam

World map
Awesome world map at the post office.

Are you like me and have to constantly knock things out of your Wife’s hands as she tries to buy anything and everything she sees? You find yourself in Hoi An trying to talk your wife out of buying leather oxford shoes just because she can? You end up having to remind her that living out of two backpacks doesn’t allow for non-essential items due to the lack of storage space. Then she hits back with “Fine, we’ll just have to ship it back home.” That leaves you standing there looking like a dumbass because you forgot that was even an option. Go to the next scene where you’re standing inside the International Post Office in Hanoi with a backpack full of goodies that you and your now stoked wife stockpiled through your travels.

So here I am about to walk you through my experience shipping things back home from Vietnam.

At our hotel in Hanoi, Lisa and I emptied out one of our backpacks and filled it to the brim with everything we wished to part from. Extra clothes we realized we didn’t need, two of Lisa’s hats (the rice picking hat and the army helmet), packs of Vietnamese coffee, a hammock that we never used, and random little trinkets. With the backpack loaded, we made our way to the International Post Office to ship the heavy bastard to Lisa’s mom’s house in Chiang Mai, Thailand.

Lisa’s vietnamese army helmet.

At the International Post Office we were asked to fill out a form indicating what we were shipping, how many items, and where we were shipping the package. We were also given the option of shipping the package by air or by sea. Shipping by air was more expensive, but was much faster than shipping by sea. Because we were shipping to Thailand, air shipping wasn’t that much more than shipping by sea (normally the price gap is much larger).

Post Office
Lisa filling out shipping information.

Lisa handed the completed form to the clerk at the counter which she then input into the computer system. After printing out the correct postage, the clerk brought us a large cardboard box in which to put our stuff in for shipping. Lisa took charge of placing everything in the box neatly ( I swear she is the queen of Tetris-ing things) while I handed her stuff. The post office clerk supplied us with tape in which Lisa graciously accepted and began taping the box up like the Ark of the Covenant going to Area 51. Needless to say, Lisa made sure that box wasn’t going to open no matter what.  

That box is packed to the brim!

Box sealed shut, I brought it over to the scale to have it weighed. The overall price of shipping depended on the actual weight of the entire box. All in all the priced turned out to be 1,300,000d ($57.30 USD) to ship the package by air to Chiang Mai, Thailand. We were told that our package would take three weeks to ship from  Hanoi, Vietnam to Chiang Mai, Thailand.

It was as simple as that. Now we know there’s an easy way to get rid of excess luggage and continue to travel lightly. We were able to dump a 45 liter backpack worth of things into a box to ship back home. That’s a whole backpack we don’t need to lug around any more! It may cost a bit more, but hey it’s worth it.

 

5 Things to Check Out in Ho Chi Minh City

Ho Chi Minh is an energetic city in southern Vietnam that is a must stop for any traveler. As our first destination in Vietnam, Ho Chi Minh was a lot to take in all at once. Here is a list of things that we did during our stay that really made the trip for us.  Check out our post on our YouTube channel here to watch how our days in Ho Chi Minh transpired.

1. War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

War Remnants Museum

A trip to the War Remnants Museum in Ho Chi Minh is a must for anyone who wants to know more about the American war in Vietnam. Once called the Museum of Chinese and American War Crimes, the War Remnants Museum offers an in depth look at one of the most controversial wars in history. Displayed inside the museum are hundreds of photos from over 133 war photographers including the legendary Tim Page. Ak-47s, grenade launchers, and other weapons used during the war are showcased throughout the museum. Just outside of the museum visitors can view tanks, fighter jets, and artillery weapons used by American and North Vietnamese militaries. The museum is open between the hours of 7:30am-12:00pm and 1:30pm-5:00pm with the admission price of 15,000d. For more information visit http://warremnantsmuseum.com/

Ballistic Shells
Ballistic shells used during the Vietnam War.

2. Notre Dame Cathedral

With 40 meter high towers tipped with iron spires, red brick walls stained-glass windows, the Notre Dame Cathedral is truly a sight to behold. Built between 1877 and 1883, the cathedral has been a place for prayer for worship for those living in Ho Chi Minh City. Visitors to the cathedral are offered information from English-speaking staff from the hours of 9:00am-11:00am Monday through Saturday. Fun fact for those who love photography: across the street to the left of the cathedral there is a woman who sells bird feed for visitors to feed the local pigeons. The pigeons are friendly and will get very close to visitors feeding them. When timed right, you can get the most epic shot of the birds scattering away from the street and arching over the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre Dame Cathedral

Notre Dame Cathedral

3. Central Post Office

Located just to the right of the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office showcases beautiful French architecture from a time long ago. Built between 1886 and 1891, this still operational post office displays historic maps of Vietnam on its massive interior walls as well as a large mosaic of Ho Chi Minh just at the end of the its grand hall. Although some credit the design to the great Gustave Eiffel, it was actually designed another French architect Marie-Alfred Foulhoux. The Central Post Office is the perfect place to pick up and mail out that postcard to family and friends back home.

 

Central Post Office.
Central Post Office.

4. Cu Chi Tunnels

Cu Chi Tunnels
Lisa inside the Cu Chi Tunnels

My trip to the infamous Cu Chi Tunnels was one of favorite activities near Ho Chi Minh City. Located about 45 minutes outside of Ho Chi Minh, the Cu Chi Tunnels is a series of underground tunnels that were once used by the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. A tour to the tunnels offers a look into the lives of the Viet Cong fighting during the war. Visitors are offered demonstrations of booby traps, hand-made weaponry, and structural secrets of the tunnels used by the Viet Cong. There is even an option to shoot an AK-47 or a M1-Carbine at a shooting range located near the tunnels(costs $25 for one clip of ammo). Last, but not least, visitors actually get a chance to descend into the real Cu Chi Tunnels and crawl through the narrow passages that extend up to 60 meters!

Cu Chi Tunnels
Paul crawling through Cu Chi Tunnels.

5. The Ben Thanh Street Food Market

For a foodie like me, street food is life. So when I heard that there was a market solely dedicated to street food I jumped on that like white on rice. The Ben Thanh Street Food Market has dozens of food stalls serving the best viet-noms(see what I did there?) in Ho Chi Minh. Spring rolls, Banh Mi sandwiches, and a plethora of fried noodle dishes to name a few things you can find there. Thirsty? They have local beers on tap for those who want to cool off from the city heat. Music is played over the speakers throughout the market giving out a chill relaxed vibe. To top that all off, free Wifi is available throughout the entire market so there’s no need to worry about that Instragram pic of your spring rolls not loading up.

Ben Thanh Food Market
Street art at Ben Thanh Food Market.