South Vietnam

My journey started at Ho Chi Minh City  (aka Saigon) and from there I explored the south of this diverse country. To visit Vietnam you need to apply to your Visa beforehand, there is no possibility to get a Visa once you are at the border or the airport.

Ho Chi Minh City has a pulsate and chaotic energy. The traffic is something beyond explanation, but despite that it’s full of life and the best way to explore the city is losing yourself in the street.

This is what I recommend to visit:

  • Jade Emperor Pagoda
  • Phuoc An Hoi Quan Pagoda
  • Binh Tay Market
  • Ben Thanh Market
  • Botanic Gardens
  • Cho Lon area

Once in HCMC don’t miss the coffee, it’s a true delight.

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Mekong delta has many places to explore, and it’s incredible beautiful and exotic with it’s water floating world. You need time to explore all it’s beauty and it’s innumerable rivers, canals and streams that cross the landscape.

I need to say that’s very possible to visit the Mekong Delta without a tour and is actually quite easy. You just need to ask around and combine different ways of transport, bus, ferry and  motorbikes.

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You have so many options to choose from, that taking a decision is pretty difficult mostly when you don’t have much time, so I will leave a small list of the best places I visit:

  • Ben Tre  it’s very picturesque and less tourist than My Tho. This area is famous for its keo dua (coconut candy)
  • Ha Tien – it’s beautiful, has a nice riverside market, lots of caves to visit some of which have been turned into temples. Thach dong cave pagoda deserves a visit.
  • Tra Vinh – for me is one of the charming  towns in the Mekong Delta
  • Minh Long – has the Cai Be floating market that is always busy, carrying all the characteristics of the locals’ life.
  • Sam Mountain– has a strong Chinese influence and its full of pagodas and temple the Cavern Pagoda it’s a nice one to visit.
  • Can Tho – is the largest city in the region you can visit the floating markets, Phong Dien, Cai Rang  and take a boat along the  canals.  Phung Hiep is the biggest and busiest floating market in the Mekong Delta it opens at 4.00 am closes at 11.00 am.

Asian Markets are always my first choice to eat, and Vietnam wasn’t an exception, I especially enjoyed the rice paper wrapped spring rolls, fruit and smoothies.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

Singapore on a budget

Singapore is a city-state in Southeast Asia, with a tropical climate, great food, busy vibe  where its always something happening I stumble in many cultural activities like concerts, performances, multimedia and water projections, so try to be aware and look at all the billboards and posters that came across to you. As you know Singapore is not the cheapest place to visit when you have a tight budge, but it’s possible, and definitely worths a visit even if short. 

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I travel by bus from Malacca to Singapore (24RM), took 4hours to the border, then we left  the bus twice to show our passports. If you do the same be prepared to run… because the second time you leave the bus, they will give you 20 minutes, so take all your belongings with you and if you lose the bus don’t worry  you just need to wait an hour for the next one.

Once in singapore it’s easy to travel around, they have a good and easy public transport system and almost everyone speaks english 🙂 when using the bus just make sure you have always the correct amount because they don’t give change.

Here is a list of my favourite places, that you should visit and tips to save money:

Places to explore:

  • Marina Bay – very cosmopolitan, great views, includes The Merlion Square
  • Botanic gardens – is a Unesco World Heritage Site, It’s more natural than Gardens by the Bay which seems to be more man-made (although very beautiful in its way) – free entry – they have frequent concerts from the Singapore Symphony Orchestra come early and bring a picnic.
  • Gardens by the Bay –  this futuristic garden deserves a visit during the day light and another visit during the night between 7.45pm and 8.45 pm, when the trees twinkle and glow with music – free entry
  • Marina Bay Sands – great views 
  • Esplanade – Theatres on the Bay, great place near The Merlion Square. Has always lots going on (some are free). The shape on the outside was inspired on the famous durian fruit.
  • Baba House – (Peranakan home) located near Chinatown has a free hour-long tour but booking is required

  • Sri Mariamman Temple –  oldest Hindu temple –free entry

  • Thian Hock Keng  – Singapore’s oldest Chinese temple –free entry
  • Clark Quay – busy night life

  • Southern Ridges trail – great walking trails through 10km of  forest and canopy walks.

  • China town
  • Little india
  • Arab district (great walk early morning before the crowds arrive) don’t miss the Haji Lane – it’s  heaven for art and culture lovers. 
  • Orchard Road

Museums:

  • Art Museum (free on Fridays after 6pm), incredible good
  • Peranakan museum (1/2 price after 7pm – $5)
  • Asian Civilisation Museum (1/2 price after 7pm – $5)
  • National Museum ($10) – check the website for free guided tours – offered daily

If you have time:

  • Movie Mob –  free outdoor movie with drive-in concept and picnic events.  Happens around Singapore (check their page)
  • Haw Par Villa (founder of Tiger Balm) outdoor exhibitions of  Chinese mythology and legends. – free entry
  • East Coast Park – 15km stretch of beach (can get busy during the weekend)

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Accommodation:  it will be your biggest expense in Singapore, so you must do your research with time and book before your arrival. Backpacking is by far the cheapest option you can get something for $20-30 p/night. If you want more privacy and be in contact with local people airbnb would be a good option.

Eating:  hawker centres are by far the cheapest and best option you have to taste Singapore’s multi-cultural food. I have tried many different ones and they were all a complete delight for every foodie,a main can cost  from $3-7. Remember that  in Singapore you can drink tap water it is safe and clean.

I hope you don’t miss Singapore from your travel list.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

🍜 More about vegan food in Singapore 🍜

Borneo

🚌 Sarawak – island of Borneo

🚌 Sabah – island of Borneo (soon) 

Sarawak – island of Borneo

Sarawak Borneo will amaze you with its culture and natural beauty. The Island of Borneo has probably one of the most richest and diverse ecosystems I ever seen, but unfortunately many of its forests have been lost for oil palm, putting wildlife and people in danger.

I started my trip in the capital Kuching and I used bus, boat, motorbike, bicycle, and mini vans to travel, this are the places I visited :

🚌 Kuching  / Santubong peninsula / Bako National Park / Semenggoh Nature Reserve/ Bau / Kubah National Park

Explore Kuching and it’s old colonial charm by foot, loosing yourself in its magnificent streets from china town, indian neighbourhood and the river front. I highly recommend you to visit the museums they are really good, look up for street art and don’t miss the sunset in the river front.

To visit the other side of the river, get one of the local boats (1RM each side), go for a walk,  enjoy the view and try a traditional Kek Lapis (layer cake).

In Kuching you can rent a motor bike in the city for 40RM a day to explore the the small villages around including Santubong Peninsula, a nice  quite town with great views and beaches.

I went to the Matang wildlife centre but I don’t recommend it at all, they may do a good job at rescuing and helping the animals but they are all in small cages, I found it quite depressing.

We got the red bus nº1 stopped in front of the open market in Kuching to Bako National Park (3.50RM) the park entry is 20 RM, and the boat 40RM both ways (runs from 8 to 15h). You defenetly need to spend at least a day there and do a couple of trails. The park as beautiful mangrove swamp, luxurious rainforest, streams, waterfalls, and if you’re lucky (like me ) you may see proboscis monkeys in their native habitats. This park has an incredible biodiversity, which includes almost every vegetation type in Borneo.

We went to Semenggoh Nature Reserve to see semi-wild orangutans in their natural habitat for that we got a bus from Kuching (4RM) at 7:20 from the open market stop. Once in the reserve you need to walk to the feeding point, the entry is 10RM. Be aware that you may not be lucky enough to see them.  They have 2 hour-long feedings, 9am to 10am and from 3pm to 4pm.

Next stop was Bau, the bus from Kuching  takes an hour,  the bus is an old one so expect a sweaty journey (4.5RM). Bau is a small clean and organised town, has a good market, food court and a Chinese temple that deserves a visit.

Once in Bau we realised that was difficult to find public transports to take us to the different caves so we started walking and hitch-hiked. Hitchhiking was safe and we meet really nice and interesting people. We visited the fairy cave (5RM), a really nice and impressive open mountain cave, no light needed. then we took another lift to the wind cave Nature reserve (5RM) for this one you need a torch, there is plenty to see and lots and lots of bats.

If you plan to come buck to Kuching by bus, the last one departs at 3:20, but never trust the bus schedules 🙂 they often leave early.

To go from Kuching to Kubah National Park, get the bus K21 (4RM) and its an hour ride.The entry is 20RM. The park is gorgeous with lots of hills, ups and downs, I personally found it quite tiering, so get your legs ready. The park offers several trails from one hour to several hours, you can’t buy food or water in the park, so bring something. I did  a couple of trails including the trail to the waterfall where you can get refreshed  and visited the frog pond. The last bus the kuching is at 1:30 but if it doesn’t appear you will have mini bus passing and you can ask them to stop (5RM)

Sarawak is not known for its beaches, I went to Damai beach but I don’t recommend it at all.

photography – all rights reserved – Ana Rocha

🌱 Information and testimony about being a vegan in Sarawak – A vegan in Sarawak 

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