Friday, October 26, 2012

It's Not You, Halong Bay. It's Me.

If a long-term traveler or a backpacker tells you that he liked every place he visited because each place had its own charm and character, you can be sure that that is one big pile of BS. At the very least, some places will be mediocre while others spectacular. On the two times that I went to Halong Bay, the UNESCO World Heritage Site that is arguably Vietnam's top tourist attraction, I cannot really say I had a travel experience worth writing home about. Don't get me wrong. I thought the place was stunning and beautiful, but I found it inadequate to be considered as one of the highlights of my travels.

Halong Bay, Vietnam
You're beautiful, Halong Bay. So beautiful. But a highlight of my travels? Hmmm.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Why I Keep Returning to Vietnam (Despite Tourism Statistics)

Consider these facts for a minute. Vietnam received 6 million tourists in 2011. Not bad for a country its size. In Southeast Asia, it comes right after the vast archipelago of Indonesia in terms of number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Vietnam has seven, Indonesia eight. Yet, despite these numbers, Vietnam still sees itself monumentally beat in terms of return rate. Only 5 percent of its tourists return. Dismal, especially when compared to Thailand's 50 percent. That's fifty! What that means, at least according to The Economist where the figures came from, is that barring the fact that Vietnam's tourism industry is very young (only opening for business in 1986), visitors' experiences traveling through the country is just not that exceptional, or downright bad or scammy even, for them to consider returning.

Halong Bay, Vietnam
It's not you, Vietnam. It's, well, it's you. This is all on you.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Why Travel Tuesday: Hanoi Bun Cha

(Every Tuesday, I will be featuring a photograph from a place I have gone to, a photograph which I believe will inspire others to go out and see the world for themselves. For this week, Why Travel Tuesday features one of my top seven Vietnamese food favorites, one of the most delicious Vietnamese foods to ever touch my mouth: Hanoi Bun Cha.)

Hanoi Bun Cha, Vietnam

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Backpacking Itinerary: Saigon in One Day

Of all the cities in Asia, Saigon is the one place I seem to come back to over and over. Four times now I have been to Saigon. The first time I was here was actually the first time I traveled outside of my country. Not that I intended any of my return visits to happen. It's just a convenient stopover in mainland Southeast Asia to and from Manila. Needless to say, I have covered the basics of this city a few times now. Doing an DIY tour of Saigon's main sights is pretty easy anyway. Saigon isn't the kind of place you travel slowly in. It's chaotic. It's fast. And you'll want to get with the city's frenetic pace to experience it the right way. So which sights to see in Saigon? Here's a one-day Saigon itinerary. Yes, Saigon can be done in one day!

Saigon Chaos
Chaos on Saigon streets? Nah. Just good ol' Saigon rush hour.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

How This Backpacker Handles Finances while on Long-Term Travel

I have talked about how a Filipino backpacker like me, a backpacker from a third-world country, can afford long-term travel. However, I have never really talked about how I handle my finances while traveling long-term. It is a something I never really pondered when I was planning my six-month backpacking trip around Asia (which has really extended to, well, almost a year now). Fortunately, a reader emailed asking for tips on how to handle finances for long trips. She specifically asked about how to handle pocket money for an extended trip around Southeast Asia. So it got me thinking. Here are a few things I have learned thus far on how to handle finances while on long-term travel. They apply to short trips, too!

Singaporean Dollars
Mine prrreeecccious Singaporean dollars

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Backpacking Continues: Fall and Winter Plans

I actually remember what I was doing this time last year. I was on the tail end of my preparations for the six-month backpacking adventure: preparing my packing list, setting up my first-aid kit for travelers, and figuring out how to travel to Singapore on a backpacker budget. So much has happened since then. Though I may have gone home a few times the past year, as I have been for the last few weeks, my backpacking adventure continues. One year now this October! Can you believe that?

Also, the backpacking adventure continues through my favorite time of the year: fall and winter. I don't have everything figured out right now (which destinations I'm heading to, how long will I be there, etc.) And I kind of like it that way. But since I like making travel itineraries, let me tell you about my fall and winter plans. Maybe we'll cross paths. Maybe you'll come with. Look me up!