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  1. For flights from Singapore to HCM, fares are around below 150 round trip. I would recommend taking Bamboo Airways as they are a hybrid airline, for u have 20KG check in bags and inflight meals and depending on the plane, you might have inflight entertainment stream via your phone. The cost for Bamboo airways would be roughly around 160SGD and they have a frequent flyer program too. For Vietjet air, I take them when coming back from HCM as their timing back is usually better they have a 1.50PM flight back compared to Bamboo air, which currently only have 2 timing, 7plus and 9plus depending on the day. But Vietjet is prone to delays and their carry on bag is very strict which is 7KG. I have seen them weighing the bags at the boarding gate. So take Vietjet if u are okay with delays and ur bags are within the limit. For me, I would usually take Bamboo there and Vietjet back since I'm not in a rush and my bags are always under 7KG. I will cover more on the scams and stuffs when arriving in HCM in future post. Do let me know if there's any questions that you have. Cheers! And have fun traveling
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    Saigon After Dark KTV

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    Street Food

    Street food of Saigon
  5. Historically, District 4 has been known for snail and barbecue restaurants. As a long-term resident, I suggest it should also be famous for having the most delicious bò né place as Bò Né Thanh Tuyền draws me back every time I try to leave. Street food often provides a show as well as a source of sustenance. When I was a four-year-old trying to avoid going to the kindergarten next door, the sight of customers panicking and moving their chairs away from the bubbling hot oil was both entertaining and inviting at the same time. Bò né is one of those street foods in Saigon whose origin is a mystery. After reading as many articles as I could find, my guess was that it probably started out as a working-class meal. Somewhere along the way, perhaps some Vietnamese people invented and popularized the dish so that everyone could have access to a luxurious breakfast dish for as little as US$2. The most common theory for the existence of bò né is its American influence. The similarity to a typical American beefsteak dinner is there once you look closely: pan-fried beef, onions, a sauce. Some restaurants even serve fries and sausages alongside them. However, from my experience, it’s actually not very common to eat beef with pa-tê outside of Vietnam. This, we have the French to thank for. An argument for its French origin is how similar it looks to the first version of bánh mì at Bánh Mì Hoà Mã. Both are served inside a cast-iron skillet; both have similar ingredients. While bánh mì has taken a different route and become internationally famous, bò né continues to be a uniquely local, yet popular dish inside Saigon. It is the smell and sound that attack your senses when you walk past Bò Né Thanh Tuyền. You don’t have to read the menu; the scent of thinly sliced, fatty beef quickly stir-fried alongside onions is unmistakable. The restaurant itself is barebones but spacious. The white-tiled walls and iron roof signal to passersby that this is a no-nonsense, eat-and-go kind of space. Interesting knick-knacks of Buddhist statues and Chinese characters give customers something to look at while they are waiting for their orders to arrive. When I first entered the restaurant, it took me a while to find the owner amidst all of the busy action. Thủy, a charismatic 60-year-old, has been running the place for more than two decades. In the beginning, Bò Né Thanh Tuyền had few guests besides Thủy’s family members. “When I first opened, my father and brothers had to sit in as customers even though the price was only VND6,500. There were not many guests because nobody knew about our restaurant,” Thủy laughed as she recounted the difficulties that came with running a busy eatery. During the 25 years of owning a bò né place, she has never given up on her passion: “I love food a lot. Whenever I visit any place that has a specialty, I make sure to try it at least once.” It is the family-like atmosphere and rusticity that add another dimension to the simple dish of sizzling beefsteak. She half-jokingly said: “Students and laborers are my favorite customers. My loud personality does not fit serving important people.” Prices are cheap, steak knives are not necessary and extra bread is free. Although she admitted to learning everything herself along the way, her attention to detail and sharpness when it comes to what attracts customers shines. I spent too much time as a kid mesmerized by the flames that instantly cooked slivers of beef on the plate. How many years of practice does it take to have perfectly crispy, yet tender, egg white encasing runny egg yolk every time? While the business ran smoothly following those early challenges, tough times returned last year. During lockdown, she had to close everything down. The restaurant was in a difficult financial situation for more than four months because there was no revenue. Thủy held firm in her beliefs, continuing to pay staff and giving them extra food because she wanted to retain the people who were there for her through many ups and downs. Luckily for me, the restaurant is now back and running as steadily as ever. Food is often as much about memory as it is about taste. The homemade pa-tê still has a note of sweetness alongside the typical metallic undertone as I remembered it. Oyster sauce gently caramelized beef slices while leaving just a hint of saltiness. An egg on top often improves everything, and it is a must-have for anyone wanting the spectacle of sizzling egg white. It all started with secret recipes for pa-tê and beef that are adjusted according to the taste of her customers. “Everything has to be different. It’s not completely westernized because I add garlic along with lemongrass to the marinade as well,” she said. Even the sauce is slightly sweeter and less oily than other restaurants because, according to Thủy, southern people prefer it that way. My favorite way to enjoy bò né is by first dipping the crust in soy sauce and egg yolk. Spread pa-tê on it and then chase everything with beef afterwards. Don’t forget to clean your plate by wiping the leftover juice with any remaining bread that you have. A plate of tomato, lettuce and onions is also served alongside bò né. I like to put raw onions on top while the skillet is still hot. It adds a touch of sweetness and freshness to an otherwise fatty and salty dish. The accompanying drink is no less important. Nước sâm and trà đá are cheap, delicious and good companions to the often meat-heavy meal. Unfortunately, the institution that has existed in District 4 for 25 years might not be here in a few years. Thủy has not thought about expanding or bestowing her brand to anyone else when she retires. When she mentioned the possibility of taking it over to her children, they refused because they have other careers in mind. I was saddened but relieved to hear the news. I am glad that Thủy, who has worked tirelessly for many years, finally decided to take a break. It is also a reminder to myself that things I often take for granted do not exist forever. So knowing of its eventual closure is also a call to action for anyone who has not tried Bò Né Thanh Tuyền to try it before it is too late. Bò Né Thanh Tuyền is open from 5am to 11am. Bò Né Thanh Tuyền 20/6 Nguyễn Trường Tộ, Ward 12, D4
  6. Hello all, With the opening of borders a few months ago, I decided to bite the bullet and went on a 30 day trip to Vietnam. This entire overland trip was from the south (HCMC) to the north (Hanoi), by train and bus. I stayed in 8 cities, covering an approximate distance of 2000km Singapore – Ho Chi Minh City – Da Lat – Nha Trang – Da Nang – Hoi An – Hue – Hanoi – Sa Pa – Hanoi – Singapore Here are some of my sharing and information, hope it will be useful if you are planning a similar trip or looking for inspiration. Costs Total cost (estimated) about S$2k. Including - Accommodations - local tours - Grab bike / taxi - food / entertainment Excluding - Flight ticket to and fro (because redeemed with flyer miles) My cost can also be lesser if - I pre-booked all the tickets (explanation below for why I didn't pre-book) Recommended basic packing list In addition to packing your clothes/chargers, I recommend the following as well: - 2x copies of travel documents / insurance (keep 1 copy in backpack and 1 copy in hand carry bag) - photocopies of passport (some hotels want to keep original passport for registering with police, you shouldn’t leave your original with anyone. So next best option is to give them the photocopy) - Clothes drying line (just get from daiso) - for emergencies when your hostel has no drying machine and no where to hang your clothes. But all the accommodation in Vietnam had laundry service, so didn’t use it. - Vacuum flask - Lock (for hostel cabinet) - a pair of sunglasses - a book (to read on the train) or e-book - a journal to write down interesting events and thoughts - a multi-tool or swiss army knife (put with check-in luggage, DO NOT put in hand carry bag) - spare plastic bags (NTUC type), for rubbish, or packing etc, you never know. - some long sleeve shirts (for cool mountain cities like Da Lat or Sapa) - a pillowcase or old t-shirt to cover the pillow for overnight train travel - a powerbank Useful Websites / Apps https://www.seat61.com/ Seat61.com has a massive amount of information on trains schedules/information/overland info for nearly every country in the world. It was set up by some UK dude who is a fan of train travelling. As far as I can see, he himself does a lot of travelling to gather the information, but also accepts travelling information from his website users/readers. It probably took 90% of the guesswork out of my planning. I highly recommend that you use this website for your own planning and make sure to print out a copy of the relevant information and keep it with you while travelling. https://dsvn.vn/#/ This is the official Vietnam Railways website – Duong Sat Viet Nam Switch to English language so that it’s easier to navigate the website. Use this website to check available train schedules. It is also possible to reserve a ticket first, and then go to the train station to pay and receive the ticket. https://www.budgetyourtrip.com/ Good website to estimate daily budget in any city Booking.com I used Booking.com during this trip, because I already have some member levels / loyalty rewards. Maps.me app This app does not require data. Extremely useful when you haven't got a local simcard yet, or to conserve your data usage. There are no data/mobile signals in some areas, so this is extremely useful. Not quite sure how it works..... by GPS? Booking of tickets/accommodation It is of course cheaper to pre-book everything early in advance. You can pre-book everything, but I didn't because I wanted more flexibility. Plus you never know when stuff might happen and it will be difficult to get refunds. It is more expensive to book a train ticket for next week, compared to booking 1-2 months back. But again, I want the flexibility, so I have to pay more. For train/bus tickets, I prefer to buy directly at the train station, or ask the hostel/hotel to book the bus for me. My SOP - In city A -> Book next city's (B) accommodation. - Reach city B -> Book travel ticket to City (C) - While in city B -> Book next city's (C) accommodation But take note of peak / off-peak / holiday periods. The local Vietnamese will also love to travel during their holiday periods, therefore your favourite / highly rated accommodations may be fully booked. Trying to figure out Hotel reviews Figuring out the true nature of the hotel/homestay/hostel in Vietnam can be tricky. Some reviews may be faked, and when you finally check-in to the accommodation, it doesn’t match your expectations. My personal guideline to reduce the possibility of expectation mismatch, is to: - only look at properties with at least a 100 reviews - read recent reviews (skip the property if there are no recent reviews) - read the highest rated reviews to see why people like this accommodation - read the lowest rated reviews and decide if the complaints about the property is acceptable or not. This does not totally eliminate the problem of booking a less than acceptable accommodation, but it helped me personally to filter out many of the dubious listings. Check your Visa-free entry stamp in the passport Singaporeans are allowed 30 days free visa entry into Vietnam. When the Vietnamese customs officer stamp your passport, they will write down the final date that you have to exit the country. If you intend to holiday for less than 30 days, then no problem. If you want to maximise the 30 days, PLEASE CHECK the final date. In my case, the officer asked me how long I wanted to stay in Vietnam. I replied 30 days. Then he stamped my passport and wrote down the last final date. But when I checked the date, it was an extra day beyond the allowed final date (i.e. the date he wrote would have caused me to overstay by 1 day). Do not follow what is written in the passport in this case. Otherwise you may have to a pay fine and they may blacklist you. Manually calculate when is your final date and stick to it. Train Travelling in Vietnam If you like slow travel, then train travelling is pretty much what you have to do. During the day time, there’s nice scenery. You can interact with the locals. You can save on accommodation with overnight travel to the next city. In general it is quite safe. My recommendations for your comfort and safety: - bring a pillowcase or old T-shirt because they do not change the pillowcase if there was a preceding passenger before you. - fully charge your powerbank. There are USB ports and power outlet in the cabin. But it doesn’t hurt to have a backup - lock your bulky valuables in your luggage / backpack - bring your handbag/wallet/passport with you all the time if you go toilet onboard Travelling by bus Vietnam has nice sleeper buses in various types of quality and comfort level. I recommend daytime bus instead of overnight bus, because it is safer. Especially when travelling to mountain cities like Da Lat or Sapa. Museum Opening Hours Quite a number of museums close during lunch hour and their websites may not reflect the timing. - 11am to 1pm - 11:30am to 1:30pm - 12 to 2pm As much as possible, try to time your visit in the early morning opening hour, or after lunch. Vietnam siesta hour It could be the hot mid-day sun, or it could be the delicious bun cha. But many street stores and activities stop during the mid-day and the people go hide indoors or cafes, or take a nap. At first I couldn’t understand why. But as I adapted to the hot hot sun (or rather, learned to avoid the sun), I also started to hide indoors at shopping mall, or go back to hotel to cool down, rest and shower. Scams / Safety Google and internet is your best friend. I always google to find out what are the ongoing/latest scams/cons in town. This is to keep me on my toes and not get carried away. It only takes one incident to ruin the trip. If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For me, I generally prefer to be a little more paranoid than to YOLO. Your miles may vary. Sometimes when they see that you are a foreigner, they will jack up the price. Try to negotiate if it is not a fixed/labelled price. There are also touts or shoe-shiners who want your business. If you are not interested, just politely wave them away, or don’t look at them. They will get the hint and move on. For taxi or bike rides, it’s better to use Grab. Make sure that the license plate number matches the one that arrives. If you have to flag down a taxi, make sure you check the route first on Google map. Memories/Incidents to be updated Things I didn’t do / should have done to be updated Money changing / finances to be updated City specific recommendations to be updated How did I make the red line / train icon route on the map? I used a combo of Google Earth and some editing in Shotcut video editor. The plane / train icons are free license icons I hope this is informative and entertaining to you, for those of you who have dreamed of or are planning for similar journeys. If you have any questions regarding planning, or the trip, just ask me, I will try to answer 🙂
  7. Starting from 0:00 on May 15, all Vietnam destinations are open, no self-isolation is required, and all regulations for SARS-CoV-2 testing required before entering will be temporarily suspended. VISA EXEMPT Visitors from the following countries may enter visa free, and stay for the indicated number of days. ASIA Brunei, Myanmar - 14 days. Japan, South Korea (ROK) - 15 days. The Philippines - 21 days. Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand - 30 days. EUROPE Belarus, Denmark, Italy, Finland, France, Germany, Norway, Russia, Spain, Sweden, The United Kingdom - 15 days. To stay beyond this number of days, you may apply for a visa extension upon your arrival in Vietnam. VISA REQUIRED Simply apply online for your tourist E-visa, valid for 30 days. E-visa fee is USD 25, the processing time is 3 working days. You will receive your code by email to print your visa. How to Apply for Vietnam's e-Visa: Step 1: Prepare the required materials: One 4x6 passport photo in .jpg format with a white background, without glasses. One photo in .jpg format of your passport data page. A passport is valid for at least six months. Your temporary address in Vietnam and points of entry and exit. Debit or credit card for payment. Step 2: Click this link or access https://immigration.gov.vn/ and go to 'E-visa Issuance' then click on the link for 'Outside Vietnam foreigners'. Step 3: Upload your .jpg images (passport data page and passport photo) and fill out the required fields on the form completely. Submit your form. Step 4: Pay the e-Visa fee of 25 USD. Copy down the document code provided. Step 5: Within three working days you should receive news of your e-Visa application via email. If not, you can also run a search for your e-Visa at this link. Step 6: Use your document code to locate your e-Visa online. Download and print the e-Visa in two copies for extra safety.
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    Bars and Pubs

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