Manila, Philippines – December, 2012
I had the good fortune of travelling on work in the recent months and had been wanting to write about it forever now, but laziness set in and I never got around to doing it until now!
In December 2012, I traveled to Manila in Philippines on work and I enjoyed it immensely. The hotel that I was put in was called “Premier F1,” which sounded so much like the Formula One race event 😛 It was a fabulous hotel. I was put up on the 16th floor and had a lovely view. I was there around Christmas time and the entire city was so beautifully decorated. Office was about 10 minutes away from the hotel and I used to take a cab to work every day. It costed me about 80 pesos (Rs. 100 approximately). Philippines is heavily influenced by the Spanish and so you will find a lot of people speaking Spanish there, which was totally unexpected for me. The local mode of transport is the “Jeepney,” which is a bigger version of an auto and can seat about 12 to 15 people. It is a shared service, so if you are adventurous enough you can ride one of those.
To give you a perspective, it costs only 8 pesos (Rs 10 to 12) to go about 5 km. That’s pretty decent I think if you are on a tight budget. I rode in one of those and had a blast, but it gets uncomfortable after some time, so its best for travel to nearby places. Cabs are easy to get and you don’t have to book them in advance. I found it very similar to Mumbai. There wasn’t much sight seeing to do except for the American War Memorial. Like they say in the Manila – the biggest hobbies are eating and shopping. I could get used to that. Some of the nearby places to see are the “High Street,” which is a huge place with many shops of different brands. It has a lovely sitting area and you can spend an entire day there if you are shopaholic. Another relatively inexpensive place is “Market Market,” which is perfect for gifts and buying inexpensive clothes and jewelry.
Breakfast area at the hotel
Christmas party!! Theme was white.
Ho Chi Minh- Vietnam – February, 2013
Earlier in February this year, I visited Ho Chi Minh in Vietnam on work. The experience was quite different from that of Manila. While Manila seemed more urban to me in terms of where I was put up, Ho Chi Minh (HCM) was more suburban. We were in the heart of the city close to the famous Saigon Square. Vietnam has a lot more history compared to the Philippines due to their war with the US. Their currency is the Vietnamese Dong – VND. About 1 US $ = 20,000 VND, so that will give you a bit of perspective from an Indian currency point of view. I traveled just before their Lunar New Year. It was a wonderful experience to be there during that time of the year. During this time, all offices are closed for a week, so are the schools and major establishments. Good time to visit though, its very festive everywhere. I had a bunch of people from my team travelling during that time, so it was a lot of fun catching up for breakfast and dinners and sight seeing. We didn’t visit many places within the city, but did a tour of one of their islands close to the city. It cost us about $20 which is about Rs. 1000 and it included a 1 ½ hour ride to the island and lunch which I thought was pretty good. It was almost an entire day trip. We also did the New year eve on a cruise.
A small note to the vegetarians – A lot of their food is very sea food like, so would advice you to do your research before you go. Shopping is not too bad, but you gotta hunt for good stuff. There is a wonderful place called Ben Thanh Market in Saigon which is filled with shops and you can get anything from souvenirs to clothes, spices, dry fruits, coffee and tea. Vietnam is known for its coffee, so do remember to bring some back if you get a chance.
Some pics for you guys! Enjoy.
Making Rice Paper. You can wrap veggies or any type of stuffing you want in it. Pretty neat stuff.
In Changi Airport in Singapore en route to Vietnam.
Just before taking off on the cruise.
Skyline from the New year eve cruise.
Brave enough to hold it!
My all vegetarian meal
Very pretty garden just at the entrance of the island.
A BIG thanks to Rati for encouraging me to write.