Showing posts with label Travel Asia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Travel Asia. Show all posts

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

10 Most Stunning Places in Asia to Experience the Best of Autumn

August 24, 2021 0

Autumn, no doubt, is one of the most beautiful seasons of the year. As what William Cullen Bryant puts it, "It's the year's last loveliest smile".

And it is.

The environment is extra poetic and charming as gorgeous foliage and warm hues form a canopy in the roadside. 

Landscapes are swathed in brilliant shades of deep red and golden yellow, like a golden sunrise. Mother nature is at its prettiest and the cool weather is perfect for long walks

Brilliant foliage of autumn season

Autumn Travel in Asia

When it comes to Autumn travel, the most popular destinations for travelers are usually Europe, Tuscany and The Netherlands in particular, and USA, most notably the New England region of Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire. 

Japan is Asia's premier autumn destination

However, Asia has also some fair share of natural wonders comes Fall season. China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan are Asia's best destinations to see the stunning autumn foliage, where the environment is soaked in brilliant colors of deep yellows, burnt tangerines and fiery reds. 

Here are 10 of the most beautiful Asian destinations to experience a rustic Fall moment:

10. Xitou Nature Education Area, Nantou County, Taiwan

According to Taiwan news, Xitou Nature Education Area is the must-visit place in Taiwan comes autumn season. It is popular for its scenic beauty of nature and houses exciting attractions like Sun Moon lake and Qinjing farm.

Xitou Nature Education Area

This area is also remarkably breathtaking during autumn due to Gingko and Maple trees along the mountain trail. And these trees release brilliant foliage in autumn from late October to early December.

9. Kurobe Gorge, Tomaya prefecture

The most ideal country to visit in Asia comes autumn season is Japan. The country is blessed with spectacular scenery and stunning natural wonders through its sweeping vistas, wooded parks and prefectures and breathtaking trees and blooms.

Kurobe Gorge

Japan is popular for cherry blossoms travel in spring but it is also a great choice for an autumn trip due to its lush golden foliage. 

Kurobe Gorge in Tomaya prefecture is just one of its amazing autumn destinations. It's an ideal place for mountain hikers, intrepid adventurers and nature lovers.

The thick vegetation and wooded areas along the cliffsides of the towering bridges. With the scenic Kurobe river below and mountain peaks above, Kurobe Gorge is a perfect destination for thrill seekers and autumn aficionados.

8. Metasequoia Namiki Avenue, Shiga

A stunning prefectural road in Shiga, Japan soaked with more than 500 metasequioa trees, Namiki avenue is a dreamy place to visit comes autumn season.

Namili avenue soaked in Metasequioa trees

Due to its beautiful roadside scenery, it has been chosen as one of Japan's top 100 roadside sceneries. Namiki avenue offers varying wonders in every season but lovelier during Fall.

This 2.4 long avenue offers a beautiful scenery straight from the movie. Its metasequioa trees lined up on each side of the road neatly and its leaves form a canopy that makes the atmosphere a lot poetic and dreamy.

7. Asan Gingko Tree Road, Seoul

Gingko trees create a spectacular atmosphere during autumn. Not only these trees have beautiful foliage, its towering heights make the view more amazing.

Along the Asan road in Seoul, South Korea, stood the imposing Gingko trees overlooking a river. According to other bloggers who have visited this place, it's just about 2.5 hours from the downtown Seoul.

It's one of a must-visit place in South Korea during autumn so do not miss out including it in your travel bucket list!

6. Fushoushan Farm, Taichung, Taiwan

Dubbed as the Switzerland of Taiwan, Fushoushan farm nestled by the mountain ranges Hehuansan and Xueshan. As the greenery turns warm yellow and fiery red, this farm becomes a picture of loveliness. 

Beautiful autumn scenery in Fushoushan farm

Visitors are also treated to a fruit-picking during autumn. Due to its high elevated location, it is a great place to do sunrise and sunset viewing. 

The farm offers dining, accommodation  and guiding services and has a strolling avenue for hikers. It has a Pine house and a tea factory.

5. Fragrant Hills Park, Beijing, China

Known also as Xiangshan park, Fragrant Hills park is a public park in the eastern part of Western Hills, Haidian district in Beijing. It is a former imperial garden during the Qing dynasty and formerly known as Jingyi garden.

Autumn scenery in Fragrant Hills Park, Beijing

It covers almost 400 acres of land, surrounded with pine-cypress forest, hills with Maple trees, smoke trees and persimmon trees. It is a huge park with lots of oriental vibe gushing around the area. Cultural relics, natural sceneries, lakes and pavilions.

During autumn, the deep red leaves of the smoke trees blanket the entire mountain, creating a picturesque scenery around Fragrant Hills Park.

4. Naejangsan National Park, Jeolla-do

This is one of South Korea's most spectacular destinations during autumn season. And it's easy to see why. 

With scenic vista, hills, waterfalls, and mountains covering the landscape, and a placid lake below. No wonder this national park is so beautiful comes autumn season.

It is touted to be South Korea's most stunning autumn destination. It offers an quiet escape from the hustle and bustle of a city life. It is located on the border of North Jeolla and South Jeolla

3. Nami Island, Chuncheon, South Korea

K-drama fans are familiar with Nami island. It is a popular fixture among Korean drama series as a filming location. My Love From the Stars, Secret Garden and Winter Sonata are among the island's best endorsers. 

Autumn canopy in Nami island

Over the years, travelers who flocked to South Korea, never missed out Nami island. In fact, it has become a novelty among K-drama fanatics.

Namiseom or Nami island looks like a half-moon shaped located in Chuncheon, Gangwon province, South Korea. Best period to visit Nami island for a spectacular foliage viewing is between late September and early November.

2. Hokkaido, Japan

Hokkaido is more popular as a winter destination, especially Sapporo, but it is also a great place to visit during autumn. It is pack with lush scenery, warm hues and brilliant surrounding during Fall season.

Futami suspension bridge in Jozankei Onsen

Hokkaido is located in the Northern part of the country making it the Japanese place to see autumn  earliest than other locations in Japan. 

Best recommended places in Hokkaido to view autumn foliage are Hokkaido University Gingko Tree Avenue, Nakajima Park, and Jozankei Onsen. 

Hokkaido really is one of the best autumn destinations in Asia because fall colors will peak in September when everyone is in the mood for a change of season.

1. Kyoto, Japan

Oh yes, Kyoto! When it comes to Autumn travel in Asia, nothing does it better than Kyoto. It's one of the oldest and loveliest cities in Japan, where atmosphere is so stunning and picturesque.

Daigoji temple, a world site heritage in Kyoto

It is one of the many places on Earth acknowledged by most travel researchers and reviewers as a must-visit. 

With its natural charm, beautiful scenery of nature, great food and historic environment, Kyoto is truly a picture of loveliness.

Autumn season makes it even lovelier and gorgeous. Everywhere is blanketed with Maple trees, and forested mountains hang in the background, making Kyoto a charming Japanese city to experience the best of autumn travel.

Thursday, June 24, 2021

Travel Wanderlust: A Visit To Stunning C-Drama Filming Locations

June 24, 2021 0

It's been a while since my last travel adventure. The pandemic effectively cut off everything about my travel plans, so I have not posted any articles from an actual leisure trip in almost two years. 

However lately, while watching the travel vlog of Chinese heartthrob, Wu Lei (Leo Wu), who portrayed the irresistible Ashile Sun in the recently concluded C-Drama, The Long Ballad, on his recent outdoor cycling adventure to Qiandao Lake in Zhejiang province, China, I became interested in writing a travel feature again.

Chinese heartthrob, Wu Lei, on his recent cycling adventure trip

Although borders are still close and international travel for leisure is still off the table, we can actually start planning our next trip as early as now, set the budget and do some research on gorgeous places to visit.

Eternal Love shot in Xiangshan Global Studio

Since I am kinda hooked recently to C-Drama (Chinese TV and web series), I am fascinated with the breathtaking scenery of the C-drama filming locations. And like most fanatics who became interested on a Korea travel after becoming addicted to K-drama series, I am also interested to explore the C-drama filming locations.

C-Drama filming locations

If you are frequently watching historical or costume series of C-Drama, you will notice the locations are mostly in tranquil villages, beautiful scenery, mountains, lakes and quaint towns that recreate the life of an old world.

Actually, most of it are just shot in China's two biggest film studios - Hengdian and Xiangshan Global studios. However, there are some instances when filming takes place in beautiful villages and mountainside. 

Li Bingbing as Nichang in Forbidden Kingdom shot in Hengdian

There are locations that are not just film studios, there are actually scenery. The production team sometimes will recreate actual atmosphere to suit the story. For example, The Long Ballad production team planted thousands of seeds to recreate a prairie or grassland and erected 2,000 tents to shoot the Ashile tribe scenes.

Most of the locations boast a breathtaking sight of nature, spectacular countryside scene, mountains, lakes and a bed of beautiful garden. 

1. Hengdian World Studios. Located in Hengdian, Dongyang, Zhejiang province. It is operated by Hengdian Group owned by Xu Wenrong and it is the world's largest film studio. One of the most popular tourist attractions in Asia with a recorded visitors of 20 million in 2019.

Aerial view of Hengdian world studios

It recreates Imperial Palace buildings, pavilions. Around 70% of Chinese TV series and films are shoot in Hengdian studio. Even the K-drama, Empress Ki, was shoot there.

It has 21 filming lots spread across 30 square kilometers. The tour here not only for drama memories but also making each one's wildest film fantasies coming true.

The scene takes you back in time, to the ancient world of imperial dynasties of Qing, Sui, Ming, Tang and Qin as the area is filled with glittery palaces designed to recreate the atmosphere of the country's vivid past.

It has also a theme park called Dream Valley where visitors can watch plays, live shows and movies. One of its grandest buildings is the replica of the Imperial Palace building.

Most scenes of The Long Ballad were shot in Hengdian 

Popular films and TV series shot there are:

  • Forbidden Kingdom (a blockbuster Jackie Chan and Jet Li film collaboration released in 2008)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee film which won Best Foreign Film in the Oscar awards in 2001 starring Michelle Yeoh and Chow Yun Fat)
  • Empress Ki (Korean historical drama)
  • The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor
  • Mulan (2020 Disney live action film starring Liu Yifei)
  • More than 70% historical and costume C-Drama series are shot here. The Long Ballad, The Untamed, Legend of Fuyao, and many more.

Famous replicas in this outdoor film studio:

  • Guangzhou Street and Hong Kong Street 
  • The Palace of Emperor Qin
  • Palace of Ming and Qing Dynasties
  • Qing Ming Shang He Tu
  • The Dream Bund
  • New Yuanmingyuan
  • Dream Valley

Entrance fee: 400 yuan per person. Operating hours: 8:00pm to 5:00pm

What to do at Hengdian World studio:

  • Watch live cultural performances, shows and movies at night time at Dream Valley
  • Experience an ancient costume dress-up just like the characters in historical films and series
  • Stay in film set hotels
  • Tour around the magnificent imperial palaces, princely pavilions and replicas of old oriental streets
  • Dream bund area allows you to experience the old Shanghai

How To Get There:

It takes 4-hour travel via land from Shanghai and Jiangsu. There's no airport in Hengdian town, the nearest area with international airport is Hangzhou which is two and a half hours travel to Hengdian. But there are hotels, restaurant and shopping centers around the town.

2. Xiangshan Global Studios. A film and television studio located in Xinqiao town in the Xiangshan county, Zhejiang province. Measured at 78,000 square meters or 194 acre, it is a popular location of C-Drama historical series and films, however a bit smaller than Hengdian world studios.

Xiangshan Global Studio

Most popular films and series shot here:

  • The Return of the Condor Heroes
  • The Legend of the Condor Heroes
  • Nirvana in Fire
  • Eternal Love: Ten Miles of Peach Blossom
  • The Flame's Daughter
  • The Longest Day in Chang'an
  • Legend of Qin
  • Chinese Paladin 3
  • Sound of the Desert
  • Journey to the West
  • The Warrior's Gate (film)
  • Sacrifice (film)
  • The Four (film)

3. Yunnan mountain and ethnic village - Located in Yunnan province, this place is also famous as film location of historical series. Yunnan is in the Southernmost part of China bordering Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam and Tibet.

Yunnan village

It is mountainous and mostly covered with beautiful lakes, great for nature excursion and meditation. Best travel time at Yunnan is during Autumn and Spring. Its mountains are covered with cherry blossoms at springtime.

UNESCO World Heritage Site, Honghe Hani Rice Terraces

It is also home to many UNESCO world heritage sites, its most famous is the cultural landscape of Honghe Hani Rice Terraces.

Yunnan mountainside and its ethnic village are famous as film locations of most C-drama historical series.

4. Zhangjiajie National Park - famous as the filming location of James Cameron's Avatar, it is located in Zhangjiajie, Hunan province. The best time to visit this place is during Spring or Autumn when the weather is beautiful. Recommended visit is two days to make the most of your time.

5. Wulong County, Chongqing - This area is most famous as a film location of Transformer: Age of Extinction. It is located in Chongqing  province and can be reached through Chongqing North Railway Station. 

Wulong County, Chongqing

The best travel experience in this area is through Wulong Karst landscape which comprises of natural bridges, fairy mountain and Furong cave.

Its three natural bridges are the largest natural bridge group in Asia. These three natural bridges lie north to south, crossing over the Yangshuihe Gorge and connecting the mountains at the two sides. Wulong mountain is famous as a cinematography landscape of most wuxia and xianxia C-drama series.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021

17 Destinations In Asia For The Best Cherry Blossoms Travel

March 31, 2021 0

Cherry blossoms in Japan

Year 2021. It's still the year of COVID-19 and not the year of travel and adventure. It's pretty awful to think but it seems our travel goals need another year of extension. It starts to piss me off but there's nothing the world could do but wait a little longer.

It's approaching April, the peak of springtime, and with it, the charming view of the Cherry blossoms rises to its glory. While we could not still travel out-of-the-country to see Cherry blossoms, now is the perfect time to start planning for a Cherry blossom travel someday.

In Asia, there are three countries known for its Cherry blossoms landscape at springtime: Japan, South Korea and Taiwan. 

The charm of Cherry blossoms

Why people are fascinated with Cherry blossoms? Perhaps due to its awesome hue that epitomizes happiness, romance and timeless beauty.

Visually-enticing, charming to the eyes and senses, and heartwarming, Cherry blossoms are the depiction of fantasy we all dreaming to visit. 

And while fantasy is only in a dream, we can at least make it coming true by viewing Cherry blossoms. Here are Asia's best destinations to witness this myriad beauty of pink, according to world travelers and travel bloggers.

Let's be tickled with pink!


Japan, no doubt, is the world's most popular destination when it comes to Cherry blossoms travel. It is part of the Japanese culture and its significant symbol of the spring season. 

Cherry blossoms season in Japan

Although Sakura trees are grown and cultivated around the world, none matches Japan's pandemonium of blush pink petals.

It's everywhere in the country, framing city canals, blanketing mountains and countryside with the sea of pink - and with it, the scenery of happiness and endless beauty of nature.

View of Mt. Fuji at springtime

Japan is home to the finest Sakura trees in the world where spring time saw the whole country cloak in the charm of pink.

It's difficult to predict the peak of the Cherry blossoms season in Japan, however, most travel guide to Japan suggested March to April as the best time to travel to the land of the rising sun.

Where to experience the best of Cherry blossoms travel in Japan?

1. Kyoto - This ancient capital of Japan tops the list of best places to witness the charm of the Cherry blossoms season. The full blooming season starts in the middle of March and lasts until the mid-April.

In springtime, the imperial city of Kyoto transforms into a pink of paradise. Everywhere is filled with charming sights of the flowering Sakura trees. The grand palaces, ancient temples, ornate shrines. and traditional "machiya" houses clad in Cherry blossoms comes springtime.

Although all over Japan is cloak in pink with the stunning Cherry blossoms, Kyoto offers the most stunning scenery of the blooms. Head to the Kyoto imperial palace, Kyoto botanical park, Maruyama-koen park and Philosopher's path for the most thrilling cherry blossoms adventure.

2. Yoshino - A town in Japan's Kii Mountain, east of Osaka. It is the gateway to Mount Yoshino, known as the mountain covered with thousands of Cherry blossoms trees. It is Japan's most popular Cherry blossoms viewing point.

Cherry blossoms typically start in late March down to early April where the blooms reach its full beauty. Range of elevation varies so the blooming season is scattered by a couple of days between the Shimo (lower), Naka (middle) and Kami (upper).

Yoshimizu shrine, Kinpusenji temple and Nakasenbon park are the best spots in Yoshino to experience the best of the Cherry blossoms season.

3. Osaka - A bustling city of Japan famous for its authentic Japanese cuisine, Osaka is one of the country's best destination for Cherry blossoms experience.

Its famous landmarks - Okawa riverside, Osaka Castle, Kema Sakuranomiya park, Osaka Mint Bureau and Tsurumi Ryokuchi park - are famous backdrops of sakura trees where the surroundings burst into the sea of blush pink.

4. Lake Kawaguchi - It is located in the border of Fujiwaguchiko and Minobu towns in southern Yamanashi Prefecture. This lake shines the best of its charm during Cherry blossoms season.

It is where the view of Mt. Fuji, Japan's highest peak, can be best enjoyed. And its glistening beauty rises in springtime, especially in mid-April.

One of the nicest spots of Cherry blossoms viewing is at the seaside promenade near the Kawaguchi Music Forest. 

However, travelers are being warned that Mt. Fuji is not visible whole day at Lake Kawaguchi as clouds obstruct the view of the mountain, especially during hazy months. The best time to see its charm is in the morning and near afternoon.

5. Yoyogi Park, Tokyo - This 134-acre of massive cherry blossom trees and greenery is one of the most charming spots in Tokyo for a Sakura tree blooms viewing. It is famous for picnic-at-the-park during springtime.

6. Nakameguro, Tokyo - It is considered as the best neighborhood for Cherry blossoms viewing. Each springtime, between the last week of March and early April, its canal-like waterways are teemed with brilliant pink blooms. 

Highlight of the season is Nakameguro Sakura Festival where shops and restaurants sell Cherry blossoms-inspired items along the canal.

7. Shinjuku Gyoen - A huge park and national garden located in Shinjuku and Shibuya in Tokyo. It is home to more than 20,000 trees with approximately 1,500 varieties of Cherry blossoms, thus, the best spot to experience the Cherry blossoms viewing comes spring.

Shinjuku Gyoen is scattered in three different garden style. The French garden, the English garden and the Japanese-style garden. It is the best spot to experience the best of nature in Tokyo.

However, unlike other spots in Japan for a cherry blossoms viewing, Shinjuku Gyoen is not free. It has an admission fee and opens from 9:00 in the morning until 4:30 in the afternoon.

8. Hiroshima Ueno Park - Located in Shobara city in the Hiroshima Precture, Ueno park is famous cherry blossoms viewing spot. In spring, the Sakura blooms around the pond create a spectacular scenery of beautiful pink blooms.


Ever since the K-pop world makes a sweeping wave across the Philippines, Filipinos cannot get enough of South Korea. However, this country is more than K-dramas and K-pop idols. 

Apart from Japan, South Korea is a popular Asian destination for Cherry blossoms. And there are many spots in the country where travelers can witness the full blooms of Sakura trees in spring.   

Cherry blossoms season in South Korea

1. Jinhae, South Korea

Jinhae-gu is a district in Changwon city, South Korea surrounded by mountains and pines and famous for its irresistible Cherry blossoms at Yeojwacheon stream and parks. 

It is at Jinhae port where the largest Korean spring festival takes place, the Gunhangje festival where Cherry blossoms are in full display. It is organized in the first week of April and visitors will have the best Cherry blossoms experience in the city of Changwon.

2. Gyeongju, South Korea

Cherry blossoms season in South Korea starts in late March and runs until the third week of April. This period offers the best of Cherry blossoms experience in this amazing country.

To enjoy the full blossoms viewing, travelers are advised to head to Gyeongju, the ancient Silla capital home to many historic sites.

During the Cherry blossoms season, Gyeongju has many festivals attributed to Cherry blossoms including marathon and performances. Gyeongju is accessible from Seoul through KTX train of express. 

3. Seoul, South Korea

The capital of South Korea is itself a myriad of beautiful things to see for travelers. It has century-old palaces, sublime gardens and skyscraping buildings. However, it's in its bustling streets that travelers see the eclectic beauty of Seoul.

In April, Seoul, celebrates the Yeouido Spring Flower Festival. Visitors can witness a myriad of Cherry blossoms beauty along the Hangang River. It's said to be filled with other eye-catching blooms such as forsythias, deutzia and azaleas.

Seoul Cherry blossoms viewing include fringe activities like street performances and fireworks. So if you want to visit Seoul in its finest beauty, consider visiting during springtime.

The beautiful spots in the city to see Cherry blossoms:

  • Gyeongbokgung Palace
  • National Palace Museum
  • National Folk Museum of Korea
  • Changyeongqung
  • Seokchon Lake
  • Insa-dong where cherry blossoms and traditional Korean houses give an aesthetic pleasure

4. Jeju island - known as the "Hawaii of Korea", the island lies in Korea strait. It's where the spring season comes first, thus, Cherry blossoms can be first experienced at Jeju island. During this season, Jeju island is teemed with Canola flowers and the magnificent Cherry blossoms.

Seongsan Ilchulbong Sunrise Peak, a UNESCO world heritage site, Hallim park, and Mount Sanbangsan, are the best spots to experience Cherry blossoms in Jeju island. Peak of Cherry blossoms season in Jeju island is between mid-March and early April. 

5. Busan - A cultural hub of South Korea and its second most populous city. Its beaming skyscraping buildings roll spaces between green mountains and beaches, while beautiful bridges span across the sea.

Busan is not only a beautiful place to explore the culture and modern life of South Korea, it is also a great spot to view Cherry blossoms.

Gamcheon cultural vilage, made up of colorful houses built on the foothills of a coastal mountain, made Busan a beautiful Cherry blossoms destination as this vibrant town transform into a village of timeless beauty with Sakura trees.


While Japan and South Korea are the most popular destinations in Asia for Cherry blossoms at springtime, Taiwan is not far behind.

Cherry blossoms in Wuling Farm, Taiwan

However, unlike Japan and South Korea, Taiwan has no specific forecast of the peak of the Cherry blossoms season.

Blossoming of its Sakura trees vary each year but generally, the best time to see Cherry blossoms in Taiwan is around January to early part of April.

Spots to make the most of Cherry blossoms experience in Taiwan

1. Alishan Forest Recreation - a mountaintop recreational area surrounded with lush forest and rolling tea farms. Famous for its spectacular sunrise and hiking trails, it is also a popular destination for Cherry blossoms travelers. It has a festival called Alishan Cherry Blossoms festival that runs between midway March and early April.

2. Qingjing Farm - Located in Nantou county, in a quaint Taiwanese town of Qingjing, the farm is famous for its picture-perfect view of Cherry blossoms.

There are beautiful scenic spots in Qingjing farm to view Cherry blossoms, at the Sakura trail and Guanshan trail. Best time to go: Middle of January to the middle of March.

3. Wuling Farm - Located in the Heping district of Taichung, Taiwan, Wuling Farm yearly organized a Wuling Farm Cherry blossoms festival between February and March. What makes this location uniquely different from other spots in Taiwan is that, it is home also to a sweeping 30,000 Cherry trees. So there's a lot more to see at this farm than just Cherry blossoms.

4. Wuji Tianyuan Temple - A stunning Taoist temple located at the foothills of Datun mountain in Danshui, just 30 minutes from Taipei city, so it's a bit accessible to travelers. 

It's one of Taiwan's best spots for Cherry blossoms viewing. What made it a beautiful travel destination at springtime is its breathtaking scenery. Cherry blossoms adorned the ornate 5-tiered pagoda and dozens of romantic lanes lined up with Yoshino cherry trees.

Wednesday, May 20, 2020

12 Reasons Why You Should Visit Saigon, Vietnam After Lockdown

May 20, 2020 0
District 1 in Saigon, Vietnam

Saigon is the old name of Ho Chi Minh City, the largest city in Vietnam and its center of finance and trading. 

It is located in Southern Vietnam and closer to other Southeast Asian destinations like Cambodia, Thailand and Laos. It is one of the most charming cities in Southeast Asia where warmth of an old world can still be felt

Typical day in Saigon, Vietnam

Successful Fight for COVID-19
While the rest of Southeast Asia, including the Philippines, struggled to contain the spread of the virus, Vietnam appeared to have won the war against an unseen enemy.

Despite its closest location to China, the epicenter of the virus that gripped the world at the start of the year, and continue to ravage nations until today, Vietnam has amazingly prevented the worst spread of the disease in the country.

Home to 97 million people, Vietnam's response to COVID-19 impressed the world. As of May 2020, it has only 328 confirmed cases and zero deaths!

How they managed to keep the virus at bay considering the country has a less advanced healthcare system compare to other nations in the region?

According to an article in CNN, Vietnam started preparing for the virus outbreak long before Chinese authorities admitted that there's a human to human transmission of the disease and long before the World Health Organization declared it as a global emergency.

"We were not only waiting for guidelines from WHO. We used the data we gathered from outside and inside (the country to) decide to take action early," said Pham Quang Thai, deputy head of the Infection Control Department at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology in Hanoi.

Motorbike is their primary mode of transportation

In the middle of January this year, the aviation authorities in Vietnam cancelled all flights coming from Wuhan after two Chinese Nationals living in Vietnam tested positive of the virus after visiting Wuhan.

By February, with only just six cases of the virus in the country, the government declared it as a national epidemic, all flights between Vietnam and China were halted.

Deputy Prime Minister Vu Duc Dam was ordering government agencies to take "drastic measures" to prevent the disease from spreading into Vietnam, strengthening medical quarantine at border gates, airports and seaports.

Now, the country is just one of the fewest nations in the world with zero death case of COVID-19. They only had three weeks nationwide lockdown, social distancing rules were lifted in April, classes and business reopened and life is gradually returning to normal.

Moreover, the country is exercising motorbikes as its primary mode of transportation long before the health crisis began. And Vietnam has no jeepney in mass transport, they only have buses, taxis and motorbikes.

The Resilience of Saigon

Saigon itself is a survival of many atrocities and crisis. They stood with the harshest test of times in the past. 

It endured many struggles, poverty and political tensions and was once the subject of a proxy war between the Soviet Union and the United States.

For more than nine centuries it was under the foreign rule. France took position in Southern Vietnam in 1862, and made Saigon as its capital. It was put under the French Indochina rule with Cambodia and Laos.
Strolling in Saigon in 2015 January

The French rule ended in 1955, and Southern Vietnam became a socialist government, but political tension against Northern Vietnam, which was under a communist regime of the Viet Cong, led by Ho Chi Minh, continued.

It had blown into a war, known as the Vietnam War, with Southern Vietnam supported by the United States, South Korea, Philippines and Australia while the North was supported by the Soviet Union, known today as Russia, and China.

However, on April 30, 1975, the North communist party gained control and defeated the South. 

The defeat was known as The Fall of Saigon. In 1976, Saigon name was changed to Ho Chi Minh City but the central business district today is still known as Saigon.

At the public park during my visit

Memories of the past

Today, Saigon is a bustling city of unique charm, beauty and interest. Westerners frequented the city, intrigued with its storied past. It was even more the subject of so much curiosity when West-End musical, Miss Saigon, was launched.

Though they had fully recovered from war, memories of the past is still very much felt in the city. 

Classicall Western buildings dominated the entire landscape. Structures of shops, boutiques and restaurants are still very much French in style.

Strolling around District 1 in Saigon

It's a place stepped in history but where one can still enjoy the life of the old times. The entire city of Saigon is spruced up with trees, flowers and beautiful public parks. It's a quaint city where loveliness of a relaxed place is truly felt.

It is an ideal place to visit for those who like motorbikes. Vietnam is one of the fewest remaining countries in the world that still utilized motorbikes as a primary mode of transportation.

Locals prefer scooters than cars. It's so amazing to see riders crunching across the city with their motorcycle whole day.

During our visit, I was amazed with this scene because it was my first time to be in a place that has motorbikes as transportation. It felt like an old world! There's a siklo for tourists to try, a two-wheeled bike similar to "padyak" in the Philippines.

On our way to the Notre Dame Cathedral

I have visited Saigon with two female friends in 2015 on New Year's day and it was such a fascinating experience. Beautiful, quiet, relax and cool. I was so impressed with the unique charm of the city.

Blooms in season, public parks and French colonial buildings are everywhere. District 1 is just a small area and tourists can even explore it by foot without any fear of getting lost. Souvenir's shops can be found everywhere.

There are street vendors just like in the Philippines, we even tasted a fresh buko juice while walking on our way to the Diamond Plaza, a shopping mall just across the Notre Dame Cathedral.

Notre dame cathedral

Saigon boasts a beautiful scenery of nature, the canopy of trees covered almost every major thoroughfare, and ancient trees dominated its public parks.

Formerly, the capital of Cochinchina during the French occupation, Saigon has rich history and fascinating culture.

Though often associated with the horror of war, the city has greatly recovered from the atrocities and now considered as a tourism magnate in Southeast Asia. It's a lovely place to visit!

Here's 12 Reasons why you should visit this charming city.

1. Unique Culture of the Old World

Saigon still boasts the atmosphere of an old world, as though you are stepping back in time. Quaint streets, classic architecture, languid atmosphere. 

So relaxing! And when you visit this place, it feels like you're striding back in time, back to the warmth of a forgotten world.

Street in Saigon

Though public bus and taxi are available, the primary mode of transportation among locals is still motorbike. 

And this is what I love most about Saigon, the motorbikes dominated the avenues of the city, making the streets not super congested with bus and cars. Traffic is not terrible and environmental pollution is not worst.

2. The Paris of the Orient

Saigon has been colonized by France in the late part of the 19th century and the French influence is still very much alive in the city. 

French colonial buildings are everywhere and the city retained this type of architecture among its most recent buildings.

Central Post Office building

Most of the city's popular landmarks are designed under the French architecture influence. And the old buildings during the pre-Vietnam war had been preserved.

The opera house, Notre Dame Cathedral, the Central Post Office and the Independence Palace. These are located in district 1. Due to its classic French buildings and boutiques, Saigon is dubbed as the Paris of the Orient.

Notre Dame Cathed

Notre Dame Cathedral is one of the most popular attractions in Saigon. It's thoroughly French. Patterned after the Notre Dame Cathedral in France, the entire materials used in the construction were imported from France.

3. Cheaper Lifestyle

Saigon, despite its burgeoning economy and the most modern among Vietnam's cities, remains very affordable. With a cheaper lifestyle that is very much oriental and relax, a DIY (do-it-yourself) trip here on a budget is so much easier and stress-free.

Benh Thanh market, which is probably Vietnam's largest drygoods market, offers cheaper products, from authentic local handicrafts to imported goods. Shoppers can haggle for lower prices, even on imported items.

At night time, Benh Thanh rises into life and vibrancy. Night market stalls began its operations and more affordable goods are on display. Outdoor dining is also popular at this district.

4. Gateway to French Indochina Tour

Saigon is in Southern Vietnam, and therefore closer to other Southeast Asian countries with blossoming tourism industries. 

If you want to embark into a French Indochina tour (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar) then to Bangkok, Thailand by land, Saigon is an ideal starting point.

It is just eight hours away from Phnom Pehn city, the capital of Cambodia, and roughly 16 hours away from Angkor Park in Siem Reap, Cambodia. 

Traveling by land around the French Indochina is so much cheaper than by air. Though you have to endure the long travel, the road is safe and not bumpy.

5. Visit The Miss Saigon District

Every soul in Southeast Asia is probably aware by now that the world famous broadway musical, Miss Saigon, is actually inspired by a fictional scene during the Vietnam War at one of the glitzy pubs in Saigon.

The story is about a young Vietnamese girl who worked in a bar and fell in love with an American soldier, just as the city was about to be liberated by the North from the Americans.

Parallel to the story of Miss Saigon, the city indeed has a vibrant night life with its streets and bars being are filled with tourists. During our visit, I've seen street pubs sprung to life at night time.

This Miss Saigon storied life is still on a roll among Saigon's bar and night clubs, but some of it are not as tragic as those stories in bars during the Vietnam war.

6. The Siklo and Motorbike Rides

Saigon is still very much attached to the old tradition of its forefathers of riding a motorbike during the colonial days. In fact, despite the modern lifestyle of the world, the city is still relying on siklo and motorbikes as transportation.
Siklo ride around Saigon

Siklo is like a trisikad version in the Philippines only that the passenger is sitting in front. This is one of the most interesting local rides to try in Vietnam. I was able to try it and the feeling was surreal, both exciting and thrilling haha!

Siklo drivers are everywhere in the city, offering tourists with a city tour, but at a slighter expensive rate. You need to have a clear agreement with the driver before hopping in for a tour because most locals can hardly speak and understand English.

Locals prefer to ride in their motorbike when going to work or just going around the city. Motorbikes filled the street more than buses and taxis. Saigon has no jeepney.

On our way to Independence Palace

7. Not Overly Crowded

Unlike Metro Manila in my home country Philippines, Saigon is a very relaxing place where streets and avenues are not overly crowded. Rush hour is not terrible and people in the streets seem not in a hurry. They're just walking normally as if the day stands still.

During our visit, we just walked around by foot, roaming around district 1 and visiting tourist landmarks on our own. We just asked the locals with the direction and just proceeded to each destination without too much worries.

8. See the Independence Palace

Probably Saigon's center of glamour and history, Independence Palace showcases Saigon's interesting past, especially during the colonial days and wartime.

Inside the Independence Palace

Unique in its existence, this elegant palace in district 1 is a former home to the president of the Southern Vietnam. Today, the palace is a state owned museum where artifacts during the French occupation are on display.

This is one of the highlights of a Saigon tour where visitors will have a chance to learn Saigon's rich history through the palace's curated state rooms, banquet rooms, precious treasures and building design. Entrance fee is $2.00 and opens from 8Am to 4PM daily.

9. Cultural Heritage of the Orient

Saigon is a melting pot of the unique culture of the east and the west, an orient cultural heritage combines with the glamorous atmosphere of the French. Though very oriental in nature, the lovely city is still very much French in its architecture and boutique styles.

One of the oriental restaurants in Saigon

10. Eat and Shop

Saigon is Vietnam's premier city where shopping is made cheaper. The city is filled with shopping centers, night markets and boutiques selling high-end goods at very affordable prices.

Hand-woven items, embroideries and tapestries are everywhere and tourists can haggle at even lower prices. One of the best in Southeast Asian region!

Saigon is also home to tasty cuisine of the orient but authentic French food is very much available, even in food stalls. It is integrated in their local cuisine due to the influence of the French during colonial days. Common staples sold in the street food stalls have French twist like baguettes.

11. Home of the best coffee in Southeast Asia

Vietnam is the world's second largest producer of coffee next to Brazil, no wonder the country offers the best variety of coffee compared to other countries in Southeast Asia.

Asian Dolce Latte of Starbucks was inspired by one of the local coffee concoctions in Saigon, ca phe sua da. It's a traditional Vietnamese coffee recipe made form coarse ground dark roast coffee mixed with steamed condensed milk.

It's tastier and yummier when you are in Saigon. No wonder Starbucks was threatened when it opened its first store in Saigon in 2013. 

They made their own versions to lure locals to try Starbucks, the Asian Dolce Latte. Starbucks concocted it by mixing a double shot espresso with dolce sauce (made from steamed milk).

Asian Dolce Latte is my favorite hot coffee variety in Starbucks because it is very much Asian, it best suits to my palate. District 1 in Saigon is filled with many coffee shops serving authentic Vietnamese coffee. A great place for all coffee lovers.

12. A Unique Place To Chill

If you're extremely weary from the hustle and bustle of the city, fed up with smog and traffic in a dense urban place and longed to relax in a park filled with blooms and plants, or just want to take a walk in the street, Saigon is a perfect destination.

It's a quiet place without so much drama in the environment, no rush hour, people are not in a hurry. It's a beautiful place to feel the day just rolls into evening without getting stress on heavy traffic. And where daredevil bus drivers have no place in major thoroughfares.

Relaxing in a public park

How To Get To Saigon

There are daily flights from Manila to Ho Chi Minh city offered by major airlines. Cebu Pacific schedule going to Saigon is usually shortly before midnight. 

Although I haven't checked the new flight schedules of major airlines in the country if they had changed it following COVID-19 safety measures.

Travel time is just two hours and thirty minutes. Vietnam Standard Time is one hour behind the Philippine Standard Time.

Traveling around Saigon is very convenient. Taxi, bus, motorbikes are the common public transportation in the city but the cheaper means is bus. At the airport, bus #158 is the most common route going to district 1 and Benh Thanh market. Fare is VD5,000 (2015 rate).

Our Saigon Itinerary and Budget

Vietnam has no visa for Southeast Asian passport holders. Upon entering the country, Southeast Asian residents are given 30 days free of visa stay.

Day one of our visit

  • Departure, NAIA in Manila 11:45PM
  • Arrival, Ho Chi Minh city 1:45 AM
  • We slept at the airport until 7AM
  • Departed airport by 7:30AM through a bus ride (#158) going to Ben Thanh market in district 1.
  • Disembarked at Ben Thanh market.
  • We just walked to Lanlan hotel, just across Behn Thanh market.
  • Left our bags at the concierge of the hotel to start our day tour.
  • We just walked by foot visiting popular landmarks: Central post office, Notre dame cathedral, Diamond Plaza, Reunification palace.
  • The only entrance fee we paid was at the Reunification palace.
  • We haven't visited War Museum, but this is a good place to discover the history of Vietnam during the war.
  • Cu Chin channel and opera house are other interesting landmarks in Saigon.
  • Temples and pagodas are some of the most beautiful landmarks you could visit in Saigon.
  • Budget: Round trip airfare from Manila via Cebu Pacific - Php5,000
  • Bus ride from airport to Behn Thanh market - Php10.00 (VD5,000)
  • Breakfast and lunch - Php250.00
  • Reunification palace entrance - Php75
  • Hotel for one night - Php800.00 with complimentary breakfast
  • Dinner - Php120.00
  • Souvenir shopping - Php3,000
  • Travel tax from Manila - Php1,500
  • Siklo ride - Php250.00

Total budget: Php11,500 approximate

Important Reminder

Like most third world countries, pickpocketing is prevalent in Saigon. So secure your bag and wallet while walking around the city. However, assistance is within reach as the place has police visibility.

Before hopping in for siklo and motorbike rides, make a clear arrangement with the driver to come up with a precise rate on rides. Most of them are not good in English so propose for a clear agreement before taking a ride.

Saigon is ideal for DIY travelers, look for backpacker hostels and rooms around Pham Lau Street or in district 1. However, a two-star hotel in Saigon is already a nice accommodation with complimentary breakfast and very much affordable.

Saigon is cheaper and the city has plenty of markets for shopping. Haggle for a better price when you shop at night or day market. It is also a good place to shop for handicrafts and imported goods. A lot of option to choose from.

When you cross the border to Cambodia by land, don't book your ticket elsewhere, try to make an arrangement with the hotel concierge to reserve you a bus ticket. It is very convenient and less stress than booking online.

Bus companies will dispatch a shuttle to pick you up an hour before the trip to Cambodia so it's very convenient and hassle-free. You just wait in your room at the hotel and the staff will just call you up.

A Php15,000.00 or US$300.00 is enough for a 3-day tour in Saigon including airfare and hotel. During our visit in 2015, I only spent Php12,000 for our Saigon trip for 2 days. Currency of Vietnam is Vietnamese Dong.

Best Time To Visit Saigon

Unlike Hanoi, the capital of Vietnam located in the northern part of the country, Saigon is typically tropical where weather can be at its warmest. And coldest during wet season.

The best time to visit this city is between December to April where the weather is balmy, not warm nor wet. We visited Saigon on New Year's day and it was a very mild weather.

May to November is their wet season while December to April is the dry season in Southeastern Vietnam.

Vietnam is a predominantly Buddhist country but they do celebrate New Year, even Christmas as there are Christians living everywhere in the country, so expect some festive mood at the beginning of the year in Saigon. In fact, during our visit we still saw Christmas and New Year ornaments displayed in establishments.
Check our Budget Travel Guide for Saigon
This travel to Saigon commenced in 2015 January there might be changes in rate and packages and bus schedules in the present time. More travel story also about Saigon during our trip, click below links:

Saigon is so charming and lovely, it's my favorite city in Southeast Asia. An ideal place for budget travelers and people who just want to go on a day in a quiet place and just relax.
Travel Advisory in Vietnam due to COVID-19
Vietnam has lifted its social distancing rules since April 23 as no further community transmission of the virus has been recorded. Business and schools were reopened since then, they only had three-week lockdown, but safety measures are still in place.

The country remains close to foreigners, only local travel is allowed. For further travel advisory for tourists in Vietnam, CHECK THIS LINK
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