Vientiane | Backpacking the sleepy capital of Laos for 1 day

HISTORY 101: Vientiane is the capital of the Laos People’s Democratic Republic. They have their own monetary system known as Laotian money LAK (Laotian Kip) or simply ‘kip’, but  your Baht is still widely accepted and used in Laos. Vientiane is situated on a bend of the Mekong river, which forms the border with Thailand at this point. All tourist who intends to visit Vientiane can either take plane, travel by train or bus and even sailing to the Mekong River from it’s nearby countries like Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. It was a former colony of French so you will see more French Colonial Buildings everywhere. Theravada Buddhism is the predominant religion in Laos. It is therefore not surprising that the temples can be found easily in the country

Now the Story

Laos is my second stop for my INDOCHINA SOLO BACKPACKING TRIP. After spending 4 amazing and unforgettable days in Bangkok I am now ready to concur SEA’s laid-back capital. The initial plan on my itinerary is to take the overnight sleeper train from Hualumpong Train Station in BKK to Vientiane, Laos. But there’s turns of events that happened-I arrived pretty late in BKK from my day trip to Ayutthaya on my last day in BKK. So opted to get my PLAN B working-to take overnight bus from BKK-VIENTIANE. The journey took almost 12 hours but didn’t really noticed the time cause peacefully sleeping inside the bus. Due to the very short period of days I have in this trip I can only cover Vientiane-though I am dying to see the alms ceremony in Luang Prabang but I can only SIGH cause I aint have another 2 extra days.

At 9AM i was officially on the soil of Vientiane, we where dropped into a unfamiliar place where my worrying starts- the feeling of getting lost in translation in the middle of nowhere. So I chartered a tuk-tuk to bring me to the city center, I showed him the map of where I intended to go. Right away he knows what I am talking about but I did not get inside the tuk-tuk right away cause when I asked him how much he said only 400Baht. And this is what I hate about being a tourist as prices gets doubled and sometimes tripled- they know you have money so they will abuse and over charged you. So it is really important you do a lil bit of research when it comes to basic prices of commodities,transportation and even basic services and accommodation.

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A sample laminated sightseeing tour pamphlet

Later on I was able to lower down the price to 150Baht which I think is still overpriced but I just took it cause I have to keep moving. The tuk-tuk driver also showed me this laminated photos of main attractions in Vientiane-he was saying something around 1000Baht not really sure with the exact price cause I am listening unattentively (if i know scam nanaman tong kinukuda nya).

WORD OF ADVICE: Don’t fall on this trap! Not unless you find it worthy to spend 50USD alone for less than half day of sight seeing via tuk-tuk. Most of the main attractions in Vientiane are close to each other so it will be easy if you can get your feet moving or simply rent a bike. I dont know how to ride one so shame on me for not learning this when i was still a child.

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City Attractions Map

This map really helped me alot in this trip-so looking at this map you already have an idea that the attractions is plotted in a way that tourist can hop from 1 attractions to another easily. You can either star from the North of Lane Xang Avenue (That Luang) or down at the South (Chao Anuovong Statue)  which ever you may think is suited for you. All the main attractions can be found in Lane Xang Avenue including the Talat Sao Mall and Market.

1st Attraction

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Patuxai Arc (Anousavari Monument)

I started exploring the Patuxai Arc which is not an ideal cause in the map That Luang is on the far end of Lane Xang Avenue while Sitting at the end of Lane Xang Avenue, between Vientiane Street and That Luang area, Patuxai which also means Victory Gate is  built between 1957 and 1968, is dedicated to those who fought in the struggle for independence from France. It looks like Arc de Triomphe in Paris, but its design is Laotian. t is the best known landmark of Vientiane.

At first glance it really looks like the Paris’s Arc de Triomphe but as you get closer [the monument] appears even less impressive, like a monster of concrete”, a plaque on its wall says.

Its bottom and outside are simulated The Arc de Triumph de l’Étoile in Paris but the top and inside are designed with featured architecture and breathtaking carvings of Laos.

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View from the top of  Patuxai Arc

I paid 3,000Kip to get to the top which even more disappointing-really looks a unfinished huge block of cement. Taking the stairs reminds me of the narrow staircases in the church to get to the big bell.You will not believe that at the top there are gift shops selling overpriced items and souvenirs like key chain and magnets. All of my gadgets with me became useless after they run out of battery charge so I only have few photos from my Vientiane Trip.

 

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 At the back of Patuxai Arc

Entrance fee : 3,000Kip / USD0.39 / RM1.19 (staircase or lifts to the top floor viewing area)
Opening Hours : 8am-4:30pm on Mondays-Fridays, 8am-5pm on Saturdays & Sundays.

2nd Attraction

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Pha That Luang from afar

While on my way to Pha That Luang from Patuxai Arc my prayer has been answered and luckily spotted True Coffee Shop. I was desperately looking for this for 2 reasons (to re charge my gadgets and freshen up and change outfit). It was just in time when I get inside the store and ordered a venti mocha frappucino. While I was at the counter I utterly asked the barista if there is a free wi-fi, then he said YES and then TING!!!!…. check in time muna sa FB but the bad news is it is only free for 1 hour and after that you will have to pay. The barista handed me my cup of frappucino and I was rushing to get to the comfy sofa next to power outlet. 2 and half hours passed and the battery charge on my Ipad is at 20%, so I think that’s enough -then I started to hit the road again feeling recharged and fresh-freshan.

It was 5 minutes before 12 noon when I reached the entrance gate of Pha That Luang. They wont let me in cause it’s lunch time (pakainin mu rin naman sila diba). I asked what time I can go back and lady answered to go back at 1PM.

And because I have not taken any solid food since we left BKK so I decided to go food hunting-started walking from That Luang until I spotted a food stall or resto (hindi kasi maipaliwanag ang hitsura nya), it was only few blocks away from the landmark so I sat in one of the empty tables then examined the menu and ended up getting Pork Noodle and Fried Rice (oh diba carb kung carb). I knew im gonna need alot of energy so I ate alot and thats actually my 1st and last meal in Vientiane (sa sobrang nagtipid lang). You know the face of a beggar man when you feed him with your left over take away? I literally looks like that when the lady started serving the food that I ordered. OH GOD! I was so famished that time and I finished the meal in less than 25 minutes..And BTW the food choices in the menu maybe limited but geez it so cheap around 40-70 Baht.

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In one of the souvenir shop..TEMPTED pero buti nagpigil

Hmm it was still early so I explored the deserted street next to the resto and I was able to find some souvenir shops. I just checked out the items they were selling but decided not to buy cause I am running out of Thai Bahts.

In no time I am already done so I find my way back to That Luang and paid the entrance ticket of 5000 Kip. To enter That Luang, one must be covered at least from the shoulders down to the knees.

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“World Precious Sacred Stupa”

It is the most important religious monument of Laos, with 30 small stupas around and Vat That Luang Neue in the north and Vat That Luang Tai in the south. That Luang has been built by King Settathirat in 1566. During That Luang Festival (2011 from 10-12 November) hundreds of monks representing all Lao temples gather to accept alms from the people and fireworks are displayed at night.Looking at it closer it seemed that it hasn’t been maintained well- the yellow gold paint coat starts to fade and some algae grows from the base of Stupa.

You have to pay to enter the gates but you can’t actually physically go inside the stupa, only walk around which is basically like seeing it from outside the gates.

Pha That Luang, the Stupa has become a symbol of Lao nationalism.

It consists of 3 levels, each conveying a reflection of part of Buddhist
belief. The Stupa reflects the artistic inspiration of the lotus flower.
Every year in the middle of November,  local people organise a national event called That Luang Festival.
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Spacious ground inside That Luang

Pha That Luang – compound surrounded by walls, are roughly
280 feet long on each side and within the compound contain
a large number of Lao & Khemer sculptures.

If you only have 1 day to spare then I suggest you make this as your 1st stop before Patuxai.,,WHY??.. It is because it is situated in hill side of 4 km from centre of Vientiane (around 20-30 min. walk considering you have a big backpack). It is like an uphill climb going here and there will be moments you will have a hard time catching your breath. It best to go there if you are riding a bicycle.

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There’s a ceremony when I was there.

That Luang was plundered and destroyed by first the Burmese, then Siamese, Chinese and Thai before being rebuilt to its present glory.

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Reminds me of  Wat Pho in BKK.

 When there is sunlight, the structures looks glowing and magnificent. There are about 1000 Buddhas of all sizes watching your every step.

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Some Buddha images around the vicinity of the Stupa

The complex is really overwhelming in beauty and is truly awesome. You need to spend time walking all over to appreciate the magnitude of it all. I remember exploring all the four corners of the temple where in I bumped in to 1 of my co passenger in the bus going to Vientiane from BKK. The Stupa itself is very small and can be seen quite quickly. But it is surrounded by monasteries and other temples which make it very worthwhile.

Entrance fee : 5,000Kip / USD0.65 / RM2.00
Opening Hours : 8am-noon and 1pm-4pm from Tuesday-Sunday

Left That Luang past 2PM to get to the next sets of attractions. As I said earlier it’s a mistake that I made this as my 2nd stop-because to get to Wat Sisaket which is my next stop means I have to take the same road I took earlier from Patuxai to That Luang. This is when my burden starts, at 2PM in the afternoon with a 13 kilos backpack under the mad heat of the sun which I think at 40 degrees Celsius is definitely a suicide. It was like a extreme temperature I have not experience in my whole life.

Think of a guy handling a magnifying glass on one hand and a dried leaf on the other hand, and he will attempt to burn the dried leaf using the sun’s heat using magnifying glass. It was the same feeling and I was profusely sweating, even recalled rushing to one of the nearest store at the street side to buy a big bottle of water. This 40 degrees celsius temperature literally slowed me down. Every 5-10 minutes I have to stop walking and find a roof to hide under the heat of the sun. My backpack who used to be my BFF now became my enemy cause it was too heavy, so next time I will definitely PACK LIGHT. Well you can’t blame me cause it is technically my 1st ever attempt to backpack solo so I got so excited and brought almost half of my closet. (ayan napapala ng sobrang excited mag fashion show).

There is 1 good thing though this numerous stopping did to me, I was able to appreciate the architecture of the some of the french colonial house and was able to observe how locals behaves. In addition I also photographed some interesting attractions while I was walking back to Vientiane Center and here are some of them.

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I don’t know how they call it.

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Khmer inspired gateway.

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One of the Government House.

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I’m almost near.

I cannot recall how may stops I made just to reach my next destination. These are times when I really pray to God to shower me with big drops of water from above. I was at the verge of dehydration and my shirt is now drenched in sweat. The backpacks has absorbed the sweat from my shirt and the white spots starts to appear from the bag handle (natuyong pawis).

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Whewww nangalahati na ako..

Then I saw this road signage and I knew I am getting closer now to Patuxai. The supposed to be 30 min walk from That Luang to Patuxai becomes 1 and half hour “F*ck Yeah”. My skin has gone burnt brown and my sweat glands doesn’t stop from emitting liquid toxins(pawis yun pina arte lang).

Walking on the streets of Vientiane is like a walk from the past-you’ll see crumbling French mansions, bougainvillea­-blooming street,street markets, Buddhist temples and steaming noodle stalls.

BTW Vientiane has  a slow, sleepy stride ideally suited to long lunches, afternoon naps on shady veranda’s and evenings watching the sun set with icy cold glasses of Beer Lao.

The main attractions in the city cost little or nothing, so it should be quite easy to keep your budget intact.

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Lane Xang Avenue makes me feel sleepy.

I was carefully looking at the map when I felt like I needed to ask someone to make sure I am heading on the right direction. 1st attempt is to ask a local but turns out to be a bad idea (no english). Then I saw some Canadian Tourists so I had to stopped them both and asked if they know where the h*ck is Wat Si Saket-and they also doesn’t where it is as they just have arrived today. And in my final attempt.. CHARAN….a POLICE/TRAFFIC ENFORCER, I showed him the map pointing to Wat Si Saket-I was already expecting he will not answer me the way I want him to answer me and he surprised me that he can speak a lil bit of English. He directed me to the way to Wat Si Saket and I can see it from afar when I stopped and started crossing the raod to take the photo of Palais Presidential (parang Malacanang).

4th Attraction

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Front view of the Palais Presidential

The Presidential Palace is the official residence of the President of Laos, whom informally, also holds the position of General Secretary of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party. It is located on the banks of the Mekong River in the capital city, Vientiane.

Located near Wat Si Saket in the junction of Lane Xang Avenue and Settathirath Road, the building was first started in 1973 by the then Royal Lao Government on the grounds that used to house the royal residence.

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You can take your photo at this side of the Palace. (Back Entrance)

From the outside a very interesting building. I would love to have gotten a visit in side but there did not seem to be any tours available. It is not allowed inside the perimeter fence but at the back entrance where through the gates your get photos of a surreally empty and quiet courtyard where you expect Lenin to come striding out of a door across the courtyard.

And since it is just adjacent to Wat Si Saket, wasted no time and paid 5000 Kip to get inside Si Saket.

5th Attraction

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Pasok na.

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Wat Si Saket Temple

Si Saket Museum – a Buddhist Temple
Dated since 1818, Wat Si Saket too was built under the orders of King Anouvong (Sethathirath V.). Having a Thai architecture have kept it safe during the Thai invasion as the Thai armies uses it as their headquarters. This temple was restored by the Fench during its colonization, once in 1924 and again in 1930. There are over 2000 ceramics and Buddha images being housed here at Wat Si Saket.

Ancient Buddha statues at Wat Sisaket, Vientiane

Buddha Statues.

Wat Si Saket also known to hold over 6000 Buddha statues of all sizes dated as far as 15th to 19th centuries ago.The walls of the hall’s interior are quick to grab the visitor’s attention.  Countless niches carry thousands of small Buddha statues.  Around the statues are murals of Buddha, fading as time takes its toll.

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Ilabas mu na ang mga ulo ng mga Buddha’s

Entrance fee : 5,000Kip / USD0.65 / RM2.00
Opening Hours : Daily 8:00am – 12:00pm, 1:00pm – 4:00pm

6th Attraction

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 Wat Ho Phra Keo Temple

The original temple was built in 1565 by King Saysetthathirath to housethe Emerald Buddha which was eventually lost to Siamese. The latest renovation was done in 1936 and during the time of writing the museum was closed for further renovations. Unlike other temples which were converted to monasteries, Ho Phakeo was converted to museum in 1970. Ho Phakeo museum hosts the finest and valuable artifacts and sculptures of Lao. The museum shares neighborhood with Presidents’ Palace.

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Main entrance to Wat Haw Pha Kaew

Ho Phra Keo means ‘Altar of the Emerald Buddha’ describing “an altar remained when the statue was removed” – this is referring to the sacred jade statue reclaimed by Thailand back in 1778 and now resides in Wat Phra Kaew in Bangkok, Thailand.

Each stairway on the temple has dragons running the length of them with their heads at the entrance, guarding the temple.

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 A row of Buddha images outside the Wat Haw Pha Kaew.

You can find art world here with sculptures, carvings and rare artifacts covered by gold, silver or colorful jade. Phra Keo temple not only worships Buddha but this is also a museum exhibiting many Laos’ religious arts. In Vientiane, Wat Phra Keo is the most important and well-known temple after That Luang.

At the entrance of the temple are many ancient stone tablets. On each side are a line of incredible bronze Buddha statues, with more statues located at the other end of the temple.

 The neatly tended garden contains colourful flowers, lush green lawns and charming statues set among the shady trees.

Ho Phra Keo is a place full of memory. It has a lot of stories to tell over nearly 450 years of history. Although it is no longer a place of worship, it is still a very sacred place in Laos, an ancient part of Vientiane.

Entrance fee : 5,000Kip / USD0.65 / RM2.00
Opening Hours : Daily 08:00 to 12:00 and 13:00 to 16:00 every day. 

I was about to call it a day when I looked at the map again to check if I missed out something, then I saw the Chao Anouvong Monument which looks just around the corner. So I walked and traced the street mentioned in the map. I wasn’t expecting anything at all about this statue but hey maybe there is something worth seeing here that is why it is in the map.

7th Attraction

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Chao Anouvong Monument

Chao Anouvong was the last king of the Lao Kingdom of Vientiane. During his era, he struggled to fight against the Siamese invasion of Vientiane. In the end, he was unsuccessful and was captured and the Kingdom of Vientiane was forced to surrender to Siamese rule and ceased to exist. Because of his persistent attempts to defeat the Siamese forces, Chao Anouvong is considered a courageous hero who fought for Vientiane until his death.

It is actually built in the park facing the Mekong River Front. I was about pass out when I reached the monument. My soles are aching and just turned TAN. I bought a bottle of water from vendor selling just beside the monument. I saw some couples in the park and some families just lying on ground and enjoying the view of the sun as it starts to settle down.

8th Attraction

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Mekong River Front

One of the best places to see and interact with local people is by walking around the Chao Anou Park along the Mekong Riverfront in Vientiane, Laos. This is quite a popular spot among locals and tourists alike. Before sunset and just after 5 pm, people start gathering at the park and engage themselves in various activities. This is the best time to take a walk and meet with local people, when the sun is not so hot, and people are starting to leave work. You can stroll around using bicycle not motorcycle as it is not allowed. There is a night market which starts at 5PM that wasn’t able to catch as I have to travel back to BKK same day. The photo was taken when it was low tide I guess and as you can see the sun still striking. At first glance I actually didn’t thought that it is the Mekong River, just happen to hear from another tourist busy taking photo of the river front.

Did not stay much here cause I still have 1 final stop for the day before I take the bus to the border. Another walkathon from the park going to Talat Sao Mall/Market. While walking I saw the tan lines in my feet and dirts and dust which makes my feet starts to look ugly and yuckiness. My feet looks like the feet of a beggar man who make his ritual walk everyday in dirty streets of Manila hunting for food left overs in the trash cans. (ang itim lang ng mga paa ko at parang paa ni KIRARA na).

9th and Final Attraction

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Taken at the entrance of the mall.

Situated at the eastern intersection of Lane Xang Street and Khu Vieng, in the centre of Vientiane, Talat Sao Market is open daily from 7am until around 4pm.  It offers many kinds of international and local products such as silk handicrafts, souvenirs, traditional and modern clothes, shoes, food, jewelry, silver, gold, books, etc. It’s popular amongst locals so it may become crowded at times. Prices at the mall is not too expensive, and varies with the quality of the products you buy.

At the back of the Mall is the Khua Din Market-It is more a local market so you can observe locals shopping. It offers a lot of different choices and good value products as well.

The stalls were starting to close when I arrived here- I have no idea that the mall and market is just until 4PM. My main goal of visiting this market/mall is just so I can buy cheap souvenirs (ref magnets,key chain and so on) cause the ones you can find near the major attractions/landmarks are costly. So ending is I left the place with empty hands-still have around 30 minutes more so I just find a seat in one of the coffee shops inside the mall and use their WI-FI to google my route back to BKK. The bus station is just located at the back of Talat Sao Mall so it convenient for me to just wait for the last trip of the bus at 6PM. There are buses which leaves Vientiane’s Talat Sao bus station at 7.30am, 9.30am, 12.40pm, 2.30pm, 3.30pm and 6pm. 15 minutes before 6PM headed straight to the bus terminal and bought some Baguettes as my meal for another long journey.

My trip to Laos is the most tiring of all. It was literally a backpacking trip because I was carrying my huge 13 kilos backpack during the whole duration of the walking tour in the City Center. I  also considered it as the cheapest day trip I had so far as I only got to spend few bucks for food,admission tickets and transportation. If only have enough time I would love to stay for maybe another day or two then continue the journey to Vang Vieng or Luang Prabang but maybe next time. That 9 hours stay is really enough to see and experience the real beauty and charm of Laos but still I was happy that the trip was successful. Definitely I will go back here again one of these days..

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Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque | A visit to the most beautiful and fantastic mosque in Southeast Asia.

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my 1st glance at this stunning Mosque

It is Brunei’s major landmark and famous tourist attraction which is located in the heart of Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital city of Brunei Darussalam. It is hard to miss it because from afar the outstanding building really stands out in the centre of town, and  the magnificent golden-domed mosque as it stands out like a beacon.

After enjoying my langhap sarap chicken spaghetti meal from Jollibee just inside the Yayasan shopping mall- I grabbed my map and camera bag and whoolah heading to the famous golden dome mosque. The Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque is one of the most accessible attractions in the city of Bandar itself, as it is centrally located near plenty of restaurants, the Cator bus station, the water village and short walk from Yayasan shopping complex. You will not get lost finding this landmark cause as soon as you look up you will be able to see that Golden Dome of the Mosque.

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 Here I come now…

What makes it difficult for me to get here is the sun striking on the ground and I cant stand it. After like 10 minutes of walking I finally saw the most bragged about Mosque in every blog spot sites I have read when I was doing my itinerary for Brunei. During sunlight the dome was shining and white walls looked so warm and beautiful. And for the first 10 minutes my feet was glued on the floor-all I can say is WOW.

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I am not sure if he is a beggar though..

The grandeur mosque is built on a plot of 5 acres standing over the artificial lagoon on the banks of the Brunei River at Kampong Ayer and surrounded by a large number of trees and floral gardens which in Islam symbolize heaven.

The mosque is named after the 28th Sultan of Brunei, who was the reigning Sultan at the time the mosque was built and who is known as the architect of modern Brunei. Construction started in 1954 and was completed in 1958.

 At a cost of around 5 million USD, the Bruneian Sultan spared no expense: imported Italian marble pillars and floor, granite from Shanghai, crystal chandeliers from England, ornate carpets from Saudi Arabia and a main dome of pure gold.

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very quiet and tranquil place 

From every angle and from every light of day, the mosque was spectacular to look. For avid photographers this is the best place to honed and test your photography skills. For me it is a very different mosque as compared to most mosques around the globe due to the setting it has been built in which gives the dramatic approach. One can just simply walk around and capture great photos of the mosque from all angles until you’re left with no space in your memory card.

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Inside you will be amazed by the esplendent marble and granite floors, stained glass,chandeliers from all over the world, beautiful carvings with arches and the luxurious carpets were flown in from Saudi Arabia and Belgium. The mosque can accommodate 3,000 worshipers.

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The boat-like structure on the lagoon is known as a mahligai and is a 16th century replica of a royal barge. It was built later in 1967 to commemorate the 1400th anniversary of Nuzul al-Quran. Religious ceremonies used to be staged at the barge during the 1970s.

 Indeed, at 52m, the mosque was for a long time the tallest building in Brunei, as no other buildings were allowed to be built higher than the mosque, to reflect the importance of Islam in this tiny Muslim country. Apparently the nearby Islamic Bank of Brunei building originally exceeded this height and so had its top storey removed by order of the sultan.

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 post card like photo of the Mosque

The mosque’s most recognizable feature, the main dome, is covered in pure gold.

AND TAKE NOTE THAT IT IS PURE GOLD

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 Parthenon ang peg..

Inside is blue tiled fountain for the faithful to perform their absolutions just outside the entrance.  Many perfectly manicured plants line the gardens around, presenting a serendipitous atmosphere of calm. There are faucets where they wash their feet before praying to Allah.

The mosque at most times is somewhat accessible to tourists. Only the main hall and one of the hallways allows visitors to freely explore. The other parts of the mosque are reserved for prayer. I did try to get inside the mosque and I was handed this black long robe I have to wear before they will allow me to see what’s inside.

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Took a photo from across the street..See I told yah take photos from all angles

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 let us cross the bridge to get there

The mosque has a single marble minaret and a golden dome. The main minaret is the tallest feature where it is equipped with elevator to the top that can view the entire city .A bridge links it to Kampong Ayer as it is the Sultan’s intention that the mosque be accessible to all while another bridge connects to a replica of a 16th Century Sultan Bolkiah mahligai barge.

It is a place of worship for the Muslim community but at the same time also best for pilgrims and travelers from around the globe.

the most impressive side of the mosque was looking back across the lagoon which showcases a replica royal boat.

Women have to dress in a long, ankle-reaching coat of course, provided for at the entrance and taking off your shoes is of course mandatory. Furthermore, non-Muslims should be aware that visiting times differ. Friday of course, entrance of the Mosque is restricted to Muslims only; Saturday and Sunday have also restrictions. The best days for a visit is Monday to Thursday.

Time passed-and didn’t even notice that it so after taking all the photos that I need I decided to my next attraction for the day. And because I know that at night brightly-lit mosque looks the most beautiful with its reflection captured in the mirror-like lake-so I went back again only this time the moon gives light to the golden dome. It is bathed in yellow and green light, the mosque shone, literally and metaphorically.

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I just feel like I have to see what it looks like at night and when the sun is up that’s why I went back-and it was absolutely worth going for the 2nd time.

ADDICT NOTES:

-Mosque is open daily except Thursday and Friday: 8am – 12pm, 2pm – 3pm, 5pm – 6pm.

-can go inside (outside of prayer time).

-dress appropriately if you plan to visit.

-best to visit at daytime and at night when the mosque is lit with bright lights.

-not allowed to take photo inside mosque.

-wear the black robe when planning to go inside.

-no admission fee.

-don’t forget to pay respect.

-avoid going on holidays or Ramadan as the place is closed for visitors.

-make sure your camera is fully charge before coming cause it is the best place for photo ops.

Brunei | 5 Reasons why you may opt to skip Brunei as a travel destination

DISCLAIMER: This post is not written to bad mouth Brunei as a travel destination hence the purpose of this article is to facilitate awareness and provide travel guidelines on what to expect if you plan to visit Brunei. All details that will be mentioned in this article is purely based on the observation and personal experience when I backpack in Brunei as part of my SOUTH EAST ASIAN Quest.

If not for the cheap airfare you can get from AIRASIA then I would have not traveled to Brunei yet. Brunei is an Islamic State Country and one of the richest and wealthiest country not only in SEA but in the whole of ASIA. It is somehow tempting to take a peek on one of ASIA’s less traveled destination but the urge is not as same as if you will mention the names Thailand or Hong Kong. I was hesitant at first when I booked my 1 way flight to Brunei as I am not really certain if this is the right time to visit the country or I am just going through a panic traveling syndrome. But what I was certain is that I am up for doing a day trip and spending 1 night in BSB and on the next day just fly back to KL again and it is all DONE. So technically my main purpose is to have my passport stamped and cross it out from the SEA list of countries with my aim to accomplish all 11 countries the SOONEST.

1) Lack of public transport options in getting around in Brunei.

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public bus in Brunei

Transportation is one of the most important thing that we consider whenever we make plans of traveling to our next destination. For a country to attract tourists they must have a reliable and affordable means of getting around the area. You dont expect a budget traveler to hire a private car or cab for 100 BND for a half day tour that will passes main attractions in the city center-it is not economical and practical at all. This is just one of the many things Brunei has to work on and should focus on in terms of promoting their tourism. Public transport in Brunei can only mean 2 things which either public buses or taxi. The moment I stepped out of the airport I was so disappointed to have not found taxis and public buses just outside the airport- I have totally no where the heck is the mode of transport going to the city center from the airport. I have to wait for some tourists to come out and watch them as to where they will go.

“Taxis are difficult to be found, the fares are exorbitant, bus stops are hardly visible and there is no information whatsoever that is available to help us explore this beautiful country,”

 There are only six bus routes in daily operation in Bandar Seri Begawan – the Eastern Line, the Southern Line, the Western Line, the Central Line, the Circle Line and the Northern Line. The buses are purple in colour and quite small and mainly used by foreigners and take note that the public bus only runs from  6.30 am to 6.00 pm. The main bus station can be found at the multi-storey car park on Jalan Cator. Bus fare is cheap around 1Bnd to 3Bnd depending on where you want to go but I tell yeah you may be waiting for 1 hour or so for a bus to pass by the street and still nothing and your whole itinerary is ruined.From what I had observed, most Bruneians do not use these services cause they mostly drive their own cars. They produced their own petrol so Hell Yeah! the price is really low which makes it more convenient for locals to get their own car.

As for Taxi’s they are nowhere to be found except at hotels, shopping centres, the Brunei International Airport and in the capital, Bandar Seri Begawan. I personally had to experienced walking for 1 hour from Gadong Area to BSB as I didn’t make it to the last trip of the bus from Gadong to city center. It was not cool at all to have walked that long and I was not able to spot any taxis during those times. .A 15-minute ride from the airport to the city center costs a crazy BND 25.

Brunei maybe small in terms of landmass but this should not be an excuse to not improve what has been a problem for a long time now. Who wouldn’t like to take trains from getting from 1 attraction to another. We all love the idea of traveling at ease.

JUST SAYING…

2) Scarce of budget accommodations for budget traveler.

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Pusat Belia Youth Hostel

There is really a hot mess problem in finding the most affordable accommodation in Brunei. The country is not tapered to backpackers and budget travelers as most of the hotel options caters to luxury travelers and wealthy families/tourist. In fact if you want CHEAP bed for 1 night there is only one option but to go to Pusat Belia Youth Hostel which is located in the city center of BSB. For 10 BND per night you can get a bunk bed along with other solo travelers. I arrived in Brunei with no BOOKED and CONFIRMED accommodation which is the biggest mistake I made-I didn’t even bother calling the hostel before I arrived though I made reservation via email but got no response. I asked the bus driver to drop me at Pusat Belia Youth Hostel from the airport and when I was about to inquire about staying for a night I was surprised to see a SIGN just at the entrance of the hostel that it is CLOSED for renovation for 1 year. I was like WHAT THE HE…..-I totally freaked out realizing that I have no place to stay for a night. I walked around BSB and checked out the hotels rate around the area and WAPAKKK!!!!!-prices ranging from 90BND-200BND for a night. So I ended up sharing a room for 2 with a Chinese Lang Bang Backpacker in K.H Soon Resthouse for 35 BND per night with no WI FI and a very rundown room. So it ruined my budget for that trip.

So if you come to visit Brunei then I suggest that you booked your accommodation before coming so it will not jeopardize your trip just like what happen to me. And hotel rates are cheaper if you book it couple of months before your trip.

3) A dollar currency at par with Singapore Dollar.

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SGD vs BND

The Bruneian Ringgit (BNR) and Singapore Dollar (SGD) are equally pegged and interacceptable. In other words, the two currencies are ‘customary tender’ when circulating in the country in which they are not legal tender. Thus, Brunei currency is accepted as payments in Singapore. All banks are also obliged to exchange Brunei currency notes and coins at par without charge.

For a SEA country who is not famous as a tourist destination it is unlikely for someone to travel o Brunei. I have traveled to SG for a number of times already and I can really attest that it is not going to be a cheap holiday getaway for you- with accommodations prices starts from 30 SGD and skies the limit to the overpriced tickets to man made attractions. For that alone I will not consider going to SG very SOON cause the value of my MYR becomes smaller after having it changed from a money changer. Same case as with Brunei since they have same dollar rate so expect to pay more when buying items or when hailing a cab to take you to your destination. A chicken meal in Jollibee in Brunei costs me around 7BND and a fried rice from a food stall I had to pay 5 BND alone-not a good idea if your tight with budget. It is funnier to think that the cost of hailing a cab for a short ride will cost you 15 BND when in SG my taxi fare for short distance trip is within 6-8 SGD. However you can still find cheap and authentic dish in Brunei like Nasi Katok, which is fatty rice in special sauce with fried chicken; it’s cheap (BNR 1 only) and tastes better than Malaysia/Singapore’s Nasi Lemak. There’s also another local delicacy worth trying (but not for a second time though) called Ambuyat.

4) You will be running out of attractions to explore.

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Sultan Omar Ali Saifuddin Mosque

Brunei doesn’t have many tourist attractions and these attractions aren’t very attractive anyway. Don’t come to Brunei if you want to see amazing architectures and interesting sights to fill your daily itinerary. That is why I only stayed for  1 night in Brunei cause I made my research that the place is really dull and boring. Yes you can find beautiful Golden Mosques and glamorous hotels but after a day or 2 I tell you that you are gonna regret staying long in Brunei- you will end up surfing the net inside your hotels room.

5) No Nightlife, Alcohol and Cigarettes. (in short NGA-NGA sa gabi)

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Once the sun sets down, most of the locals head to their homes and the streets are virtually empty. Islam religion forbids the drinking of any alcoholic beverage. This is keenly followed by the locals of Brunei. Due to this factor there are no local pubs and no casinos. Moreover there aren’t any night clubs or dance floors. However, the foreigners and the non-Muslims are allowed to bring about 12 cans of beer and 2 bottles with them. Travellers by air are advised to make their purchases before departure, as duty-free alcohol is not available at the airport in Brunei .They have to follow strict guidelines and can consume liquor only within their households.Nightlife in Brunei means walking along the peaceful streets of BSB. Forgot about even thinking hanging out in a fancy club for chill cause you will not find it here. At 9PM on my way back to hostel from the Mosque the street is deserted literally and for someone who is outgoing and would love to end the day with a bang then you will be disappointed to have come here. With no WI FI in my hostel after a very tiring day tour then I am super BORED TO DEATH and cant find anything to make me busy. Between 6-9PM you can still visit the night market or check out their only Theme Park which I heard is now rundown and no longer maintained.You can find most amusement park rides here. A fun place for the kids and the young at heart though. So  if you are up for a steamy, racy, adrenaline-rush pleasures, strike Brunei off completely and just go to BKK or KL.

NOTE: On arrival into Brunei, you must declare any alcohol by simply filling in the yellow import forms available at the airport after you exit immigration and before customs checks. You should be able to show the merchandise too. If you arrive by car, simply request for these forms from the custom officers, fill it in and hand back to the officers for acknowledgement. You’ll be given an official stamp/ signature.

OVERALL: At the end it is still subjective to the person if he would like to visit Brunei. To each is own as my observations maybe inappropriate for others. Brunei is an interesting country to visit but it will not give you a WOW factor after your trip. If you just wanna have a peace and quiet, slow and steady, rest and relax travelling then Brunei can be a good destination for you. For additional stamp in your passport or you just wanna have this sense of accomplishment of bein able to complete all the 11 SEA countries are just few of the reasons you can use if you wanna weight things-undecided whether to go or maybe some other time.

Brunei | The Pasar Gadong Night Market

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OK here we go…

Few hours before the sun came down I have decided to visit my last stop on my itinerary before I call it a day. So from Jame’Asr Hassanil Bolkiah Mosque I found my way out heading to the night . market. I know that I can reach the market if I just walk on my own but when I went outside the Mosque what I saw is crossroads- so I needed to ask a local which way to take going to the market. The guy pointed me to the direction where I can see The Mall from where I am standing. It’s a long walk from the Mosque which I did not expect- I am that close to getting lost but thank God for the 2 other locals I asked about the direction. And after 30-40 minutes I arrived in the night market and everyone is just starting to set up their tent.

To be honest I was a bit disappointed when I saw it- cause I was kinda expecting similar set up of the Pasar Malam (Night Market)like in Kuala Lumpur. The night market is situated right next to the car park which at first glance you will not noticed that there is a night market going on if only not for the number of locals walking around every stalls. Well most of items sold in every stalls are not new to me for I have been buying and and seeing them in KL. But since i realized that I only have this day alone to experience Brunei so I decided to just enjoy it by walking around and poking every stalls and taking countless photos to document the trip.

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didn’t try any of this

The Night Market BTW is open year round from 4pm-11pm and is located in the Gadong Fish Market parking lot or  right next to The Mall at Gadong. It is nice place to experience local food choices.

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looks like Suman which is a Filipino delicacy.

You have numerous food options to choose from such as-  roti beef/mutton/chicken, satay, chicken wings, barbecued/grilled fish, fried kuey teow, lamb chops, beef steaks, ayam penyet, traditional kueh melayu (sweet pancakes with peanuts, raisins or sugar fillings) and more.

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I had to try the orange one.

 There are also stalls selling drinks, fresh vegetables, fresh fruit and even clothes and accessories. One can easily spend 2-3 hrs hopping from one stall to another and just le you eyes and nose decide what will buy.

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fresh vegetable stand

The first row of the night market consists of fresh fruits and vegetables, children’s toys, movie and karaoke CDs, traditional medicines, bags, stationeries and clothes; while the second and third row serves a variety of food that are freshly cooked in front of the customers such as fried and wet noodles, sausages, potato chips, hamburgers, doughnut sticks and other local dishes; and the last row consists of grilled fish, chicken, beef and lamb. Numerous traditional Malay food can also be found here.

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Ohhh I don’t eat fish…

The attraction drawer here are the stalls itself-it just fun to watch them how they prepare the food and sell it. Watching them closely tells the story of an ordinary Brunei people who just tries to make a living like anybody elses.

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another spicy dish..

Food prices are very reasonable which ranges from 1BND-3BND- you can literally do trial and error test and if you happen to not like the food you can get another delicacy from another stall until you were able to find the food you wanted. Drinks for refreshment will cost you just 1BND if you feel like getting choke from the solid foods you have taken.

One drawback of this Night Market is that unlike any other famous night markets in SEA is that here there are no tables and chairs for you to enjoy your meal. You you will either have to eat standing up or take it somewhere else as the night market is designed for take out meals only. I was eating while exploring each stalls and it is not a problem at all for me- but avoid to litter and just throw food plates and cups everywhere.

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it looks delicious in this photo… BUT….

I only got to taste few of the delicacies cause the food line up is not new to me after all and I am not a fan of SPICY food- but still it is still a fun experience to explore the night market to have it compared with other night markets that I had been to.The market is not busy, there is room to move and people are willing to answer your questions about what their food actually is-although some of them doesn’t speak English very well.

HOW TO GET HERE: Most hotel offers free  shuttle service to The Mall with a small fee or take  1 and 22 public bus($1.00/way/person) however coming back to your hotel is a challenge, coz no public bus after 6 pm. So better ask your hotel to pick you up or Taxi which will be costly, min $15/way/Taxi

Hong Kong | Octopus Card | CTS | HK Brochures | A21 Bus

This post serves as a guide to 1st timer in HK. It will gives us the basics on what are the things to accomplish after you are done with the immigration. These are the common questions for 1st timer which will be answered on the latter part. I have illustrated some images taken from my recent trip to HK last October.

From the time you were cleared by the immigration officers-DONT go directly yet to the arrival area as you have buy the Octopus Card. If you’re stay in HK is more than 1 day then it is advisable that you purchase the Octopus Card. Octopus Card, like the MetroCard in New York City and the EZ CARD in Singapore, is a multi usage smart card charging for the public transportation in Hong Kong.

1) OCTOPUS CARD

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once you exit out of immigration area go turn left and you will see the train ticket station

You can pick up an Octopus card at all MTR stations, including at the Airport Express station at Hong Kong Airport. When first purchasing the Octopus Card, HK$50 is included as refundable deposit, and the remaining value will be stored in the card for normal payments. Your first ride in the train or bus will require you to use your train card.

Price of Octopus Card (HK$):

  • Adult: Deposit $50 + Stored Value $100 = Price HK$150
  • Child: Deposit $50 + Stored Value $20 = Price HK$70
  • Senior: Deposit $50 + Stored Value $20 = Price HK$70

In addition, there are two types of Airport Express Tourist Octopus:

  • Airport Express One Free Single Journey + 3 days unlimited travel on MTR + $50 deposit + Stored value $20 = Price HK$220
  • Airport Express Two Free Single Journeys # + 3 days unlimited travel on MTR + $50 deposit + Stored value $20 = Price HK$300
  • # Valid for 180 days after purchase

Usage:

  • Usable in MTR, Light Rail, Trams, Peak Trams, Star Ferry, Buses, some minibuses, convenience stores such as 7-11, Circle K, supermarkets, fast food outlets, or public telephone booths
  • Just wave you Octopus Card over the Octopus Reader (even if it’s in your wallet or handbag), payments will be deducted instantly (Provided that you have enough funds in the Card). The reader will also tell you the new balance of the Octopus Card.

To top-up:

  • Remember to top-up your card when the balance drops to zero or negative, otherwise you cannot use your card to make payments
  • You can top-up the card at any public transportation company’s Customer Service Centres, MTR stations’ Octopus Add-Value machines or convenience stores such as 7-11 or Circle K.

To return the card:

  • Simply return it to any public transportation company’s Customer Service Centres, then you can obtain the remaining balance and deposit.
  • As the octopus Card is still valid for three years after the last top-up date, you may retain the card as souvenir or for your next visit to Hong Kong

2) Hong Kong Brochures and Map.

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few steps from the train ticket booth is the HONG KONG TOURISM BOARD

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 a closer look at the maps/brochures you will need

Don’t hesitate to get all necessary brochure and most importantly is the HK CITY MAP. If you have not downloaded a map on your Ipad or 3g phones then you will be relying to these maps during your stay in HK. You can also ask the attendant at the HONG KONG TOURISM BOARD with regard to any questions on how to get from point A-B or ask her about recommended food houses and attractions not to missed during your visit.

3) Buy your tickets at the CTS BOOTH.

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located at the far left side of the HKIA arrival hall

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purchase tickets you need here/price seen on the image is taken October 2013

Buy only the ticket you need from here like the one I purchased are Disneyland 1 day Pass, HK Ocean Par, Ngong Ping 360 Cable Car and The Peak Tram ticket. Prices here are guaranteed cheaper than buying it over the counter. They also provide VISA service, plane and ferry tickets and travel arrangement to other parts of China like Beijing and Shenzen.

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 There are other hotel and travel agencies beside the CTS booth offering same services. And if you still have time you can explore the airport and take some photos.

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And when in doubt-don’t hesitate to go to the Customer Service counter to ask HOW TO questions.

4) Getting in and out of the airport by taking the A21 bus.

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follow the terminal 2 sign then turn right to get to the bus station

Passengers have plenty of choices to get to and from the airport. The Airport Express links Hong Kong International Airport directly to Hong Kong’s central business district and buses connect the airport with most of the city. While taxis and coaches provide additional choices for passengers, there are also limousines to take passengers to their destinations directly.

Hong Kong International Airport is well served by public bus routes, taking passengers to and from most parts of Hong Kong. Comfortable and relatively inexpensive, they offer a convenient transport option

OTHER OPTIONS

Airport Express The Airport Express takes passengers to Central in just 24 minutes. Quick and comfortable, trains depart at about 10-minute intervals from 05:54 to 23:28 and approximately 12-minute intervals from 23:28 to 00:48 daily.Passengers wishing to visit the Disneyland Resort can change to the Tung Chung Line at Tsing Yi Station, and alight at Sunny Bay Station for the Disneyland Resort Line.

Taxis Arriving passengers can pick up a taxi at the Taxi Station, which can be reached by the left-hand ramp outside the Arrivals Hall.

Taxis in Hong Kong are colour-coded according to their operating areas. Separate rows are designated for different types of taxi:

  • Urban taxis (Red) serve all destinations throughout Hong Kong including the airport except Tung Chung Road and roads in south Lantau.
  • New Territories (N.T.) taxis (Green) serve only the New Territories and specific roads in Lantau.
  • Lantau taxis (Blue) serve all destinations in Lantau and the airport.

Hotel Coaches Hotel coaches are available to take passengers to and from major hotels in Hong Kong. If you want to use this service, approach the following service counter inside the Coach Station of Terminal 2.

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This is what you will see once you turn right after exit out of the main entrance gate/ just walk further until you see the bus information board.

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bus information board

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a closer look for you to find the right bus number to get to your destination.

If you have booked your accommodation prior to your arrival then most likely they will send you an instruction on how to get the hostel from the airport. If you are staying around TST area then you will need to take the A21 BUS.

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You may have to wait for couple of minutes especially if there are several tourist heading to the same destination. Use your Octopus Card here for your 1st journey. Take the seat at the 2nd floor of the double decker bus for you have a great view of HK island.

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view from the bus

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Be mindful of the number of stops-I will need to embark on the 13th stop to which my hostel is located. But almost got lost cause I got excited and I took lots of photos while the bus is on the move that I missed out how many stops already. Good thing the bus driver is kind enough to answer me when I asked him to drop me at the 13th stop.

Macau | 5 ways to travel cheap in Macau

When a close friend of yours says he will be traveling to Macau-you might have second thoughts about it. Not because the place is unsafe but because Macau has this reputation of being an EXPENSIVE place to backpack. But for a experienced backpacker we will always find ways how to travel CHEAP. Macau is the second administrative region of CHINA the first being is Hong Kong. Dubbed as the SIN CITY of ASIA for it’s trail of casinos stretching over the small land mass of Macau. Macau can be an expensive destination depending on your profile and how you want to spend your vacation treat in Macau. To give you an idea on how to stretch your budget for day trip in Macau I have listed down 5 ways to trim down expenses.

1) Maximize the use of the free shuttle bus provided by hotel casinos.

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Macau is one the tourist friendly place to explore with its major hotels providing free shuttle bus access  free shuttle buses from their hotels to the airport (or ferry terminals) and so, do check with your hotel if they do provide such a service. This is where I saves alot of in terms of budget. With Macau being my last stop after my 3 day stay in HK so my funds are really about to run out. Whether you are arriving in the airport or at the Macau Ferry Terminal you will be greeted by this shuttle buses for free. You can simply HOP ON AND OFF with no questions ask by the driver. It is a way of the hotel casinos to invite tourist to come visit their hotel and and sit on the casino table to gamble. Although for distant attractions like Coloane or A-Ma Temple you need to take a cab or public bus as there are no free shuttle buses going those route. All in all I didn’t spend anything for transportation in Macau from the time I arrived in the Macau Ferry Terminal until I got on the plane on my way back to KL. Research is the KEY to making this day trip successful.

2) Get everything that is FREE in the casino.

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Another budget saver is the freebies and you can get inside the casino. Get as many as bottled water you can bring with you.In my case I took 4 bottled water from the Venetian Hotel Casino which saves me atleast 30-40 HKD. Those bottles of water replenishes me from the unbearable heat while exploring the heritage site in Senado Square.Some casino also provide starter voucher if you sign up for membership for free-like a friend of mine sign up in 1 casino and he get a 50 HKD voucher he can use to play the KACHING KACHING-and who knows maybe you can WIN BIGTIME and go home as a MILLIONAIRE.

NOTE: Don’t be afraid to get those bottles of water for as long as you don’t shows your putting it inside your bag.

3) Book your accommodation early or stay in hotel guest house.

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Macau may have alot of  hotels you can choose from but these hotels are way out of your budget. I was supposed to stay 1 night in Macau so I can fully explore the place most especially at night when all lights are on-but I did some last minute change of plans because the guesthouse I emailed for 1 night stay has quoted me a price of HKD/MOP290. The guest house will not even pass to my standards based on the images from TripAdvisor and some reviews online.There is no scarcity of accommodation in Macau but the prices can be unreasonable and the budget ones get filled up easy so you really need to make some reservation or even secure your bed for the night.Try to avoid traveling to Macau during holidays and weekends as the prices of accommodation not only gets doubled but sometimes gets tripled. The date I arrive in Macau there was a holiday that’s why the from the regular price of 190 HKD for a 1 night stay in San Va Hotel, the price soars to 290 HKD.

NOTE: If you have to call the hotel/guesthouse to confirm your booing or reservation PLEASE DO SO-that way you can be at ease you will not end up sleeping in the street.

4) Free taste of Beef Jerky and Macau Egg Tart.

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If you are traveling to Macau on a day trip then you can get by for the day by just eating the free taste of beef jerky and macau egg tart in Senado Square. These are the 2 Macau food treats you cant afford to miss during your trip in Macau- this is where Macau is famous as well. Arriving in Senado Square you will be seeing food stalls selling these treats and allows to get a free taste. Like for the beef jerky where it comes in different flavors (sweet,spicy,salty). Before you take a hike to reach St. Paul Ruins Church it is recommended that you get yourself full first by eating the free taste so that way you will have energy once you reach St. Paul Ruins and Monte Forte which is a bit of a hike. I actually got full without even noticing. Don’t forget to try out the different brands of Macau Egg Tart. Just around the Senado Square you can find cheap eats perfect for Macanese food tasting test.

5) Say YES to DIY trip and NO to tour guide.

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Forgot about engaging yourself for a private tour during your stay in Macau. The touts will be pestering you once you arrived in the ferry terminal or at the airport for you to hire them as your tour guide for the day- they will usually tell you there is no bus or the shuttle going to this location is not available at this time but all are just false statements. Getting around in Macau is very easy and you can do a DIY trip regardless if you are solo or traveling with family. It will save around 100-300 HKD but usual charge is 100 HKD for a whole day plus the tip and so on.

So there you have the TOP 5 ways on how to travel cheaply in Macau. If you follow these tips and you will be able to save around 200-400 HKD which is worth of 1 night stay in hostel.

Hong Kong | 5 ways to travel cheap in Hong Kong

Hong Kong, alternatively known by its initials H.K., is one of the two Special Administrative Regions of the People’s Republic of China, the other being Macau. Because Filipinos can penetrate in Hong Kong easily as we are not required to apply for a VISA. Because of that Hong Kong is now becoming a favorite backpacking destination in the years that passed. Traveling to HK is not as cheap as traveling in any other countries in S.E.A. HK is dubbed as one of FOUR ASIAN TIGERS IN ASIA. term used in reference to the highly free and developed economies of Hong KongSingaporeSouth Korea, and Taiwan. These nations and areas were notable for maintaining exceptionally high growth rates. Hong Kong and Singapore have become world-leading international financial centers, whereas South Korea and Taiwan are world leaders in manufacturing information technology. But how can we enjoy HK with a limited budget in hand- here are some 5 cost efficient ways on how to save while backpacking HK.

1) Stay in hostels/guesthouse or couchsurf.

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Hong Kong is a popular destination and is busy virtually all year round. With this in mind everyone traveling to HK is encourage  to book in advance to secure your accommodation. Hong Kong is not a cheap place to find accommodation, and the city can stretch even the most elastic of wallets. However, the availability of budget accommodation in Hong Kong has improved in recent years and there is an increasing number of guesthouses and hostels catering to those counting the dollars. When I was working on my itinerary for HK-the hunt for the cheapest accommodation really gave me headache as most guest houses/hostels offers 400-600 HKD per night. Thank God I came across URBAN PACK HOSTEL in AIRBNB WEBSITE, I was in doubt at first if I will consider it then I went to checked the ratings in TRIPADVISOR and to my surprise it got 100% rating and approval. I paid 210 HKD for a bunk bed per night along 7 strangers in the same room. HK has no real high and low season. However, events and the many Chinese festivals can result in massive price hikes, especially if you don’t book ahead. Peak times include; Chinese New Year in February, Hong Kong Rugby Sevens in March and the Canton fair period in October. If you have friends and relatives staying in HK then you will be able to save alot by doing so. Large portion of your budget will go to accommodation in HK so careful planning is needed. You can also try couch surfing if you have tried that in your past travels- unfortunately from the hundreds of invites I sent to HK CS members no one has confirmed.

2) Buy discounted tickets at CTS (China Travel Services).

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CTS Tours – the trading name of China Travel Service (U.S.A.) Inc., an affiliate of China Travel Service (Holdings) Hong Kong Limited, the world’s leading specialist in travel to and from China, the largest registry of travel group in China founded in 1928 with its corporate

With the aim of HKIA to provide world class service to visitors who landed in HK for a quick vacation-they have provided an easy access to buy discounted tickets to certain attractions like Disneyland, Ngong Ping and may more in the CTS BOOTH. The booth is located in the arrival hall of HKIA. A friend of mine told me about this I really had to pay attention in hunting for it after I landed in HK. CTS also provides VISA services, plane tickets and travel arrangement going to certain parts of China such as Beijing and Shenzen. True itself the ticket is cheaper compared to the price you can get over the counter. For instance the quoted 1 day ticket pass to Disneyland for an ADULT is 450 HKD while in CTS you can get it for 420 HKD-that is 30 HKD difference. You can also check with your hostel/hotel if they are selling discounted tickets like the Golden Crown Guest House in TST. Aside from the fact that it helps you save few bucks- this will also help you save time to long line of queues.

3) Cheap eats in fast food chains and Chinese food stalls in side streets.

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In Hong Kong is a city in which speed and efficiency are expected and demanded. This fast pace has also infected the food scene, most notably in Hong Kong tea houses and local fast food chains, which can serve Chinese and localized Western dishes in under five minutes.

Hong Kong has big population, and they are always busy, so eating out is very common. As demand is high, restaurants are everywhere, and there are plenty of locations where restaurants are packed together. These became handy for tourists as they can walk along the entire area and pick a restaurant that looks good for them.

Welcome to the land of dimsum and tea houses. A journey to HK is not complete without trying out some of the best local dishes in town. I never let this part slipped away in all of my trips-food is one of best way to discover the history of 1 country. Provided you have a allotted budget of 150 HKD per day for food. Can you really survive? and the answer is YES!. An average cost of a complete meal in Cafe de Coral or Yoshinoya is within the range of 40-60 HKD. And if ypu plan to explore HK on foot don’t forget to sit down in one of Chinese food stall along the side street to eat some Wanton Noodle or Chicken Rice.

4) Plan your itinerary.

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Getting around in HK is the least of your priorities because of the extensive transportation system. But a train ride may not be as cheap as riding the BTS train in BKK. So in order to save you need to create an itinerary where all attractions located in 1 place is done on the same day. For instance you plotted your DAY 1 with NGONG PING-HK OCEAN PARK-NIGHT MARKET- given this route will cost you more cause the location are everywhere hence you can try following this budget saving route NGONG PING-DISNEYLAND-NIGHT MARKET or TST PROMENADE. NGONG PING-DISNEYLAND is located in Lantau Island which makes it a good combination and will save you time and money.

NOTE: IN SHORT group the attractions that belongs to the same location or attractions that are close to each other.

5) Take the public modes of transportation(MTR,Star ferry,tram,bus) or explore HK on foot.

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The city claims one of the world’s safest, most efficient and frequent public transport systems and a convenient payment method in the form of the Octopus Card.

There are bus routes covering most of the island, frequent ferries between the islands making up the region (The Star Ferry connecting Kowloon to Hong Kong island is a ‘must see’), trains into mainland China and the superb MTR underground railway.  If you are staying in Hong Kong for a few days, and you intend to use the MTR as your primary mode of transportation, consider getting an “Octopus” card.  It is ultra convenient, and saves you the trouble of carrying lots of coins around.  You can get one from any MTR station. When the funds are depleted, you can top it up at any MTR station, convenience stores (7-11 etc), supermarkets. Many stores also accept Octopus cards as payment for goods. For instance taking the DING DING tram for 2.30 HKD to experience the hustle and bustle of HK streets is the cheapest way to experience it.

Hong Kong is an easy city to explore on foot. If it weren’t for the harbor, you could walk everywhere. If, for example, you’re in the Central District and want to have dinner in Causeway Bay, you can walk there in less than an hour, passing through colorful Wan Chai on the way.So instead of taking a cab for short distance travel you might consider stretching those leg muscles. I personally did some walking tour on my own from my hostel in TST going to Avenue of Stars and from Mongkok Night Market district to Jordan. Never be afraid of getting lost cause almost everywhere in the street there are road/street signs  written in English pointing to whichever directions you want to go.

If you’re interested in additional self-guided walks throughout Hong Kong, be sure to pick up the free HKTB pamphlet called Hong Kong Walks, which covers points of interest in Central, the Western District, Wan Chai, Shau Kei Wan (location of the Hong Kong Museum of Coastal Defence), Tsim Sha Tsui, Yau Ma Tei, Mong Kok, and Wong Tai Sin and Kowloon City districts.

Over all the HK expenses I incurred for my 3 days trip is not as cheap as my expenses in BKK but all worth it. It just needed an extensive research and preparation so you things can work out the way you planned it. Soon I promised I will be back in HK and hopefully the expenses are way lesser than the last travel to HK.