A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: arif_kool

Hoa Lu - Tam Coc Day excursion from Hanoi , Vietnam

We booked this tour through our hotel and paid USD 35( tour guide and lunch included). The tour started at 8 AM with a 2 hour bus ride to the Ninh Binh province. We were informed by the guide that first half of the day will be spent is visiting the ancient capital of Hoa Lu then lunch at a local Vietnamese restaurant followed by a 2 hour boat ride on Tam Coc.

The moment you get down at Hoa Lu, you will be attacked by the local people selling all sorts of goods and local photographers who will frame you and then sell the photograph. The sellers are very persistent but you can refuse or bargain and settle for around 1/3 rd the original price.

The Hoa Lu ancient town is set in a naturally beautiful landscape and the sprawling campus make for a good stroll visiting the ruins and ancient temples. This was once the capital of Vietnam. There are two main temples dedicated to King Dinh and King Le. Finished with Hoa Lu we proceeded for buffet lunch which was filling and plentiful.

Post lunch session was the most impressive. We all went to the boat pier which was alongside the restaurant and a boat was allotted to a group of 4 people. Since we were a family of 4 people we got a separate boat and started on a 2 hour cruise along the Tam Coc. The scenery was spectacular as the boat paddled along the winding streams of Tam Coc. Paddy fields all along the stream added to the colour and towering limestone mountains all around added to the grandeur. The boat went beneath some very low caves and some of them very quite long.

Caution Again !! once you reach the turnabout point, sellers appear again selling all kinds of drinks and other stuff. Again they are very persistent and as a last resort insist on buying drinks for your boat driver. You may or may not buy, after waiting for a while the boat starts on its return trip covering the same route. Just after a few minutes again the boat is stopped and now it is the boat driver's turn to try her selling skills. There is box full of items which will be displayed and rates quoted, we are free to buy or politely refuse. After this the boat ride is a smooth one to the pier and now the boat lady will insist on a tip. We paid USD 1 as advised by the tour guide.

The tour ended and we were transported back to the hotel by the tour bus. Overall it was a day well spent and worth every penny and it is an ideal excursion from Hanoi if you have a day to spare.

Posted by arif_kool 09:25 Comments (0)

Vietnamese Visa on arrival for Indian passport holders

It is simple and hassle free !!!

Vietnam is a beautiful country and is of late welcoming tourists after years of war and isolation. Vietnam is broadly divided into Northern, Central and Southern parts. Hanoi, Ninh Binh province, Sapa and the Halong bay area are the main attractions in the northern part, culturally rich cities of Hoi An and Hue form the central part and lastly Ho Chi Minh city and the Mekong delta area comprise the Southern part of Vietnam. Mekong delta is also a convenient point to cross over to Cambodia.

Indians travelling to Vietnam have the option of either getting a Visa in advance at the Vietnamese embassy in India or they can opt for the Visa on arrival facility which has been now extended to Indian nationals also. The following steps are to be followed in case of Visa on arrival :

1. Contact any local Vietnamese travel agency for the issuance of a Visa Authorisation letter. This is a pre-requisite without which you will not be allowed to board the flight to Vietnam. It is best to get it done through the hotel which you have booked. Just mail them the scanned copy of your passport and pay the fees(usually between USD 10-15) and in a day or two a scanned copy of the authorisation letter lands in your inbox. Check the names and passport details mentioned in it, take a print out and keep it with your travel documents

2. Keep a recent photograph (4 cm X 6 cm)ready with you.

3. Your passport should have minimum 6 months validity and at least 2 blank pages for affixing the visa sticker.

4. Keep USD 45 ready with you as the Stamping fee to be paid at the visa counter.

5. You should have confirmed tickets for exit out of Vietnam

As you disembark from the plane follow the sign leading to the Visa on Arrival counter. Visa application form is available there free of cost, fill it up, affix the photograph and attach the Visa authorisation letter and hand it over to the official along with your passport. The visa is processed and after a while your name is called, now you need to pay the Visa fee of USD 45 per person. The passport is handed over to you along with the Visa sticker affixed on the passport. Now proceed to the Immigration counter where the visa is stamped and you are allowed in to Vietnam.

The process is very easy and hassle free !!!

Posted by arif_kool 12:13 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Trip to Vibrant Singapore

sunny 32 °C

We boarded the train from Kuala Lumpur( Malaysia), had a sound sleep on board and after finishing the immigration formalities at Johar Bahru(Malaysia) and Woodlands(Singapore), we reached Singapore at around 8:30AM. We were quite disappointed as the railway station had just the basic amenities and was ill maintained. We took a cab to our hotel (Supreme Hotel), which was located on Orchard road. It was decently priced at 100 singapore dollars, considering the posh location. The important MRT station of Dhoby Ghaut was just 200m away. Dhoby Ghaut is an important interchange junction where East-west and North-south MRT lines meet, so practically u can go anywhere in Singapore.
We checked in and rested for a while before proceeding for Night Safari, which was a tremendous experience as we could see the wild animals in their natural habitat. Then there was a fire show and animal show, which was enjoyable too. Later we returned back to our hotel.

Today Sentosa Island was on our agenda. We had taken a group tour to Sentosa which cost 58 SD for each of us. First we went to the Mount Faber cable car station from where we took the cable car to Sentosa Island. The cable car ride was a thrilling one and we soared over the jungles and sea to reach Sentosa, which was buzzing with activity.


First we went to visit the “Images of Singapore” which showcased the evolution of a small fishing village into a multicultural vibrant and modern city, Singapore. Then we watched the Dolphin show and then we proceeded for the Underwater world, where we walked in a transparent tunnel through which we could see various varieties of fish rubbing past the walls of the tunnel. The last major event of the evening was the Songs of the Sea, which was held on the beach. We reached there in grand style via the chair lift that took us down to the beach. Songs of the sea was a spectacular display of lights, laser, water and fireworks that ended the evening in style. While returning from Sentosa we stopped at Vivo City, one of the biggest malls of Singapore. Since we had nothing to shop for we just took some chocolates and returned back to our hotel

We got up late today, had breakfast and then decided to explore Singapore taking the convenient MRT route. First we visited the Esplanade, city hall and the Fullerton hotel area.
We visited the Merlion next and got ourselves photographed in front of the Merlion, the symbol of Singapore.
Next we visited Suntec city, which has numerous malls and offices in its vicinity. It also has a “Fountain of wealth” and a huge fountain, which erupts everyday at 20:00, we watched that too and later after having dinner we returned back to our hotel

Finally our tour came to an end and we had to board our Air India flight back to New Delhi. Since our flight was at 16:25 we went to Orchard road for some shopping but couldn’t find anything worthwhile. We left our hotel early and took the MRT rail to the Changi Airport that cost us a mere 1.70SD per person. The flight was on time and we reached Delhi at around 19:00 hrs and went straight to New Delhi railway station to board Lucknow Mail and from Lucknow we boarded Awadh express to reach Gorakhpur in the afternoon on 23rd July. We left Gorakhpur on 28th July and reached Mumbai on 29th night, so that we could rejoin office on 30th July 2007. It was so nice spending some quality time with parents and family but it really pained me to see the condition of Abbu(Father), as he was not keeping well.

Posted by arif_kool 04:04 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

Trip to Amazing Malaysia

Visiting Kuala Lumpur and Genting highlands

sunny 32 °C

We had a buffet breakfast at the hotel in Bangkok, packed our bags and waited for our coach to be taken to the airport for our onward flight to Kuala Lumpur. We had booked an Air Asia flight that departed on time at 15:30. We reached KL in the evening and our coach was waiting for us at the airport. Surprised we were, but it was for real, we boarded the Mercedes Benz for the drop to the hotel. We checked in Hotel Grand Continental, which was just a stone throw’s distance away from the twin towers. When we reached our room on 16th floor, we were in for a grand visual treat. The magnificent and beautifully lit Petronas Tower was just outside our room window. It was a wonderful view and we kept on watching the twin towers for quite some time. We had dinner at a South Indian restaurant nearby and hit the bed immediately.
We had a buffet breakfast where Runa was surprised and happy to find Dosa and Idli also on the menu. We waited in the hotel lobby for our travel guide for the half day city sightseeing tour. The tour started on time in a comfortable bus. Our first stop was the mighty structure of steel, the Petronas tower.

This was a photo stop and we continued to a Batik factory where we got first hand information on how the traditional Batik garments are hand made. Our next stop was the Chocolate Factory, where we didn’t buy anything but got to taste a wide variety of chocolates. Next we went to the National Museum, which had a wonderful collection of cultural and historical items. Next we proceeded to the Kings Palace that was closed and we could only see the royal guards positioned outside. We next went to the National war Memorial of Malaysia after which we went to the Independence Square (Merdeka Sqaure what the locals call it), a beautiful place where the Independence Day celebrations are held every year. Our tour ended here and we decided to spend rest of the day on our own. We roamed around for a while then had lunch in the Little India area and moved towards the KL tower, which we reached after walking for a while. KL Tower was also offering a free nature walk with a guide, so we decided to go for it. We were joined by a group of girls from Ireland. The guided tour took us through the jungle sighting animals on our way and finally returning to the KL tower. We took the tickets (20RM) and boarded the lift that took us to the top of the KL tower, which provided an amazing view of KL cityIMG_1534.jpg.
Returning from the KL tower we decided to explore the town more and went to the nearest Sky rail station. There we had a glance at the maps and got an idea of how things operate and which route they follow. To begin with we took a Sky train ticket to Bukit Bintang, centre of all shopping activities in KL. The joyous ride took us to the centre of all malls, we strolled past many of them and had dinner at the mall. We decided to return back to the hotel on the Sky rail and after searching the map we found that the nearest station was Medan Tuanku, from where we could see our hotel rising high amongst other buildings. We hit the bed immediately after a hectic day.
After the usual heavy breakfast we decided to go to Genting Highlands and took the Go Genting package from KL Sentral station priced at 29RM apiece, which included return transfer to Genting and lunch at the Resort World Hotel. We reached Genting at around noon and after roaming for a while we went straight for food at the Resort Café. We were truly amazed at seeing the variety of options available there, a range of veg n non veg food, collection of ice-creams and cakes. We enjoyed a bit of all and on top of it we had a nice refreshing tea, after a long time. We proceeded to the indoor theme park where we did some rides and Runa also took the Gondola ride and I was behind the camcorder capturing her moments of joy.
There was a new attraction at Genting, the Snow world priced at 30RM, we decided to go for it, with jackets and gloves provided by them, we went inside and encountered freezing temperature and snowfall. The ticket also included a free ice-cream coupon to be redeemed at the parlour, which was made entirely of snow. We had our ice cream in sub-zero conditions, something that we had never done before. Then there was a thrill ride to be undertaken form the top of the snow world while being seated on a tube, we both did it, the initial feeling of fear was transformed to fun and adventure as we came smashing down. We also got our pictures clicked inside the snow world, which we collected later at the reception at a price of 20RM. Now it was time to bid farewell to Genting and we boarded the bus back to KL as tonight we were boarding the train for our next destination, Singapore.

Posted by arif_kool 03:49 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Travel experiences in Mystic Thailand

Visiting Bangkok and Pattaya

sunny 29 °C

We returned from office a bit early today and did the last minute checking to ensure that we kept all the required documents, cash, passports and other belongings. We reached the Mumbai International Airport well in time. We rushed through the baggage screening, immigration formalities and security check and boarded the Thai Airways flight, which departed on time at 23:30. The Thai crew was warm, kept on smiling and spoke broken Hindi and they seemed to be proficient in pronouncing “Namaskar” very well. The service was good and we got vegetarian food too, but the tea served was horrible which we gulped down sans the flavour and brew.
We could barely sleep for a few hours before it was announced that we will be landing shortly at the Suvaranbhumi International Airport at Bangkok. The landing was on time at 05:30. The airport was newly built and it was quite an experience walking from the aerobridge to the immigration counters, beautiful paintings and statues of Lord Buddha decorated the passage. We collected our baggage and came out looking for our travel agent, who was waiting for us. We had taken transfers on SIC basis, sounds sickening but it simply means Seat in Coach Basis, which made us to wait for a while before other guests of our travel agent could turn up. Finally our coach, an AC mini bus started at 08:00 and we headed straight to Pattaya, which was around 3 hours away. We reached Cosy Beach Hotel in Pattaya at around 11:00. It was an elegant 4* hotel which had, apart from the normal facilities, a small private beach of its ownIMG_1473.jpg.
We checked in and had shower and then had the “Thepla’s” which we had brought from Mumbai. The room was spacious, neat and clean with comfortable bed. We rested for a while and in the evening we went for the famous “Tiffany Show”, a cabaret show with spectacular sets. It was priced at 550Baht for one hour show. We were dropped back at the hotel after the show but then we had to roam around for dinner. My wife (Runa) doesn’t have non-veg food so we searched around, finally we got an Indian restaurant, which was a bit expensive but we had no other option. The restaurant owner allowed us to call Abbu and Papa from his mobile, though he charged a steep 20 Baht/minute for the call.
We woke up refreshed and had a buffet breakfast, which was included in the package. Today Coral island excursion was on our agenda and our local guide was Katie. We boarded the speedboat, which whizzed past the turbulent waters at an amazing speedIMG_1478.jpg.
We reached the Coral Island 45 minutes later, an island of white glistening sand. We could see the corals that thrived in abundance in the shallow bay waters. The island had lots of small shops owned by the indigenous people, selling all kinds of goods. Runa, while getting down from the speed boat tore the straps of her slippers. We went around and got a slipper for her at 80 Baht, though we had to bargain hard. The island was buzzing with a host of water sports activities, how could we have been left behind? We decided to take the plunge and try our luck at the water scooter. After the usual haggling and bargaining he settled for 250 Bahts for both of us. First it was Runa’s turn, with the life jacket on she went on the scooter, of course the guide was standing behind her and he had the controls. I switched on the camcorder and recorded her entire route from start to finish. She was thrilled and enjoyed every bit of riding a scooter on water. Then it was my turn and after an initial sense of fear I enjoyed to twists and turns of the rideIMG_1488.jpg.
By afternoon we had to return back to Pattaya and had lunch that was included in the package. We then decided to spend the evening roaming on the Beach Road and the parallel First road, which had bars all over the place. Then again dinner was a problem and after much futile searching we had decided to skip dinner and had fruits instead which was a much healthier option too. We returned back to hotel and had a good sleep after a hectic day.
We had breakfast and left for Bangkok at around 08:00 again on SIC basis. We checked in Hotel D’Ma Pavilion, Bangkok and rested for a while as we had a half-day city tour coming up in the afternoon. The city tour started at 14:30 and it included the Temple of Emerald Buddha, Golden Buddha, reclining Buddha, enroute we saw the important sights of Bangkok city, which was well explained by our local guide named AmyIMG_1491.jpg.
Finally we went to the famous Gem factory, which we had also visited in Pattaya. The tour ended and we were dropped at the Platinum Mall for shopping and other activities. We took this opportunity to roam around the streets to get a real feel of local population. The street shops were much the same as we have in India. Runa, expressed a desire to have a foot massage and we decided to go for it, at 120Baht/per person for 45 minutes. Dinner was again a problem and after searching for a while we found a Punjabi Dhaba and without wasting time we decided to eat there at whatever the price he quoted. We returned back to our hotel had a good nights sleep and woke up relaxed, had breakfast and were all set to leave Bangkok for our next destination--Malaysia.
We both loved Thailand, the people are so warm and hospitable here, we would surely love to come back again!!!

Posted by arif_kool 00:44 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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