Annapurna Circuit: What You Need To Know To Trek Without A Guide

Trekking the Himalayas in Nepal can sound intimidating. Many think that it is an experience accessible only to seasoned trekkers or those who can afford to use expensive trekking companies. Well, with enough research and planning, you can absolutely trek in the Himalayas independently – and on a budget just like we did!

The almost 300-kilometers Annapurna Circuit is challenging but rewarding trek. It is arguably still one of the best treks in the world which crosses two different river valleys and encircles the Annapurna Massif. If you open yourself to this experience, we guarantee that you will not be disappointed.

Getting There

Fly into Kathmandu’s Tribhuvan International Airport and spend at least two or three days in the city–sightseeing, getting your trekking permit, and shopping for supplies. We stayed in Thamel where is considered a backpackers haven. It is accessible by bus from airport, lots of guesthouses/ hotels to choose from, wide range of food places, walking distance to most attractions and many gear shops for you to bargain with. 

We flew in Kathmandu from Singapore with Airasia

Tribhuvan International Airport

You can literally bring no trekking gears and bargin in Thamel for good price!

Yes! There are famous for North”Fake” products

But of course, there are legit North Face and a few other brands stores just right outside the main street of Thamel 

Visa

Most nationalities can get either a 15/30/90 days visa when arriving into Nepal either by flight or overland. 

15 days – US $ 25.00 for 15 days single/multiple entry.

30 days – US $ 40.00 for 30 days single/multiple entry.

90 days – US $ 100.00 for 90 days single/multiple entry.

I, personally was quite impressed by the visa procedures. Maybe it was a low-peak trekking season, thus it doesn’t looks as hectic as what I’ve read online.

Arriving into the immigration lounge, walk over to the electronic passport scanners kiosks on the left

Simply place your machine readable passport ID page over the scanner on the lower left. Make sure the barcode bit of it is directly over the black part of the scanner. If successful you need to confirm by pressing on the touch screen. You’ll be prompted to enter in your hotel details and length of stay. You may enter “0000” for Nepali “Ward” and “District” (Thamel is Ward 29 & District is Bagmati). The machine will then try to take a photo of you (Yes! So you may keep your photos for other purpose). Confirm all your details and collect the bit of paper it spits out.

Payment!

The payment does not have to be United States Dollar (USD) or Euro (EUR)! They accept a wide range of currencies: Australian Dollar (AUD), Canadian Dollar (CAD), Singapore Dollar (SGD), Danish Kroner (DKK), Malaysian Ringgit (MYR), Pound Sterling (GBP), Swiss Franc (CHF), Emirati Dirham (AED), Qatari Riyal (QAD), Saudi Arab Riyal (SAR), South Korean Won (KRW), Japanese Yen (JPY), Chinese Yuan (CNY), Hong Kong Dollar (HKD), Thai Baht (THB).

After payment, queue up at the immigration counter on the right. There are counters for 15/30 days visa and for 90-days visa so do make sure you queue up the correct lane. Pass you passport and visa receipt to the officer, and you’ll get a sticker visa on your passport’s page within minutes!

SIM Card

We bought a Ncell SIM card from the airport. Alternatively, you can easily get one or recharge your card at most shops in Thamel. Documents required buying a Sim in Nepal:

  1. Copy of Passport
  2. Passport-sized photograph
  3. Sim Registration form
  4. Copy of Visa 

Wi-fi

Surprisingly, almost every teahouse we stayed had Wi-Fi but do not expect strong connection. And, the higher the altitude, the wi-fi rate goes from being free to USD1-USD3 for 24 hours. But hey we were in the Himalayan mountains so just enjoy being with the nature! 

Electricity

For Nepal, there are three associated plug types: C, D and M. Plug type C is the plug which has two round pins, plug type D is the plug which has three round pins in a triangular pattern and plug type M has three round pins. Nepal operates on a 230V supply voltage and 50Hz.

It’s a common issue to have power failure in Nepal, even in big cities like Kathmandu and Pokhara. Bear in mind to have touch light with you and keep in a compartment where you can reach out easily.

Currency

The legal currency of Nepal is Nepalese Rupees (NPR). I would recommend to change your home currency to Nepalese Rupees in Nepal itself as the rate will be much better. We actually brought USD50 worth of Nepalese Rupees out of Nepal without changing it.

Trekking Seasons

Best time of the year to hike Annapurna Circuit is Autumn – from September to November. And then – Spring, from Mid-March to Early-May. Summer, June through September is the monsoon season, when as much as 70% of the annual rainfall occurs. This is also when rocks fall and landslides are most likely to occur. December through February will be too cold to trek! 

We did our trek from Mid-April, which was considered low-season as we hardly met more than 5 trekkers each day (no photo-bombers!). We were glad to trek during this period as the guesthouses were mostly empty which made us easy to bargain for free private room and request for extra blankets. Until when we reached Annapurna Sanctuary Trek, that we met more tourists crowd.

Weather

There are no rules for the weather in the mountains. Over the 23-days trek we experienced 4 seasons with gorgeous sunny days with temperatures up to 20°C and then days below freezing temperatures, the lowest was a chilly -5°C (this was close to the Thorong-La Pass above 5,000-meters). The wind can suddenly arrive from no-where and you turn a corner to nearly get blown over, this was definitely the case walking through ‘Windy Valley’ (from Kagbeni to Marpha).

Do expect snow in Spring season!

Insurance

To get ACAP and TIMS permit, you need to have a travel insurance. The travel insurance should at least cover trekking altitude of up to 6,000-meters, or even better with emergency evacuation at mountains. There isn’t any insurance company in Singapore which offers such package for independent trekkers. So…..we decided to make do with a basic travel insurance and bluff our way through.

Trekking Permits

You will need to apply your Trekker’s Information Management System card (TIMS) and the Annapurna Conservation Area Permit (ACAP). You will need these to check-in at various checkpoints along the trek. The whole process is fairly straightforward and we spent less than 1-hour to get both done. 

TIMS costs 2,000 NPR and ACAP costs 2,260 NPR. Do bring at least 4 passport-sized photos (2 for each permit), have an insurance policy number, as well as you need to know when and where are you starting your trek, more or less your route and when and where are you planning to finish it.

Nepal Tourism Board

2 forms to be filled up

There are many different treks in Nepal. They are in different parts of the country. And in each part of the country there is a different trekking permit needed. Prices vary as well.

Prices for different trek permits

Different counters for different treks too!

And do not leave without getting some free trekking maps! Instead of buying complicated and detailed maps for the trek, we think these simple maps are good enough.

Packing List

For Him:

  • 3 x Dry-fit Tee
  • 2 x Long Trekking Pants
  • 2 x Boxers
  • 2 x Socks
  • 1 x Cap
  • 1 x Long Sleeve Shirt
  • 1 x Rainproof Windbreaker
  • 1 x Down Jacket
  • 1 x Sunglasses
  • 2 x Buff
  • 1 x Trekking Shoes
  • 1 x Flip-Flops
  • 1 x  Fleece Jacket (1000 NPR/ USD10)
  • 2 x Trekking poles (1000 NPR/ USD10)

For Her:

  • 2 x Sportsbra
  • 2 x Long Sleeve 
  • 3 x Dry-Fit Tee
  • 1 x Zip-off Trekking Pants
  • 1 x Long Skirt
  • 2 x Long Leggings
  • 25 x Disposable Underwear
  • 2 x Bikini Bottom
  • 1 x Fleece Jacket
  • 1 x Rainproof Windbreaker
  • 1 x Shawl 
  • 3 x socks
  • 1 x Trekking Shoes
  • 1 x Flip-Flops
  • 1 x Trekking Poles
  • 1 x Sunglasses

Gadgets:

  • 1 x GoPro 
  • 1 x Compact Camera
  • 1 x Universal Adapters
  • 1 x Multiple Plugs
  • 1 x Extra Memory Card
  • 4 x Power Banks
  • 2 x Headlights

Others

  • Dettol Wipes
  • Baby Powder
  • Water Bottle
  • LifeStraw
  • Ginger Tea with Lemon Sachets
  • Coffee Sachets
  • Toilet Roll
  • Whistles
  • Basic First Aid (Band-aids, Alcohol Swipes, Charcoal pills)
  • Sunscreen

Budget

Basically our only expenses in the mountains are accommodation, food and drinking water. Here’s a rough breakdown on how much both of us spent over the 23-days trek:

Accommodation: 4,000 NPR (USD37)

Food: 55,670 NPR (USD520)

Drinking Water: 545 NPR (USD5)

Accommodation

The Annapurna Circuit winds its way through towns with plenty of accommodation to offer. Room prices range from 100 – 500 NPR (USD1-5) per room. Generally, they will have a cozy common area with a fireplace and good company. All guesthouses will come with a “restaurant” where you are expected to dine in (dinner & breakfast). If you did not, they will charge higher rate for the room.

We didn’t pay for any accommodation until Thorong High Camp. We (basically me) always try my luck and ask for it – can you give us a free room, if we eat dinner and breakfast with you? And it works! They will usually show you the room first when you asked if there’s any available. If you are satisfied with the room, that’s the time you can make the deal. There are many others trekkers we spoke to had been paying for accommodation.

The higher you ascend, especially once you start Annapurna Sanctuary Trek (Annapurna Base Camp Trail) where there are limited guesthouses, the room charge DOES NOT include hot shower, wifi and power charging. All these necessities will be additional charges.

Food

The meals on the trek are basic with choices ranging from porridge, pancakes, and eggs for breakfast. For lunch and dinner, we usually choose between Dahl Baht, fried potatoes with mixed vegetables, or noodle soup. Meal prices typically range from 250 – 650 NPR (USD2.50 – 6.50).

 

Dhal Bhat comes with unlimited refills!

You will find small shops dotted along the trail and in small villages you pass. Be aware that goods get more expensive the higher you ascend. We stocked up our snacks at two places: Kathmandu and Chhomrong. Manang is also a good place to stock up your snacks at cheaper price. 

Shopping in Manang

Water

Make sure you stay hydrated! 1 liter of water in Kathmandu may cost you 25 NPR (25 cents), though further up the trail it is not unusual to pay 200 NPR (USD2) per liter. Nevertheless, you can save money by using water purification tablets or fill up at safe water stations available throughout the trek. For us, we used Lifestraw to drink from our bottles.

Safe water station

Instead of buying a new bottle for USD1, refilling the bottles is a cheaper option

The safe water drinking stations are available in: Jagat, Tal, Bagarchhap, Chame, Pisang, Humde, Manang, Churi Letdar, Mukinath, Kagbeni, Jomsom, Marpha, Tukuche, Larjung, Lete, Ghasa and Birethanti.

Trekking Route

Our trek started in Besi Sahar (an 8-hours bus ride from Kathmandu’s Gongabu Bus Park) and ended in Landruck where we took a jeep to Pokhara.

Our day-by-day route:

Besi Sahar – Ngadi – Jagat – Bagarchhap – Chame – Upper Pisang – Manang – Acclimatization in Manang – Seeri Khadka – Tilicho Base Camp – Tilicho Lake – Seeri Khadka – Ledar – Thorong High Camp – Muktinath – Marpha – Kalopani – Tatopani – Ghorepani – one more day in Ghorepani – Gurjung – Dovan – Annapurna Base Camp – Chhomrong – Pokhara

What to Expect from the Trek

The trek goes through from lush green jungle and farming areas through to barren and rocky mountains. The paths can be wet, muddy, slippery, rocky, dusty and lined with snow. The Annapurna Circuit definitely takes you through some of the most beautiful landscapes Nepal has to offer!

Bahundanda: 1,270-meters

Ghyaru: 3,730-meters

Ledar: 4,200-meters

Be prepared for all weather conditions. The weather to be hot and humid at the start. As you go higher, it gets cooler. You’ll likely start in shorts and a t-shirt and finish in a jacket and pants. The trail is well-marked with red and white markers, and there are guest houses in every 5 – 10 kilometers. As from our experience, the locals were happy to help us when we asked for directions!

Expect to be both mentally and physically challenged. Trek at your own comfortable pace and take some moments to enjoy your surroundings. After-all, this is all part of the fun of completing the Annapurna Circuit!

Thorong Pass: 5,416-meters

Colmar Tropicale: Medieval French Village in Malaysia

Colmar Tropicale is a highland resort inspired by the 16th century village in Alsace region of France, famously known as one of the fairy-tale villages in Europe. Located 2,700-feet (more than 800-meters) above sea level in Berjaya Hills in Pahang, Colmar Tropicale is undoubtedly one of the popular attractions to visit in Malaysia.

Entry Fee: RM15 (USD4)

Adjacent to the entrance of Colmar Tropicale is the Le Chateau (Spa and Organic Wellness) which is also inspired by a castle in Alsace. The beautifully crafted fountain with cranes (behind us!) is an official gift from Alsace, France.

A medieval French village in the middle of a Malaysian rainforest, the entrance to Colmar Tropicale features a castle’s wooden drawbridge which leads you through an intricate cuckoo clock tower which was inspired by France’s Riquewihr Tower into massive cobblestone courtyard.

No need to fly far for an European backdrop

On the way to find Rapunzel!

Surrounded by the greens

Views are always better from the top

Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to explore the Japanese Village and Adventure Park…So, till next time!

Getting There

Colmar Tropicale is just a 45-minutes drive from Kuala Lumpur city centre. Alternatively, if you have no intention to drive or hire a private car/taxi, Berjaya Group provides daily shuttle bus services that run daily from Berjaya Times Square, Kuala Lumpur to Colmar Tropicale, Berjaya Hills at the scheduled timing. A return trip with entrance fee will cost RM60 (USD15).

7 amusing things to do in Da Nang, Vietnam

Da Nang is Vietnam’s third largest city, after Hanoi and Saigon and the largest city of Central Vietnam. The city itself has neither the atmosphere of Hanoi nor the hustle-bustle of Saigon, but has its share of sights and is close to the ancient town of charming Hoi An and the imperial capital of Hue. Da Nang is probably one of those incredible backpacking destinations that is unfortunately skipped by so many travelers aiming for the main destinations like Sapa and Ha Long Bay.

We took a yellow-colored local Bus #1 from Hoi An to Da Nang. The fare is 20,000VND (as of Dec 2017). They will most likely ask for more if you are a foreigner but keep smiling and continue offering the 20,000 – don’t let your frustration show nor raise your voice and eventually they should give in. Note that Bus #1 only runs between 0530 and 1730.

#1 Chill at Hipster Cafes…or just along the road stalls

Da Nang is a perfect hub to experience modern Vietnam. It gives you an idea where the country stands and where it is heading. It’s more authentic than bustling Saigon, and less rough than the capital of Hanoi. You can easily find gorgeous-themed cafes in city centre or traditional low chairs stalls along the riverside. Either way, it’s a nice way to chill like a local in Da Nang.

Egg coffee and lemon tart

Coconut jelly

Coconut coffee

#2 Relaxing at My Khe Beach

During the Vietnam War, this beach used to be a chill and relax location for the American Army. Today, it is an ideal place for surfing, relax on the beach, enjoy the sun and clean sand. 

#3 Enjoy Cool Climate at Ba Na Hills

Enjoy four seasons within a single day: spring in the morning, like summer by noon, autumn by the afternoon and winter in the evening! With refreshingly cool weather and gorgeous countryside views, Ba Na Hills is a real treasure of Da Nang.

Take the longest cable car ride in the world!

A totally different climate from the city below

#4 Summit the Marble Mountains 

Located on the south of Danang, the Marble Mountains (Ngũ Hành Sơn) is a cluster of five limestone and marble mountains which are named after the 5 elements: Kim (metal), Moc (wood), Thuy (water), Hoa (fire), Tho (land). Over the centuries the Marble Mountains were used as a safe haven for soldiers and a place of worship for Buddhists. For years the hills were mined for their valuable stone, although that has been recently banned. You can see examples of intricate stonework along the roadside workshops from the bus stop to the entrance of Marble Mountains.

The Marble Mountains is located along between Da Nang and Hoi An, thus you can take Yellow local Bus #1 to get there.

40,000VND (<USD2) for entrance fee

Additional cost if you wanna take the elevator

150-steps!

#5 Discover Da Nang Cathedral a.k.a Rooster Church

Da Nang Cathedral was built by French priest Louis Vallet in 1923, with a pink-painted edifice that earns its reputation as one of the most unique catholic churches in Vietnam. Standing at 70-meters, it’s also known as Con Ga Church (Rooster Church) due to the imposing bell tower that’s topped with a rooster weather vane.

#6 Sleep in Unique Hostels

We stayed in two different hostels in Da Nang.

PACKO Hostel is a container inn with 16 colorful rooms, 5-minutes walk to My Khe Beach. There are 4 types of rooms, with room rates from VND180,000/person. Bedrooms have wooden floors and bunk beds. The toilets are very clean and fully equipped.

The Memory Hostel is located in the heart of the city, 800 meters from the Han River. The entire building is paved with refined bricks with attractive earthy colors and unique vintage touch.

#7 Catch Fire-Spitting Dragon Show

Dragon Bridge in Da Nang is the longest bridge in Vietnam, offering a dazzling display of lights, fire, and water that no first-time visitor to Da Nang should miss out on. Measuring at 666 metres in length, it is located in Da Nang City and constructed in the shape of a golden dragon.

Every weekends evening at 9 p.m, there will be a fire and water spiting performance at the head of the Dragon Bridge. It’s nothing fantastic but the place will be filled up with locals and foreigners. 

Ba Na Hills: A French Village in Da Nang, Vietnam

Located 25 km southwest of Da Nang at an altitude of 1,487m, Ba Na Hills are considered as “One temperate place in the tropical forest” because the climate is cool all the year round and you can enjoy four seasons within a single day: spring in the morning, like summer by noon, autumn by the afternoon and winter in the evening! With refreshingly cool weather and gorgeous countryside views, Ba Na Hills is a real treasure of Da Nang.

Source: justgola

How to get there?

Unfortunately for backpackers, there is no public buses to Ba Na Hills. Either, you can get a taxi to Ba Na Hills for 600 000 VND (USD26) round trip, or you can go by signing up for a Ba Na Hills tour. Alternatively, you may rent a bike from hostel (USD5 for 24-hours) and it’s about an hour drive. However, we only recommend this option for confident riders as you may pass by bumpy roads and with big trucks. 

Always happy to be your pillion

Beautiful scenery along the way

Nicely paced road once you reached the property of Sun World

Free sheltered-parking space for bikes

Security card for the bike

How much is the ticket?

The price to enter Ba Na Hills includes the ticket for all cable cars and theme park entrance ticket.

  • Adult: 650,000 VND (USD29)
  • Children ( 1m – 1.3 meters): 550 000 VND 

Luckily there wasn’t any long queues

This ticket price does not include the price for Wax Museum (100,000 VND/ adult, and free for kids), as well as food and beverage. You can read more about the ticket price here.

Grand entrance to take the cable car

Ba Na Cable Car

Apart from the cooling climate and its french architectures, Ba Na cable cars hold two Guinness World Records: the world’s longest single cable car system (5,042.62 m long) and the world’s highest gap between its departure and arrival station (1,291.81 m)! It was an amazing feeling on a cable car cabin floating over an ancient rainforest, hovering over boulders and waterfalls. 

When it’s so great to travel off-peak

Whole cabin to ourselves

Spectacular views

Longest cable car ride we ever had: 20-minutes

What to see?

We arrived at the D’amour Garden (or Le Jardin D’amour) at Ba Na Hills Mountain Resort. The whole area consist of 9 gardens: Love Garden, Mystery Garden, Legendary Garden, Memory Garden, Heaven Garden, Grape Garden, Thought Garden Suoi Mo Garden and Sacred Garden. It was very foggy once we were up there, and it started to drizzle. It was unfortunate for us not being able to take nice pictures. 

There is a Derby Wine Cellar with a constant temperature of 16 to 20 degrees Celsius for you to explore!

Take a funicular up to the French Village!

Here’s the part where I shall let pictures tell the story.

Once it gets too cold to explore outside, there is a 3-storey amusement park to play! All rides, rock climbing, arcade games and movies are inclusive in the entrance ticket except for wax museum and carnival games. 

29-meters drop & twist tower

21-meters rock climbing wall

Pac-man machine

First dinosaur park in Vietnam

Biggest indoor bumper car floor in Vietnam

5-D movie

We glad that we chose to bike up ourselves instead of joining the tour because there’s no way you can explore everything within the limited time frame! We will definitely come back again in another season for better photoshoot!

Avoid Unnecessary Expenses In Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is a charming town on the east coast of Central Vietnam. The Ancient Town of Hoi An is recognized as UNESCO World Heritage Site and has become one of the “must-visit” destinations in Vietnam. Unfortunately to say, Hoi An has an attitude of “it’s okay to rip off the foreigners” much pervasive than most Vietnamese cities. Here are some of the things we had taken note of which we think are not worth spending on.  

Famous icon of Hoi An: Lanterns

Food

No doubt you can easily googled a list of popular cafes and restaurants recommended in Ancient Town, but be prepared to fork out two or three times more for a piece Bahn Mi or a bowl of Cau Lau (a local dish only found in Hoi An) where serving portions may be half of the typical size. Try getting your meals along the streets outside of Ancient Town, or best of your home-stay offers free breakfast!

Free breakkie made by our hosts!

Typical make-shift stalls along the street

Most costs about 20,000VND (<USD1) for a bowl of noodles

We did, however, splurge a bit on our last day in White Rose Restaurant which sells only 2 dishes: Bahn Bao Vac (White Rose Dumplings) and fried shrimp wanton. Each dish costs 70,000VND (USD3) which is considered quite an expensive snack in Vietnamese standard.

Bicycle Rental

Hoi An can be easily explored by walking or riding a bicycle (riding motorbike is not recommended as you can’t enter Ancient Town with it and most roads are quite narrow). If you are staying within the Ancient Town, chances are you will have to pay for bicycle rental from the owner of your homestay/guesthouse or from rental shops. However, if you are staying a little out of town, the owners are usually happy to let you use for free.

Parking Fees

From Ancient Town area to beaches, everywhere you will be asked to pay a fee, even for bicycles! Note that you can ride bicycle within the Old Town, and may push your bike if you are not comfortable riding in crowded places. For beaches, skip the main entrance to the beach or you may buy a bottle of drink for free parking.  

You will be stopped before even reaching the beach

i’m not sure if you are willing to pay and see this beach, but we are not….

Floating Lanterns

It is a common sight at Ancient Town to see old ladies selling floating lanterns at night. The gimmick is to make a wish, release the lantern to the river and wait for your wish to come true! While it can be a pretty sight to see all the colourful paper lanterns floating on the river, this is just another way of polluting the water used by the local. And some of these lanterns are being used again by another lady on the sampan scooping them out of the river!

Beautiful sight of paper lanterns floating on the river

Easily scooped up one for photo-taking

Doesn’t it looks like pollution?

Sight-Seeing

To enter most of the attractions in the Ancient Town, you are required to purchase a ticket. Most tourists purchased a ticket with coupons (USD5) which allows you to enter five attractions within 24-hours. To us, it’s not a worthy deal. Crossing the Japanese Covered Bridge is definitely no worth USD1 for us. You can easily cycle around to another street, or you may do so after 6pm where the staff is gone and you can cross for free! 

Japanese Bridge

You will be asked to show ticket, or purchase a ticket to cross over the bridge

However, it’s free at night!

Anyways, we suggest that you should cycle to other islands instead of just staying around the Old Town. 

You might be told that entering the Old Town need to present the ticket, but we weren’t stopped by anyone at the kiosk by passing in and out several times a day.    

Where we stay

We stayed at Beautiful Moon Hoi An Villa (Sky House) which is 15-minutes walk from the town. It is a 3-storey house runs by a young couple who make delicious local meals for breakfast. All rooms are private rooms comes with attached bathroom and TV. The owner, Mr. Sky, would give you his hand-drawn map of Hoi An Town will some recommendation of eateries and shops. 

Most people get to Hoi An from Danang, which is only 1-hour bus ride away. Since we were travelling from the South, we took a 12-hours overnight sleeper bus from Nha Trang to Hoi An.

3 foods you shouldn’t miss in Nha Trang, Vietnam

To try real Vietnamese street food you’ll have to get out of the tourist centre. In this post, we are going to recommend 3 foods we had tried during our short stay in Nha Trang, and we think you should too!

Duck Hotpot

Vit Tiem 69 Bach Dang is particularly popular for its duck hotpot, which is served with vegetables, rice noodles, chopped lemongrass, as well as Nha Trang’s signature fish sauce. Drawing a predominantly Vietnamese crowd, the menu here is not in English so it’s best to just point out what is ordered by the neighbouring tables. Expect to pay about VND 300,000 for your meal, which is inclusive of drinks, sauce, and vegetables.

Around the corner behind our hostel

We thought of having duck noodles, but instead a duck hotpot!

Yes! The whole duck in a pot

All the herbs to make the soup for yummy!

Finished the whole duck and soup on a rainy afternoon

Opening Hours: Daily 11:00 – 00:00

Address: 69 Bach Dang Street, Nha Trang

Bánh Xèo

Known as Vietnamese crepes (translated as “sizzling cake”), Bánh Xèo is one of the popular snacks widely eaten by the locals as well as tourists. A much as the style of Bánh Xèo is made vary somewhat throughout Vietnam, the ones in Nha Trang often prepared it with seafood. In Nha Trang, we had the biggest (25-centimeter of diameter) and probably the most delicious Bánh Xèo in Vietnam. 

35,000VND (USD1.50)

You can choose to eat with lettuce or rice paper

’cause one is not enough!!

Opening Hours: Daily 16:00 till ingredients sold out

Address: 85 Tô Hiến Thành, Tân Lập, Thành phố Nha Trang, Khánh Hòa 650000, Vietnam

Avocado Ice-cream

How could we miss out dessert?! Just opposite the street where we ate duck hotpot, we chanced upon a small dessert shop which served awesome, creamy avocado ice-cream.

Rainy days not gonna stop us from having cold dessert

There are other desserts & fresh smoothies

Creamy avocado topped with vanilla ice cream & shredded coconut

Avocado-coma

All these places are less than 15-minutes walk from our hostel, Mozjo Dorm, in Nha Trang. If you happened to stay there, do check out these hidden gems and much more from their street food map.

Check out Mozjo’s yummy street food map!

 

Indulging in Premier Nha Trang’s Mud Bath and Spa

Soaking in a tub of mud feels as eccentric as it sounds, but it has become a quintessential Nha Trang’s experience. The mud is claimed to have all sorts of healthy, therapeutic properties. Other than mud bath, the facilities usually include Jacuzzi, mineral water swimming pools and other novelties for a full day hydrotherapy extravaganza.

What is a mud bath?

Mud bath is soaking in a bath containing mineral mud. Mineral mud is a natural mud formed from the change of geology, mineral mud derived from plants such as trees, flowers, grass buried or from land created mineral mud.

The medicinal benefits of mud-bathing include removing dead skin cells, detoxifies, deposits minerals into your body, strengthens bones, reduces fatigue, smoothen and toned your skin. It is also believed to treat a number of diseases such as chronic arthritis, tuberculosis, insomnia, sciatica, stress and psoriasis.

I-resort

As highly recommended by Mozjo Dorm’s staff, we chose I-resort to experience my very first mud bath (Gan did it few years back at 100 Egg Mud Bath). As I-resort is located in the hillside on the outskirts of the city, the hostel arranged for us a shutter bus for a fee of 30,000VND (USD1.30). 

Since we didn’t get to do diving for this trip, we have more budget to splurge a bit to pamper ourselves. We got a private tub for 300,000VND (USD13) per person. The price includes a bathing suit (if you need), towel, locker and usage all other facilities in the resort. The mud bath was prepared right in front of us and we were then asked to enter the tub. The bath was very relaxing and calming, leaving the skin soft and refreshed.  A very unique experience to say the least!

After 20-minutes of soaking in the hot mud, we washed off with hot water and explore the rest of the facilities. There are a soaking hot mineral pool, 2 swimming pools with Jacuzzi and four hot waterfalls to enjoy. There are also hydrotherapy sprays for massaging muscles! 

Other places to consider

Thap Ba Spa

Being the first mud bath service in Nha Trang, Thap Ba Spa is considered the cheapest but most crowded mud bath compared to the rest. Starting price is 150,000VND (USD6.50) for shared tub with cold mud. 

100 Egg Mud Bath

For a more unique experience, 100 Egg is a place devoted to eggs! Everything from tubs to decoration to menu in the restaurant are all about eggs. A private egg tub is big enough to hold 3 people for the price of 300,000VND (USD13) per pax.

Apart from diving, this is a must-do experience in Nha Trang!! 

5 Reasons Why You Should Visit Crazy House in Dalat, Vietnam

Thailand has Wat Rong Khun (White Temple), Vietnam has Crazy House!

The Crazy House, as it is called by locals and tourists alike, does actually have a real name – the Hang Nga Guesthouse. It has rooms that can be slept in but also open during the day for visitors to wander through and explore.

Our plan was to stopover at dalat to do canyoning, but it was far too cold so we decided to come back again during summer. And that left us a few hours on this highland before proceed to our next destination. Our option is pretty obvious: The Crazy House. 

Entrance fee: 50,000VND (USD2)

Here’s 5 reasons why you shouldn’t miss The Crazy House: 

It has an inspiring story

The existence of the Crazy House exists purely through the undying faith and perseverance of Dang Viet Nga. An idealist with lofty ambitions overcomes overwhelming obstacles to make her dream a reality. Her neighbors tried stop her. The banks tried to stop her. Even the government tried to stop her, but she never gave up on her dream.

Even though it is theoretically a hotel, Hang Nga Guesthouse is today regarded as a “museum” of dream, childhood and abnormality. The Crazy House was not her ticket to fame and fortune but her ticket to headaches and heartburn, her passion, her contribution to the world, and her triumph. 

This whole project is still in progress and aimed to be completely done by 2020.

This area is still in construction, but visitors can walk around at their own risks

Under-the-sea’s theme coming up!

Unique architectural designs 

As art, as architecture, even as an attraction, the Crazy House is true only to the artistic spirit of Dang Viet Nga. The Crazy House is outrageously beautiful, hideously eccentric, and downright weird of tree-houses with uneven windows, tunnel-shaped stairways, etc.

It is the top 3 strangest hotels in the world

Dubbed “The Crazy House” during its construction, this bizarre guesthouse in the heart of Dalat City is the creation of Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga. Featuring ten nature-themed rooms, the hotel is “Gaudi meets Disneyland,” with more than a little of Dali thrown in.

Everywhere is an instagrammable spot!

Great view of Dalat City

Getting there to Dalat

We left Mui Ne on a small bus and headed to Dalat, a city in the Highlands region of Vietnam. Lying on the hills and surrounding Ho Xuan Hurong Lake, its climate differs from the otherwise tropical climate of Vietnam—the lower temperatures and humidity gave it the name of the “City of Eternal Spring”.

The journey took around 4-hours (99,000vnd/USD4) through twisting roads and cars overtaking us like in an action movie. On the bright side, the landscape grew greener as pine trees started covering the hills. Up there, coffee plantations and strawberries greenhouses substituted the dragon fruit plains of the lowlands.

There are many more things you can do in Dalat besides The Crazy House. We will definitely come back on drier season and explore more places! 

Explore the best of Mui Ne, Vietnam (for literally free!)

On the southern coastline of Vietnam, there is a little fishing village called Mui Ne. Most of the time there is the wind and a good amount of waves, which makes it the perfect spot for surfers. Mui Ne is just a 4-hours bus ride away from Saigon but it feels like you’re visiting a different country. It’s the place-to-go to escape the hectic big cities.

So, what did we do in Mui Ne…….for free?

Visiting the Red Sand Dune

The red sand dune is a must visit in Mui Ne. It’s a tiny piece of desert in Vietnam, which gives you a whole different view of the country. Just 20-minutes from the town centre, it is a spectacular place to be during sunset. Honestly, there isn’t too much to do around the Red Sand Dunes. However, do prepare yourself as there will be children as well as women who will approach and offer you to rent a plastic sled to slide down the dunes for about 20,000vnd (USD1).

Entrance Fee: None

Strolling barefooted along Fairy Stream

I was skeptical about this thinking that it is probably a tourist trap. We even walked far off from main entrance to avoid being asked for entrance fee. This stream is tucked between the beaches and the fishing village. You will be impressed by the colors and the limestone formations which look like a mini scale of Grand Canyon. Do be careful of local teenagers coming to you trying to be your guide and helping you to take pictures, just politely refused and walk off.  

When you decided to start your long walk at noon

Side entrance to the stream

Only local tourists walk through this entrance

Feeling good to soak our tired feet in this cooling stream

Popped-up stalls along the stream

If you walk through the red sand dune, you can reach fairy stream too!

Entrance Fee: 5,000VND if you enter from main entrance or with a tour

Sightseeing in Fishing Village

A local small school

Wet market

Less than a dollar chicken rice

Entrance Fee: None

Awed at Kite-surfers

Kite-surfing is a big deal in Mui Ne. Locals and travelers all enjoying the wind and waves.There are a lot of kite-surfing shops where you can rent the equipment or pick up the skill from an instructor. However, the prices aren’t cheap.

Chasing Sunrise and Sunset

Sunrise at the beach

Sunset at the fishing village

Hiking up on Random Hill

Yes! We saw a hill at the end of the beach where we were staying…why not hike?

What we didn’t do:

Rent a Motorbike

We were being advised by the locals that the police in Mui Ne often organizes “road block” to stop foreigners riding motorbikes. Even if you do have an International Driving Permit, the police will still find an excuse to make sure you pay some money to them. We had witnessed the scene and glad we heeded their advice. The fine is usually about 200,000vnd (USD8-10). 

Police behind me stopping foreign riders

White Sand Dune

The white sand dune is about 25-kilometers away from town center; too far for us to walk, and no public bus to go there. Besides, it’s just another land with sand.

Take a Tour

A standard half-day tour inclusive of white and red sand dunes, and fairy stream will cost USD5 from most hostels. It sounds reasonably-priced, but you may not get to enjoy each attraction at your own pace, and usually the guide will lure you into tourist traps like quad-biking at white sand dune or paying a fee for fairy stream. Moreover, there is a frequent local bus (no.1) which stops at red sand dune, fairy stream and fishing village which costs only 13,000vnd (USD0.50) per trip!

We were lucky that the local bus stop right outside the resort

Where we stayed?

We stayed at Long Son Mui Ne Campgrounds located on Suoi Nuoc Beach, 15-kilometers north of Mui Ne. The campgrounds have an east facing beach, meaning the place is ideal for sunrise views. It is a secluded yet well-located campground resort for travelers who would like to escape from the hustle and bustle of the main tourists spots. We stayed in a double-tent comes with mattress, pillows and blankets. Over here, you will experience resort living at backpacker’s prices$1 menu, $1 cocktails, free wifi, clean beach and lots of activities. 

Lobby

Common area

Dinning area

Bar

Lockers

Beach double-tent: USD7/night

Chilling area

Getting There

There are many bus companies that run from Saigon to Mui Ne, but we put our trust on The Sinh Tourists to travel around Vietnam. The bus journey is about 4-hours, costing 119,000vnd (USD5) inclusive of a bottle of water and wifi onboard. 

Is it Worth to Splurge on Vinpearl Land in Phu Quoc Island?

With the scale of 170,000 square metre, Vinpearl Land Phu Quoc Island is invested to become the largest modern amusement park complex in the Southwest of Vietnam, turning beautiful Phu Quoc Island into a new destination for both local and foreign tourists.

Combo tickets: 750,000vnd (USD33) for Vinpearl Land and Safari

Adding on to the amusement park, a 380-hectares safari park with 150 species of animals and 400 species of plants was opened just 10-minutes ride away. The park is divided into 2 main areas: open zoo for guests to walk around and a safari where guests board a tram to see animals wandering around. 

Known as the Disneyland of Vietnam, Vinpearl Land Amusement Park consists of 5D theatre, indoor games zone, an aquarium, outdoor thrilling rides, water park and amphitheatre. 

The castle which houses the 5D theatre

The most amazing thing about their indoor games zone is that every game is token free!! We spent almost 2-hours trying out as many games as we could.

The aquarium, though small scale, includes a variety of sea creatures and reptiles from all over the world. Upon entering, you will be greeted by Gentoo penguins – which is known as the fastest in the penguin family. Unfortunately, we missed the mermaid show at the main panel.

Source: phuquoc.vinpearlland – The mermaid show we had missed

The highlight for many is the waterpark, which combines a man-made beach, water slides, lazy river, and a large kids splash pad. Lockers service and changing rooms are available inside the waterpark area.

Locker usage: 10,000vnd (less than USD0.50)

There’s no need to carry tube all the way up by stairs!

Despite having more than 10 outdoor thrilling rides, we only played bumper car and the Ferris wheel (’cause there are so little guests in the park and we don’t want to be the only riders). 

View from top of Ferris wheel

To end our wonderful day at Vinpearl Land, our last activity is to catch the water musical show. The show lasts about 30 minutes with Vietnamese and international music performance combining with beautiful light system and water music.

Though Vinpearl Land and Safari were considered one of the more pricey activities we had done, we glad that we did it and we both agreed it’s totally worth the splurge!

Getting There

Vinpearl Land Amusement Park offers regular complimentary shuttle services for visitors who purchase tickets from travel agents within Duong Dong Town. There are many pick-up points in town, so you can easily check with your hostel where is the nearest pick-up point and the timings.  We do not recommend to bike there as it will be a waste of your one-day’s rental. The last shuttle bus back to town is as late as the park closes.