[Review] – Two Day Trip To Tay Ninh

Hello everyone, and Happy New Year 2018! On January 13th and 14th, we had an exciting and memorable two-day trip to Tay Ninh Province. Here is a brief review of our weekend journey.

– 13/01/2018: 

Tried Banh Canh Trang Bang – a special food of Tay Ninh.

Joined “Culture Fair” with secondary school students and tried Tay Ninh snacks.

Visited Cao Dai Temple and Observed praying.

Had a feast with varieties of beef food.

– 14/01/2018:

Tried Hu Tieu – Vietnamese vermicelli.

Hiked on Bà Đen (Black Virgin) Mountain.

Day 1 – 13/01/2018

  • 10:00: Departed from Ho Chi Minh City

This time, we had almost 20 people, who come from Vietnam, America, France, South Africa, Hong Kong, China and Japan, so we decided to rent a van to Tay Ninh. We started to leave for Tay Ninh at 10AM. It took us 3 hours to reach the center of Tay Ninh Province. 

  • 12:30: Arrived in Tay Ninh Province

At around 12:30, we arrived in Tay Ninh Province, and we had a lunch at ‘Bánh Canh Cô Ba‘ restaurant. We tried Bánh Canh Trảng Bàng, a special vermicelli dish of Tay Ninh. The restaurant also sells some popular Tay Ninh snacks like banana rice paper or spicy rice paper. Tay Ninh is a hotpot for rice paper or bánh tráng in Vietnamese, especially the one with muối tôm (literally shrimp salt.) 

  • 14:15: Joined “Cultural Fair” with Secondary Students in Tay Ninh

Our first big purpose of this trip is to interact with students coming from two secondary schools in Tay Ninh at the invitation of a teacher there. Activities include having conversations, introduction about Tay Ninh and Vietnam, playing a quiz, and playing traditional Vietnamese games. It was quite surprising that the students could speak English very well. Some were confident, some shy; but after all, they were really eager to share with us their experience and the information about their hometown. We learnt a lot from them. The Vietnamese games also reminded me of my childhood time. In japan, we also have some similar games and I usually played them with my friends at school.

We, Vietnam Track, really appreciated this memorable time. We would like to send our greatest gratitude towards the teachers and students, and also the parents. Thank you.

 

  • 17:00: Visited Cao Dai Temple

Cao Dai is a special religion in Vietnam. Briefly, the religion is the combination of several other religions, and hope for the peace of the world. I don’t know this religion exactly, so I cannot talk about it more; however, I want to talk about my impressions of this temple. The temple was quite big, colourful and quiet. The whole area surrounding it was so huge that it seems like a small town with residential areas, education and governance. In a day, there are four praying time: 6a.m, 12p.m, 6p.m and 12a.m. Visitors are kindly welcomed to observe it.

 

  • 19:00: Dinner Time

At 19:00, we had a dinner at a restaurant, which is famous for the beef, called “Bo To Tay Ninh Nam Sanh”. We asked local people which restaurant in Tay Ninh is good? They answered this one, so it is already proved that this restaurant is super nice. We could enjoy delicious beef dishes like BBQ, fried rice, beef hot pot and so on. I put the address here, if you are interested in this restaurant, why don’t you go??

Bo To Tay Ninh Nam Sanh

Address : C3/21T Pham Hung | Xa Binh Hung, Binh Chanh, Ho Chi Minh City 70000, Vietnam

 

 

  • 21:00: Back to the hotel and took a rest.

We stayed at Thảo My Hotel. The hotel service is very good and the price is reasonable. 

Address: 313 Tran Hung Dao, Ward 1, Tay Ninh.

Day 2 – 14/01/2018

  • 6:30: Had breakfast

At 6:30, we gathered and went to have breakfast with Hủ tiếu (Vietnamese vermicelli) and Cà phê sữa đá (iced milk coffee) at a popular restaurant near our hotel. Why we gathered so early in the morning?? Because the hiking was waiting for us!!!

  • 8:15: Started to hike the Black Virgin Mountain

The height of Black Virgin Mountain is 986 meter. The reason why this mountain is called “Black Virgin”:

Variations of the legend of Núi Bà Đen exist. The oldest Khmer myth involves a female deity, “Neang Khmau” who left her footprints on the mountain rocks. The Vietnamese myth centers around a woman, Bà Đen, falling in love with a soldier and then through betrayal or suicide Bà Đen dies on the mountain. It has special significance to the Vietnamese Buddhist population and has a famous shrine about two thirds of the way up the mountain. Also, to the Cao Dai sect the mountain has special religious significance and its temple, the Tay Ninh Holy See, is close to the mountain.

(Wikipedia – Checked at 2018/01/17 11:57)

Although we took the easiest way to get to the top, it turned out to be not actually “easy”. For the way up, we chose Đường Cột Điện (Electric pole route) which is marked by a line of electric poles. After the pole numbered 108, we could reach the top. The route was unpaved, really natural with rocks and surrounded by bananas and mangoes trees. From time to time, colourful birds and insects were spotted. It took us about 4 hours to climb up to the top. The tiring time was paid off by delicious lunch which we had prepared beforehand and more importantly, the amazing view from the top. After lunch and a short rest at the top, we continue going down via Đường Chùa (Pagoda Route.)

But, from this point, we should be more careful. Before the trip, many people searched on the Internet and were told that this way was the easiest one. So, most of us didn’t prepare for this enough. However, as you can see from these picture; the route was rocky and steep, and some places had a big hole, so be careful! If you slip, you absolutely get hurt. It is advisable that you should prepare enough hiking things like shoes, sportswear, water and so on. 

Ready, Go!
Let’s follow the electric poles
Great view from the top
More carefulness for the way down
Chùa Bà Đen (Black Virgin Pagoda)

 

 

  • 17:30: Reached the bottom and back to Ho Chi Minh City

Fortunately, every member could reach the bottom safely, and we went back to our residential city. It took another 3 hours, but around this time the traffic was so terrible, so at 21:15, we finally came back to the centre of Ho Chi Minh City.

In two days, we did many activities such as exchanging culture with students, visiting Cao Dai Temple, hiking Black Virgin Mountain, trying many Tay Ninh dishes and of course, making new friends from many countries. I would like to say thank you for having joined with us. We had great time with you. We are planning next trip and will inform soon, so please check our website often for more updates. The events are open for both local and foreigners. You are always to be welcomed.

 

Last photo in front of the main entrance after exhausting hike

Finally, if you have trouble to travel in Vietnam, feel free to contact us. We are happy to answer all of your questions.

Kazuki Nishioka

[Event] – Climb Black Virgin Mountain In Tay Ninh (13-14 Jan)

Hello everyone, welcome to our third travel! This time, we’re going to climb the highest mountain in Southern Vietnam – Black Virgin Mountain (Núi Bà Đen) in Tay Ninh Province, 90km to the northwest of Ho Chi Minh City. And what’s more, before conquering this up-to-1000m mountain, we’re going to host some English activities for students at a secondary school there.

***TIME: 13 – 14 January 2018

***TRANSPORTATION: Bus 

***SCHEDULE (Updated: 26/12):

13/01/2018:

+Gather at An Xuong Bus Station at 09:00.

+Travel to Tay Ninh by Dong Phuoc Bus (around 2 hours)

+Visit Cao Dai Temple at its praying time (12:00)

+Host English activities at a secondary school (around 2 hours)

14/01/2018:

+Depart early in the morning to Ma Thien Lanh Valley.

+Climb to the summit of the Black Virgin Mountain through Duong Cot Dien.

+Climb down and visit the Black Virgin Pagoda through Duong Chua.

+Go back to HCMC.

We will follow the ways marked by the arrows.

Note: there are many ways to hike up the summit of the mountain. The ways chosen for this trip are among the easiest ones. So do not worry if you are new hikers ^^. 

The way up the mountain is called Duong Cot Dien (literally translated as Electric Pole.) We need to follow exactly the line of electric poles. Sounds crazy, right? But yes, after passing over 100 poles, we will reach the top, which takes around 2-3 hours. 

The way down is much easier with stairs. We can stop by a beautiful pagoda on the way.

Duong Cot Dien (Photo: lexuancuong.com)
Black Virgin Pagoda (Chùa Bà Đen) (Photo: mytour)

***COST:
– This is just a group hangout, so NO PARTICIPATION FEE, but you need to cover your own expenses.

– Expenses include:

+Bus ticket: 60,000VND/person/way.

+Food

+Hostel

+Transportation in Tay Ninh (taxi, motorbikes)

If you are interested, please register by joining our Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/saigonhangouts) and leave a comment at the newest post. When there are enough people, we will form a group among participants to have a further discussion.

>>>Have a look at our first trip to Thanh An Island, please visit here.

>>>Have a look at our second trip to Giang Dien Waterfall, please visit here.

Registration deadline: By 9th Jan 2018

Thanks for reading and seeing you soon!!! ?

[Review] Full Day Trip to Giang Dien Waterfall

Hi, everyone!! Last Sunday (10 Dec 2017,) our group went to another peaceful and enjoyable place – Giang Dien Waterfall. Our goal of this trip was to observe magnificent and breathtaking waterfall and simply enjoy the nature away from the hustle city. In this article, I would like to share with you our travel memories as well as provide some tips so that you can plan your own trip to Giang Dien Waterfall.

1, Where is Giang Dien Waterfall??

Giang Dien Waterfall is located in Trang Bom, Dong Nai Province, Southern Vietnam. There are many industrial parks in Dong Nai province which have received a great deal of investment from foreign companies. Moreover, there will be a new international airport – Long Thanh International Airport. Therefore, Dong Nai province is an important area for Vietnamese economy.

In terms of sightseeing, there is Cat Tien National Park in the south of Dong Nai. This park is famous for huge area of rainforest. You can enjoy jangle walking or night safari there. Another gem of Dong Nai tourism is Giang Dien Waterfall which was the destination of Vietnam Track’s second trip last Sunday.

Giang Dien Waterfall

2, How to get there??

Talking about the transportation, it is quite simple. There is a big bus station on Ham Nghi Street near Ben Thanh Market (District 1, HCMC) where you can take the bus to Giang Dien Waterfall. To many foreigners, taking a bus is quite challenging, but for this time, you don’t need to worry about it. Just take the bus No. 12, which will take you directly to the waterfall. You don’t need to change bus routes on the way. And Giang Dien Waterfall is also the final stop of this bus, so neither do you need to concern about where to get off. The bus fee is only 30,000VND for one way.

***Note that the time of the last bus may be changeable. On the day we went there, the final bus back to HCMC was 15:45, so remember to check the time with the driver of the ticket seller before getting off.

The bus stop on Ham Nghi Street where we took bus No.12
Inside the bus No.12

 

Entrance Tickets:

From Mon-Fri: Adult 50,000VND; Kids 30,000VND.  

Sat and Sun: Adult 60,000VND; Kids 35,000VND.

From the bus stop to the waterfall, you need to walk for around 2 km, but believe me, it is an enjoyable and relaxing walk with trees along the road, river flowing and a big lake nearby.   

 
Welcome to Giang Dien Waterfall Tourist Site
Giang Dien Waterfall Tourist Site map

3, What we did??

One of my impressions on the park is that there were a lot of peaceful and beautiful green spaces where people could lie on the chair, walk around the park or have a picnic as we did.

 

Upon reaching the waterfall, we quickly found a spot on the meadow nearby, from which we could have a whole view of this magnificent and imposing waterfall. We brought Indian snacks, sandwiches with peanut butter and pork bologna, fruits, drinks and also UNO board game. Some people in the group enjoyed swimming, including me. The water was so cool which made my body shaking for the first few minutes; however, once I felt comfortable, I could forget hot and humid weather of HCMC. Many people in the park enjoyed BBQ beside the waterfall with Karaoke. I am big fan of BBQ and Karaoke so I was a little bit jealous with them. If I come here next time, I would definitely go for BBQ. 

Camping site
Our picnic spot

4, Conclusion:

I was very thankful for this park which helped me to escape from noisy sounds in the city like those of motorbikes and of construction. When you feel exhausted with the city life, don’t forget this place, especially for those who like BBQ and camping. The park serves you all the necessary facilities to have a wonderful picnic with your friends or families.  In addition, there is no restriction on doing BBQ, so you can enjoy BBQ wherever you think suitable around the waterfall. And finally, I would like to thank all of my friends. I had absolutely spent a great time with them.

We are planning next trip already. If you are interested in our trips, feel free to join us. The next trip will be to Tay Ninh Province on 13-14th January 2018. More information on the next trip will be published soon.

Thank you for reading and hope to see you guys again in our next trip!

We were having dinner at Pho 2000 restaurant, a well-known Pho restaurant in Saigon

Kazuki Nishioka

[Event] Full Day Trip To Giang Dien Waterfall

Are you ready to cool off ourselves with this magnificent waterfall in Trang Bom, Dong Nai Province (50km from the centre of Ho Chi Minh City)? 😉

***TIME: 10th December 2017 (full day)

***TRANSPORTATION: We plan to travel by motorbikes, but if the number of motorbikes is not enough, traveling by bus will be considered.

***COST:
– This is just a group hangout, so NO PARTICIPATION FEE, but you need to cover your own expenses.
– Gate Ticket price: Around 70,000 VND/person
– Food: we probably need to buy food in advance and then have a picnic near the waterfall (Yeah!!!) Further discussion will be held among participants in Facebook later.
– Personal expenses

***ACTIVITIES:
– If we are lucky enough, we can swim in the waterfall (So cool!!!)
– Enjoy the waterfall, the nature and fresh air.
– Have a picnic
– Play some games

And just HAVE FUN TOGETHER!!!

If you are interested, please register by joining our Facebook group (https://www.facebook.com/groups/saigonhangouts) and leave a comment at the newest post. When there are enough people, we will form a group among participations to discuss more about the schedule, transportation and food preparations.

>>>Have a look at our last trip to Thanh An Island, please visit here.

Registration deadline: By 8th Nov 2017

Thanks for reading and seeing you soon!!! 😉

[Review] Full Day Trip to Thanh An Island

Hello everyone! I am an exchange student from Japan, and one member of Vietnam Track Team. From today, we would like to share our memories of Vietnam Track’s events through reports written by a participant, for example, me as an organizer and a participant. You can know what kind of activities we are holding and also get information about hidden places in Vietnam. 

This time, I will talk about our very first trip to Thanh An Island. Let me begin with general information.

Place: Thanh An Island, Can Gio District, Ho Chi Minh City

Date: November 26th, 2017

Cost: 250,000VND/person 

1/ How to get there?

Do you know a trendy traveling style in Vietnam called ‘Phượt’? It means traveling by motorbikes. And for this time, we chose ‘Phượt’ style to get nearer to the nature. Really, imagine you are on the back of a motorbike enjoying cool breeze and inhaling fresh air.  I bet it would be one of the most enjoyable moments ever for you!

>>>Details of the way to get to Thanh An Island, please visit here

This is called ‘Phượt’. I tried to ride the motorbike, and it turned out that it was not too difficult at all (at least for this road)

2/ Our trip:

6:40 : We gathered at District 7

At first, I thought 6:40 was too early, and I had no idea why we had to gather in the early morning. However, it was totally wrong. It would be a truly  long journey!

8:00 : Arrived at the entrance of the Binh Khanh Ferry

We arrived at the ferry about 8a.m. To reach Can Gio, it took only 10 to 15 minutes, very quick! I even did not notice it was moving. The fee for 1 motorbike was 4,500VND plus 1,000VND more for the one sitting at the back, so it was quite cheap for us. Inside of this ferry, there were so many motorbikes and cars as shown on the photo, however if you went upstairs and had a seat, you could enjoy good view and feel more comfortable. I really recommend going upstairs.

Binh Khanh Ferry, so many motorbikes, cars and buses

8:20~10:30 : Long journey by motorbike to Thanh An Island…

We needed to travel through the whole Can Gio to take the second ferry. Normally, it takes around 1 hour and a half; however, we used over 2 hours to get there. On the road, there were a few motorbikes and cars and you know what, Can Gio was actually a countryside in Saigon. So you could enjoy beautiful peaceful sceneries and fresh air along the way. Our group really enjoyed this journey. We stopped at some points to take pictures, talk with each other, and eat some food.

I thought ‘Phuot’ style traveling to here was so nice because we didn’t need to concern about heavy traffic and we could feel the cool breeze. But, you should be careful with the police when driving motorbikes. Don’t drive so fast and keep to the right side of the road!!

12:00: Taking 2nd Ferry to Thanh An Island

Because the ferry here was quite small, it was not strong enough to carry motorbikes. We parked our motorbikes at  Coopmart and took a rest. Then, we walked for 2km to the ferry port. Unfortunately, when we got the port, the ferry was already gone, so we had to wait for more than one hour and we spent that amount of time on recharging batteries and talking with other people in the group as most of us had not known each other before.

Finally the ferry came. It cost 10,000VND for each person. This ferry is smaller than the first one, so it looked much more similar to a fisherman boat. From the ferry, we could see the island and local people’s lives; how they traveled around each island and what did they did near the island. The sunlight was so strong at the time. So, don’t forget to bring sunscreen, hats, and sunglasses, especially women!!!

13:00 : We finally arrived at Thanh An Island 

How far the journey was!! We finally arrived at Thanh An Island at 1p.m. This island was small so that we could go all around on foot. My impressions on the island were that there were a lot of adorable dogs on the road. Some little children were playing outside with their friends. Many dried seafood was sold along the road. I really enjoyed seeing what the local people’s lives on the island.

Eating seafood is a must do on such an island as Thanh An. One of the special things here was that you could choose which kinds of seafood you wanted to eat. They served many varieties of sea foods such as crabs, shrimps, squids, fish, oysters, etc. And the dishes were cooked so delicious.

Here are some of the dishes that we enjoyed there.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

15:00: Enjoyed a beautiful ocean view!!

To see the great ocean view from here is the main part of this trip! Standing before the vast sea, I suddenly felt how tiny a human was, and also at the same time I wanted to go travelling more to see more and more beautiful sceneries like this. Probably, when you are sitting here and looking at the sea, you will forget the time is passing. I appreciated my friends taking me here.

Beautiful sea view

16:30~20:00: Back to Center of Ho Chi Minh City

Finally, we get back to the center of Ho Chi Minh city by traveling the same way. We took the last ferry to Can Gio at 5p.m and almost the last ferry to Binh Khanh at 7:30p.m. The road was quite terrible to ride motorbikes at night because of lacking street lights, so it would be safer if you go back earlier before the night fall down. Besides, the temperature at night became cooler than that of daytime. So, I recommend bringing a thin jacket with you.

>>>Details of the way to get to Thanh An Island, please visit here

Enjoy the dawn on the ferry back home

Conclusion:

I think this place is a little bit hard for foreigners to go alone because the way is complicated, and it is difficult to find the bus stops. However, participating in this event, I had many Vietnamese friends to go there together. So, I was so glad to go with them. And also, thanks to having friends from the US and New Zealand, we had a great time exchanging languages and culture during the trip. I was so satisfied  with the trip.

In addition, it is hard to find Thanh An Island from the guidebook for foreigners. I strongly recommend going there if you want to find a hidden part of Vietnam, especially Saigon. Till now could I know that there was a countryside in the modern Ho Chi Minh City. Anyway, this trip is a perfect opportunity to track to the heart of Vietnam.

I’m looking forward for our next trip. Finally if you have trouble in your trip to Vietnam, feel free to contact us!!

>>>Announcement of our next trip to Giang Dien Waterfall, please visit here.

Here are our happy moments ^^

On our way to Can Gio Market.
Recharging batteries before taking the second ferry.

Don’t forget to take pictures at any time ^^

On the ferry to Thanh An Island.
We, waiting for the ferry to run.
I am so ‘high’
So happy are we! ^^
Before the lunch
On the rock road

 

Kazuki Nishioka