tips to save your millions

… Another stretch of walking was followed with more walking, the setting sun and cramped limbs reminded us that we have a cultural event to attend at 6:30 PM. Oh yes boys and girls, your folks here are no “all beer, no humanity” celebrities (celebrities?!). In fact, we always make it to a point to indulge in a traditional and/or artsy event whenever we are on the road. Remember our Apsara night in Siem Reap? the Hutong courtyard in Beijing? The Wayang Kulit in Yogya? and the Pingpong show in — LET’S not go to that topic.

Our host suggested the Golden Dragon Water Puppet Theater. We have been hearing about it and its popularity among culture-vulture tourists. We all know that it is far from the calibre of Japan’s Bunraku puppetry, but it wasn’t bad for the ticket price of 150,000 Dongs per bitch or 300 Philippine pesos. Even though it is almost the same damage for an Avenue Q tickets in Makati, it is still worth the price (please do not expect porn puppetry during the duration of the show. If porn is what you are after, then go to district 1.)

The daily shows start at 6:30 PM and you should be out by 7:20 PM, that is IF you endured the moldy scent of the theater seats and obnoxious gatecrashers we will hide by the names of Malaria and Dengue.

The songs and narrations in the storyline were entirely delivered in Vietnamese, no translators, no subtitles (???). That was why some people from the audience found it boring and some even froth in the mouth in the first 30 minutes of the show. We find the antics OK, not really that “very LOL ROFL OMG WTF LOLCOPTER!” kind of funny, it was rather CUTE! The elements that kept us from storming out of the hall were the raw Vietnamese music and the ingenious vocals by the ensemble.

And do not try to understand the English synopsis in the Programme brochure, because it will only confuse your mind to a state of Paula Abdul-ness.

TIP # 1 : Bring some mosquito repellent! It is definitely cheaper than hospitalization and malarial medications.

Right outside the Theater, parked taxis barricaded the gate to hawk tourist. And because we were too excited to start our Vietnamese booze marathon and we still have loads of hundredths of thousand Dongs, we bit the hook and found ourselves sitting pretty at the back seat of a MAILINH taxi. After less than 10 minutes, we pulled over in front of our Hotel, then there was horror. My eyes popped and Monette uttered a restrained shriek when we saw the fare we had to pay.

For less than 4 kilometers, PhP 600 (USD 18) is flat ridiculous! We could have paid less if we took a private ride from some cheap car rental company. We questioned the amount, we argued and we raised our voices with the F word flying on all directions. To our dismay, we only got a slurring-blubbering response from the cheating driver.

We paid the fare nonetheless and tried to spare ourselves from unnecessary brawl. But Monette couldn’t help but to spit a fire and I quote “WHATEVER!!! GO F**K YOURSELF!!!” <walked-out>

So I didn’t let the scene pass without a punchline “Yeah, F**k yourself… <slammed the door><re-open the door> … And stop talking Elvish!”

TIP # 2 : DO NOT take Mailinh Taxis in HCMC!

TIP # 3 : When you are being ripped, just pay the amount to prevent bloodshed… and leave the car doors open.

While I was waiting for my flight to HCMC, I saw a collector’s edition of Absolut Vodka. What made me buy it was the traveler themed bottle design and the flavor of coffee, almonds and chilli–it was the perfect booze for this trip. The bottle saved us some few more hundredths of thousand Dongs.

We picked a spot along the side streets right outside Go2 Bar. We just ordered our dinner, some beers and cola when we noticed that the other table was— (THIS SEGMENT WAS INTENTIONALLY DELETED TO AVOID PREEMPTING THE SUCCEEDING EPISODES OF OUR HELLO STRANGER SERIES… THANK YOU FOR YOUR UNDERSTANDING)

TIP # 4 : Fill an empty water bottle with good quality vodka and bring it with you on a night out. Order a cola or  fruit juice and ask for an extra glass of ice, then SPIKE IT UP BABY!

We woke up the following morning rolling on a zero smothered bed, we were still a couple of happy millionaires. Although we weren’t really trying to restrain ourselves from splurging, we still managed to pull some thrift acts. With too much extra cash, we decided to scrap our original plan. We initially intended to experience Mekong but when we remembered that it is something that we are reserving for Laos, we ditched the boat ride to the Delta. We also realized that we are too claustrophobic to do Cu Chi Tunnels, not a big fan of squeezing through some tight American holes anyway.


Saigon Mini Hotel 5 got some wicked breakfast entrees, served on a backdrop of stunning city sunrise. The view from the dining hall almost made me stick my head out of the window and scream “Goooooooood morning, Vietnam!!!”


TIP # 5 : Choose a hotel/hostel with free Breakfast and offers trip assistance free of charge.

We decided to embark on a five-hour bus ride. Our hotel receptionist made our lives easier by helping us look and book the earliest bus to Mui Ne. All we have to do is to pack our things, sit in front of the hotel entrance and wait for our rocket to come. At eight, the bus came and we climbed in and figure-out a comfortable reclining position for an encore of our good night sleep.


We were both drifting fast to La-la land when I asked Monette…

Ron: We booked a round trip ticket right?

Monette: Yeah…

Ron: Is it with you?

Monette: No…

Both: HOH CRAP!!


to be continued…