I am posting this again. I wrote this in my old blog and since I am moving all my travel stories on this new blog I just created a week ago, I thought of re-posting my Ho Chi Minh City trip with friends last December 2015.
After almost three months of planning a trip with my friends, finally came December before the holiday comes and before we ran out of budget (lol) our Saigon (now Ho Chi Minh City) trip came at last.
We had a four-day visit to Ho Chi Minh City, formerly Saigon, a city in Southern Vietnam. Ho Chi Minh is known to be the largest city in Vietnam. The city is undeniably attractive most especially to tourists because of its historical story and tourist spots that marked the battle of the Vietnam War.
On our first day in Ho Chi Minh, we visited the famous Cu Chi Tunnels were the location of several military campaigns during the Vietnam War, and were the Viet Cong’s base of operations for the Tết Offensive in 1968. The tunnels were used by Viet Cong soldiers as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous North Vietnamese fighters. The tunnel systems were of great importance to the Viet Cong in their resistance to American forces, and helped to counter the growing American military effort. Pretty much info we had from our tourist guide named Tin.
On our second day, we get to get a short visit to Phnom Penh, Cambodia and were able to see briefly the Royal Palace.
Our third day in Ho Chi Minh is our city tour. Oh, we visited the Cathedral of Notre Dame, built during the French revolution. I was mesmerized with its architectural features and can’t help but took a couple of photos. Then we went shopping around the city. Truly they got best and cheap buys in there, and for days we got to experience being a millionaire (lol).
Despite the annoying motorcycle mob in the city, it was a great staycation. We were given the opportunity to learn more about Vietnam and its people. Got to embraced their culture and not to mention their great history- I was fascinated by their story.
Last Wednesday is the start of the Lenten Season. This season is observed by Christian traditions particularly by Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox, Lutheran and Methodist to name a few. It begins on Ash Wednesday and covers a period of approximately six weeks before Easter Sunday. In the Philippines, since the majority of us is Roman Catholics and mostly is Protestants, the Holy Week is very important to each and every Filipino and is well observed. Beginning Maundy Thursday until Black Saturday, business operations mostly are shut down. This means most offices are not in operation to give meaning to its purpose, the preparation of the believer through prayer, penance, and repentance of sins, alms giving, atonement and self-denial. In the Philippines, it also means long weekend. There are certain traditional and non-traditional activities and practices most Filipinos do during this season. Some, most especially the Catholic devotees, practice Holy Week rituals. Some practice abstinence during Holy Week, where they restrain themselves from indulging in something, typically alcohol and smoking, while others travel to faraway places to reflect. And for those who choose the latter, here are top six destinations where you can reflect, soul-search and simply relax.
1. Ilocos Norte
They say if you want all sorts of fun and make sure you cover everything the Philippines could offer, start right at the top. Ilocandia is the perfect start to an awesome Holy Week getaway. If you’re looking for an adventure this Lenten Season, Ilocos Norte is a must visit destination. What to do in the northern part of the country? A lot! To name a few, a diverse beach experience in Pagudpud, site-seeing at Bangui Wind Farm, entice with the amazing rock formation at Kapurpurawan in Burgos, climb the Cape Bojeador Lighthouse and a city tour in Ilocos Norte’s biggest city, Laoag. From up north, go down south and indulge to another escapade that the southern part of Ilocos Norte can offer. Go sand-boarding and try an ATV ride at LaPaz Sand Dunes, stopover at Juan Luna Shrine in Badoc, visit the Paoay Church in Paoay, a national treasure of Ilocandia and a designated UNESCO world heritage site, and the list goes on.
2. Boracay Island
There is no way Boracay would not be included in the list. Boracay could be the most popular destination not just for summer getaways but also to spend Holy Week with family or friends. Enjoy the beauty of the beach and fine white sands. Though Boracay is known for its loud celebration and crowd in every station, you can still enjoy and relax in observance of the Holy Week with lots of great hotels and resorts to check out and enjoy quiet sunrise and sunset at the beach.
3. Camiguin Island
There are too many places to visit in Camiguin Island, and this is one perfect destination for your Holy Week getaway. You may visit the Sunken Cemetery marked with huge cross which is placed below sea level. Aside from this, the island is full of natural attractions that keep visitors coming. The Camiguin Island is rich in hot springs and waterfalls. The White Island, a sandbar is the most popular site the small island of Camiguin has. Its serene view and clear waters makes it one of my favorite places for getaways. It is composed solely of white sands and calm water. And from White Island you can view the Hibuk-Hibul Volcano and Mt. Vulcan in the background. Aside from all the beautiful natural attractions, you can also visit the walkway in Mt. Old Vulcan dotted with 14 life-sized Stations of the Cross. The Panaad Festival is celebrated by tourists and pilgrims during the Holy Week.
A more enjoyable way to spend your Holy Week is to witness the Moriones Festival, Marinduque’s pride. Here, locals are seen in their costumes of Roman soldiers to depict the story of the Passion of Christ. This practice for the people in Marindugque is an act of penance and as a way of thanksgiving.
If relaxing is your main purpose during Holy Week, there is no other way to spend it than in beaches. The island of Palawan is one perfect place. Have you heard of Coron, El Nido and Puerto Princesa? These are just the famous islands in Palawan that showcase the richness of paradise-like beaches and not to mention abundant in beautiful coral reefs.
6. Christ of the Divine Mercy in Misamis Oriental
The Shrine of the Divine Mercy is located in El Salvador, Misamis Oriental overlooking Macajalar Bay on the southern island of Mindanao. This shrine serves as a pilgrimage site for Divine Mercy devotees.