Phu Quoc 2019 Day 6 – My Khe Beach and transfer to Phu Quoc

Our last day in Da Nang and with nothing planned, we slept in late but woke up just in time to allow us to have breakfast at the buffet.

After breakfast, went up to the 23rd floor to check out the kids club as K was interested to see what’s there. Spent a couple of minutes there as he tried the kiddy slides and small ball pool and a tiny fussball table that he played with other kids. Then we managed to get him to leave for the beach.


My Khe beach was just across the road as we made our way there. This was supposedly one of the best beach in the world with long stretches of white sand going as far as the eyes can see. We spent some time playing at the beach making sand shapes and volcano but the weather wasn’t good, with moments of rain mists and a very cloudy view. The waves were extremely choppy removing the possibility of any water play at all.

My Khe beach in bad weather
The other side of the beach
Promenade along the beach

After the visit, we returned to the room to check out at 1230pm, after successfully requesting for late check out after our breakfast. We booked a Grabcar for 34k that brought us to a shopping more called Vincom Plaza. This was a decent sized mall and a couple of stores selling kids stuff on the 3rd floor. We went into one and bought some Beyblades toys which we thought was pretty cheap deal (5 starter beyblades, 1 booster and 1 launcher for 899k dong and the arena for 445k dong). Maybe it’s because it was made in Vietnam and these were older season ones.

Xmas tree at Vincom Plaza
On the inside of the mall

The fourth floor had all the food restaurants which was weirdly most BBQ or hotpot related food but we found one Caracoli coffee that had Vietnamese meals of pho and sandwich. Paid 250k for lunch and we went to the ground floor for some window shopping and a visit to Starbucks before getting onto another Grab back to the hotel for 30k. Our driver to the airport was already waiting for us and as I quickly packed the luggage with the stuff that we bought, while mommy and K made their last visits to toilets before we were on our 30mins trip to the airport.

Ice skating rink at the top most floor
The restaurants take most of the 4th floor
Caracoli restaurant

We alighted at the international airport but found that it was the wrong one, so we went back to the ground floor and walked the 5 mins to the domestic terminal before checking in at the Jetstar Pacific counter for our flight to Phu Quoc.

International airport, wrong one!
Directions to the Domestic airport

The domestic airport was quite small, after we got through the checks and did some window shopping, we ended up waiting at the gate. The plane we were taking was small too and we had to take a bus there to board. The bus arrival was very infrequent and we had to wait for quite a while before we could board it to get to the plane. It took a while for us to board the plane and settle in with a line of people doing the same. Soon we were in the air and K was also fast asleep.

Domestic airport
Inside the Domestic airport
Family check-in is good service!
Within the departure gates

The 2 hrs flight was pretty uneventful to say the least, most of the time I spent sleeping, and while seated at the aisle, I missed the sunset outside the window. We landed in Phu Quoc ahead of time.

View arriving into Ho Chi Minh

The luggage came from the belt and we found stickers pasted onto them, with the information that we were winners of some gifts and thought that these might be scams. We brought them thru the to the arrivals (and after a stringent check by one of the airport staff there to ensure we got the right luggage by checking the luggage tags, so luckily we got the sticker luggage tags with me), a staff gave us some gifts in exchange for a photo. The gifts were Vietnamese candies.

Phu Quoc candies

Immediately after the arrivals outside was a Vinpearl counter where we confirm our registration for the shuttle bus to the Vinoasis Phu Quoc Resort. We then realized that as more and more people gathered, we weren’t going to get to the resort quickly. As predicted, things were moving pretty slowly. We only got onboard the bus at 710pm and by 8pm, we arrived at the sprawling resort.

Ho Chi Minh Airport
Vinpearl counter

Went to check in and took a while before we were given our rooms. There were so many people moving around and trying to check in that it felt pretty chaotic. Plus I couldn’t quite catch what the staff was saying so we just proceeded to our rooms.

The room looked luxuriously designed though not big as the previous ones but I wasn’t complaining and was happy to be in the room. We settled down for a bit before we went to the Almaz cuisine and leisure center to check out the place for dinner.

Main bedroom
Shower and toilet
Tub included
Balcony view

The night view of Almaz center looked pretty nice. The retail shops didn’t look fantastic though, mostly retailing goods that we had no interest in. There were quite a few restaurants and we ended up in a Almaz beer club. There were not many patrons inside the bar itself and the staff was playing Vietnamese KTV music inside. The food took a long time to come and it was just frustrating that we had to keep asking for the food. K spent his waiting time with books (amazingly in a bar and waiting patiently). The food was ok though but it was just taking too long. We left the bar at only 1030pm and paid 807k for the dinner.

Almaz center
Large walking space with some retail
Colorful design at night
Almaz beer club
Inside the bar, still quite empty
Fish fillet
Grilled chicken
Potato wedges

We returned to the room walking after exploring the ground floor of the resort for a bit, the place had many Xmas decorations of balloons to take photos with. The night was spent mostly on battles with beyblades and we went to sleep reluctantly at close to 1am.

Xmas trees made of balloons
Gingerbread house deco
Long mall
Train made of balloons
Kids club
Beyblades with the stadium

Da Nang 2019 Day 5 – Ba Na hills and Dragon bridge

After the long day yesterday, it was hard to get out of bed especially for K. We got most of our stuff ready and had to take some time to wake K up and warm him up before bringing him to the buffet breakfast. (Tried asking if we could bring food back to the room but wasn’t able to)

The restaurant was already crowded but there were still tables available. Got ourselves some food from quite a variety, there were just lots of meat and I thought it was rather a heavy breakfast.

Buffet with multiple rows

We were supposed to meet the driver at 830am but we arrived at 850am instead. Couldn’t tell which was the driver and so just waited on the first floor while mommy and K went to the supermarket to get some stuff. The driver whom was already there actually went back to the car to write my name on a paper and then that’s when we met up.

Started our 45mins journey to Ba Na hills and along the way at 5mins before the arrival, the driver let us buy our tickets at one of the shops along the street, probably to avoid the crowd at the actual place. Even though my email communication with the tour agent mentioned the inclusion of the tickets, the driver wasn’t aware so I just bought the tickets to be sure. The tickets costed 750k per adult and 600k per child.

Tickets to Ba Na hills

After alighting, we went to board the bus that brought us to the entrance, seemed like taxis or cars were not allowed to let passengers alight there. There were multiple cable cars up to Ba Na hills and we just carried on walking to find the shortest queues as hordes of tour groups queued at the Hoi An station, supposedly the one that goes to the famed Golden Bridge made viral by social media. Our station was Suoi Mo station where the queue was still long but at least it was moving.

Entrance to Ba Na hills looked like a fortress
Map of the area
Sign to the cable car station
Popular place with a crowd

We got onto a rather large gondola and what we didn’t expect was the time it took to get to the top. It took very long! From the gondola we could see the sprawling green forest below and at a distance there were the other cable cars line running to the top too. Then we began to enter into the fog which made it looked like we were travelling into the clouds.

Huge gondola to bring passengers up
Nice view of a waterfall
Going into the fog

At the top, we could feel the temperature was already lowered and while I was there with short sleeve and chinos, it wasn’t unbearably cold. Once we exited the station, we entered into what looked like French historical architecture, bringing us into imaginary France!

Panoramic view of the French inspired Ba Na hills

We didn’t walk around but went down to the Fantasy Park first. The park consisted of 3 floors of games and play and seemed like a paradise for children. However, after spending some time there, we realized there actually weren’t many rides available. The few of the exciting ones K was too short for it. We took 2 simulation rides which was quite ok, K spent some time at the indoor playground but didn’t quite enjoy it since there weren’t any other kids around and he’s kinda scared being alone (since parents weren’t allowed either). There were some carnival games but we didn’t play those and the rest were dominated by arcade games which we spent the most time at. These games were all free but didn’t generate any tickets (since there were already free) and thus were just demo games for people to try.

Fantasy land
Giant robotic spider display
Thrill ride through 3 floors
Indoor playground
Kiddy rides
Carnival games
Arcade for kids, theres another section for older people
Dragon display above the bumper cars

After we managed to get K to stop playing, we proceeded to get lunch. We went around and ended up at the wax museum which we found required entrance fees and so we only took a few photos with the transformers before heading to the France. Back at the open area, we saw a certain Thai Market and decided to have Thai food for a change. We ordered Phad Thai and fried rice and 2 cups of drinks and sat at the tables available there. The food didn’t taste good. It cost about 300k in total.

Wax Museum
Transformers with ironman for photos
Thai Market
Our lunch

We thought we would get some cheesecake to supplement and went to the Starbucks there. The place was just too crowded and we tried to look for other bakeries and found one bakery that sold cakes. Bought a coconut choco and one caramelised cake and 2 coffees to eat.

Xmas feels
Area near the Starbucks
View from the top
Cakes as deserts
Inside the cafe
On the outside, the one with the red walls

After that, we took a stroll around and as we headed to the back, we realized that there was a pagoda and a viewing deck. Mommy and K didn’t want to go up and so I made my way up quickly to have a look. Took some photos of the pagoda and the area around and went up the bell tower to shoot an aerial view of the town. The bell tower was an automated one with the log being activated by a machine.

Stairways to the viewpoint
More climbing
Temple at the end
Panoramic view of the village and pagoda from the top

We took the cable car from Morin station to Depay station and saw the long queue for the alpine coaster which we skipped (but most likely the best ride there in Ba Na hills judging from the long queue). Upon reaching the station, we proceeded quickly to the funicular so as to bring us to the Golden Bridge quickly.

Cable car to the bottom section

Disembarked and we were lost as there were no signs pointing to the bridge, only to the garden which we didn’t have time to visit. Asked around and finally found the way there but the entire place was so foggy and we couldn’t get a clear photo of the gigantic hands. Went to queue for the cable car to get back to ground level.

Fogged up Golden Bridge

The journey down was long and so was the queue for the cable as everyone seemed to be returning at the same. Again there were just many tour groups of people and the queues became a massive amount of people trying to get to the cable car. Thankfully we didn’t have to squeeze in the cable car and soon, after passing through some time in the fog in the gondola, we arrived at the bottom of the hill.

On the way back, we got some snacks from the food stall (K had his icecream that he had been asking the whole day but because it was cold up there we didn’t agree to it). Got on the transfer bus and alighted back at the location where we were left off and Whatsapp our driver who managed to find us at the bus station.

On the way back, the driver returned the money to us for the tickets after clarifications with the office. K fell asleep during the 45mins back.

Upon arrival at the hotel, K and mommy rested back in the room while I went alone to the top of the hotel (where there was a bar and swimming pool) on the 25th floor to catch a panoramic view of the beach and Da Nang and it was beautiful! We then spent the evening in front of TV and bath time.

Panoramic view of the My Khe beach
Panoramic view to the west
Panoramic view to the south

Before heading out to dinner, I brought K to the top to see the area lighted up. Took another couple of photos before meeting mommy at the lobby.

Night view at the pool
Lighted up Da Nang West

We walked down the street to a small restaurant called the Red Window for dinner. It was ran by a group of locals who also ran the accommodation and the food served was delicious. The humble people didn’t want to charge us the pancake because it looked too ugly but we couldn’t accept that and paid 350k in all including some tips.

Inside Red Window
Coffee with coconut
Carrot juice
Fried noodles with vegetables

Our Grab taxi picked us up and dropped us all at the Dragon bridge for 48k. I mistakenly asked us to be dropped at the tail and had to walk the entire bridge distance back to the head where it’s supposed to spit fire at 9pm (only on weekends and holidays). We joined the crowd which was already gathered near the head to see this spectacle and at 9pm, the traffic to the bridge was stopped and the show began!

There were 2 rounds of fire spitting and 2 rounds of water spray. Since we were closed we could feel slightly the heat of the fire! Luckily we couldn’t feel the water as the wind blew the other direction and drenched the people standing at the other side of the road! We were too close for a good photo and it would been nicer to stand further away near the bank rather than on the bridge.

Fire breathing (too) up close!
Water spraying

After this short but interesting show, we walked back along the road, passing by a super crowded Son Tra night market and stopped near a building to book another Grab back to the hotel. This ride was 25k and the driver took awhile to arrive, having to negotiate the crazy traffic to get to us.

Crowded Son Tra night market
Da Nang street at night

Our night was spent getting ready for bed which wasn’t difficult considering the long day out.

Da Nang 2019 Day 4 – Day trip to Hue

630am and I was already up and trying to get ready early for the long trip to Hue with a return to Da Nang for the night instead of Hoi An.

All packed and ready to go by 730am though K had some trouble waking up. At the breakfast, the entire place was crowded, not like the previous day! Looked like everyone was an early riser even on a holiday! We had our fill and mommy settled the bill for dinner the night before and then we were checked out.


We met up with the female guide “Happy” and she immediately loaded us up in a Mitsubishi Xpander after introduction to the driver Tin and we were on our way to the first destination, about an hour and a half drive away.

First, we arrived at the top of a mountain Hai Van pass where there were some ruins left. This was supposedly at the border of Da Nang and Hue from which we could see both the cities. Took photos with the ruins there and of the surrounding scenery before leaving the crowded place as many huge tour buses stop there for a break and tourists stop for a photo.

Hai Van Pass is very popular
Old map of the area
One of the ruins there
Panoramic view of the surrounding, on the left Da Nang, right Hue.

Then it was another 20mins downhill to Lap An lagoon, with a short stop at Lang Co bay for photo taking. The lagoon was a large area of calm water with the backdrop of mountains; the place looked pretty nice. There was a certain seafood smell that K didn’t like but it was because the area was also used as place for oyster farming. The farmers used tyres for oysters to attach themselves which was interesting. We didn’t have any though even though it was cheap since we didn’t stop long and were on our way to old town Hue.

Lang Co bay view
Panoramic view of the calm lagoon
Props for the IG moments
A swing must be there of course!
Tire used for growing abalone

An hour and a half of drive plus lotsa made up games I came up with on the fly to keep K entertained, we finally arrived at the one the tomb for worst emperor of Vietnam (at least that’s what the guide said), Khai Dinh, but the tomb itself was the most elaborately designed. The Royal Tomb of Khai Dinh, or Ứng Mausoleum, wasn’t the biggest and it was a quick walk around the beautiful tomb while listening to the historical stories before we boarded the car for the next destination.

The views while on the way to the next destination
Audio guides available at the tomb
Long flight of stairs up
Panoramic view of the tomb
Intricate carvings
Dragons lined the sides of stairs
Main alter which was designed with multiple colours
The inner chamber where the tomb was supposed to be (but wasn’t there)
Table that was used by the emperor
An imperial stamp used by the emperor
Nice view of the surrounding
Statue of a buddha on the hill can be seen

Just a short 10mins drive and we arrived at the Tomb of Minh Mang which the guide advised as one of the best emperors of Vietnam. The tomb was huge and much bigger than the previous one, though not as intricately designed. The arrangements with lakes and buildings made it looked like shape of a human, according to the guide. We walked along and fed some fish for 5k dong and K was happy. On our walk back, there was a slight drizzle but we managed to avoid getting drenched.

Tomb in a park
Gate of the huge compound
Stele house
Ponds at the sides of the walkway
Dai Hong gate closed to the outside
Hien Duc gate to the next section
Door way to the Pavilon
The same doorway
Minh Lau Pavilon
Feeding the fishes was fun
Another doorway to the tomb
Stairway up to the resting place
Panoramic view of the compound

The car brought us to the lunch location at Life Bar restaurant near to old Hue Citadel and we were given the set lunch. I was busy replying email and trying to sort out some internet banking with their free wifi, the food was only ok though the portions were quite big. After lunch and using the restrooms, we proceeded with the last 2 locations of our tour.

Life bar restaurant
Noodle soup
Hue Pancake
Mixed Vegetables
Grilled chicken
Advocado shake
Fruits platter

First it was the Hue Citadel, which reminded me of the Forbidden City in Beijing. However it wasn’t as huge as that and a lot of the buildings were already destroyed. We did spend quite a good deal of time there looking at some of the old photos of those emperors and listening to the historical stories narrated by the guide. There was a nice garden near the end and it was quite nice to walk through. We exited the gate which was built with the same design like Khai Dinh tomb and boarded our car to the final destination.

Cannon display
Gate at the wall around the Hue Citadel
Ky Dai flagpole
Meridian Gate into the citadel
Panoramic view of the compound
Entrance to another section of the huge citadel
Long corridor with photos and information on the walls
Recently renovated building
Thai Binh Pavillon, constructed by Khai Dinh Emperor
The pillars with the same design materials as his tomb.
Inside the Pavillon
Thieu Phuong Gardens
Old walls near the gardens but still colourful
Panoramic view of Co Ha Gardens
Leaving the citadel
Colourful Hien Nhon gate

The Thien Mu pagoda was the last stop for our tour in Hue. It was actually a monastery for most part of this location but there were still things to see as like the story about the monk who burnt himself up in protest and there was the car on display that he used to drive himself to the protest location. We were also told of the monks schedule which included waking up really early at 330 and only getting to bed at 930, talk about tough life.

Thien Mu Pagoda
Stele on giant turtle
Gate towards the monastery
Gardens within the compound
The car that was driven by the monk who set himself on fire
Bonsai plants at the compound
Left through a very old gate

Then the tour ended as we dropped off the tour guide who stayed in Hue and the driver drove 2hours plus back to Da Nang for us to check in at Sala Da Nang beach hotel.

View of the railroad running through Hue

We were given quite a beautiful room with a balcony but it was again on the 4th floor. There wasn’t much of a view and they were fully booked. I was disappointed but nothing much can be done.

Xmas tree in the reception
Welcome drink with towel
Huge jacuzzi tub
Beautifully designed and spacious bedroom
Night view from balcony

There was a minimart available as I got myself mineral water and a beer and the rest of the night was spent in front of the TV including room service dinner, bath time and then it was lights off.

Dinner of beef noodles, fried rice and fries

Hoi An 2019 Day 1 – Arrival into Da Nang and transfer to Hoi An

Our last trip of the decade started really late as we woke up from an afternoon nap on Xmas eve and only had slightly less than 2.5 hrs to get to the airport. We got out of the house after our baths and getting ready.

The traffic was pretty smooth, with the exception of one accident on PIE which we had to divert to ECP. Arrived at terminal 1 with about 1.5hrs to spare before boarding.

Checked in at the shared automated auto check in machines between Qantas and Jetstar but went to the wrong bag drop. Luckily the Qantas staff was quick to stop us and we embarrassingly walked back to the Jetstar counter to bag drop.

We took a few photos with the Xmas trees there with our parents before biding goodbye. The immigration was busy since everyone seemed to be leaving Singapore for travel and after a wait at the queue, we finally got through and proceeded to the food court for dinner. Chicken rice, quick and tasty choice but more importantly, acceptable to K’s increasingly limited acceptable choices for dinner.

We realized we forgot to pack our lightning cable for charging our devices and I quickly went into an electronics shop to get one for 15ish dollars while mom and K went on their way to the gate first, which was at the tail end of the terminal.

After a quick visit to the toilet, I caught up with them and found ourselves being the last passengers. The displeased staff let us through after the Xray scan and reminded us about being timely for our boarding and we moved quickly to board the almost full plane.

Our flight took off only after 20mins of taxiing on the tarmac and it was a smooth 2.5hrs flight and almost too boring since there weren’t any entertainment onboard. My phone provided the main source of entertainment of games when we alternate turns. Bought ourselves an apple juice for 4 bucks and tried to go to sleep but it didn’t work out and before we knew it, we were landing.

Went through the initial single counter immigrations that quickly opened up to another 3 lanes and we were quick to get to the first of the queue when a new one opened but had to wait for our luggage anyway. After picking up, we visited one of the many counters there selling SIM cards for unlimited data at irresistible prices, like 240k D for 10days throughout Vietnam and we installed that onto our IPad mini for hotspot use.

Immediately outside the Arrivals I found a man standing there with a board with my name on it and he was the driver for our private transfer that we arranged with the tour agency( which we engaged since being with them for our Hanoi tour). He brought us to wait by the road and while waiting for him to return with a vehicle, we took some photos with the Xmas tree there. Soon he came with a huge vehicle and then we were on our way to Hoi An River Town hotel, about 40mins drive away.

Da Nang Airport
Our ride

It was quick an easy drive without much traffic but nothing much to see along the way, as colourful restaurants were sparsely located. The big roads became smaller roads before we crossed a bridge to the island where our hotel was situated. The driver got lost for a moment before I tried to explain that he had gone the wrong way with my google maps but in no time, we disembarked at the entrance of the hotel.

Riding on a bike with 4 seemed normal

The bell helped with the luggage as we checked in, that came with welcome drink and cold towels, then we were brought to our room on the 4th floor. It was a huge room and had a huge toilet and we were pretty satisfied with it. K had some time to play his toys and after a quick shower down and some milk and story books, it was time to get to bed. Tour starts early the next day so we had to catch as much sleep as early as possible

Welcome drink
King bed
Huge room with a long wall painting
Toilet with separate shower
Night view from the balcony
Xmas card for us!

Escape Plan to Vietnam December 2019

A brief summary on the itinerary

Escape Plan to Vietnam:

Total duration 9D8N
Singapore is 1hr ahead of Da Nang.
Flight time is 17hrs 15mins on Singapore Airlines from Singapore to Newark Airport, New York. Return flight is 2hrs 10mins on Scoot from Ho Chi Minh to Singapore.

Evening flight on 24th Dec at 650pm and arrival in Da Nang in the Night at 835pm. Return flight from Ho Chi Minh on the 1st Jan at 555pm and arrival in Singapore at 905pm.

Day 1 Arrival into Da Nang and transfer to Hoi An
Day 2 Hoi An Old Town tour and My Son tour
Day 3 Hoi An free and easy
Day 4 Day trip to Hue
Day 5 Ba Na Hills and Dragon Bridge
Day 6 My Khe Beach and transfer to Phu Quoc
Day 7 Vinpearl Land and Waterpark
Day 8 Bai Dai Beach and transfer to Ho Chi Minh NYE 2020
Day 9 Home Sweet Home

This escape plan was to getaway to somewhere close and not too expensive while at the same time, see how people are doing Xmas and New Year’s Eve.

Budget nature: Inexpensive except when in the resort

Costs of living was pretty low in Vietnam and thus we found that things were relatively inexpensive. We catered SGD$800 but wouldn’t have overspend if we didn’t buy stuff along the way. It could also be that we had paid upfront for private tours and transfers and even so, it was still affordable.

Complexity: Easy

It was easy since most of the transportation was taken care by our private transfers and tour. Phu Quoc transfer was taken care by the resort while Grab app worked pretty well in both Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh.