Backipacking Indochina

I know this blog post is way overdue, but at least I’m making the effort to make it before I plan Indochina part II. So anyway, this was the first abroad trip that I planned and I was very excited to experience backpacking outside the country. I was very eager to make my plans and to make sure I do enough research so that we won’t get lost.

This trip covers 5 countries and 6 cities in 8 days, from August 14 to August 21.

Leg 1 Manila to Clark
From Manila to Clark, you can take a bus from Philtranco directly to DMIA for P450. Just make sure that you check the bus schedules so you won’t miss your flight. After arriving in DMIA, make sure you set some peso aside for the P600 terminal fee and the P1,750 travel tax.

Leg 2 KL
Upon arriving in LCIA, we took a bus to get to Puduraya to our hostel near Chinatown. Bus ticket costs MYR7. Going around the city by train is not expensive, the ticket costs around MYR10 on an average of course depending on where you need to go.

Leg 3 Ho Chi Minh
We flew via Airasia from KL to Ho Chi Minh. The reason we had to fly there was it was the easiest route to Cambodia, and Cambodia was our main destination.

When we got to the airport, we hired a cab for around VND300,000. We weren’t sure if it was way overpriced but it was a considerable distance from the airport to the city. Our main goal in Ho Chi Minh was to get to Saigon Square so we can buy North Face backpacks for the trip (since we were backpacking). We also had some spare time to hit the museum before heading to Saigon Square 1 to shop. Best way to get around Ho Chi Minh is taxi, it’s inexpensive and it’s by the meter. Also, when in Pham Ngu Len, which is their backpacking district, head off to the nearest Highlands coffee to try their coffee.

Leg 4 Phnom Pehn
On the same day that we flew from KL to Ho Chi Minh, we took a 6hour bus to Phnom Pehn. Bus ticket cost USD14 and you can get it from any travel booth in Pham Ngu Len. But better you try to book the tickets through email.

We arrived in Phnom Pehn very late that night and our tuk tuk from the hostel didn’t know where to pick us up because I wasn’t sure if I provided the correct bus line. So we ended up paying for a tuk tuk to get to 88backpackers hostel. I highly recommend this hostel because the hostel is fairly new and the customer service is outstanding. Our room costs USD20 but only because it was a room for 4 people.

The next day we toured around Phnom Pehn via tuk tuk, it’s fairly easy to find a tuktuk driver and cheap to around. We were able to visit the Royal Palace (entrance fee USD5, 7:30AM to 11:00 AM), the National Museum (entrance fee USD3, 8:00AM to 5:00PM) and the Silver Pagoda (entrance fee USD1). Since we had more than enough time to see the sites, we decided to go to the Russian market to go shopping. We were able to find factory overruns at very cheap prices.

Food in Cambodia is more or less the same in the Philippines. They also eat rice with everything!

Leg 5 Siem Reap
The highlight of our trip is definitely Siem Reap. We were already falling in love with Cambodia from their warm welcome and their nicest smiles that when we got to Siem Reap, we wanted to stay longer.

We arrived as usual very late in Siem Reap through a 6hour mini van drive. Ticket costs USD12. We stayed at Mandalay Inn which I definitely recommend, the room inn was small but very friendly service. We were greeted at our room by durian and some kind of milk which was very nice.

The next day we headed off to Angkor Wat which is the best thing I’ve ever seen. It is simply awesome. You must see it to appreciate what it implies in terms of human capacity and imagination. Our tour by car with an English speaking tour guide was about USD100 but for me it was worth it. Entrance at Angkor Wat for 1 day is USD20. Also included in our tour was a cultural dinner at a buffet which I forgot where  but the experience was great because the show was a great insight to Cambodian culture and way of life. If you go to Cambodia, I highly suggest you see one of these shows.

After the dinner, as a gesture of gratitude, we treated our guide and driver to ice cream at Blue Pumpkin which they suggested. Unusual ice cream flavors, a bit expensive, but worth a try. After ice cream, we were dropped off at our hostel but due to our excitement, we couldn’t stay put so we headed for the night market which was only a close distance from where we were staying. Their night market is a good place to find souvenirs although a bit more expensive that when you buy from the street.

Leg 6 Bangkok
Our horrific border cross from Cambodia to Bangkok started by purchasing a USD12 ticket from our inn. This ticket already includes the bus to the border and the mini van from the border to Bangkok. This was a grueling 12hour ride with a lot of unfortunate incidents in between but still bearable when you keep in mind how much it costs.

Again, we arrived late at Bangkok and checked in at our hostel. Make sure to haggle with the tuk tuk or else you will be charged horrendously. We stayed at Niras Bankoc Cultural Hostel for THB50 a night. But like in all the other places we’ve been, we still had the energy to go out so we headed to Khao San Road which is this huge night market. There are cheap everything there, including street food that are so good.

The next day we went out to see Bangkok. Our first stop was the Golden Mount which was only a walking distance from our hostel. After climbing the steps of Golden Mount, we headed to the Royale Palace (entrance fee THB200, 8:30am to 3:30PM). It took us a while to get around The Royale Palace and the museum but it was a great insight on Thai culture, architecture and history. After the exhaustion from the heat and walking, we headed off to Wat Pho (reclining Buddha) but it was closed so we decide to head back to the hostel so that we can prepare for our flight the same day. Getting to the airport via train is easy because the airport is the last station and it already connected to the airport.

Leg 7 Singapore
We flew from BKK to SG via Airasia. Upon arrival, we took the train to get to the nearest station near Little India. We stayed at Footprints hostel which was a good place to stay in but a little off location. This time, we headed straight to bed hoping that we can go around the city the next day.

Due to the tiring earlier days, we woke up late the next day but still decided to go about the city. We traveled through the easy navigation of the train system to get to the Bay and Esplanade. We then had lunch at Lau Pa Sat before deciding that just shop at ion orchard because we no longer had the strength to walk to Marina Bay Sands and Sentosa. Train tickets cost around SGD3 if you will travel along the sites.

Home Sweet HomeDue to our early flight and lack of funds, we went to the airport at the latest time possible for the trains which is 11PM. We stayed at the airport until our 9AM flight the next day.

I know there isn’t much details on this post, but I’ll be supplementing this by an additional post for each leg of the trip.

All our hostel bookings were made through hostelworld.

Things to remember:1. For control freaks like me, you can’t research enough. Most narratives online are just a base for your experience, so if you want to make sure you know where you’re going, double check on the details. Make sure you know all your options.
2. Make sure you have a map. Maps are essential in navigating the city.
3. Check the most appropriate form of transportation, because you may never know if it will be a bus or a train or a ferry.
4. Ask the locals, some will be more than happy to help you.
5. Don’t get frustrated, laugh at your misfortunes, remember that you are on vacation so if you can’t take things lightly then, what more when you get back to real life. So have fun!

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