Contributed by Janice in Wanderland
Disclaimer: Expenses may be different from how you will travel.
I work in a corporate company that implements a 2-week mandatory leave for their employees annually. The 10-day holiday that was given to us is like a gateway to a vacation. Since I travel a lot, I wanna use my leave to just wander.
When I was planning for the trip, I was thinking about the Philippines since I am trying to finish all the 81 provinces which most traveller calls “Project 81” or “PH 81”. I’d probably tick off about five provinces in a span of two weeks, but I wanna challenge myself, that’s when I decided to go out of the country, alone.
Upon research, Indochina is one of the budget-friendly and safe places to go for solo travellers. I was hesitant at first because of the fact that I am a girl, alone in a place that I am unfamiliar with. But I thought, “if not now, when?”.
I booked a multi-city ticket from Manila to Ho Chi Minh then Bangkok to Manila and scored the flight at a cheap price. I made a lot of research, I read blogs, until I drafted my final itinerary. Plan. Plan. PLAN AHEAD!
I landed 1am at Tan Son Nhat International Airport which is about 40 minutes away from the city. Since it’s already late, I waited till morning before I head downtown. And if you’re thinking why I chose a late flight to Vietnam, well, most flights from Manila to HCM departs at night.
I went around the city on my first day in Ho Chi Minh. The tourist spots are not too far from each other which made it easy to move to places. Just be cautious when crossing the street as motorbikes are popping from all directions.
Make sure not to miss trying the Vietnamese coffee ‘cos it’s one of the best! The famous coffee is sold in every corner of the city. Their foods are also sumptuous. I mostly enjoyed my stay in Vietnam because of the food.
I also did Mekong Delta tour to learn more about their culture, but unfortunately, the day tour didn’t suffice my culture cravings. I suggest to get a 2-day tour (or more) to immerse with the locals and to know in-depth of the country’s traditions and beliefs.
Mekong Delta river
Most of the hostels offer tours like this, but the hostel where I stayed offers Mekong Delta tour for about US$20. So, I decided to look for a cheaper offer and I luckily found a US$9 Mekong Delta tour at Do Quang Dau Street. The tour includes an English speaking tour guide, lunch and transportation.
It took me 14 hours via bus from Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap. It felt like it’s never gonna end. Haha! I tried looking for cheap flights but most tickets are seven times the fare for the bus. So, I took the land trip since it was a lot cheaper.
I booked with Mekong Delta Express, one of the biggest bus line in Vietnam. The bus has WiFi, free food and water. We were given two sets of food during the whole trip. Each set contains one box of bread (2 varieties), 1 bottled water and wipes.
FARE? It was half a million. I paid 598,000₫ (₱1,305 or US$26)
Also read: 15 Experiences You Must Have in Cambodia
Siem Reap is mostly known for their ancient temples, so I am expected to go “temple-running”. I woke up at 4am to see the sunrise in Angkor Wat, and it didn’t fail to amaze me. Just make sure to find the perfect spot, which is on the left part of the entrance and be there early if you wanna see the sunrise as there are A LOT of people waiting for the sun to show up too. My favourite temple would probably be Ta Phrom, where Tomb Raider was shot. I felt like I was Lara Croft roaming around the temples. It’s so surreal!
Angkor Wat Temple
Pub street and night market are also a not-to-miss when in Siem Reap. These two are on the same location. Night Market is a good idea for pasalubongs, I got a good bargain for the bags and trousers there. And the Pub Street? I’d say it’s pretty wild. Haha!
If you only have a limited time like I mine, there’s a standard list of famous temples that you should see. You can contact our energetic/talkative/entertaining tuktuk driver who made our tour light through his funny stories.
Com: +855 17 482 817. He has Viber so I suggest contacting him in advance.
My last leg is Bangkok, which took me 8 hours from Siem Reap. The border crossing isn’t as smooth as when I crossed Cambodia since we literally have to cross the border and walk. No instructions were given on how we’ll get to the office and have our passport stamped. We just figured our way to the immigration. Peew! Amazing race in Thailand. Lol
I bought the bus ticket from the hostel where I stayed for US$10 only. It’s pretty cheap cos when I was checking online, it costs US$26. Some of the other passengers on the same bus paid US$26 and they even booked directly from the terminal. I saved US$10! YAY!!!
Bangkok is pretty overwhelming (at least for me), it’s like Manila minus the language. It’s a busy city with vibrant people and great street food. I felt home away from home. And beyond the dust and chaos of Bangkok, it is packed with things to see and do.
Aside from the exotic foods like fried insects, temples in Bangkok are also on my list. There are free shuttles going to the Grand Palace for all who are going to pay respect to the King, so I took advantage of it. There are even free foods everywhere around the area to show how much they love their King. I saved few bucks from transportation and food.
At the Grand Palace
The architectural structures of their temples is incomparable. Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun are neighbouring each other so I decided to visit them on the same day. The glittering pillars of the Buddhist temples were just beautiful!
Please be mindful of the colour of your clothes when visiting the temples especially the Grand Palace. Thai people would appreciate if you wear black or white during the mourning of their beloved King, which would last for a year. Also make sure to wear trousers or skirts that are below the knee and shirts that would cover your shoulders, long sleeves and pants would be perfect as most of the city temples have a strict dress code.
If you’re thinking of a side trip but have a limited time, Ayutthaya is a good option. Ayutthaya is just an hour and a half from Bangkok, you can go there either by train or bus then hire a tuktuk to take you around. You can see more temples in Ayutthaya and it’s probably the nearest province to see an elephant stay.
BUT PLEASE, DO NOT RIDE THE ELEPHANTS, most of these elephants are tortured to tame down just so us, humans, can ride on them. This an abuse and should be stopped. Best thing to do when visiting an elephant is to just feed them.
One of the temples I visited in Ayutthaya
If this has urged you to travel these countries, the best time to go would be from November to February. As we all know, these three are tropical countries so it can get very warm during summer or you may experience unpredictable rains during wet season.
And, remember that NO PLAN IS THE BEST PLAN. Just go out and be local. *wink*
I stayed in Town House 23 located at Dang Thi Nhu st, which is in the heart of Ho Chi Minh. It is near Ben Thanh Market and is accessible to most tourist spots in the city. The staffs are friendly and can speak english fluently which for me is a big point as I don’t speak their language.
I booked a bunk bed in a female dormitory in The Luxury Concept Hostel located Stung Tmei, Svay Dangkum. It’s just a five-minute walk away from Pub Street and market. The bed is huge! The staff is very accommodating and helpful.
I was fortunate enough to have a friend accommodate me during my whole stay in Bangkok. I saved $$$ for hotel, food and package tours in Bangkok. However, I would suggest you to stay in Khao San Road if you’re more of a party person and would like to meet fellow travellers. KSR is also near the Grand Palace, Wat Pho and Wat Arun. Or, stay around Pratunam area if you’re more of a shopaholic as it is near Platinum area and Central World.
|Day 0||10:45||NAIA Terminal 3|
|00:20||ETA in Vietnam (Tan Son International Airport)|
Notre Dame Basilica, Saigon Central Post, Reunification Palace (Independence Palace), HCM City Hall Building, Opera House
|12:00||Noodle Palace at Ban Co St. near Ban Co Market|
|14:00||Jade Emperor Pagoda|
|15:00||Ben Thanh Street Food, Ben Thanh Market, Bitexco Financial Tower, Pham Ngu Lao Street, Thanh Binh Store|
|Day 2||7:00 – 17:00||Mekong Delta Day Tour|
|Day 3||7:00||Bus to Siem Reap / Cross border|
|21:00||Arrival in Siem Reap|
|22:00||Dinner at Khmer Kitchen Restaurant|
|Day 4||4:00||City Tour:
Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom, Ta Phrom, Bayon Temple
|11:00||Back to hotel|
|14:00||Old Market. Buy pasalubong.|
|16:00||Bike around the city|
|20:00||Dinner at Khmer Family Restaurant|
|Day 5||7:00||Cross border to Bangkok|
|20:00||Arrival in Bangkok|
|Day 6||9:00||Wake up call|
|10:00||Breakfast and prep|
|11:00||Lunch at Terminal 21 Mall|
|13:00||Back to condo|
|14:00||ETD to Ayutthaya|
|15:00||ETA to Ayutthaya.
Wat Yai Chai Mongkol, Wat Chai Wattanaram, Wat Phra Si Sanphet, Wat Na Phra Men, Wat Mahathat
|19:00||Dinner by the river|
|21:00||JJ Night Market|
|Day 7||9:00||Wake up call. Breakfast.|
Bangkok National Museum, Grand Palace and Temple of Emerald Buddha, Wat Pho, Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Arun, Wat Lokaya Sutha
|18:00||Back to condo|
|20:00||Khao San Rd. Party!|
|7:00||ETD to Suvarnabhumi International Airport|
|9:35||ETD to Manila|
|13:55||ETA in Manila|
US$1 = ₱47, ₱1 = 458₫, ₱1 = ฿0.79
|Day 1||Local desserts||75,000₫
(split to 3= 25,000₫)
|Noodles for lunch||25, 000₫||₱55|
(split to 3= 73,333₫)
|Marou Coffee Shop||40, 000₫||₱87|
|Coconut juice||25, 000₫||₱55|
|Day 2||Mekong Delta tour||US$9||₱423|
|Banh mi||20, 000₫||₱44|
|Spring rolls||15, 000₫||₱32|
|Beer at Benh Thanh street food||30, 000₫||₱65|
|Day 3||Uber to Bus Station||20, 000₫||₱44|
|Bus Fare to Siem Reap||598,000₫||₱1,305|
|Tuktuk to hostel||US$3||₱141|
|Khmer Kitchen Restaurant||US$4||₱188|
|Day 4||Temple day pass||US$20||₱940|
|Tuktuk to temples||US$10||₱470|
|Khmer Family Restaurant||US$5||₱235|
|Day 5||Bus to Bangkok||US$10||₱470|
|Pang Hoy Coffee Shop (latte and french toast)||US$4||₱188|
|Day 6-7||Traditional ice cream||฿15||₱19|
|Ferry to Wat Arun||฿3.5 per way / ฿7 round-trip||₱8|
|Noodles at Terminal 21||฿80||₱101|
|Fried insects at Khao San Road||฿40||₱51|
|Taxi to airport||฿200||₱253|
Subtotal – ₱6,714
Accommodation and Airfare
- Vietnam – ₱958
- Cambodia – ₱621
- Bangkok – FREE!
- Airfare – ₱6,389 (with 20kg check-in baggage)
Subtotal = ₱7,968
GRAND TOTAL = ₱14,682
Total savings from ₱15K budget is ₱318 which I used to take a cab to my house when I landed in Manila.