Cambodia and Vietnam Day 1: Phnom Penh

My trip to Cambodia and Vietnam last September 16th – 23rd was so far, one of the best moments of my life. It was truly an experience I would never forget. Both countries had their unique cultures and were filled with warm and friendly people. To be honest, I was more nervous than excited before our trip because aside from the information from blogs, forums and websites on the internet I didn’t have any idea about Vietnam and Cambodia. I was only travelling with my mother whom, like me, didn’t have any idea about these countries. I totally relied on the information that I got from the internet. And as the one who spearheaded this trip, I felt totally responsible for everything including my mom and our safety. Now, I just want to thank God a million times for guiding us all throughout this trip. I wanna thank Him for bringing us to the right people and the right places. I just remember this bible verse: “Delight yourself in the Lord, and He shall give you the desires of your heart.” (Psalm 37:4). So I guess, one of the first advice I would give to someone who would set a foot to a new country is to pray, pray, and pray. I assure you it’s 100% effective!  :-)


Arrival Card in Vietnam


Anyway, since I mentioned that I really learned a lot from the blogs and forums from the internet, I just wanna pay it forward by also sharing my experiences from this trip. Let me start from Day 1 at our arrival at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City (formerly called Saigon). We were able to acquire the Cebu Pacific promo so we only paid P4,300 (95 USD) for one person. It’s already a round-trip ticket back and forth Manila. We arrived at Tan Son Nhat International Airport at 12:30am and yes, for Filipino citizens we don’t need a visa to go to Vietnam. We are allowed to stay at a maximum of 21 days without a visa. It’s also the same for Cambodia, we could stay at a maximum of 21 days without visa. So right after our arrival at the airport, we just looked for a place to sit-on and waited until 5:00am since our call time at the Sinh Tourist office was 6:30am. We didn’t book a hotel for two reasons. We were trying to save money and we were afraid of oversleeping and arriving late at the Sinh Tourist office. Actually, I couldn’t fall asleep at the airport, so to kill time I just read the history of Vietnam and Cambodia that I printed from Wikipedia. We also exchanged some of our dollars to Vietnamese Dong (Vietnam’s currency) at the airport. And yes, they did have a service charge at the airport when we exchanged our money. By 5am, we already took a taxi to bring us to the Sinh Tourist office which is located at 246-248 De Tham St. District 1. Beware: Taxi drivers usually overprice foreigners. And yeah, that’s actually what happened to us.😦


Getting some sleep at the airport


Vietnamese Dong

We arrived at the Sinh Tourist office before 5:30am and of course, the office was not yet open. There was an open restaurant nearby Sinh Tourist so went there and ordered some foods. And there I had my first taste of Vietnamese coffee. I had read a lot of good stuffs about Vietnamese coffee and I just couldn’t agree more, it’s definitely one of the best!

Vietnamese coffee. I also didn’t know how to drink this at first  lol


Around past 6:00am, the Sinh Tourist office was already opened and the other tourists arrived as well. Two buses were parked in front of the office. I guess both would go to Cambodia. I actually booked a package tour from Sinh Tourist online. It’s their 4 days and 3 nights tour from Saigon, Vietnam to Siem Reap, Cambodia (the city where Angkor Wat is located). We paid P8,190 (182 USD) for each person. (Their prices may change depending on the season so please check their website). It basically covered almost everything such as the hotel, all meals (breakfast, lunch and dinner), transportation, entrance fees and English-speaking tour guide. We hardly spent a penny for four days except for giving tips and buying souvenirs  since the package tour almost covered everything. I was greatly satisfied by their service and I highly recommend Sinh Tourist. The hotel staffs were nice and especially our tour guide was very nice, friendly and attentive to our needs. Actually, Sinh Tourist was formerly-known as Sinh Cafe but since many travel agencies tried to copy their name they decided to change their name into Sinh Tourist. Beware: I heard that there are lots of fake Sinh Cafes in Vietnam. Just to let you know here’s their real website: http://www.thesinhtourist.vn Below is a picture of their office at De Tham St.
 

Sinh Tourist Office

 

If you’re not yet familiar with the places in Vietnam and Cambodia or if it’s your first time to visit these countries, then I suggest that you join a tour. As for me, I didn’t want to bother myself by holding a map and worrying about the right directions. In addition, I didn’t want to waste time asking around for directions especially in a place where English isn’t their primary language. I just wanted to have a relaxing and worry-free vacation so I decided to join a tour. Furthermore, since we were only two woman exploring these new countries then I guess for safety concerns, it would be better for us to join a tour group. It depends on your ideal vacation anyway. For some, the do-it-yourself tour work for them for reasons such as they don’t want a fixed schedule and they could go anywhere they wanted. Both have their pros and cons but like I’ve said it all depends on your ideal vacation.


Our tourist bus to Cambodia

A Friendly Tip: Be sure to bring your ticket/receipt that they will give you after paying the tour. Without it you couldn’t get into the bus. We departed the Sinh Tourist office at around 7am and on the way we stopped over a local restaurant in Vietnam to have our breakfast. And there, I had my first pho. Pho is a traditional Vietnamese noodle soup.


My first ever pho at a local restaurant in Vietnam

After a few hours, we already arrived at the border. Our tour guide just collected our passports and he processed everything. We just needed to go out of the bus and take our luggages because they would be scanned at their x-ray machine at the border. We also needed to pass by the Immigration officer who checked our passports. We didn’t pay anything at the border since like I’ve said, Filipinos are visa-free in Cambodia for 21 days.


At the Vietnam-Cambodia Border

Arrival/Departure Card to Cambodia
Upon entering the border to Cambodia, I instantly felt that I was in a new territory. First of all, the architecture of the houses and buildings was different from Vietnam and of course, very different from my home country, the Philippines.


One of the most exciting parts of our journey was when our bus board a ferry to cross the Mekong River. It was only for a short time but it was really fun. It was also my first glimpse of the Mekong River. I was really surprised because it was very big and wide.

Our bus boarding the ferry to cross the Mekong River. Weee! It was really exciting!

After several hours, we arrived at Cambodia’s capital city Phnom Penh by lunchtime. We had lunch at a buffet restaurant then after that we went to the Royal Palace. The Royal Palace is a famous tourist spot in Phnom Penh. It serves as the royal residence of the King of Cambodia. It was built in the mid-1800s. The architecture of the palace was truly impressive. A Friendly Tip: Wearing shorts and sleeveless are not allowed inside the Royal Palace. They are a little bit strict about clothing. I was lucky enough to have a jacket inside my backpack because I was wearing a sleeveless blouse when I arrived there.

My mom at the Independence Monument in Phnom Penh

 

At the Royal Palace Complex


At the Royal Palace Complex

On our way back to our bus, we saw this street food vendor and check out what she’s selling. Tadaaa!!!

Who wants some spiders, grasshoppers, bugs, and baby snakes?


After visiting the Royal Palace, we proceeded to our hotel in Phnom Penh. Honestly speaking, since the cost of our package tour wasn’t that high, I wasn’t expecting a lot about our accommodation. However, I was surprised because we stayed at a very nice hotel. It was really more than what I imagined. The name of our hotel was Hotel Castle. The hotel even had a swimming pool. Here are the pics of the hotel:


 



 





After staying for a few hours at the hotel, we went out for dinner. We first dropped by at a casino. Yes, there’s a casino in Phnom penh so for those people who love to gamble, you would not get bored in Cambodia. As for me, I just looked around the casino. I’m not the type who loves to gamble. I’m not rich anyway. Hehe  :-)

 

A street in Phnom Penh. These countries have diplomatic relations with Cambodia.
That’s the Philippine Flag (left)


At the Casino in Phnom Penh
After the casino, we went to a restaurant along Mekong River to have our dinner. Then, I stayed to have a coffee with my fellow tourmates while my mom already went back to the hotel. There were lots of restaurants still opened near our hotel and almost all of the customers were foreigners.

I love the heart-shaped cookie



 

That’s the end of my Day 1. I couldn’t believe I had been to three countries within 24 hours (Philippines-Vietnam-Cambodia). I had a very long day. I just couldn’t wait to finally sleep!

 


8 comments on “Cambodia and Vietnam Day 1: Phnom Penh

  1. pinoy boy says:

    when i went to cambodia, i stayed the longest in Phnom Penh because a couple of my friends found a house and i just stayed there. like you said 21 days free visa for Filipinos. Nice yung nakahiwalay yung line natin and mabilis unlike dun sa iba kasi they need to pay pa visa.

    Also, i wasn’t able to go inside the royal palace. wala na akong money. kaya hanggang labas lang!

    ano sabi ni mom mo? maganda daw ba? Or para ring Pilipinas? he he

  2. Hello Pinoy Boy! Thanks for the comment🙂 My mom was amazed by the structure of the Royal Palace. Sayang hindi ka pala nakapunta dun. Maganda din sa loob ng Royal Palace. Meron pa silang statue dun na puro gold at diamonds. Kaya well-guarded talaga yung palace hehe🙂

    Nakakatuwa talaga kasi visa-free tayong mga pinoy sa Vietnam and Cambodia. Madaming kasing nationalities like Europeans and Americans still need a visa to go there. Pero tayo nakakapasok ng libre 🙂

  3. sandra sotto says:

    i’m torn between a DIY tour or a package tour of the sinhtourist.we are going to cambodia on may 2012.your travel journals are very informative.

  4. Art Dimaculangan says:

    tama lang mylovelylife88 kasi tayong asian din ni-require nila magkaroon ng visa. patas lang. sana nga sa korea at china and some asian countries wala na rin visa pag tourist.

  5. MV Lee says:

    wow, you’re so great. travel so many places. so admired.

  6. You could definitely see your expertise in the article yoou write.
    The arena hopes for even more passionate writers like you who
    aren’t afraid to mention how they believe. At all times follow your
    heart.

  7. Terri says:

    Howdy! This is my 1st commenmt here so I just wanted to give a quick shout out and
    tell you I genuinely enjoy reading through your blog posts.

    Can you suggest any other blogs/websites/forums that deal with the same topics?
    Thanks!

  8. Hi @mylovelylife88, this is very helpful. Thanked God that i found your blog, i kinda have an idea how our travel to hcmc will be and maybe a side trip in pp will do. We will be arriving at hcmc @12:30am on june22 2015 like your arrival time) its really meant to be isn’t it? Also ceb pac is our carrier too.
    But the thing is unlike yours we only have 4days. Im planning to go in pp first, and on the next day (if theres a afternoon bus schedule) going back to saigon for the remaining 2days. Kaso when i look at the sincafe site yung tours na offered nila eh parang di swak sa naiisip ko. Pede ba ko mag ask p ng mga info sau, can i ask your email add para personal akong makapag ask pa ng mga question and tips na din sana. Really really hoping you could find time.

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