Cambodia and Vietnam: Budget

Here’s the list of our expenses in our 7 days and 6 nights trip to  Cambodia and Vietnam (we stayed 4 days in Cambodia and 3 days in Vietnam):

Cebu Pacific round-trip ticket promo fare  (Manila-Ho Chi Minh City) P4,300        (96 USD) per person

Saigon-Phnom Penh- Siem Reap Package tour:4 days and 3 nights (inclusive of hotels, meals-breakfast lunch dinner, bus, tour guides and entrance fees)   P8,190  (182 USD) per person

One-day Mekong Delta Tour (inclusive of lunch) P525 (11 USD) per person

1/2 day Cu Chi Tunnels and 1/2 day City Tour (exclusive of lunch and entrance fees)   P360 (8 USD) per person

Cu Chi Tunnels entrance fee   P168 (3.75 USD) per person

War Remnants Museum entrance fee P33 (0.75 USD) per person

Reunification Hall entrance fee P33 (0.75 USD) per person

Hotel private room for 3 nights P1,800 (40 USD) for two people

Total amount:   P15,409  (342 USD) (It’s exclusive of the pocket money for souvenirs and pasalubong and our foods in Vietnam. Our foods in Cambodia were covered in our package tour so we only spent money for our foods in Vietnam.)

The pocket money that you need to bring depends on your budget. There are a lot of restaurants in Vietnam.   You could opt to eat in  fast foods (there’s a Jollibee in Vietnam 🙂 ) and cheap food stalls. So I guess, the pocket money depends on how many pasalubong you want to buy and where you prefer to eat.

Useful links:  Sinh Tourist (formerly known as Sinh cafe) website  http://www.thesinhtourist.vn (You could check  the complete itinerary of the tours in their website)

*Take note that prices may change depending on rate and season

Feel free to send me a message if you have any questions  🙂

Cambodia and Vietnam Day 3: Angkor Wat

Finally, after the two and a half-hour flight from Manila, the six-hour bus travel from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Phnom Penh, and the another six-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, we were now off to our destination, the legendary Angkor Wat Temples. I felt my excitement meter reaching the highest level. Hehe. We left the hotel early after eating breakfast. It took us 30 minutes from our hotel, The Sinh Tourist Hotel, to reach Angkor Wat. We arrived at the entrance gate by 8am and I was surprised to see lots of people at the entrance. There were already many tourist buses and vans parked at the entrance. Our tourist guide bought the tickets which was 20 USD (P900) per person for a one-day pass. The entrance fee was included in our package tour so we didn’t pay anything. We just went to the ticket booth one by one to have our picture taken. They would issue an ID at the entrance that would serve as your entry pass in the temples. A Friendly Tip: You must keep this ID with you all throughout your visit to the temples. They usually have guards who would check the ID at the entrance of each temples. You mustn’t lost this pass; otherwise, you need to buy a new one.

Angkor Wat Admission Pass:

One-day entry pass 20 USD (P900)

Three-day entry pass 40 USD (P1,800)

Seven-day entry pass 60 USD (P2,700)

My Mom at the ticket booth

My one-day entry pass

We also had a local tour guide apart from our tour guide from our travel agency. He is a good tour guide and he’s very fluent in English.

Our local tour guide

Upon entering the Angkor complex, I instantly felt like I was entering  a different world.  The temple ruins are located amid the forest, making it appear like a lost city in the jungles. Seeing the temple ruins, made me feel like I was living in the 9th century during the reign of the Khmer empire.  I  knew then that this was an adventure I would never forget.

Angkor Wat

The South Gate of Angkor Thom

The Devatas; the equivalent of angels in Hinduism

Let me give you a background information about the Angkor complex. I don’t want to overload you with historical terms so let me just give you a brief preview of the history of the Angkor based from wikipedia and other websites from the net. The Angkor was built by the Khmer civilization dated between 802 and 1220 AD. The Khmer Empire was one of the most powerful empires in the history of Southeast Asia. The Angkor served as the capital city of the Khmer Empire. Today, there are over one hundred temples in the Angkor complex, including Angkor Wat which is the most popular temple (Yup, Angkor Wat is just one of the hundred temples. The Angkor Complex is really a very large area that one day won’t be enough to visit all the temples.) The name Angkor Wat means “City Temple”; Angkor means “city” and Wat is the khmer word for “temple”. Angkor Wat is a Hindu temple and it is the most remarkable symbol of Khmer architecture. You could even see the Angkor Wat in the Cambodian flag.  Today, it is considered as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Angkor Wat at the Cambodian flag

Since we only got one day to go around the complex, we only visited the popular temples. In the morning we visited the South Gate of Angkor Thom, Bayon, The  Terrace of Elephants, Phimeanakas, and the Taprohm temple that was used in the movie Tomb Raider by Angelina Jolie.

Cute little boats at the South Gate of Angkor Thom

At Bayon Temple

My Mom trying to imitate Hercules lol

I really love this shot taken by our local tour guide at Bayon

Cambodian people in their traditional costume

At Phimeanakas

I looked like a lizard climbing the temple because of my big backpack

It rained a bit when we arrived at Phimeanakas but that didn’t stop me to climb the temple. We were lucky enough because our travel agency provided us with raincoats. It was a pretty difficult climb so I won’t suggest you to climb this temple if you’re afraid of heights. The stairs are really steep so you really need to hold onto the stones carefully. We saw some Hindu praying on the top of the temple.

Hindu believers praying on the top of the temple

A bas-relief figure at Ta prohm

Fortunately, it stopped raining while we were at Ta Prohm temple and God gave us a sunny day throughout the rest of the day.  I find it pretty amazing how the local tour guides learn different languages. While at the Angkor complex, you could hear different languages — Japanese, Chinese, French, Vietnamese, English etc. No matter what your mother-tongue is you could choose your own tour guide. In Siem reap, tourism is really their main source of livelihood.

The Ta prohm temple that was used in the movie Tomb Raider

Feels like we were in the movie Tomb Raider

The Lost City in the jungle

I guess my shirt says it all. I love Cambodia!

My mom and a monk at Angkor Wat

After having our lunch at the hotel, we came back and this time to visit the main and most popular temple, the Angkor Wat. It is the largest among all the temples and as expected, there are more people there. You could see tourist groups thriving all around the area.

The Main Temple of Angkor Wat

We went up to the main temple of Angkor Wat but the stairs are pretty steep again and aside from that there’s a long line of people waiting to go up the tower so you need to wait. At the top, you could see a beautiful view of Angkor Wat and its surrounding temples. A Friendly Tip: Wearing shorts and sleeveless blouse are not allowed at the main temple of Angkor Wat. They are a little bit strict about clothing only in that particular area because they consider it as a sacred place. What I did was I brought an extra t-shirt and I wore it before going up to the main temple.  🙂

Line of people waiting to go up the main tower

The Magnificent View of Angkor Wat

One of the gifts of traveling is making new friends. I met the two Vietnamese girls and one Japanese guy in our tour group.

The Elephant at Phnom Bakheng

By 5pm, we climbed a hill to wait for the sunset at Phnom Bakheng. It is a hindu temple in the form of temple mountain. There are two ways to  reach the top of  the  hill. One, is by riding an elephant up the hill for 20 USD (P900) and the other one, which is the option for most people, is by walking. As for my mom, she just wanted to have a picture while riding on the elephant and we paid 2 dollars (P90) for that. Actually, at this time I already felt so tired from the rigorous walking and hiking all throughout the day so I just motivated myself by thinking that I would see something beautiful up the hill. Fortunately, I didn’t get disappointed as Phnom Bakheng is really a pretty interesting place to see. We were not able to see the sunset because it was cloudy but the beautiful view up the hill and the remarkable temple mountain itself  were already worth the climb.

The temple mountain of Phnom Bakheng (Yep, it's another steep climb again!)

The tourists waiting for the sunset

At Phnom Bakheng (The Temple Mountain)

And that’s the end of my trip to the Angkor temples, the Lost City in the jungle. Undoubtedly, it was all worth the thousand of  miles that I had traveled just to see it within my own eyes. Moreover, it was all worth the pain in my legs and feet.  Hehe. I felt very tired after this trip. However, since this was our last night in Siem Reap, I had to make the most out of it. After eating dinner at our hotel, we proceeded right away to Siem Reap night market for our last minute shopping. Well, some of the members of our tour group couldn’t join us anymore because of their aching legs and feet. They said they just wanted to take a rest in the hotel. My friends and I just took a local tuktuk to the night market for 2 dollars (P90). It was my first time to ride a tuktuk and I really enjoyed it!

Siem Reap Night Market

The Cambodian Tuktuk

I really enjoyed the tuktuk ride the best way to end my last night in Siem Reap

That’s my last night in Siem Reap. Thank you Siem Reap for all the wonderful memories! 🙂

Cambodia and Vietnam Day 2: Siem Reap

After sleeping and taking a shower, I felt alive again. I was more than 24 hours awake because of our continuous trip from Manila to Ho Chi Minh City then from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh. We would have another long trip again on this day. This time we would travel from Phnom Penh (Cambodia’s capital) to Siem Reap City where the famous Angkor Wat  is located.  We’re back on the road again before 8am. This time our travel agency transferred us to a mini-bus (not the same bus that we used from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh). It would take us another six hours of land travel from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.

Our driver from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap

For those who couldn’t bear long hours of land travel, there’s a better option for you guys. There is an International Airport in Siem Reap so you could take a connecting flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap or from Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap via Air Asia. I think there’s also a direct flight from Bangkok to Siem Reap. Unfortunately, there’s no direct flight from the Philippines to Siem Reap. So for those who are on a tight budget like me, then it’s better to travel by land. Anyway, traveling by bus wasn’t so bad because you could get to see the local villages and observe the way of life of the Cambodian people.

On the way to Siem Reap

Actually, after we left Phnom Penh, all I could see along the way were houses, rice fields and cows crossing the street. Hehe. I’ve read that agriculture is the major source of livelihood of the Cambodian people that’s why you could see rice fields almost everywhere. The next source of income is their tourism industry. That’s how agriculture and tourism play a very important role in their economy.

Stopover at a souvenir shop

We had two stop overs on the way to Siem Reap. A perfect time to use the toilet and stretch our bodies since we had been sitting for a long time. Our first stop was at a small market where they sell liquors and souvenirs. Our next stop was at a local market where they sell Cambodian specialties such as insects and fruits.

Insect Market (I wonder what's inside of those suman look alike foods)

Gotta get used in seeing insects as food

For those who still don’t know, insects such as spiders and grasshoppers are native delicacies in Cambodia. These are  popular foods for the locals. In fact, our hotel receptionist said baby snakes are delicious. Moreover, the American guy in our tour group said that the grasshoppers tasted good. I didn’t try it though. I’m not that adventurous when it comes to eating insects mrgreen. Around 1pm, we finally arrived at the Sinh Tourist Hotel in Siem Reap. It was a pretty nice and clean hotel again.

The tourist bus

The Sinh Tourist Hotel Siem Reap

Our twin bed room

*Our room had two beds, private bathroom, air conditioner, tv and refrigerator. There were computers at the lobby for guests who need to use the internet. You could also access the wifi at the lobby. (Yup, there’s an internet in Siem Reap! biggrin)

After our lunch at the hotel, I went out for a walk with one of my friends whom I met in this tour. We just strolled around the city and took some pictures. After seeing only houses, cows and rice fields on our six-hour bus ride from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, I was really surprised to find Siem Reap as a modernized city. There were lots of hotels and foreigners around the city. I heard that the city has modernized a lot since its tourism industry started to grow.

At Siem Reap

We went to Psar Chaa market in the afternoon for some shopping. It was a big market where you could buy different kinds of souvenirs such as jewelries, t-shirts, hammocks, key chains, scarves, foods etc. A Friendly Tip: You don’t need to exchange your money to Cambodian Riel (Cambodian currency). You could use US dollars when buying there. Another tip is to learn how to bargain. Don’t give in at the first price that they will give to you. If you are good at negotiating, then you could really get a high discount.
We bought these Apsara Dancers key chain for 2.50 USD (P112.50) for 5 pieces. Initial price was 5 USD (P225) but we bargained and got half the price.
We bought these nailcutters also for 2.50 USD (P112.5) for 5 pieces
We bought this elephant pouch for 1 USD (P45)

We bought this cute mini-wallet for 0.50 USD (P22.5)

We had dinner at a buffet restaurant that had an Apsara show. Apsara means a female spirit of the clouds and waters in Hindu and Buddhist mythology. They are beautiful women that could be compared to the muses of ancient Greece.  The Apsara dance is a well-known traditional dance in Cambodia. It was an interesting show and indeed, the apsara dancers looked beautiful.

The Apsara Dance

And that show, concluded my night. We went back to our hotel after dinner. We needed enough rest for our trip to Angkor Wat tomorrow. One of the advice that I read from the internet is to get enough sleep before going to Angkor Wat. I wasn’t really sure why but I would definitely find out tomorrow.

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!