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  🙂

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Cambodia and Vietnam Day 7: Last Day

Pretending to be Kim hehe

It’s now the last day of my Cambodia and Vietnam trip and I didn’t want to go home yet. I enjoyed this trip so much that I didn’t want to go back to Manila and return to reality. This one week had passed  so rapidly but each day brought unique and wonderful memories that  I would always treasure. Words are not enough to describe this trip. The beauty of each places I’ve seen, the lives of all people I’ve witnessed. It’s really difficult to write all of them. Words aren’t enough to describe them. So as for my last day, I just spent it for shopping and walking around the city. I just wanna make the most out of my last glimpse of Saigon for this year (Hopefully, I could still go back here in the future and I really wanna go back 🙂 ). Our flight back to Manila was at midnight so we started our shopping early in the morning. My mom and I went to Ben Thanh Market which is a big market that is popular among tourists. It was only a walking distance from our hotel that was located in Pham Ngu Lao, known as the backpackers’ area. You could buy a lot of things in the market though you should learn how to bargain. Moreover, some vendors there were very persistent. They would really hold your arms and never let you go until you buy from them. Hehe. I saw a Miss Saigon t-shirt and bought it right away because I’m a big fan of Lea Salonga  🙂 .

Ben Thanh Market

Coffee powders

Of course before leaving, I dropped by to their famous Highlands Coffee. It’s located just in front of Ben Thanh Market. There’s also another one at the backpackers’ area. In all fairness, their coffee tasted really good although the prices were much like Starbucks. I really love Vietnamese coffee! It’s one of the things I would definitely miss in Vietnam.  On my last day  in Vietnam, I think all I did was drinking coffee all day long. I feel so lucky I didn’t end up having caffeine intoxication.

At Highlands Coffee

I would definitely miss the foods!

Saigon Beer, Vietnamese Coffee and Vietnamese Pepsi

Vietnam

A Vintage Car and a Cyclo on the streets of Saigon

We already went to the airport by around 5pm. It’s better to be early than late. And that’s my last day in Vietnam. I would really wanna go back again!  🙂 .

Our plane back to Manila

Cambodia and Vietnam Day 6: Cu Chi Tunnels and City Tour

I’m now on Day 6 of my Cambodia and Vietnam trip and this time we booked a half day tour to Cu Chi Tunnels and a half day city tour from Sinh Tourist (Sinh Cafe). We didn’t try other travel agencies because so far, we are satisfied by their service. We paid 8 USD (P360) per person for the 1/2 day Cu Chi Tunnels tour and 1/2 day city tour. The tour was exclusive of entrance fees so we paid the entrance fees: 3.75 USD (P168) per person for the Cu Chi Tunnels, 0.75 USD (P33) the War Remnants Museum, and 0.75 USD (P33) for the Reunification Hall.

We left the Sinh Tourist office by 8:15am and it took us more than an hour to reach the Cu Chi Tunnels in Cu Chi district. The Cu Chi Tunnels are a network of connecting underground tunnels that were used by the Vietnamese during the US-Vietnam war. The tunnels served as hiding spots for the Viet Cong guerrillas. These tunnels also played an important role for the withdrawal of  the American soldiers. The traps and entrance doors to the tunnels were almost undetectable which made it difficult for the American soldiers to find them.

Mom at the entrance of Cu Chi Tunnels

One of the hidden entrance to the tunnel

Inside the tunnel

It's really difficult to take a pic inside. Pag nagkamali ka bukol agad ang abot mo hehe

With a Viet Cong guerrilla

After visiting the Cu Chi tunnels, we dropped by at a souvenir shop. It is a big factory that sells a wide range of locally made souvenirs. After that, we went back to the Sinh Tourist office. We had our lunch and the city tour started by 2:30pm. Our first destination was the War Remnants Museum. The museum contains exhibits about the Vietnam war. It was really saddening to see the photos of the Vietnamese people especially the children who were affected by the war.

At War Remnants Museum

Inside the museum

Next, we visited the Reunification Palace. It is one of the popular landmarks in Ho Chi Minh City. The palace served as the seat of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was also the place where the communist North and the anti-communist South Vietnam became united during the Fall of Saigon in 1975.

The Reunification Palace

We also visited the General Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral that are located just across one other. Although Ho Chi Minh City (formerly called Saigon) is now a  modernized city, the General Post Office and the Notre Dame Cathedral are one of the remaining buildings that reflect that city’s French colonization during the mid-1800s. Due to French domination, you could still see some French architectures around the city. I think what makes Saigon more interesting is its unique combination of being modernized and vintage at the same time.

The General Post Office

Inside the Post Office

Notre Dame Cathedral

Students on the street sketching the Cathedral

The city tour ended by 5pm but if you would ask me what was the highlight of my day, it was when my Vietnamese friend gave me a tour around the city. Actually, I only met her in our travel agency’s  tour group in Cambodia so I never knew her before joining this trip but she has been very kind to me.  She offered me a city tour riding her motorbike and it was really fun! We first visited her sister’s family. It was my first time to visit a Vietnamese home. They were also very nice to me. Then, we ate dinner, drank coffee and yeah.. libre nya lahat! 🙂 It was one of the unforgettable acts of kindness I experienced in my trip.

Visiting a Vietnamese Family

Motorbike ride around the city

It was really great to have a tour around the city at night. The ambiance of the city at night is much different than day time. The roads were really busy and the city was full of lights. I hope I could capture the moment but it would be dangerous to use my camera while riding the motorbike. The streets were really crazy. Motorbikes were coming from everywhere and they were driving really fast. Anyway, it was really fun and truly an experience I would never forget. So I guess, one of the things that I would suggest you try is to ride a motorbike around the city. It’s one of the great ways to experience the crazy streets of the city. Hehe.  Surely, this made my last night in Saigon.   🙂

Cambodia and Vietnam Day 5: Mekong Delta

Mekong Delta Tour

Since my Day 4 in my Cambodia and Vietnam trip was just all about my 12 hours travel from Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly named Saigon), let me now jumped to my Day 5.  However, I would like to note that on my Day 4, we left Siem Reap at 6:30am and we arrived in Saigon at the Sinh Tourist office at around 7:30pm. Upon arrival, we booked their one-day Mekong Delta tour for 11 USD (P525) per person. They accept credit cards so we used our credit card in booking their tours. And since our 4 days and 3 nights Siem Reap Package tour was already over, we booked our own accommodation for the night. We stayed overnight at a hostel located at Pham Ngu Lao also known as the backpacker area. We paid 12 USD (P540) for one room that has air conditioner, tv, refrigerator, and a private bathroom.

So now back to Day 5, I was pretty excited again because I heard from a couple of friends that the Mekong Delta tour is interesting. We left the Sinh Tourist office by 8:30am. The bus was full of different nationalities — Westerners, Japanese, Koreans, Vietnamese etc. My mom and I were seated at the front seats and sitting across us were two Filipino-looking women. I first thought that they were Filipinos. I tried eavesdropping in their conversation but I couldn’t understand their language so I guess, I was wrong. Later, I found out that they are Indonesians. Seriously, I really think that Filipinos and Indonesians look a lot similar.

 

A bridge in Mekong Delta

On our way to Mekong Delta, I noticed that our bus was running really slow. I found out that in Vietnam the urban speed limit ranges from 30 to 40 km/h. It took us almost 2 hours to reach Mekong Delta. The Mekong Delta is the region in southwestern Vietnam. This is the part of Vietnam where the Mekong River approaches and empties into the South China sea. The Mekong river is a major river in southeastern Asia. It is the 12th longest river in the world. From Tibet, it runs through China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam (very long, indeed! 🙂 ). In this trip, we visited Ben Tre, one of the towns in Mekong Delta. We didn’t see the floating market in Ben Tre. I heard that the floating market is in Cai Be and Can Tho.

A local fisherman at Mekong River

Upon arrival in Ben Tre province, we took a boat that brought us to a local restaurant where we had our lunch. At the restaurant, we met two Filipinas from Cagayan de Oro. We found out that we were also at the same tour group. One of the ladies said she has a daughter working in Saigon and that she often visits Vietnam. After lunch, we took a rowing-boat along a small creek. Each rowing- boat had a maximum 0f 5 people including the paddler of the boat who is a local Vietnamese. For me, this was the highlight of the trip. The paddler gave us a traditional Vietnamese hat to wear that made us feel like a Vietnamese 🙂 . I just loved the atmosphere while he was rowing the boat along the creek and I could breath the fresh air and see the coconut trees in the river. The coconut trees here are really different from the ones that we have in my hometown Laguna. The roots of  the coconut trees in Ben Tre are submerged in the river. They are also a very important source of livelihood for the local people.

The coconut trees of Ben Tre

The life of the people here revolves much around the river. We also visited a local family who makes coconut candies. They showed us how to make coconut candies. Then we took another boat that brought us to a brick factory. I recommend this tour if you want to see the daily lives of the local people along the Mekong River. It was  interesting for me since it’s really different from the place where I grew up. Moreover, I really like to observe the culture and way of life of these local people.

A small house by the Mekong River

A boy swimming in the river

A boat full of tourists

 

The Brick Factory

A snapshot while on the boat

We returned to the bus by 3pm and we went back to Saigon. Honestly speaking, while in Saigon I accidentally deleted all the files in one of my cams. That was the digicam I used from the start of this trip so it contained all my pictures from Cambodia including most  of the pictures of my Mekong Delta trip. I was trying to delete only one picture and accidentally pressed the button beside it which is delete all files. All my treasured pictures from Cambodia most importantly from Angkor Wat vanished in an instant. You could imagine my frustration after that. I felt really sad after that but I just told myself that this mishap is nothing compared to all the countless blessings and happiness that I received from this trip so I should focus on the good things and not on this single unfortunate incident. I just feel so lucky because while in Siem Reap I uploaded some of my pictures in my facebook account. Facebook is such a savior! Though the image quality isn’t so high anymore, at least I was able to keep some of my precious pictures from Cambodia. 🙂

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!