Vietnam – Cambodia – Laos – Thailand

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Just when Cebu Pacific  announced their Piso fare promo, I immediately checked their website for possible countries I could visit. Since I just started working at that time, I chose a date that would give me enough time to save for the trip. I was lucky to be in a company where 2-week vacations are mandatory. While browsing through the website, I realized I could travel to four Asian countries in one go. To my excitement, I immediately booked multi-city tickets – Manila to Ho Chi Minh, then Bangkok to Manila.

Fortunately, my friend decided to accompany me. Honestly, I wasn’t ready to travel alone back then especially on sleeper trains and buses from one country to another.

Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

We started our first day touring the Cu chi tunnels. They showed us the different traps  communist troops set up for the Americans and South Vietnamese forces. Our guide also told us stories about the war.

We got to enter one  tunnel and it was small and dark so it’s not advisable if you’re claustrophobic. IMG_0602

After the tour, they dropped us back at the hotel around 1 or 2pm. We were exhausted so we slept until late afternoon. We spent the night eating, drinking, and touring the city center.

The next day, we visited the Central Post Office, and Notre Dame Cathedral. Do note, they are strict when it comes to the dress code when entering the cathedral so make sure to wear appropriate attire if you plan to enter.

One cannot miss the famous Vietnamese Coffee and Banh Mi. We had our fill at Saigon Coffee Club near the Notre Dame Cathedral.

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Before leaving, we bought keepsakes like keychains, fridge magnets, and of course, coffee beans from Benh Thanh Market. We boarded the bus near the Pham Ngu Lao or as what they call Backpacker Street. There are a lot of bus companies/ travel agencies nearby so do check the prices before buying.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

We arrived in Siem Reap in the wee hours of the morning. There were a lot of tuktuks parked when we arrived. Negotiate the price first before riding.  You may also want to check with your hotel how much it will cost you from the bus drop off. Good thing we were able to check in our hotel without additional charge. We slept a bit before leaving for a tour of Beng Mealea. For me, you can skip this one. You may want to visit Koh Ker instead. A caretaker offered to take our picture only to charge us $1 afterwards. LOL

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We passed by several people selling bamboo sticky rice so we decided to try one.

The next day, we visited Angkor Wat. The complex is ginormous (no kidding!). According to Guinness World Records, it’s the largest religious structure at 162.6 hectares. Make sure to wear comfy clothes and shoes. You may want to climb steep steps to get to the top of a temple for a breathtaking view of other temples or even just the landscape though it’s optional of course. Our tuktuk brought so much water for the both us, we didn’t have to worry about getting thirsty.

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If you want to catch the sunrise at Angkor Wat, best to leave around 3 or 4am to buy your tickets as the lines may be long.

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There are so many tourists so it’s a bit difficult if you want “solo” shots. If you’re good at Photoshop, then that wouldn’t be a problem.

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I honestly had a hard time taking photos ( don’t judge, I’m a noob hahaha) as I wanted to get the whole structure in one shot. I ended up taking lots of panoramas on my phone which I didn’t like.

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We scored a bargain since we only paid $15 for our tuktuk, as most charge $30-$40. He dropped us off at Angkor Wat temple for the sunrise and told us to meet him somewhere else which meant we had to walk but that was okay since some temples are adjacent to each other. I think he picked us up in three different locations. I’m not sure of other tuktuks who charge more though, if it’s the same as ours or if they pick up more frequently. Better to negotiate first before hiring them. Let me know if you want to hire him. I’ll give you his number.

We bought our tickets to Bangkok at the guesthouse on our first night. We were picked up by a tuktuk and dropped off at the ticketing office to wait for the bus. Make sure to be early so you can choose your seats.

The Immigration officer asked for about $2/$3. I don’t know what it’s for as when I ask, they don’t respond (or they pretend not to understand.) LOL

Vientiane, Laos

The receptionist knew someone who could tour us around the city. We were able to visit a lot of places in a short amount of time and for only P600.

The Patuxai Victory Monument resembles that of Arc de Triomphe in Paris. It was built in 1957, dedicated to those who fought for independence from France.

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Pha That Luang

Vang Vieng, Laos

It took us about 3-4 hours to go to Vang Vieng from Vientiane. We left after lunch and arrived late in the afternoon. The next day, we went on so many adventures. We had about 5-6 trips of zip lines with beautiful views of the mountains and rivers, a 50 meter free fall, kayaking on Nam Song river (you can opt for water tubing), caving at Elephant cave (you can skip this one), we then ended the tour in Blue Lagoon.

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You may want to do both, rope swing (Tarzan style) and jump from the branch of the tree.IMG_2090.jpg

Here’s a photo of our lunch provided by the team.

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Phuket, Thailand

Upon arriving at the platform, we bought breakfast at a cafe upstairs before leaving for the airport for our flight to Phuket. Keep in mind Bangkok has two airports, Don Mueang and Suvarnabhumi. By mistake, we went to Suvarnabhumi instead of Don Mueang. I failed to double check before leaving the platform. Fortunately, they have a free shuttle bus going to Don Mueang and it leaves every few minutes or so. You will need to present your ticket before boarding the bus.

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After several backpacking days, we finally got to enjoy and relax by the beach.

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Bangkok, Thailand

I especially liked our hostel in Bangkok, Heyyy Bangkok Hostel. They have a cafe downstairs full of books about travel. I brought books to our room one night just to read. They have cozy interiors too which, in my opinion, are relaxing. Check them out here.

While my friend went to meet with another friend of hers, I decided to visit other temples and tour the city by myself. The owner of the hostel was kind enough to recommend places to go.

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Chocolateville

This place is so cute, and very instagrammable, almost like Disneyland (less the rides). Apart from eating, taking pictures, and chilling, there isn’t much to do here so you may skip this one if you’re short on time.

We had to book a Grabcar going there though, as this is quite far. They also have standby taxis for when you decide to go home. Here’s our itinerary below.

Day City/Country Attraction/Activity
1 Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam Cu Chi Tunnels, Bitexco Tower, National Palace, City tour
2 Ho Chi Minh/ Transit to Cambodia Post Office, Ben Thanh Market, Notre Dame Cathedral
3 Siem Reap, Cambodia Beng Mealea Temple
4 Siem Reap, Cambodia Angkor Temples
5 Transit Bus to Bangkok/ Sleeper train to Laos
6 Arrival in Vientiane, Laos City tour, National Palace, Market, Pub
7 Vientiane / Vang Vieng, Laos City tour
8 Vang Vieng, Laos Cave, Kayak, Zipline and other outdoor tours
9 Vang Vieng /Transit to Thailand Sleeper Train to Bangkok
10 Bangkok / Phuket Arrival in Bangkok Train station, Flight to Phuket
11 Phuket, Thailand Beach/ Mall
12 Phuket, Thailand Beach/ Mall
13 Phuket / Bangkok Beach / Flight to Bangkok
14 Bangkok, Thailand Dusit Zoo / Khao San Road
15 Bangkok, Thailand Temple and Mall hopping
16 Bangkok, Thailand City tour/ Mall hopping / Khao San Road
17 Bangkok, Thailand Shopping in Chatuchak / Flight to Manila

Summary of Expenses

Hotel 8,000
Tours 6,000
Transportation 12,000
Food 10,000
Subtotal 36,000

I did not include shopping/pasalubong expenses and food expenses vary on how big your appetite is. It also depends on where you plan to eat. We ate in a fancy restaurant in Vientiane and in mid-range ones in Thailand plus coffee from Starbucks. If you plan to stick to street food and budget restaurants, 6k might be enough.

Breakdown for Tours:

Tour City/ Country In X Currency In PHP
Cu Chi Tunnels Ho Chi Minh 12 USD 612
Beng Mealea Entrance Fee Siem Reap 5 USD 255
Beng Mealea tuktuk Siem Reap 15 USD 765
Angkor Entrance Fee Siem Reap 37 USD 1887
Angkor tuktuk Siem Reap 7.5 USD 382.50
Golden Stupa etc. Vientiane 300
Outdoor activities Vang Vieng 220,000 KIP 1357.62
Dusit Zoo Bangkok 100 BAHT 163

Breakdown for Transportation:

Transportation In X currency In PHP
Manila to Ho Chi Minh via Cebu Pacific via Cebu Pacific Plane 4,826
Bangkok to Manila Plane
Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap Sleeper bus 22 USD 1,122
Siem Reap to Bangkok Regular bus 9.50 USD 484.50
Bangkok to Nong Khai Sleeper Train 748 BAHT 1,150.42
Nong Khai to Thanaleng Train 20 BAHT 30.75
Thanaleng to Vientiane Train 150 BAHT 230.75
Vientiane to Vang Vieng Van 100,000 KIP 612
Vang Vieng to Vientiane Van *280,000 KIP 1,727
Vientiane to Thanaleng Bus/Van
Thanaleng to Nong Khai Train
Nong Khai to Bangkok Sleeper Train
Bangkok to Phuket via Airasia Plane 1,023
Phuket to Bangkok via Airasia Plane 1,023

*We booked our bus and train seats going back to Bangkok at the hotel. I thought it was more expensive but when I computed everything, it was much cheaper compared to buying the tickets separately. The total fare from Bangkok to Vang Vieng was more than 2,000 pesos.

Based on our tickets, here is the breakdown for the rides going back to Bangkok

Transportation In X currency PHP
Vang Vieng to Vientiane Bus 40,000 KIP 255
Vientiane to Thanaleng Bus 153
Thanaleng to Nong Khai Train 20 BAHT 30.75
Nong Khai to Bangkok Sleeper Train 838 BAHT 1,288.84
Total 1,727