Backpacking South East Asia

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

I have to clarify that I visited not all the countries of South East Asia. I am from the Philippines, so that's one. Aside from that, I only visited 4 countries out of the 9 countries in the region. This 9-day trip includes Singapore, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand.

Modern tourist in Singapore!

Backpacking like crazy in Vietnam!

Adventure in Cambodia!

Picture perfect in Thailand!
This trip is a two-part whim. The first part is the whim to buy travel tickets. Last year (2010) at around October, i saw that Airphil was selling Manila to Singapore tickets at Php1888/way. This was not at all advertised which seemed fishy at that time. Without any fuel surcharge or additional costs like tax or baggage, I decided to buy a one-way ticket to see if it was real. Comparatively, it costs just a little less than the Cebu Pacific flight at 50% off. The flip side is that I wouldn't have to wait for a seat sale although they're giving them out almost every week; and i wouldn't curse at my internet provider when it decided to be unbelievably slow or unavailable when the seat sale plug drops.

With a Singapore ticket at hand, I felt incomplete and unadventurous. This was understandable since I just came from Singapore earlier that year. ( I, then decided to look at the other budget airlines in SEAsia to see if there's any other side trip I can make tied to this trip.

Lo and behold! Airasia was having it's $1 seat sale. With the VAT, I had to pay just a little thus extending my trip to Vietnam. The backpacking trip entered my mind and that was it! The hardest part for me was trying to shorten the trip to just a few countries. Being on that big-europe-middle-east-asia-island (where Vietnam is a part of), it was easily to lose track and find my way all the way to Europe! But I had to be practical with my work leaves and my budget. Thus the story of the Backpacking Trip to South East Asia.

I know I said that this was a two-part whim. The second part is entire trip in itself. I had almost a year to plan this trip but given that it was supposed to be an adventure, I unconsciously decided not to make any other concrete plans of some sort until I officially left the Philippines.

Being a planner, I wasn't left without an itinerary of some sort. Of course, I listed down the things I wanted to do and places I wanted to see and their costs. For post-trip blogging purposes, I will instead paste the actual itinerary we had to go thru. It was more or less what I envisioned except for the parts where we had no idea what the bus schedules were or what exactly we had to do.

For practical purposes, I accounted for everything that we had to pay for. Everything to the last centavo. I had this little notebook to ensure me that I will still be able to pay my rent and go to work when I get back. So here is the summary of the entire trip's expenses. Please note that I wrote down everything that came out of our wallets so this total is for TWO PEOPLE. I couldn't separate some items since most of them are joint or shared. If you divide this then, it costs around Php 15k per person for the entire trip. I think for some items, it would be cheaper if there were more people and for some items like bus/train fares or dormitory accommodations, the fare is per person so it doesn't really matter how many you are in the group. For the detailed versions of this, you make look at the country-specific blog posts I made.
Total cost for the 9-day trip for 2 people without airfare.
The above total does not include the 3 airfares. The cost of that can be seen below. This is again the total cost for 2 people. So per person, the flights cost around Php 13k.

Total Airfare cost (3 flights) for 2 people.
The detailed cost can be seen below.
Detailed version of the costs above.

This is the 3rd leg of the South East Asia backpacking trip. The entire trip can be seen here.

Siam Reap is temple heaven. It's paradise at it's roughest, oldest and most natural.

Due to the big market for foreigners, the currency they use is USD so changing your money to the local currency is not needed. The place is more of a temple plaza and markets. Aside from that, I haven't discovered other activities to do.
Cambodia total cost.

Detailed costs in Cambodia.
 We figured that the tuk-tuk can be rented for an entire day so instead of joining a tour, you can just ask your driver to bring you around the temple areas. They are much cheaper too than renting from the hotel although they don't have perks and it's probably better to have a tour guide with you so they can explain to you all the history.

We came across one tuk-tuk driver who was an English Professor in the University in his younger days. He was also the King's interpreter for foreign business before. So he actually had the Prince of Cambodia in his speed dial. He knows his history really well too so it's kind of having a driver and a tour guide in one. Cheaper than renting both separately. He's really friendly and funny too. I promised him I'll put up his details online so you can contact him:
Name: Mr. Siv
Mobile: (+855) 12217330

The elephant won't share but I paid for those bananas!

This is Angkor Thom.

Copying the poses of the carvings on the rock walls.

Cool temple walkway.

Just visiting one of the ruins.

Some areas are closed off because they are trying to preserve it.
I'm really fascinated with the Buddhist monks. I wonder if it is required that they have an orange umbrella to go with their robes.

Orange umbrellas!
The place we stayed at is Golden Mango Inn. It has the best ambiance. Coffee is free all day long and breakfast in the mornings. It is also cheap but the facilities are nice!
At the lobby, resting my feet.

My bed.

Big breakfast!
Below are just more pictures from the trip. I really would like to go back here next time. Hopefully, there would be a direct flight soon.
Angkor Wat.

The monkey is trying to get the bananas from the kid.

Look at those faces.

Very pretty.

The border of Cambodia and Vietnam. Welcome!

This is the last leg of the South East Asia Backpacking adventure! Hope you saw all the other legs. If not, here is the general leg.

Thailand is hottt! Really, the weather is worse than Manila. Sweat becomes 2nd skin. Ice creams, cold teas, fruit shakes are your best friends.
Thai Milk Tea!

In Bangkok you go shopping. The city is a big shopping mall. Roaming around will take days. Be sure you set aside the money you will spend or else you'll end up bankrupt. We went to MBK,Siam Square, Siam Center, Chatuchak and Khao San Road but the good thing is that I'm not much of a shopper so I ended up buying more milk teas than clothes or accessories.

Bangkok total costs.

Bangkok detailed costs.

The hostel I got is ETZZZ Hostel which is located near Lumphini Station. The rate is cheaper plus it's a bit quiet in the evenings. Don't worry coz there are about half a dozen 7Elevens located in the vicinity. I liked it here because the MRT is just a 5min walk so I wouldn't have to haggle for a ride as compared if I was in Khao San Road. In Khao San, the prices inflate 200% just because you are a foreigner. It's hard to get around the city too because there are no MRTs around. You really have to take a cab or a tuktuk. The cab drivers rarely agree to put down their meters but instead will haggle with you for a fixed price. I suggest that you stay somewhere far from this area if you want to save some money.
The hang-out area.

Our room. Look at everyone's bags all filled up. Shopping much. Tsk.

 Aside from shopping, you can go around to see the Grand Palace and some temples. You just have to take a water cab to get there. The entrance to the Grand Palace is 400Baht per person. Plus remember to wear long jeans, shirts with sleeves and closed shoes. If you don't, they won't let you enter or they'll ask you to rent clothes.
Grand Palace is pretty but i'm prettier.
This is the water cab. Ok fine, it's a ferry!

Coincidentally, the day we were to tour the temples was BUDDHA DAY! So the monks had a gathering and prayer meeting that day. The temples opened late which was sad but the good side is that a lot of the export items were apparently on sale! The biggest exports of Thailand as I learned from a local was Ruby and Sapphire. Tiffany's from the US get their stocks in Thailand during the Buddha Sale. Wow! If only I had some extra cash to buy jewelry. Nevertheless, it was fun to look around. Ask your tuktuk driver to bring you to the Chinese Sapphire place and the made-to-order clothes place. It's just 20Baht for everything so that's like a free tour.
Went to the Lucky Buddha. Wishing for a Lotto win.

More temples all over.

Best sign I've seen so far.

This is the 2nd leg of the backpacking trip in South East Asia. The entire trip can be seen here.

We didn't actually plan on stopping in Vietnam. We really just wanted to cross thru Cambodia. But given the available bus schedules, we had no choice but to make a day stop in Vietnam and wait for the night bus travelling to Cambodia. It was either that or we sleep overnight and waste daylight by being on the road. The trip wasn't bumpy at all. Plus, it felt safe contrary to other comments. Well, i won't really rely on myself since I can sleep almost thru anything.
Night Bus to Cambodia! It's safe. Don't worry. 
Given that we had a day to roam Ho Chi Minh city, below are the few expenses that we incurred. We decided to rent a room so that we'll have a place to drop our bags while we walk around the area. Also, we needed a bath.

As you can see, backpacking bags are really cheap here. You can see a picture of the bag below. That costs around Php 600 only.

Waiting for the night bus.

To start off, we got out of the airport and looked for BUS#152. Ask the driver to drop you off Ben Thanh Market. It one hell of a market with all kinds of things to buy. At the same time, it is quite near Pham Ngu Lao which is the "backpacking street" of Ho Chi Minh.

See Bus #152. You can see just right outside the airport doors. 
 TIP: Be careful crossing the street. It is quite the challenge. Courage is required.
Rows and rows of motorcycles waiting for the Go light.

Rain or shine. Motorcycle is the way.
 The currency is small so in my hands are millions of Vietnam Dong.

I'm a millionaire!
 The stores close in Pham Ngu Lao but you can still wait outside your designated street spot. A person from the bus company will come up to you and give you your tickets and show you the bus. You will stand out because of the big bags around you so don't worry about looking like a homeless guy.
 It poured suddenly, drenching us.

TIP: Bring an umbrella but watch out since umbrellas cannot be handcarried on airplanes. If not, buy those plastic raincoats in the market for just less than a buck.
Enjoying our plastic raincoats while walking around.

This is the 1st leg of the backpacking trip in South East Asia. It is a credible backpacking trip since we didn't have plans of some sort and of course, we only had backpacks! hehe! The entire trip can be seen here.

So I'm back in Singapore, the most modern and advanced country I've been in Asia. Being the first leg of the trip, I was very cautious of how I will use my money to ensure that I'll have enough until I go home. Here is the breakdown of our expenses for the trip. You can clearly see that the quantity is usually 2 since there was 2 of us. For the items with quantity 1, we maybe shared it.
Summarize Costs.

Detailed version so you can see my priorities when it comes to spending.
I wanted to try Universal SG even though my friend and I have already been to Universal in the US. However when I saw the day pass which was SGD 72, I decided that it would probably feel just the same as the one in the States. We ended up just taking pictures outside and proceeding to Sentosa instead.

Outside Universal Studios. I can only afford a picture.

Beachin' in Sentosa was the way to start the trip. Relax and enjoy the sun, sand and water.
It's a sun shiny day in Sentosa.
Of course I would have to try the Gmax Reverse Bungee since I haven't been to New Zealand yet to try the original bungee. That was worth it since I got a student discount using my student ID from circa 2008! Ssssh. It passed.
Same adrenaline rush for slightly cheaper cost courtesy of my real but expired student id.
The ride was awesome! Getting thrown up in the air then rolling back and forth in your seat..amazing! I saw clouds, ground, buildings, ground, clouds, clouds, building...wah!

TIP: Bring a student ID when you travel to get discounts on a lot of items. If you are already out of school like I am but you still look like you'll pass as a student, have a fake student ID made for you. haha! It helps a lot.

Super fan!

There a huge fuzz about Tintin too. I love Tintin! I remember, back in Grade School, hiding the big comic books in the far end of the library so that no one will check them out.

Yeah, it's hot!

Of course I had to try their healthy foods. Lots of leafy greens and fruit shakes.

I'm lost again. 
The Marina and a picture with the Merlion was also a necessary stop.
Look at those they gods?
We passed some Hindu Temples too in Little India and couldn't help taking a quick stolen picture.

I wonder what these punks are talking about.
It also helps learning about the culture by talking to the locals.
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Of course in order to get to places, taking the train is essential. I learned that it is much cheaper to take the bus instead. The train costs around SGD 2+ per ride while the bus costs around SGD 1 only.

Where I've Been

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