Tuesday, October 8, 2019

SURVIVING INDOCHINA: 10D/10N Travel Diary and Expenses

I went with three of my friends on an Indochina trip last August 2018, it was a 10 days/10 nights trip from Manila to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. Here is our PHP 27,000.00 (minus the airfare) travel diary and guide, for the complete travel itinerary, you may visit my other blog entry HERE.

Our one-way flight to Vietnam was booked three months before the trip. We scored a regular fare flight ticket from Manila to Ho Chi Min for Php 3,350.00 via Air Asia while the return flight ticket was booked one month before the trip from Bangkok to Manila for Php 7,154.24 via Cebu Pacific. Both prices include check-in baggage of 10 and 20 kilos respectively. Airport travel tax is PHP 1,620.00.

Note: We tried to wait for a seat sale but since we wanted to push thru with this trip, we already booked the regular fare tickets of our desired date of travel.

Manila, Philippines to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam
Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (Manila)
Fri 17 Aug 2018, 2325H

Tan Son Nhat International Airport Terminal 2 (Ho Chi Minh City)
Sat 18 Aug 2018, 0105H

Bangkok, Thailand to Manila, Philippines
Suvarnabhumi International Airport (Bangkok)
Tue 28 Aug 2018, 1010H

Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (Manila)
Tue 28 Aug 2018, 1445H

Our hostels/hotels in Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap were booked via Booking.com 1 month before the trip. Payments were made during check-in in their local currency. You just need a credit card to guarantee the booking. Reservations can be canceled 3 days before the arrival for free. 

Our Bangkok hostel was booked directly to the hostel at a discounted price via their Filipino manager (Ed Wynne Kim on Facebook). Payments were made during check-in.

Bich Duyen, Ho Chi Minh
Duration: 4 nights/2 rooms (Two rooms were booked due to unavailability of room good for 4.)

Description: A comfortable air-conditioned room for 2. Includes an attached bathroom, flat-screen cable TV and a minibar with free set meal breakfast. Rooms have no window.
Cost: USD 71.40

Description: A comfortable air-conditioned room for 2. Includes an attached bathroom, flat-screen cable TV and a minibar with free set meal breakfast. The room offers additional space.
Cost: USD 102.00


Orussey One Hotels and Apartments, Phnom Penh
Duration: 1 night /1 room
Description: A comfortable air-conditioned room for 4. Includes an attached bathroom with bathtub, flat-screen cable TV, couch and a minibar with free buffet breakfast. 

V&A Villa, Siem Reap
Duration: 2 nights/1 room
Description: A comfortable air-conditioned room for 4. Includes an attached bathroom with a bathtub and free pick-up service.
Cost: USD 51.07


Green House, Bangkok 
Duration: 4 nights/2 rooms (Two rooms were booked due to unavailability of room good for 4.)
Description: A comfortable air-conditioned room for 2. Includes an attached bathroom, flat-screen TV, safe box and free mocktail drink upon check-in.
Cost: THB 2160.00 - 540.00 THB per night (discounted), 900.00 THB per night (original price)


All bus transfers were booked online via Giant Ibis 1 month before the trip. They provided two drivers for each bus plus one attendant who can address the needs of the passengers. The trips include a complimentary snack (pastry and water) and a cold towel. Aside from the complimentary snack, Siem Reap to Bangkok route provides complimentary lunch. The bus has WIFI, although it is not available during our Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and Siem Reap to Bangkok travel because of socket problems. They also have seatbelts for your safety and more legroom compared to competitors. They also have a USB socket to charge your phones and other gadgets.

Giant Ibis is one of the most expensive to provide land transfer between Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand but they provide the best service from pickup to drop off, they would even assist you until you finish on immigration counters.

Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh (6hrs)
Description: Free hotel pick-up since Bich Duyen is a partner hotel of Giant Ibis.
                   Hotel pick-up at 8 AM, ETD at 830 AM
Cost: USD 76.00 for four persons

Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (6hrs)
Description: ETD 1230 PM
Cost: USD 64.00 for four persons

Siem Reap to Bangkok (8hrs)
Description: ETD 745 AM
Cost: USD 132.00 for four persons



Cao Dai Temple + Cu Chi Tunnels Full-Day Tour
Inclusion: Transportation, lunch at a local restaurant and light snack in the afternoon.

Mekong Delta Full-Day Tour
Inclusion: Transportation, boat transfer, lunch, seasonal fruits and honey tea in the afternoon.
Cost: PHP 743.00 per head


Thailand Floating Markets Day Tour
Inclusion: Transportation only. Food will be shouldered by the participants.

We ordered two sim cards at Pinoy Traveler's Unlimited Data Sim Card via Facebook Messenger and delivered it to us one week before our trip. The sim cards include a limited volume of data for 4G, unlimited 3G data and capable of WIFI tethering.

Vietnam SIM
Description: 30 days VietnaMobile SIM with 15 GB data.
Cost: PHP 400.00

Cambodia + Thailand
Description: 8Days Southeast Asia Sim by China Unicom
                   3 GB 4G data + Unlimited 3G data.
Cost: PHP 650.00

Shipping Fee: PHP 120.00 (Free shipping for your next sim purchases.)


Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Round Trip Airfare                                                        10,504.24
Travel Tax                                                                     1,620.00
Accommodation                                      540.00 59.60    4,002.81
Bus Tranfers                                                      86.00    4,455.53
Pre-Booked Tours                                                           3,508.00
SIM Cards                                                                        292.50
TOTAL                                                                         24,383.08
TOTAL (w/o airfare)                                                 13,878.84 


Woke up to bad news because of the closure of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) main runway resulted in many flights were delayed or canceled. Luckily, our Air Asia flight is delayed by two hours only, instead of 1125PM, we depart by 125AM the following day. A delayed flight is better than canceled flight.

We arrive at Tan Sohn International Airport at around 3 AM but we left the airport vicinity after an hour since I have to report my missing check-in baggage. My baggage was left in Manila together with 26 other check-in baggage due to tailwind problem that could affect the balancing of the aircraft, fast forward to DAY4, my check-in baggage was delivered to our hotel.

From the airport, we rode a taxi (VND 150,000.00) going to Bich Duyen Hotel. We immediately checked-in and slept until 9 AM. After eating the free breakfast we roamed around the nearest stores to buy clothes and undergarments for the next days while my baggage is still not delivered. We officially started the day at 2 PM, we rode the taxi (VND 100,000.00) and ate lunch at the Saigon's Lunch Lady. 

After our late lunch, we started our walking tour from the Central Post Office, Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Opera House, Nguyen Pedestrian Lane and People's Committee Building. We also visited Ho Chi Minh City Museum, War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace to take pictures from outside since the museums were already closed when we arrived.

We then rode a taxi (VND 32,000.00) going to Benh Thanh Market to do some shopping, we ate at a side street Vietnamese noodle soup stall for dinner. Bich Duyen is just 15 minutes walk from Benh Than Market.

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Ho Chi Min City Museum  40,000.00                               89.32
War Remnants Museum   40,000.00                               89.32
Reunification Palace         40,000.00                               89.32
TOTAL                                                                        267.96

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Taxi (Airport to Hotel)       37,500.00                             82.83
Taxi (Hotel to Lunch Lady) 25,000.00                             55.96
Taxi (Palace to BenhTahnh)  8,000.00                             17.91
Lunch                             100,000.00                           223.86
Dinner                              85,000.00                           190.28
TOTAL                                                                        570.84

Our call time is 745 AM at the Klook partner travel agency in Ho Chi Minh located at DE Tham Street in District1, the location is just 5 minutes walk from Bich Duyen Hotel. The bus left for Tay Ninh Province at 8 AM, it is a 2-hour drive to visit Cao Dai Temple and Cu Chi Tunnel. 

We had a stop at Handicapped Handicrafts which sells artworks made mostly from eggshells by handicapped people affected by the harmful chemical used during the Vietnam War. I wanted to buy the Mama Mary portrait but it is out of my budget, the art piece cost VND 800,000.

Since the target of the visit to the temple is to observe their midday ceremony, we had an early lunch (11 AM) at a local restaurant. We then proceeded to the temple, remove our slippers and go up to the second-floor gallery where they allow guests to take photos and videos while the ceremony is ongoing. We were given an hour to explore the temple and its compound.

The last stop of the day is the visit to the Cu Chi Tunnels, a network of tunnels used by Viet Cong soldiers during the Vietnam - American War as their home, hospitals and bunker. We first visited the firing range, but only a few people tried it. We then proceeded to experience the tunnel. I enjoyed traversing the first tunnel but when they let us tried the longest tunnel, my legs hurt for the next 3 days.

Going back to the city, the bus dropped us off at Benh Tanh Market for another night of shopping before we had our dinner at Benh Tanh Street Food Market.

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Drinks (Lunch)                 25,000.00                             55.96
Drinks (Snack)                 20,000.00                             44.77
Dinner                           127,000.00                            284.30
TOTAL                                                                        385.03

Another 745 AM call time at De Tham Street for a whole day tour outside Ho Chi Minh City. The bus left at 8 AM and head over to My Tho to visit Vinh Trang Pagoda. We were given time to roam around the pagoda, take pictures of the smiling and reclining Buddha and observe monks having their early lunch. We then hopped on a boat for a calm cruise along the river observing stilt houses, fruit plantations and fishing villages. Lunch was served at the Tortoise island, the island is full of pomelo trees and drinking of fresh pomelo juice is a must-try. After lunch, we hopped on another boat to visit a coconut candy family business before proceeding to An Khanh for a light snack of seasonal fruits and honey tea while listening to the sound of Vietnamese folk music (we donated VND 25,000).

Going back to the city, the bus drops us off at the pickup point and walked straight to our hotel. We rested for a while then proceeded to Saigon Square before we had dinner at Pho 2000, the restaurant that became popular because of the visit of former US President Bill Clinton.

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Donation                         6,250.00                               13.98
Lunch                          100,000.00                             223.61
Snack                            30,000.00                              67.08
Dinner                         130,000.00                             290.69
TOTAL                                                                       595.36

We left Ho Chi Minh City at 830 AM and expected to arrive in Phnom Penh at 230 PM but due to traffic, we were able to reach Phnom Penh at 430 PM. We rode a tuk-tuk (USD 10) from the Giant Ibis Terminal to Orussey Hotel. Since we arrived late, we were not able to visit the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, the establishment can accommodate visitors up to 5 PM only. We just roamed around the parks within the Palace and proceeded back to the hotel for dinner. Instead of lounging at the rooftop pool and bar, we just stayed inside the room and slept early.

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Royal Palace                                                     7.00     362.08
Silver Pagoda                                                    7.00    362.08
TOTAL                                                                         724.16

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
TukTuk                                                             2.50     129.19
Lunch                             75,000.00                              167.72
Dinner                                                              6.50     335.89
TOTAL                                                                          632.80

Our tuk-tuk driver fetched us at the hotel lobby at 7 AM, we go straight to the Killing Fields and spent an hour listening to the stories during the Khmer Rouge regime. Next stop is the Toul Svay Prey High School which is now transformed as the Toul Sleng Museum, this school was taken over by PolPot's security forces and turned into a prison and became the largest center of detention and torture in Cambodia. We opted not to avail of the audio service, we just roamed around the museum for 45 minutes. 

Our supposedly last stop is the Royal Palace but due to mass demonstration the establishment was closed, it will be open to the public by 2 PM. We have to leave Phnom Penh by 1230 PM so we just decided to visit Wat Phnom. At 1230 PM, our bus departed from Phnom Penh and arrived in Siem Reap at 7 PM. We just ate dinner at the Villa after checked-in and rest since our next day would start at 430 AM.

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Flower Offertory                          10,000.00                  126.82
TukTuk                                                             10.00   517.30
Killing Fields Fee                                                 6.00   310.41
Toul Sleng Fee                                                    5.00   258.68
Wat Phnom Fee                                                   1.00     51.74
Snack                                           5,000.00                     63.41
Lunch                                           8,000.00         2.00    204.91
Dinner                                                                4.00    206.92
TOTAL                                                                       1,740.19

We booked Sok Ramet 2 months before the trip via Facebook Messenger as per the recommendation of a friend. Whole day big circuit and small circuit tour cost USD 25.00 (we include USD 15.00 as a tip for his good service) good for 4 persons with free water and snack. He fetched us at the Villa at 430 AM and goes directly to the ticketing office to purchase Angkor Day Pass. We then proceeded to Angkor Wat and waited for the sunrise. After Angkor Wat, we had brunch at a local restaurant before exploring Bayon Temple, had photo-op at Ta Keo, then continue exploring Ta Phrom (Tomb Raider temple), Baphuon, Pre Rup, Ta Som, Neak Pean, Banteay Kdei and Preah Khan. The weather during our visit is really hot, the use of sunblock is recommended. After the temple hopping tour, we get back to the Villa to rest and take a shower. We visited the night market and had dinner along Pub Street. 

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
TukTuk                                                             10.00     517.10
Angkor Complex Fee (1 Day Pass)                      37.00   1,913.27
Brunch                                       2,000.00          5.00      283.91
Dinner                                        4,000.00          6.00     360.98
TOTAL                                                                        3,075.26

We rode the tuk-tuk (USD 3.00) from the Villa to the Giant Ibis bus station. We left for Bangkok at 745 AM and arrived at Khao San Road at 430 PM. We spent 30 minutes in the Cambodian Immigration Office where the immigration officer wanted me to pay USD 2.00 even though I insisted that I am a Filipino and no payment is needed for ASEAN. In the end, I gave him USD 1.00 to end the conversation and move to the Thailand border. Thailand Immigration Office is just a 3-minute walk from the Cambodian Immigration Office, 1 hour was spent to be cleared in the immigration due to the volume of tourists. 

After check-in at the GreenHouse Hostel, we rested for a while then ate our dinner at the Hostel restaurant. 

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
TukTuk                                                             0.75     38.79
Immigration                                                      1.00     51.73
Breakfast                                                          1.00     51.73
Dinner                                                   198.00           336.29
TOTAL                                                                        478.54

We had an 830 AM call time for the Thailand floating market day tour, we arrived at the venue 45 minutes early via taxi (THB 200.00), we then had our breakfast at the nearest Starbucks. We were with a Korean family and a Malaysian couple in a minivan. The first stop is at the Damnoen Floating Market, we had 15 minutes long tail boat ride in the canals. We just roamed around and bought ice cream since other items are a bit expensive. After the boat ride, the minivan brought us to the Damnoen Market and gave us an hour to explore the place and have our lunch. I bought Thai sweet and spicy sampaloc and had boat noodle soup for lunch.

The next stop is a side trip to Wat Bang Kung, a hidden temple within the roots of the Banyan tree and Thai Boxing Temple which showcases life-size statues of muay Thai and Thai boxing positions. At 230 PM, we arrived at the Maeklong train station and waited for the train to arrive to witness how the tracks go from being completely covered in market stalls, to the shop owners pulling in their wares before setting up all over again in a matter of seconds. We were given ample time to explore the market and rode the train at 310 PM and dropped off to the next station.

The last stop of the day is the Amphawa Floating Market, one of the authentic floating markets that are open on weekends only. We were given an hour to explore the whole place, this is much bigger compared to Damnoen Floating Market. At 7 PM, we assembled ourselves and rode the boat to tour around the market and for the firefly watching for 45 minutes. We left for Bangkok at 8 PM and arrived at 9 PM, from the drop off point, we took a taxi (THB 72.00) to our hostel. We gave THB 100.00 as a token to our tour guide. We had mango sticky rice for dinner.

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Tour Guide Tip                                         25.00              42.45
Morning Taxi                                            50.00              84.85
Evening Taxi                                            18.00              30.56
Breakfast                                               200.00            339.55
Lunch                                                    120.00             203.73
Snack                                                      57.00              96.77
Dinner                                                     30.00               50.93
TOTAL                                                                           848.84

We woke up at 6 AM to prepare for the whole day DIY tour and rode a taxi (THB 100.00) to bring us to the entrance gate of the Grand Palace. We arrived at around 730 AM and we were among the first to line up. At 8 AM, police officers allowed everyone to enter the compound, we go straight to the ticket counter and explore the Grand Palace perimeter, since we are early, we were able to take good photographs to this crowded place. After exploring the palace area, we had our breakfast at a local restaurant outside. We then proceeded to Wat Pho and spent an hour taking pictures and roaming around the area. We then cross the river to visit Wat Arun and spent another hour in the place. We had our late lunch at the local restaurant near the port area.

In the afternoon, we took the taxi (THB 140.00) to Chatuchak Weekend Market, we go shopping and tried different street foods. We spent 2.5 hours in the said market. We rode the taxi (THB 200.00) going back to the hostel with our shopping bags. We had Pad Thai and coconut ice cream for dinner along Khao San Road.

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Taxi (Grand Palace)                                   25.00             42.42
Taxi (Chatukchak)                                     35.00             59.37
Taxi (Khao San)                                        50.00             84.85
Boat (Two-Way)                                          8.00             13.58
Grand Palace Fee                                     500.00           848.46
Wat Pho Fee                                            100.00           169.69
Wat Pho Coins                                           20.00             33.94
Wat Arun Fee                                             50.00             84.85 
Breakfast                                                   99.00           167.99
Lunch                                                      230.00            390.16
Snack                                                        69.00            117.05
Dinner                                                     144.00            244.27
TOTAL                                                                         2,256.63 

We originally planned as a DIY tour where we would ride the train to Ayuthaya and rent a bike to explore each temple. A day before this tour, we decided to get a packaged tour via the front desk of our hostel, luckily there were still available slots so we grab the opportunity. The packaged tour includes transportation service, entrance fees and lunch at the local restaurant. The service van picked-up us at the hostel at 7 AM. We visited 3 temples (Wat Lokayasutharam, Wat Phu Khao Thong and Wat Phra Mahathat) in the morning and another 2 temples (Wat Phra Si Sanphet and Wihan Phra Mongkol Bophit) after lunch. I think it's the right decision to avail of the packaged tour since the temple is far from each other, riding the bicycle would be very tiring.

We got back to Bangkok at 3 PM and we were welcomed by heavy downpour that causes flooding on the way to our hostel. We had no choice but to brave the gutter deep street. We used the remaining hours by visiting a local grocery store to buy some pasalubong and pack our things for our flight the next morning. We ended the night and the whole Indochina trip by a good Thai massage.

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Ayuthaya Tour                                        550.00           933.00
Breakfast                                               180.00           305.44
Snack                                                      30.00             50.89
Dinner                                                   107.00            181.51
Massage                                                 270.00           458.17
TOTAL                                                                      1,928.71

We left the hostel at 6 AM via the van service (THB 600.00) we arrange the night before our flight. We arrived at the airport after an hour, we checked-in our baggage, ate our breakfast and flew back to Manila at 1010 AM.

Item/Activity                   VND     KHR     THB     USD     PHP
Van Service                                           150.00            254.64
Breakfast                                              220.00            373.35
TOTAL                                                                         627.99

Item/Activity                                               Amount (PHP)
Pre-Departure                                             13,878.84
Day1                                                              570.84
Day2                                                              385.03
Day3                                                              595.36
Day4                                                              632.80
Day5                                                           1,740.19
Day6                                                           3,075.26
Day7                                                              478.54
Day8                                                              848.84
Day9                                                           2,256.63 
Day10                                                          1,928.71
Day11                                                             627.99
OVERALL EXPENSES                                 37,523.27
OVERALL EXPENSES (w/o airfare)          27,019.03

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