Way back two years, Indochina added up to my travel list. It’s by far among destinations that consumed me a lot of planning and research. The truth is I am scared.
In the beginning, I intended to do it solo, but soon after I booked a return flight ticket, they knew I wasn’t bluffing. A brother, a cousin, a friend, a sister of a friend and the two friends of a sister of a friend joined me. We’re all seven.
Many travel agents offers these tours but knowing me, I stay away from such. I don’t want to adjust myself with tour guides. This is my time, my plan with my bitch tired face.
On Flight Booking and promos
Initially, I booked a promo ticket from Manila to Saigon and Bangkok to Manila from Cebu Pacific. After reading a lot of travel blogs of how tedious land travels are from Saigon to Siem Reap to Bangkok with some scams on cross borders, I’ve waited for Airasia promo to book for inter-countries. For what is available in between, I grabbed flight tickets without hesitation. After all, it’s cheap. Kuala Lumpur was not on my plan, but since it is Air Asia’s main hub connecting South East Asia, we had a lay-over going to Siem Reap, rather than sit on a twelve hour bus ride. There has to be a beach in my trip so Phuket was added. After all, it only costs me a thousand pesos roundtrip from Bangkok.
Another option which I used for a friend of a sister of my friend is the Air Asia Asean Pass. This allowed her to buy 10 credits for Php 7200 and use in our Indochina Trip. The total cost was Php 15192.22 including Cebu Pacific flight to Ho Chi Minh. Using Asean Pass is like buying an open ticket at least 14 days prior departure on a zero base fare plus taxes.
On choosing accommodations
Most of backpacking travellers stayed on hostels or used shared room. I have no plan doing the same. I am a picky traveller when it comes to hotel. Why choose hostel when you can pay the same on a three or four star hotels? My habit is that I always look for new, cheap and near to attractions. I like the smell of a new hotel. Agoda, Asiatravel and the new Traveloka are my friends. Some of these offer special discounts plus using BPIAT10 or BPIAT12 codes, 7% Citibank discounts and their mobile apps lessen the price. Gladly, I was satisfied on my stay. Seven nights cost us Php 5820. Advaya Residence was a great catch and the best among hotels we stayed in, from design, amenities, upgrades, services, transfers, food, oh I love the scent of their shampoos and body gels. This is as if we had given a five star service. The ambiance is for romance, making me want to come back with someone.
On deciding the routes
We started departing from Manila to Saigon to Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap to Bangkok to Phuket to Phi Phi to Phuket to Bangkok and retuning back to Manila. We had some regrets though but that’s all have been done. Seven flights with 7kgs handcarry and a ferry ride to Phi Phi. The flights cost me as low as Php 8420 in total.
Vietnam has a lot to offer from south to north. It would be a separate trip ending at Hanoi. However, we have an ample time to check the country. I had a list and decided to visit whichever is applicable and open. We had Cu Chi Tunnel at Ben Duoc and City walk tours. On KL, we had few hours so we went on City Tours. We didn’t make it at Batu Caves. Obviously, Angkor Wat is the main course at Siem Reap. We visited from sunset until the next day’s afternoon. At Phi Phi, we hike for sunset at Phi Phi Viewpoint and had island hopping at Maya Bay. Before we flew to Bangkok, we got a group tour package for Php 3000 to view tour sites at Phuket. There’s no tour guide but only a driver, somewhat like we rented the van. The heat of bangkok plus some shopping blew up the plan. We weren’t able to visit temples.
On Land Transportation
We used grab most of the time, whenever we can. Vietnam has 7 seaters while some allowed only up to four to six persons. The grab driver at Vietnam offered his service going back from Cu Chi Tunnel to Hotel. In KL, we saved few bucks by using Star Shuttle Bus with transfer to Bukit Bintang but we wasted two hours. We rented van at booth in Siem Reap’s airport for $10. We also availed his service to visit Angkor Wat at sunset for $15 and $35 from sunrise to midday before we flew to Bangkok for Phuket. I had also a pre-arrange pick-up from SRC Travel and Tours from airport to hotel in Phuket Town. We availed ferry to Phi Phi, transfers, phuket city tour and drop off to Airport from the hotel. At Bangkok, we’re too tired to use train, instead we asked hotel to drop us off to airport. We were charged THB 700.
On Changing Money
I changed my money before my trip. I went to Sanrys and got Php 11.15 for MYR 1, Php 1.5 for THB 1 and Php 50.7 for $1. We changed small bills at the airport in Vietnam for $1 at VND 22.7K and some near hotels. Cambodia accepts dollar. In the end, it is better to change in Manila for a few difference rather than wasting time searching for money changers.
This time, I travelled light. Since I easily forget things, I saved my OOTD on my scrapbook. I brought 3 pairs for sleeping, 8 pairs touring the countries, 2 pairs of swimsuits, 3 pairs of socks and lots of undergarments. I washed some in hotels. I got one pair of shoes and slippers. I have one handbag, drybag and one suitcase. I rarely used my shampoos and soaps since most of the hotels have these. I brought aquapod but not often used.
Not that I have a choice, we blended fair. No issues. Behaviors are expected, even the brother…
I seldom finish a cup of rice, much more on doing food review, but damn, I enjoyed eating on our trip. Vietnam tops the yummiest healthy food. Cambodia has $1 fruit shakes. The food in Indochina is inexpensive omitting foods at the aiports. Sadly, half of our trip, we took our meals at the airport. We had no options.
On Travel Tips
Some of tips were already mentioned here. My strategy is to book flights on promo, but of course, reading a lot of blogs, forums and groups prepared me for trip. I had a summary of everything before we flew including, flight details, name, birthdays, what to bring, directions, screenshots of hotels, attractions and google map directions. I also used offline locations of google map and gps. It helped me a lot. Most importantly, I had a budget summary. These are all stored in pdf. Also, we were one step ahead when we all web checked-in our six flights. The return trip was not since Cebu Pac allows few days before checking-in unlike Air Asia.
On summing up
It is not setting a foot in a foreign land that gives me fulfillment as some might have thought of why they travel, but somehow being free and connected made me want to travel more. While my friends are getting married, I travel. I met one while travelling who left his work to travel South-East Asia for months but I cannot do the same. I also cant give much of a great in-depth review on destination. Everyone has different points of view. Just do it whenever you can.
On the next adventure
I dream on doing Thailand, Laos, Hanoi, Myanmar Trip. But for now, I have an upcoming trip to Taiwan this third quarter of the year. At present, I will be on solo.