Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand – Indochina DIY

It is one of the most famous multi-country routes in the world; and for Filipinos – one of the most accessible. In this new post, I’ll be telling you our experiences and how we traversed across the tri-country of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand and the five cities of Ho Chi Minh, Phnom Phen, Siem Reap, Bangkok and Pattaya, all by ourselves (I’ve also put costs for important must-stops/ activities).

HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM

Our first destination is Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, formerly Saigon (yes, like the Miss Saigon broadway musical which gave Lea Salonga the Tony’s). We arrived late at night (since most economy flights from Manila to HCM are late) and not until a full night sleep were we able to tiptoe our ways to the heavily motorbike-laden streets of the Vietnamese capital.

During our pre-trip research, one of the things we anticipated the most in Vietnam is their coffee – and man, to say we were not disappointed was an understatement. The first coffee I bought was from a street stall. I can’t say I’m a coffee afficionado but that Php30 street stall coffee could easily beat Php100 coffee from famous coffee shops in my city.

And due to my happiness to the quality of coffee I’m drinking, I bought 2 cups – which was enough for me to get fidgety and overly active all day (don’t underestimate Viet coffee!).

During the day, we roamed across French influenced architectures – the Notre Dame Cathedral, the Post Office and the Saigon Opera House. I recommend light packing and clothing with lots of water since the heat can be terrifying!

Saigon Opera House – one of the French influenced architectures in HCM.
Notre Dame Catherdral is under renovation when we visited. The heat is tormenting us!!!

At night, we climbed our way to the Bitexco Financial Tower – the tallest building in Vietnam! There, we marveled at the HCM lights. We also joined a Heineken tour in Bitexco for Php500.

Welcome to Bitexco Financial Tower – the highest building in HCM, Vietnam.
In Bitexco Tower’s viewing deck. The tower is the highest point in HCM where you can see a magnificent view of the Mekong River and of course, the capital.
Views from Bitexco Financial Tower.
The spectale is much different when seen personally.

Of course our visit in Vietnam will not be complete if we don’t try ourselves Vietnamese food! We headed to Ben Than Market to eat and to buy souvenirs as well. I and my friends were new to the Vietnamese taste so I can’t say we liked it that much. But then, it’s worth a try.

Welcome to Ben Than Market!!!
The market is swarmed with tourists wanting to buy cheap souvenirs and eat local cuisines.
Local Viet cuisines – their own versions of stir fried noodles, the usual noodles and fried rice with various meats.
And of course, Viet coffee again! Would you believe that it is usual to drink coffee instead of water or juice after meals?! Insane but awesome, I know.

PHNOM PENH and SIEM REAP, CAMBODIA

After our 3-day stay in Vietnam, we rode a Giant Ibis Bus (P900) on our way towards Phom Penh, the capital of Cambodia. From Ho Chi Minh, it took us almost 3 hours to reach the Vietnam-Cambodia border. And so far in my yet short traveling experience, the Cambodian immigration in Bavet was one of the most lenient.

To tell you honestly, our first sight of the Cambodian lands were underwhelming. Unpaved roads, unwelcoming sights – I felt I entered a barren place. But my prejudice was thankfully eradicated as we entered the more progressive Phnom Penh City. It wasn’t the best of Asian Cities, but it is a worthy place to be traveled.

It was only a day tip in Phnom Penh, yet it was already a fulfilling cultural experience. How we wished we stayed longer. In this pic, we sat down on a rug ala-aladdin to eat in a street market.
Cambodian delicaciessss!

We didn’t stayed that long in the capital as our goal in Cambodia was still eight hours of land travel away – Angkor Wat, in Siem Reap. Again, we rode a Giant Ibis Bus (P900) – this time a sleeper bus (my first time) at 10 PM.

Giant Ibis sleeper bus from Phnom Pehn to Siem Reap.

By 4 AM, we set our feet in Siem Reap. To our surprise, we found Siem Reap better than Phnom Penh despite the latter being the capital. Later on we would find out that it is because of Siem Reap being far more the tourist destination of the world in Cambodia.

Indochina has a lot of marvelous, jaw dropping temples.
Cambodia is also scorching hot! …
… but the Khmers are way cooler!!!

Warning: Be wary of straight drinking nights. Siem Reap has the cheapest but the best beer in the world.

Cambodia has the finest beer in all of Southeast Asia!!!

The first thing we did was to look for our hostel we booked in AirBNB. Turned out we booked the best and most hospitable hostel in Siem Reap – Nature Park Sok Chan. Honestly, our stay in Siem Reap would not be better as it was if not for our hostel attendant – Alyssa, half-French and half- guess what- Filipina!

Alyssa’s story was a heartwarming one. She was not supposed to stay long and work in Siem Reap. But en route to Thailand, she broke up with her beau. And you guessed it right, she decided to stay in Cambodia for a while – to heal, er, move on if that is so.

We had the best host in Siem Reap!!!!! Alyssa is the girl behind us (on the head of my friend).

It was Alyssa who recommended an Angkor Tour for us.

Angkor, Siem Reap, Cambodia

Cambodia is the home of the largest religious structure in the world, arguably one of the 7 wonders of the world, where Angie Jolie shot Tomb Raider, something I’m sure the Khmer people are extremely proud of – the Angkor Temples. The Angkor Tour is a worthy Php1,500 for a day trip.

The famous facade of the Angkor Wat. Our tour guide said that the temple is perfectly symmetrical that to know it was built thousands of years ago is architecturally mind-blowing!
Not only is the outside outstanding but the inside of the temples are equally marvelous!
This was the pool of the ancient Khmers! I can imagine the fun swimming in the freshwater … and there’s two of them!
Taken from Bayon temple. You think this is another carving of a face? This is actually the tip of a temple!

The temples are not the only ancient things in Angkor, but the trees are centuries old also – and gigantic!

At the rear side. Angkor

Having witnessed one of the best ancient places in earth was a humbling experience, wondering the genius that is our ancestry. Cambodia is a lucky place to have the world spectacle at this rich past.

Pattaya, Thailand

From Siem Reap, we rode a Giant Ibis (Php1,200) bus to Aranyaprathet – the Thai-side of the Thai-Cambodian border. Due to the hordes of tourists coming in, it took as a while to pass immigration. An amusing experience of us was when the bus attendant gave instructions, he singled us out Filipinos to show our return tickets and hotel booking confirmations – amongst a bus group of Americans, Japanese and Europeans.

This is my second time in Thailand. Way back 2017, I and friends went for the first time in Bangkok, Ayutthaya and Phuket. For our complete experience of the trip, please click here. Back then, I was so sure this is not going to be the last time I’ll be seeing Thailand, especially that the country is enormous and there many things to experiences and places to marvel at. Now, here I am again.

Unlike my 2017 trip where I stayed for ten days, I only have 3 days to spare in Thailand. Thinking of the nearest place that I’ve never been, I thought of Pattaya City, Thailand. The city did not disappoint me. Being arguably tagged as the sin city of Thailand, Pattaya exacted my comrades the experiences they were expecting (and ones I prefer not to detail).

Welcome to Pattaya!
The Walking Street in Pattaya is bright and active.
Thai food is one of the best! Their ice cream and fresh coconut is superb.

Pattaya has that trademark of Thailand – the one I’ve experienced in Phuket. Calm, relaxing but wild. You can sleep at the sound of the waves, dance at the street parties at night, have yourself a fest of the palate with the myriad selections of tasty streetfoods or embrace yourself with the morning breeze while watching the sun rise. Overall, Pattaya was the sweet, cool and super-relaxing vibe I needed to cap my tongue-fest, temple-search and cultural immersion at the heart of Asia.

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