It has been days since we’ve been home from our backpacking but we still feel giddy and excited remembering all the things we’ve been through in those ten days. It was truly a remarkable experience that each of us will never forget. Though I cannot share every minuscule detail in this post but collectively we enjoyed and struggled, and felt how liberating it was.
The road has allowed us also to meet a lot of people. People of different races, age, language, and religion. The diversity has overwhelmed us to the extent we want more days traveling and forget about work. There were three of us (me, Audrey and Melodie) but that didn’t enclose us from getting along with new friends. With our new found friends, we went water-rafting, trekking, long roadtrips, chitchat, foodtrips and more awesome things.
And I hope sharing our budget-travel experience would inspire you to embark on a short but wondrous journey. Everything started with the Cebu Pacific’s promo fare a year ago. I booked 10-day-trip and only knowing the entry and exit country. The itinerary was planned later. Our final itinerary and respected expenses are as follows:
Following conversions were used for the costs below:
USD 1 = PHP 49.30
USD 1 = VND 21,000 (Vietnam)
USD 1 = KHR 4,000 (Cambodia)
USD 1 = THB 35 (Thailand)
THB 1 = PHP 0.525
Day 0 : Pre-Departure
Prior the travel, we booked airline tickets through Cebu Pacific Air and Nok Air websites, onward bus tickets from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh to Siem Reap through Giant Ibis and reserved hostel accommodation thru HostelWorld. What’s good booking with HostelWorld is that it’s certain they offer cheap prices and only requires 10% of the total cost and the rest of bill will be paid upon check-in. Also, as much as possible we wanted to tour by ourselves to minimize cost and explore places in our pace but after detailed research, getting around Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai would be difficult because each place we want to go were hours from each other. Therefore, we decided to book a joiners’ tour through Travel Hub Chiang Mai.
The following are the total cost per pax incurred before taking off:
PHP 1,183.00 – Davao-Manila Roundtrip
PHP 1,999.00 – Manila-Ho Chi Minh
PHP 2,757.59 – Bangkok-Manila
PHP 890.00 – Chiang Rai-Bangkok
PHP 952.05 – Saigon to Phnom Penh Bus ($19)
PHP 801.72 – Phnom Penh to Siem Reap Sleeper Bus ($16)
PHP 4,216.00 – 2-day tour at Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai
Day 1 (Nov 20) : Manila
We departed Davao in afternoon. The day was only a “flying” day. Our jump point city was Ho Chi Minh also called Saigon, Vietnam. Since we arrived midnight in Saigon, we slept for few hours at the airport. And seriously, I won’t recommend it. The airport closes around 3am and you have to stay outside. And don’t forget to exchange your few dollars to Vietnamese Dong (VND) for bus ride going to your hostel. And don’t get intimidated by their currency. You could be a millionaire in Vietnam because USD 1 = VND 22,000.
DAVAO-MANILA : Nov 20, 2016 4:05 pm-6:00 pm
MANILA-HO CHI MINH(VIETNAM) : Nov 20, 2016 10:50 pm-12:20 am
PHP 200 – Davao Airport Terminal Fee
PHP 1,620 – NAIA Travel Tax
PHP 165 – Dinner and snacks
Day 2 (Nov 21) : Saigon
We rode a bus going to our hostel. It was way cheaper than a taxi. Always kept reminding ourselves that we’re on a “BUDGET TRAVEL”. Since check-in time in Town House 50 Saigon was still at 12 noon, we just left our bags, asked the receptionist for a map and ate our breakfast at Bui Vien (5-10 min walk from our hostel). You don’t have to worry not having VND with you because almost all store and taxi accept USD.
We arranged an afternoon Cu Chi Tunnel Tour and a 1-day Mekong Delta Tour for the next day. Looking for tour agency is easy as 1-2-3, they’re everywhere in Bui Vien and their prices are almost the same.
We finished eating at around 9am and still have time before for our afternoon activity. So we decided to go to Notre-Dame Cathedral and Saigon Central Post Office. I especially loved the floor tiles of this building. After some sightseeing, photo taking and a lot of walking, we went back to Bui Vien for our Cu Chi Tunnel Tour.
The bus picked up us at 1 pm and was on the road for 2 hours. Yes, it was far. The highlight of this tour was firing. You may fire a rifle with 10 bullets for USD 10. We bought 2 sets of 10 bullets and my friends, Audrey and Melodie, had fun on this first for them.
Went back and arrived at Saigon around 8pm. We were hungry, tired and sweaty. Ate dinner, washed and slept.
VND 5,000 – Bus fare to our hostel
VND 65,000 – Brunch
VND 200,000 – Tour and entrance fee at Cu Chi Tunnel
VND 180,000 – Mekong Delta Tour
USD 7 – Dinner
Day 3 (Nov 22) : Saigon
The day started with our sumptuous complimentary breakfast in our hostel. Fresh fruits such passion fruit, dragon fruit, pineapple and more were on a buffet. The spring roll was tasty. We had bread and egg also.
We were picked up at the hostel at 7:30 am to kick off our Mekong Delta Tour. We were driving south for about 4 hours. Mekong River is one of longest and widest river in Asia. You get on a boat, go to different islands to see various people at work and products they sell. The lifestyle and products of Vietnam have many similarities to the Philippines. They sell “tira-tira” and honey. And what amazed me is how they quarry sand in an enormous river.
Complimentary food again. Our tour includes lunch and just bought a cola at USD 1 for drinks. We were given few minutes to tour the restaurant which also has a sunflower garden and allows you to bottlefeed Kois. YES! Bottle feeding. Awesome experience.
Tour resumed and went back to Saigon at 6 pm. Ate Dinner at Bui Vien. Went to Ben Than Market.
VND 15,000 – Ice Cream
VND 20,000 – Lunch Drink
VND 10,000 – Koi Bottle Feeding
USD 4 – Dinner
VND 60,000 – RT Transportation Ben Than
Day 4 (Nov 23) : Saigon-Phnom Penh-Siem Reap
We checked out from Townhouse 50 Hostel at 7:00 am because we need to catch our bus ride to Phnom Penh, Cambodia at 8:00 am. We booked our tickets with Giant Ibis because they really have good reviews. And we were not wrong. Even it was a 10-hour ride, it was smooth and offers free wifi, food, and drinks.
We arrived at Phnom Penh around 5:00 pm and we were shown around by our high school friend Mark Alfred who is currently based there. It was a short catch up but we will remember everything Al. We will miss your laugh always.
After our dinner, we boarded the Giant Ibis sleeper bus bound to Siem Reap at 10:30 pm. Yes, it is a bus with beds. Maybe because we were tired, we fell fast asleep and woke up to the sunrise of Siem Reap, Cambodia the next day.
USD 19 – 2 nights accommodation at Townhouse 50, Saigon
USD 3.5 – Lunch at Vietnam-Cambodia Border
KHR 4,000 – Drinks
USD 12.30 – Dinner
Day 5 (Nov 24) : Siem Reap
We were picked up by our tuktuk driver Nhem Mony (Recommended!) from the bus terminal and went first to our hostel to leave our bags. Did only a little wash up and off to Angkor Wat. A lot has changed since I went last year like the admission area was new. We enjoyed the intricate carvings. Climbed steep stairs (Funny to tease Audrey who has acrophobia). The complexity has also left us dumbfounded. Angkor Wat and Bayon (my personal favorite) never cease to astound me. Our tour ended around 3 pm because we already felt the urge to take a shower. “Ang Cambodia ay isang malaking Gensan”. Mainit at Humid. Last minute, I decided we should transfer hostel because we were placed in an uncomfortable dorm. We transferred to Ta Som Guesthouse, Siam Reap, Cambodia, our only exclusive room the entire trip. It was a good hostel to recharge. We also ate dinner just downstairs. We also booked our bus to Bangkok for the next day through the hostel.
USD 5.25 – “we-dont-like” hostel
USD 20 – Angkor Wat Admission fee
USD 5.95 – Lunch
USD 6.67 – Tuktuk Driver (USD 20/3 person)
USD 8.33 – 1 night Ta Som Guesthouse accommodation
USD 12 – Bus Ticket to Bangkok
USD 1 – Water
USD 3 – Dinner
Day 6 (Nov 25) : Siem Reap-Bangkok-Chiang Mai
What’s good with our Vietnam and Cambodia accommodations was it served free breakfast. Saves us money and time. After eating, bus for Bangkok arrived. Then our 30 hours journey started. Last year, the entry to Thailand through Aranyaphratet border was smooth af but our recent experience was worst.
There were a lot of people crossing the border, both local and foreigners. The queue was long and took us 2 hours before getting stamped. Then the delay was further extended because there were 11 people late at the meeting point. Our bus mate, Poging long legs, even said unforgettable remarks like “Fucking selfish old people” and “Maybe I don’t care”. We can’t blame him because the delay made him miss his appointment in Bangkok (we think he’s a designer of planes. bongga!) and we missed our train to Chiang Mai. We arrived Bangkok at 9 pm and honestly, that’s too slow. My past experience was arriving at 5 pm.
We were frustrated already but I need to calm down and execute a contingency plan. Let’s apply what I learned in Strategic Management.
Problem Statement: How to get to Chiang Mai before 12 noon the next day?
Situational Analysis: Missed our train, busses were fully booked, we’re exhausted and nowhere in Ph and now what?
Conclusion: Good thing, we were approached by ate-merong-van in Mo Chit Bus Terminal. Yey! We finally found a ride to Chiang Mai. But honestly, it was scary so I recommend you take a sleeper train or bus or plane to Chiang Mai.
USD 2 – Snacks and drinks
USD 2 – Lunch
THB 126 – Transportation
THB 700 – Van to Chiang Mai
THB 81 – Dinner
Day 7 (Nov 26) : Chiang Mai
Sadly, we arrived past 12 noon in SOHOstel. And we were actually sadder we missed a week for the lantern festival. We wanted to experience Tangle feels. We also missed our Doi Suthep tour at 1 pm because we’re too tired from our 30 hr transit from Siem Reap to Chiang Mai. So all we did in the afternoon was wash up, nap and exchanged PHP money. At night, we roamed and shopped at Night Market which was just 3 blocks from our hostel.
THB 90 – Lunch
THB 40 – Transportation
THB 568 – 2 nights So Hostel accommodation
THB 100 – Dinner
THB 39 – Conditioner
Day 8 (Nov 27) : Chiang Mai
Okay, we’re recharged. No free breakfast so we bought from 7/11 because we’re in a budget and a hurry. Our activity required much strength. We went to see and touch elephants, and whitewater and bamboo rafting in Mae Tang Area. Around 2 hrs from Chiang Mai center. We had Pad Thai for lunch – free. After lunch, we trekked for 30 mins and enjoyed a wonderful view on our way back. Thank you, Jimmy, for the photos.
At night, we went to celebrate our friend’s 25th birthday, Melodie. We wore dresses and ate to our tummy’s content. Happy 25th Bitch!
THB 51 – Breakfast
THB 195 – Dinner
Day 9 (Nov 28) : Chiang Mai-Chiang Rai-Donsao
What we loved with Chiang Rai was its cold weather. You can’t blame us because we felt melting in Siem Reap just the other day. We never thought that there was a lot of roads ahead of us that day. At most 300 km. But it never stopped us from amazement. We went to Wat Rong Khun, an all-white temple located in Chiang Rai.
We also visited Karen Long Neck Village (with golden rings on the neck). They are actually from Myanmar but moved to Northern Thailand because they are seized in their home country. The Late King welcomed them to Thailand and now live peacefully.
An hour ride again, we crossed the Thai Border through the Golden Triangle and stepped into Donsao, Laos where they sell a lot of Aphrodisiac drinks that immerses tiger penis, scorpions, cobras and other animals. Apart from this, they also sell a lot of Chinese goods because it would only take few hours from Donsao to reach China. We had a buffet lunch and made me full.
Our last stop was a Blue Temple. I forgot the Thai name but what I remember is that it has been a century since it was built. Lastly, we were dropped at Chiang Rai International Airport for our 9 pm flight to Bangkok. Checked in our hostel at 12 midnight. Rest.
THB 29 – Breakfast
THB 330 – Boat trip at Golden Triangle
THB 167 – Baggage fee
Day 10 (Nov 29) : Bangkok
It was our first time waking up late. It was saddening that 10 days flew fast. But we still rocked Bangkok. We had lunch at my favorite Terminal 21 Foodcourt. Home of authentic way-cheaper Thai food. Plus, they offer a great view. Plus plus, few steps to BTS. And enjoyed the “diretso sa 4th floor escalator”. After eating we went to Siam Paragon; home of expensive brands such as Jimmy Choo and Louis Vuitton. Lastly, went to MBK; a mall comparable to GMall or Victoria Plaza for last minute shopping of course.
Around 7pm we started our ride home already. Sad. Off to airport through the Airport Rail Link. This is what I liked about Bangkok. They have a train that takes you directly to the 1st floor of their airport. Very convenient. End of Trip.
BANGKOK(THAILAND)-MANILA : Nov 30, 2016 12:30am-4:55am
MANILA-DAVAO : Nov 30, 2016 7:00am-8:55am
THB 80 – Breakfast and milktea
THB 157 – Transportation
THB 55 – Snack at airport
THB 88 – Dinner, fruits and shake
THB 272 – 1 night accommodation at The Hostel16
THB 124 – Snack
Pre departure – 13,533.47
Day 1 – 1,985.00
Day 2 – 1,394.00
Day 3 – 339.50
Day 4 – 1,790.00
Day 5 – 3,059.80
Day 6 – 1,956.00
Day 7 – 1,595.00
Day 8 – 468.00
Day 9 – 1,002.00
Day 10 – 1,478.00
TOTAL PHP 28,600.77
Initially, our budget was Php 25,000. We tried much to go only around that amount but we were over Php 3,600.77. I think we weren’t able to keep our budget because of unprecedented expenses such as baggage and overpriced meals we ate 😁. The exchange rate was also bad. Baht and Dollars are so expensive. We also went beyond Bangkok and went over to the northernmost part of Thailand – Chiang Mai and Chiang Rai. Also, the amount does not include pasalubongs. Hope you enjoyed reading.