Hi there! We just came back from our recent Indochina trip and all I can say is WOW! There’s just so much stories that we want to tell you and until now, I still can’t get over it. But before we post itineraries and vlogs about our adventure, we just want to share with you first on how we prepared for this trip.
On this article, we’ll explain how we booked our flights and how we planned our itinerary. You might not have noticed yet but 5 of us traveled, but we had different flight dates going to Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam (our first destination) and going back to Manila, Philippines. No worries as we’ll explain everything further as we move along.
In addition, we’ll also include our itinerary which has the tourist spots and target dates when we’ll be traveling to the next country. The budget will be included here too so you’ll know how much to save and spend when it’s your turn to explore Indochina. So what are we waiting for? Let’s get started!
Last May 2018, my friend Bem and I went on an 11-day backpacking trip to Mindanao. We started our trip from Cagayan de Oro, went to Siargao, Surigao del Sur, and Davao. Our main target was really Siargao during that time but since he can apply for a 2-week leave and while I can work anywhere as an online freelancer, we decided to extend our trip.
And after a month of planning, yes, we did it! We came back alive and well. LOL. Since our Mindanao adventure was successful, we decided to level it up a bit by targeting Indochina as our next backpacking trip. Here’s the plan:
Ho Chi Minh City will be the entry point, then we’ll travel to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap in Cambodia. After that, we’ll be heading straight to Bangkok which will be the exit point.
We haven’t researched what tourist spots we’ll be visiting during this time but I was very sure to add the mighty Angkor Wat in Cambodia on the list.
Booking of Flights
As all Filipinos know, most local airlines conduct promos during holiday. It was exactly Christmas Day when we booked our flight to Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. I already forgot why we chose September as the travel month to be honest, aside from it being eligible for the promo. I think it was because it will give us enough time to prepare and save. My friends, Mecca and Gladys, don’t have their passports at this point and this will be their first out of the country experience if ever they want to join.
But at the time when we were booking our flights, only two of my friends (Thin and Bem) confirmed that they want to join the trip so I booked twice. First booking was for me and Thin on September 29. When I was doing the second booking for Bem (he used his own payment method), the flight I got for the first booking has already been full. So, I booked the flight for the next day, September 30.
Then Gladys and Mecca confirmed that they also want to join so I booked them for September 30 too. Since we don’t know yet for how long we’re going to stay, we did not book a flight going back. By the way, our flight going to Ho Chi Minh was only for P851 each via Cebu Pacific.
Another airline promo was offered on March so we decided to book our flight from Bangkok to Manila. Again, we don’t have the specifics yet on how the itinerary would go but we just decided to make the whole trip 10 days, and the 11th day for the flight going back home. The fare I saw when I was checking BKK to Manila was around P4,500 but during the promo, it became P2,500.
The rest of our companions, Danica (my sister), Jear (her boyfriend), and Jel (our cousin), booked their round trip flights to Ho Chi Minh for a total amount of P8,195.46. That’s P2,731.82 per person.
The Indochina Blueprint
When only one month was remaining before our trip, we already have options for our accommodation. Also, we already know what tours to book in Klook. But before I give you the itinerary itself, let me share to you the hostels we chose to book in Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.
1. 9 Hostel and Rooftop (Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
Address: 9 Bui Thi Xuan street, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
As of writing, 9 Hostel and Rooftop is rated 8.9 with 912 reviews. It’s near almost all the major landmarks in the city including Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral, Saigon Central Post Office, Ho Chi Minh City Hall, Ben Thanh Market, and more. Here are the other perks you can get in staying in this hostel:
This is not yet our review on how our stay in 9 Hostel and Rooftop went. We’ll publish an article for it soon along with more photos of the hostel.
2. Onederz Hostel (Phnom Penh, Cambodia)
Address: No 151E0, Sisowath Quay, River Front, Sangkat Wat Phnom, Daun Penh, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Here’s another cheap find! It doesn’t cost less because it lacks facilities and to be honest, I think you’ll be super satisfied on your stay here. It’s located in front of the Riverside Park where you can have a stroll. Lots of restaurants can be found along the area as well. It’s a 2-minute walk from the Phnom Penh Night Market where you can eat local food. Here are the facilities you can find in Onederz Hostel:
3. The Siem Reap Chilled Backpacker (Siem Reap, Cambodia)
Address: Wat Bo Street, Banteay Chas, Slor Kram, Siem Reap, Cambodia
Probably the cheapest of all the accommodations we booked during our Indochina adventure, The Siem Reap Chilled Backpacker is one of the best-rated hostels in Siem Reap. I mean $10 for 2 people, for 2 nights? Come on! From here, you can hire tuktuk drivers to take you to Angkor Wat or you can book a tour from Klook with hotel pick-up just like what we did. Here are the facilities:
4. BED STATION Hostel Khaosan (Bangkok, Thailand)
Address: 80 Soi Tanee, Kwang Talard Yord, Khet Phra Nakorn, 10200 Bangkok, Thailand
Bed Station is the hostel that I was looking forward to the most in our Indochina trip. It’s a little bit pricey compared to the previous bookings but looking at its reviews and rating in booking.com, I believe we’ll have a comfortable stay here. It’s located near Khaosan Road and if you’re into night life, it’s the perfect spot for you. Here’s the facilities to expect in this lovely hostel:
Tour and Activities
Some tourist spots can be visited easily, like those in Ho Chi Minh City. You can get a GrabCar going to Saigon Notre Dame Cathedral and walk for a minute and visit the Post Office as well. But not all can be accessed via Grab or just by walking, so here are the activities we booked using Klook.
Note: This is just a glimpse of what to expect on the following tours and we’ll be posting separate articles about our own experience with more pictures!
1. Full Day Excursion To Mekong Delta (Vietnam)
The tour will start by visiting the Buddhist Vinh Trang Pagoda. After that, you’ll head to the Mekong Delta where you’ll hop on a boat (picture above) to have lunch in Tortoise Islet. You’ll also get a chance to visit the coconut candy factory in Ben Tre province and from there, you’ll ride a small boat to cruise the Mekong River. The tour will end with at An Khanh where you’ll be serenaded with beautiful Vietnamese folk music while enjoying a light snack.
There’s an English speaking tour guide that will assist and give you information during the tour. This Full Day Excursion to Mekong Delta is a MUST BOOKED TOUR and is HIGHLY RECOMMENDED when visiting Ho Chi Minh City.
2. Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour Vietnam)
This tour will give you a glimpse on how Vietnamese soldiers fought during the war. The Cu Chi Tunnels is 250 kilometers long and is mostly built only by hands. Viet Cong soldiers used the tunnels as weapons cache, food storage, hospital, barracks, and more. The highlight of this Cu Chi Tunnels Half Day Tour is when you’ll get to experience going inside the hole and walk inside the tunnels.
3. Noir. Dining in the Dark (Vietnam)
Imagine yourself dining inside a room that is pitch black. Can you guess what food was served to you just by smelling, tasting, and touching it? Noir. Dining In The Dark will heighten your senses and will let you appreciate your eyesight more. At the end of your dining experience, the crew will let you guess what ingredients you tasted and they’ll show you the actual photo of the meal itself.
What I really like about Noir is that they support the blind and visually impaired by giving them an opportunity to work. They also donate some of their profits to charities and organizations that help children restore their eyesight.
Read more about our Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) travel guide here,
4. Hop-On Hop-off Killing Fields Tour and S21 Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (Cambodia)
The picture you see above was once a classroom in a school called Chao Ponhea Yat but has been transformed into a holding cell for prisoners during the Khmer Rouge. Its name was changed to “Security Prison 21” or S21 for short. Thousands of Cambodians who were suspected to be affiliated with the previous government or to foreign governments were interrogated and tortured here and when they have admitted their faults, they will be sentenced to death. Most of the killings happened in the second destination of the tour, which is the Killing Fields.
S21 and the Killing Fields are just two of the places where horrific events happened because according to research, there are almost 2,000 grave sites in Cambodia. Almost 2.2 to 2.5 million Cambodians were killed during the Khmer Rouge. To set your expectation, this tour is somehow depressing so be emotionally prepared before going here.
4. Angkor Temples Sunrise Tour (Cambodia)
Explore the mighty Angkor Complex with this Angkor Temples Sunrise Tour in Siem Reap, Cambodia. The tour starts early at 4:00 AM where you’ll be picked up by your guide. Then, you’ll head to the ticketing office where you can buy your Angkor Pass. It costs $37 for a whole-day entrance to the complex. For others, they choose to hire a private tuktuk so they can visit more temples. But if you prefer to have a guided tour full of history lessons, you must book this tour.
After watching the sunrise at Angkor Wat, you’ll head to Ta Prohm Temple where Tomb Raider was filmed. The last destination would be the Bayon Temple which is home to 54 Gothic towers and 216 smiling faces of Jayavarman VII, a King from the Khmer Empire.
Want to learn more about Phnom Penh, Cambodia? Read more here:
Traveling from Vietnam to Cambodia and Thailand seems to be so stressful and confusing for me. But when I searched on the process on it will work, a lot of people online gave positive reviews about the bus company called Giant Ibis. A lot of the reviews say that their border crossing has been smooth and they had English-speaking crew which helped them understand the immigration process.
They will also give you a bottle of water and bread during the trip. In the Siem Reap – Bangkok trip, free lunch will be provided. The thing I love about it is that you can book through Klook! They also offer hotel pick-ups if your hotel is a partner. You can book here:
1. Ho Chi Minh City (Vietnam) to Phnom Penh (Cambodia) – please see schedule here
2. Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (Cambodia) – please see schedule here
3. Siem Reap (Cambodia) to Bangkok (Thailand) – please see schedule here
If you wish to travel tomorrow, you can book today and you’ll receive a confirmation within the day. About the Siem Reap to Bangkok trip, travel time is around 8 hours but it will vary if there are lots of people in the immigration and of course, Bangkok traffic!
You can also check out other bus companies below:
Data and Sim Cards
Buying sim cards in Indochina is easy because when you arrive in the airport (like in Vietnam), there are sim card stalls open for 24 hours. You just have to show your passport and they will also assist you in activating it. But I’m not sure about the internet speed though. Because of this, we decided to check the sim cards available in Klook.
Upon checking the reviews, everyone who bought these sim cards said that it had fast and reliable internet. They were also able to claim it hassle-free. You can check out these sim cards here:
1. 3G/4G SIM Card for Vietnam
Another thing that I like about this sim card is it’s super budget-friendly. Also, there’s no need to change the internet settings on your phone because it will automatically work once you have used the sim. Getting the 5GB package only costs around P300. You can check out the current price here:
2. 4G SIM Card for Thailand
Since we’ll be coming from Cambodia via land travel, airport pick-up would not be possible. With this option, we can go to Siam Center (979 Rama 1 Road, Pathumwan Bangkok 10330, Thailand) and pick-up the sim card from the Klook Counter. You can find the Klook Counter besides Etude House in floor M. You can learn more here:
You might ask, “Where’s the sim card for Cambodia?” Well, I was not able to find it in Klook. But we have a friend who lives there and she mentioned that buying sim card in Cambodia is super easy. You just need to go to a telecom shop like Smart (just like the one we have here in the Philippines!), present your passport and buy your sim card for around $5.
It will have prepaid credits inside that you need to register. Internet is fast and reliable from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.
10-Day Indochina Itinerary
Alright! So let me now show you the itinerary we made for our Indochina trip. First off, let’s start with Ho Chi Minh City.
Here’s for Cambodia. Those highlighted in yellow is when we are scheduled to meet up with our friend, Kim. But it was October 4, Friday, when we booked the S21 and Killing Fields tour.
Lastly, here’s the itinerary for Bangkok.
All tourists destinations listed there are sure to be open when we arrive there as planned in the itinerary. For example, the National Museum in Bangkok was scheduled on a Wednesday because it’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays. Let me also give you their operating hours as well as the entrance fees. This is updated since September 2019.
Note: I have uploaded the file in Google Drive so you can get your copy if you want! There’s also a sheet for the expenses and it helps me track our payment since we’ll be using most of my credit card during this trip.
We planned to bring $300 as pocket money in our Indochina trip. But since I don’t want to come up short just in case something happens, I decided to exchange $400. This does not include the payment yet for our accommodation, Klook activities, and bus tickets that were to be paid using credit card.
Overall, including the airfare, pasalubong, and other Grab bookings, I am thinking that this trip would cost us P30,000 – P35,000. Seems a bit too much? Sorry if this itinerary is not for the budget conscious! I personally wanted to get the best out of the countries we’re going to visit with little time. I don’t want to go there just for passport stamps and for the bragging rights that “Hey, I went to three countries in just one trip!”.
I want to visit Indochina because I want to experience their culture and learn more about their history.
We Are Now Indochina Ready!
Woot, woot! Since we have already covered almost everything from booking of flights, accommodations, tourist spots, budget, and more, we are now 100% ready for Indochina! All the fears I had in traveling this unfamiliar place and also the uncertainty in the immigration process have faded after we have researched everything that we need to know about this trip.
Excited is an understatement on what I am feeling and I know that this trip will create a lot of memories that will widen my knowledge about Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand. With its rich history and culture, I know that this will not just be a simple tour, but it will be the one of the best adventures ChamTravels has to experience.
Have you visited Indochina already? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section!
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