First part of the travel blog: When In Thailand: What To Do In Phuket
Second part of the travel blog: When in Thailand: What To Do In Bangkok
Two months ago, I have embarked on my first solo travel trip. I was out of the country for almost a month, but I spent most of the days with my mom and my uncle so the Cambodia leg was the legit solo travel trip that I took. If you want to know more about my solo travel trip, check out the previous blog: I Am A Wander Woman.
This blog however, will tell you the travel blog part of that trip, expenses, itinerary, getting ripped off and whatnot – the first one was the soul searching, getting to know myself better, F yeah I traveled alone part of the trip – for you guys who might be planning to travel alone or with your beau or friends or family. This is my public service for you people and my thank you to all the other bloggers who have helped me when I was Googling days before the trip.
Thing is, I came in from Bangkok when I went to Cambodia, so you can either take the 1 hr flight from BKK to Cambodia or take the 8-hr bus from BKK to Cambodia. I did the latter, because I’m frugal like that. Haha! I got the ticket reserved via the internet and it costs 770 baht as of July 2015 (around 1,200 pesos, peso to baht was 1.5 when I had my money exchanged). You can also buy the ticket at the bus station for 750 baht, the 20 baht was for the internet fee, I think. Anyway, I wanted to be assured that I would have a guaranteed seat so I took that extra fee. Anyway, some of the people in the bus just bought their tickets in the station.
If you’re taking the bus like me, you’re going to the Mo Chit bus station. This is near the Chatuchak weekend market. If you don’t have a lot of baggage and on a budget, you can take the BTS (Bangkok Train Station) to Mo Chit and just take the taxi from there. But! If you don’t want transferring vehicles or you have lots of baggage, take the taxi. Before riding the taxi, make sure to ask the driver to go there via meter and not on a fixed rate. The first taxi was charging me 400 baht. He said the route to Mo Chit from where I was (my uncle’s apartment is almost at the Ratchathewi station, near Platinum and all the malls) was traffic. But I refused, like what I said in my Facebook status, hello, I fvckin live in Manila! You don’t know how horrendous the traffic is in Manila, wag mo ko paandaran ng traffic mo! Anyway, I got off that scam/scumbag of a taxi driver and hop on a new one. My fare was less than 200 baht when I got there. See? Remember to be street smart when you’re out of the country!
The bus ride was fine. I love long drives. They have snacks and lunch (7-11 microwave-able shit for lunch, but yum!) provided for the passengers. At one point, the bus will stop for the visas (if you’re Asian, no need for this, at least Filipinos and Indonesians don’t, as far as I know) but Europeans and Americans and other nationalities do, check the internet if you need visa to go to Cambodia. Anyway, this part is a SCAM! Be alert, you guys, they’re asking for 1,300 baht to process your visa. If you want, you can make them do it; otherwise, you can do it on your own when you get to the border.
Once in the border, you’ll be ushered out of the bus and walk to the Thailand immigration. Make sure to have your passport with you. I almost left my bag inside the bus ‘cause I didn’t know what we were going to do. Good thing I was thinking about my stuff that I took it with me. The conductor didn’t even say anything about bringing your passport. TIP: Always have your passport with you. And take a photo of it and send a copy to your email and your phone, in case your passport got lost. Once you finished the Thai immigration, you’re going to literally walk from one country to another. Coolness! Remember Jamie Sullivan’s “be in two places at once?” Hell, yeah. Did that!
You’re going to walk out of the building, past the Welcome to Cambodia sign and find the immigration to enter Cambodia at your right. Just ask the people, they’ll point you in the right direction. Your bus will be waiting for you at the Cambodia border after you’ve been approve to enter Cambodian territory. Three more hours ‘til you arrive in Siem Reap, so don’t get too excited just yet.
Once you arrive in Siem Reap, free tuktuks are available to bring you to your hotel. I think this is so these drivers can talk to you and get you to be their tuktuk service for your entire trip.
Day 1 – arrival, dinner, Pub Street
I stayed at One Stop Hostel which is a two minute walk to Pub street and Old Market. My friends stayed at Blossoming Ridge Hotel, which is like a 7-10 minute walk from Pub street. Anyway, mine was closer but theirs was so much better. I would’ve transferred there if I haven’t already paid for my entire stay. They paid $6 per night while I paid $7 per night. It’s so much better to stay at backpackers’ hostels in trips because you meet a lot of people and you’re not really going to stay in the hotel in your entire stay (you’re just going to sleep there) so paying a hefty amount for a hotel is just illogical. Reallocate that money to other things in your trip and pay for experience!
After settling down, Edwin and Irwan (the boys I met in the bus) picked me up at the hostel and we went for dinner. We went to this Muslim (can’t remember) restaurant recommended by the tuktuk driver and I had a beef something. Haha! Please forgive me, I can’t remember what I had. But I do remember I paid for it for $4.50. I had a list on my phone. Haha!
Afterwards, we checked out Pub Street, the city’s red light district. Now I know the main reason why you decided to go to SR is to see the Angkor temples, but you can’t go to SR and not have a drink at Pub Street! We had a drink at one of the bars where I tried their local beer. Tastes lighter than San Mig light, but has more color. Love it. 1 can was $2. Beer and liquors depends on the bar. But there are draft beers for half a dollar!!!! Such a steal!!!
We also walked around and got some souvenirs (ref magnets at 3 for $2). I also got myself a local sim card so I can use the internet and keep in touch with my mom as to my whereabouts for $4. Didn’t have to load it up, credits included in the SIM card.
Day 2 –Angkor Temples, Pub Street
The boys and I decided to go the Angkor temples the next day for sunrise and share their tuktuk (they’re paying $20 for the entire day, anywhere you want to go for the tuktuk). We arranged meeting up at 4:30 on my hotel’s doorstep but the boys woke up late so I went to the Angkor alone. I got a tuktuk driver to drive me to the Angkor for half day/5 temples for $15. That’s the usual rate. Try to find a travel buddy if you’re going alone so you can split it and save up.
I went to Angkor Wat first for the very disappointing sunrise. It was cloudy that day, so it was such a waste of time. Try to visit Siem Reap in summer if you want a better sunrise and if you can brave the heat. I heard the heat is waaaay higher than that in Manila. Anyway, I got myself ripped into buying a travel book and some postcards (that I lost!) for $12! I know, stupid me! The guy just won’t leave me alone and I really value my alone time so I guess I just paid him to leave me in peace? That’s what I would want to think. Hahaha! Before going inside the “earth” part of the temples, I got myself a tour guide for $12, I mean shit, I would’ve saved $12 if I just walked right into the temple and not dawdled in front of the Angkor admiring its beauty, right? But oh well, $12 is a small amount for peace and quiet. Until!!! I found out that some books are only sold for a dollar. @!*#&$^%!!!!!!!!
If you plan to go to the topmost part of the temple or as they call the “heaven” part, make sure to wear appropriate clothes. No sleeveless, tank tops, shorts. Skirts should be long. Covering yourself with sarong to enter is still not allowed. They’re strict like that. I almost didn’t get in after waiting for almost an hour to get in (they open the heaven part at 7:40 am) because my skirt just fall above my knees. Good thing I had this sarong/blanket thick cover up and I got in!
ANGKOR WAT TIPS: Aside from the clothes, make sure to bring a big bottle of water, it is a very big complex and it can get really, really hot in the day. Use sunblock if you don’t want to get sunburned, sunglasses, hats and comfortable footwear is essential as well. Keep your Angkor Wat pass because there are guards who check them once in a while. You can experience Angkor Wat with or without a tour guide. But if you want to admire its beauty and at the same time admire the history behind it, I suggest that you do. Tour guides charge a group for $15, the guy said, but if you’re alone, try to haggle down. This is the best tip I could give you: When in Siem Reap, HAGGLE DOWN to the best price that you think benefits both parties. Don’t try to rip off the sellers/guides/tuktuks, though! Remember, it’s their livelihood.
Some photos from the Angkor day trip
I visited the major temples: Angkor Wat, the Bayon Temple, Ta Phrom and two minor temples, their names I forgot. Can’t stand up and go get my Cambodia book. Anyway, I was all “templed out” by 1pm. Seriously, at one point; you’d get sick of temples. So if you’re buying the 3 day pass or the 7 day pass, make sure to plan your trip well! By the last temple, I was just so eager to go back and take a shower. The grime is just up to here (let’s say I’m doing this face to face and I’m pointing way above my head haha!) it’s very dusty in SR so bring your anti-histamines if you’re allergic to dust or I dunno what you should bring if you’re asthmatic. Nebulizer? I was starving. So I got back to the hotel, ate and then slept. I met up with the boys afterwards.
When the boys picked me up, they had another girl with them. It was Marta. The three became four! We originally wanted to go back and see the sunset in Angkor, but Edwin’s and Marta’s clothes are inappropriate. Strike one! Then we wanted to ride the elephant ($20, if I remember it right) but they were already closed. Like they were loading up the last elephant with the last passengers. Ugh. Strike two! Then we wanted to ride the hot air balloon ($15 per pax), but because it was windy that day, they were not operating. Strike three! You’re out!
So then we decided to go back to the city proper and just walk along the night market. We got some more pasalubong, had dinner at this Khmer restaurant, had foot massage to make up for all the walking we did in Angkor temples, had one dollar cocktails at Original Stingy bar, talk, sang along to the singer, talk, and share stories and went home.
Day 3 – Angkor National Museum, Circus, Pub Street
Because we got home late the previous night, the four of us decided to meet up late morning the next day. Our itinerary was the Angkor Museum, the floating market, and circus. It was jam packed that day because the boys are leaving to Phnom Penh the next day and we wanted to squeeze in every opportunity to do it. But rain wouldn’t. We had to scratch the floating market off the list because it rained that day. I heard though from my uncle who went there few days after I did that it was so good and you’d be immersed culturally into the Khmer life. If I could go back, that’s one of the things I need to do!
Angkor National Museum has I think six rooms about the ancient Angkor life. It was a little bit disappointing because we paid $12 for it, but locals only pay $3. I get that they make money from tourists, but $12 is just so steep. Also, I thought they had something about the Khmer Rouge in that museum, but it’s just about the ancient times. Good thing though, there was this kind museum tour guide who told us some stories about the Hinduism and Buddhism and all that pizzaz in the ancient time. Nothing much to be awed at in here, I like the Philippine’s national museum better. But if you really want to visit, I suggest you do this before visiting the Angkor temples so you’d have better understanding on why the temples were built and what do the signs and sculptures mean.
We had lunch at Khmer Family Restaurant along Pub Street. I had their bamboo fish soup, kinda tastes like a sweet stew, but the best dish was Edwin’s beef amok. It’s spicy, but the flavors, ugh. Rapsa! Then went back to the museum, it was big, you’d have to spend at least half a day in it. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel for a while, Marta had received bad news back home, which is so sad, by the way, but the circus cheered her up. It was a good thing that the presenters were super good! I love how the place was set up inside a tent (very American horror Story: Freak Show, guys!!!) and how the circus had a story to tell. It’s not like just juggling and tumbling and lifting and tossing someone up in the air, but it has a story, a true to life story set during the Khmer Rouge with a back drop of the circus. Very entertaining. Do not miss this, well worth your time and money!
The circus finished at around 9-ish. It started at 8, so we were starving by the time we went back to the city proper. The Indian restaurant we wanted to try was already closing. The next Indian restaurant we checked out was closed for good (how lucky is our group no?) So we ended up at this restaurant near the night market. So I tried their amok because Edwin’s amok was just so good earlier, but it was different. I guess like our adobo, they also have their own versions?
last night with the gang!
Marta had to wake up early the next day for Angkor Wat’s sunrise, so the boys and I decided to have our one last night. We wanted to check out Island bar near the one dollar cocktails bar, but it was closed so we went back inside. Edwin treated us to mojitos, I had to push Irwan to at least have a mojito because it was our last night together, and he didn’t even get to finish it. We had a nice last night together. :’) miss you guys.
Day 4 – War Museum, Old Market, Pub Street
The tour guides are people who are survivors from the Khmer Rouge itself.
The next day, I was off alone to the war museum after having some last minute goodbyes to Irwan and Edwin. I am still jealous they get to see the Killing Fields. The war museum was the next best thing, though. It was located in a previous landmine-infested place and is filled with items (empty bomb shells, guns, tanks, planes) from that time. Their tour guides are people who have lived to tell the tale, so it feels like you are actually transported back in time with their stories. Tour guides are free, but if you want to make a donation for their group, then much better. If you can’t go to the Killing Fields, make sure you drop by here; I guess this is the closest thing you’ll ever get.
I met up with Marta afterwards and she brought along Lily, an American who have been traveling alone for the past three months, I think. Anyway, we had a girls’ night out and had dinner at Father’s Restaurant in Old Market. We were a little sick with Khmer food, we all needed a break from it. I had spaghetti Bolognese and water.
Then we decided to take a little walk and we ended up back in the one dollar bar. Haha! Am I now a regular? My friend Rouel who went to SR a few months back said that we should check out Angkor What? It’s one of those bars in Pub Street as well, but the place always filled with people and the noise is just too much for me, oh my God, I’m turning into a tita, so didn’t really get the chance to check that one out. Anyway, we had a mojito each and called it a day.
Day 5 – Landmine Museum, Siem Reap International Airport
It’s my last day at SR, and Marta’s as well. She’s leaving in the morning to Thailand to teach and I’m going back to Manila in the evening. We decided to have one last breakfast, the three of us, Marta, Lily and me. I took a wrong turn going to their hostel so I had to take a tuktuk for a dollar to get their right away. We had breakfast, eggs and bread for 3 dollars, OMG! And then went back to my hostel to take another nap.
I was leaving by 3pm to landmine museum, so I decided to walk around Pub Street for some last minute souvenir hunting for myself. I initially wanted that artsy fartsy makeup kit we saw on our first night but the store was closed and the other places are selling it for $10 (the first one was at $3) so I ended up getting myself a souvenir shirt with the caution landmine print on it for $3, steal!
I didn’t realized that when my tuktuk driver Kasol said that the landmine museum was far, that it will be tooooo far, like more than an hour drive, on rough roads. You’d think he’s off to bring me to a faraway place and have my head. Kidding! It was really far! I fell asleep and when I woke up we’re still driving! Anyway, similar to the war museum, the landmine museum was filled with landmine shells they were able to detonate. There were no tour guides, but they give you an audio guide as you walk through the small museum. Aki Ra, the guy who detonated most of the landmines in there also built a school for kids who were devastated by the landmines years after the Khmer Rouge ended. They said that there are still landmines everywhere that were not detonated so make sure to not walk off the beaten path, because you’ll never know if there are landmines in there. But Cambodia is a very safe place to be for travelers, solo or with friends or families. Just like how you are at home, be wary of your surroundings, be street smart, enjoy the food, immerse in the culture, get new friends and you’ll have a fantastic time in your travel!
We went back the hostel afterwards. I had dinner ay Father’s Restaurant again and then we went to the airport. I had excess baggage so I had to carry on one of my bags and I’m home.
When in NAIA, do not get the cabs with fixed rates, make sure to get yourself an airport metered taxi. When I got home, they were charging me 900 pesos from Pasay to Manila! E di wow! I only have around 400 pesos with me and even if I do have 900, would never ride that cab, jusko! I took the metered taxi and my fare only amounted to P300, a third of what they were asking me.
My pocket money for the entire Siem Reap trip was $300 / P13,000 more or less. My total expenses amounted to $229.35. I added the $11 I paid for the tuktuk ride our group and the $27 accommodation for four nights in the hostel. But! I’d have to tell you that I think I missed some of the expenses that I paid for because when I did this list, I forgot some of the things, but I checked my remaining dollars when I got home and it was $75, I don’t know where did I spent the $30, I really suck at Math!
Here’s the complete breakdown of expenses. You’re welcome!
ADDITIONAL TRAVEL TIP:
I suggest you go and have your money exchanged to dollars instead of the currency to the country you’re visiting, because US dollars have more value, you’ll get better exchange rates in that country, especially in South East Asian countries. Make sure that you have it in big denominations as 100 and 50 bills have different rates with 20 and 10 bills and 5,2,1 bills. But! Cambodia uses US dollars as their currency. If you’re going straight to Cambodia, smaller bills are much better. Cambodians speak English almost as fluently as Filipinos do, so getting around Cambodia is easier, you will not get lost in translation. They are very warm people, as most Asians are, and most of their livelihood comes from the tourists. This trip is one for the books!