A Non-Backpackers Guide to Indochina

10 Days, 3 Countries, 3 Plane Rides, 30 Hours Land Travel

What an experience! Usually, people who go on trips like this do it backpacking style but not us. We just can’t do legit backpacking…ang daming arte eh.

This post is a long one so let’s get this started!

Every year, for four years, we have been traveling to colder countries. Fortunately, we were able to decide on visiting not just one but three countries with very tropical climates.

I’ve always wanted to visit Indochina and it finally happened! We were able to visit three countries last December – Cambodia, Vietnam, and Thailand. Aside from history and culture, what drew me to visit these countries was because of their exquisite cuisine…and I wasn’t disappointed.


Indochina

In case you have no idea what Indochina really means, it is the peninsula lying roughly southwest of China and east of India. It comprises Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, West Malaysia and Myanmar (Burma). The majority of the people in the region are neither Chinese nor Indian but these countries received cultural influence from both India and China.


Getting There

You can easily score tickets to the Indochina countries as several airlines now offer direct flights from either Cebu or Manila, Philippines.

If you plan to cross borders, you can easily do that by:

  • #1 Plane

A regular plane ride to any of these countries would cost Php 5,000 – 8,000, per way, if you come from the Philippines. It could come out cheap or expensive depending on the season or if you can snatch a promo fare.

If you’re coming from any of the Indochina countries regular one-way fares would cost approximately Php 2,000 – 3,000.

  • #2 Bus

You can do inland transfers from any Indochina countries. There are lots of buses and sleeper buses available. Just make sure to reserve your seats ahead.

  • #3 Van

Like buses, you can also ride a van to bring you to the border or across the border. Make sure you’re riding the right one.

  • #4 Private Car

Take this option only if you are willing to spend a few extra bucks for several hours on the road. For a group of 5, a person would spend approximately Php 3,000 – 4,000 for a one way trip across the border.

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Writing about our sleeper bus experience soon. Keep posted!

Going Around

  • TNVS – Grab will save you for this trip! Hah! You’d be so spoiled as Grab services are quite cheap in these countries.
  • Taxis – It’s not hard to find a taxi unless your hotel is situated on top of a hill.
  • Motorcycles – It’s the easiest and fastest option you can find. If you are up for some adrenaline, then this might be your best option.
  • Public Transport (Bus/Train) – Compared to TNVS, this is definitely cheaper. But when it comes to time and comfort, I’d prefer riding a TNVS.

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Trip Planning

CAMBODIA

Cambodia has been on my bucket list for quite a while. And finally, the time came for me to tick off Cambodia on my list and see its glory right before my eyes!

It’s not called the City of Temples for no reason! The country has more than 3,000 temples, with Siem Reap having 910 temples. That’s A LOT!

Of course, we couldn’t miss catching the sunrise and sunset with the perfect silhouette to add to the experience – Angkor Wat.

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We thought of getting a guide so we would actually learn something from this trip. My friends agreed to the idea so I went to ask for recommendations. I am part of a certain travel support group and they recommended a particular tour guide by the name of Ponleu Leang. He is a local in Siem Reap, Cambodia. You can find him on Facebook. He does tours around Angkor Complex and other parts nearby Siem Reap. He is very kind, understandable, accommodating, and very informative. I think he figured we weren’t really the “good tourists” he expected since we are not used to getting guides on most of our trips but he was patient enough to adjust with our pace.

We started catching the sunrise at Angkor Wat and ended the day catching the sunset at Phnom Bakheng.

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Everybody knows Angkor Wat, I assume. If not, just search for the Cambodian flag and you will see Angkor Wat. It’s the mother of all temples in Cambodia. It’s where the Royal family used to live.

On the other hand, Phnom Bakheng is one of the most popular sunset spots in the Angkor Complex. Built in the early 10th century, Phnom Bakheng is situated on a 70-meter high hill and was one of the first temple-mountains. The catch? Aside from trekking several meters to reach the temple, only 300 people are allowed in. We arrived at 3:30 in the afternoon at the temple grounds just to be sure we’d get in.

We transferred from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh (pronounced as Pi-Nom-Pen) before going to Vietnam. We only had half a day to explore Phnom Penh. We went to see the Independence Palace, the bayside area, then ended the night feasting at the Russian Market.

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VIETNAM

This year’s trip highlight goes to Vietnam!

The land of motorcycles, as many would say. But it’s also the land of great food and amazing coffee! Hah!

If given the chance to go back now, I would! Vietnam has so much to offer – good food, great coffee, amazing views, cheap transportation…I could go on and on.

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Read more about our Indochina Food Run here

Normally, people who go to Vietnam would visit their historical sights. But it was not really our priority. I think we had enough “history” from Cambodia we literally wanted to rest.

The thing was when we arrived in Vietnam, the hotel we booked no longer existed. So we had to book a new hotel right on the spot. It was such a hassle. Thank you, Agoda!

It took an hour or more to settle things with Agoda. We booked a new hotel and we had to drop items on our itinerary, including Mekong River. My friends were really fine with the idea as they wanted more time to rest and explore Vietnamese cuisine. Again, thank you Agoda! 😝

We also did a day trip to Mũi Né. You can read more about it here.

The only thing I noticed in the limited time we had in Vietnam was that locals are not the kindest of people I’ve met. It’s not a bad thing though. But I can only count the times I wasn’t scared to ask for the price when buying something at their market. They tend to shout at you, I don’t know if that’s normal. Haha!

All in all, I had an awesome time in Vietnam and I would not hesitate to go back.

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THAILAND

What can I say?

Thailand is an interesting country. There is still so much to see.

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We’ve only visited Bangkok and Ayutthaya. Both are very different places. Bangkok is more modern than Ayutthaya but both have amazing flavors. They are very generous with their servings and they seem to have a great supply of seafood. We initially wanted to try Jay Fai but they were closed on the dates we were there, so maybe next time.

 

As for culture and sights, they are on par with each other. The only spot we were not able to explore was the Grand Palace. We tried going in but there were just too many people. Our visit to Bangkok was timely for the coronation of their new King so maybe that was also the reason for the influx of people.

If you must know, we rented a private car service for Ayutthaya as we didn’t really want to join a group tour (ma-arte). We also wanted to own our time and we had to bring our bags and pieces of luggage along.

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I’d probably go back to Thailand but to visit other parts of the country like Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, or Phuket.


Sample Itinerary

This is the juice, the meat, whatever you want to call it. I’ve been looking for the “perfect” itinerary for this trip but I can’t seem to decide which one to follow so I made one myself! Hah!

Day 0 – CEB-BKK-REP

Expenses

  • PH Travel Tax                  PHP 1,620
  • Terminal Fee                    PHP 850

Total: PHP 2,470.00


Day 1 – Arrival in Cambodia

2PM                  Check-in @ Hotel

Late Lunch     Little Kroma ($4)

Address:          Little Kroma Restaurant, #84, Wat Dam Nak, Sala Kamraeuk, Siem Reap

 

4PM                  Siem Reap Night Market / Pub Street

Dinner             Khmer Kitchen ($4-$6)

Address:          Corner of 2 Thnou Street and Street 9, Old Market, Siem Reap, Cambodia


Expenses

  • Accommodation       USD 15 (Per person, Pay at the Property)
  • Van REP to PNH        USD 10 (Early Booking)
  • Lunch                          USD 5
  • Snacks                         USD 3
  • Gelato Coffee             USD 4
  • Khmer Kitchen         USD 3.5

Total: USD 40.5 = PHP 2,059.83 (As of January 7, 1:45 PM GMT+8)


Day 2 –  Siem Reap

5AM                 Sunrise at Angkor Wat, Angkor Complex Tour / Temple Run

Tour Guide: Ponleu Leang

7PM                  Siem Reap Night Market / Pub Street

 

Dinner             Tevy’s Place ($1-$2)

Address:          Street 26, Krong Siem Reap, Siemereab-Otdar Meanchey, Cambodia


Expenses

  • Angkor Ticket           USD 37
  • Angkor Tour             USD 12  (Sunrise and Sunset Tour / Full-Day )
  • Breakfast                   USD 5
  • Lunch                         USD 6
  • Dinner                        USD 8

Total: USD 68 = PHP 3,458.48 (As of January 7, 1:45 PM GMT+8)


Day 3 – Phnom Penh

6AM                  Siem Reap (REP) to Phnom Penh (PNH)

1PM                  Arrival at PNH

Lunch              Romdeng ($7-$9)

Address:          # 74 Oknha Ket St. (174), Phnom Penh 12210, Cambodia

2PM                  Check-in @ Hotel

4PM                  Explore PNH by walking/riding Tuktuk

7PM                   Tuol Tompoung Market

Address:           St 163, Phnom Penh, Cambodia

10PM                Back to Hotel


Expenses

  • Lunch                         USD 5.2
  • Tuktuk                        USD 1 USD per person x 2
  • Bus PNH-SGN            USD 10
  • Tuktuk to Palace       USD 1 per person x 4
  • Tuktuk to Market      USD 1 per person x 4
  • Dinner                         USD 6
  • Dessert                        KHR 1000

Total: USD 24.44 = PHP 1,243.02 (As of January 7, 1:45 PM GMT+8)


Day 4 – Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh

8AM                  PNH to SGN

2PM                  Arrival at SGN

2PM                  Check-in @ Hotel

 

Lunch               Huynh Hoa Sandwich Shop / Bánh mì Huỳnh Hoa (Banh Mi $2)

Address:           26 Lê Thị Riêng, P, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh

                           Mr. 8 Coffee

Address:           2 Cách Mạng Tháng Tám, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh

3PM                   Bến Thành Independence Palace

Address:           135 Nam Kỳ Khởi Nghĩa, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh

6PM                   Ben Thanh Market 

Address:           Chợ, Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh

                           Ben Thanh Street Food Market

Address:           26-28-30 Thủ Khoa Huân, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh


Expenses

  • Tuktuk                         USD 1 per person x 2
  • Food                             USD 1
  • Bus Stop to Hotel       VND 14.000 per person x 5
  • Banh Mi                       VND 44.000
  • Drinks                          VND 80.000
  • Mr. 8 Coffee                VND 55.000
  • Shopping                     VND 210.000
  • Sticky Rice                   VND 50.000
  • Grab to Hotel              VND 10.000 per person x 4

Total: VND 509.350 = PHP 1,117.51 (As of January 7, 1:45 PM GMT+8)


Day 5 – Ho Chi Minh

8AM                  Mekong River Tour  Cofee Shop / Restaurant Hopping

  • Secret House by Secret Garden ($4-$8)

Address:           55/2 Le Thi Hong Gam Street, District 1, Hồ Chí Minh

  • Saigon Coffee Roastery

Address:           12 Đặng Thị Nhu, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh

  • Maison Marou Saigon

Address:           167-169, Calmette, Phường Nguyễn Thái Bình, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh

  • The Loft Café & Bistro ($1.5-$2)

Address:           95 Pasteur, Bến Nghé, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh

  • Banh Xeo 46A ($2-$5)

Address:           46A Đinh Công Tráng, Tân Định, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh

 

9PM                   Travel to Mui Ne – The Sinh Tourist Sai Gon

Address:            246 – 248 De Tham St, Dist 1, Hồ Chí Minh


Expenses

  • Grab                              VND 6.000 per person x 5
  • Secret Garden             VND 213.000
  • Saigon Coffee               VND 90.000
  • Maison Marou             VND 260.000
  • Grab                               VND 12.000
  • Ban Xheo                       VND 88.000
  • Grab to Hotel                 VND 6.000

Total: VND 675.000 = PHP 1,480.95 (As of January 7, 1:45 PM GMT+8)


Day 6 – Ho Chi Minh

2AM                  Arrive in Mui Ne

Address            144 Nguyen Dinh Chieu St, Mui Ne

11AM                Mui Ne to Ho Chi Minh

5PM                  Pho Le ($2-$3)

Address:           415 Nguyễn Trãi, Phường 7, Quận 5, Hồ Chí Minh

6PM                  Phin Xanh Vietnamese Cofee and Tea

Address:            47 Phan Chu Trinh, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh

7PM                   Ben Thanh Night Market 

Address:           Chợ, Lê Lợi, Phường Bến Thành, Quận 1, Hồ Chí Minh

 


Expenses

  • Grab                                 VND 6.000 per person x 5
  • Circle K                           VND 52.000
  • Sand Dunes Truck        VND 240.000
  • Breakfast                        VND 50.000
  • Grab                                 VND 8.000 per person x 5
  • Pho Le                             VND 97.000
  • Grab                                VND 13.000 per person x 5

Total: VND 466.000 = PHP 1,022.40 (As of January 7, 1:45 PM GMT+8)


Day 7 – Ho Chi Minh – Bangkok

Departure       Tan Son Nhat International Airport (SGN)

Arrival             Suvarnabhumi International Airport (BKK)

2PM                   Check-in @ Hotel

Late Lunch       Nong Rim Klong หน่องริมคลอง ($10)

Address:            Ekkamai Soi 21, Khlong Tan Nuea, Kate Wathana, Bangkok, Thailand

Dessert              Mango Sticky Rice – Food Street

Address:            Sukhumvit Soi 38 and 36 (Walk from Nong Rim Klong)

Optional:           Thailand Cultural Centre

Address:            14 Thiam Ruam Mit Rd, Huai Khwang, Bangkok 10310, Thailand

Admission:        ฿29 or P50.00

7PM                   Ratchada Rot Fai Train Night Market

Address:           Ratchadaphisek Rd, Din Daeng, Bangkok 10400, Thailand

Station:             Thailand Cultural Centre Station, Exit 3, walk towards Esplanade Mall


Expenses

  • Grab to Airport             VND 26.000 per person x 5
  • Chips                               VND 94.000
  • Grab to Hotel                 THB 136
  • 7Eleven                           THB 27
  • Grab                                THB 64
  • Pot Money                      THB 200
  • Nom Ring Klong           THB 298 per person x 5
  • Mango Sticky Rice        THB 100
  • Black Canyon Coffee    THB 85
  • Roti                                  THB 100
  • Shopping                        THB 870
  • 7Eleven                           THB 65

Total: THB 2101 = PHP 3,543.97 (As of January 7, 1:45 PM GMT+8)


Day 8 – Bangkok

8AM                  Wat Arun Ratchawararam – Temple of Dawn                                                 

Address:           58 Thanon Wang Doem, Khwaeng Wat Arun, Khet Bangkok Yai, Thailand

Admission:       ฿50 or P85.00

Take the boat to the other side, ฿60

9AM                  Wat Pho – Reclining Buddha Statue                                                  

Address:           Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

Admission:       ฿100 or P170.00

10AM                The Grand Palace                                                                      

Address:           Na Phra Lan Rd, Khwaeng Phra Borom Maha Ratchawang, Bangkok

Admission:       ฿500 or P850.00

11AM                Wat Phra Kaew – Temple of the EmeraldBuddha                                            

Address:           Palace Grounds

Lunch               Mit Ko Yuan ร้านอาหารมิตรโกหย่วน ($2-$5)

Address:           186 Dinso Rd, Sao Chingcha, Phra Nakhon, Bangkok 10200, Thailand

2PM                  Chatuchak Plant Market

Address:           สวนจตุจักร Kamphaeng Phet 2 Rd, Chatuchak, Bangkok 10900, Thailand

Open Hours:    Wednesday – Sunday 7:00 AM – 6:00 PM


Expenses

  • 7Eleven                           THB 29
  • Wat Ratch                       THB 50
  • Wat Pho                          THB 200
  • Boat Ride                        THB 60
  • Coconut Pancake          THB 30
  • Roti                                  THB 30
  • Mit Ko Yuan                   THB 120 per person x 5
  • Cafe Amazon                 THB 65
  • McDo                               THB 134
  • Shopping                        THB 560
  • 7Eleven                           THB 22

Total: THB 1300 = PHP 2,192.84 (As of January 7, 1:45 PM GMT+8)


Day 9 – Bangkok

9AM                   Pick-up from Hotel

  • Wat Chaiwattanaram

Address:          Ban Pom, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

  • Wat Phra Si Sanphet

Address:           Pratu Chai Sub-district, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

  • Wat Mahathat

Address:          Naresuan Rd, Tha Wasukri, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

Lunch at Local Restaurant

Best Pad Thai for this trip! Too bad I wasn’t able to get the name of the restaurant. The language barrier is real, hah!

  • Wat Ratchaburana

Address:        ถนน ชีกุน ตำบล ท่าวาสุกรี Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

  • Wat Phra Ram

Address:      Pratu Chai Sub-district, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

  • Wat Phra Mongkhon Bophit

Address:          นเรศวร ประตูชัย Naresuan Rd, Pratu Chai Sub-district, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

  • Wat Yai Chai Mongkhon

Address:           หมู่ที่ 3 40/3 ตำบล คลองสวนพลู Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya District, Phra Nakhon Si Ayutthaya 13000, Thailand

4PM                  Drop off at ICON Siam

Address:           299 Charoen Nakhon Rd, Khlong Ton Sai, Khlong San, Bangkok

10PM                 Travel to Suvarnabhumi Airport


Expenses

  • Ice Cream                     THB 20
  • Entrance                       THB 150
  • Lunch                            THB 76
  • Thip Samai                   THB 154
  • Locker                           THB 137
  • Grab                               THB 170

(Didn’t include shopping expenses since it wasn’t paid in cash)

Total: THB 707 = PHP 1,192.57 (As of January 7, 1:45 PM GMT+8)


Day 10 – BKK – CEB

1AM                   Depart from Suvarnabhumi Airport

5AM                   Arrive at Mactan Cebu International Airport


Summary of Expenses

Trip Expenses
  • Day 0 PHP 2,470.00
  • Day 1 PHP 2,059.83
  • Day 2 PHP 3,458.48
  • Day 3 PHP 1,243.02
  • Day 4 PHP 1,117.51
  • Day 5 PHP 1,480.95
  • Day 6 PHP 1,022.40
  • Day 7 PHP 3,543.97
  • Day 8 PHP 2,192.84
  • Day 9 PHP 1,192.57
  • Day 10 PHP –

TOTAL: 19,781.57

Pre-Trip Expenses
  • Roundtrip Air Fare                           PHP 8,348.00
  • Inland & Air Transfers                     PHP 7,253.36 (Private transfers & airfare from Bangkok, Cambodia, and Vietnam)
  • Phnom Penh Accommodation        PHP 486.97 (per person, 1 Night)
  • Vietnam Accommodation                PHP 1,621.49 (per person 3 Nights)
  • Bangkok Accommodation                PHP 1,453.90 (per person 3 Nights)
  • Pre-booked Activities                       PHP 2,117.9 (Mui Ne transfer and Ayutthaya private car)

As the title says, this “guide” is for non-backpackers. You’d save a lot if you book public buses, shared vans and other shared transportation options. Also, if you are patient enough to get a Piso-fare deal, then go for it!

This is the real-est breakdown I can give you. As in, #nofilter!

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I hope this will help you plan your Indochina Trip. If you have any questions or clarifications, feel free to reach out to me.

If you like this article and want to see or know more about my #SEA exploration, or other trips and tips, follow me on InstagramFacebook, and Twitter.

xo,

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