Exploring Indochina: Expenses

You’ve already read it from countless travel blogs yet you still think that you need to have lots of moolah to travel, so I’m giving you another proof to debunk that notion.
 
Below is a breakdown of our Indochina expenses per country and per item so you can have an idea of how much you need per day to get by.

 

Yes, you don’t need to break the bank to travel to three countries for more than a week.

 

ACCOMMODATION

1 – 3 nights accommodation based on twin sharing

2 – 3 nights accommodation based on twin sharing – Amount indicated is just an estimate since we got a package (accommodation + tour) from the guesthouse.
 
33 nights accommodation based on twin sharing – Amount is significantly higher than our Vietnam and Cambodia accommodations because we stayed in a hotel.
You can obviously bring down the cost further if you don’t mind staying in backpacker hostels or if you’re traveling with a group.

 

FOOD & DRINKS

VietnamFood is very cheap in Vietnam. A bowl of Pho costs about VND40,000 ($2/Php80)

Cambodia – Food and water can be quite expensive since prices are in US Dollars. A meal can cost between $3 – $6. By the way, the buffet with Apsara dance ($8) is included in the cost above.
 
Thailand – We ate a LOT in Bangkok but we still did not spend much. Yes, we survived on street foods (if you’re not picky)! 😀 Typical meal can cost between THB30 – THB50 ($1-$2).

TRANSPORTATION

4 Cost includes airport pickup and bus from Vietnam to Cambodia

5 – Cost includes tuk-tuk/remork for Angkor tour and bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok

 

TOUR & ENTRANCE FEES

Vietnam – Includes Mekong Delta tour, Cu Chi Tunnel tour and admission
Cambodia – Includes one day Angkor pass and tour guide fee
 
Thailand – Includes entrance to Wat Phra Kaew & Grand Palace, and Wat Pho

 

SOUVENIR

Cost obviously varies for this one. 

Vietnam – We bought souvenirs from Benh Thanh Market which is a tourist trap. We found out the Saigon shirt we got for VND250,000 can be bought for only VND125,000 from a souvenir shop in Pham Ngu Lao.

Cambodia – We went to Angkor Night Market but went home empty-handed. Again, we were turned off because items are priced in US Dollars.
 
Thailand – We bought most of the souvenirs in Khao San Road. Unfortunately, our last day in Bangkok fell on a Friday so we weren’t able to shop much in Chatuchak.

 

MISCELLANEOUS

Includes laundry, tip/gratuity, IDD call (because my roaming wasn’t working) 

***

If you do the math, we only spent roughly about Php5,000.00 per country! It may not be the cheapest, but it’s not that expensive either. 🙂

Exploring Indochina: Poipet-Aranyaprathet Border Crossing

And so it was time to get our bags and leave for another country…again. We’re almost at the last leg of our Indochina trip and we were headed to Bangkok! We were about to cross the dreaded Poipet-Aranyaprathet border.
We had a hearty breakfast, and to our surprise, Ta Som’s staff handed us souvenirs while we were waiting for our bus. 🙂
 
It was a little past 8:00 am when the Capitol bus arrived. Shortly after we got on-board, we were handed departure cards for immigration. Unlike in Mekong Express, no snacks, bottled water, or even cold towels were given. Good thing we bought water and some snack from the nearby convenience store before we left. We need to use the few Riels we have anyway since it’s worthless outside of Cambodia.
 
The trip from Siem Reap to Poipet (Cambodia’s border) took about three hours. We stopped at the roundabout near the border where the Capitol bus staff got our tickets and gave us a blue diamond sticker to put on our shirts. This is because we were going to take a different bus from Aranyaprathet to Bangkok. A different Capitol bus staff will be waiting for us there.
 
Poipet Border
Image from Wikipedia
At that time, there were only a handful of people at the immigration counter so I went to the restroom first. When I got back, I was surprised to find that a number of people were already in line. I looked around to check if there were still people from our group (ones with the blue diamond stickers on) and there were a few, but they were ahead of us. It probably took each person 5-10 minutes at the counter. It must be because of the VOA (visa on arrival). At this point, I was already worried that we were left by the bus because it seemed everyone from our group had already passed the border.
 
Finally it was my turn and the procedure was the same as when we entered Cambodia. The immigration officer got the departure card and asked me to place my hand on the scanner; right hand, right thumb, left hand, left thumb. After getting our passports stamped, we had to walk several meters (on the left side) to get past the Poipet arch and walked some more until we reached the Thai immigration building.
 
We went straight inside and filled up arrival cards, lined up, and got our passports stamped. When we reached the exit, we saw the same people from our bus and it seemed they had been waiting for us (and a couple more people) for a while now. As soon as everyone was there, the Capitol staff led us to the terminal.
 
It was a few minutes walk to the terminal where they split our group into two since they only had minibuses available. Each minibus can only accommodate 12 passengers. Shortly after we left the terminal, we passed by a checkpoint where an officer (he was in a military uniform) asked for everyone’s passport for inspection. Overall, the trip from Aranyaprathet to Khao San Road took about four hours with two 20-30 minute stop overs at gas stations. Thailand has good roads so the journey was smooth.
 
Prior to the trip I’ve read several unpleasant border crossing experiences so I’m thankful that we had a hassle-free one.

Exploring Indochina: Pub Street and Apsara Dance

Three days of tours and crossing borders proved to be exhausting so I intentionally placed a ‘free day’ midway through the trip so we could recuperate.
 
Having no itinerary for the day means that we could dillydally. 

True enough, it was already around 11:00am when we finally decided to move and head to Pub Street. Unfortunately, Ta Som’s tuk-tuk driver was not around to take us to the Old Market for free so we had to pay one of the tuk-tuks waiting outside $1.5 for a 5-minute ride. -_- His initial quote was $2 and I tried haggling it to $1, alas. When you’re traveling on a limited budget, every dollar counts so don’t judge! :p
We spent some time checking out the Old Market and the restaurants, but even after going through the free pocket guide we got from the Mekong Express office in Phnom Penh, we still can’t decide where to eat. Still flipping through it, we stopped in front of this Khmer restaurant and saw that the prices were reasonable enough, and so we got a table.

Nai Khmer Restaurant
Clockwise: Red Curry with rice and shake – $3; Stir Fried Chicken in Lemon Sauce with rice and shake – $3; Fried Spring Rolls – $1.75
Food was okay for the price and serving size.
Of course no meal is complete without dessert and what better dessert to have on a sunny (and uber hot) afternoon than ice cream! We referred to the pocket guide again to look for Swensen’s. We went the opposite direction at first but finally found it inside Angkor Trade Center. 

L: Chocolate Ring-A-Ding – $3.30  |  R: Chocolate Trio – $3.80
Yes, we scrimped on our lunch but splurged on dessert but we have a good excuse for it! We spent way less than our budget for last night’s dinner so this is still within the budget. *teehee*
 
And because we didn’t want to shell out another dollar for a tuk-tuk ride, we decided to walk (to burn the calories too :p) back to the guesthouse for siesta

***
 
We left again around 7:30 pm for the buffet and Apsara dance at Koulen II Restaurant ($8/head). Mr. Meng even drove us there although it was just 5 minutes away. They reserved us seats on the far right side side of the stage. 
 
Shortly we found out that the price we paid was only for the buffet and that we had to order drinks so we got a liter of bottled water for $2.50!  To alleviate our frustration with the overpriced water, we wasted no time and headed to the buffet area.

I wasn’t able to take pictures of everything but as with any other buffet spread there’s the bread/pastry, pasta, salad, noodle, and dessert section. Obviously most of the entrees are of Asian cuisine.

As people filled up the restaurant, guests were serenaded with folk music. Good thing I was already back in my seat when the show started. The folk dancers came out and did about three sets which I surmise were depictions of rural life like rice planting and fishing. It’s actually quite similar to our own folk dance which made me wonder if we do shows like these back home for tourism because I could see the other foreigners enjoying it.

Highlight of the show: Apsara Dance
The Apsara dance has been described as grounded, subtle, even restrained yet feather-light ethereal appearance.* One can also have a picture with the dancers after the performance.
After the show we headed to the night market to check the merchandise but went home empty-handed so we decided to call it a night. After all, we need to pack our things again – this time for Bangkok.
 
 
K