Indochina, originally Indo-China, is a geographical term originating in the early nineteenth century and referring to the continental portion of the region now known as Southeast Asia. The name refers to the lands historically within the cultural influence of India and China, and physically bound by India in the west and China in the north. It corresponds to the present-day areas of Myanmar, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, and (variably) peninsular Malaysia.
I was so excited as I planned to explore Indochina. I had a few months of preparation for this adventure (It’s a must). Since I opted not to get any travel packages, I exhausted myself doing all the research and DIY planning.
My flight was booked from Cebupacific five months prior. I got the two-way ticket for only Php 5,000.00.
Vietnam > Cambodia > Thailand > Vietnam
Click to see full details: Backpacking Vietnam
We arrived at Tan Son Nhat International airport at about 12AM (Vietnam time). Our brother-in-law fetched us by Uber to bring us to his flat. It was around 10AM when we started the Ho Chi Minh City tour.
- Notre Dame Cathedral
- HCM Old Post Office
- Reunification Palace
- HCM Museum
- HCM City Hall
- Saigon Square
The good thing about this city tour was the close proximity of every destination to each other. You don’t need to travel that far to get to the next stop, unless you’re going to visit the nearby provinces like Da Nang, Nha Trang and Hoi An.
We did not take public transports for this city tour. My brother and his friend used their motorbikes. You can ride a taxi (Grab/Uber) or Grab Bike.
First, we went to the nearest market to buy fruits, and of course, to observe the locals.
After that, we proceeded to our next destination: The Notre Dame Cathedral. Notre Dame Cathedral is just a few minutes away from my cousin’s flat, and across the cathedral was the HCM Old post office.
The next place that we visited was the Reunification Palace. The palace is also one of the historical landmarks of Vietnam.
Then we moved to HCM Museum. Entrance fee is 15,000VND = Php 30.00. Though, I could not read the writings inside the museum, I somehow learned that Vietnam bears lots of stories of its past.
While I was doing my research, I discovered the HCM City Hall which I found impressive that made me short-list the place in my destinations.
Vietnam is also known for cheap branded items like Kippling, Northface and Nike. I knew that getting one is something I shouldn’t miss, so, I did buy Kipling bags for my mom and sister, and Northface bag for myself. Price of Kippling bags range from 150,000VND to 500,000VND (Php 300.00 to 1,000.00) depending on the style and size.
Our tickets for Cambodia were purchased by my cousin a week before we arrived to Vietnam. Ticket price is 18$ each. However, you can purchase upon arriving. We left Vietnam at around 4 in the afternoon.
- Bus conductor will collect the passports upon arriving at Moc Bai (Vietnam border)
- Conductor will return the passports with stamps.
- Bus will bring you to Bavet (Cambodian border). Get off the bus and enter the immigration office. Here, we waited at least 2hrs to get our passports.
- Embark on the bus. The bus will bring you to another entrance (3-4 mins).
- Fill up immigration form then walk towards the entrance for inspection.
Click to see full details: Backpacking Cambodia
We arrived at the terminal in Phnom Penh at about 10 in the evening. We waited for the van to bring us to another bus station bound to Siem Reap.
We reached Siem Reap at about 6AM. We rode a Tuk Tuk that bought us to our hostel (Siem Reap Pub Hostel. We paid 2$). Upon getting to our hostel, we fixed our things to get ready for the tour. (We did not check-in yet)
- Angkor Wat
- Angkor Thom
- Bayon Temple
- Pub Street
We took breakfast first, then hired a Tuk Tuk for a whole-day tour (13$). We went through the whole tour (Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Bayon Temple). One-day pass for the temples is 20$.
We woke up at 7AM for breakfast and got ready for Thailand. The van fetched us from our hostel to bring us and the other western backpackers to the bus station. We came there at about 9AM.
At the bus station, everybody was given an ID with the name of the bus company on it (Hang Tep). Then we travelled towards the border of Cambodia. We reached the Poipet (Cambodia immigration) at about 11:39AM.
- Enter Cambodia immigration office.
- Fill up the departure card and wait in the queue.
- Officer will stamp your passport. (For ASEAN countries, there shouldn’t be a fee, but the officer asked us to pay 3$ which I find suspicious. I told him that I only have 2$, which he agreed and put my money inside his pocket).
- Cross the bridge going to Aranyaprathet (Thailand immigration)
- Enter Thailand immigration. Get an immigration card, fill it out and wait in the queue for passport stamping. (You have to prepare the address of your hostel for it’ll be asked by the officer).
We took our late lunch at the bus station while waiting for the bus.
Click to see full details: Backpacking Thailand
We reached Bangkok at about 7PM. The bus dropped us off at Pattaya BTS (Bangkok Train System).
- Khao San Road
- Wat Pho
- Wat Arun
- Grand Palace
Maybe because we were foreigners, the taxi driver tried to overcharge us (700 Baht) going to our hostel (Charan 41 Hostel) which I knew was near from where we were; we instead use Grab to book a car (180 Baht).
The hostel owner oriented us about the tourist destinations in Bangkok, and she also gave us some tips and direction how to get to those places. She was very nice and accommodating.
We went to Khao San road for dinner and shopping. Khao San road is known for beer houses, cheap food and souvenir shops. There were also lots of street food (exotic) to choose from.
We used Grab app anew to get back to our hostel. It was 10PM when we came back.
We woke up and took our free breakfast the next day. We checked-out and proceeded to our second destination: Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha).
We rode a ferry boat to cross the other side to reach Wat Pho temple (5 Baht). Entrance to Wat Pho was 50 Bhat. We were amazed to see the giant buddha inside the temple. Bear in mind decorums when entering the temple; (1) No shoes allowed; (2) Above the knee shorts are not allowed; (3) Speak with a soft voice; (4) No hats/cap.
After that, we passed by the Grand Palace (500 Baht). We decided not to enter as the crowd was overwhelming. There were lots of people that time since the king of Thailand has just died, and thousands of mourners gathered in the area.
Note: When you enter Grand Palace, be cautious about the color of your clothes (white and black) as the Thais are still mourning for the death of their king, and it’ll last for 1 year.
We jumped to our next destination which is Wat Arun or commonly known as “The Temple Dawn”. Wat Arun is also near the Wat Pho, but you have to cross the river by ferry boat (7 Bhat for two-way). From Wat Pho, you just need to walk a few meters to reach the ferry terminal. You can ask the locals how to get there.
We went back to the mainland to take our late lunch (50 Baht). We asked the locals how to get to Don Mueang International Airport (to catch our flight back to Vietnam), but it seemed that no one could really understand us. We asked a cop who was manning the Grand Palace and he directed us to the bus stop near the school.
We rode a bus going to Hualamong Train Station. Upon reaching the train station, we bought a ticket going to Don Mueang Int’l Airport (20 Baht).
We arrived at the airport at around 4 in the afternoon, enough time to rest and process our passport at the immigration. The airport was small, yet very nice.
We boarded the Air Asia plane at about 6:30PM back to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. (Booked my ticket months prior to this Indochina trip. Php 1,700).
The last destination we had for Vietnam was the Cu Chi Tunnel. We rode a bus in front of my cousin’s flat. It was a long travel; it took us 3hrs to reach the Cu Chi. Lucky we were to have someone who knew how to get there, otherwise we would have lost. Buses are number-coded, making it hard for a tourist like me to ride a bus.
We went through the whole tour (Ticket is 70,000VND = Php 140.00). Being one of the preserved places in Ho Chi Minh, Cu Chi Tunner plays an important role in Vietnam history. We watched a short films about the history of Vietnam, specially the Vietnam war. I was so impressed how Vietnamese strategically fought the Americans and won the battle. They created a village under the ground to hide themselves and to plan the attack. It’s amazing to learn how Vietnamese survived the years of war with limited resources. Well, at some point, I could relate being a Filipino who knows my country’s history of fighting for its liberty.
I had such an amazing Indochina adventure. It has given me an opportunity to see the world and to know more about myself. It doesn’t need to be expensive, just go and be free.
“Travel far enough. You meet yourself”. -Cloud Atlas
FB: Jethro Salamo