Saturday, April 29, 2017

SEA Backpacking Series: Itinerary for 4 Asian Countries in 10 Nights 11 Days

When we first started to travel outside of the Philippines, we had a very difficult time putting together an itinerary because there was so many information that you can find out there in the internet through different blogs, travel sites, or other websites. But being a budget traveler, we didn't want to spend extra money to pay for travel agencies to arrange tours for us. Hence, we started our own blog to help people like us who were having difficulty putting together the best travel itinerary.

Putting together our South East Asia Backpacking trip itinerary was by far the most difficult task because we had to research on itinerary for 5 different cities and put everything together in 10 days (taking into account travel time, waiting time in airports, etc.) while achieving the things we want to do in each cities in a budget friendly manner haha. There were so many things to take into consideration which is why it took me a very long time to come up with this itinerary! Lucky for you, I will be sharing our SEA Backpacking itinerary which can serve as your guide for either a backpacking trip to these countries or if you just want to visit one of the countries that we’ve went to haha. You may also view our SEA travel video here to get a sneak peak of the entire itinerary! 

OUR SOUTH EAST ASIA ITINERARY (click the enlarge the photo)
 

ITINERARY SUMMARY:
Siem Reap, Cambodia [Day 1-2]
  • We arrived from a late flight on Day 1 so we spent only 1 full day in Cambodia. We went on a whole day Tuktuk tour in Angkor Wat, Ta Prohm Temple, and Bayon.
  • We finished early so we spent time at the night market to have dinner and get a foot massage before heading off to the Bus station going to Vietnam.
  • We met our college friend during the first day where we ate dinner and went around the famous Ben Thanh Market to shop!
  • We went on a half day Cu Chi Tunnel (there is also a whole day option) but unfortunately had to go through heavy rains going back! We literally took a picture in their famous cathedral and post office before going to BBQ dinner with our college friend.
 Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia [Day 5-6]
  • We went to Petronas Tower and Suria KLCC mall which is right next to each other. We explored also different malls in the area at night.
  • We headed off to Batu Caves early morning for a morning exercise going up the caves then went back to our hotel to check-out before heading to the airport.

SEA Backpacking Series: Guide to Jakarta Indonesia

We went to Jakarta Indonesia for the last leg of our South East Asia Backpacking Series! Initially when we were doing research, we found that there was not much to do in Jakarta aside from going to shopping malls. But we still decided to include it in our trip since it was just an hour away from Bali and we also had our friend living there who we wanted to meet. Thankfully, we were hosted and toured by our friend for our entire stay in Jakarta!

Transportation:
Public transportation and traffic are bad in Jakarta similar to the Philippines, hence a lot of people bring their own cars. The best way for you to go around the city is by riding a taxi which we did from airport to our hotel which cost around 150,000 Rupiah or 550 Pesos. We figured going around the city might be a bit more expensive because of the taxi cost and the traffic everywhere which is why we were in luck when our friend decided to tour us around the city. Disclaimer: we don't have any instructions on how to get to these places since we did not use any public transportation throughout the trip.

Things to do in Jakarta, Indonesia:
1. Visit their National Monument
If you've been to Rizal Park in Manila, this is exactly what you'll see in Jakarta's National Monument. It is a very iconic building that commemorate the independence of Indonesia. It's a very huge tower where you can go up the building, visit the observatory and learn more about the history of Indonesia. We decided to skip this due to the long lines. So we just took a picture that was directed by our very own driver haha.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

SEA Backpacking Series: Bali Part 2 - Yoga, Coffee, and Monkeys in Ubud

If you love Yoga, Coffee, or even Monkeys, you will definitely fall in love with Ubud! I was overwhelmed with excitement when I arrived in Ubud because of one reason alone - YOGA! Although Ubud is just an hour drive from Seminyak, it's actually transforms into a completely different place as it transforms from the busy touristy place to a more laid back private place. 

Things to do in Ubud, Bali:
1. Try YOGA in a yoga studio!
The first thing we did when we arrived in Ubud is to look for yoga studios nearby and find classes. Fortunately we were able to find yoga barn which is a well known studio in Jl. Hanoman road. I dragged my boyfriend into doing yoga with me and it's everything that we hoped for! Practicing yoga in a very peaceful and nature environment, attending to class with full of passionate and hard core yoga practitioners, and finishing off with a refreshing fruit & vegetable juice.
They offer training or classes for yoga teachers!
Per class is around 130,000 Rupiah and they have a monthly rate which comes out cheaper.

SEA Backpacking Series: Bali Part 1 - Beach Bum in Seminyak and Kuta

We went to Indonesia for the last leg of our South East Asia Backpacking Trip. When we were putting together our itinerary, we've decided to spend the most time in Bali because of all the recommended "things to do" we were able to research prior to the trip. We did not regret our decision as Bali was indeed the highlight of our trip!

Bali is a very big city and what's surprising is that each area within Bali has different things to offer. We've decided to get immersed in each experience that Bali offers which is why we've spent the first two days in Kuta and Seminyak while the last two days were spent in Ubud.

If you're still deciding whether to spend more time on Kuta and Seminyak or in Ubud, spend more time in Kuta and Seminyak if you want to be near the beach but if you want more relaxation (nature, yoga, mountains) then spend more time in Ubud!

Transportation:
Taxi is the main mode of transportation in Bali and you can see it everywhere! We've researched that there is a lot of scams or instances where tourists get ripped off in their taxi rides within the city. Once arriving in airport, there will be a lot of taxi drivers who will approach you and we actually had to talk to around 10 drivers to get the cheapest rate since they were offering fixed rates of around 200-250,000 Rupiah to our Kuta hotel but we settled later on for 100,000 or around PHP 350 which we later realized was a 10 minute ride from airport to the hotel. Several tourists recommend blue bird tax because of its safety but we had a lot of instance where they want fixed payment (without using meter) or they did not issue any change if you give a bigger bill. A better alternative is to take uber or grab but it's highly discouraged within the city by the taxi drivers. We used Grab from Seminyak to Ubud and Ubud going to airport which came out to be around 100-150,000 Rupiah for 1 to 1.5 hour drive (around same price for a 10 minute taxi ride from airport to Kuta). 

Things to do in Kuta & Seminyak, Bali:
1. Visit the beautiful resorts
Bali is a vacation paradise where you see so many beaches and resorts (similar to Boracay in Philippines). The beaches though are not as good compared to the beaches found in the Philippines but resorts are definitely worth a visit! We went to Seminyak to visit the famous W Retreat and Spa and Potato Head bar which are next to each other. The place is beautiful and if you're willing to splurge on a vacation, then you can definitely check-in the hotel. We decided to just go for walk-in and stay in the bar which they allow but we were not able to access their pool. Another alternative resort is to go to Ku De Ta which is a beach front fine dining restaurant. We did not want to splurge and reviews of food were just okay so we did not go anymore.

How to get there: take a taxi within Seminyak to W Retreat and Spa. It will take around 10-15 minutes from Seminyak Square. The place is well known and drivers all know where it is. Going to Potato Head, you can walk past Seminyak beach which is connected within the two resorts.
Potato Head in Seminyak which turns into a club at night
W Retreat and Spa in Seminyak
Our two drinks cost us 265,000 Rupiah or around 1,000 pesos! But it comes with free pizza!

Friday, April 14, 2017

SEA Backpacking Series: Guide to Batu Cave Malaysia

The third leg of our South East Asia Backpacking series brought us to Kuala Lumpur Malaysia! This was the shortest trip that we had since we arrived from the airport from Vietnam by 1 PM and we  had to leave for Bali the next day. So we literally had less than 24 hours to wander around the city.

Transportation:
Kuala Lumpur has a good public transportation system through their train which is accessible anywhere within the city. However, we decided to ride the taxi from the airport since the next bus (which was the cheapest option) will leave 1 hour from the time of our arrival and airport train was very expensive. Our taxi to hotel cost us around PHP 1,000 which was very expensive for a 40 minute ride.

Things to do in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia:
1. Hike up the Batu Caves
We went to Batu Caves on our second day early in the morning. Batu Caves is an iconic and popular attraction in Kuala Lumpur where you can see a giant statue of the Hindu God and you can climb exactly 272 steps to have a view of the entire city. 

How to get there: Go to any train station near you and go towards the Komuter train going to Batu Cave station (brown line). It will take around 20-30 minutes to get there from the city and ticket costs around PHP 60 per person one way.
Once you alight at Batu Caves station, you can go out the right and walk towards the giant Hindu God statue right in front of the entrance.

SEA Backpacking Series: Vietnam City Tour and Cu Chi Tunnel

Vietnam was the second country we've went to for our SEA backpacking series but it was in fact the most surprising of all given we had very low expectation before coming here. After spending a day, we started to love the city because of its laid back atmosphere and more so because of their food (Pho and Spring Rolls are to die for)!!! I fell in love with Vietnamese food and it has become my comfort food next to Korean dishes.

We only went to Ho Chi Minh city (Saigon) since it was close to Cambodia and going to Hanoi meant additional day and flight which we did not want to do since we only had 11 days to complete our backpacking trip. 

Transportation:
Make sure to stay in district 1 when you're in Ho Chi Minh as most of the tourist spots will be within walking distance. We stayed in Pham Ngu Lao and we walked to most of the tourist places. Another alternative is to ride the taxi (take Vina Sun or Mailinh taxi companies) which cost only about PHP 100 for 10-15 minutes ride. The taxi from our place to the airport cost only VND 125,000 or PHP 260.

Things to do in Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam:
1. Food Trip at Street Food Market!
This was the highlight of our trip. There are a lot of restaurants and hole in the wall places you can find around the city. If you're up for drinks, you can visit Pham Ngu Lao (located at District 1) where you see a lot of expats having a drink in the area. But if you just want to try a variety of Vietnamese food, then go to Ben Thanh Street Food Market! The food market is essentially a food court with multiple vendors selling different kinds of Vietnamese food.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

SEA Backpacking Series: How to commute from Cambodia to Vietnam Ho Chi Minh via Overnight Bus

There are two main options traveling back and forth between Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. First option is by riding the plane which is the fastest but also most expensive option. Second option is to ride the bus which will take you at least half a day but will be much cheaper than riding the plane. As a budget traveler, we always look for the cheapest option so we took the bus from Cambodia going to Vietnam. But be prepared for the long travel time of at least 12-14 hours!

Here is how to go to Vietnam from Cambodia riding the bus:
1. There are several bus companies that you can choose from but the best option that we were able to find was Giant Ibis which has very good reputation to provide safe and reliable buses. They offer rides to and from Bangkok, Siem Reap, Phnom Penh, and Ho Chi Minh.

2. Decide on whether you want to ride the sleeper bus and spend the night in the bus or you want to travel during the day. We decided to take the night bus since it will save us 1 night of hotel cost and it will not waste time during the day to do other stuff.

3. Book a trip in advanced through their website (to be safe). You need to ride the bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh first before going to Vietnam. So you’ll need to book 2 bus rides (Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh).

4. The ticket from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh costs USD 16 and Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh costs USD 19 which you can pay through credit card online.

5. There are several time options at night: 10:30 PM, 11:00 PM, and 11:30 PM which will all arrive 6 hours and 30 mins after departure. We selected the 11:00 PM time since we were not sure where the 2nd bus station will be and we did not want to risk missing our bus from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh (since there is only 1 morning bus which is at 8:00 AM). Best time is to take 11:30 PM since you’ll arrive at Phnom Penh early and you’ll need to wait there before the 8:00 AM bus.

6. After booking both bus rides, go to the respective terminal at least 20-30 minutes before your schedule. There is a small terminal where you can show your ticket to confirm if you’re in the right terminal. They will provide you bottled water but feel free to bring snacks for your long ride. 
Giant Ibis bus terminal in Siem Reap

SEA Backpacking Series: Touring Around Cambodia in 1 Day

Siem Reap has a very small airport where there is a very organized transportation system going to the city. We took the car taxi from the airport which cost USD 7 going to our hotel which was around 30 minutes drive. The drivers are very good at English since they also operate as tour guides during the day.
 *Note – the taxi drivers also operate as a tour guide and they will offer you a tour service for the next day going to all the major temples. We were tempted to book it thinking it was cheap at USD 40, but we resisted and found out later that it was cheaper to book a tuktuk tour through our hotel.
Transportation
The cheapest and easiest way to go around Siem Reap is by riding the Tuktuk. We rented a whole day tour with a Tuktuk through our hotel which we paid 60,000 Riel or around Php 750. Short ride using the Tuktuk cost around 2 dollars or around Php 100 so it’s a bit more expensive than what we’re used in the Philippines for riding jeeps or tricycles. You can see a Tuktuk anywhere within the city and it’s easy for you to ride. The drivers normally speak English too because the area is heavily populated with visiting tourists. 

Things to do in Cambodia:

SEA Backpacking Series: Traveling on a Budget to 4 Countries in 11 Days!

Traveling to 4 different countries in one trip might seem expensive for most travelers but the reason why we’ve decided to do a South East Asian Backpacking trip was in fact to save on cost! After seeing a lot of people traveling round trip to these countries where they spend around 20,000-25,000 PHP (or USD 400-500) for each trip, we thought that having one trip to all these cities would be much cheaper since we can cut on a lot of the additional costs associated with roundtrip travel (e.g. airfare and taxes).

After spending 11 days and 10 nights in 5 cities, 4 countries – we’ve spent a total of PHP 40,000 (USD 800) each! That is actually the same amount we normally spend in our previous travels to Korea or Japan. The daily living expense (which does not include airfare, taxes, and shopping) was only PHP 16,000 (USD 320) for the 11 days. 

Here’s a breakdown of our expenses in our SEA Backpacking Trip:
 
 Here’s a breakdown per city that we’ve visited:

Sunday, January 1, 2017

Cozy Airbnb Places in Korea as low as Php1,400 per night

This was our 4th trip to Seoul but first time using Airbnb as we've always stayed in guesthouses near Myeongdong. After some research, we felt that Airbnb may be better value for money compared to guesthouse because of the price and the facilities as guesthouses are usually extremely small and need to share facilities with other guests (e.g. shared bathroom and kitchen).

On our December 2015 trip, we've stayed for 10 nights but in 3 different Airbnb accommodations because it was supposed to be a trip with my entire family with my boyfriend and I spending the first few days together before my family followed after a couple of days. 

1. Private room rental in Yongsan-gu for Php 1,380 per night (2 people)

Price: This was one of the cheapest accommodation in Airbnb that we found near Seoul station which is good for 2 people. The cost is half the price of getting a cheap guesthouse in Myeondong for 2 people.

Location: The place is situated near Seoul Station which is a great location since it's a couple of stations away from popular tourist spots such as Myeongdong or Hongdae. However, the place is far from the station itself as it will require you to walk at least 20-25 minutes and it's also extremely uphill which was a huge struggle for us given we had to bring our luggage upon check-in and check-out. There is an alternative route by going through Sookmyung station and walking for about 10 minutes which we were not able to try. You also don't see a lot of taxis in the area.

Room: This is a private room but shared house with the owner who was very accommodating and accepted early check-in (2 hours before). All the basic facilities such as kitchen (although not convenient to use because of tight space), private bathroom, and internet was there. The room though is very small because it had a lot of furniture. 

Overall Review: This is a good option if you're a budget traveler since you'll get the same facilities and room compared to staying in a guesthouse but with half the price. The only downside is the location which is a bit far from the train station. 
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