Travel Guide: Vietnam-Cambodia
I heard somewhere that the money exchange at the Ho Chi Minh airport offers good rates, so we decided to exchange dollars for all our projected VND needs. We didn’t have to worry about Cambodian Riel because they all accept (probably even prefer) dollars there. Lucky it’s open 24 hours because we arrived midnight. We obtained a 1 USD = 20,579 VND exchange rate. Note that they don’t give out lower than 1,000 VND here. So if you exchange $10, they will only give you VND 20,000.
You can also get a decent rate at the Central Post Office.
Although we weren’t staying at our Ho Chi Minh hotel (Bich Duyen Hotel) for the first night, they were kind enough to agree to pick us up from the airport. They were also the ones who booked us our bus tickets to Siem Reap (without even requiring deposit from us!). We agreed for a 5:00 AM pick-up at platform 9 3/4… I mean at Post 10.
Price was a bit steep at $14, but it saved us from the hassle of taking a taxi (dishonest drivers… yes, even more dishonest than ours, we heard) or even.. *gasp!* a bus! (which by the way, you should seriously consider taking if you’re on a VERY tight budget, because it’d cost you only VND 4,000 (less than Php10!).
To take a taxi:
Go to the departure floor and ask where the VINASUN taxi terminal is. Don’t take the white ones because these are government-owned taxis and are more expensive. The best taxis, they say, are Mai Linh or Vinasun. Reasonable fare is around VND 200,000 (about Php 400).
To take a bus:
Go to the domestic airport (a 5-minute walk from the international airport). Take bus 152 if you’re heading to the Pham Ngu Lao area and get off at the bus terminal on the south side of the Ben Thanh Market, or the west side of the Pham Ngu Lao area. Be prepared to pay the exact amount.
At 6:15 Am we were already having breakfast at Pho Quynh, an easy-to-spot restaurant along Pham Ngu Lao St..We left our bags at Bich Duyen (where we will be picked up by Mekong Express Limousine – the bus going to Siem Reap). Beef stew and water was at VND 51,000 (around Php100).
(4) Day 1: The looong ride to Siem Reap
And I mean 14 hours! Click on the link above for the details. Suffice it to say that I arrived in Siem Reap with elephant feet! I’m not kidding, though I think among the four of us I was the only one who had this problem. Every night I had to rest my feet up against the wall (so that they’re above my heart, as recommended by doctors). I was so scared it almost stopped me from doing the temple tour.
Anyway, we paid the hotel only $22. Had we bought it directly from Mekong Express, it would’ve been $23 (as stated in their website).
We got two double rooms at only $14 per room per night. This comes with free breakfast, wifi and pick-up already. The reason we decided to stay here is because (i) they pack breakfast for the 5AM sunrise tour at Angkor Wat; (ii) they have free bicycles which you can use when going to Old Street; (iii) they’re relatively near the Old Market (we walked one time); and (iv) the price is very reasonable. The owner, Prom, can look a bit cold, but he’s actually okay. And oh, they also offer free fish foot spa at the top floor (but the fish were kinda big for foot spa.. so we decided to skip it. haha). No complaints – even towels and sheets are ok, no bugs etc – and will definitely recommend to friends.
(6) Day 2: Quad Adventure (ATV) Across the Siem Reap Countryside
After breakfast, we were picked up at 7AM by Quad Adventure (click for the rates). Click above for the story and some photos.
Initially, we reserved for only two ATVs since one ATV can handle two persons ($73 per ATV for two persons). However, because no one among us had license and driving experience, we were required by the owner to each have an ATV, with each of us having a guide behind us. This would’ve been way more expensive that we had prepared for. Maybe he sensed that, or I don’t know, but we’re very thankful that he didn’t charge us additional cost for this. We’re on budget! Hurrah!
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By 10:30 we were back in the hotel. We rested a bit, washed up, and went to the Old Market for lunch. It was quite difficult looking for cheap lunch here, as they’re almost all in the $4-$7 price range. In the end, we went where there were lots of diners. We ate at Angkor Famous and managed to choose affordable meals ($2.5-$3). It was then that we found out that the servings were actually generous – two can share in a viand. We kept that in mind in the succeeding meals. 🙂 Food was delicious.
By the way, make sure to look for tuktuks to the Old Market on your own. Hotels can charge more than twice the going rate, which should only be $1 per tuktuk from hotel to the Old Market.
After lunch, we strolled through the shops along the Old Market to buy pasalubong.
Haggling skills will take you a looong way.
(8) Day 2: Tethered Balloon Overlooking Angkor Wat
At around 4:30PM we were back in the hotel with our goodies. We arranged for the hotel to have a tuktuk take us to the tethered balloon for $5 back and forth. We were told no pre-booking is required, but when we arrived there the sunset slots were already all taken – some had their hotel pencil-book them, apparently. Anyway it was still quite an experience, and it was a very nice teaser for the next day’s temple tour. Read more on this by clicking the link above. Tickets are at $15 per person.
We maximized our $5 tuktuk ride by asking the driver to take us to the ticket booth of the temples. If you buy tickets prior to the day you’re going to the temples, you can actually have a “free” sunset tour because you can enter the premises after 5PM. Make sure not to fold or tamper with your tickets in any way. Otherwise you will have to buy new ones.
1 Day – $20
3 Days – $40
7 Days – $60
For dinner, we had beef loklak, one of the more famous Cambodian dishes, at a restaurant near our guesthouse. Unfortunately, the beef wasn’t so nice. Good thing we only shared, so we only had to pay $1.50 each.
Finally, the highlight of the entire trip! We have arranged with Prom (owner of Golden Takeo Guesthouse) to get us a car and an English-speaking tour guide. We ask requested that he pack our breakfast for us. At 5AM we were on our way to Angkor Wat for the famous sunrise. Read more here: Sunrise at Angkor Wat.
We the took our packed breakfast and continued the Angkor Wat tour for another two hours, after which we headed for Bantay Srei, which is about 45 minutes from Angkor Wat. After that, we went to Ta Prohm, Bayon Temple, and viewed the sunset at Phnom Bakheng.
Our driver took us to a restaurant for lunch where we spent $2.5 each.
Prom charged us $30 for the car and $25 for the tour guide.
For our last night in Siem Reap, we decided to dine at Red Piano and have their most famous dish, the [fish] Amok. It was delicious but we were easily satiated. This was our most expensive at $4.75 each (to be fair, we also each had fruit shake). We spent the rest of the night buying more pasalubong at the night market. It was relatively easier to bargain, I think.
(photos taken via phone only)
Another 14 hours of our lives. Hahaha.
We got the room at the topmost floor (5th) because that’s the only room that can accommodate four people. This was $30 per night. The room was more than we expected, actually, with a nice view of the city. It also comes with free breakfast and wifi, although Facebook is blocked in most of Vietnam.
If you’re getting a room at the upper floors, just be warned that they don’t have an elevator.
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(14) Day 5: Ho Chi Minh City Tour
Just click the link for the details and some photos.
For our final night, we splurged a bit on food as we had a lot of extra VND. We were even able to do some last-minute shopping to rid ourselves of the VND. Total (with morning glory; buko juice each) was VND 500,000 or about Php1,000.
We took a taxi back to the hotel for VND 20,000 (around Php 40).
Again, we arranged with the hotel for a car to take us to the airport. This time they only charged us $9. No idea why, but we were glad.
Back to Contents Summary
So, all in all, we spent less than Php 12,000 each, including airport taxes, terminal fees etc (but excluding airfare).
Check the breakdown here: Vietnam-Cambodia Itinerary and Budget/Expenses