Backpacked Southeast Asia in 2015

This blog post is 3 long years overdue but I hear people say, it’s better late than never.

25 is the age most humans refer to as the quarter life. Yea me, too. It was a crisis. I began to question many things like my life’s purpose. In short, I was quite immature then to leave everything behind.

(Fast forward today, I have no regrets.)

Youth, Celebrating Moon Festival

One of the best decisions I made was to take a break from everything (work, studies, etc). Just to clear though, none of those decisions were planned except for the 21 days backpacking trip.

21 days.
$900 pocket money.
4 countries.
7 cities.

Airfares (Php 17,682.73)

Manila – Siem Reap – Phnom Penh – Ho Chi Minh – Hanoi -Luang Prabang – Vientiane – Bangkok – (Kuala Lumpur – Singapore – Kuala Lumpur – Manila)

I booked my Manila – Siem Reap – Ho Chi Minh – Manila in late 2014 during one of Cebu Pacific’s seat sale for only Php4,450.38.

Additionally, I availed AirAsia’s Asean Pass for Php 7,200. I first used my credits to travel from Udon Thani (the closest city from Vientiane, Laos) to Bangkok, Thailand. Taxes and other fees such as airport fees weren’t included (+ Php 3,991.57). I flew 4 more flights (Bangkok – Kuala Lumpur – Singapore – Kuala Lumpur – Manila) and I’d say it was worth it.

Jetstar ★

Since I wanted to maximize the Asean Pass on the last legs of my travel, I had to separately book a Jetstar flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi for Php 2,040.78. This was to save time and this option was cheaper than the train.

Accommodation (US$170 or Php 7,820 in 2015)

All my hostels were prebooked prior to my flight. Meaning, I paid 15% deposit online and the rest I paid directly to the hostels. Each bed costs roughly around $6 – $8 a night. In Bangkok, my sister and I booked a private room en suite with a bathroom so it cost me a little over $11 a night.

I spent my remaining hours in Siem Reap reading this book

For both cities in Cambodia, I booked beds in One Stop Hostel. Their location in Siem Reap ($24 for 3 nights) was close to Pub Street and a minibus station. Siem Reap rooms were spacious and same with the common areas. However, the water in the ladies restroom smelled rusty! While the Phnom Penh ($21 for 3 nights) location was also close to the bus station, there’s nothing exciting around the area. Maybe KFC? But I really like their common area. I think I watched 2 – 3 movies on a day I didn’t feel like leaving the hostel. Despite the proximity to city proper to-go places, I’d say one can still survive strolling without the help of a tuktuk. I was able to walk from hostel to the national museum to the central market and back to the hostel.

Mezzanine in One Stop Hoste, Phnom Penh, Cambodia
Roommates in Eco Backpackers Hostel, HCMC, Vietnam

In Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, I stayed at Eco Backpackers Hostel ($24 for 4 nights) which was also close to the bus stop. I didn’t like how their top bunks are too high though it gave so much privacy. It was 2 blocks away from my favorite pork and broken rice meal vendor (grilled meat matched with their special sauce!!!). While Vietnam Backpackers hostel (The Original) ($15 for 2 nights) in Hanoi was a bit far from the van drop (shuttle service from the airport) and location was a bit sketchy. I wasn’t able to sleep on my last night because I was scared. The room was very spacious and I was all alone lol

Hiring bulletin in Vietnam Backpackers Hostel, Hanoi, Vietnam
Backpackers Garden Hostel, Vientiane, Laos
Wall in Backpackers Garden Hostel, Vientiane, Laos

Hostels in Luang Prabang seemed like residential houses converted to hostels to accommodate the influx of tourists. The dorm room for 4 mixed individuals is too small (for me to smell travelers who totally disregarded hygiene or some sort) in Kounsavan Guest House ($27.60 for 4 nights). The shower area and restrooms were also open to both sexes. Glad to have picked this guest house because if not I wouldn’t be able to see the Canadians who I loaned some US$$$$ for their Laos visa (more of that in a different entry). In Vientiane, I stayed in Backpackers Garden Hostel ($14 for 2 nights). The hostel was easy to miss so when I Google Maps showed we passed the hostel already, I panicked. Had to walk back for 5 minutes and look for the hostel on my own at around 7 – 8 in the evening. They only had mix dorm rooms which was fine because there were two female Thais in the same room. What I didn’t like was the shower and restrooms were in the ground floor while the dorm rooms were in the second floor.

 

Bathroom in Au Bon Hostel, Bangkok, Thailand

In Bangkok, my sister and I stayed in Au Bon Hostel ($88.80 for 4 nights). Their location wasn’t far from Khao San Road. We also walked to/from the Grand Palace (or did we???). Finally on this trip, an en suite bath and a larger bed!!!! Since it was few blocks from the infamous backpackers’ area, it was quiet and peaceful. I got to walk to/from Thipsamai Pad Thai.

To be continued (I need to face my school requirements lol)…

20 something in Japan: Part 1

I celebrated my 28th birthday with Mama in Tokyo, Japan for 7 days.

Neighborhood

The trip was supposedly a multi-city tour starting from Osaka to Tokyo. Unfortunately, Typhoon Jebi seriously damaged Kansai International Airport which caused cancellation of hundreds if not thousands of flights for days. Of course, as expected, our flight to Osaka was canceled a day before the actual flight. Cebu Pacific was considerate to allow rerouting and rebooking. Since my body, mind, and soul were on vacation mode already, I opted to reroute our flights to Tokyo.

It was quite a stressful time because I had to cancel reservations made through Agoda (we availed the cheapest rate which technically meant no cancellation allowed). But since what happened was unexpected, we got a full refund through Agoda Gift Cards which we were able to use in booking new hotel rooms in Tokyo.

On this blog post, I will share my itinerary, budget and how I spent my money, where we stayed and recommendations.

Pocket money: Php 30,000 or ¥ 60,000

When we arrived in Narita International Airport and gone through passport control, I immediately looked for the QL Liner counter where I picked up the portable wifi device I rented through Kkday. That was the cheapest I could find that was available online. Mind you, it was super easy to claim and return and the internet connection was fast (as expected).

After claiming the portable wifi, we went to the Keisei sales office where we bought our discounted Keisei Skyliner roundtrip pass with free 24-hour subway ticket for ¥4,700. I honestly had very limited knowledge on how to commute around the city, which pass/ticket to buy and couldn’t recall why I chose this line. Alternatively, there’s JR Narita Express which cost ¥4,000 round trip.

Tokyo Subway 24 Hour Ticket at Ueno Station, Metro Ginza Line

Funny thing, I insisted for us to use the subway from Ueno station because what did I know? Well, yea I was aware that Ueno-Hirojoki station was one station away from Ueno station but I didn’t check how far it was in kilometers. We had to endure lifting our bags because the subway station was 3 floors down (or maybe I was exaggerating!).

Our hotel, Sotetsu Fresa Inn Ueno-Okachimachi, was easy to find within the area. It was very close to/from Ueno-Hirokoji Station, less than 5 minute walk to/from JR Okachimachi Station, and of course, less than 10 minute walk to/from Ueno station.

Our room was tiny but we were able to move around comfortably. The toilet was also clean. The bathtub was quite helpful especially during the nights my feet were too tired. For the rate (Php 34, 441.37 accommodation for 7 nights without breakfast) we booked our hotel, I think it was worth it considering its location.

Bath salts, face masks, hair ties, body sponge

After checking in, we rested for a bit and decided to eat late dinner. Since most of the restaurants near our hotel were already closed (izakayas excluded because my mother avoided the drinking and smoking crowd), we walked to the nearest McDonalds. My first meal in Japan was McChicken for ¥ 650. We also bought water bottles in 7eleven before heading back to the hotel.

We rested quite early after discussing our itinerary the next day. Since we already used our 24-hour pass, we thought of maximizing it the next day.

Day 1 Total Cost: ¥5,508