Backpacked Southeast Asia in 2015: Food in Cambodia and Vietnam

5 years long overdue post.

As a budget tourist, food and sightseeing were the only things I could afford. So let me share with you some food photos I took during this trip and how much it cost me then. Again, this was in 2015!

Favorites: Grilled pork and broken rice in Vietnam

Chicken noodle soup

My first meal in Cambodia was from a small eatery inside the archaeological park. I had a chicken noodle soup to pump up my growling stomach (because my last meal was at the airport the night before). To pair my meal, I had hot chocolate for my drink (because why not, I may want to sabotage my trip with a different type of stomachache). Breakfast in the park costs $5.

My sister told me that Cambodian food is bland. This noodle soup was not an exception. I had to add salt and pepper to the dish. Ending, I (and even the girls in the table next to mine) sneezed a few times. Wooh!

Indian meal paired with lassi

One night I went for an Indian meal ($7.50), another night I came along with my roommates in some shady-but-still-lively part of the city and had fried yellow noodle and avocado shake ($2.75/meal). Indian was definitely a splurge but I didn’t learn any lesson and still had Indian food ($9.50) the day before I left Siem Reap.

On the way to the farthest area I went to for dinner in Siem Reap

I couldn’t recall if I ate local dishes in Phnom Penh because my notes listed Burger King x 2 and KFC x2 (meals range from $4 – $5). After a tour, I ate in a sit-down restaurant but I forgot what I ate for $4.

KFC!

One night I went to myBurgerlab for a Couchsurfing event which I ended up not attending because they were setting up late and I didn’t know how I’d go home. That was a $6~ set back including tuk-tuk back and forth my hostel.

Chicken burger

The bus travel from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City was about six hours. We were provided with two pastries and a bottle of water. We ate lunch at some point because I have a photo of noodles.

Curry noodles, anyone?

Vietnam

I met with Francis, a Couchsurfing friend and a local in Saigon, who introduced me to two Filipinas (which I was very thankful for.. finally Tagalog after a week!). We walked a few blocks from Phạm Ngũ Lão and found a very small eatery selling broken rice and grilled pork for VND 28,000. IT QUICKLY BECAME MY FAVORITE. It was quite a steal considering my average meal in Cambodia was at $4. Francis was so dedicated to making sure I experience being a local so we hang out at a corner, seated on small chairs and drank iced coffee for less than a dollar or Php 38.

Broken rice and grilled pork

The next day, I went to the Mekong River tour with my new Filipinas friends, Ate Jenny and her friend (sorry I forgot her name). I can’t remember how much I paid for it but probably half a million VND which included a nice lunch.

One of the dishes during Mekong River tour lunch
Dinner with a frog dish
HCMC Pinoy crowd!

By dinner time, Francis brought us Filipinos to a sidewalk restaurant where I got to try frog and other local dishes at VND 70,000 share. I forgot the name of the other guy but he is also Pinoy and traveling solo. We went to a bar a few steps away from my hostel where a Filipino band was playing and had drinks hehe. The subtle nightlife was a VND 310,000 set back haha.

Filipino band performing in a bar along Phạm Ngũ Lão

I have a line of McDonald’s on my record at VND75,000 but I can’t remember what I ate. On my way to meet another Couchsurfing friend at War Remnant Museum, Quyen, I bought a milk tea and fishballs for VND60,000.

Street food
Building where Saigon Oi Cafe is located, shot on a different night

Quyen drove me around HCMC on her motorbike which I didn’t expect at all! We settled to chill at Saigon Oi Cafe for a couple of hours before we met with his friend to eat their favorite beef pho in town. As a thank you to both, I treated them this meal. VND 100,000 for three full bowls.

Beef pho

Then we drove far and long highways to see the night lights of HCMC.

To cap off, Quyen and I had smoothie. VND 40,000

Straw and plastic spoon. Just in case you’re weird.

The next day, I had lines of food and water record amounting to VND 128,000. That included a noodle meal paired with an iced coffee (my choice of pairs haha) when I had dinner with my hostel roommates.

While waiting for my delayed flight, I had chicken and biscuit meal from Popeye’s for VND 57,000 and a takeout box of Dunkin Donuts for VND 140,000. I don’t know but the way they pack their doughnuts was hilarious.

Munchkins and large donuts together

I reached my hostel in Hanoi at nearly midnight. So I just bought some grilled street food worth VND 50,000. I won’t ever find out what it was made of but it was delicious.

The next day, I splurged a bit for brunch. Maybe I felt funny about it because I typed “hahaha” after tracking VND 176,000 for pho and shrimp spring roll.

Shrimp spring roll
So look, the bean sprouts wanted to be the main star on this photo.

I walked around the city, bought souvenirs for myself and my sister and went back to my hostel neighborhood where I spotted a Baskin Robbins! Since it was too hot and there was nothing else to do, it was just necessary to eat some matcha ice cream.

3 mini scoops for VND 70,000

I remember going to a restaurant just a few steps away from my hostel for dinner. What you need to know is, I based all my food choices on Tripadvisor and its near me option. I couldn’t remember what I had but based on my record, it was worth VND 80,000.

The next day, now I couldn’t remember eating anything but I spent VND 85,000 tagged as “hostel food”. I also spent VND 30,000 during the first stopover on my way to Luang Prabang. That is THE OREO. I will write about THE OREO in my next stories.

It’s been fun writing this at this hour. How I wish I could do this again. Teeeeheee.

Backpacked Southeast Asia in 2015: Hostels

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 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 on the ground floor while the dorm rooms were on 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