Travel Guide: Indochina Itinerary and Budget (Traveling Across Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam for PhP32,000)

Of all the many journeys you will take in this lifetime, some will always be more exceptional than others. Each time you set out to explore a new destination, you discover something new not only about the world but also about yourself—oftentimes even more of the latter. Some travels reaffirm what you believe in; but some throw you off in a completely new direction, as if everything you’ve always known and been used to are nothing but fragments of a recent yet seemingly distant past. It is this kind of trip that makes you reel back, stop for a while, and ask: what have I been doing all my life?

The truth is, I’m not even sure why that was the first question that popped into my head. Maybe because Indochina opened a whole new world to me—a world I have always known to be huge but whose enormity I have taken for granted. You know how you’re aware that the globe is 12,000 kilometers around, but you don’t actually feel it once you have traveled across it? It was revealing as it was humbling.

Maybe because of all the people I’ve met—wandering souls just like me, some looking for leisure, some for inspiration, some for love. Maybe because I should be out there learning from people, instead of sitting in an office 8 hours a day.

Or maybe a part of me have always wanted to ask this question, but it didn’t have the courage to do so.

It was hard to write this piece. I could barely organize my thoughts. Just the thought of all the places and the people whisks away my concentration, and the next thing I knew, I’m rambling on the keyboard. But for the benefit of you guys who are planning to embark on the same amazing journey as mine, I forced myself to relive moments I would rather live every day.

How do I summarize 10 amazing days in a 1,000-word blog post? No words, no photos, no videos can ever be enough. And while some people might wonder why I found temples, busy cities, and “ugly” beaches (we have the license to say that, we’re from the Philippines, home of the best beaches) so magical, I can only say that you have to experience it yourself, and then come back here and tell me you didn’t find even an ounce of magic in there.

But again, traveling is different for each of us. I may find Cambodia so profound, and you may find it as just a boring country with old temples, where locals keep asking for dollars. I may think that Bangkok is the most carnal city in Asia, but you may think it’s paradise, for that precise reason or otherwise.

That’s why before you go ahead and copy our itinerary below, I want you to understand several things:

1. If you’re into “slow travel”, this itinerary is not for you.

I would’ve wanted to stay longer in each country and explore each one deeper, but the reality is that … I have a job (yeah, that sucks).  Probably just like you. So what I did was to carefully plan everything and see all the awesome destinations I wanted to see—and I did!

2. This itinerary is for the highly energetic.

If you think you can function properly with only 3 or 4 hours of sleep a day, still explore hectare-big temple complexes, and end the night with crazy partying, CONGRATULATIONS! You’re in the right blog! I’m serious.

3. We love booze, therefore we slept near all the booze.

We strategically picked hotels and hostels near Khao San Road (Thailand), Pub Street (Cambodia), and Pham Ngu Lao (Vietnam). I know what you’re thinking: are these places safe? That was the same question I had at the start, but surprisingly, the answer is YES. Yes, you can safely crawl back home after 10 bottles of Chang or 10 mugs of Anchor.

4. We never dreamed of seeing all the temples in these countries at once—we wanted to see beaches and trees as well.

I know some travelers who prefer the cultural type of sightseeing—you know, temple here, museum there—and unfortunately, we are not like that. We feel fatigued after some time, and the best cure for that is either a cold sea or a cold beer. So expect a mix of “rural” and “urban” in this itinerary—a combination of culture and “un-culture”.

5. This itinerary is NOT FOR FREE. You NEED TO PAY.

Just kidding. A Facebook share is enough. :)

But before everything else, watch my full Indochina video (make sure you watch in HD):

Our 10-Day Itinerary Across 3 Countries (Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam)

Day 0 - Manila to Bangkok
Day 1 - Bangkok to Chiang Rai, Chiang Rai, Chiang Rai to Chiang Mai
Day 2 - Chiang Mai, Chiang Mai to Bangkok
Day 3 - Bangkok
Day 4 - Bangkok to Siem Reap
Day 5 - Siem Reap, Siem Reap to Phnom Penh via overnight bus
Day 6 - Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville, Sihanoukville to Koh Rong, overnight in Koh Rong
Day 7 - Koh Rong to Sihanoukville, overnight in Sihanoukville
Day 8 - Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh, overnight in Phnom Penh
Day 9 - Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh, overnight in Ho Chi Minh
Day 10 - Ho Chi Minh to Manila

Sounds packed and exhausting? Check out the details in this spreadsheet (feel free to download and SHARE THIS POST).

This itinerary is applicable to the reverse route as well (Vietnam to Thailand), but you have to adjust the bus bookings, of course.

Some notes:

1. We were in transit so much of the time.

Indeed, we had so many land transfers, but we really wanted to see all the places listed here—so we took naps during the bus rides. We slept in bus stations and even cafés. We took Berocca, our life saver, every day. We came out alive after the 10th day, so I guess you will too.

explored Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom with only 30 minutes of sleep, LOL

2. You will thank Giant Ibis despite #1.

Please do yourself a favor and book Giant Ibis in all your land transfers. This luxury bus service provides comfortable seating, amazing customer service, and hassle-free processing across borders. Not to mention that it is the safest bus company in Indochina. You can book into a sleeper bus, sleep comfortably in a bed, and save up on accommodation and time! Plus their units have Wi-Fi and power outlets, so you can charge your gadgets. Not to mention that each ticket comes with a snack (or a packed lunch for longer trips, like the one from BKK to Siem Reap) and bottled water. You are not only well-rested and fed, you are also less stressed.

3. We thought there wasn’t anything to do in Ho Chi Minh (but obviously, we were wrong).

By the time we arrived, I imagined exploring every inch of the city by foot, but of course, given that we only allotted 1.5 days for HCM, that was NOT possible. However, there is an underlying reason for this: we are planning to do another Indochina trip in the future, this time starting in Ho Chi Minh, going up to Sa Pa and Hanoi, then head over to Laos. (Plus we had no choice, I booked an exit ticket from Ho Chi Minh to Manila many months in advance.)

4. Heavy to light. Pray, Love, Eat.

This was the pattern of our itinerary. We started with the more tiring temple tours in Northern Thailand (Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai), then as the trip wore on, everything became more relaxed—so relaxed that we ended up mostly eating in Vietnam. “Love” is unquestionably for Cambodia. I don’t know, just see for yourself perhaps.

5. We were drinking every night.

Yes. What did you expect?

Budget Breakdown

Indochina is pretty cheap—at times, it feels even cheaper than Manila. I only spent less than PhP32,000 for the whole trip! Can you imagine that? The breakdown of ALL my expenses (and I mean all) is also in the spreadsheet (see 2nd tab). Please note that all transportation costs like tuk tuk and songteaws (especially those for tours) are costs per head if 3 people are splitting for the total cost. I find that Thailand is the most expensive country out of the three, while Vietnam is the cheapest. Cambodia became expensive only because of Angkor Wat (37 US dollars for a 1-day pass), but food and drinks are very cheap in Siem Reap.

There you have it! My itinerary and budget breakdown. If you loved this post, please feel free to share it to all your friends and travel buddies by clicking any of the share buttons on the side or at the bottom of this post. Also, don't forget to subscribe to my Facebook page and to follow me on Instagram for more travel posts and updates!

Until my next travel guide! :)

If you like my posts and would love regular updates on travel photos, food finds, restaurant reviews, dance articles, and drunken tales, follow Pepe Samson on Facebook!

pepe samson

About Pepe Samson

This is a short description in the author block about the author. You edit it by entering text in the "Biographical Info" field in the user admin panel.
    Disqus Comment
    Facebook Comment


Post a Comment

Let me know what you think!