[There should also be a link to an excel spreadsheet of our budget here soon]
After spending 3 months in South East Asia, my eyes have opened up to the world, and I have realised how ignorant I was of many things. I am so thankful to live in Australia, and be born into a fantastic life of opportunities.
I had a wonderful trip and would recommend it to everyone. You’ll see that we stayed probably a bit too long in some places, this was because my boyfriend was doing 3 university subjects externally, and around these times assignments would have been due, so he would spend a few days finishing them. I will definitely be going back to Vietnam, to revisit the beautiful beaches there, and also to explore the northern end. I also want to go back to Laos, because we didn’t get much time there and I would really like to explore the northern parts of the country. This was my second trip to Thailand, so I’ve pretty much seen most of it. However, I could seriously live forever on one of the tiny national marine park islands near Koh Tao!
If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask. I also have a spreadsheet of my budget for 10 weeks; there was no budget for the last 3 weeks once my boyfriend went home with his laptop, and I met up with my friends.
Australia to South East Asia:
Starting out on 17th November 2006, my boyfriend, Alex and I flew from Brisbane to Darwin and stayed with my aunty and uncle, because we bought cheap flights from Darwin to Bangkok, via Singapore with Tiger Airways.
We stayed on Khaosan Road for 2 nights, in accommodation booked online in Australia. It was terribly overpriced, and I recommend that if you do book accommodation beforehand, book only for 1 night!
To get to Kanchanaburi from KSR, we caught a tuk-tuk to Phacham Pier for 40b, and then a ferry across the river, and a taxi to the Thonburi train station. Train tickets to Kanchanaburi were 100b each. The train was 3rd class (wooden bench seats and open windows), but took us past some great scenery. I recommend staying at Bamboo House, but instead of getting off the train at Kanchanaburi station, get a ticket to the next station, being the River Kwai Bridge station, as it is much closer! The first morning we caught a train from the river kwai bridge station to Nam Tok, then a local bus to the Hell Fire Pass, and then jumped on a local bus going back to Kanchanaburi in the afternoon. The next day we hired bicycles and rode around town, seeing the war cemetery and one of many war museums. To get back to Bangkok we decided to get a minibus to KSR for 160b each, but I’ve since been told the public bus is better value for money. (We were at the beginning of our trip, so just getting used to the public transport idea!)
Stayed near KSR, and woke up very early to catch the train to Aranya Prathet.
The 3rd class train to Aranya Prathet took a gruelling 6 hours on wooden bench seats! (Bring something soft to sit on). The border crossing was fairly good; watch out for “helpers” on the Cambodian side, and only pay in USD, otherwise they try to rip you off!
Hired a taxi with another couple to Siem Reap, which was a very slow drive. The road the whole way is unsealed, dusty and full of potholes. Along the way there were a number of times I thought we were going to either die, or be terribly injured! Our driver had a car that was right-hand drive (in a country that drives on the right-hand side of the road). So every time he went to overtake something, he would have to pull right out just to see if the road was clear!! A million near misses! Then…. Once it became dark we discovered he had no headlights! It was sheer luck that we arrived safely. I have don’t know of any easier way of getting to Siem Reap, apart from flying, although, if you were an experienced motorcyclist, it would be great to do the trip on a dirt bike. I recommend booking accommodation before you get to Siem Reap, because when we arrived everywhere was full and we had to pay US$8 for a dodgy place.
The next morning we found a cheaper guesthouse (US$4), and then hired a tuk-tuk driver for 3 days to take us to the Angkor temples. We paid him US$32 for 3 days, between 4 people. We bought the 3-day pass, which was US$40 each (ouch!). The temples were amazing, and it probably took us about 2 full days (1x full day & 2x half days) to see 20 of the 24 temples. If you want to see EVERYTHING, make sure you’re fit, because lots of the temples are very tall and have a lot of stairs. Our tuk-tuk driver was great because he took us in the opposite direction as the flow of HUGE tourist buses, so we got to see the temples at quieter times. We did see people riding bicycles around, but at that time of year I think it’s best to take the tuk-tuk or motorbike taxi, because it was boiling hot!
Angkor Wat was amazing. It was so huge and just about every square inch of it was covered in intricate carvings. The Banyon temple was probably my favourite. It looked like it was a movie set; it just seemed so impossible that people could have made a structure like that!
We caught a local bus to Phnom Phen, which took about 4½ hrs. From the bus stop we took a tuk-tuk to the lake area, where we inspected a few guesthouses; some were really bad! Our first day there, Alex and I were both sick, so we did nothing all day. The following day we went on a city tour. We visited the S-21 Museum, the Killing Fields, the Russian Market as well as the Royal Palace and the Silver Pagoda. The one thing I really didn’t like about Phnom Phen was the amount of young children and young mothers begging. It’s terrible that those children are born into a life like that.
We got the local bus to the Mekong River, where we were transported by boat to the Cambodian Immigration, and then onto Vietnam Immigration. We purchased our Vietnam visa beforehand in Phnom Phen, through our guesthouse for US$33 each. We then travelled by boat along the Mekong to Chau Doc where we stayed the night.
Chau Doc to Phu Quoc Island:
We left early in the morning to catch the local bus to Rach Gia, which took 3 hours. Then got a motorbike taxi each to the Rach Gia harbour for the boat to Phu Quoc Island. We eventually had to pay extra for our ferry tickets because of commission that had to be paid to our motorbike taxis!! (Don’t you just love getting ripped off?). The boat was a hydrofoil, and was really big; the trip only took 2½hours. Upon arrival in Phu Quoc we caught motorbike taxis to the Beach Club Resort. They rode really fast on the dirt rode, usually sitting on 75-80km/hr! We ride motorbikes back at home, and I was preparing myself for in case we fell off; I was trying to think of the best way to protect myself, with no helmet, or leathers, just plenty of bare skin.
Phu Quoc Island:
We stayed seven nights at the Beach Club Resort, and had a great time. Our bungalow was really big, really clean and right on the beach. Along the beach, between resorts, there was a lot of rubbish on the sand dunes. Most of the beach is clean though, because the resorts pick up rubbish that gets washed in with the tide. However, we witnessed some locals throwing their rubbish on the sand. We hired a motorbike from the resort staff one day and rode to the northern part of the island. The dirt roads were really bad in parts, but it was fun. Halfway up the coast we stopped on our own deserted beach for a swim and sunbake. Then we rode up to the northwest tip to have lunch; we found a little seafood restaurant, right on the water. We ordered a seafood hotpot, not knowing what it was, and when it came out it was MASSIVE!! Enough to feed about 6 people! For the rest of our time on the island I just relaxed and sunbaked most days, with a couple of massages. I was going to organise a snorkelling trip, but the days went by so quickly and I ran out of time. We will defiantly come back to Phu Quoc Island, and stay again at the Beach Club Resort.
Phu Quoc to Saigon:
We decided that we would fly to Saigon to save on time; tickets can be purchased from the Vietnam Airlines office at the “Saigon Phu Quoc Island Resort” a couple of days in advance. The flight only took one hour.
After finding a guesthouse, we went to the War Remanants Museum, which was a good history lesson. I am 20 years old and had no idea about the history of the Vietnam War, or like the Vietnamese call it, the American War. Other sightseeing activities included visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels and going to the Reunification Palace. At the Cu Chi Tunnels you have the opportunity to crawl inside one tunnel, which was very small, really dark and hot! If you get anxious in small or crowded spaces (like I do) make sure you are right at the back of the pack, so you don’t feel pressured and start freaking out. I would have loved to see more of Saigon, but we got terrible, stormy weather which kept us indoors most of the time. In the evenings we drank Bia Hoi at one of the busy intersections and watched the traffic police trying to organise the thousands of motorbikes stuck in a traffic jam, which was very entertaining!
We caught the tourist bus to Mui Ne, which was only supposed to take 3 hours, but instead it took 5! We stayed in some bungalows on the beach. Our first day there we were both sick, again, so we didn’t do anything, except feel sorry for ourselves. But the next day we hired a motorbike to do some sightseeing. It is very easy to do all the “touristy” stuff yourselves if you can ride a motorbike. We visited the very small Fairy Stream, and tried to find the White Sand dunes, but went about 10km past the turnoff! Once we realised we had gone too far, we turned around to head back, and ran out of petrol! But luckily it was downhill to the nearest roadside bowser, so we rolled down the hill and got up to 60km/hr! We went to the Orange sand dunes for the sunset, which made some beautiful photos.
We caught the tourist bus to Nha Trang (a different company this time), and it drove quite fast, only arriving 1 hour late. We stayed at Quang Minh Hotel, which was very flash for us, it was right near the beach, and the bars, and it had a balcony, hot water, and a TV!! It was also very clean and we thought we got it for a good price at US$6. Unfortunately the weather was bad the whole time we were at Nha Trang. The beach had massive shore-dumping waves that you would drown in, because of a typhoon that was up north. So instead of going to the beach, I hired a motorbike and explored the town. Alex decided to do a 3-day PADI diving course, because it was really cheap. We usually ate at the smaller, local cafes. We had a great goat hotpot and BBQ one night, where a local Vietnamese man gave Alex a shot of snake wine.
We caught the 8pm sleeper train to Da Nang, which arrived at 5.30am. We got a taxi (very expensive) to My Khe beach, and stayed at Romance Hotel, which is a small hotel behind all the big ones on the beach. Alex rented a surfboard from My Khe Hotel 2, as there were some good waves breaking straight out from where we were staying. We also hired a motorbike for 4 days, from a man who couldn’t speak English, so we had a lot of trouble trying to explain we wanted it for 4 days, not 4 hours! From then on we kept our phrasebook with us at all times.
We rode from Da Nang to Hoi An, which took only ½ hour. Hoi An is such a beautiful town, with all its old buildings that have French and Chinese influence. We spent Christmas in Hoi An, so found it fairly difficult to find accommodation, as everything was full.
On the ride back to Da Nang we stopped at the Marble Mountains and went up to the temple, which had a good view of the swell coming in.
We got another tourist bus, to Hue. We hired bicycles to explore the town, and rode to the Citadel. We also visited the markets, where we didn’t really buy much, because we didn’t want to carry it around for the rest of our trip. On the 26th of December, we discovered that the ATMs weren’t working, and the Eftpos machines weren’t working for MasterCard either, so we couldn’t get a cash advance. This was a real problem, because we didn’t have much cash left. The Internet was also not working, and this was all blamed on an earthquake in Taiwan. We wanted to leave by the 29th, so we could be in Laos for New Years Eve, so we had to change some US Dollars that we had for “just in case”. We were lucky, because we spoke to some people who had no cash at all, who had to just stay put and rack up a tab at their hotel. Our lesson: always have both MasterCard, and Visa!! (Visa was working).
Hue to Vientiane:
We decided to leave Vietnam a day earlier than we planned because of the money situation, hoping that there would be working ATMs or Eftpos machines in Laos. We got a tourist bus at 5.30pm, and travelled up to Vinh, where we had to change buses. From there we had no idea what was happening! We drove to near the border and stopped for 3 hours, while the driver slept! At 7.30am we crossed the border at Cau Treo/Kaew Neua.
We finally arrived in Vientiane at 3.30pm. Many of the guesthouses were full, or dodgy. We had trouble getting Laos Kip, because the international ATM was out of money, and the MasterCard cash advances were still not working. The next morning we rushed to the ATM and luckily it had just been filled up.
We got the afternoon tourist bus to Vang Vieng, which took almost 5 hours (we were told it would take 3hrs). Once we arrived it was getting late and all the accommodation was full because everyone was there ready for New Years Eve. We finally found a bungalow at 10.30pm!! I really thought we were going to have to sleep on the street! Vang Vieng was quite cold at night. On New Years Eve we went to another guesthouse that was having a big party. It was a great night, and we kept warm with alcohol and sat near the bonfire. New Years Day was a beautiful, hot day so we went tubing; the river was fairly cool, especially on dusk when we were heading back to town. During the day we stopped at most of the bars along the river, where we drank and sunbaked. They also had some swings, which Alex jumped off. It was a great start to the New Year, and I enjoyed being in such a beautiful part of the world; the surrounding limestone cliffs were so huge, and so beautiful that you could just float along and stare at them all day.
Heading back to Vientiane, we decided to pay a bit extra for the minibus. Accommodation was still hard to find.
We bought a bus ticket for the public bus from Vientiane to Nong Khai. The trip to the Friendship Bridge didn’t take too long, but once we arrived on the Thailand side of the border, the bus had left without us! Luckily we had our packs with us. So we walked about 1km to the Nong Khai train station, where all of the sleeper beds were full, on both of the 2 night trains to Bangkok. So we opted for a second-class seat, and had a terrible nights sleep.
Back in Bangkok, we stayed on KSR. Activities included shopping at all the market stalls on KSR, and the surrounding blocks, as well as at the weekend markets. The easiest way to get to the weekend markets is to catch bus number 44 from the bus stop near KSR, and get the same bus back too. The markets are a must because they are so huge! We also shopped at MBK, and to get there you can catch buses 47 or 15. Sometimes the buses get really, really full, but its fun! Nightlife-wise, one of my favourite spots is the bar that sets up at the Shell Service Station just outside KSR. They have great buckets, and it’s just something great to experience that would NEVER EVER happen back in paranoid, health-and-safety conscious Australia!! We had to hang around in Bangkok (not recommended) until the 10th, when my mum was meeting up with us for two weeks.
So we discovered that the best way to get to and from the airport is the public bus number 556 from the stop near KSR. Or if you miss that, you can get express bus. Taxis are WAY too expensive.
We waited to do sightseeing with mum, so we walked from KSR to the Grand Palace, and the Wat Pho Reclining Buddha. We were led to believe that we only needed to wear shorts/skirts that covered our knees, but once arriving at the Grand Palace, we had to change into sarongs that covered our ankles. But it’s ok, because they have them there for free; you just need to pay a deposit. My parents own Harley Davidson motorbikes, so we thought we would visit the Bangkok Chapter. However, this proved to be a mission. We finally found it!! (If anyone wants to know where it is, I’m sure my mum kept their business card for future purposes).
Bangkok to Phi Phi Island:
I had planned to catch the overnight train to Surat Thani and then a bus to Krabi, and then the boat over to Phi Phi, but our plans were thrown out the window when we arrived at the train station earlier in the morning to pre-purchase our tickets; the trains were completely full…even 3rd class carriages! (Not that I’d put mum on 3rd class). So I checked the Internet for flights and luckily there were some fairly cheap ones to Phuket for the next morning. Nok Air (www.nokair.com) was the cheapest, and they were really good.
In Phuket we got the metered taxi to the Rasadar Pier for the ferry over to Phi Phi. We had booked accommodation ahead, because I didn’t want to stay somewhere dodgy when mum was with us. We didn’t do much at Phi Phi at all, just swimming, sunbaking and a snorkelling trip. For snorkelling, we hired a man and his long-tail boat for 3hrs. He took us to Phi Phi Leh, and we snorkelled at all the touristy spots, and even went to Maya bay. Alex did 2 dives, which he said were excellent. I cannot explain how beautiful Phi Phi is.
After catching the ferry back to Phuket, we found there were no metered taxis at the pier, only VIP ones (rip off). I was really annoyed because I’m tight with my money, and hate being ripped off. In Phuket we stayed at Kata Beach, again this was booked ahead. I couldn’t believe the thousands and thousands of beach chairs and umbrellas on the beach! We mainly spent our time at the beach. Mum and I also went on a 2½-hour tour, to a “safari” place where we did elephant riding, ox-cart riding and saw the monkey and elephant shows.
Phuket to Chiang Rai:
From Phuket we flew to Bangkok, where mum then flew home. Alex and I flew on to Chiang Rai. We flew with Air Asia (www.airasia.com) who were good. We arrived at Chiang Rai at about 9pm, and there were no taxis or buses into town! But luckily a man stopped and asked us if we wanted a lift into town; I thought we were going to have to walk. We had trouble finding accommodation that late at night, and had to stay at a really, really grotty and scary hotel. I’m sure it used to be a hospital or a prison! The night markets here were pretty good, and they had good live music and entertainment.
We did a day trip to Burma so we could get a new 30-day stamp. We caught the public bus to Mae Sae bus station and then a taxi-bus to the border. After crossing into Burma, spent a couple of hours shopping in the markets.
We caught a local bus to Chiang Mai and stayed in town, near the Taipae Gate. The night markets in Chiang Mai are HUGE and really, really good. We bought heaps of stuff!! One afternoon we caught a taxi-bus up to the Doi Suthep Temple, which is the temple on a mountain overlooking the city. The road going up is really steep, all of the taxis and buses going up and down cut the corners, and it feels really dangerous!
We did a day tour to see the “long neck” hill tribes, which was interesting, but I felt awful because the idea of going somewhere to look at other people just doesn’t seem right. Then we went elephant riding, and rode an ox-cart to a Lisu tribe. We also did bamboo rafting and visited a waterfall.
On our last day in Chiang Mai we hired dirt bikes to ride through the nearby national park. We had to ride back up to the Doi Suthep temple to get to the national park, which was really scary because all of the cars and buses try to take over the whole road! Once we passed the temple, it was much better. We had a lot of fun riding on the off-road sections through the national park.
We got the overnight train back to Bangkok, but only the seats in air-conditioning were available – no beds!! In Bangkok we did a lot more shopping, and then sent a parcel home by sea, so we will get a surprise in 2-3 months time.
Alex had to leave to go home, and I stayed on to meet up with some friends. So while I waited for them, I flew to Krabi. Again, only VIP taxis available from the airport to Ao Nang beach. But I shared one with two other people. I didn’t do much for the week I was by myself. I was bored and felt sorry for myself! Just went to the beach and watched movies in my room (yes, I splurged and got a good hotel 1,200b).
I met up with my friends in Phuket. I got a minivan there, which took a while because we got a flat tyre halfway. I had to spend another day by myself, so just sunbaked. By now, I am very, very brown, and probably have many sun cancers forming. Finally my friends arrived, and they were shocked at my choice of accommodation. I thought it was quite flash – it had aircon, hot water, tv, a Jacuzzi and pool table upstairs, and was only 1 street back from Patong beach!! But no, they were horrified with the Asian-style bathroom that I was used to. (You know, a showerhead on the wall, which sprays the whole bathroom, including the toilet). So from then on, my funds were dramatically reduced. We stayed at 5-star places, which was absolute luxury for me! After spending a couple of days on the beach, we took a day trip to Phi Phi and did some snorkelling. The nightlife at Patong was okay.
We got a minivan from Phuket to Surat Thani, which took a long 4 hours; we all had hangovers, and the van had to stop a couple of times so I could be sick on the side of the road. Then, a bus to Donsat Pier, which took 1 ½ hours, and 1 ½ hours on the ferry, and ½ hour in a taxi to Chaweng beach. It was one of the worst days of travelling I’ve ever had; mainly because I was hung-over. But I totally recommend spending a bit more to fly. At Samui I didn’t do much at all, but my friends went to the wildlife zoo/park to see the tiger show, and they had a great time. I didn’t go because it was really expensive and I saw tigers last year at Kanchanaburi. One day we did a day trip to Koh Tao, which was awesome! The best snorkelling I’ve seen in Thailand, and the most beautiful beaches, definitely better than Phi Phi because there was a million-times less tourists! The nightlife at Samui was great, we had a lot of fun having pre-drinks on the beach, and then dancing in the clubs.
We flew to Bangkok from Samui, with Bangkok Airlines. I stayed near KSR to do some last minute shopping, while I sent my friends to Kanchanaburi. Again, the public buses are the only way to travel – to the weekend markets, MBK and the airport.
hi miranda, loved ur trip report too, really useful.. any chance i could get a copy of your budget too? thanks jel. firstname.lastname@example.org
#3 jella82 has been a member since 20/6/2007. Posts: 9
Miranda thank you for mapping out your epic trip for us online, I'm also a patron of yours and would love to see how much a trip of this magnitude would cost? If you could send me the budget spreadsheet as well, that would be smashing!
Hope theres more adventures for you to come...
#4 evanlindquist88 has been a member since 21/6/2007. Posts: 1
I am travelling in Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos in July, August, Sept and October this year.
Due to moonsoon is it better if I travel Thailand - Cambodia - Vietnam - Laos - North Thailand OR North Thailand - Laos - Vietnam - Cambodia - Thailand ?
Thanks and regards
#5 Lilifrench has been a member since 24/6/2007. Posts: 1
Miranda, sorry to be so original but is there any chance i could get the excel sheet too? Sorry..... email@example.com .I would really apreciate it as i go in august
#7 johnmckiller has been a member since 28/6/2007. Posts: 3
very interesting read, am planning something similar myself in sep, is it possible to get a copy of budget, please? firstname.lastname@example.org
#8 seanstenning has been a member since 7/7/2007. Posts: 5
Hey! Can I jump on that bandwagon too. Am heading to the same sorts of areas in Jan. my email is email@example.com
#9 da_misfit has been a member since 10/7/2007. Posts: 3
Sorry to sound like a broken record, but could you please email me your budget too? firstname.lastname@example.org
#10 katar has been a member since 11/7/2007. Posts: 1
We've not heard from Miranda in some time, so I've emailed her to see if she can send me the budget and I'll get it onto the site. If I don't hear back, I'll lock the thread.
#12 somtam2000 has been a member since 21/1/2004. Location: Indonesia. Posts: 7,788
Send somtam2000 a private message Where has somtam2000 been? Website Twitter Facebook Flickr Google+ Instagram Pinterest
It doesn't sound like she has replied, but if so, can someone also let me know what the budget is like? My email is email@example.com. I am literally planning to do the same trip (may throw in India for a couple of weeks though too).
#14 shaneforan has been a member since 10/2/2010. Posts: 1
Jesus. I cant believe it haha! Miranda still hasnt put out!!
#15 johnmckiller has been a member since 28/6/2007. Posts: 3
LOLOLOL, HIT AND RUN!
#16 qosmios has been a member since 23/9/2010. Posts: 10