Exploring Indochina: A Rough Guide

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Exploring the temples of Bagan in Myanmar

This is a rough guide when backpacking Southeast Asian countries found in mainland Asia. Indochina is a geographical term used to classify parts of the Southeast Asia that are bounded by the country of India in the west and China in the north of the continental Asia. Indochina comprises of Thailand, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, (parts of) Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam.

I have decided to do a primer of the recent 10-day trip that I had to give you, my dear readers, an idea about what to expect when backpacking Indochina. Shown here are guidelines that will help you prepare when you plan to travel there. I have also given here our itinerary to serve as your guide, plus, an idea about the budget that I brought with me for this trip. Meanwhile, prepare for my individual blog posts about each country that we have visited for a more detailed guide.

Here are five (5) guidelines about backpacking Indochina Trip:

  1. LEARN WHAT BACKPACKING MEANS.
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Shembot Squad goes international! Here’s us, Indochina Boys, as we were waiting for the Yangon Circular Train in Myanmar.

Our trip was a real backpacking experience! Meaning, we did not get to stay in fancy hotels, we traveled in local or public transports and also carried our backpacks at times during our trips.

  • LODGING IN INEXPENSIVE HOTELS. During our trip, we often shared with foreigners in dormitory-type rooms. This way, we only got to spend P400 to P600 for each person. Word of caution, though. If you choose to stay in dormitory-type rooms, it means you’re going to spend time with strangers and also leave with them your belongings while you’re exploring the places you want to visit. That’s why it’s of utmost importance we become extra cautious of our things. Always bring with you your passport, wallet, cellphones, cameras and other things you deem important.
  • TRAVELING IN PUBLIC TRANSPORTS. Exploring the sights and travel destinations of a country would really require you to ride their public transportation: buses, trains and even their local tuktuk. These modes of transportation are oftentimes the most affordable. If you are gearing to spend the least amount of money while traveling, you have to learn how to maximize the use of the public transportation when traveling to your destinations. Riding taxis can be very convenient, but remember that doing so can also cost you a lot. Here’s a tip, though. Riding the taxi would be beneficial if you are traveling in groups because you get to divide the cost among yourselves. Make sure, though, that you have an idea as to how much will the ride cost. Ask the driver to use the taxi meter before moving. You have to choose wisely when is the best time to ride one.
  • CARRYING BACKPACKS. In all honesty, there were times when we really had to carry our backpacks with us as lodging to a hostel wasn’t an option. This means we had to carry our bags around mainly because we won’t be staying in the place for the night as we would be traveling to another place soon. As you’ll soon be finding out below, this has happened when we were going to travel from Myanmar to Thailand via airplane; from Thailand to Cambodia via train; from Malaysia to Singapore via bus.
  1. PREPARE YOUR ITINERARY BEFOREHAND.
Awed by the amazing Petronas Twiin Towers
Awed by the amazingly beautiful Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Our goal was to visit as many countries that we could in the limited number of days that we had. I only had 10 days, and we were planning to visit 6 countries in those 10 days, cutting off Vietnam among the Indochina countries. Thanks to my good friends, we were able to do it! We have prepared our itinerary beforehand (actually, it was mainly prepared by our friend, Louis Brian, haha). We would be entering Indochina via Bangkok, Thailand and exiting via Singapore City, Singapore. In between, we have visited four (4) countries: Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Malaysia.

Note: Vietnam could be added in this itinerary by riding a train in Phnom Penh, Cambodia or airplane from Siem Reap, Cambodia before heading to Malaysia.

Exploring Vientiane
When I found out we could visit this golden shrine in Vientiane, I didn’t let the chance pass without having my picture taken here! Complete pa with a Laotian outfit! Hehe.

To those who were wondering, this was our crazy itinerary:

INDOCHINA ITINERARY (SHEMBOT SQUAD EDITION)
DAY 1: EXPLORING AYUTTHAYA
AM – Fly from Manila, Philippines to Bangkok, Thailand

We had a whole day of exploring Ayutthaya then stayed the night in Bangkok.

DAY 2: EXPLORING VIENTIANE
AM – Fly from Bangkok, Thailand to Vientiane, Laos

We had a whole day exploring the capital city of Laos then stayed the night there.

DAY 3: EXPLORING BANGKOK
AM – Continued exploring Vientiane

NN – Fly from Vientiane, Laos back to Bangkok, Thailand

PM – Explored Khao San Road, then night trip to Bangkok’s palaces

DAY 4: EXPLORING MANDALAY
AM – Fly from Bangkok, Thailand to Mandalay, Myanmar

PM – Exploring Mandalay

9 PM – Ride the bus from Mandalay to Bagan

DAY 5: EXPLORING BAGAN
Early AM – Arrival in Bagan

We had a whole day of exploring Bagan.

Night time – Ride bus from Bagan to Yangon

DAY 6: EXPLORING YANGON
Early AM – Arrival in Yangon

Whole day of exploring Yangon

Night time –Fly back from Yangon, Myanmar to Bangkok, Thailand

DAY 7: EXPLORING SIEM REAP
Early AM – Ride train from Bangkok, Thailand to Siem Reap, Cambodia

Late afternoon – Arrival in Siem Reap

Headed to hostel to freshen up then explored Pub Street of Siem Reap

DAY 8: EXPLORING ANGKOR WAT
Early AM – Ride the tuktuk* towards Angkor Wat complex.

Whole day of exploring Angkor Wat and Siem Reap’s other temples

* Based on your arrangement, the tuktuk can bring you to the other temples/structures throughout the day.

DAY 9: EXPLORING KUALA LUMPUR
Early AM – Fly from Siem Reap, Cambodia to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

PM – Explore Kuala Lumpur’s most famous travel destinations

11 PM – Ride the bus from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia to Singapore City, Singapore

DAY 10: EXPLORING SINGAPORE CITY
Early AM – Arrival in Singapore

Whole day of exploring Singapore City

Night – Fly back from Singapore City, Singapore to Manila, Philippines

Crazy, right, guys? Haha.

  1. THROW AWAY YOUR IDEA OF EATING ON TIME. ALSO, PREPARE TO LOSE WEIGHT! YOU’LL REALLY GET TIRED. Haha.
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Even before eating my decent meal in Thailand, I munched a grilled scorpion along Khao San Road! Oh, the things you do when you really are hungry. Haha.

I was surprised to find out I’ve lost some pounds during this trip. Haha, yes! I did! I guess I shouldn’t really be that surprised especially because I knew we were not always able to eat. Oftentimes, actually, we were eating only bread/ crackers/ fruits paired with water/juice for breakfast. And we were eating them along the way. There were a few times, too, when we were not able to eat anything at all during mealtimes! Haha. I can still clearly recall our last day in Laos (DAY 3), we were only able to drink fruit shake for breakfast (in Buddha Park), drink juice and eat few pieces of bread in the afternoon (at the airport) and finally had a decent meal early in the evening already in another country: Thailand. Haha. I thought I would really get grumpy, but I guess I can already regulate my emotions better now even when I’m hungry! Haha.

 

  1. BUDGET!
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There are many travel destinations than don’t require payments or fees. One such travel destination is the Haji Lane in Singapore, where lots of beautiful murals could be seen.

You don’t need to spend a lot when traveling, more so when backpacking!

Some people that I know would ask me if I’ve spent a lot during this trip. I would answer I did not because we really didn’t. Hehe. I brought with me US$500 (roughly P25,000) for this trip and I only got to spend about US$450 (about P22,500), which already covered my expenses for food, lodging, transportation fees (except the airfares), entrance fees to the various travel destinations we visited, bike/motor rentals and pasalubong!

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Ayutthaya, Thailand has all these magnificent temples that you can explore for a day. The required fee is 220 baht, which is roughly P334. The one I’m looking at here is Wat Phra Ram.

Speaking of airfares, it’s a different story. As you’ve read in the itinerary part of this blog post, we got to ride airplanes for a couple of times. Just imagine the price of each airfare! Thankfully, we really prepared for this trip and one of our friends were on the lookout for seat sale in the main airlines found in the countries we were visiting. We grabbed the opportunity to book airfares when we see them discounted, which was really a good thing considering the number of flights we would then be taking!

Of course, it’s always wise to bring in extra cash and your debit/credit card with you when you are traveling abroad. You will never know when you would be needing them that’s why it’s better to be prepared.

  1. KNOW THY CURRENCY
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Here are the Indochina Boys of Shembot Squad as we were exploring the temples of Siem Reap. Of course, part of exploring is taking group photos just like this. Hehe.

Each of the country that we visited has their own currency: Thailand has baht, Laos has kip, Myanmar has kyat, Cambodia has riel, Malaysia has ringgit, Singapore has dollar (Singaporean dollar). You can exchange the Philippine peso to each of these currencies in their airports. However, it is better to bring in US dollars to exchange for these currencies as the American currency has significantly more value when converted. It should also be noted that your dollars are converted better depending on their denomination. In effect, a US$50 bill is converted higher than a US$10 bill.

Note: We were four (4) in the group. However, two (2) of us went ahead first for a few days before the other two followed. For my individual blog posts, I will be sharing what I have experienced stating if I were in our group of four or only two.

***

That’s it for now, guys. I hope you have learned from this Indochina primer that I have made to guide you in your backpacking trip to the said countries! Enjoy!

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Sunset in U Bein Bridge, said to be the oldest and longest teakwood bridge in the world. It is found in Amarapura, Myanmar.
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5 Comments Add yours

  1. noly says:

    HI! Me and my wife are going to bangkok and siem reap for the first time we already book hostel for our trip.i need to know which is better way to go to siem repa by train or by bus which is more cheaper?

    Like

    1. It is definitely cheaper to ride the train, sir! It is gonna take a longer time, though. For me, even though it took is a longer time to go to Siem Reap, it was okay because the whole ride to the countryside of Thailand was just fine. 👌🏻

      Like

  2. Camille says:

    I noticed you used Bangkok as your hub for Cambodia, Myanmar, and Laos. May I ask what airlines you used?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Camille! We booked flights via Air Asia or Nok Air. 🙂

      Like

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