Hello Kindred Traveller!
So, you’re planning to take on the Indochina Experience?
If you’re answer is delightfully yes then you’re definitely reading the right article. In this blog I have formulated a guide of how to conquer your Indochina backpacking experience.
South East Asia has definitely become an astounding journey for me. Filled with a combination of having rich cultural and historical background. It has also been a favored destination for tourists from around the world.
I let my sincere interest to travel and discover Indochina by allowing my independent freedom choose the activities set for me.
My Kalibutan Story:
I pledged on a 15-day trip to 4 countries in South East Asia. I planned a budget proposal for the whole trip including airfare and plotted lodging accommodations. I relied my travel itineraries at the point of destination.
First I started with Bangkok, Thailand. I successfully carried out my goal to revisit Buddhism history, dine in famous Thai cuisine and get close encounter with the Thailand giants, the elephants.
Second, I proceeded to the province of Siem Reap, Cambodia. I was successful on embarking in the full temple running experience, eating exotic food and engaging with the locals.
Third was a stopover at Ho Chi Minh city, Vietnam. I included the city on my trip to visit my best friend. The fast pace of the city caught our hearts to play Miss Saigon by visiting iconic monuments. Not to mention, food tripping and shopping.
Fourth, was a plane ride to discover the wonders of Penang, Malaysia. The achievement of interacting with murals was more than enough to make me love the city. All of this achieved with good company and tasting fusion Asian food.
I finished my journey having to spend only P35,000.00 (roughly $690.00). And carrying 15lbs to 25lbs backpack, (the weight gradually increased).
This experience is definitely one for the books. But it did take a lot of struggle and challenges along the way. Whatever purpose you chose to take on this experience whether you’re soul-searching, taking the dare to explore, or as it simply goes you’re a jet setter adventurer like me, allow Miss Kalibutan to help you create your backpacking experience a secure and memorable one:
1. Pack Light Clothes
This is the ultimate challenge but you’re going to have to trust me on this. For the duration of the travel you might pick up additional finds and other goodies. You definitely want to make space for that. Choose outfits that are good to mix and match. Clothes from these countries are sold generally cheaper. There will be a lot of night markets and shopping malls that sell clothes for a good and bargained price. The Indochina fashion is cheap, light and easy to wear. Just remember to pack the essentials that go with your travel style.
My packing essentials include: toiletries, medicines, charger & powerbank, camera, travel towel, earphones, extra bag and my travel ‘malong’.
2. Protect Your Valuables
As a tourist, strict vigilance must be practiced throughout the whole trip. Make sure to lock all bags before heading out. Bring minimal but important items when on tour such as wallet, passport, camera, bottled water and etc. One travel safety tip I do in all my travels, I make it a habit to hide photocopies of my passport in all my bags.
3. Visit War Museums
Skipping from temples to palaces, there sure are a lot more to see and discover in South East Asia. Aside from the main attractions, I suggest paying a visit to the war museum. Take a walking tour of the experience of South-East Asia’s unique background and war strategies. You get to talk to war veterans that share their experiences.
4. Ride A ‘TukTuk’
Getting on a ‘tuktuk’ is an Indochina must-do. Commuting is one alternative to avoid tedious traffic, or spending a lot on a private vehicle. Also, these colorful motor carts make you appreciate the city more and invites you to live more local.
5. Try Local Food
This is the first step of appreciating the different kinds of cuisine you will be encountering along your Indochina journey. Trying street food is a good start. However, other countries may have a display of exotic choices. It could be an inviting challenge or a risk that you may be willing to take. There’s may be a certain reason why this is open to the public, but there’s always a first time. Lets make sure that you finish your trip healthy. Better to load up on Vitamin C!
6. Be Prepared Financially
You will be traveling to different countries having different currencies. Having those ready will help you ease your stress of finding the nearest bank, ATMs or even a trusted money changer. Most of the places around the countries may not accept debit or credit cards as well.
Countries like Cambodia accept US dollar, but make sure to have loose change.
7. Stay In Hostels
If you’re willing to spend less for your lodging, hostels are the best option. There are a lot of cheap and safe hostels that house tourists. Most hostels provide tour accommodations and extra activities as well. Plus, you get to meet and exchange stories and experience with other people.
8. Comply with Border Requirements
Make sure that you have fully researched and carry the requirements needed to enter into the country. Keep all arrival and departure cards. If you are traveling as a group, it is safe to let the tourism officials take care of it for you. But be aware of other people convincing you to get your visa done.
For ASEAN passport holders, there is no need for a visa however passport must be valid 6 months before expiration.
9. Travel On A Sleeper Bus
Sleeper buses are usually traveled on long distances and is a cheaper alternative of heading towards your next destination around South-East Asia. It is advisable to book your slot prior your date of departure. Make sure to check with the agency the kind of booking and schedule of the bus.
From our experience, we travelled from Siem Reap going to Ho Chi Minh. We were dropped off at Phom Penh and were instructed to wait for the next bus that will depart for Vietnam.
10. Respect the Culture
Majority of Indochina’s inhabitants follow cultural and religious ethics. Most of the tourist attractions will require you to follow temple rules and comply with strict ordinance. One important thing you must follow is the appropriate dress code that is applied in almost all the tourist spots. Following these rules will definitely make your visit a pleasurable one and will save you from trouble. But aside from this, if you find yourself touring a temple always remember that the locals consider it as a holy site. Find yourself living in traditions, just like what we did in this photo at Siem Reap.
11. Live Local
What better way to enjoy your trip than interacting with the locals! It will help you gain insights on the country and also help your way of exploring more. Living local would mean expressing yourself in terms of emerging yourself with the culture. Getting to know how to say “hello”, “please”,”goodbye” and “thank you” in their language is a kind gesture to start with.
Another would be dressing down. You don’t need to find yourself strutting in the streets with costly jewelry. As a backpacker, you will feel the “chill” vibe.
12. Don’t be intimidated by local activities
It is a Third World country. Adapting to the environment might seem uncomfortable. You will experience situations that may not be in an orderly manner. Keep an open line of communication in that way you’ll have to make a recovery to the situation. You might also encounter local children selling souvenir items who will attempt to haggle prices. Scamming is one main problem in South-East Asia. Sadly, most of the locals do take advantage of tourists. Trust your rightful instinct, better to be safe than sorry!
13. Get lost in the City
There lies a multitude of activities you can achieve while city sight-seeing. Getting lost with maps brings the adventure of discovering other unique sites along the way. The most important key to remember? Don’t be afraid to ask around.
Useful Applications You Can Use
Now here are a few of my suggested applications that you can use along the way:
This will help you find hostels from around. It shows the price, accommodations and popularity is based on ratings.
It serves as a 2-in1 purpose of helping you find cheap flights and hotels. It will also allow you to manage bookings and sets reminders of your flight.
3. XE Currency
Traveling the world and keeping track of the currency will definitely save you from high currency exchange rates. It can hold up to 10 currencies in the app. Just key in the amount you want to know, and it automatically computes that for you, in all the currencies registered in your phone
I haven’t personally used the app, but I heard of it’s good reviews and trusted app for solo backpackers. Just like booking.com it’s an alternative way to look for cheap flights, transportation and lodging accommodations.
5. Grab/ Uber
In case you get lost from walking around the city, these useful alternative transportation modes are available in Thailand, Vietnam and Malaysia.
6. WhatsApp/ Viber/ Line
Most of your tour guides and locals would like to keep in contact with you through these communication applications. WhatsApp and Line are recommended and is certainly free but works with an internet connection.
7. Google Maps
Along the course of your adventure, should you get lost. Google Maps will manage to help you find your way back.
I bid you all the best in creating your story of the Indochina experience.