4D/3N Bangkok, Thailand

สวัสดี! Sawasdee! (pronounced as sah-wah-dee) 

TRANSPORTATION

Among the cities in the Indochina region, Bangkok is considered the busiest one with two International Airports: Suvarnabhumi (BKK) Airport and Don Mueang (DMK) International Airport. Between the two, BKK is the main airport that is 25 KM closest to the city area that is used by the majority of the airlines while DMK is used by many low-cost airlines.

Reaching Bangkok is easy especially if coming from Manila due to the daily flights from via Cebu Pacific, PAL, Air Asia, and Thai Airways. Scoring the cheapest flights would depend on the season and seat sale which can go as low as Php 2,500 net RT for one person!

VISA

As an ASEAN member state, Philippine passport holders can enjoy 30 days visa-free if the Filipino citizen has entered the country via an International airport and only 15 days visa-free if entered through a land-border route from a neighboring country such as Vietnam, Cambodia, and Myanmar)

PROOF OF FUNDS

Recently, the Thai government has issued a memo regarding proof of funds for its foreign visitors because of the increasing “begpackers” (backpackers-who-beg-for-travel). Although not everyone will be asked about it at the Immigration border, but in order to be safe, make sure that you have at least 10,000 THB (Php 16,400 or $ 305) per person or 20,000 THB (Php 32,850 or $ 610) per family as proof of accommodation and funds in case you’ll be asked.

TIME ZONE

Thailand is part of Indochina (GMT +7) that is 1 hour behind Manila Time (GMT+8).

CURRENCY

Thai Baht is the official currency of Thailand Baht and even though US Dollars is also widely used, it is highly advisable to exchange currency (from USD to THB) before buying anything.

$1 = 32.72 Thai Baht
Php 1 = 0.60 Thai Baht

LANGUAGE

Thai is the official language spoken in Thailand but English is also widely spoken since Bangkok is known as a tourist hotspot.

DRESS CODE AND BEHAVIOR

Known for being a very open city, there is no dress code restriction in Bangkok or any part of Thailand, however, it is advisable to wear decent clothing especially when entering religious areas such as sleeveless, shorts or knee-length skirts.

CONNECTIVITY

There are lots of Wifi hotspots around the City and it’s also a good idea to buy wifi modems from telecom shops but since we will only be in Bangkok for a few days, the cheapest offer was getting a sim card so we bought one from Klook (4G Sim Card) for Php 244 ($4.52 or 147 THB) that we picked up at the BKK airport.

HOTEL

Since Bangkok is pretty big, your choice of accommodation would vary depending on the area you’d want to stay. The rule of thumb when traveling is: the nearer you are to the most touristic spots, the expensive the rates will be. This is actually typical for Bangkok accommodations, but thanks to third party websites such as Agoda, Booking, Hostel or even AirBnb, travelers have more options than before!

In our case, since we want to explore the rich temple culture of Thailand, we opted to stay near the touristic areas of the Chao Phraya river. But when you think of Chao Phraya, one would automatically think of expensive 5-star hotels in the area, which it was famous for. For travelers like us on a budget who wanted to at least experience a bit of luxury, this is crucial since we don’t want to overspend. Among the 8 most popular areas to stay in Bangkok, we wanted to stay close to the Riverside among the top hotels in the City, near the awesome temples, but still have easy access to the Metro, Restaurants, BKK Airport etc. We used this site by Nerdnomads and a very helpful tip from a NAW acquaintance Ms. Alynn that he who is based in Bangkok who helped us pick the best area for our stay according to our preference.

By luck, we found Oriental Heritage Residence, a boutique 3-star hotel located at 1180 Charoen Krung Rd, Khwaeng Bang Rak, Khet Bang Rak, Krung Thep Maha Nakhon around 25-35 mins away from the airport depending on traffic. Aside from its rave reviews on Tripadvisor, the hotel is fairly new, cozy and really stylish! What’s more interesting is that it is walking distance from the River City Mall (where the Chao Phraya Cruise docks), Sky Bar, Robinson’s Mall, Jewelry stores, Foot massages, Saphan Taksin BTS Station, and Sathorn Pier (Central Pier)! It’s a great alternative if you can’t afford to stay at 5-star hotels that lines the Chao Praya river!

FOOD

Thai food is life! Need I say more?

So far, the best authentic Thai food that we had other than the ones that we get from our hotel, the local restaurants that we went to both in Bangkok and in Ayutthaya, the best place that we went to that fits our budget (but serves gourmet-ish dishes!) was Chilli Thai Restaurant located at Siam Paragon. Rates vary depending on your meal since they serve ala carte, but think about spending max Php 3,000 per couple for a very decent authentic Thai meal. You wouldn’t really want to miss it!

SAFETY

Bangkok especially around Chao Praya, Charoenkrung and Siam Paragon area (including Ayutthaya) is a safe place to stay. Although we didn’t notice any CCTVs around the area during our strolls, we would normally see police cars roaming around. We’re not sure if it’s the same with the other neighborhood but this is what we have experienced so far.

A helpful tip would be to at least be cautious wherever you go!

ITINERARY

DAY 1

  • Depart from Yangon International Airport via Myanmar Airlines
  • Arrival at BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport
  • Check-in at Oriental Residence for Deluxe Double Room for 2pax (Php 9,868 or $ or THB) all-in for 4D/3N including taxes and buffet breakfast. Airport transfer costs Php 1,211 per way via Klook for a private car for 4 pax including toll fees and free water bottles

DAY 2

  • DIY Tour around Charoen Krung Road and Chao Praya River
  • Although we had the option to buy separate boat tickets per way, we preferred to buy the unlimited Chao Phraya One-Day River Cruise boat pass for tourists that cost 180 THB or Php 301 each just for experience’s sake. We got the 330 THB promo for two and saved 30 THB. Just be sure that when you want to but this 1-day pass, you will buy at the main ticket outlet and not at private boat transfers. Be sure to look for the Chao Praya Tourist Boat name.
  • With the One-Dary River Cruise Pass, it is easy to see the famous temples around the area:
    • Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn)
    • The Grand Palace
    • Wat Phra Keaw which is found inside The Grand Palace and is known to enshrine the Phra Kaew Morakot  (Emerald Buddha)
    • Wat Pho (Temple of the Reclining Buddha)
  • We boarded the BTS Skytrain at Saphan Taksin station located on the Sathorn Pier, changed trains and alighted at Siam Station. Just follow the BTS map and ask if you feel you’re lost.

DAY 3

  • Ayutthaya Full Day Tour
  • We booked our tour online through Klook for a private car charter (Oriental Holiday) for Php 5,892 ($109.11 or 3,567 THB) and a separate English speaking tour guide for Php 3,238 ($59.96 or 1,960 THB) since we wanted to know more about the historical aspect of the ancient city of Ayutthaya. Our tour guide, Ms. Siriporn together with the driver, Mr. Moon arrived on time. They were both polite, attentive and informative about the important historical sites of Ancient Bagan. Since we finished early, we were also able to go to other non-touristy sites other than what we have on the list.
    • Wat Mahathat
    • Ayutthaya Historical Park
    • Wat Yai Chai Mongkol
    • Wat Phra Sri Sanphet
    • Wat Thammikarat
    • Wat Chaiwatthanaram
    • Wat Ratchaburana
    • Bang Pa-In Palace
    • Elephant Stay

DAY 4

  • Chill day at the hotel after Breakfast
  • Depart BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport and back to NAIA

Overall expenses for 4D/3N Bangkok and Ayutthaya, Thailand Tour (excluding airfare, food, and souvenirs)

  • 4G Sim Card: Php 244
  • Hotel: Php 9,868
  • Airport Transfer 2 way: Php 2,422
  • Chao Praya 1 Day Unlimited River Pass for 2pax: Php 602 (thb 180 each)
  • Wat Arun Entrance Fee: Php 161.67 (50 thb each)
  • Wat Pho Entrance Fee: Php 323.34 (100 thb each)
  • The Grand Palace and Wat Phra Kaew Entrance Fee: Php 1,616 (500 thb each)
  • Private Car Charter to Ayutthaya: Php 5,892
  • Ayutthaya English Tour Guide: Php 3,238

OVERALL TOTAL for Two Pax : Php 24,367.01 (US $ 477 ~) 

Note: The cost of airfare, souvenirs, and food expenses have been excluded in the overall expenses computation because of the seasonal rate and promo that we were able to get as well as the food preference of the travelers.

ADDITIONAL ADD-ONS FOR THAT LUXURIOUS TREAT

In our case, we chose to spend on a memorable dinners at the Chilli Thai Restaurant and Chao Praya Princess Cruise other than our usual 7Eleven ready-to-eat meals that would only cost from Php 40 each or the usual budgeted Cup Noodles!

  • Food: Php 3,000
  • Chao Praya Princess Cruise Dinner,Upper Deck: Php 3,076 ($56)

TOTAL for Two Pax: Php 6,076 (US $119 ~)

OVERALL TOTAL for Two Pax including the Luxury Treat Dinners : Php 30,443.01 (US $ 596 ~) 

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4D/3N Bagan, Myanmar

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မင်္ဂလာပါ! “Mingalabar!”
(pronounced as ming-ga-la-ba) “Hello” in Burmese.

Ever wonder how it feels like seeing a beautiful Sunset while overlooking  1,000 year-old ancient temples, stupas and pagodas within reach? Then you have to pack your bags and head straight to the underrated Ancient City of Bagan in Myanmar!

Landlocked between India (on the left), China (on the right) and Thailand (below), Myanmar or as it was formerly called Burma, is an astonishing country rich in culture and Buddhist relics that date back more than a millenia. Built around mid-9th century, the ancient city boasts around 2,200 temples, stupas and pagodas that still exists today scattered all over the Bagan Archaeological Zone.

What’s more interesting in this part of our trip is the memorable experience of taking a long-day flight that needs to do 2 plane changes and 3 stop-overs that  felt like a bus without leaving the airplane!

TRANSPORTATION

Getting to Bagan can be done by bus, boat, train, and plane from either Yangon and Mandalay. Although the most popular mode for the locals and backpackers were by bus and since our time is limited, we prefer to book our flight from Bangkok instead which was our base station for the duration of our Indochina trip.

Unfortunately, there is no direct flight from Bangkok to Bagan, Myanmar. Instead, after countless of researching for the cheapest flight possible we ended up with Myanmar Airlines, where we were able to book a connecting flight from Bangkok to Yangon, Myanmar, then from Yangon to Heho, Mandalay and finally to Nyaung-U with in-flight meals and 30 kilos baggage allowance per person. We departed from Bangkok International Airport at 11 AM and was able to reach Nyaung-U domestic airport at 6:20 PM because of 3 stop-overs from Yangon International Airport, Heho Airport, and Mandalay International Airport. Overall, the flight was 7 hours and 20 minutes overall, including transit time between flights.

VISA

Similar to other ASEAN countries, Philippine passport holders can enjoy 14 days of stay in Myanmar visa-free! 

Since our last destination is Nyaung-U where Bagan is located, we were only cleared once for immigration after we arrived at Yangon International Airport (RGN). There was actually a confusion when it comes to our luggage because we were the only passengers with that route on that day. Because we need to change planes for our domestic flight, we were told to go to the next terminal just outside RGN together with our bags.

TIME ZONE

Even if Myanmar (GMT +6:30) is part of Indochina, it is 1 hour and 30 minutes behind Manila Time (GMT +8).

CURRENCY

Myanmar’s currency is called the Burmese Kyat (MMK or Ks) but just like its neighboring countries, USD dollars are also widely accepted here. Exchanging Philippine Peso to Burmese Kyat is not recommended because of the low rate. Instead, it is advisable to exchange your US dollars to Burmese Kyat and use the Kyat when transacting locally like buying food and souvenirs, especially in Bagan.

$1 = 1,368 Myanmar Kyat
Php 1 = 25.64 Myanmar Kyat

LANGUAGE

Burmese is the official language in Myanmar although English is also being used to communicate with tourists.

DRESS CODE AND BEHAVIOR

Since Buddhism is the dominant religion in Myanmar, it is normal to see locals wear traditional clothing called longyi for men, a patterned fabric wrapped around the waist similar to sarong especially in rural areas such as in Bagan. Eventhough tourists are not required to wear them, it is highly advisable to wear decent clothing that covers the shoulders and knees, especially when entering religious areas such as Temples and Pagodas.

Be also mindful that footwear is strictly prohibited inside religious grounds, even as far as the temple gate or courtyard, just as long as it is within the Temple and Pagoda premises. This was something that we weren’t informed before our temple hopping tours so we were literally suprised to go barefoot whenever we enter holy grounds.

CONNECTIVITY

In big cities such as Yangon and Mandalay, connectivity is not an issue since sim card packs can be bought in airports and stores. Unfortunately, the internet signal is slow in Bagan so it is not advisable to buy 4G LTE sim cards or have your own wifi with you. Instead, check with your hotel for a better internet connection that you can use.

HOTEL

Since Bagan is in the rural part of Myanmar, hotels and inns are limited. What makes it more difficult is the fact that Bagan is divided into two main areas: Old Bagan and New Bagan. Finding the best possible accommodation that is near the airport and the famous temples and pagodas is tricky since they are spread across the city.

For our 3 nights stay, we booked at Sky View Hotel which is 10 minutes from Nyaung-U Airport located at N. 69 Shwe Knat Kaw Street, Zay Ya Waddy Quarter in Nyaung-U with rave reviews from Tripadvisor.

Just as expected, the hotel offers basic facilities with no swimming pool and elevator since it’s only 3 floors high although there was a nice rooftop where the in-house restaurant is located. The rooftop boasts a 360-degree view of New Bagan, overlooking temples and pagodas nearby. The room and bathroom that we booked were spacious. The bedsheets were also clean and the staffs are polite and attentive to our needs. They also have a routinary mosquito spraying time around 6 PM whether you’re inside the room to keep the place insect free. The only downside is the food that they have in their hotel which is very, very basic because it has few options and it tastes bland. There was also a point where the utensils that we were using smelled fishy, which was a letdown. But overall it’s definitely a good option for its price!

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FOOD 

If you’re a vegan and you like less spicy curry, then you’d definitely dig Burmese food. The local dishes were a fusion of Thai and Indian, but the taste comes quite bland for us although that may just be our take. Anyway, other than the in-house hotel restaurants, there are also a few restaurants that look like carinderias in Old and New Bagan that offer dishes at an affordable rate. Typically, one main dish with rice costs around 4,500 Kyat ($2.88 or Php 155) and one glass of freshly squeezed lemon juice costs around 2,000 Kyat ($1.20 or Php 69).

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SAFETY

When we first arrived at Bagan, we didn’t really think that it’s a city, but only a small town because of the simplicity of its surroundings. It’s actually normal to see herds of cows everywhere other than the scattered temples and pagodas. Since it’s quite hard to reach as compared to Mandalay, it is also not crowded with tourists so most of the time you have the whole place to yourselves. Even if there are no CCTVs in the streets and the Police Station located only in New Bagan, the place is too serene and very welcoming for people to stroll around even at night. Try to be careful not to get lost because the place is huge if you plan to just walk or when you encounter wild animals such as snakes.

ITINERARY

DAY 1

  • Depart from BKK Suvarnabhumi Airport via Myanmar Airlines
  • Arrival at Yangon International Airport
  • Connecting Flight from Yangon International Airport to Nyaung-U Domestic Airport
  • We bought our Bagan Archaeological Pass that is good for 5 days at the Nyaung-U airport for Php 850 ($15 or 25,000 Kyat) each before heading to the hotel
  • Check-in at Sky View Hotel for Deluxe Double Room for 2pax (Php 3,803.07 or $70 or 109,100 Kyat) all-in for 4D/3N including taxes and buffet breakfast. Airport transfer costs 5,000 Kyat ($3.15 or Php 170) per way

DAY 2

  • Bagan Cultural Full Day Tour
  • We booked our tour online through Klook for a private car for Php 3,592 ($73.24 or 103,857 Kyat) inclusive of English speaking tour guide. Our tour guide, Mr. Khant of LM Travel together with the driver, Mr. Moon arrived on time. They were both polite, attentive and informative about the important historical sites of Ancient Bagan. Since we finished early, we were also able to go to other non-touristy sites other than what we have on the list.
    • Shwezigon Pagoda
    • Gubyaukgyi Temple and Myazedi Pagoda
    • Htilominlo Temple
    • Dhammayangyi Temple
    • Thatbyinnyu Temple
    • Nanpaya Temple
    • Ananda Temple
    • Nara Thihapatae Hpaya
    • Manuha Temple
    • Shwesandaw Pagoda
    • Gawdawpalin Temple

Shwezigon Pagoda

Gubyaukgyi Pagoda

Htilominlo Temple

Dhammayangyi Temple

Thatbyinnyu Temple

Nanpaya Temple

Ananda Temple

  • We had lunch at Treasure Restaurant which serves authentic Burmese food. Unfortunately, even if the location has fantastic views of pagodas (literally beside the restaurant) and the food was really affordable, the dishes served were a bit bland for our taste.

  • Min Nan Thu Village. We visited the local village located inside Old Bagan to see their daily activities such as weaving, handicraft and the use of thanaka tree bark for make-up and sunscreen which is common for the locals
  • Sunset hill site viewing at Ko Mauk Lake

Min Nan Thu Village

Nara Thihapatae Hpaya

Sunset Viewing Site at Ko Mauk Lake

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DAY 3

  • Chill day at the Hotel to explore the facilities
  • DIY travel around the nearby areas using Tuk-tuk for 6,000 Kyat ($3.84 or Php 207)  roundtrip
  • Dinner at Sanon Training Restaurant located at Pyu Saw Hti Street next to Nyaung U Thante Hotel which serves a variety of delicious authentic gourmet-style Burmese dishes. This place is a must-try! What’s more interesting is their charitable advocacy to help fund the education of the local children of Bagan from its earnings!

DAY 4

  • Depart Nyaung-U Airport (3 stopovers again) to Yangon International Airport and back to Bangkok International Airport which was our base station

Overall expenses for 4D/3N Bagan, Myanmar Tour (excluding airfare and souvenirs)

  • Hotel: Php 3,803.07
  • Airport Transfer two-way: Php 340
  • Bagan Archaeological Zone Pass for 2pax: Php 1,700
  • Private Car with Tour Guide: Php 3,938
  • Tuktuk Roundtrip: Php 207
  • Food: Php 2,255

OVERALL TOTAL for TWO PAX : Php 12,243.07 (US $227 ~)

Note: The cost of souvenirs and airfare have been excluded in the overall expenses computation because of the seasonal rate and promo that we were able to get. 

TIPS:

  1. A helpful list of Bagan temples and pagodas can be found here. The temples are scattered everywhere (literally), so DIY is doable unless you can ride an e-bike or better yet book an affordable tour guide who knows the shortcuts and the history of the temples for a much better understanding of the Ancient City.
  2. Majority of the affordable hotels and restaurants are located near the airport in Nyaung-U, while the expensive ones are located in Old Bagan, so be sure to plan ahead where you will be staying. 
  3. If you plan to buy a Longyi for your souvenir, better buy it in the market and not from the Villages or at stalls located outside the temples because they usually sell it 3-4x its normal price! A good quality and standard cotton longyi is only around 5,000 Kyat ($3.20 or Php 172).
  4. Do not exchange your money in unauthorized stores especially in Bagan because you can get scammed. Instead, get your US dollars exchanged to Kyat in exchange centers administered by the banks located in New Bagan.
  5. Credit Cards are widely accepted in the other cities, but NOT in Bagan because we didn’t find a restaurant that accepts Mastercard or Visa for payment. They prefer to be paid in Kyats and not in USD especially the small restaurants. But if you have no Kyats, your USD will be accepted but be mindful that you’ll receive your extra change in Kyats which would be of less value if you plan to travel to another country other than Myanmar.

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5D/4N Siem Reap, Cambodia

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Angkor Wat

ជំរាបសួរ! Chum Reap Suor!” (pronounced as choum-reap-sore) 
It means “Hello” in Cambodian.

If you’ve seen Tomb Raider, then you’ll definitely recognize the huge Banyan trees that were entwined with the centuries-old temples of Angkor. The scene that showcased it was only a small depiction of the majestic beauty of the Khmer empire or modern-day Cambodia as we all know today. As an option for travelers on their honeymoon that want to explore the cultural origins of Cambodia which were packed with centuries-old temples as part of an Indochina itinerary, then Siem Reap is the ideal place to be! This is the reason why among other beautiful cities of Cambodia we preferred to have our first stop in the home of a famous UNESCO heritage site – the Angkor Wat.

Continue reading “5D/4N Siem Reap, Cambodia”