Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand in 16 days with less than Php 45,000

They say the best way to get to know someone is to travel with them. Last August 2015, after eight years of going places together, the next big step was to take a 2-week backpacking trip around South East Asia. It turned out way better than expected. We got lost, but we always got back on track. We followed a tight schedule, but we were also able to adjust according to the circumstances. More importantly, we did not fight or break up!haha It helps that we have an unwritten agreement for all trips: I plan, Eliel navigates, and nobody complains (most of the time, lol). ;)

While doing research on Indochina, most backpackers would recommend spending at least 3 months. We didn't have the luxury of time, so we decided to cram in as much as we could in 2 and a half weeks. Since the Philippines isn't exactly on the other side of the world (just 3 hours away!), it would be fairly easy for us to go back and visit the places that we couldn't squeeze into our itinerary this time around.

To make sure we didn't miss any reservations due to sudden changes in schedules, we booked our accommodations, bus and boat tickets on the road, as we went along with the trip. Airbnb, Agoda, and became my favorite websites/apps as they had lots of options for our budget.

We initially set a Php 50,000 budget per person, excluding air fare. However, it turned out that we only paid Php 43,474 for everything including air fare (thanks, Cebu Pacific). Yey! We could have spent even less if we stayed in hostels and shared bunk beds with other backpackers, or if we stuck with budget food during the entire trip. However, low maintenance as we are, we still enjoy our comforts and we don't like depriving ourselves when it comes to food. 

We visited 3 countries: Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. We had one stop in Vietnam, three in Cambodia and two in Thailand.

Aside from eating and souvenir shopping, we

  • walked through the underground Cu Chi tunnels
  • cruised the Mekong river
  • visited the Khmer Rouge's Killing Fields
  • chilled at the beaches of Koh Rong Samloem
  • explored the vast ruins of Angkor
  • fed and played with baby elephants
  • spent some time with tigers
  • learned to cook Thai food
  • saw A LOT of temples (of course)

The only thing we regret is not spending as much time in Vietnam. If we could redo the trip, we would have started in Hanoi before going to Ho Chi Minh. Then again, not doing so gives us a good reason to go back to Vietnam in the future. :)

It took a lot of research to figure out the best itinerary for us. We started out by randomly browsing different blogs online. Afterwards, we decided on the places we wanted to visit and listed down our "non-negotiables" (a tip from our travel junkie bff, Jessa). Non-negotiables pertained to the sights we wanted to prioritize. The remaining sights, we would visit if we had time left. 

We ended up with the itinerary below.

Day 0 - Fly to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam

Day 1 - Explore Ho Chi Minh

*Notre Dame Cathedral
*Central Post Office
*Cu Chi Tunnels
*War Remnants Museum
*Ben Thanh Market

Day 2 - Mekong Delta Tour

Day 3 - Travel to Phnom Penh, Cambodia

*Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh - border crossing (6 hours)

Day 4 - Explore Phnom Penh

*Killing Fields
*Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum
*Royal Palace

Day 5 - Travel to Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia

*Bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville (4 hours)
*Ferry from Sihanoukville to Koh Rong Samloem (45 minutes)

Day 6 and 7 - Relax at Koh Rong Samloem

Day 8 - Travel to Siem Reap, Cambodia

*Ferry from Koh Rong Samloem to Sihanoukville (45 minutes)
*Van from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh (4 hours)
*Sleeper bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (7 hours)

Day 9 - Angkor Archeological Park Tour

Day 10 - Travel to Chiang Mai, Thailand

*Bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok - border crossing (10 hours)
*First class overnight bus from Bangkok to Chiang Mai (11 hours)

Day 11 - Explore Chiang Mai

*Temple hopping

Day 12 - Explore Chiang Mai

*Rantong Elephant Camp
*Thai Cooking School

Day 13 - Explore Chiang Mai

*Doi Suthep Temple
*Tiger Kingdom

Day 14 - Travel to Bangkok, Thailand

*First class bus from Chiang Mai to Bangkok (10 hours)
*Explore Khao San Road and Asiatique

Day 15 - Explore Bangkok

*Chatuchak Weekend Market

Day 16 - Explore Bangkok

*Wat Pho
*Siam Paragon/MBK
*Food trip at Soi 38

Day 17 - Fly back to Manila

Backpacking around Indochina entails a lot of long bus rides which means lots of quality time. (You can opt to fly between cities, but that would be more expensive.) We used these long periods to book our accommodations for the next leg, and to bug each other until we got bored. 

Having quick stops (usually 2-3 nights per location) added to the stress since we needed to pack and unpack our things on a regular basis. However, by the middle of the trip, we eventually mastered the skill and were usually ready to go in just a few minutes. We only packed the bare minimum to make sure we wouldn't break our backs. Because of this, we needed to have our laundry done in the middle of the trip. The only thing I regret bringing was this one pair of shoes which I thought would be comfy for long walks, but ended up being painful after a few hours. I had thoughts of leaving it behind, but I got separation anxiety.haha

In the end, what worked best for me was a 35L backpack, plus a small "carry-on" backpack which I bought at the Ben Thanh market in Vietnam at the start of our trip. See that bulky brown pack on the right side of my bag? That's the pair of shoes I shouldn't have brought. It was unnecessary bulk that I decided to carry with me throughout the trip. 

Eliel, on the other hand, used a 40L backpack plus a detachable 15L day pack, which is pretty cool. Aside from that, he had a belt bag for his camera. We also lugged around a tripod, which turned out to be unnecessary. It was too much of a hassle to set up so we only got to use it a few times. Oh well, lesson learned. 

Check out the links below for detailed posts on each stop. :)

Here's the breakdown of our expenses:


  1. I see all the things you mentioned about private tours in cuenca ecuador on your post. And that really impressed me. You have great knowledge of this. Please share more information with us.