Day5: Siem Reap at Last + Apsara Show

What I hate most in this backpacking trip is I need to transfer from one place to another; and that means I need to pack my things over and over again. The more I have used/dirty clothes, the harder it is to pack. Oh well in time, magiging talent ko din mag-organize ng bag.

Moving on..
Day 5: At exactly 6:30am, the bus to Siem Reap picked me up directly at Nguyen Khang Hotel. Ticket costs $20. I sat beside a Vietnamese woman and she was eating a local sandwich. I asked her where did she buy that, apparently she just smiled and gestured she didn't understand me. After several exchange of sign languages she went down the bus.

Act of Kindness #3
The woman returned and handed me a sandwich. Yes, she bought me one. I insisted on paying her but she didn't accept it. How sweet, she reminds me of my mother.

a Vietnamese sandwich - source

It tasted differently from the usual sandwich here in Manila, nonetheless I enjoyed it. Besides I don't know how long will I be staying in this bus until I reach Siem Reap.

That woman also served us my guide. It'll be the first time I will cross borders overland, and Im doing it all by myself.

After 3 hours I think, the bus stopped. Someone from the bus company collected our passports. Since the woman beside me gave hers without a doubt, I also surrendered mine. Then almost everyone got out of the bus, and so I followed them too. Gaya-gaya!

We entered a hall with many people. Now Im sure we're exiting Vietnam border - Moc Bai. Someone in the immigration will call your name (as he was holding your passport), he will stamp it, and after that you can pass. Since that person cant pronounce my name, he shouted "Philippines" instead. Ü Btw, it is prohibited to take photos inside.

I passed through the hall and saw the same bus we rode earlier. I saw the other passengers boarding so I followed them and boarded the bus again.
Some minutes later, I had a first glimpse of Cambodia. This is indeed the Kingdom of Wonder. I cant deny I got very excited. Everyone got their things and went out of the bus. I followed them again. Crossing Cambodia border is more organized than what Vietnam border has. I lined up and got my passport stamped and that's it. Again, taking pictures is prohibited.

Whew, Im finally in Cambodia! And this is the 2nd country where I traveled solo. I looked for the bus and boarded in again. At 11:30, we stopped by an unknown place. I followed the other passengers and found out it's a small eatery. I don't know how to order so I observed other passengers first. I don't have any Riels yet so I handed the waitress some dollars. I ordered a rice meal with fried chicken and vegetables.

After a satisfying meal, I went back to the bus and waited for the other passengers. Our journey continued. At 2pm, the bus stopped and everyone stood up and got their things. Ok, ano nangyayari? Ayun pala we're already in Pnomh Penh - a city in Cambodia. Almost everyone disappeared as I went out of the bus. I dont know where to go. I looked for the kind woman beside me and said "Siem Reap". She understood and said "aahh, Siem Reap". She dragged me to a bus across the street where we're standing and talked to the driver. This driver took my things and put it inside the cabin. I thanked the fine woman for assisting me though we dont understand each other at all.

I boarded the bus and found many western backpackers in it. I knew it will took another long journey and I needed a leg room this time. Lucky me, no one sat beside me. The 2seats were all mine.

The view was already breathtaking but I haven't really seen the Angkor. At 5pm, the bus stopped. akala ko yun na, hindi pa pala. Another stopover for everyone to rest, go the the rest room, or eat. I asked some lady vendors how far was Siem Reap, and she said in 2-3 hours more. I decided to eat a local sandwich, feeling ko equivalent ng Siopao yun, but after a few bites, I threw it. Baka masira kasi tyan ko sa unfamiliar food, mahirap na. Nasa byahe pa kami na hindi ko alam kelan hihinto.

At 8pm, naiinip na ko. Ang tagal, parang never ending na bus ride. Gusto ko matulog pero wala naman akong kasama na gigising sakin in case nasa Siem Reap na kami so delikado mahimbing ako sa pagtulog.

Finally after 14-15 hours, I finally reached Siem Reap. The bus stopped and I saw many tuktuk drivers around it. I saw a man who's handing a signboard with my name on it. Yep, I made reservations in a cheap guesthouse and luckily they also offer free pickup.

a welcome drink at Bou Savy

Bou Savy Guesthouse is the name of my accommodation in Siem Reap. For only $12, I got a private room with aircon, fan, ensuite bathroom, fridge, free breakfast, free dinner, free pick up from the bus station, and a 10% discount on top of it all. Super bargain!

instead of a Single Room they gave me a Twin Room
(with no additional charges)

tv, fridge, ensuite bathroom

What did I put inside the fridge?

kelangan pa ba i-memorize yan? *winks*

Among the 4 countries I visited in this SEA trip, Cambodia's map stood out. They provide every tourist a free book containing Pnomh Penh and Siem Reap's Angkor guides, city maps, transportation, restaurants, bars, hotels, guest houses, traditional performances, markets, boutiques, and galleries. All complete with the website, location, and contact details. Super!!!

super detailed Siem Reap guide book
(and showcasing my red nail polish)
Bou Savy Guesthouse

I planned to spent my first night in Siem Reap in a local restaurant that offers Apsara Show. Apsara is a traditional Cambodian / Khmer dance. Khmer is pronounced as Kmey (turo ng tour guide namely Kim Rieng). As per my tour guide's recommendation, I settled at Koulen Restaurant. Dinner Buffet + Apsara Show is $10.

Koulen Resto

buffet table

It's best to come here with reservations. There were many guests from different countries. Here are some of Khmer food.

meang pork, fruits, fried and spring rolls, stir fry noodles

veggies, curry, crispy chicken, native desserts

I cant take a photo of everything but my favorites that night were: Pumpkin soup, Stir fried noodles (bentang benta sakin ulit), Crispy Chicken, and Satay.

a plate of Khmer food

And because I made a reservation in advance, I was entitled for a good seat with a good view of the most awaited Apsara Show.

the Apsara dancers

they look stiff, but they dance so subtle

There were various performances that night. This traditional dance is a must see. And do I need to mention their costumes are really outstanding?

the dancers - up close

photo op session at the end of the show

Im really dying to have my photo taken with the dancers but I cant trust anybody who I can hand over my camera with. There I found this Chinese guy, he was with his parents. I asked him politely if he could take a photo of me. He willingly agreed. Yey!

dancing the Khmer way

Chinese guy: are you signaling me to stop?
Me: no, sorry for misinterpreting. i just need to pose with my 5 fingers.
(oo nga naman, parang STOP sign kasi yung kamay ko).. hihi

and that ends my Day 5 (whew, ang hirap ng low light shots!)

Koulen Restaurant

Note: because I miscalculated my time of arrival in Siem Reap, I missed this show at 7:30pm. This buffet + Apsara show took place on my 2nd night.

click here for the Angkor Wat complex

Day 4: Cu Chi Tunnel, City Tour, Water Puppet Show

Evening of Day 3: Arrival in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
The shuttle service I hired from Nguyen Khang picked me up in Tan Son Nhat International Airport. Come on, it's my first time to travel alone in a foreign country, so I made this safe and convenient for me. Besides, $12 for the pick up is reasonable enough.

Chyng Reyes from MALINA - ano daw?! 0_o

I arrived at around 10pm in the famous backpackers' area in District 1. I saw a lot of different nationalities around. I headed towards Nguyen Khang Hotel to check in. I chose that place because of the good feedbacks from our fellow Pinoys. And it didn't disappoint me. Among my 4 accommodations in this SEA trip, my room in Nguyen Khang is my favorite. I got a private room with a double bed, aircon, fan, mini-fridge, en suite bathroom, free wifi and free breakfast, all for $15/night. The hotel is clean, well-maintained, and quite new.

private room for me (yey, pwede magkalat!)

en suite bathroom

Nguyen Khang Hotel

I talked to the receptionist and booked myself a Cu Chi Tour ($5) for the following day, and a bus ticket to Siem Reap, Cambodia ($20) for the day after the next. Yes, everything is rated in dollars.

After that I strolled outside the hotel alley and looked for a bar and resto where I can eat. It's almost midnight yet many establishments are still open. The place where I settled served different beers from different countries. Ex. Singha from Thailand, Tiger from Singapore, Angkor from Cambodia. And yes there's San Miguel from the Philippines of course.

Asia' different beers - this is cute!

I know I should try the Vietnamese Pho pero di ko pa feel that night. I need a rice meal. Hihi

Seafood Fried Rice

Surprisingly good. The serving is generous and the taste is just right. Enough of the overflowing spices and flavors. I need a simple dish this time.

Day 4: Cu Chi Tour, Ho Chi Minh city tour, Water Puppet Show
I went down the common breakfast area and found no one there. Seemed everyone's still sleeping. Why? Because it's still very early. Well, no one told me the time in Vietnam is 1 hour delayed of us. Maaga pa naman ako gumising, kainis. Haha

local bread, jam, egg, coffee, and fruit juice

After breakfast, the receptionist informed me that the coordinator of the trip was already waiting for me outside. I followed him and there I met the other backpackers. This is the shuttle bus that will bring us to Cu Chi.

shuttle bus to Cu Chi

Chi, our local tour guide, told us random trivia about their country. He said it's only been 4 years since they got a cellular site and use cellphones in Vietnam. He also said they cant complain much, because if they do, they'll be in trouble. That's why they don't bother if Facebook or any other social networking sites are prohibited in Vietnam (you cant access FB here).

The shuttle bus stopped in a local handicraft and manufacturer shop. I got very amazed in what they are doing. Right there I agreed that the Vietnamese are skilled.

lovely hand made crafts

and all of these are made up of egg shells

We arrived in Cu Chi tunnel site and paid for the entrance fee. We were instructed to watch a video presentation first.

Cu Chi Tunnel is 70 km from Ho Chi Minh City in the Northwest. It is miniature battle versatile of Cu Chi’s military and people during the 30-year struggle longtime and fierce to fight invading enemy to receive independence, freedom for motherland. It also is the special architecture lying deeply underground with many stratum, nooks and crannies as complex as a cobweb, having spares for living, meeting and fighting with total lengths over 200 km.

Honestly I have no idea what this trip is all about. I didn't even know there's a war between America and Vietnam. To be able for the Vietnamese people to survive, they created a tunnel and almost 16,000 people lived underground for 40years.

Now why did they create a tunnel with just a small opening? Simply because small holes can only fit small people. Therefore, American soldiers can't.. Ang talino! Ü

this very small hole is the entrance to the tunnel

Chi, our guide, showed off he can fit

Being the only Asian guest in the tour, I volunteered to try it first. I know I can effortlessly fit too.

Asians can easily fit!

But the westerners can't... They have big body builds.

see, he got stuck

Not only that, the Vietnamese managed to cook without smoke, breathe normally, take a bath, and almost do everything underground. Vietnamese have simple yet brilliant ideas! They also use traps like these:

this will really hurt

This tour is very interesting. Never miss Cu Chi Tour when you get to visit Vietnam. Indeed, this is the trademark for my 4th day of Backpacking SEA.

Day 4: Cu Chi Tunnel, Vietnam

westerners: hey, what's with the 4 fingers? is that the popular hand sign in your country?
me: (smiling) no, it's my 4th day of backpacking.
pero sa totoo lang eto gusto ko sabihin: tse! pakealam mo! 0_o

As souvenir, I think this one's the most famous.

drink it 3x a day

Cu Chi Tunnel

We returned back to the city and we're dropped somewhere the backpacker's area at 2pm. I decided to have lunch at Pho24. Why here? I just need a place with wifi. I dont have any idea how to get back to my hotel. I need to search for the location. Hihi

Vietnamese Pho and Spring Rolls

This noodle soup has a distinct taste. Tastes far different from Chinese and Japanese ramen. The Spring Rolls come perfect with this Pho. I enjoyed my 1st real Vietnamese meal.

Moving on..
Para maging proud naman sakin sina Nina, Jamie from GT, and Shyn from PEX (thank you ladies), I didn't' join any group for the city tour. I visited the landmarks alone. I had a map in hand of course. It's safe, but it's just very hard to cross the streets. Why? motorcycles are everywhere!

1:1 yata ang ratio ng motorycle dito

I visited Saigon Square and Ben Thanh market place. I bought some items but these don't include a TNF bag. I realized I don't need one.

Next, I walked towards the Notre Dame Cathedral. The late 19th century cathedral has a neo-Romanesque facade with twin towers. There's an ongoing mass inside and as respect I didn't take any photos. After all, there's nothing really fancy inside the church. The churches' interiors in Intramuros are more charming.

Notre Dame Cathedral

a photoshoot outside the church

Next is the Reunification Palace.

Reunification Palace

And the Central Post Office.

Central Post Office

Since Im alone, I don't have any photos of myself in front of these landmarks. For the entire Vietnam trip, I only have 2 photos taken in the Cu Chi tour. Ü

Moving on, I ended my Do-It-Yourself city tour with the Water Puppet Show. Ticket is VND80,000 (about P185).

Water Puppet Show

the show's about to start

the musical team

Traditional Daily Life in Rural Villages

Heroic Legends and the Vietnamese Spirit

the finale

and the people behind these puppets

Water Puppetry and Vietnamese Traditional Music are new to me. I may not understand the songs and the whole story (songs and music are in Vietnamese language), but I was entertained. Actually I prefer this show's not translated to English, for sure everyone in that room wants to see the original version of this traditional show.

Water Puppet Show

For dinner, I settled at Highlands Coffee to taste Vietnam's coffee.

at Highlands Coffee

I don't really drink coffee so I don't know how to rate their version. What I like more is their coffee cheesecake.

Since I still have a lot of Vietnamese Dongs in hand, I had a manicure+pedicure in a nearby salon. Pretty cheap!

Btw, for this trip, I showcased being a Pinay through wearing this shirt.

proudly Pinay ♥

Total expenses in Vietnam (including bus fare to Siem Reap) is $107 (P4,900)

Next entry: 14 hours overland to Siem Reap, Cambodia

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