Cambodia Primer – How to get there, and what you need to know

Happy 2014 everyone! I’d like to start the year by reviewing one of my most favorite places on Earth – the Kingdom of Wonder, the once-powerful, then-disgraced, now-picking up country of ancients, the beautiful and wondrous temple country of Cambodia.

IMG_4180

This series will cover my experiences in Cambodia, including a rather personal review of the temples in the Angkor Archaeological Complex. I went to Cambodia with my friend Ella last year, and it was one of the most magnificent experiences of my life! I’d go back to the Kingdom of Wonder, and the next time around, it will not be just about temples!

The Angkor Wat is the most popular destination in all of Cambodia, but I guess, I just haven’t had the opportunity to fully appreciate what other stuff it has to offer. I hope this series will help you plan your upcoming trip to Cambodia. Oh yes, you will want to go to Cambodia after we finish discussing all the wonderful experiences I had there.

Did I use the word wonder and its variations too much? Oh yes, ’cause it will all be the word for it.

DSC_0001 Steampunk industrial Suvarnabhumi Airport

So let’s start with the most important part — the planning! I suggest you read up a lot of other resources. Wikitravel is a good crowdsourced material to start your travel cravings. I’d be leaving you with resources at the end of my posts, which I hope will get you pumped up to plan your own adventure to Cambodia.

So let’s start. There are a LOT of ways to enter Cambodia. It will all depend on the type of experience you’d like to have. A lot of airlines like Cebu Pacific here in the Philippines fly to Siem Reap (for Angkor) and Phnom Penh (the capital) once a week. And there are a lot of other choices, if you’re not picky. You can take a bus from nearby nations – Vietnam to Phnom Penh, and Thailand to Siem Reap, if you’d like.

One more factor is the time you have. If you’re working  and you only have limited leaves like me and you like options for your trips, then we’d agree with each other. For this trip, we entered Cambodia by flying to Thailand and then taking a bus from the Suvarnabhumi Transport Terminal to the Aranyaprathet/Poipet (also, Aran) border.

IMG_3580 Suvarnabhumi Transport Terminal, just a shuttle away from the airport

Here’s a summary of the pocket and time damage so far:
MNL to BKK flight 4 hours – est. PHP6,000 via Cebu Pacific (US$ 133)

Take the free shuttle from Suvarnabhumi airport to the transport terminal. The transport terminal only has two trips to Aran, 8am and 1pm. So if you arrive later, book a nearby hotel from the information inside the airport.

Average hotel near Suvarnabhumi, with shuttles to and from – THB1000 (US$30)
Suvarnabhumi to Aran bus 1.5 – 2 hours- THB200 (US$6)

If you’re required a visa to enter the border, then that’s additional US$20

Poipet to Siem Reap 4 – 6 hours, depending on traffic – US$12 for a shared cab, US$9 for a bus

DSC_0014

It’s pretty textbook to follow everything. What’s not in the textbook are scammers. I love Southeast Asia but it’s teeming with scammers. All throughout this series, you’ll be reading reminders from me, and you better remember them (because we almost got scammed, I tell you!)

  1. At the border, everybody’s desperate. I won’t put the blame on people – usual stuff like inflation and poverty, and Thailand and Cambodia are big countries and their central governments are far away from them. It’s very important to do your research so you know baseline prices for everything.
  2. Around here, the tuk-tuk is a normal means of transportation. Pretty much like the tricycle in the Philippines. Always agree on a price before riding. If possible grab a cab instead. The meter’s pretty fair.
  3. On that note, never agree with a cab on a fixed price. It’s illegal and they’ll really scam you with like 100-200% of the usual metered fare. I’d prefer the cab this side of the world. But if you’re in for the tuk-tuk experience, which is not really extraordinary, then try to haggle a fair price.
  4. A map will help you estimate your fare. I’d really suggest you try to map your journeys ’cause sometimes where you wanna go is actually just a walking distance.
  5. At the border, there is only one transport terminal that will get you to Cambodia fast. Do not agree on anything outside the border. This is where we almost get scammed. A local approached us and offered to lead us to the immigration office. Then suddenly he had a companion, and I was scared because this is what I read in the guides. Just before we entered the immigration office, they offered us to take straight to Siem Reap for THB800 (US$25) which is exorbitant and already an extortion. In this case, just say no. Insist, and they’ll leave you like they’ve never seen you before.
  6. Do not go into a fight. Pretty textbook wherever you go, actually. I read somewhere that they might gang up on you and you don’t want to spend the rest of your trip in jail.
  7. You are protected inside the immigration area, unless you’re bringing something illegal, so when you get to the border, head straight to immigration.
  8. It’s wise to pack light and smart. Because when you get offered to have your stuff carried, it’s difficult to turn that down when you’re carrying so much. And then that load goes to God knows where but not your hotel. I personally don’t like to deal with that.
  9. Lastly, get your visa at the immigration office ONLY. There’s no such thing as expedited, ’cause it’s just really easy to get your visa upon entry. I’ve heard horror stories, and you don’t wanna end up spending the night at the border. That’s just not right.

That’s a lot and reading up on forums and guides won’t hurt. I think this will cause some paranoia but with just the right sense of precaution, you still can enjoy your trip. I just think it’ll be wise to tell you this early so you know what you’re putting yourself into.

IMG_3582

Immigration really depends on the amount of tourists in the area. Border crossing is pretty popular among backpackers around SEA and its best to plot around 40 minutes to an hour of waiting. Then there’s the waiting for the transport to Siem Reap. I think we waited for around half an hour for that as well. That day, it was rainy in some parts of Cambodia, and it’s not weird to be in the middle of a storm-ish rain then be at dry land again – that’s global warming in the tropics for you.

I’d really want to fly in instead of taking the road for this one, but schedule-wise, the flights were not on our side. Hey, there’s always a way, if you keep your options (and reservations) open. The border isn’t exactly touristy but it gives an insight on what life there looks like. The road trip isn’t much of a sight as well, plenty of fields and greenery, but if you’re up for some local observation, then this is a plus for you.

Up next: Banyan Leaf Hotel and a primer to the Angkor!

Look forward

1463478_611451952230148_960821822_n

I look forward to experiences. As I ride this plane tonight, I’m bringing all the uncertainties this year, or in a larger plane, my life, has brought me and leave it above the air. And as I land in a foreign land, as I anticipate to see a scarred kingdom of wonder and smiles – I will remember that my adversities are the least this world has to care about, that it has bigger problems, and it’s dying like any mortal walking the face of earth – and so should I. I expect to learn that no matter how life tosses and turns me, I’d be me and all these makes me human – even though I’m the least human that I know.

I look forward to memories – to making this the most memorable trip of my life so far. That before I turn quarter, I did this, and I would not regret anything – even if I almost regret half of my adult life so far. Decisions to be made need to wait for me make memories in a land where I know no one, where I am like a kid wandering the streets for the very first time. And this, I give to myself. ‘Cause I think I deserve this in a not selfish way, but in a self-loving way.

I look forward to fall in love. To scrape any callousness my heart has delved into. To breathe inside me love and hopefully to breathe it out and inspire and be inspired. With love, we inspire and to live, is to love. To become more than carnal, but to reach a certain point of demi-spiritual actualization. To tell myself that to love is to give way. To love is to be in peace and be one with the inner that I often neglected. To nurture what I have and to realise that these all I neglected.

I look forward to have fun. ‘Cause frankly after all these feels transpired, there’s nothing left to do.

But to have fun.

When working means marrying your gadget (or iDevice for that matter)

Whew, that was a long title.

So you guys know that I had to give up my iPhone for warranty and how it was a nightmare. I got it a month after anyway, and as I type, I am waiting for it to update my apps. Oh new game gone free!!! *exhibits attention deficit*


I cried hard

Ever since I started blogging, my phone will always be the most important part of my daily life. I started blogging when I was in fourth year college. While I primarily used it to back stab my lousy professors (some of them, my classmates would attest) through Twitter and then-BBM, aside from blogging on the side; when I started work in social media, it proved its worth doubly when I got to work with the freedom of choice as to when and where. I wouldn’t try my hand in freelancing, if it hadn’t been the case. I can still remember that time when I went to the beach in a work day and it was just the best explanation why you need your gadget working for you.



BEST WORKPLACE EVER

Or maybe when I need to go out of the country, whether for leisure or work, it’s always handy to have your ever-so-reliable smartphone to be working for you. It’s easy to access your files, reach your contacts, find your way through a city, scour what’s hot or not, or simply see who’s around (ehem, Grindr, ehem.) It’d be simple as from posting a selfie, or sending super important documents — everything’s easy. Everything happens in a click nowadays, and having this beloved (and well-taken-care-of, I suppose) gadget lost, damaged, whether by acts of God or your careless self, is just a massive liability.

Enjoy your trips more when you have your gagdets work wonders for you!

Honestly, waiting for one month for warranty is strenuous. Managing my finances is one trick in life I have yet to learn, so I didn’t have enough money to buy ANOTHER expensive smartphone (that does everything for me btw, plus I didn’t buy it lol) It’ll be senseless too, if it can be replaced by warranty anyway. As the doctors say, prevention is better than cure.

3e2e56b221a211e38c8422000a1f931c_7

Hollywood diva Jennifer Lopez and Victoria’s Secret Angel turned Project Runway host Heidi Klum thought it wise to protect their physical assets. Heidi Klum’s legs are insured for $2.2 million, while J.Lo’s famous derrière is worth a staggering $27 million. Not to mention, A LOT of insurance programs for a lot of other aspects in our lives – like retirement, health, property, automobile, among others. You just have to be sure.

For a lot of people, acquiring an insurance program to protect things that matter most to them can help ease worries away. And with the degree of attachment people are now giving their mobile phones, it makes great sense for mobile phone users to start considering insuring their handsets as well.

Gadget Care V4

And believe me, I have thought of this while my phone is in warranty! I mean, that’s policy already. Now if only I have a chance to override that policy with another. There’s nothing more than insurance to take your worry off. Phones nowadays (especially for those who buys the best for work) are an investment already — take an iDevice which does everything for you and your work for example.

iOS-7-Messages-005

According to statistics, from over 500 serviced claims covered by telco giant Globe Telecom to date, 81% were due to theft; 48% of which happened in public vehicles or while commuting, 35% in public places such as malls, restaurants, and bars, and 17% in private places like at home, office, in a hotel room, and in private cars. And as Christmastime nears, expect these troubling numbers to increase.

So how can mobile phone users mitigate the high-cost of losing or breaking a prized mobile phone? Sign up for a comprehensive mobile phone insurance. Read more

Southeast Asia things

One more month and I’ll be in a plane to my first stab at mainland Southeast Asia. I’ve been postponing it for years (check here, here, and here) for so many excuses, and finally it’s becoming real. To tell you honestly, I can tell I’m really excited. Like, I find it hard to sleep every night I spend on reading guides, and there’s this one time I was on a looping dream about being left by my flight! What the fuck! I know.

I’ve been revising my itinerary (twice for the couple of weeks, after months of researching) and listing down everything I need. I have the compulsion to pack already, too, but still have enough self-restraint. I’ve recomputed my budget over and over again, and kept on listing down work things so that it doesn’t get in the way. I’m overly preparing, I know, but really, I just can’t help it. It’s how I am when I travel.

DSC_0074
Sri Mariamman Temple, Chinatown, Singapore

I still can’t help thinking about my first trip outside the country and in SEA, too! I obsessed over Singapore over and over, pre- and post-trip. I just couldn’t have enough SG ever! I think what would be the difference now is that it’s my first time in a developing country, pretty much the same like the Philippines. While I am so used to living in the PH and third world realness ain’t really a problem for me – it’s different when I travel. It is so easy to travel around Singapore – with the efficient transport system, tourist-friendly environment, near-zero-crime rate, and all those first world perks. Not to mention, data access IS so easy. I must stress this enough because bulk of my job relies on this – and I am never truly away for a holiday, truth be told.

Now, I may not have all these amenities – I mean let’s face it – when you read about the mainland, you get scared about scams, partly because they mention it in every section in guides – and some have a dedicated section for this! It may have gotten me scared enough to back out once or twice, but nah, flights are booked already, I’m doing this bitch.

But what I will not live without is reliable data access. This is the part where I say I’m glad to be with Globe – because they’re partnered with major cities around the world. Traveling can be easy for data-heavy professionals like me. Back in Singapore, all I need to worry about is my battery, since I spend most of the time out and roaming around. And they’re starting to strengthen around Southeast Asia, specifically Thailand – where bulk of my trip will be at.

It cannot get easier than this. Read up on Globe’s partners after the jump and find out why you need GLOBE when traveling around the world… Read more

Laneway-Singapore 2013

Laneway Festival may be months and months and months ago but it still is my big thing of 2013. Looking back, I embarked to Singapore with no less than an exact budget with only (exact!) PhP 300 in my wallet when I got back to Manila. And so, yes — two things:

1. SAVE UP GUYS! I’ve never realized that I haven’t been saving up enough when I arrived in the Philippines with barely enough funds to get through until payday.

2. If you’re up for anything goes, fine. But always bring extra money. I was just lucky, there’s unlimited Koko Krunch in the hostel to at least keep me alive if ever I lost my money – which I didn’t, haha!

Gad, I can digress like an ADHD kid. So on to my Laneway review. I believe there’s no better way for me to give you a feel of the music fest but to share a playlist, so download freely!

20130423-204134.jpg

Click the photo to download the playlist

Also, this is my first music festival abroad, so some little tips for you if ever you go to Laneway next year (or any music festival, like Wanderland in Manila this May, for that matter.)

TAKE NOTE OF THE WEATHER

The sun can be a bitch. And so can the rain. So give yourself heads up on the weather for your own good. Bring a poncho, ’cause you can use this whether the sun is up or it’s pouring down. ALSO, sun block. For that —

EDUCATE YOURSELF ABOUT THE USE OF SUN BLOCK (HAHA!)

I’m saying this because I don’t really use sun block, and I didn’t know you have to apply every hour. I didn’t even bother reading the fine print, haha stupid. Anyway, for tropical countries like Singapore where the whole country can get feverish (40 degrees!!! Jeez.) save yourself from UV, do your skin a favor. I got really bad sunburns just because of this. SO. DON’T. SKIP. THIS.

WEATHER-PROOF YOUR GADGETS

As much as your skin needs protection, so do your gadgets. I’ve heard horror stories from the first Laneway in Singapore where it was actually called Rainway because it rained so hard and where some friends went home with non-functional phones and cameras. Bring cases that insulate your babies from heat and water, and you’ll thank me for being able to bring back home your camera or phone alive.

DON’T BOTHER BRINGING WATER BOTTLES

It’s in the rules actually, so it’s senseless to put it here. But I’ve seen some other who brought their own flasks. So yeah, try your luck! I really wish I brought at least a flask, ’cause the beer can cost you up to S$10!

EAT HEAVY MEALS

‘Cause lines can get so long! And it’s also expensive. What we did though for dinner is we went out to Marina Bay Sands (quite a walk, though) and ate at Rasapura instead.

CHOOSE YOUR OWN ADVETURE

The festival ended at 1am, and there’s no train or bus anymore at Singapore at that time. So you have three choices — wait in line for two hours for a cab, walk to your place, or just leave early. I actually walked from Marina Bay to Chinatown, where I’m staying, and it wasn’t so bad. I’m so tired by then but walking in the Lion City is really a pleasure. Plus, you can easily use your gadgets while walking since it’s very secure there!

KEEP OPEN EYES AND EARS

You don’t know who you’ll be meeting at the festival. It’s actually nice to make some new friends there, especially you’re all there with the same interest, and eventually look them up at Facebook or Twitter to connect with them. We saw this too as a good opportunity to promote the Philippines to some of our new friends!

DANCE TO YOUR HEARTS CONTENT

There is free space for everyone to dance and go crazy, for as long as you’re not drunk, ’cause they might detain you. Scary. But after you read this, you may forget all of these, but don’t ever ever forget to enjoy your time and have fun at the festival! It’s what it’s for and you did not just pay S$145 just to sulk under the sun.

***

I’m really thinking if this could be a yearly thing for me. And yes, if the line up’s as good as this year’s, Imma haul my ass back to Singapore for some more!

Or maybe New Zealand… Hmmmmmmm

St. Jerome’s Laneway Festival
singaporeinfo@lanewayfestival.com.au
Brisbane | Sydney | Melbourne | Adelaide | Perth | Auckland | Singapore

Matchbox Concept Hostel

What to do on an impulsive trip, with a 20 grand budget minus music festival ticket and airfare? If we’re on the same page, then read up.

First things first. Don’t. Deprive. Yourself.

One of my concerns when I was in Singapore for the Laneway Festival was an affordable place to stay. And I didn’t just go to the cheapest hotel I found in Agoda, no matter how I wanted to. While this hostel might not be the cheapest place there is, I booked impulsively, just as before the beds ran out, because it’s beautiful. And I have to admit, they had me at unlimited cereals and milk!

DSC_0210

Matchbox has been recognized in the hostel industry as one of the most creatively thought of places, not only in Singapore, but also in the world. And not to my surprise, it did match my expectations – from the reviews I read and from friends’ recommendation. I really liked that the beds are in pod style. Apart from the aesthetics and the space saving, I’d just really really like to sleep in a pod. My favorite place was the loft though – where I spent my first night.


Pecs and the City

They really don’t offer the loft for sleeping. It was more for lounging around when you feel like just staying in the hostel. But do let me allow myself a little digression.

In the spirit of maximizing my budget, I booked a flight that arrived in Changi Airport by 1am. While there is nothing wrong about that – the city is still much alive even if you land by 4, I entirely forgot to book an earlier day just to save my bed share. (Personally, I think my system in tipid, thirift in English, mode made a subconscious decision to just leave that one out.) So I arrive in the hotel, bed-less and no sleep from the flight, they let me sleep in the beautiful designer loft upstairs. I just had my first impromptu couchsurfing experience in a hostel. I’m really thankful that they did not throw my out and instead let me sleep in the couch. These little things add to the overall feel of the hostel for me. And I love staying in that couch, may I just say!


Tripadvisor

Anyway. Enough of that. It was fun to reminisce though.

Amenities-wise, You just gotta love everything in the hostel. The toilet and shower room is clean, complete with toiletries so you wouldn’t need to bring your own. Just bring your own toothbrush and toothpase, or buy at their store. Aside from that, everything’s provided. You can even do your own laundry for a small fee there!

I think I cannot emphasize more that breakfast cereals and milk are unlimited and available throughout the day. When you lose your money there and go practically broke, you can live out the rest of your days with cereals – I’m pretty fine with that scenario (but. not. hoping. for. that.)

DSC_0211

DSC_0212

Matchbox is in the middle of a quaint, artsy street in Chinatown, so explore a bit when you’re around the area. Ann Siang Road is pack full of similarly quirky restaurants and bars, and is quite accessible to hawker center (Maxwell), museums (Red Dot Museum) and the train (Tanjong Pagar station).

When booking a bed with them, you may go directly to their website and watch out for last-minute beds ’cause they go on a sale! I got mine for S$75 instead of S$90 for two days (and yes, that free night on the loft). This is my first time to stay in a hostel, and I’m really happy to stay in a dorm-type room instead of having my own. I got to meet other people and even met a couple of Filipinos who are there for Laneway as well! But if you’re iffy to share a room with a couple of strangers, then you may book for their solo rooms – which are of course available for a higher price.

God, making this post makes me wanna go back. AND OH! They give you 10% discount if you’re a returning customer! If it’s your first time to stay in a hostel like me, then I highly suggest you try Matchbox. Or if you’re the veteran hostel-staying backpacker, give yourself a treat once in a while, won’t you?

Say hi to Shah for me if you’re there!

Matchbox Concept Hostel
39 Ann Siang Road
+65 6423 0237
pillowtalk@matchbox.sg

Travel Series: Singapore

20130130-203421.jpg
Supertrees, Gardens by the Bay, Marina Bay Sands

Hello there!

I’m starting this new series about my not-so-recent trip to Singapore for Laneway Festival! It’s the first time I went here not on any business, but to enjoy the music festival and all the city-state can offer me!

Watch out for more posts! I’ll be featuring Matchbox, that beautiful, pretty, quaint, *insert more fancy adjectives here* hostel I stayed at; a lil’ bit about Laneway Festival and my favorite band who I actually heard play — Of Monsters and Men; my mini temple-run, and the little sidetrips along the way!

Keep tuned in! Excited to share all of these. And to actually remember all my experiences is an experience in itself 🙂

J

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...