DIY: Bangkok – Siem Reap
Bangkok is perfect for those first solo budget travel trips that’s why I have chosen BKK to be my very first solo travel outside the Philippines. I was so excited! The fact that I am going to do it solo made it more exciting! I was never afraid of traveling solo. For me, it makes me know myself better.
Traveling solo in a new place takes a lot of courage especially for women travelers. The secret, for me, is researching about anything about the place before going. From the people, geography, transportation, etc. Also, learn to talk to strangers, your co-traveler. You might spot some friends for keeps! Just always be on the look of yourself. Always be careful. Shit happens when you allow it.
This trip made me realize how tiny I am in this world, I became more open-minded and had a deeper appreciation for culture. This trip inspired me to see the world and experience every bit of it.
Let me share to you some highlights and tips from my DIY trip to Bangkok and Cambodia for 7 days (March 2-8, 2014).
THINGS TO BRING:
1. Passport, visa (if needed), cash (US dollars and Baht) and cameras.
2. Extra walking shoes/slippers, a nice cap or pashmina, sunblock lotion.
3. Printed maps (Train stations, directions to your hotel, and other places you want to see).
4. Your love for cultures.
TIPS (Touring BKK and Siem Reap’s temples)
1. Before getting on the tour for the day, make sure you have a bottle of water with you. Make it two as it’s going to be exhausting.
2. Do not bring too much on your tour. A bag of wallet, cameras, mobile phones and water will do and extra shirt, too.
3. Wear clothes that covers your shoulders and knees as it’s going to be required at the temples. But if you have something to cover your sleeveless top, like a pashmina, that will do. Do not wear slippers.
4. It is better when you use their trains as your means of transportation as it is going to be faster and reliable.
5. Bring extra batteries for your cameras.
6. When choosing a hotel or hostel, i suggest that you get the ones that are near the train stations.
7. Respect the people and the place.
I chose to stay at Udee Bangkok as it is near BTS Saphan Khwai station. The hostel has this homelike feel. They have clean restrooms, nice shower rooms (free soap and shampoo), and comfortable rooms at a very fairly priced rate. It is located at a residential street near where street foods are piled up.
Check out their website here: Udee Bangkok
Before heading to do the temple tour, I had a quick snack at one of the food stalls before reaching Saphan Kwai train station. It filled me up at 20 Baht only.
From Saphan Kwai station, go to Saphan Taksin to reach Chao Phraya River for you to get to the Grand Palace. A ticket would cost you 40 Baht/way.
After getting off the boat go straight to the main road where you will see this long white gate, it’s where the Grand Palace is. Prepare an entrance fee of 500 Baht.
Inside the temple you will be asked to remove your shoes. I had lost my shoes here so I suggest you to take your shoes with you rather than putting them into the racks. You might not see your shoes again like I did.
If explored the temples as it was my first time in BKK and wanted to know a little more about their history. These are main tourist spots, and are really crowded. If you do not want to be surrounded by the flock of people temple touring, you may just walk around BKK’s old city and search for the most delicious Pad Thai in BKK or head off to Chiang Mai.The pace has this relaxed vibe compared to BKK. 😀
After exiting the Grand Palace walk back to the direction where the port is and then turn left when you hit the end of it. Walk straight for about 10 minutes and you will see the Wat Pho Temple entrance at Thanon Maharat St. Prepare 100 Baht for the entrance fee. This comes with a free water bottle.
Before hitting the boat again and after the tiring temple tour, you may dine at one of the food stalls just right before the pier. I had a Stir-fried noodle with shrimp and vegetables as they run out of pad thai and a milk tea of course.
It was a Sunday when I arrived in Bangkok, so, I have to spend some shopping time at Chatutak Night Market as they are only open during weekends. From Saphan Kwai station walk straight through the next station, Mo Chit and you will hit the Chatutak Market. About 15 minutes walk from where I am staying.
And to end the night, I had a nice dinner on the street with the locals. No English translations on the meals so just pointed at one of the meals on the menu and I did not regret it.
Of course, a Thai Massage shouldn’t be missed.
After spending a night in Bangkok, I decided to head off to Siem Reap the next day. Went to the Mo Chit North Bus Terminal at 6am and was able to book a ticket to Siem Reap that will leave BKK at 8am. Rode a taxi to the terminal for 70 Baht. Below is the cab I get to ride that morning, they were cool enough to have a conversation with me. I think it is their home, I mean their cab itself is where they live. So full of stuff inside the car.
The ticket booth to Siem Reap is located at the ground floor. Ticket is priced at 750 Baht/way. Nattakan Bus leaves at 8am in the morning.
At the Thai border. Expect a long line of tourist waiting for their cue to have their passports stamped. It will take 20-30 minutes. Pretty fast given the long line of travelers.
At the Poipet border.
After almost 10 hours of bus ride, we finally hit Siem Reap and stayed at The Dancing Frog Hostel. From the hostel, only a 5-minute walk to reach the Night Market and Pub Street. The French owner, Gin, was very accommodating and kind enough to treat us for a drink. Rooms are cheap but nice.
Spent the night with this beautiful woman I get to befriend with during the travel to Siem Reap. She is Chinmayi, who is a fan of metal rock! Such a kind and cowboy Indian girl! 🙂
The next day, with only 3 hours of sleep as we are after to see the sunrise at Angkor Wat at 7 in the morning, we decided to do the Temple Tour for 20 US dollars for a day pass. Woke up at 5 in the morning. (We were just excited).
They have this tours they call the small circle and the big circle tour. We only tried the small circle tour where you will see the historic and famous temples that are 400 years old now. We thought, we do not need to see all of the temples, after seeing some, we thought they are just the same. Well, some of them.
Exploring the ‘small circle tour’ made me see magnificent structures and made me a part of their history in some way. It was worth it.
Sunrise at Angkor Wat at 7:30 in the morning. This was last March 2014, when you can have the first glimpse of the sun on the far left side of the Temple.
The sun at the tip of the Temple. Lovely.
There are Palm Juice vendors around the area for those who run out of water or forgot to bring water with them.
Spent the whole day walking, running, climbing, eating. It was exhausting yet fascinating. Angkor Wat and other temples are a must-see indeed. It was all worth the effort. There are tourist guides that you can hire for 10-15 US dollars if you want to have a guide with you or you can buy a guide book for 20 US dollars.
And we ended the day shopping at the market and an early dinner in one of the restaurants at the Pub Street. It is just the way we relax. 🙂
The next day we went cycling for 2 US dollars for 12 hours. Rode a boat to the Tonle Sap Lake floating village and partied again at night. Ended the day shopping again at the night market. The experience during cycling was fun! We were actuly hesitating at first as we do not really know the way to the lake. After asking some locals, we finally hit the road and started the ride. It was pretty easy having to think it is 18km away from Siem Reap.
It is nice to try cycing around Siem Reap as you will see more of it like the local hangouts, restaurants and many more. You should try it too, besides, it is cheap. If you do not want to go bicycling, you can rent a motorbike instead. Ask your accommodation provider about it.
It was a short Siem Reap visit for me. I should have spent a week here but 4 days would be enough for a first visit. I will surely be coming back and see more of Cambodia’s beauty.
After spending 4 days and 3 nights in Siem Reap, finally went back to Bangkok and spend the remaining days shopping and street food tripping! I get to visit the Phallic Shrine or the Chao Mae Tuptim Shrine (Penis Shrine) and Khao San, too!
To get to the Phallic Shrine, you have to ride the BTS to Chit Lom BTS Station. From there, walk back along the main road for about 2 blocks then turn left onto Som Khit Street. It is located behind the Swissôtel Bangkok hotel near the bank of the Khlong Saen Saep.
I was the ony one at that time at the Phalic Shrine. It was somewhat an odd experience but interesting. Phallic Shrine is 100 years old now and believed to be a symbol of good luck and also a representative of fertility. The shrine is one of the best examples of intentional phallic architecture in the world. (wikipedia) They are in different sizes, colors and realistic n shape.
Khao San is known as backpacker’s haven in BKK. I did not stay here as I wanted to experience more of BKK’s daily lives than to be surrounded by my fellow traveler. Pad Thais here are really cheap and awesomely delicious! But shopping here is more expensive than in Chatuchak. The vibe here is just different. Full of backpackers from around the globe. But it was fun. Spent a day here. Ate and shopped.
To get to Khao San Road, get off at BTS Saphan Taksin station, walk to the Chao Praya River Central Pier for about 5 minutes and then ride a boat to Phra Arthit (pier number N.13). From there walk in the alley to the main road, you will see a 711 store and across it is a small alley, Soi Rambuttri. Walk through the end of it until you see a main road with Thanon Khao San sign.
I survived another solo backpacking experience. It was 7 days of walking, exploring, learning, eating and meeting new travelers.
Bangkok and Siem Reap will always have a special place in my heart. It changed the way I travel and my outlook in life. My appreciation and respect for nature, history and people became deeper and made me eager to learn more about other countries around the globe. And since I traveled solo, this trip made me know myself better.
Thank you, BKK and Siem Reap! 🙂