1 backpack, 4 countries, 6 cities, 13 days, and 22 cans of Coke.
This is the longest backpacking trip I have ever been to and I don’t know how why and how I signed up for this. Must be the impulses! Also, this trip is supposed to culminate (or so what I have been telling myself) my last few months as my 30-year-old self. Next year is all about being financially conscious and saving larger chunks. No more out of whim trips. I AM NOT PROMISING BUT WILL TRY. HAHAHA.
The original plan is that there will be 10 of us who will go to this “Ubusuan Ng Lahi Asian Tour”, I coined that term because this trip will eat up all of our Vacation Leaves, Money and Energy.
From 10, we were down to 6. Just me and Gee in Vietnam at first. Bryan is flying in the next day. We are set to meet others along the way. Bea and Cha at Bangkok and Richelle in Yangon, Myanmar.
A week before our flight, I was anxiously planning how I am going to pack for this trip because I am an over-packer and everything is supposed to fit in one backpack.
We had a Facebook group chat about whether we should bring luggage or stick with a backpack. I almost gave in and brought wheeled luggage, but I know mobility will be an issue.
How do you pack for 13 days?
I pulled out my 31L The North Face Recon backpack and mentally planned the clothes that I need to bring. There is no way 13 days of clothes will fit in my backpack! I decided to pack for 5 days and do laundry in between. Doing laundry is a lot cheaper than paying for extra baggage allowances for all of our flights and is a lot more convenient than carrying bulky luggage all throughout the trip.
May I also say that my worry about this whole trip is that my feet are going to hurt and swell up from all the walking, but, my North Face sandals are amazing!!! It’s lightweight, quick-dry, perfect for Trekking or walking and the sole is so soft it feels like walking on a cushion. THANKS, MOM FOR BUYING ME THISSSSS~~~
I decided to bring two bags. A backpack that contains all of my clothes and toiletries and another one where I can easily access important stuff like my passport and money.
What’s inside my bag?
North Face Recon Backpack
- 2 white t-shirts and 3 black cotton long sleeves
- 10 pairs of undies
- 5 skorts (Skirts with shorts underneath because wearing cycling shorts irks me)
- Quick Dry Towel
- 15 sachets of shampoo
- 15 sachets of conditioner
- 80 ml body wash
- Travel-sized toothpaste and toothbrush
- Plastic bags and an Eco Bag
Small Nike Duffel Bag
- Face cream
- Power bank and phone charger
- Travel wallet (where I stash my passport, currencies, and IDs)
- Face towels
- Wet wipes
How much does it cost?
There is a lot of flying involved and multiple bookings so I can’t remember how much each flight costs. Pero most of the flights were booked via Seat Sale. I’ll try to write down what I can remember. With proper and early planning, it won’t break the bank! Thanks to Gee and Bea for taking care of everything. HAHAHA. Ang contribution ko sa trip na to ay puro kwento at impluwensyahang uminom ng Coke si Bryan. HAHAHA.
ALSO: Guise, going by a group is great because you can split the costs and makes everything less expensive!
- Manila to Vietnam, Vietnam to Bangkok, Bangkok to Mandalay, Yangon to Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur to Manila
- As far as I remember, nothing over 10,000 Php
- Nothing over 400 Php a night
- We mostly stayed in a backpacker hostel, in a mixed dorm
- some nights we saved up on accommodation because we are in a sleeper bus moving from one place to another
- Pocket Money
- 250 USD for the whole trip!!!
- Vietnam: 50 USD
- Bangkok: 50 USD
- Myanmar: 100 USD
- Malaysia: 50 USD
- Bring USD with you because it is a widely accepted currency
- Bring USD in 50 notes and exchange 50 notes per country/city
- Most of my money was spent on food. Dahil ano ba ang pinaka mahirap iwasan? EDI PAGKAIN. ALANGAN NAMANG IKAW? KAPAL NITO! HAHAHAHAHA
- 250 USD for the whole trip!!!
My first introduction to Vietnam and Pho was visiting my family in Australia and my uncle who is a Vietnamese, cooked Pho for dinner. Pho which should be pronounced as “FUH”. So, please, let’s get it right. HAHAHA.
The North Face factory is also the first thing that comes into my mind whenever I hear about Vietnam. Second would be their famous pork chop rice!
Upon arriving to Ho Chi Minh City Airport, our first agenda is to exchange our money. We brought USD with us since we are traveling across different countries. Vietnam’s currency is overwhelming! Gee and I exchanged 50 USD each and that converts to almost 1,200,000 VND! We’re millionaires in Vietnam!!!
We were set to be all touristy, but Vietnam is so laid back that we enjoyed people-watching in the park and eating lots and lots of pork chop rice and vermicelli noodles. The food is so good and so cheap! We chose to eat on the sidewalk food stalls because the local experience is the bestest!
I had two sets of meals on our first night that only cost me 50,000 VND or 113 PHP! How cheap!
The following day we went shopping in Ben Thanh Market in District 1 to score North Face items! The Ben Thanh Market is not for the introverted! The sales folks are touchy and so aggressive and most of them speak Tagalog too!
The sales folks keep on touching, holding, and poking us while asking what items we are looking for. It was so humid inside so we are sweaty and feeling sticky, plus the touchy sales folks, I can’t help but feel harassed! I looked at Gee and told her “TANGINA GEE, FEELING KO NA HARASS AKO!” while laughing. Walking one aisle and it consumed all my energy for that day! Vietnam is laid back but not Ben Than Market! HAHA.
Gee after walking in one of the lanes inside Ben Thanh Market
That night, just right before going back to the hostel, Gee and I found ourselves in one of the parks watching Vietnamese folks play Da Cau or Sipa in tagalog. We really enjoyed sitting at the sidewalk and watching them play. And because Vietnamese people take this sport seriously we can’t help but take videos and make commentaries in Beckinese.
PAAAAAAAAAAAAK!!! GO ATE GURL, LABAN! GO KYAHHH. PAAAAAAAK!!!
We were so loud. They must have thought we are a couple of cray cray foreigners. I don’t know if you’ll find it disarming, liberating, or difficult if no one understands the words you are saying. You get to be carefree and let loose. Just not too much, kay? Still, be appropriate when needed. And always be respectful. There are limitations that need to be observed. HAHAHA.
We had a bad experience with the Taxi. We got scammed. I thought the Manila Taxi scene had fortified me, but Vietnam caught us off guard. Our first taxi ride to Ben Thanh was pretty good and cheap which was 21,000 VND or 47 Php!
So on our way home, we rode one of the taxis waiting outside the market. Wrong, so wrong! Apparently, these scammer taxis are the ones who are waiting outside as referenced by a local from Trip Advisor.
I kept looking at the meter because it rolls up so fast, and I feel like I was reading the meter wrong. It says 200 in the meter so that I might be wrong, 200k Dong can’t be right. It hit 427k Dong in the meter, and I am still mentally converting. I was counting my money. I had 400k Dong in my hand; the taxi driver immediately took the money opened the door and let us out.
Gee and I stood still for a second. Was it all real? Did we get scammed in Vietnam? After feeling harassed in the market, then this? I was so stressed and defeated. Gee and I walked over to the nearest KK mart as she needed a cigarette and I needed another bottle of Coke because we just got screwed! We didn’t want to tell anyone about it, especially Bryan, because he might laugh at us. Guess what? Bryan arrived the next day, opened the hostel room door, and wailed “MAY NANGYARI SAKING MASAMA!!!” Bryan got scammed by a taxi driver too!
We laughed our asses off while talking about the whole thing! Charged to experience!
If you ever find yourself in Vietnam and would want to hail cabs, only trust Mai Linh or Vinasun Taxis! Also, never let anyone count your money for you.
We were supposed to cross borders from Vietnam to Cambodia via a 16-hour bus ride. But the horror stories (some get scammed, become victims of human trafficking) of crossing borders got me scared. A lot can happen in 16 hours so I told Gee, that I am hesitant to go. So we decided to skip Cambodia and go straight to Bangkok.
We landed at Don Mueang International Airport at noon and I have no clue which part of Thailand it is. Suvarnabhumi Airport is what I’m familiar with. We needed to ride the old train line to transfer to the BTS train line and for the life of us, we can’t find an exit from the airport that connects to the train line system. So we went out, walked in the scorching heat of the sun, and rode a non-aircon train for almost 40 mins.
Another episode of sweat and stickiness! Mahihiya yung scotch tape sa lagkit ko! HAHAHA. Wet wipes saved me from this disgusting sticky feeling. HAHAHA
After the hot and sticky ride, we transferred to the BTS line. ANG LAKAS NG AIRCON! We immediately cooled off the moment we set foot inside the train. It’s another long train ride and we were standing. We entertained ourselves when I started imitating aerobics instructors and how they count during class.
“One and two, and three and smile! And hold it! Hold it!”
Of all the places we’ve been to on this trip, Bangkok has the least picture. Both of my hands were busy holding all the street food I could buy and eat. All three of us have been to Bangkok before, so going to the Buddha temples and other tourist spots were out of the picture. We decided to indulge in street foods of Silom instead! From Chicken Skewers, Fruits, and Pad Thai!
May orchids ang Pad Thai friends!
Bea and Cha arrived the following day, but we did not meet them ‘till our flight to Myanmar the next day. They went to see a dog café where you can play with Huskies while Gee,
Bryan and I were busy walking and munching on the streets of Silom.
We were walking down a street when Bryan and I saw fried pork (liempo!) and our eyes stopped because nobody says no to a deep friend crispy liempo! For 40 Baht or 64 Php, we were so full! They also served coca-cola in bottles and when poured over a glass full of ice is so satisfying—it still haunts me to this day! The best Coke I have ever tasted on this 13-day trip was in Bangkok!
We were supposed to meet with Pentipa, an office colleague based in Bangkok and because we got trapped in the amazing street foods in Silom, we ran out of time. We apologized and promised that we will make sure to make time to catch up the next time we are back in Thailand. Oh yes, we are definitely going back again!
Because if you did not eat street foods, have you really traveled well?
TBH, I almost skipped this part of the trip because what on earth do you do in Myanmar? How often do you hear people saying they are off to Myanmar? Why would anyone go to Myanmar?
Myanmar reminds me of myself in 2nd-year Highschool snoozing in World History class trying to remember that Burma is now known as Myanmar and Formosa is now Taiwan. But because I already paid for the plane ticket 8 months ago, what the hell, might as well go! I’m glad I pushed through because turns out, this was the highlight of my trip!
Myanmar is the country that we stayed the longest as we need to cover 3 cities.
Our first stop to Myanmar is Mandalay.
Stepping outside the airport feels like walking into the 90s. Everything feels and looks old. The whole place is in Sepia! I kid you not. It must be dust! I even cleaned my glasses to make sure my eyes weren’t making it all up.
Bea rented a van that picked us up from the airport to our hostel. And I think she planned for us to die the same day because instead of resting after our flight we were scheduled for our sightseeing trip. I was so tired. I wanted to vomit my internal organs. HAHAHA.
Since we were visiting temples and it is a sacred place, men and women need to wear modest clothing. Nothing above the knees! So pack light pants or long skirts with you. Good thing I brought a Malong that an office colleague bought for me from Mindanao.
Another thing that added to my ongoing stress that day is that we had to take off our footwear before entering the temples.
Imagine your sweat streaming down your body in hot weather, and you are walking barefoot on dusty floors. SO MUCH INTERNAL SCREAMING. I don’t like the feel of dust on my feet if it’s not the beach.
Something about the temples made me feel light and easy. Suddenly, I didn’t mind everything that I just mentioned above. I’m glad we went instead of lounging around our hostel.
It’s our first day in Myanmar and we were on top of a temple on top of Mandalay Hill while the sun was setting. Mandalay’s sunset is one of the best sunsets I’ve seen so far! Something I would encourage you to experience. Actually, I can’t decide which really is the best, the sunset at the top of Mandalay hill or the sunset at Irrawaddy River. They are both beautiful to watch!
Also, one of the things I like about Myanmar is that Burmese people are proud and still honor their culture by wearing traditional clothing day in, day out. We got to try Thanaka cream, which means “cosmetic beauty” and “cleansing” in Burmese. This unique cosmetic is used to protect the skin from sunlight and cools your face or body in hot weather.
A young Burmese girl offered to put some on me—I was hesitant at first. She made mine in the shape of a leaf which is supposed to make me more fashionable.
We left Mandalay around 8 pm and took a 4 hour night bus ride to Bagan. Out of all the cities of Myanmar, Bagan is the one that I am extremely excited about because of the hot air balloon ride!
I did some research before the trip and the hot air balloon ride was something that really caught my attention, but sadly I don’t have 300 USD to experience the ride. Something that I will always regret. Since I don’t have the moolah, I wanted to experience the next best thing. Which is to watch it fly above the ancient temples from afar! For free!
We all woke up a quarter before 5 in the morning, rode our e-bikes, and drove off to the stakeout where we would wait for the sunrise and watch the hot air balloons go. Mornings in Bagan are freaking cold!!! Driving fast in the cold winds felt like a thousand needles are pricking your skin.
We arrived at the stakeout. It is a temple that is very dark and has a narrow stairway to the top. We were one of the first few there so we got a good spot. I patiently waited for the sunrise. Armed with only my iPhone to take photos and videos.
Sun is slowly coming out. Then the first balloon flew up in the air. And the rest followed. I stood there admiring the splendiferous scene in front of my very eyes. It was so surreal! I took a moment to just take it all in and just be in awe.
Oh, right! I snapped. I needed to take pictures so I can show my parents and my friends how beautiful it is.
This was my best shot out of the hundreds of photos that I took that day
I must have taken hundreds and hundreds of photos until I felt like I had taken enough. I wanted to go back after a few years and hopefully, by then I can then afford to ride one of the hot air balloons.
I said it before in one of my Facebook posts that initially I thought Myanmar being “the golden land” is just another mindless nickname that was picked, but after experiencing it for a few days, I got to understand how fitting “the golden land” phrase is for the place! Bagan is all about chasing Pagodas and Temple Runs. There’s too many of them here! And frankly, on your second day, you might be a little sick of Pagodas and Temples already. I would recommend that you rent an e-scooter and roam around with no actual destination. The drive-by scene is something else too. There’s something about roaming around an unfamiliar place that will make you feel peaceful and blissful.
The trip to Yangon from Bagan is a butt-numbing 9-hour bus ride. It’s rather long, so we decided we had to travel in comfort so we took the lazy boy sleeping bus. The bus fare is 22,000 Kyats or 720 Php.
Before riding the bus, we bought our staple food which is fried noodles with chicken. A simple meal that will make you full for only 2,000 Kyat or 65 Php.
We slept through the whole ride. The only moment we were awake was when we had our stopover for 30 mins.
The bus is equipped with a small fridge where they gave us free bottled water, juice drink, a cold towel, a toothbrush kit, and WiFi! I was so impressed!
The day was breaking when we reached Yangon and it is rather different from Mandalay and Bagan. Yangon feels packed. If Mandalay and Bagan made me feel like I walked in on the old world, Yangon made me feel like I am somewhere in Escolta or Quiapo. Plus, I think, we overdid Pagoda and Temples already. So we don’t know what else to do.
Richelle has arrived this day.
We spent the wee hours of the night chatting and woke up late.
We mostly stayed in, and sleep and just came out early evening to eat at KFC! HAHAHA! We were also sick of seeing temples and pagodas. I think Yangon was our cool-down part of the trip. We stayed here for 3 days and we can’t help but think that we should’ve stayed longer in Bangkok instead.
Bea and Cha left a day early to head to Malaysia and visit Malacca.
We have a lot of time to kill and we didn’t want to get bored so we Googled what else to do in Yangon that doesn’t involve Pagodas and Temples. One of the recommended things is to ride their circular train.
The Yangon Circular Railway is the local commuter railway. The railway was built during colonial times by the British, it is said that it is the cheapest and best and cheapest way to see the city of Yangon/Rangoon. For only 200 Kyats or 6.50 Php, you get to see the daily routine of the Burmese people. The loop has 39 stations and it will take you 3 hours to complete them. It seems long but the journey itself is unique and a bang on your buck!
The last leg of our Southeast Asian trip. We have 12 hours to explore Kuala Lumpur.
This is more of a transit trip. Flying in from Yangon to Kuala Lumpur with 12 hours layover before flying back to Manila is cheaper than going straight from Yangon to Manila.
From the airport, we took a Grab ride to KLCC for 70 MYR for all 4 us. Instead of paying 100 MYR each via KLIA Express.
At KLIA2, there is a bag storage counter where you can drop your bags. Perfect for transit travelers who would just want to explore the city without the hassle of bringing your bag and just come back for it later before your flight. The storage fee depends on how big your bag is.
For my backpack, I only paid 19 MYR or 238.29 Php.
We went to the Suria KLCC mall where we had lunch and done window shopping. We met Bea and Cha again and they invited us to stay at their hotel’s sky bar as it was ladies’ night so we get free drinks!
The bar’s view is the Petronas Towers itself! I’ve been to KL before and only saw the tower in daylight. This is the first that I would see it at night, in all its glory!
I tried to find the best spot and set up my phone to do some time-lapse. Finally, the Petronas Towers at night! It was even more beautiful than I imagined!
We’ve hit Jalan Alor after so I can take Bryan, Gee, and Richelle to taste the famous Chicken Wings of Wong Ah Wah! We also had some coconut ice cream.
And this is where we almost missed our flight! Lol.
We were supposed to book a Grab ride at 9 pm because the travel back to the airport is almost an hour and we needed to be at the airport early because Cebu Pacific’s web check-in decided to be a fart that day.
We lost track of time and did not start to book a ride until it was 9:45 pm. We waited a while for our ride when we realized that there were two Royale Chalun in KLCC and our driver went to the other one.
Gee canceled and booked another one. After successfully booking one, Gee’s phone died! It is now 10 pm. I am mentally counting. Our flight was at 1:45 am.
1-hour ride back to the airport
Probably 1-hour line (based from past experience) at the check-in baggage
Another hour lining up at the immigration
Gee was the only one with LTE access. You could see the defeat in our faces and how tensed we all were. I was holding my breath! Gee’s phone died and we did not take note of the car’s plate number. Her wireless charging power bank is not doing its magic either.
Can we make it? I am tensed. Sweating. I tried to keep it together because panicking would not help.
Good thing I am good at thinking on my feet and remembered that Richelle’s phone is the only phone that is an open line unit so I asked Gee to insert the local sim to Rich’s phone so we can check grab. We all thought he canceled, but he didn’t!
He waited and came back to pick us up! He knew that we are going to the airport and thank heavens he did not give up on us even though he waited a long time!
We made it just in time.
What did I realize during this 13-day trip?
- I can pack light if I wanted to
- I can reduce my budget and not overspend (I originally planned to have a 400 USD budget for the whole trip!)
- That the journey is as amazing as the destination itself
- My Coke consumption is scary! I need to cleanse and drink lots and lots of water!
While I was freshening up in the ladies’ room, I felt spent and my body felt it coming like waves crashing through the shore. Fast, quick, and all at once. I was asleep the whole flight back home and during my Grab ride back to my flat.
I think I need a vacation from my vacation. I muttered.
The Grab driver woke me up and inform me that I am home. I opened my flat’s door and guess what greeted me? The mess that I made before I left where all my things are scattered on the floor.
I dropped my bag, took a quick shower, and jumped into bed.
It’s good to be home.