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Travel Confessions: SF consultant Tiffany Hocking on Cambodia & Vietnam

Published January 20th, 2014

Student Flights Marion Travel Consultant Tiffany Hocking recently headed to Southeast Asia with G Adventures on a 10-day Cambodia on a Shoestring small group YOLO tour for 18-to-39 year olds on a budget taking in select sights in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia. Here, she shares her travel diary about seeing historic monuments, ladyboy shows and more!

 

Day 1: Bangkok, Thailand

When we first arrived to our hotel, there was a notice to meet at 6pm for an one-hour introduction to the G Adventures CEO and group. We all went out for dinner and drinks after the meeting close to the hotel to get to know everyone.

 

Days 2 and 3: Siem Reap, Cambodia

We left Bangkok at about 6:30am after an included breakfast at the hotel to drive to Siem Reap. While we were in Siem Reap, we had lots of optional activities on offer including quad-biking up to a local village  to see the sunset for $US30, visiting the temples for $US15 (the price for a guide) and $US20 for a temple pass to get us into the main temples of the Angkor area. On day 3, our guide took us to Angkor Wat at 5:00am to see the sunrise, which was amazing, and then we went to see the temple made famous by the Hollywood movie, Tomb Raider, after which we went to Bayon temple where we were able to spend $US15 on an elephant ride all around the temple (definitely worth doing!). After this, we went back to Angkor Wat for a better look at what's called the 8th wonder of the world and the famous Khmer ruins in the temple complex. There is also an option to do a $US30 balloon ride over Angkor Wat, but it is not always operating.

In Siem Reap, we also went to one of G Adventures Planeterra-supported projects - New Hope school and training restaurant. We were able to sit in on an English lesson and meet some of the lucky students of New Hope as well as some of the volunteers. They cooked a great dinner and it was nice to see where G Adventures spends its money!

Siem Reap also has an enormous amount of shopping and nightlife, so if people are interested in checking out a famous ladyboy show, here is the place to do it!

 

Days 4 and 5: Phnom Penh, Cambodia

We took a public bus from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh and it was a lot better that expected. The seats were very comfortable, the bus was in a pretty good condition, and the seats were roomy. There was also a toilet on board, and they gave us water and snacks. We left at 11:30 am and the bus ride to Phnom Penh from Siem Reap took about 8 hours.
In Phnom Penh, we took a trip to the Security Prison 21 (S-21)  camp and Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum with our G Adventures CEO and he walked us through the camp explaining the pictures and the different rooms we were visiting. Entrance was $US2 for the camp, so not expensive at all. Two survivors of the camp also sit there selling books about their lives while they lived in the camp, and it is great to be able to see them looking so strong and happy after everything they went through. This is a very emotional place for many people.
After S-21, we headed to the Killing Fields, which costs between $US3 to $US6 for entry. It is a very peaceful area now, but once again it can be quite emotional.

On a lighter note, if you manage to find some extra time, you can visit the Royal Palace, but you must be wearing clothes that cover your shoulders and knees to get in. The National Museum in Phnom Penh is also worth a visit if you find time. Otherwise, there are enormous central markets that we went to, but they are much more expensive than the ones in Siem Reap.

 

Days 6 and 7: Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Sihanoukville is a beach city with bars and restaurants all along the beach. After we settled into our hotel, we were free to relax and enjoy the sun and beach. On our second day, we had the option to do a boat trip around to other islands, which most people chose to do. Other options were scuba diving or chilling at the hotel or in the city centre. On the boat trip, we went snorkelling and played beach volleyball, as well as getting some much-needed tanning time.

 

Day 8: Can Tao, Vietnam

After crossing the border from Cambodia  into Vietnam on foot (where we had to pay $US1 each for our visa/passport check), we continued on to Can Tao, which is a city in the Mekong Delta. In Can Tao, we stayed with a local family at their home, but it was more like a hostel. All the bedrooms had mosquito nets, but I would recommend a LOT of mosquito repellent in this area. The locals took us on a tour around their village, and then they cooked an amazing meal for us while we tried our hand at making Vietnamese pancakes also. The homestay had about 4 shower - all cold water - and the only thing we had to pay for was drinks.

In the morning before heading to Ho Chi Minh City, we went for a cruise along the Mekong Delta and visited the floating markets. The tour cost about US5, or 100,000 Dong. It was an amazing trip, so I definitely recommend it to everyone! We even managed to jump onboard a local boat selling pineapple and watch them cut it up into a lollipop shape to eat!

 

Days 9 and 10: Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
Once we arrived into Ho Chi Minh in the early afternoon, we took our bags to the hotel and went for a cyclo tour as a group. The tour cost$US5, however many tourists get ripped off up to $US100, so make sure that all prices are agreed on before you take the tour! After a group dinner, we had the choice of going into the city to see the view from Sky Tower, but drinks were quite expensive, even though the view was amazing!
The second day in Ho Chi Minh City was when the Cambodia on a Shoestring tour ended. Since my flight didn't leave until the evening, I joined the group and headed to the Cu Chi tunnels. The underground network of tunnels is about 1.5 hours out of Ho Chi Minh City, and we spent around 2 hours there. At the tunnels, you watch a video, which is very much Vietnamese propaganda from the war time, and then walk around the fields looking at the different traps that were used by the Vietcong. You have the choice of going into the tunnels but not everyone did this. You can crawl through 20 metres, 30 metres, or 100 metres of tunnel. Only if you do the 100 metres do you physically crawl, but it is totally worth it!

Once we were back in Ho Chi Minh, we all split up and covered the various other attractions including the War Remnants Museum, which cost about 50 US cents for entry, or the Reunification Palace, which was about $US1 entry, as well as the various shopping markets. Haggling, however, proved a lot harder in Vietnam than in Cambodia! And, with that was the end of my trip!

 

Student Flights' Consultants

At Student Flights, our consultants have travelled along those well-worn routes before diverting from the beaten path to explore the real side of foreign countries. These blog posts shine a light on just some of the experiences our consultants have had on recent adventures. We hope you enjoy reading the blog articles written by the Student Flights' Consultants.