The Making of our DIY Family Trip to Siem Reap-HCMC
The Siem Reap Trip Series
Angkor Wat had been one of our family’s goals for 2011.
The idea initially came to us after our family trip in Bangkok the previous year when we learned from your Thai guide, Mr. Anurak, that the Cambodian town of Poipet on the Thai-Cambodian border, is just about 3 hours drive from Bangkok, if we hire a taxi.
However, 2011 did major changes to our family.
In January, our father passed away.
In February, I got engaged.
In July, my brother got married, albeit the “sukob” superstition of the Filipino culture.
It was an emotional roller coaster ride for everyone in the family.
In August 2011, we decided on pushing through with the originally planned Cambodia trip so I started to do some research.
We initially wanted to include Bangkok-Hanoi-Ho Chi Minh-Siem Reap (not in any order) in our trip but since we only have 5 days from 26-Dec-2011 to 31-Dec-2011, we decided to just concentrate our itinerary on Siem Reap and include an overnight stopover at Ho Chi Minh City.
At first, I thought of getting a customized package tour so we won’t have to worry with anything. It was a bit expensive since our dates were within the peak season, so we scrapped the idea. We decided I should just plan the trip myself.
The major factors I worked with during my planning were the following:
1) We were not going with any package tour groups since we wanted to have our own pace.
2) We had to get most out of the days we have so have so travel time was to be at the minimum.
3) I need to find a hotel with at least an AC and a clean bathroom.
4) I would need to find an airconditioned car with a trustworthy, English-speaking driver/guide to get us to the places around Siem Reap.
I wanted our mother to be comfortable.
With these four major factors in mind, I started putting together our DIY trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia.
I read countless of travel blogs along with some Wikipedia facts/factoids to put together a DIY trip. Since overland travel will not be an option this time (factor # 2 above), I searched airlines that would get us from Bacolod to Siem Reap within a day.
After several mock-up flight itineraries, I booked our flights from Bacolod to Siem Reap, Siem Reap to Bacolod as follows:
(all times are local times)
UPDATE (Feb 2012): Finally! We now have direct flights from Manila to Siem Reap via Cebu Pacific! Yay!
Date: 26-Dec, Bacolod to Siem Reap
1) 06:20 – 07:25 – Philippine Airlines PR 132 – Bacolod To Manila
2) 12:40 – 14:30 – Philippine Airlines PR 597 – Manila to Ho Chi Minh (Tan Son Nhat Airport)
3) 16:30 – 17:30 – Vietnam Airlines VN 813 – Ho Chi Minh to Siem Reap
Date: 30-Dec, Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh
1) 10:30 – 11:50 – Cambodia Angkor Air VN 3818 – Siem Reap to Ho Chi Minh
Date: 31-Dec, Ho Chi Minh to Bacolod
1) 10:00 – 13:40 – Philippine Airlines PR 592 – Ho Chi Minh to Manila
2) 17:00 – 18:15 – Philippine Airlines PR 135 – Manila to Bacolod
With Factor # 2 out of the way, I started looking for places to stay in Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh. After a string of email inquiries, I finally booked the following hotels as early as the 1st week of September.
1) Siem Reap – MotherHome Inn
Address: Taphul Village, Sangkat Svay Dangkum, Siem Reap
Contact Number: +855-12-963-438 (if calling outside Cambodia), 012-963-438 (if calling within Cambodia)
Contact Person: Mr. Kim Leang (a Cambodian)
Email: email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org
Address: 40/27 Bui Vien St., Pham Ngu Lao Ward, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City
Contact Number: +84-839-204-874
With accommodations already out of the way, I would then have to find Factor #4: The trustworthy driver guide.
I had a hard time looking for this since, at first, I didn’t know where to look. I emailed several tourist guide services outfits to no avail. Either they were too “commercial” for my taste, too expensive, or too hard to communicate.
I was googling away one night and luckily found a list of recommended guides made by Andy Brouwer (see his website link below). Out of that list, I emailed Heang. He has a Camry that can fit our family (4), he speaks English, and he knows Siem Reap (and beyond) like the back of his hand.
A day after I emailed Heang, I received an enthusiastic reply. After a couple of email exchanges, I knew he was the one so I booked him. (I am glad I did. He’s such a nice, kindhearted, honest guy with lots and lots of stories to tell.) That was November, about a month before our trip.
I had a rough idea of what I wanted us to see and do in Siem Reap, so I informed Heang about this. He happily offered me a better itinerary to maximize our stay. Great! Now, we were all set to go.
For our Ho Chi Minh overnight stopover, I just got the airport pick up service offered by our hotel, a little bit steep for $20, but I thought, by then, we would have had additional carry-on weight from Cambodia (as I’ve expected, Mama bought a coffee-table book weighing a ton!) and I didn’t want us lugging around all the extra stuff while trying to find our hotel.
We explored a little bit of Ho Chi Minh’s District 1 by just walking and taking the cabs (VinaSun or Mai Linh only).
Taxi at far left is Mai Linh, taxi at far right is VinaSun.
Again, we just took the hotel taxi to the airport the next day. It cost us 10USD. Expensive, I know, but we were just too tired to worry about looking for a Mai Linh or VinaSun taxi.
That’s it. A long entry, yes, but hope you get the idea of how this trip came to be.
I would like to give my sincere thanks to some very helpful websites some travel blogs I’ve lurked in while gathering information for this trip.
2) Canby Publications – Siem Reap
A web version of a series of print guides on major locations in Cambodia.
6) Heang’s Website
Contact Number: 855-12-701-478 (if calling from outside Cambodia)
012 701 478 (if calling within Cambodia)
Entry filed under: cambodia, experiences, travels. Tags: Beautiful Saigon Hotel 3, cambodia, DIY travel, heang, heangtaxi.wordpress.com, ho chi minh city, MotherHome Inn, philippines to cambodia, saigon, siem reap, vietnam, www.cambodiaroadtrip.com.