______ Let's ______

TRAVEL. DIVE. EAT. FLY. WRITE. 

_________ Because Everything is Awesome _________

 

 

 

Hi i'm Gunaadi, a/an Indonesian, Good-looking Engineer, Nature Enthusiast, Part-time Traveler and Photographer wannabe. Currently live in Indonesia, the largest island country in the world by the number of beautiful islands, and spend his free time for traveling, writing, eating, sleeping etc. hope you enjoy my blog!.

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June 1, 2016

Overland from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap by Mekong Express bus

12 hour overland journey from Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap 

English I Bahasa Indonesia
Even though flight cost has reduced to be more affordable, overland by bus is still a preferable option among the tourists especially backpackers. It is because of the unbeatable price bus comparing flight. From Ho Chi Minh City to Siem Reap is only connected by Cambodia Air which is a full service airlines. Unfortunately, there is no train operated between the country until now. Train must be a good transportation to fell local delight. The conclusion is Bus is my best deals for now.

Based on my research before i started the trip, there are a lot of bus that operated from HCMC to Pnom Penh then change to another vehicle to Siem Reap. I would only recommend Mekong Express and Giant Ibis because these operators have good review from the passenger and well known in the internet. Most important thing! they have a trusted booking site (www.giantibis.com & catmekongexpress.com) which is more safe for tourist. However, other buses are also recommended and the price shall be cheaper than those 2 operator. this post will specificly review about Mekong express since that is the bus operator i used.

The trips

It is my 7 days backpacking through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar on 30 April to 7 May 2016. follow the full adventure by clicking each link :
Why did i use Mekong Express?

The reason is simple because it is has good review in the internet and trusted company booking site (catmekongexpress.com) since i am a planned traveller and don't want to take a risk. It is cost 26 USD. After i tried this operator, i put some opinion of this operator as below


Positives
  • departed in the tourist area (others bus shall be departed at the same area)
  • Wifi in the bus. however the speed is just ok 
  • Trusted company booking site
  • Bus attendant could speak english fluently and will give some instruction at the border. I may said that this bus is tourist-friendly
  • not bad Snacks
  • Comfortable transit building in Pnom Penh 

Negatives
  • The bus is not brand new. I heard that Ibis has a better bus
  • Expensive
  • Stopped far away from city center in Siem Reap
  • No Night bus
  • Most passenger is foreigner. it may be a positive or negative for some people.
  • they only serve snacks for 12 hour trip

Departure


The Mekong Cat express has good departure position, Pham ngu Lao Street. They also give free pick-up from nearby accomodation. I would recommend to survey the departure location a day before because the building sign does not indicated clearly (in case you do not get free pick up or wake up late). The bus will depart at 7 AM so make sure you are already there in time. Inside the bus, the attendant will give you some instruction and ask you to collect your passport, filled embarkation card (they will give you the blank card)  and 1 USD (they said that this is for service fee). The Journey detail will be :

  • Ho Chi Minh City - Pnom penh : 07:00 - 13:00
  • Transit/changing bus in Pnom penh : 13:00 - 14:25
  • Pnom penh - Siem reap : 14:25 - 20:00 

They will make some stops for toilet thing and having several minutes rest during the journey.

Vietnam Border

The bus will make a stop in the border at vietnam side. it is like a huge barrack and i think it is better to be a place for storing artllery than a immgration office. The office is not even one fourth of the building.

The bus attendant will collect  passport, embarkation card and 1 USD from each passenger then give those to the immigration office. The Passenger must alight and gather at the front of the passport check box. Queuing is not necessary. The officer will call per person as per passport name for stamping and give back the passport to the owner.  After that, you must show your passport to another officer for stamp checking. Go back to bus for next immigration. That's all. simple so i like it!

Cambodia Border

After 5 minutes, the bus will stop at the border of cambodia side. Now, the building is better look than in Vietnam. It is a real office building. The bus attendant instructed us to not give any money to anyone and tell that we joined with Mekong Express. I don't know whether the tourist usually is asked for some money there. However, i don't experience it. The immigration procedure is common. Just show your passport and get stamp (make sure you get stamp!) then go back to the bus.

Changing the bus in Pnom Penh

They will ask to change the bus to siem reap in Pnom Penh. Do not worry, they will not drop you at the middle of crowded terminal. Mekong express has his own building branch in Pnom penh The building is clean, having a restaurant and free wifi.

Arrival : How to get to the town

The arrival time in Siem Reap shall be around 8 -9 PM depend on the traffic. This is the most disampointed thing. The bus is stopped quite far from the city center, maybe around 5 km. However, Tuk tuk driver has been gathered to wait the bus in the bus stop. I think this is the best way to go to the city center. You may walk but it is quite far and the street light is not well provided at night. The cost from bus stop to City Center is 4 USD or 1 USD/person (Tuk tuk can accomodate 4 people or maybe more). Usually the driver will also offer his service for the Angkor Wat Tour.

Conclusion

Recommended! Reliable, safe, comfortable 
but little bit expensive and Tuktuk is required to go to the siem reap city center

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May 27, 2016

Ho Chi Minh City - A day tour in the former capital city of Vietnam

1st days of my 7 days backpacking through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar


Even though Ho Chi Minh City was only as a entrance for my trip, i kept to try enjoying every part of this city. Ho Chi minh City is a metropolitan city and consider as the most populated in the country. However, i didn't fell any annoying and busy situation like any other big city in ASEAN. It is still tolerable! this is what i like with this city. Previously, i was not aware with the name of the city then i got excited when i know that the city is named from their first leader, Ho Chi Minh.

The trips

It is my 7 days backpacking through Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand and Myanmar on 30 April to 7 May 2016. follow the full adventure by clicking each link :

Itinerary

Day 1
  • 07: 25 - 08:20 Flight from Johor Bahru to Ho Chi Minh City by Airasia
  • 11:00 - 14:00 : Going around the city including Mekong River, Municipal Theatre, Benh Than Market, Melayu Street, Ho Chi Minh City hall
  • 14:00 - 16:00 : Going back to Hostel. It was very hot at noon
  • 16:00 - 21:00 : Going around the city including Independence palace, Saigon Notre Dame Basilica, Central Post Office and Ho Chi Minh City hall
Day 2
  • 08:00 - 20:00 : Travelling to Siem Reap with Mekong Express bus via Pnom Penh 
Getting here and around


Getting here
It is a main city in the country so a lot of transportation option for getting here. For low cost flight option, it is connected by Airasia, Nok Air, VietJet, Cebu Pacific, Jetstar, Malindo and Tiger air. For land transport option, you may travel using bus from/to Laos, Cambodia and China or train from/to China. I experience with Mekong express for the bus and i give good point for them even though it is overpriced

Getting around
Actually, i just used once for public bus from Airport, Bus no 152. inside the city center, i just walked to visit all the touristy place. It is quite tiring but possible. other option, you may use public bus. The bus route has been spreads to all part of the city. You need to get familiar with the name of bus stop before you use it or just to be bold to ask the driver where you want to go. Local is kind and helpful.

Accommodation

My hostel name is 4 boys hostel, funny and weird name. I didn't know where they got inspiration of this name. Why i chose this hostel? because it was cheap, 4.5 USD/day for dormitory. The good thing is the dormitory has attached with bathroom. The bad thing is complicated route to go to the dormitory building. They have 2 separated building. The first place is for private room which is the location is pretty good and another one is for dormitory building. Both is inside a small complicated alleyway like a maze. Woman may get lost here. however, it's not a big issue

Arriving in the Airport : Get the bus! forget the taxi!


Since i read a lot of bad review for the airport taxi so i preferred taking bus to go to the Pham Ngu Lao street, known as famous backpacker/tourist street in town. It was pretty easy to get the bus. Upon exiting the international airport entrance, i turned right then walked until i found Burger king. The bus was at front of the burger king. No sign indicated the bus stop but i could clearly see the bus number. They charged me 5000 Dong! it is freaking cheap!

Local was honest and helpful. We asked where we gonna go to other passanger and they helped us to explain to the bus driver. Actually they have known where tourist usually go but our face is quite similar with the local so we had to proactive. To know that you almost arrived at the Pham Ngu Lao street is simple. When you have arrived in Benh than bus terminal means your stop is another 1 stop ahead or you just alight in the terminal because the street is just 5 minutes walking from there. How to recognize the bus terminal then? it is even simple. It is the only terminal that you will pass it or when the bus stop while a lot of bus around you...that is exactly the Benh than bus terminal!

 My random day tour

Although i didn't have fixed itinerary and just had a day, my trip in Ho Chi Minh City was pretty successful. My travel mate had searched some sightseeing place in the internet before. just recognized the iconic places at first then followed the map to get there. All place was quite nearby. 1-2 hours walking Was considered nearby for me. Just information, we started the trip at 11 AM and gave up at 2 PM because it was very hot!



Mekong River

We were looking for the halal food and heard that there were a mosque somewhere in the city. Walking with a printed map is useless. The map that we got from the hostel was not informative enough. We had tried to ask to another tourist but it brought us to the Cau mong beside Mekong River instead of the correct place. Gladly, i was able to visit this place. Another unspoiled place was that not many tourist coming here.

Just few information about Mekong river. The river is considered as the 12th longest river in the world and 7th longest in Asia. The river Runs from Tibetan Plateau in China, Myanmar, Laos, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. I think the river existence is very important. It  also become one of main transportation of this city..


Municipal Theatre

Also known as Saigon Opera House was built during french colonialism and used for entertain the colonialist. Nowadays, this European style building become place for a lot of famous opera and art performance in town. The ticket fee for the performance was quite expensive so i didn't watch the performance.

Benh Than Market

It may be the most famous Market in the city among the tourist. It is located very strategic in the city center. Lot of stall that sell goods and it must be bargained. I didn't go inside the market because the floor was being cleaned. The cleaner liquid was smelt very bad so it made me thinking twice. Every night, the street around the market is close for vehicle. It become another market.

Melayu Street

Nguyen An Ninh street, or i prefer to call it with Melayu Street, is a place where you can see a lot of Melayu people along the street. Mostly, they come for shopping. We looked for Halal food here and it was a lot of choices. We tried Pho, Vietnamese Noodle Soup. It was good and delicious! However, the meal price seems overpriced in this street.

Ho Chi Minh City Hall


It is a french colonial style building built in 1902-1908. The building is not open for public but tourist is permitted to take photograph outside the building. At the front of the city hall, there is a long plaza. It is free from vehicle so tourist will comfortably walk around the plaza. There is also a lot of shopping mall and a brand new bronze statue of the most famous leader, Uncle Ho or Ho Chi Minh, standing to greet his follower. I just aware that this city name is came from him.

I came to this place twice, during day and night. I think it was a good decision to visit this place in a different time. At day, i just see people walk around the plaza and the city hall for taking a picture or shopping. However, it was very hot to walk at mid day since there was no shelter. At night, the plaza became very crowded. It seems because of the weekend that they arranged a performance in middle of the plaza. The stage was not to high and big. Some kids and teenagers did an interesting dance and attraction. Be careful, i heard about the pickpocketing in this place

Independence palace

Every country has its dark history. You shall know about the vietnam war between the south and the north. Once, this building ever been bombed by skyrider aircraft during the war and made half of the building destroyed However, like like a wise person said that after dark, light will come. Now, the country is really peaceful and attract a lot of people to visit. Unfortunately, the original palace can not be restored again so it came a decision to demolish and commision a new building like what we can see now. it is named Independence palace.

I visited this building in the afternoon but the palace has closed for the visitor. the opening hour is start from 7.30 AM until 4 PM. I only enjoyed the building from far of the gate.

Saigon Notre Dame Basilica

We continued to walk to Saigon Notre Dame Basilica after visiting the palace. It is a big cathedral and famous in town. There was a mass during my visit so it was very crowded until the building could not accomodate the people. At the front of the cathedral, there is a virgin Mary statue.


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May 13, 2016

7 Days Backpacking through Vietnam-Cambodia-Thailand-Myanmar

Long Week-end getaway to the ancient temples 

English I Bahasa Indonesia

There were 3 days public holiday last week. I didn't want to spend the day with working on holiday or just sleeping. I believe there is no better way to spend long weekend rather than going for backpacking. Looking for destination was one of the important thing to be decided. Firstly, i planned to look for domestic destination. After long time consideration, it was a big NO because it was most probably very crowded during this long holiday for domestic destination. Another option was visiting other countries. neighbour countries may be quite easy to be planned. Vietnam, Cambodia,Thailand and Myanmar was the route i chose then. I may say that this journey will be filled by temples.

"Lets pack your backpack and follow my journey"


Why I Choose this Route?
myanmar visa exception 
Ordinary passport holder from Philippine, Indonesia, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand  and Brunei are giving visa exemption for 14 days. further information:
http://www.evisa.moip.gov.mm/

The main reason is the ticket fare promotion. It was started when i found cheap ticket to Ho Chi Minh City by AirAsia. That's it! The rest is because of it is common route to travel in the Indochina Countries so the transportation between the countries has been well provided. It is very possible to travel overland from Vietnam to Thailand. You may cross Cambodia and Laos. For this trip, i skipped Laos since not enough time. I Added Myanmar to the itinerary because the country was just opened so it may be still unspoiled and not crowded. 



Those Countries except Vietnam are famous with their religious Budhist or Hindu temple complex built for long time ago. The Ancient Architecture of the temples has attracted people all over the world to come to those country. Those places are worth to visit!


The Main Menu of this trip

Bagan Archeological Zone , Myanmar

Bagan is ancient city located in Mandalay, Myanmar. During the kingdom's height between 11th and 13th centuries, more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries  were constructed. However, only around 2000 temples and pagodas are still survive to the present day. Bagan is one of beautiful or surreal place in the world and must be seen before you die. You must visit the city now before million tourist and tour group will fill the city.


Grand Palace , Thailand


Everyone will never miss grand palace while they are visiting Bangkok. It is a real palace with unique architecture style. The palace was designed as a complex with several building rather than a one massive building. The palace was an official recidence of the king of Siam and now it become one of popular tourist attraction in Thailand. Sometimes the grand palace is used for official events.

Angkor Wat , Cambodia


Angkor wat, means Temple city, a temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. It was constructed by khmer Civilization as hindu temple and gradually transforming into a budhist temple It has been popular since 19 century among the traveller especially when tomb rider was filmed here. It is really crowded nowaday. However, the temple is still amazing even a lot of people inside.


When is the best time to visit?

My trip is strated from 30 April to 7 May 2016. It was low season although the tourist was still everywhere. The temperature was dry and super hot. However, i will tell you when the is the best time to visit of those countries as per my previous research.

Indo China Countries is located in tropical region and near sub tropical climate. Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam and Myanmar have almost similiar weather and season. Actually, there are rainy season and dry season. The dry season usually start from December through May. Please do note that April and May is the hotest temperature in those country. It may reach 40 C. Rainy season is started from June through November. I may say that the best time to visit is January to March. Why did i visit on May then?? Never mind..

Itinerary

The trip is started from 30 April through 7 may 2016. It was because of long week end in my country. As usual, i like to see a lot of thing in the short duration so the itinerary is quite tight like a skinny jeans. 

Day 1 Ho chi Minh City, Vietnam
Ho Chi minh is metropolitan and the most populous city in vietnam. You Should know that Ho Chi Minh is a name of the leader

Day 2 Overland HCMC to Siem Reap 
It is a long duration overland trip. We started at 8 AM and arrived at 8 AM. We traveled with Mekong express bus.

Day 3 Siem Reap

We came here because of the Angkor wat, the largest religious monument in the world. 





Day 4 Overland Siem Reap to Bangkok
Another long overland trip with bus. The most challanging thing was when arrived in the border. We used Nattakan bus.

Day 5 Bangkok

it consider as a transit because we only stayed not more than a day. However, i still had time to visit grand Palace

Day 6 - 7 Bagan

There are  more than 10,000 Buddhist temples, pagodas and monasteries ever built in thi city. The Sunrise and Sunset scenery is amazing!





Transportation

Ho Chi Min City to Siem Reap by Mekong Express
Mekong Express is one of reputable bus operator in Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos. The price is considered higher than other bus but the service is worth as it. For HCMC to Siem Reap trip, it is cost 26 USD. They will pick up nearby the tourist area. In Pnom penh, We are required to transfer to other bus. Toilet and wifi are provided inside the bus. The bad for this bus is the price. Further information, you may visit http://catmekongexpress.com/
Siem Reap to Bangkok by Nattakan
Nattakan is known as the only official direct bus operated from Cambodia to Thailand. It means that in the border we do not need to change the bus or keep using the same bus. It will give you hassle free trip. And again, the price is quite expensive, 28 USD from Siem Reap to Bangkok.

Bangkok to Yangon by Airasia
There are 2 Low cost airlines connecting Bangkok and Yangon, Air Asia and Nok Air. I can't tell you which one cheaper. You have to check which one the airlines give you best price at the date of your departure.

Yangon to Bagan by JJ Express
JJ express is one of bus provider operated all around Myanmar. It might be the best bus in my journey. The journey is cost 19 USD from Yangon to Bagan and others bus usually cost 17 USD. JJ is only 2 USD more expensive than others bus but the service they provided is worth as hundred bucks or sometimes over. Once, i read their brochure and found the information "The bus attendant joins flight attendant and the Bus driver is 10 years or more experiece". I think it is too much. You can book in advance the bus from their facebook JJ express FB Page.

Accommodation

The Accomodation quality is quite competitive for developed Country. You may get good place with bad price, bad price with goo price or good place with good price which is quite rare. For me, i do not care to much since i will be going outside for a whole day so good price is my priority. At least, they just need providing me a bed.
  • 4 Boys Hostel : 4.5 USD/day for dormitory. Good place but the way to go there is quite complicated. You may get lost.
  • Luxury Concept Hostel : 5.2 USD/day for dormitory.Everything is good!
  • The Aris Hostel : 6.2 USD/day for dormitory. It has good review from others but i couldn't enjoy this place. The air conditioner is only operated at 7 PM to 11 AM, the toilet is dirty and it's on 5 level of a old building. The good is only location
  • Shwe Nadi Guest House : 27 USD/day for triple bed. The best Accomodation during my trip. You must stay here while you visit Bagan. The Breakfast is awesome. They serve everything they have and we can ask more. The price and location are also its best deal!

Budget

I am really hate to talk about Budget so i put this section in the last. Sometimes, it make me looked rich (I'm not rich but handsome) or restrain person to go traveling. Most of my money is spent for the transportation and Entrance fee. The daily expenses is relatively cheap. You may see the breakdown as below:

Total Cost : 359 USD for 7 days , 4 city, 4 country, 4 flight, 4 long journey bus, entrance fee per person



Flight
  • Johor Bahru - HCMC : 22 USD
  • Bangkok - Yangon: 35 USD
  • Yangon - Kuala Lumpur  : 65 USD
  • Kuala Lumpur - Johor Bahru : 21 USD
Entrance Fee
  • Angkor Wat : 20 USD
  • Bagan Archeological Site : 25 USD
Meal : 5 USD/day or 35 USD for 7 days (estimated)
Hostel : 30 USD for 7 days trip (breakdown can be seen in Accommodation Section)


Bus/Tuktuk/Bike/Taxi
  • Mekong Express: 26 USD
  • Nattakan : 28 USD
  • JJ Express : 19 USD
  • Taxi Bangkok to Airport :15 USD/taxi or 5 USD/person
  • Taxi Yangon Airport-Bus terminal-Yangon Airport : 16000 kyats or 13.7 USD / 2 way or 4.5 USD/person (I travelled with 3 person)
  • Tutuk to Siem reap city : 20000 riel or 4 USD
  • Tuktuk for angkor wat : 100000 riel or 24 USD/4 person or 6 usd/person
  • E-bike : 8000 kyat or  8 USD/day/2 person or  4 USD/day/person
  • Taxi to Mount Popa : 9 USD
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May 10, 2016

Melbourne : 3 hours in the most livable city in the world

13 - 14th days of my 16 days backpacking through New Zealand and Australia


This is my second city in Australia, Melbourne. Melbourne is one of most livable city in the world and ranked as the top for five years in a row until 2015! Melbourne rates highly in entertaiment, research, education, health care, sport and tourism. No wonder why the people in the city enjoyed living here. Let's try how it feel to be here!

I only transited in this city or not more than 12 hours. Previously, i planned to not sleep for the whole night but the temperature outside was too low. Sleeping in the fast food restaurant was the only way to wait the sun. At least, i was still able to go around the city for 3 hours. What can i get in 3 hours?


The trips

It is my 16 days backpacking through New Zealand and Australia on late November to mid December 2015. follow the full adventure by clicking each link :
Itinerary

Day 1
  • 20:55 - 23:00 Flight from Auckland to Melbourne by Jetstar
  • 23:00 - 00:00 : Traveling to city center by Airport Sky bus
Day 2
  • 00:00 - 01:00 : Trying to do night tour but it was too cold for me
  • 01:00 - 06:00 : Sleeping in Fast food Restaurant, Hungry Jacks. I just bought a cup of tea for my alibi
  • 06:00 - 09:00 : Going around the city by walking
  • 11:10 - 14:40 : Flight from Melbourne to Bali by Airasia
Getting here and around



Getting here
Sydney has connected from domestic or international flight. Jetstar, flyscoot, tiger air and Airasia is low cost carrier that have frequent services Asia Countries. Or you want to take Full service flight? depend on your budget. I like Flyscoot because they are quite often to give promotion fare.

Getting around
Skybus is one of transportation connecting the airport and city center. It is ran 24/7. It cost 19 AUD for one way or 38 AUD for round trip. For City transportation is also well provided, you may try buses or tram (the largest network in the world). The green Tram that operated inside the city center is free. however, i prefer to walk around the town because it is still possible 

Accommodation

I even didn't book any hostel/hotel so i planned to not sleep for the whole night. My plan was foiled because i couldn't handle the low temperature. I preferred to look for place to sleep, then i saw a lot of people inside Hungry Jack's. The location was just beside the exit gate when i alighted from the skybus. I just bought a cup of tea cost 1++ AUD because i was not hungry in the mean time. Then, i fall a sleep there. The restaurant was open 24 hour and luckily the staff not wake me up. I would recommend this place to sleep because the chair was a sofa!

Skybus : 24 hours Airport shuttle bus

This is the cheapest way for you who arrived in Melbourne from Airport at midnight. The bus runs for 24/7. It connects the airport with southern cross station. You may buy at outside the terminal. The sign is quite clearly to locate the ticket office position. It cost 19 AUD for one way or 38 AUD for round trip. It is expensive actually but comparing with taxi? you gonna give your money to the skybus. At day, the bus operates for every 10 minutes and at night is every 30 minutes. It is comfortable!

Melbourne City tour



I started city tour at 6 AM after 5 hours sleeping in the Hungry Jack's. I only walked around the city for 3 hours. It was more than enough to cover the important place in the city. I heard the green trem line is free to bring me inside the city. However, i considered to walk since i was able to get every sensation in every place. Since i walked early in the morning, not many people in the street and the stall also still closed. I preferred this situation because i don't like crowded place. I just circled the city center strat from the train station until the same spot when i started.



Not much i could see actually and i didn't know which building is icon of this city. However, i liked every spot of this city. It was looked like very vibrant even though it's still in the morning. I'm sorry, i can't share more about this city. not enough time. Melbourne! please invite me again!

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