Entering Vietnam was a welcomed relief from the constant rush of people in China. The moment I crossed over the border it felt as if a little bit of pressure was removed, and the South East Asia attitude began.
If there is one thing I can say that is truly astonishing about this changeover, it would definitely be the food. Vietnam (or as I have been referring to it: Vietnomnomnom) has quite possibly the tastiest food of any country I have been to, ever; and I found myself feasting like a mad man.
Due to some last minute travel plan changes resulting from bad weather in parts of Vietnam, I skipped some cities in Cambodia to get to the islands in Thailand quicker, and only hit Siem Reap along the way. I had to break my no-fly rule twice because of this, but it worked out well in the end. So for this post, I’ve included my four days in Cambodia as well for lack of time spent in the country to warrant its own post.
My observations about Vietnam and neighboring Cambodia, like all places, have both positives and negatives. If you ever want to spend time in either country, the following things might be important to you.
-I got scammed in Vietnam almost immediately when the taxi driver had run up his meter before I got in and did not reset it. I should have known when he covered it up with my bag that something was wrong. Luckily it was only a few dollars and not a deal breaker. Generally speaking, taxis waiting at a bus drop-off is almost guaranteed to scam you. Try to minimize the damage.
-I cannot say enough good things about the dorm at Hotel Rendezvous in Hanoi. $8 per night, luxurious as anything I’ve ever been in, and free breakfast of ANYTHING on the menu. Don’t question me. Go there and tell them Jeremy from Living the Dream says hello.
-Facebook is still blocked in Vietnam, but not on Cat Ba island in Halong Bay. Why, I don’t know. But I liked it. Luckily my blog was not, so updating was a whole lot easier and more frequent.
-I ate the seafood mango/papaya salad four times, and am dying to make it at home as soon as I get back. For lack of any better words, its perfect.
-Motorbike people are the worst, as they grunt, make hand signals, and say “hey man” every five feet to get your attention. They also touch. Saigon and Cat Ba island are the worst.
-The French remnants in Vietnam are plenty and range in everything from street names to building design to food. It works well, and is a welcomed relief.
-If guidebooks say “dont go here” during a particular time period due to weather related annoyances, listen to it. Nha Trang Beach was unswimmable due to the rainy season and is like that every year.
-The Angkor Complex in Cambodia is probably the best temple site in the world that is nearly 100% open for touching, exploring, and climbing. Only parts closed are the ones currently being renovated.
-Khmer food seems to blend Thai and Vietnamese. The Vietnamese inspired dishes are not as good as in Vietnam, but the curry and basic meat based dishes are worth the price.
-Begging children is present in Sapa and Angkor Wat consistently and is both heart breaking and sad. Do not buy things or give them money, no matter how much you feel like you should. There are signs to the extent of this all over, but people still do anyway.
Cities Visited: Hanoi, Sapa, Halong Bay, Hue, Hoi An, Nha Trang, Ho Chi Minh City, and Siem Reap (Cambodia)
Favorite City: Hanoi
Favorite Foods: Seafood Mango Salad and Banh Mi
Favorite Alcohol: Angkor Beer
Favorite Hostel: Hotel Rendezvous in Hanoi
Least Favorite Hostel: Bun Kao Guest House in Siem Reap
Best Attraction: Angkor Temples and Halong Bay
Offbeat Must See: Hanoi Water Puppet Theater (only because it is $2)
Biggest Disappointment: Weather in Nha Trang
Must Visit Cities: Hanoi, Sapa, Halong Bay, Siem Reap
Most Expensive Meal: Seafood Feast with Clams, Scallops, Mussels, Shrimp and a Singapore Sling in Nha Trang for $10
Cheapest/Most Expensive Sleeps: $3/night Bun Kao Guest House in Siem Reap and $25/night Nha Trung Hotel in Hoi An
Number of Pictures Taken (total overall): 2,144 (5836)
Duration of Videos Taken: ~40 minutes
Average Overall Daily Cost Vietnam: $74.62*
Average Overall Daily Cost Siem Reap, Cambodia: $59.67**
Total Spent Over 24 Days: $1,731
Average Over 24 Days: $72.13
*Cost is excessively high in Vietnam as I purchased a suit and shipped for $250 and flew twice (Hanoi to Hue and Saigon to Siem Reap) for ~$257. Reducing those costs from the daily spending, and the overall daily cost would have been $49.27 which is not bad considering I stayed in nicer hotels most every night.
**Cost is excessively high in Cambodia as I bought some relatively expensive souvenirs worth approximately $43. My original route was going to include Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville which are a lot cheaper than Angkor Wat. with those being cut, the daily budget was higher. Removing the expensive souvenir purchase, the average daily cost would have been $48.92 or ~$10 less. The $20 visa adds in an additional $5/day for such a short time spent in the country as well.
For more information regarding my spending in Vietnam and Cambodia, check out the updated On the Road Spending spreadsheet which has a breakdown of the daily figures for things like food, site seeing, transportation, hostels, and more!
When factoring my inflated spending on things that weren’t factored for originally into the daily assessment (hotels, big souvenirs), I think the countries were quite affordable. It is a bit of a shame, however, to miss the ultra cheap side of Cambodia. But I’ll always go back!
Don’t think that just because I left Vietnam and Cambodia that my postings on these countries are over! While I am keeping up real time postings in the various countries that I am in, I have a significant backlog of posts ready for the break in between travel time at home. Some topics we’ve published since launching this guide include:
Hoi An, Vietnam with Kids
Hue City – Emperor’s Temples and Tombs
Yaly Couture – Getting a Custom Suit Made in Hoi An
Vietnam First Impressions – South East Asia Style
Thap Ba Spa – Go for the Mud Bath
Things to Do in Cambodia with Kids (Besides Angkor Wat)
Trekking in Sapa – Be Sure to Bring a Rain Kit
Halong Bay Cruise – 10 Photos That Will Make You Want to Travel
Hong Kong to Hanoi – The World’s Shortest Overland Travel Time
Cooking Class with a Khmer Chef in Battambang, Cambodia
Tuk Tuk in Cambodia – Views Around Angkor Wat
Angkor Wat – 14 Temple Photos That Will Make You Want to Visit Now
Now it is time for the highlight of my South East Asia itinerary: Thailand. A week or so in the North and it is on to nearly a month in the islands. I’m ready for the beach and massive scuba diving!
Have a question about Vietnam, Cambodia, or my time spent in each country? If so, please comment below and I’d be happy to respond to all inquiries.