Budget Wise :: Laos

8 03 2009

Our visit in Laos was relatively limited due to the frustratingly long and bumpy bus rides that are necessary to getting around as a budget traveler in this beautiful country. We ended up visiting only four cities and missed out some very exciting and picturesque parts of Laos because we just couldn’t bring ourselves to sit through a rough ten hour busĀ  ride every few days. An extra visa or enough money to upgrade to flying would have allowed us a much more comprehensive visit, but hey, now we have something to look forward to going back for. Though we didn’t get to see it all, we did get a pretty good idea of what it costs to travel in Laos on a budget. Read the rest of this entry »


Budget Wise :: Cambodia

13 01 2009

Cambodia was a bit more confusing than our other destinations when it came to traveling on a budget. A year or two ago, I’m not certain of the exact date, the Khmer people suffered a massive inflation due to rising gas prices. Unfortunately for them (and the tourists) the cost of living didn’t fall back down with the gas prices. Now what looks like, feels like, and should be a very budget friendly country is surprisingly not as friendly as it once was. This doesn’t mean that Cambodia is charging European prices, but it was actually more expensive than it’s more developed neighbor Thailand. Read the rest of this entry »

Wait a Ho Chi Minh-ute

8 01 2009

Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

I thought Cambodia was going to kill us. The scamming, the food poisoning, the beggars, the moto mafias, the dengue fever, all started to overwhelm the good aspects of the country. So boarding the bus for Ho Chi Minh City, aka Saigon, became one of the few times Gage and I were excited to take a long haul bus ride. Traveling from Phnom Penh to Saigon is an easy and popular journey, but it also served as another one of those examples of how weird and confusing it can be to travel in a country that doesn’t speak your language. For instance, Gage and I were a bit confused when our bus pulled up to the edge of the Mekong River. Confusion turned to panic as our bus rolled down the ramp and onto a ferry boat in order to cross the river. A little later the bus ticket boy made it clear to us that part of the border procedure involved him holding onto our passports. Not something any traveler wants to hear. Thirty minutes later we pulled up to a checkpoint and everyone was told to exit the bus…in the middle of the road. A Vietnamese soldier held our passports and read off names, which was our cue to get back on the bus. Of course, no one tells us what is happening, we just have to follow the pack. When we actually got to the passport processing center we had to stand with all of our bags in a large crowd of people, while straining our ears to hear a Vietnamese kid attempt to shout out English names. Nothing makes you feel more vulnerable than standing at the border between an overtly corrupt country and a strict socialist country and wondering who the heck has your passport. Not all travelers are religious, but we all have to have faith. Read the rest of this entry »

Ancient Angkor: Part 1

24 12 2008

Siem Reap, Cambodia

The fun started as soon as we pulled into the harbor. Gage and I looked up to the riverside and saw a horde of tuk-tuk drivers hauling in the direction of the dock. Before the boat was even tied off, drivers were jumping on board and quizzing people down about who needed a ride. Having made reservations we were unintimidated and safe. Or so we thought. Due to a slight miscommunication our hotel had failed to arrange a pickup at the docks. We looked for our name on a sign board but saw nothing. After a few minutes of pushing the drivers away and saying that we had arrangements for a ride with Mandalay Inn, a young driver magically appeared with a Mandalay business card saying he was there for us. Yeah right. Where is the sign with our name on it? Oh, he was late and decided to forgo the sign in order to get to us quicker. Being the scam-hardened travels we are, I plucked the business card from the boy’s hand and called Mandalay. No, that kid was not associated with him, but the manager of the hotel spoke with the kid and arranged for him to take us. When the kid got off the phone, he explained that he would take us to Mandalay…if we used him to take us around the temples. We told him we’d think about it. He said he didn’t believe us. The kid was surprisingly ashamed when we pointed out that he was the liar. A little more chatting with the manager and chastising from us and we were on our way. Welcome to Siem Reap, the heart of Cambodia. Read the rest of this entry »