Wednesday, July 1, 2009

5-Day Siem Reap Trip for Two for Only P38K- Part 5

Back to Manila

The bus rates sign at the Aranyaprathet Bus Station.

Unfortunately, Hubby and I had to go back home. We wished the trip could've lasted longer. We went back the same route, traveling along Cambodian dirt roads that will test the limits of the squeamish going to the Poipet-Aranyaprathet border. Instead of touring Bangkok, which we initially planned, we instead went to the airport right away. We were too tired and we didn't have enough time to go around Bangkok. We also risk missing our flight. Finally, we arrived at the airport with time to spare, 3 hours before our flight.

Overall cost breakdown summary:
Transportation Cost (including airfare) - Php 17,708
Accommodation - Php 7,461.25
Food and Miscellaneous items - Php 4,606
Tours - Php 9,035.75
Grand Total - Php 38,811 - not bad for a 5-day trip for two. CERTIFIED VFM (Value For Money)!

What a great trip! We were absolutely smitten by Siem Reap's charms. We hope to go back soon!

Saturday, June 27, 2009

5-Day Siem Reap Trip for Two for Only P38K- Part 4

Second Day - Whirlwind Tour of 10 Temples

Learning from the Day 1 Tour, Mr. Tuktuk driver became our guide for the whole day. Hubby and I started the day having Happy Herb Pizza, where a special "herb" is a key ingredient to all their pizzas. I guess that's why we had the stamina to visit all those sites.

Happy Herb Pizza, with special "herbs" and "spices"

All in all, we visited the following:

1. Angkor Thom
2. Bayon Temple (where majority of Day 2 pictures were taken. We still couldn't get over the smiling faces of the temple. We also met Chito, our elephant tour ride.)
3. Preah Khan Temple
4. Temple of the Leper King
5. Terrace of the Elephants (where I was nastily bitten by a sarang, some sort of a dragonfly. It hurt like hell and my thumb swelled. But at least I didn't need to go to a hospital)
6. Ta Keo Temple
7. Banteay Kdei
8. Srah Srang
9. Phrom Bakheng - where we saw Siem Reap from a high vantage point and watched the sunset. Really nice!
10. Chay Say - It was undergoing repairs though so we weren't able to get in

In the evening, I tried the Cambodian massage while Hubby spent his time at an internet cafe. He never did like massages. After that, we tried to get some last minute pasalubong shopping at the Old Market, but it was closed already (For future Siem Reap travelers, the Old Market closes at 6pm). But we had the best value-for-money meal ever at the Old Market, where they serve a sort of a filling and spicy Cambodian pancit or some sort of a pad thai. It's super yummy! We also chatted with some Japanese tourists while we were there. My hubby was able to practice quite nicely his 6 units of Japanese in college (I had 12 units in Spanish and all I can remember now is "Que Hora Es?")

Terrace of The Elephants (where I got bitten by a sarang. It was nasty.)

One of the sections of the Preah Khan Temple

Elephant Ride at Bayon Temple (our elephant's name is Chito)
Ta Keo Temple. According to Mr. Tuktuk, construction was abandoned during the ancient times because it was struck by lightning. Ancient Khmer people felt the gods didn't want them to continue building this, so bye bye temple..

So for Day 2, our tally of costs was:
Tuktuk tour - USD 12.25 (It was actually USD 10, but we gave him a tip) (Php 575.75)
Entrance - USD 40 (Php 1,880)
Elephant ride at Bayon - USD 20 (Php 940)
Massage - USD 5 (Php 235) - a bargain!
Food and Pasalubong - approximately USD 50 (Php 2,350)
Feeling like a Traveling Superwoman... priceless!

Thursday, June 25, 2009

5-Day Siem Reap Trip for Two for Only P38K- Part 3

First Day - Temples, temples and more temples...

First on the tour list was to go to Angkor Wat. Hubby and I hired a tour guide, his name is Vuthay. He took us through Angkor Wat, Bayon and the Tomb Raider temple, Ta Prohm.

Having a moment at Bayon temple

Kissing the smiling face at Bayon

The couple shot at the famous Angkor Wat
Ta Prohm Temple, or some people call the Tomb Raider Temple

Vuthay did a good job, and his fee was okay. But on hindsight, it would've been a lot cheaper and you can cover more ground by renting a tuktuk for the entire day and have the driver act as your tour guide too. Some tuktuk drivers know broken English so you can get by with that,especially if you have a guide book on hand. We felt that we didn't cover much ground on the first day of tour but at least we used the experience as our basis for the next day tour.

In every tour, make sure that you wear comfortable clothing and shoes. And bring these essentials:
1. extra shirt
2. water
3. towel (or wet ones if you can)
4. sunglasses
5. sunblock (I failed to bring this one so I was toasted for the entire day. But I'm okay with it, we needed the sun.)
6. camera with battery (fully charged)
7. photocopies of passports and an official ID, like a driver's license - a passport can be handy in getting discounts but I would rather buy at regular price than lose my passport
8. of course, money and ATM/credit card
9. phone
10. mosquito repellant (very important, especially with dengue cases going up)

Numbers 8 and 9 are a no-brainer, anyway.

The thing about Siem Reap is that their restrooms are really clean, they have adequate water, but they have humongous mosquitoes, double the size of the ones in Manila. Pretty scary too, so make sure you do a quick one in the bathroom and get out fast before you get bitten by one gigantic mosquito.

After the trip, we went to The Blue Pumpkin Bar, where it's a pastry and coffee shop on the first floor, and a bed and bar on the second . We had some dessert and rested our trek-weary legs.And then off to an Irish pub... in Cambodia! (go figure). It's called Molly Malone's Bar and we tried their Guiness. It had a strong taste that I didn't really like as much. Give me a San Mig Light any day!

Blue Pumpkin Bar - although we didn't see anything blue here. It's a great place to hang out.

So the total spending for tour day 1 consisted of:
Tour guide fee - USD 25 (Php 1,175)
Tuktuk rental - USD 15 (Php 705)
Entrance for 2 to Angkor Wat complex - USD 40 (Php 1,880)
Food - USD 23 (Php 1,081)
Being with my Hubby at Angkor Wat, taking countless pictures... priceless

Monday, June 22, 2009

5-Day Siem Reap Trip for Two for Only P38K- Part 2

Aranyaprathet/Poipet Border

Aranyaprathet-Poipet Border

Finally Hubby and I arrived, taking a tuktuk from the bus station to the border. And I was amazed by the stark difference between Thailand and Cambodia. From asphalt pavements to dirt roads, from nice 3 star hotels and casinos near the Aranyaprathet side to basic countryside stores along the Poipet border. We visited last 2007, so I'm not sure how it is today. But if you look at this scene from the air, you can see a two-faced landscape, one totally different from the other.

The immigration station was relatively quick. I was a bit worried about the cab ride because we asked our guesthouse to book it for us. I've heard of scams from the tales of Asia website. Instead of the agreed pick-up point from the border, we took a van going to a transportation office. A bit nervous now... but our driver finally arrived. His name is Mr. Heng. Although he seemed like one of the antagonist of an FPJ film, he was very nice. He saw that I was worried, so despite the language barrier, he called the guesthouse so they can reassure me that he was the designated driver. Thank you, Mr. Heng!

The infamous dirt roads (from wikipedia)

The ride was an aircon Toyota Camry, without shock absorbers, so we literally felt all the bumps for a good 10 hours since we were traversing through dirt roads. Even if we wanted to, we wouldn't be able to sleep. It's a good thing I wasn't pregnant. I would've popped the baby right there.

Tuktuk from bus station to Poipet - B 80 (Php 120)
Taxi to Siem Reap- USD 45 (Php 2,115)
Adventures with Mr. Heng... priceless!

Rosy Guesthouse

We stayed at the Rosy Guesthouse, a really nice place. The owner is a Caucasian, and he was very friendly. The staff was nice, too. We slept as soon as we laid our faces on our pillows, since we were dog-tired. It took almost 24 hours for us to travel, but we relished every experience of it. All in all, we stayed for three days in this lovely guesthouse. Great value-for-money (or VFM, as I usually say)!

Front view of Rosy Guesthouse

After sleeping off the tiresome journey, we went out to see the city at night, stopping along the Angkor Market and seeing fellow tourists enjoying the nightlife.

Overall stay (3 days) - USD 158.75 - not bad! certified Value-For-Money (VFM) (Php 7461.25)
Food for day 1 - USD 20 (Php 940)

Saturday, June 20, 2009

5-Day Siem Reap Trip for Two for Only P38K- Part 1

My Hubby and I love to go on trips. Every anniversary, when time and
budgets permit, we go backpack locally or in other countries, with
location heavily dependent on the Cebu Pacific fare discounts. The
trips have been a blast everytime.

But the best so far was our trip to Siem Reap, Cambodia last 2007.
That year, we booked a 5-day trip, taking advantage of Cebu Pacific's
Zero Fare red eye flight (Manila-Bangkok-Manila).

Key to planning this trip was research, research, and may I say again,
research. Thank God for sites like Tales of Asia and wikitravel which gave us
literally a step-by-step guide on the how to's, what to expect, etcetera.

Bangkok Arrival

Arriving at Bangkok at 1am, we took the airport bus going to the city, which saved us a few hundred bhat. Then we took a cab to MoChit station. One o'clock in the morning plus a profit-hungry cab driver spelled disaster. We insisted on the meter, so the driver took the
long route to get to the station (haaay). Mr. Cabbie didn't know I traveled to Bangkok before so I knew he was stalling and maximizing the meter run.

Airfare: around Php 8,000 for two, round trip fares! (Wow! Thanks Cebu Pacific.)
Airport Tax - Php 3,240
Bus ride from Airport to Victory Monument - B 32 (Php 48)
Cab Fare from Victory to MoChit station - B 100 (Php 150)

MoChit Station

The station was deserted but safe as we paid for our bus tickets going
to Aranyaprathet/Poipet border. The bus ride took around 8 hours. It
was a smooth ride, the road lulling me to sleep while Hubby stayed awake (for security reasons). The ride was pretty much uneventful, except for a man sleeping on the floor of the bus, which
was weird. It kind of reminded me of bus rides to Philippine provinces, except for experiencing basic airconditioned buses with comfort rooms. (In the Philippines, you have to pay premium to get an airconditioned bus with a toilet, because other aircon buses do stopovers for wiwi breaks.)

Bus ride for two to Aranyaprathet - B 440 (around Php 660)
Sleeping with Hubby's valiant efforts to stay awake... priceless (thanks Hon!)

Thursday, November 20, 2008

The Quintessential Adobo

Another recipe to keep in mind during the credit crunch season is the trusted adobo. There are a lot of ways to cook this quintessential Filipino dish but the aim here is to make the most economical yet delicious adobo there is. A Php100 budget goes a long way with this dish.

1/2 kilo of chicken adobo cut, diced - Robinsons Supermarket chicken adobo cut costs Php 138 a kilo. Try buying Php70 worth and select the big cuts
1 clove garlic - costs Php 1.00
5 pcs laurel leaves - costs Php 1.00
1 cup soy sauce Php 10.00
1/4 cup vinegar Php 10.00
2 tbsps oil
1 tbsps black pepper Php 1.00
2 pcs potatoes, diced - Php 5.00
1/4 cup water

Total: Php 98
Good for 3-4 people

There are a lot of variations for this dish but the procedure below is what I recommend.

1. Soak the chicken adobo in the 1 cup soy sauce and vinegar at least an hour before cooking, to make the dish bursting with flavor.
2. Saute garlic in oil.
3. Remove the chicken from the marinade and saute after the garlic has been cooked to a slight brown color.
4. Add water after the chicken has released its oil.
5. Add in the potatoes, laurel leaves and black pepper
6. Simmer until the potatoes and the chicken are cooked.
7. Add in the soy sauce-vinegar marinade and bring to a boil until all the flavors have blended together
8. Serve with hot rice

The excess sauce can be used for sinangag or flavored rice. Yum!

Monday, November 10, 2008

Chicken Curry

Chicken Curry was the main dish the other day. In some restaurants, it costs about P150 to get a decent curry dish. Or you can always get a P50-60 ones from the carinderia, which might not taste good. But this has been a tried and tested recipe. It's a heaping serving for two.

2 pcs chicken breast, cut into 4-6 pcs per breast (Chicken Breasts in Robinsons cost P138 a kilo, which is palengke presyo. Try buying two small chix breast. That will cost you around P50)

1/3 pack Mc Cormick curry powder (There are some curry powders which cost really cheap, like P15, but I'm not sure if it's diluted. Better to buy a trusted brand worth P20. Using 1/3 cost approx P6)

1 pc. potato, diced
(Costs around P7)
1 pc. bell pepper sliced lengthwise (Costs around P7)
1/2 pc ginger minced (Costs around P10. I don't like eating ginger per se but I love the taste it brings to tinola and curry. Try slicing it into really thin pieces so it's okay if you have to eat them.)
5 cloves garlic minced (Costs around P4)
1 pack gata (Costs P15 at the palengke. Don't buy the canned ones. It doesn't taste good.)
1 tbsp cooking oil (P0.50)
4 tbsps patis (P0.50)
1 cup water

1. Saute garlic and ginger in cooking oil.
2. Add chicken and saute for 2 minutes until the chicken releases some of its oils.
3. Add water, potatoes and simmer for two minutes.
4. Stir in curry powder into the mixture and simmer until chicken and potatoes are cooked.
5. Add patis to taste, then put in the bell pepper.
6. Add in all of the gata and bring to a boil. Serve with hot rice.

Some people still prefer to add chili. Boy are they brave. With the curry and ginger, this recipe is hot already. Total cost for two is P100. But for an additional P6, you can add sliced carrots. Enjoy!