S21: Cambodia’s Concentration Camp

Most backpackers when doing the Indochina trail either from Vietnam or Thailand would jut breeze through Phnom Penh.  Cambodia’s capital can be a bit boring if you would think about it. Yeah there are Museums, temples and food places that you can visit but there are such as well in Siem Reap right?

Before you dismiss and take Phonm Penh off of your list even just for a stop over, try to consider this. Phnom Penh actually holds a lot about what Cambodia is today. The city hosts a couple of Museums that you will not find in Siem Reap. Though emotionally bothering, these museums are important to Cambodia as a reminder of what the past has thought them.

phnom penh

History

One of these Museums is located right at the heart of the city is called S21. Formally known as Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the museum got its name as it was concentration camp #21.

The property was a former high school for the city with several buildings to educate the children of Phnom Penh. As the Khmer Rouge took over the country, it’s idealist leader wanted to “reborn” the country. This rebirth means realigning the country’s priorities and goals. Pol Pot, Cambodia’s defacto leader at that time decided that the country should strengthen their agricultural productivity. He sent every one to  the country side forcing them to become farmers .

But these people whom he sent from the city do not know how to farm and use the tools. While it should increase agricultural productivity, Cambodia’s population starve instead as real farmers were killed and replaced by city dwellers. Intellectuals and educators on the other hand were also purged out of the population as the Khmer Rouge’s Pol Pot see them as a threat to his reign.

I know I could never summarize the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. This is why you should visit Phnom Penh even just for a stop over. I firmly believe that as part of traveling, be it for leisure or backpacking, should include understanding a bit of a place’s history. This allows us to know how to respect each place that we visit.

What You Need To Know

Entrance fee : $5
Audio Guide: $3
Adddress: St 113, Phnom Penh 12304, Cambodia
Dress code: None

So next time you visit Cambodia traveling to or from it’s neighboring countries, check out their historical sites. They can be as recent as a few decades ago but it surely have shaped the nation as it is right now.

 

Adventure: Tinipak River Trekking and Caving

It was suppose to be a day hike when two of my co-workers invited to go. But some set backs and an hour of waiting later begged us to down step our planned adventure for the day. We didn’t want to waste our day, I mean I’ve already waited for hours for one of them! Hahaha!

Daraitan, more over, the province of Rizal is famous for its mountainous topography. This part of Luzon is often visited by adventurous mountaineers who seeks the challenges of scaling a mountain over the weekend. Its proximity to the metro is its main draw for nature lovers.

How To Get to Daraitan

Commuting to Daraitan is relatively easy. First off, you have to get your self to Tanay, Rizal. There are a couple of ways to get there. Most popular option is by taking a jeep or a van from Cubao. The other option is by taking the same mode of transportation this time from Shaw Blvd. in Mandaluyong city. From those places, both transport options will take you to the Tanay Public Market.

This is the tricky part and where having friends with you be best. From the public market you will need to take a jeep that will drop you off at Sampaloc where you will need to take a tricycle all the way to Daraitan. However, it could be a better and more convenient option to just hire a tricycle from the public market to Daraitan.

Hiring a tricycle costs 400 pesos one way. We haggled a bit with the driver and got to lower it down to 300 pesos. But once we arrived at the registration area, we actually paid him 100 pesos more on top of the original 400 pesos he was originally asking for. Nope he didn’t scam us at all. It was from our own conscience. The road leading to Daraitan is horrendous! We felt that we are short changing the driver given the incredibly bad situation of the road that his tricycle endured if we pay him just 400 pesos.

The River Experience

Arriving late in the morning and knowing that we need to leave early in the afternoon, we decided to bail out of trekking up Mt. Daraitan. But we did not go home disappointed what happened next was one of the most memorable things I’ve done with nature.

We got a proper guide (which is a requirement) to take us around for a river trekking adventure. The guide gave us a few minutes of orientation about the river and the natural park before heading out. He also gave us some equipment that we will later be using in our adventure.

Our trek started along the pebble road beside a rocky river. The boulders were incredibly big and white and the farther we walk along the trail the bigger they get. The river though was almost dry until we reach to a point where the rocks seem to merge together and become the river bed it self. Crevices allow the water to flow smoothly creating this soothing sound.

After about 30 minutes we arrived at our first stop, the Tinipak cave. Honestly I would skip this one. I didn’t like the atmospher inside as the air was a bit too heavy to breath. We also felt some entities watching us so we were very cautious. I don’t know if all of us were just naturally sensitive to those or maybe they just liked us.

Inside the cave is a pool of cool water, but since we were not feeling comfortable that time we opted to just wade on the side of the pool.

 

We told our guide about what we felt inside the cave and he denied it, of course he would. But when we bumped into another guide, we think he told him about the incident, only in codes.

The best part still of this adventure is tracing the river. We were taken to magical landscapes that I never though existed. It was like the set of a Okay ka Fairy ko (a local tv show) and that Ina Magenta would come out of nowhere.

 

 

 

We spent a couple of hours just swimming and looking at the landscape. It was very hard to move on from one spot to another as our guide suggested because we wanted to stay more. But each and every stop was just as beautiful as the last one, we didn’t want it to end.

Our quick adventure in Daraitan turned from a fail to a huge surprise. Nature really has its own ways of showing you how beautiful God’s creation is. I highly suggest you bring friends with you to split the cost of transportation. They also have camping ground perfect for over night activities. I’m sure mornings by the river will be amazing!

If you have any question or suggestion about this post, you can leave on the comment section below!

Travel Guide: Best 1 Day Angkor Wat Tour Itinerary Tips

One of the most amazing complex of structures made man, The Angkor Wat is truly a must see when in Angkor Wat. However, if you are on a budget and only have a day to do the tour, this is the best way to see the temples.

  1. Hire a Remorque

    Yep those vehicles that everyone calls Tuktuk isn’t really one, lol! Anyways get your self one and make sure to haggle. Most will offer about $15-$18 for the small circuit. Do not try to outsmart the drivers and not tell your entire route/itinerary or you’ll end up paying more. Your day will start at around 4:00 AM to buy the tickets, be sure to be early as the line gets long quickly as early as 4AM. The tour ends with the Sunset view from Phnom Bakheng, returning back to the hostel 7:00 PM. It costs me about $23 to hire him for more than 12 hours. I like hiring this guy because he speaks enough English and always makes sure that my friends are comfortable just like how he was the first time I hired him.You can contact Som through +855-9365-9332

  2. Take the Small Circuit tour.

    Many would chose to take the Big Circuit tour thinking that there are more to see and experience with it. But the thing is, most of the temples in the big circuit are still in ruins. If you want to touch, see and experience more the small circuit is ideal. You can also request your hired driver to go counter clockwise on the circuit to avoid crowds. source

  3. Bring food.

    Although most drivers would provide you water during the trip, finding reasonably priced food inside the complex can be a challenge. If you can, bring a packed lunch and some snacks; Picnic under the shade of trees overlooking the temples isn’t a bad idea after all.

  4. Clothes to wear.

    Most if not all structures in the Angkor Complex are temples, hence respect is expected from everyone. Make sure that your shoulders (especially for girls) and knees are covered to avoid any inconvenience. You may also want to wear something bright and light colored clothes so that you stand out against the dark colored stones of the temple in your photos.

  5. Respect.

    The structures that you will be visiting are not just mere tourist spots, they are all working temples that people go to pray. Not just because they opened it to tourists means that you are given the license to do whatever you want. It is expected of you to know what are the things that you should and shouldn’t do while inside these sacred structures.

  6. Be Alert

    Make sure that you are always attentive of your surroundings. Be cautious of people trying to sell you something or trying to take your attention to your belongings. Be careful of your belongings don’t just leave them lying around or just sitting unsecured in your bike’s basket. Coming from locals, I’ve been warned that there are people who will try to snatch you things while driving round with your bike or walking around.

To be honest spending just one day to see the temples can be really tiring. I would actually recommend getting a multi-day pass then renting a bike or moped to go around at your own leisure. Then again, there’s this guide if you only have a day to burn. Hope this helps some of you. If there you have any question or something that I forget to cover on this guide, please do let me know. I’ll do my best to update this guide.

Bangkok Hostel: Zee Thai Hostel

We were on a 12 day backpacking trip of the Indochina region of Southeast Asia and a few of my friends went ahead to Thailand. They didn’t have the luxury of time. They were booked at the same hostel where the rest of us will be staying. But when they got to the hostel, they were quite disappointed with the accommodation. I got into panic mode and re-booked our group to a different hostel.

wanting to stay near Khaosan road, to be just a stone throw away from the main attractions of the old city so we can just wander around saving us money. Though there are hundreds of hostels in and around Khaosan, I had a budget to work around and a level of comfort to provide for my friends -they aren’t really thrifty-stingy-backpackers like me.

I scoured through the pages of online booking sites like Booking.com and Agoda. I sorted out options and trying out different types of accommodation just to keep the group together in one room. I kinda gave up and chose Zee Thai Hostel. According to the map, the hostel is almost 1k from the Khaosan area, it felt a bit too far.

LOCATION

I thought that it far from the action in Khaosan road. I was wrong. Though the map tells me that it was almost a kilometer away, but the actual walk from the hostel didn’t feel like it.  It was a leisurely 3-5 minute walk along the alleys of boutique hostels. Turns out that being tucked away from the noise of Khaosan became an advantage.

The location also allowed us to hail taxis and tuktuks without worrying abut competing with other tourists. Every night there are also a lot of pop-up shops that sets up their stores in front of the hostel so food isn’t gonna be an issue if you’re lazy to go to Rambuttri alley. During day time there are barbecue shops around the area where we eat to our hearts content! price starts at 10-20 bhat a piece for grilled chicken.

 

ROOMS

My friends definitely love the rooms. Each dorm bed had curtains that provides some privacy when you sleep.  Each room has its own split type climate control, this was awesome for us since we rented the entire dorm room. They left the controls to us so we were able to adjust the temperature to a comfortable level. However if you are staying with other solo travelers, you can still request the front desk to adjust it for you.

 

AMENITIES

Our stay in Zee Thai Hostel was really comfortable. We would just hang out at the common area and watch cable TV or movies online on their massive smart TV during our free time. Other travelers take advantage of the free use the computer while some just play with the instruments around or read a book that is readily available from the shelves.

 

One thing though that really convinced me that Zee Thai Hostel is one of, if not the best hostel near Khaosan; The washer! It was our group’s last day together -them going back to Manila and me staying behind for business. I had to decide whether I’d extend in Zee Thai Hostel or move on to a cheaper one. Then while hanging out on their roof deck a poster caught my attention. It said yes its free to use! Along with photos of hotel amenities including the clothes washer!  Having clothes washed  will cost you about  $1-2 per kilo and if you have jackets and pants that would cost a lot! So I thought that instead of having my clothes done for me I’d rather stick to this nice hostel and wash my own clothes. I actually saved money by not moving to a cheaper hostel!

For digital nomads, the hostel’s  internet connection is just awesome. We can download an entire album in just minutes on our phones! I was also able to upload photos from a recent wedding I covered in less than 15 minutes!

PRICE

The Zee Thai Hostel offers different price ranges depending on what season, month and how long you will be staying. They offer good discount during lean season and extra discounts for people who will be staying long term in the hostel. We were able to secure our beds for about $8 a night. Being the one who booked for the group, I initially felt that it was a bit pricey.  That notion though changed when we got to the hostel, The interior was so refreshing and the staff was just so warm in welcoming us.

THE VERDICT

I’d say that the Zee Thai hostel is a great choice if you want to stay near Khaosan and still want to have some peace and quite when you retire for the day. There can be other options that way cheaper than the Zee Thai Hostel  if you are trying to slow down your spending – I use to stay in a $2 hostel. However, if you spending a few more dollars is not an issue, or if you are staying for a few days and you want to enjoy your trip without breaking the bank Zee Thai Hostel can be the best choice for you.

Backpackers hanging out at the roof deck.

Zee Thai Hostel
Address: 258/1, บ้านพานถม, พระนคร, Bangkok 10200, Thailand
(258/1 Wisut Kasat Road Pranakorn 10200 Bangkok, Thailand)
Phone: +66 97 201 6317

Crossing From Singapore To Malaysia

If you are on a Southeast Asian trip or just trying to maximize your trip in Singapore, a quick trip to Malayia can actually be done via land. Singapore is connected to Malaysia via a few entry points. From thee you can start exploring places like Joho Bahur or Melaka, or even as far as Penang or Kuala Lumpur via an overnight bus. Yes you can always book a flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, but if you are aiming for a cheaper alternative a night bus can save you a lot.

How To Book A Bus From Singapore To Malayia

While in Singapore I tried looking for a travel agency that where I can physically buy a bus ticket from. It was quite a challenge specially in the area where I was staying (Bukit Pajang). So after scouring the mall (Bukit Pajang Plaza) I went back to my accommodation and just checked online.

There are several sites that you can book your bu tickets, it is actually a lot more convenient it just my traditional thinking that’s kicking in. I choose BusOnlineTicket.com based on the price and departure times available. I booked a trip departing 12AM that night, cost was SG$28

Upon arriving at the pickup point, I just showed my phone with their email confirmation and I was admitted to board the bus. The same bus will be taking you from the pickup point, through immigration then all the way to your ultimate destination. It was Kuala Lumpur for me.

Immigration

The bus crosses the causeway bridge and takes you to the Singapore Immigration processing center. The center was large and well organized just like an airport. There were not much people at that time since it was midnight so everything went quickly. We went back to the bus and once every one was in we then journeyed to the Malaysian side of the border to be stamped in. The Malaysian immigration office was remarkably smaller compared to Singapore but since it was midnight everything was done quickly.

Timetable

Travel time between Singapore and Kuala Lumpur is about 5-6 hours. If you are traveling after summer you might consider a few things when you travel. You will arrive when it still is dark at around 5 AM and if you are getting off at Berjaya Times Square make sure that you have changed your money to Ringgit before you leave Singapore. There are no 24 hours money changer around the area.

 

Got more tips about crossing to or from Singapore and Malaysia? Leave them on the comment section and we’ll try to add them!

Free Things To Do In Hong Kong

Just recently Hong Kong has been listed as the world’s most expensive city. Despite this label for Asia’s World City, Hong Kong still proves to be one of the favorite destinations for Filipinos. Aside from its visa free entry policy for Filipinos Hong Kong is just 2 Hours from the Philippines capital city of Manila.

When visiting Hong Kong, visitors will surely have no shortage of places to visit and activities to do. However, stretching your dollar can be a challenge if you want to squeeze more into your day and experience more of Hong Kong. Fret no more though, we’ve come up with the top free tourist

Avenue Of Stars

Walk across a concrete board walk above the waters of Victoria Harbor and see Hong Kong’s tributes to its past and present brightest stars. The promenade was built in the 1980’s, by 2004 the same promenade around the New World Centre was developed into what we now know as the Avenue of Stars.

Hong Kong

 

Hong Kong

Chi Lin Nunnery

Built in 1934 and renovated in 1990, the Chi Lin Nunnery is wooden temple complex that features a series of temple hall and deity statues. The Buddhist temple complex is found at Diamond Hill in Kowloon

Hong Kong

Nan Lian Garden

Just right across the Chi Lin Nunnery is the Nan Lian Garden. A well kept public park one can find himself relaxing in this lush garden filled with amazing flora and sculpture. The garden was built in Tang Dynasty style hence the ancient feel of the entire place.

Hong Kong

 

Lady Market

walk through this expansive market place that comes alive specially at night. The Lady’s Market got its name from the women merchandise that are mostly sold ranging from cosmetics accessories and trinkets. There are also good food finds around that market where you can experience authentic Hong Kong style cuisines.

Hong Kong

Noon Day Gun

Every noon time this huge gun is fired facing the Causeway Bay. The gun is actually privately  owned by the multinational giant Jardine Matheson hence, a Jardine employee has the honor. This ritual traces its origin way back in the 1860’s ironically as a penalty. During those times everytime Jardine’s  tai-pan arrives the company would fire the gun as a salute. However, a new comer British naval officer got annoyed of it and penalized the Jardine Matheson company by ordering it of firing the gun for all eternity! Jardine however up to this day has kept its side of the deal.

Hong Kong

Central Plaza Sky Deck

One of the best views of Hong Kong is actually offered for free. Find your selves at the Central Plaza sky deck where you can get an unobstructed view of Hong Kong for free. Best part of it is that not a lot of people know about this !

Hong Kong

Central Mid Level Escalator

Declared as the world’s longest escalator, The Central Mid Level escalator connects the lower part of Central to the upper part through the steep hill side via a series of 20 escalator and inclined walkalator. Total travel time from the lower part to the top of the escalators is about 20 minutes.

Hong Kong

Man Mo Temple

The Man Mo Temple is a tribute to the God of Literature and God of War. It is said that many have flocked to this temple since the 1800’s to pray for their studies. People offer coiled up incense and hang them up in front of the altar for their prayers.

hong kong

Hong Kong Museum Of History

The museum offers some free galleries showcasing 400 million years of history that includes artifacts, ethnography and other natural histories about Hong Kong and South China.

hong kong

Symphony Of Lights

Back at the Avenue of Stars, a free nightly show comes to life as soon as the clock strikes 7. The entire Hong Kong island becomes a big stage as its famous skyline dances with lights to the beat of a common music.

 

 

Hong Kong Park

Take a break from the chaotic city scene of Hong Kong without going to the country side. The Hong Kong park offers respite for those who need to breath a little. The park is located just right off of the Hong Kong Zoo

 

If you need more information about Hong Kong you can check out this Free Travel Guide and Itinerary to help you plan your trip.

Liwliwa Hostel: La Zerena Beach Resort

Searching for a private room in Liwliwa, San Felipe Zambales can be difficult on a weekend when everything is almost fully booked. Good thing we wandered a bit more and found La Zerena just across Circle Hostel.

We took one of their nipa huts that is good for two to three persons. The comfort rooms are communal located near the huts are reasonably clean and water is good.

The resort is about two to three minutes walk to the beach.

la zerena resort

 la zerena resort

 

 la zerena resort

 

 la zerena resort

Priced at 1,200 La Zerena nipa huts are quite affordable specially if there’s going to be three of you splitting the cost. I also like the resort’s location since it is just right beside Fely’s Canteen and store where we bought most of our necessities.

Airconditioned rooms though are priced at 3,000 pesos good for two.

Travel Guide: Liw-liwa Zambales Itinerary

Zambales offers a lot of options when it comes to advnture. You can go climb mountains, swim rivers but my favorite of all are its beaches. Yes Zambales does not have those pristine white sands just like in the visayas, but they are as close as three hours from Manila and offers a lot of activities that the family can enjoy.

Liwliwa Zambales

Liw-liwa is small coastal community in Zambales with a vibrant surfing scene. The beach may not be as soft and as white as the others but it offers a huge beach area where you can just enjoy laying out under the sun while watching surfing to their stuff.

As you emerge from the community to the beach you will also be amazed by how raw this area is (I just hope that this would stay the way it is). The beach is lined up not with coconut trees but with pine trees with the towering mountains of Zambales behind them. I couldn’t help my self but just stare at it for minutes!

 

How To Go To Liw-liwa

From EDSA Take a bus going to Iba Zambales (or anything going past Zambales)
Tell the Conductor to unload you at Bobulan Elementary School in San Felipe, Zambales
Incase they aren’t familiar with the school just alight in their stop for San Felipe
Take a tricycle going to Liw-liwa

Liwliwa Zambales

Where To Stay

Since I was with a friend we opted to stay in a private hut in La Zerena Resort but if you are solo or you and your friends would like to meet new people I highly suggest to stay in The Circle Hostel which is just right across La Zerena or a better alternative is the HideOut Hostel.

Expenses

Caloocan (Victory Liner) – San Felipe – Caloocan         564.00 (282/way)
Accommodation                                                                   600.00 (1200 good for two)
Surf Board Rental (Half Day)                                              400.00
Tricycle Service to Falls                                                      250.00
Falls Entrance                                                                         50.00

Total                                                                                  1,614.00

Food

The most convenient place to get almost everything that you need is at Fely’s Store and Canteen. They have a meal menu mostly Tapsis starting around 75.00, Fruit shakes at about 50.oo and other things that you may need including personal necessities.

liwliwa zambales

Itinerary

Day 1

04:00 ETD Victory Liner Caloocan
09:00 ETA Sitio Liw-liwa, San Felipe, Zambales
09:30 Breakfast
10:00 ETD going to Lubong-Nangoloan Falls
11:30 ETD Back to Sitio Liw-liwa
12:00 Lunch / Free Time
13:30 Beach Bumming/ Surfing
17:30 – 18:00 Sunset
19:00 Dinner
20:00 Onwards Socials/Bonfire

Day 2

07:00 Wakeup Call
07:30 Breakfast
08:30 Beach
10:30 Prep for checkout
11:00 Checkout
11:30 Lunch
12:30 ETD to Caloocan
18:00 ETA Caloocan

liwliwa zambales

Notes:

You can bring your own tent, the beach is huge you can just pitch your tent for free.
There are toilets that you can pay to use.
Bring a garbage bag and bring your trash with you, locals are very particular about cleanliness of the beach
If you opt to stay in a room, call ahead of time and reserve. They get fully booked easily on weekends.
Fruitshakes are aweosme
If you plan to go to the falls ask for the husband of the massage therapist at the resort on La Zerena’s right.

Tokyo Metro: Making Tokyo A Smaller Place; Easier

If you are traveling on a budget, the best way probably to navigate a city is through the train. However, the Tokyo Subway system has been known to be one confusing and difficult tangling rail lines. This might be Over the past couple of years, the Tokyo Metro has been working hard to improve their service for the benefit of tourists.

The Tokyo Metro team is here in Manila for the biggest travel event in the country, the 2017 Travel Tour Expo in SMX Convention Center to give us some exciting development about the Tokyo Metro subway system.

The Ticket

Getting from point A to point B through the Tokyo Subway, of course requires you a ticket. It can be a hassle though if you will have to buy, line up and figure out what ticket you should buy each time you enter the subway. Don’t get me wrong though, the Tokyo Metro has never been easier to

navigate as they put more English sign as part of their preparation for the Tokyo Olympics come 2020. However, lining up each time you enter the subway takes away your precious time that you could be using to getting to your destination.

Well, here’s some good news. The Tokyo Metro came up with a ticket specially designed for travelers. This ticket is exclusively made and available for tourist! These tickets will allow you to unlimited access to the Tokyo Metro from  24 up to 72 hours for a cost of a bowl of ramen!

Using these tickets will not only enable you to save time but also save money since you can use the subway over and over! So if you missed your stop, no worries!

Tokyo Metro Ticket

The Subway App and Connectivity.

Honestly, I think that the Tokyo Subway can be a bit  intimidating, with all of these transfers and lines that you have to remember. At this day and age of convenience, without even mentioning the ingenuity of the Japanese, one should not be daunted with the idea of taking the Tokyo Subway. See, aside from adding English signage around the network, the Tokyo Metro also came up with an app that you can take with you -yes it does work offline- that will help you navigate the entire Tokyo Metro subway network. All you have to do is enter what station you are coming from and the station that you want to go to and voila! The app gives you directions on how you can get there, including transfer stations!

Being connected while traveling is important. Most travelers just buy local sim cards as soon as they arrive in their destination and yes that does solve the problem. But if you are under in a subway, mobile signal can get a little iffy. Well that is not a problem with the Tokyo Metro, as most of their stations are equipped with free WiFi service. They are even working on putting WiFi on their trains! Awesome right?

Free WiFi Service Tokyo Metro

Welcome Boards

As part of their efforts to make the subways more tourist friendly, Tokyo Metro has put up welcome boards in English. These boards provide information about the stations that you are at, like what is there to do on near by spots and other useful information that will help you navigate the city. And yes it is in English

welcome-board

Aside from these boards, you will also find Toursit Information Booths in most stations staffed with English speaking officers that are more than happy to help you get around. I really appreciate this move by the Tokyo Metro, remember those times that you already have found the answers to your inquiry through the web but just needs reassurance from a human being? Hahaha.. well that’s where I am coming from.

Tokyo has well over 100 stations all over the metropolis  the Tokyo Metro subway system will take you virtually anywhere in the city. So why don’t you go ahead and plan your trip around the Tokyo Metro subway system, save time and have lots of fun!