That's the dream, right? A Southeast Asian trip that doesn't eat into your savings. Well, I've found the perfect list of hotels and other hacks that can turn this dream of yours into sweet reality.
Although this Southeast Asian itinerary includes inexpensive recommendations, you can be assured that it only lists places that have earned the much-deserved attention. This includes four of the most beautiful Asian cities – Ho Chi Minh (Vietnam), Phnom Penh & Siem Reap (Cambodia) and the evergreen Bangkok (Thailand)! After reading this itinerary, you'll realise how these are four of the cheapest Asian destinations to visit from India.
Since it's a 10-day tour, I will recommend an itinerary that starts on a Friday of week 1 and ends on the Sunday of week 2. This way, you will only have to take a maximum of 6 days off from work. So, wherever you are in India, you can take a flight to Ho Chi Minh City (also known as "Saigon") on a Thursday night.
PS: Flight prices to and from India are not included in the INR 25,000 budget.
2 days in Ho Chi Minh (Fri - Sun, Week 1)
Despite whatever some (pseudo-)intellectuals may want you to believe, Vietnam does not hold a place in the Third World. My extensive travels across the country have taught me so. With Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) as its baton-holder, it rightfully boasts of a booming economy. Just to help you get a better picture, this city is to Vietnam what Mumbai is to India.
Free or inexpensive things to do while here: First and foremost, use the public transport here as you won't get to see much of it in Cambodia, which will be your next destination. Shop at the Binh Tay Market for the cheapest souvenirs. Pray at the Mariamman Hindu Temple. Drink at their Pub Street.
Where to eat: If you're a vegetarian, food will be a challenge in HCMC. So out of these three cheap but great options, the first two serve vegetarian also: 1. Saigon Indian Restaurant at 73 Mạc Thị Bưởi, Bến Nghé, 2. Hum Vegetarian Cafe & Restaurant at 32 Đường Võ Văn Tần, 3. La Villa French Restaurant at 14 Ngô Quang Huy.
Where to stay: This stylish Airbnb is situated at a very convenient location in HCMC so you don't waste your time travelling. Take a look:
How much for 2: INR 770
Total approximate expenditure for 2: INR 7,540 (INR 1,540 on stay + INR 2,500 on food + INR 3,500 on travelling & miscellaneous)
On Sunday night, take a private bus to Phnom Penh. The average ticket for an air-conditioned sleeper bus costs INR 1,000. You'll reach Phnom Penh by the following morning approximately by 9 am, depending on the time you spend at the immigration office. Cambodia's Visa cost me $35.
1 day in Phnom Penh (Mon - Tues, Week 2)
Although Phnom Penh is the national capital of Cambodia, but it is still reeling under the consequences of the unfortunate genocide that took place over 40 years ago. Despite widespread poverty and rampant prostitution, the spirit of the city refuses to die. This can be seen in the vibrant energy exuded by this fascinating metropolis until the wee hours of dawn.
Free or inexpensive things to do while here: Albeit not free (entry fee is $5 and $8 with audio device), you must visit the Genocide Museum to understand the country's history better. Take a free ferry ride across the Mekong River to go to the delightful Akriey Ksatr Village full of temples, entry for which is free.
Where to eat: Here are the three cheap but great food joints in Phnom Penh: 1. Friends Cafe at Street 15, 2. Black Bambu at 228 Samdech Mongkol Iem St., 3. Phnom Penh India Restaurant at 335, Preah Sisowath Quay. All three serve vegetarian food as well.
Where to stay: It's a delightful little place for two people and also quite close to the genocide Museum, so you can be assured of the fact that travelling won't take up much of your time.
How much for 2: INR 770
Approximate expenditure for 2: INR 3,770 (INR 770 on stay + INR 1,000 on food + INR 2,000 on travelling & miscellaneous)
On Tuesday night, take a private bus to Siem Reap. The average ticket costs INR 1,000. Since you'll reach Siem Reap by early morning, I recommend you book an Airbnb only and inform the owner that you would be checking-in early.
2 days in Siem Reap (Wed - Fri, Week 2)
Personally, I enjoyed Siem Reap more than any of the other cities because of one big reason - Angkor Wat. This massive Hindu Temple complex deserves to be included amongst the official Wonders of the World sooner than later, and I would personally run a campaign driving the inclusion. Overall, Siem Reap is a bustling city which extracts its maximum revenue out of tourism only. And it boasts of plenty of other interesting things to keep the outsiders amply fascinated.
Free or inexpensive things to do while here: Again, not free, but you HAVE TO visit the Angkor Wat, else I dare claim that your entire trip will be futile. The entry fee is a bit on the higher side - $37 - but it's more than worth it. You must also visit the original 'Pub Street' for extraordinarily cheap alcohol and street food. Take a stroll around at the Angkor Night Market for cheap souvenirs while you're at it.
Where to eat: Here are the three cheap but great food joints in Siem Reap: 1. Bugs Cafe at 351 Thmey Village if you're interested in munching on insects, 2. Marum Restaurant at 8A B Phum Slokram, 3. Khmer Grill Restaurant at Krong. The last two also serve vegetarian options.
Where to stay: This is a cosy wooden house near the city centre which also offers of a terrace where you can relax with a cup of coffee after a tiring day. Take a look:
How much for 2: INR 640
Approximate expenditure for 2: INR 7,280 (INR 1,280 on stay + INR 2,500 on food + INR 3,500 on travelling & miscellaneous)
On Friday morning, take a mini-bus to Bangkok. The average ticket costs INR 1,200. You'll reach the Bangkok border within three hours after which you need to sort your Thailand Visa that costs $35.
2 days in Bangkok (Fri - Sun, Week 2)
Ah, this is an Indian man's favourite destination. Your cousin or distant uncle must have told you how "funtastic" Bangkok is, and they weren't kidding. The place is a melange of beautiful beaches and ancient Hindu temples, and the people are really hospitable all over. There is so much to do in the Thai capital that you'll run out of days but not new experiences. Replete with outstanding street food and nightclubs, it's a gorgeous assortment of all fun things.
Free or inexpensive things to do while here: Although Bangkok is (in)famous for its nightlife, the number of spectacular temples to be visited here is amazing. So, you might as well go temple-hopping one day. Check out the Erawan Shrine. Also visit the electrifying Khao San Road to experience true Thai way of life.
Where to eat: Bangkok is brimming with multi-cuisine restaurants just the way it is back home. Here are three great options: 1. Suppaniga Eating Room at 160/11 Soi 55 (Thonglor) Sukhumvit Sukhumvit Road, 2. Zuma Restaurant at 159 Rajadamri Road, 3. Gaggan at 68/1 Soi Langsuan. The last one is one of the best Indian restaurants in the world so expectedly a bit on the costlier side.
Where to stay: Bangkok can be a bit tough on the pocket so you need to save up on your stay. This modern room is ideal, since it comes fitted with all the facilities at a cheap price. Have a look:
How much for 2: INR 770
Approximate expenditure for 2: INR 3,870 (INR 770 on stay + INR 1,500 on food + INR 1,500 on travelling & miscellaneous)
Total approximate expenditure for 2: INR 22,360 (INR 7,540 (Ho Chi Minh) + INR 3,770 (Phnom Penh) + INR 7,280 (Siem Reap) + INR 3,870 (Bangkok)). You are still left with a remaining amount of INR 2,640 that you can spend on souvenirs or gifts for your friends and folks back home.
There you have it then, an actual itinerary for you and your friend to experience the best of Southeast Asia in 10 days in under INR 25,000. If you still believe it to be unbelievable, ping me and let's talk in detail!
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