I wrote this article on May 27, 2012 after I had my first out of the country trip. For most, it will always be memorable. Im sharing this piece to inspire young people to travel, to have an insight on what it feels to have your first.
There’s always the first time. And so they say. Indeed we had our first jaunt out of the country. Initially, all we wanted was to step foot outside the Philippines and to have our passport stamped. Me and two of my friends hurriedly booked our flight last February 2012, Manila – Ho Chi Minh – Manila, travel date on 11th to 14th of May, 2012. Excited. Thrilled. It was a 3-day trip, with the objective of visiting both Vietnam and Cambodia. We’ve done our researches, planning, asking people who have been there, coordinated with my cousins (where we’ll gonna stay) and financially preparing ourselves.
Come May 11, we’re all energized for our trip. Eventhough our flight sched is at 11pm it kept us awake and excited. Ironically, the cabin crew that night was my bestfriend in grade school. We exchanged hello’s and small chats. The trip just made me more eager. 130am local time in Vietnam, finally we arrived! Since first bus trip going from Vietnam to Phnom Penh Cmabodia will be at 6:30am we took advantage of our time in Vietnam and took a walk along Benh Tanh market, we even ate the ever famous Pho noodles together with our new found Pinoy friends – Andy and Fil. Around 6am, we got hold of our ticket for 7am trip going to Cambodia. Along the way, we had our passports stamped for Vietnam boarder and Cambodia boarder, the bus rode a ferry and after 6 hour drive we finally reached Phnom Penh. We had our stay in my cousin’s friends – Kuya Jojo and Ate Yvonne. As a true blooded Filipino, hospitality is an instinct. Our first day in there was spent taking pictures along Independent Monument. Cambodians are busy preparing for their King’s birthday on the 15th. We also visited Hotel Cambodiana (where my ate is working) and Phnom Penh Night Market, where we found cheap souvenirs like keychains and ref magnets. We headed back home for our early goodnight sleep to prepare ourselves for another exuberant day.
The next day, we woke up early with plans of buying all our souvenirs in the morning. We shopped our hearts out at Toul Tompong Market. We bought bags, shirts, shorts in very reasonable prices. It is with great help that my cousin knows how to speak Khmer thus we had a good deal with the natives. The afternoon we rented a “tuktuk”, we call our driver Kuya Bong (Bong in khmer means kuya). Our first stop is the famous Royal Palace. We paid USD 6.5 for our entrance. Upon entering the palace, we were mesmerized by the structures of the palace. It was endearing and well scuplted. Unfortunately, visitors are not allowed to take pictures inside the palace. It remained very sacred to them and they value their culture deeply. We took a quick tour on each palaces and we were filled with awe upon staring at their heritage. Since we are Angkor Wat-frustrated goer, we took pictures on the Angkor wat replica inside the Palace and promised ourselves that next stop will be Siem Reap. After the palace, we headed to Toul Sleng (place where victims of the war were prisoned and tortured) and National Museum, but due to time constraint the place will close at 5pm we weren’t able to make it. Our driver, brought us to Wat Phnom, where the giant clock was located. It has the same features as that of our hundred steps in Baguio City. Upon reaching the top, visitors will pay USD 1.00 as an entrance fee. Me and my friends decided to take one last tour around the city. Of course, tours wont be complete without desserts. We stopped by an ice cream parlor named Lucky Ice Cream located along Toul Toumpong and ate their best seller Happy Friend. The name itself reflects our friendship. After indulging sweets from Cambodia, we headed home for our rest and readied ourselves for another adventure tomorrow at Vietnam.
We were booked at 10am departure from Phnom Penh and arrived Ho Chi Minh around 4pm. The first thing we did was to go straight to Benh Tanh Market to buy souvenir from vietnam. With each of us carrying two full backpacks, we strolled the streets of HCM in hopes that we can at least see the famous spots such as War Remnants Museum and Reunification Palace. Luckily, we did but as rain starts to pour we headed back to Sapaco and had our dinner at ABC Bakery. In there, we met an English backpacker who had visited most of Asian countries except the Philippines. We hurriedly persuade him to plan his next stop in the Philippines where he can find tranquiliy in our beaches and sumptuous heritage. We bid Vietnam goodbye at exactly 11pm HCM time.
Indeed, the trip served as a not so bad for first timers. We learned a lot from planning, packing, travelling, respecting culture and appreciating beauty from other countries. Most of all, the trip wont be as blissful as it is without the assistance of our fellow Filipinos. With my cousins and their friends assisting us on our itinerary, feeding and sheltering us – was a heartfelt gesture. It was a bitter-sweet experience with us lacking time to do everything as planned yet, still felt the completeness of our journey. On my next trip, I know, I know better.