Sleeper Bus From Vientiane, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam

Saving a night of accommodation, I and my friends considered a 24-hour bus ride from Vientiane, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam. Bus fare was around $25. That's already cheap for a backpacker like me.

24-hour bus ride from Laos to Vietnam!

It was my first time to ride a sleeper bus. At first, I thought that I was very lucky getting a good seat where I can watch movies on my tablet without interruptions and I can play music comfortably while on travel. However, after few hours, the rest room which is located a seat away from me, became smelly and odorous. This made my experience a mix of disappointment and excitement. It was worth trying for especially for first timers like me.

Front seats were occupied by old and disabled passengers. Most seats at the back were intended for skinny young men. I have noticed that the upper half had sleeper berths while the lower half had seats.

The Southern Bus Terminal, located 11 km north of the downtown core, straight up Kaysone Phomvihane Avenue from Patuxai monument, is considered the main departure for all international destinations to Vietnam and Cambodia. If you're at the town proper, consider riding a Tuk Tuk to get to the terminal right away. Drivers usually charge 50,000 kip. Buying bus tickets from a travel agency is a bit pricey, however, it includes a transfer to the station.


TRAVEL PHOTOS

Meet Joan and Joy, my travel buddies!



Siquijor: The Philippines' Mystical Island

Travel Guide to Siquijor Island
Siquijor Island, Siquijor

Time to wave goodbye to scary, mysterious unknown, witchcraft stories about Siquijor Island. Believe me, nothing creepy here. Swear! Be ready to be mesmerized and enchanted to Siquijor's natural beauty and mystical charm.
Me mowdeling in Siquijor Island ☺

HOW TO GET TO SIQUIJOR ISLAND


From Manila
  • Book a flight to Dumaguete City
  • From Dumaguete, ride a RORO heading to Siquijor
  • Fare is around Php 130-150 per person
  • Travel time: 1 hour & 30 minutes
  • Terminal fee: Php 15 per person

From Cebu City
  • From Cebu South Bus Terminal, ride a bus to Dumaguete
  • Travel time: 5-6 hours
  • Bus [air-conditioned] fare: Php 215 per person
  • RORO fare: Php 70 per person
  • From Dumaguete, ride a RORO heading to Siquijor
  • RORO fare: Php 130-150 per person 
  • Terminal fee: Php 15 per person
Siquijor Island, Philippines

GETTING LOST/ROAMING AROUND
  • If you have a driver's license, you can hire a motorcycle 
  • Motorcycle rental: Php 300-350 depends on your haggling skills
  • Gasoline: Php 120

Riding a Tricycle
  • Php 1,000 per day; good for 4 persons

Riding a Multicab
  • Php 1,800 per day; good for 9 persons
Siquijor Island during low tide

PLACES TO VISIT IN SIQUIJOR ISLAND
  • Capilay Spring Park [free entrance]
  • Old Balete Tree & Fish Spa [Php 5 parking; Php 10 entrance]
  • Cambugahay Falls [no entrance fee, just donation]
  • Siquijor Boulevard [free entrance]
  • Lagaan Falls [Php 50 entrance; with tour guide]
  • Lazi Old Church & Convent
  • Siquijor Church
  • Siquijor Triangular Landmark
  • Sunset watching at Tubod Beach
  • Coral Cay Resort [Php 100 entrance fee]
  • Salagdoong Beach [Php 20 parking; Php 25 entrance]
Mowdeling in Siquijor Island, Philippines

WHERE TO STAY IN SIQUIJOR ISLAND


Siquijor Island, Philippines

REVIEW: Batangas' Cintai by Corito's Garden

Escaping The City Life

I never thought that a Balinese-inspired sanctuary exist in Batangas until a Travbuddy Meetup happened sometime in April this year. 

Cintai by Corito's Garden, located in Lipa City, Batangas, offers a very relaxing ambiance, serenity and can be considered a perfect place to retreat. The place is very quiet which is perfect for yoga practices. This hotel is just few hours away from Manila. 

Cintai by Coritos Garden, Batangas, Philippines

The place is very spacious. You can play, swim, walk around the garden and feed the animals. Hand crafted materials are all over the place especially at the pool. The pool looks very relaxing. The gates are constructed in details. 

Cintai offers a day tour and an overnight packages. Hotel guests can unwind in the Jacuzzi or schedule a relaxing massage. Also, Cintai offers sizable rooms which are perfect for family fun or team building.

Food served during our lunch isn't that bad. I just don't like it. Cintai has friendly staff. 

Overall, I enjoyed the place. I will never forget that 'touch of Bali' moment. I never been to Indonesia that's why I'm still in love with this place. 

The best part of this meetup -- meeting new friends and learning about the places they have been to which is helpful for my upcoming travels.


TRAVEL PHOTOS







Conquering Fear Through Cave Connection

Conquering Fear of Total Darkness!

Yes, I survived the Cave Connection in Sagada! What a fulfilling experience to survive extreme activities like rock climbing, crawling and spelunking while wondering both the Sumaguing and Lumiang Caves for roughly around 6 hours. You read it right. Six hours because I visited Sagada last Summer where most students has time off from school.

The Cave Connection starts at the Lumiang Cave and ends at the Sumaguing Cave. Most people call Lumiang Cave as the Burial Cave because of the hanging coffins at the entrance. 

Yes, I survived the Cave Connection in Sagada!

Sumaguing Cave has the largest chambers among all caves in Sagada. It is also tagged as the Big Cave because it houses rock formations including the King's curtain and the famous Porn Caves. Both caves has incredible stalactites and stalagmites. 

Be prepared on possible dropping of bat poops as you get through the course. That's part of the thrill, isn't it? Bring gloves as some rocks are very sharp. No need for a fancy trekking shoes as you'll need to remove it as you might slip your feet from the slippers, muddy areas. Wear very comfortably -- something that can be useful to warm you up because when you get deeper, it will get colder. This was the challenge for me. I never expected that the water inside is super cold and yes, you'll pass by bodies of water.

The cave connection was the highlight of my Sagada trip. I enjoyed it as it required me to survive an extremely dangerous adventure, conquering my fear of total darkness and just entrusting my life to our tour guide. Whoa!




TRAVEL PHOTOS






Madongan Dam: A Must-Visit In Ilocos During Summer

Travel Guide to Madongan Dam
Dingras, Ilocos Norte, Philippines

The Madongan Dam, located in San Marcelino, Dingras, is becoming a favorite weekend get away in Ilocos Norte. It is noted that the dam was developed by the LGU of Dingras as a local tourist resort making it as a perfect spot to take a dip and swim during summer.
Mura na, Instagram-worthy pa! San ka pa?
Madongan Dam, Dingras, Ilocos Norte, Philippines

HOW TO GET TO MADONGAN DAM
From Manila, ride a bus heading to Laoag City
Travel time is around 8-10 hours
Fare starts at Php 750 to 800 per person
Optional: Book a flight to Laoag from Manila
Travel time: 45 mins to an hour

From Laoag, ride a tricycle heading to Dingras jeepney terminal
Tricycle fare: Php 11 per person
Fare [Jeep to San Marcelino, Dingras] is around Php 80 per person
Trip schedule: From 9AM to 3PM

ENTRANCE FEE TO MADONGAN DAM: Php 10
Yes, ten pesos ONLY!

Staying longer? You can rent a cottage, with prices starting at Php 500
Travel with your friends para may ka-share sa expenses, okies?

Me enjoying the cold water!☺

OTHER PLACES TO VISIT IN ILOCOS NORTE
[3 days isn't enough to roam my province, swear!]

  • Bangui Windmill
  • Kapurpurawan Rock Formation
  • Paoay Church
  • Paoay Sand Dunes
  • Malacañang of the North
  • Ilocos Norte Capitol
  • The Sinking Bell Tower
  • The Tobacco Monopoly Monument
  • St William Cathedral
  • Bacarra Church & Bell Tower
  • Cape Bojeador Lighthouse
  • Pagudpud Arc
  • Bantay Abot
  • Blue Lagoon
  • Kabigan Falls
  • Patapat Viaduct and a lot more!

SIDE TRIP: Vigan City, Ilocos Sur
Madongan Dam during Summer

Backpacking To Thailand, Laos and Vietnam For 10 Days

I don't want Tuk Tuk, Massage, DVD, Watch. 

Thank you very much!


I never imagined myself visiting Thailand this year. However, my friends Joanne and Joy were very persistent, inviting me to join them on their trip because one of their travel buddies cancelled her trip due to a personal reason. They have been flooding my Twitter feed almost everyday. And, they kept telling me that they might get issues when crossing the borders as they are females, very weak and that no one will help them out if something happens during their trip. I had no choice but to go out with them. After all, it would be our first travel abroad together. They're very good at convincing people, right?
Such a beautiful sunset at the South Beach Patong, Phuket, Thailand
I was browsing the internet when Joanne called me. She told me that she already booked my flight and that I have no more choice but to say yes, joining them in Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam for 10 days. Honestly, I wanted to see the famous James Bond Island in the next coming years but Joy and Joanne are making it possible this year. As much as possible, I want to complete my Philippine journey first before heading abroad. There are so many places worth-visiting here in the Philippines.
A day before our flight to Phuket, I met Joanne and Joy in Pasay over dinner. We talked about our itinerary, hotel accommodation and other stuff. I paid off my plane tickets to Joanne then head back home to pack my things.
Me enjoying the beautiful South Beach Patong
We had an evening flight to Phuket through Air Asia. Upon arrival, we asked the security guard on duty to where the telephone booths were located so we can call our hotel for pickup. Unfortunately, Joanne failed to add an airport transfer as one of the services to our hotel accommodation. We had no choice but to get an airport cab.
I've noticed that there are booths offering tour packages at the airport. One of them offered us a tour package that includes an airport transfer to our hotel. Impressive, right? Unfortunately, we declined the offer because we can get cheaper tour packages nearby the famous Patong Beach. That's according to blogs we have read.
Meet my travel buddies: Rey, Joanne & Joy
Prior to our flight to Phuket, I've checked online about the currency exchange rates and found out that Thailand has a better dollar exchange rates comparing here in the Philippines. We then exchanged some dollars to Baht prior to hiring a cab heading to our hotel in South Beach Patong.
I felt the warm welcome from the hotel staff. The receptionist speak English very well. After confirming our reservation, we were then assisted to our rooms which are located at the third floor. I spent my first morning in Phuket walking at the sea shore in Patong Beach. The beach is just a two-minute walk from our hotel.
Me at the James Bond Island
Patong is considered a beach resort town on the West coast of Phuket Island, in the Southwest of Thailand. Bars and restaurants are all over the place.
"I don't want Tuk Tuk, massage, DVD. Thank you very much" -- you can hear this expression/statement from foreigners almost everyday in Phuket. Tip: If you don't want to sound bitchy and snob, buy a shirt that has this statement then just show it up to locals offering such services. Then, smile while leaving the place.
Elephant trekking!
We booked our tour packages (Elephant trekking and James Bond Island tour) to Thai Aw Travel Company Limited through K. Brook Travel  in Patong. Sai, the representative from the agency told us that the amount she quoted was discounted and that she was giving discounts to fellow Asians. Lucky us!
Buddhist Lent Day Observances
After spending four days and three nights in Phuket, we're now ready for our next destination: Bangkok, Thailand for a day tour. 
We purchased our bus tickets at the agency where we previously booked our tour packages. Sai told us that a van will pick us up at the hotel lobby. The driver was on time! Travel time from our hotel to the bus terminal station was approximately around 30 minutes. Tip: Be as friendly as possible so you'll get awesome discounts. 
Bangkok, Thailand
Travel time from Phuket to Bangkok is around 12 hours. Yes, you read it right. Just imagine yourself sitting in a bus, trying to get some sleep while your bus is trying to overtake other buses along the way. There are no seat belts available. Scary!
Bus fare from Phuket to Bangkok is not that costly. Bus are air-conditioned having two stop over for dinner and early breakfast. A bottled mineral water and egg sandwich were given as complimentary snacks during the trip.
Bangkok, Thailand
We arrived in Bangkok early in the morning. We had a hard time communicating to cab drivers here. They can't speak and understand English. Joanne, who visited Bangkok few years back, used her 'carabao english' directing a cab driver to Pratunam Market.
Pratunam Market is one of the busiest markets in Bangkok. It is considered a low-cost market where you can bargain mostly everything. Tip: Bargain politely because most vendors tend to be pissed easily. Pedestrians are crowded so take care of your belongings.
Bangkok, Thailand
We checked in to a hostel along Pratunam Market to have a good shower and to leave our baggage while roaming around the city. While having breakfast to a food stall along the street, we heard two ladies speaking Tagalog. We greeted them (in Tagalog too) and asked them some tips, getting to the temples from Pratunam Market. They were on holiday too!
Through Tuk Tuk, we visited Wat Phra Kaew, Wat Benchamabophit, Wat Mahathat Yuwaratrangsarit, and other temples including the famous floating market.
Bangkok, Thailand
Wat Phra Kaew is regarded as the most sacred Buddhist temple in Bangkok. It houses The Emerald Buddha. The place is really beautiful. Overall, a day tour in Bangkok is not enough. However, we spent priceless moments here. I will surely come back here and spend more days appreciating the beautiful city of Bangkok.
Bangkok, Thailand
Padlocked Refrigerator to Convey a Message

After our day tour in Bangkok, we immediately headed to the agency referred by our Tuk Tuk driver to get bus tickets to Vientiane, Laos. The agency is just across a train station and is located near the Pratunam Market. 
Nongkhai Customs Boundary Post
Due to the Buddhist Lent Day Observances, the receptionist told us that we can hardly get a direct trip from Bangkok to Vientiane, Laos. However, upon checking the database, a direct trip was available. However, bus tickets were a bit pricey. Without flinching an eye, we grabbed it as we were thinking about the hassle of transferring from one bus to another with all our heavy backpacks.
July 31st marks the beginning of the Buddhist ‘lent’ period, a time when monks are supposed to retreat to their temples while new life springs forth. Businesses and government offices are closed on public holidays in Bangkok. However, tourist attractions and shops remain open to accommodate tourists.
Vientiane, Laos
After few hours, a service van from the agency picked us up at a restaurant near the Pratunam Market heading to the bus station. Upon arrival, the driver informed us to meet an old lady (I forgot her name. My bad!) inside the bus terminal providing us our bus tickets. I smell something fishy right away so I asked the driver to call the old lady asking her to meet us in front of the terminal station.
The old lady then handed our bus tickets. Surprisingly, she booked a bus trip from Bangkok to Nong Khai then handed few amounts for our bus tickets from Nong Khai to Vientiane. She should have booked a direct trip from Bangkok to Vientiane as what agreed at the agency. We were very disappointed
Vientiane, Laos
Joy provided the old lady options to either refund the full amount we paid or provide us half of the payment made and just continue with the trip to Nong Khai. That time, the bus was about to go. The old lady kept on stopping the bus as we were still discussing things. The old lady called the agency informing about our complaints and demands. She allowed us to speak to the receptionist and surprisingly kept telling us that we didn't booked for a direct trip from Bangkok to Vientiane. Goodness! This is unacceptableIntentionally, I dropped the call and insisted the old lady to choose one of the options Joy provided and decide the soonest possible time.
The bus driver kept on asking us to get inside so we can leave early. I threatened the old lady to call the security guard and demand to speak to a police. She then started calling her husband asking for money to refund our payment. She agreed to refund half of the amount we paid. She asked us to sign a document as a proof to the agency that she did process a refund.
Vientiane, Laos
Yes, we were ripped off! We felt bad leaving Bangkok like were broken-hearted. Travel time from Bangkok to Nong Khai was around 8 hours. A bottled mineral water and packed dinner (fried chicken, rice and steamed vegetables) were given to passengers few minutes after leaving Bangkok.
We arrived in Nong Khai early in the morning. It was raining hard when we get off the bus. The conductor directed us to a Tuk Tuk driver heading to the border and have our passports stamped. After few minutes, a bus heading to Vientiane, Laos was approaching.
At the Lao-Thai Friendship Bridge, the Lao immigration officer stamped our passports, providing us thirty-day tourist visa. I'm not sure how much we paid but the amount is depending on your nationality. They accept US dollars, Baht or Kip. Travel time from Nong Khai to Vientiane is approximately an hour.
Vientiane, Laos
We visited Pha That Luang, Patuxai, Wat Seb, the giant Sleeping Buddha and other temples. Pha That Luang, also known as the Great Stupa in Lao, is one of the most significant monuments in Laos. It has several terraces with each level representing a a different stage of Buddhist enlightenment.
Laos is super clean. Vientiane feels like a relaxed riverfront town. Such a beautiful country. Ending our day tour in Laos was a heavy lunch at a restaurant in a busy street in Vientiane.
Vientiane, Laos
Before lunch time, something weird happened. We were looking for a coffee shop that has a WiFi connection so we can check out the weather in Hanoi, Vietnam. Most coffee shops and restaurants we passed by doesn't have WiFi connection. We walked around from one place to another until we reached a newly opened coffee shop. We were very excited to get in. Unfortunately, the business owner doesn't speak English. She was just staring at us. We tried communicating with her through hand gestures and unluckily, she thrown us a blank face.
Joanne opened the refrigerator where softdrinks were located. She picked up a bottled mineral water and went directly to the cashier's to pay. Surprisingly, the owner brought out security chains and a heavy-duty padlock. As expected, she padlocked her refrigerator leaving Joanne very thirsty. Weird, really.

Cam On, Hanoi!


To save a night of accommodation, we took the 24-hour bus ride from Vientiane, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam. We're so excited to try out a sleeper bus for the first time. The collector hardly understand English so he kept on smiling while writing on a paper the amount we should pay. We paid $25 each for our bus tickets. Buses from Vientiane are overnight buses, departing in the evening and arriving in Hanoi, Vietnam the next morning.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
While waiting for the scheduled trip, we grabbed some food then slept for few minutes at the collector's area. Yes, you read it right. The collector offered their air-conditioned booth for us to get some rest. I feel bad coz I can't recall his name anymore. He may hardly understand English for now but his kindness is overflowing.
He's the friendliest Lao I know. There were times that our sleep is being disturbed as there were passengers trying to get bus tickets and asking about trip schedules. But that's alright. We're staying in an air-conditioned room anyway.
Halong Bay, Vietnam
Before leaving the booth, I handed the collector 8 coins amounting to 20 pesos to show my gratitude for being very friendly and accommodating. Surprisingly, it was his first time receiving Philippine coins and he then promised me to keep them for a lifetime. We ended that moment with a selfie!
There was quite a bit of confusion as to which bus to get on but eventually, we found the right one. We were very thankful to the collector as he chose the best seats for us. We were seated at the right side near the rest room, having the convenience if in case we need to use it.
Front seats were occupied by old and disabled passengers. Most seats at the back were intended for skinny young men. I have noticed that the upper half had sleeper berths while the lower half had seats.
Meet Simon, a new friend
I was convinced for a while that I was seated at the right place. I can take photos clearly along the way. I can watch movies on my tablet without interruptions. I can listen to music very comfortably. However, after few hours, the rest room became smelly, odorous. And, unfortunately, I was located a seat away from the rest room! Think about the travel time from Vientiane, Laos to Hanoi, Vietnam. Poor boy!
After few hours, the bus conductor relayed a message to a young lady using their language. Yes, both the conductor and the driver doesn't speak English. The lady then announced in English that we need to get off the bus, bringing our personal belongings and have our passport stamped at the border.
Hanoi, Vietnam
It took us almost two hours to clear immigration in Laos. Based on the blogs we have read, Asians won't be charged any amount passing the border because of a certain agreement between Asian countries. However, upon arrival, an immigration officer is asking for payment for him to release our passports. By the way, no need to fall in line at the immigration. Seems like most locals there doesn't know how to fall in line properly. We were pushed back several times having the opportunity for their passports being stamped right away.
I was very dissappointed when an immigration officer mentioned that they do not accept dollars as mode of payment. We had no other choice but to fall in line at the money exchange center. No one anticipated that we should have at least kept some Kips while traveling to Hanoi.
Hanoi, Vietnam
The no man’s land between the two borders was a 300m walk up a hill. Rain started to pour while on our way to Vietnam border. Unlucky people. It took us few minutes at the Vietnam immigration. The process there was very smooth and organized.
We arrived in Hanoi early in the morning. We hired a cab heading to Old Quarter. We luckily passed by a travel and tour agency while heading to Backpacker's Street. We inquired about their Halong Bay tour packages then immediately booked for the next day.
Hanoi, Vietnam's capital, is one of my favorites cities now. You can dine at any corner. Coffee shops are all over the place. Its streets surge with scooters vying for right of way, making the city alive and beautiful. I will surely come back here!
Cam on, Hanoi!
I love you, Vietnam!

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