Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Same Same Summer Trip 2017: 28 Days Later

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It’s been almost a month now but the memories of our latest backpacking trip can still be felt and seen between the four walls of my bedroom. Random stuff covered the floor, waiting either to be disposed or kept, and my dirty backpack hanging on the wall waiting to be washed. I stood in front of my mirror and noticed the unrecognizable color of my skin with that same smile I carried all throughout the trip. Year Four. Two Months. Same Same, But Different.

Of all the summer trips we’ve had, nothing seemed new on this recent one. Same Same Summer Trip 2017 was purely dictated by airline seat sales hence, we went back to Malaysia, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam just because we scored great deals on airfares. We really didn’t have any problems with going back again and again to the same countries, well, mainly because we could only do so much with what we have. All the same, me and my buddy feel so blessed to have the luxury of time to embark on great journeys on my summer break.

Last year's Beach Hop Asia 2016 trip was epic, our ASEAN Summer Loop 2015 trip was challenging, our Nepal-SEA trip 2014 was very Amazing Raceish, while our Sulu and Babuyan Islands trip in 2013 was terrifying. If I have to describe our Same Same Summer Trip 2017 in one word, it would be relaxed.

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Here’s a sneak peek on what transpired on this year’s two-month backpacking trip.

Our journey started with our moms on our second home in Asia, Malaysia. For me and my buddy, it was a dream come true to let them experience our lives away from home. It was a rough start as we battled with prioritizing what they could do versus what we want them to do. But as days went on, we learned how to adapt to their needs and shifting our focus in valuing our precious time together.

Those twelve days with them were clearly one of the highlights of the trip. More than the beautiful sights and experiences we’ve shared together, it was the fact that they still have the time and strength to travel with us that matters the most.

We had a fun time exploring the historic towns of Melaka and Penang. Then were mesmerized, again and again, with the stunning Petronas Twin Towers in Kuala Lumpur. Going back to our favorite hawker stall for our favorite mee goreng and kopi ais combo was also included on our itinerary. The moms though weren’t as ready as me and my buddy with the level of spiciness in Malaysia so they opted for Chinese food instead.


We parted ways, with heavy but happy hearts, at the airport and went on with our usual way of traveling; slow and unplanned. We retraced our steps back to our favorite spots in Siem Reap, choosing not to do what we’ve previously done.

Phnom Penh was a bit of a challenge as we struggled with the summer heat plus the never-ending battle with tuk tuk drivers who’d offer a ride, every minute. We eventually learned to graciously refuse every time they offered.


We fell in love with the great people of Sihanoukville and the great sunsets every day. The genuine kindness of the locals was incomparable to the ones we’ve received from the former big cities. Such a lovely place.

The nearby island of Koh Rong have a different story to tell. The beautiful seascape we have every day was in total contrast with the feeling we had towards its people. The sun was bright and shiny but the people were snob and cold. We were kinda missing the friendly smiles we usually get when we're in the Philippines. It maybe because of the steep prices on this small island or the lack of convenient resources hence the snobbish attitude but a smile wouldn’t hurt sometimes.

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Crossing the border from Cambodia to Thailand was stressful as we had to deal with the language barrier and devious people. We also received the worst treatment from a driver when we reached Thailand. Again and again, we’d just shrug it off and move on right away, laughing about it at the end of the day.

We had a nice quiet time at Trat in Thailand. The genuine kindness of the people totally outshined the great food on this slow-paced town. It was a short but sweet stay.

We spent almost a week on the third largest island in the whole of Thailand. Koh Rong isn’t as popular as the other islands in the country but still, tourists were everywhere and it’s hard to grasp the real essence of the place as it’s purely tourist-driven. Nevertheless, I enjoyed the endless walk we took just to go to a certain beach.


Bangkok has always been one of our comfort zones. It’s the ease of having a great meal for less and the endless market bazaars in the city. It’s all about shopping and food tripping in Bangkok.

Kanchanaburi is a nearby city in Bangkok. We decided to have a day trip on the key landmarks on the area during the war.

We dedicated three weeks to explore Vietnam and started our adventure in Ho Chi Minh City. After five weeks of backpacking, I got super excited at the sight of the biggest fast food chain in the Philippines, Jollibee, and we decided to try it out. Well, the food is totally different, except for their version of Chickenjoy, but it was a fun treat nonetheless. We battled with motorbikes and scammers all the time which prepped us up for the same struggle for the next days.

Mui Ne is a quaint coastal town that is, again, filled with tourists. The beautiful sand dunes made us feel that we’re no longer in Southeast Asia but elsewhere. People here are nicer compared to those who are living in the big cities but looking for great meals was a bit of a challenge.


I’ve heard so many great things about Hoi An from other travelers. The picture I painted on my mind couldn’t translate into reality as me and my buddy were surprised on the amount of tourists that filled the old town every day. We appreciated the place more as we went back again very early the next day. The old town by the river is so beautiful in the morning right before the scene turns out into a huge open-aired shopping center.

I didn’t know what to expect in Hue but was surprised as we explored the old Royal Citadel that is the main attraction of the city. We got lost, in a good way, on this ancient forbidden city for half a day. Food, as well beer, is very regional in Vietnam and Hue offers rice meals that are very similar to what we usually have in the Philippines.


Sapa Valley surprised me in so many ways. If I have to choose between mountains and beaches, I would choose the latter in a heartbeat. But Sapa is so beautiful with its never-ending terraced rice fields that staring at it for hours didn’t bore us at all. Also, the locals were very nice that it perfectly complemented the cool weather in the region. We also hiked up to a not-so-popular village on the valley where I received the greatest surprise of my life thus far (*winks*).

Living onboard on a small cruise ship for a night is the best way to enjoy the towering limestone rocks in Halong Bay. The hundreds, or maybe thousands, of rock islands were just the perfect backdrop for a very relaxing escape. Beers and drinks were not included on the meal package so it was difficult for me and my buddy to save up on this part of our trip.

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Hanoi is love at first sight, and still, the second time. Amidst the crazy motorbike scene, we had the best time in the capital city as we explored more places we’ve never been to before. We also enjoyed the weekend walking street around the Old Quarter as we people-watched while boozing up on the sidewalk for hours.

The trip ended up on a Jollibee feast as soon as we stepped out of the airport’s arrival hall and a weekend trip with my buddies on my parents’ hometown in Zambales (right before I went back to school for the first day of classes). The two-month trip was exhausting but altogether worth it. It wasn't as grand as the other backpacking trips we’ve had but it was the most relaxed and memorable one.


This trip allowed us to go beyond deeper of our former notions on a certain country or place. Having been to most of the major cities of the four countries before, we kept on comparing our former experiences to the new ones we’ve had and went on with making beautiful memories together.

In the end, it all boils down to prioritizing what you can do and accepting what you cannot do, mostly, in terms of monetary concerns. Having said that, I feel blessed to have the opportunity to travel even with the meager means I have to support myself and still, have extra budget to include my mom on this trip. Those priceless moments with our moms can never be replaced.


My first conversation with my mom when I arrived;

Carla, where are you bringing us on next year’s backpacking trip?

Uhm, Hmm…

And then our house filled with laughter as I mentioned that I wanted a decent two-day sleep first to recuperate. But hopefully, me and my buddy could bring them again on our backpacking trip next year.






2 comments:

  1. hello, will you by any chance write a travel guide for Sihanoukville-Koh Rong Sanloem? :) Would love to know more about your experience there as we're looking at having our honeymoon at Koh Rong Sanloem. Would love to know your input. :)

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    Replies
    1. Wow that's a great honeymoon place. I will try to write about my Cambodia posts at the end of this month :)

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