Two nights ago while I was checking my things for Thai bills I saved from my Southeast Asia backpacking trip last year, I saw the postcards I sent myself during that trip. I checked out the postcards one by one and read the things I wrote to myself during that trip. Reading them brought back the good memories I had during that trip, although what I have written in those postcards weren’t as comprehensive as the ones I sent to Andreu.
I think I have mentioned in my previous posts that during that trip, I sent myself a postcard from every city and town I visited. And for every postcard that I sent, I also sent one for Andreu. (Andreu and I were still in the getting to know you stage during that trip.) Choosing what postcard to send, composing the message, looking for the post office and sending the postcards were my favorite activities during the trip.
Let’s relive my trip through these postcards:
Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
I started my Southeast Asia backpacking trip at Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. I arrived past midnight then spent two full days there. On the first day, I did a city tour on my own. Part of that tour is the Saigon Central Post Office, a monumental central post office in Ho Chi Minh City built between 1886-1891. Inside the post office, there are shops where you can buy postcards and other souvenir items. The post office is located next to Notre Dame Cathedral. It is where I bought and mailed the postcards.
I stayed in Kampot for 2 days. It is where I spent my 37th birthday. It was one of the best birthdays I had. I met an amazing girl at the hostel and spent the whole day checking out Kampot together. She even bought me a birthday cake. My favorite part of that day was the sunset river cruise where we had to lie down every time we pass by a bridge. I’ve had so much fun that day.
On the second day, I spent the whole day checking out the rest of the town. First on my list was to find a postcard, then look for the post office. I had a hard time looking for the post office because Google maps sent me to the wrong location. Unfortunately, after all of the effort I did, the postcards didn’t reach me and Andreu. Glad that I took pictures of the postcards before I mailed them. By the way, the post office is by the riverside. You will pass by it on your way to Kampot Museum.
To know more about what I did it Kampot and how much I spent there, you can check out this post.
Phnom Penh, Cambodia
From Kampot, I traveled back to Phnom Penh. There is no direct bus from Kampot to Siem Reap so I had to do a stop-over at Phnom Penh. My trip to Siem Reap is at night so I had a few hours to explore Phnom Penh. I visited the S-21 Museum, Wat Phnom and the Independence Monument. I was also able to buy and mail a postcard at the Phnom Penh post office. The post office is 6 minutes walk from Wat Phnom.
Siem Reap, Cambodia
From Phnom Penh, I took the night bus to Siem Reap. I spent two days there. It was super hot when I was in Siem Reap so I spent the day time during my first day just hanging out at the hostel. When it wasn’t hot anymore, I went out to check out the different night markets.
On my second day, I woke up super early to do the sunrise tour at Angkor Wat. It was super exhausting but it is worth visiting. After my Angkor Wat tour, I asked my tuk-tuk driver to drop me off at the post office. The post office is 4 minutes walk from the Royal Residence. To read about the rest of my Siem Reap trip, check out this link.
From Siem Reap, I traveled by bus to Bangkok, Thailand. I spent three days there. I’ve visited Bangkok six years ago so I didn’t really have anything planned. The only thing I did on the first day was a massage because I arrived in Bangkok around 5 PM. On my second day, I walked from my hostel to Chinatown under the heat of the sun. I wanted to check out Chinatown because I wasn’t able to visit it the first time I visited Bangkok which was 6 years ago.
When I finally got there, after having lunch, I decided to book a Grab bike to Asiatique because I could no longer take the heat. I thought Asiatique is an airconditioned mall. I was wrong. It is an open-air mall. After checking out the shops, I decided to have ice cream at Swensen’s before meeting my ex-officemate. We met at Central World and had dinner there. After the meeting, I decided to check out Chatuchak Market before going back to the hostel.
On my third day, I spent the rest of the day at Everyday Karmakamet where I had a coffee and cheesecake. My flight to Yangon is in the afternoon so I decided I’ll just spend the day there. It is a cool coffee shop and it is also where I bought the postcard I sent to me and Andreu. Then I mailed the postcard at the airport (DMK).
Inle Lake, Myanmar
From Bangkok, I flew to Yangon, Myanmar. I arrived there really late. I spent a night there then the following day I took a night bus to Nyaung Shwe/Inle Lake. In the morning I checked out the city. I visited the Sule Pagoda, the Maha Bandula Park and walked around to see the colonial buildings. At around 4 PM, I took a taxi to the bus station. It was an hour’s ride to the bus station. The bus to Inle left Yangon at 6 PM.
I arrived in Inle around 4 AM the following day. Good thing the hostel that I booked at, BaobaBed Hostel, has an early check-in room. I was able to sleep for a few hours in a comfortable bed and was also able to shower before doing the Inle Lake boat tour. I spent two days in Inle Lake.
On my second day, I walked from my hostel to Red Mountain Vineyard and Winery and did a wine tasting there while enjoying the beautiful view of the vineyard. On my way there I dropped by the post office to buy and mail a postcard. Then at 6 PM, I traveled to Mandalay by minibus.
I was told that we will arrive in Mandalay around 4 AM. But at half-past midnight I was already at the hostel. I had to sleep on the couch until 4 AM before I was able to check-in. Because I didn’t have a proper sleep and I didn’t research that well, I went out at almost lunchtime already. I spent two days in Mandalay. On the first day, I visited the Mandalay Palace, bought and mailed a postcard from the post office near the entrance of Mandalay Palace, climbed Mandalay Hill and visited Kuthodaw Pagoda and Sandamuni Pagoda. On the second day, I started super early. I went on a tour with my Grab bike driver the previous day. He took me to the ancient cities around Mandalay, Sagaing, Inwa, and Amarapura. We also visited Dee Dote Waterfalls.
I left Mandalay at around 8 in the morning and reached Bagan at lunchtime. I spent 3 days there. Most people rent an e-bike to explore Bagan. Fellow backpackers I met in Inle told me I could rent an e-bike even if I don’t know how to drive a motorbike so I tried renting one. However, when I tried driving an e-bike, I couldn’t drive it properly so the owner didn’t allow me to rent it. So for the rest of the day, I explored Bagan walking. (Grab taxi and bike are not available in Bagan). I only checked out the temples near my hostel and also had a watercolor tattoo done on my hand.
On the second day, I climbed Mt. Popa and late in the afternoon I joined the sunset river cruise organized by my hostel. On the third day, I woke up really early to catch the sunrise. Because I can’t drive an e-bike, I had to wake up an hour earlier because I was going to walk to the sunrise viewing area. I was lucky though because while checking out some temples after trying to catch the sunrise, I met a local who taught me how to drive an e-bike. So the rest of the day, I went on to explore the many temples on an e-bike. At night, I took the night bus to Yangon.
I was back in Yangon and stayed there for two days before flying to Hanoi, Vietnam. During my trip, I posted daily updates in my IG story. My roommate in Inle, Monika saw my IG story that day and sent me a private message telling me that she’s also in Yangon at the moment so we agreed to meet for lunch. It was raining that day so we stayed at Pansuriya (highly recommended restaurant when in Yangon) until around 3 or 4 PM.
After our meeting, I visited Shwedagon Pagoda, the most famous landmark in Yangon. I stayed there until night time to observe as the sky changes color. After having dinner, I decided to call it a day. Then in the middle of the night, I woke up with an upset stomach. It was really bad, I had to go to the toilet several times. I also had fever that night.
In the morning, I wasn’t feeling that well yet so I went out when it was almost lunchtime. It was still raining so I decided to just drop by the post office to mail postcards from Yangon as well as those from Bagan then went for a cheesecake. After that, I prepared to go to the airport for my flight to Hanoi.
I arrived in Hanoi late at night. I checked-in at my hostel then went out to have dinner. Most restaurants were already closing but I’m glad there was one that was still open and serves good Pho. The following day it was raining hard. Weather forecast said there is a typhoon. I was also feeling very lazy that day that I just stayed in the hostel the whole day. I guess I got tired of moving from one city to the next every 2 or 3 days in the past 3 weeks. Also, I’ve visited Hanoi the previous year already so I wasn’t very excited to roam around. I only went out to eat and have a massage. At night, I went for a walk and checked out Hoan Kiem Lake.
The following day, I was contemplating whether I will travel to Danang and from there go to Laos or take the 26 hours bus from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. I didn’t want to take the 26 hours bus and the stories that I have read about people going to Laos from Danang were horror stories so I decided to just take a flight from Hanoi to Luang Prabang. It was out of my backpacking budget but it would make my life easier so I decided to go for it.
After having a concrete plan of what to do in the following days, I decided to go for a walk to check out the French Quarter and visit St. Joseph Cathedral. Then I went to the post office to send postcards. The post office is located near Hoan Kiem Lake.
The following day I joined a tour to Trang An Scenic Landscape Complex. It is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Ninh Binh.
On my fourth day, I met up with Monika for lunch again, because she happened to be in Hanoi also. We visited the train street then went to visit Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the One Pillar Pagoda. After that, I made my way to the airport for my flight to Luang Prabang.
Luang Prabang, Laos
I arrived in Luang Prabang at night. The original plan was to stay there for 2 or 3 days, then move to Vang Vieng then Vientianne. But I fell in love with the place instantly that I decided not to leave Luang Prabang anymore. I spent six days there. Luang Prabang was my favorite of all the places I visited during my trip. It was so chill and when I moved to a nicer hostel, the Chill Riverside Hostel I met a Taiwanese girl who became my travel buddy in the succeeding days. I did the two days slow boat journey with her from Luang Prabang to Huay Xai, crossed the border to Thailand, spent a night together in Chiang Kong and traveled together to Chiang Rai.
In Luang Prabang, I spent most of my days hanging out by the Mekong Riverside. I also visited the Wats (there are so many of them), climbed Mount Phousi, visited Kuang Si Waterfalls, crossed the bamboo bridges, witnessed Tak Bat and checked out the morning and night markets. I also visited the Royal Palace and Pak Ou Caves, crossed the Mekong River to check out the village on the other side and tried the Laotian massage.
Chiang Rai, Thailand
After doing the two days slow boat journey and crossing the border, me and the Taiwanese girl I met spent the night in Chiang Kong, Thailand. The following day, we took a mini-bus to Chiang Rai. From Chiang Rai, she went on to travel to Bangkok while I stayed in Chiang Rai for 3 days.
On my first day in Chiang Rai, I just stayed in the hostel and went out at night to check out the Golden Clock Tower and the night market. On my second day, I visited the White Temple and the Blue Temple. I walked for almost an hour to the Blue Temple because after dropping my postcards at the post office, I didn’t want to walk back to the bus station.
On my third day, I visited an elephant sanctuary, the Elephant Valley Thailand. In the afternoon I took the bus to Chiang Mai.
Chiang Mai, Thailand
Although Luang Prabang was my favorite place, Chiang Mai was the most special. Andreu came to visit me there and we spent three days exploring Chiang Mai on a motorbike. We visited Wat Chedi Luang, Wat Phrathat Doi Suthep, Wat Phan Tao, Wiang Kum Kam and the night market. We also watched a live Muay Thai fight at the Chiangmai Boxing Stadium. Though we didn’t have good food there (we weren’t very good at picking restaurants), we had really nice cheesecakes.
I arrived in Chiang Mai before Andreu and while waiting for him, I went to the train station to buy a ticket to Bangkok. From the train station, I walked a few meters to the post office.
From Chiang Mai, I took the night train to Bangkok. I stayed in Bangkok for a night and the following day I flew back to Manila. It felt sad when my trip was coming to an end but I couldn’t extend any longer because I also had things to do back home. My six weeks trip had been a really nice experience and I’m glad I did it. I was lucky that I looked like the locals of the countries I visited so I didn’t get scammed (I did actually but just once). I met amazing people from different parts of the world and I learned a lot of things from the trip. Most of all, I found out that I am indeed a strong, independent woman… with a good heart. 😛
I hope you enjoyed reading my backpacking story. Thinking of doing the same? Go for it! It is an experience of a lifetime, don’t let fear hold you back.
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