Siem Reap On A Budget: Part 2 – Checklist Before Your Flight

Collage of the different temples we visited at the Angkor Archaelogical Site (July, 2014)

Collage of the different temples we visited at the Angkor Archaeological Site (July, 2013)

My friend, are you planning to go to Siem Reap in the future?  I hope you read my first post to help you plan your itinerary.  I am 100% sure that you will love that side of Cambodia.

Let say you booked your flight, chose a hotel and created your itinerary for your trip.  You still have a few checklist to do a week or a few days before your flight.  To help you, here are some things to consider before you head to the Kingdom of Cambodia:

1.  Check the weather 

Homepage of Cambodia's Meteorological Site.  Click here to access it

Homepage of Cambodia’s Meteorological Site. Click here to access it

This tropical country has 2 seasons like in the Philippines (rainy and dry).  They said, the best time to visit this place is during dry season (November to April) and it will be a challenge to visit Cambodia during rainy season (May to October).  But B and I visited last July and the weather was so cooperative.  It was cold at early morning and quite humid during late morning till afternoon.  We were confident that the sun will shine during our visit.  Thanks to Cambodia’s Meteorological website for giving us a 3-day weather forecast.

2.  Research on the background history of the temples 

Ta Keo Temple - my favorite temple.  One of the venues where Lara Croft: Tomb Raider movie was shot

Ta Keo: my favorite temple. One of the venues where the movie Lara Croft: Tomb Raider was shot

This is to know their story and appreciate the temples more.  You may also buy or get leaflets at the sites ticketing office.  But if you want a guided tour, prepare to shell out $25/day to hire a tour guide.  We did not avail of this for Rah told us the name of the temple before we go down our tuktuk and I read some facts at home about the history of Angkor Wat.

Tree grew ontop of one of the temples at Ta Phrom - another place made famous by Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

An ancient tree grew on top of one of the temples at Ta Phrom – another place made famous by Lara Croft: Tomb Raider

Tidbit:  The setting of the popular game “Temple Run” was inspired by the temples here at Siem Reap.

B doing his own version of the game "Temple Run" at Neak Pean (taken from his Blackberry Phone)

B doing his own version of the game “Temple Run” at Neak Pean (taken from his Blackberry Phone)

3.  Prepare your US Dollars

Though their official currency is Cambodian Riel (KHR), you can use US dollars to pay for anything since their prices were quoted in dollars, too.  You will notice that when I posted the price of our room and transpo option.  I also noticed that the money changers there accept our Philippine Pesos but the value of it is lower.

Say hello to Benjamin Franklin at US$ 100 bill

Say hello to Benjamin Franklin in US$ 100 bill

My tip before you go to any country:  Buy dollars here in the Philippines to maximize the value of your PHP.  If you pay in dollars at Cambodia, they will give your change in dollars, too.  But do note that they only accept US Dollar bills and not coins.  If you will be given change, the “cents” will be in Cambodian Riel.  Remember, you cannot exchange your riels to pesos when you go back here in the Philippines.

4.  Wear comfortable but discreet clothes

Second day get-up: “Faith” loose cropped top from Cotton On. Baggy batik pants from Siem Reap flee market

Some temples at Angkor Wat strictly follows a conservative dress code.  If you are wearing sleeveless, tube top for girls, above-the-knee length shorts or skirt; you will not be allowed to enter their temple.  It happened to me on our first day at Angkor Wat.  I was wearing a sleeveless shirt and short skirt and was not allowed to enter the Temple of the Leper King because of my attire.  So I bought their hippie batik trousers that I intend to wear on our next days’ tour and wore a maxi dress a day after when I visited other temples and tour the streets of Siem Reap.  Anyway, printed pants are in this season.

5.  Choose comfortable but sturdy footwear during your tour at Angkor Wat

The sandals that I wore during my Pinatubo Trekking is also one of the best footwear to use in touring the temples at Angkor

Your stilletos or wedges are not the best footwear here.  Hiking shoes or sandals are better since most of the temple floors are not even because they were ruined already.  Your regular slippers may not be sturdy enough to withstand the bumps and rocks along the way.

6.  Bring flashlight

Angkor Wat is the best place to watch the sunrise, for sunset head to Phnom Bakheng.  So if you are planning to go there, bring a flashlight with you.  There is no electric light post at all temples so if you’ll go there early morning, you will not see the bumpy paths along the way.  Pack a small flashlight that will fit your pocket or your small bag when touring so you can light your way to the temple.

7.  Protect yourself from the sun or rain

My trusty fedora hat with my skin slathered with sunblock to keep me protected during my first day at Angkor Wat

Always protect your skin by wearing suncreen.  This is the best venue to wear your fedora hat, caps or the Krama you bought at the flee market.   If the weatherman said it might rain, bring an umbrella or raincoat.

8.  Buy tickets at Angkor Archaeological Site in the afternoon, a day before you go there

Ticketing office of Angkor Archaeological Site

Of course, the main reason people go to Siem Reap is because of Angkor Wat.  Unfortunately, you cannot buy tickets in advance online unless you seek land arrangements from any travel agencies.  If you arrived at Siem Reap in the afternoon or early evening and you plan to tour the site tomorrow, buy tickets specifically at 5:00PM.  Why? Although you pay for the ticket you will use the next day, you can already enter the site for free till it closes at 6:00PM.

My 3-day Ticket to the Temples

How much is the ticket? It depends how many days you want to tour the site.  Passes are sold for one-day tour ($20), three days ($40), or seven days ($60) blocks.  The three day pass is valid for one week, i.e. 3 days to be used within the week, not necessarily consecutively. The seven day pass is valid for one month, i.e. 7 days to be used within the month again, not necessarily consecutively.

What time do they open/close?  Visiting hours are from 5:00 AM till 6:00 PM daily.

How was my trip?  It was memorable.  The temples were breathtaking that I can’t believe I fullfilled my dream of becoming Lara Croft for a day!  (Sans the shorts, sandos, boots and over-sized boobies. HAHA!)  I also want to go back not only for the temples  but for their food, their clean fresh air in the morning and the warm hospitality of its people.

B and me inside Ta Phrom

B and me inside Ta Phrom

That’s it!  Hope I helped you plan and budget your money on your future Siem Reap tour.  As usual my friend, you can always leave a comment for any questions you may have on my experience or to plan for your trip.  Enjoy!

-Tinakits-

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Siem Reap Trip On A Budget: Part 1 – Planning Stage

Bucket List Update: [x]  Explore Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, Cambodia – DONE!!!

Tinakits with the famous Angkor Wat Temple

Tinakits with the famous Angkor Wat Temple

My friend, what fictional action hero do you like?  Well, I got a lot.  One of which is a cool chick named Lara Croft and I love her more because when they turned it into a movie, it was played by Angelina Jolie – my favorite actress.  There was a scene at Lara Croft: Tomb Raider where Angelina went to a place with temple ruins with some have tall ancient trees that grew on them.  Based on my research, that temple was at Angkor Archaeological Site located at Siem Reap, Cambodia.  That started my dream of going to the Khmer Empire.  And it did come true last month!  When I was arranging this trip, I was worried because only a few people already went here and I only have one friend who can give me an idea on completing my itinerary (Thanks Marky!).  After arranging this on my own and after the trip itself, I realized that touring this popular place in Cambodia was cheaper compared to other countries I visited.  Heck!  It’s even cheaper than my last Boracay trip.  Again, I did it DYI-style.  Yup!  that’s the key for an affordable tour which you can do even if you haven’t been there yet.  So my friend, here are some tips for your D.Y.I. Siem Reap tour arrangement:

PLANNING STAGE

1.  Avail of special promo from any budget airlines

Signage that greeted us upon arrival

Signage that greeted us upon arrival

Before, plane tickets going here are very expensive because there is no local aircraft carrier here in the Philippines that offers direct flight to Siem Reap.  God was ever so kind to us that He heard me when I said I want to see Angkor Wat.  Last year, B and I availed of the discounted offer of Cebu Pacific to introduce one of their latest destination located at Southeast Asia which is Siem Reap.  So we booked a roundtrip ticket for 2.  The price?  Around Php 6000 + for two people.

Inside the Departure Area of Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport

Inside the Departure Area of Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport

2.  Stay in a budget hotel like Mandalay Inn

Thanks to The Poor Traveller for recommending this place.  Indeed, the Mandalay Inn really delivers well.  When I emailed them to reserve their VIP Room, they did not ask for downpayment to confirm my booking.  The room cost us only $18/night, affordable as compared to other hotels at Siem Reap.  By the way, don’t expect much of their VIP Room cause it only has the basic amenities.  But the hotel was overall clean and the people went above and beyond our expectations like what happened during our stay.  Due to the long walks under the sun and my tummy not accustomed to their water, I was down with fever and diarrhea after our tour.  Unfortunately, I don’t have medicine to address the later.  The manager of the hotel gave me meds and it was for free.  In a few hours, my diarrhea was gone.  They even checked on me if I was feeling better!

Our chosen budget hotel at Siem Reap - The Mandalay Inn

Our chosen budget hotel at Siem Reap – The Mandalay Inn

3.  Choose your mode of transportation for your tour

The great thing about Mandalay Inn is they also provide transportation services with multiple options available.  It seems that the service rate for transportation on all hotels were standardized since all of them follows the same rate.  Again, their daily rates are in US Dollars:

Bicycle – $1

Motorbike – $8

Tuktuk – $12

Car – $25

Van – $35

My recommendation: Hire a tuktuk

B climbing in at our chosen ride for our tour - the Tuktuk

B climbing in at our chosen ride for our tour – the Tuktuk

This type of auto ricksaw is Cambodia’s common mode of transportation.  Unlike our local tricycle where the cabin is attach at the right side of the motorbike, tuktuk‘s cabin is attach at the rear.  Four people can ride here with space for luggages either at front or back of the cabin.  If you are not good at reading maps, scared of getting lost or you want to blend with the locals plus enjoy the fresh air of Siem Reap, then tuktuk is for you. We chose this to tour us and our driver was also our tour guide.  The great thing was bottled water was included on our tour for free.  Rah (the name of our driver) was helpful and accomodating.  Just make sure that when you go down and explore a temple, you agreed on where you will meet him after to avoid getting lost.

That's Rah and his Tuktuk.  He's our driver slash tour guide for two days

That’s Rah and his Tuktuk. He’s our driver slash tour guide for two days

4.  Choose other places to visit aside from Angkor Wat

There are so many temples to visit at Angkor Wat that there will come a point that you will be stressed or bored a bit.  To revive your excitement and to know more about Siem Reap, here are my recommendations on other places to visit and things to do:

a. Wat Preah Prom Rath Pagoda –  This Buddist Monastery was built in 1915 making it one of the youngest pagoda at Siem Reap.  It is close to Old Market and you can go here for free.

Wat Preah Prom Rath Pagoda

Wat Preah Prom Rath Pagoda

b.  Angkor National Museum – to know more about the history of Siem Reap and the entire Cambodia or see some artifacts, head to the museum from 8:30 AM till 6:00 PM.  Entrance fee is $12.

Angkor National Museum for afar

Angkor National Museum from afar

c.  Wat Bo – If Wat Preah Prom Rath Pagoda is the youngest, Wat Bo is one of the oldest Buddist Temple.  No entrance fee for this one.

Wat Bo.  Image courtesy of Tripadvisor

Wat Bo. Image taken from Tripadvisor

d.  Fill your tummy at any time of the day and enjoy Siem Reap’s nightlife at Pub Street – This is the place to hang out during the day for a laid back brunch or enjoy their colorful party scene at night.  The place have different bars and restaurants you can choose from high end to the cheapest.  Tipical budget for an eat out will be $5-$10 per person but still it depends on your hunger. 😉

Pub Street at night

Pub Street at night

Favorite Cambodian Dish: Beef Lok lak.  It’s a stir-fried marinated beef served in a bed of lettuce topped with onions and cucumber which has a dip that consists of lime juice, sea salt and black Kampot pepper.

Beef Lok Lak - YUM!

Beef Lok Lak – YUM!

Highly Recommended Restaurant:  The Blue Pumpkin

Wide smile after filling my tummy at The Blue Pumpkin

Wide smile after filling my tummy at The Blue Pumpkin

We went here so many times and we love everything about this restaurant.  Though a bit pricey than other restos but you will truly get what you have paid for and more!  We enjoyed the food, the cold drinks, the frozen towels given to customers to refresh us after our tour in the morning, and their desserts!  We love seating on their long, white day bed with fluffy pillows which gives extra comfort and enjoyment while we dine.  If I have billions of dollars, I will definitely establish it here in the Philippines (crossing my fingers here).  If you are at Siem Reap or in Cambodia, eating here is a MUST!  Do try their home-made ice cream.  They are popular for it.

Collage to show our love to The Blue Pumpkin <3

Collage to show our love to The Blue Pumpkin ❤

Good news for Filipinos: in Cambodia, rice is also their staple food.

e.  Shop at Siem Reap Night Market or at the Old Market – Both are located at Pub Street.  You can buy different Kramas (Cambodian scarf) made of cotton or silk, trinkets, shirts, paintings, furnitures and other souvenirs that you can take home with you.

Went to Old Street and Siem Reap Night Market for shopping

Went to Old Market and Siem Reap Night Market for shopping

f.  Enjoy Apsara Dance Show during dinner – the indigenous ballet-like cultural dance show of Cambodia is an experience you should never miss which you can enjoy over dinner.  You may choose to go to the classy Apsara Theater at Angkor Village Hotel for $30/pax for a sit-down dinner with Ramayana Menu or $25/pax which you can choose either their regular menu or vegetarian menu.  For a more affordable option, you may also watch the show at Koulen Restaurant and enjoy their international buffet for $12/pax.

Buffet dinner and Apsara Show at Koulen Restaurant

Buffet dinner and Apsara Show at Koulen Restaurant

g.  Visit “The Great Lake” Tonle Sap – This freshwater lake is unsual because its flow changes direction twice a year, and the portion that forms the lake expands and shrinks dramatically with the seasons.  If you want to experience the local life of Cambodians by the lake and how they live, this is the tour for you.  TIP:  Beggars are a plenty here.  These young ones who beg are usually the ones who avoid going to school since they can earn by asking money from foreigners.  If you want to help them, go to any Cambodian orphanage or institutions that assist the needy.

Image courtesy of Telegraph UK

Tonle Sap Fishing Village.  Image taken from Telegraph UK

h.  Ride an Elephant – You can enjoy this ride depending on what time of the day.  In the morning, you will see them at the South gate of Angkor Thom or near Bayon Temple.  Fee is $10 ( for a 20-minute ride) or $15 (30 minutes).  In the afternoon, they will stay at Phnom Bakheng which you can hire to enjoy the sunset for $15 for the ride up.  If you choose to ride down instead of walking, cost is $10.  This was so popular, the elephants’ services were always with other foreigners that we failed to experience this.  😦

Morning elephant ride at Angkor Thom.  Image courtesy of Global Travel Mates

Morning elephant ride at Angkor Thom. Image taken from  Global Travel Mates

i.  Fish Massage – Along Pub Street, you will see aquariums scattered on the side of the street that allows you to dip your feet in it for the little fishies to “massage” your feet.  Actually, they are not massaging but they are feeding on your dead skin.  The $5 experience is ticklish but your feet will be squeeky clean after.

Doctor Fish Massage.  Image taken from Siem Reap Unlimited Blog

Doctor Fish Massage. Image taken from Siem Reap Unlimited Blog

j.  Try Khmer Massage at Lemongrass Garden Spa – For me, a relaxing trip is not complete without a spa experience.  This highly recommended spa at Siem Reap by Tripadvisor offers this type of massage for 60 minutes at $10 or 90 minutes for $15.  It is said that Thai Massage was derived from this.  What is Khmer Massage?  It is, “a dry massage partly focused on pressure points whilst increasing blood circulation. Without the stretching and pulling of Thai massage, you’ll find yourself drifting away into a state of total relaxation”. (Source: Lemongrass Garden Spa website).  Dry massage means no oil will be used. If you don’t want to get naked during massage, this is for you because you will be asked to wear their loose shirt and shorts.  How was it?  I LOVE KHMER MASSAGE and enjoyed every minute of it!

Me after I experienced the soothing Khmer Massage at Lemongrass Garden Spa

Me after I experienced the soothing Khmer Massage at Lemongrass Garden Spa

That’s my recommendation on the different places and activities at Siem Reap.  Plan wisely, my friend.  This is just the first part of my tips in touring Siem Reap on a budget.  Wait for my next post about the things you need to prepare before the actual trip.

My friend, hope you learn something from my post.

-Tinakits-

“Anti-depression” Loan from PAGIBIG

HDMF

My friend, are you sad?  Do you want to get out of your usual routine and have a grand vacation?  I guess even if you are not depress, everybody would want to go somewhere far to have a relaxing time and have a break from your usual routine.  And I also know everybody already have in mind where you want to go.  The next question to ask is: Do you have funds for your vacation?

If your saving is short or worst none and you’ve been working for 2 years or more, then have no fear for PAGIBIG is here!

legal3pagibig

Literally, PAGIBIG in Tagalog means love.  But the PAGIBIG I’m referring to is “The Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF), popularly known as Pag-IBIG Fund (Pagtutulungan sa Kinabukasan: Ikaw, Bangko, Industriya at Gobyerno), was created by virtue of Presidential Decree No. 1530 on June 11, 1978.  To provide its members with adequate housing through an effective savings scheme, Pag-IBIG Fund harnesses these four sectors of Philippine society: financial institutions, the industrial sector, the government, and the Filipino people. The Fund was created to address two of the nation’s basic concerns: (a) the generation of savings and (b) providing shelter for Filipino workers.” (source. Wikipilipinas).

PAGIBIG is popular as a Government Service for Filipino Workers who wants to loan to buy house and/or lot.  But not everybody knows that you can also request for Personal Loan to them via Short-Term Loan Program (STL Program). I first read about it in an article at ABS-CBN News website.  Initially, I did not believe it.  But I inquire at our HR and Accounting Department and they say its possible.  This Short-Term Loan Program that they are referring to is what they called Multi-Purpose Loan and I am already eligible for it!

To check if you are also eligible for this loan, here are the qualifications:

1. Has made at least twenty-four (24) monthly mandatory savings (MS).

2. For members who have withdrawn their MS due to membership maturity, the
reckoning date of the updated 24 MS shall be the first MS following the month
the member qualified to withdraw his MS due to membership maturity.

3. Has five (5) MS for the last six (6) months as of month prior to date of loan
application.

4. If with existing Pag-IBIG Housing Loan, the account must not be in default as of
date of application; and

5. If with existing MPL and/or Calamity Loan, the account/s must not be in default as of date of application.

If you think you pass the eligibility, the first thing you need to do is register to PAGIBIG Website and secure a PAGIBIG Number and membership card.  As of this time, members who were not yet registered online were requested to do so which is a part of PAGIBIG’s Automation and to update your records, too.  Although you can go to any of their offices to register (to know their offices location, click here), you can also do that online.  Just click on here and follow the simple instructions.

After which, secure a form by clicking here and fill out all the necessary information.  Our HR asked me to photocopy my one-month worth of payslip and attach it to the form.

MPLAF or Multi-Purpose Loan Application Form (first page only)

MPLAF or Multi-Purpose Loan Application Form (first page only)

There is a part on the form where you will choose your desired loan amount.  To guarantee approval, please check on the box below on the maximum amount you can borrow based on your contribution:

LOAN

How long should I pay for my loan, in case I’m approved? The loan shall be repaid over a maximum period of twenty-four (24) months, with a grace period of two (2) months.

I have an existing loan with PAGIBIG, can I still avail of this loan?  Yes!  For as long as you have a payment of at least six (6) monthly installments and you meet the eligibility criteria.  However, the proceeds of the new loan shall be applied to the borrower’s outstanding MPL obligation and the net proceeds shall then be released to the borrower.  In case of full payment prior to loan maturity, a borrower shall be allowed to apply for a new loan anytime.  In short, they will process your loan but they will deduct the remaining balance of your first loan to the approved new loan.

How long should I wait to know if I am approved or not?  Not really sure here but I was informed by our Benefits and Compensation Department to wait for 2 weeks to a month.  Once approved, you will be informed by your Accounting or HR that you are and they will give you your cheque issued by PAGIBIG.  After encashment, you can already enjoy the benefits and use it for your planned vacation to unwind.  YEHEY!

For more information about this loan and any services of PAGIBIG, you may visit their website here or call them at (632) 724-4244, 24 hours during weekdays and 8:00 AM till 5:00 PM during weekends and holidays.

My friend, enjoy your hard-earned money. 🙂

-Tinakits-

P.S.  I am not commissioned by anybody to post or recommend their products, services or site.  I am not even working for the Government.  This post is for pure information to help anybody in need.