My family of three visited Cambodia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, Viet Nam, and South Korea for three weeks in March. It was glorious! We saw the sights, we ate new things, and we learned a bit about the different cultures we visited.
Our about-to-turn-two year old was adored and accommodated everywhere we went. While there, we did pick up a few road tips:
#1 Cambodia Border Crossings Are Crazy
We flew from Los Angeles into Phnom Penn with a 14 hour layover in Incheon. Our son was a champ the whole time. We didn’t get our visas ahead of time (adults are $20 and kids under 12 are FREE) so we headed over the counter to pay. The man at the counter told us that it would be $20 per adult and $5 for the baby.
It was late and it was only five dollars, so we paid up and headed to get our passports stamped. That doesn’t seem too bad, right? Let me tell you about getting back into the country to we could fly home.
We took the Ibis Bus bus from Saigon back to Phnom Penn. When you get to the border everyone has to get off to go through customs. The English-speaking host collects everyone’s passports and you all go together … except us. Since had a kid and he didn’t know how much the kid would cost (though we told him kids under $12 were free and it says it on the official Cambodia government website) he told us to go to a separate kiosk area. Hmmmm …
At the kiosk, the government official tried to charge us a bit more than the government fee plus charge the baby. This time, I wasn’t having it. I refused to pay the extra and he set our passports aside. Other people came up and had their passports stamped while ours stayed put. I figured out that being polite wasn’t helping. I ended up pushing my way to the front and making it so that anyone that wanted to talk with the kiosk guy had to brush against me. They didn’t seem to like that and started looking at me and talking to the kiosk guy. Kiosk guy looked irritated, stamped our passports, and handed them to me with a sneer. Ha! No extra payments for us. =)
#2 Milk is stored warm
When we arrived in Phnom Penn the first thing we did was look for milk. The hotel told us that there was a market nearby so we walked. It was like an open-air swap meet. We found a stall that sold baby stuff and pantomimed “milk” while pointing to the baby. He brought out these little, warm juice-boxes of milk. We bought ’em all.
I learned in the Dominican Republic that milk is not always refrigerated. That knowledge has helped me feed the baby in South Africa and Brazil. By the time we got to SE Asia, I knew what to expect. We took our milk back to the hotel. The baby has never had problems drinking local milk. I thought it was a bit strange at first but I had to remember that every country we’ve visited has babies too.
#3 Get Your Viet Nam visa BEFORE you leave the US
We made a few mistakes trying to get into Viet Nam. First, we applied online to get the visa. Then we trusted the lady at the airport that said that we could print out the paper in the lounge. Then we didn’t bring US dollars to pay the fee to get the visa. Ugh.
When we arrived in Saigon we had to find a place to print. Of course the information desk would print it … for $10. I’m not playing. We had to try to get service to send the document to their email so they could print it. That took about 45 minutes.
Then we filled out the application and took it up to the window. They took it and told us to sit and wait. When we were called up to the window, we told them that we needed to get cash but didn’t see an ATM. They told us that one of us could leave and go into the airport (without a passport stamp) to go to the ATM. My partner went and was able to take out the cash in Vietnames dong. The person at the window told him how much it would be, we paid, and left. That took about another 30 minutes. It wasn’t until we left that we realized that we paid more than we should have. There is an extra fee for paying in the country’s own currency. *blank stare*
The process didn’t have to be that difficult. We could have sent our passports to the Vietnamese Embassy before we left. We would have been able to walk off the plane and get in line to enter the country. We’ll know for next time.
#3 Long distances via bus are awesome
We wanted to see lots of things and we’re pretty cheap, so to save a few dollars we decided to take a bus from Saigon back to Phnom Penn. We used Giant Ibis and had a pretty uneventful trip. If I had known it was so easy to take the bus, I would have take a bus from Siem Reap to Bangkok and saved like $100 per ticket.
#4 Hong Kong Disney was great but Universal Singapore wasn’t
We are HUGE Disneyland fans. Our goal is to make it to every Disney property around the world. We only have two left to visit: Shanghai and Paris. Since we’re fans of amusement parks in general, we decide to check out Universal Singapore (Universal Osaka was amazing!)too.
Disneyland was dope, as usual. They had different rides and new things that the other Disneys don’t have. Universal wasn’t as great. If you’ve been to Universal Studios Hollywood, there doesn’t seem to be much need to visit Universal Singapore.
#5 Famiana Resort is AMAZING!
I can’t say enough about how dope Famiana Resort in Phu Quoc, Viet Nam is. Read my review. Just go read my review.
#6 Cambodia is a cash society
We were able to use our cards at our hotel, grocery stores (not markets), in some restaurants and kid playlands but generally Cambodians use cash. The American dollar is preferred. Our first night in Siem Reap we were tired after a six hour bus ride. The AirBnB hadn’t provided a snack so we were starving hungry. I tried to order KFC but they wouldn’t deliver because they didn’t have a phone number they could call us at. *blank stare* We walked down the street and found a little restaurant but it only took cash. We made sure that we had enough cash to pay for what we ordered, but our order had to be trimmed down a bit.
Most visitors ride in tuk tuks and taxis instead of driving (some bike) and those guys want to be paid in cash. In Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Viet Nam we were able to use Uber and pay with our credit card that was on file but in Cambodia … we spent a lot of cash on tuk tuks.