Sunday, July 30, 2017

How NOT To Get Scammed in Cambodia and Vietnam 2017

Tips and guides for travelers in Cambodia and Vietnam.

Being scammed in a foreign country is the perfect way to ruin a vacation. lolz. I think I need to look up for "scams" in each country I am going to visit in the future to prevent myself from experiencing another heartbreak. 

I am not supposed to post my recent out of the country trip yet 'cause I have a lot of backlogs but I consider this urgent. 

I don't know if other nationalities felt ripped off too. The spending was too much for us yet we felt that we had no choice. I don't know. Sort of like we, unknowingly, fell as victims of a syndicated scam (in Cambodia). What do you think?


1. Choose your hostel/hotel wisely.

Make sure that they're going to pick you up at the airport if it's included in what you paid for. I replied our schedule but for some reason, our hotel didn't pick us up. I had to buy a sim card to call them (4 USD) and then had to spend (10 USD) for a taxi ride. Una pa lang, Cambodia ay Scambodia na. Huhu. Should've been more careful. 


This is a lengthy post kinda filled with rants and pictures:)



 


2. Pick a hotel close to Pub Street and Night Market if you plan on going there for all the nights that you'll be in Siem Reap.

Ours was away but we wanted to see Pub Street so we had to pay for a tuktuk ride (1 USD per person, per way). In Pub Street, we couldn't find a decent meal that costs less than 10 USD and that was a bummer, really. Expenses were more than what we foresaw and I definitely didn't miss spending in USD! On our second night, we felt so ripped off that we just ate dinner at our hotel and the fried rice above was only 1 USD. It was a lot better than my 10USD+ meal at Pub Street. Anyway, whenever I think of the ice cream, it makes me forget all the disappointments temporarily. So good! :) Fresh bananas and strawberries. <3



Haggle at the night market. I wanted to dress in theme for the temple tour the next day so I bought an alibaba pants for 6 USD only to find out that a lot of stores outside the temples sell them for as low as 2 USD. The price I paid. :)))


Six dollars. :))

No regrets for the Alibaba pants 'cause it looks nice in pictures. I'm still glad I bought it. 



3. Tomb Raider Temple

(In a scammer's baketlist for a reason. lolz)


The temple has two gates so be careful on that part 'cause no one's going to tell you beforehand unless you get a tour guide. The walkway seemed pretty similar so we didn't notice that we were walking to the opposite direction. The driver told us that he'll be waiting near the restroom and surprisingly, the other end's restroom was very identical to that where our driver was staying so we sat there for minutes while thinking why did he left us there. haha! Anyway, the tuktuk drivers were kind of expecting tourists to get lost there 'cause when we were walking around to look for our driver, one told us that he is waiting at the other side. They offered a ride worth 2 USD per person. Haaaaaay. Could've totally avoided that did we realize sooner that there were two gates. 

 If you're buying shirts though, take a look at the stalls here 'cause if you haggle well, this is where you'll be getting shirts and pants for 2 USD.


ITO NA TALAGA 'YON, GUYS!
Tonle Sap na! 


They just printed these out with no amount. We figured soon after that the boat charges are different per group. Do we look rich, y'all? That you had to charge us 30 USD per person? We should've considered that the red flag already but since we thought that was the only thing we were going to spend on, we continued.


We had the boat to ourselves. It was fine at first though kinda interesting to "immerse" myself in the daily life of the residents of this floating village. But it was obvious that wasn't feeling it (hello?? 30 for a tour at a river with murky water haha) 'cause the tour guide kept asking me if I was okay. I AM NOT OKAY. Chos.


Soon after reaching the lake, we were taken into one of these floating houses where we saw cat fishes and these crocodiles being kept for their meat and skin.
I don't know. I felt bad for them still. Just look at their cage. :(


Learning about the lives of the people living there and learning about Tonle Sap as a whole was interesting but had I known about the total expenses and scam this "tourist attraction" will incur, I won't even think of going. 


HAHAHA! I don't know how this was captured in photo pero bes, ayoko na, bes. :(( Probably the reason why is because I had a hunch that we were about to get scammed. BIG TIME. 


It was informative and an eye-opening experience but the return to the port was the most eye-opening experience EVER. Not worth all the money we were "forced" to spend. Pwede naman sa google na lang haha


4. Before riding the boat, the tour guide told us that they're bringing us to the school where a lot of orphans are at. That's the reason why at the beginning of the tour, he kept mentioning about the orphans and the disabled people of Cambodia. I don't mind helping, that's totally fine. What I hated is how I felt that we were placed in a vulnerable situation. How can I say no when the tour guide and the man at this market were all kind of forcing me to buy and I still had to ride the boat back to the port? See the dilemma? You're not wholeheartedly giving your money. You're giving it to them 'cause you have no choice.

He even told us that we shouldn't give money because there are corruptions in their system and instead, we should just buy rice from this community market to donate to the school. I was guessing, like, we can donate a kilo but as soon as we reached the "market", we only had two choices - a sack worth 50 USD and a smaller sack worth 30 USD. We were feeling ripped off at this point that we paid for the smaller sack just to get it over with. And while paying, he still had the guts to ask me if I was sure that I was getting the 30 USD 'cause I can feed the entire school for 50 USD. Dude, I can't even wholeheartedly pay 10 USD a meal for myself. -_- Alam mo 'yun, "donation" na hindi voluntarily. 


That is the store and those two guys next to us are their next victim. 


The guide gave us a tour of the school and even showed us the kitchen where they make the food.


5. We asked why these kids were just playing and they told us that they were on a break. No matter how ripped off I felt, I kind of felt relieved seeing these children and knowing that I helped feed them in a day and that the profit from the overpriced grain of rice will be able to help the community. (Yey but that was about it.) As we reached the port, the tour guide told us that they don't earn money so they asked for the tip and in our face told us that "10 USD for us three" WTF WAS THAT? I was just moving on from the rice thing and here you are again, asking me for a 10 USD tip?! We wanted to get away from that syndicated scammer place that we gave 10 but they ruined the whole Cambodia trip for us. 

As we reached the hotel, we had a lot of time waiting for the bus. We were trying to be rational and get over that horrendous feeling Tonle Sap gave us so we just searched online about the place more. And guess what? IT WAS A TOTAL SCAM. The only time I felt so taken advantaged of while being compassionate. 

What really happens and what a lot of previous tourists have exposed (which we weren't able to read) is that they don't feed the children all the donations. Heck, we can't even be sure if those children were really orphans. :( After all the tourists are gone, they just bring back the sacks of rice to the market so they'd be able to scam other tourists. After learning all those stuff, we wanted to leave their country immediately. You know that feeling when they're all just out there to get your money? Definitely not nice. Definitely not the Cambodia experience that I was hoping for. 



We felt relieved as soon as the shuttle bus picked us up at the hotel 'cause we were finally leaving Cambodia but it was a day of heartbreak after heartbreak. 


We were then asked to transfer to a bigger bus and as I entered, I saw beds. Not the kind of sleeper bus that I had in mind but okay since I can lay down and sleep. Space is kind of small and felt smaller when I learned that two people share that one bed. Are you serious?! I mean, that's dangerous and uncomfortable especially if you're unfortunate enough to share a bed with a stranger. 

STOP HOPING FOR A DIRECT BUS FROM SIEM REAP TO HO CHI MINH EVEN IF YOU BUY THE VIP SEATS/VIP BUS 'CAUSE IT'S NOT GOING TO HAPPEN. Just buy the cheaper bus ticket since the experience is the same anyway. They don't care about customer satisfaction, they're only after your money. Tsktsk.


We were told that it was a direct bus but they woke us up to transfer. It was 3 AM and we went down this station and they told us that the bus to Ho Chi Minh is leaving at 6 AM. 


The only thing redeeming thing here is how one of the guys that let us ride the tuktuk (to transfer the office of the HCMC bus) tuck my bag in the middle of the seats and told me to hold onto it tightly since he told me that there are a lot of snatchers. Probably and hopefully the purest person I've encountered in that whole bus ride ordeal - make that from the Tonle Sap ordeal. 


Arrived at the office with my fellow scammed people. Huhu. They told us that they were there since 11 PM. We slept on the floor with no mats since the first tourists who arrived there were already using the mattress. It was fine since we were only there for two hours and I was tired and emotionally drained to think of all the disappointments at that point. Halfway the stay, there was this very rude lady who walked in the center and she was being noisy as she walking towards the stairs. So inconsiderate. Just like most of the people there are. -_-


6. I think one of the best decisions I did for that trip was choosing Mui Ne, Vietnam over Cambodia's Capital Phnom Penh. The bus conductor got all our passports before passing through the Cambodian border and I wanted to punch him in the face already but was all good hahaha he wasn't a scammer. Passing through the border was a breeze though the whole Cambodia experience was kind of traumatizing that it felt like everyone there was out to scam us. You just can't give your passports freely when you're travelling out of the country so that felt wrong. 

VIETNAM'S PART OF THE STORY ARE MOSTLY GOOD EXCEPT FOR TWO THINGS OR TWO KIND OF PERSONS THAT YOU SHOULD AVOID. :)


7. Again. Choose a hotel with excellent location and you'll definitely be saving yourself a lot of cash. Our first hotel in HCMC was Ton Sung Hotel at De Tham street. The reason why I chose that hotel is because it's near the travel agency where we'll be purchasing our tour packages at but is far enough from the pubs of Pham Ngu Lao street. 


8. We left HCMC for two days and I booked a different hotel on our return as per a friend's recommendation. Our second hotel didn't do anything bad but it didn't felt right either. It was more than a hundred pesos cheaper than Son Tung and they offered free breakfast but I wanted to cry when we passed by Son Tung hotel since I definitely didn't like it at Blue River. Again, the hotel was good, just that it's location and the establishments around it sucked.

 Avoid riding the public transportation and choose a hotel with excellent location even though they'd be worth more. Riding the public transportation just gives more room for people to scam you. -_- Just like the taxi driver I'll be mentioning below.



9. Mui Ne was a paradise. Two days in Mui Ne was for us to recover from the all the scamming in Cambodia.


Anyway, Sinh Tourist dropped us off at their office and it was raining. Our hotel  isn't walking from the office so we had to ride a cab to get there. 
Uber and Grab aren't always an option unless you buy yourself a traveler's sim card so you can connect anywhere. We hailed a cab we randomly got on the street and for some scamming reasons, our taxi fare was almost 300,000 VND. Seriously, driver? He was talkative, even taught us several Vietnamese words and told us to guard us things only to find out at the end of the taxi ride that he is one of those people we should avoid. We fought back and refused to give him 300,000 but we didn't have smaller bills at that time so he still got 100,000 VND for a trip that was only supposed to cost around 40,000 VND to 50,000 VND. Such a downer! 

To be safe, only ride Vinasun Taxi, Mai Linh taxi, Uber or Grab

The same situation we're having in the Philippines these days as public transportation drivers are all against Uber and Grab but at least, Vietnam has Vinasun and Mai Linh. Philippines? I don't know. Naging I support Uber pala 'to bigla. hahaha! Wag niyo tanggalin ang Uber plith!! hahaha! 



Our breakfast.

Nothing's bad for an instant noodles breakfast but I would still prefer those Banh Mi and Soy Milk that I can buy for 25,000 VND in De Tham :(( I wish this can be read by the guy receptionist at Son Tung. I regret booking a different hotel for the rest of our nights in Vietnam. If you're staying in Son Tung, please say hi to receptionist and the lady selling milk tea across the street for us as well. They were two of the many kind souls I met in Vietnam. 


10. As if we already got over our hotel disappointment, we went out to find a place where we can eat and we got scammed again. We didn't order for these dimsums but they served these nonetheless. We thought that this was a complimentary thing but nothing comes free. This didn't happen in De Tham and could even feed ourselves with a nice meal for half the price of the food in this street. 

Do not eat food served to you that you didn't order 'cause you're going to pay for it. 




11. The legit Sinh Tourist office is along De Tham street. Make sure you find the right one 'cause I have no words but thank you to this very competent, trustworthy, and reasonably priced travel agency. Good thing we found them. Be very careful 'cause I hear that there are several fake Sinh Travel agencies in Vietnam. This is their official website: The Sinh Tourist. After having been scammed in Cambodia, the only thing I like is to find legit and responsible business I can transact with. 


Oh, one thing though, I don't advice getting their sleeper bus if you're a tall person 'cause it is cramped. The leg room was enough for me so it was fine but not for anyone let's say more than 5 feet and 5 inches tall. 


12. We availed the Sinh Tourist package at the site and it was worth the money. I just don't advice you to purchase tour packages online and pay via credit card 'cause trips don't push through if there aren't enough people. Booking this Mekong Delta and Cu Chi tunnels tours, we were told that they'll be e-mailing us if the participant count doesn't reach the quota. Imagine having to wait for your credit card to process the refund. It will be much better for the whole transaction to be in VND and on site. 


Walang problema kung LANG BE, basta may pang gala. :))


'Yan ang ngiting di na-scam at mas natutong ipaglaban ang sarili. Char. :))) 


This was one of the delicious food we had at De Tham street. This whole bowl right here costs only 26,000 VND. :))) MUST TRY. 


13. If you're a Filipino and your face lighted up upon seeing a Jollibee branch in Pasteur street then don't be too excited 'cause they don't serve gravy. HAHAHA. And this was sold at 55,000 VND. Still a good meal but I would prefer to get an authentic Vietnamese meal and feed my Jollibee cravings back home. Ang interesting lang din matikman pero sakto lang. haha!


14. We were supposed to book a morning tour of HCMC's Chinatown in Sinh Tourist but it lacked participants so we just went on our own. I read in the net that you shouldn't buy stuff here in Ben Thanh but it actually felt alright since I found a store that sells tshirt for 55,000 VND. I think that's reasonable enough. Other place you can suggest where I can find cheaper souvenirs? Comment down below. The world needs your information. :)


Thank you, Sir Ho Chi!!! You saved this dreadful trip. :) I'll be more than glad to return to Vietnam someday. Especially since there are more places to explore in HCMC and in Northern Vietnam. 


Sa lugar kung saan para bang nakikita ka ng mga tao na naglalakad na pera, ito na lang masasabi mo. HAHAHAHA. 



Soon enough all those people who can't do good business will definitely be out of the system since consumers are given better options, since there are people like us sharing their modus to the world, and potential victims like you who have the time to read and research beforehand. 

May we always meet the right people in our travels! Let's all keep safe and learn to fight for ourselves! It may be beautiful out there but it's filled with dangerous people who'll do just about anything to take advantage of you. hehehe! I'll be moving on from this experience and ready myself for BETTER ONES. I have learned a lot, Cambodia and Vietnam! Definitely one for the books but I hope the scamming doesn't happen again. :)) Siguro si Erika Manalang Rivera, taga-Cambodia rin eh. Nyahaha. Di na ko tinigilan ng mga kagaya niya eh. Yes, Xian? NYEAAAAAAM! Should've known. Coooooooool! CHOS! Nakikiuso lang. Nyeaaaaam. Hahaha! Pampasaya, ganern.


Experience. Learn. Live. Relearn. Live. Haaaaay buhaaaaay. :))


Me on a free shuttle bus from KLIA 2 to KLIA in Malaysia.

Hindi ko inakalang masasabik akong umuwi ng Pilipinas pero excited na ko nyan.


HAHAHAHA.


Other tips? :)



Clips from Vietnam and Cambodia here below: 


A post shared by Tin Gallemaso (@xtintina) on


A post shared by Tin Gallemaso (@xtintina) on


Haaay, Philippine Tourism, let's not be like Cambodia. Let's be sustainable!!!! :))) Pak Pinas!




Hope this helped. 

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