10/26-10/29 Semporna Scuba Diving

10/26 Airport: BKI
TPE->BKI AK1511 0955-1325
ICN->BKI ZE501    1930-2335

Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 11.13.26.png

BKI->TWU AK6268 0610-0705 16USD
Scuba Diving: 3 dives: Lobster Wall, House Reef,
Big John Scuba
Scuba Junkie KK
Big John Scuba

Scuba Diving: 3 dives: Kapalai: Mandarin Valley, Goligodai Ramin, Panglima
Big John Scuba
Scuba Junkie KK
Big John Scuba

Sleep in, have meals and just relax. On the evening (21:50)  we will take the return flight back to Kota Kinabalu (BKI) to transfer back to our main flights back home. We will just relax and wait for our planes to come.
In the morning, perhaps there’s time for us to do one or two more divings. If not, we will just do some other water activities like snorkeling, free diving, kayaking or just relax at the beach. Or even hit the famous Kota Kinabalu mountain which the town is named after. The mountain has a astonishing height of 4095m!

Sleep in, have meals and just relax. On the evening (21:50)  we will take the return flight back to Kota Kinabalu (BKI) to transfer back to our main flights back home. We will just relax and wait for our planes to come.

BKI->ICN ZE502    0030-0640
BKI->TPE AK1510 0610-0925

Side notes:
This trip has a few twists regarding the itineraries.
Originally, we bought the flights to Kota Kinabalu (KK) without knowing what to expect (we didn’t know the famous Sipadan by then), we were just randomly picking out a place and wished to do diving there.

Soon enough afterward, inevitably, we found out about Sipadan.
It doesn’t take much effort to learn that Sipadan is currently one of the top 5 diving spots in the world, and is just an hour from KK by flight; prior to digging anything deeper about Sipadan, we promptly bought a flight to Tawau. Tawau is the main airport serving Semporna, the main town nearby Sipadan islands, which is located on the South East tip of Malay Borneo.

A while after getting the domestic tickets, we started doing research about diving in Semporna. We have learned that Sipadan is restricted to 120 permits per day only (hence not every dive shop/resort is able to offer you the entry permits for diving in Sipadan, and even if they do, the price could get a little on the higher side compared to diving on other islands.

Our flight to Tawau is scheduled to arrive at 0705 on the 27th. We emailed many dive shops asking for packages (6 dives) that would match our trips, but to our surprises, most shop replied that we could only do 3 dives. Here’s why:

1. It would take 1.5 hours from Tawau Airport to Semporna. A ball-park estimation suggests that we could only get to Semporna at around 0900 at the earliest, most boats leave at 0830 to Mabul. So it is doubtful that we could do any divings on that day since we would be missing the boats leaving for Mabul.

2. It is by regulations that you can not dive 18 hours prior to a flight. Our flights returning to KK is at 2155 on the 29th, which means we couldn’t do any diving on that day.

3. That leaves us to dive shops that could wait for us until our arrival in Semporna. Fortunately, there’s one dive shop that said they could wait for us. However, the Sipadan package they offered to us was quite expansive, and the fees have to be wired in advance. We didn’t feel comfortable transferring this amount of money internationally. So we parted ways.

to be finished——–

How to get to Mabul/Kapalai/Sipadan:
From Kota Kinabalu (BKI) to Tawau Airport (TWU)Screen Shot 2018-10-14 at 23.17.09.png

Sipadan is actually one of the surrounding islands off the coast of Semporna on the Celebes sea.

Semporna and the 3 main surrounding islands: Sipadan/Mabul/KapalaiKakaoTalk_Photo_2018-10-04-23-19-09.jpeg
When you arrived in Tawau, if you’re staying with a resort, they will normally transfer you to Semporna; if not, take a taxi or call a grab service with prices ranging between 85-95 ringgits. From Semporna, you will take the resort speed boat to Mabul Island, the main island for the stay. The transfer from Tawau to Semporna takes around 90 minutes while the boat ride will take another 45 minutes.
Screen Shot 2018-09-10 at 11.26.21.png

Later on,  we have learned that Sipadan is restricted to 120 permits per day only (hence not every dive shop/resort is able to offer you the entry permits for diving in Sipadan, and even if they do the price could get a little on the higher side compared to diving on other islands.

Some of the dive center that offers diving package that we’ve found:
Mabul Divers.com
Billabong Scuba
Scuba Junkie
Big John



Ranking of my favorite recreational sports by locations

Scuba Diving:
1. Mabul: Lobster Wall (2018/10/27)
2. Bohol: Balicasag (2018/08/24)
3. Mabul: Panglima (201810/28)
4. Taipei: Long-Dong (2018/08/01)
100. Phu Quoc: South Tip (2018/09/20)

1. Gangwondo: Elysian (2018/02/03)

1. Okinawa: Miyuki Beach (2018/06/02)
2. Taipei Jingshan (2018/06/20)
100. Bohol: Loboc River (2018/08/26)

1. Yilan: Wu-She (2018/06/21)
2. Zhunan (2018/04/07)
3. Seoul: Yang-Yang (2018/07/14)

1. Dalat: (2018/09/17)


9/13-9/27 Spendings in Southern Vietnam + Siem Reap

Cost list-(per person) 400USD
Money Exchange (USD->VND):
– 9/13/2018: 50USD -> 1,165,000VND
– 9/14/2018: 100USD -> 2,321,000VND
– 9/15/2018: 100USD -> 2,321,000VND
– 9/16/2018: 100USD -> 2,340,000VND
– 9/18/2018: 100USD -> 2,330,000VND
– In Cambodia, USD is being widely used and accepted.

– 9/13/2018: TPE->SGN/REP->TPE (255USD) | ICN->SGN/REP->ICN
– 9/16/2018: SGN->DLI (33USD)

– 9/18/2018: DLI->SGN  07:10-08:00 (33.5USD)
– 9/18/2018: SGN->PQC 10:10-11:05 (49.3USD)

– 9/21/2018: PQC->REP (via BKK) (171.5USD)

Ground Transportations Airports<->Hotels:
– 9/13/2018: Taxi SGN Airport to hotel(Saigon)(200,000VND)
– 9/16/2018: Taxi Hotel to SGN Airport(Early Morning rate: 245000VND)
– 9/16/2018: Taxi DLI Airport to hotel (300,000VDN + 6USD) (ask for a fixed rate at around 250,000VDN)
– 9/18/2018: Taxi Hotel to DLI Airport(250,000VDN)
– 9/18/2018: Taxi PHQ Airport to Hotel(100,000VDN)
– 9/21/2018: Hotel to PHQ Airport (100,000VDN)
– 9/21/2018: Tuktuk REP Airport to Hotel (free of charge, paid by Hotel)
– 9/26/2018: Tuktuk Hotel to REP (8USD)

– 9/13-16: Bui Vien Hotel (34.34USD)
– 9/16-9/18: Maxim House Dalat (23.93USD)
– 9/18-9/21: Chang’s house ( 32 + 16.50USD)
– 9/21-9/26: Krong Siem Reap Hotel(60USD)
– 9/26: Krong Siem Reap Hotel late check-out (6USD)

– 9/14/2018: Sky bar entrance (300,000VND)
– 9/22/2018:
3-Day pass for Angkor Park (62USD)

Recreational Sports:
– 9/17/2018: Canyoning (50USD 08:00-15:00 lunch included)
– 9/20/2018: Phu Quoc Scuba Diving in the South (80USD/2 dives)


– 9/13/2018: e-Visa(Vietnam): 6+25USD: 31USD
– 9/21/2018: Visa on arrival(Cambodia): 30USD


– SIM card 4G unlimited/10days (Vietnam): 180,000VND 
– Miu Miu Body Massage in HCM: 380,000 VND
– Foot Massage in HCM: 150,000VND
– 1 day scooter rental in Dalat: 120,000VND
– Laundry Dalat Hotel: 45,000VDN
– 2 days scooter rental in Phu Quoc: 300,000VND
– SIM card 4G unlimited/14 days in Cambodia: 6 USD
– 4.5 days scooter rental in Siem Reap: 41USD
– Laundry Siem Reap Hotel: 4.5USD
– Foot massage in Siem Reap: 5USD
– Foot massage: 3USD
– Salon in Siem Reap: 3USD

List of places to go

Places that I wanna visit:
North East Asia
Okinawa: Miyako jima
– Sendai: Zao Onsen
– Hokaido

South Korea
– Yang Yang
– Busan
– Jeju

– Hualien: Taroko Gorge
– Jade Mountain
– Ali Mountain Giant Trees
– Taitung: Jiaming Lake

– Longmen Grottoes (龍門石窟)


– Longyou Grottoes (龍游石窟)


– Xian (西安)
– Tibet
– Xinjiang

– Saipan

South East Asia

– Bali
– Pulau Bangka
– Parai Tenggiri
– Central Java: Borobudur, Prambanan, Karimunjawa Islands
– Nusa Penida Island
– Komodo Island
– Indonesian Borneo (Nabucco, Kakaban, Sangalaki and Derawan)
– Wayag Islands
– Raja Ampat
– Tumpak Sewu Goa Tetes Lumajang

– Phi Phi Island
– Ko Chang Island
– Lopburi

– Bagan


– The temples of Angkor

Kota Kinabalu (Borneo Island)
– Semporna: Sipadan, Mabul
– Redang Island
– Lankayan (Borneo Island)

The Philippines
– Bohol
– Palawan
– Cebu Kawasan
– Enchanted River

– Ho Chi Minh
– Phu Quoc Island
– Halong Bay


– Hanoi

South Asia
– Orchha
– Gwalior
– Ajanta Caves


– Ellora Caves


North America
– Mexico Bacalar
– Galapagos
– Isla Holbox
– Cenote
– Nicte Ha
South America
– Machu Pichu
– Chavín de Huántar
– Rainbow Mountain

– Mount Roraima

– Gobekli Tepe

– Cairo

9/13-9/27 Southern Vietnam + Siem Reap tentative planning

Itinerary (Updated 9/12)

Here I am posting the researches I’ve collected and summarized for our 2 weeks getaway to Ho Chi Minh & Siem Reap from September 13-September27, 2018. We were originally planning to go to more places like Nha Trang in Vietnam and Sihanoukville in Cambodia, but after some extensive plannings on the routes and limited days available for us, we’ve decided to focus on fewer spots in order to increase the quality of this journey.

A. HCM City
13 Taipei(TPE)/Seoul(ICN) ->Ho Chi Minh Airport(SGN) (late night arrival)(2125)(2105)
Accom: Bui Vien Hotel (10USD)(9/13-16: 34.34USD)

Vietnam e-visa:
– Visa-Approval letter: 5-19 USD (http://visadovietnam5usd.com/, http://www.vietnamvisapro.com/)
– Stamp fee(paid at airport visa counter): 25 USD
– Visa Application form (entry and exit form)
– 2 passport photos

14 & 15  HCM City
– Pham Ngu Lao (Backpacker Street)(CBD)(District 1)
– Ben Thanh Market (Night market outside at night)(District 1)
– Bitexco Financial Tower (Ob. Deck: 200,000 VND)(Cafe: 130,000 VND)(District 1)
– Cathedral of Notre Dame (District 1)
– Binh Tay Market (More local and less pricier compared to Ben Thanh Market)(District 6)
– Local wet markets
– Cafe Apartment – 42 Nguyen Hue Street(District 1)
– Tram Cafe (cool tropical style cafe)(District 15)
– Du Mien Garden Cafe (District 10)
– Nguyen Hue (Walking Street)(District 1)
– Bosgaurus Coffee (QPQC+H7 Phường 22, Bình Thạnh, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
– Miu Miu Spa 1 (QPJ3+PX Bến Nghé, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)
– Cho Vuon Chuoi market (local market)

– Turtle lake (District 3)
– Backpacker Street (Khu phố Phạm Ngũ Lão)
– Rooftop bar (Shri Restaurant and Lounge)
– Ben Thanh Market (Night market outside at night)(District 1)
– Chill Skybar (no admission fees)
– Saigon Outkast (Bar)(District 2)
– City hall
– Ruong Pub & Hub (33 Nguyen Trung TrucDist. 1,)

*must eat:
Banh Trang Nuong(Vietnamese Pizza)(Banh Trang Nuong C002)(opens at 1630)(002 Lô C, chung cư 23/49 Đinh Tiên Hoàng, phường 3, Phường 3, Bình Thạnh, Hồ Chí Minh 700000, Vietnam),

Banh Trang Tron
(Mixed rice paper salad)(Street vendor)

Banh Khot (crispy mini-rice pancake)(Banh Khot Co Ba Vung Tau: 40B Tran Cao Van Street, Ward 6, District 3)

Banh Mi Sandwich
(1. Banh Mi Huynh Hoa: 26 le Thi Rieng P. Ben Thanh, Q.1,)(3pm-midnight)
(2. Banh Mi 37 Nguyen Trai: 37 Nguyễn Trãi)(5pm-730pm)


(1. Pho So Ha Noi: 25 Nguyễn Thị Minh Khai, Saigon, Vietnam)(24 hours)
(2. Pho Phuong 25: 25 Hoàng Sa, District 1, Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam)(6am-9pm)
(3. Pho Le: 414 413, Nguyen Trai Street P.7,District 5)(6am-1am)
Pho Hoa: 260C Pasteur Street, District 1)(6am-12am)

(5. Pho thin Ha Noi: 170 Nguyễn Đình Chiểu, District 3)(near Turtle lake)
(6. Pho Cao Van: (25 Mạc Đĩnh Chi street, District 1)(Northern style)

Com Tam Suon (Com Tam Ba Ghien:  84 Đặng Văn Ngữ, P. 10, Quận Phú Nhuận, Ho Chi Minh City)(6am-10pm)

Bo La Lot(Minced beef wrapped in leaves)(Co Lien Bo La Lot: 321 Võ Văn Tần, District 3)(10am-9pm)

Op La (eggs cooked dish-breakfast)(Banh Mi Hoa Ma)(53 Cao Thắng, District 3, Ho Chi Minh City)(7-10am)

Banh Xeo
(Vietnamese Crepe 1. (Banh Xeo 46A:46 Đinh Công Tráng, Tan Dinh, District 1)(9am-9pm)

Bot Chien (Carrot cake)(Chợ Bàn Cờ market)

Goi Cuon/Cha gio
(non deep-fried/deep-fried spring rolls)

Kem Dừa Nướng Thai Lan(Desert)(Che Nguyen Huong: District 2)(029, Lô H Sư Vạn Hạnh, Phường 2, Quận 10, Hồ Chí Minh, Vietnam)

Accom: Bui Vien Hotel (10USD) 84/12b Bui Vien street

B. Da Lat
 (Total travel fare: $22USD)


Banh uot ga (wet rice pancake with chicken)(47 Tang Bat Ho Street.)
Banh trang nuong (180 Bui Thi Xuan Street)
Nem nuong (ground park, bamboo stick, rice paper)(254 Phan Dinh Phung Street.)
Banh mi xiu mai (pork ball baguette)(Tran Nhat Duat and Hoang Dieu streets.)
Sua chua pho mai
(Cheese yogurt)(48 Khe Sanh Street)

16 Saigon -> Dalat 0800-0850
Option B.1: Plane SGN -> DLI (Jetstar Pacific BL-354 with a 15Kg checked baggage 775000VND = 33USD)
Total estimated traveling time: 1 hour

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 12.31.51.png
Option B.2: Bus: Futa Bus: 210,000VND (9USD)
Total estimated traveling rime: 7-9 hours

Must eat: Nem Nướng Bà Hùng (D51-52 Hoàng Văn Thụ, Phường 4, Thành phố Đà Lạt)米紙烤肉

Elephant Falls
Accom: (12-20 USD)

17 & 18

Dalat Train station:
– Thác Liêng Rơwoa/Thác Voi (Nam Ban)(waterfall)

Accom: (12-20 USD)
must eat: Kem Bo (Vietnamese Desert)(sinh tố bơ – avocado shaved ice)

C. Ha Tien & Phu Quoc Island (Total travel fare: $50 USD)

19 DLI -> SGN -> PQC BL355+VJ325 0925-1015->1210-1315 (50USD)

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 12.24.59.png

20 & 21 Phu Quoc island

Sao Beach

D. Cambodia border (e-visa: 37+3USD / visa on arrival: 30-35USD)

Option D.1: Ferry+Bus+Plane (Total travel fare: $10+15+33=58USD)
total estimated traveling time: 25 hours

For option 1, it would take about 1 and half days to get from Phu Quoc to Siem Reap via Sihanoukville. The main reason for this long traveling time is because of the flights from Sihan airport(KOS) to Siem Reap would not be available after 12pm (afternoon)
22 Phu Quoc -> Ha Tien -> Sihanuokville -> Siem Reap
a. Phu Quoc -> Ha Tien (0830-1030)
Ferry (0830-1030/$10USD)

b. Ha Tien -> Sihanoukville (1230-1700)
Bus (1230-1700/$15 USD)

Border opens only between (0600-1800)
Visa on arrival to Cambodia:
– VISA fees: $35USD (Only in US dollars)
– 1 passport sized photo. Or $2 USD on site
– medical record. Or $1 USD on site
E-Visa: Not available

23 Sihanoukville KOS -> Siem Reap REP 0900-0950 ($33USD)Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 18.11.10.png

Option D.2 Plane (Total travel fare: $125USD)
Total estimated traveling time: 6.5 hours

22 Phu Quoc -> Saigon -> Siem Reap 1225->1430->1840 ($125USD)

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 18.36.05.png

E. Siem Reap

For Visa info:
– E-Visa: 40USD (30+6+4)
– Visa on arrival: 30 USD
As of Jan 2nd, 2017, the ticket price for Angkor Park has changed:

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 19.03.22.png
The ticket counters now accept not just cash but also payment with Visa, Mastercard, UnionPay, JCB, Discover and Diners Club.

Practical: With a 3 or 7-day pass, the viewing days do not have to immediately follow on from each other.

  • 1 Day: This ticket is valid only on the day of purchase.
  • 3 Days: This ticket is valid for 10 days from the date of purchase. You can choose which three days you wish to visit the Angkor temples on.
  • 7 Days: This ticket is valid for one calendar month from the date of purchase. You have a whole month in which to visit the Angkor temples on the seven days of your choice.

Transportation Cost (Roughly)
-TukTuk(1-4 person ): $15-20 + $5 for Sunrise
-Car (1-4 person ): $25-35 + $5 for  Sunrise
-Van (5-10 person): $30-40 + $5 for sunrise

Screen Shot 2018-08-05 at 19.11.08.png

Night: Made in Cambodia Market

23 Siem Reap
Small Circuit:
Angkor Wat -> Phnom Bakheng -> Baksei Chamkrong -> South Gate -> Bayon -> Baphuon -> Terrace of the Elephants -> Terrace Of The Leper King -> East Gate (Victory)->Chau Say Tevoda Temple -> Ta-Keo -> Ta-Nei -> Ta-Prohm(Tomb Rider)

Screen Shot 2018-08-07 at 16.25.11.png
Siem Reap
Outer Circuit: 1000 Lingas, Kulen National Park ($20USD) (Waterfall), Banteay Srei, Roluos Group (Bakong, Lolei, Preah Ko)

25 Siem Reap
Extended Outer Circuit: Beng Mealea (Jungle Temples)($5USD) & Prasat Thom Temple (Koh Ker)(Mayan)($10USD)

Screen Shot 2018-08-07 at 16.25.00.png
 Siem Reap
Big Circle: Phimean Akas temple -> North Gate -> Preah Khan ->  Neak Pean-> Ta Som -> East Mebon ->  Pre Rup -> Srah Srang -> Banteay Kdei
Siem Reap(REP) -> TPE/ICN (2135->2245)(2345->0640)(0205->0645)

27 Arriving early in the morning
Seoul & Taipei