A Travellerspoint blog

We love cambodia

(and could quite happily move here)

sunny 30 °C

Well by the time I finishing writing this it will be Christmas day for us, so Happy Christmas!

I feel that Kat didn’t highlight just how awful the sleeper bus was in Vietnam. The bed was about a foot too short for me, I couldn’t lift my head up more than about 12 inches and my bed had no seatbelt which meant every 15 minutes I woke up almost falling 8 foot down into a stairwell. They had to move someone out of my “bed” in order for me to get into it, which took nothing short of a full on gymnastic manoeuvre. I would never get on one of these again if I have the option of splitting the journey up or going on a sitting bus (or a train full of cockroaches).
Since being in Cambodia, it’s become very obvious how unfriendly a lot of the people in Vietnam are, although they did pick up a bit once we made our way south. We started by crossing the border into Phnom Penh which is a great city but has its fair share of history involving the Khmer Rouge, we went and had a look around Prison S21 which used to be a high school before it was turned into a prison. For each country we go to, it’s good for us to learn about the history (good and bad) and it was quite horrific to see some of the things that went on here, quite a similar feeling to the war remnants museum in Ho Chi Minh City. After this, I decided not to go and fire off an Ak47 at $2 a bullet as fun as it would have been, it didn’t feel quite right.

Rich (see early Bangkok entries) then turned up the next day and we decided to head south to the coast to Kep and Kampot. Kep is a very small place that has a handful of restaurants and maybe 15 guesthouses/hotels, it used to be a place for the rich French inhabitants of Cambodia to have their holidays, they even imported white sand from further down the coast line. The place was turned into a ghost town by the Khmer rouge during their control in the late seventies. Now all is left of their holiday homes are big empty 60’s style holiday homes that are now completely falling apart, which made for some good exploring. As the place is getting more popular, the land is becoming more valuable, but some people have had the good idea to buy all the decaying buildings plots in the 90’s for very little money and they are slowly being replaced. Whilst we were there, we took a boat over to an island nicknamed Rabbit Island to spend the day on the quieter beaches and explore the place, this included coming across a 2metre+ long snake which was later identified as a cobra! The hotel we stayed at in Kep was chosen by Kat and later regretted by Kat once she realised just how bad it was going to be for insects. You won’t be surprised to hear that she was drawn in by 3 very small puppies.

After Kep, we travelled 20km further down the coast to Kempot, another place that will be potentially very touristy in 5 years time so it was good to get in before the rush. We only had one full day here so we decided to go fishing on a boat down the river using bamboo fishing rods, and even a 500ml water bottle with fishing line reeled around it. No fish caught but I did manage to pull a crab out. We spent our two nights in Kempot at a recently opened restaurant/bar with the guys that ran the place, really good to actually catch up with some proper locals without any hidden agendas (everyone has something to sell, not all of it legal!).

So far the food in Cambodia has been the best yet, the portions are always massive and the food cheap and really tasty. For our Christmas meal we intend to cook our own crocodile and snake, we’ve also seen roasted spiders for sale, and they are really not very small spiders! Our hotel is amazing compared to what we’ve been staying in, we decided to splash out for Christmas and it has really been worth it. The staff are excellent, the room is stunning but I will let the photos do the talking when I finally manage to start uploading them.
Have a good Christmas everyone, we have bought some presents for each other from a local market to make it feel like home except we didn’t have to deal with high prices, large queues and lots of people struggling with the snow. (Sorry)

Posted by HenryKat 08:51 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

The perils of traversing Vietnam

all seasons in one day 27 °C

Once again a long while has past since our last entry. A whole 3 weeks in Vietnam in fact. It would be too much to try and catch you up on every thing we've done so hopefully a few key moments will give you a flavour. We're having a brilliant time. We have learnt to expect the unexpected, even if when faced with it we still are not quite as laisez-faire as some. Even though we are technically flash packing we have learnt to anticipate the most basic and anything above that causes the greatest excitement and we have tried our best to learn how to 'make - do' with only the odd paddy.

Examples:

Transport:
In the last 3 weeks we have traversed the length of Vietnam by bus and train and water. The first train was impressive to those more aquainted with UK National Rail- fully reclining seats wooden interior, the guards helpful, they came to collect us on and off the train. This is the way to travel! So Lord only knows what possesed us (me) to decide to get a sleeper bus for our second journey. I think my Yorkshire genetics kicked in and all I could see was a much cheaper price tag.

The sleeper bus (Camel travel - AVOID) took us from Ninh Binh to Hue, it had bunk beds and would take 12 hours. I though this sounded fun. We were lead to the bus and as we boarded it moved off immediately, which is a shame as I would have liked to disembark about 3 seconds after I got on. There were no beds left and we were ushered to the back of the bus were people and bags and blankets piled up into the darkness. I half expected to push through them all and find Mr. Tumnus and a snowy backdrop. Having learnt from my cave tubing experience I fought back the tears and turned to the driver and said, 'No way am I going in there!' I'm not sure he understood the English but i think a woman on the verge of a tantrum must look universal. Once on a bed (of sorts it was more like a air lift ambulance stretcher) I sat bolt up right in protest. They threw me a blanket and turned out the light. I tried to keep sitting up but i was top bunk in the middle row so I had to lay down to stop falling out. We were due to arrive at 6am. I realised I needed a wee by 11pm. I crossed my legs as best i could and had just got to sleep at 4am. A cockeral on the bus woke me up at 5.

Henry forbade me to put him on any more buses overnight. The beds must have been half his size and he was by a window top bunk so couldnt sit up. He was by the toilet and the cockeral. He also lost his travel pillow on the journey. So the next leg of our tour we got the train overnight instead. The lovely train with the wood in a sleeper cabin? How lovley! No. We went for the cheap ticket and sat up all night. This time it was Henry counting his pennies. This set up isnt as bad as it sounds nas the seats are recliners and you can get blanklets. However, the train reeked. Im not sure what it is, certain foods, bad hygiene, but a lot of Asia smells of hot rotten oranges and it is rank. I tried putting foxes glacier fruits wrappers up my nose to freshen it but it didn't work so well. I was just relaxing having got used to the whiff when I noticed the second cockroach. Two is a bit of a worry so I started looking for more. The train was crawling with them; up the walls, on the chairs, all over the floor. I tried a Teva killing spree and got a few. It was 2am and I was hungover and tired. I fought back the tears - I will make do with this situation. I wrapped myself in the free blanket and prepared to not sleep. The next morning we did find a nice guesthgouse and slept for most of the day. I awoke to 9 bed bug bites.

But you go through these journeys for the beauty of your destinations and our boat journey into Halong Bay was beautiful; no Cockroaches, no rats, a lovely decorated room and sleeping on the sea is lovely. We went sea kayaking (again) through caves and saw monkeys eating the leaves on the side of one of the Karsts. The scenery is dramatic and ethereal and it was so relaxing if a little bit cruise-esque. We spent the next week trying to save money after spashing out on that couple of days luxury.

Hoi An:

Our favourite place in Vietnam. The river is lit up at night and we found a gorgeous italian restaurant which had a rooftop table which i pretended they had reserved especially for us every night. There is a tailor for every 17 people in Hoi An and the choice is overwhelming. Henry had a suit made and I was meant to get 1 dress made but once I realised that this place wasn't a swindle, that they actually did what they said - fit any dress to any shape- I couldn't help myself. I went to some cheaper tailors and got 2 more dresses made. We spent three days designing and fitting and altering and adjusting, it was heaven! I couldnt help thinking how much our Mums would loved it here. There was so much material everywhere and if you had any sort of an eye for fashion you would just have a ball here. I wished I had more of an imagination (actually this is one place I wished I was travelling with Mums and not Henry!). I would return to Hoi An in a heart beat.

We continued South to the beach of Nha Trang. This was a disappointment, dirty and not much there. A sad ex-pat populated town, although we did go to a fun hot mud spa. And then went carried on down to Saigon. The city is more more chique than Hanoi and more welcoming - we should've stayed longer. The rest of our time has been spent learning about the war and taking in some of the museums which have been both moving and eye-opening.

We are now in Cambodia. The people already have been very friendly and we have found a very promising hotel for Christmas. Hopefully more of Cambodge will be documented so I don't have to give you such a bullet pointed tale.

xxx

Posted by HenryKat 05:47 Archived in Vietnam Comments (2)

Happy birthday

Not sure if I'm going to be able to phone you Liz so I thought I'd put a post on here to say Happy Birthday! from the both of us

Have a great day

Posted by HenryKat 16:57 Comments (1)

The Hitchhiker

As we haven't posted for a few days this will be a numerical entry.

1. Cave tubing.
After spending some time in Vientiane with Helen our travelling friend from Middlesborough (not Hull Henry!) We headed on to Vang Vieng. This is the 'backpacker capital' of Laos and we were expecting streets of drunk Westerners embarassing themselves. We weren't expecting the stunning scenery. The mountains are imposing, sharp and spectacular. The Mekong meanders around the craggy rocks and the mist desends early evening and remains until late morning. I reluctantly climbed down off my high horse and we booked a tour that included 'tubing'. We started out driving to some caves. Then we got in a rubber tractor tyre in the water and held on to a bit of rope. Then we ducked under a rock formation that hangs around 30cm above water level and find ourselves in a large cave. This is cave tubing. You pull yourself along in the pitch dark except for head torches (Henry was well prepared with his own), legs and feet in the water trying not to touch the sides of the cave hoping to God that this is not an environment in which many things can survive. After around 20 minutes I actually began enjoying myself. No one had felt or seen any animals we could all see where we were going, the water was warm, the cave was beautiful, we were near the front with the guide... Then the rope stopped and we were told to paddle along. There was an 8 year old boy in the group and when he paddled past me I began to panic. I realised I didn't know how to paddle, I couldn't keep myself from veering off into the little grottos of the cave and before we knew it the whole group had gone round a corner and it was just me and Henry and the petzl head torch in the cave. What we should have done was join forces, link up our tyres and paddle towards where the rest of the group had gone - only one way through the cave after all. Instead I flapped about going round in circles in a small grotto just off the main tour route crying loudly and hysterically. When we eventually linked up and paddled 3 metres around the corner to join the the group (at the end of the cave). I was a bit embarassed. . The group formed a semi circle around the the tour guide who was explaining about the history of this part of the cave. Except me. I sat in my tyre sulky and cross, sadly I still had not learned to control my vessel and kept floating into the middle completely blocking the guide. I didn't find this amusing. Nor did I look at anyone I just let him keep pushing me back into my place in the circle. 'I think she's a bit tired' he said at one point.

2. Kayaking

Next was kayaking. Having witnessed the whole cave tubing debacle the guides were politely suggesting that I might want to go in one of their kayaks. It brought back a memory of kayaking once before with Henry when we just went in circles around one area of a lake in Wells. I declined. Henry seemed happy enough to still have me aboard (I thought this wouldnt be a good time to remind him of the tandem incident). We were actually pretty good! There were a couple of little rapids and rocks to avoid and I was shouting directions. We were the first in the group the whole way down (nearly). It was just beautiful. So serene and peaceful. Im glad we can do it because there are a few tours in New Zealand that you can do with a kayak. We went down to the bars along the river. This is where most people float down in tractor tyres and stop off at different bars. I'm still not sure about alcohol and rivers. We stopped at a bar to jump off a massive rope swing held up by a small Lao guy into the river. I could see the bottom of the river. I didn't jump. But we sunbathed and then kayaked back down. Its a shame about the cheesy music and the drinking culture - although I get the tubing thing. Its good fun so long as you're not in a cave.

Hitch-hiking
3. The evening before our tour we were laying in bed in a particularly quiet part of Vang Vieng and we heard the unmistakable sound of 3 in a bedroom. My immediate response was to stand on the bed. Henry had the job of listening and locating the visitor. The bedroom had an extra bed, it seemed our visitor had hidden there. Hen's bag was on the bed so first we had to remove the bag, throwing it to the wall, then we could look under the matress. I was shouting some good instructions from the bed my Teva sandel in my hand. The noise had moved. It was now coming from the wall. Me and Henry looked at each other. Whatever it was was in Hen's bag. Henry remembered some washing he hadn't quite completed back in Pai. He had left the clothes in a plastic bag in the bathroom for a while and then tied the bag and popped it in the front zipper of his bag. Never to open the zipper again. Until now. Hen moved the bag over and there was definitely a lump, and it scuffled a bit. We assumed cockroach and battered the back with a trusty Teva. Henry then tipped out the contents. The creature was in the plastic bag, tied up and there was definitely cockroach guts in there. Henry went to throw the whole lot outside when I saw something in the bag rear its head, 'Mouse! its a bloody mouse!' I shouted (from the bed). Im sorry to say as it was a little squished already the kindest thing to do was finish it off. During the treacherous Teva process, Henry correctly identified the creature as a frog... He promptly named it Fredrick. We calculated our pals travels. Fredrick had been in the bag for just over 1 week, in fact, he had crossed the thai border. He has been our longest travelling companion. We are sorry Freddie, we thought you were a cockroach.

3. Hanoi
Having had a bus journey from Hell to Luang Prabang. We spashed out and flew to Hanoi rather than endure 24 hours on a local bus. Hanoi is... interesting. I have to say that ,Dad you were right so far. Its not our favourite place. I don't want to generalise just yet or be offensive to an entire race of people but so far everyone is just so bloody rude. Literally pushing you out of the way, never smiling, not talking to you as they serve you, we have been spat at and punched by some kid, beeped at continuously and fleeced for money by dishonest drivers. We leave for Halong Bay tommorrow on a junk boat tour (phoenix cruiser) and I really hope its not all a big con. I hate feeling like I can't trust anyone or like everyone you see has a grudge against you but thats how it feels here. I hope it gets better because there is obviosuly a lot to see and do here. We wish we'd stayed in Laos! Luang Prabang was wasted planning our journey to Hanoi and now we're here I wonder why we bothered! Surely it will get better... We did see Ho chi Minh's body the other day, very well preserved...

Posted by HenryKat 07:10 Archived in Vietnam Comments (4)

Vientiane, Laos

After getting to Nong Khai the other morning, we stayed there for one night in Mutmee guesthouse, which turned out to be about average compared to all the reviews we had seen for it.
we visited a large sculpture park that had been done to represent the life cycle according to the Buddhist theories, I have uploaded some photos of this place into the gallery if you want to check those out. There is even one of me and Kat together for the first time! Later that night we saw for one pound each we could go on a 90 minute cruise down the Mekong river, which separates Thailand and Laos.
Whilst on the boat we met Helen, she is from Hull and is traveling on her own for 2 months. Immediately Kat's northern accent comes out to play and we decide to share a tuk-tuk and taxi to the friendship bridge in the morning.

We're all staying in the same guesthouse now, its clinically clean, has air conditioning, hot shower and very minimal amounts of bugs for 12 pounds a night. We've been out to look at the arc de triomphe which looks good from a distance but essentially is a massive block of concrete. They've even managed to squeeze in a market at the top and a couple more stalls further up. Asside from this obviously french structure, you see a lot of the french influences on this town and it makes the whole place very relaxing and quiet for a capital city, especially compared to Bangkok.

It happens to be the 450 year anniversary of Vientiane, so whilst making out way up to a large trio of temples out of the city we find ourselves in the middle of a large carnival precession. In 35 degree heat and no shade to find we lasted about 2 hours before jumping into the nearest tuk-tuk back to the city. He charged us 20,000 kip per person, 1.50gbp. When we first withdraw our first amount of money we were millionaires in Laos.

Tommorow we're off to Vang Viang and then to head further north into Laos.

Posted by HenryKat 23:59 Comments (0)

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