A Travellerspoint blog

Vietnam

Dalat

overcast 30 °C

Good Morning (from) Vietnam,

After 5 crazy days in Ho Chi Minh City it was time to cool off and dry out so we began our journey north up Vietnam to Dalat.

We had booked an open bus ticket (with our Canadian mates) so we all hopped on the bus and nothing exciting really happened, we just sat there for 5hrs and then we were there - abit unusual for us but a refreshing change all the same.

We found ourselves a guesthouse that had been recommended but they were full booked apart from the attic rooms. By mistake we let Mark check out the room, I have come to find we have pretty different ideals of comfort. The room was really creepy, it was a big attic with two solitory beds and a TV which showed only one channel of Vietnamese cartoons. There was a shared bathroom down the hall. It was late, the room was cheap so we agreed to take it as a last resort but only for one night!

We spent the evening drinking beer Saigon in the cafe next door and I learnt how to play Poker, we figured if we had a few drinks we would be happy to crash anywhere.

The next morning we had arranged to do an "Easy Rider Tour". The Easy Riders are a group of blokes all about 40ish who do tours around Dalat and Vietnam. It was possibly one of the best decisions we had made so far. We headed out at 8:30am and got back at 4:30pm covering 80kms in the day. They take you well off the beaten Lonely PLanet track and show you as they call the "real Vietnam".

We covered amazing waterfalls, mushroom production, a flower farm, this crazy house, pagoda's, rice wine production and I now know that silk worms actually make silk! They take you into the homes of locals so it was a fantastic experience. Some of the scenery you see when your driving through the mountains was absolutley breathtaking. We took loads of photo's but haven't as of yet worked out how to get them onto my blog.

We did some exploring on foot today, Dalat as a place has some real charm - I really like it. As we have only got short of 3 weeks left on our Visa's we are heading off tomorrow to Nah Trang on the coast. It is Vietnam's premiere diving site so it will be a good opportunity to make by debut dive since graduating Scuba-School back in Dec-05. Hopefully I can remember how you do it....

Next stop Nah Trang

Posted by greggers 04:56 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

all seasons in one day 34 °C

How's it going Bloggers -

Typically for us we had a pretty eventual journey from Cambodia over to Vietnam. We decided that in order to save both time and money we would use a less known border crossing so we didn't have to travel back up Cambodia from Sihanoukville to Phnom Penh.

Our guesthouse organised a taxi (there isn't a bus - honest) for us to the Vietnamese border for $40, we get stamped out of Cambodia and stamped into Vietnam - what can possibly go wrong..? It's a 4 hour journey and and first 2 hours went without a hitch, we did have to change taxi's but we had our ticket saying we had paid so we thought mothing of it. So after about 2 hours the driver pulls over in a tiny village in the middle of nowhere to get some petrol and this Cambodian guy who spoke really good English gets in the passenger seat says we owe the driver $20 for the petrol. So we are like, "no we dont we have paid our $40 to the border we don't owe him anything" plus we only had $20 left to pay for somewhere to crash that night and get something to eat. We ended up having this arguement for about 25 mins via this Cambodian guy who was translating between us and the driver but he was insisting that he wouldn't take us any further until we paid him.

By this time we had attracted pretty much the entire village to the "show-down" most of whom I dont think had seen a westerner before. We figured if we stayed in the taxi we were fine - that was until the driver went to the boot and chucked our rucksacks down the road.

Whilst we got out and recover our worldly possessions, he span the taxi round and started to drive off. We were getting pretty worried by this point as we really were in the middle of no where and this guy was really going to just leave us in the baking mid-day heat with hardly any money and no means of getting anymore. In the end we negoicated him down to $15 for his petrol and he drove us to the border. This left us with just $5 to get into Vietnam and get somewhere to stop the night. We were pretty worried as we have always been fleeced for money at our previous border crossings so it gave us no bargaining power at all.

At the border we met another English couple and a Canadian couple who were in exactly the same position as us financially, we had $20 between the 6 of us. We decided to all stick together, safety in numbers and all that. As it turns out we got through without a hitch and managed to find a guesthouse in Chau Doc who gave us a cash advance until we could get to an ATM in the morning - happy days.

The following day we all got the bus to Ho Chi Minh City. We have been in HCMC for the past 5 days and its absolutely brilliant! It's probably my faverite place so far. It's like a smaller, less smelly, alot less seedy version of Bangkok - really buzzing place. There are loads of great places to eat (the food is top notch) and excellent bars for a few beers in the evening. It has nothing to do with the fact that a beer is cheaper than a bottle of water! (Don't worry Mum, I'm still doing my 2L of water per day)

We have been pretty cultured too (it's not all about the 40p beers you know) we have done the War Remnants Museum, the Reunifaction Palace, the Fine Arts Museum and the Cu Chi Tunnels which is a series of undeground tunnels the people of Cu Chi built in order to survive the Americans attack. You can actually go down into part of the tunnels which has been restored for tourists - it was absolutley tiny but very cool to think it was all man made and they lived down there.

Yesterday we accidently went to a theme park, we though it was just a regular park, it wasn't quite on the same scale as Alton Towers but fun all the same. I discovered I was really good at rock climbing - who'd of thought..!

Tomorrow we start to head north up Vietman, the plan to arrive in Hanoi the capital in about a 2-3 weeks time. We have booked a bus ticket with has 5 stops we can hop on and off as we please and see as much of Vietnam as possible before our Visa's run out. We are going to contine travelling with our mates we made at the border as we're all having a great laugh together.

Something very bizarre has also happened to me, I have suddenly got really into footie (got there in the end hey) was jumping all over the place last night watching the boys - almost split my beer!

Next stop - Dalat.

Posted by greggers 06:38 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Cambodia

Sihanoukville

all seasons in one day 34 °C

Alright Bloggers,

Ok - abit of a funny story, well sort of. Remember on my last blog entry we were making our way down from Phnom Penh to Kampot so we could get this "magical Hogwarts Express" style train through the Bokor National Park to Sihanoukville? Well we arrived in Kampot where there is pretty much nothing to do, got settled into our guesthuse for the night all excited about the big train ride the following day. We asked the guy at the guesthouse the best way to organise a ticket for the train and to our horror were advised that the train hasn't actually run for 2 years! Apparently the tracks are all worn out and there is no money to replace them. To be fair we are using a Lonely Planet which was published in 2004 but we were still pretty disappointed.

We got a taxi to Sihanoukville the following day instead (there are no buses before you think I'm flashing the cash) but in typical Cambodian style they cram as many people as possible in every vehicle. You pay by the seat so Mark and myself splashed out an additonal $3 for a seat and a half each meaning there was Me, Mark and some old dear in the back. This meant there were four people in the front, two in the passenger seat and two in the drivers seat. It was pretty wierd sat in the back looking the these four heads in front of you trying to guess who was pushing the peddles and who was steering.

Sihanoukville is really, really nice we were both really surprised that Cambodia could have such great beaches - just goes to show that Lonely Planet doesn't get it all wrong. So we have just kind of been relaxing on the beach and having a few beers with some peole we have met in the evenings. I must admit I caved in the other day and bought first travellers accessory, one of those friendship style bracelet things (although when you buy it for yourself does it still count as a friendship band or does it mean your trying abit too hard to look cool?) Anyway the girls came in with a very strong pitch of "buy a bracelet get a fruit salad free" so how could I say no. She even let me choose my own colours and design and then chatted non stop for an hour while she perched at the end of my deck chair making it, the Cambodian kids have got a real sense of humour.

Naturally I'm all psyched for England's World Cup debut tonight, we went to watch the Germany match last night and I survived that so there is hope for me still - COME ON THE LADS...!

Our next stop - Vietnam.

Posted by greggers 22:58 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Cambodia

Phnom Penh

overcast 34 °C

Morning Bloggers,

After 3 really good days in Siem Reap it as time to move on and check out the capital Phnom Penh. We both felt abit sad to leave Siem Reap because we had made some good mates especially with our Tuk-Tuk driver Mr D. He had been telling us how difficult business is in the low season and as he had been an absolute star driving us round all the temples we decided to start a book of testimonials for him to help secure future business and gave him a tip. You should have seen his little face - dare say we going to miss the little guy!

Anyway onto Phnom Penh - pretty straight forward bus journey on an actual bus this time, no pyscho's or guys with nets full of little birds, just five hours of Kareoke - my faverite way to travel! We were staying at a guesthouse ran by a mate of the guys in Siem Reap so we arrived to quite a welcoming party. We were whisked off through the crowds on the back of two mopeds - we both felt like celebs but without the fame or the fortune.

We ditched our stuff, got some food and decided we would get straight into the sights so The Killing Fields and S-21 (a torture prison) it was. The guy driving us told we could got to a shooting range and shoot all these mad guns, it wasn't far from the Killing Fields so we agreed to check it out. We were presented with "the menu" and before we knew we had handed over $30 and were taking aim with an AK-47! Felt like Samuel L Jackson in Jackie Brown - a real experience.

In retrospect this was in slightly bad taste as the next stop was the Killing Fields were hundreds of innocent people had been brutally murdered. As you walk in, there is a display of 800 recovered skulls of the victims, it is pretty sickening, powerful stuff. We then went to S-21, a prison where others were brutally totured. It was a very eerie place with lots of images of the victims and the torture techniques. We were both amazed at how evil people can be, we left feeling pretty sick. Naturally we went for beers with some guys from the guesthouse to cheer ourselves up afterwards.

Neither of us were really that taken with Phnom Penh, we spent the next few days exploring the place and chilling but decided we had seen all we wanted to so planned to move down to the south coast where there are apparently some really nice beaches (I hope Lonely Planet isn't lying - we need to get a tan so we no longer look like the new kids on the block)

We are going to split the journey down south by stopping in Kampot. There is a train you can catch there where you can sit on the roof and it goes through the Bokor National Park so we plan to do that for some decent scenery. We sorted our visa's for Vietnam in Phnom Penh so hopefully we will have a better border crossing this time!

Next Stop then Sihanoukville via Kampot.

Posted by greggers 04:18 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

Cambodia

Siem Reap

sunny 34 °C

Bloggers,

We arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia two days ago after the longest journey of my life.

Mr Tong from the Monkey Bar dropped us off at the mainland from Don Det at 8am and we all piled into the back of a pickup to get to the border. We got stamped out of Laos fine but when we arrived at the Cambodian immigration we didn't have a visa as we were told you can get it on arrival. There was no way they would let us in (there was about 10 of from the bus in the same situation) so we all got back on the bus and had to drive a further hour to a different border crossing where we could get a visa. Got fleeced again for money to get stamped but only by a few dollars this time!

We travelled to Stang Treng where we stopped for lunch and had to trasfer to another bus. I am not kidding you now but the bus that arrived to take us the rest of the journey was the worst I had ever seen! It was a Mini Bus with no interior apart from seats, holes in the floor, the sliding door fell off everytime it was opened. It was an awful thought to think we had to spend the next 6 odd hours on it.

Some of the roads in Cambodia are just like dirt tracks so it really uncomfortable and noisy journey, luckily we were with a really nice group of people so we had pretty good banter which made the journey slightly better. We eventually got to Kampong Cham at midnight rather than 8pm so we had been travelling for 16 hours! We just got a room, had a shower and went sright to bed.

The bus the following morning to Siem Reap was a proper bus so it was much better, we travelled with two Danish guys we had met the day before so we had a laugh. We are now all staying in the same guesthouse so we have been going for beers and hanging out together at night.

Cambodia was a real culture shock at first, there are people begging and trying to sell you things everywhere so it takes getting used to but now I am starting to enjoy it. We went out last night with some of the guys who run the guesthouse to eat and then they took us to a club. I didnt think I would ever go clubbing in Cambodia but obviously there have been loads of tourists visiting over the past few years so more and more guesthouses, bars & restuarants have opened to accomodate this.

Yesterday we went to the temples of Ankor Wat. The guys at the guesthouse put on a DVD all about the history of Cambodia and the temples before we went which really helped to appreciate the history. They were absolutley stunning, I was so impressed by them. We watched the sun set there - very cool.

Tomorrow we are heading to Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia.

Posted by greggers 05:06 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

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