A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia - Siam Reap

semi-overcast 30 °C

Really hung over Fabian and myself took the bus from Phnom Phen to Siam Reap and the same thing happened here once we got off the bus... people just attacked us with offers. Quite scary sometimes, as they all talk at the same time and pinch you and pull on your bag and all that....\
We found a really nice hotel run by an Austrian. Siam is really nice. We went out for a few drinks again and ended up having another late night. Met some really nice Dutch guys and the next day I felf rubbish so I decided to have a lazy day and not go to the Angkor Wat and have an early night. Really didn't want to be hung over when seeing such a spectacular sight.

Wow! is all I can say after having spent 2 days in Angkor Wat now. The temples are so impressive, it's undescribable. Probably one of the best sights I have ever seen, so the $40 are worth it. My first day in Angkor I went with Fabian and we hired a tuc tuc from the hotel to do the Great Tour. The driver was disappointing as he didn't tell us anything, the usual... and also couldn't answer any questions.
It was really good though. Those temples are incredible. I have taken millions of pictures. Angkor Wat is basically a whole city built between 9th and 13th century. God knows how they managed to build these massive temples in those days. Apparently elephants were carrying them. A lot are partyly destroyed, either by time, by the jungle or by the Khmer Rouge, but still what is left is breath taking. And it adds to the atmosphere that some of it are only ruins and not in perfect condition. We did the Great Tour which covers all the surrounding temples but not the main ones like Angkor Wat itself.
It is quite exhausting though, the heat, constantly a new temple, lots of walking around but hey ho, what an experience! I just didn't feel too well all day. Although I had an early night, I lay awake half the night and got really bad stomach cramps. Hopefully not my first bug....
After the temples I tried to organise my journey to Laos, but it doesn't seem to be as easy as I thought. Apparently it takes 3 days overland to get the Laos border.... The roads seem to be really bad and we did get a bit of a taste of it on our journey to Phnom Penh, so I can't do that and will need to fly instead. As I was getting quite stressed about my whole trip to Laos, as I had no idea where to go when I am there, I had a proper look at the map and made the decision to skip the South and not got to the 4000 islands, which is a real shame as they have beaches too and I really could do with some relaxing. Ah well, after checking the flight schedules I have no decided to fly to Vientiane and probably try to keep my time in Laos rather short as I am getting desparat to get some time by the beach.
Spend the evening with Fabian, the Irish guy he met the day before and the Dutch guys again and as of tomorrow I am by myself again which is good ;-)
After another horrible night (not sure what is wrong with me....) I went to the sunrise over Angkor Wat. I got picked up at 4.30am! Ouch! Unfortunately it was cloudy so there wasn't much to see. I was one of the first tourists to get there and stumbled in complete darkness through the gates to find a spot to watch.
Really nice atmospehere and even a bit spooky walking through those impressive temples in darkness. Although there were quite a few people it was a nice atmosphere and I am glad I went, even though the was no realy sunrise. I also expected far more people, so was pleasantly surprised. To visit the temples after sunrise was fantastic. Angkor Wat is certainly the most impressive one. There are so many levels, floors, corners, outbuildings and that sort of stuff where you could wander around and wouldn't meet anyone else. Really cool and they also pretty much left you walk and climb everywhere. I spent 2.5 hours in the main temple and absolutely loved it.
I saw loads of other temples thereafter but one of the other really impressive ones was Ta Prohm which looks as if it comes straight out of an Indiana Jones movie and it is the place where they have shot Tomb Raider. So many parts have fallen apart and been left to nature. Amazing crumbling stonework everywhere and a lot of them have collapsed. So many trees and roots strangle the stonework, it is just incredible and looks amazing.
I finished around lunch time, went back to the hotel, was glad to have a room back to myself. The rest of the day was quiet, just sorted out my flight, went to the Internet and had dinner.

My last day in Siam Reap was meant to be a very quiet one. I decided not to go for a third day to the temples as 2 days is really enough and the third day would have been really expensive too and you just can't take any more temple in after 2 days. I was planning to spend most of the day on the Internet, maybe a massage or going to the pool in a nearby hotel but it all came different... of course!!! It never works out the way I plan it :-)
I started the day well after a proper nights sleep again. Eventually I managed to slee propeerly again. At breakfast I met some really nice Germans, Ben and Tobias, and we were chatting away until 11am and arranged to meet up for dinner. Just while I was leaving to get on with my day I met a couple who also was lovely and is travelling for a whole year and we started swapping traveller stories and tips, so at least I got my Laos trip finalised that way. Have to skip a few things but I rather leave out a few things and not be in a rush. Suddenly it was 3pm already when I was rushing into town to get a few bits and pieces and got at least some time on the Internet. I think I just have to accept that I will never manage to catch up... I then went for dinner with the two boys and had such a great evening. We had such a laugh and there wasn't a single dull moment. Especially Ben was highly entertaining. Really nice guys. Such a shame I couldn't spend more time with them. Damn "good byes"!!! Tobi left at one point while we were already back at the hotel sitting outside drinking more beers. What was meant to be just the one night cup ended up with 10 beers at 5am in the morning. So funny! I have to get up just before 7am and hadn't even packed, so I didn't get much sleep :-) but for once I managed to catch my flight. I was so paranoid that I would miss the flight as the next one was only in 2 or 3 days time. I wonder how poor Ben was coping. He can't have had any slepp, as they went for the sunrise.
What a finsish to my time in Cambodia.... :-)

Posted by Julia1976 20:56 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Cambodia - Phnom Penh

sunny 30 °C

Cambodia is completely differnt to Vietnam. The people are so nice and friendly and I straight away felt that I can trust them, not like in Vietnam. Really weird, it only seems to be the Vietnamese that are so strange.
On the bus journey from Saigon to Phnom Penh I met a German guy, Fabian, who lives in London too and 2 Irish guys from Dublin, Neil and Sean. By the time the bus arrived in Cambodia people were bombarding us with offers for tuc tucs, hotels, taxis, motorbikes, everything. I have never seen anything like it... incredible. It was like animals being released from a cage. Incredible... Each of us had at least 5-10 people talking to you. the 4 of us ended up staying in the same hotel and I shared a room with Fabian for $5! Great news, as it seems really cheap here which helps a lot, especially after seeing my account today :-( Really have to stick to a daily budget now, this is getting ridiculous.
We had a really funny evening. We started having a few drinks in our hotel, the Green Lakeside View which had a really nice terrace overlooking the river. We then went to another bar where we were playing games with the girls working there and then went to a club. One of the Irish girls brought back a Cambodian girl which turned out to be deaf-mute! Great! and Fabian was nice enough to take home a girl too, so I felt I couldn't go back to my room. As we had 3 beds in our room, Neil stayed with us too, as his room was busy, so we ended up with 4 people in our room. Quite funny, especially the next morning. One of those situation where you just had to be there.
Anyway, we met a tuc tuc driver in the evening and had arranged a pick up time for the next day. Of course we were a bit late due to our hangovers but eventually we managed.

We went to the S21 museum which is a former prison where the Khmer Rouge imprisoned and tortured people. So horrible what happened there. It's unbelievable. It was like walking through a concentration camp. Shockingly similar....
Pol Pot managed to kill 2 million people within 4 years only! That was a fourth of the entire population. They were murdered for living in a city, for being intellectuals, for wearing glasses, speaking a second language etc....
After that we went to the Killing Fields, which was also shocking. They have 126 mass graves here. Really horrible. You can still see a whole tower stackedup with skulls and clothes etc. Dreadful! As horrible as it was, it was also very interesting to see it and unfortunately it is part of their quite recent history.

In the evening we needed a few drinks after that experience. I was planning to have an early night, like Fabian but when I found out that they cancelled my boat up to Siam Reap I thought I might as well go out again. We ended up in the same club with a really big group of people that we met in our hotel and had another great night.

Posted by Julia1976 20:25 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Vietnam - Summary

semi-overcast 31 °C

[*]Very nice country with stunning scenary.

[*]Highlights: Sapa, Halong Bay and Hoi An. Could have been also Phu Quoc if the weather would have been nice.

[*]Vietnames are strange people. On the one hand you sympathise with them when you look at their history and see what they have gone through. Constantly being at war, with the latest one being the most horrible. Yet, you cannot help feeling annoyed by the constant rip offs whether it is the taxi driver driving driving a longer way, tweaking the meter, a hotel not sticking to their advertised room rates or even hotel staff trying to slip in additional items on to your bill all the time. Bottom line, you cannot trust them and I really hate to say that as it is a horrible thing to say. I think for me it was quite difficult coming from Nepal where I never felt like that, even after the theft. However I have spoken to so many people about it now and they all said the same, so it isn't just me, what I thought originally. Even the ones who really liked the Vietnames and thought them friendly, still said they are really nice, but you can't trust them at all, which to me is completely contradictive. How can a person be nice if you can't trust him/her??? That definitely doesn't work for me....

[*]It has still been an intersting journey, I met nice people again, saw a lot and did some great shopping! :-)

[*]Would I come back? Maybe in 10 years time or so to see how it has or hasn't changed.

[*]Really gutted and disappointed about Phu Quoc and that is the only place I could consider going back to earlier making sure it isn't rainy season!! ;-)

[*]They reall still need to do a lot of catching up on their tourism and that would be quite interesting to seen in 10 years or so. They certainly need to replace these communist puppets called "tour guides" and teach them English and also learn what service is. I so often felt, especially the last few day on Phu Quoc, as if you are interrupting them and even the smalles things like asking whether you would like another drink after finishing one, doesn't seem to occur to them. They just take your empty glas away and walk off... On the one hand they are so keen on business and making money and on the other hand they can't come up with simple things like that. Quite strange....

[*]I think overall I was probably a bit disappointed. Maybe too high expectations from my side to start with.... Always seems to come down to the expectations I had beforehand...

[*]Well, it was certainly an experience and I am happy to leave now and can't wait to see what the Cambodians are like as I have been told by many that they are even worse....

Posted by Julia1976 22:23 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam - Mekong Delta and Phu Quoc

rain 30 °C

Today I did a day trip to the Mekong Delta which was nice. It was pissing down but the trip was still good. All those little canals were they row you through in their tiny little wooden boats with their conical hats really make you think you have gone back in time. A good day and now I am looking forward to going to the island in the very South, Phu Quoc, where I will hopefully do nothing than relax, sun bath and dive. Hopefully the weather is going to be okay....

Well it seems my bad luck is back. I hardly slept last night and had to get up at 4.45 to catch my flight to Phu Quoc. I managed to get to the hotel I tried to book last night but he changed his mind and increased the price of the room although the place was not even half full. It was only by $5 but as I really have to watch my budget now and also out of principle I put my foot down and almost left. Eventually I got what was advertised on their website and have quite a nice bungalow. It seem really empty here and I don't think the town village is in walking distance so it feels quite isolated here and it didn't help that it was pissing down all day and stopped only around 3pm. So all I did until then was trying to catch up on my sleep.
During the morning while I was chatting to a Swiss woman a few more guest appeared so it felt a bit better, as I originally though I am the only one in the hotel. It is probably beautiful here when the weather is good. The beach ir really nice, they have a a pool, you can get massages down at the beach for only $5 an hour. I booked 2 dives and just hope it will be worth it staying here for 5 days. I have this funny feeling that it might be too long. The worst is that I can't even use the Internet, as it is not working because of the rain and I really wanted to spend several hours per day trying to catch up....
I also lost my protection amulet I bought in Tibet which really upset me. That is the 3rd neglace I have lost now and even the ones I bought as souvenirs are gone with my Nalgene bottle. I can't believe that I bought 4 amulets in total and haven't got a single one left. It really seems I am not meant to be protected. Great!
So, now I sit here on this island by myself with rubbish weather and loads of time on my hands but no Internet. The only consolence is my Harry Potter book that I swapped with Alex. I really hope my time here won't be a complete waste of time....
The next was a little bit better. It was raining the whole morning, so heavy that I stayed in the room until 10.45 until I dared to leave for breakfast. I stayed in the restaurant until lunch time, the only sheltered place apart from your bungalow. By the time I decided to go into town, it cleared up a little bit and I decided to go to the beach instead. It wasn't great weather but at least okayish. I treated myself to a massage for Euro 2.50 only!! And I then decided to go for a leg wax which was the most painful and longest "wax" I ever had, as it turned out to be nothing like a wax. She pulled out every single hair with a thread. One end was in her mouth and with the other end she laid a sort of loop that would pull out each hair one by one.... It took for ever and was so painful.... She did a good job but I would certainly never do it again.
I am getting a bit depressed her now, I am still alone and can't help feeling that I am wasting my time here. It's all so muddy that I don't even want to rent a motorbike to explore the island. The amount of rain is just unbelievable. It started in the evening again and will probably rain through the whole night again. Can't wait to go diving tomorrow, at least that will give me something to do. If I only had access to the Internet.... Not even my laundry they can do. Nothing works because of the bloody rain.
I probably would have been better off spending those 5 days in Thailand or even on my meditation course which I probably won't have time to do now. After all the conversations I had in Tibet with Paul and Kirby I really wanted to do it but he recommendation I got from Paul is a 10 day course and I really don't have that much time left. It also seemed a little though to start with when I don't even know whether it my thing.... you had to get up at 4am, pretty much meditating all day, you can't talk to anyone but your teacher, which is once a day but to on one else and you can't have any contact to the outside world etc... So it's not a walk in the park and I don't have a lot of information of what you actually get out of it, so it's quite tricky. I would like to speak to someone who has done it without any prior experience like me. Paul is far too experienced ..... Not sure what to do. I think I almost decided that it is a bit much to start with but having all that rain now I start wondering whether I maybe should do it after all.
As I can't even sleep well here, I don't even feel rested. I can't really safe money either, as the food here is quite expensive. Rubbish.... At least I have Harry....:-)

A quick change of mind the following day made me decide to leave Phu Quoc 2 days early. I got up really early to go diving and what a surprise it was pissing down as always and they cancelled my diving and postponed it to the next day. I met the Swiss woman, Barbara, again and we spend all morning together chatting away until lunch time as it wouldn't stop raining. After I heard that the forecast is the same for the next 5 days I made up my mind and decided to leave the next day. I changed my flight straight away. I felt so unhappy there and was so disappointed and felt really trapped that I thought the whole thing is pointless and it is stressing me more than anything else. I think I was so desparate for a relaxing break and I was looking forward to it so much, that it didn't even cross my mind that it might end up like that. Phu Quoc was such an important place on this whole trip for me and now I almost wish I had gone to Nahtrang or Mue Ne instead.
Really pissed off that I didn't get the rest I wanted , as I noticed here in Vietnam again that I am not that keen on seeing things anymore not as alert, not as enthusiastic anymore, don't even take as many pictures anymore etc... a bit what I had in Fiji.

And now I won't be able to have a rest for a few weeks apart from the very end in Thailand..... Anyway, Barbara and I rented bicycles and went to change our tickets which worked fine without even an extra charge, so I was quite pleased about that. We then went into town and had a look around, nothing special but an interesting harbour, absolutely cramped with loads of nice boats. We went to a local place to have lunch and as we both wfelt in desparate need of chocolate we went to a nice cafe and had a brownie. As it started pissing down again we had a quick look at the internet which was working here, had a drink and then went to the market and back home. We had a very nice evening for once being able to sit outside eating a steam pot where you throw in loads of meat, fish and vegetables. Almost like a fondue but it's boiled/steamed in water.

The next morning I got up at 5.45 and couldn't believe it. It was sunny and calm for the first time. Not a single cloud in the sky. I was gutted! I knew it! I had been saying it to Barbara that the moment i leave it will be nice again, despite the weather forecast. I am so sad that I now miss the beach weather and also the diving. How rubbish! And I won't be able to dive or go to the beach for weeks!!! I wasn't happy that morning....
But this is it now. At least I could get my bus ticket changed so that I didn't need to stay in Saigon which would have been even worse..... beach weather and being trapped in Saigon.
Once I got my ticket changed I was delighted to find a place where I could treat myself to most expensive but also nicest breakfast I had in months. I couldn't believe my luck when I got a proper breakfast with bacon, sausages, egges and even hash brown. Long live the English/ American Breakfast!!! Cost me more than my fancy dinner the night before but it certainly cheered me up. The only downside where the people who were trying to sell you stuff even through the window as I moved inside already. They would not leave you alone for even 2 minutes! How annoying. It really is time to leave this place now....

Posted by Julia1976 20:59 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam - Saigon

sunny 33 °C

My time here in Saigon is almost over and I really enjoyed it.
Due to the delay of my plane I got here really late, about 1.30am and fortunately Alex was waiting outside the hotel, as it was really a really dodgy alley way that I would have never found, as there wasn't even a sign for the hotel. After my taxi driver tried to drop me off in a dodgy alleyway I was getting a bit freaked out and was so relieved to see Alex sitting in the road. Very sweet of him, considering the time, to wait there for me. He found it quite entertaining as he got all sorts of offers for drugs, massages, prostitutes or "bum-bum" as they like to call it. The room we shared was quite basic but clean and cheap. It is so much cheaper if you travel with someone in Asia, as you always pay for the room and not per person.
The next morning we checked out straight away to move into the Park Hyatt Saigon. Alex was telling my just a few days ago, that it is rated as one of the top 5 hotels in whole of Asia!!! So, not bad going then....:-)
Here, unfortunately it did make a difference in price.... dough!! Was hoping they would give it to me for the same rate, no matter whether I was going by myself or with someone. Ah well....
The hotel is absolutely stunning though and the service truly is execptional. All these little things, the attention to detail, which just make the whole to a very unique and pleasant experience. It is probably one of the best or the best hotel I have ever stayed in.
The bathroom was fabulous. You had a shower and bath tub room. The shower itself was enormous and had a dual shower. From the wall the ceiling.... You then had a separate room in the bathroom for the toilet, one room for the sink and a massive wardrobe accessible from the bathroom and the also from the hallway. So if someone would shower you could look in from the hallway, so you had to actually close 3 doors when you got into the bathroom. The beds were so comfortable that I knew already it would be impossible for me to get up :-)
The pool was really nice too and I even treated myself to a facial. We also took advantage of the complimentary shoe cleaning, which we cheakily used to give them our muddy trecking boots! ha, ha.... The shoes were immaculate afterwards.... What a great service.

After having a good look around in the hotel we wondered around in Saigon and went to the American War Museum, which was shocking. They showed all the different wounds from different weapons, i.e. Napalm etc.... methods of torture, tiger cages where they kept Viet Cong prisoners and and all sort of atrocities. Difficult to understand what got into the Americans when you see pictures and statistics of whole villages of women and children being murdered. They cut open their throats, cut open their abdomen, clubbed them to detah and so on. And all that was done to small kids, babies even, pregnant women and old people. Absolutely horrific! It was really shocking but well worth a visit. They really can't have seen them as human beings. The famous picture of "The Girl in the Picture" is there too. That is an absolutely fantastic book by the way.
After that and some lunch we decided to was time again to relax by the pool which was great. They bring you towels, ice cold water everything.... and my facial was soo relaxing. Quite different to the ones I had, as it was also almost like a full body massage. Happy days! A very special treat!
We went to one the bars/restaurant which was really cool and had quite a few beers and a pork sausage with mashed potatoes and gravy! Excellent! Not very Vietnamese but so delicous and you have to take advantage of these kind of things, as it is only those kind of places where you can actually get it. We then moved into the lobby bar and moved on to some nice red wine, which was quite a novelty for me. Been a long time since I had a really nice glas of wine. Needless to say that that day cost me a bit of money. The total bill came to $517.50 which is the equivalent of 8,336,691 Dong! What a bill to receive! Had to keep that for my picture album. quite funny. how much did you spend last night? Oh, just over 8 Million!
The first place where I am a millionaire.

We stayed in the hotel until 12 pm to make most of it and then sadly checked out. We left our luggage there and got a taxi driver to bring us to the Cu Chi Tunnels which was really impressive. Although they are already enlarged for tourists, they are tiny and it felt really claustrophobic and I was glad when I could get out of them. They start the whole tour with a really strange propaganda movie which is ridicolous. It constantly talks about the gentle innocent people with nice gentle music in the background and the moment the evil Americans were mentioned the background music is replaced iwht machine guns.
They show you the little trap doors they had hidden and all the secret entrances and exits. Amazing how tiny they are. You get to see the tunnels itself and also all the bunkers which also used to be underground but are now overground so the tourists can actually see them. As I said the tunnels are so tiny, that after a few meters I had enough and the girl behind me was panicking and Alex didn't even go in. So, I can't imagine what it must have been like to live in there..... Even I had to crawl through them. The bunkers were for fighting, cooking, hospitals, making weapons and traps etc. They were really smart the way they made sure the Americans couldn't see the smoke from the cooking, couldn't find the entrances and exits and how they protected themself from the flooding of the American etc.
Funnily the Americans actually built there biggest base right on top of some of the tunnel network and couldn't quite work out how they were getting shot at night while lying in their tents.
Apparently the US soldiers were really scared of the whole area, as they knew of the tunnels but couldn't find them and it gave the VC the opportunity to appear and disappear without a trace. Also the place full with traps set up by the Viet Cong. Those traps are horrific. They almost make you feel sorry for the Americans. It's all really strange. What a horrible war that was and when you see the determination of the VC it really doesn't surprise you that they won, although they had by no means as many soldiers or weapons.
Amazing what they went through....The tunnels, coming all the way down to the Ho Chi Minh Trail which took already years and all that.... The deformation and injuries that were caused by spraying things like Agent Orange were terrible and still up to now on one can really say what all the after affects are. Because they couldn't get through the jungle they basically decided to get rid of it. Completely crazy....
After that we had a last sad glimpse at the Hyatt and got our bags to check into the real world again, the Backpacker area of Saigon. For the first time since I have been in Vietnam the temperature is actually bearable. Really nice not to sweat straight after setting your foot outside.

Saigon seems also much more developed and also richer than the North of Vietnam. The people even seem taller here. It is still strange though how they have all those Northerners/Communists in the tourist guide positions.... The guide in the tunnel was the same. You really didn't want to be American here. They make you feel so bad. We were convinced that the one guy in the tunnels was American and he didn't say a word to probably not give away his accent. Was also funny how the guide tried to convince us that all Southerners were VC. What a lot of rubbish.... They really make it sound that it wasl all of Vietnam against the Americans and hence it is called the American War. They seem to forget that the whole South hated the VC and is up until today still locked away in the so called "Re-education" camps. I of course couldn't keep my mouth shut when he tried to tell us all that rubbish. It is horrible to see that all they do is point the finger but don't even admit to their own crimes which are still going on. So many people are still missing and locked away in those camps. Doctors, lawyers, teachers etc. still can't get any jobs in Vietnam if they are from the south and are working as riksha drivers.... I wonder whether they will one day to admit to their own crimes like the re-education camps and wheter one day Ho Chi Minh City will be called Saigon again and will be the capital again. Everyone here calls it Saigon, but up North everyone calls it by it's official name Ho Chi Minh City.
Our last evening together we had a walk around and ended up drinking 3 bottles of wine, but surprisingly I felt fine this morning and are alone again.

Posted by Julia1976 21:47 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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