A Travellerspoint blog

March 2011

The Million'dong'er Man

rain 19 °C
View World Wide Wander on millfred's travel map.

Last amount withdrawn from cash machine = 4 million dong (another country with inflation through the roof)
Cost of draught beer in Hoi An, Vietnam = 10p
No. of Laughing Cow sandwiches procured = 4 (quite popular in Vietnam)
Weight of Mulberry sweets consumed = 1kg

We are now 10 days into our journey through Vietnam and it's a great place to be. Beautiful mountains, beaches, rivers along with freindly people and above all cheap accomodation and great food!

We crossed the Cambodia - Vietnam border by boat along the Mekong River. The customs procedure was a bit of hassle. We had to endure a 5 minute boat swap with travellers going the other way then sit and eat noodles while our guide sorted out the details with the officials! Nice. The local people use the river for everything - transport, fishing, trading and even washing their hair.

Our first destination in Vietnam was Chau Doc. Our first accommodation, included as part of the Mekong tour, was a bit grotty (putting it mildly since my ma is subscribed to this). As if the gecko poo on the bed wasn't bad enough it had a stale stench, hole in the roof and looked like it hadn't been swept in a week. The response from the manager when I complained was "You can use my shoes" meaning his manky flip flops! We half made up for it that night by sitting in the poshest hotel in town and using internet for free for 2 hours. I think the receptionist thought all white people were guests! Later that night I (Richard) sampled my first Vietnamese cuisine - Shakin' beef which i'm guessing was a reference to the fact it was fairly raw and you could make it wobble if you tried hard enough!

After Chau Doc we went back to big city life in Ho Chi Minh (Saigon). Like all the Asian cities we've seen it was busy but had some smart colonial architecture and decent parks. We 'endured' the war museums which are hard going due to the visual portrayal of the victims of the Vietnam War but interesting too. We weren't much luckier with our hotel here having thought we'd found a bargain ourselves. The second morning Pauline was forced to go sit in the park at 8am after feeling sick due to the non-stop drilling next door. Apparently I mumbled a few words before dropping back off. We also got scammed in a cafe when sitting down for coffee's. When we came to pay the lady decided to show us an 'amended' menu where the price had pretty much doubled! It was much better to sit on stools on the pavement with the Vietnamese workers and drink good coffee for half the price.

Getting back out to the countryside and the Vietnamese highlands we took a sleeper bus to Dalat which was surprisingly comfy and I was slightly annoyed to get woken up in the end when we arrived.
The place was chilled out and picturesque even though after the first day the weather took a turn for the worse and its pretty much rained ever since! On our first day here we happened to come across a gaming centre where I got hammered at pro-evo by the owner (since when was Ronaldo at centre back for Chelsea). The second day we joined the tourist trail and took a tour round some of the sights, the best of which involved taking a single seat toboggan down to a cracking waterfall.
Not so good was the tapestry museum with its weird phrases written above every doorway like "Stage for children to argue". Bizarre.

For our next destination we took a day bus through the stunning mountains to beachside Nha trang. Our hotel standard seemed to have drastically improved and we even had a flat screen TV. Luxury! I think we got a few hours sunshine on the beach before the clouds rolled in.
After two nights we took another night bus to Hoi An were we sit now. This is another small, chilled out town with a reputation for tailoring, something Pauline couldn't resist as she picked up a pair of her own design Tiger trainers and made to measure jeans.
I spent most of my spare change on extra food (Chocolate Werthers original and fried peanut pasties!). On the topic of food we even got the chance to cook our own dinner last night with a cookery course in one of Hoi An's finest eateries. We knocked up a fabulous Pho noodle soup with peanut sauce as the evidence below shows.

So we travel to the capital (Hanoi) tonight on yet another sleeper bus hoping that its not too cold and wet up north. Not that we're getting soft or anything!

Posted by millfred 08:51 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Expats, Sexpats and Deathpats!

36 °C

No. of motorbike crashes we saw (not involved in!) during the first 12 hours in Phnom Penh = 3
No. of people packed into one Volvo estate (included 3 hanging outside the open boot!) = 15
Cost of a 500ml bottle of lethal whisky = 50p
No. of times worn a seatbelt in 103 days = 1 (for all of 300m to the bus stop!)

We have now been in Cambodia for 2 weeks and it is fast becoming our favourite country so far. But before we reveal all about what we have seen and done here, we must tell you about the wedding of The Fitzgeralds in Krabi, Thailand (Richard's mates from Canada, if your not in the know). Oh and the hangovers that followed which left us wandering around Ao Nang wondering when we'd summon the strength to move back through Thailand to the border with Cambodia.

Krabi was a beautiful setting for the wedding and knowing that the venue was a posh resort left us apprehensive how our mis-matched outfits and Richard's 'Koh Samui tesco lotus' shoes would go down or if we'd even get in! One cocktail down and there were no worries, everyone was so friendly and the ceremony, happy couple, plentiful food & drink, sand-pit dance floor and fire throwing hunks (Richard's choice of words) were sensational! We had a lovely time, it was a very welcome change to our travel routine and the company was very gratefully received, especially nice to see the girls that we had previously met in Liverpool too. We hope the Fitz's won't mind us sharing a few photos of their special day with our blog fans (I know there's a few out there) back home. I won't dwell on the day after but being forced to get up at the crack of dawn with new people coming into our dorm we got a motorbike taxi to the nearest town and hot footed it to the nearest MacDonalds (sorry!). After yet another iced coffee (would be a stat if I could work out the total!) which took about 2 hours for the waiter to bring (and even then it was hot!) we decided we couldn't face the night bus to Bangkok, checked in to a cupboard and slept off the blue cocktails of the night before.

And here we are (after 25 hours of travel from Krabi to Siem Reap), so far Cambodia has been awesome (that's my new favourite word - Pauline). We have learned so much about the recent history which is so sad and yet the Khmer people are so welcoming. It seems that, unlike the Thais, they aren't yet pig sick of tourists. We started our Cambodia adventure with a slightly hodge podge border crossing from Aranya Prathet to Poipet . Our first overland, made even stranger by the 1920s style vegas casinos situated slap bang in the middle. A popular weekend destination for Thais apparently, I was tempted to try to double our budget but wait, who's that grabbing my collar? yep it's sensible Mr. Miller - Thankfully! So here is a rundown of our destinations thus far in this very dusty land.

Siem Reap - gateway to the ancient ruins of the Angkor region, and also a very charming town. We visited Angkor Wat at sunrise and whilst not overwhelmed by it, it certainly is an imposing structure and in an unbelievable state of repair considering it was built in the 12th century.
The worlds largest religious structure and a very fascinating place indeed. More breathtaking in our opinion was Ta Prohm, a large temple site that has been all but demolished by nature. Gigantic trees have literally taken over, creating an amazing scene of destruction and beauty. Allegedly the set for one of the tomb raider flicks, this is a truly memorable place(pics). Siem Reap is also home to some of the world's cutest kids and on our bike ride around the ruins we encountered a few inquisitive souls who were happy to confiscate our sweets and water, and who could resist handing them over to these smiling faces.
We also visited the Landmine museum here which was a disturbing and sobering day. There is a lot being done by this little charity to rid the Cambodian countryside of landmines left from the Vietnam war and the Khmer Rouge, but it's a very long process and so many people have already suffered. Nevertheless, the children cared for by the charity are a testament to the courage and positive attitudes of the Cambodians we have met.

Battambong - We stopped off here on our way down to the coast. It was a fleeting visit but well worth it for a quick trip on its Bamboo train (literally a horizontal fence with wheels and a motor attached).
Here we also racked up a few more frames of pool but Richard would rather forget about that particular score line.

Sihanoukville (Serendipidy Beach & Victory Hill) - was great for the sun , sea and sand but also a sobering affair with the amount of homeless people (most of which are amputees) trying to earn a living. During our time their we took a trip to the island of Koh Ru and stayed a night in a beach bungalow on our own private beach next to a deserted bar crawling with snakes (pretty weird).
We also drank a poor excuse for whisky out of a bucket, we'll leave the next day to your imaginations.

Kampot - Another charming destination, mostly visited for access to Bokor National Park and the deserted hill station hotel/casino. This made for an interesting day trip including a very sweaty trek up the mountain. The highlight though wasn't the buildings, the park or even the sunset boat trip. Playing our new favourite game with the rangers stole the show for us.

Phnom Penh - here we are now in the capital of Cambodia and the centre of the history of the Khmer Rouge. It has been a fascinating journey and very sad too. We visited the S-21 Museum and The Killing Fields because we felt we shouldn't ignore the past just because it's so hard to see and hear about. It is comforting that so many people here talk openly about the horrific truth and this is acknowledged as a safeguard to stop it happening again. We have managed to have fun here too and tonight is our last evening in Cambodia so we are going for a drink with some fellow travelers. We won't be drinking the palm wine again though, we sampled it last night from a street vendor and I can't even begin to describe the stench or tell you how bad it tasted. Richard managed a few sips and I just pretended to save face and not offend the guy selling it.

Sorry this is a bit of a long one, we have neglected our blog a bit but will be sure to report next week from Vietnam. We are crossing the border tomorrow via a short trip along the Mighty Mekong river.

A few blogs ago we asked if anyone had any questions we could answer as well as boring you all with the basics. Thanks to our first interviewers, Martin and Tess who asked if there is anywhere we have visited that we haven't liked so far? Yup, Nagpur in India, we only went there as an overnight stop and regretted it instantly. Dump. Sorry. But out of all the stops we have made so far I'd say it's a good stat that we only disliked 1 place. Please leave a comment if you want to ask us anything, we love to hear from you all.

Oh that reminds me, the sand art votes have been counted and verified and I can reveal that the winner is .... Richard Miller, Quelle surprise! I'd like to say a special thanks to my wives and only sister in Liverpool for their support. You know who your mates are! It's good job my mam can spot my lack of creativity a mile off! I should know better than to have a design related competition with Richard, must find something I can beat him at, watch this space!

p.s. Check the map for most recent pics.

Posted by Po Gallon 05:35 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

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