Published: July 1st 2011July 1st 2011
Ok. So no wonder I've had a few messages of concern for my wellbeing. My carefully typed and outrageously entertaining post about my trip to Vietnam disappeared into cyber space. Still not really getting along with the internet here in Asia!
Ok so you guys need a BIG update. Are you sitting comfortably?
was, in a word, brilliant. here are the places I went:
- Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon): bustling, modern city filled to the brim with motorbikes whose choreographed chaos left me impressed and terrified in equal measure. Checked out the Cu Chi Tunnels.- scary Had a lesson in eating Pho much to the amusement of the Vietnamese. Caught up with Gin and Iain and their friend Devin.
- Ben Tre: courtesy of the parents of Andy - another friend of Gin and Iain's, we stayed at their lovely hotel and checked out the Mekong Delta. Ate some MEAN food. Discovered that I really like swimming pools in Asia. Spoke to some very sweet school children to help them practise their English. Ate mashed potato for the first time in a really long time. Happy happy days.
- Nha Trang: the others moved over to Cambodia so I carried on up the country on my own. A couple of days on the beach. Got stared, and pointed at, by many Vietnamese people of all ages.
- Hoi An: hands down my favourite place in Vietnam. Pretty, cobbled old town with lanterns decorating the streets. Great food, met some cool people and got some cheap clothes made plus had time for the beach. Superb.
- A NEVERENDING JOURNEY INVOLVING: one hour taxi, 17 hour sleeper train (on a recliner as the cabins were booked), a 4 hour bus/boat combo. with a hangover. and a cold. who gets a cold in asia? i don't want to talk about it any more let's move on...
- Cat Ba Island/Halong Bay: my biggest disappointment to date... not sure I should admit it as Halong Bay should, technically, be one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen. UNESCO seem to think so. But it has been ruined by tourism so no-one makes an effort - the restaurants serve lazily prepared, bad, overpriced food. The hotel was hands down the worst value I've had in Asia and the views are spoilt by litter and the hundreds of other tour operators doing the same trip. Slightly redeemed by my excellent choice of tour operator who took me out on a kayaking day trip. And I discovered (after about 15 minutes of rotating in the water, very close to the boat, on my own, whilst throwing a pretty substantial tantrum) that it is NOT possible to steer a 2 man kayak from the front if you are on your own. You live you learn right?
I love Vietnamese food, I am amazed at what they have gone through in the past few decades, I admire their 'sell'- they sell hard and they sell loud but with a smile on their face. I think the country is beautiful (if somewhat tricky to navigate!) and I'd like to go back.
Hurrah for Cambodia and my first 10 days of guaranteed company on the whole trip so far! Again will do a summary since I don't want you all to fall asleep whilst reading!
Siem Reap: met Bailey off the plane and headed to our lovely guest house. Spent 2 days getting severe temple fatigue, but being seriously impressed by the temples of Angkor Wat. Did a sunset and sunrise viewing. Not as peaceful as we would have liked given the 50,000 other tourists with us. Had an eccentric guide for the day who not only insulted us (by comparing our shapes to those of the different styles of Apsara dancing ladies engraved on the temple walls..) but told us some truly awful anecdotes. And coming from a girl with Irish blood that is saying something. We also got rained on, ate some amazing food, did a cooking course and learned how to prepare our favourite Khmer dish: fish amok, partied a little and had a lovely afternoon swimming in the pool of a 4* Hotel. We also turned down approximately 5,000,000 offers for tuk tuks and fish massages.
Phnom Penh: a truly terrifying bus ride (flight?!) to the Capital for some more culture, this time heading forward a few centuries. We checked out the National Museum (lots of statues), walked along the riverfront and checked out the locals working out/dancing/playing football, got pedicures at a salon run by former street kids and then had dinner next door (I am slowly converting Bailey into a massive hippy as well). Next day was tough - spent the morning checking out S-21, a former torture prison of the Khmer Rouge and then visited the killing fields just outside of the city. A bit heartbroken by the sheer pointlessness of the whole affair, and not quite believing that this could have happened just a couple of years before we were born, headed for some retail therapy at the russian market, remembered that we are not really small enough to fit clothes made for asian people, so headed out for food, shisha and cocktails.
Sihanoukville/Koh Rong: Beach time! Headed to the coast where we stayed in a great hotel and got accosted by several thousand small children on the beach 'LADEEE YOU WAN BRACELET FIVE FOR ONE DOLLAAAAAAAAAR'' and had a lot of seafood. Then spent the night on a tropical island. well blow me down with a feather or some other such cliche if i haven't seen anywhere more fantastic. white sand, blue sea, green forest. bliss. and low season in koh rong is QUIET. bailey and i booked a beach front bungalow which was as rustic as described when sold to us. I now have 50 mosquito/sandfly bites. That's right people. I have actually counted them. I am not exaggerating this figure. But it was truly bliss!
Back to Siem Reap yesterday on a whole day's bus journey of joy and said bye to Bailz this morning she is now winging her way back to the UK. Here until Sunday as I can't cross over into Thailand overland until then for visa reasons but VERY much looking forward to seeing Danielle and enjoying some more tropical island beach girly times!
I cannot believe how quickly this trip is flying by. Un-flipping-believable. And irritating. I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up. Answers on a postcard please... :)