Published: January 11th 2012January 11th 2012
It's been awhile since I've been able to get to a proper computer. I'm posting from Phnom Penh, Cambodia where we arrived this morning. Here is what happened between here and Hanoi.
On our third and last day in Hanoi we did make it to the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum. It was Friday though and unbeknownst to us, closed. We caught a train that night headed for Danang.
I have to take this moment to preface a recurring theme for us in Vietnam, which was that of rip off and scam artists. While we expect some inflation in tourist areas and such, many Vietnamese went over the top in trying to squeeze money out of us. Be it overcharging in restaurants, or taxi drivers obviously taking us for out of the way rides, it marred our entire Vietnam journey. We had a few confrontations as I'm not one to take it up the arse but, all in all we're glad we went. On with the story...
Our train ride from Hanoi to Danang was fairly unremarkable, except for the plastic faux wood finish in the train, which is my favorite type of plastic, and I found it entirely
remarkable!. In the morning almost all the passengers disembarked the train at Hue except for us and a few other Vietnamese passengers. Danang is the next stop after Hue and on the Southern side of a mountain pass. Boy did they miss out! The train rode along the mountain side and we were treated to exceptional views of the South China Sea. The air was warm and humid and with the windows down, it was a truly amazing journey. It must be one of the best sections of train tracks on the planet.
We arrived in Danang with the intention of taking a bus about an hour South to the old city of Hoi An which has a lot of history and old architecture. After playing the usual game of avoiding the train station cabbies we found a taxi to take us to the bus station. After being dropped of though we quickly realized it was a bad situation as we were surrounded by six to eight men who stared at my pockets as I paid the driver. When we asked how much the bus ticket to Hoi An was, we were quoted a price about four times what
it should've been. Frustrated and not wanting to get in any bad situations we high tailed it out of there. We encountered another couple (French we think based on accents), who seemed frustrated with the situation at the bus station and we all shared a taxi back to town.
We enjoyed a museum of ancient Cham sand sculptures before we headed back to wait for the train.
After another overnight train ride we arrived in Nha Trang. Although there was still very little sun, at least we were able to break out the shorts and t-shirts and hit the beach. We indulged a little bit and took in a spa to ease our wary travelling bodies. We stayed only one night and on the second day before our train to Saigon we rented a moped and cruised around all day. It was great to get out on our own in Vietnam. We saw some amazing ocean views and had an all around great day wheeling around.
We arrived the next day in Saigon at noon, which was our last Vietnam train ride and unfortunately about four hours late. We made a beeline to the bus station where
we booked tickets leaving that night for Phnom Penh. No need to stay in Saigon for days... we were sick of cities and ready to leave Vietnam behind. Besides the scams, it was generally much too touristy for us. Nha Trang was a Russian relaxation spot and Saigon seemed to be hosting a European spring break.
We took in the War Remnants Museum during our day. It was a pretty amazing museum and showcased a lot of the horrors of the Vietnam war that we don't hear about in the US. The way the North and South Vietnamese treated each other was just as horrific as the atrocities we committed and which are still playing out today in the form of land mines, birth defects and dead zones in the jungles. It also had some interesting news footage showing protesters in all the major countries of the world protesting the US occupation. Pretty interesting to look at from today's perspective.
We had a long, slow and uncomfortable bus ride into Phnom Penh but we arrived here around Noon today. This city is much more our style! I'll leave it here for now though and we'll try to get
another update in tomorrow.
More photos at http://www.flickr.com/photos/norajhess
All the 360 panarama views from this trip are at http://occipital.com/user/ed62-195324/simon-hess
Check them out if you have never seen one!
There are more photos below