Published: January 30th 2009February 17th 2005
Cambodia and Vietnam
Well, I hope everyone had a happy Chinese New Year! I spent mine trekking thru Cambodia with a short stint in Vietnam. It was an awesome adventure, it might just be the top place I've visited. Aside from constant people begging me for $$$ (one kid even latched onto my leg for about a min.) the country is very undeveloped which made it very exciting. A few years ago, tourists wouldn't even think to set foot in Cambodia as a guerrilla war was being fought. Still, today Cambodia is the most heavily mined nation on the world, and the numbers of amputees I saw, was proof of that.
The temples of Angkor are amazing. Angkor Wat is the largest religious structure in the world - and its sitting in the middle of a tropical jungle. (For those not aware, Angkor Wat is the area where Tomb Raider and some of the Indiana Jones films were made.) We spent 3 days exploring the temples and jungles (the first day in the tropical heat in my jeans as my luggage got sent to India!?!?). I also explored a floating village, home to around 5,000 people. It had
schools, churches, doctors, restaurants - you name it. Sadly though, no garbage dump - that's the lake. We stopped at one floating house - here they had a boa constrictor - which i put around my neck - photos to come. I have to admit I spazzed out at first, but in the end everything was OK - haha.
After exploring Northern Cambodia, we took a 5 hour boat ride to Phnom Phen, the capitol of Cambodia. We sat on the roof of the boat, as there was no more room inside. The roof rocked, as we had an amazing view - the bad part was the sunburn i got leaving me looking like a lobster. Arriving at the capital we were swarmed by people trying to get us to go to there hostel. And I mean swarmed - at least 50 people - no exaggeration. We picked one and took off quickly. It turned out to be a good one - lakeside with lots of other backpackers. We toured the city on motorcycle and quickly saw that this is a city in transition. Its quite poor, but is developing quickly. During the times of Pol Pot (the Cambodian
leader who killed between 1.5 and 3 million of his own people between 1975 and 1979) the entire population of the city (around 2 million) was forced out into the countryside to become farmers, leaving the city empty for over 4 years! Pol Pot abolished the currency and cut off all ties to the outside world aiming to create an agrarian society. Intellectuals and their families were interrogated and then sent to be killed in extermination camps - brutal. Its crazy to think that this city was so empty for so long, but is now back-on-track. Considering all the troubles these peoples have been through, I don't think I've even met a nicer or friendlier group of people. I was always greeted with a smile and the feeling that they really appreciated me being there. Something in most countries isn't true - they only want your $$$.
In Phnom Phen, i also saw the royal palace, several museums and some traditional Khmer Boxing - great fun.
After Cambodia, I flew to Hanoi, the Vietnamese capital (with a brief lay-over in Laos). Hanoi is quite modern with a lot of French influence. Here I saw all the major sites from the
Presidential Palace to the tomb of Ho Chi Minh, before returning to Hong Kong.
Well, that's all from here - the rainy season is starting so its time to get a decent umbrella. I think my next vacation will be to Borneo, come Easter. We'll see.
Take care everyone and let me know whats going on!
There are more photos below