End of Vietnam, Cambodia and Back to Bangkok

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December 22nd 2014
Published: December 23rd 2014
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Hello again. It's two days until Christmas and with the last two weeks we've had we couldn't feel further away from the cold weather, darkness and winter clothes that typify December back at home. Instead, for the last two weeks, we have partied and explored in Saigon, learnt and visited historical tragic places in Phnon Penh, Cambodia, chilled out on a paradise island and have made our way back to Bangkok. With so much happening in between, highs aswell as lows, it's been a fairly hectic fourteen days.

So tracking back, after two nights in our original hostel in Saigon we planned to move to a more party hostel located more centrally to the bars with Lukas. The night previously was a chilled one with Yoni's highlight being upsetting a drunk girl, who had spent thirty minutes building up a three foot high tower of empty beer cans, only for Yoni to gently tap her as she attempted to place the final can and finish the tower. I'm sure you can guess what happened. (nice person, right?)

In the morning, we woke up at 7am to board our bus to take us on the two hour ride to the Cu Chi tunnels which were where Vietnamese people resulted in living in to deal with the American bombs. The day was a slight let down as we were expecting a more hands on experience. Plus the fact that the we were shown a stuttering black and white propaganda video at the start and we were in a tour group of forty four people didn't help. Saying that, we did enter the tunnels for three minutes and that was probably two minutes too long as they were so tight and hot, I don't know how anyone could have lived in them. At the end, Yoni paid to have a go at firing a AK47 gun which for what he paid didn't match the expectations.

We arrived back in Saigon around 3pm and Yoni finally purchased some much needed new trainers from a market. Afterwards we went to the old hostel to go and collect our bags to move to the new one. This was where the day became interesting! Since arriving in Asia, I have been padlocking my backpack and have had two keys in different places. As we were about to leave, I suddenly realised the key was not in my wallet which was where I always kept it. Annoying, but not a problem I thought, as I have a spare. Typically the spare was locked away in my wash bag inside the backpack. Great.....

The next forty five minutes were painful for me and I think secretly enjoyable for Yoni as he watched me slave away at the tiniest gap there was inbetween the zips which were padlocked. The gap was so small, my hand could not fit inside at all but after reshuffling the backpack so the washbag zip was facing me, I somehow made ground into the bag and emptied it out slowly but surely. While doing this, I nervously admitted to Yoni that I may have moved the spare key to my smaller washbag, also inside the padlocked backpack. After mastering my way through the washbag, my worst fears were confirmed and the key was not there. However, I was now a man on a mission and fixated on finding the next washbag and the sacred key. After another long struggle and attempt at squeezing my hand through miniture gaps, the washbag was found, emptied item by item until I felt the key and grabbed it. Mission accomplished!

Later that evening, Yoni and I got ourselves involved in a small football match with some locals in the park which was enjoyable and at the same time extremely tiring. That night, Yoni, Lukas and I went on the organised bar crawl put on by the hostel. This was probably the world's worst bar crawl. After a short while, the three of us, along with roughly ten other bored people made our own bar crawl and the night without doubt improved.

The following day Lukas was heading to Cambodia, so after lunch we said goodbye and planned to meet up again in the next few days. In the evening, we went for a very local style dinner with a German girl a Canadian and a Thai guy all from our hostel and ended up at a sky bar which had an amazing view. It was a cool place but fairly pricey so we stayed for just one drink until we left for the more cheaper backpackers bar area. Again, a fairly chilled out night.

Our last full day in Saigon was spent very culturally. At the Saigon Water Park! We got a few odd looks when we told other people that was our plan for the day, but we didn't care as we both couldn't wait to go and had done our fair share of educational days. The waterpark was empty and the sun was hidden by clouds most of the day but we both without doubt agreed it was the best waterpark either of us had visited. We also both claim without doubt that we were both the fastest down all the slides, but that's a different story.... Again that evening we both had fairly good nights but we were ready to leave Saigon as there was not much left to do in the city.

So the next day we took a long winded journey to the capital of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Instantly on arrival you could sense Cambodia was far less developed than Vietnam with rocky roads and far more stray dogs. When we got to our destination, it was around 9pm and we were shattered. We quickly checked in at our hostel and went out for some food. By chance, we ended up at a really cool pub with a fairly good live band so we stayed for a while and played pool. With the scores tied at 1-1 and both games going down to the black, it was a shame when a large rat spotted near the pool table meant play was stopped and eventually abandoned and we got scared and left for bed! The drama didn't end there though as our toot toot on the way back broke down. It was an interesting start to Cambodia.

Our first full day in Cambodia was extremely insightful to a period in history neither of us knew anything about. The day started with us going to the prison S21 which was an ex school turned into a prison during the Cambodian genocide in the late 1970's. In real brief, the revolution was an attempt by the Communist party to wipe out the educated people, share the power equally among farmers and disconnect Cambodia from the rest of the world. The prison was where many men, women and children were kept and tortured before either falling to death in the terrible conditions or being sent to The Killing Fields. The Killing Fields was where we went next and they were a real eye opener into how big a scale this massacre was. From 1975-1979, a fifth of the Cambodian population was wiped out and many were slaughtered in all kinds of ways at these fields. It was scary to see and hear stories as we walked around with an audio guide. Unsurprinsgly (like most backpackers who visit Phnom Penh), we weren't really in the mood to go out that night. Instead, we chilled in the hostel, waiting until the Arsenal game started at 12.30am.

Another early start awaited us with a 7am wake up so we could take yet another bus down to the south of Cambodia where we were to take a boat to the second biggest Cambodian island, Koh Rong. After getting off the bus, instead of taking a toot toot to the port, we took the cheaper and probably less safe option of each hopping on the back of a local Cambodian's motorbike. All went well and we boarded the boat to Koh Rong. The island is famed for being a so called paradise island and the five nights we stayed, the place certainly lived up to its name. We met up with a tomato coloured Lukas (warning as why we needed suncream) who arrived the day earlier and checked in to the bungalow we had booked. On the boat over, we had had a short winded conversation with a poorly English spoken Italian guy called Marco who was looking for a place to stay for three nights. As Yon and I mentioned we had two double beds between three of us (Yoni and I were sharing and Lukas in the other), we kindly offered him to share the other bed with Lukas. We didn't expect him to accept so were surprised when he said yes. He ended up staying for three nights to Lukas's displeasure especially as he was ill from the second day. Sharing a bed with a random Italian guy wasn't his ideal way of recovering even though Yon and I got a huge laugh out of it!

Everyday we spent on the Island was incredibly relaxing. We found the most secluded beautiful beaches with the warmest sea where we chilled out and swam in the sea. For the nights, there was a strip of bars where we mainly had a few drinks with a group of cool Aussies and Germans we were hanging out with . The first night however was without doubt the most eventful! We had ended up at a laid back bar and after an hour or so Lukas pointed out to me three men playing the game Twister. After both agreeing it was weird for three guys, but not girls to be playing, we ended up playing 'rock, paper, scissors' with the loser joining in the game. Naturally, with Lukas being German, he won and I ended up playing two games of Twister (the second game, with girls at least, was the most epic and tiring game of Twister ever played in history I think!) Yoni was watching with delight and made sure he got a lot of snaps which he thoroughly enjoyed taking.

On our last full day in Koh Rong, we did the one hour rocky hike across the Island to a beach on the other side where we were staying which was fairly enjoyable. On the whole though, Koh Rong was mostly us chilling out and enjoying the sun and beaches. There's just one final story from the Island. As we were waiting on the docks to board the boat back to the mainland, I was taking off my bag and somehow or another, my bracelet my mum gave to me before I left went flying off and dropped straight into the sea. Before I had time to think, it had sunk to the bottom. I decided to make an attempt to save it and swapped shorts with Yoni (who was wearing swim shorts) and jumped into the sea. The first attempt I made to retrieve it made me realise how deep the water was. As a crowd gathered to watch the crazy boy jump in the sea to fetch a bracelet, Yoni found me some goggles and chucked them down to me. My next attempt was better as I could now see but I ran out of breath before I could even got to the bottom. Although I was in my own world and desperate to find the item, I had noticed more and more people watching and then suddenly heard someone shout out 'Look - a dead rat!' pointing right where I was. After a minute or two pushing water towards the rat so it would float away, I thought I'd try one last time and have another look under the water. This time, I somehow spotted it straight away on the ground, grabbed it and came back up to breath to the sound of a few cheers. Once again, Yoni had been snapping away catching the whole episode on his camera and again laughing at me! But at least I got the bracelet back!

The boat eventually arrived two hours late meaning our connecting bus taking us to Siep Ream in the north of Cambodia was frustratingly missed. This mucked up our whole day and we ended up having to take a very slow bus back to Phnom Penh where we had to wait a few hours before taking a night bus to Siep Ream. When we finally arrived in Siep Reap at 7am the next day, I instantly knew I wasn't well. After we found a cheap hostel, Yoni and Lukas went for breakfast and I went to bed and tried to recover for our planned day out at Angkor Wat. Angkor Wat is a beautiful Temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world. When the other two got back, I decided to give the day a go but after twenty minutes of arriving I knew I needed to get back to bed. From the tiny part I did see, Angkor Wat did look incredible and Yoni and Lukas both said it all looked amazing. I spent the whole day in bed, while the other two got themselves involved in a local friendly Cambodian football game (I was actually more gutted to miss this than Angkor Wat!). When they got back I was fast asleep but I had been horribly ill and sick throughout the day and needed to be in bed. The combination of food poisoning and swimming next to a dead rat was what probably made me ill but the next day I felt far better but this time it was Yon who now felt really unwell. We had to be up early as we had a bus taking us to Bangkok. This bus ride was without doubt the most horrific journey we have experienced (even worse for Yoni who was ill). After spending hours and hours in a que on the Cambodian-Thai border, we had to wait another couple hours for our extremely uncomfortable mini van to take us to Bangkok. The ride was horrific and like a nightmare as we had no leg room and the most uncomfortable seats. However, by the evening we finally arrived and after Yoni went straight to bed, I stayed up to watch Arsenal frustrate me again.

Yesterday was another day to forget as Lukas, who went home today, was really ill and we had to take him to the hospital. The day was a write off for Yoni and I as we waited and waited as they did tests on Lukas. He was finally given the all okay and was prescribed some anti-biotics. That night, we just got some dinner and watched a film back at the hostel before going to bed. So today was Lukas's last day and it was sad to see him go as we have been traveling with him for a month now and it felt like he was going to come to Australia with us. We've just said our goodbyes and am sure we will see him again as the three of us all got on so well. We even taught him our sarcasm and wind ups and we think he enjoyed being an adopted Brit for a month!

Tomorrow we leave Bangkok and head two hours south to go and spend three nights and Christmas with Yoni's dad, Yaakov. Our plan is to relax for the three nights as after that we head further south to the constant party Islands of Thailand where we will be spending New Year's and my birthday. I know for sure I definitely won't be leaving the next blog as long to write as I did with this one as this has been painful and tiring on my head to track back and write!

So I hope (if you made it this far), you enjoyed reading it! That's all for now.

Love Sam and Yoni - Bangkok, Thailand.


23rd December 2014

Sam and Yoni, I feel I am on the journey with you. great writing Sam x

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