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Published: December 12th 2011
So i am sitting in an internet Cafe in Bangkok, my Asia part of my ATW trip is nearly coming to an end. We made it to Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos and Bangkok, Thailand. The time i spent in Asia has being extremely memorable, i have met a lot of great people and have had a lot of fun. I love this area of the World and even before i have left i am already wanting to plan another trip back here to see more!
Some of the werid highlights of the past few weeks have being:
eating dry, salted squid= nasty
had both of my legs threaded on a cambodian beach for 8$
having "Happy Food"- DO not recommend EVER!
Tubing down Nam Song river
sleeping on a "Junk" in Halong Bay
Spending copious amounts of time on sleeper buses that have beds in them!
So now to get into the good stuff, Nat and I flew into Bangkok and due to the floods deceided to Bus it up to Siem Reap Cambodia right away. This Bus ride was alright it took us to the Cambodian border dropped us off where we had our first scam in Asia known as the FAKE border. The fake border is pretty common at the Thai/Cambodia lines, basically tuk tuks take you to a building that looks offical and men come out saying you have arrived at immigration and to pay them money for a Visa. Luckily for us we already knew about this scam and got out of it, not everyone was that lucky though. When we got across to PoiPet the border town in Cambodia i was scared haha... This place is like Vegas on Crack! It is such a crap hole that has bars and casino's everywhere! It was already dark and we deceided to take a Taxi from PoiPet to Siem Reap which takes 4 hours, just to get away.
Siem Reap once we got there was amazing, we spent 4 days and loved every moment of it. I was very surprised by how modern and Touristy it was. I even had KFC here although it was the grossiest KFC or even food i had in Asia. We spent two days touring around Angkor. We bought a guide book and rented bikes the first day and then a tuk tuk the second day to see the farther temples. The temples we saw were as follows: Angkor Wat, Thom, Banteay Kdei, Srah Srang, Tao Keo and Preah Khan. All of these temples are a mix of Buddisht and Hindu influences, each a little different in their own way. Sadly a lot of the temples have being ruined from the Khmer Regime and just time, but plenty have being restored quite nicely.We spent two full days walking around in some of the hottest weather i have experienced in Asia, it was ROUGH. You get to the point where it is like oh look there is a pile of rocks with a face on it by the end haha... But other than being over templed this place is amazing and everyone should go there, very magical. Has to be one of my favourite places in SE Asia. Siem Reap itself did not have much else, but was still a nice city with a great night market where most dishes are around $1 and taste great.
After Siem Reap we took a "Sleeper Bus" to Sihanoukville. The Bus turned out to just be a seater Bus, scam number 2. Sihanoukville is a new and upcoming area of Cambodia that a lot of people skip, this is extremely sad. Sihanoukville is amazing, fun and beautiful. We spent 4 days here as well and one of which we spent overnighting on a small island off the coast, scuba diving! The visiblitly was not the greatest but overall we had good dives and i got to break my seahorse virginity and saw 4 of them in the reef.
After Sihanouckville we took a 14 hour bus ride to Ho Chi Minh City( Saigon) Vietnam! We stayed in a really cute guesthouse that was down an ally way. Definitely got lost trying to find this place a few times. This city has an amazing Backpackers section with great night life. It is here where i lost a bet and ended up having to eat dry, salted squid! One of the most disgusting things i have ever eating, not to mention i do not even eat seafood period. The Squid tasted like what i believe a nasty leather boot would. Now Ho Chi Minh definitely lives up to its reputation of being an insane city to walk in, Vietnam in general was pretty brutal, you almost need to take out death/accident insurance before you cross the road. Just to walk around the city takes 10x longer than it should since it takes forever to safely cross the roads. They joke there that it could be easier for the tourists to just close their eyes and walk across and hope for the best!
We did some interesting things in Saigon, i even got my hair highlighted and cut, which was really hard for me since i luv my hair and do not trust asians to colour curly blonde hair. The end result was not to bad but not the greatest haha. We also had a sobering experience at the Vietnam War Museum, which was very sad and had me tearing up after viewing some of the photos that photographers took during the US- Vietnam War. Definitely a place to see but it does not hold back and even has a whole section on torture which was almost to much for my stomach to handle. On a more positive day we did a day trip of the Lower Mekong River, which was a lot of fun. We went in long boats through the twisting river and saw lots of local factories making coconut treats and honey tea.
After Saigon we travelled yet again by sleeper Bus( actual sleeper bus with beds) To Nha Trang. Unfortunately i ended up getting really sick here, yet again with what i believe to be the same bug from Nepal, so i mostly spent the 4 days there in BED! I didn't miss much though because the weather was horrible and it was overcast and rainy most of the time. The beach looked nice but it was so cold with monsoon like winds. I do have to say that this city has a large italian population and they all seem to own resturants and serve AMAZING food!
We continued up the Vietnam coast to Hoi An after Nha Trang and of course had clothing made. Hoi An is known throughout Vietnam as the place to have anything made. I had a dress and two long sleeved plaid shirts made within 12 hours and they all rock! Also the cheapest beer i have seen was in Hoi An and it was 3000 Dong which comes up to being pennies in the end.
From Hoi an we took an 18 hour sleeper bus (ah hate buses) to Hanoi the capital city! We got in at 7 am and spent hours walking around the downtown core trying to find a cheap place to stay, we eventually found one and just passed out. We did not spend to much time in Hanoi we left right away to go on a 3 day trip into Halong Bay. This was an amazing trip where we slept on a Junk the first night and then on Cat Ba island the second. We went to numerous islands, climbed to the top of a few limestone peaks and listened to way to much crappy karaoke.
From Hanoi we flew with Air Laos into Luang Prabang (LP), Laos. Again we spent a long time looking for cheap places to stay because the taxi from the airport took us to the posh area that had rooms going for 180/night...definitely not backpackers budget there. We ended up finding a great guesthouse which cost us around 2.50$ a night!! So onto the city itself! LP is great, i am ranking it as my favourite city in all of SE Asia, out of the ones i have being too. It is beautiful with the Mekong running by and very quiet. A lot of Hip Leisure bars and cafe's along the river. I even ended up doing Yoga on a deck overlooking the Mekong at Sunset, nothing is better than that. One of my favourite memories of this city is its night-life. The city itself has a strict curfew of 11:30 and trust me everything closes down except two places! One place that stays open is a local Disco and then there is an actual Bowling Alley that can stay open to 2am. So clearly we spent our nights at this Hip bar called Utopia, then when it closed we went to the Disco and then off to the bowling Alley. A lot of good times were had at all of these places and i met some amazing people here.
Sadly i had to leave Luang Prabang due to time and headed south to Vang Vieng for some Tubing on the Nam Song river. Vang Vieng is such a weird Town, you feel like you are taken into some weird warped tourist town. They only play friends and family guy at the bars and it is ALWAYS on! Every single menu has happy food on it and within one hour of being there a 4 year old asked if i wanted Opium, weed or mushrooms!! This place is like spring break but without any form of control at all. It is an all out shitshow of a party, but extremely dangerous due to that. I spent 3 days there and although i had my share of fun i could not wait to get the heck out of there. The tubing was a lot of fun but we skipped most of the bars that lined the river because we actually wanted to make it down and stay alive haha. The river is just surrounded by bars,swings and platform jumps. All the bars also give free shots to get you into them so your basically being thrown free alcohol all the time! We made it down the river 2 mins before the tubing office closes and takes all of your deposit! Definitely a werid experience but still had a lot of fun and the place is just crawling with Canadians!
After we escaped Vang Vieng we took a Mini Bus through the mountains down to the capital of Laos called Vientiane. This is the calmest, nicest capital city i have been to. There were almost never any cars on the road. It is along a river with beautiful boardwalks and outdoor free workout gyms! I was able to actually go for a run here along the river during sunset. While running i met up with a fellow runner who was a local Tuk Tuk driver and we had a great conversation about Laos and his life. Then he took me to the free gym and we worked out for a bit, definitely a great time.
So from Vientiane it was time to figure out a way to get to Bangkok for our flight leaving tomorrow to Oz. We went to a travel agent and paid for a Tuk Tuk to take us directly accross the border to Thailand where we could get a cheap 12 hour bus ticket. When we got to the border the travel agent gave us train tickets in 2nd class sleeper, completely free of charge! It was the weridest thing and we all got really confused but hey i am not one for turning down something free every once in awhile. So we took the 12 hour sleeper train which was a lot of fun and ended up back in good ol' Bangkok today! Spent the day relaxing, eating Mc Donalds( first time in 4 months) and walking around. Now we are just packing and getting ready to head out for a few drinks during our lil Goodbye Asian dinner!
I miss everyone Back home and I want to wish everyone Season's Greetings, Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year! My next Blog will be from the Land Down Under which i am very excited for!
Ciao for now,
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