Archive for the 'SE Aisa 2009' Category

Last from Bangkok

Its 4:15 Monday afternoon, back in Bangkok. Got the ferry from Ko Panghnan back to the mainland last night and jumped on the night bus, getting in at 5:40 this morning. Awoke the overweight lady who sleeps in a tent in the reception of our hotel for an early check in. Good to be back in familiar territory.

Thursday morning last week we left our beach shack in Ko Sumui and got a 50 minute ferry north to Ko Panghnan. Similar island to Ko Sumui but smaller and more heavily frequented by partying backpackers, home of the infamous Full Moon Parties. We just missed one by a few days. We found a cheap bungalow close to Sunset beach in Haad Rin, and spent the remainder of the day on Sunrise beach (the other side).

Friday we hired mopeds again, one each this time. We spent the day zooming around the island, stopping for swims and views of temples and waterfalls. In search of the latter our exploration took us a bit offroad, but the bikes seemed to handle it and we had great fun weaving in and out of the hills and bumping along on dirt tracks. Went to a pool party in the evening hosted by a resort just along the beach along from us.

Saturday was spent on Sunrise and Sunset beaches again, engrossed in the second hand books we have picked up along our travels. Sunday morning the same, getting a taxi to the ferry port late afternoon.

Today we have done yet more walking around the city of Bangkok. Read more of our books. Picked up our suits from the tailors. Tomorrow will be much of the same, just making the most of our final days. I anticipate on indulging in a Thai massage tomorrow evening. Ready for the flight out on Wednesday.

This will be my last email before flying out. We depart Bangkok Wednesday evening, a couple of hours to Sri Lanka and a good few hours of kip in the airport. Then the final leg into Heathrow, touching down in the afternoon.


Love from Koh Sumui

It’s Wednesday 14th, 5PM, in an internet cafe on the south east coast of the Thai island, Koh Sumui just off the south east coast of Thailand.

Since my last email from Phom Penh last Monday, we took a coach to Siem Reap in Cambodia Tuesday morning where we stayed 3 nights to explore the enchanted ruins of the Ancient Angkor period. The coach took up most of the day but we rolled up in time for a brief introduction to the temples in the evening. We got talking to a resident from Siem Reap, Solu, on the journey who represented the Capitol tour group we have become familiar with and he was keen to recruit us for a guided tour around Angkor via Tuk Tuk (motorbike with two person carriage on the back). It was very convenient, as he organised free transport to a cheap hotel and agreed to be our driver for the two and a half days we would spend exploring the temples. That evening he took us to see one ruin with a view out over the forest and the most famous of all the ruins, Angkor Wat, and we watched the sun set over the beautiful scene. The following two days Solu carted us about on his Tuk Tuk going from temple to temple. These are some amazing ruins, dating back as far as the 10th century and the Angkor kingdom, a city far more developed than any Western civilisation at the time. And these ruins have been left completely free and open to tourists to explore at their will. It was a bizarre feeling to be able to walk around these 10th century ruins with immaculate carvings in the walls and what would have once been stunning pieces architecture, and not being constrained from walking on the stone and touching the ancient carvings in the wall. Fascinating.

Friday morning we took another coach across the border to Bangkok, Thailand. Another long journey left us with an evening to explore the city. We stayed in a cheap place very near to the main backpacker centre, which is a bit out of the commercial district, but buzzing with tourists. Not as many as I was expecting though, perhaps due to the recent unrest. As expected, the Thai’s are the most accommodating people of the three countries we have passed through. We spent 3 nights in Bangkok, two days to get to grips with the city. Not much to see really, other than temples. But a glowing city all the same. On Sunday we took a short Tuk Tuk tour around a couple of temples, albeit with a few detours to some shops that bribe the drivers to stop there. Both me and Ben ended up splashing out on tailored suits, allured by very cheap prices for seemingly high quality. I ordered two fitted shirts with ties and a 2-piece suit, to be collected on our return to Bangkok. An expense I hadn’t anticipated, but worth it all the same.

Monday evening we departed Bangers via a night coach again for the long journey to Southern Thailand. Arrived at a bus station on the coast at 5AM, to be picked up by another bus at 8 and shuttled onto a boat. 1 and a half hours later we rocked up on Koh Sumui island. We had prearranged accommodation at our stop over, so we were able to get a free bus ride directly to the resort. We have a twin bed triangular shaped shack directly on the beach, no more than a few meters from the high tide mark. Paradise. Its tiny and very basic, but just about everything we need given its situ. Yesterday we rented out a scooter (motorised) to explore the island. We started off on the best beach on the east coast, and ended up exploring a couple of waterfalls in the centre of the island. Beautiful forested areas. Stripped off and had a splash around at the second waterfall. This morning I woke at 7, still with a few hours left with the bike (24hr hire). I headed off to the next beach along and had a quick swim before returning the bike at 10 and having breakfast. Great feeling zipping around the island on a bike like a local! This afternoon weather has been a bit stormy. Windy with a short burst of rain. We were just in the sea making the most of the waves and as we came out to our surprise a tornado was forming on the horizon. Not something you see every day! Must have been moving in the other direction as it dissipated pretty quickly.

One more night in our lovely beach shack and then we are going a short distance north to the island of Ko Pan Nan (spelling unknown). Similar setup to here. More days on the beach, topping up the January tan. Then we’ll head back to Bangkok Sunday or Monday, with a few days to spare until our flight out on Wednesday.

Hi from Phnom Penh

Writing this at 8:30 in an internet cafe just around the corner from our hotel, Capitol, in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Picking up from where I left of from my last email a week ago, we set off Tuesday morning from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam on a cheap tour package around the Me Kong Delta, southern Vietnam. A coach trip took us into My Tho for an afternoon cruising around a few islands on the Me Kong. A pleasant afternoon, but very well laid out as a tourist trap. Good to see a bit of the rural life out of the city all the same. Another coach trip in the afternoon to a town called Can Tho where we were ushered into a cheap hotel for the night. Lots of intrigued looks from the locals as we ate street food and wondered along the road for an evening walk. One chap offered me a drop of rice wine which went down very well. Although any further communication is futile due to the language barrier, so there’s not much stopping to talk to the locals.

Wednesday we set off in the morning by boat, making a few stops to look at a rice factory, a fish market and other touristy things. Then on the coach again to the border town of Chau Doc. A small and quiet town, we arrived early evening and found a small bar type place across the road from the hotel that seemed to be an extension to a family home but the people were happy to welcome us in and serve us up some food. New years eve was spent sipping beers in this place with Ben, alongside the locals. That is until 10pm when we had to be back inside the hotel or they would lock us out. So we headed to bed fairly early that night. No big count down or new year partying in Chau Doc that was for sure.

Thursday, new years day, we were on the boat again and visited a fish breeding farm and another village. Not quite sure what the significance of this was but just good to be out and about on the river. Then we changed to a larger boat and commenced our journey up the river and across the border into Cambodia. The boat journey and border crossing took up most of the afternoon, followed by another coach trip to take us into Phom Penh, the capital. We spent two nights here, looking around the Palace on Saturday and walking around. Then on Sunday morning we took a 4 hour coach down to South Western Cambodia to a beach resort on the coast called Shioukosville (I don’t know the correct spelling or pronunciation). We stayed in a cheap wooden shack above a bar right on the beach. Was very noisy at night but worth it to wake up to the sea on our doorstep. Another two nights here, giving us time to chill out and unwind. Very much an up and coming tourist spot with bars and restaurants and cheap accommodation littering the beaches. Yet still in parts untouched, and we were staying alongside mostly families of Cambodians who were themselves on holiday. Nice long beaches (although lots of litter), very hot weather, warm water. A taste of things to come in Thailand.

I most draw to a close because the internet cafe is closing. We got the coach back into Phnom Penh this afternoon, staying a final night here. Then tomorrow morning we are off to Siem Reap for a few days looking around the Angkor temples which are the main attraction of Cambodia. Very much looking forward to that. And then we will push on into Bangkok and Thailand next week.

Happy New Year from Vietnam

Writing this from an internet cafe in Ho Chi Minh City at 6:45 in the evening. We’ve been in the city since Saturday morning. Unfortunately a blunder on my part set us back a day and we had two days exploring Macau before arriving in HCMC for the weekend. A few days prior to our departure a lady from Viva Macau phoned me to tell me that the times of our flight had changed to 7:05 in the morning. Either she didn’t make it clear, or it just didn’t register with me, that the flight had actually been shifted forward a day as well. So we rocked up at Macau airport for the night (all the cheap hostels were full, didn’t make sense to pay for a night when we would have to check out in the early hours) and discovered Friday morning that there was no flight out to HCMC that day. Apart from that slight set back, and a couple of rough nights in the airport, we made the best of Macau and saw as much of the quaint ex-Portuguese colony as there was to see. Quite a contrast with its traditional Portuguese architecture alongside the money grabbing casino‚Äôs that give the region it’s reputation as the “Las Vagas of the East.”

Saturday morning we arrived in HCMC and got the bus in to De Tham where the guidebook listed several cheap backpacker places. We were very fortunate in that an english speaking elderly lady caught sight of us as we got of the bus in De Tham and explained she had a cheap room we could stay in. She took us down this dark alley to a private guest house and showed us a very respectable, basic two-bed room. So we have stayed there the previous two nights and will spend one more night there tonight. Very nice little place to have a base, with a great family atmosphere.

Saturday afternoon we had a look around a temple and the war museum. We spent the evening in the park just around the corner from our guest house, where there are several stages set up and lots of food stands with lots going on each night to celebrate the coming of the new year. Really quite an impressive welcome to HCMC and Vietman.

Yesterday we went to a district to the West of the city by motorcycle taxi, dubbed the “Chinese Ghetto” because of all it’s chinese influenced markets spilling out onto the street. Spent the day there walking around the streets and explored a couple more temples. Yesterday evening we headed back to the park for the usual evening entertainment. But a completely impromptu spectacle unfolded as the evening progressed. After sipping some bears on the road side we took a walk past some bars/cafes and I noticed that everyone seemed to be watching a football match. We soon figured out that it was Vietnam vs Thailand, current score 1-0 to Thailand, and it seemed to be a pretty big deal as everyone was watching it in bars and on street corners. Then all of a sudden the mood of the streets seem to drastically change, there was a sudden buzz to the place. We then discovered that Vietnam had equalised, and people were shouting and cheering. Turns out it was a minute to full time and the match was the second leg of the final in the Asian Cup, a pretty big deal for Vietnam. The equaliser had secured the trophy for Vietnam. Within the space of a couple of minutes the whole of the city were out on their motor bikes waving flags and celebrating wildly. Everyone was out, families, mothers, children. The streets were bursting with motorcycles and it was absolute chaos. Quite the spectacle. We spend a couple of hours just observing the craziness as it unfolded. Completely unexpected.

Today we have taken it easy, had a bit of a lie in and checked out the Reunification Palace and Cathedral. Tonight will be our last night in the city, and tomorrow morning we head off on a three day organised tour through the Me Kong Delta and across the border into Pnohm Pen in Cambodia. Looking forward to seeing a different side to the country.

Overall impressions of HCMC are that this is very much an up and coming place, full of life and energy. In contrast to my experiences in Tanzania, which is devastated by poverty, the Vietnamese people really seem to have a vibe about them, that they are progressing forwards in the right direction.

I’ll leave it there for now. Hope you all had a fantastic Christmas and wish you happy new year celebrations. Doubt I will be in touch for a while so happy new year to you all!

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