A Travellerspoint blog

Bangkok, Angkor and KL. BangKLor :)

4 days of extremes. Dog bite, magnificent culture and an Asian Dragon (KL).

sunny 27 °C

Around 11am I arrived in Bangkok and by now, I know my way here. I got the bus to Khao San Road and walked to Rambuttri street. This time I wanted a change and I walked not trough the tourist street, but trough the pagoda. Wrong choice.. Although there were a lot of people walking, biking or in car, for some way and I still don't know why, a dog arrived furiously. I walked in a street and didn't even see him/her or make eye contact. I was just walking with backpack. Suddenly, from under a car 15 metres away, a dog comes barking like crazy running towards me. I immediately turn around, not to offend this dog. Normally dogs give a sort of warning. This time it was too obvious it was not just a warning. And yes, while walking I felt the dog twisting its head to bite me in the leg. It hurt a lot and after the bite, the dog immediately ran off. It was very strange.

I walked on and found a restaurant in the pagoda, but no one really paid attention. So I checked my leg and I realised that I was very lucky here. I wore the thickest long jeans I have (since I arrived from 'cold' Hanoi and from an airport) and the dog didn't bite very hard. Thus, the teeth never got trough the jeans. It was barely bleeding. And I was able to walk. Still shaking, I walked to my favourite hotel, Thara House, were I checked in, checked and cleaned the wound and had a short rest. After, I went to my favourite restaurant and sent my parents an email on this.

The next 2 days in Bangkok were very easy going. Since I had seen the city and just wanted to relax and eat, that's mostly what I did. My parents adviced me to take a vaccin and so I did. The wound became blue and purple, but the teeth barely came into my flesh. I was very lucky.

Thus, after 3 days of relaxation in Bangkok, I took the bus to Siem Reap. I figured it was better just to go there instead of racing around Cambodia in a few days.
After a long day, I arrived in Siem Reap in the evening. I checked in to a good hotel and went for a dinner. The owner told me that I could rent a bike; this time not a motorbike, but a bicycle. So I did the next morning.
It turned out a lot tourist used to rent motorbikes to see Angkor. But there have been a lot of accidents. Therefore, now tourists are only allowed to rent a bike.
After a great breakfast of muesli, fruit and yoghurt, I went with my bike, bad condition, and Gato, to Angkor. This time we biked passed Angkor Wat and I was eager to see a lot of temples. With a guidebook and a lot of energy, it was my last 3 days to explore Angkor.
On the bike I did the big route. Angkor Thom, Preah Khan (my favourite), East Mebon and a lot more. It was dark when I arrived at Angkor Wat. Time to go back to the hotel.

So by now, while writing, it is the 2nd of december. This means that I am writing my diary almost 2 months after all happened. Let's see what I remember.

The other two days, I decided to take a better bike. The bike of the hotel was not in a good condition and the bike was a bit simple. Now I had a mountainbike. The word mountainbike might be a bit too much, for it was tiny..

This bike conveniently biked me and Gato around. The second day I crossed about 50 km. Also, I rented a motorbike guy to bring me to the far away temples. It was absolutely incredible. The third day, I only spent 3 hours in the Angkor area. By now I had virtually seen all temples and most of them 2 or 3 times. Angkor is an incredible place. The last day, though, my mind was full. It was time to move on.
During this time in Siem Reap, I also visited the Royal Angkor Museum. A stunning museum. Both the exhibition, as the architecture. It gives great insights into what the temples represent, show a beautifull Buddha chamber, with over 1000 buddha's and shows about the history of Angkor and Cambodia.

It was time to go to Malaysia. The next morning I got up early and got my ride to the tiny airport. Very convenient. No cues. Relaxed. Free internet connection. Wow! Airasia brought me to Kuala Lumpur. One day, to get my flight the next evening to India, Mumbai.
Once arriving in KL I was very disoriented. I have been in KL in 2003, 7 years ago. And I was looking for the express train, the Kuala Lumpur International Airport Express Train. Shortly, KLIA Express. It was not there..
I took a chocolate shake at the Starbuck's. Ramon at the Starbucks? Yes, my bonita girlfriend teached me. And I like it.
After a while I found out I was not in the 'big' airport (KLL), but KLLCC) ; Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier airport. About 30 km from the one I remembered from 7 years ago. Very good to kow that tomorrow I fly from this one. I am certain that I would have shown up at the wrong airport. From there it is about 1 hour to the KLCC airport.

I took a ride to one of the main drop off points in KL. View of the Petronas Twin towers from a distance. Time to look for a hotel. During my walk, a guy talked to me. He wanted to sell a lucky buddha. I refused.
It turned out that KL is way too expensive compared to all Asia. I got a hotel for 17 euro. A room with 2 beds and a cold shower. Seems allright. And yes, I don't expect much more..well yes, for this price. But the worst is yet to come. In the evening, when I was lying on the sheets, I realised my skin started itching. I took a test by using my towels and then, the sheets again. And yes, althought I am not 100% certain, it really felt like there were bed bugs. Annoying animals of 3 mm that start biting your skin. I went to the owner / manager to tell him. In my most polite way I tried to explain that there might be bed bugs and ..well it can happen anywhere (although I know it only happens when the hygenics are really bad--> as the bathroom and the floor). I tried to tell it in a way not to offend the owner/manager. And still, what a baby. Unbelievable. By his response I noticed that he took it personal and felt critisesed. No eye contact, no solution finding. Just: there is nothing I can do about it.
What an unbelievable jerk. I asked him to change rooms. He was full. I asked him for other sheets. No..we dont have → Right..or..ah..that explains..
So I ripped of all the shit of the bed and threw it on the other bed. I slept this night under my own towels. Luckily KL is very hot, so I didn't get a cold. But what a ripoff. 17 euro for this shit hole. In Vietnam I had an incredible hotel on Cat Ba island for 5 US dollar, 3,5 euro. Beautiful room, clean, hot water, internet connection.

During the day, I explored the city centre a bit. I remember not being impressed by KL 7 years ago. I have to say that now it is the same. I took the metro and went to the twin towers. The Petronas Towers. Nice for some pictures. Inside these towers there is a shopping mall, where I spend some time and had dinner. When I wanted to get out, it was raining like crazy. I decided to have another meal and since I had seen a cinema and was temped, I went to the movie. Doubting between: Social Network: a movie about Facebook. How the guys that started Facebook faced all the problems setting it up, but also celebrating the victories. Now they are billionaires. For me, a very interesting movie from my marketing and online background. But I figured, I can see this movie on my laptop. So I went for Harry Potter. I never seen one Harry Potter, so I thought it might be interesting to try something else for a time. Wrong choice. What an incredible boring movie. After a while, people started leaving. I realised they didn't come back. Surprisingly, I took 2 hours. When there was still no action, or any interesting storyline, I left. Not having seen the last 30 minutes. By now, the rain had ceased. Time to go to the hotel (with the dirty sheets).

Posted by Aussierala 05:52 Archived in Cambodia Tagged dog history kuala cambodia thailand malaysia bangkok angkor unesco backpacking lumpur bite. Comments (0)

Finishing in Paradise, Vietnam

Butterflies, Tokkè's and motorbikes.

sunny 26 °C

11th of November??

From Cat Ba we went to Nimh Binh. Before, we checked internet to make sure it was worth leaving Paradise island 2 to get to Nimh Binh. The pictures looked amazing, so we decided to say goodbye to Paradise Island 2. In the early morning we had a bus ride to the harbour. From there, a speed boat took us to the mainland. The constrast was striking. Whereas on the side of the island were we arrived, the world renown Halong Bay is showing in all its splendid views. Now, we literally got the backdoor to get off the island. With a boat packed with motorbikes and bags, we went trough a dirty bay to get to the mainland. It was interesting though to see this contrast. After arrival, a bus picked us up to get to Nimh Binh. We drove trough a factory area and this place was really too depressing. Factories surrounded by big walls and watchtowers, like prisons. Dirt on the street and a lot of truck wheels for sale everywhere.
After a bit of a long ride, we arrived at Nimh Binh. At first, I was very dissapointed. The pictures showed a beautifull nature park, but we arrived in a depressing city full of motorbikes and smog. What a shock after Paradise Island 2. Amit and I went to a hotel and the manager was very friendly. He explained us everything to get to Nimh Binh. His slogan: we are here to make you smile. And yes, his service orientation was magical. He even told us that if we would leave now with motorbike, we would just make it before dark to the national park. Thus, actually losing us as customers for the night. We gathered information on motorbikes and were eager to get to the national park. But then, realised it was better to stay for the night. If something would happen with the motorbikes or we lose the directions, we would be in problems. So we went back to the hotel and checked in for the night.
We had some dinner and the games of famous chess continued.
There was a Belgium girl telling us that in the place where we were eating, she had some problems with the owner. Apparently there was bad service and the food was overpriced. We listened, but stayed here. She told us that in the restaurant next to it (2 metres from our seat) they had exactly the same menu and the prices were a lot cheaper.

The next morning we checked the other restaurant. Exactly the same menu, same setting and atmosphere and to our surprise, yes, prices were half of the restaurant of yesterday. What a joke :)
Time to go to the National Park. We both rented a motorbike. This time with gears. At first, I was a bit cautious, but quickly I managed to handle this kind of motorbike and we were on our way to the national park. At first, a lot of traffic was around us. But after leaving the main road, it quickly became more quiet. Also, the surroundings changed. More green and beautiful mountains. After about 1,5 hours, we reached the national park. It's interesting to know that before we left, we supplied ourselves with some essentials: a liter of extra gasoline, beer, fruit and cookies. At least we had some backup for if the park turned out to have not so much choice, or overprices stuff.
It was already afternoon when we arrived. We decided to check out the monkey sanctuary, turtle sanctuary and the botanical garden. All of this was really interesting. Especially the monkey sanctuary showed to be an interesting place. One monkey showing off his acrobatic skills by jumping trough the cage, using his arms, legs and great speed, agility and strength. A real showmaster. These monkeys, unfortunately, are taken from either people that keep them, or customs. Stupid Europeans or Americans (mostly) that pay money to have a monkey. Thus, making these animals extinct. Just a sidestep: when I entered Cambodia, at the border there was an advertising, saying: SOLD OUT...forever.
Every animal that you take from the wild will make it more likely that this species is going to be extinct. And when the reproduction is lower than the killings..guess what happens?

So, these monkeys are getting ready to be put back into the wild. Sometimes this works out, mostly they are going to an area next to the sanctuary. A kind of half-wild.
One poor monkey had one arm broken by people. But with his other arm and legs, he was still an acrobate. Applause to this monkey!
The turtle sanctuary told the same story. Most of them are extinct. A shell protects the turtle very well from attacks from predators. And this has saved them for millions of years (they were here even when the planet was ruled by dinosaurs). But, human don't try to open the shell to eat the turtle. No, they pick it up. Nature has no answer to this. Thus, most turtle species are almost extinct nowadays. Chinese think it's delicious for soup, or brings 'luck'. Right.. or rich people (Mostly fat ugly westerners..) pay a lot of money to show off that they have stolen a beautiful animal from nature and let it be killed to put for show in their expensive houses..
Talking about luck..cats get their tales broken by people, who think it brings luck. Yes, let's break your dick and see whether it brings luck. Well, the planet is the lucky one then. No dick, no children, no new generation, no future thread.
After the turtle place, that actually had guard/soup dogs, it was time to go to the botanic.
The botanic was not really a botanic as I expected; plants with their names shown. But it was beautiful nevertheless. It was an outdoor area surrounded by fences. Here and there a sign showed the Latin name of the plant or tree.
Afterwards, dinner time. The restaurant turned out to be very reasonable priced ( a meal for 40.000 dong-huh! Yes, but this represents 1,50 euro).
Time for some new famous chess games, a drink and time for a good sleep.
Door closed, windows closed, no malaria/dengue mosquito could enter my room. Amit was so unfortunate to have his window opened when we were away. He had to go on 'mosquito duty' first. Cleaning the room, making casualties, K.I.A's among the mosquitos. A massacre was the reminder of an ultimate mosquito cleaning drift of Amit. When the stars showed their face. The moon was well ahead and smiling down, and the crickets heavily brushing their feet...CRI...CKET....CHRI...CKET, we could finally sleep. The tokkè also had to join the party. But all in all it was a great sound! CRI....CKET. CRI..CKET. And the occasional. Wwawwwaawwwaawwwa.....tokkèèèèèèèè`......TOKKEEEE....TOKKEEEE wawwwaaawaaawaa TOKKEEEEEE. CRI..CKET..buzzzzzzzzz (the few mosquitos in my room).
But all together was a great experience. The room was in enormous contrast with Catba island, where for 5 US dollar, I had a hot shower, 2 huge and comfy beds, internet connection, television, and when I walked to the corridor, seaside view. Here, it was 7 dollar, for a wooden house with a mediocre bed, one table and..jungle sounds :) Ah..and a cold shower in a shared bathroom.

The next morning we explored the park on our motorbikes. After breakfast, we went up the hill. The view was amazing! The lushy green trees, rolling mountains and.. butterflies. Literally everywhere. We had quite some long stops to make beautifull pictures of the butterflies. Going uphill with the motorbike was very convenient. It turned out that if we wouldn't have come with motorbike, we would pay a lot to rent a bike or motorbike. During the trip, just a few people passed by. We were enjoying the beautiful nature and the amazing butterflies. Just after 3 pm we had a very good lunch and went for a hike. This hike brought us trough the stunning rainforest. Some pictures and an exhausting hike later, we ended up back in the restaurant. It slowly started to get dark. Time to get back. With some extra gas, the scooter conveniently touched 70km an hour at some points. There were almost no butterflies anymore. In the evening when we arrived back to our 'hut', the water was cold. And I had a cold also. Luckily an american couple with which we talked offered to use their shower, that was hot.
In the evening we had dinner with the American couple and played a game of chess. One of our last famous games of chess before leaving. After a beer and a bit of relaxation, it was time to sleep.

The next morning we had a good breakfast and got ready to go back to Nimh Binh city. The ride on the motorbike was stunning as always. The ride turned out to be a lot quicker back than expected. We had lunch (in the place that was the cheaper of the two) and Amit gave me some extra information on India. Also, he designed a travel itinerary for january, after Lud would leave.
Soon after, I got my back from the hotel and Amit brought me on the motorbike to the busstop. Immediately a bus was leaving, so I was lucky. Just before the bus left, I noticed a woman dragging a back with the head of a dog out. The dog was barking furiously. After, a guy put another back over the head of the poor dog. We all know what was going to happen here.
Then, the bus pulled off. Time for a 4 hour ride to Hanoi.

Upon arrival, I wanted to take a taxi to the airport, so I could stay near to the airport for the flight tomorrow morning. The taxi's were very expensive though. So I took a motorbike. This was a monstrous ride. With a 20 kg backpack, on the back of a motorbike. A perfect workout for the under back, the legs and the abs. Very inconvenient, and yes, a bit dangerous too. I was happy to arrive after one hour.
Time to get some food. The people in the restaurant served me with a lot of curiousity. Probably they don't serve a lot of foreigners, although it was in front of the airport. After the food, I was looking for a hotel. I knew that about 2 km away there were some hotels, so time to walk. 2 km turned out to be 4 km. And during the walk, I was looking at possible places to sleep in the night. Yes, in the wild. I was thinking I might get ripped off.
The first hotel indeed asked way too much for a night. But luckily the second gave me the price I wanted to pay. So I stayed the night here. Ready to wake up early in the morning and then have a 4 km, 40 min walk with 20 kg backpack to the airport.

So it happened. I got up and walked. After a walk of about 2 km a guy stopped and made clear he was no taxi (so a free ride). I was happy to get transported to the airport, where I waited for my flight to Bangkok.

Posted by Aussierala 05:49 Archived in Vietnam Tagged backpack vietnam sun motorbike butterfly binh nim nature. Comments (0)

Vietnam

from monsoon to paradise.

all seasons in one day 20 °C

31st of october until the 10th of november:

Today I went to Da Lat. A village in the mountains. Actually a very annoying ride. In 5 minutes, the claxon is used more than I have used it in all my driving career. It's insane. And everyone does it. Noise polution I would say. In the late evening I arrived in Da Lat. A very nice mountain village with French influence. I checked in in a very very good hotel. The price was 150.000 Dong. 6 euro for one night. Hot shower, big room, 2 beds, WIFI internet and television.

The next day I explored Da Lat a bit and soon found out that nearly all the surrounding area was flooded. It was not possible to do mountain climbing, kayaking, canyoning and most other sports, due to heavy rain and mud. It was possible to hike though.

The next morning at 8 am I was picked up to go for a hike. There was also a woman from the USA, who lived in Saigon and a women from Singapore, who lived in Australia. The hike was absolutely incredible. But far from save, as we found out later.
The road was very slippery, and mud washed away a lot of the pahtway. Sometimes we had to climb up the hill, but due to the rolling mud, slipped away and fell. Until around noon all of us were doing pretty good. We crossed the river twice and just before the second bridge, we headed trough the coffee fields. The result was a very wet shirt. We walked trough ankle high water, with wet shoes as a result. And it started raining, with yes, a fully wet body. Nevertheless the hike was beautifull. Trough the rolling mountains, and the gushing river that was not blue, but dark brown, due to mud it was taking away. The current was very strong. If you would fall in this water, you would be washed away and crashed on the rocks. Luckily the first bridge hold. It didn't look too strong. I was not so afraid, but did realise that the quality of the brigde was very poor. Just before the next bridge, we catched up with another hiking group. One of the older guys there was a civil engineer and could tell that the wires were from a very bad quality. Also, some of the woodwork already collapsed and the woodwork that was left, was rotting away. Imagine wooden plates on three bad quality wires, wrapped around a tree on each side of the river. The total bridge was around 50 metres long and 15 metres above the gushing river.
Nevertheless, we went. I even made a movie.

During the walk, we saw some dogs. Everytime I was petting the dogs, the tourguid would say 'soup dog'. Yes, people here eat dog. At first, that sounds cruel, but then later, realise that we eat chicken, cow and other animals.But the way they kiss the dog is cruel. Tie a bag around the head and then put water over it. So it feels like a drowning dead. Just a few days ago I learned that the US marines did that with the Vietcong. And it was described as inhuman. So my question then is 'Why is it ok to kill the dog like this?'. Again, I have no problems with people eating dog. A Hindu would say 'how could you eat cow?'. But treat it with respect.

After crossing the river, we climbed up a mountain. Sometimes with hands and feet. On top of the mountain, we had an outstanding lunch. (no dog).We walked trough a grassland, were in the 1950s there were still tigers. Probably the Vietnamese have eaten all of them by now. The tourguide teached us how to shoot a piece of a plant about 20 metres in the air. That was really cool.
We reached a hilltop and went down. It was a bit slippery. After a while, I was ahead of the group and waited, sitting on a pumpkin for the rest. It took about 10 minutes for them to catch up. Something happened. The USA/Saigon women had fallen and, later, turned out to have broken her wrist. Very sad. It even was her birthday today.
The next days I hung out in Da Lat. Since almost all tours were cancelled, and the bus to diving paradise Nha Trang didn't go, it was best, just to sit back and relax. Nha Trang was flooded. Same for Hué, Vinh and some more places. The busses didn't go.
The older Scottish guy that was civil engineer went for a mountainbike tour and asked me if I was interested too. After the walk, I told him that I didn't feel save in doing so.
The next evening, I met up with him in backpacker hangout place 'the Peace hotel'. They went for mountainbiking and when they walked with the bike over a bridge, the woodwork collapsed. This guy fell down 5 metres in the mud. He was very lucky that it was not on the rocks and that his backpack absorbed most of the shock. A vietnamese guy ran out of a house and told the tourguide that he kept on asking the local government to fix the brigde. This year two people already died falling of this bridge in the river.

The next few days in Da Lat were a bit boring. Nothing to do. No way of getting out of the village. So I hang out in the 'Peace hotel' were food was also served. Good food :). This famous hotel next to the “Easy Rider club'. Easy riders are guys on motorbikes, or motors, that show you around the village. Sometimes very usefull or fun to go with. Sometimes very annoying. Like taxi drivers. You sometimes need them. Most of the time they are annoying. But then, they need to make money to have food and drinks, so, well, ok.

The next few days, everyone found its way out of the stormy, rainy Da Lat. Most people flew either to Hanoi, or Saigon. By now, I had a cold for a few days. Since I only had one jeans, that was still wet, and one pair of shoes, that were still wet, it was very difficult to feel healthy again. First, I walked with shorts and flipflops trough the city, although it was really cold. Ok,Vietnamese overdid it with winterjackets, shawls and handgloves, but yes, it was cold. So I ended up buying an extra jeans. My shoes, luckily, were dry by now.

I found a flight with Vietnam airlines. And the 9th of november, I flew Da Lat to Da Nang. Unfortunately I had to skip Nha Trang. The famous diving paradise and I didn't enjoy Da Lat to it's fullest. I still woud say that Da Lat is a beautifull place. But the weather just didn't let me enjoy it. So after spending a few days n my hotel room, playing computer games and watcing documentairies, I was happy to say goodbye to Da Lat.

Vietnam Airlines brought me conveniently into Da Nang with a propellor airplane. The first time in my life in a prop plane. It was very interesting. And I have to say, they look much more cool than the modern place. But certainly, there is a reason why they are getting out of use. Not efficient, or not save? The father of Lud can tell me the real reason :)
At least I landed savely in Da Nang :)

In the airplane, I had to switch places with an older lady. So I got a seat next to the emergency exit. And guess who was sitting there? The Scottish guy, the engineer. I had some nice chats with him and we were guite certain that after, somewhere, by accident we would meet up again.
He made his way to a hotel in Hoi An. I went to the city of Da Nang.

Once into Da Nang, I shared a taxi with some locals and ended up in Da Nang city. A fairly old and boring city. In the evening, I was looking for a hotel, but this annoying motortaxi driver kept on following me 'motorbike?' .Hotel? Cheap cheap. At first, I was polite. After, I just ignored him. It's allright if he asks, and accepts my 'no kam án'. But it is very annoying if, when I am close to a hotel, runs in the hotel. I know he will talk to the reception and tells them that he brought a guest. He will get a commission for that. And guess who is paying extra for that?

So, it took me a while to find a hotel. Surprisingly, the hotels are pretty expensive here. Then another motorbike taxi showed up. I tried to play it different this time. He asked whether I need a ride or hotel. Yes, a hotel, for maximum 150.000 dong. He brought me to a hotel. Not the best one, but it was very reasonable. And I have to admit that after having amazingly good hotels for 6 euro a night, I might get a bit spoiled by now. I checked in and this motor guy was still there. Before I went up, he asked whether I want to go to Hoi An tomorrow. Hoi An was the reason to get here. A beautifull UNESCO world heritage village. He offered it for 150.000. I laughed. No kam án. Ok, 100.000. Well, I will think about it. I knew I would just go with the bus for 20.000. But after checking in in the hotel, he was still there. Obviously waiting for a commission of tip. I ignored him. I told him I wanted to pay maximum 150.000. And I just paid 150.000. So it was up to him to get his commission from the hotel, which, I am certain, he did get.

The next day, I checked out Da Nang a bit and met Truc. Truc is a Vietnames guy, living in Australia. With him I went to a poolcafé. His mother still lives in Vietnam and they were intending to buy the hotel. It was for sale.
The next day I went to Hoi An with the bus. The village is beautifull. Despite the fact that it was raining, and the street next to the river is flooded, it is still possible to make beautifull pictures. And, it is kind of funny to have pictures of people with 7 different colours of raincoat, in a half flooded street. Everywhere in Hoi An, people sell beautifull suits. It looked as very professional cut custom made clothing. I didnt buy. But I think India will be a good place to buy some nice suits.
That evening, I had a game of pool with Trúc and his girlfriend.

The next day, during the afternoon, I left to go to Hué. A famous city too. There is a palace of a previous president. I had lunch with Trúc and had a quick ride to Hué. Here, I checked in to a nice hotel and found one that offered 200.000 a night. I said I would stay 2 nights if he could make the price 300.000 all together. He agreed. The hotel had even a bad tub! Yes!
Here I found a restaurant, L'aubergine'. Where I went to very often. The food was very good and I had some good conversations with Hóng, the owner. Actually, not owner, but investment partner. And cook, and manager etc etc. She has lived in France and had a house near Paris, and owned a shop near Saigon. We had some interesting talks about Europe and Vietnam. Surprisingly, she wants to live in Europe. She is doing very good for Vietnamese standards, but she doesn't like the attitude and pollution here. Once, she and her husband borrowed money to a friend and this friend never gave it back. Now this friends expects them to give her a job. Insane.
Another person used to work in the restaurant and Hóng and her husband gave her more money than the average wage. They want that people can also have some more than just the basics and try to give a bit back to the people. What happens? This girl is 'sick' 2 days a week, 2 months sraight. So she gets fired, and doesnt understand why. Right...

In Hué I checked out the palace. It is nice, but definitely not beautifull. And the state is very bad. They are renovating it now, but it might be a bit too late for that now. Also, I went with another investor of the restaurant on the motorbike to the old garden and graveyard of the wifes of the former king. That place is truly beautifull. When we went back, he didn't want to take any money. He was happy to show around his village.

From Hué I took another flight to Hanoi. Since it was impossible to get passed Vinh, due to the floodings, a flight was nescessary to get up north. Luckily, the prices of flights are very reasonable. Da Lat- Da Nang was around 50 euro. Hué- Hanoi was around 60 euro. This flight I was lucky again, since I got a seat next to the emergency exit. This time, I could stretch my legs to the maximum and even have some space in between me and the seat before me.

I arrived in Hanoi and it was already 23.00. Taxidrivers offered me to ride me for 250.000 to the city. I knew 200.000 was the normal price, but I tried my luck. I talked to other tourists to see whether we could share a taxi. But they already booked a hotel and got a ride. So I asked the driver, whether I could book in his hotel. But he didn't understand. Then, there was a minivan, almost ready to leave, for 40.000. Bringing me to Hanoi.
So, middle of the night, no idea where in Hanoi I am. I walked to the nearest hotel, which was about 2 km. During the ride I kept on looking to see where there were hotels. I was obviously not in the touristic centre. This hotel had a room for 25 euro a night. Thanks an bye. Thats way too much.
I walked and got a ride to the centre. Only, by now it was 1.00 am and literally everything was closed. Even hotels were locked and the light was out. Shit, were to go. I met the occasional rat and made a small movie. It is quite interesting to walk around in the capital with nigh no one on the streets.

After a while I found a hotel. It was 300.000. I settled for it. But it turned out to be full. The guy was very helpful, but all other hotels he called were booked too. So I went out and walked around. Some children helped me finding a hotel and I checked in. I was surprised, because by now it was 1.30 am and these 12/13 years old children were still awake.

I checked out of the hotel because I wanted to find a cheaper place. Because, by now, I knew were in the city I was, I took a motorride to the centre. It took about 15 minutes to reach there. And all the way we passed along the aread I had walked during the night. We ended up at a small lake, that I actually passed the last night. I realised that I had walked about 8 km total with my 20 kg of luggage last night. Wow!

I looked first for a tour to get to the Halong Bay.That's why I ended up here. I didn't want to go the the smokey city of Hanoi.
Also, I liked to go to Sapa. Sapa is famous for its beautifull mountains.
After booking the tour, I looked for a hotel. Most of them were full or when they had place, it was 25 US dollar. Shit, so apparently 300.000 dong was not too bad. Hanoi turns out to be pretty expensive. Despite being ugly and smokey.
I checked in to a nice hotel, were I negotiated the price from 20 to 16 US dollar. 320.000 dong. Checked out the surrounding area and went to the water puppet show (2 us dollars), which was really interesting. Just before the show started and I had found my seat, I talked to this American couple that were both over 70 years old. Still, they were travelling around and having fun. Wow! That should be our future bonita!

I went to bed early and got up early to take the bus to Halong bay. A 3 days tour with 1 night on the boat and 1 night in a hotel on Cat Ba Island. By then, I didn't even know how to pronounce Cat Ba. And I had absolutely no idea what to expect. I just went with the tour to see Halong bay. But, before booking, I did ask the girl that if I would like the island, I could stay longer and use my return ticket later. That was no problem at all.

The road to Halong City was bumpy. Arriving at Halong City all tourist got out and it took almost 2 hours to sort out who went in which boat. Very unprofessional and inefficient. Then we went on the boat and the view is amazing! It's absolutely fabulous and beautifull. That night we slept in the boat. I shared the room with the guide. But he wanted to sleep in the dining room. So I had my room alone :).
The next morning we had some early kayaking and went to a floating city. Very interesting and beautifull.It took another 1 hour to split the group in the people who booked two nights and the people who booked 3 nights. So me, and some others had to change boats. Stupid and inefficient. On Halong City they asked everyone for the type of tour, but inefficient as they are, put a mix of the people on one boat. So half the people had to change boat..

Then, we arrived to beautifull Cat Ba island. After a walk in the 'national park' with 60 other tourists on one trail, we went with the bus to Cat Ba city and checked in to a hotel. I shared my room with an Austrian guy.
I went to the beach with him. But he was a bit strange though. Already when I had to change boats and came on the deck, all seats were taken, except for one. So I went there and read my book. There was one pair of jeans on it and went I wanted to lay in the sun, I asked, whether it was his. Yes, as is the seat. It was a very strange response. He became annoyed and I didn't want to make a problem. He became a bit more annoyed and I remember the exact line I gave (later some people told me my response was very good). Relax man, you're in a world heritage site. I went to the end of the boat and started making some pictures. A german guy came and I had a chat with him. He, by himself, said that this Austrian guy was a bit strange. He was laying next to the seat of this guy, on the wooden floor.
Later, I went with this guy to the front side of the deck. His girlfriend was there too. It turned out that this Austrian guy was already gone for over an hour, but did occupy the seat.

So, back to the story. This guy asked me to go to the beach. And since he was trying to be nice (I think he realised our bad start), I agreed. We took a boat and went to the beach. There, we had some soccer with locals. But really, here something really strange happened. This guy his swimming short would fall down half on his ass. And he knew and kept on playing. The locals laughed. Later, he started throwing mud at the girls (16/17 years). And he himself was probably about 35 years. He threw mud, or picked them up and put them in the sea. In holland people would call him pedophile. Anyway, he offered me a drink, which I refused. I tried to avoid him as much as possible now. In the evening, when I went to the hotel, I met some people talking and I joined the conversation. A couple from (I forgot) and a guy from India. We had some great conversations and the guy from India, Amit, had some amazing story about his youth in India. After some long and hilarious talks, I went to my hotel and I was very happy to see this Austrian guy asleep. The next morning he left and even gave his number, which went in the bin very guickly after he left.

I met up with Amit, who checked in to another hotel and also decided to stay a bit longer. On the beach we chilled out. Finally sun! No more cold, rain, clouds. Pure sunlight, very little number of rushy scooters, and a beautifull island in the Halong bay. Paradise! Actually paradise 2, because Koh Tao is still paradise 1. I would say the views of Cat Ba are more beautifull. But then, the underwater world of Koh Tao makes up for that. And the food on Koh Tao is a little better than on Cat Ba.

During our conversation I mentioned that I was in Egypt and I bought some souvenirs, among which, a chess set. Amit was very excited to hear this, and invited me for a game. Later that evening we found a good retaurant (and believe me, restaurants in Vietnam are not always good), and had a game of chess. A lot of people stopped and watched. We were very evenly matched. Amit won in the end. A great game.

I could get along very well with Amit and we decided to stay some extra nights on the island. The next morning we would rent a motorbike and explore the island. When having a beer next to the sea, a dutch girl invited herself (very Dutch, but I like the pro-activeness of that) in our conversation. Amit was talking about his youth in India. Here some absolutely great stories. Everyone that wants to hear the real story, the way he tells it, should meet Amit.

When Amit was younger, he went with a friend to a place 24 hours by train from Delhi. There was a very cheap accomodation and a national park. He went to the national park with his friend somewhere in the late afternoon and they let them in. But the sun would set around 5 pm. Amit and his friend thought it was a bit boring to walk over the roads, so they decided to walk in the woods. Slowly they went off the mountain and arrived in a valley with grassland. And it was gettimg dark. Since they lost their sence of direction and it was getting dark, they were getting a bit anxious. What to do? But luckily, there was an Indian armyflag up the hill in front. They decided that going back was no option, since they were lost. So getting to this army flag was the best solution. The mountain was very steep and they scratched their skin sometimes. When finally they were at the flag, they realised there was a fence which said 'danger, Panda'. They had no idea what was a panda. But they thought it was a bearlike animal that is very dangerous. There was fence with points and they needed to climb over this one, into Panda's area, over the next fence, to get to the army flag.
They realised there might be electricity on the fence and they were debating who should touch the fence, after trowing sticks and stones. No conclusion, so they hold hands and Amit touched the fence. No electricity, luckily. They made a plan how to get passed Panda. They gave themselves to minutes from passing the first fence, to reach the second and climb it.
Once up the first fence, they jumped off and surprisingly came down like tigers. No problems at all, while the grounds was actually very rocky. Now they were in Panda area, so they ran like crazy to the other fence. It turned out to be very steep, so it was more climbing, and scratching themselves evenm more. They reached the other fence and climbed over. Totally with blood they reached the army flag and camp. The militairies showed them the way back to the village.
It was around 21.00 when they arrived. They went back to their, very bad and very cheap place.
The story continues.
In India it is normal that when you invite someone for dinner, you pay. So Amit invited his friend sometimes and his friend invited him sometimes. And both of them thought that the other one had some money left. But it turned out not to be. And just before they left, they realised they very almost out of money. They needed to pay for the place to stay, and food etc. It was not enough. The 'hotel' was a place where they would beat the shit out of you if you don't pay, so they needed to have a plan. They ate in the most cheap and disgusting places to save money and needed to get out of the 'hotel' without paying. Since this big house had only one exit, which was locked by night, and the owner would sleep in front of it, there was no way of getting out there. So they decided on another plan. Their bus would leave at 6.00 am. At 3.00 they tied down 6 pairs of jeans on each other and made a rope. Slowly, they put down their luggage on the streets. First the friend went then Amit. But the jeans were tied to something in the room. They were able to get 2 jeans out and let the other 4 hang out of the window. They sneaked away and found a place to hide and got the bus to the train station. .It was still a 24 hours ride to their house by train. Luckily they had the return ticket. But they didn't have money anymore.
Amit has more of those stories. Another one I will tell later. It is really fun and amazing to hear those stories.

The next day, at 5.30 am I got up. With Amit and the Dutch girl, I went to the beach. We had Yoga on the beach. Amit used to do Yoga and he is incredibly good. He himself thinks he is not so good though. He could hold his head in his hands and then go upside down and stay balanced. Wow! After, we rented a motorbike with Amit, the Dutch girl and a Canadian (Quebec) girl. Except for Amit, none of us had ever rode a motorbike. But we were all doing very good. It was great to explore Cat Ba on a motorbike. And, I was learning something new! We had a great ride and on our way back, I was riding behind the Quebec girl and felt something was wrong. I asked her and when I looked, I noticed she had a flat tire. So we discussed what to do. I went ahead and called Amit and the Dutch girl and we went back. We called the motorrenting place, but we didn't know exactly were we were. So Amit went along finding a motorbike repair service. A guy came with Amit's motorbike and wanted to drive the motorbike to his shop. That was a few km. And we didn't allow him. The wheel would get totally fucked up. So he called his colleges and once they started working, within 20 minutes they fixed it. I was amazed. For me to fix a flat tire on my bike takes ages!
The guy asked 800.000 dong (32 euro). Way too much. So we called the shop (hotel) were we rented it and 200.000 should be enough. After some chatting, that was allright and we made our way safely back to the city.

The next day I hang out on the beach with Amit and we had a couple of chess games. Amit won most of them. But it is very interesting how the game went most of the time. For a long while, I have more pieces and am stronger. But somehow, Amit knows how to sneak trough and wins the game. Sometimes I even have 2 major pieces more, but Amit keeps on putting pressure on my king and thus, has control. One by one, he takes my pieces until he can make the final blow and make me Check mate. We had some really good games. The longest lasted for 2 hours and 10 minutes.

We had another great day on the motorbike, this time reaching speeds of 70 and occasionaly 80 km an hour. And the famous chess games continued. By now, the owner of our restaurant knew we were playing chess and would often watch. In total I won twice from Amit, and he won about 8 times. Most of the time, I would have the advantage for a long time and then give it away in the end. Amit told me that in the last 10 years he had played versus a lot of people, but he was never beaten. We are very much a challenge for each other. So we ended up having a lot of chess games, some beers next to the beach and good food in our favourite restaurant.

I already dropped the plan of going to Sapa. That would be a 16 hour ride from Cat Ba and back to Hanoi would be 10 hours. A waste of time. And Cat Ba was paradise. Amit was intending to go to Nimh Binh; a beautifull nature park. We decided first to stay some extra days on paradise island 2 and then make our way to Nimh Binh.

Posted by Aussierala 05:43 Archived in Vietnam Tagged rain rainforest boat beach walk cat backpack vietnam island sun hike hanoi motorbike chess ba smog nim binh. Comments (0)

Welcome to Vietnam

Rain, Storm, floodings and ..oink oink

storm 22 °C

8th of October.
Change of travel plan.
Yes, although a minor change. I found out that my Vietnames visa would be valid for only one month. That means if I would first travel in Cambodia for two weeks, I would only have 2 more weeks for Vietnam. I decided to go straight to Vietnam. And since I had to be back in Cambodia, Siem Reap, for my flight the second of december to KL, and after, Mumbai, I just changed the order. So first, Vietnam and after, back to Cambodia and see the rest.

Welcome to Vietnam.

In the morning I was ready to get to be picked up for the bus to Ho Chi Minh City (former Saigon). Around 6.00 I was awake and ready. Got my breakfast, was picked up and send to a place where the big bus would pick me up. A few days before, I paid 50 US dollars to send my passport to Pnomh Penh for a visa for Vietnam. It should have been ready last evening. But I still didn't have it back. All fine for me. Just I wouldn't get into the bus if I wouldn't have the passport and visa back. By now, I am quite relaxed with those things. As with waiting. I am adapting to the culture here. But I have to say in general, Asians are very stipt, helpful and friendly. That adds to my accomodation too. In most Arab countries, unfortunately, it is different. So therefore, my patience was limited. Just because they don't give a f*ck (luckily I met some good exceptions of very, very nice people. By now Hayes got married and even invited me and Lud for his marriage. But now I am talking about the general experience.). Asian people on the contrary, are unbelievable friendly.
I waited for 40 minutes, and the bus was supposed to be here. A bus came and I asked whether it was the bus to Phnomh Phenh (from there I would change to HCM.). I got a bit of a confused answer. The bus waited. 5 minutes later, this guy comes rushing in with his car..and my passport and visa. With a big smile and a well ment sorry. All was fine and I was able to go to my next adventure in Vietnam. A bus ride that would take 7 hours, so it was said...

After 4 hours we arrived in Phnomh Penh. My first impression is that it is a friendly town. It doesn't look at all like a capital. Old french baroc houses. Nice! We got dorpped off somewhere and I asked where to wait for the bus to HCM (I will call it Saigon now, because most Vietnamese still call it that). I showed my ticket, but it turned out that in the rush when my passport was brought back, the tour agency didn't write with which bus company I would travel and no time was written down. A call to the travel agency explained all. They would send a taxi to bring me to the bus stop. The taxi didn't show up and it was almost 14.00. The bus would leave at 14.00. 5 minutes before, the taxi arrived. But we didn't go to a bus stop. We ended up somewhere in a strange neighborhood. It turned out that the bus was actually going to Saigon from here. Just it was another bus. A local bus. It was great, because I was with the locals. I met some Vietnamese people and they invited me for dinner during the bus ride. They gave me food. Wow. I gave them some cookies and we enjoyed a lot. Late in the evening, 14 hours after we departed in Siem Reap, I arrived at Saigon. Most of the people got out somewhere in Saigon. The last few, including me, waited for the official stop. I got out and had absolutely no idea where I was. My vietnamese friends already left in a place, that, when passing by, in my opinion might have been the city centre. Here, now, no one spoke English. Absolutely no one. For me, two things are important when not knowing where I am in the evening.
First, find a place to sleep (essential :) ). Second, try to figure out where I am.
I walked to a hotel and asked for the price. They didn't really understand what I said, but I asked 'one night?' → Always keep sentences short and simple when you talk to someone who doesn't speak English. The guy wrote down $20. I was thinking, shit, that is going to be €15,-. a big gap in my daily budget. So I applied the Cambodian trick.'How many Dong?'. He pointed at a list with prices on the back of the counter. There it said, in plain English. $20 per night or 250.000 Dong. My calculation quickly found out that 250.000 dong is actually about 9 euro (1 euro is 27.000 dong. 1 US dollar is 19.000 dong). In other words, the exact same room would be just under €15 when paying in US dollar, or just a bit over €9,- when paying in Vietnamese Dong. I paid in Dong and took the room :).
Later I did the calculation. In US Dollar the price was €14,30 and in Dong it was €9,33. That's a huge difference by just swapping currencies.

The room was excellent. Hot water, two beds for total 3 persons, a television, airco and even a bath! Wow. I asked 'internet?'and the guy pointed at his own pc and made a circle with his hands and pointed at the pc. So obviously there was only internet on this computer that I couldn't use, because it was for the reception. That's alright.

I walked a bit to find food. And found a supermarket. Here, a guy did speak english. I was in Chinatown. I bought some chocolate and icecream. I really needed that. I am addicted to Chocolate, but in asia it is scarce and expensive. But sometimes, you just have to.
In my road to the supermarket I passed by some hotels and asked for a map. Most of them didn't have it. Or if they had, only showed the area around. Also, I passed by a place were they had ultra modern flat screen tv's and playstation 3 with games.

I went back to my room and took a take-away dinner. Happily avoiding the places where they served cerdo (pork) tongue, liver, kidneys or other stuff. Bleegh. They really love pork here. Oink oink. Cerdo, Cerdo ;). They celebrate the oink oink piggy porky pig here.
I started my netbook, put on music, opened the icecream and had my indulgent moment (not Haagen Dasz. It was a new Zealand icecream). I heard the water flush above my head and suddenly drops came from the rooftop. Hmm. There was a leak. Shit.

In the meantime, I found out that there actually was internet in the hotel, so I could use it :). While eating ice cream, I was thinking how to get back from Hanoi to Siem Reap. Knowing that Siem Reap-Saigon took me 14 hours, imagine Hanoi-Siem Reap. 3 days? 4 days? While in the bus I already decided to look for a flight back. Since a while I also decided to drop Laos. It is a bit difficult to get in; the famous 'busses from hell' as Lonely Planet decribes them. And, when I get in, I have to get out. I just don't feel like rushing and stressing out just to get to Laos.
So, I looked for a flight Hanoi-Siem Reap. Hanoi-Pnomh Penh. Or anything close. Airasia offered Hanoi-Bkk for 86 US Dollar (aprrox; 53 euro) on the 22nd of november. Excellent! I could spend just over 3 weeks in Vietnam, slowly going up north. After, go to BKK, take a bus to Pnomh Penh and have more than a week to go to Battangbong, Sihanoukville an back to Siem Reap for my flight.
The creditcard quicly did the work for me and it was time to notify that I had a leak in the roof.

The guy went up with me and showed me another room. Unfortunately without a bath, bus still a very good one. I changed room, had a great hot shower, music of Michael Jackson and the New Zealand icecream. Life is great :)

29th of october:
Today it was time to go to the famous war museum. On internet I found some things to do in Saigon (that's why internet is so usefull). Also, I wrote down the adress of the hotel in Google maps and found out exactly where I was. Yes, confirmation, Chinatown. I wrote in Vietnamese the places were I liked to go, walked out of the hotel, to a mobile shop, bought a Vietnamese SIM card (they luckily spoke English) and took a motorbike taxi to the War museum...which was closed today. I went to the national museum close by. That was a moderate museum. But then, the entrance fee was €0,20. I took some great streetfood (french bread with egg and good spices) and this guy, told me in English (yes, I am in the centre now where people speak English) that there is another war museum. I went there with a motortaxi. The guy didn't speak English, but my list with the vietnamese names turned out to be very usefull.
The museum: America should be ashamed, deeply ashamed for what they had done here.
First of all, what has America got to do in Vietnam? Yes, they helped the french.Then, why are the French in Vietnam?
In the museum you see the forsfor grenades that the americans used. Agent Orange to completely kill entire forests, poison absolutely all drinking water, extinquish the people and kill the wildlife. Cluster bombs. Not intended to kill, but to injure. Bombs that shoot shells all around, still killing people at the moment. Some bombs are still in the rice fields waiting to be exploded.

Pictures of the people born in the 1980's. With tiny legs, faces that are not fully grown due to the agent orange poison. The Americans used chemicals that with 8 grams can whipe out a city of millions of people. Later, a lot of American soldiers got the same symptons are the people in Viet Nam still suffer. I am now thinking about Mel, from my rooftop room in BKK. He fought here. And he would never go back to Saigon. He never forgets what he has seen and done there. I think he is volunteering to teach English in BKK now, to make up for what happened in Saigon.
People with misgrown faces, arms, aliens. Literally. That is what the US has done to Vietnam by using chemicals. All prohibited by the rules of engagement.
And now..Afghanistan? And Irak (mass destruction weapons). Right, who in the world has mass destruction weapons? Isn't that the US with Nuclear bombs, chemicals and other shit?

On another floor there are posters and pictures of protests. All over the world, people were protesting against this was (1960s'). Even in Amsterdam. That must be strange 15/20 years after America freed Holland from the Germans. Even some Americans went to the consulate in Washington, dripped themselves in oil and burned themselves. To show what the US did in Vietnam.
This museum is a must see for everyone coming to Vietnam. It shows cruels, but reality and in my opinion it is always better to show reality than keep on faking. Be honest with each other with the good things, but also be honest about the bad things that happened.

After I went with my driver to the Ben Tranh market. Interesting, but not so special. I just wanted to see it. He didn't speak English, but he brought a flyer of the Cu Chi tunnels. Those are the tunnels that the Viet Cong digged in about 200 km of landscape. From here they attacked the Americans and French, including the south Vietnamese that fought with the Americans and French.

At the Ben Tranh market, another driver helped my driver to translate. We got a deal. For 250.000 dong, tomorrow my driver would bring me with his motorbike to Cu Chi and a bit of Saigon. That's about 9 euro. Cu Chi is 60 km one way. He would pick me up at 9.30.
He dropped me off at my hotel and I went for a dinner. A grilled chicken. After, I walked around and ended up at this hypermodern playstation 3 place and played for two hours, also one match with a Vietnames, Pro Evolution Soccer 2011. Yes! First a few times the world cup final: Netherlands-Spain. Every time a draw, 0-0.
After, Netherlands-Argentina. Unfortunately Holland lost. But Wesley Sneijder missed a penalty.

After the gaming, I was hungry again and went for a take-away meal. Rice with Chicken. A bit later I was on Skype with my girlfriend. The chicken didn't taste particulary good. She suggested it might have been Rat. Thanks for destroying my appetite bonita:).

30th of october;
at 9.30 I was ready to go to Cu Chi. My driver was in front of the hotel. On our way, I bought some food. And I offered him also something. On the motorbike we went, out of Saigon. But not before we passed by a windmill. I was a bit surprised. But I remembered reading a blog yesterday evening of Dutch people in Saigon. They had been to Dutch square. Well, this is were I was at the moment. Holland in Saigon. How good. The soccer team-not real- with which I made a picture. Flowers, Amsterdam houses. And after 15.00 you could order patat, kroket and frikandel. It was really cool. It celebrates the relationship that Holland and Vietnam have. I didn't see the queen or prince or princess. Not even a picture. That surprised me a bit. The Vientamese had the most fun, looking like the nightwatch (nachtwacht), seeing all those flowers, or making a picture in a sailing boat. Or with the Dutch soccer team. I even became a bit famous, because several times I was asked to be on the picture. This also happened yesterday in the war museum (war remnant museum). For them, I am the exotic one.
We went on, on the motorbike, to Cu Chi. The driver had to ask the direction several times. After a long, but fun ride, we arrived at Cu Chi. His name is Sum, that's all we could talk, for he did only speak vietnamese. No English or French. But, we had a lot of fun. Cu Chi was very interesting. The tunnels are very small and imagine the Viet Cong living there while the Americans threw their cluster bombs and other shit. The Viet Cong on their turn made booby traps. Sharp bamboo sticks hidden under a instable wooden floor. Living under the ground, having hospitals, dining rooms, training rooms and more. In the meantime, the americans threw their millions of clusterbombs and other shit down on Viet Nam. You might ask, why am I so negative about the US? Well, in general I am neutral towards the US. But in this respect I think the US should have not mingled in this. This is Viet Nam, not the USA.
After the very interesting tour around Cu Chi, we went back. A long ride brought us back to Saigon. I have seen over 10 thousands of motorbikes. Maybe even over 100.000. It is crazy. Surprisingly, very little number of accidents occur. It's like a giant ant hole. And the only thing you hear is the claxon. Really tiresome. I would not be able to live here. Too much noise and smoke. I even bought an air filter against the toxic air.
First we had a stop at a travel agency where I bought a ticket to Da Lat. First price: 15 US dollar. I with a surprised face (faking a bit), knowing that the price should be around 8 US dollar. I got it for 10 US dollar. Ok. Then, back to the hotel. Some dinner and a great shower. A talk on skype with my parents and girlfriend. And later, watching almost the whole documentary of 'this is it' by Michael Jackson. If MJ would have been able to really show this perormance to the world, it would have been one of the best concerts ever. See it, and you know what I mean. The dancers, light, special effects, are all incredible.

Posted by Aussierala 07:59 Archived in Vietnam Tagged rain vietnam saigon chi ho minh Comments (0)

UNESCO world heritage Angkor

Indiana Jones, Tomb Raider, Loco and Gato

sunny 26 °C

24th until 28th of october
On the 24th of october it was time to explore magnificant Angkor. Angkor, the most famous heritage site of South East Asia. Build by the Khmer when their reign stretched along current Vietnam, Thailand, Laos and Cambodia.
I decided to buy a three days pass. My travel companions decided for one day. First we visited Angkor Wat. The most famous and biggest one. It is like you are walking into an ancient dream when you enter this site. To my surprise there were not so many tourist, despite the fact that it was around noon. We visited Angkor and spend almost 2 hours. There were parts of Angkor were we were literally alone and could hear our feet on the grass or stone. Wonderfull to experience Angkor like this. After, we had lunch. And as quiet and peacefull Angkor Wat is, so suddenly you are pushed into another world once you head towards the restaurants. There is a 'hidden' line until were the salespeople can follow you. Behind, you are at peace. I think a very good solution. And although, people are following you and trying to sell postcards, t-shirts (cheap cheap, 1 dollar), books (one dollar), water (1 dollar) etc etc. Everything here is one US dollar...they sell it with respect. When you say 'no' they might try just a little more. But when it is obvious you are not interested, they let you at peace. Also, when you talk to one of them, the rest keeps a respectfull distance and let the talk or negotiating go on. Only after you are finished, the rest will start. Wow, they both respect each other, as the tourist. And I really believe that that is the best way to do business. It is true that when you arrive, you are a bit overwhelmed. But yes, they are trying to sell and it's a touristic area. But all is done with a lot of respect. Wow, they gain my respect for this.

After a great dinner, we continued to Angkor Thom. Angkor Thom actually consists of more temples close to each other, surrounded by a big wall with 4 entrances. Another beautifull place. The last for todays' visit was Ta Prohm. Ta Prohm is one of the most famous temples. This one is overgrown by the rainforest. One film of Indiana Jones was shot here. Tomb Raider is another one. And I can think of another one that is not so famous: two brothers. A movie from the 90s about two baby tigers that grow up in Angkor. A beautifull movie that never gained the value that (in
my opinion) it should have. A french-english movie.
Angkor Thom indeed lends itself for great pictures and I definitely agree that it is a great site for movies. The downside though is that due to its fame, so many tourist go there, that it is difficult to enjoy this temple for its true beauty. The famous place were is the entrance overgrown by a giant tree, is surrounded by wires and wood to make it a good picture place and prevent you from ruining the site (understandable). But therefore, you can never make an authentic shot of Angkor. In the evening we had dinner in an Indian restaurant with great food. The next day the Swedish left to go to Battangbang.

The next morning I was getting ready to go to Angkor again, two girls from Canada were also readying to go. So we decided to go together. We shared the TukTuk and since they were also on there second day, they also, like me, wanted to do the 'red' tour. Which means, the big tour around the lesser known temples. We started with Sras Srang. Although I never seen Indiana Jones, I have seen some trailers. And I have the feeling that Indiana Jones was (also) shot here. The temple was virtually empy. I guess in total, including us, there were 15 people in a mid size temple. That was really good! We started making some pictures and the girls did some funny pictures. Then I made some pictures for them where Sara would sneak up from behind to Sue as if to attack her. It started with some simple, funny pictures, but they ended up more and more elaborated. One with Sara with my Egyptian scarf and Sue with her umbrella trying to protect from the high kick,. Then some pictures of Gato. Gato that I got from my sweet girlfriend. Gato next to the line of tigers on the temple. We praying to Gato, as if Gato is a god. All with Angkor Sras Sramg. And later Pre Rup on the background. Sara and me being statues in front of the door; Sue praying to us, the statues. The pictures started to be more rediculous. We running screaming out of a temple, as if a monster (or round boulder as from the movie) was behind us. Doing flying kicks.. and the most rediculous, but on the line of being respectfull (it is a temple after all), shows three windows (all still Angkor as décor) with us being like hoes and a male hoe (me). But in between those pictures we also made the more 'normal' pictures. After all, Angkor is a beautifull place.
In the evening the tuktuk brought us to a place were, according to the driver, the sunset was very good. Honestly, I was a bit dissapointed. Indeed, it is a lookout point. But if you see hundreds of people climbing the same rocks as you, it is not so much fun anymore.
In the evening we went for dinner and I had a cashew nut shake. It's very good. Not refreshing, but interesting to try once.
Just before I left Thailand, I took out 12.000 baht (300 euro). A lot. Why? Because I heard that in Cambodia it is best to pay with US dollars or Bath. Since I don't have dollars, I thought it would be wise to take enough Bath. Another reason is that in Laos, they like your dollars or baht. And getting money in Laos is almost impossible. And if you can take it, you can only take small amounts. Thus, the bank in Europe gains a lot of commission every time you go to an ATM.

very quick I found out the next:
Real exchange rates (end of october 2010)
1 euro = 6600 Cambodian real
1 euro = 40 Thai Baht
1 euro = 1,39 US Dollar.

1 US dollar = 4600 cambodian real
1 US dollar = 30 Thai Baht.
1 US dollar = 0,72 euro
Luckily, I am good with numbers and exchange rates, because you really get ripped off if you don't pay attention.

In the hostel:
40 bath (if I pay that to them) represents 1 US dollar.
→ Actually I am giving them 1,39 US dollar if I do this. 40% extra.

4000 dong = 1 us dollar. No, 4600 dong is one US dollar. They pay me back the change in Dong when I pay in US dollar. 15% extra.

In Angkor to pay for the entrance:
entrance fee = 20 US dollars per day, or 40 for 3 days.
If I pay in Baht, the exchange rate is 33 bath= 1 US dollar. A 10% increase.

Well, the examples keep on going. So I decided to take US dollars, which to my surprise you can just take from the ATM here. The first time in my life I actually own US dollars.

The Canadian girls were heading towards Thailand in 1 week. They had a lot of US dollars left, which they couln't use in Thailand. I had a lot of Thai Bath left, which would loose around 20%-30% if I would use them now. My idea was just to keep them until I would be back in Thailand (febr 2011).
But luckily we could help each other out. They gave me 300 US dollars. I gave them 9000 baht. Well, a little more, because the exchange rate was a little bit more than 30 baht for 1 US dollar.
Good, so instead of carrying a lot of bath, I am now carrying a lot of US dollars. But luckily, I have some Bath left and some Dong. So whatever they ask, I can most often pay in that currency and not have the hassle of getting an inflated or deflated exchange rate. Really, here they make most of the margins just by converting from Dong to Dollar, Dollar to Bath, etc. It could make them 30% profit. Wow, I would never be able to do that with the normal FOREX.

26th of october.
Today I took a day of rest. I slept until 11.30 and after two days in the blistering sun in the temples, I really needed to relax a bit. So today, most of the day, I slept, watched a movie, updated some friends and family on my travel plans and got a very sweet message from my girlfriend.

27th of october. Last day Angkor.
Today I rented a bike. 1 US dollar per day, paid in US dollar. I biked towards Angkor, which was 15 km away. Siem Reap does not have too much traffic and it is fun to go by bike. Though, I wouldn't like to bike here too often. The toxic gasses from the cars and busses is crazy. A lot of people wear air filters.

Today it was just Gato and me on theIn total the red circle is about 40 km. But we managed :). We spend a little bit of time in Bayon. And quite a lot of time in Preah Khan. Preah Khan is definitely my favourite temple for several reasons. It is one of the few temples in which you can wander for a while and get to feel how it used to be, but where the nature has literally taken over. Also, very little tourists show themselves around. So gato and I had a lot of fun exploring this temple. We could slowly see all. Most other temples don't have the nature anymore. It has been cut away to preserve the buildings of Angkor. And famous Ta Prohm does have the nature, but is more touristy. Still not mass tourism ( I was surprised), but too many to just walk around daydreaming.
All temples do have their own style and are worth visiting. Once you have been in Angkor 3 days, you will start going back to the same temples again and see all in more detail. So did I. And Gato and I took a lot of time in Preah Khan. After, we went to Neak Pean, Ta Som and East Mebon. East Mebon is also one of the less known temples that I really like. Then we went to Sras Srang and Banteay Kdei, but it was already getting dark. So it was me who had to bike for 10 kilometres to get us to Angkor Wat just when sunset was almost over. Gato confortably waiting on the back of the bik for our arrival. We arrived a bit late at Angkor Wat. Sunset was getting over almost and a lot of people were already returning. Also, the battery of my camera was almost flat. Just 3 pictures (not the best, unfortunately), finished this beautifull Angkor day. Then, from Angkor about 15 km back to Siem Reap. In the dark. My first trick was to bike very quick and so quick that I could have the same speed as the tuktuks. Thus, not being an obstacle for the rest of the traffic. And..the bike didn't have lights. Later, the tuktuks turned right. Gato and I continued with the curve of the road and turned right later. Less traffic. Then for a while next to the cars. I actually at some moments took over a car. Well, only because there was some bikers or tuktuks keeping the traffic slow. In the end I was surprised, because I found the hostel immediately. I asked once just to be sure and the guy confirmed that it was close. 100 metres, indeed. Wow, my navigation skills are improving.

28th of October.
Change of travel plan.
Yes, although a minor change. I found out that my Vietnames visa would be valid for only one month. That means if I would first travel in Cambodia for two weeks, I would only have 2 more weeks for Vietnam. I decided to go straight to Vietnam. And since I had to be back in Cambodia, Siem Reap, for my flight the second of december to KL, and after, Mumbai, I just changed the order. So first, Vietnam and after, back to Cambodia and see the rest.

Posted by Aussierala 07:56 Archived in Cambodia Tagged cambodia angkor ta wat thom prom Comments (0)

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