Jonathan arrives!!-Jonathan entry

Trip Start Aug 21, 2005
Trip End Jun 08, 2006

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Wednesday, November 2, 2005

FROM JONATHAN 11/17/2005

Greetings everyone!

We have made it safely and sucessfully to Vietnam. It was quite a bus trip with little a/c for the trip from Phnom Penh, but we survived... barely. The roads weren't exactly, lets say, smooth. And our seats were right over the rear wheels making our ride more like a roller coaster (we literally left our seats a few times). Anyway, I'll do my best to recap Cambodia and then give a quick update on our newest leg, Vietnam.

For those of you who don't know, I (Jonathan) left on Oct. 31st from LAX and flew for over 24 hours. I think the final count was 26 hours, but I'm not 100% sure. My flights were as follows: LA to Taiwan to Bangkok to Siem Reap (Cambodia). All in all, they went pretty smoothly. the 1st flight was 14 hours straight and i sat in the last seat on the plane. not to mention i initially checked in at the wrong airlines (Air China instead of china airways.... who knew). a BIG thanks goes out to leah v who drove me up to LA and helped me get on the right flight!! once on the flight, i did what any westerner does: eat the dinner, drink the wine, and watch on demand movies for 10 hours. i tried my best to sleep, but it was tough in those tiny seats. i managed about 4 hours of sleep total. i arrived in taiwan at 5am local time and was able to watch a sunrise over the taipei mountians from the airport window... oh well. i had another smooth flight to thailand (4 hours) with food and movies, and some sleep. then a brief stay in bangkok where i bought a the divinci code in softback for like $6.00. the next flight was the more interesting of the 1st 2. it was on a prop plane from bangkok to siem reap. before boarding i inquired about my luggage (1 backpack) and they promised it would transfer from china airways to thailand airways. and they confirmed it w/me before we left. of course, after the 1 hour commute to siem reap... no bag in cambodia. i was quite bummed. we had brought some medical supplies and gifts for the missionaries kc was staying with, and i had NO clean clothes after flying for 26 hours plus. i arrived in cambodia at 4pm local time. talk about jet lag. i had no idea if i should be awake or asleep... thankfully, my bag arrived the next morning and the airline dropped it off at our hotel, Palm Village.

so, that's how my trip started. cambodia is a tropical paradise... if you like hot/humid weather, dirt roads w/pot holes, mosquitos, hagglers/beggers, and not much relief. it has to be the poorest country i've ever visited to date and it is the ONLY Kingdom i've ever visited. they have a very long and difficult history and kc and i were able to explore it. we spent about 2 weeks here. it was a challenging start, even having contacts in phnom penh. we toured around siem reap for 5 days. not a whole to do except see the Angor Wat Temples via moto, tuk-tuk, car, or bus. we opted for a local tuk-tuk driver to be our guide and transport. the 2 main things to do while visiting the vast temples is to catch a sunrise and sunset at Angor Wat itself. of course, in trying to achieve the 2 things to do... it rained. we got rained out of 2 sunsets and 1 sunrise. oh well. besides riding in a tuk-tuk for 5 hours at a time, we ate some great food for good prices. thanks to all who provided some suggestions. our favorite in siem reap was the fresh pineapple you could buy on the street. kc's favorite food of choice: massages. if she had to decide between food and a massage, well she would choose a massage. we did sign up for 2 massages while there. the 1st at our hotel, it wasn't the best, in fact it was a little disappointing. the poor massage girls were sweating up a storm and we kept asking for them to press harder. the next massage was khmer style. they did a lot more pressure points w/much more force, to the point of pain at times. both didn't leave me feeling any better or relaxed. oh well. you win some you lose some. after 5 days we decided to book a bus to phnom penh. a mere 6 hours by bus, again w/little a/c. they do show movies, just not in english. and for some odd reason they show karoke videos, but no one sings... odd. we basically drained our i-pod batteries, slept, and i tried to make sense of the foreign movies.

phnom penh i thought would be a lot more modern than siem reap (siem reap was mostly dirt roads and quite primative). unfortunately, phnom was not much more modernized. there were still plenty of pot holed dirt roads and TONS of more people. we rode motodups (motobikes) everywhere. there are not many cars. and there are no traffic laws. just go & don't hit someone else. if you do, just keep going. it is crazy!!! everything is dirt cheap. anything and everything can be bought at the major markets which are outdoor and run by the locals from 10 years old to 70 years old, men and women. they open at 5 or 6 am (sunrise) and close at 5pm sharp. we found out that the khmer people get a different price than "westerners". and you have to bargain for everything. it's a cultural thing. basically take the price they give you and cut in half. even for moto rides. quite an experience. everything you buy has a negotiation. it's exhausting. kc did a superb job, though. the family she stayed with gave her some good direction and we even went shopping with some local khmer people which REALLY helped us out in getting good deals. i am very thankful kc was there to help get us by, everywhere.

after a few challenging days in the big city, i was ready for the beach. sinhanoukville!! it was about a 5 hr bus ride south. beautiful white sand beaches, clear/warm carribean-esque water, tropical meals/fruit/desserts. very relaxing and a welcome change from the touristy siem reap and crowded streets of phnom. we stayed in a little bungalow a few blocks from the beach, at late breakfasts (pineapple shakes!!), early dinners, took in a sunset, read our books, took naps, went for a swim, worked on our tans, and ate at a place called the snake house (you actually eat w/snakes and other creepy animals). we enjoyed it immensely and were sad to leave.

we spent a few more days in phnom and then headed to vietnam. another long, bumpy, hot bus ride. once at the border we had to wait about 60 mins to get checked thru and pay $1.00 to cross (we already paid $30.00 for the visas). they checked our documents a minimum of 4x, but never checked our backpacks. from there another 2 hour bus ride to ho chi minh city. we had reservations at hotel, but didn't know where the place - we only had an email address and no physical address. and we did not get dropped off at the bus stop, just some random street. we didn't know which one. we walked around, both sweating and delirious from our ride, hoping a tourist agency would know where it was at. they let us use their internet to find the address. ironically, we walked outside and they pointed us in the right direction... it was right next door. God does have a sense of humor. since we were dripping w/sweat and exhausted we opted for a room w/ a/c. it was well worth it.

ho chi minh city is much more modernized than cambodia and we will touring around the next few days. we visited their vietnam war museum today - it had quite the one sided story to tell. very hard to read it all. we could only hope most of the visitors have an open mind to what they saw and read about the US and their allies. it didn't paint the US in a very good light for the war. i kept reminding myself there are 2 sides to every story. it was my 1st encounter with communist propaganda (or their war truths). very interesting. very sad. very informative. tomorrow we will visit the cu chi tunnels and a caoism temple. then we will take a 2 day tour of the mekong delta, boating and all. we are planning to travel northbound thru vietnam and relax on the beaches along the way before reaching da nang where we will then fly to hanoi and spend a week or so there. after vietnam, we will travel thru laos, then india via bangkok.

i'll try and keep the updates more brief. it's been awhile since i've written. also, our website is now updated w/pix from cambodia. hope you enjoy. we would post more, but it takes FOREVER to upload them. hope everyone is well. keep in touch. until next time...

stay casual.
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