Cambodia to Vietnam

Trip Start Mar 12, 2010
Trip End Sep 17, 2010

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Friday, August 20, 2010

Our trip to Vietnam was delayed by a couple of days as we did not realise that we required Visas prior entering Vietnam. We thought that 'Visa on Arrival' meant that we could get them at the airport when we arrived in Hanoi.  This was not the case.  So we forewent our airfares and travelled from Bangkok to the Cambodian border by bus - yes another dodgy bus.  When will we stop been ripped off by bus companies.  I bought the ticket this time as Paul refused after the Chiang Mai trip and the man pointed to this beautiful bus that was supposedly leaving at 1pm.  I pointed and said "that new white bus" and nice older Indian man said "yes, that white bus!"  But at 1pm an old bus turned up, though we were standing outside the nice new bus ready to board and were wondering what the delay was, We had our bags beside it ready to embark when the driver of the other bus came over and said, ‘wrong bus – you get on this one!’ and indicator the older bus.  How disappointing and ripped off did I feel, much to Paul's delight! (he bought the last dodgy tickets)  

The trip to the Thai/Cambodian border which was uneventful until we reached the Cambodian border control for whom we had prepared $20 US crisp notes x 4 for each passport.  After filling in the appropriate forms we went to the window to pay and submit our passports for stamping and it was suggested that another 100 000 baht would be appropriate.  We knew that it is only $20 US as we have entered Cambodia previously, so Paul pointed to his occupation and said ‘No!’ and all mention of extra money was forgotten!  We became instant friends and had a chat and Paul had his photo with them which is his mission in every country we visit!  

We then hired a taxi for US $35 dollars to Siem Reap which was uneventful though scary until we got to the outskirts and our taxi driver wanted us to get out and catch a tuk tuk to the hotel though we had agreed initially to be dropped at our accommodation.  We weren't aware that he wanted us to get out until we asked him why we had stopped.  He merely said "tuk tuk" and looked the other way.  I told him that he would take us directly to the hotel or he would not get paid just as an English speaking tuk tuk driver sauntered over -  that he had called on his mobile while driving into Siem Reap .  This really annoyed us and when Paul mfinally got out of the car he tole=d the other driver to rack off and we were adamant that he take us to our hotel as agreed at the beginning of the journey.  After arriving at hotel this same taxi driver had the gall to ask Paul via english speaking hotel staff if we required his services the next day!.  Consequently he was told that he could just . . .  "NO his services were not required"!!!!

We visited with our friends  and Wendy from SALT orphanage the next day and caught up with some of the kids. Many had left for school holidays. I was asked if I would like to help immunise 140 kids the next day which Paul agreed would be a great idea – NICE!.  Sunday, myself with a Asian doctor with 4 - 10cm hairs growing from a mole on his face immunised 140 kids in two hours.   Only a few little babies cried, all the others were very brave - I was impressed.  They all stood watching and waiting for their turn which would psych most people out. It was like a spectator sport with the kids lining the window and cheering the others on – maybe sussing out which person inflicted the least pain for their turn!

August 23rd saw us on another "dodgey" bus to Phnom Penh, which really isn't that far but took all day and was another experience.  We did notice that the tuk tuk drivers are not as pushy as in Siem Reap but they do have annoying sellers of sunglasses stuck on boards and roving book sellers which were a new experience and one that continues into Vietnam. I guess that at least they are trying to make a legitimate living rather than just begging though at times it appears the same.  They like to come into the restaurant your eating in and try and get you to buy their sunglasses.  Avoid eye contact and say "No", do not touch them or look directly at them or you will have a difficult time getting rid of them. Paul is way too curious and has a target painted in his eyes!  

Once arriving we caught a tuk tuk to our hotel which was 10 mins out of town - oops!  Nice pool, but too far for going in and out all the time but couldn't change booking as we had booked online.  So we stayed and swam in the pool, tuks tuks into town and after 3 nights repositioned in town.  We visited a number of places in Phnom Penh, the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda, the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek and of course the boys sent out to the rifle range and used an M1 - they blew the watermelon to bits and our budget too. It would appear that the prices are now fixed and 30 bullets each cost $50 US dollars.  Expensive I thought as it didn't take very long but the boys were pretty stoked hitting the watermelons we bought on the way out - they do look impressive been shot and exploding!

26th August caught a bus (Mekong Express) to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon to the locals who do not acknowledge communisms hold) where we were met by the local guesthouse owner who wanted us to stay in his place.  We agreed on $20 US a night for a room with a/c, supposedly wifi but the lines were down and satellite t.v.  We visited the Remnants Museum which has graphic pictures and is quite biased as to allied forces and the damage in war.  One needs to have an open mind and remember the perspective from which the war is told.  There are never winners in war and this is reinforced everywhere we go that has experienced it. We went to the Old Palace which was interesting and we had to stay longer than planned as it was pouring with rain outside so we just chilled for a little before catching a taxi to our guesthouse.  Found a nice coffee/ food shop opposite where the bus pulls in, called The Pearl which was air conditioned, had great food and coffee and a clean toilet and best yet it had a guard out the front and closed doors which meant no hawkers could pester you whilst you ate - always more enjoyable. Phom was a great waiter and very helpful.

29th August we visited the Chui Chui Tunnels which was on a little coaster bus tour.  It stopped at a disadvantaged workshop before heading out to the tunnels.  Our guide, Mr Bean, was very interesting and told both sides of the story for us as he was with the American Allied forces fighting the Viet Cong.s(guerillas).  The tunnels and their story were amazing.  How they fitted in the tunnels and lived by day and came out at night when the US forces would head home so they didn't get bittten by mosquitos and catch malaria.  They would bathe and shit in the river which ran directly to the US bases.  Nice hey?  Karlie was the first brave person and the smallest to try fitting down the little opening to the tunnel then Paul and Daniel.  They all fitted!  We also ventured down into a 120 m tunnel for tourists.  I lasted to about half way but it was very small and you couldn't hunch over but I had to scrape along with my feet underneath me like a duck!  I took the little escape route half way and just as well as I am told by the rest of the family who made it to the end that it narrowed considerably and they had trouble getting through a small space even deeper still!  I get Chaustrophotbic - it's amazing but  true!

30th August we caught a bus (again not the company we thought we had purchased an open ticket for, word of advice - make them give you the ticket once purchased, not before you board the bus in the morning before you go!)  this time to Muine a coastal town.  It was so nice to see the beach again and have a cooling breeze and swim in the surf and nice little pool which looked out over the ocean.  The bike taxi drivers gave us good information on the hotel. We spent a few days just chilling and did do a tour in a jeep for an afternoon which took us to some red gorge, a natural spring, and a fishing village as well as some white sand dunes for $20 US. We got blown to bits off the sand dunes and our pieces of plastic that we "hired" off the kids didn't work so well down the dunes. Paul dived over and went head first then face planted and did a flip!! Nice! I told him he was not getting any younger! Maybe we should have payed the kids to show us the best place to go down and the technique but we didn't!

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