End of Nam ...& a good start to an amazing country

Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
Trip End Jun 12, 2009

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Sunday, November 30, 2008

We arrived in Nha Trang...

What did we do.... nothing more than spend time on the beach (not the best beach...super choppy waves that chuck ya into the sand ...but a little fun pretending to be stuck in a washing machine for 5 mins), Also found a bar where if you spent 1 quid on a bottle of water you could hang out all day  in the sun and use their pool...so thats pretty much what we did.  On the night we tried lots of different resteraunts... mainly eating western food as Vietnamese food hasn't been all that great ... its nice, but after a while you get a little bored with the plain flavors.  And of course we also went to the few locations where you can drink and dance... Nha Trang was kind of like spain, or somewhere similar....really touristy, just full of clubs, bars and resteraunts.  It was fun for a few days but i was happy to move on.... the only incident being my walk home one night from a bar at about 2:00 in the morning.... i was with Tom and Zo but somehow i was surrounded by a couple of prostitutes grabbing at me, and within the 10 seconds it took me to wriggle free and push them away one of them had removed my wallet, removed the cash and put the wallet back in my pocket!  Obviously i didn't realise until the morning) ...thought that was pretty efficient of them....Bastardos!  Id even read the warning in the Lonely planet about thieving street girls..Stupid.

After all the usual we were back on the bus and this time heading to Mui Ne.... we spent a great 5 days there.  Mui Ne is a very popular holiday destination for rich Russians (a lot of the signs are in Russian) so a lot of the prices are higher than you expect to pay anywhere else in Vietnam.... Nonetheless we managed to find beach bungalows, 2 mins walk from the beach and 2 mins walk from resteraunts etc...for the amazing price of $8 between two people....loverly....So a sandy, non air conditioned, cold water beach bungalow has been our home for just under a week and i have loved it.  The days have been spent with breakfast at a beach view restaurant, swimming in the sea, lying on the beach, and general relaxing.

We did take a day trip one day to visit the sand dunes and "fairy stream".  And i have also had a surf lesson of Tom Mills...and i bloody love it, will try and do more surfing on the rest of the trip if the opportunity arises!  I managed to stand up within half an hour of being on the board...which i was really proud of, tom assures me it is an easy board and the waves were perfect for beginners (He did say he was slightly impressed though :-P).  On the day trip we rented motorbikes... Tom shared a bike with Roxy a Kiwi we have been traveling with for a while, me and Zo were gonna share but agreed that we prefer having our own.  My bike was pretty speedy (only had one wing mirror) but still i enjoyed riding it....prob the most fun i have had on a bike yet.  We cruised along a coastal road in the hot sun, passing fishing areas, and gorgeous blue coastline... eventually arriving at our first destination, the yellow sand dunes.  On arrival you get surrounded by kids and ya pick ya favorite one to guide you... there ruthless little buggers and will try charging you a fiver for a go on their sand sled...along with instructions, guidance on the best sledding spots, and a push when ya set off.  I picked a kid who seemed to be the leader of the pack and when we got to the top of the hill he almost walked back down with the boards because we couldn't agree a price.... we settled on 30p  he wasn't to happy dropping from 5 quid to that but there will be other tourists who will pay his high price.  It was ok...had a couple of slides, got sweaty, sand stuck to every part of my body, and in my mouth, had another couple of slides and then set off on our bikes again.

There was one worrying incident for a second when setting off... as Zoe did the classic "you've been framed" shoot of in first gear holding on to the accelerator jobby and zoomed across 2 shopfronts eventually wrestling free and falling over.....she escaped with a bruise and a small cut and off we set (I was super bloody worried when i seen her whizz off at full revs from the corner of my eye) .  Our next stop "Fairy stream"  ... It was a stream running through sand dunes.... you wade up the stream, you climb the sand dunes, you get to a waterfall, you wade back down the stream past cows.  Loverly :)    We then headed back to town and relaxed a little more.

*** Thoughts*** 
I was thinking last night that at the moment my three hardest decisions during the day a re 1. What to do during the day 2. Which restaurant to eat at for breakfast, lunch and dinner  and 3. What meal to pick from the menu.

Bloody hell what i life... i suggest to anyone who has the time to save, or the freedom to get up and do a years travel to do it.  It is a strange thing not having to step into a kitchen each day...i have prob been to enough resteraunts to last me a lifetime already... damn.
(i know there is prob hate being aimed at me after that description.... i also would be sending hate towards the PC  but i wanted to put that out there ....sorry )
***END of thought***

And there was some more relaxing... i had a bloody tatsy barracuda steak in a red curry sauce...and on another night a super gorgeous green Thai curry which i ordered again a day later and will prob eat again tonight...tis scrummy!

The day before we left Mui Ne we were warned of a storm on the night...we were asked to leave the sea by police officers...and along the horizon we could see a trail f boats heading into port, we could see them sailing in for the next three hours!  We were also told that if we didn't want to be around for the storm we should leave Mui Ne immediately...we didn't , and we also didn't see any storm ...hmmm.

From Mui Ne we headed to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) on arrival we met up with Tony and Kate... some friends we met when cruising the whit Sundays in Australia..... was great to see them again (and even better to know that we will be traveling in the same direction for a week or so.....anywayz... it was a very drunk reunion :)
Deciding the bes cure for a hang over was not visiting museums, we headed to a water park :)  It was the best fun i have had in ages.... as soon as i hit The first slide i turned 12 years old and ran from slide to slide for the rest of the day :)  We also played ticker.... its kind of like hackey sack but you use a shuttle cock type thing, so it gives you more of a chance to hit it  (i have since become addicted and have been playing it as much as possible :) )  The locals love it too...so it started off as our gang of five playing (me, zo, tom, kate, tony)  and mid game you will have 6 locals join in (who are amazing!)  they soon get fed up and leave after realizing we are rubbish... then 2 mins later a different 6 - 10 will join...lots of fun :)  I ended the day at the water park playing some much loved badminton with the workers.  I also think they were torturing us that day...a weird kind of torture, it was their 9th anniversary and they played three versions of happy birthday over the tanoy alllll dayyyyy longggg.

The next day in Ho Chi Minh was a mix between interest and upset.... we first visited the Cu Chi tunnels.... the same tunnels that eventually persuaded the American fighters into with drawl.  The tunnels were used by Viet Cong guerrillas as hiding spots during combat, as well as serving as communication and supply routes, hospitals, food and weapon caches and living quarters for numerous guerrilla fighters.  The tour of th tunnels included Zoe getting into one of the tiny cramped hidey spots in the ground, a look at some of the booby traps hey had set up (very brutal), and crawling through some of the tunnels ourselves...very claustrophobic and cramped....oh and Tom Mills fired an AK47.  It was very interesting learning about the importance of the tunnels and getting so close to an important part of history.

We then stopped of at the war museum.  This started wit lots of interest, looking at the US planes and tanks parked outside....but very quickly turned to upset when studying photos and descriptions inside the museum regarding atrocities carried out by the Americans, including brutal beheading, the use of napalm and the use and effect of the disgusting agent orange.  We had a quiet night of playing cards after such a hardcore attack on the emotions... and also gave Tom Mills a big hug as he was heading for Thailand in the morning (he is doing southern Thailand while we visit Cambodia, then we will meet in Laos for Christmas and new years..spending a month there, then we will travel northern Thailand together...if all works out)

Day 4 in Saigon, woke up Tom nice and early for a second goodbye :)  Then we jumped on a bus heading for the Mekong delta and a two day border crossing with Kate and Tony.  From the bus we were on a boat, stopping off to see rice paper and sweets being made.  Then we stopped for lunch which included a couple of giant pythons in a cage, and a live prawn bouncing around someones plate!  The rest of the day went Boat -> Bus -> Border town.... it pissed down, we ate and played cards :)

Early start to hit the border...a loverly 6:00 am start.  We had opted for the slow boat taking 6 hours up the river and into Cambodia... in the morning we were offered the fast boat at a special discount of 15 dollars...... through out the day different guīdes were getting "calls from head office" making the option of the fast boat cheaper and cheaper. We eventually caved at $5 but as we expected in the end there was only ever a fast boat...some people payed $20 extra, we got away with $5 and others didn't pay anything extra...sneaky sneaky! 

So after a bus, and unexpected ferry crossing, some walking with our bags, and randomly visiting a Muslim school we ended up in a holding area on the border...played ticker with some local kids, and as i was wearing my ninja t-shirt a tiny kid was play fighting with me... he was a cool little bugger and i had a photo with him, but the person who took the pic accidentally deleted all of their photos :(  So while in the holding area we had to get visas... this involved giving our passports to a bloke on a motorbike along with $22 each.... he then whizzed off and returned 40 mins later true to his word with our passports equipped with visas for Cambodia :)  We wandered no mans land for a bit until another boat turned up, jumped on and lounged on some comfy sofas while it whisked us across the border.  It was the most random of border crossings i have had so far but also an enjoyable one.  We ended up walking through someones house from the boat and into Cambodia !! YEY!

Another bus journey later we were in Phnom Penh the capital of Cambodia and i absolutely love it!  Everyone is friendly, you can have  good chat and some banter with the locals... the kids are fun to mess around with, its just a bloody lovely and amazing place..... i recommend Cambodia to everyone... and i formed that opinion after taking 10 steps from he bus.... i still have the same opinion 1 week later :)   Anywayzzz...  we jumped into mine and zoes first Tuk Tuk...I'm sure you know what they are but I'm telling you anyway...basically a little carriage pulled by a motorbike... nice and airy, lots of fun.  We found our guest house, the girls went to splash out on pizza, me nd tony decided to eat cheap and local and i ended up with a super tangy funny tasting stake.... i tried to find out The origin of the meat with the cook by making cow noises and dog noises but was unsuccessful... still enjoyed it anywayz.  After our meal we met up with B another girl that we met up with on the Whitsundays cruise... she also had Em with her a girl they had met tubing in Laos... so the gang for a few days was me, Tony, Em , Zo , B, and Kate.  We spent the night drinking 75 cent double vodka and red bulls and went to a club... a slightly gay club as i got touched up twice, but a good club nonetheless.  ohhh and i ended the night with a taste of home... a bacon and egg butty Yum!

So the first full day in Phnom Penh we rented a Tuk Tuk, we basically paid a price that allowed us to go where we wanted for the full day and the driver was a lovely bloke called Jake...very friendly.  We hit a cash point before we set off and on the way out i tripped and cut a gash out of the end of my toe.... it was pissing blood for a bit so i wrapped some tissue around it... but without saying anything Jake stopped, picked up and paid for some plasters from a shop, cleaned up my toe and even applied the plaster for me....as i said a bloody loverly bloke!

The Tuk Tuk first took us to S-21(Security - 21).  We knew the day was going to be a sad one, and i knew that this first stop would almost bring me to tears after reading "Daughter of the killing fields" (the first book read on this trip).  S-21 is the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, it was formerly a school turned into a prison and house of torture by the Khymer Rouge Regime in 1975-1979.  One of the things that hits you is how recent this has occurred.  Especially when wandering from converted classroom to another when all that stands in the room is a rusted metal bed that was once used for torture and stains marked into the floor.  There was an estimated 17,000 people imprisoned here and from this they believe only 12 survived.  When wandering the museum, they also have photographs displayed of many of the victims... this was very hard to see.  If you would like to read up a bit more on S-21 click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tuol_Sleng_Genocide_Museum

We found Jake and headed to the next stop, the "killing fields"  This stop was just as depressing and upsetting as the first.  The killing fields includes a memorial tower containing hundreds of skulls and bones.  The grounds are covered with ditches that were once mass graves, there is also a tree that was used to beat children.  If you wish to learn more about the killing fields click here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Killing_Fields.  The most upsetting thing about all of this for me was walking around Cambodia as you can see how a lot of people in the country has and still are affected by the atrocities that occurred in such recent history..... It left me wanting to help in some way... 

We headed to our last stop.... not so depressing, although the morning had left a depressing stain on my mood.  We headed to the Russian market, a market hidden away in Phnom Penh.  We wandered the stalls and in the heart of this market found some super tasty noodles.  I bought a scarf as whizzing about the dusty city in a Tuk Tuk was doing my lungs no good.  We also had ago at eating tarantula...i managed a leg :)  We finished the day with some ticker... and the arranged to meet up with a couple me and zo met in China... they brought some friends and it ended up with 11 of us hitting an Indian restaurant with the smallest kitchen in the world....they struggled but in the end did a good job with a super tasty curry :)

The next day was really enjoyable and i felt like i was able to give something... if only little, but something to The community.  Kate has a friend who has worked in an orphanage on the outskirts of Phnom Penh and through her we had arranged a visit :)  First we found Jake the best Tuk Tuk driver in the world and we headed to a shop.  We didn't want to turn up empty handed so we bought a sack containing 50 Kg of rice at $45 and some sweets.  We arrived and although upsetting i thoroughly enjoyed playing with the toddlers for a few hours.  The children at The orphanage all have something wrong with them, and most have been affected by what this country has gone through.  I felt a little happier at being able to help in someway.  One of the most upsetting things was a small boy who had cuts over his swollen face, a bandage around his hand and a bandage around his head.... he was constantly punching himself in he head and we were told this was because he had tumors behind his eyes and he was attempting to beat the pain away.  After our visit we were thanked by the staff, the cook thanked us for the rice and Jake the Tuk Tuk driver thanked us s he enjoyed bringing people out to visit the orphanage.

On the way home we passed a driving range, and decided to hit a few golf balls.  We also decided to thank Jake (don't have a picture of Jake as they were accidentally deleted off the same camera)...by buying him a tray of balls to hit as well.  "Even though he protested saying īt is a rich mans game" we managed to get him whacking a few balls, and he loved it, i did too as did the rest of the gang :)

With mine an Zoe's 5 year anniversary approaching on the 25th November we wanted to get our skates on and head to the coastal town of Sihanouk-ville (south west) and find somewhere special to celebrate.  We said good bye to the gang as they were heading to the temples of Angkor in the north west aka tomb raider country.  Initially we were going to treat ourselves to a plush hotel with spa facilities etc etc.  We decided we could do that anywhere in the world and instead treated ourselves to two days on bamboo island.

Before we set off for the island we spent our anniversary in  a plush beach bungalow overlooking the sea, we ate dinner in a restaurant on the edge of the rocks on a candle lit table.  The meal was perfect, we had the sea at our feet, no other tables around ours situated in the sand, the weather was warm, in the distance we could see bright orange and white explosions of a thunder storm on the horizon, and we had a tasty bottle of red :)

Earlier in the evening i had a very lovely and appreciative moment of our trip.  I was sat in a comfy chair on the edge of the sea, i  had a beer, my book, some chilled out beats floating from the bar, to my left there were fire dancers and bars lit up with activity, in the distance the same thunderstorm and i soaked it all in.

Meal done, up in the morning we were ready to hit the island as we were treating ourselves to a three day anniversary extravaganza :P  We jumped on a small boat that took just over an hour to reach the island or should i say paradise!  We had a beach bungalow overlooking the sea, a hammock, and pure relaxation.  The island has no roads, 3 bars on one side and one on the other.... 2 beaches, and a chunk of jungle.  We swam, chilled, read, walked the 10 minute jungle track to the other side of the island.  Our side had a nice beach a real chilled out bar and a refreshing wind that blew through our bungalow.  When we walked to the other side, there was hardly Any wind and a much nicer beach than pour nice beach making it  super nice beach.... we spent a lot of time here.  Other tan sharing our bungalow with a millipede, lots of geckos and the odd cockroach we went fishing.  Its a sunset fishing tour at $5  you go out on the boat at 4:30 and fish while watching the sunset over the ocean and also fish a little into the darkness.  Zoe caught 1 fish, i caught 5, i dropped a 6th and i also caught a yellow/ black spotted reef shark... he fell off my hook and back into the water, which in super happy about because he was gorgeous and i didn't want to eat him.  When back on land they cook what you caught and serve it up to you with rice Yum!  The best thing about this island is the fact that it is still quite unknown...so we had the beach to ourselves most of the time... its nice to have been there before it becomes super touristy and installs a strabucks and a mcdonalds.

So we had an amazing time on the island... and it was a struggle to leave but we had arranged to meet up with the gang back in Sihanouk-ville, which is what we did.... we met them last night ad went for some food ( i had a fat steak, chips, salad, garlic bread and a large beer...for $5.50)  Barginus!  Sihanouk-ville is really nice.... the beach is lined with really chilled out bars with comfy sofas and pillows to relax on.... which is where i will be going after finishing this!  We persuaded the gang to visit the island and have also decided to spoil ourselves and go back again.... this time staying on the nicer side ($10 split between 4 people a night for the bungalow next to the sea).... the boat leaves tomorrow morning at 10:00 so we will once again be out of contact for a few days.

Oh and were also sharing our current bungalow with  funky looking frog :)

Books read: I bloody love Ben Elton he is amazing :)  I have got through 4 of his books now, recently i have read;  "Stark", "Gridlock", and "Popcorn".  I also really enjoyed "Yes man" by Danny Wallace ( a true story i believe is being made into a film starring Jim Carrey!), and did not enjoy "how to be good" by Nick Hornby so much

Hope every one is well

As always view our photos here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/discozo/sets/

P.s Keyboard is crap.

p.p.s sorry if some of this dosent make sense, photos are in wrong order, typos...i have been doing this for four hours its 1:00pm and i haven't eaten breakfast yet :)
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