. anyway 2 hours in and some people get off at kampot so i get to switch to a back seat but this annoying group of German girls get on, they look like some throwback 70's weirdo geek club full armpit haired euro albino's...!? you know the type?! one girl was so anarexic too it was untrue, she was tall but just bone, her legs were the width of my four arms... they were all dressed really weird, wearing the stuff at jumble sales that gets left behind and even the skips refuse to take them but they talked the whole way and really loud as if no one else was on the bus and the whole journey they got off first, went to the front of any queues and just caused delays the whole way including one leaving her bag at the bus agency when on route to the ferry... anyway, when finally arrived we were dropped at apparently the cheapest hotel but naturally i saw the driver taking a commision payment from the hotel but i knew 10$ was gonna be pretty close to the cheapest... i have since moved to an $8 room but with cold water so $10 with hot water aint bad for here but that because i am in the touristy part called Long Beach with resorts all linked to the beach. There is a town centre with cheaper rooms but typical to my luck its a major national bank holiday here and all Vietnamese on local mainland come here for their holidays so its packed. This has also caused an unexpected over stay for me as i planned 2 days here but didnt want to book a return ferry and bus ticket to Ho Chi Min City until i was sure but because it is this holiday i have found there are no tickets free until May 3rd meaning i am staying here for 6 nights!
! Thats about 1/6 of my whole Vietnam trip on this island.... nightmare.By the way, something i found out yesterday, much to my confusion and the girl in the office who tried to explain it, but Ho Chi Min City is the capital of Vietnam but was formally known as Saigon which i am sure you have all heard of but i didnt know the two were the same and strangely i have heard loads of people or lonley planets posts talking about the place and calling it Saigon though the name was changed about 20 years ago so naturally i thought they were two places so when i tried to book a bus ticket to Ho Chi Min City yesterday and the girl keeps saying i can get a bus to saigon and i keep asking why i can't go to Ho Chi Min City you can imagine the twilight zone we have both entered on trying to understand why we cant organise this simple transaction but she speaks excellent English and she laughs and realises i dont know and tells me about the name change... oh and as she is telling me, behind her on the wall are two large lizards which look like chameleons with the big 360 turning eyes bulging out, and they are on the wall catching flies but big, about the length of a 30cm ruler, so about 30cm i suppose, but i will have to try go back at the same time and see if they are there again to get a video as it was great to watch them...The island trip so far has gone as i should have expected - the weather has been overcast at best and last night we had the scariest thunderstorm i have ever experienced and at one point last nigth i literally jumped out of bed and nearly had a forced re-occurence of my bad stomach with the noise i heard..
. loud is simply not a big enough word, the thunder was almost as loud as you could bare... like you were right under the source and the source was just outside the room.... the rain was coming down so fast and heavy i thought my roof would cave in and the bed is soaked at the bottom today probably from a forced leak... by the time i realised i should get a pic or video it had died down as the main part lasted maybe 30 minutes. I don't knowif i have explained much on the thunder and storms here but its a strange phenomenom... when in Sihanoukville, and Koh Kong actually, on the beach it it usually sunny and clear skies but coming close to the rainy season, i was seeing more and more that inland was dark grey clouds which gradually got closer to the coast each day i was there but bizarrely in the day, even when there were no dark clouds in the distance, you could hear thunder, this time on the same volume scale as typical thunder back home, so pretty loud but not a rain cloud in site...weird... and at night sometimes the whole sky would flash white with lightening but with no lightening streaks and no thunder, just large flashes like old war footage where theres no light in the cities but the whole place would flash and light up with dropped bombs - its the same effect. I did get some video footage of some during one of the many power cuts in Sihanoukville but i am guessing with the rainy season approaching i will be able to get some much more dramatic stuff on film so watch this space...So this is my third day here and i have pretty much done all i can here now as for 2 days i hired a motorbike out and toured the island but on both days it rained so i couldnt stay on any of the beautiful beaches here and also half the roads are dirt/mud roads and so in the rain they are a nightmare which i found out yesterday when driving through a stretch of about 15km of just sand based road which the bike just slid all over in and i actually came off but going pretty slow and have some minor cuts and bruises on my legs and ankle but really minor but for a while i thought i would get the bike stuck somewhere and be stuck the monsoon type weather that was coming down here....There are tailor made island trips, mainly snorkelling, diving, fishing and island hopping but with this weather it seems pointless so i have decided that as i am stuck here a few days i am gonna make the most of it by getting all little jobs done such as sorting through my bag and i have got a full carrier bag of clothes i think i dont need so tonight i am gonna go to town and when i pass one of the recycle collectors here i will give them to her
. I think i mentioned these people in Phnom Penh... must be one of the hard jobs here but one with least money at the end too, usually women who walk through the streets, sometimes pressing a squeeky toy like a rubber duck to let people know she is approaching in case they have anything recyclable they want to rid of, but these women drag these carts around, often very full and all day. SE Asian woman are pretty tough and seriously resiliant, like the beach combers; the woman carrying fruit on the heads on giant trays which i could barely lift when i tried, or the women who carry these kind of mobile food and oven things on like a barbell long piece of wood they carry on their shoulders with a large clay charcoal buring oven on one side and a large bucket with all the food and tools used to cook things on the oven with... now i havent tried carrying one of those but again they must weigh a tonne so if your watching this years Olympics and you catch any of the weightlifting and hear a cambodian athlete being announced, don't be surprised if you see one of these women walk on!... what they do here for work and what they get paid is literally nothing... the average tuk tuk driver or moto driver will get $4-6 a day...i just spent nearly that on my brekkie this morning! A woman at a guesthouse i stayed at worked there at the bar and did cooking, the bar and general task and she got $60 a month for that job but had another which she needed because her rent was almost $60/month and that was with a shared bathroom...there's no doubt the eldest children have it worse but all kids do really..
. in Sihanoukville and all over Cambodia you would always see kids as young as 4 maybe and some really filthy too, all carrying large canvas carry bags and collecting empty plastic bottles or cans for recycling but the older ones have it tough as they have to work first to support there parents, which is tough if their parents are old and can no longer work, and they support any younger siblings until they can work; i have heard this a few times and although never in complaint, you can just tell how much of a burden it is let alone a tough ask for someone to do at that age... this is just how it works here and what they do to survive as its a very poor place and it has certainly changed the way i think about things too and although i am on a budget i have more time for people now and always chat atleast and wish them good luck but am also spending a little more on things or giving to the very needy when i see them... i am not sure it will be the same in Vietnam tho as it seems more developed and maybe wont have the same amount of land mines victims here but i will see.Anyway, i sidetrack quite often i know, but there's always things that come back to me which i forget to add in when typing my diary... i was talking about getting a few jobs done, so yes in town i am gonna buy a mobile phone, $10 for a 2nd hand Nokia, and a sim card (yes KG, i wish i had brought my iphone now..!) as i am hoping i can still get a motorbike in HCMC and would prefer to have a mobile with me for any emergencies, i am also backing up everything on my laptop and going to have to try and reinstall my copied version of windows as it has recognised its a copy and has given me 3 weeks to sort it
! I have also done all my washing that had built up and i am charging all my devices too so when i do get to HCMC on the 3rd it will be a case of taking as least amount of time as possible to arrange to buy the bike and also th few other bits i need for my trip so i expect i will be there 3 days giving me only 3 weeks to travel the rest of Vietnam but, in the grand scheme of things, time is my friend and i could always re-enter for another month if need be either straight away or a few months later as i am thinking about another month in Cambodia because i loved it so much.So my plans havent really changed but are still open. Its probably going to be 1 month here on motorbike hopefully which, if i return to cambodia i can keep and cross the border with but if i enter loas i cant keep and would have to sell. Its a Vietnamese registered bike which is the problem and i may find i have to buy and sell several bikes to travel round all of SE Asia as planned... so yeah Vietnam then probably Laos, then maybe Cambodia again, then Thailand for the 2nd time, then Malaysia, Indonesia and of course Bali and then i will either fly up to China and go through South China, to Tibet (depends on cost), Nepal the India, or when back in Indonesia i could bike back up and do Thailand again as i think i still ahve a lot to do and see in 1 month and then possible bike through Burma up to India, Nepal, Tibet and China and do the plan but in reverse and on bike for most of the way (may have to sell the bike before Tibet though)..
. so i am just gonna have to see and start researching the biking part especially...So thats me pretty much up to date so i am gonna get a motobike taxi in to town as today is Vietnamese Independance day, and gonna eat, buy several baguettes for later and tonight - oh by the way, i had these baguette sandwiches in Cambodia and a few here too, where apparently they are better, but they are great; its a toasted baguette with some kind of chutney sauce and then filled with various veg or salad, often these glass like noodles which are actually thin strands of papaya apparently but feel like noodles and then you can have normal meat, processed type meat or pate in and if you want some chilli sauce too...divine!! and they cost about 40p each! so i can buy about 5 to the same price of the cheapest meals i have been buying here on long Beach so gonna stock up and also buy some fruit, maybe mangoes which i have every day and also a watermelon. Fruit can be pretty expensive in SE Asia costing about the same as in the UK though i now know which ones are best value and Mangoes are top of the list as they have Mangoe trees grwoing everywhere here and you can get a kilo for a dollar, so typically thats 3 good sized mangoes for about 65p. Other than that water ($1 for 5 litre bottle), cans of pop (about 50p) and coffee (50p) are reasonable but the coffee is proving a huge dilemna for me... i love the coffee here as i have already said and here its just as good, i manage to keep it down to 2 or 3 a day but with the sweet milk and seemingly concentrated caffeine content they cant be much good for you so planning to cap my intake to 2 a day and also drink more water and not so many soft drinks which just taste so much better when its so hot.So other than that its a case of learning more Vietnamese which i am doing and trying out with people and, as always, getting great responses when i do..
. 'Sin Joy' is hello, 'Norn' is delicious! and thankyou is 'gawmum' but i am getting to the point where i can atealst order something and when i get on top of money and numbers i will be sorted as the currency here is Dong and 26,000 Dong is 1 pound so you can see that there are some huge figures to grasp like the other day when i changed $100 and got 2 million Dong back! Rich at last..!
Just added this part now before uploading this first Vietnam diary as i typed up the above the other day:
Had to add that after the above that i did indeed wander off in to the heart of the town and it was great, i found my baguettes but cheaper than expected, 10,000 Dong which is about, well hyes, as i guessed 40p, i got a watermelon for same price and 4 mangoes for $1 and even managed to buy a mobile and topped it with credit - seriously impressed but then on the way back there are 2 bridges over the river, one a permanent concrete bridge but the main one is a wooden swing bridge which when i got to was swung open for boats to come through but it was pitch black but with about 100 Cambodians on motorbikes either sides, lights glaring waiting to go but as the bridge swung towards our end there was this sudden crunch and then shouts and a few screams and i could see, after a moto driver shone his headlight over, that a load of people had walked on to the swing bridge from the other end and were stood on the edge waiting for it to swing round and meet our side but the bridge is pretty old and not that sturdy in parts and with the wait of so many on the edge, probably unusually so but as it was really busy from the holiday that day it ws over weight so some boards snapped and about 20 people fell through and in the water so they had to temporarily shut the bridge and everyone went to the other bridge, about a 4km trip but where initially i cursed my luck for spedning the extra dollar
! i realised after that i was lucky not to be stood on that bridge because if anyone was likely to be stood there and it fall through it was me!!
Now for the not so funny part, i decided to stretch my legs and walk home which is about 5km but on a road which is about 30% pitch black but only for 100m at a time until there are restaurants, bars etc but had a strange experience with this lad, about mid 20's on a bicycle.... oh and before that, which i just remembered but now seems to add to this story, was that i walked past 2 guys and one stopped, smiling pointing to my bag of fruit and seemingly suggesting i give him a mangoe to eat but he wasn't poor or anything so i tried to understand what he meant and when it seemed like thats wehat he wanted i shook my hand (if you hold your hand out flat and kinda waobble it from side to side this means 'no' in SE Asia ofr in Cambodia and here i think/hope!) and said Kawm (no) and walked off.... bemused i carried on and about 5 mins later this lad on an old crappy bike passes me and smiles and so i smile back - nothing unusual, this happens all day every day.... but then he slows and asks me for my phone number?! I say why and he doesnt frespond so i know he's odd and i say 'no, phone' and walk off but he keeps cycling behind me and comes up again and quite close andtries to reach over and kiss me! So naturally i shoot back and say loadly No and kawn and walk off thinking, well if he got the wrong impression from my smile, then my reaction to that was clear and he'll realise his mistake..
. oh no, and like the film Duel or the Hitcher he follows me all the way home sometimes dropping back and sometimes trying again and when its pitch black and you dont know if he has a weapon, taser or anything! It was pretty worrying so on the last time he comes up i stop, turn and shout angrily NO, KAWM and point to him, point for him to go then i clench my fist as though to say hyou dont go and i will knock you off that bike, so he turns and go's and thats the end... but oh no, that doesn;t happen in Duel... i look back a few minutges later and there in the pitch black but only lit up from passing car or bike headlights is the same crappy, slowly ridden bike stalking me so thats it, i see a house with lights on and some building workoutside so i cross over, grab a small brick and walk back to him but he must have seen this and immediately he turns and disappears in to the night and this time doesnt come back.... an eye opener indeed and a reminder not to be too naive even on a quiet island like this so strangley i am glad it happened as it's made me be much more wary and careful now and if dark i wont do any walk like that again anywhere.... mum don't worry ok!!
Anyway, booked my bus ticket today and spent afternoon on beach and off now to practise my Vietnamese with the girl at the bus ticket desk who speaks excellent english who agreed to teach me some Vietnamese and in return i have to help her finalise her wedding speech she has to give in 3 months when she gets married
! Obviously in English and i will leave out the snooker joke i did at Jon's wedding for this speech..!OK, time to go but i hope you are all well and good and not missing me too much?! I miss you all and atleast by reading my blogs now you won't have to indure listening to all my stories when i get back...! Love to you all...xx
PS, this hotel is right on the beach and just next to us is a locals massage stand and guess how much a Vietnamese full massage is for one hour.??? 80,000 Dong - i leave you to work out the value of that from the rate of exchange you obviously remember from me telling you earlier in this report (i hear you scrolling up right now..!) ... its $4 (less than 3 quid) - on the cards for tomorrow me thinks!!
Hello to you all from Vietnam.... Gooooooooodddddd Morrrrnnnniiinnnnnggg Vietnammmmmmmm!! (as Robbie Williams used to sing in his old acting days before take that...) I Arrived in Veitnam on the 27th, i took a mini bus from Sihanoukville through kampot and Kep on the South Eastern coast, and Kampot and Kep were 2 places i considered going to but on passing through they both looked similar to Koh Kong except a little more chilled, with more of a French style to them from the colonial French past (but which no doubt meant there would be more French people there!!) and so i was glad that i hadn't really missed anything. The whole journey was a bit of a nightmare, when i got on the mini bus it was pretty full of travellers and i had to sit with one other girl at the front but with the chairs facing the rest of the bus! 8am, still half asleep but have to face everyone on the bus... great, and there was a space on the front seat which i should have spotted and remembered the benefits of from my car ride to Sihanoukville and it wasn;t until the next stop when a guy got in that i realised i should have spotted and asked for that spot - 2 months in but still learning little tricks which go a long way when you take advantage of them...