Joom reap suor from cambodia everyone! ...

Trip Start Oct 07, 2002
Trip End Apr 18, 2003

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Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Joom reap suor from Cambodia everyone! Arnold here with Jayne providing QA and editing as she works on (gulp) wedding stuff. We survived Vietnam and have made it safe and sound to Siem Reap in Cambodia. I'll tell you about our first impressions of Cambodia later, but first I'll catch you up on what we did in Vietnam. When we last wrote we were in Hanoi and were leaving the next morning for a tour of Halong Bay and Cat Ba island. The bay is very beautiful. It is filled with 1969 islands and over 3000 large rock formations rising steeply from the clear, emerald colored waters. The islands are made primarily of limestone and are pocked with caves that the South China sea has carved over the eons. We visited a couple of amazingly different, huge caves with some fascinating formations. We stayed over night on Cat Ba island. Regrettably we didn't get to see much of it, but we did make friends with several kids that live there and sell postcards to tourists to survive. We didn't buy any postcards, but did find room in our travel budget for the containers of milk they requested. It was a fair deal as they taught us a lot about growing up in Vietnam (they spoke excellent english that they learned simply from talking with tourists).We bought milk for 8 kids that were talking with us and word quickly spread along the water front and soon we had many more new friends. They were really nice, sweet kids despite their misfortune ... one of the little ones even saved his milk for his younger brother. The day after we returned to Hanoi from that tour we rode the night train down the coast of Vietnam to Hue'. Our first day in Hue' was spent visiting some old Chinese tombs (most un-spectacular), an ancient walled Chinese Imperial Closure complete with a Forbidden city (well the ruins of it anyway, the French destroyed virtually all of the 1500 odd buildings that used to be there) and a really cool Pagoda and associated other holy type buildings or something like that. From Hue' we then did a one day tour of the former DMZ (demiliterized zone) seperating what was once North from South Vietnam. It was an amazing and very educational tour. We visited what was left of the base at Khe San, the tunnels of Vinh Moc and saw part of the infamous Ho Chi Minh Trail. I'll skip the history lesson on Khe San, and will just say that the gloomy, cloudy and drizzly weather that we experienced there seemed only fitting. Vinh Moc is a small town on the coast just north of the former DMZ. The people of the town built 1.7 kilometers of tunnels up to 23 meters deep to escape the rain of bombs that fell on the area. Around 300 people from the village lived in the tunnel system for a period of 4 years, only venturing out occasionally to fish. During that time none of the villagers were killed or even injured and 17 babies were actually born in the tunnels. We explored the tunnels and there are 'rooms' with specific functions. i.e. family room, maternity room, guard room etc. These 'rooms' where simply round dirt dugouts in the tunnels. The part of the Ho Chi Minh trail we saw wasn't that spectacular ... it had actually recently been paved as part of the national highway system. I suppose a dirt path in the jungle wouldn't have been any more spectacular, but it is neat to be able to say we were there and have a picture of a sign to prove it. The day after that 11 hour bus tour, we jumped on another bus for what was supposed to be a three hour ride from Hue' to Hoi An. In typical SE Asian style it turned out to be a 5 hour ride and wait affair. To make matters worse we had a driver that had some anger issues and decided to play chicken with another vehicle coming head on and only swerved away at the very last minute! Vietnam drivers are really unbelievable, no care for life. The only upside was that when we weren't too terrified to open our eyes we saw some beautiful views of the South China sea from the jungle covered mountains of the coast. The day after arriving in Hoi An we went on another (what else) bus tour to see some ancient Cham (what else) temples at My Son. There wasn't a lot to see ... there were a few temples and several piles of decaying bricks all being overtaken by the jungle. The site was occupied and built on over a period of 9 centuries, so either a lot of temples were completely destroyed or these guys worked really, really slow. Today we hired a taxi to take us from Hoi An to the famous city of Danang were we boarded a plane (only one hour late!) and flew off to Cambodia. We landed at Siem Reap at about 5:00 and had the treat of seeing Angkor Wat out of the plane window as the sun set. We have hired a private driver and a tour guide for the next two days which we hope will be enough time to see all the sites at Angkor. Our first impressions of Cambodia are that it is quiet and the people seem very friendly. It is a very refreshing change from Vietnam ... no one honking their horns here, no one harrassing us to buy stuff (and cursing at us when we don't), deceiving us constantly, and the first meal we had here was very nice. Well, we need to go now ... tomorrows touring starts at 5:00 AM (so we can be there for sunrise) and we need to get some rest ... this travelling business can be very tiring don't ya know. :)
'Till next time take care of each other and God Bless everyone.
P.S. We posted some more pictures for the entry before last and more are coming... please enjoy! Love Jayne & Arn.
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