A Travellerspoint blog

The Eagle has landed!

Back in Stockholm

snow -5 °C
View Ruiz Josefsson Heading East on RuizJosef's travel map.

4 days in Koh Kood; where we enjoyed the honeymoon room upgrade, were followed by an extra 5 days in Koh Chang, another island in the Gulf of Thailand about an hour away by boat from Koh Kood. These two stops were an amazing way to wind down and take some time to rest, swim and enjoy the sun, without the manic pace we had been travelling at before. And this is what we did, which translates to literally nothing, sleep, breakfast, beach, lunch, beach then some dinner and the same the next day. We did go diving; and it was amazing! Though I was a bit indecisive at the beginning about giving this a try, I can tell you now it was worth every penny. Despite visibility not being at its best, being under the sea is simply breath-taking, an unbelievable and indescribable experience. All in all we were under the water, between 6 to 10 metres, for 2 hours (two 60 minute dives) and I wanted more. Just great!
It was then off to Singapore, where we visited some friends and toured around at a very leisurely pace, perhaps because of our previous ten restful days. It felt like we had travelled in time or to some other world. Though in the same region this tiny country is unlike any of its neighbours; clean, organized and expensive. With so many western comforts and with the first sight of Christmas decorations it made us miss home, but maybe only a little.
In Bangkok, once again, for the last three days. This time we actually discovered that in Bangkok the backpacker area is actually a very nice and busy area, contrary to our thoughts and those we experienced elsewhere. A bit of shopping around town and in the mother of all markets, Chatuchak, a weekend market north of the city, spread over many blocks. We also squeezed a day trip, to the floating markets in Ratchaburi and to Kanchanaburi where the movie-famous bridge over the River Kwai is located. An arranged tour which like most proved to be disappointing, not because of the sights but because of the fast paced at which it is conducted. Had we had more time we would have probably done this trip by ourselves, but given the situation we had little choice. A last taxi to our hotel, dinner and the metro to the airport, gave us more than enough time to reminisce, about our travels and adventures. We felt sad, we realised we had developed a love-hate relationship for this region, one where the same things that drive you crazy are the same ones you will miss once you’re back at home. The hectic chaotic traffic, the selfish careless driving, the palette of smells from fruit, food, smog, incinerated garbage (amongst others), the crazy stares, the cheap food, the haggling, the cheap beer, the cheap hotels and the many words we learnt in the many languages to be polite with all the locals. All that was to be over once we returned home and in the freezing cold. And indeed it is, we’re back and it is all just memories now, but the best we will have for a long time!

PS. You can look at the last set of uploaded photographs

Posted by RuizJosef 07.12.2010 02:19 Archived in Sweden Comments (0)

Few more stops

Koh Kong – Koh Kood – Koh Chang

semi-overcast 28 °C
View Ruiz Josefsson Heading East on RuizJosef's travel map.

We have reached Thai territory and ventured out into the Gulf of Thailand and for the past few days, 5 to be exact, we have finally been able to stretch our little legs and relax! Before the chill we had yet one more stop in Cambodia which we will briefly describe below.
So, after 14 hour bus ride that takes us from the Northwest through Phnom Penh and out to the Southwest we arrive in Koh Kong, a region of Cambodia which promises to be the next great tourist destination as it’s got beaches for sun lovers and mountains for trekkers, plus it is a tuk-tuk ride away from Thailand. At the moment, however the town is not much of a destination and it is not very pretty, it feels more like somewhere in the Wild West. We find a little hotel, with not many amenities but a good price. A lie in, motor bike and off to the beach. Located across the bridge and through a bumpy road is the Crab Shack with a sliver of white sand beach. We have lunch at this family run ‘shack’ and head back not quite in time to avoid the rain. The little swede is dying for a touch of nature so we do an over-night ‘trek’ that feels more like a cold night in a hammock under the stars with extended motorbike riding. Highlight was swimming in the waterfall and the evening bbq-ed pork sandwiches; really absolutely delicious. Next morning we are back at the hotel at around 10am for a well-deserved shower and a little bit more beach and Crab-Shack food. The weather report shows clouds in most southern parts of Southeast Asia, yet a sliver of good weather is still hovering on the gulf and the northern gulf islands. So we choose Koh Kood (Koh Kut) as our first proper honeymoon destination. We cross the border and it may sound crazy, but after all the chaos Thailand seems rather organized and clean (ha ha who are we fooling?). Anyway, mini-bus to Trat and then a death-ride to the pier. We had about 20 minutes to make the last boat to Koh Kood and our driver eager to get us there on time was driving at what seemed on the back of a pick-up like 200 kms/hr. On the boat and 2 hours later in Koh Kood. No reservation no ride, so a helpful Koh Kood Hospital ambulance driver gives us a hitch and contacts our choice of hotel. We get picked up and driven to “Away Resort” and on someone’s advice we milk the “we are on our honeymoon” phrase once more. To our bewilderment, after having settled in the cheapest room we get upgraded, for free, to the best room in the Hotel, decorated in a jiffy with flowers and flower petals. That night we fine dine and celebrate, us, our travels and of course our room! Food in the hotel is not cheap so for the following nights and days we venture to a nearby restaurant where food is tastier and a 1/3 the price. A great breakfast spread (included), good weather, white sandy beach across and reached by kayak is what we do for the next 4 days. Rain, a speed boat ride and we reach Koh Chang, the Elephant Island, the biggest island of this Thai archipelago and teeming with Swedes! Our first accommodation option fails, it its dirty, dingy and overpriced. Our cab driver recommends one, makes it sound like paradise, so we stay. Yet we think we can do better and after one night here we are, Paradise Cottages, on a hammock by the water under the shade, with a little bit more colour and sporting a beard, we type this latest update of our adventures. Oh and if you must know we have extended our trip and are due to fly back on the 5th of December and have now included a stop-over in Singapore. It is unfortunate however that the Land of Oz will have to wait for a next time. We tried our best and are very disappointed that we couldn’t make one more leap and go down under!

Posted by RuizJosef 20.11.2010 06:16 Archived in Thailand Tagged chang koh kong kood Comments (0)

Cruising the Tonle Sap Lake

Battambang

sunny 25 °C

The next day we get up at six to take the boat to Battambang. The boat ride itself is supposed to be lovely, but we are unlucky enough to get seats next to the unbelievably loud boat engine, which means that we cant speak during the ride, and couldn’t hear what the other person said afterwards, as we had gone half deaf. Nevertheless, we see villages on stilts on the river, fishing boats and lots of happy waving kids so it’s not too bad. We use the weirdest bathroom so far on this journey, which is a booth over the water with a square hole in it and nothing underneath but the river. Charming.
The lonely planet has talked up Battambang big time. We are expecting something along the lines of Luang Prabang or Hoi An, a cute little town, lots of colonial French buildings the guide says. When we get there we are deeply disappointed. It’s a smaller version of Phnom Penh. The thing I ended up liking most about this place is that they are very friendly, there is no hassling so you feel less like a walking ATM machine, all the kids love shouting hello and we are greeted by big smiles from old and young. We wander around on the first evening and decide to take a look at a Wat (temple) before getting something to eat with the german couple, who accompanied us on the boat trip and are staying at the same hotel as us. We find ourselves surrounded by curious monks who are eager to practice their English. One of them has a very good grasp of English and is so keen to speak it that the words tumble out of his mouth. He tells us about where he is from, a small village, and why he wanted to become a monk. He says as opposed to Laos and Vietnam, where they only learn about the Buddhist religion, in Cambodia they also learn many other subjects similar to a normal school. It was the best chance for him to have a proper schooling.
The next day we take a tuk tuk out into the countryside around Battambang, to see rice paddies and villages. We stop at a place where they make rice paper. There are two ladies making the sheets, pouring a rice liquid onto a hot plate where it forms a pancake, then laying them in the sun to dry. It’s hot, there is a fire. They get USD 2.50 for a hundred sheets. Their children are playing in the shade. I wished I had some pens or some toys for them.
We see some boys fishing in the river. Nico wants to take photos so we stop, and they laugh at him sitting in awkward poses to get the best angle. Then we go for lunch, and we invite the tuk tuk driver to join us. He tells us about himself, his English is better than the guide we paid in Siem Reap. He talks about politics in Cambodia today, about his family and about his future aspirations, which is becoming a tour guide, so that he can earn better money to help his family.
In the evening, we go for a last supper with the german couple, as we leave for Koh Kong early the next morning, and they head back to Bangkok to fly home.

Posted by RuizJosef 17.11.2010 20:00 Archived in Cambodia Tagged battambang Comments (0)

In the land of Angkor

Siem Reap

sunny 28 °C

We take the bus to Siem Reap to see the temples of Angkor. This stop is a must on any backpackers trip in Indochina and we are very excited. We fly past beautiful deep green rice paddies dotted with palm trees as the bus driver thunders down the road honking his horn at anyone in his way. Cambodia is very flat compared to Laos and Vietnam. Travelling this country is more difficult compared to Laos and Vietnam in many ways – there is more poverty, the gap between rich and poor seems larger, and the horrific experiences these people had to live through seem very recent. Travelling this country makes my heart feel heavy in my chest, and I find my thoughts lingering on the horrors that happened here often, more than once with a big lump in my throat.
Once you get out of Phnom Penh, the people here are more curious of foreigners. They sneak a peak at you and wave excitedly with a big smile. Many children have learned how to say ‘Hello’ and they shout it at the top of their lungs, waving their arms at us. On the bus, a boy sitting behind us puts his little hand on my head, feeling my hair. We stop at a ‘restaurant’ for a leg stretch and a loo visit. Its hard to find snacks for bus rides in Cambodia, crisps (chips) and biscuits are expensive and difficult to come by. Cambodians like to snack on insects and fruit. On offer at this stop is a selection of fried crickets, spiders and cockroaches. There is also a cricket and cockroach mix, if you fancy that. And the usual mango, banana, oranges of course. There is a ‘western snack’ corner, wrappings slightly covered in dust. We decide to skip the snacks this time.
At the bus station, we manage to avoid the tuk-tuk mafia (yes there is one, hiking up the prices and generally threatening everyone). As we have booked ahead this time, the hotel is picking us up for free. We had enough of dingy, slightly damp and smelly rooms and have booked the USD 20 a night ‘honeymoon suite’ at a hotel called MotherHome guesthouse. And they are just as welcoming as the name indicates. Wet towels and drink on arrival, big smiles, clean big room, flowers on the bed that spell out a heart in roses and the words ‘I love you’ in jasmine blossoms. There are lotus flowers in the bath. Aw bless! Siam Reap as a town reminds us of Las Vegas – there are lots of neon signs, big expensive looking hotels everywhere. This place seems to have exploded overnight.
The temples take a good two three days to see. There are many. We spend the first day cycling around seeing crumbling temples with moss on them and trees growing through them. Its like the forgotten city. Its like an Indiana Jones movie. Its beautiful. We try to imagine what it must have looked like back in the day, when there were 1 million people living here and instead of horses there were elephants on the roads. The old gates to the town where all these people lived are still there, and you can still ride an elephant through them. But this place is now teeming with tourists from all over the world, there are big busloads of them thundering in every day.
On the second day we hire a guide and a tuk-tuk as we want to have the proper experience. We are seeing the biggest sights with him, Angkor Thom which is the village, and Angkor Wat, the main, big temple that pulls the most crowds. His English is not that good and although he tells us many stories and a lot of information, we feel slightly disappointed as we had expected more. The most absurd thing to happen that day is that the guide invites us to his nieces wedding which is taking place the same night. Or maybe its when a monk asks to have his photo taken with Nico. It’s a tie.
The third day turns out to be nicer that we had expected, we meet a german couple that we first bumped in to in Mui Ne, then in Saigon again. They are having breakfast at our hotel, and have hired a tuk tuk for the day. We split the cost with them and ride out to a temple further away from Siem Reap, and a little river, sacred to the Khmer and covered in carvings and religious symbols. There is a waterfall that we have a dip in.
We spend the evening getting our feet pedicured by little fish. It tickles like crazy at first, but you get used to it after a few minutes. It’s an absurd experience. Oh, and we hear a gecko squeak for the first time and realise why it’s called gecko.

Posted by RuizJosef 17.11.2010 19:52 Archived in Cambodia Tagged angkor Comments (0)

The Cambodian capital

Phnom Penh

sunny 26 °C

The bus ride was smooth (as smooth as it can get in South East Asia) and we are now in Cambodian territory. We arrive in an area just west of the river, a bit chaotic and messy, yet not too far from the hotel area. We try a couple and finally set for one. Our palettes (at least city boy’s) crave for something western, a bit of meat, cheese and fries. We quickly learn that although accommodation is cheap, everything else is not; we’re talking relatively in comparison with neighbouring countries of course! This we think is because the US dollar has taken over as the de-facto currency perhaps driving prices up. We pay a visit to the last remaining vinyl rock bar in the region for a beer and the sounds of anything between Judas Priest, Rush, Pearl Jam and Motorhead, great! It is not until we leave that we discover that this is the real sin city. A series of very happening hostess bars where foreign men flock to for some entertainment are dispersed throughout the city. There is not an abundance of sights here, and some of these can make one can feel a little morbid; they are all about the Khmer Rouge genocide and the infamous S-21 prison is our first stop. Brick cells and some images on the walls display the history that surrounds what used to be a school and was later transformed into a death camp. We are saddened by what we see and then we set out to see a little bit of the city. Unfortunately things are not much brighter, the contrasts are miles apart, shining SUV’s in larger amounts than we’ve seen anywhere else, juxtaposed with images of real misery and some street begging, this is the first country in which we have encountered this type of poverty and it’s hard to ignore. There are cleaner areas and very fancy embassies but it’s a matter of blocks and mostly around the National Museum and the Royal Palace. The National Museum is a great building, not just in the displays which are a bit of a teaser of what there is to see in Angkor, but also because the building itself is wonderful, rich earthy colours that shine with the sun and an airy and green courtyard. Right by the gate as we exit we are surrounded by kids asking for money, while their parents patiently wait across the road for them. The walk along the river promenade is interesting, it is the place where the locals gather for outdoor activities, some join in what seems like aerobic/dance lessons, others simply playing football and when lacking a ball the playing keep ups with a badminton look alike gizmo. Dinner, this time at a local eatery for some Khmer cuisine. Next day a tour to the Killing Fields for some more on dark Cambodian history. These fields in an area just outside the city became the last stop for those considered traitors of the revolution (basically everyone) before being executed and buried into mass graves. There is a monument in memory of those who perished during this murderous regime, and it is observed with the uttermost respect by locals and foreigners alike. It is time take the tuk-tuk back, buy some snacks and board our bus en-route to Siem Reap, the Angkor Capital.

Posted by RuizJosef 16.11.2010 22:08 Archived in Cambodia Tagged phnom penh Comments (0)

We’re on a Highway to Sin City

HCMC - Saigon

overcast 23 °C

After 5 hours of travelling, 1 of which we spent in the traffic mayhem that is Saigon we get dropped off in the main tourist area, all sleeping, dining and party quarters reside here in Pham Ngu Lao. As we go out for a walk, one can still sense a bit of the old days in this crazy part of town. Bars and bars served by all-female staff, (like the aptly named Crazy Girls), the giant sign of the Crazy Buffalo Bar Saigon which towers over two storeys, and the hair salons with scantily dressed women, bring to mind the (unfair) images of a town once nick-named Sin City. This however seems to be only concentrated in this quarter and as we walk along the ‘boulevards’ the next day, we find this be a more cosmopolitan city, German and international bakeries, posh cafes, expensive looking restaurants, slightly more greenery and a higher number of cars and motorcycles. Our first stop was the ‘War Remnants Museum’ originally named ‘Museum of the crimes committed by the USA’ or something along these lines, when it first opened. Four floors of history, archives and images showing the struggles for independence endured by the Vietnamese people, first against the French and later against the US. It was all a very solemn experience to say the least. It was in this town we would find one of the best eating experiences in this country, Nha Hang Ngon. A pastel coloured building in French colonial architecture, with outdoor seating, housing a series of stalls in a market atmosphere all serving Vietnamese delicacies. Bun Thit Nu’ong (Vermicelli and grilled pork with fresh herbs), Goi Cuon (fresh rolled shrimp and pork), Banh Hoi Chao Tom Cuon Banh Trang (Pounded Shrimp fried on sugar cane served with vermicelli, rice paper and vegetables), just imagine the feast! Needless to say that night it was a more modest meal in one of the many city bakeries. One of Saigon’s nearby ‘attractions’ or sights is the growing town of Cu Chi. We take the tour to this town famous for the network of underground tunnels it developed during the war against the USA. It seemed to us they are a little too proud of the inventive ways in which they ‘killed’ GI’s during that time. Yet it was impressive to see how they lived and moved in this minuscule tunnels and the vast area these covered. We tried it ourselves, and crawled along 100m of dark and sandy tunnels now lit intermittently by electric light bulbs (as opposed to the oil lamps used in the old days) and trust me not an experience for the faint hearted. The tunnels (now enlarged for the public) are approximately 1 metre in diameter, and expand over three levels some even 8 metres below the surface. Their camps where all equipped with kitchens which for obvious reasons exhausted the kitchen smoke kilometres away from the source. If after all this you’re feeling a bit trigger happy, you can try your firing skills at the firing range and burn some money (30 000 dong a shoot with a minimum purchase of 10 shots, so a minimum of $15 dollars). You can try anything from a MP-5 to a M-16 and M-60, not all too appropriate we thought, given the history of the country. Upon our return to HCMC we are inclined to have another go at enjoying a little beach time and perhaps head to Phu Quoc a Vietnamese island in the Gulf of Thailand, but after close scrutiny of the weather reports, which are in no way positive we decide to try our luck further along the way. Next morning we leave for Cambodia.

Posted by RuizJosef 16.11.2010 03:55 Archived in Vietnam Tagged saigon Comments (0)

To the beach!

Mui Ne

rain 22 °C
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For well over a month we have reveled in fantastic weather and we even briefly mentioned it to some fellow travellers along the way; a few spells of rain but nothing major. Yet it is now, it seems, as we are beach bound that the skies turn dark and the water clouds besiege us. We board the sleeper bus and shortly after departure the water starts to pour, we can hear the water even in our sleep. On the bus we are all backpackers and all with different destinations, some off to Nha Trang, Saigon and Dalat. In our case we are headed to Mui Ne, mainly just a beach full of resorts which we imagine it will be like those in Thailand; yet to get there we must first have a quick stop in Nha Trang (10 hours away from Hoi An) and then change bus for an extra 4 hours to reach the beach. We disembark, gather our bags and wait in a café with some food until we board our next bus. It really does not stop raining, but one can only hope it will at some point after all it’s time for a beach; a swim and a tan, a proper tan at least, no more of this farmers tan we have been sporting for the last two months! On the bus and we are off. We look at each other in disappointment, we are really close and the rain continues to fall. Mui Ne is a long strip of beach of about 15-20 km long, at least where the restaurants and resorts are located and just imagine our luck, our drop off is on km 14 and our hotel is located approximately on km 11 (the signs display the distance along the main strip) yet we decide to brave the rain (an act of silliness, as we simply just want to avoid haggling with a cab driver) and we walk and walk until we are finally there. Unload and out for a bite, still the skies are grey and the rain comes and goes, but it does not look good for our beach prospects. As we walk to find a restaurant and even before as we endured the water trying to reach our hotel, we discover that this town is heavily frequented and geared towards Russian tourists and there is also an interesting mix of amazing and expensive hotels and some a little bit more basic for the budget backpacker, but the town is not pretty, is definitely all about the beach and your hotel. Anyway as we sit for lunch we discuss on whether to stay or continue south as the rainy weather front seems to cover the southern parts of Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand. The next morning, the weather is just as bad and with no chance of clearing any time soon. So we move on. Onwards to Ho Chi Minh City otherwise known as Saigon.

Posted by RuizJosef 16.11.2010 03:47 Archived in Vietnam Tagged beach Comments (0)

Along the trail

Hoi An

semi-overcast 25 °C

Sometimes it is inevitable to set your expectations too high when you hear other people talk with superlatives about a place you’re heading to, but just like in Laos we were hoping this would be the Vietnamese Jewel. We board our bus with glee because for the first time this is not an overnight trip and better yet a it would be only a couple hours long. A very comfortable ride too, lounge like seats right next to each other, perfect for reading, napping and even looking out the window. The road is winding and we stop for some food and drinks and just as we get back on board the clouds have turned darker and once on the road it starts to pour. We cross the old DMZ (Demilitarised Zone) and the G.I. town of Danang where progress and globalization has already started to lmake its mark. The shoreline is being developed if not overdeveloped with resorts and golf courses making us sigh with concern about what it will be like in a few years. We veer off the main highway and shortly after we reach Hoi An. Although slightly dark we can see outside and it does not look very good. Under the pouring rain we get off the bus and start to walk to the hotel. The rain stops briefly after we have settled in our room, so it is time to feed our growling stomachs. We are not too far from the old town, which being a Unesco World Heritage, is the real attraction in the area. We cross the barrier blocking access to anything other than pedestrians and bicycles (or as the sign reads, ‘primitive transport’) and just down the road this little town starts to unfold. Ahead is the Japanese bridge and just over it quaint and dimly lit houses expand along the river. We find a restaurant and enjoy some of the local specialties; Ban Xeo (a fried rice pancake with pork and veggies), Cao Lao (a nice brothy soup with noodles, bean sprouts, veggies an slices of pork), fried wonton and white rose (steamed shrimp and veggies served on a plate with rice paper, to wrap and dip in a tamarind sauce). The town is not big, and the next day in a few hours we have covered it all, but we decide we want to stay another day. Under the glaring sun the little washed out yellow chinese houses shine and embellish every street in this town.There’s bakeries, French and Italian restaurants and a local market serving more of the region’s specialties, plus weather permitting a nearby beach on which to enjoy seafood. The river is also very active, with tours on the river and commuter boats to and from the nearby villages. In the evening we seek one of the best restaurants in town according to the sometimes fallible Lonely Planet, Cafe 43. But this time is spot on. Draft beer for 3000 dong (or about 20 cents) and a set menu for two for 100 000 dong (or 5 dollars), yet is not the price that wins us over, or the friendly and happy staff, but the flavour of every dish, simply mouthwatering even just by thinking about it! Just as we finish dinner the rain arrives, and we make use once again of our weatherproof gear as we are going to meet some fellow travellers for a drink. We have beer this time for 4000 dong and wait for the rain to stop, however the tide is the one flooding the local establishment and shortly after 11 we head home. It is breakfast once again on the terrace of our hotel, but the weather has not improved, yet we decide to explore the surroundings, this time by motorbike. Helmets on and when in Vietnam… finger ready on the horn! We reach the marble mountains, yes because of the stone but also to find some pagodas and caves to explore. Marbled out and despite the gray skies we make it to the beach have a wander and seat at one of the empty restaurants along the shore. Crab and grilled fish before heading back. In the evening we visit for dinner ‘The Streets’ restaurant, a local initiative that trains street kids in the area of hospitality to provide them with a better future. It is time to leave but as is not until the evening in yet another sleeper bus we have the whole day to enjoy around town and we get a little trigger happy with our cameras. We are now beach bound baby!

Posted by RuizJosef 16.11.2010 02:52 Archived in Vietnam Tagged food - vietnamese hoi an Comments (0)

On the Way to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Hue

semi-overcast 27 °C

Last day in Hanoi but not without one more sip on a fruit shake before hitting the overnight sleeper. This time we try the train for this 12+ hour trip onto Hue. Due to depart at 7pm it has been rescheduled to 11pm, so after dinner we camp out at the hotel updating the blog, browsing the world wide web and waiting for the time to go by. A little kerfuffle with taxi driver and we are at the station, Ga Hanoi. As it is the only train on platform everyone is headed to it. We get to our carriage and on to our cabin, a 4 berth sleeper which we will be sharing with a young back packing couple from England. Shortly after 11 the train is on the way and we prepare ourselves for the long journey, which will be interrupted with a slight detour due to the floods in central Vietnam. One by one we all fall asleep in the cabin, first those of us who can’t read and then all those others with book in hand. The trains are old and slow but the beds are comfortable and we all sleep well despite being jolted roughly after every stop. It is around 4.30 am, a loud knock on the door and the blaring music wakes us all up, it is time to transfer onto the buses that will take us south beyond the flooded areas to the other train to complete our journey. It’s dark and we have no clue where we are; finally after about 40 minutes the ‘rail replacement’ buses show up and aboard we go. These are no sleeper VIP buses and we are a bit crammed but we get on our way, with the usual honking and a few near misses. It is not until after 8 am that we arrive to the replacement train heading south, we are all very tired and we try to figure out the berth arrangement. This train looks slightly more run down than the previous one, yet it does not deter us from falling asleep soon after we get under way. The trip carries on for hours and after 14 hours of travelling, in which we cover a distance of about 600 kms, we arrive in Hue just after 2pm. The usual haggling for a ride into town from the train station, we end up sharing with a few other travellers to reduce the costs. Straight to our hotel, a real bargain, $10 a night for a comfortable double room; yet the only drawback is that the hotel owner seems a bit too keen in selling to us a few other tours, recommend restaurants etc. As it is late and we have had a very long day, we decide to take a shower, go for a meal, a very late late breakfast and hire some bicycles to go about town to a very famous pagoda. This Buddhist temple houses the Aston martin in which Thich Quang Duc was driven to his self-immolation in Saigon in 1963, as protest towards the anti-Buddhist regime governing Vietnam at the time. In other words if you’re familiar with Rage Against the Machine’s first album cover you will know what this is about. Hue’s other highlight is the ancient citadel, a Unesco site, which we decide we can do next day early in the morning with enough time to catch the afternoon bus heading south. And so we do, an early start, breakfast, bikes and off to visit the ancient Vietnam Capital, once home to the Nguyen Dynasty. We spent a good two hours walking around the few remaining buildings (although good work is being put into rebuilding most of this complex with some Korean money) to then head back and catch yet another bus!

Posted by RuizJosef 16.11.2010 02:50 Archived in Vietnam Tagged hue Comments (0)

The Descending Dragon

Ha Long Bay

sunny 28 °C
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We have seen the majestic cliffs rising out of the sea in halong bay on TV before, so we are very excited about going there. Of course, it’s one of the main tourist attractions of Vietnam so the bay is crammed with boats with tourists on them. We decide to see past that and enjoy the trip. We will be spending the afternoon on a junk boat, sleeping on the boat overnight and head back to shore the next day. Its low season, so there are only 7 of us on a boat that sleeps 24 people. There is an Australian middle aged couple on their first holiday away from their grown up kids and own business for years. There are two blokes from England and a dutch girl. It’s a nice little group, we all get along great and it makes the trip that much better.
We head out of the harbour which is packed with similar junk boats and stop off at a cave, which we are guided around and it is well lit this time so no chance of stepping on any weird looking bugs. After that we get the opportunity of doing a bit of kayaking, and we head in to this little lagoon where we unexpectedly spot some cute little monkeys hanging in the trees.
We head back to the junk boat (me huffing and puffing, kayaking is hard work!) and jump off the side for some cooling off in the water. I am glad it is starting to get a bit dark as it was a long jump from the top but in the dusk it was hard to tell! We then have a nice dinner and spend the latter part of the evening on the top deck stargazing and drinking beer and chatting to our fellow travellers.
The next morning we have another dip and it looks a lot higher from boat to water, but I cannot chicken out as I took the plunge the night before, so in we go again. Morning swims are lovely.
We then sit on the deck as the boat heads back to shore with the rocks gliding past us. It’s beautiful and very relaxing.

Posted by RuizJosef 14.11.2010 05:43 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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