A Travellerspoint blog

Saigon (HCMC)

Only one way to see Saigon - On back of a motorbike

sunny 25 °C

When you think of Vietnam you think of Saigon - I have always wanted to come here and it did not disappoint!!
It is chaos, More motorbikes then people, Dicing with death trying to cross the roads, Street food every where and of course cheap beer in the street.
We found a place to stay right on one of the many main drags, Mo Ping checked us in and informs us it will be busy later due to Halloween.. We didn't even realise it was Halloween and would never had expected it to be a big thing here. Massive Street Celebrations. Children, Adults and tourists in fancy dress and traffic at almost a complete standstill. Unfortunately we forgot our camera for the busy part - and there was no way we would have made it back to our hotel through the chaos - even though it was only 20 down the street!
The tourists lined the streets drinking beer, taking photos of the locals in Halloween costumes on their motorbikes, and the locals were taking photos of the tourists on the streets. The atmosphere was great, lots of cheering, a real party atmosphere! It felt like Notting Hill Carnival but with motorbikes!

Once the chaos died down we managed to at back hotel and grab our camera to get a few pics....
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The next day we wanted to do a tour of the city so no better way to do it but on the back of a motorbike... We found a couple of local guides Minh and Melong and they took us to all the cities monuments and buildings

Opera House
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City Hall
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Pagoda
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Notre dame
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Riverside
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After growing up with films about the Vietnam war and hearing so much about it we decided to go to the Cu Cui tunnels 45km outside the city.
The entry to climb inside the tunnels were so small even becs would of struggled to get through
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They however had a tourist size tunnel for us to climb in and experience what it must of been like
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They had on show some of the raps used by the Vet Cong which were designed differently to injure the unsuspecting enemy......
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The idea was to injure rather than kill: the Vet Cong thought that an injured soldier was more of a hindrance than just one man down!!

Just hanging with a few solders at base camp!!
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Trying the hidden food of the forest - tree roots!!! yum yum - lovely with some crushed peanuts!
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After spending most of the day on the back of a motorbike our bums were starting to get sore so it was time for a well earned beer...
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Our next day we walked to the War Remnants Museum....

Along the way Terry tried his hand at a spot of Street Vending - selling cold coconuts.....
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War Museum..
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A few more pics..
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Saigon was a crazy busy city. Terry being a city boy loved Saigon. For Becs 3 days was enough !!

Posted by becs and terry 20:25 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Phu Quoc

Motobikes and bumpy roads!

semi-overcast 30 °C

So we caught the bus from Kampot over the border to Ha Tien.
The most undeveloped border crossing...
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We were suppose to take the Ferry the same day but 'apparently' it had broken down and we had to stay the night until the next one went in the morning!!!

Anyway early next morning we managed to catch the ferry to Phu Quoc, the Largest Island of Vietnam.
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Once off the ferry our minivan driver says he knows nice and cheap place for us to stay... Dubious as ever I sent Terry to check it out - and actually it was lovely....
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So accommodation sorted we decide to rent a motorbike off the same fella. We were told by others that the only way to see the island was to hire a bike!!
That afternoon we decided to travel south to see the Sao Beach...
Easier said than done. The roads were only half built, so many holes, dirt tracks and no road signs whatsoever. We got lost about 4 times - each time asking locals directions using our not so helpful map!
Before we even find Sao Beach we get a puncture from the rocky road! Lucky for us there was a repair kiosk the other side of the road! We set off once again... and finally find where we are looking for...
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We heard that this was suppose to be yet again another wonderful beach.... to be honest we were disappointed... perhaps we have become beach snobs!
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We were hot and bothered from our long journey, so relaxed in the shade with a coconut!
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The journey back was no easier!!

That evening we explored the Night Market.
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The market had a great atmosphere as people were dining on seafood at both sides.
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The fresh seafood was unbelievable.... and the majority, still alive! There was shark, water snakes, frogs, lobsters, crabs and much much more!
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After wandering up and down, and looking at the usual tourist souvenir stalls , we decided on fresh sea-bass and garlic rice!!
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Next day we decided to head North of the Island on our Motorbike, hoping it would be easier than the South..... it wasn't!!!

The main road swiftly turned into dirt tracks- with no signage, and no-one in sight........

After an hour of off road driving, we had very sore bottoms, a very dirty bike and still nowhere near found where we wanted to be....
we took a few pictures of the beaches and headed back as our petrol was getting low!
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After refueling and giving up on going north we decided to go east and find the streams/waterfalls....
Still no good roads but we managed to find them...
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Our very dirty bike....
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Needed a good clean...
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Johns Tours (Snorkelling and Fishing)

First stop the Pearl farm - we saw how the pearls were stored and what makes them different colours. They we looked around the shop and Becs managed to sneak one in her shopping bag! (Thanks Terry) At £8 how could i resist a real pearl ring?!?!?!

Pearl farm
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We reached the port and boarded our boat..
Lots of fishing boats
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Fishing - with highly sophisticated rods..
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Terry was first to catch..
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but Becs' was the biggest of the day!!
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Our groups catches of the day...
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Lunch
We stopped to get fresh urchins from an urchin farm and got to try them alive and BBQ'ed
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Good traditional lunch and our fresh caught fish. The Vietnamese on the boat found it highly amusing watching us trying to use chop sticks! But they also taught us how to cut up a whole fish - the right way!
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My fish....
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Snorkelling - We got to snorkel at 2 different islands. both had fantastic coral reef and millions of fish!
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The water near the boat was not too clear but closer to the rocks and in the sun it was crystal clear! The coral reef was so close to the surface you didn't need to dive we could see everything from the surface... beautiful... the amount of fish and the colours were amazing
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good trip - shame about the lack of sunshine.

We continued trying the local cuisine that evening - going to a local Vietnamese restaurant. The chef recommended the special - lemongrass, chilli and saffron (squid and chicken). Was really good!

Next up Ho Chi Min City. I have one excited Terry to control!
The bus took us through many spots on the famous Mekong Delta, where there are numerous fishing villages, rice paper, banana wine making, and floating markets all along the river.
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Our bus, a sleeping bus - even though its only for 6hours! $6 not bad for our very luxurious bus!
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Posted by becs and terry 18:29 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Kampot

Caves, Pepper Plantation and Seafood in Kep

semi-overcast 30 °C

We arrive in Kampot in 2 hours which is good considering we are a little squished and sticky in our little minibus!

Rather than staying in the main town, we read that Olly's Place 1.5km out of town was a great spot along the river. Great place to chill out...
ollys place

ollys place

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Our first day in Kampot we decided to take a Tuk Tuk and do some sight seeing....
The road starts of in not bad condition. However as we continue further out towards the countryside the gravel disappears, leaving mud and massive holes, the road becomes narrow and at time non-existent!! This doesn't appear to phase our driver to continues regardless and we bounce up and down in the back!!!

First the Phnom Ch'nork Caves
We arrive at the caves and our driver points and says 'Caves'. Helpful. At this point we realise his English is as good as our Cambodian!!!
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Lucky for us some kids were hanging around trying to earn some money!!! We agreed to one of the boys show us around the cave...... and paid the entrance fee... then realised we forgot our torch!!!

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The cave was so dark, and at times we were climbing up and down really steep rocks, god knows what the drop was if we had fallen..... we were relying on this 15yr old to keep us safe!!! The kid was great actually... he showed us lots of shapes and things about the cave that we would't have seen on our own...
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Temple..
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Elephant..
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We tipped the boy $3. His English was pretty good, had a great sense of humour and climbed through the cave with ease.

As we went through the countryside there were acres and acres of rice fields....
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Next stop the Pepper Plantation. Again our driver told us 'Pepper' and pointed to the plants!!!
We showed ourselves around the plantation...
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And then went into the shop where we were able to read some information... helping us to make sense of things!! Also good view of the scenery and accommodation..
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We passed a secret lake on the way to Kep our next stop...
The lake is hardly a secret...
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So next stop was Kep... an abandoned town.. which took about 40mins in our Tuk Tuk. Kep is a seaside town that the rich used to visit for their holidays..... no more the place really was deserted!
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The only thing keeping Kep alive is probably the crab market... we stopped at one of the finest restaurants in Kep for lunch...
Very good seafood... Alive in a tank - served fresh! And obviously served wit Kampot Pepper!
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On the way back to Kampot we visited another cave - but quite frankly this ws a waste of time.... we couldnt really go in and the boys just kept telling us "people die in here... they fall down". Needless to say we didnt go in far!
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The salt fields are suppose to be thriving... however due to the floods we didnt see any salt!
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Evidence of Salt from the fields before the floods..
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We paid our Tuk Tuk driver once he had returned us home safely.. A bumpy ride in the countryside and a busy day with some interesting and some not so interesting things!

Next day we wanted to rent a motorbike and drive up to the mountains (Bokor Mountains) but there was torrential rain overnight that continued into the morning so that plan failed :( instead we looked around the town, ate pie and ice-cream and sat drinking beer at the riverside once the rain had stopped. Kampot_Riverside__3_.jpgKampot_Riverside__4_.jpgKampot_Riverside__1_.jpg

Kampot and especially Kep were very quiet little towns with not much happening at either! Next we head for the Vietnam border.

Posted by becs and terry 18:29 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Sihanoukville and Koh Rong Island

All about the beaches!!

sunny 35 °C

Arriving at Sihanoukville we were pleased and somewhat amazed that the sun was out and no signs of flooding!!
Our Guest House was cheap and no frills but had the necessary (Terry says we don't need hot water, despite how much I hate washing my hair in the cold... brrrrrrr ).

We stayed in the main tourist hub of Serendipity, a main street full of guest houses, restaurants and bars and bars that line the beaches too. Along the beach you get constantly hassled to buy the usual bracelets, $5 massage etc.... having said that they are pretty good - of you say no they leave you alone!

Serendipity beach bar at sunset....
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We were recommended that Otres beach up the coast was a better beach. Instead of taking the easy 10 min Tuk Tuk we decided to take a stroll along the beach.... was a lovely walk and only took us about 30mins...
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There are buffalo everywhere ... these were just 'hanging' at the beach!!
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Big washed up jelly fish...
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Otres Beach..
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Beautiful water, nice places to eat and drink and relax. Still a few locals pestering you... but not nearly as many!
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After a few days at Serendipity we decided to take a trip to Koh Rong. Koh Rong is only about 25 kilometers off the Sihanoukville's coast in the Gulf of Thailand, but the slow boat still takes 2 hours!! Apparently it suppose to be Cambodians version of Thailand's Koh Sumai, paradise with beautiful beaches and turquoise waters. So with thoughts of paradise we headed to the Island.

The rather dirty and not so organised shuttle ride and ferry port....
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2 hour boat ride to paradise...
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Koh Rong has 43 km of beaches and only 4 small villages. The island is also home to more than a dozen guesthouses and bungalows, many of them foreign-owned. However, with it being the low season we were advised there were no need to book accommodation - simply to walk in when we arrived..

A we approached the Island we spotted some little wooden bungalows on the beach front - hopefully there would be room for us!!!
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Monkey Island Resort had 19 bungalows, 1 which was perfectly waiting for us when we arrived!!!
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Our bungalow - lovely view of the beach..
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And as we imagined the beautiful beaches and clear waters...
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Koh Rong Island is basically untouched jungle surrounded by beaches... So next day we decided to take a hike over the mountain through the jungle to apparently an even more beautiful and empty beach... Long beach

Trekking through the Jungle - thank goodness for the signs and the rope to ab sail down the rocks....
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Arriving at Long Beach.... there was no-one else there!!! We had the whole beach to play around with...
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We made a little camp as there was no shade apart from heading back towards the trees in the jungle...
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A little later a few more people headed over the the beach on boats.... with the sun getting too much for Terry's delicate skin - we caught a boat back to our side of the island. Our captain was about 10yrs old!! Still much less effort than the hike!
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whilst Koh Rong was a lovely get away, in the high season we could see that its probably the party Island. So when the tourists start to flock over it might be better to visit the sister Island Koh Rong Sanloem. We though about this Island instead but as its low season we may have been the only people there - so decided against it.
Koh Rong is still quite undeveloped... electricity only from 6pm-11pm, no hot water and very simple wooden housing. Tourists are encouraged to stay with the local community as an alternative to guest houses and are appreciated if volunteer at the new built school . The hostels and guesthouses all employ local people as cooks and cleaners so helping them earn a living. Hopefully as tourism increases it will not spoil the beauty of the place. There is already a lot of rubbish around the Island that it appears has nowhere to be disposed of.
If planning a trip make sure you have mosquito repellent that works against the dreaded itchy sand flies!!!

After relaxing on the beach time to move on..... next stop Kampot for caves and pepper plantations!!

Posted by becs and terry 20:01 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Phnom Penh

The horrors of the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Museum

overcast 25 °C

We had wanted to go to Battambang.... but after speaking to locals it was badly flooded and people had been evacuated!!!
So we caught a bus straight to the Capital city, Phnom Penh.
Journey from Siem Reap to Phnom Pehn.....

lots of houses on the side of the main road...
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Pot holes in the roads...
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Still evidence of the floods..
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Phnom Penh
The capital city has a contrast of Classic Cambodian style buildings and temples, busy bustling markets, many restaurants and bars, and a riverside, but also hidden depths of killing fields and S-21 Museum which we both found unbelievable and an emotional experience.

The Royal Palace, Independence Monument and Temple of Wat Phnom.....
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The riverside
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The Killing Fields and S-21.
Tuk Tuk to the killing fields.... Our driver gave us masks as the roads were dusty and dirty!!!
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We wont go into details of this horrific time, (we would never do its justice and you can read about it if you so wish), but basically between the time of 1975-1979 3 million people were brutally killed by the Khmer Rouge.

We visited one of the Killing fields in which people were transported to be killed just outside the city centre. The killing fields consisted of Mass Graves, a Memorial Stupa and educational museum telling the tragic story.
We were given an audio guide so that we could listen to the stories in our own time as we walked around the grounds...

Stupa Memorial, - housing victims skulls, bones, clothes.
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Audio Tour
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Mass Graves
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Storage of odd Bones
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There were still remains of bones and clothes as we walked around..
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Next we went to the S-21 Museum....
This was converted from a school to a prison, where people were tortured and held before being transported to the killing fields...
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The cells...
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Each Victim was photographed and recorded. All people, men, women, children and babies fell victim to the Khmer Rouge. There were thousands of faces just staring back at you....
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The graves of the 14 people found alive when the Khmer Rouge were eventually driven out..
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Memorial...
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The Museums were really well kept - telling the stories and paying tribute to all those who died. It was a very somber experience for us both and we couldn't believe it happened less that 40 years ago. This being considered Phnom Penh appears to have done well rebuilding itself after such a horrible time.

On a more cheerful note we had a lot of free time in the city and much it was spent trying out the local foods and taking advantage of cheap beer! (75cents a pint).
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And a few cheap cocktails..
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Next stop Sihanoukville - on the coast so hoping the rain stops and for some sunshine!!

Posted by becs and terry 21:10 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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