Cambodia (10-13 April)

Angkor What? It rises up out of the jungle.. It is something you can't even imagine building... It used to be a fortress where the people lived and worshiped and went about their daily lives. Whoa!

I was suitably impressed. I wandered around in the hot hot sun... I think it was about 100 degrees the day that I was there... I did have a nice little guy who drove me around on a motorcycle all day though. This was both exciting and scrary. He was a lot better driver than the guy I had in Vietnam, but still, there is something about going down a dirt road without a helmet on a bike meant for one person (you know, one of those little tiny ones...like a Honda 90). Anyway, for about 7 dollars, he would take me from place to place and wait for me to look around before taking me to the next one. He even got up at 4 in the morning with me so I could go and see the sunset. It was worth every penny.

Unfortuntaely, my stay in Cambodia was very short and so I only really had time to explore Angkor Wat and then high tail out of there so I could make in time to Thailand for Songkran, which is their New Years festival...I had a hard time getting out of the country, as what I did not know was that Cambodia also celebrates Songkran and all the busses are shut down for a 4 day period while they celebrate. Fortunately, I met a nice guy who was willing to share a cab with me to the border (a long, bumpy ride!), where we took a bus from the border to Bangkok. For some reason the busses WERE running in Thailand, thank god. We arrived in Bangkok and took a cab into the city, where we got drenched with water, as it is the tradition to soak everyone for 4 days straight.... What fun!


Quincy: Class Reunion???

So are we going to have a 10 year reunion or what? Who would come? Who will organize it? Go HERE to post comments...


Vietnam (April 3-April 10)

And it's one two three what are we fighting for, don't ask me I don't give a damn, next stop is Vietnam...

Hoi An (4-5 April)

As soon as I could, I got out of Danang. It was another big ugly city and I really wanted to just go to the beach. So another (scary) motorcycle ride and one more bus ride (only 45 mins! how nice is that?) got me to a small town called Hoi An, which is situated 5 km from the beach. I checked into a hotel which was quite nice considering the price and the amenities. For 7 dollars you get hot water, a bath, a TV and two huge beds. That is a lot of money to spend compared to say, Thailand, but in Thailand for about 4-5 dollars, you get a crappy toilet (sometimes shared) in a semi-smelly room. So this was like the Ritz Carlton to me!

First stop was the beach, for which I rented a bicycle and rode down to. It is about a 5 km ride which is not too bad, but the people in Vietnam drive like madmen (and women). Most people ride motorcycles and bicycles and the few cars that come through are honking and honking and passing in the middle, on the left, on the right... Another funny thing is that they carry everything on their bikes. So I am pedalling along next to...bananas, chickens, 4 people on one bike (the most I have seen is 5!), marquis, you name it! honk, honk, quack, quack...

Ahh the beach. The only problem is that there are people constantly trying to sell you something. If you talk to them at all, even to say "no thanks" they squat down next to you and make themselves at home. Not that that is so bad, but I really go to the beach to relax and read my book and it is hard for me to adjust to people trying to sell me stuff all the time. I don't like shopping and so when I want something I get in and out of the store asap. All this pressing me to buy something is not only quite foreign to my culture but to my own personal shopping style as well. I did meet a really nice lady who sat and chatted with me for a while however. But then in the end even she tried the same old lines... (she has a baby, she hasn't sold anything today, her boss is going to be upset, if I buy it will bring her good luck....) Games, games!!

The next day I went to the ruins of My Son, which are very old but have mostly been destroyed in the war (here it is called the "American War"). It was very cool, except after a while all the moss covered brick and stone structures start to look the same... It was also VERY hot that day; it was about 35 degrees C (95F).. I was pouring down sweat! I couldn't even hold my camera as my hands were so slippery! When we got back to Hoi An, I went to the beach again and then boarded an overnight bus (only 12 hrs..seems so nice now) to Nha Trang.

Nha Trang (6 April)

Ohmygod!! I have been violated! I was sitting on the beach at Nha Trang, reading my book, minding my own business, when... this man strode up to me and bent down and grabbed me in the crotch and walked away. I couldn't bring myself to do anything but just sit there, stunned, with my mouth open, trying not to look at him walking off but amazed at the nerve of him!!

Then I lie back down and start reading my book and he walks back up to me holding a beer in his hand as if it were a truce offering or some sort. Pffft. I smacked him with my book and shooed him off.. I still couldn't believe that had actually happened. I still can't!

Then four annoying little boys kept sitting right next to me and messing with my towel, my water, my hair, my book....so finally I decided that this beach just wasn't meant to be and I left...

Dalat/ Bus ride Dalat-Saigon (8 April)

Uunnnnnghhh...another crappy bus ride.

But first - Dalat is very beautiful; It is up in the mountains (seems very high, but I think they are only 1000 M - 3000 ft) and there are waterfalls and caves and hiking. The town of Dalat is easy to walk around and there is a lake and a really cool market. We walked around the market (I met a few people on the bus) and bought all kinds of weird things. They have the weirdest fruits... dragon fruits, jackfruits, custard apples... and more that I don't know what they even are. (I did take photos and will post later). They also have a great section with meats, one with flour etc, one with vegetables, one with herbs and spices... they even had a whole section with tofu and fake meats!! I love it! I learned how to say vegetarian right away - "chay". And I thought it would be hard to find "chay" food in Vietnam but it isn't.

So... the bus ride. I decided to go from Dalat to Saigon (which leaves at 7:30 am and gets into Saigon at 2 pm). Then I changed my mind and decided to go to a beach town called Mui Ne. What the tour operator told me was that I could take the bus to Mui Ne, arrive in Mui Ne around 2 and then another bus would leave for Saigon at 1 am arriving there at 6 am. That sounded great to me; I could have one more day on the beach and then still have a whole day in Saigon. I was a little worried about the 1 a.m. bus however. So I made him double check to make sure that it was going to be coming the next day. He called someone and apparently everything was fine.

The next day I got to Mui Ne and asked the tour operator there if I could leave my stuff with him until the 1 am bus... and he said "there is no 1 am bus. The only bus is at 2 pm" which was right at that moment. So... I had to get BACK on the bus and ride it for another 6 hours when I could have just taken the bus from Dalat and been there by now. I was very annoyed. AND I had to pay an extra charge for the next bus.

I took out my anger on the hotel operator in Saigon. She was so shrill and she kept yelling at me about taking off my shoes "YOU! shoes OFF!" and about leaving my key with her "YOU! KEY! KEY!" and about leaving my passport with her "YOU! PASSPORT or PAY!" and trying to sell me a tour for the next day in Saigon "I give discount!" I finally just snapped, yelled at her and went to bed...

Then I found another hotel for tonight and bought my tour from a much friendlier person...

I am ready to leave now.

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) (9 April)

Another big city. Some 10 Million people here. Although they do have a great market with fabulous vegetarian food! They make every kind of fake meat you can imagine. And it looks like real meat. In fact, the "vegetarian lamb curry" in Singapore was probably in fact, vegetarian, after all. Morning Star Farms, eat your heart out!
I had a near miss with a pick pocket today. She seemed like such a harmless old lady.. I opened my bag to get out a candy and accidentally left it a little open. I felt someone behind me jostle me and I whipped around but she was already crossing the street. I checked my bag, found it open and so checked to make sure everything was there. As far as I can tell, the only thing she got was the candy, which had been right on the top. Whew! I felt very lucky but also a bit scared after that. I kept watching my back and checking my bag to make sure it was closed all the way. Sneaky old lady! I hope she enjoys the candy!

Laos (March 30-April 3)

See what befell me in the quiet mountains of Laos.

Bus Ride or Hell: You decide (3 April 2006)

Ohmygoodness, I just had the bus ride from hell! What started out to be a 22 hour busride from Vientiane, the capitol of Laos to Danang Vietnam, turned out to be a 28 hour busride from hell...

It all started off badly. We were scheduled to leave at 7:00 pm from Vientiane. We arrived at the station around 6:30, settled into our seats and got ready for take off. We sat and sat and sat....There was a little Vietnamese lady who kept yelling at us, apparently about some boxes that she was taking on the bus (which they stack 10 high in any availible seat) which one of the Canadians who I was riding with was sitting to close to or something like that. She kept yelling at them and swishing her hands around, trying to get them to move to another seat. And then she was doing the same to me. What I understood from her is that she wanted me to move over and sit with an Australian girl so she could have two seats to herself. Now that did not seem fair to me, so I did not move and she kept giving me dirty looks for the rest of the ride (let's not forget, that was a 28 hr ride!)

We stopped for food with no problems and then got back onto the bus. I had just curled up on my (two) seats when I was poked repeatedly on the shoulder by a young boy who was apparently the spokesperson for the crazy woman. He again tried to get me to move over, but I again refused.

The bus was filled with boxes (what I did not understand was that there was a perfectly good roof rack on the top of the bus which was not being properly utilized) and bags and little plastic stools. I later came to find out, once we all settled down to sleep, that the stools were meant for spreading in the aisles and sleeping on. So we slept. The bus stopped at a reststop some time around 3 and parked for 3 hours before heading on down the road. The reason for this is that the border doesn't open until 7. Now WHY didn't the bus just leave Vientiane at 10 rather than 7?

We arrived at the border and...once again sat and sat. First we waited for it to open, then we had to wait in a huge queue (wait - it wasn't really a queue - it was a mass of people) to get our passports checked, and then we had to walk to Vietnam and wait again to get our passports checked. Then we sat and sat and sat while the bus was....(??) waiting in line to get checked, getting checked...something like that. Oh and then I had to transfer busses. It took over 3 hours. We arrived at the border at 6:30 and finally left at 10 something. We got about 5 km down the road and the bus broke down. So we sat there for about another hour.

Let me also explain the bus. It was a local bus which means: no A/C -only windows, no stopping for smoking - people were just doing it in the bus, again, boxes piled EVERYWHERE - this means under the seat, under my feet, behind, above and below me, and mostly Vietnamese people (I was one of 6 foreigners and then we transferred busses and i was 1 of 3) which is no problem in fact I like it, it makes me really feel like I am in a foriegn county instead of being with people who I could be with at home, but it means that nobody speaks English so you have to just guess at everything.

After the breakdown there were really no problems except that I saw a bucket of pigsfeet soaking in water right near the toilets and I thought how glad I am that I am a vegetarian...

We arrived in Danang at 11:30 pm (we had been scheduled to arrive at 5 pm). To me it looked like everything was closed and I was a bit worried about getting a place to stay. When the bus arrives in the city, the only way into the center is via motorbike. This is fun, especially when you have a 50 lb backpack on your back. Somehow with my terrible (non existent) Vietnamese and their terrible English, I explained to them that I needed a cheap hotel somewhere in the city center. It must have worked, becuase they took me to just what I needed. It was not as cheap as it could have been - (gasp! it was 15 dollars) but they had a hot shower, comfortable bed, free internet and great coffee and baguettes (thanks to the French influence) so I was happy.

Vientiane, Laos: 2 April 2006

I was told by a couple of fellow travellers that:
a) Vientiane is the only place with ATMS (which I have yet to see)
b) Vientiane is not really that exciting (it is the biggest city in Laos however, so it depends on what floats your boat)

Usually, if you are coming from Bangkok, the easiest way to get into Laos is to cross at Vientiane. I however, did not come from Bangkok, but instead crossed over at the North of Thailand at Chang Khong. So really there is no reason for me to be in Vientiane. Knowing that, I have decided to only stay here for a few hours. I took the bus down from Vang Vieng this morning and am taking another bus to Vietnam (Danang) this evening. All in all I will only have been in Vientiane for about 5 hours. So, from what I see, there is pretty good soup, the internet is not really very cheap and I did not find an ATM but I did find an exchange.

I also found a nice little guy named "V" who runs the P P Guesthouse and who is letting me store my bags and loaf on his couch and watch TV while I wait for my bus (granted, he did have on WWF Female wrestling which I am not particularly interested in). He also was nice enough to rub something similar to Vicks Vapo Rub on my toe when I came back into the guesthouse bleeding from an unfortunate accident with a sidewalk grate. Now I have never had Vicks Vapo Rub rubbed on a cut before and I expected quite a sting, but really it was no worse than iodine or the like. Funny, becuase the Thai and Laos people rub Tiger Balm on everything. I even read the back of the package after seeing a Thai woman rub some below her nose before going into a stinky bathroom (good idea, by the way! Except doesn't it make one's nose burn?). What the back of the package states is that tiger balm is good for "aches, pains, headache, constipation... now WHERE are you supposed to rub it if you are constipated, may I ask?

So my time in Vientiane is limited to learning:
a) if they do have ATMs I don't know where they are hiding them
b) whoever said Vientiene is not that exciting may be right unless you can count cutting your toe on a sidewalk grate and having a small Lao named V rub Vapo Rub on it exciting.

So now I am off on a 22 hour journey (hopefully more comfy than the one on the train to Bangkok) from Vientiane, across the border and into Vietnam. I arrive there tomorrow at 5 pm and I plan to check out the city a bit before heading down the coast towards Ho Chi Minh city. 


What is going on at home??

To remind us who are faraway what we are missing... Please add your two cents...