A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia - Sihanoukville - Otres beach

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The Vietnamese Border crossing was exciting. We had paid the admin office two dollars to take care of our paperwork. We had read that this is a swizz, and that it's really easy to do it yourself. At the admin office near the border we stopped for a coffee while we filled out some forms attached the passport photo, paid our entry fee 25$ USD and waved goodbye to our passports.

We were told to get back on the bus and that someone would meet us at the border with our passports. All of this was quite unnerving, but one thing we have learned traveling around SE Asia is that there ARE systems in place. They are crude, often rudimentary systems and nothing like the computer wizardry we have in the west. But the systems work. So we just went along with it and hopped on the bus.

Once at the Vietnam border Ha Tien, we shuffle through the gate on foot (the bus is not allowed to cross) trying to look for our "girl" who was looking after our group. That two dollars we paid was money well spent there is no way we would have been able to manage this on our own. Lots of different windows, lots of different stamps to get. No clue what to do. No one speaking a word if English.

We got talking to a British couple who recognized me from the beach on Phu quoc they had been at this border for 5 hours waiting to get through, they had been picked up earlier than us and were still waiting.
I think we got lucky with our travel agent choice - GREEN TRAVEL, LONG BEACH, PHU QUOC.

We sailed through.

Pic - Vietnam to Cambodia border crossing.

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On the other side in Cambodia there was a new bus waiting for us to take us to Sihanoukville.

Several unexpected stops, unexpected bus changes and a flat battery later we arrived in Sihanouville.
We'd booked a decent hotel as after my sea sickness on Phu Quoc I thought I might be in a bad way due to the ferry crossing but thankfully it was smooth and I was not seasick.

Sharing a mini van with the strangers for five hours on the road with some pretty horrific hole in the floor toilet experiences (and no hand sanitiser) wasn't particularly pleasant. I must have picked up a tummy bug and we both caught the flu. By the time we arrived in Sihanouville we were feeling pretty ropey.

Luckily we had used out agoda reward points to book into a three star hotel so we could have some comfort, we spent two days mostly in the room just trying to get over feeling crappy. It was wonderful to have western luxuries like hot power shower and swimming pool and be insect/creature free - especially after the rustic bungalows on phu quoc and the toad incident.

Another country means another currency.
The currency here is the Cambodian Riel (KHR) but everything is quoted in US dollar. When you pay with dollar you get dollar change as much as possible but then the small change is in KHR.
It is confusing, and you are never 100% sure of your change. Plus you need two purses!

Sihanoukville is a proper holiday spot. Cocktail bars, BBQs and all the things one expects in a resort. The beach area is a shit hole. Hastily constructed shacks knocking out cheap buckets of booze to "gap year" twenty something's, and no one doing any cleaning. It's filthy.

High street Sihanoukville.

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We decided to head to the next resort Otres beach as it gets great reviews and is supposed to be stunning, we opted for Otres two as it's supposed to be quieter.

When we got there the whole strip where our bungalows were located was a construction zone.

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This is a side effect of visiting a burgeoning up and coming area. Yes, it is relatively unspoiled and yes, you are seeing it first but for me personally it'd rather visit a resort that's already got an infrastructure. Oh, and maybe Tarmac.
The roads are still red dust so you get thrown about in a tuk tuk and the funniest thing happened to us our tuk tuk got stuck in the dust and we had to get out and push. I like to think it was our overweight rucksacks and not our overweight western arses that caused this fracas!

The beach is absolutely gorgeous with white soft sand and warm ocean.

Pic - Otres 2 Beach

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Two sleepless nights due to construction and still feeling full of flu we decide to head back to the three star hotel in Sihanoukville and lick our wounds. Sod the expense, we need to get well for the journey home.

We found a great restaurant specialising in local Khmer dishes. We tried AMOK - fish curry, LOK LAK - beef in a kind of gravy sauce, caramelised pork with ginger and prawns with Kampot pepper and lime. Really nice dishes and great to have some big flavour after the Vietnamese food, which we both thought was very bland.

Pic - Amok - mild fish curry served in a banana leaf

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Just been going for gentle strolls at night staying close by the hotel as we are conserving energy for the journey home.

Pic pool view
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Update:
I've had the shits for three days now. My Poo has taken on an iridescent quality.
Think baby food, purée pumpkin Flavour.
What? Over sharing? Ok I'll stop.

Hopefully it's a harmless parasite that will eats all my tummy flab without any nasty side effects and I will look tanned and slim by the time we get home!

Posted by Gingertoad 02:43 Archived in Cambodia Tagged sihanoukiville Comments (0)

Vietnam - Phu Quoc Island

Take Paradise and put up a parking lot

We flew from Da Nang airport straight to Phu Quoc and stayed a couple of days near to the main town Duong Dong.
The night market was interesting. You can order snakes, toads, sea urchin, conch, baby shark. All still alive in tanks, you choose which one you want and they BBQ it for you.

Photo tanks
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The top end of Long beach was very Russian which after Thailand and also where we live in Salou that they drive the prices up and lower the quality so we were keen to avoid this plus there were jellyfish, so we moved to the south end of long beach in search of new accommodation.

We walked around asking for prices and got a nice bungalow on the beach for forty dollar a night. This was the first time EVER that the room rates in person were cheaper than quoted on Agoda.

Accommodation on Phu Quoc is really pricey and not good value for money but as it's still so underdeveloped there isn't much choice.

Our bungalow was cosy, a bit more rustic than we are used to from Thailand and twice the price. We had an actual ginger toad in the bathroom one evening, that was a bit of a shock!

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Our customary touristy boat trip excursion turned out to be disastrous for me as I got sea sick the instant the boat started it's smelly Diesel engine. Jason enjoyed the snorkeling and we did get to see several of the south islands. All uninhabitable and very pretty.

Most of life in Phu Quoc seems to still revolve around the sea and as the boat refueled out at sea we passed a strange floating village all built on boats out at sea and kind of joined together with planks of wood.

Photos from the boat trip, one of the uninhibited islands.

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Jc snorkeling, photo taken while I puked on the boat.

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The rest of the time we just chilled out swimming and resting.

I've got a bit addicted to these Vietnamese ice coffees made with condensed milk.

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Photo of long beach and our favourite chill out spot, even though we were not staying here we used the resort sun beds. The owners are cool as long as you spend money in the bar.

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Fruit lady the only hawker allowed on long beach, thankfully!

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Phu Quoc is stunning and still quite un developed, visit here soon as there are signs of construction and development all over the place. I guess in a few years it will look very different.

We have only two weeks left now and have decided to add a last minute visit to Cambodia to our itinerary so we leave Vietnam tomorrow.

Posted by Gingertoad 03:59 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam phu quoc Comments (0)

Vietnam - Hoi An - "buy something, help me please"

Haven't written anything for a while as the internet connection in Vietnam is intermittent/ non existent.

After Ho Chi Minh City we headed a bit further up north to Hoi An it's a UNESCO world heritage site and a beautifully preserved fishing port.

It has a really pretty riverside with glittering silk lanterns twinkling at night.
It's a pure tourist trap but if you go a few streets back you still see the real Vietnam. It's a welcome break and a slower pace than frantic Saigon.

We ate at some of the best restaurants in town for pennies and hired bikes to ride out into the countryside and over to the beaches.

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The weather has been a little unkind to us the last few weeks with grey skies following us everywhere we stay we've been following the forecasts avidly in search of sunshine but it seems as though SE Asia is having unusual weather, perhaps it's the fallout from the recent hurricane in the Philippines.

We rode to the beach, some of the fishing boats are round.

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Rice paddies, miles and miles of rice paddies.

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There are over 400+ tailors in hoi an so we both had something custom made for the cost of a T shirt in England!

Here is me getting measured for a suit which turned out really well. If you are coming to Hoi An and need a tailor I would recommend "YALY " it's very highly rated, I found the service and tailoring first class and excellent value.

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Even though Hoi An has a "resort" feel and it's all visiting westerners walking around you are still very much in a very poor third world country.

There are lots of beggars here it does your head in after a few days.
Will be sat trying to enjoy a quiet drink by the riverside when the familiar walk approaches it could be any of the following:

Ancient weathered grandma selling peanuts "buy peanuts"
One legged old man with the newspaper "you buy"
Middle age lady "you buy fan, help me"
Next it's a six year old " buy candle lucky for luck, you buy it help me"

It's like they've been to a salesmanship school and learned only the key phrases.
Q. Where you from?
If you say England = reply: "lovely jubbly"
If you say Australia = reply: "good day mate"

It gets a bit much so we had a giggle trying out new answers replying different answers to "where you from"?
- Mozambique
- Azabajane

Jason reminds me of when we lived in Tenerife and the Parque de la Paz area with its constant stream of Senagalise selling watches "asda price"
So it's not just Vietnam and I know it's heartbreaking as they are really poor and in need but you can't give to every single one.

There are a few "Do good" cafes helping charities we had a coffee at a "silent" cafe which helps disabled people and the staff are all deaf.
We got an attack of the inappropriate sniggers in there as it was so pretentious and stuffy even though it's for a good cause.

Then the bill came J said "7 fucking dollars for a cookie" - I thought, it's a good job they can't hear!!

We decided to forgo our trip to Hanoi as it's further up north as everyone we meet who's just come from there says it's freezing. We are hungry for some sunshine so we decide to head back to HCMC and then over to the Vietnamese island of Phu Quoc as the weather looks promising there.

Posted by Gingertoad 07:31 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam hoi an Comments (0)

The Hundred Thousand Dong Swindle

Sharpen up in Saigon

Still not got our head around the currency and we've been ripped off a couple of times now.
The hundred thousand bill looks a lot like the ten thousand bill. At night when it's dark or after a few beers it's REALLY easy to get the mixed up. Of course no change is ever forthcoming and so far no one has been honest and let us know we've made a mistake.

It's only when you get home and think "God I've spent a bit tonight" then you realise what a dick you are.

We took a solo passenger rickshaw access town to the "western quarter" which is described as a more discerning Koh San Road and caters for all ones western needs. We were in search of a 3G SIM card as we really need google maps on line.
Most bars have free wifi but it's often very intermittent and weak signal so don't expect too much.

Here is a pic of me enjoying the ride before I knew my driver was Dynamo the magician.

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When we went to pay him the agreed price 100,000VND He dropped an amazing David Blaine Illusionist slight of hand trick on us saying that we'd only given him a 10,000VND note.

Like a couple of fresh of the boat daft cringos we coughed up the extra dough. It was only after he shot off (very fucking nimble for a septuagenarian) that we realised what had just happened.

WE HAVE TO SHARPEN UP!!

Food wise we have discovered a dish we can order with the confidence of it not being testicles or giblets. Our chosen dish du jour is called - Phò - and it's beef noodles in a very delicious broth with quality beef steak on top.

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Sampling loads of different beers as it's so cheap here - it's half the price of Thailand (if we could stop accidentally giving all our bloody money away!)

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Posted by Gingertoad 00:33 Archived in Vietnam Tagged saigon Comments (0)

Vespa Tour of Saigon, The last day of 2013

Vintage dahhhling! What a what to say Adios to 2013!

There are several companies offering bike tours around Saigon. We opted for the Vintage Vespa tour. The Vespa is such a cool iconic bike, what a great way to see the sights riding on the back off one of these lovingly restored vintage bikes.

I've never been on the back of a motorbike before so I was quite nervous, especially as the traffic here is INSANE!

I'm an experienced driver and I've driven cars around famous crazy roundabouts including "place de la Concorde" in Paris, "plaza de Espana" in Barcelona both busy roundabouts with lots of traffic chaos but as I mentioned last blog entry, the traffic here is something else.

When the guide came to collect us at the hotel to take us to the meeting point I was already sweating with nerves.

As we rode to the group meeting point my driver wished me a "happy new year" all I could think was "eyes on the road dickhead, I don't want to start 2014 as a paraplegic".

Anyway your tour starts with lunch included and a drink at the Zoom Cafe and you meet with the other members of your group. We were 6 people in total. Us two from Spain, Two from New Zealand and two from Sweden. It was great to share our travel stories and tips over a nice lunch.

After lunch we met our tour guide and our drivers - and our Vespas!

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At first it's mayhem and you are tempted to close your eyes at the crazy intersections. As a westerner it seemed bonkers to me that they don't seem to have any "Highway Code" or road markings. After about ten mins I relaxed a little as it's clear the drivers are really experienced and the roads actually start to make sense more on the bike than on foot.

It's a white knuckle ride and at times a little overwhelming, but all the while I was thinking "this is the coolest thing I've ever done".

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We stopped at various points all over the city in the different "districts" for breaks. We saw the flower market, temples, the fabric markets, china town, downtown, rode along side and then under the river Saigon and the new business district. The tour finishes at the Reunification Palace with a nice group photo and then you get dropped back off at your hotel.

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What an amazing way to see the city and "real" Saigon. I would thoroughly recommend this excursion especially if you only have a few days in the city as you will get to see areas and things that you would never see as a conventional tourist.

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I love Saigon.

Posted by Gingertoad 23:18 Archived in Vietnam Tagged city saigon vespa chi ho minh Comments (0)

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