A Travellerspoint blog

October 2010

The City with Two Names

Ho Chi Minh or Saigon....you decide.

all seasons in one day
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So we arrive in Saigon, literally choose the first hotel we see and then set off to explore the city..... well, explore the backpacker area, which we failed to leave for two days! Full of bars, imitation oil painting shops and tourists! Its almost like London.... but with more motorbikes. For anyone who hasn't been to Saigon/Hanoi before crossing the road is AN EXPERIENCE! The official advice is to just walk slowly, and the motorbikes (should) stop for you.

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We had our first Pho Bo (beef noodle soup) of the trip, for less than quid, and then we met up with Duncan, a friend from Bath who moved to Saigon a month ago, and his sweet Vietnamese friend Ut, and had a pretty big night out with them and Paul, who we met in Kampot, and Amy & Laura, two sisters who (wait for it Vicky) hail from Monkton Farleigh! Although the next day was a bit of a write-off, due to the previous nights alcohol related activities, the day after we visited the fabulously 60's reunification palace and ended the day with sunset cocktails on the 26th floor of the Sheraton.

On our last day, we shunned the tourist trap that is Chu Chi tunnels (Jo said she would be claustrophobic), and instead went "off the beaten track" to a weird empty olympic sized swimming pool, making the mistake to walk in the hot, noisy, polluted streets, instead of just taking a taxi.

Posted by aspindi 04:03 Archived in Vietnam Tagged saigon ho_chi_minh Comments (1)

Meandering Up The Mekong

Our first foray into Vietnamese eating....


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After lots of chopping and changing our route we decided the best way to enter Vietnam would be by boat. We wanted to explore the Mekong Delta and our guesthouse offered a range of trips so in the end we booked a two night/three day group tour.

Day one consisted of a four hour boat ride across the border and by early afternoon we rocked up at the shabby looking riverside town of Chau Doc. The tour guide on our boat asked us if we would be willing to talk English to some students and we thought it would be rude not too so after a wander round town (and our first tasty bowl of Pho Ga - chicken noodle soup), a tuk tuk driver picked us up to take us to the night school.

India and I were split into two classrooms and then spent over an hour talking English slightly awkwardly to some young Vietnamese students. I hope they found it useful although I think most of our chat was lost in translation : /
I had a hard time trying to explain the Mercury music prize and at one point I looked into India's class to see her drawing jellyfish on the white board?

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Back at the hotel we met some fellow East Londoners and the tuk tuk drivers took us to their favourite bar in town - a huge pool hall/ bar. We all has some beers with the drivers and then they drunkenly got back on their wheels to race us all back home.

Day two of the cruise, we were woken at 6:30am and taken to see some fish and a floating village. We then drove to the riverside city of Can Tho for the night. We wandered the city and looked at very small-sized clothing in the market.

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We found an amazing street-cafe and cooked our own dinner on a charcoal barbecue. We ordered fresh prawns in chilli and beef in soya bean both of which were served up with a side of okra. The whole thing cost under five quid! Some very nice Vietnamese businessmen on the table next to us asked us to join them and then started offering us all of their food and pouring us endless shots of vodka - which we felt rude not to accept.

Day three we visited a rice noodle market, local orchard and floating market. We stopped for lunch and although the menu included rat, snake and frog options India went for one of the local favourite dishes - a sweet and sour soup with pineapple. We're not too sure if the ants were supposed to be part of the dish?

Posted by aspindi 04:47 Comments (2)

Phnom Pehn

a few days in Cambodia's biggest city

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Gosh darn it! Its been so long since we were in Phnom Pehn I cant remember what we did. Or maybe it was just uninspiring. After all - we didn't leave London in order to go to another city.

Phnom Penh is a big city, but it is definately still Cambodia, red dust everywhere, messy, terrible traffic, sweet but persistent tuk tuk drivers, odd street food and annoying child book-sellers. So we looked around, but lacked the energy (and budget) to go to the Royal Palace, instead we sheltered from a downpour looking at it, witnessed an elephant walking down the road, and then found somewhere to eat.

One thing all visitors must do in Phnom Penh is pay a visit to Tuol Sleng - S21, the Kymer Rouge's war prison created from a high school in the capital city, and combine it with a visit - 15km out of town to the killing fields, one of the many many places the Kymer Rouge took their prisoners to be executed and buried in mass graves. So that is what we did. To save money and be social we shared a tuk tuk with three people we met at our guesthouse (Okay Guesthouse....... it was ok) Frank from Holland, Anida from Germany and Amanda from England. Our plan backfired a little when our combined weight broke the tuk tuk's wheel and we spent an hour on the side of the road waiting for it to be fixed. Still it was an interesting interlude from the somewhat solumn activities of the day!

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Posted by aspindi 03:17 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Retreating to Kep

Our stay at the Vine Retreat

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We decided to treat ourselves to a night of luxury, so we headed to Kep, famous for its crab, and checked into the Vine Retreat, an eco-lodge and organic farm. On arrival our host, the manager Dan, who we had met at Bodhi Villa's famous friday night, drove us all to Kep, a small fishing town famous for one thing.... CRAB! And so we sat down to a delicious late lunch of Kep Crab cooked in green Kampot pepper, overlooking nothing but the ocean. In the evening we relaxed on the balcony of the lodge, reading books, listening to music and sat down to a beautiful home-cooked meal incorporating the farm's home grown tomatoes and morning glory.

We stayed only one night (was a little pricey... we are supposed to be backpacking, not flashpacking after all) and the next day after a tour around the grounds, we hopped in a share taxi all the way to Phnom Pehn.

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Posted by aspindi 20:43 Archived in Cambodia Tagged kep Comments (0)

UPDATE UPDATE!

We are now ONLINE!

I have been getting a little behind on my blog updates and, to my 4 avid readers I sincerely apologise!
Worry no longer though, for as of today me and Jo have a fabulous new mini-laptop. So, updates and photos will soon be up and running, so too will be skyping sessions. Yey! Lets hear it for technology!

Posted by aspindi 04:50 Comments (1)

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