A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: Yeebles

Bangkok and Aruthaya [UPDATE: now with Pictures]

The start of the trip

sunny 36 °C

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So here it goes the first blog post of the trip. 2 days ago we arrived in a very humid Bangkok after an epically long and tiring flight on Cathay pacific via Hong Kong. We met Dan (Rob's mate from university) and Dan's mate Ollie (who had arrived earlier in the day), who we plan on doing a lot of the trip with in the D and D hotel in the backpackers' hub of Khao San Road. We had dinner and a Chang Beer (or three) and got some much needed sleep on an actual bed.

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The next day was a late start and our objective was to head to the train station and book tickets which we headed over to using the river bus service in Bangkok. When we got there we headed to a TAT tourist office to plan our route. A lot of our initial plans have been complicated by the fact that there is a Full Moon party on the 14th/15th which drives the prices up for our travel further south towards Malaysia and that it is a Thai national holiday on the 17th meaning loads of things are closed or fully booked by local tourists. Also the office confirmed foreign office advice that travelling by train across to Malaysia was very dangerous as bombs and gun attacks occur regularly. This meant our itenary has been changed and we have had to break our rule of not flying.

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Our new iteinary is that we left Bangkok today on Friday in the afternoon to go to Aruthaya and then tomorrow pate afternoon we go to "monkey town" for a few hours. Then we get a sleeper train to Chiangmai. Stay for just under a week. Then fly to Bangkok get the train+bus+ferry to Koh Tao. Stay there for a few days and go to Koh Samui. Then Ollie needs to fly back so Dan and Ollie will go to Bangkok and me and Rob to Phuket where we will fly to Kuala Lumpar. Dan will fly from Bangkok to KL on the same day. We then shall explore Malaysia. The. Rob and I will head to Singapore where we fly back from. So that's all the technicalities here's the adventure so far.

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In bangkok we also went to a Golden Buddah temple near the station. Then we went back for a few hours of fun and games in the hotels pool where we engaged many fun activities. We then went on a night out which involved 2 6 litre tower of Chang Beer, kfc, general craziness and bumping into school friends. But that is enough about that.

Today we caught the train to Aruthaya which was very long and hot but relatively spacious. When we arrived we checked into PU guesthouse and did a boat tour of the outer temples followed by dinner at the night market. Tomorrow we cycle around the inner temples and go to monkey town and get the sleeper train to Chiangmai.

Posted by Yeebles 20:51 Archived in Thailand Tagged thailand bangkok itenary Comments (0)

We are off again!

Part 2

Hey everyone! Me and Rob are off again to SEAsia. On part2 of our trip. We shall be starting on the 6th of July in Bangkok and Finishing in Singapore on the 16th of August.

Stay tuned for more of the same as 2 years ago with possibly more matured style (probably not though).

Alex

Posted by Yeebles 10:58 Comments (0)

1 Year On.... And some advice

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So, I have been meaning to leave some advice for ages. But, since coming back from Bangkok to home in the UK, things have been non-stop. I immediately had to get ready for going to the University of Liverpool to read Economics and then since I got there, this blog has taken a back seat (or bed) on this coach(or sleeper bus) of priorities.

Anyways, here is a list of things that I found most useful during our travels:

1. iPod Touch (or any music playing device)- I took my iPod touch mainly for the music element as we were having very long trips. However, I have to admit the other features on it were very useful. I had pre loaded some films and games meaning at certain points of a long bus through dark/same-y scenery Rob and I played a few games of monopoly. Now, I'm not saying play all the times as most of the time there is something to look at outside. Other features that were useful were the Wi-Fi feature meaning free access to email/Twitter/Blog at certain points and also I could download some more music if my current playlist got boring. Also, my iPod was useful as I had a good collection to sorta DJ at certain points earning many free drinks. Also, I had some phrasebook apps which were fairly useful.

However if you take an iPod I would suggest bringing a multi-adaptor charger and a protective case. I brought an OtterBox Defender (they have them for all iPods), which protected the iPod from monsoonal rain whilst cycling, occasional drops and falling into the mud. They do cost more than normal cases but check eBay for a good deal and it was definitely working seeing as my iPod is still going strong today.

2. Decent walking shoes/boots- This should be obvious if you are doing the Tiger Leaping Gorge trip, however, even for other bits like Sapa walking it is useful. If you are doing something similar to us the amount of walking through the town or whatever is not suitable for converse/flipflops. However, I must say I regret bringing boots as opposed to shoes as they are a bit bulky.

3. ATM card -this should be obvious but nowadays you don't need to carry all the cash for the trip on you especially if you have regular stops in towns. I brought a Nationwide card with me as they have the lowest rate. One thing that is advisable is to activate online banking as it helps in making it easier to manage transfers (I did not keep all my savings into my account and got my dad to transfer money into my Nationwide gradually). Also, if you lose your card think twice before cancelling it as you may do what I did and cancel it and then get it back with no ways of re-instating it. (this is why it is useful to have online banking to check for any activity). For this reason maybe have another bank card stored somewhere secret in a different place to your main card.

4. Cheap Nokia Mobile- I only mention Nokia as they have some really cheap durable phones that hold their battery well. I would not take a phone costing more that £25 as there is a chance you'll lose it (like I did). The phone is obviously a useful tool for emergencies but also it means you can keep in touch with the outside world as it is ridiculous where you can get good signal (especially in China). It also means you can update your Twitter/Tumblr/blog by text(if available). You may notice my Twitter kept updating in China even though Twitter is explicitly forbidden.

5. Digital Camera- very obvious one but yeah a fairly decent digital camera. You don't need to have a DSLR to get great pictures you just need to know how to change settings precisely on your digital. Some of my shots from my normal digital camera I displayed at a Photo Society Exhibition in Liverpool. A really cool camera I saw whilst travelling are these new waterproof ones which aren't even very bulky. I would also suggest bringing a spare battery and a spare memory card. Make sure you guard your camera containing your photos as you can now lose hundreds of photos in one mistake. Also, bring your cable with you and upload pictures to your blog/Flikr in case you lose them.

6. [/b]Guide book[b] - I used the Lonely Planet- South-East Asia on a shoestring which was pretty handy. However, don't rely solely on it. When you get confidence try and create a new experience. Also, be aware people make similar named places near the one mentioned in the book to try and steal customers with inferior services (e.g. there are millions of Sinh Cafe fakes in Vietnam). Also, places seem to change names regularly.

Can't think of many more apart from the obvious repellents, clothes, first aid.

Finally here's a random list of things I think you should do

Take pictures of things that catch your eye
Take pictures of a busy scene
Take pictures of scenery
Take pictures of funny signs (e.g Chinglish)
Take pictures of people
Take pictures of yourself (or get someone else to help)

Talk to fellow travellers
Talk to locals

Carry Sweets at all time incase of children coming begging/trying to forse sell.

Haggle and be prepared to say no.

Cycle in Asia
Motorcycle in Vietnam
Try the local beer

Avoid being lead into a business and being forced to buy/stay in that hotel
Don't take taxis too much, walk more
If you do take taxis, make sure you agree a price/ask for the meter (also check guidebook for recommended ones)

Tip for good service
Try and be environmentally friendly

Don't lose your temper (unless necessary)
Blog regularly and tell everyone you know!

Meet new people
See new things
Have fun!!

The 2 months I spent travelling went too quickly, and were some of the best times I've ever had. I already want to go back and am jealous of anyone who is going.

If you have any questions please contact me on Twitter @yeebles
OR message me on Travellerspoint
OR email me at: alex. jay. yee @ gmail .com (remove the spaces between the words)

Posted by Yeebles 03:42 Tagged preparation Comments (0)

Bangkok and Kanchanaburi

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Hey, the first part of the blog was written in the past on a bus on the iPod so the tense may be a bit strange.

Today we took the bus from Siem Riep across our final land border crossing into Thailand and then to Bangkok. It was an early start but not as early as Angkor Wat! We were not sure what to expect as all the travel resources we had looked at claimed that the road to the border is notoriously bad and bumpy and un-roadlike. Howeverm there was still hope as my lonely planet which was published in 2008 claimed that there was evidence of construction at the time of writting. Also, the Danish couple I met in Sapa said that some of the roads had recently been finished.

The road WAS smooth and we got to the border at Poipet in no time. We then crossed the border which took no longer than expected. We then got into a mini bus (in which I have been writing this blog). Now it truly feels like we have left the roughinng it out bit of the trip behind us as and have entered a modernised country as evidenced by the smooth fast dual carriageway highway we ride (which the drive on the left on!).

We stopped at a petrol station for a toilet stop and to buy snacks at the petrol station shop. I finally got my first dim sum of the trip from a petrol station microwave.

The rest is now written now! :)

We eventually arrived in Bangkok into long traffic jams. What really hit me was the fact that we were somewhere with massive skyscrappers, that an that I saw a Tesco Express. We then went to a hotel which was supossedly a bit luxurious for the area. It was air conditioned, rooms had their own bathrooms (shared bathrooms are more common) and had a roof top pool. The only room they had was 700฿ which we thought was a bit pricey. We then went to other suggested places. All of them were expensive or full so we went back to the first place ass it seemeed to be worth it and quite reasonable for the area.

The next day we decided to go and see the city sights. A tuk tuk driver offered to do a full tour for a mere 20฿ we took him up on this offer. First we went to see a big buddah. some temples and this temple on a mountain. We also went to the tourist office to book a 3 day 2 night tour to Kanchanaburi. The reason we got such a good price on the tuk tuk is that he gets given free petrol (2 litres) vouchers for takinhg us to certain places. He took us to 3 tailors. The first 2 weren't very nice but the 3rd had really friendly people who gave us drinks and a special price as we were young students. I bought 3 shirts and Rob bought a suit. The tuk tuk driver got a futher 3 litres as we bought something. As a result our day's tuk tuk tour was absolutely free.

We then went to the MBK in the siam centre shopping area and truly embraced modern life by having a maccy ds. We then wandered around the massive MBK as I wanted to buy Mac OSX Snow Leopard for a discounted price. I found it for a full 3.80 pounds less than at home. (Bargain!). We tehn took the sky train and river buses back to the Khao San area.

The next day we went to the Royal Palace by river bus. We spent a couple of hours there then took the river bus to China Town where we had our first proper dim sum of the trip. We then headed to the MBK as I was considering buying a DSLR whilst here and would check prices.

We then walked further than expected for a tailor fitting. The guys gave us a beer whilst we got fitted! We then headed back to the MBK where we had dinner at the amazing food court. We then took a tuk tuk back for 100฿ with no stops (we didn't want to go to another tailor or the other businesses which were a little x-rated).

The next day we got up nice and early to get the 3 hour minibsu to Kanchanaburi which is near the border with Myanmar (Burma). The first stop was a cemetery in which contains the remains of just under 7000 British, Australian Dutch and a few American POWs from WW2 that were captured by the Japanese and sent to forced labour camps to build the Bangkok-Burma railway which was to be used to transport supplies overland without threat of allied submarines and bombers. We also went to a museum about the war and the bridge that crosses the river Kwai.

After this we had an hour long bus journey to the floatng resturaunt on the river that we would stay on. We had lunch then those of us staying on the two nights tour we went to Hell Fire Pass a former railway pass where many died building the railway through the mountain as the Japanese lacked tunneling skills. There was a really informative museum and a walk to the pass itself. Unfortunatley we could only walk to the pass and back as the trail beyond the pass had been obstructed by a rock fall. We then went to a small waterfall with refreshingly cool waters which I wandered into.

We then headed back to the floating resturaunt had dinner (way to soon after lunch) and then took the boat up stram to our beautifully located floating hotel. When we got there we had just enough time before sunset to jump into the river at one end and the let the current and then push us to the hotel bar a few metres away in which we had to resist the current and get back out and go back to the start a few times. We then got clean and had a fun night in the bar.

The next day some of us went to the beautiful Erawan waterfalls, a 7 tiered waterfall with lush clear blue water, in the jungle with pools which you could swim in. The trek was hard sue to the sliperiness but it was amazing. Me and the two other people I was walking with went swimming in the pool at the top level. It was cool. The pool was slippery to get into, what made it worse were these fish which nibble the dead skin of your feet and tickle a lot, but then again people pay 150฿ in Bangkok for this. On the walk down the 2 people I was walking and I saw loads of monkeys swinging in the trees which made this trip extra special.

We then went to have lunch. Then 4 of us went to these amazing limestone caves with no one else in. They were pretty cool. We then headed back to the hotel for another night of fun among the 5 of us on the 3 day trip, the guy staying there for a few days and the new person but not before another swim which was harder as the raft which helped us get onto the hotel was gone.

Today we got up much later. We then took the boat to go elephant treking. It was amazing if a little precarious. It was funny seeing other peoples elephants wander of the track in search of some tasty leaves.

We then headed back to the hotel to bamboo raft down to the resturaunt to get taken back to Bangkok. We wanted to swim (or float) the whole way down the river but the rain made the first half dangerousbut we got to float for about 30 minutes down to a rickety bridge near the resturaunt. We then jumped of the bridge. I didn't jump of it very well and slammed my chest bone hard against the water but then proceeded to swim quickly to the side so we could get to a jetty and avoid being swept past the resturaunt.

We then headed back to Bangkok. What an amazing worthwhile trip.

[uploading pics straight after publishing]

Posted by Yeebles 20:00 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Ho Chi Minh City, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap

10 day Mega Blog

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Right, I haven't blogged in ages so here is a monster blog. Also spelling mistakes are even more likely as part of this is being typed on an iPod and the usually rubbish keyboards.

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Firstly, the cookery course. We got up nice and early to go across town to the Vietnamese culinary center. The menu for today was crispy Vietnamese spring rolls, spicy and sour soup and caramel pork with coconut steamed rice.

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Making spring rolls were fairly easy as long as they were rolled tightly. The chef was impressed by Rob's tightly wrapped spring rolls. We then moved on to the other dishes all of which were quick and easy to make but then again the ingredients had already been precut. At the end we all ate our early massive lunches at 11 and were presented with certificates and recipie books. After that we headed to the re-unification palace former hq of south Vietnam and where the flag of the north was hung when 2 tanks burst through the gate leading to the fall of Saigon. It was interesting and I finally got a picture with Uncle Ho (Chi Minh).

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The next day we headed to China town to look at pagodas and try and find dim sum. We failed at mission objective 2 so caught a taxi to the dong koi area. Over there we went to the war remnants museum which had some truly harrowing pictures of the victims of the American war. We then headed to the Internet to sort out Rob's clearing place. I learnt I had to send a form to student finance as I was going to my insurance choice. I quickly printed and filled in the document and headed to the stunning post office at 8:00 as it closed at 9:30.

The next day we were off to phnom penh, leaving the country we had spent so long in. The bus was fairly comfortable and the roads were smooth, unlike they had been in previous years. Also, more surprisingly the border crossing was very quick.

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When we got to Phnom Penh we got a tuk tuk to the lake side area. We went to number 9 guest house. It was on the lake (which seems to be being filled in) and had a nice bar/resturaunt. However, the room was not that nice compared to what we thought we could get for that price. However the real problem was that although it was in a good area for backpacker bars and resturaunts, it was ages from the centre or any sights. So we headed into town to get a curry and then looked at Royal Guesthouse which was supposedly better. We went to this family run hotel. The first room showed to us had 1 double bed which we didn't want. The second room showed to us had a double and single so we agreed to pay for the larger room with a real bathroom for only $2 more per person than number nine. We then chilled at the bar.

The next day we moved to royal guesthouse where our room had 2 double beds and was much bigger and nicer than the one we saw. We wandered around the town and booked a tour to the main sights in and around Phnom Penh.

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The next day we started by going to the killing fields where there was a massive monument filled with skulls, craters and pits where the mass graves used to be and a museum. The whole experience was moving and an eye opener to the attrocities committed by the Khymer Rouge. We also wento the Russian Market where they sold a wide variety of goods. I bought some ray bans for $7. We then went to the S21 genocide museum which was a high school converted into a prison by the khymer rouge. Political prisoners, women, children, babies and anyone who were not pure enough for the khymer rouge were held, totured and ultimately killed.

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Rob wasn't feeling very well so he was dropped of at the hotel. I went to the national museum where I got to learn more about cambodia's ancient and more peaceful past. After that I went back and after a small lunch we were taken to the royal palace where the king lives and silver pagoda. After that we went back. For dinner we went to a pizza place where I decided to try a happy pizza.

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The next day I didn't feel to well but we went to this pagoda on a hill. It wasn't that impressive but what made it for me was that there were loads of monkeys wandering around the area.

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We then went to have look at the independence monument and then went to the Vietnamese liberation monument commemorating Vietnam's help in liberating Cambodians from the Khymer Rouge. We then had a streetside haircut for $2.

The next day we caught a bus to Siem Reap. The bus was ok in comfort terms. We then got a tuk tuk to green town guesthouse. We also aranged with the tuk tuk driver to go to Angkor Wat for sunrise. We then wandered around town.

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The next day we set off at 5:00. When we got there it was still dark and crowds were building as sun rise approached a massive cloud filled the sky. We then had a look in Angkor Wat and got some amazing views of the temple.

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We then were tuk tuked to Angor Thom and the Bayon temple which was amazing as it had loads of intact fours facing buddah towers. We went to many other temples and climbed many steep steps up to the towers and roofs of the temples. Due to our early start we finished at eleven. We then lazed about for a while.

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The next day we decided to cycle on the great circuit of Angkor. We rented bikes from next door to ou hotel. The bikes were ok if a little uncomfortable. We then headed off to Angkor. Barely out of Siem Reap Rob's bike chain fell off. Luckily a local passing woman demonstrated how to put the chain back on. The chain fell off 2 more times before we turned back. Rob then got another bike which had gears. It was decided that I would benefit more from gears. However the bike was cleary weang for a child as the handlebars were so low you had to essentially be in crawling posistion to ride it and to top it the hears didn't work. After I got to Angkor Wat 20 minutes after Rob we swapped as he was a better cyclist and more likely be able to cope. We looked at many temples. Preah khan stood out as it seemed like proper jungle ruins. This is intact where they shot one of the scenes in the original tomb raider film where lara croft wanders through the jungle. After Preah Khan we were greeted by loads of women trying to get us to have lunch in their stall. We eventually picked one who had made all the prices on the menu $2 as long as we ate there.

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We then headed to other temples along the circuit. The ones that really stood out for me were ta som and bre rup which were stunning in their enormity, designs and in tactness. Also it was good as there were barely any tourists here. Overally I preffered this experience to the popular ones we saw yesterday. We then had a painful cycle ride back in which we cam across some monkeys. 

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Today we went to the Battam srey and the Rolous group with our tuk tuk driver from before. Battam srey is a bit out of the way and the only one in that area so unsurprisingly there were quite a few tourists. I was stopped at the ticket checking point as apparently the picture on my Angkor pass looked older than me. I eventually used my passport as proof it really was me. Battam srey was impressive mainly due to it's moat.

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We then headed down to the rolous group in the east. These temples are the older ones and as they were really out of the way there were barely any tourists. They were truly stunning. On going to one of the temples a truly gold moment happened when 6 drinks sellers crowded around the tuk shouting various words about buying a cold drink.

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We then went back to town and bid our driver farewell. After lunch Rob decided we should go to a temple near Anhkor Thom on a hill in which we could see the Wat from a Birdseye view. He also wanted to cycle there weirdly. We did cycle there but this time the bikes were much better my bike had working gears and semi decent height handlebars. We cycled there and climbed a hill then up some monstrously steep steps. The view was worth it and breathtaking.

The cycle back seemed to be going fine. Rain seemed to be coming so we agreed to meet at the hotel. As I aproached the Wat I noticed a poking sensation in my foot. It turned out that the plastic pedal was cracked causing the metal rod that it pivots on to stick out. I turned the pedal round and continued on my way. As I left the Angkor Wat temple area the pedal fell off. I hammered it semi on with my fist and kept going. It worked for quite a while but then 4-5km from siem reap the whole left pedal fell off and I couldn't get it back on. If I was wearing trainers as opposed to flip flops I may have been able to ride in a mal coordinated way but I ended up having to wheel it. After a while a local on the motorbike pulled alongside me bemused in why I was pushing my bike. I then showed him the pedal in my bike grease covered hands. He then tryed to signal me to put my bike on his motorbike and me get on behind it. I had truly become a local in the way I used motorbikes. The mountainbike lying perpendicularly on the saddle made the motorbike fairly wide. He drove me all the way to the hotel. Wanting to thank him for his act of kindness I looked in my wallet for some dollars to give him. I only had twenties so I gave him one which he seemed very happy with.

It then began to rain heavily. Eventually as the downpour died down we decided to take our bikes back into town to return them. I had to wheel it. However with the help of some down hill I manger to get enough momentum to pedal with one flip flopped foot although it strained my thigh muscle a bit. After returning the bikes we then had dinner of crocodile burgers.

Tomorrow we are off on the bus to Bangkok our final proper stop. In Bangkok the internet should be good enough to put pictures up so all pictureless posts like this one should have pictures soon. Sorry for the typos but this post was typed entirely on an iPod touch. Night got to get some sleep :)

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Posted by Yeebles 23:38 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City

The least eventful blog post so far!

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Well the bus to Ho Chi Minh City was a hassle to begin with. We got on were ordered to specific beds which were alright. Then told we should be on the morning bus, get dropped of at the office to check, get put back on the bus and then get worse beds. I was in the top middle and in the right place so that I get AC constantly blasting cold air at my face. I used the small blanket to keep my face warm like an arctic survivor.

As I woke 1 year older on the cold bus we were dropped of fairly near the hotel area. so we were able to find decent room just as the hotels were opening. Then we spent the next few hours waiting for UCAS track to load so we could find out which university we were going to go to. After several refreshes UCAS eventually loaded and I found out I had got into Liverpool (my insurance). Rob had been rejected from Cambridge and Warrick was pending (and still is!!!).

As a result my 19th Birthday and getting into Liverpool celebrations were delayed. We just had a curry and I had a couple of drinks.

Yesterday, Rob spent most the time on the computer and I just chilled around the local area of our room, the hotel internet room and the internet cafe with skype. It was very uneventful with Warrick taking their time. Eventually at 11ish we decided to get ready for bed.

Suddenly Rob got a phone call from his mum saying he had been offered a clearing place at Bath for acceptance on Monday. Coincidentally at that moment England balled Australia out.

me: "Now we have something to drink for"

Rob: "I would but you haven't got your clothes on and are in bed"

"I can put some on"

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And so we headed out at 11:30, ignoring that the hotel appeared to be closing up to GO2 rooftop bar, where we proceeded to have beer a mixer and tequila shots. We then headed to the hotel to find it had been gated and behind the looked gates were metal shutters. Eventually I found some rocks and we threw them through the gate at the shutter until we were let in.

Today was uneventful due to tiredness but we booked ourselves on a Vietnamese cooking course tomorrow morning. Tonight we will go out before 11:30 and hopefully not get locked out! :)

Posted by Yeebles 18:07 Archived in Vietnam Tagged educational Comments (2)

Comments!!

For your info

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Just realised I have to approve comments before they go live! I thought the nice people at travellerspoint did that for me or had a machine. Anyways thanks for all the comments, keep them coming, from now on they should go live within a day or less of posting (internet permitting)!!!

Posted by Yeebles 17:00 Archived in Vietnam Tagged educational Comments (1)

Hoi An + Nha Trang

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On our second day in Hoi An, encouraged by my lack of crashes during the day before on the way to the beach I suggested that we rent out motorbike scooters to go to the ancient Cham ruins at nearby My Son. We managed to move off fairly smoothly entirely in the wrong direction into southern Hoi An. We then went on the wrong roads to get there. Eventually a Vietnamese woman on a motorbike suggested we go to the Marble Mountains. She then lead us there and let us park in front of her marble shop on condition we had a look inside later (although we were hardly the type to buy massive marble statues or even small ones ala James May in Top Gear Vietnam). The Marble mountains was an impressive set of pagodas and caves adorned with Buddas and Hindu idols. It also had some impressive views of the seaside.

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We then went to the marble shop and irritated the woman by not buying any marble. We then scootered in the blistering heat to the beach and chilled there. We decided we'd go to My Son later. We then drove round for a bit then returned our bikes due to fear of rain.

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The next day we woke up burnt and rented bicycles to look around the old town which currently had festivities going on. I went to an ATM which decided to give me 2 million dong in 500000 notes so I decided I would go to the tailors to get a custom made suit. I got a smart cashmere, silk lined suit for just over 1 million dong (35 pounds). After getting measured I had to wait a day.

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We wandered around the town went to the Japanese Bridge, observed a stacking game and a sack race. We also went to another beach briefly where I ordered a Coke and they misheard me and brought me a coconut. For dinner we went to the old town to look at lights. In the bakery I bumped into the strange American from Sapa who I said hello to.

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The next day we decided that we would motorbike to My Son before we got on the bus at 5. We turned up at 10 am to collect the suit. Unfortunately a power cut meant it was delayed. So we headed of on the mildly confusing route which included a brief stint on National Highway 1.

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The drive through the Vietnamese countryside was lush and provided some spectacular scenery. Out here it wasn't commercial or touristy and it was truly breathtaking. However when we got to My Son we were in for a treat.

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My Son like a few of the places we visited is a UNESCO heritage site. However, this wasn't littered with concrete, tarmac, new buildings and vendors. The ruins at My Son looked virtually untouched with some of the structures located in the middle of a jungle covered in moss and vines. There was a few bits of evidence suggesting modern society, but it was only a fence covering an archaeological dig.

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After a couple of hours we took a former US military jeep down to our bikes, had lunch and set off into the countryside. To Hoi An to collect my suit.

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In the evening we took the bus to Nha Trang. I found it fairly comfortable as there was more leg room. However, Rob had a hard time as there were loads of hard walls surrounding the feet.

When we got to Nha Trang, we took a xeom (motorcycle taxi) to a hotel where we got a decent room. Rob then rented a bicycle whilst me not wanting to bike in immense heat rented a scooter which lacked decent mirrors and had a broken speedometer and fuel gauge.

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We headed to the Cham temple towards the North which was alright, perched on the hill but nothing compared to My Son. Following this we headed to Long Son Pagoda which was a Buddhist place of worship. The pagoda was dwarfed by the lying buddah behing it which was dwarfed furthermore by the sitting buddah on the top of the hill.

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After visiting the temples we headed to a DIY BBQ style place where we had BBQ beef and fresh Squid which we cooked on our table in a charcoal hotpot sort of thing.

We then headed back towards the centre to have ice cream and book a boat tour. I then was set with the task of checking out some recommended restaurants whilst Rob went to the hotel. As I drove past one of them and began to turn around my bike took a while to start. I got to a roundabout which I would use to turn around. As I got onto the roundabout it appeared I stalled some how. I then scootered (in the foot pushing against the ground way) to the side and tried to start. I realised that I probably had run out of petrol. I managed to start it again but stopped by time I got to the end of the road. I pushed the bike on the pavement for the remaining 200m to the hotel. At the hotel a guy helped me get a litre of petrol.

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For dinner we went to the place I was going to look at. Rob interestingly had a curry served in a fresh coconut!

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On Day 2 in Nha Trang we went on a Boat Trip of the surrounding islands booked with Mama Linh. The boat was full of both Western and Vietnamese tourists. Our first stop was an island with a fantastic aquarium with loads of different sea creatures (although no jelly fish!).

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We then headed to another island where we got to snorkel. I didn't see much fish but the water was refreshingly cool. On the boat we then had lunch on the top where the sun dried us off. We then were told to go down for some entertainment.

The entertainment was surely the highlight of this trip. A 4 person band consisting of the driver, a crew member and the 2 guide had assembled on stage (the seats which folded down. They had a drum kit which was made of plastic barrels and bits and bbobs to make it truly authentic sounding even with a cymbal! They also had an electric guitarist linked to the ships PA system and 2 singers with there mics set to a bit to much reverb. They busted out a few tunes before they got to the round the world bit. In this part they selected tourists from various countries and got them on stage to sing along with them as they played and sang a song from their home country. The reportoire and knowledge of lyrics was amazing. We had songs from Australia, Italy, France, Russia and even Israel. They then turned on the Vietnamese members of the audience and dragged them on to the stage to sing famous Vietnamese songs. They then finished with an international song: Auld lang syne.

We then had a Sea bar in which a crew member on a floating ring raft had a crate of some sort of port and served people who had jumped in the sea. That was a lot of fun and all of us swiming towards him as he was dragged away by rope must have been a sight. After one more stop we then headed back to Nha Trang Harbour where we got bussed backed to the hotel. We had a fairly late dinner but had quite a lot. I then spent a couple of hours ona temperamental computer uploading all the pics up until now (check them out in the gallery).

Today the plan was to go on this cable car which goes across the sea to this island with an amusement park on it. According to my guidebook you could take a 15 minute round trip without going to the park. However when we got there it appears they have taken that away and you have to pay 300 000 to go on the cable car with all the rides and sights included. We only wanted to go on cable car so left an chilled out today for a while in a brewery and in a cafe.

Tonight we head to Saigon by our favourite transport, sleeper bus. Tomorrow is my Birthday and results so I'm sure we should have something to celebrate.

Check out my photos in the gallery which is linked on the right. Also check out Rob's recently published pictures in the link mentioned in his post below.

Posted by Yeebles 16:52 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Hue + Arrival in Hoi An

all seasons in one day 30 °C
View SE Asia Summer 2009 on Yeebles's travel map.

(Please note the e in Hue is meant to have an accent)
The reason there has been a lack of blogging in Hue is due to the incredulously slow internet at our hotel in Hue, which has also meant that annoyingly I haven't had anywhere to upload the rest of Hanoi and Halong Bay pics but I will try to upload all pics up til now tomorrow evening. Anyways this is how our time in Hue went.

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We took a sleeper bus to Hue which took around 15-16 hours. Unfortunately this sleeper bus was in the style of the one that we took from Kunming to the China-Vietnam border, as opposed to the Sapa-Hanoi bus. To make matters worse we were crammed in the back row with 5 people at the back (1 local, 2 other tourists) making it awkward to move around and meant there was potential to stretch and poke into each other. I slept well but felt rough in the morning as it was in an awkward position. i believe Rob barely slept at all.

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Anyways, we arrived in Hue later that expected and were met with people trying to get us to hotels. Whereas most tourists ignored them and opted to head to the expensive Hue Backpackers Hostel (as most people had been at the Hanoi version), we got out the book and the supposed dodgy person pointed his name in Rob's rough guides. It was the choice option too. We went there and got a very good room for only $10 a night.

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Anyways, enough about the journey and hotels. After a short break we headed of to Mandarin Cafe for lunch. The food was good and the owner Mr. Cu gave us a walking tour map and a postcard each which had one of his amazing photos on it (we both ended up buying a set of 12). We then took his walking tour around the Hue citadel and forbidden city which is mostly in ruins and disrepair. We also got to see some American war vehicles which had been recovered and put on display. I wasn't feeling very well so we didn't do the entire tour. We then took a very uncomfortable Cyclo back to the hotel. For dinner we had our first Indian curries since Hong Kong.

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The next day we decided to do some bike riding around Hue. We then cycled in the hot sun to the pagoda. For lunch we went to a restaurant run by a deaf mute and had some local specialities (mine wasn't very nice in honesty). We then decided to cycle quite a bit away to some of the royal tombs. I found the constant uphills and downhills a bit challenging especially as the bike was rusty and lacked gears. We got a bit lost. I noticed the air felt moist and there were heavy clouds coming in. Knowing SE Asian rain like I do, I opted to go back to the hotel. Rob on the other hand wanted to cycle on. So we cycled towards the road and looked for the junction where I'd go back into Hue and he'd go to the tombs. As we were riding buckets of rain began to fall. Our basic anoraks were no match for the piercing, sharp and heavy rain. Rob then decided he'd head back to. It was a tough ride especially the deep puddles and the uphills with water pushing the bike down.

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Covered in water we eventually got back to Mandarin Cafe where we proceeded to have a deserved warm hot chocolate. The walk to the hotel was interesting as the roads were now canals and Hue resembled Venice. Rob ran back whilst I stopped at the ATM and proceeded to get lost due to not wanting to get the lonely planet map out of its waterproof protection. We both eventually met at the hotel, dried off, had dinner and went to bed.

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We woke up the next day to go on a motorbike tour of the demilitarized zone (DMZ). It was a long ride on not particularly comfortable bikes. However, we got loads of interesting facts as one of the guides was a Vietnamese war veteran. We saw the remain of a church that was ruined and full of bullet holes and with no roof due to rockets being dropped on it. Some of the fiercest fighting of the war occurred in the DMZ so besides the road there was military cemeteries, memorials, bunkers, craters from rockets and under the ground there were still millions of mines which today charities are trying to remove.

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A highlight of the trip was going to the Vinh Moc tunnels which was a tunnel network dug into the clay which had 3 floors and was used as shelter during the war for soldiers as well as civilians. Although my head and shoulders were full of mud due to the low ceilings and that it was pitch black without a torch, it was very interesting to see how people were born and lived in these tunnels. We also stopped by a memorial, a museum. the beach where the Americans landed and eventually retreated from and the bridge that went across the river dividing the north and the south.

Throughout the day it had been sunny without a cloud insight. This had helped dry my soggy converse. However, on the 2 hour journey back to Hue the rain came, worse than yesterday. The uncomfortable bike seats were now only half the problem the pelting rain was now also a factor in our discomfort. We got back to Stop & Go cafe (they ran the tour) and had a hot chocolate.

In the morning we were scheduled to catch the 8:30 bus to Hoi An. The woman came to meet us at 8:30 to take us to the bus. The bus was very late and by time it was unloaded, cleaned and reloaded it was nearly 10:00. Regardless we got to Hoi An at 1:00ish. The bus was a sleeper bus which was not very good for a short morning journey.

In Hoi An the bus tried to get us to go to 2 hotels, the 2nd one was where we got dropped off. Feeling we could get a better deal than $10-$15 a night we went to the places suggested by the guidebook. All of them were full even the Youth Hostel. We then tried hotels next to them. All of them were full or were expensive ones (most expensive $65 per night). Eventually we headed back to the one where the bus dropped us and got one of the few remaining rooms for $15 per night. Why there are no rooms is a mystery although apparently there is some sort of Japanese culture thing going on from tomorrow until the 16th.

We then decided to go to one of the nearby beaches which was around 10km away. Rob opted for a pushbike. I had a different idea. I got a scooter (automatic motorcycle) and after a minute or two of showing me how it works I drove of to the beach. Although I didn't drive very gracefully, I managed to get there and can say that I definitely would like to scooter again (possibly to Cham ruins tomorrow). At the beach we had a very late lunch. I took in the scenery whilst Rob attempted to swim in the very shallow water. However, we saw big dark clouds moving in so fearing a repeat of the last 2 days, we headed off back to Hoi An. Luckily, it was only droplets falling before the storm but the wind was quite intense. We got back to the hotel in time for the storm.

Anyways that has been the last few days, I will get pics up ASAP! :)

Posted by Yeebles 18:35 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Halong Bay + Hanoi II

rain 27 °C
View SE Asia Summer 2009 on Yeebles's travel map.

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We got up nice and early to get the 6 hour bus to Halong City. It was a fairly large group of 34. The bus journey was bearable compared to our other buses. We then got to the harbour, and took a small boat onto the junk where we would be staying the night. The boat looked pirate-y (so much so that a few people at the night decided to climb aboard a neighboring ship which we moored next to) it was really nice with a sun deck, a bar and decent nice rooms with a/c and showers and toilets.

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We all had a lovely lunch and when we got to a place to moor went kayaking. It was hard work as the kayaks weren't streamlined and it was a long distance. However, the views made it worthwhile. Halong Bay is such a pretty place with the thousands of islands, blue (jellyfish infested) ocean and caves. We kayaked to a cave and went inside through pitch-black tiny tunnels.

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After the kayak back we got clean had dinner. The boat had to be moved as there were styorng winds and a potential typhoon heading so we needed to be in a sheltered area. We then had a late night drinking session especially during Happy Hour (3 for 2 on mixers) with many drinking games played.

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We (well some of the boat) got up early for breakfast. Then the 20 or so of us headed on another boat to Cat Ba island where we would catch a transfer boat to the castaway island beach. It took a couple of hours to get there (bus across cat ba then boat to beach). However, it was a lush location, if a little marred by the weather. We all put our bags in the "huts" (essentially a gazebo as it had no walls) where we would sleep and got some lunch. We then went for a swim which was a great way to cool off until we saw the jellyfish. Rob went kayaking whilst I had a nap in a Hammock. At night we had a feast of local seafood as well as some western dishes. Rob wasn't feeling well so he went to bed.

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On the other hand, I was up until 2:30 DJ ing (which I was complimented on and rewarded with free drinks) and chilling with the group. One of the people on the island turned out to have a mutual friend who they had met in the arctic proving it is a small world after all. Throughout the night there was heavy rain (which helped discourage bed time) and epic lightning, which illuminated the islands in the darkness and provided the most stunning views which could not be captured on film.

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We then got up early to catch the boats and buses back to Hanoi. I lost a flip flop and a shoe on the journey. It was a worthwhile trip and definitely worth the premium of compared to the cheaper trips which are often quite dodgy.

In Hanoi we had an early night.

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Today, we got up had a large breakfast then headed off into town. I bought some converse and some Ralph Lauren Flip Flops (fakes but very high quality) for half a million Dong ($29). I also bought a microphone for my iPod so I can make skype calls from it. We then headed of south in search of a market. On the way Rob bought a replacement watch and I bought a watch too. We went to the market. It wasn't very good so we headed to Hoa Siu a restaurant which is a training facility for disadvantaged children. We both had Spaghetti Carbonara (which I used to have there 10 years ago) then headed of to Hanoi Backpackers. We catch a bus to Hue soon.

[update : now with photos!]

Posted by Yeebles 17:05 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

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