A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: robbiet239

Kanchanaburi

overcast 32 °C

On Saturday we got up early and where met at seven in our hotel lobby for the bus ride to Kanchanaburi. About two and a half hours later we arrived and visited a cemetery for those killed building the Death Railway between Thailand and Burma in WW2. After this we headed to the museum and the Bridge Over the River Kwai. The museum was interesting and despite the railway still being in operation you were allowed to walk all over the bridge with small platforms for when the train came. We headed off to catch the train for a short ride on the Death Railway. For the first few stops it was pretty full with other tour groups but fro the last couple of stops which was probably the most beautiful part we had pretty much the whole train to ourselves.

After having lunch at a floating restaurant we headed off to the Hellfire Pass and museum which was one of the most difficult parts of the railway to build. The museum was good and it was quite amazing to see how deep a trench the POWs and the labourers had been forced to dig in such a short period of time. It was then back to the restaurant for a very early dinner before we took a boat up the river to our raft hotel. The hotel was really good and we were able to swim in the fast flowing river. However, after jumping in it was only about twenty seconds before you reached the other end of the hotel and you had to be careful not to miss the raft and float away down stream with the strong current meaning you were pretty much horizontal when grabbing on to the raft.

The next morning we got up early to visit the Erawan waterfalls. These were really amazing with seven separate waterfalls but unfortunately we only just had time to get to the top so could not hang around for long. We went for a swim at the fourth level which I sought of fell into as I was standing on a submerged rock and was taken by surprise by a whole load of fish nibbling on my feet. We effectively got a free sample of a fish massage which will cost you a couple of hundred Baht in Bangkok Whilst swimming you had to keep moving to stop them coming back for more. The water was very refreshing being pretty cold. Then as we were heading back towards the car park I was stopped by a Thai man who wanted to have his picture taken next to the tall foreign man.

We then headed back to the floating restaurant for lunch and then went off to look at some caves. The caves were good and we just timed to it to leave the caves when the rain started and had to walk back down a very slippery staircase. Then it was back to the hotel to chill out.

This morning we had a bit of a lie in and then went off to go elephant trekking. It was an amazing thing to do but elephants are probably the world's least stable and one of the most uncomfortable forms of transport. As there was just a seat on its back whenever it went downhill it was a challenge to hold on and not slide off the front. At the end of the trek we then got to feed the elephants bananas which they grabbed off us with their trunks and happily ate the whole lot. In fact they spent most of the trek eating with one elephant charging off into the bushes for a particularly tasty tree.

After returning to the hotel we got onto a bamboo raft to float down to the restaurant. After a few minutes we were allowed to leave the raft and swim and it was really good just floating down the river for about twenty minutes. Just short of the hotel we reached a bridge and jumped off before swimming over to the restaurant. This afternoon it was a bus ride back to Bangkok where we arrived at about 18.00.

Posted by robbiet239 07:03 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Bangkok

overcast 33 °C

We left Siem Reap on Wednesday morning slightly apprehensive having heard we in for a long slow bumby bus ride to the Thai border. However, the road had clearly been recently tarmaced and we made it to the border in about two and a half hours. The border crossing went smoothly but on the Thai side we had changed from our spacious coach to our cramped minibus for our four hour trip into Bangkok. We made it to the city fairly quickly but spent forever in traffic before reaching Khao San Road. Here after spending quite a while looking for hotels we found that Bangkok was significantly more expensive than either Hanoi, Saigon or Phnom Penh.

The next morning we hooked up with a tuk tuk driver to go and see some temples with the agreement being that we only paid 20 Baht for the whole day if we visited several tailors to get hime some free petrol. We headed out and visited the giant gold Budda. We visited another temple and then went to the tourist offices where we booked a three day tour of Kanchanaburi for Saturday. After this we headed up to the Golden Mountain Temple which gave views all over Bangkok. However, as you had to take off your shoes to go in and the best views were from a sun baked concrete roof you had to move quickly to avoid getting your feet singed.

After this we headed to one final tailor where I bought a suit and Alex some shirts. Then as it was too late to visit the Grand Palace we headed to the Siam Centre, a massive shopping centre, for Alex to buy Snow Leopard for his Mac (only today did we discover that there is actually an Apple shop on Khao San Road). We headed back to our hotel via the Skytrain and River boat which was good seeing the city from the river at night.

The next day we caught the river boat down to the Grand Palace and after having past about ten tuk tuk and taxi drivers telling us that it was closed for luch and we should go somewhere with them we made it to the entrance. All the buildings were really cool but it was absolutely packed with people and lots of school children trying to get us to fill in surveys. Also the two tier Thai pricing sustem for tourists made it pretty expensive. After this we headed into China town for lunch and finally had Dim Sum for the first time in Asia. Then it was back to the tailors for fitting before heading back to Khao San Road to get ready for our trip to Kanchanaburi the next day.

Posted by robbiet239 05:48 Archived in Thailand Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Siem Reap (Angkor)

semi-overcast 32 °C

Having caught a bus from Phnom Penh we arrived in Siem Reap at about 13.30 on Saturday. As all the buses to Siem Reap conveniently stop about 2km outside of town we caught a tuk tuk to Green Town guesthouse and arranged for the driver to take us to sunrise at Angkor Wat at 5.00 the next morning. We wandered around town a bit for the rest of the afternoon and I stayed up until 1.15 watching football, leaving me a little tired the following morning.

The next morning we met our tuk tuk driver and reached Angkor Wat at about 5.15 with it still dark and already very busy. If I had to describe the sunrise in one word I would say cloudy. As our driver had warned being the rainy season it was quite likely to be cloudy. It was still good though and there was a little sun. soon after it had got light all the tour groups left to go back for Siem Reap and went to explore the comparitively deserted temple. Quite a lot of the temple was roped off for restoration but it was still interesting and pretty massive. Then as we were walking back to our driver someone started talking to us and started showing us a few things around the wall and the edge of the temple. He was fairly good but typicaly then demanded money.

We then went with our driver to Angkor Thom, the last and biggest capitol of the Angkor era, we had breakfast and then vistited the Bayon temple which has hundreds of faces carved into it. It was good despite being completely full of Japanese tourists posing for photos. For the rest of the morning we decided to go on the Mini Circuit visiting Ta Keo, Ta Prohm and Banteay Kdei. They were all good andl had far smaller crowds than Angkor WAt and Bayon which was much better. Ta Keo was probably the best being almost deserted and the high temple giving good views.

At lunch time we arrived back in Siem REap and spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing with there being literally nothing to do otherthan temples.

On the second day we decided to rent bicycles (or I decided and persuaded Alex it was better than doing tuk tuk again) and do the Grand Circuit. We rented bicycles from near our hotel and they seemed OK a little uncomfortable but fairly average by Asian standards. About 1.5km from the hotel my chain came off and whilst I was trying to put it on without covering my hands in oil a local woman came up and quickly put it back on. However, about 200m later my chain came off again. I fixed only for it to fall off again. The chain was too loose fo rthe bike so I had to push the bike back to get it changed. As we were now getting what seemed to be a mountain bike with gears I gave it to Alex and took his bike. Having gone about 4km to Angkor Wat Alex revealed, having biked there very very slowly, that his bike was rubbish and that he wanted to change. This left me to do 22km on a bike with an incredibly low sandle which I had to sit off the back off to avoid hitting my knees on the handlebars. Not incredibly comfortable and I was left feeling happy that Alex had noticed the bikes faults so soon that it was too mlate to go back and change.

Anyway we visited some ruins at the northern end of Angkor Thom and the large Preah Khan temple. Deciding to have some lunch we walked towards the group of cafes across the road and got a chorus from about 6 or 7 people of ' you come my restaurant sir' , 'I see you first' ect ect which made for quite an amusing video. In the afternoon we visited several more temples which although they weren't as vast as Angkor Watwere still impressive and very quiet. We made it back into down just before dark with me just about able to walk after all day on the rubbish bike.

For the third day we decided to hook up with our tuk tuk driver again and visit the far away temple of Banteay Srei which was a bit of a trek out of Siem Reap but had some really interesting carvings. After that we headed to the Roulos group away from the main temple area. This had some of the best temples we had seen and was also very quiet. Also on arriving at one temple before the tuk tuk had even stopped we had about six girls grabbing onto us trying to sell us drinks, unfortunately this time no video.

After spending a couple of hours back in Siem Reap we hired bikes again, from a different place, and headed to the hill top temple of Phnom Bakheng just south of Angkor Tom which gave a godd aerial view of Angkor Wat and the surrounding area and was definately worth the effort. We then headed back into Siem Reap and faced yet more bike problems, when with me ahead Alex's bike lost a pedal. I am sure his blog will give all the vivid detail but he basically ended up getting a lift back from a friendly motorbike driver with his bicycle on the motorbike as well.

He made it back to the hotel for our last night in Siem Reap before heading to Bangkok.

Posted by robbiet239 05:31 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Phnom Penh

semi-overcast 31 °C

At 06.30 on Tuesday morning we left Saigon on a bus bound for the Cambodian border then Phnom Penh. We had a suprisingly smooth journey with us being given all the relevant forms to fill in on the bus and no full bag searches, unlike China. In fact the only notable incident was at the Swine Flu quarentine section the guy just grabbed my form and after establishing I was English said 'ah hello Mr Crouch'. This shows they were taking swine flu very seriously. We then travelled on an increasingly bumpy road into Phnom Penh.

We were dropped off at the bus company offices, miles from the centre of town, so had to take our first tuk tuk, which was really a motorbike with a trailer. We decided to stay at the lakeside and checked into our guesthouse where there was aview of the lake, which didn't have a great deal of water in. Our room was also a bit interesting with the bathroom falling to pieces when I decided to have a shower. Although it was OK we decided to save the regular walk or tuk tuk ride into the centre of town and we are now staying in the centre in one of our nicest rooms so far for about the same price.

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The best side of our first hotel.

We spent Wednesday mostly relaxing and wandering about the city a bit. On Thursday we did a tour of the city. We visited the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng genocide museam at the notorious S21 prison. This wa an interesting but harrowing experience. We also visited the Russian market and the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda which were pretty amazing.
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Memorial at the Killing Fields
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S21
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The Royal Palace

Today after a fairly leisurely start we visited Wat Phnom where we met some local wildlife and, in terms of paying the $1 foreigner entrance fee, Alex found he didn't look local enough. After walking down to the other end of town and having lunch we visited the Independance monument, which is in the middle of a big three lane roundabout, and the Liberation Monument. On the way back to the hotel we passed someone on the street offering haircuts and decided it was a good idea. They worked out fairly well and were good value at $2 each.

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Wat Phnom
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Independance Monoment
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Tomorrow morning we catch a bus to Siem Reap (Angkor).

Posted by robbiet239 03:59 Archived in Cambodia Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

overcast 31 °C

Having had our last and in my opinion most comfortable overnight bus ride from Nha Trang we arrived in Saigon at about 6.30 in the morning on what was both Alex's birthday and the morning of exam results. Having found a hotel with both some decent internet and a room with two singles rather than a double bed, I headed to the main electronics street to try and get my camera fixed. The first two days were spent waiting for universities and discovering that my camera was completely broken after someone had spent two hours completely taking it apart.

Over the next few days, with me sporting a new camera, we headed out to explore the city. We visited the Reunification Palace, the War Remnants Museum, Cho Lon (China Town) and Notre Dame cathedral. The Reunification Palace and War Remnants museum were interesting and gave good insight into what the war was like for the local people. Although, it was obviously a bit biased. Having gone to China Town to search for Dim Sum, as we failed to have it in Hong Kong, we found it to be a rather more traditional China Town than London with lots of Chinese shops and few restaurants.

We also did a morning Vietnamese cookery course, which now makes us experts in Vietnamese cuisine. As the course was about 7km away from central Saigon we had some rather interesting taxi rides there. On Saturday we went to book it and our taxi driver took the most direct and the most heavily congested route in the city. We had seen we were on the right road and the taxi driver stopped to drop us off. However, it transpired that being so far from the centre he had seen another fare and kicked us out. This left us with about a 2km walk down the road where the buildings were seemingly numbered in no particular order. However, we found it and we were more able to direct our taxi driver the next day. It seemed that knowing the city isn't really a necessary qualification for taxi driver.

Generally Saigon is an interesting city with huge quantities of motor-bikes and traffic lights that seem more advisory than compulsory. This makes crossing the road slightly difficult as you just walk and assume the bikes will avoid you. It also has some crazy electrical wiring with tens of wires going down above the pavement on every street, occasionally below head height.

On Tuesday morning we have a 06.30 bus crossing the border into Cambodia and then on to Phenom Penh.

Posted by robbiet239 04:05 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (2)

Nha Trang

sunny 33 °C
View Alex and Rob's South East Asia trip 2009 on robbiet239's travel map.

After discovering that our bus had stopped at least 1.5km from the main hotel area we accepted a lift from two xe-om drivers to a hotel in the area. The hotel was fairly cheap seemed nice and had an elevator so we decided to stay there. After we had booked our bus tickets to Saigon and Alex had posted his suit, I hired a bicycle and Alex a scooter as we headed to the Pho Nagar Cham Towers just outside Nha Trang. They were fairly interesting and offered good views back towards Nha Trang, which looks very Mediterranean from above, but compared with My Son the previous day, the crowds and the lack of extent of the ruins made them less impressive. We then crossed the river back into for a cooked at the table barbecue lunch at Lac Canh.

After lunch we headed east to the Long Son Pagoda. When you climb up the stairs to the top of the hill you see a giant white Buddha standing over Nha Trang. When we had biked back into th city we decided to visit the 6km beach 'the best in Vietnam'. However, despite looking nice from a distance when I reached the sea I found a row of plastic bags and over general rubbish floating about 5m off-shore, a swim didn't look like so much of a good idea. I guess it may have been better away from the main hotel and bar area.

On Tuesday we went for a boat trip to the nearby islands. at the first island we stopped at we visited an aquarium which was fairly good. However, at this point my camera choose to finally break having been complaining for the last couple of weeks. Now one of the lenses was out of place after the camera had struggled to close leaving the focus off and pictures very fuzzy. Next we visited a snorkeling area and I had a bit of a shock jumping off the boat to find the water, even near the surface, was much colder than at Halong Bay or even Hoi An. However, there still quite a few fish which I saw briefly in th 10 second periods my mask could handle before filling with water. Without flippers the snorkeling was quite hard work.

When we came back on the boat we had lunch and were treated to a music performance from the crew who seemed to be able to put together a song for pretty much any country people on our boat were from. Following this we jumped back in the water for a floating bar where I quite accidentally discovered the waterproof guarantee on my watch was correct. after this we went back to Nha Trang via a beach. That evening I took my camera repair shop where I was promised they could definitely fix it by morning for 200,000VND (7 pounds). However, this morning when I went to collect it my camera would no longer even turn on. I then took it to another shop that said they could fix it but that it would cost $35 to do before my bus to Saigon. Hopefully I'll have some better luck in Saigon.

This morning having done pretty much everything in Nha Trang accept scuba diving or the expensive water sports offered on the beach, we decided to head to the 3.3km gondola linking the mainland to another island. Primarily this was to go to a water park resort but was supposed to give good views of Nha Trang and the nearby islands so we decided to take a ride there and back. However, when we reached the terminal we discovered that they had now merged the water park and the gondola prices into one ticket so that was no longer an option.

This evening we catch our final overnight bus to Saigon

Posted by robbiet239 02:12 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Rob's Photos

all seasons in one day 32 °C
View Alex and Rob's South East Asia trip 2009 on robbiet239's travel map.

To see my photos go to http://www.travellerspoint.com/photos/gallery/users/robbiet239/

Posted by robbiet239 00:40 Archived in Vietnam Tagged photography Comments (0)

Hoi An + To Nha Trang

sunny 35 °C
View Alex and Rob's South East Asia trip 2009 on robbiet239's travel map.

After having found a hotel we decided to head out to a nearby beach about 4km away. Alex hired a scooter and I hired a bike. With the bike having only one gear and the saddle a good six inches too low I was just about able to keep up through the traffic heading out of town, but for the last couple of kilometres the road was clear and I was left well behind. We arrived at the beach which was quiet and the weather was sunny. After lunch I decided to go for a swim in the water, which was almost as warm as Halong Bay. I decided to walk until I reached my depth but gave up after about 150m when the water got shallower and only came up to my knees. After this heavy clouds were moving in and we feared the third heavy soaking in as many days so we headed as quickly as possible back into Hoi An. With a storm coming there was a strong headwind and I was struggling to make progress. However, amazingly with Alex getting confused by the one way system and me accidentally going the wrong way down a one way street, not that it really matters in Vietnam, I beat him back into town. Amazingly we stayed dry.

The next day after having decided to book our bus ticket to Nha Trang for the following evening, well before the one day margin we were supposed to leave, were forced to go the next day after finding that one bus was full and the other broken. Following this we set out on scooters attempting to reach the nearby ruins of My Son. However, after having gone the wrong way we met someone who was heading to the Marble Mountain's, so we decided to follow her. There we found several Halong Bay style mounds, formerly islands, with many Buddist and Hindu shrines dotted around them. After the obligatory look at the woman we had followed's marble shop we decided we would struggle to carry a massive marble lion to Bangkok and headed back to the beach in Hoi An. After having had a very good cao lau (local specialty noodles) the previous day, we decided to try the White Rose (shrimp meat dumplings) that were also very good.

The next day, when we were supposed to be looking around the old town of Hoi An, Alex decided to buy a suit from one of the 200 or so tailors after a rather anti-social cash machine gave him three 500,000 dong (about $28) notes. After he had been measured up we hired bicycles and looked around Hoi An's old town which although touristy was still good. We also saw a few events from the Japanese festival which included sack racing? That evening we went back to our hotel and as we had been forced to pay a bit more, because of other places being full, the TV in our room was showing three matches from the opening day of the premiership season. Typically at about 18.45 just as the Chelsea v Hull match was starting there was a city wide power cut, presumably because two many people were turning on TVs. Luckily though by the time of Everton v Arsenal at 23.30 the power was fine.

The next day, with me a little tired, we went back to get the final fitting for Alex's suit only to discover that it was behind schedule due to the previous evenings power cuts. We decided to come back in the afternoon and decided to get scooters again and this time actually go to My Son, 50km away. Having stopped for directions in several places we found the last 30km was a nice drive through quite rural villages and countryside. Having reached My Son we parked our bikes and caught a jeep up to the area of the ruins. The jungle scenery was very good anyway but the ruins and general lack of people with the midday heat made it pretty amazing. After lunch we headed back to Hoi An. Once Alex's suit was collected we had a very early dinner and then went to catch our bus to Nha Trang. On the face of it this bus seemed an improvement with large amounts of extra leg room under the bed in front. However, I was still too tall. There was a metal bar down in the foot well, for no good reason, which, as the enclosed bed was too narrow for me to bend my legs and rest my feet the bar, forced me to rest my now bruised ankles and shins on it. The end result was that I had 12 hours in a bed where I could neither sit properly nor vaguely comfortably lie down. However, at 06.00 we made it to Nha Trang

Posted by robbiet239 07:28 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (1)

Hue and arrival in Hoi An

storm 32 °C
View Alex and Rob's South East Asia trip 2009 on robbiet239's travel map.

After having arrived in Hue we found a guy at the bus station hounding us to go to his hotel which was surprisingly from in my Rough Guide so we followed him and rested in our room for a bit before heading out into the city. After booking a tour of the DMZ for Wednesday we went to wander around the Citadel and the Imperial city of the Nguyen Dynasty who had Hue as their capital between 1802 and 1945. It was interesting, with both the walled citadel and various American tanks from the war sitting around, but we were both tired after our bus ride and headed back to the hotel early for dinner.

The next day after a long sleep we decided to hire bicycles and head out to explore the nearby pagodas and tombs. In the morning the weather seemed fine and sunny and we cycled the six km to Thien Mu Pagoda and back into Hue for lunch at a restaurant with deaf owners where the local food was very good. Then we set out again on the bikes with the weather still seeming fine and headed towards the tombs of the emperors of the Nguyen dynasty. When we were about 12km outside town and almost at the furthest tomb a bank of cloud that had been moving up opened and within seconds we were completely drenched as we started back towards Hue. There was a fair amount of standing water on the road but we made it back to the cafe where we had hired the bikes and stopped their for an hour. In that time the rain had eased of for about half an hour and then become heavy again. We decided to walk back to our hotel and found the streets had flooded badly with, in the worst places, the water coming up to my shins whilst I was standing on the pavement. We made it back to our hotel and a few hours later the rain had stopped and the water had gone down.

The next day we went off on a motorbike tour of the demilitarized zone 90km north of Hue. We visited several sights including 'Horrible Highway 1' , the Vinh Moc Tunnels (which were unsurprisingly not built in adequate proportions for me as I came out with both shoulders covered in mud) and a beach where the Americans landed in 1966. With our guide a war veteran we got loads of interesting information throughout the day. However, after the bikes initially seemed fun to be on I discovered that especially with my rather lanky legs that it wasn't very comfortable. This only became worse when in the last hour of our ride back to Hue the rain came and i was forced to duck behind our driver with the rain feeling like you were being pelted in the face with hail stones.

We arrived back in Hue and the next morning we were picked up for our 0.830 bus to Hoi An. However, with the late arrival of the bus from Hanoi it was 10.00 by the time the bus was emptied and 'cleaned' and we left for Hoi An. Also our open sleeper bus ticket was taken very literally with this only three hour bus ride still on a sleeper bus which was not desperately comfortable during the day. We arrived in Hoi An and after the obligatory tour of hotels we decided we could find a hotel from our books for cheaper than we had been offered. However, what we did not count on was that there was to be a Japanese cultural festival in Hoi An over the next two days and everywhere we tried was full or very pricey. Eventually having left Alex with our bags in a cafe I ended up back at the hotel we were dropped off at and luckily they still had a room free.

Posted by robbiet239 04:04 Archived in Vietnam Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Hanoi Again and bus to Hue

sunny 34 °C
View Alex and Rob's South East Asia trip 2009 on robbiet239's travel map.

After our Halong Bay tour we returned to Hanoi for another day before going to Hue. Our main task for the day was to find Alex some shoes as he had returned from Halong Bay with just one shoe and one broken flip flop. Having being directed to shoe street Alex found some shoes we went off in search of a market. Away from the main tourist area prices dropped and I was able to pick up a replacement watch, as mine had smashed in Kunming when the strap had been replaced badly. After the market turned out to be not particularly good we headed to Hoa Sua a restaurant Alex knew from ten years ago. As it was a training restaurant for disadvantaged youths we got 5 star service for a reasonable price. After that we headed back to Hanoi Backpackers for our bus to Hue.

After having been given tickets and ushered into a taxi we found our bus which was of a similar style to the one in China but significantly smaller, not good for an oversized western tourist. However, it seemed alright at first when I ended up on the back bed with four others. As I had the bed facing down the aisle I had enough room to stretch my legs, but the bed was only just as wide as my shoulders. So I spent the night being squashed by Alex, basically wedged on my back. To add to that under Alex's bed and part of mine was clearly the exhaust so the bed was heated from beneath, not nice with the asthmatic air-con. Eventually after fifteen hours we arrived in Hue pretty much in one piece.

Posted by robbiet239 04:31 Archived in Vietnam Tagged bus Comments (0)

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