Depending on how much time you want to spend in Cambodia, there are a few things that are a must. Probably one of their nice beaches, Phnom Penh, the capital, and Siem Reap, where you can see the truly amazing temples of Angkor Wat. This is Angkor Wat, if you are interested ;-). A post about it soon. If you have a month or so you can spend time visiting all of the south and some remote parts in the north, which is not very much explored and, apparently, has many nice places to go.
Anywhere you read about Phnom Penh, it is described as a dangerous city. Scams, aggressive tuk-tuk drivers, bag snatching and bag razor attacks. The list is long. Not including the spoilt kids from wealthy families who have body guards carrying weapons with them. Yeah, scary stuff. However, I didn’t actually find anything like this. It looks like a nice city. A bit too hot and humid, but people are generally friendly and tuk-tuk drivers are not too much pushy, just your usual South East Asian tuk-tuk driver.
To finish up my stay in Vietnam I decided to take a Mekong Delta tour during three days ending in Cambodia. These tours are very common in Saigon where you go for three days (two nights) and then you come back to Saigon. Anywhere you walk in Saigon you’ll find a travel agency where they advertise them. I don’t know if there are different types of tours, but I would generally avoid them if you are thinking of going yourself.
This post is more about balancing karma on the internet than any other thing. Well, also to provide some advise to people who are thinking of going to Saigon/Ho Chi Minh City. While I was staying in Saigon last January I stayed at a hostel named Nga Hoang because a friend I was meeting up with was staying at this place. I had a bad experience with this hotel and got really really annoyed, even more when I found out what they did a few weeks later.
From Nha Trang we decided to visit Dalat, which is up in the Vietnamese Highlands. It’s a bit of a change compared to all the other places I’ve been in Vietnam as it is further inland and 1500 m above the sea level. The central highlands is a plateau that borders with Laos, Cambodia and other southern provinces in Vietnam. It also changes as it has a year-round cool weather due to its altitude.
We arrived to Nha Trang after a bit of a horrible train trip. I was travelling with Marielle, a swedish girl I met in Hanoi who I met again in Hoi An. We were going in the same direction and so we decided to have the same itinerary to make our trip more fun. We decided to take the train because it’s way more confortable than using the bus and we both had had pleasant rides on trains in Vietnam before.
Hoi An is this little precious town which was initially a fishers village and now has become a full tourist attraction. It survived the war fairly well, and now it’s regarded as a lovely destination for tourists. Part of it is the small size and traditional atmosphere you see here (French style). And mainly, too, because it has around 450 tailors who will make suits and other clothing items for you in a matter of days.
Only spent a day and a half in Hué. I somehow didn’t particularly like it. I have this theory about liking a city, where , when you don’t like a particular city, it has to do with your mood during those days. And I don’t know about you, but my mood changes a lot during this trip! :) Or maybe, it was the welcome I got when I arrived to Hué and went for a stroll… I was on my own on this city and I joined an organised tour to see the city.
I really don’t know any more which day it is now. I mean, I know the number, as I base my bookings on that. I also know when my visa is expiring. But I don’t know if it’s a Thursday or a Sunday. Not anymore. I guess this is what happens when you are doing pretty much every day the same thing and there are no ‘weekends‘ That’s what happened to me when booking a train from Ninh Binh to Hué.
I was hoping to go south seeking warmer climates and different scenery, but Amy and Mike recommended me to stop in Ninh Binh for a couple of days to explore the area as it supposed to be pretty. They were right. The city itself is like 3 hours south of Hanoi by minivan, with not much in it and not many foreigners. They come usually on a day-long trip so they don’t usually stay overnight.
Who hasn’t heard of Halong Bay? Or who hasn’t seen a picture of Halong Bay? Well, I had, and I had felt fascinated by it, its ghostly waterscapes, so much that I wanted to visit it badly. Having seen amazing pictures on the internet had made my desire grow stronger. I just wanted to take my camera with me and shoot away at the amazing scenery, hoping to have great weather and perfect images, combined with a nice stay in the area.
If you guys have been to Vietnam, you’ll know that traffic is chaotic and that there doesn’t seem to exist any kind of traffic rule. Well, the rule for crossing the street among the millions of scooters passing by is just walk, at a steady pace and don’t stop. They’ll see you and they’ll avoid you. Sounds scary, but it’s easier than it looks like. An example: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kn1TpFCWo8s
street eating The famous Water puppets! Crazy Traffic _ More Crazy Traffic_ Street eating II Noisy, alive, chaotic, commercial, Hanoi won’t leave you indifferent. Rich with street food, dangerous for the driving, crossing its roads is an interesting experience. Will come back.
So, I don’t really know why I chose to visit China in the very first place. I was mildly interested in it, but never had a massive interest in it. Maybe because my friend Pablo went there in March last year and he liked it. Maybe because it’s an exotic location which doesn’t see as many tourists as other places. The fact is that I chose Hong Kong as the first destination in Asia (not having been in Asia before) so that my first experience would be a bit westernised and I wouldn’t suffer too much from the cultural shock.
I’m typing this sitting on a soft sleeper train, in the dark, on my way to Hanoi while a chinese guy is snoring next to me, as it’s 20:44 and I definitely don’t feel like I want/can sleep. Today is January 2nd. (yeah, I know, this is late) My time in China is over and my Vietnamese visa started on the 1st of January for 30 days. From Guilin there are different ways by which you can get into Vietnam.
Yangshou is this little town south of Guilin which is famous because of its fantastic landscapes, the Li river and because it’s a climbers’ paradise. To get there you can take a bus that takes 1 hour and a half. Or you can get a tour through the Li River, which is what I did. With this they pick you up from your hostel, drive for like an hour and then you get on a bamboo boat for another hour, then another bus to Yangshou.
So, you guys know that the Chinese (at least on some parts of China) eat about everything, no? I’ve read that in Guangzhou, Cantonese cuisine, they eat ‘everything that has four legs but a table, everything that flies but an aeroplane and everything that swims but a submarine’. So, yeah, anything really. They eat dog food. I got to realise this on my first day in Guilin when I saw a guy on a motorbike carrying three dead dogs on the back of the motorbike.
If you are in Guilin there are many tours that can take you to the Longji rice terraces, called like that because from the top they resemble a dragon’s back (longji = dragon’s backbone). It’s in the mountains and apparently it’s extraordinarily beautiful in spring. Not so much in winter, but anyway, I already know the drill. Some minorities live here like the Yao ladies. They are not the only ones, you can find some other minorities there as well.
I came to Guilin because some people told me that it’s very nice and has beautiful scenery They also told me it’s an interesting city. So why not?. I decided to stay here for a few days before going to Yangshou, a small town which has an amazing scenery. it’s also a climbers’ paradise, it seems. The whole area is made of karst hills and caves that look like the set of a fantasy film.
Arriving to China. I left Hong Kong and jumped on a train to get me to Guangzhou (广州), a big capital close to HK (12 million people). This was my first experience and it was not so nice as I arrived in the evening during the rush hour. Grabbing the underground is madness. The trains are overcrowded and the only way to get in or out is to push people like there’s no tomorrow.
Having been told that I should definitely visit Macau given its proximity to Hong Kong, I booked accommodation for a day in Macau and a ferry ticket. The ferry takes approximately one hour from Kowloon so you can get there in pretty much no time. According to wikipedia, Macau was given back definitively to the Chinese as a S.A.R in 1999 after agreeing on it a few years before. Located around 60 km from Hong Kong, it lies on the western side of the Pearl River Delta, bordering with the Guangdong province in China.
There are a few spots around Hong Kong that are worth visiting. Or it seemed to me. One of them is Lantau Island, going up to see Tian Tan Buddha. You can go up there with buses or a fancy cable car. Some of these cars have a crystal clear ground so you can have a nice view during the trip. It’s actually not that impressive as once the novelty wears off you no longer look down, to be honest.
Having fought jet lag enough to keep myself up for just the right amount of time, I decided to stay in Hong Kong for a few days so that I could have a look at this city and also be able to fully recover from jet lag. The areas that I have visited include Kowloon, Lantau Island, and Hong Kong island, including a visit to Ocean Park on the other side of the island to see what it was about.
As I don’t have an internet connection all the time and also because I prefer to be doing stuff while I have free time, I’m writing most of my blog posts while I’m travelling on public transport as a way to kill time. So expect a few blog posts soon on the same day :-) Will keep you posted!
It’s been two weeks since I embarked on this trip, arriving to Hong Kong on the 14th of December and haven’t had time to blog much about this, so let’s see a bit of Hong Kong action here. I arrived semi jet-lagged (as I happily managed to get a couple of hours sleep on the plane) I jumped on a bus to Kowloon where I met Aurélien, a Belgian guy who was moving to Australia and decided to take a look at Hong Kong for a few days.
I haven’t said anything here before, only on my blog in Spanish [http://blog.roncero.org if you are curious], but two weeks ago I embarked on a trip around the world. Well, not exactly around the world, but starting in Hong Kong, then moving further south through South East Asia to reach Australia, New Zealand and then the United States before going back to the UK. My idea is to see a bit of this world, as I mainly know Europe and the USA.