Not Really a Blog

December 27, 2012

Kampot

Filed under: Cambodia, Kampot, Places — Tags: , , , — jesus @ 16:52

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.

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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.

But I was only planning to spend like 2 weeks and a half in Cambodia and wanted to visit one of its beaches and Siem Reap for sure. But I also wanted to see something else, so I decided to go to Kampot as it was recommended on the Lonely Planet guide.

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And don’t get me wrong, sometimes travel guides are awesome, but I didn’t quite enjoy Kampot that much. Don’t get me wrong, the town is lovely, but the main areas of interest (which are why you visit Kampot) were not that interesting to me.

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Kampot is a small village near the coast and near Bokor Natural Park where you can have a look at Bokor Hill, a mountain around 1000 metres high with a cool climate and a nice view, surrounded by a dense rain forest. The town itself is crossed by a river and has many buildings with French influence. You can tell just by looking at the houses by the riverside.

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On top of this hill there’s an old French station/house and church from the 1930s. Apparently they have been decaying for years and had a really mysterious look, but these days they are being refurbished and so there’s not much to see there apart from builders working on scaffoldings.

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The old French church

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The old station

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Now, what has struck me as ludicrous is the construction ongoing in the very natural park of Bokor. As in, the protected natural park of Bokor. The Sokimex group, founded by Oknha Sok Kong, is not only a petrol station company in Cambodia, but they also control the concession for the entrance fee to Angkor Wat. And they are building a tourist complex that includes a 5 star hotel, a casino, and some 400 houses. In the middle of the National Park, the protected National Park!.

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The new Casino

So ridiculous that if you go on a tour to this National Park, you will be taken to a place where there is a model of the park, with all the planned construction for this park. As if that would be a tourist attraction in itself!. Ridiculous. No need to say, if you are in the area, don’t bother taking one of these tours (in my opinion), hire a scooter and drive up yourself to the National Park.

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And enjoy walking around Kampot. It’s really small and pleasant to see. With a lot of french influence there are quite a few places where you can have dinner by the river that are nice. That’s worth the visit, or at least it was for me!

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July 5, 2012

Phnom Penh

Filed under: Cambodia, Phnom Penh, Places — Tags: , , , , , , , — jesus @ 20:45

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. Of course you have to bargain hard, but that’s how it is in Asia in general anyway, so no big surprises here.

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A tuk-tuk is a motorbike which has a sort of carriage attached to it so you can jump on it with your luggage and be taken to different places on a pleasant drive (if you think driving in South Asia is pleasant anyway). They are not really called tuk-tuk originally here, but remorks. I believe they started using tuk-tuk as that’s what they use in Thailand and there it became really popular.

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Phnom Penh is the capital of Cambodia and it’s a big city which attracts many tourists and people from different places in Cambodia. It’s also famous because it was the political centre of the infamous Khmer Rouge, whose leader, Pol Pot, killed a quarter of the population between 1975 and 1979. You can actually visit the prison S-21 and the killing fields where these killings took place.

Mass Grave

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The Killing Fields 9

The Killing Fields 10

Clothes

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The tree

To say that these places are creepy is not an accurate description. Just reading the notes on each of these places makes you want to be sick.

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Pay attention to what’s forbidden

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You can read more about the Khmer Rouge in wikipedia, but just to summarise it, Pol Pot carried an extermination of those who were against his regime, those who were educated and those who were denounced by the most minor offense.

The S-21, formerly a school which was converted into a prison, was where prisioners would be taken for interrogation. There people would be tortured and kept there without knowing what was going on. Their fate would invariably finish in the killing fields, an old Chinese grave that was used for exterminating the Khmer people.

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S-21 Prison 9

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S-21 Prison 23

I’m not going to talk much about this, if you feel like you want to know more, head to google or read books like The Cambodian Curse (I haven’t actually read the book. It’s been recommended by a friend and I don’t know if I can stomach this kind of book). Visiting this place while you listen to the audio guide is a truly depressing experience, albeit necessary.

Moving to other (nicer) subjects, there are nice things to see in Phnom Penh. The most interesting ones are possibly the Royal Palace and the Golden Pagoda, where you get to see a bit of Khmer architecture with its temples. It’s actually nice to walk around these places as you get to see lots of monks dressed in their traditional orange gowns. Just as you’d expect from your typical travel shots.

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Cambodians are nice people. They are always  smiling and they are always trying to start a conversation. They seem a very friendly group of people, even more than the Vietnamese. And their English is pretty good, much better than the Vietnamese, I have to say. I have been truly impressed by the command of the English language by the average Cambodian.
One of the highlights in Phnom Penh are the shooting ranges. Or at least they seem to be very popular among tourists, where you can get to shoot all sorts of weapons. Due to the lack of tight control, what would be very difficult in any western country, is very easy here. Shooting an AK-47 is not something you get to do everyday, so if you fancy doing these things, Cambodia is your place. You can shoot from pistols to AK-47s and even bazookas depending on how much money you want to spend and how big your balls are. Rumour has it that you can also pay to have chickens as targets, alive. I was not able to confirm these though.

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We visited one of these places as Robin, a Dutch guy I met in Cambodia, is basically in love with shooting weapons.

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Overall I enjoyed my stay in Phnom Penh, despite of all the bad fame it had. In the end it’s not that bad ;-). It reminded me of what a friend I met in Siem Reap told me: ‘I had this idea about Cambodia that I was going to find children carrying AK-47. I was quite shocked and surprised to find out that that was not the case’

All the photos on flickr.

June 29, 2012

Mekong Delta

Filed under: Cambodia, Mekong Delta, Travel, Vietnam — Tags: , , , , , — jesus @ 05:11

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. Mine was not very good, and on top of that I had a bad experience with the hotel, the Nga Hoang Hostel, I was staying at in Saigon. If I were to do it again, I would probably travel by myself and choose the places I wanted to go, sleep in the area and avoid the worthless visits to different places where all they want you to do is to buy some stuff. Which is fair enough, but it gets old very quickly and you don’t get to see that many nice things.

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Anyway, the idea is not so bad though. You are supposed to go around the Mekong river south of Saigon and see all this area in all of its grandiosity. The river, the rice fields, the floating markets, etc. In the end, it feels more like you are in a theme park than anything else. It’s not so bad because you get to see some nice sights, but it feels like it’s not enough though. And, that you are taken to a theme park of Vietnamese stuff.

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Wanna see crocodiles eating ducks? how to make rice noodles? play with a big snake? being taken through one of the canals of the Mekong river? This is your place.

Siesta

Instead of returning back to Saigon, I booked a boat trip into Cambodia through the Mekong River, to get to Pnomh Penh, the capital of Cambodia. To me the most interesting thing on this trip was a visit to the floating market in Can Tho. You know, you are on a boat in the river and you go to this market made of tens of other boats where people are buying stuff and exchanging goods. And of course this has become a tourist attraction. Very funny, but interesting anyway.

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Floating market where you can buy coffee

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Fresh pineapple, ummm!!!

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Rice noodles

Fried rats with onions

Something on the menu, fancy it?

We were getting closer to the border and the weather was getting muggier and hotter, as we spent the last night in Chau Doc from where we were going to go, supposedly through the Mekong river, to Cambodia. And well, it turned out to be not the Mekong river proper, but a canal that goes along the border of Vietnam and Cambodia. Where we finally arrived, waited a couple of hours to get our passports sorted out and then finally we took off again on a different boat to get to Phnom Penh. Or that’s what I thought. In the end we went up the river for like 30 minutes where a bus was going to pick us up.

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Cambodia in the distance
Cambodia in the background

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Isn’t he cute?

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And isn’t she cute???

Now, this was my first encounter with Cambodia. Bus is a very loose term in Cambodia, it seems. Instead of what you could think, it was not actually a bus, but a van for around 12-14 people. There, they put us all, 20 people plus bags. You can’t imagine the scene? try hard, remember Twister? that’s basically what we did for 2 hours. It gets better. Driving at 100km/h and overtaking on blind spots while speaking on the phone.

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Untitled
The Canal

From Vietnam to Cambodia 8

Boat Driver
Boat driver

Welcome to Cambodia, this was certainly going to be an interesting country…

Bus or minivan (2 of 2)

The back of the van where we were squeezed in!!

More photos of the Mekong Delta and the trip to Cambodia.

June 6, 2012

Don’t stay at Nga Hoang Backpackers in Saigon

Filed under: Saigon, Travel, Vietnam — Tags: , , , , , — jesus @ 02:38

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. This is my way of paying back by not recommending people to go there. As I couldn’t go back to discuss the issue, I’m hoping this will make it to google and level the karma a bit. (See http://justinvincent.com/page/1874/yelp-you-cost-me-2000-by-suppressing-genuine-reviews-heres-how-you-fix-it for something background information about reviews on the internet)

The hotel is the Nga Hoang Hotel, or backpackers, whatever you want to call it. It’s got good reviews on hostelworld.com, but if you read carefully on the reviews, you’ll see that there are some people who are not having a nice experience there. I usually think there are a lot of whiners on the internet leaving bad reviews to places based on minimal stuff. And I don’t usually complain about minor things, unless I’m paying $100 a night. And so far this has been true on many hostels where I’ve stayed at. But when someone tries to rip me off blatantly and being a bad person, I feel really annoyed and I don’t let it slip.

My idea was to spend 3/4 days in Saigon before heading south to do a Mekong Delta tour so I booked one through this hotel.  I booked the Mekong Delta tour (three days, two nights) through this hotel because it had affordable prices and it’s always more convenient this way, less hassle. I booked it with two extras, going to Phnom Penh via the Mekong River on a slow boat (instead of returning to Saigon) , and a paying for a single room, otherwise I would be sharing with someone else. For the extra single room I had to pay $4 per day. So I did pay $8 extra for that.

I did pay her the money for the tour, the money for the extra trip to Cambodia and the money for the two nights in a single room and asked to have a receipt. She said that was not necessary. I insisted and got the same answer. (You can see where this is going). But hey, what am I going to do? Punch the owner of the hotel? Speaking of who, the owner (or well, the person who sits there all the time) is a woman of an interesting character. Interesting because she’s normally not nice and borderline rude sometimes. Maybe something to do with the culture. Anyway, I did not have any massive problems except asked to pay the money upfront for my room. Which by the way, despite having a booking, was not available. So the first night I had to sleep at a different hostel nearby, and then I went back to this hostel for the remaining 3 days.

During these days, I saw some huge arguments between her and some customers regarding breakfast, which was included in the price but she was not offering at all. I did not involve in those as I didn’t care much, but I did not have breakfast there, for the record.

On my last night there she reminded me of my upcoming tour:

Remember, tomorrow be ready at 07:30, three days, two nights accommodation, single room to Phnom Penh.

And so I was picked up the following morning at that time and I went on my tour.

Now, whilst going on this tour, on a boat, the guide came to me and said there was some kind of problem with my booking and he gave me a mobile phone and talk to someone. So I grab it, and here’s the owner of Nga Hoang Hotel who says:

You have to pay the extra single room to them.

Excuse me?

You have to pay $8 dollars to them to get the extra single room

Sorry, I paid that money to you <click>

I couldn’t believe it. She hung up on me. So I went to the guide and expressed in no unclear terms that this woman was a lier and that in no way I was going to pay the extra money as I already paid to her. Their problem, they go and sort it out, as they are the ones doing business with this woman.

End of story, I got my single room and I didn’t pay anything else.

I then left a bad (which is not that bad) review on hostelworld, warning about this woman. And I got a reply to that review (owners of establishments can reply to reviews. Now look at what they wrote there (You can find the reviews here, but they might disappear as people leave more and more reviews). I got a screen shot just in case it disappears:

Reply to my review of Nga Hoang

Reply to my review on Nga Hoang

So, read the reply, in perfect English (which she didn’t speak, just broken). I had a disagreement and I booked somewhere else, comments are meant for another hostel… Well played, but no, I stayed at your bloody hostel for 4 days you moron.

I really hope this makes to google so other people get a warning about this. I know that this hostel is recommended in the Lonely Planet Guide, so I will send them a message too.

And before you tell me that this might be excessive, think about how pissed off I was about this woman to write this long post.

Anyway, I’ve not had any other thing like that except one thing that happened in Thailand, but that was a Thai woman ripping off some other Thai people, but that’s another story for the future.

May 16, 2012

Images from Saigon

Filed under: Places, Saigon, Vietnam — Tags: , , , , , , — jesus @ 23:46

Saigon at night

Mess

Tunnel opening
Not technically Saigon

Tet Holiday

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Saigon 16

Siesta 1
The art of siesta

Eyes
Eyes…

Siesta 2
More siesta

The streets of Saigon

Four on a scooter

Chinook Helicopter

In a way like Hanoi, noisy, effervescent, hot and humid, bubbling during the Tet Holiday in January, this is my view on Saigon or Ho Chi Minh City

May 11, 2012

Mũi Né

I arrived to Mui Ne from Dalat using the Easy Riders early in the afternoon and chose a room close to the old village. Mui Ne got famous among tourists recently, apparently. It is a long beach strip in southern Vietnam, famous for its winds, which attracts kite-surfers, and the different dunes around the area.

The old village is quite picturesque, as it is a fishing village and has lots of boats in its harbour, which makes for nice pictures. It is not uncommon to find tens of people taking photographs at any given point there.

Mui Ne

It’s even been the cover photograph of one of the editions of the Lonely Planet for Vietnam:

Now, that’s one thing, but the rest of the touristy area is a different world. Basically the whole beach strip is a succession of hotels, guest houses and restaurants non-stop for a few kilometres. Literally non-stop, parallel to the beach and to the main road of this town. Which is a bit more inconvenient than it seems as you have to cross through one of these establishments to reach the beach.

Mui Ne

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Mui Ne fishing village

So, having a scooter here is a must, as there’s no way you are going to walk like 9 km to get to the nicer spots in this place. And well, driving in Vietnam, I should just post an entry on this blog about driving in South East Asia, starting by ‘It’s illegal to drive unless you have a Vietnamese issued driving license‘ to ‘100 ways in which you can kill yourself or end up permanently disabled by driving in Vietnam‘. I’m sure it would be a success among readers ;-)

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Boats in Mui Ne

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Sunset in Mui Ne

But the thing that I found the weirdest here is that it’s full of Russians. Everywhere. I found it extremely difficult to meet people as most of them were Russians with mostly no command of the English language. Damn, even the menus were written in Russian in restaurants. I don’t know why, but everywhere you go you can breathe russian. Even the kite-surfing schools were employed by russians for russians (!).

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Jump jump

Yeah, kite surfing seems to be the big thing here. it’s literally filled with people kite-surfing. Schools everywhere, experienced surfers jumping above the waves also. It was nice to see all these people doing their stunts.

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Vietnamese kids

The beach is not particularly impressive. Good for kite surfing but not so good for swimming. Although it’s nice to go for a walk early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the sun is rising or setting.

Starfish
Starfish on low tide

Sunrise
Sunrise

Stars over Mui Ne
Orion under the palm trees

But Mui Ne is also famous for its dunes, as it seems like a big local attraction which gets visitors all day round. It’s funny because around these dunes bars and restaurants have sprung up to take care of all the tourists that go there. It’s also full of kids who try to get you to buy something from their family owned restaurants. The deal is, you buy something from them, they’ll keep an eye on your scooter or bicycle. Which is a good way to get to know them a bit as they are easy to talk to, they want to know a bit about you, where you’re coming from, etc.

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You can just walk the dunes, which are prettier at sunset, getting them in an even more intense orange colour. Or you can just rent one of the sliders and then go down one of the dunes. Don’t worry if you go there, you’ll be harassed by zillions of kids who want you to rent their board ;-)

The sand slider I

Sand slides

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Nice place to come, but preferably come with some friends or having notions of Russian as it’ll be difficult to make new friends ;-). And with lots of energy to try kite-surfing. Have a look at my full gallery on flickr if you fancy these photos.

From here, next step, Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City!

March 31, 2012

To Dalat and then Mui Ne

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.

So we decided to pay it a visit for a couple of days with the intention of hiring some easy riders and have some fun (more below).

Dalat is known for its French colonial architecture where the train station is probably the most obvious example.

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Train Station

But possibly the thing that most people know about Dalat is the Crazy House (Hằng Nga guesthouse). From wikipedia:

…popularly known as the “Crazy House”. Described as a “fairy tale house”, its overall design resembles a giant banyan tree, incorporating sculptured design elements representing natural forms such as animals, mushrooms, spider webs and caves. Its architecture, consisting of complex, organic, non-rectilinear shapes, has been described as expressionist. Its creator, Vietnamese architect Dang Viet Nga (also known as Hằng Nga), who holds a PhD in architecture from Moscow State University, has acknowledged the inspiration of Catalan Spanish architect Antoni Gaudí in the building’s design.

So, have a look at some of the pictures

Crazy House

Dalat's Crazy House 4

Dalat's Crazy House 6

Dalat's Crazy House 15

Yeah, Crazy crazy….

Marielle
Marielle

Marielle and I arrived to this city and spent a day and a half just enjoying it. And to be honest, the weather was just great, sunny and not hot. So we enjoyed walking its streets and eating its food. Really good. We even caught some action along the way.

Oooops
I think they are embarrassed

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Wheel

More about Dalat (Full flickr set)

 

But what we really wanted to do is grab one of the Easy Riders for a ride around Vietnam. The Easy Riders is a term that now applies to many groups of people who do basically the same. They give you a ride on the back of a motorcycle around Vietnam. The original Easy Riders due to its popularity has made appear lots of spin-off which basically offer the same thing. The idea is that you choose what kind of itinerary you want and how many days you want to do it, and then they pack everything on the back of the motorbike (and the front), you jump in and then they take you around while stopping frequently on different places which are usually not easily reachable from main touristy cities (you might like the many spots they stop or you might not, but they are interesting nevertheless).

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That’s how they pack your stuff on the motorbike

We wanted a 4-day tour starting on Dalat, going around the border with Cambodia and then going south to Mui Ne, but due to the Tết Holiday (Vietnamese Lunar New Year) which was starting in two days, we just had to reduce it to two days. During these holidays basically everything shuts down (and they even say that finding bus tickets is difficult, but I didn’t have any problems. The easy riders stopped though). Well, I took a 2-day tour, Marielle took a 1-day tour as she had to go to Saigon to catch a flight. So be it, two days.

I have to say that the experience was awesome. A bit tiring, but a lot of fun. So, if you are thinking of going to Vietnam, don’t even think about it, just get on one of these tours. You’ll love it. Make sure you also have your camera with you (and, just unlike me, make damn sure your filters are properly attached to the camera, as I saw, like in snow motion, how my $80 polarizer filter dropped off my camera while we were going at around 80 km/h, seeing it crashing on the asphalt. I think I shed a tear).

Among the highlights:

American Airport
American airport abandoned in Dalat

Weasel
Weasel (AKA shit coffee)

I think I have to introduce you to the weasel coffee. So, they feed weasels with coffee beans that go through their systems. Then they collect them from their droppings (good euphemism) and then they toast it as normal coffee. It seems it’s one of the most valued coffees in Vietnam. More information in Wikipedia. As I’m no fan of Vietnamese coffee (sorry guys, I kind of hate it), this didn’t actually made me appreciate it more.

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Me trying weasel Coffee :-P (Photo courtesy of Marielle)

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My rider

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The Highlands

Dead Snake
Dead Snake

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Oh yeah
Little I knew that my filter was about to drop off :-(

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Kid on a bike
Kid on a bycicle (Love this photo)

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Feeling the speed

And finally I arrived to Mui Ne. I have to say that I really liked this. It was fun and I got to see parts of Vietnam I never thought I was going to see. I really liked the ride through the forest going from the highlands down to sea level. It was actually a shame to see that so much forest has been destroyed due to Agent Orange, as you see big chunky patches missing. The parts where there’s still forest/jungle, it’s actually very very cool.

So now you know, boys and girls, if you go to Vietnam, get one of these, get on a predefined tour or a tailored one, and enjoy yourselves! :)

(Full flickr set)

March 26, 2012

Experiencing Nha Trang

Filed under: Nha Trang, Places, Travel, Vietnam — Tags: , , , , — jesus @ 12:00

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. It turned out this train trip was going to be a bit different.

We had to go back up north to Danang as there is no train station in Hoi An, so we could catch the night train to Nha Trang. Air Conditioned cabin, upper berths. Sounded like a good plan. But when we jumped on the train we discovered that there wasn’t much of AC. Instead there was some air coming from the ceiling but that didn’t make things easier. Plus, the beds were not that clean, and there were some bugs crawling around. Yay!!! On the lower berth there was a woman with a little kid who was crying all the time and a woman who was totally wrapped up in winter clothes and covered by a blanket!!! And we were sweating the moment we got in. This was going to be fun.

So, we tried to sleep. I think I slept some. I don’t know, I only recall being like feeling like I was under the influence. Half asleep, half awake, feeling how sweat drops were all around. Not a nice ride at all, so when the first daylight rays got through the window, I got up and got out of the cabin. Don’t know how I survived there, really :-)

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But, the train was going down south along the coast while the sun was rising and I was able to see an amazing sunrise, so I went to take some pictures:

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From Hoi An to Nha Trang 9

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Coming back to the cabin, we actually discovered that the kid downstairs was really cute and sweet :-)

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Marielle and the kid

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This is the kid posing while I took the photo

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Just Cute

So we arrived at 08:00 to Nha Trang. Nha Trang is a very touristy city in Vietnam, famous for its beaches. Reminded me of Benidorm in a way. Full with russians and having a not so good reputation towards tourists who come here. We read somewhere (I think it was on wikitravel) that it was full with kamikaze hookers. You know, girls/hookers who come harassing you after you exit a club and then they hug you while they empty your pockets of valuables!!! We didn’t see any of this, to be honest.

A note on wikitravel. Don’t believe everything that’s put in it. I have the impression that, being a collaborative effort, it’s kind of full of generalizations made by people who had a bad experience and they write it down to make it look as if that’s a common event. Also, I’d say the same thing about the lonely planet guides too. Some common sense thinking needs to applied here :-)

Anyway, as we arrived in Nha Trang so early, our hostel room were not ready. So we left our stuff at the hostel and went straight to the beach for a swim, just because we needed to remove all that night sweat from us! And it was warm. First place that we could call summer. And it was very very welcomed. Getting rid of all of our winter stuff was a relief!

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Nha Trang Beach

There we met Brad, a cool dude from the USA who was travelling across South East Asia too. And was into photography as well (Check out his flickr stream)

Nha Trang 2
Brad

Nha Trang is full of water sports. Diving, boat parasailing (I don’t know how this is called in English, really), water skiing, etc. We just took it easy and enjoyed a tour on a boat that would take us to a few islands. I also did some diving which was really good as I hadn’t been diving for many years. The water wasn’t very clear but it was not the best time of the year to go diving anyway.

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Off you go girls

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Parasailing

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Sailor

Boat ropes
Boat Ropes

Jumping III
This was FUN! :-)

Brad and his faces II
Brad had amazing faces!!

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The Lady Boy moment

The barman
He ended up being our bar tender in the water!

Now the funny anecdote in Nha Trang. This is possibly a good summary of Vietnam, in my opinion. So we went to this place to have dinner. Apparently good. It was like 10 of us, more or less. They had a variety of different dishes, european and Vietnamese cuisine, so, oriented for tourists. I ordered, if I recall correctly, chicken with lemongrass. There was a girl who ordered chicken with curry or something similar. Now, what happened is that this girl got served a dish which she didn’t know what it was. On asking they said it was the chicken curry so she started eating it. 5 minutes later, they arrived with another dish with chicken and they said chicken curry. Hang on a minute, chicken curry again? This can’t be, what am I eating here?

So, as it happens, she was given my chicken with lemongrass which she eat half of it when the proper chicken curry dish came. Argument for a while, trying to decide whose fault it was and trying to get another chicken with lemongrass for me (I needed to eat it anyway). Them saying that it was not their fault (despite saying at the beginning that was the curry dish). Anyway, this girl asked them to get another chicken with lemongrass for me and pay for it. Fair enough, we were not going to ruin the night for a few dollars.

Now, 5 minutes later these guys come to me and they bring me a dish and say: Here’s your chicken with lemongrass. Thanks!. I look at it and I don’t see any lemongrass in it, just chicken with pineapple. So I call the guy to take it back as they’ve given me the wrong dish. They apologize and they take it back. Ok then. 5 minutes later they come again and they put a dish in front of me. I look at it and it’s the same pineapple chicken dish. What the hell? Now I call them again, a bit angry, and look at the logic of the conversation:

Sorry, this is not the chicken with lemongrass I’m waiting for.

Yeah, but if I take it back then I will have to pay it with my money.

Well, that’s not my problem. I ordered chicken with lemongrass, no? so you guys have made a mistake.

No no, you pay for it.

Excuse me, I don’t want this, why would I have to pay for something I haven’t ordered? I want chicken with lemongrass.

But I can’t pay for it. It’s not my fault.

It’s not your fault? So whose fault it is?

etc etc.

I don’t like you, and I don’t like this restaurant.

So, I’ve seen this a bit too much. In the end it was all a good laugh, but I had to eat the frikking pineapple chicken. It just that they didn’t even bother to apologize. They kept dealing with the issue as if it was our fault and they were not doing anything wrong.

But anyway, it gave us a few moments to have good laughs! :-)

Update: Thanks to Rishi for letting me know about parasailing.

March 20, 2012

Hoi An

Filed under: Hoi An, Places, Travel, Vietnam — Tags: , , , , , , , , — jesus @ 13:44

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.

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A vendor at the beach

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It also has this…

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French style?

Here’s the deal, you go to one of these tailors where you can choose a suit from their extensive list of models and get it done in two days. Not only that, you can show them a photograph of a clothing item you like (or bring an old one) and they’ll copy it within days. And cheaply. And when I say a clothing item, I mean anything. You can bring your favourite Nike shoes and they’ll copy them, in different colours if you like!!!

Now, you can imagine, hordes of tourists who only come here to get stuff done and have it sent back home, spending hundreds if not thousands of dollars to have tailored-made suits and dresses, at a fraction of what you’d have to pay back at home. It’s not that every other tailor is this town is good, but you’d like to shop around and find someone who has a good reputation (search online) if you want to have the best outcome at the best price. So my advise is, if you are visiting Vietnam and happen to pass by Hoi An, do a bit of looking at home, for something you like, take a photo, copy it from a magazine and bring it with you to get it ‘copied‘ in Hoi An. Because you’ll want one of these. And it’s fun to try anyway! :-)

Boyfriend Blazer
At one of the tailors…

The city has an interesting atmosphere. Apart from the suit business, it’s full of small restaurants, most of them oriented to the tourists, where you can have really interesting and cheap (and good) food. Its colonial French style gives the houses an interesting and pretty look. This frenchness can be also appreciated in the food, finding normal coffee everywhere (Vietnamese coffee should have a post of its own) and baguettes with butter and jam for breakfast.

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Espresso Machiato
Umm, real coffee! :-P

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Happy Hour all day long…

The other thing that catches your attention is the number of shops selling lamps, very colourful lamps that you can buy for nothing, and they make a good present.

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Hoi An 3
You could buy these and put them on the river

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It's sunny, make love!

If you end up buying some stuff, don’t carry it with you, go to the post office and have it sent home, via airmail. I’ve used the Vietnamese post service a few times and have found it to be very reliable. You just show up with your stuff, they’ll put it in a package, wrap it up and fill in most of the forms you have to use. Very convenient.

And then, there’s the people of Hoi An, young and old:

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Isn’t she pretty?

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Playing in the street

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I know, I know, I said people…

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Awesome lady!

When are you coming? :-)

March 11, 2012

Hué

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…

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I was on my own on this city and I joined an organised tour to see the city. I’m hating these tours, but I came to this realisation after doing a few of them. They are too constrained, as they take you from place to place where you have limited time to see it, and generally you are being hand-held all the time. They even tell you when you can take pictures ‘Sir, now take pictures‘ ‘Oh, really? Thanks‘. On the other hand, it’s a good way to meet people, on these trip I ended up meeting three nice australian girls who I would see again in Nha Trang. You keep bumping into the same people on different places. this is good if you like their company. Not so good if you don’t like them (oh, it’s you again (smirk)).

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Anyway, Hué is interesting from a historical point of view. Here the battle of Hué took place (remember Full Metal Jacket)?. It’s kind of weird to be in one of these places where all this Vietnam war happened (sorry, American War as it’s called in Vietnam). But well, it’s not only about recent wars. You can visit many temples and other places in the city, like the Citadel.

Have a look at some of the views about this city.

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Car that belonged to Thich Quang Duc

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I specially liked the market, where you don’t get to see many foreigners and see the real Vietnam. Markets in this part of the world are even more boiling with life. You see all sorts of people selling everything. Clothing, accessories, amulets, roots, meat, vegetables, everything.  And it’s full of food stalls where you can try real cheap-ass food, sometimes not knowing what you are eating. But that’s part of the experience and what makes it interesting.

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Yummy!

But maybe, it was that it was raining (again) and that made me not like this city very much! Rain Rain Rain, when are you going to go away? ;-)

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