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.

Angkor Wat 51
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.

Kampot 1

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.

Kampot 5

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.

Kampot 9

Kampot 12

Kampot 13

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.

Kampot 21
The old French church

Kampot 22
The old station

Kampot 19

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!.

Kampot 17
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.

Kampot 25

Kampot 29

Kampot 31

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!

Kampot 28

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

Mui Ne 9
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 ;-)

Mui Ne 17
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 (!).

Mui Ne 4

Mui Ne 5

Mui Ne 6

Mui Ne 7
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.

Mui Ne 10

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!

January 9, 2012

Macau

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. The economy depends mainly on gambling and tourism. Yes, gambling.

Arriving to Macau and getting a visa for Europeans is just a matter of going through immigration and getting your passport stamped. We are allowed to stay for 90 days in this tiny territory which happens to be one with the highest density in the world.

Apparently the main influx of tourists to Macau come from mainland China, people who come here to gamble on the different casinos in the area. For this reason,  outside the port there are many free buses that take you directly to your hotel, hotel/casino or even to the casino itself. You can even use these even if you are not using the hotels and don’t want to walk to where you are going.

Having taken one of these buses, I drop everything, and wash some of my clothes, as this was very much needed, and then, let’s go and see what’s on offer on this town.

Starting to wander around when the sun was getting low, I get to see the enormous casino area. A place full of huge buildings with shiny banners and lots of (chinese) people queueing to get in. Buildings that look spectacular during sunset (and later in the evening) you get to see what feels like Las Vegas (never been).

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Macau 1

A few shots here and there and I get to see Macau Tower at sunset, which looks absolutely gorgeous (澳門旅遊塔會展娛樂中心). The tower measures 338 m and has an observation point where you can do high adrenalin activities (no, not having time to go up, and probably not having balls of steel to try bungee jumping off it)

Sunset in Macau

Reflections 1

Now, if you walk into the old town of Macau it simply looks surreal, as it looks you are in a southern portuguese city, or even a spanish one. I felt at some points I was in the Sierpes Street in Seville.

Macau 5

Except that everything is in Chinese and it’s full of Chinese people, although you see some people of Portuguese origin here and there. There are Chinese street markets and food vendors everywhere. One thing that I tried here again (tried it in Hong Kong) was the grilled octopus.

Octopus

What these guys do is grill a piece of octopus and then they put it through a machine which basically flattens and shreds it so you wan eat it. In my opinion it’s a bit too dry but quite tasty.

Octopus ready to eat

Another street vendor that caught my attention was this place where they have a multitude of different foods in front of you, so you grab a dish and put everything you want in it, then hand it to the vendor who would boil it all and serve you with either spicy or non-spicy food (So I found out thanks to a local who spoke English and was telling me about it).

Street market

To be honest, it was quite tasty, but it all felt a bit weird not knowing what the hell I was eating, really.

Final product

On my way back, I had to go again through the casino area so I used the opportunity to take some good night shots with my camera, of the different casinos and the Macau tower against the sea water (gotta love the reflection shots).

Casino

Reflections 2

Reflections 3

Things that I learned here:

  • Chinese spit everywhere, no mater their gender.
  • Chinese mixed with portuguese is weird.
  • You can use your hair dryer to dry your laundry, but gotta be careful ;-)

Summary:

Surreal. It looks way too artificial, although the portuguese touch is quite nice.

Visit again:

Probably not, unless you want to gamble like there’s no tomorrow.

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