A Travellerspoint blog

Koh Rung

If you have been reading these blogs with a hint of envy, then you had better look away now...

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Yes - Pure white sand, crystal clear waters, blistering hot sun, deserted beaches and yes, that is a beach bungalow...on stilts. But this is not any ordinary bungalow on stilts; this is an ensuite bungalow on stilts.Welcome to Ko Rung, Cambodia.

We had been told that the beach on the island looked just like the Whitsundays but with fewer people- tall talk we thought and slightly cynically chose not to believe this- understandably given we had been told we were about to eat Phoenix the week before. It turns out that it was true from what we could tell- Whitsunday comment to be confirmed next month- and it was absolutely amazing. We had to wait 30 mins for someone to appear on the beach to take our photo- it was empty and untouched.

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Now, a contributing factor to the unspoiled nature of this special beach may well have been that you had to hike for around an hour up-hill through the jungle, and then abseil down a cliff with a rope (thank god for bushes obscuring the view during the descent!).

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This was pretty hairy and pretty sweaty, as I am sure you can imagine, but it was incredible- is it possible to have a crush on an island? Answers on a postcard to......

Posted by tomkat2010 16:50 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Chau-Doc - Phnom Penh - Sihanoukville

The morning after our 5* home-stay, we were chauffeured by longboat up a winding tributary to a floating rendezvous with the tour's mother ship on the Mekong proper. Reunited with the rest of the group, we recounted our rustic home-stay experience. The ship then took us to see the floating market - a market made of boats. It floats. Then on to a rice noodle making factory - not an enviable job, but a fascinating process which they have down to fine art. In much the same way as coconuts in India, not one bit of the rice goes to waste - the husks being used as fuel - to power the fire - that cooks the rice pancakes - before they are sun-dried - and fed through a 'noodler' machine.

In the afternoon we continued by boat on to Chau Doc, border town with Cambodia. We hit the streets for some food and came across a buffet serving frog 'Kofte Kebab' style. We had some, thinking it was pork, and only discovering the frog part on consultation with our phrasebook later on. Ah well - tasted fine. Quite like pork.

Next day we had a slow and very pleasant five hour chug along the river to the Cambodian border. Lots of children along the way smiling and waving.

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We disembarked at the border checkpoint and transferred to a squished and bumpy bus to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's Capital. Just one night here before we were back on the road to Sihanoukeville, Cambodia's prime beach destination, but it gave us enough time for a few drinks with our Australian home-stay buddies at the Foreign Correspondant's Club - a fantastic bar where all the journalists and diplomats used to hang out.

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Sihanoukville was choc-a-bloc. You could hardly see the beach for want of loungers, chairs and bars. It was with relief therefore that we booked our boat to Koh Rung, an island 40km off the coast....

Posted by tomkat2010 16:27 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

The Mekong Delta

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The Mekong Delta- just saying it sounds cool. Meeekong. Anyway, we were heading towards the Delta of the Mekong which starts in Tibet (that's miles away!). Little did we know we would be using a combination of big boat, small boat, canoe, horse-drawn cart mini-bus and really cramped mini-bus as our mode of exploration. Joining us on our adventure included our new Australian friends (Carly and Dave), Yom from South Korea, Lesley and Katie from Shropshire, a rather scary lady from Vietnam and a couple of Scandinavian girls. It was quite spectacular cruising down the river in our boat, which had eyes- to scare away other monsters and so that it could see where it was going.Hmm. We were also told that we would enjoy local music, that we would be eating Phoenix, and later on that mosquito the size of chickens lay dinosaur eggs which are tasty. It was at this point when we realised that some of the things that the guide was saying might not be true- the music was rubbish.

We visited floating markets, stationary markets, fish-farms and back-waters(canoe). We also stopped for lunch at a place where you could feed crocodiles with meat dangling on sticks. At one point a small child fell into the pit- Tom, very Steve Irwin (RIP), dived in wrestling the crocs and saving the small child from the perilous jaws- what a hero. This might not have happened, but they were really big.

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We had opted for a home stay (along with Carly and Dave), thinking that we would be staying in traditional house on stilts, in the spare room and eating with the family. It was a bit different to that. It was a bit different in the sense that we stayed in our room with ensuite and fan, that was not on stilts. It was, however, next to someones house and the home-cooked food was very tasty and we got to make our own spring rolls with rice paper etc. The next morning we were taken by little boat to the big boat and did a mid-Mekong transfer of luggage and bodies-pretty exciting!

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Posted by tomkat2010 05:26 Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

Scooter Heaven

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Bus journeys in Vietnam take flipping ages, even if you aren't traveling that far. Thus a mere 200km and a mighty 4 hours later we arrived in Saigon, or Ho Chi Minh City (since 1975). The only room we could find was on the oxygen-sapping fifth floor of a guesthouse in backpacker central close to the main market....with no lift. But it had air-con, sweet, sweet air-con....and on the very same street you could dirt cheap beer and the traditional nectar of the gods: diet coke.

Like Hanoi, HCMC is a big old city (9 million people and 5 million scooters), but we found it easy to get to grips with, strolling through an enormous flower market and ducking into a few street-market restaurants for dinner.

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Next day we visited the War Remnants Museum. This is an outdoor collection of US military vehicles left after the Vietnam War and several indoor photographic exhibitions that chart the history of the conflict (and international condemnation of it) from the end of WWII up to the storming of the gates of Independence Palace in 1975. A fascinating museum that helped us understand a lot better the recent history of Vietnam. It would be fair to say that it gives a pretty one-sided view, but it was very moving and we are both interested in reading about the war a bit more on our return to the UK.

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In the afternoon we visited Independence Palace, renamed Re-Unification Palace after 1975. This was the home and workplace of the President of South Vietnam during the Vietnam War. It was the site of the end of the Vietnam War during the Fall of Saigon on April 30, 1975, when a North Vietnamese Army tank crashed through its gates (and still remains in the front garden). Again a fascinating place, if not a bit surreal as it remains largely unchanged and little used since 1975, and it was only built in the mid-60's. So full of the latest 60's furniture and cutting edge radio technology. It claimed to have a mini-bar in the basement, but we failed to see said bar. Katie also stood on a carpet that she wasn't supposed to. How embarrassing.

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Wondered back to our hotel past Notre Dame Cathedral - early start tomorrow for a three day tour of the Mekong Delta.

It's quite incredible how much you notice the smog in Asian cities when you've been out of them for a few days-no wonder everyone wears masks! We also established the art of crossing the road. The best thing to do is just to walk blindly and without any hesitation and to allow the scooters and other traffic to make its way round you or to slow down. Psychologically, it is better to be in some kind of state of semi-consciousness and be practising the exact opposite of mindfulness, for the moment you realise what you are doing it is likely that you will start screaming and be run over. Hopefully we will remember to not cross roads like this when we get to Australia-will keep you posted on this front.

NOTICE OF AMENDMENT: On reaching Saigon we started to get a sneaking suspicion that our sources had been incorrect and it was going to be the Vietnamese year of the cat, not rabbit (huge pictures of cats everywhere gave it away). It is still going to be the year of the rabbit in China and Cambodia just to confuse things. So apologies, I am sure you will all be able to cope with this news.

Posted by tomkat2010 05:24 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Vietnam- Mui Ne

Land of Kite surfing and little else

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After 16 hours, two buses and the worst toilet in the world we arrive in Mui Ne. We selected Mui Ne due to its excellent review in our book, and because it was South enough to guarantee not having to wear a fleece. When we arrived we were slightly confused and found it to be quite an odd place made up of one long strip of hotels, restaurants and places advertising kite surfing lessons. There was also no beach for a very long time. There was the sea and there was hotels. The sandy part of the town was while away from where we were staying, and was dominated by posh hotels, not for the likes of us. It was, however, blissfully warm and we filled a day relaxing. We spent some time watching the kite-surfers and wishing not for the first time, that we were more "knarly"; that was until we saw one smack violently against the sea as they were defeated by the wind- it had to hurt.

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After 24 hours of re-charging our batteries we were ready for our next sweaty bus journey and the last leg of our journey down the Ho Chi Minh trail to Saigon.

Posted by tomkat2010 07:22 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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