Vietnam - Cambodia
So to continue from where I left off last......
We decided to go on another motorbike tour to see some of the countryside Dalat had to offer. The weather was very mixed so it went from sunny and hot to raining and cold throughout the day. The countryside was quite similar to Ireland and our driving instructors got very excited that they were growing cabbages and carrotts which apparently is because they have only had european vegetables as they called them for the past 10 years. We were brought to a temple, a waterfall, a coffee plantation, a silk worm factory and rice wine factory. We got up close and personal with the waterfall by climbing down to the base of it and got completely soaked. We thought we were just going to have a look at it not climb down into it. We then had lunch together with loads of different dishes to try. I'm slowly but surely getting used to food with a face. We already got whole crabs to crack open in Halong bay and now we were tucking into whole shrimp in batter. Nothing is left to go to waste. I had to leave the head though. The thought of eating the eyes was making me a bit sqeamish. Our instructors had a saying that Vietnamese people had small bodies but big stomachs and western's had big bodies but small stomachs. We then decided to make the 8 hour bus journey to Ho Chi Min the next day.
All the buses that we have gotten so far have been mainly full of locals and the locals love karaoke. They also love spitting and bags are even provided for you to spit into which is a bit gross. Also the concept of personal space is quite foreign to them so don't expect anyone to say excuse me or wait patiently for you to get a chance to move out of the way. If they want to get by you they will simply push through. Same thing happens on the plane, me and Suzanne were going to get up to let a man get to the window seat but before we even had a second to move he was squeezing in past us. We got to Ho Chi Min eventually and arranged a tour to the Cu Chi Tunnels the next day. The Cu Chi Tunnels are the underground nextwork of tunnels which were used in the Vietnam War. We were led around the grounds and shown various fox holes and spider holes along with some pretty gruesome traps involving a lot of spikes. These tunnels are so small that you have to crawl through them and if you take a wrong turn you can't physically turn around, bearing in mind that they are also pitch black. So they had to recruit some small bodied individuals called tunnel rats to head down there. Not a job I would fancy at all. They have adapted some of the tunnels for non locals so that more people can fit down them to have a look but they are still pretty small and very hot. The next day we went to the War Museum which consisted mainly of a collection of photographs from the war and Agent Orange victims. Not for the faint hearted. Then we moved on to the Reunification Palace and the Notre Dame Cathedral. The next day we got the bus to Phenom Phen in Cambodia.
After a long bus journey we were surrounded by tuk tuk drivers as we got off the bus. There are no real taxis services in Cambodia so you have no choice but to learn how to negotiate with them. We definitely noticed that everthing was more expensive in Cambodia but the quality wasn't great. We finally found a guesthouse which looked half decent and we were hit again with more rain. The rain seems to be following us around. We arranged to hire a tuk tuk for the day and head off to see The Killing Fields, Tulong Seng S21 Prison (aka the genocide museum) and then The National Museum. The Killing Fields were really interesting as well as quite disturbing. The Khmer Rouge tortured and detained their victims in the S21 prison and then brought them to The Killing Fields to kill and bury them. Our tour guide informed us that they would arrive with a truck load of people about 4 times a month to kill them and nobody knew what was going on as they used to play really loud music so the local people thought they were having a party. As you can imagine all the victims, men, woman and children were brutally murdered here and rarely shot as the bullets were too expensive. In a lot of cases young boys were recruited to do a lot of the killing and as our guide told us it was a case of kill or be killed. We went from war in Vietnam to war in Cambodia so by the end of the day we were completely depressed. The gap between rich and poor is very apparent in Cambodia in the cities. On the one hand you have modern restaurants and a lot of big cars driving around and then at night you get people out begging on the streets. It's heartbreaking to see. We got the bus to Siem Reap and when we arrived at the bus station we were surrounded by poor kids begging. They were pointing to my bag where I had a half a packet of biscuits left so I handed them to them and I have never seen food being snatched out of my hands so quickly. The next day we went to Angkor Wat. The place is huge so we arranged for a tuk tuk driver to take us around for the day. We saw numerous temples including the Bayron where the Tomb Raider movies were filmed.
The next day we decided to move on from Cambodia to Bangkok by bus. By the end of it we wished we had just booked a flight. The bus on the first leg of our trip had no airconditioning or luggage compartment under the bus so all our bags were stacked wherever they could fit and as you can imagine it was very hot. We finally got to the border where everything seemed to be moving quite smoothly until we exited on the other side where we were made to wait for about two hours before they brought us to Bangkok. So what should have been a 6 hour trip took about 9 hours. So we had one overnight stop in Bangkok and then headed down to Koh Samui for some well deserved pampering and partying. Will follow up with nice beach pictures in my next email.