A Travellerspoint blog

Through Vietnam

South to north

overcast 20 °C

It's been a while since our last update; we have experienced quite a bit and met many interesting people on our way. DSC02302.jpg
We spent our last days in Saigon just walking through the nice city and admiring the fabulous markets as well as visiting the War Museum. It's har not to be touched by the pictures and stories describing the atrocities that Vietnam had to endure during the 20 years of war as well as the (still today) ongoing suffering caused by landmines and chemicals that were spread over the country.

When we had had enough of the city life we headed on to Mui Ne to enjoy the last november sun and to visit the famous sand dunes. After checking in, we found a driver of an old army jeep who offered transportation out to the deserts. Later the same day we met two Spanish and an American backpacker to split the costs with and the next day we met up and headed out.

There are two different deserts
outside of Mui Ne and we first
visited the one with very white,
Sahara-like sand, which was too
fine for the jeep to get through
so instead we rented a quad and
continued to explore on our own.

After meating up with our fellow backpackers again, we carried on to the second desert, which had likewise fine sand, but of a reddish colour. Once there, we found and climbed the biggest dune by foot in order to get as good a view as possible of the amazing sunset.
Though sometimes it was hard to get good pictures due to the desert wind...
Something that enhanced the picturesqueness of the red desert was the contrast to the efflorescent forest that lay directly adjacent.

Two days later we took the open bus to Nha Trang but the city and its surroundings had little to offer and it was raining a lot in the region so we continued to Hoi An after just one and a half day. Hoi An on the other hand is a beutiful and charming old city, especially in the evenings with its countless multicoloured paper lanterns hanging between the 15th century houses, and it is even listed as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. Furthermore, this old trade port is the tailor and shoemaking capital of Vietnam so we took the opportunity and had some winterclothes made to measure while we were there.

After Hoi An, Hue was our next and last stop before reaching the capital Hanoi and offered a good nights sleep as well as a beautiful walk along the Perfume River (which got its name from the smell caused by the many flowers that during the autumn fall into the river from the surrounding orchards); a nice and relaxing stop before the 16-hour bus ride up north.

Hanoi was our last destination here in Vietnam and is where we've spent the last three nights. Its getting pretty chilly now, around twenty degrees and in the evening and our winterclothes come to good use as the thermometer sometimes plummets to 15. The Vietnamese are in good spirit though and are preparing for christmas with all the fake snow they can find.90_2011-11-16_16_02_29.jpg

Tomorrow evening we will board a night train which will take us to Nanning, China and after that the planned route is Guangzhou and Hong Kong (also to be covered by train.)

We promise to keep you posted on a more regular basis during the last two weeks, until then!

PS I will start to take away the photos at the end of previous posts so that the page will load faster, nonetheless they will still be availible through the photography link on the right side of the page.


Posted by PiaErik 13:35 Archived in Vietnam Comments (5)


From the beach to the city

overcast 29 °C

On one of our last days in Sihanoukville we went on a snorkeling trip, which included visits to two different coral reefs and three different islands as well as a stop for a fresh Baraquada BBQ on one of the islands. Luckily enough, two of our six fellow passengers were working full time as scuba instructors in California so we were given a more professional tour than was first intended.
Two days later we left Sihanoukville with a minibus headed for Can Tho, the capital of the south Vietnamese Mekong region. We had to switch minibus once and the driver of the second bus was driving at Schumacher speed but unfortunately without any of the skills. He even overtook an ambulance which had its lights flashing and sirens on (whereby Pia wanted to send him off in an ambulance of his own.) Luckily enough for the driver, Pia was in the back of the 16 seater minibus which meant that there were 25 people between him and her, including a guy sitting on the drivers seat behind the driver.

Somehow we all managed to survive the trip and stepped out in Can Tho 12 and a half hours later. Almost nobody in Can Tho spoke English but as we knew that we were going to arrive late we had already booked and paid our hotel over the internet and thereby avoided the hassle of having to do it through sign language. Instead, we took a taxi from the bus station (well spent 50 cents) and were checked in within half an hour.

Can Tho itself is a wonderful city built around the arms of the Mekong river and during our visit there we hired a small boat with driver to take us through the floating markets on the river. The trip was wonderful and on a small boat like ours that is able to pass through everywhere you get a really good insight of the everyday life of people living on and beside the river. It also gave us an opportunity to visit a rice-paper factory that was located on the outskirts of the city. 2011-11-09_07_16_52.jpgThe following day we found a combined pizzeria and spa (pizza is one of the most expensive items on the menu here and costs three times as much as a good 200g steak) and got ourselves two "Swedish massages" with Sauna

Two days later we took a coach (after swearing never to set our feet in a Vietnamese minibus again) to Saigon, nowadays known as Ho Chi Minh City. Here we found a guesthouse which at first looked quite worn down, located in a really small alley of the main street but turned out to be run by a lovely Vietnamese grandmother. Although a bit racist (for example she told us never to trust the Thais and that she never lets black people stay in her house) she takes great care of her house and speaks ok English (which is very rare as the Vietnamese are much worse than the Khmers and the Thais but apparently she had worked as an English teacher at one point) and fluent French as she was raised in a French school in French Indochina. Fortunately it started raining massively soon so that my "Il pleut!" came to good use. However, it didn't stop raining as quickly and after a couple of hours the streets were flooded (only about two dm so it wasn't really a problem but a lot of the mopeds died and had to be led which made the traffic much more calm). We took some pictures when the streets were still drivable but much more unpleasant as each moped is turned into a fountain.

We are staying two more days here in Saigon and then we're buying an "open" bus ticket (one that you can get off at any of the stops on the way and then catch the next bus without having to buy a new ticket as long as the whole trip takes less than a month) on the route to Hanoi and our first planned stop is Mui Ne.


Posted by PiaErik 01:09 Archived in Vietnam Tagged boat snorkeling mekong sihanoukville Comments (7)


sunny 31 °C

After spending some days in Battambang we decided to head on to Siem Reap. We went looking for buses and found one leaving 10:30 the next day. However, when we went there next morning at 10 o\ clock to buy tickets, we were told by the salesperson that the bus already left because it was fully booked. Instead the bus company arranged a cab for some dollars more which we took. It took some time until we started and as more and more people tried to get into this taxi, which was already overloaded with luggage and 5 other people, we instead stepped out and decided to stay one more day in Battambang. In the afternoon it was raining so much that the streets filled with water which reached well above our ankles (to me it was sometimes knee-high which led Erik to carry me through some parts) that we were forced to walk through, nevertheless it was a nice afternoon. The next day we went with our prebooked tickets to the bus station and finally left for Siem Reap.

Once there we went to a German managed guesthouse which we found on the internet. Naturally, we wanted to see the famous Angkor Wat and on the next day we rented bicycles with which we explored the big temple area. It took us a whole day to see three of the temples and during the whole time we had sunny weather but as soon as we had finished the visit it started raining a lot. We had never seen so much rain at one moment, it was unbelievable, within 30 seconds we were completely soaked. We were biking on flooded streets through a thunderstorm for one and a half hours until we finally arrived at our guesthouse (we have no photos of this for obvious reasons). The following day we wanted to visit the children hospital but we were not allowed to go in. We were told by the guard that the doctors were to busy that day, so instead we went on to visit a nearby school for children with hearing and visual impairments.

After Siem Reap we continued to Cambodias capital, Phnom Phen, where we among other things witnessed the annual boat race and and the Red Khmers prison and interrogation/torture camp which is now converted into a museum.

Today is Thursday the 27th and we are currently located in Sihanoukville, a really nice and small place on the south-east coast of Cambodia where we've already been for one week and will stay one more. So far we have seen the beautiful seaside as you can see on our pictures. For tomorrow we have booked a boat tour to three uninhabited islands where we will do some trekking and snorkeling. Photos from this will follow in the next update before we leave Sihanoukville for the Vietnamese border.



Posted by PiaErik 17:34 Archived in Cambodia Comments (5)

Border crossing

sunny 28 °C

After a couple of more days on the beach we left Laem Mae Phim for Chanthaburi where minibuses to the Cambodian border depart. Long distant buses go daily between Bangkok/Rayong and Chanthaburi and even though they dont have any official bus stops in between, we had heard that they will stop along the road as soon as somebody waves them in. Thus, we left the village with a pickup bus, got off as soon as we reached the highway and after about thirty minutes or so of waiting we were on a doubledecker towards Chanthaburi. After three hours we arrived and proceeded to the River Guesthouse where we met some Dutch backpackers, also headed for Cambodia. The next day we decided to share a cab to the boarder crossing, very convenient we thought as all four of us would fit in the same cab and thus we´d reduce our costs by two without having to wait for more people to show up (which is usually the method for cheap rides around here). However as the cab turned out to be a minivan we realised that we wouldn´t have the luxury of sharing it between only the four of us. As we toured around the city in our Toyota minivan, the realisations kept coming for every new passenger climbing in. Nevertheless, after about twenty minutes the four of us (now fully aware of how much luxury 5$ will buy you in a Thai car pool) ten other passengers and the driver headed for Cambodia.

We arrived at the boarder, pushed our way through the usual crowd of "It´s O.K., I'll help you with you Visa so that you get through much cheaper and faster, just give me your passport" and "Sorry, the gate is closed for today but I know a cheap hotel nearby"-people and reached the Visa on Arrival area. We did some research before getting to the border so we crossed it at Ban Pakkard (instead of the north crossing where all the direct buses and trains from Bangkok unload) which meant that instead of 2-5 hours, we only had to wait about ten minutes as the boarder guard enthusiastically stamped our passports with every stamp he could find in his office and greeted us 'welcome to Cambodia!' Finding out beforehand that the official cost for a Cambodian Visa is 20$ and having two 20$-bills prepared also helped us as you are otherwise left to buy 20$ from the guard or somebody else nearby at the exchange rate they choose. (The Dutch people we were with bought the dollars from the guard with his modest commission of 66%).

Once past the boarder, the four of us shared a cab (this time only with the four of us plus driver in it!) towards the city of Battambang, which is our current location. The drive here was beautiful as we traveled between flourishing hills and temples, overtaking motorcycles overloaded with toys produced in Thailand.

In Battambang we found a great hotel whose owner also ran a small language school, adjacent to the hotel building. After a short introduction we were invited to visit the school and the visit quickly turned in to two one hour guest lectures for two high school freshmen classes. It became a mixture of geography, English and social studies and I'm not sure how much they understood of it all but at least they got some fun (and pretty unbelievable) facts, like that in Sweden they build a hotel out of ice every year, and that it probably wouldn't be such a good idea to go there by motorbike but if you did, you would have to be at least 20 years old, have a motorcycle drivers licence AND wear a helmet. Were they ever to undertake that journey to Europe they now also posses all the knowledge needed to navigate through the best ski-resorts of the Austrian alps!

Tomorrow we are heading on to Siem Reap to visit Angkor Wat and some other temples, and we´re hoping it won´t rain that much as floods are sometimes a problem in this region but so far the weather looks promising. We just finished uploading pictures for the last post so check them out (we hope everybody realised how to browse through them in full size as well as watching slide shows etc using the photography link on the menu to the right) and we'll upload pictures for this post within a couple of days (as well as videos if we ever find a fast internet connection).


Posted by PiaErik 23:29 Archived in Cambodia Comments (2)

On the beach

sunny 30 °C

Everything worked out well with our Chinese visas and we were able to pick them up on our last day in Bangkok. Unfortunately, we received an email from our travel agency saying that our flight home from China had (again) been delayed one day due to plane cancellations. This would mean that instead of the 19th (or the 18th as originally planned) we would be arriving on the evening of the 20th. However, as our flight from Sweden to Austria leaves earlier that day this is not an option for us. We're now searching for a new flight back, either to Sweden or Austria.

Meanwhile we checked out and took a bus from Bangkok to Ban Phe where we caught the last ferry to Ko Samet, a small tourist island about 30 min away from the coast by ferry. We stayed there one night and then headed on to a place called Laem Mae Phim which is located east of Ban Phe, just before Klaeng. However, due to all the river branches leading out to the ocean, no large highway goes through the region so we first had to stay one night in Ban Phe and on the next day take one of the modified pickup trucks/buses to LMP. The inaccessibility of LMP has its advantages as tourists are very scarce but the fact that the coastline from just a couple of kilometres after Ban Phe, all the way to Klaeng is filled with kilometre after kilometre of beautiful beaches (one of which I am lying on while writing this) makes it a popular destination for Thai people on vacation.

Nevertheless, Swedish people have a talent of finding each other and so we found a hotel run by a Swedish man and his Thai wife who had been living in Sweden for 20 years but moved out here and started a hotel just last year. Yesterday, as we were going out for dinner we happened to meet the owner of the restaurant who was also Swedish and had been living here for five years, running a bar. The restaurant itself opened less then a week ago and they had hired a german chef (which left its traces on the menu, yesterday for example was schnitzel-night) but the Swede was very enthusiastic about everything, inviting us back for drinks on friday (tomorrow) to help him review a band he was trying out.

We're following the news about the floods in the north of Thailand and Cambodia (as well as a small part of Bangkok) but luckily we've seen nothing of it. The weather here is getting better and better as the monsoon season is coming to its end and they say that in one or two weeks the high season for LMP will start. So far there are many more locals than visitors around which you can tell by the fact that there are many more pickup trucks than people around. For example while I was writing this a funeral cortege passed by, starting off with a police pickup, followed by some pickups with flowers, followed by the coffin pickup, followed by a pickup with an eight-man band playing in the back followed by some normal pickup trucks.

Another update will follow when we find a keyboard but as we're currently writing everything on my phone this will be it for now, read and cherish the words
knowing the time it took us to write them!


Posted by PiaErik 10:16 Archived in Thailand Comments (4)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 9) Page [1] 2 »