May 04, 2002

26/4/02 Bus to Luang Prabang,

26/4/02 Bus to Luang Prabang, Laos (Phillip)

Nothing too noteworthy to say today, but that's never stopped me before! It's a 7-hour journey and the scenery is amazing. Mountains stretch as far as the eye can see but I actually spent the first 4 hours reading a book. I managed to read it cover to cover, which is the first book I've read voluntarily for years.

Luang Prabang is a regular stop on the tourist circuit meaning there's lots of easy things to do. I ended up walking to all the famous sights, perhaps the highlight was a Wat (temple) on top of a hill in the center of town. After climbing the 394 steps in baking heat I got an amazing view of the city and surrounding areas. To my surprise right on top of the hill was an old anti-aircraft gun! Well worth the climb.

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29/4/02 Phontsovan, Laos (Phillip)

29/4/02 Phontsovan, Laos (Phillip)

I had decided in Luang Prabang to split from the group and travel East to the Plain of Jars. In doing this I was letting the 5 girls travel by themselves and getting to do some traveling by myself. Unfortunately, one by one my solo traveling group managed to entice 3 of the girls to go too. Initially Afka was going to join me and I thought that'd be nice, but by sundown Ether and Eve had joined the group also.

This place is famous for only one thing (mainly cause there's ONLY one thing here!) and that's the Plain of Jars. It's Asia's equivalent to Stonehenge. Thousands of stone jars, some up to 2 tons litter the countryside here and no one can explain what they were for. They're dated at around 30,000 years old (almost as old as my mum!) and it's quite a mysterious place.

The Plain of jars was great though. The first thing to catch my eye, however, was the bomb craters all over the countryside. East Laos was where the Ho Chi Minh Trail was and the Americans bombed this place (although still deny it) heavily during the war. Many of the jars took direct hits. Walking around you can see the craters and whole sections of forest all around you. It's very important not to stray from the paths here since Unexploded Bombs (UXO) litter the ground still. Each month many Laos end up dead or in hospital because of this. The scary part is that walking around town these missiles (about 4-6 feet long) have been recovered and turned into flowerpots, walls, garden decorations etc. Steel is hardly a common commodity in Laos and walking around the markets you'll see shovels, rake's etc. built from sturdy US steel taken from bombs. Quite a scary thought that kids are desperately out there collecting these things to sell for cash! There's a few European aid agency's here that try to at least find the activated bombs before someone steps on them but the anti-American sentiment is high because the American's still deny the bombings and giving aid would be a sign of guilt. The whole war is fascinating me here, it just makes no sense to deny it happened when the bombs still have US call signs readable on the side!

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1/5/02 Nong Khiow, Laos (Phillip)

1/5/02 Nong Khiow, Laos (Phillip)

Well, after spending 12 hours on the back of a pick up we finally made it here. This is the rendezvous point to meet back up with Kel and Anne tomorrow. The truck wasn't actually that bad, there were no buses going this way so we rode with a goods truck and sat in the back. It actually did have benches welded to the side but we were the cargo along with a bunch of contraband Chinese chewing gum! While driving through the most desolate of places I've ever been we saw a father and son (who approached the truck menacingly) holing AK47's. The kid can't have been more than 10 years old and strained to carry the thing. I think they were just curious as to who was in the truck though. The scenery here continues to amaze me.

I'm still not finding enough time to meditate. Well, perhaps it's less time than motivation. I really do want to, but finding a quiet place where I'm not being attacked by Malaria-carrying Mosquito's is proving to be difficult.

NK is a very simple little town, they only have electricity from 6:30pm to 9:30pm and even then it's a bit iffy. That means no ice or cold drinks during daylight! I can survive without Air Conditioning no problem, but every so often you need a cold drink! Around the town there's not much to see apart from the beautiful scenery. We did walk a few km's to see the local caves, but I definitely think I'm all caved out! The other sight was a waterfall, which we avoided (again I've seen too many).

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4/5/02 Vientiene, Laos (Phillip)

4/5/02 Vientiene, Laos (Phillip)

Back in Vientiene at last to catch our bus to Vietnam on Monday. The bus ride is going to take 24 hours and we're still not sure what kind of bus it is (makes a big difference). I really hope it has air-con! Vientiene is a lovely little city, a cross between French styling and Laos styling. There are lots of Western food outlets and this morning we ate at a great Scandinavian Bakery. My tummy hasn't recovered from hitting Asia 2 months ago so I'm trying to cut down on rich food. I read Terry Waite's autobiography yesterday on the bus (a girl gave it to me) and was really impressed. I knew the name and the basic situation but the book really sucks you in. I'm quite enjoying this reading thing; it's new to me!

I've also been working on my updated travel plan, seems like getting to Hong Kong and Beijing is do-able and South Africa
is easy from there. I plan on spending about two weeks in China and a month in the lower 4 countries of Southern Africa
. It looks like I'll be on my own since Kel is heading to Europe early.

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May 05, 2002

4/27/02 Luang Prabang, Laos (Kelly)

4/27/02 Luang Prabang, Laos (Kelly)

Everyone just kind of did their own thing this morning...of course I went straight ot the Internet for an hour and a half after breakfast.
We all me back at Nock Noy Guesthouse, where we were staying 6 in a room (it was quite cozy) to head to Kwang Xi Waterfall. I wouldn't have been too excited about this in normal circumstances but we got to go swimming. It was beautiful but I swear once you have seen one waterfall you have seen them all!

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4/28/02 In Transit to Luang

4/28/02 In Transit to Luang Namtha, Laos (Kelly)

This morning was rather sad. Anne and I left at 6:30 to head to Luang Namtha while everyone else was going to the Plain of Jars. This was the last time I would see Esther and Afke...well just for a couple of months anyways. Esther stood at the hostel doorway while Anne and I drove away in our tuk tuk. She reminded me of how my grandmother used to stand in her driveway at Hide-a-Way Lake...Esther looked like a little lost puppy!

Anne and I had on another long bus ride to Luang Namtha. We arrived around 6:30. This place is retarded. You have to be in your guesthouse by 10:00pm every night because the electricity shuts off; they only have it on for about 3 hours every day. But I mean for real...a CURFEW...am I back in high school again?

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4/29/02 Luang Namtha, Laos (Kelly)

4/29/02 Luang Namtha, Laos (Kelly)

Wow, we really did nothing today besides arrange and pay for a day trek we are going to do tomorrow. We did walk around but I swear there is nothing here to see so we mainly hung out in a restaurant and drank fruit shakes continuously...umm, they are so good!

In our spare time, you know because we lacked so much of it, Anne and I worked out my first month and a half to Europe. I've decided to skip South Africa
for now...don't worry I will go back one day. I am flying into Europe around the 1st of July but I will keep you posted, as my plans are still kind of rough!

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4/30/02 Luang Namtha, Laos (Kelly)

4/30/02 Luang Namtha, Laos (Kelly)
Anne and I went trekking with a guide today through the mountains, rice fields, and a couple of villages in what felt like the hottest day I've ever lived through. The tour actually wound up being a fairly intimate event; it was just the two of us and our guide. We took many respites throughout the day but the first one is really the only one worth noting. We stopped in a very small village and went inside a family's hut (house.) The wife was out gathering food and shopping in the market so the father was there with his 3 very small children. I was shocked to see this man; he was solo skinny to the point of being able to see his tendons and bones sticking out of his legs. The man obviously didn't speak any English so our guide acted as a translator for both sides. We found out that he is addicted to opium, which apparently is very prevalent in Laos. It was so sad to see this father with three children all under the age of 3 knowing that he would probably die within a couple of years.

A couple of hours later, as we made our way through the mountains, we found a lone hut isolated by itself in a field of tree stumps to eat lunch. Laos has the most forest available for lumber in all of South East Asia so it is not uncommon to stumble upon a field that has been cut down and left with stumps. After lunch we journeyed into a village, which was about an hour away, where we were able to interact with some locals. They gave each a "handicraft" made bag as an appreciation token. I'm assuming just to say thanks for stopping by. We finished the trek up in the next couple of hours before taking a truck back into town.

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5/1/02 In Transit to Nong

5/1/02 In Transit to Nong Khiow, Laos (Kelly)

Another boring 9-hour journey--only this time the ride was split into 3 sections: 5 hours from Luang Namtha to Odomzay and then another 3 hour ride to Pac Moung and then an hour to Nong Khiow. I say split up because we had to change buses/trucks twice.

Once we arrived in Nong Khiow, Anne and I walked across a bridge o find The Sun Set Guesthouse where Phillip, Eve, Esther, and Afke were staying. No one expected Anne and I to arrive until tomorrow. We scared everyone, literally. We arrived and the four of them were on the porch area so Anne and I crept over, counted to 3, stood up and yelled...I think it's so funny how your child hood games still thrill you as an adult...still kids at heart :-)

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5/2/02 Nong Khiow, Laos (Kelly)

5/2/02 Nong Khiow, Laos (Kelly)

Esther and Afke left this morning to catch an 11:00am bus back to Luang Prabang where they would be catching a boat back to Thailand. After me, Phill, Eve, and Anne dropped them off at the bus station we went and bought a boat ticket to Moung Noy, which was about an hour north, to spend the day.

Moung Noy is a very small town centered in the hills near the river. The people here lead what seems to be very peaceful and quiet lives...cars aren't even allowed in the town. Being such a peaceful town, walking through you can definitely tell that is hasn't always been this way. Once the pictures are developed you'll understand what I mean. The entire infrastructure of the buildings is made of steel parts that they found. Can you believe these "steel" parts are remnants of unexploded missiles from the Vietnam War. The scary thing about this is that most of the missiles have English writing on the side of them. I soon learned afterward that the U.S. bombed the hell out of Laos for helping the Vietnamese but the U.S. denies any involvement. I took many pictures of things I saw...I'm sure if the CIA found out I had these in my possession that they would confiscate them...actually, I know without a doubt they would.

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5/3/02 In Transit to Luang

5/3/02 In Transit to Luang Prabang, Laos (Kelly)

We left Nong Khiow this morning in a truck, mostly with tourists crammed in the back; there were even a few guys standing up holding on to the back railing. We arrived in Luang Prabang about 4 hours later. We had to go back here because we left our backpacks here. We all have been carrying around just our day packs for the last few days.

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5/4/02 In Transit to Vientiene,

5/4/02 In Transit to Vientiene, Laos (Kelly)

Last bus ride through Laos; 10 hours to get back to Vientiene. Wwe actually aren't leaving for Hanoi until the 6th but we wanted to have a day in between long bus rides because the next one we get on is 24 hours long, yuck!!

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5/5/02 Vientiene, Laos (Kelly) Finally,

5/5/02 Vientiene, Laos (Kelly)

Finally, I have a day to catch up on things...washing clothes, writing and mailing postcards, and updating the website. This might be the last update for a while...don't expect much! It really just depends on accessibility and cost of Internet use in Vietnam. As for tomorrow, we have to pick up our visas at the Vietnamese Embassy and then at 6:30 pm we are off to Vietnam...ttfn!! :-)

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May 06, 2002

6/5/02 Vientiene, Laos (Phillip)

6/5/02 Vientiene, Laos (Phillip)

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Well, we leave on a bus for Hanoi, Vietnam in under an hour. I'm just burning up the last of my Laos money. The exchange rate here is 10,000 kip to $1. As you can imagine this means that everything costs thousands of kip. A coke is 4,000.

The funny thing is that I changed money on the black market the other day $20 gave me 200,000kip. Except the largest bill they have here is a 5,000 kip note. Well, the black market guy only had thousands and I walked out of the market with pocket full of bills. I took a picture. You can become a millionaire here just by changing $100, quite strange. Kelly and I were arguing over a bill the other day and then we realized that we were arguing over 50cents.... Kind of put it in perspective.... :)

We managed to cram 4 of us into a little room for the past two days to save a few bucks. Really we don't have to be doing this since I know that I'm pretty far under budget and Kel thinks she is too. However, when it's possible to save some money we might as well since we both know that Europe will suck our money dry fast. The money thing is still a bit strange, for example, the other day I didn't have enough kip for dinner or lunch and the banks weren’t open until the following day so I just didn't eat. It wasn't until late that I actually realized that I had only saved $2 by starving myself all day! Not exactly worth it...

We're off to Vietnam tonight. Everything should go smoothly, we have our visas in our passports and the $1 bribe we're required to offer at the border. Communism hasn't been so bad, the streets here are very clean and everyone seems quite happy. Obviously they're leading a pretty simple life, but simple isn't necessarily bad. There's little visible limitation to freedom, perhaps just a lacking of western goods. I've noticed that coke and Pepsi really aren't cheap by comparison to everything else. They cost about the same as beer but contain far more sugar here.

What other observations can I bore you with? :) Oh yeah, I bought a book on the US and Vietnam's involvement with the Laos/cambodia bombings. Should be an interesting read, AND, I'm pretty sure this is the first non-school/computer book I've bought.... There's a sad thought!

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May 07, 2002

8/5/02 Hanoi, Vietnam (Phillip)

Click here for pictures from Vietnam

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Check it out; I got to post a journal in a new country before Kel! So we managed to survive the long bus journey. I actually got a decent seat so I wasn't too bad. But about after an hour I heard a familiar voice at the back of the bus yelling at the driver. "We paid good money, turn on the AC! AAAAA-CCCC! Moooonnnneeeeyyy!". Yup, Kelly was both hungry and tired (terrible combo) and was yelling at the driver. Now she was perfectly right, it was unbearably hot back there, but I thought it was funny that on such a big bus that it was Kel!

First impression of Hanoi, it's loud! Seems like people define themselves by honking the horn of their moped! Hundreds of moped's all honking at once, pretty insane. Hanoi is visibly richer than Laos, there's lots of up market European restaurants. We even splashed out for a particularly expensive one yesterday, almost $3! This was a flash place though, violin and piano playing, candles, flowers etc... Totally not what we're used to. Then back to our hotel. Yup, I said hotel, not hostel. Another flash place. I managed to talk the guy down from $10 to $2 a head and after cramming a few extra's in each room (they provided extra beds) we had 2 rooms for the 7 of us.
The room has AC and even satellite TV, total luxury compared to the places we've been staying!

The group currently consists of 4 Americans (Kelly seems to be magnet for US Citizens!), a Dutch, a German and myself. I actually looked into tours this morning and I think I'll just head off on one of those by myself for a while. Should make the decision of which restaurant in less than the current 20 minute debate! :) They're all nice folks so we'll see what happens.

My plan is basically to head north of Hanoi and back here to do all the museum's etc. Then perhaps head south to Hue and onwards (stopping on the way) to Ho Chi Minh. Should be fun, now the question is, why aren't you here doing it with us!?! :)

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May 14, 2002

14/5/02 Back in Hanoi, Vietnam

14/5/02 Back in Hanoi, Vietnam Phillip

Well, I'm back in Hanoi. I think I've covered most of the sights here that I want to see. I went to watch the famous Water Puppets with a group of Norwegian and Danish girls, after which I helped the local hawkers try to sell postcards to tourists (shocked a few French tourists by saying "I give you good price") and did the famous museums around town. The big thing to see in Hanoi is the Ho Chi Minh mausoleum which is where his body is available for viewing. Honestly I was a bit let down, not sure what I expected but I waited with Ernie (remember her from Thailand?), Alex and Amy (English folks) in the bitter cold rain, soaked to the skin to spend maybe a minute shuffling past the body. Anyway, Uncle Ho's picture is plastered over everything here. I think it's a bit ironic that he specifically didn't want to be placed in a mausoleum and insisted upon being cremated.

Anyway, Kelly and co went to Ha Long Bay a day before me. I was going to go with the group of Norwegian girls but when we were supposed to meet we didn't find each other and I ended up bumping into Ernie anyway. Booked us on a Kayak tour of Ha Long Bay. HLB is a bay that is spattered with 1600 massive limestone islands/cliffs. Very beautiful. On the bus journey we ended up meeting Amy and Alex and all got along great. I even bumped into Kelly on her way back from HLB in a hotel restaurant. As I chatted with the others (now including two Swedes) I discovered that we had paid far less than the other. We only paid $40 for 3days and two nights including everything (and our own private guide) so we got a great deal when the others had all paid $60! We spent the first night sleeping on the boat, but before setting out for the night discovered that the crew charged almost a $1 for a beer! We managed to convince them to let us leave the boat for a few minutes and I haggled a shopkeeper down and returned with a case of beer for a 1/3 of the price!

Had a great time on the boat swimming and jumping from the top of the crow's nest, had to impress the girls ya know... Kayaking was pretty good fun, Ernie and I got to go through caves and tunnels. Good fun, but I got pretty badly sunburned (more freckles..).

We've all booked ourselves onto a 14-hour bus tonight to Hue and so I'm giving trekking a miss. The weather is pretty miserable today in Hanoi and the forecast for Sapa (where the trekking is) is pretty bad too. I hope Kel got better weather than us!

Hanoi has been an interesting city. Certainly I've seen and done lots. I met some crazy cool people which make such a difference, and I've gotten to drink tons of Bia Hoi (10cents/pint). Most of the sights here are war related. I went to the Army Museum but really wasn't too impressed. Seemed to be a bunch of crashed American planes and didn't exactly present an accurate view of the war. I'm still ploughing through my book on the war in Laos though. Seems like the US Government has admitted at least that they were there but still deny the scale of the war. Apparently during the peak of the bombings in Laos the US was dropping more bombs per years on Laos than in the entire Vietnam War.

Today it's pouring outside so that's why the entry is so long. I've also decided to cut down my time in Vietnam by about a week or two. I want to get to Hong Kong a little earlier than expected and fly out of Bangkok to HK around the 5 or 6th of June, so I only have two weeks left in Vietnam. That should give me enough time to learn some more Vietnamese, which has been a little easier to pick up than Lao. I've still barely got 7 or 8 phrases but I use them a lot!

I have a few insights into Vietnam that I’d like to share though,
1) The driving here is by far the worst I have ever seen
- Driving home yesterday we passed 4 or 5 wrecks where it's obvious people were killed
2) The people in Vietnam are all lovely. Even the taxi drivers here are friendly.
3) Vietnamese car horns are much louder than anywhere else in the world!
4) No matter what price you are quoted, expect to half it for everything (except food)
5) Try to learn the name of your hotel and perhaps even a street address
- Otherwise you can end up wandering through Hanoi for 3 hours in not so nice areas!
6) Don't buy the jewelry! Although I hear gold is pretty good value here.
7) You don't have to eat dog if you don't want to.
8) Vietnamese people are either very well dressed or dressed terribly.
9) In a head on collision between a horse drawn carriage and a truck, the truck will win....
10) Most backpackers smell terrible!

I need to apologize for the lack of pictures from me. I do have tons of rolls from Thailand onwards but I'm waiting until Kelly has enough and we'll mail them all together. Sorry to everyone who's been asking about them, but they'll probably take another month.

Also, I wanted to wish my friend Nicole in Austin a big "Get well soon!" I'm thinking and praying for you!

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May 17, 2002

5/17/02 Hoi An, Vietnam (Phillip)

5/17/02 Hoi An, Vietnam (Phillip)

Once again I forgot to bring my journal so I'll have to wing this entry. Okay, so after we left Hanoi we took the overnight bus down to Hue. Everyone had said Hue was the place for culture; the place for Vietnam. The bus journey was pretty insanely long, overnight with not much sleep. The four of us were playing a word game where you have to name a famous person and then you take the first letter of the last name and you have to find another famous person who's first name starts with that letter. We managed to make it last 4 hours and even had two independent 'judges' from New Zealand helping. It passed the time though.

Hue was a bit of a letdown. The Citadel is a massive collection of buildings built in 10km fort and surrounded by a moat. However, it's really expensive to get in and we didn't see it as being worth it. I did find some nice souvenirs though so if you're really nice to me you might get one. The other big thing to do at Hue is to tour the DMZ. Our group had grown to 10 now and we managed to charter our own tour! Got our own bus and guide and off we went at 6am. The DMZ is the area that was set aside to keep the North Vietnamese and the South Vietnamese (US) away from each other. The area is littered with burnt out tanks and other war scars. The tour itself was okay, our guide was cool, but the highlight had to be the Vihn Moc Tunnels. During the war the Americans dropped millions of tons of bombs and so many Vietnamese dug an elaborate tunnel system under the ground. The VM tunnels are unique in that they were dug for living in, rather than fighting. So within the tunnels 3-400 people lived their day-to-day lives.

The tunnels were very small. In Saigon there are other tunnels, which are more popular and have been enlarged for tourists. However, the VM tunnels are pretty similar to how they were. The conditions that people lived in were horrendous, 1 toilet for 300 people! (I think the line in the morning must have been long.) Anyway, I was totally impressed with the tunnels, but not enough to stay in Hue for another day!

Another bus this morning and we're now in Hoi An. Hoi An is famous for clothing (at least in the backpacker world) and you can get a suit, 3 shirts, a tie and custom made shoes for US$200. I was planning on doing this but I've opted not to. I'm not quite sure if it's worth the hassle of adding MORE weight to my backpack. Really I don't need it and that $200 will buy me a lot of opium in cambodia.... :)

The hotel we're staying in actually has a swimming pool. We've become masters at negotiating prices and are staying in a nice room for less than the dorm prices. It's still myself, Alex, Amy and Ernie and the other 6 people should be showing up tonight! There's a cool Irish couple traveling with us too. I definitely think I need to move to Ireland, I've only met great kids from there.

Right now in the other window I'm emailing STA Travel and trying to book a flight into Hong Kong. It's hard to do because connections are difficult, and ironically the cheapest way to go is to fly Bangkok to Hong Kong return, and then fly back through Hong Kong to London. You can't do a stop over in Hong Kong though. A complete waste of my time to return to Bangkok but it's $400 cheaper! Looking at leaving Vietnam before the end of this month and getting to Hong Kong on the 7th and to London a couple of weeks after. From there I'll book my South Africa
flight (found some great deals already).

Anyway, I'm leaving here tomorrow (after another swim in the pool) and off to Nha Trang for scuba Diving. Did I mention that my camera is crap? The film actually cost more than the camera, which sounded great. Except it keeps messing up the film half way through the roll and I have to rewind it! Quite frustrating... Plus I'm eating insane amounts of food here, really, 3 dinners etc. I think I might be pregnant! :)

It seems like everyone here is on the same circuit. Perhaps that's the problem with Vietnam is that everything is too easy. There are backpacker buses shuttling the same people to the same sights. I'm a bit disappointed with that since it makes it hard to meet local Vietnamese. I suppose that's why I'm cutting Vietnam short, the people I'm traveling with are great but I can meet Western people in the West and I'd rather get dirty. It's quite difficult to leave the beaten path since foreigners pay 4-500% more than locals for the same tickets and the mini-bus is cheaper and easier anyway. My Vietnamese vocab is getting bigger (willy you'd be proud!) and it's nice to shock the people selling at the market by bargaining in their language. Plus I reckon that would get a better price anyway. If anyone wants a full size poster of Ho Chi Minh, let me know! ;)

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May 19, 2002

5/19/02 Nha Trang, Vietnam (Phillip)

Click here for pictures from Vietnam

After writing that last entry I actually bumped back into the Norwegian girls... It was norway's independence day (from Sweden) and so we all celebrated.... Perhaps too much! The problem was that there was a happy hour at the bar and this made all beers about 20cents.... High volumes of cheap beer are never a good combination. Hopefully I didn't embarrass myself too much, but I spent the following morning in bed NOT happy... It was a rough day, terribly hot and terribly hungover. Anyway, I survived.

Although I did negotiate for some shirts from a tailor I opted not to get anything. The girls from norway seemed to do the opposite, and one of them got 13 outfits made! Crazy... Alex and I actually left the following night leaving Ernie and Amy behind since they were waiting for clothes to be made. The overnight bus was sheer hell. It was barely a distance of 400km but took 12 hours because there aren't exactly good roads here. It was terrible falling asleep because of the constant potholes. Anyway, we finally arrived this morning and walked right off the bus into a group of about 10 hotel touts fighting for our business. We managed to get a decent room with a balcony for $2 each, but no air con and definitely no pool.

Nha Trang is a beach resort for both backpackers and Vietnamese. The main town is a bit of a tourist trap and the beach, although nice, isn't great. There are lots of dive shops here and I had hoped to go Diving, that was until Amy gave me her cold. With my sinuses blocked I can't dive or I'll end up with a mask full of blood. So it looks like I'll have to make do with a boat tour of the islands, and perhaps some snorkeling. The girls arrive tomorrow, so today Alex and I rented a motorcycle and headed off to a beach we had heard about. There are plenty of beaches close by but this one was about 90 minutes away and supposed to be something special.

Hopping on the motorbike, off we went. Except, for some reason, in the rush I had forgotten just how terrible the people here drive. It was INSANE! People crossing without looking, people driving down the wrong side of the road on a dual carriageway, bikes stopping for seemingly no reason... Well, anyway, I quickly figured out how to use the horn like they do. Problem being that the horn on my bike sounded like it could've come from Barbie's bike... Hardly intimidating!

After finally tracking down the beach it was a bit of a disappointment. After the adventure to find it (we had to stop 4 times for directions) I had hoped for more. The water was a lovely turquoise, but the beach was definitely brown (white where there was trash floating!). Although there weren’t any other tourists it wasn't quiet either. We walked along and found a more shaded and quieter bit. Yesterday I bought 'The Beach' and I'm almost finished reading it today. Will need to buy another one soon!

The girls arrive tomorrow so we'll see what happens then.

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May 28, 2002

5/28/02 Phnom Penh, Cambodia (Phillip)

Click here for pictures from cambodia

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Well, after a daylong boat ride we crossed the border into cambodia. We (Alex, Amy and Ernie) are in the capital city, which was the main site of the genocide in the 70s. Over 1 3/4 million people were killed. Pol Pot selected anyone who was intelligent or religious and had them tortured and put to death. We visited one of the mass gravesites today, pretty chilling experience. In the center was a shrine with thousands upon thousands of human skulls stacked. Before that sobering experience we went to the 'shooting range'. Basically they have all sorts of weapons (hand guns to rocket launchers) and you pay to fire them. I'm not really into firing guns, plus there are lots in Texas, but I wanted to throw a grenade. Problem was that it was $20 to do it! It's hard to negotiate with a guy holding a semi-automatic machine gun so I opted not to do it. Alex and Amy took turns firing an AK47 though.

I'm actually missing a few journal entries regarding the rest of Vietnam, but basically Alex and I went to a place called Mui Ne beach and relaxed for a few days. The town doesn't have many sites and apart from some rather unimpressive sand dunes and being ripped off by a local kid who convinced us that there were mines in a stream we walked in (and hence we needed his guide services), nothing much to report. Sorry that was a long sentence! The town is rapidly being touristised and resorts are being built. We did spend an evening with two Aussie girls we met, and later with an Aussie guy who was building a resort there. He filled us in on all sorts of useful information (such as why McDonalds hasn't opened in Vietnam: Hygiene).

In Saigon I actually bumped into Wee Kel and Anne so that was nice. My group got there the day earlier so we had already done the Saigon Water park by the time Kelly was going to do it. We actually were the first guests that day and for the first 90 minutes didn't have to wait in a single queue!

The (American) War Crimes Museum was another sobering experience. Similar to most museums here it has an assortment of American planes and tanks outside, but inside was a different story. In the 5 rooms it breaks down all the bad things America did during the war. It's desperately one sided but pretty intense. I think the worst room was the Agent Orange room. AO was a chemical that the US dropped during the war and it's been proven to cause birth defects. Inside the room were plenty of pictures of said defects but also deformed babies in jars.

Vietnam was definitely a different experience, not what I expected in many ways. I did manage to learn quite a bit of the language which (since I'm now in cambodia) is totally useless to me again! We're heading up to Siem Reap the day after tomorrow and then over to Bangkok in time to catch Star Wars before I fly to China/Hong Kong. I'm looking forward to that but I definitely need a break! I'm totally exhausted from travel already, I left Texas at the end of November and I think I need a couple of days rest! Anyone want to get me a nice hotel suite?? :)

Posted by Admin at 02:56 AM | Comments (0)

May 29, 2002

5/29/02 Phnom Penh, Cambodia

5/29/02 Phnom Penh, cambodia Phillip

Just a quick update since I had to check email anyway (plane reservations still havn't come through). Last night we ended up eating something called a 'Happy Pizza', I think it would only have been legal if I lived in Holland..... But it was one of the things you're supposed to do! Today we woke up and headed off to the S21 Prison. This was where all the prisoners to be executed were held. Originally it was a secondary school and I suppose Pol Pot might have seen some irony in killing intellectuals in an education facility. Just about every cell contained torture equipment and the walls were lined with pictures of those who were to be killed.

I'm definately glad that I came here, but certainly it's not one of those places I want to come back to. The little guesthouse complex we're staying at is nice, but it's hard to have to much fun considering the attrocities that happened here; some of which happened in my lifetime. Tomorrow Alex and I are hopping on a rather expensive boat juorney to Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat. Then perhaps to Battambang before heading back to Bangkok. Honestly I'm looking forward to leaving SE Asia, I've had a great time but it's certainly time to move on. My new theory (for today) is that 3 months is an ideal chunk of time to travel with. After those 3 months you certainly don't appreciate (for numerous reasons) what you're seeing as much as you did in the first few months. Much of it stems from exhaustion, but also you start to forget what you've seen. I really enjoy travelling though, so after a quick recoup in London I'll be back off, don't worry!

Posted by Admin at 03:28 AM | Comments (0)

May 31, 2002

5/31/02 Siem Reap. Cambodia

5/31/02 Siem Reap. cambodia (Phill)


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I'm posting an awful lot in the past few days mainly because I've had to check email so often. I'm still working on booking flights to Hong Kong and beyond and tying to NOT fly Gulf Airlines. The stopover in Abu Dhabi just isn't doing it for me.

Well, after quite an adventure getting here we arrived in one piece. We had to transfer boats numerous times because of the low water but overall it was a good trip. The motorbike from the dock to the town was an eye-opener though. Driving on the back 'roads' we really witnessed poverty. Children with no clothes living in shacks with plastic bags for roofs. Quite distressing.

The town of Siam Reap, once we finally got here, is pretty touristy though. There's an air of poverty but much of it is for the tourists benefit (so we’re told). Alex and myself met up with a few Irish lads and went off to see sunset. It was like one big reunion up there on top of the temple since half the folk we kept bumping into in Vietnam were there! We did escape for a wee while and went off to some other temples while waiting for the sun to set and we took a rather interesting picture on another temple. Can't imagine my mum will approve, but it's quite funny.

Today we woke up at 5am to catch the sunrise. We must've seen 10 or 11 of the Angkor temples before getting exhausted. Each one is a massive structure, and you have to scale the outside. We did see some cute girls though so that helped our enthusiasm! :) The views from the top were stunning, looking off into the thick forest surrounding each one you wouldn't know the others were there. Our motorbike drivers were lots of fun too. Alan and Mike (Irish lads) managed to buy the policemen’s badges for $5 each. The officers were quite keen to sell their hats and uniforms too! I thought that was a bit to Village People for me!

Tonight we're off to meet some more Irish that we knew for the opening game of the world cup. Our next two days are totally planned around it. We've met lots of Brits and so it'll be fun when I'm shouting for Sweden again England! I'm sure I'll be popular!

It looks like I'll be on China Airlines on the 6th of June to Hong Kong and Gulf Air from Bangkok to London on the 21st. That's the plan so far; I'll keep you posted.

Posted by Admin at 12:09 AM | Comments (0)