A Travellerspoint blog

Highs and Lows in Emerald Country

Vietnam

Scott-
Vietnam has been completely different from all the other countries I have visited thus far. The amount of things happening is overwhelming and far from home, but not as far as I had once imagined. Vietnam has been surprisingly convenient and modern. I was very much expecting getting around the country to be frustrating and challenging, but it seems that tour buses have taken over the transit system. The buses are still manned by insane drivers that use both lanes openly even when tanker trucks are booming towards you. I recall waking up uneasily on our 18 hour bus ride from Nha Trang to Hue because it felt as if we were going 190km/h and the buses horn was blaring. These things however, were the reason Jeremy and I đeciđed to buy some 125cc Minsk motorcycles and get places our own way. Our plan was to get from HCMC to Hanoi, a 1900km journey. Unfortunately we only made it to Nha Trang, luckily and barely. The bike trip was everything I hoped for in the beginning. The freedom of a motorcycle, the insanity of navigating across a foreign country and the mystery of knowing anything and everything could go wrong, and it đid. Going through a small town about 50km before our Nha Trang destination I noticed Jeremy wasn't following me anymore and all the locals were waving and pointing backwards. Shit. I road back in a hurry and the sight of Jeremy's bike scrambled on the ground hit me in the face. Fortunately I noticed he was up and ok. The next couple hours we were confronted by the sick feeling of "what the hell do we do" an elderly local had crashed into Jeremy and appeared to be in some pain, but nothing serious. Thankfully, his English speaking daughter was there and she settled everything with ease for us "I can make this difficult if you want to be difficult" she said. So we let her handle things considering neither of us had insurance or a license. (We were given papers by the original bike owners and told that was all we needed). It was all cleared up, but at Jeremy's expense, we both know it could have been so much worse and I feel someone was definitely watching over us that day. So we road out to Nha Trang and met Evans at the Tulip hostel. Nha Trang was pretty cool, but just a beach city. Alot of good food as we discovered, especially this place called Something Fishy owned by an Aussie named Bob. Literally frying shrimp on the Barbie from 6 to late. We had Hammerhead shark, cobia, grouper, bassa, stergion and a double decker 500gram patty and 250 gram bun burger. The MONSTER BURGER haha and all meals were under 6$ Canadian. So last night we went from Nha Trang to Hue, an 18 hour ride, on a sleeper bus. Met a couple people that were sadly not getting off where we were. Hue has been nice so far and we are going to go see the citadel today and arrange a DMZ tour for tommorow, something I know I have to see out of respect and interest.
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Posted by SSH19 20:13 Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh - The Adventure

Evans - So, all in all, today was pretty interesting. Scott had taken off to Nha Trang around 11:00am this morning, leaving me to fend for myself for the day until the bus came to pick me up later that night. I didn't have to check out of the hostel until noon, so I decided to go back up to the room, check my emails and watch some TV until it was time. I then checked out, left my bags there to be watched, and went to grab something to eat. While I sat down, a local came over and started a conversation with me. He eventually said he could take me around Ho Chi Minh and give me a tour of the city. Unfortunaltey, it costed more than I would have liked, but I now had 8ish hours to kill before my bus, so I figured this would be a good idea. So off I went around the city for the next four and a half hours. We stopped at different pagodas around town; The Emperor of Jade Pagoda being the most amazing of all three. The setting was something you'd see in the movies basically. Lots of vegetation in the front, and even turtles swimming in a little fountain off to the side. I couldn't even count how many there were either, let alone guess!
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He took me to the Revoluation Palace, also known as the Indepenence Palace, which was used during the time of the war. I was never told when that was though. It was really nice inside, and on the outer grounds too. He kept on telling me about a boat that would take a bunch of people along the Mekong River, showing them views, eventually bringing them back an hour later. Sounded fun to me, and another way to pass the time. I declined once we got there though, since it would have cost me another $20, so I just took pictures of the river instead. From there I told him to just continue driving aruond the city and show me around. We stopped momentarily to take pictures at the Opera House and City Hall, and drove through the Chinese part of the city, along with the markets. After that, we headed back, I paid him, and then I went to get some shakes. I got a watermelon and a grapefruit shake. Probably spent an hour there because I took a nap outside on the chair I was on.
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Now with two hours before the bus, I decided it was time for dinner. I headed up the street to GO2; a restaurant with a BBQ on the rooftop. So, since I was already indulging today more than any others since my travels began, I headed up to the roof to get some BBQ deer. It definitely didn't leave me disappointed or unsatisfied, that's for sure. By the time I finished, I went back to the hostel, grabbed my bags, and now I'm on the bus. A sleeper bus as well, which is cramped, but still comfier that it would be on a normal bus. I'm now on my way to Nha Trang, where hopefully the other two will manage to make it as well.
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Posted by SSH19 16:59 Comments (1)

Inhumane Atrocities

Evans - What a drastic change Phnom Penh is compared to Siem Reap. Personally, I enjoyed the latter much more. That's not to say that Phnom Penh didn't have it's own unique sites to see, and things to do. Unfortunately though, the sites weren't really joyous. All in all, they were actually quite heart-wrenching and disturbing. The two places we went to during our stay here were the Killing Fields, followed the next day by the Torture Museum, or S21 as they call it. The Killing Fields was more than enough to make me feel sick to my stomache. The first thing you see as you enter through the archway at the entrance, is a tall shrine or monument built for the people that were victims of this insane period of time. The shrine itself looks rather beautiful and majestic; it's what's inside that turns the stomache. Around 17 tiers high, the whole thing was filled with the bones of the victims that were excavated there. Tier one, which was a platform on the ground, had their tattered and torn clothing. The majority of the others, which I think was tier 2-12 or 15, had skulls placed on them according to age and sex. There were 8800 human skulls in the shrine altogether. It was absolutely horrible to think that all these people's lives were ended in such an unnecessary way. As we made our way around the grounds, there were massive holes that had been dug up, which had all contained the corpses and remains of those who were brutally murdered there. 13 of these craters could be seen everywhere the eye could see. There were still areas where you could see bones sticking just above the surface of the ground. By this point, I think it's needless to say that I definitely wasn't feeling all too well inside. Walking around the the border of the Killing Fields, you'd notice that in the back it's virtually untouched and still a site to behold. Partial flooding had taken place, and lillies were everything. Unfortunately again, since it's overgrown, they haven't tried to excavate it yet, meaning half of the victims remains may never be uncovered.
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Now, I honestly wish I could say this next part would be a little more pleasing to read, but that would be a full blown lie. S21, which used to be a regular high school for the students living in the area, was turned into a prison. Where the Khmer Rouge soldiers would take prisoners to be interrogated, tortured, and even killed. I think the number was around 17,000 for this place alone. They used guns, blunt objects, swords and knives, along with many others. One that stuck in my mind, was how they turned the handbars used by the students into a torture device. They'd hang the prisoner by their feet with their hands tied behind their backs, and interrogate them until they lost conciousness. They would then duck the victims head into a bucket of water, filled with another substance that was used mainly for fertilizer to help them quickly regain conciousness just so they could start all over again. It didn't matter what age you were either. Husbands and wives, their children, even babies were brought here. All of them met the same gruesome end.

I could probably continue on this topic, but I'd rather do my best not to think about it further. Other than say the scary part about it, is that it only happened three decades ago; 1975-1979. Just search the name Pol Pot on google, I'm sure it wouldn't be too hard to find, if you actually want to know more.

Posted by SSH19 17:25 Comments (0)

Holiday In Cambodia

Scott - Heading to Cambodia seemed to be just like every story ive heard. So I was not disapointed. We were first almost brought into a scam. The thai transport/visa officials requested that we go in a taxi all the way from the border to Siem Riep, even though we had already paid for the bus. "You should'nt do this, road bumpy! Take to long taxi better! Bus is late!" So we didn't buy it. Luckly, I think, the bus was right on time and we were in the city within 3 hours after the border run. Siem Riep was a bit smaller than I had expected, but it was very nice. Alot of tourism however, but sometimes thats good for meeting people with similar interests. And we did, people who like to drink beer, and lots of it. For 50 cents a beer it was a fun time! We got to go to the Angkor Temples 3 days in a row because that was what our attention was focused on for our time in Siem Riep. I was awestruck, the temples were massive! A strange chill of timeless history intensely roared up my spine when I first set eyes on Angkor Wat. What a place! Its like a massive ancient jungle gym! There were plenty of temples to explore and to get some good photos of. The best of which came from the temple that was overtaken by huge trees, with roots that swallowed up the ancient construction. Also, the sunrise at 6 am was amazing, however it looked better on my camera than it did while there, weird. After we were finished with Siem Riep we headed to Phnom Phen... haha, a very funny story... ask me if you want to hear it. We went through the Cambodian country side, the real sites and the real people. At this moment I was thinking how lucky I was to be a Canadian and born into opportunity and potential. Some of these people have nothing and I feel guilty to have what feels like everything. That bus ride really opened my eyes, something was triggered from the raw beauty of the Cambodian country side, it could have also been intensified because I was listning to Santana - Abraxas an intense concoction of visual and audio sensory. Now here I am in Phnom Phen about to head to Vietnam!

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Posted by SSH19 08:29 Comments (0)

Wow. Just Wow.

Evans - I don't even know where to begin. I guess I'll start with Japan Airlines. Which was frickin' amazing. The food was incredible: Rice with terriyaki chicken, or some other sauce, tofu, vegetables, and potato salad. And that was just the first meal. I had a chicken salada sandwich later on in the flight. The people are just so much friendlier than what I'm used to back home. It was almost overwhelming. I met a few fellow Canadians during my layover in Tokyo, which was 4 hours. It went by pretty quickly though. We all got together and talked for basically the whole time. We even started buying rounds of beer for each other. It was only $4 at the most per beer. There was even Sake. Fortunately we only split one of those between the four of us. Needless to say, I wasn't feeling to well during my second flight, as alcohol tends to hit you harder when you're flying. I didn't get sick or anything, which was good, but I sure did feel like it. So, after a long day that seemed as if it would never end, I finally arrived in Bangkok. I was expecting to be in hell when I stepped out onto the streets. And while the taxi was going 140km down the road, and there were no seatbelts in the back seats. I was surprisingly not as bad as I thought it would be. I managed to get an acceptable price from him, so I was pleased with the outcome. I had taken off on my first flight at 11:30am Sunday, and arrived Monday at midnight at the hostel because of the time difference. Boy was I wanting to get my ass to bed. Jet lag would be the understatement of the year for me! I'd have to agree with previous post: countless aromas of food hang throughout the air, followed by the unaccustomed smell of methane. And people never stop for you if you're crossing the road. Sure, they slow down, but I have yet to see a single car stop. But nevertheless, the people are just as friendly here as they were in Japan. Even if the majority of them are doing it just to get your money. So, day one was pretty good for me. Right off the bat, never have I done so much walking in one period of time than now. And yes, I'm paying for it now, I'm sore as hell, but I'm sure I'll get used to it in a few days.
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We're now in Cambodia. Needless to say, I've done way too much moving around in two or three days than I would liked to have done. And once again, they tried to scam us. Something to do with the currency exchange rate. I'll just say we now know to keep American money instead of changing it to Cambodian. It rained today as well, which was nice for me, helped with the heat as I'm not used to it yet. That was until it started to poor like no tomorrow. But it's still hot out at the same time, so it's alright. Nothing I'm not already used to from back home. And depending on the weather, we should be heading to Ankor Wat. That's probably going to be my favourite part of Cambodia. I don't see anything else topping that in this country, and I'm completely stoked for it!
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Posted by SSH19 07:14 Comments (2)

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