How are you all doing? I'm doing great. Me and another Dutch (Lotte) and Canadian (Monica) met in the bus from Dalat to Nha Trang and kind of hung out together since. They are the first om my trip who are doing trip in 'reverse' order like I'm doing so we decided to do Vietnam together. Has been a blast since then. We are totally on the same wave length which is so very nice when your travelling. Hardly ever disagreeing on something; we're trying very hard but somehow we always end up agreeing. Almost scary!
Pics can't be uploaded on this computer so have to do that another time. Meanwhile I'm still in Vietnam (Hanoi) and going to Ha Long Bay tomorrow and, after that, to Sapa and surrounding area. But that update will come very soon.
I thought it would be good to share some general experience altough the ones mentioned may be less positive, such as horror stories (trust me, even my travel buddies are amazed how much one person can experience in such a short time). Well, you can kind of guess how my border crossing went from Thailand to Cambodia. We survived but it really toughens you and I need that for sure here! Okay, so in chronical order:
Being ripped off: There is no such thing as a TAT agency in which you can book tours. I asked around with other travelers and were told that its safe to book a tour at an agency that says TAT. Well, its not. Shopping around is really the best thing to do. We prob could have saved a 40 euro(!!!) if we had known that. Talking about being ripped off, always second check the good intentions of a tuktuk driver. All we wanted is to see that stupid temple Wat Pho and eventually we had to pay for the tuktuk ride and didn't see Wat Pho!
Where's me backpack?: Yes, always mind your backpack when you are about to get in a bus. I thought I did. A friendly Cambodian guy from the bus company offered to carry my bag for me. It was 7AM, I was tired and annoyed by the busy crowd around me so I agreed. But then I kept on loosing him out of my sight. Eventually I found him and witnessed him bringing my bag to the bus. So I got in only to find out in Battambang that I didn't have my backpack anymore. Imagine being here for only a week with 5 more months to go and loosing all of your belongings! I freaked out but thank god my backpack was put in the wrong bus. It arrived later in Phnom Penh. BTW: this was my first experience of order in the chaos you witnessed here as my bag was found and kept exactly at the spot where they told me to collect it. There's truly a system in place, its just that we Westerners are too organised to recognize it. I also experienced respect for the first time. Up until now you only have the feeling that they are after your money (In thailand they won't even give you directions if you don't buy anything) but now all moto, etc. were leaving us alone and the bus company was doing its upmost best to find my bag and to help me out.
Bus troubles: Expect at least one time to experience technical problems. On the way to Phnom Penh around noon-ish our bus got into troubles and we had to wait for 3 hours as the guys were probably feeling too proud to admit that they didn't have a clue what was wrong. It was about 40 degrees with 100% huminity!
In the middle of nowhere: No one was able to explain how to get to Chi Phat (jungle). So me and my sister try to do it on our own. First no one told us you can get off the bus half way so we passed our stop and ended in a stupid border town called Krong Koh Kong. From their we had to head back but we were told that this was not possible anymore that day. So for the next day we arranged a shared taxi, but we needed to get out cash (it was very dark that night before around that only ATM in town). Our taxi driver didn't want to stop at an ATM so two hours later we're at Aduong Tuk with only 10USD. How to get to Chi Phat with no freaking money in a town where only one person speaks a few words of English? Luckily, a moto was happy to bring my sis to the nearest ATM (60km) but the machine only accepted Cambodian bank passes. So it's, 1PM and were stuck in a town with not enough money to spend the night. Eventually we decided to hitch and we ended up in Kampot, and discovering a new service: pick up taxi service: People who drive from A to B and everyone who wants to join the ride should just raise their hand (and pay).
Sea food attack: I bet most of you must have had that thought crossing their mind... What if I eat a squid and my mouth is full of ink. Well, let me tell you... it's ugly!!! Our hotel owner at Phu Quoc Island offered us a squid from her dinner. Suddenly this liquid came into my mouth and I initially thought it was part of the snack, but for some reason I couldn't get it down my throat and while spitting it out I noticed that everything was black including my tung and teeth! Ieuwwww!!!!! I almost vomitted and was gagging for the next hour. I haven't been able to eat (let alone smell) sea food untill a few days ago.
Hit and run experience: Thank goodness I wasn't hit, just ALMOST. It was my day of snorkling in Nha Trang and as I was laying in the water with my fellow tourist buddies, observing the coral and the many beautiful fish I suddenly saw a propellor. It took me a few seconds to realize where that propellor was belonging to and there it was coming MY way!! Lifing up my head above water I saw only 5 meters away this guy standing on the front side of the boat making this gesture that I, moi, had to leave OUR snorkling area so that that stupid retarded f*ck of a driver could get his boat to the island. Gosh, that really scared the hell out of me!
Easy riders: In Hoi An, after all that shopping
So that's about all the horrors. I hope I will not have to add anything in the near future although the Laos border is something else. One more less positive aspect coz trust me, all the good experience are more than compensating all the bad, and I'll stop talking about the bad. Walking around in Asia feels like being a Hollywood star: the only save spot to hang out is your own hotel room. As soon as you set foot outside your hotel door there's: hotel personnel trying to sell you tours (saying no and cam on won't help you), moto's offering their serivices, restaurant employees trying to get your attention, people waving at you, saying 'Hello' and trying to speak English in the little words they know, street sellers selling you anything from pineapple to sunglasses and bracelets, etc. I know they are only doing their job and its their chance to make a little more money on top of the small salary check they get every month. Most of the time I'm making a joke and find ways to appreciate their efforts. But when you are tired from a busride and want to get off the bus and collect your backpack only to find 20 moto drivers blocking your way as they are trying to offer you their service for 900% premium price its really hard not to lose your temper. Even walking away won't help coz they will follow you untill you give in and you just can't lose your temper because of the ' loosing face' principle. Its also my holiday and just want to enjoy the moment without anyone shouting on a 20meter distance 'LADYYYYY..... PINEAPPLEEEEEEEEEE????' (happened all the time in Angkor Wat). But like I said, there are so many things to compensate these negative thoughts and I'm focusing on those as much as I can. I'm just overwhelmed by the extent they are bothering you. You can't look around and enjoy the view without having people to offer you services; I'm still trying to find a good balance in bouncing people off and accepting their services. Now I'm just bouncing off most of them.
So that's it for now. Next blog will be about Vietnam filled with positive experiences!
Hugs & Kisses!
Okay, I found some time for my second update. The one about Cambodia. Cambodia... Thailand and Cambodia are worlds apart from one another. As soon as you cross the border (btw: that's a nice story to add to our horrors) you see a different world. The land is dry, red sand, very flat, the written language is even harder to understand than Thai - although they speak much better English than the Thai - and people have hardly a thing to do. To get a better picture of what Cambodia is like you should think of those old western movies. The roads aren't surfaced yet (accept te main road), a lot of nature is still untouched - or so it seems - and then suddenly, out of the blue, you see a shed (rather 4 poles and a corrugated iron roof) in which someone is selling drinks or food or both. You wonder why someone desires to live in the middle of nowhere selling drinks to... who actually? Hardly someone in the area!!
These small size entrepreneurs are a typical thing in Cambodia. In a similar 'shed' you'll find a barber, restaurant, repairshop, etc. Everything is improvised. As nothing is surfaced you shouldn't be bothered about your feet being dirty. there's nothing to do about it. Another typical thing is that the whole family is often helping out in these business. So when you enter a restaurant you'll probably see one person working and ten others doing nothing. Later we learned that the unemployment rate is extremely high in Cambodia. It doesn't matter whether you studied or not, the best way to make money is find a job in tourism hence why most guys become a tuktuk or moto drivers. A lot of Cambodian people are still struggling to survive from day to day, saving money is not an option. Many also stay in their parents house for the rest of their live to save on costs. It's a luxury to live on your own. Me and my sis got so many impressions of this country, its difficult to summarize in a blog. One thing I can say for sure, Cambodia is changing and the Cambodia as it is now will most probably dissapear very soon in the near future. Many roads are being surfaced and houses and hotels are coming up as mushrooms (Dutch expression??
Enough about the country, let me tell you what we did in this fascinating country. We started in Siem Reap with a visit to Angkor Wat. This is so very beautiful, but after 7 hours of temple watching you can't really tell the difference anymore. So we decided to use our time to do other things. Eventually, we ended up in the swimmingpool (it's so bloody hot here). We decided to leave Siem Reap after one day already and visit Battambang. We heard great stories from a Dutch guy in Bangkok, so we took his advice and went into the rural area of Battambang with two moto drivers. This was definitely one of our best experiences. They could tell us so much about the day-to-day life of the Cambodians. We could ask them anything we wanted to know and learned so much about the cambodian culture. Next day we left already for Phnom Penh (due to another horror story, my backpack was on the wrong bus). We checked in at a very layback hostel at Boeng Kak (a lake in the middle of Phnom Penh!!). We didn't do much this day as we had a terrible busride (3 hours delay due to technical failure). Next day we decided to explore this 'great' city by bicycle. You should understand that after a few days of eating dust, paved roads are so very exciting! We went to the museum that summarizes all the horrors done by the Khmer Rouge. This is really aweful! You really can't imagine that people are capable of doing these terrible things and that the UN ignored the troubles in Cambodia for many years! The Khmer Rouge, although overthrown in 1979, have had a seat in the UN untill the 90s!!!!!!!!! As you can imagine, we weren't up for the killing fields no more. We decided to chill and explore the river views by bike and later the russian market. Then, again, we decided to move to the next town as we wanted to see some jungle in the Cardamon Mountains (horror, horror, horror). I'm not going to elaborate on that right now, but I can tell ya: we didn't see any jungle. Instead, we saw Kampot. Also very nice! Then it was time to leave Cambodia and go for Vietnam! We booked the Mekong Delta tour in Phnom Penh and left Cambodia with all its charme behind.
Let me close this blog with one tip: anyone who wants to try to reach Cambodia via Poipet, please read all the online forums on this subject. There are so many scams on the way to the border that you should be really confident about what is true or not. The truth is: Yes, you can get a visa at the border for 20 USD and no you don't have to pay for quick service and no, you do not need to get stamps at two different places, and yes, the consulate the travel agency brings you to to get a visa is a fake consulate.
Bye bye now! My time is up, but next time I'll give you our and my experience in Vietnam!
It's so great to read all of your scraps! I have 19! Whoohoo
My gosh, I don't even know where to begin. So much has happened in two weeks time (is it really only two weeks?). I'll split my story up in a Thai and Cambodian version. So I was flying on the 15th and while it was only half 1 in the Netherlands I already witnessed a beautiful sunrise; local time half 6. My first impression of Thailand (sky perspective): It looks a lot like the Netherlands. Seriously, I thought it was typical Dutch to have the country split up in squares and rectangles. Even England has more exotic look from the airplane! There were only three factors causing doubts to my conclusion 1) the sun was shining, 2) People were driving on the wrong side, 3) Instead of having cows they flood their land with wate. So this is Thailand...
Bangkok is a very nice city to arrive in and to start your travels. It is so very western like. I checked in this very cute Danish Hostel called New Road Guesthouse, but didn't stay that long as all the people sleeping there were Danish and not in the mood to speak any other language than Danish. So the next day I checked out and went to Khao San Road (Backpackers walhalla) and checked in a nice and quiet guesthouse called Sawasdee Banglumphoo Inn (sawasdee is saying hi in Thai). Only it wasn't as quiet as it appeared to be. A reggae bar was attached to it and pumping its speakers till I don't know what time!! But the guesthouse was nice and a good place to explore Bangkok for when my sister arrives. That was saturday. Together we saw a lot of temples and came to the conclusion that temples won't be our highlight on a next trip (yes, they are very beautiful, so are the churches in Europe and I skip those also on my cultural agenda most of the time). So the next day we decided to go and explore the city by foot. Although this sounds relaxing, it is actually quite a challenge. try reading street signs and names saying something as 'uurrnnrn ururnrnrnn rnrnrnrnn ururnrnrn'. Right.... Don't they know at the municipality that a lot of non-Thai speaking people visit their capital?
Talking about tourism, the Thai have this 'joke' of considering themselves as service minded. Well let me tell you one thing: THEY ARE NOT! Rather they are money minded, does that mean giving some service?? 'aaah allright then, I'll give you minimal service in the 5 words of English that I speak' . This was quite a dissapointed I'd say. You really start to question everyones intentions and when someone is helping without charging money or whatever I'm surprised. btw, this asian version of being service minded does not only go up for Thailand, but for any country in this region for that manner.
So after our attempt to walk around -and use tuktuks to get back to our guesthouse- we decided to go for a swim (I was already spending 4 days in 40 degrees with 100% huminity). There should be a swimmingpool somewhere available to the public right? Well no, there is no such thing. But we heard about a swimmingpool in this D&D hotel at Khao San Road that's also available to non guest and, if you sneak in, you can swim for free! oh yeah, so me and my sis are armed with a bikini and towel and sneak in the hotel. We take the elevator, put our bikini's on in the restroom (so far so good) and as we walk towards the swimmingpool having this facial expression 'yeah we are guests' we hear 'Ticket?', damn! But we weren't allowed to buy a ticket anymore so we spend the saved money on cocktails! great eve!
For next day we booked a tour to see: Floating market, Tiger Temple, and Bridge over River Kwai. This was very nice although very touristy too. Tiger temple should be a rehabilitation centre for tigers, but at the same time people can go on a picture with several of them. I know that these institutions most often drug the dangerous animals so that they do not attack the tourist while posing for a photo. Well, at least they are not slaughtered... Again, we experienced that very nice service minded attitude. We paid premium for the tour and still we needed to pay entrance fee at some stops that weren't even listed on our tour, such as the snake farm. So annoying and very stupid. I now know that I should be reluctant to immediately say yes to these type of tours. After one more nite in Bangkok drinking cocktails together with Jenna (US) we were preparing ourselves for our next stop: Cambodia.
More about this country soon, me and my sis going to the beach now.. Meanwhile, you all can give me an update on your lives!
Hugs and kisses for now!
--Suzanne & Heleen
It's so exciting. In a week from now, I'll be on Dusseldorff airport waiting for my airplane to leave. I can't wait to start my travels...
Small update for those that need it: As most of you know by now, I signed up for a masters program at Maastricht University in September 2007 and I graduated last year December. Whoohoo, to thumbs up for me!
Instead of looking for a job I decided to travel in Asia. Very smart move I'd say! So for the next 5 months or so I'll be in South-East Asia; some parts I'll travel alone, some parts together with friends. My plan is to visit: Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Hong Kong, Philippines, Maleisia, and when I'm still in to it (duh) I want to pay my family a visit in Indonesia.
This will be my blog where you can read all about my fun experiences, amazing travels, the nice people I'll meet down the road, etc. The blog will be in English though as some peeps on my mailinglist are non-Dutch. But I'm confident that your English skills proof to be proficient enough to read my stories.
What am I going to do this last week in The Netherlands? Well, I'm going to enjoy Maastricht while I still can. I still have two more party nites planned. Then, sadly enough, I'll leave Mtown for good and celebrate Easter with my family in Friesland (or Groningen). After that, it will be only one more day...
Although I promised most of you to meet up before I go, it eventually did not totally work out. But I would like to make use of this opportunity to - once again - thank everyone who was able to come last Saturday for all the sweet cards and presents I got. Your donations are well spend on travelling material (lakenzak or a sheet sleeping bag???, mosquito net, more malaria pills - Yes, VGZ decided not to sponsor my trip). I really had a great time and it was a nice way to say goodbye to Maastricht.
So, that's it for now. I hope you will enjoy reading my stories; next blog will be from Bangkok