Thursday, 11 October 2007

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The Meersbrook blog

Jim's travel blog

Phnom Phen - Pol Pot - what a nasty man!

We have arrived in Cambodia for only a flying visit through to Thailand. Just time to see the sights of Phnom Pehn and Siem Riep.

In the morning in Phnom Pehn we made an early start to see Tai Chi in front of the Royal Palace, however after a navigational error we got to the riverside too late. While we ate breakfast we watched lots of Cambodian in their 'Sunday best' ride past. We later discovered they were celebrating a Buddhist Festival which meant the city was empty and the Silver Pagoda closed.

The Silver Pagoda

Food Donations in a Buddhist Temple


After lunch we caught a tuc tuc to the Killing Fields and S21 Genoside museum. The both sites aimed to remember the atrocities caused by the Khmer Rouge. The Killing Fields showed the remains of mass graves of the viciously murdered S21 prisoners. The grounds still had bones and clothing scattered around and some 800 of the 1500 skulls found were placed in the memorial tower.

The skulls in the memorial tower.

After we took the tuc tuc to the Genocide Museum of Tuol Sleng (S21). The museum is the prison in which intellectual people were tortured and remains how it was found. The museum house photographs and biographies of prisoners and their families. Both places were very sad and sombre places which seemed strangely to still need signs asking people not to laugh.

The Mekong Delta to Cambodia

Our final days in Vietnam on the way to Cambodia were spent in the Mekong Delta. This is the area of land in the south of Vietnam at the bottom of the Mekong river after it has flown through China, Tibet, Laos, Thailand and Cambodia. It is primarily known for it's rice paddies but also grows many types of fruit. We spent a lot of time on boats of various size and condition with a few bus rides thrown in for good measure. The first day we visited a floating market, coconut sweet makers, rice corn makers and then watched the sunset at Chua Hang Pagoda near Chau Doc. Early the next morning we squeezed in a tour to a floating village with a fish farm under a house and a visit to a Cham Minority Village before a long ride past the Cambodian border to Phenom Phen.

One of the 'Nine Dragons' of the Mekong River

Rowing up a canal

Dalat and Saigon

After hearing people rave about Dalat we left the coast and headed inland. We took a coach tour of the area after decided moutaining biking was too expensive. We initially took a cable car from Dalat to Truc Lam Meditation Monastery. Then we went to see a waterfall via a tobogan ride with dan at the controls. The most impressive Dragon pagoda was visited next and covered in tiles and smashed potery mosiac.

Dragon Pagoda

Dan beating a drum at Dragon Pagoda

In the afternoon we visted a Lat Minority Village and was talked to by the village leader and offered a taste of his rice wine.

Dan sucking up the rice wine

They don't have asbos but they still have hoodies

After Dalat we visited Saigon (or Ho Chi Minh City) for a short 1 day stay. This gave us enough time to visit the main sites of The Cu Chi Tunnels, where we passed on the chance to shoot army guns, but went down a very cramped tunnel.

Jo in the Cu Chi Tunnel

In the afternoon we took a tour around the city visiting the quite graffic war remnents museum, reunification palace and a post office. I know strange to walk around a post office with nothing to post.

Cyclo driver catching a nap

Beach and Boat days in Nha Trang

At last we've found the sun. We only had to travel around 1000 kilometers to find it and there is still rumours of typhoons in Asia.

The first day was spent lying on the beach and swimming in the warm sea until we were properly cooked. Don't worry, the factor 30 stopped a complete burn. A run in with a local boy wanting to play Connect 4 (we only assume for money) would answer our refusal with "Why, you scared?".

The second day in Nha Trang was a highlight of Vietnam. We took a tourist boat ride to see four Islands - Mun, Hon, Tam and Mieu. After an easy ride we arrived at Mun Island, recognised for it's black rock. Here we went snorkeling. We were really desperate to use our brand new snorkels that we had carried around for 7 weeks that we forgot to remember our boat. We swam along the reef with the coral and fish improving by the stroke. We saw Emperor fish pairs and parrot fish, and Dan got attacked by a very defensive Clown (Nemo) fish. When we returned to the boats we had to board 2 others before we found our own, we were apparently very late and the boat had been waiting for us. Embarrassingly our reputation did not improve throughout the day. We were unable to stop for lunch at the second island as the wind had picked up and the sea had become choppy. We stopped for lunch at Hon Island and met some really nice people from the Netherlands and America. On the boat the crew all started singing song from around the world accompanied by a barrel drum kit and we danced on the boat. After the floating bar was opened which involved jumping into the sea, sitting in a life ring and drinking distinctly bad Dalat Wine with Pineapple from a floating bar. Obviously, in true British style we stayed by the bar. The final island stop was to visit an aquarium. We opted out in order to drink more whilst floating in the sea. Dinner was spent with our new friends followed by happy hour red bull and vodka. The next day hangover was awful.

The boats crew giving it some on the home made drums

Lunch on the boat

Monday, 1 October 2007

Cooking up a storm in Hoi An

We are now in Hoi An, about half way down Vietnam, and yesterday it stopped raining! So I ran around taking photos for the french style buildings in the morning and we both attended the Red Bridge cooking school in the afternoon. This included a tour of the local market, a 20min boat trip up the river to the school, demos, practice cooking and dinner. Really good afternoon.

This morning we went to My Son and saw the very old (accurate as ever) temples. But the rain is back - pelting it down - so that's why we are back on the Internet.

Off down the coast tomorrow in search of beach weather...