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Marc and Nic's Message Page

Updated 07/02/08
 
We are now in Bangkok, Thailand doing the last update for Cambodia. We will be starting on the Thailand page shortly. We decided against going to Loas due to the time that we had left. We wanted to really see Cambodia rather than skip through the country. We have really enjoyed our experiences here.
 
Below this update we have also added a lot more photos to the previous update.
 
Siem Riep
 
It was hard to push ourselves off the beach but with the thought that it was Angkor Wat next it helped us to make the move to Siem Riep. It was another long hard slug on a 12 hour coach journey to Siem Riep. We stopped off for lunch at Phnom Penh and then arrived in Siem Riep at around 6pm. We have kind of got used to the long journey times now and think when we finally get home how driving to anywhere in the UK for a weekend away will feel like a doddle plus the toilets should be a little bit cleaner! It has now become a natural thing to roll our trousers up to go to the loo! We arrived in Siem Riep in the pitch darkness and the place where the bus stopped was about 15 minutes outside of town. We both looked out of the window by our seat and couldn’t see anything but boards that were being held up by tuk tuk drivers advertising this and that hotel! As the locals disembark the bus it is pretty quite outside and then as a tourist comes into sight by the driver’s seat the tuk tuk drivers start their sales pitch! We normally just get into the first one who reaches us and sort the hotel out on the way, there is too much chaos to do this by the bus and as long as you sort the price out as your getting your backpacks onto the thing there is no problems. Siem Riep is soooo different to everywhere else in Cambodia. We had read that the government is pumping all of the money here due to the fact that Angkor Wat is having a huge pull on tourism with over 2 million international tourists visiting in 2007! But you really get to see a more commercial Cambodia in Siem Riep and walking down the main bar street you could pretty much be in any other country which is a little bit of a shame really especially when a lot of tourists will only travel here to see the temples and nowhere else and wont get to see what Cambodia is all about. We hope when we get to Angkor Wat in the next day or so that it will not be ruined by this same factor.

Nic at the Siem Riep indoor market!
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Angkor Wat and temples, temples and more temples!

If you have ever heard the phrase “all templed out”, well we are now living proof! Over the last two days we have hired a tuk tuk driver that has taken us to see more temples than you can shake a stick at! The temples of Angkor were once the capital of Cambodia’s ancient Khmer empire. The Cambodian kings of old each strove to better their predecessor’s temples in size, scale and symmetry resulting in the world’s largest religious building – Angkor Wat.

This empire once stretched from Burma to Vietnam and the city centre of Angkor had a massive population of one million at a time when London was a small town of 50,000. The houses, public buildings and palaces were constructed of wood, now of course long decayed and left are the stone temples as the right to dwell in structures of brick or stone was reserved for the gods. The two temples that we most enjoyed were Angkor Wat and Ta Prohm. Angkor Wat you would have all probably seen in photos so will know why this was so amazing, however Ta Prohm we loved due to the fact it had been taken over by the Jungle. Huge trees growing on top of this Temple made it a real spectacle. We also read that this Temple was used in the making of the film Tomb Raider (of course Nic looked so much better in her shorts than Ms Croft, well that’s what Marc told her anyway!). It is immense the size of the place and we had heard that people have spent a whole week going around the different areas. It is definitely big enough to do this but the fact that someone is crazy enough and has the stamina to do this for 7 days is not our cup of tea!

It was however amazing and here is the proof that we did the temples of Angkor Wat in two days…

At the entrance to Angkor Wat!
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Within the walls of Angkor Wat!
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One of the buildings surrounding Angkor Wat!
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One of the amazing carvings into the stone!
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Marc stood at the top of the stairs to Angkor Wat!
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Nic on the other side of Angkor Wat!
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One of the corridors at Ankor Wat with carvings!
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On to the next Temple, Bayon Temple!
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The faces carved into the rock at Bayon!
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View of the Bayon Temple from another angle!
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Taking our own photo outside Bayon Temple!
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Big sitting Buddha!
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Stopped off at many temples on the way!
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Marc at Ta Prohm Temple. Location of Tomb Raider!
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Nic at another tree taking over the temple!
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One of the five gates to the Ankgor complex!
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Nic on the back of our Tuk Tuk!
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Nic at the entrance to Angkor Thom!
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Within the temple of Angkor Thom!
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The jungle has taken it grip on Angkor Thom!
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Marc under a huge tree settled on a Temple!
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Musicians at most of the temple entrances!
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Nic at the last temple during Sunset!
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Truly templed out! But still amazing.

 
 
 
Updated 01/02/08
 

Hi All,

We've been in Cambodia now for about three weeks and have waited till now to give you a big update on the story of our travels in Cambodia so far! We will be doing the update for Siem Riep and the Angkor temples separately and also putting on more photos for this section. We have just had some problems with adding the photos in but this should hopefully be resolved by tomorrow or the day after. So keep a look out. Big thankyou to everybody for your birthday messages and e-mails and the other messages that you send we look out for everyday! Its great to hear from you all so keep it comming – we love it!

 

If there is one place so far that has really surprised us both it has got to be Cambodia! We never in a million years expected it to be so set up for tourists, be so beautiful and have the most amazing people!

After crossing the Cambodian border from Vietnam we travelled by boat along the Mekong River for another 2 hours. This is where we started to see the completely different architecture of the Cambodian Wats (Cambodian religious temples and monuments) peaking up through the trees.
 
This was our first contrast between here and Vietnam and we were going to realise as our time in Cambodia progressed that there are some huge difference’s between the two countries. We transferred from our boat into a minivan and travelled the remaining hour and half by road to Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s Capital. On the way the bus had to stop for everyone with a call of nature. Marc jumped out with the rest of the guys at the side of the road. As Nic was the only girl the driver took her across the road to the local’s houses that were all along the road. It seemed as if the whole village was in or around this one house and all intent on making sure Nic knew where the toilet was which happened to be a hole in the floor in a wooden shack in the back garden. It appeared that the whole village was in attendance to make sure it was spotless and soaked the area using water from the well in the garden. They were all so friendly and had absolutely no problem sharing their toilet with a stranger.

Our first sighting of Cambodian architecture!
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Comming back up from using the locals toilet!
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On arriving in Phnom Penh our first impressions was that it is nowhere near as hectic on the roads here as the cities in Vietnam. Not that we minded the hectic roads in other places it was just that Phnom Penh seemed a little bit more relaxed and chilled out. We must say it probably has to do with the fact it’s about 110 degrees so you would have to be more chilled with the heat!! That’s another difference; the heat has definitely notched up a few more degrees since arriving from Vietnam! We jumped off the bus in the centre of Phnom Penh and was met with a huge wave of Tuk Tuk drivers who could all speak amazing English, much better than anywhere else we have been so far and that was a big surprise to us as we thought it would be more of a struggle here than anywhere else. We jumped into the first one that reached us and was taken to the Okay Guest House. It turned out to be a lot better than just okay. It had a great lounge area with DVD’s playing continuously and they served really good Khmer food. We were however on the top floor and in this heat it was like running up a couple of small mountains just to get to the 4th floor! The following day we trekked around the majority of the Capital and were amazed to see how set up it was for tourism and how beautiful it was. Along the River front is where all of the Bars and Restaurants are and at night the boats all set off fireworks so it is a really nice area to sit and have a few drinks. We also visited the Royal Palace and other temples which are so impressive. Here are a few photo’s...

View from the guest house in Phnom Penh!
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View of the Royal palace from the road!
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Going into the grounds of Wat Ounalom!
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Buddha's within the grounds of Wat Ounalom!
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Entrance to Wat Phnom!
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Monkey's running the show at the Temple!
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Elephant ride available around the Temple!
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Cheeky Monkey!
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Pagoda at the top of Wat Phnom!
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Marc looking hot at the Royal Palace!
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One of the many stunning palace buildings!
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Monk working within the Royal Palace!
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Building given to the King by Napoleon III
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Marc with Serpent!
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Nicola using her new found photography skills!
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Sitting Buddha at the Royal Palace!
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Historic map during the Khmer rule!
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Indoor market in down town Phnom Penh!
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There is however one huge distressing factor that reminded us that we were still in an immensely poor country and that is the street kids who are begging and sleeping everywhere along the front. It was so hard to see all of these children like this and not be able to do a great deal about it. We had been advised to offer them food rather than money, as the majority of these kids are sent to the streets to beg by adults which is where the money ends up. The kids were more than happy to take any food we gave to them and would eat it there and then in front of us.

A Dark History – The Khmer Rouge

We were both pretty naive when it came to the horrific history of Cambodia and the kind of things the population has been put through. Well, that was before we visited S21 and the Killing fields!

In brief once the Khmer Rouge marched into Phnom Penh in 1975 under the rule of Pol Pot they implemented one of the most radical and brutal restructurings of society ever attempted. Within a day or two of arriving in the Capital they marched all of the population out to the countryside to undertake slave labour for 12 to 15 hours a day. Young or old it didn’t matter and depending on which part of the city you happened to be in on that particular day you were marched to a certain area of countryside which of course separated families and friends for ever. The goal of doing this was to make the whole country into a peasant dominated society, currency was abolished and postal services were stopped the county was cut off from the rest of the World (apart from China who were supplying aid and advisers to the Khmer Rouge). Anyone that was perceived to be educated in anyway was executed and disobedience of any sort brought immediate execution. The so called cleansing reached the bloodiest heights in 1977 and until Vietnam on the 25th of December 1978 launched a full scale attack on Cambodia to end the Khmer Rouge reign. It is thought that 2 million people were executed though the final figures are still unknown while hundreds of thousands more died from famine and disease.

S21 – Tuol Sleng Museum

We visited S21 which was once a high School that under the regime of Pol Pot and his forces was turned into a prison where it became the largest centre for torture. It now houses an exhibition inside that explains and shows the crimes of the Khmer Rouge, shows photographs of the gruesome deaths and has the instruments that was used. The cells that prisoners were kept in are all still there, exactly as it was then. It has got to be the most distressing and depressing place either of us have ever visited and as you walk through the cells you cant help but feel uncomfortable as shivers run up and down our spines. It is so hard to grasp that such terrible things went on and not that long ago to this amazing country and these amazing people.

The school grounds of S21!
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Tiny cells built within the old class rooms!
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The Killing Fields

This is the second place you visit and part of the Khmer Rouge story in Phnom Penh. This is where, from between 1975 and 1978 about 17,000 men, women, children and infants who had been detained and tortured at S21 (the old high School we told you about above) were transported to the extermination camp here at Choeung Ek. The remains of 8,985 people, many whom were bound and blindfolded, were exhumed in 1980 from mass graves in this one-time orchard; 43 of the 129 communal graves here have been left untouched. More than 8000 skulls, arranged by sex and age are visible behind the clear glass panels of the Memorial that we will show below in the photographs. Here we were able to show our respects by laying flowers. Again there is no way we can explain this place and what went on here by words alone. With it just being here for tourists to see is an immense reminder and will not let people forget what the people of Cambodia came to endure through Communist rule.

The killing fields memorial!
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First sign that we read on entry into the Fields!
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Paying our respects at the memorial!
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A brief insight into the horific history!
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One of the many burial pits!
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The Jungles and Mountains!

From Phnom Penh we took the bus journey from Hell! (As you will remember it was what we were on when we wrote the last of the Vietnam page!) As we’ve already mentioned it took 13 hours and for probably 3 quarters of that time it was over dirt tracks through the jungle with not a single road in sight. We should have known when the bus pulled up with a smashed windscreen that we were going to be in for some journey! Our destination was a village called Sen Monorom, Monulkiri province right in the middle of the mountains and jungle. Even though it was the journey from hell and there were times when we literally thought we had died and gone to hell the experience and views on the jungle tracks were amazing and everything we did on our 5 days in the mountains made it well worth the 13 hours! Sen Monorom is literally in the middle of nowhere and possibly the one place where we felt we were completely cut off from the rest of the world. The bus ended up arriving at about 10pm so it was pitch black and we still needed to find somewhere to stay. We got our rucksacks off the bottom of the bus only to find they were now covered in a ton of red mud that had come up off the dirt tracks along the way – we were to become quite use to being completely covered in the red dust for the majority of our 5 days. Luckily we found a guest house before midnight as this is when the electric goes out! In fact it goes off a few dozen times throughout the night so we had to always have to make sure we had a torch handy (we were not into going to the loo in the pitch black darkness with all the creepy crawlies of the jungle!) Just to explain what it is like you have one road that goes through the town and this is it, everything else is surrounded by hills, jungle and mud tracks. So the best way to get about is by off-road motorbikes. This is how we got to the minority village of the Pnong People and met Nara who took us for a Trek through the Cambodian Jungle! Nara was born and has lived in and around the jungle all his life so we felt particularly safe with him and we also got to learn lots about the different things you can and can’t eat from the jungle. Our trek took us through 3 rivers. It was hilarious now looking back, Nara was quite happy to walk through the river bare footed while Nic took about 30 minutes to change her walking shoes so she had her proper diving shoes on and Marc walked through in his trainers! Nara must have thought he had a right pair! It wasn’t until the 3rd river when Nic got bored of swapping shoes over that she just went through in hiking shoes. Anyway, it was just the most amazing experience walking through a beautiful jungle, swimming in waterfalls and looking into caves whilst being led by one of the locals from the minority village. We both had to keep pinching ourselves that we were actually where we where! We think you will see from the photographs how amazing it was.  In the photographs you will see Nara and his family holding some glow rods. We had brought the glow rods to the mountains with us as we had heard what the electric problems were like and these glow sticks stay alight for up to 12 hours and of course with them we didn’t have to worry about batteries or power. Well, when we got to the caves it was a great opportunity to show Nara the glow rods. He had never seen anything like it in his life and thought they were the most amazing things he had ever seen so we gave them to him. He was so fascinated with the things for the rest of the trek and when we got back to the village his children were all excited for it to go dark so they could play with them as of course they have no electricity in their home. After our 8 hours trek we were both truly shattered and once we got back to the main village we sat at a restaurant at the side of the road took off our river soaked shoes and socks and enjoyed the best coconut curry we have both ever eaten! This was a great experience!

The madness of 30 people on a 20 seater!
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The only round about in town!
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Wish Wash! Cambodian style!
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Local road under construction!
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Down at the local Market!
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Down at the minority village!
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Marc transport on the left, Nic's on the right!
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Setting off on our Trek!
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Local kid showing us his bamboo stilts!
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Cashew nut tree!
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Heading off into the Jungle!
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Pineapple at the village farm!
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Jungle women!
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Down at the first river crossing!
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Nic making her way across the river!
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Marc lost amidst the jungle!
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In the cave with Nara and the magical glowrod!
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Cave dwellers!
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Marc takes a dip in the 1st waterfall!
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The bigger second waterfall!
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Some weird fruits growing on the tree trunk!
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Nic settling down for something to eat!
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Down River!
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This waterfall was amazing!
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Nic up on the hill side!
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Nara showing the way through the Jungle!
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We made it! Finished off with an amazing view!
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Nara with one of his kids! And another glow rod!
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Nara with his latest edition to the Family!
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Bou Sraa Waterfall
 
The next thing on our agenda was to go to one of the largest waterfalls in Cambodia. This was reached by road (Or horrendous pot hole hell) and was pretty spectacular to say the least here are a couple of pics to show you Marc climbing the falls. On the way back we also visited a rubber tree plantation where one of the locals showed us how they cut the bark off the sides of the Rubber trees and out oozes the rubber. It was great to see and understand where the rubber comes from for everyday things. Early evening we decided to walk to a restaurant that is used by locals. The food was great but of course it was pitch black on the walk back, at one point we were well and truly warned off by a barking dog! I don’t think we have ever moved so fast in our lives with both of us having the fit of the giggles as hysteria set in as we thought we were being set upon by a pack of wild dogs! It was making us laugh more at the thought that if anyone could see us at home you would all find it hilarious!

Nic covering up due to the dusty roads!
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Marc and Nic at the waterfall!
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Marc climbing up to the waterfall!
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Down at the rubber tree plantation!
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Just before being scared to death by the dog!
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After the horrendous bus journey here we decided it was all a bit too much to do it again for the journey to our next destination so we ended up paying a local for two seats in his pick-up tuck. A lot of the locals who own shops etc. in the village have to go down to the main towns to buy supplies and not being ones to miss a trick they usually sell off all of the available space in their trucks to locals and tourists alike who want to travel back down to civilisation. We paid a couple more dollars to have the luxury of sitting inside the cab rather than in the back of the pick-up. It’s hilarious because they literally pack these things till there is not an inch to breath... put it this way in the front seat there was the driver and both of us sat on 2 seats so every time the driver wanted to change gear Nic had to keep pulling herself up as she was practically sat on the gear box and each time it stopped for a toilet stop Marc had to get out to stretch his legs as they were up against the windscreen! In the back seat there were 5 people which normally should fit 3 and on the back of the pick-up there were that many people we lost count, coupled with extra people jumping on along the way and the boxes piled up high.  Anyway, off we went with all our Cambodian friends in the most tightly packed pick-up ever and we were both over the moon when we overtook the bus which we would have got on. We found out later from a couple we knew that had travelled on the bus, that it actually broke down going up one of the hills and they all had to get out and walk up to wait for it to be fixed so at least we had taken the better option! The pick-up truck took us as far as one of the towns and then we had to jump on the back of a farming vehicle for the rest of our journey to Kratie! As you can see from the picture Nic looks made up with the Air-Con!

The pickup from Snoul to Kratie!
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Local kid with the catch of the day!
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Kratie & the Freshwater Irrawaddy Dolphins that inhabit the Mekong River!

The main reason for visiting Kratie was to see the Irrawaddy Dolphins. The Dolphins used to live all the way along the Mekong in high numbers through Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam, however, these days due to a number of reasons (War, the Pol Pot regime hunted them for their oils and lazy locals use grenades in the river to fish!) the numbers have diminished and they are now on the endangered species list. There is great effort being made to get the number back up. As some of you will probably know it is a nightmare job trying to catch a Dolphin on a camera when they come up for air and it wasn’t any different for us. But, we have included one of the better pics that shows a Dolphin, you will have to enlarge it to make the Dolphin out from the water! It was great and a bit strange to grasp that there are Dolphins in the River after we have both only ever seen then in the open Sea. We managed to see a good group of them playing and were quite surprised we seen so many. Kratie turned out to be a bit more than just the Dolphins as we hired a couple of bicycles to go to see them which took us on one of the most beautiful roads through a couple of cool villages and we both have never said hello to so many children before!
On the way back from the Dolphins we stopped off at a place called meditation mountain. It is'nt high only about 200m but it was a real killer in the miday sun, climbing up what felt like a thousand steps. This was a great viewing point as we were able to see the Mekong River from up high. At the top we also bumped into these three local kids that were eager to practice their english, so we used this opportunity to have a rest at the top and chat to them for a while. We were going to just take a picture of the three of them but they said that in Cambodia it is unlucky to be in the middle of three when taking a photo. So Marc jumped in to stop any superstition!

At the entrance to the Mekong River Dolphins!
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Our best picture of the Dolphins! They were quick
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Marc taking a dip in the Mekong rapids!
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Nic in the Mekong river with the great views!
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View from Meditation mountain!
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The kids learning english at the Mountain top!
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Sihanoukville – On the beach in Cambodia!

After traveling to see the Dolphins we decided to head south down to the beach to catch some rays for a few days. The beaches were amazing and the sea was so much clearer than Vietnam.  The actual beach was called Serendipity Beach with a strip of over 30 plus bars and restaurants along the front plus lots more behind the beach. We happened to meet up with a great couple from Germany (Nils and Nikki) who we had first met in Phnom Penh. It turned into a boozy few days, one of which was spent on a Booze Cruise! On the way to the island on this booze cruise we were seriously starting to think we were getting a bit too old for all this malarkey of booze cruising!! However once good old Vladimir got flowing we were well into the swing of it. We stopped off at some cliffs and as you will see from the photographs Marc was the only brave one out of us that made the Jump! After seeing the size of the sea urchins (which you will see in the photos) Nic was quite happy to stay on board with Valdimir! After the cliffs we were taken to the most gorgeous deserted beach and we had a lovely bbq, played frizzby, swam in the sea and drank some more with our new found friends. We would like to thank Nils and Nikky for a great day out. Here are the photos of our time on the on beach in Cambodia…

1st night at the beach!
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Enjoying the sunset with a few drinks!
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Marc contemplating the jump!!
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Marc takes the jump off the cliff face!
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Marc survives the jump!
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Nils also braves the dizzy heights!
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The boat driver dives for some sea urchins to eat!
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Some one got spiked by one of these in their toe!

The booze cruize boat at the secluded island!
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The other view of the secluded beach!!
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Enjoying the perfectly clear waters!
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Marc and Nic enjoying the relax in the sea!
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Marc enjoying a few beers on the beach!
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Updated 15/01/08

Hi All!

 

Were writing part of this while sat on a bus in Cambodia traveling to Sen Monorom, in the Cambodian Mountains and we can only think that the bus was made to fit the small physiques of the Cambodians as there is barely room to breath!! They have even put chairs into the middle of the aisle so there is now 5 people in each row and what makes it worse we are on this thing for 10 hours! (After writing this and now having arrived in Sen Monorom the bus journey actually took 13 hours!!!) Well we just have enough arm space to write this so that should help kill some of the journey hours at least!

 

Before entering Cambodia we traveled back to Saigon for 3 more nights and we both still felt that Saigon was as cool as we thought it was when we first arrived for 1 night before heading off to the beach. Life in Saigon is at a fast and furious speed but if you don’t mind that for a few nights there is definitely plenty of fun to be had and a fascinating history to look into.

 

Here are a few of the things we got up to while in Saigon….

 

The War Remnants Museum

 

Like probably everyone else that obviously wasn’t in Vietnam during the war we had our own preconceptions and ideas from movies and the press of what the Vietnam War was all about, but, visiting this unbelievable museum leaves you with absolutely no delusions of exactly what it was like! There is one huge section devoted to the International Photographers who spent the last few days of their lives recording with photography the horrific sites that was witnessed by everyone in Vietnam at the time. The stories in the museum are not all one sided but includes accounts from the victims from both sides. To be honest some of the stories and photographs are really horrific and we can’t think of many people that could travel through this museum without being horrified by what really went on. There is also a section in which you watch a video of what they now call Agent Orange (wide spread use by the Americans of chemical herbicides) and how the country is now still hugely affected by deformities of new born babies from people who were to come into contact with any of the widespread use of Agent Orange. The herbicides were used to clear the forested area that the Vietcong were hiding in and also to stop them being able to produce the foods they were growing to keep the Vietcong fighting. It extremely back fired on the U.S as not only is it still hugely effecting Vietnam (which the U.S are only now starting to own up to) but is also having huge effects on their own soldiers. Anyway all in all it would be unbelievable that anyone traveling to this museum could ever consider going or bringing a country to war in the future! A trip that our American friend Bush and our old P.M Blair would have benefited from!!

The tank outside the Museum!
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Various bombs on show!
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Inside the Museum!
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One of the planes on display!
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The entrance to the torture jails on show!
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Cu-chi Tunnels

 

We had read quite a bit about the Cu-chi Tunnels and with being to the War Remnants Museum the day before we were really looking foreword to seeing how the Viet Cong had survived, fought and won in these underground tunnel networks during the war! On the way to the tunnels we first visited a factory where some of the victims of Agent Orange were working to create all types of beautiful furniture and painting etc. From a wooden block they were able to create some amazing and beautiful items. This was done by sanding, shaping, adding layers of eggshell and mother of pearl and then etching painting into the item. Here is their website that includes loads more info. www.27-7.com.vn/handicraft/index.html

 

From here we moved onto to the tunnels where we paid 70,000 Dong entrance fee before going into a demonstration about the Viet Cong and the tunnel network. This was very interesting as the guide doing the presentation was Ex-American military based at the Saigon River base during the war. He was originally from South American and was brought to the war to fight against the Viet Cong, he later told us that the American left him there and he was eventually arrested and imprisoned for 4 years. Due to this reason he was able to give us a fare account of the history of both sides.

 

The tunnel system was started by the Viet Minh as a response to the war against the French. The Town of Cu-chi was chosen due to its location and the red clay earth that over time of more and more bombing would become stronger rather than weaker due to the heating of the clay. Over a period of 25 years the tunnels had developed into a network of over 250 km! Consisting of multiple level tunnels with living quarters, kitchens, trapdoors, links to the surrounding rivers and even Hospitals.  It is amazing to think how the Viet Cong lived for weeks or even months on end as the original diameters of the tunnels were only 50 centimeters wide by 30 centimeters high. After the demonstration we were taking on a tour of the area. The same guide took us around and explained every aspect of the network system and how they lived and fought down there as we passed excavated areas of the original tunnels. We were also shown some of the booby traps that the Viet Cong had created in the jungle to kill and injure the Americans and they were a bit gruesome to say the least! After all of this we then had the chance to get down and dirty in the tunnel systems and it was claustrophobic to say the very least. These have been adapted for us fat westerners however they were still small enough that where as Nicola could crouch and walk through Marc literally had to get on his hands and knees to get through them! Needless to say we got out at the 1st exit rather than carrying on to the final point! One guy actually had a panic attack and backed up to get out of the tunnel as quickly as possible.

Agent orange victim working at the factory
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The workers at the factory!
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Paddy fields on the way to the Cu chi tunnels!
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A demonstration showing the various bases!
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A model of the tunnel network!
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Excavated original tunnels!
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One of the traps used to injure or kill the enemy!
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Tank left during the war!
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Guide demonstrating the door trap!
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Another gruesome trap! Ouch!
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One of the many Bomb craters on show!
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Worried face on the way into the tunnels!
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Entrance to the Westerner size tunnel!
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Here are some of the Photos of us just hanging out round Saigon including Marc with his new friends playing football in the park… We both had a right laugh looking back these photos as Marc looks like a giant compared to the small Vietnamese!!

Saigon at night!
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One of the many parks in Saigon!
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These guys are over twenty years old!!
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MOTO madness in Saigon!
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Mekong Delta

 

From Saigon we traveled down through the Mekong Delta and along the Mekong River by boat into Cambodia. It was amazing and lived up to being exactly like all those images you can imagine…Landscapes of green rice paddy fields being labored on by local ladies wearing the traditional straw cone shaped hats, floating markets, floating villages and everywhere the brown canals of the mighty Mekong weaves its way through. It was totally fascinating to watch the local boat community who solely live on boats; you will see from our photographs how they bath, drink, fish, go to the toilet and cook using the water from the Mekong!

Traveling along on the Mekong we stopped at a rice paper factory where Marc had a go at making the rice paper. The local lady who had been doing it for 30 years plus didn’t seem to be overly impressed by Marcs efforts, never-the-less we all tried a piece of Marc’s rice paper and it definitely tasted better than it looked! We were then offered snake rice wine to help wash it down, we had both been dying to try the local rice wine in Vietnam which is made using rice and containing a full snake, we need not have bothered as it tasted like crap and was strong enough to put hairs on your chest!!

 

Hotel – “Same, same…. but very different!”

 

This is now our new saying. The village where we stayed before crossing the boarder with Cambodia is called Chau Doc. As we drove through the village we passed a 5 star hotel at which point a couple of us sarcastically asked our Vietnamese guide if that was the hotel that we would be staying at for the night, the guide hilariously replied back “Oh same, same… but very different!” As it happened it was very different but very clean which is the main thing! In fact it was the first time we have had the luxury of having a fridge in our room, however, we ended up having to turn the bloody thing off in the middle of the night because it was so loud, but hey it was still a fridge!

 

The section of the Mekong just before crossing the boarder was out of this world and we will leave a few photos to do the talking….

On the start of our Mekong river tour!
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Some of the floating market!
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Church on the Mekong!
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Marc trying out the rice paper making!
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Marc trying out the Snake rice wine..Nice!
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Pop rice with sugar. This was delicious!
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Locals on boats along the Mekong!
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We all had to get to the front of the boat....
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Because of it being low tide!

We had a performance during lunch!
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The ovens where they are making bricks!
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The Ferry crossing before we get to the hotel!
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On our rowing boat the next morning!
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Marc with the view ahead!
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Enjoying the boat ride!
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Playing keepup in the Minority village!
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On the last leg of the tour off to the border!
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Locals sorting out there fishing nets!
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House on the edge of the river!
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Duck farm on the mekong!
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Having lunch inbetween collecting rice!
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Cone hats just visable over the paddy fields!
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Water Buffalo!
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More locals on there boat!
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Local keeping up with the boat!
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Making the most of the Mekong, washing clothes!
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Local houses on stilts!
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Last boat to the border!
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We make it to the border!
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Next stop Cambodia!

Pictures from Mui Ne Beach

The Sunset on Mui ne Beach!
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View of the beach from the resort!
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More View of the beach from the resort!
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Nothing better than relaxing with a beer!!
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The fat cows on the beach!!
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Marc jumps in! Everyone else jumps out!!
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Marc relaxing after a long walk down Mui Ne Beach
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View of the Fishing Village after the walk!
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At the restaurant where we are staying!
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The manic roads outside the resort!
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The fisherman nearly caught Marc in the net!
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The start of the night at the Jibes bar!
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We met some friends and the beer was flowing!
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Celebrating the New Year with Luke and Marie!
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Celebrating New Year doing the fire dance!
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Both enjoying the clock striking 12!
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Looking back at the party as the Sun comes up!
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Walking back in the early hours of New Year!
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The locals fishing close to our resort!
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Heavy work bringing in the catch!
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The local chucks out the unwanted Jellyfish!
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Local starting to sort out the catch!
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Who gets what!
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Our beach bungalow!
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Marc sporting his new hair doo!!
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After a struggle with the Barbers!!

Good Morning Vietnam!!!!!

 

Hi Everyone!

 

We hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and New Years Eve, and the hangovers weren’t too bad!!

 

Our mission to be on the beach for Christmas has been fulfilled...Happy Days!!

 

We flew from Kunming in South China to Hanoi and then took an onward flight to Saigon with Vietnam Airlines. As soon as we disembarked the first flight in Hanoi the wonderful tropical temperatures hit us (and a few mosquitoes too...!) and the coldness of China was soon forgotten!

 

We had heard tales about Saigon airport being a wee bit nightmarish due to the fact that all of the taxi drivers are a bit on the corrupt  side and assure you they are taking you to the hotel you ask for and then drop you off at their mates hotel in the middle of nowhere where they are making a bit of commission. Apparently this is the big scam that goes on in Saigon, well, if it is we didn’t see any of it. The airport was great, quite modern, straight forward and as we walked through customs there was no hassle from anyone (probably the least hassle we have had since arriving at any of the airports!). Calmly sat in the back of a cab we were taken straight to the door of our hostel.

 

Motorbikes here, Motorbikes there, Motorbikes every where!!

 

The roads of Saigon are like nothing on earth and we have both never seen so many motor bikes in our lives! In parts there is just a constant buzz of motorbikes noise... were not complaining, in fact, quite the opposite it just adds to the whole fantastic craziness which is Saigon. We only had one night due to the fact we were catching a four hour bus journey to Mui Ne beach the next day, however, on the 6th of Jan we are traveling back to Saigon and using that as our base to travel down to the Mekong Delta, Cuchi Tunnels and then finally over the border to Cambodia. We wont dwell to much at this stage on Saigon as like we say we are going to spend more time there and our feelings might change, however as it stands at present we both loved our mad night in Saigon and cant wait to get back! Which were sure when we do it will hold a few more stories...

 

Sun, Sea and of course Sand!!

 

We booked our bus journey through our hostel but you can book them in bars, cafes and pretty much all over the show. It’s really cheap too, just 4 usd each for the 4 hour journey to Mui Ne. They are called open tour bus tickets and they go pretty much all over Vietnam and apparently quite a lot quicker than taking a train, which, by what we can fathom doesn’t go to a great deal of places off the beaten track. Considering the cost of the ticket, the bus was brand spanking with lovely air con which was a blessing due to the fact the temp was well into the 90’s. We have to say though we have now seen some of the other buses they use for the open tours and lets just say they weren’t as new! At the place’s were you buy the tickets you can ask to see photographs of the coaches they use and that’s probably a good idea! The driver was a little erratic at times but given the roads and motorbikes they have to contend with were not too surprised...!

 

Mui Ne Beach in a nutshell is a long stretch of palm lined glorious white sandy beach. The wonderful thing about it is that it has not yet been besieged with any huge hotel chains so the beach resorts are smaller resorts and some are family run, like the one we are staying in (Thai Ho). The accommodation at Thai Ho is such a huge life away from the hostels in China. We have got our own private beach bungalow complete with air con and all for 7 pounds a night so 3 pound 50 each and were right on the beach...! The great thing about Mui Ne beach is that it isn’t just all tourists. As the sun goes down you get to watch the local villagers pulling in the nets that we had watched them cast earlier and then distributing the fish between all of the individuals that have helped from the village. It’s a real team effort and pretty much all of their neighbours help, they also don’t mind a helping hand from the tourists from time to time as you will see from the photo’s! The other mad thing you get to see is the young farmers taking their cows and water buffalos for a walk down the beach, we have to say though they do get a bit close for comfort sometimes and you can be lying on your lounger one minute and then have a cow licking you toes the next...Well not that close but you catch our drift!

 

Talking about fish, the food here has been amazing and where as in China we probably lost a few inches off the waist line we don’t think there is much chance of that here. In most restaurants you can go up and choose a fish from the catch of the day and they will then cook that in front of you on the BBQ! Were also becoming a bit addicted to the old sticky rice as well.. and all of this for nothing more than 2 pound. We could definitely get use to the food here but maybe not the bats!!! One evening we hired a couple of push bikes to ride into town to have a few beers and watch a bit of footie only to find when we came out of the bar that we had a puncture so had to walk pushing the bikes back to our bungalow, which, probably took two hours. It would have taken us a bit longer apart from the fact we were getting dive bombed by the biggest fruit bats on record which meant we were moving at quite a pace! The other way of getting about here is by jumping on the back a motorbike. The drivers then take you to where ever you want. We have got to say we have only done this twice and when we had been out for a couple because it’s a bit on the scary side, but everyone does it and apparently its the norm in Vietnam!

 

Christmas Eve was spent at a beach party (infact the whole of Christmas was spent at a beach party!) at a surfers bar called Pogo’s. We paid 12 usd which included 100 Liters of beer and a BBQ. The only problem was they had brought the barrels in from a local town by road only an hour or so before everyone arrived, so you can imagine it was a case of do you want a flake in that love! After a bit of flapping the staff got it sorted out and a great night was had by all, apart from the Russians that we thrashed at Pool!!! However, the New Years Eve party was one to be remembered. It was at a place called Wax which is based right on the beach. There was a huge fire on the beach and everyone dancing to the live DJ. It was an all night do and we all stayed up while the waves crashed on the sand and watched the sun come up for 2008...!

 

Okay were off to get a drink or two and get out of the heat of this room where the internet is... Will be back in touch when we arrive in Saigon...

 

All the best for the New Year!!

 

Marc & Nic xxx

 

P.S Photos will be downloaded tomorrow or at least as soon as we can. The internet here is soooooooooo slow!!

The only things in life you regret are the things you don't do!