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zondag 29 maart 2009

Last days

Alas, all good things must come to an end. And in general way to soon. I'm writing to you with a jetlagged mind in the comfort of my own chair. Although traveling is always fun, it feels good to just sit here. Unfortunately I've got to work tomorrow, ... but that's tomorrow.

Before flying back, we still had two more days in Hanoi. Hammy filled these by going on a mad shopping spree with my sister, to which I was allowed to tag along. The result was a score of gifts for ourselves, family and friends. Most of it was taken up by clothing. Hammy got herself about 20 new pieces of clothes, most of which was tailor-made at two stores named Le Soleil and Countryside Silk (near the St. Joseph Cathedral). She also bought a designer dress in a shop named Cocoon (30 Pho Nha Chung, Nha Tho Area), in which she looks absolutely gorgeous. It has a traditional Southeast Asia cut, but with a modern twist. As for myself, I get a few shirts and three suits made by the best tailor in Hanoi, Minh Quang (175 Phùng Húng).

In between shopping, we paused for a visit to the Love Chocolate Café (26 To Ngoc Van, Tây Hồ). As the name suggests they specialize in chocolate. For those who know me: it doesn't get any better than this, I swear. The inside design is a bit kitch, but the service and the calm more than makes up for that. And the chocolate! Hot chocolate with banana flavor, chocolate pudding, intense brownies, chocolate cake with coffee sauce, chocolate chip cookies, ... and that's only what we had! Mmmmh, chocolate.

The first day was rounded off by drinks at Minh's Jazz Club. Minh can be considered to be the father of jazz in Vietnam. He started listening to jazz during a time when that kind of music wasn't on the radar in the country. Moreover his father was afraid he might attract negative attention by the communist party by listening to it. Minh studied the classics by day, and jazz in secret by night. Eventually he played a concert in the capital in front of an audience that had some influence. He kept to the traditional repertoire, except for the last song. This song started out like a classic, which he then flipped into a jazz rendering. At firtst the people were taken aback, but after the initial shock he got a thundering aplause. Since he has been playing, recording and teaching jazz. For the last twelve years he also runs his own bar. Every night there is live music, performed by now established names and up-and-comers. This particular evening we saw amongst others, Minh's son perform. The repertoire was a mixture of local and American jazz. I made a little video, which I'll be posting on online somewhere soon.

The second day we had an excellent brunch at the Sofitel Metropole. This hotel was originally build by the French during rule of Ino-China in 1901, and is therefore a prime example of colonial art. It was then, as it is now, one of the finest luxury hotels of Vietnam, with rooms price between €200 and €500 a day. Surprisingly enough, they offer a brunch package which is very good value for money. These brunches are priced €15 to €20, for which you get an offering of assorted imported cheeses from Europe, pâtés, a sushi bar, caviar, a main dish (we had rabbit and langoustine), and a desert bar. For what is considered in Europe to be a bit more expensive than student prices, you can stuff yourself from 11h till 16h on excellent food, in a little oasis of calm.

In the evening my sister took us to some back-alley projects near the Westlake to a local sculptor of Buddhas. For the measly price of 800 000 VND (about €30) we were able to buy a 20 year old statue of more or less 50 cm high. It used to serve in an actual temple. These sculptors have got a deal with several temples to provide them with new statues at a lower price, in exchange for which they are allowed to resell the old ones. The woman who sold it to us, told my sister that we got a significant reduction in price because of sis's vietnamese roots. I would like to thank my little sibling at this point for the trouble she went through in letting us stay at her place (the same goes for her boyfriend of course) and for letting us schlepp her around during the shopping quest. She has been instrumental in showing us the good stuff and in negotiating the fairest prices. I'm sure she saved us a lot of money. So, again, thanks baby sis.

As I said in the beginning of this post, all good things must come to an end. That evening we packed and the next morning we were off to Hanoi airport for our first transfer to Singapore. The only thing we couldn't fit in our luggage was the wrapped up Buddha (the skinny serene version by the way, not the happy fat one). Hammy has been going on about buying ever since we decided going on this trip. Needless to say she was extremely happy we were able to get our hands on a semi-antique. She carried the statue like a baby during the entire trip. Upon embarking in Hanoi, right before we would be passing immigration, an office stopped us. She asked to check if the statue would fit into the overhead compartments in the plane. The Buddha is sitting on a lotus flower, making the base just a little to big to fit. She told us we would need to check it in. Hammy pleaded that it would get damaged and that we would make it work and that afterwards we were taking an international flight where there would be more room. The officer must have seen the despair in her eyes, because eventually she let us pass.

After 5 hours we arrived at Singapore airport, where we needed to wait for 6 hours to catch our connecting flight. Luckily the airport is quite big, so we were able to wail away time visiting the orchid garden, the butterfly garden, buying shoes for Hammy, getting a new gadget for me (iPod Touch, damn my sister's boyfriend and his iPhone gadgety goodness), and take a swim up on the roof. At midnight local time we got on board, and about 14 hours later (with a trip of 6 hours back in time) we were back in Europe. I got a little time left to just chill and do nothing, waiting for my kitties to get back home (I'll be glad to see them). The only question that remains now, is: where will be going next time?

woensdag 25 maart 2009

Ha Long Bay

Last weekend we (I, my girlfriend, my sister and her boyfriend) spent an evening and half a day with my sister's biological family in a village about 15 km outside of Hanoi. As always we were greeted with a warm welcome, which (of course) included an enormous amount of food and quite a lot of alcohol. There's no better way for fraternizing with the uncles than getting drunk together on the home-brewed ricewine. They call it wine but it's actually hard liquor containing at least 50% alcohol. It's always a bit surreal visiting them. They're my extended family in a way, and I'm treated as such, yet at the same time they're not really family. I know all the faces, I recognize kids that have grown since the last time I've seen them, so it all feels familiar. On the other hand I don't see them enough to be able to create an actual bond. Plus there is the language barrier. Nonetheless, surreal or not, I've had a lovely stay, and it was nice to see everybody again. My sis' big sister has gotten married in the meantime and is raising a ... well to be honest, a rather chubby little boy, who's absolutely delightful. The kid brother has turned into a rather tall young man and the little nieces have become charming young women. It's been six years since the last time I was here, and it'll probably be a lot longer before I'll come back. So, we need to bring grandma over to Belgium in the near future, now that we still can, for to experience a European culture shock and to see where she sent her granddaughter so many years ago.

Monday morning Hammy and started a 3 day-2 nights tour of Ha Long bay. Ha Long is a UNESCO World Heritage site and the site for the James Bond movies The man with the golden gun and Tomorrow never dies. It's a very typical thing to do in Vietnam, but that doesn't make the bay less beautiful. The problem you might have, is choosing the best option out of the myriad possibilities to visit the site. There are hundreds of travel agencies and hotels offering cruises. And all of them offer more or less the same thing, ranging from prices between $30 to $300. The more or the less can be found in slight variations of the itinerary, but most importantly in the services and levels of luxury that are offered. Although you have to take the 'brochures' with a grain of salt. You never really get what they say. Hence the expression 'same same but different' (those of you that have been to South-East Asia recently know what I mean). First of all, although there a gazillion different agencies, the're actually all working together in some way or other. At every tour we've done, we got lumped together with people from 'other' tours. That doesn't really pose a problem as such, but a little intellectual honesty up front wouldn't hurt. We were promised seafood dinner and lunches. To us that means an abundance of crabs, shellfish, squid, etc. To them it meant two scampis and some squid. There were two french girls who had been promised foot massages on board. No foot massages. We and a Canadian couple paid for a double room, upon arrival on the boat the guide just asked who would like a double room like it was up for auction. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Of all the choices we had we settled for a tour with one day and night on a junk, and the second day and night in a bungalow on Monkey Island for the modest amount of $95 per person. In total this made $190 or 3 325 000 vietnamese dong. Being in Vietnam makes you feel like a millionaire sometimes.

After a three-hour bus drive we arrived in Ha Long city. The harbour there is completely filled with boats, almost all of them now are styled after the old style junks. Although the weather forecasts were favorable, the sky was cloudy and grey. During the morning we could only make out the silhouettes of the islands around is in the dense fog. We boarded the boat and after the room lottery we ate (not so seafood) lunch. There were a little less than twenty other people with us. All of them (Germans, Canadians, French, Singaporese, Australian, Vietnamese) quite nice (apart from our guide, who was an annoying pushy twat), so that was an added bonus. After lunch the fog had lifted somewhat. After a small kayaking excursion, there was an opportunity to enjoy the surrounding scenery on deck. Ha Long Bay is made up of an enormous amount of islets (and a couple of bigger islands) with varying sizes. These islets are made up of dissoluted layers of limestone giving the area a particular shape and feel. These limestone karsts (as they are called) consist of pointy rocks with trees and bushes growing on top of them. It's quite amazing to see how these plants have found a way to grow on such a barren surface. In that afternoon gloom with low hanging fog in the distance, they had this very special twilight zone look to them. Unfortunately there wasn't any sun, but fortunately this also gave an extremely cool effect cruising round the bay.

The next day we were dropped off at Cat Ba Island for a small trek to the summit of the Viet Hai mountain. Being part of large group, which had to follow a guide gave it a bit of a school outing kinda vibe at first, but we quickly forgot about that when the climb became steeper and steeper. At first there were rocky steps, along the way these steps became craggy rocks. Again, it was fortunate not to be too warm that day. On the summit we could climb a rickity rusted promontory, which was missing a landing at the top. The view was exceptional from up there.

In the afternoon we were dropped off at our bungalow resort on Monkey Island. And the first thing we see while walking to our bungalow, was a monkey chilling on the gravel road. That afternoon was extremely chill. The resort is entirely made out of bamboo and is situated on a small beach in a secluded hamlet. Peace and quiet all over. Just around the corner of a large rock there are a few other beaches where the other tourists are dropped for a short visit, but the they stay on their side. This creates the illusion of a small paradise, especially since only we and another couple were staying there for the night. Up until the moment when they guys from the bar decided to blast nineties style crappy house music. I was obliged to ask them to turn it off.

In summary, our trip was absolutely lovely. OK, there were a few details service wise that could have been better and some of the things that were promised weren't delivered, but on the whole I think we got good value for money. Now we've only got a few more days left in Hanoi to do some last minute shopping (including tailor made suits) and to check out Minh's Jazz Café.

zondag 22 maart 2009

More Hanoi

Before I get into the next part of our stay, I still need to tell you something that happened before we left for Sapa. Lil Sis proposed to use her bike while exploring Hanoi. I've got a driver's licence for a car, but I've never really driven a motorbike. It didn't seem too difficult, however a little training couldn't hurt. During the evening we drove to a secluded area where the expats live. As expected, controlling the machine wasn't that difficult. After a few laps I was confident enough to use her bike the next day. She let me drive back to her appartment. The road in front of us was almost empty. At this point I got a bit cocky. We were driving at 60 km/h when I saw people in front swerving to the left. Because of the bad lighting I couldn't really see why. There seemed to be a darker patch in the middle of the road. I thought it was a pothole. In order to avoid it I moved to the right. Wrong choice. Someone had put a large metal grille covering the entire right side of the road, which I only by the time it was too late. Next thing I know we're on the ground. Luckily we didn't get hurt too much. Lil Sis got a cut on her leg. I got several cuts on my hands and left leg, and my ribs are bruised. I learned my lesson though.

Anyway that was before leaving for Sapa, the cuts are healing and my ribs hurt a little less. Yesterday we visited my sister's Vietnamese family. I'll get back to that later. Right now it's time to get some rest. Tomorrow Hammy and I are getting up early for a 3 day visit of Ha Long Bay.

vrijdag 20 maart 2009

Sa Pa

Sapa is a village not to far from the Chinese border. The main attractions are the mountains and the local minorities that live there (e.g. the Black H'mong, Xa Pho, Muong). We took the local night train at 22h, in order to arrive at 6 in the morning in Lao Cai (situated on the Chinese border almost). From there we took a van to Sapa.

We did the traditional tour of three villages in order to visit the minorities. The walk in itself was very nice. Together with two other couples we walked in the mountains, saw a few local houses, and passed by rice terrasses. As for the minorities, it was more a case of us being watched than the other way round. The moment we arrived we got surrounded by people (mainly women) trying to sell us jewellery, bags, and clothes. The sales tactic is very simple. Be persistent. If you keep offering, they've got to buy something. Or so they thought.

We were supposed to trek through part of a bamboo forrest. One of the couples was Vietnamese. The man wore suit pants, his girlfriend wore a miniskirt. The walk through the bamboo was to difficult for her, forcing us to cut the funnest part of the day short. I hope she got blisters.

The second day we stayed near Sapa for a shorter hike up the Dragon's Claw mountain. Here it is possible to follow a stone path, making the climb less arduous. Since it was very hot, that worked out just fine. The same day we took the slightly more comfortable night train back to Hanoi.

Ha Noi - Day 1 & 2

In a way arriving in Hanoi was a relief after the busy streets of HCMC. More importantly, I got to see my little sister again. She's been living there since the beginning of last year, and I hadn't seen her since september. We're staying at her (small but comfy) apartment near the Westlake in the north of the city. This is in the Ho Tay district, which roughly translates to "­where the foreigners live".

The plane trip from HCMC to Hanoi was with a lowcost company called Jetstar. The flight was OK, but unfortunately the plane was constructed for Asian people, meaning no legroom for the big westerner. Anyway, we arrived in Hanoi and naturally we needed a cab. This has given us the opporunity to jack a local, instead of getting ripped off ourselves. A normal cab ride costs 230 000 vietnamese dong (roughly 10 euros). A minivan will take you to the centre (to a fixed spot) for 30 to 40 000 dong. There was a minivan outside who wanted to take us for 170 000 dong. For this price the driver would take us to the exact address. That seemed like a fair price, but only if the time he needed to drive us was reasonable as well. They tried to get us in the van quickly. Now, when people are telling me to "hurry up" to take a deal, I'm suspicious. I asked how long it would take. They told us 35 minutes, which is how long a normal taxi would take too. Eventually we got in. First everybody else was dropped off, then the driver didn't know where he had to go, thus taking a total time of 1h30. So, there was no way in hell we were paying 170K. The driver did not know this. My sister explained it to him in Vietnamese. Eventually we gave him 100K. Driver not very happy. After being rippee all the time, it felt good to be the ripper for once.

We've had a lovely two days in Hanoi, with my sis and her boyfriend, and visiting the city (the temple of literature, the ethnology museum, Ho Chi Minh's mausoleum, the One Pillar Pagoda, Ho Hoan Kiem). As for the people, I liked HCMC better I have to admit. HCMC is assailed by motorbikes, you have rivers of the them, making the city a very noisy and crowded place. In comparison Hanoi has hardly any traffic at all. But, the people in HCMC are more relaxed than in Hanoi, less "communist" I'd say. It doesn't really matter of course, since we're here mainly to see my sister.

zondag 15 maart 2009

Ho Chi Minh - Day 4

As expected, today was a lot more fun. Even though we spent most of the time in the bus, and the tour was just as touristy, the sights were a lot cooler.

After a four hour drive (for a mere 96 km) we arrived at the Cao Dai temple. Cao Dai is a mixture of Christianity, Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. One of their saints is Victor Hugo fro some reason. We visited their holy see in Tay Ninh. The main building is a prime example of the word kitsch. They've got dragons spiraling columns, a ludicrous amount of Divine Eyes, images of Buddha, Christ and Lao Tze; and all of this in exaggerated colors. Is it a must see? Not really, but you can't help leaving the place with a faint smile on your lips.

We then proceeded to the Cu Chi tunnels. During the Vietnamese-American War, US troops controlled Saigon. The Viet Cong controlled most of what was outside of the city. Their main camp was to be found at Cu Chi (or better never was found). The Vietnamese started digging tunnels at the start of their War of Independance, initially against the French. By the time the Americans came to play, an elaborate network was created in which the VC lived, cooked, studied and fought the ennemy. During the visit, we were shown a part of the tunnels (especially enlarged for us westerners), the erstwhile living conditions, and the cruel spiky traps they left for the GI's. Before the actual tour started a video was shown, with footage from the sixties. Pure old school propaganda about the American killers War Heroes and other victories. Brilliant. At the end of the tour there is a possibility to shoot with one of the guns that were used back in the day for about a dollar a pop. I couldn't resist the AK 47. I probably didn't hit a thing, but it was fun though.

That about wraps it up for our stay in HCMC. Tomorrow we'll be flying to Ha Noi.

zaterdag 14 maart 2009

Ho Chi Minh - Day 3

Today we did a one day tour of the Mekong Delta. That was not as interesting as anticipated. We started with an early rise at 6, and set off at 7.30 for a two hour busride. This was followed by a loud motorboat ride over the river near the village of My Tho. First stop was a beekeeper. We tasted honey tea (sweet and sticky, can't go wrong with that) and people could hold a huge snake. By this time I was started to feel like the typical tourist, no more like the teenager on a school trip that's preplanned. Naturally they tried to sell us honey. Next up: a boat trip to another island, where we saw how coccnut candy is made, where they tried to sell us, you guessed it, coconut candy. This was followed by a rowing boat trip, all down the same line, one after the other. And finally, after lunch, we got the chance to ride around an island on a bicycle. That at least was fun.

We fell once more into a dreadful tourist trap. Luckily we met some nice people on the bus: dutch travelers, a Belgian expat living in Shanghai with his American-Chinese girlfriend. Also an MC from Germany with the right attitude towards hip-hop (from the Gonzales Familia). It was a forced day of semi-rest in good company. That counts for something too I guess.

Tomorrow will be infintely more interesting. We'll be seeing the Cu Chi tunnels and the kitchiest religion on this planet, Cao Dai.

vrijdag 13 maart 2009

Ho Chi Minh City Day 1 & 2

In the meantime we've arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, (HCMC) Viet Nam, the former Saigon. But before I get to that I need to talk a little bit more about Cambodia.

The third day we did our last tour of the temples. This was pretty nice, but a bit unnecessary as well. In two days you can see all of the most interesting ones. On the other hand it was a pretty relaxed day. One of the reasons we did a third day was that we had a 3-day pass, another reason was the fact that the battery of our camera was dead the before right about when we were visiting Preah Khan. So, we went back there for the pics. I really enjoyed that temple for the same reason I liked Ta Prohm: the awesome sight of the strangler trees. These huge trees grow right next to or on top of buildings. Their reeds go round and/or insert themselves in the stones of the structures. The buildings become unstable, but eventually they're held together by the strangles. Pretty dope sight.

In the evening we went out for some entertainment and food to a place called the Dead Fish Tower. It was recommended heartily by the local tourist guide for the free apsara dancing (the ritual hotties for the Hindus) and crocodiles. Like fools we walked into the tourist trap. The resto is different, in that they got several plateaus on which you can be served, making it a bit special. But then you've had the most interesting part. The dancing is ok, but not that exceptional. I expected to see the crocs displayed somewhere in the center of the room, but no such luck. They're stuffed in a corner of the room. The positive part is that the animals come from a breeding farm that closed. Instead of setting them free, after which they get killed and turned into handbags, the Dead Fish takes care of them. Nevertheless, it was expensive. I wanted to see the dancing (fool that I was). The next day we saw a flyer of a daily free show by Cambodian orphans. So, if you ever go to Siem Reap, skip the Dead Fish and go help orphans instead.After dinner, we were tempted by a Thai/Khmer massage. That was pretty violent I must say. Not bad, just rougher than expected. But hey, who can say no to being manhandled by young chicks?

Conclusion of our stay: Cambodia isn't a country you'd readily think of going to. This, however, does not mean it isn't worth going. People are very friendly, selling tactics are not as agressive as say Egypt, and it's quite beautiful. I can only speak for what I've seen during a brief stay in essentially one town (and surroundings).

And now to Ho Chi Minh. You move one country and there is a world of difference. Your basic SE Asia-ness remains, but whereas Cambodia (or at least Siem Reap) is a slowly developing country, Vietnam is steadily on the rise. We went from a small town to a big city. You immediately get the big city vibe of course. The first thing we noticed was the cleanliness of the streets though. Siem Reap is very dusty and there's dirt and trash all over the place. HCMC is paved almost all the way and there is as good as no trash. The second thing we noticed was the amount of traffic on the road. Ten years ago Vietnam's cities were filled to the brim with bicycles. Every street was a river of bicycles. These have been replaced by motorcycles. And a growing number of cars, quite a few I can't afford. The last time I was here (in 2004 if I'm not mistaken), the motorcycles were not all that young and the known Western music was still mostly about the eighties. Nowadays most of the bikes are new and accessorized: colors ranging from white to pink, drawings on the side and all kinds and colors of helmets you can see. There are actually entire shops dedicated to helmets alone. Another thing I noticed is the change in clothing , mostly of women. Back in the day most women wore simple pants and (mainly see-through) shirts. Now there is all kinds of clothing. Music has been updated as well. They even got local hip-hop (sort of) and r&b acts. The city is bustling and economically on the rise, that's very clear. Strangely enough, everything here is a lot cheaper than in Cambodia. And Ha Noi is supposed to be even cheaper. So we're holding off buying stuff here.

Today we did the tour of the historical city, which included the General Post office, the municipal house, and the erstwhile Opera house. All of these are French colonial style buildings. We also saw the Reunification Hall and the War Remnants Museum. The Reunification Hall is the former presidential palace where the American puppet regime, led by President Diem, ruled the south before the viet cong seized/liberated (depending on the point of view) the city and the region. Again, my mistake. I already saw it, and I'd forgotten that it's actually quite lame. You just get to see the former presidential rooms, which have been preserved in an early sixties time-warp. The War Remnants Museum tells the story of the Vietnam/American War through the eyes of the communist regime. Absolutely brilliant just to see how "the glorious Vietnamese people" have overcome "America's war of sabotage against the reunification" of the country. It's being renovated right now, meaning the top levels weren't open. As a result Hammy didn't get to see the bottled Napalm babies which used to be here (she didn't mind that much).

Tomorrow we're doing a trip of the Mekong Delta. We'll be seeing floating markets, islands, honey rhum.

dinsdag 10 maart 2009

Cambodia - Day 2 and 3

We started our tour of the temples today with the classics: Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and Ta Prohm.

Most of the constructions were build between the end of the 12th and the end of the 13th century. The Angkor kingdom was at its height during that period and lasted until the beginning of the 17th century. After this time the power shifted to the Khmer in the South, present day Pnom Penh. The temples were lost to history until the French rediscoverd them in the 1850's. Most of them are either dedicated to Hindu gods or Buddha, sometimes both. Their most exquisite features are statues and bas-reliefs.

Amgkor Thom consists of a series of temples, of which the most interesting one is called Bayon. It is not extremely large, but it contains very nice bas-reliefs on the outer walls and huge faces on the towers. These faces point in the four cardinal directions and represent the four buddhist virtues. The basic idea is that they send out these virtues to the world. The buddhist equivalent of a beauty queen wishing for world peace (remember Miss Congeniality).

Angkor Wat is the biggest (and most famous) temple complex. I say complex because it used to be a religious village within the enclosure on itself. It has a moat, a huge causeway flanked by nagas (mythological mulit-headed snakes), and a very large temple. It's very nice, but a bit of a letdown after Angkor Thom. See it as the difference between the Koekelberg Cathedral in Brussels and St Gudule or the Antwerp Cathedral: one is huge and fairly simple, the other is intricate and detailed. I have to admit though that the bas-reliefs at Angkor Wat are quite impressive. Plus we got the see a monkey from upclose, that in itself made it worth the visit.

I'm not going to bore you with details from Ta Prohm. Suffice to say it was quite nice, but not as dope as the other two. But, when you're there it's worth the visit.

Since we're still recovering from jetlag we made it an early night after that.

Today we did another tour to some more temples: Bantaey Srei, Bantaey Samre, East Mebon, Ta Som, Neak Pean and Preah Khan. All of these were a lot smaller than the ones we did yesterday. They're less known, but that doesn't make them uglier. All well worth the visit. They had more of a nice and small character after the bombast of yesterday. Furthermore there were a heap less tourists, so we had some space and quiet. Those of you who want to know what they look like will have to wait for the pictures.

After a quick swim we'll be getting some food, we'll watch traditional apsara dancing (apsaras are supposed to be the hot chicks you get in heaven, as opposed to devadas who are chaste and no fun) and feed live crocodiles.

maandag 9 maart 2009

Cambodia - Day 1

Saturday morning Hammy and I took the plane at Schiphol Airport. The first time I went to Viet Nam (in 1996) with my family, it was with Singapore Airlines and it was brilliant. Since then I've been going on and on to Hammy about how good it was. For this reason we're flying with them again. The service hasn't changed a bit, in the sense that it was excellent once more. Very good service, proper food, ample leg room, and the hottest airhostesses in the business. Needless to say, Hammy (and me as well) was very pleased, especially since this her first time on a big plane. The 12 hours of flight were over in no time.

Our stop-over in Singapore was a bit of a letdown though. I had forgotten, or willfully blocked out, how expensive everything is. Even a simple coffee costs up to 8 euro.

Upon arrival in Siem Reap, Cambodia, it was excrutiatingly hot. Moreover, the pick-up driver which the hostel was supposed to arrange wasn't there. No biggy, we took a cab, but it didn't bode well for our stay. The cabbie told us he couldn't park in front of the hostel, because else he might get a fine from the cops. We needn't worry however, since he could drop us of only a street away. Naively we agreed. After zigzagging 5 streets we arrived at the hostel. The room we got is big enough, it's relatively clean (as hostels go) and we have a view on a pagoda. Plus, there's an indoor swimming pool. So, at least that's alright.

After checking in we did a tour of the city. Siem Reap is actually quite small. In one afternoon we have seen most of what there is to see. We see practically all the markets, one of the 5 pagoda's and the former Royal gardens. Apart from that, there's only the Angkor history musem and the miniature temple complex. So basically we got it covered.

Today we started our tour of the Angkor temples, but that's a story for another post. I'm going to take a swim now.

vrijdag 6 maart 2009


We are mere hours away now from the holidays. Tommorow at 11 o'clock Hammy and I shall be flying to fair Cambodia, and from there on to Viet Nam. I'm finishing up my day of work. So ... the good times start now!