I think this is a link to photos that’s I’ve put up on Facebook from my trip:
First impressions of Thailand:
The line to get you passport stamped is really long. I shouldn’t complain because I didn’t have to send away for/pay for a visa. But it was looooong.
The highways are nice and well-developed and OMG they drive of the wrong side of the road!
There was cow’s milk in my banana corada (sic). That’s it. I’m leaving.
Just now, leaving Batambang for Bangkok. Some reflections on Cambodia:
1) Every city I’ve been in is under construction. There are roadworks happening all over and buildings going up or being renovated. Big piles of dirt all over the place. As my tour guide reminds us: Cambodia is a young country, only 15 years since they’ve been without war. They are now able to grow.
2) All the children wave at us as we walk by, or pass in a tuk-tuk. Or visit a shop. Two adorable toddlers at the rice noodle making place yesterday were delighted to see us. Kids also wave from motorcycles as they pass our tuk-tuk. This makes me nervous as they should be using their hands to hold on to the parent/driver of the motorcycle. Few adults were helmets and no kids do.
3) More cars than in Vietnam: lots of Toyota Camrys.
In Batambang, Cambodia for a little less than 24 hours. Tomorrow will be the trip to Thailand. And the flying home the day after that!
Batambang is cooler than anywhere else we’ve been. As context, I’ve worn the same outfit all day instead of having to change due to clothes being drenched in sweat. Also, Julie and I have had out air conditioning going full blast is every hotel we’ve been in, but I got back to the room today and it seemed a little too cool. We were met with a downpour as we made our way from lunch to our hotel, so that may have cooled things.
Tuk-tuk tour of Batambang.
We visited rice paper making place, bamboo steamed rice making place (yum), rice noodle making place. Drove by the fish paste making place. Took a ride on the bamboo train, which is something a tourist is obligated to do here. The bamboo train is a platform made of bamboo, with wheels from American tanks, and a motorcycle motor. We sat on the platform on a banana leaf mat and small cushions, and a driver raced us through the wilderness… untill we’d come across another car coming the other direction, at which time we’d disembark so our driver could disassemble our car to let the other go by. We had to do this a few times on the way out: the ultimate destination was a village of children trying to sell us bracelets and drinks.
The ride back was quicker, as we only had to stop once to do the car-switch. On the way there it was three or four times.
The bamboo train won’t last much longer. It is based on the disused tracks p from the old Cambodian train system, and this is going to be rebuilt starting within the next couple of years.
Recipe for bamboo sticky rice: put sticky rice, coconut milk, beans in bamboo pipe. Cook in fire for an hour. Peel bamboo away. Eat delicious sticky rice. (There are a few details I missed as I was consuming a sample while our guide spoke.)
Yesterday and today was the Angkor Wat complex, including the Angkor Wat temple and a whole bunch of other old temples.
My camera battery ran out just as we entered the big show – Angkor Wat so that made me a bit grumpy. But I pulled out my phone! So I’ve been able to dump a bunch up on to Facebook (ahead of getting home and going through all the photos from my camera)
Visiting the temples was interesting. The are all old and in ruins. All very well maintained and organized for tourists, though. The best (worst?) part was climbing horribly steep steps to get to the top of the ruins. Most had wooden ones constructed over top of the ancient ones. The first temple we went to, however, did not. (I’ll find the name of the one later..). The original steps are shallow, and about 2 feet high? (Julie- confirm if you read this!) (EDIT: Julie says they were three feet high! And there were huge spiders chasing us!) (EDIT 2: Julie didn’t really say that: the stairs came up to about her knee, maybe a foot and a half). So I climbed up like a monkey, using my hands. And on the way down I cried a bit, and sat on each step. OK -I was able to step down after the first couple, but I had to scootch myself to the edge of the first. These stairs are very steep.
There were some amazing story-telling carvings, which I like but didn’t have enough time to study thoroughly. They are the stories of the gods (Hindu and Buddhist) and I’m not familiar with any of them. But this was a good introduction.
The pictures tell a better story than my words. I’ll post some at a later date. (Hopefully I will be able to remember which ruins is which. I saw quite a few.)
Today my tour group and I are on a road trip to Siem Riep. The first stop was at a market for bathroom break and I tried deep-fried spider and a squat toilet. Adventurous day.
A twelve-year-old girl speaking perfect English tried to sell me bananas, but we aren’t supposed to buy things from the cute kids so I had to decline, even though she said the money would help her go to school. Who knows where the money would actually go.
The Killing Fields
I have yet to fully process. There is nothing I can say.
The Genocide Museum
This was a high school that was turned into a prison during the Khmer Rouge regime and then turned into a museum.
I shook hands and took photos with 2 survivors. They are old now and sell books to tourists that tell their stories.
Mekong Delta was yesterday. This was the last day of the Vietnam part of the trip and the last day with our tour group. As such, we had Final Dinner last night, which included a game of “Secret Buddha” – Secret Santa only we’re in SE Asia. So. I stole and bargained for my present- but I don’t think anyone wanted it as much as me – a purple pouch with “Vietnam” stitched on. There was a lantern and other stuff for the taking too. I’ve written too much about this.
The Mekong Delta tour was well organized. Our first stop on the river was the coconut candy making place, which I Enjoyed Very Much. Coconut candy is great. I also liked leaning more examples of how Vietnamese use up the whole coconut in the process (the shells used in the fire used the cook the candy, etc). I like crafty processes.
The candy making place also included another rice paper making place, and a python that we were free to wear on our shoulders and take pictures. I felt comfortable not participating in this.
After eating and buying coconut candy (because that happened, too) we had a ride in Vietnamese Mercedes’ (which is like a small pick-up truck with motorcycle). These took us to the tropical fruit place (many samples) and then to lunch (so much good food). Vietnamese-sharing style (many dishes served one at a time, one plate between 4 or 6 of us – we put portions of each into our own little bowl). This started with fishy salad rolls, where a whole fried fish was brought out in a stand, and the served picked off meat to add to the rolls. 2 each but I had 4 because Julie didn’t like hers. Then soup, and a chicken in sauce, and a fried rice, ending with honey tea from the hives located on site. Then: naps in hammocks if you wanted.
Lunch and naps were followed by a ride in a row boat back to the main river. It was very peaceful (except for the far-off traffic noises, but just ignore that.)
I didn’t nap in the hammocks for fear of falling into the mud or the pond but I did nap on the bus back to Saigon. Every day I am pooped!
I’ve been a bit of a socialite for the past couple of days. I had some clothes and shoes custom made, and in between fittings I had lunches, and went in the pool, and went to the spa to have my nails done. It sounds relaxing but I’m exhausted.
Today I am in the train station at Da Nang, waiting for a train that is 45 minutes late. It’s a 10 hour ride to Na Tranh but have several things to keep me occupied.
Last night when I got back from dinner, my new suit was waiting for me at reception of the hotel as it had been delivered for me. It’s now crammed in my suitcase. With new clothes and shoes, my suitcase is just a titch heavier now, but I was still able to lift it on to the bus.
Just for reference as to how hot it is, as I sit here using my thumbs to type, I am dripping in sweat. I’ve taken to having my hankie with me so that I may blot, but I didn’t think the wait this morning would be so long and I packed said hankie deep within my suitcase somewhere. Hoo. Drippy.
Yesterday afternoon, after ordering all our clothes, after a long lunch at one of the restaurants along the river here, and after a swim in the hotel pool, Julie and I went for a spa. (I had a nap in there too, sometime.)
We went to a place not too far a walk down the road. As we were walking, we noted it was getting windy, and that the sun was gone (the morning had been quite hot). As we approached the spa a few drops were falling; as we lounged at the front of the spa, waiting for our treatments, the rain started; when we were lying down for a massage (Lindsie) and scrub (Julie) we could hear the rain pounding on the roof above. Very soothing with Enya in the background.
I watched the rain pour later as I got a pedicure. It was so hard that for a little while there was water flooding under the doorway of the spa. Lots of rain. People walking by with rain ponchos and umbrellas. Unprepared tourists soaking wet. Motocycle drivers with their ponchos over the handlebars and a passenger huddles behind them and under the same poncho.
By the time we’re were done the rain was gone. Good timing, us.