Sunrise at Angkor Wat!! Started with a 4am wake up call, on the road at 4:30, at the site by 5. We managed to get a good spot for the sunrise, a few less clouds would have been nice but it was still amazing to see the temple reveal itself in the early morning light. We did a lot of climbing, walking and drinking (water) throughout the morning and into the early afternoon, visiting other sites in the area as well - Bayon temple, Thommanon, Ta Keo, Ta Prohm, Banteay Kdei and Kravan. Ta Prohm was particularly interesting as the trees from the surrounding jungle ran through the temple and the ruins.
1 November 2016
From Sihanoukville we got a speed ferry across to Koh Rong Samloem, originally only for two nights but it was gorgeous and relaxing so we decided to stay another night. On the first afternoon there we met another couple, Blaze (her actual real name!) and Lloyd from Australia, as it was raining we spent the rest of the day having a few beers and playing cards. The next day we met up and went exploring a waterfall on the island. We went a little off the beaten track but it was worth it in the end. The waterfall was very refreshing after the hike. On our last day we did a bit of snorkelling and lots of relaxing before walking across to lazy beach on the opposite side of the island. It took a good 20 minutes!! Here we made some more friends Sarah and Jimbo and watched the sun set before heading into the water to see the plankton glowing in the dark. The walk back was a little scary through the jungle but we had the first outing of the head torch which made AD very happy!
29 October 2016
We arrived in Nha Trang at about 6am, as we headed to our hotel to drop the bags off we saw some locals playing a board game, it looked pretty intense not sure if they had been there all night! An early start meant we headed to the beach only to have to run for cover a few hours later as the rain came in. Tea that night was pretty good we went to BBQ Un In and had the 'little man' sharing platter, it was anything but little, we only just managed to finish it all. The next day we went to i-resort to the mud spa. We had a 20min mud bath and then spent the rest of the day in the waterfalls and swimming pools! In the evening we explores the sea front and found a restaurant serving up some BBQ'd crocodile. We gave that a miss and headed to the skylight for a couple of drinks and to see the lights across the bay.
28 October 2016
In the afternoon in Phnom Penh we strolled around the city, going up to the independence monument, the palace, the Vietnam-Cambodia friendship monument and the statue of King Norodom Sihanouk. On the way I managed to get a bit of a football fix when some locals let me join in their game! Later we hit the night market and watched a live boy band (by chance I might add, they weren't the reason we were there) before torrential rain started and everyone had to hide under the tents near the food stalls - even though they looked like they may buckle at any point! The last day in Phnom Penh we had a chicken noodle soup breakfast (pretty standard now, but it's so good!) at the central market before boarding the 5 hour bus to Sihanoukville.
We only had one full day in Phnom Penh so we did our best to make the most of it. Up early we hired a tuck tuck driver for the morning first he took us to S21, which is a prison that was used by the Khmer Rouge in the 70s to house and torture prisoners. The things we saw and listen to were just horrific it's hard to believe people could do such things to each other. Only 7 people are know to have survived the prison and one of the last survivors was at the prison that day. Couldn't help but wonder how he could come back there and see the place he was tortured and his wife was killed. After the prisoners had been tortured and signed confessions they were taken to the killing fields so this was our next stop too. Here it's was so peaceful and hard to believe such awful things had happened which we'd learn about as we walked around. In the centre stood a huge monument which now housed over 8000 skulls of victims they have excavated from the mass graves.
26 October 2016
Next stop Ho Chi Minh City! We put together a little walking tour for ourselves on the first day, seeing the Ho Chi Minh statue at the end of Nguyen Hue Boulevard, the city museum, the Notre Dame church and the Independence Palace. On the second day we went to the Cu Chi tunnels which were really interesting, especially to hear some of the views from the Vietnam side. The guerilla warfare tactics were very clever and they seemed to put themselves through an awful lot for the cause. We walked 150 metres through some of the tunnels, you had to crawl at some points and it was so hot down there! Really glad we did it though, Laura even made a new furry friend. In the evening we had some cocktails and went out with another English couple we'd met - the next morning we had to get up for the bus to Phnom Penh which I was not so ready for!
21 October 2016
A couple of really good days in Hoi An. A few visits to the tailors to get Laura some trousers and a dress, and I got a new suit. Very good value for money, although I'm not sure it's a process that I have the patience for! We had an afternoon relaxing on An Bang beach which is a great spot, followed by a night having a few beers (actually buckets of vodka and something) down by the river. We also ventured round the old town which is a quaint place, far from the hustle and bustle of the cities, a lot of pretty lanterns that people were sending down the river. The last day we had a boat trip where I had a go at some of the local fishing techniques, needless to say I didn't catch anything! Hoi An is a really cool little town, definitely recommend a visit to anyone!
19 October 2016
From Hue to Hoi An we travelled with le family riders on motorbikes. Again another amazing experience. We got kitted out and headed to a small fishing village were we got a brief history of the area. Next we called at elephant falls where were went swimming AD had fun sliding down the rapids! After all the excitement it was back on the bikes to head to a local restaurant for lunch. We had so much I wasn't sure I was going to be able to get back on the bikes. There were prawns and clams, mussels and squid, beef and so much rice and veg, safe to say we managed to eat it all!! As we continued our ride we climbed up the infamous Hai Van Pass with its stunning views. At the top there was a young couple having wedding photos taken apparent they do this a month before the big day so they have photos and videos to play to all the guest on the big day. On the way back down we stopped in Danang at the marble mountain. Before finally making it to Hoi An with a slightly numb bum!
18 October 2016
Although we were meant to have the hole day in Hue our trains hold she arrived at 9am due to floods on the way we didn't arrive until 2pm. After a quick freshen up we had a walk down to the forbidden city, perused the temples and checked out some of the gardens with the hundreds of Bonsai. AD made friends with one of the statues on the way! We had a quick walk round the market and an interesting time trying to cross the roads even with the green man on!! Stopped at DMZ for some food and then went to a few bars before heading home as we had a long and exciting day ahead!!
Last day in Hanoi we walked to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and saw the changing of the guard, unfortunately a lot of that site was closed on a Monday. I then had my first experience of a Vietnamese barber who was a really friendly guy (with a great top-knot) and he did pretty much what I wanted - who knew there was a chin under there! We walked round the botanical gardens which were OK, but a little tired, and we found some outdoor gym equipment to have a very brief work out/play!! We had a few drinks with a really nice evening view of the lake and the red bridge before we boarded our overnight train to Hue. It was actually quite nice as we had a 4 berth cabin to ourselves, the only problem was that we didn't get into Hue until after 2pm when it was originally scheduled for around 9am - apparently there was some flooding in the night which delayed our arrival. We had to eat what we could find on the train, the Vietnamese version of the pot noodle was actually alright!!
16 October 2016
First full day in Hanoi and we had breakfast overlooking the Hoan Kiem lake a great start to the day. We walked to Hoa Lo prison, trying to dodge the enormous amount of scooters a lot of which were parked all along the pavements. The prison was built by the French and housed the Vietnamese communists in horrendous conditions during the French reign. Later we went to Com Pho co for food which was really good we had the set meal which only cost about 4 pounds for 5 courses, total bargain. On the walk home we saw the market by night and the old city walls.
15 October 2016
First evening in Hanoi after returning from the bay, a nosey round the very busy night market (including skewered potato spiral) and a few drinks on "beer corner" where everyone sits out across a crossroad on small stools drinking Hanoi beer. On the stagger back home we found Laura a fetching new hat!
Dinner was 9 courses, so no danger of going hungry! The next day we had some relaxing time and then went on a longer kayak trip around the bay, through some awesome caves and eventually landed on a beach that we had all to ourselves for a bbq. Again the food was excellent and in great quantity! After swimming and relaxing we returned to the boat which took us to Thien Canh Son caves that we could walk into which was pretty cool. In the evening we had a good laugh talking with a German couple (Bastian and Anika), we set Bastian some food challenges for when he visits the uk! The last day we visited a floating fishing village which was interesting, they had moved out of living in the caves about 50 years ago and now had fish and oyster farms - the government provided the floating houses, whether or not the locals were happy about that at the time we weren't so sure.
14 October 2016
The farms also cultured pearls which they made into jewellery and sold at a shop at the village, it took a lot of will power for Laura to resist a purchase!! The boat then cruised back to shore where we disembarked after a brilliant 3 days, the little slice of luxury was absolutely worth it!
13 October 2016
A bit of luxury to start our time in Vietnam, with a 3 day cruise around Bai Tu Long bay. We were picked up in a fancy minibus which gave us some hope for the rest of the trip, and we weren't to be disappointed. We met Steve and Lynn on the bus who were from Australia, a lovely couple who we are hoping to see when we visit Noosa in a couple of months. We drove to a small village called Yen Duc where the locals welcomed us with a water puppet show, they showed us how they made rice without modern machinery and they treated us to a really nice 7-course lunch! We got to Ha Long and met the rest of our crew, before boarding Dragon Pearl 1. The facilities and accommodation were really impressive (better than most we'd had on land), and we set sail out into the bay through the hundreds of islands. We anchored for the evening and went out into the sea on kayaks, I think we have a bit of work to do on our kayaking skills!