Hoi An & Hanoi

On a more informative perspective compared to the previous writing, we stayed in Hoi An for 4 nights. We booked a hotel in advance from the bus ticket office in Da Nang which turned out to be quite a fiasco. We figured we would like to pay a little extra, $17, for some additional comfort, wireless Internet access and even a pool. Our hotel was called Hoang Binh and turned out to have closet-sized rooms, a freezing tiny swimming pool, malfunctioning wi-fi and grumpy staff. Very overpriced and not recommendable. We changed to another hotel called An Phu later on which was way nicer and indeed recommendable. You should be aware that you are able to negotiate every hotel price and never believe the printed price list shown to you.


Hate and loathing in Hoi An

The purpose of this writing is mainly for venting the aggressions that builds up just by being among the Vietnamese. Traveling in Southeastern Asia is good fun and all, but there are certain situations where your tolerance is put to the test. We've now spent one day in the major city of Da Nang and are currently in Hoi An. For us Da Nang was a complete waste of time – big city, indifferent population, gray and dull and almost hostile to people who come to visit. Hoi An is a lot smaller and better, but the locals here are extremely annoying! It's almost like they are deliberately trying to piss you off when they want you to look at the crap they're selling or eat in their restaurant.


Vietnam – First Impressions

As we left Cambodia on the Mekong river and entered Chau Doc we were met with a smokescreen caused by everybody firing up their bonfires for dinnertime using lots of paper and wood. Through the haze we quickly found ourselves a hotel (a super nice one, even) for $15 including breakfast. Chau Doc was much less touristy than any other place we've been to. We found only local eateries which we then had to try out resulting in finding a place with a menu including frog, snake, turtle and luckily less extreme Vietnamese dishes as well. We ate our dinner while locals had a few too many after-work drinks all around us. We also saw, for the first time here, Asians getting chili pepper red faces when drinking which was good fun. For the first time we tried a cyclo as transport, a bicycle with a trailer meant to contain small Vietnamese people.


Leaving Cambodia

Staying in Sihanoukville for 5 nights felt like a tad too much. In our search for a more tranquil place to stay we went from Ochheuteal Beach, where all the hawkers seemed to hang around, to the more deserted Otres Beach. This beach is only accessible by a dirt road and there are no shops, ATMs, or constant electricity in this area. We stayed for a few nights at Small Green Bungalows for $15 a night, which was expensive, but reasonably comfortable.

The Khmer new year is quickly approaching starting from April 13th lasting three days. Most Khmer see this as a big and expensive festival and the only way to get enough money is for some locals to rely on bag snatching and robberies. The western hotel owners said they've been hearing about lots of robberies lately and apparently it's much worse than the year before.

Otres beach


Sihanoukville – beaches and beggars

Promised by the local travel agency that the bus trip from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville should take approximately 9 hours, however, in our case more than 11 hours as the “non-stop V.I.P. luxury bus”, as it was advertised, stopped a few times for god knows what reason. The entire trip the staff insisted on playing fantastically bad, and loud, karaoke videos for the locals on the bus (probably paying half the price we did). The quality of the speakers was okay on this bus compared to the one from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, but the songs were, with no exceptions, cheesy love songs where most of the producers never even bothered to record the music by playing an actual instruments. Instead they chose to simulate an entire band by using keyboard synthesizers from the 1980s.

Shianoukville Beach


If I see another temple I will throw up!

Walking the worn paths of Angkor Wat is really exhausting and makes your feet hurt – which then again is a very good excuse to grab a foot massage in the evening to get some relief in the old aching muscles.

We tried to get to Chong Kneas, a floating village on Tonlé Sap Lake. You have to go there by boat, so when we got to the pier (in the middle of nowhere) where the boats embark, we were met by some of the rudest Cambodians we've met so far. With an arrogant attitude towards tourists they tried to rob us blind by charging us $35 for a 1½ hour long boat ride.

Angkor Wat Morning


Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

Watching the Killing Fields outside Phnom Penh was depressing as expected but Tuol Sleng was actually worse. So after walking a bit around the fields paying our respects we decided to leave Phnom Penh to go to Siem Reap and Angkor Wat which everybody keeps babbling about. We took the local bus (5 USD per person) and started driving. The road to Siam Reap was really bad. Littered with holes caused by bad road maintenance and way too much traffic was the main reason the trip took 6 hours even though Siem Reap is only about 300 km from Phnom Penh. But also farmers suddenly dragging their cows across the road, hazardous overtakings by vehicles in the opposite lane, and dogs and chickens threatening to cross spontaneously caused the already grumpy bus driver to brake rather violently once and a while.


Phnom Penh

Being in Phnom Penh really isn't bad at all. The city itself is fairly modern with trendy cafés and restaurants and the Khmer people seems positive and happy even after Pol Pot wiped out a large part of the population 30 years ago. They are way better at English than the Thai and even though our guidebook advises us to stay indoor when the sun goes down we haven't felt insecure for one second. The Khmer food is also quite nice; a bit like Thai but quite different as well. They have a curry dish called Amok which we've tried so far. Not bad, not bad at all.


Island debrief back in Bangkok

It took Lisa's stomach about 3 days to get better after the food poisoning and after spending some time cursing Wunderbar we finally left Trang to go to Laoliang. We took a minivan with a sane driver to Hat Yao pier and went by boat the rest of the way. Laoliang is a national park where no one is allowed to build anything permanent that could interfere with the nature there and that meant we were going to sleep in tents. The more permanent buildings like the toilet and bar were made from wood. Climbing and snorkeling equipment was made available when we got there including a kayak but we only managed to see some fish and paddle up and down the beach in the kayak a few times.