A Travellerspoint blog

Siem Reap and Angkor Wat

Temples, Temples and a little bit of chilling out

sunny

Hey guys!

S Ive just spent a good 6 days in Siem Reap, visiting the Angkor Wat complex and seeing so many temples it boggles my brain! It was great to spend a decent amount of time in the same place, instead of moving every couple of days. My hostel was awesome, it had a pool, aircon, bar... so I did spend a few days just chilling out by the pool!

Me, and a few other girl, Emma, Charlotte and Veronica went to the temples together. We got a 3 day pass so we could see as much of it as possible! There are so many over such a distance, soo we decided to get tuktuks to take us around! The first day we got up at 4.30am (!!!) to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. We got a tuktuk driver who seemed a bit drunk because he couldnt drive in a straight line! What is it with me and drunk drivers? GRRRR! Anyway, we got to Angkor Wat and there was so many people there waiting for the sun to rise, but it was cloudy, so no good sunrise for us! DOH! We had some breakfast and got chatting to the owner to the cafe who was really nice and gave us some advice on which temples to see. We headed back to our tuktuk driver who then refused to take us to where we wanted to go! NO GOOD! So we dumped him, went back to the cafe and he got his brother to take us around! we went to so many temples the first day, we didnt get back to the hostel until 4pm! We were exhausted! so we went for a bite to eat and a foot massage :) then bed time it was for us, because we were up again for sunrise the next day!

No luck again with the sunrise, but after half and hour it cleared and you could see the sun! That would have to do! We then went to the main temples, Bayon the one with all the faces and Ta Phroym (the one tomb raider was filmed in!) I was not feeling too good at all. Now you all know how much i hate the cold, and I dont want to moan about the heat, but i have NEVER been so hot in my life! ITS BOILING! Like walking around in an oven! Which has been giving me headaches and sickness :( Poor me! Im okay now though so do not worry! :) We were so tired that day, but our new tuktuk driver had a soundsystem in his tuktuk! The first sing we played? Proud Mary by Tina Turner! Got our energy for about ten minutes! haha so we were going around the temples with tunes pumping out of our tuktuk Everyone was well jealous :)

We had a "rest day" the next day because all this temple exploring is pretty exhausting! Had a little shop, went round the town, watched a dance show, played a bit of pool. Nothing to exciting!

The last day of temples came, and a few people we knew from Vietnam had arrived in Siem Reap so I went shopping with them in the morning, met a few lovely ladies from my dorm room and went for ANOTHER foot massage with them. Then hoped back to the temples to revisitng Angkor Wat and Ta Phroym. In Ankgor Wat I ended up sitting on the edge of the temple with 2 monks having nice little chat! Brilliant! I then went for some dinner with the girls in my dorm, and we went back to our dorm to have a rehydration party! Rehydration sashets all around! hehe.

The next morning before my bus to Battambang, I went for breakfast in the coolest hotel I have ever seen! Check out the pictures! Each room was themed different and there was just random art every where! My sort of place!

Sorry for the short blog, but I didnt think you all wanted to here about each temple one by one... I dont think i could remeber anyway!

Lots of Love,

Sophie!

Posted by sophie.lee 22:54 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Phnom Penh

New country, new city!

sunny

Hello my sweets,

So i said goodbye to Vietnam and made my way to the border of Cambodia, up the Mekong River. We arrived at the border crossing to get our visas and had to wait and hour and a half to recieve them all stamped. We then had to trek in the boiling heat for about 100m out of Vietnam and into No mans land! There we got our squashed into a small bus for the 2 hour jorney to Phnom Penh.

We found a decent hostel and ended up having a walk around then just chilled at the hostel all night. Lindsey has been really ill and I hadnt been feeling great so it was nice to just sit and talk, meet a few people and watch some films. Alex, the guy that owns the hostel is super friendly (if maybe a bit too friendly!) gave me and Lindsey massages! Bless him. He now keeps hugging me and smelling me... how bizzarre!

So our first full day in Phnom Penh, we headed to the killing fields, where thousands of Cambodians were killed under the Khmer Regime. It was so sad, we had audio guides which were really good at telling you what happened and with personal stories. There were mass graves with bones and rags of clothes still in there. There was a tree where they used to bash babies across it to kill them, and beat up women and children there. Aparently when they found it there was blood and brain matter all over the tree. Straight next to the tree is another mass grave where the women and children were buried. People that had visited had left braclets all over the fence and beside the tree. I sobbed. It was so horrendous thinking of the people and what happened to them.
There is this tall building in the middle where thousands of skulls are kept in a mark of respect. That also sent me crying. The skulls did not look real, but you realised that was a person and they came to a horrific death. So so sad.
we then made our way to Tuol Sleng Museum which used to be a prison where they used to torture "prisoners" before sending them to the killing fields. It used to be a school before the regime took it over and turned it into a prison. The rooms in one building just has the beds and shackels. Another building was filled with mugshots of all the prisoners and pictures of how they found some of them dead. There were children that were imprisoned. Small children. There were mugshots of women carring their new born babies. Horrendous.
There was another building had barbed wire all over it to stop inmates from trying to commit suicide. In the rooms of the buildings were cells made of brick or wood with the shackels still there.It really hits home what happened here. Shocking really shocking.

In the evening, we took a walk along the river side, and ended up watching these little kids streetdance for about an hour! It was so cute and they were really good! It only stopped because it had started to rain! RAIN! Havent seen rain in a loooong time! There was thunder and lightening! love it!

The next day we toddled off to the Palace, where we were refused entry because of our inappropriate dress! We were supposed to cover our rms and shoulders, but it was way too hot! So we looked at it from the outside and then headed to a market for some shopping! Spent quite a while there, got a bag :) Then it was REALLY hot so we went bqck to the hostel and chilled for the rest of the afternoon. I had a nap and then we had a walk on the riverside again for sunset, saw some group aerobics classes which was pretty funny and then went to find an elephant that pparently goes around the restaurants getting fed bananas! Didnt find the elephant. but found a small temple, and then got lods of icecream! Then back to the hostel again for a few bevvies and games of pool. It really is so hot here, its impossible to fill your days with activities! Thts my excuse anyway!

So now im in Siem Reap to see Angkor Wat and the temples, and it seems even hotter here, so thank god my hostel has a pool :)

Much love,

Soph xx

Posted by sophie.lee 02:53 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City

Last stop in Vietnam

sunny

So My Friends,

I am now on my last night in the wonderful country of Vietnam. I have spent the last few days in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) as well as travelling up the Mekong River today to get to the border town of Chau Doc. More on that later.

So when I arrived in HCMC, I couldnt get over how many motorbikes there were!! Honestly, they are everywhere, clogging up the roads, even the pavements here they take a shortcut to overtake everyone! Crossing the road is like taking your life into your own hands, you just have to keep walking, because they go around you! Terrifying, but a sense of achievement everytime I crossed the road and survived! :)

That evening, Lindsey, Kirsty (another scottish girl) and I went for a walk and came to a market. So far so good. We had a gander around and then made our way back to our hostel. We came across a game of shuttelcock in the park next to the busy street. They have these special shuttlecock things and is pretty much like a game of Badminton, except instead of the rackets, they kick it and flip it with their feet! Its amaing to watch. Lindsey got a free lesson from one of the coaches (after buying a shuttlecock!) and we played until we got so sweaty we had to stop! Another thing about HCMC.. its so hot!

So the next day a couple of us went to Reunification Palace, where the North Vietnamese took over and won the war. We got to go inside and have a guided tour which was cool, but the best part was going down into their bomb shelter! Amazing. The had practically left everything as it was when it got conquered. We then went to the War Remnants Museum which is all about the war (obviously). It was pretty horrific alot of the pictures that were on display. The whole display was pretty much one sided against the Americans but you could kind of see why. All the Agent Orange pictures aswell, it really brought home the terrible acts carried out in this vicious and violent war, and that the people affeted in Vietnam get very little support, if any.

In the evening it was St Paddys Day and alot of people when out on the lash. Not me, I met up with Steve, the guy I have already met in Phi Phi and Bangkok. It was great to catch up and trade travelling stories.

The next morning a few of us got up really early to go one a day trip to the Caodai Temple in Tay Ninh and the the Cu Chi Tunnels. Ive been reading a book called "the Girl in the Picture" about the famous picture of a little girl getting burned by Napalm, and she lived and grew up in Tay Ninh, and was a follower of the Caodai religion and went to that temple. So it was pretty cool being there and wondering if her family were there plus its a really interesting religion. It was only founded in the 1920's i think, and it mixes numerous religions into one. We got to see a service inside their really colourful temple.
Then of to the Cu Chi tunnels we went. We got shown around and saw the booby traps the set. And the tunnels they built were tiny!!! It was amzing to see the network of tunnels they made and what they had to do to fight. We were also able to crawl through one of the tunnels that they had made twice as big so us foreigners could fit in! It was horrible going through... so hot and sweaty and dusty, i had to get out at the first exit! God knows how they coped crawling through the tiny tunnels!

The next day we had to pack our bags because we were starting our two day trip to Cambodia, via the Mekong Delta. Its been a bit disappointing actually, I didnt get as much time on the delta as I would of wished, but we had to get to the border town before crossing into Cambodia. We got to see the floating market and whent into the delta a bit for lunch but that was pretty much it :( Never mind!

So tomorrow Im crossing the border into Cambodia (wish me luck!) Aparently ive just turned green and Im not feeling 100% so lets hope I get over it by the boat trip tomorrow!

Lots of love,

Sophie xx

Posted by sophie.lee 07:54 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

The Motorcycle Diaries

Nha Trang to Da Lak to Dalat to Mui Ne

sunny

Hey Hey Hey!

So after staying in Nha Trang for 2 nights (beach city, nothing much to do apart from a waterpark and excessive drinking... which I stayed away from!) me, Lindsey and Emma (a girl I met in Hanoi) decided to blow caution to the wind and go on a 3 day motorbike tour of the central highlands of Vietnam. Starting in Nha Trang, we would go head to Dalak for a homestay with a local village, then to Dalat to stay in the city, finishing of in Mui Ne, another quieter beach town with sand dunes.

Day 1.

We got picked up from our hostel by our 3 drivers on our very own motorbikes! Woopie! My driver and guide was called Tao, Emma's call Phouc and Lindsey's was called... erm she can’t remember! We drove out of town to a fish farm which STANK of fish (unsurprisingly) then zoomed up the hills to a local cafe for a short break. There we met some other people on motorbike tours, as well as a guide who was a rapper! Brilliant! He gave us a ghetto rap and then we were on our way again through the Vietnamese countryside. We had a short stop at a brick making yard and carried on a bit further down roads which looked like a REALLY heavy juggernaut lorry had drove over it before the cement had set. Seriously the road had small mountains and craters! Thank god I wasn’t driving!!
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After surviving our first (of many) scary roads we stopped at the side to have a bit of sugar cane (from the field as you do). Then there were big piles of gravel in the road! WHAT! Its okay, the motorbike easily got past them. Then we climbed the highlands, the winding roads showed us some exceptional views. We saw these plants that when you touch them they fold up to protect themselves! The simple things! It was like magic! We then headed to a house with made rice paper, there we met a little girl who had been injured and had gone to Canada for treatment all on her own! She was lucky because she was able to go to a place to have the proper healthcare she needed as in Vietnam they do not have the best healthcare in the world. She showed us loads of pictures and we tried to communicate through French as she had learnt that in hospital (made me wish I had paid more attention at school!)
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Again we drove off through gorgeous countryside and saw some cocoa farms and a wood sculpting place. We then headed to a house when as we walked in, was greeted by an 8ft snake! AHHHHH! I got to hold it and it was amazing!! Felt completely different from what I thought it was going to! Lindsey, being terrified of snakes nearly dies when one of the guys put a smaller one on her! Poor thing! There were scorpions as well and we tried some sort of alcohol that had dead scorpions soaking in it. It was vile. If you ever some across it, don’t drink it, it’s not worth it!
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After some more breath-taking rides we arrived at our homestay village. We thought it would be similar to Sapa, but it was more of a small village built up for big but very basic bungalows that tourist come and stay for a "homestay". A bit disappointing, but it’s what we expected and I’ve already done it in Sapa. After watching the sunset and having some food, we joined mine and Lindsey’s guide and local friends for a night of happy water and karaoke! We arrived at this local quiet cafe. We were lead downstairs where they have rooms with karaoke and comfy seats and snacks and disco lights! Very random, especially when the Vietnamese songs were on and we tried to sing along! But they had English songs so we belted out Dancing in the street, Yesterday, and Don’t Speak to name but a few! People were dancing and having a blast, just as we were!

Day 2.

We had an early start to get ready and have some breakfast. We then hopped on our bikes again and started to make our way to the city of Dalat. We saw breath-taking views and stopped off at a tiny floating village on a river. I’m always amazed at these floating villages, it’s amazing how they live off the water, fish every day and only got to mainland for water and fuel. We then rode to a silkworm farm, where there were hundreds of huge round baskets filled with tiny silkworms! They were so soft! Soft as silk! Lindsey was hilarious because I think she was a bit creeped out by them!
We again hit the road, going about 5km across bumpy, gravelly roads! Thanks god we had experienced drivers, I would not have wanted to drive on those roads! There was a close call when my bike nearly hit Lindsey’s, but we survived unscathed! We went to coffee plantations and a cashew nut farm, where Lindsey tried a RAW cashew nut that stung her lips; they ballooned up like she had collagen implants and left a blister! Poor thing!
We then went to Elephant Waterfall, had to crawl down to underneath the waterfall which was so scary! Holding onto vines, steps and rocks! Made it and it was amazing! A very impressive waterfall which I’m very happy because the past waterfall I have seen haven’t been that great! We also went to a temple nearby and saw this giant happy Buddha – look at the pictures, he is very happy!!!
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We then went on to a silk making factory. This is where we saw the cocoons of the silkworms being put it hot water, and the silk string of the cocoons being harvested in these massive machines to get silk! It was really cool to see how silk is made, I know I sound like a geek but I don’t care!
Our last stop off was at a flower farm which was pretty, and then we headed to Dalat. We went to dinner to a nearby restaurant where we met some Australian war veterans who had to Vietnam as a group for the first time to see how the country had changed since they had been here in the war. They told us harrowing stories of what they had to go through in the war and after. It shocking to discover that they were used as guinea pigs, half of them were given untested malaria tablets and the other half had placebos, and the ones that were on the real medication have had horrible health ever since, even passing on disabilities to their children. They received no support after their tours and a lot of them and their friends had broken marriages, drug/alcohol problems and some a lot of their fellow soldiers died very young, through health problems or suicide. They told us that it has been an uphill struggle to prove to the government they have these problems because of their experiences in the war, but they finally succeeded and they get very well looked after now. But it makes them sad to see in Vietnam, the veterans of the war are left to beg on the street because they have nothing and no support from their government. It really touched me that these guys opened up to us about their experiences, and it really moved me to the point I shed a few tears! I just can’t imagine what experiences they had to endure. They had to do 4-6week tours in the jungle, with half rations, little water, no camps, just sleeping on the jungle floor being bitten by the ants and other bugs, being constantly damp through sweat or rain, so much so that the skin on their feet peeled off and some got gangrene. Can you imagine having to go through that? It really has given me a much more profound respect for the military and what they go through, and that it doesn’t just stop once they have finished their tours. The effects of war can be felt decades later.

Day 3.

Another early start and we say goodbye to the city of Dalat. We drove to a nearby temple where we saw Monks praying and there is this big bell that you go inside and there is loads of wishes written down and stuck to the inside of the bell. I had no paper or pen, but I wished a wish in my head :)
We then made our way to this HUGE statue of a chicken. I immediately thought of my Mum, it was like her Meccah! Apparently it marks a Romeo and Juliet type story, where two young loves had to go up the Mountain to find a special type of chicken, but they couldn’t find it and one died and the other died of a broken heart! Random!
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We then did a hell of a lot of driving to reach the sand dunes of Mui Ne. We went up over the hills to see the most stunning views of hills and valleys below. Then we made our way downhill, every foot we descended, the air got warmer. Slowly but surely, the green trees and rice paddies disappeared and was replaced by sand and rocks and dried up trees! The air got hotter and hotter as we started driving in the middle of a dessert! Sand was blowing across the roads! We had reached the sea also, and the contrast of the blue of the sea and the orange of the desert was awesome! We then reached the Sand dunes where little kids surrounded us trying to get us to rent their sheets of plastic to ride down the sand dune. We made our way up to the top of the sand dune, and the views of rolls and rolls of sand dunes was amazing! I then rode down one of the sand dunes of a sheet of plastic. Sand got everywhere! The wind was blowing it in my mouth and eyes! And then to try and get back up the sand dune was impossible! And the sand was so hot, it felt like it was scolding my feet. And then I realised I didn’t have to climb the sand dune, just go around it! It was a cool experience!
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We then got dropped off by our lovely guides to our hotel in Mui Ne. It was one of the best experiences I have had since being away – on a par with Sapa. Riding around on a motorbike seeing the highlands, dessert and countryside of Vietnam is something I'll never forget. It was like I was riding past massive paintings – it didn’t seem real! But it was  and I am one happy lady to have experienced it.
Much love,
Soph xx

Posted by sophie.lee 23:04 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Hoi An

Shopping time!

sunny

Lindsey and I arrived in Hoi An in the evening, got a hotel and went to meet a few people we had met in Hanoi at their hotel. We were knackered though, so didnt stay very long! The next morning we moved to the same hotel, because ours smelled funny :( We then went for a walk around the town, and found out it was Happy Womens Day! Brilliant! What better way to celebrate than shop?!

Hoi An is famous for its tailors and it has hundreds of them! We finally found one and we were in there quite a while to decide what we wanted! I opted to get a jacket/coat thing because Ill need it in New Zealand! Its turned out gorgeous! I love it! It has a big neck so ill stay nice and warm, is a really nice green colour and has a retro print lining and piping. Check out my pictures on facebook to see. Lindsey got a goregous blue ball gown.. because shes a classy lady! It took a couple of days to get right, but its worth it. Mine cost $45! Bargain!

In the afternoon we just had a wander, went to the market and met some Dutch lads that Lindsey knew. We again, had an early night because the next morning we were going to My Son at 5am to watch the surise! My son is a bunch of old ruins, a mini version of Ankor Wat!

So we got up at 5am (none of us were happy about this situation!) and got one the bus. We fell asleep and woke up when we got there, to see that the sun had already risen! Doh! We spent a couple of hours looking around. It was nice, but very small and because I was tired, the enthusiasm had left me! On the bus back me and Lindsey were chatting and a girl in front of us told us to be quiet! HOW RUDE! I was not impressed I can tell you, and gave her a dirty look when she got off the bus! hahaha! I was tired and Im sure she was too but its a BUS and no where said we had to shut up and not speak the whole way! Miserable lady!

We then got back to the hotel and had a sleep. :) Got up at about 3pm, for another fitting of our clothes and met the 2 American lads we had met on the bus to Ninh Binh! We had a few drinks, a little jamming session outside their hotel with another American girl, then we met the Dutch lads from the day before, who had rented bicycles so we hopped on the back and they took us to a quiet bar on the other side of the river and we had a few bevvies and played a bit of pool. A nice relaxing evening! We walked back into the town where we saw so many big rats it was horrible! They are huge and EVERYWHERE! Not nice. Then me and Lindsey thought it was a good idea to hop on the back on this old man motorbike (3on one bike - only in Asia - Ive seen 5 on one bike before!) to get to our hotel. We soon realised this was a terrible mistake as he was drunk and puffing on a cigarette. We held on for dear life. We survived! But have promised oursleves never ever to do that again. Terrifying!

So our last day in Hoi An and we rented out own bicycles to hed up to the beach. Unfortunatly it was cool and cloudy and we got there and no one was there, and we couldnt go into the sea because the red flag was up and it was too dangerous! Bad times! So we put our bicycles to use and cycled around, back to the town, around the old town, down some alley ways, off the beaten track. We picked up our new clothes and headed back to the hotel and now we are waiting to get the bus to Nha Trang , with very sore bums indeed!!

Until the next time,

Soph xx

Posted by sophie.lee 01:27 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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