A Travellerspoint blog

Four Thousand Islands and the Boloven Plateau

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The short flight on Air Lao was uneventful (apparently their safety record leaves a bit to be desired!) even got a nice snack and drink, more than you'd get on easyjet!
Pakse International Airport was quite hilarious, basically three rooms with the baggage reclaim consisting of a pile of bags on the floor near the door! no conveyor belt here!
We spent the night in Pakse, small town, very sleepy and set about adjusting to Lao time where everything takes 5 times longer than normal!

The next day we headed off in a minibus to the Don Khong in the Four Thousand Islands where the Mekong splits into hundreds of small islands.
Spent two nights on Don khong where we cycled round the island, through the rice fields, all the locals are friendly and shout hello as you pass. We passed through one village and all the kids were running along with us and giving us single flowers then we hit a dead end and had to go back..in the meantine the older girls had made us posies of flowers out of leaves, it was so sweet!
Got the boat down to Don Det, a smaller island and stayed a few more nights here. The wooden bungalows had hammocks on the balconies and it was so nice just to chill out and read in them while watching life go by the mekong! The islands only have generator power so its lights out at ten! (or 9.30 some nights!!) On neighbouring Don Kong you can take a boat trip to see the Irrawaddy dolphins that live in the Mekong. They are very adapatable and can live in fresh or salt water. The boat trip actually takes you to an island in Cambodia where you stop for about an hour to glimpse the dolphins- which we did! No flipper tricks but you can see them coming up for air every few minutes (or a Lao man with a fin on his back....?) Off to the boat only to find out our skipper had vanished! After a bit of pointing it transpired that another boat had left and snapped our propeller in the process so our guy had run off to find a new one! 40 mins, a new propeller and a bit of string later we were off!!

another early night on Don Det and we were back in another boat heading for the mainland.

The islands werent as picturesque as i thought they would be but i think its probably because its rainy season so lots of the islands are underwater and cant be seen at the moment!

We were heading for Kiet Ngong home to the Kingfisher Eco Resort, the bus didnt go all the way and we were dropped 8km from the lodge hoping we could find some local transport....waited an hour even asked some locals if they would take us on their motorbikes but to no avail, we had to give up and phone the lodge for a lift!!!
The lodge seemed very luxurious after the basic surrounds of the islands...hot water and flushing toilets! Result!
The rooms were cute wooden bunglows and there was a big wooden two storey lodge with a bar/restaurant, both with great views over the wetlands.

The next day we went on an elephant trek...spent all day going through the jungle and wetlands on elephants. It was quite an uncomfortable experience.. bumpy! Not sure i would do it again as it seemed a bit barbaric to be riding on an elephant...really not sure how i feel about it. We had a nice day and stopped for lunch by a stream in the jungle...avoided getting attacked by red ants. fed the elephants the bananas from our lunch. The hills the elephants can climb are really amazing, there were parts i thought we are never going to get up there but sure enough with steady footing the elephants just slowly clambered their way up. some of the jungles were quite overgrown and the mahouts (elephants handlers) had to hack a way through with machetes!

After three nights in Kiet Ngong we headed back to Pakse, stopping on the way in Champasak home to a large wat that stretching up the hillside to provide great views over the mekong. The wat itself was in pretty bad condition...i think anything after seeing all the temples at Angkor is going to be in second place! we got a car ferry back over the mekong (ferry is a bit of a lie...three long boats with long planks of wood over the top basically) and were befriended by the girls selling drinks who were getting a lift over on the ferry (had to wait a while as they dont leave until its full) we managed to have a chat even though they didnt speak any english! Also managed to drop my sunglasses into the mekong! luckily i have another pair with me. We had told the ferry driver we wanted to go to pakse and he arranged for us to get a lift.....in the back of a pick up truck!!! We were game and clambered into the back to join the lao family already there, they looked funny as they were huddling under towels to avoid the sun. so with the live chicken, sacks of rice, bags of crabs...and bag of live frogs we were back off to Pakse.

We spent the night in pakse preparing for our motorbike trip round the Boloven Plateau...yes another one only this time we were driving the bikes ourselves!!!

Neither Marieke or I had ever riden anything other than a bicycle so when we were trying to get the hang of them in the small yard out the back of the hotel we were hiring them from we were a bit apprehensive! Luckily after 30mins of riding very slowly round Pakse we were beginning to get the hang of them. After picking up our heavy duty ponchos we hit the open road.

The Boloven Plateau is home to the ethnic minority groups of southern laos and lots of coffee and tea plantations. There are also lots of waterfalls where rivers plunge off the side of the plateau.

The first days riding was easy on nice tarmac roads....then the rains came!!!! proper monsoon rain, riding on a motorbike it was so painful when it hit your face!! we were so glad we had the ponchos, the clouds turned the sky black and it got quite dark, luckily we werent too far from Tat Lo the waterfall we were staying near that night. Checking into the guesthouse and getting warm dry clothes on was such a nice feeling! The ponchos had kept our bags and our top halves dry but my trousers and shoes were soaked!

The next day we were heading onto the unsealed roads for a bit to get up onto the plateau, it was a bit rocky but not too bad. We started to pass through the minority villages with their bamboo stilt houses. Decided to stop in one for a drink and shortly after we stopped a van arrived. Lots of the villagers came out their houses and crowded round the van which was selling plastic jugs and bowls....it was a Lao tupperware party!!! Then some kids from a house over the road started yelling hello from their balcony so we took their pictures. We were talking to the tupperware guys and then we noticed the kids had come to the gate of their house so we went over to show them the photos at which point they ran back inside screaming and giggling!! they were so funny. eventually over the course of about 10 mins and lots of hiding behind houses we managed to persuade them to come out so we could show them the pictures on our cameras, once they were out there was no stopping them, posing like they were pros.

We headed back onto the dirt path and it got a bit muddy....then i was down on the floor in the mud with the bike....! how did that happen??!! was completely covered in mud but ok, i was more worried i had broken the bike...we were here in the middle of nowhere!! They are so heavy but marieke managed to pick it up while i was getting the mud off my hands and it looked like it was leaking petrol from a loose pipe....eek!! then over the hill came our mates....the tupperware party men!!! they looked at the bikes and figured out that the loose pipe was meant to be there and started it up and it was fine....then they proceeded to clean all the mud off with leaves and send us on our way!

stopped that night in Sekong a small town (saw one of the tupperware guys in the market!) then got up very early the next day to do the 70km of unsealed roads to paksong. It had been raining again so i was really apprehensive about going if it was muddy!!! the first 15km were pretty hard going, lots of puddles and rocks and loose grit but after that the mud became more compacted and great to ride on and we made the distance in no time. I thought the views would be like the Ho Chi Minh trail but the area is a lot more forested so its more like riding through the jungle. We stopped at the Tad Fan waterfalls which were spectacular,two rivers dropping over 100m off the plateau side by side...definitely the best falls we had seen.

Another night in paske and today i am getting the overnight bus to Vientiane the capital of Laos. its only the second bus to make the journey from paske to vientiane after they closed the roads due to the mekong bursting its banks and flooding a lot of northern laos..the worst flooding they have had here in 40 years...hopefully it will be ok!!!

sorry abt spelling, the keyboard doesnt have any letters on the keys and i'm typing this quickly before i get the bus!! have added a couple of pics on flickr but it wasnt working properly so will hopefully add the rest soon!!!

Posted by VanessaT 02:02 Archived in Laos Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Siem Reap

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Battambang was pretty uneventful, was a typical small Cambodian town located on a river, it rained quite a lot while i was there so couldn't get out and about too much.

On Sunday i took the 'fast' boat across the Tonle Sap to Siem Reap...in Cambodian terms fast translates into 8 hours! The boat trip itself was quite hairy as to get to the Tonle Sap we had to go down a narrow river for most of the journey and passing conditions depend on the height of the river (some boats are known to get stuck on sandbanks for hours!) with the help of two guys with big sticks pushing us off the banks we twisted and turned and near missed with boats coming the opposite way, to Siem Reap where the river was so overgrown we had a very close encounter with nature as the trees scraped down the sides..and into.. the boat.

Arriving in Siem Reap was a bit of a shock...it was so developed..the restaurants and some of the shops wouldnt look out of place in London! Siem Reap is Cambodias fastest growing town due to the amount of tourists visiting the Angkor Temples.
This is the reason you come to Siem reap...to see the temples. I set off to get my three day Angkor pass allowing unlimited access into the many temples and headed straight for the mother of all temples...Angkor Wat (if you buy your pass after 5pm they let you in to see the sunset for free and start your pass from the next day).

Its very hard to explain how you feel walking around the temples, they are so other-worldly. Built by various kings over 600 years from AD802- 1432 during the mighty Angkorian empire, the court eventually relocated to Phnom Penh leaving the temples at the mercy of the jungle for centuries. They were 'rediscovered' by the French in the 1860's (there was actually a wealthy working monastery within Angkor Wat when the french stumbled upon it) and it caused a great deal of interest.
Since then some of the temples have been restored but others such as Ta Prohm have been largely left, as any removal of the plant life would likely cause the collapse of the structures.

The next day i biked out again past Angkor Wat and onto the walled city of Angkor Thom within which the mysterious Bayon can be found. Gothic towers decorated with the 216 slightly creepy smiling faces supposed to resemble a mixture of the then current king and the all seeing Avalokiteshvara. Everywhere you walk within the temple you can never escape the staring eyes! No-one really knows the function of the monument...some people suggesting it signifies the king keeping a watchful eye on the 54 provinces of the Angkor empire.
Then it was onto Ta Prohm, the tree entwined temple made famous in the Tombraider film. It's very atmospheric seeing the effect the slow but immense force of nature has had on the temple.

I wanted to head out to some outlying sites on my second day of temple hopping and had already enlisted the driver who picked me up from the jetty when i arrived in Siem Reap. In Siem Reap they have these very cute carriages that hook onto the back of a motorbike...kind of like a tuk tuk, that they call re-morques. I had however read that the road to Kbal Spean was quite bad (from the lonely planet...'an impassable mess for most vehicles') so asked him to take me on a motorbike. So bright and early i bounce out the guesthouse to find a man i didnt know but had been sent by Mr Kim as he was busy taking someone to Phnom Penh.. ok fine i thought...he then passed me over to his brother...in a re-morque..hmm did they know where i wanted to go? yes they knew the plan and had decided i would be more comfortable in the carriage than on a bike...fine i thought, they know best...and after two days on a bicycle on bumpy roads my bum was a little tender anyway!! So off we headed...the temples were quite a way out of town so i settled in for the ride and sure enough about an hour and a half later we arrived at a place the driver claimed was Kbal Spean (a river with carvings in the riverbed) and it clearly wasnt, it was our other destination Banteay Srei. After asking around for directions we headed off again...hopefully towards kbal spean! It became clear the driver didnt quite know what he had got himself into as we jerked our way along the potholed, dusty road which was turned into a sandstorm by any vehicle bigger than a bicycle overtaking us. Completely exposed in the carriage i was wishing i had bought a traditional multipurpose Cambodian scarf called a Krama to ward off the dust (having been asked a million and one times by kids at the temples...'you want scarf?' 'i give you good price'...why didnt i say...ooh yes i'd love one!). Anyway, we stopped about 6 more times for directions and many about turns, then a bumpy, dust covered hour later we arrived at Kbal Spean. The river is 1.5km into the jungle..'along a pretty path that winds its way into the jungle'...more like a scramble over giant boulders along a dried out riverbed...thanks lonely planet! After an adventurous clamber into the jungle i saw my carvings (interesting but not jaw dropping) and headed back down.
Confirming with the driver...as best i could anyway as by this point it was clear he spoke very little english...we were back off to Banteay Srei.....almost.....one wrong turn later we were taking the long way round...i could tell he knew we had gone the way from his body language but we carried on regardless (i think his pride prevented any further direction asking!!) Eventually we came to a road we had been along before and arrived at Banteay Srei a lovely temple with some of the most intricate carvings of all the temples, Banteay Srei means 'Citadel of the Women' and it is said it must have been built by a woman as the carvings are too fine to have been done by a man.
Our next stop was the Cambodian Land Mine Museum...except the driver, whose fee was rapidly declining, had no knowledge of its whereabouts...even i knew where it was as we had passed it on our way out from Siem Reap! Trying to explain this we whizzed back off on the road to Siem Reap and as the museum blurred past i had to bring us to a stop with a loud 'its THERE!'.

The Landmine Museum was set up by a former child soldier called Aki Ra. His parents were killed by the Khmer Rouge when he was 5 and he was trained as a child soldier, being handed his first gun when he was ten and laying many mines for the Pol Pot regime. He was captured/defected to the Vietnamese and after the war was over he began to work as a de-miner, being very successful due to his thorough knowledge of landmines. He employs very unusual demining techniques (even after receiving landmine clearance training from the UN) preferring to work alone with just a stick and knife! Whenever a landmine or unexploded bomb is found in a village, Aki Ra is the first to be called. Aki Ra and his wife live with 20 children who have lived through landmine accidents and provide them with an education.
The museum really brought it home to me how unsafe the countryside is in Cambodia...it's an awful shadow to live under...not being able to run carefree or work in an unknown field for fear of landmines...an estimated 2-3 million of which still remain in Cambodia.

Third day of temple exploration involved the revisiting the main temples and all the smaller ones in between i hadn't seen on the first day. Our driver was a complete contrast to my driver the day before, An was a smiling older man who had worked for the Angkor Preservation Department for 20 years before sadly having to leave as the wage was not enough to live on, his neat and tidy re-morque even came fitted out with umbrellas (which luckily we didn't need to use!)

Arriving back at my hotel i was beckoned by one of the cambodian girls that work here. She was saying something about feeding time and slightly confused i followed her onto the balcony of the second floor.....just in time to see a bucket of fish heads being flung into a muddy enclosure.........full of crocodiles!!!!! Now the vague mumblings about a crocodile farm by mr kim who had brought me here from the boat all made sense! Quite glad i found out about it when i was close to leaving and also that i didnt have a room on the ground floor!! According to the family watching the feeding frenzy (this was their weekly feeding and seemed to attract quite a crowd) the crocodiles were bred and the baby crocs sold to vietnam and china. Bucket after bucket of fish were thrown into the pool along with a few snakes for a bit of variation! Also i dread to think what was thrown in before i got there as i could hear some crunching sounds emanating from the corner of the enclosure!! All a bit Jurassic Park!

Today i spent most of my time in the markets in Siem Reap, stocking up on kramas and other Cambodian goodies as it is my last day here in Cambodia before flying to Laos tomorrow!!

Posted by VanessaT 09:14 Archived in Cambodia Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Phnom Penh

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My first day in Cambodia turned out to be fairly harrowing. We visited the Killing Fields of Choeung Ek, site of the mass execution of Cambodians under the brutal Pol Pot regime. During the 70’s about 17,000 men, women and children were brought to the extermination camp and were often bludgeoned to death to avoid wasting precious bullets. There is a large Memorial Stupa containing more than 8000 skulls exhumed from the site, half of which still remains untouched. Today it is a peaceful place in stark contrast to the 70's when they hung loudspeakers to drown out the cries of the victims.
We then visited the Tuol Sleng Museum, a high school that was converted into a detention and torture centre by Pol Pots security forces. The museum displays room after room of black and white photos of prisoners when they arrived and some after being tortured…virtually all of the men, women and children pictured were later killed at Choeung Ek. Although both places were hard to see I think it’s important to visit them in order to fully understand what the Cambodian people went through. A chilling reminder of this is the absence of the older generation as you move around the country.
The next day was very interesting as it was election day in Cambodia. The rival parties were the governing Cambodian Peoples Party (the Prime Minister was previously a member of the Khmer Rouge…make of that what you will) and the opposition Sam Rainsy party (known for his outspoken criticisms concerning corruption). There was publicity everywhere for the election and the country basically shut down, no buses were leaving, bars were shut, some stopped serving alcohol. It seemed slightly strange to me but when you consider this is only Cambodias fourth national election it is more understandable! The CPP ended up winning which was not a surprise as they have been in power (albeit in various coalitions) since the very first national election. Cambodia is a fairly corrupt country to put it mildly so who knows what the true outcome of the election should have been?

After a full on few days in Phnom Penh I escaped to Sihanoukville on Cambodias coast for a few days beach time! Being a bit of a beach snob after Koh Samet it wasn’t the nicest surroundings but was nice to chill out for a few days and do basically nothing! Visited the nearby national park which wasn’t exactly a national park in the way we would describe one (it had an oil distribution centre in the middle!) but it was nice and remote and after a bit of searching we found a reclining Buddha and a pretty deserted beach.

I’m now back in Phnom Penh for one night before heading off to Battambang tomorrow morning.

Posted by VanessaT 06:12 Archived in Cambodia Tagged round_the_world Comments (1)

Ho Chi Minh City and the Mekong

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This is going to be a bit of a monster blog, I’ve split it into a couple of entries so you might have to go back a couple of entries to pick up the previous ones, I’ve been writing it on my laptop as I go so sorry for the incorrect tenses and out of date info! sorry for not updating sooner but the last couple of weeks seem to have passed in a blur, I cant believe my time in Vietnam is almost over..Cambodia is beckoning!

On Monday we visited the Re-Unification Palace where the North Vietnamese army famously stormed with tanks signaling the end of the war. I wasn’t quite expecting the 1960’s office block architecture though! Then we went to the War Remnants Museum which has large photographic exhibitions documenting the war including a harrowing section on the birth defects caused by pregnant women ingesting Agent Orange.

Looked round a big undercover market with everything you could possibly want in it…Sally was a bit gutted to see all the souvenirs she had been carting down from Hanoi were readily available in HCMC and at cheaper prices!!

Tuesday was the day of the Cu Chi tunnels, as we traveled down Vietnam I’d read a book all about the tunnels and the US soldiers who fought the Viet Cong in them (known as the tunnel rats) so was really interested to see what they were like firsthand…but also apprehensive as they are very small and claustrophobic.

The first part of the tour took us to the CaoDai temple. Caodai is a relatively new religion in Vietnam and combines Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. The temple is decked out in pastel colours and it makes it look slightly Disney! We stayed observed part of the service from an overhead balcony which was interesting but felt quite intrusive.

Off to the tunnels and we were showed around the above ground complex and given a short history. The tunnels were used by the VC to hide in and travel throughout the Cu Chi region during the war. The Americans unwittingly built a base right on top of part of the network and for months were at a loss as to why the VC were able to get inside their secure perimeter and attack the troops in their barracks at night...it was because there were countless concealed entrances to the tunnel system right inside the base which allowed the VC to appear and disappear in the blink of an eye. These entrances were so well concealed, at the tunnels the guide asked us to find an entrance hidden beneath a pile of leaves and it was pretty hard to find, just a small wooden trap door completely flush with the ground. It was so small you could barely believe a man could fit through. They also showed us the inventive but bloody traps used by the VC…most involving sharp bamboo spikes in pits intended to maim and entrap the US soldiers.
Then it was time for the tunnels! We went down a short flight of steps into a dugout 2m deep then down into the tunnel itself which was 1.2m tall. It was pretty claustrophobic...if there hadn’t have been people behind me I think I would have probably climbed out!! We continued down the tunnels for 30m until the next exit which was plenty for us! You cannot believe how the VC used to live and fight down in the tunnels and these tunnels have been made bigger to allow tourists in, the actual size was much smaller and the system went as deep at 8m.

That evening as it was Sallys last night we went to a beauty place and had massages and manicures, I don’t think I’ve ever had as many massages as I have had in Vietnam!

Today I started a trip down into the Mekong Delta. We took a boat out to the floating market at Cai Be but it was quite late so there was not much to see. Tonight I am at a homestay so staying with a Vietnamese family at their house on the river. Its lovely and peaceful here. When I got here Viet, who is a chemistry teacher at the local school, took me on a boat tour around the small branches of the Mekong…it seemed to be bath time as we went past lots of houses with children bobbing around in the river complete with shampoo Mohawks. Just ate a tasty dinner cooked by his wife and am now off to bed as I have to be up at 5.30 tomorrow!!!

Managed to drag myself out of bed and headed to the market down the road from the homestay, even at that time in the morning it seems the Vietnamese have been up for hours! Had some breakfast then headed to rejoin the rest of the group who had been staying in a hotel in Can Tho. We got back onto the river, this time on smaller boats to explore a second floating market. As we were there earlier it was more lively, all the boats are laden with fruit and vegetables and have a long pole sticking up in there air to which they attach whatever goods they have to sell so people can see which boat to head for!
More cruising around the Mekong and nosing into peoples houses as they just open straight onto the river. Its amazing no matter how ramshackle a house is you are guaranteed to see a big TV in the corner.. essential entertainment for the Vietnamese family.
We changed bus and headed for Chao Doc a small town only 2 miles from the border with Cambodia where we shall be heading tomorrow.

Just arrived in Phnom Penh, Cambodias capital, spent most of the day on a boat heading up the Mekong and over the border…off to go and explore now!

Will add some pictures to flick when I get a more reliable internet connection, again apologies for the lack of recent blogging action!

Posted by VanessaT 05:54 Archived in Vietnam Tagged round_the_world Comments (0)

Easy Rider Tour

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Easy Rider Tour Day One

At 8am sharp Stephane and Binh pulled up on their motorbikes. We gave them our luggage to lash onto the back of their bikes…it seemed like a bit of a physical impossibility but as they assured us the day before it fitted and was neatly secured with lots of bungee cords!

We headed off but stopped pretty quickly at the Crazy House. The house/hotel was deigned by a Vietnamese lady who studied architecture in Russia. The result is a Gaudi-like warren of stairways and rooms with names such as…the lion room, the ant room and the gourd room…complete with a life sized sculpture of whatever the room is named after.
Soon after we stopped at a flower farm, the farmers grow flowers as a sideline, they can harvest them everyday and don’t have to wait for a whole year as they do with their other crops such as coffee. The flowers they were picking were going to be sold in Saigon.
Next stop was the Elephant Waterfalls which were very pretty but getting down to the bottom was quite precarious…the trail would definitely not have passed muster with UK health and safety inspectors!
We popped into a rice wine brewery which was in a farmers shed…they brew the wine to sell to local farmers and villagers while waiting to harvest the coffee crop. Many farmers in the region grow or produce more than one product.
Then we stopped at the first minority village. The minority tribes used to be nomadic but the government has made them come down from the mountains and settle permanently in villages. They are subsidised by the government and given rice and livestock to help them settle. It was very interesting but also seemed very intrusive just to be wandering around peoples houses without them even being there!! The Easy Rider guides really do allow you to see a different side to Vietnam as we would never have visited most of the places we did without them.
By this point Sally and I were getting pretty saddle sore! They dropped us off for a couple of short walks to stretch our legs…one took us past a bomb crater which is now being used by the minority children as a swimming pool!
The landscape along the way is really spectacular but you can still clearly see the scars of war, massive patches of forest where nothing will grow due to the ground still being steeped in Agent Orange, the government carried out a big replanting scheme after the war but you can still see where deforestation chemicals and bombs have destroyed the jungle.

That evening we stayed in a hotel near the picturesque Lak Lake and ate dinner with Stephane and Binh. They are quite different temperaments and Stephane decided to turn in early leaving us to chat with Binh who had dominated the conversation for most of the night….it was a sign of things to come!!!

Easy Rider Tour Day Two

Back on the bikes, with our fingers crossed that the saddle sore wouldn’t be as painful as the day before, we headed for our second minority village. This village seemed to be a bit more prosperous and they had tractors and motorbikes, they lived on houses raised up on stilts. Stephane explained that he hadn’t agreed with anything Binh said the previous evening and had gotten tired of listening to him so gone to bed early…the warning bells were starting to ring!
Next stop was a mushroom farm, they take plastic bags with slits in them, fill them with sawdust, put in the spores and wait for the mushrooms to grow. They also had a massive cobra which the lady was trying to get us to put round our neck…..no thank you!!!
We then drove through another minority village, these villagers grew coffee and had become very rich from it and were in the process of building new houses out of brick. The farmers who got in early with their coffee growing and selling after the war made a lot of money but now there are so many coffee plantations the price of coffee has dropped. We stopped off at one house as Binh saw dragonfuit trees in the garden and he wandered into their house and asked for one! Soon we were enjoying the crisp refreshing taste of a cold dragon fruit straight from the fridge…until we got to the end of our slices and noticed………..THE MAGGOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Argh!!! Sally and I were pretty sure we hadn’t eaten any but we felt a bit queasy all the same!!!
All the children in the minority villages are really sweet and wave and shout hello as you drive by.
Stopped for lunch then visited a diamond sugar factory where they turn refined sugar into diamond sugar which is then shipped to Japan and Taiwan for use in confectionary...I’d never seen anything like that before.
The final stops were a brick factory and two more waterfalls, these were nice as they were quite deep in the jungle.
Reached the hotel we were staying in….discovered that the power station was out and they would turn on the generator from 6pm-10pm. 6pm sharp the generator comes on and Sally plugs in her hairdryer to the sound of the generator groaning in protest and the lights dimming! We finished drying our hair and then we heard the girls in the room next door fire up their hairdryer at which point the lights died completely!! The man who owned the hotel came round looking for the offending electrical appliance, we got away with it as we had put the hairdryer away but he told the girls they couldn’t use their ‘machine’. We came down to dinner looking the picture of innocence…apart from our immaculately dried hair which was a bit of a giveaway that we had been at it too!!
That evening it was Stephanes turn to dominate the after dinner conversation and in response Binh wandered off and joined another table.
The generator was turned off at 10pm but 30 mins later the power station was back on resulting in a camera battery and ipod charging frenzy!

Easy Rider Tour Day Three

We spent the majority of the day on the bikes as we had a lot of ground to cover. We joined the Ho Chi Minh trail, the route used by the North Vietnamese to bring weapons, supplies and men down to the south, it runs from the old demarcation line right down to Ho Chi Minh city with branches going into Laos and Cambodia. It used to be a small single lane track covered by jungle and completely hidden from the air, therefore unknown to the U.S, but when they discovered it they heavily bombed the trail and used deforestation chemicals in order to try and stop the use of the trail by the north Vietnamese, much of the devastation caused you can still see today. There are still lots of unexploded bombs and landmines and along the trail are signs warning people not to stray too far into the jungle although not too enthusiastically…they are just plain white signs saying keep out, they don’t actually specify the mortal danger you could be in!

The views from the trail surpassed anything we had seen on the previous days and we stopped for plenty of photos. We drove through one final minority village and were invited into one of the houses by the family who lived there and chatted for a while using Stephane as an interpreter, it was very interesting to find out about their lifestyle, that particular village were the Ma tribe and it was a matriarchal society where the man takes the womans name when they marry and moves into the womans family home…completely the opposite to the rest of Vietnam. After chatting for a while we got invited next door too, this seemed to be the mens hangout in the village after posing for a group photo it was time to get going. We completed the final stretch to Di Linh where we were staying for the evening. Turned out Stephane and Binh had disagreed on hotel choice for the evening but Binh had won out and Stephane had made reservations. However now we were there Binh didn’t want to stay in the hotel afterall so this led to them having a big argument in the hotel foyer…so much for Asian people not losing their temper for fear of losing face...these two seemed like champion bickerers. We didn’t know what to do so in order to keep everyone happy we decided to look at the second hotel (the first one had been perfectly fine!) We got to the second one and Stephane didn’t want to stay there...again they started arguing and this time Stephane shoved Binh…at this point I’d had enough and walked out the hotel! It was like being with two children!!! Sally and I decided to go back to the first hotel and then guys could stay wherever they chose, we also said we wanted to have dinner alone that evening as the two previous nights had been so awkward! So we parted ways for the night hoping that they would have cooled down by the morning and enjoyed our evening.

Easy Rider Tour Day Four

Stephane and Binh turned up the next morning as if nothing had even happened the night before! All very strange.. Stephane apologized to Sally when they were on the bike but Binh was sulking all day! (Ironically i later learnt that Binh means ‘peace’ in Vietnamese!!)
We drove down to Mui Ne our final stop and went to see the sand dunes which were a great sight but rather hot.
Time for our tour to come to an end and we got dropped off at a café to wait for our bus to Ho Chi Minh City.
Its funny even though they bickered and fought along the way we did miss Stephane and Binh once they were gone.

Spent the rest of the day on the coach to HCMC…meant to take 4 hrs but took 8! Arrived in HCMC to a massive downpour….when it rains it really rains here and like in Hanoi as the sewers are practically nonexistent the roads become rivers!

Posted by VanessaT 05:53 Archived in Vietnam Tagged motorcycle Comments (0)

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