Temples and Motorbikes
19.10.2007 25 °C
It's been a while since the last entry. We've been moving about a lot and it is not always easy to get time to use the internet.
When we left off last time we were busy dodging manic motorbikes in Saigon. We managed to escape the hustle and bustle of the big city for a few days by flying to Siem Reap in Cambodia to see the temples of Angkor Wat.
Siem Reap is a bit of a strange place. It is a boom town due to tourism and they are building, it seems, hundreds of new hotels. It is really quite bizarre. They are even building on the killing fields in the area! I'm not sure I'd be happy staying there and I'm really quite shocked that they are using that land (it was very cheap apparently).
We booked a 3 day tour of Cambodia and Angkor Wat at our hotel in Saigon. We left our enormous backpacks in Saigon and travelled light for a change. We were picked up at the airport in Cambodia by a friendly guide and taken to our hotel. We had no idea what to expect of the hotel other than that it was supposed to be 3 stars. We drove into Siem Reap past all the new swanky hotels but didn't stop at any of them... oh well. Then we started going down some pretty dodgy looking back streets and I started to expect the worst. We turned into a side turning to our hotel which was....... Fantastic! It was a new hotel with very plush reception area and the staff were really polite. Jess then spotted the enormous swimming pool out the back. Hmmm, guess who didn't pack their swimming costumes. They were in our big bags back in Saigon - Dammit.
We had a really nice lunch in the hotel and then went to a silk factory where we saw silk being made from the breeding, growing and cultivating of the silk worms, through the extraction of the silk from the worms to the weaving of the cloth on looms. Fascinating. It's amazing how much work goes into producing silk. No wonder it's so pricey.
The guide took us to a market on the way back to the hotel where Jess bought, yes you've guessed it, a bikini. $5 well spent I reckon. Back to the hotel for a swim.....
Next day we went to Angkor Wat to see the temples. We had a really nice guide who explained all about the temples and the carvings on the walls. It was really worth getting the guide in my opinion, without him, you really are just looking at pictures carved on a wall but the guide brings them to life by describing the lifestyles and battles the carvings depict.
Our last day in Cambodia was spent by the pool at the hotel. A real luxury to smelly backpackers like us!
From Siem Reap, it was back to the motorcycle madness of Saigon for an evening before flying up to Hanoi for...more motorcycle madness. We stayed in an area called the Old Quarter. The streets in this area are really narrow (probably only 3 metres wide and packed with shops, hotels, tour shops and a new discovery of ours, the Bia Hoi. This translates as 'Draft Beer'. They are little shops with tiny plastic chairs outside and the serve draft beer (obviously). The beer comes from a keg with a hosepipe attached and costs 2000 dong per glass (about 8 pence). Great fun. We stayed their chatting to people for about 2 or 3 hours and the bill was 16000 dong for both of us. Not bad eh?
Next stop was Halong Bay. Halong Bay is a huge area of limestone karsts in the ocean off the east coast of Vietnam. The scenery is amazing there. We organised a boat tour through our hotel and were persuaded to get the 'deluxe' cabin by our hotel. 'No air conditioning in standard cabins, rooms not as nice' etc etc. Suckers. $79 each later, and on our boat, we quickly discovered that all the rooms were pretty much the same and basically we'd handed over our hard earned dosh for the standard tour anyway. Dammit (again)! The tour was actually really good though and we did enjoy it tremendously. We had a bit of a go at Kayaking in the sea but I think I'm too uncoordinated to do that sort of thing as I kept smacking Jess's oar. (which side is left again?). After a night on the boat, we headed back to the mainland picking up some people who'd been staying on one of the islands overnight. I think they'd had a good night as they came onto the boat at 9am with beers in hand and quickly got into our boats supply of beer and also got the Karaoke going. I was not quite ready for Karaoke at 10 in the morning but live and let live I say. It was very funny listening in on their conversations. Do I talk that much crap after a few beers? (stop sniggering at the back!). Back to Hanoi again (beep beep yeah). Next stop Sapa in north west Vietnam and another hard sleeper train.