Travel Notes 2
After leaving my parents in Chiang Mai (I had done Myanamar
with them), I took the night bus down to Bangkok and got in
early in at 06:30. I had met a couple who had already been to
Bangkok and were going to go to the same hotel near Khao San Road as
they had the last time. I went with, but ended up staying at the hotel
next door, as it was a bit cheaper - every cent counts when you are
travelling for five months. I bought myself a bus ticket to Siem Reap
and then went about discovering the area.
The next day I left early in the morning (every is always early: 05:00
- 7:30). The trip was fine until we got to the border. The first thing
was the scam whereby the bus company gets you to buy the visa at a
restaurant before the border, for an additional cost - you could get
the visa at border itself. Most of us, me included, fell for it. The
other side of the border the road was a nightmare and I had made the
mistake of sitting on the back seat. I was thrown around and wondered
what the start of my back would be by the end.
Arriving in Seam Reap, along with two other people, I opted not to
stay in the guest house where we had been dropped. This is another
trick, since they get commission if you check into the guest house.
Instead we took a tuk-tuk down closer to town and found anothe gues
house, called the 'Smile Guest House'. We met another group of three
who has been dropped by another bus and had also decided on another
hotel. We went and ate at the 'Dead Fish Restaurant', where first
discovered the strange practice of paying in Dollars and Real in the
The next three days was spent discovering the ancient ruins of Angkor.
It was fantastic and I could almost have spent more time discovering
the place. Maybe next time when I have a bigger budget and more time?
After that it was down to Phnom Penh by boat. The water was high
enough to permit us to use one boat for the whole journey. The boat
was a long speed boat, with people sitting inside and others sitting
on the roof. I felt a little claustophobic sitting at the back, since
it was very tight and there was no door at the back. On arrival we
were surrounded by moto drivers and tuk-tuk drivers trying to
overcharge us to get anywhere.
I stayed a few days in Phnom Penh, discovering the city, visiting the
Genocide museum (located in the grounds of what was S-21). I was
staying with some friends of the family, but left them a day before I
left, since I was also trying to do stuff with some people I had met
along the way. The other issue was that it was not really near the
facilities I needed to plan the next part of my trip. I moved in the
back packer area near the lake and organised my bus to Ho Chi Minh
One thing I didn't appreciate in Phnom Penh were the moto drivers that
would agree to a price and destination, and then get lost and trying
to charge you extra.
While in Phnom Penh I also organised my visa to Laos and got the visa
dates for Vietnam changed - I had misplanned, so I still had another
10 days until I could go to Vietnam, hence the need to bring forward
my entry date. I could have used the time to discover Cambodia in more
detail, but I felt that there was still so much to do in my trip as it
The bus trip to Ho Chi Minh city (HCMC) was comfortable and made a big
difference to the one coming in. No scams this time :) On arrival in
HCMC we were dropped off at 'Happy Tours', the company handling the
Vietnam leg of the bus journey. After having been in Cambodia where
every moto driver wanted to get your money, it was nice not to be
hassled when we arrived. I left my bags at the agent and went to find
a hotel near by.
My time in HCMC was spent visiting the river delta and visiting the
tunnels at Cu Chi, which were used by the Vietnamese during the
Vietnam war with the Americains.
After that I booked my bus up to Hue, with Sinh Cafe
(www.sinhcafevn.com). Sinh Cafe offers what are known as 'open tours',
whereby you pay for the whole journey, but it is broken down into
stages where you can stay for as long as you want.
My first stop was Dalat where I spent a day with a tour discovering
the surrounding area.
Next was Nha Trang, where I am currently located.
So far a budget of $20 a day is fine, though it can get more expensive
when include the price of transport and some of the visits.