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Vietnam

Winter Vacation - Hanoi/Siem Reap, Cambodia 2007/01/02

Goodbye Vietnam. Hello Cambodia


View Winter Vacation 2006 on agc_cwm's travel map.

We woke up a little later than we normally did, showered and ran downstairs just in time for breakfast. After breakfast I went to the banks to try to change our Vietnamese Dong in US$, but it turns out you can only do that at the airport. While I was doing this Court started to pack.

I made it back to the hotel to help finish packing. Once we finished we went downstairs to wait for our taxi to the airport. There were three groups of people waiting for cabs and one group looked pretty shifty and I thought they were going to steal our cab. When the first cab pulled up we made a bee line for it. It also turns our it was our cab. But, oh well.

We left our hotel and were weaving through all the traffic and motorbikes for 15 minutes when our driver started to slow down and pointed to the warning light that had come on. He gestured that someone else was coming and all we could do was sit tight and wait. We were both a little worried because we thought we made be late and we didn't really know what was going on. We waited another 15 minutes for the other taxi then continued on our way to the airport. We got there in loads of time, so everything was ok.

We got to the airport and figured out what line to get in to check our bags. We checked in and went through customs and immigration. Once we got through I went looking for a money exchange, but there was none in this area they were all outside. I was a little miffed about this. I didn't really want to carry a lot of Vietnamese currency around, but I didn't have an option.

We went up and got some overpriced food at the airport and some duty-free chocolate. Then we sat and read for a bit. While we were in Vietnam we saw all these people walking around selling books. They were everywhere. I was always wondering where they got so many copies of these books (we forgot to mention this in our other blog). When we were in Hoi An, Court finished her book so we went to a book exchange. While we were there we looked at the books and finally figured out why there were so many copies around. Most of them were photocopies. They would photocopy the inside pages and print off a colour copy of the cover and then sell them for $3-5. We picked up a few of these books in Hoi An because we needed something else to read. So, we sat and read these books in the airport while waiting for our flight.

We were surprised by this: when it was time for us to board they called for economy class to board first. Jeez, finally someone realized it is easier for everyone if the people at the back of the plane board first. Then they don't have to dodge people in business class. We got on and found we had three seats to ourselves, so we stretched out and took up as much space as we could.

The flight was fine and uneventful. We were on the plane with a Japanese tour group and a Turkish tour group.

When we landed in Cambodia we had to get in line to fill out our visa paperwork (looking back we should have done this in Vietnam). We filled out our paperwork then it was looked at by about 5 people which was 4 more than needed to do. The workers were sitting in a line and our passport was passed down the line and everyone looked at it. Eventually it ended up at one guy who had to call out your name. Poor guy; he mangled every name he came across. But, he did have to pronounce Chinese, Korean, and English names all within 5 minutes and he was laughing at himself.

We got our passports back then went through immigration. We stood there for a minute and picked a line. We won again and picked the slowest line possible. This was frustrating, and I kept wanting to switch lines. However, we finally did get through. We got our bags and met the driver to take us to our hotel (which turned out to be the worst hotel we stayed in; it looked like a university dorm that was converted to a hotel. Our bathtub tap leaked, the bathroom door wouldn't close, the sink leaked all over the floor; it wasn't good. But, it was $20 a night).

We got checked in and went off to see some traditional dancing. As we were leaving the hotel, there were a bunch of tuk-tuk drivers waiting around the gates. One of them (the first of many) asked us if we needed a driver to see the temples the next day. We were just going to find one later, but since he asked, and he seemed nice enough, we decided to hire him for the next day. We also made the split-second decision to go out there for sunrise, which meant leaving our hotel at 5am. Ugh, but you can only see your first sunrise at a Khmer temple once, so we went with it. We introduced ourselves, arranged a price, and our driver Vut promised he would see us in the morning.

We went to a 5 star resort for dinner and to watch the show. We had dinner and then the show started. Our seats weren't the greatest, but we hadn't made a reservation or anything, and we didn't figure we were well dressed enough to start complaining. The dancing and the costumes were really beautiful. You'll have to take our word for it, because only some of our pictures turned out at all, and they're sort of grainy.

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After the show, we found an internet cafe to contact our parents to tell them we were in another country. We stopped at a convenience store to finally buy some soap and shampoo, and also some snacks for our very early morning, and then went to the hotel and went to bed.

Posted by agc_cwm 04:45 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Winter Vacation - Halong Bay/Hanoi, Vietnam 2007/01/01

Happy New Year. Happy New Year May all our... (Courtesy of ABBA)


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We woke up around 7:30 said "Happy New Year" and then looked out our window and realized we were on Ha Long Bay. It was a surreal feeling.

We didn't bother having a shower this morning. I tried yesterday after my swim, but I didn't have any hot water and no pressure. We just got dressed and went out for breakfast. Breakfast was a quiet affair nobody was talking much and I think everyone was just waking up.

After breakfast we docked at a floating platform to go out for a kayak. We had to dodge all the "snack" boats and all the people in them yelling, "Do you want to buy something?" to get to our kayak. We were all in pair kayaks and we had an hour to paddle around. It was a very nice relaxing kayak. We checked out some caves, paddled around some islands, dodged some big boats, got soaked and picked up some garbage. It was a good way to bring in the New Year.

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We're not perfect kayakers, but we saw some people who are definitely not kayakers. We saw some poor woman trying to paddle it like a canoe. One end of the paddle in the water and the other sticking straight up above her. Luckily, her partner knew what he was doing. On our trip there were two families with small children. One husband and wife took the kayak out and when they were coming back in I heard them say to the other people, "You should get a different kayak, there is water in this one and you will get wet." Yep. I guess water isn't supposed to get in the kayak.

We boarded our kayaks from floating platform which had a couple floating houses and floating nets where they could keep their seafood. Courtney had a great time poking around in these to see what was there. No surprise at all she took a bunch of pictures.

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After we finished kayaking we got back on the boat to pack up all of our stuff and then steamed for port. We arrived at the dock around 11:10, but we had to jockey for a position to dock, which took a lot of exhaust and about 20 minutes. We ended up tying to another boat that was tied to the dock. We had to climb for our boat to the other boat then onto the dock.

We finally got back on dy land, loaded in another van after half an hour of waiting and went to a nearby resaturant for lunch. We had lunch next to a couple from South Africa. So we picked there brains about South Africa throughout the meal. Lunch was great. I had some more seafood.

After lunch we made our way back to Hanoi. Our group got split up and we went back in the van with the aforementioned families and four other people. At one point everyone fell asleep (except me, I couldn't sleep) and then the little boy, who hadn't made a sound through the entire two days, started to scream. And he screamed for a good ten minutes, which of course woke everyone up. Most people weren't too happy about that. Other than that the ride back was uneventful.

We were dropped off at our hotel and made plans to meet up with the folks from NY for supper. But first, we wanted to shower and relax for a bit. We left our hotel with lots of time because we wanted to find an Internet cafe to call home, but we couldn't. Actually, the one we did find wouldn't let us use Skype.

We met up with the folks from NY and had a very nice relaxing dinner. The only downside to this was the restaurant was playing an ABBA CD and we kept hearing, "Happy New Year" all the time. We also heard it around town almost everywhere we went. I think it has replaced Auld Lang Syne for me. I heard it so much this year.

After dinner we tried to find another Internet cafe or some shampoo, but again our search turned up nothing. Eventually we just went back to the hotel and went to bed. Hello 2007.

Posted by agc_cwm 19:57 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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