A Travellerspoint blog

December 2011

Hoi An

Christmas at Hoi An Pacific Hotel

We hit gold with this hotel and I remember back in August booking it for Christmas knowing it was a special place so we paid a bit more. Our rooms are really spacious and on the first night was the Christmas Gala Meal. The list of events included Ball kicking contest, who has the longest tail, beer drinking contest and dancing contest. Before going we made a pact that if one of us wanted to do the contest we all would have to. Deal! First was the drinking contest and Ellen and I got up and went onto the stage to be placed with a man each having to sit on their lap and feed them a babys bottle (yes with a teet) full of beer and the first one to finish was the winner. My guy was really fat so I thought I was onto a winner with his beer belly - but alas no - Ellens guy was much quicker out of the five men and they won.

Next we got up to dance - all of us - to some really odd music. The contest was between 10 of us and when it finished the compare said he had to get rid of 4 - yes - Me, Nana, Ellen and Chloe - were we really that bad?? Chloe says I dance like Nana - but she dances like me - so work that one out! We lost that anyway! I took part in the longest tail which meant our team had to make use of anything on us to make the longest lenth (including body, shoes, hair, laces, belts) hard to explain but we won --- 24 pints of beer and the team gave me the ticket as they were leaving and already won loads of beer. At this point I still have 24 pint tab at the bar!

The best bit was the final lucky draw where they put your room number in a tombola and got a young girl to pull out the number. They pulled out the first one and the people had left the room, so the remaining people shouted "redraw!" we convinced the hotel to keep pulling out room numbers until we get one where the residents are actually in the room. I heard "VICTORIA......" Me I thought.....no someone else different surname. About 10 names got called out and then 'BAILEY' 'YESS!!!!" I shouted - not even thinking there may be other BAILEYS here - but it was us - we won! We won our accommodation for free - how cool was that! We were buzzing!

Christmas day we got up and did our secret santa, I had a colonial hat as well as nana didn, Chloe had a panda purse and a watch and Ellen had a t-shirt. We went into the town and ate at Streets (no 1 on Trip Advisor) It is a restaurant sponsored for the local youths to learn catering from top chefs. They don't get paid but are given accommodation and tuition for free and they learn a trade where they can then work in 5* hotels. What a great place, really good food and it felt right to be eating there. It was more expensive that anywhere else but to know that you are helping in the community by just eating there makes the food taste even nicer.

So I am upto date now and tomorrow we head of to Hue (pronounce Heway and not hugh as i''ve been saying for months and months....no one corrected me - I did the same with Laos (pronounced Lough) - I was telling people "We're going to Layos" One girl called Lucy from work, and I thank her for this, said to me " Are you going to Laos?" "No - but we are going to Layos" Lucy told me it was pronounced Lough and thanks Lucy - you stopped me looking like a right idiot (for a while anyway!).

Posted by Vicky Bailey 04:54 Archived in Western Sahara Tagged journey hoi_an mother_daughter blog world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing Comments (1)

Nha Trang - Do the boat trip!

Go with the flow!

sunny 27 °C

What a refreshing place Nha Trang is with its wide beach, up together properties, people that can communicate (yes I know its me thats the problem - I should learn the language). We were only staying here one night so we had to make the most of the time we have here. We went out for a meal in Guava - simply because on our bus journey from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City we met a guy sat behind us (Sam) who said to pop in and have a beer with him - so we did! What a great place and we bumped into Sam and his lovely girlfriend who gave us complimentary drinks. We had a fabulous meal which included a barbeque on our table, they take out one of the tiles on the table top and slot in a clay pot of coals and presto - barbeque! Being vegetarain this can be a pain when trying to find stuff to eat but not here - there was loads of stuff and all the sort of stuff we wanted after our nightmare journey that day - mozzerrella cheese sticks, bbq veggie platter, veggie pizza, veggie noodles - we had all of it as a big buffett and scoffed the lot down!!

We noticed here that they wanted dollars at shops etc and when we saw a boat trip for the following day for $6 each we thought why not - an all day thing - lets do it. We paid in vietnamese dong which meant it cost us 4 quid each for all day with lunch and transfers - BARGAIN!

We were collected at about 830 and Chloe said she was getting a headache so when I got on the bus I wondered what the big grin was on her face. It didn't take long to work out - there were god knows how many lads there - all very nice looking - from about 20 - 30 years and Chloe and Ellen were beeming!

These guys came from South Africa and what a brilliant bunch they were and such good senses of humour. We laughed all day, ate well and met loads of people, some from Australia and the South Africans. The entertainment was funny too, one of the guys dressed as a woman and sang - it just looked so odd. They had a band with drums made out of cooking pots! People got up onto the stage in the boat (it was a very smalll boat, they just turned the seats into a stage) and sang songs relative to their country. We swam in the sea and after the trip we all went out into the town. Everyone on the boat loved Maggie 'NANA" they shouted and they even tried to bargain with us for her to go travel with them in exchange for four of their guys! Ha ha - it was tempting. Our train was at midnight - yes we made it. It was a shame to leave as we really liked it here but it's a huge difference to the vietnam everywhere else.

The most unfortunate thing happened though is Ellen's camera went missing and we can only assume she was pickpocketed. We were told that you could be walking down the road and they can get your wallet out of your pocket - open it - take the money out - put it back in your pocket as quick as you thinking "did someone just take my wallett?" you check and it's there - minus the money but you think nothing has happened. These guys and girls are professional with it so it's the most likely scenario despite Ellen not knowing it happened. At least she is ok.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 04:37 Archived in Vietnam Tagged vietnam journey mother_daughter blog world_trip nha_trang back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing boat_trip_nha_trang Comments (0)

Ho Chi Minh City to Nha Trang by train

Stay calm!

overcast 25 °C

So from memory on my last blog I told you we were going to Nha Trang on the 625am train and we had already booked the tickets with soft sleeper (which means we have a four bed compartment to ourselves for the journey that will arrive in Nha Trang at about 1330hrs. This method, in respect of the level of comfort is the best so I didn't mind so much having to get up at 5am for the journey as we had a bed each on the train to snooze and take in the views.

A regular saying with me is that you can't control what goes on around you and ....yet again.... no matter how well I have planned something - there is always the chance of it going wrong. I honestly think someone up there has a right old laugh with me because some of the things that happen - you wouldn't believe because it's nearly alll the time crazy stuff happens.

We went to bed at a reasonable time as we didn't really do very much in Ho Chi Minh aside from dodge traffic, get ripped off and eat. At about 2am we heard "clip, clop, clip, clop, clip, clop" on and on someone with high heeled shoes walking around above us then they came downstairs and that was the que for the major row to start. Im guessing it was husband/wife or boyfriend/girlfriend shouting at the top of their voices about god knows what it was just a muffled "rahh rahh rahh." The staff in the hotel did nothing and I later found the "one" member of staff who was sound asleep on the sofa in the lobby with the TV on.

This row was a row of all rows, even when the couple had finished the man took to phoning someone and was rowing with them about how HE hadn't had much sleep - crickey....it's because of him we didn't have much sleep!

I went downstairs at about 540am to check out and woke the member of staff up who spoke very little English. I wrote a list of the problems in the room.....toilet and sink leaks onto the bathroom floor, big hole in the bath, cobwebs on ceiling, kettle and cups but no where to plug kettle in, bed broken, shouting all night staff did nothing.....I gave him the list and realised he couldn't read it so asked him to pass it onto the manager.

NOW - I don't usually do that - write notes complaining but this place wasn't cheap in comparison to hotels in the city and it was a nightmare - no hotwater, noisy, breakfast was served but they only had 2 tables in the hotel so if wanted to eat you had to wait for someone else to finish. Whats that all about? Especially there are 30 rooms there - thats at most 60 people to feed between 7 and 9 - 2 hrs =120 minutes so my maths tell me that you have 2 minutes to sit down order, wait for the food, eat it and get the table cleared. What a joke! So I felt that they should realise this and wrote my note. Maybe it's a bit sad but I look at it as maybe helping them to improve.....famous last words!

The guy says to me "five nigh - you pay 100 dollar now" so we begin....we actually stayed two nights and from my book we owed about 50 and I told him this and he checked his books and I paid $50. By this time the taxi is outside and its nearly 6am and we are on track for the train. That was until we walked out the door and he came running after us "$50 more dollar!! $50 more dollar!" I asked him what for and he didn't understand me. I showed him by book and he couldn't read it. I went back into the hotel and he couldn't show me any papers but only repeat "pay more." By this time I was getting stressed if we miss the train - we've lost our money you see - you can't get on another one without a new ticket. He pointed me to go on the computer and I was guessing he wanted me to show him by booking confirmation. I tried but the computer was off and was taking ages to fire up. I told him "We are going to miss out train!!" "Yes" he said still looking half asleep. I though what the hell is going on here....I have paid....I don't owe any more...I don't need to stay here so I left and got in the cab on route to the station....we were too late - we missed the train because of the idiot at the hotel - 60 quid down. Next train in 4 hours taking an extra 2 hours to get there (10am to 1830) and worst to come HARD SEATS. Hard seats are like a slatted hard bench with a straight flat slatted back - really uncomfortable, not suitable for this journey. We sucked it in and pushed on waiting for the next train - yes we squabbled abit about why I tried to sort it out, why didn't I just get in the cab, why didn't the girls come down abit earlier etc ...bottom line is it happened.

We got on the train and it was FULL with no aircon only a few fans, we found out seat and I was sat next to Maggie with two local people opposite. One lady was crying as she waved her family off - lets call her Ann for this bit. Ann was sat with a huge mouth mask on. So many women wear them here covering their noses and mouths to combat inhaling pollution but they don't take them off. Ann is sat infront of me speaking to me in Vietnamese slowly like I would understand it slower - but all I see is the tears in her eyes and her family outside crying. I felt sorry for her and being tired didn't know how much crying I could watch without starting me off especially after that mornings escapades!

I thought the journey would be ok until Ann took a big sheet of plastic - smacked my ankles away to put the sheet under my feet. Like when you feed a baby - you put a mat down - this is the same thing. I wondered if it was so our feet stayed clean - how ignorant of me - it was so Ann could lay on the floor under my seat across to the other seat - she smacked my ankles again and i had to sit with my legs either over to one side of wide apart so she could have the room under my feet. Bloody typical! The longest journey and I can't even put my feet on the floor. Ann stayed like this the entire time even chatting on her phone - it was so odd but looking around the train - they were all doing it. It's a case of the floor is the best seat and sod you if you didn't get on it first.

When we arrived in Nha Trang it was already dark and we were bombarded by taxi drivers as we left the station. We arrived at our hotel and it was brilliant! Green Peace Hotel - really nice place a complete contrast to Sunny Hotel Ho Chi Ming City.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 04:00 Archived in Vietnam Tagged journey mother_daughter blog ho_chi_minh_city world_trip back_packing chloe_bailey flash_packing nha_trang_train Comments (0)

Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Ming aka Saigon via overnight bus

Also getting Visa for Vietname from Phnom Penh

overcast 25 °C

You know what no matter how many times I can plan something that can make that 'thing' to be such a simple task something usually happens to put a spanner in the works. We found out we could get a night bus to Ho Chi Minh leaving at 1230am arriving at 6am so all we had to do now was get out Visa. I checked out the prices online and within the local hotels that arrange it so we had enought money. We got up early to do the visa one, now the Vietname Visa is an easy one to get and should be in and out with half an hour. We arrived at 845am dropped off by the tuk tuk about four minutes away the other end of the street. Got into the building and there was hardly anyone there - brilliant - shouldn't take too long I thought. I spoke to the official behind the desk who asked me when I wanted the visa and when I said today he grinned and said $15 dollar extra. Now my research was 45$ for express.....he pointed out a sign on the wall.....60$ he wanted and you do not argue with any government official so 120$ for me and Chloe which meant I was 10$ short. Thats ok, I thought - ATM should b here so off on my ATM mission.

After walking about a mile we had already tried two which did not have a connection - all told it took an hour and another tuk tuk ride to find an ATM. There are so many ATMs in Phnom Penh but none by the Embassy - typical.

The good news was that we got our visas and back in time for breakfast. We then spent the day wandering around the markets until 1230 am when it was time for the bus. By this time we were very tired indeed so we sat patiently on the squished bus where there is more leg room on a Ryanair flight. All our seats were taken by strangers so they weren't impressed when they were asked to move.

By 1am two drunken loud Lithuanian lads got on, we still hadnt left, and sat infront of me. Sometimes I feel like I have a radar on me when using any public transport. On flights - all screaming children sit infront of me and all the loud seat grabbers sit behind me. The guy infront then leant his chair right back banging my knees. Great! I thought - we hadn't even left and I was guessing that I wouldn't be getting any sleep. We actually left at 2am (1.5hr late) and they turned out the lights and the lads infront piped down.

The next thing that happened was the bus drivers associate turned on his walkman phone which not only played obscure music but also every ring tone and message notification tone. I couldn't take it any more and went down to speak with him. "Please can you turn your music off - people are trying to sleep" "No - music help people sleep". Bloody idiot - well he did turn it off - for five minutes then it was back on again with avengence.

The bus had a cracked front windscreen and side windows. Not the best of journeys especially when we arrived at 10am and our hotel wouldn't let us check in.

Today we took a cyclo which is a bike with a buggy on the front. We negotiated a price of 100 for 1 hour then half way round my driver slapped me across my shoulders and shouted "200 1 hour" we had another discussion about the first negotiation. After half hour we got off and gave him 100 which he put in his pocket and pulled out 10 and accussed us of not giving him enough. Getting a bit fed up of all the bartering and the scams people try to pull off here. You really have to be on your toes and be switched on all the time.

A positive note is the food is amazing, there are places to eat everywhere and it is cheap - really cheap and good. The people work really hard trying to get customers and they run across the street to get you to eat in their restaurat. When youre sat down you get approached from book sellers to jewellery sellers trying to earn a living.

One thing I have found most puzzling across Cambodia and Vietname is the amount of women that walk around in the day in their Pyjamas - they do- and it makes me chuckle.

Tomorrow we take the train to Nha Trang so an early morning 6am.

Posted by Vicky Bailey 03:03 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Phnom Penh from Siem Reap

By boat!

We decided to go to Phnom Penh by Speed boat, which infact was more like a fast long boat but what a journey it was fantastic! It wasn't cheap in relation to other modes of transport but if you've got a 6hr journey ahead would you do boat or bus?

We got picked up from our hotel at 6am by a mini bus for 9 people and there were two seats left in the front and two in the back, perfect for the four of us, I joked to the guy next to me that we could fit two more in....famous last words!! We trugged along the dusty pothole road for five minutes and stopped where we saw two huge stocky guys with bags to match waiting......for our bus. We wondered who was going to sit on the roof or if we had to sit on each others laps. I think the guys were Polish and they were not impressed at squeezing into the bus with no seat to sit on only the metal floor.....seriously - this happened. After a few more minutes and some moaning from everyone inside we stopped 'ok you get food now' we were told and a girl came to the bus asking what we would like to buy. The Polish guy started to shout at the driver "WHY ARE WE HERE?" With no response he shouted again. Nothing happened we were left at the cafe for 15 minutes.....until a Chinese guy arrived who had also booked a ticket. He had to get in as well, talk about sardines in a can- it was really cramped and the driver knew it - he kept getting out and checking his tyres! We arrived for the boat at 830 when we should have caught the 7am!

We arrived safely though and the journey was soon forgotten when the boat started. We sat on the roof and the boat picked up speed - I have to say it was brilliant - the wind in your hair and the hot sun dampened down by the breeze - I thought this will give me a good tan!

We passed lots of water houses and locals fishing in their boats with their children who waved with enthusiasm as we passed. I can't say enough that this was the best way to get to Phnom Penh despite one muppet who blogged it was too expensive and boring! Rubbish!

When we arrived we all looked like we had just been frazzelled .....major sun burn! Maggie had a burnt face and knees, Chloe had a burnt face and Ellen was like a lobstar! I moaned at Maggie 'you should have worn suncream' I told her but I hadn't put any on myself. I put on a brave face but to be honest my knees were burning and so was my face! By the evening we all, except Ellen, had swollen faces from the burn. So it was an early night with lots of after sun and Maggie had a wet towel on her head like a turban.

In the morning I went to reception to make a phone call, I managed to get through to the guy to organise a trip with Blazing Trails a Quad Bike firm but couldn't focus as a fat old London English guy was shouting to the receptionist "THE GIRL I HAD IN MY ROOM LAST NIGHT THAT I SLEPT WITH - ROOM 202 - HAS TAKEN MY PHONE!' Due to the language barrier he had to repeat this again and again with hand signals.....hands together by the ears for sleep -- not hands by hips girating-- and finger and thumb for phone. Girl was a gesture of long hair....but I had the man on the phone trying to talk to me so he had to keep repeating what he said. Anyway it turns out the London guy had booked a prostitue for 7pm to 8pm - one hour - no love you long time - and she nicked his phone while he was alseep. Hilarious! Now I saw the girl the night before and she was young! I can't say how young because the girls look young here anyway, but there is a lot of child exploitation. So I figured - in Cambodia - not with an English Law head on - maybe this guy deserved what happened. There was no shame of shouting about the prostitute he had, more upset that his phone contacts were gone. How is this - so its common knowledge about the sex trade in Cambodia, there are signs in the hotels not to exploit but this guy is upset he can't call .....god knows! Another thing is the staff knew who she was but kept their mouths shut. It was quite funny really and went on for a long time.

We made our way to Tuol Sleng Museum where 17000 people were tortured between 1975 and 1979 and an estimated 3 billion murdered at the Killing Fields. I couldn't take any photos there it was so sobering and didn't seem right. There were photos of each person taken to there and pictures of them after they were tortured. I won't go into detail but it was really shocking and sad that this happened not so long ago.

Tomorrow we are going to the Killing Fields.

Sunburn has gone down now and so has the swelling. However, I have to mention that Chloe and Maggie have the best goggle marks I have seen for a long time! Mind you if Chloe reads this, which she will, she will put on here that I have a Homer Simpson vest now so I have put it on for honesty. If you don't know what that is - im not explaining it!

Posted by Vicky Bailey 09:15 Tagged sea boat sunburn tuol_sleng_museum Comments (0)

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