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Archive for November, 2011

23rd November
2011
written by Justin
Bánh xèo

Bánh xèo in Saigon

I had decided, before we arrived, that the main purpose of my trip to Vietnam would be to sample as much local food as humanly possible, and to learn to cook some of it!  Even though our trip was a whirlwind, I am confident that I succeeded in my goal.   (more…)

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15th November
2011
written by Hazel

Our time in Vietnam was a bit of a blur as we only had one week and we spent all night every other night travelling.  Unfortunately, this left us a bit exhausted and I really wish we had had a lot more time to enjoy this amazing country.  I cannot say enough good things about our time in Vietnam.  The people were awesome, the food was awesome, the scenery was awesome…all in all, awesome.

So, this post will probably feel a little crazy, but I’m just going to throw a bunch of photos of the places we went at you, and maybe the crazy rush along the country will come through.  We started in the south in Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and worked our way north by a series of long bus and train trips, ending up in Hanoi.  If we had just a little more time I would have liked to see more of Hanoi.  If we had a lot I would have been very happy to just keep exploring and to make many more stops along the way.

View from hotel

View from hotel - Hoi An

Hoi An

Hoi An

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14th November
2011
written by Justin

 

Leaving Cambodia

Leaving Cambodia

So after we finished seeing temples in Cambodia, we didn’t want to deal with another border like the last one we dealt with.  So we flew to Vietnam, the land of delicious food and a really long coastline!  In fact, it was so long that we spent about half our time travelling!

We ended up not being so happy about this, but c’est la vie.  We used a number of different modes of transportation – trains, planes AND automobiles!  Our favorite was the train, where we took a first class sleeper car from Da Nang to Hanoi.  There were four people in the cabin and nice comfy beds to sleep in, along with air conditioning (though the weather was pretty mild anyway).  We’ve found that trains gently rock you to sleep whereas planes and cars don’t have nearly the same relaxing feel to them.

Our least favorite mode of transportation was the bus.  We took two overnight buses in Vietnam, and one was definitely better than the other but they are both suboptimal when it comes to rest quality.

Sleeper Bus Vietnam Style

Sleeper Bus Vietnam Style

At first it seems really cool!  Everyone (almost) gets their own bed, separated from the others, and there’s a bathroom on board.  But the truth comes a little later when the reality of Vietnamese roads sets in – the driver is going crazily fast, causing you to float out of your bed on occasion, and he doesn’t hesitate to use his really loud horn (at all hours of the night) to warn other drivers of the speeding bullet hurtling down the road at completely unsafe speeds.

Then you find that your second overnight bus has no bathroom and that you are shoved into a communal platform-bed with 4 other travellers in the back of the bus where it’s even more bumpy.  At that point you become convinced that the train is worth the extra cost!

The plane was pretty much as expected.  It was convenient, reasonably comfortable, and most importantly it was fast!  The only downside is that airports tend to be really far from the downtown areas of town.  But if you have the cash, this is the way to go!

13th November
2011
written by Hazel

In between all of our temple watching we had a chance to explore the town of Siem Reap.  We were extremely lucky because the town had suffered from some serious flooding the week before we arrived.  It was bad enough that a couple of people died and there were still sand bags and lots of water about when we got there.

Flooded street - right outside our hostel!

Flooded street - right outside our hostel!

The city and our hostel (Rosy Guest House) were drying out and recovering from all of the water.  It didn’t affect us too much though and we considered ourselves really lucky to have decent weather for temple viewing.

Siem Reap is a pretty touristy place.  There are lots of good restaurants (a good thing), but lots of people hassling you to buy stuff (and they are PUSHY here).    Honestly, it got pretty tiring constantly being shouted at to buy things.

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13th November
2011
written by Justin

The second day we hired a different tuk-tuk (our first driver was a bit pushy and upsold us a little too much) and went to the famous Ta Phromh which is a temple that’s been left in its semi-ruined state.  Trees are growing literally out of the walls!  It is pretty cool and very atmospheric (and part of Tomb Raider was filmed here).

I've seen sand castles but not sand temples before

I've seen sand castles but not sand temples before

Crumbling Temple

Crumbling Temple

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12th November
2011
written by Justin

Once we arrived in Siem Reap, we quickly found out that there was more to that area than just Angkor Wat.  Angkor Wat itself happens to be the world’s largest religious building, but immediately adjacent (i.e. 5 minutes drive by tuk-tuk) is the humongous 9 square kilometer Angkor Thom which was an entire walled city.  Within it is Bayon, the state temple, and numerous other ruins inside.  Other temples can be found all over the area.  Indeed it would be difficult to see all the sights in this area in one trip if only because you’d get so bored of seeing temple after temple!

We made a plan that served us pretty well as far as getting to see a lot without paying too much.  The first day we hired a tuk-tuk driver and an English-speaking guide to take us around several of the sights, point out what we might miss, and explain the history and geography of the temples in the area.  That day we went to Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom and another smaller temple, Banteay Srey, which was quite a distance out of the way.

The Entrance to Angkor Thom

The Entrance to Angkor Thom

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12th November
2011
written by Hazel

Well, after a bit of a story behind the Hong Kong fabric, the Thailand fabric was very straightforward.  Basically, there were lots of cute shops on Koh Tao, the island where we learned to SCUBA and one day we were walking along the street and noticed some absolutely gorgeous fabric in one.  Seriously, I think this is my favorite so far.  Totally unique and so, so beautiful.  We snatched it right up and shipped it off to my mom.

And here it is!

A little wrinkled, but you get the idea...

A little wrinkled, but you get the idea...

Close up of the flowers

Close up of the flowers

And just because they are adorable, here’s another picture of the island dogs sleeping on the beach.  They have their own little sleeping spots!

Cute!

Cute!

11th November
2011
written by Justin
Stop.. So We Can Rob You

Stop.. So We Can Rob You

The title says it all.  For what it’s worth, the land route from Bangkok to Siem Reap (the home of Angkor Wat and other cambodian temple complexes) is one of the most unabashedly corrupt places on earth (as far as we’ve seen.) It is so corrupt that an entire web site (it took Hazel and I about 2 hours to read the whole thing) has come into existence with the sole goal of guiding helpless travellers through the gauntlet they will experience taking this trip.

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11th November
2011
written by Hazel
Our Wedding Map

Our Wedding Map

First things first, all of the photos in this post are by Jason Fukura – he was our awesome wedding photographer and you can check out his website here.

It has taken me a long time to get to this post, but it’s a really special one!  Justin and I spent a long time dreaming about heading off on this trip.  We made lists of places we’d like to go, messed around with possible routes and looked up activities.  About six months before we left home we got married and decided that the wedding was the perfect chance to get some great travel ideas from our friends and family.  Each person who came to the wedding got a card and a little sticky arrow and we had a giant laminated map hung in the entry of the reception.  Throughout the evening people filled out the cards telling us where we should go and why and then stuck their arrow (numbered so we could match it up with the cards) to the map.  At the end of the night we had lots of great ideas and a really fun map!

So, now that we are nearing the end of the trip I wanted to post the list of locations our nearest and dearest suggested to us and to highlight which ones we made it to in our travels.  We were flattered that many people picked their hometowns (for those of you we didn’t visit, we still want to come!) and loved all the ideas (and reasonings!), but we’ll need to make several more trips to make it to them all.

Here they are!  Places we have been or will go to are in bold and I’ve tried to link back to our blog posts about the ones we have already visited and I’ll come back as we get more written and update the links for the other bold ones.

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11th November
2011
written by Justin

Our plan, once we took the bus and catamaran back to Bangkok, was to fly up to Hanoi and begin our exploration of Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia.  But a number of factors made us change our plans.  First, I got sick right when we arrived, and we agreed that we shouldn’t leave the city till I got better.  Nothing like having a case of food poisoning on a cramped plane!

The other thing was the typhoon looming over Vietnam.  It had just hit the Phillippines, causing widespread damage, and was predicted to make landfall just east of Hanoi.  We thought long and hard – should we cancel our flight?  Knowing the airlines, it would be a big hassle, and we’d end up a lot poorer and without any set plans.  Eventually we decided that yes, we don’t really want to fly into a hurricane, so we called Orbitz and asked to cancel.

Much to our delight, the carrier we’d booked with (Qatar Airways) allows cancellation for no fee!  That’s right, we got off scot free, paying only the Orbitz booking fee in the end.  This allowed us to give me a nice recovery break.  Eventually, we decided to take the land route over to Siem Reap, Cambodia where we’d get to see one of the amazing sights in South East Asia – Angkor Wat!  Another bonus came from delaying our trip to Vietnam: I got to experience my first coffee to go served in a plastic bag.  Interesting.

Brew In A Bag

Brew In A Bag

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