Monday, 16 April 2012

Vietnam and Cambodia in pictures part III

Mui Ne is on the South East coast of Vietnam and chosen by some of us for its kitesurfing. No surprises there. Luckily for the rest of us, I picked up a fantastic page turner in Saigon and spent most of the stay immersed in a story about Chinese girls in the 19th Century getting their feet bound and married off to men in neighbouring villages.

Mia Resort - mosquito nets and sunset happy hours

Fishing village nearby - famous for its round boats

Women take charge on the shore while men hang out on their mopeds and boats

Dunes. Dunes?? Yes, dunes. People were up here at 6am in their cocktail attire posing for pictures. One girl wore her wedding dress

Here's where my book came in handy

Additional info:
Mui Ne is rather heavy on the Russian tourism side of things. Our hotel (Mia Resort) wasn't, but everywhere else was, so practice your Spasibas before hitting the supermarket
Mui Ne can only be reached by car - see previous post
Addictive reading material for kitesurfing groupies: Snowflower and the secret fan

Friday, 13 April 2012

The drive

After Saigon, we took on the 5 hour drive down to Mui Ne. To say that was one of the most terrifying times in my life wouldn't be an exaggeration.

Our driver's (and everyone else's) attitude seemed to be: keep your foot on the accelerator and hoot every time you see anything going slower than you or heading straight into you, which is often the case. So, there was much hooting, glaring headlights from oncoming traffic (in the same lane) and the occasional swerve to avoid entire families stacked on mopeds. What a nightmare.

There was even a fire on the road at one point, which our driver barely missed thanks to a last minute pull on the wheel. I don't think I've ever feared for my life as much as I did on that drive.

And, to make matters worse, the driver was listening to a "learn English" tape and following the exercises with great enthusiasm, often taking his eye off the road to look at us for approval. Believe me, the words "handbag", "school" and "cinema" won't ever be the same again.

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Vietnam and Cambodia in pictures part II

Cambodia was followed by Vietnam, where we went to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) and Mui Ne. Ho Chi Minh involved strolls along tree-lined streets, visits to rather harrowing museums and delicious Pho and lattes in various spots.

The exhilaration of jaywalking

Noodles at Pho Hoa (pronounced "Fur" as in "ry")

Coffee and cupcakes at L'Usine

Temporary lunch and coffee bars on the sidewalk, with fresh mandarin juice, sliced mangoes and coffee with condensed milk readily available

Reunification Palace - not quite clear who was reunified. Filled with ostentatious meeting rooms. The library included the following books, "Planning and operating motels" and "The game of doubles in tennis". Odd

Some extra info:
If you like swimming pools and padding around in soft gowns, then stay at the Park Hyatt
Skip hotel breakfast for coffee at L'Usine, Annam Market (think Bon Marche supermarket) or the pavement
Eat at Pho Hoa for lunch and Temple Club for dinner
If you're French, finish your evenings with the Creme Brulee at the Park Hyatt

Vietnam and Cambodia in pictures part I

Given that Vietnam and Cambodia are only a couple of hour's flight from Hong Kong, they seemed the obvious Easter break choice. The fact that United Airways made it 12 hours away (thanks to bumping us off the flight) is a detail I'm just mentioning in passing in case any of you are thinking of ever-flying-United. I just-want-to-say: don't.

Anyway, flights aside, both Vietnam and Cambodia were wonderful. Cambodia lived up to its self-promoted "7th Wonder of the World" reputation, awarded to itself because it has so many bloody temples. Vietnam offered more surprises, which isn't saying much given that all I knew about the country before going was what I'd learnt in Form Four history class.

We started our trip in Siem Reap in Cambodia, which, by the way, has the most efficient visa system known to mankind (speaking of 7 Wonders).

Hotel in Siem Reap - think teak floors, fans and vintage cars. Rooms have a bath in the middle of them, a shower off to the side, another shower in the garden and a steam room. Needless to say cleanliness wasn't a problem.

The next two days then involved a lot of panting our way up and down stairs in temples, taking pictures of other temples from the temples we were on and having a guide talking with the most impossible accent on earth about how King Suryavaran II who ruled from 1113 c, sorry no, 1110 c, built Angkor Wat to worship Vishnu but then King Jayavaran VII took over and made it Buddhist which is why (pointing at the 100000th Linga) this Linga is etched over an original engraving of a Buddha (and vice versa). And so we went.

Bayon Temple - one of many ancient Khmer temples suffering from a Hindu/Buddhist personality disorder

Angkor Wat

Setting for the famous "hollywoo" movie: Lara Croft

Lots of bushwhacking here

Mildly useful info for anyone thinking of going to Siem Reap:
Stay at Heritage Suites Hotel
Don't get a guide to take you around the temples unless you want to hear the same thing over and over again
Eat at Hotel de la Paix for slightly over-rated South Beach Miami food, The Sugar Palm for "true" Cambodian fare. Hotel food was also delish