Okay, so I think an update is required since its been so long.

Sofiya and I have been staying in MUi Ne for the past few weeks, it’s been a great place to relax and just take it easy. Unfortunately, well, maybe fortunately, there was a typhoon hitting the the islands of the Phillipines and we were getting a little bit of it. The waves were absolutely huge, almost terrifyingly huge at times. We’d go sit at the beach and be mesmerized by the sheer size and power of the waves hitting the side of our hotel. A couple of buildings away, two bungalows were destroyed by the waves they were that huge.

Anyway, my update that I wanted to make was two fold, the first is that my computer is broken and I’m forced to use my iPad… It means that updates will be difficult. The second is that I leave here in about three days for MalaysiA. My visa runs out on the 30th so I’ll be going to Kuala Lumpur on the 29th. I have a possible medical problem that I think I’ll need surgery for, and Malaysia seems like the best place to have it done.

We arrived in Mui Ne, Vietnam yesterday. I don’t think I could feel so good getting someplace, but as the bus dropped us off I felt like I had stepped into a new world. A world filled with palm trees, beach resorts, and long beaches. The area we are staying is basically a very upscale beach area situated along a single road. There seems to be more white people than Vietnamese though and many, if not most, of the white people are Russians. There are so many here that many of the businesses have Russian language on their signs and menus. It’s weird but I get kind of offended if a menu is in Russian… I guess I now know how many feel when the menu is in English. J

We threw our bags on the bed and headed out to the beach. It was very windy and I guess the wind is typical for the area because about half the shops on the three kilometer beach are for kite surfing lessons or rentals. The first night here there were dozens, maybe hundreds of kite surfers flying across the water. It looks like a lot of fun. The sun was going down and the sky was turning orange. We walked to the end of the beach and then walked back along the road to the hotel. I know, boring right, but I have to set up the next part of the story.

After we finished with dinner, we decided that we’d sit near the beach and have a beer. It was about 8pm and very dark, Sofiya goes to the beach and I go to the room to get a beer. I grabbed a beer and head down to the lounge chairs that are overlooking the beach, remember there aren’t any light on at the time and it’s very dark. I’m able to make out someone sitting in a lounge chair and head over. As I get close I see dark hair and glasses, just like Sofiya, so I reach down and romantically run my hand through her hair. The person jumps and turns around, that’s when I realized that it was just a guy sitting listening/watching to the waves. I was mortified and in shock, I apologized about ten times and tried to get out of there as quickly as I could. Sofiya wasn’t that far away so I got to her and basically hid for the next twenty minutes. The next couple of days I kept running into him, but in all honesty I don’t know if he recognized me and I wasn’t about to give any sign that I knew it was him.

I left Sihanoukville a couple of days ago for Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam. I was in Vietnam about six years ago but I never went south of Hanoi, and have always wanted to visit HCMC. When I left Sihanoukville I took a sleeper bus, with a single bed. I have to admit I loved it. There was wifi on the bus, I had the space to myself, and had more than enough room to stretch out. It was so comfortable that I fell asleep after about an hour.

Within about one minute of stepping out of my hostel this man stopped to talk to me. He was a scooter taxi so he was looking for me to hire him. We got into a short conversation though about the War. He fought with the Americans against the NVA and barely made it through the cleansing that happened after the NVA invaded. He told me stories of what it was like after the Americans left back in 1973
Within about one minute of stepping out of my hostel this man stopped to talk to me. He was a scooter taxi so he was looking for me to hire him. We got into a short conversation though about the War. He fought with the Americans against the NVA and barely made it through the cleansing that happened after the NVA invaded. He told me stories of what it was like after the Americans left back in 1973

The bus got to Phnom Penh where I would have about a two-hour layover for the bus to HCMC. I didn’t like the idea of the layover, but sometimes you just have to take what you’ve been given and waited. It was about 1am when the bus dropped us off on a street in the city. Except for a small street restaurant there wasn’t too much around us. The people in charge of the bus service put us on a tuk-tuk to take us to another location. On the tuk-tuk I met a couple, the guy was from Portland, Oregon. It was kind of cool to talk to someone from my hometown even though I haven’t lived there in a very long time. He’s in HCMC teaching English.

Just a quick photo of part of the food stalls going on when I first arrived in Saigon.
Just a quick photo of part of the food stalls going on when I first arrived in Saigon.

So the tuk-tuk drops us off in front of a closed travel shop. By now the streets are nearly empty and except for the other six people going to HCMC there isn’t really anything going on. I was so tired that I could barely keep my eyes open.

When I bought the bus ticket I was told that there was a chance that the two-hour layover could end up being three-hours. Talking to the others there, they were told that it was a four-hour, maybe longer. The reality turned out to be about six-hours. I wasn’t very happy with waiting in front of closed shop at four in the morning. In the end everything turned out and at about 7 we were on a bus on our way to Vietnam.

Going through the border was surprisingly painless. The bus had a guy on it that did all the work and all any of us had to do was to pretty much walk through the borders. It was a little bit more complicated than that, but it sure seemed easy. It probably took us a little bit less than an hour to go through both borders.

About two hours from the border we finally stopped in HCMC and the bus dropped us off. My hostel is about 300 meters from the bus stop and I had no problems finding it. There was a festival of some sort going on in the park next to the bus stop so after putting my bags away, I headed out to get a better look at what was going on. I don’t know exactly what to call it, but the festival was very western. What I mean is that it was modern and contained mostly small tents featuring food from area restaurants. In Portland we had an event called Bite, and I kept thinking that it was what was going on here. There was some great food and I spent probably a couple of hours walking around and tasting different things. I even had Durian, and I was surprised it was pretty good.

Ho Chi Minh City is chaos. That’s the only way I can explain it. There are scooters going everywhere that don’t seem to follow any sort of rules. There are very few traffic lights or stop signs so it’s a challenge to get across the street. Most of the time I just start walking and hope that the scooter that seems to be heading straight towards me will veer away. There is al a kind of sense of a little of Taipei here, but I think it’s more on the architecture and less on anything else.

I didn't take many photos while I was in Saigon, so I'll add this one. It is a photo of the festival that was going on.
I didn’t take many photos while I was in Saigon, so I’ll add this one. It is a photo of the festival that was going on.

Sofiya finally got here about a week after I did and once she arrived the city seemed just a little bit better. Not that it was fun now that she was here, but it was at least nice to have someone around to validate my feelings about HCMC. We ended up leaving about two days after she arrived. At that point I was about to give up with Vietnam and head back to Laos or Cambodia so I asked Sofiya to decide where we should go. She decided on a beach town in Vietnam called Mui Ne.

 

As I mentioned in the last post, Sihanoukville is just the way I remembered it. It is a quaint town that is loosely separated into two parts, the local area and the tourist area. Most of our time was, as expected, spent in the tourist area. The tourist area could almost be confused with a beach town in the US with all the western cafes and beachfront shops. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still got a Cambodian flavor but still has a western feel.

 

Sofiya and I got into the town about 2pm and quickly caught a tuk-tuk to the city. We shared the ride with two people from Spain that I had struck up a conversation with before the bus ride. It’s always nice to meet new people and this couple seemed nice enough, plus riding with them we halved the cost of the tuk-tuk. When we arrived at the hostel I was hit with a strong déjà vu. It only took a few minutes for me to remember that I had stayed in the same hostel the last time I was here. Oh well, so I’m more or less just recreating my last time in Sihanoukville. 🙁

 

The next few days we spent our time wandering around the city and the tourist area. We spent about half our time out at the beach just wading in the surf. The beach is really nice here and I can’t remember the last time I enjoyed myself so much. We also met up with the group we were traveling with earlier for beers. It may have been only about a week since we last saw them, it felt like a family reunion we met. Turns out that they spent about a week at an island near Sihanoukville.

 

 

I’ve been in Phnom Penh for about five days and just like my time in the last couple of places that I’ve been, the time just seems to have flown by. We got here on Friday and we are leaving tomorrow (Tuesday) for Sihanoukville. Sihanoukville is a coastal town in Cambodia. I was there back when I made my way through the country about three years ago, but if the last few cities are any indication; I probably won’t recognize Sihanoukville very much.

 

Wow! I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve made a post to my blog. If my math is correct, it’s been something like two weeks since my last entry. I’m writing this about a week and a half from my time in PP, so the entry won’t contain a lot of details. I really want to get caught up to the location I’m at now.

 

Phnom Penh was fun if not really that interesting. I guess the fact that I was traveling with Sofiya made it different from my usual itinerary when I get into a city. Just having someone else around doesn’t put a rush on seeing things or getting to the next destination too quickly. We did go to some places, but generally speaking we just lived in the city for about a week. The days we wandered around and the nights we usually spent on the waterfront and going out for dinner. Except for the tuk-tuk drivers who were relentless in trying to get us to ride with them, the rest of the people were kind.

 

We left Phnom Penh on Sunday and got to the coast that afternoon. Sihanoukville really hadn’t changed too much and it was nice to get away from the chaos of the big city.

We were in Battambang for two days. Although I can’t say that we did anything noteworthy, I still had a great time. Most of our time there was either walking around the city or going out to eat. Our first night after we dropped off our backpacks we headed to the riverfront to get dinner. The city itself isn’t very touristy, but they appear to be trying to cater to white people. There are a lot of cafes and an okay night market, but the crowds are small which makes it easy to move around. With the lack of tourists dinner went very fast, we sat down and in five minutes we were eating.

Just a couple of photos from Battambang, Cambodia
Just a couple of photos from Battambang, Cambodia

 

Our second day we walked around the city and bought our bus tickets to Phnom Phenn for the next day. Battambang is nice, but there just wasn’t a lot of things to do so I think two nights is about right. We did kind of ‘Western out’ for dinner though. Instead of taking the more traditional route and getting something Cambodian to eat, we decided that it was just time for pizza. Sometimes western food is just a requirement. 🙂

 

One of the streets in Battambang, Cambodia
One of the streets in Battambang, Cambodia

We left at 8 in the morning for the bus station and pulled into the capital at about 3. So far Phnom Phenn seems better than it did the last time I was here. I think the single most important fact that makes me feel different about the city is that I’m traveling with Sofiya. I think that she is making all the difference. It’s going to be difficult to see her leave when she heads to Thailand in a couple of weeks.