Enjoy the pictures!
Most of the pictures were taken by Lydia van Driel or Reto Rechsteiner so all credits to them! Thanks guys for letting me use these!
Next Up: The North of Thailand: Sukhothai, Chiang Mai, Pai and Chiang Rai!
Thailand 1/ Bangkok + Ayutthaya
The trip from Cambodia (Siem Reap) by bus to Bangkok wasn’t that comfy.. We were squeezed in a minivan (12-person) with 15 people and 15 backpacks. My right part of my ass had a seat while my left could enjoy 2 stacked-up backpacks. Of course instead of a 6hrs drive which they told us it lasted 11hrs due to traffic around Bangkok. About 5hrs for less than 40km. To make it even nicer there was a severe valium and cigarette addict behind me who would take every single possibility to smoke. That annoyed people more than the delays from the traffic.
Arrived in Bangkok i met Vidya, we explored the infamous part and ended up in crazy Khao San Rd. with some guys i met in Siem Reap. To someone who doesn’t know Khao San Rd., i think the best way to describe it is a shitload of drunk foreigners who try to make a bet who can kiss most girl in 1 night-out. Nevertheless real good party!
Next Vidya and I continue to Kanchanaburi, famous for it’s Hellfire Pass and the Erawan Waterfalls with it’s 7-levels.
After Kanchanaburi we went back to Bangkok and did a small city tour after which Vidya had to go back to Jakarta!
I continued to Ayutthaya, the city of temples. In the hostel i met Ylze, a dutch girl who would like to join me on a bicycle tour through old Ayutthaya! When we came back in the hostel we were asked: Back already? You must have skipped stuff? Nope. We’re Dutch, we simply cycle fast.
Within a few hours it was all taken care off and we could start the tour the day after. After Adam’s amazing tour we sticked around with a few of that group for some volleybal-time and a nice walk with a great view on the island.
We unfortunately had to say goodbye to Luke because he went home after his long trip! Our journey continued towards Siem Reap for the amazing Angkor (Wat). Arrived at Siem Reap we booked the Mad Monkey Hostel, a party hostel but honestly the best party hostel i’ve been to in SE-Asia. Damn they could host some good parties there. Our first day after arrival we went to Angkor to see all the small temples, we left out the 3 biggest including Angkor Wat. They day after we left early and saw sunrise at Angkor Wat, we’ve visited the other 2 first before entering Wat. Sunrise was impressive because so many people were watching a shit-sunrise. Someone told me that 2 weeks after it should be a 10-fold of the people because of Chinese holidays, i can’t even begin to imagine. Angkor was really impressive but i reached my “Same-Same” level really fast unfortunately.
The trip into Cambodia started with a funny story, the busdrive from HCMC (Vietnam) towards Phnom Penh (PP) (Cambodia). I got into the bus around 9AM, after a 1hr-drive towards the border i had some time to talk with a guy in the bus who went for a visa-renewal. It basically means you exit the country you are in at a border with a different country and before you enter the new country (because you don’t want to pay the visa you don’t use) you bribe the border-control to get into the que to the “Land-inwards-line”. You then pay again for your new visa in the same country. A simple trick where the border-officials can make some decent (not exactly legal) money from.
Just before we arrived at the border a guy from the bus company walked into the bus and asked for everyones passports. Luckily i read about this before that you just have to -go with the flow- and do something which i hate doing: Handing in my passport. I also needed to pay 35USD for the Cambodian Visa. At the border everyone had to get out of the bus, we were allowed to leave the bags (big backpack) in the bus. We went into a building where we needed to cross through a metal-detector (which was off) and put our bag on a scanner where the guy who needed to check the screen was playing Tetris Fullscreen on the pc. -Way to go security-
Next the guy from the bus-company walks up towards the counter (Exit Vietnam) with all the passports and says: “Here they are, all 18 of them, i checked them personally, it’s really them”. The guy honestly didn’t care and started stamping all 18 of them without even seeing me or anyone of the other 17 border-crossers. At that time my friend from the bus had made his way into the toilet which (*miraculously*) was on the “Land-Inwards-Que”. I was sure i saw a handshake before he was allowed to cross the “Personnel-Only” gate - Safe Travels!
After the Exit-Vietnam border we had to get into the bus again, and we drove, and drove for a few kilometer in No-Mans-Land (interesting how this works with taxes etc…). Arriving at the Cambodian border we had to get out again, walk through a building all in 1 long que until we were outside again without seeing anyone or anything. About 30 meters from the bus, on a road, with no fence, not blockages, nothing. Just 30 meters of straight road. We stayed there for 30 minutes with the group we were with, some ladies were selling some food, some time to exchange Vietnamese Dong for Cambodian Riel when the bus was being checked. A simpel opening of a cabinet: “Oh that’s a backpack”, closing the cabinet again was the check. We had to get back into the bus again and we drove again for about 5 minutes, i still didn’t have my passport nor have i seen a counter at the Cambodian Border so i became anxious. The guy told me it was all fine and i just had to wait and i will get it. We stopped at a food-place where we could eat something and indeed, - about 30min after - a guy on a scooter arrived with 17 passports in his hand, all stamped with a perfect Cambodian Visa inside. Which means, the bus-driver did the exact same thing again: “These 17 people want to enter the country, here are their passports, i check them myself, it’s really them”. And they honestly didn’t care.
-Welcome to Cambodia-!
Arrived at Phnom Penh i met up with Mai, a girl I met in South-Vietnam. She arrived a bit earlier so did some research on what was nice to do in PP. In the hostel she met Anisha and Shirana, 2 sisters from New Zealand. The day after the 4 of us went to the Killing Fields and S21-Museum. The Killing Fields near PP are one of the many places where the Khmer Rouge killed many Cambodians -the higher the education the most likely - in the early 70s (Around 3 million out of the 11 million population back then). The S21 museum was about torturing, getting more information and places of Cambodians living outside of Cambodia. Very interesting and horrible to see. This really left me quiet for some time.
At night we were curious about Cambodia’s nightlife, we heard about -Happy Pizza- which is simply a pizza with marihuana grinded upon it. With the mindset -You need to try everything at least once-, we were up for it! By law it’s illegal but the police doesn’t care. When entering the restaurant we got the question whether we liked it strong or light, well if you’re going for it, go for the strongest of course. After dinner we went to the highest-ranked bar in Phnom Penh on Tripadvisor, a gay-bar. Me and 3 girls at a Gay-bar, damn. The guys were all very aware of themselves that they weren’t to bad looking and all of them were really good with flirting -it made me sick-. We visited some more places but it was really empty and the weed started to kick in hard. So bedtime!
The morning after Mai and i had some breakfast and went on a TukTuk-Tour through the surroundings Phnom Penh offered: silk villages, weaving villages, local eco-schools where volunteers teach kids. In the afternoon to the National Palace which was a waste of time.
This was the last stop for Cedric, Hanna and me together. In HCMC we visited the Cu Chi - Tunnels, they are a remainder of the Vietnamese war and were used as a defence. Because the Vietnamese knew the lands they created many traps for the invaders. We had a tour guide with very low-level humor, very funny sometimes though! We also crawled through some tunnels, they were already widened for foreigners and still so narrow! At night we went to a Brewery in HCMC, Pasteur Street, where we had a beer-tasting!
After Cedric had to leave home the weather decreased drastically, streets were flooded for a few hours. We walked around in flipflops and umbrella’s.
When feeling better i went down south to the Mekong Delta Area. On Facebook i got in touch with Dong, a local girl which just passed her Tourguide-Test and was waiting for her badge. She took me around on her scooter, boat tours, ferries, floating villages, temples, local villages, special guesthouses, weaving places, mosks and many more to show me the beautiful area where she lived. She also let me taste and eat everything which was local and special, Thank you so much Dong!
After we said goodbye to Tom and Shilpa, Cedric and I switched hostels in HoiAn. We went to a hostel called: Underneath the Coconut Tree. I would highly recommend this to everyone if you like a relaxing hostel with short distance (1min crawling) to the beach! The first night we went for some swimming, met some interesting new people and had dinner at a place close to our hostel. I was curious by sunrises so the morning after i woke up early to watch the sunrise at the beach, just perfect! What amazed me is that it was actually really crowded at the beach at 5.15AM, all the locals wake-up early to do their workouts. There was a volleybal net on the beach where 3 guys were playing a bit. I joined in and slowly more people came and joined, at 5.30AM we had 12 people in total, time for a game! With hands and feet and some really limited English i figured out that they did this every morning, a perfect way to get some exercise because i didn’t get any for a few weeks already!
During the day, if we didn’t enjoy the beach, we went for a walk in the city HoiAn, a cooking course which included a nice market and boattour before the actual cooking! At night HoiAn offered some nice spots to go to including some real fun “Jenga-Challenges”. (Strip, French Kiss, Take a picture of someones butt, Lapdance, Take a picture with a naked guy (Thanks Cedric!) and many many more !
Phong Nha - Khe San - Hue - HoiAn
After a great day and night in Phong Nha we had to let go of Ching but during drinking-games we gained a new motorbikebuddy: Cedric! Now i think about it, that is actually where i meet most people, at a table, with a beer and a deck of cards =D The aim was to travel further south to Khe San, a small town close to the border of Laos where we could spend the night. If taking the route closer to Laos the landscape is way more beautiful instead of beach and highway. Unfortunately that comes with a cost. It was already 3PM when we were driving one of the many beautiful mountain passes before we found a a place to eat lunch. Well.. Instant-Noodles and a can of Isotonic for our dear Shilpa who had a tiny hangover ;)
We continued driving quickly and looked for a hotel, unfortunately the road was fully paved in January 2016, so there were almost no fuel-stations, and surely no places to stay. Maps.me told us we had to go another 50km to Khe San when the sun set. We did about 25km/hr, it was very cold, incredibly dark so it became to dangerous to drive. We decided to call it a day and knock on someones door to ask if we could spend the night.
In a small town of about 15 houses Shilpa went to one of them. The entire family was sitting outside, except for the kids no-one spoke english. (Kids’ level was a “What is your name”, “How old are you”, “Where are you from”). Shilpa could luckily arrange a place for us to crash for the night. Don’t expect too much, outside on a blanket was all that was possible.
We used all the stuff we had to make some sort of beds (towels, sleeping backs, inflatable neck pillows etc!). Ofcourse it wasn’t time to go to bed yet so luckily i brought a pack of cards. We thought them how to play some games (Snap!, Ezelen, Handjes klappen). When we thought they haven’t seen cards they took the pack, started shuffling them like crazy good and explained us a game.... They offered us some tea, we shared the Oreo’s and M&M’s we had with them and went to bed. The morning after everyone got bitten, I luckily had a sleeping bag so i was the only lucky one! They offered us some rice with a very spicy but really good sauce! ("Ring-of-Fire-Guaranteed!-Sauce")
We continued our journey to Hue where we crashed for a few nights (Abandonned waterpark, some markets and fixing the motorbikes), before we continued to HoiAn. When arrived at HoiAn we spend 1 night together having some dinner and a drink and the day after Cedric and I said goodbye to Shilpa and Tom. They both went their own way =)
Hanoi, Ninh Binh, Phong Nha
Before going to Vietnam i heard that it was common for backpackers to buy a motorbike (Honda Win-Chinese Model) and drive through Vietnam in that time. I consider myself as a confident and safe driver so i had no doubt this would all turn out without issues. I went to a shop, explained the situation (no experience or licence) and the owner took me to an “empty” street and showed me how it worked (Manual Gearing). He told me to take about 15 minutes to practice. I didn’t even need 5 to figure it all out and return to him full of energy with: “I’m so gonna buy this one!”
The journey started to Ninh Binh, about 100km south of Hanoi. They call this “Ha-Long Bay on land”, I was in a beautiful guesthouse where i met my new motorbike buddy Tom. Together with him we could convince Shilpa to join us on the bike towards DaNang where her flight was from.
We headed out to Phong Nha, the hotel didn’t offer anything except for crappy beds (12$/private with 3 beds, so i can’t complain that much), so we had to find some breakfast elsewhere. When we arrived at a street-food place in Vinh a women selling us breakfast became very interested in Tom and especially his nipples.
After enduring some rain we had the most beautiful view possible when entering Phong Nha-Area. When we checked in in the hostel we met Ching, she immediately fitted perfectly in the group. If possible we would’ve liked to take her along, but her schedule was the other way unfortunately. Phong Nha is beautiful place with lots of caves, some active some more walking and just a really fun town for backpackers. (1 bar, 1 club and just a few restaurants).