December 16, 2013

Day 69 – Road trip from Phu Quoc to Kampot

I met some amazing people whilst volunteering and I made some great friends.  I was lucky enough to travel with many of them for a weekend and yes it was good fun.  Part two of my travels was with 3 great individuals, different ages, backgrounds and personalities.

The French national, living in Belgium, working in Luxembourg – Magali, the same star sign as my mother and the same age as my older sister.  She is crazier than me, louder than me, caring, considerate, a good laugh, honest, loud and good fun.  She hates coconut – a shame I agree but she loves cheese like me! She too has jumped out of a plane!

Magali with a fine henna tattoo

Magali with a fine henna tattoo

The Vietnamese, living in Saigon, working for VPV – Dang, younger than me but very knowledgeable.  At first a little quiet but talk about Harry Potter or Lord of the Rings and there you have it, he can go on for hours.  He is a great listener, caring, kind, sarcastic, funny, up for an adventure and good fun.  He too loves mango like me! He knows the best place for cheap beer – roof top bar, shots and then dancing!

Dang at his best - drinking card games :)

Dang at his best – drinking card games 🙂

The Austrian, living in a small town, travelling around the world – Julian, the youngest of the lot, only 19! Again, at first a little quiet, shy even but once he opened up, started talking, there was no stopping him!  He is chilled out, calm, caring, sarcastic, funny, spontaneous and crazy!  He loves trekking, climbing, anything challenging really!

Magali, Julian and Dang - our trip along the Mekong Delta

Magali, Julian and Dang – our trip along the Mekong Delta

Now, one of the amazing things about the four of us, is we are all vegetarians! Jaw dropping for some, I know, but it’s true.  We are all vegetarians for different reasons but we are all set on not eating meat. Is it hard to be a vegetarian in Cambodia? No, not really, most places have fried rice and vegetables or noodles and vegetables.  Is there much choice? No, not compared to all the meat options but it is manageable.

Travelling around Vietnam is great fun on the sleeping bus.  I don’t know why we don’t have this in London, no wait, I know why, it’s because it would never pass health and safety!  The sleeping bus in Vietnam consists of 3 rows, you have 2 floors, we have been lucky enough to get the top bunks but for those at the bottom, there is less space.  Now in most cases, the locals are put on the bottom and most foreigners get the top.  The air-con is on non-stop, in some cases there is some, traditional Vietnamese music or movie playing and the driver honks his horn whilst over taking long vehicles – delightful.  On most buses the lights turn off inside, bar one annoying one and there are toilet breaks along the way unless the bus conveniently has a toilet in the back.  These buses go speeding down the high way, stopping to pick up boxes and letting locals on and off.

Magali all wrapped on the sleeping night bus

Magali all wrapped on the sleeping night bus

Travelling with a suitcase of course does not help and yes I have been teased and laughed at by many.  Unfortunately, I cannot change my suitcase for a trendy, large, back-pack, as much as I would love to so I simply have to grin and bare it.  It’s not so bad hurling my suitcase on and off the bus but try a boat – not so easy.  I love boats as much as the next guy but Lord carrying my suitcase on and off – had a right mind to leave my suitcase behind!

Now of course, us travellers want to travel, spending as little money as possible on accommodation – makes sense especially for those of us who have given up our job! Hostel accommodation is good fun – rooms which are on the third or fourth floor – so of course my suitcase doesn’t make it past the lobby.  Many rooms are good, given the price but it’s the bathroom which is the worry.  Now, you’re lucky if you have the bathroom in the same room.  On some occasions, it’s been a short walk or on another floor – I can live with that of course but it’s when the shower doesn’t work or drips water on your face – happy days.  Over the last week, I’ve showered the good old fashioned way- with buckets, no hot water of course, cold showers and I survived!

Many times, these bathrooms have no toilet paper – here in South East Asia, it’s all about saving the Earth, so you use water instead.  The only contradiction is the amount of plastic they use but sure cut back on toilet paper.  Hygiene is also not a priority with most cafes, restaurants, hotels not providing soap – sure we can carry our own.

There are many differences between Vietnam and Cambodia.  For starters, Cambodia has fewer motorbikes, fewer people honking and more tuk tuks.  Also, the traffic is less chaotic and it’s much easy to cross the road!  This is partly due to the fact that there are no buses in Cambodia so unless you rent a bicycle or a motorbike, us travellers have to walk or take a tuk tuk.  Now the roads are great, red, dusty, bumpy, no road makings or signs – brilliant. Motorbikes drive around with as much as they can strap on plus some more – yes its dangerous driving but I suppose as long as no one gets hurt you keep driving.

Streets of Kampot

Streets of Kampot

What do I love about Cambodia? The countryside, we started our trip in Kampot and it’s a beautiful, country village, cows crossing roads, roosters waking you up, endless green fields and coconut tress – really rather refreshing compared to grey, cold, wet London.  This town is perfect to get away in, to leave the chaos of the city, to sit and watch the sunset from bamboo huts.

One of the many parks in Phnom Penh

One of the many parks in Phnom Penh

What else is truly amazing? Angkor Wat – built in the 12th century, beautiful Hindu and Buddhist temples.  The endless cravings, levels and towers surrounded in and around nature and once at the top – what an amazing view!  One peaceful, breathtakingly magnificent site, where both history and architecture combined left me wondering if people back in 1220 AD knew that they would build such enduring architectural temples

One of the many beautiful temples at Angkor Wat

One of the many beautiful temples at Angkor Wat

This wonderful road trip came to an end early this morning – I’ve accepted that all good things come to an end and here I am saying goodbye again!  Dang returned home to Saigon and Julian continues his travels elsewhere.  Of course, as one chapter ends, another one begins.  Magali and I are the last two standing and heres to our next adventure!