6 Million Moto’s

11 05 2010

After a couple more days in Sihanoukville, where Jeff went diving for a day, I relaxed on the beach with a book and got a massage and we had a nice dinner of sea food on the beach, we arranged our visas for Vietnam and set off for Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City). We caught the bus at 7:30 am and drove to Phenom Pehn. Everything was going smoothly until I realized that our wallet with our cash was missing. I must have left it on the bus or got pickpocket because we never did find it. I was pretty bummed out all the way to Saigon which took about another 6 hours from Cambodia capital. When we finally arrived pretty late we checked into a really cute guesthouse/home stay where we have a computer in our room and free water (oooh the luxury). We slept well that night despite the ever-increasing heat, I think it’s been 40 degrees minimum and rising daily. The following day we slept a bit late and had a late breakfast then headed out to the crazy busy streets of Saigon. Can you believe there are 11 million people in a city not much bigger than Calgary, and there are 6 million moto scooters…it’s insane how busy the streets are here. We decided to brave the streets and go for a walk down to the market to see if we could find some good shopping. On our way there we were stopped by a couple of moto drivers who wanted to take us on a 2 hour city tour and we agreed, as it was very hot and the walk was unbearable. They told us they would show us around then take us to the real market where locals buy their stuff. We drove around the busy city and stopped at a few tourist stops such as the city hall, post office center, opera house, Notre Dame cathedral and the War Remnants Museum. The museum was quite cool as it shows the other side of the story about the war here with the USA, you wouldn’t believe the damage they did here and the cruel things they did to innocent people here.  After that we did go to the market and picked up a couple of gifts.  When we returned to the guest house we were invited to join in on English Speaking Club, we were hesitant but thought “what the hell”. A couple of university students came and just talked with us and practiced their English, taught us a couple of things in Vietnamese then offered to take us out for our favorite Vietnamese dish back home “Bun”. You would think they have Bun in Vietnam, no such luck, we drove around the city with these students looking for a place but they were all closed or did not have what we wanted. Finally they dropped us off at the night market and we had some dinner there.  We were up late calling our momma’s and didn’t have a very long sleep since we had a big adventure ahead of us. 

The next morning we had planned to go on a 2 night trip with the moto drivers from the day before, Day and Diamond. We set off early around 8 am and hopped on the back of their bikes for a long haul to Cu Chi tunnels.  On the way we stopped at a hammock hang out (kind of like a truck stop for scooters) and enjoyed some delicious Vietnamese ice coffee.  As we drove through the country side we saw water buffalo, rice farmers, ladies in rice hats riding bikes and watched the Vietnamese rural life as we zoomed past.  We explored the tiny tunnels of Cu Chi, which was really funny because Jeff could barely fit down the hole. After that we cruised through a rubber tree plantation all the way to Day’s family home for a party. We were welcomed by a huge group of friends and family who were all very welcoming. We enjoyed some home cooked specialties, “a few” shots of rice wine and the great Asian pass time Karaoke. “Achy Breaky Heart” anyone?? 

The following day we had planned to go to the Mekong Delta but did not realize how far it really was.  On the way we stopped for a traditional Vietnamese lunch and another rest at a hammock chill out hut. Then we boarded our boat for a ride through the Delta. First we floated down the narrow canals amongst the water coconuts before we stopped at a couple of farms to see animals and plants and also to visit the coconut monk (kung fu master who invented his own religion). When the sun started to go down we headed over to this rickety jetty (dock) for a sunset BBQ. We had bought some huge live prawns and beer for the occasion and set up a little mini BBQ. While they were cooking Jeff and Day opted for a swim in the Mighty Mekong. We enjoyed the prawns very much and took tons of photos of the sunset. Once the sun went down we took off in the boat again. This time, as we pulled up to some trees in the dark we noticed they were twinkling in the trees. Fire Flies!!!! we caught a whole bunch and put them into a bottle. We brought them back to our room and watched them twinkle. It was really cool.

This morning we stopped at a coconut candy factory before we took our long ride back to Saigon. Tomorrow morning we catch a bus to Dalat which is in the mountains and is supposed to be alot cooler, from 45 degrees to 15, can’t wait to finally feel a bit cooler.

Jeeva





Sunny Sihanoukville

4 05 2010

We travelled 4 hours by bus to the south-western coast of Cambodia on the Gulf of Thailand for some care free relaxing time.  We made it in the afternoon and everything was going to be great until Jeff got an upset stomach and was unable to do much for the day. We checked into a really cool guesthouse called Monkey Republic into a little blue bungalow and Jeff proceeded to have a long nap. As the evening rolled on the music in the guesthouse lounge got really mellow and the fairy lights came on outside so I relaxed with a fruit shake while Jeff slept it off. The next day was much better as Jeff was feeling a bit better, we got to the beach and just as we settled in, it began to rain. Instead we headed to the city market for some shopping then hung out on the hammocks on the 3rd level of our guesthouse as the rain poured and poured all night.  Day 3 was a lovely sunny day, perfect for a cocktail and pedicure on Serendipity Beach, that’s exactly what we did. We chose one of the many lounge chairs along the numerous beach shacks and settled in for the better part of the afternoon. The water here is probably 30 degrees and it doesn’t do much to cool you off when you sit in the sun all day. I eventually got a sunburn and got tired of being harassed by hawkers on the beach selling bracelets and fruit, but it was a peacefull day nonetheless.  The 4th day we took an all day trip to Koh Rong island on a luxurious 3 level yacht at Victory Beach Jetty. Our vessel was called “Sun” and I swear Keith Richards was one of the passengers (unfortunately no photos). We hung out on the roof top sun deck and even jumped from the 3rd level, about a 7 meter drop to go snorkelling. We tried our hands at some fishing and mostly just had a worry free, hassle free day with buffet lunch and all the perks.  It was a perfect day, beautiful beaches, clear blue water, shining sun, and not a care in the world. We love Cambodia!!!

Jeeva





Cambodia thus far

30 04 2010

The epic journey from Cairns to Cambodia began early on Sunday morning, we flew with Virgin Blue for 3 hours, followed by a 2 hour lay over, then a very enjoyable flight on Emirates airline to Bangkok which took 9.5 hours. The plane was very nice and the food way, dare I say, great! We arrived Bangkok airport at 1:00 and slept on a bench in the bus terminal until 7:00. We had a quick breakfast at the airport then boarded a bus to the Thai/Cambodia border town of Aranya Prathet. After 4 hours on the bus we arrived the border,waited in a line to leave Thailand then another line to get our Cambodian Visas then another line to enter Cambodia, this took at least 2 hours. THEN we boarded another bus from the Cambodian border town Poipet to Siem Reap. When we finally arrived we were starving, tired and homeless so we checked into the Popular Guesthouse and had some well needed food and a sleep.

The next morning we enjoyed the morning on the upstairs patio of our guesthouse while reading up on Cambodia and planning our trip, had coffee and noodles for breakfast. We went for a walk around the markets in the afternoon in the dead of the heat and dust and enjoyed a wonderful lunch. In the evening we booked  tuk tuk (scooter with trailer behind where you sit) to take us to the floating village Chong Kneas on the Tonle Sap lake. The boat we took down the river was ancient and the water was only a foot deep at best, which made for a slow and dragging ride.  The floating village was quite a sight however so that made it worth it. People live on boats and have a fully functioning village of 4000 people complete with schools, shops, churches etc and they all fish for a living. You do not need to pay for land on the water so most of the inhabitants are the most poor. On the way back our boat broke down (of course it wouldn’t be an epic adventure if it didn’t) and we did not get back until it was pretty dark.

The next morning we were up bright and early at 4:30 am to catch a tuk tuk to visit the temples of Angkor. Our first temple was Angkor Wat for the sunrise. This temple is HUGE and is believed to be the biggest religious monument on earth or the 8th wonder of the ancient word. There was coffee and baguette for breakfast as we watched the sun come up behind the clouds then wandered inside while it was still cool. There was a festival going on that day and there was over 4000 monks and maybe 30 thousand other people there so finding our tuk tuk took us almost an hour. When we finally located him amongst the sea of tuk tuks we went to the next temple Ta Kao which is a small bu very steep pyramid which you can climb to the top, Jeff was able to do it, I stubbed my toe on a stone nd ripped a chunk off my toe nail half way up.  Next we went to Bayon, our favorite temple which features 216 giant faces called Avalokiteshvara. We grabbed some coconut and mango slushies from the street vendor and ventured in to the massive glaring faces of Bayon. The next temple was Ta Prohm which is the location for some of the scenes from Tomb Raider. It is almost completely destroyed by the forces of nature, with huge trees growing right into and out of the stones.  Our last stop was Banteay Kdei and Sras Srang both of which we were too sweaty and tired to fully  enjoy. We slammed back 3 1.5 litre bottles of water and headed back to our guesthouse. We stopped  at a orphangae on the way back to town to give the children some pencils, which they greatly appreciated. We had a long nap from 1 om til 5 then went out on the town for some dinner and drinks. Hey, at 25 cents happy hour on beer, it’s hard to resist.

The following day we embarked on the journey to Phenom Pehn, a truly epic 6 hour bus ride on the bumpy roads of rural Cambodia, sitting at the back with  5 others, one of which was a car sick boy we bounced along  not even knowing if we were on the correct bus the entire time.  We arrived the city which is MUCH bigger than the one we departed and checked out a couple of guest houses, we found a cheap one near a nicer one we checked out and planted ourselves in the lobby for dinner and a cold pop. We spent the evening talking with other travellers and crashed early, though the Guest house staff were having a huge party with loud music. 

This morning we grabbed a tuk tuk for a day of Cambodian history. We grabbed 3 Danish girls to  come with us to share the cost of a ride and off we went. First we stopped at Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which is the former Khmer Rouge S21 prison. There were thousands of people imprisoned, interrogated and tortured there under Pol Pot in 1975-1978  before they were taken to the killing fields for execution. The museum is an eery look at the tiny cells where prisoners were kept, the rooms where 50+ people slept all shackled together and mug shots of all the people who were imprisoned there.  There was displays of torture devices used and artistic renditions of how the devices were used, which were painted by one of only 7 survivors. It was alot to take in, but very informative. We watched a video about the history of the Khmer Rouge’s regime. On the way to the next site we stopped at a local street stall to grab some delicious baguette sandwiches . Next we went to the killing fields of Choeung Ek, about 17kms from town. There is a 17 level stupa built as a memorial and grave type structure with 9000 skulls and human bones of people who were killed there. They estimate that 2 million Cambodians were killed in the 3 years of Khmer Rouge only 3 decades ago. As you walk around the park there is a huge fenced off portion which has not yet been excavated among the 89 or so mass graves that have been dug up. There was a section where the children were put as the guy Duch who lead the prison thought that the children would grow up to seek revenge and needed to be eliminated also. We were shocked to read about the horrors of these places. We were supposed to go o see the Royal Palace but decided not to and headed to the river front for an evening stroll and some dinner. We saw an elephant walking down the street among cars and scooters and happy little children dancing on the street. It’s crazy that all of this horrible stuff happened to the Cambodians and they are so poor here but still have a smile on their faces. It makes us greedy north Americans look like spoiled brats compared the people here, who are always friendly to visitors and happy to be alive. It’s been a real eye opener.

Now we head to Sihanoukville to soak up some sun by the beach. Stay tuned

Jeeva





Diving Down Under

27 04 2010

Good day all… After a couple of dives off our vessel the Apollo I finally started my long awaited dive course in Cairns. The course started in town with a couple of days in the classroom and pool sessions, there was myself and two others in the course which was nice. In the a.m we would watch a few videos and after a quick lunch break we would suit- up and get in the pool and start off with some basic skills.

Once the two days where up and theory tests were passed off to the reef we go. We got to the boat around 8 a.m for the two-hour journey out to the reef. Once everyone was on the boat and settled in they run though the safety speal and offer everyone sea sickness tablets due to a rough ride out. After about 20 minutes in to the journey and no one accepting the sea sickness tablets the first one spills his beans and filling paper bag after paper bag. After the first guy starts it was a steady flow of sick humans to the back of the boat flying though paper bags like they where going outta style. There where about 30 people on board and about half of which got sea-sick.  I was one of the lucky ones that felt fine and enjoyed the rollercoaster of a ride out to the reef.

Once we got to our dive spot some people moved on to the liveaboard boat which they stayed for a few days and the other day trippers suited up and got in the water. Since the other two in my course where staying on the liveaboard so was my instructor, off they went and I stayed with the group on the day boat. I teamed up with an instructor who was taking two american girls who had their licence for a guided tour. Since I went with this group my first experience on the reef was great with just a casual dive and not having to perform any of the test skills and purely enjoy the magnificent coral and hundreds of small reef fish.

After the dive a delicious lunch was laid out on deck for everyone and quickly devoured. Once the food settled I met back up with the two others in my course and the instructor for the second dive of the day. Once we got suited up and in the water we headed to the bottom to perform some skills. We did a couple of skills here then did a little bit of sight seeing and stopped at 12m to perform a few more skills and then a bit more sight seeing and back to the surface to wrap up the day.

The second day was quite similar to the first as in half the boat was sick and a long rough ride out to the reef. Once we got there the two instructors onboard took out two separate groups and leaving me for when they come back. Once my instructor was back we got in and had a casual dive at about 14m and finished off all but one skill leaving that for the last dive of the course. After another tasty lunch my instructor and I get in and quickly finish the last skill and had about 25 minutes to look around. The instructor showed me around, showing me what certain creatures you can touch and others you cannot. We came around this corner and their there was a massive clam about the size of a small car which was really cool. After some more touring around he took me to a tight little cave type coral structure which he went through first and i quickly followed that took us out to an area with some large Parrot fish and hundreds of other small reef fish. After this it was time to come up as our air was starting to get low and start the long journey back to land.

So all in all the diving course was awesome and I certainly learned alot that I didn’t know existed about diving and the reef. I wish I could have got out to the reef once more as a certified diver but our days in Aus where running out quickly and our sights where on Asia. I am planning to dive at every chance I get here in Asia as it is much cheaper and many highly recognized dive sites in Thailand and Vietnam.

Thanks for reading

The first half of Jeeva





Last Days in Australia

27 04 2010

Our last 10 days in Australia were spent in Cairns where we stayed half the time in a caravan park, then when we gave Coco away to her new owners we spent 3 nights in a hostel called Caravella which was awesome and had a pool and everything, we even had a double room instead of a dorm due to my wonderful negotiation skills. The weather was not cooperative at all and there was nothing really to do, except go outlet shopping and hang out in town scoping out people on the patio of McDonald’s. When Jeff finished his dive course we spent a couple of days with a friend from the boat trip and her friend Rikke wandering around town and buying last-minute souvenirs and such. We even learned how to play the didgeridoo at a ” didge”” shop. We visited the dam in town duwe to a wrong turn off the highway but then found the actual Crystal Cascades a different day after consulting the map and took a dip in the watering hole there. We had some end of trip festivities and then boarded a plane to Sydney the next morning. Once in Sydney we flew to Bangkok on Emirates  airline which was fabulous; if you ever get a chance to fly with them it’s great. Now we are in Cambodia only 1 day later, but you’ll have to stay tuned for that story.

Eva





I’m on a boat

17 04 2010

We had a 3 day sailing adventure in the Whitsundays that may have been the highlight of the trip to Australia so far. We chilled in Airlie Beach for a few days then got up early and boarded our home for the next 3 days “the Apollo”. We were 2 of 26 passengers and 5 crew members. We set off cruising early in the morning on Monday, it was a beautiful sunny day with blistering sun and tonnes of opportunity to suntan and chill on deck as we travelled to Caves Cove where the group (minus myself and 3 others) did their intro free dives by the beach while the rest of us snorkelled. We had a lovely lunch prepared by chef Jimmy of chicken and salads. We then continued cruising (as in with the sails down since it wasn’t windy) to Whitehaven Beach where we spend the evening relaxing on the white silica sand and eating snacks and hanging out with our group. We enjoyed the sunset on the beach then headed back aboard the boat for a Beef Stroganoff dinner and some drinks on deck to finish off the night. Something unexpected happened when one of the girl had a major allergy attack and we had to cruise all the way back to town in the dark to take her to the hospital. We moored there for the night and slept in our tiny bunks on the rocking boat until morning. The sick girl got back on the boat in the morning and we were off to a couple of dive and snorkelling spots.

Jeff realized on his intro dive that he loved diving and decided to do one of the optional dives on day 2. He will be writing a whole post about diving so I won’t try to do his experience any justice by talking about it. It was cloudy and windy on Day 2 so we actually lifted the sails and tore through the ocean at almost a 90 degree angle. We snorkelled at 2 spots that day before we were dropped off at the beach in Blue Pearl Bay for some evening snacks, sunset and Peter the Possum. This beach was completely covered in coral and was impossible to walk on bear footed but was great for looking through the corals for hours to find cool shells and such. We had a tasty steak dinner and then had a party on the boat.

The following morning we snorkelled at Blue Pearl Bay where we saw some HUGE fish and lots of nice corals. It was like swimming in an aquarium.  We had a quick lunch before the 3 hour sailing journey back to Abel Point Marina. It was really windy and the sailing was awesome fun, we even saw dolphins as we cruised by at 8 knots speed.  We were really happy to have spent a couple of days off of land and we made lots of new friends on board including 2 Calgarians. That night the Apollo group had a little pizza after party  before we all parted ways.

We are now in Cairns and Jeff is doing his dive course here for 4 days. We leave for Bangkok on the 25th of April for 2 months. We plan to do a mixture of activities in Asia including tubing down the river in Laos, cooking classes in Vietnam, temples in Cambodia and chilling at the south islands of Thailand, and of course the hustle and bustle of Bangkok.  We are a bit nervous but always excited for another epic adventure.

Bye for now

Jeeva





Becoming a local

10 04 2010

We arrived the town of 1770/Agnes Water on March 22nd but we didn’t know when we arrived what we were in for. The first night we stayed at the national park campground in town at Workman’s Beach. We were instantly drawn to the perfect surfing conditions with no crowds at the main beach in Agnes Water. Our friends from Denmark took off the next morning for Fraser Island and we were left wondering what should we do? Agnes Water is the last place on the East Coast of Aus that you can still surf and swim in the ocean (as you go north there is the reef, crocs and scary jelly fish, not to mention no waves). On our second day in 1770 we spotted a sign at the visitor info centre that said help needed in exchange for accommodation. We gave the lady Elly a call and she refered us to her friend Annie who lives alone on 40+ acres and needed some help around her place. We figured “what the hey” and set up shop there. This lady had an ill husband and had alot of work to be done around her land. We basically exchanged 2 hours a day of weeding, yard work, painting etc for a roof over our heads and some air conditioning. A match made in heaven. We soon became what the Aussies refer to as “a local” which means everyone in town recognizes you and says hello..among other things. We worked in the morning, surfed at day time and played a tonne of Yahtzee at night and the weather was beautiful the entire time we were there, a whopping 17 days.

Easter was fast approaching and we were invited for an Easter seafood feast at Elly’s with some other local people and had a great time meeting people and hanging out on the veranda. The following day was a “car boot sale” where everyone backs in their car in a circle and sells their crap. We managed to rack in a total of 55$ by selling our tent, fishing gear and a couple books..not too bad. On Easter Sunday we made our way to the Market grounds to do some shopping with our earnings and ended up with a bag of potatoes and some junk food. As Easter came to an end, Jeff’s Birthday approached and he wanted to do one thing….you guessed it….go surfing. So we tried a new spot called Springs beach first which was not too successful before we headed to the Main Beach for one last surf and stayed there til the sun went down. The next morning Jeff got up early to surf one last time before we said our goodbyes and left for Airlie Beach to go to the Whitsundays for a sailing trip.

We arrived at Airlie and are anxiously awaiting our sailing trip to take off, in the meantime we managed to find this pretty great little water hole/waterfall for a cool refreshing swim in FRESH water and escape the croc infested seas and the blistering heat. The weather outlook is good for sailing and we will be roasting at the fake lagoon until then. After that..who knows…..