WEEK 4: Phnom Penh and Vietnam

by - 08:49

I know I say this at the beginning of practically every blog post but I cannot believe that I've been travelling Asia for a month already. You literally just eat up the time when you travel from city to city which is pretty annoying as there so many things to do rather than sitting on a bus or catching a flight. Of course, this cannot be helped or at least on a budget anyway. I am sure Kimmy K would be able to get place to place in a quicker amount of time for a bit more money - and she definitely wouldn't be on a Vietnamese sleeping bus either!

The last time I blogged about my whereabouts I had entered Cambodia and visited Angkor Wat at 4am which now seems like a distant memory. This week, I visited Phnom Penh which is home to the Killing Fields and also the museum of the jail where Cambodians were tortured. We took an audio guide for both which gave us a full insight of the horrific events that took place there in the 70s, which isn't too long ago. One of the final arrests made was Duch in 2012 who was one of th leaders for the Cambodian genocide which goes to show that a lot of survivors are still living in grief today. If you don't know much on the Killing Fields and the genocide that happened in the 70s then it is definitely worth reading up on as I think it's important that such events are to be made aware of. Me and my friends didn't know much about it before visiting Cambodia, we heard about it from another friend who had been previously.  

On a lighter note, we then decided to travel to Vietnam starting in Ho Chi Minh which is also known as Saigon down south. Bored control in Vietnam is a walk in the park in comparison to Cambodia - we had to show our visas and passports around 5 times before getting to the other side of the bridge.  I am stuck with around $6 worth of Cambodian money that I didn't manage to spend at the services so I've been carrying it round hoping someone will take it. All I wanted was a few snacks and they closed the shop at the stop off for the bus - irritating! So if you're currently in Vietnam or you're planning on going g to Cambodia and you're in desperate need for $6 then send me a stamp and envelope and it is yours to spend! The hop on hop off bus throughout Vietnam is definitely worth doing. The busses are convenient and although it takes a while for me to get to sleep, for £20 to run us to all of the places in Vietnam we want to go, it is an absolute diamond of a buy although it takes me a good while to get to sleep on it.

So far this has been my favourite place in Vietnam for the one big reason, the market. I bought a good load of fakes (although I've lost them now, boohoo!) for about £2. I bought Adidas leggings that I have wanted for ages for £3 whereas at home they are £28! As a massive market lover, shopping lover and lover of all things fake this was the perfect place for me as it is the biggest market in Vietnam. I didn't know this at the time otherwise I would have definitely bought a lot more for myself, my boyfriend and probably everyone's birthday presents for the next 5 years. 

I'll start with the Vietnam War museum on the first day in Ho Chi Minh. It was a great experience to get it done on the first day as it gave us a great insight to the role that Saigon undertook whilst the war was takin place. As someone without much knowledge on what had actually happened in the war with America, it was interesting to read about the events that took place and also how Vietnam is still being affected today. It was interesting to read about agent orange which is a substance that Vietnam had been smothered in by the Americans. A lot of fetus' can be affected by agent orange which is the most upsetting part. A lot of babies are born with severe disabilities and often don't live a long and healthy life. That was one of the most interesting parts of the museum for me, finding out how people are being affected now. I assume a lot of people (including myself before the museum) would assume that the war has been and gone and is no longer affects modern day Vietnam but that is so untrue.

Read more about agent orange: http://www.history.com/topics/vietnam-war/agent-orange

The following day we visited the tunnels which was a few hours away from Ho Chi Minh. The tunnels are a reminder of the small spaces that Vietnamese men and women had to live and travel in during the time of the war - the holes in the floor could barely get my left thigh down them so fairplay to them for being able to live down there! The photo below is one of the entrances to the tunnels:

The tour involved us viewing the different underground settings of hospitals, schools and living conditions throughout the war for families. These conditions were not great although the tunnels allowed them to stay safe during the bombing in a jungle just outside the city. The day was gloomy at first and obviously we didn't take rain coats out with us, I mean, why would we it's Vietnam in 'hot' season? As soon as the bus pulled up to the excursion, the rain started to pour and got heavier and heavier and soon, everyone had to run to the shop in order to purchase one of their raincoats - including us who left the coats at home. The tunnels are in the middle of a jungle so when there is rain there is also a hella' lotta mud and we did not leave the tunnels warm and dry like we would have wanted.

The next day we travelled to Da Lat and had a full day to do whatever we wanted. We wanted to do some sort of fun activity like canoeing but by the time we had woken up (10ish) the excursions for the day had started. We decided to rent a motorbike despite one of us having no driving licence and the other one not driven in the past 4 years. Although I can drive and have been driving a car for the past four years, I'm hardly the Lewis Hamilton of the group and I definitely get road rage quite badly so we were pretty much all on the same level of driving ability. You would think that we would use our heads a little bit and prepare for the worst kind of weather conditions after the day before, but we don't. We carried on like normal as if it was going to be near 40 degrees all day with no rain. Driving through Da Lat, I had Twinny on my back as she was too nervous to drive and we actually got the hang of it pretty well. Although some drivers are absolutely crazy over here and traffic lights definitely aren't in their Highway Code, we actually got around the city without falling off or crashing - hurrah! Although what we did do was manage to go the wrong way and get lost an hour and a half away due to Twinny typing in the wrong address to Google Maps. To make it worse, this is when the storm started. There was thunder, heavy rain and we were pretty much all close to tears. How did we get home you're probably wondering? Twinny got in the taxi whilst we both followed behind on our motorbikes - she hung out of the window like a dog and we all looking like the classic idiots abroad.

I can honestly say after 4 weeks of having cold showers that the shower at Da Lat was one of the best showers that I have had this entire trip. Not only was it warm, but it was warm after being stuck in the rain in shorts and a vest - there is a huge difference. We completed our only full day in Da Lat with a night out in a place called The Maze which was a pretty cool bar that you could only get to by going the right path. Trust me, if you needed to go for a wee and you went by yourself, it was near impossible to get to the same place that you had left your friends. We found a boy that we had previously met in Ho Chi Minh and it was a nice surprise to see him at the same bar as us. There are two routes that you can take to travel Vietnam - you can go North to South or you can do South to North. By doing this you actually cross paths with quite a lot of people that you may have already seen or met in other hostels which I guess is how solo travellers end up meeting one another.

Our final week is approaching and I have so much to look forward to other than the super comfortable night busses. I'm  continuing my journey through Vietnam by heading north and then finishing off in Chiang Mai which is north of Thailand so that I can play with some of the elephants by volunteering at their ethical Elephant Nature Park! And then unfortunately it's back home for me and starting my new job in my new house with new responsibilities *shrieks*

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