Monday, 6 April 2009

Asia Update #7 - Cambodia, Vietnam

This should be a fairly quick one, since I've been putting some stories on my blog which I'll just link to, so they're even easier to skip :)

First stop in Cambodia was Angkor Wat, which was impressive but not mind-blowing. After that was Battambang and the capital, Phnom Penh. There I saw the killing fields of the Khmer Rouge and the genocide museum (S-21), which was a thoroughly disturbing experience. It's so hard to believe that Pol Pot and the KR were still around only 30 years ago. Also unsettling is that when you ask a taxi driver to take you to the killing fields, he asks "Oh, you want to stop at the shooting range too? Fire an AK-47?", apparently missing the morbid irony. Although anything goes in Cambodia, for example, for US$200 you can fire off a rocket launcher. For another hundred bucks they'll even throw in a cow to use as a target.

Then it was on to the beach coast of Cambodia at Sihanoukville for a few days of relaxation, then across to a remote border crossing into Vietnam.
After a quick stop in Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City) I moved on to Da Lat, in the Vietnamese highlands, which was a beautiful spot. It was much cooler than the coast, plus it was filled with pine trees and French-style buildings, as it was the resort town for the French colonists in Saigon.

After not meeting any Aussies for weeks, I found them all hiding in the Peace Cafe in Da Lat. I kept bumping into two of the guys, both cops from Melbourne, all the way up to Hue. I met a Canadian Filipino girl who convinced me to go canyoning with her (it didn't take much), and was one of the highlights of this whole trip. We had an amazing day abseiling off waterfalls, jumping off cliffs and sliding down rapids on our backs, and thanks to her waterproof camera we got some pretty good photos of it too.

Nha Trang was a bit disappointing, just another tourist beach. Hoi An was better, and had a great heritage-listed "Old Town" district. Next was Hue, where it was raining or overcast constantly. Here I wandered around the huge walled Imperial City, and went on a tour of Khe Sanh and the DMZ (demilitarised zone between north and south Vietnam). After deciding I'd have to come back later to properly see the north of the country, I cut across to Savannakhet in Laos instead.
Laos is good so far, I'll probably spent a few weeks here and then back to "home base" in Thailand. Meanwhile, keep an eye out on the blog for updates.

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