After shopping too much in Hanoi, we had to do a spot of panic-packing today. We’ve gone from travelling ultra-light (just 2 rucksacks between all 4 of us, with all our surplus stuff stored at our guest house in Bangkok) to suddenly travelling heavy. After we’d assembled all our purchases, we had to go out […]Read more "Packing up to move on"
Took the girls to see a dead body today. Hmm. Perhaps I can write something better than that.We all went to the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum to escape the hustle and bustle of Hanoi today. He’s still revered within Vietnam, despite many of the Vietnamese living abroad hate him with such a passion (the Lonely […]Read more "Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum"
The streets of Hanoi are teeming with shops selling all kinds of things. Like most Asian cities, the shops tend to be bunched together according to what they are selling – you’ll find streets entirely devoted to bookshops or ironmongers or tailors or stamp-makers, or almost anything else you could imagine. It seems very alien […]Read more "Shopping in Hanoi"
We’ve just returned from a 2 day trip to Halong Bay, 3 hours drive from Hanoi. It s a huge bay with limestone karsts rising up from the sea all around it. There are various ways to do the trip to the bay from day trips to week-long trips involving snorkelling, kayaking and lots of […]Read more "Halong Bay"
Do you remember this photo? It was taken a week ago, when we visited a water park in Saigon. What we didn’t know at the time was that three days later the girls’ hair would turn green! After soaking their hair most of the day in what was obviously a pool full of strangely-chlorinated water, […]Read more "Bad Hair Day"
We’re here – another city name that rings a bell – Hanoi. Isn’t this where Robin Williams said ‘Hanoi Hannah’ lived? Is my cultural understanding so low that my knowledge of the world is set by Hollywood films? (That’s a rhetorical question, not one to email me about. I already know the answer you’ll give […]Read more "Arriving in another famous place"
On our last day in Hue, we travelled across the river to the Forbidden Purple City. This citadel, used up until the middle of this century, was the residence of the Emperor and his clan – including his 104 wives, his concubines and his eunuchs (now, explain that one to an 8-year old). It was […]Read more "Hue and train"
Hue is an amazingly beautiful city – not only does it seem to have a slower pace than other cities in Asia, but the river right through the middle provides a centrepiece to the parks and shady side roads. Outside of the city, amongst the hills and paddy fields, are tombs of the previous Emperor […]Read more "Hue city"
After three nights in Hoi An, we’re ready to move on again, just 70 miles north this time, following the coast to Hue. It’s very strange being in Vietnam for the first time, because lots of place names ring bells from history, but my knowledge of the Vietnam war is so thin, its probably from […]Read more "Further north to Hue"
To get a break from walking, we hired a boat this morning for a trip down the river towards the sea. For an hour we just pottered along the river, watching life carry on on the banks. One of the strangest sights, that we hadn’t expected at all, was the coracles that the local fishermen […]Read more "Hoi An boat trip"
We woke up this morning to find that Hoi An town is as peaceful as it had seemed last night Well, all things are relative, and it’s peaceful in a Vietnamese sense – its still full of the sounds of moped engines, and their honking horns, but these are inescapable in a country where there […]Read more "Hoi An town"
When we woke up we were far away from any city, and deep in rice paddycountry. Outside the window was an idyllic scene of vivid green ricepaddies, being tended by people in pointy straw hats, and with waterbuffalo roaming the paths. It is like sleeping in a hotel room that moves.The Vietnamese railways seem fairly […]Read more "Vietnamese trains"
The Cu Chi tunnels are north of Saigon, in a wooded area, where the VietCong used to live and fight underground against the American and southVietnamese troops. There are 200km’s of tunnels, up to 8 metresunderground, and they contain kitchens, bedrooms, meeting rooms, andfighting bunkers. Until you see them, you wonder how anybody could hidesuch […]Read more "Cu Chi Tunnels"
All the time that we’ve been travelling, we’ve tried to mix togethersightseeing and some fun things for the girls. So we decided to go to oneof Saigon’s waterparks for a bit of playtime. Like all good plans, thisone fell apart straight away! We took a taxi to the Saigon Water Park, onthe outskirts of the […]Read more "A morning for the girls"
We had to get up early to go on our tour of the Mekong delta today. Thismeant waking up at 6.15, and having a shower. This was a novelty initself, because for the first time since we’d arrived in Asia the guesthouse had cold and hot taps – so I could shave with hot water […]Read more "The Mekong Delta"
There’s still confusion about whether the city is called Ho Chi Minh City,or Saigon (its previous name until the North Vietnamese won the war), andbecause its such a mouthful many still refer to it as Saigon (the innercity is still officially called that, while the greater metropolis has thelonger name), or HCMC. I’m going to […]Read more "Ho Chi Minh City – or is it Saigon?"
Another day, another long bus trip! For our trip from Phnom Penh to Ho ChiMinh City in Vietnam, it s the usual story of waiting around, unexplaineddelays and that feeling of not quite being sure of what’s going on. We’dbeen told the bus would collect us from our guest house at 6.45am, andthat it would […]Read more "Overland to Vietnam"
Sometimes, when you get up in the morning, its easy to be confused about where we are – the streets here seem just like the scenes of Beirut we used to see in the 80’s. Everything just seems a charm-less mess. And it also seems that everything is improvised – take the Toyota Camry above […]Read more "Phnom Penh or Beirut?"
Before heading back to the guest house, we visited the other grim place in Phnom Penh – the shores of Boeng Kak lake, which used to be a pleasant area of lakeside backpacker guest houses in the north of the city. Now though, the buildings have encroached over much of the lake, and sewerage from […]Read more "The other grim side of Phnom Penh"
After the genocide museum we carried on out of the city to view the Killing Fields. This was where the prisoners were taken, before being killed and buried in mass graves. 9,000 skeletons have been uncovered, but a further third of the graves remain untouched. The burial pits themselves, just look like a building site, […]Read more "The Killing Fields of Choeung Ek"
There are lots of different ways to get around Phnom Penh – on the back of motorbikes; in cyclos which are chairs mounted on the front of bikes ridden by old, skinny men; on moped-powered tuk-tuks, or in saloon cars acting as taxis. For the many aid-workers in town, the vehicle of choice is a […]Read more "The gruesome side of Cambodia"
We’re in Phnom Penh, and we can’t make head or tail of the place – there seem to be such wide contrasts. Take our accommodation, Diamond’s Guest House, which is in the centre of the city and handy for the Royal Palace, National Museum, and the restaurants and cafes along the banks of the Mekong. […]Read more "Phnom Penh – a strange city"
There are a number of different ways to get from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, by road or water. Possibly the most picturesque is to travel by fast boat – which takes 6 hours and costs $22 a person – which goes across the huge Tonle Sap lake between the cities, and down the Mekong […]Read more "Moving on to Phnom Penh"
As we saw all of Angkor Wat last time, we must be the only tourists in town who didn’t want to rush straight to the temples! In fact, we’re only stopping off here on the way to Phnom Penh. Last night we found our trusty tuk-tuk driver, Mr Heng, and arranged for him to meet […]Read more "Seeing Siem Reap one more time"
Well, last time we went from Bangkok to Siem Reap, we bought a ticket right through from a Khao San Road travel agent. And while it did get us all the way, it was deliberately slowed down, so that you could be overcharged along the way for your Cambodia Visa, and for your food and drink stops, […]Read more "Heading back to Cambodia – the easy way"
All good things come to an end, and so does our Thailand visa. We’re heading north now, back to Bangkok, where we’re going to head off to Cambodia (again) and Vietnam. And as usual, it’s a multi-part journey which seems to go on forever. We start at 7:30am in the back of a pickup, to […]Read more "Heading back to Bangkok"
Koh Lanta is such a relaxing place, that for a moment it is possible to forget that you’re in Asia – one of the world’s most hectic places! Instead of noise, hustle and hassle, we’re in an oasis of peace and quiet. The children have met some others their own age, and have played cards, […]Read more "Still chillin’ on a tropical island"
Just across the bay from Mae Nam beach lies the island of Koh Pha-Ngan. It is a quieter island than Koh Samui – less developed, less roads and less expensive. It’s famous for the full moon parties held on the main beach at Haad Rin – tens of thousands of backpackers flock there for the […]Read more "Tripping to Koh Pha-Ngan"
Koh Lanta is an island down towards the south of Thailand, on the west coast. Standing on the beach, you can see the silhouette of Koh Phi-Phi (made famous by the film “The Beach”) and other smaller islands rising in the distance. It is almost exclusively a backpackers place, with few tourist-style resorts. The main […]Read more "Koh Lanta – laid-back and blissful"
After we’d been travelling a while, days of the week started to become the same. At home, we’d all looked forward to the weekends, and equally we’d all felt a bit down on Sunday night when it meant tomorrow was Monday morning. But while we’re travelling, ‘weekends’ and ‘weekdays’ only matter because of what everybody […]Read more "Monday mornings"
After just two days on Rai Leh, we decided to move on to Koh Lanta, an island with another beautiful beach, two hours south by boat. Luckily, although the first part of the trip was in a long-tail, this was only out into the bay, to board a bigger boat waiting to take us to […]Read more "Moving on to Koh Lanta"
Krabi province is basically a coastal bay, filled with 200 tiny islands. Although some of these, like Koh Phi-Phi are big enough to have accommodation on them, the majority are small uninhabited lumps of rock and beach, dotted around the bay. Whenever you see pictures of Phuket, you will spot three or four pictures of […]Read more "By long-tail around Krabi"
What a tough way to spend a Friday! In the morning we swam in the pool, then after lunch we walked to Tham Phra Nang beach, one of the three on the Rai Leh peninsula. Although all of the frontage is owned by the Rayavadee Resort, there is a footpath to it for the general […]Read more "Rai Leh and Tham Phra Nang Beach"
Well, all good things come to an end, and that includes our fortnight of R&R on Koh Samui. After two weeks of beach and sunshine, its now time to move on to other parts of Thailand. Our original plan was to head north, straight to Bangkok to catch a flight to Vietnam, but we’ve decided […]Read more "Another day of travel – leaving Koh Samui"
Thailand doesn’t run it’s calendar in the same way that we do in Europe. For a start, today is New Years Day, called Songkran – I’ll explain a bit more about that in a minute. The other thing that is curious about the Thai calendar, from our perspective at least, is that it is 544 […]Read more "Happy New Year!"
Waking up on the beach is quite a wonderful experience – as long as it’s not literally on the beach (well, even that would have been great when we were younger). But today, stepping out of the bungalow onto the sand path and then wandering down to the beach was pretty fantastic. And the beach looked better […]Read more "Koh Pha-Ngan again"
Sightseeing around Koh Samui isn’t all elephants, jungle and beach. There’s only one main road which goes right around the island, and all of the main businesses are lined up along it. Which is handy when it’s hot and dry, and you want to stop for a drink and an ice-cream. In Asia you’re never […]Read more "Around Koh Samui"
For a few days we’ve hired a couple of jeeps to explore the island. Yesterday we drove up the hills in the middle of the island – despite the absence of proper roads, which made it much more interesting! The children loved it all – especially the bumpiest bits, where we were getting the jeeps […]Read more "Sightseeing on Koh Samui"
Apart from Christmas, this is the longest we’ve stayed in one place since we started travelling – and we’ve got another 10 days to go! Its glorious not having to pack up our rucksacks and move on, and we’re quickly slipping into ‘holiday’ mode. We’ve even managed to loosen the purse-strings a little bit, to […]Read more "Life’s a beach"
It’s tough, but somebody’s got to do it. After all, somebody gets up early to put those beach umbrellas and deck chairs there – it would be terrible if nobody used them. And so Caroline and Sarah have taken to them like sand to a beach picnic. From early morning to late in the afternoon, […]Read more "Life on a beach"
Life’s getting better. The children all love the guest house, especially the pool slap bang in the middle of the decking. It’s great for us too – we can watch them swim, while we read our books, or enjoy a drink. And as the rooms are right next door too, it means that the children […]Read more "Enjoying the holiday a bit more…"
Peter and Caroline’s flight arrived in Koh Samui at 10pm last night, after leaving England the evening before, and having a short stopover in Singapore. They were exhausted, and hot, but we all had big welcome hugs at the airport (well, not Peter and I, but who’d want to hug a big, sweaty bloke?). The […]Read more "The Florist – the real guest house"
Fortunately for us, the guest house seemed better when we woke up. After a filling breakfast, we cast a critical eye over it, and tried to see if our friends would like it. In the end, we decided that with a few finishing touches, and a couple of sneaky tricks, it would be okay – […]Read more "Waking up in The Florist"
Our arrival in Samui was fairly easy – the bus and boat connection was dead easy – but once we were on the island, we were in the hands of the local transport mafia. Transport in Samui is notoriously expensive for foreigners, and the minibus operators and taxi drivers were asking 2-3 times what you’d […]Read more "Arriving in Koh Samui"
After a day of ‘hanging around’ the pool at the guest house, we took another sleeper train down to Surat Thani, in southern Thailand. Our desination is Koh Samui, an island off the East coast, where we’re due to meet up with our friends from home – Caroline and Peter, and Charlotte and Emily’s best […]Read more "On the rails again"
After our journey to Cambodia – 16 hours of slow-moving misery – we thought we’d try and make the journey back to Bangkok easier. Although the flight was outside of our budget, we splashed out $30 on a taxi to the border. Instead of 7 hours in the bus, it took us just under 3 […]Read more "Back to Bangkok"
Now that our pass for Angkor Wat has expired, we took the opportunity to drive around the countryside a little further, to see some of the sights away from the temples. As long as we’re on roads, Mr Heng’s tuk-tuk is quite comfortable, but off road it’s definitely a bumpy experience. The tuk-tuk is basically […]Read more "Around Siem Reap"
Cambodia is a country with huge contrasts, as I’ve already said, and our afternoon was a stark example of that. After spending the morning looking around poverty-stricken villages, the girls were invited over to the exclusive hotel for a swim with their new playmates. The hotel tuk-tuk picked them up, and they all took off […]Read more "A study of contrasts"
Our last day at Angkor Wat – our $40/3 day pass expires today, so we set off early again to get the most of our time. We’d chosen two last temples, the first being Preah Kahn (yes, I had to write the names down – there’s no way I would remember all of these tomorrow!), […]Read more "Last call for Angkor Wat"
Somewhat incongruously we went from the Landmine Museum to the Angkor Wat balloon – a huge helium balloon which carries up to 12 passengers 200 metres into the air to get a view of the main Angkor Wat temple and the surrounding forests and fields. We’d chosen sunset to do it, so on one side […]Read more "Floating over Angkor"