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IndochinaIndochina Photos

On 18 December 2008 from Reuver, Netherlands | comments closed

It took a while to sort them all out, but the best Indochina photos are online now. In 5 weeks time I made 950+ photos, and 210 passed the quality checks (many underwater photos failed).

Below is the complete route of my travels in Indochina.

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Travels Indochina

IndochinaFrom Sun to Snow & Country Comparison

On 25 November 2008 from Rotterdam, Netherlands | comments closed

My flight from Bangkok to Düsseldorf on Monday 24 November was delayed by 2 hours because of the snowfall in Düsseldorf. From 30 degrees and sun to 0 degrees and snow, the difference could not be much larger. And what happened to global warming with snow in the Netherlands in November?

Time for a trip review:

Mission accomplished.

Would I do anything different next time? Maybe take the advice of some people to fit less countries in a 5-week trip. I should have left Vietnam out, as 6 days there was too short. About 3 weeks would be better. But I knew that in advance, and therefore skipped the North entirely (in favour of South Laos), and my initial research indicated that the border crossing between Cambodia and Laos would be difficult, something which proved not to be the case (Laos visa needs to be obtained in advance, Cambodia visa is issued at the border). But when that came to light we already had a visa for Vietnam and not using it would be a waste. The main reason for visiting less countries is spending less hours in the bus or train, as now it was sometimes 7 hours in the bus on consecutive days. Visiting less places would allow to stay longer in certain places, thus avoiding long bus travel every day. But then again, many places were only interesting for a half or full day, staying longer would only allow me to read more books (which is something I can do at home as well, although I do not seem to get around to it there).

Some comments on each country:

IndochinaBoating like Bond & Biking in Bangkok

On 23 November 2008 from Bangkok, Thailand | comments closed

Friday 21 November Patricia went back to Railay Beach and I joined a daytour to Phang Nga Bay and James Bond Island. After the usual minibus drive the boat took us through spectacular Phang Nga Bay to Phing Kan Island, from where James Bond Island can be seen (featured in “The Man with the Golden Gun”). Unfortunately it was a very cloudy day, so the photos are not what I was hoping for. Next stop was Hong Island, where Thai guides were paddling the other passengers in sea canoes around the island and through the caves. Because I needed some exercise, I got my own sea canoe, so I could paddle myself. At Panak Island I did get a Thai guide to paddle me through the narrow caves, and at the last stop I swam from the boat to the island, so I got some more exercise there.

After the diving, canoeing and swimming of the last couple of days I decided to take it easy on Saturday. As it was still cloudy I could not be bothered to lay on the beach, but instead I sorted and geotagged my photos, and got a massage before having a flight back to Bangkok in the evening.

Sunday morning I got up real early (again) and used the Skytrain and a taxi to get to the hotel where Co’s bikes were stored. Bikes, indeed, as I booked a biking tour with Co van Kessel. Tukata and May were the guides for our group of nine. The first street we took was a market street in Chinatown, where it was basically impossible to bike. But that was only the first street. From there we took the backstreets of Chinatown, past meat cutters, open kitchens, temples and many small houses (often only one room). We crossed the river by ferry, biked some more and took a longboat through the canals, where houses were literally built in the water. We then biked through some of Bangkok’s padang fields on narrow concrete paths. This really was a completely different side of the city, especially compared to the buzzing commerce centre of Siam. After lunch and another longboat ride through the canals and across the river, we biked back to the hotel. In the afternoon I went up Baiyoke Tower 2 to enjoy the view from the highest tower of Bangkok, had a sushi dinner at Siam and relaxed a bit at the guesthouse. After all, I am getting back home on Monday evening and starting work again on Tuesday.

IndochinaDiving Similan Islands & Richelieu Rock

On 20 November 2008 from Phuket, Thailand | comments closed

Sunday 16 November early in the morning I arrived back in Bangkok. I took the Skytrain to my guesthouse and wrote and mailed a few postcards, before going back into the city. I tried to do some shopping at the large shopping malls in the centre (Siam), but could not find what I was looking for. So the Skytrain took me to Chatuchak Market, where I was unsuccessful at first as well, but could finally get all the items on my shopping list. Another Skytrain ride brought me to Lumphini Park, where I watched some aerobics classes. The Skytrain really is my favourite means of transportation in Bangkok: fast, frequent, air-conditioned and pretty good value with the daypass. It brought me back to my guesthouse as well.

After a schema-time flight with Air Asia to Phuket on Monday and a smooth drive with the chauffeur from the hotel, I arrived at my hotel in Karon. Spent most of the day sorting out photos and walking along the beach. When Patricia arrived in the evening we got the instructions for the diving liveaboard and had some dinner.

Early Tuesday morning we were picked up for a 2-hour minibus drive to the port. From there a 1-hour 15-minute speedboat ride took us to Somboon 4, our liveaboard boat for the next 3 days. After boat and dive briefings we jumped into the Andaman Sea for the first dive. Altogether we did 11 dives in 3 days, including 1 night dive. We saw a few turtles, many lionfish, a porcupine ray, a zebra shark, a blue-spotted ray, a few moray eel, an octopus and many other fish. The quality of the dive sites varied: we were not very impressed with the first and last dives around the Similan Islands, although some other dives around the Similan Islands were good. But the best dives were on the second day: Richelieu Rock, Koh Tachai and Koh Bon. That came to no surprise, as Richelieu Rock was a top 10 dive site. Was, as it seems to have dropped out of the top 10.

So, since there are many lists of top 10 dive sites (here is another one), and the list I always used keeps changing, I decided to enter them on my blog as well. Below is the list of top 10 dive sites as of 1 January 2008, and the year I dived there:

  1. Yongala, QLD, Australia – 2004
  2. Blue Corner Wall, Palau, Micronesia
  3. Thistlegorm, Red Sea, Egypt – 2006
  4. Barracuda Point, Sipadan Island, Malaysia
  5. Shark and Yolanda Reef, Red Sea, Egypt – 2006
  6. Navy Pier, WA, Australia – 2004
  7. Manta Ray Night Dive, Kailua Kona, Hawaii, USA
  8. Elphinstone Reef, Red Sea, Egypt
  9. Richelieu Rock, Thailand – 2008
  10. Great Blue Hole, Belize

IndochinaTrekking, Temples & Ticking Off

On 15 November 2008 from Chiang Mai, Thailand | comments closed

Tuesday 11 November an older Swiss couple, myself, our guide and our ranger left Luang Nam Tha for a 2-day trekking in the Nam Tha NPA (National Protected Area). We stopped on the brand new Chinese-built road to Huay Xai and wandered off into the forest. Jungle would be a better word, as our ranger made good use of his machete to cut a path for us. It certainly was the least used trail I ever walked on and it was very slippery at times. I wore clean beige trekking pants, but after a few hours they were muddier than ever (seriously, childhood included). We had our lunch of sticky rice with vegetables (I passed on the fish) in the forest on a makeshift table of large palm leaves. After crossing the river (only knee-deep) we arrived at the village where we would spend the night. It was really back-to-basic: no electricity and no running water (except the river and one pump). They did have the new sealed road running through the village though, and a few houses had a small solar panel to power a light in the evening. And there was mobile phone coverage (as pretty much everywhere in South-East Asia), but that is of little use to the villagers when there is no electricity to charge the phones. Since our hosts were still working, I took a refreshing swim in the river. Afterwards I got acquainted to the duck we would have for dinner (it was resting in its fate), and we walked around the village. A few villagers were eager to show their homes as potential sleeping places, thus making some extra money. It seemed it was one of the first times tourists went to this village, because our guide talked to the village chief and wrote down the important figures (about 400 men and 200 women living there). The villagers were very friendly and open, even though oral communication was basically impossible (and our guide was not always around to translate). But the kids are always a lot of fun, especially showing them digital photos of themselves, which results in enthousiastic yelling. I went to bed early that evening, tired from the trekking and swimming.

Roosters, always those darned roosters. Almost everywhere in Laos roosters are roaming around the house, waking everyone around 05:00. I guess that is why Lao go to bed so early, because they know they are woken up early as well. At least I had been warm that night in my clothes, silk sleeping bag and under two blankets on the thin mattrass on the floor of the house. Breakfast was once again sticky rice, but this time with scrambled eggs. With that in our stomachs we set off on another 6 hours of trekking in the jungle. For the first half of that a villager with a shovel came along, who could create some steps at places where the trail was too steep or narrow. Along the way we passed some large old trees and primitive animal traps. Lunch was (not surprisingly) sticky rice with vegetables. We got back to Luang Nam Tha late afternoon, and I enjoyed a nice hot shower in the guesthouse and fries instead of sticky rice for dinner.

Thursday morning, right when I was about to get a tuk-tuk to the bus station, a minibus driver came up to me and offered the drive to Huay Xai for the same price as the bus + tuk-tuk. Since I knew the minibus would be much faster, it was a no-brainer. I just wish they would not have taken the Lao standing at the roadside, because he obviously could not handle the fast driving on the winding road and threw up constantly. With his head out of the window, luckily. But he also was our saviour at a customs checkpoint, where the driver could not find the requested document. After 10 minutes the young customs official could no longer bear the smell and released us. So after only 3 hours I was in Huay Xai, exited Laos, got the boat across the river to Thailand, and entered Thailand. I was not quite sure if I should go to Chiang Rai first or directly to Chiang Mai, but the decision was made for me, as I just missed the virtually last minibus to Chiang Mai. So I got to Chiang Rai, found a nice guesthouse, and went to see a temple and the hilltribe museum. In the evening there was a large parade, ending at a field filled with shopping and food stalls. For a moment I thought the stars had turned yellow/orange in Chiang Rai, before I realised they were not stars, but large lampions with a fire burning underneath.

Friday I could not resist the temptation to tick off another country on my list. From Chiang Rai it was only 1,5 hours to Mae Sai, where I could cross the bridge into Myanmar (aka Burma). I hired a tuk-tuk driver and went to some temples and the large golden stupa, where an old lady showed me how to perform the prayer for good luck. It involved knowing the day I was born (Friday), flowers, incense sticks, ringing bells, and obviously many Buddhas. After spending 1,5 hours in Myanmar, I retrieved my stamped passport at the border, re-entered Thailand and got a bus to Chiang Mai. In the last guesthouse the lady had already said it would be very difficult to get a sleeper train to Bangkok on Saturday night, so my first stop was the train station. The lady there said the trains were full, but I noticed a one between all the zeros on her screen, and then she said there was still one bed in first class. I booked it and realised the advantage of travelling by myself.

Saturday morning I took things slowly and just as I was about to walk into the city, I met Emmy and we decided to visit some temples together. On the way to Wat Doi Suthep we met Julie, and we spent the rest of the afternoon together, until I had to get to the train station for the night train to Bangkok.

IndochinaBussing from South to North Laos

On 10 November 2008 from Luang Nam Tha, Laos | comments closed

When booking the night bus to Vientiane for Wednesday 5 November nobody mentioned the fact that the beds were designed for Lao people. That means the beds were no longer than 1,70m, which is really too short for this 1,88m Dutchman. Only two beds in the middle of the bus would fit me, as I could put my feet in the aisle there, and luckily one of them was still available and I was allowed to sleep there, so I could get some decent sleep that night.

Thursday morning Joyce (who I met on the night bus) and I took another bus to Vang Vieng and we checked out this backpacker-overtaken town in the afternoon. Friday we went on a tour to some nearby caves, one of which was half under water, so we navigated it in a tube (inflated truck tire), which was pretty cool. After lunch we joined the proper tubing that Vang Vieng is infamous for. This means going down the river in a tube, stopping at bars along the way. Since bars are all competing for the backpacker kip (Lao money), they come up with the craziest things. Swinging on a rope over the river has become commonplace (but still fun), so one place put up a giant waterslide (great fun), and another mud-volleyball. The latter made me feel a tad embarrased of Western “civilization” though, when seeing (mainly) English backpackers slide in the mud, something a local would never do (and even frowns upon). I guess that is why all the bars are located a fair distance from the town.

Saturday morning Joyce and I biked to another cave, before I took a bus to Luang Prabang. What Siem Reap is for Cambodia, Luang Prabang is for Laos. (Package) tourists that only visit one city in the country, visit Luang Prabang. As a result, the prices have become at least double the going rate in Laos (renting a bicycle for a day was 30.000 kip, compared to 10.000 in the rest of Laos), and the city has lost its soul, being completely overtaken by tourists. It simply did not feel like Laos anymore. This is exactly the reason why I wanted to visit as much of Laos as possible on this trip, because I was thinking Laos would change the most the following years. For Luang Prabang it is already too late. Let me illustrate this with an example. Every morning directly after sunrise dozens of monks traditionally go around the city for alms. When tourists gave them bad food (sold by street vendors) and some monks got ill, the monks no longer wanted to go around for alms. The government told them that if they did not, actors in orange robes would do it, just to make sure the tourists dollars kept coming in.

Needless to say, I did not want to spend too much time in Luang Prabang. On Sunday I enjoyed a good breakfast and visited some temples. I also spent quite a lot of time fighting a virus on my laptop that I got in an internet café Saturday evening. In the end I won and w32.autosky is gone (from my laptop at least).

Monday morning I got up early to see the (real) monks go around the city for alms, and look at some more temples. I arrived at the bus station early to secure a seat on the bus to Luang Nam Tha. It turned out the bus was not even one quarter full, so there was plenty of space, but at least I had unlimited legroom for the 10-hour scenic journey through the forested mountains. Upon arrival in Luang Nam Tha I immediately arranged a 2-day trekking in the Nam Tha NPA.

IndochinaRelaxing & Riding in Southern Laos

On 5 November 2008 from Pakse, Laos | comments closed

We asked three times: “is it a direct bus to Savannakhet?”. “Yes, direct bus” was the answer, three times. At least the first 1,5 hours on Friday 31 October it was a bus, but then we got crammed into a minivan for the 2-hour trip to the Laos border. After crossing the border it got even worse: an old local bus where benches would fit 3 people (where 2 would be considered the maximum in any somewhat developed country) and the overhead luggage storage was only hanging on to the roof of the bus with some iron wire. After enduring the bus ride for 5,5 hours, it suddenly stopped and the bus driver yelled “Pakse, Pakse”, pointing to a bus on the other side of the road. By that time we had almost given up on the idea of getting to Pakse the same day, so we hurried to grab our bags and run to the Pakse-bound bus. As it turns out, that was completely unnecessary, because the bus had been standing there for about an hour, getting repaired. Our luck turned though, because it got fixed in 15 minutes and we arrived in Pakse before 20:30, after 14 hours of travelling.

On Saturday Patricia took a bus to Thailand (to the boyfriend she was missing), and I continued South in a sawngthaew to Champasak. There I rented a bike to ride through the village and fields to Wat Phu Champasak, a beautifully located temple.

Sunday morning I met Maaike on the ferry over the Mekong. Since we were both heading to Don Khon in Si Phan Don (four thousand islands), we travelled there together by bus, sawngthaew and boat. Besides exploring the islands of Don Det and Don Khon by foot and bike, there was not a great deal to do. Therefore I spent some quality time in a hammock, reading and relaxing.

Come Monday evening I had finished all the magazines and books I brought, so Tuesday morning it was time to move on. I got a boat and sawngthaew back to Pakse, where I rented a moped (100cc Honda) to travel the Bolaven Plateau. First stop was the gas station (you get a rental with an empty tank here, allowing them to make an extra profit when you return it with fuel left in it). Second stop a nice waterfall. However, the sky was turning pretty dark, and it did not take long before the heavens opened. Patricia had borrowed me her big red poncho and this came in really handy. Many locals were turning their heads when a big red bird on a moped was passing by. I reached Tadlo just before sunset, and really enjoyed the hot shower and food here.

Wednesday morning I got up early for a short hike to two waterfalls, before riding an elephant for 1,5 hours. From my elevated position I crossed through forest, pools and a village (where the chilis were drying next to the satellite dish). Then it was time to hit the road again, as it was about 110km back to Pakse, a ride of about 3 hours with 25km of the road unsealed. 60km/h was about the maximum speed of the moped anyway, and that was good as I had to share the road with some locals (overtaking them all) and many kids, cows, dogs, chickens and the occasional buffalo. I visited two more waterfalls on the way back, and had a nice swim on top of one of them. Pakse was reached mid-afternoon, so I had plenty of time to get organised for the night bus to Vientiane.

IndochinaRainy Season After All

On 30 October 2008 from Hué, Vietnam | comments closed

Monday 27 October we had a slow start in busy Saigon with coffee at Sozo, where we spent quite a few hours in the last few days. It is a stylish place with good coffee and free internet, run by disadvantaged Vietnamese. Therefore it is the perfect way to help the underprivileged in this country, by supporting them in making a living. The remainder of the day was spent on a train journey to Nha Trang.

When the opportunity to do 2 dives for USD 40 (incl. everything) presents itself, it is to be taken. Hence we got up early on Tuesday to dive the South China Sea. It turned out to be 2 of the longest dives I did so far, although I was not too impressed with the coral and visibility. I guess I got spoilt a little bit by my dives in Australia and Egypt. There were some interesting fish though. As soon as we were back at the hotel the rainy season started, with long torrential downpours and very short dry intervals. That pretty much cancelled the plans for the rest of the day, as temples are just not very fun in the rain.

To save some precious daylight hours, we took the night train from Nha Trang to Hoi An, arriving there early Wednesday morning. Because it was not raining at the time, we booked a tour to the Cham ruins of My Son. However, at the ruins it kept raining cats & dogs, and the nice little path through the forest alongside the temples was knee-deep with water at certain places. The jungle did not seem very happy to give up its treasures that day. In between some showers in the afternoon, I explored the Hoi An Old Town, a Unesco World Heritage site.

Thursday morning we took a bus to Hué. It turned out to be one of the overnight sleeper busses, with 3 bunk beds next to each other. Weirdest bus I have ever seen, pretty comfortable though. In Hué we explored the Imperial Enclosure in the Citadel in the afternoon.

South-East Asia is really easy to travel in. In every place where we arrive people are waiting at the bus or train station, touting their accommodation. When the price, location and facilities are alright (they usually are), we take them up on their offer, and otherwise Lonely Planet has plenty of alternatives (although guidebook-listed places seem to be a bit pricier). There are plenty of restaurants around with good, healthy food. And getting a bus or train for the next day is usually no problem. Only for the bus to Laos today we needed to go by a few traveller’s cafés to find one leaving tomorrow.

IndochinaThe Dark Past

On 26 October 2008 from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam | comments closed

Wednesday 22 October we got picked up by a pickup, thinking we were the last passengers on the route of hotels around town. We were wrong. I never knew one pickup truck could fit so many people and backpacks. Luckily the boat to Battambang was not as crowded. Patricia and I went for seats on the inside, fearing we would get sunburned on the roof. Turns out that getting wet by rain was the main risk of the roof. On the way to Battambang we passed several floating villages, where the entire life of the inhabitants is taking place on the water. Progress has not passed by these towns though, as one of the houses was a (non-floating) platform with a tall mobile phone tower. I am still not sure if the captain took a wrong way somewhere in the wetlands (my GPS travel recorder may provide the answer), or if we went slower than usual (it did not appear so), because it took us 7 hours instead of 5. That left very little time to see some of the sights outside the city of Battambang, since sunset is around 17:30 and at 18:00 it is pitch black. We decided to call it a day.

On Thursday we took the bus from Battambang to Phnom Penh, once again arriving in the afternoon. We explored the Royal Palace and Silver Pagoda the same day, leaving plenty of time for the other sights on Friday. That was a good thing, because Friday morning it rained and therefore we had a slow start of the day (it is vacation after all). In the afternoon we chartered a tuk-tuk driver to bring us to the other Phnom Penh attractions. We started at the Tuol Sleng genocide museum, where opponents (in the broad sense, basically everyone with education or glasses) of the 1975-1979 Khmer Rouge regime got tortured before being killed at the Killing Fields of Cheoung Ek. That was the next destination of the afternoon, but it failed to leave a big impression, except for the stupa with the thousands of skulls that were dug up.

On a completely unrelated note, the last attraction we went to in Phnom Penh was a base of the Cambodian Army. In return for my sponsorship I got to fire an AK-47 (aka Kalashnikov) in their shooting range. I fired shots both manually and semi-automatic (mostly manual though, seeing it was USD 40 for 30 rounds). In the evening I went on a little pub crawl with some English (Ian, Tony & Sarah) & Australian (Dickbee). Besides playing pool in the last bar, the other game to be played was spotting the girls that are not actually girls. We ended the night (danced the night away would be a more accurate description) in the club Heart of Darkness.

So with little more than one hour of sleep for me we got into the bus to Vietnam on Saturday. The border crossing here was the easiest non-Schengen I ever encountered while travelling by bus. We only had to get into the bus (out of Cambodia), or through a security check (into Vietnam) when they called our names. Easy does it. In the afternoon we visited some more reminders of the wars in South-East Asia, but this time the focus was the Vietnam war. The Reunification Palace was not very interesting, but the War Remnants Museum was, with shocking photos of the Vietnam war, and examples of US military equipment outside. Notre Dame Cathedral was the last stop of the day.

Sunday we booked a full-day tour to Tay Ninh and the Cu Chi tunnels, in a big bus full of tourists. Something went wrong there. In Tay Ninh we visited the very colourful Caodai Great Temple and watched part of a mass. In the afternoon we visited the Cu Chi tunnels, built by the Viet Cong. The tour started with a very bad propaganda film with footage from the 70’s. After that the different tunnel entry points and traps were showed. The tour ended with a run through a narrow, dark and hot tunnel, which was obviously not designed for a Dutch guy with a backpack. Good exercise though.

IndochinaAncient Angkor Temples

On 21 October 2008 from Siem Reap, Cambodia | comments closed

Friday 17 October 2008 my 5-week 4-country Indochina trip started. I flew from Düsseldorf, as LTU had the best rates I could find at the time (the useless Dutch vacation tax may have something to do with it). Düsseldorf is the closest major airport as well, and I like the convenience of direct flights. I do not like to have a window seat without a window though, which is precisely what happened. I guess I should track down the airplane seating schema before next online check-in. The flight itself was pretty uneventful and we arrived at BKK on schema time.

My arrival day (Saturday) in Bangkok was mainly used to arrange the bus to Cambodia, recover from the jetlag (i.e. get some sleep), get a haircut, catch up on e-mail, and wait for Patricia to arrive. We had dinner together and went to sleep early, because the taxi to the bus terminal was arriving at 07:00 (it gets worse).

Sunday was a true travel day: taxi to the airport bus terminal, bus to Aranya Prathet (Thai side of the border), getting Thai passport stamps, getting a Cambodian visa, getting Cambodian passport stamps, walking into Poipet (Cambodian side of the border), taking a bus to the bus/taxi company, and getting a taxi to Siem Reap with a Danish couple (Kim & Mia). Unfortunately I realised in the taxi that I left my rainproof jacket in the Thai bus. And it does rain in the rainy season. Soit. The hotel in Siem Reap was already booked, based on the tip of an ex-customer-colleague. So after checking in we arranged a tuk-tuk to Angkor for the next day, leaving at 05:00 (yes, it is still vacation).

On Monday I finally would get to see Angkor Wat, “one of the most inspired and spectacular monuments ever conceived by the human mind” [LP]. When walking through the huge, almost empty temple complex right after sunrise, I wondered which New Wonder of the World should be taken off the list in favour of Angkor Wat. The Redeemer of Christ in Rio de Janeiro, for sure. Never been there, but it simply cannot be as impressive. It took a few hours of wondering around in awe and making many photos, before we continued our tour of the Little Circuit. The first stop was the South Gate of Angkor Thom, the fortied city. We walked through and our tuk-tuk was nicely waiting on the other side. Next stop was Bayon, where Big Brother was watching us. Although, so it seemed, because 216 gargantuan faces of Avalokiteshvara were looking down on us. So there we were, at 09.30 of the first day in Angkor we had already seen the most beautiful temples. Luckily every temple offered something special. Baphuon is the world’s largest jigsaw puzzle, Ta Keo had the steepest stairs I ever took, and Ta Prohm had trees coming out of the temple. The last is actually the most similar to how it was rediscovered in the 1860s, when the jungle had taken over Angkor. This was not too hard to understand, as even now they kept hundreds of locals at work by manually mowing the grass (an engine-powered lawnmower would really cost many jobs around here). Well, at least the USD 20 entrance fee was put to good use. To watch the sunset, we went up Phnom Bakheng, from where Angkor Wat was visible in the distance. On the way back to Siem Reap we stopped for some Angkor Wat by night photos, arriving back at the hotel after 14 hours of wandering around temples. I rightly deserved a massage.

Tuesday morning was the first morning where waking up felt like vacation. At 08:00 we had some real bread, croissant and coffee at the Blue Pumpkin. Western food, almost for western prices. After breakfast the tuk-tuk was waiting for me to see some more temples, while Patricia took the day off and spent hours getting massages. The second day of Angkor consisted of the Big Circuit and Banteay Srei. I started at Pre Rup, which offered outstanding views over the surrounding area. Then it was Banteay Srei’s turn to astonish with the most beautiful carvings in the Angkor area. On the way back to the Big Circuit I visited the landmine museum, founded by a former Khmer Rouge soldier who already manually defused 50.000+ mines. The temples of Eastern Mebon, Ta Som, Preah Neak Pean and Preah Khan followed. I finished my visit to Angkor appropriately by watching the sun set on Angkor Wat. After the golden light had shone on the temple complex, dark clouds came down, and a torrential downpour followed. Luckily I could shelter in the temple. So far being here in the rainy season has only been good, as it mainly rains at night and for no more than an hour during the day (knocking wood). And the rain keeps the air clean (it would be very dusty otherwise) and the fields lush and green.

IndochinaBack to the Land of the Smiles

On 12 October 2008 from Reuver, Netherlands | comments closed

Ever since my last trip to Thailand in 2003 I have been wanting to go back there. Inspiring temples, gorgeous islands, breathtaking beaches, smiling people and coconut milkshakes with banana pancakes for breakfast, is there more to wish for? Mountains, I guess. But I hear those seem to be present in the North. And as it happens, every traveller I met in Thailand recommended me to visit Chiang Mai in the North, so that is my first must-see. The second must-see is Richelieu Rock, Thailand’s only top 10 dive site. Ko Tapu (aka James Bond Island) is the third must-see in the land of the smiles.

But Thailand is only one of the Indochina countries on this trip. Cambodia is next, where Angkor is my must-see. The temples here almost made it to the list of New 7 Wonders of the World. Vietnam follows, where the Củ Chi tunnels are the must-see. The last country on this trip will be the enigmatic and relatively undeveloped Laos, as I have heard only good tales from other travellers. Luang Prabang is the must-see here.

Since you probably lost track of my must-sees by now, I put them in the Google Map below 😛

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Travels Indochina

And for those of you who want to know more in detail where I am going when, my
Travel Planning @ Google Docs provides all the answers. Just know this is a continuously changing draft.