Found my favorite destination so far: Battambang

Before entering Cambodia I had heard so many travelers say that Cambodia is their favourite place in South East Asia. My expectations were high but I couldn’t find “the magic” from Sihanoukville, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap. Don’t get me wrong, I really liked those places but something was missing.. until I came to Battambang! As soon as I stepped out of the bus I knew that this place would be special. And it was! I had no setbacks except when I tried to leave from Battambang. I will tell you about that in another post..

Even though Battambang is the second largest city of Cambodia it seems like a cute little town. Everything was almost perfect. The people, even the tuk tuk drivers, were very nice, my guesthouse was great, the city was compact but had things to do and to see, the food and drinks were affordable and tasty. I really have no complaints except that it was extremely hot in the middle of the day and the mosquitoes were meaner than in other places where I’ve been. But really, the people were really friendly and they treated you like you are one of them or their friend. I didn’t feel like “a walking money machine”. The people seemed to be interested in you and specially the children were so adorable. I heard and saw so many cute “hello” greetings and waves. My heart melted!

I spent a bit over two days in Battambang. On first day I explored the city randomly and visited some temples. I also went to see a bat cave which is one of the most popular tourist attractions in the city. Everyday thousands of bats fly out of their cave to get food and hundreds of tourists go to see this. I have to admit though that it was a very cool view! On the second day I did a half day bicycle tour with Soksabike. I had a really great guide and I was the only one doing the tour on that day so that was great. We went to the countryside and visited some local families and I was able to see e.g. how they make rice wine, rice paper, dried banana chips and rice cake cooked inside a bamboo. That trip was the best tour that I have ever made! I thought at first that it is a bit pricy, 27 USD, but after the trip I think it was totally worth it. I had a chance to try the delicacies, practice some Cambodian sentences and cycle which was so nice. I have really missed actually doing something active. I think we cycled 20km in the end. I could have cycled more because it was so much fun.

From the snacks that I ate during the tour, I liked the rice cake the most. It was so good and I think it is better than sticky rice. You peel the bamboo and eat the “cake” with your fingers. The crust is a bit harder than the inside and the texture is little dry but not too dry. My rice cake was made of coconut milk, rice and red beans. Yummy! Even though I really enjoyed the tour it was a bit sad to hear the reality of the families. They work so hard and the profit from their hard work is not big. All these experiences make me think the times when I complained that my paycheck is not big enough. Of course everything is relative and Finland really isn’t a cheap country to live in but I guess most important thing is to whine less and appreciate more what one has.

On the last evening in Battambang and in Cambodia, I got a chance to go to an open-air concert that was sponsored by Ganzberg beer brand. I went to the concert with my bicycle tour guide and his friends. I was very happy to be there because it was full of Cambodians and it was just the perfect ending for my time in Cambodia. I heard Cambodian pop and saw interesting performances. One thing that I have noticed from all the Cambodian music videos and what I was told about the songs is that Cambodians have lots of love songs! I mean a lot. :-D

Funny thing is that I got also an invitation to a wedding party but I declined the invitation because I think it wasn’t a good and a safe idea. The person who invited me to the wedding was the tuk tuk driver who took me to the bat cave. I hardly knew him and I would had been dependent on him because the wedding party was held like 5km outside the city. If only the party would had been inside the city I could had considered going..

Comments about the Ganesha Guesthouse:

  • Very nice, friendly and helpful staff
    • I even got a needle and a thread to fix couple of holes and they would had given me the whole thread if I would had wanted to take it.
  • They have a movie room and they show The Killing fields movie every night and the ticket is only one dollar
    • Very well-made movie but also really sad. I recommend watching it but the subject is very heavy.
  • Mosquito net and a personal fan
    • A con is that you can’t use both at the same time because they just don’t work together. Either you are free from the mosquitoes or free from the heat.
  • Free pool and free towel
  • Good food in the restaurant
  • Only 4.5 USD per night in a mixed dorm

Yesterday I arrived to Bangkok and I noticed that I was missing Cambodia a bit. Overall I really liked Cambodia and Battambang was the crucial part to make me fall in love with the country. I really would like to visit Battambang again and also go to Kep and to Kampot for which I didn’t have time this time. Cambodia, until we meet again ♥

PS: I hate mosquitoes!!!!!

PPS: Has anyone ever heard about a Ganzberg beer??

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Siem Reap – home of impressive archaeological sites

I am writing from Battambang where I arrived today by bus. It is pretty hot here and I am sweating like a pig. Some weather forecast pages claim that it is 34°C. And tomorrow it should be 35°C…

I came to Battambang from Siem Reap which is located in the north of Cambodia. It is famous for it’s archaeological sites of Angkor. Angkor is a vast area that has many remains of ancient temples. I was told that one should visit the Angkor temples (also UNESCO World Heritage site) at least for two days but I was pretty sure I’d be fine with one full day. And I was happy that I went there because the remains were very fascinating and impressive but I was right –  for me one long day in Angkor was enough. In total I spent three full days in Siem Reap.

Unfortunately I was feeling a bit sick on the night before leaving to Siem Reap and on the travel day I felt sicker. When I arrived to Siem Reap I measured fever and found that I had a small fever and I had a headache. I decided to take it easy and not do anything on that day except eat and sleep. Like I wrote earlier I spent one long day at the temples but on the other two days I didn’t do anything special. I ate, went to the vast market area and bought a few things. I also went to see a movie to a cinema but it was a bit different kind of cinema than I am used to. Siem Reap has only one cinema and it is a “private cinema”. There are 10 movie rooms in Angkor Cinema and one can choose a film from a wide selection of movies that the staff will play for you. You need to be at least a group of 2 because then you pay 5 USD each. If you are alone, you pay 10 USD. The rooms have comfortable seats and a small movie projector screen. The quality of the projection wasn’t superb but it was ok. I went to the cinema with another traveler and we ended up wanting to watch The Great Gatsby. I was thrilled that they had it because it is too long movie for me to watch at home but of course, with my luck, they couldn’t show it. We had to choose another movie.. So the first movie that I’ve seen in the last six months in a cinema was Hercules :-D Not a very good movie but Hercules looked good!

I liked Siem Reap on most parts even though there aren’t really much to see except the Angkor temples. Well yeah, they have couple of museums and a crocodile farm but they didn’t seem to be interesting enough.. One thing that I really hated were the tuk tuk drivers. Most of them were nice but there were few really nasty fellows who didn’t like that I didn’t want their taxi services. They shouted either in English or in Cambodian something mean and sometimes other tuk tuk drivers laughed to their “funny” jokes.

Also my arrival to my hostel didn’t really go smoothly. My tuk tuk driver said to me at first that he knows where my hostel is but he tried to leave me to another hostel which clearly wasn’t the right place. Even he admitted that and then said that he doesn’t really know where my hostel is. He really wanted to ditch me but I decided to play a little “drama queen” act and started saying things like “I trusted in you when you said where my hostel is” and “I am very disappointed that you lied to me”. I also said I wouldn’t pay because we agreed on that he would take me to my hostel. Suddenly the tuk tuk starts moving again and while he is driving he is saying that he actually knows my hostel but he knows that it is full.. I decided to act a bit more and say melodramatically that “why did you take me then to the other place”. He knew that I had a booking.. he remained silent. The story got even more weird when we arrived to the right hostel. The receptionist lady looked at me with a face that said “wtf are you doing here” and she started repeating that they are full. At this point I had to really calm my nerves. I said that I had a booking and finally she found it from their papers. Then when I get to the room it is not even full, and it never was full during my time there! There were couple of other single girl travelers who had experienced the same. The whole thing was like a really bizarre movie scene. I decided to stay there because it was cheap and after Sihanoukville’s hostel I wanted to save some money. I was very suspicious about staying there but I decided to take a risk and face everything from an adventurous point of view. My trip had been too good and I had no interesting stories in my hand! In the end everything became normal and everything was ok. The staff actually became nicer every day, and it was hard to even believe the experience from the first day to be true. The best part was that after the tuk tuk driver took me to the right hostel and I had paid him, he asked me: “So what time will we go to the temples tomorrow?” I wanted to use a bit stronger words but I just said that “I have no specific plans yet and good bye“.

Comments about the Cambodia Backpacker Guesthouse:

  • cheap! 5 USD per night in a mixed dorm
  • towel included in the price, breakfast not
  • free toothbrush, a comb, a soap and a green liquid that I haven’t checked what it is
  • free refill of water
  • internet wasn’t very good sometimes
  • they had a cute baby and a dog named Billy :-D (nastiest dog ever)
  • the bed was a bit hard
  • the hostel has a very nice and sweet tuk tuk driver who took me and another traveler to the temples
  • quite close to the main market area, even though it was on the back-alley (but I felt safe even when it was dark)

Btw I highly recommend the Giant Ibis transport company. I took their bus from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and paid 15 USD (+1 USD because of internet booking). Maybe it was a bit pricy but it was worth it. It was easy to book via internet and you get an e-ticket, the bus had a good air conditioning, lots of space for feet, you get a free water bottle and a tasty bun. It is the best bus I have ever used!

Sunny and hot Sihanoukville

I’m in the midway of my trip! Oh no! At the moment I am very happy that I am doing this trip and I am enjoying it to the fullest. At the same time I am excited about going home and seeing my friends and eating the food that I’ve missed. Mixed feelings!

I just arrived to Siem Reap today. After Phnom Penh I went to Sihanoukville which is a beach resort in Cambodia. I stayed there only for two days because I don’t want to spend too many days at a beach resort because I am planning to spend couple of weeks in Thailand and I want to go to the beaches there. And I was afraid that my skin couldn’t take the sun and I was right. I spend only one day at the beach in Sihanoukville and managed to get a light tan to the front of my body and an interesting red colour to the back of my body. It doesn’t seem like I burnt the skin but it sure is a reaction to the sun. It’s still a bit reddish (three days after) but I am sure that it will be ok tomorrow. It was the same thing with my chest that I burnt in Phnom Penh. It is just red and it doesn’t even hurt.

I went to Sihanoukville from Phnom Penh on Tuesday 17th of February. That has been the wildest bus trip so far! First my seat was double booked but luckily the next seat was free and I took it and no one had that seat marked on their tickets. Second the bus was really full-booked and some people (mainly the locals) sat on the aisle on tiny plastic chairs. Third someone came to sit in front of me on the floor which meant zero space for my feet but at least I had a seat (I sat on the second floor and in the front row and there was some extra space in front of me). Fourth instead of five hours the trip took eight hours because we couldn’t leave faster the Phnom Penh city area due to a traffic jam. And fifth the bus was boiling hot. Not a very pleasant trip. I paid for the bus ride 8 USD. My advice is to pay couple of dollars more because that could mean a more pleasant bus ride. Due to Chinese New Year I couldn’t book a night bus from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap because they were full-booked for few nights ahead (I understood that that is the only bus line to Siem Reap). I decided to go back to Phnom Penh because there would be more bus options and dividing the trip sounded tempting. The bus trip back to Phnom Penh was way better and took only five hours even though my seat was again double booked. But because I was sitting on that seat first I could stay there. I paid 9 USD for the bus back. Also most of the affordable accommodation options in Sihanoukville were full-booked.

I would say Sihanoukville is worth of visiting but make your mind what you want from it. There are few islands, e.g. Koh Rong and Koh Rong Samloem, for people who want to party or to relax. Sihanoukville seems to be a bit too touristic but it has many beaches to choose from. I went to Otres beach which is supposed to be the most quiet and “untouched” beach of Sihanoukville. I loved the beach! I spent the whole day in Rise which had very nice staff, nice sun chairs, good food and fair prices.

The day that I spent on the beach was also my birthday :-) I turned 28. Twenty eight. At the moment I think that it is the end of a certain period. I feel more “adult” even though it may not look like it hehe. I am ready to move on and I am happy with my life. I decided that this year is my year when I become adult. It doesn’t mean I become boring but there are some things that interest me now that haven’t interested before like saving money for an apartment. Also I want to start saving money so that I could someday buy a dog and I also want to save money for my next trip. I also want to graduate this year (start and get rid of my master thesis) and get a full-time job later this year. That’s all what I want for now. Simple but happy life with goals.

I really enjoyed Sihanoukville and I hope the sun made my skin a bit more tolerant so that I can enjoy sunbathing and swimming in Thailand later. I did a 3 island tour which showed me what I missed. I thought about going to the islands for couple of nights but I decided that Thailand will give me the island experience. The island tour was ok but the most memorable was the boat trip – in a good and bad way. We spent most of the time on the boat and at first it was always nice but after like a half an hour I started counting the seconds for reaching the next destination. The engine was very loud and there were a lot of big waves that rocked the boat. Many people became seasick and puked. Even I was close to puke but I didn’t.

Back in Phnom Penh I just decided to have a really late lunch / early dinner at a restaurant where I went earlier and then just relax the rest of the evening. I really like the Asia Spice Café because of the customer service and it looks authentic. Also the prices are affordable and the food tasty. I recommend Asian Spice Café to everyone who likes Cambodian and other Asian food!

For some reason in Sihanoukville and after that I noticed that locals were acknowledging me more. Or maybe I started noticing my environment. Sometimes I have a tendency to slip to my own world and not care of the unknown people around me. It is also a way to protect myself from losing my nerves because I noticed that in Asia (sorry, generalization) people tend to stare at me because I look different. It makes me really uncomfortable. But for the first time during this trip some locals wanted to have a picture with me, called me beautiful haha and some young girls looked at me shyly. Maybe it was because I became a living person again because I got some colour on my skin and wasn’t like a ghost anymore :-D

Some comments about the hostels:

Backpackers Heaven (Sihanoukville)

  • The price was too high compared to the premises
  • The bar was very nice and cozy but not very lively
  • There was a pool
  • Towel included in the price
  • No breakfast
  • The bed was good but no private reading light
  • Washroom was ok but you couldn’t lock it
  • The receptionists and bar staff were very nice and sweet
  • You get a free beer after check-in
  • Not very good internet connection
  • 12 USD in a mixed 8 bed dorm

Top Banana Café (Phnom Penh)

  • Price is very good!
  • The beds are comfortable but there is a party every night which keeps you awake but only until 1am (then is perfect silence)
  • You can get a towel if you pay a deposit
  • No breakfast included
  • The staff are very nice (receptionists = bar staff)
  • Very nice and lively bar and nice balcony areas
  • You get a free drink (beer, coffee or tea) after check-in
  • Good location
  • Not very good internet connection
  • 6 USD in a female 4 bed dorm

PS. Sorry for no links. For some reason the internet connection and my computer don’t work well in the current hostel. With my phone it works better..

The Capital of Cambodia: Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh was my first destination in Cambodia and it is the capital. I took a bus for 9 USD from Ho Chi Minh to Phnom Penh and the trip took around 7 hours. Crossing the border was easy. The bus company took care of the visas by asking passports and money (35 USD) and everything went smoothly. The first thing I saw in Cambodia were big casinos at the border, which was quite surprising. There weren’t many hotels or houses so it made me think that who goes to the casinos near the border?!

A pickup from the bus stop was included in the hostel room price so I had no problem to find the hostel because there was a taxi driver waiting for me at the bus stop. The hostel is near Wat Phnom which I went to see on the first day. I didn’t go anywhere else on that day because I was dead tired after the bus trip. I went to sleep at 9 am! The night was crazy because I saw couple of dreams that felt real and I wasn’t sure if they were dreams or not. The other dream was a repetition of the other day when I bought sunglasses. Except in this dream the vendor didn’t sell the sunglasses to me. After I woke up I had to check that do I have the sunglasses or not :-D and I did have them. The other dream was a bit more thrilling.. I saw a dream where the guy on the next top bunk bed was singing extremely loud in the middle of the night and I asked him to sing in the morning or when people are not sleeping. I found out later from others that he was actually hitting and kicking his bed and fighting about something… I still don’t know if I said anything hehe..

My second day in Phnom Penh was pretty boring because I stayed almost the whole day in the hostel. I had to sacrifice one day for school assignments because they have a deadline so I had no choice. And it is my last university course so I didn’t actually mind. I spend most of the time in the bar / restaurant area where they play good music, the chairs are comfortable and it is a kind of an outdoor area.

On the third day I finally had time to go and see what Phnom Penh has to offer. I left already 9 am because I woke up quite early again, and I came back to the hostel around 4:30 pm so I spent quite many hours in the downtown. I decided to walk as much as I can and take a tuk tuk when I get tired. After doing almost nothing for two days, except sitting, I just wanted to walk around. First I went to National Museum of Cambodia which was a bit of a disappointment. The entrance fee was 5 USD which is quite a lot. Due to the high price I was expecting something great but the museum was just full of ancient sculptures. I usually skip sculptures but this time I couldn’t.. At least they had really nice and interesting sculptures of Buddhas and Hindu gods (Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva). The museum building and its yard were really nice too. But I wouldn’t say that all this was worth of 5 USD.

After the National Museum I visited Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum which was about the horrible genocide that happened right after the civil war. The genocide ended in 1979 which is only 36 years ago. 2 million people were killed. The history and the recorded evidence are very disturbing. The rulers of Khmer Rouge, that was behind the genocide, forbidded education and thought that power lies in work. People were forced to work and people who somehow seemed “suspicious” or opposite to forced labor were put to prison or were killed or something else horrible happened to them. The prison time was full of sadistic torture. Just awful to hear and see. I decided to skip Killing fields because I think Tuol Sleng museum has shown me enough of this part of the history of Cambodia. Plus it is a bit expensive to go there because it is a bit far from the city.

I guess going to sleep early and waking up early feels natural now so I won’t try to force myself to change it even thought I’d like to wake up later. Today I woke up early again and went to see the Royal Palace. Because I was quite efficient yesterday, I had nothing special left for today. So I just walked around the city, went to the river and enjoyed the warm breeze and had an ice coffee and a fruit shake. The Royal Palace was really nice even thought I think that the entrance fee was quite high again, 6,25 USD. You enter to a yard which is full of beautiful buildings and nice flora. Visitors need to dress conservatively here. I also got a sunburn today because I was careless and forgot to put more sun cream. The sun and the weather seemed a lot hotter today compared to yesterday.

I also encountered today two young girls who were selling bracelets. I was sitting on a bench near the river and the girls came in front of me and laughed a bit. Then they explained that they had tried to guess what is my nationality. The other one guessed Japanese and the other one Chinese. I laughed a bit too hehe.. Then they asked me that what is my home country and I had to explain a bit because they had never heard of it (like most of the Vietnamese and Cambodians who had asked my nationality). They said that they aren’t selling anything because they have a free day but of course they tried selling me the bracelets. I said that I have only 1 USD extra so if they agree I can buy a bracelet from both of them with this one dollar. They gave me great discount and I let them pick me the bracelets. We talked a bit and it is hard to not be sad when you hear that kind of stories. They were really cheerful, full of joy but still didn’t possess much.

Overall I enjoyed Phnom Penh a lot. I was a bit surprised about the higher prices because I thought Cambodia would be cheaper than Vietnam. But I have heard that Phnom Penh is more expensive than for example Siem Reap. Basically all the meals that I had (breakfast and dinner) cost around 3 USD (from the cheapest end) and the tuk tuks were quite expensive (one trip in the city 2-4 USD). I had really yummy fruit shakes that cost only 1-2 USD and the motorcycle taxis are cheaper than tuk tuks so not everything seems expensive. The city had nice atmosphere and the people are nice and they have good sense of humour. On the other hand I got the impression that there are more poor people (or they are more visible), there were more children selling stuff and I also encountered few beggars (old and disabled people). I also saw how a woman left a baby on a pavement and left somewhere. The baby was on an asphalt without pants and only a thin blanket under him/her. I don’t know how that ended but I didn’t feel comfortable and I am afraid to see other disturbing things..

Comments about the hostel Eighty8 Backpackers:

  • Rooms, beds and washroom are ok
  • Receptionists seem not very proactive, and when you are asking something it feels like you are disturbing them
  • Bar staff ok and the food is good (also prices very affordable)
  • Breakfast not included
  • There were two blackouts during my stay, and the internet isn’t very good which made me write this post twice and once the restaurant “forgot” my order because of the internet (kitchen didn’t get the information)
  • There is a pool and a pool table (freeee)
  • Bed in a mixed dorm (6 people) is 7,75 USD per night
  • For some reason I got 3 USD voucher to the bar..

Ho Chi Minh (Saigon) & Can Tho

I flew with Vietnam Airlines from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh (old city name is Saigon) on Saturday 7th of February. The flight wasn’t cheap but I compared the price with the train ticket price from North to South and the travel time. By train it would had taken forever to reach South and on this trip I am not interested to spent too much time in a train / bus in Vietnam. The ticket costed 97,98 USD. Vietjet and AirAsia has tickets that are half the price but I did some research and found that these two airlines are not really recommended. So this time I choose to pay extra for the flight ticket.

I had to take a taxi from the airport because in the end that was my only option. The signs are very bad at the airport so I couldn’t find the “underground transportation” that my hostel recommended (and no one knew about it of course) and the last bus had left by the time (6pm) I realized where I should be waiting for it. I paid 200 000 dongs (around 8 euros) to my hostel that is in the District 1. I think I paid 20 000 dongs too much… but not much.

My hostel in HCM was Eco Backpackers Hostel that is located in the “backpacker area”. The interesting layout of the room made me book a bed from this hostel. I kind of had my own “booth” so I thought that would give me a feeling of a private room. Unfortunately on the first night there where some Asian girls who didn’t speak much during the daytime but in the night they came and were very noisy. I thought they were a group of 20 people but no.. they were like four. But luckily they shut up quickely. Also a bit unfortunate was that the cleaning lady came to clean the washroom between 6 and 8 AM every morning (why??!). She was incredibly loud.

I spent one day strolling around Ho Chi Minh city, and I was quite surprised how it looked like. Very different from Hanoi. In my opinion the traffic is not as bad as in Hanoi maybe because of the bigger and wider streets. And the people look maybe a bit wealthier than in Hanoi.. There are more high buildings, restaurants and shops. All the city districts are called District + number (e.g. District 1) which to me reminded the Hunger Games! I was waiting for Jennifer Lawrence but I didn’t see her, bummer.

I heard from other travelers that Ho Chi Minh is awful and boring and no one really specially liked it when they visited Saigon. Some said that they even hated it. I can say that one day was enough for me but not because it was awful but I think it was a bit boring. Just a big city. But I really enjoyed the Fine Arts Museum. I didn’t want to spend another day in the city so I decided to do a one day trip to Cu Chi tunnels and Cao Dai temple. The time spent in the bus was quite long (about six hours!) but the places were interesting though. I don’t know if they were worth of all that travelling.. The Cu Chi tunnels are a 250km network of underground tunnels that were built by the Vietnamese guerrilla fighters during the war. We were able to try to walk in the tunnels and we heard some basic information about the history. I was overwhelmed about the complexity of the tunnels and just wondering how an earth were the people able to built them. If I wanted to stand in the tunnel I was only able to be in squat. And for building the tunnels the guerrilla soldiers used just a hammer and a bamboo basket.

I also liked the Cao Dai temple even though it was 170 km away from Ho Chi Minh and we only spent one hour there. It was a bit overwhelming because the temple was on a separate vast area that looked like a “religious village”. The temple itself was very cute because it had lots of bright colours, e.g. the roof was sky blue and there were silver stars and white clouds, and to me it looked like a “candy temple”. Very different from any of the other temples I’ve seen before. According to our guide there are around 2 million people who practice Cao Daism. The religion itself sounds also interesting because they accept all the religions and the people have sort of combinations of different religions.

After couple of days in Ho Chi Minh, I left to Can Tho which is in the Mekong Delta area (170km from HCM). Can Tho is a “small town” and has population of around 2 500 000. I thought it would be a small quiet town where traffic is very light. But no.. It is quite lively but it is small in a way that they don’t have many big stores. I came to Can Tho basically because of the floating markets and I did a boat tour that started 5:30 am. The tour lasted for 7 hours and we visited couple of floating markets and then just cruised around the Mekong Delta rivers which was very nice and relaxing. I was a bit disappointed about the markets because I thought they would have all kinds of things because I was ready to buy something like a bracelet or food but they basically sold only vegetables, fruits and drinks. We bought a pine apple that we ate on the boat but there was nothing else I wanted to buy. Overall the boat tour was very nice even though I had to wake up 4:40 am that morning.

I also participated on a food tour that our hotel organizes every evening. I thought it would be a great way to taste some Vietnamese delicacies. But I really didn’t give a thought about what they could be.. In the end the food tour included barbecued pork and fresh rolls (for me Vietnamese “pan cake omelette”), Vietnamese deep fried pie (for me without meat), cooked eggplant, mouse, frog legs, tofu and sticky rice. I was so interested about the mouse meat that I actually took a bite and I have to say it wasn’t bad. But the frog legs I had to skip because just the idea of eating it grossed me because they served the whole leg. Others said it tasted a bit like fish. I really loved the pan cake thingy, the deep fried pie and the eggplant!

Today I am back to Ho Chi Minh for one night and tomorrow I am heading to Cambodia! I don’t have yet a specific travel plan for Cambodia but I will start from Phnom Penh.

Short comments about the hostels:

Eco Backpackers Hostel

  • there are two very nice receptionists (girls) who have helped me a lot and seem truly interested to help but one receptionist (a guy) wasn’t very interested to do anything (not even handing me my key)
  • the beds are quite comfortable and the bed is like a booth (gives a feeling of a private room), nice washroom
  • the cleaning lady cleans really early in the mornings and she is loud
  • breakfast not included
  • good location (District 1, backpacker area)
  • one night in women’s dorm costs 130 000 dongs (5,4 euros)

Hotel Xoai

  • very nice staff
  • nice rooms and nice prices
  • location is not in the downtown but quite near (15 min walk)
  • quite expensive tours but the “food tour” made by the hotel worker was good (pay what you want)
  • roof top with hammocks
  • breakfast not included
  • private room for one night 10 USD

My thoughts about Vietnam in a nutshell:

I really enjoyed Vietnam but the pollution, traffic and fear of being robbed weren’t nice. It was the first time that I have visited a developing country so this was a very special experience for me. I felt surprisingly relaxed all the time and sometimes crossing the street in the crazy traffic was exciting. The food is absolutely great and tasty and the beer is cheap. Travelling has been made easy for tourists and Vietnam really understands how important tourists are for them. The people are sometimes really nice but I was afraid that I will be scammed if someone is being nice to me. But on the way and in Can Tho I felt that people were more genuine when they were nice to you. Twice I was in a situation where the people didn’t sell food to me. One lady got apparently annoyed when I asked too many questions (like 4-5) about the prices of the food and what was on the menu, and one lady was eating breakfast and refused to serve me even though I was told on the previous day that the restaurant opens 6 am and I was trying to get something to eat at 7 am.

I had very good experiences with all the tours and with the Futa buslines. Of course one needs to be aware in the tours and specially in the buses. My tip is to always make sure where you are going especially when you are not doing a tour and if you doubt something then double check (trust your instinct). Also get some information in beforehand. E.g. I knew that if I take a Fusa bus then in the destination a ride to hostel/hotel is included in the ticket but they didn’t tell me that. Also when I returned to Ho Chi Minh from Can Tho I got a free ride to my hostel with another bus that was heading to another city. I was suppose to get a ride to another place but because I asked they put me in this bus which was much more convenient (and cheaper) for me.

I am sad I didn’t have time to go to Hoi An because I heard many good things about it. Everyone who has been there has loved the place. Well, I guess I need to return to Vietnam.

One journey ends, another begins

I am leaving Japan soon and going towards my next great adventure. I am excited and horrified at the same time because I’ll be travelling alone in Southeast Asia. I will go to Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, and I will spend around two weeks in each country. Yikes!

The most nervous I am about Vietnam because I’ve read that especially in Vietnam the locals want to just exploit you.. this is what someone wrote about his negative experiences in Vietnam:

“To give you an idea, while in Vietnam for one month I was targeted by scammers falsely posing as representatives of the Red Cross, got in an aggressive confrontation with a cab driver who tried to charge me the equivalent of $80 USD for a 5 minute ride, got hit by a menu switching scam in a restaurant, and was unfairly overcharged numerous times. Also, at one point a wild monkey ran off with my beer, though I’ll try not to blame that on Vietnam.” (source: www.indietraveller.co/destinations/travel-guide/vietnam)

I guess Cambodia and Thailand shouldn’t be that “bad” places but yeah I am terrified a bit. All the countries have of course many pros but few things worry me. E.g. I don’t like to bargain.. At the moment my plan is to visit Hanoi, Sapa, Halong Bay, Ho Chi Minh and Can Tho in Vietnam; Phnom Penh, Kampot, Sihankoukville (maybe Koh Rong) and Siem Reap in Cambodia; and Bangkok and a few islands in Thailand. In Thailand I will meet up with a friend and we will travel in Thailand together!

I am sure I will have an amazing time and this will be one of the most special trips I will ever make. I am also sure that everything will not go smoothly. But that’s life! If someone has any tips about what to pack in my backpack or any other advice, I would be happy to hear them. :-)

I hope something like this is waiting for me in Thailand..