A Travellerspoint blog

Checking out Hoi An


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Our hotel - Vinh Hung 2 Resort was lovely and our room on the second floor, overlooked the pooL Compared to previous places where some form of noise woke us up, this one was so quiet we slept in and woke to the sound of the phone with our polite guide inquiring as to our lack of presence in the foyer below. Coffee and Croissants

Coffee and Croissants

We begged off the morning walk and instead went and found a lovely cafe where we had a propa leisurely breakfast of tea and chocolate croissant and a read of the current Vietnamese paper - minus Trump! It does happen.
Musical Accompaniments

Musical Accompaniments

Incense Spirals

Incense Spirals

Today we had the morning off to see the town so we popped into three of our five recommended places to visit. The first was the Quang Trieu Assembly Hall, a tranquil place where the caged birds let out their shrills as they hopped about in their tiny cages. This building from 1770s has been restored and is a mass of colours. There is red lacquer everywhere, big smoking incense spirals and dragons and demonic deities. However all this bling was balanced with quiet rooms, the birds and plants making the place appear calm.Quang Trieu Assembly Hall

Quang Trieu Assembly Hall

Assembly Hall Interior

Assembly Hall Interior


Second up was the Japanese Covered Bridge which was built in 1590s by the Japanese community as a link between them and the Chinese community. It is still in its original condition although the French did flatten out the roadworks to allow for cars but has it has since been restored.Early photo of Japanese Covered Bridge

Early photo of Japanese Covered Bridge

View from Japanese Covered Bridge

View from Japanese Covered Bridge


The last place we had time to visit was the home of Quang Trieu, a Japanese merchant. This lovely traditional home was last flooded out in 2006 and the beautiful old teak timbers bear the scars. As this a UNESCO town, money has been spent keeping as much as possible in the original condition and the town is full of history. Tan Ky house

Tan Ky house

House Interior

House Interior

All businesses are dependent on tourism and the place is awash with the sounds of many nationalities.
We then had a luncheon date with an establishment that provides students from impoverished backgrounds with a trade in hospitality. Run by Streets International the cooking classes - Oodles and Noodles, is run in partnership with our tour G Adventures and is proving to be a successful venture.
Students learn cooking skills, restaurant service skills and English. It is an 18 month course and virtually guarantees the student a job when the course is completed. It is strictly for the poor and they have comprehensive checks and balances to ensure they really are helping that demographic. The food is also cooked by students and when they realised that these students weren't getting enough interaction with tourists, they started running cooking lessons - one which we joined. Under the guidance of a very enthusiastic teacher student, we learnt to make rice paper and noodles, and after that we ate a lovely meal cooked by the students. Making Rice Paper

Making Rice Paper

These students all had about 3 months left to do with some already placed in the mushrooming resorts in the area. Probably the one skill they needed more training, was the presentation of the bills - they got it so messed up we sent our bill back three times before we got it right!Streets Dinner

Streets Dinner

That night we went to dinner at the Streets Restaurant where we saw how well these students togged up in the real world. We had a lovely meal.
Tomorrow bicycle riding and I want to look my best,

Posted by Toot'speak 07:04 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

A Buddha Reclines

Today starts the first day of the tour and we were up with the dawn to take a boat trip up the main river passing thru Bangkok and a side trip up smaller canals to see how the locals live. Prior to the canals, we caught the local ferry to the other side to check out the Temple of the Dawn or Wat Arun. Temple of the Dawn

Temple of the Dawn

This temple is coated in a mosaic of broken porcelain tiles and parts of it have been under restoration for the last two years. We then joined an occupation, health n safety challenging trip to our canal boat where we passed the hour gliding past the many dilapidated homes that are apparently owned by wealthy people who can afford to live by the water. While they maybe able to afford this location they cant stop us pesky tourists with our clanging motors nosing around. There is also the delightful habit of feeding the catfish that live in the canals, although I'm not sure if they are sacred or a feast on the side. Canal Real Estate

Canal Real Estate

Sacred Fish

Sacred Fish


Our next visit was to another complex in which the very large Reclining or Sleeping Buddha is revered. This is Wat Pho, also referred to as Thailand's first university, with particular emphasis on traditional Thai medicine. On certain walls of buildings are found pictorial explanations of acupuncture and what medicines or herbs to use for particular ailments.
A Buddha Reclines

A Buddha Reclines

However it is the Reclining Buddha that most of the crowds visit, with a brick core, 46m long x 15m high, finished in plaster and gold leaf, it depicts Buddha passing into nirvana. The soles of the Buddha’s feet that are about 3 meters high and almost 5 meters long are inlaid with mother of pearl in 108 segments, showing in great detail the 108 lakshanas or auspicious characteristics of the Buddha. Buddha's Feet

Buddha's Feet


The Wat Pho is the oldest and largest temple complex in Bangkok, it houses more than 1,000 Buddha images which is more than any other Wat in Thailand. Most of the images were brought over from abandoned temples in places as Ayutthaya and Sukhothai by order of King Rama I. Medical Instructions

Medical Instructions

The many spires of Wat  compound

The many spires of Wat compound

I made a mental note to do some further research on the various Buddha that are venerated - Tuesday or Wednesday Buddha, for example. It's interesting listening to the various stories regarding him and to see how they differ or add to those from India. This entity was busy! They have the largest collection of Buddha's in Asia and it was interesting to see how the re-gild the ones where the gold paint has faded or been removed over time. A Buddha Reborn

A Buddha Reborn

Buddha Collection

Buddha Collection

They cast the Buddha in a type of resin before gilding him with gold paint.
At 6ish we made our way to the train station for the 12 hour overnight train trip, north to Thailand's second biggest city Chang Mai. For many miles along the way we passed the future freeway that would be running in the same direction. It is a huge construction and interesting to see if they have any problems running through little towns etc. We saw many places that were practically under the future road.The train accommodation was fantastic and the train attendant efficiently ousted us and made the bed. We bought dinner then settled down for the night with the air con blasting us into a rather chilled environment... again heaven! Freeway

Freeway

Train Views

Train Views

Train Ride to Chiang Mai

Train Ride to Chiang Mai

Train Cabin

Train Cabin

Posted by Toot'speak 02:31 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Goodbye to Indochina


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Our last day and we were up to say goodbye to those taking off back to work or off on another adventure. We've learnt that Facebook can do wonders and will keep us connected while we offload all those photos taken and instances remembered. This trip has encompassed three separate trips and so we have met and said goodbye to people who have taken parts of the trip we took - people from America, Ireland, New Zealand, South Africa, Croatia and Australia, all bar us from Perth! We've learnt heaps from the countries we visited and from our fellow travelers and have enjoyed our time with them all.
We on the other hand, were not leaving until midnight and had more mundane things to do - Mark had to get his suit. This required a difference of opinion with the telephone system which Mark finally got organised. The gentleman from the suit shop came around to deliver the suit when we all figured out what hotel we were in. The suit finally arrived, fitted beautifully, not however in our suitcases, and a tip to the gent concerned and Mark was now the proud owner of a suit, shirt and complementary tie.
We had organised with another couple to connect up after lunch to go down to Chinatown which was about a kilometre away from the hotel. In the meantime Mark and I were able to visit the amazing temple that was behind the hotel and which contained a solid gold Buddah - Wat Traimit or the Golden Buddah Temple. This has an interesting history in that they only discovered that the Buddah was solid gold in 1955 when, while moving it to its new home, they accidentally broke some of the plaster covering the statue. This statue had been covered with plaster and stucco long ago to disguise from the enemy its true state. It had been sitting around in ruins for decades and was a situated in its present place in the 1930s, sitting under a simple tin roof and regarded as a minor pagoda of little significance. It is nearly five metres in height and weighs five and a half tons and thus priced in the hundreds of millions of dollars. Not a bad accident! We paid our dues and ambled up to the top of the building, covered our knees and shoulders and paid our respects. The lady at the entrance took her job very seriously and several young ladies in shorty shorts and bare shoulders took a tongue lashing from her and demurely paid out for outfits to cover their offending parts. An amazing piece of work.Wat Traimit

Wat Traimit

The Golden Buddah

The Golden Buddah


We then wandered the streets of Chinatown with the many strange shops with their herbs and powders and the gold jewellery shops packed out with hordes of Chinese tourists. The streets are festooned with the red and gold and alleyways were cluttered with the paraphernalia of Chinatown shops. We were hanging out for a coffee ( not a Chinese favourite) and finally found a Starbucks where we knocked off a coconut pie slice with our coffee.... heaven! Street Scene chinatown

Street Scene chinatown

Jewellery Shop

Jewellery Shop

Future Food

Future Food

Coffin Makers

Coffin Makers


Back to base and we met up with our fellow travelers who came from the UK and are Sikhs. They wanted to visit their gold-domed temple (Gurudwara Siri Guru Singh Sabha) here in Bangkok so we joined them in a taxi to visit the place. What an amazing place situated on a very busy street in Bangkok. It is very quite and serene and, after donning an orange head scarf, we took the lift up the six levels to their place of worship. It was a very large hall and has a copy of Sikhism’s holy book, the Sri Guru Granth Sahib, on a flower-filled altar. A Sikh was reciting from the book and aside from a woman with her two small children, we four were the only people in the place. Guided by our Sikh couple we paid our respects at the altar, walked around the square altar and then took some food (akin to fudge) from the Sikh and then sat at the back of the hall. We later wandered around the first floor corridor, a wide marble space with rooms for cooking off to one side. The place was a quiet refuge from the bustling streets outside. Corridor within the Sikh Temple

Corridor within the Sikh Temple

Temple Sign

Temple Sign

Temple Hall

Temple Hall

Mark in Sikh Temple

Mark in Sikh Temple


We had one last meal with those of the group remaining before catching the train off to the airport. We were in the company of another Australian returning home to Perth and as she had done this trip when arriving in Bangkok we knew we would arrive at the airport! As it was we had to take the train to a station where we disembarked and moved rather quickly via many corridors, escalators and walkways to the sky train. This took us out to the airport where we hopped off and made the slow voyage to departure. An hour's delay meant we would make it on time. This airport is very new and speckie but when we finally got through all the assorted scans etc and made our way out to the departure lounge, we were greeted with several benches on which the odd tired passenger had bagged for a snooze while the remainder were sitting on the floor. There was very little seating room for us to wait until we were allowed into the lounge and this wasn't too inviting either so we made the long trek back to the main area to grab a coffee. Strange given the place was quite new - must be a newer form of corralling the passengers! Final Goodbye

Final Goodbye


Flight back to Perth, some 7 hours was punctuated with dinner at 2am followed by breakfast around 7am. Some of us chose to miss the lot. Back in Perth the Aussie accent welcomed us into duty free where we finally joined the 2 for 1 set and lashed out on whiskey. Our 30 odd day holiday was over and instead of hanging out for rice with spinach, my normal post holiday desire, this time all I wanted was a large steak, cooked blue, with mash potato on the side - I'd even go bangers and mash!

Posted by Toot'speak 23:05 Archived in Thailand Comments (1)

Off in Bangkok

Journey Cambodia to Thailand


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Up early and into our bus to head off to the Cambodian border to cross into Thailand for the day long trip. We were leaving Cambodia at the town of Paoy Pet some 2-3 hours away from Siam Reap. Our departure from Cambodia went relatively smoothly and although we had to queue in a small building with the remainder of the population, within the hour we were able, with the help of our guide, to exchange all the Cambodian notes we had acquired into Thai, and passed through the gates. We did not have our luggage with us as it had been taken by our bus to cross the border without us; we all just hoped that there would be no extra bits added to it!
Then the fun began on the Thai side in Aranyaprathet, one of the most hectic border crossings one could experience. One has to walk to the other border crossing building which is not down a lovely cleared stretch of nothingness, but a scramble through the streets of the very busy town. We went around the back of buildings, across railway lines and through busy intersections till we finally came across the nondescript building (I'm sure there must have been a signpost somewhere). Then, luckily for us, the wait began in an aircon building, where the long queue moved very slowly through the passport stampers who may or may not be there, depending on lunch breaks etc. We took an hour and half to snake our way, with everyone being very patient, despite those silly westerners who got all the way to the gate and didn't have the appropriate forms signed etc. Border Crossing Mayhem

Border Crossing Mayhem

Got to Ride Somehow

Got to Ride Somehow

Border Crossing Aranyaprathet

Border Crossing Aranyaprathet

Needless to say that wasn't us because we had our guide doubly checking our forms to make sure we weren't going to be the culprits. Finally we all got through and so did our luggage and then we went on our way stopping at a local eatery for lunch. That done we had about 4 hours to Bangkok. A long day of traveling.Road Side Diner

Road Side Diner


We returned back to the hotel we had originally stay in at the beginning of our trip and got the same black hole room for the night.
Indochina Trip's last Dinner

Indochina Trip's last Dinner

As it was our last night together as a group, we went out to dinner in one of the many restaurants that are found along the alleys that make up the party streets of the city. Dinner done we then set out to check out one of the party streets of Bangkong, that of Khao San. This is reputed to be the ultimate backpacker party hub known across Southeast Asia, and has been for decades. It is about a kilometre in length and is lined by budget guesthouses, internet cafes, bars, restaurants, massage parlours, travel agents, bookshops, market stalls, tattoo shops and hawkers; the odd one attempting to sell CDs of ladies with ping pong talents! Music belts out from the various places at an ear-splitting volume, each competing with the place across the road, while young Thai touters with small boards display the prices of a bucket of alcohol - some down to $1UD. The streets were filled mainly with the younger tourist, some in various states of alcohol induced euphoria, with others attempting to attain such heights! The place was certainly alive and after having a beer in one spot where we sat on tiny stools and shouted at each other, we watched the passing parade and wondered what the world must think of the future! Party Street Sign

Party Street Sign

Street Night Scene

Street Night Scene

Welcome back to the City

Welcome back to the City

Khao San Street

Khao San Street

Party Street Khao San

Party Street Khao San


Tomorrow is our last day in Bangkok and we fly out at midnight. Still got time for more shopping and Mark has to get his suit!

Posted by Toot'speak 08:43 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Quads, Quaffing and .....

Last day in Siem Reap Cambodia


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Last day in Siem Reap and we decided that we'd had enough of the Angkor and so changed our plans to going on a village trip and see the floating homes of the people along the Kampong River. An hour's drive away and we passed through many villages and their homes that are perched on stilts up to 15 metres high depending on their distance from water. Our local guide took us to the village he grew up in and later in the day we were privileged to go into his old home to check out how they lived so high up off the ground. Cambodian Stilt Home

Cambodian Stilt Home


First up though we had to run another gauntlet of young children who were going to the afternoon school session and who wanted to trade with us some hand made bamboo trinkets. We spent the time negotiating using their maths skills -2 for a dollar, what about 5 for 3 dollars etc. Unfortunately for us we can't bring the stuff into Aus and we had no small change on us to hand out in recognition of their maths skills!
Boating down the Kampong River

Boating down the Kampong River

Chong Prolay Primary School

Chong Prolay Primary School

Onto a boat and we were taken down the river where we passed many homes, a school, shop etc of the people who live on the water most of the year. At the time we were going down, the monsoon hadn't hit fully so there was river land that they planted beans on before it became flooded. So for many this is a seasonal home and during the high monsoon periods, the head back to their other homes - a kind of holiday home existence! Fishing is also the main agricultural work for the villages and small long boats roared up and down the river upsetting those who were bringing in the fish. We ended up in the largest freshwater lake in Asia -Tonle Sap lake - which swells from 2,500 km2 (2 m deep) to 12,000km2 (14m deep) in the wet season and supposedly contains over 173 floating villages. As we weren't at a major tourist part of the lake we were very lucky to have no other boats to connect with and were able to putter up and down our section of the river without competition. Our guide told us there used to have a lot of fresh water dolphins, but about 2000 of them were killed by Khmer Rouge soldiers to take fat to make fuel to run fishing motorboats. Some do remain and are currently protected by the Japanese Government funds.
On returning to land and before leaving the village our guide took us to his childhood home and one that his sister currently lives in. It was a privilege to be able to see inside one of these amazing stilted homes and, while it takes a gazelle to climb up the stairs to the top story and where they live, the inside was one huge open room with the kitchen a small closed off room at the back of the house. The floors were large planks of wood which the dust could sift through (great!) and the breeze could just pass through from the back to the front of the house. She made fish traps for a living and these were done on the front porch of her house where she also had the lovely big hammock situated. In fact we had disturbed her from her afternoon nap - only mad tourists were out at this time of the day! Guide's Stilted Home

Guide's Stilted Home

Fish Traps

Fish Traps

Inside the Stilted Home

Inside the Stilted Home


Back to the city and a quick lunch and we were off on our next adventure - quad biking around the countryside. Although I opted out of actually taking my own quad, and hung onto the back while Mark drove, the rest were up for the challenge. After a quick training session which consisted of driving around the block, about 15 quads took to the highways and byways of Siam Reap. We followed the leader so didn't have to make any real decisions, but he got a tad impatient when those following us actually stopped at a crossroad and looked in both directions! We had to learn to just come straight out onto the road and ignore any traffic that was behind us! Halfway through the tour we stopped for a well earned rest and a couple cans of beer..... well some of us! I think I may have been the only person who declined, and I was the only one not driving! Still we returned a couple of hours later all fired up and not a mishap between us all. Not sure about those whom we passed on the way. Driving Through the Countryside

Driving Through the Countryside

Dressed to Drive

Dressed to Drive

Quad Mamma

Quad Mamma

The Quad Club

The Quad Club


Back to base and some of us with no sense had booked to do a cooking course so we then headed off to the The New Hope Training Restaurant for a lesson. Donned out with the hat and apron we whipped up four courses; salad, soup, chicken amok and tapioca and mango. Given that we made them all without any major disasters, we were then treated to our meal followed by our presentation certificate and recipes. The Last Supper

The Last Supper

Iron Chef Mark

Iron Chef Mark

Certificated Iron Chef

Certificated Iron Chef


After this sumptuous meal, we then hopped into a couple of tuk tuks and headed out to go to the circus - Phare - The Cambodian Circus. This is a unique and socially conscious circus that embodies Cambodian culture and history. A group of young acrobats and contortionists, along with aerial art displays is combined with modern dance, theatre and humour to present a story of a young woman during the period of the Khmer Rouge. She used the arts to help her people deal with the experiences, relationships and discrimination that all experienced during this period of Cambodian's history. The original circus was started in 1994 by 9 Cambodian refugees returning home after the fall of the Khmer Rouge. They found art to be a powerful healing tool and from these early beginnings of offering free art lessons to children, Phare now offers formal K-12 education and professional arts training in the areas of visual arts (illustration, painting, graphic design, and animation), theater, music, dance, and circus. We watch this dynamic group of young performers, with no real need for the translations on the big screen, and marveled at their enthusiasm. It was a great way to end our days in Cambodia, for me my favourite country in Indochina. Phare Circus

Phare Circus

Finale

Finale


Along with the exhausted circus performers we headed back to base for one final burst of activity - a massage. Under the strong hands of an older lady who sympathetically listened, no doubt without real comprehension to my wails about my brow beaten feet, my feet were pummeled to within an inch of their life and beaten into submission. We then finished off our last night cum morning in this amazing country, by having a large cafe latte in a restaurant that catered mainly to tourists - it was a great one too.

Posted by Toot'speak 07:29 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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