Wednesday, November 12, 2014

DAY 12

Sunday 29th June 2014

Hello from Vietnam!

First time I have every been able to say that.

Tomorrow, I plan to start the day with “Good Morning Vietnam!” Nothing original I know and it has probably been said a million time.

But that is tomorrow. What about today?

The day started with a 6:10 am alarm for me although Phil and Becky were already up, to do last minute packing. The two tuk tuks arrived right on time at 7:30am and amazingly managed seven passengers and all the luggage. We were were at the bus departure office by 5 to 8 am. For office imaging something smaller that an a NZ garage. Many of the passengers were already sitting on chairs outside waiting. We past our passports over for checking and around 8:15 boarding began.

Bus was quite comfortable and full. I had an aisle seat with a Cambodian lady next to me. What she lacked in English she made up for by almost non stop chatter toher friends in the seats behind.

The trip took around 6 ½ hours including 25 minutes lunch break (pork and noodle soup at $2) and a bit longer than that going through the boarder controls for both countries. Fairly relaxed process, just longish waits. The bus announcer was careful to always say “The Kingdom Of Cambodia and the Republic of Vietnam” The bus had a driver (of course) the woman hostess and announcer and a young male who didn't seem to have any real job. Besides announcing the hostess also gave out moist tissues, bottle water and the snack box (sweet cake and cheese crusant um spell check not a help there ).

The main road had a few bumps but was pretty good for Cambodia. It was Street 1 is the main highway, but only a single lane in either direction. It was pretty crowded with in Phnom Penh but less so once the city.was left behind. The driver was constantly sounding his horn as that is the customary means of informing a vehicle ahead that you were going to pass them.

While we did travel through rural areas some of the time, usually we were passing farm houses, hamlets, villages and through small towns. Some of the farm land looked quite scruffy but other areas were much more attractive. The above is true of our travel through both countries.

On the bus the television played a feature film 'Fast and Furious 6' quite a lot of Candid Camera type ex television programmes and local karaoke and some sort of comedy show. We were not actually bored, but not actually interested either.

About half way we crossed the wide Mekong River by ferry boat. There were a couple doing shuttle service across the river, so we didn't have to wait very long to drive onto it.

The Cambodian side had a dozen or so casinos to catter for the Vietnam day tripers.

The roads on the Vietnam side are much better. We drove along a highway with double lanes on both sides of a centre median strip which was either a wall or often rows of shrubs and low trees.

It didn't take too long to reach Ho Chi Min City aka Saigon. Many of the streets are tree lined, there is a pleasant path along the river running through the central area. We spotted a number of people fishing along the banks.

Streets are just as crowded as Phnom Penh, but there are more modern stylish buildings. The bus destination was a stop beside a large park area between two busy roads. Looked quite pretty as we drove along beside it in the rain.

Our hotel, Phan Lan Hotel was down a hotel, guest house and hostel filled lane diagonally across the road from our bus stop. Perfect arranging. Hotel gave us a good welcome and is quite small, five floors with just three rooms on each floor. Obviously, the building is quite narrow. No elevator but they have a hoist to bring the bags up to the room. That's good as I am on fourth floor, the boys on fifth floor and the girls and parents on third floor.

While the others went off to the war surplus market near by to buy the boys a few bags and pouches, I went off in search of a SIM card. Plenty being sold in the area as this is a tourist and back packers area. I just chose a stall where the lady could sell them but tell you nothing. The price quoted varied and in the end I paid nothing like any quote for the card and a top up which may or may not be unlimited data for a month. Her son tried to help, then a motor scooter friend who knwe what he was doing but not good English. Finally a young woman arrived who could translate for them.

I did some wander around the area near the hotel even though it was raining at that point. Got lots of cyclo drivers wanting to provide their services, lots of invitations into bars and restaurants usually by young women standing at the door and one offer of a certain weed.

We met up again and went off for a family meal together. We only needed to go around the corner from the hotel for a large choice. We checked out a couple Vietnamese restaurants as the country is know for its lovely food – but we went Indian and that was a good choice as the food was delicious.

I must remember to give Phil 163,000 dong as my share of the bill. I think this is somewhere around $10.

DAY 11

Saturday 28th June 2014


The day began as normal until Becky was taking a basket of washing out to the laundry, which is a shed attached to the back of the house. As she opened the door she sort of jumped and gasped. On the floor in front of here was a dark coloured snake. It was between the door and the base of the washing machine.

I happened to be there and can afirm that she did not scream. She was surprised however, we both were. Having decided the snake was dead, there were a few ants crawling over its tail, the thing becane to move.

So doing the sensible thing she went and got Phil to sort it out. He came with a few implements such as a spade and a long stick to get it out of the shed and onto the path. Then while Becky held it down just behind its neck, form a distance with the long stick, Phil rushed inside and returned with an axe.

Phil will now go down in family history, not as a dragon slayer, but as a snake slayer. He is now 'Phil the executioner'.

The event proved an exciting start to the day for everybody who was awake and up. That's everyone except one who slept through the whole exciting moments.We assume that the snake had managed to find its way through a hole in the back wall. On the other side is a large area of undeveloped waste land. It is an area where the children have been building a play area with old bricks and building waste. I suspect they will give it a miss for a while now.

The rest of the day was an anti-climax after that.

Becky and I took Molly across town to the meeting point with a little friend from school. It was a half way point between the two homes. It did involve driving through a few kilometres of heavy slow moving congested traffic. Then after the drop off, Becky had to do a U turn through several lanes of traffic to head back home. It was a manouver which one only does in Phnom Penh where it is and accepted process and where the drivers in both directions let you through.

Preparations for the trip to Vietnam took our attention for the rest of the day.



Americano strong $3

Cafe Mocha $3.50

Cafe Latte Medium $3

Iced Orange and Pineapple juice $3

You may begin to think that all we do in Phnom Penh is to go out for coffee and your brunch. This is not true, but my being there is a good excuse to try a few places out. The city has an ever changing range of cafes and restaurants, so there is always somewhere new to try out.

This one opened in January and is run by a friendly Korean woman with quite good English. We had a chat for a while as there was no other customers and I had a look at their professional roasting set up. I was also interested in the drip system they had for providing a coffee syrup for their iced coffees. The can also do single origin blends. Very advanced for Cambodia, but I am sure that with the speed things are changing here that others will quickly follow.

Becky decided that the latte which was served in a tulip cup was a good match for a flat white. I decided that my Americano strong was no match for a Long Black, but may have been a good example of Americano.

Actually we dropped in for the coffee after we had been to iONE. This is the Apple computer agency in Cambodia and they have recently relocated their service department to a flash new multi story block on one of the busy main roads near the centre of town. We had to drop off an iPad which needed a new screen following an accidental drop a couple of days earlier. The can not or do not replace the screen. Rather they send the unit to Apple in Singapore who replace it with an identical new unit. The cost of this will be little more than what a screen replacement could be assumed to cost. They will hold the replacement until we return from Vietnam. All seemed to be a very organised process.

One of the things that interests me staying here is the way in which the grandchildren all have various activities and personal projects which they can quietly settle down to. Bryn has spent much of hare time designing and cutting out a leather holster for his survival knife. Pippa decided to rearrange and tidy her room, involved shifting furniture as well. And they all have books to read as well. Meanwhile Becky checked out accommodation prices for Hanoi for our stay next week. Of course a lot to look at even in our budget price range. Amazing how much tax and a service charge can bump up the room cost. In the end we decided on a place to stay and have the rooms confirmed.