Travel Blog for Fredrik and Gunnhild

Vietnam

Phnom Penh to Chau Doc

In the morning we went to the laundry to pick up our clean clothes. The tuk tuk driver turned out to be the same that took us there last time, so he knew where to go. When we got back we had breakfast, and checked out of the hotel. We were picked up by a tuk tuk at 11.45 AM, and after some paperwork at the dock we left Phnom Penh in a speedboat at 12.15 PM. We shared the boat with an Australian couple and Portuguese couple.

P1060847It was a lot to see on the trip down the Mekong river to Chau Doc. Temples everywhere, small boats, big boats, daily life along the river, farmers and fishermen. We had to go a shore twice to pass the border, first to leave Cambodia, then to enter Vietnam. We were lucky, and were the only ones there, so it didn’t take much time at all. We arrived in Chau Doc at 4.30 PM, and left the boat at Victoria Hotel’s private dock. The other passengers had done some more research than us, and booked cheaper hotels. We just accepted the suggestion from the travel agent, and didn’t know that we were staying at a luxurious colonoial-style riverfront hotel. But since Fredrik had a flu, it was nice with a bit of luxury.

P1060888We were welcomed with cold wet towel and a cup of tea, and told that we had been upgraded to a room with a view over the river. It was large, stylish and very comfortable, with timber floors and a French balcony. Our guide book said that they also had the best restaurant in town, so we didn’t bother to go anywhere else. We ordered Okra hot pot, which turned out to be fish and vegetables cooked at our table. Very good! After dinner we had a beer at the terrace, watching the lightning all around us. It was blinking almost constantly. So Gunnhild went out to find an ATM and get some Vietnamese money, and got back just before the rain started. We packed what we needed for the boat trip in a backpack, since we didn’t expect our cabin to have room to open two suitcases. We were right.

Hanoi to Siem Reap

Hanoi Old QuarterWe got up at 10 AM, a bit tired after a late night, packed our bags and checked out of the hotel. We got the tickets for our flight, and booked a taxi to the airport an hour later. We went for an English breakfast at a hostel where most of the other guests seemed to have had more beer and less sleep than us, and spent the rest of our time in Hanoi walking around in the old quarter.

The check in at the airport was very chaotic. There were several large groups at the desk where we were supposed to check in, so we were moved to another line handling all international flights with Vietnam Air. Several of the people there spent a lot of time at  the counter because they had too much luggage or couldn’t find their passports or visas. But we got through security in time, and took off towards Siem Reap, Cambodia at 3.30 PM.

The flight took less than two hours, and we had some nice views at the end, but sadly not of any of the famous temples. We had to fill out several papers during the flight, and one additional one at the airport. Because of this we expected it to take some time, but it was really efficient and we were out  of the airport with our bags in no time. The visa application was a bit funny, because we were obviously supposed to bring a photo (which we didn’t), but if we just paid one dollar extra no photo was needed.

Angkor Secret Garden HotelLucky from Angkor Secret Garden Hotel picked us up at the airport in a Tuk Tuk. His English was really good, and he told us a lot about Cambodia, Siem Reap and his hotel during the 20 minute ride. The hotel was very nice with large rooms, and a cosy backyard with hammocks, a bar and a pool table. We soon decided that we wanted to stay there an extra night (3 instead of the 2 we had booked). Lucky gave us a map and explained what to see and do over a beer in the bar. We booked a trip to Angkor Wat the next morning (leaving at 5 AM!), had some great local food and talked to several of the other guests. We went to our room early to pack, relax and try to get tired, but we didn’t go to bed until 11 PM.

Hanoi Day Two

One pillar pagodaA long flight, hardly any sleep and 6 hours time differece took it’s toll on us, so we slept in, had a lazy morning and didn’t go out before 1 PM. We spent most of the day sightseeing the main sights in Hanoi, and ended up walking more than 10 km. Since it was Monday museums and some sights were closed, but we still got to see pretty much what we had planned. We walked past the Lenin park on our way to the One pillar pagoda, and continued to Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum and the Presidential Palace.

The Temple of LiteratureThe Temple of Literature was beautifully decorated and filled with students celebrating their graduation, which made sense since it was founded in honor of the philosopher Confucius in 1070 and later served as a center for higher learning. We walked around in the Frech Quarter for a while before a short stop at Hanoi’s most important church, the St. Joseph’s Cathedral.

Gammer beerWe had decided that if possible we wanted to go to Cambodia the next day, so we went back to the hotel to ask them to help us book. They found a flight to Siem Reap in the afternoon that was not too expensive, so we told them to book it and we booked a hotel ourselves online. We celebrated our new plan by going to the brewpub Gammer beer. They had 3 beers brewed on the premises, Gold, Golden and Dark. We ordered two different ones, but got quite confused when the brought us two dark ones. Shortly after they brought us two golden ones as well, and explained that it was “Buy one get one free”.

After a bit more beer than planned, we went for dinner at a recommended restaurant (New day) very close to our hotel. It was very busy, but we got a table on the top floor. It was a very charming place, and the food was really, really good. We tried several local dishes like the famous Bun Cha. We took a short walk up to Quan Chuong, the only remaining gateway to the Old Quarter, before heading back to the hotel to do some blogging and planning. We tried to go to bed early, but instead ended up playing music and emptying the mini-bar. Still a bit jet-lagged maybe?

Arrived in Hanoi

After 16 hours we arrived in Hanoi, after a short stop in Bangkok. As Norwegians we should be able to get a 15 day visa at arrival, but we had no idea where and how. A lot of people queued up at the Visa-on-arrival-desk, but we decided to go straight to the passport control instead. A Danish guy confirmed that it should be ok, and he was right. We went straight through in no time, and actually had to wait a while for our bags. After going through customs, we spotted the driver from our hotel, and at the same time Fredrik’s aunt and uncle (Kirsti and Jens Harald), who we had no idea were going to Vietnam at all, came over to say hi. It’s a small world!! We didn’t have much time to talk since our driver were waiting and they where going with a group, but it was a nice surprise to meet them.

It took about 40 minutes to Hanoi old quarter from the airport, and when we got into the hotel (Hanoi 3B Hotel) we were welcomed with a drink and a lot of sorries because our room was not ready (this was before 12 AM). After about ten minutes where they told us about daytrips and sights in the area, we were taken to our deluxe room on the seventh floor. A very nice guy, who spoke no English, were able to show us all the amenities of our room and our private balcony with a great view of the old town.

After a quick change of clothes we were ready to get to know the city of Hanoi. The traffic was overwhelming with motorbikes coming from  every direction (even on the sidewalks and the wrong way on one-way streets). In addition the sidewalks were full of street vendors and parked motorbikes, so it took us a while to relax and especially crossing the larger roads were a bit scary. But after following some locals a couple of times we quickly got the hang of it. Just keep the pace, and stay away from buses and trucks.

Hoan Kiem LakeWe needed some local money, and chose the maximum amount of 2.000.000 Dong (100 USD). After conversion it didn’t seem like much, but after a few local beers and some food we realized it would probably last a while. Hoan Kiem Lake is just a few blocks from our hotel, and was a nice place to relax and get away from the traffic for a while. After a short break, we were ready for the chaotic but very charming old quarter again, and walked up to Dong Xuan night market, where they sold everything from kitchenware to Dolce & Gabbana baby shoes.

 

Dong Xuan night marketIn the evening we had dinner at a restaurant recommended by Dragon (the receptionist at our hotel). We were a bit jet-lagged and didn’t really know the opening hours of the restaurants, so we arrived just when they were closing (9.30 PM). Luckily the Vietnamese people are always helpful, so we got a table and had a great meal. Before going to sleep we shared a beer from the minibar and discussed where to go next. Originally we planned to do one country at the time, but since the weather forecast for the coast of Vietnam is not that great for the next week, we might do something completely different. Stay tuned!!

One week and we’re going to Vietnam and Cambodia

This year we are going east.

We have not planned this trip in detail, but we will fly into Hanoi and travel south to Ho Chi Minh City with a few stops on the way (probably Hue and Hoi An). From there we will go in to Cambodia and up to Angkor Wat. We have a flight back to Norway from Bangkok, so we might spend a day or two there at the end of our 3 week adventure.


Destination Arrival
1 Hanoi, Vietnam 17 November, 2013
2 Siem Reap, Cambodia 19 November, 2013
3 Phnom Penh, Cambodia 22 November, 2013
4 Chau Doc, Vietnam 25 November, 2013
5 Cai Be, Vietnam 26 November, 2013
6 Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam 27 November, 2013
7 Hue, Vietnam 29 November, 2013
8 Hoi An, Vietnam 2 December, 2013
9 Hanoi, Vietnam 6 December, 2013
10 Bangkok, Thailand 7 December, 2013