Monday, 7 April 2008

Enter the Aussies

We have some traveling companions! Debs' Aussie Aunt (also called Debs) and cousin Joey (AKA 'Bonnie Tyler' are traveling with us for 10 days, during which time we'll be taking them from Vietnam to Bangkok, via Cambodia, on a whirlwind tour of SE Asia.

Their visit started shakily, in Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC)/ Saigon with some lost luggage that threatened to derail our tight schedule, but arrived 24 hours later. Soon though, we were all crossing roads like this true Vietnamese style, and drinking bia hoi with the locals:

Crossing the road in Vietnam is no joke, and so much fun! The trick is to boldly step out into the stream of thick and uninterrupted traffic, and walk really, really slowly so that the cars, buses and motorbikes can swerve around you - usually without the need for brakes. Wowsers! We all loved this activity, and sometimes crossed the road just for fun. Everybody loved Saigon!
We then took an epic journey to a "homestay" in Vinh Long, using 6 different modes of transport. It was a nice place, and we took advantage of its location on an island in the Mekong to take a couple of little boat rides around the canals, and down to the floating markets at Cai Be. However, Debs got angry - very angry, in that special Debs way - about being relentlessly milked by our hosts. It was just one bill after another. It didn't end up adding up to that much, but it was a lot more than expected. More on Debs temper later...

We really had to haul ass to get to Chau Doc - long days at the moment, e.g. 05.00 starts for a trip, then back to the hotel, pack, get to the bus station, go to another town to catch a connecting bus... etc. After some lovely sights on the way, including a skinned dog for sale in a market in Can Tho, and a nasty looking bike accident on the road, we got to the hotel which Joey instantly declared to be "luxury", simply because the shower actually worked.

A much needed rest, combined with some amusing attempts at communicating with the hotel staff, then we were off on a boat trip up to Phnom Penh. Rather brilliantly the boat company had the "get your visa at the border" system down pat, so we weren't stung by surly officials for $10 "rapid processing" fees.

And now here we are in Phnom Penh, capital of Cambodia. It's a beautiful place, much less modern looking than HCMC, and full of in your face poverty. It's quite sobering turning away very young children from your dinner table... but we really don't know the best way to help. Money just doesn't seem right, and offers of food are scorned.

Finally, here's that anger update: Debs flared up in outrage at the news that our hotel would be charging us $0.25 per item for laundry. This isn't actually much more expensive than any other hotel laundry service so far, but it's very hard to keep track of relative values when you change currency every week, oh dear we are so put upon :-)

Debs and Ben

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