Farming in Vietnam

Farming in Vietnam

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Our Favourite Things

Well, Faithful Followers, we've made it to the end.  This is our last post for this trip.  We have had a great time, seen some wonderful things and eaten some amazing food.  So to leave you, here is a summary of our favourite (and not so favourite) things:



Loved: The people at the Golden Sun Palace, The lake with the people doing exercises around it in the morning, Halong Bay and the French influence in the buildings around Hanoi.

Could Leave: The constant honking or horns and the people constantly asking you to buy things


Loved: The Sheraton Hotel and Club Room, The ocean view

Could Leave: Not much else to do there


Loved: The old colourful buildings, the lanterns, the shopping on the quaint streets when the motorbikes weren't allowed into the old part and the Red Bridge Restaurant

Could Leave: The rubbish in the river


Loved: The trip to the Cu Chi tunnels on the boat

Could Leave: The dust and rubbish on the street and the heat


Loved: The Angkor Wat temples, the staff at the Golden Temple Residence and the food.

Could Leave: The heat



Loved: The bustle and variety

Could Leave early morning school assemblies and pooping cats outside the hotel window


Loved: Being on the coast and club lounges, the seaglass and old washed up china.

Could Leave:  Everything in Russian and no shopping


LovedThe beautiful old town, lantern festival, the change of pace... Oh and the veggie gardens - I loved them

Could LeaveFish farms (sorry where were they?), tailors


Loved The French architecture dotted throughout and our last meal

Could Leave  the variety of stuff on offer…. Oh and the day spa.



Loved: The gorgeousness of the old quarter and the green tea frappachino at Starbucks... oh and Halong Bay.

Could Leave: The lack of information about the French quarter.  There were varying maps and information from locals about where it was.


Loved: The Sheraton Club Room and we were lucky to have a sea breeze by mid morning which turned our hotel pool into a non inviting wave machine.... also I had the best massage of my life and the mud baths were fun.

Could Leave: Everything else... I've seen it and I don't need to go back.


Loved: The buildings and the tranquility of the streets.  Also the luna lantern festival.

Could Leave: The bitch that served me at Bebe tailors and the street sellers who hawk at you whilst you're sitting at a restaurant and who won't take no for an answer.


Loved: The rooftop bar of the Majestic Hotel

Could Leave: The hassling women at the Ben Thanh Market


Loved: The pool at the Golden Temple Residence.  It made it a relaxing end to a great trip.

Could Leave: The Deet and the heat!



Loved: The lake and all it's surrounding goings on.  The thin buildings in the old quarter and the French Quarter.  Halong Bay and learning Vietnamese with our driver, Vin

Could Leave: The honking, the dust and the rubbish.


Loved: The Sheraton Club Room on the 25th floor and the view over the ocean. Collecting some treasures on the beach and the mud baths.

Could Leave: The naff shopping and the rubbish.


Loved: Everything!  The staff at the Little Hoi An Boutique Hotel were very friendly and helpful;  the food; the old colourful buildings of the old quarter; the Red Bridge Restaurant and the boat ride to get there.  The Lantern Festival; The walk around the Vegetable Garden and the quiet peacefulness of it all. 

Could Leave: The rubbish in the river.


Loved: The Ci Chi Tunnel tour and the boat ride to get there and the rooftop bar at the Majestic Hotel.

Could Leave: The Heat!


Loved: The Angkor Wat Temples - especially Ta Prohm, the staff at the Golden Temple Residence and their glorious pool.  We also had some great food here.  I liked that the people here graciously take no for an answer when they try to sell you something.  

Could Leave: The Heat and the tourist traps.

And....... that's it folks.  That's all she wrote!

I would like to thank me Jenny for always being ready with a hilarious quip; Chris for coming up with the witty blog post titles and her wonderful photography; Marie for making her one decision on the trip that led us into one of the funniest massage experiences EVER! and You, dear readers for coming along for the ride, because if it wasn't for you, this blogging malarky would be a big, sad, waste of time.

So thank you, you're welcome and goodbye.


Until next time........

The Vietnamese Rollers

P.S: I used this selfie stick a total of 5 times on this trip - so worth the $5 I spent at Red Dot!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015


On our last night in Siem Reap and indeed the whole trip we endured enjoyed a folkloric dance and music performance extravaganza.  

After another folkloric evening in Russia some years ago, Me Jenny and I promised each other that we would never put ourselves through that ever again,  and up until now we've managed to avoid anything with the word 'folkloric' in it.  However the kind Khmer people at the Golden Temple Residence offered us a complimentary dinner and it would have been a little rude to turn it down.

The traditional Khmer food was divine....

...but we couldn't quite work out whether the musicians were out of tune and off key or whether we just didn't have the proper trained ear to appreciate the traditional music.

There were several dances performed by ladies and gentlemen who were a little half hearted about it, but if I had to perform the same routine 7 nights a week to a tiny audience of people who didn't appreciate it, I'd be a little lacklustre myself!

 Some dances told a story about traditional fishing or daily life and some others, like the coconut clapping dance was a bit like a partner barn dance that we learnt in PE back in primary school.  We were probably just as bored with it then as the dancers were here.  

Or maybe they are meant to keep a straight (bored looking) face throughout the dances?  Maybe we just don't get it?

The ladies were very graceful in their movements and somehow have trained their hands and fingers to bend back in the most impossible way.

It was a very pleasant evening.  Please don't get me wrong - it isn't particularly Cambodian folkloric that doesn't appeal - it's ALL folkloric.  Maybe being more educated about it would help my appreciation, but it's a bit like punk and thrash music - I'm just not sure I like it.


At Ho Chi Minh Airport at the passport checking counter there are many lines you can join depending on your passport type.  There was a line for Vietnamese passports, A line for foreign passports and a one for........ Asean passports!

We were laughing and saying, "from now on when you refer to something/someone being Asian - you need to pronounce it A-Shaun"

Then we realised that Asean means this.....

It's the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.  It's a political and economic organisation to ten Southeast Asian countries, which was formed in 1967 by Indonesian, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.  Since then, membership has expanded to include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma) and Vietnam.  Its aims include accelerating economic growth, social progress and sociocultural evolution among its members, protection of regional peace and stability, and opportunities for member countries to discuss differences peacefully.

Honestly, what would I do without Wikipedia?

I only feel a little bit silly though, because thinking that someone had misspelled 'Asian' at passport control is still pretty funny. 
(the fact I hadn't heard of Asean is just sad and something that I need to live with)

Angkor What?

Angkor Wat is one of the places in the world that I've always wanted to see.  I love old stuff and it doesn't get much older than this.....  Angkor Wat is a temple complex and the largest religious monument in the world.  It was first a Hindu and later a Buddhist temple. The building on these temples started in the early 12th century by the Khmer King Suryavarman II.  It was the original capital of the Khmer Empire and breaking from the Shaiva tradition of previous kings, Angkor Wat was instead dedicated to Vishnu.  As the best preserved temple at the site, it is the only one to have remained a significant religious centre since it's foundation.  

The temple is at the top of the high classical style of Khmer architecture and has become the symbol of Cambodia, even appearing on their flag.

It is big business for their tourist industry, attracting over 2 million visitors each year...... You'd think it would be big business for Cambodian people, but apparently the entry ticket office is actually owned and run by a Vietnamese company.  When we pressed further, our guide said, "yes, everything run by Vietnam company in Cambodia"  "What about the Cambodian government?" we enquired.  He replied, "They are sleeping"

We got up at 4.30am in order to meet our guide at 5am (those of you who know me will know how big of a deal this is!) in order get out and get a good spot to watch the sun rise over the temple.

When you buy your ticket, you get a 1, 2, 3 or 4 day ticket - and you have to have a photo taken so they can check it at every entrance point.  I'm going to show you the photos on our entry tickets and I want you to remember that it is about 5am...

Needless to say, the tactless guards at each entry point giggled when they checked out tickets.  I asked our guide if they were laughing at our photos and he said "Yes, they laugh at your picture"


There was quite a few people there but we didn't have to battle too hard to get a good spot.

Everyone was crowded around the diminished lake to get the much sought after reflection shot on the water.

Check out this gorgeous lady who was busy contemplating life whilst waiting for the sunrise over a gorgeous religious monument...... but really I just pointed the camera at her and said 'look over there' - still gorgeous though!

There were people and kids everywhere selling all sorts of wares; scarves, guide books, fridge magnets..... I refrained from buying one though because it is suggested that you don't buy from the kiddies as it encourages them to sell or beg rather than go to school.

This little girl was gorgeous.  Me Jenny gave her a donut which she just placed into her basket and eventually walked away, but I noticed her eating it when she got far enough away.

After waiting for about 45 minutes for the sun to come up, we started to question why in God's name did we need to get up so bloody early?  There was lots of cloud cover and the sun finally made an appearance quite high in above the temple.  We only saw it for a brief moment and then it went behind the clouds again.  It was probably a good thing as it stopped it from being hotter than it could have been.

Some people chose to sit on the other side of the path to view the rising of the sun and we noticed this little group who were being stared down by this horse.  Maybe he thought the cameras were there for him and he was just doing his bit for tourism?

We had a little look at the temple which was just amazing.  There was no 'glue' used in the building, all the blocks were put together like a jigsaw.  There has been some restoration on the temples, but there is a lot of rubble which according to guide has been caused by both the war and 'the natural'

I'm not sure what happens during wars, but people are obviously a bit nuts and it causes them to ruin stuff.  Priceless paintings are burnt, artefacts are stolen, and ancient buildings like these temples are covered in bullet holes.

This was the last thing we saw as we left the Angkor Wat temple.... I guess it's something to remember it by.

This bridge has head along both sides.  

One side depicts Hindu devils and the other Buddhist gods.  

Some of the heads have needed to be replaced.  A lot of the nose keep being knocked off!

Yes, you may well ask me what the hell I am wearing, but our of respect, you are required to cover your shoulders and knees and this is all I had!  One girl we saw had long pants and a midriff top.  Technically she was following the rules, but she might have misinterpreted the respect part.

From the bridge I watched these fishermen for a short while.  

Our next top was the Bayon Temple.  

It's most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak.  

The temple is known also for it's impressive sets of bas-reliefs, which present an unusual combination of mythological, historical and mundane scenes.  
(thanks Wiki)

All the walls of the Bayan temple have been hand carved.  The carvings are so intricate it's quite hard to believe.  They show daily life of the Khmer which seemed to include a lot of fighting!  Both during wars and invasions and for say exercise or fun.  They also depict Mongolians (they have traditional hats and beards) and Viet Cong (they are wearing their traditional hats) 

Dragon boat racing....

Elephants carrying branches in their trunks....

Somebody being eaten by a crocodile.....

Angkor Wat has been under the UNESCO World heritage site since 1992

This is one of the many statues that guard the temples.  This guy looks like he's laughing.  He's as happy as Larry!  He's probably stoked that he's one of the only ones left with a nose!

This is what you would call the world's earliest jigsaw puzzle....

I'm not sure why people do this, but they are everywhere at the Bayon temple.  Personal towers of balanced stones. 

These doorways go on and on and on then they turn right and do it all again...

Leaving via the West Gate, we came across a 'modern' buddha.  I don't know if it's the way she is sitting that makes it modern or the amount of lipstick that she has on.

Our third and final stop of the morning was to Ta Prohm - where Tomb Raider was filmed.  It was founded by the Khmer King, Jayavarman VII as a Mahayana Buddhist monastery and university.  Unlike most Angkorian temples, Ta Prohm has been left in much the same condition in which is was found.

As we approached there were groups of women all around the entrance sweeping the leaves and the sand and the rocks.  It seemed like a pointless job as it would be like trying to sweep the beach.... but our guide told us that they were sweeping for spiders and moving them further back into the forest.  

Thank you ladies!

Out of all the temples, this is the one that I most wanted to see.  The roots of these trees are really fast growing and massive!  They are so strong that they just grown through and around the stones.

The wood of this tree is hollow

This is apparently the famous Tomb Raider site.... I've seen the movie, but to be honest, I can't remember.  When we get home we're going to have to watch The Quiet American which was filmed in Vietnam and now Tomb Raider (again)

Lara Croft - eat your heart out!  Honestly, some people there asked if I was her. It was an honest mistake.  I mean, who can blame them?
(do you think there's a reason I've used the word 'honest' twice in this sentence?)

Our guide had a little giggle when we showed us this tree root.  It's shaped like a bum!

They don't necessarily want to stop you from climbing over the dangerous rubble, I think this sign is more of an FYI.

O.H. & S.?

They sweep away the spiders, but these little guys are allowed to live in the temple.

This one is like he is testing the waters before committing to go over the wall fully.

Further proof that a glue of some kind should have perhaps been used in the construction of the temples.

Before you enter the temples there is a list of rules on a big billboard for you to read.  They outline the covering of shoulders and knees out of respect, and the general don't litter and don't smoke etc.... but then there is a clause that says women should not touch the monks who still live in the monastery and should not take photos of them without their permission (this part is actually fair enough) and there is a photo of a woman with her arm around a monk taking a selfie - presumably without his permission and there is a line through the picture - a what not to do.

Luckily for the monks we didn't see any because I'm not sure I would have been able to hold myself back from reaching out and poking one in the arm as he quietly went about his business!

So on the way home - this happened.  I think if they don't know then it's ok, right?  We were moving too fast to reach out the window though.  As we drove past them, we saw that the monk was actually asleep.  So peaceful.

This was a great tour and here are my hints and tips to making it even greater.

1. Go to Cambodia in the coolest month possible - January is apparently the best month to go.

2.  You can do it on your own, streams of people were arriving by tuk tuk on their own, but I would recommend a guide so you know what you're looking at, unless of course you're fully researched and then you can do what you like.

This was our guide⬇, Sophal (pronounced SoPaul).  He was very knowledgeable and pretty much let us pick and choose where we wanted to go and for how long..... we also had a cool driver who kept the air con running and plied us with freezing cold water each time we returned to the car.

3.  Go early.  The sunrise would have been fabulous if there wasn't cloud, and it's worth it just in case you get a clear day.  Also it's cooler before the sun comes out.  There are huge crowds, but the earlier you go the better.  There were lots of people when we were there, but not enough to cause any annoyance.

4.  Take heaps of water.

5. You're not meant to buy souvenirs from the children because it encourages them to beg rather than go to school.

6. Map out where you want to go and what you want to see BEFORE you get there.  The site is massively huge.

7.  Look good in your photo so you don't become the laughing stock of the guards each time you pass through.

8. Make sure your US$ are in tact.  My US$20 had a small tear and they wouldn't accept it.

9.  If you do go in the hottest month, then make sure you are staying in a hotel with a nice pool..... you're going to need it on your return.

10.  Take your selfie stick and your touching fingers just in case you come across a monk!  NB:  Use both with caution.