Off The Beaten Ho Chi Minh Trail

We decided to swap a day and night in Ho Chi Minh City for extra time in Cambodia.  I had been to HCMC fifteen years earlier so I didn’t feel a strong need to see it again and Francesca reasoned that since she didn’t much like the busy, moped infested streets of Hanoi she didn’t care to see more of the same in Saigon.

A family of four scooting to dinner.  We saw as many as five family members on one scooter!

Our flight from Hoi An got in around 6pm and we took a taxi to our back packer guest house.  Along the way we saw the hoards of mopeds going everywhere!

Our guest house was on this side street and cost us only $20 for the night!

We ventured outside for a quick bite to eat at a (very) local street side restaurant with plastic chairs.

Needless to say we did not flag down the dried squid moped vendor.

The next morning we had to get up at 5:30am to catch a 6am bus to Cambodia.   It was a 12 hour journey in two pieces; HCMC to Phnom Pen and Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.  Actually a three piece trip if you count the border crossing.  It was interesting to see the difference in architecture between the Vietnam side (communist) and the Cambodia side at the border.  The former was a relatively austere building while the latter sported a tourist friendly, culturally rich temple like design.

The Vietnam border crossing building is the drab one on the left and the elaborate, hotel looking one on the right is the Cambodian side.

We tried to sleep most of the trip, but I killed some awake time playing with this adorable, little Cambodian kid.

He would sneak back to see me and play with my computer (he was fascinated by my webcam) until his dad would yell at him and he would skulk back to his seat.

It wasn’t his birthday (as far as I knew), but he loved the webcam effects I was adding

We had to change buses in Phnom Penh which was a complete shit show (excuse my French), but after that we enjoyed the nice, quiet Cambodian countryside on our way to Siem Reap.

A few hours later we stopped at a road side market for food, bio break and whatever else people wanted to do.  It was at that point – getting off the bus – that I noticed several empty beer cans at the foot of the driver’s seat.  Slightly disconcerting to say the least.

Angkor Beer……the driving beer of champions!

In the market there were stalls selling delicious looking fruits as well as some of the nastiest arachnids you’d never want to eat.  I mean full-on giant spiders in a tempura batter!

Beatles and spiders and grasshoppers….oh my!

There were also several cute kids hanging out including this one whom we nicknamed Mowgli.

Several hours later we arrived in Siem Reap in darkness.  We were met by a hoard of Cambodian men in blue shirts who ushered everyone from the bus into a paddock.  I thought it might be some modern day killing fields exercise, but it turns out this was where they found out which hotels and guest houses we were staying in and paired us up with a tuk tuk driver to shuttle us there.

Somehow the manager of the business, a young guy named Ouk Barang, found out that I can speak Japanese which he could as well (his wife is Japanese) so he assigned us to his brother’s tuk tuk and rode with us to our hotel jabbering in Japanese the entire way.  He tried to persuade us to use another guest house that he said was much better and much closer to town (of course they get referral fees from these places), but we already had reservations at the “Golden Mango” guest house so we insisted he take us there.  We did, however, agree to have his brother take us around to the temples the following day.

Dr. Fish Massage – these little suckers eat the dead skin off your tows – nasty! We didn’t subject ourselves to this (that’s not my ugly toe either)

That night we went out for dinner (Indian food) and browsed around the night market (where they were selling “fish massages!), but then retired to get some sleep before our 5am pick up to watch the sunrise at Angkor Wat.

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2 Responses to “Off The Beaten Ho Chi Minh Trail”

  1. I don’t know how they do it, but the Cambodians can hold their liquor.

    The tuk-tuk drivers will get you go to a specific hotel so they can get a commission, just like Thailand.

    Prepare for a lot of street kids and people asking for money. Got to harden your heart a little in Cambodia or you’ll give it all away.

    • aroljahns Says:

      I hear you Brian. Its a shame about the street vendors….it really cast a pall over the whole Angkor Wat experience…..

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