Sunday, 15 October 2017

Indochinese Peninsula - a new series begins

Welcome to another travel post. I feel there will be a few of these coming over the next few weeks as we launch into another series on Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand, in addition to some time in Paris, a new exercise kick, and a slight change in work! See I've been busy.

It began, as many of my adventures do, on a whim. There was a January sale and I sat down with Mark to pick a holiday. We didn't have anywhere in mind so set rough dates and price bracket and saw what looked good! Mark hasn't done much travelling but after dipping his toe in last year with a motorbike tour to Italy he had the travel bug and was keen to do more. That isn't really fair is it? Motorbiking half way across a continent is more than dipping a toe - I'd argue that was more like wading away from the shallows? Look, I've got myself all confused in a metaphor and I haven't even got to the plane yet. Anyway, as a relative travel novice Mark was bamboozled with the imposing cost that adventure holidays take. The initial package then long haul flights all add up but thankfully I wore him down and we booked onto something called the Cambodian Traveller. Flights soon followed and then we forgot about it to be honest. Booking for August in January means there's a long time to wait.

We did some initial shopping to get Mark kitted out with some of the travel basics like walking boots and a big backpack. We even tested the boots out on a walk in the lake district which was honestly one of the most unpleasant experiences I have the misfortune to remember (despite efforts to drink a whole bar afterwards). It took blood sweat and tears to get me up and down that sodding mountain but the boots were golden.

If you don't take a photo of your plane wing do you even fly?


August rolled round and soon we were all packed up and ready to go. I was surprised at how comfortable I felt packing my pack again. I hadn't used it since Morocco so it was like seeing an old friend again. I'm not quite as attached to my pack as Johnny from Hotel Transylvania, but its up there. Mark got hung up on how to split his cash and were to store it in his luggage (inside a sock) but other than that it was non-eventful. The flight took forever. By the end I was so claustrophobic and achy, I forget how bad it is each time I fly long haul. Minor perk - lactose free meals looked a lot better than the regular ones and came early so that's something.


We arrived into Ho Chi Minh late on Saturday, having left early on Friday, and were bundled into a car and taken somewhere. I'm always amazed at how much you just have to trust people when you're away. This man could have been anyone, he didn't have our names just a sign with the travel company on. We got into an unmarked ute and drove. Could have been anywhere but fortunately we were dropped off with all our luggage (and fingers and toes) at a rather nice hotel. After being ripped off by the hotel exchange rates we found a spectacularly average Chinese restaurant, had something even the menu described as mystery meat, and then fell into a bed big enough for 4.

View from the Hotel roof
Sunday breakfast was surreal as there were clearly a lot of travellers at the hotel but with no way of knowing who was with what tour we helped ourselves to breakfast and got on with our curry..... yes our breakfast curry. Even after our whole trip I couldn't quite understand breakfast curry. We took a bus early that morning and having spent many hours to get to Vietnam, we promptly drove out of it and into Cambodia. 6 hours and two boarder checks later (out of Vietnam and into Cambodia are separate and a little drive apart from each other) we arrived into sunny Phnom Penh!

After a quick freshen up we bundled into some tuctucs and set out on a tour of the city. Phnom means a mound and Penh was a kick ass woman who defended the city from a flood a long time ago. She also built a beautiful temple on top of the hill therefore it's called Wat Phnom (temple on the hill). We also saw the Independence monument, a statue to the old King, and some markets. All the while in our tour, our guide was explaining the tip of what we would learn was a very turbulent and harrowing past the country has had in very recent history.

Our tour family in front of Wat Phnom

Would you?

We went to dinner in outreach restaurant where they employed parents of underprivileged children so they could go to school. This was our first real taste of Khmer (Cambodian) food so we dived right in and ordered the tarantula. Mark ate one but there is something so inherently repellent about large spiders that even with the full knowledge that they were dead and suitable for eating, I couldn't bring myself to touch one. I ate a leg.... that counts right? The rest of the group were equally horrified but a couple of brave souls helped us finish the 3 we were served.

A couple of drinks later we headed back to the hotel for a well deserved sleep in preparation of what was to come tomorrow....