Cambodia Vietnam 2010

Cambodia Vietnam 2010 is a trip summary built with HTML 5CSS 3jQuery and passion.

Process

Cambodia Vietnam 2010 was meant as a nice way to share our trip while also experimenting some new technologies.

I envisioned this website as soon as I arrived in Asia. And although I started designing it in january 2011 and advanced quickly, I suddenly let it linger on for weeks and eventually left it aside for almost a year, stuck at 80% in its progress.

But last month, I decided to finish the 2 last cities, the navigation and the JavaScript, in order to finally launch the website.

There are still some improvements to be made, but as this site isn’t meant to be updated, I figured it wasn’t worth optimizing too much.

Anyway, feel free to dig out the CSS and JS code and reuse (or even copy) it.

Contact

You can send me email if you wish.

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Hello
Traveler

Cambodia Vietnam 2010

a trip summary

Last november, my friend and I went for a 18-days trip to Cambodia & Vietnam. This single page website, is a summary of this wonderful experience, which, I hope, will give you the desire to reproduce our adventure, or at least make you think about it.
Enjoy your reading!

Featuring

Cambodia

Vietnam

China

Gulf of Thailand

South China Sea

Gulf of Tonkin

City 1

Battambang

First Experience

Getting to Battambang

Although arriving with the plane in Phnom Penh, we only plan to stay for the night as we plan to attend a school's show in Battambang the following evening (which, in the end, was cancelled).
So, early in the morning, we head for the bus station which is 2 minutes away from the hotel. Despite the early hour (7AM), the streets are already full of people gathering and motorcycles hitting the roads. It already feels different and exciting.

The intercity bus that heads for Battambang (20 000 Riel = 4 Euros) is our first experience with southern-east-asia roads. The only road linking Phnom Penh to our destination is a straight, worn out, two-way road, whose full width is entirely occupied by vehicles: cars, buses, bikes, motorcycles, but also travelers by feet! And the general rule is: there is no rule. I haven't seen any speed-limit traffic sign, nor any road officer or road line. And it doesn't seem like cambodians actually need them. You want to overtake? Just honk! Not enough time to overtake? Just hit the gas!

The Bamboo Train

Stepping out of the bus in Battambang, we decide to find a hotel on our own. Big mistake. We rapidly end up in the middle of nowhere. So we ask locals for directions by showing them a map, but there's a problem: they can't locate themselves on a map (an issue we encountered several times in Cambodia). With a little help, we arrive at the Royal Hotel: a decent, well-located hotel with nice bedrooms.

The Battambang Bamboo Train The Battambang Bamboo Train The Battambang Bamboo Train The Battambang Bamboo Train The Battambang Bamboo Train

After eating a well-deserved and rather good meal on the rooftop, a guide suggest a tuk-tuk ride throughout the surrounding of Battambang, which consists of a couple of small temples and a mysterious Bamboo Train

As we get back to the city, night has fallen. The guide advises us to eat at the Smokin Pot. Great choice. I take the "Fried Chicken II" which is d-e-l-i-c-i-o-u-s.
Then we head for the Gecko Cafe, a small bar at the corner of the street. I decide to focus on local, unknown cocktails, and I end up trying the Red Gecko and the Blue Gecko. Good stuff.

Although it's only 10.30 PM, everyone else has left and the streets are empty. It's weird to feel the city totally deserted and silent at such a time.
We go back to the hotel: a long day awaits us tomorrow!

Battambang Battambang Battambang Battambang Battambang Battambang Battambang

  • Hotel Royal Hotel: good and cheap, with a good restaurant on the rooftop
  • Restaurant Smokin Pot: delicious! Try the Fried Chicken II.
  • Bar Gecko Bar: small but nice. Have a Blue or Red Gecko cocktail.

City 2

Siem
Reap

The Gateway to Angkor

Arrival

Siem Reap is the closest city to the worldwide-famous Angkor area. It's our next stop. As soon as we step out of the bus, Sam (and his tuk-tuk) asks us to be his "guests" for today. We gently accept and head for the Red Lodge hotel: a cute little white-and-red-painted hotel located at the end of a small alley. After having lunch at the Khmer Cuisine restaurant, we head for a long tuk-tuk trip through the huge Angkor domain, after paying a 86 000 (17€) entrance fee.

Angkor

It's hard to describe the feeling you experience when, slowly riding towards the first temple in the back of a tuk-tuk, under a bright blue sky and burning sun, the unforgettable shape of Angkor Wat comes to full sight from behind the trees.
I'll just put it down to one single word: overwhelming.

Siem Reap Siem Reap Siem Reap Siem Reap Siem Reap Siem Reap Siem Reap Siem Reap

In the span of six hours, we ended up climbing up 7 temples, of all kinds: the huge Angkor Wat, the richly decorated Bayon Temple, the jungle-surrounded Ta Phrom… We were lucky enough to encounter only few tourists and have good weather.
  • E Entrance Siem Reap
  • 1 Angkor Wat Siem Reap
  • 2 Bayon Siem Reap
  • 3 Phimeanakas Siem Reap
  • 4 Preah Palilay Siem Reap
  • 5 Ta Keo Siem Reap
  • 6 Ta Prohm Siem Reap
  • 7 Banteay Kdei Siem Reap

As the day reaches dusk, we drive back through the city to our hotel. You can feel how wealthy Siem Reap actually is: modern buildings, highly luminous streets, heavy traffic, and even golf courses. In the evening, we go for a drink at the Hip Hop, a stylish bar next to our hotel. I take a White Hip Hop.

For dinner, we decide to try out the Amok, located in a gorgeous narrow alley, full of cute little restaurants. I try out the Amok Assortiment. Yummy!
We end up having another drink in the so-called “Pub Street”, at the “Tigre de Papier” (where the Wi-Fi password is “paper” by the way). I take a Matador!

Siem Reap Siem Reap Siem Reap Siem Reap Siem Reap Siem Reap

  • Hotel Red Lodge: very quiet and well located
  • Restaurant Amok Restaurant: lovely! Located in a cute narrow alley. Try the Amok Assortiment.
  • Bar Hip Hop: modern, with a beautiful terrasse.
  • Bar Le Tigre de Papier: in the crowded "Pub Street". The Matador cocktail is alright.

City 3

Phnom Penh

Khmer Capital

In Siem Reap, we choose to take a rapid Ford Transit van meant to take us (we're told) in 5 hours back to the capital. I can tell you now: it's possible. I can also tell you that I've rarely been that afraid on a road trip. The car in front us is overtaking? No problem: I'll overtake the overtaking car, so that we're 3 vehicles, side-by-side, heading for the same direction on a two-way, two-line road…

Our hotel in Phnom Penh is the Rega Guesthouse: a hard-to-find little hotel, hidden by abundant vegetation and held by a Vietnamese family (who happens to speak fluently french). We have a chat with the grandfather who suggests we go to Mui Ne and Nha Trang in Vietnam.

Phnom Penh Phnom Penh Phnom Penh Phnom Penh Phnom Penh

Wat Phnom

We eat a nice traditional lunch and then go for a walk, along the docks. After some wandering around, we end up at Wat Phnom: a Buddhist temple located on top of a small hill, middle in the city. It's the eponymous temple of Phnom Penh.
Phnom Penh Phnom Penh Phnom Penh
Phnom Penh

National Museum

After a stop at the post office, we take a tuk tuk towards the Royal Palace, but after finding out it's closed, we decide to enter the National Museum. It's a beautiful red building that stands out from the rest of the city (which I don't consider a pretty city). It holds a great collection of Khmer Art, and its center consists of a gorgeous silent garden.

We try our luck through the crowded city streets to find a local internet cafe. The one we end up in doesn't look that appealing but the computers and the network are pretty fast.

When night time comes, we want to go back to our hotel by tuk tuk, but we forgot the address and the driver doesn't know where our hotel is located. Seeing us in trouble, half a dozen of people (including a policeman) gather around, trying to find out where our hotel is! There's even a woman who grabs her cellphone, calls her english-speaking friend and hands me the phone. At last, I remember our hotel being close to the British Embassy, a location that rings a bell with the driver. And so we go…
  • Hotel Rega Guesthouse: quiet and surrounded by abundant vegetation.
  • Restaurant Rega Guesthouse: you can eat there too and have a great Bo Bung.

City 4

Ho-Chi-Minh City

Crosstown Traffic

Our bus for Ho-Chi-Minh City leaves at 6:30 AM. It’s filled with Vietnamese people. We cross the Mekong river and stop right before the frontier for lunch. There’s a 30-min procedure to enter the country. Everybody gets off the bus, passports are checked (and foreigners are photographed with a webcam).

One by one, we re-enter the bus only to get off a second time only a few dozen meters further. We enter a building, with our luggage this time, and go through a scanning process (which didn’t seem very efficient as I was able to go through with my camera, my keys, my money… without the officials noticing anything).

Although being close to our destination, there’s still 2 hours left before arrival, the problem being the very dense traffic surrounding the city (the most populous metropolitan area of Vietnam with 9 million people).

At last, we arrive in the european neighborhood, where all our recommended hotels are located. We end up at the Blue River, in a small (and calm!) narrow street, where we’re given a map of the district.

We go for a walk. First stop: Ben Thanh Market. It’s a real maze in there! There are mostly textile and souvenir vendors, with a lots of counterfeits (but who cares?). After buying some cool looking bags, we plan to visit the Reunification Palace but it doesn’t appeal to us. So we wander around, visit a church, and end up at the Saigon Zoo and Botanical Gardens where students are practicing their skills on a piece of architecture.
Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City

Watch out! If you pay in dollars, the zoo will cost $2 (40,000 Dongs) but if you pay in Dongs it’s only 8,000! So change your money as soon as you can.
Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City Ho-Chi-Minh City

On a daily basis, around 4 millions vehicles (95% being motorcycles) are filling the streets. Considering the ridiculous amount of motorcycles per square metre (or square foot depending on your ISO compliance level), I must say the noise is not that unbearable. As a matter of fact, I figured that a single vietnamese motorcycle is far less noisy than a single one here in Paris. It must have been a de facto engine specification, as higher noise level would probably turn a thousands of Vietnamese deaf.
The zoo is big but rather old-fashioned. We leave around 6 PM and are surprised by the huge crowd waiting on the sidewalk of the adjacent street for something but we don’t know what! A few minutes later, we understand what this is all about: school’s finished! Hundreds of children come out of the buildings like ants rushing for a piece of cupcake, getting on their parent’s motorcycle and going back home.
As we manage to get through this huge traffic, we approach the Opera area where classy hotels and luxurious buildings have taken place. And though we’re melting in this hot weather, we encounter tons of Christmas decorations everywhere ; it’s a weird feeling and a curious sight.
Back at our hotel, we buy our bus tickets for Mui Ne and go have dinner at the Allez Boo. Food is great.
As we’re looking for a bar, a couple of teenagers, with “Go Go” and “Crazy Buffalo” branded t-shirts, surround us and try to convince us to go to “their” bar. It’s kind of funny so we tell them we’ll go to both, and that’s we end up doing. Although being across from one another, the “competition” is really friendly. They both have the same cocktails, the same music, and surely the same clients.

City 5

Mui Ne

Breaking The Waves

Mui Ne Mui Ne Mui Ne Mui Ne Mui Ne Mui Ne

After a 5 hour bus trip, we arrive at Mui Ne. It’s a long straight road with hotels and restaurants on both sides, and the shore is just behind the trees. We plan to go to the 140 but the Lyly Hotel just accross is only $10 per night. It’s a small and cheap hotel, with clean and silent bedrooms, held by a German and his Vietnamese wife.

After a delicious meal at the Pogo, we walk along the shore and end up at a lovely beach, with clear sand and cool waves. December is a great time to be in Vietnam as there are only few tourists and the weather is nice.

Mui Ne Quick stop at the tremendous sand hills

Mui Ne Sunset and windsurfers

Mui Ne Gorgeous sand hills

Mui Ne Sunset on the South China Sea

We decide to rent a scooter for a day and head for the sand hills. If you want to test your driving skills in Vietnam, plan to do it in Mui Ne because the roads are easy to ride (though they’re really windy sometimes). In search of a nice spot to hang out, we end up finding a remote beach, where we’re literally on our own.

In the evening, the day-long ride has left us tired so we enjoy a well deserved full-body massage (that I highly recommend).

We don’t plan to stay for a second night but rather take the sleeping bus driving overnight. Big mistake…

City 6

Nha Trang

Rainy Resort

The previous night has been the worst of the whole trip. Trying to gain time and money by riding the sleeping bus seemed a good idea at first but the company we chose was terrible. Uncomfortable beds, rough driving, unfriendly and uninformative staff… If you plan to do the same, choose your company wisely. We’ve seen great buses passing by, I wish we knew which one it was exactly.

One of the world's longest cable car, on a stormy day. I stood completely still for 15 min. Awful.

Nha Trang

The Nha Trang from the Vin Pearl Island. Not much to see here.

Nha Trang

Vin Pearl holds a nice aquarium, with fishes and turtles swimming above your head.

Nha Trang

Fun little circus performance with dogs and monkeys.

Nha Trang

Yes: it's Christmas, despite the high temperature. These light reindeers are here to remind us that.

Nha Trang

The food on Vin Pearl Island is excellent. And at night, the view is quite peaceful.

Nha Trang
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Nha Trang is, I guess, the most famous seaside resort in Vietnam.

Unfortunately for us, the weather is awful. It’s the first time we experience rain during the trip.

Nha Trang Nha Trang Nha Trang Nha Trang

The main attraction in the area is the Vin Pearl park.

It’s a recreational resort, located just across the bay. The easiest way to reach the island is to us the cable car (I hate these things).

There’s an aquapark, a small beach, a nice aquarium, plenty of shops & restaurants, video games etc. All in all, the park looks quite cheap compared to western standards but remains a cool place to go with your kids.

Nha Trang Nha Trang Nha Trang Nha Trang

Back at our hotel we book a plane to Hanoi for the following day, thus shortening our stay in Nha Trang due to the bad weather. Taking the plane is the best travelingn choice from south to north Vietnam because the train’s extremely slow (Nha Trang/Hanoi takes 24 hours!).

With the incesssant rain pouring over the city, we drop our plans for any scuba diving or country-side backpacking. The only temple worth visiting is the hard-to-reach Long Son, with its giant Buddha statue. That’w where we have our first bad experience with some locals, who push you into buying their postcards and make you feel bad about it when you don’t. They stay friendly until they realize they won’t get any of your money. You can’t except any selfless act from them.

City 7

Ha Long Bay

Middle of Nowhere

Ha Long Bay

Ha Long Bay is located in northeastern Vietnam, close to Hanoi. Not knowing exactly what to do there, we decide to go for the Red Dragon cruise, which is the #1 thing to do according to tripadvisor.

Our boat is the Dragon Pearl, a beautiful red painted little junk, which will sail for 3 days/2 nights through the Ha Long bay.

We’re 18 guests on board (+ staff), all coming from different countries: USA, Norway, Australia, Singapour, France, Sweden and Belgium. It feels like some Agatha Christie novel setup…

The trip includes:

  • the Hanoi/Ha Long bay rides (they pick you at your hotel and bring you back there)
  • breakfast/lunch/dinner (not the drinks though). There’s no menu but rather 8-10 successive dishes, so you end up testing out a lot of different flavors of high quality cooking.
  • night fishing (not very efficient…)
  • kayaking through the limestone isles
  • visiting a floating fishing village It’s a floating village with 160 inhabitants (35 children) who basically their whole life there. It’s quite an amazing experience to meet such friendly people living in such a remote place.
  • sun bathing and sunset on a beach There aren’t many beaches available in the Ha Long Bay, as most isles are basically monolithic islands.
  • dinner in a cave! The cruise company has managed to “own” a cave where they set up a whole dinner set, as well as build up a light road bordered by candles. Magic.

Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay Ha Long Bay

I really consider this cruise as being the climax of our trip. Everything, whether it’s the sightseeing, the crew, the activities, the food… is close to perfect. I highly recommend it.

City 8

Hanoi

French-flavored Communism

Although being the capital of Vietnam, Hanoi is less populated than Ho-Chi-Minh City.

If you arrive at the aiport, don’t take the taxi! It costs 200 000 Dongs whereas the local bus (number 17) is only 5 000 Dongs/person! Of course it’s less comfortable and takes 20 minutes more, but is so meach cheaper and gives you the opportunity to meet local people. The bus drops you at Long Bien bridge just on the edge of the Old Quarter, where the most interesting hotels and restaurants are located. Plus, it’s not far from everything we want to visit.

Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi

The Old Quarter consists of 36 narrow streets, with old architecture houses. It’s very crowded and quite hard to walk through, but it’s where you basically as being part of the population.

Our first hotel is the Prince 79 Hotel, which I don’t recommend (small room, uncomfortable beds, kind of brown water). The second we stay in is much better: the Amazon Hotel. It’s really clean, well located and quiet, our room is really big for just the two of us. The staff is very friendly and doesn’t try to trick you with higher prices in any way whatsoever.

Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi

Next to the Old Quarter is the Hoan Kiem lake around which much activity takes place. You can visit the small Ngoc Son Temple (Jade Mountain Temple) and take pictures of the isolated Turtle Tower.

South-East of the lake you can find the beautiful Hanoi Opera House, behind which is the Museum of Vietnamese History. We don’t go for a visit but rather have a drink at the “Bon Café”. Elise tries out the avocado smoothie. Weird stuff.

In the back of a small alley not far from the Opera we find the Hanoi Cinematheque in a small cute courtyard. It has only one screen but the restaurant/bar is delicious! We buy our tickets to see “The kids are all alright”, featuring Mark Ruffalo, Annette Bening and Julianne Moore.

The city overall feels vibrant and safe. Our only issue is, as in Ho-Chi-Minh City, crossing the streets... But we gradually get acquainted with the local traffic and slowly acquire the perfect method to walk easily and rapidly.

By the way, you should definitely go to the bar "La Place". My favorite, by far.

Among other places to visit, you can find:

  • Hanoithe Presidential Palace
  • Hanoithe Botanical Garden
  • Hanoithe Hoa Lo Prison
  • Hanoithe Temple of Literature

But the most interesting landmark is the mysterious Ho-Chi-Minh Mausoleum.It’s a soviet-architecture-inspired gray granite building, standing in front of a large yard. The whole area is surrounded by guards. There’s only one public entrance on the side where you have to throw away your bottled water and deposit your camera (that you retrieve after the visit).

Hanoi Hanoi Hanoi

The whole visiting process is fixed by strict rules: remain silent, walk in one line without stopping, no hands in your pocket or arms crossed. The path is guided by a long red carpet that starts outside and continues within and through the building.

In a small hall inside, the dead body of Ho-Chi-Minh is preserved in a glass case. The walk only lasts for a minute or two, after which you end up at the Presidential Palace.

It’s a weird and somewhat creepy experience. The rain pouring on the day of our visit adds to the peculiarness of the moment.

The Perfume Pagoda

A peculiar cave, in a remote location on top of a hill...

Perfume Pagoda Perfume Pagoda Perfume Pagoda

Bonus City

Seoul

In between

Having an 8-hour stopover at Seoul on our way back home, we take this unexpected opportunity to go for a quick visit in the city.

Seoul Seoul

Incheon Airport: so close, and yet so far

South Korea's largest airport is the capital's international hub for civilian air transportation (that's us). It holds a Korean culture museum, a casino, a spa and even a golf course!

But our only concern is to head for the city, located at some 70km / 43mi away...

  • ← Inside the Incheon airport
  • ← Recognizable ad
Seoul Seoul Seoul

Subway: fast and clean

We've got 8 hours to go to the city and back, including the check-out (cross the "frontier") and check-in times.

Our best option is to take the modern subway. It's empty when we first take it (06:00 AM) but it will get crowded soon. We're amazed by how clean it is.

  • How clean is that? →
  • Subway Wi-fi →
  • Signs are in 3 languages →
Seoul Seoul Seoul Seoul

Itaewon: first (wrong) stop

After a 1,5 hour (!) ride, we finally reach our first destination, recommended to us by one of Elise's friend.

It's 8:00 AM. There's almost nobody outside. So we go for a walk... only to lose ourselves in the intricate streets that go up the hill! After wandering aimlessly for an hour, we finally end up at our starting point...

  • ← Incheon
  • ← Times Square... in Seoul
  • ← Nive textures
  • ← Going downhill
Seoul Seoul Seoul

Myeong-dong: shopping fever

One of Seoul's main shopping and tourism districts. It feels like an American commercial area, but with an Asian flavor.

Dunkin Donuts, H&M, Uniqlo... and Starbucks, where we have a last drink. It's 11:30 AM. Time to head back. Our plane takes off at 2:00PM.

  • Asian-style signs →
  • Too cool for school. Who isn't? →
  • Nice facade →

All in all, Seoul feels like an Asian version of an American city.
The architecture, the cars, the streets, the stores... remind me of the US, but the atmosphere carries the charm of Asian culture.