Author Archive

Motorcyle Diaries

August 1, 2010

We had a choice. Either take a gruelling 16 hour bus ride from Siem Reap to Pakse in southern Laos or pay $80 for a 40-minute flight. Ok, this wasn’t a hard choice but I was slightly concerned about the dodgy reputation of national airlines in this part of the world.

My doubts could not have been more misplaced. From start to finish Laos Airlines was the best flight experience I’ve ever had. The flight left 20 minutes early due to everyone being ready to go, we were given a meal despite the journey lasting just over half an hour, and we went through passport control (including applying for and collecting our Laos visas) in just 10 minutes. We were in Pakse two hours ahead of schedule.

But that’s where we waved goodbye to modern living and opened our arms to laconic Laos life.

On the road in Laos

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Phnom-enal

July 26, 2010

Phnom Penh is a surprisingly cool and cultured city. That is, compared to its South East Asian neighbours (not that hard). Once you get passed the usual mess of traffic and rubbish, there are lots of hip bars and restaurants and an array of interesting architecture from old school palaces and temples to very new school city mansions.

Decorative architecture in Phnom Penh

So what did we do in this capital of cool? We bought baggy travellers trousers and ate big bugs, of course.

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Do Miss Mekong

July 16, 2010

We had decided to take a two-day tour through the Mekong Delta on our way to our last stop in Vietnam, the fabled Phu Quoc island. Over the next two days we would watch local dwellers throw huge bags of rubbish into the river then bathe and cook in the same water. We would hold our breath as various bloated animal carcasses floated perilously close to our boat. And we would discover the armpit of Vietnam, a town called Rach Gia where no tourist should ever find themselves. Clearly, the Mekong Delta tour was not the best part of our trip.

Muddy waters

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Don’t Miss Saigon

July 15, 2010

Thankfully, Ho Chi Minh City (formerly Saigon) was a lot less hectic than Hanoi and lot more organised. It even had a supermarket where you can buy items for the price that is written on them rather than having to haggle for every product as we had done until now.

We didn’t stay too long in the city but we enjoyed it nonetheless. Whilst there we visited the War Remnants Museum, a haunting reminder of the atrocities committed by the Americans on the Vietnamese people. It is an exhibition that every person in the US should see but probably won’t. The museum also offered a stunning picture gallery from photographers who died during the war and who took an array of brutal yet beautiful images of battle in the countryside.

The US military vehicles outside the War Remnants Museum offer an ominous introduction to the exhibition

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Suits and Scuba

July 9, 2010

After our first two weeks in Vietnam we were a little disappointed with the country. We had been really looking forward to visiting this region, famed for its amazing food, friendly people and picturesque coastline. Manna, who is probably the world’s number one fan of Vietnamese Pho soup, was particularly excited about Vietnam and had been dreaming of this trip for most of her adult life.

Yet, so far the people had been friendly only when trying to rip you off, the food was hit and miss, and the beauty was tainted by man-made pollution. But then we arrived in Hoi An and everything changed.

Hoi An by night

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Halong Amazes (but for how long?)

June 21, 2010

Halong Bay is one of the most beautiful places on earth. So it is a shame it is ruined by tourists. Being two of those tourists we were both delighted to be there and sad to be contributing to the many problems in the area – mainly due to pollution from the boats and rubbish from the visitors.

Bays and boats

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Hanoi-ing

June 21, 2010

The best thing about Hanoi was our hotel room. It boasted two double beds, a large plasma screen TV, a Jacuzzi bath tub and a strong wifi signal (a rare commodity in Vietnamese hotels). We were served with delicious Pho soup and fresh mango juice every morning and the hotel owner, Mr Tung, was incredibly welcoming and helpful.

Outside our sanctuary lay chaos and confusion, which crawled across all corners of central Hanoi. The first thing you notice about Vietnam’s capital city is that there are no rules of the road. The streets swarm with motorbikes, buses, trucks, taxis, bicycles, cycle-rickshaws and the occasional horse-drawn cart, none of them obeying any consistent approach to driving.

Beware of the bikes!

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A Kind of Magic

June 4, 2010

The main aim of our Australia trip was to visit the Great Barrier Reef. So we were more than a little alarmed when the day before we were due to arrive in Airlie Beach to begin our two-night tour of the Reef and the nearby Whitsunday Islands we were told that we had been double booked and there was no room for us on the boat.

A ropey situation on Airlie Beach

After a 10-hour bus from Cairns to Airlie we were no more certain of getting a place on our tour or any other. This was on a Thursday night and our original boat was due to leave on the Saturday morning. The next day we headed straight to the agency ready for battle with the inept girl that had wrecked our booking.

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Misiones Improbable

May 24, 2010

From Buenos Aires we headed north to the humid, subtropical climate of Misiones and its Iguazú Falls, where sunshine and warmth are virtually guaranteed throughout the year. It rained for the next seven days.

Its wet up north

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Big Ice

May 6, 2010

From Torres del Paine we headed north into Argentine Patagonia and the small tourist town of El Calafate. We went there with one mission – to walk on the Perito Moreno glacier. The mission was a massive (massif?) success.

Approaching the glacier

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