17432076121_f603ffd129_z

Cat Ba Island, Part Two

The first thing we did yesterday was check out of our hotel. We decided to switch to another hotel that has good reviews online. Our new room has a nice view of the harbor and is only $12 per night! As we were checking in the guy at the desk asked if we wanted to attend a show that evening to celebrate the anniversary of Ho Chi Minh visiting the island. I got the impression he was obligated to bring a certain number of guests, including foreigners. We figured it couldn’t hurt to say ‘yes’.

read more

17393770585_0dafd0db60_z

Cat Ba Island, Part One

Friday morning we ate the free (lousy) breakfast from our hotel and then walked up the block to join our rock climbing trip. The company is called Asia Outdoors and apparently they have a pretty good reputation for leading climbing trips. The location where we’d be climbing was a small island in nearby Lan Ha Bay. Even with the low clouds and mist it was a scenic boat ride to get there. Just beyond the boat dock we passed a floating village presumably inhabited by local fishermen and their families. After that we motored through some of the steep limestone rock karsts this area is famous for.

read more

17289760932_e85819b642_z

Huế to Cat Ba Island

Taking another overnight train in Vietnam wasn’t our first choice, given our less than restful train ride from Ho Chi Minh City to Huế. However, we had already bought the train tickets from Huế to Hanoi so we decided to go ahead with another train trip. We didn’t leave Huế until the afternoon so we hung out in the hotel since Caroline wasn’t feeling great.

read more

17277517015_3e98a0c74d_z

A Visit to Huế’s Imperial City

Our day of sightseeting in Huế started out a little rainy and we had to take cover under a gazebo with some locals.

Rainy morning in Huế, Vietnam

Rainy morning in Huế, Vietnam

Locals waiting out the rain

Locals waiting out the rain

After the rain eased up we (bought an umbrella and) walked to the former Imperial City, which also encompasses the Forbidden Purple City, which is the former home of the emperors of Vietnam.

read more

16652411404_a9df9c086a_z 16589289023_c1aeb28338_z

Phnom Penh

Phnom Penh SUV

Phnom Penh SUV

We enjoyed our time in Siem Reap, but it was time to move on to Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh. Our main reason for going there was to catch a flight to Ho Chi Minh City in a couple days. Vietnam’s slightly strict visa requirements make flying into the country easier than crossing a land border. We initially thought about taking a boat from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh, but online reviews made the boats sound like floating death traps, therefore, we took a bus instead.

read more

17023037979_5cdd184b23_z

More Angkor Temples

Yesterday we spent most of the day planning our onward travel to Phnom Penh and we also booked a flight to Venice at the end of the month. Very exciting! In the late afternoon we went to the national museum which had lots of examples of statuary from the Angkor region. These carvings were in much better shape than most we saw the day before at Angkor and it was nice to see how detailed the carvings could be. After the museum we had dinner and walked to the nearby Phare Circus. It’s similar to Cirque du Soleil, but not quite as polished and with less colorful costumes and makeup. We did enjoy the show of acrobatics, contortionists, juggling, and general clowning around.

read more

17013750058_851148f15d_z 16333315503_12857febfa_z

Shopping in Siem Reap

After yesterday’s long day of travel, we took it easy this morning by laying around in our air conditioned hotel room. We started planning our travel into Vietnam since we had to arrange visas before we arrived there. We also heard from our friends in Rochester, the Rosens, who were going to be in Italy in early April. We might be able to meet them in Venice for a day or two if we fly to Europe before then.

read more

16330977104_85959f1c08_z

Crossing into Cambodia

Vendors and jungle near the boat dock

Vendors and jungle near the boat dock

If you’re superstitious, I suppose Friday, March 13th is not a good day to attempt a land border crossing from Thailand into Cambodia. Thankfully we’re barely aware of what day of the week it is while we’re traveling so we went ahead with our travel plans. Our morning started with a crowded minibus from Koh Chang to the border. And when I say crowded, I mean every seat and space between had a person or luggage in it. The scenery was mostly rubber tree plantations and dirt-poor houses along the roadside. At one point we did drive through some impressive limestone hills and cliffs, but that was the only highlight, scenery-wise.

read more

DSC07520

Koh Chang

The ferry boats to Koh Chang were pretty rusty

The ferry boats to Koh Chang were pretty rusty

Tuesday we got up early to catch a taxi over to the train station to then get ourselves to Bangkok’s Eastern Bus Terminal. It was a good thing we set out early because morning traffic in Bangkok is a bit crazy. And by ‘a bit crazy’, I mean unbelievably insane. Cars and scooters just going everywhere, traffic signals hardly matter, it’s incredible. At the bus terminal we bought a ticket for the bus to Koh Chang, number 999, a very lucky number—we’ve been told Thais like the odd numbers, especially the number 9. It was a six hour bus ride to the ferry terminal near the town of Trat, and then a 45 minute crossing to the island of Koh Chang just off the coast in the Gulf of Thailand, where we stayed at the Blue Lagoon Resort for a few days.

read more

16751242741_1fda94f2e5_z

Biking and Boating in Bangkok

On our third full day in Bangkok we were up before the sun in order to join a bike tour led by Co Van Kessel tours, which was a company founded by a dutchman, if you’re wondering about the non-Thai name. Our first stop was at a Chinese shrine.

Early morning start to our bike tour

Early morning start to our bike tour and the first of many photos of Caroline riding her bike. 🙂

Turtle offerings at shrine

Chinese shrine where we found these cute turtle offerings

Chinese Shrine

Dragon rafter design at Chinese shrine

Chinese Shrine

An altar with offerings at the Chinese shrine

After weaving through some quiet Bangkok streets we stopped at a busy market where locals were shopping for all manner of food and some non-food items.

read more