Time away: 20 days
Distance covered: Approx. 1,600 km (not incl. flights) or 10,050 km (incl. flights)
Cities visited: Seven (Ho Chi Minh city, Can Tho, Chau Doc, Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, Battambang, Kep)
Ho Chi Minh City – Can Tho – Chau Doc – Phnom Penh – Siem Reap
- Battambang – Phnom Penh – Kep – Phnom Penh
- Planes: to Asia
- Cars (taxis)
- Buses: 4
- Train: the bamboo train in Battambang
- Boats: 3 – the boat to the floating market in Can Tho, and two boats to get from Chau Doc, Vietnam to Phnom Penh, Cambodia
- Moto(bike) – only once so as not to miss the boat to Cambodia (scary)
- Tuk tuks: several
- Walking: many hours
- Elephant: 1 – around the temples in Angkor
- Monkeys: several around the temples, zero in the jungle near Kep
- Frogs: 5 – in and around our jungle bungalow in Kep (including one in the toilet that I had to fish out!)
- Bugs, spiders, mosquitos: many, many, many
- Geckos: a few in our bungalow (geckos are my friends – they eat the mozzies)
- Wasps: there were some hives on the ceiling of our bungalow – but we left them alone and they left us alone
- Butterflies: many at the Banteay Srey Buttefly Centre (near Siem Reap), some in the jungle
- Bats – in the caves we explored in Kep
- Dogs: many with people in the cities, some running around in the jungle (including two gorgeous puppies)
- Cats: a few, usually in pagodas
- Cows: everywhere
- Jungle rats and snakes: zero!! Hooray!!!
Most impressive sight: The temples of Bayon and Ta Prohm in Angkor; mountain views in Kep
Most adventurous things done:
- Staying in the tree top bungalow in the jungle in Kep, with open windows (no glass), minimal electricity, no lights at night, outside bathroom, and the risk of jungle rats (disclaimer: I’m not really a camper)
- Riding on the back of a moto in Chau Doc
- Crossing the road in Ho Chi Minh City (more on this later)
Best drink: fresh coconut juice; lime juice
Best food: Pho at Pho Hoa in Ho Cho Minh city; food at the local vegetarian restaurant in Can Tho *; kampot pepper seafood in Kep (my one non-vegetarian concession); wood fired pizza at Jasmine Valley Resort in Kep.
Books read while overseas: 3 - Behind the Beautiful Forevers by Katherine Boo, Some Kind of Fairy Tale by Graham Joyce, and The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry by Rachel Joyce. I’d highly recommend the first and the last (though perhaps only the last if you’re a sentimental creature like me).
Self-love card carried on travels: “I choose to embrace the beauty of this moment and allow this moment to embrace me”.
* Story about the local restaurant in Can Tho: Can Tho is a relatively small city – not many people speak English (except uni students). We were wandering around trying to find a vegetarian restaurant; something local. We spotted one with “chay” in the title (which we’d figured out means vegetarian) and went in. The place was full of locals. Everyone looked at us strangely and with curiosity. The restaurant owners seemed very confused. It was clear that Westerners never went in there and we didn’t really belong. But we didn’t feel unwelcome. The restaurant owners were very kind to us – they sat us down and brought us food. Ordering something specific was out of the question because we couldn’t understand each other, but they brought us out noodles in broth, steamed rice and stir fried vegetables. Lots of delicious food cooked in amazing spices. We had a great dinner and an amusing experience being stared at by the other patrons the entire time. When we left, the bill came to a grand total of 36,000 VND – that’s less than $2. (A rough measure is that 20,000 dong = $1). We couldn’t believe how cheap it was! We left a hefty tip (by Vietnamese standards). I hope they had as positive an experience of us as we did of them.