May 062006

Anna and I did a day trip to the Mekong Delta, visiting three different provinces. I was a bit worried going in for a repeat of our Cambodia boat experience, but it was very different. Tourists were a common sight, and there were things geared towards them, but ultimately you were just a momentary blip on the economic radar of the delta. We had a really great time, but a full description will have to wait. Without pictures to help, it would be a whole lot of writing.

We had some pho tonight for dinner, a bit surprised it took us this long, but we’ve had some other culinary adventures. Even just a simple bit of soup is a great thing. I could see them finishing up the next bit of soup stock on the stove, I think I saw the cook pull out about half a cow worth of bones and a bunch of spices. The broth was great, of course.

We also had some fun trying to figure out some of the menu items. Ice towel, for example, is not a typo for tower, aka glass full of ice. (We have seen tower and towel mixed up a few times on signs) It is an iced towel in plastic; used to cool your lips down after a good crunch on a pepper. They like ’em hot here.

The pho was great, but on the way back to the hotel I had to order a banh mi sandwich from a street vendor. There was a crowd, and it looked like some great stuff. It was predicatbly better than the ones back in north america. Probably more nasty, tasty, bits in the meat over here – the patte was great. A banh mi is always a cheap meal in the US – about 2 or 3 bucks a sub. Saigon has that beat though, 5000d, or about 33 cents.

Tomorrow, it is off to the Cholon aka Chinatown part of Saigon. Supposed to be pretty fun. I can’t wait, Saigon hasn’t dissapointed us yet.

May 052006

Donating blood was an interesting experience, but I’ll leave that for Anna to write about. Directly after that it was off to the airport and a quick flight to HCMC aka Saigon.

The difference between Saigon and Siem Reap is huge. Cambodia was slow paced, well touristed, and still struggling with the explosion of hotels. HCMC is fast, stylish, and relatively modern. We have had a great couple of days here. Vietnam is amazing. Lots to tell, but only 15 minutes to check email and post.

Mar 012006

It looks like Anna and I will be visiting Siem Reap (Angkor, Cambodia) and Vietnam in early May. Initially we were going to do a tour to Angkor, then just travel on our own through Vietnam. However the cost of the tour + flights to Saigon, Hanoi, and back to Siem Reap were about $400 more than flights going from LAX->Siem Reap->Saigon->Hanoi->LAX. The relatively low travel cost in these countries made that extra money seem like a lot to spend. Doing it from the tour would have also meant more travel time overall. So.. Flight package it is.

It looks like our itinerary will be something like this: 4 days in Siem Reap (Angkor), 4 days in Saigon, 3 days in Hanoi, 2 in Halong Bay. Anyone who has traveled in these countries is probably screaming “not enough time!” I know, but there never is. I have two weeks to spend. I’d like to spend them here. There are many other places in the world to visit, but I feel a sense of urgency about these countries.

Much like Peru, I see Cambodia and Vietnam as very changed by tourism in the last decade, but posed for even greater infrastructure and cultural changes as they become tourist destinations. It is already too late in some respects – 4 star resorts and all that jazz. I know from my experience at Machu Picchu that my enjoyment of ruins in particular is directly related to how much free space I have to roam. Selfish? Of course. I hope we can avoid some of the rush by going in a lower season – its going to be hot, and it will be just before the summer break. Angkor is also a very large area, so I hope there will still be many opportunities to explore away from the crowds. Time will tell.