Bec and Paul are trundling through Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia until school is back in March 2009. They insist on keeping a blog despite the facebook thing being much more likely to attract any interest.


Home Again

Well we made it all the way home finally. Our house is as it was (seriously we had a few people stay a while and I don't think they touched anything). Even the junk mail I dumped on the kitchen table was still there. Sigh. The only change was in my garden, which was just beginning to look nice when we left. Most of it is now dead.

Last night I accidentally stayed up until 4am. Will have to reset that clock when I get the chance.

Once I get Photoshop CS4 installed, I will be able to upload plenty of photos to the blog. We can reminisce about how happy we were.

It's funny being home. I went to look for a jumper (Melbourne is cold!) and was overwhelmed by choice. I have way too many clothes all of a sudden. Also I'm trying to keep everything as neat as possible, as I have a great head start. So far this is going well, except for over on Paul's desk where there's currently one bowl, one tea cup, two spoons and a glass half full of Milo. I won't say anything until we run out of cutlery.

So stay tuned for some depressing anecdotes of life in Melbourne, and some more photos of the trip.



Not Dead and Not Stranded

Woot! We made it to Darwin without much incident. The pilot did turn on the seatbelt sign at one stage, and we were all going to die, but it turned out ok.

We filed off the plane to the sirens of the fire alarm, and were informed 40 minutes later that we didn't need to evacuate. Baggage took a while but not too long, declared all my wooden tidbits to the amusement of our friendly swat team guy. This time only the Asians were drilled about their business in Vietnam and Australia, it's nice to see some racial profiling by a (ginger) security worker every now and then.

Meanwhile, at the Darwin domestic terminal, Paul and I are stalking Paul Macurio (I don't know how to spell his name... I'd google it, but he might see. *edit: It's Mercurio) Paul is more interested in the camera guy and his equipment(pun intended).

We've spent more money than we have in a week on a coffee, a juice and a sandwich, despite the fact that we're getting breakfast on the plane in half an hour.

See you all in Melbourne. Or hell. Depending on how the flight goes. (And on what you think of Melbourne.)



With only a few hours until our exit from Saigon, I think it's time to reflect, summarise, and make sweeping generalisations about the three countries I have visited.

1. Cambodia has a garbage problem.

A big one. A waist deep one. As soon as our mega bus crossed the border, we started noticing roadside rubbish piles. The cleanest spots we found were probably Serendipity Beach in Sihanoukville (I will mention the conditions of this statement momentarily) and the Angkor temples.

So Sihanoukville did have a rubbish problem, but it also had big bins for businesses and we did witness a garbage truck actually collecting garbage. I say Serendipity Beach was clean, and it was, and we were surprised by this. The however is a large one and it comes when you walk down the beach beyond the wall to wall restaurants and you see some sand. This is where the rubbish ends up. It spreads until the tourist spot starts up again 4km down the coast. The bottles and cans are collected by very young children, under the stern eye of their grandmother or something. Everything else stays on the sand, or ends up in the water. The spread of litter is thick and it goes far.

The Angkor Park is pretty well maintained, and relatively clean, if I remember correctly. The word relatively is the important one here, as it means in comparison to the waist deep rubbish piles we saw in the rest of the country.

2. Vietnam has an attitude to garbage problem.

This was best evidenced in Sa Pa, where I tried to pocket a wrapper in front of my H'moung homies Zi and Chi. I intended to carry it around with me all day, and put it in my little rubbish bag when I returned to my room.

Chi stopped me. 'You throw it in the gutter!' She took the wrapper off me and demonstrated.
'No, you need to put it in the bin!'
'No people sweep it up. People pay.'
She was referring to the varitable army of street sweepers you see employed all over Vietnam. These guys walk the streets pushing rather large wheelie bins sweeping up rubbish and collecting it from businesses. The streets are pretty clean as a result of their work. However, a short walk to the edge of a ledge in Sa Pa will reveal a waterfall of rubbish, decorating the side of the hill. This gets blown or washed out of reach of the street sweepers and ends up in the waterways. No one seems to see this as a problem.

3. Cats in Cambodia and Laos are hunted for their tails.

Not really. But every cat we saw in both of these countries had a big problem with their tail. Either it was completely missing, cut in half, bent in half, bent in thirds, broken in three places and twisted in a coil (we named this one Pussistence) or completely mangled in any number of other ways. It was a bit of a hold your breath moment when we crossed the border between Cambodia and Laos (finally) and we saw our first Lao cat. The mangled tale syndrome, we found, was not limited by the border.

From what we saw, Vietnamese cats are free from this condition.

4. The SE Asian mantra is "Anything you can do, I can charge money for".

Be it finding a room, a shoeshine, transport, laundry, carrying of bags, locating train station platforms... It's all on offer for a price in SE Asia.

5. It is plainly evident why the singing bird was caged.

Caging birds is a big thing in SE Asia. In homes and businesses, they are caged for their birdsong. They even cage the ugly ones, like indian miners, as their song is still impressive. Although I am still unclear as to why they cage the pidgeons.

At temples, the tiny cages are not much bigger than the tiny birds. They are sold to tourists and worshippers, so they may be set free for good luck. I have it on biblical authority (source: lonely planet) that these birds are trained to return to their owners, to be recaged and resold.

6. It is plainly evident why the caged dog is quiet.

In Hoi An we saw a cage full of dogs strapped to the back of a motorbike. The same cage would have housed about 15 chickens, all crammed in. This time it held three dogs, all crammed in. They looked like the neglected down-trodden dogs you see on RSPCA ads, only these ones had no looks in their eyes of 'Why!?' They were raised in these conditions and will die in them. Not a sound from them.

7. In all three countries, if you don't want a ride on a motorbike, clearly you are in want of marijuana instead. And if (in the unlikely event) you do not want marijuana, surely you are in need of opium.

It becomes a habit of chirping out a sing-song "No-thank-youuu" in response to the moto driver's "Hello moto!". When they follow with a more shady "Marijuana?" your habitual sing-song reply seems out of place.

8. SE Asian children are sadists.

How many dogs have I seen chased and kicked and tormented by children over here!? Also we witnessed a gecko shot to pieces (literally) by two kids sporting a pellet gun with a laser sight. At a hill top temple in Luang Prabang in Laos, a boy carried around his caged bird all day instead of releasing it for luck. We saw him swinging the little cage at his side as if it were a bag of lollies. There seems to be no general lesson of be nice to animals over here.

9. There is no water shortage in South East Asia.

People in Australia are publicly lynched if they are caught watering down their front step. People in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam not only water their front step, but also their entire driveway, and the road outside their house within a ten metre radius.

Guesthouse Review

The sale of this tee paid for about two thirds of a night at the following guesthouse.

NHU Guesthouse
Saigon, Vietnam
$8 USD per night


A sign!
A precarious three story climb up ladder steps.
Two single beds (can be pushed together!)
Hot and cold water showers
An adorable basin
A balcony
A bird's eye view of the alley
Cable TV
A table!


Guesthouse Review

The sale of this tee paid for about two thirds of a night at the following guesthouse.

Nice Dreams Guesthouse
Dalat, Vietnam
$11 USD per night


Complimentary buffet breakfast.

Homely kitchen.
Early morning sunshine.Banana pancakes!Snazzy bathroom with NO ventilation and a funny smell.
Hot water and functional toilet.Cable TV with three movie channels!
Swavo dresser, big bed, mosquito net.
A nice chair and a not external window.
A complimentary hairbrush with complimentary hair. Gross.A water feature with six goldfish and two dead turtles, also with a funny smell, left on the rocks for decoration.


Saigon Again

Four days in Dalat and we can't wait to get home. One afternoon in Saigon and suddenly we're in no hurry. We found (were shown by a crazy lady in a blue shirt with a badge on it) an awesome little guesthouse down three alleys, each one smaller than the last. We're up three flights of tiny ladder stairs (I have no idea how we're going to get our bags back down!) in a room with cable tv and hot water and a tiny balcony from which we can jump to three of the neighbouring buildings. Two opposing fans create a nice tornado above our bed. This is good as it is really hot again. Saigon apparantly has two seasons, wet hot and dry hot.

There are two long term guests staying in the other rooms, a Canadian on the second floor and an Australian on the first.

Tomorrow we will eat as much Pho as possible and maybe take a sun sauna. Good for the complexion.


Last Stop Saigon

Today we catch the 7.30am bus to Saigon. Our ticket says we should arrive at 3pm. It will be a long day! We're hoping to squeeze in breakfast or risk starvation.