Saturday, October 24, 2009

15th to 22nd October - Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Sihanoukville was a welcome relief from the constant ream of cities we'd found ourselves in. It was a beach resort, a little touristy but with enough local flavour to make it a pleasant experience.

We had a long journey, we'd already booked a ticket on the crap bus from Siem Reap back to Phnom Penh so we had to get another bus from Phnom Penh to Sihanoukville. We chose a different and much better bus company called Paramount. All in all it was a 12 hour trip.

We got to Sihanoukville and stayed at a hotel called Beach Road. It was lovely and had a great pool. The hotels we've stayed at in Cambodia have all been really good. We were pretty tired that night and went across to a place called Monkey Republic for dinner. Low and Behold..... I bumped into Simon again. We also met up with some of Lena's friends that night went off to a place called Utopia for a few drinks. It was good fun.

The next day was spent having a dip in the pool and then we explored the town. It's very much driven towards tourists and you can tell that in about 5 years time it's probably going to be ruined and look like a tacky Ibiza... I truly hope not. It would be a real shame.

We also went out to seek a place for a massage and happened upon this little shack that was pretty cheap. An hour of pain later (I still have the bruises on my legs) and we realised that cheap is not always good.... Ouch.

We went to Monkey Republic again that night to meet Simon and also met a kiwi guy called Dan who was travelling alone. We ended up going to Utopia again which seemed like the late night place to go in Serendipity Beach. Again it was a good laugh.

The next day we planned to go to a place called The Airport which is a club with a plane inside it. Very odd. Lena and I also booked a trip to Koh Rung for the next day. We spent the day exploring Sihanoukville downtown. It wasn't worth the trip.. Really dull and nothing to see to be honest. Although we did bump into this really cute kid and his mum. He must have been just over 1 year old and he looked at us so I waved hello. His mum beckoned us over so I got down on my haunches and said hello to the little fella. He then pursed his mouth into a kiss and closed his eyes. It was sweet. All the watching locals were laughing.

That night we went to Airport Club via Victory Beach. Oh my god, Victory Beach was terrible. It was a street full of brothel bars. We left pretty quickly. We did see one worrying episode while we were there though. This grey haired guy, I think he was German from his accent went to one of the bars and was saying hello to all of the girls. He then pulled out a knife and started waving it around them... It was pretty scary so we made a quick exit. Airport Club was bizarre... it really has got a plane inside it... A little crazy. Again, we didn't stop for long. I think the best part of Sihanoukville is around Serendipity Beach. The other places are just a little to Red Light District for my liking. It's an unfortunately all too familiar sight in SE Asia....

The next day we went to Lazy Beach, a resort on Koh Rung island for some relaxation. It's pretty cool, you have to swim out to the boat that takes you to the island. It was pretty rough seas and the journey was like a rollercoaster ride. The boat was tipping from side to side and we were glad to anchor up ojust off Lazy Beach. The same drill applied and we had to swim from the boat to the beach. It was good fun and the water was warm and clear.

We spent three days doing nothing but relaxing at Lazy Beach. I would recommend it to everyone. It's such a beautiful island. Chris, one of the owners, is a great guy and the food is excellent. We were on the island with 8 others and we all got on really well. The gecko's they have on the Island are huge though. You find them on your wall when you get back from the bar.

I was sad to leave Lazy Beach but we had to head back to Phnom Penh. I had to get a flight to Bangkok the next day and Lena was flying back to Melbourne. It was great travelling around with Lena, she's such a laugh. I really have met some wonderful people and made some excellent friends on my trip. I'm very lucky to have had the chance to spend time with them all.

We got a great welcome back at Me Mates Place in Phnom Penh and spent a night there. I left Cambodia wishing I had more time there. It was an amazing place with such wonderful people. I'd definitely like to go back.

12th to 15th October - Siem Reap

We travelled up to Siem Reap, the roads were sketchy and there were obsvious signs of the floods that had impacted Cambodia the weeks before we arrived. I was very excited to see Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. It completed what has been a memorable time for me in terms of seeing some of the worlds most important monuments and sites. I've now seen The Grand Canyon, Osorno Volcano, Black Glacier at Bariloche, Statue of Christ in Rio, Machu Pichu, Dead Sea, Petra, Taj Mahal and the Ganges River and now Angkor Wat.

We stayed at a place called Mekong Palace Hotel and the best news was that it had a swimming pool. It was pretty warm in Siem Reap and we really appreciated having a pool at our disposal. That night we went out for a very nice meal at a posh restaurant near our hotel. Exactly what was needed.

The next day we relaxed and took a lazy stroll around Siem Reap after a swim. The main road of Siem Reap is literally a dirt track full of holes. It's terrible. But somehow, Siem Reap has this magical charm about it. I loved the place. We went off in search of a place called Pub Street, so called because it has a lot of pubs on it... amazing huh.

We found ourselves being talked in to taking a fish massage. Now, this is an interesting concept. They get these fish from Turkey who eat dead skin from the bottom of your feet. It's something i've wanted to try for a while and it was a very entertaining experience. When you first put your feet in it feels really weird. Like little bubbles bursting on your feet. But then you start to relax with it and it ends up feeling amazing. Makes you're feet really smooth too which is so important after all of the walking i've done....

We were joined by a group of local girls aged between 8 and 14 trying to sell us stuff. I got chatting to one who was a real character and started showing off with my eyebrow juggling and some other tricks... It made them laugh... I then showed them this game that Simon showed me in Laos were you make the figure zero with your thumb and your forefinger and hold below the eyeline of your victim. If they look at the hole, you're allowed to punch them on the arm. If they put their finger in the hole without you catching it, they can punch you on the arm. The girls loved it and ended up playing the game for the next few days everytime we saw them... I'm pleased to say that I told them the game was called Andy's Game so now they'll tell everyone they meet about the game and it's name.. Sorry Simon... :)

We went out to see a cultural show that evening and then had a Cambodia BBQ which was very nice. We met a German guy called Wolfgang and went to a bar to play pool called Temple. It was full of the usual suspects, Old Western Men, Prostitutes etc.... Good fun though.

The next day we'd arranged to go to see the sun rise in Angkor Wat. The alarm was set for 4.30am and we had to meet our tuk-tuk driver at 5am if we were to make it there. When I woke up it was around 7.30am and it dawned on me that the alarm didn't exactly work... oops.

The poor tuk-tuk driver had been outside waiting since 4.45am and was still outside waiting for us at 8am eager as a beaver. Bless him.

We spent an exhausting day touring the temples of Angkor Wat, Angkor Thom etc until we could take no more. There's one temple where you climb up these really narrow steps.. Lena and I both struggled a bit and I ended up helping these Japanese tourists out as well as they were having real difficulty climbing up. But I was glad we all made it up. The view was something else. Problem was, getting down was even more difficult. It made for an interesting challenge. :)

After about 3 or 4 hours we were knackered and asked the driver to take us back to the pool. The weather was hot and we were both templed out. On the way back, we passed an orphanage which had the sign outside saying "Come and see our childrens paintings. They love to meet you". We stopped and went inside just as the kids were about to have lunch.

It was a fantastic experience. These kids are so happy and so friendly and just delighted to see us. They all ran up to us saying hello and holding our hands. So sweet. It makes you fill up with tears... The guy showing us around was in his early 20's and had been at the orphanage for 13 years. He now helps out by teaching the kids art. He's going to university to study art. I wish him all the best. He does a great job.

We stayed for about an hour chatting and playing with these wonderful children before buying a picture and saying goodbye. I'd love to go back and see them again someday it was one of the most worthwhile experiences i've had on my travels.

That night we went out for a couple of drinks and some food. We were travelling back to Phnom Penh the next day on route to Sihanoukville on the Cambodian coast.

10th to 12th October - Phnom Penh

We got the bus up to Phnom Penh and the bus was awful. Certainly the worst bus I have been on in South East Asia. We travelled with a company called PhnomPenhSorya... if you ever go to Cambodia, don't travel with them... it's a local bus disguised as a tour bus...

The bus was pretty average and it had an area that they claimed was a toilet... looked a bit more like a dump site to me. They had the air con on super freezing so for a fair few hours we sat there shivering until I figured out I could stuff the curtain up into the a/c vent and block it off... That was fine until my seat broke. All in all, a terrible experience. We got to the border after a few hours and had to go through the motions of having our bags checked.

It was so lacks that I could have taken anything through.... Still I managed to complete my SE Asia stamps with one for Cambodia in my now very well inked passport...

We finally arrived in Phnom Penh and checked into one of the best places I've stayed in SE Asia called Me Mates Place on Street 90. It's run by an Aussie guy from Melbourne and it's like walking in to a friends house. The staff are great, very friendly and they can't do enough for you. It really made our stay in Phnom Penh a pleasure.

We checked in and then headed out for dinner. Had a few cocktails and a nice meal before hitting the night market. We found another drinking venue and ended up at a place called Pontoon which is on a boat on the river. It was great fun and the Mojito's were quite special actually. Very impressive. I remember walking in and looking over the bar in complete surprise as a familiar face came in to view. It was Simon who I was travelling around north Thailand and Laos with.

It was great to catch up chatting about the different places we'd been to since Laos and we had a good night.

The next day we went to see the Killing Fields. For those that don't know what this is, it's a place where the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot murdered thousands and thousands of Cambodians all in the pursuit of an 'egalitarian' state. It has to be one of the most shocking experiences I've ever had. You can't imagine humans acting with such utter cruelty. They say at the Killing Fields that the people that committed these atrocities took a human form but were for all intents and purposes evil monsters and not real people. I couldn't put it in any better words. Absolutely shocking.... It felt odd taking pictures but it was difficult not too.

We stopped at S21 also which is the interrogation prison in Phnom Penh. Again a place filled with absolute hatred ad evil. The atmosphere felt heavy.

S21 was a former school which was then used as an interrogation facility. They have turned it into a museum so you can see how the prisoners were treated. It was very difficult to understand how people can treat other humans in such ways. You go to these places and wonder how Cambodian people can have such big smiles and warm hearts. They have to be some of the most friendly people I have met on my travels and for a country that has suffered so much it's an amazing thing to experience their hospitality.

I was glad to leave S21 as it was a very upsetting place. I'm glad I went and now understand what happened under Pol Pot. I think it's important to know about these historical events to educate people to ensure these things cannot happen again.

That night we went out for dinner again but the mood was sombre as you could imagine. The next day we headed to Siem Reap, unfortunately we had tickets on the same bus company as before so the journey was torrid to say the least.

5th to 10th October - Mekong Delta and Ho Chi Minh City

The flight to Mekong Delta was a little bumpy to say the least. We were sad to leave Phu Quoc behind but it's always exciting going to somewhere new.

We got to Rach Gia airport and looked for transport to take us to Can Tho. One of the taxi drivers offered us the two hour journey for something like $50 but we'd heard there was a bus that could get us there for much less so we declined. We got to the bus station and there was this very packed mini bus about to head off. It turned out this was the bus to Can Tho... We just about squeezed on and the ticket guy tried to con us out of money. We argued our case and got it for the price we should have. I hate that about SE Asia. Just because we're Western doesn't mean we're all rich.... grrr

Anyway, our bags were packed on the roof with no visible sign of rope securing it. That coupled with the bumpy road and the low lying clouds threatening rain made for an interesting journey. Dennis and I took on the role of bag watcher. Everytime we went over a bump we both looked out of the rear window to see if any bags had dropped... It was a little concerning to say the least but apart from a couple of minor showers, everything turned out ok. Uncomfortable, but ok.

We got to Can Tho bus stop and spent the next hour trying to figure out if we were going to stay over for a night or do some sightseeing and get a late bus to Ho Chi Minh... We ended up opting to sightsee and get the hell out of there as quick as possible.

Some guy sold us a tour of the floating markets... Oh my god, what a complete load of crap that tour was. It only cost $5 but we got onto a boat that was less than sea worthy. The guy who spoke English and sold the tour to us disappeared, we were captained around by a woman who didn't speak English at all, the floating market had ended for the day so was just a whole load of boats attached to each other without anything else. To top it all of, we were running late and hadn't had any lunch. We asked to go for food and had to be back for the bus in 1 hour. We got to a food garden and established that it would take us 1 hour to get the boat back to near the bus stop.... In addition to that the heavens opened and it pissed it down with rain... All in all it was a shit situation. It rained so much that one of the catfish that was in the tanks waiting to be eaten escaped thanks to the rising water level. We found it on the ground flapping about in rain water...

We told the woman we'd get a cab back and finished our average meals quickly. It was a blessing to get to the bus station and settle ourselves on the bus to Ho Chi Minh. The bus was ok, comfortable enough but played some dodgy chinese films. We slept most of the way.

We got to Ho Chi Minh late and went through the usual hassle of trying to find a hotel. We finally agreed on one and checked in. Tal had decided to head to Dalat the next day so it was our last night together as a group of 5. That evening we went for dinner to a very local place.. It was err...interesting. I have to admit, I really liked Ho Chi Minh City. It was clean and busy but in a very manageable way.

The next morning we got up early to wish Tal well and helped her to the bus. Lena and I spent most of the morning finding a new hotel for the remainder of our stay in Ho Chi Minh. We found a great place with a balcony, hot water, a/c for very cheap. It was great.

Later on we had a walk around the city and headed for the Diamond Plaza shopping centre... Dangerous territory when you have a credit card. I tried out the massage chair for $1000. It was amazing.... We then went to the night market and checked out the stalls etc. I have to admit, i've seen that many night markets that they all blend in to one after a while. . We happened upon a German Beer Keller and a BBQ garden so decided that that would be a great way to spend the evening with Dennis and Nadia.

The beer keller was a little weird because it was full of drunk Vietnamese people but the BBQ garden was great. We ended up at a bar called Allez Boo and then Go2 near our hotel. Both were interesting places for people watching. Lots of sad old western men being chatted up by prostitutes. It's almost like a sport in Ho Chi Minh.

The next day, I ended up getting a haircut which was scary. Had been growing my hair for a while fearful of what a haircut in a foreign land would look like but it was all ok. We walked past some beauty salons that were hilarious. They were full of young girls around early 20's all dressed and looking the same. I nicknamed them the Stepford Girls Salons, it was like something out of the Robert Palmer video, Addicted to Love. Very funny.

We went back to the nigh market that evening to grab a bite to eat and met a couple of characters there. These two young kids selling the typical trinkets you find in these places. I bought some postcards off one of them and she was very cheeky..

Dennis and Nadia left the next day but we met up for brunch. It was excellent travelling around with Dennis and Nadia, they are truly two of the nicest people you could hope to spend time with. I hope to see them in Sydney soon.

Lena and I spent the next few days exploring the shops and sights of Ho Chi Minh City. We had a spa treatment which was amazing, we searched for sunglasses for me and an electronics shop for Lena, we watched the sport between the prostitutes and the old western men. It was good fun.

We also went to the Cu Chi Tunnels which was very interesting. It's an immense series of tunnels that was used by the Viet Cong in the Vietnam War. We crawled through the tunnels which was frightening because of how narrow it was. Only 1.4m high to begin with getting to just 0.8 metres high. I got out after 40 metres of the 120 metre tunnel because I was feeling uncomfortable but Lena managed to go 70 metres.

I even got to fire an AK47. It felt odd. The noise is so loud.

We left Ho Chi Minh on Saturday 10th October and headed to Cambodia.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

2nd to 5th October - Phu Quoc

What a haven Phu Quoc island was. After the turmoil of the last few days, we so needed to escape. I travelled there with Tal, Lena, Dennis and Nadia. Again the usual hawkers were willing us into their beach resorts as we left the airport.

We grabbed flyers and compared notes before deciding to go to the Tropicana Resort on Long Beach. I couldn't and still can't get the song Club Tropicana by Wham out of my head.... Unfortunately at this Tropicana, the drinks weren't free although there was fun for everyone...

The bonus was that the hotel had a pool as well as a beach front. It was ideal for what we wanted. I shared a beach bungalow with Tal and Lena. The first day we pretty much chilled by the hotel and went for a swim. We met an interesting dutch guy called Leslie who was full of opinions and claimed to be a professional showjumper...

He also recommended a place for dinner and as he'd been on the island for a few months we thought we trust his advice. We got ready and Lena got the fright of her life when she almost put her hand on a huge Gecko that had positioned itself on our curtains....

From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


The restaurant was a little out of the way and stank of fish sauce but in fairness to Leslie, the food was very good. It got a little worrying when it started raining so we went inside. The inside was similar to a school disco except there were flea bitten dogs running around.

From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


When they tried to open a bottle or white wine but pushing the cork into the bottle we realised they weren't expert waiting staff.... Then, when we complained about the fact that the wine had the cork in it, they went off and tried to fool us by pouring the wine into another bottle.... Only problem was they poured white wine into a red wine bottle... Idiots...

We got another bottle which they opened at the table but it made for an entertaining experience. Ha ha ha....

From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


We then had a few drinks on our terrace back at the hotel.

From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


The next day we headed to a beautiful beach called Sao Bai. It took about 40 mins to get there along a very bumpy dirt road but it was worth it. The beach was golden, the water was aqua, still and warm. It was perfect.

From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


We spent the day there and Dennis and Tal even took the time to build a Buddha out of Sand....

From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


That night we met Andries and Jayne from South Africa and went to the night market which was err.... small and compact... Still good fun though. We had dinner in an Australian themed restaurant where they spelt Australia 'Uustralia' Very authentic. The waitress was good fun though and I was joking around with her by claiming I was Vietnamese. She said that my accent was good and I'd learnt a few Vietnamese words. She gave me the name Hung which is a traditional Vietnamese name and the other guys joked around by claiming that she was a little keen on me...

The next day we lazed around by the beach at our hotel. The water was calmer than the day before but there were still some good waves. I spent a lot of time in the water body surfing the waves and the turmoil of Hoi An truly felt a million miles away.

From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


I pursuaded the gang to go to a Karaoke bar that night. As many of you who have known me for a while will be aware, I have a singing voice that's perfectly imperfect... In fact, we found a place which had no windows which was ideal as it meant I wouldn't break any glass while I was murdering classic songs... We went to the 'Uustralian' restaurant again because the food was excellent. The same waitress came in and was waiting for her boyfriend. The guys were saying to her that I was single and she was trying to set me up with some of the girls she worked at the spa with. It was all in good fun but there was no way I was going anywhere near the spa after that night in case she didn't get that we were joking. :)

From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


At the Karaoke place, I was giving it a good turn on the microphone. The place was really seedy but good fun. What it lacked in tasteful decor it more than made up for in sheer tackiness... The Karaoke machine gives you a mark out of 100 when you complete a song so it was good fun to see the scores that people got. We were jumping for joy when we got a score anywhere in the 90's. It was great fun. The only problem was we picked a song that no one sang along too as we were all having a drink. At the end of the song the Karaoke machine scored the non-singing that took place at 96 out of 100.... we realised is was just a random number it puts up and has no relation to how well you actually sang...

From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


From Phu Quoc and Mekong Delta


I completely stole the microphone all night and belted out some torturous Karaoke until the other guys could take no more. We called for a taxi and headed home. The taxi ride was entertaining to say the least. The car pulled up at about 5 km/h and the driver got out looking err... vacant to say the least... We then got driven back in a pace as slow as I have ever been in a car... He must have been on drugs or something. I don't think he made it out of first gear.... It was so sketchy. Lucky there was no one else on the road...

The next day we were all feeling a little worse for wear. We hung around by the pool and didn't do much else. We planned our trip back to the mainland and decided to head to the Mekong Delta for a day before going to Ho Chi Minh City.

Our last night on Phu Quoc was spent at a pizza and grill restaurant where I had the best steak i'd eaten for a long time. Result.... The next day we flew to Mekong Delta.

Friday, October 9, 2009

27th to 1st October - Hue, Hoi An and Ho Chi Minh City

So, we arrived in Hue a little jaded and in need of rest. The usual greeters were at the bus station waiting for us when we got off. We squinted into the bright early morning sunshine that was an all too distant friend for the remainder of our stay there.

"Mr... you need hotel.... mine best in Hue..."

"Mr, $20 double room... very nice..." etc etc...

We surveyed our options and found someone who agreed to transport us to the hotel area without a guarantee we would stay in his hotel. We spent the morning walking between two hotels until we got them down to something ridiculous like $8 a room....

We then had a kip before heading out into the big bad world that is Hue...

From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


It was a cool place but rained too much for us to really enjoy it. We spent the day walking around the old quarter and I saw a woman with a bag full of scorpions...

From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


We walked past a game of football where the were using a very unconventional utensil as the goal post... Gone are the days of jumpers for goal posts...

From Hue and Hoi An


A few Hanoi beers later and we were ready to head back to the hotel to freshen up... We went out for dinner that night and then caught up with Lena (who Tal and I had met in Sapa) that evening over a few frames of pool. We also met up with Paul and Anne who we met in Halong Bay and Dennis and Nadia. It was a good night.

From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


The next day we caught the bus to Hoi An... it was to be some trip thanks to a big storm named Ketsana (a Laos name for a plant I believe) and a lot of rain water.....

The bus to Hoi An left at 2pm.. The heavens opened again and the wind picked up considerably.

From Hue and Hoi An


The journey down gave us a taste of what was to come. Half of the way down I called my mum and she told me that we should be careful because of a typhoon heading to Vietnam...

"Nonsense....," I said.... "It's heading to the north of us... We'll be fine Mum... Don't worry..."

Oh foolish bravado....

Almost as soon as I put the phone down, the wind picked up and the rain came down with a real purpose It was blowing at about 80 or 90 km/h. Tin roofs were being lifted off shops and we passed a tanker ship beached about 20 metres from the main ocean road..... It was pretty crazy...

From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


We got to Hoi An in torrential rain and quickly established ourselves in a hotel... It was quite soon after that we became aware of just how much fear there was around the town about the typhoon that was heading our way...

The wind died down a little and the rain calmed too so we headed out for dinner and some drinks... As soon as we left the hotel... the storm picked up.. we went to a restaurant that was recommended by the hotel just around the corner but the power had gone out so it was closed. So we jumped into a cab and asked the taxi driver to take us to a nice restaurant.

He really picked up on the word nice and took us to a very posh hotel where we settled down to a nice meal which cost an arm and a leg.... The food was amazing though in fairness....

We headed to find a bar and found one open called Before and Now. Very cool place. Dennis, Nadia, Lena and I chipped in for a bottle of gin and some tonics. We were enjoying the night when the barman came over and told us we should start heading back to our hotel. The wind had picked up yet more and a typhoon was on its way... at that point we were given the impression it was going to hit in a few hours.

We managed to find a taxi and got back to the hotel complete with half a bottle of gin and some more tonics... It was good that we did have that because the night was pretty scary and a couple of gin and tonics settled the nerves. The wind really got up to over 100 km/h and we had to amuse ourselves in the dark with no power on.

We finally got to sleep at about 4am, drunk and oblivious...

The next morning the wind was still picking up and the power was still out. The hotel staff did the best they could to provide breakfast for us with no electricity.

We managed to get the generator hooked up to try and find out what was happening online. I called a few people and thanks to Grace and Tara at work, managed to find out the latest news. The typhoon was set to hit at 1pm and it was coming straight for us. The destruction that we could see through the window was pretty hectic. Trees were down, debris flying all over the place but for some bizarre reason... people were still walking up and down the road as well as cruising around on mopeds... Insane... these are the people that make up the death toll statistics... i'm sure of it...

1pm arrived and the internet provided a few answers to our many questions. It was supposed to be heading for Hue which is where we left and then Danang which is where the beached tanker was... The wind picked up to 130 or 140 km/h...

All we could do was watch out of the window.. all of the guests of the hotel trying their hardest to just get through it and not to panic... I offered my phone to people to call loved ones to reassure them that they were ok.... Emails went out with the same messages...

It was a time for everyone to keep their heads and I have to say that we all got through it very well. Of course there was some fear. I was scared having never been through anything like this but being one of the older people there I felt a real sense of duty to make sure the younger ones had high spirits and remained calm...

Then the wind died down which was a blessing and we decided to go out to survey the damage... Oh my.... debris, torn down trees, smashed up ATMs and lots of rain water greeted us.

From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


The road next to ours was flooded... so was the road outside the bar we were at the night before. In fact, so much so that a boat was sailing down it.... Crazy...

From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


The rain came again and we headed back. It just wasn't safe to be outside. That evening all we could do was wait. You see, the thing about a typhoon is that the wind is bad, but the real problem is when the rain water has nowhere to go and in a place with a poor drainage system, this problem is multiplied...

Our hotel had run out of food.. This created another concern... Next door was still serving food though so we braved the rain and had a really crappy meal... so needed in the circumstances however... We then went to the shop on the corner and grabbed some provisions... dried noodles, peanuts, water... whatever could help us to sustain ourselves for what we thought might be a couple of days in a hotel..

The night was really scary... the rain water was rising and the street was completely flooded. You could see it in the eyes of the staff that the hotel would flood... it was just a case of how much... It was a waiting game... Lena and Tal helped the staff to move some furniture. I lent a hand as well but they really pitched in. We met a girl from NZ called Shay and offered her sanctuary in our room as hers was on the ground floor...

I, somehow, managed to get some sleep... I heard a commotion about two or three hours later and went to the stairs to see what had happened. The water had breached the reception area... it was bad news...

From Hue and Hoi An


All we could do was wait now... It wasn't a particularly peaceful night as you can imagine. The next morning about 7am I went downstairs and the water was easily above waist height in reception. People were swimming across the road because of the depth... It was a crazy situation. Some idiots were out in the water having a ball.... again more statistics for such a disaster... I only hope they didn't get any diseases that were quite obviously in the water...

From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


We needed food... I volunteered to take a boat to get enough for us all for two days.... It was weird seeing a boat come into the reception area. It was too big to get into the small doors though so I had to walk on chairs like stilts through the water to open the double doors.... God what was I doing I thought at the time... i'm not usually this cavalier.

From Hue and Hoi An


From Hue and Hoi An


I got into the boat with a list of things to get and headed to the dry area of the town. It was surprisingly normal. Almost like nothing had happened. I got the necessary food and headed back to the hotel to continue the waiting game...

Throughout the morning we surveyed the water levels using bricks on a nearby wall to gauge the depth of the water. It was just getting higher and higher. When it reached about shoulder height in the reception area we arrived at a decision to make a break for it and decided to get the hell out of dodge... We found out from the staff that we could get to Danang airport and get south from there.

We left the hotel using boats in our reception area again. We found a minivan that agreed to take us to Danang airport, all the while praying that we could fly out that day especially as we heard that a second typhoon was heading our way... and potentially a tsunami caused by an earthquake in Tonga...

We were in luck... To our delight, a few hours later we were on a flight to Ho Chi Minh City... It was the best feeling in the world...

I'll never forget Hoi An but for all the wrong reasons unfortunately....

We decided to travel to a small island called Phu Quoc for a few days away from storms and floods to relax..... We stayed overnight in Ho Chi Minh City (which is very nice by the way apart from the prostitutes pulling up next to you on motorbikes asking if you'd like boom boom for 1 hour....)... The next day we flew to Phu Quoc....