PHNOM PENH to SAIGON

via MEKHONG DELTA

Return to Cambodia and onward to SIHANOUKVILLE

Feb 15-March 08, 2006

 

 

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DFW-NRT: Expedia Package= $296 w/ 2 nights hotel at NRT

NRT-BKK: Korean Air Business Class = 30K DL miles

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WED FEB 15

Still hoping for 2 LP guidebooks in the mailbox, but no show.

Later in Cambodia I am able to buy the books for $6 instead of $25 !!

Drive to Dallas, stay at Super 8 DFW South. $80 includes 21 days parking.

 

THU FEB 16

DFW-SFO UA# 1247 08:00-09:45

SFO-NRT UA# 0837 11:20-15:25+1

FRI FEB 17

Bus to International Garden Hotel Narita. Nice 12 hour sleep.

SAT 18 FEB

Now typing from Korean Air lounge, boarding in a few minutes to Seoul. I am now half way through FINDING MOON by Tony Hillerman. The main chararacter is STILL in the Philippines. It is good fun, I recognize many place-names mentioneds in Manila. Now, on to the Mekong Delta, both physically and with Hillerman.

NRT-SEL KL# 7024 1255-1535

SEL-BKK KL# 0651 1700-2045

Bangkok Airport Hotel $40.

 

SUN 19 FEB

Wake up at 4 am in BKK to catch the flight of $33 RT. (Air Asia $0-Fare Sale )

FD# 3612 BKK-PNH, 0700-0810    

Not bad really, but had to pay $1 for noodles and coffee as the cart rolled through !

Got a tip from a traveller on the flight: PHU QUOC island is apparently THE PLACE to go now in Vietnam for beach. Something about HOT SPRINGS there too...

 

Scandinavian hotel picked me up at airport as arranged. Pnomh Penh looks good! The road in from airport all nice and clean with grass and flowers in the median. Most buildings look newly painted, unlike years ago.

Getting to Saigon looks easy, almost too easy. There was a slick brochure at the hotel outlining 2-3-or-4 day trips bus-boat combo through the delta. $10 per day all meals and hotel included ! But I need to go to VN embassy and get a visa, as expected.

I managed to buy both the Vietnam and Cambodia LP books while having a pizza on the river walk. Only took about 30 seconds from sitting down to being surrounded by young boys with boxes of books for sale. Both books for $12. VERY nice quality copies !!

 I read up a bit, and yes, I think Phu Quoc may be my other VN destination after Saigon city:

Internet Research:  ICE CREAM BEACH:

Phu Quoc is Vietnam’s largest island and a destination in transition. It is located in the Gulf of Thailand about 120 km from Rach Gia in southern Vietnam. The island is shaped like a water drop and is 46 km from north to south. Its southern end is about 3 km wide and its northern end about 28 km. Phu Quoc is famous in Vietnam for its excellent black pepper (something you will likely see more of in the United States in coming years) and its nuoc mam (fish sauce). The island also has pearl factories. The island has some history as well.

While the French placed the island under Vietnamese administration, the government of Cambodia has claimed it as well. And, after the Khmer Rouge took power in 1975, they actually invaded the island briefly in an attempt to claim it for Cambodia. Nguyen Trung Truc, who led anti-French guerilla activities from 1861 to 1868, retreated to this island to escape the French. (He was eventually captured and executed by a French firing squad in October 1868.) I also believe that the South Vietnamese government used the island as a prison camp to house Viet Cong prisoners.

In recent years, Phu Quoc is becoming known as a tourist destination. The island has fine beaches and forested mountains that are being developed into new resorts. It is recommended as a getaway location: quiet, peaceful, simple. If you seek a busy nightlife, don’t come here (at least for the next few years). If you want rest and relaxation, this is a place to consider. In addition to its development as a tourist destination, the Vietnamese government is channeling large investments into the island to foster business development. In theory, the idea is to develop the island as a new Singapore.

Current plans for the island include upgrading the airport in Phu Quoc, constructing a transportation port at the southern port town of An Thoi, and building a 3,000 hectare business center in the village of Duong To. A special visa policy for foreign tourists is also under consideration for the island. In other words, if you want to visit the island while it is still au naturel, you better hurry.

SIGHTS OF PHU QUOC Possibly because Phu Quoc is still an undiscovered tourist destination, it is rather difficult to find much information about tourist activities here. For example, while the island supposedly has two hot springs, I could not find any tourist information about them. Despite the current lack of information, there are many tourist activities on and around the island and the number of these will likely grow in the next few years.

Beaches: Unspoiled beaches circle Phu Quoc. The best of these beaches is Bai Kem (ice cream beach), which has soft, white sand. Bai Ham Ninh is on the east coast of the island and is also recommended. And, if you are staying at one of the small island resorts of Phu Quoc, you are already on fine beach front. Snorkeling: From the wharf at An Thoi in south Phu Quoc, you can take a boat to Tham Island where there is swimming and snorkeling. You should be able to book such a day trip through your place of lodging.

Hot Springs: There are two mineral hot springs in the center of the island: Suoi Da Ban and Suoi Chanh. Check with your place of lodging for information on visiting these springs.

Mountain Tours: Treks to the forested mountains of the island are available. Treks are included in some of the vacation packages offered by the Tropicana and Saigon Phu Quoc. The three northernmost peaks on the island are restricted military areas. Nuoc Mam Factories, Pepper and Pearl Farms: Phu Quoc is known for its nuoc mam (fish sauce) and black pepper. The island is also developing pearl farms. If you can stand the smell, you might want to visit a nuoc

 

MON FEB 20

I booked a 3-day 2-night Mekhong Delta trip today, $30, they will pick me up at my hotel at 730 Tuesday morning, and drop me in Saigon 6:30 pm Thursday.

 

Had a very funny experience today: To go anywhere in PNH, it is normal to just jump on the back of a motorcycle, pay less than $1. but these "moto" guys are constantly coming by and asking if you want a ride, makes it difficult to just have a long walk, which I was doing.

I walked to the Vietnam Embassy to drop my passport They wanted $35 to return tomorrow 5pm, or $45 to return in two hours. I spent the extra $10 bucks, and they seemed very happy about that ! Gives you some hint where the $10 goes....

Anyway....I had dropped off my passport before 11 am, told to return after 1 pm to pick it up. I wandered arround the area, spent time on internet, was looking for a lunch spot... then this moto guy came up beside me and started talking. I just waved him on, and walked ahead. He caught up with me, and said something else but I just tried to ignore him.

THEN he caught up with me again, and started waving this blue thing at me, and opened it up so I could see my photo,

IT WAS MY PASSPORT with VN visa already inside !

So somehow he was connected with the guys at the embassy, and had seen me walking around the area. I gave him a $ for the street side delivery service. Funniest damn thing this trip so far !

 

  

 

TUE FEB 21

6 AM Pickup from Phnom Penh Hotel. Bus down to Mekhong dock.

Change boats and guides at border into Vietnam.

Suddenly lots of people and noisy !  

Overnight in Chau Doc

WED FEB 22

Floating houses tour in morning,

cham village, fish farm.

 

 

Mini-bus to Can Tho,

Overnight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THU FEB 23

Mekhong Delta Market and Vermicelli making tour.

Bus to Saigon in afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boats on the Mekhong are typically decorated like this:

 

After all, if the boat doesn't have eyes........

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Boats advertise

what vegetables and fruits are for sale

with these poles

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After cruising the river at Can Tho,

we visited a Vermicelli factory.

 

 

Bus to Saigon in afternoon.

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRI FEB 24

Saigon

 

SAT FEB 25

Saigon

 

SUN FEB 26

Saigon

 

MON FEB 27

          Saigon

 

 

I had some Pho at this place.

BillClinton had Pho here before me.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

TUE FEB 28

Saigon to Pnomh Penh

Stayed at this nice guesthouse on the lake in town.

WED MAR 01

Pnomh Penh

 

 

 

THU MAR 02

Pnomh Penh to Sihanoukville, Taxi $30

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

FRI MAR 03

     Sihanoukville

SAT MAR 04

          Sihanoukville to PNH, Taxi $35

 

MON 06 MAR

Tuk Tuk to Airport

FD# 3613 PNH-BKK 0840-0950

 

TUE 07 MAR

KL# 652 BKK-ICH 00:05-07:00

KL# 701 ICH-NRT 09:20-11:30

Mercure Hotel Narita

 

WED MAR 08

UA# 0882 NRT-ORD 17:50-14:10    Upgraded to Business $550

UA# 0357 ORD-DFW 16:45-19:07 PM

Drive to Fernando and Wendy's, sleep overnight. To AUS in AM.

 

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NGO’s: The Agents of Virtue

As a breed the agents of virtue avoided intimacy with outsiders, especially the likes of me, unattached wanderers whom they regard as dangerous to their mission.

 

They must have seen into my heart, for at this point I seriously questioned their mission. They hardly made eye contact. This habit of averting the gaze was inspired by the fear that they might be obliged to make a gesture – offer a ride, a favour. They had brand new vehicles, always Land Cruisers and they drove them with ministerial haughtiness.

 

I tried to approach them but they shied away with that squinting _expression that seemed to say, Am I wearing something of yours?


‘‘I’m here for a conference,’ one said before backing away. ‘‘Excuse me, I’ve got a series of meetings.’’
‘‘There’s a panel this afternoon’’ was another line I heard.


Yet another: ‘‘We’re holding a workshop.’’

 

I had begun to cotton on that foreign aid has been destructive – has actually caused real harm.

Rachel and Fiona worked for a British charity. They were in their mid 20’s, damp faced from the heat and their long drive. They had a driver, however, and a vehicle that was worth a fortune. Am I imagining that the logo on the side showed a weeping continent and the slogan shed tears?


Rachel and Fiona were good hearted and earnest in their mission but unhappy to be challenged. There was often a tone of melodrama amongst relief workers, charity being chiefly a form of theatre.


‘‘So it’s possible these people you’ve been feeding will be left in the lurch after you go?’’
‘‘The whole scheme comes up for review in a few months,’’ said Fiona turning bureaucratic

 

The above commentary comes not from Cambodia but from the travel author Paul Theroux in his book ‘Dark Star Safari,’ which details his overland journey from Egypt to South Africa.

His prose, however, is highly relevant to those of us in Cambodia. Theroux, a vastly intelligent but dyed in the wool liberal was reduced to writing the following after his transport had broken down in the middle of nowhere.

 

Just then a white Land Cruiser came by. An idealistic slogan related to hunger was written on the door, two whites inside.


‘‘Could you give me a lift across the border?’’ I asked them. ‘‘This isn’t a taxi,’’ one of the men said – a West Country accent. ‘‘We don’t run a guesthouse,’ the other one said, a Londoner.


They drove away leaving me by the side of the road. That was to be fairly typical of my experience with aid workers: they were in general, oafish self dramatizing prigs and often complete bastards.

Finally we have a passage of great relevance to Cambodia. Theroux is talking to an local academic.

I asked him questions about charities and aid agencies which had been nagging at me. The agents of virtue in Land Rovers – what were they changing?


‘‘Not much because all aid is political….the donors aren’t contributing to development. They maintain the status quo. Politicians love that, because they hate change. The tyrants love aid. Aid helps them stay in power and contributes to underdevelopment. It’s not social or cultural and it certainly isn’t economic.

 

‘‘You said it, I didn’t, ’’I said. ‘‘There’s an awful lot of aid agencies here….so how will things change for the better?’’

 

He said, ‘‘Change will involve all the old men dying off. Or it might take forty years.’’

 

‘‘What if all the donors went away’’

‘‘That might work’’

 

Dark Star Safari :

Overland from Cairo to Cape Town (2003)

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“Holiday in Cambodia” lyrics

So you been to school

For a year or two

And you know you've seen it all

 

In daddy's car

Thinkin' you'll go far

Back east your type don't crawl

 

Play ethnicky jazz

To parade your snazz

On your five grand stereo

 

Braggin' that you know

How the niggers feel cold

And the slums got so much soul

 

It's time to taste what you most fear

Right guard will not help you here

Brace yourself, my dear !

Brace yourself, my dear !

 

It's a holiday in cambodia

It's tough, kid, but it's life

It's a holiday in cambodia

Don't forget to pack a wife

 

You're a star-belly sneech

You suck like a leach

You want everyone to act like you

 

Kiss ass while you bitch

So you can get rich

But your boss gets richer off you

 

Well you'll work harder

With a gun in your back

For a bowl of rice a day

 

Slave for soldiers

Till you starve

Then your head is skewered on a stake

 

Now you can go where people are one

Now you can go where they get things done

What you need, my son.

What you need, my son.

 

It's a holiday in cambodia

Where people dress in black

A holiday in cambodia

Where you'll kiss ass or crack

 

Pol pot, pol pot, pol pot, pol pot

 

And it's a holiday in cambodia

Where you'll do what you're told

A holiday in cambodia

Where the slums got so much soul

Pol pot !!

Holiday in Cambodia-- Dead Kennedys- video.avi

Holiday in Cambodia-- Dead Kennedys.mp3

Holiday In Cambodia-- Laaz Rockit-1989.mp3

Holiday in Cambodia-- Richard Cheese.mp3

Holiday in Cambodia-- Sepultura.mp3