Koh Samui

Now this one is going to be kept very short and sweet, essentially just how a visit to Koh Samui should be kept. Personally it was not our cup of tea at all, although we ended up staying in one of e busiest parts of the island, Chaweng, overall the whole island was still quite disappointing. The first night we stayed near Bophut in the North of the island and we thought it would be a peaceful retreat from the busy streets of Chaweng and Lamai, instead we were in a remote area where finding quality street/Thai food was as easy as spotting a ladyboy in Soi Cowboy. Everything was french this, patisserie that and heavily overpriced, not to mention we had to get a scooter to get supplies otherwise within the gruelling walk to get to any shop we would have drank all the water anyway! There were one or two Thai ‘resteraunts’ around but all shut, no doubt because the big western eateries were too louring to tourists.

We therefore moved to Chaweng for convenience and price. Then the island showed its real colours. Chaweng was like a bad mix between Bangkok and Blackpool, full of indian blokes shouting ‘brother, brother’ either touting you to buy a suit or come into the Thai/Indian resteraunt. We knew it would be like this, but didn’t realise how bad. There wasn’t another backpacker insight and everybody was here to ‘holiday’, leaving us feeling slightly out of place. The beach itself was average, at first sight beautiful white sands and crystal clear blue waters. On closer inspection, the sand was brimming with litter and there was touts galore, even to the point where a small boat went back and forward all day, churning out advertisements on the loud speaker for the local nightlife! When we went for a dip, we had the strangest experience, aside from the water being very murky, our skin literally tingled when we went in! We have read about sea louse, but we had no stings, so god only knows why.

There is also very, very little to do here other than sunbathe, drink beer, sunbathe, drink beer, sunbathe and occasionally go listen to a horrific live performance from the local essex boy (old man) who can cover every song thrown at him, by playing the same chords again and again in ‘his own version of’ and totally killing any classic that comes around.

Overall we certainly won’t be rushing back here and Na trang now has strong competition for tackiest beach destination, the Vietnamese need to step their game up. At least the sun was shining though and we had air con in our room, trust me at the moment in 38+ degree heat, this makes a HUGE difference to your mental state.

We came, we saw and now we have left. Onto the Western side of the peninsula now and after Koh Samui’s performance, i think its fair to assume Phuket will be avoided like the plague.

Sorry this was more of rant then a ‘what we have been doing’, but we really, physically couldn’t do anything worth blogging about on Samui.

—ACastling—Stay Classy World—

Siem Reap- tourist heaven!

After Phnom Penh we traveled north to Siem Reap, possibly the most touristy part of the country due to the World Hertiage Site,  Angkor Wat. But with 50 cent beers, $3 dinners and massages starting from $1, who can blame them??

We arrived and went to our hostel we had pre booked, called Tom and Jerrys, it cost us $8 with breakfast and is the nicest, cleanest and newest hostel we have stayed in. The rooms are massive and even has a flat screen TV! After the standards in Phnom Penh, we were blown away by our bargain here!

We organised with our tuk tuk driver who dropped us off about going to Angkor Wat, he would pick us up at 5am to get there for sunrise. The staff at the hostel were not too impressed as we did not go through them, but who were we to know. We spent a day exploring the town/city on bike of which there is not too much to see, as soon as you leave the touristy part it turns to dusty badly paved roads with not a lot of sights. So we opted for a Snow Yoghurt instead, mainly due to the air con it offered inside; cycling in 35 degree heats is no joke!

4.30am and our alarm went off after another night of sleeping in sticky heat. We were greeted downstairs by about 3 other groups doing just what we were, so it was nice not to feel so alone at that time in the morning. Our tuk tuk driver came over, who was not who we met the day before but had been sent instead and introduced himself as Sok. He seemed nice and friendly enough. So off we went. The chill air in the morning whilst riding in the tuk tuk was heaven. I have never enjoyed feeling cold so much before! We stopped off at the ticket booth and went to get our pictures taken to go on the ticket and pay our $40. Adam looks in the wallet….”oh s*!t…It’s not in here, the extra money isn’t here…ummm can we pay by card…no?…s*!t…” so we walk back over to Sok and asked where the nearest ATM was, turns out it is back in town and means we would miss sunrise. “Are you short of money?” he asks and we explain, “it’s OK. I have and you can give me back at the end! How much do you need?” he asks simply. “Really?? That would be great, we only need $10 extra. Thank you, thank you, thank you!!” we enthuse. What a gem!

After our little mishap, Sok drives us over to Angkor Wat where everyone watches the sunrise and we walked over in the dark, crossing a bridge we heard a guide say, “stay away from the edge, a Chinese tourist fell in the other day!” Woops!

So we stand, and we wait. And we get constantly bothered by touts selling coffee, breakfast, books, postcards, trousers, scarfs. You name it, they are trying to sell it to you. But at least we got to meet Justin Bieber, who it turns out sells coffee in Cambodia in his spare time and another girl called Lady GaGa. If they weren’t busy enough already.


Sunrise was OK. The clouds skewed the scenery a bit and we didn’t get to see the sun piercing the sky with brilliant colours. But it was still lovely all the same.

this is what stares at Angkor Wat each morning...intimidating or wat?!

this is what stares at Angkor Wat each morning…intimidating or wat?!


After that, we found Sok and he told us where we were going next and a bit of information on the temple and its surroundings. We got out, trudged around, took some photos, watched some Russian women properly posing against pagodas (very odd) and moved onto the next. We did this until we had completed the short circuit and seem some beautiful ruins and came across far too many touts lurking amongst the quieter ruins, especially child touts selling stuff we didn’t want. Which was a big shame.

someone to the time to carve these in...?!

someone to the time to carve these in…?!

beautiful ruins well known for being the setting of Tomb Raider

beautiful ruins well known for being the setting of Tomb Raider

this is what stares at Angkor Wat each morning...intimidating or wat?!

this is what stares at Angkor Wat each morning…intimidating or wat?!

beautiful ruins well known for being the setting of Tomb Raider

beautiful ruins well known for being the setting of Tomb Raider

We quickly popped to the war museum (where we had to lend another $10 from Sok!) and looked around there, unfortunately we couldn’t afford the free guides as it turns out they accept donations and when they found out we had none to donate, weren’t too bothered by us. I heard their tours were great too, so a bit annoyed by the situation, especially after paying so much for a ticket for a place which is quite run down. I am not too sure where our $10 went in this place.

After a 4.30 am start, we were back in bed by 11am and snoozing away! Oh the joys!

—Love to all—C Smith—

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon)

We arrived in Ho Chi Minh City ‘HCM’ (Saigon) after a very bumpy, smelly and all round sleepless ‘sleeper bus’!! Thankfully for us our hotel was just across the road from where we got dropped off, so we could start the day very, very early and get out and about in HCM. We had already done a lot of research on the Vietnam war and in Hanoi learned a lot about what had happened, from a North Vietnam point of view, therefore we were very keen to see how this differed in the South and headed straight for the ‘Remnants Museum’. We were greeted by a courtyard full of captured American weaponry and machinery, which like in the North, was a standard state of affairs with anything related to the Vietnam war, however the difference came when we stepped inside.
P1030580I was quite aware of the Napalm that the U.S used in the Vietnam and the vaguely knew about agent Orange, which was a chemical used (like Napalm) to eradicate foliage and anything else that happens to be hiding within! This was very vividly depicted inside the museum by a collection of photos taken during the war, which some are world famous now. Alongside pictures of U.S soldiers being very proud of their accomplishments, whether it be through the air borne attacks of chemicals or by their own personal hands. Some of the pictures depicted U.S soldiers holding corpses as if they were trophies, whether they were effects of a grenade they threw or partially alive from a shot they had made! It was a very disturbing collection of the power of man and how destructive we can be as a species. With the effects still harming many Vietnamese people to this day.

After taking in the destruction that occurred from the Vietnamese war and needing a bit of lighthearted fun, we decided to indulge in the age old tradition of beer drinking. This however is done very differently in HCM, as it is so in a lot of South East Asia. We headed down to infamous ‘beer street’ where the road is slowly replaced by plastic chairs as more and more people turn up to consume 20p bottles of beer. It was a great night and we managed to meet some great locals and tourists, whisly also enjoying the best beer HCM had to offer ‘Saigon’.

P1030602Unfortunately for us, we were not allowed to enjoy being hungover, which to be honest doesn’t really happen in 35degree heat anyway, but we had neglected that we had booked a Chu Chi tunnels visit for 8am the next day and knocking back cheap bottles of Saigon maybe wasn’t the wisest idea the night before! All in all the tunnel tour was a bit of a let down, as our guide was, how can i put this nicely ‘a f*cking tosser’, who was more concerned about selling us clips of AK-47 rounds than he was on telling us the history of the Chu Chi tunnels. Luckily for us two though, were stubborn bastards, so took ourselves on a self tour, whilst everyone else sat literally on the shooting range getting their ears blown out, while rich dickhead Americans (sorry but only stating a fact of what i seen on the day) shot the guns that slayed so many Vietnamese soldiers by the hands of the U.S! Yeah real tasteful. Of what we did get to see, it was really interesting and fascinating to see how essentially not only a army held off the U.S forces using the tunnels, but also created a civilisation within them. Just a pointer for anybody going to the tunnels, make sure your group size is below 50 and don’t go for the cheapest you find, as a group of ‘definitely 25 max’ will quickly turn into 55, when the ”other” tour guide doesn’t show…..yeah.

P1030617 P1030620 P1030628 P1030636After a rubbish tour of the tunnels, we headed over to the ‘Reunification Palace’ which had been through many hands since its creation (Vietnamese, French and American) and since the fall of Saigon to the North in 1975, all of the decor has been left the same. It was quite funny to walk around, as seeing the 1970’s decor just made me think, how many people in London now would kill for some of this furniture, the Vietnamese are sitting on a gold mine (furniture wise). We got a great free guide, which we luckily got put onto a tour and learned the final pieces of how the war ended and why it was left in the way it was, when the North drove a tank through the gate of the palace and stormed the palace.

P1030648 P1030645Once again we got persuaded to hit the bar street again, it becomes quite the norm when in HCM and not learning from the day before, booked a Mekong tour for 7am the next day! When will we learn. The Mekong delta tour was great compared to the tunnel tour (booked through different company of course PXN Travel, don’t ever use Tuan Travel). We started the day by taking a cruise across the Mekong delta and learning all about Turtle, Dragon, Unicorn and Phoenix islands. We then visited a Coconut candy factory and got to taste the little delights that they create. After some lunch and strange sight seeing on Phoenix island, we visited a honey farm which produced honey (obvs), as well as honey tea and honey wine….mmmmmmm. Obviously we got to taste all of them. Cheryl got to practice her Bee keeping skills and handle the honey comb, whilst i got to become friends with the local python, which was only a young one and was about 10kg!!

P1030747 P1030739 P1030741After getting honey’d up, we were shown onto small bamboo rowing boats (enough room for 4) and rowed down the mangroves through dense foliage and through a very narrow channel, which created great entertainment when another rowing boat came the opposite way! Our final stop of the day was a small village, where we were given some fruits, whilst having local music played by traditional Vietnamese instruments. It was a great round off to our Vietnam trip and a fantastic finishing trip for us to do, before we moved onto Cambodia.

All in all HCM was a fantastic adventure and apart from the constant berating of touts and hawkers every second of the day (not an exageration), that wear you down whilst you eat every meal of the day or enjoy a leisurely drink, it is a great example of Vietnam and its lovely people. There is a lot of skepticism of their nature and we were among those before we went there, however now we are total converts and can see why they hold some reserve compared to their tourist happy neighbor Thailand, after everything they have been through and when you meet genuine Vietnamese people, they are typical of any South East Asian and if anything, are some of the friendless and most straight forward.

—Stay Classy World—ACastling—