19 02 2010

Since we left Phu Quoc Island on Monday we have kind of just been moving from one vehicle to the next.  To make a long story short we just – took a taxi to the pier, fast boat to the mainland, bus to Can Tho, walked to a hotel where we slept, took a taxi to the wrong bus station, another taxi to the correct one, bus to Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), bus to another bus station, bus to Dalat and finally a taxi to the hotel.  The route map on the right side of the blog has been updated accordingly.  This basically took us 35 hours and consumed all of my birthday.,  How appropriate to travel for 35 hours on my 35th birthday – but we’ll make up for that for sure :)

First a few words on Phu Quoc.  Phu Quoc is a beautiful tropical island that the French handed to Vietnam when they were splitting their colony, French Indo-China and specifically the Mekong Delta between Vietnam and Cambodia.  Phu Quoc is in the Gulf of Thailand and has been predicted to become Vietnam’s answer to Phuket in Thailand.  Fortunately it hasn’t come to that yet and Phu Quoc is still mostly undeveloped even though it has a population of 85 thousand.  Unfortunately we didn’t explore enough of the island but what we saw is very nice and we would recommend it to anyone interested in the 2beach life – just get there before all the big resorts and the pushy street vendors!

As for the other places, we didn’t stay long enough to pass any judgment on them.  The decided to skip Saigon as we had heard that it would be big, very crowded and extremely chaotic.  We only drove this one bus route through the city and it looked very nice and not more chaotic or crowded than the smaller cities we have been to so maybe we did a mistake by not stopping there but then again we have something to look forward to next time ;)

It is obvious that transportation vehicles come in all classes here in Vietnam.  The boat we went to the island with was a very old wooden boat that at least would not pass as a passenger boat back home.  The boat that took us back to the mainland was a fancy vessel that just shot through the waves with all  200 passengers without any of them getting sick or anything.  The busses have also been of various kinds, everything from a minibus with no legroom what so ever to a big, brand-new and comfortable express bus.  Most of the time we have been the only westerners on board, which is great.  The Vietnamese are very curious and don’t hesitate a minute to stare at us any chance they get. They are also extremely helpful, often too helpful, at least you are never left alone looking into the Lonely Planet for more than a few seconds, someone always comes and offers their help.  The biggest problem is that we haven’t meet anyone that can read a map and most of the time their English is very limited so even though they want to help they can’t.  We are also maybe a bit too defensive when people are trying to help us, we often assume that someone is trying to trick us when they are being nice.  A few times the locals have tried to take advantage of us and those black sheep spoil it for the ones that are just kind hearted, which is a big shame.

At least we made it to Dalat and we are very exited about Dalat.  The town lies in the highlands, about 300 km. north of Saigon, in an elevation of 1,475 meters.  Therefore the temperature is supposed to be between 15° and 25° degrees Celsius – a nice rest from the rising heat by the coastline.  More on Dalat later…

Life goes on on Phu Quoc Island

16 02 2010

We are still on Phu Quoc Island and will be for at least one day.  We wanted to go to mainland Vietnam today but the boats were all full because people are going home after celebrating the new year here on Phu Quoc.

We arrived at this guesthouse where on Long Beach that seemed kind of nice.  We failed to take notice of the fact that there seem to be more bugs here on the island than we have seen before.  We didn’t bother setting up the mosquito net for the first night and now we look like a couple of Klingons, with 10-15 bites each on our foreheads and faces – but Elínborg has always been a Star Trek fan so that is ok :)

The mosquitoes aren’t the only bugs we have encountered because Elínborg said that when she was flushing the toilette she saw “something big and hairy” going down the drain.  This monster remains unidentified and hopefully stays that way.

Since we were kind of sick we stayed in bed our first day on the island.  That didn’t mean that the guesthouse was quite, ohh no …not at all.  The other guest celebrated the new year along with the owners of the guesthouse so the wine flowed and the techno music was blasted on highest volume …all until the owner (French guy) went mental and threatened to kill people and we were later told that he both bashed the furniture and his Vietnamese girlfriend – not quite the entertainment we were expecting.  This is not good for the Frenchman and his family since the Vietnamese believe that your actions during the first day of the year indicate how the rest of the year will be like.  Therefore you have to take special care not to break anything, behave nicely and enjoy our self.

We are doing better however, we went to the beach today and had a great day working on the tan.  It was supposed to be the last beach day for a while but it seems like we’ll have another one tomorrow and I better concentrate on those sunglasses marks that I have going right now :)

Phu Quoc island – Vietnam

14 02 2010

Yesterday we made it to Long Beach on Phu Quoc island in Vietnam.  We took a bus from Sihanoukville through the Vietnamese border at Xa Xia.  We had gotten our Vietnamese visas back in Bangkok so we had an easy time getting through the border control.  One tip for future travelers, we noticed that getting the Vietnamese visa in Cambodia was about $15 cheaper than in Thailand ($60 vs. $43 I think) so if you want to save a bit of money wait until you are in Cambodia. 

On the border we changed from our VIP bus into a mini bus and drove on to Ha Tien where we changed into a small boat that took us out to the island.  The trip was supposed to take five and half hour but ended up taking over eight hours without any stops to eat so we were pretty hungry when we got here as you can imagine.  You can find the updated route map on the right hand side of the website or just here.

The first impression of Vietnam is that everything seems more professional than in Cambodia, the restaurants seem very nice and our bungalow is nice as well so we have no complaints so far.  The money is funny since 16,000 Dong equal $1 US so we are pretty rich down here, just went to the ATM to take our 2,000,000 Dong :)  The actual notes look nice, they are made of plastic and are washable so they are very clean, which was not the case in Cambodia where you could hardly read some of the lower dominated notes.

We were very happy to see that the internet seemed to work perfectly, we could access WordPress, Facebook and any website that we tried.  I will therefore not be forced to blog through email until we enter China :)

We have been a bit under the weather the last two days so we haven’t been up to too much adventure lately.  It is nothing serious, just a minor inconvenience – it could be something we ate or something that is going around but we should be back on our feet tomorrow.