A Travellerspoint blog

Chuc Mung Nam Moi! Or Happy New Year

sunny 30 °C

Here in Vietnam they celebrate the Chinese New Year. Today is New Year's Eve and everyone is getting ready for the new year of the Rooster. Everywhere we walked today we saw people cleaning - motorbikes, cooking utensils, windows, floors, etc. - everything should be clean to start the new year. Maybe the origin of "spring cleaning"?
After we had breakfast, I asked about doing some laundry. I usually just wash things in the bathroom sink, but our sink didn't have a stopper so that wouldn't work. Ms Yang gave me a large basin and showed me where to do it (right in the courtyard where we had breakfast). Then both she and her nephew kept offering to help me or do it for me. I said no, I do this all the time. I knew they were busy cleaning for the new year and didn't need more stuff to do. I got it done, but I've never had such a big interest or audience for laundry before.
Once that job was done, we went for a little walk looking for a place to buy a SIM card for the phone. We had to be back by 10:00 am to FaceTime with Aly and Tani. We couldn't do it yesterday on Aly's birthday, so today was the day. We had a good little visit and then went back out exploring.
We did find a SIM card, although ended up with a Mobifone instead of Viettel, which is what we wanted.
Everyone seems to need a new plant/tree to bring in the new year. And if it has yellow flowers, so much the better. We saw many versions of people carrying plants on their motorbikes since we've arrived, but this one takes the cake. He couldn't even sit up straight. The pot is so big he had to bend forward to drive!
Tree on motorbike

Tree on motorbike


We had a chat with a teenager waiting on a motorbike. We were at a street corner and trying to decide which way to go. I asked him if he spoke English. Yes, he said. Then we discussed SIM cards and where we could get one. He told us he has a scholarship to go to high school in Boston, and so has had to study English to be ready to go. He was very helpful and friendly.
Our hostess, Ms Yang, invited us to come back for 1:00 to have dinner with her. This is a New Year's Eve tradition, to have a special dinner with family at noon. At night they might go out, but would be home for midnight and make sure all the lights were on (so no going into the new year with any darkness). A couple of other guests also joined us for dinner, Ito from Tokyo and Helen from Beijing. We sat in the courtyard (where we ate) and visited with Helen for a long time after the meal was over. She has excellent English and was waiting to take the train to Da Nang. It was very interesting to spend time with her and learn about life in China from her perspective.
Don and New's Year Eve lunch

Don and New's Year Eve lunch

The front of the homestay and courtyard

The front of the homestay and courtyard


After a little rest (waiting out the heat of the day), we set out again. We had been told that downtown by the Saigon River, people would be congregating and enjoying the evening. So we walked down there (just a couple of kilometres) and found a restaurant Don had picked out as a good place to eat. Unfortunately it was closed due to New Year's! So we went a little farther and found a large Vietnamese restaurant. An interesting experience - you need to order multiple things on the menu, everything comes just as is - no rice or accompanying veggies. Maybe just this restaurant, we'll see.
One of the many parking lots downtown

One of the many parking lots downtown


We walked down among the throngs of people. Several streets were closed off to traffic (thank heavens!) but even getting thru the crowds was difficult at times. At one point, we were trying to cross a very busy street and a police man came and offered to help us. Walked us across the street, waving at drivers and riders as we went. You need nerves of steel to deal with this traffic. It's more organized than Phnom Penh, but travels at faster speeds and is more terrifying when crossing the road.
Beautiful flower displays

Beautiful flower displays

Year of the Rooster

Year of the Rooster


The main activity downtown seemed to be selfie/portrait taking. Everyone posing in front of the flower and light displays and all dressed up to get their pictures taken. There didn't seem to be any entertainment - a few vendors - we got gelato! So after awhile, we got a taxi and came home to go to bed. No, we didn't stay up to see the new year in.

Posted by katdill 16:03 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Goodbye to Cambodia, Hello Vietnam

semi-overcast 31 °C

We got on a nice full size bus, with lots of legroom and even seat belts, for our trip to Ho Chi Minh City (HCM). We even had a guide who spoke English very well. He was our crossing the border facilitator. He gathered up our passports and made a list, as well as collecting a fee for the Vietnamese side. He had us so well organized that we crossed the border with hardly a hitch. We had to take our luggage and put them thru a scanner like they use for luggage in airports and then put them back on the bus. (No one was watching the screen as the luggage went thru!)
Along the road

Along the road


We finally arrived in HCM about 3:30 and were dropped off by a park - no bus station, just the street side. We got a taxi to take us to Ms Yang's Homestay, although it wasn't far away. We would never have found it on our own, given the limited map and language difficulties.
It turns out Ms Yang has two places, each one run by a sister. We are in the second one, which is on a quieter street, and it seems quite comfortable.
After a short rest, we went out exploring. We found an ATM for some cash and went over to the Flower Show. This is a large park that is set up with many kinds of displays, bonsai, carving, flowers, food booths, music performances, and we even saw some young men perform very athletic feats while in a lion costume. There are 2 men in each costume, except for one fellow climbed up to the top of a pole and performed up there in costume by himself. Quite amazing displays.
Entrance to the park

Entrance to the park

Living Bonsai with carved trunk

Living Bonsai with carved trunk

Weird fish on display

Weird fish on display

Lion dancer

Lion dancer


This is a short video to give you some idea of the lion dancers ability. They are performing on top of 8 foot long poles on a frame.

We even experimented with some of the food available at the park. We then walked back to Ms Yang's to go to bed.

Posted by katdill 06:32 Archived in Vietnam Tagged new_year tet Comments (0)

Miracle in Phnom Penh

semi-overcast 30 °C

We were supposed to leave Phnom Penh this morning, but late last night we changed our plans to stay another day. Don lost his prescription sunglasses in Sen Monorom. He only realized this while we were on the elephant tour and although he asked and looked around, he could not find them. So he had spoken to the people there about them and they said if they found them they would try to get them to him.
We had tried to contact them since we got here - we mistakenly left without paying our bill and wanted to send the money to them. Without going into all the difficulties of talking on the phone with someone who doesn't speak English very well and the fact that the Cambodian mail system is almost non existent and can't be trusted, a miracle occurred. Dini found the glasses in their car from the day we visited their new place and sent them in by express bus/van this morning. So Don has been re-united with his sunglasses. None of this could have happened without extensive help from the desk staff here at the Angkor International. The woman on duty last evening did everything she could to make it all work for us - change our bus tickets, phone Sen Monorom, talk to the van company...she even went and picked them up today when they arrived!! Truly the best service ever!

We did some more exploring around town on foot today. Walking here is not very easy. Sidewalks are either parking lots for motorbikes or used by food booths or stores. So walking in the street is what happens. Walking the side of the street with other pedestrians, bicycles, motorbikes, cars, buses, and trucks all passing within inches of you. And lots of them are driving on the wrong side of the road! Although most streets are narrow enough to be considered one lane anyway. I thought I'd share a couple of the signs we have seen as we walk around the city.
Pretty much everything you need in one place!

Pretty much everything you need in one place!


You wouldn't want a cold coffin!

You wouldn't want a cold coffin!


We walked over to a park we saw on the map and visited Wat Phnom, the oldest Buddhist temple in the city. It is located on a small man made hill and has a nice park around it. After visiting it and enjoying the ambiance for awhile, we bought a fresh coconut to share. We were just finishing it, when I felt something touch my back. I looked around - it was a little monkey! I jumped up and it went to Don and a larger one joined it. We generally do not feed the animals, but we did give them the coconut shell. We were watching the little one cleaning out the shell when suddenly they both ran and climbed the trees. We looked around and here came a guard with a rock in his hand to throw at them. He warned us about them biting, which we knew - he obviously is well known to the monkeys and has to chase them away a lot.
Don with two monkeys on his back.

Don with two monkeys on his back.


We had lunch in a different restaurant -very little English spoken there. We got good food but the menu was a little daunting!
Menu!?!

Menu!?!


When we arrived back at our hotel, thinking we had to go in a tuk tuk to pick up the sunglasses, we found the young off duty woman just coming in with them. A miracle they made it back to Don!
After a rest in the heat of the day, we went out to walk along the riverside. Lots of people down there enjoying the relative cool. People exercising, eating, just relaxing. We saw a couple of groups playing a game we hadn't seen before, kick volleyball. Enjoy the short video.

We talked to a man about the strange fruit he had just bought, which was the one we've been trying to find the name. He didn't know what it was called, but he showed us how to eat it and even gave us each a sample! Very generous of him. The people who sell the fruit don't speak any English, or very little. And they know the Khmer name for the fruit but not any English name for it. We ended up running into this man and his son two more times in the course of the evening. Amazing in a city this size!
Strange fruit/vegetable we have been wondering about. It has some bean like seeds which are what you eat.

Strange fruit/vegetable we have been wondering about. It has some bean like seeds which are what you eat.


We had supper at the Evergreen Vegetarian Restaurant. This is the first restaurant we have eaten in since we arrived that was actually enclosed in a building! It was even air-conditioned. All the other restaurants we have mentioned have been open air - mostly more air than wall. We had a good meal and it was extremely cheap. Then back to the hotel to pack up to go on the bus tomorrow morning.

Posted by katdill 01:28 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

Busy Day in Phnom Penh

sunny 32 °C

We set off this morning to explore a bit of Phnom Penh.
Walking thru the street market I took a little video to give you the flavour of the scene.

We walked over a few blocks to the Royal Palace, but it was just closing until 2:00, instead we visited the National Museum. This museum seems to operate on the more is more principle, instead of showing the best example of something, show everything! So many statues of Buddha, so many lime paste containers. There were some interesting things to see, but it's hard to focus when there is so much.
National Museum

National Museum

Yes, there is a World Toilet Association

Yes, there is a World Toilet Association

Street sweeper taking a break

Street sweeper taking a break


After the museum, we stopped for lunch at a small Lebanese tapas restaurant. We sat down and found 3 people who had been on the elephant tour with us, sitting at a neighbouring table. Small world, again! While at lunch, I bought some postcards from a disabled woman who was selling from her wheelchair. So then it was time to find the post office to send the card. We had a tuk tuk take us to the post office and then back to the Royal Palace.
Flower of the Buddha tree

Flower of the Buddha tree


The tour of the Royal Palace is really just the grounds. There are very few buildings you can go into, just a couple of temples. In the temples, it seems the tradition is to put on display the offerings that are made to the Buddha - at least by anyone of some importance. So lining the walls of the temple are cabinets filled with the same small statues - again the more is more principle at work!
One of the many beautiful buildings in the Palace grounds

One of the many beautiful buildings in the Palace grounds

Next on the agenda was a massage. We each had an hour long Khmer traditional massage. This was done in the same room by two young women. They are so strong. This was a very intense, almost rough, massage. Not for the low pain threshold people. For both of us, the cost was $14 US.
After a quick visit back to the hotel, we had supper at a Cambodian guesthouse which was delicious. We had bought tickets for the Cambodia Living Arts dance performance and wanted to be early to get good seats. We got there in lots of time and found our seats. It was an hour long performance of six different dances, some traditional and some folk dances. The athleticism and fantastic costumes were amazing. We even saw a dance that I saw the children at OBT practicing.
Some of the many wonderful costumes

Some of the many wonderful costumes


Another day comes to an end. And yes, I'm feeling better but this miserable cough is still hanging on!

Posted by katdill 20:22 Archived in Cambodia Tagged phnom_penh Comments (0)

On to Phnom Penh

sunny 32 °C

One thing about staying in a thatched cabin in a village is that even before the sun comes up, the roosters, dogs, and people get up. The noise level is very high and earplugs are the only way to get any sleep. So mostly that means getting up bright and early! One of the other things about our cabin was how the floor was constructed with spaces between the bamboo slats in the floor.
How would you like walking on a floor you can see thru?

How would you like walking on a floor you can see thru?

Morning water bottle pick up

Morning water bottle pick up


We were taken into Kampong Cham in a tuk tuk to the bus station where we got on our first big modern bus of this trip. Seemed like luxury at first, but still just another bus ride.
We've been trying to find out the name of this fruit we have seen a few times. I finally got a photo of it. Anyone know the name in English?
Mystery fruit

Mystery fruit


We arrived in Phnom Penh (pronounced "nom pen") early afternoon and had a short tuk tuk ride to our hotel. We've thought the traffic was terrible in other places we've been, but this city is really wild. Huge numbers of motorbikes loaded with all kinds of things, buses, cars, truck, all jammed together with the most aggressive driver winning!
Wouldn't the SaskPower boys love this?

Wouldn't the SaskPower boys love this?


After chilling in our hotel room we went out after dark for supper. Don had found a restaurant called David's Noodle Restaurant, which featured home made noodles. We found it just a couple of blocks from our hotel and ate. We also got to watch the noodle making, which was very interesting. After supper we continued on down the block and found another David's Noodle Restaurant, so Don thinks we ate at the knock off joint and not the real one!! We continued our walk and ended up coming down the market street, which by that time of day was filled with garbage and bad smells, as the vendors packed up for the day. Don did a little fruit shopping, as it is hard to get him past a market without him buying some food! Then home to rest.
Street corner traffic

Street corner traffic

Don shopping in the market

Don shopping in the market

Posted by katdill 16:32 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

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