Location: Bradley Stoke, Bristol, UK
Well, I guess this is it.
This will possibly be the last last time Ill ever update this site.
In the last 2 weeks, I have travelled 16,000 miles, flown on 6 planes, took 2 long distance bus rides, 11 taxies, 1 rickshaw, 2 tuk-tuks, 2 motorbikes, 1 hot air balloon, a speedboat, 2 cyclos, 1 ferry and a train.
In total I left or entered 5 countries.
I met people from Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam and also from United Arab Emirates, U.S.A, Japan, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, Denmark, South Africa, Isle of Man, Libya, France, China, Taiwan, Italy and of course England.
Theyve been a mixture of Buddhist, Hindu, Christian, Muslim and Atheist.
Black, white and yellow. Oh, and me
To say Ive had a great time would be an understatement.
Life Changing would be a better expression.
Some of you disbelieved I would begin such a journey, where I couldnt use my Hilton Members Card. So did I.
But backpacking Samsonite style was never an option.
Id like to thank Kathy for the loan of the backpack, Les for the memory stick (got it working in the end) and Carrie for the Lonely Planet and sharing your knowledge on Nam.
And without sounding like the MTV awards, Id like to thank you. For without you, this site would be worthless.
I never intended this to be a Rough Guide or a Lonely Planet, merely a place where I could share my experiences, and sometimes emotions, with family and friends as and when they happened.
I thank you all for the kind and funny messages. You were company on what was never going to be a lonely trip.
Hundreds of you have visited this site since I launched it 2 weeks ago, most of which I will never meet. But if you arrived here in your quest for knowledge to help you on your own travels, I hope it has helped you make the right decision and visit South East Asia.
If you have had a desire to visit Cambodia but an apprehension, dont. Just go and say Hello.
The Khmer people touched me. Id move there tomorrow if I knew how to help them.
And of course Id like to thank Planet Ranger for the free webspace and instant access they give to travellers so that experiences can be shared and we can all learn.
In the future, Im sure I will often return to this site, to read my diary and your messages, with a smile and maybe even a tear and think about that summer of 2004 when I left my expectations and inhibitions at Heathrow and opened my heart and mind to a whole new world.
God bless you, whoever your God maybe.
Location: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Well on my way back now.
The temperature is 43oC here, the hottest I've ever felt.
Going to get some halal chicken and cup of tea so catch you all later.
Location: Bangkok, Thailand
So here I am, back where I started 12 days ago. Bangkok.
A metropolis of Asian welth.
A living presentation of global success.
And why not, they deserve it. Theyve worked hard enough to make it what it is.
Bangkok plays residency to some of the richest people on the planet. People who could buy Cambodia outright from their personal fortunes (or should I say, pay off their national debts).
Bangkok is great. Full of energy. You just feel so positive here and I cant believe how happy they all are. Their always bloody smiling. Its beautiful.
In Thailand, Ive only seen this city, but when you add to Bangkok the fabulous beaches of the south or the fantastic landscapes of the northern regions, I can see why this has been a popular spot for backpackers for many years.
I did pop into The Bamboo Bar last night for a quickly but left at 2am as there was no way I could miss the flight. Anyway after the relaxing day I had, I couldnt be arsed Bigging it up as they say.
I flew with Thai Airlines. How much further could it have been from the flight I got to Siem Reap last week. I got upgraded as I arrived so that was a good start. I had to do a bit of flirting with the little minx on the check-in desk to get it (yes, yet another whos been promised the life of a princess in Bristol) but it was well worth it. This was possibly the best flight I ever had. The plane was perfect, the cabin crew were fantastic and you even get your in flight meals served on bone china plates. None of that tin foil nonsense up this end of the plane chaps!
I was going to get a bed in the city near Patpong for tonight, however decided to stay near the airport as it takes an hour to get across the city and I would need to get up at 5am. I decided after doing so well on the budget I set myself, Id get a bit of quality for my last night in Asia. Therefore I booked into The Rama Gardens. This place if beautiful. 5 star treatment everywhere. It 21 world class restaurants & bars. I get enough problems trying to decide what to order off the menu normally, so what chance have I got here. I cant even decide which restaurant to have dinner in tonight.
I was going to hit one of the Malls to do some shopping earlier, however, hung around the hotel instead. Id have only spent too much money and I was just amazed with this place.
Then I was going to head to Patpong this evening but truth is, Im finding it hard to prise myself away from this place. Its so contemporary in design and they got everything here, you think to yourself, why leave?
Just had a 2 hour aromatheropy massage, now typing away drinking my 3rd Singapore Sling listening to the geezer playing the piano in the bar. Sure Im giving Patpong a miss.
Oh and by the way, how much for this extravagance? Just 29 pounds English. Oh yes cheaper than a Travelodge in Neath.
So thats it. After all the rushing around over the last 2 weeks, I managed to get 2 fansatic days chilling out. I didnt expect it so its a bonus!
I'll bid you all fairwell and catch you tomorrow!
Location: Saigon, Vietnam
Check this out!
Go to the Planet Ranger homepage and they've used my photo of the 2 Buddhist monks at Ankor Wot!
Bring it on!
Location: Saigon, Vietnam
The fact that I am writing this from Saigon and not The Mekong Delta should be good enough for you to have already noticed that I didn't make it.
After I mailed you last night I went back to the room to get changed then headed out to meet the Irish girls and Fabiccio at midnight. We met this guy called Erwann from France who took us to a club called Saffron. If youre ever in Saigon, you have to go there.
There is nothing like it. Not worth going before midnight as there's nobody there. After that, the young Vietnamese crowd start to turn up after they close their restaurants. We got there about 2:30 and the place was pumping.
I'm not saying we had a late night, but when your doing Thi Chi with the Vietnamese in the park at sunrise, you know it's time to go to bed.
And there you have it.
There was just no way I was going to be getting up at 7am for my bus to go down to The Mekong Delta.
But I did try, but it felt as if after nearly 2 weeks of traveling and partying, my body was saying "That's it, enoughs enough".
So for the first time of my travels, I failed to get up and had a lie in. It felt great and so did I afterwards.
Now what am I going to do?
Nothing was the answer to myself.
Headed to this lush Vietnamese restaurant for an early lunch. Done a spot of shopping, yep, got more chopsticks then made my way to the park to read my book.
When I get there they got the afternoon session of Thi Chi going on so I figure, I'm here now, and join in. There's maybe about 60 or 70 people doing it.
In the centre of everyone is this little old lady who is leading the rest like some kind of aerobics instructor, however, I soon find out that Thi Chi is usually started by 1 person, anybody, then others join in. The morning sessions can have 100's attend.
And I'm doing this much better than I was this morning (I fell over twice). Such simple movements, but so effective.
Then I sit down amazed by the new craze over here. It's a cross between a shuttlecock and a hacky-sack. There's a circle of 5 people to start then soon there's about 20, all keeping this item in the air. I'll be getting a couple of these to bring back ready for our next trip the The Downs.
I meet a couple of Vietnamese guys and we're having a chat and the next thing I notice is its dark and I've been in the park all afternoon. Now that's chilling!
I feel so comfortable tonight. I've had all my clothes washed at the hotel so now it's like:
"Oh! what do I want to wear? Maybe this or maybe that!"
Full rucksack worth of clothes, washed and ironed for 60 pence English. Bargin!
All that is, except for my fave white one. According to all the travelers, whites always come back pink. I guess it's true. I just thought it was a popular color to wear with the travelers.
I'm not going to The Bamboo Bar tonight. No way!
Had a fab Shrimp Sautee with steamed rice before I came here and now going for an early night. I got to fly to Bangkok in tomorrow.
Off to bed now so goodnight y'all.
p.s Actually, I may just stop by The Bamboo Bar for a quick one. Just one! Come on, I'm on my holiday and it sure as hell would be rude not to.
Location: Saigon, Vietnam
*** HAPPY 40TH BIRTHDAY ANNE ***
Ended up in The Bamboo Bar in what ended up to be an International Pool Compition. Then moved onto a bar called Guns & Roses until 4:30. Oh dear!
This morning I had a walk around the city before heading towards The War Remnants Museum. It used to be called The Museum Of Chinese And American War Crimes until not so long ago, but they changed it not to offend the growing number of tourists.
The museum is a fascinating display of war memorabilia, however, as expected; it portrays the war from only one side. Throughout the museum, you are reminded that the US Forces dropped 7,850,000 tons of bombs on Vietnam. They also remind you that throughout the entire 2nd World War America only dropped 2,057,244 tons of bombs over every battlefield.
More astonishingly, there is a full room related to the fact that America sprayed 75,000,000 liters of defoliants, including dioxin, over croplands and forests in the South. The effects of this have caused much suffering and continue to today with many people being born very physically disabled. There are more Siamese twins born here than anywhere else on Earth and it has been proved it is because of the contaminated soil.
America don't get a chance to put their side forward, however, I wonder what the War Museum in Pearl Harbor looks like?
In the courtyard is a collection of US Helicopters, Planes, Tanks and various artillery. All proudly displayed as if saying " look what we have".
Being into photography, more interesting to me are the 3 art galleries of photographs from the war.
The first called "Requiem" is of hundreds and hundreds of photographs taken from the front line by US, Vietnamese and other nationalities. They show the blood and guts of war. As I walked around, I didn't feel sides, only saddened at seeing photos of young soldiers killing each other. The photos are graphic and many have never been released outside of the museum.
You are also reminded that 58,000 US troops lost their lives during the war. But continually reminded that 2,000,000 Vietnamese people were killed.
Another gallery shows you the effects of the war. Close up photo's of Vietnamese children blown up. Even children shot dead lying on the road as a US tank is about to run over their corpse.
There is a photo of a US Soldier, walking along carrying half a dead Vietnamese man. The soldier is clearly laughing.
The 3rd gallery shows the support from around the world against the war and the demonstrations that were taken in almost every country of the world for the US to remove their troops and go home. Millions of Americans marched throughout every American city, but for years the bloodshed continued.
An interesting fact I learned there was that while President Kennedy allowed his armed forces to go into war, his father Joe Kennedy, made a fortune of $300,000,000, making and selling weapons to his countries army. War is clearly a good family business to be in.
As I said, it is one sided, but what I know is that in both countries, most people did not want the war, millions died, even more casualties and even more family members lost loved ones.
And for what?
What was the point?
These two countries have hardly spoken since, so their not even trying to move things forward that much.
To me, it felt like two bald men fighting over a comb. Pointless!
However, I will say one thing in defence of America that the museum fails to note. There are still 7,000 US P.O.W's that are unaccounted for. Maybe they are still held (they'd be about 60 now), murdered or died naturally.
The Vietnamese Govenment has never said what has happened to them.
The photographs are graphic so please be aware.
After the museum, I said to my driver "take me to the clothes shops"
Saigons answer to New Bond Street.
Fab and cheep. Mainly Japanese and French designers. Shirts from top Japanese brands for 5 pound.
Also went food shopping to pick up some Vietnamese oils, spices and sauces. Oh and chopsticks!
Guess what the next dinner party is?
Then I went to this amazing Sushi restaurant. No kitchen, they don't need one it's all raw. Just simply prepared in front of you.
"Where next?" I say, why the hairdressers of course. I was a bit nervous trying to explain to someone who doesn't speak English how I wanted my hair cut, but it was only a short while before I realized he was more nervous about doing something wrong.
I had a manicure while my hair was getting cut, each hand on the knee of some little honey while they pampered away! Oh there is a God!
Then a foot, leg, back, neck and head massage.
Oh, and by the way, he did a sharp cut.
Have I told you I'm having a great time?
In an Internet Cafe at the moment (obviously) but soon going back to get changed and meeting up with everyone at the Bamboo Bar. We're going to the famous "Apocalypse Now" club tonight.
Busing it down to the Mekong Delta in the morning so looking forward to that.
Take it easy! Andrew
p.s I can't get Cambodia out of my mind.
Location: Saigon, Vietnam
*** HAPPY BIRTHDAY TAMARA ***
"GOOD MORNING VIETNEM!"
I've been dying to say that, but guess that was predictable.
Yes I'm here in Ho Chi Minh City otherwise still known locally as Saigon. And this is offically the furthest place from home I have ever been in my life.
10 hours on the bus!
Had to get up at 5:30 this morning to get the 6:15 bus across town to the main bus terminal. The main bus then left at 06:45. God it was painful. Rice field's are fantastic to see but they become a bit boring when your knees are wedged up under your chin for so long.
Remember me telling your that I was told by travellers that it will take 2 hours to get over the boarder between Cambodia and Vietnam?
" IT"S BLOODY TRUE"
God we waited and waited, seemed we were never going to get in. Firstly, you have to go "OUT" of the Cambodian checkpoint. That takes an hour. Then you have to walk and lug all your belongings across "No Mans Land" then wait another hour to get into Vietnam.
All this in baking heat. No shade!
I really don't know what would happen it you were authorised to leave Cambodia, walk across the strip, then Vietnam refuse you entrance.???????
But hay I'm here now. Saigon! Vietnam! Yes Mamm!
Got off the bus and found a hotel on Bui Vien. It's 1km west of the city and the main street here for backpackers.
Again, it's not too bad. I got a double bed, my own bathroom with hot running water (forgot how lush it was) and satalite TV all for 4 pound a night.
Catch is the view.
It ain't got one. There's no windows. But as I don't intend being in there during the day and only sleeping in the night is perfect.
Oh, and they don't charge extra for the cockroaches!
I'm travelling with Audrey and Suzi from Dublin (don't tell anyone but Suzi's dropdead!)
I was sorry to leave Cambodia, it had captivated me. The people are simply like us, Mothers, Fathers, Sons and Daughters.
Only they've had it harder than any of us and continue to have an unfair start in life.
But something inside me, makes me feel that it will not be the last time I go there. But I don't know why I say that.
Can't really tell you much about Nam or Saigon yet as I've been in the pub with the Irish girls since we got here.
There are a few things I want to check out while down here like the Cu Chi Tunnels and the Mekong Delta but I'll sort that out tommorrow.
Anyway, I'll love you and I'll leave you 'cos we're all meeting back up in the Bamboo Bar at 10pm
Here's something else to remember:
"Value what you have, not want what you haven't"