Saturday, February 28, 2009

Vietnam Singapore and Malaysia

For the last day of our tour (if you remember we left off in Siem Reap) we headed out towards some older ruins on the bikes. Along the way, we stopped at a little roadside stand, and learned how they make palm sugar. If you've never tried palm sugar before, it has a nice flavor.

David also finally got a chance to see some water buffalo out in the "wild."

After all the biking David decided to catch the bus back, while Jenni road back. Since David got back before her, he had some time to kill and went to the central tourist part of town. He took a tuktuk and literally got taken for a ride.

Before we all split ways the next day we went out for dinner at a "local" restaurant. We believe our guide phrased it like this: "Ladies and Gentleman further information please. For dinner tonight, would you like to eat where local people eat." "Oh yeah sure, yeah we're knowledgeable sturdy travelers." Well the food was quite questionable, and the largest dog in the world was running around the kitchen, and might have been the cook. The different soups were clearly just sitting in large pots, for however many days. Now, there is nothing wrong with this, except if your stomachs aren't used to it. Luckily no one got sick that night or the next day. This is probably because of the large amount of alcohol that was consumed due to it being New Years Eve. A few of us headed down to the tourist strip to have a few drinks. They basically cordoned off the whole area to contain all westerners and turned it into a giant rave. He managed to get a spot on the second floor of a restaurant and look down at the masses. It was good fun.

The next day we were free from schedules and routines, left to the our own devices...unfortunately, without that rigid structure we didn't really know what to do with ourselves. So David watched movies in Cambodian and Jenni took a nap. Actually, we went out to the very new, very modern museum. It was actually a really nice museum, but the way they broke it up into themes, it became quite repetitive. They talked about the Hindu influence in one room and discuss the kings and then talk about the kings in another room.

The next morning we packed up and headed to the airport via tuktuk, with our packs barely strapped to the seats. About halfway there, Jenni realized that she had left her wedding ring in the hotel room (we were shocked, it is very unlike Jenni to forget things). We decided to just get to the airport and get the flight settled and see how much time we had. We got there and the security guard asked which flight we were on, "Siem Reap airlines to Ho Chi Minh City." Never heard of it...So we go inside to the terminal. No Siem Reap airlines. We then decided Jenni would go back to the hotel, and David would figure out how we were going to leave the country. Here's Jenni's harrowing tale:

"I hurried out the airport, assuming I had little time to get back to the hotel. The taxi, tuk tuk and motobike kiosk advertised fares back to the city: $10 taxi, $8 tuk tuk and $4 motobike. The choice was obvious, not only were motobikes cheapest, they could easily weave in and out of stalled traffic. And the teenage boy driving the bike was more than happy to turn a tourist ride into the city into a grand high speed adventure. He was obviously very concerned I lost my ring as he dodged cars, sped through red lights and took a back alley full of pot holes to avoid a traffic jam. I laughed the entire way to the hotel -- mostly out of fear. But we made it safely and I ran back up to the room and the ring was right where I knew I'd left it... on the floor next to the bed... where I always leave my ring... ahem. I ran back out and popped back on the young Cambodian's bike. The trip back was equally thrilling. What probably should have taken 40 minutes round trip took my young friend only 20 minutes. He dropped me off at the airport and, with a gesture of triumph, said, "Yes! We made it!" I am not sure whether he was celebrating the time or that we had, indeed, made it alive. So that's how losing my wedding ring became the highlight of my trip to Cambodia. David, however, had less fun waiting for me at the airport."

While Jenni was speeding down the highway, clinging to the back of the motobike, David drug our two backpacks to the domestic terminal on a miscommunication (read, David doesn't speak Khmer) where he was turned around, "You're on an international flight, not a domestic flight." He returned to the international terminal hoping our airline and flight had somehow materialized in his absence. No such luck. By this point Jenni had come back and after a lot of pleading we finally got somebody to listen to us. Turns out our flight had been canceled for over a month, and we had, luckily, been moved to a later flight. Our idiot travel agents at Flight Centre didn't notify us of this. Notification of changed flights is pretty standard, at least we thought it was. So we lounged around the terminal for a little while, sorely tempted by the Dairy Queen.

Once we were on the Vietnam Airlines flight, we were greeted by the pilot "Hallo there folks..ahhhh...we'll be taking off shortly...ahhh...we should have you in Ho Chi Minh City in about an hour and a half...ahhhh...the weather is..." and so on, in a perfect Midwestern American accent. We were back in Ho Chi Minh City, and it had lost its allure and mystery. Now it was just a big city with a lot of people.

We had a free day the next day, and then we were headed to Singapore. We walked around the city some more and went to the art museum. While a lot of the paintings/sculptures were contemporary, they really didn't challenge the current system/government. A lot of times in western museums it is common to see some sort of social critique. Actually, there were even heroic looking sculptures and paintings from the Vietnam war. From there we went to the history museum where we learned many things. For example, "In 1930, the Indochinese Communist party was founded, it proposed the correct revolution platform." Then, "Everywhere, peasants rose up against the oppression of monarchy system." Finally, "After 1975, developing socio-economic requirements resulted in the movement of members of Northern ethnic groups to Southern Vietnam." Every museum is certainly nationalistic, but we just liked the wording.

From Ho Chi Minh we flew to Singapore. We just were using Singapore as a jumping off point to go to Malaysia, but we planned to stay a night to catch up with some old friends - the food. Luckily neither of us were packing durian (for those of you who don't know, durian is a fruit that apparently tastes good... if you can get paste the odor of blue cheese that's been sitting in the sun for 3 weeks).

You can see our earlier post on Singapore for some different info. For the evening, we just went out to eat and then back to the tiny hostel. The next morning we got up early to catch the train to Kuala Lumpur. The stomach bug that David had been fighting off quite successfully finally won, and it made for a rough train ride and couple of days. It was long too, almost 7 hours.

Kuala Lumpur is a modern beautiful city. Anyone interested in an easy introduction to Southeast Asia would really enjoy it. The public transport was easy to use, and we just hopped on the monorail to our hostel. We wandered around for a bit and grabbed something to eat (David could hardly touch it), then back to the hostel. At some point in the night the main water pipe for the whole street was shut off for some reason we never really knew. This meant there was no running water at the hostel so we thought it best to leave, rather than brush our teeth with the toilet water. David was still not feeling well, so we really didn't want to go too far. Our first stop was to get tickets to visit the Petronas (pronounced pet row nass) Towers. They are the second tallest buildings in the world, but the tallest twin towers. It's free to visit, but they only allow a certain amount of people a day. Then we went across town to perhaps the best made museum (Malaysian history museum) either of us had been. Really top notch exhibits that kept our interest the whole time. Then back across town to visit the skybridge that connected the two towers. After a short propaganda film about Petronas (en brief it is a Malaysian Oil company) we and twenty of our closest friends crammed into a freight elevator to visit the bridge. It is actually a double decker bridge, one floor is for tourists, the other floor is for people who work in the building. It makes things easier so that people do not have to go to the ground floor to access a floor in the opposite building. You can get a good view of the city, as well as inside the offices.

The towers are actually built on a giant mall. Which is where we spent most of our time, because of the "facilities" we were lacking in our hostel. We spent our evening at the movie theater, and came out shivering. It reminded us of the Antarctica simulation exhibit at the Antarctica museum in New Zealand. But it was a dry cold...

David was still sick the next day as we clamored onto the train for another 7 hour ride. We were nearing the end of the trip when they began to hand out the custom cards. Jenni woke David up, and he incoherently mumbled "I don't have your passport." This triggered something in Jenni's brain that said "I don't have my passport either." Thus began the final leg of our trip. It was determined that the passport was probably still at the hostel, so we checked with the train personnel and they told us we could catch a train back to Kuala Lumpur at the next station. We disembarked there and made a call to make sure it was back at the hostel then waited around for the next train. Luckily there was also a train the next day early in the morning, and our flight back to Darwin didn't leave till that evening.

Wanting to preserve the moment for posterity, David caught it on video.


Amazingly everything went very smoothly and we got back to Singapore in plenty of time. So ended our trip through Southeast Asia.

1 comment:

cedriclamb said...

Hey, you breate like Darth Vader over your videos like I do. Sounds like an adventure.