My aim is to travel from the UK to Brisbane for one of my best friends' wedding. Plane travel is so environmentally damaging so I am looking for another way. I also think that by travelling over land and sea I will be able to understand our world better as I will connect with the people and landscapes and not just look at the departure board in the airport. Any tips gratefully received!! Departure date 1st September.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Buses are Bad and Boats are Brill

After a bit of a 'westerner comfort' evening with the lovely Jacqui (who is working in Ho Chi Minh at a local orphanage) - eating Lasagne (CHEESE!) and sitting on a sofa eating apple pie and watching a film! it is time to say goodbye to Ho Chi Minh City. I didn't feel like I had time to get a real feel for the place - it is more chilled than Hanoi but more touristy and western. I am taking a combination of buses and boats to the border of Vietnam and on to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. Most of the trip involves floating up the Mekong Delta where we see fabulous floating houses and all sorts of hustle and bustle of community life. It is great on the river, there is the universal language of waving and smiling that transcends all cultures - I make eye contact with one man on his boat for a brief moment and then wonder for a long time afterwards about him and his life. We see coconut candy being made (nothing like what you get in UK - more like toffee), snake wine (Viagra of the Delta!), bees, rice popcorn and a fish farm. Lunch is at a little restaurant that we have to walk through lots of lush tropical foliage to get to and eat the local speciality, Elephant Ear Fish (it is good luck you know!) - see photo for the devoured remains. Nothing eventful in Chau Doc where we overnight, except for lovely seafood (all local, artisinal fisheries so it is ok isn't it?) and then a long boat trip to Phnom Penh. Having taken the 'easy' route', I am with a group of tourists and meet some lovely people again, all on their own different journeys. I am finding it very 'full-on' though to be constantly in the space of others; eating, sleeping, being uncomfortable in the bus with our heads lolling! There is no space and sometimes I just don't want to speak or even see another human being, so I have moments of frustration where I just want to plunge into the river and swim away! I try to learn a few words of the Khmer language, although I am assured that it is just English and US$ everywhere, grrr. I am amazed by the number of people I have met who have not bothered to learn the simple words of 'hello, goodbye, thankyou and please' in the language of the country they are in. I have a dilema of how to long to stay in Phnom Penh and Cambodia, it seems quite chilled here and I should go to Ankor Wat, it is also cheap and a bit touristy but I think I like it. I am worried about missing the boat though and so change my plan slightly which just means I will get longer in Phnom Penh, (2 nights), no time in Battambang (town in more rural area) and a hellish 14 hour bus trip direct to Bangkok - where I aim to arrive Sunday night.

(note about travelling costs so far - I have spent a lot of nights on trains which means no accommodation cost and in SE Asia it is possible to stay in a hostel for 2$US - 10$US. The train from Beijing to Hanoi was about 70 pounds (2 nights accomodation) - would have been less if I bought it myself!, the train from Hanoi to Saigon was 35 pounds including 2 meals and 2 nights accommodation, the bus and boat combo (includuding some food, 2 nights accommodation and tours was 24$US, the bus to Bangkok is 17 $US) Pretty Cheap eh! and compared to many flights, it is very cheap!


At 10:03 am, September 23, 2006, Blogger Paunch and Jaded said...

Whow! It's not just a journey by bus and train is it! It's a life experience. And the images conjured up by your description of floating up the Mekong delta are brilliant. Reminds me, too, of seeing the Mekong when it had a Chinese name a thousand miles or more north of there in Xishuangbanna. It's big there.

Lot's of people are watching with interest as your route snakes along the map of Asia on the wall. It doesn't do such a brilliant journey justice but reminds you how far you are going but also how far you have already gone in 3 weeks. Hang in there. You can escape people once you're on the boat to Australia - probably. All our love.

At 3:26 pm, September 23, 2006, Blogger LimePulp said...

Hi Babs

So Western Comfort has made it's all the way to Ho Chi Minh, but where did Jacqui get the cheese from?

Glad you didn't jump in the river and swim away, I think you may still be a little to far away from Brisbane to swim the rest of the way and I don't know if your accordion would float plus it may not sound very good after your long swin to Aus.

If you are going to make eye contact with the local men you could at least pick one thats not married, there won't be many single men on your trip that could resist those gorgeous eyes of yours...

Also glad that you seem to be finding pently of food to eat now, no more mouldy bread, and are enjoying the local food. and there Vodka.

It's good to hear that you are making a bit of extra time to chill out in Phnom Penh, sounds like your kind of place, will apart from the tourists. Sorry you have been occasionally been getting frustrated with being around people all the time it shouldn't be to long before you are on the Cargo Ship and probably asking where all the people have gone..

Well done on learning a couple of basic words in the local language, even if you only say a couple of words in there language it makes people feel more at ease talking to a weird, but lovely, foreign lady with a huge backpack and a big pink bag stuck to her front (accordion), at least you can always fall back to that old internationally understand language of just smiling and waving.

As one of the other people commented here the wheather is a bit odd over here at the moment, one day loads of trains get cancelled due to flooding the next day people are out sunbathing, then high winds another. Guess the wheather here just misses you as much as everybody here does.

Hope the 14 hour bus journey goes, or went, ok, loads more Vodka and lots of chocolate and time will fly by, wonder how much cardon output 'time' uses each year flying by?

Have a great time in Bangkok, just try and avoid spending any time in the 'Bangkok Hilton'

Hope you get to find your own little piece of space to recharge soon.

Keep safe and well

Lots of Love and Luck and plenty more Vodka, hope the Bride knows to get you a case full.

Steve XXX

At 5:22 pm, September 24, 2006, Blogger Kath said...

just read your blog. glad to hear you are seeing so many interstin g things . it sounds fabulous .i look forward to some more and best luck for the future .
love gran xx

At 1:22 pm, September 25, 2006, Blogger pottylotty said...

Heh Babs, I have no idea what i'm doing on this Blog thing so ww'll see if it works. I was so excited to here about your mission as I knew you were planning it but didn't know when you'd set off until Baggy told me she'd seen you in the Guardian! I love it. You;re doing great and I love hearing of your adventures - just sounds icredible experience and I really can't wait to see you and have a good catch up at some point. I fly (sorry had booked my flight and your trip sounds like a much better option!) home from Darwin on 26th October back to London. Wonder what your plans are for after the wedding and getting home..... or are you staying in Oz. When in Bangkok give my Dad a call and i know he would pick you up and you could stay with him. email me or blog if you want his number. He's a great guide and welcoming! I follow your days with interest - keep them coming.
Dom and I went and saw 'The inconvenient truth' - Al Gores film re Global warming. Though it was good, informative and inspiring - wonder if you've heard much about it?
Big hug and all the best for the next phase
p.s. Dom's favourite Thai saying is....'ling bon ton mai!' which means 'the monkeys are in the trees!'. Thought this could be a good opening chat up line for you to meet the locals!! Hope it helps break the language barrier!


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