I would call myself an adventurous person. I crave that adrenaline rush, whether it’s from riding a ridiculous 10-loop rollercoaster, swimming side-by-side with terrifying-looking sea creatures or speeding on the back of a motorbike. But when I agreed to go ‘canyoning’ with my friends whilst travelling through Dalat, a central highland city in Vietnam, I must admit I was pretty damn nervous. The name alone sounded alarming and I could visualize myself falling into jagged rocks pushed by huge, uncontrollable spurts of water and plummeting dramatically to my peril. The fact that we had met a girl a few days previous of our canyoning outing in Mui Ne who had passed out whilst canyoning and suffered from a rather worrying leg injury certainly didn’t help my concern.
Mui Ne is a charming little spot in Southern Vietnam, mostly known for its unlikely sand dunes. We stayed for a couple of nights, although I feel that Mui Ne can be easily and thoroughly explored in just one day and night, depending on how jam-packed you like your days to be!
Where we were staying, Mui Ne Backpackers Village, you could join a tour for $7 to take you to the best attractions in the area. However, we very cheekily decided to copy their itinerary and do it ourselves on rental mopeds. This allowed us to explore at our own pace and was also more cost-efficient – bonus!
This itinerary for us was in fact spread throughout a couple of days, but here’s how I would fit it all into one day and night.
I’m not sure exactly what I had expected before visiting Vietnam on a one-month tourist visa. Clichéd visions of beaming locals donning rice paddy hats and the stunning limestone islands of Halong bay sprung to mind perhaps. All I really knew was that I had heard many great things about the country and it had rapidly risen to the top of my list of countries to visit in South East Asia.
What I was not expecting was just how different parts of the country looked from one another, and how often I felt like I wasn’t even in Vietnam at all! So I thought it might be quite fun to do a little comparison photo blog post likening some of the different countries I felt Vietnam bore some similarity to.
Kampot, a charming riverside town in Southern Cambodia is a spot I wished we had longer to explore. Realising back in Sihanoukville that we would be limited on time for Kampot due to our visa for Vietnam starting imminently, my travel buddies and I decided to make a quick beeline for the quaint little city. We had one full day to make the most of our visit – here’s what we got up to.
Oh Koh Rong, where do I even start? This small Cambodian island is about an hour’s ferry ride away from Sihanoukville on the mainland, and after hearing great things from many other backpackers, me and my travel buddies had been keen to check out the island for a long time. And boy were we impressed!
Back mid-February, as our boat pulled into the docks of Koh Rong, it immediately became blindingly obvious that I’d be enjoying myself there. The water was a dazzling hue of aqua-blue, the sand looked luxuriously soft and white and the teeny-tiny shops and restaurants along the beachfront were buzzing with backpackers. But that was just the beginning.
When I think about my time in Sihanoukville, I struggle to come to a conclusion on how I feel about the place. Described in the lonely planet as the party capital of Cambodia, I didn’t expect too much. Beaches, bars and booze – yup that’s basically what we got. After pretty much travelling mainland throughout our trip, at the sight of seeing a stretch of sand and some sea we were all keen for some sun and swimming. But whether I liked Sihanoukville or not? I’m still not sure. So, here’s what I thought of Sihanoukville; the partying and the beaches, which is, in a nutshell, all there is to do there!
I’m going to put it out there. Phnom Penh, the capital city of Cambodia, has been my least favourite place I’ve visited during my Southeast Asia adventures so far. It may be that I’m biased as I am a bit sick of huge cities by now, having spent most my life living in London. Or it may be that we simply overstayed there, visiting for 3 nights (a rookie mistake!). Or maybe Phnom Penh is just a ‘love it or hate it’ type of place, as I have met people who really enjoyed their visit there, happily embracing the hectic madness of the city.
So, to show that travelling isn’t all lounging on white sand beaches and meeting lovely friendly locals wanting to exchange tales about their country, I think it’s also pretty important to highlight some of the places that didn’t feel so amazing. The places that you wouldn’t rush back to visit again in a hurry.
Battambang, a city a couple of hours’ drive away from Siem Reap is a spot that is often left out from a typical traveller’s itinerary of Cambodia, overshadowed by the spotlight of the temples of Angkor and the bustle of Phnom Penh. However, after reading up about it in my trusty lonely planet guide, I was pretty keen to at least spend one full day there to explore the town’s surroundings.
We hired a tuk-tuk driver for the day (only $18 between 6 of us!) and we did indeed have a great day out. There was certainly lots to do. We spent the day journeying on a bamboo train, exploring various different temples, wandering through a vineyard and visiting a former interrogation centre and ‘killing caves’. These were used by the Khmer Rouge back in the 70s and although it was sad to see and learn about, it was also very interesting.
But it was something else that really for the first time during our trip honestly left me open-mouthed. Bats leaving their cave for the night. Literally millions and millions of them!
For our first stop in Cambodia, we travelled straight to Siem reap with the remaining members of our Thakhek loop gang we had met in Laos. The predominant reason most people visit Siem Reap is to check out the magnificent ancient temples of Angkor, and many will agree that no trip to Cambodia is complete without a visit.
Warning: This post is very image heavy!
Laos has so far been one of the most beautiful countries I’ve visited on my travels. Throughout our three weeks spent there, I was constantly having to reach for my camera to take a quick snap of my surroundings. So, to celebrate the beauty of the lovely country that is Laos in all its glory, I thought I’d put together a photo post of the 25 most stunning views I came across. Enjoy!