After finishing my tour of Saigon and the Mekong Delta in southern Vietnam, I traveled north to the old city of Hoi An, in the center of Vietnam. And it’s a very beautiful city, but extraordinarily touristy, a prime example of Disneyfication. In the old quarter, the architecture and ambiance is amazing, but every single building and business caters to the tourists who descend upon this city. Clothing stores, souvenir stores, bars, restaurants, tailors, and art galleries. Everywhere. But quite picturesque.
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Once the post-Tet celebrations ended, I decided to take a trip from Saigon to the Mekong delta, to the town of Vinh Long and the island of An Binh. For me, there’s something about the Mekong – in my mind at least, it’s got this mystique, this mystery. And after my horrible experience taking a tour of Cao Dai Temple and the Cu Chi Tunnels in Hanoi, I vowed to go to the Mekong by myself, instead of relying on a tour. I was pretty happy with the results.
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Saigon, the old capital of South Vietnam, before Communist North Vietnam conquered / liberated the south. For Americans like myself, Vietnam holds a special place in my country’s history, so I had to go and see the country, experience the culture that somehow defeated the US military.
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Don’t be in Saigon during Tet, everyone says. Everything is closed, everything is three times the price, there’s nothing to do, and it’s impossible to get out. Contrary to all this advice, I decided that I HAD to be in Saigon during Tet, the lunar new year celebration. After all, it’s the biggest holiday of the year for Vietnam, surpassing both Christmas and New Years. Plus, I always have to be a rebel.
Conclusion: Saigon during Tet is totally awesome, and completely worth it.
Continue reading Travelogue: Saigon during Tet
Kep, a peaceful beach town half an hour away from Kampot, made for a fun day trip. It’s a town where you can do nothing, and have a great time doing so. I spent maybe 6 hours in here, walking around enjoying the sights and foods.
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After finishing Phnom Penh, Battambang, and Siem Reap, I traveled to Kampot, a laid back town in southern Cambodia, known primarily as a place to chill and relax near the beach. Most of my fellow backpackers would choose to go to Sihanoukville, but I’ve heard it is too much of a drugs and partying town for my tastes, so I avoided Sihanoukville and visited Kampot instead. I was quite happy spending a couple days lounging about in Kampot and seeing the sight sof Bokor mountain.
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After the touristy madness of Siem Reap, I decided to visit Battambang, a very chill town. Even though it is Cambodia’s second largest city, there’s not much to see here – mostly the bamboo train and the bat cave, so there aren’t many tourists. I stayed here for a couple days, just soaking in the ambiance – and of course, visiting the bamboo train.
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Angkor Archaeological Park! Angkor Wat! Angkor Thom! Bayon! If not for Angkor Park, Siem Reap would be utterly devoid of tourists. But as it is, every day a phalanx of tourists descend upon the park, and it’s probably one of Cambodia’s greatest sources of income ($20 per person per day for an access permit!) Many people choose to do Angkor Park slowly, over the course of a couple of days, but I chose to do a grand one-day tour, from sunrise to sunset, and visiting all the most famous temples of Angkor Archaeological Park.
This will be a very photo-intensive post!
Continue reading Travelogue: Angkor Archaeological Park
From the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, I traveled to Siem Reap, the tourist capital of all of Cambodia and home to Angkor Wat – which will get its own article later. The thing about Siem Reap is that it is totally a tourist town, built to accommodate the millions of people who fly into Cambodia just to see Angkor Wat – so there’s not much here aimed at backpackers, but a lot aimed at more mainstream tourists. Still, if you get away from the touristy parts, it’s an okay city.
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Back on the road, in Phnom Penh! Oh, how I’ve missed it, backpacking! Sure, taking a break in Taiwan is awesome, but there’s something about the rest of southeast Asia – the noise, the heat, the endless tuktuks, the feeling of adventure.
Continue reading Travelogue: Phnom Penh