Well I'm now sitting here almost 2 weeks into the Asia section of our trip and I honestly cannot believe how quickly it has gone. Currently typing this entry on my iPod notes as I'm wide awake at 2am on a night train in Vietnam on our way from Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) to Nha Trang 8hrs up the coast. Going back in time a couple of weeks we were coming to the end of NZ. Before our final journey on the Kiwi Experience bus we spent our last few days in New Zealand checking out the Qeenstown Winter Festival, playing the most awesome indoor mini golf I've ever seen, some skiing and a night out or two. Having spent all of the last 5 weeks and shared some great times with everyone on the Kiwi Experience it was sad to see everyone depart and go their separate ways with onwards travels.
From Queenstown we began our journey to Christchurch on the 26th of June, having already been up to the city I knew a cool little hostel just inside the city so Charlie and I decided to stay there for a few nights to explore what was left of Christchurch from the 2010/11 earthquakes. Before meeting up with my cousin for the last time we took a look around the damaged city and even paid a visit into the restart centre which is a shopping mall made out of cargo containers and the Quake City musuem all about the events, history and future of Christchurch's earthquakes especially after the on goings of February 2011. We also organised to meet up with Karl and Alice (Cousin and cousins wife mentioned in earlier blogs) to head up Mt Hutt for a days skiing which was awesome fun! We also managed to once again nail the weather in the fact that just like the Remarkables we got clear blue skies though it has to be said that the powder was loads better in Christchurch than Queenstown. We spent the day cruising around the slopes before heading back down the mountain to a little town called Methven where we stayed our final night in New Zealand.
And so the 30th of June came around all too fast and after the most incredible time in New Zealand it was now time to leave for Thailand. We enjoyed a cafe breakfast in Methven before going back into Christchurch to take one last look at the Cathedral and headed to the airport for Karl and Alice's flight back home to Auckland an mine and Charlie's flight over to South East Asia.
We landed in Bangkok around 1am, went through airport procedures, grabbed our bags and hopped into a taxi into the city to a Hostel where Ben Doughty was waiting to meet us. As a 3 we spent the following day seeing what Bangkok had to offer. This included our first ever ride in a tuc-tuc, a river tour on a Gondola type boat with what seemed to be a car engine strapped to the back (this thing moved!!) and checking out some pretty cool temples including the Sleeping Buddha which is also the largest Buddha in the world (yes, it's MASSIVE).
At 7am the following morning we got ourselves out of bed and onto a minibus to head off into Cambodia. In the minibus there were 11 of us. 4 of which were Girls sat behind us who we got talking to only to find out that one of them happened to be a friend of my brothers who I had met a few years ago whilst out shopping in Beaconsfield! Small world! The journey took around 6 hours and we eventually arrived in Siem Reap, home of the famous Angkor Wat and Angkor Thom temples, the largest ones in the world dating back to the 12th century. On arrival in the town of Siem reap we checked into our hotel and went out in search of some food. We came across and awesome buffet with a twist in the fact the you cook your own meat and noodles!
The following day was the earliest start of the whole trip. We organised a tour of the Angkor Wat temples at sunrise this meant a 4am start. We arrived at Angkor Wat at around 4,30 to see the sun come up over the temple, unfortunately it was a very cloudy morning and so the sunrise itself wasn't exactly spectacular however what the light did reveal was the incredible temple that stood in front of us. We spent the whole morning cruising round 6 temples with a tuc tuc ride to ferry us to each one and then proceeded to get back to the hotel where all 3 of us caught up on our sleep for a few hours. The next day consisted of around 14 hours on a bus. We headed from Siem Reap all the way through Phnom Penh and down into Sihanoukville which in the end was well worth the journey for the awesome white beaches and crystal clear water. We stayed at a pretty nice hostel although it lacked air conditioning, this didn't bother us too much simply because we were staying on Otres Beach and had almost had the place to ourselves! On our first day here Charlie and I headed into the town to sort out Visas for entry into Vietnam in the coming days and spent a few ours topping up the tan in the great weather. Unfortunately towards the end of our stay at Otres beach we were caught in the seasonal monsoon weather, which was quite possibly the heaviest rain I have ever seen in my life.
We left Otres bech after a couple of nights and decided to go and explore the capital city of Cambodia, Phnom Penh. Here we stayed in the backpacker area and the 3 of us were taken out on the first night by the owner of the hostel, a Scotsman, to of course watch Andy Murray win Wimbledon which was a great evening. The following day we prepared ourselves to go and see Phnom Penhs killing fields where 40 years ago a mass genocide took place killing between 2.2 and 2.5 million people. It was an horrific event both interesting and saddening to be at the place where it all happened. From the killing fields we jumped into a tuc tuc and headed towards S-21 which is an ex high school turned into a prison of which housed over 5,000 inmates and was the start of the genocide in the Phnom Penh region.
We left Phnom Penh for Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam the next day bringing our time in Cambodia to an end. The journey took around 7 hours and we arrived at our hotel in Ho Chi Minh at about 6pm. At 7.30pm our 4th member of the group, Jack Goss was to be landing in Ho Chi Minh airport so I got myself into a taxi and headed to arrivals to greet him.
The next day, now as a 4 but unfortunately with Ben unwell, Charlie, Jack and myself headed to go and see the Cu Chi tunnels which is a famous attraction for all tourists to Vietnam. The Cu Chi tunnels were dug as a form of protection for the Vietnamese during the war. The tunnel network itself was 250km long and only around 50cm wide by less than a meter tall, with me being 6ft 4 I did struggle inside and only made it roughly 50m down one of them. After the tunnel experience we went back to the hostel to chill out for a bit before going out to get some food. This ended up being another hot rock evening where we ordered meat, rice and some veg and cooked the food ourselves sat on a street corner with 50p bottles of Tiger beer!
Having started this blog entry on the train up the coast to Nha Trang I am now finishing it just before we depart Nha Trang on a bus further up the coast to Hoi An. Nha trang has been a great experience. We spent an day chilling out on the beach and in the warm sea water and the next did a snorkelling and fishing boat cruise where we even paid a visit onto a floating fishing village which was an awesome experience. On the evening of our final night in Nha Trang we were taken by the hostel owner to play some 5-a-side football with some locals. With none of us having any real talent in the game, we got absoutley schooled by the locals. None the less it was really great fun and nice to do some exercise and meet new people.
Thats about it for now. We are aiming to reach Ha Long bay in the next few days before heading over to Ha Noi for our flight back into Thailand. 4 weeks remain of the trip with loads still to do and see, hopefully they wont fly past too quickly.