Australia: Fremantle, Perth, and Rottnest

Australia: Fremantle, Perth, and Rottnest

May 8-15, 2019

Wow. Australia. So good to be back. So good to be in a cooler place and a place where I can cook my own meals. So good to be able to drink the water out of the tap. So good to eat salads and grilled cheese sandwiches, yogurt, coffee from a bodum, start my day off with a hot water and freshly squeeze lemon. So many things I missed since leaving Switzerland. 4 months is a long time. And I realized I sort of forgot how to cook as well. While a did a bit of cooking in Switzerlerand, it feels like it’s been 10 months since I cooked something on a stove.

Firsts that really put such a smile on my face:

  • cool temps. Walking outside of the airport and happily putting on my sweater.
  • The smell of grass. I haven’t smelt fresh cut grass in probably 10 months. It is an incredible smell.
  • The 2 or 3 ply toilet paper. What a treat.
  • Our first buffalo chicken Subway sandwich with blue cheese dressing. Absolute perfect thing to eat for a massage of the taste buds.
  • Shopping for white wine that tastes great and is only $10 a bottle.
  • Shopping in a grocery store. 4 months since we’ve done this. So many things to look at and now to take into consideration all the plastic consumption. So we’re buying glass jars as much as possible and avoiding brands that are in plastic. #newmarketingniche
  • Driving. OMG driving myself. While it was a bit nerve-wracking to drive again on the left hand side (it’s been a week and I still throw on the windshield wipers when I want to turn a corner), I’m enjoying the freedom of just hopping in the car and going to get what we need.

I’m so thrilled to be back in Australia after 20 years. The smell of the Eucalyptus trees is incredible. The birds! Green parrots flying wild everywhere. The funny sounds some of them make. I must confess that I spend a lot of time wondering now if sticks are snakes after seeing one on the road at Rottnest.

Interestingly, I don’t remember a lot of the places that I went before when I was here. I wonder if maybe the memories will come back as we move up the coast toward Darwin. I had to ask my cousin where we lived for 3 months… couldn’t remember. We’re going to swing by there in a couple of days when we leave Perth area. I also don’t remember Rottnest Island at all when I visited that with my cousin, Linda. I guess that’s good in a way that I get to make my own memories again with Luc and Vivi.

Our first week here has been really wonderful.

Helpx

We signed up for Helpx to find a place to live for free for a week and have a home base to explore Perth and Freemantle. Helpx is a website that puts people who need help around their house with people who need a place to stay. We found Jenny and her two dogs Nora and Charlie and her huge property just outside of Fremantle for a week. Jenny needed some help with gardening, pool cleaning, website updates, and some general maintenance for 1.5 hours a day. In return we got a room and access to her kitchen to cool wonderful meals. We also could use the pool but it’s cool here now! Vivi got the use of a blow up mattress and sleeping bag and her own room too!

There was also another couple living there who were building their van to travel around Australia. A French couple – wouldn’t you know! So Luc and Vivi were loving speaking in French. They also spent 5 months in South East Asia so we had a good time comparing stories.

We all shared meals together for a couple of nights and we went out and watched Jenny play a gig at a restaurant called Gypsy Tapas in Fremantle. She’s a wonderful singer. Check out her music.

King’s Park

Our first outing was to Kings Park overlooking Perth. We gawked at the perfectly manicured lawn that was like carpet and good enough to eat on. The views were stunning.

We walked through the Botanical Gardens and looked at all the beautiful flowers and trees. Luc took many photos to send back to his mom in Switzerland.

Then we walked over to the natural playground in the park. This playground is huge! Vivi had a great time cruising through all the structures and playing on the rocks.

Mother’s Day and Rottnest

While we were here we celebrated Mother’s day! Luc and Vivi made me a cake and we went down to South Beach and Bather’s Beach near Freo. We also visited a brewery and had some delicious dark IPA’s. I’ve been missing those dark dreamy beers. Fremantle reminded me of New Orleans with the architecture. It’s also so beautiful and really feels artsy and chilled out.

The following day we got up EARLY to catch a ferry to Rottnest and do some exploring. Rottnest Island is a must see. It’s really expensive to get there and rent bikes (it cost us $192 with parking) but I’d say it was worth it. We biked all over the island. It wasn’t too hot, just perfect. The beaches there are white sand and turquoise blue water. We found a really long beach where we were all alone (again) and I suggested we skinny-dip in broad daylight! Luc said “I don’t think we can do that here” I said “and so…?” and so we did. I was first in and last out. It was breathtaking. The water was cool and it was so refreshing to not have to strip out of a wet bathing suit. We really should do that more often. Hey now there’s an idea….

We saw a ton of wildlife on Rottnest. Birds with orange beaks, a pelican, the infamous Quokka that is so incredibly cute and tame (don’t feed, don’t touch!), a snake on the road, probably 20 or more lizards.

We had a mishap where Vivi fell off her bike near the (not so) Pink Lake but she dusted herself off and got back up again no tears.

If you go to Rottnest, pack a lunch and snacks. Food over there is EXPENSIVE!

Next stop Margaret River area!

Reflections:

  • My mood has significantly lifted. I attribute this so much to the weather and being able to cook my own meals. It wasn’t that I was in a shitty mood before but the heat and eating in restaurants 3 times a day was just kind of oppressive in a way.
  • The wildlife here is stunning.
  • Good coffee and white wine. My two staples needed to make me feel at home and comforted.
  • We’ve gone vegetarian 6 days out of 7 to cleanse our bodies and get lots of whole grains, legumes, and raw veggies into our bodies. Hummus….. yummmmmm!
  • It’s dry here so it’s a bit of a shock to go from tropical rain forest to bushland but the drop in humidity has me feeling a lot lighter and wanting to walk and explore a lot more.
  • I’m so freaking excited about getting in our van and driving up to Darwin! 7 more sleeps!
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Bali, Indonesia

Bali, Indonesia

Apr 9-May 8, 2019

Time to slow it allllll down…. This is the place we’ve come to recharge and just be. Catching up with ourselves, blogging, writing, reading, video editing, sleeping, just being and reconnecting with my heart. Traveling, while I’m so grateful to be able to have this experience, is exhausting! I’m going to create a few blog posts on how we decided what method of travel, where we decided to go next, how long we decided to stay in places, etc… all of this takes brain power and is something that Luc enjoys but also, there are so many options and sometimes we take the cheapest (usually walking and bussing) and sometimes we take the easiest (plane). But Bali is a break from the fast travel and a rest before Australia where we have volunteering lined up, traveling in a van for 5 weeks around the coasts of Australia and lots of discovering.

I was really excited to go to Bali. It’s my second time being here. I came here 20 years ago with my mom and her friend for 10 days. I was excited for the beauty of it, the massages, the avocadoes, the beaches, and the people. What I wasn’t afraid of was getting sick. Last time I was here I came down with a terrible fever and all associated issues with food poisoning or a parasite/bacteria so was really worried about that. I’m writing this after 26 days and (knock on wood) we’re still totally fine.

I really feel that Bali is one of the most beautiful places on earth. Everywhere you look it’s stunning and breathtaking. Avocadoes aren’t what they used to be. I can hardly find them anywhere. They are still big but not as in abundance as before. I’ve had two massage since being here and I think that’s my fault for not putting time aside for that. Must get one more in before I leave here. And the people are so kind and beautiful.

Legian and the Fancy Hotel: Element

Not much to report when arriving. It was dark, the taxi drivers at the airport are pretty aggressive (I told one to leave us alone he was that in our face). We stayed our first night in a little place with a nice pool in Legian. It was nice to get our footing and hit a bank to take out some money.

Then we moved to Ubud where our 4th fancy hotel was. This was an eco-hotel and a little bit on the lower end but still really beautiful and the breakfast was out of this world. We checked in and just spent the day at the hotel enjoying the pool and room. We met some people from the States who also are super savvy with their points and told us about all the amazing places they have stayed for free. They earn points with work so that gets them to more places than us.

In the morning we did some yoga at the hotel (I hurt my neck… sigh….) and Luc took off on a bike ride to explore the rice terraces and discover Luwak Coffee. Vivi and I played in the pool some more.

It’s always a nice transition when you start your new country with a fancy hotel to get your bearings and not feel like you have to start exploring and discovering immediately. You actually feel like you need to take some moments of relaxation and moments of research to study where you want to go next.

Ubud: Bali Sunshine Homestay

We booked a place for a week called Bali Sunshine. We picked a place with a pool as we thought that there would be families and kids there. Turns out that it’s the low season and we were the only ones there. Hmmm… but the place was stunning. We upgraded to a room beside the pool for an extra $6/night. Luc is still sore about that. But I wanted to be beside the pool so we could just walk out and take our coffee, or write a blog, do learning time or watch Vivi play in the pool from the room.

Only thing was that this place backed onto a rice field which was stunning but also bug infested where we found cockroaches, crickets, spiders, ants, lizards. When the room is only about 400 sqft that’s a little piece of shared space with a lot of bugs.

The other things was we were located about 6km’s away from Ubud. So really out in the sticks. But being in the sticks has it’s pluses. We frequented the same two restaurants for a week and got to know the staff and the menus. The pool was wonderful so we really enjoyed our time in there. And I got to learn how to ride a scooter!

For the most part we hung around the pool while Vivi swam and did learning time. We ventured out 2 times on scooters to visit a waterfall, Luwak coffee farms, rice terraces, Pura Tirta Empul and eat lunch (where I got stung on the toe but I was assured from a local it was not a hospital visit I needed) in one of the most beautiful restaurants I’ve seen (the view was incredible). All of those places I mentioned were absolutely stunning. It was like candy for my eyes everywhere. Being on a scooter is so much fun! Vivi would ride on the back of Luc’s as I was super nervous and to be honest, if we crashed, our insurance wouldn’t cover us so we needed to be hyper focused. I made sure that we went out on our first ride on a Sunday, when there wasn’t much traffic. I also didn’t want to go too far for the first go. I love it so much I want to get a scooter now when I get home. Preferably an electric scooter so there’s less pollution.

We stayed at Bali Sunshine for a week and it was just what we needed to chill and actually be on vacation.

Ubud: Dewa Bungalows

We moved for 5 days into the centre to be around some more people and see Ubud a bit more.

Dewa Bungalows was where we chose to stay. We met a really nice Aussie couple at the pool where Vivi got to play Uno with the woman and we asked a lot about Australia. We also got to connect with other people (which we love), tell our stories, listen to their stories and I got to talk about the Camino as Nicola was thinking of doing it as well. They are also on a 1 year trip around the world just starting out.

We arrived on Thursday in the early afternoon and I had a couple of places I wanted to visit. An eco-store and the post office to pick up stamps. We also needed to visit the bank. We left Vivi back at the room for a bit while we set off in the run our errands. By the time we got to the bank, most of them were closing (2:30-3pm). And the following day, it was a bank holiday so they weren’t open. We walked from bank to bank. Some banks were already closed, some banks were just closing and some wouldn’t take our credit card to give us cash advances. You would think that an ATM was a good idea but we wanted to take out more than an ATM would give us and more importantly, they don’t work with our Visa card. NONE OF THEM DO. So we tried our MC. That didn’t work too. Last resort (because of the incredible bank fees) our bank card (that worked but would only give 300. We were stuck: we would need to leave one day later and wait for the bank to open on Monday. I guess it’s not so bad when you’re stuck in paradise.

The next day we walked to a nice walking area. We tried to get there early enough in the day but it was already blazing hot. We found the cheapest Bali swing ($5 vs $15) we had seen and Vivi went for a swing. Then I took off to walk to another eco store that I wanted to visit.

We met back at this really expensive cool restaurant where we got fancy juices.

The next day was a day at the hotel and Luc hiked to the Volcano! We didn’t want to get up at 2am – nope not interested. We just lounged, washed laundry in the sink, and I went to my first grocery store in what seems like 3 months. I spent an hour in there just looking around at all the cool stuff. It felt like a new world to me. So tired of doing my food and beverage shopping in 7/11s and Circle K’s. I found S & V Kettle Chips for $8 a bag!!! I almost got them. I also had a reflexology treatment.

Amed

We hired the guy who we rented a room off of to pick us up and take us to Amed. Amed is a slow little diving and snorkeling area on the northeast side of Bali. We booked for 3 nights and stayed for 8 we loved it that much!

It’s 2.5 hours from Ubud to Amed and the drive is worth paying $50 to get there. We had a room right beside the pool (there are two pools) with a view to the ocean. The ocean is quite far away to see (only 8 mins to walk to) but so beautiful. Again not many people staying at this hotel (it started to pick up before we left). But the cleanliness and the staff make the stay here so worth it.

Last month they had a 6.8 magnitude earthquake and it rocked and rolled a lot of stuff. The pool that we swam in got a leak from it. It was a little unnerving to live in a tsunami zone for 8 days and even more when we moved into a red zone for a couple of hours (where if the active volcano erupts we were goners) but I kept telling myself that we can’t live in fear or we’d never leave our house.

Luc signed up for 4 dives and 1 night dive and Vivi signed up for her first diving! I couldn’t believe at 8 years old they will take a kid into the ocean with dive gear. She was nervous and excited and probably one of the most proud moments of my life (right up there with taking her first steps). I actually cried. She did two dives with Julien who was excellent with her (and with me the nervous mom). She was so proud of herself. She did really well equalizing her ears and breathing all the time. She only went to 4 (5.5) metres deep but it was enough to get a taste of diving and she loved it. She cried the next time we were at the dive shop and she couldn’t go (It’s expensive!). I’d love for her to go diving in Fiji when we’re there (they also let 8 year olds go) but it’s even more expensive there.

3 mornings I got up at 5:30 to watch the beautiful oranges and be there when the sun came up. It was exquisite. One morning Luc joined me.

Once when Luc did two dives, Vivi and I hired a guy for $15 to take us snorkelling around where he would be. I wasn’t confident enough in the water with Vivi to do it alone and to be honest didn’t know what to do it I got into a current. I’ve had some experiences with rip tides in Australia and also getting rescued by the coast guard when I was in my teens. So some of my past definitely lives in my fears now. The snorkelling was awesome! We saw 2 turtles: one on the sea floor and one that was swimming with us. Vivi and I fell in love. It was just too bad that there was also a plastic bag swimming with us at the same time. We also saw many fish, coral, a snake, a sea cucumber, and dolphins from shore!

The sand in Amed is a black gold sand which is HOT and very interesting. If you go there, Lipah beach seems to have the best beach for sand (not rocks).

Two times we rented scooters and zoomed around the countryside having so much fun. I also got in some shopping and we took out kayaks. These kayaks are from the 70s though and I couldn’t steer it so gave up after falling in and I couldn’t get back on.

All in all most days were spent doing something in the morning and then chilling at the pool in the afternoon. Vivi’s swimming has increased exponentially and she is such a strong swimmer now. It’s incredible to see the transformation she’s taken in the last 10 months with her confidence in the water. She loves her snorkeling mask and spends most of the time under the water. She loves to swim between our legs and her most somersaults in the water is 6! She is a pro diver, front crawl and recently we told her how to do a front crawl into a somersault at the wall, push off and then do front crawl again and she’s mastered that. A swimming group and/or synchronized swimming is something that we’ll be looking into when we get home.

We said goodbye to Amed and the staff at the hotel and we were ready to move on. We absolutely loved Amed but really felt like we were ready to experience something else now. Most times I just feel like we move on before we’re ready but spending 8 days here exploring and breathing and being close to the ocean has reinvigorated me.

Sanur

We jetted into another 2.5 hour drive to Sanur. We had heard that the beaches in Sanur are nice and so we wanted to check it out. We also heard it was good for kids too.

We checked into our bungalow but it turned out that the room we had was the most we’ve paid since Thailand and probably the worst we’ve been in. It smelled old, rotten, moldy, like moth balls. There was mold on the walls that had been painted over and it was nowhere close to the massive pool. The resort (?) was huge with no one around. Everything seemed pretty run down. We asked to change rooms and they moved us to the pool. A step up but still pretty dindgy. Attention to detail = -4. Then after a dip in the warm pool, we went back to the room (37 degrees out) and the AC wasn’t working. A guy showed us 2 more rooms and still no AC working. They said that they would get an engineer out to fix it.

We took off for the beach. The beach is a seaside little area with lots of Bali shopping and it’s a jumping off to Nusa Penida. After walking around and exploring we ate and headed back to the hotel onto to find out that the engineer hadn’t been by and that we could move to a room that we had already checked out and there was no AC. But shockingly there was AC! Thank you universe as I really didn’t know what I was going to do. We stayed two more nights at this place and were happy to leave.

Interlude:

Sanur is a quiet little beachside resort town which I liked. I think I’m just a bit sick of the heat and walking around in it. You know how you get when you know you’re going on vacation and everything at work begins to bug you about 4 days before your last day at work? Well, we’re about 5 days away from cool weather and Australia and I think we’re just done with the tropics. I’m done with eating out and can’t wait for yummy salads that I can prepare, lentils, sandwiches filled with veggies, food I can buy in a grocery store. We’re thinking of going vegetarian or eating meat just one day a week to limit our impact on the environment and just start to get back to basics and flush our body with fresh vegetables and whole grains. It’s going to be cool enough that hopefully I can start running in the mornings and doing workouts outside. We are also looking forward to our first volunteering opportunity when we get to Fremantle. We are staying for free in a woman’s home for 1.5 hours of house and garden work a day. After we leave there, we go down south for a week and check out Margaret River and the wine area. I CAN’T WAIT!! Then back up to Perth to pick up our camper and hit the road up north to Darwin. We’re taking 3 weeks. I’m just so excited about what comes next and the cool weather and salads. When we get to Australia on the 8th it will be 4 months that we have been backpacking.

Kuta and the last 3 days

We grabbed a GoJek to take us to Kuta and checked into a backpacker hostel here. Happy to be around a lot of people and so close to a white sandy beach. We’re now on the west coast so the sunset is profound. There is also an incredible cool pool here with lots of floaties and people to play with. And a slide! As you can tell, I’m writing in the first person so I’m finaly caught up to our travels! This is monumental! But I think this place probably set me back the cost of getting my website free of hackers unfortunately. I realized at this moment that my blog had been hacked so I needed to pay someone over $350 to fix it. Sigh…

We have just been laying pretty low our last few days here. We watched an incredible sunset on Kuta beach and then moved to another hotel closer to the airport. I’m spending my last days enjoying Bali and looking forward to Australia. We went and saw Avengers: Endgame on our last day.

So long Bali, you are so beautiful inside and out. I hope to make it back to you one day a few years from today to enjoy your beauty once again.

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Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

Apr 8-9, 2019

Have you ever had a stopover that you thought “Wouldn’t it be nice to stop here for a night and check it out?” This is what we did in Kuala Lumpur. If Luc has his way we would have done this in Singapore as well.

We booked an Airbnb on the 35th floor and it was gorgeous. It took a bit to even get there though… I won’t go through the details but let’s just say that it was an hour to get from the airport to Kuala Lumpur then a nightmare check-in at the Airbnb. It also took 5 hours to get toilet paper and an extra towel (one time they told us it was raining so they couldn’t bring it over. Ummmm… unless you’re made out of icing sugar….

After dumping our stuff we left for the centre to go to the Aquarium. Such a cool place. So many fish, rays, sharks… they had one of those moving carpets that took you through a tunnel under the sea. We did it twice we loved it so much. Vivi was absolutely in heaven at the aquarium… I’m starting to see her affinity to water and everything in it!

The aquarium is right downtown so we were right in the middle of everything so got to see the two towers and the green towers. It’s super green and very modern in Kuala Lumpur. Really clean everywhere we went and very well looked after in the city.

We had dinner and then headed back to the Airbnb to take advantage of the beautiful views and pools. We hung our wet clothes from the washer and then went down to the 6th floor and hit the pool. There was a lightning show while we were in the pool and it downpoured. Then we went up to the top floor for views from the hot tub only the hot tub was cold.

The next morning we watched the sunrise against the skyscrapers turning the building pretty purples. We headed out to the jungle in the middle of the city and walked up in the tree tops. We only saw the sign afterwards to be careful for snakes, scorpions, etc… On the way back we had a delicious breakfast at a chocolate shop.

We booked a GRAB to take us to the airport and realized after 3 minutes that we’d left our filter bottle in the fridge back at the hotel. Back to the apartment to get it.

We really maximized our short short time in Kuala Lumpur.  It was a ton of stuff to do and we powered through to get to see this modern city. I’m glad that we did I just wish we had a bit more time to explore.

Off to Bali for a month!

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Cambodia

Cambodia

Apr 3-8, 2019

I had debated just showing photos as there’s not a lot to tell you about our trip to Cambodia except I think this is the hottest that I experience. It’s almost unbearable. It’s in the 40s (centigrade) for a good part of the day, all day. If it’s not in the 40s it’s in the high 30s. Even at night. What we find when it gets this hot is that we have to live in AC. Which is kinda too bad because there is a lot to see around. But it’s just not doable.

Of course we came here to see the amazing temples of Angkor Wat so we had to see them, but I was nervous about heat or sun stroke given how quickly we lost water. I usually worry about finding public toilets but when you’re not even peeing, there’s hardly anything to worry about (ok, that’s a joke).

Phnom Penh

Really not much to report except we had a wonderful bus ride to Phnom Penh where we spent less than 12 hours there I think.

The highlight was seeing our friends Roman and Julienne from France. They were coming around the other way from Laos (where we left them) and we managed to meet up with them for dinner.

It was so great to see them and eat dinner with them and connect with them again. Vivi absolutely loves them and so she was so excited to see someone else we knew!

We didn’t stick around long enough to get to know this big city but I understand it’s not that interesting and there’s a lot of garbage and prostitution happening so I’m happy to make a quick stop and go.

They did cancel our booked bus when we got here for the next morning but we just booked a better bus (Giant Ibis). So spacious and lots of stops. Highly recommend paying the extra to get this bus.

Siem Reap

Again another all day bus trip to get here. We had booked an Airbnb that was a little outside of Siem Reap but it had a local school that the owner ran so we thought it would be great to volunteer in the afternoons with the kids.

We were not anticipating what came next. Well it was officially low season so there was no one else (tourists) staying at the Airbnb. We were anticipating lots of action and people to meet from the photos. It was basically empty. The room we slept in was ok, but the bed was horrific. Probably a 20 or 30 year old mattress. And me with my PTSD about bed bugs didn’t sleep at all.

Our French friends told us about this place in Siem Reap that was half the price that had a pool. The place we booked didn’t have a pool and it was blazing hot.

And, it was some sort of Cambodian holiday (easter break?) that there weren’t any kids at the school.

So we were all alone, down a remote road for 4 days. Since we were the only ones there, they moved us to a better room with newer beds and pumpin AC. But it’s pretty isolating when there’s no one around except the 3 of us.

We had been put in touch with a tuk tuk driver from our French friends in Koh Lanta and he picked us up the next day and we did a tour of the temples. That night we went to Pub Street where we had some 2 for 1 cocktails and dinner.

We had decided that we would do one day of temple hopping, then a day off to explore Siem Reap and then another day of temple hopping and then we leave. So the next day was spent at the museum (AC) learning about the temples and different religions that are celebrated here. Then we visited another silk farm. Then back home to regroup in the AC.

The following day we were up EARLY to watch the sunrise over Angkor Wat. A friend and cousin both told us to go at sunrise but then go into the temple while everyone is outside waiting for the perfect shot. Yes you’ll miss the perfect shot but you’ll get to see the temple before the masses arrive. So we did that and it was really nice to be walking around getting great pics without a ton of people in the photo.

We sat with a monk who blessed us with nice smelling water and tied string around our wrists. Right for women, left for men. For me, I had seen this in blogs and pics, and it was really special to be able to do this little ceremony with my family.

Then we set out and visited more temples. My favorite was Bayon with so many faces and the golden hour after sunrise shining on the rock carvings was stunning.

There were a few more temples that Vivi couldn’t go into due to safety issues I think so we took these opportunities for Luc to adventure and us to sit and fan ourselves. Sometimes we would meditate together.

The day continued with temple after temple. I was drenched by the end of the day. It’s exhausting being in that heat. I just don’t understand how the locals do it.

The next morning we got a ride to the airport and we took off on an airplane to Malaysia for a one night stopover in Kuala Lumpur.

Reflections:

  • I’m glad we went. While it was a long 2 day bus trip and it was stupid hot but to come all the way to South East Asia and not go to Cambodia to see these amazing temples, would be a shame. I’m not sure I would get over to this area of the world again in the next 10 years.
  • I think we could have picked a cooler time to come and I would have appreciated it more.
  • Hind sight is 20/20 and we should have picked a place in town with a pool. There’s just no way that we could have known that the school would have been out and we would have been alone.
  • I’m officially “templed out”.
  • You could definitely feel the difference going from Vietnam to Cambodia. Immediately the roads were worse, back to a lot more garbage and you could feel that this country was a little more rustic than Vietnam and Thailand. More like Laos as far as development went.
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Vietnam: Part 3 – The South

Vietnam: Part 3 – The South

Mar 26-Apr 3, 2019

Dalat

Leaving Timothe’s was harder than we thought. Essentially we didn’t know how we were getting out of there but only that something would work out. The guy at Timothe’s called around to find out when a bus was coming by that would take us to Dalat. I didn’t want a night sleeper bus (I’d heard that the bus drivers do drugs, fall asleep, etc…and that there are a lot of accidents with the night busses. When we got to Ho Chi Minh Luc read in a newspaper that a night sleeper bus had got in an accident and people died). So essentially we got a ride to the main road and stood there wondering when the bus would come by.

Eventually, it came and it was a sleeper bus but we would be on it all day so no worries there. We were shown to the back and we were the only tourist on the bus that we could see. We laid in the back and just chilled out as we stopped about 25 times. Finally I asked to use a toilet as it really wasn’t clear when we would stop, and about 5 mins later he pulled over and the girls all went into the bushes and the boys somewhere else. It was like a re-enactment of the Camino with toilet paper strew everywhere. This wasn’t their first rodeo. It was so odd to me that we didn’t stop at a gas station or rest area and that everyone on the bus was just expected to squat. Okey Dokey.

Then after about 5 hours, the bus stopped and the driver told us that we were getting off. Well of course we had our stuff strewn everywhere because we’d been watching Mapsme and we were still a ways away from Dalat. We pilled all our stuff together as everyone on the bus continued to look at us and yell “Dalat” and we scrambled to not forget anything. Of course, Luc left his 3rd hat behind. Sigh…

We got out of the bus, and were shuffled into another smaller bus. I said “Dalat?” and the driver nodded yes. Ok then. Thankfully he didn’t ask for more money.

We finally made it to Dalat and to our hotel. Into our room and quickly we find that the light in the bathroom doesn’t work. We asked them to fix it and low and behold he couldn’t fix it so I asked if we could move and everything was booked. So then I asked for candles. Yep, candle light in the bathroom. If you can believe it, there was a bath (that didn’t hold water well) so I decided to have a candle light bath that night and only had to refill the tub 3 times.

We went our separate ways for dinner as we were starving and of course an epic fight sprung up because everyone wasn’t thinking straight and I wasn’t going to eat shitty noodles. So I took off and had a delicious burger and fries while they ate noodles.

The next day we walked to the lake. Dalat is the city of romance I think. There are flowers everywhere and because of its elevation, it’s a lot cooler. I was happy to have a brief reprise from the heat. The lake was beautiful and we went for a float around the lake on a giant swan. Vivi doesn’t get to do a lot of things that she wants (zoos are expensive!) and she wanted to do this so I was so happy to be able to make it happen. We continued on around the lake and it really was quite beautiful. After we headed back to the hotel, the power went out as soon as we got there but they assured us that they had fixed the light in the bathroom but there was no way to check. We ate at the restaurant that I ate at the previous night.

Luc and I came to an agreement finally. I’m choosier about where I want to eat. He will eat anywhere but likes cheap. Quite a few times we found ourselves walking from restaurant to restaurant and I didn’t like what was on the menu. I wasn’t feeling it and I was sick of noodles and rice after 2.5 months. Luc would get more and more frustrated. So we came to an agreement: if he wants to eat somewhere and I don’t, then he can eat there. Same for me. It might mean that we eat in different places, but we’re not settling and resentful. Vivi has the best of both worlds. She can choose what Luc is eating or what I’m eating and no hard feelings on either side. Interestingly, since we came to this agreement, we haven’t really had to implement it much.

The next morning we needed to get to the airport early so we’d asked for a taxi to come and get us bright and early. The taxi showed up with a flat tire. So he needed to fix it and when he was fixing it I noticed that he only had 3 of the 4 lugs on the tire. I looked around the car and it was the same on the other front wheel. Really? The driver assured me that it didn’t matter (yeah right). Well we already don’t use a car seat anymore and now only 3 lugs? Forget about it. I felt a bit high maintenance but knowing we had an hours drive, I really didn’t want to think about it the whole time wondering what was going to happen so I asked the hotel to call us another taxi.

Ho Chi Minh/Saigon

We got to Ho Chi Minh by way of an airplane. We could have taken a bus or train but it would have taken 10+hours and I was just a little worn out of road transportation TBH. This plane ride was about 1 hour so we bought our carbon offsets and away we went.

This was our 3rd fancy hotel that we stayed in for FREE. We were starting to get a little too used to the fancy hotel! We headed out in the blazing sun to get some lunch. There were a lot of restaurants that catered to tourists or expats which was right up my alley but the price went up drastically now that we were in the city.

Back to the hotel, where we swam in the pool overlooking the river. Dinner… we could have had an all you can eat buffet for $50/person but that was out of the budget. Instead, we made friends with the hotel food and beverage manager and he gave us some free beer (they had run out of the IPA that I wanted), extra helpings of bread, a free salad and free desert. Luc sent him a thank you note later as he was so impressed and it felt good on the wallet.

The next day, I went to the gym and then did laps in the pool. We walked around a bit, I sweated like crazy and then we headed to the bus station to go south.

We had bought the tickets ahead of time but that didn’t make it any easier. We got dropped off with our GRAB and asked what window we needed to go to. Oh the one with 40 people all trying to get to the front (read: no nice lines). We had about 10 mins until the bus left so Luc pushed his way to the front and the guy was the slowest! He had to reissue different tickets for us and then told us that the bus was in the back and the license plate number. Meanwhile I was watching all our stuff like a hawk. This was the place where you get robbed I was sure.

We walk to the back and there are about 50 busses parked everywhere. It was crazy hot and we were asking where was the bus? Running with all our backpacks here there and everywhere. Mental note: get to the bus station well ahead next time. We hopped onto the bus and it basically left 2 mins later. Phewf! We were on another sleeper bus during the day so it was nice to be reclined and just chill out.

Can Tho

We got to Can Tho and the heat just wouldn’t stop. We had rented a homestay so we were on the top floor with great AC in a small little room. The toilet was one floor down and the shower was one floor below that. I stayed in that night because it was just too hot to go outside.

The next morning we awoke very early before the sun rose so we could do a river cruise to the biggest floating market in Vietnam. Our guide, Lyly and our boat driver were awesome. So friendly and cute. The guide made us more bamboo bling bling while we floated down the river to the most beautiful sun rise. Eventually, we made it to the floating market which was pretty cool. We couldn’t really buy anything as they sell large quantities to resellers (think Costco for fruits and veggies on the river). Then we had a delicious Pho for breakfast right from the boat.

We cruised down the river and saw mud skippers and then we went to a rice noodle making business. We watched how the made big circular sheets of rice flour over a hot fire, then transferred to a place to dry in the sun. Hard work, 7 days a well. Everyone there was family.

We headed home for a much needed shower. Later we went out for dinner. We basically hid upstairs in our room in the AC for the afternoon.

The next day, we walked out to get breakfast and look around before it got too hot. Then back to the train station (with lots of time to spare) and back on a sleeper daytime bus to Ho Chi Minh. All in all, I’m not sure going to Can Tho was really worth it in the end. I liked the floating market but for the amount of time we were in a bus and in the room in AC it seemed like maybe we should have skipped it.

Ho Chi Minh/Saigon

This time we had rented an Airbnb that was a GREAT price on the 35th floor. I was in heaven. Our own kitchen, really spacious, and our own WASHING MACHINE. We decided we would wash everything we owned. It’s not so often you don’t have to pay to wash your clothes so we took advantage of the machine and the days that we had there (4 nights I believe) and started washing.

The next day Vivi and I wanted to just chill. We’d been moving around so much we just needed a day off in the AC. Luc, of course, needed to see more and do stuff, so he hopped on a GRAB scooter and took off for the day. We did girly things like face masks and watched a movie. It was so nice to just be.

That night my stomach started hurting and I could tell it was the tell-tale sign that I wouldn’t be able to go to the Cu Chi Tunnels with them the next day. That night I took all the things I needed to take for my tummy but in the morning it just wasn’t better so I stayed home again while they went to the tunnels. I really wanted to see the tunnels but it wasn’t meant to be. They had a great time and I’m so happy that Vivi got a chance to learn about them.

The next day we got on yet another bus that would take us to Cambodia. This would be a two day bus trip to get to Siem Reap.

Reflection:

  • Vietnam is a vast country with so many beautiful and varying landscapes.
  • I’m thrilled that they take credit cards more readily here.
  • I had heard that the younger generation can speak English and the older generation (because of the war) but the in between generation can’t so much (unless they are involved with tourism) and I’d say this is a pretty accurate generalization.
  • I learned that Vietnam has been claiming their independence from many different countries for many many years. This impacts a culture I would say when you’re fighting to be a country with its own unique culture. It seems to me like Vietnam is a young country now defining itself.
  • This is the country where we bus, plane, train, and boat the most in our trip.
  • It seems like a whirlwind of activity and by the end of it, Vivi and I are absolutely spent. It’s a little too fast or too much and I can notice how we all get a little more tense when we don’t get a break from moving.
Watch Luc's GoPro Video for the highlights
Watch Luc’s GoPro Video for the highlights
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