Phnom Penh round two!

I circled back to Phnom Penh because the weather was bad in Sihanouckville and I wanted to catch a flight to Malaysia next.

I stayed at the newly opened Same Same guesthouse. It was only $4 for a bed in the air conditioned dorm. It is owned and run by Coco and his cousins, who are a super fun, friendly young group.

The dorm consisted of all British people with the exception of me. We met a Belgian couple that was staying in a room and we all went out.

I really liked the Belgian couple (Vicky and Demetri) and they were more than happy to have me tag along with them the next day to the river and to the central and Russian market.

Demetri tried the chicken embryo from a street vendor by the river. It is basically what it sounds like, a developing chicken egg that has an embryo. This is a pretty popular snack in Southeast Asia.

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I wanted to try, but I lost my appetite after he pointed out there were feathers are ready developing in it. Gross!!  I made up for it later by trying a maggot from a street vendor in the central market. Tasted like buttery potatoes. Check out all the bugs and frogs she had..

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We ran into several playful Cambodian children. They are by far the cutest kids in Southeast Asia.

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We walked by a smaller street market that had live chickens pinned down on a table and the chopping block was on the same table right next to them. It is like before and after!!

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The next day I volunteered my time and some money with Choice Cambodia school in the poverty stricken outskirts of Phnom Penh.  An Irish girl, Claudia, that I recruited the night before came with. We helped in the kindergarten class which had 42 in attendance. The teacher was overwhelmed with the children and kept saying thank you to us. Right after roll call, it was drawing time. All the kids pushed and shoved and hung all over me, so that I would draw them a bird that they could color in. Coloring books would be a good thing to donate.

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The bell rang and it was recess. One kid wanted to be picked up so I took his arms and swung him in a circle. Bad idea, every kid wanted to be swung around. I got so dizzy and sweaty I decided ring around the rosy would be better to do with more than one kid. They loved it.

We watched a cartoon which was very violent and in my opinion inappropriate for children their age. Then they practiced Khmer letters on the whiteboard. Only a few got to do it. Lined paper would be another good thing to donate.

After only 4 hours school was over. They lined up and sang Khmer songs. The best part was going on the ‘school bus’ and seeing where these children live. As squatters, they own next to nothing. Tattered, one roomed shacks lined the streets.

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According to the director of choice Cambodia, the people in Phnom Penh are not poor, even the dirty ragged beggars, who pay the police $10 a month to be able to beg, make good money off tourist. The children that are selling items should usually be in school. Do not give money to children or beggars it only encourages it. When the children grow up they have no education and the boys likely become thieves and the girls usually become prostitutes at a very young age.  Sex tourism disgusts me. The poorest people in Phnom Penh are he glue sniffers. They sniff glue out of a bag. They usually don’t have money to pay off the cops, so they are detained a lot.

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On the way back to Phnom Penh we stopped off at another squatter village which had shacks raised above disgusting littered water.

On the way to bed I got roped into a free beer with the owners. They insisted I have one because it was my last night there. Lol. One beer turned into 5 then we went to a locals club and danced it all off! A girl from Iceland joined us as well. We ended the night at Platoon.

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The next day I took a flight to kuala lumpor, Malaysia.

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Sihanoukville, Cambodia

Sihanoukville is south of Siem Reap on the coast. The weather isn’t so great right now, but at least I got a beautiful day in on Serendipity Beach.

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I checked out Otres beach the day before and it was raining so hard and there were no rooms/beds available, so that’s why I stayed in Serendipity.  I booked a boat to Koh Rong, a beautiful island off the coast, the next day. Unfortunately, the boat ride was canceled due to the heavy rain. The weather won’t clear up for another week, so I’m off back to Phnom Penh to catch a flight to Malaysia.

Siem Reap, Cambodia

We stayed at a place called Green Town Guesthouse which is about 1 mile from the night market. The room was hotter then heck, but it was cheap!

We walked to the night market and got a Cambodian dish platter so we could try it all. The amok fish was my favorite. Then we did some shopping and watched a drag queen show that was happening on a the night market stage. They lip synched and did skits. They weren’t even trying to hide that they were men. One drag queen lip synched a Whitney Houston song, the music purposely cut out and she/he was singing at the top of his male lungs and he started laughing.

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At sun rise the next day we went to Angkor Wat. We got there at about 6 am to find a huge crowd. But we still enjoyed it.

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The Bayon Temple, which is in the center of Angkor Thom, has 216 smiling faces around the complex. The inside was well lit by sunlight and had beautiful hallways. It was the surreal state temple of king Jayavarman VII. This was my second favorite one.

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Attempting a forearm stand but scared to fall down the stairs

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There we go!

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Beautiful detail

Ta Prohm was my favorite because century old tree’s roots are wrapped around the temple.  There are two types of trees; silk-cotton (which have huge trunks) and ficus (which strangle a tree with its multiple roots) Tomb Raider and Two Brothers were filmed there.

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Ficus that took over

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Base of silk cotton tree

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Golden dragon lizard in between old stones

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Ta Keo is a huge mountain of temple. It is believed that it was the first built out of sand stone.

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Super steep stairs

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Catherine is off to Thailand and I’m off to Sihanoukville, which is down south on the coast. I’m taking a night bus, so I save on a hotel 😉

While I wait for my bus, I decided to go to blue pumpkin. Upstairs has a cool lounge with beds,AC and WiFi.

Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Crossed the border from Vietnam with no problems.

There is definitely a different feel to Cambodia. There’s more poverty.
The people are beautiful and always smile genuinely, such a nice change from the feisty Vietnamese.

Catherine and I met a German named Carson while going to the royal palace, so he tagged along.

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Silver pagoda

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Unrestored mural

Then we went to the street market.

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There is pig tongue, pig ears and chicken heads in the bottom

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His feet are inches away from the meat gross!!

Carson talked us into going to Platoon night club. We got bottle service for pretty cheap and danced our feet off! Catherine and I got home at 3:30 am. Carson left a couple hours before us, which was funny because we originally planned on coming home early because we were exhausted, but we were having so much fun we out lasted Carson. We danced with some local girls who would go off and dance with gross old white guys. Catherine gave one of the girls a 20 to not dance with this creepy old white guy. Lol it was so funny!!

Election time. Party Number 4 (rescue party) and 7 (people’s party). Locals parade around and with their party’s flag. A teenager on a motorbike shouted to me, “Number 4 Miss, vote number 4!” Well I would vote for number 4, but I’m not a citizen. Lol. According to a local, Number 4 is a new party, which are more like the freedom party with no corruption.  It is believed that they will gain more freedom.

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Time to be serious. Cambodia has endured a genocide in pretty recent history. We wanted to learn more, so we took a tuk tuk, which was pretty cheap, to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum and the Killing Feilds.

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My mask because it was so dusty

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There are a ton of families on motor bikes even babies

In 1975, the Khmer Rouge, tried to completely change society structure to a agricultural peasant society. Pol Pot was the leader of the mass genocide of the Cambodian people. He is a Cambodian, so he was killing his own people. He gathered an army of country workers and arrested anyone that was educated or in his eyes fallen to western ways.

The Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum – The S21 Prison, formerly a high school, was transformed by Pol Pots security forces to include holding cells (0.8 x 2 meters) and torture chambers. About 100 people were killed a day to be punished for false accusations. The Khmer Leaders kept detail records of all the inmates including photographs of the dead tortured bodies, which were displayed. There were only 7 survivors left alive when Vietnam army liberated Phnom Penh in 1979. The surviving 7 were painters, drawers or photographers which were needed skills.

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Holding cells

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Children prisoners

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Killing fields of Choeung Ek-Most of the 17k S-21 detainees were executed in the killing Fields. Detainees included children. In fact, there is a tree that was used to kill small children by slamming them into the tree. Visitors leave their bracelets on the tree to show their sympathies to the victims. 

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There is a display of over 8k skulls of the victims and their clothes. Each level hands different sized bones.

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This was a pretty emotional day, this tragedy happened so recently in history.  Seeing the way the prisoners were tortured and to see their photographed dead bodies was the hardest. I will never forget this memorial.

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After the long depressing day, we tried out a Cambodian restaurant called Sleuk Chark where you sit on the floor. Our waiter was adorable and helped us decide on what to order. We didn’t realize that with one of the dishes we were eating had insects until we saw the contrast of their bodies against the white rice. There were big ants and big wasps. Great protein.

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Fish dish came out with a burner under it keeping it hot. Then we got Dried beef with sesame seeds that tasted kinda like a thick  beef jerky.

Next stop Siem Reap for some Angkor action!

Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon), Vietnam

I love this city way better than Hanoi, the annoying capitol. People are nicer, and there’s so much to see.

A friend of a friend, Catherine, met up with me in Saigon. She is one of thirteen children, a Texas sweetheart and great fun.

We walked to the Ben Thanh Market which has tons of places to eat, fresh produce and souvenirs. Pushy vendors try to sell you anything you look at.  The chicken we got was excellent.

History time, off to the War Remnants Museum we went. It was super propagandist, but it was still pretty interesting. The Agent orange display was heart wrenching. Many generations were affected by chemicals that were dropped on Cu Chi to kill all vegetation so we could identify where the tunnels were. Exposure to this chemical caused health issues for generations to come. Baby’s were born retarded or without limbs.

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After the depressing display, we checked out the Bitexco Financial Tower, which is the tallest building in Saigon.  We made it just in time for happy hour on the 52 nd floor which is where they have a helicopter pad. It was night so we got a good view of there city all lit up. There were two other rooftop bars we checked out after, but the Financial Tower was by far the best as far as view and atmosphere.

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The next day we had to check out the Cu Chi tunnels and the Cao Dai Great Temple in Tay Ninh.  First we went to the Cao Dai Temple and arrived just in time for a service. Local attendees dressed in all white and some elders wore colorful robes. The music had traditional Vietnamese string instruments and pipes and a chorus. They worship the divine eye which knows all. They believe that there are 36 levels of Heaven and 72 planets. Number one being the closest to heaven and 72 nearest to Hell. Earth is number 68. Lol!!

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The Cu Chi Tunnels were next on our itinerary. I got to climb in one of the original entrances, which was super compact.

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We also got to crawl in a tunnel which made me feel claustrophobic about half way through. This tunnel was made bigger so tourist could fit and experience what it was like. During that time the Vietnamese were very tiny especially because of their diet. I wouldn’t be able to fit if it were any smaller.

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Back to the Viet Cong’s diet, they only ate potatoes to fill their stomachs, so eating an American soldier dog wasn’t out of the question. Americans used dogs to sniff out the tunnels because the entrances were camouflaged as ant hills, which were everywhere.  Sometimes a dog would get caught in a booby trap or would pass away. Soldiers would leave the dogs and the Vietnamese would eat the dogs. As you know, they still eat dog to this day.

They sure knew a thing or two about booby traps:

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We checked out a night market and got an excellent Vietnamese meal!

After we grabbed ice cream and ate it at the park where young teenagers hung out on their motorbikes and people played badminton. Two Spanish ladies, who just arrived to Saigon, approached us asking in Spanish where we were staying. They didn’t speak a lick of English, but we managed to tell them en espanol where to go and how much we were paying.

Tomorrow we head to Phnom Penh, Cambodia via bus.

Mui Ne, Vietnam

This place is known for their fishing, sand dunes and kite/wind surfing.

Stayed at Xinchao with two lovely British girls that I met on the bus ride down from Nha Trang.  This hotel was super nice and had a pool 😉

Fishing boats = great sea food!!

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I walked along the beach after we got all settled and ran into a French guy I kept on running into. We walked to a delicious seafood restaurant where I got fresh shrimp, lobster and squid fried noodle.

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The next day, I went paddle boarding. It was so windy and choppy I barely went anywhere. Now I understand why its a great place to kite/wind surf. It was a good view out there because I could see the kite surfers up close. 

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Sand Dunes:

The fairy stream goes through the red sand dunes and has a little waterfall at the end.

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While walking through the stream I got offered to ride an ostrich for 100,000 Dong. I easily talked him down to 50,000 Dong (about $2 USD). After talking the price down and encouragement from the British girls I hopped on. Wasn’t as scary as I thought it would be until the owner ran and yelled behind the ostrich making him go faster.

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After that we went to the white sand dunes where you can rent a quad and ride around. I decided to sit that one out because I couldn’t talk them down in price and I’ve done it before in Pismo Beach, CA and got stuck a bunch of times and didn’t want the hassle. One of the British girls foot got ran over and her calf got burned by the exhaust when they were trying to get unstuck. She was such a trooper though and good thing we were with a Dutch Nurse who cleaned it for her.

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You also have the option to “sand board” which is more like sand sledding because you are given a flimsy sled that you cannot stand up on. I skipped this as well. It was too expensive and there were tons of people.

Instead of having a bear rug, why not have an alligator rug???

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That night we went to a place that had live music. Luca Mendoza, a Philippino, played the guitar and sang. He was pretty good and it was hard to understand the lyrics. Lol

I am off to catch a 1:30 AM bus to Ho Chi Minh City where I will meet a friend and we’ll go to Cambodia together 😉

Nha Trang, Vietnam

I got in at 6 am then found my hotel sao mia, which had a really nice dorm room. I would stay there again!

As soon as I could I booked it to the beach for the sun rise. Tons of locals were swimming because they don’t like to be in the sun so they swim early in the morning.

Then I went to book a snorkel tour that I was too late for so I did another tour that included snorkeling, visiting a fishing village and aquarium visit. I meet two Australian girls that were fun.

Snorkeling was OK…


There was a huge eel…

Fishing village…


Karaoke on the boat with a live band (the boat crew)…

I met a bunch of English guys that I ended up watching the Murray v Djokovik tennis match. They were crazy over Murray winning because Brittan hasn’t won this match for like 50 years.

It was a quick visit; now I’m off to Mui Ne.

Hoi An, Vietnam

Hoi An is known for their tailoring, so I went to get a dress made. Didn’t turn out so great, so if you go make sure you get a recommendation from other travelers!

The beaches were nice. It is an easy bike ride away. An Bang was more chill so I liked that one the best. They had cute little boats.

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The downtown area is really cute, but the shops are pretty much all the same.

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I got a mango banana smoothie that was the best one I’ve had so far in southeast Asia! I also got squid which was super good!!

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Cao Lau, a local specialty, was a really good dish! One of my favorites so far.

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Don’t spend more than 2 days here!

Now I’m off to Nha Trang! Peace out!!

Phong Nha Ke, Vietnam

After Halong Bay, I back tracked to Hanoi to catch a sleeper train to Dong Hoi.  No one spokes English at the train station so there was a lot of sign language to get to the correct train.

My car had a young couple on the two top bunks and a business man on the bottom. He was super nice and communicated with me via Google translator. He also bought me a soup with raw eggs that we cracked and put into the soup. It was so good!

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When I woke I met a Canadian who has lived in Vietnam since 98 and an Irish couple. I shared a cab with them to the Phong Nha Farmstay, which has a beautiful view of the mountains and rice patties. There’s a little pool I took a dip in with some other Canadian girls that were celebrating Canada’s anniversary (July 1st). These girls bought motorbikes and started in south Vietnam and are working their way up north (opposite of me). They have gnarly scars from motorbike accidents and burns from their exhaust, but they will not quit and they are very determined to met their goal to make it to Hanoi. They are pretty incredible! Not many guys finish their motorbike trip!

The Farmstay didn’t have rooms available, so I stayed at Pepper home stay with the moto Canadian girls. They have a very open dorm room with a rice toilet. Ya that’s right instead of flushing you just cover it with rice shells. Lol.

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Yim, the owner is an excellent cook. Don’t judge me, but I tried dog that she prepared. I love dogs and it was really hard for me to get myself to do it. It tasted like roast beef.

That night there was a spectacular lighting storm above us. I’ve never seen anything like it. There were several different lighting bolts going off at different times. I snagged a picture from one of the Canadian girls because she got the best shots.

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The next day I rented a bike and rode around on the dirt roads. All the kids yell “ello” when i passed. They would try to stop me so I’d play with them.

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I rode over a river and went to the pub with cold beer. The owner kills a chicken prepares it on a BBQ. It was delicious

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The best part of Phong Nha Ke was a Tulan cave trek tour. This was no joke. The group trekked through the jungle and rock climbed to get to two caves.

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All geared up and ready to go

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One of the river crossings

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Entrance to the first cave

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Some rock climbing

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In the water

Inside there cave there were tons of bats squeaking and they would fly right by my face when I was swimming in the water.

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Tons of waterfalls in the caves

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There was a lagoon right outside of the first cave. This is where we had lunch and went for a swim.

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Lagoon break

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Jumping into the water

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Second cave had many limestone formations. We had a steep latter to climb down.

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Opening to the other side

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Huge spider eek!!

On the way back it started to rain, which made it so beautiful and cool.

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We saw an iguana on the way out.

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Iguana

This is the hugest web spider I’ve ever seen!!

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We made it! Beer time!

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Ryan (US), Glyn(UK), Daniel (US) and me

The next day i will head south to Hoi An.

Halong Bay, Vietnam

3 day/2 night junk boat tour/cruise in Halong Bay.

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On the deck of the boat

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On deck of the boat

Day 1: Hanoi to Halong Bay
The room and bathroom were nice.

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Visit Surprising Cave – this is very touristy, but was pretty cool to see the cave and all the limestone formations.

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Kayaking – the water was dirty and there weren’t that many caves to go under as promised.

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Swimming off the boat – this was my favorite. I got some exercise and a woman from a fishing village came up on little boat and sold us beers while we were in the water. The cruise ship was selling canned beer for 40,000 Dong which is $2 USD and the lady on the little boat was selling for half the price.  We’re not allowed to bring the booze on board because that’s how they want to make money, so we were safe drinking in the water 😉

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Left to right: Jon(UK), me, Levi, Eddie(Canada) and Henry (UK)

Squid fishing off the boat after din. I didn’t catch any, but some of the boys did. They squirted ink all over there deck.

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Lunch and dinner were surprisingly very good! We had excellent seafood and pork spring rolls we made ourselves.

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Day 2: Halong Bay – Cat Ba Island

Levi left to Cambodia and I stayed longer on the boat. I’m officially on my own 😀

I took a local boat to Lan Ha Bay where Monkey Island is located. Two monkeys fought over tourist food in a small tree and fell to the ground. I was really close to them so I ran away because I didn’t want to get in the middle of it. Swimming was fun.

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Next we went to Nam Cat Island for lunch. This place was really nice. It has about 20 bungalows on the beach and there are like three other beaches you can swim to.

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The bungalows were fully booked, so I took a ferry back to the boat in Halong Bay with all new people. But hey i got a room to myself 🙂 This group was pretty young and fun, but I still missed all the people I met on the boat the first time. A ducth girl that lives in Amsterdam, Sharon, was by far my favorite! Really fun to talk to.

I went kayaking and swimming to another island before I went back to the big boat.

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On the way back i spotted Pencil rock, I wonder when it will fall over:

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I discreetly bought two beers through my room’s window from another little boat. Hey I saved $2 bucks. That can go a long way in Southeast Asia

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Day 3:  Cat Back Island to Halong Bay to Hanoi
Cooking class while cruising back to the port. We made fried spring rolls. So easy, I want to make at home. Ingredients: rice paper, ground pork, carrots, cucumber, mushrooms, cooked rice noodles, eggs.

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Biking around Cat Back was supposed to be included, but somehow I didn’t make the list. Good thing I didn’t go because two guys told me it was lame and not worth it. I did get a refund for it. Only $5usd, but hey it was worth asking for money back.