Well, I have lost total and complete track of time since traveling, and I'm not quite sure what today is so forgive my following vagueness. Several days ago we were in Saigon for one day. Since we arrived so early in the morning, we didn't actually begin the day of sightseeing until afternoon (several of us needed a long power nap to be able to continue the day). There are a few things to see in Saigon (probably more than we realized), but we didn't have any particular agenda. We did tour the Reunification Palace which is the old capitol building for South Vietnam that was captured by the North Vietnamese when they "reunified" the entire country. It was pretty interesting, and the propaganda video they showed was not so much eye-opening as it was frustrating. We met up with a couple young Australians as we (and they) were trying to find the Palace and ended up hanging out with them the rest of the day. One cool thing about backpacking across countries is meeting the other backpackers, and we've met some really interesting people since we've been here.
After the Reunification Palace, we checked out a Fine Arts Museum which housed a lot of ancient works as well as modern propaganda paintings. It was pretty interesting. They had one little building of modern art which was really good, actually, and fills one with hope that the modern Vietnamese artists have quite original thoughts.
For dinner that night we actually found a Mexican Restaurant (with the help of a British couple staying in our hotel. The couple is traveling the world and volunteering at orphanages and schools along the way. What a cool way to travel the world!). Anyway, the Mexican food was so amazing after a five month dry spell, and Derek even found Dr. Pepper which even though terribly overpriced didn't keep him from purchasing two or three of them!
MEKONG DELTA TOUR
The next morning we loaded up with a lot of other tourists for a bus ride that took us to the Mekong Delta. Here we piled into a boat and began our tour of the Mekong Delta. We first stopped at a little village where they make coconut candy. You can watch the entire coconut candy-making process beginning with the chopping up of the coconut meat into tiny pieces and ending with several ladies cutting and packaging the candy. It's pretty amazing considering how quickly they can make the candy by hand. Janice was in heaven and quickly put a dent in the candy she bought from there. I don't know how such a small person can eat so much sugar!
Our next stop was a honey making village where we were served honey sweetened tea and were given the opportunity to carry a huge snake around our necks. I'm still not sure what the snake had to do with the honey village, but we tourists loved it... (-:
After traveling the river for awhile, we took a bus to our hotel for the night. The next morning we toured a fish hatchery and then a "traditional Cham minority village". It was really just an opportunity for the Cham children to beg for money and for the Cham women to sell their woven scarves. This was probably the most disappointing part of the tour just seeing how tourism has so negatively affected this minority village.
The rest of the afternoon we were on a boat. It was a really pleasant way to travel - much better than by bus. Yve brought her guitar along, and she and Tommy played a little while the rest of the crew joined in singing. We met several other teachers in China, including a group of five Americans who are teaching in Harbin. It's fun talking with them since their experiences are so similar to our own.
Our tour guide took care of getting our Cambodian visas in our passports so all we had to do was get off our boat, get our visas stamped, get back on the boat and sail towards Phnom Penh. It was so simple.
Once we arrived in Cambodia, we were taken to the other five Americans' hotel (which they had already booked). It took over an hour to get there. We rode in a large van across a not so decent road (which I understand is like most of the roads here in Cambodia). It's amazing how different the landscape is in Cambodia compared to what we saw in Vietnam. It's much dryer and more unkempt. But it's still beautiful.
We ate dinner at a restaurant not far from our hotel. The food is more expensive here, but the portions much bigger. The people are much bigger as well. When we got back to our hotel, Yve got really sick. She was in the bathroom for about half an hour and then was 100 percent better almost immediately after. It was strange.
Our bus for Siem Reap left the next day at noon (yesterday this was). Derek, Yve and I ate a quick breakfast, and as we were heading back to our hotel to catch the bus, my stomach began to feel really ill. It got bad fast, and we had a six hour bus ride to look forward to. That was one of the most horrible bus rides I have ever taken. I slept a little which was the only time I had relief. About two hours outside of Siem Reap, we made a pit stop, and I lost all of my breakfast right in front of this worker guy who I'm sure hates me now. I made it back to the bus right before it left and felt WORSE after all this so I just laid back in my seat and threw a self-pity party. I also started sweating really bad. It was horrible! Then I fell asleep for maybe thirty minutes, and when I woke up, my fever had broke, and I felt perfectly fine. It was the weirdest thing. Since then I've felt normal.
Last night we got a hotel and found a decent place to eat. We wanted to get our visa stuff for Laos taken care of today, but it's a little expensive here as opposed to Phnom Penh so we may just wait till we go back to PP to get all that taken care of. Today we're just going to hang out in town, and tomorrow we'll begin our three day tour of Angkor Wat. It's rather expensive here compared to what we're used to spending, and the mosquitoes are ridiculous, but the weather's nice and the people friendly so I think we'll have a good time.