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Phnom Penh

Perhaps we are becoming accustomed to these manic cities of South East Asia, but we did not struggle with the hecticness of Phnom Penh that so many had told us about. Although the streets continue in the theme of Bangkok, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City with huge amounts of traffic, we were pleased to find that generally the traffic stopped when the light was red – a phenomenon that had been less evident in Vietnam!



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Siem Reap and the Temples of Angkor

Hidden away in the south eastern corner of Cambodia are these two coastal getaways. Their charm is unique and definately a little rough around the edges – though it is in this that lies their charm. Originally built by the French in the 1920s as plush colonial getaways and then used by rich Cambodians in the 1960s and 1970s, they both fell into disrepair and were pretty much abandoned with the arrival of the Khmer Rouge. Although going through a revival (especially Kep) the earlier desertion is still evident in the derelict buildings and run down buildings.



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Nha Trang

Arriving in Nha Trang was quite a strange experience as it is so different from all the places we have visited so far in Vietnam. It is a real ‘holiday’ destination (for Vietnamese as well as westerners) and has a Vietnamese feeling of a spanish holiday resort! If you want peace and quiet then this is not the place for you, but we had a lot of fun there nonetheless.



Experience Travel Tales: Vietnam

As we drove down the landscaped driveway we were filled with excitement about the experience to come. Check in was a stress free task as we were treated to a very refreshing ginger infused ice cold drink in the bar, whilst the paper work was being completed. We met a number of friendly members of staff who gave us an informative introduction to the hotel. We were then taken to our lodgings on a buggy and as we passed through the grounds we noticed the lush and calm surroundings.



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Historic Hue

Like, Sapa, our visit to Hue was short and was more a passing through in order to see some of its impressive sights, rather than a chance to soak up the atmosphere of the ancient city. This was a shame. It is a pretty city set on the Perfume river and the tombs and citadel of the Nguyen dynasty comprise a Unesco World Heritage site.



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Gentle Sapa

We left the busyness of Hanoi for a couple of days in Sapa. This mountainside retreat was originally built for the French as a cool getaway in 1922 and after some years of neglect has in recent years undergone a real revival and is now a key tourist destination in Northern Vietnam – and with good reason. You feel as though you have arrived in a different country, so alien is the climate. It was a welcome relief to actually feel chilly and to need to wrap up warm after the heat of Hanoi and Halong Bay. The town is a pretty place and with lots of nice restaurants and cafes, as well as its legendary Sunday market, it is a great place to wander around and spend a few hours.



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Hanoi and Halong Bay

Hanoi is a very different city to Bangkok. One of the first things you notice is the architecture which is very French in style. Shutters and balconies on tall thin buildings painted in vibrant colours. The other things you notice on the drive from the Airport are somewhat stereotypical. Numerous paddy fields and the Vietnamese “Non” hats made of palm leaves and bamboo. It takes you back to the movies!



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Bangkok sights and sounds

We have enjoyed our second time in Bangkok perhaps a little more than when we first arrived. We had only spent a day here when we first arrived and I think it takes a little time to become adjusted. We have used the river boat a lot to get around this time as we are staying in the Banglumphu area and it is convenient. As with the skytrain, it is a great way to see the city. Yesterday we went down to the Oriental Hotel, which was impressive and seemed like it would be a great place to have a pleasant evening drink.



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Diving with Whale Sharks!!

Well, after all the anticipation and concern that we would somehow be the only ones on Koh Tao who did not manage it, on our final dive we saw a whale shark. It was an awesome experience to be under water with such an impressive and elegant creature. The area is known as the adolescent playground for whale sharks as it appears that the adolescents are allowed to play in that area for some time without the adults present. This one was between 3 and 4 metres, so small by their standards, but magnificent nonetheless!