Trips to HCMC, Nha Trang, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap

Last month, Kiki and I went for a vacation, here are some experience and tips.

For HCMC, it’s quite modern, as invaded by France before, it still exits a lot culture from France, like iced coffee and French baguette, both are delicious and cheap. HCMC is also famous for its French cuisine, we went to one of the best French restaurants in HCMC, but not so impressed, the only impression is so many ants on the desk, maybe we don’t know how to enjoy French cuisine.

Later, we flew to Nha Trang, the beach is fancy, we spent a few nights in Sheraton, it’s location is really good, walking distance to most of the restaurants, and Lanterns restaurant is one of the best we ever met, authentic Vietnamese cuisine, we went there many time, from breakfast, launch to dinner. We were too busy eating and drinking to enjoy the free beach chair, umbrella and the best public beach sections in Nha Trang provided by hotel, later we regretted. After that, we went to mia, the so called best resort in Nha Trang, generally speaking, its still better than others, but didn’t give us as much as we expected. It’s location is far aways from city center, and nothing when step out of the resort, so you need to take the shuttle bus to go into the city or just stay in the resort, enjoying its private beach. I had to say, the beach here is even better than those in the city, since the whole resort only holds about two dozens of customers, the beach is quiet and clean at any time, you can play canoe and surfing, but the food here is just the average level with top price. For drinks, they have happy hours, buy one get one free, so Kiki and I ordered 4 cups of mojito, watching the night sea view, till midnight, nobody but we two, totally drunk.

As saied before, the coffee here is wonderful and price is reasonable, so just pick up one when you need a rest. Also the mongo shake is worth trying, we tried dozens cups of shake during the staying in Vietnam, even later in Cambodia, we still ordered the same, most of them are between $1 to $2, enjoy. So many Russians, there are probably three languages in the city, Vietnamese, English and Russian.

We had a terrible experience while taking the Mai linh taxi. The first day when we arrived at HCMC airport in the midnight due to flight delay, we halled a Mai linh, and told him by meter, but when he took us to the hotel, he forced us to pay 100, 000VND, which was 30RMB, just a 5 minutes tour, we tried to explained to him, the only word he said is one hundred, well, we surrendered. Later, we only hall vinasun taxi, which was quite fair, by meter by default.

Cambodia, the country is still less developed, and the infrastructure is quite poor. We went through a big storm on 18 May, then came to power outage. Luckily, our hotels equipped with a power generator, and didn’t have much effect for us. Though May is between dry and rainy season for Cambodia, we went through some rain almost every afternoon, usually lasted for less a hour, quite fresh after rain.

The traffic in Cambodia is better than Vietnam, cuz not so many motorcycle, As for eating, I have to say, there is really not much to choice, the taste is really weird, and the sanitation conditions also make us upset. At last, we went to Lotteria to make us alive, which is in sorya shopping center. Most of its food is imported from other countries, like Thailand, Vietnam and China, the local food is really limited, only some honey and pepper. when you walk around in Lucky market, maybe the best market in Cambodia, it’s pricy even compared to some high end markets in Beijing.

Although Cambodia cuisine is not my cup of tea, there is a special sauce that really makes me high, I never taste that before, it’s called kampot pepper sauce, kampot pepper it one of the best peppers in the world.  The recipe is quite simple,  just mix kampot pepper with green lemon, sugar and salt. It makes you feel cool in hot summer, especially when eating with BBQ. we had this sauce several times later in Siem Reap.

We bought Mekong company ticket from HCMC to PP, sat on the rear, the last row, air conditioners broken, hot to die. when arriving at mod bai, the checkpoint at Vietnam border, it’s really chaotic compared to Bavet which is the Cambodian border entry passport checkpoint. What you need to do is to pay $30 to get the e-visa with extra $5 as the service fee for the bus steward when getting on the bus, no security check at all. Later when we prepared to buy the ticket from PP to Siem Reap, we bought from Giant bus company, a little pricy, but I assure you, worth it, don’t save a small bucks, you have to sit on the bus for almost 7 hours.

Note that, people in Cambodia don’t accept old 100USD, even with a little creases and tears, so give them brand new 100 USD.

We chartered a tuk-tuk when circling around Angkor Wat for 2 days. After some discussion, we decided to take the grand tour first which was quite far, about 30 kilometers, the view on the way is beautiful, the typical tropical scene. when we arrived at waterfalls, due to it was dry season, no water at all. But we happened to see the guard on the top of the mountain, we said hi since he was the only one we can talk, he was quite nice and led us to show some carving on the surface and its history. The second day, we took the classic route, grand and peaceful, worth the money to buy a 3-day pass ticket.

The driver is the one who picked up us when arriving at the bus stations in Siem Reap, he was quite nice, introduced us a lot history about Angkor. We underestimated how much water we need for the whole day, so we just took a 1.5L bottle of water with us, fortunately, the driver prepared a iced box with bottles of water in his tank under the seat, or we may get a sunstroke.

Last day, we went to a shooting range, about 40 minutes by taking the tuk-tuk. We fired some AK-47 and M16. Cambodia may be the only country for tourists to fire a RPG and other heavy weapons, so, don’t miss that, once in a life time opportunity. One thing to keep in mind is that the country is quite corrupted, you can get the direct feeling when crossing the custom check or taking pictures in Angkor Wat, so just don't give a shit to them, and pretend not to understand what they are saying. One reason of this is they are spoiled by Chinese tourists, so more and more dollors go to their pockets.

We took nothing back but a bag of kampot black pepper corn, so fragrant and fresh.