A Travellerspoint blog

Koh Chang

Trat Province

rain 27 °C

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Trat province is where Koh Chang is located in Thailand and is also neighbouring Cambodia where the entry point is through Koh Kong through the Centrepoint pier in Trat by ferry. Koh Chang translated into English means Elephant Island and elephant is a symbol synonym to Trat province where even the Trat Football Club (Trat FC) use the elephant as its kit's logo. Koh Chang is still very much less popular among foreign tourists and that means massive parts of the island remain less commercialised in comparison to other islands paradise within Thailand including Phuket, Krabi, Koh Samui & Pattaya. Nevertheless, over the years, the situations have changed and Koh Chang had seen the increasing number of foreign tourists flocking into the island for a nice, quiet yet interesting island getaway holiday away from the hustle and bustle of overly commercialised island holiday spot in other parts of Thailand. One thing that is distinctively different in Koh Chang that I noticed is that travellers or holidaymakers could drive straight their vehicles into the ferry, which would carry their vehicles and other individual passengers on board from the Centrepoint Pier to Koh Chang. The ferry journey from Centrepoint Pier to Koh Chang takes about 45 minutes.DSCN1238

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This ferry would carry passengers' vehicles and other individual passengers from Centrepoint Pier in Trat to Koh Chang

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Waiting in the car to get into this ferry that would cruise to Koh Chang from Centrepoint Pier, Trat

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A view from the ferry to Koh Chang from Centrepoint Pier, Trat

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The ferry leaving Centrepoint Pier heading towards Koh Chang

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The ferry reached Koh Chang from Centrepoint Pier, Trat

Koh Chang is quiet a sizeable island and certain stretches of this island are extremely steep and dangerous even for cars and for those who are on motorbikes on amateur basis, Koh Chang can be a fatal place for such riders. Much of the activities focused mainly on the western part of Koh Chang, particularly north west of it to be exact which is along the White Sand beach. White sand beach is in fact the longest stretch of the beach along the west coast of Koh Chang, followed downwards by Klong Prao beach, Kaibae beach and Lonely beach. On the south west coast is where the Bang Bao pier is located. Bang Bao pier is where travellers would board ferry or boat to get out from Koh Chang to other islands for diving or snorkelling trip. The most common island day trip for snorkelling would be the 5 island trip namely Koh Yak Lak, Koh Rang, Koh Mapring, Koh Wai & Koh Yak Yai. This full day snorkelling trip is affordable and inexpensive at THB600 per person depending on the tour company you engaged with. Some would charged between THB650 to THB700 but the tour should not cost anything more than this range. It includes lunch and snacks as well as drinks such as drinking water, tea and coffee on board throughout the trip. Over at White sand beach, this is where most of the souvenir shops, bars & clubs, thai & seafood restaurants, western f & b establishments dotting the main road on this part of Koh Chang. Pharmacies as well as mini markets such as 7 Eleven and Tesco Lotus Extra are also available here for the convenience of travellers to get everything they need. Hotels and accommodations are also widely availablke over at White Sand Beach. Over at the beach area, most of the seafood outlets cum beer bars can be found here at White sand beach and for a romantic dining or simply to relax and chilling over some cold beers, White sand beach has all it takes for such enjoyable night outing.

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The main road at White Sand Beach, Koh Chang. Motorbikes are available almost everywhere here for rent.

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Another view on the main road at White Sand Beach, Koh Chang

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The White Sand Beach, Koh Chang

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The sea conditions at White Sand Beach, Koh Chang during the raining season

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Beach goers swimming at the White Sand Beach, Koh Chang

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The beautiful stretch along White Sand Beach, Koh Chang during sunset

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Sea Bar restaurant and bar along White Sand Beach, Koh Chang

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The bar area at Sea Bar restaurant & bar, Koh Chang

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Enjoying cold Leo beer at Sea Bar along White Sand Beach, Koh Chang

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Seafood at Sea Bar restaurant, White Sand Beach, Koh Chang. Seafood at Koh Chang not to be missed due to its freshness

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Deep fry squid served at Sea Bar at White Sand Beach, Koh Chang

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Sunset at White Sand Beach, Koh Chang

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Variety of fish and other seafood for diners to choose from at Sea Bar for barbeque seafood dining at White Sand Beach, Koh Chang

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Dining table set up at Sea Bar restaurant along White Sand Beach where diners can enjoy and chill with the fresh sea breeze while dining and enjoying cold beers

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Grilled baby octopus stall along the main road of White Sand Beach. Several food and fruit stalls are set up during night time at White Sand Beach main road. Try to experience inexpensive street seafood here in Koh Chang

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Coffee chain along the main road the White Sand Beach, Koh Chang. This stretch of the road in Koh Chang is becoming increasingly popular for foreign travellers with foreign theme bar, restaurants and souvenir shops can be found here

When in Koh Chang, there are several activities that will keep you busy throughout the vacation at this island which you can engaged in. The 5 island tour is one of them where this is a typical island hopping snorkelling trip available just as in any other islands in Thailand. But, anyhow, that is also the reason why you are here in Koh Chang - for an island getaway and you don't want to just be here doing nothing or simply just to swim at the beach. Snorkelling is one of the activity that is always in the itinerary to add in the fun of an island vacation. It may be the "been there done that" sorts of thing but each snorkelling trip would be different depending on how you enjoy the trip to make it a fun day out. Let me just say that of the snorkelling trips that I had been to within the islands in Thailand such as Phuket, Krabi and Trang, this one in Koh Chang to-date provided one of the best service and the name of this island tour joint is Perm Boon Sub company. Why would I rated it as the best thus far? The service crew on board were just simply friendly, funny and helpful where they try their very best to entertain the customers with their jokes, funny acts and magic stunts. Everyone on board was being served promptly with variety of services that needed their prompt attention. You can get free medicine for sea sickness where you would be asked if you needed any and they will be happy to give it to you to ensure you won't be bothered with such sickness while on board. Drinking water was being served to you promptly each time you need it and you would also be pampered with light snacks, fruits and biscuits. While getting into the sea for snorkelling activity, the service crew would help to bring you around in the water through a life jacket. This is how each service crew member would do. He will be holding on a life jacket while between 2 to 4 snorkellers would held on to the life jacket while he swims around with breads to feed the fish, you could just snorkels and watch the beauty of the corals and fish that would flow with your group as the service crew feeds the fish. He would also show and stop to explain to you on the marine life objects while the group snorkel around. On board the ferry, the service crew would entertain the passengers with some magic stunts and fun activities which would engaged the passengers to play along with them. All I can say is Perm Boon Sub company has done a good job and definitely has created a great and fun atmosphere for its customers, which also help to bring back what is it all about in Thai tourism culture, which may have over the years lost its lustre to due the hectic demand in the country tourism industry. I have always believe that when credit is due, credit should be recognised and Perm Boon Sub Co. deserved the 5 star rating in terms of its service culture. Not only that, it also provided jobs for those who need it by hiring such helpful and entertaining staffs who are still young and should be groom to train those new members who join the company so that such commendable service culture would stand along with the time.

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Ticket for 5 island snorkelling trip in Koh Chang with Perm Boon Sub Co.

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At the Bang Bao Pier, Koh Chang for 5 island trip with Perm Boon Sub Co.

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This ferry of Perm Boon Sub Co. would cruise out from Koh Chang to 5 islands for day snorkelling trip

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The captain deck on the ferry of Perm Boon Sub Co., Koh Chang

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The ferry of Perm Boon Sub Co leaving Bang Bao Pier in Koh Chang

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Cruising out from Bang Bao Pier in Koh Chang for 5 island trip

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The interior of the upper deck of Perm Boon Sub Co. ferry in Koh Chang

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Ready to get into the water for snorkelling at Koh Mapring, off Koh Chang

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Koh Rang beach from Koh Mapring. Snorkel around at Koh Mapring with service crew of Perm Boon Sub Co. all our way to Koh Rang beach

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Back from Koh Rang beach, off Koh Chang to the ferry of Perm Boon Sub Co.

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Koh Wai beach off Koh Chang

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Koh Wai map

Posted by kidd27 19:59 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Satun

sunny 31 °C

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Satun, the southern province of Thailand over the Andaman Sea was not my intended destination for this trip to the Land of Smile. My intended destination was Trang province, further north to the province of Satun. But to get to Trang from Malaysia, there isn't any direct flight services. The only flight service available is to fly to Hatyai and to either boarding a bus or minivan onwards to Trang. This is the most easiest way to get to Trang from Malaysia. There are surely some other more challenging options depending on how one would want to endure such travel obstacles, which include to fly to Ko Langkawi, board a ferry to Satun and then a bus or minivan to Trang. Or one could also take a bus to Kuala Kedah or Kuala Perlis, board a ferry from either these 2 port town to Ko Langkawi and then another ferry onwards to Satun. I, however opted to take a bus to Kuala Perlis, board a Thai fishing boat from the Fishing Development Board of Malaysia's pier to Thammalang Pier in Satun which costs MYR15 in which the journey took about 45 minutes. This pier was located about 500 metres from the Kuala Perlis jetty and easily reach by walking there. There is a Immigration Department building located just next to the pier where you need to get your passport stamped out before you board the fishing boat to Thammalang Pier. Many fishing boats to Thailand dock their boats here to unload the catches of the day from the sea. These fishermen would wait for the arrival of their customers who would arrive in small lorries to load the sea products. Though the immigration office opens as early as 6.30am, you would unlikely get to board the boat in the early hours as the fishermen would take quite some time to unload their catch while the lorries may also arrived late to load their orders. I was actually unsure at first of whether I should board the ferry from Kuala Perlis to Ko Langkawi and then onwards to Satun or I should just stick to my initial plan of jumping onto the longtail boat to get to Thammalang. Not many people opted for the latter but this is the fun, interesting and challenging way to get to Satun. I would have just purchased the ticket to Ko Langkawi from Kuala Perlis jetty and on reaching Ko Langkawi jetty, purchase another ferry ticket to Thammalang Pier.

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It was still early when I reached Kuala Perlis jetty at 5.15am and the jetty has not opened yet at that time but there were already group of passengers both locals and foreigners whom were seen lingering around the Kuala Perlis bus stop which located about 300 metres from the jetty. While waiting at the bus stop, I took the opportunity to speak to some of the locals, whom I think should be private taxi drivers who either provide services to certain destinations around Kuala Perlis of to sme major towns out from Kuala Perlis. I was told there were actually another option to get to Satun, which is to board the taxi or should I say private taxi, to Wang Kelian, the border of Malaysia-Thailand, which is a land gateway to either country. The costs was MYR50 according to one the men. From Wang Kelian, after stamping out from Malaysia, one would have entered Wang Prachan, where there would be either motorbike taxis, minivans or private taxis that would offer services to Satun town. I thought this look easy, simple and convenient but perhaps not the one that I would opt for. It was rainning at time of my arrival in Kuala Perlis, so I was kind of worried that the sea condition may not render boarding longtail boat a safe journey. Yet, I was still determined. After about 30 minutes, those waiting passengers were seen moving towards the jetty, so I walked along with them. There was a hotel located just after the bus stop before reaching the jetty, which looked rather rundown. Walking further down about 150 metres and crossing the road would be where the jetty is located. The jetty has not opened until about 6.30am but the people has seen queuing up at the ticket booth to purchase their tickets to Ko Langkawi. The jetty of Kuala Perlis looked rundown and was in the midst of renovation on the interior and exterior of the jetty building which is a simple 1 storey buidling. The current structure brings back to some good old day memories due to the old structure of the buidling design including the wall windows but once renovation completed it would probably look much better in its contemporary design. Across from the jetty there were row of shops which include a restaurant which sell local malay cuisines and some budget hotels. Kuala Perlis is a small town but if you would want to experience the town, I think it may be a good idea to stay over a night or so.

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The earliest ferry to Ko Langkawi from Kuala Perlis is 7.00am and tickets cost MYR18, one way. The ferry service ends at 7.00pm. When the ticket booth opens at 6.30am, I was still undecided which option would be the best for me to reach Satun but my heart tells me that no matter what it will be, I should still stick to the longtail boat option. The morning was still dark, so I still have some time to decide and think about. Not much informations available about the longtail boat from the locals as they were also unsure about whether there is any regular boats that would provide service to Thammalang Pier of otherwise. When the morning gets brighter, I began to walk away from the jetty to get to the fishing boat jetty over at the Malaysia Fishing Development Board buidling. As I walked, it started to drizzle again after the earlier rain stopped. After walking for about 5 minutes, I found the building and asked around on the location of the pier where I could board the lngtail boat to Thammalang Pier. It was lcated another 100 metres further down the building. There I saw 2 men sitting right on their desks and I asked one of them, Mr.A on the longtail boat service to Thammalang Pier, if they know how regular the service are. I was told that the services are not regular and it depends on how long it took the fishermen to unload the sea catch of the day as well as how early the lorries arrived to load these sea catch. I was still worried and unconvinced yet my heart says I should wait and see. So I took a walk around the place and discovered that the Immigration Department of Kuala Perlis was just right next to the fishing boat pier. The Kuala Perlis town was just few metres away with several row of 2 storey old shops and is a very small town indeed.

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After a brief walk, I have decided that I will board the longtail boat to get to Thammalang Pier. When I walked to the immigration counter, the officer asked if I was sure that I would board the longtail boat, I said I wasn't sure if there would be any boat that would offer a ride over to Thammalang Pier. So he told me not to have the passport stamped first but to wait until when I found a fishing boat that has agreed to provide a ride, then only I should return to get it stamped out. So, I walked out to get to the longtail boat pier which located in between the fishing boat pier and the immigratin office. I spotted a fisherman on a boat and asked if its possible to get into his or any other of his fishermen's friend boat. He said its possible and that once they would leave the pier, he would get them to informed me. I felt relieved and that was when I knew I would be able to get to Thammalang Pier for sure. The weather was getting clear as the morning matured. The drizzling has also stopped. As I waited at the small pier, with some plastic seats, I get to chat with sme of the people around there including a guard, an immigration officer and Mr.A, which I spoken to earlier. As we chat, Mr.A in his 50sactually works as a freelancer to facilitate on the immigration papers for the Thai fishermen or any persons from Satun who need to get their immigration papers processed. He has a wife who hails from Satun and as such he has his contacts from Satun to get such businesses. The guard in his 40s looks after the small pier to ensure no illegal crossings by foreigners as well as no smuggling of goods or illegal items. He has work for several years at this small pier as a guard but stopped working after he hurt his feet while working and has now started to work again after recovering from the pain. He said life was tough for him as he earns meagre income as a guard just enough to feed him, his wife and his young children. He spends his time at work to read books as time permits him to do so since the pier is not busy most of the time. Mr.Immigration Officer related a story about how he had encountered a Jewish man who entered Malaysia with an Israel passport. However, after querrying him on why the passport was without a stamp on where he travelled from, the Jewish man told Mr.Immigration Officer that he forgotten that he actually used his American passport to stamped out. So, this was how it works in this world where 2 systems would be the way to go if it benefits one party but while others were doing the same, it would not be allowed by a more superior country, which deemed as the world police. But when such systems benefit them, they would allow it to happened at all cost.

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While chatting, I took the opportunity to ask on any of the interesting places in Satun that I should not missed, they appear to be rather confused and without much informations at hand. I was stunned because when querried further, some of them have never even been to Satun, let alone exploring the province. Most said they been to Hatyai, which surely enough because this is the best entertainment city for those from Malaysia. I took out a Trang map, which include Satun province and they had a good look at the map. In fact, I had decided on 2 places that I should visit in Satun province for a 1 night stay before departing by a bus or minivan to Trang province. Many travellers would have opted to head to Ko Lipe but islands at the Satun archipelago were out from my list though these islands were very much tempting with its clear sea water, sandy beaches and quiet surroundings. After chatting for about 2 hours, one of the fishermen came calling that his boat was about to leave the pier. I told him to please wait while I get to the Immigration Office to have my passport stamped. Inside the office, it was a breeze as only 3 people were at queue. After getting it stamped, I jumped into the longtail boat which were loaded almost fully with empty big blue boxes which were used to store the sea products. However there were still 2 row of woodedn seats right at the end of the passengers compartment. The boat departed from Kuala Perlis about 10.50am and reached Thammalang Pier about 11.35am. While cruising along the calm seawater, I could see a significantly huge size of mangrove trees found along the fringe of the mountains surrounding the coastline of Satun province. Later, I discovered that these mangrove trees were located at one of the biggest mangrove swamp found in Thailand, which was the place to visit included in my Satun itinerary. On reaching Thammalang Pier, it look almost deserted without any passengers or travellers around. There was a lady trader selling food and drinks with her children around and there was also money exchange service available within the pier which include an immigration office. Expect to pay THB10 or MYR1 on weekends or non-working days as overtime to get your passport stamped. Such practice was rather common in Thailand though some immigration offices do not have such policy but still this is still much better than being charged THB50 in a neighbouring Thailand.

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After clearing the Thai immigration, I was approached by a motorbike taxi man, who introduced his name as Man (pronounced as Marn). Not much transport option was available and Man seemed to be the only motorbike taxi service provider while there was also probably some private taxi waiting for passengers. The journey from Thammalang Pier to Satun town took about 30 minutes or so and the fees was THB80 for motorbike taxi service. After agreeing on the price, I get onto the motorbike and off we go to the town. I told him to get to Ang Yee Guesthouse to check on the room and price first. Satun province was surprisingly quiet without much cars or activities going on. The journey from the pier to Satun town was pleasant and most of the surroundings are still very much natural with rubber plantations being one of the most important products in this Thai southern province. Upon reaching Ang Yee Guesthouse, there were only 1 room left, which cost THB400 per night without aircond. I thought it was inexpensive but I also thought of getting a better deal. So, I said I need to survey around town to get the ideal place to stay. So, I told Man to move on to On's Living Room Guesthouse. Upon reaching On's, I was told by Khun On that the only room available is THB750 per night. I told her I was looking for a better deal and then left for Pinnacle Wangmai Hotel. Upon checking, the room per night cost THB650, but the staff was rather unfriendly and perhaps the hotel environment was not what I preferred. Both Ang Yee and On's Living Guesthouse offer a very distinguish place to stay for a great backpackers' style of experience, which was what I always wanted since I started my backpacking travel in New Zealand. I decided that Ang Yee is the best place to stay, so I headed there again and booked the room. Ang Yee is a 2 storey shophouse converted to a guesthouse occupying the end lot of a row of 2 storey shophouses. It has a reception, which also doubled up as a bar, a living hall doubled up as a lobby, an open bedroom for 2 persons, 2 guest rooms, a washroom as well as a creative gardens with some paintings and decorative items along with some table and seats for guests to relax. There were also plam tree and some other plants being decorated around the garden. All these were on the ground floor. On the upper floors, there is a sizeable living hall with few guest rooms and 2 bathrooms. All rooms are without attached bathrooms. So, guests would require to share the facilities among them with the 3 available bathrooms. My room was located on the ground floor just next to the 1st room near the entry of the guesthouse. I was invited by the owner of the property to have a chat with her over at the garden where she was smoking and chatting with one of her female friend while eating some steamed peanuts. She told me her friend has a shop selling t-shirts, souveniers, food and drinks in Ko Lipe, but due to the low season, the shop was closed as there were not many customers around during this time of the year. She said there were less than 10 rooms available in the guesthouse and the creative decorations of the guesthouse was the work of her artist husband.

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Since I only had a day to travel Satun, I set up a deal with Man to go with him to 2 places, which include Laem Tanyong Po and Tham Lod Puyu. These are the 2 most closest places to Satun town availabe to reach by motorbike. First, we headed to Laem Tanyong Po. Not much information was available from the internet though it was listed as one of the place to go while in Satun province. I had a look at map on Satun province and it was also listed on the map, which earlier Mr.A, the guard and Mr.Immigration Officer took a look on it. Mr.A mentioned it was worth a visit with some peaceful surroundings in store over a great sea view from the beach. While getting to Laem Tanyong Po, we went through a great length of rubber plantations, both on the left and right of the 2 lane road. There were some road constructions to widened them at some parts of the road leading to Laem Tayong Po and this shown the initiative of the local government to improve road facilities which will bring in a good level of development to some of the less developed tourism products. Such are some of great indications that the local government initiations to help improve the life of the locals. I believe in time to come, the scene at Laem Tanyong Po would changed significantly with increasing number of tourists or travellers heading to this place. After passing through the rubber plantations, we had to ride up through a small hill and the sea can be seen while going up and down the hill surrounding the cape. Laem actually means cape in Thai, so literally, it was called Cape of Tanyong or Tanjong Po. Upon reaching the cape, at the fringe of the beach there were some small food stalls selling food with tables and chairs. You can have your lunch here with great sea view while enjoying your food over at the table and chair. Or you can have picnic or just sit on some of the available chairs and tables facilities made available at the quiet beach. Some of the undeveloped land, according to Man has also been advertised to be rented out, which also indicated that Laem Tanyong Po is destined to be a developed tourists destinations with hotels, guesthouses, seafood restaurants and shops to be developed in time to come. We spent some time sitting down and chat, relaxing while Man had his self-made cigarette, tobbaco filling rolled with dried tobacco leaf. It was very common for Satun folks as well as in Kuala Perlis to smoke in such way as it is inexpensive as compared to those regular pack cigarettes. After some chat and finishing his smoking, we moved on to Tham Lod Puyu.

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To get to Tham Lod Puyu, we need to get to to Thammalang Pier again to board a motorboat from the pier. I don't know what to expect from this place indeed. The motorboat man was the son of Man's sister and he owns the boat. Some of them provide boat services from certain points along Thammalang to get to certain villages located surrounding Thammalang, where the boat transport could be the most covenient and cheapest way to tavel to the intended destinations. Though Man did not tell me what his nephew's job was, I think he could be one of the boat taxi service provider to transport villagers of Thammalang to their final destinations as well as transporting goods for suppliers or purchasers and vice versa. Before setting off, I bought a special local food from the sole woman trader at Thammalang Pier, whom now I know was the wife of Man. This food is a sticky rice, either white or black, stuffed into small bamboo sticks and then cooked over the fire from burning charcoals. It has sweet taste and well, quite delicious to me. The cost for 1 stick was THB35. Man offered a bottle of cold water and off I board the motorboat to head to Tham Lod Puyu. Cruising along the calm seawater was intensely pleasant and fresh. The landscape surroundings were great with karst mountains and with great length of mangrove trees that dotting along the coast of Satun. Only now did I realised that the earlier mangrove trees witnessed while on board the longtail boat from Kuala Perlis to Thammalang Pier is this place called Tham Lod Puyu. What can be seen from outside were just a huge number of mangrove trees but as we cruised along, there were actually many canals surrounding the mangrove swamps. The boatman manoeuvre the boat into many of the canals so that I can take many photos in different directions, whether it be the mangrove trees, the mangrove swamp, the karst mountains and the lanscape surrounding Tham Lod Puyu. The sea and the canals were so quiet and calm and you get to experience how close you are to the nature. You would start to wonder how much different it were to be while out of the gift of God which remain fully untouched by development. In most countries and in particular neighbouring country of Thailand, much of the mangrove trees have been cut as source of woods due to the significant price tags of such products. Surprisingly, Thailand has still huge mangrove swamps left undisturbed and hopefully, the Thai government or perhaps the Satun provincial government would maintain such policy for the rest of the time for as long as this mangrove swamp could be left undeveloped. This swamp provide an important defence to destruction of sea from strong wave and could also help to reduce the possibility of flooding to the areas, towns and villages surrounding the coastline. Why is this place called Tham Lod Puyu? Tham means cave in thai and of course there is a reason why this place is named as such. As we cruised the coastline of Satun, we reached the karst mountain with cave openings and boats, kayaks and sampans on small scales could pass through these openings. This is how the mangrove swamps got its name of Tham Lod Puyu, which means the Cave of Lod Puyu. As we crossed the cave, I could see water dripping from the stalactite. It was another one of the wonderful nature experience that I had on this Satun trip that was never expected. There was a small pier for those who would want to experience kayaking and if you are into it this is seriously a great place to kayak to get close to the nature. As the sun is setting down, we cruise back to Thammalang Pier and the boatman brought me again to some of the canals to take more photos of the mangrove trees and the swamp.

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Posted by kidd27 08.09.2012 05:30 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Jakarta & Bandung

sunny 30 °C

Most travellers would not have Jakarta in their list of places to visit due to the various reasons including perceptions on the structure and lanscape of the city, volatility of situations and being the extremists targets. One wouldn't have realised that Jakarta can be filled up with interesting activities that will rile up one's travel when in this Indonesian capital. Explore the city and you will realised that this is a place not only restricted for shoppings but also with historical values, cultural distinction with other Asian neighbours, good food and not forgetting the bad and notorious traffics! If it is compared to Bangkok, I would say that this city looks much bigger, traffic is more chaotic, more shopping malls around, good public bus transport (Bangkok has good Skytrain and subway) and equally good number of nice food around.

My first stop was Sunda Kelapa harbour. This is the place where you can witness how the labourers loading the goods into and off the large wooden ships during the day time and also to see with closer eyes on those old ships which may not be seen in other ports. The port itself is not a huge one where you can take a walk from one end to the other. All the ships will be harboured along the pier where it will be mostly sandwiched between each other and workers can be seen working closely as a team in loading goods on or off the ships. This workers are working in a group of aby 15 or more people. Lorries are also moving in and out from the port area in dropping off or loading up goods to be transported to its respective destinations. Nevertheless, the place look calm without any signs of traffic congestions and there don't seem to have overcrowded labourers within the harbour area. There is a spacious concourse in between the pier and a pathway leading to the end of the port and a stroll along this concouse will be good to see how the people work. There are some shops around and also seafood restaurant but due to ramadhan, most shops are closed including retaurants. Other than this time of the year, visitors should be able to access to the seafood restaurant. Its ideal to be here early morning when the weather is still pleasant so you can walk around more comfortably. This is a place worth a visit to snap some nice photos of the old ships and the harbour landscapes.

Next I was at the Fatahillah Square. This is where the Old Fort is located or Kota Tua. A few numbers of old hostorical abandoned buildings are seen here and the highlights are the museums. There are 3 museums, The History Museum, The Wayang or Puppet Museum and the Money Museum. I visited 2 of the 3 museums, The History and Wayang Museum. The History Museum is a combination of various composition of display comprising of old prison at the rear of the museum building, antique collections on the upper floor (this is a 2 storey building) which is seperated with few rooms and a main hall which has a balcony overlooking the museum concourse with a sight of the Batavia Cafe on the opposite left side which also has a General Post Office on the opposite right side from the main concourse area. Some interesting sights including the colourful old bicycles for rent to cycle around the Kota Tua area. This bicycles are parked along the edge of the concourse area fronting the Batavia Cafe. Apart from collections of antiques, there are few inscribe stone on display in the history museum. Students can be seen in groups assembling around the concourse of this square after school hours. Also, I witnessed how some schoolgirls get excited when they met with foreign tourists, happily wanted to be photographed with such travellers and eagerly chatting up with them. The Wayang Museum is where colletions of different puppets all around Indonesia are being displayed with various sizes from big to small. Also on display are some traditional music instruments that use to accompany the performance of the puppet show. This museum building was part of the old church which had been destroyed during the earthquake in the 17th century and part of the church historic walls can still be seen at the end of the museum building. Around the vicinity of the Fatahilah Square are colonial buildings which had been abandoned, a bank that occupies the historical buidling near the Stasiun Kota (Kota Train Station) and also the Transjakarta bus station with an underground connection to the Stasiun Kota. (more on Transjakarta later).

I head to the Taman Impian Jaya Ancol just to see how this theme park looks like as this is recommended by most travel wesites. This is a place with a combinations of resorts or hotels, cafes or restaurants, boat riding for sightseeing of the sea and also a water and theme park. There is also a cable car ride to sightsee the whole park and also to enjoy the sea landscape. Also, visitors can take a walk along the pedestrian walkways build along the edge of the sea with some trendy restaurants and cafes dotting this coastline. There are some seen fishing around this area and boat rides are offered to visitors. Most Indonesians will fill up the park on weekends for a day out and during weekdays the place look much relax with thin crowds but this is also the time to enjoy the charms of this place with such atmosphere. Night time will be livelier with some restaurants seen to have stage set up for performances for their patrons to enjoy while dining at their outlets. With such a good location, the place can be very enjoyable for dinner and music entertainment.

Monas or Monumen Nasional (national monument) is a landmark of Jakarta. This place is a gated area and it is very big. Many people seen to come here to enjoy their weekend by relaxing at the park, walking, jogging, flying kites and playing football. The tower is also a symbol of independence for Indonesia. At the base of the monument is a history museum with the independence proclamation text displayed in it. Talking a walk at the park can be interesting and take a while since it is huge but worth the time. This place is worth a visit as apart from telling people you had been to Jakarta, its also a place where you can stretch out a bit through walking around the huge park.

There are various food found in Jakarta and the most commonly seen is the masakan padang or nasi padang and also satay. Nasi Padang is the icon of Indonesia and in almost everywhere, this dishes can be found easily. This is a dish that comes with varities of plate offerings including fried chicken, curry chicken, green vegetables, potato with prawn chillies, egg with chillies, rendang beef and many more other delicious choice with steam white rice. One of the affordable nasi padang restaurant is the Restoran Sederhana which offers some good nasi padang dishes. This is a franchise restaurant that can be found in most areas in Jakarta. Another interesting indonesian food is the Sundanese food with its highlight being the "tempe" made from partially cooked, fermented soybeans in various cooking varieties. Others including deep-fry beancurd marinated with sweet soysauce, kangkong vegetables, steam salted egg and steam mushroom both wrapped in banana leaf and the sundanese spicy corn soup. Try Lalapan Sunda Restarant near Taman Impian Jaya Ancol which offers some great sundanese food. The restaurant has a main eating hall and also "saung" or huts in the garden area with water fountains and small trees surrounding the huts. Good place to enjoy the food while seated on the floor of the small hut which is a kind of sundanese culture. Sate is also a famous food in Indonesia, most found on the street stalls. There are various types of sate and the common ones are the Madura style and another, the Padang style. The Madura style sate comes with various meat, chicken, beef, lamb and rabbit. The meat are barbequed until the meat is cooked but not hard, and the peanut sauce will be spread over the satay skewers before served to customers. The meat being used for sate Madura is thinner as compared to others. Sate Padang comes with barbequed beef meat and serve with specially prepared sauce with ingredients such as broth, tumeric, ginger, curry powder and salt. Other indonesian speciality foods include the "bakmi" or pork noodle commonly eaten for breakfast. This is a noodle dish that comes with noodle, minced pork and barbeque pork similar to the Hong Kong version of "wanton" noodle. In Jakarta, one most notable drink here is "teh botol", which literally means bottled tea. This is Indonesia's version of coke and can be found in almost all restaurants and cafes in Indonesia, not only Jakarta I presumed. even in McDonald's, the fast food chain here replaced coke with "teh botol" as its main drinks in its beverage varieties.

The bus transport system is Jakarta is surprisingly efficient with special lane dedicated for the bus under the Transjakarta transport company, which is known as busway. Depending on the bus conditions, some may be old and little unclean or uncomfortable due to faulty airconds but overall, the service is satisfactory. Each station has a "halte" or shelter which is a covered cube for passengers to purchase tickets to board the bus and link to various other areas including shopping malls, office buildings and tourist spots. The one that serves the CBD area is the Kota-Blok M line. The are 8 lines in all. The cost is only Rp3,500 for each line (end to end) for one way destination and is this is very affordable. The special lane also provide further value to this service where the bus can avoid being stuck in the traffic congestions. I took the Kota-Blok M route which takes about 45 minutes and I found the service satisfactory and highly recommended for travellers who are tight on their budget.

Bandung is dubbed the education city of Indonesia and produces one of the largest graduates pool in Indonesia. This city has no skyscapers and is well spread instead of concentrated in a centalised area. The weather during early morning and late afternoon can be very cold where a light jacket is required to keep you warm and comfy. Many old shops can be found in the city centre. The highlights of my visit to Bandung is the Mount Tangkuban Perahu located between Lembang and Subang, which is about 30km in distance from Bandung city centre. Mount Tangkuban Perahu is an active volcano mount and there are rows of souveniers shops between the main volcano sites to the mountain peak called Mount Bukittunggul, where you can trek up there, which is one of the adventuruos activity here. just before the main entrance to the souvenier shops, there is a large teal plantations of the left hand side. Before reaching the main volcano crater, there is a hotspring at the lower part of the mount near the entrance of the mount, which is called Kawah Domas. Most visitors will stopby to freshen up by having a mud massage, take a close watch at the hotspring or to boil eggs. When I reached here, its already in the late afternoon and the park was about to close. The weather turned rather cold due to its location which is higher as compared to Bandung, with wind blowing, it can get very chilly here. The smell of sulphur is so strong that it could get to your nose most of the time near the volcano viewpoint area. Smoke can be seen billowing from one side of the volcano too, a sign of an active volcano. Over in Bandung, one of the most important sight here is the Gedung Sate, a colonial building during the reign of the Dutch which was being used as the main office of the Dutch Indies Government Companies. The reason for the name "sate" is because the rooftop has a with 6 ornaments looked like the popular Indonesian food, satay. Nearby the Gedung Sate is the Gasibu Park which has a sunday morning market here selling all kind of goods in particular sportswear. Other activities that one can induldge in while in Bandung is shopping and enjoy some good food. One of the interesting shopping area is Cihampelas Walk which have many inexpensive jeans to buy and factory outlet at Rumah Mode which offer some designer brands at good value. The most unforgettable dining experience for me while in Bandung is the Kampung Daun restaurant which has a natural surroundings within the reataurant boundary with choice of individual or shared saung (hut). The atmosphere here can be well defined as the one that bring diners close to the nature with the man-made waterfalls, pools with many trees surrounding the huts. Not only that, each individual hut is equipped with large wooden table, large pillows and bolster where diners can have a very relax way of dining or simply just lazing around before and after the meal and chatting while enjoying the cool weather. The was a band performing at the main entrance of the restaurant. Other nice food found here are the "babi panggang" or roasted pork and "babi goreng" or fried pork which are dipped with special sauce mad from the pork blood cooked with other ingredients as well as the white pepper cream sauce.

Some of the interesting way of life for Jakarta folks is that some poor people can be very creative and with initiatives where taking advantage of the heavy and bad traffic condition, these group of people will try to be traffic controller helping the motorists getting through the predicament with lesser hassles and with that, they get some "tips" about Rp 2000 from the understanding and generous drivers, which help them to pay for food for the day.

With so many things to do as well as the great Indonesian food, this is such an interesting country and I'm looking forward to come again!

Posted by kidd27 03.09.2010 22:18 Archived in Indonesia Tagged people Comments (0)

From Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh

Best of both world

sunny 30 °C
View Phnom Penh on kidd27's travel map.

November 2006

Cambodia and Vietnam, two neighbouring South East Asia countries which formed part of the Indochina region and sharing 4 border entry points have been very distinctive in terms the people, culture, economy and food. Setting my foot in Phnom Penh,Cambodia and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam provide me the opportunity to experience the way of life of the people, their culture and to witness some very important historical sites and buildings as well as the many religious structures of wat, pagodas and temples. Not forgetting the chance to taste the authentic local food too.I arrived in Phnom Penh International Airport, engaged a motodop (motorbike taxi) to get to the city centre. It was late in the evening. Headed for the city centre with the motodop (moto taxi) and checked into the a guesthouse in Sangkat Psar Chass, Khan Daun Penh, adjacent to the Old Market and Sisowatch Quay, popularly known as the Riverside. Riverside as the name suggest is a place fronting a long river with a row of hotels, restaurants, bars and pubs. This place is very lively day and night with locals and foreigners strolling along the riverside walkways to unwind as well as foreigners patronising the restaurants and pubs during night time. Over here,you can also see many tuk-tuks plying their trade, so, getting around is not a problem, but make sure price are negotiated prior to getting on the vehicle. Over dinner, as I saw there were many street food stalls just few metres away my place of stay near the old market, I decided to walk around to have some local food. I bumped into a shop located few rows opposite the place I stay. There was a push cart at thr front of the shop where Cambodian Ham are available. Met a fellow Malaysian who greeted me from above the first floor of the shop. He introduced himself as Teoh. According to Teoh, he and several other Malaysians owned the pork ham business in Phnom Penh. They were into the wholesale trade supplying pork ham to food business community in Phnom Penh while also venturing into their own retailing of french bread with pork ham through push carts. They had created a brand name for this business doubt "The Cambodian Hamburger". In Vietnam, you can also find plenty of push carts selling french bread with pork ham in coffee shops, streets and fivefoot walkways. This ham is normally taken for breakfast, afternoon or night snack. A pork ham bread comes with french bread: half or whole, slices of pork ham, pork mince, mint leaves,long green leave and cold salad. For half bread it costs 1,500 riel (USD1-4,000 riel). After a long chat, it was time to say goodbye. A very friendly chat sessions and great to have Teoh shared his business experience over here in Phnom Penh.

It was time to set off to Ho Chi Minh city at 8.15am. Ticket costs USD12 for a one way journey. I met with 3 Malaysians on board the bus. One of them owns a garments business in Vietnam. We had lunch together at the Cambodian border. They were friendly and cheerful lot. Border in Cambodia is Bavet while in Vietnam is Moc Bai. Bavet has a casino and many Vietnamese crossed the border for gambling purpose. We parted ways after arriving at the Ho Chi Minh city centre and I proceeded to the backpackers area of Pham Ngu Lao, De Tham and Bui Vien to look for accomodation. I checked into Lan Anh Hotel@252, De Tham Street for only USD10 for a one bed room per night. It comes with cable TV, hot and cold shower, air-cond, fan and free breakfast. After settling down, I set off on foot to explore around the backpackers area. As I strolled from one street to another, I came across a Pho (pronounced fur which means rice noodle) shop. There were many pho shops around as well as fivefoot pho stalls. They can be seen in each and every corners of the city.The Vietnamese just love the noodle so much that they eat them during breakfast, lunch and dinner. I noticed a franchise pho restaurant named Pho 24. Unlike the conventional pho restaurants, this franchise restaurants cater to the middle to upper class Vietnamese and tourists with the comfortable settings,clean, air-conditioned and contemporary interior. Met with Vietnamese friend,Ngyuen Thi Tan Duc.We proceeded to the night market near the Ben Thanh Market. This area have rows of food stalls serving seafoods and all kinds of Vietnamese specialties including the fresh and fried spring rolls and Banh Xeo (egg pancake wrap with vegetables). The night market was located across the street where the food stalls were and there were variety of items being sold here. The streets of which these night market stalls and food stalls were being set up were closed to traffic for the convenience of visitors. The food stalls here were never short of customers with most of them packed with diners. As we walk through the stalls, we settled down at one of them and ordered a plate of fresh spring rolls and Banh Xeo. We chatted and enjoyed the food very much. .After finishing our dinner, we decided to proceed elsewhere for drinks as it was still early to call it a day. We went to one of the cafes near the place I was staying and I ordered the iced black coffee while she ordered a bottle of mineral water. Would like to try the Vietnam coffee as it was said that it produces best coffees in the world.

The next morning, as I finished my breakfast of french bread with egg and tea, today I set off for city tour on cyclo. Ho Chi Minh city boasts many pagodas and temples and some that I visited include Giac Lam Pagoda, Xa Loi Pagoda, Thien Hou Temple, Phuoc An Hoi Quan Temple, Jade Emperor Pagoda, Hoi Quan On Lang Society Premises, Hong Kong market, Binh Tay Market (Cho Binh Tay in Chinatown), Notre Dame Cathedral, Reunification Palace and the General Post Office. Notre Dame Cathedral, Reunification Palace and the General Post Office were adjacent to each other and it gives one the feel of being in the European country due to its neat settings of roads, clean environment, well landscaped with parks as well as the European exterior of the buildings surrounding these tourist attractions. Another landmark insight was the HSBC building located opposite the Notre Dame church which add to the European charm in this area. Another notable experience during this city tour was encountering the sights of coffee streets where rows of shops along a street in Ho Chi Minh citspecialise in selling variety of coffee beans as well as a street where dog merchants can be seen parading their stocks for sale. Traffic in this city need no introductions. The number of motorbikes outnumbered any other vehicles and you really need to be very alert and extra quick to cross the streets. People just disregard the road rules. Helmet is not necessary for city travel. However, for certain areas outside the city, it is required to put on the helmet while on motorbike. Honking can be heard almost every seconds.As the day sets down, I was back at my hotel by 6 pm.

It's a day tour out of HCM city to the Cao Dai temple and Chu Chi tunnels. Along the way, at a laquerware processing village, you can see how the laquerware were being processed from the A to Z. You can also purchase the ready made laquerware at the laquerware boutique located within the processing compound as souveniers or for your own keep. The coach departed for Cao Dai Temple, a very distinctive temple from others found in Vietnam and other Asian countries. This temple located in the Tay Ninh district accessible along the road leading to the Vietnam-Cambodia border of Moc Bai-Bavet. It was distinctive due to the fact that several religions were being integrated into one single beliefs comprising the Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism Christianity and Islam. To differentiate themselves, the worshippers wore customs of their own religions to reflect their religious identity. 4 prayer sessions were conducted in a day at 6am, 12pm, 6pm and 12am. Inside the temple, there appears a mural of 3 saints of Cao Daism located at the main entrance of the temple. The open spaces of the temple was where the worshippers perform the prayers of chanting. On the other end of the temple, there were several red-cushioned couch together with altar on a rounded structure while a big round globe with a divine eye on it hanging from the ceiling above the altar. The are a total of 5 tiers inside indicating the rankings on each level by a statue. The 1st and highest tier are Buddha, Confucius and Lao Tze. Second tier has Quan Am, the Goddess of Mercy, Lai Thai Bach and Quan Thanh Do Quan, recognised as "3 Lords of The Earth". Jesus Christ is on the 3rd tier while Khuong Thai Quan, the head of ancestral spirits on the 4th tier. Photographs were allowed in the temple. Visitors will have to clear the ground floor and proceed to the upper balcony on the left and right of the temple when prayers session begins. From outside the temple on the way out, it can be noticed that the temple has a very large gated compound and looked very much like a palace environment. It gives one the thought of being in a forbidden city. The next journey is to the Chu Chi tunnels. Entrance fee to Chu Chi tunnel was USD5. There is a video presentation on the history of Chu Chi Tunnels before visitors proceeded to the nearby jungle to witness the many tunnels, gadjets and weapons used by the Vietnamese communist guerillas, the Viet Cong in their war against their enemies. Visitors have the opportunity to experience the tunnel-treking, which fit just for 1 person, view the underground hide-outs that have built-in kitchens, medical and ward rooms, administration rooms and gadgets/weapons processing rooms. Range of weapons and gadjets were also displayed. The most interesting part was that, visitors are allowed to try out shooting at the shooting range within the vicinity of the jungle near the exit point and also to try the tapioca with crushed peanut and sugar, which had been they way of life for the communists during the war time. You can also take a closer look at the different sizes of the black hardened rubber sandals worn by the communists in the jungle during their struggle. After a good several hours of jungle tour, it was time to head back to the city. It was a very interesting and wortwhile trip.

My last day in Ho Chi Minh city. After breakfast, I set off to the Binh Tay Market in Chinatown on a motorbike taxi for the second time to get some Vietnamese souveniers. Today, it was a day of free and easy. I had more time to enjoy myself in the market as compared to the time I visited this market on tour. I bought some shirts, several packets of the Vietnamese tea as well as Vietnamese sweets and snacks. This market is very big with varieties of goods being sold. You want it, you have it here. And if you're really into real shopping, this is the place for shoppaholics. It's a shopping heaven. I then proceeded to another market, the Ben Thanh Market. Compare to Binh Tay, Ben Thanh was smaller with only 1 storey while Bin Thay with 2. Just like Binh Thay, Ben Thanh has its fair share of great items being sold. You can also find nice Vietnamese food for breakfast at the ood stall sections and get some aromatic Vietnamese coffee beans and the rice spring roll wrapper here. After done with shopping, it was time to get a good massage. The shiatsu massage cost USD6 for 1 hour. Compare to the Thai massage, this is more expensive but the masseurs were equally good if not better. There were not many massage centres in Ho Chi Minh or probably throughout Vietnam, thus it isn't as robust as compared to the Thai massage business, which could explain why the costlier charge. At night, took walk at the nearby park across the street of Pham Ngu Lao. Here, you can see the locals mingling around, play badminton and kicking a type of tiny ball with fur. Witnessing such activities brought a nostalgic feelings in my mind. When I grew up in my country as a kid, such activities were just as thriving as what can bee seen in HCM during the 80s in Malaysia.

Time to say goodbye Vietnam and hello again Cambodia. Departed for Phnom Penh by bus at 9am. The journey took 6 hours and I reached Phnom Penh at 3pm and checked into the guesthouse. Took a motodop to the Central Market. This market has everything that you would want to buy. From jewellery, watches, garments, footwear, sportswear, shirts, kitchenware, souveniers, you name it you have it all in one place. Bought several t-shirts for USD2 a pice. Very good bargain.

Engaged the tuk-tuk for the city tour. The first place that I visited was the Royal Palace. Next to this place is the Silver Pagoda. Entrance fee to these 2 places was USD3 with camera, you have to pay USD2. The main palace building was located at the middle of the palace compound surrounded by several other royal houses and guard houses. Towards the right side of the palace was the Silver Pagoda. No photograph is allowed in the Silver Pagoda. Visitors were only allowed to take photos outside the Pagoda. Next stop was the Wat Phnom. To access the Wat, you would have to climb up the stairs as it was built up the hill. At the bottom of this Wat was a round shape park where many beggers can be seen plying their trade here as well as the stairs leading to the Wat. Entrance for this Wat is USD1. After Wat Phnom, went to the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum. This museum was formerly a high school building before it was converted to a prison by the Khmer Rouge Regime. There were 4 buildings in these former prison with building A being used as torture rooms. the torture beds were still being displayed in each rooms on the ground floor of the building. Building B, formerly where the interrogation rooms were located is now being used to display the photographs of victims being captured, tortured and killed at the Tuol Sleng Prison. Building C was where the prison cells were while building D was used as administration office. As I toured each of the buildings, it gave me the eerie feelings of being in a haunted place where innocent people were being killed in a senseless way. Looking at the victims photos gave you the sense of sorry and pity for these people and how heartless and inhumane it could be for the Khmer Rouge to have done such unforgiveable sins. My last stop was at the Russian Market. This market specialises in Cambodian Silk garments as well as many other goods available at the Central Market but was apparently smaller in size compared to the latter. The silk garments were cheap between USD 3 to USD5 a piece. If you're into shopping I would recommend that you must include Russian Market & Central Market in your itineraries. You can get whole loads of affordable, nice goodies here. Practically, everything you need and want. In HCM city, do not missed out on Binh Tay Market & Ben Thanh Market. These two places also offer you plenty of goods & services that you'll not resist. Take your time to shop at these markets and you'll definitely find something interesting.

Overall, this have been a great trip and I wouldn't mind to get back to both countries for another fantastic holidays.

Posted by kidd27 06.05.2007 16:49 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

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