Our final day in Vietnam was spent in Chau Doc, a town so close to Cambodia that at points you can see over the border into the next-door country. Perhaps predictably, it’s an area that has been ruled by Cambodia and Vietnam at different points, depending on whose power was stronger, and as a result has a very mixed population in terms of ethnicity.
We decided to spend our last evening in Vietnam climbing Sam mountain for views over the Mekong delta before catching a boat up river the following morning to Phnom Penh in Cambodia. So we caught four motorbikes to the bottom of the mountain with two Dutch girls, Isabelle and Hannah, and found at the foot of the mountain a collection of Buddhist temples and pagodas, one of which had a fine pair of black and white elephants outside (more pictures below of these nice elephants). (more…)
Our time in the Mekong delta was without a doubt the highlight of our month in Vietnam, but it very almost didn’t happen in the way it did. If we had followed the Lonely Planet guidebook advice we would have booked a group tour from Saigon through the delta into Cambodia, which is what the vast majority of tourists in Vietnam do, and it’s a great shame. We were just about sick of these kind of tours – where you’re bundled into a minibus and dropped off at different tourist destinations for very short amounts of time and you have no choice over where to stay or what you eat. It’s all pre-booked by the tour agency and usually unappetising, and you don’t get to actually see much of the places you want to see. What’s more, the Mekong tours rush through the region in 3 days/2 nights, and you definitely want to spend longer than that there (we spent 6 nights, it’s very relaxing). Sure, sometimes these group tours are useful in certain situations, for example when there is a lack of public transport – we did an interesting trip to the demilitarised zone between North and South Vietnam which wouldn’t have been possible to do independently except with a private car which isn’t really in our budget. But we were feeling like we had done one too many tours like this recently so we looked into visiting the Mekong Delta independently. (more…)
I’ve been informed that my last post was “too historical”, so I’ll try and stay more on track with this one! This is a little elephant I found in the Reunification Palace in Saigon. At the time I thought it made a rather nice stool but looking at the photo now it looks far too small for me! Perhaps a good stool for a child though, with its beautiful deep green colour. (more…)
This elephant with its beautiful tusks comes from a slanted relief in front of a Chinese temple in Hoi An, central Vietnam (though you may also notice the red elephants on my trousers – it’s actually actively difficult to find loose trousers out here which AREN’T decorated with elephants!). (more…)
This particular elephant comes from a special temporary exhibition entitled “Mythical Creatures” at the National Museum of Vietnamese History in Hanoi. We happened by complete coincidence to arrive at the museum on the opening morning of the exhibition – a fact it took us a while to realise as it dawned on us that there were far too many film cameras and tv presenters inside the exhibition for this to be a normal day. Most of the museums on this trip in Asia have been filled with people walking irritatingly slowly through the galleries, painstakingly taking a photo of each object with their smartphones, but not actually looking at the object in question except through their smartphone screen. I have never understood this practice: sure, take a photo of a couple of your favourite exhibits to remember them, but what are you going to do with many hundreds and hundreds of pictures from a museum? I really doubt that you are going to look at them much in the future. What’s more, it prevents you from looking at the objects with your own eyes and anyway many museums have websites with high-quality images of their objects if you really wanted to look at them again after! (more…)