Saturday, 21 January 2017

Friday 29th July 2016 (Hoi An, Vietnam)

When we woke up in the morning, the view was even better than I'd imagined! 

Tom's, Lucy's and my room.

This hotel cost about the same as a Travelodge including breakfast, in England! We went down and had a buffet breakfast. There was the usual incredibly wide assortment of foods.

Scott eating scrambled egg with chopsticks!

And Jack eating his fried egg!

We then spent a lovely morning in/by the pool. Did lots of diving practice!

It was absolutely boiling hot - unless you were in the water it was too hot to be in the sun, and you couldn't walk more than a couple of steps with no shoes on.

We got the hotel shuttle bus for the couple of mile trip into Hoi An town, and went for a wander.

We found an Indian restaurant for lunch... good grub!

Then we made our way to the river.

It's a gorgeous little town, with only a few main busy streets. The rest are great for walking along.

The boys (except Tom) all wanted to get suits made, ever since seeing the Top Gear episode where they travel through Vietnam and get suits made in this same town!
We checked out one place, but decided on this one which Scott had seen recommended on a website.
Here's Jack making his choice of suit and lining materials.

Harry and Jack's choices!

Harry getting measured up! You can tell he REALLY wanted a suit by that fact he was willing to do this!

We were there for quite a while, and chatted with the main assistant, who said how good looking Harry was, and that he should marry her eight year old daughter - she would take care of his wedding outfit! Harry was not impressed, and legged it when she started calling him son-in law!

She decided Tom might be a better match!

Scott blending in with the locals again!

We went back to the hotel after that, and Scott went for a walk later with a couple of the kids to some shops up the road to get bits for tea. I also booked in and got a massage at the spa on the floor overlooking the foyer. Scott had one too, and we played pool while we waited. I had a full massage, and it was pretty good, but I felt a bit cold and damp during it.

Watching a junky wedding dress programme with Lucy... she said ''£10,000 for a dress?! Do you know how many Mentoes you can buy for that?!?!''

Thursday 28th July 2016 (Cambodia / Da Nang & Hoi An, Vietnam)

We spent another lazy morning hanging out at Navutu Dreams. Scott bagsied the central double lounger! The place was quite quiet, except for the background music which we'd been hearing for a couple of days - we were given a letter by the management explaining that the music was coming from a nearby dwelling where someone had died, and this was part of the mourning ritual.

On a bush near our villa.

Flowers in reception, while we waited for our tuk-tuk drivers to take us into Siem Reap.

Tuk-tuk with a pretty ceiling!

We took a suitcase full of dirty clothes to a launderette, and arranged to pick it up later on our way to the airport, then we headed to the old market area for a last wonder round, and to get lunch.
Scott wanted to go to a bank on the way, and told my tuk-tuk driver where to follow his tuk-tuk to, but we managed to lose him. We stopped at a few places looking for him, then gave up and headed to the old market to wait for Scott's tuk-tuk to turn up. I had a nice chat with my tuk-tuk driver at one place we waited, about how the Japanese make the best roads over here, the Chinese and Koreans make rubbish roads, and how the cables over here aren't buried which is why there are so many hanging all over the place.
Also while we were waiting, we saw a couple of missionaries from our church cycling past. I yelled 'Hello Elders!' and they waved back. It was funny because Lucy and I had just been talking about seeing missionaries out there!

I had wondered what the metal pot bellied things were which I'd seen dotted around, and realised they were rubbish bins. (Bottom right of picture below).

Back at Navutu Dreams, we checked out, and a mini bus had been arranged to take us to the airport.
Cool lime green seat covers!

I snapped this picture from the mini bus. I just love it!!!

We picked up our laundry OK, and while still in town had an accident. A motorbike hit the back of us and dented the mini bus. No one was hurt, but we stopped for a while our driver tried to sort stuff out. I was mildly anxious about the delay!
At Siem Reap airport we passed through security easily enough, but in the departure lounge there was no departure board. The different gates all went from one hall, but it was quite spread out and I didn't like not knowing which gate our flight was leaving from! We just sat down anywhere, but in the end Harry and I went and asked one of check-in attendants how to find out our gate number. It turned out it was written on our tickets!

We flew about an hour to Da Nang airport in Vietnam, then got a taxi from outside that fitted us all in, and drove about half an hour to our next hotel a couple of miles from Hoi An.
The traffic was a bit crazy, especially in Da Nang! It was nice seeing the lights, and having the window down with warm air in my face. I seemed to mainly be used to the lack of traffic rules by now, and felt a bit more relaxed about it.

Our hotel was the Muong Thanh, a 4 star hotel sitting on a spit of land between a bend of the Cua Dai river and the South China Sea (or East Vietnam Sea!)
It was pretty nice, and we were served drinks whilst checking in.
Harry looking at the boat in the foyer.

I liked the screen the foyer!

Our rooms were next to each other on the top floor, with balconies overlooking the pool, river and sea! We were pretty happy!

Our rooms had interesting windows into the bathrooms! (Don't worry, Scott was not actually using the toilet here!) Fortunately there were blinds we could use!

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Wednesday 27th July 2016 (Cambodia Day 2 - Angkor Wat)

I think today was possibly my favourite day of the whole holiday. It started off with breakfast in the restaurant hut. There's a buffet, with an egg stand, where someone makes your eggs however you like... today I chose scrambled with veg.

Lucy, Jack and Harry at another table.

Having a laugh with the boys. The vegetation in the grounds is just gorgeous.

We then went by tuk-tuk a few miles to the ticket office for Angkor Wat and nearby ancient sites.

Family transport, Cambodian style.

The ticket office is quite a grand building. We hadn't bought passports with us, so Harry couldn't get the reduced rate for under 12 year olds. It cost about £20 each for access to the Angkor sites.

We then went the 7km or so from Siem Reap to the edge of the Angkor Thom site.
Kids younger than Harry on their way to school!

Not a road sign you see every day!

Out tuk-tuk drivers dropped us near the gateway to Angkor Thom, which was a capital city of the Khmer empire, built in the 1100's. They set us off in the right direction, and said they'd meet us later. I guess they knew roughly what route we'd take and where we'd end up!

Before we could cross the bridge to the gateway, the boys disappeared, and we found them stalking monkeys by the river!

A few monkeys kept us company as we crossed the bridge.

The monkeys left us to scamper up the gateway - it was like being in the Jungle Book!

Other side of the gateway - spot the monkeys!

It was a short walk to the Bayon of Angkor Thom.

The boys adding to the construction...

The boys and I climbed the rather steep steps of a tower next to the main complex. It had a great view, but wasn't easy to get down from again!

We were able to just wander round the site. Most of the ruins are covered with carvings of various gods, goddesses and other creatures from mythological stories and epic poems of ancient Hinduism, modified by centuries of Buddhism. Real animals are represented too, as well as elongated dragon-like creatures from Chinese art.

Peering through a section of corridor - somehow it reminded me of the architecture of British stately homes with the doorways all lined up.

Scott walking North from the Bayon.

I'd seen a few of these 'tractors' around and was happy to be able to snap a picture of one!

Walking towards the Baphuon. This was a temple built in the 1000's, dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva. It's missing it's central tower which would have made it 50m tall. It was converted to a Buddhist temple in the 1400's.

Climbing as high as we could go.

I adored the view from the top, and the whole atmosphere of the place, in spite of it feeling like a million degrees, and being revoltingly sweaty!

When the Baphuon was converted to a Buddhist temple, a 9m x 70m long statue of a reclining Buddha was built on the back of it (west side). We didn't know this at the time, and while we were stopping for a breather, I said something like 'oh, that looks like a head!'

Next we walked to the Phimeanakas, a three tiered pyramid Hindu temple built in the 900's. We didn't have a map or anything with us like the one above - we just kind of wandered along, and the next ancient ruin would appear! It turns out this is within the walled enclosure of the Royal Palace, but it felt like it was just in a rambly forest! Most of the original palace structure was made of organic material and has long since disappeared.

We carried on walking a short way, and then came out onto the Terrace of the Elephants.

It felt rather like being at Wollaton Hall, or some other stately home, only a lot hotter, and with a load of serpent/dragon (sausage dog) statues and elephants carvings.
The 350m long terrace was used as a giant viewing stand for public ceremonies, and served as a base for the King's grand audience hall.

We then wandered over to a car park area and found our tuk-tuk drivers there. We drove away from Angkor Thom through wood lined roads, and passing this place, stopped off to look around. I don't even know where or what it is.

Lucy and I went under this walkway, and it felt a bit Indiana Jonesy - I kept an eye out for giant spiders/snakes etc!

Scott, Jack and Tom had stayed chatting with our tuk-tuk drivers. Scott said how interesting it was to hear their perspective on things like Pol Pot, the Cambodian dictator whose policies were responsible for the death of about a quarter of the Cambodian population from 1975-1979. Surprisingly, they were not particularly anti Pol Pot. 

Around the car park areas, quite a few people would come and ask us if we wanted to buy things - water, books, ice lollies etc. I had to get used to saying no thank you, and just walking firmly away. 
We carried on (sometimes slightly precariously!) in the tuk-tuks, to Ta Prohm - the place I was most excited to go.

Walking to Ta Prohm.

This is the back entrance to Ta Prohm, a Buddhist monastery and university built in the late 1100's/early 1200's. This site hasn't been done up like most the other Angkor temple sites. I love this passage from Wikipedia:

''When the effort to conserve and restore the temples of Angkor began in the early 21st century, the École Française d'Extrême-Orient decided that Ta Prohm would be left largely as it had been found, as a "concession to the general taste for the picturesque." According to pioneering Angkor scholar Maurice Glaize, Ta Prohm was singled out because it was "one of the most imposing [temples] and the one which had best merged with the jungle.'' 

and also:

''The trees growing out of the ruins are perhaps the most distinctive feature of Ta Prohm, and "have prompted more writers to descriptive excess than any other feature of Angkor." ''

I'll try not to go into descriptive excess, but I absolutely loved it here! I did love the trees, and how the jungle felt so close - the whole place was just so atmospheric!

There is disagreement on what the trees at Ta Prohm actually are, but here's Harry standing in the buttressed roots of one.

The place was crazy!

I remember walking along here on my own, feeling completely happy!

The tree I most wanted to see (thanks to Pinterest!)

And which I insisted on being in a picture with!

No idea what they were doing!

This looks like some kind of giant spider leg...

The woman who had her picture taken in this spot before us had done the splits for her photo - Scott tried replicating it in our's! We were all cracking up!

Leaving Ta Prohm.

Then we met up with our tuk-tuk drivers again, and went to the back entrance of Angkor Wat. We didn't know at the time that's where we were, and I'm grateful to our drivers for dropping us here rather than at the busy front entrance. There was hardly anyone around, and we just walked along this path (past a monkey who had eyed up Tom's crisps rather worryingly, so I'd told Tom to leave them on the floor rather than be attacked!), and gradually what we realised was Angkor Wat came into site!

It was pretty cool! As we approached, it started to rain gently, and thunder started rumbling. It all added to the rather Gothic feel of the place!

Angkor Wat (meaning Capital Temple) is the largest religious monument in the world (402 acres) and has remained a significant religious centre since its foundation in the early 1100's. It was built as a Hindu temple to Vishnu, but gradually transformed into a Buddhist temple by the late 1100's. The temple has become a symbol of Cambodia, and is on its flag.

We had no idea we'd crossed over a moat! It just looked like a lake to one side. I really should read stuff before I go places! We came in on the right hand side of the picture below.

It was virtually deserted at the back of Angkor Wat, but got busier as we progressed towards the front.

A midget Jack!

Harry in a thunder storm in Angkor Wat, wearing his new sunglasses, trainers, underpants and football strip, accessorised with an umbrella borrowed from his tuk-tuk driver!

One minute there were a few spots of rain...

...and the next, total deluge!

Safe to say, our kids were only ones out playing in the rain...

Drowned rats!

It wasn't till we came out the other side that we realised we were at the front!

We then walked over the other side of the moat in the rain (still warm of course!), and to a large car park/restaurant area. We wandered round for a bit, not quite sure what to do, but then found our tuk-tuk drivers!

We went back to Siem Reap for a meal. The rain stopped, but as we got closer, all the streets were flooded! It was quite an exciting journey! Everyone just seemed to be getting on as usual.

We had another yum meal (spring rolls and curry for me).

Back at Navutu Dreams, we all went in the pool. This is the one in front of the restaurant hut. There were frangipani flowers floating in it from the overhanging trees, which Lucy and I put in our hair. I was super excited to see a mango tree too, with actual mangoes!