Wednesday, April 30, 2003

Ocean Kayaking

I was awake most of the night, that super strong coffee wired me totally. I could smell the coffee coming out of my pores as I laid in bed. Finally fell asleep about 6:00AM. We slept until about 10:0, got up, showered, had breakfast, did the last of our laundry.

About 2:00, Court and I and Lizzy and Stewart rented snorkel equipment and kayaks, and kayaked to an island off shore from us. We were told it had a small beach on it, and there was lots and lots fish swimming around there. We were also told to take some food, perhaps a banana or something, to feed the fish with. It took about 45 minutes of paddling to get there, it's very exhausting! We landed on the beach, there were some boats there as well, with a few other people on the boat and snorkelling around. Lots and lots of fish and coral here. Snorkelled for a while, and fed the fish, which was cool. Like pirhanna to meat, they just swarm around the banana as you hold it in your hand, and before you know it, the banana is gone! One fish even started nipping at my leg!

About 4:00, we decided to head back. Court's arms are killing her from the paddle to the island, so she was a little weary on the way back. And there was a really bad storming coming, and we didn't want to get caught in the storm in the middle of the ocean in a kayak. I remember Court trying to flag down passing boats by holding her paddle up in the air. The other boats didn't pay her any attention.

We made it back, and the storm missed anyway.

We are both totally exhausted after kayaking! We had supper, but could barely lift our forks to our mouths.

After supper, we walked to Siam Huts and visited Stewart and Lizzy, to see how they are doing. They are totally exhausted too. We decided to go down to another resort, where they show movies in their restaurant, but it started raining really hard, so we just hung out at their restaurant and played a board game while we waited for the storm to pass. AFter it ended, we headed down the beach to the other place and watched the end of Red Dragon, and then Honor of Men.

AFter that, we headed back home and went to bed.

Thailand...land of the crowing roosters! All night long!

Tuesday, April 29, 2003

Motorcycle Driver

Court up early, about 7:30, she went for a run, showered, then lounged in hammocks until I got up.

I got up about 10:00, showered then met her in the restaurant and we ordered breakfast.

When Court got up, it was sunny. When I got up, it had clouded over.

Shortly after 11:00, we walked to the main road and rented a motorbike, 350 baht for 24 hours. We went to an internet place (very expensive internet here!), then drove down to a waterfall, Khlong Phu waterfall, very nice, high waterfall with a pool for swimming at the bottom. Very refreshing, lots of locals swimming, and a few tourists. We jumped in as well. Stayed for about 30 minutes. There was a small cliff that we could jump off of as well, which was fun.

It started to rain a little bit while we were at the waterfall, so we headed back to the hut, but it wasn't raining there, which was good, because our laundry was hanging out on the clothes lines.

We had lunch, did some more laundry, and re-did some of yesterday's laundry, because it still stunk.

About 3:30, we took a motorbike to Bang Bao fishing village, which was cool. Most of the village is on stilts over the water, and they're planning for a tourist boom by the shops and construction going on.

After checking out the fishing village, we drove a little farther down the road to see what was there, and found a couple of small, secluded beaches, then came back to the hut and did nothing.

We went for supper with Lucille (from New York), then Lizzy and Stewart joined us, then a whole bunch of other people. AFter supper, Court and I made some of our coffee, I made mine WAY to strong!!!!

Court and myself and Lizzy and Stewart and Lucille moved to the bar at Tree House and had vodka and pineapple juice...Mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. AFter a couple, we moved to the next bar on the beach in search of buckets of vodka that we could share. Finding none, we moved on to the next beach bar. It's called Nature bar, and they didn't have vodka buckets either, so we decided to stay for a couple of drinks (pineapple and vodka again!), and while there, one of the guys running the place did a fire show with a firestick and with poi's. He was a master at both. As you can see, live is pretty hard for us in Thailand. We then headed to Jah Bar, a somewhat happening place, where we got and shared a vodka bucket between the 5 of us. Vodka, Red Bull and Sprite, which we finished in no time flat. Most of it was ice. Lucille went up to complain, but got nowhere. We then got a Sangsom bucket, which was too strong. Stewart and Lucille drank most of it, and they were both hammered. We had our own little private dance party on our little "platform" at the bar. About 1:30-ish (no watch, I have no concept of time anymore), we headed back home.

When we left Nature Bar, the dog at the bar walked with us, up the road (perhaps 5 minutes walk) to Jah Bar, and stayed with us the whole time. When we were leaving, we woke him up (he was sleeping!) and he guided us back to Nature Bar at the end of the night. What a nice doggie!

Jah Bar is cool. It's built on a hill, and you have to take a long set of stairs to get up to it. It has different levels, some built on stilts. If you fall over teh edge, it's a long way down! Very surreal, kind of a Star Wars-y feel to it.


Koh Chang is about 70% undisturbed island rainforest, and it is absolutely beautiful.

Cloudy most of the day, but very humid. No rain at our resort, though.

Monday, April 28, 2003

Koh Chang...Lovely!!!

Courtney woke me up about 7:30, "Wake up, Sleepy Head!". I was righe in the middle of a dream that Moose Jaw was being overrun by all kinds of snakes and lizards and weird sea creatures and other bizarre things, and someone had left the door to my parents house open (I was living there), and all these creatures were coming in the house. There was this really colourful snake in my bedroom, about 1 foot from my computer, and I was trying to use my computer so I could get on the internet and find out if this snake was poisonous or dangerous, but I was scared, because the snake was so close. I then decided to go downstairs (makeing sure to avoid all the other creatures in the house) and check it out on my dad's computer. That's when Court woke me up.

Courtney informed me that Tree House has a couple of places available for 160 baht (just over $5CDN), and was wondering if we should move, I said ya, let's do it, so we got our packs, checked out, walked to Tree House and took one right on the ocean. Rocky beach here, the sandy beach is about a 3 minute walk, through jungle.

Koh Chang is beautiful, it's p[art of a National Marine Park, and 85% of the island is protected. The island has mountains and thick, green jungle, with towering trees. Even on the drive in last night, in the night, I could tell it was beautiful.

And Tree House Bungalows is amazing! The restaurant/lounge/reception area is all open-air and made of wood, and is all on stilts, part of it over the ocean. It looks like part of the Ewok village from REturn of the Jedi! The huts are all small, thatch roof style, with a matress on the floor, mosquito net, and a small deck, all built on stilts, of course. There's stone walkways leading everywhere, and thick jungle vegetation everywhere. The washrooms are the coolest. They are outside, the showers are all manual (i.e. pour water over yourself from a bucket). Even inside the washrooms and toilets, you're surrounded by greenery. This is my new paradise!

We checked in, showered (cold!), had breakfast, then about 10:30 headed to the beach. It's small, but very clean, and the water is perfect, not to warm, not too cool.

Kind of cloudy today, storm-type of clouds. About 12:30, it looked like it was going to start taining, so we started back to the hut, and within a minute we were caught in a downpour. We got soaked (no big deal, we were wet anyway), and back at the hut, use the rainstorm as a shower and soaped all up and washed all the salt and sand away.

We went for lunch (the restaurant here has some awesome food, by the way!) and just relaxed. Storm clouds all around, no use going back to the beach, so we just chilled in some beach chairs on a little platform over the water. About 2:00, some dark clouds moved in and we got a couple of incredible thunder claps, and a short while later, the rain came down in torrents, lots and lots of thunder and lightning, it's awesome. Bouth Court and I love storms.

As the storm ended, both Court and I fell asleep in our chairs, and woke up about 2 hours later, sun shining in a blue, blue sky, hardly a cloud to be seen. Too hot with the sun out!

We did laundry by hand, as they have a "Laundry Corner" for the guests and we hung it out to dry, then went for supper and drinks with some others in the restaurant area, played some cards, then Court, myself and Lucille went for a walk to the beach, and sat on the beach for a while until it loked like rain, then we headed back to the hut about 11:00 and to bed.

We decided that we're going to do ur Advanced Open Water diving course, we may do it here, or somewhere else in Thailand.

Tree House has a resident cat (and a couple of dogs), and the cat just had kittens, so there's three very tiny kittens running around, they are so adorable. They are still kind of wobbly, but are curious about everything, and very playful!

I lost my watch today too! Cheap Laos watch!

Sunday, April 27, 2003

Back to Thailand

Up at 5:00AM, packed, had breakfast, checked out and paid, then headed to the CAltex gas station/StarMart convenience store, where the bus is supposed to pick us up at 7:00. It picks us up about 7:10, makes a few other stops, then heads out.

Really, really bad road, if it's not very broken pavement, we're driving on a rutted, bumpy dirt road. Along the way, we saw a bridge that had collapsed as a truck was crossing it! They had a crane there, trying to lift the big truck out of the ravine.

We arrived at the border about 2:00. Blistering hot. We had to carry our packs through the border control checkpoints. Upon entering Thailand, we had to fill out a SARS questionairre, and some girl stuck a thermometer in Court's ear.

After the border, we were going to get a tuk-tuk or taxi to the bus station, and catch a bus to Trat, then a ferry or boat to Koh Chang, but as we were walking, some guy approached us and asked us where we were going. He had 4 people wanting to go to Koh Chang, and there were 5 of us wanting to go, so with 9, he had a mini-bus to Koh Chang for only 350 baht each. More expensive than public buses, but much easier, not having to deal with getting to a bus station, swithcing buses at other station, getting tickets for the boat/ferry, so we decided to do it. We walked to the parking lot, and what do we see...an ATM!!! Yes! We withdrew money, then hit the convenience store and bought a fountain drink (first one I've had in months!), and by the time we got back to the the parking lot, two of the people going to Koh Chang had backed out, so it was now going to cost 500 baht each. Oh well.

Coming back to Thailand has been like coming back to civilization: bank machines everywhere, 7-11's, McDonalds, KFC's, awesome paved highways...so nice!!

The mini-bus left about 2:45, and the roads are soo nice here...better than Canadian highways (and that's no lie!)

We can't believe we're in Thailand again, it's very strange that we've travelled Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia over the last two months, and we're back in Thailand.

On the way to Koh Chang, we hit a really big thunderstorm.

I'm feeling better now, no more runs, but still get a few stomach pains, and am getting my appetite back.

We got to the pier area about 5:45, got ticket for the boat to Koh Chang, which leaves at 7:00. We had some supper, and Court bought a couple of shirts.

We took a songtheaw to the boat at 7:00, and boated to Koh Chang in the dark, about a 45 minute boat ride.

Once on the island, we took a songtheaw to Lonely Beach, of full-moon-party fame, and got dropped off at Tree House Bungalows. As we walked in, even in the dark, Tree House looked awesome. At the restaurant/check-in desk, lots of people, very busy, and we were informed they were full, so we had to hike back to the main road and found a cheap dive of a place for only 100 baht (little over $3CDN if exchange rates are similar to when we were here in January.

Went to bed about 9:00.

Saturday, April 26, 2003

Angkor What?

Haha, nice pun on the subject line, eh? Hehehe. There's actually a small pub in Siem Reap that named "Angkor What?"

We got up about 4:30, met the motorcycle taxi's outside and took off about 5:30.

Stopped on route to get our 1 day pass ($20US), then they took us to Angkor Wat for the sunrise, then to Angkor Thom (which consists of many different temples), then another onem, dunno the name, and finally Ta Prohm, the jungle temple.

Angkor Wat quite impressive. We watched the sunride over it. Angkor Wat is a huge compound, and the temple climb is quite high.

Angkor Thom is actually a walled area with lots of temples inside it.

Third was the unnamed one (because I can't remember the name). This was cool, it has 64 towers, each tower has 4 faces of Buddha, one facing each direction. Quite cool.

Last was the Jungle Temple, or Ta Prohm. This was the most impressive. Set in a jungle, the trees are growing in and around the walls and statues of the temples, it was quite cool.

There are many, many more temples, but these are the main ones. They are all in various states of repair and disrepair, some nothing more than huge rocks strewn all over, others being reconstructed (usually with foreign aid...money).

We got back to the guest house abut 11:00AM, and slept for a few hours. Had lunch about 2:00, then walked into town to book a ticket to Thailand. Leave tomorrow at 7:00AM.

Our guides were going to take us back out to the temples at 4:00 to see the sunset, but we decided 4:00 was too early, so we went at 5:00 instead. We didn't even really get to see the sunset, they started kicking everybody out at 6:00, and the sky was kind of cloudy in the west anyway.

I'm not feeling well today. I had the runs last evening, and had stomach pains all night long, and it's continuing today. Jaz had the same problems in Phnom Penh, maybe I got what he got. It's not fun, though.

Friday, April 25, 2003

To Siem Reap

Up at 5:00AM, only 3 hours sleep. Ugh! We shower, go for breakfast, pack, then go to the place where the bus picks us up. We keep waiting for Roza and Rozette to pass by, on their way to school, but we don't see them. About 6:45, Malava, her husband and Ropiset go by on a motorbike, Malava sees us, and they turn around, and we say goodbye to them. Malava tells us to say Hi to Mavis and Darren and Megan, and they miss them very much, and would love to see them again.

Oh ya, I forgot to put it in my journal, but yesterday, even though we didn't stay at their guest house, we did go visit them. Rozette also gave us a similar message about missing Mavis and Megan (oh ya, and Darren too), and to say hi to them, and all that.

The bus picks us up about 7:00, takes us downtown to the big bus, and we leave about 7:30.

Road is paved part of the way, but mostly it is a rutted, bumpy dirt road. During strong rains, I'm sure the road would become impassable.

Stopped for lunch shortly after noon. Lots of beggars, including kids begging for a drink of something while you're sitting eating.

We arrived at Siem Reap at the Savy Guest House about 4:00. Nice, clean, big room, for $5. Guest house is quite far from everything, but only a 5-10 minute walk.

After we unpack, I go to sleep for a while, as I didn't sleep at all on the bus. Court went for a walk downtown. She came back about 6:00 and woke me up, and we both walked downtown and found something to eat.

Back to the guest house about 7:30, watched Killing Fields movie, and waited for the motorcycle guide to arrive to arrange transportation to the temples tomorrow. He finally comes, and we make arrangements for him and his buddy to meet us at 5:30AM tomorrow morning, to go to the temples. We're leaving early to catch the sunrise.

Went to bed about 9:45.

Cambodia people have much darker skin than people in Thailand, Laos and Vietnam.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

Mmmm, steak, part 2!

Up about 10:30, slept good last night. We had breakfast, then a quick internet, then decided to go into town to look for a MiniDisc player. I've been wavering on getting one, versus an MP3 player or a CD-player that also does MP3's.

We rented a motorcycle taxi, and went to the O Russei Market. Lots and lots of electronics, but hardly any MiniDisc's. Found two, but they were old and not very good ones. This is a very big market. We then went to the Russian Market, and we bought two Cambodian coffee filters, along with some coffee, mugs and sweet milk, so we can make our own coffee now!

We then rode along the river front (Tonle Sap river), very nice area, very, very European feel, with all the shops and open-air restaurants. Apparently Phnom Penh, if you can believe this, actually has one of the nicest waterfronts in all of SE Asia.

Back to the guest house, and pretty much lounged for the rest of the day. Watched TV/movies at the guest house, read my book, etc.

We went for supper about 6:00, I wanted another steak, but Court wanted something cheap, so I went to the Lazy Gecko to get another steak, and Court and Jaz went to a small restaurant for some local food, then Court met up with me at the Lazy Gecko. Back to the guest house, and had some drinks with Sapir and Jaz before going to the bar.

During the course of the day, we ran into Koon and Michael, and also Esmerelda again. The were all going to the Heart of Darkness bar, so we were going to meet up with them there. Also ran into "Austin Powers" buddy. We met him on the bus from Vang Vieng to Vientiane in Laos, and hadn't seen him since, until now. Weird. He's the spitting image of Austin Powers, hence the name I've given him. And he's British too!

About 11:00, we headed to the Heart of Darkness. Sapir and Jaz backed out. Court and I headed out to find a motorbike taxi, and we ran into the proprietors of one of the restaurants that we ate at a couple of times. He was just putting his motorbike away for the evening, and then he offered to take us to the bar. So we hop on, and once we're there, we try to convince him to join us, he says he has to go home first, but will be back. We went inside and found Esmerelda and her friends, and we sat with them. A while later, our motorbike guy comes in and joins us.

Court and I have the motorbike guy take us home about 1:00AM, because we have to get up early to catch a bus. On the way home, he asks us if we want to go fast, we say ya, so he guns it, and in a matter of seconds we're travelling at 100km/hr through Phnom Penh.

Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Mmmmm, steak!

Up about 8:30, had breakfast, then internet (was finally able to post that stupid journal entry), and as we were checking out of hotel, the bus came and went!!! That was 11:00AM. Sapir also decided to go back to Phnom Penh today. The three of us sat there, wondering if the bus would come back, after about 10 minutes, plan B came into effect.

We took motorcycle taxi's to the main tour office downtown, where the bus waits until about 12:30 before leaving. Sapir knew this, and he wasn't worried.

During the bus trip, they showed a really crappy version of "Cradle 2 The Grave", obviously a pirate copy, taped by someone with a video camera in a movie theatre, as you could see people in teh theatre get up, and leave their seats. Funny. Good movie, though. When was that released in Canada? Has it yet? We may have seen it before you guys! Hahahaha! Huge thunderstorm on the way back to Phnom Penh as well.

Arrived at Phnom Penh about 4:30, took motorcycle taxi's to Boeng Kak Lake area, and checked into Lakeside II guest house. We felt kind of bad about not staying at guest house #7, with the family, but we simply wanted a bigger room! We decided to stay in Phnom Penh one more day, and catch the bus to Siem Reap the following day.

We (myself, Court, Sapir, and Matt, an Aussie guy) went for supper at the Lazy Gecko Cafe, run by an Aussie guy (and his very unfriendly Aussie wife). They advertise "tender steaks" on a chalk board outside of the restaurant, and I have a nice, juicy steak for only $4US. Mmm, it's been a long time since I've had one of those.

We then moved to the Flying Elephant, had a few drinks, and Jaz also joined us. Then we went back to the lounge at our guest house and watched Jackass: The Movie...incredibly stupid, the really bizarre and dumb things they do, but it is funny. Played some pool, then to bed about 11:30.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

Around Sihanoukville

Up about 9:00AM, showered and went for breakfast. About 10:00, we rented a motorbike ($3US) and then hit an internet, and then took the motorbike downtown to Seeing Hands Massage, a massage where all the masseures and masseuses are blind. Courts neck, which she hurt somehow while diving, is still stiff and sore, a week and a half later. She got a 1 hour massage ($3US), so I took the motorbike to check out Sokha Beach and Occheutal Beach. Sokha Beach is nothing special, except it's deserted of tourists, only a few locals bathing or fishing. Ochheutal Beach is LONG and has some higher end hotels, and a nice beach area, but we still haven't found a beach as nice as Koh Lanta.

I picked up Court, took her to Ochheutal Beach, then we headed back to our guest house area to have lunch at Rose's Cafe (good food, HUGE portions). After lunch, relaxed in our room for a while, then went for a spin around Sihanoukville. Courtney tried driving for a while, where the road was not busy.

I decided to get a haircut, so we headed to town, found a barber shop (they're all over the place in SE Asia...even a chair on a sidewalk, with a mirror hung on a tree!), and I got a very good hair cut. A little shorter than what I wanted, but still fine. It was getting long, I needed it.

We also booked our ticket out of here for tomorrow, back to Phnom Penh.

We headed back to the guest house and Court rested, I went to internet again. Earlier today, when I was at the internet, I was typing in my journal entry, got mostly done, then the computer flashed and locked up solid. I have up, and left. So, I went back to the internet now, and got my journal typed in, and went to update it, and the internet was down. DNS errors. Fortunately, I had copied and pasted what I had typed in into a notepad document, and saved it on the C drive, so I can come back later and just copy and paste it back into LiveJournal.

We went for supper and as we were sitting there, who comes walking up, but Sapir. While he's waiting for his Vietnamese visa, he came back to Sihanoukville.

Big thunderstorm rolled in while we were sitting in the restaurant.

After the storm, we went back to the G.H., and met Sapir at 8:00 to go to Chiva Shack, a beach bar on Ochheutal Beach with fire swinging. The 3 of us piled on to our rented motorbike, I drove. Both Court and I did poi swinging, with them in fire!!!! Our first time!! And we didn't even light ourselves on fire.

We got back to the guest house about 12:30, and it was all locked up. There was enough room for a person to squeeze in, but not for a motorbike, so I had to leave our motorbike at Sapir's guest house for the night.


Most cloudy today, but still flippin' hot.

Monday, April 21, 2003

Sihanoukville

Up at 5:45, and went out to get breakfast. The family was all up, we said good morning, and went for breakfast. As we were eating, we heard someone calling Courtney's name...it was Rozette, he and Rosa were on their way to school, so we went out and hugged them and said goodbye to them. AFter breakfast, we went back to the guest house and got our bags out, and said goodbye to Malava and Ropiset and the grandmother and the father, and told them we'd be back after we back from Sihanoukville.

We walked to the travel office, and a minibus picked us up about 7:00, and took us to the main office where we got on a big bus. It left about 7:10, only about 15 people on it.

We arrived in Sihanoukville about 11:00, and when we got off the bus, who was standing there but Sapir and Jaz, who were on Santiphap Island with us on Laos. At the same time, Nigel came along, we had met him on the Halong Bay tour in northern Vietnam. All three were just leaving, in fact Sapir and Jaz were getting on teh same bus we were getting off of. Nigel had to catch a ferry, he's on his way to Koh Chang in Thailand.

We got a room at the Mealy Chanda Guest House, $6 for a big room, no A/C though. They want $12 for an A/C room. We settled in, went for lunch, then headed down to the beach. Water is very, very warm. Too warm, Court says, it's not refreshing after laying in the sun. It's like a warm bath. Sihanoukville is quite nice, very relaxed, the beaces are nice, and very nice sand. Still haven't found a beach that compares to that on Koh Lanta, though.

After an hour or so, it started raining a bit, so walked around a rocky point to another beach, hardly any tourists here at all, mostly locals, but they were farther down on the beach, as it's a pretty big beach.

We stayed there for about an hour, then headed back to the guest house. We both burnt, even though we weren't in the sun that long, and it was cloudy part of the time. Oh well. We then went for something to drink, I had a great banana shake, Court had her favorite, ice milk coffee.

We went to an internet, and as we were doing the internet, Court spied Esmerelda walking by. We met Esmerelda in Hoi An, and hung out with her for a while in Nha Trang. We made a date for the three of us to go for supper this evening.

We started walking around Sihanoukville, but found out it's very spread out. We decided we'd rent a motorbike tomorrow instead to see the rest of it.

We went for supper with Esmerelda at 6:00, then Court and I rented a motorbike taxi, and went to downtown Sihanoukville to see what, if anything, was happening there. We walked around for a while. Nothing at all. The smallish night market was kind of lively, but for locals only. Finding nothing, we got a taxi back to the guest house and went back to bed.

Other notes:
- They have ice-block delivery in SE Asia, just like the stories I remember my dad telling me when I was a kid. A truck (or sometimes a motorbike with a trailer) comes along to every business/house and delivers a huge chunk of ice to them for use during the day.
- The Cambodian people are the friendliest we've met, friendly than any other nation we've travelled to!

Sunday, April 20, 2003

Seeing the Sights...with our extended family!

Last evening, we ran into Matt (Aussie that was on the same bus as we were up here), and he mentioned that the guest house people were asking him where his Canadian friends were...they were looking for us. So we walked back to the guest house, and Rozette was there and wanted to talk with us. Rozette is 11 years old, and speaks amazing english for his age, and is so well spoken, sometimes sounds so mature. He wants to be a doctor. He remembers Darren and Mavis very well (Darren is my little brother, Mavis his fiance), and wanted to meet us too. We talked for about 10 minutes, then we went our way for a shake, and went to bed.

I was up about 7:00, not tired anymore. Showered, got dressed, walked around for half an hour or so, then back to the hotel, and laid down. Courtney slept until about 9:00. We went for breakfast (took forever, slow restaurant), purchased a bus ticket to Sihanoukville, then converted some money to riel. 2700 riel to $1CDN or about 4000riel to $1US. Then a short internet stop, back to the guest house, and they invited us upstairs. Rozette and family where having lunch, they invited us to join them, but we had just eaten, so we just had an ice coffee. AFter they finished eating, we all sat around and talked, and Rozette and Malava (the mother, a nurse) asked us where we'd like to go today. They wanted to come with us, and they also wanted to take us to the Thai Gardens for pictures, as it is quite beautiful there. We told them the Killing Fields and Tuol Sleng Museum (S21), so Rozette talked to his dad, and it would cost us $10US for those two spots, then they'd take us to the Thai Gardens. A motorcycle taxi would have cost $5US/person, so this was a good deal. So, they got their car, and got changed into their Sunday best (Malava wearing a nice dress, Rozette and Roza in their school uniforms), and at 12:30 all 8 or us (me, Court, Ropiset, Rozette, Roza, Malava, the father, and the grandmother) piled into their small Toyota. It was a tight squeeze, 3 in the front, 5 in the back. At least they had air conditioning.

Killing Fields first, they have a big monument filled with the skulls of those buried in the mass graves. Almost 9000 people buried here. You can still see human remains coming up out of the ground, and still see their clothes scatter and torn around the mass graves.

Next is the museum. Very gruesome, it was a high school turned torture and death chamber by Pol Pot and his minions. Some rooms have metal beds where people were chained down and tortured and killed, then pictures were taken of their bodies. These pictures still hang from the walls of these rooms. You can walk freely thoughout all of these rooms, and touch anything you want. It's quite gruesome. Other rooms were divided into small solitary confinement cells, perhaps 1.5'x6'. We then watched a 1 hour video about the Khmer Rouge and S21 and the Killing Fields.

The family (don't even know their last name!) went through this as well. The grandfather was killed by the Khmer Rouge, Malava's parents fled into the remote areas of Cambodia, and Malava almost starved to death, there was no rice to eat, she had to live off of these strange "things" that fall from the trees, they are very disgusting to eat, but if not for that, she would have starved to death.

We then went to the Thai Gardens, about 15km out of town, stopping along the way to get some mango at the side of the road. Thai Gardens is very nice, kind of like a nursery and park. We took lots and lots of pictures of and with the family. Court and I and Roza and Rozette played games, hide-and-seek and red-light/green-light. We haven't done that since we were kids! We spent about 1.5 hours there. They invited Court and I to join them for soup this evening. Rozette would show us some Cambodian traditional dancing, and we'd do card tricks also. We accepted their invitation.

Back to the guest house, Court and I went out for a drink, then joined the family for supper soup about 8:00. Malava was at the hospital, so was late getting back, we had supper about 8:45. Very tasty. After supper, Rozette showed us some card tricks he had learned from Darren and Mavis, and we showed him some card tricks as well. Then he taught Court some traditional Cambodian dancing, and Courtney showed him and Roza how to dance, bar-style! It was a lot of fun.

Court and I went to bed about 10:00. Very busy day, and we have to get up early to catch a bus to Sihanoukville.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Cambodia...finally!

Up at 6:00AM, breakfast started at 6:30. At 7:30 we loaded our bags onto a van and walked down to the river and loaded our bags onto a big boat. Then we all took rowboats to visit some floating houses, some with caged fish breeding, then to visit a Cham ethnic minotiry village. Yawn. Back to the big boat for our trip to the border at Vinh Xuong. As we were going to the Cham village, I turned and said to Courtney that I was sick of this tour, I just wanted to go to Cambodia. She agreed totally with me, we are both looking forwrd to it!

The big boat has cushioned seats!!!! YAY!!!!

We took the boat to the border, about 2.5 hours, checked out of Vietnam. We had to fill in a SARS form asking us a bunch of health questions. We didn't have to deal with customs at all, our tour guide did everything for us. We then walked to another boat, a long slender boat painted yellow. Looks like the fuselage of an airplace, actually, and the "cockpit" even looks like the cockpit of an airplane! It seats about 60 people, but there was only 11 of us on it. Sweet! We went about 1 km upstream to the Cambodian passport control. Very nice passport control area, almost like a garden setting. Everyone on Cambodian side very friendly and smiling. Got checked into Cambodia with no fuss. We finished the border control about 2:00, then took the boat for about 1 hour to a bus, then a 2 hour bus ride to Phnom Penh, along a really bumpy road. Boat the whole way would be the best way to do it, the boat ride was smooth as silk.

We got dropped off at the CApital Guest House in downtown Phnom Penh. Very, veyr busy downtown.

My brother and his girlfriend stayed at a guest house in Phnom Penh when they were here 4 or 5 months ago, and they had given me a letter and some pictures form when they visited the guest house, and he asked me to deliver the letter and pictures to them in Phnom Penh. The guest house is called Roza Guest House, known as guest house #7. So, we took a motorcycle taxi to that guest house, got checked in, a very small room, but only $2US/night. It has a double bed, and a bathroom, with a bathroom sink tap that doesn't work (we have to use the shower to brush our teeth), and there's no mirror in the room at all.

I then pulled out my brothers package, and gave it to them, and they got soooo excited, saying both of their names, and laughing and giggling at the pictures. They loved it, and remembered both my brother and his girlfriend.

We went out for supper to a place, it took about an hour to get it. Then we hit the internet...and it's FAST!!!! I can't believe it!!! If you guys are a little lucky, we just might be able to upload some more pictures for ya! (Not right now, though.)

Friday, April 18, 2003

Almost done Vietnam

Yesterday, Courtney met someone from Moose Jaw...well, he doesn't live there anymore, but he did live there for 6 years. His name is Clark Giles, and he's doing some missionary work in Vietnam, but he lives in Ontario now. Too weird.

Anyway, the room was cool last night, we had the air conditioner on all night. It was awesome!!! Slept good, but 6:00AM came pretty quick.

We finished packing, checked out, carried our stuff to Sinh Cafe, went for breakfast then waited for the bus.

Bus left about 8:00. We drove to an area called Rung Tram Forest, and took a boat down one of the many canals to a thick jungle area where we tok a rowboat (women rowed) through an area of think jungle where the Viet Cong had a hidden base during the war. The base was called "Xeo Quyt".

We had lunch about 1:00, then took motorboat back to the bus, and the bus left about 3:00.

While we were waiting for the bus, I was laying on a hammock, and one of the local kids around (who are very friendly, by the way), climbed up on top of me and went to sleep. Cute!

The bus had to take two ferries, one to cross the upper Mekong river, the other to cross the lower Mekong river. WE passed through Long Xuyen City and stopped at a hotel in Chau Doc town.

After getting into the hotel room, we went for supper with the rest of teh group, then Court and I itook off to a pharmacy so she could get more stuff for her neck, then back to the hotel, and I gave Court a massage on her back and neck. She did say it felt better after I did it.

We went to bed about 9:45, we were both soooooo tired.


37 degrees today. Too hot!

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Flippin' HOT!

Ok, we slept like total crap last night, our room was soooo hot, we had two fans, and it was too hot to sleep. We decided in the middle of the night, about 4:00AM, that we should leave this hotel and find another one with A/C for cheap. We finally got up about 8:30, and went in search of a new hotel. Found one, kind of a dive, but it had A/C in the room, and only $5US/night. We packed our stuff up and moved into the hotel.

After that, we tried to sleep for a while, but couldn't, so we got up went for breakfast, checked out tours of the Mekong Delta that included an exit to Cambodia, found an internet spot where we could burn pictures to a CD (more than 1000 of them), and had some breakfast.

Our new hotel room is sooo nice with the A/C going, it feels like a fridge when we go in...we love it!!! One guy was saying it gets 37 or 38 degrees here in the day.

We went for a late lunch/early supper and decided to leave HCMC tomorrow, and take a 2-day/1-night Mekong Delta trip, with a boat exit to Cambodia, up the Mekong river. We leave tomorrow at 7:45, and spend tomorrow night somewhere, then the next day we take a boat into Cambodia, and arrive in Phnom Penh (sp?) around 3:00 in the afternoon or something.

We bought some more CD's, they are so cheap here (10,000dong...$1CDN), pirated DVD's are only $2CDN.

Anyway, I'm uploading some pictures to my website as we speak, and Court is uploading some to her web site, check them out sooner or later.

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Ho Chi Minh City

Up about 9:30, very hot, and we have no A/C. About 10:30, we walked to a market and bought a bunch of clothes. I got a CK shirt (very nice one), cargo pants and some 3/4 length pants. Court bought a bunch of shirts. On the way back to the hotel, I bought a few CD's, then we went back and dropped everything off at the room, and then went for breakfast/lunch, then walked to another market with lots and lots of electronics. I so wanna buy a new CD player, but Courtney won't let me, because they're all cheap Chinese electronics. I hate it when women are so practical.

Then we went to the War Remnants Museum, it had been suggested by many people. Very interesting, and quite disturbing. You need a strong stomach to see some of the stuff in this museum. Lots of information on the war that perhaps you wouldn't get from the American/Western sources, American brutality, effects of Agent Orange and Napalm on the countryside and lasting effects of the population, and they had lots and lots of artifacts and pictures from the war. Court was quite disturbed, to the point of being a little sick in the stomach.

Back to the hotel, I went in search of a new journal and a marker. My old journal is full. Found a fast food joint (with a drive through!). I went in and had a strawberry sundae. It's called Jollisomethingorother. Finally found a new journal and a marker at an office supply-type of store...hard to find here!

I went back to the hotel, and Court was gone, so I hung around, showered, and when she got back, we went for supper. AFter supper, we met up with a girl we met on the Halong Bay tour, and we went out with them for a while, played some pool, and had a good time. Got home about 1:00AM.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

Ho Chi Minh City

UP about 8:30, showered, booked our ticket to HCMC, and had breakfast.

About 10:00, I walked to the Fairy Strea/Waterfall, it's a stream that runs through the sand dunes, and creates some neat views. It was a long walk to get to the stream, and it is flipping HOT here. It's a desert, everything is sand for miles around. I got back about 11:30, we got packed and checked out, and waited for our bus.

Bus ride was uneventful.

We got to HCMC about 6:30, and the hotel where the bus dropped us off at was crap, so we found another one (suggested by Neil and Claire, from England), and it was nice so we took it.

Went for supper with Nina and Soren, then hit the internet.

So, we're not going get to Phu Quoc Island, unfortunately, we'll spend some time in HCMC, then head to Cambodia.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Mui Ne...sucks!!

Up at 6:00 (actually woke up about 5:00), showered, went for breakfast, said goodbye to the restaurant lady, and back to hotel, and checked out. We stayed 9 nights in Nha Trang. Both Court and I really liked it. Court is sad that we're leaving, she doesn't want to leave.

Bus picked us up about 8:15, and we got to Mui Ne beach about 2:00. We had heard lots and lots of good things about Mui Ne, both from people that had been there and the Lonely Planet implies it's good. The bus dropped us off at some rather nice beach bungalows, Bao Thanh Resort, for $6/night, so we took it. It was a fair distance to teh "main" area of Mui Ne, but according to Lonely Planet, $6 is very cheap for Mui Ne, most places will only rent you a tent for $5. The beach is small and dirty (very dirty), and, quite frankly, it's a big dissappointment. The water is really murky, but it is very war.

Court and I took a motorcycle taxi to a restaurant nearer everything else, had lunch, then got a motorcycle tour of Mui Ne and area...the fishing village (really neat seeing all the fishing boats on the bay), then to the sand dunes, then to a strea that created some neat geological formations in the sand, then to a spot where they make salt from the seawater. Quite interesting.

At the sand dunes, when you pull up, you're surrounded by kids trying to sell you sled rides down the dunes. Court and I tried it once, and it's not very exciting. Snow is much better.

Back to the bungalows, and lounged and talked about what to do. We had supper, then about 8:00 decided to see if there was any nightlife in Mui Ne, and started walking towards the main resort area. We walked and walked and walked, finally a motorcycle taxi pulled up and we told him we wanted to go to the Mui Ne Sailing Club, but he took us way past the Sailing Club, then we had a big discussion with him, and another motorcycle taxi, and a security guard at the resort we actually stopped at. We were trying to show them on the Lonely Planet map, finally about 10 minutes later, he figures out where we want to go. He then takes us back to the Sailing Club. It was DEAD, hardly anyone there, so we started our long trek back to our bungalows, stopped at the Hot Rock Bar for a drink, as there were a few people there, then continued walking. And we walked and walked and walked, and there's no motorcycle taxi's in sight. Finally, when we're only about half a kilometre from our place, a taxi pulls up, but we tell him no thanks. We walked a good 8 or 9 km tonight. Got back about 10:30. Lonely Planet says Mui Ne is easily walkable, but it isn't. The resort area stretches for about 10km.

We decided to get a bus to Ho Chi Minh City tomorrow.

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Waterpark Fun

Up about 8:30, had breakfast, walked for a bit, and booked our bus ticket to Mui Ne for tomorrow. Bus picks us up about 8:00.

About 11:30 we went to the water park in Nha Trang. Wave pool and small waterslides. It's nothing compared to the water park in KL, but it was still fun and relaxing. There were only four tourists in the whole park, Court and I and two others, then there were a few local kids.

Went for lunch about 2:00, then back to the hotel. I rested I was tired. Court went to look for drugs (she has a really sore neck), then we went for supper at our regular place, My A Food Shop, and we told the lady that we were living tomorrow, and we'd be back for breakfast before our bus picked us up. She told us she'd buy our coffee/tea for breakfast tomorrow morning. Then we picked up our temporary PADI certificates. Our real cards will be mailed to our home address.

Packed most of our stuff, then went to Shorty's for a goodbye drink, then to Crazy Kim's for a while, then to the Sailing Club, until about 1:30.

Saturday, April 12, 2003

Mud!

Slept in until 11:30. It felt nice to sleep for so long, something we haven't done in quite a while.

Had breakfast/lunch, then met with Ben about the speedboat dive. The speedboat is full on Sunday, so it's a no go. Oh well.

The three of us decided to go to the Thap Ba Hot Spring centre this afternoon. Did a mudbath, then a soak in hot mineral water, then the swimming pool. Spent a few hours there, very relaxing.

As we were lounging by the swimming pool, a large group of locals broke out the beer and food, and started having a picnic. They then called us over, and invited us to join them, gave us beer and food, and we had a good time. One of the guys introduced another guy as Saddam Hussein, and was making jokes, it was pretry funny.

Got back to the hotel about 5:30, and showered (gotta get that mud off), then went for supper, then went and met Ben at Crazy Kim's at 8:00. It's the grand opening of the dance floor at Crazy Kim's tonight, free beer from 8-9. Got home shortly after 1:00.

ON Thursday, we met 2 girls from Saskatoon, Tammy and Dawn. We convinced them to take the Open Water course.

Friday, April 11, 2003

Certified Scuba Diver!

Up at 5:30, same drill....

I got a pink wetsuit today, it was a real warm one, and they didn't want me to be cold. The found matching pink fins and a pink mask for me too!!! I looked HOT!

Not as many divers today, perhaps 15. Went to Moray Beach first, gradually down to 18 metres, the limit of Open Water divers. At 18m it's a little cooler and darker. Not much to see (at least where we were).

After 18m, we swam very slowly back to the boat, going over corals, and stopping at a rocky bit to do a few skill exercises. We were under for 49 minutes. Saw a small moray eel. I also touched some sort of plant (at my instructors permission), it felt kind of rubbery and sticky.

Back to the boat, then went over some things, and went over our section 4 and 5 review questions, and he explained repetitive dives, which we were doing today. One has to account for left over nitrogen in their bloodstream after one dive, as it will affect how long you can stay under on the second dive.

We had lunch on the boat, and motored to Seahorse Bay. We may see seahorses, maybe octopus if we're lucky, and some moray eels. We did a front roll entry, and went down. Crappy visibility, maybe 5m tops. One of the other divers likes to call Seahorse Bay, Toilet Bay. We swam aroun d, saw a little black frog fish. Did a few more exercises, and spent about 46 minutes underwater. Back to the boat, and headed back to shore. Back at Rainbow, we decided to do the exams right away, so we started with the 40 question pre-exam quiz, and went through the answers, I only got two wrong. You need 75% on the final exam to pass. Time for the final exam. This was 50 multiple choice questions, and was quite a bit harder than the quiz. We spent maybe an hour on it. Grant was around for any questions. If you were having trouble, he would go through the question with you to get the (hopefully correct) answer. After we finished, we corrected them ourselves. I only got one wrong, and I didn't really get it wrong. It had to do with flying after diving, the book (and video) say wait 12 hours, but that rule changed a few months ago, it's now 18 hours, and Grant had verbally told us that, but I forgot, so selected 24 hours as an answer (12 hours was not an option). Court got 4 wrong, 92%, so we both passed easily! It would have been impossible to fail. We are both certified Open Water divers now.

Back at the hotel, showered, had supper, then went to celebrate. started at Shorty's, then Crazy Kim's, then another bar (Jungle Bar), then the Sailing Club. We got home about 2:00.

Met Jeremy Stein (owner of Rainbow) at the Sailing Club. Ben talked to Jeremy about getting us a discount on a special dive (using the speedboat) on Sunday, so we're supposed to meet Ben at 1:30 tomorrow afternoon.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Scuba Day 3

S.C.U.B.A. - Self Contained Underwater Breathing Apparatus

Up at 5:30, same drill as yesterday....

Lots of divers today, about 30, then the dive team and boat crew.

Headed to Madonna Rock, and did our second open water dive. This was cool, we jumped off the boat, doing a front roll (essentially, a back flip off the boat, landing in the water with your cylinder hitting first), then swam away from the boat, and looked down. It was a long way down, but the water was soooo clear. Then we started descended, right to the bottom, a 12 metre descent. It's an eerie feeling, slowly falling away from the surface, towards this great unknown, yet very colourful coral reef, 12 metres under the surface. Everyone is descending at different rates, and you look around, and see everyone else either underneath you, or above you, all descending. It took us about 1 minute to descend. You don't want to do it too fast, or your ears won't equalize properly, and you could have ear pain, or even burst an ear drum. It's really cool seeing the surface...oxygen, that you need to live, get farther and farther away, and the coral reef get closer and closer. We all stopped about a metre above the coral (no one smashed into it!) and hovered for a couple of minutes, while the instructor made sure everyone was ok, then we swam to a rocky bit of ground, and descended to the bottom and did a few exercises, like the fin tip float (this is to see if we've mastered buoyancy using just our lungs), and a few other things. Then the instructor took us through a couple of underwater tunnels; very cool, one of the tunnels was filled with hunderds and hundreds of fish, all swimming around you, almost paying no heed to you as you pass through their realm. At one point, Grant (our instructor) saw a moray hiding under a rock, and tried to entice it out from underneath, but it wouldn't come out. Too bad. Then we swam to a sandy bit, and did some more skills. We typically do the exercises one at a time, with the instructor, so he can help, and be there if anything bad happens. The last exercise, we had to do a alternate buddy air source ascent, which means, we have to pretend we've run out of air (or there's a problem with our air equipment), and we have to get our buddy's alternate (or secondary) air source (there are two regulators on each scuba outfit), and then ascend to the surface, holding arms, so we ascend at the same rate, because we're both breathing from only one air tank. When Louis and Ben tried it, a big scare. To back up a bit, Martin and Louis are buddies, Court and I are buddies, and Grant is the instructor and Ben is his assistant (working towards being an instrcutor). I can't remember what happened, there was a problem or something, but Grant decided that he was going to be Martin's buddy, and Ben would be Louis's buddy. So, Louis and Ben were buddies. Louis threw his regular behind him, indicated to his buddy (Ben) that he was out of air, at which point, Ben offers his secondary air source to Louis, but it was upside down, and when Louis tried to breath, he sucked in a bunch of water. We were about 10 metres under at this point, I think. He started panicking, threw the regulator away, and started kicking to get to the surface. Court and I looked at each other (we were on the bottom, waiting for our turn). We knew something went wrong. Grant, immediately started towards Louis, and grabbed him from trying to ascend, tried to calm him down for a second, then gave him his secondary air source, which Louis grabbed, and flushed, and could breath again. It was pretty scary for Court and I, as we watched, but I imagine it was even scarier for Louis!!! We knew something went awry, and our turn was next. Anyway, Grant calmed Louis down, nice and slow, slow deep breaths, and when he was feeling safer, they slowly ascended to the surface. Grant then came down to watch us. I was almost out of air at this point anyway, Court still had quite a bit, so I was the one that had to pretend I was out of air, and take Courtney's secondary regulator. Everything went very smoothly, Court and I work great as buddies, I got her secondary, we locked arms, and we slowly ascended to the surface. As you can see, diving with a buddy is very important, and having a buddy you can trust is very important. I trust Courtney totally, and I know she trusts me, to do the right thing, and if something were to happen, I'm fully confident that together we could get through it.

While we were down there, I was cold and shivering, but I didn't think I was that bad, and Courtney and Ben kept asking me if I was ok, and I kept saying yes. Ends up, I was but I wasn't. I was cold, but I didn't realize I was shaking as much as they had saw me shivering. We finished our exercises, and we ascended back to the surface, and back to the boat. At the top, Ben told me he could tell I was cold, and it's common for newbies to not admit or not realize how cold they are. AFter that, I decided to try to be more conscious of it. I was fine yesterday, but I had a new wet suit yesterday, and I got a crappy, old one today. Yesterday, Court had a crappy, old one, and she was cold, today she got a new, good one, and she was fine.

Back at the boat, we had a great lunch, then went over what went wrong and right in the morning, everything went good, except for Louis's scare. We then went over what we would do in the afternoon, then we went over our homework exercises.

The boat motored to another location (dunno what it's called), and we got in again. This afternoon, we finished off our confined water training, so we swam to a sandy bottom and did a bunch of skills. One exercise involved taking off our BCD (Buoyancy Control Device...essentially a vest that can be in/deflated with tank air or manually, so help ascents and descents), and fully removing it, then putting it back on. When Grant was explaining it on the boat, he indicated that you may not stay in an upright position when you do this, because you're essentially weightless, you may tumble and roll around, and not to worry about it, just keep working at getting the BCD back on. I was hilarious when I did it! I started taking it off, and didn't really have a problem with that, then I started trying to get it back on, and as I was trying to figure out where my hands were supposed to go, I started tilting and rotating all over, on my side, upside down. I remember at one point, my back hit the sandy bottom. I also remember the top of my head in the sand at one point. But I didn't care, I was just working on getting my BCD back on, and finally managed it without any assistance from the instructor. Back on the boat, Court told me she was laughing so hard at me, the way I was rolling all over the place, I looked totally hilarious! And, I must say, this is probably the closest I'll ever get to being in outer space, and experience real weightlessness, and it's a really amazing feeling to behave in a weightless world where there is no up or down.

I was getting cold again, and I could tell, so I signalled to Courtney that I was getting cold, and also to Ben (Grant was away, helping one of the others with his exercise), and they came over and started trying to warm me up, rubbing my arms and stuff. It was the last exercise, so Grant let me do it, so I could get it done and back to the surface. This one involved completely removing your mask, and swimming without a mask for 25 metres. It was easier than I thought it'd be. AFter that, Ben and I went to the surface, and I started to warm up a bit, and we waited for the others to finish and surface.

Other than being cold sometimes, both Court and I are doing fine as buddies. As I said earlier, I do trust her, and do believe if anything happened to me, she would know what to do. And I'm totally confident that if something happened to her, I would know what to do too. We both understand everything, and aren't having any problems with any of the skills.

We went back to the boat, the boat headed back to the harbour, and while on it's way, we filled out our 2nd log (two of the four dives over the past two days were confined water dives, so they don't get logged), then went over what we'd to tomorrow.

Back at Rainbow, the four of us, and 4 new divers (who started yesterday) watched sections 4 and 5 of the PADI video. Laster more than an hour. Went back to the hotel, showered, then for supper, then I went to buy an underwater camera (I swear, it's the last one in town!), a cleaning cassette for my video camera (only $12CDN...they wanted more than $40 in Thailand for one!), then I headed to La Louisanne to buy something from their french bakery. I picked the biggest thing in the display case!! It was a huge piece of cake, called mille-feuille, and it was awesome, and big! And only 19,000 dong. I also got a bottle of coke, without checking the price first...I found out when I went to pay, pop was 12,000 a bottle...you can get them for 3000 or 4000 most places. Ugh! Oh well, I got my dessert I've been craving for so long!

Then I hit the internet. Tomorrow we do two more dives, both open-water, so both go in our logbook! Courtney *LOVES* it! She wants to dive everyday for the rest of life! I'm really enjoying it too, it'd be something I'd look into doing fulltime, as a career or something, amazing stuff!

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Scuba Day 2

Up at 5:30, had breakfast, bus picked us up about 7:15. About 14 other divers on the bus with the four newbies. All had some certification. The bus took us to the harbour, and we got on the boat. Grant (our instructor) introduced the entire boat to the dive team, perhaps 9 or 10 people, all are dive masters or instructor level of some sort. It was interesting, because the dive team wasn't just Rainbow employees, they had dive masters from all around the world, one girl from Scotland, another from Japan. Grant (and Ben) are from England. Some of them had over 20 years of diving, and over 15,000 dives!!!!

We went to Moray Beach for our first open water dive. Amazing!!! The stuff we saw was totally cool. We went down to a depth of about 9 metres (although we put in the log book 12 metres). The fish and corals and other sea life, the colours are amazing. Just like you'd see in a National Geographic special on TV. It was stupendous. We saw a seahorse (which is rare, apparently), a scorpion devil fish, and a flower urchin. Of course, there were hundreds and hundreds of other fish and marine life around too. So colourful.

AFter the dive, we swam back to the boat, and dumped all our scuba gear off, then the four of us had to swim 5 times around the boat, as part of the course. We have to show we have the ability to swim, in case we get stranded. While we did this, everybody else had lunch. We got done our exercise, and fortunately, there was still plenty of food left, so we ate, and it was very good. The cook did a fine job in a kitchen the size of an outhouse! After lunch, the boat motored toward Madonna Rock (named, because the two rocks look like Madonna's boobs). We got dropped off a distance from the actual rock, because we were doing a confined water dive for this afternoon. The confined water dive consisted of a bunch of activities, like removing your regulator (breathing thingie), and having to swim over, holding your breath (actually, slowly releasing air) to your buddy, and grab is secondary regulator to breath on. You're *NEVER* supposed to hold your breath scuba diving. That is the number one rule of scuba. Always breath. Court and I did fine, we didn't have any problems with the exercises. But Court was getting very cold, and shivering, so we ended the confined water dive a little early...we'll finish up tomorrow. After our exercises, we swam over another coral reef to get back to the boat. Amazing. The one this morning didn't compare at all to the one this afternoon. I can't even explain it, other than what you see on TV and in those pictures is actually what it's like!

Scuba is so much fun, such an amazing experience. Everything is so colourful, the fish, the plant life, all the other creatures. Snorkelling doesn't even hold a candle. What you see diving you could never see snorkelling.

We got back to the rainbow office about 2:00, and back to the hotel. Court slept, she was dead tired, and her neck was stiff from being so cold, she could barely move it. I went for a walk around town, to see some of the sights. Walked to the Nha Trang Cathedral, built by the French in 1908 (give or take a year or two). This was impressive, actually. Then went to see a pagoda (Long Son Pagoda, I think it was called), and near that is a huge, 14m white buddha in the sitting position (zen position?). The buddha was on a big hill, overlooking Nha Trang, and was kinda neat. Then I walked back to one of the two Banana Split Cafe's and had a hot fudge sundae. It was pretty small, but also relatively cheap, only 7000 dong (70 cents), and it was very good. Walked back to the hotel, then Court and I went to David's hotel (he's from Sweden), because we had made arrangements to go to Crazy Kim Cafe for their BBQ Buffet. He was going to shower and meet us there, so we went to pick up Martin and Louis (from Denmark), and found them at the internet cafe, and they told us the buffet doesn't start until 7:00, so we sat on the internet for a while, then headed to Crazy Kim's.

INcidentally, CRazy Kim's Bar is run by a Vietnamese-Canadian woman, who puts part of the profits of the bar to help stop pedophilia in Vietnam, apparently a growing problem. Her campaign is entitled "Hands Off The Kids" or something like that. Very commendable.

When we got there, David was waiting, and the buffet didn't start until 7:45. It was deeeelicious! They had pork, chicken, beef, macaroni salad, another salad, bread and (of course) rice. Yumm!!

Court and I headed back home about 8:45 and did our homework, then to bed.

Tuesday, April 08, 2003

SCUBA - Day 1

I sl ept awesome last nigh t, unt il about 8:30. Court up early. She went for br eak fast, whi le I slept, then I did breakfast, and we walked to Rain bow about 9:30. Martin and Luis ar ealso in th e course wi th us. T hey were late, so w e had to w ait, the y finaly arriv ed about 10:20, so about 10:30, we watched video's for 3 hours, th en met our instru ctor (G rant), then were at the pool at 1:00.

I t was awesome. The w hole experience of breathing underwater was amazing. The pool is shallow, only 2 m etres, so i t's hard to get a good feeling. T he Open Water certification will allow us to go down 18 m etres. We speng about 4 h ours in the pool, learning all ab out bouyancy, pressure, the equipment, learning t o adapt to the underwater env ir onment (breathing, moving around, sound and hearing, et c.) and practisi ng what to do if things g o wrong (losing regulator, helping or getting h elp from your buddy, mask issues, etc.), using the BDC (B ouyancy Cont rol D evi ce) t o ascend and d escent. I t was fun. Court was scare d at th e beginning , and sh e's nervous about goign o ut o n the boat tomorrow. We went through lots a nd lo ts of exercises with the i n s tru ct or. Tomorrow, as I said, we go o ut i n the boat, and do som e more exer cising , bu t in the ocean this time. Ri ght after the pool (about 5:00), we all went for supper, as we hadn't eaten sin c e morning .

AFter supper, I hit the intern et .

Monday, April 07, 2003

4 Island Tour

Slept crappy last night again. Up about 7:30, sh owered, h ad breakfast, and waited for bus fo r the island tour. The minibus came, and took us to the harbour, and we g ot on the boat. There were a total of 15 tourists on the boat. The first stop was Mum Island (Ebony Islan d) for snorkelling. The water was so blue, it looked like bl ue toilet bl ue c leaner. The water is so clear too, it's u nbelievable. WE sno rkelled for about an hour, then boated t o another islan d, ha dan amazing lun ch, then one of the guides jumped in the water, clothes still on, with a life ring. Besi de him was a piece of st yrofoam with 4 bottles o f wine and cups...this was our floating bar. Everyone jumped into th e water, wit h life rings, because drinking and swi mming don't mi x, an d they don't want anyone to drown!! We spent about two hours here. (Can you tell this is a party boat?) The third island, Tam I slan d, was a sm all reso rt, and we just lounged on th e ro cky beach for about an hour. Last was a fishing village, where we t i ed up in the bay, and jumped off the boat and swam around. It was a blast. The whole ti me, they had m usic blaring on the boat. We got back to the h otel about 4: 00. We had a blast.

We went to Rainbo w and bought our Open Water Cours e for $210 . We start tomorrow at 10 :00AM. We had supper and went to Shorty's about 8:00 to meet up with some ot her people fro m the boat trip.

I went h ome about 10: 0 0 , I was very, very tired.

Sunday, April 06, 2003

Lazy day at beach

I had a crappy sleep last night, they didn't g ive u s any sheets, for s ome reason.

I got up about 9:30, Court about 11:00, and about noon, we went for lunch, and decided we should do the SCUBA Open Water Course here in Nha Trang. We headed to the beach after that. Met Dana at the beach. Huge waves crashing into the shore, it was awesome.

While we were on the beach, a guy came along handing out leaflets for Rainbow Scuba Dive operation. He was totally playing up Rainbow, and totally trashing another scuba operation in town, Octopus dive centre. He told us he was working for Octopus, then saw the light, quit there and went to Rainbow. This guys name was Andy, not to be confused with Andy from Shorty's that we met the previous day. He totally sold us on Rainbow.

So, a little while later, Andy from Shorty's Bar came by, and sat and talked to us a while, we remarked about doing scuba, then said he did his scuba thru Octopus, and they were really good. We then told him about Andy from Rainbow, and he laughed. Ends up Andy from Rainbow got fired from Octopus...that was why he was slamming Octopus so hard. Anyway, Andy from Shorty's said Rainbow was very good as well, and recommended both of them.

Courtney kept getting hit on by two Vietnamese locals and t wo Japan ese tourists (who were swimming in their underwear, one w ear ing tightie whities).

We stayed at the beach until about 5:00, met up with Yaneev. Both him and Dana are going to Ho Chi Minh City today. (The space bar sticks, the rest of this journal is go nna l ook funny...I don't have the time to keep correcting the spaces.)

We went for supper at Shorty's, I had a p izza, and we booked an island tour for the next day. Four islands, the first we s norkel, the second island, we eat lun ch , and have a floating bar, the third is free tim e at a sm all resort, th e fourth i s a fishing village, wh ere we can jump off boat and go for rides in neat "circular" b oats.

We sto pped into O ctopus diving centre, and he just didn't impress us with hi s spiel.

We went t o Crazy Kim Bar fo r a while, until about 11:00, th en to th e Sailing Club, bu t it was dead, so went home about m idnight.

Saturday, April 05, 2003

Nha Trang

I just realized, the last three days I had the wrong journal date...I've just fixed it up.

As much as I complain about horns, I actually do appreciate the trucks and cars and other motorcycles honking from behind when I'm on a bike! Also, the intersections are scary trying to navigate on a bicycle, because there are no stop signs or anything, people just drive through from all directions, honking their horns. The biggest vehicle always has the right of way.

Anyway, last night, the bus picked us up about 6:30, and we stopped at other hotels, and eventually the bus filled up. Everyone's bags were piled high in the aisle of the bus. At any toilet breaks, everyone had to climb over all the bags. It was quite humorous.

About 11:30, the bus stopped at a restaurant for about 30 minutes.

I didn't sleep much on the bus, I think I finally dozed off for an hour at about 5:00AM. The road between Hoi An and Nha Trang is absolutely terrible, way worse than ANY road in Laos. The whole road system between the two was under construction.

We got to Nha Trang about 7:30AM, and the bus stopped at Chi Tranh hotel. $6US/night, so Court and I took it. Ok room, but nothing special, and the hot water shower tap doesn't work, which is ok, it's so flipping hot, it doesn't matter, and the cold shower isn't actually cold, it's a very nice cool. We slept until about noon. Then we walked down to the beach, quite nice, but not as nice as the beach in Hoi An. It's actually quite dirty, lots of litter and refuse and pieces of vegetation on the shore and in the water. Parts of the beach are cleaned up, so their ok. You do see all kinds of strange things floating in the water, like plastic bags, pieces of fruit, branches, straws, chunks of styrofoam, and lots of other stuff. And there's hardly anyone on the beach.

We had lunch, walked back to the hotel, got changed into swim gear and went to the beach about 2:30. The water is quite warm, much warmer than Hoi An.

We ran into Esmerelda and made arrangements to meet at 7:00 at the Sailing Club bar, apparently it's the place to be. We left the beach about 4:00.

We started walking to Shorty's bar/restaurant about 5:30 (got a flyer for them on the beach). Along the way, met another couple that was on the bus at another restaurant. He was drinking 800mL buckets of alcohol for 30,000 dong ($3CDN). When we got to Shorty's, they had 1 litre buckets of booze for only 25,000 dong! So I got one. They also have happy hour specials, two drinks for only 10,000 dong ($1CDN), that's what Court got. I also had the most excellent double hamburger since leaving Canada. Yum. This restaurant (Shorty's) is run by a white guy, from Australia, I believe.

At 7:00, we went to the Sailing Club to see if Esmerelda was there, she wasn't, so we went back to the hotel so Court could change clothes, and watched MTV until about 8:30, then walked back to Shorty's, and had a couple of more drinks, and Court ordered some food. As we were sitting there, Esmerelda was walking across the street, so Court went and got her, and she sat down with us, then the three of us went to the the Sailing Club about 10:30. Lots of people, very big, open-air bar on the beach. The night flew by. They sell small bottles of water for 10,000 dong! EXPENSIVE!!!! You can get a large bottle of water for 5000dong at most stores! At 2:00AM, the music stopped, and I hadn't seen Court in a long time, and I couldn't find her, so I started walking back to the hotel. On the way back to the hotel, a Vietnamese woman (in her 20's), drove her motorcycle up onto the sidewalk, jumped off, and starting running at me, grabbed my hand, and was trying to get me to with her to a hotel, telling me she wants to have sex with me. I kept resisting, saying no thanks, finally I got away. In the meantime, three girls from Britain had just got dropped off by a cycle driver, and they saw this, and were teasing me a little bit. Then they told me that they were lost, their cyclo driver screwed them around, just took them into a big circle. They wanted to know where the Sailing Club was, and I pointed about a block down. That's where they were originally, and they were trying to get back to their hotel. I pointed them in the general direction of where they said they were trying to go (I kinda remember it from Lonely Planet), and I was going the same direction, so walked with them for a couple of blocks, then made my turn off. When I got back to the hotel, it was all locked and caged up, so I rang the buzzer, and a guy sleeping in the lobby opened up the cage and door and let me in, asked me what room I was in, I told him, he then dialed the room number, and handed me the phone, and Court answered, and I told her I was coming up, and went up. Dunno what the deal with that was.

Avril Lavigne has the number two song on MTVAsia's Hit List, with "I'm With You".

Friday, April 04, 2003

Revenge of the Beach Bums!!!

Up about 7:30, showered, took some pics of some of our suits and jackets, then took it all to the post office to mail it. Together, we had 10 kg's, and it cost us about $55CDN to mail it seamail. It'll probably take 3 months to get to Canada.

We had breakfast, packed, checked out and went to the beach about 12:30.

The beach vendors vary in age. Some are teenagers, that speak good english, and they like to sit and have a conversation with you, even if you don't want to buy anything. Some are OLD! One lady selling stuff was 70 years old (and she looked it!) You have to imagine, a 70 year old, wrinkly, no teeth lady, who barely speaks any english, carrying a big bag of "stuff" (trinkets, tiger balm, etc.) and another bag with pineapple. Poor lady, feel sorry for her. I just can't imagine grandma doing that!!

About 1:30, Court and I ordered some lunch, so we could get the chairs for free, then about 2:00, clouds started to roll in, and you could see a storm approaching. The breeze was quite cool today, it felt very nice. With the sun saying goodbye, and the storm saying hello, we headed back to town, back to the hotel, and showered, then walked around Hoi An to take some pictures (something we hadn't done yet). Court bought a scarf for way more than she wanted to spend, but all the shops were very stringent on the $2US price, and wouldn't budge, unless you wanted two or more.

The waterfront is quite nice during the daytime.

As we were walking along the streets, a kid on a bike pulled up to Courtney and started talking somewhat mean to her, I turn around, and it's the kid she was supposed to meet at 2:00 today! I started laughing so hard, I had to walk away. The kid is mad, saying, "Yesterday, you tell me you meet me at 2:00 today, and you not there to buy anything." And he was totally on her case, and wouldn't let up on her. Court tried to get out of it by saying she was at the beach at 2:00, and she was there at 3:00, but he didn't care, she was supposed to be there at 3:00, and she wasn't. IN amongst all this, he's also expecting her to buy more stuff, 5 postcards for 25,000, and Court's telling him it's too much, then he drops to 5 for 20,000, and Court is walking away, trying to get away, but the kid is persistent, and in quite a loud voice, so others could here. The kid is asking her "How much? How much?" Finally the kid says 5 for 15,000, and Courtney stops. She needs to get rid of this kid, so she buys 5 postcards that she doesn't even want for 15,000 dong. The kid is still quite upset about the whole thing. The whole time this is going on, I'm laughing...it's just too funny that the kid found her!!!

AFter that, we walked back to teh hotel, then did the internet, and here we are! We're just going to eat, then wait for our bus to Nha Trang.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

Return of Beach Bums!

Woke up early, about 5:30, all three of us. At 6:00AM, a knowck on the door. We all looked at each other, wondering who would be knocking on our door at 6:00AM. So I go and answer it. It's Matti, the Australian guy. He tells me he's locked himself out of his room. I stand there, somewhat confused, wondering why that's my problem, and how I can do anything about it, then I suggest he goes to reception and get them to open it up. He says, no they don't have another key. I'm don't know what to say or do, so I ask him if he wants to come in for a couple of minutes, and he says "No thanks, that's ok mate. Thanks." and walks away. Me, Court and Dana think Matti is pretty strange anyway. He's nice and all, but too much drinking!

We all try to get back asleep, I sleep until about 8:30 or so. We had breakfast, and went to the beach about 12:30, but stayed out of the sun. At the beach, they have beach chairs all lined up, under shade, and it costs 10,000 dong to use a chair. However, if you buy some food from the corresponding restaurant, the chair is free, so I bought some french fries so I could have the chair for free (and I was hungry anyway).

On the way to the beach, Court bought a new black bikini for only $3US. Cheap, she says!

We got back from the beach about 4:00, then went for supper about 6:00, then walked around Hoi An for a while. For supper, Court and I tried some Hoi An specialties, Cau Lau and White Rose. White Rose is some sort of seafood (shrimp?) wrapped in rice paper. It was actually very tasty. The Cau Lau is something else, I don't know what, and it was good too. They are only available in Hoi An, I guess.

About 8:00, had a couple of drinks, and ran into Martin and Louis. Louis was playing pool, so Martin sat with us, and then the three of us walked around for a while, then got home about 10:00.

Dana took the night bus to Nha Trang today, so it's just the two of us in the room now. Court and I booked the night bus to Nha Trang for tomorrow.

While we were at the restaurant/bar having a drink, one of the kids selling postcards was trying to sell to Court, and Court told him she didn't want to buy any, but buy later. So, this kid, eager to make a sale, makes a date with Court to be at the same restaurant/bar at 2:00 tomorrow afternoon, so Court can buy some postcards. After the kid leaves, Courtney makes a remark that she has to avoid that kid tomorrow, and to make sure she's not around at 2:00. I start teasing Courtney, telling her she's going to hell, and telling her I'm gonna drag her to the restaurant at 2:00.

One time, someone told one of the kids she had no money to buy anything, the kid retored, humourously, "No money, no honey, no boyfriend, no babies." The kids are funny!

Where Courtney bought the bikini, the guy in the store said he figured it was about 35 degrees outside. It was WAY hot.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Beach Bums

Up about 8:30, breakfast, picked up gecko shirt, blah, blah, blah.

Went to the beach about 11:30, myself, Courtney, Dana and Esmerelda. We biked to the beach.

I rented a tube, and had some fun with a bunch of local kids, pushing them around on the tube, and tipping it over.

Got a lot of sun, got pretty red.

We got back to the hotel about 4:00, and went for supper a little later. Sat around the bar and had a couple of drinks with Matti and others. Played some pool, got home about midnight.

Fairly uneventful day.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003

Hospital

Last night, I could feel myself getting a fever, Court felt my forehead, and she thinks I have a fever. This morning, I was having difficulty breathing, shortness of breath. Court was not feeling very well either. Then I realized these are the symptoms of the SARS disease that's plaguing everything. And we were just in Hanoi. We decided to go to the local hospital anyway, and guess what? They turned us away! They didn't want their hospital to get the SARS, because they can't deal with it. The hospital wasn't much anyway, I don't think they could do anything for us anyway. We decided we need to get to Thailand ASAP, Thailand apparently has the best hospitals in SE Asia, so we are going to get ourselves to Ho Chi Min City, and get ourselves on a flight to Bangkok. I don't know how long it takes SARS to get bad (or fatal), but hopefully they'll let us on the airplane. We don't know what to do, we booked a train to Ho Chi Minh City, and are just staying in our hotel room. I decided to head out to an internet and post this, despite Courtney's fierce arguments that I don't. She doesn't want me to say anything, to make it worse for you guys. It's probably nothing, but we're going to Bangkok anyway.

And, for those of you actually still reading, please check the journal date.

Still not making sense? April 1...April Fools??? Ahhh, ok, sorry mom, you probably just had three heart attacks read the above, but I couldn't pass up the absolutely perfect opportunity...the timing of SARS and April Fools and our visit to Hanoi was just way too coincidental to not do it!!!

So, the real journal for today.

We got up early, and just watched TV, then got up and went to the post office to check prices to ship a parcel back to Canada. Then we headed back to the tailor, and Court tried on her pants, but the back only came half way up her butt, so she had to get them adjusted, and I ordered two more shirts! Court and I will do a fashion show with all our new garments, and burn a CD with the pictures, before mailing them home.

The three of us rented bicycles (pedal bikes) and biked to Cua Dai beach, about 5 km away. Very nice beach, it stretches for miles and miles and miles, right to the horizon on both sides. Incredible. Nice white sand, clear water, very clean, the water is a little cooler than the waters in Thailand, though, but once you get in, it's fine.

Yesterday, we were talking to a lady (older lady) who had went to a place in Hoi An, and had a "fake waxing" done on her legs. And she loved it, and was telling us about it. Dana decided she was going to get her bikini line done at the same place this morning, so she left early to do that. When she came back, she loved it!! She was going to go back after the beach and get her legs done.

So, while we were at the beach, two ladies came up to the Courtney, and tried to sell her this "fake waxing" that Dana and this other woman got done. They agreed on a price of $1US for each leg, so these two ladies started doing it. It's really neat, all they do is use cotton thread, and "twitch" two strands of the thread against the skin, and it squeezes the hair right out of the folicle. It's soo neat to watch. Same idea as waxing, but nearly as painful, Courtney says. Then Courtney suggested I get my eyebrows done (she started complaining about them early on, and has been plucking them for me), and I decided to do it, for $1US for both eyebrows. OUCH!!!! It hurt! I even started bleeding a little from it, but she had cotton balls handy to stop that. Both Dana and Court say my eyebrows are much better now. My eyebrows took about 15 minutes, Courtney's legs took an hour or more. And waxing is expensive ($30-$50 in CAnada), and she paid $2US. She's happy. It was so neat to see the little hairs just pop right out of the folicle.

We headed back to town about 4:00, showered and went for supper. Met Matti, an Aussie guy we had met at the beach, and the four of us went for supper, then I did internet, Matti and Court went to the bar next door, and I met up with them about half an hour later. They had happy hour, 2 for 1 drinks, so we had a few. Eventually, Dana, Esmerelda (from Holland) and another Aussie girl came, and we stayed out until about 11:30, when they kicked us out of the bar.

Of course, this is Vietnam, and there are all kinds of people selling all sorts of things, from cigarettes, lighters, postcards, fruit on the street. They come into the bars and restaurants and interrupt your meals and drinking as well. We had about 3 or 4 kids (10 years old) hanging out with us in the bar, they were showing us card tricks, and just plain having fun. They liked us a lot, even though we weren't buying anything.

And the street and beach vendors are smart too! If you say you don't want anything, they will say you "Later?", and if you say yes, they will come back for you later! Even if it's the next day! They remember you! And they will remind you that you said you'ld buy something later. It's almost scary. You have to be very persistent with them, though, as they don't like "No thanks" for an answer.