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Going to South-East Asia again

This year I was really undecided were to go. A colleague at my workplace asked me if I wanted to go with him to Laos and Cambodia, then he told me sometime later that he cannot go. I reviewed then Ecuador and Argentina, in the end I decided on doing the proposed trip on my own as I already know this part of the world a bit (have done 3 week trips before to the phillipines, Thailand and last year Vietnam) and know that I can travel safely without knowing the local language (therefore I feared to be back in South America, I remember nobody understood English and I know no Spanish…)
Started the trip on a Friday evening, left office around noon, had a lazy afternoon and started around 8pm with driving to the airport. Public transport to the airport is convenient and cheap in Vienna, the train ticket is less than 2 euros. Arrived in time, had my luggage checked in (and checked through to Laos), flight was in time and we took off around 11:30pm from vienna. As I am no night owl at all (was different when I was younger) I didn’t like the late departure, but in the end it turned out to be a good thing as I fell asleep within 45 min after departure. They really served lunch at that time first, I had a beer (what I normally also don’t do, no alcohol on the plane) and a water and was sleeping soon after 😀. We arrived in Bangkok well ahead of schedule around a quarter to 3, meaning I had now 3 hours for transit. Everything went smooth there, except the whole airport is non smoking since February 2019… I managed the 3 hour stay with only one cigarette (on the toilet like in Moscow and Madrid), only here a girl cried “there is somebody smoking” after I inhaled for the second time, so the one I had was a short one ..
Left Bangkok half past five pm (local time) for Vientiane, capital of Laos. Arrived again ahead of schedule around halp past six.

Where the first for immigration (the plane was literally empty, maybe 30 people, the opposite was true for the flight from Vienna, the Boeing 777 was completely full), had an evisa for Laos, no officer was there so I lined up at another queue. They told me still to wait at the evisa counter, an officer showed up shortly after, it looked like the woke him up for me as he was still looking very tired and he moaned every two minutes. Still everything went smooth and quick, left there, looked for the taxi counter (you have to buy a ticket there, 7 us$ for every downtown adress), bought the ticket, got a driver assigned and left for downtown Vientiane.
First impression: the traffic was not really heavy compared to all other Asian cities I have visited (it was Saturday shortly after 7pm), my driver had a max speed of 40 kmh, still we arrived at the hotel 20 minutes later. Checked in, brought my luggage up and went out again for an ATM and something to eat. ATMs are a little bit strange for me here, I tried several before I received money (it was the fifth that gave me money to be precise, all the other ones only took visa cards, luckily I stay around the corner to the street were all the banks are, so you have an atm every 50 meters). Also here the city was very quite and no people on the street (I stay 10 min walk from the mekong and it was around 8pm). Most restaurants were already closed (,including the hotel restaurant), first I tried a small store with baguettes, the lady didn’t look to happy with the late guest, as she also told me beer is finished I moved on. Found a small restaurant (or a stall but in a building) on the street, lady showed me the menue but no English, tried something because of the picture in the menue, I have no clue how it was called, was chopped pork with chilli (only thing I was asked was if I like it spicy, of course 😀) and some vegetables, togheter with a beer a perfect lunch.

And it was cheap, food plus beer was 25.000 lak (about 2,50 euro). Bought another beer on the way home, had a long deserved shower afterwards and went happily to bed on my first night here.

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Last day on the island and going back to Vienna

Last day on the island started early as always, had breakfast and went for my morning swim. This time i took the screenshot before going to the beach, it is already hot enough in the morning as you see.

As I had to travel in the evening i decided for a Lunch that day. I went to the same restaurant as the two days before, only they do not have fresh fish on display at noon. So I went for fried calamari and then an for a cobia fish in lemongrass sauce. Delicious as the days before.

Spent then the afternoon reading and waiting for transport. Did checkout around 5:30 pm, was picked up by my driver at 6:40 pm and headed for the airport.

This time flying was no problem, plane started and landed on time. 

As i Had booked for the last night the IBIS airport hotel transfer was only about 5 minutes.

Did check in, went to the rooftop bar for a beer and to get the last views on saigon. Went to bed late (around midnight) hoping that i would therefore sleep longer.

Was up at 5am nonetheless…

Had an excellent breakfast at the IBIS, took the shuttle to the airport at 9am.

First flight brought me to Moscow, we landed there around 6pm local time and were greeted by snow storms and -7 degree celsius. Obviously lots of people use Moscow as a Hub, there were so many people and such a chaos, even the russian authorities were overwhelmed. 

Still I managed to get to my connection flight in time, boarded the plane shortly after 8pm and had my last flight of the journey, back to my homebase :-). Arrived safe in Vienna at 9:30pm local time, what a difference this airport is to Moscow. All shops were closed, no people on the floors or in the waiting hall, welcome to the small town Vienna. Got my luggage in time, boarded my taxi and arrived happily at home around 11pm.

Finally, home sweet home 🙂

 

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Daily routine in Phu Quok

No news about the morning routine, up at 5am, breakfast and then a short swim in the sea. This time to a small fisherboat that was anchoring offshore. Touched the anchor rope and came back (looks far out on the picture, was about 100 m 😀)

Even a big cruise ship made it close to us, seems to be a hotspot!

Spend my day surfing and reading, really relaxing. I found out that morning is the best time for beach (also it’s already quite hot, screenshoot of my weather app was taken after completing back from the beach), later it’s getting cloudy each day, that day we had even a little rain around noon (hard but only 15 minutes).

Before going for my beloved dinner I had to clarify with the reception my check out the day after. As I would go to Saigon quite late (scheduled departure 8:40pm) a late check-out was really deserved. I already asked when I arrived, there I was told I have to pay 50% of the room rate (500.000 or 10 euros) if I check out till 4 pm, afterwards 100% (I was asking to stay till 6). As I anticipated another one oat the reception will tell me something else I gave it a new try. Went there, asked the girl for late check-out. Till when do you need the room? Tell me first whats the price till when. Ok sir, it’s 400.000 till 5pm. Ok, I take it 😀 after accepting she told me I could have the room even till 5:30pm as they didn’t need it that day. To be one the safe side I let her confirm the thing in written and went for dinner.
Again to Nemo seafood.
This time I ordered as a starter fresh spring rolls (as the fried ones with seafood would have been to heavy). Not the best I had, very thick, doesn’t seem to be there speciality.

As main course I ordered this time tuna, really excellent! Never had a whole tuna in my life, enjoyed it a lot.

Again, with 2 beers I payed around 12 euros..
Afterwards only the usual stuff, drinking beer on the balcony and writing my blog.

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First day in Phu Quok

First full day in phu quok started early as always, here I am up now around 5:10am….
Breakfast starts at 6:30, so waited till a quarter to seven and went down. They have a nice Buffett here, with Asian and European breakfast, additionally the do eggs as you like them and pancakes. Went for bacon and eggs, looked for a bread, saw none. Asked for it. Oh, so sorry, we also noticed no bread, will come in 15 minutes. Went out on the terrace for a coffee and a cigarette, but after I came back they really had bread (or at least toast). Had some pancakes afterwards and went happy back to room. Did some shaving and dressed for the beach. Went there already around 8am, it’s hot here anyhow, why not. Reached the beach after a 3 minute walk, put my stuff on one of the boats that were standing there and went into the ocean. Really nice, a short swim in the morning in tropical waters, that’s something I really like 😀

Came out, let myself dry by the sun and back to the hotel (I am not the kind of guy laying on the beach the whole day, to hot and risk of a sunburn with my light skin at this time of the year to high).
On the way back I bought me some water and a Snickers for a quick lunch.
As I had discovered yesterday evening something nice the plan was now to skip lunch and have dinner instead.
Spend the whe.morning surfing the net on my balcony (currently looking for an emoped, will buy one in spring latest), had my snicker and then a nice nap.
In the afternoon I started reading a book, at 5:30pm I prepared for lunch.
Looked up the best place, highest rated on Google (in my area) was exactly what I had seen the day before.
What I have noticed the day before on my way back from the sunset watching was, that the restaurants turn on grills in front of their entrance and also have the catch of the day displayed. You can choose your fish and is directly grilled. As I mostly eat seafish only at the sea (as i assume there it’s fresh) and like it a lot the perfect place for me.
Looked at the display, saw the prices and had to ask if it is true.

The sign said one piece, I asked if it means a portion of the fish. No, A whole barracuda or.tuna is 149.000, that is roughly 6 euros (and comes with rice and vegetables)
Selected a barracuda as the last time I had it was in Honduras (and liked it a lot).
Went in, ordered as a starter prawn tempura (around 3 euros) and a beer.

Was excellent, stopped.after 4 pieces (2 were left) as.i also had the whole barracuda as.main dish.
Barracuda then was also nice, must admit I liked it more in Honduras as they most probably fished bigger ones, there it was like a huge barracuda steak with no bones, here I had to search for bones.

Was satisfied nonetheless.

Payed in the end together with 2 beer around 11 euros, for me nearly unbelievable (even in Honduras where it was also quit cheap the barracuda was 6 us$)
Went back home and was quite happy after a day with swimming in the sea and eating fresh fish 😀

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Last new destination in Vietnam

Woke up after a restless and hot night earlier than the days before around 5am. Today I had to travel to.my last stop on the journey. And every time I am going to travel in the morning I am nervous and up before the alarm. I only had to leave by 7:15 am, nonetheless I was up early around 5am. Unfortunately I have the same problem back home, eg in the last weeks before going to Vietnam I was flying nearly once a week to Innsbruck for one day meetings. Plane starts at 6:40pm, taxi picks me up around 5:20am, alarm is set for 4:30am, I am normally up at 4am… So did the last packing for the day, went down for a coffee around 7am, said goodbye to my host and was picked up by my taxi on time. Way to the airport took only roughly 40 minutes (against the predicted hour). Did a quick check in, also there where lots.of people they were really quick, obviously they are here used to lots of people. I had to fly again with vietjet air, the airline who cancelled my flight last time 20 minutes before departure, and additional reason for me to be nervous. Passed security, had still my 1,5 liter bottle of water with me. As they had no trashcans there I thought give it a try. Put the bottle on the tray for screening, no comment from them and picked it up again after the scan. At least I had something to drink for the flight 😀

Was then inside permanently checking the monitor for possible delays or a cancellation. This time it went smoothly, boarding was 20 minutes late, flight took 40 minutes so we arrived still in time.around 10:30am.
Last stop on the journey was phu quok (ok, not really the last stop as I have to go back to Saigon to catch my flight back, but the last new destination)
Was picked up by my hotel and arrived there 15 minutes later. Room looked nice but found out soon that the WiFi is more then weak. As I had no breakfast I decided for lunch already a quarter to twelfe, fried spring rolls and the other thing was a lot of minced meat with onions, fried basil and herbs with some rice. Was more a Thai dish then Vietnamese but ok.

Went afterwards to see and feel the sea directly. Beach is a 3 minute walk from the hotel, saw the beach, dropped my shoes and put my toes into the ocean. Quite warm water, I like it!

Had a nap afterwards and looked up a nice bar on the beach for watching sunset. Found one, walked there about 15 minutes on the street. On the way I saw lots of restaurants and bars, most of them having their signs also in Russian language, this is the downside here (also in the hotel), it seems to be the Russian quarter on this island (as I do not know the other parts, maybe it’s everywhere like this). Had a beer and enjoyed a really nice sunset on the beach. I also like this a lot 😀

The rest of the day I spent on my balcony, enjoying beer and writing blog.

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Shopping and a hot, lazy day

Another early wake up for a day were nothing special was planned. Truely speaking I overestimated the time for Saigon, 5 full days are to much. Had this time a very nice omelette with pieces of sausage and vegetables with toast, enjoyed it.
So had some shopping to do and started already early around 8am as I already knew how hot it becomes in this city later the day.
Nonetheless it was at that time 28 degree, headed for a co-op supermarket. Must admit I had not seen a real supermarket the whole travel, everything is sold here by merchants on the street, be it cigarettes, water, beer or food. Asked my host for advice and she showed me one on the map, roughly 20 minutes by foot.and still in district 1. Walked slowly, after 10 minutes I passed a coffee shop and as the security showed me to come in I followed the suggestion. Had a coffee in the shadow and continued my short walk to the supermarket. I had to bring Vietnamese coffee, a friend who has been to Vietnam twice asked me that favour. She sent me a picture of the coffee beforehand telling me I should by it in hoi an in the market hall, only place where I will get it. Showed the picture already to my host in Hanoi, they told me I can get it everywhere. Just to be sure I asked then my host in hoi an who told me that the coffee is from the biggest coffee brand in Vietnam and I would get it in every bigger supermarket. So true, in the supermarket I showed the picture, the asked me for the sort number (as they had alone 3 only in red …) As she didn’t gave me a number I bought all 3 red and a special silver one, hope she likes at least one of them 😀

Went back home and had to take a shower (it was only around 10am but over 30 degrees already).
Went out again, this time to buy me some souvenir t-shirts (I mostly buy t-shirts on my trips as a souvenir, I use them for sleeping 😀).
Strategy was as slowly as possible, cap and glasses on. Went till the touristic zone, there is then a park before ben thanth market. There I sat down in the shadow under a tree for a short pitstop.

Reached afterwards the market, bought 2 shirts. They wanted 450.000 dong for both, payed 200.000 in the end (around 8 euros, still way over priced as I found out later). Next trick I had is to visit one of the western malls, completely ac and therefore a good place to spend some time. Strolled around, saw a mc Donald’s and decided for a western lunch. Prices here are (relativel) low at mc Donald’s, big Mac menu (large) and Royal with cheese 7 euros. After the cool down I originally wanted to go home, on the way I passed the Saigon mall (like ben thanth, the merchants not so aggressive as there), went in, saw 2 more shirts. Asked for the price, again around 450.000, told them I paid before at ben thanth 140.000 for two, he asked me if it is ok if I pay here the same price. Therefore my first shopping was way over priced. Bought the two and went home for a shower and a short nap.

Went out afterwards in the same direction as in the morning to the supermarket (north) as I haven’t been there before. Sat down at a junction at a coffee shop (I like to watch the crazy driving, bikes and cars go on all sides of the street in different directions, it looks more then chaotic but it works somehow) ordered an ice coffee and as it was so hot I ordered for the first time a blueberry soda. As often, two.orders at the same time from one person is to much for some Vietnamese, got only the soda. Was the most awful drink I every had. Not because of the taste, tasted fine like blueberries but it was so sweet I was unable to drink it (on the bottom of the glass it had nearly 3 cm additional sugar, was served with a spoon to squeeze also the last sugar out, the people in Saigon like it sweet). As a couple behind me ordered beer I noticed that the also offer beer (most coffee shops don’t), so I ordered a tiger. Much better 😆 After the second one I went home to do my checkout with my host as I was leaving early the next day. Had a very nice chat whit here, showed here pictures from vienna (oh, so few people and so few bikes on the street, do you have lots of bikes?), Answered some questions with pictures of snow in Vienna (oh, very hard to drive bike when snow, but we never have snow here). On the other hand, Saigon has currently 11 to 12 million residents, more than 1,5 times the whole population of Austria… Payed my bill and gave her a nice tipp as I was all in all quite happy with my booking, central but still in a silent neighborhood.
Went after up to my room to have a couple of beers on my balcony, did writing my blog and called it (a last) day in Saigon around 10pm.

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Chuchi tunnels

As it was Sunday I received this time a banh mi for breakfast. Was ok also I have eaten better ones already. This time the chuchi tunnels were booked by my host for the morning, so I was picked up quite early, shortly before 8am. For me not a big problem as I am anyhow up around 6am 😀
Went with my guide to the car, was the first who was picked up, therefore the early departure. Asked him how many we will be this time, he told me 10 people. As I forgot to ask my host what she had booked I could not complain as last time … (she told me afterwards that she booked again for max. 9 people…). Went first over the bridge to pick up the next two (was also interesting as they normally only pick up in district 1, over the bridge is another district).

Back to district 1, picked up the rest of the pack. Interesting group, beside me we had 1 German girl, 2 Swiss boys, 1 Canadian, 1 English, 2 girls from Singapore and a couple from Malaysia. Took nearly till 9am to finish pickup and we were on the road. On the way to the tunnels we stopped after 60 minutes as usual (the whole duration till the tunnels would be 90 minutes), this time it was a factory were victims of the war (disabled people due to agent orange) produce paintings on wood ground with egg and duck shells. Interesting but bought nothing. Continued the journey and arrived at chuchi tunnels around 10:30am. Have seen how they were digging their tunnels and how they lived inside (sometimes the tunnels had up to 3 levels, going as far as 12 meters below the surface). Saw also how they ventilated the system (biggest problem, did it with bamboo poles coming out under roofs to be hidden) and how they have hidden the smoke coming from the downstairs kitchen (ventilated the air through different cooling chambers). Also so the traps they used to make the us soldiers afraid, really cruel!

Then we had the chance to go into in tunnel, 1 m high, 60 cm wide (formerly they were smaller as the Vietnamese are smaller), had an exit after 20, 40, 60, 80, and 100m, I had more then enough after 20 m …

Last station was a shooting range where you could shoot with (us) m16 or (Russian) ak47. Skipped that (especially as they wanted for 10 shoots nearly 25 us$, with the Austrian army I get it for free 😀)
And then it was already over again. Lastest close to two hours and we went back again. So started then dropoff of passengers in the same order they were picked up. As the last people in district 1 were dropped I told the guide he should drop me also close to ben thanth market, from there it’s a 15 min walk home and for sure quicker then waiting to go over the bridge and back again. Wanted first to go to a (real) supermarket as I had to buy some stuff (to be read tomorrow), noticed that I had not enough money for the expected price and walked home instead. Was there around 2 pm, took a shower (as it was incredible hot as always) and a short nap.
Googled first where to eat (as I had that day only breakfast, last days I managed to have lunch and skip dinner as sleeping is much better than), remembered then that my host had sent me some tipps also for eating. Looked up one restaurant close by on the map and went there. The Hoang tam restaurant was nice, nothing to special. Had spring rolls (that you have to roll on your own, ordered with minced meat, was to my mind pork with peanuts) and rice vimecelli with beef, was ok and the price was as always also ok (with two local bears 200.000 dong, around 8 euro).

Strolled a little around in my neighborhood afterwards and was home around 7pm. Had 2 more beer, wrote blog, wanted to go to sleep. After one hour just turning around and feeling hot (the late lunch and the really hot weather, here it is around 9 or 10 pm still 29 degrees) I decided to turn the AC on and try it that way. Worked better, turned it then out again in the night as my kidneys were hurting.