Who better to tell you all about our trips to Vietnam and Cambodia than our very own Rickshaw Ramblers (aka our lovely customers). Amanda and David went on an epic three week adventure to Vietnam and Cambodia with Rickshaw stopping in at Ho Chi Minh City for a spot of history and art before heading down the Mekong and taking in a puppet show. The couple then went on to discover Cambodia visiting Angkor Wat in Siem Reap, the Killing Fields in Phnom Penh and loads more!
Scooting through Ho Chi Minh
“Some say there are two million scooters in Ho Chi Minh City, some say as many as five million. We saw them being used to transport entire families and just about everything else, and we got a whole different perspective when we became passengers one evening. We sat and watched the world speed on the back of a Vespa bike. We were taken to food stalls to sample the local sea food, and visited a couple of clubs – a great evening out.
A guided tunnel tour
Ho Chi Minh City is famous for the tunnels built by the Viet Cong in the Vietnamese war. Our guide talked us through the tunnels and traps. The Vietnamese were incredibly ingenious, it’s hardly surprising they beat their invaders!
A stop at the War Remnants Museum
We followed this tour up with a visit to the War Remnants Museum, spending a couple of hours there. It is vast and spread over several floors with photos and explanations, and outside there were captured American war machines that left me cold… but it was well worth the visit.
Artistic view of Vietnamese life
An infrequently visited art gallery housed in a beautiful Art Deco building was a welcome respite from the craziness of the city. It was originally built by a Chinese merchant and has breezes and shuttered sunlight through its many windows. Some of the paintings mirror the anguish of war and some comment on everyday Vietnamese life.
A trip down the Mekong
On a day trip down the Mekong River we stopped off at markets, a temple and a private house where their slightly unusual pet was a snake. We went to the fabulous water puppet theatre, a show which goes back more than 1000 years.
The awe of Angkor Wat
From Ho Chi Minh we flew to Siem Reap which is the stop off point for Angkor Wat, and drove to a village school run by a Dutch NGO. The kids were playing football on their day off so we chatted to a few of the volunteers. We went on to a ruined jungle temple – our introduction to ancient religious buildings in Cambodia and then Angkor Wat. It was as amazing as we’d hoped, and so vast. After spending three consecutive days there we were pretty worn out even though we only saw six of the many temples.
There’s more to Siem Reap than Angkor Wat
Although Angkor Wat is the main attraction of Siem Reap, there is a load more to see in the vicinity. We took a boat out to the floating villages and stopped off at a floating market. In the town we came across a monastery called Wat Bo where an old monk opened the door of the temple for us. An artist’s school trains orphans and street kids in traditional skills like lacquer work, wood carving and stone work.
Remnants of conflict in Phnom Penh
It is difficult to visit Cambodia without seeing the remnants of the recent Khmer Rouge conflict. Talking to the locals in Phnom Penh, we realised that everyone seemed to have a family member that had some connection, whether as victim or perpetrator, of the Khmer Rouge.
Realities of the Killing Fields
The Killing Fields is a tourist attraction, but that doesn’t take away the ghastliness of the pits where thousands of bodies were buried. And S21, which the Khmer Rouge converted from a school to a torture chamber, is just as shocking. Images of those imprisoned and killed hung from the walls of what must have once been classrooms, instead of desks we saw the iron beds which the prisoners had been tied to.
A visit to the Royal Palace
The palace where the current king lives is lavish and somehow incongruous being relatively close to S21. A floor to one of the palaces is made of melted down silver coins. It seemed strange looking at this wealth when there is so much poverty in Cambodia.
The museum in Phonm Penh is airy and light. Statues of Buddha and Hindu gods sit comfortably amongst friezes and carved elephants found in Angkor Wat and other more remote temples from the same period.
Tranquil sandy beaches of Kep
After a week in Siem Reap we travelled on to Kep. There isn’t a lot there apart from a crab market and a vast expanse of sand. But this makes it all the more attractive. After spending busy weeks in cities Kep was the perfect end to our trip. The day we arrived it was the final day of the Chinese New Year festivities and the beach was packed with Cambodian families picnicking and swimming (fully clothed) in the sea and sitting round a stone carved goddess who looks over the stretch of sand.
A fond farewell
The following day, the crab market was bustling but the beach was deserted, the raffia picnic rugs had been rolled up and the children were back in school. The beach is long and the sea warm and inviting. We intended to visit Rabbit Island, a short trip from the pier. We never got there. But you have to leave some things for the next visit. And for sure, we’ll return to see more of both these fascinating countries.”
Many thanks to Amanda and David for sharing their Rambler Tale with us!