Travels to Vietnam and Cambodia (the first few days of the trip)

Our Spring trip this year is:

April 19-21 – Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon) Vietnam
April 22-26 – Cambodia
April 27-May 2 – Thailand

We did Vietnam at the beginning because the ticket from Chicago to Vietnam, then back from Bangkok to Chicago, was less than $500 round-trip (far less actually). Saigon is fun so we gladly spent some of the airfare savings on 60 cent beers.

April 19, I fly into Ho Chi Minh City (aka Saigon), a few hours from Clar Philippines, via Singapore, and Dawn flies from Chicago to Ho Chi Minh (21 hours).  As planned, we land within 20 minutes of each other, at 9:00pm, and we clear customs and get taxi to the hotel. Nice place ($22/night) but room is on the 3rd floor. Drop our bags and off to Buen Vien Street for a few beers (75 cents for a big bottle of Saigon beer) and people watching.

Wake up and head to Independance Palace late morning, we get an alternate view of the history of the Vietnam war. I guess it’s their right, they won the war.  We ate lunch at Pho 2000, the noodle shop where Bill Clinton ate on his lame duck tour of SE Asia.  Delicious. Have a nap then off for a drink and then dinner at Golden Saigon. Awesome. Back to Buen Vien St for people watching and some “go live” Facebook video.

Here are some pictures from Vietnam


Friday morning, we wake up at 5:00am and go to Saigon airport for the 45-minute flight to Sihanoukville, Cambodia.  Our flight was originally 3:00pm, but they changed it to 7:55am, which seemed kinda wierd, but we found out why. They cancelled the Thursday afternoon flight because of light loads, so they combined the Thursday afternoon and Friday afternoon flights to a Friday morning flight.  While waiting for our flight, we noticed a French couple in their mid-20s in a fairly animated conversation (animated for the French, at least).  The girl approached me and said they only had US$25 cash, no Euros and an ATM card.  As the entry visa to Cambodia is $30 per person, they were in trouble.  There is no ATM in Saigon airport after immigration and we are flying to a small airport in Cambodia (Sihanoukville) with 3 flights per week.  She sheepishly asked me if I could give them US dollars for the visa and they would give me money from the ATM at the airport once they clear customs.

Ordinarily, my scam meter would be going off like crazy and I’d pretend not to speak English 🙂 but after sizing them up and thinking through the process, I’m doubtful they are scamming me.  Before the plan lands, I give them $60 and they say they will pay me upon arrival to Sihanoukville.  They were SO appreciative. Upon landing, everyone gets their entry visa and we head to the ATM and it is broken. Not surprising. So they follow me to town in a taxi, withdraw the money and meet me at the hotel lobby and pay me.

My faith in the goodness of humanity (and the French) is restored, we head out on a rented motorbike for lunch at the beach, and to scout out a hotel there.  We only have our place in town for 2 nights, and we find a great place at Otres 1 beach and we make a reservation for day after tomorrow.  We scout out a hobie cat sailing operation and we ride back into town after lunch at Bamboo Shack. Dinner and drinks ont he beach that night (pizza) and early to bed.

Next day, we take a speedboat to Koh Rong Salaem and spend the day there. Ate lunch while watching a recording on my phone  of the Blackhawks being swept by, of all teams, the Nashville Preditors. I guess we offically suck now. 🙁 Speedboat back and good dinner at a place called Mango, and drinks at what used to be Led Zepher.

Here are some pictures from the island, Koh Rong Salaem.

Third day, we check out of the hotel and take a  tuk-tuk to our new home on Otres 1 Beach … the next few days are spent swimming, sleeping, hobie cat sailing, eating and exploring the beach area and hippie town called Otres Village.  More on that in the next post ….

 

Crucifixion re-enactment in the Philippines (viewer discretion advised)

Today, here in the Philippines, I went to the re-enactment of the crucifixion of Jesus Christ in Barangay Lourdes Northwest, Pampanga, Philippines. Here is what I saw. If you consider any of this not appropriate for you, then no need to go any further.  I’ll just tell you what I saw, with words and pictures … the unedited photos tell the story.  The whole thing was very bizarre to me.

The event is held from about 2:00pm-3:15pm.  Thousands attend. It is very crowded and very hot! Normally, I avoid crowds in the Philippines, due to pickpockets.  But I wanted to go so I went with empty pockets! The event is held in an open field next to a road. The road is blocked off and the events of Good Friday in Christianity are played out (i.e. the stations of the cross).  In addition, at least a dozen people were bloodying their own backs with a bamboo rod with steel wire attached. There is no fake blood here, it’s all real.  The person acting as Jesus Christ carries the cross, falls three times, is helped by the person playing Simon.  All the time, the People playing Romans are ridiculing him.  When Jesus Christ and the two others reach the hill, they are beaten by the Romans, tied to the crosses and then the crosses are raised.  Then, nails are driven through their hands.  They are up there for about 15 minutes, until He cries out the Siete Palabras (Seven Last Words). At this point, death is simulated.  Water is sprayed for about 2 minutes from a water cannon, the Romans are on their knees.  The two prisoners crosses are lowered, and Jesus is then eventually lowered as well. The nails are removed from their hands. At this point, all participants are taken to the hospital for treatment of their bloody wounds.

This country never disappoints as far as interesting things to see. Bizarre!

Photos (and Video) follow, the photos are best viewer by clicking on one then scrolling through them Excuse the fence in the foreground of some photos, I could not get any closer.

PHOTOS

 

VIDEOS (warning – some are graphic!)