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Khmer curiosities

Entering rugged Cambodia

Well, I say ‘rugged’ Cambodia because that’s the first word that came to mind after entering the capital Phnom Penh, and I couldn’t find another suitable adjective to describe this unique country. Getting from Can Tho to Phnom Penh wasn’t feasible without first going back to HCMC and staying a night to catch an early morning coach the following day. It was a long ride –…

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The Mekong Delta

Floating through my final stop in Vietnam

The chaotic streets and endless hooting of the cities had given way to the serene and peaceful waterways of Can Tho, located in the southern Mekong Delta region of Vietnam. It was only a 3hr coach ride to get there from HCMC. Its geography is unlike anywhere else in Vietnam, or much of Asia in fact. The Mekong River empties into the South China Sea…

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On the Ho Chi Minh Trail

Mountain and city retreats in South Vietnam

The next stop in Vietnam was the highland town of Da Lat, and it took just under a day to get there from Hoi An. The first leg was via overnight train along the Reunification Express from Da Nang to Nha Trang, and unfortunately with my last minute decision I was told there were only seats available (when I instantly recalled the nightmare leg in…

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Tunnel Vision

Natural wonders, imperial relics and a brutal history lesson

A three hour bus ride took me from Cat Ba island to my next stop south, Ninh Binh. As bus journeys go, this was pretty frightening. The driver had only one speed – as fast as the engine pistons permit, and without as much as a thought for anyone else. Motorcyclists have it worst off; they’re forever hooted at and shoved off the road by bus drivers…

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Ha Long Bay

Karsting my eyes out to sea

A scenic retreat was in order after the nightmare that was Hanoi. Cat Ba island – and more specifically the karst formations out to sea – proved just the natural remedy I needed. It was a 2 hour bus ride (accompanied with a soundtrack of an X-factor style Vietnamese karaoke) and an hour on a speedboat to get to Cat Ba. I elected against going…

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Good morning Vietnam

A frustrating greeting from SE Asia

Travelling long distances overland has its challenges, as I found many times on this leg of my journey. So apologies in advance for this long and rather negative post! Maybe worth skipping over this one for some more positive travel tales. Leaving Guilin, my destination was Hanoi, Vietnam, via Nanning at the very southern tip of China. In Nanning, the plan was to book an overnight…

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Chinese Whispers

Karsts and caves in south China

Onboard yet another sleeper train, this time to Guilin, I travelled in the relative luxury of “hard sleeper” class with my own bed (hurray!). It was still jam-packed, though – like the Trans-Siberian all the beds are open in a dormitory style, but with three bunks high instead of two. Despite continued language barrier issues I still managed to converse with the passengers. Through the…

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Zhangjiajie

Enduring a journey from hell to discover a view from heaven

Oh my. No, I’m not referring to the breathtaking scenery in the pictures above (I’ll come onto that later) but the extraordinary means with which I got there. Okay, so it was still via train. But this time it was in hard seat class, which is essentially the Chinese equivalent of fourth class for overnight trips. And it lived up to its standard, or lack thereof….

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Sprawling Shanghai

Traversing an enormous metropolis

A speedy six hour train journey whisked me from Beijing to Shanghai Hongqiao station. The high speed trains in China work very efficiently. The formal boarding process, uni-directional seating, open walk-through carriages and modern interiors make them feel more like areoplanes than trains. As beautiful Chinese countryside flashed by at 150mph I couldn’t help notice the yellow sky above, and the huge power plants and…

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Great tales from China

A frantic first stop in the Chinese capital

A scenic overnight train journey from Ulaan Baatar to Beijing finally brought to an end my Trans-Mongolian journey. China was yet another country I was visiting for the first time, and after a fortnight in some of the most remote parts of the world I was more than ready to step into this buzzing metropolis. I had the pleasure of staying at Leo Hostel. It’s…

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