As most of the countries are in lock down and Malaysia is no exception. I thought it might be wiser to write the memoirs of my past travel .As mention in my blog earlier i have lost most of my travel photos in a online travel album.Anyway i can still remember some of the unlucky or happy incidents or surprises which happen throughout my travel before retirement.i am going to base it by countries traveling with a friend or solo.All this travelling happens during pre covid but the memoirs of past travel was written during covid lockdown.
” white saree draping girls“
Cambodia and Vietnam was my first two countries which i traveled with my friend. This was around 2008 when we landed in Phnom penh the capital of Cambodia.After a few days in Phnom penh we moved to Siam Reap the location of the famous Angkor watt. After our day tour of this historical city as usual at night we have to fill our hungry stomach as we were strolling around the town we came across a restaurant named “kama sutra”. serving Indian cuisine.We decided to give it a try as we went in we saw a group of women with their beautiful white saris drape around their slim bodies serving diners.At first we were surprised to see such a setting in a country outside India as the local Indian population is nil. We enjoyed the food and realize that those girls were local Cambodian girls who dress like the native Indians.We chat with the restaurant owner who is from India.The “white Saree girls” is meant to give a Indian ambience to the restaurant.I do not know whether this restaurant still exists today or not.
As we know Vietnam is next to the Cambodian border we decided to visit Vietnam as well.We took the ferry service running between Phnom Penh and Chau Doc ,the border town of Vietnam.As the helmsman navigates along the wide Mekong River which is the longest in South East Asia i and my friend start chatting with other tourist as well as enjoying the Cambodian countryside as we pass along villages and paddy fields along the river bank.After about 3 hours our ferry stopped at a village near Vietnam border.We were told we have to take a different ferry.We disembark and saw a lot of souvenir shops nearby. We have already bought some souvenirs in Phnom Penh so after buying some mineral water i and my friend decided to stroll around the area as the new ferry has not arrived yet.As we exploring the area we were soon swarmed by a group of children promoting all kind of Cambodian goodies ranging from souvenir to food. It looks like they have learn to speak simple english and tellings us we must be from New Delhi,India as a matter of facts we were Malaysian Indians.We told them simply “no money” and try to move away from the area. As we quickly move towards the ferry but to our dismay there is one small girl start following and pestering us to buy something from her.After getting fed up we decided to buy some bread but again she did not have the change on the balance she was suppose to give us.We just told her we will pay back later on our way back to Cambodia from Vietnam. We were suprised she just agreed and we don’t know why she trust us.It is not a big amount and maybe she got a inner feeling that we will somehow pay her. Anyway we know this people are really very poor and we have no heart to not pay this poor girl .So we bought more drinks to get some small change and we paid her and saw her smilling face.
Delay at immigration
The coffee puzzle
As we settle down for breakfast we just use sign language to order bread and coffee as they don’t understand English. We were served some bread with jam and cheese.We were expecting some coffee in a glass like what it was in Cambodia. We were soon served with a glass and a big cup arranged one on top of another which smells like coffee. Feeling puzzled and confused but at the same time we try to figure out how are we going to drink it.We could not ask the stall owner as they can’t speak any English.We taught it is a strange way of drinking coffee.In the end we just try to sip the liquid both in the glass and the cup which was very bitter.Feeling embarrassed we quickly left after paying the bill and board the bus to Ho chi minh city.It is only very much later in Ho Chi Minh city that we learn the art of drinking vietnam coffee from a waiter who can speak English.
HO Chi Minh city(saigon)
Coconut Water Rip Off
When we were walking along a street during one of our sightseeing trip in the city when we were stopped by a man peddling some young coconuts.He offered us some fresh coconut water and since it was a hot day we decided to freshen up with some cool juices.The mistake is we did not ask the price beforehand as the man look friendly and honest.After gulping the tasty juice when we ask the price he told us in the local currency Dong. We are not familiar with this currency so we paid up and moved without suspecting anything.Only after lunch time in a cafe when the bill came and we paid more or less the same amount we realized how the coconut water for two person equals the lunch for two person.We knew we have been taken for a ride by this sweet talking coconut water peddler.As a matter of fact we try another coconut drink by the roadside asking the price before hand and realize the price was about four time cheaper. lesson learnt to know the currency conversion and to ask the price in advance.
Ho chi minh city to Bangkok
Churches in Vietnam
One striking difference i noticed between Cambodia and Vietnam is there are many beautiful churches in Vietnam but there are hardly any in Cambodia.Before setting foot in Vietnam i never expected to see so many churches over there. I thought all the countries in the north east must be Buddhist except for the Philippines.. Cambodia.Laos and Vietnam are French colony and are known as French Indochina before independence.One reason why there are lack of churches in Cambodia might be the local king with the understanding of the colonizer might have refused entry to missionary or they are not so successful as in Vietnam. After all the kings play a important role in preserving the culture and tradition of the local people especially before independence.I am not a religious fanatic or what but merely pointing out the difference.After spending a few days in Ho Chi minh city we decided to return to Malaysia our home country.As we were working and we got less than a week before reporting for duty.
Travel Without Flight
Is solo travel better?
we decided to put up in phnom penh for the night and proceed the next day to Bangkok. As i was with a friend there is always some misunderstanding and sometimes quarrel over over certain things. The quarrel and misunderstanding can be over hotel booking., spending too much time in a particular tourist spot and missing on other interesting areas. Sometime can also quarrel over choosing restuarants and other trival issues.Whatever at the end of the day we patch up our difference and proceed with our destination. Is solo travel a better option.
Tonle Sap River
When we first arrived in Phnom Penh from Kuala Lumpur by flight we spend about 2 days in Phnom Penh and manage to visit a few places like the Royal Palace,Independence monument and the National Museum in this city. The Royal Palace located along the river bank was beautiful. The other activity along the river bank which i can still remember is releasing caged birds for a small fees.Tourist who spend money on this crazy idea are only encouraging this people to keep the birds in captivity. Now I will try to explain our route to any reader who might get confused. After landing in Phnom Penh and spending about 2 days here than went to Siam Reap and spending 2 days there and than back to Phnom Penh again and headed to Ho Chi Minh city and now we are back again in Phnom Penh for the third time again. As we have to report for work in Kuala Lumpur and time is not on our side we decided to book the ticket the very next day to Bangkok.After booking our hotel and ticket from a travel agent near the riverside of Tonle Sap we had our dinner at one of the cafe which is quiet pricey as this area is filled with many tourist.After dinner we decided to explore this area which is bustling with all kind of activity. The road opposite the river bank has many pubs, karaoke joints, bars, cafes and other entertainment outlet .As we walk along we saw buskers playing music and boys enticing tourist to buy their service or products, Well i thought Cambodia must have come a long way since the Pol Pot regime.
Bumpy And Dusty Road
The next day we took the bus towards Bangkok.Half an hour along the route in a small village we were directed by the bus driver to board a car which already had 2 passengers inside. The car looks better than the crowded bus and the driver assured us that it is safe and the car is traveling to Bangkok.We transfer the luggage to the car and continue the journey.We befriended the couple inside the car who are Thais and can speak English They are also going to Bangkok.We came to understand they are frequent travelers between Thailand and Cambodia and are doing business.The road condition was too bad and it was a bumpy ride all the way to the Thai border.Some part of the road look more like a plantation road and in some parts along the way the road is tarred to make the road better.Luckily we were inside a air condition car but there were dust flying all around the car as our car move forward.The was around 2008 and maybe the road system might be better now?
No Mans Land
We reach the border around 1 pm.When we were traveling in the car the lady told us that we have to queue and the queue will be long and will take more than 2 hours to get the passport processed.She offered to make the process faster and easier but we have pay usd10 per person and she will pass the money to a certain person to expedite the process. We agreed as we were worried we will be delayed at the immigration and it will be late at night by the time we reach Bangkok.We are also worried as this is the first time in Bangkok and we have not booked any hotel yet.We paid the money to the lady.She also told us to be careful with our purse and passport as snatching is common in this no mans land and it difficult to recover our belongings or make a police report if any of this bad incidence happen.She escorted us over to the Thai Border and many youths who look like potential snatch thief standing on both sides of the no man land.Inside the immigration complex we saw a long queue waiting for the passport to be processed and our new lady friend took us to a counter were our passport were processed immediately and we were soon inside Thailand.
She introduce us to a new driver who is suppose to take us to Bangkok by a van.The lady soon disappeared and after showing the ticket to the new driver he told us to take our lunch first.We took our lunch at one of the eatery and at the same time keeping our eye on this driver worried it might be a scam. We were forced to wait for more than two hours by this driver who told us he have to wait for other passengers who are getting their passport ready at the immigration. This make us frustrated . We realize it was a mistake to pay the sum of usd 20 to this lady we met in the car and instead queue up like others and save the usd 20 for other expenses.We do not know this lady is sincere or is a crook? Left with no choice we waited and finally the driver told us to sit in a van parked nearby.By 4.00pm all the passengers have assembled and sited inside the van.After the headcount by the driver and his assistance we took of for Bangkok.
Smooth Ride To Bangkok
Inside Thailand we were surprised to see the roads were as good as in Malaysia.All this while we thought only Malaysia got the best highway in this part of the world.Highway starts at the border and all the way to Bangkok.The ride was smooth and fast.We reach Bangkok around 6.00pm.This is first time in Bangkok and we saw many skyscrapers and flyovers in the city,After dropping all the other passengers in different parts of the city when it is our turn the driver ask us where exactly we want to get down.We told him we want to drop at the railway station.He asked us back which railway station we were heading as there are more than one railway station in the city.We were taken back by this comment and than after some thoughts we told him to take us to the station where we can get the train to Kuala Lumpur,Malaysia.He mentioned it is Hua Lumphong station and headed towards there. He drop us at Hua Lamphong station.We finally reached Bangkok around dusk.
Bangkok To Kuala Lumpur
Hua Lamphong Station
The Hua lampong station looks massive with a unique design. We went inside hoping to see any stranger who can speak English. We saw a policeman and taught he can speak some English and approach him to ask him about ticket counter.Unfortunately he can’t speak any but he directed us to the reception. At the reception counter the lady who can speak English show us the ticket counter .We were unfortunate in the sense that there is no train schedule for the night leaving to Malaysia but the ticket clerk told us the train for the next day to Butterworth ,Malaysia was fully booked so he ask us to come the next day to see if there is any last minute cancellation from passengers. With no choice left we knew we have to put up for the night in Bangkok. Since we are not familiar with the city we went back to the reception to inquire about some cheap hotels nearby. I remember the Thai receptionist was very helpful as she give us some guidance to nearby hotels and hostels.
A Night In Bangkok
We managed to find a hostel suited to our budget for the night for the two of us.The next day after our breakfast at the hostel we headed back to the railway station hoping somebody might have cancelled the trip but again we were disappointed.Anyway the ticket clerk suggested there are still tickets available to the southern city of Hat yai.We go to Hat yai first and from there we can easily get a train to Butterworth,Malaysia.We thought this might be a better idea than looking for a bus and bought a ticket straightway. Since the train is schedule to leave at 3.00pm and we still got about 5 hours so we decided to take a cab to silom road just to do some window shopping and take our lunch over there.Around 2.00pm we were back at the station coming earlier as we were worried we might miss the train.
After taking our seats the train start at around 3.00 pm moving slowly southwards to the city of Hat yai.We sat and watch as the scenery changes from urban to rural settings. We prepare ourself for the long journey as we are suppose to reach Hat yai the next morning. This train stops in every small town and i guess it is traveling at an average speed of 70-80km an hour and that’s why it is taking such a long time to reach the distinction. Anyway it is enjoyable as we past the countryside the scenery was superb as we saw vast track of pad field or rice field as far as the eye can see with the sunset on the background.No wonder Thailand is a large exporter of rice.The scene keeps changing with small settlements of houses here and there with Wat the Buddhist shrine and sometimes you can get a glimpse of mountain ranges at a distance. Really beautiful so we don’t mind the slow speed journey. In the evening we went for some tea in the small cafeteria at the back of the train.What a way to experience the train travel with some coffee or tea enjoying the countryside and in some towns when the train stop this street vendors rushing in to sell their stuffs.
Around 6.00pm some girls dress like air hostess start making the sleeping berths with some joints.The sleeping berth was nicely done and we were quiet surprise the girls were very efficient. After washing our face we went for some dinner around 8.00pm. After taking our dinner we decided to stay back for some beers.We were soon join by some foreigners who start joking and talking all nonsense.We can’t enjoy any scenery except for some street light once a while and the train siren blaring on the quiet night. As we drinking some beers we realize we can;t enjoy this privilege in Malaysian trains as it is a muslim conservative country. Around 1.00am we went to sleep in the berth.We did not have a peaceful sleep as our sleep was sometimes interrupted whenever the train passes a bridge and the sleeping berth start vibrating.Maybe travelers who often travel in a train are use to this type of sleeping environment. Around 6.00am the same girls who fixed the sleeping berth came back to dismantle them. We than sit and see the dawn as the daylight gets brighter.As the train approaches Hat yai houses and mosques become common and we hardly see any wat.We understand that this is due to the fact that southern Thailand has a large muslim population.
We wash our face and mouth and prepare for our arrival in Hat yai.At Hat yai station we have no time to spare for anything as the train to Butterworth is already waiting to take off anytime soon.We quickly rush to buy the ticket and get aboard on this train.Soon we were on the way to the malaysian border and from there to Butterworth. As we were hungry we quickly move to the cafeteria to take a bit as the border is not far away.When we reach the border we have to go through the immigration process.Malaysian passport holders were told to queue on one side and foreigners the other side.After our passport was stamped and luggage checked we got into the same train but the driver’s coach was changed.The train finally pulled at the Butterworth station around 1.00pm.After lunch we took a bus to Kuala Lumpur on the same day reaching our homes around 6.00pm.
It was my first journey aboard with a friend.The whole journey took about 13 days.What is interesting about this trip is we pass through three countries that is Vietnam,Cambodia and Thailand.We went by flight and came back by bus,car,van,and train.My only regret is I could not stay longer in Bangkok as our leave was only for 14 days. Actually it would have been better if we took a flight direct from Kuala Lumpur to Ho Chi Minh city and travel westwards from there to Bangkok.Better planing will safe cost and time.After this i have been to Thailand a few times but i am thinking of taking this route again one day.