Vietnamese visas and a pitstop in Phnom Penh

When you’re travelling on as tight a schedule as we are, you’re continually being forced to think of the next place you’re going – how are you going to get there? How much does it cost? How many nights can I spend there? What’s there that I want to see? 

At this point in Siem Reap we were thinking about our next port of call, the capital Phnom Penh. Whilst we had planned to spend a couple of days there, some research and fellow traveller advice made us come to the decision that we’d rather get to Vietnam sooner and just use the capital as a stopover to break the journey between Siem Reap and Saigon. This meant we wouldn’t be hanging about in Cambodia for the sake of waiting until we could cross the border into Vietnam. Our orignal plan was to utilise the 15 day visa exemption for British nationals, but with a pretty tight schedule, even a couple more days in Vietnam would allow us slightly more breathing room. So we decided to pay the $45 (incidentally much cheaper than the £70 the Vietnamese embassy wanted back home!) and spend an extra day in Siem Reap until this was ready. And writing from Vietnam now, I’m glad we made this decision! 

Naturally we filled this extra day with a lazy breakfast, swimming in the pool and researching things to do in Phnom Penh and Vietnam.We booked our bus to The Cambodian capital through our hostel too so we would be all ready to go the next morning. 

This bus was a bit of an adventure as it was our first long distance bus journey of the trip and it turned out to be minibus rather then a full sized coach, and we’d been assigned specific seats – this wasn’t too bad for us but the two poor German guys who were over six foot and squashed in the back with the bags felt a bit hard done by – especially as the lady firmly refused to let them switch seats! It wasn’t too bad of a journey really, though it did take longer than the expected five hours because we stopped twice for a break. It was funny because everyone else seemed to get what was happening and how long the breaks were supposed to be, we just had to guess! 

So finally we made it to our destination, and bartered hard for a cheap tuk tuk for us and the two German guys who it turned out were staying near us. Fitting five people plus all our baggage in a tiny tuk tuk was a hilarious challenge, I wish someone took a photo as I was clinging to my bag for dear life! We arrived and checked in at our histel, Happy House Zone, dumped our bags and headed out to explore and find something to eat as we were ravenous. We ended up in a cafe having some delicious noodle soup and ice tea – Rhianna and Katie were determined to master their use of chopsticks so that was pretty amusing to watch 🙂 

We wanted to see the killing fields but in the end we didn’t have time as they were outside the city and would have been too difficult to get to under our own stream rather than as part of a tour. Instead we went to the just as significant S-21 for the afternoon: a school that was turned into a prison by the Khmer regime to house their enemies who wanted to revolt against them. The fact it was built as a school where children learnt and played really emphasised how harrowing it was. So many people were treated horrendously, tortured for information and killed. We got an audio tour which was really worth getting as it told you a lot of information as you walked round, including accounts from survivors. By all means it was a very heavy activity for the afternoon but really really interesting. Another thing that was lovely was a youth dance class going on in the grounds. It looked like contemporary to me but I could be wrong! It seemed fitting for the space to be used by the community again.

None of us were very hungry afterwards even though it was dinner time, and we’d had a late lunch, so we walked back across town to the hostel, showered, sorted ourselves out and booked our bus to Saigon for the next morning. We ended up going to a nearby restaurant and sharing a pizza between us and playing some pool in the hostel before hitting the hay ready for our 7 hour bus.


Street food, The Grand Palace and three potential cases of heat exhaustion

So we arrived fresh off the plane ready to explore Bangkok, but DEFINITELY not ready for the heat. It was a mere 35c in the shade and with it being pretty cold back in Blighty it’s safe to say it was a bit of a shock to the system. Amen for air con! 

On the plus side we had our first taste of Thai street food on our it’s night which was heavenly 👌 Pad Thai which they cook in front of you was incredible, as was this fried shrimp we all enjoyed 🍤🍜

Yummy fried shrimp

After dinner we meandered through the shopping centre to cool off (shocker, it’s the same as a shopping centre anywhere else) and visited the very busy Chinatown which was also filled with so much yummy looking street food we were sad we already ate. Getting to Chinatown was our first tuk tuk ride and it didn’t disappoint! There are seemingly no rules or lanes, yet everyone appears to know what they’re doing, zipping in and out between cars and motorbikes, the traffic is like nothing I’ve ever seen! You can tell that pollution is an issue here because the air is so thick and the fumes so strong, especially when you’re flying along in an open tuk tuk. My clothes even smell of fumes (ew).

Busy Chinatown
After our first afternoon in Bangkok we were all tired and jet lagged so an early night was needed! After a night’s rest in our cosy hostel we were ready to explore further afield as we decided to visit the Grand Palace, arguably the jewel in Bangkok’s crown and the no. 1 tourist destination. We grabbed a delicious smoothie from the hostel for brekkie and headed out into the heat.
To get to the Palace from where we were staying we walked to Pratunam pier and got a busy barge boat to the end of the river which was cool. There was a bit of a walk to the Palace in the blazing heat and the sun came out just for this leg of the journey, ramping up the difficulty. But we made it there and strolled into the Palace so it was all good right? Well… It would have been if we’d realised we needed our passports to get in 🙈 

So back to the hostel we went in a tuk tuk and had major deja vu repeating the same boat journey all the way back again. What idiots ey?

But it was totally worth it when we got inside the palace grounds. The amount of gold and shimmering mosaics was just so impressive. So much grandeur glinting in the midday sun with tourists swarming round to take photos. Here’s one this tourist took:

Grand Palace complex – Photos don’t do this justice
Unfortunately for these three Brits eventually the stifling heat was getting to us and with faces getting redder and redder we headed in search of refreshments and air con. We stumbled across a cafe called Favour which was perfect for this and had a bite to eat and iced tea – I went adventurous and had matcha green tea! They even sold clothes too, so cute.
Favour Cafe, Bangkok
From here we chilled out and did some travel planning for the next few days as we’re heading to Chiang Mai in Northern Thailand tomorrow. 

Whilst we we in the area we thought we better visit Bangkok’s famous Khaosan Road, essentially a tourist strip with market stalls, street food, bars, and people trying to sell you those lasers you see anywhere you go on holiday! It was a vibrant hectic jumble and the atmosphere was awesome. We soaked it all in from a bar with a bucket of sex on the beach (classy ladies) and perused the market stalls 

Khaosan road bar

And that brings us to our first two days in Thailand! Thanks for reading folks! 💕

Watch Rhianna’s vlog of our adventures here:

Hurray we’ve arrived in Bangkok!

After seventeen-ish hours of travelling, two planes, little sleep and my first experience of taxi driving in south east Asia (this was a little traumatic but we made it safe and sound) we’ve arrived in Bangkok 🙌

We’re staying in the cutest place called Good Day hostel in the centre of the city. It’s small but feels so bright and homely – anything with bunting and kitch floral cushions gets my seal of approval! Plus it even has a coffee shop attached.

Now to get over the jet lag and figure out where to go first. I think the plan is to see what the night market has to offer.

A little introduction

Hey there, as this is my first blog (as well as my first huge adventure outside Europe sans family) I thought I’d write a little intro to start us off.

I’m Sarah, born and bred in Cardiff and a recent English graduate trying to figure out what to do next in life, so naturally I’m packing my bags and jetting off to the other side of the world with my friends Rhianna and Katie. Let’s call it my post-uni crisis/gap year.

This humble blog is intended to be a documentation of my travels for curious friends and family, as well as something for me to look back on in the future. My intentions are to keep this updated as often as possible so I’ll try my best to stick at it.

Starting in Thailand, the plan is to travel through Cambodia and up the Vietnamese coast, before flying to Sydney and making our way up the East coast to Cairns, then hopping over to New Zealand and exploring both North and South islands.

Right now I’m off to start packing!