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Vietnam, Nepal and Burma Travel Forum Dedicated travel forum for Vietnam, Nepal, Bhutan, India, Bangladesh and Burma - Myanmar travel trips, did you go trekking in Nepal from Kathmandu, or go on a guided tour of Vietnam for your holidays and vacations, or are you just looking for tourist attractions to visit in Myanmar such as Burmese Temples and Pagodas. Post about your trips here and share your pictures.

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Old 16-02-2007, 10:01 PM   #1 (permalink)
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Wayne Kerr’s Phu Quoc Expeditions - Vietnam

Phu Quoc Island in southern Vietnam is my favourite island getaway. Two hours flying time from Bangkok, luxury resorts for about US$30 a night, perfect beaches, some of the best diving in the world, cheap seafood and grog, and the friendliest locals you’ll find in southeast Asia.

The travel route from Bangkok is first to Saigon then a domestic flight to Phu Quoc. Tickets for Bangkok-Saigon return are usually about 10,000 baht, then Saigon-Phu Quoc return is about $30. In terms of “bang for your buck” Phu Quoc must be one of the best holiday destinations in Asia, but this time it was mostly business for old Wayne Kerr.

I had a little bit of fun along the way and I’ll slowly get my pics in here over the next few weeks to help ease the tensions of being back at work in Bangkok – hope you enjoy .

Phu Quoc Island

For those of you wondering where the feck Phu Quoc is, it is just near the border of Vietnam and Cambodia. I knocked the maps below off from Google Earth. The flight from Saigon to Phu Quoc stops off at Rach Gia district airport in Kien Giang Province, so my plan was to stop off on the way and check out Rach Gia and Ha Tien districts before heading onto Phu Quoc. The island is about the same size of Singapore and for you Google Earth junkies just go to 10 degrees north and 104 degrees east and follow your nose.


^ Location of Phu Quoc Island in relation to Saigon and Cambodia


^ This time I stopped off at Rach Gia airport to check out the Rach Gia (pronounced Rex Zar) and Ha Tien districts. This area is quite close to Kampot in Cambodia and many people can speak Khmer.


^ I had some business to do in the island group to the south of the island so this was where I was headed – if you are a diver you can find some of the best coral reefs in the world here.
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Old 16-02-2007, 11:13 PM   #2 (permalink)
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Overnight in Saigon – Dog eat Dog

Overnight in Saigon – Dog eat Dog

My first stop was Saigon to catch up with old friends. They are dog meat aficionados and quickly rushed me off to their favourite dog meat restaurant upon my arrival. Dog meat is well liked by most Vietnamese and even young teenage girls are known to get into it these days.

Dog meat restaurants are everywhere in Saigon and dishes typically set you back about US$1-1.50. The taste is pretty bloody strong and I was hoping they’d order 1 or 2 non dog dishes to go with it, but no it was all dog meet and Vodka Hanoi.


^ This was the first dish served – sliced dog leg


^ Then the dog meat sausage came


^ This was some sort of minced dog meat with all sorts of special herbs and spices – KFC Saigon style


^ Then the dog meat soup came – this was mostly dog tail and brains


^ The was some “Kanom Gin” (don’t know what it is called in English) to eat with the soup


^ Fortunately we had some Vodka Hanoi to wash it down – this vodka seems to have become quite popular over the past year and is a little more expensive than my favourite “Nep Moi” the whole dinner set us back 170,000 Vietnamese Dong with a whole bottle of grog (say $US11) .

Showed Wayne Jnr the pics this morning and he was worried that the local soi dogs would smell their friend in my stomach and start following me around - I wish I still had an imagination like that.

Tan Son Nhat Hotel - Saigon

I ended up staying at the Tan Son Nhat Hotel. It used to be the office of the President of the pre 1975 government and I learned that most Vietnamese government guys stay there as they can get good rates through their communist party connections. Anyway it has great ADSL connection, lovely grounds, and only say 5 minutes from the airport for about US$21 a night (tansonnhathotel@hcm.vnn.vn).


^ Tan Son Nhat Hotel - Saigon

I had to fly out of Saigon at about 6.00am so it was an early night. Had a bit of an interesting encounter at the airport with some unruly Vietnamese passengers not so happy about a gate change for the Phu Quoc flight. They were pushing the police around and I only got a minute or so of footage before I got a tap on the shoulder by a big Vietnamese bloke in a dark suit telling me to put the camera away. It turned into more of an all in scuffle after this with the police whacking a few of the guys that where really out of control. I think they’d been drinking all night and traveling back to start preparing for the lunar new year celebrations.
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Old 16-02-2007, 11:18 PM   #3 (permalink)
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Some more footage of the unruly passengers at Saigon airport ...
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Old 17-02-2007, 12:27 AM   #4 (permalink)
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Saigon - Rach Gia

The flight from Saigon to Phu Quoc stops off at Rach Gia district airport. I stopped off here for a few days to check out the border country with Cambodia. Here’s a few pics of Rach Gia airport.


^ The plane used by Vietnam Airlines for the Saigon-Phu Quoc run


^ Rach Gia airport


^ Baggage collection area – reckon there must be some decent ping pong games between flights


^ Outside the arrivals area at Rach Gia Airport


^ Parking area at Rach Gia Airport
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Old 17-02-2007, 01:09 AM   #5 (permalink)
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Did the dog taste like anything you've tasted before?
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Old 17-02-2007, 03:34 AM   #6 (permalink)
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Good start to what I am hoping to be an excellant thread.
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Old 17-02-2007, 05:29 AM   #7 (permalink)
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Great photos. Don't know if I want to try dog meat though.
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Old 17-02-2007, 08:17 AM   #8 (permalink)
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more please
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Old 17-02-2007, 09:08 AM   #9 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by daveboy View Post
Did the dog taste like anything you've tasted before?
Daveboy, dog has a very unique and strong flavour. One really has to dip it in that purple coloured sauce (fermented shrimp) and wrap it in the vegetables to kill the flavour a bit. It also helps if you eat it with a bit of rice cake and a sip of the vodka .
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Old 17-02-2007, 10:42 AM   #10 (permalink)
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think i'd just be sipping the vodka...fok eating dog...
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Old 17-02-2007, 11:25 AM   #11 (permalink)
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I didn't bother trying dog when I went to Hanoi. Looking forward to the rest of this thread.
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Old 17-02-2007, 12:27 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Great stuff.
Details about those "bang values" on the island, please...
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Old 18-02-2007, 09:30 PM   #13 (permalink)
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Life is full of surprises. There I was fresh back in Thailand from Vietnam, had started this thread, and was looking forward to a peaceful weekend friggin around on the net. Next thing I know my wife’s grandma kicks the bucket and we were off to Petchabun Province for the funeral. She was 97 years old and this is the third time she died in the past year - the two other times she woke up a few hours after being pronounced dead by the local doctor.

I always thought she was from Lopburi as this is where she had lived for a long time, but after her two recent near death experiences she instructed her daughters to take her back to die in her home province of Petchabun. Seemed to do the trick but as you can imagine the hot gossip at the funeral revolved around whether she was “playing dead” or not. There was lots of knocking on the casket and checking her wrists for a pulse etc.

The jury is still out, my wife reckons she could feel some life in her, but by the look of her in the casket she was well had it in my eyes. Although when I think about it she did look pretty much the same as other times I’d seen her sleeping. The Thais love taking photos of deadies, my wife even took some, but in respect for the dead and all that I won’t post them here.

The funeral was pretty much the same as other central Thailand funerals I’ve been too. Monks come the night before the cremation and say some prayers and chant a bit and everyone gets roaring drunk and plays poker next to the casket into the wee hours of the morning. Then the monks come in the early afternoon, more chanting and prayers, and the casket is taken around the cremation pyre three times, and some coins are thrown out for the kids to chase. Some local officials pay their respects, we normal people go up and put some flowers on the body and pay our last respects, then it’s into the burner and that’s it. I’m sure there’s a hell of a lot more too it, but that’s the take from a cultural imbecile like me.


^ This was the head Monk - in this photo he was joking with the crowd by asking Mrs. Kerr and co if they’d kept a regular check on her pulse to make sure she was really dead.


^ This a scene I snapped whilst grabbing a few spare chairs for the monks that turned up late. My wife’s family isn’t well off by any stretch of the imagination but they wanted to send off the oldest member of their family in style. Their goal was to get 99 monks and 106 turned up – they were chuffed. The chanting from a group like this in the small temple was awesome. I’ve heard that some funerals get several hundred monks – can’t imagine what the chanting would be like then.


^ A nice scene at the end of the day

Here’s a video showing the casket being taken up to cremation pyre and the chaos when they throw the coins out for the kids to chase. Anyway sorry to side track things here and I hope the next post will be more on Phu Quoc.
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Last edited by Wayne Kerr : 18-02-2007 at 09:34 PM.
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Old 18-02-2007, 09:47 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Is that guy playing a trumpet?
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Old 18-02-2007, 11:21 PM   #15 (permalink)
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Yes I think he’s trying to .

Anyway, back to the road …

Ha Tien District, Kien Giang Province, Southern Vietnam

After getting off the plane at Rach Gia airport we were rushed off to a hotel opposite the central market. You’ll find that Vietnamese always like to stay close to the central market whenever they travel abroad, and I highly recommend following their lead when visiting out of the way places in Vietnam. You’ll easily find everything you need within walking distance – and I mean everything, even in the smallest of towns.

The rate was VND 200,000 Dong (about 450 baht) a night, air-con, big bed, western dunny, and coffee and bread for breakfast. I had some business to do in Ha Tien district that day and was pretty sure things would get boozy in the afternoon so was just happy to have somewhere to hang my hat.

I’ve developed a habit of collecting hotel business cards. I usually stick'em in the photo section of my wallet just in case I pass out in a joint where I'm not know (I’m not bad at doing this in Sihanoukville, Cambodia) - it also helps avoid those embarrassing moments when you’ve been putting on the eligible bachelor show all evening and end up flashing all and sundry the photos of your wedding and kids in your wallet come time to pay the bill.

Anyway, the place I stayed is called the "Hong Nam” Hotel which I thought was going to be a real shit house (pardon the pun), but it ended up being really good. Here’s the card in case you’re ever going through town:


^ Contacts for the Hong Nam Hotel in Rach Gia, Vietnam

Nui Binh San Temple – Burial Place of Mac Cuu

After dumping the bags we were off to Ha Tien which must be 3 hrs west of Rach Gia. My colleagues wanted me to see Nui Lang Mountain and the Nui Binh San Temple, which is where the tombs of a bloke called Mac Cuu and most of his family are. I think Mac Cuu is responsible for securing that part of the coast from the Cambodians in the early 18th century and holds a special place in the hearts of most Vietnamese. The temple is small and hot, but the enthusiasm about the place from the Vietnamese impressed the feck out of me, I even think at one stage they held a short commie party meeting up on the hill but I didn’t ask any questions about what they were up to.


^ Entrance to the Nui Bin San Temple in Ha Tien, Vietnam – this place is dedicated to a bloke called Mac Cuu and as you can see from the writing on the archway he was originally from China


^ The original archway leading into the temple


^ Map showing where Mac Cuu and all his descendents are buried in the hill behind the joint


^ Inside the Nui Binh San Temple


^ A mate paying his respects


^ I guess the Internet is flooded with images of Chinese temples at this time of the year, but here’s another one.

Anyway, that’s all I’ve got from Nui Binh San Temple. My friends asked me not to take any pictures of Mac Cuu’s tomb, or any other tombs for that matter, and if you know any Vietnamese you’ll understand why I took this request seriously.
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Old 19-02-2007, 12:14 AM   #16 (permalink)
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Ha Tien Cave

Next stop was the nearby Ha Tien Cave which is inside a limestone hill overlooking the Vietnamese and Cambodian islands offshore. There are hundreds of islands out there, most uninhabited, and many have great diving around them. I can’t wait for my retirement checking them all out on a small fishing boat – I reckon I’d be on my way now if the right to retirement was measured by the number of bloody temples and Buddhist caves one had visited and not age. Anyway, I really enjoy these cave temple places and I wasn’t disappointed by this.


^ Entrance to the Ha Tien Cave – apparently the local lasses sit under the dick looking thing hanging off the mountain if they want to get pregnant. There was a bit of pointing at the rock, then me, then the girls sitting under the rock, but shit you get used to this stuff after a while.


^ No tuk-tuk drivers or postcard sellers out the front of this joint


^ Some locals doing their thing


^ There is an image of a beautiful lady on this wall - I could see it after having had it pointed out to me but in a small picture like this you may only be able to see the outline of her but not the detail


^ This is the room where the monks knock about


^ The main statue up on the third floor


^ Interesting view from up there

Here’s a video of some Vietnamese fellows paying their respects. Thought I had got a good clip with the bell ringing and all until some kid's toy gun started going off in the background – there are of course many cultural similarities between Vietnam and Thailand .
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Old 19-02-2007, 12:59 AM   #17 (permalink)
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Vietnam-Cambodia Border

One of the main reasons for visiting Ha Tien was to check out the new border facility there. Both Vietnam and Cambodia are hoping that this will turn into a key support facility for plans to develop tourism in the area. Cambodia is working on developing an International airport in Sihanoukville – this looks like it will go ahead. The Vietnamese have a master plan for the development of Kien Giang Province, including Ha Tien, Rach Gia, and Phu Quoc Island.

Sihanoukville - Ha Tien aint far and they're hoping to develop a coastal tourism route along the coast over the next 5 years. They also have some trade issues with loads of gasoline, which is half the price in Vietnam compared to Cambodia being pushed from east to west across the border each day. However, one of the main problems is a dispute between local officials over where the exact border is – shit it is only like 10 metres but there are two blokes involved from competing families in the area (1 Viet, 1 Khmer) and it is a real dog's breakfast.


^ The only photo the Vietnamese army would permit me to take of the new border facility


^ The first thing you notice once walking through the facility and the old Vietnamese border gates is a mark on the road showing where the Cambodians think the border is according to their Global Positioning System (GPS) – when you walk a further 10 metres west you come across the location where the Vietnamese want the official border to be (according to their GPS). This is really slowing things down as large sections of a small creek inland of these marks either fall under Vietnamese or Cambodian jurisdiction depending on where they decide upon the border. The creek is used for transporting goods and both countries want more control over what goes on there. I was not allowed to take a photo of the creek.


^ Where the Vietnamese reckon the border is (this is on the Cambodian side of their border mark)


^ Walking back into Vietnam from Cambodia under the old border gates


^ A view of the old border gates looking into Cambodia
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Old 19-02-2007, 08:41 AM   #18 (permalink)
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Would this island paradise be a good place to visit, if you have never been to Vietnam, or speak any vietnamese? Also, do you need to take your own "sand" to this beach.....???
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Old 19-02-2007, 08:44 AM   #19 (permalink)
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DD's pet's could feed an entire village...!!! Curried Maggie in brown sauce...!!! Just a sic joke, darling teerak Maggie..!!!
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Old 19-02-2007, 10:11 AM   #20 (permalink)
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hey mend...you back in the land of the living again...

call me when you're in Bkk...numbers the same...
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Old 19-02-2007, 09:53 PM   #21 (permalink)
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Quote:
Originally Posted by mend View Post
Would this island paradise be a good place to visit, if you have never been to Vietnam, or speak any vietnamese? Also, do you need to take your own "sand" to this beach.....???
Yes to the first question, no to the second.

Anyway, back to the road …

Lunch on Ha Tien Beach

After the dog meat dinner the night before, I was in need of a good seafood lunch and a few beers to wake me up. Unfortunately they only had Heineken but it was cold and alcoholic – sitting on a beach in southern Vietnam any bloody cold beer tastes good. Here’s a few pics of my first lunch.


^ Ha Tien Beach – since there are hundreds of islands offshore the coast along here is shallow and muddy. The tip of the headland at the end of the beach marks the coastal border between Vietnam and Cambodia. We were one of three small groups there.


^ First up we had some delicious swimming crabs and cold beer


^ Then some steamed grouper and battered squid rings


^ View from our table towards the beach


^ The beer wench. A funny thing I’ve noticed is that the Vietnamese and Chinese men love to make waitresses scull beer with them. This poor Cambodian-Vietnamese lass just about passed out by the time we left .


^ The road snakes along the coast for tens of kilometres here. This pic is looking back towards the headland marking the Cambodia-Vietnam border – the Vietnamese are investing loads of money into this sea side drive .
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Old 19-02-2007, 10:28 PM   #22 (permalink)
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Phu Tu Limestone Karsts

Next stop on the way back to Rach Gia was to see the Phu Tu limestone karsts. There was always two, one they called the father, the other the son, but in May 2006 the father broke in half and fell into the sea. First things first of course, and it seems you can’t get to anywhere decent in Vietnam without going through a temple and a cave.


^ Entrance to the Phu Tu temple


^ Loads of statues at the Phu Tu temple


^ A scene from inside the cave located out the back of the Phu Tu temple


^ The other side of the temple cave 1


^ The other side of the temple cave 2


^ This is what the pointy rocks used to look like before the one on the left fell into the sea last year.

The local government have held loads of meetings over recent months to try and work out how to pick the now broken bit up from the sea floor and stick it back on. I reckon they should leave it as is and promote it as a dive destination.


^ Dried critters caught in the temple and nearby sea – geckos, seahorses, sea stars etc. Vietnamese “Vitamin V” .


^ Toys for the kiddies – the big ones could shoot the plastic shot through a tarpaulin. Wanted to get one for Wayne Jnr but had no room in the suitcase and didn’t know how it’d look in the hand luggage.

After this we bought a load of beer for the drive back to Rach Gia and we were all passed out by the time we got there .
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Old 19-02-2007, 10:48 PM   #23 (permalink)
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This all led to a pretty quiet night in downtown Rach Gia - if only it wasn't for all the bloody motorcycles disturbing the peace.
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Old 19-02-2007, 11:08 PM   #24 (permalink)
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The day before flying out to Phu Quoc Island

The next day was all meetings but it was all worth it knowing that the next day we’d be getting off the mainland and onto Phu Quoc Island. We had a very pissy dinner followed by a visit to the local massage parlour – the rate in the joint we visited was VND 50,000/hour (about US$3-4). Not many pics of this day but the video reminds me a lot of us drinking too many bottles of Vietnamese Vodka “Nep Moi” and getting stuck into a great hot pot of shrimp and squid .


^ Scene out the window of the meeting room I was holed up in all day


^ Start of dinner watching the sun set looking towards the Gulf of Thailand


^ Mud crab and sashimi grouper for starters

This video pretty much sums up the rest of the night before hitting the massage joint .
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Old 20-02-2007, 04:10 AM   #25 (permalink)
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This thread keeps getting better and better.

Also that bloke in the above video almost lost all the hairs on his hands when he reached across the burning fish to 'chon geow'
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