Expedition to Viet Nam and Cambodia

After a few years of hesitation I finally managed to fulfill my long time dream of going backpacking around Viet Nam. Thanks to hectic projects at work, I only had some 3 weeks to spend there, so the schedule was tight. Yet the trip was amazing in every proportion. Now, sitting by my desk watching snow fall outside it all seems so far away..


Our route there consisted of 3 flights, namely Helsinki-Paris, Paris-Bangkok and Bangkok-Ha Noi. We had booked the flights so that we would leave in the morning of Christmas Eve - around 6am of course, so that everyone would be as tired as possible. Why aren't there ever flights at decent hours? Damnit.

We would be flying on Air France, so not much joy to be anticipated there either. Expect rude service and getting "sorry, no more beer"'ed by the personnel when flying with AF. Hot coffee might also be served directly into your lap instead of the small plastic cup, unless you are careful to insist otherwise.

Anyway - off we went, and what a trip it became. Below are pictures and extractions of my travel log. Original log pages (in "Finnish" - pardon the language) can be seen here. And yes, they are written behind source code pages I printed for debugging a piece of subroutine that had bothered me for days.

Part 1: the journey there - Ha Noi - Hai Phong - Cat Ba
Part 2: Da Nang - China Beach - Hoi An - Marble Mountains
Part 3: Nha Trang - Phan Thiet (Mui Ne)
Part 4: Ho Chi Minh City - Ben Tre - Mekong delta
Part 5: Phnom Penh - Siem Riep (Angkor) - the way home

Some things to be mentioned:

  • The vietnamese currency is the "dong". 15k dong roughly equals 1usd/1euro. The Cambodean "riel" is somewhat stronger a currency, with about 3900r equaling 1usd.
  • Getting there and around took us a staggering total of 69 hours of traveling by plane, bus, train and boat. We covered a distance (not counting any flights) of 2250km, of which, for example, over 1200km by bus only.
  • The voyage consisted of 8 flights, 1 train trip, 7 bus trips and 3 boat trips plus the day of cruising on the Mekong river).
  • The guidebook Lonely Planet: Vietnam proved worth the money. Never leave home without one.
  • During the whole trip I cannot say I saw one single person dragging hard luggage around on those funny little wheels. Backpackers all the way, baby.
  • I'd say Viet Nam has still many years before it too gets plagued by tourist hordes on packet tours. Before that happens, I suggest you visit the country. No other place in the world I have yet seen is as beautiful, nor have I ever met folk of such wholehearted friendliness towards foreigners.