I talk more about the Cambodian genocide in my overview post here, but Phnom Penh is really the place to go to learn about it. There is also the Royal Palace to see, but it wasn’t too exciting.
We stayed at Eighty8 Backpackers, and there was a lot of partying with all the other backpackers. It was really fun, and the pool was much needed in the heat. They had beer pong too!! They also have a sign-up sheet so you can find other people to split a tuk tuk with to go out to the Killing Fields and the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum (S21). I, personally, had seen enough about the genocide after the Killing Fields, but I think you may as well see both while you’re there. It’s devastating stuff.
See our photos from Cambodia here.
You can’t visit Vietnam and not learn about the Vietnam War – it’s a key part of history and the region’s current identity and conflicts. Vietnam had been a French colony since the 1880s. The Vietnamese had been fighting the French for independence for a long time before the Japanese came in during WWII. After Japan left, the Vietnamese took over what was left and kicked out the French. The country was split into communist North Vietnam and non-communist South Vietnam. The Vietnam War was fought between North Vietnam (supported by China and the Soviet Union) and South Vietnam (supported by the US and allies to defeat communism), and it was nearly 20 years from 1955 – 1975. North Vietnam ended up winning, but the country still seems very divided. For example, people in the southern city of Ho Chi Minh City still call the city Saigon (the name of the city before the south lost).
In lighter news, my favorite part about Vietnam was the food. Yummmmm, the food! What you need to make sure you eat:
Hoi An is known for tailors. You can get anything you want custom made for you, and there are hundreds to choose from. Colin and I got matching outfits:
Hanoi means “land inside the river.” You definitely can’t skip Hanoi if you’re visiting Vietnam. Come for the food, history, and bars.
Colin and I really liked Myanmar. It’s a lot less touristy than other areas we’ve been to. The people are really nice and still seem happy to see tourists; whereas in other more touristy areas, I think that you get a lot of locals who hate the tourists (and I’m one of those crotchety locals when I’m at home too, so I don’t blame them). Colin and I actually got stopped a lot to take photos with locals and other Asian tourists (because of my purple hair and Colin’s red beard). In the photo above, I took individual pictures with almost everyone in the group – men and women. All the girls I passed stared at me, and a lot of them complimented me with something like, “pretty hair!” At one point, Colin was approached in a temple by about 15 men with military uniforms on. He was thinking he was in big trouble for something, but each of them wanted a picture with him so they could show their friends back in the smaller town in Myanmar that they were all from. It was fun!
Mandalay didn’t have very many tourists. We really liked that it seemed less traveled. That doesn’t mean they lack people and motorbikes though. Walking is difficult because there are so many motorbikes that don’t stop for you to cross, and there are no side walks (that aren’t covered with parked motorbikes or food stands). If you stay outside of the city center area, plan to taxi to and from your hotel. We actually had a hard time finding taxis though. We could always get our hotel to call us one, but to get back to the hotel, it was usually a motorbike taxi that was around. I refused to ride any of them (I know, lame, whatever – I am not getting in a motorbike accident here), so we eventually found a little pickup truck with a cage over the back and a couple of seats.
We spent almost 3 weeks in Thailand and visited 4 areas: Bangkok, Kata Beach on Phuket, Railay Beach in Krabi, and Koh Tao. For more detail on each location as well as getting vaccines in Thailand, see the links to each separate blog post at the bottom of this overview blog post. Also, be sure to see the pictures from Thailand here.
We LOVED Bangkok. I rarely visit the same place twice because there is so much to see in the world, but I could see myself going back to Bangkok. In fact, we’re considering going back as part of this trip. The street food is cheap and amazing. There are so many markets to visit, things to do, and temples to see!
New Zealand. Wow. We road tripped around South Island and North Island for 6 weeks. I think the photo above really says it all. That's me at the top of the Roys Peak Track celebrating the climb. New Zealand hikes are amazing, and the scenery is stunning. Colin and I combined forces to write a detailed blog here. I hope it helps your trip! Also, you'll definitely want to take a look at the photos we have from South Island here and North Island here.
Melbourne is a large hipster city. There are organic juices and smoothies everywhere, and everyone
eats fresh avocado smashed on sourdough bread (which is delicious by the way). I LOVE IT. If this isn’t your thing, there’s plenty else for you to eat, but I personally appreciated the easy access to healthy foods and vegan / vegetarian (and gluten free if you want that too). It's also near beaches and a beautiful route to drive for a day or more, the Great Ocean Road.
Hi, I'm Sara Monica Patton. I love animals, traveling, and eating. Read more about me in my first blog post here.