We awoke to the sound of torrential rain failing outside.  This changed our plan to walk to the bus stop, with a last minute call for a taxi. When we arrived at the bus stop, which had now turned into a small river, we grabbed our bags to find shelter while we waited for the bus to be ready for boarding. As the departure time drew closer we checked with the attendant which bus was ours before carting our bags through the drenching rain to have them stowed. Unfortunately, as we boarded we were told this wasn’t the correct bus requiring us to remain in the downpour while we transferred our luggage to the correct bus. We left Ho Chi Minh soaking wet, made worse with the buses freezing air-conditioner but happy to finally be on our way.

The journey was one of the better bus journeys we had endured, with refreshments and Wi-Fi on offer. We soon learnt how bad Cambodian roads were, filled with potholes and, at times, missing complete sections. Thankfully, before long, we had arrived in Phnom Penh, caught a Tuktuk to our guesthouse and checked in.

With only a short stay in Phnom Penh we had no real plans, intending to spend the time we had just wandering the streets to see what we could find. Our feet soon brought us to the river and café strip, perfect for a late lunch and our first taste of Cambodian cuisine. The rest of the afternoon was spent along the streets of Phnom Penh, before finally heading back to the guesthouse for a few beers and an early night.

Up at 5am, packed and waiting, we were soon picked up and taken to the bus station for our next leg to Siem Reap. This was with the same company from the day before, offering the same level of service. The route had the typical poor quality roads that were so common in Cambodia but took us through some amazing countryside. Often the road would snake through the Mekong Delta, water on each side as far as you could see. When there were houses they would be stilted, amidst the river and most with their own water buffaloes keeping guard out the front. For those houses to far from the road, you would often see the inhabitants making their way by boat to where they needed to be.

On the approach to Siem Reap, as we made our way from the outskirts of the small city along one of the main roads, the change was quite apparent. Rubbish became more common (in contrast to Vietnam), the roads more dusty and filled with Tuktuks, Cambodian-style.

Our guesthouse, Tom and Jerry, was a short walk from the main tourist area, so once we were organised we headed off to see what the place had to offer. Just down the road we found a small bar that served food, ate our fill and got talking with some fellow backpackers from England and Ireland. As the night descended, the drinks started flowing more heavily and before long we were all best of friends. After numerous games of pool we decided to join them for dinner on the infamous “Pub Street”. Along the way, we came across a fellow Australian in the midst of purchasing a bag of fried crickets. With the help of beer, peer pressure and dumb curiosity, I took him up on the offer to try one. After overcoming the initial repulsion, taking my first bite, I was surprised at how tasty they were. A worthwhile experience even though I spent the next 15 minutes trying to get the tiny legs out of my teeth. We finally made our way to Pub Street for dinner, sampling some cobra while we were there, then spent the rest of the night moving from one pub to the next for a very late night.

With only two full days in Siem Reap we had hoped to see the Temples of Angkor on our first day. However, due to the previous nights shenanigans, lazing in bed seemed like a much better idea. After a nice long sleep in, we spent the afternoon exploring our surrounds, finding a travel agent for a tour the following day and transport to Bangkok the day after that. The evening found us at the Night Markets, stopping for dinner before browsing the various wares on offer.

We were picked up early by minibus, on our way to the Angkor temples, in a conveniently small group of two others and us. First stop, after purchasing our entry ticket, was at Angkor Wat. The temple complex was huge, with us entering the rear gate and catching our first glimpse of the main temple in the distance. Our guide informed us of the technical achievements of the construction, with the whole site being extremely symmetrical. With the hot sun beating down on us, Kayla sick and the crowds growing, we made our way through the cooler halls of the temple, admiring the bas-relief sculptures embedded in the walls.

We said our goodbyes to Angkor Wat and a happy hello to the air-conditioned minivan, waiting at the front gate ready to whisk us away to the Bayon temple. Here the focus was on the bas-relief sculptures themselves. Apparently, the Bayon temple contains some of the best bas-relief in the world, with extremely detailed stories being told on the walls of the ruin. Continuing on, we made our way to Angkor Thom, for some scenic views from it’s pyramidal top. With the noonday sun sapping our energy, we were all glad to make our way to lunch and a small respite from the heat. From here we headed to our final temple, Ta prohm, the temple made more famous by the Tomb Raider movie. This ruin was one of the highlights, helped in no small part due to it being shaded, but mostly due to the remarkable trees that were overtaking the dilapidated buildings. Initially from here we were meant to travel to a nearby mountain for sunset views, however clouds had rolled in, an ominous sky blocking any hopes for a mountain sunset. Returning to our guesthouse, we revisited the main streets of Siem Reap, saying our goodbyes and getting a few last minute photos before we left in the morning.


We finally arrived in Hanoi after a 30-hour bus ride that was only suppose to take 24-hours and boy were we happy to get off that bus. So into a taxi we got and we were on our way to the hostel for a much needed hot shower, a comfy bed and a good night sleep.

The next morning we woke early, ready to hit the pavement and see this new city. After a quick simple breakfast we headed out to explore the streets. Before we knew it, it was time for lunch, so we decided to try a rooftop Japanese restaurant where we were rewarded with great food, strong Wi-Fi and an amazing view of the Hoan Kiem Lake (also known as Sword lake or Turtle lake). After lunch we headed down to the nearest tourist information center to get directions to an English-speaking doctor in order to get some medical TLC for my sick stomach. Directions in hand we jumped in a taxi, heading over to the French quarter of town. After a quick visit with the doctor, which ended up costing us $130, with antibiotics in hand we head back to the lake for a quick coffee before dinner and an early night.

The next morning I was still feeling a little under the weather, plus the weather was a little wet, so we decided to spend the morning in bed. Glenn headed down for breakfast before deciding to try and find a local coffee shop that had decent Wi-Fi, as the hotels Wi-Fi was sketchy at best. Due to the rain beginning to get heavier, the coffee shop he was forced to stop at turned out to be the most expensive one around, charging a small fortune. It was getting close to lunchtime and I was getting hungry, so after a quick Facebook conversation we decided I would meet him before searching for a cheap place to eat. The rest of the afternoon was spent wandering the streets, dodging the rain and motorbikes, until it was time to yet again find a place to eat among Hanoi’s ample selection.

The next morning we were up early and ready to meet our guide for the walking tour we were taking. This was run by a company called Hanoikids , which gave university students the opportunity to conduct walking tours of the city while practicing their English. It was one of the best walking tours we have been on during our trip and the only free walking tour that was actually free. She took us to the local market, showed us the old and French quarters before taking us to the Temple of Literature. This was like nothing we had ever seen before. It was not only a temple but also the first university, surrounded by amazing gardens with Chinese symbols made of flowers as well many bonsai trees, some sculpted into the shape of Chinese zodiac animals.

We had a quick lunch, after the tour then headed to the theatre for a Water Puppet show. This was a cultural puppet show with the puppets dancing on and in water to music being played on traditional Vietnamese instruments, the musicians dressed in traditional costume. Although the entire show was done in Vietnamese we were able to get a small understanding of what was being portrayed by the movement of the puppets. Following the show we headed back to one of our favourite restaurants, Thai Express, for another early dinner before going back to the hotel to pack our bags and get ready for our flight to Nha Trang the following morning.

At about 8pm we got a knock at our door and were surprised when we opened it to find the manager of the hotel. He had come to find out what time the following morning we were checking out. When we told him we would be leaving at 8:30am he requested that we pay for the room straight away because he wouldn’t be there in the morning and, apparently, no one else spoke English. Luckily we had the required cash, otherwise we would have had to find an ATM but one consolation was that he then offered to organise a lift to the airport for us.

The next morning we headed down for a quick breakfast before finishing our packing. Much to our surprise the manager was at the reception desk, contrary to what we had been lead to believe. To add insult to injury, at 8am we were told the taxi was early to allow for traffic caused by a car crash. We were then herded out the door and into the “taxi”. We were happy to leave and once on our way we were excited that we would soon be in Nha Trang. The “taxi”, however, turned out to be a friend of the manager, who drove like a madman seemingly more intent on getting to his next appointment than whether we got there safely. After 40-minutes of speeding and weaving through peak hour traffic, we are lucky we got to the airport in one piece.

The flight to Nha Trang was nice and best of all short. We then jumped in an airport shuttle , which took us into the center of town before jumping in a taxi to head to our Hostel. The hostel was very nice with great facilities and big rooms, much to our delight. We were in a hurry to hit the streets as we needed to head to Angel Dive Centre to pay the deposit for the three days of scuba diving we had booked, as well as check out some dive equipment. Luckily, the dive shop was only 5-minutes walking distance from the hostel. With the deposit paid, mask and snorkel bought and start time for the morning arranged we headed off in search of bathers before dinner. Luckily with the city being beach/dive central bathers weren’t hard to find and neither was a restaurant. We had a great dinner at Lanterns restaurant and booked a cooking class with them before heading back for an early night.

We woke at 5am eager to get the day started and after a nice breakfast we got our gear together before heading down to the dive shop ready for our first day of diving since June. At 7:30 we were in a minivan with our fellow divers headed for the harbour. Once on the boat we were introduced to our dive guides for the day Tom (Australian), Colin (Belgium) and Archie (Hungarian). We were decked out with the gear required and before long we were jumping in the water at Madonna Rock for our first dive. Once under the water we were both amazed by the colour of the coral and the fishes, both of us once again hooked on diving. We dove twice more that day and in-between picked the brains of our dive instructors, getting as much information as possible about the sport.

At 3:30pm we were back at the harbor, then in the minivan heading to the restaurant for lunch and then dropped off at the dive shop. On the walk back to the hostel we came across a fantastic little coffee shop, stopping for coffee and cake. It was then back to the hostel for showers and a little relaxing. We then met a few of our dorm mates and before long had decided to join them for a couple of beers and some dinner. We had a fantastic night of good conversation, great food and a few too many drinks. The next morning Glenn was feeling a little under the weather so decided to skip the day of diving. So off I went, all on my own, and a little scared, as I had never dived without Glenn by my side. Luckily my new friends, Colin and Archie, made me feel comfortable. It wasn’t until I was sitting eating my lunch and wondering what Glenn was up to that I realised that I had left him with no money. By the time I got back to the Hostel at 4pm he was starving so we headed out for an early dinner. We decided that we would move to a hotel the following morning so it was time to pack our bags again and get ready, as we would have to put everything in luggage storage before we left for diving in the morning.

We were up, packed, fed, stored our luggage and were on our way to the dive shop by 7am. Our itinerary for the day was a little different today as we were doing our navigation course. This turned out to be a lot of fun, we were being taught by Kim, one of the instructors, but our friends Colin and Archie were still diving with us to make sure we were doing the right thing. As this was the first dive the four of us had taken together where neither of them were guiding the dive, they took the opportunity to play a few pranks on each other and play around a bit, much to Glenn and my amusement.

After lunch we headed back to the dive shop to determine the amount of money we owed them and book another two days diving before heading to the bank. On the way past our new hotel we checked in and dropped off our diving gear, headed past the old hostel to the bank and then back to the hostel to grab our luggage. The next day we had planned to do a cooking class at the Lanterns restaurant so, as we weren't going to be scuba diving, we decided to head out and have a few drinks to celebrate passing our navigation course. Well a few drinks turned into a few too many. We woke up the following morning very hung over and needing to be at the restaurant for the cooking class in 10minutes. Instead we spent the day watching movies in our air-conditioned room feeling sorry for ourselves.

The next two days were practically the same. We would get up in the morning, head off to the dive shop, spend the day diving, have lunch at the restaurant come back to the hotel, shower, relax, head out for dinner and then have an early night ready to repeat the next day. On our final day of diving we were invited to have dinner and drinks with Colin and Archie, as well as a couple of new tourist divers, Emika and Tessie, who had dived with us that day. We headed back to the hotel to pack and shower before heading to the dive shop at 7pm to meet everyone. This was an amazing night spent chatting, singing and eating DIY rice paper rolls. The next morning we woke up, finished our packing and were downstairs waiting for the taxi to pick us up by 7:15am, feeling a little worse for wear as it was 1:30am when we’d finally made it home.

Unfortunately the taxi was a little late that made us worry we were going to miss our bus. Once it finally turned up we then proceeded to stop another 5 times to pick up passengers but when we rocked up to the bus we realised this was normal. We then spent the very bumpy ride to Ho Chi Minh City watching movies and napping. We arrived about an hour late so we quickly got directions to our hotel and decided that instead of spending money on a taxi we would walk (not a good idea when your luggage weighs a ton). We finally reached the hotel a little exhausted and checked in, ordered pizza and showered. After the antics of the night before we were in bed and asleep early, excited about what this new city had to offer.

The next morning we treated ourselves with a bit of a sleep in. We then headed out for breakfast before heading to a travel agent to book the bus to Siem Reap, which would be our next stop. Due to a festival that is happening in Cambodia at the moment we couldn't catch a bus directly to Siem Reap until the 13th of October. This meant that we would have to travel to Phnom Phen, spend the night and then board the bus the following morning to complete our journey. Although this would delay us arriving in Siem Reap by a day it also meant, instead of having to be on a bus for 14 hours, we would have two 7 hour bus trips and get a good night sleep in between.

After booking the bus we decided to explore the city a little and, lo and behold, we stumbled upon Starbucks, giving us an opportunity to retreat for a coffee and some relaxing while we discussed our plans for the next two days. This ended up being the best decision we could have made because shortly after sitting down the heavens opened up and it rained for the next hour or so, which meant much to our disliking (not) we were stuck in Starbucks drinking coffee and enjoying free internet. During this time we decided to book a tour, so once the rain subsided we headed back to the travel agent to organise a tour for the following day. We then headed back to the room and relaxed for the afternoon before going to a local restaurant for dinner.

We were up at our usual early hour the following morning looking forward to our tour. We had arranged for a pick up from our hotel but were surprised when the pick up was on motorcycles. These thankfully only needed to take us to the booking office where the tour bus was waiting, because being on the back of a motorcycle during Vietnamese peak hour is a little scary. After we boarded the bus and picked up a few more passengers we were on our way out of the city. Our first stop was to be the Cao Dai Temple where we would be treated to a symbolic ceremony, as the temple was about 2 hours out of the city we would also get to see another side of Vietnam out of the hustle and bustle of the busy city.

We arrived at the temple and quickly removed our shoes before entering in order to get a good vantage point from the upstairs balcony. Before long the music started and the local monks began entering, taking their places on the floor ready for the 45minute prayer session. We then headed back to the bus and while waiting patiently for the rest of the group, we met a nice woman from Sydney, quickly becoming friends. We were then taken to a small Vietnamese restaurant for a nice lunch before continuing our journey to the Co Chi Tunnels. After about an hour we arrived at the tunnel entrance, bought our tickets and were soon walking through the jungle seeing the amazing tunnels that had been dug by the people of the area during the Vietnam war. We were lucky to be shown around by our very knowledgeable guide who showed us the different types of tunnels, traps and bunkers that were used to defend the area from the invading enemy.

After a quick stop at the firing range, where you could fire an M60 rifle that was mounted on the back of a jeep, we then had the opportunity to actually crawl through the tunnels (that had been widened so that tourists could enter them). They were so tiny that by the end of the first 20 metres we were on our hands and knees and ready to exit. We were then treated to a propaganda film before getting back on the bus for the 2-hour ride back to Ho Chi Minh.

We had decided to meet our new friend at her hotel for dinner an hour after we got back. Due to a slight misjudgment of the distance between the hotels we ended up being a little late, not that it really mattered. We then headed out for a few drinks, a nice dinner and a great night of getting to know each other.

The following day was spent tying up a few loose ends before having lunch at a nice Vietnamese restaurant called Wrap and Roll. We headed back to our hotel to get some housekeeping done before heading to dinner at a nice Vegetarian Restaurant and picking up some supplies for the bus trip the following day. We then packed and headed to bed for an early night, a little sad to be leaving Vietnam but excited about seeing Cambodia.


Having returned from base camp the previous day, we were eager to continue our journey on to Laos but had to wait for money to clear to pay for flights. That morning, as soon as the funds were in our account, we jumped onto the airline website to book our flights out of Kathmandu for that afternoon. This turned out to not be possible via the Internet if booked within 6 hours of a flight, leaving us with the option of staying another day or finding an alternate way to book. We headed down stairs to try and call Thai airways directly, only to discover that the local office didn’t open until after 10am (which would cut it fine for the 1pm flight). The manager of our hotel offered to help with the situation, stating that he knew someone who could organise the flights. We left the preparations in his hands, heading out for breakfast to pass the time. Contrary to the manager’s assurances that there would be “no problem” and that he had it “all under control”, at 10am we were still waiting for confirmation. This finally came but then they were unable to take payment on our card, resulting in them having to get a local bank manager to come to the hotel to swipe the card for payment. With the flight time drawing closer we finally were in a taxi, on our way to the airport, heading to Laos.

The flight would have a layover in Bangkok and get us into Vientiane, the capital of Laos, around 9pm that night.  Once we had cleared security and taken our places in the separated male/female boarding areas we waited patiently for boarding. The flight was smooth, the inflight entertainment good, with plenty of food for the journey. Before we knew it we were landing in Bangkok with just enough time to get a quick dinner before boarding our connecting flight to Laos. This was 90 minutes, spent swapping stories with a fellow Aussie passenger who works in Laos and lives in Jakarta. Once we landed we were faced once again with the on arrival visa situation we had encountered in Nepal, requiring Glenn to once again have to exit the airport to get money from the ATM outside. This time Glenn thought he’d make things even more interesting, by forgetting the pin number to the card and after three incorrect attempts managed to get our card blocked.

So with our other card in hand and after being reminded of the correct pin he headed off down stairs for another try.  Lucky for us this time he returned with cash in hand and before long we were headed to our hostel.  When we arrived we were shown to our room, we had a quick shower and retired for the night. The following morning we were introduced to Philip the Aussie general manager of the hostel and Johnno the South African tour guide and chief.  Much to our delight they were able to help us organise some important tasks including washing (to be exact 8 kg of washing), point us in the direction of the nearest internet café, so we could get the card unblocked, and finally arrange our visas to Vietnam. This saved us a lot of time instead of having to visit and wait at the embassy ourselves. Our visit to the Internet café was also brief and in less time than it took for Glenn to get the cards blocked, we had it unlocked and were able to access our money.

The rest of the day was spent relaxing at the hostel and catching up on some of the tasks that lapsed during our base camp trek. While sitting outside, we met some other backpackers who had recently completed their PADI dive course, which lead to many stories being swapped. As it grew later, we all headed down to the foreshore to the rooftop bar for some dinner, pool and drinks. We ended the night early, ready for our early morning tour the next day.

The next morning, we headed out with Johnno on a tour run by the hostel around the city to a few major sites including Buddha Park, the Beer Laos Brewery (complete with tasting), the Laos version of the Arch de Triumph and the Cope Centre. The COPE Centre provides prosthetics and rehabilitation for people who need them, often due to losing them from unexploded ordinance dropped during the Vietnam War. The entire tour was very educational and we learnt a lot about the history of the country and its people. That evening the hostel hosted a BBQ for the guests and we were treated to a great spread of salads and meat. That night we were introduced to some more newly arriving backpackers, one whom initially was unable to stay at the hostel due to lack of rooms. After some discussion between the owner and him, a bed was organised which resulted in Glenn and I getting upgraded to a private room. This room proved to be one of the best we had stayed in, better than most hotels as well, with a huge room, bath and balcony. With BBQ and beer flowing, Glenn made some new friends and stayed up until the early hours of the morning with several other hostellers. Due to us having to leave on that mornings bus, bound for Luang Prabang, I was less than impressed with the situation, we ended up changing it to the overnight bus that evening.

We were picked up and taken to the bus station around 6pm that evening and settled ourselves into our small, shared berth on the sleeper bus. This was about the size of a single bed designed for much shorter people but it was better than sitting and trying to sleep in a seat. Unfortunately, about 5 km from our destination the following morning, the bus broke its clutch and we were herded off the bus to wait for a replacement. Lucky for us this came quickly and before we knew it we were checking into our next hostel then out exploring our new town. 

Firstly we had to go and pay the deposit to secure our spots in the Tamarind restaurant cooking class we had booked for the following day, which was conveniently on the same street as the hostel. What we didn't realise was how hot and humid it was outside. By the time we got to the restaurant we felt like we had been walking for hours and were drenched in sweat. Once we were all paid up we got some lunch before heading back to the hostel to arrange bus tickets to Hanoi (Vietnam), as well as accommodation, then showered and relaxed. Later on we headed out to get a quiet dinner and check out the night markets we had heard so much about. These offered a nice range and we spent the evening wondering the laid back streets of Luang Prabang.

We were up at our normal time, ready for a quick breakfast before walking down to the Tamarind restaurant for our scheduled 8:45am start time. Once all the other participants had arrived we were in a Tuk Tuk (many who were Aussies) heading for the local markets. The markets offered a huge range of produce and we were shown the different ingredients used in Laos cooking by the head chef. Some of the more unusual items that were on sale at the market included live toads, eels and all manner of animal parts. After spending an informative hour in the market, we were back in the Tuk Tuk and off to the cooking school. This was located in a great garden setting and the head chef proved to be very entertaining. We spent the next several hours learning to cook 6 dishes before sitting together to feast on the delicious lunch we had all created.

Once back at the hostel we decided to stop and have a beer and were soon joined by 3 German travellers we had met at our previous hostel in Vientiane. They invited us to join them at the Utopia bar we had heard so much about, which we gladly agreed too. The place was a great little establishment, where you were seated on a cushioned deck overlooking the Mekong River. Complete with it’s own volleyball court it would have been an interesting place to spend a few hours. As the sunset, we all headed for dinner, sampling Mekong river weed for the first time (delicious! tasted like Vegemite) before heading across the street to sample some Laos Laos, the countries infamous rice vodka. We had a great time, fantastic food, interesting conversation and altogether, it was a great way to end our time in Laos.

The following day we were departing for Hanoi and after a relaxed breakfast we headed into Luang Prabang for one last visit. Before long it was 5pm and we were off to the bus stations to catch our 24-hour sleeper bus to Hanoi. This turned out to be a different design to the one we had arrived in, with each of us having a small reclining seat with no room for your feet. Another torturous journey was about to begin.