Rambling Robert's Travels

This blog chronicals the travels of myself, Rambling Robert, on my next adventure to South America.

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I am a world traveller. I do not work as such. I have been homeless and unemployed since 1October 2003. I worked as a chef for 30 years in America.

Monday, December 03, 2007


Greetings from Viet Nam. This is my first "new country" in a while. The last 3 countries I have been in , I had been to before, but this is my first time here. This is my 57th country. I arrived here from Sihanoukville, Cambodia which is a nice beach resort area in the south, on the gulf of Thailand.It is split into 3 main areas and I stayed on Victory Hill at a place called Sakal Bungalows for 9 nights. Very laid back time for me. I have been reading a great book by Eckhardt Tolle called "The Power of Now". I just finished it this morning in fact! I have been reading it since I was in Kampot. Which is part of Cambodia too.
When i left Siam Reap, I went to Phnom Penh the capitol and largets city in Cambodia. I was there on a mission to get a Viet nam visa from the embassy here (which i did accomplish) I stayed near the river. In a little guest house, where I was the only non-Khmer guest. The staff spoke a little english so it was okay. The room was actually real nice and the location on 136th street between the central market and the river was also really good. Last time I was in Cambodia I stayed on the lake where all the really cheap backpacker places are, but this place was recommended to me by an Aussie bloke in Battambang and it was a great place for 5 bucks a night. The problem was the other guests who made a lot of racket at night. I have been in Asia for too long to let a little night racket bother me at beddy bye time!! so i stayed for 5 nights.
Just 4 blocks from me was the river that bends its way through this lovely city. Along the river there are nice walking paths and lawns and trees and little plazas. Across the street is all little restaurants and bars and hotels and other touristy or "I have the day off and I have some time to spend idly" kind of places. I hung around the little cafes. The touts come up to you trying to sell you everything from watches to marijuana to books to women to zippo lighters and back again. Never ending processon of little kids with no childhood, just trying ot sell some books or some chewing gum. Little 7-12 year olds. it bums me out that these little people have to spend their precious childhoods like this. They should be playing. They should be home for taking a bath and doing homework and going to bed. They are out at 10 or 11 o'clock at night trying to make a few pennies...I met one of my best friends sisters here in Phnom Penh who happened to be here for a couple of weeks vacation time. That was good fun to catch up with someone I havent seen in 30 years!!
After Phnom Penh, I took a bus to Kampot. Ahhh,Kampot... Welkl my gourmet friends are a little jealous at this thought!! Kampot is another city on a river in Cambodia. About 120km south of Phnom Penh. It is famous among toher things for its pepper. Gourmet chefs have debated for decades over the best black pepper in the world. When you get down to it there are really only two contenders. Tellicherry India and kampot Cambodia. Sure I know that Madagascar has its fans but to my palate it has always been between these two. While Iwas there I got to go to a pepper plantation. Truth is they had more mangos than pepper trees. I went with an Italian bread baker and his buddy. We smoked a fat ass joint in the tuk tuk on the way out there. Our driver thought that was the funniest thing he ever saw!!
Once out at the plantation we got to walk among the trees and just pick off the lovely green berries and eat them right there on the path! Just delicious! Bloody hell! Intense flavors and perfume up through your nose without half the heat you would expect!! This is the beauty of kampot pepper. Tons of perfume hardly any heat. Just what a real pepper lover wants. you get to put on lots of it without ruining your food or burning up your mouth!! Is it starting to sound like I am missing my previous life as a chef? Not really...but...
Bokor National park is very close to kampot. except for a few excentric gourmets, most travelers who come to Kampot come for to see the national park. The way there is on a road that may well be the worlds worst road!! You cant take a motodup or a tuk tuk here because the road which was said to be ebuilt by thee french colonists in 1917 has not been maintained and now is just a rough bumpy full of pot-holes torture track for any vehicles suspencion. Very uncomfortable travel up the mountain for about 4 hours to go about 17 km.
At the top is a crazy ghost town. The french bulit this "hill station" to get out of the heat of the plains and now it is deserted. Also the black palace, a place that the old Khmer Kings used to come to for the week-end with their concubines is deserted and desecrated there. The Khmer rouge of course pissed on everything that was beautiful and took out some of their endless wrath on the black palace as well. So it is a ruins now. What a pity. The view is beautiful and also eerie to see this little hill station pleasure village in pre-nmature decay is very odd indeed.
After a few more un-eventful but fun days in Kampot, I went to the beach town of Kep and stayed there for 3 days. It is only about 40 minutes by motodup(motorcyle taxi) from Kampot. The beach wasnt really very good for swimming but the sunsets were spectacular. maybe the best ever!! This is from a reviewer who has seen the sun set from 57 countries. My all time favorite sunsets are in Pismo Beach California. Kep is also now on my top 5 list.
Off the coast is Phu Quoc island. Viet Nam owns and controls this island but it is disputed between the two countries. The sun sets beside the island and the sky turns the most brilliant colors and there is a calmness and a little quiet time with my old buddy Johnny Walker and my friend Phat Jay.
"smell of colitas rising up through the air
welcome to the hotel Cambodia
such a lovely place such a lovely place
Plenty of noodles at the hotel Cambodia..."
Ahhh yes I digress again... Hard to be focused sometimes, eh? Ahhh what could be nicer??
But Kep was too slow for me and my hotel was booked out for a big group coming in so I split that scene and went to the more built up beach resort of Sihanouk. And stayed there for 9 nights. Now you guys are almost caught up with me.
Sihanouk is a good place. I was there in 2004 and had a great time staying on Serendipity beach. This time I switched to Victory Hill. So I stayed at a very cool and cheap place called Sakal bungaloes. It is only a 5 minute walk down hill to the beach. The beach is only about 75 meters long of nice off-white sand. The water is delightfully warm and there are only very small waves. it doesnt get deep until you walk out about 40 or 50 meters. Not a surfers spot but great for swimming. I stayed here for 9 nights and had a great time doing nothing.
The hotel had a 24 hour good restaurant. they sell strong cambodian coffee for 35cents and ice cold Ankor beer in chilled half liter mugs for 60cents. There are a bunch of motodup drivers who hang around outside and sell good Cambodian red for 5USD for a 10 gram bag. You can roll a joint and smoke it at the bar if you want...They had a free Ohaus pool table and a swimming pool shaped like a big foot that you can jump in and cool off between drinking and reading and being lazy in the hammock. I love Cambodia! I really do. so anyway...
Sihanouk was very peaceful until the US Navy arrived. Aye Carumba!! The USS Essex aircraft carrier group pulled in for 3 days of shore leave for the sailors. Ferrying in the boys and girls off their ships by helicoptor and huge noisy hydrophoil looking boats. What a drag. But the sailors were all really friendly and having a good time and glad to be on dry land and telling jokes and boozing up like, well you know like sailors on shore leave!! I played pool with a couple of them and had a few beers. Good decent kids in a shitty job.
So I finally left Cambodia and now I am in Vietnam. I got to Ho Chi Minh (HCM) on 28 November. The name of the city was changed from Sai Gon to HCM in 1975 after the South and North were unified at the end of the American War. Sai Gon means big market. Lots of people still call it Sai Gon but the official name is HCM.
I had heard a lot of stuff about the War Remnants Museum, and so I walked over there from my guest house. It is easy to navigate the streets here. Easy to find stuff. Crossing the road is crazy but after Cairo Egypt its all childs play to me! I will never fear to cross the street again!! The museum is one of great sadness and it documents the struggles of the Vietnamese peopole against the American armed forces and the dictatorships of Diem, Ky and Thieu before their eventual downfall. Very sad exhibits of mayhem and destruction. No surprises, just more confirmation that war is hell.
On a cheerier note, I took a two day and one night jaunt down to the Mekong Delta region and stayed at Can Tho for the night. Saw a coconut candy factory, YUMMMMM.
Like taffy only better It is great stuff!! I wish I didnt like candy so much but I do, then went to a huge floating market. All these people meet up each morning at a bend in the river and trade. They have fruits, veggies, fish, rice, clothes, you name it! the boats all tie up to one another and people jump from boat to boat buying and selling. Way cool. A little cafe boat came up to us and I got a nice coffee from the mother-daughter team. Then they sailed over to another boat making coffee tea and selling cokes and fantas and the like. Great job! Went to a factory where they process rice and make it into Rice Paper and Pho Noodles. Super interesting process. I returned for another night in HCM and took a bus next morning out of the city and off to the beach! And so...
Here I am in a small beach town about 3 hours from Ho Chi Minh (HCM). called Mui Ne. It is in the gulf of Tonkin, on the East coast of Vietnam. I got here yesterday from HCM and am arrived in a very nice guest house called Hai Yen. Right on the beach, very friendly and clean sparkling new rooms. The beach is white sand and about 12km long. The main industries here are fishing and Tourism. Tourism in that lots of people locals and foreigners come there to swim and play in the water and on the beach. I am loving it and will stay here 4 or 5 days I believe. I only have a 30 day visa I must leave VN by 28 December and Vietnam is a big country and lots of cool stuff to see and places to go. I have been here in VN already for 6 days. I am planning to head to Da Lat next and from there to Nha Trang and then to Hoi An and then Ha Noi and then to Long Ba Bay, so it only gives me about 4 or 5 days in each place
So far I am digging Vietnam. Street vendors are very pushy in HCM and the moto drivers are just like moto guys everywhere but a little more agressive. other than that this is a most excellent country so far.
I am going to leave you now and go chill out on the beach. I hope this letter finds all of you well and happy. Here are a couple of quotes from two of my favorite Madmen!
Peace and Love to all who read this travel update.

"The whole history of science has been the gradual realization that events do not happen in an arbitrary manner, but that they reflect a certain underlying order, which may or may not be divinely inspired."Stephen Hawking

"God is really only another artist. He invented the giraffe, the elephant and the cat. He has no real style, He just goes on trying other things." Pablo Picasso


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