Sunday, April 11, 2010

South Vietnam and Cambodia


I landed at Ho Chi Minh City airport with a sense of fulfilment, having finally visited the country of my origins (or at least where I was conceived ;) ).
The plan was to do a quick tour of the Ho Chi Minh area and Siem Reap with my friend Daniel, before heading to Korea to visit the in laws and meet up with da wife :)

The first thing I noticed was the traffic - it was crazy! Anyone who's visited areas of SE Asia would know what i mean - motorbikes, taxis, cars, buses, people, all on the road at once, all moving in different directions, all chaos, yet also a strange sense of order - i never saw any accidents the whole time i was there.

In most areas, traffic rules are just ignored - there are just too many people and vehicles on the road to regulate successfully. Traffic lights are only followed when in the heart of the city. Otherwise, to cross the road, it takes courage, courage, and more courage.

The idea is that you cross the road without stopping, and traffic will move it's way around you. If you stop or hesitate, you might cause an accident, since the drivers are reacting to the assumption that the space you are currently occupying will be vacant by the time they get there.

There is also alot of honking - the noise will drive you crazy if you stay outside too long. I believe the honking is more about letting other's know where they are to avoid crashing rather than angry honking.

Anyway, got a taxi to the backpacker area west of the city center - a little run down area filled with hostels, hotels, little eateries, drinking holes and souvenier shops. It looked rough but lively.

I checked into the hotel and went out to meet some other friends Colin & Alexis I knew were in the area that night, as well as waiting for Daniel to arrive.


After meeting with Colin and Alexis, we went in search of some local food - and in Vietnam, the most famous dish is Pho. Pho is a rice noodle soup in a hot hearty broth and raw beef strips that cook in the soup. Having had much Pho back in melbourne, I was keen to see what it would be like in the homeland.

We found a famous pho restaurant on the corner, and settled down on a small table outside with some Tiger beer, waiting for our food to arrive.

The verdict: The broth was good as I know, but the quality of the ingredients were not the best. I guess being in a western country with food quality standards results in better quality food - the meat was tough and sinewy. Still, I was happy, though I don't think anything could beat the quality of Pho in Melbourne :)

The rest of the night was chilling out in the bars in the area and meeting up with Daniel.


The next day, me and Daniel went sightseeing (after a nice breakfast of Bun Mi from a street vendor - crispy bread roll with pate, pork, vegetables and chilli - Vietnam has the best bread in the world in my opinion, probably influenced by the french. )

We first walked past the huge Ben Thanh market, where you could buy practically anything - clothes, jewellery, electronics, food, etc. However, I can't vouch for the quality - Daniel bought an imitation brand watch for his father, which broke shortly afterwards. Still, it was nice to walk around and check out the goods.

We continued walking towards the reunification palace. This was the place where the Viet cong finally took control of Saigon and the South. The tanks that broke through the front gates are still in display there.

We also checked out the War museum. The museum was heavily biased, portraying the americans as violent, brutal, and inhumane. They showed photos of people affected by napalm, agent orange and other ordinances from American soldiers. It was interesting to see it from the other side however.

We kept on walking around, admiring the French colonial style mansions and buildings, contrasting with the run down old buildings and new modern shopping areas.


My mum had told me that when she was a child, she lived in an area close to the centre, in her parents hot bread kitchen. Earlier on, she draw the rough location and address of the house, located near a market and the second biggest church in Ho Chi Minh City. So naturally I went in search of it.

It took a while, and a bit more walking that expected, but finally we found it. Mum's memory was right - there was a huge church nearby painted pink, and a small market around the corner. However, the house/shop was no longer a hot bread kitchen - as it was sold ages ago before they left vietnam, mum's childhood house had been converted to a half jewellery shop, half underwear shop. It was still a nice moment of connecting to my ancesteral roots, standing in front of the house my mum used to play in as a child.

One thing worth noting - We walked past a dumpster that was on fire... I wonder if that is normal?


The next day, we booked a tour to visit some areas around the Ho Chi Minh Area. One of these areas was the extremely colourful and excessively decorated sculptured Thao Monastery - complete with equally colourfully dressed monks in assorted white, red, blue and yellow, depending on their rank. There was even a monk band on the balcony playing serene music to the huge mass happening below. The walls of the monastery could barely be seen amongst the paintings and sculptures of various dragons, floating eyes and strange symbols.


Thao Monastery however, was just a stop over to the main destination of the day - the famed Cu Chi Tunnels. These tunnels were created deep underground and barely big enough to stand in by the communist Viet Cong during the war - one must really not suffer from claustrophobia to crawl though them. These tunnels of several levels deep, would contain everything a soldier and their families would need, a kitchen with cunningly disguised chimney, bedrooms, hospitals, storage areas, intelligence stations - and a whole series of booby traps for the unwary enemy. Many of them would live down there for months without seeing the sky, moving through the tunnels by torch/candlelight, or mostly through touch, since any sign of light or living there would give them away to the enemy.

I was brave enough to crawl only through the first level of tunnel - but not enough to crawl through the smaller 2nd level, or beyond.


One thing I was looking forward to trying was the shooting of a gun, in particular the Ak47 - guerillas choice of assault rifle. For a few dollars, I was allowed to shoot 10 bullets at a distant target in a shooting range on the site. I was however not prepared for the amount of recoil on my shoulder, or the noise as the powerful rifle shot out my badly aimed bullets to everything but the target in front of me. Oh well, practice makes perfect. :)


Feeling like a real man, I thought it was time to dare trying some good old street food that my mum used to make when I was a kid. We found a dingy looking stall with little plastic squat chairs and low tables at a place where I could try something I call Com Tam - which is a broken rice dish served with a marianated bbq pork chop, fried egg and assorted pickled vegetables and fish sauce.

Unfortunetly, the quality of dishes in Vietnam cannot compare to the quality found in Western countries, due to the quality of the ingredients and cooking conditions. But even though it wasn't as good as I had hoped, I still found it satisfying.. but was it worth the risk of potential food poisoning? Probably not.


No matter where I went in Vietnam (on this trip or later on), whenever I tried a western style menu, it always did not work as a dish. This is mainly because Vietnamese people would put their own sweet, spicy flavours into it. As a result, a burger would have a sweet flavoured patty, topped with cucumber in a hard roll and soy sauce, as an example.

Still, it's good punishment for those who refuse to try the local cuisine in a given country - I mean, why eat what you can get normally at home when you're in a new exotic country with so much to offer?


Having traced my mums childhood home, I thought it was important to visit the area where my dad grew up, and where my parents lived together before the war forced them to flee their homes to an uncertain future.

I would have liked to have visited the actual town they lived in (Sadec), unfortunetly we were pressed for time, and there weren't any day tours that would take us there. One day I would like to return to visit it with my parents..

Anyway, the mekong delta is a vast network of rivers, little villages, all connecting the mighty mekong river to the sea. This river is the vibrant lifeblood of the villages - everything happens in it - from fishing, to travelling, to bathing, to selling..

We had a wonderful guide with a passion for singing traditional songs while sailing through the delta. We sailed past fishing boats, all colourfully decorated along their bows in vibrant hues, the feature of this artwork being a painted eye on either side. This eye would create the appearance of a giant fish to the sea animals below. The guide explained that the shape and style of the painted eye determined the region the boat was from - a more rounded style characterised the south, whereas a more pointed style came from the north. In any case, it is quite a sight to see rough tough fishermen and women fishing in such cute colourful looking boats.

We reached a point where our boat was too big to go through the smaller rivers. I was left wondering what we were going to do, when around the bend of the river we saw an army of tiny canoes, rowed by a series of gentle yet wiry old women with traditional conical hats - the sight you usually would imagine when you think of Vietnam. A few of us got on each boat, who then took us through the smaller river until we reached a village.

Now, you would be naive to think you can go on a tour without being taken to some factory of some sort, where you're shown how certain things are made, and then led to the gift shop with elevated tourist prices. In this case, we were taken to a coconut candy factory. I did end up buying some candy though, since elevated prices or not, the people seemed so lovely and what little money I would spend I figured would go a long way with them. I generally resent it and resist when people expect you to buy at inflated prices, and in fact push you to do so. But these people weren't like that, so I was happy to spend away.

We had a simple lunch of typical vietnamese tour food - an unexciting bland combination of rice, fish and stir fried vegetable. (I came to realise that every tour I did in Vietnam in future was the exact same set of dishes! Is this to cater to fussy western palates who may not appreciate the spicy sour salty flavours of the region i've always wondered..) We then had some local tea and exotic local fruits while the guide performed a song with some musicians. This followed with walking though the local souvenier market, where I nearly got left behind due to haggling and buying some nice vietnamese art (which in hindsight I could just buy back at home in the viet community areas of Melbourne) whilst the others boarded the boat back to Ho Chi Minh City. Luckily the guide noticed, otherwise I could have been left stuck on the Mekong for a while..

As we headed back to the city, I had a sobering thought on the fact that this was the exact same river that my parents fled by boat under the cover of night, 30 years ago. I cannot imagine the horror and fear my parents and family must have felt leaving their home, their way of life, everything they knew, and venture out alone towards Ho Chi Minh City, towards a bigger boat much like the one I was on, which would take them out of vietnam into the unknown of the ocean, where fate would either see them rescued or lost forever at sea. Had fate taken the latter, I would never have been born, or been able to reflect on it right now..


We arrived back in Ho Chi Minh to find out that a cousin that I never met or knew about before had tried to contact me at the hotel I stayed at. It looked like my mum had been busy contacting family in Vietnam to meet with me and show me around the town and make sure that I was ok. I felt a little uncomfortable meeting family I never knew, especially with the language barrier. Still I thought I'd give it a try, and I was glad I did.

We arranged to meet my cousin outside the hotel where he would take us to have dinner somewhere. We were surprised and a little worried when we went outside to find two cousins Ken and Samuel, each with a corresponding motorbike. Ken was more fluent in english than Samuel, and explained that me and Dan would get on the back on each motorbike and we would go for a night drive around the city. If you have seen the way traffic works in Vietnam, you would understand why were were a little scared.

It seemed there was little cause for alarm - the ride was an exhilarating experience I would never forget! Riding amongst the organised chaos of the motor bikes, headlights and people was almost fluid like - merging into traffic, avoiding collisions, observing the sights of the city around, from the busy city center, to another area of Ho Chi Minh I never knew existed - called district 7

District 7 is almost the complete opposite to the other districts - it is clean, with wide organised roads where traffic rules are followed, fancy shops and restaurants, and luxurious apartment buildings where apartments would cost up to a million dollars. It is indeed a very affluent upperclass area, where celebrities have bought property or live in. A contradiction to how the rest of the country operates, and perfectly demonstrates the uneven divide of rich and poor.

After dinner, we went to a "coffee shop". What Dan and I didn't realise was that this sort of coffee shop was the type where you get served by beautiful girls who sit down and talk to you, and in return to pay for coffees that are much more expensive than usual. Unfortunetly we found it hard to talk to them, since none of them knew English, so while my cousins had fun talking to them, we can only smile and nod. Despite this, we were able to have some fun and jokingly try to arrange a date with Dan and one of the girls, should Dan ever make it back to the same place again. :)

And so, after being dropped off at the hotel by my cousins, we took a plane the next day to Cambodia..


There is a big difference between the hustle and bustle of Ho Chi Minh Airport that we left, and Siem Reap airport in Cambodia that we arrived in. Siem Reap airport is tiny with hardly any facilities, despite being a popular airport for tourists visiting the Ankor Wat sites Cambodia is famous for.

We took a tuk tuk to the hotel we booked earlier on. A tuk tuk is cambodias version of a taxi, which is similar to a covered open air trailer with seats, attached to a motorbike. They are also available for hire, should you want to have a driver take you around different areas for the day.

We arrived at the hotel, which from the outside looked ok. Unfortunetly, the room itself was not. Everything looked run down; the bathroom was filthy, smelly and the bathtub/shower was covered in rust and grime. To make things worse, the plumbing was blocked, meaning to have a shower meant stepping into tepid water which probably left you more dirty than you started with. At least there was adequate air conditioning to compensate for the sweltering heat, and cable TV..


Siem Reap is a small town but has coped well with the tourists which probably exceed more than the local population itself. The nightlife is quite good, where huge numbers of restaurant/bars line the main street to cater for anyones taste. It's quite pleasant walking down the street feeling the changing ambience and festive feeling, or sitting in one of the many outdoor areas facing the street where you can sip a drink while listening to the DJ play and people watching.

If you happen to be on a really tight budget however, there is a nice outdoor street food area, where you can choose from the vast number of food stalls available. I'm always a sucker for local food stalls as I find it cheap, yummy and a good exposure to the local cuisine - but it's also my curse. If you're not careful with the food you choose and where, you can easily get a stomach bug which only antibiotics can treat - which i did (not the first time for me though).

Massages are also cheap and plentiful, usually performed by agile petite young women, who would as part of the massage, walk on your back and even sit on top of your back to ensure a thorough massage. Please do not think of this as anything of a sexual nature as the media tends to portray - they are quite professional and good natured people there.

If you'd rather go shopping, the huge night market is nice to browse through, where all manner of local arts and crafts, clothing and jewellery are for sale. We also found a Dr. Fish clinic where we had a beer and talked to other tourists.


Dr.Fish is a popular clinic based on the idea that you dip your feet in a large pool of water swarming with tiny fish. These fish feed off the dead skin off your feet, which gives you a tickling massaging feel wherever they are biting. The result is rested clean feet. Hence Dr. Fish. It's always interesting watching whose feet and which part of the foot the fish swarm towards (i.e whose feet is most dirty).

I wish we could get them down here - they're quite relaxing and fun to watch.


We booked a tour guide/tuk tuk driver in our hotel for visiting Ankor Wat the next day.

We had to get up really early before dawn, in order to make it to Ankor Wat in time to see the sun rise behind it. We placed ourselves amongst the other tourists doing the same, in front of the large pools adjacent to the Ankor Wat complex, and waited. And waited. And just as we were thinking whether it was worth getting up so early to see it, dawn broke. A slow, warm aura appeared in the horizon, illuminating Ankor Wat from behind. Slowly, it brightened up as the sun rose, reflecting itself on the pools below, as Ankor wat turned from a black shadow to orange to finally releaving it's stonish grey coloured tesellated fractal domes and pinnacles. It was probably originally not that colour as is with the egyptian temples. It was probably painted and decorated in all sorts of colours, but over time, the colours have washed out to reveal the colour of the materials it was made with.

Ankor Wat is actually one of several Wats (or temples) found throughout the site. It's the most famous, but not the biggest. In fact, all the Wats have something unique about them that makes it worth visiting as many of them as you can.

Whilst Ankor Wat is most known for the huge pointed domes, Ankor Thom is the biggest, and contains a huge number of giant stone buddha heads carved into walls or erected all around the Wat.

My particular favorite is a Wat (can't remember the name) that has featured in the Tomb Raider movies. This particular Wat is a small complex, but is completely overgrown with huge vines and tree roots. Giant trees have somehow grown out from the Wat, trapping it with it's intertwined roots to the point that they have become one.

Another thing I didn't realise about Ankor Wat was the fact that the walls are filled with carvings depicting stories of battles past, and holy scriptures - some retaining faint traces of the original colours. Another thing is that these Wats are still inhabited by some local monks.

I could have spent a few days admiring the sites, but time and the oppressive heat means I will probably have to revisit the site again - should we still be allowed to. Tourism has taken it's toll on the site, causing parts to erode and degrade quicker than it should. In fact several of the sites have areas closed off and covered with scaffolding for this reason. Hopefully we can preserve this treature for future generations to come.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I arrived in Darwin's tiny airport in high spirits, meeting up with my friend Dan who is currently working there for ABC Radio. It was my first time in Darwin, and so my expectations was a dusty red earth stained small town with lots of corrugated iron and beer swilling men with large beer guts and singlet tops. Stupid Media, how wrong was I?

The first thing I did notice was the weather. Darwin has two seasons - Wet and Dry. You would think Dry = Summer and Wet = Winter, but it is actually the opposite. Summer (which I arrived in) is extremely hot, humid and sticky - A perpetual sauna. Fortunately there is always an air conditioned building or car around.

A surprising thing about Darwin is the high cost of accomodation. Apparently it's more expensive than Melbourne! The town itself though is a decent size, but not big enough to have a main entertainment district larger than one street. This actually makes things more exciting, since at night everyone comes to the same place to party. It feels like a festive street party, and safe too. This is probably due to the small population meeting in one spot guarantees you'll always see someone you know somewhere. Small town mentality in a capital city. Nice.


We thought it would be fun to go see some crocodiles, so we booked a trip to Jumping Croc Safari, an hour or so drive south (which in Darwin terms isn't far at all).

So after driving into the middle of no where, where road turned to gravel which turned to hard dirt, we find a small corrugated shed in the distance along a small river. Jumping Croc Safari headquarters.

The reason we chose this particular tour was because of the fact you can get up close and personal with our reptilian friends. We boarded a small low rimmed flimsy boat that looked too easy to capsize, with some iron bars dividing us from certain death. The driver then drove us through the river, on the lookout for any crocodiles.

It didn't take long before we found some. The driver thought it would be a good idea to park the boat right close to a known crocodile nest - right next to a river bank full of gigantic spider webs and menacing looking spiders on them. I wasn't sure if i was more scared of the spiders or the crocodiles at that point.

To which the driver calmly started banging the water and the boat with a stick "to attract the crocodiles". Yikes!

And if that wasn't enough, when a crocodile did appear, the driver took a piece of meat out of the esky and hooked in on a stick. He then held it over the edge of the boat a foot away from our faces. Was that supposed to be an appetiser and us the main course? I sat thinking at this point whether I actually told people I was coming here, for surely you hear tales of people disappearing here, right?

And it was while i was deep in my thoughts that the sudden snap of a crocodiles jaws closed tight over the piece of meat, followed by the thump of his body as he collided with the side of the boat!

It was then the driver noted "it's only a baby one, the mother must be somewhere close".

It was like that for most of the tour. We found several crocodiles, each seemingly larger than the one before. The driver was quite happy to tease the crocodiles by holding the meat up high so they had to "jump" out of the water to reach it.
Not sure how the crocs felt about it though.

We left the tour feeling more closer to our own mortality and grateful for being alive.


To celebrate staying alive, we drove back to Darwin via the town of Humpty Doo - mainly because of the name, but also because there was a world famous hotel there. Though i'm not sure what made it so famous.

I was quite interested in the roadkill jerky they had for sale there, until i realised it wasn't really roadkill, just a name. Disappointed, but nice idea though.

I was however, happy to try my first crocodile burger. The hunter has become the hunted, muhahaha? It wasn't too bad, but I think i'm happy to stick with a regular beef burger.

Anyway, we spend the night enjoying the Darwin nightlife, starting with local boat club, where we could enjoy a nice beer by the ocean and watch the sun set. We followed this by drinking in the main nightlife street and visiting some cool bars
and clubs.

The next day, we quickly visited the war museum before my flight home. The war museum was interesting, learning about the bombing of darwin during world war 2 and seeing the old gun turrets and weapons and vehicles lying around.

In short, Darwin is a nice place to base yourself, with so much to see and do around. It's a nice place to come back to after a long trip to the national parks by relaxing or partying in the vibrant nightlife. I also really want to go back so I can try the emu parmagiana I heard they have up there but missed out on. ;)

Thursday, July 9, 2009

USA South West Trip - Thur 9 July


The last day of my vacation, we decided to all go down to the Santa Monica Beach nearby and enjoy some rays, surf and admire the beautiful bodies around us. After a arduous journey around the South West, it was nice to just lie down on the beach and do nothing. The water as cold but refreshing, and now I can say i've swam on the other side of the Pacific Ocean. :)

We walked to the Pier again for some final sightseeing and photo taking, before going back home to wash, change and head to the airport, stopping at a really nice pizza franchise called California Pizza.


Finally, I reach the airport, farewell my friends and flew back home. Suddenly, it was over, as if the whole trip was just a dream - the only sign of it happening was the 3kg i had gained and the nice tan i had developed. I also wasn't as scared as I was of the country when I arrived. Indeed, even though many people might critisise America, Americans and their way of life, I can honestly say they don't know America until they visit it. And once they do, they will fall in love with it. It is truly the land of opportunity and freedom; where people are kind, friendly, generous and are free to be themselves, eat and drink well, enjoy the beautiful nature - ranging from deserts to forests; canyons to volcanoes - and appreciate the idiosyncracies of this nation that gives it it's particular charm and personality.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

USA South West Trip - Wed 8 July


The next day we left the motel and headed towards Sequoia National Park. The park is famous of the huge Californian Redwoods or Sequoias - massive trees considered to be the biggest in the world.

We entered the park to find ourselves surrounded by the massive trees. We couldn't even hug them - you'd need at least 5-10 people to do it! We took photos, even standing on top of a massive fallen tree exposing its roots, which really gives you a good idea of just how big these trees are.

We drove through a tunnel carved into the side of a tree.. it was overrated. We also walked a bit to see a hut carved out of the inside of another fallen tree (did I mention these trees are big?)


We got to check out the largest tree in the world, nicknamed General Sherman. It is the biggest in volume, not girth or height. It is so big that the top of the tree has been pretty much fried due the number of lighting strikes on the poor thing. Even then, it's still the largest tree in the world. Looking at it, they liken it to a mouse looking up at a 6ft person. It is pretty impressive.

And that was it. Our road trip was nearing it's end. All we had to do is head back to LA (stopping at a mexican restaurant for lunch). We were kinda relieved to be back in civilisation where we could wash, rest and relax - yet also sad the trip had ended.

We had a celebratory dinner at the same Korean BBQ restaurant we went to last time - but this time we were more careful with drinking soju. :) Not only that though - we were too knackered to even drink!

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

USA South West Trip - Tue 7 July


The next day, we packed up and left for the long trip back to California. I was glad because the ranch was filled with wild grasses that was really playing up my hayfever - I never thought I would get hayfever up there.

Anyway, we decided to stay the night near the Sequoia National Park and see the park itself the next day. So we could take our time driving back.


We stopped for lunch at Big Boy - a franchise diner famous from the Austin Powers movie (Dr Evil's rocket). Anyway, what caught me by surprise was that the diner offered Chicken Parmagiana. I was shocked - I thought it was invented by Australians (since i couldn't find it anywhere in Europe), yet here I was in the middle of the Mogave desert being served it. I definitely had to try it out.

As it turned out, it was not that great. For starters, the breaded chicken itself was flat, tough and dry - not thick, juicy and melts in your mouth like it's supposed to. Secondly, it was not topped with ham, tomato sauce and cheese; it was only topped with some napoli (or bolognaise) sauce and a bit of cheese. Lastly, it did not come with steak fries and a nice salad; it came served on pasta and napoli sauce. The salad came seperately, with some strange raspberry vinegarette which was actually quite nice if only it matched the meal.

Yep, it may sound patriotic, but no one does Chicken Parmagianas like the Aussies do! :)


We found ourselves a motel, managing to sneak in an extra person without them knowing, otherwise they would have charged extra. At first glance, the motel seemed alright - there was cable TV showing Michael Jacksons tribute in LA (good thing we weren't in LA that day - traffic would have been crazy), and a funny MTV show which targeted and followed the lives of "Douchebags". However, we saw some cockcroaches having a party on the floor. This meant I was not going to sleep on the floor this time as planned - i was going to sleep on the foot of one of the beds instead!

We were hoping to have dinner at a local japanese restaurant - we were kinda hanging for Japanese after all the diners and western style junk food we've had recently. Unforunetly though, it was closed, so we had no choice but to eat at Subway. Guess we can't get away from all the fast food restaurants.

Monday, July 6, 2009

USA South West Trip - Mon 6 July


We never thought we could do it, but we did - we got up around 5am, a quick breakfast, and then Billunta drove us all to Zion so we could begin our hike (poor Billunta couldn't come).

Because it was so early, the weather was blessedly cool. We took the shuttle bus to the hike starting point - in our case we choose to do one hike - the Angels Landing - a 5 hour ordeal.

It started out ok, with a gradually inclining winding path going up the cliff. Even then, some of us were struggling - all that junk food on the trip has not helped. Huffing and puffing, we got to a nice narrow canyon path that offered lots of shelter from the rapidly rising sun. Looking around, the scenery reminded me of what the Jurassic period might have looked like, pristine, full of towering rock faces, mountains and lush trees and ferns. The cliff closest to us looked very reminiscent of honeycomb (could you tell i was tired and hungry?)

After a while, we saw some people coming down and, thinking we were more than halfway there, asked "Are we nearly there yet?" People were surprised and looked at us with pity as they told us "you not even halfway yet, and you haven't got past the wiggles yet"! The Wiggles?

No, not the children's singing performers group, that would be rather surreal to see. They meant a very windy steep path just ahead of us. Now that was painful to walk up. Even though it was similar to walking up a long flight of stairs, after the hiking we've done so far, it was torture! Slowly but steadily we got to the top.

A bit of walking later, and we arrived at what we thought was the top of Angels landing - well, instead of Colin. We enjoyed the beautiful views of the valley below us and thought we could sit and rest, as well as worry about the long walk back down - until Colin pointed further out to yet another higher peak and told us "that's where we need to go!" We were not impressed and even getting grumpy at this point. Reluctantly, we followed Colin.

At this point, the hike got kinda scary and very dangerous. I was surprised that a country very into OHS would allow hikers to go up this route, with no railings to prevent people falling (and indeed in the past people have), and a series of chains that you would pull yourself up and around ridiculously narrow ledges (do not look down!). It was more rock climbing at this point. Adding to the difficulty was that people traffic could only go one way, so people had to wait for others to cross first. To be considerate, you don't stay in the middle scared out of your wits hanging for dear life - you go as quick as you can!

Anyway, after all is said and done, it was definitely worth it. An hour later we emerged onto the very top of the peak, to admire more glorious views that the previous view below cannot compare (an idea which we were skeptical of beforehand). We sat on the sun drenched peak to eat lunch with some rather feisty squirrels, who we're not supposed to feed. However, Yujin didn't realise this, and after throwing some food at them, found herself getting swarmed by the little rodents who suddenly became a little aggressive. Quite a sight being on top of the world on a small peak being attacked by squirrels.

We started the long trek back, which took a while but went quicker than going up. We stopped by a horrible smelling toilet halfway up the mountain which was surrounded by barrels imprinted with the words "Human Waste". I feel sorry for whoever is supposed to carry the barrels up to start with, and remove the existing waste - it's got to be the worst job in the world!

As we neared the bottom, we noticed it getting more hotter, as well as people just starting their hike. We were so glad we had left early because we could not have survived that hike with the heat!

We were so relieved to see Billunta at the bottom waiting for us, with life saving cool water and air conditioned car ready to take us to lunch. We were exhausted!

We went back to same diner as yesterday for lunch. I had jambalaya - a Lousiana style dish of shrimp and sausage in spicy saucy noodles - a way to make up for not having gumbo before.

We then headed straight back to the cabin to go swimming in the nice cool pool and hot spa to relive our tired aching limbs. So nice :)

Dinner was had at the place as we couldn't be bothered heading back out, and I was curious about meatloaf - a very American dish that I had not tried it. It wasn't as nice as i thought though, but I was told nothing tastes as good as your mums homemade meatloaf anyway.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

USA South West Trip - Sun 5 July


The first thing we did was go out and eat at another diner. This diner was awesome, with cowboy and road runner decore and with big cokes served not in glasses, but in large jars!

We then drove 4hrs out of Utah and into Arizona to see one of the most famous sights in the world - The Grand Canyon.

We arrived at the North rim, which is apparently less crowded and visited than the South Rim that most people see in the movies. We weren't really keen on driving another 5 hours around the canyon just to see it from that side though.

Anyway, the Grand Canyon is indeed grand and very different to what I was expecting - i thought it was just a big orange hole. But I saw instead was jaggered cliff faces showing layers of sediment worn away throughout the passage of time. Bright red, orange, yellow, white and black layers of colour made decorative patterns which made it alot more impressive and beautiful than i imagined. Still, maybe due to the other impressive sights i've seen, I wasn't overwhelmed. I still rank Bryce Canyon as my favorite.

After some photo taking and walking around, we headed the long drive back to our Cabin, stopping at pizza hut for dinner. As aways, the food is larger, more plentiful, and more unhealthy, with garlic bread sticks drenched in butter that came with the pizzas. At least they had an ok salad bar.