Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Bus trips [between Ho Chi Minh City and] Phnom Penh rise

Bus trips [betweenHo Chi Minh City and] Phnom Penh rise: "From March 1 [2006], Sapaco, Tourist and Transport Firm will increase one more bus service from Ho Chi Minh City to Phnom Penh, Cambodia at 11am and double the services from Ben Thanh Market in Ho Chi Minh City to Moc Bai border in Tay Ninh province... to four services a day, said Le Van Toi, director of Sapaco. Accordingly, from Ho Chi Minh City and Phnom Penh at the same time, there are buses setting out at 6.30am, 8am, 9am and 11am.
The bus fare for the Ho Chi Minh City – Phnom Penh route was raised on 1st January 2006, from VND 145,000 to VND 190,000. Ticket price from Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City increased to US $12 from US $9."

Too bad this blurb doesn't mention:
  • what kind of buses will be used, Super VIP, VIP, chicken and pig express, etc.
  • transit time
  • how the border crossing is handled. Does a traveller corss the border and link up with a bus on the other side?

I'm not sure that this is much of an improvement over the café buses or share taxis. Still, more transport alternatives are better than less.

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Saturday, February 11, 2006

Kouangsi Falls, Laos

Kouangsi falls, also known as Tat Kuang Si, approximately 32km West of Luang Prabang, are a series of very picturesque, tiered waterfalls over limestone formations.

Both Lao and foreign tourists visit the falls, mostly the lower pools. There are paths on both the right and left sides of the falls that lead to the top.

If you follow the left path, you can make your way to a large upper pool, though the way there isn't all that obvious. On my second visit I took some photos to provide more detailed instructions and better show the way.
Leaving the "main area," where the access road ends,
there are paths both to the right and left. The path to the right goes to the top of the falls along a dirt path and it has an interesting side path, partly on a non-industrial strength wooden walkway that overlooks the falls.

The path to the left, shown here looking down, veers away from the falls and goes through the adjoining forest.

After a 5+ minute walk and scramble up the dirt path, you come to a long wooden set of stair in amazingly good shape, at least, at the time of my visit.

Go up the stairs, past the middle platform, and continue up about 1/2 way from the middle platform. You'll see a flattened "path" on what appears to be a stream that leads to the right and somewhat up. Here's what it looks like looking down the stairs.

There's another path, just below, along a similar offshoot stream. The path just above is much easier to follow.

And here's what it looks like leaving the stairs onto the path. It's obviously slippery. River rafting sandals with good traction are helpful.

Follow the path, such as it is, along the stream.

Continue, heading generally up.

Continue along. The walk along the stream is fairly brief, perhaps 5 minutes.

The path ends at the falls and the upper pools, which are also tiered.

The upper pools are fine for paddling around. There's no real place to change clothes like the facilities down below, though, but there are a few places to put things to be kept dry, away from the water and spray. It can be helpful to have some plastic bags.

Going back down looks worse than coming up.


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Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Myanmar to use euros for trade, replacing US dollars

Myanmar to use euros for trade : HindustanTimes.com mentions that Myanmar, formerly (and often still) known as Burma, will replace the use of the US dollar with the euro for trade with bordering countries.

The article goes on to say:
Myanmar decided Aug 10, 2003, that government organisations and private enterprises should use euros in place of US dollars for international business transactions including import and export.
What's interesting about this is that as recently as November, 2004, when I visited, the US dollar was a completely parallel currency and many hotels would only accept payment in dollars, paid as cash since the use of credit or debit cards wasn't really possible. I seem to remember people actually having problems trying to use euros, even in Rangoon/Yangon.