A Travellerspoint blog

Day 55-60 Siem Reap

Our '10hr' bus journey from Sihanoukville was elongated by pure SE Asian illogical processes including the duel use of buses as couriers for everything from leaky bags of fish to cement mixers and 50kg sacks of salt. Before we started this trip we were well aware of what to expect from bus journeys in the east. It's not until your looking out of the window of the bus observing the array of men loading the luggage hold with mentioned items whilst dressed in baseball hats embroidered with the Facebook/Chanel/You Tube logo, 'FBI' or our personal favourite 'wi-fi' (did he just love wi-fi or did he have a modem installed under there? We'll never know!) Its these moments and the future 15 hrs on that bus where you get a chance to stop and think about where you are and what you might think of it all. At the 13hr mark when we stopped for a rest break where Dan had a mini melt down- If they do this journey every day why do they pretend it can be done in 5 hrs less? Why do they sell food off dirty floors, litter everywhere and piss on logs next to empty toilet cubicles?! How do they know when to stop in the middle of nowhere to unload a box of fish for a man at the side of the road?...and so on. - He had been listening to the Ricky Gervais XFm shows for the majority of the journey so the rant was at bit Karl Pilkington and entertaining for me. When we finally got to the hotel late at night we were to hungry to go into town for food despite having only a tube of pringles each all day. Our logic was to spend the saved food money on double the amount of food tomorrow.

We spent our first day in Siem Reap running errands (replacement camera $125-ouch!) And catching up on the walking dead mid season finale.

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On day 2 we got up at 4:30am to get to Angkor Wat for sunrise with our extremely jolly tuk tuk driver who said 'I see your face and ha ha ha ha' I think he meant 'I want to familiarise myself with your face so I know which white people you are later when you come back out'- same same? We went to the temples on the mini circuit observing crazy Korean ladies running to each photo opportunity using their cameras like machine guns.

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When it got a bit too hot and busy we retreated for lunch and a nap. In the evening I got a pedicure and some much needed new t-shirts from a market stall with a lady laughing telling me I need xxxxl as I tried on an xl. Which fitted me well thank you very much!

In the morning of day 3 we did a Khmer cooking course learning peppered tomato soup, spicy prawn salad and amok. On the course were a family from Holland with two boys who helped out with the mortar and pestle action.

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In the afternoon we paid $3 to use a swimming pool in a $100 a night hotel (our hotel is $6 per night) this along with checking all the cubicles before settling on a squatty is probably one of my top backpacking tips.

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We returned to more temples on the next two days and tried not to moan about it being 'too hot' and just accept that we were both a sweaty mess. I continued to wear my silly hat and blend in with the Koreans.

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Posted by vincerb 02:10 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Day 52- 54 Sihanoukville


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We left Kep in a minibus which was eventful as all buses in S E Asia. Once close to capacity one man removed himself from the bus due to lack of space on the back seat where they like to squeeze 4 people in. The driver then received a call and we went back to a previous pick up point to shoe horn a family of four into the spare seat. An extra seat was recovered by the luggage of 17 travellers being tied to the back seats and the boot door being strapped down with a few old shoelaces. We set off! Somewhat squashed and 1 1/2 hours late after all the trouble. Then. Another call to say 2 more people needed to get on. The (all French) passengers kicked off in French rightly informing the driver that there really was more room. After driving at 5 miles an hour for a few minutes he had a wee at the side of the road and then left- this time for real!

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We headed to a hostel on Otres Beach to relaxing and eat amok. We spent a few days reading at the beach and Dan got his eyebrows threaded.

One day we shared the sea with hundreds of jellyfish who only drift into the shallows in the morning of two months per year. Jellyfish are my favorite sea creature so I was quite excited by this. I even saw a hitchhiking crab in the top of one.

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Posted by vincerb 01:41 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Day 50-51 Rabbit Island

We booked onto a day trip to see the sights of Kampot with intention of not returning and staying over night at the afternoon island stop off.
In the day we watched men sweating out packing, weighing and sealing 50kg bags of salt at a salt farm.

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We also went to a Kampot pepper farm...

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and there was a visitor waiting for me as I lowered my butt onto this toilet seat.

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In the afternoon when we arrived on Rabbit island we checked into a $6 beach bungalow with no shower and a light bulb with power between 6-10pm.

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We didn't quite have the dream 'waking up to the sounds of the ocean' experience. An over anxious doxy enhanced dream meant I had Dan checking under the bed in the middle of the night for a crocodile. At 5am Dan chased a cockeral from under the bungalow and off the balcony. We gave up on sleep at 8am when a man with a petrol strimmer decided to mow the entire beach. Once that stopped we did enjoy watching him climb up trees for coconuts with nothing but a piece of string between his legs.

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Dan also dropped the camera, lens first, into the sand and broke it- but not before we got a snap with this cutie

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Posted by vincerb 01:40 Archived in Cambodia Comments (1)

day 48-49 Kampot


This post written by Dan (for once).
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We left Phnom Penh with a good early impression of Cambodia and headed for Kampot, the guidebook assured us this was a 'quaint riverside town''. Thankfully the Lonely Planet was right - a very welcoming guesthouse and decent dorm room helped us settle in. By the way the dorm room only has two and half walls - with an open balcony removing one and mosquito windows the other half - making for a lovely morning breeze whilst I had my ice cold morning shower (Mum I can't wait to come home to a real shower!)

We took a sunset cruise down the river for a couple of hours which was pretty sweet - after visiting Saigon and Phnom Penh we need some time to chill out! One thing that has baffled me on this trip is incessant video recording - one man filmed about 90% of the sunset cruise. I wonder when he will watch back that 90 minutes of river water passing by him. Don't get me wrong it was a nice cruise but come on! Enjoy yourself!

Back at the hostel they had a special offer on - for every $ you spent on food you got a free pint of beer. Needless to say we spent the evening eating, drinking and playing Scrabble - we are so rock and roll sometimes!

The next day was time to rent a scooter again, we drove two hours into the Bokor National Park. A really nice ride way, way up into the mountains stopping off at waterfalls and viewing areas. We looked around an abandoned hotel built in 1924 and an abandoned church at the top - pretty eerie! I spent most of the ride back down trying to spot one of the few tigers left living wild in the park but to no avail - oh and of course concentrating on the road, driving safely blah blah blah.'

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For dinner Becky had a hot dog followed by a chocolate brownie and due to the restaurant (Pie and Ice Cream Palace!) having no veggie food I just had a massive slice of apple pie and ice cream for dinner. Who says travellers have to 1) eat street food for every meal and 2) avoid western food! The evening was spent unfortunately paying for beers - then again they are only 75 cents a pop!

Posted by vincerb 04:47 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Day 45-47 Phnom Penh

We checked into our usual budget hostel whose bathroom makes me think that even I could have a career in SE Asia as a plumber/tiler. This time they'd gone to the effort of plumbing the sink in (as opposed to the plug draining from a height onto the floor) but the pipe came back out of the wall just above your feet. So essentially when you spit out your toothpaste into the sink your spitting it onto your own toes.

The redeeming quality of this hostel was the rooftop bar with hammocks for me and football for Dan.

While in the city we engaged in some dark tourism visiting the Killing Fields and S-21 Prison/Tuol Sleng Grenoside Museum. Understandably we took no photos at these places except when we met a pack of puppy's near the loos.

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We also splurged and went on an organised tour to Phonm Tameo animal rescue zoo. We have been especially careful with which animal encounters we have in SE Asia. This park was a leading light for the future of animals in SE Asia. The enclosures were up to western standards and most animals had been rescued from individuals who had them as pets before they became too large or no longer cute enough. The organiser was an inspirational Cambodian lady who has adopted 3 orphaned children, juggled 3 jobs and evening university to start her own business even employing her father as the jeep driver. With ambition to open a community centre and home stay soon we were more than happy to spend our money here. After an exquisite lunch cooked by her the left overs and our empty bottles were given to poor children from a local village who she also supports with school uniforms, daily leftovers and annual food parties.

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Posted by vincerb 04:47 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Day 42-44 Saigon


After over preparing ourselves for Ho Chi Minh City with tales of scooter craziness and bag snatching scares in mind we actually found it a really pleasant and is one of our favourite stops (and last) in Vietnam. Now writing this having left I think its okay to share some statistics that may have worried my mum a bit. On the way to Cu Chi tunnels our guide explained that if you buy a car in Vietnam you have to pay 300% tax hence why there is more than one scooter for every two people in the city. He said that 20 people die per day in Saigon from a scooter accident, 400 a month in the whole of Vietnam and in total 14,000 last year. So clearly his math is a bit off so let's just summarise it that a lot of people die from scooter accidents. Probably because there are hardly any pavements to walk on because the Vietnamese eat, sleep, get married, park and piss on them. Traffic lights are more of a guide of how fast to go through them and everyone is intent on their destination and will risk a head on collision to avoid any use of breaks. The good news is that we didn't die and we are so good at crossing roads now that other westerners follow closely behind us. (Probably using our bodies as a shield. )

We went to watch some locals play shuttle and Dan bought one to take home (See my instagram for a video. I believe a Larkins reunion is on the cards when we return) While we watched a young girl approached us wanting to practice her English. She was with her dad and younger sister and had travelled for 30 mins to the city center to find someone English to speak to. We spoke to her for about an hour in total and attracted two more boys who wanted to talk about Chelsea players with Dan. Like most, she was keen to hear all about tattoos, there was a moment when she didn't know what to say in fear of insulting us but we let her know that we understood that women with tattoos are seen as criminals and general scum by the older generation- to which she confirmed but proclaimed her personal love for them. The compliments continued when she told me that my eyes are weird and she normally only sees brown or black coloured eyes. Finally on the same day that I tried a new center parting hair do, one of the guys told Dan I looked like the Mona Lisa. I've not since worn my hair the same.

Whilst in Saigon we also visited Cu Chi tunnels which like all S E Asian attractions could do with some improvements such as crowd control, and information signs. But Dan shot an AK47 so apparently not a wasted day.

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We also went to see Catching Fire at a cinema that was so western that halfway through I snapped out of my film absorption and realised I wouldn't be exiting via westwood cross car park in the rain. With the excitement of the film it was all a bit much and my heart raced as I realised that I was going back out onto the smelliest streets where bbq pig kidney and chicken feet at breakfast on a plastic stall is normal. Panic soon over.

Another day on the way to a museum a local gave us incorrect directions as she probably didn't want to loose face. It was hot and I was tired so we jumped into a taxi. He then misunderstood us and tried to take us to another museum. We made it to the right one eventually. Only 200m around the corner from where we asked for directions. This is when the language and tourist barrier becomes frustrating and I miss just being able to get somewhere or something without having a constant battle to communicate and not get scammed. At the same museum something very strange happened...

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We were the only two on the museum tour and the guide dressed up us and took lots of photos of us. I felt like Professor Quirrell.

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I think you can tell that we are not sure about any of this 'pretend your in a pharmacy thing

The same night we went to Baskin Robbins for $3 icecream - which cost more than dinner! We've never been to one before and understand that was a crime. Best chocolate orange and cotton candy flavours EVER!

Posted by vincerb 04:46 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 40-41 Let us be tourists!

Today we tried to visit a pagoda only accessible by one tourist railway track. After 20 minutes of communication we came to the summary that they didn't want our money (shocking) and that the driver was probably sleeping somewhere instead. The guide book claimed it would run with two passengers but the lady in charge claimed they needed 15. As there was only 9 of us the only way they'd run it would be if we paid triple the guide price. But even then we'd have to come back in two hours. It was really annoying as its the main attraction in Dalat and we couldn't get to it.

We spent the day by the lake and visited crazy house.

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In the evening we went to a recommend restaurant with a huge menu that we browsed for 10 minutes before ordering. Then we were told that only 2 of the 50 dishes were available. We were so irritated that we'd sat clearly deciding for ages. In the end we couldn't eat there because they had (apparently) no vegetables. Dan has for now, gone vegetarian.

So I overall it was a frustrating day. On the plus we had for the first time in 6 weeks, a comfortable mattress with good pillows and a duvet. Dan did get to speak to a local boy keen to practice his English
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Posted by vincerb 04:44 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 37-39 Nha Trang

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Dan certainly took some convincing as we got into the mud bath with two Russian ladies at Thap Ba Spa. I kept having to assure him it was a normal spa treatment. Admittedly sharing wasn't ideal but private baths were double the price and we're backpacking don't ya know.

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He was less impressed when I got out of the mud bath and told him to look as I emptied a pint of muddy water from my bikini bottoms. He wasn't quick enough to crack the 'have you shit yourself?' joke which I maturely pulled out of the bag later as he tried to wash the mud off his shorts.

We enjoyed salt showers, mineral baths, hot pools and waterfall back massages alongside alot of very large Russian men in speedos. One man had wrongly decided that beige budgie smugglers were a good swimwear choice. It was not. He may as well have worn nothing, it was all very unfortunate for our eyes.

Vinpearl Land

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In true British spirit we got on with the rain and headed to Vinpearl Land water park. For a nation who drive on both sides of the road with no apparent laws these people do not understand bumper cars. Bumper cars with no 'no bumping' rules. We expected chaos. We were disappointed. The Vietnamese drove around in circles AVOIDING each other. We ignored this and Dan took it upon himself to make faces at them before impacting and ruining their peaceful ride.

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I took the above picture just before Dan came out of the loo and asked if I was okay. I burst into tears. The trainer had been restraining the monkey to dress him, the monkey was clearly in distress and the trainer was laughing at it as it bared its teeth in resistance. I cried because the trainer had zero respect for an animal that could easily rip his face off. I know that it's different here but it can still be upsetting. After seeing chickens and pigs crammed into baskets on motorbikes and having eaten some awful quality meat here we are both considering our automatic consumption of meat and on the verge of going veggie.

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The park had was a mish mash of a water park, theme park and arcades - despite some horror stories the health and safety wasn't too bad, although we did fly out of a rubber tube on one ride. Dan conquered some fears and went on the biggest slide in the parks - he is very proud of this. The next day I did suffer from whiplash as a result of bumper cars and violent water slides!

Posted by vincerb 04:40 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 36 Sleeper bus

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Whilst waiting for my shoes to be altered we went for a drink in a cafe. On route to the toilet through the owners living quarters I saw something out of the corner of my eye on the kitchen counter. I looked over and froze as a fat black rat ran across the chopping boards and cooking area. I squealed. Turned on the spot and walked back out hugging myself. There's no way I was going to risk being in a cubicle with that! Luckily we were only drinking at this café. I like to avoid visiting restaurant loos until after we've eaten in case I see something like this before I eat and then start second guessing a dicky tummy. In most cases the toilet is actually a cubicle they've built into the kitchen with the families toothbrushes at the sink.

On the subject of toilets we keep running into ones we claim to be "the worst yet" mainly occurring at bus stations and toilet stops. But really the womens at Hoi An bus station have been the absolute worst yet. So bad that I passed and used the mens. There was no light so it was a head torch jobby. 3 mid height brick walls, concrete floor with two bricks to squat on. Each one was blocked up beyond the height of the foot bricks with sludge. Me and a fellow female passenger opted for the mens who not only had doors and cubicles but ceramic squats too. The door was so dirty that I left it open refusing to touch anything in there and enjoying a hand sanitiser bath on exit. I curse the day I forgot to pack my she wee.

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We then got a sleeper bus which was one nail away from a coffin. Some Vietnamese ladies pointed, laughed and took pictures of Dan as his feet hung over the 'bed' into the aisle.

Posted by vincerb 04:31 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Day 35 Water Well

Dan collected his suit this morning

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Then we cycled to a farm for lunch. We missed the turning and ended up being waved at by 6 women trying to get us to park our bikes in thier shed. Dan mused that its the equivalent of going to a car park in the UK and having the choice of 6 different people to pay depending on which corner you choose to park in. We re-checked the map and headed back to a little alleyway leading to the open farm.

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We watched a group of school children learn about traditional Vietnamese farming techniques whilst we cooled down in the shade. For lunch we ate amazing Vietnamese savory pancakes (see above photo for Dan being taught how to roll the rice paper) and cinnamon pork. We made it back to the hotel just in time for the rain. In the evening I had a shoe fitting and we browsed the shops some more.

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Posted by vincerb 20:40 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 34 Shopping

We spent the day going to Hoi An houses and temples whilst shopping and enjoying the quaint town.

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I got measured up for a pair of red brogues which I'm really excited about. I'm going to struggle to post them home and not wear them till April. Its got to the point where I'm quite bored of my tiny wardrobe and I'm jealous of anyone I see with clean ironed clothes.

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Posted by vincerb 20:36 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 32/33 Washout/Waiting

We attempted to leave Hue but due to flooding up and down Vietnam we were unable to move on. Having had enough of men on scooters relentlessly following us repeating offers of where they can take us we decided to spend the day watching films and using the hostel computers. Perhaps due to the bad weather these men on scooters and other hawkers seem to be super persistent in Hue. Usually one or two no thankyou's will suffice and they will move into the next white person. In Hue we're being followed down streets as they repeat offers over and over. It can be infuriating. My latest tactics is to loudly say "bye" while waving over the top of them speaking. I usually do this just as I think Dan is about to loose it.

Walking home from dinner one speed pasted, beeped his horn and said "marijuana". If we wanted it he was gone before we could enquire.

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The next day we got to the train station and faced a 5 hour delay that was announced in two hour intervals. Actually it wasn't announced. Each time the train was supposed to arrive it didn't so we went off in search of someone who wouldn't ignore us- standing at the counter proved pointless. For all nationalities. Finally we got on the train and travelled one of the most scenic parts of the N/S railway. When we arrived in Danang there was no train station sign so we nearly didn't get off. I used the station loo and triumphed as the attendant tried to give me the wrong change and charge me double. Okay so it was 2000 Dong (6p) but a triumph none the less! After sharing a taxi to Hoi An we checked into our nicest hotel yet. And most expensive (£10 per night) purely because nothing else on hostelworld was available. We downgraded the next day to our usual standard complete with lumpy pillows/hard bed/odd furniture/everything tiled in random miss matched tiles/wires hanging out the walls/air con shit/stained sheets.

After dinner Dan got measured up and ordered a maroon suit.

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Posted by vincerb 20:29 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 31 Phong Nha Cave

Today started at 6.30am as the cave was 4 1/2 hours drive away. We've done so many bus journeys now that the time isn't really an issue. The two 10p sized holes in my window were an inconvience especially as it was a very rainy windy day- more on that later

After the bus we got onto a boat and headed for the cave.

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Inside cave was like succession of Louise Bourgeois sculptures- I was in my element.

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On returning to Hue the rain had clearly been coming down heavily all day. The mini bus dropped off other people and we laughed as they stepped out into ankle and shin high waters. We should have guessed something was wrong when we were one of the last to be picked up but were not the first to be dropped off.

The guide informed us that the bus couldn't get down our road and that he would walk us back. He walked with us until it got shin high, pointed and retreated.

The path leading to our hostel? - thigh high.

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Posted by vincerb 02:09 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

Day 30 Hue Citadel

Today we braved the heavy rain in our flip flops to visit the citadel.

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We stumbled across the first supermarket style shop so far on this trip. I managed to find a pair of sandals that fit me after trying loads of shops and being looked at like some freak girl when I ask for a size 6. Whilst in the supermarket I was followed around by a group of school girls who enjoyed staring at me in all my western glory.

Dan needs to buy some more pants but he refuses to buy Gucci knock offs from the market and there was only a very limited selection at the supermarket

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Dan is now getting tired of random people grabing his/rubbing his tattoos and would kindly like to let the world know that they are not an invite for groping in the same way he imagines pregnant women do not like old women rubbing their bellys in supermarkets.

Posted by vincerb 07:13 Archived in Vietnam Comments (0)

Day 29 Near Miss

Today we left Cat Ba Island via the bus/boat/bus/bus route to Hanoi. The journey was supposed to take 5 hours and took nearly double that meaning we were left with a mad dash to catch our flight to Hue (cheaper than the sleeper coach) We happened to get Hanoi's only cautious taxi driver who also delighted us with an hour of loud dance remixes including Sean Kingston and what can only be described as Elmo rapping for 7 minutes. On arrival at Hanoi airport I Vietnam style pushed the trolley and took no mercy on anyone trying to push infront of me (which they love to do). We made it to check in with 10 minutes to spare...The flight was then delayed.

The bus drove into a telegraph pole, the driver went through the skylight to kick off the wires and we were back on the road
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A standard issue SE Asian seat belt
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Posted by vincerb 07:11 Archived in Vietnam Comments (1)

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