A Travellerspoint blog

The end of the road...

sunny 35 °C
View Our RTW Trip :) on SooMagoo's travel map.

Greetings all!

Well when we finally dried out from the Phnom Penh adventure it was time for us to head north to Siem Reap and the Temples at Angkor. We travelled by bus, and had a delightful lunch stop at a little village where they had some rather charming delicacies on offer including frog (whole) and deep fried tarantula. Yes, you heard - tarantula. Not only were there women walking around with trays full of crunchy looking spider crisps, but one woman was strolling about nonchalantly with a live spider on her shirt, occasionally stroking it as she went about her spider selling business. Did we try one, I hear you ask? Hell no! I'm all for trying out the local cuisine but the though of biting into one of the chubby little hairy legs didn't really appeal - we stuck to the safer and less repulsive option of a salad baguette :) A chap on our bus did buy a rather large bag of them although sadly we didn't see him tucking in to them. That was pretty much the highlight of a relatively uneventful trip, and about an hour ahead of schedule (unheard of!) we arrived at our destination.

Siem Reap is a pretty little town, that seems to exist entirely to service Angkor - it is thus full of 5* resort hotels and some rather lovely restaurants. We had a day to relax and get our bearings before being collected at 5am by Lee, our tuk tuk driver for our first view of the temples and a spot of sunrise. On the first day we visited 13 temples, including Prah Prohm - otherwise universally know, it would seem, as "The Tombraider Temple". Haven't seen the film myself, but we overheard many a tour guide explaining the scene in detail to people...something to do with tigers apparently!

The following two days followed a similar format - up at 5 for sunrise, a good 7 hours of templing, back to town for lunch and a rest then back to the temples for sunset. The three days were exhausting, most of the temples are in a pretty bad state of disrepair, and there are lots of very steep flights of steps to scramble up and down (not easy in flip flops, I can tell you!) - but it was an amazing experience. Words can't really do it justice, all I can do is pop some pictures on Facebook and encourage you all to go and see for yourself!

After our three days it was time to return to Bangkok - yet another terrifying twin prop plane (Siem Reap Air...would you trust an airline from a place with a population a fraction of the size of Reading? Think Air Wokingham!) but we made it back safely in the knowledge that our next plane would be something of the sturdier variety, and not with an airline that's not allowed to fly over Europe due to it's poor safety record as is the case with many of the SE Asian airlines! We had a pretty quiet few days of winding down and getting ready to head home, including a bit of shopping, a trip to the Grand Palace and the Khao San Road to see how the backpackers actually live and a visit to the most amazing cinema EVER! The room had no more than about 30 seats, and each of them had individual controls to allow you to completely recline, they gave you a blanket in case the air conditioning was too chilly and they even brought us beer which we stowed on our rather handy side tables. Awesome. We discovered just how patriotic the Thai folk are when just before the film commenced we were treated to the national anthem (everyone stands up at this point) which was accompanied by what can only be described as a music video with "We love the King" tag lines and lots of footage of him giving money to the poor and generally being an all round good egg. Can you imagine that in the UK?!

So before we knew it, we were sitting at Bangkok airport waiting for our 12.45am plane back to the UK. Four months, 10 countries, and more amazing people, incredible sights, stunning scenery and good times than you can shake a sizeable stick at. We hope you've enjoyed the blog, although it's occasionally been a bit of a pain finding internet access good enough to write it, it's been a good way to recall all our favourite moments and reassure people that we're not lost in the big wide world somewhere :)

That's all from us, hope to catch up with you all soon!
Over and out,
Sue & Chris xxx

Posted by SooMagoo 15:34 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Genesis 6:14

AKA The Cambodian Ark

storm 30 °C

So I thought I should tell you all about an experience in Phnom Penh with the monsoon rain.

We've had some rainy days while we've been here; apparently it's what it does and you get used to it. However, the day before we were set to leave for Siem Reap the rain had something else in mind.

Having set out to check email early doors the heavens quickly opened. After 20 mins or so it was coming down thicker and faster so safety was sought in a local restaurant. Usually, monsoon rain lasts for a couple of hours and has dried up in no time, leaving little trace that it was ever there, and that was what we expected to happen. An hour later, however, and the water had covered the road, overflowed onto the pavement and before much longer it was lapping at the doorway of the restaurant. At this point, we were still confident that it would stop raining and drain away pretty soon so we thought we'd sit it out and have some dinner. Slight problem though, no money! We'd only planned to be out for a short while and having read the many warnings about how many muggings apparently happen in Phnom Penh we'd left most of our cash back at the hotel. Being the gentlemen that I am I volunteered to go and get the cash from the hotel...if only I'd known what I was letting myself in for! I took a deep breath, tried hard not to think about the dead rat we'd seen on the pavement on our way to the restaurant, and waded in. After only a few steps out of the restaurant the water was ankle deep. Before long the water was up to my knees, then to my thighs (forcing me to sexily pull my shorts right up and dazzle the local population with a whiteness they've never seen before!). In addition to this things kept hitting my legs, and with no idea what they were an inner monologue occured:

"What was that?"
"A leaf"
"Are you sure?"
"Of course, can't you tell by the way it wraps around your leg??"
"Hmmmmm.....OK something hard just hit me"
"That was just one of them hard leaves"
"Hard leaves?? You're trying to tell me that....wait, that was definately furry!"
"A furry leaf I think you'll find"
"A furry leaf?!?"
"Oh sure, it's good luck being hit by the Cambodian furry leaf"
"A Cambodian furry leaf, you've got to be kidding...bloody hell that was a door!"
"You got me, that was actually a door"

And so this continued all the way to and from the hotel. On the way back I had possibly one of my favourite moments from our time away. As I waded through the hard, furry leaves I noticed a half sunken Tuk Tuk. I stood for moment and was saddened by it's half sunken predicament. While standing there, brolly in one hand, a set of flip flops in the other (I had to leave my shoes at the restaurant ) I heard a distant and hopeful "Tuk Tuk?". Looking up I saw a smiley man, the obvious owner of said sunken Tuk Tuk, looking at me with a cheeky grin. We both contemplated for a few moments before deciding that I was possibly best left to wade the streets myself.

2 hours (and a rather lovely meal) later we were very kindly driven to higher ground by the staff at the restaurant who managed to get an impressive number of people and a mopeds onto a pick up truck and made our way back to our hotel where we sat and watched people optimistically riding mopeds through tidal waves from our balcony. Impressively, the following morning all was (relatively) dry.

Sue will be with you soon to update you on our movements since the great flood!
Much love

Chris

Posted by SooMagoo 09:47 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Laos to Cambodia

The love affair with hair raising bus and plane travel continues!

rain

Hello there

Sorry for the delay in getting this post up, Southern Laos and Cambodia don't exactly have the best internet access in the world! So yep, you guessed it, we're in Cambodia. Let me tell you how we got here :)

So after Luang Prabang we decided to head south to the captial Vientiane and see what it had to offer. This involved a supposed 6 hour bus journey, but nothing is as it seems in South East Asia! The drive out of Luang Prabang is weavy to say the least. You twist and turn all the way up the hills...and then you twist and turn all the way back down them again (anyone that could introduce the concept of tunnels of bridges here would make a killing!). The bus tips at angles you wish it wouldn't tip at, over crevices you wish you hadn't seen, past landslides over the road and made out of the road, and from the lush tarmac to the pot-holed wastelands. We arrived safe though, if not 4 hours later then expected :)

Vientiane is a nice place, but it's population is smaller then Reading so as you can imagne there's not a great deal to do there! We visited the main Wat (Buddhist home), saw their fake Arc De Triumph, and visited the COPE museum which is dedicated to helping the victims of the bombs that America dropped during the Vietnam conflict (amazing and just horrible at the same time. Hard to believe that a country that wasn't really involved got hit so hard!). While we were in Vientiane the Mekong was looking to burst it's banks too so there were sandbags everywhere and a lot of activity down by the riverside. We think it finally burst a day or so after we left which was nice of it :)

So after Vientiane we headed for Cambodia and the capital Phnom Penh. Cambodia is a hell of a lot different to Laos, and we'd heard mixed reports about how safe the capital was so we were a little apprehensive to say the least. We booked ourselves into a little guesthouse (one we later found out had been frequented by Elton John (they had a signed piccie and everything!)), and the owner (who looked and spoke a lot like Jimmy Wah from 'Good Morning Vietnam') and his family turned out to be the most helpful people we've met so far! Phnom Penh is a bit grubby though, with lots of rubbish on the streets and more poverty then we'd seen in a while, but if you cut through it all it has some nice places to visit. We saw the National Museum (a stunning building built in traditional Wat styles) on the first day, and then went to the FCC (Foreign Correspondents Club) in the evening where we counted 16+ geckos crawling on the walls and ceilings much to Sue's delight.

The following day we hired a driver and set about seeing some of the sites of the city. Naturally first up was a shooting range (a lotttttt of guns in Cambodia). Sue and I choose an AK47 and the M1 to shoot, and let me tell you, it was so much fun! We got two targets and had go's using the single shot and then automatic function (the latter knocks you back of your feet!). We did pretty well when using single shot, but the backside of a barn would have been safe as houses when we were using the automatic!

After this we headed to the Killing Fields where we would be presented with the horrific sight of 8000+ skulls and over 120 mass graves the Khmer Rouge left during their reign of terror and madness. It's a pretty sobering sight seeing these skulls and reading all about what happened there, but it's nice to see that something is being done to lay these people to rest. After that we headed to S21, a former school turned into a prison and torture camp. This was even worse as you got to see the conditions of the prisoners (cells no bigger then a single bed, chained up all day and only let out to be tortured etc) and read real stories about many of the people involved. Something I'd recommend seeing but not something I'd like to go back to.

In the afternoon we went to the Russian Markets (crazy local markets selling all kinds of weird and wonderful things) and then the Royal Palace (a stunning place that houses, amongst other things, a full emerald Buddha and a room with a solid silver floor!). In the evening we went to a local restaurant called 'Friends'. Awesome little place which takes former street kids and trains them to be chefs etc. Its a not-for-profit organisation that ploughs all the money back into helping the kids, and god knows they need it!

Right, waffed on enough here. Not actually up to speed with where we currently are but can't keep on at you :)

Hope all is well where you all.

Sharm and Sue

Posted by SooMagoo 02:06 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Thailand and beyond

semi-overcast 32 °C

Ah...beautiful Koh Lanta :) To pick up where Sharm left off, we planned to stay a couple of nights on this island off the west coast of Thailand but then we got a bit stuck...and stayed for nearly a week! With monsoon season supposedly in full flow it's considered off season in most of SE Asia - what this translated to for us was beautiful sunny days with the occasional hour long rain storm, and half price accommodation :) We ended up getting about 15 pounds a night off the price of a sea front hut-on-stilts-with-obligatory-hammock-on-deck in a resort with about 6 other people staying there, a French chef who cooked up amazing, dirt cheap food and a practically abandoned, white sand covered private beach...I think you can see why we stayed!

When we finally managed to leave we headed to Krabi where we spent a night before the long trip up to Bangkok. That trip, it has to be said, left us with a bit of a bad taste in our mouth and a rather poor opinion of the Thais and their attitude towards tourists. We paid for an air conditioned bus to take us from Krabi to Surat Thani, which is where the train to Bangkok goes from. The first observation upon getting on the bus, was that I've felt stronger, colder air on my face from passing butterflies than was being achieved by the so called air conditioning. Hmm...it was clearly going to be a warm trip. As we sat waiting for the off, the driver started bringing luggage on to the bus - it seems the luggage hold could only take about 4 cases, and any surpluss was to spend the journey in the aisle of the bus, piled up 2 cases high and from back to front. Heaven help anyone who might need to exit the bus at any point! As we were sitting towards the back we were starting to feel a little hemmed in, but at the one toilet break we were afforded (10 baht to wee in a hole in the ground - happy days) I managed to run the gauntlet of luggage, and even exacted some accidental revenge by breaking one of the arm rests...oops!

We finally stopped in what we assumed to be Surat Thani. Where we actually stopped was down some random back street outside the driver's mate's restaurant, where they proceeded to not know what was going on for long enough for everyone to buy food and drinks, at which point they started sorting out who was going where. Four of us had paid to go to the train station, but the chap who appeared to be in charge told us that only two people had paid to go, and that there would be a charge for the other two. Our polite pointing out that the 4 of us had all paid the same only lead to him saying "ok, you have paid, they have to pay" to the people who argued the loudest at any given time. Luckily the four of us clubbed together and shared the additional cost, but by the time we had been put on a public bus (think 50 people per square metre with windows open in a thunder storm travelling at an average speed of 8 miles per hour) and finally made it to the station our tempers were more than a little freyed! Add to that the joy that as it's off season they don't bother putting sleeper carriages onto the overnight trains and by the time we rocked into Bangkok sleepless and achey we were quite the picture to behold!

Putting that behind us, we found ourselves a hotel in an area called Sukumvit, which is nice and central, but some of which houses one of the red light districts. It was fascinating to watch, it has to be said - all the bars had beautiful Thai women hanging out in packs catering to the mostly overweight, mostly aging, entirely white male population of the area. At one point I was on the phone to my Mum and when asked what the area I was staying in was like, I was able to describe the scene as "well, there's an elephant walking down the road, and a Thai midget dressed as a Leprauchaun standing outside the (omnipresent!) Finnegan's Irish bar across from my phonebox" Bangkok is not for the faint hearted!

We had a fun couple of days checking out markets and designer malls, and taking in a more-expensive-for-two-drinks-than-our-night's-accommodation beverage at the Moon Bar - 61 floors up and completely open air bar and restaurant...again, not for the faint hearted but the views are stunning!

From Bangkok we flew to Laos. Our original plan had been to land travel, but the amount of time it would take would limit what we could see on arrival so we got ourselves some cheap flights to Luang Prabang. The bus journey from terminal to plane quickly showed us why it as so cheap. "Oh look," I said to Sharm "There's a funny little twin propeller plane over there!"...moments later it became worryingly clear we were aiming for it! Us and the other few white folk on the plane all began to look terrified...the plane was so small, it only had about 5 steps up to it, and two rows of two seats inside. The seatbelts looked like they may have come down the mountain with Moses, and in the absence of those new fandangled "lifejackets" one was encouraged, in the event of a landing on water, to pick up the base of one's seat and hold on to it. Reassuring!

Amazingly, we made it in one piece, and are now in beautiful, relaxing, friendly Luang Prabang. A former French colony, there is still a strong Gallic influence with baguettes for breakfast, some stunning architecture and coffee that is marginally more bearable than in the rest of Asia. Ooh, and you can get a decent drop of wine here too. The Laos people are incredibly friendly (to give you an example - there is free internet at the hotel we are staying at, and when I gave up my terminal for someone they hurridly ushered me over to the computer behind reception so that I could continue this post!) and a welcome antidote to our disappointment with some of the Thais. We have mostly been relaxing and exploring, but today went on a day long cookery course which was so much fun - genuine Laos food is on us when we get back! This evening we had an amazing thunderstorm and powercut (Candlelit Luang Prabang is even prettier!) and tomorrow we're off on an elephant trek and swimming in waterfalls. And did I mention that a 640ml bottle of Beer Lao is about 50p? Can't complain!

Right, that's quite enough from me, apoloies for the length of the post!

Love to one and all,
Sue xx

Posted by SooMagoo 07:35 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

The climb back to the northern hemisphere

sunny 32 °C

Hello ladies and gentlemen

So where have we been since our queueing expedition? Well not far it has to be said, but the heat here will kind of do that to you! We took a few days in KL to check out some of the sites which were just fantastic. Less humid then Singapore, but no less hot, KL is a city covered in greenary that helps break the place up. We were staying just off the chinese market; a place which is a hub of activity from 9 in the morning till midnight. We just loved the fact that when the guys at the food stalls had enough they simply folded down their blinds, kick started their bikes, and rode down the street :)

We caught an overnight train up Malaysia aiming for the Perhenthian Islands on the east coast. Satisfied in the knowledge that we'd combined our travel with accommodation we settled in for the night and awoke the next day shortly before being kicked off the train where we'd grab a taxi to Kuala Besut; the port town where we'd get our boat. A 2 hour taxi ride cost Sue and I about 5 pounds, and the guy kept running commentary of where we were :)

I have to say that the Malaysians are so laid back. Nothing really runs to any kind of time other then when people can actually be bothered to do it. A little frustrating at first but you get used to it. What I struggled to get used to is that beer is limited due to it being a Muslim country! Oh well, a few days break never harmed anyone :)

We got a boat to the little island of Kecil and stayed on a place called Coral Bay. The island was so good, with limited people due to the low season, clear water, and plenty of places to eat and drink. The first night we spent chilling out after the travelling (hard life you know!), and the following day we went a sun worshipping. Being the typical Brit that I am am (drilled home further by my recently shaved head...I fought the mullet and the mullet won!) I got nicely burnt and have spent the remaining days dazzling people with my bright red torso :) The final day we went snorkeling which was amazing! We saw so many fish (so good were we at the identifying that we chose to ignore their actual names and instead were shouting things like "Did you see the one with the flappy tail and orange head" at each other :)).

Sadly it was our time to go and we headed back to the mainland and then to the Thai border. We managed to get ourselves a taxi for out 80 ringetts (about 12 pound) for a 200 km journey, and found a man that had 101 uses for his tissue (wiping his head, his nose, his windscreen, his wing mirrors, passers by...etc). Crossing the border was nice and easy and we headed to the train station to continue to a little place called Trang where we would set up camp. We managed to get most of the way but had to swap to minivan in Hat Yai. Luckily we met a Canadian guy that comes to Thailand every year and he helped us get a good deal (he couldn't however get us out of the 20 baht round-the-block-trip we experienced from the station!). Minivans are a new thing to us, but not that bad if you know what to expect and how to deal with the people that run them. On the way to Trang train station they tried to convince us that a cafe was the train station, then that a bus station was the train station, then (my personal favourite) that a Tuk-Tuk was the train station :)

After Trang we headed for a little island called Ko Lanta on the east coast and haven't been dissapointed at all! I'll let Sue carry it on from here as I feel like I've been waffling!

Hope all is well back home.
Sharm

Posted by SooMagoo 04:41 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

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