Monthly Archives: October 2011

Oct 20th 2011 – Sihanoukeville cont…

Well this is a turn up for the books… an unscheduled stop that just happens to be a very chilled place to stay. The journey here was pretty short. Good. And when we arrived we were greeted by blue skies and an amazing view over the Gulf of Thailand with clear blue waters lapping gently against the jetty, long white sand beaches and rocky coves. I could get used to this!

Sihanoukeville Jetty image

Sihanoukeville Jetty

We had booked into the Cove Beach Bungalows over the internet – a set of wooden huts on a hillside looking over the gulf… a great view through the trees to the ocean, and hot! Very hot and humid. Luckily our shaded balcony, with its big bucket chairs and hammock is a great retreat from the sun. This is home for the next 10 nights. Nothing but snorkelling, sunbathing, drinking and eating is on the agenda.

The beach areas are lined with huts and bars selling 50 cent beer (we even found one place selling a glass of beer for 25 cents!) which is actually very nice… as well as $3 BBQs with seafood caught right on the front door… how fresh is that?! Only thing is you can’t just go for a walk without running the gauntlet of sellers trying to get you into thier bars/restaurants. But they are a good natured lot and the banter can be quite funny.

Octeul Beach image

Life's a beach!

The bars aren’t the only thing trying to sell you stuff. The kids here are always wandering around selling bracelets, with a disconcerting charm and sharp intelligence that makes you want to adopt them….and this coming from a couple who have run a mile from having kids!

Another beach image

Yet another beach... but the beers expensive! 75 cents?!!

So as we drink our 50 cent beers, eating fresh sea food, while watching the Chinese junk style boats bob in the water, in 30 degree heat, we are thinking of you all back home. Cheers!


Oct 16th 2011 – SihanoukeVille, Cambodia

The bus left on time!! This is a first for Asia… it also took the length of time they said it would – 4 hours. The journey down on The Mekong Express was fine too… Decent seats, free food and water and an in-bus movie…here’s a clue… “get your hands off me you damn dirty ape!” – Champion!

Bus to Sihanoukeville - image

Roads? Who needs roads, and traffic lights, and traffic calming and driving on a designated side of the road??

We passed more stunning landscape of Cambodia… not as wet as before and more open, with green fields and trees, as well as a more mountainous terrain… and on down to the sea and Sihanoukeville!

Sihanoukeville arrival - image

Our first image of the coast... aww well, somebody has to do it!

When we arrived at the hotel we were blown away by the view and the stunning location… see image. God it’s a hard life… More posts to come.

Sihanoukeville from our balcony - image

Tut... slumming it in Siahnoukeville. πŸ™‚


Oct 12th 2011 – Phenom Penh

The 2 hour journey to Phenom Penh took 8 hours (I assumed that the roads would be good… stupid bugger!)… The journey was fine though and in no way as bad as the Penang to Bangkok… remember that? And we were given a complimentary custard filled bun and a bottle of water… F**k National Express this is living!! National Express would give you a complimentary rip-off price and a kick in the wallet.. good ole rip off Britain!!

You could see the damage the floods had done though…just the roofs of the houses were poking out of the huge mass of water were all that was left of many of the villages. Having said that this is a natural occurrence (flooding) pretty much every year and the houses – or some of them – are set up for it. They build them on stilts; either bamboo or concrete (depending on how much money you have I guess). All the livestock is by the side of the road, so you see cows, chickens, ducks… I’m suprised the bus didn’t take out the lot in a mass accident… I can just see the headline “Bus involved in mass cow, chicken duck carnage” πŸ™‚

flood image

Flood!

Anyway, the journey was pleasant and we arrived not too tired into Phenom Penh for a four night stay before heading off to SihanoukVille (on the coast). The capitol is what you’d expect… cars, bikes, noise, congestion, beggars, hawkers and every other walk of life. Our hotel is actually a pub- the name is a giveaway – called The Local, and run by an Aussie. The room was basic, but had everything you need, including my favourite – a bath! But we did socialise a bit more here, as its full of ex pats – hard drinkers and talkers. The setting was fantastic, as it was right by the river where everyone gathers on an evening. The locals come to dance and do aerobics and its very entertaining.

We did the obligatory city tour in a tuk tuk. Its a very small city, and you can do it in a day. So, more bloody temples, but one of them had some fantastic murals, and we were the only ones looking at them. Masses of people were being led by the nose by guides, and not one stopped at these wall paintings. Why you might say? Because they are really old, so they depict Vishnu and the Naga Gods of old, not their new found relgion of Buddism. They would love to wipe memory of this ancient religion of serpent kings and flying gods.

Mural of Ancient Vedic Tales - image

Mural of Ancient Vedic Tales

We’ve decided not take any more photos of temples after this or you are going to get very bored with our photo gallery! The museum was good though, with a very nice courtyard and some interesting carvings which me and jane argued over the meaning. You know jane, she sees flying lizard people and spacemen in everything.

The National Museum of Phnom Penh - image

The National Museum of Phnom Penh - Aaaah (Yawn) seats!

Phenom Penh Silver Pegoda Palace - image

Phenom Penh Silver Pegoda Palace...er... Yawn!

On our first night we found a nice little restaurant and as we were eating an elephant walked past. A big elephant. Absolutely brilliant! She ws happy becaue it was raining and cool… so she did what she was told:)

We met a guy from England (hello Tony) in there too he was talking about his job as a upholsterer for the movie business… so of course I was in my element asking questions… he’s worked on Elizabeth, Pirates 4, The Bond movies and loads of others… nice fella and gave me his phone number to call him for a tour of Pinewood Studios (where his workshop is) when we get back… I will be calling mate don’t you worry πŸ™‚

It’s been a good stay here, but I’m glad to be getting out of another city. Looking forward to Sihanoukville and the Gulf of Thailand… if money allows may even get a dive in πŸ™‚


Oct 11th 2011 – Our last day in Siem Reap

It took three full days to see all the temples. On the last day we travelled over 10 miles out of the main district, through amazing rural landscape, to the moat surrounded temple of Banteay Srei.

Banteay Srei - image

The temple of Banteay Srei

Yet another beautiful temple (yawn :)), but it was the journey there and back that was the real highlight. The bamboo homes of the people here line the road. They share thier homes with cows and chickens and treat them with respect. And cook thier food in couldrons above huge brick and clay ovens… it smelled great! There is nothing quite like motoring along the lush, mangrove lined, lanes in an open tuk tuk to experience the sights, sounds and smells of Cambodia.

Rice Field - image

A local child in the rice field

We have had a great time in the town of Siem Reap – the plodging into town through the flooded streets, the great food, the lovely people, and our brilliant hotel. The Angkor Spirit Palace has an awesome pool, a lovely tropical garden, a good menu, and cheap beer!!!! We will miss it.

Angkor Spirit Palace - image

Our home for 10 days... the Spirit Palace is outside the town and much quieter!

Now… it’s off to Phenom Penh the capital of Cambodia!!


Oct 6th 2011 – Ta Prohm and more…

Ta Prohm is the temple where the first Lara Croft movie was made (the one with Angelino Jolie). It’s one of the oldest temples in the entire complex, and built between the 8th and 9th Century. This is the one that nature is taking back. There are four hundred year old trees sitting on top of the temple walls, the root systems wrapping themselves around the stonework… it looks fantastic… and is one of the most interesting temples to look around.

The roots at Ta Prohm - image

The roots at Ta Prohm - awesome.

Ta Prohm image

Me and our Ta Prohm tree roots

There is one strange thing about this temple that I found out about (through Jane) and this is the appearance of a Stegasaurus in the relief carvings on the walls. Now, can anybody tell me how, in Cambodia 1000 years ago (Way before the first Dinosaur bones were discovered) they even knew what a dinosaur was let alone a particular one like the stegasaurus?? Here’s the pic… decide for yourselves.

stegasaurous image

Mmmm.. looks like a stegasaurous to me. And I took this pic!

We eventually dragged ourselves away and headed for the Elephant walk, a cerimonial walkway linking many of the temples in the complex…

Jane with elephant - image

Jane withElephant

Ta Prohm Elephants - image

Ta Prohm Elephants on the walkway

We met a group of orphans out with thier teacher. They had been drawing pictures of the temples. A couple of them gave us thier drawings as a gift. After chatting with them for a while, We gave them a donation for the orphanage and then headed back to the tuk-tuk for the journey home.


Oct 4th 2011 – Angkor Wat

An early start today our tuk-tuk driver (Moonsnake is his name) picked us up from the hotel at 8:30am. We drove about 5 miles to reach the outskirts of the temple complex – as there’s more than one. First on the agenda was Angkor Wat. We approached it via an ancient stone bridge, because it’s surrounded by a massive moat. We entered up a stairway through the main gate and only then did we realise how huge it is… It must have been an amazing thing to be the first westerners to have happened upon this in 1860.

AngkorDoug image

The shirt just gives the IMPRESSION of a belly ok?

Inside is a collection of spiralling towers over three floors, each floor accessed by steep stairways and surrounded by courtyards and covered walkways. The walls are decorated with relief carvings of the life and times of Vishnu the Serpeant God. There were some amazing scenes of elephant processions and impressive battle scenes… I’m not an authority on this subject so I’ll let the images speak for themselves.

AngkorRelief image

One of many Angkor relief carvings

AngkorWatMonks

Angkor Monks on a break... what do monks have a break FROM?

A couple of hours later we surfaced from Angkor Wat and happily dived into the tuk tuk for a cool breezy ride to the next temple complex of Angkor Thom.

AngkorThomGate image

Angkor Thom South Gate entrance

Here we went through the south gate via an ancient bridge lined with stone figures holding a huge serpeant. Bayon was the first one we went to, and I have to say of all the temples we visited this one was the most enjoyable. Huge faces (over 200 of them) all smiling look out over the complex and kind of welcome you to enter the temple. You kinda felt at home and welcomed in there.

Bayon image

Bayon temple - really chilled place

All the temples are pretty hard work because there are loads of huge stone steps, so steep you have to drag yourself up on your hands and knees on some of them. And getting down is even worse! Definately worth it though!

BayonSmile image

The Bayon smile

This complex had temple after temple all amazing and all different and connected by a huge raised platform with lifesized elephant heads carved from rock. We spent hours in there.

AngkorThomTemple

One of the many temples of Angkor Thom (birds eye view)

A really great and interesting day and totally knackered from all the climbing… looking forward to the next day (or day after, when I’m recovered) πŸ™‚


Oct 2nd 2011 – The Road to Siem Reap, Cambodia

We were pretty much ready to leave Bangkok after only 4 days there… Although the hotel was really nice and the people very friendly, it was a bit of a walk through town to the tourist spots (Khao San Road and theΒ  like) and the place was so congested although on a grander scale compared to Penang.

We booked passage to Siem Reap through one of the travel Agents on Khao San Road.Β  The girl on the desk told us that Cambodia had been flooded because of heavy rain and that we should check with our hotel to make sure that we could still access the place. We did and the hotel assured us that the water had receded and that we could book with them no problem. So we booked our travel with the agent (praying it wouldn’t be another Penang to Bangkok kinda deal. πŸ™‚ We were picked up at 7am next morning from the Trang Hotel, and could tell immediately it was going to be a smoother trip than the last.

The journey to Poipet (the border crossing) was great, quite relaxed even. Four hours passed quite easily as we were in the front seats and had enough room to swing two very small kittens πŸ™‚ The closer we got to the border the more the landscape changed from hotels and concrete to rice fields and green grass… much better!! About fifteen minutes from the border we pulled into a really nice roadside cafe/restaurant made from bamboo and leaves. This was where those without Visas would fill in thier forms supplied by the guys running the trip. We had about an hour before heading off for the border so we ordered Noodle soup and some sweet tea…Mmmm getting a taste for this… very nice!

Cambodian Housing image

Cambodian housing... very nice!

The border at Poipet was a little confusing… and a bit inefficient, but after an hour we were through passport control and on our way to Siem Reep via a stop to pick up a taxi for the rest of the trip… much better πŸ™‚

Siem_Reap_buffalo image

Water Buffalo on the way to Siem Reap

After we filled the taxi up with petrol (see pic) the taxi ride took about two hours and was stunning .

Siem Reap Garage image

Fill 'er up luv! Mind you, put that fag out first though... gulp!

We passed vast flat lands of pure green rice fields, with water buffalo at every turn and children playing in the water with rubber rings and fishing with homemade fishing rods and nets. The freshwater fishing must be good after a flood here because EVERYONE is fishing… much better than sitting in front of a bloomin playstation like the kids in the west. Everyone looks so happy! πŸ™‚

We arrived in Siem Reap and were greeted by a tuk-tuk driver called “Moonsnake” who transfered us to our hotel through some pretty flooded streets I can tell you (see pic). We’ve hired him for the trips to the temples too so watch this space for some cracking photos of Angkor Wat!!

Siem reap Flood Image

Flood! Save yourselves!! Oh... not that bad then...oh ok.