Visa Run Part One

Colourful Canoes

Cover shot

To enable extension of our stay in the coolest spot in Cambodia, we’re on our way to Vietnam. It was never on the agenda this trip, or any other trip either of us have ever taken in Asia. Friends had advised me as much as ten years back not to bother as the locals were unfriendly, or I suppose I should say not as friendly as other countries in the area. A number of travellers this trip have made comments such as “it’s like Cambodia without the smiles”. Let me state tho’ not every one has expressed the same view, we’ve heard good reports also and been told to get there. Even without the positives we’d still travel with an open mind, but I must admit whilst we are sitting in the minibus (this time not an overloaded one) we are both maybe just a touch sceptical. The border is quickly reached, with the required visa obtained a week earlier we sail through the checkpoint, apart from one traveller who was not aware of said requirement and was to return to Kampot. Soon after we are in Hat Tien, quickly followed by the port. We didn’t bother stopping in the coastal town, as other advice we’d received was that “there’s fuck all there!”

super dong

The latest Superdong 6 – Transport not a sex toy

The boat is a modern fast looking thing with a curious name, surprisingly there are safety messages plastered all over the shop. Not unsurprisingly tho’ there’s loud crazy movies on the large flat screen to help the pass the time. It’s a smooth crossing and when we arrive it’s less than four hours since we boarded the mini bus in the morning, result! The trip set us back $18 a piece, a nice price considering the visas were seventy! We are greeted by the usual gaggle of Tuk-Tuk drivers, no, actually they’re taxis drivers as it’s soon discovered Tuk-Tuk’s don’t exist in Vietnam. Not that I feel we’ve been there properly yet, we are just on the Island Phú Quốc. The largest in Vietnam but it’s actually closer to the Cambodian mainland, a fact that makes sense as it originally belonged to them. The French presented it to the Vietnamese as some sort of gift in the nineteen forties I believe, some gift! Once again we’ve sorted digs in advance and chosen to stay away from popular long beach. A mini bus is selected to get us to the main town and drive sorts a taxi to our selected location. Once again there are safety signs on display which has not been a familiar sight during our trip. The relatively short journey takes a while as the man at the wheel thinks it must be Sunday the speed he’s going at?

digs

The digs

As you can see it’s a nice spot and considering the island is now very popular, and therefore a touch pricey, our digs at Ong Lang beach are reasonably priced at $35 a night. It’s situated a ten minute walk away down a small lane from the beach, we take a stroll and happy with what greets us, we’ve made a good choice.

Beach arrival

As beaches go, it’s a cracker

A few obligatory welcome cocktails are consumed, as you do (or at least should) when on holidays. As this it what it is, our weekend break away from it all, the lack of positivity on the job front has started to become tedious. Therefore we intend to have as much fun as possible for our three day break. We may be here out of necessity but it’s always good to make the most of situations that present themselves as we intend to. The start has been good, a stress free journey, followed by an even less stressful sunset. It’s the only place in Vietnam you’re able to observe an unrestricted view of the orange ball in the sky disappearing into the sea, it’s quite spectacular. Making the most of the occasion I’m putting my latest camera skills to the test, whilst the KP frolics in the sea. Looking for the ‘perfect shot’, if that ever exists, includes removing sea delivered debris from the beach.

sunset

As it’s going – The orange ball in the sky

KP sunset

She’s gone, but myself and the KP together

Returning to the digs the pan is to chill in the room for a bit, making the most of the mod cons such as air con, the hot water rain shower & fluffy pillows. Realising how much we’ve adapted to life without such perks, it’s enjoyable. When we finally venture out there’s not much in the way of light, so a torch is required to navigate the area but only discover that nothing is open. So it’s a taxi into town for $8 it’s a different drive but again we travel at a snails pace getting dropped in an area where there’s a few bars and restaurants. We need cash and once again millionaires, the visit to the cash machine results in a million each, even if the reality is we’ve got a hundred dollars to spend.

Coco’s is selected for food and drinks, the KP is amused by the amount of signs in Russian that are displayed by most establishments in the area, as we’ve not seen so much of it lately. This is seaside tourism central and the Russians must be here in force which soon becomes evident in the bar. We enjoy the company of a friendly waiter offering much advice about the island and mainland, it’s a fun lively bar that specialises in home made rum. We are soon on it and it’s for free, this was due to me leaving most of my local style chicken drumsticks (free also) which were burnt to a crisp, great service which is sadly too often rare. The rum was not only strong but tasty so we try more of the vast selection, the KP loved the passion fruit version, myself the ginger, maybe coz I is one. The next venue we stop off at on the main road turns out to be a knocking shop. The girls working are friendly with us both, but not Thai style where you can get touched up by the girls who are hoping for a fancy foursome. My phone slips out of my pocket and due to the rum I’m unaware of it, one of the girls notices tho’ and returns it to me. Again this is not Thai style in such an establishment, it reminds me a of tale from the now famous maiden trip in ’99 when one of my mates CJ had his wallet lifted from his jeans. OK it was partly his fault as his jeans were round his ankles at the time, so be careful if your ever there, it’s called Blow & Go. You’ve been warned folks, always keep your valuables safe in ever there ;-).

Enough fun for our first day, the girls call us a taxi ensuring it’s the correct car and driver and that he knows our destination before we depart. It’s early in the trip but we are not finding that people are unfriendly, quite the opposite actually, and not only friendly they seem to actually care about your welfare. This is exemplified by the taxi drivers, we’ve had three so far and every single one of them has opened and closed our doors chauffeur style, not only for the KP but myself too. Courtesy can go a long way to making you feel good, which is what are when our heads hit our lush pillows for the night.

pond and sea

Pond and sea

The following morning it’s an early start and we hit the beach for a run and a swim before heading back for brekkie and there’s a nice spread laid on to be enjoyed whilst our route is checked. The island is huge, over 50 klicks by 25, so a plan is required before setting off and getting lost before we start. This was done online and if your planning to ever visit yourself this website is excellent with all sorts of advice and info about the place. The north has more to explore, hence the selection of digs, where are situated perfectly to explore the north west coast with two or three destinations in mind. Our wheels for the trip is a sexy white scooter at $10 a day! Three times what it’s costing in Kampot, but hey we’re on holidays so who cares, we can budget when back there :-). When receiving the keys the Sunday driver conundrum is solved as “Watch your speed, the limit is 40 and imposed”, are the words of advice the guy gives us. It all makes sense now the safety signs in the boat, on the dashboard of the taxi. The Vietnamese seem to value life just a little bit more, maybe a lot more actually than the other Asian countries we’ve visited. Well at least at the island they do, I can’t speak for the mainland, but I’d expect it to be so and plan to check in the future.

First destination is Cua Can beach and the direction read on the net earlier is ‘over a little wooden bridge’. Following a mini de-tour we locate said bridge, which is shortly followed by the beach, another one which is lovely. The bike rides well and in full working order, but my head is way too big for the helmet which would fit a child, it makes for fun photos anyway even if it doesn’t provide much in the way of safety I look like a right butey, but you can determine that for yourselves.

Wooden bridge

Now that’s what you call a bridge

scotter

Hell of an helmet

The main roads are excellent but along the coast there’s so much work going on it’s like driving through a building site. There’s been loads of development on the island in the last five years, the governments plan is to complete it in the next five. The way things are going there is no reason to doubt that it will be. Thankfully it’s such a big island if they do it right there will still be plenty of hidden gems to explore. Next up is Vung Bau beach and this one has a bar and restaurant where we enjoy refreshments of the liquid variety. Whilst I’m cracking off more shots of the coast I get chatting with a couple and the lady is also from the Welsh Valleies, so we have a natter. Her husband is speaking about how fantastic the place is and still so quiet, but not happy with the amount of shite on the beach. Now this is a silly comment as if you want the debris removed you need development and then it’s not quiet?! They seem a lovely couple so I don’t mention this, but instead suggest they visit our secret place in Thailand, which is still our favourite spot to date.

beach debris

Too much shit on the beach for some

beach with log

Maybe this log is a problem also

The adventure continues further north towards the north-west point and when joining the main road system, that’s when we spot it! They’ve only gone a built a water park and it looks a fucking big fancy one, I’m more excited than the KP as she’s unaware of how much fun they can be. We go to check it out, $25 entry and there’s even a fair, tomorrow’s sorted then!

We don’t find our last destination, but do arrive at a new resort that’s only been open for ten days. The ribs and dumplings are excellent and so is the 15% off just opened discount. There’s a lot of fishing structures out at sea and a very complex arrangement of nets set up just along the shore. The Cambodian shore is there to be seen in the distance.

Fishing huts

Fishing huts

Fishing nets

Fishing or cheating? Definitely clever

Returning along the highway, for a moment I think we’ve left the tripod behind. I’m too hasty in wanting to check and we slip off the road just when coming to a halt, once again down in the dirt! Crash number two! Thank fuck we’d almost stopped, but the bike has fallen on top of me and my foot is jammed but not hurt. The KP is free and helps lift the bike, in the commotion it’s almost lost down a steep bastard of a banking. Luckily we just about manage to grab it saving a costly bill, not for sure mind as we’ve scratched the side panels during the off. Onwards we go happy to have escaped a major problem once again, but hey no maybe not, a woman rides alongside and is pointing at our bike, fuck what’s wrong? Bollocks I’m thinking we might have a puncture or worse? Ahh it’s just that the stand is down and potentially dangerous, grateful for her actions all I’m thinking is that these Vietnamese are all right in our book, any early scepticism has been well and truly removed. The signs in the taxis that proclaim “Your Life Is Priority” is not just for show, they actually seem to mean it!

We can’t wait for tomorrow, it’s been a long while since I was at a waterpark & the KP is gonna love it for sure! That follows in part two…………

Worlds Best Pepper

As blogged at the zoo, we were happy enough with our digs apart from it getting a bit hot, with the temperature increasing as the days pass it’s a situation that is only going in one way and it’s not positive. On the last day we treat ourselves to the $5 air-con, it was an improvement but not great. However, moving was decided upon from a financial viewpoint. Following a conversation over beers with a young man from Jersey, there’s a place not so far away and it’s $100 a month!! So we checked it out, the room rate is $12 a night for a fan room, but true to the mans word, the monthly rate is $100 and its tidy darts! A bigger room with hot water also, plus a better view and it’s very breezy being the only high-rise building in the area. I say high-rise, the room is on the top floor, the third, which affords a greater than 360 degree view as there’s a communal balcony at each end of the building. It’s called the Arun Raksmey but it’s much easier referred to as the Aaron Ramsey, the very talented Welsh football midfielder who started his career at my once again beloved Cardiff City FC. The guest house is located right opposite quite a big school and the Vietnamese friendship monument is also close, which ironically it’s a statue of a man, woman and child holding guns? Very friendly :-).

School View

School Yard

Aron Ramsey View

The Aaron Ramsey Mountain view

Statue

Friendship and guns ?

The city itself has three bridges – The old bridge, new bridge & the railway bridge and not too far away along its tracks is the old railway station, which is an interesting place to visit. The main building remains with it’s ticket booth and 1960’s Mosaic floor, there’s even some workers as now trains are more frequent in the Kingdom. The rail system is a long way from being fully operational tho’ even if that is the governments plan.

Train Stn BW

All closed up

Mosaic Tiles

Mosaic tiled ticket booth

Bogey Palm Tree

Workers wagon

Crossing the railway bridge is possible along a small walkway on one side of the bridge, the river seems huge from here. It’s possible to climb down to the bridge supports which many locals do so to fish. Interestingly towards the end of the bridge on the eastern bank battle damage of the steel work frame can be observed, I imagine from the times of the Khmer Rouge or during the Vietnamese invasion. If you’ve been reading the blog you’ll know that I’ve also got a blog purely for photographs and I’m trying my best not to duplicate shots between blogs, not totally succeeding I must admit. Here’s a start tho’ as I’m posting a link to the best shot I captured of the bridge, it’s here, enjoy.

Fishing Bridge

Gone fishing

Bridge

Railway Bridge

Bridge Damage

Wounds of war

Now for an interesting fact, something most of you will be unaware of, which is also the title of this blog. Kampot is home to quite possibly the best pepper in the world. It taste’s like no other and is mega pungent 🙂 and colourful – red, black, white & green. During the time of the french protectorate production was increased the results exported any during that time any Parisian restaurant worth it’s salt, stocked and used Kampot pepper. Pol Pot and the Khmer rouge impacted that along with just about everything else in the Kingdom and destroyed all but a few of the crops, which put a stop to its production. Lately tho’ since 2006, it’s making a come back and there are a few plantations local to the city. So keeping in tune with the place it’s only right we visit a plantation ourselves and why not combine it with the trip to the caves. Not bat caves like in Battambang, but caves with stalactites and stalagmites, dark dank holes and possibly a shrine within. As we have started to slowly feel like part of the community and not total tourists (even tho’ we are) we don’t pursue the option of visiting both in a Tuk-Tuk, let’s take the wheels it will be no bother. So undeterred by the fact we’ve got lost before, more than once actually! We set off in the general direction of a cave somewhere off the road to Phnom Penh. This time we are clued up to the direction we are heading and if we need to consult the not so magical GPS, both phones have plenty of juice. Following a few twist and turns we get as far as a cement plant that’s crushing rock and stone to create its product. It’s getting towards sunset so we return to the city, not so much having got lost, but we didn’t locate our target – That’s half the fun anyway, plus we did spot a cracking place for a sunset shot, including others during the brief adventure. When your somewhere as interesting as Kampot, no journey is ever a lost one :-).

Picking crops

Picking crops

Rail tracks

Sunset tracks

The following day we bite the bullet and call a Tuk-Tuk drive, the guy who first took us we when came home to Kampot. He’s saved in the phone as Tuk Tuk Tom, his name was Tom see which is convenient I suppose when you’re a Tuk-Tuk Driver, he thought is was funny at least. Bang on the dot he’s there to collect us the following morning, not actually himself but his dad. We leave the town in a totally different direction as to what we went the day before, heading east not north. An easy mistake to make the previous day? I think so, even if nobody agrees with me!

Toms dad takes a loop around towards the same destination but by a much more scenic route passing thorough little villages on a bright orange dirt road, which resulted in this interesting tree. There’s plenty to keep your mind occupied and now in the Tuk-Tuk it’s possible to take more of the passing scenery in, even cracking off quite a few shots which are not bad considering we’re on the move. Drive gets us to the destination at Phnom Chhnork caves and by his route it wasn’t so difficult to be honest, I just got it wrong from the beginning. There are many caves in the area formed within limestone rock, inside this particular cave is a hindu temple built-in the 7th century. It’s surrounded by interesting limestone formations, big fat stalactites. The view from the cave entrance is an impressive one of the plains of Kampot, shades of yellow and green, the odd farm and typical dwellings.

Temple

Temple – Someone getting down to pray ?

Field from afar

View from cave entrance – Zoom in as loads going on

Dwelling view

An interesting spot to stay

This is where it got interesting, getting from the caves to the pepper, OK we could have headed back to a sign more than ten klicks back. The route we take though would be impossible by yourself so many turns down tracks going nowhere, spared of any significant landmarks, it was a fantastic trip. A little bit like being on a magical mystery tour that were popular bus trips back home in the early eighties, when you bought a ticket with the destination unknown, but usually at the seaside somewhere. This tour gets us to the Starling ridge plantation, located in a picturesque setting where accommodation is also available. The pepper itself seems to grow like vines on brickwork columns erected in formation.

Pepper Hotel

The hotel

Drive

Drive – a.k.a. Toms dad

Pepper Bricks

Pepper columns

Pepper Vines

Pepper, pepper & more pepper

Pepper

Cover shot – Macro pepper

Back to real life for just a moment, there’s nothing happening on the job front, it’s as dead as a door nail and we’ve been in Kampot for almost a month without a sniff, which also means our visas will be up soon. There’s maybe a possibility of a job in Norway but I decide not to pursue it as it’s not panic stations yet, hopefully I won’t come to regret that decision later. Been before see, worked and lived in Noway, did a ten month stint in the capital. That was almost ten years back and it was daft expensive then, beer was close to ten British pounds a pint. Everything was crazy expensive, even the water. It was a surprise actually they didn’t charge for oxygen. Thinking about that tho’ all governments do so in the way of taxes, some just do it more than others, noway excess at it.

What sticks in my mind the most though was laundry I got done at the hotel – Two pairs of pants and socks, a few T-shirts, pair of jeans and two shirts. It was almost two hundred quid, a fatal mistake of not checking the price on my behalf!! Is it ever possible to justify that cost though especially at a 3 star hotel? How it’s been voted best country to live a few times is beyond me. Anyway – balls to that again, not to mention potential visa issues for the KP, so we let is pass. Cambodia is better for sure, shame there are no jobs here in my field, as laundry is one dollar a Kilo!! Cheap as chips in anyones book, well that is unless you’re budget backpacker who might want to venture the whole town on foot in the heat to save 25 cents a kilo.

Laundry

A dollar a kilo, but your undies might be displayed in the street.

Regarding our visas there’s a perfect solution that thankfully doesn’t involve the hassle, not to mention cost of a flights. The Vietnamese border is close and visa runs are possible, also for the KP. There’s even a few hotel casinos in no mans land between the borders where you can stay before coming back. However it’s a good opportunity to check out another place neither of us having been to before. So with Vietnam visas sorted before hand, off to an island we head. It’s a big one, the island that is and visible from the edge of town here. Sounds perfect for a three day break – Phú Quốc (pronounced Foo Cock) here we come………

Zoo With A Difference

During the last blog it was mentioned about the choice & cost of breakfast. Well the evening is much the same, the only difference being there’s more places to choose from :-), up until half nine at night anyway. After that choice is limited but food is still available even until the early hours at a few select venues. New places seem to be opening week by week, hopefully it won’t get over populated, but that seems wishful thinking tho’ as already there’s a turkish kebab house?? It just seems out of place in this town, but hey that’s just my opinion and what do I know huh?

We’ve got our favourites and tend to rotate around them, depending what takes our fancy. There’s a few Khmer joints we like and they are dirt cheap, a whole fish cooked how you like is just $3. A traditional Italian place is excellent for a rustic treat and wine, at another eatery the Chinese dumplings and noodles are incredible, both from a cost and taste perspective. They are served at a venue which also has a 4m cinema screen upstairs that we’ve tried a few times.

On one occasion whilst eating my twelve steamed pork dumplings, for $2!! I fail with four remaining – fear not a street kid, a girl of maybe ten appears from the shadows. She’s very shy but her hunger edges herself toward our table. No words are spoken, the eye contact is enough for her to feel welcome to devour the tasty morsels. Not greedily tho’ she has manners, something that too many spoilt brats at home seem to lack way too often. Following a respectful wai she’s on her way, leaving us feeling thankful for another dose of humbleness. I would have loved to have captured a shot but it just doesn’t seem a cool thing to do, maybe it’s myself who’s too shy?

Another little trip we take is to the zoo. Now please wait a minute, I don’t like zoos either! Maybe that’s why it’s be more difficult than usual to get it blogged. We were about 8 km out of town and when we first passed the place. My words to the KPs request were “we are not fucking going there!” Holding animals captive for the enjoyment of the public is not my thing. That was during our first visit, since then we’ve learnt a bit about the place and it’s history and the animals needs. It’s called the Teuk Chhou Zoo and it’s had a chequered past, animals were severely malnutritioned a number of years ago, then an NGO group came to the aid of the owner who as the story goes originally saved a number of sick animals, but it all became too much and too costly to take care of, which resulted in the animals coming off worst. During the past three years or so, with the aid of NGO wildlife alliance conditions are meant to have improved. As an example the elephants have a new enclosure as conditions previously were meant to be quite horrific. Now however the NGO have withdrawn their aid and the zoo is now once again in the hands of it’s local owner, with rumours that the animals now only get fed dependant on the number of visitors.

So the main cause of our visit was to feed which animals we could, not understanding what was kept there we took bananas and apples, knowing there’d be monkeys for sure. With our $4 entrance paid we stop off at the crocodile viewing pagoda which has a very rickety floor, and quite a number of crocs below it. Then it’s on to the main part of the zoo walking alongside the woods.

woods

The place is in a nice setting

First up is a brightly coloured parakeet and close by there’s a few monkeys who are getting exciting in the hope we’ve got some food. The bananas we’ve got are a bit on the green side and they turn their noses up at them, which indicates they can’t be that hungry then? They nosh away on a few of the apples tho’ there’s two and we need feed them together to distract the dominant one. They don’t look too happy tho’ and considering their caged who can blame them.

sad monkey

Sad Monkey

Next up it’s a wild cat, possibly a lynx. Then a few more monkeys and a gibbon, we feed the gibbon who also likes apples but the long armed little bastard scrams my arm through the fence and draws blood, it’s a concern. Onwards we go to a small cage at the end which seems empty. The KP is in front and suddenly hurries along the fence. It’s then I hear the growl also, it’s a sleek looking leopard and it’s angry! I retreat much quicker than the KP, much to her amusement. I’ve not mentioned until now but the zoo is very run down and looks as if it’s not been maintained for quite a long time, the enclosures are small and rusted. It’s a genuine concern that maybe this particular cage is not sufficient to contain it’s beast, the rebar and tennis court netting doesn’t convince myself anyway! On top of that the big cat is not in the best of moods. It therefore goes against your natural defence system to just walk along the edge of the cage. The big cat growling and snarling angrily, it’s fierce eyes piercing into yours, for sure more interested in us than the apples :-).

Leopard

Seriously pissed off cat

It was exhilarating to say the least, for sure we’ll need to go on a safari at some point, hopefully get to see the animals in their natural environment where they belong. There’s a selection of various monkeys and different types of birds, owls and eagles.

apple monkey

It didn’t take him too get it through the fence

four birds

Not much room but at least they’re together

They’ve even got two elephants who are more than happy with the unripe bananas, the male even has his tusks, which is a rarity. So that’s a plus I suppose, as if it was in the wild the chances are the ivory would have been poached. His back has gone tho’, ribcage dropped exposing the ridge of it’s spine. A sign that it’s been worked too hard in the past, maybe it prefers life in it’s current environment?  Something we learnt in Mondulkiri which you can read here, is that elephants are happy when they flap their ears. Both of them were giving it big pairs of flappers for us anyway!

hungry elephant

Sniffing a snack

feed banana

Delivered

The whole experience is quite surreal to be honest, there’s a wide selection of animals and in addition to them there’s a selection of unusual statues and also an old ferris wheel and merry go round.

ferris wheel

Internationally recognised safety standards have been met – promise!

merrygoround

roll up, roll up…

merry go round

Enjoy your ride at the merry go round.

It was quite late in the day when we arrived so it’s a whirlwind tour but just before leaving we pass a big fat python with dinner walking about in it’s area, a nice fresh duck. Last off we also spot there’s a tiger, it’s cage is way way too small! For sure it must drive the impressive cat crazy, to the untrained eye tho’ the animals looked quite healthy considering?

tiger in cage

Late afternoon stroll

tiger

Impressive whiskers

We depart with mixed feelings – It was sad to see the animals like this, but now they are there what do you do, ignore the place? Which would be my opinion at home, I’d even encourage others not to go. On a positive note we tried to do our bit and feed those that we could. Our trip wasn’t without incident either, the long arm of the gibbon instigated a search on the net which resulted in discovering that even if your not bitten by a monkey, any contact resulting in possible transfer of saliva which includes scratches, then rabies is a risk and it’s best to seek immediate medical attention. Considering that once you shown signs of having contracted rabies, it’s too late, you are already dead! So we visited the hospital and nice it was too, modern clean with lots of new looking equipment and helpful staff. A series of questions, a quick look and clean of the wound, with my tetanus up to date we were on our way. I’m not sure that’s correct protocol but the gibbon wasn’t foaming at the mouth so we were all cool.

gibbon

Hahahahaha – I had you fool!

It was reassuring to see quite a good set up so local to town. If something serious happened tho’ you need to get to Bangkok, valid insurance is paramount if your thinking of travelling in asia, EVAC is expensive.

A few days later the KP wants to go back and do some more feeding. As much as we’d like to feed the wild cats their enclosures don’t really allow it, not to mention it being dangerous. Upon returning the leopard and lynx have gone, maybe to another zoo? Who knows there’s too much of a language barrier to find out. We were recently informed by a friend in town that the python escaped, feeding on 3 or 4 pigs before it was found by chance 4 clicks away. This would explain why the python was also missing on the second visit, we just hope the leopard didn’t escape as that would be fucking scary!! During our second visit it was feeding time and all the animals looked as if they were cared for, also it seemed they were being fed their natural food source.

There’s two more tigers at the other side of the complex housed separately in quite large areas compared to the one on our first visit, maybe as much as fifteen or twenty times bigger. Also there are lions, plus a lioness with a newly born cub, its nice to see that they are breeding. Whether thats a good thing in captivity I’m not sure. I suppose so, due to the chances of them ever being set free into the wild being close to zero! One of the lions still has it’s natural instincts tho’ – I’m taking shots whilst it’s enjoying a big piece of meat, the mood suddenly changes, you can see in it’s eye and it charges for the fence. A great opportunity for some action shots, that is if i’d kept still! Fear took over and i quickly retreated like a baby forgetting the fence was between us. Not that retreating would have helped if it wasn’t, you’d have no chance.

tiger woods

Nice cat.

lion

Go on, upset me just a bit more!

lioness cub

An excellent result

Again we leave with mixed feelings it was great to see the cub, but it’s sad to see the animals contained as they are, but reading some articles online courtesy of the Phnom Pehn Post here, conditions are much improved. However as stated the zoo is back in the hands of the local owner now so what it’s fate will be who knows? I think it’s worth a visit do your bit for the animals that are there, not that I’ve enjoyed penning this blog but it’s something we’ve done and part of our trip so keeping with the theme – it’s here!

Back to life in the town – We’ve been happy with our digs but have been looking to move, it’s a bit pricey at $250 if we want to stay for a month, but the main problem being the room gets extremely hot and sticky during the afternoon. We counter this by either being out and about or utilising the communal balcony to relax. However with the help of others in town we’ve managed to find alternative accommodation just a 15min walk away on the back edge of town.

That’s where we relocate to at the beginning of the next instalment of the blog, it’s called the Aron Ramsey so has Welsh links therefore we are expecting it to be good. Let’s hope so.

Kampot Continued

cows

Cover Shot

So we move digs with the aid of a Tuk-Tuk for the short trip across town. It’s called the Hour Keang, which has nothing to do with what a friend of ours thought – That you can rent the rooms for an hour 😉 ? It’s Chinese and pronounced Whore Keang which did nothing to deflect said friends thoughts :-). Thankfully it’s not a knocking shop, not that you’d associate Kampot with that sort of reputation. It’s a nice town and hopefully it will stay that way. Theft and drugs are practically non-existent, undesirables tend to get driven out, plus there’s plenty of room for all that at the coast in Sihanoukville. One area of the Kingdom which in my opinion, is now well and truly fucked, thanks to overdevelopment and a large influx of dodgy types, both local and foreign.

Our $12 room is on the third floor at the top, so plenty of steps to get the heart rate going with continued physio for the ankle. There’s a communal balcony with a great view, plus the family running the place are very friendly. We’re without aircon but we do have hot water, which is not always a given in Asia. We could have taken a $7 room but we’d be without a window, fuck staying in a cell to save $5. On the other hand tho’ if we were willing to pay $17 we could activate the air-conditioning, but a fan is usually ample anyway. Now I suppose most of you reading this are thinking an additional $5 for a bit of added luxury is nothing, that’d be true if we were in Europe or the States. However five dollars in Kampot equates to six beers with enough change for tipping. Every dollar counts in Asia and you must maximise it when you can. I’m not counting the majority of Thailand in that statement though. It certainly isn’t what it used to be that’s for sure! My advice unless your well informed as to your exact destination in the land of a thousand smiles is to avoid the place like the plague, it’s time has long passed.

hour view

View from the communal balcony

It’s not only the beer that’s cheap, eating out is also and there’s an abundance of eateries in and about town. Some are very good, others excellent and some not so good. Apart from 3 or possibly 4 select places that over charge for their fare, the cost is roughly the same. For brekkie we tend to rotate around eight or ten venues depending on our mood. For the pair of us it’s rarely more than $7, sometimes it’s as little as $5!! If it’s ever over $10 it means we are somewhere fancy, or more likely that I’ve had a cider or two to cure the hangover, but that’s become a rarity as I’m a good boy now :-).

Over the next few weeks we partake in various activites of interest, making the most of our $3 a day wheels. Time is also spent trying to find an apartment but most places available need you to sign up for 3 or 6 months minimum. We could maybe push to three months for the right deal, but we don’t find anything suitable. With eating out being so reasonable with a wide choice, we’re happy enough for now so that idea goes on the back burner.

Our first little adventure is over the river to Fish Isle where the salt flats are located. We weren’t looking for them, just went out on the bike for a gander over the river. When we first set eyes on them I think they are paddy fields that have unfortunately been flooded, stopping the rice from growing – Doh! It was a stupid thought, but there were no piles of salt which you sometimes get to see to aid my evaluation. It’s soon clear tho’ that it’s a big arrangement of evaporation ponds stretching as far as the eye can see, known as the salt flats. As I’ve said our timing is out as they must have been recently harvested, but salt can be seen forming at the edges of the ponds.

salt flats

The Salt Flats

We explore the rest of the area and it’s rural Cambodia, with typical Khmer dwellings, kids playing and cows roaming the land, as can seen in the cover shot. We’ve seen many scenes similar to the next shot, but have not yet started to take it for granted. I especially like seeing the colourful lines of washing put out to dry, they seem to be everywhere :-). It’s always good fun on the bike, as ever needing eyes in the back of your head, the drive varies in degrees of difficulty but is always challenging. It would be great to be cycling but unless you set out at six in the morning the heat would be punishing.

khmer dwelling

Typical Khmer dwelling, along with the clothes line.

clothes line

Not only is it lovely, your clothes only need be out for about 20mins !

Next up is a trip known locally as ‘Up The Hill’ the hill in question being Bokor, it’s peak just shy of 1100m. It can be seen from the city but not the peak in the above photo, that’s a mountain bought by the Chinese. Sadly that one is slowly being eradicated for it’s rock, how much longer it will remain I’m not sure, three years maybe, possibly five? There’s big development going down and most of it’s on top of Bokor HIll and also a huge port currently under construction. The plan in the not so distant future is to attract cruise ships here and bus the tourists up the hill. So if your thinking of coming to Kampot, come soon people!

The entrance to the hill is 10 Klick out of town and then another 30 odd to the top. It’s over an hours drive and the local advice is to take a jumper as the weather can change dramatically due to the increase in meterage above sea level. It’s advice we can testify is good advice ;-), ignore it only if your brave, or just stupid!

There’s a host of attractions up there, but the ride itself is reason enough to ‘go up the hill’, we can highly recommended it. Unfortunately tho’ development is underway so parts of the landscape are already blighted by out of place buildings and thousands of piled foundations protruding out of the ground. The plans are huge and if your interested information can be found in the KSG here, the idea is to create a town with quite a sizeable population. There’s a 2000 riel entrance to be paid at the bottom so for the two of us that’s a dollar, shortly after the entrance there are stalls bizarrely selling bananas, not that fruit stalls are bizarre, but ones that are purely selling just bananas seem a tad strange? The road which snakes it’s way to the top is of excellent quality, making it potentially a great rally course as there must be more than 12 hairpin bends. Actually maybe rallying is not such a good idea though, as if you miss judged a bend you’d be a goner as the drop is fierce.

The KP & a bit of Yoga

The KP taking in the drop.

Following an impressive amount of vertical greenness as Cambodia has an impressive wide array of trees and fauna. Not to mention the various birds that populate the area, some of which you can see here in my photo blog, please take a look, it’s much appreciated so thanks is advance :-). The first sight that greets you indicating your almost there, is a big statue that could be mistaken for being a Budda. That’s not possible though as the statue has a big pair of boobs.

Tao Mao

Tao Mao – Travellers guardian

It’s a statue of Ya Mao who is the guardian of the coast, it’s believed she looks over the safety of travellers. As the story goes Ya Mao died at sea whilst travelling to see her husband. Due to that the locals assume she wanted a bit of nookie and therefore local to the statue there’s a shrine where people leave offerings of phallic symbols. This explains the banana stalls at the base of the hill! Now I know this sounds mental crazy bonkers, so just as proof I’ve added a photo just in case you doubt these words, which have blatantly been robbed from the KSG. In the unofficial official guide it also states that similar shrines are dotted along the coast of the Kingdom. We are yet to spot any others, but we’ll let you know about it once we do.

Phallic shrine

Phallic shrine

There’s a waterfall near the summit but it’s futile visiting at this time of year as it’ll just be a fall without water, balls to that! Ignoring the ongoing new development(s) one of which is a fancy hotel with a casino. There are many other attractions which include the Bokor Palace hotel built in the 1920’s, a christian church which I believe was built by the french and various other derelict buildings making it a very interesting location to explore. Unfortunately our trip got cut short due to a slow puncture to our rear tyre, so we depart and descend in search of air. The hill is not somewhere you’d want to be stranded, but I’m sure if it did happen there be plenty of locals who would try to help you out. So safe first and all that but disappointingly it meant that we missed the old hotel and the church, but we did get to see the Wat that’s perched at the cliff edge and it’s surrounding buildings & statues.

Wat

Would have been a risky erecting this

Wat front

A lovely setting for a Wat. One of the smallest we’ve seen.

temple trees

Wat or Pagoda? I’m never 100% sure, sorry.

Whilst we are near the Wat there’s some interesting little worshipping figures surrounding a Budda and also a monkey in a cage, he looks none too happy, so the KP runs off to get some bamboo and kindly feeds him.

shadow prayer

Worshipping in the shade

monkey

Munching monkey

We manage to get back to the outskirts of the city where we find air enabling us to get back to our digs safely. We got off lightly as when we set out the next day we notice the tyre has ballooned like a tennis ball and on the verge of bursting. A blow out coming down the hill would not have been fun, especially if we were on one of the hairpins?! We get the tyre and inner tube replaced for $20 in preparation for more excursions that will follow shortly…….

When we hope you continue to tune in, for now thanks once again for visiting.

Coming Home To Kampot

Kampot Tea

Cover Shot

This blog has been going since last October, when it’ll come to it’s end who knows? The story started in the middle of that month but the blog wasn’t created until two weeks later. What followed was a sharp learning curve along with teething problems before settling on it’s current format. Where it at least looks the part, that’s my belief anyways. So from the start it’s always been a case of playing catch up to hopefully achieve real time blogging. It occurred once here in Phnom Penh but since then right up until now, we’ve always been behind. The difference in time has varied, usually the blog is somewhere between three to five weeks behind. So readers I’d like to welcome you once more to real time blogging!

Well that’s a bit of a lie, a big fat one some might say, as we are still behind by quite a bit! However I am now blogging about the same location as we currently reside, Kampot in the south of Cambodia. We’ve been here a while coz we like it, the place is perfect actually :-).

River Island

Proof it’s a nice spot

You can’t travel for ever, though, it would be nice to try :-). Respect to those that do so, working as they move from place to place. Like most people I prefer fun to work, but I’m a firm believer of work hard, play harder. You can’t have one without the other, unless your fortunate enough to have a job that is also your favourite hobby. Well we’ve been playing quite hard now for 5 months and not worked for a single minute, hopefully we’ll get to re-address the balance shortly in the name of karma. Until work does commence we’ve at least agreed to stop moving, set up base and get comfortable. So for that we’re back in our favourite little spot, one we’ve also chosen for the wedding, just yet to set the date.

Plenty to see and do

There’s plenty to see and do

We arrive from the capital by mini bus, a tourist one, so you actually get to sit in your seat as intended. It’s a three hour journey so the $8 fare is very fair, but there’s plenty of backpackers that would disagree with that statement, be assured! As usual we’ve booked something in advance, one night in town alongside the river, next to the new bridge. The idea is to hopefully find an apartment within a week or so, so we can cook and chill more. We are familiar with the town so a gander is not required, we take a stroll along the river front to discover the old bridge is now closed. Either further damage has occurred or there’s been a few more fatalities, thankfully we’ve already done it, both ways, on foot and motorbike and managed to survive!

The Old Bridge

The old bridge, currently closed

A shot taken on the bridge can be found in the blog from when we was last here. We try a few of the bars we like before ending up at BlueBarRed, which in my opinion has the best draft beer in town. Quite a few of the expats congregate here and it’s nice to see everyone, plus the joint proprietor who is a main contributor to the very informative Kampot Survival Guide which is now also online here check it out as it’s a great read. His parents are also currently in town, over for their annual Cambodian break, their presence makes the bar more homely. It’s Thursday, which means it’s backgammon night, having recently learnt how to play on the island, it’s a great discovery. There are a few boards and each one is unique as they’ve been handmade. Thursday also means that we enjoy the live music at Madi’s bar just next door, we picked a good day to come back :-).

backgammon

Backgammon & Beer – A great match

In the morning we need to decide to stay or check out. Our room is spacious, comfortable and modern with a good bathroom, in a word – Ideal. However the internet is snail pace slow and trying to upload photos etc…. will eat up way too much free time & the blog is far enough behind as it is. The rate offered at reception is $20 and cheaper than Agoda, so we extend for one night to enable us to find something else. We check a few guesthouses and settle on the second one we see which is centrally located, surrounded by a selection of eateries. A fan room with hot water is $12 a night. We also look at two apartments, one of them at $120 a month is acceptable apart from the fact it’s part of a family home and even though it has a separate entrance, possibly not private enough. It’s one to bear in mind anyway if we don’t find something more suitable.

Next we need a bike, there’s a selection of outlets in town and scooters are generally $5 a day. 250cc dirt bikes are also available but my skills are not there yet, plus to be honest you look like a bit of a knob riding one about town. A scooter is sorted for two days from a place that also offers massage, and they speak English. If I’m happy with the bike and take it for a month they can do it for $3 a day, bargain!

Our latest set of wheels

Our latest set of wheels – Well worth $90 a month!

The accommodation search has eaten up most of the day and it’s now time for 2 for 1 cocktails at Rikitikitavi on the river front, it’s an upmarket joint compared to the rest of town, but the quality $4 cocktails are a bargain at this hour! However don’t make the mistake of ordering a Bloody Mary! Bizarrely they use freshly squeezed tomatoes (well they were at the time, I need to check if they followed my advice?). Now I’m no barman but this is something that should never be attempted, ever! Why? Coz it’s rank! Thankfully we didn’t get charged for them, which is a good sign of an establishment, one that enables us to re-visit occasionally.

As the end of the happy hour period arrives, we quickly cross the street for a boat trip up the river, and the fireflies that are supposedly active. For the trip we are joined on the boat by a mix of people –  A group of happy backpackers, a swiss guy with two locals all in their twenties who seem very friendly with each other ;-), another romantic couple plus a local family with an ex-pat husband who don’t seem happy at all. From where we are sitting the family seems like they are on a trip to hell, hopefully they cheered up later on.

firefly backpackers

Backpackers on their platform for the firefly trip

The boat is of ingenious design, two small hulls linked together by the deck. In addition there’s a diving platform which is more suitable for the sunset tours that are also offered. Drinks are available on board, beer is the usual dollar for a can. The trip is for two hours and we set out at dusk, heading up stream for the fireflies which are visible after dark. Fireflies are a type of beetle which produce light from their underbellies to attract mates or prey. We are told it’s not always possible to see them, but we get lucky as there are sections of the narrow river where the trees are brightly illuminated by the bugs. Unfortunately I don’t have any photos as the night display was spoilt by most of the boat playing on their phones, or using flash to take photos. The illumination on the boat stronger than the bugs, we enjoy the trip anyways.

zoom light effect

No firefly shots, so here’s a zoom effect I took at the time.

We’ve since been told that what we actually seen were xmas tree lights. I’ve not be able to confirm this scam, but we were convinced at the time and that’s all that matters. I shall do some investigative work tho’ to find out for sure ;-).

boat somersault

Another boat with a platform perfect for backward somersaults

So all in all it’s been a good few days start to what will be home for at least a month. We’re really not sure how long we’ll be sitting it out but Kampot just feels right, for a few reasons – The general cost of everything is as cheap as chips (when chips were actually still cheap), it’s a safe and friendly city with a perfect location on the river. Plus it’s just 3 hours from the capital, 90 mins from the beach, 3 hours from the tropical islands! On top of that there’s plenty in and around the city to keep us busy when we need something of interest to do every few days.

So the blog will continue with activities we partake in here. Some of the highlights may include climbing and or caving, the mountain range & possibly even tigers?! We hope to see you again soon, first things first we need to move hotels in the morning. Thanks for visiting it means a lot!

Ohhhh and quickly before I go, I want to tell you about my photography blog recently started which can be found here. Feel free to visit and follow if you so wish. Cheers from us both 🙂 !

Phnom Penh Again

We arrive in Bangkok just ninety minutes before the scheduled departure to Phnom Pehn. It was a bit of a mad dash from the BTS to the train link. We should have been here in plenty of time, but the 07:30 bus departed about an hour late. Including ourselves there was only five passengers on the big double decker for the eight hour journey. The 500 baht fare includes a free lunch when we stop for an hour, this was when I discovered the worlds biggest bag of crisps!

big crispsThe bus journey ends at a station to the south of the city, I’m unfamiliar so a Bangkok bright coloured taxi is the only option to the nearest BTS. The stop happens to be miles from the train link to the airport. After changing lines and a mad dash packed up, we get to the platform just as the train is arriving! Five minutes or so later we are heading to the airport. If we’d missed that we might have been in a spot of bother especially with it being the KP’s last day in country! Even now we still have to get to the desk on the fourth floor, thankfully we catch the lift just right and even have time to book a hotel before leaving on the last flight of the day with Bangkok Airways, again the fare is a bit over $100 one way, mine a touch more as booked it later. We arrive once again in this mad city, the King Grand Boutique Hotel is quite central near the palace. There’s no record of our booking, but they eventually confirm it and we go to the room. It’s being renovated and there’s an array of construction materials and equipment all over the place. The bellboy looks more surprised than ourselves 🙂 After a small delay we get another room, a box room with a window about 3 inches wide. We take it anyways with the hope that it’ll get sorted out in the morning, it’s gone midnight so we crash. It’s only Tuesday so we don’t feel guilty for missing a big night out.

Brekkie is cracking and a nice setting alongside the ornate pool, the selection is vast especially considering the room was $28. While we get our fuel down us for the day, the helpful reception staff not only relocate us, they succeed very well in their task. We are moved to the new half of the hotel into a huge room, one wall is total window looking down onto the pool and the other guests enjoying breakfast, a great spot for you stalkers out there ;-). It’s got a walk in shower and all that palaver, a room of this type is commonly known as the dogs bollocks, and it certainly is! It’s almost a waste to go out, but we’ve got plans. As you’re aware, we don’t like to rush from one destination to another, but this time we are staying with a purpose – The palace! In numerous visits we’ve never been! Either ran out of time, had too many beers, or it’s been closed! We wander in that direction.

street vendor-1

Street vendor

It’s been a while since being in the city, hence we are not yet climatised to the friendly but pushy Tuk-Tuk drivers. Once your here a while you just ignore it as it blends into the background, all part of being in the city. It jolts us awake tho’ as we stroll through the park type area local to the mythical bird statue, a symbol of the kingdom.

palace and bird

A morning stroll

bird side on

Until now whilst trying to find it’s name – I thought this was a real bird indigienous to Cambodia

Even before we get to the palace we’re informed it’s closed until the two in the afternoon, with the heat beating down we agree to return and enjoy the hotel room. Now the palace is less than a fifteen minute stroll from the hotel, even during this short distance, by the time we return I’m not kidding you, we’ve been asked if we want a Tuk-Tuk for today, tomorrow or the next day at least twelve or fifteen times. We relent and agree to taking one after lunch, but only back to the palace.

The hotel has two pools, one of which is a sizeable jacuzzi on the roof. We were going to come back in our best swimwear, but the arrival of a pair of gay women in their sixties whom we’d met in the lift earlier. We thought it better to leave them to it, and find privacy at the room, the blog needed updating anyways ;-).

bird roof top view

Roof top view

Following a nice meal at the pool downstairs with our $8 bus tickets sorted we head outside to be greeted by drive who we agreed with earlier. He drops us at the road block, paying $2 for the dollar fare. It’s soon apparent the KP is dressed inappropriately so a $5 T-shirt is an addition to the $3 each fare. For those who don’t understand, at religious locations throughout Asia it is necessary for ladies to dress conservatively and always cover their shoulders. I can imagine more than a few Russians have found this bizarre! It’s not a big ask and one that should be respected. I once heard a story of a guy also from the Welsh Valleys, that whilst in Pattaya stupidly sat on the shoulders of a Budda statue! Now putting traffic cones on the head of Aneurin Bevan’s (founder of the NHS in the UK) statue in Cardiff City Centre is not comparable to mounting a Budda. Consequently he did time at the Bangkok Hilton. So we are more than happy with the quality of the $5 Palace emblazoned shoulder garment. Once inside it’s lovely, the KP is skipping about imagining how cool it would be to live somewhere like this with it’s well kept gardens and impeccable ornament buildings.

palace front on

Smashing

temple girl with purple

Tidy

 

Some of the detail on the various structures is incredible, which hopefully you can see from the shots that follow. It’s an enjoyable time spent, in addition to the various structures there’s gardens, shrines, pagodas and temples. A museum also, it’s interesting to read how the king at the time hid precious artifacts in the jungle, burying them to avoid detection by the Khmer Rouge. There some great photos of when he returned to his position, or that was how I understood it as there was a minimal amount of English as I remember. Cambodia has had a very chequered past and a good bullet point summary of it’s here, not that the BBC can be trusted anymore, so always remember to take everything with a pinch of salt, or trust it about as far as you could throw Rupert Murdock!

white shrine

Double Tidy

close up

They don’t make them like that anymore

Following the palace we wander along the front, which is nowhere near as packed as the water festival when we first arrived. It’s still vehicle free and the mood of the mainly local crowd is good, it’s a fun area. There’s a little girl having loads of fun chasing pigeons in front of the palace.

girl with pidgeon

Who doesn’t love chasing pidgeons ?

Kign sign

The King catching the sun

We continue along the front to the bars and restaurants that line the front, the first where we head it just across death corner, I don’t know that anyone has lost their lives there, but i’d be surprised if not. Straight up to the top floor for the sunset with a view, whilst supping happy hour bloody marys.

death corner

Quiet now, but the bit to the right is always treacherous

cart crossing street

A vendor pushing her trolley, expat chancing his arm.

We need to change our plane tickets, the two month extension not being sufficient, the last time it cost quite a bit. I’m expecting it to be worse this time around. It involves numerous calls to both Air Astana & Emirates via skype at an internet cafe. Astana come up trumps it costs just 9000 Tenge, thats thirty quid or fifty yankee dollars. Emirates sound promising at first, but when I call back the person now helping out is not of equal intelligence to her colleague which results in forfeiting the ticket! It would have been daft to spend the three hundred and eighty quid needed to change the date when we don’t know when that is?

Guy shooting-1

Another baldie shooting

We end the night in a nice bar just along from the hotel, tomorrow is a big day as we are going to be back at the coolest place in the Kingdom!  We can’t bloody wait!

Visa Strikes Again !

Clear Sea Final

Cover Shot

It’s quite a journey to the destination, having already selected our flippers and mask, we’re away. It’s looks quite a pro set up at base and so it bloody should be, it’s pricey! At 2500 baht per head, it’s costing more than £100 for a day out! Okay it’s a fair distance but having been in Cambodia for a while, it’s a silly price, one that’s comparable to home. Maybe it’s been hiked as it’s the best snorkelling available, it’s possible to spot turtles and even the mighty whale shark! Which would be a fantastic treat if we are lucky enough to encounter one. Due to the distance needed to reach the destination the mode of transport is speedboat. One capable of forty knots, which means it’s flat out. Unfortunately the sea is not flat and it’s a bumpy ride. Usually I’m quite good at sea, but five minutes in to the ninety or so minute journey, I’m as sick as a pig. It’s not possible to heave over the side for fear of following any vomit into the sea. All that’s possible is just sitting it out, killing time wondering what the buckling capacity of the hull is each time it slams into the waves. Some of the passengers upfront get relocated which splits me from the KP. All things combined along with rapid excited German tones filling the air, results in my head spinning by the time we arrive. It’s a huge relief to get in the water and vomit, not pleasant I know but at least it was away from the crowd.

Snorkelling Group

Our German friends

As you can see, the sea is perfectly clear and we’ve got 40mins to explore. There’s quite an area of coral so the 15 or so of us are not too crowded. It’s the first stop of five and this time I’m covered up from the sun, not wanting to repeat the sunburn I experienced here a few months back. The first of the five spots we stop at results in the being the best, unfortunately due to my haste to get in the water. It’s the only time we don’t have the action cam with us!. The coral is lively and colourful, we spot sea horses & the orange and white clown fish hiding out. Throughout the day there’s no turtles, whale sharks or even a large impressive shoal of fish. We do spot the odd large groper and cuttle fish but nothing that’s Wow! For those that are interested into an brief insight underwater, here’s a combined video of the highlights of the day. Don’t expect too much and you might enjoy it.

We are not lucky enough to discover something really interesting, however it’s the best snorkelling we’ve done & a fun day out. It did becomes a bit repetitive getting in and out of the boat then off to the next spot, so when we’re told this is the last location we’re happy to hear it. The journey back is smoother than the way out, but that just means we go faster. At the rear of the boat trying your best to keep out of the sun, it’s not a pleasurable experience bouncing about. The journey goes on and on, in my mind I’m comparing the quality of the underwater fun, to what I’ve experience previously in the Maldives. Here’s a quick movie of my most interesting snorkelling activity to date, it’s worth a quick look. I’m surprised I didn’t shit myself but instead followed the underwater surprise 🙂 !

Following the snorkelling we’ve got just 6 nights left on the Island. A day or so after returning a Dutch couple we’ve chatted with previously have just returned, they spent 3 days there. It sounds fantastic, sleeping on the beach in a tent, snorkelling when ever you want, where you want. Only one place to eat, it’s definitely one for when we return. Stargazing sounded awesome also due to low illuminance emanating from the Island. There’s practically nothing there, the whole place is a national park. Two nights later there’s another Party on the Island, this time at the Hippy Bar. We found this mad place on the first trip here. The story is a group of hippies once lived here and over an extended period of time, they constructed a very interesting bar from driftwood and other flotsam and jetsam delivered by the sea.

Hippy Bar New

Bar with a difference

We arrive at the bar late afternoon to enjoy the sunset, it’s only then we discover the party is tonight! We’ll need to ditch the bike then, but first I’m playing with the K3 trying to get more interesting sunset photos, they can sometimes be a bit repetitive! Regarding the photos and the new toy. I’ve been trying to improve, both shooting and also the post processing that’s required with RAW format files. If you check the net there’s loads of stuff out there. to read and watch, subscribe for also, it can be overwhelming! There’s good stuff out there tho’, you just need to get lucky to find it. I did and the person I found I’d like to recommend is Anthony Morganti, he’s doing brilliant Lightroom tutorials for free, so any of you out there into photography check out his website here. He’s also on YouTube with loads of videos, here’s the first one. I couldn’t recommend him highly enough, he seems a top bloke also! Even if you dont shoot yourself, check the YouTube vid just to see what can be done. You’ll be impressed, so please click his links, coz then he might think I’m alright also :-).

Hippy Sunset-01

Wrecked sunset

Hippy Sunset-02

Just nice

The bar itself is like an adult playground with all sorts of places to climb and sit, in fairness it’s well designed but I’m not sure I’d want to dance flat out in the birds nest. Once we’ve been back at the room to refresh we leave the bike at Weee’s place the Jungle Bar and walk along the beach, it’s already busy when we arrive. A throng of dancing bodies, the music is right up our street so we have a bop and a few drinks. The next DJ up is playing drum and bass and then the fucking dreadful dub step! You never know where you are with the beats, we leave the dance floor retiring to a secluded spot for a few more tipples, before sloping away into the night.

When the place was first found we didn’t know what the fuck it was, just looked awesome with swings here and there, the KP was so happy she was on the drums.

KP Drums

When we collect the bike the next day, Weee is also planning a party, it sounds wicked. Fire show on the slackline, some top band coming from another Island, plus a selection of DJ’s. On top of sounding like it’ll be a great night, it also has the potential for lots of great shots. One problem, it’s two days after our leaving date :-(. That’s ok tho’ as it’s possible to extend our stay at the immigration office in Ranong. We’re in no rush to leave and who doesn’t love a party, especially one with friends. Plus with the extra days we’ll stay, we could go to Koh Surin for a bit of camping, snorkelling and stargazing amongst other activities on the beach :-).

We book the 09:00 speed boat to the main land, grab a moto taxi to immigration located at the port, where it’s possible to travel to Myanmar (Burma). The KP is first in the queue and she gets called in the office, this doesn’t look good, especially when I’m called also. Yes you’ve guessed it, the Kazakh Princess once again falls foul of the restrictions imposed on the bright blue travel document she possesses. WTF mun, we’re told it’s not possible here and need to travel 500Km where it ‘should’ be possible to do it. She need’s another visa on entry! What a load of bollocks! As ever we look on the bright side 🙂 thank fuck we didn’t travel to Myanmar, we could have got stuck in no mans land with our stuff left on the Island! We’re happy to be able to return for the last few times at the beach.

longbeach

Long Beach – The busiest beach, believe it or not!

We have a few hours in Ranong and check out a few of the bars local to the funky hotel we stayed at, then we head back to the Island on the 14:00 departure. There’s just two days left before the KP’s time is once more up. Our fault for fucking up in Laos when we could have got a proper Thai visa if we were more organised with our dates, another lesson learnt this trip!

We enjoy the end of our time, saying our goodbyes to the people we will leave behind, especially those at the Jungle Bar who now have a resident Bamboo tattooist. It’s a cool way to get inked as it only needs a day to heal, without the need for cream etc, unlike with a tattoo gun. We didn’t partake ourselves, but here’s a shot of a new friend of ours getting her back done.

Tattoo

Keep still now.

I know I’ve talked up the Island a lot, but maybe haven’t given it enough credit. It really is a cool place with plenty of wildlife to boot. In addition to the monkeys and many hornbill, there are also impressive sea eagles!  Regularly it’s possible to spot them on the hunt. I’d captured shots of them from afar, but never close enough to be impressive, that was until we were carrying our packs up the pier. I ditched mine real quick, grabbed the K3 and managed to get these cracked off before we leave for Ranong once more.

Seaeagle dive

Seaeagle catch

Seaeagle happy

We are there for night, the bus to Bangkok leaves early in the morning! That’s where the story rolls on……..

Back To The Beginning

The Cover Shot

Cover Shot

Well not quite back to the beginning beginning, that was Bangkok. It’s here though where our epic trip fully got underway. That was last October and we’ve been on the move since. It’s very nice to be back somewhere familiar, somewhere we can just relax and chill after almost four months on the move. It’s not just somewhere tho’, it’s a really special place and one of the last Thai Islands not yet thrust into the modern world of 7-11’s & Starbucks coffee. Hopefully the electricity supply that’s been talked about will not happen any time soon, we hope it never does, that way we can keep coming back as we like it so much! Once the electricity supply comes, the hotel chains and 7-11 will no doubt soon follow. Don’t get me wrong tho’ I’m not complaining about moving about, we’ve had a great time and think it’s been done right. Not rushing from here to there but trying to take things in as we move, without too much off a plan. Then also there’s the interesting people we’ve met on the way. Vietnam, Myanmar (Burma) and even Nepal are places we want to visit in the future. Some of those we’ve met and also those we’ve befriended are here on this very island. It’s good to be meeting them again soon, but I’m not totally happy as one of my best friends, who’s been blogged about more than most, Billy The Thai Terrier cannot make it due to work commitments. He’s all grown up and responsible now, it’s a big disappointment but there’ll be other times, maybe we’ll go visit him in the Jungle before we leave on our final flight when ever that might be? At the moment we have no idea, so lets get on with it and continue the fun…..oops I almost forgot, our lifestyle needs to change and it starts here and now…….Well not on the first day! That will be tomorrow, if tomorrow ever comes anyway?! :-). It’s Tuesday the 27th of January, so I apologise for once again being behind, I’m way behind actually! I’m trying my best tho’ – honest.

We get the speed boat at ten in the morning, the hotel sorted by email as we’re returning to where we stayed before. It’s out of the way a touch which we like, plus they’ve got reliable swift internet which is a requirement to aid the job search. The room we select is back a bit from the beach at 800 baht a night. A bike with brakes working both front and back is sorted near the pier for another 200, I take it for a day to check it out fully. We’re off to do the rounds and see who is still here from our last trip. First stop is to see Weee, the slack line fire juggler, who’s a laugh a minute. Mentioned here in the last blog Thai Storm & the last time we were back at The Island. Here’s a link to his Slackline Fire Show which we are yet to observe fully live in action.

There was talk he was off to Austria but for whatever reason he’s still here, which is good news. The friendly Belgian girl is back at work so we’ve missed her. Next off to Starlight where we first stayed in the basic hut, it was great as gave us good grounding for what was to come in the following months. The owner is not there, but its evident he’s been doing some work. There’s quite a number of brick bungalows recently finished, they look good. We are there perfectly for sunset with a few beers, whilst chatting with the current residents.

Sunset Purple

Welcome back

Then it’s next door, Papaya for some great Thai nosh. The cook is really friendly as well as being great in the kitchen. It’s even a little bit like coming home. We stop back at the Jungle bar with Weee before the journey back to our digs, it’s eventful as the lights are shite and only work at about 10% of it’s potential glow. I know the roads and there’s never many other vehicles so we make it back, just about, the bike will be going back in the morning!

Up at mid morning, and keeping our word to ourselves and the blog, we take a run on the beach! It’s more than five weeks since I fucked the ankle and it’s still not right! Billy was correct when he said it can almost be as bad as a break. I can run some shape but it’s not good, any excessive level of stress to the joint and it’ll go again for sure. The give in the sand helps while we work up a sweat with a twenty minute jog, with press ups thrown in at each turn. Another reason we choose to return here is that there’s a small gym, just five minutes on the bike followed by ten on the cross trainer. I finish up with a few sets of lat pull downs. Not a bad work out for the first time back, it shows as we are both sweating like bitches. The new regime is continued with muesli n yoghurt with a fruit plate for breakfast :-). A solid start, lets hope it continues!

Budda Pier

Temple at sea

There’s bikes available now at the digs and we take one, it’s new in full working order, but red. The colour would have been a problem a month back, but with Cardiff City Back in Blue I’m happy to take it. First I drop off the problem bike and whilst doing so I see the Norwegian we rented off last time, I need to check what the damage is. Not to the bike but our pocket, the bike was just scratched a bit in the front after I ran it into a few tables, he’s fair and it costs 1500 baht. Returning on a 50 baht moto taxi I notice a threat to the healthy life style, a flyer for a reggae concert, and it’s tonight! Headlining are Job2do, one of their tracks can be found here. Live music happens sporadically on the island so it’s a must attend event.

Budda Small

Budda circle

We spend the day on our new wheels with a gander. There’s quite a few new bars and restaurants that have sprung up in the last three months, progress always inevitable, thankfully at the moment at least it’s not over the top! The Budda not far from our digs has been spruced up, the temple is still there out at sea. Currently a big collection of monks are on the Island, here for an upcoming festival, which coincides with the full moon. There’s many of them camping in the woods and on the beach.

Budda

Budda

Fitting with another religion, the gig is at Rastababy on the top end of Long beach. It’s a bar on the beach run but a group of Rastafarians all with the obligatory dreadlocks. There’s a selection of bands and the lively crowd is 800 strong. It’s quite a small venue so it’s packed, whiffs of Ganga fill the air, we create some space for a bop and even a bit of reggae pogo. The first band we catch playing all their own stuff, which is refreshing.

Band-1

Rastafariah

We’re on the cocktails so find a spot near the bar, and the barbecued grub on offer. There’s change in the entertainment and we are fighting our way to the front led by myself, Job2do are now up. We manage to get places on an elevated platform, it’s not a bad spot to get some shots off, which could have been better if the cocktails were not so strong.

Band-2

Job2do, but not sure!

It’s quite a late one but we don’t stay until the end as we need to drive back, it was a mistake not organising a moto taxi or two. We end the night lying on the beach viewing the constellations of stars with a bottle of Sang Som, Thai whiskey.

Crowd-1

Good crowd

Crowd-3

Band in Lights

As I thought it might the reggae night interferes with the training, which is only a day old, it will need to resume tomorrow guaranteed, it would be ill advised today! However it’s a continuation of the healthy brekkie before we’re off on another motor assisted gander. We get to a secluded beach where access was not possible during the rainy season. Now we’re able to descend the rocky fall knowing that returning is possible.

Beach Trees

Difficult to spot the monster, due to a lack of foliage.

We find solitude if such a thing can be shared? There’s a huge tree in the distance, a natural goal. Before that tho’ there are a group of equally interesting trees that get caught in the tide daily, they look unusual in the surf. It’s scorching and with the sun high in the sky, not the best time for photos, but I’m not stupid enough to wait for the ‘golden hour’ today. My thoughts backed up by the state on the fruit which has been dried out by the harsh rays.

solitary tree

The Lonely Tree finally located

monster tree

The monster at the end of the beach, with added KP scale.

A bit more doing visiting is done, the medicine man legend where the monkeys hang out, is still here and now his restaurant is open where we eat and chat. There’s no monkeys but we do learn it’s possible to extend your visa at Ranong immigration office. We try another restaurant before having an early night with a movie back at the room. We’ve done the Mekong enough when in Cambo & Laos so it’s Apocalypse Now to end the day.

Next day as to plan, we’re back on the beach and it’s overcast again so not too hot, it allows us to run, a bit faster for a bit longer, followed by 15 mins each on the bike and cross trainer. I follow with a bit of weights, selecting what’s available. Then it’s the healthy brekkie, whilst the endorphins that training bring give us that glow, they are working already! Easy to spot maybe as it’s been a while!

sun burnt

Not sure what this was, but it reminds me of my sunburnt back!

If you’ve been following this blog you’ll know it’s been a day by day account. I apologise if that’s made reading boring at times, it’s just so we remember all the fine details when we look back later. It was how the blog was meant to be, a running diary. Now however as this is the third visit to the island, if it continued in the same vein for sure it would become too boring to read, not to mention write! So I’ll summarise for now and see how we go………..

Our days are spent scootering about, finding new spots to explore. The evenings trying various bars and places to eat, sampling cocktails and tasty Thai food. Boozing during the day has stopped for now, beer being replaced with spirits or cocktails, cutting down on the calories see ;-), healthy options all the way :-). The fitness goes well until about the fifth day when the weather breaks and it’s no longer over cast but scorching hot even by half nine. It’s what you’d expect being so close to the equator. We decide to wake at 07:00 to beat the heat! Another form for weather beats us though – The tide! It’s right in at that time and there is no beach.

tideout

Tides out, but at the wrong time!

This curbs our enthusiasm and we don’t even make it to the gym. So a week in and the fitness has stopped, a pretty shitty effort from us both. If we weren’t at paradise I’d hang my head in shame. Instead it’s only right to have a cocktail 🙂 Pina Coloda’s are very fitting in such a setting. It’s not only the fitness regime that doesn’t go so well, neither is the job search. The drastic drop in the price of oil has made all the main companies shit themselves. Projects are on go slow, others on hold indefinitely. The positive feedback I was receiving in November is now doom and gloom from a number of sources. It’s not great news personally, but I won’t complain, as globally it’s a good thing, well that is if it has a knock on effect to the cost of everything else, which when things are more expensive the excuse spun is the price of fuel and transport. Therefore in theory everything that’s transported should reduce in cost, somehow I doubt that will happen? Thankfully I’m not stuck to the O&G, field which would be the case if I was a chemical or process engineer. There will be a knock on effect tho’ for sure. So for now it’s time to play the waiting game, don’t panic, just ride it out and see what happens. It wouldn’t be my preference but there are quite a few jobs back home, plus the rest of the UK. Anyway that’s out of bounds until April. To go now and complicate last years tax return would be plain stupid, so there’s no point even looking until mid March. The situation is far from ideal but a big part of me is relieved, the thought of working let’s say in a few days time is a scary one, especially when your in paradise with your princess 🙂 We’ve accounted for the situation, it’s been discussed back when we were in Kampot. If we need to wait it out somewhere, that’s where we’ll do it. It’s our favourite spot so far and also cheap as chips.

Kampot

Kampot – As interesting a town as it’s bridge

Not so far away in the Andaman sea is Surin Island and it’s meant to be excellent for snorkelling, we book a trip there in the next few days. For now we’re enjoying the island, it’s double laid back and not so populated. Without too much effort it’s possible to find beaches with nobody else on them at all, when you do encounter others it’s never that many. This impacts some of the new bars which are struggling, they are nearly always empty. Location making it difficult to attract custom.

During these days of mainly chilling, we discover backgammon. Not the game itself but actually how to play it. It was always included in the multi packs of board games you got as a kid, unfortunately no one in my family knew how to play and I don’t know of any friends who played either? Which is shocking as its meant to be the worlds oldest game, maybe 5,000 years old! Well youtube showed me here, the KP has played a bit with her father. I received a cracking set as a gift in Kazakhstan and played a few games, not understanding it was actually backgammon with a few twists. Anyway it’s a great game, if you’ve not played I suggest you do, especially if you’ve got kids. Beware tho’ as its a game associated with gambling but can be played for fun also.

backgammon

Oldest game in the word, local style.

A week into our stay and we’re off to Surin, with a boat full of Germans. The Island is not that populated but there’s more Krauts than anyone else. I hope that doesn’t upset anyone and if it does, I’m a Taff and more than happy with it! Fear not as there’s not as many as the Costa Brava in the 80’s, so if you come your sun bed will be safe. Plus the many we’ve met have all been more than friendly enough. The problem with having a large group from one country, it makes it more difficult to interact with them as they get engrossed with each other, but who can blame them? It must be a balls having to use English all the time, which over many years has become the universal language of choice. Unless of course your in China or some other far flung location, like Shymkent for example, known as the Wild West of Kazakhstan, located in the south. Though in all honesty you’d have more chance there if you was searching translation.

For the remainder of our trip the vibe continues, interesting stuff occurring every few days, which shall be with you in the next blog, or maybe a series of mini blogs to cut down on the words? You’ll know soon enough. For sure it will kick off with our latest snorkelling adventure, at a location which is meant to be the dogs bollocks………..

Thai Storm

Storm SunSet-2

Cover Shot

I’m breaking new ground here as we’re all going to do a bit of time travel together! The thought being inspired by a photo of an official looking sign that was posted on TwitTwot. It read “Anyone interested in time travel, meet here last Thursday at 5pm” which i thought was quite funny :-). We are travelling back to the island, to the date of the 2nd of November 2014. Having ditched my idea to inform you The Island blog had been updated to now include what was our best day to date.

We were interested in doing something different and Weee had told us he could organise a boat trip for us around the Island with a bit of snorkelling. It would cost 2000 baht for the day with free beer :-).

Longtail

£30 for the day not forty

He asks if his brother can come along, a big friendly guy, we are more than happy for his company. Myself and the KP enjoy breakfast on the front whilst they go to sort out the boat. Upon returning Weee has good news, the boat with a two man crew is 1500 baht not 2k. I’m really happy with this, not so much the 500 saving, but the honesty of the man we’ve only recently met. Especially as Thais have a bit of rep for taking you for as much as they can!

We’re off out on the boat, a typical long tail, circling the island which is just 10Km long by 5Km wide. We head around the coast and Weee is pointing out secret beaches and significant stones etc…  I ask if we can see the monkey’s fishing? We all just laugh. It’s interesting to see the Captain directs the boat with his foot, which we later discover is common actually. Longtail captains are easy to spot, one of their feet looks like they’ve been storing a big sausage alongside their big toe, either that or they’re experts in self foot masturbation!

Foot control

Better foot control than Gareth Bale

The boys

The Boys on Tour

Before the storm

Looks a nice day for it ?

The snorkelling is not meant to be fantastic due to minimal coral, which is just as well as there’s no flippers, only masks. It’s an activity which will be fun anyway as the water is warm & clear, so visibility should be good. We’re off at the first stop with Weee in charge of the K7 and he got some good shots of us.

Snork

Who’s Who ?

Snork Blurred

Blurry Frogman

As expected the coral is practically non-existent, we do spot a few fish but their numbers are sparse. Anyway it’s good practice for the KP, she’s never worn a mask before. We continue further around the Island to another spot near rocks that form a mini island. It’s a little better but not the amazing colourful experience which you are meant to get at nearby Koh Surin, in the Andaman sea. Trips are only available there during peak season, now the rainy season has only just finished and as it’s a three hour speed boat journey, it’s too risky a trip.

Crew member

Anchors away

There’s another island just off Phayam and Weee asks if we’d like to go there, why not we respond, he’s very happy as yet to visit there himself. Just as we approach the skies turn black and it starts pissing it down! The rain is bouncing off the surface of the sea. Thai storms can be quite fierce but they usually don’t last long, not that I’m an expert in this field, just speaking from experience, when they do hit tho’ they hit hard. Now as you all may have heard we get rain in wales, there’s rugby, male voice choirs & shagging sheep which we are famous for :-). What’s unique about it, the rain, especially up the valleys, its often horizontal. Thai rain tends to drop vertically but the drops are huge, like golf balls. We experienced it on the maiden Thai trip, you get soaked to the skin in 30 secs, as if you’ve jumped in the bath fully clothed.

Kp in the storm

At least she’s dressed for it

Weees brother (a close friend) shits out so the three of us get off the boat into the waist deep water and seawalk the 100 metres or so to shore. The K7 like most Pentax camera’s is weather sealed so in the excitement I’m cracking off shots oblivious to the fact we fucking cracked the top screen 3 days prior. It was a mistake that produced positives in the future, one of them being the introduction to the world of ginger bond, aka Double oH GinG, coming soon to a movie house near you!

It’s tamping down now and we can’t stop laughing. To be honest looking at the boat, I’m not fkin sure it will still be there when we get back. The KP doesn’t seem to care so I’m blasey also, sometimes you just need to say fuck it!

Storm Boat-2

Hoping it’s not the last we see of the longtail

We have no idea where we are heading and neither does Weee, we follow him regardless. Through some overgrown bushes and debris brought by the ocean we happen upon a dwelling which actually caters for guests. The place is run by an Italian couple who’ve been here about seven years. The guy shows us around and also the extensive debris brought daily by the sea. It’s a full time job to clear it and with it being off peak season it’s been allowed to gather, flips flops, shoes, plastic bottles, coconuts & bags line the shore. So please think before you dispose of waste overboard! The storm breaks so myself and the KP go off for a bit of exploring and even get romantic for five minutes in the woods just as it starts pissing down again.

Storm Island

Shelter found

Before leaving we have a beer whilst Weee is chatting to the guy, he explains that sometimes it’s possible to walk to the bigger island for a few hours window each day, that dependant on the location of the moon and how the tide is. It’s similar along the Welsh coast, numerous times tourists have needed to be air rescued from rock outcrops when they’ve misjudged the tide. It’s a message that you should never fuck with the sea, which is what we’ve just done! So we are more than happy to see the boat waiting for us when we want to leave, even if it’s further away!

Storm leaving

Happy the Longtail is waiting

We wade our way back out to the boat, happy to be re-united with the crew, there’s a few beers left and we crack into them whilst we get some big toe navigation back to shore. It’s always nice to be out at sea, well that is unless your on a rig in the north sea, or a fishing boat in the Atlantic. But it’s always a better feeling to get back on dry land, especially if you’ve had a cracking day like us, and the blue flash is waiting to take you home :-).

Back on land

Happy to have made it back.

Our next trip to the Island is almost ready to go to press, so coming at you soon, I can inform you that Koh Surin is included. So keep tuning in people and spread the word. Ohhh and if you like my effort, please click the button to say so.

Once Again Back To Temple Town

Siem Reap statue bike

Cover Shot

 

We have no intention of renting a bike in the tourist hot spot, there’s more Tuk-Tuks than temples, so we give drive from the bat cave and reservoir trips our helmets as a parting gift. At the last moment we remember we need a hotel in temple town! To save messing about when we arrive, we hastily book one on agoda before we leave for the station, we are departing by the mode of transport we arrived, the trusty bus.

With the KP is not able to cross the border to Thailand by road, we are forced to return to Siem Reap to depart by air. Yes it’s a minor cloud but one that has a silver lining, more than one actually. Firstly we get to meet up with another Valleys boy from home, Neilos hails from the same good valley as myself but closer to the top. Not quite as far up as only one road in & out, but close to it. Secondly our extended holiday is now extended just a little bit more, as when we get back to the island the fitness regime will commence. Along with a more healthy diet and the job search net getting cast further afield. The boozing will also reduce apart from when Billy visits. So on the bus we are excited about our mini extension.

tuktuk-02

Cambodian Tuk-Tuk, more versatile than those found in Thailand

We arrive after the short trip then it’s straight in a Tuk-Tuk to the hotel, a $30 abode just on the edge of town. Drive had difficulty finding it, which is no surprise as it’s miles from anywhere thanks to the hasty booking! Well not quite but it’s half way to the airport, down a dusty bumpy road. It’s out a bit more than we’d have liked but it’ll give us another angle on the town. The place is very nice actually, there’s a spa and a tidy enough pool with private booths surrounding it. A travel agent would try to get away with calling it ‘a secluded romantic getaway’, nice. The room is in line with the rest of the hotel with a huge bed, the sort you get at £150 night hotels back home. The bathroom is very smart and there’s even a bath out on the balcony which extends around the corner.

Balcony bath-2

Bath on the Balcon

Being more than a walk out of town, we relax at the hotel with a few cocktails and snacks at the pool before heading into town in the early evening, a $3 fare with the hotels Tuk-Tuk. Neilos is not so familiar with the town so we are heading to Pub Street, thankfully at the quiet end. The red piano also known as the Tomb raider bar, it’s where Angelina aka Lara Croft used to hang out when filming. Now her favourite tipple is a cocktail in the bar, what are they like? I’m sorry neither of us have tried them and I was soon to discover Neilos is still a beer man, even tho’ he’s been doing a fair bit of travelling himself since the last time we’d seen each other, which must have been about seven years ago, thanks TwitTwot. Unfortunately he’s alone as his mrs is not feeling so good today. So it’s the three of us who enjoy beers food and a chinwag, the KP holding her own even when us boys converse in fast wenglish, like only valley boys can see. He’s just at the start of his trip which is an annual occurrence, a few months break away from the winter and toil of work back home.

durian fruit-2

Durian fruit cart

Good on him there’s too many back home who just not got the go, to go anywhere, apart the pub, the same one, even when it’s possible to do so. It’s good to chat to a like minded soul, the KP is not excluded as Neilos has previously visited most places we’ve been this trip. The exchange of travel tales is fun and also not met with disbelief, which can happen at times. We try a bar or two then take Neilos to one of our favourite little places in town, the very cool Miss Wongs cocktail bar. It’s a great place, very unique and tastefully decked out in a 1930’s asian style, with tasty cocktails at $3 a hit. Our guest for the evening is suitably impressed and samples the cocktails also, something he admits is not the norm. So the boy has left the valleys, but the valleys has come with him. This quirky little bar is not the place he’d normally venture. I think he shall do so now tho’, his TwitTwot feed was very positive about the place. As he rightly stated you wouldn’t expect to find such a cool place, in a town like this in Asia. Usually there’s just not the level of attention paid to detail, unless your paying through the roof.

miss wong-2

Miss Wongs – Somehow the only shot I’ve got

The next day we think we’ll have a relaxing day at the pool, maybe even a bit of spa treatment. The spa is quickly discounted following a check of the price list, $60 an hour for basic treatment. It’s a crazy price when you can have a massage just up the road for less than $10. Main breakfast was avoided due to the amount of fleas swarming the fruit, so it was toast and tea followed by a day enjoying by the pool, nice too it is. For the next thirty minutes or so we have a great time, a few other guests chilling, reading, sipping on cocktails. Then to break the solitude a group of twenty or so russians check in, who are quickly followed by a party of eight girls, a mix of Australian and British, just past the end of their teens and already piling on the pounds. They seem decent enough but their loud, and not playing games in the pool, messing about having fun loud. Just talking, either with each other or usually on speaker phone skype to various family members. The headphones come to the rescue enabling me to blog away. The intrusion by thirty other guests is all part of being in a popular destination and their only enjoying themselves on holidays anyway. A few more cocktails and we decide to leave them to it, heading out for the evening at four in the afternoon. We need an early one for tomorrow, as on arrival we arranged with drive for the Angkor Wat sunrise. The early start is utilised by the search for some clothes, much needed to replace those that have fallen apart. The KP needs some tops & bikinis, myself shorts and any type of suitable underwear, preferably not nylon! That’s been attempted and is not pleasant! We fail in the clothes department, mainly due to prices going through the roof with the year on year influx of tourists paying way over the odds. We do pick up a decent selection of movies at a dollar a piece. We have a quick bite to eat which is followed by a foot massage, another couple take the seats alongside us, the guys got a bag of spiders which he’s been munching on, reckons they are tasty! We decline the offer to try which I agree is a bit boring of us, maybe some other time! Following the massage we are then back to the digs before ten in preparation for the early start tomorrow.

truck

Pulled by the plod. It won’t be for overloading I bet.

Up at four to watch the sun might sound crazy but for many it’s deemed to be spiritual. I’ve managed it a few times and I’d tick the spiritual box but that was back in the 90’s rave scene, now it’s a bit crazy. However it’s meant to be spectacular, the layout and orientation of the temple is based upon the sun. It’s also a good chance to sample the K3, so up just after four we are. It’s been two days since we made the arrangement but drive is there, not him exactly he’s sent a mate. The ticket booth is 30mins out of town and it’s chilly, thanks to Luang Prabang we’re prepared :-). The Beer Laos sweater doing me proud, the KP is once again supergirl. The $20 day pass allows you access to all areas and we are soon at Angkor in the pitch dark. We make our way following others, we have a torch but that spoils the fun too much. So we tread carefully behind others until we are through and out heading towards what must be the viewing area. Already there’s a sizeable crowd waiting to see if the sun arrives or will it actually the be end of it all? On cue it gradually lightens the sky, turning it a deep purple. It’s hazy without a cloud in the sky and I’m sure the majority of the 500 plus crowd were also a little disappointed.

new sunrise

Purple Haze Crowd

It was a great crack tho’, plus we had a laugh making jumping photos, We take a break for food as promised at one of the many vendors, where we are also ambushed by kids selling postcards at $10 a pack. We are not interested, “ok sir $9 discount, for you only $1 each” once again we succumb to the pressure by not helping the situation and part with two dollars. It turns out to be a good buy as there are photos there which show how great the view can be, which I’ve taken a shot of here….

postcards

worth a trip back ?

It feels like we’ve been out camping when we sit down for our chicken fried rice, conversing with a group of three from China. Being neighbours they knew all about Kazakhstan which was a first for the trip. Suddenly there’s a bit of noise from the crowd as the sun is making an appearance, I catch it with a few shots, before we head away.

new sunrise 2

Rise & Shine people

sunrise-04

Hazey Haze

The morning was a success and worth the effort, it’s nice to be up and about so early. We plan to check out a few more temples, in particular “the one with the trees” as I told drive. On the way there we stop at the front of Banyon, the temple with the faces. Having been inside before and wanting to make the most of the early start, we just stop off outside for some fun and also patriotic photos.

bayon jumping

Yippee

bayon flags-2

KZ & Cymru in unison

Then onwards to the one with the trees, Ta Prohm for our debut. It’s a bit different from other temples, special even as it’s been infiltrated by the jungle, trees grow, their roots like vines gripping the stones beneath, It’s quite fascinating.

Tree-01

Tree support

Tree-03

Which came first ?

Tree-02

Photo central

Tree-04

A vertical panorama

I managed to get some nice shots, but most were hampered by the sheer number of other tourists. Usually checking their phones in the middle of the scene, look here’s a few comical characters.

man on phone

Cheers

phonepig

No text required

In the evening we meet up with Neilos and this time he’s with Nuna, his better half from Thailand. Nuna like the KP has also visited Wales and the valleys but been less fortunate regarding the weather, as it’s either rained or snowed she tells us :-). It’s an added connection for us all, and a good night is on the cards. If you’ve been following the blog you’ll know we loved the Brazilian so it’s there we head to repeat our best meal of the tour. Unfortunately as it’s a saturday there’s a set menu, the delights we tried before are all missing. So the meal which we’ve been raving about turns out to be just average although Nuna had some great fish. It’s back to town and we start with cocktails at Miss Wongs, which is followed by a small whirlwind tour around the back alleys of Siem Reap trying out a selection of venues. We surprise our friends and ourselves actually with how well we know the place. It’s a good night and even tho’ it didn’t extend as far as dancing we all have a good laugh and a little drunk. Goodbyes are said and we head out of town in separate Tuk-Tuk’s back to our respective digs. They have a few days left before returning to Thailand and a few different Islands to ourselves.

The next day we avoid the fleas on the fruit and take a walk for breakfast, this is soon followed by a lovely massage next door. It looks like the place doubles as a brothel? I was expecting us to get offered a happy ending, which never arrived. When we leave there’s a Tuk-Tuk that takes us into town. A nice day is had milling about, even managing to get some clothes for the Island as our flight to Bangkok is tomorrow. In the evening we have pies in a Irish pub, which don’t seem Irish at all! We then try a club called Titanic, which last departed from Ireland. It looks great on the flyer but actually it’s pants and likely to sink anytime soon, it means we are back early with time to get ready for our off tomorrow.

The trip to the airport is a very short one, and I’ve got time to get a few shots of a lotus pond and before you know it we are back in the Asian hub that is Bangkok. As usual the KP needs to apply for a visa, which requires an airline ticket which departs within the next 15days. We’ve booked a changeable one way to Phnom Pehn for $120. Having arrived at Don Mueang there’s no lounge we have access to, but the airport is preferable as it’s smaller and a lot easier to navigate. Bangkoks other international airport, Suvarnabhumi is one of the better airports, but it’s spread over 5 floors. Don Mueang doesn’t have fancy shops and huge cosmetic areas it’s more homely if an airport ever could be? There’s food areas selling tasty fare and the odd small massage/salon. We’ve got the time so why not? Why not indeed! So after lunch we’re in for a bit of pampering with an hours foot massage, which includes neck and shoulder. It’s the best rub down we’ve had in a while, they right hit the spot, proving that Thai massage, just like the food is quite possibly the best in Asia.

lotus airport 01

Nice even at the airport

Next it’s a prop job and we arrive in Ranong, an hour too late for the last boat to the Island so we need a night in town. We booked something when we were in Bangkok and get dropped off there by the mini bus, the B Ranong Trend Hotel. It looks kinda cool from the outside and turns out to be right funky, even trendy on the inside. The design of the hotel is the coolest we’ve stayed at I think, the layout, the colours, all cool. There’s also a right tidy pool on the roof with a great view. No the mention the bar with live music and a selection of others on the same street. We had no idea this was all here in the town and it’s the fifth time we’ve visited! There’s so much more than first meets the eye, we just viewed it as the gateway to our special place. Ranong is definitely worth more of a look and we would do if we weren’t limited to 15days, one of which has already gone!

ranong room

Trendy paint

ranong bar

Tidy bar

ranong pool-2

Time for a dip ?

The first speed boat is at 07:30, balls to that we’ll get the one at eleven and enjoy our breakfast and check out the pool. On the way to the port we remember we need dollar, well Thai Baht actually. There’s no cash points at the island, it’s possible to get cash there but it’s a hassle and costly. With the coin sorted we get to the harbour ready for the departure back to paradise, where we’ll soon see if it’s a good destination to get fit and healthy as we plan to?

Saying Goodbye Slowly To Dum Bong

Well we’ve been in Battambang for almost a week and yet to discuss when we shall leave? The only time we’ve given it any thought is when reception ask when we’ll be checking out? Even then we don’t think much, “a few more days” the usual response. Today is day number six and we start it with breakfast at a very arty cafe which is locally quite famous for it’s desserts. We agree to come back and check them another time, maybe later on even, as we don’t have plans as such other than chill, a rest day after the last few days of being active.

Scooter

The green flash can have a rest today.

Over brekkie I agree to the KP’s suggestion of checking if the croc farm is open today. It’s only about a ten minute ride and the short trip is not a waste of time, as just as the KP hoped it’s open, we pay the $2 entry. Upon entering it’s just like someones back yard, considering it’s only $2 I’m expecting to see a few crocs in a small pond and we’ll be on our way. We climb a small set of steps and can see immediately it’s a very big set up, which is confirmed by the guide. There are over 2,000 crocodiles here varying in age and size, all the way from a couple of months at 10 inches in length, right up to 20 year old eight footers. There’s a series of pens and ponds containing the reptiles lazing in the sun.

this one

Happy or not? It’s hard to tell

Crocs yellow new

Just back from a dip

The lady guide showing us around who actually looks like the boss explains that they breed them, later selling them to the Thai’s for handbags, Vietnamese for medicine & Indonesian’s for food. It’s looks a busy operation and slightly over crowded for the crocs, but somehow strangely I don’t feel too bad about it, which I suppose is wrong, as there are a number of species endangered worldwide. However maybe this is helping the situation as they are breeding them and therefore a source, possibly saving those in the wild? I’m not sure, regardless the KP is enjoying it! It’s quite a sight actually, especially if you’ve only seen crocodiles on discovery before. We leave the facility and take a short walk up the lane to another area they utilise to house the crocs. It’s here they keep the highlight of the KP’s visit. The baby crocs just two weeks old, and just as the sign said, it’s possible to hold them. The KP wants to take one home and if they stayed at their 4 inch length, they’d be very interesting fun pets. However here are also the largest reptiles they have and their huge, a reminder that they should really be in the wild, even tho’ they are highly dangerous killing machines. The extreme power they have can even be felt when holding the baby (yes I had a go also), each breath pulsating the palm of your hand.

Crocs black and white

little nipper

Crocs big many new

Beasts

That’s enough activity for today, we’re on the search for somewhere new for lunch. We settle on the two dragons, a backpackers place so it should be lively. It’s a very nice bar aided by the fact they’ve got Beer Laos and cheap cocktails. Whilst enjoying our burgers a group of girls arrive, all looking worn out and heavily sun burnt. Never nice to see, but we are pleased to hear that they’ll just arrived from Siem Reap by the boat and none too happy about it. We celebrate with beer for not making the same mistake, It’s not too long after my last dose of too many rays on my ginger skin, we both remember it well. The scooter gets dropped off at the hotel and we return for some cocktails before heading out into the evening, looking for a new venue and change of scenery. We find it, in a place galled Ganesha, there are many of the hindu symbols adorning the restaurant and bar next door. There’s a pool table with a weekly saturday night competition, also a cinema room with daily screenings. Both findings once again reinforce the feel of community in the town.

ganesha

Ganesha

When awaking we understand the cheap cocktails were not such a good idea, it takes ages to get out of bed. Once we finally do so, we’re on a mission to find food and Bloody Mary’s which never fail in the hair of the dog stakes. There’s a local place we stop at, unfortunately the noodle soup is a let down, the drinks not so, the BM’s are cracking, following a few they achieve their goal which enables us to search out more food. We want something different and remember seeing a chinese noodle dumpling place, where was it again? The gridded street system allows us to find it in a short time, the main man is easy to spot as he’s there out front stretching and spinning the dough.

noodle shop new

This time the food is great, both the noodles and dumplings, delicious. Noodle guy really is top, the food being fully authentic and fresh. It’s always good when you can see the food being prepared. That is if you don’t happen to look into a greasy dirty kitchen on the way to the bog, which has happened a few times this trip. Here now it’s good as the cooking station is out in the open, no doubt it’s a big attraction for this eatery.

Noodle guy

Noodle guy – The main man

delicious dumplings

delicious dumplings

Following the late lunch we stroll a bit about town, the Chinese school is impressive plus a selection of other buildings, including a temple with the famous Banon temple faces at the entrance. Then we need sleep it off, waking a bit late and when heading out in the evening it’s almost ten so the selection of food is limited, even a pizza place has stopped serving. We find grub in the local pub on the corner as everywhere else is closing down for the night. We also close down for the night, or at least head back to the digs as I remember that the city are playing and want to check them out on the internet radio for only the second time in more than a year. We lose 3-2 and it sounded very bad, it might have actually been worse than it sounded, which is often the case. Not that it really matters, we are back in our rightful colours and I once more feel connected to the club, which in all honesty is in a right mess! Those that are responsible know it, that’s for sure.

chinese school

Chinese school

Unfortunately for the blog and yourselves we fancy another lazy day. Still on the list of things to do is the man made reservoir and also the killing caves which we’ll get to tomorrow and beyond. For today we’ve decided to check out some of the galleries and the museum. Here’s a selection of some of the art, as you can see we particularly liked the Dali type offerings.

Art 5

3 eyes

Art 2

Ninjas

Art 1

colourful clock tower

Art 6

Fish face

big head

Skunk on the brain

The museum was quite disappointing, but what was of interest was the information regarding locals whose lives were affected by the Khmer Rouge. The photos are there once again with the faces staring out at you in fear, all stories on both sides of the fence are compelling. Even some of those involved with the Khmer Rouge, also lived in a state of fear. We then stroll along the riverside and back to town grab a pizza and check out a few more bar type art galleries. In the evening we finally start to discuss when we should leave and the plan for our remaining days. We want to get back to Thailand and the Island where the journey began. It was the original intention of where we would finish our three month trip. We’re already way beyond that date but sticking to our original idea as much as possible, plus it’s a great little spot which we miss & on top of that we are going to meet up with Billy and his Mrs for a long weekend. We found the place last March thanks to his recommendation but he’s yet to see how cool a place it is, we’re excited to get back there. We just need to confirm when and importantly how. We’ve told the hotel we’ll check out after another two days or so, but need to confirm if it’s possible to get a visa on entry at the land border. Enquiries are made both verbally and online, we’ll know soon enough if the plan to travel by road is possible. Our immediate plans for our remaining time is the reservoir tomorrow, followed the day after by the killing caves.

Temple faces-2

Interesting entrance to yet another temple

So after a couple of days break, you’ll be happy to know we are back on the scooter for more adventures. It’s not the best, but they never are. This one’s like most others we’ve rented, the back brake ain’t too hot and needs to be compensated a bit with the front and as I’ve said the speedo’s out of action. We’ve managed okay tho’ by taking it easy on the throttle and being aware as much as possible. Today we are heading out the Kamping Pouy reservoir about 30Km out of town, 8Km wide and 15Km long and left over from the Khmer Rouge, being constructed during the time of the regime to supply additional water to the paddy fields, ten’s of thousands lost their lives during the construction. Today it’s meant to be a very popular picnic spot with the locals and very busy on weekends. Without a decent local map that goes beyond the city limits, it’s a quick check of google maps for the route. It looks easy enough so I memorise the route before setting out. We turn off the main road as I remembered, but the road is immediately a dirt track. A quick check of the GPS and we’re on the right road, so we continue onwards. A while later it feels as if we are going the wrong way, a quick check of the GPS tells us fuck all, the battery has gone, no juice. It’s a prime example of how myself and many others, including you maybe? In this day and smart phone age people can be so unprepared and not smart at all! Thankfully we’re not at the top of some mountain range in the Brecon Beacons, also thankful it’s not dark. Being not so far from town, only about 8 clicks, we return to charge the phone, heading back out once it’s got enough juice. We got it correct first time but then missed a small right, which we now take. The red dusty surface is not the best to travel on, it’s uneven with lots of loose gravel, not to mention the amount of dust that is created when a truck passes you by. After about forty five minutes the GPS map directs us away from the main road, alongside a water channel, the road reduces to a dirt path littered with mini dippers, that’s potholes big enough to drive through. We continue driving alongside the channel and pass a number of small bridges.

Dam Bridge

One of the many small bridges

We continue on, it seems like we are going for ages & ages. We stop to check the GPS again, a youth who was bathing in the water clocks us near one of the bridges, soon later we see another eyeing us as we pass. With this interest from the locals, my mind starts to wander and wonder if we are in bandit country and maybe just a little too far from the beaten track, like 20 miles too far? The stupid mistake we’ve made of not getting new Cambo sim cards is ringing in my head. We have no means of contact and who knows where the fuck we are? Nobody that’s who! We continue on and the road widens out once more but it also goes back to gravel, this time crushed stone, and much larger pieces, hence the driving conditions are more treacherous, especially as it’s not been compacted a great deal. I’m still wondering about bandits that may be in the area, then all of a sudden, bang, we are both sliding on the deck in the gravel, fuck it we’ve crashed – The result of combining a wandering mind and a school boy error. The bike veered slightly off into the shoulder and it’s much deeper gravel, naturally I tried to slow down whilst keeping the bike straight, but too much on the front brake to assist the back and the wheel went from under us. Stupidity of the highest order resulting in our first accident. My first concern is the KP and she gives the ok. I’m also ok just light grazing up my right arm and elbow, hands are also grazed including the KP’s, we both need our minor injuries cleaned up. How much the helmets helped you’ll never know but they remained on and must have done some work, it looks so due to the dirt and dust on them. We dust ourselves down checking there are no broken bones. Not one(s) to give up easily we continue onwards with greater determination. Due to the shock of the crash I forgot to take any photos of the bike in the gravel, the second school boy error of the accident. One at the beginning that created it, another at the end by not recording it. The nearside front of the bike is scratched and the wing mirror is all out of place. Now even more determined to locate our destination and within a few minutes we can see the dam up ahead, but the road stops and reverts to a dirt pathway towards a dwelling and then nothing. There’s no way through to the dam on the bike, if we went by foot it seems we would need to wade through the water. The GPS shows there’s another road around, which is back up the gravel road. Let’s try that then, so we go back the way we came then take a left after about 10 clicks. It’s another gravel road going off into nowhere, we follow it hoping to get around to the dam, the determination in my head says fuck the bandits. We travel so far and then it’s a grassed path, we plough onwards, up, down and around trees and stumps, until we can go no more. Well we could but it’s becoming more and more ridiculous with each passing metre. It’s time to accept defeat, maybe we should have done so 30 minutes sooner, at least we tried, but retreat to the digs to get cleaned up we do. Myself feeling like a complete tool on the way back, having been undone by a mound of gravel and imaginary bandits :-). Travelling back we can’t believe how far we’ve come, the road goes on for ages & ever! Eventually the main tarmac road is reached for us to return to town, stopping at one of the shops. We collect Vodka to clean our wounds, but also Baileys and Kahlua which will help make the most of the vodka after a shot or two gets the dirt out of our wounds. To aid in that task we also get some antiseptic shit and dressings. The injury sustained is minor and too embarrassing to post a photo of, it looks more impressive patched up. Which we manage to get done before we hit the white russians for a drunken night in, cool tunes provided by a mate back home who’s getting right into mixing once more. He’s yet to confirm if we can share his vibes here, I’ll double check with him and let you know.

no s

In the wars again

We find out in the morning how we can get back to Thailand, the Kazakh passport strikes again, as it’s not possible to get a visa on entry at the border. It means we’ll need to fly, so back to temple town it is for a day or so before flying once again into Bangkok. No bother, the plus side is that we won’t be on a bus for half a day or longer :-).

Now for today’s plan – It would have been the killing caves but due to the minor disaster of yesterday we just have to make it to the dam and the reservoir. It seems we will miss out on the killing caves as we both need to know where, how & why I fucked up. The answer to why – It’s always easy to be an idiot! The answer to how – Technology and following the digital map even when it began to look a bit of a stupid idea. The answer to where – as soon as we left the city!

The answers are provided by the same Tuk-Tuk drive who took us to the bat cave. We leave the city in a southwesterly direction, opposed to northwest the day before. It’s not as scenic a route, but there’s a tarmac road and plenty to keep us entertained during the lengthy trip. A quick check of the GPS shows we are heading towards the same goal, just less of a direct route. It’s comical as we stand on the top of the dam viewing where we were yesterday.

Looking back at channel

Location of the crash is beyond the road in the top of the shot

closer view of road

just around the corner here……

There’s a few stalls set up and barbeque venues, it’s not the weekend and therefore quiet today. There’s loads of guys offering to take us out for a trip out on the lake, we eventually agree upon a $10 fare. We relax a bit first, have some food and beers and check out the dam, sluice gates and their valves before our captain comes to take us out on the massive expanse of water.

valves

Sluice gate valves at the dam

woman in boat

Our female captain coming for us

We get pushed out into deeper water by the bamboo, passing lots of lotus leaves and the occasional flower, then it’s the motor to take us around. There’s a few huts (home page) on sparadoic bits of land which are either used for fishing or protection from the sun. I suppose you could have lunch here if you had prepared a picnic, which we haven’t. There’s a wide selection of birds on the hunt and others doing a fair bit of relaxing. The captain is back on the bamboo and guiding us right into the lotus lilies. Surprisingly the captain plucks an open flower from the water and presents it to the KP, then adds another three which are closed. As she’s preparing them into a bunch the colourful leaves of the flower get blown away, a sign from above that maybe the flower should have been left alone :-).

lotus in pond

Lotus out on the reservoir

lotus another-2

lotus flowers in various states of life

two birds-2

nice pair of birds

bird another

another bird, just taking flight

Following much laughter from us all we continue onwards through the lilies and back towards the dam and our awaiting Tuk-Tuk. It’s very scenic and relaxing, a great way to chill out, if it wasn’t at the hottest part of the day we would have stayed on the water longer, but head back to town we do.

dam from boat

The dam

The journey back has it’s usual array of interesting sights which are much easier to see from the back of a Tuk-Tuk. I can also get some shots off on the move.

petrol station

A local garage with plenty of juice

road over shoulder

The view straight on, someones new van

cool man-2

and to the left the cool dude on the home page

When we return to town and find another place to eat, a quick look at the net turns the bad travel news we received in the morning, into good. TwitTwot informs me that one of the boys from back home is currently in Siem Reap :-). It’s good we haven’t booked flights yet, we might as well stay a while then now. It will be good to have a catch up or two over a few pints or four in temple town. Who knows we might even do a temple this time?

Loving The Bong

OK this blogging lark is quite a task whilst still enjoying oneself, especially when trying to make it interesting which I hope I’m not failing at? Therefore I was happy we were on a ten hour bus journey in Thailand, which gave me plenty of time to get this next section boxed off, apart from adding the photos it was achieved.

Well I’m fuming right now, as the words I penned for about five or six hours during the trip has been lost into fucking nothingness thanks to WordPress, Apple and the fucking iPad. Yes readers I need to come up with it allafuckingain! There’s nothing worse than repeating something you’ve already done, especially when it takes thought and a little bit of inspiration, it’s almost irretrievable!

I’ve had a few pints to calm me down and gather my thoughts, I take solace from the fact I should do it quicker as not typing on the pad, whether it’s like the original draft lets see, if it’s interesting enough for you all I’ll be happy, so here goes………

We are off on our latest set of wheels to the Temple (Wat) Ek Phnom, which is about 15Km northeast-ish from town. We’re on local roads and pass through a few small villages which is always interesting as there’s the odd sight or five that will surprise you. With the speedo once again out of action it’s difficult to judge how far we’ve come. Inevitably we miss our destination not knowing the ruins we seek are located at a new temple. It’s not missed by much tho’ due to the need for juice. The girl working the gas (petrol in beer bottles) points us back in the direction we’ve come from, having only overrun by about a mile. There’s a temple one of many in the area, the usual budda with the ruins just behind.

Temple leaves

Wat Leafage

Now if you’ve done Angkor and the temples in the surrounding area, most other historical temples are a bit disappointing in comparison. Wat Ek Phnom is also, but what is impressive is that it was actually built before Angkor in 1027, so yes it’s almost a thousand years old. To be honest it’s nothing to write home about, but that maybe a lot to do with the damage it encountered during the reign of Pol Pot, as his and his regime tried to destroy everything, not just the lives of the people.

A thousand years old and looking it

A thousand years old

A thousand years old and looking it

and looking it

However it’s certainly good enough to blog about as we are treated by a few wedded couples who are using the venue for a photoshoot. The grooms outfits and hairdos being the highlight. Maybe we’ll go native for our big day next year, I could also dress like an Asian Elvis with a spikey wig also? Obviously that will be the KP’s call, but for sure it’s not going to be a traditionally British affair, those who accept the invite should be excited!

groom hair up2

Top hair

Fuck Danger. We're getting hitched

Fuck Danger. We’re getting hitched, check out my medallion!

We don’t stay a great deal of time as the KP made the mistake of giving a child beggar with eyes that could melt stone (it takes great will power not to) a 1000 riel note (25 cents), soon we are plagued by them, tracking our every move. Not even bothering to clamber over the stones all the way to the top, we retreat and instead we find refuge alongside the lotus pond with a few beers.

Beggar free

Lotus leaves and Beggar free

Before leaving we wander the more modern temple, which is a bit tired but has fantastic ornate paintings to the ceiling all around (home page), then we’re heading back to town where we find a very smart venue. Bingo it’s happy hour, we enjoy half a dollar beers and two dollar tacos, result. The plan for the early evening is to visit the bat cave, no we are not going to visit Bruce Wayne’s dwelling, this is DaBong not Gotham. This particular cave is home to the winged primates that go out on the hunt at night. It’s located at Phnom Sampov about 12Km to the west, we decide to take a Tuk-Tuk for two reasons: 1. So we don’t miss it. 2. The thirst for ale. Not only do the bats reside at the address, but human remains are also located close-by in caves known as the killing caves. Today we’ve only got time for the bats, which we are not too disappointed by as we don’t quite have the mood today for observing more of the Khmer Rouges evil work. Prior to visiting the Killing Fields local to Phnom Penh my understanding was that all the millions of innocents were murdered there, wrong! There are tens of thousands of killing fields and caves and who knows what else located throughout the Kingdom. Let’s not forget this was happening less than forty years ago! When you see or especially meet people who are in their forties, fifties or older. You often think, as it’s impossible not to – they lived through that! It must have been fucking terrifying! It’s something you need to have respect for, and for sure never to forget. When you see the huge grins on their faces you have even more respect and love for them and their country. Somehow to this day it is yet be resolved in the courts with those that were responsible and still alive! Tho’ it never can be resolved can it? It’s impossible, something as evil as that! Drive gets us a great spot just in front of the opening, but far enough away so we don’t get covered in bat shit. We settle ourselves down on a wall with a few beers awaiting the nightly show to begin. The opening looks a bit like a minge and that was the KP’s observation not mine, honest. The guide-less book mentions that there are thousands upon thousands of the little blighters, so this should be good. After waiting about 30 minutes or so, bang on time close to six, there’s some movement and a bit of excitement from the sizeable crowd, then they start streaming out of the vaginal opening quicker than twenty five megabite fibre optic broadband !

bats leaving 2-2

1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 ,9 hundred…… fuck I’ve lost count

A driveguide close by explains in good English to his Tuk-Tuk passengers that it takes a full forty five minutes for them all to emerge, returning at about four in the morning. Now in the first eleventeen seconds I counted at least twelveteen thousand of them, plus a few extra, so it means there’s not thousands upon thousands, but over a million, possibly two that call this hole in the cliff home. Fucking bonkers, what’s more mad tho’ and something which involves a fair bit of discussion, is how do they decide who leaves first? Is there a king bat who dishes out numbers? Maybe Bruce is in there after all? Another interesting snippet of of info I eaves drop, is that once a month, the bat crap is collected and used locally as fertiliser. It’s not a local job we’d like to help out with, but I’m sure we’ve all done a bit of shit shovelling at work, regardless of our jobs. Just maybe not literally.

Bats wide two

We’re a million! Come on let’s ave it!

Back to town we decide to try the restaurant next to the hotel which happens to be an Italian ran by a friendly young Swiss lady. The pre-meal taster and starters are good so we enjoy wine with the mains, followed by dessert which is cracking! The chef specialises in pastries we are informed, and who are we to disagree? The bill is a pricey $41, ok compared to home it’s peanuts for the full shabonka. Locally tho’ it’s possible to have a tasty meal for two with beers for about $6 or so, our bills usually weigh in at about $8-12. It depends where you choose to eat and how many bevvies you have ;-). The heavy outlay was worth it tho’ as it ended a perfect day, even the KP is happy (ok happier) with her hair and she’s looking both cool and sexy in her specs even if she don’t believe me. The following day we check out a bit more round about town and it’s outskirts. As usual there’s a number of statues to aid navigation, bridges and other interesting buildings, many of them of french colonial dwellings. We have a delicious lunch at an out of town resort that would be perfect for a few days of R&R, but we are happy with our more central location as it would be a bit boring here in the evenings.

No driveguide for a story about 8 arms

Sorry – No driveguide for a story about 8 arms

girl on horse

or the girl on the horse

Where we stopped is on the way to the Banan Temple where we are heading for another dollop of culture, it’s about 25 klicks southwest of town. The drive is pleasant as the smooth road meanders through the countryside and a scattering of little villages, with the usual interesting sights. Our eyes are peeled to spot the destination and this time we find it without the need of a 180 :-). It’s not quiet as ancient as yesterdays temple, being complete thirty years later in 1057. Before we can check it’s condition tho’ there’s a few steps that we need to mount, 358 to be exact. Not that we count them, if we did I’d say there was more than 450, as the rise and incline is such that some steps should actually count as two!

Banon ascent

Yes love, we’re only half way

There’s kids again but today they are not strictly begging, more working un-invited I suppose :-). We got one each following our path, girls not more than nine or ten years old fanning us. Our immediate efforts to shoo them away are ignored and by about step 263 we are thankful they stuck to their task. At the summit there’s no request for payment just that look and they get their rewards. Now if you’ve seen Angkor bla, bla, blah, other temples bla blah 😉 We are happy enough tho’ if a bit tired, well at least I am, tired I mean and happy that the ankle endured it’s latest bit of physio. I’m not as tired as those who lumped the blocks of sandstone and dolomite up here though all that time ago. We are also happy with the sight we get of the five temples on this hill top which are all still standing, one of them only just mind. The view all around is also impressive.

temples three together

not in bad nick

Banon one temple

Sturdy enough to enter

temple inside

look see

Being happy with what greeted us following the climb is more than can be said for some of trip advisor posters, the grumpy fucks! Maybe they would have been happier if the Vietnamese didn’t pilfer statues and recklessly damage the temples as they did during their occupation during the 1980’s. The temples on the hill top were used as a military base, some of the damage caused is plainly visible as you can see in the photo here, where parts of the carvings have been hacked away.

no head

face hacked off

Now I’m sure most of you have used the over popular internet review site, whether it’s for hotels, restaurants or attractions. So you will already understand there’s loads of people out there who are never happy with fuck all, not to mention the bogus positive reviews the site is meant to be plagued with. I like a good moan on occasions (those that know me might say too much), but some of the negative comments there, you could right a fucking comedy book. If you believed half the shit written you’d never leave the house. But hey, and I’m moaning now so will stop soon, promise. As I’ve said here before don’t always believe the hype. There’s only truly one way to find out and that’s what makes travel one of the worlds most interesting and rewarding pastimes, yes you get off your ass and check it yourself, of course when it’s possible. I fully understand tho’ that travel is a privilege, but it’s something we should all try to do as much as possible. Some just don’t make enough effort, but hey each to their own I suppose.

temple descent

Half way back down

We descend which is even more of a lower leg physical challenge but it holds out getting stronger with each step, we spot a red pagoda and check that out before heading back to town. We are greeted by out first budda mermaid who looks like she’s protecting her very own large pond of lotuses, which are yet to flower, bloody luverly all the same tho’

Spot the two kids having lunch

Spot the two kids having lunch

mermaid pond

mermaids, always cool

We head back to town and I think I know a short cut, but turn too soon and after about 30mins we are heading to Phnom Penh, we turn where we can and head back the other way. Unsure of our bearings in this next of the woods, so we just follow the road, then in the distance a familiar sight greats us and also navigates us back to town. It’s proves that using the statues rather than signs for directions is a good one.

da bong

Ta Dum directing us home

Now I had a bit of a go at some trip advisor’s earlier, but it’s not all bad, and it’s worth the occasional check. It’s soon proven as we try out a highly rated eatery in town, you know the one’s that get the trip advisor 2013 sticker in the window, just like an AA three star rated plaque at a guest house in the 80’s. It’s good and so are the cocktails, the menu has a very interesting entry. It’s possible to ask the person serving you to have what they had today for lunch, a local surprise it’s called $4. The KP is interested until that is I mention that maybe they had spiders. We share a curry with rice :-). On the stroll back we check a few other venues, it’s all very nice and laid back. The town has a very friendly arty community feel, if such an expression can be used to explain somewhere? Maybe I’m getting better at this blogging malarkey, or possibly not? When we first headed out on the scooter we passed a sign that read ‘crocodile farm’. I’ve been to one before in Thailand on that famous maiden trip, the KP hasn’t and is more than keen. Now I’m not for animals being kept captive, but do understand there are quite a few organisations ran by people doing good work and research helping to protect endangered species. However the majority are in it for the coin, exploiting their position at the top of the food chain to bring unnecessary pain and suffering to various creatures for financial gain. Now I’m not a vegan or even a vegetarian, so shoot me down in flames as some of my words that follow could be classed as hypocritical. Those bastard Japanese whaling ships need to be stopped tho’ for sure and don’t get me started on the killer whales and dolphins that are paraded in marine parks around the world. Also I’m not too keen on eating horse in Kazakhstan, tho’ I have, the second time and beyond knowingly. Even tho’ I still can’t understand using intelligent animals for food, tho’ it does depend on ones needs so let’s not judge. The place is not inundated with big fat cows like at home, and wrongly or rightly that’s where I class crocs. Not that they are stupid like cows, they’re just not cute like dolphins or majestic like elephants and no doubt would have you in a death barrel roll quicker than you could say rump steak. Plus if it’s a farm it must mean they breed them. Anyway it’s closed 🙂 the KP’s not happy, the last hand painted sign we passed that read ‘hold a baby croc’ increased her excitement. The banging she makes on the gate which looks like someone’s back door, goes unanswered. My conscience is intact for now, hey, I might just order one of the crocodile kebabs they advertise in Siem Reap next time we are there :-). We head back to the city with plan to get push bikes for the rest of the day. It has the desired effect and lifts her mood as now she’ll be at the controls for a change. The bikes are $2 a day but we’ve past lunch and now a single dollar, plus you get a free bottle of water, full of bargains this town is see. It soon becomes apparent that being on a pushbike is more fucking dangerous that being on a scooter, as the vehicle of choice has less clout on the roads. Especially if you are the KP, not that it’s any fault of her own. Not having driven her road sense is never going to be the best, that may actually be an advantage as she’s in the same boat os the locals. Actual time on a bicycle has also been limited, it’s not so popular at home, you’d have three punctures a day and need a new set of wheels a week, the roads really are that bad. Thankfully we are mainly outside of the city and she’s doing better than fine love her. However by the third or fourth road crossing it’s all too much for my stress levels, the bikes get ditched, we lasted less than ninety minutes agreeing that the crazy roads of cambo are not the best place to find your feet on two wheels. We did get to see and shoot quite a few of the towns notable sights and here they are for your perusal……….

governors residence

The guvnas residence

French colonial building, Now the bank.

French colonial building, now a bank.

bridge conc

Concrete Bridge

cinema_

Old cinema, similar to the one in Kampot

bridge two

Another bridge

The governors residence

The guvnas residence & his ………

protector's

protector’s

School

School

bldh on corner

Another old building

That’s it for now, and if your enjoying the read you’ll be happy to know our time in DaBong and beyond continues, as just a few days ago we extended our three month plane tickets to a date yet to be confirmed as the fun rolls on just a bit further.

A Bit Bonkers In Battambang

First off I’d like to apologise to you all who are reading for the delay in the production of this latest splurge. There’s plenty to say as we’ve been having lots of fun but no time to write about it. Ahhhhh I did manage to update the photos on the home page, which I’m sure some of you out there have already seen. OK let’s get on with it, here’s the latest addition to our blog…………

As promised when we left the north of Cambodia into Laos we’re back, and in Battambang. Battambong it’s pronounced, or more correctly Bat Dum Bong. During our travels we’ve heard mixed reviews but me cockney spara’s words are enough to convince us we’re in for a good time. Assuming that is, we get back in the groove for some action. The ankle is getting there, so no excuses now.

It only took just over three hours on the bus, the decision to avoid the boat seeming a sound one. A keen Tuk-Tuk driver followed us from the main bus station to the city centre and kept his promise of free transport to the hotel, which is located alongside the river, compared to the Mekong it’s more of a stream. In return for the free ride, which we tipped for anyway as you gorra repsect someone who’s willing to work 🙂 we agree to giving drive a job in the morning, to visit the Bamboo Train, what ever that is, at ten.

hotels on river

The furthest one alongside the stream

Our plan of moving south is rewarded, it’s red hot and chattering teeth in Luang Prabang now a distant memory. It’s about five so we start the evening with drinks at the hotels sky bar to catch the sunset before six. It’s not bad but hazy and is so for the rest of the trip, not that we viewed them every day tho’. It’s a $1 Tuk-Tuk over the stream to the sign that indicates pub street. I’m happy it’s not like Siem Reap, just a few bars and restaurants. It seems like our sort of town, a bit like Kampot maybe? Actually it’s the 2nd largest city in Cambodia with a wealth of history. It’s nowhere near as mad as Phnom Penh and actually feels like a town. It’s a bit like Phnom Penh in 2002 in that the streets are poorly lit, but the need to jog to the next bar is happily not there. We don’t venture too far tho’ not wanting to push things on the first night, but do take a wander down another poorly lit street towards a possible bar it’s difficult to tell. A bar it is tho’, a French wine one, so we partake in a glass or two and then head back to the stream and over the bridge to the digs.

The evening is a very significant one, as unbelievably Cardiff City Football Club are Back in Blue. I’m over the moon to be a Bluebird once more. Our crazy owner has agreed to it following a chat with his mum!? Well thank you so much Mrs Tan, your boys mad ideas it seems are nowt to do with your upbringing. I want to give you a big cwtch as I can now love my first love once more, it’s all still a bit fucked up tho’ and I won’t feel relaxed until the mad man has walked out the door. There’s obviously more to the reversal than meets the eye, plus our badge is still a mess. Anyway I’m as happy as a pig in shit, it was so unexpected! It don’t even matter if we get relegated, which could happen, as on the pitch we are meant to be shockingly bad if what I’ve read this evening can be believed. Let’s hope for a bit of unity now off it! Those fans tho’ that helped push it all through, the change to red, in my opinion should be ridiculed, they were instrumental in the whole embarrassment. Let’s hope they now hang their heads in shame, but supposedly being on the pay roll of the club at the time, I bet they couldn’t give a toss.

As agreed the next day we’re away in the Tuk-Tuk at Ten. Just on the outskirts of town drive stops at a roundabout with it’s obligatory statue. This one is particularly impressive tho’, a big one of a guy with a stick. Drive transforms into Guide and explains in pigeon english the history behind the big man named Ta Dambong. Well the name Battambang is Khmer for lost stick, the magic stick that the man lost that is. However before he lost it he obviously found it first and when he did as guide explained. “He not know stick have magic power, not know. One day he shake stick chickens, chickens afraid, chickens run away. Man know stick magic, use stick beat king with magic power see. Then run away forest, later someone come after him on white horse from sky. He throw stick but stick miss and then cannot find stick. Man run away”. We all love a bit of magic and at the time it was a funny story, much better told than the ‘official version’ in the guide-less book I can assure you.

Before he lost his stick

Ta DamBong – Before he lost his stick

The tale and delivery of it, was worth a tip for sure. Onwards we head to the bamboo train, not having researched it we’re unsure what awaits us. From being in Kampot we know there’s a Cambodian rail network but it’s generally fallen into into disrepair, and hardly utilised. One place it is used is here in Battambang, a small section of it anyways. Driveguide explains that the big trains stopped running about twelve years back as there were too many accidents occurring, the trains kept derailing. So what is the Bamboo train – It’s a small platform made out of Bamboo positioned on a pair of axles with a motorbike engine. The original tracks run for quite a few clicks to a small village, we board and away we go. It soon becomes apparent as to why the trains were derailing, the tracks are fucked, warped to bits! I got mates that work the rails at home and I’m sure they wouldn’t believe their own eyes if they seen some of the joints and general rail condition. It’s like a skateboard come mini roller coaster, up down left & right, the joints which are out by as much as 20 to 30mm are bone shaking, your whole body convulsing like a jumping jelly bean. When the girl selling the tickets said you get a free massage, she wasn’t kidding :-).

Boys on track

Choo Choo – Step aside

track joint

Hell of a joint

We pass a few dwellings and various locals walking the track. A group of young boys are playing, jumping into the river. The speed we are travelling gives everyone enough time to clear the tracks. It’s good fun and then in the distance there’s another train heading our way, being a single track without sidings, a head on is inevitable. Fear not the anchors are on and both ‘trains’ stop, there’s a mexican stand off but agreement is soon reached, us being the winners. The ‘train’ is dismantled, bamboo platform and axles removed to the edge of the track and our journey continues. A quick re-assemble and the head-on travellers are heading on behind us.

train swap

The losers of scissors, rock, paper.

Soon we’re at the destination and there’s a collection of tents with the usual tourist garb. We get a few $3 tourist T-Shirts and $1 beers. The video gives you the general idea along with this shot of another ‘train’ fully loaded with passengers leaving the village, yes it’s all very high tech as you can see.

bamboo passengers

Cambo railroad

Before we depart we break protocol and purchase wrist bands from the local kids, I insist on Blue & White in Celebration of the Bluebirds return to their, ahhh sorry OUR rightful colours. We even buy a small painting, also in blue 🙂 a few bluebirds, bluebirds, bluebirds chants amuse the kids and were back down the track to where driveguide awaits. We decline a temple visit wanting to get out of the hottest part of the day.

Bluebirds !

Bluebirds !

Following the busiest morning we’ve had in a while, we’re back for a nap before an evening sample of the local Indian restaurant which gets the thumbs up from the KP. I’m also in agreement as it’s an improvement of the excellent nosh we had in Pakse. She may already be hooked, it’s looks like we’ll be back here for sure before we move on elsewhere.

On the second day we rise a bit later and following brekkie at the hotel have a gander about town. Try to see what we couldn’t the night before, looks like we were right. It’s a nice little town with a selection of cafe’s, bars & restaurants, randomly located through the gridded street layout, also it seems very slow paced. The KP fancies a massage and foot scrub whilst I’m on the look out for a faster memory card to be able to handle the K3’s crazy file size per shot (25meg for you geeks) ! Card sorted I’m then gathering info whilst enjoying a few pints from the various establishments, a fair number of which are art gallery’s.

Woman wood street

A typical street

clock tower

The clock tower, centre of town.

There’s plenty on and top of the attractions seems to be the local circus, where tickets can be purchased on the door. Re-united and a relaxed & refreshed KP is in agreement for the circus and it’s where we head in the evening.

The first circus I ever went to was in Cardiff. Billy Smarts maybe, with my Nan and Gransh, there was lion’s, tigers & bears in addition to the clowns. Thankfully that’s been banned now in Britain and most of Europe. When they’ll outlaw zoos also who knows? This circus tonight is more of an acrobatic affair if the flyer is to be believed. On the outskirts of town, a Tuk-Tuk gets us there with ease. The city is actually quite large, plenty for us to explore then. Tickets purchased we head into the tent, and a very nice set-up. We’re early enough to grab some centrally located seats far enough back to avoid being involved in the action, hopefully. The compere explains a bit about the show and the programme they run for the community with the training of local students, in music, art, dance and acrobatics. The music provided by the band is also made up of students, so a local flavour all around.

what a bunch of clowns

what a bunch of clowns

The shows begins. Not only are they talented, but bloody funny also. First off there are four clowns, juggling, climbing, somersaulting and falling about, not to mention the hilarious sexy guy with no front teeth playing the lady. It’s all very impressive with plenty of crowd interaction. The show which runs for a full hour progresses to climbing with big somersaults, fire juggling, tight rope walking and even a unicycle tight rope ride whilst juggling 5 clubs. It’s top notch to be fair, a very professional set up, we both think it’s fucking excellent and laughed our heads off for most of it. We had a cracking time.

circus on rollers

not a bad feat

circus juggling

Juggle on

circus juggling 1

careful now

circus fireline

Fireline

circus firejump

fire breakdance

We didn’t sit far enough back to avoid being picked out of the crowd tho’ thankfully the guy chosen was not me but someone close by. I say thankfully as I would have been right embarrassed with my top off and belly out, not having done insanity for a long bloody while. It’s a wake up call that we both need to get in shape and soon. This travelling, eating & drinking malarkey enjoying life is no good for one’s physique.

circus guy from crowd

thank fuck it wasn’t me. Even if this shot would then be funny

Following the show and rapturous applause we head back to the city. Our latest drive waiting for us and his $5 return fare. We discuss the excellent evening we’ve had with good food at a local eatery called the lonely tree, which is a part clothes shop, bar come restaurant. Keeping in theme with the rest of the town, there’s a load of great shots of this solitary tree which is no doubt in the local vicinity. I wonder if we’ll find it un-aided during our planned scout about of the area ?

enjoying herself again

enjoying herself again

Two days down and the central area sufficiently gandered, we now need to sort out the item which will help us make the most of this area, wheels. If you’ve read the majority of this blog, you’ll know that I’ve made quite a thing of riding the motorbike/scooter, well coz it was quite a thing, still is actually :-). Unfortunately the super cool chopper eluded me but I did have a BMX as a kid, a blue raleigh burner, not the best but it was great and I loved it. I wasn’t so great on it, but had a good go, some of the boys were mental and would jump anything. Not so many were mega great at tricks, but one boy known as the grapler could wheelie the length of the street, a street that has 201 houses, plus extra bits each end. He could do the lot, even if it was double parked the full length, whilst also avoiding the odd oncoming vehicle. Myself I could muster two and a half car parking spaces (maybe it was one and a half actually), regardless I was happy with my effort (that’s a big fat lie) as I wasn’t the worsterest (I know it’s not a word) but close. Not sure if it’s related but I never progressed to having a real bike, one with an engine. Tho’ my adorable mad mum wasn’t too keen on the idea, yeah that must be it 🙂 ! So what I’m saying is in a long winded manor is that I was shit on a bike and therefore never too familiar with two wheel navigation. There was a brief adventure in Ayia Napa when I had a scooter for a few days, the highlight being when I hid my mates bike in the middle of a field, the next occasion on two wheels with myself at the controls was with Billy in the jungle. I can honestly say without his brief tuition and guidance, this trip would not have been so much fun. I’ve not done bad mind and with the KP keeping the faith along the way, we’ve been alright. Thinking back now where we’ve driven is a but nuts, some of the towns are crazy, road conditions often questionable. Cambodia takes the biscuit and is top of our mad list when it comes to driving about. What’s maddest tho’ is there are NO fucking RULES! Actually there are rules, which came as a surprise. It’s just that nobody bloody knows them. My interpretation of them is, and there’s only two….

Rule 1. Don’t stop.

Rule 2. Don’t look.

ready, steady, go

ready, steady, go

You need a head that can rotate like an owl as it comes at you from all angles. Dogs, cows, chickens, kids and even toddlers. The biggest threat tho’ are other drivers, they’ll cut you up on the inside and out. I’m yet to see a driver look towards the oncoming traffic when coming out of a sidestreet, it seems that it’s your responsibility to avoid them. Crossings are the best, nobody stops just slows down and play chicken with each other, everyone edging forwards to find that gap, some whilst on the phone, even texting whilst driving is common. We’re both surprised we’ve not seen a major off yet, and count ourselves fortunate not to have had any real problems to date.

girls on bike

Going home from school

Especially considering on top of texting, the majority don’t stick to driving on the right hand side as they should. Anything can come at you on your side of the road, bikes mainly usually carrying a load, but you can get trucks also. It’s manic to say the least, and that’s why we are getting our very own brand new helmets, a requirement due to our plan on having a proper gander of the surrounding area whilst here, which may be as much as a week. The helmets, which are a legal requirement, hence come with the bike, are usually shite! Like skull caps that don’t fit properly which would be totally useless in any type of off. The hotel has bikes, I try the last one left today which looks OK, the speedo works, but the back brake doesn’t, well hardly at all anyway. We search for another the second rental place we find has bikes, the back brake works sufficiently enough but the speedo don’t. We take it anyways, the only perfect bike to date has been the one from Pakse. At least more than half the bikes we’ve rented the speedo hasn’t worked, it’s almost the norm. That goes for the helmets again, the usual cheap and worn shite. We have an idea where the local store is and soon get fixed up, they are $18 and $15 quite pricey for cambo, the bike is just $5 a day. They’re a bargain tho’ when you think about it, they could save your life, so a small price to pay.

A quick search around town and the local helmet store located, our chances of once again surviving the mad roads of cambo have increased and we also look the part now :-).

helmets

daft junk

So we’re all set to try out once again, my much improved, but far from perfect two wheel motoring. Our first destination is a temple ruin about twenty klicks out of town. Our journey and that beyond will be where the next instalment continues, as when compared to the last few weeks chilling, we continue to go a bit bonkers in Bat Dum Bong……………!

Temple Town Round Two

We arrive safe n sound, our plan to beat the rush to the visa desk is thwarted by the hordes already there. It’s a painless experience tho’, all quite efficient if you have the patience and necessary paper work at the ready. If you don’t got a photo you must part with a dollar for them to copy your passport, on top of the fee of course which is $40 by the way, it varies though depending where you is from like. Kazakhs save $10 and also get the full 30 days, the process and result identical for us both :-).

Ding Ding – Round Two it is then. No I’m not referring to my brief visit on the way to Phnom Penh to await the KP’s return. Temple town is somewhere we’ve been together before, last March. It was a great three days of temple touring, floating villages and a fair bit of grooving. For now we are just planning on chilling for two nights before moving onwards to Battambang. Yes unashamedly a fair bit of cheating has gone on during the production of this blog. The cover photo and a few others are from that first trip. The hotel picked on Agoda is a cracker indeed, $24 a night with a pool and a balcony, bear in mind due to the influx of tourists this part of Cambo attracts there’s hotels in town that are $600 plus a night. The majority around the $50-80 mark, so we’ve done very well.

Quick to gather our bearings we clock we’re a bit of a walk from the action so double back to an Indian directly opposite the hotel. Our luck is in as the waitress convinces the chef to perform his last duties of the day. Order selected with the KP in mind, the overly spicy dishes being avoided on purpose. Then it’s my first chance to properly check out the K3, nice too, hope you agree.

beer bottle

It might not be Beer Laos, but beer it is.

More compact than the K7 with a similar layout and a more quality feel in the hand. The shots are sharp, the lens far superior to the Tamron I was using. I’m hope my skills will do the kit justice and that you enjoy the shots and also appreciate the greater quality. The food is quite bland but edible, even the KP feels it’s not spicy enough. About halfway through the meal and struggling to finish it. A man and his son approach us begging, it’s quite common and usually we’ll wave them on, or just give a simple shake of the head. It’s not easy but if you gave to them all it would be all you were doing with your time. Kids we especially avoid giving as it then encourages their parents to keep them on the streets and not in bed where they should be, ready for school. Admittedly this is easier said than done, but you really do need to try and stick to your guns, as usually the kids are forced into it. This situation is different, father and child no older thsn three together and the eyes look so gentle and in need, we give the dad a $2 note, following a smile and a thankful Wai, they both stare at the food. I tear off a big piece of nan and pile it high with curry and rice. They’re away and noshing on it greedily. Then the man returns, he helps himself to more curry and even takes the plates away. It’s a strange situation, one where perhaps we should be outraged, but we are happy, it’s a humbling experience one which makes us feel good about ourselves. The vibes between me and the KP must have been felt for the man to feel so welcome and relaxed at the table. I wanted to take photos but it just didn’t seem appropriate and the KP later agrees with me. It reminds us of when we were last in Siem Reap together, the KP, bless her soul bought a 50 kilo sack of rice for a floating school on the river. Some cynical trip advisors reckon it’s a scam and it might well be, regardless it took care of our karma for a bit so we were happy. The kids happy also with the sweets we delivered. Myself I was over the moon with her, it was a totally impressive gesture, one of the moments where my love grew and when I first perhaps thought she could actually be marriage material.

school taxi run

School taxi run.

Suitably humbled and with karma looking out for us, it’s time to head to pub street, central to the action and usually a fair bit of madness.

pub street sign

Suitably signposted – you can’t miss it.

We take a few seats in a quiet bar right close to the action, by quiet I just mean there’s empty seats. Music is banging from the Temple bar, one of the few which were here in 2002 to greet myself and Billy. Opposite the street similar shit tunes are coming from the Angkor What? (a lot of thought went into the name) bar. Between the two a relatively sized mixed age group of tourists are dancing in the street. It’s the biggest party we’ve seen in a while but are happy to just observe with our Irish coffee’s soon followed by cheap cocktails. It’s a good opportunity to try the K3 during action. The main attraction is a local girl selling gum, maybe eleven years old and out way past her bed time. What a dancer, a pure natural with flowing moves, she’s so fluid, as good as, or better than the choreographed moves designed around the pumping music.

street dance

Pub Street – Moved on but not necessarily up since 2002

Drunken tourists encourage her into dance offs. It’s all good natured and everyone’s having fun, but boys with their tops off and girls flaunting their curves (or big british bellies) is no place for a kid. In the Tuk-Tuk back we discuss that hopefully with her skills she’ll end up in some drama class or dance school and not into a future of prostitution which unfortunately is the career path of many young girls and boys in Asia. However Cambodia is a country slowly on the up and chances do seem to exist for those that are hard working and ready to grasp opportunities that come their way. Let’s hope she’ll be one of them.

As penned in this and previous posts we’ve already done the temples, myself more than once so we give that a miss this time around. I’ll say it again tho’ it’s Cambo’s Jewel in it’s Crown and rightly so. All the temples local to the area are fantastic and the majority of others you can visit in Asia (not that I’ve seen them all) really do fall short in comparison. Now we are just here to get to Battambang up the river for a bit of exploring, another destination recommend by my cockney geezer. Who reckons “if your half handy on a scooter there’s loads to see and do”. Thanks to Billy and his motoring school, plus the continued self tuition I’m now half handy, or at least a third handy if I’m honest. Therefore today we shall mostly be drinking three dollar poolside cocktails, whilst enjoying the shade and the half decent Wi-Fi to do a much needed catch up on the blog. The desired destination is to get back to realtime blogging (right now at this minute I’ve cut the deficit to below two weeks, confident I will get there, maybe not so soon, but get there I will).

In the evening we try a Brazilian restaurant that’s had good reviews on the net. It’s the KP’s debut into the culinary delights of pele’s home nation. It’s the best one ever, well of the trip, the grub. Not half bad considering we’ve been travelling for almost three months. As we didn’t shoot the menu we’re not even sure now what we had but it was all delicious, it’s called Gigi Brazil for when your in town, we’ll be back there for sure when we are. It’s a bit out of town actually, and on the way back to the city we stop off at some hotel which has a Jazz night, unfortunately we only caught the last two tunes. That’s before some guests improvise with a bit of drunken karaoke as the band pack their shit away, not to be outdone we make the most of the $4 cocktails which are right proper. Once back in town we hit a club come bar on the roof, they’ve got a skating half pipe which will be loads of fun when the skilful cunts are here, especially when going head to head in the competitions they no doubt have. If I could skate or spray I’d be back during the day, sadly my skateboard skills are even worse than my biking ones, and let’s not mention my doodles, though I can confirm I failed art at school, more suited to being another type of artist.

We’d been advised to take the boat trip to Battambang, as it’s meant to be the most scenic river route in the country. I’ve got a vision in my head of drinking cocktails whilst shooting loads of river life shots, listening to cool tunes maybe even a dance whilst slamming shots of a different kind at the bar. It takes longer at this time of year when the river runs low so it’s best we check the net. Whoooow – Fuck that, but thank fuck we’ve looked. The boat is just like a big long tail with not much in the way of shade. Plus it takes 10 fucking hours, even if we did actually survive the journey I don’t fancy another bout of sunburn just yet. We book the bus which has an advertised duration of four hours, also it’s a third of the price at $8. I’m sure the boat is very interesting, especially the bit where you need to get out and push, but we’ve spent quite a bit of time up the river already and doubt there would be much in the way of interest to ourselves.

It’s the next day and we are not leaving just yet, forgot to mention but we’ve extended by a day haven’t we. There’s something serious that we needs to get done, and it’s the potential boat trip that I’ve got to thank for being able to execute the plan. The plan – Convincing the KP of getting her very first pair of spectacles. It’s something I’ve been onto her about for the last year or so. She actually went for an eye test in St Petersburg, -0.75 both eyes, same as my first prescription. The optician advised her that glasses she don’t need, they will only make her eyes worse. WTF, they’re at it again, the ruskies – another of the many Soviet myths that have turned the country and those that were part of the USSR into a huge collective of hypochondriacs. Handy if you ever need a pharmacy tho’. They are easier to find than a pub in Cork (a top city by the way, located in the South of Eire). Anyways, following a good number times of borrowing my eyeware. The river and the possible things to see of interest is enough to finally entice the KP for an eye test.

Result, ye test done and a cool pair selected in less than 40 minutes, plus the promise they will be ready in 2 hours means we don’t need to extend another day. Battambang here we come! Let’s hope she still loves me now she can see.

Floating school sunset. The KP didn’t see it clearly back then.

On A Pentaxian Mission

We’re airborne on the short hop to BKK the central hub for most destinations in Asia. If you’ve never been you just have to give it a go, I won’t expand on that here as enough has been said in previous posts, if you’ve not them, they’re at the beginning, three months back. Heading back we are, this for the third time I think, please correct me if I’m wrong (I’ll correct myself it’s the fourth, with the KP having done one more than me). Like one of the bastard ants that were such a pain for much of the trip – I’m on a mission. Bernie my Filipino friend, the fellow pentaxian (yeah it’s silly, but i like it) I mentioned previously got back to me with the info I needed, the K3 is supposedly the best camera in it’s class, giving a big middle finger to the popular brands that parade the streets, you’ve all seen them, big camera’s usually the brand that begins with a C or S, function set to Auto. Hey but I’m not knocking the japanese here they were about 15 or 20 years ahead of the game, now they just have bigger lenses, respect. The not so big lens I’m after also gets the Filipino thumbs up. So in for a penny in for a pound, with the KP having bought it (she just don’t want me keeping on) I have the all clear to make a serious outlay on a new toy. Yippee, Xmas has come late but Santa’s deliveries have finished already this year, which means I need to get my ass into the middle of one of the maddest cities on earth and back to the airport in four hours. Prior to the sky train I would need wings, but now, it’s maybe possibly possible, like. Every minute is gonna count tho’ and to aid me in my task a supplier has been sought and confirmed my needs are in stock, so lets go!

We’re off the plane and I leave the KP at the sign which directs her towards transfers, it’s not her sexy legs that would hinder my path, but her need for a visa upon entry. Myself with the most versatile passport in the world (if you don’t believe me check here passports), but one that could easily result in you being taken hostage in many countries, so maybe it’s not such a good one to posses after all. Now the Kazakh passport is a bit of a problem for different reasons, it’s not so widely welcome and being a citizen restricts your movements severely. It’s a shame as it’s one of the coolest looking ones out there.

KZ passport

Easy to spot

OK it’s 13:00 and even with my fancy UK document I still need to pass immigration and get my 30 day stamp. Bollocks it’s heaving, so I use my skills acquired in Russian airports and down the city (the football) on a busy day and get as far forward in the queue as possible. Fair play to the Thai’s tho’ they got it sorted at the airport, the queues are orderly and rapid moving due to the amount of desks open. No baggage to collect I’m quickly through customs, taking care not to be to quick with my movements which would make me a target for an internal cavity search.

13:26 making good time I’m at the airport link train and four minutes later we’re away on the half hour journey to the centre, perfect. Time to relax for a moment and let the train take the strain. I remind myself of the task in hand making a note of the minutes spent so I know when to bail if things go tits up. I can’t help thinking what I’d be doing with four hours in Bangkok before I’d met the KP. A soapy massage I should imagine, one of life’s joys. Following the first time on the maiden trip, me and my mate couldn’t talk for 45 mins, just smiling into the mirror behind the bar, a must try experience for any open minded adult, man or woman 100% guaranteed.

14:00 Ticket already purchased from the machine, I’m anxiously waiting on the platform of the skytrain, the BTS. By usual standards it’s quite a wait but by 14:08 the train is speeding towards it’s first stop.

14:27 We arrive at the stop Phra Kanong, it’s one before On nut where I stayed at the very start of the trip. The guy at the shop has informed me it’s almost a klick away from the station. I’m on the look out for a moto-taxi and it’s important to take the correct exit, which one out of the six? A wrong move could cost you thirty minutes, the map doesn’t help me so let’s head towards On Nut through exit 1. Not a moto to be seen but a short walk just up the road, a solitary driver is waiting, it’s 14:31 he knows the street address and away we go, speeding through the traffic on a mission.

14:35 At the shop and very nice it is to. Lots of quality kit on display. They confirm what I want and are away to get it all. The professional cameras on display look totally crazy, whilst the clock is ticking. A quick check everything is there, payment made and we’re away. That’s not before leaving them the K7 for repair as it’s a technical centre, twenty quid for them to check it out and give an estimate. It’s a cracking camera (it means better than good, not that the screen is cracked) and I’ll be able to sell it then to reduce the damage of the outlay.

14:58 Heading back to the station with goods in hand, I feel a bit like James Bond heading the wrong way up a very busy street, dashing through the traffic. Here’s a quick video, it seemed faster at the time I can tell you.

15:03 After a quick stroll I’m back the the BTS station the wait not long to be speeding towards the airport link. It’s a moment to relax I can’t believe how sweet it’s gone. It’s couldn’t have been planned better, even if I actually was James Bond.

15:27 Off the train and through the barrier as quickly as possible to power towards the train, the one that will be my last for the day. Delayed in purchasing a ticket by two individuals, who are obviously not on a mission! I climb the steps as fast as the ankle can go. Then it’s a delight to see the screen display 1 min, the duration until the train will arrive for boarding, 007 would be impressed for sure :-).

16:00 Arrive at the airport a clear one hour before boarding, what a result. We should even get some time in the lounge with their lush red wine and tasty nosh. Depends how I get thru security, but with boarding pass already in my possession it should be cool.

16:20 All continues to be cool and she’s there waiting at the gate, unfortunate not to gain entry to the lounge earlier, we quickly head there. I’m starving and thirsty.

16:30 Settled in the lounge relived to have executed the plan without any hiccups. The nibbles and wine are great, a suitable reward for the effort.

16:48 Camera is very smooth and takes a nice shot, the lens seems especially crisp, it’s gonna be interesting getting to grips with it.

17:10 We’re off to the gate only discovering the flight’s delayed once we arrive there. It ends up being more than an hour delay but then we’re in the air heading towards Cambodia’s most popular tourist destination.

k3

Chillin’ In The Capital

The bus only took about 3 hours, when supposedly it’s a four to five hour trip, bonus! At first I thought we were in another town, but it did look a bit too busy really. Yes we’re in the Laos Capital – Vientiane for our debuts, we’ve heard it’s mellow.

First impressions are good and it looks lively enough, we check into the hotel which we are happy to find has a lift, not a common feature in the country so far, even when we’ve been on the fifth floor. Now we’re on the sixth so it’s a welcome addition. To break the mould of recent days we set off on an adventure! Nothing too exciting just a simple walk around the city to get our bearings. One step at a time mun ;-). The first thing that becomes apparent is the city is small, smaller than Cardiff even. Ideal for the ankle then, which is not recovering swiftly by the way, the swelling is still highly prominent. There’s plenty of landmarks around town, the museum, presidential palace, many temples and an interesting stone Dam – That Dam it’s called, that one there! I believe the Vietnamese or Siamese stole all the gold and it’s never been replaced. There’s also your usual array of crazy telecom cables that adorn the sky in Asian cities. It’s the first time we’ve seen them proper tho’ in Laos. The guide-less book suggests a bike tour which we plan to do in the next few days.

Royal residence

Nice gate

wat dam and cables

Telecom central

Wat no gold

Oi – Where’s my gold

We’re in no rush to move on & it’s the perfect city for that, meant to be well laid back it is, a city to enjoy slowly. Which I suppose it’s what we’ve come to expect, but come on this is the capital! One that had quite a bit of a reputation, however that was back in the 70’s. There’s a more serious reason as to why we are not in such a rush, the KP needs a Thai visa so we are not limited by the 15 day restriction imposed at the Thai border on those that hail from Kazakhstan, ready for when we return to the Island to finish off our trip. That will be when the offices open on Monday morning, now it’s Saturday so maybe we’ll go to a club tonight?

We chill before the evening then grab a pizza in a busy place across the street, we try a few other bars, one with live music – the band are excellent especially the guy on the ivory keys, the piano in question is a grand one and looks very fitting in this fancy venue, but come 23:00 it’s relatively quiet. Everywhere we’ve been actually has not been packed with people, the KP doesn’t fancy a club for the last hour or so, so we retire when the city is closing down. There are a few street prostitutes out and about, it’s the first time we’ve seen any in the country. I’m surprised actually as there are no girly bars in Laos which are usually the norm in Asia. Actually it’s an offence for a foreigner to spend the night with a national unless they are married. The penalty I believe is quite severe plus your likely to find yourself in the local newspapers. Here they are though in the capital strutting their stuff. The KP declines having fun with a few, I tell her she’s becoming boring! Hey come on I’m only playing with her mun. Who wants to be in the local press for the wrong reasons, huh ?

On the Sunday morning we stroll the street our hotel is on and it has a wide selection of french patisseries, with the smell of fresh bread, pastries and croissants,one is advertising Sunday Roast so we’ll be back for that, it’s something we are yet to see this trip. The city seems mega laid back especially considering it’s the capital, it’s surely has to be one of the most chilled on our planet.  We choose one of the venues and take coffee with Croque Monsieur, melted cheese on toast to you and me – Welsh Rarebit. We enjoy breakfast whilst filling in the visa application together, it reminds us we need to sort out our travel arrangements back to the Island. We decide against the push bikes, looking at the route we walked most of it yesterday by chance. There’s a temple near by and we take a look, but once you’ve seen a few you’ve seen them all, taking photos is almost futile. We agree to settle down for a few beers, which is followed by the Sunday roast, chicken with all the trimmings, a rare treat. Then as per the tradition at home we sleep it off, a post Sunday dinner nap. In the evening we check out a number of the scattering of the bars that are local to our digs. Then head to the fountain area which is surrounded by a host of restaurants, bam, another first of our trip. I spot someone I know from back home and it’s not a pleasant site. It’s a guy who used to be involved with the travel for Cardiff City Football Club in the late 80’s. I used to travel with Adar Glas from the valleys, ran by a very loveable old couple, Roy & Mair, I’m not so sure Roy was loveable actually, as he always had this big drip hanging from his nose. This guy I’m keen to avoid was involved with those from Cardiff. They crossed swords a few times, the different branches. I’ve also crossed swords with the individual in question during later years never forgetting his disrespect towards the valley branch. The last thing needed now is a Cardiff City conversation that will no doubt involve our complete wanker of an owner vincent fucking tan. Coz of him I don’t even love them anymore, to the point I don’t even know who or when they are playing? The change to red was just too much for me! Plus the two arguments that I’ve been engaged in during our trip have both been about the madpot malaysian chairman currently killing the club that was my first love. The KP thinks its hilarious that we relocate tables away from the toilet to reduce the chance of a meet. Thankfully he who I want to avoid most probably has a reciprocal amount of love for me and by now is maybe half a mile away hoping to avoid me also, mutual respect is a great thing 🙂 ;-).

We end the evening in a Belgian beer bar. They have an impressive 100 plus Belgian beers and yes they all come with their individual glasses. The KP’s best choice a little peach number at 8.5% tastes like juice, with a hint of Bush. I settle on one of my Belgian favourites, Kwak, having only previously seen the glasses whilst in Belgium. When it comes in it’s cradle I’m suitably impressed, the city and the bar scores top marks there I must admit.

bush

Who doesn’t like a bit of Bush

Kwak

The Ale is as good as the glass

Tintin showing off the Ale

Tin Tin showing off the Ale

The visa office is open for applications from 8:30 until 11:30, our alarms don’t go off or the Belgian beers made us miss them. Anyway we’re up at 09:00 but decide to leave it today, we’ll go tomorrow as there’s still plenty of time to get the visa before the end of the week as the turn around is just two days. So let’s get our flights sorted then to Siem Reap, heading there to get to Battambang as we didn’t get chance during our time in Cambodia, we’ve done the temples during a previous visit. The best route is via Pakse but the flights are fully booked or at silly O’clock. We choose the option of going via the Capital. Yes I know we are already here, I mean the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh where it’s possible to get the bus to Siem Reap. The KP has not seen the mad Cambo Capital on the weekend and the flights we book are on Friday a steep $350 for the pair. We’re looking forward to going back especially as the weekend there is generally bonkers, a pleasant little surprise as it was not the plan. We take a Tuk-Tuk out to the countries most important monument, which was reconstructed in the 1930’s called, Pha That Luang. We catch the rush hour which is never pleasant when your exposed to the traffic, also it takes a while to travel the short distance, but we get there just before sunset, a great time for shots but it was all a bit rushed. We do get time to see and shoot a great example of local construction methods where they are using bamboo props for support, no bamboo scaffold this time, which believe is a sight to behold. I’ll get some shots for you all next time we spot some.

statue man rhs

Oi son – better check your visa

consruction

Laos construction

When returning to the city with another Tuk-Tuk, drive speaks some English and during conversation asks how long we’ve been in country, the KP replies “about 3 weeks”, I say it’s not “it’s about a month”. Shit best check the passports our 30 days must be up soon! Fuck it is, our last day in country is the 7th. That’s fucked the flights on the 9th we just paid for less than two hours ago. At times I can be such a fucking drongo aye. It’s the first proper fuck up of the trip tho’ and just as well we didn’t apply for the visa this morning or we would have out stayed our welcome, which is never good to have stamped in your passport! We cancel the flights, thankfully we won’t lose the full whack just $50 a ticket, we can collect our refund in the morning. Now we need another plan, hopefully better than the last!

Over staying your visa in some countries can be a serious affair, or I should say offence. Russia for instance or Kazakhstan where I know for a fact you’ll spend some time in a cell, how long is dependant on how good your agent is and how much they are willing to pay. It doesn’t help you out for future visits either. Here in Laos we are told it’s not a major problem you just get fined depending how long you’ve overstayed. It seems you can actually extend it in advance paying a small fee for each day. 30 days is enough and even tho’ we were looking forward to being back in Phnom Penh, it’s best to move on, forget the visa and just get out without complicating the situation. The best and only option really is to fly to Siem Reap via Bangkok, we considered the road but it’s a hell of a journey. Not only that Billy has informed us that during holiday time in Thailand “Stay off the roads”, so far this year there have been 2,446 accidents with 260 deaths and it’s only day 5 of the 7, chicken oriental (by day 6 there are 302 dead with 2,843 injured) & something to bear in mind if your in Thailand ever in early January. Flight it is then, the only problem being the five hour wait in the airport, not so bad we can just relax in the lounge, with free quality booze courtesy of the bank. So with the new plan sorted and booked we can now enjoy our last few days in Laos, all two of them, nights that is.

We celebrate our change of plan with a traditional hot pot at a busy street side eatery, whilst encountering our first bit of aggression since the bother with the big guy. A customer and the owner are having a very heated discussion over the cost of fish. It’s escalating and unsettles the KP, “I don’t like this” she says, “Just be happy I’m not fucking involved” which she finds rather funny. It settles down just when it seems it’s gonna explode, the customer having the sense to back down and fuck off even if he was maybe in the right. Good move, coz being in the right counts for fuck all in Asia, even in a city that seems so chilled as this. It’s a good reminder for us and for all you reading – “take care out there” a quote stolen from a Welsh bar in Pattaya and a favourite of a very good friend of mine, the quote not the bar, he had other favourites there on that life changing maiden trip. The hot pot is delicious, the secret obviously in the soup, proved as we even devour the rabbit food along with chicken.

hotpot

Hot Pot

rabbit food

Rabbit Food

Then it’s time to head to the music bar again but it’s Monday and the band are not so good. Feeling unfulfilled we accept the Tuk-Tuk drivers suggestion of a club. It’s dark with music banging and mostly locals of whom most are male, not the most relaxing environment. Following a few cocktails we head back to the digs, both not feeling the best to be honest, maybe we’ve been spiked with something. We slam beers down us back at the room, drinking until maybe 5 in the morning, when we finally crash out.

The following morning we are right royally fucked and can hardly get out of bed. If we were spiked fuck knows with what?! One of us needs to get out tho’ and that’ll be me. I manage the journey to the shop for booze and then the travel shop across the street, it’s a challenge but one I accomplish with refund received 🙂 Upon returning to the room I’m pondering the five hour wait in Bangkok, what to do with 5 hours to kill in Bangkok. Usually not so long ago in a single state of mind a soapy massage would be right at the top of the list, but now I’m thinking I might have time to get into the city and pick up the lens I need and also maybe a new camera body if the cost can be justified. A quick bit of tinternet research confirms that Pentax have just released a new body the K3, pricey it is though. I mail my mate in Manilla, he’ll know if the lens I’ve been checking is any good and maybe about the body. Our friendship was born just by both having Pentax camera’s. It was he who christened us the Pentaxian’s. He’s funny see and well likeable, I had a scream with him in Manilla by the way.

Hopefully he’ll get back to me soon so I can make the call, or I should say convince the KP of the outlay, well that’s if the mad dash into the city and back is possible.

sunset

Bloody lovely

We need to get out of the room and clear our heads, so a wander along the front is in order, the opposite direction to usual, many nice open air restaurant type bars align the front, many with interesting lights as you can see. It must be new as it ain’t on the groovy map or the guide-less book.

lightman

Spaceman

We discuss our eventful time in this fascinating country whilst watching the sunset enjoying a few more Beer Laos, some of our last 😦 unfortunately. Pledging that we must returns someday soon, it’s been fantastic apart from the ankle but that was all part of the fun, it helped apply the brakes, when perhaps they were needed! Well due to that and the bastard cold, we must come back. There was so much we missed in the North, plus central Laos is meant to be fascinating.

We’re up in good time for our departure and the airport is only 15mins away. As blogged we both loved it and just as we are leaving going through airport security which is not normally a pleasant experience. The whole attitude of Laos and the last 30 days is exemplified by the security at the airport. My rucksack gets pulled to one side. The security guy opens it a takes out a solitary can of Beer Laos Gold. I apologise that I forgot, “You want to drink it now?” he asks. “Yes please” I reply. He cracks it open, it starts to froth, he passes it quickly to my lips so none is spilt ☺. “Is it good?” that’s all he’s interested in “Best beer in Asia” is my reply with a big beaming smile. He’s very happy with my judgement and wishes us a happy and safe journey.

“Well that wouldn’t have bloody happened in Russia” says the KP. “No love, not in the UK either” best we keep this holiday going a little longer then.

.

Rave On Or Off

Vang Vieng between Luang Prabang and the Capital is not only party central Laos, but one of the most popular party destinations on the planet. Raves are meant to go on all night, a rarity in Laos due to the country wide midnight curfew. It was never part of our original plan, but as we are now being driven directly south by the weather, it would be rude not to stop for a bop! Lets hope it takes me back to the early nighties, so I can show the KP my crazy shapes from back in the day.

It maybe party central but it’s not all fun loving frolics, the town has been tinged with more than a fair amount of tragedy. Many tourists each year have sadly lost their lives in the Nam Song river. In 2011 there were 27 deaths alone, the number of injuries countless each year. Usually this has been due to a lack of safety and bad judgement being made whilst under the influence as most deaths have occurred whilst jumping into the river from various swings and zip lines and mis-judging it hitting rocks not water, but also from drug overdoses.

Well we both need to have our wits about us and not be too daft, so we are very excited to be going. We’ve not let off that much steam party-wise for the duration of the trip, so we might just tear it up right royally! Or maybe not – a spanner is put in the works just as we are departing, delivered by the guy we booked the bus with – “The party’s over, they’ve finally stopped it all! No dancing after 11:30, been like it for the last two weeks!”  Well that’s fucked that then hasn’t it! Plans for a Bop Kyboshed! Boo-Hoo !

We get dropped off from a packed Tuk-Tuk to the bus station, two of the party are the Israelites we met in Paksong. “You’ll enjoy it there, cool town” he said, hope is restored as they only left a few days ago. Following an initial mix up with buses and the moving of bags for many, us included & we’re away, heading into the hills in our double decker VIP bus for the six or so hour journey. Now I’m not very often impressed with mountains, as we got plenty at home all around us. Almaty in Kazakhstan has some very impressive hills, the Tien-Shen mountain range where the peak is at a staggering 6,995m. Also I was recently in the french Alps with a good friend, the hills too were very nice but as it turned out I was lucky to escape that one. The slopes & shampoo don’t go so well together, it was more human torpedo than skiing.

1795878_10152295915984893_1443870095_o

Dangerous

Well these on the way to Vang Vieng are very impressive – some of the best I’ve seen actually, going way off into the distance, with a multitude of vegetation blending into the limestone rocks. The view is incredible and photos would be awesome, but the windows of the bus are too dirty, plus the KP is nestled there shielding from the sun rays with the curtain. Before we rose into the hills, there’s was a toilet stop where we grab a sandwich, lunch is included as part of the deal but that will be later – I’m wondering where and when we will stop the photo opportunities are not to be missed! We continue onwards and the mountains, especially the drops become more impressive. Vertical drop offs right alongside the road, it must have been a bit nerve wracking sat up front, we are also upstairs but a few rows back. The sharp curves on the narrow road makes me think of the Italian job when the bus is hanging over the cliff! What would really happen if the brakes did go?? There’s a very impressive huge mountain rock, taller than all others, like it’s just been stuck there in the middle of everything. We are getting closer and closer, when we finally get as close as possible. I spot our restaurant, where we must be stopping – Excellent! I’ll need to get to the rucksack get the tripod out. But NO – we haven’t stopped WTF!! It was perfect. Now we start to descend but the curves and bends don’t let up. It’s far from an easy drive or journey for that matter constantly needing to brace yourself to remain in your seat, a bit like a slow roller coaster. Soon we are flattening out and checking the time we should be there soon 🙂 Then we stop. Huh – you must be fucking kidding me? We stop for a meal here? Surely we must be less than an hour from our destination? But stop we do, obviously it’s a better deal here for lunch, or more likely a place ran by a family friend, wankers. There is nothing of interest to shoot. I console myself with a few beers whilst KP samples the grub which she doesn’t enjoy. I was right, they were wankers, my estimation being correct. We depart after whole ONE hour stop and 40mins later we arrive in Vang Vieng, great planning for the seven hour trip. So we got no photos, not fucking one, but we’re glad to have arrived safe n sound. I quell my displeasure with the thought that It’s always nice to have a reason to go back somewhere, and so we shall, someday!

The hotel doesn’t have our booking, but do then locate it apologise and suggest we try another hotel for the first night. Not keen and by now drinking beer so we leave it with them to sort out, without a care. Beer is always good to help your mood, Beer Laos just does it better 🙂 We suggest to cancel the booking but then they’ve managed to fix up a room for us, quite nice it is too.

I think you understand already but the fact I was not able to take shots of some of the best scenery I’ve yet to witness really fucking bothered me. I was wound right up, but I let it get to me more than I should’ve. Maybe I need anger management classes or attendance at a course entitled ‘how to suffer idiots’ but instead I’m putting it down to the general photo bother we’ve been experiencing for the last 3-4 weeks. It’s boring, brace yourselves, here it is in straight hit – First the SD card slot packed in on the mac, then the usb card reader started playing funny buggers, resulting in photo transfer from camera to puter taking ages. Finally it gave up the ghost just before LP. A camera lead purchased there was not a viable solution as the internet has been way too slow to download the required software. We’ve got a new reader now and back in the game. It was located at the computer shop we took the micro SD card from the action cam to. The videos we’ve made of monkeys on the beach and more significantly at the zip lining cannot be found anymore! Our fears confirmed when the IT guru also cannot recover them, fucking nightmare with bells on!! He couldn’t do it as the card was made of Chinese wank. Most probably fucking camera is a copy n all. Then on top of that bag of technical shit the cherished K7 goes tits up, now this is a major problem, as it seems serious! Most likely its due to water damage, the top screen is cracked and we got caught in that storm, oblivious of the damage being caused. The display has been playing up a bit. Now tho’ the camera has a mind of its own, changing the aperture or the shutter speed, even the ISO all by itself. The technical term for this problem is “fucking fucked”, for those that have not bothered with the glossary that’s what fatty’s leg was, fucking fucked. Now the K7 is also like fatty’s leg, it’s pot luck as to what settings are selected when shots are fired. It seems to be working okayish again now but it’s definitely not right. My current lens I’m not happy as the shots lack crispness. It’s an all round lense. I’m thinking to replace it with the new Pentax that been getting good reviews, but they are about $450, plus where will I get one? Bangkok for sure but we are not planning on being there anytime soon. Maybe Vientiane the Laos capital but now It’s looking like I might need a new camera body also which would be too costly. The woes of the modern world! Hopefully the K7 will come good, but she’s about 4 years old now, maybe I can justify the outlay? Put the KP on water n rice for a month 🙂 But what body to get? Not even sure what Pentax got available, fuck jumping ship, I’m a proud Pentaxian and shall remain so!

The first night we are most happy it’s a bit warmer, still cool but no longer shivering cold, we have a brief gander about town, many restaurants look the same, we have simple but tasty rice dishes. It’s clear the town has been developed with the backpacker in mind. The streets an array of cheap eats, bars, travel shops & pancake stalls. We have a few drinks around town in typical backpacker type bars. There seems little evidence of the drugs that were freely available, apart from the glow paint scribbles adorning many establishments. Prior to the clean up bars were meant to advertise Opium, Magic Mushrooms and Ganga on the menu. Maybe it has finally been cleaned up or perhaps it’s just not so much on show?

The view from the hotel in the morning is awesome, limestone cliffs striking out through the skyline, imposing themselves over the town. We take a daytime gander, mountains aside there’s nothing of note, all the shops restaurants and guesthouses look similar only the hotels stand out. We head to the river and the cliffs where they’ll be the most impressive. The town is not only famous for partying but also rock climbing, the first bolts were fitted in 2002 by a french guy, now there are over 200 routes and is meant to be one of the worlds top destinations. The trekking will no doubt be great, mountain biking also available along with quad bikes and off-road scramblers for rental. The ankle is not quite up to any of that at the moment, but in all honesty we are lethargic, lazy or maybe the truth is just happy to be boozing or are we just travel fatigued? The original local activity should suit us then, tubing. Gliding down the river in an inflated truck inner tube stoping at the various bars on the way getting tanked up, it’s what Vang Vieng is meant to be all about, or what it became anyways. Tho’ the bamboo dance platforms have long been removed, demolished in 2012. Another change is life jackets are a necessary safety measure imposed by the government, following pressure from overseas. Regardless, it should still be fun.

VV river-2-1

Tidy Hills

We find a hotel that has a bar and swimming pool with decking right onto the river. The view is breath taking with the mountains so prominent. Needing another hotel as ours is fully booked for tomorrow night which is New Year’s Eve, we enquire but it’s fully booked. Besides it would most probably have been over budget? Yes the budget which has taken a back seat of late is still there, it’s just been taking care of itself with $15 rooms and $1 beers. Cambodia was cheap as chips, Laos also until we hit Luang Prabang where the budget took a bit of a battering, now it needs to be paid more attention for sure. This town by Laos standards is a bit grubby but still relatively tidy and would put many places in Cambo and Thailand to shame. We try a fondue BBQ but this time it’s not as good, the soup is bland. Maybe we should give the lapp one more try then? We find the busiest bar and it’s packed with mainly Aussies in their twenties, the music is shite but we do get very drunk on Long Islands and White Russians. Enjoying the company of an English expat who’s mum and sister is over for a xmas break. He confirms the mental parties have been stopped for now :-(.

Vang V sam-1

The next day we want to do the tubing and hopefully not get killed whilst trying, or indeed fuck the ankle again which is still quite tender. First we need to find digs and with the internet still playing up, we do it on foot. Most hotels are fully booked but by the fifth time of asking we get a suitable room for 100,000, basic but with all you need even if it’s a tad grubby. Too late for tubing and we need a feed, the restaurants don’t only just look the same, the menu is the same. Identical actually, designed for tourists, namely backpackers, its all tasty tho’ so we’re not complaining. The KP spots some hot air balloons and fancies it, let’s do that then is it! If we continue this current theme of doing fuck all we might as well just go home!

It’s New Year’s Eve but there ain’t no raves, well not that we know of but we are hardly in the click. We celebrate it in an Irish bar across the road from the busy place with an English couple who are travelling for 18 months! King size party poppers and face masks and many shorts mark the occasion, mine and the KP’s second together. Inevitably drunk but we hardly tear the hole out of the night, we must be in bed by three. At least the music didn’t stop at 11:30 :-).

Vang V sam-2

HNY

We wake too late for tubing so wander around town, there are numerous bars all showing fucking friends again. The non friends ones we stop for beer, a few bars later we enquire about the hot air balloons, the only availability is at 6 in the morning plus it’s $80 a pop, relatively a bit steep. When the beer is about a dollar and the room twelve, we give it a miss, so once again achieving to do sweet FA but booze.

Vang V sam-1-2

up up ‘n’ away

So instead of flying high, we relax with a top notch massage and then actually a bit of movie watching in the room, no it’s not friends. But how far are we away from that? We need our mojo back, our strut, whatever you want to call it, it’s lacking. Hopefully the capital will come to the rescue. I need it to, this blog was a bloody tough one!!

The Brakes Come On In Luang Prabang

It’s the most popular destination in Laos, but the first I’d heard of it was when a cockney mate said it’s a must do! Having received other good tips from him expectations were initially high! A compact quaint town located on the Mekong and Nam Khan River’s – the golden city of Luang Prabang.

black and white

Vat’s that

During the course of our the trip it soon became the place we were most excited to visit having only heard positivity about the town. At the small, but international airport in Pakse we pick up a copy of the groovy map which conveniently has Vientiane on the reverse for later use. The Groovy map is a special bit of cartography. Basically it’s a wear and weather proof map, with easy to follow icons, very helpful when your a bit drunk and without too much of plan. There is also background info & recommendations for everything in the city and surrounding areas. More useful and convenient than a 1000 page guide-less book for sure. The Bangkok version has done me proud a number of times, it may help you groovymaps.com

I scan the map during the hour forty flight enjoying the leg room afforded by aircraft. The background on the town we’ve been most interested in visiting has a line which includes “you either love it, or you hate it!” This gives me some concern as that’s the type of guy I am. Love things or Hate them, usually disliking the things which are main stream popular: Films, books, music and even places. You need make your own mind up anyways, and sometimes we all love something popular. More than willing to give it a chance for sure. The reason the guide mentions this is big parts of the city are newly constructed or refurbished. A vast amount of Laos got bombed during the secret war, but here lots of the colonial and traditional structures still exist. Thankfully the new builds are in the traditional design including the material and construction methods. Planning permission is obviously strictly controlled even the signs for everything are Olde Worlde in style. Some visitors though feel it’s been over-fabricated with the tourist in mind. Well it’s certainly a tourist hot spot, let’s hope it’s not fucked up like so many others.

New build, typical

New build yet traditional construction

We arrive at the hotel in a shared van and following a small detour on foot, check in and get ready for the night ahead. It’s gone 6 and well dark already. We head down our small street lined with many wooden framed guest houses, towards the river. I know it’s a running theme but the mighty Mekong is never far away so as good a place as any to start. We choose one of the many similar looking eateries lining the bank and what we notice more than anything else is the bastard cold, it’s freezing. Tintiernet says it 14deg Celsius, we reckon it must be touching 8 or actually fucking less. Nobody mentioned the weather and December is peak season? It would be the first thing I’d say – Luang Prabang, fucking freezing butt! All the guide-less book says is that during December you may need a light jacket. Ha ha no chance mate everyone’s almost in full winter gear. Following food and beer too cold to properly enjoy. We don a few more layers whilst agreeing that shopping is a priority tomorrow before we head back out, toward an area of town where a few bars are located in search of Irish coffee. They prove elusive even tho’ we check five places, all of which seem as tacky as each other. Nearby a Belgian bar, as always is appreciated but surprisingly now, not for the beer but the roasting log fire. Fuck me we are in Asia in December sitting in front of a smoky fire trying to keep warm? Not my idea of a holiday for sure, it’s not the KP’s either! A waiter confirms its always cold at this time of year! If we knew so we’d have come in November. We check the weather in Vientiane, it’s the same. We check Cambodia and it’s warm 🙂 fuck it, if it’s the same tomorrow we’ll leave the day after and go to Battambang early.

The open fire is a relief as the cold is not helping our aching limbs. Legs are killing see from the previous day’s incline. The KP especially is whinging, so I’m helping her descend any steps encountered. We move to another bar have one cheap cocktail and leave. She half joking beckons help and I carry her down the first set of four steps, then to the next twenty paces away and miss the first step or something, resulting in us crumbling down the remaining steps and into the paving beyond, lucky not to knock our swedes. My ankle is like fattie’s leg, but it don’t feel broken. I’m able to put pressure on it and can hobble, I’ve only had two beers and a cocktail so not being drunk I can feel the pain, so stupidly I do so, hobble all the way home, being aided along the way whilst we are searching for somewhere to buy whisky before sleeping. Everywhere is closed, it’s like eleven thirty! WTF! It’s far from a good day which is sadly rounded off with very rare bad feeling between us, due to a mis-understanding of the nursing requirements :-).

The following day we were planning to walk the city and check various other digs for a move. That plan would probably have changed as we would likely be making potential travel plans south. Instead it involved a few beers brekkie for the foot and a laze about. We finally got moving to the clinic about 2 in the afternoon. An arranged Tuk-Tuk driver who right royally ripped us off, twice actually! Dropped us to the hospital for one of the most pleasant health care experiences I’ve had – X-rayed, diagnosed, treated for a sprained ankle, settled up and back in the bar in 40mins. The service in the UK is now horrendously inadequate, in Russia however it really is something else! All I will say is the hospital where I had a broken finger treated, would have been closed down by Florence Nightingale. A totally crazy experience, unlike today!

hospital-1

Emergency

ouch-1

swollen a touch

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

It cost about £40, the vast majority of the outlay being the X-ray. The diagnosis was excellent, the quack estimated it’d swollen for a week minimum and not 100% until two to three weeks (he was bang on). Need rest for a week, mobility granted but not to over do it, being silly. Hey – We could do with a laze about, having been flat out for a while doing stuff. Luckily it’s meant to be just that sort of place, to just be, chill. Here’s hoping it’ll get effin warmer then!

We had good food on a street with quite a selection of nice looking places. As requested the Tuk-Tuk thief returned and we go on a city tour of five pre-selected digs for a look. We finished but have only seen four, all either lacking in availability, quality or cost. Ahhhhh he forgot one, back there we go – Bingo, $40 a night and nice it is too, with special comfy seating and matching foot rest for the newly acquired minor injury. We make a verbal agreement with the guy in charge and will be back tomorrow to Sala Prabang, the one we asked first to see but was delivered at the end.

Bamboo Bridge

Bamboo Bridge

We get dropped at a town market – we need warmer gear, jumpers mainly. We can’t both be Superman in a small town with fancy wine bars. The KP is dressed in her’s tho’ plus her Kazakh winter boots, bonkers! No joy at the town market, so we head onwards grab some street food then the KP reckons she knows the way, no it’s not, this is a night market! Yes she is. It’s a different time of day and the night market is actually on the street where we ate today. It’s not like an Asian market though! It’s chilled, relaxed, polite. No hassle being dished out from the vendors. Whilst we are taking in this surreal atmosphere, there’s a pop up bar, a coffee shop supplied by the place we stayed in Paksong. They bloody do, do Irish Coffee 🙂 we partake. Lovely too freshly made. Our hotel is beyond the market but it’s a pleasure to amble along through it. The atmosphere so polite it’s almost impossible to barter, it would be too rude. I love a good barter, the bargains that can be achieved in major tourist destinations can feel good at the time, especially when you’ve negotiated something close to 15% of the original asking price in Patpong. They never turn out to be a bargain in the end tho’ do they? It’s all Tat whatever you think! Here tho’ the items do actually seem unique and handmade. In addition to getting some Beer Laos warm pull overs a particular stall caught my eye, it was the second occasion on the market where I noticed a dull silver coloured array of utensils, jewellery & gadgets. The neatly hand written sign in basic english described that all the items were recreated from unexploded aluminium bombs recovered in the area. Laos is actually the most bombed country in the world, quick research confirms that during the secret war between 1964 & 73 the Yanks dropped more than two million tonnes of bombs during 580,000 missions. I understand it was designed to stop people leaving Vietnam, Cambo got it’s fair share too. Many of these bombs remain un-detonated today as 80 million of the 270 did not go off!! See here the secret war. No doubt as always the great US of A is very sorry for it’s actions no doubt.

bottle opener-2

beer better than bombs

 

 

We bought a simple bottle opener, as I had my eye on some other jewellery for her Chrimbo prezzie, and soon we were back on the street. Just next door to where we were this afternoon and right in time for happy hour. I clocked it this afternoon, but we’ve arrived totally by chance. We make the most of it, not the happy hour but the fact we’re in a nice wine bar with a good selection of oldie music and lush wine in a very comfortable setting. We order a red for me and a white for the KP, a nice big bottle each, both South African’s reasonably priced. We are now starting to think we might well bloody enjoy ourselves here after all.

 

wine note

Good Wine – Not always easy to come by in Asia for a fair price

Regardless that we were really pissed we don’t sleep too well as the room is bastard freezing with no warm setting on the Air con. It’s a chore to get up to go to the bog. All you want to do is wrap yourself feet’n’all into the duvet. Well you would if it wasn’t a 6 tog summer version. Plus the internet is totally pants running at point two of a meg, bloody useless. The KP as can be expected is worse for wear, so I leave her in bed and head off on a moto taxi keen to reserve the hotel we seen yesterday. The driver cannot find it, as apparently there are 4 or more Sala Prabang’s in town, typical. We go to the main reception and even they can’t tell me which building the room is in?? I do find another suitable room in their numerous hotel set up. $55 as we are now staying a while, we want a bit more comfort. The $20 rooms in this tourist town are not so good, there are cells for $10 or less if you want them tho’

So relocated in a nice room with separate shower meaning the whole bathroom doesn’t get soaked each time you use it, quite a treat on these travels. Now planning to stay another week we relax together devising our new plan for the town which is best navigated on pushbike or foot. Cycling is out of the question so we’ll have a gander on foot, it soon becomes apparent that is also a bloody silly idea. Sensibly we get drunk on the main street with a large selection of eateries and drinking venues all in hobbling distance along it. The chosen hotel being just around the corner, perfect!

There’s nothing really major to see in Luang Prabang, it’s just a lovely place all over. There’s waterfalls 30 clicks out of town, interesting caves also the same distance in the opposite direction. The town itself has a very high number of Vat’s most of them in splendid gold, lots of bakeries, coffee shops restaurants and bars plus the already mentioned traditional style dwellings. It’s really bloody nice we even start to forget about the chill, well when your in the direct rays of the sun that is. There’s plenty of activities available also – cooking classes, river cruises, elephant riding, kayaking, mountain biking and most interesting visiting the Muong tribe people in their own habitat. I say most interesting as smoking opium is actually part of their religion, could teach others a thing or two. During the majority of the Ten days we stay we do virtually fuck all, we liked the idea of the cooking classes and the tribe people but we just don’t get around to it. The ankle an excuse for us both to become lethargic to a point beyond where we thought possible. We both enjoy a swig sometimes so that becomes the general idea most days just get slowly drunk whilst seeing little extra bits of town, including a few of the Vats, well the ones close to any bars or french patisseries we were at! It’s very similar to my usual holiday plan when with the boys, I’m in my element.

The ankle is not so bad, the key is just not to do anything to it again before it’s fully recovered. This shouldn’t include ten pin bowling which we play one drunken evening, my damaged middle finger suffering more than the ankle. The whole of Laos has a curfew at midnight, the out of town bowling venue one such place which defies the law and stays open till about one!

On about the fifth day which is Xmas eve, for additional mobility we rent a motor bike and like everything else here it’s more costly $20 a day! It was $10 in Pakse, $5 in Cambo. The big beers are regularly 20,000 not 10, restaurant bills often three times the usual. The ATM is visited almost as often as if we are in Cardiff.

We vary the venues for food some cheap and cheerful, others more fancy, it’s mostly good only the most expensive a let down. One night our best meal is discovered over the river accessed by a bamboo foot bridge – The traditional Laos fondue. A secret recess is revealed in the table which is soon filled with a bucket of hot coals used to heat an upside wok type cooking pot. It’s great fun, they show us how it’s done and we are left to our own devices, spread the fat put the buffalo meat on with the noodles and veggies in the coconut soup around the edge, delicious and all for 80K 🙂

 

fondue

Buffalo yum yum

We try other traditional dishes, but not so many as an assortment green vegetables like weeds are always used in abundance, fifty percent of them not being to our taste. The most traditional dish of Laos Lapp, raved about by many, we are not keen on at all! Heavily spiced minced meat mixed finely with a variety of rabbit food served cold was not for us. It may just have been a badly made one, we are not sure as to date it’s the only one we’ve tried.

Bridge home

Bridge home

cocktail list

Tidy cocktails

 

We have a special Christmas Eve dinner put together by an extravagant Aussie, followed by the find of the town so far – a super cool cocktail bar run by a female French artist, who could knock together a more than decent cocktail. The four we both try are super all eight of them, the majority of which are unique.

Continuing the Christmas spirit with another beer fuelled brekkie this time with proper fat chips. The big days dinner is at the Aussie sports bar, aided with lots of wine and beer we have a cracking time. Later we are to discover more disappointment when the cool cocktail bar is shut until the 27th, gutted!

Boxing Day the KP is booked in for a hair cut at a very smart looking salon ran by a very lovely Belgian boy and his ‘friend’. She looks great, but that’s only my opinion, she’s not happy at all with the short style. Mainly coz she’s not used to it, it’s the shortest it may have ever been! Bless her I hate it when she’s down and not so much fun, grumpy cow!

 

The following day two significant things happen, firstly we discover that the air con unit actually has a warm function. Having daftly assumed it wouldn’t as the three previous did not. So there you have it rule for the day, as in engineering never ever assume, as you will make an ASS out of U and ME. The asses being both of us, better late than never it is a most welcome discovery, we’ve both got slight colds as it’s still freezing late at night and early in the mornings. Secondly we actually fucking do something of note – A venture to the waterfalls on the bike, choosing it in preference over the caves as we are told that involves a steep mountain climb. The waterfalls are splendid in colour, bright turquoise, there are many people jumping from tree branches having fun. I don’t want to risk the foot and the KP has also become boring, wallowing in hair cut blues.

traditional guest house-2-2

Typical guesthouse

 

old building

Old or New ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

night building

Also cool at night

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The falls themselves tho’ are not as spectacular as we’ve seen. That combined with the sheer volume of people we soon depart, agreeing the time would have been better spent remaining on the piss. The highlight of the trip was the group of brown bears they have captive near the entrance, it’s another debut for the KP. Now I don’t like seeing animals held captive, with an especially strong dislike to Sea Parks and how they capture the dolphins and other sea creatures. These bears tho’ have supposedly been captured to save them from being hunted for trade. I’m not sure if they are happy, but they look chilled enough and not overly restricted like they would be in a zoo. The chains are only part of the construction so they do have a certain amount of freedom, i think ?

Bear number two

who do you think you are ?

 

Bear

better off or not ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our departure is booked for two days time heading south. The initial plan of doing a Northern loop will need to be for another time when the weather allows it. Now we are heading to Vang Vieng, Laos party town where the curfew is ignored with abandon, dance venues are meant to go until sunrise. It’s a convenient stop off on the way to the capital. Anyway we could bloody well do with a right old rave for the new year, the ankle is almost up for a bop.

Ready to Rave

Warrior’s Always Ready to Rave

On the final day we test the sprainage by climbing the 328 steps to the shrine on top of Mount Phousi. If it was called something else I most probably wouldn’t have wanted to make the effort. The climb is worth it and not just for the great views but also the much needed physio required to make the soon to arrive dancing more possible. We end our last day with a super massage and not so clever manicure.

view from phuiso

pussy view

Luang Prabang continued the theme of the incredibly enjoyable time we are indeed spending in Laos. The people always so polite and respectful 🙂 all the places yet visited so clean and well kept. It’s quite extraordinary comparing what we’ve seen to some areas of Thailand and Cambo, now seemingly cesspits. Not that I mean any offence I have much love for all three destinations. The Laos tho’ are definitely a step or two ahead, the poorest country of all it’s neighbours, yet the education level I believe is better than most. The small wealth there is also seems to be distributed more fairly to the people. Unlike for example in Kazakhstan where the rich just get richer, and the roads just continue to deteriorate. It’s something the KP is having trouble understanding, myself also. Laos is most definitely a very special country, unique in many little ways. Defo worth a visit even if you don’t like beer :-).

The thoughts I’m thinking of as we are leaving – Groovy maps are good, but sometimes they print pure shite. It’s not possible to not love Luang Prabang it’s just too like-ably a lovely little town. Just make sure you bring your woolies.

Life In The Tree Tops

We wanted to do a zip line back home, my secret plan was to propose there. It’s the longest in the Northern Hemisphere, and fastest in the world, your meant to go over one hundred mile an hour, head fucking first. CJ the Don Det river wash mate got it as a surprise for him and his mrs’s anniversary, reckons it’s awesome. Check it out here www.zipworld.co.uk

THE Question was popped elsewhere in God’s country, Pen-Y-Fan, the highest point in the South back in July. The surrounding area is where they train the SAS, the British special forces, at 886 metres at the summit it’s a nice Sunday morning walk. There are other more challenging ascents which the army use no doubt, my sister has done one of them, reckons the stroll is harder as it drags on a bit. Not forgetting you got the black mountains close by where it would be easy to get lost. Lots of people are testament to this, helicopter rescue is quite common on the Brecon Beacons, not everyone gets that lucky tho’.

engagement-out

It’s clear and she said yes – a Top day

So we get to go zip-lining at last, I’m sure we’ll do the one in Wales another time, I advertise it enough over the next two days so it’s only fair we visit also. There’s a mixed group of us on the bus and we are heading back up the Bolaven Plateau about 30Km outside a town called Paksong, which is 50Km from Pakse. Passing the waterfall turn-offs of yesterday we continue onwards. The bunch is mixed, a couple from Scotland, known affectionately as the Jockaniese. A family from Oz, the four kids of which, if they keep growing will soon be part of the tallest family in history :-), their average height is already about 6 foot, the oldest maybe sixteen. Making up the rest of the crew – there’s a guy from Hong Kong and a girl from Germany, both travelling on their todd, ohhh and finally a couple from Israel. The Jockaniese and the Israelite’s are on a 3 day adventure. The rest of us on a 2 day, one night, test of metal. In my opinion we are a good group – a mix of age, sex and nationalities.

Soon the road is reminding the KP of home as the ride becomes bumpy, the road heavily rutted. Other members of the group comment on the quality. Me I think it’s quite good as we are in the middle of fucking nowhere. The roads of similar quality back home for the KP (so my home also 😉 ) link the city with the border and Ruskie airport beyond, I kid you not.

We arrive and shortly after a background speech of the tree top explorer venture and excitement that awaits, we are donning our life saving equipment – namely a harness, pair of carabiner’s, zip trolley & helmet. The gear is reassuringly internationally recognised. Tho’ the ‘Made in France’ stamp doesn’t over fill me with confidence, as I cast my mind back to their hair brained idea on the Mekong at Si Pan Don. Anyways again ‘doing our bit’ as we are Eco-tourists once more, as the tree top set up has government approval. The dense forest area is protected (one of twenty in Laos) from hunting and destruction mainly by logging, some illegal and development which includes roads and coffee plantations. They also provides jobs for the local the community which includes our guides, all whom are friendly and some a right laugh.

We start with a 20 trek, walking up the mountain we used to call it in my youth. Then first up a single wire bridge, myself and the KP are towards the rear, myself last. It’s a double wire actually, one for your feet and the other for you hands, It’s a little more difficult than it looks, especially without gloves. I’m surprised they weren’t an essential piece of equipment as suggested when booking, along with a torch & flip flops? The flip flops are suggested in addition to sensible trekking footwear of course, which saves me the need to convince the KP that proper daps are necessary.

first bridge-1

Setting the tone

With the first challenge complete, which set the tone for the day – If there was any doubt we all now know the adventure is going to be active. We enjoy a simple but very tasty lunch, a picnic presented on freshly gathered banana leaves. There’s sticky rice, dried beef, fish cakes, hard boiled eggs, vegetables, spicy salsa and fish, it’s all very good.

banana leaf-1

surprise picnic

More walking up the mountain 😉 and it’s the toughest we’ve experience to date! It’s mainly downhill, but there’s plenty of obstacles to clamber over and duck under. I’m always careful to check the branch, bamboo or rock needed to grab is free of……..no not spiders but those bastard ants, usually fucking everywhere they are! (I’m proud tho’ that it’s the ginger ones that are the most troublesome!) The KP is behind the Aussie mum who with much longer legs is taking different steps than the KP who has to find her own path, which she does so with ease, just needs quite a few more steps 🙂 luv her.

We arrive at the first tree platform, the zip line is there. It’s similar cable to that used for lifting heavy loads, a helix of intertwined wires with a steel core, overall about 12mm in diameter. It’s lifting load is about 5 metric tonne, the bending stress we’ll be inducing well within it’s capacity. It’s been tensioned and clamped to the tree with u-bolts, how they got the wire form point A to point B I’m not yet sure. The lead guide with an acceptable level of English gives a very informative, clear safety demonstration. Basically you always need to be clipped on. We all have two spring loaded carabiner’s attached to our harness, so when you move you clip off then clip on, before clipping off the second. In fairness the guides do a lot of the clipping for you to help speed up the day and primarily ensure safety. The four boys are away first, their youth I suppose giving them the balls to be upfront. Myself and the KP are not so keen but there’s no turning back even if we wanted it. Soon I’m on the platform, zip trolley clipped on and the words “ok to go”. There’s a slight hesitance and then I’m flying freely through the air, weightless, yippppppeeeeee! The first zip to get us in the swing of things is about 30m long, just at the end the camera on my helmet comes off. I always knew it’d be possible, ohh well shit happens.

To my amazement one of the guides recover it from the slope as we were not so high, but it’s still a good find, nice one 🙂 The KP follows me and on arrival just like myself looks happy. Our initial apprehension maybe not removed altogether, but reduced to a level where we can now enjoy ourselves.

me zip

come on

A series of zips follow, one past a super waterfall – I can’t believe my eyes, it’s fucking awesome, plus we are so fucking high up. The scenery is fantastic all around, a bit like Wales on good day. To be honest it’s a challenge to be able to take it all in, especially at the pace we’re going on lines 200-300 metres in length and fuck knows how high??!! It’s super fun but you also need your wits about you. There’s an additional piece of equipment I’m yet to mention, a simple piece of wood whittled into a shape like an upside down tick. Simple, essential and effective – it’s the brake and boy do you need it. It’s to be pulled down onto the wire behind the zip trolley. The skill is to give the right pressure at the right moment so you glide onto the awaiting tree platform. Not enough results in a potential collision, too much and you stop short, which then requires Tarzan or Spiderman type movement (depending on your age) along the line to safety. On about the third zip I get the braking all wrong, too late I am and it jars on the line bouncing along and I fuck up my middle finger, it’s not broken or even dislocated just a bit fucked up, like mistiming a basketball catch but worse, nothing to be crying about anyways so I’ll move on (it’s still playing me up now tho’). All too soon we’re at the last zip and trekking back to base. The KP thought is was “friggin awesome” and in all honesty was much more comfortable and acrobatic than myself, the advantage of youth i suppose? Or maybe I was more of a pussy than I should have been! Back at base it’s a relief to see Beer, I’m initially disappointed when I retrieve one, sensibly, they are the small girly cans, but Beer Laos all the same 🙂

KP showing off-1

bloody

KP showing off-2

show

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

KP showing off-3

off

All the group is together for the evening meal including the Jockaniese and Israelites. It’s enjoyable to chat, everyone is friendly, the “I’m from Kazakhstan” line always creates interest. Much more so that when I was in Lloret, Spain with parents in the 80’s. No fucker knew where Wales was, or that we were even an actual country! Not much has changed with the general populous thirty or so years on. Apart from those properly educated and the others I’ve met in my path. They know, admittedly with a bit of help from Tom Jones where God’s country is. Borat has done for KZ what Tom did for Wales, it just wasn’t as stylish. We swap travel tales and even a bit of British politics in relation to the recent vote in Scotland, following that I’m keen to understand if Tel-Aviv is safe to visit this coming March? It’s Wales next game in the Euro’s and there’s been a lot of unrest there. The advice from the Israeli guy was not to go to Bethlehem but “Tel-Aviv is ok”. It’s hard to fathom, a place Christians have been taught to believe is the most holy on earth? Yet there’s always conflict and unrest associated with it, bonkers! The Scottish lady explains that there’s unrest back home between the yes and no brigade, even some family ties, severed for ever. I suppose I’ve said too much already so in the words of Urban Species – “religion and politics is the cause of all wars” religion and politics

The most interesting tale is from the Israelites as they visited Nepal for a month which included a fourteen day trek, it sounds fantastic fair play, climbing into the mountains with the altitude increase limited daily. We are not fit enough at present, but it could be one for the future if a Kazakh passport is good to go we’ll let you know with another blog. The beer cans were of a sensible size as we need to zip to our tree top accommodation, the six or so I’ve had makes me pay more attention when donning my harness. There are two single beds each with a sleeping bag and mosquito net. There’s also a toilet and a few chairs. It’s better than expected and we crash together in one of the beds all snug for the night ahead in our superman hoodies.

Night Night

Night Night

The next morning following a group brekkie we are away having said our good byes to the Jockaniese and Israelites. It’s a pleasure to leave our rucksacks till lunch, stupidly I’ve brought the mac thinking we might take a load of photos. Our flash packs are back at the village but even the smaller ones have been a pain in the arse. Yesterday we didn’t take many shots, too concerned with staying alive. HK was more adventurous taking many shots mid-zip, on his fancy camera hopefully he’s got shots of the fall as I ain’t, It’s possible as he’s the groups ninja and most acrobatic, Today hopefully we’d do more of the same, the action cam transferred to it’s stick, the K7 out of the bag. The lines are longer, higher & faster than the previous day. The longest of which is just below half a click so a fair length glide, the wires themselves have been walked through the forest and secured, racketed and clamped to the trees. It was one of the four boys that asked the question that solved my curiosity.

ninja-1

ninja upside down

It was a very good professionally run, safety conscious, value for money set up and highly recommended, check it here www.treetoplaos.com we had a scream. Both day’s were superbly designed. The right amount of walking, climbing, clambering and zipping where the challenge continually became more tasking. My least favourite was the hooped rope bridge, didn’t like that one at all. Some of the other bridges were cool, the KP running across one prompting the big Aussies words “look she’s loving it!” quality!

shitty rope bridge

Hooped bridge – No fun

I say the right amount of each aspect just a little too soon tho’. After lunch where neither of us properly chilled out we head off upwards. Very soon I’m like fatties leg having a right good wheeze, legs also knackered from taking in the pitch of the mountains slope.

big aussie

the big Aussie loving it too

We finally get there! There is where the toughest part of the adventure awaits. We are at the foot of the cliff where you ascend to do a verbratta (something new everyday). The route has been installed using 8mm diameter reinforcing bars. Before i’m even ready the KP is off, she wants a quick start and finish. Shitting them tho’ she tells me later, not that it looked it, she was flat out! I’m about to follow her but the German also makes a move, I allow her to go ahead of me. It was a mistake as she’s not comfortable (she’s not the only one I might add), don’t like heights we later discover. It means I can’t go at my own pace, a guide passes me to assist the damsel in distress, she’s also encouraged by the Aussie mum, giving great verbal support and advice all wrapped in one, her experience as an outdoor pursuits instructor coming to the fore. The hardest bit is clipping on and off as the safety line is split into sections to ensure there is a support close by to reduce your fall if you did come a cropper.

no stopping her

the KP – no stopping her

The path 🙂 is both vertical & horizontal, at one point while traversing it pitches towards you, not a great deal but the sensation is there. This is when my arms start getting tired and when next going vertical I fuck up clipping off, and need to go back 3 steps, I unclip and ascend once more. Fucked it again didn’t I, wrapped it arounds itself or something in my haste to move on. I’m almost to embarrassed to admit i needed to return THREE times to set myself free. Now there was a brief amount of fear or something as my tired hands started to tremble. Time to focus! It taught me that holding on for your life if ever necessary is bloody hard. Our idea that rock climbing could be fun is blown out of the water.

Big waterfall

From the bottom to the top

 

top blurry-1

like our legs

 

A bit of scale

belly – a bit of scale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We get there, not quite there but at least at the top of the fall having started way down below, I high five the youngest of the four boys, whilst swearing in Russian, they are the only words I have. The KP was scared during the ascent, if anything this made her move too fast. Our legs are like jelly but relieved to have made it, we enjoy the view. Beyonf the fall the ascent continues and is becoming tedious, on and on we go, eventually it levels out and we pass plantations of coffee, the trees about three years old.

 

Coffee tree

Coffee

 

Coffee bean

a single bean

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

After collecting our bags from the village we are on our way to get dropped off at Paksong, hoping to get a local bus from there to our destination of a coffee shop in the hills. Having said our good byes to all we are left at the edge of town. No bus transpires and after close to an hour and a few beers later. I ask a well to do local for a lift. The fare is agreed and we’re on our way in a nice new pick up with rear seats, with two guys upfront.The journey seems to be going on and on I estimated it to be about half an hours drive, but we’ve been hitting a ton and now 40mins in. The mood in the car is uneasy and I’m wondering if we are being taken for a ride, literally! The KP was thinking worse than myself so it’s just in time when we arrive. The two upfront not a pair of crazy mad men after all. We’re happy but it was a mistake to stay here as it’s already dark when we arrive, our room is set in a lovely southern american style dwelling. Fuck it is Bastard Freezing ! Super cold – the bathroom floor is like ice. No heating and the air-con without a warm setting. The guy running the place is overly friendly, too concerned if we are having a good time. We don’t have the heart to complain. At least we finally get a decent Laos cappuccino.

yankee house

Yes – it’s in Laos

The next day following a feed we travel by mini bus, unusually we are the only two passengers so we take a row each 🙂 our destination is the airport with $170 one way tickets to Luang Prabang, which is meant to be the dogs bollocks. Let’s hope so, we may stay a week.

Our First City in Laos

I was getting quite stressed with this bloody blog, due to lagging way behind the realtime moment. Caused in general by shite internet. Photo uploads have been nigh on impossible, due to the frustration caused. In addition to blogging which helps keep my brain ticking over for any potential job interviews. We are intent on having maximum fun, whilst also chilling as much as possible, not to be part of the rat race just yet! So net use and the blog has just been fucked off to enable stress levels to be kept at a low ebb. The job search is also on the back burner, for now at least – the funds, tho’ depleting are not causing alarm bells to go off just quite yet. I’ve also had the time and much advice from some very helpful individuals, which I’m very thankful for (you knows who you are, cheers all), to finally settle on a theme and design I’m happy with, well 95% so.

The net situation is better here in Luang Prabang, only marginally, but good enough, so let’s blog on. It took ages to get the last one done and I’m not feeling as if it was worth it? Hopefully I’ve not got the so called writers block. There’s plenty of interesting shite happened so we should be ok. You out there can be the judges to that – I’ve not advertised the blog personally as I got enough shit on The Book, so if it’s any good in your opinion, spread the word.

A few special select do know, and you knows who you are 🙂 Think of it like any early chrimbo present from the KP & Me to you 🙂 I’m slowly becoming the size of fucking santa so it suits. In my haste to get the last blog penned, I slipped blogging about a very special part of Laos…………… THE BEER!

beer crates-1

Beer Laos – Quite possibly Asia’s best beer, hands down.

It really is the best beer in Asia. I’m thinking of the contenders – Tiger (not unique), Singa (results in the shits), Angkor or Cambodia (Girly sized cans). The woman responsible for this unique beverage was trained in the Czech Republic, which when regarding beer naturally makes you sit up and take notice! By her own admission she doesn’t booze herself, which makes the tipple even more impressive. Surely she must have tasted it though during the initial process, which she modified replacing expensive traditional hops with rice. Even tho’ its very pallatable one of the most refreshing aspect in my eyes anyway, is that it comes in jumbo sized bottles. So when having four or five you know you’ve had a drop. In Cambodia when the KP would be giving it “you’ve had five beers already” when actually it’s only about two pints. Here if I’ve had five or six I bloody know I have, my legs start to tell me. Ohhhh and it’s generally 10,000 kip a bottle, bargain.

Breakfast of Champions

Breakfast of Champions

 

 

 

We leave Si Pan Don on a big bus, with a whole seat each which is much welcomed. The bus departure is possible as the Chinese have recently constructed a bridge to Don Khone, the big Island. We should be in Pakse in 3 or so hours the leg room is bliss, well worth the 20,000 Kip fare.

Recently complete

Recently complete just in time to reduce our journey

We arrive and thankfully a Tuk-Tuk driver is on hand to take us to the centre of town. Due to the recent lack of the net, we’ve not yet got a room sorted so we stop at a cafe, take lunch and check Agoda to help minimise the leg work. I leave our packs with the KP and Laos coffee and go and check our first choice digs. It’s overpriced for what it is, so I check another and it’s full. A hotel across the street looks ok, it’s without character but the rooms are clean and modern and the net is relatively fast. During the gander I checked another guest house where I was more interested in the bikes, which we’ll go back for once settled and showered. We are planning a two or three night stay, there’s a extremely old temple ruin to check out called Wat Phu & also the Bolvean plateau where they grow the growing in popularity Laos coffee. Upon returning to the cafe where I’ve left the KP there’s a pamphlet advertising a tree top experience, which involves trekking and a zip-line adventure which we are most interested in, it’s something else neither of us has done before.

I go back for the bike, which is 10,000 a day. Compared to the majority of previous wheels we’ve had it should be 110,000 it’s all shiny and new, with brakes I can only compare to an F1 race car. Thank fuck I pulled the back and not the front the first time I checked them. It’s about three-ish so we got no time to visit any of the sites as sundown is well before six. We cruise the town as I’m comfortable enough now to have a two wheel gander. A nice town it is too, larger than what we were led to believe by the guide-less book we’ve got, which in fairness is not that bad, sometimes it’s even been a good source of info, just need to take the words lightly. There’s quite a few larger than your average asian roundabouts to navigate with 4 lanes merging, more learning which is welcome. I’m not saying I could do Bangkok on two wheels but the improvement continues, might even get wheels back home, perhaps a mighty 125cc 🙂 🙂 🙂

The city is too serious for me to be doing it on wheels after a few scoops, no doubt a serious offence in Laos as the place seems more in touch with the western world, even tho’ its population and wealth is a lot lot less than it’s bordering neighbours. So we park up and explore on foot – It’s a clean, neat & tidy town. If any of you have experienced the gut wrenching smells of Phnom Pehn, you’ll understand what a pleasure it is to be in Pakse.

pakse bridge

Bridge towards the Temple & overlooking Budda

There’s a sense of order, nice motors cruising about, lots of new bikes. No street hawkers or late night kids begging and selling tat for their possibly drug induced parents. It’s a bit like Cambo’s Kampot that’s had some sort of a magical polish, like it’s the best silver, as there’s no bad sorts there either. We take food and cocktails at the roof top bar of the hotel where I thought the rooms were over priced. Happily the drinks and grub are not, sunset here would be fantastic but we’ve missed it for today. We retire most happy with our arrival in modern world Laos, on an appreciated comfortable bed.

After a complimentary buffet brekkie we hit the road about half six, we’ve got 40 Klicks to cover – our longest ‘road trip’ to date, the very first I suppose. The journey starts with a big river crossing and then a slick road east. I’m happy the helmets have visors as we’re going at pace, 60, 70, 80 klicks an hour the surface and the bike allow it. I’m sure it would be possible to hit a ton ten comfortably, whether this feat was attempted is an unsolved mystery. The bike is a dream, automatic and but it goes when it wants, responsive, comfortable and if I was a hair dresser (I’m pie hot at doing my own, so maybe that counts?) bloody sexy.

speedo

Sexy speedo

The bike might just be the dogs bollocks, but the road is even better. A pristine surface, it’s even better than the standard back home, as it’s fresh – the KP is gob smacked. Now I love the RoK and many aspects of it but the main roads are a fucking piss take, almost medieval and rutted to fuck. The KP’s comment when we were doing the South Welsh mountains, a most beautiful part of the world by the way – “It feels like we’re swimming.”

A russian expression, she means it’s like your gliding down the river on a calm sunday afternoon. The road surface here & now, does actually make me think of home, and apart from the people, I don’t miss it! It’s most probably pissing it down with horizontal rain, it’s Xmas also with all the bollocks that brings. I’m happy to be here free on the road in the sun with my diamond on the back.

For those that don't know - Wales is Awesome

For those that don’t know – Wales is Awesome

After a few twists and turns we arrive at our destination, park up careful to lock the bike, it’s highly pinch-able and the fee for replacement is $3500. Too smart to drive around Phnom Penh that’s for sure. Hey what am I thinking I won’t be driving there, ever, too chicken oriental however competent I may become. Wat Phu which is currently undergoing renovation is located in Champasak, a small town stretching along the western bank of the Mekong. There’s a selection of guesthouses but we’ve chosen to be centrally located in the city, to avoid moving our shit so often. The temple it’self is mainly ruins, but it’s not only that which is impressive. The temple, it’s location and the small lakes, including the landscape which is not totally natural but partly developed, is more than a 1,000 years old! As always in Asia there is a deep meaning to it all, as described in the mini guide it’s a Hindu vision of the relationship between nature and humanity. They’ve done a smashing job as can be seen from all angles. It’s as traditional as it comes.

view from temple

Spot the crane

The buildings themselves are not as impressive as Angkor Wat in Cambo, but it’s older. I’m not sure if i dreamt it or read it somewhere, but it’s somehow linked to the Cambodian Jewel by the moon and stars, which I’m sure google could help with if you are really interested. It’s currently undergoing restoration, painstakingly stone by stone each one numbered to ensure it’s correct final position. Preparing the drawings would have been interesting, I don’t mean the originals. That would have been ground breaking. I’m referring to those done recently to ensure the renovation goes to plan. I wonder if the latest drawings are produced traditionally ? No for sure they’d use some computer aided design system? If i’d been involved a 3D scan would have been paramount before the dismantling programme commenced. Considering where we are tho’ who knows, maybe it’s all in someones head 😉 ? I hope you understand that I’m playing, or maybe just tying to convince myself. Thankfully they are constructing it as traditionally as possible, many of the stones are original, possibly all? Tho’ I suspect some are new but if they are, they are from the original source, or bloody close to it. The site of the cranes, most probably unwelcome to some, spoiling the photos they want to take. I’m happy they are there, as it really makes you think how the bloody hell they built it in the first place. It’s a challenge and a half even now. So the engineer in me shall explain for you all – I have no bloody idea! 🙂 but for sure rollers, pulleys and counterweight systems would have been used, and of course a whole load of manpower – That at least is certain!

numbered stones

Building by numbers

building by numbers

easy peasy

craneage

with a bit of help

I get some final shots before leaving, some of which you’ll see edited in an over saturated, softened style, which seems to be popular with some. I’m not sure if I like it or not? If you got the time and can be bothered, please let me know what you think in the comments.

budda thru door

Shrine

Similar to angkor

Stone carving

temple - people-1-3

Thai tourist’s picture fun

About half way back to the city, we stop at a venue which is again on the river. It’s a bit upmarket, with a crackingly unique style Xmas tree. The Bloody Mary’s are smashing, the KP thinks “it’s her best one ever!” Which draws a stare from myself as I take great pride in the production of the only cocktail I can properly create. She loves a wind up, but here I think she’s being serious? It is bloody lovely with a subtle kick, but of course I’ve made better! I don’t even check with her to see if she was being serious or not 🙂

KP in garden

Garden Stroll

xmas tree

Merry Xmas Everybody

In the evening we try an Indian/Malay restaurant close to the digs, called Jasmine. Now the KP doesn’t hate Indian grub, but she’s not too keen on it. In five previous attempts she has only ever really enjoyed one. That was a new style, bit pricey posh one back home, following her Cardiff City debut. Regardless she agrees that we stick to the Indian side of the menu. Indian would usual be my preference but Malay food it’s meant to be one of the finest. I can’t comment as I’ve never sampled it, and I’m not likely too in the near future as I’m currently undergoing a self imposed Malaysian ban. The flights, the country, the food, anything Malay especially Vincent Tan who is the current deluded owner of Cardiff City, my first love, who I no longer know when they are playing, never mind who! That’s all I have to say on the matter or this will turn into a major rant, which could result in a lawsuit. In one line – ‘He killed my Club!’

The food yet simple is fantastic, tasty and zingy but not mental spicy. Just your tongue having a mini disco, not a full on hard core rave. The KP laps it up, I’ve never seen her enjoy a meal as much and she loves a good feed, I thought she was going lick the plates. It’s a major event in our relationship as she’s now more keen on having another go. Indians can be addictive and I’ve not had my fill during my time overseas. Before the grub we’d enquired about the zip-lining, there’s no availability for a few days, but we agree it’s a must try. So we will be staying a while more in our first Laos city, before we depart at the end of the week to our second, Luang Prabang in the North.

The next day we’ve got about the same distance to travel, but in the opposite direction. Plus we’ll be climbing, up the Bolvean Plateau which is elevated between eight and sixteen hundred metres above sea level. We’ve been told it’s chilly, more so than Mondulkuri in Cambo, so additional clothing is required. We check out the local market during a quiet morning. The selection is not great as only one stall has anything suitable, hoodies, nice thick ones that look warm, we settle on a matching pair due to size restrictions and the fact we like being a bit nuts now and again, when we can.

waterfall-1-2

Second waterfall of the day – Super

The road is not the pristine condition of yesterday’s, it’s acceptable tho’. The only thing lacking is the surface course, which means for a more challenging ride. At certain sections the chipping’s are totally loose and more care is required. Noticeably and quite important is that there are no pot holes, it’s a relatively smooth surface. This is important as I’m expecting it to be getting dark when we are returning to the city. We are hoping to view some of the impressive waterfalls in the region during the next few hours. What’s noticeable as we climb into the Plateau is the drop in temperature, as we increase altitude. The top end on our super wheels is now just 40Km/h so the incline must be quite a slope, it’s difficult to tell going up but it should be more prevalent when we are coming back down. We visit three in total, the last of which is the most impressive two 100m drops spewing into oblivion. The photo’s don’t really do it justice. The second has a pallet you could float on pull & yourself to the fall and a small cave beneath – We don’t do it! I’m not sure why but i’m not happy about it now and wasn’t either later in the day. We missed a great opportunity for a laugh, it was bloody cold tho’ and we didn’t really have right gear with us, the KP did have flip flops on tho’ as didn’t take my earlier advice. Haha babes you’ll be sorry.

fall-1-2

Bit bigger than the one on the Island

waterfall-2

Fast shutter

waterfall-1

Slow shutter

fall-1

Double Whammy

We grab a coffee before heading off and to be honest I’m not that impressed. We’ve tried it a few times now since being in the region. It’s served with a sweet milk that has the consistency of treacle, which results in we are not quite sure what? We’re not too keen on it anyways, the day has been good tho’ so now back to the city, it should take us just over an hour. The sun has already disappeared, so as predicted it’s going to be a dark return journey, well not as predicted actually, as it’s going to be pitch black. I was hoping we’d be entering town about now, we are more than an hour late. Which is my fault for playing with the camera, using the opportunity as an aperture/shutter training session. Hope you like the results and the effort was worth it, as the KP’s not happy – cursing our departure time. Her little footsie wootsies are freezing cold, bless her poor dab. I bet they bloody are freezing tho’ my face and hands are numbing quickly as we descend, it’s one hell of a constant slope more than I earlier imagined. It’s already started raining and getting heavier. I’m hoping it will stop when we get low enough, which thankfully it does, just at about the same time the  KP’s feet are ready to drop off! I don’t think the flip flops will be such popular attire in the future 🙂 Live and learn babes 🙂 The drive is quite a serious challenge due to the weather, road surface and lack of lighting. A bit of a stupid thing to be doing actually, so I’m learning also for sure, avoid dangerous situations on the bike! There’s trucks, Tuk-Tuks and a few mad bike drivers, but in fairness most are considerate on the road. Just as I’m thinking how fortunate we are to have top brakes and no pot holes, we smash straight into a sizeable one, better than swerving for sure but I’m thinking we might have a blow out as the rear slams into the hole. We get lucky!

Ourselves and bike are good just a bit wet and cold. Happy to be back safe and in one piece. Tomorrow are the plans for something which has the potential to be the highlight of the tour so far. I’m bricking them a little bit, excited but too concerned to be thinking come on – bring it on!! The KP says she’s cool, I nod and I’m happy for her, but I remember her first Helter Skelter experience, in Cardiff. A fair ground ride designed for six year olds. Her words coming off were “why the fuck did I go on there, I almost shit myself”. I’ve got a photo, but can’t find it right now. So it will be interesting to see how we are tomorrow…..so interesting in fact, it deserves a blog all of it’s own.

MERRY XMAS TO ALL – HAVE A CRACKING DAY, please like the blog if you do so.

Good Bye Cambodia And Hello Laos

I’ve been looking forward to visiting Laos from the start of the trip, maybe longer actually. I’ve never been, the KP neither, so it’s an adventure into the unknown for the both of us. Okay not the strictly unknown thanks to the guide books, the net, hear say & Billy’s visa runs. If you’ve not been yourself tho’ you can never be sure can you? We’ve not heard a bad word said, so we should have a good time in the three to four weeks we are expecting to be there. First we need to get there, which involves another mini-bus. Fuck we are one of the last to get picked up. It’s not overloaded like the last one, but it’s full, we take the last two seats, central they are. Soon we collect a mum and her child, the guy in front of us relocate’s to give them space. He takes the seat next to me, which results in myself being half on a seat and half on a rest. The new road is yet without it’s surface course which means the journey is a bit of a bone shaker. Soon my left side ass cheek is dead. I don’t think I will be able to stand if there’s much more of this. I check my Seiko, we are 20mins into a three hour journey. The hands then move at a snails pace for the next hour n half. Finally we stop to allow the mum and child off and travel bliss is resumed, sort of, even if my left leg doesn’t want to come back to life for a bit. Leg back in action we arrive at the last Cambodian town of Stung Treng at 10:15. The bus to Laos has departed 15 minutes before. I doubt there ever was one to be honest, I’m feeling we’ve been tucked up. We wait at a cafe with three other travellers, germans, and we wait and wait and wait. I’m the only one on the booze, so maybe they are Austrians surely they can’t be proper Krauts? As it’s way past holiday boozing time. Other travellers arrive, minibus loads, and we wait and wait. We finally fuck off 5 (f-i-v-e) hours after arriving, in a bus destined for the border and Laos beyond. It’s our first bad day of the trip so far, so we can’t complain really, but just get on with it, happy to be moving in the right direction up the road, after being bored out of our minds.

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Watching corn grow – Not as boring as paint drying

A thief at the border does the Visa’s for the bus, a big one by the way with leg room, the bus, not the thief who makes $5 or 10 a head, good on him, his aggressive tone was enough to worry the backpackers into parting with their coin. He reminds me of Billy’s twin and the english at the scrap yard, where as much as a 500% mark up would be applied. We’re happy the pair of us as we didn’t want to walk in the direct sun packed up, fuck that! Like a Canada Goose jacket when you’re in the RoK (forget North Face, even Rab, you’ll regret it with bells on! Trust me) it’s worth every penny of the eight hundred or so extra pence we’ve parted with. Whilst at the border we meet a fellow traveller from Kazakhstan. Zayeybis! This is super rare and funny as they both clocked each other a while back, but didn’t believe it’s possible to meet another Kazakh so far from home. They have a good chin wag, no doubt happy to converse in their language of choice about their travels. We all enjoy a beer together, I show much respect, Rakhmet Bratan. Firstly that he has the Yeitso to travel on his todd and secondly to make the KP’s day. Then we’re off on our separate ways. He’s heading to Pakse, us to Si Pan Don, the 4000 islands.

So it’s bye bye Cambodia. We loved it with bells on, everyday apart from the last one was fucking top. We even enjoyed that tho’ thanks to the kazakh. We’ll be back for Battambang, ohhh and the wedding of the year in 2016, for sure, sure, sure. For sure!

A good friend from home, CJ, had enjoyed a trip to the one of the four thousand island’s ten year back. Don Det just as it was kicking off, we choose to stay at it’s sister island Don Khone, where we arrived at dark, needing a moto taxi from Don Det, one by one. We picked the larger island Khone which is joined to Det by a bridge the french built. Our selection was made as we’ve heard that Don Det has been over developed and also overrun with backpackers. The majority of our bus who are such, they were all having a good bloody moan at the border over $5, are also heading there. At least that was until I advised some of them that moaning now here when your passport is there. Is like complaining in a restaurant before your food arrives. One agreed, saying yeah let’s shut up you never want them to spit in your food. The bodily fluid I was thinking of would much more offensive, it begins with a J and ends with a Z.

We are greeted in the morning by a smashing view of the river from our balcony at Pan’s residence. We enjoy the complimentary breakfast of traditional rice soup, with egg and maybe just a bit too much garlic. No kisses for the KP today then, or maybe later, she’s too bloody sexy to resist. The rice soup is a nice welcome, and much preferred by myself over the noodle soup in Cambodia which is more difficult to chow, especially when it’s boiling hot.

Welcome to Laos

Welcome to Laos

The coin now is the Laotian Kip, 8,000 of them to a yankee dollar. One colour money is accepted Tho’ you just might not get what you should. Certain establishments are offering 7K but most are fair and give 7 point 8. We are OK for now as we became multi Kip millionaires (yippeeeeee), at the last ATM (Bankomat for you kazakh’s) on the mainland. 2,000,000 kips deposited so we have about $250 (our departure was delayed 15mins as two BP’s discuss if they should dispense 800K or push the boat out and go for a cool mill, honest, i kid you not!) We use 10,000 for our laundry and another 20,000 for two pushbikes. This time I inspect both bikes, especially the brakes on the KP’s so that she’s actually able to stop when required.

We set off, the first stop is at one of the locomotive engines on the island, left over from when the french were here with plans to control the Mekong routes.

train

Choooo Chooooooo

The French wanted to control the Mekong due to the British Empire gaining serious footholds almost everywhere else. The natural barrier of the rocks and the rapids were impassable then and also now. So the French gave up leaving their railway behind to be encompassed by the jungle, the remnants of which still remain. Some being used for garden fencing, not that we got to see any apart from in photo’s.

We cycled in no particular direction as it’s all interesting. We’re in the middle of the Mekong again but not on a sand bar, a full blown island. Peddling in tandem, not on a tandem, two separate sets of wheels, following a few signs we arrive at a kiosk, pay our 50,000 kip fare and wander through the greenery with a few cows and their calves, then there we are “Danger!” That’s what the sign says, maybe the French erected it, but it’s in English and Laos so maybe not. The reality is tho’ you don’t need a fucking sign. The rocks and rapid flow of water signal that loud and clear even tho’ it looks like the water is at half flow.

danger

The French – Chicken Oriental

Whatever the French were thinking I really don’t fucking know, maybe they were on drugs, or wine for breakfast, not just the usual lunchtime aperitif. How they thought they could navigate this section of the Mekong is baffling? Even in a canoe it would be a bit of a mission.

No chance

Canoe – No chance

 

 

 

 

 

 

There’s more ants, the little bastards, on yet another mission of their own.

ant

Ants – All Bastards! Always on a mission!

 

KP chilling

KP chilling

 

 

 

We continue on our way to where signs point to the ‘beach’. There is one complete with cocktail bar, hammocks and even a pool table?

spot the bird.....

The Beach – Spot the bird…….

Following a cracking start to the day, we decide to defy the heat and cycle to Don Det. It’s a fair distance on the traditional bikes, but not so far that its breaks our balls (thats Yeitso kazaks). There’s a collection of budget accommodation, restaurants and bars located along the river. In my opinion it’s not over developed like some destinations can be. It’s defiantly come on a bit since CJ was here, when they stayed in a $3 room and bathed in the river. Development is not always bad see, tho’ the two bars showing re-runs of Friends (fucking constantly) and the other South Park at blaring volume question this theory to the max. Who are these fucking weirdos who travel half way around the world, to watch fucking Friends! The mind boggles as it was shit the first time around when you was at home, numpties!

We take some lunch, at a venue where it’s possible to take almost anything on the menu and make it ‘happy’, this means it has the added ingredient known medically as THC. Hence its chilled, but it’s not the vast numbers of stoned out tourists, we were led to believe.

Are you Happy ?

Are you Happy ?

 

We like it here and decide to have a night after we agree to go on a kayaking trip. The general trip is a full day of the Mekong, Dolphins and waterfalls, too much sun exposure for us. Therefore we agree on a double price half day trip, just the two of us, VIP the man calls us, it’s suit our flash-packer style. I know Billy will be laughing for sure. VIP is what we want as 2/3rd’s of the full shabonka we’ve already done, we just want to do the big waterfall near the Laos/Cambo border.

Once the sun has cooled down about four-ish we head back to Don Khone. There’s a big exposed straight then a few forks and turns, fortunately the majority of the way is shaded by trees. We are not always sure whether to go left or right so we just follow the road which has more wear, it’s not like you can get totally lost anyways. As we are nearing our destination there’s a group of four travellers, the eldest of the group, a well built guy most probably in his early fifties, hollers out to me “are there any guesthouses that way”. I stop and explain there are but, its a hell of a walk 30 to 40 mins minimum. I spot his wife has a case not a backpack, so only a fool would attempt the journey on foot. I ask what’s wrong with the guest houses here? We not keen on any he says, I explain that there they are cheaper, obviously meaning they are also lower in quality. He seems keen of the fact they are cheaper. I’m not sure of his nationality, but he’s translating all I say to his mrs, whilst the rest of the group consisting of two boys in their twenties listen on. My last words directed to one of the youngsters is that “it’s quite a way, and I’m not really sure as we only arrived yesterday”. Then we all wave each other bye, and soon I’m catching up the KP for our evening meal and obligatory beers to discuss when we’ll do the kayaking, tomorrow if possible?

Renting a motorbike is not possible so we decide to move to Don Det later the next day, followed by kayaking early the next morning before heading north to Pakse. So we’ll have a chilled day and we need it. We start with a leisurely breakfast, the KP is on Skype whilst I’m blogging. Then suddenly a guy on a bike stops sharply at our table. “Hi” I naturally reply good morning but I can’t recognise the face, but it’s not a happy one, so well out of place. Then I click it’s the guy wanting cheap accommodation. “Thanks a bunch for sending us the wrong way yesterday!” What do you mean? you asked if there was accommodation that way. “You sent us the wrong way!” How did I do that, we cycled from there? I explained it was a hell of a walk, are you suggesting I sent you there on purpose? Why would I do that? “Well you best want to hope you don’t bump into the youngster’s. I think they will give you a big head” From his snarly grin you can tell he wants to give me a sore head himself, which would only bring more embarrassment upon him. In the eyes of his mrs, that’s what I’m hoping anyways. “Hey mate if you got lost I apologise, but I explained we only just arrived” I wanted to tell him it would be best to ask a local next time, but decided it best not to. It might have sparked his red mist, I was not only concerned for my good looks but also the mac in front of me. Thankfully he went on his way with his mrs, telling me to best watch myself, I thanked him for the heads up. So 9 weeks into our travels we experience our first bit of aggression, which just so happens to be in the most chilled location of our travels yet. You never know what each day will bring do you? For the record I’m a lover not a fighter, but I’m from an area which is notorious for tough cunts. Lots of my mates were Cardiff City front line hooligans, the Soul Crew Valley Commando’s. The key is don’t show weakness and never back down, if needed strike first. I’ve not thrown a punch in a very, very long time, but my stance or street awareness has kept me safe, ohh and a fair bit of luck of course, not forgetting crazy friends who really are fearless. Which helps as I’m not the best fighter to be honest! Well we can’t be good at everything can we ?? 🙂 Also let’s not forget the valley that I’m from, once people know which one, they tend to be wary of causing you bother, we’re as thick as thieves, with many of us just plain thick and hard as nails, literally. Not that it’ll help here, regardless, the last thing you want when overseas is ending up in a scrap, especially with locals, you need to avoid it like the plague, however pissed off you may become. There is only one winner and it won’t be you, in Kazakhstan it would result in a swift flight home, jobless. Even if it wasn’t your fault that you got your jaw broken and flying home in a head brace. In Asia there’s a good chance you’d go home in a box, or not get home as planned but have an extended holiday, not being able to select your accommodation, or your meals from a menu.

I must admit it’s unwelcome news. Not that I truly believe two youngsters would want to start trouble on this island, just for walking the wrong direction for a bit. Especially after the heat of the moment. You never know tho’ so best be on our toes, hopefully we’ll bump into them sooner rather than later, we’ll know then if it will kick off or not?

Frizbee

Fuck fighting – Frizbee is more fun, especially when you can walk on water

As the conversation was a little bit heated the KP only got the the gist of the situation. So I fill her in on the bits that were conversed too swiftly. It all makes sense now as to why when we returned to Don Khone we came under the bridge and not over it? We both laugh like school kids, there must be a loop road. We discuss the chances of anything happening unlikely, but if it does and I’m getting the worse off the two of them, and they might be kickers, I ask her what she should do? Her reply is scream for them to stop? No wrong answer babes, you smash the biggest one hard across the back with a heavy chair. I’m half jesting, whether she knows that or not, I’m not sure so I leave her to think what she wants.

Happy

Happy Happy Happy

We move as planned to Don Det to a room near where the boats land. It’s tidy enough for just over $15. Shortly afterwards I think I see the guys, but can’t be sure, they don’t react or even acknowledge me. We enjoy the rest of the day, keen to avoid the friends rerun bar, tho’ we pass it numerous times and its always densely populated! Now each to their own, we’re all individuals but who are these people? True numpties that’s who! Just to put the antagonism included in this blog to bed. We see the same two guys again the following day this time I’m sure it’s them, our eyes meet and nothing. So as I thought it was just the guy doing his best to unsettle us, maybe wanting to spoil our time on the island. Why? Maybe coz he looked like a fool in front of strangers, for the sake of five or ten dollars a night. So If your reading this big guy, I once again apologise for giving you a sore head, which made you want to make a mess of mine. It was a genuine misunderstanding and a bit of stupidity on both our behalves. My excuse is I had about 6 big beer Laos. If we meet in the future I hope we’ll share a beer and a small giggle. Maybe you wouldn’t want that, so please invest in a map and a rucksack for your Mrs. Ohh and of course avoid asking half cut Welshmen directions. Myself I just won’t try to be so helpful in the future.

The pier

Here’s someone who’s not lost arriving at the Island in a bit of style

We’re early birds once again as we need to pack and check out before we set off on our latest adventure which starts with brekkie at 6:30, by seven we are getting geared up with paddle, life jackets and water proof bag, then we’re away. Myself and the KP in a two man (are we allowed to say that anymore? Or is it not politically correct – bollocks anyways) and the guide in a one man kayak.

Kayak

Here we go. “Lead the way love”

The KP is upfront (engine) myself at the rear (navigation). When we booked I stupidly ask if we’ll have a guide? “Well you can go without one, but you may not come back” was the reply. This soon becomes apparent a few minutes into the trip, as you need to navigate to the smoothest section of the river either side of various sand bars. Who would know where we’d be heading if we were guide-less. The river has a life of it’s own, the sensation is that it’s moving at you at pace, small trees look as if they are speeding up river with an engine, whirlpools and wave breaks just popping up from nowhere. It feels as if something is going to launch out of the water at us. I later discover the KP was actually worried about this and didn’t start enjoying the trip until we were almost at the end. I also shit them when we almost capsize, my poor navigation taking us broadside to the rising waves. Writing this now I wish we had, it would make for a more interesting read for sure. At the time tho’ I’m very thankful we managed to stay afloat, much to the amusement of the guide. Right on cue the KP wants to know when we’ll get there, just as the guide points in the distance….. “Waterfall there”. You can see the spray of crashing water maybe 800 or so metres ahead.

Here I am

Here I am – I dare you, come on!

Soon it’s six, then four hundred. When will we fucking stop? At about 200 metres away it’s music to my ears “OK we stop here” thank fuck for that! We dock our vessel at the rivers bank, the KP is soon out on dry land, and with that I’m moving again down stream. I doubt I’ve gone more than a metre but it’s enough for me to scream out in a panic “stop the fucking thing!” which results in hysterical laughter and no help at all. I manage to get back to the shore before I’m in the fast flow before the drop.

Safely does it

Dry land

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As part of the trip we are soon collected by lorry and taken to the safe side of the fall. Where we crack off a load of shots. A Japanese tourist kindly provides the shots some scale maybe the french were without any?

waterfall sign

We made it. Safe n Sound.

waterfall and scale

Japanese tourist. Better than a scale rule

If the French thought they could also surpass this natural obstruction, they really were off their heads! A special tree with supposed mystical powers has recently been removed from the ridge of the fall, and now preserved, very popular with Thai tourists, who visit here in their droves. A helicopter was needed to assist with that, something that at the time of the French plan, would have been a super crazy idea, but not as crazy as thinking it could be surpassed by boat. Even tho’ boats did actually exist back then.

the tree

Tree rescue

 

We return to Don Det on the lorry with the kayaks on the back feeling relaxed and happy our busy fun filled morning is over. Ha ha, no is it fuck! Sorry I’m being silly again, of course we need to paddle the kayak back to base, across this mighty river, at least the waterfall is safely 20 klicks south. Thankfully the other side is down stream, no stress the water is calm, well at least it seems so. She’s not happy about the latest revelation “what, we need to fucking paddle again?” We navigate the trip with relative ease, powered by the engine that is the trojan known as the KP.

 

Awesome

Soon we are boarding a long tail, back on the Mekong heading north against the tide towards the big island. It’s us, two Dutch and four big beer Laos. It’s a chilled but an eventful trip highlighted by the natural events that no doubt occur daily, well maybe not the boat transfer as the engine packed in.

river fishing

Out for dinner

 

Skinny

Skinny

 

dipping

Dipping

Mekhong

Mekhong

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Styleee

Styleee

We have one night on Don Khong the big Island, super slow it is and we welcome that. Two things of note do happen………  We take a bike with gears, not such an event actually as the clutch is automatic, but it is more to think about, helping my two wheel education.

river budda-1-2

River Budda

 

bikes for hire

Bikes for hire

 

 

 

 

 

 
Ohhhh and we see the big guy & his Mrs, this time she’s not dragging the case. I’m so tempted to beep and wave, but decide against it. We’ve had an eventful enough few days, hopefully this, the longest blog to date is interesting enough without a small fib at the end.

Pakse, we’re coming for you!

Karate – Not Hong Kong Phooey

The next day we are off to Kratie on another mini bus, where I am currently blogging. This one has 4 motor bikes loaded on the back which is where our packs are also tied down. It looks like there will be more room for our feet this time for the 4 hour journey.

Haulage Cambo Style

Haulage Cambo Style

I was wrong, we’ve just arrived at the main bus stop where we pickup a collection of boxes, packages and other passengers. Okay there are 14 passenger seats and the driver crams in 18, two in the front seat designed for one, 4 into 3 on so on. Thankfully ourselves and a German couple are located in the seats we’ve paid the $7 for. Hey wait a minute we are stopping again, another two get on, this is getting interesting. The locals rearrange themselves expertly. In the front including the drive there are 4, then another who nestles herself on the rest next to the KP. Following a few more stops for juice & air we hit the road, finally on our way just one hour later than scheduled. Then 30 mins up the road we stop again, yes it’s another passenger.

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Pile them in

The Cambodian’s may not all be able to read, but they are sure as fuck good at maths. They get 21 into 14 without any division required. The police at the numerous check points along the way obviously can’t count though :-), regardless we arrive safely, in this town on the Mekong river, known for the Irrawaddy dolphins.

 

Land Of The Dolphins

Welcome to the Land Of The River Dolphins

The usual group of hoteliers are waiting, offering rooms and assistance about the town. When you want one, just like the police at home, there is not a Tuk-Tuk insight. So we take a gander, packed up, not ideal as it’s one in the afternoon and fucking roasting. We stumble across a guest house with rooms for $6, even tho’ we don’t want a room, just beer, food & the WiFi. They insist we see it, the KP takes a look, it’s more than acceptable but we are planning on staying a while so want a room on the river, the mighty Mekong, the twelfteenth longest (my school geography lets me down, I thought it was the 8th) river in the world. The town is on the east bank which means the sunset will be viewable if the room allows it. As the proprietor of the guest house continues to bang on about the room whilst we eat, we decide to rent a bike here. As usual this requires a passport as deposit, which he starts scrutinising like we are located at the Kazakh border. I ask what he’s doing?  “Just checking sir, is problem, you have no free pages.” No Mr you are just being an awkward cunt! Fuck your room and your bike. We converse ourselves in Russian, taking the gamble he doesn’t understand, thankfully he doesn’t, we pay and leave. Turning left not right, which results in a much longer walk to the river, Doh! Nightmare it’s half 3 but still roasting. Then after quite a walk, out of the sunshine like a gift from above a Tuk-Tuk appears. Drive makes a quick one eighty and no more than 10 seconds later, we are at the hotel we were trying to locate. Sods law, that’s Murphs law if you’re Irish. We decide to use the wheels to check a guest house that’s supposedly good.  Well The KP checks, she’s good aye, my Princess and Angel all in one. The room is too dark, plus without a river view. We head back to our first choice,  the Oudom Sambath which gets the KP’s approval. She’s done well once more, we are on the top floor and the communal balcony area the biggest I’ve ever seen. It offers a vast panoramic of the river,  with rear access for early birds to catch the rise of the sun also.

We settle down with the K7, tripod and obligatory beers. You can see the force of the river, even tho’ it’s only travelling steadily,  gently even.  I’m not sure you’d think that tho’ if you was in it overboard. The only other major river I’ve seen is the Danube. Having disco’d on it in quite a number of the capital cities it passes through. Bratislava, Slovakia was the most impressive I’ve seen, granted it was after the snow melt.  It’s ferocious and to be fucking frank, crossing the gang plank to the botel was scary as fuck! If you fell in you’d be gone in the blink of an eye. Here the Mekong seems like it’s meandering, not that I’d fancy my chances of swimming to the other side. We are joined by an interesting Belgian guy, who informs us it’s not the other side at all but the island Koh Trong. Fuck me the river is actually wider than we thought! He also informs us that the town closes early. We shoot off to find a restaurant for food and drink followed by another early night, we got dolphins to catch, observe I meant, in the morning.

River Wide

One hell of a river !

Unless you are crazy or a rabid dog. It’s not a good idea to operate between the hours of 12 and 3. Therefore early starts are a must, especially if you’re a ginger, or a kazakh who fears the sun like a vampire. So we’re up at 5:30, myself a bit earlier to get some shots from the the rear of the expansive balcony.

wakey wakey

wakey wakey

Following the local brekkie of noodle soup, we get a motor bike and head north along the river to Krampie, the best location on this stretch of the Mekong to see the endangered Irrawaddy dolphins. This bike is much like the rest, the common feature, at least on the last three we’ve had, the speedo and clock are not working, most probably disconnected to protect resale value. This combined with us not being observant enough, results in us missing the 15km destination and travel at least twice as far as needed. It’s fun tho’ and we get to see small little villages with lots of happy kids all shouting hello, hello. Also see a bit of fishing going on local to a small sand bar.

Fishing

Fishing

dolphin

Dolphin

We get to the Dolphins which are so rare, experts estimate their numbers to be less than 80. A treat to get to see them. These dolphins are not as active as those in the ocean. We have many sightings, but it reminds me more of a whale than a dolphin, slowly surfacing when it needs air. Their most active time though is early in the morning or late evening. Thanks to the speedo it’s mid day and we’ve missed that. Before we go back drive takes us to the large sand bar in the river,  we disembark the long tail boat in the middle of the Mekong! Slighty surreal to be honest, reality is quickly brought to the forefront by how hot the fucking sand is.

Docked at the Sand bar

It’s a very quiet town so once again we don’t do much in the evening apart from watching the sunset, we are going to visit the island in the Mekong in the morning. The KP’s only sun protective long sleeve shirt is in the laundry, and she’s threatening to not go in the morning. So we are on a search for another long sleeved shirt. It’s not easy, but we finally end of with a long sleeved top, it’s bright orange and should have a volume control, see……

orange

She’s been Tangoed

Jim Jam's

The locals love their Jim Jam’s

We share the 15 minutes boat trip to the Island with a few locals 1000 riel, that’s 25 cents one way. Also making the trip are a few locals, many of them in pyjama’s, Kraite’s latest fashion wear.

We arrive and take two push bikes, a dollar a piece. A great way to take a gander of the Island. The KP is happy, she’s at the controls instead of on the back of the motor. The only other time I’ve seen her on a bike was at Hype Park in London, where she was a little unsteady. This should be fun. The bikes are great as they are the traditional type with baskets up front, doing our most to integrate see we are.

bikes-2

Wheels parked up for a rest

The Island is meant to be a 14km round trip, so we set off but quickly make a beer stop. There’s no fridge so we opt for the Cambodian stout ABC. Nice it is too, a good start to the day, the breakfast of champions. It’s good fun cycling, we pass peoples homes, groups of happy kids, chickens, dogs, people cleaning rice from their harvest. We reach the end of the island and on the western side there is a water village……

Water village

Life on the River

The KP wonders why they live on the river?  I have no answer, I can only suppose it’s for easy access to the fish, or the fact they just like it.

The Island is beautiful lots of crops planted, lush paddy fields, various groups of cows grazing, a selection of farming equipment which helps take you back in time. Plus we’ve beat the heat, having set out at seven. It’s magic meandering along together on the wheels, soon though the KP’s skills are called into question.  I stop to take in a pair of cows farming some hay in a circle. She also decides to take a look but without stopping. A direct collision is avoided at the last moment as she veers to the left, her peddle taking the skin off my ankle. I’m thankful it was just a close call, but it confirms my thoughts, it’s not possible for her to ride a motorbike just yet 🙂 even though she wants it everyday.

paddy field

Paddy Field

sand view

Sand bank

Fishing

Fishing

That’s it, a busy morning done. We take the boat back and spot an interesting method of fishing along the shore, the thought gone into the design philosophy is excellent. Then you’ve guessed right, we don’t do much which is followed by another early night. Tomorrow we’ve leave for Laos at 07:00. I’m excited if only for Beerlao, Billy had told me it’s good a few years back.

beerlaos

It is, I sampled some in Phnom Penh.

Following the collection of the laundry, which importantly includes 5 clean pairs of pants. We are brought to the pickup point by Tuk-Tuk, the minibus soon arrives. It’s heavily overloaded with all sorts of packages so our packs are piled in the aisle and with our feet squashed in between sacks of rice, we set off. It’s not the most comfortable, but it’s only for 5 hours or so. I thank the roads of the RoK for giving me the tolerance required for such a journey. It’s a breeze, I spend the time blogging.

The road condition is excellent with only a small section rutted. It must have been done in the last few years, as where we are heading to Mondulkuri, was one hell of a journey in the not so recent past. The reason why not so many tourists head out this way. The scenery soon changes, this is rural Cambodia.

Bus to Modulkiri-1

More rural

 

We arrive in the small town of San Ramoen and need digs. It’s dark so we head to a place we spotted just up the road, a 5 minute pack laiden stroll. They have rooms, $12 with fan & $20 with air con, we take the fan for two nights. The room is a fair size with two 3/4 beds, which are big enough for two, but I go to check if they have a proper double, which they don’t. Upon returning to the room the KP is swatting flies, she’s already zapped 2 with one left to go. I join her but soon there are three buzzing around and they are big bastards, with a big buzz. Wait there a minute, they are not flies, they are bees, like a large version of the British wasp, and they’re growing in numbers. They must have a nest in the light fitting? The KP has now downed about 4 of them, which means it won’t be long before the whole nest is on attack mode. We quickly depart and by that time there’s about 12 to 15 buzzing about. Thankfully they have an alternative room which is on the lower levels, clean and nest free. Also it’s $10 and almost identical, maybe the $2 was for the insect’s home as travellers in these parts tend to visit for excitement.

The excitement that’s on offer in these parts, in addition to bee-keeping are extreme off road biking, trekking and climbing, and the wild life. Now I’d love to go off-road biking, I bet it’s banana’s but with my biking skills a millions miles from achieving that we settle for the Elephant Valley Project.

Fucking Banana's

Off-Road biking – Fucking Banana’s

 

It’s an Eco-tourism project, which means it’s not solely driven by profit and helps do its bit for the environment and the local community. Providing jobs and education, sustaining the forest and also giving the chance for elephants to retire in peace, being just elephants, after a hard life of graft.

You can find out all about the project in more detail yourself, but briefly, they offer the chance for owners of elephants to sell or rent their mammals for a life in the sanctuary. Generally these are elephants that have been utilised in the construction, logging or tourism industry’s for the last 20-30 years. Animals that have been over worked and mentally over stressed. In addition the mahouts (glossary) are also offered employment at the project. They also do much work for the Bunong community, the indigenous people of Mondulkuri having lived there for over 2000 years, who are a minority in Cambodia. A special brand of people who are animistic, which means they believe that everything has a spirit, that’s me, you, trees, plants, rocks, everything! Check them out with the help of google, they are, in my opinion very unique. The project is also doing much work to help legally acquire the land for the Bunong people from the government. They are doing a great job and we were happy to be part of it, if it was only for a day. Please check the project out and visit if possible, it will be good for your karma. www.elephantvalleyproject.org

We are a group of eleven and when we are getting our briefing from the guide they are here again. It’s the KP who spots them and this time they’re in a swarm, it looks like a cloud, but in fact a tightly compacted collection of thousands of fucking bee’s.

Swarm of bees

Bee Swarm – pic stole from the net

 

She seen them, but they must have missed her as they didn’t attack in revenge of their four fallen friends. They were close enough to spook our guide tho’ she had obviously seen the mass aggravation they can cause. Once composed she delivers the spiel and interesting it is to, background info of the project, the plan for the future, elephants in general both captive and wild, finished with a brief safety run down.

Off we go for another bit of trekking, we getting good at this now, and then in the dense forest. There they are, the elephants, a group of four and they seem to stop everyone in their tracks.

Elephants-1

Elephantastic

 

We follow the guide to circle them to a better vantage point, it’s bath time. It’s the KPs first ever time to see one, we must have missed the ones that patrol the streets of Bangkok searching tourists. For me also apart from a visit to Billy Smarts circus when I was nine, It’s my first time to see them this close, especially in their own environment. It’s fanfuckingtastic! Magic, as a French member of our group exclaimed. This group are quite new to the foundation 3-4 years and have not yet fully learnt how to be elephants, so the mahouts help them to bathe.

Elephant Manout-1-2

Have some of that.

Elephant Manout-1

Mahouts helping with the rinse.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We follow the group through the forest for the morning, at times they are less than 4 metres away it’s exhilarating, especially for the KP as the distance is cut to less than a metre, as her and two others of the group get split from the rest by an elephant who changed direction for more bamboo. The guide an English girl in her mid twenties is excellent, providing a wealth of elephant knowledge as well as each elephants individual story. All of which are extraordinary. Following a break for lunch and from the mid day heat, we set off again to locate another 2, these are bigger creatures who are more settled at the foundation. Bath time should be more interesting as they are able to do it for themselves, unfortunately today they are in lazy mode and don’t play game. We trek after them also, seeing them destroy much bamboo and parts of the forest, it’s great watching them in their natural environment. Then they get more interested in the group, coming closer and closer ignoring some tasty banana tree trunks, focusing on us. The guide asks us to retreat, then tells us, then again and again. Then the guide clicks, who’s got fruit she shouts. “Who’s got fruit in their bag?” Yes you’ve guessed it right, the KP.

 

You looking at me ?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Elep-1-6

Hungry

 

Elep-1-5

Trunk off !

 

Elep-1-2

Muncing again

 

Elep-1-3

You looking at me big ears ?

 

Well done love, (ok I admit it, I put it there 🙂 it was part of our breakfast), after a frantic search she locates the banana’s and passes them to the mahout who throws them to the elephants and then they go off on their way, no longer interested in us what so ever. It’s always exciting with the KP, I love you honey!

We trek a bit more observing the two large females. During the day I take over 900 shots (obviously too excited) with the K7, the KP makes a few movies and we are back in town. Food & drinks which includes my first ever and second, Bunty’s Somerset cider for a very reasonable $2 a piece and it’s another relatively early night, the bus leaves at 8 in the morning.

Ohhhh Arrrrr cider

Ohhhh Arrrrr Cider

 

Nelly The Elephant

Unexpected Tropical Paradise

We’d briefly heard about the Cambodian Islands, they’ve only been accessible for the last 3 years or so. The word on the street & in the guide (less) books was that they are not massively developed, some totally uninhabited! Great for some Robinson Crusoe style play acting (I’m referring to the book not Tom Hanks and a ball) not to mention the possibilities of secluded passionate romance resulting in sand reaching parts of your body it shouldn’t ;-). (We should all live in hope – please tell me you do to?)

Lush

 

We chose the smaller of the two main Islands. Koh Rong Samloen a 45min speed ferry away. Our unrewarding 5 star experience did thankfully allow us to revise our original choice from the bigger of the two. This was due to hearing it had become over populated with spaced out back packers, not suitable for flash packers (thanks Billy) such as ourselves. Anyways – If my raver within wanted to make a surprise appearance we could always move Islands in a 10 minute hop for a bop.

I can’t speak for the KP but my expectations were high. Respect once more Cambodia, you delivered again, the expectations were surpassed. The island really was a tropical paradise, the sort Judith Charmers would present on ‘wish you were here’ in the 80’s. Pure white super fine sand, crystal clear waters, romantic $30 bungalows with running water, $1.50 beers, $4 cocktails and a fresh water fucking waterfall to top it all off. Not to mention top quality coral and a fair selection of fishy fishes, being fishy just at the peninsula around the corner. Fair do’s it was cracking.

Bloody Lovely

 

The type of sand encountered I’ve only ever experienced once before, was at the Maldives. There it’s a $1000 a night, minimum. Where you share the experience with other 5 star wankers, drinking $40 cocktails! Fuck that for a game of soldiers again! The thought makes me want to spew, but we live and learn. How long this Island will remain affordable to the masses is anyone’s guess, my advice, come, and come fucking quickly.

Ok the reefs are bigger & better in the Maldives with sea life much more abundant. However 80% of the coral looks dead.  It’s been bleached,  global warming the named culprit, a rise of half a degree Celsius they say has resulted in boring coral, quite possibly dead, certainly not worth the entry fee. Not that the travel agents and their 10yr old photos portray that, so beware. Us though, right now. We weren’t expecting much at all, so are delighted with what we discovered. Masses of fishy fish fishes and a wide selection of lively colorful coral. Tidy darts indeed. I’m especially happy for the KP as it’s her third crack at snorkelling and the first time it’s been “fucking awesome” she also swore in Russian, but that’s too unlady like to print. My thoughts when we were in the water tho’ we’re “achoyenayaya-ya-ya” 🙂 My actual words later back at the bungalow were “Zay-e-Bal” as for the first time since I was 15yrs old, my fair ginger skin, got right proper fucking sunburnt. My back, for the search of better words is “on Fucking Fire!”

Ginger & Sun - No

Ginger & Sun – No

Thankfully my act of total stupidity is discovered only during our next mini adventure, not before. I say thankfully as we had a laugh n half, navigating the sometimes slippery rocks and relatively easy climb to the start of the fall. The KP once again proving her  Trojan attributes and cracking on with it. Lesser birds would be reading a book on the beach!

Meanwhile we crack off a few shots whilst showering and maybe we make the most of the secluded location, with no sand in sight 🙂 I’m saying nowt!

Fresh

 

 

 

waterfall together

Tidy Darts

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Our bungalow neighbour from the Ukraine, followed our advice of clambering to the waterfall the following day. Her trip was cut short when she found one of these on her rucksack.

 

Thank fuck I only got sunburnt. I’m not too keen on our eight legged friends. The KP, she gets freaked out by ants. So the inevitable meeting we’ll no doubt have during our trip, should be eventful to say the least! I try to convince ourselves that thanks to the story and richard-seaman, we are now mentally prepared? Yeah right oh! Hopefully there’ll be some fair distance between us.

 

 

 

Nice

Nice

 

 

During the rest of the time on the Island we managed a five hour hike, along the beach and then through the forest to the Island’s Lighthouse with resident operational Artillery.

Artillery

Boom !

 

 

 

 

 

 

We don’t see any spiders on the way just army upon army of ants, as ever, all of them on some major mission. We also uncover evidence of life at the light house, not quite like Robinson Crusoe’s foot print discovery, but washing on a line. We are later told the Military are based here and for a dollar they’ll take you up the lighthouse. We didn’t see them which is a relief, I think we might have been more unsettled by men with guns, than if we met a serious creepy crawly.

Robinson Crusoe

Who’s here ?

The rest of the four days was spent drinking cocktails and lazing around, the break from wifi and 3G much welcomed. The place we stayed was owned by a big German with a rottweiler. His team of staff were all very efficient, friendly & helpful. The pick of the bunch was the guy with a huge infectious smile who in addition to ferrying guests about the Island & fixing anything mechanical, made the cocktails. Each one crafted superbly proving that cocktail creation is an art form, one which I have much admiration for.

what would you like sir ?

Who needs happy hour

The Whiskey Sour’s in particular were epic, as were my old stable the Long Island’s. Can’t comment on the Gin Fizz as we didn’t try them :-). The KP got addicted to the Bailey Shakes and tho’ a girly wurly choice, my mates we’re not here, so I said fuck it and had more than a few also. Though I would like to point out this was only so her addiction could be understood. It’s the first time I’ve seen her drink a cocktail for breakfast. Proving that she’s getting more Welsh by the minute.

The KP loving it

The KP loving it – One of the rare times, without a Bailey’s Shake

So there you have it. It was superb and we loved every minute! Ok I admit that’s a big fat lie actually. The fact my ginger alert failed me for the first time in over 20 years, will not be forgotten in a hurry! I’m four days into the future and it’s still bastard painful.

When we are leaving the Island our heads are full of thoughts of Elephants, River Dolphins and Laos beer, the dream rolls on.

 

The Curse Of The 5 Star Hotel

I’ve stayed in quite a number of 5 starer’s. Lived in a few actually and they almost always:

– are without character.
– provide a welcome gift.
– have excellent service.
– populated by wankers.

Welcome Gift

Welcome Gift – Usual bollocks

This hotel on Sokha beach fails to deliver one of the above. Unfortunately it’s the 3rd listed item, not the fourth. Ohhh and everything is always daft expensive. Thankfully that’s not the case here with professionally made cocktails coming in at $5, very reasonable.

Ok not everyone who stays in a five star hotel is a wanker. The percentage is high though, 70-80% in my opinion.  What that then does is convert the remaining 20-30% of guests into wankers also. Ourselves included,  that’s assuming we weren’t already :-).

Hotel guests do not interact with each other, as if everyone else is too special.  This creates a shit atmosphere which in this particular hotel also has an impact on the locals. The first time since we have been in country the locals look serious and not their usual happy go lucky looking selves.

The idea of staying here was to avoid the now busy, backpacker overrun town. Which we are told is also a magnet for those that love ice,  a cheap, dirty & highly addictive local narcotic. So the hotel delivered there,  I got exposed to the town for a few brief minutes whilst arranging our travel to the Islands. I got offered ice twice before I was heading back to the oasis.  Billy would be appalled what they did to his town. It’s been developed at breakneck speed into a mish mash of bars, hotels and travel agents. Much like many spanish beachside resorts which the British influence killed in the 80’s.

We enjoyed the cocktails, especially at the pool bar (a first for the KP) and the early morning runs on the beach, movie style (honest, we actually did a bit of fitness). However staying at the hotel was a mistake. Or maybe not? It’s given us a good lesson as to fuck off 5 star wanking hotels and also given us time to decide which Island to visit!

Dragon Statue

Five Star Dragon

As we leave we are feeling the time was well spent, we changed our minds as to which Island to visit, we are feeling confident it’s the right choice. Lets go and find out ?

Three Day’s Later – Moving South

Well we had three nights in Kampot City, not the planned one. We are feeling good for it, as we head south west to the beaches and Islands beyond. I’m penning this in the taxi journey, the bus was full as we didn’t book, an earlier lesson I’ve not heeded. Balls!

The reason for the extended stay was a combination of things :

1. The city is safe, friendly & Very Bloody Nice.
2. Our room, shower [yippee 🙂 ] and bed, in an old French style building with loads of charm, was smashing.
3. The bout of crabs! ……..* {see below & also the last blog}.

For such a small city there is lot to keep you occupied, we didn’t actually do much as my stomach unfortunately controlled 70% of our time. The highlights were as follows, listed in order of importance :

1. We located a Wedding Venue 🙂 That we shall be surprised to beat.

2. My Moto skills were considerably improved to somewhere near intermediate 😉 okay maybe. Roundabouts, Bridges, Cows, Dogs & Trucks navigated with somewhat ease.

Old Bridge

 

3. Chilling out, meeting cool people and reading the independent Kampot Survival Guide, a very comical (fucking funny actually) informative read, giving a good insight not only to the region but to the country as a whole. Composed by a fellow countryman who must be a right laugh. Unfortunately we didn’t get to meet the man in person, a bit of character by the sounds of it. Actually thinking now, maybe that’s not such a bad thing, I most probably fucking know him.

4. Getting recommended the best hotel (the King stays there), on the best beach, in Sihanoukville. Also meeting the guy the recommendation came from.

5. Riding in the countryside.

The Cambo Country Side

 

6. This point – It could be argued should be elevated to number 2. As when checking the rate on Agoda, which was reduced by 64% to a very reasonable $152 a night. I discovered ‘Agoda points’ after quizzically hitting the redeem button. Unbeknown to me, the 3 years of sporadic use had already accrued over 700,000 points which when converted into hard cash equated to a little over three hundred yankee dollars. Yes we could stay for Fucking Free! (if i still had the ifone and it’s automated payment, Agoda points would still be a fucking mystery to me, fuck you apple.)

So there you are readers : Cambodia – We are fucking loving you more and more, Day by Day, almost Minute by fucking Minute. The Kings Hotel of choice, here we come! If it’s good enough for you, it’s more than fucking good enough for us! The bastard budget even thinks so!

* No. Not that those type of crabs, we have only been sexual with each other. I’m meaning the Kep Crab Shits – which made us both, myself in particular, feel a little under the weather. Thank fuck the jet wash is also popular in Kampot otherwise my ring would now be feeling like an old garden shed that’s been sanded for about a week.

A Dose Of Crab’s

The first destination is the coastal town of Kep, famous for it’s crab market. It took three hours by taxi, the KP amazed by the condition of the road which is like silk compared to back home. The culinary delight is crab and Kampot pepper which we sample and delicious it is too. The pepper is especially aromatic, pungent even, with a super taste. We try various crab dishes during our two day stay, scrumptious, however we both feel you could become crabbed out, very quickly indeed. I’ve never had crabs myself, but know they are most irritable.

KEP crab

The original reason of travelling to Kep was to visit an Egyptian friend of ours, and discover if this coastal town was indeed a good venue for a wedding. Unfortunately he sold up and moved on just a few days before our arrival. So the many questions I’ve got will need to be answered by email, or someone else we happen to meet. Our accommodation is a basic bungalow, but more than acceptable for the few days we plan to stay. We like the town, very laid back and lazy, with quiet roads that enables us even with my limited bike skills to rent a moped, which we drive to the entrance of the National park. Earlier this year the first time the KP had been in a forest, she just shouted jungely, jungely, jungely repeatedly for a few days. Now she’s in the middle of one and attacks it with gusto.

KP leading the way

KP leading the way

OK it’s mapped out and signposted, but an excellent introduction to trekking, she takes the lead which I’m happy with, firstly I’m impressed with how she just cracks on and also the spider webs are cleared from my path 🙂 After a fair amount of sweat, cuts & scratches we make it to sunset rock.

sunset rock

Then after sun down it’s very interesting making it back out :-), which we manage to do aided by our natural night vision, followed by a 3 click walk back to our wheels.

Next it’s onto Rabbit Island, 30mins by boat to what could be our wedding venue in 2016! 🙂 🙂 🙂 It’s nice, but we are not feeling the wedding vibe it’s too raw I believe, not so much for us, but for sure some of our guests for sure. I can hear my sisters words “yeah right oh, we are not fucking staying there mun!”


$7 Bungalow

$7 Bungalow

‘There’ is a $7 bungalow on the beach, very basic without even a fan. The KP is not too impressed either but due to our previous stay on the Island in Thailand, we are both mentally prepared and it’s no bother. Well for one night at least. I’m not sure I’d want to stay a week, regardless of how much it would aid the budget!


The KP has an early night whilst I drink beer and whiskey with a group of guys from the Czech Republic. I joke with them about Jak-e-mash, Borat’s slogan which is in fact Czech not Kazak. I obviously have too much whiskey as I can’t remember now, what it actually means. One of the them has the idea to check out the phosphorus plankton. It’s here also and it’s a lot stronger than we experienced on the Island. Unfortunately it involves skinny dipping with four strangers, all of whom are male, thankfully it’s a non gay event, and the luminous speckles in the water are brighter than my pubic patch.

Rabbit Island

The following morning myself and the KP rise at 06:00 hours, and set off on a 2-3 hour trek around the Island. No map or signposts this time, we just follow our noses until after about 30mins we are aided by man’s best friend, who then leads the way.  We are getting good at this now, the KP has even chosen to wear flip flops, nutter. There is a resemblance of a path to follow, which goes in and out along the coast. There are many crab farms gridded out, and the locals are also harvesting sea weed, maybe they make bread just like the West Walians and their Lava bread back home. Hopefully not, I don’t like that shit! I have only ever tried it twice though, once was enough actually.

After about 2 hours of following the dog we happen upon a few locals, logging, which is no doubt illegal, not that I’ll mention that. They are friendly enough tho’ which is good because the Axes they are wielding look fucking sharp. One of them explains it’s not possible to continue on our way until the tide goes out in a few hours. Just as I’m ready to start the hike back, the KP kindly asks for a lift by boat, which is agreed. We need to say bye to the dog as the captain shoe’s him away. Not to be beaten, when we are 30 metres off shore the dog decides to make a swim for it. Just as we are wondering how we’ll help the canine board, it leaps from the water and with a quick bunk up from myself, it’s aboard affectionately licking my face and head. Dogs are not so bad are they? Maybe we’ll get one before we have kids 😉

Our guide on the boat

We stick to the original plan, one night was enough at Rabbit Island. Following the boat trip back to the mainland we head towards Kampot by Tuk-Tuk. The plan is to stay a night, then move onto the beaches to the south, where our wedding venue is maybe awaiting us.

First things first, we need some digs, hopefully we’ll find something which is a bit more than a wooden bungalow. We need a shower and fast!

Now The Adventure Can Begin In Earnest

So she’s back, and looking good, it’s only 2 hours time difference so combined with the fact she’s a mini Trojan, I’m not expecting her to be whinging about jet lag, like some of my ex-colleagues who were, and no doubt still are, complete fanny’s.

She's Back

She’s Back

I can’t lie I’ve enjoyed myself. Only needing 4 eyes, not 6 has been relaxing, but I have to be honest, I was starting to get bored. Apart from getting my bearings and a few recon ganders, I’ve purposely done little. One of the joys of travelling is sharing that experience with others, be it friends, family or a.n.other(s). Well considering my a.n.other also happens to be my soul mate, it was best to wait before I did anything ‘Tidy’.

Plans for the night of her arrival are sorted, Bale and the boys are in Belgium which kicks off at midnight local time. There are a number of bars where I can most probably get the game on the box, but I’m slightly more passionate about the Footie than your average run of the mill armchair ‘fan’, therefore it’s best we watch it in the room on a feed, I do tend to go a bit mental. Usually I’d be at the game, but there are 2,500 other Welsh with tickets, that’s ten fold what we normally get away, we are top of the group though and the Belgique trip is an easy one. At the end of the game top of the group we remain, as we manage to get a very creditable nil nil draw, with the players showing a unity which has been lacking for decades, roll on Israel in March.

We spend two days basically chilling, she’s not moaned but I want her get over her week of travel – massages, food n drinks then onto the must see, before we leave. That’s Pol Pot and the Killing Fields for a solemn reminder of the Evil that exists in our world. The audio guide is very detailed and moving, it’s hard to imagine that what went on, was during my life time. When the dictator first put his crazy plan into action I was 3 years old. Other atrocities have followed and there is still total madness happening today, right now. The true extent of what, who actually knows? It took the rest of the world years to uncover what Pol Pot actually did, and he got away with it. The respect I have for the Cambodian’s goes to another level. The faces on the pictures of the people at S21, will stay with us forever.

what went on discovered in the early 80’s

We need a bit of something else and find it at the Russian Market, a chaotic hive of stalls, nothing at all like a Ruskie Bazaar. The only thing Russian is the name, just as well as I have no need for an Ushanka for the next few months at least. All my bald head needs is factor 50 sun cream.

With our respects paid and the KP revitalised, we decide to move on. We have a rough plan which involves going south, then west, north, south east and then north again to exit Cambo before my time is up, which is about 20 days away.

The main plan though is to play it by ear and see how it goes, whatever, lets just hope it’s fun.

Phnom Penh – Please Forgive Me !

Well I didn’t want to stay! I can’t hide the fact – it’s blogged!

That was mainly based on my first visit 12 years previous. My second visit 5 years later was only fleeting, one night with Billy on the way to Sihanoukville. He was holed up there for a while, on the run from his Mad Mrs, the Poisoned Playstation [need a word here – please comment], he did about 9 months before she tracked him down. Which is not a bad little stint, the main bonus was that he finally escaped for good a little later, with his bit’s intact too. She liked cutting things & Thai ladies are famously know for cutting that all important ‘thing’ so well done Billy.

Nice town it was too, though I’ve not been hearing good things about it lately, heard it’s got a little bit too much like Pattaya.

That can’t be said about Phnom Penh. Okay I’ve not done any of South America, Tokyo, Oz or Sarf Africa, but I’ve had a fair gander. I can honestly tell you Phnom Pehn is the best city I have visited. Better than NYC, Lundunistan, the French one with the tower, all those in Russia and for sure Bangfkinkok! OK I’m currently excited as the KP is almost back here, but I made this decision last night. Even the unsavoury incident on the Tuk-Tuk was a blessing and has given me a new lease of life, more of that later, but I’m back in the real world!

Festival Crowd

It’s so Vibrant and Alive, yet the people are so calm and collected. There’ll be action here also if you want it, but even the bar girls are not pestering you for drinks, they have manners. Gastronomically – I’ve had 3 different meals at 3 different venues, each one being betterer 😉 than the last. I’ve not been looking for top eateries either, that passion has to wait for the KP, I’ve either got lucky or Top Nosh is possibly just common. The service is something which has impressed the most i think, along with those BiG Smiles, it’s exemplary!

OK the service in the UK is generally pretty decent, you wouldn’t think it tho’ the amount every one bitches about it. I used to, be a top complainer back home, not anymore unless it is really warranted. That’s due to the fact I’ve been to Russia, what a fuck up the service is there. You can be waiting as much as 20mins to get a drink, let alone the food. Then your main will come before your soup. God help you if your waitress is on her fag break when you want another pint. The other free waitresses, and there can be as many as fucking Five of them, will not serve you, they can’t. Everyone has their one specific little task, and you just need wait. The good old soviet union, it’s amazing they managed to get to outer space I can tell you.

Hotel pick up

Yebat – Hotel pick up

I do like Moscow thought it’s a top place, also vibrant, you need plenty of coin and the lingo helps, but I’ve had some cracking times there ! Elsewhere in Russia too.

So Phnom Penh please forgive me & show the KP a good time. I’m not sure how long she’ll want to stay, but I’m in no rush to fuck off, that’s for sure.

Insanity ? – What Was I Thinking !

I don’t care where you go, you will always find something that’s better than back home. In Kazakhstan for example it’s the food 🙂 Ok I’m joking, sorry love. Even Farley’s rusks are too spicy for them. There it’s the countdown at the crossing, let’s you know how long you got to get to the other side, great idea! Here in Asia and most notably in Thailand, top of my list, it’s the Jet wash, a hand held bidet with a trigger. Thankfully the bathroom here has got one, which makes having the shits not as painful an experience, as it can be at home. Yes feeling rough again – I’m struggling to do Insanity R