More cambodia and some lao lao

I think i left the last blog with me arriving in phnom penh, a perfectly normal name for a city if your cambodian pippa you massive douche. anyway i got there pretty late in the evening around 8 or 9 and headed for a recommended guesthouse on the lakeside. Its always a little bit nerve racking being taken around at that time on you own in Asia because you here stories of people getting taken random places and being made to pay a fortune to get where they want but I arrived at Number 10 guesthouse safely and recieved the warmest welcome i think i’ve ever had. The lakeside has been a travellers haunt for some time and the locals there are absolutely awesome. They got me a beer and some food within 10 minutes and we played poker into the night sitting out in front of the lake with a tuc tuc driver called sam and three finish guys david samu and the other one i can’t remember… im sure he wont mind. The next day david, samu and i headed off to S21 or Tuol Sleng which used to be a primary and secondary school but following the khmer rouge coming to power was turned into a torture prison for anyone considered against pol pot’s regime. Its a very unnerving place with traces of blood splattered all over. Furthermore the khmer rouge took photos of every prisoner there each of which is put up on display throughout the prison. Its very very dark and believe me those faces live with you after you see them. There where children that must have been as young as 7 and mothers with babies. i really was not prepared for it. People would be taken there if they had links to the old regime or, as time past, if they were suspected of trying to overthrow the khmer rouge. having seen that we decided that the killing fields might be a bit much in the same day and so we walked about phnom penh trying to get a feel for the place but it was kind of difficult after seeing that. The next day we headed to the killing fields where over 8000 people were murdered by khmer rouge soldiers. Many of the prisoners at S21 were taken there when they had made their ‘confessions’ to the prison guards. This place was truly morbid with peoples teeth still trampled into the dirt. I cant think of the words to describe it so i think i will just leave it there and if you want to know more i really encourage you to read about it. The crimes of the khmer rouge are something we or certainly i did not know enough about. There is a superb book which (here comes the mention of tears again) you won’t be able to read without shedding tears. It’s called ‘first they killed my father’ and i would rather you read that than this garbage. ill leave the matter with this: Until last week NONE of the leaders of the khmer rouge had been charged with the crimes they committed and the one that was last week is appealling the decision despite the fact he has admitted running the S21 prison.

In any case phnom penh will live long in my memory for different reasons. certainly for the horrors committed by pol pot and his army but also for the guys at number 10 guesthouse. The locals came and drank with us all night every night and i cant say how much of a good time i had there with them. One tuc tuc driver called Mr Hai even sang me a song. I also played a shitload (sorry eve) of chess with them. i managed to win a grand total of 1 game out of about 6 against the locals and that victory tasted sweet! theres much more to say about phnom penh but as usual this thing has gone on too long and i want to write about laos as well to get upto date.

So i booked myself on a bus to Laos that left at 6.30am and as is custom at number 10 guesthouse i was up till 1.30 drinking so naturally i was late for my tuc tuc to the bus. which inevitably meant i missed the bus. In my defence it was the 1st and only time since ive been here that a bus left EARLY and this one left considerably early. Anyway i got on another bus and managed to catch up to my one further down the road. I was amazed this was possible but soon realised why. This was a bus that stopped every few hundred meters picking people up. It meant that instead of it taking 12 hours to get to Don Det in Laos it took 12 hours to Stung Treng 3 hours south of the boarder and notably still in Cambodia. Still it had a stunning view over the mekong and cheap rooms so i went to bed with the promise of being picked up at 8am the next day from my guesthouse and taken to Laos. The bus didnt leave till around 10 and to get it i had to take a moto (a ride on the bac of a scooter) outside of town still it was all good and eventually we made it to don det and in suprisingly good time. so good in fact im fairly sure the bus driver had people he wanted to see in Stung Treng and so the extra night.

So don det what to say about it. Its one of the so called 4000 islands and i could see the cambodian mountains from the hamock outside my bungalow. Its a really beautiful place and great for chilling out so i stayed there for 3 or 4 days and ill let you fill in the blanks. From there i was intending to head to Pakse a town not too far north and figure out whether i wanted to go to vietnam or go further into laos until Spike, the male half of my new kiwi best mates spike and sarah, suggested that i go with them to takheak a bit further north to do a bike tour to a huge cave i heard about and was keen to check out. so i changed my ticket (got ripped off as usual) and headed north with them. Now i dont want to sound like im complaining about bus journeys a lot but this one was another (sorry again eve,josh cover your ears!) shitter. i forgot to take a jumper on, a neccesity because they insist on keeping the aircon on the entire journey anywhere you go and so by the end i got off the bus literally shivering for about 20 mins afterwards. the result was a stupid cold. a cold in fucking (sorry) asia the hottest place ive ever been! anyway the bike trip was stunning and on the first day we headed out of town to visit a few smaller caves of which i was amazed by but spike and sarah,who have seen caves in new zealand that are apparently better,were less so. In any case the drive was a winding tarmaced road through various moutainous rocky things. i was way more excited about the fact these bikes had no clutch (my failing point at the uk bike test) but still had gears so i was racing around the corners and getting upto 90kph! then all of a sudden the tarmac decided to disappear and gravel rocks and mud sufficed for the rest of the way to the guesthouse that night. What a bloody nightmare that was but the bungalows we got for the night were absolutely delightful. we’d been told the second day was going to be bad but as a biking novice i thought it would be fine. Nope it was crap and fustrated by the lack of speed i had got all day when we eventually rolled onto tarmac on the road into loksang, our venue for the evening i decided to floor it. Unfortunately this meant that on the way back from some ‘hot springs’ that were actually just a bath with hot water, i decided to gun it past spike and sarah not realising the tight corner up ahead. from what i remember i realised half way round i was either going to skid out or hit the ditch and choose the ditch. what happened next is what ive been told from spike and sarah as i was out cold. they came round the corner to a puff of smoke and an upside down bike lying next to me in a ditch with some local people walking up and having a look at me but not getting involved. Spike checked i was alive and i was and a pick up truck passing from the boarder kindly put me and the bike on the back and took me back to loksang. Sarah came along with me and said i got angry that she hadnt filmed the crash. I have no recollection but in hindsight i kind of am… In anycase all i can remember is waking up to spike entering my room to check on me and me being angry (again) that he had woken me up from a deep sleep. Obviously this is kind of important after youve been knocked out but i was finding logic quite difficult. The next day i woke up feeling ok just in pain from the crash. and we set about finding a mechanic to fix my now deformed bike. Incredibly they fixed a light, replaced a wing mirror, replaced the front brake, and put the bike straight for 75,000 kip or 7.50 pounds! result! the only problem that day was me being too cautious and my foot which hurt a lot when i tried to change gear. Every corner was approached at a speedy 3kph but we got to the town near the cave in time to visit it in the afternoon. I took a bus down there as i was still a bit shaky and had been told, wrongly, that the road there was terrible. Infact it was all smooth tarmac and the bus took bloody ages. still the cave was worth the effort, at 7.5km long it seemed never ending and was full of stalegmites or tights i cant remember which the ones coming down from the ceiling are… due to it taking a while to get through it and back i made the bus back to town very late indeed and when we got to town they couldnt understand where i wanted to be dropped off. having got on at the bus station i said there to which they responded ‘no bus station closed’. evenutally they understood i wasnt intending on taking a bus and i got back. to find spike and sarah had got bored of waiting and decided to go and get food. I was still feeling nautious from the crash so i wasnt hungry and could hardly blame them. they biked it to the cave got back a good hour before i did maybe more. the final day consisted of a gargantuan 145km drive back to the main town takheak and to my amazement i didnt crash the whole way and the bike rental only charged me another 9000 kip (90 pence) for another wing mirror because the other was still in the ditch.

overall it was a brilliant trip and gave me the biking bug which is why i rode from changmai to pai in northern thailand yesterday. another awesome ride! about which ill probably write in 2 or 3 months along with the rest of Laos. Unfortunately this will be the last blog i actually write in the mekong region as i leave in 4 days to hong kong.

im off for a pad mama! over and out.

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cambodia 1

no witty titles this time if you would call the last two witty. i wouldn’t. anyway im writing today from the lakeside in phnom penh, my new favourite city. ive had two and a bit weeks here and its been amazing. ill start with siem reap when after a day and a half (with a break on kho san to watch the arsenal barcelona game) of travelling i arrived having made a few new friends on the journey. kim, chay, nesta and maria. we all went through the ordeal of walking across the boarder in the midday sun at the boarder town of poipet. having gone through that we were like a band of brothers(and sisters)! siem reap is home to the indescribable angkor wat and for the next three days i explored the shit out of it. on the first day we went to six different temples all around the two main temples of angkor wat and angkor thom (lols thom means big in cambodian so that gets a few laughs). i can only remember a few names of the temples we visited on the first day but they were truly awesome. the first was preah kahn. a temple that had been largely brought to ruins but the main lay out still remained. already at the first temple you could see all the carvings in the wall and get a feel for what it was like. there were so many i can’t really be bothered to type intricate details about all of them but another stunning one was i think called som tam. it was a giant astec like structure with steps all the way up the middle. it was a bloody mission to get up it but was so worth it when we got to the top. the view was stunning.

on the second day we visited angkor wat and angkor thom. angkor thom is the city in which the khmers lived and covers a large area. the city itself was once home to around 1 million people but all that remains is the temples as the people believed they were not worthy of a stone house. stone was reserved for the gods. one of the temples in angkor thom has the face of the king imprinted on each side of these tall pillars that rise above the temple. they were put there to look out over the people and supposedly were a tool for keeping them under control. its really incredible that these faces are so intact nearly 1000 years after they were built. the walls still have the ancient carvings eched in superb detail showing how the people fished and farmed. there were about 3 or 4 other temples just in the city of angkor thom but as stunning as they were a beer is waiting for me…. then we went to see angkor wat. what can i say about this marvellous piece of architecture. it really puts the buildings we build today into perspective. the carvings around the outside dipict various mythical tales and show the king (sorry his name is as long as so no chance of me remembering it, he was definitely the 7th of them though) battling with various demons or commanding his people to churn the sea of milk. in the middle you can climb up the stairs to the top and look out over the lake. i really can’t put into words how much of an impact this place had on me especially the next day when we went there for sunrise.

waking up at 5.30 we went to the temple with a one eyed tuc tuc driver called mr. T (amazing). when we got there (me and kim) our hearts kinda sank because there was 4 busloads of bloody chinese tourists. now im not a racist person some of my best friends are chinese but fucking hell they are annoying. they go absolutely bloody everywhere in one big massive fucking group taking photos and moving on never appreciating what they are looking at. i digress… i managed to find a nice spot on the stairs just off the main path up to angkor wat and sat there for 2 odd hours as the sun came up. it was probably the most poinient moment of my short life. sitting there listening to explosions in the sky watching the sun come up over angkor wat. it really makes you think about everything. not only about yourself but about civilisation and what a civilisation is there for. Why are we here? what are we doing? but most of all why the fuck are these chinese people walking over taking a photo and pissing off!?!? but seriously im not ashamed to say i pretty much cried at the moment daybroke.

anyway after those emotional few days i needed a beach break so headed down to sihanook ville on the coast. saying goodbye to kim and maria which was a real shame they were two lovely people. chay and nesta i would see again on victory beach in sihanook ville. while i was there i stayed on a desert island called bamboo island. all these islands are being bought up by russians, americans, french, and british to be turned into sun sea and sand holiday hotspots. well i got to spend a few nights there before those pricks could touch it and it was awesome. singing campsongs around the fire after the power went out was a particular highlight. after that i got sick and had to stay a few nights longer than i wanted which means ive had only a short stay in phnom penh which ill write about later because s.21 and the killing fields are far to fresh in the memory for me to be able to at the moment.

hope everyones good and thanks for reading.

peace and love biiiiaaatttcccchhhh!!!

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oh my buddha!

Hello everybody! i am in siam reap cambodia for a few more hours having seen the truly incredible angkor wat but ill write about it later because i don’t have much time.

I think i wrote a bit about ko tao on the last one but i cant be bothered to read back my own jibberish. I also have no sense of time so i arrived on ko tao an amount of days ago and set about getting my open water ssi diving lisence thing. its not really a lisence as all these companies just say you need it to get your money but its still a good introduction. the first few days were piddling about due to two useless women in our group who saw the whole thing as a chore. on the final day we went down to 18 meters twice. it was fucking awesome! we saw so much coral and there were fish everywhere. loads of eels angel fish and nemos. after that dive i want to do more and more it was such an awesome experience. The whole time spent on the island was brilliant drinking at the local bar with all the instructors (some of whom arrived 14 years ago and never left!). Its easy to see why people stay so long and thats why i decided to pack up and leave because a few days more and i may never have left it was that beautiful a place! The locals were lovely as well which made the trip so worthwhile.

After a days relaxation i headed back to bangkok by bus and managed to arrive 15  minutes into the arsenal barcelona game and watched that with a few people into the early hours on kho san road. at around 7.30 a woman who worked at the travel agents in the bar i was drinking at came up to me and asked if i wanted a ticket to siam reap (cambodia) having overhead me saying i wanted to go. 20 mins later i was on my way. Ive met some awesome people in the last few days even if it was just over a beer. i dont have any more time to talk about them so ill do it next time. im off for some bbq steak in the streets of siam reap before i head south to sihanouk ville tonight.

cheers for reading (i promise ill make the next one a bit more amusing!)

love

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peace up ko tao down

hello everybody and welcome to the second installment of my thrilling blog of asia. So i think i ended the last one talking about the trip to the tiger sanctuary. basically its got even better since then. on the last day in Bangkok i went to the two main temples: the reclining Buddah and the temple of the emerald buddah in the royal grounds. both you can’t really put into words. The reclining buddah was like nothing ive ever seen, it was the length of half a football pitch and the height of a two story building. Made out of mother of pearl and painted in gold it really was stunning. The temple of the emerald buddah was just as good if not better. The grounds are littered  with beautiful buildings painted with gold and flowery patterns built by kings who wanted to outdo there predecessors. Then you walk into the grand temple and immediately you feel completely peaceful and all the grandeur becomes insignificant. I’m not a religious person as many of you know but sitting in that temple it was hard not to feel spiritual when amongst the tourists to see locals meditating in front of a pure emerald buddah sitting atop a mountain of golden ornaments. After the mentalness of Kho San Road it was great to be in such a peaceful place and made the lack of sleep bangkok gave me completely worth it.

that night Abi, Mike and myself got on a bus to the island of Ko Tao. On the journey i got talking to a couple from Belgium who told me stories of Lao and i’ve now decided i have to go there. Anyway we arrived on ko tao after a beautiful ferry ride across the sea. Having watched the sunrise we got a few beers and sat at the front of the boat with some other travelers. Truly the best ferry ride in the world as you arrive into this beautiful island. I’m booked into a diving school on the quiet part of the island (just what was needed after Bangkok) and today (the 11th) we started diving. I’ve already seen a stingray! we got down to about 8 meters and by the end we will be going down to around 20 meters. The beach we are on is where the sunsets and i really haven’t seen many better. The people here are so friendly and kind and really mix well with the travelers. Anyway yer im bored of this and its taken me bloody ages to write because this internet connection is so gash. hope your all good and jealous of me.

byyyyyyyyyyyyyyyye

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ping pongs just the start!

Hello people that are sad, bored, interested, not travelling… I’m writing this in my hostel on Kho San Road, Bangkok (a little further north of the pointer on the map) and its mental. The road is mental, Bangkok is mental, Thailand is mental! they even have Tescos here for christs sake. and boots. but boots is quite handy. Anyway i arrived yesterday at around 6pm local time so thats around 9am UK after a decent flight into Bangkok. Made decent only by an old german called Fred who took it upon himself to provide me with plenty of whisky. To steal a famous comics quote ‘el whisky coke did flow’. Naturally i barely slept and havent had much since tbh. The heat here is insane its bloody humid as! Anyway met a couple, Abby and Mike, pretty much off the bus to Kho San Road. We set about exploring the streets around us and ended up going to a ‘Ping Pong’ show straight off the bat. An interesting experience but on the whole it was pretty nasty to be honest. Very very seedy with old men dissappearing to the toilets for what must have been a very long shit or something rather more sinister. It beggers belief how anyone could have found it erotic but obviously there was something in it.

After one hours sleep Abby, Mike and I went on a day tour we had booked the night before thinking it was around Bangkok. An hour and a halfs drive and Bangkok was long gone we realised we were on a bit of a mission. But it was an awesome day starting with a paddle boat trip around a beautiful floating market and ending in a tiger sanctuary, via the bridge over the river quai. I can’t be bothered to type much more so basically tonight is my last night in Bangkok (its not really worth being here for more than a few days unless your a sadistic nutter or you decide to spend shitloads of money to go travelling to just get obliterated all the time). Tomorrow i’m taking a night bus down to some town i can get a ferry from to the island Ko Tao. Look it up, its sick. Anyway im off out to get obliterated with an few Irish i met on the day trip. bye bitches

TUC TUC PING PONG!

ps pics soon. if you care.

Posted in Tom's Away | 27,867 Comments