A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia

(bit late posting I know!)

sunny 35 °C

Well we headed off to Phnom Penh and I must admit I wasnt expecting too much after our recent trips as I thought it would just be a slightly poorer rubbisher version of Bangkok. Still I was pleasantly surprised, first thing to hit me was the heat, absolutely boiling and a very dry heat rather than the humid heat we'd expereinced elsewhere.

Not as polluted or as many people as Bagnkok and people seemed so much friendlier. The French colonial heritage was there with the buildings looking very French especially along the beautiful esplanade along the riverside. The palace and Silver Pagoda were well worth a look too!

Things were very cheap here although bizarrely you had to pay for everything in US dollars, even the cash machines spat out dollars rather than Riel. They do use Riel for small things like tuk tuks but anything costing anything substantial (well over a dollar) is paid in dollars. Guess because the exchange rate is huge and apparently the notes are easiely forged. you'd need a bucketload of notes to buy a beer so was handy carrying dollars rather than enormous wads of riel.

Bars and restaurants were cool, especially the famous Hearts of Darkness and Howies where there was free pool and Connect 4 (the game of choice in Cambodia!) although it cost us a few beers as we got our arses whooped at both by the locals!

Apparently there is a huge amount of street crime against foreigners in the evenings but we didnt see any issues, the hotel staff (Flamingos, highly recommended!) would take us out on the hotel owned tuk tuks and pick us up at the end of the night so afraid they were for our safety lol! But every single person we met was so friendly and helpful.

The most harrowing moment of the whole trip so far was the visit to Choueng Ek the site of one of the Killing Fields from Pol Pot's reign. The place is one huge field with lots of mass graves, still with bit of clothes and bone on the ground. The centre is a huge Stipa (temple) made out of the skulls of over 8000 bodies found here that they couldn't identify (Pol Pot destroyed all records). Women, children and men all piled up in a grisly display case over 50 feet high. It's amazing how awful this genocide was especially as it's so recent (Pol Pot didn't die until 1998) He had everyone forcibly evacuated from the cities to work on farms and destroyed all books and litereature and killed anyone who he considered intelligent enough to overthrow him. So every single teacher, lawyer, doctor etc and their families (even anyone who wore glasses). He would have them killed with clubs and machetes rather than shooting them as he was a bit short on bullets!

Something I'll never forget now!

From there we got the speedboat (more a torpedo than a boat) that went at ridiculous speeds up the Tonle Sap river. We all sat on the roof hanging onto rails for dear life watching to river gypsy huts and towns on stilts in the river go past at high speed!

We eventually arrived in Siem Reap at the floating village, quite cools seeing full size churches, bars, restaurants, all floating around and bumping into each other on big rafts.

Siem Reap is the town closest to Angkor Wat, the largest temple complexes in the world. Set in the middle of the jungle over 300 sq miles with about 50 major temples as well as another few hundred smaller and more dilapidated ones (some had huge trees growing in the middle if them) they looked staright off a set of Tomb Raider or Indiana Jones (not surprising as that's where they filmed those movies!)

Was bloody hard work in the 3 days we went around them, fisrt 2 days we got bicycles and that was a killer in the heat but worthwhile. The 3rd day we cheated and got a tuk tuk to drive around some more of the outlying ones.

The nightlife was great in Siem Reap including the most amazing bar I have ver seen in my life. The Dead Fish Tower is well worth a look if you're ever out there. The route to the toilet takes you over a small 2 ft wide wooden plank over a big pit. Looking down the pit as you walk over there are about 20 full size crocodiles staring up at you! I kid you not, real live big buggers with no rails, ropes or cages between you and them apart from this small plank you walk over. Also between the main bar and th tables is a sort of pool where all the tables are with stepping stones to get to them. In the water you have to walk over...... you guessed it piranhas!!! The staff just feed the fish and crocs all the left overs each night as well as any rats stupid enough to enter this place!

All in all as the guide book summed it up, the world class challenge in this place is to get drunk in and stagger around without losing any body parts!

The other bars were pretty good too and a huge amount of travellers, older mainly as it's very much a temple history place rather than a pure party town and it's bloody hard going getting round those temples but well worth it.

So Cambodia far exceeded my expectations and probably has been my favourite country so far.

Posted by lcassey 04:09 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

Thailand, the land of smiles

sunny 30 °C

Thailand

well we headed off from Langkawi in Malaysia over to Thailand in what should have been a simple boat trip but ended up being a bit of a palaver.

First they cancelled the express boat to thailand so we had to take ferry to the malaysian coastal town of kuala perlis. From there we could get another ferry to satun in thailand. Well the first part went well but after eventually finding the port to satun in perlis we came accross a few immigration issues. Basically a scam by one official who made up some crap story about our entry via singapore wasn't valid and it,cost loads of ringitts to sort out. Luckily the other guy there was a footie fan so after 20 mins talking about how crap liverpool were and how unlucky Saints were last year and a few cigarettes offered he stamped our passports and we were off. The ferry was actually a longtail boat (think pedalo sized with a spinning wheel on a stick at the back) and we were crammed on with a load of crates of fish and 2 old malay women. Anyway was a bumpy wet journey but was only about 10 mins to satun in thailand.

We'd missed the bus to krabi so ended up getting a bus to hat yai (2 hours on a rammed bus playing real loud karaoke with a Thai schoolgirl sat on my knee (I felt a right Gary Glitter perv but they just dump the next person to get on onto the nearest person's lap!)) then a connecting one to krabi (6 hours) so eventually got to krabi late at night and crashed out ina hotel there. Next morning we got a boat across to one od the beaches near krabi at railay. Wes t railay beach was stunning, limestone karst structures sticking out of the sea with perfect blue warm waters.

We spent a week or so there sunning and kayaking in the day and drinking and eating at nights. The food was amazing especially the spicy salads and prawns the size of small dogs. Place was full of europeans, mostly scandinavians and canadians. The thais were such a friendly bunch always happy. Thailand isn't known as the land of smiles for nothing.

After railey we headed to ao nang 10 mins down the coast and it was pretty similar great beach, bars and food. The rest of thailand over the next 2 weeks was pretty much that all over again.

After a week in ao nang we headed to koh phi phi (where they filmed the beach) and pretty much did the same swimming eating and drinking. We got to see our first muay thai boxing here as well and tried our first and last whisky bucket (had a hangover for 2 days after that one).

Then onto Bangkok which was far nicer than I remembered but I guess they've cleaned it up a lot in 10 years. Relatively clean and not too polluted. Not nearly as bad as India.

Stayed in khao san rd for a few days and saw the sights (temples,palaces'boat trips etc) and the bars in the evening lively and full of backpackers and not too many hookers.

We then stayed for a few days in siam square on the other side of town and saw the sights there. Far more girly bars there. Was hard to find a normal one to watch the footie but found an irish one and sat and watched the rugby and footie without hassle. Wandered through one of the girly bar districts and far more less hassle than last time I was here and no shows on open display with ping pong ball shows much to Chris' dismay lol. just loads of fat old mustachoied blokes with stunning young thqi girls. So we managed the whole of thailand without going to a go go bar and not getting too much grief from hookers.

Didn't get to full moon party in phang an but connecting back through thailand on way back to singapore so maybe then but month visa had run out so onto cambodia where we are now.

Stay tuned for cambodia report soon.

Posted by lcassey 01:42 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Malaysia

sunny 35 °C

So from Singapore it was off to Malaysia, we chose to take the train from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur as First class was about 12 quid. The journey took about 6 hours, train was spotless, very comfortable (reclining seats all the way back) got free drinks and movies on board.

Arrived in KL very refreshed and decided to splash out on a bit of luxury so stayed in the 3 star Concorde right in town. Very reasonable too, about 35 quid for a huge room with aircon, Cable hot bath etc.

Had about 4 baths in the 2 days we stayed there as haven't had one for 7 weeks now and unsure when we'll see one again!! (Not that I've been a smelly thing just only showers available everywhere else!)

KL is pretty similar to Singapore, spotless, cheapish, very modern, loads of malls/bars and very driendly people. The one annoying thing though is the proliferation of 'hostess' bars. You couldn't sit in a bar for more than 5 mins before a Taiwanese/Filipina/Indonesian girl would come over and ask if you want company. Bit annoying when they do it in procession so you never get any peace.

Chris didn't believe me at first when I said that the procession of stunning girls all coming over to speak to him and tell him how gorgeous he was, what a lovely body/accent he had were hookers or 'hostesses'. He just assumed that his natural Northern charm had bowled them all over until the usual phrase "You want company tonight" or "Shall we go to your hotel" came out of every one of their mouths after 5 minutes of pleasantries! He was a little shocked but I think he's grasped the idea now, and a good job as they were all friendly well educated girls rather than the aggressive hostess girlie bars we'll be facing in Thailand. I didn't get any grief from them either I'm an old ugly bugger or they realised very quickly I'd seen it all before and wasn't interested. The standard fibbing line, I'm happily married with 5 kids back home makes them leave you alone!

Food was great here, Mee Goreng noodles being my favourite! Some amazing sights too, the Petronas Towers and the KL Tower were stunning (bloody long walk to the KL tower though). The views from the top of KL Tower were breathtaking.

Still it was a big city and we're bored of them now no matter how nice so after 2 days we headed off to Langkawi, a small island on the Thai border. Now this is the stuff of honeymoons, perfect white powder beaches, stunning blue sea, limestone outcrops along the coast. No hassle from vendors, beggars, just perfect solitude. I've been to plenty of beaches around the world in my time but the ones here are by far and away the best I have ever seen. It is so hot though, 10 minutes on the beach and you are baking, sweating and burning. Have ended up just staying in the sea with lotion smeared all over my face as the only way to bear it. Water is so clear, loads of crabs, starfish and little fish scuttling/swimming around under your feet, perfect for snorkelling.

The whole island is duty free too so beer is about 50 a pint even in the bars/restaurants. There is a lack of any activity here, the Irish bar (with bizarrely Aztec painting all over the wall) is the hive of activity in the evenings with a full crowd of about 6 of us there last night! I guess this being a honeymoon resort most people have more things to do in the evenings with themselves than Chris and I do!

Very much a couplish place, very few singles around, Nationalities very European, mostly Russkies with a few Swedes, Finns, Norwegians and the odd brit around.

Would really recommend it to anyone wanting a peaceful relaxing perfect beach holiday.

We're here until tomorrow (so that'll have been 5 days here) then we're off to Thailand via ferry to hit Krabi by tomorrow afternoon.

We're off to rent a double canoe now to visit one of the limestone islands, so hopefully I won't have to drag Chris's arse out of the water halfway accross. He's gone a nice shade of lobster after venturing out onto the beach for a whole 15 minutes the other day!

Posted by lcassey 21:57 Archived in Malaysia Comments (0)

Goa Continued then off to South East Asia

rain 33 °C

The next few days in Goas were very sedate, mostly sat on the beach in the day and eating and drinking amazing grub at dirt cheap prices.

The Goans have an astounding memory for names and faces, each time someone speaks to you they ask your name and then you'll hear your name called out with a hello three days later from a guy you perhaps spent 10 seconds talking to. Very friendly bunch too, no aggressively hawking like in other Indian cities.

The most fun things to watch were the Indian builders putting up what I can only assume will be a hotel when they finally finish it in about 35 years at the rate they go. No messing around with mechanical diggers, cement mixers and the like for Indian builders, why bother to use them when you can haver a steady stream of cement wallahs ( a line of 20 of them each passing a bucket of cement to pour on the foundations whilst 7 more look and watch!) None of those girly western safety features like saftey helmets and steel scaffolding either when a stick of bamboo perched precariously on a rock and a baseball cap will do! I only saw one power tools being used the whole time I was there and that was used to screw a sign above a shop, but still it took three people to hold the drill (a tiny cheap black and decker handheld job) with another two to hold up the single piece of bamboo that the three above were precariously hanging onto. Being Goa of course the power cut out on them every 5 minutes so they had to have a sit down and have a chat for the 3 hours until power came back for another 5 minutes. Efficient they are NOT but they certainly make sure everyone is employed (even if they don't appear to do any work!)

The other amazing thing to watch is the aminal interactions. Every bar/hotel etc has a dog, a mangy stray looking thing that's constantly scratching itself but they are great animals. they patrol their own 15 yards of bar, marking territory all the time and totally oblivious to tourists. They bark and chase off other dogs, cows and even seem to know who's a potential customer. I saw three of them band together and chase off a crippled guy who came into the bar begging yet they don't even bark at bar customers.

The cows are great as well, they all stroll down to the beach at about 11am, plonk themselves down on the sand and go to sleep for about 3 hours before getting up, having a little stroll around, eat anyone's handbags etc that happen to be on the floor before another leisurely 4 hour kip, and maybe take a crap on someone unlucky enough to be on a sunbed anywhere near them.

then at about 6pm the dogs seem to sense it's time for the cows to go home and about 5 of them will run out of the various bars and team up to literally herd the cows off the beach like sheepdogs. They'll run around the cows and bark at them, herding them up to the beach exit. The cows apart from the occasional half hearted attempt to butt a dog if it gets too near seem to accept this and by 7pm the cows are all gone.

New Years Eve was amazing, the beach was totally packed, the most amazing Firework display I have ever seen and huge stages and sound systems set up on the beach. Dancing cows, loads of Bhangra and loads of beer, a good night all round!

Anyway after 5 weeks it was time to leave India, although there were beautiful parts of it, mostly wherever there were any local people they turned it into a nasty polluted crap hole. Probably not somewhere I'd go back to again!

Flight to Singapore was pleasant and we arrived in Singapore at the most amazing airport in the world. You want it it's there, spotlessly clean, fountains everywhere, everyone well dressed, shops all ovwer the place and a huge indoor swimming pool along with massive video rooms, games rooms etc! The airport had more facilities than I saww throughout the whole 5 weeks in India!

Travel to the hostel was painless, nice clean air con Tube train system, although comparing it to ours would be like comparing a clapped out Fiat Panda to a Porsche. Everything was spotless, well signed in English as well as Indian, Chinese and malay, friendly staff everywhere, cheap as well, Oyster card style things only. On 2 or 3 occassions just getting to the station at the airport we were stopped by people not to try and rip us off or beg as happened every time you stood still in India for more than 5 seconds but to ask us if we needed any help as we looked a little lost. The people are SOOO friendly and for no gain of their own.

After leaving India we needed to wash the filth of India off us (Chris even sat down next to a woman on the train who vanished sharpish holding her nose!) so off to the hostel for a shower!

Anyway we got to the hostel, pretty much standard fare, assorted Brits, Yanks and Aussies crammed into bunk beds and 18 of us sharing 2 cols showers and one toilet. But the place is clean, people respect being quiet at night and everyone is firiendly.

The first day we wandered around shocked at how clean everything is, not one single broken paving stone or a single piece of litter. Everything is clean, modern and the people are friendly to the point they all look and acvt like MTV or Blue Peter Presenters. I know the way they enforce this is through harsh penalties for things like littering or carrying open food or drinks on the trains ($1000 dollars each) but they seem to have created a Utopian environment where every single person is well dressed, well fed and happy.

friday night we hit Clarke Quay and the bars/restaurants there would put anything in London to shame. Think Canary Wharf mixed up with Covent Garden! Food was great, good beer (Tiger) and friendly people. Live bands everywhere.

Chris got his first offer from a prostitute (or he assumed she was) when after dancing with him for 5 mins she asked if he wanted to go to a hotel nearby! lol! He mumbled no thanks in his Northern nonsensical way after a fair few pints and then proceeded to tell me at very high volume "See that bird there, I think she's a hooker" So she scuttled off quickly, I only hope he was right and that she wasn't just a friendly local trying her best to be a good Singaporean as we found out from a newspaper magazine that the Prime Minister has issued New year resolutions for the people.

1 work harder
2 Lose weight
3 Have loads more sex.

(in the article he evens says that Singapore is lowest on the having sex world table and that Singaporeans need to 'put out more' and that it'll help them to achieve number 2 in the process.

Can you imagine the uproar if The Queen of Tony B Liar made the same pronouncment back home!

the other cool thing was the Menu on every bar table. it looks like a normal beer/wine menu until you read it. It has things like Cannabis price 15 lashes and $15000 fine. The best one was Cocaine, Price DEATH or 50 lashes and 50 years prison!!

No violence, all bars modern clean air conned, taxis plentiful and cheap and even a Ministry of Sound just opened the day we were there.

Saturday we went to Sentosa island on the southern tip which is like a Disney beach resort, stunning beaches, rides, aquarium, nature parks, amusement park and loads of food etc. Was a great day. Wandered through some shopping malls of which there is one every 20 yards and they are amazing, every shop in the world and great food courts (where we tried some Thai food which was amazing and the hottest thing I have eaten bar none!! I pity the person who used the toilet after me this morning!)

Today is pissing down, well we are in monsoon season, it hasn't stopped raining since 6am and none of you wussy English rain, this stuff makes your head bleed if you stand in it too long. yet the streets aren't flooded, the trains are still running eveyone just carries an Umbrella.

Went to Changi prison today to go to the War Museum and tried to take a sneak through the bars to see if there's any stupid Brits waiting to be executed for drug importation.!

Did the Zoo as well, best zoo ever, no bars or cages, just moats to keep the animals in their enclosures mostly worked although when it started pissing down with rain a few of the monkeys and peacocks jumped out of their enclosures and came and sat with us in the rain shelters! You name it they had them there, White Tigers, Rhinos, elephnats, Manatees, Polar Bears etc! Very Highly recommended.

Well last night in Singapore as off to Kuala Lumpar in Malaysia tomorrow am on the train.

Posted by lcassey 20:13 Archived in Singapore Comments (0)

India Continued

sunny 30 °C

Well after the urban chaos that is Dehli, (The lovely Haruman's Tomb and Lodi Gardens excluded) we made our way to Bombay. Fairly similar in terms of noise, pollution and constantly being harranged to buy things, specifically drums and bizarre giant balloons this time!

Bombay at least has just about entered into the modern age in some areas, the power generally lasts more than 15 minutes at a time before it fails totally, there are plenty of modern globalisation places McDonalds, (Where you can get a damn fine Aloo Tikka Tikka burger!) Coffee Republic etc. The buildings were so much nicer as well, having not pulled down anything that the Brits built and replaced it with a concrete smelly block. The train station is simply amazing, an old victorian gothic building that looks more like a cathedral than a train station. Still at the end of the day it was a big smelly polluted city much like Dehli.

A visit to the mosque on the shore was quite unpleasant due to the huge amount of lepers missing various limbs etc lying in the sun praying and begging. It really shows you just how much poverty and deprivation there is in India. We took a late night stroll on Chowpatty beach which was really nice seeing the skyline at night but a bit ruined by every 5 secoinds being asked whether we wanted yet another Head Massage seconds after the previous masseur had been told politely thanks but no thanks (What makes them think we'll change our mind at the 300th time of asking!!)

The highlight was the trip to Elephanta island, a one hour boat trip from the Gateway of India to a small island off Bombay where there was a haven of peace and quiet. Amazing statues of various Hindu gods carved out of the rockface inside some nice cool caves, real big ones too, 10 metres high! Looked like a scene out of an Edgar Rice Burroughs or Kipling novel with shed loads of monkeys crawling all over it, coming right up to you and trying to nick anything near them! The guide book described them as pesky monkeys and the thieving gypsy bastards were certainly that but great fun to watch! After watching a gorgeous sunset over Bombay bay, the sun seemed to look even better when covered in a cloud of pollution, the next morning it was off to the jungles of Tamil Nadu!

Arriving at Ooty, allegedly a beautiful, colonial hill station in the mountains of South India, we looked around at the stunning views of the mountains but it was ruined by the fact that they have 'done an Indian' on thew town itself, very smelly, polluted, rubbish everywhere, noisy, concrete blocks thrown up badly in place of the beautiful colonial buildings they pulled down. People in town said that even as little as 10 years ago Otty looked like a small Kent village with manicure dgardens, the racecourse, lake views etc but now they have turned it into a smelly toilet. The racetrack was full of rubbish and overgrown, the manicured gardens looked like urban scrubland of the sort you'd expect David Bellamy to pop up in with his shorts (excpet the rats would probably have eaten him!)

SO after a few hours in ooty rather than the few days we planned to stay we headed off further up the mountains to Masinagudi in the Mudumalai Elephant sanctuary.

This was a breath from heaven, stunning scenery, very clean, small site with about 6 small bungalows, a lovely bar/restaurant and the most amazing pool I've ever seen, nesteled with the most stunning view over the mountains!

Felt very relaxed here and stayed for 11 days including Xmas day (bizarre lunch consisting of Roast turkey, parathas and Cheesy peas with Dal mahkani!! Delicious though.

Staff were great, was run by an Indian/German family and was a nice Welsh guy Chris manning the bar.

Did loads of relaxing, sunbathing, swimming as well as some jungle treks during which we saw Elephants, Bison, deer, loads of different monkeys, mongooses, snakes, Peacocks, eagles, giant squirrels etc.

Got to ride an elephant at Bandipur too! No tigers or leopards unfotunately although there are loads in the park they're obviously very wary of humans and rare to spot.

Anyway after that absolute bliss haven in the mountains we made our way down to Goa for some sun worshipping and drinking!

Been here 2 days now and it's exactly like bendidorm! Full of fat bright red cockney wanker or northern monkey families! Beach is amazing though and bars and restaurants are so good for food and drinks (dirt cheap too, about 40p for a pint of Kingfisher and about 2 quid for a huge steak/seafood meal).

The beach is one of the quieter ones at Candolim so very relaxing, no hassle from the vendors as the police chase them, the kids and the beggars off the beach and keep them away from you for a small bribe of 25p!!

Very happy and relaxed here (and getting fatter by the minute with the amount of cheap amazing quality food/drink.

the culture here is very different from elsewhere in india as this has a far more european feel, the locals here look and act more like Europeans, no surprise I guess as they were a Portuguese colony until 1960 ish and most people are part Portuguese (and they hate the pure bred Indian tourists that come here, calling them smelly dirty jungle monnkeys to their faces!!) they have a dislike of russian tourists for some strange reason too but love the brits!

Off now to sit by the beach for a few hours then we're doing the pub quiz tonight in the Peacock pub to try and see if the 'End of the World' pub quiz team can take it's Wimbledon White Hart successes globally!

Off to do a few trips over the next few days (Monkey Island, Cocoa beach, Dolphin spotting and snorkelling etc) before heading back to Bombay on the 4th to catch our connecting flight onto Singapore!

Have fun all.

Posted by lcassey 20:59 Archived in India Comments (0)

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