Friday, 26 February 2010

Day after 'death/killing'day, we had 'shiny'day. We went to the main palace in the city to see the silver pagoda and the lifesize solid gold buddha. We got there around 2ish on the tuk tuk and wandered around some expansive courtyard full of hedges and random potted plants (looked like a garden centre forecourt). We found the silver pagoda, thus named because the massive floor is made of solid silver tiles. Most of the floor was covered up with rugs though to stop it tarnishing. In the same room was the solid gold buddha, weighing 100kg. Had over 1oo diamonds and gems encrusted into it. We walked along the river front before tuk tukking it back to the hostel.

Another day another bus trip - this was the biggun. The guide book saiod the ratanakirri province in north east cambodia was an ''area of exceptional natural beauty''. We asked how long ths bus trip was but no one could understand us, so armed with snacks, books and an ipod weboarded the bus. 11 hours later (along unpaved and orangey dusty roads, through towns consisting of not much more than wooden shacks on small exposed platforms where people slept, being watched for most of this 11 hours by a middle aged cambodian gentleman who was drinking from a coconut in the seat opposite. The roads didnt seem to get any better and we were a bit worried that our trip would have been a waste until.... we saw them. A sign of civilisation - STREET LAMPS!!! the dusty road turned to tarmac and the bus pulled into a sideroad. We were picked up by some guy from the 'star hotel'. He led us to his motorbike. With our bags on our backs, we each sat on 3 seperate motorbikes and the drivers took us to the hotel. It wasnt the most pleasant experience of my life, but it was a hell of a lot of fun. The hotel looked amazing from the outside. All the rooms had massive wooden furtniture and carved seats and beds and things. Staying in the room a night though - the shower sink and toilet all leaked, the beds were as hard as rock, the fan doesnt work and the orange dust gets EVERYWHERE. We wandered around the town a bit the next day, sorely disappointed by what there was on offer, until we heard about a selection of waterfalls and lakes nearby.

26th feb - my BIRTHDAY :D:D:D:D. We rented motorbikes (finally) and made our way to the waterfall east of the town. The speedometer wasnt working, the fuel gauge always said ''empty'' and the vias on the helmet was stuck open (not ideal for dusty roads) but we got the to waterfell in one piece. Of course we got ot the river side, off came the tshirt, on went the swimming shorts (as would happen when we see any amount of water more than a foot deep) and dived in. After a couple of hours swimming, diving off high rocks and sitting under pounding waterfalls (facebook profile picture to follow) we motorbiked back to the town to find some food. After aimlessly bikig around, we eventually pulled up to some street kitchen that sold cakes and stocked up for the night ahead. Tonight will be a sober night, but we all agreed that when we get to ho chi minh in vietnam we WILL find a club and we WILL get drunk for mine and emilys birthdays...

Tomorow we will try and rent the bikjes again to go to the volcanic lake to the west of the town, then its back on the 11 hour bus to phnom penh, followed by a 6 hour trek to the vietnam bored. *sigh*

Monday, 22 February 2010

A 6 hour bus journey from siem reap and we finally made it into cambodias capital, phnom penn. 6 hours of overly loud cambodians on phones and near constant beeping (the guide book says cambodias roads are some of the worst in the world). Our hostel is in the city centre so everything is within a cheap tuk tuk ride away. We arrived around 4ish and spent the few hours before dinner just unpacking and showering. We got a tuk tuk to the riverside, walked past 2 outdoor aerobics classes (the old woman with the walking stick was getting very into it) and we found a nice place to eat.

Today was the day we visited the 'killing fields' and 'tuol sleng prison'. During the 70's during the pol pot regime millions of people were killed by the khmer rouge. 9000 of them were taken to the choeung ek killing fields were they were killed and buried. There were over 100 mass graves and at the very centre was the monument, which was stacked full of the victims clothes and bones. Next door to the field was a school. It was break time so the noise of the kids broke nthe silence of the place. Was an incredibly surreal and powerful place. We left the field and our tuk tuk then took us back into the city to the prison. It used to be the tuol svey pray high school, but under the regime, the khmer rouge turned it into one fo the most notorious prisons in cambodia, where those who 'threatened' the communist regime (woman, children, intellectuals, people wearing glasses, monks anyone with an education) from the phnom penn area were taken. Many were held here and a lot were tortured in the converted classrooms. From here they were nromally taken to the killing fields. Many of the calssrooms were empty, expect for a single bed and a grainy black and white iomage on the wall. The building was incredibley haunting. In one of the blocks all the classrooms had been divided up into cells no more than a couple of metres squared. Some cells were wood and some were brick. The doors were all open so one could freely walk in and around the site. It was a horrifically sobering visit - the 2 extreme constrasting past uses of this building - The original simple fences had been covered in barbed wire and high iron fences, and all the open corridors had been barred and, again, covered in barbed wire. The minute we left the gates of the museum, the extreme bustle and exctiment of the city hit us once again. A haunting reminder of the past, enclosed in the thriving city. A humbling day me thinks.

Tommorow we are venturing on something more upbeat - we are going to the silver pagoda, which has a floor made of solid silver. Also we are seeing the lifesize solid gold buddha and the main palaces. Should be a good day :D

Friday, 19 February 2010

Im sure your dying to hear about our journey from the south of thaildn into cambodia...and who a i to disappoint. We got a bus from the koa sok national park around 3ish and it took us aout 4 hours to get to surathani, which is basically a large warehouse filled with plastic lawn chairs and tables, with bags of crisps and water for sale. Its a mass transfer place for tourists to get to various places in thailand. We waited 3 hours in the warehouse before we boarded our bus for bangkok. 12 hours later at around 5.30am we arrived in bangkok. We got off the bus and were absolutely swarmed with tuk tuk and taxi drivers trying to drag us to their taxis. After wat had so far been a 18 hour journey, needless to say none of us were in the mood for niceties. We got ur bags ans barged our way to the khoa san road, where we settled down for some early morning burger king (classy aint we). We got a cab to the east town bus station and boarded a bus destinated for aryethpet (i think thats the name anyway) - the thai border town. We were on this bus for 4 hours, got off in the middle of wat appeared to be a chaotic carpark - people lugging around trailors full of fruits, kids begging for money, and people trying to get us to go in their tuk tuks. We managed to find our way to the visa place got our cambodian visas, walked through a series of cecpoints signed a series of bits of paper, and done - we were in cambodia. We then got a 5 hour cab ride to the small town of siem reap, where our journey came to a nice end at the garden village guest house - a dollar a night :D:D. Really nice place, only down side is all the mattresses are outside covered only in a mosquito net and some straw. Al valuables safely in the safety box, i had a shower in the cubicle that didnt lock, and me alec and emily just sat in the upstairs bar, got a bit of food and some general snacks. In the vevening i bought a 5 dollar watch which now doesnt work, so im going to see if i can swap it for another (dont reckon my chances much but its worth a try). 2moz we going to go to the angkor temples and maybe go horseriding alog sme nice country trails (budget permitting). The camobodian currecny is the rial, but everyting here is in dollars anyway. We are going to be in siem reap for 2 days efore we head down to te cpital of phnom penn for some more lake swimming, temple walking and museum visiting. Then after that we going to head to the ratinakiri? province which has got a history of tectonic activity - so springs and volcanic lakes and stuff. Going to see if we can finally find a place to rent bikes (as all our other attempts failed) and ride around the area. We wil try and pop into southern town nearer the beach before we head back to phnom pen and get a bus into laos.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Back to it then. I left off last on our way to phanga-nga me thinks. So we took a minibus from krabi to there. Was only a couple of hours and the bloody thing dumped us on the outskirts of town (everyone else in the bus was heading to phuket and he couldnt be assed to take us to phanga-nga. We found a tuk tuk luckily which took us to the town. From what we could see, the town consisted of not much mroe than a single long road, and cos it was chinese new year much of it was closed. We found a good hostel though. It used to be an old insane asylum (we assumed) as it had random large open spaces, loads of empty corridors and all the 12 rooms were painted white with large metal hospital beds. The rooms were still nice though. No air con, just a big ceiling fan. The fluroescent tube light was stuck tot eh ceiling underneath this light, so wen both were on at once it was like a strobe light.

We managed to track down tiger cave temple. It is a massive golden statue of buddha built on one of the high limestone cliffs. Its 1200 steps to the top and monkeys follow you all the way. With the immense skill and stamina I have :D we eventually reached the top. We also went on a 4 hour boat ride around ther mangroves (a bit bored of mangroves now) and the limestone cliffs (a bit bored of limestone cliffs now) and we saw the island which was in 007s golden eye (i think it was golden eye) was still cool tho. We stayed in this 2 quid a night hostel for 2 nights then got on a small minibus to koa sok national park.

Here, we are in a place called the jungle huts. Its set in a stunning garden of about 30 huts all rasied off the ground. We have a deck outides our hut which we can sit on and people watch the other tourists. Mosquiot nets are provided for our beds, but mine has a massive great hole in at the top, so the little bastard mosquitos have had their fill biting the shit out of the backs of my feet. We have just done a 2 hour trek into the rainforests (in flip flops cos we couldnt be assed to unpack our walking boots) over hills and into valleys getting bitten by hundreds of strange insects and generally getting hot. We eventually found what we were looking for - a river. We set all our stuff down and had a swim fr an hour or so, sat under a small waerfall which soothed the general ache of sunburn and then we got out and headed back, stopping at the visitors centre for an ice cream first (obviously).

Anyhoo, me thinks we are tiring of southern thailand so 2moz we are catching a bus back to bangkok - a 15 hour drive in a minibus so im stocking up on the sleeping pills and snacks and charging my ipod (my phone died long ago wen a bottle of water leaked and true to form, my phone now doesnt work). From bangkok we are going to head over to siem reap in cambodia - its a relatively main touristy route into cambodia which the guide book calls 'a genuinely unpleasant yet highly character building experience'. Its a 6 hour bus ride from bangkok to the border. We then have to get off the bus and get a cab/tuk tuk OVER the border, go through border control, get ANOTHER cab/tuk tuk to the first town in cambodia, and then get a 6 hour bus ride to the maine town of siem reap. Character building indeed. From siem reap the plan is to ride elephants, eat cambodian cuisine (duck foetusus and the testicles of random selections of animals) and see temples to our hearts content. That is the extent of our planning so far. After cambodia its off to vietnam...

Friday, 12 February 2010

Another day another batch of sunburn to recover from. Up at 8am, we got a tuk tuk to krabi beach, and a long boat to the hong islands. About half an hour on the boat, we were told to pick up a snorkel and goggles and jump out the boat. Me, Alec and Emily did as we were told, and they promptly snorkelled their little selves away around the rocks. I on the other hand was struggling like a beached fish trying to keep afloat and at the same time put my snorkel on. I managed to swim to the rocks and stay there whilst i adjusted then i took the plunge - i never really did adjust to being in the open sea with no form of life jacket, so after swallowing half of the adaman sea, we made our way back to the logn boat. Another half hour, we were taken through hong lagoon, which was a massive clearign in the rocks. The water was perfectly clear and no deeper than waist height, though we had no time to get out and swim. Instead we headed for hong beach. We were there for about 2 hours, and i finally got to the hang of the whole snorkelling spiel, and i was off, snorkellign like a pro :D. I swam between the rocks looking at the fish, and even found nemo briefly. Then i swam back to shore and we got lunch, provided for us by the tour master - a barrel of rice and chicken. I went back to do a bit of sunbathing, then we went back into the boat to lanta beach, which would only reveal itself at low tide. We did a bit mroe snorkelling there, enarly got stung by a family of bloody sea urchins, sat a bti more then back onto the boat for the hour ride back. We got back to our room, me quite content with myself that i didnt get sunburnt, then i saw my back.... (the sun had me a good going over whilst i was back facing up under the water). Anyhoo, last day in krabi and now we are off to phanan-nga. Its a 2 hour bus ride to the tourist town. We will be there a couple of days whilst we plan our journey back to bangkok, then eventually off to cambodia. In the mean time, its chinese enw year in a coupel fo days so bloody firecrakers are going off everywhere. Sounds like a war zone. Im sure we will get used to it though :D toodles for now

Wednesday, 10 February 2010

I think im spending far too much time in internet cafes writing dam blogs as the world passes me by, so i think im going to start cutting down. We shall see. So where was I.

We took a truck to the port of ko phangan yesterday, where there were cafes and shops and things for us to wait until our boat came. With our bags we sat on the gravel for about half an hour in the midday sun (40 degrees for all you people currently snowed/frosted in ;) ). We were herded onto a 4 hour boat trip, then onto a bus that could best be described as the oceana disco room. It was all exposed chrome, strips of colour painted all over the place and generally cramped and hot - no air con but all the windows were open so it cooled down once we got moving. 4 hours on that bus, kicked off at a service station, then 4 hours on another bus, 2 taxis later we arrived on the small town of krabi. We found a place called the grand tower hotel - which was neither grand, nor a tower and was more a hostel than a hotel. It had air con and free bottled water so it was fine. The town is very westernised and most people walking around are tango'd tourists. A nice place though with a breezy flowing through it so not as humid as bangkok. We havent really done much today tbh. We got some breakfast/lunch at a nearby restaraunt and are in the middle of planning a night out tonight. 2moz we are going to catch a long boat to the hong islands. We are going to go swimming and kayakking there.

We thought for a bit about going to phuket and kho phi phi (where the beach was filmed) but it would be expensive and too touristy. A day trip on the hong islands, do a spot of kayakking through the caves as one does, then off to the even smaller island south of that called ko lanta. We are going to try and rent scooters so we can ride through the towns and jungle areas. We are going to spend a week or so more in thailand before heading off to cambodia and vietnam. We have made a list of things we want to do in each country, and by being generally stingy now, we should be able to afford it and live comfortably in new zealand at the end. Far from the worries of nottingham, architecture (dam all nighters), market research (standing outside tescos with a clipboard asking people if they would consider being friends with orange juice if it were a real person), and more recently wetherspoons (elbow deep cleaning dirty fryers at 6am) and all the stresses and strains that come with it - all seem a world away now, the only worries we have apart from money (and fully sun creaming my scalp in defence of my ever thinning hair), is if the next place we are going to has air conditioning and are there western toilets there. Normally the answers are no and no, but tis a small price to pay for life we are currently living. Its a very hard way to live but someone has got to live it havent they :D

Hope you are all keeping well. As i walk through the markets i keep seeing things to buy that people from home i know would like, but i dont really want to be stuck carrying them around this climate, through deserts and forests and up bloody everst with me. Ill try and souveneir shop in new zealand. That way at the end when i throw out a lot of my charity shop and primark stuff i originally bought for this trip, i will have enough room to carry them home. Any gift requests? (i refuse to bring back a digaridoo for anyone so dont even bother asking :D ) xx

Monday, 8 February 2010

We were heading to an island off the east coast of thailand called ko phangan. We bought a few bus tickets from bangkok (for the 7.30pm bus) and we arrived at the bus station slightly before 11am. With all our bags we moved into the bus station and set up camp there for 8 hours. We went for a wander, ate some donuts, got a quick massage then sat in a coffee shop for the rest of the 5 hours and ate there. We caught the 12 hour night bus from bangkok to the port. The bus was air conditioned and the seats reclined right back (the lady in front of me took FULL advantage of this). Anyhoo, after what was shaping up to be a 24 hours shlap across thailand, we eventually reached the port and caught a ferry to the island. The ferry was a good 3 hours and we pulled up to the island slightly before midday - though the journeying STILL wasnt over. We were ushered into the back of a cab (cattle truck)which took us through the jungle. We passed a few of the local small towns and villages, a few signs saying we were one day too late for the full moon party, and the cab stopped at a beach. We all got into a small longboat which took us round the island to a place called bottle beach. It was a perfect beach with huts along its length. A few restaraunts, white sand and massive towering mountains either side. Was a postcard paradise. Even with the mahoosive sunburn we caught being on the longboat for an hour, we still enjoyed it. We got a hut on the beach for around 4 quid a night. The next few days consisted of reading, eating, sunbathing, swimming and showering. Nothing much more happened. We saw a few lizzards, big bugs, a few cold showers, cut our feet open on some coral and nearly stepped on some crabs, but apart from that, the secluded beach was perfect in every way. In a way it was a shame to leave it, but there were other things to see in thailand so earlier today we left. We got a cab from the resort back to the port (a cab being the back of another truck). We are going to find a hostel near the port so we can see a thai boxing match for emilys birthday. What happens enxt is still to be decided

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

update time :D. After however many months of planning and pondering, we are FINALLY in thailand - took a while tho. A 7 hour flight to dubai, during which we were served some spicy chicken stuff, and oddly enough some scones and jam - not really anything like having a high tea whilst flying over baghdad. After a 3 hour wait in dubai (and a mcdonalds later) we got back on the plane for another 8 hours and touched down in bangkok around 11am thai time. We got a cab to our 40p a night hostel - a drug den/ex brothel'general shit hole where none of the doors locked, the bunk beds were made of old wood scraps, noi air con and all the mattresses had various disturbing stains on them. Me, Alec and Emily sat in our room, that was basically a padded prison cell (seriously) and thought about ouir escape. We eventually just thought 'sod it' and ran for the door.

We are now staying in a reallly nice hostel in the centre of the tourist area - round the corner from mcdonalds, burger king and boots. We got 2 days in bangkok before we head off to the beach - in the middle of researching some nice private beach huts with hammocks out front. Its fecking boiling here also, probs around low 30's. Im assuming its raining in the UK :D. Anyway, we are surrounded by bars so im gonna go and have a short nap and then we gonna just slowly drink ourselves into a stupor. Only problem with this hostel is (alec and emily are paying a bit more so have a proper western toilet cum shower room. For the common folk such as me, i have a cold communal shower cum urinal space on the 4th floor. Next door to that is the squat basin, or watever the technical term is. Its not so much a flushing toilet as a bowel under a tap, which you fill up and pour it down the hole. O well, its all culture culture cultre. Going to have to get used to this because we going to some MUCH worse places. As of yet i have avoided any ice, salads and fresh fruit. Evian is only 12p a bottle so thats gonna be my life line for the time being. O well, thats me done for this installement of 'my blog'. If i can be assed then ill be back on in a couple of days. x

Monday, 1 February 2010

the long awaited SECOND installment of my blog. After spending weeks accumulating all the stuff i would actually need for this trip, rearranging all of it in countless heaps and piles around my room, making lists, notes and number references, the time came to eventually stop procrastinating and start trying to defy the laws of physics and cram 5 months worth of life into a 65 litre bag - it wouldnt have been so bad if the bloody sleeping bag and shoes didnt take up half of it. Anyhoo, its all in now, and as i write this, only 3 hours left till i catch the first tube to victoria and begin my hols. I hope/assume you are all getting incredibley jealous tho dont you worry, i will keep you all informed on my life. In the mean time, all you continue with your uni studies/working at wetherspoons. Good luck to all of you who have/had exams and dissertations and i will see you all beginning of july after 5 months of mountain climbing, trekking, exploring, sunbathing, and trying to find toilets that are more than simply a hole in the ground (not holding out too much hope though). Its a tough life but someones got to do it :D

Well i have little else to say right now. Should get to gatwick around 7ish, board the plane at 9.45 and its an 11 hour (or summit like that) flight to dubai. From there its another g-d awfully long flight (9 hours i think) the rest of the way to bangkok. Not sure when i will cross paths with a cyber cafe, but if there is one on the base camp of everest (so i hear) then im sure bangkok must have a few somewhere around....