Planning on heading over to Thailand, Vietnam or Cambodia? Take a walk through my blog and I’m sure you’ll find some helpful travel advice, particularly if you’re planning on going through south east asia. If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment at the bottom of the page.
It’s a great adventure and we had a blast! I highly recommend it – go with an open mind and be ready to take on a different culture.
25 September My travelling blog…
I hope to be publishing entries here about our trip around SE Asia … could be worth a read.
We leave for Bangkok Friday, 29 September, fly to Hanoi, Vietnam 9 October, then Cambodia about 20 October then return to Auckland 27 October. Well thats the plan anyway, who knows what might happen … how exciting! The thrill of never knowing whats round the corner … I’m sure I’ll regret saying that!
Will miss everyone so show some love and leave a comment!
26 September Getting amped …
Not long now and I’m starting to get excited. Looking through some photos from our trip in November 2004 (just before the tsunami hit) and it’s all coming back. Just hope we don’t miss our flight – I’ve cut things a bit tight between our domestic to Auckland and our direct flight to Bangkok. So this travel blog might just be my sad story of getting as far as Auckland and no further; as much as I love my job I really don’t want to have to show up on the Monday with no stories to tell!
I’ve just found out our travel buddies are taking a cellphone, personally that’s not my idea of a holiday but I guess it’s a case of ‘safety first’. Mum and Dad, if you’re reading the number is 0044-77-3698-4238 … if anyone from work is reading I just made that number up ok!!
Three more sleeps!!!
28 September One more sleep …
Ok so Im bit old for that sort of carry on but its come down to the last night in NZ before flying out and theres just a slight bit of panic about remembering everything before we leave … I shouldnt really worry if I forget something I can buy it over there (except maybe a passport but even then…).
Come to think of it I’m mostly sorted, lawns mowed, dogs walked, house tidied – man I’m starting to like some sort of house husband, but seriously if I dont get it sorted it wont be a pretty sight to come back to.
Well best I stop blogging and start packing … flight leaves at the leisurely time of 12 tomorrow so could probably even sneak in a sleep-in but probably wont. Arrives Auckland about 1.30 then its the mad, crazy dash to check in for the 3.15 flight to BKK (I heard theres been fog and delayed flights in Auckland recently so that better not happen tomorrow!).
See ya on the flip side….
29 September 2006 Nice days make it hard to leave
It’s definitely easier leaving for a tropical climate when the weather at your own place is stink. Unfortunately its not like that, its a lovely spring day here in Christchurch and I’m almost tempted to just holiday at home … nah only kidding, Im outta here like a bald man!! Getting picked up in just over an hour then the adventure begins … if you can call domestic departures interesting. But in less than 24 hours I’ll be in Bangkok, feeling the heat and no doubt being dog tired from the 11 hour flight … Ill probably pay way too much for a taxi just because Im so desperate for some sleep!
Anyways, got my camera & mp3 player at the ready so Im pretty much all set, Ive even decided to bring the trusty pedometer just out of interest to see how many steps I can clock up … go our GCC team, whatever our teams name is. Im not sure Ill be blogging as regularly as I have been but will see.
01 October Hot hot hot…
A pleasant day today of 37 in the shade had us wandering around the grand palace in a permanent state of dehydration but it was such a fascinating place with incredible workmanship (reminds me of my own DIY projects really) that it was all worth it.
The flight here was long but made much easier with the constant in-flight entertainment (and Im not talking about my snoring) … the choose your own movies stuff was great and before we knew it we had landed at the new suwannabum airport in BKK. Incredibly tired ( 4.30am our time) so couldnt wait to get to the hotel and crash. Up the next morning at 9 for breakfast wasnt as difficult as I thought with the body clock still in NZ time but I knew Id pay for it later.
Spent the day at Chatachuk market (35 acres worth of shopping – 15000 stalls) which brought out the shopaholic in all of us. I went crazy and spent $4 on a watch and $8 on a new backpack … I can tell this trip is really going to blow the bank.
We all got hopelessly lost and found our own way back to the hotel (which is no problem with the great subway system they have here) and eased our aching feet in the pool. Went to a night bazaar later on and had dinner in this huge outdoor beer garden complete with a stage performance of Thailands best karaoke stars.
Sunday, took the ferry up the river to the grand palace and now were ferritting around this mall in search of dinner then back to the hotel.
ps havent had a chance to upload any photos but watch out when I do – ive been going nuts with the camera.
03 October Getting around
Not getting any cooler but starting to get used to it now. Just enjoyed a two hour two dollar bus ride from Bangkok to this place, called Kanchanuburi, but more commonly known for the bridge over the river kwae which is a short bike ride from where were staying, or you could take a songtaew, mototaxi, rickshaw, taxi etc etc. Like most places round here youre always spoilt for choice when it comes to modes of transport but just dont expect anything in the way of safety measures, just hang on and enjoy the ride – cheap thrills.
Were in a more rural area of Thailand so more in the way of rice paddies, banana trees and other greenery but less in the way of modern conveniences but I guess thats what a holiday should be – getting away from it all and roughing it, well as much a white office worker can. Still havent got round to sorting out some photos but Im working on it. Despite my snap-happiness Im having trouble filling this 1Gb card of mine. I did use a bit yesterday at this snake farm we visited which was a lot of fun particularly if you enjoy the company of deadly-poisonous over-grown earthworms – the guy who put on the show was really funny too, but I guess its not hard to joke around a bunch of scared tourists. We managed to educate him that NZ was not part of Australia too so we feel like we did our bit for international geography. Just before we left a heavy shower reminded us it was still the wet season but at least its not cold, so you really dont mind getting a bit wet, you just have to watch the slippery floors as Thais have a great sense of humour and always have time to chuckle at the white farang (tourist) unable to negotiate the wet.
Hopefully we’ll do some exploring later on and I can get some photos to add to the blog … when I get round to it!
04 October Slumming it guesthouse style
Another day in Kanchanaburi (or catcha blueberry as Crystal likes to call it 🙂 and sitting here planning our next move. Crystal & Bronnie are doing a cooking class today so me & Marty are thinking of bussing up to the Erewon national park with its super 7 tiered waterfall, was going to take scooters but apparently the roads arent great and tourists have accidents on that road all the time.
Last night was our first night in the guesthouse huts, equipped with just a fan and a bed, with a basic manual flush toilet and cold shower, so its pretty primitive but its what experiencing a different culture is all about so Im not complaining … much. It was a pleasant experience visiting the 7-11 this morning with its super-excellent air conditioning, I browsed for much longer than was necessary.
Enjoyed an authentic Thai meal last night and for $5 including some local beer it was good value, but probably nothing like Crystal & Bronnie will be cooking up today – just be warned if they ask you round for dinner be prepared and bring plenty of water.
Heading back to Bangkok tomorrow then off to Chaing Mai stopping in at Auttyha to check out the ruins. It seems our timing was a bit off and we missed the action of a low pressure system (spin off from a typhoon that recently passed through Vietnam) but Im not too bothered, the sudden downpours are enough to keep me interested.
Til next time… laa koon
06 October The wonders of Chiang Mai
After blitzing Kanchanaburi, we headed back by bus to Bangkok, unsure how we were going to get to Chiang Mai. We hadnt had much success with the train so far (it sounded so good and cheap in the lonely planet) so it would be a case of wait and see what happened. In the end we decided to fly up and got a taxi to Suwannabum airport (which took forever – a real Bangkok gridlock at 2pm on a Thursday afternoon!).
Got to the airport and checked out a few different airlines for available flights and prices (in true Amazing Race style) and found Nok Air flying up at 4.20 for 1700 baht (about $65) which was pretty good so we booked in, relieved we had transport sorted.
A pleasant flight up and got to see some landscape along the way with some amazing cloud formations but fortunately not storms (which are common this time of year). Got into Chiang Mai about 5.30 and rang Hannah (Katherine Dunbars sister-in-law, although she sounds so much like her!) who told us the meeting time and location of the Hall. We then booked in at a local guesthouse (although it was more upmarket than the last guesthouse we stayed at – with hot water, fridge, aircon and swimming pool), got changed then found a tuk tuk to tuk us there. I had directions which involved a 7-11 but unfortunately there were at least two 7-11’s near the train station so we got a little lost. The driver was persistent and we ended up finding it which was great. We were just in time for the service meeting (although we did get to sing the middle song with the Thai brothers and sisters), so we headed upstairs with the other farangs (what Thais call foreigners) and had the service meeting in English (although I did feel a bit underdressed). We got to pass on the love of the New Brighton congregation which was a relief as it had been weighing us down 🙂 Afterwards we chatted then a brother dropped us off at the night bazaar (well McD’s firstly!) so we ate then did some late night shopping (the best bargains are for things you dont really want). We then headed back to the guesthouse and got a little lost on the way but got there in the end and I clocked up a few steps on my pedometer ( www.globalcc.com.au).
Had a good nights sleep, a lazy wake up then I went on in search of a laundromat to do some washing. Found a few wanting 40bt per kg but I knew Id seen cheaper so off I went in search of a cheap laundry service. Finally found it just as I was getting back to the guesthouse (25bt per kg – not a huge saving but its the principle!). I had a nice walking tour of the city and wandered round much of Chiang Mai with my dirty laundry (it’s perfectly acceptable round here). Crystal and I then went out in search of lunch (while Martyn & Bronnie held the fort lazing round in the pool), had some eats in these out of the way place then pressed on and got caught in a heavy downpour (you dont really mind getting wet in this weather – in fact its quite a relief!). We then found a good deal on a tour (or should I say safari!) and booked us in – it involves elephants, hill tribes, bamboo rafting, ox-carting and maybe some butterflies … all the things we wanted to do; so thats tomorrow and I’m looking forward to it.
Will let you know how it goes!
ps I have a few photos on my blog site now – hope to get more soon!!
10 October Hanging in Hanoi
The ‘all-new’ leg of the trip started today with us flying into Hanoi; I’ve been to Thailand before but never to Vietnam so I had no idea what to expect or how things would go. Everything went smooth enough coming through the airport; it was a lot smaller than expected but they do have some funky hand driers that you drop your hands into … weird! After wandering through the lax customs area we headed over to the ATMs to grab some dong (local currency in case you were wondering) … I withdrew 800,000 but quickly realised it wasnt really going to be enough as it only works out to about NZD$80 – next time I might go for a couple of million and be vietnamese millionaire for a day.
Sipping back some of the local brew and baked goods we got befriended by a few taxi drivers but we werent interested however we did find out the bus number we needed to get into town. I attempted to use a payphone to book into a hotel but the first was fully booked and the next few we struck ‘communication issues’. So we just jumped on the bus and hoped we’d find something. On the way a local guy, Vui, got chatting to me and it just so happens his brother owns a hotel – what a coinkydink. I was on to him but had a nice chat all the same and he taught me a few phrases. When we got off the bus in the Old Quarter (after crossing the Red River) we got ambushed by a bunch of moto-taxis offering us rides. The manic traffic and the fact we didnt really know where we were probably added to the confusion of the moment – so we just started walking away so we could clear our heads and decide on a plan. We ended up following a local guy (Chong) who was going to show us his hotel (here we go again 🙂 and we walked for about 20 minutes (dancing with the traffic – you dont wait for them to stop you just allow them to weave around you; sometimes it helps if you close your eyes!). We had a look and for US$8 a night it was good enough for us (aircon, hot shower, free internet) so we booked in for the night. Looks like we might book a tour as well. Were just about to head out and get some dinner (apparently McDonalds doesnt exist, Crystal just about cried) and watch the water puppet show.
ps Our last couple of days in Chiang Mai were really nice – The elephant trekking was a lot of fun, and the baby elephants were sooo cute (in a manly kind of way) especially the one who climbed through the fence chasing the bunch of bananas Crystal had – she gave it a good telling off but how can you be angry with a baby elephant??! Sunday had a traditional thai massage, which for $6 for an hour was insanely cheap but well worth it. Got to the meeting which was nice and met Elena from Ireland (Tullamoore, I think), hung out at the pool then headed off to the dinner and show and Old Chiang Mai Cultural Centre which was brilliant and the food incredible … it just kept coming! Had some heavy rain but it only seems to be at night so not a problem – still hot!
14 October Ha Long Bay
It seems like a long time since I updated everyone but I think its more just the fact that so much happens. We didnt end up doing the water puppet show; we got sidetracked watching a free circus show that was put on for Vietnams own independence day – liberation from the French in 1795. We were sitting up in some cafe watching the action – as well as being amazed at the constant stream of scooters moving through the intersection below – no one stops they just weave around each other and it seems to work, however they sit on their horns the whole time, its like the soundtrack to Hanoi (well the whole of Vietnam really) and you have to remember theyre honking because theyre letting you know theyre there – not because theyre angry otherwise you’d imagine you were surrounded by millions of motorists about to snap! Im looking forward to going somewhere a little quieter – even tucked away in your hotel room away from the street the sound of a million horns follows you.
We went on a two day tour of Ha Long bay and it is a magical place – they do get blue sky but the whole time we were there it was enveloped by this haze which added to the atmosphere. It was a three hour minibus drive up there (I felt sorry for whoever had to sit at the front having to watch the madness of Vietnamese traffic) then we hopped aboard a boat that took us out into the bay (3002 island in the archipelago). After lunch we cruised to these amazing limestone caves that had been lit up and were absolutely incredible but way hot down there too with not a breath of wind. We then carried on, dropped off a few people then moored in a bay with other tourist boats. We got a bit of time to get into the kayaks and explore but we lost the light pretty quickly. That night I found it a little stuffy in the cabin so slept up top for a bit, it was a perfect night to sleep outside under the stars (what you could see of them anyway). The next day we cruised to a swimming spot, picked up some tourists then headed back to Ha Long for the trip back to Hanoi.
Got back to our hotel to find we hadnt actually booked for that night and so we had to wander round looking for another hotel as they were booked out (wouldve rather just crashed and had a hot shower but its all part of the adventure). Found a place, which wasnt too bad checked in then headed out for a wander. Got accosted by some banana-selling locals who dont believe in a free market and then I got the hard sell from the hat lady who started telling me about her two kids at home and how she had no money – it was all a bit much and ended up running out of there and finding somewhere to have some dinner, the Pizza Inn. Knowing that the Vietnamese are not good at western food we still ordered burgers and fries, at least the beer was good and cheap.
Slept in this morning, now I need to get some laundry done and get something to eat. Our bus picks us up today from the hotel at 6.30pm for the long trip down to Hoi Ann – just as well the iPod is all charged up and ready to go!
16 October Hoi An – Home of a million bicycles
Well maybe not a million but everyone here seems to have a pushbike. Not that that is a a bad thing, in fact if they all had cars the roads would be clogged! Hoi An is a relatively small city of 75,000 and has a relaxed feel to it, which really helps when youve just spent a few days in the madness of Hanoi.
We survived the 16-hour bus ride which I dont recommend if youre wanting a good nights sleep but its cheap (US$9) and definitely nasty, particulary if you judge it by the toilet stops or lack of them. Ok for the guys but I felt sorry for the ladies. Anyway we got there in the end (ahead of schedule surprisingly) and got checked into a nice hotel on the outskirts of Hoi An with a pool and free bicycles which we have made good use of – its been really nice just cruising around the Vietnamese countryside on a bike, its what I imagined it would be like. We visited the beach the other day and it was so nice and deserted! Warm water too. Weve done some shopping, shoes, suits etc – all the things Hoi An is famous for, so hopefully our luggage is not overweight now.
Theres some really nice places to dine out here too – weve mostly just gone to places overlooking the canal which is really nice on the balmy evenings weve been having. We went to My Son yesterday, a collection of ruins dating back to the 4th century, one of the many world heritage sites here in Vietnam, followed by a cruise up the river.
Were hoping to get a flight to Ho Chi Minh today but Im not sure if weve left it too late, were currently playing games with booking agents to get the best price but we may need to stay another day if it comes to it.
Scams and watch-stealing dragons
Just a quick ps to my last entry. I guess every holiday has a few downs to go with the ups. Hanoi wasnt quite as good as hoped and it wasnt helped by the fact that we forgot the first rule of booking tours – dont just go for what your hotel is offering, its probably overpriced to compensate for the cheap accommodation. Long story short we paid US$50 for an overnight trip to Ha Long bay when we shouldve only paid about $30 – just werent thinking, you try to be careful and have your wits about you but sometimes youre just tired and not thinking clearly; we even got charged a bogus 10% sales tax … and they pretend to be so nice and friendly!
On the tour of Ha Long bay I decided to dive in off the top of the tour boat (for the record Crystal did tell me not to!) … the dive was fine but I came up and realised my watch mustve broken off (the strap was pretty worn). There was no way I was getting it back – the water was deep and murky; it was a good watch too! I figured it mustve been the local dragon (Ha Long means descending dragon) that stole it off me.
Then, just before we were to get picked up for our super bus ride, there was talk of getting something to eat and I spotted a cafe across the road. We wandered upstairs to have a look but realised they only sold drinks – no food. So we set off down the stairs. On the way my trusty jandals let me down and I slipped on the steep narrow steps – I pretty much skiied down the steps and seemed to recover but Id done some damage – bruises in strategic locations and a sprained ankle. I shrugged it off but the next day after the hell bus ride I was feeling it, my ankle had swollen up and was real sore; no wonder the bus ride was uncomfortable! Its feeling better now but I really should be resting it, however I have been using some genuine Vietnamese tiger balm and it seems to be helping.
Anyhoo thats my gripe session for now – proof that even the best laid plans can go wrong and savvy tourists can get taken for a ride. Chalk it up to experience right?
21 October Saigon
We took the soft-option travel-wise from Hoi An to Saigon this time. As much fun as a 16-hour bus ride is we decided to fly instead. Its about eight times the price but its worth it when you get there and actually feel normal instead of the backpacker zombie a bus ride can induce.
We ended up spending an extra day in Hoi An as we left the flight booking a bit late but we didnt mind as it was so nice there and the weather was great. Its a lovely sleepy town where the beach just makes you want to stay and you cant understand why it isnt overcrowded and completely built-up but I guess that will happen in time. We got the first day of the APEC conference that was happening in Hoi An. Its the first time Vietnam has hosted it and so there was a bit of a song and dance about it with lanterns floating down the river and life-size dragons (if dragons were real I guess they would be that size) so we just got ourselves into one of those riverside restaurants and watched the action go by. We made more use of the bikes as we guessed it would probably be the last time we got to cycle around Vietnam – the carefreeness of it all was magic. There was time for a bit of last minute shopping (as there always is according to the girls, or is that last second) then we said dum bi eet (Vietnamese for goodbye) to the hotel staff and made our way to Danang airport for our flight.
A little over an hour later we landed in Saigon, greeted by rain (something we hadnt seen in about a week). We got a taxi and made our way to Co Giang, where we were going to check out some guesthouses. Unfortunately it was rush hour (I had previously imagined there was no such thing – its always ‘rush hour’ here!) and then it rained, and I dont mean just a light shower – torrential buckets of the stuff, you did feel a bit sorry for the scooter people but I guess theyre used to it (I felt worse for the poor lady on the bike who got soaked by our taxi!).
Right, I’m back – I started this email two days ago but had to leave it half-finished because the bus arrived so things have moved on a bit since arriving in Saigon. We are now in Phnom Penh in Cambodia and trying to book flights from Siem Reap back to Bangkok but its looking a bit bleak; might just have to setup camp here for a bit longer :).
We spent two nights in Saigon. On our first night in town we went in search of kai and found this very local place that was selling anything from sauteed frogs to ducks brain, or something like that. Suffice to say I just ended up going with the beef noodles. Crystal got the fries which were served with a strange side plate of sugar and butter – how that works we werent really sure.
The first day we headed out to the Cu Chi tunnels where the Viet Cong successfully defended against the American from their underground hideouts, 200km of tunnels – its pretty amazing what they put up with but I guess desperate situations… later the same day we stopped in at the War Remnants museum which documented war crimes of both the Chinese and Americans, but mostly the Americans – interesting to hear the other side of the story and a pretty horrifying picture of what war does to people. Made our way back to our hotel and caught up with the Colonel, our first Western fast food in a while and it was gooooooood.
The next day we were off on a tour of the Mekong Delta which included all the usual suspects – coconut candy factory, bee farm (complete with a bit of snake handling on the side) and other ho-hum yawn tour group destinations … ok so it wasnt that bad but sometimes you get a bit sick of the tourist trail. Anyhoo we got lunch and some sweet live music, then a bunch of fruit and a ride in a canoe wearing those trendy Vietnamese conical hats. Then herded on to another bus for the short (five hours and counting) trip up to Chau Doc (the border town we were staying at). It was a rough ride but we all survived and were treated to a wicked lightning show, torrential rain (with our packs on the roof!) and the occasional ferry ride across the mighty Mekong. Our room didnt have aircon so it was pretty muggy that night but a cold shower helped as well the fact I was dog tired. The others went out for dinner but I stayed back to rest my weary ankle which is slowly mending (but still puffy – Crystal has sympathy pains with swelling of the left ankle too, touching isnt it…).
The next day back on the tourist trail with a visit to a fish farm but it was more a look into the hard life of Vietnamese living on the river trying to carve out a living for themselves. The small boat we were in was packed and there was the odd moment we thought it might tip with an imbalance of fat Americans – only kidding. After watching some sari weaving we started on our journey up the Mekong to the Cambodian border. We got our visas sorted then passed through without any problem. Then it was about four hours on this slow boat up the river – I just sat up the front and rested my ankle, it was incredibly nice and sitting here I can still feel the motion of the boat. The weather has been really nice and pleasant. The trip to Phnom Penh was finished off with a rough one and half hour bus ride which had even the toughest travellers complaining but we made it ok. Booked into our accommodation then went out for pizza at this place in town which was great (the first good Western food Ive had in awhile). They use US dollar here and their local currency, Riel, so it gets confusing trying to figure how much things really are and making sure youre not getting short changed!
Were planning to head out to the coast tomorrow but will depend on a few things – stay tuned!
Getting out of Cambodia
Ok so that makes it sound a bit dramatic but its not really that bad, however it wasnt exactly straight forward. It been the rainy season and it living up to its name, national highway 6 (the notoriously rugged and poorly maintained overland exit from Siem Reap!) was flooded and the buses werent getting through. Our only other option was really to fly, either directly from Sieam Reap to BKK ($US170 each) or bus back to Phnom Penn and fly to BKK from there (probably about the same). This is compared to $11 each for the bus – so being forced to fly out was going to be painful to the pocket, not exactly how you want to end your holiday!
We kept trying every travel office we could find, getting the latest info about the buses, always getting the same answer – no bus! We found one place that would sell us a ticket to Ko Chang on the bus for about $30, but we would have to get out at Poipet and find a new bus to BKK – which sounded like a last resort option. Then on the day before we had to leave we found a bus that was going to BKK, but unfortunately it was booked out, no way! But they said check back later that day as they were planning a second bus. However, on our way into town for dinner (after a very relaxing day at the hotel lazing around the pool!) we stopped in at a place and I was sitting there expecting the same response – no bus, or bus full but no they took our money and gave us tickets – yay! I felt relieved we had our exit, and not a moment too soon!
That night we dined out at the Dead Fish, a funky barn-like restaurant with some cool music, lights and other bits and pieces, including a sweet crocodile pit where you put the kids when theyre misbehaving (we actually got to feed them, no not kids, a plate of fish, thrilling stuff for 50cents). We kicked off with a bang with a jug of their famous Dead Fish cocktail which had a good dose of vodka and other bits of goodness, then some sweet Thai dishes – a good night out, highly recommend the place, maybe if we go back we’ll get one of their t-shirts!
The next morning, we were up early seriously not wanting to miss our 8am bus! Flip that would be a major bummer! Checked out and I had tussled with the staff to get a bit of a discount for the strange smell coming from the bathroom (honest it wasnt me ok!!), I got a couple of quid but they argued that any discount would come out of their wages, which distressed (and this was my problem why?? only kidding) we left on good terms. Ran out for the bus and were just in time, jumped aboard, stacked our bags at the back and psyched ourselves up for the fearsome bus ride out to BKK.
After about 30 minutes we were on our way but we werent about to break any landspeed records, nevermind it was a lovely day and we got a good tour of the countryside. The road proved interesting in places, with parts of it missing and a lot of it submerged. At some points it required a bit more effort getting through – one time we all had to get out, jump in these small row boats that ferried across the flooded section then get back on the bus which had been towed through by a tractor, then another time we waited while diggers and trucks firmed up a section that had turned into a mudplug and were entertained by locals making their way through it (seriously flying out would not have been as interesting!). After a long stretch of the bus wading through flooded roads and potholes the size of texas, we got ourselves a flattie. So we all stopped at the next village, piled out and sat around for about an hour. It was a good chance to rest up and get something to drink. I wandered off in search of a bong kuhn (toilet) and found a conveniently placed tree (serious that was the public toilet – the locals pointed me there, well i hope i went in the right direction, I did happen to startle an elderly woman settling down for her siesta, I quickly moved on…).
We set off again, rattling our way towards Poipet (border of Thailand) knowing it would still be another few hours. Surprisingly we were both coping pretty well. I guess we were building ourselves up that this was a majorly sucky bus ride and it actually wasnt that bad. We eventually got to the border all covered in sweat, dust and dirt – piled out, got into another bus for about five minutes (which got held up with some angry japanese who didnt have tickets). At the border we joined the queues and departed Cambodia (no departure tax, one of the benefits of an overland exit!) and marched our way to Thailand (that was pretty cool), passing many casinos on the way (gambling is illegal in Thailand so they set them up just on the border). Got processed through into Thailand (another stamp in the passport) and wandered to find our connecting bus. It was going to be about 20 minutes so Crystal got some food. The bus pulled up, everyone piled in, while I finished off some waffle. Me and Crystal were the last to get on the bus only to find there were no seats left, instead they offered us the steps or plastic stools. Understandably I wasnt that impressed, however (all credit to her) Crystal was keeping a stiff upper lip about the whole thing. I grabbed my stool and sat in the aisle, sulking … I mean we had just endured about 12 hours of the rattliest, craziest bus ride, now we were looking forward to a little more comfort only to find there werent enough seats for us!!) Fortunately it was only four hours (i know only!!) so I thought i can do this but i was not happy! We got to Khao San Rd and I wanted to know about getting a refund from the bus company but no one was any help so i realised there was no point. We went off in search of a place to stay for the night (it being about 11pm by now). We checked out a few places but they were either too much or real dives – of course in my state i wasnt in the mood for being optimistic and i made poor crystal trudge around with me looking at about 5 or 6 different places til i settled on one that included breakfast. It was a tiny little room and i found hairs in the bed (yikes) but it was relatively quiet, had tv and aircon. i eventually got to sleep, wondering what our last day in Thailand would be like (knowing i had shirts to buy!).
26 October Temples close but not yet
The six hour bus ride from Phnom Penh wasnt too bad, aside from the weak aircon and hindi music videos (we also got to watch Enemy of the State in Cambodian, or Khymer). We’ve been in Siem Reap for over a day now and still havent seen the famous Angkor Wat but we will go there.
We’ve spent long hours by the pool at our hotel which has been nice, some good R’n’R after tripping our way from Saigon, up the Mekong, across the border and up to Siem Reap (which means Siamese Defeated). It was good physio for my ankle as well and by the end of the day it felt completely healed, the swelling had gone right down and whatever was broken has mended. I was a bit worried about it actually as it had been about a week and was still painful to walk on at times and very swollen. I really didnt want to go to any of the local hospitals – I mightve walked out minus a leg!
Sieam Reap is a ‘rough round the edges’ kind of town that has experienced growing pains as it tries to accommodate all the visitors coming to see Angkor Wat; construction everywhere, dirty roads, pubs every second door and tuk tuks wanting to take you on a tour of the temples. The traffic, live every where else, is full on and it was an experience for us getting some bicycles and riding around a bit. Having said that you do feel pretty safe as they drive relatively slowly and accommodate learners!
02 November Angkor Wat
Ok the time had come – enough lazing around the pool and kipping in the early afternoon. It was time to visit Angkor Wat (whilst possibly not one of the seven wonders of the world as I had previously thought, it is still the world’s largest religious structure and a world heritage site … and one million visitors a year cant be wrong!) so we got up about 4am (had asked for a wake-up call but in the end didnt need it as my finely tuned body clock woke me up right on time!) jumped on the bikes and headed out in the pitch black. An old lady who I think helps run the place wandered out, possibly concerned we were scarpering without paying … as if!! On the road and heading in what I thought was the right direction, I mean it was dark, there are no street signs and its not like Ive been to this place before! Just follow everyone else I thought – I somehow managed to lead us on to a quiet country road and thought this cant be right! But carried on, took a side street and ended up at the ticket office – phew nice save and just as well as the sun was starting to come up – cant be late for the sunrise! Arrived and got offered secure parking but decided not to, hey there werent our bikes. Got a free postcard but knew the kid would be back when I came back for my bike … to be continued…
11 November Last day in Thailand
We got up about 8ish (the room we had didnt really lend itself to leisurely lie ins!) and showered, wandering down for our free breakfast. THe whole area was a bit grubby but it was the infamous Khao San Rd, backpackers kingdom, all thats bad about Bangkok! I guess thats why it appeals to some. I quite enjoyed the cooked breakfast i got – after poorly cooked western food in vietnam, it was a nice change.
We stepped out into the markets down Khao San Rd looking to part with the last of our baht and not get stuck with it at the airport like i did last time (buying overpriced souveniers!). It was the usual stuff – tshirts, watches, bags etc at prices that were quite a bit more than Chiang Mai but we knew that would be the case. We tried bargaining with them but it really seemed like no one was in the mood – either hung over or just knowing that some farang fresh off the boat would pay their asking price! Time seemed to slip by fairly quickly so I booked a bus trip out to the airport for 1pm (about half the price of a taxi) and rounded up some purchases, knowing which shops to go to and how much to pay. Generally did ok paying about 120 baht for each tshirt, or 150 if it was a good one. Headed back to the hotel to checkout our stuff bang on 12 – phew! Got our 500 bond back (enough for departure tax) and headed back into the fray to get some lunch. We’d eaten plenty of local food so we rationalised that it was about time we treated ourselves to some maccas – getting the upsized (and i mean laaaaarge american style) big mac combo – wow that ice cold coke was goooood. Our timing was bang on, finished lunch then wandered back up to the pickup point for the bus out to the airport, which (as is usually the case) was about 10 minutes late!
Then before we knew it, we were heading out to the airport saying goodbye to everything that was our month long south-east asian experience. To be honest the maccas was starting to disagree with me a little but i held out for the airport. Before long we were checked in and had time to spend our last remaining baht (piddly stuff but no use to us!). Crystal had a swell time racing around their ‘family store’ collecting all sorts of treats, like a little kid with 85 cents at the dairy. We headed down to the departure lounge, which seemed like miles away (its this new airport – it just means you have to walk further) … we spotted our travel buddies on the way but they didnt see us, they were too busy with last minute purchases (running out of time guys!). We stopped just above the departure lounge to take some sweet timer pics then checked in. The flight was delayed about 30 minutes or so, which gave me some time to flick off an email or two, just to remind mum about picking us up (thanks!) and check the weather (which fortunately looked ok!).
Finally we boarded. We were seating right down the back, good cause ur handy to the toilets, bad cause ur handy to the toilets. Nevermind we still had our little entertainment consoles to keep us busy, and because it was a new month there were new movies to watch – yay! Took a few photos leaving BKK, looked just like I remember it the first time we came back in October 04, good times with cambell and the gang. Then we were gone, flying out over lands, that had taken us days to get through, in a matter of minutes. At about 12ish I decided I try to get some sleep but its near impossible on the plane (unless ur in business class!). Probably ended up getting about 2 minutes of decent sleep in total. Nevermind back to watching movies and learning some new languages (one of the fun activities they have on those consoles).
Before I knew it we were coming in to land at Auckland. It felt good to be home but we also knew we had customs and a domestic flight to get through before we could really be home. Customs was a breeze and we got our domestic in plenty of time – nothing to worry about. I just about fell asleep on that flight more than once. Got some good views over Christchurch as it was blowin a bit of a norwester so our flight path took us over a bit of brighton – could almost see our place.
Went to collect our bags, then heard our names over the PA. Info tells us that one of our bags has been misplaced and will be coming on a later flight. Nevermind I can live without it for a few hours. Dads there right on time to pick us up so pack ourselves in and head for home. It was so nice enjoying the fresh air and quiet streets (relatively!). Walked into the house and it smelt exactly like when we first bought the house – very welcoming! Sorted a bit of stuff, I worked through my emails while Crystal napped. We headed over to Candis for dinner then home, so very tired! We probably hadnt slept for about 36 hours at least. Getting into our own bed, with fresh sheets and PJs was absolutely scrummy, sorry if Im sounding like a girl here but it was absolutely gorgeous sweetie. And so incredibly quiet, no aircon humming away, traffic honking, people yelling, dogs barking, chickens mooing, toilets flushing or hotel staff watching TV – wow! Sleep that night (and most of the next day) was absolute bliss.
And thats it – the holiday was officially over. Hope youve enjoyed keeping up with it all and next time I want to hear about your adventures!
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