Goodbye Cambodia ;(

Trip Start Jun 13, 2008
Trip End Jun 12, 2009

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Hooo k

So we made a second trip back to bamboo island..our own personal paradise, or so it felt with the lack of people there.  This time we were a gang, a gang of 6 in, zo, tony, b, em, and kate.  We rented two bungalows this time on the other side of the island... a little more basic aka no toilet just two double beds... but still on the seas edge and this time on the less windy super beautiful beach of the island.  The plan was two nights and 3 days of relaxation.... but it ended up being a three night trip as we "accidentally" missed the only boat home and were "forced" to spend another day and night.  We worked out that in the end for the three nights it cost us all $10 each, less than the price of a cinema ticket at home ....loverly.

This side of the island had a couple of Westerners running the accommodation and bar.... they had only been there two weeks and their lack of organization worked to our advantage.. aka them telling us that after a dispute with the management meant that they were not going to let them make any profit... which worked out as free gin and tonic, Baileys, rum, and dirt cheap food :)   The night of burning the managements profit was only ruined by the random appearance of two army men on an island only accessible by boat.  Out of the dark and from where, no one knows the two guys turned up and started to demand free drinks and cigarettes from the bar.... this spooked the couple running the place and resulted in them asking us to leave so they could shut up the bar.... random, but an experience nonetheless.

The rest of our bamboo island experience included lots of sea time (super warm and calm sea), ticker (the hackey sack / shuttlecock game), cards, eating, drinking, another fishing trip (i won), frisbee, and general pissing about with the group.  A good time spent on a super amazing island.  Oh i did have a bit of fun with a crab.... sitting on the beach in the morning after a yoga session for the group led by Zoe, i noticed a large crab and a little crab popping out of their holes in the sand.  I chucked some scraps of pringles at them and they took it back down their hole....challenging the big crab i gave him a whole pringle, first he chopped it up into smaller bits with his claws, then  after a failed attempt at retreating to his hole with the snack, i watched as from the whole he was throwing lumps of sand out to make room for the pringle...amazing crab , his name was Barry :)

Back on the mainland we had a loverly last supper with the gang and a drunken goodbye.  They all headed off to Thailand in the morning we headed on a 10 hour bus trip to Siem Reap.....and a lovely nus ride it was too....  not as dangerous as some of the other countries we have been to with some sensible overtaking and a sensible speed...god i love Cambodia.  On arrival to Siem Reap as they sometimes do they dropped us off at a bus stop in the middle of nowhere...leaving the bus into the dark as always we were pitched at by a load of Tuk Tuk drivers.... after a few seconds deliberation we picked one... he was loverly!

First he took us to a couple of different guest houses to see which one we liked the best.  We picked one and agreed to let him pick us up in two days at 4:30 am to see the temples of Angkor.  We were looking forward to getting back to our hardcore sightseeing days, but first we spent a day of rest and recuperation in bed....watching shit TV :)

Nice and Early at 4:30 our tuk tuk driver Lichee was awaiting, and we jumped aboard....... tuk tuks have to be the best form of transport, their airy and allow you to get a good 360 view of the area :)  He took us into the dark on a 30 minute journey to Angkor Wat.... the main temple, here we watched a stunning sunrise reveal the beautiful temple complex around us...we wandered and ate :)  You can read more about Angkor Wat here:
and if your hardcore you can enjoy a read about the whole Angkor temple district here:

After enjoying the first temple we jumped back in the tuk tuk and spent a good 9  hours driving from temple to temple dodging elephants on the way.  At the second temple complex we were wandering through some woods when a super cheeky salesman jumped out from behind a tree.... he was selling rubbing's he had made of ancient stone carvings throughout the temples...we bought two :)  My favorite had to be the temples that had huge trees growing on top of them with chunky roots snaking through the rocks.... i think this is where some of tomb raider was filmed.  We bought drinks and pastry's for Lichee throughout the day and gave him a good tip at the end....he was a legend.  Saying that most Cambodians are and this country is going to make my top three list somewhat due to the people...everyone here has a smile, there good to have a laugh with ...especially the kids....they are all really nice  :)

Before leaving Siem Reap we treated ourselves to a pucker restaurant called the dead fish... a super funky restaurant, all of the tables are on different levels, with about 8 different platforms throughout the whole restaurant... we chose a table with pillows so you can sit on the floor while you eat.  For the higher levels they have a pulley system to get the drinks up to the waiters and throughout your meal they have traditional Cambodian apsara dancers...loverly!  Other than that the restaurant had ducks wandering around (for insect control), a gator pit with 20 gaters (for crime control?!?!) and all the clocks were set wrong (to remind you of the past!?!)

Siem Reap done with we enjoyed an 8 hour bus ride and i take back everything i said about safe Cambodian buses...we had two bus rides one to Kompong Cham and the other to Kratie our final destination..... stupid speeds, stupid over taking and a very scary ride (not sure if I'm more scared due to our Bolivian bus crash....but I'm sure that has something to do with it.)  We hit kratie found a luxury hotel at $2.50 each and grabbed a curry..... oh we also realized that you can not get visas at the Laos border... so we handed a bloke our passports who sent them on a bus back to Phnom Penh, and told us they would return in 2 days on the same bus we will be taking to Ban Lung,.... fingers crossed :)

First full day in Kratie back in our super sightseeing mind frame we booked a trip to see the Irrawaddy dolphins... super extinct freshwater dolphins, with only 40 in the Mekong river and 8 in the area we visited.  We met our drivers at 8:00am four of us had booked and 4 mopeds were waiting.  Zoe had requested us helmets, but the other girl with us did not think to do so.... being either really kind or really stupid i let her have mine.  We cruised on the back of our drivers mopeds for 30 minutes to the section of the Mekong the dolphins hang out at.... i was wearing my very handy Cambodian scarf like a cowboy ...keeping the dust away from my mouth and nose.  We jumped from moto to boat and spent just over an our watching these amazing animals pop out fro the surface.... i loved it and could have spent the whole day watching them.

Afternoon of downtime in Kratie then up the next morning to grab our passports and jump on a bus heading for Ban Lung.  Yey the passports arrived...another visa stuck in and ready to go.

We wandered around the mars like super dusty town of Ban Lung and picked up some super cheap eats.... Luk Lak ( a Cambodian dish of beef with vegetables, covered in gravy remarkably like home yum!)  

The next morning we decided to rent motorbikes (we are definitely for doing things on your own rather than taking a tour...more freedom, and you don't feel like your being herded like sheep!).  This motorbike trip was a bit more challenging than the ones we had taken before, mainly because there were not any  proper roads, all dusty dirt tracks that at  points were only just as wide as the tire of the bike... a little hairy but a definite sense of achievement received after navigating our way around Ban Lungs surrounding areas.  On this trip we stopped at three waterfalls... the first one we just looked at, gorgeous to look at but we were not quite ready for a swim, by the second waterfall we were covered in red dust and ready for a swim.... it was icy cold but just what we needed, with a refreshing pool to swim around just at the base of the fall.  The third waterfall didn't involve swimming but it did involve standing underneath the waterfall itself.... very exhilarating with the icy spikes of the water hitting our shoulders from a height.  Dodging dogs and cows along the way we made it to our last stop a volcanic crater lake..... yup used to be a volcanic crater...well still is a volcanic crater but now filled with surprisingly warm crystal clear water... a good afternoon spent here relaxing :)

The next day presented a challenge... money.  It all started with the accidental loss of Zoe's wallet...... it happened on Bamboo Island... we were wading through the sea at night, enjoying the sparkly effect of the phosphorus, a plankton that glows up as you splash around.  Zoe announced that she had dropped her wallet!  After a search of the sea with torches and a mornings snorkeling the next day we decided it had been lost.... so we were left with my one cash card.  We took out a lot of cash in Siem Reap as we knew there may be issues getting money in the more remote areas of northern Cambodia... what we didn't count on was the price of the visa we had to buy in Kratie.... we headed to Ban Lung.  Yey Ban lung had a cash point..Noooooo.. Visa only.  The only visa card we had was in Zo's wallet.  So now aware that the next cash point we encounter willing to accept my standard cash card could be in a couple of weeks we had a dilemma.  Just a side note... its amazing how you take services such a s cash points for granted...out here they can be few and far between so planning ahead is always necessary.  Anyways.... we Text our night in shining armour Mr James Aspinwall, James jumped on the net and visited, he dropped some cash into an account for us to be picked up in Cambodia and within 1 hour of us texting him the cash was available and waiting at the Ban Lung branch of  western union... Thanks again James.  Popping into the  office i was presented with a note by the cashier ...a note that had been left by James..... "To receive the transfered funds Thomas William guy must kiss the cashier on the cheek, if there is a glass barrier he must blow her a kiss".  Luckily there was a glass barrier (worried about crossing some boundaries) so i blew the cashier a kiss and after some laughter from the branch staff we received our cash and we had been saved WHOOP!

Our last day in Ban Lung was spent at the lake...this time deciding that some exercise was needed we rented push bikes and enjoyed a full day basking in the sun, and swimming....a good way to say good bye to Cambodia. 

The journey from Cambodia to Laos was an interesting one.  We headed out from Ban Lung on a 4 hour drive in a mini bus.  Through the thick red dust on a pot holed, very bumpy road, we enjoyed the company of 6 Cambodians who in turn were very much enjoying the company of the on board entertainment.... 3 Cambodian karaoke songs on video on repeat.  We arrived in stung treng and waited a couple of hours for our next bus, watching other travelers jump in different mini buses heading for different locations in Cambodia.....then ours turned up.  A truck with benches on the back... it was a little surprising as we had been promised a mini bus, but turned out to be very enjoyable.  Nothing better than crossing a border with the wind in your hair :)  We met up with Mike, Zoe and Alice who were to accompany us on the truck and headed for the border.  After crossing into Laos we were sad to see Cambodia disappear but very happy to enjoy what a new our new destination had to offer.  The first thing it offered us was a beer.. beer Lao to be exact.   We enjoyed this while waiting for our next bus to take us to our final destination Don Det one of the 4000 islands in southern Laos.  We were told 15 minutes but they didn't arrive for 1 1/2 hours, but no problems we were back on the road this time dodging water buffalo until we reached the edge of the Mekong river (12th largest river in the world) home of the 4000 islands.  We arrived at Don Det after a short boat ride with very beautiful views of the sun setting over the Mekong.  Don det has two sides to the island on which you can stay.... either sunrise side or sunset...we choose to find accommodation on sunset as we figured we were more likely to be up when the sun is setting than when it is rising...we were right and enjoyed many a sunset from our bungalow.

So overall i have really really enjoyed Cambodia, its up there with my top three countries visited i would say....but i will make my final decision on that list when we return home in just under 6 months ( we are over half way!!!)  The people are super friendly and we could tell the difference from Vietnam within an hour of entering the country... it was almost as if we could just let our shoulders drop and relax after constant hassle from the locals in Vietnam.  It has been a great place to relax, but at the same time to enjoy some of the countries history, even though some of the historical sites we have visited has ended up being an emotional roller coaster.  The food has been excellent especially Amok (a coconut curry, not dissimilar to korma) and the countryside beautiful.

Had a bit of a slowdown on book reading for a little while mainly because of the book i was reading.  If i start a book i have to finish it regardless of how much i am enjoying the read.  The book in question was Indecent Exposure by Tom Sharpe.  Basically i was being lazy, i struggled with the first few pages and ended up re reading them a few times but once i got past that it turned out to be a good read, very enjoyable.  I wont tell you what it was about, maybe you can figure something out from the cover of the book.

I also read another Ben Elton... god hes amazing :)  This time a book called High Society, I'm gonna recommend it as i do with all of the Ben Elton's i have read, very informative and a definite page turner.

Annnnnd once again as there are too many photos for me to stick on here i have uploaded the rest to the following site ... if you want to take a gander you can :)  (there are around 400 pics of Cambodia)

Love to all

Tom x x x

p.s A very merry christmas to all.... enjoy your xmas grub :)
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