A Travellerspoint blog

Cambodia

After waiting in nomans land for nearly an hour between 2 big border structures, one finished and unused (Cambodian), the other still covered in bamboo scaffolding with a bumpy mud track diversion (Laos), we finally enter northern Cambodia. First impression not great, as far as the eye can see swathes of forest flattened and huge piles of roots and trunks piled up in lines, with the odd really tall tree stranded in random places.

First stop Siem Reap, home of the Angkorian temples and unfortunately not too close to the Laos Boarder, so after one 13 hour bus journey we arrive safe and sound at a lovely guest house called the Golden Mango where we meet James and Becca on a summer brake from uni. As we got in late we left James and Becca to get up at 5.30 and watch the sunrise at Angkor, but unfortunately it was a bit cloudy & drizzly. We meet them at 10ish for a day of exploring the complex by tuk tuk. Angkor Watt may be one of the most spectacular temples around but it is only one of many temples built in the area by the khmer kings/people and is no means the oldest. James and Becca were only here for one day so we tried to fit in as many sites as possible wizzing round on this tuk tuk (which are different to any others previously seen, more like a trailer attached to a moped). From temples of grandeur and huge scale such as Angkor Thom (or the temple of faces, 300 odd carved into the towers to represent the god with a king'ish resemblance, classic king making him self godly), to temples in ruins reclaimed by the forest hundreds of years ago (and the perfect location for a Lara Croft Tomb raider film!). There were also half finished temples, apparently one had been built out of hard lime stone which made it very hard to carve, so they never finished the work (or the khmer king popped it and his son had something better to build). After a long day exploring we headed back to the Golden Mango to drink our free jugs of Angkor beer before heading out into town. All the action seemed to be down 'pub street' the most non-asian street name so far! We said goodbye to James & Becca about 1am and off they went on their night bus to Bangkok.

Bayion Temple

Bayion Temple

James and Becca   Sian

James and Becca + Sian

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat

After a slow start to the day we visited the very modern Angkor museum, a bit pricey but explained a load about Angkor city, Hinduism & Buddhism. We spent the rest of the day wandering around Siem Reap along the river and into the crowded old market.
Our third and final day was another visit to Angkor temples, seeing some of the temples we didn't see on the first day, some further afield and older sites. One imparticular was Bantei Serai which was about 20km away from the rest of Angkor. It was pretty miniature in comparison to some of the others probably as it wasn't a royal site, and our bargain guidebook came in handy (genuine copy of course). We finished off the day as the rain came in at some of the original and oldest brick temples more than a thousand years old, (almost 600 years older than Angkor Wat), and then escaped back to the Golden Mango for some more free beer!

nice temple

nice temple

Sian and bridge

Sian and bridge

Overgrown temple

Overgrown temple

Next stop was Battembang, the other side of the Tonle Sap lake to Siem Reap. As soon as we got off the bus we were literally surrounded by tuk tuk drivers and hotel touts which were impossible to shake off. So like all the other travellers we ended up at the Royal Hotel, which turned out to be a steal at £6 a night, they gave us a massive deluxe room with a balcony!
Nearby are the Khmer Rouge killing caves where they bludgeoned people to death and pushed the corpses through a skylight hole and into the cave below! All in all a pretty grim & surreal place as they have now collected all the remaining bones and put them in a glass cabinet next to a gold reclining Buddha. On a positive note the views from the top of the hill of the surrounding area were fantastic. Another cave close by is home to “millions” of bats which leave their cave at dusk, but just as we started to watch & wait the heavens opened! So the bats just swirled around the entrance and didn't come out. We had to make do with our tuk tuk driver saying he was batman in his waterproof cape and ride back to town in his batmobile tuk tuk, stickers and all !!! He was a bit strange but nice enough!

View from near Killing Cave now Budist Temble/shrine

View from near Killing Cave now Budist Temble/shrine

Killing Cave outside Batdanbang

Killing Cave outside Batdanbang

As we'd had a 'hectic' few weeks we needed to recharge a bit, so we headed down to Cambodia's small stretch of coast and the town of Sihanoukville, home to Cambodia's only sea major port.. As we didn't get up to much over the four days, all I can say is, the beach was lovely (except you do get pestered a bit by sellers, and I lost a game of noughts and crosses with a 12 year old so I had to buy a bracelet, ha), the beach side bars had a great location and the seafood BBQ platers every night where delicious :o) (also it seems to be the next British get away because it was flooded).

Kampot a few hours down the coast was the next stop where the local speciality is black pepper. The town itself is nestled on the river with classic French colonial buildings running along the banks, but not much else except maybe a unique collection of roundabouts, one with a massive dorian fruit and another a millennium celebration consisting of the date in big numbers and a sea gull (millennium white elephants must dot the world, some costing more than others!). We joined a tour and headed up to the Bokor nature reserve, we had a little hike up through the jungle where we were introduced to some nasty locals, slimy blood sucking leaches, (the one on my leg had a great meal, by the time I spotted it he was nice and fat, and the bite bled for hours). At the top of this collection of forested hills is Bokor hill station, a retreat constructed by the French to flee the heat, including a posh hotel, the only Catholic Church in Cambodia and a really windy road. This was before the 20's and since then it has been left to the elements, used as a killing site by the Khmer rouge and following that it was literally the front line during the Khmer rouge/ Vietnam war where the hotel belonged to the Khmer rouge and the church to the Vietnamese with the no mans land between peppered with land mines which were only removed by the UN in the early noughties.
Now typically the richest man in Cambodia is building a massive casino complex and will be renovating the old hotel after the near completion of the replacement road, through this “nature reserve” (not a small job). The best part about it is that no Cambodian national will be able to set a foot inside this casino as they're not allowed by law to gamble, priceless! Apparently that law is a throw back to when the French came in under Napoleon the 3rd and introduced gambling and screwed all the natives out of their wealth, Not priceless. The guide we had was and an interesting man and had survived the Khmer rouge as a teenager by hiding out in a jungle village community somewhere nearby, but seemed quite positive for the future of Cambodia. Finally the end of the day was spent crusing the river and watching the fisher men heading out to sea.

Sea food BBQ, Sihanoukville

Sea food BBQ, Sihanoukville

Dorian Fruit round about

Dorian Fruit round about

Old french hotel in the clouds

Old french hotel in the clouds

View from top, outside hotel

View from top, outside hotel

No Man's Land

No Man's Land

Boat trip Kampot

Boat trip Kampot

Next day's stop was meant to be at the coastal village of Kep but we woke up to torrential rain and decided to change to a direct bus ticket to Phnom Penh, not much fun on the beach in the rain, so onwards to the capital. Another bustling Asian city with motor bikes, tuk tuk's and the odd posh car rampaging round the streets, but surprisingly sky scrapers were scarce. At the centre of Phnom Penh we find our selves again on the banks of the mighty Mekong, and in the riverside bars enjoying a few happy hour beers watching the world go by. The historical/religious city sites as in much of the Cambodia suffered badly in the hands of the khmer rouge and the various wars and as a result any sites with any significance were decimated and been have been restored. The Royal palace and Silver Pagoda were a bit underwhelming to be honest, with the pagoda apparently built on thousands silver tiles (Unfortunately didn't realise this until afterwards but they definitely had the carpets down!). It was basically just some nice looking concrete. From our visit to Angkor the museum was a must with many artefacts moved for safekeeping and display, but this was not as fulfilling as some of the guide books had promised and definitely not as high tech as the museum in Angkor. That afternoon we did the Phnom Penh walking tour, taking in the majority of the city's landmarks including Buddhist temples, victory monument, the old market, the American embassy (more like a modern fort), the royal hotel etc etc... All in all the city isn't the biggest with a lot of construction going on, but a nice place to wonder around. We found a good bar/restaurant called 'The Laughing Fatman' a couple of doors down from our hotel and made the most of the tasty food and cocktail offers :-)

Phnom Penh View and market

Phnom Penh View and market

Palace

Palace

Sian and Eliphant

Sian and Eliphant

S21 - Jail

S21 - Jail

The final day we explored the darker side of Cambodia's history with visits to the Khmer Rouge prison and then on to the killing fields. The guide showed us around the once high school turned torture centre, including the cells, the torture implements, some pretty graphic photographs of the final victims left in the cells ( Sian nearly fainted and had to be taken out for a drink and fresh air). There were also hundreds of registration images of the people admitted to the prison up on the wall, in a strange way the Khmer Rouge documented all details of the victims and recorded their individual “confessional crimes”. All would have been moved on by night trucks to the fields with only literally a handful of those admitted to the prison surviving to tell the tale. The killing fields were about 40 minutes away by tuk tuk, and a glass pagoda now houses the remains of some of the victims which have been exhumed. The displays and information at the visitors centre outlined the many brutal killings/execution methods used in an attempt to save bullets, and highlighted the existing tree in the fields used to smash babies and young children to death. It was also incredible to learn that the US & Thailand actually continued to supply the Khmer Rouge with arms & funding even after they were overthrown in an attempt to regain the country from the Vietnamese and surviving Cambodian people. Worse still the UN still recognised the Khmer Rouge as the official government of Cambodia until the early 90's, whilst Cambodians are still waiting for justice!!!

Killing feild and tree

Killing feild and tree

cells within s21

cells within s21

So after a pretty serious, humbling day of sightseeing, a few drinks and a nice meal was in order, so back to the laughing fatman for our final evening in Cambodia before departing by boat down the last stretch of the Mekong.

Posted by Meurig ac Sian 07:11 Archived in Cambodia Comments (0)

South Laos

So we headed from the north into the flat lands and paddy fields of the south. First stop was the remote village of Kong Lo. Made the journey via VIP bus – yeah right! It was a rickety thing from the eighties, no air con which meant a hot & sweaty 8 hours, stopping to offload sacks of things and all the veggies on the roof. Kong Lo, a tiny barely developed village set on in flat valley full of bright green paddy fields surrounded by lime stone cliffs and mountains, is home to a massive 7.5km natural tunnel/cave through the head of this horse shoe valley. The trip through was made on a chunky wooden motorboat with two local guides with head torches. From the way they where motoring through this tunnel in the pitch dark they obviously knew it like the back of their hands. The tunnel in sections was 100m wide and in others 100m high and in one dry section you had some classic stalagmites/tights with some lighting so you could walk through. Once you made it to the other side, there was time to have a bearlao and then head back through with the current, not stopping and just sliding over the gravel beads.

view from guest house

view from guest house

After arriving back

After arriving back

Onwards we went in an attempt to get to Paske, about 450km from Kong Lo. Firstly we had to catch the only bus that left the village at 7am which dropped us off at the junction on the main north-south route. We waited a while for a bus to come along ad flagged down what appeared to be a fairly modern coach. We climbed onboard to an absolutely packed bus and the only space were a couple of plastic stools in the aisle between six of us! Didn't fancy 2 hours stuck on there so we got off and haggled with a santhew driver to take all of us to the next large town, Tha khaek. The speedy santhew driver got us there before the bus and we had about 30mins to wait until the connecting bus left for Pakse, job done so we thought! Turns out the connection was the bus we had turned down earlier and when we tried to get on again the ticket guy shook his head and wouldn't let us on because we had snubbed them earlier! With about 340km left to go we had to go to another bus station by tuk tuk to try to get a mini van to the next town along Savannakhet! There was a recurring theme a bus meant to seat 12 actually squished 21 people on board! We tried to argue that we would only pay half price as some of us only had half a seat but he knew the we didn't have much choice and insisted on the full 30,000 kip. So packed in like sardines and two hours later we arrived in Savannakhet. The only bus for Pakse would get us there about 11pm so after a less than smooth day of travel we decided to spend an impromptu night in Savannakhet. The town itself was again on the banks of the Mekong and was full of old French colonial buildings and even had a typically French square at the centre, so we ended the day meandering round the town and had bite to eat and again a Bearlao on the banks of the river and watched the sunset over Thailand.
Next day we succeeded in arriving in Pakse about mid-afternoon, found a nice guesthouse with cluster bomb casing plant pots lining the stairs and had a good Indian restaurant over the road (So Sian was happy).

After arriving back

After arriving back

Pakse is right on the foot of the Bolaven Plateau, a massive fertile area with big virgin jungle forests and area's developed to grow fruit/veg and coffee. So to explore we set off with Chris and Anna on a couple of manual scooters with our picnic of baguettes and paté , the gear took a while to get used to but we needed them for the hills up beyond the town. Unfortunately as we went up the rain started coming down, and not just a shower, it was like being at home, drizzle with some heavy stuff chucked in. Lucky enough the main road was surfaced but the others where just mud so we only got as far as waterfall and a coffee shop then turned back soaked to the bone.

muddy road

muddy road

Waterfall Bolaven Plateau

Waterfall Bolaven Plateau

Next day we started the tree top adventure, 2 day trip which was back in the Bolaven plateau and involved trekking, zip wiring, waterfalls, rock climbing and staying in a tree house. This made up for the fact that we couldn't do the gibbon experience in northern Laos. There were 5 of us doing the trip and basically we had a guide each as they were doing training and we had to score their presentations. The zip-lining was amazing and meant that we got to traverse down a canyon past huge waterfalls and through the forest. Equipped with a wooden branch as a break it was difficult to judge the breaking to begin with, either going too fast & crashing into the guides on the platform or coming to a halt too short of the platform and dangling a hundred meters up in the jungle! The second day meant we could cross the longest of the zip wires, 450m long over a valley which lasted about a minute, a couple of times as we didn't have a full group. But what goes down must go up!!! So we trekked and scrambled back up through the jungle alongside and between waterfalls and got to a cliff edge which we had to clip ourselves to climb up as there was no other way up, don't look down! After zig zaging up the cliff between these waterfalls, we crossed through the water literally at the top of the waterfall, without a rope just grabbing some of the guides. We trekked back to the starting village and had couple of celebratory shots of Lao Lao whiskey with the guides before heading back to Pakse cream crackered.

Sian flying Backwards

Sian flying Backwards

The group at the camp

The group at the camp

On the way south we stopped quickly at Champasak & arrived by an “interesting” black, puffing, open ferry (or maybe three boats strapped together) crossing the Mekong, yet again. This one street town wasn’t the attraction but the first Angkorian capital of Wat Phu nestled in the hills out of town. These ruins the best outside of Cambodia, where we had a taste of things to come, with temples and towers working their way up the steps of the hill complex, climaxing in a sacred spring dripping from the rocks above the final temple. The view at the top made the steps worth while, stretching down to the Mekong looking over the symmetric ancient tiers of ruins and reservoirs which had been standing/falling down for well over 1000years.

Stairs up to Wat Phu

Stairs up to Wat Phu

view from wat phu

view from wat phu

Our final stop in Laos was to be Si Phan Don (4000 thousand islands) and the island of Dot Det and sister island Don Khon connected by a old French colonial rail bridge. Although we can't confirm if there were actually 4 thousand but there were a lot of small island dotted around. This is the location where the entire mighty Mekong flows over a series of waterfalls, an impassable section by boat thus why the Frenchies decided to build this massive bridge (the location of Human planets program on the fisherman on ropes). The one day we ventured away from our riverside bamboo cabin (including the must have hammocks), we cycled down with Chris, Anna and Kevin from the tree top adventure to the southern tip of Don Khon and hired a boat out in search of the endangered fresh water Irrawadi dolphins. As it happened we actually crossed over to Cambodia to the viewing sanctuary, where we could see some distant splashes, but on the way back the fisherman driver took us to the centre of the river, where we eventually saw this small pod of dolphins occasionally jumping out of the water not more that 10 meters away. They are only small, about 1.5m long with a round blunt head but we were lucky as there were a few around, and hopefully they'll be around for a lot longer now the tourists are piling in.

view from hut

view from hut

hagging out at the hut

hagging out at the hut

Mekong waterfall

Mekong waterfall

In search of dolphins

In search of dolphins

Aurevoir Laos next stop Cambodia.

Posted by Meurig ac Sian 03:19 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Northern Laos

Sabaidee, from the country of smiling people, sticky rice (some sort of rice that sticks together but not to your hands), late rickety buses and where yo have to own a water buffalo before having a wife.

View from Boat on the way to Luang Prabang

View from Boat on the way to Luang Prabang

Our first tast of Loas the border town of Huay Xai after crossing the mighty Mekong on long boat from Thailand (which is already looking pretty big and it's only the start of the wet season)! A one street town with a couple of guesthouses and bars over looking the river, and a shack for a border office/currency exchange (Which was where we met our first welshy from Bethesda, thanks to my Siwmai Butt tshirt) The town also the starting point for the gibbon experience, a tree top tour, zip lining and tree house adventure with the possibility of catching sight of the rare gibbons (1 biggish black hairy monkey – sounds like Meurig) . Unfortunately even though we tried to email and phone in advance we where unable to get a place in the limited daily groups. Gutted!!!

After a night at the BAP Guesthouse with a lovely old business lady owner (I say business women because she knew exactly what she was supplying but still managed to keep it friendly) we packed our bags and headed down the Mekong through the forested hills/mountains on a two day boat journey down to Luang Prabang. Starting 2 hours late (why start on time when you can wait and get more people on, typically Laos! We did get good seats though) we sailed down the river on a big long boat crammed with “falang” tourists of all nationalities! Not much to do except sit back, take in the scenery and play cards or read.

View

View

The overnight stop brought us to Pakbeng, a small fishing village/tourist trap. The landing point from the boat was hardly safe – a few floating plastic boxes acting as a pontoon and a steep craggy hill! We managed to find a fairly comfortable place to stay & found a tasty Indian restaurant with a nice river view. The guesthouse owner after acquiring a late night order made us some bacon rolls for the onward journey and back on the boat for the second leg. Every now and again the boat would stop at a river side community or just a shack and pick up random supplies or goods and some times passengers along with a tied up lizard, duck and a big fat water rat! (tied up by his back leg and dangled through the boat and then plonked in a plastic bag, the plastic bag looked the better option).Thank god the owner wasn't sat next us but we did have a Will Ferrell look alike (an aussie guy who must og been an entertainer by trade!). His speciality was inflatable animals from long balloons but his show stopping trick was sniffing up one end of the deflated balloon and pulling it out of his other nostril leaving it dangling there! There were some sane people onboard and we met Chris, Anna, Steve & Emile. Eventually we arrived in Laos second biggest city Luang Prabang.

Luang Prabang

Luang Prabang

Considering it is Laos' second city Luang Prabang was very small but with a definite French feel, full of bagguettes, window shutters, and avenues. We rented some bikes to explore the sites which included a large temple on top of a central hill with great views of the Nam Khan river joining the Mekong and the mountains in the distance. There was an impressive night market which involved a lot of haggling some willing others very stubborn! A must see was the Kuang Si waterfall about a 40 minute tuk tuk ride out of town. A long cascade of water with lots of pools lower down to swim in the light blue mineral water. One pool had a rope swing which we attempted – Meurig = good effort, Sian = more of a plop into the water than a swing! On the way out we discovered a bear sanctuary with big interesting enclosures with about 20 native bears that had been rescued.
On the last day we unusually got up with the sun and went to see the locals giving donations of food to the procession of monks from the temple, mostly handfuls of sticky rice, cant be an exciting diet, but they are monks after all. Some of the monks looked really young (apparently boys and teenagers give great honour to there families when they serve in the monastery for a minimum of 3months, or maythey just get away from the family). Night time curfews which are apparently quite strict meant that not only all bars have to close by 11.30pm but locals should be home too, not quite like old last orders at home (there where still teenagers hanging around street corners on there bikes though). However there was one place that was allowed to stay open until the early hours – the out of town bowling alley! We were promised music, dancing and cheap beer!!!! It turns out it's just full of a few westerners and rich locals bowling with a drink in a dated ally with the odd middle aged white guy picking up an Asian lady of the night. Anyway we had a few decent games, a few Beerlaos then headed back in the tuk tuk to the hotel.

Us and waterfall

Us and waterfall

Rope swing

Rope swing

Bear

Bear

Our next stop was Vang Vieng, and the internationally renowned destination for Tubbing whilst getting drunk. After having a stand off with the mini van drivers, who attempted to get 24 people into two eleven seater vans including the luggage. We eventually left in a convoy of 3 vans and literally travelled over the mountains towards Vang Vieng, The mountain road was breathtaking and unfortunately no photo's as we didn't get to stop too often, and after a long and very bumpy ride we made it, even later than the driver thought. The town is situated in a valley next to a river with limestone cliffy mountains all around. It has somewhat been effected by the tourist trade with bars, cafes & guesthouses untidily arranged down several streets. Friends and family guy must be religions because there on every other establishment volume blazing. We were there during the off season but you can get an idea of what it might get like otherwise. We spent one morning following a path to some caves and the blue lagoon. It was a trek over a toll bridge (couldn't use the rickety old bamboo bridge), through paddy fields and eventually scaling a cliff to get to one of the caves. We couldn't go too far into the dark cave over a bamboo bridge as none of us had thought to bring a torch (sometime sensible is boring) but the views of the Vang Vieng valley were lovely. It was midday and time to head back to hit the river on a tractor inner tube (an idea for the farmers at home).

Vaing Veing trek

Vaing Veing trek


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076

033

033

We all paid our deposits for the tube (of which 100% would only be paid if you arrived back before 6pm and if you didn't arrive back at all you would receive nothing, great bit of business) , and piled into the tuk tuk in which they took us to the starting line 4km upstream. As soon as the tuk tuk arrived you could hear different kinds of music blaring. With a short boat ride over the river we were all at the first bar, given our first wrist band, mouthful of whiskey and can of beerlao. The next lot of bars were close together so we missed a couple trying to get used to manoeuvring the tube through the currents as the river was apparently high. One of the bars had an impressive slide, someone said it was called the death slide on utube – but we all survived. A few hours and a few bars later we came to the home straight which was a picturesque 2km ride past all the cliffs. It was way after six (part of our deposit gone) and starting to get dark, the exit couldn't be less obvious other than a few lights and a few other people getting out of their tubes. It could have been so easy to miss this and drift off downstream! But with all of us arriving back safely & after a bit of food , crashed for the night. Next day it was onwards to Vientiane but in hind sight we could of easily could of stayed a day or two more, lovely location and the tubing is what you make of it.

Champs Elysees loas

Champs Elysees loas

L'Arc de Triomphe

L'Arc de Triomphe

Vientiane is Laos' capital city but yet again not a massive place in comparison to places like Bangkok and KL, used as a French administrative centre during there Indochina era and hasn’t changed much by the looks of it. It is on the banks of the Mekong with Thailand on the other side. The place definitely had a French influence with a lot of the signs in Laos & French, kerbs painted red and white and most of all the Laos version of the Champs Elysees and the L'Arc de Triomphe (The Arch made of concrete donated by the Americans to build an airport)! Not a massive amount to do here but wander the streets, visit some temples, see the national monument and pop into some cafes and bars on route. Stayed only two nights, next onwards to explore southern Laos.

Posted by Meurig ac Sian 22:28 Archived in Laos Comments (0)

Escaping Up North

Next we escaped the big bad city and headed up north by sleeper train (a first for Sian, so a must) this ended up as a bit of a drinking session, as we ended up sharing a cabin area with a couple of lads from Sheffield who'd brought a stack of cans on with them. Several cans & bottles of Chang later we went for a wonder down the train in search of more.. Only to find three or four coaches down the service staff pissed with some dressed in drag dancing and singing on chairs and tables!!? Not quite what we'd expected, the service staff weren’t exactly young, but hey!! But this Sheffield lad took one look at these men in dresses on the tables and legged it straight back up the train, we tried talking to the drunk gents but weren’t getting anywhere so we left them to it!!! lol

The train destination was Chang Mai and 18hours later (supposed to be 13 hours) we arrived after twisting and turning our way through the country side. Nice little city, a world away from Bangkok, the old city is encircled by a square moat (about 2km by 2km) with the remnants of a fort sticking out in places. The city full of book shops, coffee shops, masses of cooking classes with a temple or two thrown in, had a nice relaxed atmosphere! The main event (in my opinion) was the 3day and 2 night jungle trek in the national park in the mountains north of the city. Only problem was I got landed in a group with 7 women 5 of these where very girly girls!Hmmmm, not ideal!

Under the waterfall

Under the waterfall

DSC00731.jpg

The trek up the hills into the forest gave us some really good views of the valley with the paddy fields at the bottom next to the river and the lower hills covered in corn, hill rice and banana crops.We even got to see first hand how pineapple's grow, not in a tree but out of a little bush on a vertical stem, not sure why but always assumed they grew in a tree. The trek through the forest was good, more of a bamboo forest compared with the last rainforest in Malaysia but with tribes living throughout the area we ended up seeing more villages including their water buffalo wallowing in the mud, and no trek is complete without waterfalls! The first night we slept in a village near the top of a hill just in a timber shack, all in the same room/building with our own insect nets! The food was cooked by the villagers and there was plenty, (one bonus of having so many girls) really good curry and fried veg and later we had no choice but to watch the thunder storm with plenty of rain.

Tribal village - first night accomodation

Tribal village - first night accomodation

Trekking through paddy fields

Trekking through paddy fields

The second day was an easy hike (as voted by the girls) through the forest down into the paddy field ending up a this big water fall where we washed thankfully, slept in little bamboo huts within a stones throw away of the thundering waterfall!. Lots of creepy crawlies on the way to, including big spiders, huge ants and a snake (which the guide ended up prodding with a stick, then running away from in a big hurry, funny) . !

Tricky river crossing!

Tricky river crossing!

Natural shower - second day of trek

Natural shower - second day of trek

Jungle hut

Jungle hut

The final day involved trekking down a track following the river, and was probably the most challenging/best section, following a track/ledge above the river and crossing anything that came in the way. After completing the trek and having lunch, yet more chilli fried rice and veg (nice but same same) we got the chance to ride elephants. I think ours was particularly temperamental as it had a small 4month calf left back at the start point, so as we left, the mother gave off a booming noise/call which literally vibrated through us, not the best thing to hear as you set off into the jungle on top of her! She did seem reasonable happy after she had devoured the bag of bananas we were feeding her, and she even stole the bag off the elephant in front, that didn’t stop her asking for more with her trunk curling up sniffing and splattering. Although the guide was attempting to manoeuvre the elephant (with a pointy metal prod, more for instruction than force) we pretty much went where the elephant wanted to go, up a muddy embankment (no problem), mostly through bushes looking for vegetation to rip and munch on, but also wandering down the wrong lane of the country road, how about driving round a corner and seeing that! We finished off the trip with some bamboo rafting down the river which was good fun and refreshing after three day's in the humid forest!

Elephant ride

Elephant ride

Following the adventures of the trekking we decided to continue north and travel the very windy road to the town of Pai, not to far away from the Myanmar border. Just a lovely little town with a laid back and hippyish “vibe”. In the centre of a valley surrounded 360º by pointy hill/mountains perfectly carpeted in green trees. Our accommodation was a simple bamboo hut next to the river and on the day in between travelling we rented a scooter and went exploring the valley. Scootered to one side of the valley to bathe in the geothermal springs (so hot you could boil an egg and of course they were selling eggs at the entrance) then to opposite side to visit the trickling waterfalls ending up back in the town for super, where the local speciality was spicy sausage with rice (not bad).

Hot Springs Pai

Hot Springs Pai

Motorbike in Pai

Motorbike in Pai

Pai at night

Pai at night

Unfortunately after 31days in Thailand we must move on with still places unseen and things undone, and as we will now be probably flying to KL from Hong Kong we will not be back, this time! Onwards east to Laos!

Posted by Meurig ac Sian 07:32 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

Bustling Bangkok

Here we are again, and in Banging Bangkok, From what we saw, I don't think its lived up to its outrageous, banging city reputation! What it definitely is, is a big, crazy bustling Asian city, we thought we'd arrived around 2 hours before we actually got dropped off and that wasn’t at the centre, just conveniently the other side of town from our hostel. Of course arriving by big bus somewhere touristy at 9.30pm there were plenty of people offering their services, or just a mob of men just shouting tuk tuk and where u go, where u go!!! Obviously feeling fresh after travelling by boat and coach for 12 hours and needing a lift to the hostel, I began playing the haggling game, and eventually got one down to nearly half their original prices about 280B (about £5.40). Lucky enough we had the phone number for the hostel because the driver didn’t have a clue where we were going and got a bit lost, he didn’t quite understand the international dialling number +66 preceding the phone number and it therefore didn’t work, but we got there eventually. We later found out we paid nearly double the standard rate for the journey and he ended up leaving with the change! Classic! I wouldn’t say all Thai people try and rip you off but you get the feeling that there's a undefined unofficial tourist tax doesn’t mater hat yo do or buy, but then 10 Bart is a hell of a lot more for them than it is for us!

Big busy road

Big busy road

For the four days we spent here we managed to get round most sights, not a wealth of historical sites / points of interest, more wander around and experience the hustle n bustle. We staying in the Silom area which is the modern east end of town, where the business and shopping seems to co mingle interconnected by walkways and tunnels suspended between the busy crazy traffic, city roads and the pavements full of street stalls and 7Elevens (Asian SPAR equivalent except they actually seem to have at least 2 on every side of the street) and the Skytrain Monorail towering over everything and pretty much blocking out the sun. Again similar to Kualar Lumper you can travel down the street by zig zaging between the air-conditioned super malls and try and stay out of the draining heat. The city also has, the biggest China town outside of China (It seems every city in south east Asia has one) which had a very different feel and style down next to the river, with an exotic smelling market weaving through the streets, selling everything from toys to shark fin's!!

View from temple on the west side

View from temple on the west side

The grandest sight in the city is the royal palace, quite impressive, large palace's/temples/ceremonial buildings with lots of gold bits and carved wood and stone with an abundance of Buddha images thrown in for Luck. Only problem was the first day we turned up it closed to tourists, a Buddha religious holiday (we had one previously in Phuket and everything closes except restaurants and bars). We where told by this very helpful man in a smart uniform and gold badge out side one of the palace's large gate entrances. He helpfully suggested other sites we could visit instead which were not closed to tourists and then a stop at the tourist information centre (which was on our list of thing to do, like most tourists I imagine) , and we could go on tour on a tuk tuk for only 50 Bat (£1), so off we went.....
Yup, conned, completely had. What can we say, we were obviously half asleep. We twigged after the second stop, the tourist information, we'd been told by people at home and read of similar tricks of people been conned but at first sight it just seemed legit as it was right out side one of the gates to the palace and he had a gold badge!!! But karma came to the rescue and as we where leaving the second stop and before the trip to the shop to “look only” the tuk tuk broke down! HA! In hindsights we should of told the uniform bloke where to go, which we did the very next day in the same spot along with a couple of his “colleagues”, and once we actually walked in to the palace by the main entrance the staff told us they are open every day and don’t listen to the people down the road. (You cant help thinking if they know about them why not put a sign up saying OPEN EVERY DAY!!!!) We'll put that one down to experience, we did end up paying for some inflated guest house tickets but we did get to see some random sites in the city though! We laugh about it know :o)

Big Palace

Big Palace


Lying Down Budda - Possibly as its in Nirvana

Lying Down Budda - Possibly as its in Nirvana

Sian and Little Freind

Sian and Little Freind

The main western/touristy backpacker area is the area around Kho San Rd, with bright lights and big flashy signs, and a combination of bars, restaurants and stalls selling food or dodgy merchandise. Not half as sleazy as Phuket but plenty of western influence to make you wonder if you've stepped out of Thailand. Plenty of bucket deals around (i.e. plastic beach bucket full of alcoholic concoctions) for about £4! We shared 2, but I had the majority of the last one, and by the end we'd both had plenty so off to get some street food before tuk tuking it back to the hostel, via the food stalls and then Burger King. (I know, but I got distracted whilst Sian was haggling with the Tuk Tuk driver)

Koh San Raod

Koh San Raod

Sian with Bucket near Kho san road

Sian with Bucket near Kho san road

One of the strangest moments during our time here was before a film at this cinema. Sian had seen the promotion boards for the latest Pirates of the Caribbean film and “lucky” enough it was out, so off we went. It took us a while to get past the first step, buying the ticket! There isn’t just a ticket, theirs about 6 different categories of seat in 4 different formats ( Normal,3D and two others) you can even get a sofa at the back to share for a ridicules price. But we splashed out (£3) and went for the deluxe (4th best), good job too because when we sat down there wasn’t too much leg room. But then following the adverts the lights went down and then suddenly the Thai national anthem started blaring out the speakers, everybody stood up and sang whilst watching a cheesy video of the Kings life. We stood up as we felt we should, or just out of shock (Did yo know its illegal to disrespect the king in Thailand, you can even go to jail, no such problem at home with monotone Lizzy) and just stood there, and its not a short anthem, probably nearly a foot taller them most of the people there watching the king in all these locations in Thailand! It was quite hard not to laugh

Posted by Meurig ac Sian 06:22 Archived in Thailand Comments (0)

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